Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween in Vegas & E Friday

It’s been a strange week here in Vegas; it looks like winter is coming a little early. No, nothing like the snow in Denver or anything that bad, but we went from a reasonable mid 80’s temp every day down to a high of 57 on Wednesday and winds gusting to 65mph. we’ve become used to strange winds coming up but I still would much rather have temps around 90 than under 60, but at least we aren’t getting snow.

We’ve got some plants blooming around the yard. Just before the winds came up our sage bushes were full of purple flowers, which now are in dramatic swirls around the patio where the wind has deposited them. The rosemary bushes are full of blue flowers and bees, and the shoestring acacia trees are full of little yellow puffballs, which are great for people with allergies. There are also lots of bright yellow flowers on some small bushes scattered around as well. Nice to see flowers instead of snow.

Halloween is a very popular holiday here in Las Vegas. Most of the casinos and fancy clubs have theme oriented parties, but most of the themes are adult oriented. Yes, Circus Circus has converted their AdventureDome into the Fright Dome, with a number of haunted houses inside, but places like the Hard Rock are having a $3000 costume contest and entertainment by the Genitorturers (no idea who they are, but I’m not sure I’d like to find out). The Palms is hosting Fangoria Trinity of Terrors, with celebrity appearances, make up applications and some of the best movies and producers, including Roger Corman, Malcolm McDowell, George Romero, Ken Foree and John Waters. If you don’t know who any of those guys are then just go upstairs to the Playboy club as they are having a contest for the best Playboy inspired costumes, so expect to see a lot of bunny ears and not much cloth. Most of the fancy clubs have costume contests and big parties like the Fetish & Fantasy Ball at the Joint in the Hard Rock, but they are looking more for the sexy French Maid outfit or smallest thong rather than the rotting zombie corpse.

Our Halloween evenings have been a change here from our place in San Diego. Down there we were in a nice walking neighborhood and the house across the street used to go all out, creating a graveyard on the front lawn complete with coffins and corpses that wandered around and sometimes a live zombie band. This usually resulted in visits from a few hundred kids and a big candy expense. Our house here in Vegas is in a more quiet neighborhood; we don’t have sidewalks or street lights or many kids (besides the trips plus one across from us) resulting last year in a grand total of eight kids coming by.

Last year E had a homemade lion costume, this year she went as Cassie from Dragon Tales. We haven’t seen any pictures yet, but they had a costume parade that she went to (in the Portland rain of course) along with other activities. At four and a half she is the perfect age to enjoy those types of events. But for now she is learning to cook. Rice crispy treats were on the menu one day

And when she was visiting us she helped make a cake, here helping put a fair measure of jelly and blueberries between the layers (I think some of the blueberries made it down; of course there had to be much sampling to insure the berries were acceptable)

But everything does go better with milk

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Twin Creeks

Periodically we get out of the house and hit one of the casinos or nicer restaurants around town. Las Vegas is filled with fancy restaurants; unfortunately most of them are rather expensive. I am usually hesitant about spending that much money for something that I’ll just flush the next day, but every once in a while I really like going out. Our favorite place for steaks is Fleming’s, a national chain that has an outlet not far from my house. The atmosphere is nice and the food is pretty good and consistent, the staff is very friendly and we really like it.

But at times we do go elsewhere, and recently the Silverton Casino had a special offer - two for one meals at all their in house restaurants for locals with a players club card. We hadn’t been to the Twin Creeks steakhouse for a while and figured it was worth a return. It provides fair quality food at about the lowest prices in town; a full steak dinner with salad, desert and sides is usually under $25. At half price it was getting down pretty low.

The Silverton is not located on the Strip or downtown but far south on I-15. It was the first casino you drove past coming in from LA but now the new M resort has taken over the extreme southern position, not counting the casinos at Jean or Stateline which aren’t really Vegas. They recently had a makeover, with a realignment of some local roads and construction of a big parking garage. The Silverton used to be all country, with logs and wood and the Nevada site of the Bass Pro Shop full of boats and sporting stuff, but now they have gone a little more upscale.

There is a new food court with some of the ‘standard’ fast food places in addition to the in house restaurants. We’ve never tried their buffet, just hitting the steak house. They cater to locals, and it seems that every time we’ve been down there they were giving away a piece of crockery or some other home item (like Sham-Wows) for accumulating players club points to a lot of old people. It’s a lot different than the Strip casinos. They also have a huge salt water fish tank near the front of the Bass shop, and it is entertaining just to stand and watch the fish. They also periodically have mermaid shows, and the divers jump in to feed the fish by hand, insuring everybody gets the proper diet and amount.

The tank is about six meters high and probably twenty meters across, and just full of big fish, sharks and rays swimming around and around.

In addition to fancying up the casino the Twin Creeks steak house has changed from a country place with log furniture and wooden walls to a fairly upscale place. The lights were a little dim, but the d├ęcor had a full makeover, resulting in something that was nowhere similar to what it was before.

We spent a nice few hours, had a pleasant drive down, a nice time watching the fish and divers, wandered the new casino and had a great meal. All for joining the player’s club - our first in town, just to get the low prices, and ended up having steak dinners for two with wine and a resulting bill of under $30 total for the both of us. Not bad, and the food quality has not decreased at all. The steaks are a little dull, and are greatly enhanced by ordering one of their special sauces (only $2 or so) but are just fine, providing a nice night. A warning if you go - on weekends be sure to call for reservations, the wait can be up to two hours if you just drop in. During the week we have not had any problems, and with the lower tourist numbers in town the place was fairly empty when we sat down, and only rose to about 2/3 occupancy when we left.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Around town

I realized that I haven’t done a Vegas post recently - sorry, I know you are all dying to learn what’s happening around town. (yea, right) Well, this weekend we host the U2 tour - supposed to be a terrific stage show (120 semi trucks to move), with them doing something even larger and more spectacular for Vegas. I hear that Nancy at F&P will be attending, so look for a big review there next week, Bill Clinton is also supposedly in town for the concert. Also Alice Cooper will be at the Orleans, for you C&W fans Faith Hill at the over 50’s convention at the Sands (see what I’d get to view if I was still there?) and her hubby Tim McGraw also in town as well. Garth Brooks will soon be a regular at the Wynn (opening Dec 11), but before he gets there Regis & Kelly will be taping there show at the same theatre. Also this weekend: Rob Thomas, Peaches, LeAnn Rimes (here for three weeks), Chaz Palminteri in A Bronx Tale (supposedly pretty good), Stone Temple Pilots, Everlast, Rob Thomas and for you old dancers the Village People.

For those of you that haven’t been here for a while, here is what the Wynn looks like from across the street, in front of my former employer

Impressive building to have your name on, isn’t it? Turning the camera westward we see the fancy shops located inside of the Wynn, and across the street the big Cloud in front of the Fashion Show Mall with the gold Trump tower behind. Think I’d rather have my name on the first one.

And if you are thinking about coming to town, we always liked staying at the Luxor before we moved here, the entrance to the pyramid is about the most impressive hotel entrance you will ever see. Rates are pretty good

And for DM - sorry, yes, it is E Friday, almost forgot

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The same old thing

Did you ever get used to doing something in a particular way, and then have it kind of flow into something you don't really think about but just continue doing? I think of the old turkey joke:

A woman was married for many years and every Thanksgiving she prepared the typical American turkey dinner. One Thanksgiving her husband looked down at the turkey as he was about to carve it and noticed the back end with the tail was cut off. He stopped for a minute and then asked his wife if she had cut off the tail or if it came like that. She replied that she had cut off the tail, and had always done it like that because her mother had taught her to do it that way. The next day they called mom and asked why she had taught them to cut off the tail. Mom replied that she had always done it like that; her mother had shown her how to prepare it. A few weeks later they were visiting grandma and asked her why she taught her kids to cut off the tail of the turkey before roasting. Grandma thought about it for a bit, and then replied: "well, we were poor and could only afford chickens, and then one year grandpa got a big bonus and we were finally able to buy a turkey. I asked the neighbors how to prepare it, and went to put it into the tiny oven in our little apartment and found out the bird was bigger than the oven, so I cut off the tail and it fit. I've been cutting off the tail ever since."

Perhaps it's just Vegas: things change so quickly here. Well, not recently due to the financial problems, but last week I drove down a road I hadn't been on in a few years and there was a whole new shopping center that I just didn't remember being there. If you haven’t been to Vegas for ten years then the Strip will look very different, and if you wait another ten years it probably will be changed even more. I can go back to my old home in New Jersey and it looks the same as it has for the past fifty years, some areas of New England have been unchanged for even longer, and perhaps parts of Europe have lasted even longer. When we visited Arles, France we saw a Roman amphitheater that has been there for a few thousand years, and there is an art walk following Vincent van Gogh's path that has reproductions of his works at places where he originally painted them, and most of the scenes still look exactly like they did a hundred years ago.

Whenever I start a new job and am taught how things work I wonder if they are doing it that way because the oven was too small and usually if something seems strange the answer is yes. Which means that someone in the past started doing it that way and it's been done that way ever since and we don’t question it we just do it like that. I work as a computer programmer/analyst, usually for small companies that don’t have very many (or any) other programmers. A portion of my job is to figure out how a job is done, and how a computer might help with the process. Most of the time I find there are aspects of a company’s workflow that are there for no reason other than because ‘we’ve always done it like that’. It just takes someone new coming in and looking at things, asking questions and suggesting simple changes to change a system that has been in place for years. Most companies, and people, would benefit from a fresh look at the way things are done. Then again, sometimes it is just comforting to keep doing things that you have always been doing without thinking about why.

Usually it’s the little kids that ask "Why?" and we respond "because I'm the parent and we do it my way", but perhaps sometimes if you stop and think about it you too might ask why? Sorry, don’t know why myself, guess I’m just in one of those moods.

Right now I am just thinking about all of those blogs listed over there on the right hand side that I like to read. Several of them have not been updated in months, and it looks like I’ll just put them in my favorites so that I can check periodically and drop them from my list. It’s over there for my use, that way I can just click on down the list and see what is going on with people I have come to enjoy. That is a strange thing now that I think of it, here are a bunch of people that I have never met, probably never will, know little about except for the small glimpse they chose to give us and yet they seem like friends. I miss them when they are not posting, and wonder what it is they are not saying when they do, trying to read between the lines and figure out just what is going on.

Friday, October 16, 2009

E Friday - coloring

In following the tradition of Clare we return again to E Friday, where I post photos of my darling granddaughter E, because VG really likes to look at these pics.
When E and her folks came to visit she packed her own carryon bag, as seen in a previous post. One of the interesting items in her bag (well, they were all interesting) was a big yellow banana. This banana had a zipper, and was full of little wooden items, each with a single letter. I assume this is part of a game played like Scrabble, but E uses her Bananagram letters to spell out words she is learning. With the aid of Sesame Street (and mom) she knows all her letters and can spell a lot of words.

Unfortunately she isn’t up to reading all of Garfield’s comments, but she still looks at the funny papers when available.

One of the other things she likes to do is color, whether it’s in a book following the lines or on plain paper just doing what she feels like

Coloring is also a good time filler in restaurants while waiting for the good stuff to come.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday music - New Zealand

I sit at the computer a lot, well, it is my job being a computer programmer, and usually have ear buds stuck in to mask background sounds and provide a source for music. I switch between all the stuff I have built up on my IPod and internet radio stations. I used to listen to a French station a lot but a while back I became hooked on Zed FM, a New Zealand station. I don’t know if it’s the different city names or the accents but whatever it is the morning crew are just amusing to me.

One of the other things that is different is the music. They play a lot of local NZ and Australian groups, ones that we don’t usually hear on my local Vegas stations. One of my favorite groups is called Flight of the Conchords, two guys that come up with some interesting things. Apparently they have a series on HBO (which I don’t pay for and thus miss all their neat programming) and on BBC radio. The latest song receiving a lot of air play is

A number of the artists played that I like have videos on YouTube, unfortunately most of them are set as embedding disabled, so you’ll have to click on some links to hear, but please do as the songs are nice and the videos interesting.

Adele - Chasing Pavement

Ladyhawke - My Delerium

Oh, here’s one I can link to. I like the way she pronounces things, kind of harks back to the nasal tones you hear in old recordings from the 20’s, Gin Wigmore.

Finally, she’s British and not from NZ, but they play a lot of her. I first saw Lily on Graham Norton’s show doing this show, and talking about an old boyfriend that was the inspiration for this song.
Lily Allen - Not Fair

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sunday in the Park with Joe

Today was cold and windy but we decided to travel around town and visit a few events we wanted to see anyway. By cold I mean it only hit a high of 73, and windy means gusts up to 45mph, with more smoke blown in from California fires and dust advisories.

First stop was an arts and crafts fair held in Boulder City. Boulder City was created back in the depression when the great Boulder Dam was being built, to house the laborers. It now is a very pretty small town near the dam, with very restrictive growth laws to prevent it from getting too big. Neighboring Henderson by contrast wants to get as big as it can, and is continuously annexing land to the south and east and trying to circle Boulder. The arts fair was held in a large park in the middle of town, and comprised of hundreds of those little tents and awnings, filled with all types of crafts, handmade items, stuff that it looks like it came right from China next to stuff obviously made on someone’s back porch. B wanted some small things to put in our recently improved front courtyard, and we ended up with a metal scorpion and a metal dragonfly, which should fit very well.

There were also lots of booths filled with assorted foods for sale, but we held off on that.

One of the most popular areas was up on the hill.

After wandering for a few hours we headed down to Mandalay Bay, the site of the world’s largest tattoo convention. Admission was free for locals with ID, I wasn’t about to spring the $35 to get in. (Lots of events are open to locals, just to beef up the crowds). Iphone pictures, sorry, a little blurry.

But you could sign up and have some of the best artists in the world ink you right there.

On the way out we passed by the big wave pool, with lots of people sitting in the sun even though it was cold to us.

And of course I had to add to my portfolio of weddings caught around town. The chapel at Mandalay is down near the convention center and Shark Reef.

Walking back we passed part of a previous wedding party. I don’t think they were the principals (not yet)

After wandering through the convention center we walked towards the Luxor and ate at the Burger Bar, one of my favorite burger places. I’ve written about it before, they have about the best tasting burgers around, though a little expensive. You basically build your own burger, picking out the type of meat, bun, and accessories from a menu of about thirty different items such as type of cheese, sauce, onions, jalapenos, and so on. They also have sweet potato fries, not found in most other burger places. The menu has changed and now there is also a build your own milkshake section, where you can pick out the type of ice cream and then select from a few dozen toppings. I didn’t notice if jalapenos were listed there also, but if not you could probably get them if you really want to. I noticed the section on predefined shakes, and found some rather unusual, such as the Guinness with vanilla ice cream float. Don’t know about you, but that does seem rather unusual, thinking about it that combo might work, but I was hesitant to try it out.

Even though it was late Sunday afternoon the place was full. The little booths do have individual TV screens, in addition to a number of big screens over the bar, all tuned to Sunday football, so perhaps people were there to watch the games and eat. The Mandalay sports book was packed; football betting seems to be popular. There were quite a few tattoos in evidence, probably spillover from the convention (which is why hotels have convention centers attached).

Very visible elements to the Burger Bar atmosphere are the waitresses. Sorry, I tried to get some pictures but the lighting was a little dim and I just didn’t catch anyone in an appropriate position. All of the waitresses are rather slim (or downright skinny, depending on your attitude) and wear the same black outfits, which consisted of thin legged tight black pants and a black T shirt with the BB sparkly logo. What was apparently a management decision was to supply shirts that were too small for the wearer, meaning they were very tight and very short. This resulted in the appearance of several items that are probably appropriate to a Vegas bar; spillover from the top and exposure from the bottom. Some of the girls were either well endowed or well enhanced, and poorly contained by the shirts. There were also large gaps between the bottom of the shirts and the low worn pants, making it very obvious that the tramp stamp tattoo is still popular. Most of the girls wore pants so tight and low that I wondered how they were able to keep them up. Due to the thin-ness most did not have very large hips (if any at all) and not very large, how shall I say, butts. The pants were probably pulled up to the waist when put on, buttoned and belted (with sparkly belts) then pushed down as low as they could go: combined with the short tops this left the stamps very visible from the rear and evidence of probably waxing visible from the front. As when skinny girls wore tube tops, whenever some walked by I wondered why those pants didn’t just slide on down to the floor as there didn’t appear to be anything preventing the downward movement. But close intensive study was inhibited by the presence of B at the table with me, though there was one blond serving a distant area that was very difficult to ignore when she walked past. No, this is not an adult club, and there was nowhere near the amount of skin visible here as at those places, it still provided some entertainment. And the burgers are good.

So, what did you do on your Sunday?

Friday, October 02, 2009

E Friday - stories

In following the tradition of Clare we return again to E Friday, where I post photos of my darling granddaughter E, because VG really likes to look at these pics.

E got her first haircut back around her fourth birthday. It took a little getting used to, but now it seems really cute. She also has started talking even more, and loves telling little stories and acting things out. Looking at the pictures I can’t remember what the discussions were about, but they are still amusing to look at.

We had blown up some balloons and drew faces on them, creating a mommy, daddy and little girl balloon. As they were chased around the rooms and down the stairs many concepts were thrown around about what they were doing chasing each other and bouncing up to the ceiling. Not sure exactly what part of the story was being told here

But the flash catching her hair at a different angle almost makes it look like a bad wig.

One evening the weather was nice (strange for Portland) and we were dining al fresco, which as every Fancy Nancy reader would know means you are eating outside. As we were waiting for dad to grill up some hamburgers the discussions revolved over to something that required a bit of expression to tell completely

But in the end everything came out OK.