Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cold NYE party

OH – it’s going to be a cold New Year’s Eve party here in Vegas. The hotels are not complaining as it seems almost every place is 100% booked for the weekend. That’s 149,000 + rooms occupied, so even with the poor economy at least some people plan on having a nice time moving into a new year.

The big storms back East don’t bother the hotels, since just as many people have to stay longer when flights are cancelled as those that can’t get here, it’s almost a wash. The majority of NYE partygoers in Vegas are from California anyway, and a heck of a lot of them drive. The I-15 between Vegas and LA becomes a big parking lot most Sunday afternoons as everyone takes off after checkout time. Even the Christmas weekend, usually a slow time, was pretty good for the casinos. Two years ago we spend Christmas Eve in a nice room at the Venetian. I don’t know what the occupancy was then, probably just under 50%, which means the place was fairly empty. The room was cheap (well, for the Venetian) and nice, we had a fancy dinner and breakfast and enjoyed ourselves without having to drive far.

But this year it’s cold: tomorrow the high is only going to be around 4c (40f) with a nighttime low of -3c (27f) and it’s really windy. But the sky is a bright blue and the sun is shining on my shoulders through the window behind me and it looks really pretty outside from the warm inside. We will not be down on the Strip, that is just too big a party for us old folks. It’s nothing like Times Square, but still there will be 350,000+ wandering the Strip and looking at the midnight fireworks, the biggest display west of the Mississippi (as our Visitor’s Bureau advertises). Us old folks will probably be in bed asleep as usual.

Blue sky, travelers from LA headed east

Hit the City Center, next door to Bellagio, the place where the biggest crowd on the Strip gathers

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Old Vegas sighting

Well, finally, an ‘old Vegas’ sighting. Last Sunday we took our daughter and husband to the Golden Steer restaurant to celebrate their anniversary (yes, we took E along). We first visited the Golden Steer a few months ago, and I thought it looked like an old Las Vegas style restaurant. It is filled with red leather booths and some tables, and staffed by waiters that have worked there for twenty or thirty years. The Maître de was proud to point out the booths that Elvis and the Rat Pack liked, along with describing a number of celebrities that kept coming back.

My wife had the filet again, and I tried the prime rib – both were very good. Our daughter had some baked salmon, which E shared, which was reported as being quite fine as well. There was an assortment of desserts, with E going for the chocolate cake (with icing), all of which disappeared quite quickly.

The restaurant was almost empty- there was only one other table occupied, so we were wondering about the health of the restaurant, but hoped the small crowd was due to the holiday crowds staying home. As we were about to leave our waiter asked if we wanted to meet someone that had just came in – Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. The waiter said they had been regulars for quite a while. I recognized the names but it took me a second to think of who they were. Steve and Eydie were regulars on a variety of entertainment programs back in the early ‘60s, and had a Vegas lounge act back then as well. (look, I said old Vegas, who did you expect at a place like this, Justin Beiber?)

The waiter pulled us over to meet them as we were leaving, so I said hello and talked for a while. They were with another woman that was very friendly, and as we left the waiter said she was Lorraine Hunt, Nevada’s lieutenant governor who is also the owner of the Bootlegger Bistro, another old Vegas hangout (also on my list to go to). I had to look them up on Wiki when I came home, yes, Steve and Eydie married in Las Vegas in 1957 – over fifty years together, which in itself is pretty good. No major records together, but back in 1963 Eydie had a hit with this one

About the same time Steve had

So –probably not even familiar names to most of you, but hey, at least now I can say I did meet somebody famous on my Vegas travels.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

We had a crowd over this Christmas. All of the kids have moved away and it is difficult to get them together from scattered locations, but fortunately our daughter from Portland (1800km) came down with the family as well as our youngest son from San Francisco (1000km). They all drove over through California during those big rainstorms but left here in sunshine.

E came down along with mom and dad. On Christmas Eve she left milk and cookies for Santa and wrote him a welcome note.

It looks like the cookies worked, as there were a lot more presents under the tree the next morning.

Mom made E a new tutu.

She also received lots of toys and things she liked. She danced with a new wand.

And played with some new dolls and doll chairs that Granddad made

She really seemed to like some hats that she got

And she performed a nice dance number several times

All in all, it was a pleasant holiday week.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday videos - quiet ones

Monday videos – no holiday themed songs, but some that are mellower. I like the old musicals from the 50’s and 60’s, and fortunately there are clips on line. Most of them are from Broadway plays and seem rather calm compared to all of the activities presented now. Well, at least here in Vegas with all the Cirque du Soleil stuff. We can start with a young Julie Andrews in the Rogers & Hammerstein version of Cinderella from 1965:

Bill referred to a nice guitar piece, Rodrigo y Gabriela – ‘Tamacun’

And one of my favorite quiet songs, Judy Collins singing Send In The Clowns

Friday, December 17, 2010

Busy pre holiday week

It’s been a busy week here. We have had a three day conference at work – after a year searching I finally found a job with a firm that processes credit cards. It’s not very big, just five programmers here and another three scattered across the country. My boss had all the technical and program managers come here for a few days just to get everyone together and review plans from a higher level. Mainly it was sitting in the conference room with fifteen people trying to stay awake during the presentations, but it did take up a lot of time, along with the after work social activities that were scheduled. Two of the kids, along with granddaughter E, are coming out on Sunday to stay for the holidays, so that has involved house cleaning and preparation. Tomorrow will be cookie baking day, with quite a few dozen being produced.
Around town the Cosmopolitan resort opened a few days ago. It looks rather impressive, squeezed between the Bellagio and the new City Center. The price of City Center was around $8,000,000,000 covering an area five times the size of Cosmo, but Cosmo cost is about $3,900,000,000 so for the price per foot it should be fancy. We’ll probably go down next week with the group to see what it looks like, catch the Bellagio Christmas display in their conservatory, and hit City Center again (they are all side by side). To get in the mood, here’s one of the floors in Aria

It’s a modern structure, no carpets, lots of slots, and really fancy floors.
And since I haven’t posted videos in a while, let’s see if this one stays up (they keep getting taken away). From Rocky Horror: oh, Tim Curry.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Morning drive

I leave my house to drive in to work each morning around 6:30; it takes about a half hour. The drive in to work is almost due East, so I get to watch the sunrise, then if I’m a few minutes late have it directly in my eyes for a while. Surprising how reflective the concrete roads are; I can drop the visor down and look under it at the roadway, but now the road is almost as bright as the direct sun.

1. One day last week there was a sheet of high clouds over half the eastern sky. It was interesting to watch them move from black to brilliant red to a beautiful buttery golden then to bright white as the sun came up.

2. Las Vegas is surrounded by mountains, so it is very bright in the morning before the sun peeks over the eastern mountain tops. Interesting to watch the western mountains in my rear view mirror as the sun lights them up, showing off the dark valleys and rock formations surrounded by the bright red hills.

3. If I drive in a little early it’s still dark. The freeway I drive on crosses the south end of the Strip, and all of the big hotels and casinos are glowing with bright neon colors. It’s interesting to think of the thousands of people over there in the casinos still gambling, as there are no clocks or windows inside and you can play all night then stumble outside into the bright sun of the new day. Most of the big ultra-lounges don’t open until midnight, so crowds are still dancing away and drinking until mid morning.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

How to heat hot dogs

Several months ago Anna bought an Amtrak pass and made a long trip around the country. As part of that trip she mailed postcards to friends describing what was happening on her journey. The postcard I received talked about some problems on the train as it was going towards New Orleans.

On the card she describes how the train had some problems continuing onto New Orleans. Amtrak provided buses to move passengers into town, but unfortunately not enough buses to permit all of the passengers to move forward. Anna and her beloved were two of the many that had to remain on the train.

Unfortunately there was no kitchen staff, or nearby town in which to obtain food. The remaining staff found some hot dogs in the kitchen, but could not figure out how to use the microwave in order to heat up the hot dogs, so Anna ended up with cold soggy hot dogs. I thought that I would provide a photograph that she might keep with her if she ever again runs into a similar situation. It shows how to heat up a hot dog in a microwave.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on her attitude) Anna had to leave San Francisco and return to her home country, England. I’m not sure if the trains over there serve hot dogs or use microwaves, but now she will be prepared.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

City Center coffee and cards

The City Center architects spent some time incorporating a lot of details into all aspects of the complex. Even the small shops have unique decorations to make them a little different than what you find in other casinos. Every casino now has a walk up coffee shop, either Starbucks or Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf or an in house brand. This one is filled with lighted coffee beans on the walls and ceiling.

And the nearby poker area, instead of having a plain divider, is itself a bit more decorated

Monday, December 06, 2010

Getting cooler

Last week was pretty cold here in Vegas, low temps were down around -3c (26f) causing our tomato plants to finally freeze and curl up. I used the last red tomatoes in my salad last Friday, but have three bags of green tomatoes waiting to redden up for use again. Most are cherry tomatoes, and not applicable to creating fried green tomatoes.

Our peach tree started turning yellow, the ash trees out back usually go bronze after the first freeze, so hopefully that will happen this week. This produces a lawn full of yellow leaves, not really a big bright yellow tree.

The Shoestring Acacias alongside the kitchen and are in bloom, covered with little yellow puffballs that release a ton of pollen, really aggravating B’s nose. We have had a few brief showers at night, which come with some minor clouds, producing nice sunsets.

The sky is still nice and clear during the day, with daytime temps up around 19c (66f)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Santa Run

This morning I finally got to participate in the annual Great Santa Run, put on by Opportunity Village. I’ve missed the past years due to conflicts, when it was run downtown on Fremont Street. That would have really been neat, but this year it was moved down to the south end of the Strip at Towne Center shopping center.
We all got Santa suits to wear.

There were a number of kids participating

And dogs

Of course our mayor, Oscar Goodman, appeared along with his standard two showgirls. Well, not really 'our' mayor, as we live in the township of Spring Valley and the Strip is not in the Vegas city limits but in the township of Paradise. So the Santa Run was held in Paradise.

For the girl Santa’s there were pink portapotties

And eventually we were off – around 13,000 or so, with counters from the Guiness Book of Records. I’m sure their counts were low, as we saw a lot of people that didn’t register with them.

Finally made it, it was interesting to be with such a big red group.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Outdoor weekend

Outdoors weekend! Even though the temperature will not be over 19c (66f) this weekend has several outdoor activities.

1. The annual Santa Run has moved from Freemont Street downtown to the south end of the Strip, at Town Square. I’ve been wanting to go but always seemed to have things lined up, but this Saturday we’ll (yes, I talked B into going) be down among 9,000 other people all dressed up as Santa Claus. I’m signing up and getting our outfits tonight! (pictures to come)
2. The annual Zappos Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is this Sunday, with runners again starting at Mandalay Bay and running up the Strip. The route is a little different; in past years they came up close to our house, this year it’s up and down the Strip then a jog west along Hacienda to get in the full 26 miles. This one I will not be participating in, but at least our house will not be within the no drive zone again. 30,000 participants expected for the full and half marathons, with bands along the route and the get-married-on-the-run wedding chapel somewhere in there.
3. We made the big time: the Brookings Institute rated the Las Vegas economy among the five worst for big cities in the world! Only Dublin, Dubai, Barcelona and Thessaloniki were worse, but not by much. Next year we hope to move up! (at least I have a job (for now)).

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

After Thanksgiving

After Thanksgiving
1. Still have enough turkey for one more sandwich!! (not sure if that’s good or not)
2. We went through the apple pie rather quickly, but the store had a “buy one get one free” thing and there is a cherry pie soon to go into the oven.
3. Unfortunately we got our poor dog Buster hooked on real turkey and he refuses to eat anything canned now, so it looks like I’ll have to keep roasting turkeys for him. (well, I do have to do quality checks)

Here he is suffering with a stuffed tummy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Three things turkey

Three things turkey:
1. How nice the house smells all day when roasting a turkey, and all the associated goodies.
2. Sitting at the table before things are served anticipating the meal.
3. Sitting at the table after eating enjoying that stuffed feeling, and realizing that there will be leftovers for days to come.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Another Aria pic – the sweets shop, with lots of places to sit down and enjoy

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Airport Security? do you feel safe?

I decided to join the crowd and support national Opt-Out day tomorrow: I will refuse to go through the full body scanner at the airport. Unfortunately I am not flying anywhere, so no one will see my refusal but it’s the principle of the thing goll durnit. And the images those scanners provide? Of course they are laughing at you, and no matter what the official position is, some of those images will work their way out.

Why do we put up with these restrictions on our lives and personal rights? I thought the new Republicans and Tea Party members voted in were all for individual rights, keeping the government out of our business and lowering the overhead of government; why aren’t they all screaming about the increased security at airports?

What’s that you say, “I feel so much safer flying” – look at all of the other things you don’t really care about. In 2008 almost 14,000 people were killed by drunk drivers in the US. Medical errors in hospital settings cause between 50,000 and 100,000 deaths every year. How many people have been killed in terrorist attacks in the US? You are more apt to die every time you get in your car then when you get on an airplane.

How many hours are wasted? I get to the airport at least an hour earlier than I used to, just in case the lines at the security checkpoint are long. This Thanksgiving holiday weekend it’s estimated that 26,000,000 people will be flying; at an hour apiece that is a heck of a lot of time wasted just because of security procedures. Are you safer because if them? Every story I read says that none of the terrorists, from the 9/11 guys to the shoe bomber to the guy with explosives in his underwear, would have been detected by the x-ray or full body scanners in use. Not able to take that bottle of water, shampoo or infant formula on the plane because it’s over 3 ounces? What the heck is up with that?

Our local paper is filled with editorials against the security procedures. One columnist has a 14 year old daughter that has cancer and has been in a wheel chair for years. Every time they fly she goes through a full body pat down, no matter how much he protests. Older people with metal hip and knee replacements suffer the same indignities. How many kids diapers have been probed for safety?

If this has happened to only one kid it's not worth it.

If the intent of the terrorists is to disrupt our society I would say they have done a pretty good job. The last threat – bombs in printer cartridges – probably would not have even exploded, but the increase in searches because of it has been tremendous. I have stopped flying for ‘nearby’ trips; under 1000 miles or so – I’d rather drive, even if it is more dangerous. We go to San Diego and San Francisco periodically, and I’d rather take a day each way to drive, it seems like the six hour drive to San Diego would take about the same amount of time as wasting in the airport, travel to from and the hour flight.

I would have no problem flying if they gave up those security checks altogether. Take away the lines and the scanners and the searches and just let me go. Follow the European model and just have some good profilers asking questions, and stop being invasive. There are lots of articles on the web and on TV about how the Israelis do it, with less wasted time. In the US we empty airports if there is a ‘suspicious package’ while in Europe they just clear a small space and put the thing in a box. Come on, how far do we have to go? If our security agencies just keep getting more paranoid perhaps it’s time for congress to just say enough is enough, and let us go about our lives.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Three things - baking

Thoughts of Clare's TBT

1. At sunrise, looking at the full moon just above the mountains to the west. It’s above Red Rock Canyon, and in the morning side light the ridges jump out from the dark canyons, rocks bright red in the morning sunlight.
2. I spent the day yesterday baking, one of my favorite activities. The house smells like cinnamon and spices with a background of chocolate.
3. Sharing a box of goodies this morning, watching people eat the variety of things I made. And getting an official looking certificate for my "amazing baking contribution". I get to add this to my desktop display, next to the trophy for best chili I won last week (my first time making chili)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Twin Falls

Last year we drove up to Portland to visit granddaughter. I have been getting more disillusioned with flying, coming to absolutely hate the way everyone is treated so negatively, as if we were all on the verge of becoming mad bombers. So if I can I will take the extra time and drive if possible. Living in Las Vegas almost everything is a significant drive anyway, but there is marvelous scenery along the way.

Portland is about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) which is a little too far to drive straight through without a good nighttime break. There are two main routes: one heading west into central California then driving north through the central valley into the middle of Oregon; the other driving north from Vegas up to Idaho, then turning west driving through northern Oregon. We’ve taken both routes, and enjoy the differences between the California central valley, which is mainly agriculture and trying to figure out what orchards or crops are growing alongside the road. The drive North takes us through the Nevada desert for most of the first day, then through the mountains of Idaho and eastern Oregon the second day.

On the last trip we spent the night in Twin Falls Idaho. It is a nice small agricultural town, and a lot different than Las Vegas. To the north of town is a river which has eroded a deep canyon, similar to the Grand Canyon near us but a bit smaller. It is still interesting to look at.

There is a nice bridge that takes the road over the canyon, and some good parking areas on either side so that you can stop and look. Some people jump off of the bridge and glide down to the bottom on parasails. If you look closely at the above photo you can see two of these people right in the middle of the shot.

Looking upstream (west) the slopes look a little bare, and more like what we see around our town.

Downstream (east) there are more trees and growth and it looks a lot greener.

Oh – can’t forget it’s Friday, and the reason we drove up there:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Picky eater Buster

I thought the kids were bad in demanding certain food choices and “no I can’t eat those potatoes the peas are touching them” and all. We now have a dog that is pretending to be a cat that demands certain foods. I say demands but he can’t talk, and since he is only nine pounds he can’t force you to pay attention, but if we put down food that he liked just a few days ago and he wants something else he’ll just stand there and ignore it. Eventually he gets tired of just standing and walks off and since he’s blind he bumps into the cabinets and walls until he finds where you are then just stands and pisses in front of you. Well, how else is he supposed to get your attention?

B has taken to feeding him directly. But she still has to go through a pack or two (or three) until finding the flavor of the day that he’ll eat. Come on, he’s twenty years old, deaf and blind and costing us a bundle in vet fees already, we don’t need him starving now too.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

the Elvis billboard

The new MGM CityCenter development has been in the local news for the past few days. Well, it’s been in the news a lot for a while now, just some aspects of it have been getting more play recently. The 67 acre project is comprised of a number of separate buildings, parking structures and roadways. MGM has contracts with different companies to operate the different towers, some as hotels, some as condos and a casino and shopping center. Last year when construction was moving along it was discovered that the building designated as the Harmon Hotel/condo tower was being improperly constructed. The workers were having problems fitting the reinforcing steel bars together where the floors met the walls, so rather than call back in the architect and design engineers they just were making things fit. Evidently the building inspectors were not looking closely enough, and once concrete was poured the rebar was no longer visible. It wasn’t until the 27th floor of the 47 floor tower was being put in place that somebody finally said “wait – why is this not being done to match the blueprints?” and construction was halted.

Ever since then there has been a large number of lawyers employed to work things out. The city didn’t think it safe to continue so they put a halt to the construction permit, only letting the building be completed to the existing 27 floors. MGM had the contractor put on a roof and exterior glass so that the building was finished from the outside but they stopped all work on the inside. It’s in the news now because the case between MGM and the contractor is finally going to trial, with litigation expected to last for two years or so. Quite a few of the subcontractors have not been paid, and MGM and the main contractor are going back and forth about who is liable for those expenses.

So the building sits there unused. It’s the tower closest to the Strip, next to the Bellagio, and currently is wrapped with an advertisement for the Cirque du Soleil Elvis show (the curved building to the right in the background)

The first 27 floors were planned to be a hotel, with the top 20 floors as condominiums. Quite a few of the condos were presold, meaning that people now own empty air. I don’t know if they are getting refunds or if that will be another lawsuit. The building has not been completed inside, and is just composed of empty concrete floors. MGM has announced it will probably just take the building down and rebuild it from the foundation rather than leave it at only 27 floors.

This means that City Center currently has the most expensive billboard for a Cirque show (or for anything) in the world, as the estimated cost of construction so far is $1,000,000,000 US (in our terms that’s a billion dollars).

Monday, November 15, 2010

War songs

Last Thursday was Veterans Day and as usual I was listening to our local NPR radio station while driving home. They were doing a story on war songs of the Viet Nam era, which I am able to say that I was a part of. When I left college it was a time of high draft levels, so rather than wait to be called up as a mud pounder I followed family tradition and joined the Navy. I worked repairing airplanes, and while I was there our squadron was assigned to both a Mediterranean cruise on the Saratoga and a WestPac on the Ranger, both aircraft carriers. I joined the Navy because you always have a dry bed and a hot meal, much better from my point of view than the options of the Marines or Army, who have to put up with whatever is available wherever they are. I didn’t fly, but a few of our pilots were shot down over Viet Nam, and we did lose some other squadron members from things that happen on board and close to the ship.
The NPR war song story is there, and the song they discussed as being the first commercially big song was Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction

Some of the videos on it have been updated to cover the Middle East conflicts, so it is still appropriate. One I remember a lot was by Country Joe and the Fish – 123- what are we fighting for?

There were songs that supported the other side; Sgt. Barry Sadler did one that prompted a John Wayne movie

The story said that most people remember War by Edwin Starr

I served, and sorry, but I have to agree with the main subject there: what is it good for? I know there are times that you have to stand up, but there are also times you have to let things slide, either as an individual or a nation. Sorry, I lost friends and didn’t see any gain, any threat to our national security, or any positives out of that.

When I got out of the Navy I ended up back at college in upstate New York, and became friends with a girl that attended Kent State during an interesting time. Fannie was feisty and did not constrain herself when presented with something that she didn’t like. We drove out to Ohio one long weekend for her to show me around the campus, and she showed me where she was standing on the library deck, and pointed out bullet holes in the sculpture nearby. If she hadn’t said she was so far away I would be willing to believe that she was one of those throwing stones that supposedly started it all.

I wasn’t around for that one, I was floating on a big boat. But a lot of us were singing “1 – 2 – 3- “

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Around town

Some interesting things happening around town.

A few evenings ago the phone rang and it was an automated call that started “This is a survey about which Republican presidential candidates you would vote for in 2012 “at which point I hung up. Thinking about it, perhaps I should have heard the options and found out what was coming; it was probably a Sarah P promo anyway. The sad part is the fact that I got a call at all. That means there was only a one week break from the last election calls to the next election calls. The volume of calls during the month prior to the election was pretty disturbing out here, with the Angle/Reid contest generating a lot of interest and money we were getting three or four calls a day just on that one, plus all the other races with money for calls, plus both parties frequently calling for donations.

Recent revised government statistics came out last week, and counting people that are out of work and have given up looking and those working part time but really wanting full time jobs our unemployment rate is just over 22%. Using the counts of people actually collecting unemployment insurance it’s more like 14.7%. Whichever, it doesn’t help those out of work at all. The latest round of foreclosure figures that came out today show Vegas is still number one in the nation on that list as well. It kind of goes along with the unemployment numbers: if you get fired and can’t find a job then you can’t make the house payments.

Our weather has been windy and cold, with highs only getting into the low 60’s. It snowed up on Mt. Charleston, so we have white peaks on the mountains to the northwest already – the ski resort there usually opens around Thanksgiving, it’s an hour drive away from the Strip and a break for most of the residents that don’t get to see snow except on TV. (I know, you really feel sorry for us right now). Anyway, the sun is still shining, and you can see that Vegas isn't all lights and casinos.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

More City Center

City Center is the newest development on Las Vegas Boulevard, 67 acres of buildings constructed by MGM, comprised of hotels, condos and a shopping center. All the building surround a central courtyard

Some art galleries run down one access road, with a few works outside.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Monday videos - Lydia

On Monday I usually post interesting videos, or ones I find amusing. Coupled with my love of old movies is YouTube, the holder of a great many clips. Crissy mentioned Lydia, which is an old Groucho Marx song, so I had to go look it up and share it.

I just like Groucho in general. But Kermit seems to do a good version of it too:

Not the same league, but interesting non-the-less is Diane’s suggestion of Rufus Thomas doing the Funky Chicken.

Friday, November 05, 2010

E Friday - violin

E has been playing the violin for a while now. Not because she asked to, but because mom thought it would be good for her. They found a little violin that fit her, and she practices every day. She is doing the ‘Suzuki’ method, which supposedly works pretty well. The first few months all she did was practice holding the violin under her chin, and how to hold a bow. She moved up to playing notes eventually and finally up to playing whole songs. Mom usually supervises the practice, to insure the proper pose.

But when she finishes a song correctly she seems to be greatly relieved.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

sky checkerboards

Las Vegas is underneath some major aircraft routes. During the non summer months here (the few that we have) the temperature way up high is cool with very low humidity, and the jets overhead leave some major stripes behind them way up there. Some of the first photos I took after moving here were of the interesting patterns in the sky.

Driving to downtown early last week I looked up and saw an interesting checkerboard pattern overhead. The camera in my phone doesn’t capture all of the strips overhead, but even so it still is pretty.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Transit - federal stimulus

Bobbie just finished up being a juror on a four week trial. As with most people, she didn’t want to do it, but she just had to be truthful during jury selection questioning and was chosen. She found the experience interesting, and now knows what it looks like inside a courtroom. I was on a half dozen juries while living in southern California as I too was truthful during questioning.

What are the right answers? Some examples: “My brother was recently arrested for the same thing”, “Can’t trust those freekin’ cops, they lie about everything”, “Yes, I’ve been reading a lot about this case and wanted to find out how the guilty sucker was going to defend himself”. Get you kicked off every time.

I was driving her to the federal courthouse downtown every morning and continuing on to work from there (yes, finally got a job – hooray!!) and she would take a bus home each day. She found that interesting, just confirming how poor bus service is in Vegas but at least forcing exercise upon her walking between bus stops and home. There is some construction downtown: a big new city government office building is going up, and some of that federal stimulus money was used to construct a downtown transit center, which had its official opening last week (even though the buses aren’t stopping there yet as it really isn’t completed).

I read that 80% of the federal stimulus funds went directly to states and ended up being used to balance state budgets and pay extended unemployment. This is one of the few ‘shovel ready’ projects that really provided construction jobs. Almost every private construction project in Vegas is on hold, with several big steel structures half finished around town, a few of them on the Strip.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Vote tomorrow

Sorry T, but I remember.

Remember, it doesn't matter what side you are on (well, I think it does) just be sure to vote.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dinner out - Steaks

We were in the mood for a good meal tonight and I thought I’d try a place that we’ve been driving past for quite a while.

Down on Sahara just a half block west of the Strip is the Golden Steer. It’s been in the same place since 1958, so it might be the oldest restaurant in Vegas still serving. It doesn’t look like the place has changed in the last fifty years. It feels like an old restaurant inside, with red leather booths and waiters in tuxedoes. There is still a piano player at the baby grand in the bar area, and several of the staff have been there over thirty years. Steak is what they are known for, but they also have fresh lobster and seafood along with other items. The wine list includes some pretty good liquids, and a full bar can create almost anything, including some old style martinis.

Bobbie and I both had the filet, and it was marvelous. We’ve been looking for another great steak place, and this one served up some pretty good meat.

They are also one of the few restaurants in town that have a license to burn; desserts in the dining room that is. They create Cherries Jubilee or Bananas Foster at tableside, and in the semi dark room it makes for a spectacular show.

We had the cherries. It was a great dessert after a fine meal.

According to the maître de this place has always been a dining spot for the famous in town. Our mayor Oscar Goodman comes regularly, the table in the corner is where Elvis used to sit at, the Rat Pack liked the corner near the door, and OJ had his last meal here before his current incarceration.

We’ll go back, but how often depends on consistency. The total for two of us, with salad, wine, steaks, sides and desserts was right at $150.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


We had some unusual weather last week – it rained for several days. The rain isn’t the unusual part, well, perhaps it is as this was the first significant rain in over 150 days. It’s the several days’ part. Our rain usually comes from thunderstorms, which tend to blow into the area accompanied by high winds, drop an inch or so of water (2cm+) and then blow away leaving blue skies and sunshine. Those thunderstorms pictured in the last post just blew in and out as usual, but we did end up with three days of all clouds. The end result was a total of about 2cm of water overall (about ¾ inch), not much in the rest of the world but it met our October quota.
This is what it looked like out in Henderson

The clouds do provide for some nice sunsets.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thunderstorms and traffic

Last weekend I drove down to the big city of Barstow, California to attend an annual event with some friends. Barstow is southwest of Vegas on the road to Los Angeles, and is about a three hour drive at 260km (150 miles) or so. It’s a three hour drive for me because I am pulling a small trailer with my car, and the speed limit in California for cars pulling trailers is 55mph, while the general speed limit is 70mph. For some reason I usually observe the speed limit, while most cars on this route do not. This results in the drive taking three hours while the other guys usually take less than two hours to get there.

It’s a reasonably pleasant drive there, as we are driving in the opposite direction of most of the weekend traffic. Los Angeles is a four or five hour drive from Las Vegas, depending on where in the city you are coming from. On most weekends the estimate is that 30,000 to 50,000 cars drive from LA to Vegas, driving here on Friday afternoon and back on Sunday afternoon. The only road between these cities is I-15, which is mostly two lanes in each direction. The Friday drive starts for most people when they get off of work, unless they take an early afternoon. The Sunday drive starts at hotel checkout time, usually noon, with lots of people hanging around after checkout to play games and watch the football games in sportsbooks. The large number of cars hitting the road at the same time can cause some slowdowns, especially if there are accidents to look at or bad weather.

Las Vegas is about 2,400 feet above sea level, with LA down at the water. There are two high passes through the mountains on the drive, Cajon Pass at around 3,500 feet and Summit Pass north of Baker at 4,500 feet. Both of these locations can get very heavy snow in the wintertime, causing the road to be closed due to high winds and low visibility. The Baker Grade heading north is also brutal in the summer, rising over 1,000 meters (3,000 ft) in ten miles. With temperatures that can reach 50c (120+f) and people wanting to use the air conditioners in their cars you can usually find quite a few vehicles stuck alongside the road on that grade with hoods up and engines overheating and boiling over.

I wasn’t able to take any photos on my drive south on Friday, as the sun was in front of me, but on my return Sunday the sun was setting behind. The road curves between hills, running southwest from Vegas, so there are straight runs heading due south or west, causing the sun to shine straight in your eyes or be right off the side of your car. It’s mostly flat open desert, with long views to the mountains. Baker is one of the few towns along the road, the only one between Barstow and Vegas. It is the entrance to the Mojave Desert National Preserve, and can get quite hot. But this weekend was a little different out here in the desert; we have been having a few wet days. There were some severe thunderstorms on the drive back, I tried taking photos but the camera kept focusing on the raindrops on my windshield (sorry, too wet to roll down the window).

Here is my first shot driving north, looking at the clouds ahead.

The road in my direction has fairly light traffic, over on the other side is a reasonable amount of vehicles. As you can see, it’s rather flat right here, with not much around. There are no trees out here, just low scrub, sage and creosote bushes. After driving through some really wet windy storms I was at Baker , with the big town just to my left. The population of Baker is around 300, with most people working at the gas stations and fast food places, and some others working at the Mojave National Park. The Baker Grade is right over that truck ahead of me, the road curves a little to get around this big city, with continuous traffic on the other side and headlights approaching. The hills ahead are about 30km (20 miles) away.

After driving over the grade and dropping down into a valley on the other side I passed through some more heavy thunderstorms. There was one big arching rainbow directly over the road, touching down both to the left and right. Straight ahead is the Summit Grade, with a line of car headlights looking like a continuation of the center line. The top of the hill ahead is about 1,000 meters higher than where I am, and is about 30km (20 miles) or so away. The taller peak ahead beyond the grade is around 60km (40 miles) off.

It was interesting driving through the rain. As you can see from the photos, there is not much detail to look at during this drive, but there are nice views of the distant mountains, with some mountains to the west visible about 80km (50 miles) off. It would have been a lot nicer if the wind didn’t keep trying to blow me off the road.

Driving home yesterday here in Vegas the radio stations were interrupted by severe storm warnings. The national weather service has automated voices that cut in on radio and TV broadcasts when something bad is happening. Out here it’s usually ‘severe thunderstorm alert’ several times a year. Yesterday the warnings were for lots of water, flooding in low lying areas, hail the size of quarters (about 3cm in diameter) and winds around 100km/hr (65 mph) for parts of eastern Clark County and parts of northern Arizona. Las Vegas is in central Clark County, but this storm was a little to the north of us. Those announcements are very annoying, accompanied by very loud buzzing sounds to get your attention. We did get a lot of water on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with 30% chance of thunderstorms again today. Even with all of the warnings people still drive through flooded areas.

Found some videos on YouTube showing weather around here. First one is a thunderstorm with hail

Out in the desert it could be raining miles away while you are in sunshine, but the water still goes downhill. Billboards all over tell you not to drive through low spots, it looks like this

At times we just see the lightning

Here in Vegas we can make anything into entertainment. The shopping center behind Planet Hollywood has one area where it rains every hour (inside)

So, besides gambling, come to Vegas for the weather!