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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Vegas thoughts…not a trip report

Posted by jrswift on February 26, 2010

OK,  just a quick summation and a number of fairly random thought on my trip and Vegas in general.  Spent four nights (Saturday through Tuesday) in town, 2 at the Palms and 2 at the Gold Coast.  Flight was on SW.  Gambled quite a bit for me and probably played more slots on this trip than any other.  Probably ended up down $100-150 so not bad.  Weather was borderline cold and it rained on Sunday night.  Generally a light jacket was perfect most anytime so that was fine.  Just from my personal experience, I would say that it was pretty quiet.  Walking traffic most places seemed down about 20-25%.  Saturday night was busy but the rest of the time was not.  Obviously, the economy is really hurting Las Vegas.  So let’s start the random thoughts.

Several nice “scores” on this trip:

Definitely recommend the SW Early Bird checkin:  best $10 you’ll ever spend.  Was A-16 and A-32 and had a nice window seat near the front both ways.  I’ll do it again.

Had always wanted to stay at the Palms and found a great deal on Orbitz well below what they were asking on the Palms website.  Ended up using a promo code I found (Google is your friend) and got it knocked down another 10%.  With all taxes and fees, ended up paying less than $200 with one of those being a Saturday night.

Second score at the Palms was a complimentary upgrade to a Junior Suite.  Was trying to do the $20 trick though I was bumbling it badly when she told me there were no upgrades.  I put away my $20 and she then decided she could put me in the Jr. Suite with a great view of the Strip.  Room a bit dated but big and comfortable.  Was on the SE corner so had two windows.  Between them, you could see  the entire Strip.

Also did well at the Gold Coast as my room was comped.  They put me up high on one of their remodeled floors.  Room still a bit small but the decor was very modern.  On checkout, it turns out they waive the resort fee when you’re comped so my total cost was zero.  HDTV actually had some HD channels and had a pretty good view of the north end of the Strip and downtown.

I’m pretty sure I hit a jackpot of sorts on a penny machine.  I wasn’t playing max coin or I think it would have been like $1000.  As it was I won like 5600 pennies on one spin which is definitely the largest number of any sort of coin I’ve ever had.  Walked away up $60 which is awfully hard to do on one of those machines.

The Good:

Gold Coast buffet for breakfast is always a winner in my book and still no exception.

Palms on a Saturday night is simply off-the-hook.  People everywhere and some of the best looking women you will ever see.

Ghostbar was pretty cool.  Would have been cooler if it wasn’t so damned cold outside but an unbelievable view and the people there were very nice, even though I was no VIP, by any means.

Casino coffee:  Ordered a coffee each morning while playing the machines.  Both the Palms and GC make a darn good cup of coffee.  For a $1 tip, it beats the heck of paying the price at the foo-foo coffee bars.

City Center is visually stunning.  I’m not an architect but the design is extremely creative.

Wynn/Wynn Encore.  Very classy place in the good sort of way.  Everyone perfectly attired and professional.  I accidentally walked away from a machine without cashing out, remembered a couple minutes later and a security guard was standing there watching and waiting.  He didn’t say a word but I knew he had seen what happened and was protecting my measly $11.  Two thumbs up.  Oh, and the Wynn has simply the most stunning Cocktail Waitresses anywhere in the city.

Palazzo  is also stunning.   It is what the Venetian was 10 years ago.   I have never walked into a casino before and felt relaxed but something about the design of this place just works without being over the top.  Most every other casino in the city seems to be trying to overstimulate but this place seems to want to make you comfortable.

Tickets and ticket-redemption machines:  how did we ever play the old way?

24/7 Cafe at the Palms:  Not a big fan of the hotel coffee shops at full price but it was late and I was hungry.  Good service and a huge plate of good food I could barely finish.  Was worth it.

Two cocktail waitresses, one at the Palms and one at the Gold Coast:  After breakfast the first day at GC, I played one of my favorite slots and ordered a coffee with cream and no sugar.  I went back the next morning and one other day and, when the waitress walked by, she just said “coffee with cream?”  Color me impressed.  Still Crysta or maybe Crystal at the Palms is the winner for the week.   Saturday night at the Palms was packed with people partying and playing.  I was perched at a nickel video poker machine for several hours, mostly just grinding away, hardly the profile to get great service.  Lovely blonde waitress walks by fairly soon after I arrived and I ordered my standard Budweiser.  Came by fairly quickly the second time.  After I ordered a third time, she seemed to disappear and I was getting a bit annoyed.  When she finally made it back, she apologized but said the bar had run out of Budweiser and she had a hard time fighting through the crowds.  Was a Bud Light OK?  I said sure.  She came back with a Bud Light and a Budweiser and wouldn’t take more than a $1 as tip.  Then she came back with two more Budweisers and refused any tip at all.  Very nice.   Did I mention she was awfully pretty too?

And, of course the Fountains at the Bellagio.  Always.  3 PM show.  Bocelli and Brightman and always a few tears in my eyes when it ends.

The Bad:

What did I ever do to you Dean Martin?  Except love and respect you and your music!  Well, you and your damned Dean Martin’s Wild Party slot machine must have stolen over $100 from me with one measly bonus round!  I honestly think I might have come out ahead for the trip if I had been able to avoid this machine but it kept sucking me in.

Le Village Buffet @ Paris Las Vegas.  I’m sorry, not a win.  It was the one big superbuffet on the Strip I had never eaten and so I tried it out.   OK, the decor is pretty cool.  They either seat you “outside” or in these little rooms that are like a couple of tables in a house.  Well, executed.  Food not so much.  Maybe I just wasn’t feeling adventurous enough to try some of the peculiar items available but the things I did try just weren’t very good.  I kept thinking I could have eaten better food for half the price.

Casinos.  OK, not all of them but most of them.  They are looking so tired and uninteresting, even the ones I used to like.  Mandalay Bay, Venetian, Monte Carlo,  MGM Grand, Excalibur and I go could go on and on.  I guess I’m jaded but they are just so tired and worn down.  I’ve never particularly liked NY NY or Paris but at least they are still trying to execute a theme and do it reasonably well.  Planet Hollywood and Luxor seem to at least be trying to look somewhat modern and aren’t terrible.  And not just older casinos.  Aria is just as awful on the inside as it is stunning on the outside.  Why so freaking dark?

The Cab Driver who “tunneled” me from the airport to my hotel.  I’m sure he figured me for some midwestern rube who didn’t know what he was doing but I did.   Did I complain?  No, I probably should have but I really hate starting my vacation by arguing with people.  I have found being agreeable with people in the service industry makes my life (and theirs) much easier so the arguing would have spoiled my mood.  OK, the tunnel probably was slightly quicker and, on a Saturday, the surface traffic might have slowed us down enough to bump up the fare but he still basically ripped me off for $5.  Yes, I even tipped the bastard but not much.  Gee, I’m such a sucker sometimes.  (OTOH, all the rest of my cab drivers were very cool.)

Traffic.  I took the bus from the Palms a couple of times out to the Strip and even beyond.  I honestly think I could have walked to the Strip faster than this bus could drive it.  The Rio shuttle drivers took the most ridiculous roundabout trips just to avoid Flamingo and they had to.

Drink service.  Other than a couple of shining exceptions mentioned above, drink service was pretty bad.  I would see cocktail waitresses but they appeared not to see me.   I know you are busy but when you walk by two or three times and don’t even try, I find it annoying.  Your loss.  I always tip you, even if you aren’t pretty or particularly fast.

This one is on me because I am lazy but I didn’t make it to downtown, the Hard Rock, Caesars, the Orleans or any number of other interesting places and I just barely touched some of the Strip casinos.  I was just too comfortable in my own little corner of Vegas to venture out much but I should have forced myself to do so.  Oh well, that’s why I have to go back again this summer.   🙂

The Ugly:

The Luxor.  No, it isn’t ugly.  The Pyramid is visually stunning and I actually like what they’ve done in remodeling but give it up with all the one word names for everything.   The buffet is More, the steakhouse is Tender, the bar is Liquidity.  And on and on.   Fantasy, LAX, Noir, Flight, Aurora.   OK, we get it.  You’re so cool.  No truth to the rumor that the Criss Angel show will now be referred to as just Lame but maybe there should be.

Sad to say but Las Vegas is looking pretty rough around the edges.  Oh, it is still shiny and pretty most everywhere you look but, if you look just off the beaten track, things are not good.  The streets, the buildings and the people are looking pretty tired and you can tell that things are not going well.  The economy is really hurting a lot of people out there.   Some of them did it to themselves but a lot of them are (more or less) innocent bystanders who got hit hard.  Everyone you see who is working looks nervous and I can understand why.  I’m sure that things will bounce back at some point but what will have been lost in the interim?  Once a person or a business or a dream is gone, it isn’t going to be back.   The reality is that one day Vegas will just be another strange, abandoned place that future generations will look back on and try to understand.  I honestly hope that I don’t live to see that day.

Well, that is enough thoughts for now.  Maybe more later.


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Should I be disilluisoned at 46?

Posted by jrswift on December 13, 2009

Has been a bit of a rough year for some of my personal heroes.    In just the last 6 months or so, three people I held in very high esteem have experienced quite a fall from grace.   I guess I should speak to the Tiger Woods thing first.  I’m not really sure how to feel about it.  From the moment he first played on the PGA tour, he has been my favorite golfer.  He has made me pay attention to a sport that I never cared that much about before.  While he had his flaws, he seemed like the genuine article.  He was, it appeared, exactly what he represented himself to be.    I have my share of favorite athletes and entertainers who are full of flaws and actually seem to be play them up for effect.  I don’t mind.  I can be a bit of a ruffian myself from time to time and kind of like the fact that these people are very human.  I don’t necessarily admire them but I like them.  I admired Tiger Woods and I still do.  But I can’t help but feel differently about him today than I did a few weeks back.  He is arguably the finest golfer of this and perhaps any other generation and his dedication, work ethic and courage remain.  But now he is just another flawed person, like the rest of us I fear, and I don’t think I’ll see him much as a hero anymore.  I could honestly care less about people’s personal flaws and foibles and only Tiger’s wife and family have any right to be angry with him over his behavior but the rest of us have the right to be disappointed.  He seemed different.  He was a “role model” and he relished that “role” and now he isn’t.

Two other slightly less high-profile people have also suffered a fall and they were also people I admired.  It was just a few months back that I was very excited at the prospect that Gov. Mark Sanford might seek the Republican nomination for President.   There was at least some buzz in the libertarian community to that effect.  He appeared to be a man of genuine political courage and, while perhaps not as consistent as I might like, one of principle.  Then his sexual failings came out and it was clear that this flaw would prevent from ever seeking higher office and would likely end a promising political career.   I was disappointed not so much in his behavior as a man but because he was a successful politician who believed many of the same things I do.  Successful libertarians are about as rare as unicorns and perhaps those of us who share their political sentiments invest too much hope in the ones we find.  Liberals and conservatives have plenty of  “heroes” to chose from.  We don’t.  And now we have one less.

Finally, the end of the Mark Mangino era at Kansas has left me feeling a bit down too.  It was clear he had to go and not just because of the allegations against him.  He had stopped moving the team in the right direction and, whatever his earlier accomplishments, that meant a change had to be made.  But I also went from feeling that he was a tough football coach who pushed his players to be their best to just seeing him as a big bully.  Coming from a state where football was king, the mediocrity of Kansas football has always been frustrating to me.  For a few years, it looked like maybe that was over and that we could be contenders.  After this past season, it would appear we are back to our mediocre ways again.   For a time, Mangino represented hope and the possibility that KU would be taken seriously, not just in the spring but in the fall too.  Now that hope is gone.

On a side note, it appears that Kansas has hired a very impressive young man to be its new head coach.  He is bright, dedicated and a true leader of men.  He appears to be of remarkable character and, if he is reasonably successful, I may come to admire him.  He seems worthy of that admiration.  But then again, so did these other men.

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I am way too connected right now

Posted by jrswift on September 24, 2008

So this is pretty ridiculous but I’m texting, listening to a netcast, on IRC, 4 instant messenger clients, have my email client open, am signed into Windows Live Mail, just twittered and am sort of watching TV.  I guess if I turn on the radio and make a phone call, I might just explode!  Oh and I just checked Myspace and will probably go to Facebook next.  Oh well…that’s all I’ve got.  Oh…and I guess I just blogged too!  LOL

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Monday’s suck

Posted by jrswift on September 22, 2008

Yeah, that’s not much of a topic because it isn’t like anyone is going to disagree unless it is one of their days off.  But today was just a special bonus bad day with a whole bunch of little silly things going wrong from morning until evening.  And, of course, I was tired.  I always end up staying up (sometimes out) too late on Saturday so that means I lay around all day on Sunday and sleep too much.  That, in turn, means that I can never go to sleep Sunday night and that, in turn, means I’m tired on Monday.  At least I got to watch some fresh Monday night entertainment tonight which is a good thing.  And I can’t really complain much about the weekend.  I had a good one and all of my favorite sports teams did well.  The Jayhawks won their football game though it wasn’t pretty.  The Cubs clinched their division and a spot in the playoffs and the Cowboys won for the first time ever in Green Bay and remain undefeated.  So maybe I’m not that unhappy.  Maybe I’m just lazy.  Yeah, I probably am…and that’s why I’m going to end this blog entry now.  More later…maybe.

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I guess I’m in a cult now

Posted by jrswift on September 14, 2008

So a while back I started thinking about getting a new phone.  I realized that I’d had my old one for almost 2 years and I figured I would get something new.  I must point out that I’ve always had pre-paid cell phones and I’ve been mostly pretty happy with that.  The last few years have been through Net10 and I recommend them highly.  It is a good no-nonsense provider with straightforward pricing and does the job of calling and texting just fine.  The bad thing about Net10 and most any other pre-paid company is that the phones are just not very exciting and I kind of wanted something exciting.

So I started looking at phones I could get with a contract and, of course, that opened up a whole new world of options, maybe just too many.  Touch-screen phones, smart phones, TV phones, texting phones, etc.  There are a mind-numbing number of options and I spent hours online reading up on them as well as watching dozens of youtube  videos demonstrating them.  Last week I decided to take the plunge and bought a shiny new Blackberry Curve via ATT.  It arrived from Amazon on Thursday and I’ve been playing around with it quite a bit ever since.  It can certainly do a lot of things, some of which I’ll probably never use, and I think I’m going to like having it.

Not only that but, short of springing for an iphone, it has a pretty high “cool-factor” and that’s a big change of pace for me.  Going from my little no-frills Nokia that wouldn’t impress the crowd at the Greyhound terminal to a Blackberry is kind of like trading up from a Chevy to a Mercedes and I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Other than that high-end stereo system I bought some 20 odd years ago, my “stuff” has always been pretty unexciting.  Cheap (mostly) functional devices that I used until they  completely wore out and then replaced with another similar device.  Now I can actually whip out my new phone and impress people.  But I’ve done it a few times now and I didn’t feel that good about doing it.  I just don’t think I’m good at showing off.

It also turns out that this “blackberry thing” is kind of a cult-like little world and now I’m in their cult.   I can check my email everywhere and thumb type my text message and become a “crackberry addict” and apparently this is considered cool too…or maybe just lame.  I think I might actually prefer it being considered lame and nerdy because I’m actually more comfortable with that role.  More on this as it develops.

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Frozen Pizza

Posted by jrswift on August 19, 2008

And so it was that I prepared for frozen pizza again.  Not much cash today but, no problem, there is always Totinos, the king of “poverty pizza.”  Actually it is pretty good in an icky sort of way.  I’m not fond of the saltine cracker crust as I prefer something a bit thicker and bread-like.  Nonetheless, two of these babies at $2.50 makes a very filling dinner and are a great deal.  What cheese is present actually tastes pretty good and the meat is, well, it is meat-like at least.

I’ve mentioned my love for frozen pizza before so maybe I’ll do a short review of some of my favorites.  I used to be strictly a Red Baron guy and I still enjoy their pizza but not as much as a few years back.  They seem to have started cutting corners and the cheese in particular is not as good.  I think that the DiGiorno is probably my favorite but it quite pricey and is hard to polish off in a single setting.  The DiGiorno Ultimate is probably the very best frozen pizza I’ve tried but it is rarely less than $6 so I don’t buy it much.  Tony’s or Jack’s make good compromise pies, neither painfully “awful” like Totinos or Genos but not great like the expensive brands.  They are a very good choice when they go on sale for $2 or less which happens pretty frequently around here.  Both have good cheese and toppings (particularly Jack’s) and Tony’s has a nice crust.  Tombstone used to be a distant second or third to Red Baron but I’ve come to enjoy their Pepperoni quite a bit.  It (along with Red Baron) is a good deal if you can get it for $3-4 and that is fairly common.  Freschetta is pretty close to DiGiorno when it comes to higher end stuff but I find it dough-ier so I tend to lean the other way.

As to toppings, I enjoy the Pepperoni, Sausage or Hamburger and often a meat or multi-cheese combination.  Contrary to popular belief, I don’t hate all vegetables but the ones most commonly scattered on a pizza like green peppers, onions, mushrooms and olives are near the bottom of my veggie list so I stick to the meat and cheese.  So there you have it.  My thoughts on frozen pizza.  I think I’m going to go eat one (or two) now.

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Posted by jrswift on August 18, 2008

I used to really like television but I’m not so sure anymore.  I don’t watch a lot of it but it is usually on in the background when I’m home in the evening.  I don’t have cable (and, based on what I’ve seen recently, I’m not missing much) so I end up watching a lot of weird things.  I’ve expressed my obsession with cooking shows but I watch other bizarre things and I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one who is in the viewing audience.  Reruns of King of Queens, Family Guy, Two and a Half Men and Unhappily Ever After are the normal things.  The weird things are the strange little shows on PBS and Ion TV.  They have a couple of shows on there that are just odd.  Girls Gone Fishing which is basically a couple of pretty cute girls who (ta da) go fishing.  There is absolutely no reason to be watching this.  But I do.  Worse yet is Get Out which features usually three very hot girls in bikinis who have adventures doing crazy wild things like sky dive and feed monkeys.  And I watch it.  And you think you’ve got problems.  Oh well…I’m going to go watch some TV now.

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Sunday thoughts

Posted by jrswift on August 17, 2008

So, yeah, today was a lot like I expected and I got to meet exactly the sort of people I had hoped I wouldn’t.  That being said, I actually got a lot done and it was a pretty productive day and one less day I have to work this week.

So I’ve actually been watching the Olympics this year (and I guess I’m not the only one) and I haven’t really watched them much at all the last few times around.  Maybe it is just that there are more compelling storylines but I’m not sure.  I have actually caught myself standing and cheering a few times and being genuinely entertained so I guess part of it has simply been that the events have been competitive and fun to watch.  Too often sports aren’t as much fun as they should be.  All the “feel good” stories and exciting performances seem to end in some kind of disgrace or scandal.  Let’s just hope this one doesn’t.  I’m not usually an optimist but I don’t think it will.

So my birthday is less than 3 weeks away and I’ll be 45.  That sounds much older than 44 for some reason and I’m not all that thrilled with it.  And just two days ago, I completed 20 years of service at my job and I’ve thought about that a lot.  Very few people do anything for 20 years anymore and so I guess it is somewhat of an accomplishment.  Oddly enough, those years have seemed to fly by but I suppose that is life.  I can’t honestly say I regret having done what I’ve done but it does make you wonder about the road not taken.  I guess I have taken the “road less travelled” but I don’t really think that makes me better, just different.

So I’ve started every paragraph with “so” and I’ll do the same with this last one.  I am making a concerted effort to blog daily and this posting is a part of that.  I just don’t think I’m a very good blogger.  I always try to say too much or try to be just a little too clever.  And, given other blogs that I read, I try to be far too original.  Most postings seem to just point at something else that someone else has written and then make a smartass remark about it.  Oh well…I yam what I yam.

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Top 10 Guilty Pleasures

Posted by jrswift on August 10, 2008

So this idea just popped into my head. Thought I’d think about all the things I like that I probably shouldn’t. I guess I’ll make it into a Top 10 because, frankly, I’ve got about a hundred guilty pleasures that I could throw in here.

1. Cheap Beer – So this is kind of a new one. In the last year or two, I’ve become a guy who drinks beer. I used to go for the cocktail thing but, lately, I’ve leaned towards the suds. And I’m far from a “beer snob” as I’ve discovered I’ll pretty much drink anything. I usually stick to something slightly classy (if you call Budweiser classy) when I go out but pretty much anything goes when I pick something up for my home consumption. Been picking up 12-packs of “the Beast” lately at the local grocery store and it pretty much does the job. Let’s be honest. I’m just looking for a cool beverage and a little buzz and if I can do it for 25 cents a can, all the better.

2. Bad Girls – Yeah, this one is probably pretty common but that doesn’t make it right. Give me a girl who’s made a sex tape or gone to jail or rehab and I’m probably going to think she’s hot. Paris, Britney, Lindsey…got to love ’em all. I’ve become rather obsessed with Kim Kardashian lately and she’s obviously not a “nun in training.” I have to say that I find “nice girls” pretty uninteresting, even if they have plenty of wonderful personal qualities. Probably why I’m still single.

3. Frozen Pizza – I have to confess that I eat frozen pizza at least 3 times a week and I have for many years. Partly it is because I am terribly lazy and all I have to do is throw it in the oven and enjoy the cheesy goodness 10 or 15 minutes later. But I actually like it. And I’ve eaten them all. I could write a blog just on the many variations of frozen pizza out there (and I might) and the various pros and cons of each. Oh yeah…and it’s cheap. Hmmm…seems to be a trend here.

4. Las Vegas – This one is pretty obvious if you’ve read any of the rest of my blogs but that doesn’t make it any less real. Good Lord…I’ve visited Vegas fifteen times. I don’t even know if I’ve visited my family that many times in the same time frame. I think I’ve figured out that I have slept in the state of Nevada something like 75 nights in the last 10 odd years. And it isn’t like I really do anything all that interesting when I’m there. I really need a hobby.

5. Cooking shows – OK…I can’t really explain this. I’ll pretty much watch any program where people are cooking. I’ve been that way since I was a little kid when I used to watch the French Chef and the Galloping Gourmet. And I don’t really cook. At least not very often. I just find them fascinating and I probably always will.

6. Naps – So I’ve gotten to the point where I can pretty much sleep anywhere or anytime and, when the opportunity presents itself, I do. In fact, I don’t so much sleep normally anymore. I just take a series of naps. It has totally messed up any sort of normal sleep schedule and I can’t recommend that anyone else take up this practice. It is at its worse on the weekends and it makes Monday an even longer day than usual.

7. Abusing my computer – No, I don’t go around striking it with a hammer or subjecting it to any sort of physical abuse. I just can’t leave well enough alone. I’m constantly tweaking settings and reinstalling things and changing operating systems and it just can’t be all that good for the poor thing. I’ll probably get a new system next year and, if this one survives until then, it will have been some sort of miracle.

8. Podcasts – Honestly, I can sit around and listen to people babble on about things for hours and hours, particularly if it something I am interested in. Talk radio is too full of idiots and I mostly want to slap them. But, on the internet, I can pick and choose what I want to listen to and avoid the idiots. So I do. Probably listen to 10-12 hours a week of podcasts and it keeps getting worse.

9. Neglect – I have a remarkable ability (dis-ability) to ignore things. I don’t clean enough. I don’t fix things that break. I even neglect people that I should spend more time with than I do. Then, when I finally do get around to doing what I should have been doing all along, it is always harder and more involved than it needs to be. I really need to work on this one.

10. Making lists – Somehow I feel like I am accomplishing something if I write down a list. See, I’m doing it again. But really, it is just a way to waste time and I’m very good at that. And, worse yet, I often don’t even get around to finishing them. Oh well, at least I finished this one. 🙂

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