Thursday, 31 May 2007

Play Golf!

In 1923, who was:

1. President of the largest steel company?

2. President of the largest gas company?

3. President of the New York Stock Exchange?

4. Greatest wheat speculator?

5. President of the Bank of International Settlement?

6. Great Bear of Wall Street?

These men were considered some of the worlds most successful of their days. Now, 80 years later, the history book asks us if we know what ultimately became of them. The Answers:

1. The president of the largest steel company, Charles Schwab, died a pauper.

2. The president of the largest gas company, Edward Hopson, went insane.

3. The president of the NYSE, Richard Whitney, was released from prison to die at home.

4. The greatest wheat speculator, Arthur Cooger, died abroad, penniless.

5. The president of the Bank of International Settlement, shot himself.

6. The Great Bear of Wall Street, Cosabee Livermore, also committed suicide.

However: in that same year, 1923, the PGA Champion and the winner of the most important golf tournament, the US Open, was Gene Sarazen. What became of him? He played golf until he was 92, died in 1999 at the age of 95. He was financially secure at the time of his death.

The moral: Screw work.
Play golf.

Fun With Words!

This was rather enjoyable, with no life lessons...

DORMITORY: When you rearrange the letters: DIRTY ROOM

PRESBYTERIAN: When you rearrange the letters: BEST IN PRAYER

ASTRONOMER: When you rearrange the letters: MOON STARER

DESPERATION: When you rearrange the letters: A ROPE ENDS IT

THE EYES: When you rearrange the letters: THEY SEE

GEORGE BUSH: When you rearrange the letters: HE BUGS GORE

THE MORSE CODE: When you rearrange the letters: HERE COME DOTS

SLOT MACHINES: When you rearrange the letters: CASH LOST IN ME

ANIMOSITY: When you rearrange the letters: IS NO AMITY

ELECTION RESULTS: When you rearrange the letters: LIES - LET'S RECOUNT

SNOOZE ALARMS: When you rearrange the letters: ALAS! NO MORE Z'S

A DECIMAL POINT:When you rearrange the letters: IM A DOT IN PLACE

THE EARTHQUAKES: When you rearrange the letters: THAT QUEER SHAKE

ELEVEN PLUS TWO: When you rearrange the letters: TWELVE PLUS ONE


MOTHER-IN-LAW: When you rearrange the letters: WOMAN HITLER

Yep! Someone with waaaaaaaaaaay too much time on their hands! (Probably a son-in-law).

Live Life to the Fullest

The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn't already know. I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned round to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, "Hi, handsome. My name is Rose. I'm eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?"

I laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Of course you may!" and she gave me a giant squeeze. "Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked.

She jokingly replied, "I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids..."

"No seriously," I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

"I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!" she told me. After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this "time machine" as she shared her wisdom and experience with me. Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I'll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, "I'm sorry I'm so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I'll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know."

As we laughed she cleared her throat and began, "We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor every day. You've got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it! There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change. Have no regrets. The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets."

She concluded her speech by courageously singing "The Rose." She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives. At the year's end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep. Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be.


We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.

Life does not promises a safe landing, or a calm passage. If life brings you to it, living will bring you through it.

Life and Almost Death - For Real

Well, I have been watching M*A*S*H reruns (not that there is anything else) and I caught a huge error. Father Mulchahey is writing a letter to his sister, and mentions that it is the day before Christmas. They showed a chopper coming in with wounded... over the mountains of Korea, covered with... green bushes? Oh, come on. The winters there are frigid, long, torturous seasons. The foliage there does the same thing as here. It falls off. No way - no matter how warm or unusual a season it has been - the leaves did not fall off.

I find that amusing, but still. How do people not see this stuff? I'm sometimes not good with the details, but that seems to just leap out and slap me. Strange, isn't it?

I'm having a bad day. I almost choked to death, I have a complaint careening down the road, and I had a lot of weirdness. I like the weirdness. Sometimes it is a little heavy, but I do like it. However, choking was not what I had in mind. That was bloody well scary. I went to the Grounds department to bring the mail and payroll to Janet. It was a great visit, but I went away with a headache. So I went to the kitchen and John wasn't able to find me the magic aspirin - they get this weird stuff called Pain-Something and they are huge - massive. I tried to swallow it and choked. It scared the piss out of me. But I whacked my chest on my hands against my desk and it popped up - but my throat hurt. I was quite relieved. And that knot of worry that I've had since Tuesday morning, driving into work, suddenly undid itself and I was fine. I mean really fine. Perfectly okay, fine.

What a lousy epitaph that would have made, eh?

I feel great, suddenly. I have been watching Pleasantville, a wonderful movie about two kids fighting over the television - the brother wanted to watch a whole 24-hour marathon of "Pleasantville", a very square black & white dinner like "Leave it to Beaver" and his sister wanted to watch a concert on MTV, to get laid... they fought, broke the remote and ended up in Pleasantville, in black & white, she in a poodle skirt and him with his hair greased down. As the movie unfolds, colour slowly begins to infiltrate the town... with knowledge, sex, different things. For David it was standing up for his mother, for Jennifer it was waking up after reading a D. H. Lawrence book and going through a thunderstorm. It seems that an epiphany was required to make colour happen. But what a beautiful thing.

Learning. Living.

"It's not supposed to be like this."

"It's not supposed to be like anything."

I don't have the answers. I don't know the answers. I do know people - people are not black and white, they are all shades of grey. Unpredictable, unknowable. And some change and grow and some don't. I don't try to get it. But I know that unchanging people cannot move forward. Cannot succeed. I see it at work - and the changing people, maybe some are difficult and loud but they still manage to move forward into the future, if a little slower than others, but still managing. But those who don't... well, it is time for us to move on without. As any company should. And as okay as I am with that, I still feel poorly for those. How much are they missing out on because it is easier to remain stuck and not move forward?

I write. I'm honest, I say what I feel. I may not always be right to do that, but I rarely regret it. Someone should say these things. Someone should be open and expose all the feelings, the awkward, the happiness, the things that make up living.

The things that make us colourful.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

The Truth Behind This Month's Blue Moon

Thursday, May 31 brings us the second of two full Moons for North Americans this month. Some almanacs and calendars assert that when two full Moons occur within a calendar month, that the second full Moon is called the "Blue Moon."

The full Moon that night will likely look no different than any other full Moon. But the Moon can change color in certain conditions.

After forest fires or volcanic eruptions, the Moon can appear to take on a bluish or even lavender hue. Soot and ash particles, deposited high in the Earth's atmosphere can sometimes make the Moon appear bluish. Smoke from widespread forest fire activity in western Canada created a blue Moon across eastern North America in late September 1950. In the aftermath of the massive eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in June 1991 there were reports of blue moons (and even blue Suns) worldwide.

Origin of the term

The phrase "Once in a blue Moon" was first noted in 1824 and refers to occurrences that are uncommon, though not truly rare. Yet, to have two full Moons in the same month is not as uncommon as one might think. In fact, it occurs, on average, about every 32 months. And in the year 1999, it occurred twice in a span of just three months!

For the longest time no one seemed to have a clue as to where the "Blue Moon Rule" originated. Many years ago in the pages of Natural History magazine, I speculated that the rule might have evolved out of the fact that the word "belewe" came from the Old English, meaning, "to betray." "Perhaps," I suggested, "the second full Moon is 'belewe' because it betrays the usual perception of one full moon per month."

But as innovative as my explanation was, it turned out to be completely wrong.

More mistakes

It was not until the year 1999 that the origin of the calendrical term "Blue Moon" was at long last discovered. It was during the time frame from 1932 through 1957 that the Maine Farmers' Almanac suggested that if one of the four seasons (winter, spring, summer or fall) contained four full Moons instead of the usual three, that the third full Moon should be called a "Blue Moon."
But thanks to a couple of misinterpretations of this arcane rule, first by a writer in a 1946 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, and much later, in 1980 in a syndicated radio program, it now appears that the second full Moon in a month is the one that's now popularly accepted as the definition of a "Blue Moon."

This time around, the Moon will turn full on May 31 at 9:04 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (6:04 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time).

But for those living in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, that same full Moon occurs after midnight, on the calendar date of June 1. So in these regions of world, this will not be second of two full Moons in May, but the first of two full Moons in June. So, if (for example) you live London, you'll have to wait until June 30 to declare that the Moon is "officially" blue.

Top 10 Cool Moon Facts
Sky Calendar & Moon Phases
Astrophotography 101

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for The New York Times and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, New York.

Top Ten Cool Moon Facts:

Making of the Moon

The Moon was created when a rock the size of Mars slammed into Earth, shortly after the solar system began forming about 4.5 billion years ago, according to the leading theory.

Locked in orbit

Perhaps the coolest thing about the Moon is that it always shows us the same face. Since both the Earth and Moon are rotating and orbiting, how can this be?

Long ago, the Earth's gravitational effects slowed the Moon's rotation about its axis. Once the Moon's rotation slowed enough to match its orbital period (the time it takes the Moon to go around Earth) the effect stabilized. Many of the moons around other planets behave similarly.

What about phases? Here's how they work: As the Moon orbits Earth, it spends part of its time between us and the Sun, and the lighted half faces away from us. This is called a new Moon. (So there's no such thing as a "dark side of the Moon," just a side that we never see.)

As the Moon swings around on its orbit, a thin sliver of reflected sunlight is seen on Earth as a crescent Moon. Once the Moon is opposite the Sun, it becomes fully lit from our view -- a full Moon.

Moon trees

More than 400 trees on Earth came from the Moon. Well, okay: They came from lunar orbit. Okay, the truth: In 1971, Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa took a bunch of seeds with him and, while Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell were busy sauntering around on the surface, Roosa guarded his seeds.

Later, the seeds were germinated on Earth, planted at various sites around the country, and came to be called the Moon trees. Most of them are doing just fine.

Punching bag

The Moon's heavily cratered surface is the result of intense pummeling by space rocks between 4.1 billion and 3.8 billion years ago.

The scars of this war, seen as craters, have not eroded much for two main reasons: The Moon is not geologically very active, so earthquakes, volcanoes and mountain-building don't destroy the landscape as they do on Earth; and with virtually no atmosphere there is no wind or rain, so very little surface erosion occurs.

Sister moons

The Moon is Earth's only natural satellite. Right? Maybe not. In 1999, scientists found that a 3-mile- (5-kilometer-) wide asteroid may be caught in Earth's gravitational grip, thereby becoming a satellite of our planet.

Cruithne, as it is called, takes 770 years to complete a horseshoe-shaped orbit around Earth, the scientists say, and it will remain in a suspended state around Earth for at least 5,000 years.


The Moon is not round (or spherical). Instead, it's shaped like an egg. If you go outside and look up, one of the small ends is pointing right at you. And the Moon's center of mass is not at the geometric center of the satellite; it's about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) off-center.


Apollo astronauts used seismometers during their visits to the Moon and discovered that the gray orb isn't a totally dead place, geologically speaking. Small moonquakes, originating several miles (kilometers) below the surface, are thought to be caused by the gravitational pull of Earth. Sometimes tiny fractures appear at the surface, and gas escapes.

Scientists say they think the Moon probably has a core that is hot and perhaps partially molten, as is Earth's core. But data from NASA's Lunar Prospector spacecraft showed in 1999 that the Moon's core is small -- probably between 2 percent and 4 percent of its mass. This is tiny compared with Earth, in which the iron core makes up about 30 percent of the planet's mass.

The Moon is a planet?

Our Moon is bigger than Pluto. And at roughly one-fourth the diameter of Earth, some scientists think the Moon is more like a planet. They refer to the Earth-Moon system as a "double planet." Pluto and its moon Charon are also called a double-planet system by some.

Ocean tug

Tides on Earth are caused mostly by the Moon (the Sun has a smaller effect). Here's how it works:

The Moon's gravity pulls on Earth's oceans. High tide aligns with the Moon as Earth spins underneath. Another high tide occurs on the opposite side of the planet because gravity pulls Earth toward the Moon more than it pulls the water.

At full Moon and new Moon, the Sun, Earth and Moon are lined up, producing the higher than normal tides (called spring tides, for the way they spring up). When the Moon is at first or last quarter, smaller neap tides form. The Moon's 29.5-day orbit around Earth is not quite circular. When the Moon is closest to Earth (called its perigee), spring tides are even higher, and they're called perigean spring tides.

All this tugging has another interesting effect: Some of Earth's rotational energy is stolen by the Moon, causing our planet to slow down by about 1.5 milliseconds every century.

Bye bye Moon

As you read this, the Moon is moving away from us. Each year, the Moon steals some of Earth's rotational energy, and uses it to propel itself about 3.8 centimeters higher in its orbit.

Researchers say that when it formed, the Moon was about 14,000 miles (22,530 kilometers) from Earth. It's now more than 280,000 miles, or 450,000 kilometers away.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Memorial Weekend Part 1

Memorial weekend starts at 0430 on Thursday morning. I'm sure you are wondering how that works. I can tell you that my weekend began Thursday afternoon, late, but not at 0430.

No, the reason for that is the squad... I began riding with the Wednesday night crew, Steve Tissot, Danny Weber, and a big tall guy named Adam... Adam... uh-oh. I know his name but of course now that I want to think of it, I can't. Oh, wait! Adam Scher. I always liked Adam, even though he ended up not liking me. (Nice guy, but could hold a grudge for years... over a stupid thing, too.) Steve and Danny still ride on Wednesday, Adam went on to become a nurse at St. Clares Dover. I haven't seen him in well over a year. He doesn't ride (where would he find the time?) but he is no longer at St. Clares Denville, so I never see him. I don't know that any of us. He has moved on completely.

I think he is getting married, too. That's nice. He was really fun to ride with prior to the whole grudge thing, and I wish him well.

Anyway, I heard stories of the first Indy trip that Danny went on, in 2002. Many, many stories, many, many times. They loved to tell them and I loved to hear them. Steve has been going to Indy for years - very close to two decades. I guess he finally finished building up FlxCake enough to take her there and he and Danny went - so did some others, but now, after hearing four years of Indy stories (with a fresh batch to come on Monday and Wednesday nights), I have forgotten who the original participants were.

So I stopped by this Wednesday night to send off Danny, Steve, Andy Sadowski, one of our local constabulary (he is mentioned in another posting, the one about my accident), and another member on school leave, Mikey Paserstien (I think that this is the correct spelling of his last name). All nice guys, but I was really there to see Steve and Danny off. I like the other guys, but I rode with Steve and Danny for two and a half years. They are more than just any friends to me. (I don't mean like that, get your mind out of the gutter - mine's there, anyway!) Steve even more so. I think Danny is not as happy to have me as a friend as I am him. I think very highly of him. But Steve has been a true friend from my start there. He's also always been very helpful to me in the squad and dealing with some of the bullshit that goes on there. He's great.

At some point Danny said to me that if I really wanted to see them off, come here at 0430. I looked a little horrified at that point, but realised that I am up at 0420 for work, so why not? At 0425 I threw on some pants and shoes and a sweater (it was quite cool in the morning), and went over with my camera. I took a couple of pictures, and chatted with Steve a bit and then Danny showed up. So wasn't he surprised when I showed up! I gave Danny a hug and a kiss on the cheek (I'm not looking to do anything with him! I like his wife too much to consider it), and off they went.
Thursday was another long work day, although it was interesting. Normally I adamantly hate stuff like this, but this is not one to put up with time-wasting meetings. I lived through too many boring, awful meetings with pompous people who should have become politicians - they really loved these meetings just to hear the sounds of their own voices. I have struggled through staying awake at meetings like this. Never once have I been to a meeting at this or the last job where I was bored or falling asleep. Not once. And yes, it's true, I have not had to go to many meetings - I'm not require me to attend any meetings that don't pertain to me or my bailiwick directly. But the ones I've gone to have all been interesting, highly satisfying, and not stuffy or run by a bigwig that doesn't want any questions or input from the attendees.

Thursday night we had two calls - both cancellations. They happened right in the early part of the night, so it was light out for both and we were done after that. As I was off the next day, I did not really care. But I was still tired enough to be greatfu not to have to do more.

Friday was an easy day. Luis took the day off and we went to the MVC to renew my drivers license - I'd only five days left to do it. (In June I need to get my car inspected... yeesh.) We were there about forty-five minutes... I guess the Morristown DMV is not the better kept secret it used to be. Of course it was the Friday preceding a three day weekend and the end of the month, so clearly had I gone on a Tuesday or some rediculous day like that, during the normal operational hours, I'd've been in and out of there in minutes. But how often does anyone get to do that? The process wasn't too bad, other than being a little more time consuming. I had my millions of points for ID and address verification so I could renew. The photo is not great, but I can live with it. The hair is not as bad as it used to be, but the Jay Leno ten-pound chin seems to follow me into every photo.

We went to the Rockaway Mall after, to go to Luis' bank but also to run an errand or two and grab a bite to eat. Something amusing - Luis' grandmother sent him a check for six thousand dollars. She's really nice and she is slowly divesting her money to the kids that survived Don Kimball's death in December. Since Luis' mother (Don's daughter) died in 2002, Luis and Anna are the survivors. So she periodically sends enough money to stay under the taxation radar. The funny thing was that Luis handed me the check, maye just to see my reaction, and I was surprised - the box with the number read $6,000... but the line for the text amount read "sixty thuosand dollars and no/100"... Hmmm. As far as I understand checks, the banks are required to go off of the line of text that is written on the line. Sure enough, when Luis got off of his cell phone from speaking with his grandmother, she asked if he could get the check submitted for $6,000. If not, make sure it is shredded. OK. Well, the bank confirmed what I'd thought - they go off of the written out line. So Luis watched the bank teller shred the check.

That was amusing.

We had a quick bite to eat and then went home. We also managed to get Luis' birthday gifts picked up and also one for Alayna for her 41st birthday, which is on Thursday. We also found something for Luis' father for Father's Day. I just need to find something for both of my fathers now for Father's Day... no easy task. We'll see - I'm sure I can find something for each that he'll like.

I finally took the time to go to the salon, Gracias Salon, to have my nails done. I had a gift card from Tom and Alayna for a mani/pedi and I finally made the appointment. It was a strange thing. I was struck by the fact that the place had not one single Asian woman there. Usually these salons are owned and run by Vietnamese people and they are good at this. Well, this one had all Americans. Funny thing is that the Koreans all have very modern chairs made specifically for giving pedicures, whereas this place had make-shift tubs and chairs and weren't well equipped for this. They did an OK job on my nails. I doubt highly that I will go to them again.

I went to my parents' house after and hung out with Ray until 2200, then headed home, got gas and got into the house and ready for my journey to Pennsylvania. That saga will continue tomorrow...

Shut Up TeleMarketers for Good

Raise your hand if you love telemarketers. Come on, you know you do. Lately I've been getting automated calls from carpet cleaning people. After about a dozen of them I actually listened to the end. Turns out there's a button you can push to make them stop calling.

The confessions of this telemarketer over at Consumerist can't stop automated calls (which I thought were supposed to be illegal anyway if you were on the Do Not Call list), but it's sound advice on dealing with old-fashioned human kind.

I won't hold you breathless. The secret, he says, is to be extremely firm in your mandate to get you off their call list: Soft refusals are called back again a few days later. After 2 soft refusals, you generally won't get called again on that survey. If you get very angry or start cursing, you get marked as a "hard" refusal and aren't called again for that survey. However, any of those three methods will just get you off of our list for that particular survey. Even asking us to put you on our "do not call list" will just remove you from that survey. The only surefire way to get off our lists forever is say something along the lines of "If you ever call me again, I'm going to contact my lawyer". You'll get an apology and be blacklisted from all of our systems.

The writer also notes that the general rule is that you should expect a whopping seven or eight calls of excuses or other non-refusals before they'll give up on you. I know it can be hard to be brusque with people and it's human nature to let them down easy, but in the case of telemarketers it seems that being crushingly firm, immediately, is best.

And in case you're hoping for a high-tech solution, most sources say that gadgets like the TeleZapper are no longer effective. If anyone knows of an anti-calling gizmo that still works in 2007, please let everyone know in the comments below.

Meanwhile, the Do Not Call list is your friend.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

NOAA Predicts Above Normal 2007 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Hurricane Season 2007... (Part I)
May 22, 2007 — Experts at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center are projecting a 75 percent chance that the Atlantic Hurricane Season will be above normal this year—showing the ongoing active hurricane era remains strong. With the start of the hurricane season upon us, NOAA recommends those in hurricane-prone regions to begin their preparation plans. (Click NOAA image for larger view of NOAA’s 2007 Atlantic hurricane season outlook. Please credit “NOAA.”)

"For the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA scientists predict 13 to 17 named storms, with seven to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which three to five could become major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. An average Atlantic hurricane season brings 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes, including two major hurricanes.

Climate patterns responsible for the expected above normal 2007 hurricane activity continue to be the ongoing multi-decadal signal (the set of ocean and atmospheric conditions that spawn increased Atlantic hurricane activity), warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and the El Niño/La Niña cycle.

Last year, seasonal hurricane predictions proved to be too high when an unexpected El Niño rapidly developed and created a hostile environment for Atlantic storms to form and strengthen. When storms did develop, steering currents kept most of them over the open water and away from land. (Click NOAA image for larger view of conditions in the Atlantic Basin that can produce an above normal hurricane season. Please credit “NOAA.”)

"There is some uncertainty this year as to whether or not La Niña will form, and if it does how strong it will be," said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. "The Climate Prediction Center is indicating that La Niña could form in the next one to three months. If La Niña develops, storm activity will likely be in the upper end of the predicted range, or perhaps even higher depending on how strong La Niña becomes. Even if La Niña does not develop, the conditions associated with the ongoing active hurricane era still favor an above-normal season."
Bell also noted that pre-season storms, such as Subtropical Storm Andrea in early May, are not an indicator of the hurricane season ahead. "With or without Andrea, NOAA's forecast is for an above normal season."

"With expectations for an active season, it is critically important that people who live in East and Gulf coastal areas as well as the Caribbean be prepared," said Bill Proenza, NOAA National Hurricane Center director. "Now is the time to update your hurricane plan, not when the storm is bearing down on you." (Click NOAA image for larger view of tracks of major hurricanes forming in the main development region as indicated by the green box over a 24-year period. Please credit “NOAA.”)

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, with peak activity occurring August through October. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center will issue an updated seasonal forecast in August just prior to the historical peak of the season.

The Atlantic Hurricane Seasonal Outlook is an official forecast product of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. Instituted in 1998, this outlook is produced in collaboration with NOAA scientists at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, NOAA National Hurricane Center, NOAA Hurricane Research Division and the NOAA Hydrometeorological Prediction Center. The NOAA National Hurricane Center has hurricane forecasting responsibilities for the Atlantic as well as the East Pacific basins. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center, NOAA National Hurricane Center and the NOAA Hydrometeorological Prediction Center are three of the NOAA National Weather Service's nine NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction, which provides the United States with first alerts of weather, climate, ocean and space weather events.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

Relevant Web Sites:

Sunday, 20 May 2007

It's A New Day!

As with all days, each day is a good day. The sun will rise in a few hours, the day will really be day. I'll get up and I don't know yet what I'll do. Probably I will clean up the house. It is a mess. So I need to do that at some point tomorrow, before we go to my parents house, and before I'm on call.

What did I do today? I woke up around 0710, had sex, went back to sleep until 0940 - so not like me to get up that late. I woke up and came out here, ate unhealthy food and thought aboout how I need to lose weight. I work with all these health-obsessed people and it would be nice if I'd wake up and be health-obsessed. I did some blogging, and mostly spent the day out here, with my laptop, with Ariel, with Chelsea, with Luis and with Ariel and Chelsea at the same time. It was a relaxing, good day. And it was rainy out, so it was perfect for spending inside.

We were supposed to go see my parents and hang out with them, but they bailed, so Luis and I had a date. We went to the movies and saw "Shrek the Third". As one might expect, it was not all that and a bag of chips. Any movie that ends in three can't possibly good. Usually, any movie that ends in two can't be good. But Shrek II beat all the odds - it was great! The first and second movies were both great. But this one, which rated three stars by People (erroneously), was not so good. It was kind of awful. But in between all the crass physical humour (gas-passing jokes, etc.), the worthless ongoing gags and such, there were some magic moments and some funny things.

Of course, the movie-going experience is not always the best anyway In fact, I usually try to avoid the whole thing. And this was one of those cases where I should have stayed out of it. They had super, unbelievable greasy pop-corn covered in coconut oil. No... maybe. Well, it certainly wasn't butter. The theatre was full of screaming kids, kids who were way, WAY too young to be in there. Three or four years old and yakking through the whole movie. I wanted to kill them. It would have been a good idea but there are laws about that kind of thing.

But it wasn't the end of the world and there is a song in there that I really, really want. I know at some point I will be downloading it.

We went to Luis' office briefly and then came home, put on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and ordered pizza. My half was Hawaiian. I love Hawaiian pizza. It was yummy - and no, I didn't eat the whole half and it is not the size of a regular pie. We watched more telly, had sex, and then he napped while I did more blogging.

And now it is 0102, and I really, really should go to bed.

Good night!

Saturday, 19 May 2007

The Breakfast Club

I'm watching the Breakfast Club. The TIVO recorded it for us, as suggested viewing based on our general viewing tastes. I suppose it is looking more at my viewing tastes on this one, but then again, Luis is WAAAY too forgiving about what kind of drek he'll watch on the telly. It's perfectly disgusting.

This is a unique movie. Maybe it is also a scream to see Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Anthony Hall, Ally Sheedy and Emilio Estevez when they were practically kids. Talk about "where are they now?"... I have seen Molly and Judd show up in guest parts on different shows. Emilio has fallen off the planet. Anthony Michael Hall turned out to be a wholly different guy - big and bulky and in a television show about seeing dead people (or something like that). Ally Sheedy was very recently in an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Paul Gleason and what's-his-name still show up in shows on guest spots, too. (What's-his-head is John Kapelos - I couldn't think of his name.)

Anyway, this was a good movie that profoundly affected me as a teenager. I was 16 or 17 when this came out. After several years of being serverely abused by most students in my school, this came out. And the first words on the screen were:

"And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through"

I was one of those children, but really, I wasn't worried about the adults. Them I looked at as unhelpful and completely not capable of understanding me, but the other kids were a source of worry. Those kids could be worse than simply verbally abusive. I had to be careful. I hated them for the way they treated me and the funny thing is, I'm sure that were any of them to run into me, they'd say, "Hey, I remember you! How are you?" I would not know what to say. I mean honestly, how is that I remember all the injustices done to me (I'm not being melodramatic; life in middle and high school was misery - more so for me than most); but they don't recall doing it? I guess if you are doing it to many, or you had the highest point of your life then, maybe you recall life a bit differently. I know I've mentioned this before, but I ran into one of those morons (in a different grade) years later when he delivered something to the house and I opened the door. I definitely put him on the spot and I felt great about it. I still do.

And so those words really are profound. David Bowie summed up almost any teenager's life with those words. Even the popular ones suffered during those times. They may have gotten to be vile and make fun of others and boost their egos at the time with that, but they got the abuse, too. Maybe not in the school, but somewhere. We all take our lumps at some point.

But I remember that when I talk to people.

I could not really identify with Molly's or Emilio's lives and backgrounds, but I certainly could identify with Ally's situation. An artist, not getting along with anyone, the bullshit in school. All of it. And I was very much like her. Weird, an outcast. I dressed in black all the time and had frumpy hair and that was life. Life is different now. (Well, except for the hair...)

And the adults. These people were never kids. I still feel that way. I know better, but they have conveniently forgotten what it was like to be a teenager, and so don't have any sympathy.

So the movie is interesting to watch. Twenty-two years later, when I know who am, feel good about who I am, relive those feelings momentarily and then smile, because my life is charmed. It's one of the best lives in the world to have. I see things clearly and live every day as though it's my first and last. And this makes me happy. I'm not that person anymore from 1985; but I am a product of that person in 1985.
"Dear Mr. Vernon:
We accept that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was you think we had done wrong. But we think you're cray to make us write an essay to tell you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us; in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question?
Sincerely yours,
The Breakfast Club"

Season Finales Disappoint

I have seen most of my favourite show's season enders.

I was not happy. Not at all.

On Ugly Betty, her sister's fiance, also the father of her nephew, was killed at the end of the show. Her boss, the misguided but lovable Alex is in the throws of a drug overdose; but who knows how that turns out, because his sister/brother has had the car s/he is driving him to the hospital in booby trapped to kill her/his father... and it crashed. Betty is supposed to be saving her future boyfriend from marrying his cheating, conniving ex-girlfriend because she is pregnant; oy vey!

On CSI:Crime Scene Investigation, Sara Sidle is stuffed under a crashed car as a form of revenge by a homocidal delusional woman who has been the miniature killer! So now I have to wait until September or October to find out how this ends?!

On Grey's Anatomy, Burke broke off his impending nuptials to Christina Yang; McDreamy told Meredith that he met another woman so she broke it off with him; no one got the Chief of Surgery position; Izzy is completely determined to ruin George's marriage to Callie (who wants to have a child); and Bailey was not given the Chief Resident spot! Now, I do like Callie (although having a child now would be a huge error!) and I don't doubt that she is capable of doing the job, but I think that Bailey is much better for that spot. So it all ended poorly.

Is there something about misery that people love? I hate it. I don't like feeling that way, and I really appreciate shows much more if I feel attached to the characters and feel sympathy and happiness for them. But it is hard to feel anything other than antipathy for producers or writers or whoever commits the characters to the consistently self-destructive path that they go down.

I'm feeling very anti-television right now.

It sucks that these shows that I like or normally like are miring me in this morass of bad-feeling. It is not fair to do this to people. Happy endings are not wrong and shows with normal people who have normal ups and downs are not a bad thing. Why does everyone who has a direct hand in the plotline feel that it is?

No more. It's just as well the season is over. I couldn't have taken any more of this.

Mind-Blowing Sex!

There is a lot of sexual content.

We had some great sex this morning. Then I was rubbing Luis, giving him soft "wubs", and you know, the softest part of any man's skin is the head of his penis. I mean, it's really soft - no pun intended. So I was stroking it and Luis turned off "Bones" and put on "Sexy Co-Eds" or something dopey like that and informed me that playing with his penis results in a more appropriate show. And then...

...just how graphic did you think this would get?!

Just make the rest of the natural assumption and run with it! There was manual, oral and pentration acts committed all over the couch. Just as it should be! Probably a good half-hour of it. Life is too good!

You wonder how it is that I'm so comfortable with Luis going to go-go bars? Ignoring the fact that my mother was a go-go dancer (from age 30 to 40!), I know how this works. Very few (if any) men cheat because they went to a go-go bar and got horney from it. It just doesn't happen. But the men who go and then come home horney, well, there is a benefit! Everybody ends up happy and smiling! I don't care if Luis fantasizes about someone else! What makes you think that I don't do that? Duh! Welcome to the normal world.

Sex is great!

Those Evil Circadian Rythms

Remember some time ago I wrote about circadian rythms? Yes, I did. Just look back. I don't remember when I wrote it, I think in March some time - a reaction to the clocks changing. The littlest things screw my rythm (if it can be called such) up.

Here's the fun part. I found an article on it in my Uncle John's Bathroom Reader "Plunges into the Universe" about - da, da, DAAAA! - circadian rythms! I loved it - this book is all about science. You know how I love science.

It turns out there are four cyclical points to a person's circadian rythm - each at about six hours apart. The first is typicaly at 1000 - the first peak of energy and feeling awake and on point. Then at 1400, you hit your first downer - but if you've had a good night's sleep, you'll get through it okay. The next upswing is at 1900 - you're home from work, it's dinner time, so there is a burst of awakeness - not as good as at 1000, where it is all downhill from there. And then, there is the 0400 downswing - fortunately, I'm almost never awake for that. Yikes... good thing.

I'm not quite on that rythm - and not everyone is but most people fall in around those times. I get up between 0420 and 0445, so I find my peak time to be around 0830 - 0900. By 1430, I'm feeling the strain, but at about 1630 I'm back on and ready. At 2030, I'm ready for bed. Some of that has to do with the hour I get up but even on weekends, I have that same rythm. I just ignore it and sleep less and do more.

There's more - most people are on a 25-hour rythm, but each day the body resets the clock. Good thing or we'd all be ahead and sleeping through the day at some point. Also, there is something in your brain that works on the sleeping process from the moment youo wake, while another part of your brain is keeping you up... One of the factors it plays on is light - daylight, homeperson, not just any old light. Which is very obvious to me - I definitely have a different rythm in the winter.

A downside to living in a location with four separate and distinct seasons... in Las Vegas I suspect that is not a problem. The day ends earlier there now... ours begins at 0530 and ends at 2015. In Vegas the day begins around the same time but sets a half hour earlier. Believe me, I notice things like that. I'm very sensitive to differences in length of day/night.

What else was there? Oh, yes. Some people live night lives but they think that people never fully sdjust to that schedule. I disagree. Ray loves working nights, and never seemed to have trouble with working the graveyard shifts. Second or swing shifts he didn't like as much, but he never seemed to have any difficulty getting into the rythm of odd sleeping patterns. So I'm not sure that there aren't people that don't fully adjust to night hours.

However, they did mention that air travel will do this to anyone, even the most tolerant of people. A lot of people tell me that they only feel feel jetlag for a day. But I usually take three days to recover from it. And the book tells me that people try to change that, but traveling screws up anyone's internal clock going across time zones, since your body is still resetting the body clock at the normal time that it does that. Traveling west, in the apparent direction of the sun is easier than traveling east. Now, did I not say that? I did!

And that was all just from personal observation.

The wonderful world of circadian rythms!

How Many People Can YOU Hire... one week?!

Remember 1 May? A lifetime ago... I mentioned that I hired a boatload of people in March and April. Well... never again will I mention that in a complaining sort of way! This week I hired... well... let me see... eight people on Monday, two or three on Thursday and six on Friday - oh, yes, yesterday... still a lifetime ago!

I just hear an actress on the telly say "jewlery"... you know, instead of "jewelry". I remember very clearly my mother constantly correcting my pronounciation of jewelry. I do say it correctly now. I have for a long time, but I still remember it. And it is appalling to hear it from others. Almost as glaring as "aksing a question"... Yikes! YIKES!


How does that happen? Someone at work told me that we would have a problem with Ilya living onsite because then we would be out of rooms in the womens' side and Penka would not have a place to stay. I had to chuckle. I suppose that might be a typical response, it's not that person's fault, but I still had to chuckle... Ilya is a masculine Russian name. But in America we are accustomed to names denoting gender - in Russia, last names denote gender - Fiserov for a man, Fiserova for a woman (that may not be a fully Russian name, but it applies to this case). But we are accustomed to "a" at the end of a woman's name and an "o" or "e" at the end of a man's name. Although if your name ends in a consenant, then what?

Well. Where was I? Oh, yes, my week at work - I can say that, because I spent more time there than anywhere else! I put in longer than full days Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday was work but a whole new way of torture! Don't - whatever you do - don't attend a seminar on OSHA! No matter what you need to know, there has to be a better way to do this. It was boring! OK, I know, OSHA is boring stuff to begin with. I get that. I so get that! But this... I have been to many seminars. Many of them were great - I'd say easily 90% - but there is the 8% that weren't great and then the deadly 2% of them that were killers. This was one. I had trouble staying awake the first two hours (and not just because of jet lag) and then of course after lunch... I guess everyone has that right after lunch. But this was just all the worse because of the presenter being almost as dull as the class!

It was an eight hour day... a really looooong eight hour day!

The rest of the days were not boring but two orientations and a ton of new hires do not an inspiring week make! It was just exhausting. Although I have to say it was an interesting week. There were a lot of other little tidbits in there that I can't post.

On Thursday night I was on call and very unhappy - we had a standby at the local carnival! Ugh. Luis was babysitting and I was relieved not to have anything to do with that. (I'm so not meant to do that) but I was surrounded by screaming kids! AAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Not fun.

Ooooo. 29 June sees the release of a movie - "Ratatouille" - another Pixar movie from the same guys who did "Finding Nemo", "Toy Story" and "Monsters, Inc."! I love Pixar movies! I think - no, I know - they did "Cars", also. I love those movies. I need to get "Toy Story" on DVD - it's the only one I'm missing. Yes, I have "The Incredibles", too.

Well, that was my week. Stimulating, to say the least.

The Journey Home

Vacations don’t come fast enough until the last day; then they are over before you know it. And as much as I pack into my vacations, that is really saying something. I don’t do a lot in my normal life outside of work, EMS and being at home, so I tend to do too much living and push myself entirely too hard when I go away. I walk all over, do several things in a day… normal people don’t do this. I suspect normal people balance their lives better. But I’m happy with my life and the way I balance it. It won’t work for most but it works well for me. I work hard and I play harder. I just play in very localized portions of time.

I don’t remember when we woke up – it was a week ago that this day happened, a long, long time ago (it’s been that kind of a week), but I think I was up fairly early. We had breakfast… we didn’t have breakfast, I guess! If we did, I don’t remember it. I remember going over to the Mirage to exchange my broken dolphin necklace, but it was 0900 and the dolphin exhibit wasn’t open yet. I had to go back to Caesar’s. I think we went to the pool, and then after I went back to the Mirage to exchange my necklace. I did that, took pictures of the kitty (one of the tigers wandered out into the display area in the hallway of the Mirage) and got back. We checked our luggage downstairs by noon, then went to the Bellagio – ah, yes, we had lunch at a café there… a forty dollar lunch at a “café”… that tells you the difference between the Strip and the downtown area…

We went through the front area, then I dragged Luis through the Conservatory – yes, more pictures of butterflies and flowers and water sprays. He wasn’t excited, but he put with it fairly well. He knows I love this stuff. Then we walked out through the front and since it was Saturday, we stopped to watch the show. The fountain show, my favourite thing! We watched it and I loved it. I could still watch that all day, every day. After that, we went back to Caesar’s – time to get our stuff and head to the airport. We collected our bags, Nick and a cab and off we were to the airport. I got pictures of some of the Strip casinos I didn’t make it to – like the Luxor. We went through the usual things there; curbside check in, going through the rigorous security, all that fun stuff. I also stopped at a candy store and picked up a few pounds of jelly beans and a couple of other things. (I did not eat much sugar while I was there… I guess I wanted to make up for the lost time. Anyway, we went to our gate and sat at a table for a drink while waiting. Nick called his wife (I use the term very loosely here. While they are legally married, that is the only way that they are married at this point. Hatred would be a weak word here. Amazing) to tell her that I “let” Luis go to the Glitter Gulch to get a lap dance. Just to sew more seeds of dissent. Then he tells me that they have sex three to four times a week. I don’t believe that for a second. Although he did mention she wants another child (I can’t even imagine what she’s thinking). Maybe they are having sex that often, but clearly it would strictly be procreational sex and not successful at that. One can only hope that doesn’t happen. It isn’t enough to torture two children?

We got onto our plane relatively on time and took off only fifteen minutes later. That is saying something, as I’ve noticed that airlines don’t really have a clear understanding of what “on time” means and what “departure” means. The flight was supposed to depart at 1600. We took off closer to 1620. That is a shorter lag than most of the time, but still not – technically – on time! I understand that. Airlines obviously don’t.

Well. Flights to the west coast and flights to the east coast are long. Five hours long going west, four hours long going east. Not really – it was four hours forty minutes going out and four hours fifteen minutes going back. It is a long time to get anywhere (what am I saying? Air travel makes this stuff possible! Still…), when you are crammed into a tiny, subhuman sized chair. And the food is scary. I flew to Dallas, Texas and Continental fed us cheeseburgers that were delicious. This time they fed us cheeseburgers that were microwaved too much. On the way out, anyway. On the way back it was the same cheeseburger (quite possibly the exact same cheeseburger) but not overdone. Still. You can’t say a lot of positive things about the food on airlines any longer.

I had a really nice couple sitting next to me whom I chatted with for a while before we left and on and off during the flight. What a cute couple! They’re older and played cards the whole trip back. I mostly read and took pictures. The land we flew over was amazing! Just amazing. There were mountains, rivers, flat lands, old volcanic lands. And all brightly lit up by the sun for me! The photos came out better than the trip out, which is saying something; the windows in the airplane are disgusting and scratched up. But the images mostly came out really great!

Fran told me to look out for the mountains. I saw them and was completely delighted. They were gorgeous.

We got in at 2330, were off the plane and waiting… and waiting… and waiting some more… for our luggage. Nick got his and split pretty quickly but he was parking in long-term parking and needed to get out – we had a car at least. With the same old guy from an eastern-bloc nation that took us out to the airport! He’s a very sweet guy (but going deaf).

And that was our trip to Las Vegas!

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Last Full Day in Sin City! (Friday. 12 May 2007)

Last Full Day for Fun!

I can’t imagine how, but I woke up at 0645, exhausted and needing to go to the loo. I suppose the call of nature is stronger than the need for sleep – temporarily, anyway. I shuffled over to the huge bathroom and Luis told me that the toilet was jammed. Any way you slice it, he jammed it. The man is scary when he goes to the bathroom. So I waited. I called around 0715; Luis had called around 0645 (maybe that was what woke me…) but no one was rushing here. I napped until Luis left at 0740 and called again.

I fell asleep until my wake up call at 0900, and grudgingly got up and threw on some clothes. My breakfast came up and I ate happily – the food was quite good. I lounged and ate until about 0950 and called down to Housekeeping/Maintenance, and told the woman there that I had called a few times, I have a tour bus to catch and what is going on? She said that she saw our service calls logged and this is unacceptable and she would send them up right away and issue us a food comp for $50. I said fine and hung up. By 1045 no one had showed and I was really pissed off and I needed to shower before catching my 1135 bus.

I called one last time and told her to hold off on the service call until after 1130. I also told her that a $50 food comp was not really up to par for this. I said I had to get in the shower and that this had to be fixed by the time I got back. I got off the phone and hopped in the shower and wouldn’t you know… there was a knock on the door and a guy with a plunger. I opened the door a little and said, “Now you come?!” He said he was here to fix the toilet… I told him he’d have to come back in about twenty minutes.

I went down to catch the bus and spoke to Luis while at the pick up area. I told him that the toilet was jammed still and he should call again if he gets back and it is still that way. I also told him about the food comp and my reaction to that. He didn’t seem to care either way, but was willing to continue along this road. I then called Ray to catch up with him. And then the bus came.

The bus took us to the Bellagio and then another casino to pick up more vacationers. We then drove over to the place that has Hoover Dam and other tours and paid for our trips. We boarded a fairly full bus and headed out of Las Vegas.

The trip was gorgeous, and I loved it – I wore my sea bands and did not feel sick. The mountains were beautiful. The driver had a lot of interesting knowledge to impart about the city, its history, the taxes there (there aren’t any), the areas (Fremont, Henderson), and as we headed out of the Las Vegas area, he had more tidbits about the other towns we went through. It was really a lovely trip!

After 45 minutes, we pulled over to a side area for security check. I really don’t know how secure this made it or if I felt better as a result… one trooper walked around the outside the bus (I’m not even sure he had a mirror to look under the bus); the other trooper came onto the bus, welcomed us, made a quick trip up the aisle and back without even looking at us! How secure is that? I’m sure he gets on a ton of busses all the time, but really, a little look-see wouldn’t have killed him. Is this what modern security is like? It was not reassuring.

I loved the Hoover Dam, and I am very satisfied that I saw it. I’m a little sorry that I missed it when I was there in 1993, when the tourists were allowed down in the turbine room, but they’ve built a catwalk over it, so we still managed to see these huge noisy turbines. These are no small things and all the information was fascinating. There was also one lone very old turbine, more like I thought they’d be, half-circles coming up out of the floor. The modern ones were huge piston-like structures that clearly process and make a hell of a lot more electricity. Turns out that when they first built the dam, after they made the divert tubes, they built this tiny little turbine (I’m sure it was big for the time) and it – and it alone – provided all the electricity for the dam. And it still does!

I was floored.

This dam produces electricity for parts of Arizona, California and Nevada. It does not, however, produce electricity for Las Vegas. I suppose there isn’t an electric company in the world that would give that up. I’m always commenting that I cannot imagine what their electric bills must be like.

So I took the tour, which is about 45 minutes, if that, and then we had almost two hours to wander around on our own. I started out on the outside observation deck and took photos of the dam, the water, the new highway that is being built, the mountain gorge, everything. And there was a gorgeous memorial – a big black stone plaque on a monument surrounded by two statues of men with arms that become upright wings. I really loved it. After that, I walked the length of the dam, walked over into Arizona, and back on either side, and it was only 100F or 38C. It was very dry, which made it much easier to deal with. If it were New Jersey, with 92% humidity it would have been torture.

There are four water intakes in Lake Mead, one behind the other, two on each side. One has the Nevada clock and the other the Arizona clock. They had the exact same time. I remembered Arizona was one of three states that does not regard the Daylight Saving Time thing. Which is fine… but I was thinking it would be neat to return there in the winter and see the clocks at different times… (The other two states are Hawai’i and part of Indiana and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico… Indiana now has 18 counties that observe Central time and 74 counties Eastern.)

I stopped for two bottles of Snapple Peach Iced Tea and a bag of Doritos (replenishing that salt and liquids) and continued walking around and then I came to the memorial. This memorial! Wow. No matter what I thought looking from the observation deck, this was nothing compared to seeing it up close and personally. And then for the real discovery – and I love this – the marble on which I was standing was a star map! Oh, I was just delighted – over the moon, as the Bean would say – there was the universe (our little corner of it) beautifully represented here! I spent a lot of time looking at that.

I did some shopping (I did a fair amount of spending this trip) and then got to the bus at 1442, three minutes before I had to be there. Everyone else was, though, seated and clearly waiting for me. Well, not my fault that they did not see everything! Or spend enough time looking at things.

On the bus, the driver did not have anything to say, and most people were so worn out that they did not care. I was wishing for my iPod… and looking out the window. The mountains are magic. Still… it is a bus ride, never my favourite thing. And when we got into Vegas it was all stop and go (mostly stop) traffic. The traffic in Las Vegas is unreal. It took far more than 45 minutes to get back. I was almost at Caesar’s when Luis called to see how much longer I’d be. It was about 1610 and I said I’d be in a bathing suit and down by the pool and him in fifteen minutes. He told me that the toilet was fixed and we got the room comped for our last night!

I done did good!

I returned to the hotel and was just in my bathing suit and so ready to feel that pool water on my fried skin when Luis called and asked me to let him into the room. They’d closed the pool! Oh, that was just so wrong! I was dying to get in the pool after being out all day in the heat! We changed and did some gambling with the machines at Caesar’s – I stuck in $20 and in ten minutes turned it into $60! I was delighted – I hadn’t gambled the entire trip. We played around there and then talked to Mark Antony, Cleopatra and some hot looking Centurion and then finally headed out.

We walked over to the Mirage, hoping to see the volcano but the shows don’t start until 2000 – once it’s dark! It was around 1730. So we caught a cab to Fremont Street. He really wanted to go for one of the buffets there and we walked around for a while until I finally said I absolutely had to eat. We went to the Fremont and he paid $24 for both of us (as opposed to $40); he was delighted. I find the cheap side of him rather amusing. He kept on about the food. The food was good – I loved the shrimp – but it really was not the quality of food at the higher end casinos. Not to be a total snob, but really, there was nothing about the Fremont casinos that could be compared to the Strip casinos – the casinos, the games, the food, the patronage… a completely different caliber.

We finally settled at a craps table in Binions, and Luis played for about 25 – 35 minutes and won $500! I held his chips to cash out – a purple and pink chip, a couple of black and orange chip and a couple of other ones. Purple and pink is $500, black and orange is $100. He had started with $300 and left with $791!

We did some walking around, and had the Fremont Street Experience – the whole street used to be open and a street but apparently they really tried to upscale it to make it more appealing (despite that, there was hardly anyone in the casinos. We stayed in that area (Stupak’s Vegas World) when we there a decade and a half ago and I had to wade through lines to get to a table). There is a huge canopy over it and it turns out to be a huge flat screen and every half hour there is a few minute-long show with loud music and all sorts of images of Vegas. It was really amazing. Like the Bellagio fountains, I did not even know about that.

We did a lot of wandering around, and Luis asked me if I’d shop for a while and he’d stop in at the Glitter Gulch. I was looking for some gifts for my parents, so I told him to have fun and we arranged to meet at 2100. I wandered around for about the twenty minutes, and found a couple of shirts and post cards. I ended up in front of the Glitter Gulch about five minutes after 2100. There were two girls out there trying to encourage guys to come in, and I asked if I could take their picture for my father. The one said that for five dollars I could take it (!). That’s when arms came around me from behind. Luis! I guess he’d been looking for me. He paid $35 for a lap dance and was very happy!

He chuckled about it, saying he couldn’t wait to tell Nick. Nick’s wife, Maria, won’t let him go to those places. I find that extremely strange, but hey, she is more indicative of “normal” women than not. I hate that. How does an entire gender get so paranoid? Luis was very happy having gone there and I am most certainly not his mother; I don’t “let” or not let him do things. He is his own person.

We grabbed a cab and returned to the Mirage but it was only 2125 and too long a wait for the volcano to erupt – shows are every hour on the hour. We did not have any desire to wait for that – not that long. So we walked over to the Bellagio and caught that show at 2145, and then went back to our room. We caught the 2200 show from our room – I really could not get enough of those fountains! Not at all. No two shows were the same.

That trip to the Glitter Gulch had a very happy outcome! We took a hot shower together, washed off all the grime and crap, and Luis talked me into giving him a lap dance! I put on the right music, give him a “full service” dance, and we had some amazing sex! Ah, life is great! Great fun, great food, winning, amazing lovemaking, who could ask for more!

Friday, 11 May 2007

Thursday in Las Vegas! (10 May 2007)

Another day in Las Vegas!

I woke up around 0800, got up, and showered in a big glass shower that was nice but really not the best design. I could find a hair dryer, so I just let it go. I dressed in a sleeveless shirt and shorts and went to the Flamingo hotel and casino for the Paradise buffet breakfast. My parents went there and highly recommended it.

On the way out I stopped at the concierge and got a reservation for the half-day tour to the Hoover Dam. I got it for the 0735 bus pick-up, since I easily get up early anyway.

There were tables up against huge panes of glass and outside the glass was a jungle sort of set up, with rocks and fountains and a big pool of water. There ducks with ducklings (the really cute little fuzzy buggers, still yellow but with little bits of dun coloured fuzzies coming in; beautiful white trumpeter swans with the big orange bills and enormous black and orange fish under the surface. I had a good sized breakfast with heavy emphasis on the protein and then headed out through the glass doors to go through the rest of the jungle provided by the Flamingo.

I went through tropical garden, which included flamingos and other exotic birds which I could not name and no penguins (apparently they went home, back to their normal habitat in California or something) and various other creatures, like turtles and more colourful fish.

Walked around to get appropriate batteries for my camera (it can use normal AA cell batteries, but it blows through them very quickly whereas the AA cell with lithium holds up to a whole lot more use. I found that normal AA cell batteries were done in a few hours if that but lithium AA cells hold up to more than one day of full use – five to seven hundred images with zoom, flash, etc). So I went through the Flamingo, another tacky casino and some place else looking for batteries. I ended up getting regular batteries, knowing that the current batteries would not last long. I figured I’d have to find them in Caesar’s mall, for way too much money.

I did stop in one of the lower-cost casinos and took out $300, for gambling as well as sight-seeing, and found that selecting an ATM was an art in itself. The first couple wanted a charge of $4.75 or more! I get bent paying $3.00 and around here, not a chance I will shell out that much. But this, as many things, is all relative. At $3.00 I was delighted to take money out… it was the best possible price!

After finally getting money and the crappy batteries, I hopped on one of the trams that take you anywhere for $5.00 over 24 hours from when you purchase the ticket. I went to the Mirage to see the volcano, dolphins and tigers – in that order – but I never did get to see the volcano. It erupts every hour on the hour from 1800 to 0000. Waiting every hour is kind of ridiculous. And while I can see where it is so much more prestigious and amazing at night, it could erupt during the day, too. No. Just at night.

So I went into the casino and walked through to find the dolphins display. It took a little while. The signs were occasionally misleading… and the casinos are so bloody big that getting lost is likely par for the course! I wended my way through the casino, shops and outside to the ungodly heat (100F) and the dolphin area. It was $12 (I think) and this gets you the dolphins and the tigers.

The dolphins were pretty neat, but there was no specific show and the real disappointment was the difficulty of taking good images of them – they did do stupendous leaps out of the water, and fun things, but I could not capture the fast-paced things on the camera. I did get some images – some really good ones – but I was disappointed to not have the phenomenal leaps in it.

The tiger display was really just a small area with various pens for each different type. Tigers, striped, white, orange, lions, etc. Big kitties everywhere. But it was hot as hell, not the mid-80s that it should have been, and the kitties were all napping in the midday heat, not much too see. Some pictures did come out very well, however, due to the fact that they were not mobile. Still… it was a lot like going to a zoo, which is bittersweet – lovely to see the animals, not nice to see them in captivity.

After spending an hour and a half there, I finally headed out to the street to pick up the tram to the Stratosphere, what used to be Bob Stupak’s Vegas World. It most certainly does not look like Vegas World any more! Not that it has in years and not that I expected it to. It was a tiny casino and an unimpressive hotel. The shows weren’t all that and a bag of chips, either. The neighbourhood is still not all that either – or should I say it is more than I’d want to see. They’ve made Fremont Street much safer and different but don’t take one step off of it… I didn’t go there for this trip, just the Stratosphere.

I got my tickets and went first to the observation deck and took a zillion pictures from there, walking around and getting images of the mountains, the local buildings, the Strip… everything. It was so worth it. The view was incredible! And then… I went for the rides…!

The first one was the Big Shot, a zero-G ride that looks like a box on the needle of the Stratosphere. It shoots straight up, pushing four or more Gs, and then it drops like a stone – free fall! Oh, amazing! It went up and down a couple of times, and then stopped and came down to the landing pad. It was INCREDIBLE! I got off and said to the attendants, “That was fucking fabulous!” I may freely use expletives, but rarely in public settings like that. I wanted to do it again!

Then I went for Insanity the Ride, my other ticket (I had heard about the roller coaster and opted not to do it – Luis and Tom mentioned it throws the head around. So I got tickets for the Big Shot and Insanity. Insanity is a structure with five arms, at the end of which there are two seats each. We got in to our seats and were strapped in and then the arm slowly pulls out over the edge. Yup – sitting there with my feet hanging out 1,440 feet over the street. Wow…! Then it begins to spin around and the legs stick out. Far enough that it was not an effort to look down! It was great. It was not a real screamer for me – I’m not afraid of heights. But it was a worthwhile ride.

The person sitting near me said he was on the extreme ride and that was the most terrifying ride he’s ever been on. He said it shoots you out over the edge, pulls back and does it again and this scared him. For a guy who sounds like he loves extreme kinds of rides, this must have really been something! I went down and got a ticket for Xtreme.

He was right, Xtreme is a big black stick that has a car on it. The stick tips down and WHAM! There you are, hanging over the side of the Stratosphere, with nothing beneath you. The way it races toward that is what is terrifying, but knowing too well what to expect, I was not scared and actually, I was thinking it would go a lot farther and hang down at a more vertical rate. So while the camera there got me in such a way that you could count all of my teeth (and maybe even make out which ones were crowns…), after that initial reaction, it was a little teeny bit disappointing. Luis mentioned that the photo is funny – I don’t look frightened, I look like I’m laughing! (I was – it was a ton of fun!)

So I loved it and was still wandering around the observation deck, thinking about getting more tickets when Luis called and said that there was an event for us (relating to his conference) and then we had the Cirque du Soliel show, REVOLUTION, to go to at 2200. Time to come home. It was 1645, a full day. By then, I was fried again and tired enough to grab a cab back to Caesar’s.

Once back at Caesars’, I stopped at the concierge desk again and changed my reservation to the 1135 pick-up… a 2200 show would mean getting to bed late and I did not want to chance it. I changed into my bathing suit and had my afternoon swim and float. The pool had a sign reading the Neptune pool was closed for a private event at 1600… I was relieved to find out that the Neptune pool wasn’t the one I went to. I was still able to hang out and swim and relax. I spent about an hour there and then returned to my room to get ready for the event. I showered, dressed and Luis came up. We looked at a huge plume of smoke coming up from beyond the airport... but we had no idea what was going on, so we down to the Neptune Pool, where the NARCA thing was.

I was not thrilled about this, but I hate these kinds of events no matter what. I did have a moment of hope, when the people running this at the table wouldn’t let me in – only NARCA participants allowed, no spouses or guests. Yay! I’ll go get food elsewhere, relax, rest my feet, read… but no, Jacqueline, the woman from the first breakfast we had, let Luis use her badge to get me in!

Now I know why Luis goes to the night time events. It’s nothing amazing… the food was good but only that, the company was… well… kind of boring, the hired entertainment was the rat pack dressed like the 40s (except that the one female was a Marilyn Monroe impersonator… and she was the 60s). We wandered around, grabbed some food from the buffet (I had pasta and something else… maybe fruit? Maybe. Tells you how memorable the buffet food was). And then it began… people were coming up to Luis and telling him what a god he is! Now, I’m certainly sold on it. But all these ultra boring lawyers were saying that, too! I was completely amazed by this. And then when we were wending our way out of there to stop in our room before going to the Mirage for Revolution, Luis grinned at me and said, “See why I love to come to these things?”

We headed up to the room, got my long-sleeved shirt and headed to the downstairs area to grab a cab. My feet were killing me and I honestly thought the Mirage had another casino resort between us. It turns out that the sheer screaming size of Caesar’s and its monstrous mall was all that was between us and Mirage. So the money was wasted on the cab but since I suggested it and was wrong, I paid for it. Only fair.

We got into the Mirage and couldn’t find the theater that Cirque du Soliel’s Revolution was playing in. We finally found it and found our seats – excellent seats! – and we were quite early. Looking around, the stage was a funny configuration; a long length but with four outcroppings from the main line. Each area was cut off from each other by a long tall mostly see through curtain or screen. The screen had clouds on it and there were ladders hanging from the ceiling. At about fifteen minutes to 2200, more people that Luis knew from the NARCA convention sat in our row. I didn’t like either the guy who sat next to Luis and I really didn’t care for the woman who was sitting next to him. The guy reminded me of the gay guy in Ugly Betty; she was just some annoying woman. But in the middle of the show they went to the bathroom… together…?! I did not like either of them because they chatted through the world’s most engaging show!

This was an amazing show. They were all over, hanging from the ceiling, swinging, parading out from behind curtains, etc. One character was so cute, carrying around a singe flower and shuffling along shyly. At the end he came out with an enormous bunch of yellow flowers. Very cute! I don’t what else to say about it and I couldn’t take pictures. There was one observation… there were a lot of M to Fs in the cast. I don’t know if enough women don’t go into acrobat work. Maybe they don’t have the desire to be clowns? These were not regular clowns. As a general rule, I don’t care for clowns. But these were artists of an incredible degree. And the music – all Beatles! I love the Beatles, I grew up on the Beatles. It was a delightful show. Thanks a million to Stevan Goldman, who bought us the tickets!

We walked back but honestly, after 90-plus minutes of this mind-blowing show, I was not feeling any pain in my feet! It was 2348 and we went over to the Bellagio but we missed the last show. We couldn’t get there fast enough. And so we went home to our room and it was time to crash!

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Day One In Sin City! (Wednesday, 9 May 2007)

It’s 0646 here (although my laptop tells me I’ve missed half the morning at quarter to ten), the sun has not long risen and the city appears to be alive with morning commuters. In direct contrast to Atlantic City, I have no idea if any are commuters to the casinos for the morning shift… In AC there is a lot of far-away parking well out side of the Boardwalk areas but here in Vegas I don’t honestly know how it works. Then again, I was here a full fourteen years ago… I don’t know what it is like to do anything here. I suppose this is one of many mysteries I’ll try to unravel.

Well, many hours and one sunburn later, I must admit, this is a great place. Not that I didn’t think it would be, but hey, one always has reservations about these things. Undoubtedly it is the people that ultimately make it great! But the places and events were all that, too.

After waking up and looking out the window, hoping to see the fountains in their full glory, the sight that greeted me was less impressive… The water level was down and there were crews with specially made equipment carriers to fix whatever the problem is. Hmmm. Not very promising. I was not sure what it all meant. I hoped that this was just routine maintenance and that later the sight would be delightfully visible and from a whole new perspective.

I got showered with Luis (it’s nice to have a shower big enough for that) and then dressed and we joined Nick downstairs. We joined other people as well, to make a party of eight at breakfast at Café Lago, which was an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet with everything for $19.59 – even the evil and heinous biscuits and gravy, which Luis went for like an artist to an instrument… It was quite something. (I think I can still hear his arteries hardening!) The company was one couple from Chicago, Illinois, and two business people from Detroit, Michigan. The guy from Detroit, Neil, has an unmistakable Midwest twang, which was delightful. The young woman with him was notable for wearing a low cut dress, which showed off small but slightly sagging boobs – I know that she could wear a bra and look really good – but without, ouch.

The couple from Illinois was nice but I was not crazy about, Jacqueline, the wife. She wore heavy make-up and spoke as though nothing suited her. I found everything to be quite good and well-presented and everyone here is unfailingly polite – but she seemed to have a lot of low opinions about everything.

Nick’s brother Mike was there, too. He seems to have turned out well, and was pleasant company. Certainly very different from sixteen – seventeen years ago. People do often change, and many times for the better.

Luis and I had minor difficulties breaking away from the Chicago people, then from the others he met in the hallway, and finally he managed it so that at no longer 0930, but 1015 – not enough time to do anything before the user meeting. So we came up to our room, and I got my bag more together for my plans to explore Vegas, and Luis changed for his NARCA day.

I went to the Bellagio first – that was well enough my first choice anyway, being as it is both completely fascinating and also what had to be mesmerizing from the ground level. But there was a different guy out there working on the booster or pumps that created the sprays to the right, so clearly nothing would be happening then. I walk around in front a bit and realized that all the casinos are large distances apart. Nothing is close in Las Vegas, that is very evident.

In a nutshell, I went to the Bellagio, looked at the amazing glass ceiling in the lobby, then went to the flower and butterfly conservatory to the right – WOW! It was gorgeous, butterflies everywhere in all sizes, shapes, colours, configurations! It was so amazing! I spent more than an hour there, then got on line to get a cab when I discovered the ugly truth about how much walking was involved in getting to the Mandalay Bay.

On line for the cab, I met Gloria, middle-50s woman with twinkling eyes and an open friendly smile who began chatting with me. She suggested with bright cheer that if I’d like, I could jump in with her, gratis, and she would take me to the Venetian! Sold – I was delighted to do so and to meet someone as chatty and happy as I am, well, the pleasure was indeed all mine!

We got over to the Venetian, got Gellato (very much like ice cream – we both had pistachio) and chatted more, then I had someone take our picture together, and then she went her way, and I went mine. I had a lovely time with her.

I did prowl around the Venetian for some time, although it is a lot like shopping in the Short Hills Mall – everything is too expensive to even go into the store and browse. But I did find some great little items and so I did do some shopping. After that, I guess about 1345, I grabbed a cab and went to Mandalay Bay for the aquarium, which I loved and was exactly – exactly­ – as Tom had described. The fish were amazing, and they had a long thing you carried around, punched numbers corresponding with the various pools, and heard information about the animal(s) contained in each area. I loved.

Around 1500 I was tired and returning to Caesar’s for some R&R. I changed into my bathing suit, got my books and shoes and headed downstairs. I went right into the water to sooth the very slight redness on my arms, and then I made three or four circuits around the big statute in the middle and finally had had enough swimming – especially on an empty stomach! I read for a while in the sun, yes, wearing SPF 30, and when I came in, I was a crispy critter! It was not pretty!

Luis has a weird schedule so we were consistently off base. I came back from my swim around 1730 (it was a good, long, refreshing swim), then ordered room service – I was no longer hungry but starving! I had chipotle chicken quesadillas – YUM.

Luis was changed again and left and I took a long, hot bath in the huge tub, and then called Ray to see how the kitties were before crashing for the nap. I felt more than just tired, but then the beet-red heat radiating from my shoulders and legs was wearing me out, too.

I took a two and a half hour nap until Luis came in and woke me from it. We went out to dinner in the Caesar’s area. We went downstairs to a club called Shadows, where there was a huge screen on the wall and behind it is a woman dancing – naked. It was an interesting place, but it was blasting music, far more than I wanted to hear. So we went to a couple of other places, looking for crab legs (I wasn’t, but Luis and Floyd’s girlfriend (I cannot recall her name) were so we went to a few different restaurants). They really did not have what we wanted, or had a wait or were so outrageous in cost, it wasn’t worth it. We did finally find a good restaurant, and although I was very tired, I did enjoy my meal. Luis and Floyd’s girlfriend had crab legs, Floyd had steak and I had a very good shrimp dish. It was very, very good! Then Floyd’s girlfriend had a peanut butter pie slice and that was very good, too, but filling, and we were pretty full.

We walked some of it off to go see the last Bellagio fountain show. We missed it – just bits and pieces at midnight, but then it was done. We’d hoped that there was a later show, but none. We did see a lot of trucks go by that carry billboards with very scantily clad women and in huge letters, the number 696-6969 (no area code, but it happens to be 702. It was a really shocking sight. On the other hand, it wasn’t all that surprising in Las Vegas. In Parsippany it would be outright incredible. Anyway, by 0030, we were done…

And so was I!