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.