Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Pig Flies East Posted by Hello

Friday, June 24, 2005

Eminent Domain

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that cities and towns could take private property, if offered for fair market value for commercial development. The case in question was about a woman in New London, Connecticut, who had lived in her small home for years on the waterfront. She had lived in the house for years and had long since paid off her mortgage, and now she was just paying her property taxes. The house wasn't elegant, but it is neat and tidy. She has been fighting eminent domain for years.

The city argues that it needs to take her property to raise its tax base but offering waterfront views to yuppie condominium developers who will pay top dollar for a waterfront view. It used to be the government took eye-sores to such as slums to replace them with something like a highway. People living in the slums were moved to somewhere where it was hopefully better.

But can't they build around this woman's home. Why should she be denied a nice view, especially since she has been living there even when the neighborhood was worse off. She followed the rules, and she is losing her home anyway.

Emiment Domain was supposed to be for the public good. When Foxborough Stadium, an old man's home stood in the way of Bob Kraft's expansion. But they wanted his house, not for the public good, but to create an access road for luxury box owners. This isn't the general public here - a man's home was taken so the wealthy would have to deal with 'the public" on their way to their comfy, expensive seats that the taxpayer had to kick in to build.

This ruling is another slap in the face to the 'ownership society'. The Supreme Court says it is nlegal to take tour bed away and give it to a condominium or corporation. We all lose again. Emiment domain is urbal renewal for the wealthy.

Flag Burning Poll

In a local nightly Fox news poll, the question: "Do you support a Constitutional Ban on Flag Burning the results were: Yes: 78%, No: 22%. So obviously, I am in the minority here. The argument that flag burning is the equivalent to cross burning is not accurate. People who burned crosses on other people's lawns were designed to frighten people and get them to move. Cross burning for another purpose, such as a protest against Evangical/Politcal maneuvering to me would constitute free speech.

Speaking of burning, the town of Goodsprings a few miles to our southwest is on fire. A lightning induced fire has darkened our skies and the fire seems to be building. In fact, we had 600 lightning strikes yesterday. And its not quite monsoon season yet. I hope no one's home gets destroyed, but residents are on edge. I could see the smoke which cause a brownish-yellowish haze all day. It has been a 'red flag' warning day, that is, either high winds or high temperatures can cause wild fires. Firefighters have said they did not expect the fire to expand to this size. Its been burning since yesterday.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Retrospectives - Pre-Nevada Part II

Second part in a series...

October, 1988

As I mentioned earlier, I struck a deal with the Managers from Hell which kept me in the company, and that deal was to attend an Intergraph User's Group (IGUG) that was taking place in Las Vegas in October, 1988. I attended with another co-worker and friend, Allan and the reservations were made the previous July at the Riviera, the site of the conference as well as our rooms.

We left from Boston and I was excited, because Vegas was one of my 'must-see' cities. On the way to McCarran, a medical emergency occurred on the way. Allan turned to me and said "Good, we'll get to Vegas faster".

Las Vegas wasn't the same place it is today. The Strip was just a regular two-lane street. After I moved here, there were numerous pedestrian deaths, so they began to widen the Strip. The first of the 'modern' megaresorts, the Excalibur wouldn't open until the following spring. Caesar's Palace, the venerable signature property on the Strip was there of course, but there was no Mirage, TI, Mandalay Bay or any of the others. What was there was the Sands (gone), Desert Inn, (gone), Oasis, (gone) and the Stardust (still there) and there was of course, Glitter Gulch but no Fremont Experience. If you want a sense what it was like back then, go watch an episode of the 70s crime show Vegas$ starring Robert Urich as Dan Tanna.

We arrived at the Riviera, where our reservations which were made in July, but to our surprise, we were bumped from the hotel, because the tower that they had planned on being open was not ready and so we were given 'comparable' rooms at the nearby El Rancho (El Roacho - now gone), and we were comped for a show at the hotel whose name I don't recall.

Allan was taking a course at the time and was carrying a load of textbooks which weighed a ton, and I found it hilarious that he actually thought he'd do some studying in Vegas.

When we went to the El Rancho, we were led down a very long path to our rooms 'way, way' in the abck of the hotel. I remember the room smelled like shit. That was probably the most endearing quality of our 'comparable' room. I'd hate to see what the room would look like coated with luminol. I wasn't happy but Allan was fit to be tied. I proposed that we simply play all night, which we did, but eventually I'd have to sleep there.

The next day, while I went to the convention, Allan went on the hunt for a better room. He found a much better one at the Center Strip Travelodge, across the street from what was not (and will be) the Mirage. I liked the room enough and the price was right that I would stay there again on my next trip.

Vegas was never kind to computer people. COMDEX was just about the biggest convention in town back then, drawing about 200,000 conventioners to the city. But it is first and foremost, a gambling town, and geeks were never considered gamblers. As a general rule, they are not, but nonetheless, they spend money on hotels, food and tours, and they do generate a few million in revenue. If every one of those out of towners spends $100 a day there, that's $20M right there.

The last time COMDEX was here was I believe in 2003, and its attendance is down to about 50,000, so it has been cancelled for now, or maybe be resurrected as an every other year event.

During breaks in the conference, I went out to the floor to gamble. Back then, a played a few slots, no video poker (yet), blackjack and craps. I usually did well at craps. Allan's game was Texas Hold-'em in the poker room.

Perhaps because I would put my books down on the floor when I approached a table, i found the dealers at the Riv to be particularly rude. Also, the hotel's main color was red, a color I detest as a decorating color. To this day, I continue to boycott the Riv.

We went out for one of those typically Vegas 'surf and turf' late night deals for $5.99 consisting of a steak and a 'lobster' tail. Being from Boston, I think I know a 'lobster' tail when I see one, but out here a 'lobster' tail is an Austalian lobster tail, which is about the size of an overgrown crayfish. So here's a tip: Nevadans know beef, so stick with the steak. I think Allan got sick on his, but I didn't, or I would definitely remember that.

I don't remember if I won or lost that week (won probably) because i definitely enjoyed myself. Allan didn't do so well, and he wanted to go back early. I think we were oriignally scheduled to return on Friday after the convention but we had convinced management to let us come back on Saturday (I'm sure at our own expense) so we could enjoy ourselves. Allan wanted to leave early, but I convinced him that that would be a bad idea. I think Allan recovered from his losses the next day, and I can't remember him doing ANY studying.

Allan was one of my very few friends to come visit me after I moved here, in April, 1992, when I was still living in my first (and last) apartment. I don't know how he did on that trip, (I think he made money) but I definitely did - I hit on a 14 and 15 spot Keno ticket for about $720 and I hit a Royal (I think that was my first fully loaded) at the Mirage for over $1400.

So waht did I learn at the IGUG? Mostly how to be a better craps player and I learned I definitely wanted to return to Las Vegas.

The show we went to and were comped for was good, and I enjoyed that

Flag Burning

The House of Representatives cleared passage for a cosntitutional amendment to outlaw flag burning. This seems totally un-American. The whole point of living in a free society is the ability to criticize the leadership or a country's policies. What is it about these radical Republcians to have yet another tampering of the Constitution so they can stifle free speech?

Yesterday Bush met with the President of Viet Nam. Outside, I assume former South Vietnamese were protesting their former homeland's lack of free speech. They did so by burning the Vietnamese flag in protest. During the Cold War, when we sent US troops there, the public was told that we fighting for freedom in that country. When we see Vietnamese protesting in this country, we can say they have achieved freedom, although they had to leave their homeland to do so.

We often hear from veterans who say they 'fought for the freedoms we now enjoy.' Freedom, presumaly to burn the flag in frustration over the government's policies. Just because you burn the flag in protest, doesn't mean you hate your country, in fact, it means just the opposite: that you are fearful for teh direction the country is taking.

So once again, what's the deal with the Constitutional Amandment to ban flag burning? Are they trying to make it illegal for a so-called 'blue state' not to go along? This is the kind of action that dictators do either left or right. Yes, like Nazis. There, I said it, and I won't be apologizing for it in a week.

So if it passes, what's next? The flag is just a symbol of the country, just like the Congress Building, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial or White House is a symol of the country. If we can't 'criticize' the flag, will criticism of the President be next. The Democratic Party was in control during the Viet Nam war, but a good chunk of the party back then was conservative. Johnson was conservative on Viet Nam as was Nixon. Many of today's Republcians formed the core of the Democratic Party back then: Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, George Wallace. They didn't like criticism back then either. Just look at Kent State.

The argumetn being used now is that the 'world is a dangerous place'. Sure it is, but how is it more dangerous than when we were attacked at Pearl Harbor or when Russian nukes were pointed at American cities or when the world was on the brink of Nuclear Winter as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis?

The best way to show the terrorists like Osama Bin Laden that our system is superior to his is to encourage popular participation in the debate, not to stifle it. Flag burning is a form of first amendment freedom and to ban it, Osama wins by default. September 11 was an opening salvo on the war on terror, but let's not use it as an excuse to stifle freedom.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

So who are you?

I have been blogging since the end of April, but I have recently added a site meter less than 2 weeks ago. I have gotten a few hits, which is great. Now, in an effort to better serve my 'readers', I'd like to know who you are (or you can remain anonymous, if you like) and what you like or don't like about the blog? Do you prefer my musings about current events? The evolving series about my history in Nevada? Or the daily minutiae?

Feel free to send a comment, or email me directly at Suggestions for improvements are always welcome. If you like it, spread the word.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

This Day

Today's high temperature made it to 110. It is 107 right now and its 6:30 PM.

As I continue to pack, I keep finding more crap. It never seems to end. I had hoped that I could be coasting today, but there is always more to do. To make things worse, my Ipod took a dive today. Two weeks or so ago, I had a problem installing Itunes which forced me to call Apple Technical Support. I was already exasperated, so when the guy told me my six month coverage expired, but he could help me if I signed up for Apple's Extended Warranty Service, for $59.99. I said to him "If I buy your $1&#((! warranty service, will Itunes be working TODAY?" He said, "I can't guarantee that, sir", so I sprung for the extra warranty service.

So, it turned out to be a good thing. I should be covered, less the cost of shipping. But now I am concerned about shipping it from here, waiting for it and wondering if I'll get it back in time or if I should have them send it to my new address. I have been so unlucky lately. That's probably why I'm leaving Vegas. I also called Southwest Gas to have my service disconnected at the end of the month and it was actually a pleasant experience. I got a nice lady at the other end, no 'Press 1' for this and 'Press 2' for that, or 'go to the website or send us mail'. Get job.

In the news: On the John Bolton nomination, Bush says the UN should be 'held accountable and transparent'. If you seriously believe that, George, then how about telling Dick Cheney to be 'accountable and transparent' about his energy committee. The Supreme Court ruled that the GAO should back off on its demands for documents, so I guess its legal for Cheney not to be 'transparent' and accountable to the American people. Mushroom management. Keep us in the dark and feed us nothing but shit. And its quite hypocritical.

And then there's Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney announcing that he is thinking of a run for President in 2008. What a shock. I told peole that he would do that even before he became governor. Massachusetts should pass a law that prevents a current governor from running for higher office only when his term is over. its getting tiring. Dukakis ran for President without resigining, Weld resigned to (attempt at) become Ambassador to Mexico, but was shot down by Jesse Helms for being too 'liberal' on drugs. He supported medical use of marijuana. Then there was Bush suck-up and wuss Argeo Paul Celluci, who, realizing he would probably lose re-election so he fled to Canada as the US Amassador.

And there was former Boston Mayor, Ray Flynn, who also higher ambitions, so at least he had a plan - become the Ambassador to the Vatican and then suck up all the Catholic votes as he attempted to run for Representative from Joe Kennedy's Ward 8. But he wasn't even a resident and all his Papal blessings didn't help him in his career advancement.

I haven't been following Taxachusetts politics, but will be soon, since that are generally more exciting than Nevada's. I like our current governor, Kenny Guinn, who keeps trying to give back some of the state's suplus back to somebody. Plus, our Assembly only meets once every 2 years, so we don't get stealth tax increases.

So sombody should tell Romney not to bother and waste people's time. If he really 'loves' his job, then stay put. Besides, even if some Republcans will tout him as a 'moderate' alternative, the national GOP is too filled with radical rightists and moderates have all but been purged from the party. Besides John McCain has a lock on the nomination in '08, just like Hillary does for the Dems. Rudy Gulliani claims he's not interested, but I think he is, only if McCain doesn't run.
The GOP will talk terror, and Hillary will talk jobs. Let's see what happens, especially if the housing bubble bursts.

Monday, June 20, 2005

As the days get shorter...

I went with my friend Lola to do a few errands as my days in the Sagebrush State dwindle down to a precious few. I packed another box to ship so first we went to the Cable Company to drop off my box. There was a long line, then we went to the new Topaz Post Office to mail the box and there was no line. No line, but you had to take a number anyway. This is one of the modern post offices with the 'now serving' digital screens.

Then we went to Steiners, a Nevada Pub. On the way, we reminisced about the early years here, including the Nevada Test Site, living in the desert when the place was a desert, the Cheyenne Saloon (which I'll be writing about), etc. Its kinda sad.

Steiners is a nice pub, where all the entrees are named after Nevada cities and towns and is an 1890s or so Western decor. Lola had the steak sandwhich special and I had the 'Lake Tahoe' shrimp Po'Boy which was huge as were the salads. I played a little video poker, made $10 and we left.

I was going to go to Terrible's Casino next Wednesday night which will be my last night in Vegas, but instead I am going to stay at my friends Don and Kitty's house instead and they'll ring me to the airport.

I was over Don and Kitty's the other night because Don called me to come check his computer since the kids screwed it up. He brought over my mattress that didn't sell from his garage sale which was an improvement over the lounge chair I slept in the night before. He said he wanted to try out my pizza place (East Coast Pizza, see 'A Plug'). We ordered two large pizzas to go. He gave me the money for it while he went in to Sultan's Grille next door, since he spent some time in Turkey and he likes Mediterranean food. When I walked in the pizza place and they saw that the order was for me, they only charged me for one of the pizzas. What great friends!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Boycott this show - please!

On Tuesday night at 8, NBC is going to interview the 'Runaway Bride'. Please don't watch this show.

The last thing we need is to make this nutcase a celebrity. She feigned that she was 'kidnapped' by a Hispanic couple in New Mexico, escaped and called 911. I don't care if she had cold feet or whatever reason, but by having her on NBC will only encourage grooms, brides, mothers-in-law to create their own 'reality' shows by causing the police and the search parties to be diverted from really missing people while they work on their own book deals. If I were the almost groom, I'd be thankful for having dodged this insane bullet.

And they were registered at some of the finest stores, now who pays for the catering, plane tickets for out of town guests, etc.

Don't watch NBC this Tuesday. Cause them to have a ratings dip.

Someone saved my life tonight...

-Elton John (sung by the groom)

Totally at random

Its been a nice spring, for the most part, here in the desert. It has been delightfully cool, for most of the season. We did set a record of 10 days in May of over 100 degrees, but so far in June we had had only one day of triple digits, when we normally have 10 days in June of over 100. Las Vegas typically has aout 130 days a year of over 100, and that is an average temperature. Typically June is about 105, 106 in July, 107 on July 21, the meterologically hottest day of the year after which temperatures begin to reverse themselves. It is supposed to be 95 today, only 90 yesterday (kind of unheard of) so it was great to be outdoors.

Well, we've had another outbreak of identity thefts as Mastercard was hit by a computer virus that hit a third party vendor and THIS time as many as 40 MILLION numbers could be compromised. It is amazing that although Americans apparently cringe over the concept of a National ID system, that is in effect what we have with our Social Security number or 'Taxpayer ID'. In years gone by, you didn't need to get a SSN until you started working, but now the gummint urges new parents to get their kids their own number as early as 6 months old.

As I get ready to disconnect and reconnect utilities etc, it amazes me how many times I've been asked for the 'last four digits' of my SSN, as well as my mother's maiden name. Since all the companies ask the same question, isn't this the equivalent of having the same password for every computer account you have? Don't security personnel discourage that?

Last yeat the governmetn made it possible for every American to get at least one free credit report and score every year. It started in the West, but by now all regions of the country should be available. Take steps now, in view of the recent hacking attacks to make sure you haven't been compromised by going to and getting yours today. You might find something there that isn't your doing and the sooner you begin untangling the mess (and good luck to you) the better.

Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida wants to open a lawsuit over how Terri Schiavo lapsed into a coma 15 years ago. C'mon Jeb, put it to rest. Haven't you and the other politicos made enough specticles of yourselves? Haven't you done enough to these people? Don't waste taxpayer dollars on another odyssey so you can placate the Evangelicals. Let the woman rest in peace. Use the money to rebuild areas still damaged from last years hurricanes and do something useful for a change.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California has jumped into Podcasting. If you live in California or are just interested in what is going on in the Shaky, Quaky, Heartland you can check it out here.
Way to go, Guvna!

The Blogfather is back! Ray from Rayz Realm and formerly of John Bigboote's Area 51 has beamed down to bring us Nightmare Hall. Welcome to his nightmare! Disturbingly, his nightmares have become my nightmares. I feel like I'm in an episode of Dark Shadows (a cult classic - second only to Star Trek) where the witch Angelique causes one person to have a nightmare, which becomes unbearable forcing him to tell a second person, who now has the nightmare, only to be one step worse, forcing him to tell the next person and so on.

If it weren't for Ray, instead of blogging, I'd rolling around in a mudhole somewhere. Ok, I still do, but only on the hottest of days.

Happy Daddy Day and Juneteenth.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Retrospectives - pre Nevada

First in a Series.

July, 1988

I was working in an engineering firm in Boston, which later moved to Kendall Square in Cambridge when we endured yet another corporate/departmental reorganization that i was not happy with. My then boss had quit, only to return two weeks later with a complete personality transplant. Up to then, I had enjoyed my job and endured enough office bullshit to qualify for combat pay.

Being a 'bommerang', ie, someone who leaves the firm only to return at a higher position was quite common in my company at the time. Having been there a few years, I had witnessed it on a number of occasions. The office politics (pollution) was so thick you cut it with a knife. The bullshit gradually made it down to my level and when Trevor quit and came back again it was like having a guy I liked to work with and for morph into Linda Blair, complete with rotating head and vomit.

Now I became the scapegoat for all that was wrong with the world and I found myself behind the eight ball in a variety of situations, but while I was being condemned and I was also being told how valuable I was. Its not a good idea to can someone if you have value to you even if your ultimate goal is to get rid of them eventually. But I was naive and I thought that showing up and doing a good job was what one had to do to get ahead. Despite everything, I really enjoyed my job and the people I worked with, so what was going on was a life changing event.

In the summer of 1988, the economy in Boston was going gangbusters and I could have written my own ticket. I was constantly getting calls from recruiters and companies who wanted me to jump ship and work for them, but I was complacent and comfortable. But with all the crap going on a put on a suit jacket one day went to work with it and started looking for another job. My boss saw me with the jacket on and asked me what I was up to. I told him I was looking for another job. "Where?" I pointed out the window and said "Out there".

I went for the first interview during lunch on a Wednesday. It went well enough that I was asked back for a second interview on Thursday at lunch. I interviewed at one of world's most renowned hospitals and I was 'gang interviewed' by a bunch of doctors. My potential boss to be said to me, "You know, you're underpaid" as if I didn't know that. I was offered the job as a systems manager by Friday at lunchtime.

By then rumors were flying that I might jump ship. I made an emotional decision and not a practical decision to stay based on the written agreement that I would take on additional resposibilities and a boost in pay. I really wanted to stay because i would have missed my friends, which is a stupid reason, especially since I was only one subway stop away from them at the time. My bosses previous to this kept on giving me the line that they were going to hire 'consultants' that would reorganize people's responsibilities, job titles and pay. Of course this meant a tax break for the company since they would write off the cost. I said to them, "Just go to any decent emplyment agency and they'll tell you what I'm worth on the open market, so why should I wait 6 years for you to do the obvious?". It would LITERALLY take 6 years (after I was long gone) for them to do this, but bosses got nice raises and bonuses every year. See how little has changed?

Another side agreement would be that I get sent to an Intergraph Users Group (IGUG) in Las Vegas. Since Vegas was on the list of cities I had yet to visit and was looking forward to it, I took the bait and stayed. I do have regrets about turning down the hospital job, but we can't turn ack the clock, although I always wondered in which direction my life and career would have taken if I had gone the other way.

After accepting the counteroffer, I went down to Mass. General, spoke to the guy who offered me the job and told him the situation. It was never my intention of using it as leverage to a promotion ot raise as the assholes in my old company often did. I felt I owed the guy a thanks, an explanation, and a face to face man to man talk. He appreciated my coming down and although he was disappointed, I think he respected me for doing that in that way, rather than just calling him on the phone and saying 'Never Mind'.

Next Stop - Las Vegas

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Medical Marijuana

Yesterday's big story was the Supreme Court's decison to override state's rights and state laws that allow people to use medical marijuana under a doctor's supervision. Once again, the Federal Government is divorced from reality. Their argument is, if you smoke a joint today, you'll be doing heroin next week. They use the argument that they are 'protecting children'. On one news show, they claim that alcohol usage among teens is twice that among adults. So what's this got to do with the price of tea in China. The fact that some parents can't or don't supervise their children is no reason to deny medical marijuana to those who need it. If you can't control your kid, take a parenting class.

This is perhaps the single most hyprocritical argument I've ever heard. Tobacco is bad for you, but it's legal. It fills state coffers with tax revenues that if tobacco were banned, gutless politicians would have to find another way to make up the money such as raising property taxes of motor vehicle registrations which would of course be unpopular.

So using the court's logic, lets ban Percodan, Percocet, cocaine, (yes, cocaine can be prescribed by a doctor), oxycontin and morphine, all things that people use for 'fun'. Might as well ban Viagra, since recent reports claim that it leads to blindness in SOME men. Just like your mother used to scare you with, do THAT and you'll go blind. But Viagra won't be banned anytime soon, since it is too much of a profit generator for Phizer.

Republicans are constantly complaining about 'activist judges' when it came to the Terri Schiavo case and gay marriage in Massachusetts. "Let the people decide", they yell. Well, the people of California and Nevada have decided that it was okay for pot to be used for glaucoma and AIDS.

But the Republican Empire and Daddy Party has once again abandoned its support for libertarianism and states rights by arguing that Federal Law trumps State Law. So much for Federalism. In poll after poll, people have been arguing in favor of decriminalization of pot, in view of the fact that there has NEVER been a death due to the overdose of pot. But Daddy says no, and Daddy knows what's best for ALL of use, children and adults alike.

As to prove its point, in tonight's news here, a guy's house was raided today by Federal agents despite the fact that he had a Nevada Medical card allowing him to use pot. He was featured on the news the other day when the story about the Supreme Court was being discussed. Now he is planning a hunger strike. It evokes images of Federal troops with guns blazing as Elian Gonzalez crouched in terror in a closet.

Rather than legalizing pot and TAXING it (state governments love to do that) and raising revenues, it seems that the Federal Government would prefer to encourage Colombian drug cartels to continue growing pot, smuggling in to the US, not to mention all the killings that will go on before it gets into the user's hands.

Stop the madness. Time for regime change in Washington.

All I want for Christmas

For as long as I have had a computer, I've always had an Apple, except for the one I am using now. Right now, I am using a Compaq Presario, which I have no problem with. In fact, the machine is dual bootable between Windows 2000Pro and Red Hat Linux. I recently took back most of the space I had allocated to Linux, so I could use the space for Podcasts and Itunes.

When I got my Ipod, I also sprung for a Griffin Italk, so that I could use the Ipod for writing a book about Virginia City and the Comstock Lode. I haven't done much with the book yet, except for gather materials as the hard work of writing it down is the most boring part, so, thus the Italk. I left myself a few voice messages which come out as WAV files. I have downloaded Audacity, a free software program that as I understand it, will convert and edit them into MP3 files. So, my first podcast should be on the way soon. People think I get bored, but I rarely do.

In checking out Apple's latest OS 10.2, I think, code named Tiger some of the new features include built in RSS support, a powerful search engine, installable mini-programs called Widgets and more fun things like Unix support. Apple recently lent its support for Podcasts, which is good, as long as they don't try to 'control' it.

I got this Presario because my former employer wanted me to log in from home, so rather than go through the 'sign out' process, I broke down and bought a Windoze machine since all the company was officially supporting at the time was Win 98, not even 2000 which was the then current OS. I got the most space possible, just in case, which I didn't really start to consume until I began downloading songs. it took the Ipod for me to download songs as I never did in the days of Napster. And, with the Ipod as the 'de facto' MP3 player, Apple's OS was certainly written with the Ipod in mind.

The Ipod's dominance may be short lived, as phones add on more space for songs, but if you want to know where innovation is headed, keep an eye on Apple. Apple is the teacher, Microsoft the student.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Shameless self promotion

The following is my resume, with the personal information removed. So if you know of some firm who could use a hand in Las Vegas (act fast!) or Boston or Southeast New England, please post a comment. I need an assist here.

More than 20 years of experience in technical support, including training individuals on the operation of computer systems and programs. Experienced in managing computer operations, systems analysis, database management, telecommunications, and programming. Able to establish technical priorities, standards, and procedures while ensuring efficient systems
capacity for organizational needs. Areas of expertise include:

Expense Control *Facility Management* Web Technology
Operations Management* Process Improvement* Software Management * Start-Up Operations *Systems Installation *Training & Development

Employment History

Principal Systems Analyst, Fidelity Investments 2000-2002

Provided infrastructure and application support for an in-house online accounting system, performed incident investigation and tracking, and served as a liaison between application support and development teams. Consulted with clients while providing them with technical leadershipand expertise. Applied methodologies to resolve user and systems issues effectively.

Authored procedures to solve complex business and system problems. Built a sub-test environment for fixed income and equity/money market environments, allowing for the testing and debugging of regular releases of FOCAS software.

Contractor/Senior Systems Manager, Compaq Computer Corporation 1997-1999

Built and supported Y2K infrastructure that was used to test 219 applications, which covered 83,600 programs for Y2K compliance. Designed a security scheme for setting up projects, provided technical support to project leaders, and managed production clones behind a digital Unix-based firewall. Coordinated system management tasks with project leaders in India and locally. Updated web pages, installed software, and troubleshot systems.

Contractor/Consultant, Digital Equipment Corporation 1995-1997

Conducted performance analysis, graphing, and troubleshooting for a client during their transitional phase from VAX 7000 to Alphaserver 2400 platforms; recommended system management guidelines and suggested standards. Set up an NFS server to enable file transfers between AXP server and Windows NT clients. Provided second-line technical support for Hudson Information Services Support group.

Senior Systems Analyst, Raytheon Services Nevada 1991-1995

Provided 24/7 coverage of the company's payroll system as well as technical support for hardware/software issues. Hired, trained, and provided technical supervision of operators and system support staff. Coordinated field service and operations during the move to a new computer facility in Las Vegas.

Senior Systems Programmer, Camp, Dresser, and McKee 1984-1991

Isolated, analyzed, and repaired system problems; installed and upgraded system software; and designed and implemented system resource accounting, crash, and production schemes. Served as a liaison for the firm’s engineering community. Trained personnel in accordance with policies
and procedures.

Academic Credentials

Bachelor of Arts, Liberal Arts, University of Massachusetts

Technical Skills

Alpha * AXP * VAX * Intel * Macintosh * VMS * Windows 95/98/NT *
PowerBook * Multinet * Lotus Notes * HTML * MS Office * Netscape * Sun Solaris * UNIX * Red Hat Linux

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Musings about Michael

I doesn't really float my boat if Michael Jackson was found innocent or not, but I'd have to say I am a little surprised about the verdict, to be found not guilty on all 10 counts.

A friend said yesterday "Look, we weren't at the trial and 12 people deliberated and found him not guilty". This is true, since I am never on the jury of any celebrity trial. He claims that the media does a wonderful job of making negative news out of everything.

Just before the verdict was announced, Fox News said: "This is a conservative town, with a conservative jury, 8 women with children and one a former victim of child abuse", so I was further surprised by the verdict.

Another friend said that Michael wanted to open a Disney like amusement park in Singapore or Malaysia and considering MJs relationship with children, it would have been too big of a thing and millions, if not billions of dollars would have left the US and so, Disney and others wanted to bring him down. Sounds like an X-files conspiracy, I love it. He also says, the music studios take an unknown, make a star out of him, but then they do their best to control him and Jackson was too big to handle.

But here's the thing: We live in an environment right now where child abuse is a very hot topic these days, what with the Catholic Church's scandals, a planned community in Texas which wants to ban all child molesters, passed, present and future and convicted child molesters, even when they do jail time, can't find anywhere to live.

When children are called to the stand, especially the youngest ones, they can easily be manipulated by their parents and lawyers in suits. Kids get frightened and will practically say what ever they are told to say. I don't how old the accusing kid was, but as they get older, their testimony can be put under greater scrutiny.

But times are getting pretty tense. A woman gets nailed for child abuse for spanking her kid in public, a father goes to jail for refusing to provide cancer therapy (religion vs the state and child), etc.

Here in Nevada, our summers get quite hot and there has been a number of cases of children being left in a hot car, even for a moment, while mom and dad run in the store for a pack of smokes. There is an Assembly Bill becoming law in October that will make this a misdemenor.

I was in Einsteins deli last summer getting a sandwhich and a guy was ahead of me in line. It was a hot day, and a woman came in and yelled "Who left their kid in the car". The guy said its mine and the woman was ready to call 911. Paranoia or protection?

So, someone has to tell Michael Jackson that a 47 year old man who sleep with boys is officially frowned upon. Considering he had another lawsuit in 1993. Ok, he is a celebrity and gold diggers and hangers on are part of the deal (not that I would know), but it is time for Michael to grow up and start using his head and common sense when it comes to kids.

A Response from the Other End

I sent a message to Republic Services about cancelling my service at 3:00 PM on Friday. I got a response from them at 3:00 PM today. Since they are open from 9 to 6, Monday to Friday, that makes 9 working hours. They claim that for FASTER service use e-mail. Waiting 3 days is SO much better.

Monday, June 13, 2005

A Plug

Nobody pays me for advertising. (But donations are always welcome). So, if I make a plug for any kind its because I really support the business.

When I returned to Vegas in 2003 after an absence to work to pay the mortgage, there was quite a few new things in my neighborhood, including Trails Village with its anchor grocery store, Vons. Vons was much closer than Smith's which is 1.6 miles away. Not far if I had a car, but I walked everywhere.

So everything was new to me and at first, and I enjoyed checking out the place.

There was never a pizza joint worth its mozzerella, in all the years I first lived here. Villa pizza wasn't bad, but it was too far for delivery and I can't stand the national chains. I usually preferred a frozen grocery pizza to the chains. When I first moved here, all the people who originated from Boston, New York or Chicago all had the same lament - the pizza here sucks.

So I couldn't wait for East Coast Pizza to open, starting in November 2003. Because of all the beaurcratic delays, it didn't open until January, 2004.

It was started by a group of investors from Revere (Severe), Mass. Joe and Claudia, who set the place up as a Boston pizzeria, that looked earily like the Revere Dog Track, with pictures on the wall of the Blizzard of '78, Fenway Park, the Garden, the Pope in Boston, etc. The pizza was and is delicious, primarily, I am told, because the dough comes from the New England Dough Company.

But Joe and Claudia were just investors who set up businesses and sell them to other owners. At first, I couldn't figure out who were the owners were, One guy, Chris, looked the part of an Italian pizzeria owner, and the other guy Mitch, looked like just a worker there. It turned out that both Chris and Mitch were partners, which was later dissolved.

As I mentioned in one of my earliest posts, businesses have had a tough time surviving in my 'well-to-do' neighborhood. But Back East Pizza is the rare success story. And I quickly became a 'regular'.

I always think it is good business to 'reward' your loyal customers with an occasional freebie and I can't remember exactly when mine began. After Chris was gone, Mitch's new partner was Mike, a guy from New Jersey who wears a New York Yankee (gad!) baseball cape backwards.

So I don't know where I began to get free food began, but it is always a nice feeling to get 'comped' on occasion.

I don't know exactly when Mitch and I became 'Friends' as opposed to 'friends' but he knew I liked to visit Lake Tahoe and he began bugging me to go up there with him. We went awhile back and we both had a great time. We went awhile back when it was pleasant down near the casinos but there was still snow on the ground in the shade. He doesn't gamble much but likes to have a few beers, but he said he had one of the most relaxing vacations he's ever had. Of course, he was on the phone alot as he managed his business remotely.

I think one of my problems in finding employment is due in large part to age discrimination and Mitch is about 15 years younger than me, so I asked him why he'd want to be friends with an 'old' guy. He looked at me as if it was the stupidest question he'd ever been asked. Of course, I dont 'feel' old at all, just listen to some of the stuff I listen to on my Ipod. Granted, a lot of it is 'oldies' which belies my age, but I am certainly not ready for a nursing home.

We had a great view of the Lake on the top floor of the Horizon. The kind of view that's on the Horizon's website. I procured the fare and he paid for my flight and I took care of the room.

We went across the street to Bill's Bar and they had a great jukebox. Mitch went there while I went to the movies and then I went back with after that. He told me about the music they played there, including Iron Butterfly's "In A Gadda Da Vida" (long version) which I wish I had on the Ipod, but Itunes doesn't have the long version. They have an Internet jukebox, so if you can't find your song, you can search the net for it. Must be an MP3 player jukebox.

As I get ready to leave Vegas, I only had two pieces of furniture that I had an emotional attachment to (I also have some of my mother's furniture) my cherry wood desk and my cherry wood entertainment center. I sold the entertainment center to Don, but was resigned to giving my computer desk to charity.

Mitch told me that his brother might be interested in the desk, but Randy is way to tall for it. His knees touch the underneath of the desk.

But when I was in there the other day Mitch said to me: "Tell you what - I'll pay you a few bucks for it, store it for you and when you get on your feet, I'll send it to you whereever you are". Plus, he'll feed me until I leave. If I had a choice between being friends with Donald Trump or Mitch, I'll take Mitch - he feeds me and you can't eat golden doorknobs.

When I first moved here, my HOA tried to get people together by forming clubs, like Summerlin Mothers in Prayer or a Fishing Club. (Where do you fish in the desert?), but it is people that make a neighborhood and it can't be molded.

And its not just Mitch - all of the crew at East Coast Pizza are the greatest and I'll miss them all. Of course, I have friends back East which I miss and will be glad to see again, but it sucks to leave here. This is where I belong.

So, if you are in the Northwest part of Las Vegas, about 40 minutes from the Strip, stop by East Coast Pizza, 1910 Village Center Circle in the Vons complex, near the Trails Park and tell them Pig sent you. You get great service and you'll have the best pizza in town. Mitch and his crew have kicked up pizza a notch in this town - BAM!

This is not a paid advertisement - I'm serious about how good the pizza is and the service is the best. In an area where I've seen many small business close, its great to see someone achieving success. All this with two other chain pizza joints within walking distance, maybe 3.

Too bad I couldn't wait him out. When we were coming back from Tahoe and going through Carson City, Mitch was eyeing the place for another location for a second store. He wanted me to run it and I would have learned alot about pizza, but time wasn't on my side. But I got the consolation prize - I made a lot of great friends, so in the end, it was all worth it.


East Coast Pizza
1910 Village Center Circle (in Summerlin)
Las Vegas, Nevada, 89134 (across from Vons)

Don't worry, these Pizza Guys Deliver.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Talking Trash

I tried to make my first call to the utilities to begin cancelling service as of June 30.

Las Vegas has a private firm, Republic Services, (better than a government one, right) that picks up our trash and recycling.

I got my bill the other day and we typically pay in quarterly installments, so my question would have been do I pay the full bill and then have them reimburse me or should I just pay until June 30th? Had I gotten through, my question would have lasted about 30 seconds and their answer would have lasted another 30 seconds - total time: 1 minute.

I called them this morning and I got the 'we are having an unusally large call volume' please go to our website. Excuse me? What kind of 'in depth' questions do resiudential customers ask about trash? If this were a software company, I could understand long wait times - technical support has a customer on the line that he has to lead by the hand, it doesn't work, a reboot is required, ok, I'll hold on, etc.

But we're talking about trah here - either i want to start service or end it. Or, i put out my trah and you guys missed my street or something similar.

Even if Las Vegas is the fastest growing city in the US with 6000 people moving in every month and a loss of 1000 per month for a net gain of 5000 people a month. So let's do the math. If a typical 'family' has 4 members (thus, only need for one trash bill) that amounts to 1750 calls per month. That's assuming a 5 day work week. I don't remember if they said they are open on Saturdays. The the figure of 1750 from 6000 new residents, plus 1000 'emigrants' for a total of 7000, divided by a family of 4. Some of these are singles, but others (like Mormons- Breeding is Fundamental) have many more children so it all balances out.

If we assume that there are 4 weeks in any given month, that means there are 437.5 calls per week. For a five day week that's 87.5 calls per day. Not that many. I am assuming here, having just ONE person and one backup to cover for lunch and breaks. Breaking it down even further, since they claim they are open from 9 to 6 (summer hours) this amounts to less than 10 calls per hour. Or 6 minutes per call. If you add two more people (one for the phone and one backup) you could reduce wait times to 3 minutes per call. But I was on hold for 15 minutes the first time before I hung up and another 15 minutes later in the day before I hung up again.

So finally, I broke down and did what they wanted and sent them an email with my question, where they promise a 24 HOUR turnaround for my question. And you call THIS progress?

Despite all the hoopla over hi-tech, only 30% of American homes have a computer. Many people don't need one because they have access to one at work, but using company resources for a personal use (such as cancelling recycling) might get them in trouble.

I know older people who have no use for a computer even when their children or grandchildren offer to buy them one. I know people who are simply techn0-Luddites who think an answering machine is the ultimate in hi-tech.

So in my email message to Republic Services, I said "Thank you for FORCING me to use email and wait 24 hours for an answer that I could have gotten in 30 seconds if I had been allowed to talk to a live person. Here's a tip: Hire more people. Sure, it'll cost you more money, but who cares? Its not like our bills won't go up anyway.

Years ago, Republic Services sent a notice that there were going to raise rates by 15% over the next three years, 5% per year in increments. Then they sent out another mailer, saying screw it, we'll just raise rates by a one time 15% now to make it easier on me (but more expensive in the long run)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Caste system vs. caste 'system'.

India is a predominently Hindu country that has historically operated under a caste system where your economic standing in society is predetermined. If your grandfather was a bricklayer, then your father was a bricklayer, you are a bricklayer and your children will be bricklayers. This kept things in relative balance as most aspects of life were covered. The 'Brahmins' as in 'Boston Brahmins' were at the top of the heap and went to the best schools, lived in palaces and had domestic help. Like their British colonial masters, it was 'verboten' for domestic help to date or marry someone outside their station.

But India today is changing. Thanks to fiber optic cables, many of todays high tech jobs can be found in Bangalore, India's Silicon Valley. Yup, the job YOU had before 2000 has gone there. As a result, many Indians are seeing a burgeoning middle class which includes cars, better housing, and while not having domestic help some people in India are doing quite well on $20K a year. Those people who are now just entering the pipeline are showing some class jealousy. Furthermore, India is devouring more energy for air conditioning in modern office complexes, as well as more private automobiles.

India 'officially' ended the caste system some years ago, and now touts itself as the world's largest democracy. But many millions in India are still despertely poor. In rural areas, the caste system is alive and well, arranged marriages, honor killings and all, because 'that's the way its always been done'.

In the U.S., we are also an 'offically' classless society. Anyone can rise above their station in life with a little hard work. So they say. Having a bit of luck and being in the right place at the right time plays a greater role. Examples abound how a street kid playing b-ball in the 'hood can become the next Michael Jordon. Mike Tyson beat up people on a regular basis when one of his trainers convinced him to go pro and make millions to beat the crap out of (or bite the ear off of)
his opponent in the ring rather than on the street.

The New York Times has been running a multiple part series on 'Class in America'. The class system in America is alive and well in the US although in one installment, it claimed that it is getting harder to tell who has class and who doesn't. Some wealthy people shop in discount stores, while middle class folks are fond of Godiva chocolates, Ralph Laren clothing, etc. High Technology is the great liberator of class as the price of photo-phones, Ipod minis and computers keep coming down so hi-tech is no indicator of class status. I have an Ipod that I bought in better economic times and I offer no apologies for it and I am now no longer in the middle class, I am getting closer to the ground floor.

In last Sunday's installment, they talked about how the 'hyper-rich' are leaving the 'regular' rich in the dust. One hundred years ago, the rich owned railroads and newspapers. Fifty years ago, the current 'old rich' of the Kennedys, Kerrys and Bushes (yes the Bush family is as much an elitist family as the Kennedys) made their money in oil, finance or broadcasting or real estate.

Today's 'hyper rich' made their money in the stock market, pulling out it primarily before the hi-tech bubble burst in 2000. Because technology is changing at such a rapid pace, you needn't work 'hard' to become hyper-rich. Find a good idea, start a business, market it, work it for a year and then 'flip' it by selling it for $500M.

The article talked about how the island of Nantucket has become the first naturally 'gated' community. Old money clashes with new money. Houses that once sold for 500K now run for $15M. During the last Bush recession of 1982, the rich kept their jewels and furs out of sight in some 'sympathy' for those who were unemployed and having a hard time. I managed to survive that recession because I was still young enough to keep employed, despite the fact that once bosses have figured out that the economy has gone in their favor, they tend to become ogres.

Todays rich have no such feeling of restraint. Today its 'NOTICE ME, I HAVE ARRIVED'. The old rich on Nantucket are put off by the brasheness of the new rich. The old rich still spend money, and enough of it, but less than they did before, because they fear that they are getting too old to make it back quickly. In an effort at rebuffing the new rich, many of the exclusive clubs are closed to the new rich, so the new rich have simply started their own exclusive clubs. $300,000 membership fees at some golf courses are not uncommon.

But like everywhere else in America, if you were born middle class on Nantucket you have to leave. If you 'work' for a living, that is, actually get up every day at 6 or 7 am you can't afford to live there. Some construuction workers are doing a brisk business by being flown in from the mainland, work all day and fly back at night. This cost is of course passed on to the home buyer.
The talk of at 'The Club' is no longer IF you flew in, but on what kind of jet. Gulfstream IVs are the 'preferred' mode of transportation.

When a young person starts out in life, he or she is told that they can be anything they want to be and become as rich as they want. They start out in life full of optimism and enthusiasm (employers love that), but by the time one reaches 40, a mid life crisis sets in as you finally realize that all that hard work and you probably never reach 'their' level of wealth, so now you now operate in maintenance mode, in other words, running just to remain in place. Eventually, most people simply accept their lot in life.

In other words, you settle into your somewhat pre-defined caste slot and hope that your kids can do a little better than you did. So when you come to think about it, India and the US are becoming more alike in ways then either one of them cares to admit. I do find it somewhat comforting that 'what goes around comes around' that the 'old' rich are now being looked down upon by the very people that they used to look down upon and that they too, have to work that much harder (just like the rest of us) just to maintain a decent place on society's ladder.

I know this first hand because I live in a neighborhood that promotes itself as 'better' than other neighborhoods here in Vegas. As I move back East, class is defined by suburb. Its 'better' to live in Weston than Waltham and 'better' to live in Boxford than Braintree. And so it goes.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Register your garage sale

On any given weekend here in Las Vegas, you can find hundreds of garage sales and yard sales by typical folks just trying to unload old stuff that they no longer have any use for or they can't take with them when they move. I had my garage door open during the afternoon to see if anything goes.

Now on tonights news there is a top of the news story that Las Vegas now wants you to register before having your yard sale. Allegedly, they claim, there are people out there operating real businesses disquised as yard sales. North Las Vegas already does this. Technically, (and I didn't know this) you are only allowed two garage sales per year. Gimme a break. If the HOA isn't on your back, now its the city.

We live in an age where the rich are given every conceivable tax break and every advantage you can name, but it seems that every time you turn around these days, government is trying to regulate every aspect of your life for the rest of us. They are constantly telling us not to smoke, eat fast food, who to have sex with or not to have sex with, who to marry, who not to marry, how high your grass should be, what color to paint your house, now this. Enough already!

Meanwhile on CBS news this evening, GM complains that it has to add $1600 to the price of every vehicle it makes due to paying a pension to loyal employees who worked there all their lives. And also, teenagers are being told not to expect a summer job this year. Both young and old are getting squeezed.

And on that Bush lovefest program on Fox, the Beltway Boys, they talked about the real estate bubble. They don't think its a problem, because they live in the Georgetown section of Washington where prices are always high anyway. They claim that so what if the bubble bursts, you'll still be owning your own home. Not one word, of course, on what people will do when they are stuck with mortgages that they still have to pay despite the fact that thier houses are no longer worth the mortgage value. Banks won't want to take the fall. And of course, there was no mention of the 'investor' class who buy several houses in an effort to flip them for a quick and tidy profit. As typical Republicans, Fred and Mort are totally disconnected from the rest of us here in the heartland.

Maybe having a theocracy that the GOP and their evangelical allies want so badly might not be that bad after all. It seems the country has already gone to hell. I wonder what they'll say when they get to the part of the Bible that says a rich man has as much chance to get to heaven as an camel through the eye of a needle.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Nevada State Quarter

I've been busy putting my life into boxes getting ready to ship. This means deciding what is 'worthy' of keeping and what is worth keeping until the next box, so I haven't written much. In an effort at putting my CD collection up for sale, I have also been busily uploading tunes into Itunes. I am now up to about 285 including Podcasts. After the remaining furniture is given to charity, I'll will have a week or two of sitting on the floor and writing.

So, I'll leave with this: When I was living in Massachusetts when the state quarter came out, I don't remember if the public was allowed to vote for the design. But here in Nevada, we have. We had four different designs, two of which had to do with mining and another with a design similar to the state seal. I am happy to report that the design that I voted for was the winner called "Morning in Nevada" which shows wild horses againt a backdrop of mountains and sage. As much as I love the history of this state, the natural beauty is what appeals to me the most.

I will be starting a series of posts of my life here in Nevada, in several installments, something tourists never get to appreciate when they only come for a week or two.