Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Around the office

Unfortunately I currently have to work at a job. No, not independently wealthy yet, I still depend on those paychecks to get by. My last employer was the Sands Convention Center, where I provided computer programming services for running the place, and created web sites as required. The Sands Convention Center is attached to the Venetian/Palazzo hotels (sorry, resorts). As visitors coming to Las Vegas declined along with the economy all of the big Las Vegas resorts had massive layoffs. The Sands was unaffected by several over at the Venetian, but eventually we were included in a round that covered about 2,000 people. The Venetian laid off 2,000, the Sands only 20, but proportionately it was a larger percentage of the Sands workforce. It doesn’t take too many permanent people to run a convention center, we brought in temporary workers to help put on the shows, the full time staff just maintained the place and organized renting the place.

I was out of work for a while, and eventually hired by a company located way out at the edge of Henderson, one of the cities that comprise the greater Las Vegas area. Our building is out at the far north eastern edge of the Vegas valley, with no other building within a mile of us. The building is split into areas, and filled with cubicles. Upstairs we have low walls, but downstairs the cubes are smaller and taller, providing isolation for the sales staff talking on their phones.

I’ve got a cube near the outside wall, with a window right behind me., with a view of the open desert and the mountains.

As a result of our location we have a lot of animal visitors to our small spot of grass out front. There is a group of seven or eight rabbits that are out every morning eating the grass. Yesterday one of them was a little different; it seems like he had a little run in with a coyote, as his left ear has a nice bite taken out of the very tip. Just had my cell phone when he was close to the window, so you have to look closely to make out the missing tip.

Besides the rabbits there are lots of little chipmunks skittering around. They are to small and fast and don’t stop to pose for me to get a good photograph. A family of a dozen or so quail also come by. Yesterday a road runner made his appearance, out on the grass with the bunnies.

But the warm summer also brings out some other desert citizens. Last week a rattlesnake was found in the shade of the building. Our office manager is a little snake paranoid, so we have several snake bite kits scattered around, along with a special snake stick to pick them up with – it’s about two meters long with a grasping hook at the end. The stick was used to move this guy (no photos of that, sorry) and it ended up being a young snake, about a meter long with only three or four rattle segments.

Still big enough to cause some pain if he bit anyone.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Videos

On Mondays I try to share some of the videos that I’ve been looking at lately. Most of them are music videos, a lot are here because I listen to the New Zealand radio station NZED over the internet while sitting at work, and they link to things that I haven’t heard in the US yet. Others are from postings on other blogs, or things I happen to run into.

Today I’ve been listening to a new release over in NZ. It’s a nice song with interesting images in the video

Besides, a video with naked people can’t be all bad.

This one came from somewhere, nice hook

Hadn’t heard of her before. She appeared on The Voice, a show I don’t watch. Looks like she picked up a good handler that greatly changed her style, judging by some postings from not too long ago.

I’ll take the new version.

Friday, August 26, 2011

E Friday - with hair

Just a mixture of things about granddaughter E today. One of her recent visits down resulted in a trip to the local park – local parks are important in Las Vegas because almost everyone has followed the advice of our water district and we have become more water smart (their advertising term) and pulled out our lawns and replaced them with gravel and native vegetation. For those of you not familiar with our ‘native vegetation’ it has evolved to be unattractive to eat, resulting in plants with no big leaves (that are easy to munch), tough bark and lots of thorns. Usually the plants also are low growing and not very colorful. They also depend on wind born pollination, which results in the creation of tons of pollen, which also produces allergies in people that didn’t have allergies before moving here.

Anyway, we went to the park, where E likes the big swings and the tube slides and climbing stuff.

Grammy went up to Portland for her fifth birthday (she is SIX now, say it loudly please). Back when she had more hair

Her favorite breakfast is cheerios. This trip it has changed to banana cheerios, due to grandma seeing that new flavor on the supermarket shelf.

And sometimes a muffin.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mt. Charleston flowers

Last week we went up to Mt. Charleston again for a picnic. It’s a lot cooler there, two patches of snow were still high up in the shade. We weren’t that high, but did have a nice picnic next to a small stream and walked along the nature trail. It’s still a mountain desert, with very little water besides the winter snows, so the vegetation is not very lush. The trees are scrawny and the weeds very low, but there were some flowers scattered here and there.

It is pretty remote down from the road, with no traffic and hikers that wander through every few years or so. There are some streams, and it looks like some Californians have moved in. Last week a police helicopter searching for a lost hiker found something else: several acres of marijuana plants growing. The TV news yesterday showed scenes of an assortment of workers hiking down to the location, finding a complex drip watering system fed by some springs and evidence that the growers had been there for several years. The estimate is of several million dollars street value of plants, which will be cut down, hauled out by helicopter and burned. I don’t know why they go through all that trouble, people had planned on burning the plants anyway, just in smaller quantities wrapped in paper.

Talk like a Pirate day coming

An advanced reminder that International Talk Like A Pirate Day is coming soon, on Monday September 19

As discussed in this Wiki entry, and you can go to the official site to learn exactly what to do.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A hot week predicted

This week is looking to be the hottest week of our summer. Highs for the next four days are predicted to be over 44c (110f), a point that we have only hit twice so far this year. Normally the middle of July is the hottest time, and August is the start of a cool down towards Fall. Thank you Oklahoma (and the rest of the country) for taking our heat for most of the summer. Though we love the sunshine and summer warmth it is still nice to be a little bit cooler than normal.

To help you think happy thoughts here is a cooling view of the Palazzo center court.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Caesar's Linq

The largest employer and biggest company in Las Vegas, MGM, completed its City Center complex a few years ago (except for the Harmon Hotel thing). The second largest company is Caesars Entertainment has just announced its next large project, not quite as big as City Center, but for more than I could spend. The Linq is a $550,000,000 “outdoor retail, dining and entertainment district patterned after The Grove in Los Angeles and anchored by the world’s tallest observation wheel.”

It will be constructed in the center of the Strip on the east side, across from Caesar’s Palace between the Imperial Palace and the Flamingo. Currently O’Shea’s casino is located there, and it will be demolished to make room for the new stuff. I wandered through O’Shea’s a few times, the only notable thing about that small casino was their on-staff Leprechaun, dressed in green standing out front trying to entice people to enter and get some cold beer. The Imperial Palace will receive a major facelift and be renamed and the Flamingo will get a new entryway.

Caesar’s Entertainment is trying to provide an entertainment destination for the ‘younger’ crowd, those that don’t find acres of slot machines appealing but would rather have multiple things to do. Drawings show a mixture of rides, bars and restaurants along with the big wheel. (Don’t call it a ‘Ferris Wheel’; it’s an ‘Observation Wheel’). Caesar’s Entertainment covers Caesar’s Palace, Harrah’s, Planet Hollywood, Paris, the Flamingo, Rio, Imperial Palace, Bally’s and several other casinos.

Along with the announcement Caesar’s said they have all the plans and money in place, would be applying for permits and be ready to start construction almost immediately. This would create several thousand construction jobs which would be great as all other construction has halted. However, because of the lack of jobs most construction people have moved out of Nevada looking for work. I don’t know who is around to do that work. Then it would provide 1,500 permanent jobs.

The Wheel would be 550 feet high, 107 feet taller than the London Eye, with 40 passengers in each glass sphere. I don’t know if people will pay $20 (or whatever they end up charging) just to go up and down slowly, but the planners must expect riders. The rest of the design looks pretty nice, and will create a fun destination that doesn’t include just gambling. It should take two years to build, so the next time you come to Vegas you’ll have an additional place to take up some of your time.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Elvis billboard is gone

Well, it looks like having the world’s most expensive billboard did not help out Elvis, or the billboard.

When City Center was built it was comprised of several separate buildings, each of which would function independently.

Most of them were designed by different architects and built by different construction companies, but they all seem to fit together quite well.

One of the showcase buildings, right on the Strip next to the Cosmopolitan and the Bellagio was to be the Harmon Hotel. The design was for 27 floors of hotel rooms, with 20 floors of condominiums above. Unfortunately, the construction company putting up this building had problems converting the engineering blueprints into an actual building. The reinforcing steel bars (rebar) that ran vertically in the walls were supposed to be firmly connected to the horizontal rebar in each floor, thus making the building one giant linked object. Concrete is then formed over the steel, creating the building. This is the common form of construction for most modern large buildings. The construction workers however had problems making the rebar connections, which resulted in the steel in the floors not being tied to the steel in the walls. For some reason the inspectors that were supposed to be examining everything as it went together were not doing their jobs either, and the difference between the blueprints and reality were not noticed until concrete for the 27th floor was being poured. (private inspection companies were used, not government inspectors)

Work stopped at that point as the county building department was called in. Unsure if it was safe to continue upwards, it was decided to put up the glass and leave the building unfinished until full inspections could be made. MGM put up a big sign for their new Elvis Cirque du Soleil show on the Strip side of the building, thus turning it into a $79,000,000 billboard.

MGM and Perini Construction are involved in a series of lawsuits about the building. A few weeks ago MGM released inspection reports by several firms they hired to review the building. The reports showed the building would be unsafe in a large earthquake. MGM took some time to decide whether they could fix things, and last week decided they did not want to. So a request was placed with the court to let MGM just tear the place down. Perini says they can fix it, and that MGM was going to destroy evidence and just wanted to take down a building that the economy was making unviable. A court will decide the fate of the building.

Meanwhile, the Elvis show has turned out to be so poorly attended that Cirque and MGM decided to close that as well. The plan is to modify the show, and take away a lot of the Elvis background and make it more of a Cirque acrobatic performance, like most of their other shows. They plan to be closed for at least three months while the show is revised. So the big Elvis wrap has been removed from the building, and probably the whole building will soon be gone as well.

The overall cost for the entire City Center project rose from initial estimates to a final $8,500,000,000, so the Harmon building is just a minor part of the big picture. It seems the only people that will benefit from the Harmon part are lawyers, many of which are working for both MGM and Perini. It looks like lawsuits will be around for this part for quite a few more years.

Friday, August 12, 2011

E Friday - fashion

Granddaughter E has developed into something of a ‘fashionista’. She likes selecting her own outfits, and mom has given up making suggestions. I find most of the combinations to be interesting, along with some of the poses.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


We went over to a restaurant in Summerlin a few days ago – just an area west of the Strip built up by the Howard Hughes Corporation into some fancy neighborhoods. One of the restaurant areas has a nice view of Red Rock

South of town, down I15 headed to Los Angeles about twenty miles is the big city of Jean. Just east is the site of the Nevada State Prison, now closed but used by CSI for most of their prison and jail scenes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bathroom's done

A while back we remodeled our hall bath. No knocking down walls and making it bigger, just new tile all around, new fixtures, new cabinets and counter and sink and lighting and floor tiles. Just minor things (that for some reason took weeks to do). Did it all ourselves, and found out it’s hard to lay tiles with consistent grout lines if the tile saws that you rent from Home Depot don’t cut a straight line. Anyway . .

B wanted to go for big tile, so we found some 24” x 24” things that looked pretty. Then decided that they looked good on the floor but too big for a small bathroom wall, so they were cut down to 12” x 24” and stuck on vertically. That was boring so we came up with an accent stripe in a different shade. And of course I had to figure out how to do niches for soap and stuff in both the shower and tub areas. All of those home improvement shows we watch on cable aided us, and I was able to order some fancy waterproofing for the shower stall (pulled out a plastic one we put in when we moved and made it all tile) and figured out the right way to do tile. We can see the imperfections, but our visitors think it looks pretty good.

Here’s B working on grouting the tub area

And this is what the shower ended up like. Tile color is the same all around but the lights are different, so the camera auto color correct didn’t make them match in the two photos. To my eye they are more beige like the below photo

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Cosmopolitan art

The Cosmopolitan has many art pieces scattered around. These guys were interesting, over a meter high, having an intense silent conversation.

Monday, August 08, 2011

City Center fountains

City Center is a large complex on the Las Vegas Strip just south of the Bellagio. It is comprised of several structures; a casino, some hotel towers (managed by different companies), a shopping center and some residential condo towers. There is a central court with a driveway for vehicles, a special cab only driveway and ramp and some fountains. A monorail runs from the Monte Carlo to the south through the complex and ends at the Bellagio. It was the largest privately funded construction project in the history of the US, with construction on the 76 acres costing over $ 9,000,000,000 (wow).

There are seven parking garages at City Center, six are valet only and one is public access. Whenever we visit we usually park at the Luxor located across Tropicana to the south, walk over through the Luxor and Excalibur, cross the street on the elevated bridge, through New York, New York (so nice they named it twice) and into the Monte Carlo, where we catch the monorail to the Bellagio where we look at the latest decorations in the conservatory, then walk back through City Center. (yes, it is a lot of walking).

Here is the central court

Over to the west is a large water wall fountain

The central fountain has the same water jets located in the Bellagio fountain, so you get to watch a miniature version of the big water show

The blue building in the center background of the last photo is the Harmon Hotel, which due to construction defects is now the most expensive billboard in the world, displaying a large sign for the Cirque show Elvis, individual construction of this building estimated at over $400,000,000. Sounds like it is going to be demolished due to problems with the construction steel and rebuilt.

Friday, August 05, 2011


For some reason I am glad it’s Friday

Just love Katy’ Perry’s response.

We were talking about music videos being short stories compared to movies – I miss when MTV used to show videos instead of reality shows. But at least YouTube is available. NZED plays this all the time, and it still sounds like fun.

Thursday, August 04, 2011


I found out why, within two hours of putting a pound of seeds in my bird feeder, the thing is empty:

Birds come by and eat all the seeds!!! Imagine that.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


We had a lot of rain this weekend. Thunderstorms Friday evening really dropped the rain at our house, Saturday a little wet and then Sunday it rained steadily all day. Because of the hills and winds different parts of the valley get different amounts of rain - might have rained all day at my place but the Strip could have been sunny. No telling.

But the high humidity (well, for us 25% is damp) brings nice sunrises

The colors don't come out in the camera as nicely as they do live.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Mt. Charleston

We went up to Mount Charleston one Sunday to see just how much cooler it was up there. Mt. Charleston is the big hill just northwest of Vegas, a forty five minute drive from our house. The peak is around 12,000 ft (3,700 meters) high, and gets a fair amount of snow in the winter. There is a small ski and snowboarding area with lifts, which is scheduled to greatly expand over the next few years. You can gamble down on the warm strip (winter highs are usually close to 80f (26c)) and then go up and play in the snow.

Driving up to the parking area near the ski lifts we can see that even though it’s the end of July there is still snow up here. Temperatures were about 30 degrees cooler than down in the valley.

There are a lot of walking trails through the pines. Even though it is high and they get snow in the winter it is still a desert, the trees are not as large as other mountains have, there are no low growing bushes, the grass is sparse, but still different than the open flats far below.

There are lifts up the slope, the skiing is nothing like the big ski resorts but it is close to town.

Trails are open, most are fenced to keep people off of the surrounding hills as feet tend to kill the plants, resulting in a lot of erosion due to the poor soil and slow plant growth.

Most of the upper mountain is rock, with no paths to the top. I haven’t heard anything about it being a big climbing area.

There are picnic areas, but due to the dryness and high fire danger most of the summer open fires are not permitted. Bring along sandwiches, or a camping stove if you want to cook something. It’s a cool diversion for summer activities.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Monday, not much to do videos

Some videos have been on my list to post for a while. My New Zealand radio station plays a lot of Justin Beiber. I can just see this at the biker bar near my house

What Santa does in his off time

Or fast clapping

And back to one of my favorite singers