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Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Eat Your Own Building

I've been following the advice of another blogger regarding the TED series. I recently watched Cameron Sinclair talk about architecture in developing countries. They have the problem of trying to get doctors to all the small villages all over Africa.

To solve this, they developed and implemented a bunch of mobile medical clinic ideas, but he stops to discuss one in particular. It's a building based off of Kenaf. Kenaf is an edible bamboo like plant that grows 14 ft in a month. A village would grow a field of this plant in anticipation of the doctor's visit.



When the medical staff arrives, they mow the Kenaf into the precise layout that works for that region. They cover it with a tensile structure, and setup shop to treat illnesses. When they are done, the village mows down the building and eats it. Another field of Kenaf is then planted to prepare for the next medical visit.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Restaurant Week

It's Restaurant Week in New York! I'd never heard of such an event until a friend told me she was headed to Bobby Van's. At $80+ bucks a plate this isn't just a simple outing, but here in lies the magic of Restaurant Week. During the week, a three course meal is offered as a prix fixe (that's French). The table d'hôte (French, again) includes an appetizer, main course, and desert for $35. Add in a drink and a tip, and you're enjoying a meal for $55 which would normally go for a C-note.

As this writer and the Texan noted, there are some serious drawbacks to the event. Namely that the quality of the food is quite possibly going to be far below that of the regular menu. If so then the spirit of the event has been missed entirely.

The point is marketing and advertising. The week in question happens during the slowest economic time of the year. They should want you at their restaurant, and they need it to be a good experience. As a diner, much research should be done to see who is putting in the effort, and who is phoning it in.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Leaving Las Vegas

Exiting Vegas is a surreal event. It's 5:30 in the morning after days of running all over town. We're bleary eyed as we wander into NY-NY's main lobby. A group of drunken fools are still at the craps table, yelling and clapping in an otherwise quiet casino.

We grab our last cab and head to the airport. Staring out the window we see another crew rolling home, one and all double fisting a large plastic drink. We watch as the working girls' shift ends, while the cogs gear up for another crazy day.

A fantastic vacation under our belts, it's back to our regular lives. We need the down time to rest up for the next vacation.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Le Reve

The reason we were at The Wynn was for our first Cirque du Soleil style show. We'd heard for years how these fabulous shows were a must see, but up until now the $130 ticket price effectively banished us from the proceedings.

We chose Le Reve for three reasons: it was new, a water based stage, and the stage is circular so that every seat is a good seat. The show was incredible. I enjoyed it immensely and now want to see all of the others.

Over stimulation is the only way to describe the experience. At any given point in the show there was the main acrobatic act with its supporting dancers, a side act that usually didn't fit with anything previously seen, and the over arcing story. Included in the acts were fountains of water and fire, elaborate props, and driving orchestral/dance music. It was difficult to absorb a quarter of the display.

Luckily brief intermissions reduced the shock to the senses. There were 4 guys in white suits carrying out their own continuing jokes during the break. They would walk out at odd intervals and do small wordless skits that would leave you breathless with laughter.

A truly awe inspiring show that I would recommend to anyone.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Wynn

The other brand new casino to visit was The Wynn. A sophisticated hotel, The Wynn seemed out of place on the Strip. It is very elegant, but lacks a 'wow' factor that would stand it apart. The Bellagio is elegant, and it has the amazing fountain. The Venetian is sophisticated, and it has indoor canals. The Wynn just needs something else.

It does contain a Ferrari dealership and showroom, which they charge $10 a head to enter. A truly ridiculous oversight by Ferrari's advertising department. Make it free to visit so you capture the imagination of the young future millionaires.

They could learn a thing or two from McDonald's.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sports Betting

One of the most interesting aspects of Las Vegas is the Sports Book. These usually lavish sections of a casino represent a departure from the loud colorful main floor. Quiet and subdued it's a very different sports watching experience.

Two of our group are your above average sports nut. They had previously decided they were going to bet on the KU game, but they were faced with a dilemma. They wanted to bet on KU because they're fans, and because KU had beaten the spread for every game up until that point, an absurd achievement.

The spread for the KU vs. Iowa State game was 26 points! Ridiculous! No one wanted that bet, so they agonized over betting on Iowa State. A third option arose, which in some sense was even more conflicting. The Missouri vs. K-State game had Missouri winning by only 7 points, almost as crazy as the KU game.

In the end they bet on Missouri to cover the spread, and we found ourselves watching and cheering for Missouri, truly our darkest hour.

Missouri covered the spread, and my friends won bunches of money. My conscious wasn't clear of our brush with the dark side, but when KU actually covered the spread in a 45-7 beat down of Iowa State it helped.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Saturday

Today is our 'normal' vacation day. With the wedding finished, it's time for us to play the tourists. A glorious breakfast at Chin Chins just fuels our anger for entering breakfast hell the day before. It's way better, and against all reason it's cheaper.

Properly fed, it's off to the NY-NY rollercoaster, because roller coasters rock. It may cost $14 for 5 minutes of fun, but damn it, we want to go 70 MPH upside down.

We tooled over to Mandalay Bay for three reasons: I'd never been there, the Aquarium, and Aureole's Wine Tower. We didn't get a very close look at the Wine Tower, but I'm not sure we're missing anything. The structure just seemed 'industrial' and not nearly as tall as our imaginations wanted. I'm sure it would be neat to eat there, but I'm OK with sitting this one out.

The Aquarium was great fun, if slightly colored by our previous aquarium visit. Everyone had an audio wand, which dished out all the info for each exhibit. It definitely solved the problem of crowding around a sign post, but it also forced you to absorb information at a much slower speed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Tale of Two Evenings

After the wedding we all rendezvoused in PH's buffet, which is the current best on the Strip. Excellent food and conversation marked the parting of ways, each group to their own vacation.

Our crew, now 9, headed downtown for our first gambling of the trip. 72 hours in Vegas and we gambled for 2. It has to be some kind of world record.

This marked my first trip Downtown. I have to say it has a Mardi Gras at dinner time feeling. Most people are wandering Fremont Street, and everyone is pre-drinking for the party which will happen later.

Enough drinking, it's time to lose some money! And we did, which is fun if you know how to do it. A few of our group were not gambling, so I'm not sure how much fun it was for them.

But who cares! Craps!

As a side note, the bride's group of ladies had a very different kind of night. They ran into Jon Stewart while all dressed up for the wedding. In a bold gesture they asked to walk the red carpet with him.

He said yes, and they all walked into the celebrity party.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Wedding

What? We need a reason to go to Vegas! Say it ain't so!

Well it is so, and this time around it was a fabulous wedding between two friends. Located in the brand new Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino during the Grand Opening, we're talking red carpet, flashing lights, and celebrities.

And don't forget The King.

Elvis made a special appearance to serenade the newly weds in a standing room only chapel.

TCB, baby.

We were late of course... kinda. Our crew rolls up half and hour early following NPH's mantra, Suit UP! Realizing you can be too early, we go celebrity hunting. We caught a few B's (Roger Clemens, Orlando Jones, Faizon Love, Anthony Michael Hall) and returned to the chapel.

We were still 15 minutes early, but apparently we were now the last to arrive. Everyone is waiting on us, which makes us 'late' by default. In my mind it counts as fashionably late.

The ceremony, as I said, was beautiful. The highlight for me had to be a room of 60+ friends and family singing Viva Las Vegas with Elvis conducting.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bellagio

This is my favorite hotel. There is something about it that's just classier than every other hotel. I like all the fanciful architecture, but clean lines and elegance are possibly more important. That's probably why the Luxor advertisement is so offending to me.

The group of us arrived at the Bellagio fountain and scored some nice Ocean's Eleven photos while we waited for the fountain. Turns out it was broken, so instead we watched this cheap ghetto boat/platform thing float out to repair one of the nozzles.

Seriously, you’re the Bellagio; spring for something that doesn't include styrofoam and rebar.

We did finally get to see the fountain up close on our way back. If you've never watched the fountain in person, put it on the list of things to do. Listening to Con Te Partiro while 12 hundred fountains shoot water 250 feet into the air is a spiritual event.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New Casinos

84.5 acres of new hotel and casino is rising in between the Monte Carlo and the Bellagio. The Cosmopolitan represents the new direction of The Strip. It boasts one of the largest spas yet has one of the smallest casino floors. The focus of this new Vegas gem is condos. Las Vegas will no longer settle for out of town visitors, they want you to buy a vacation home.

Next door, the considerably larger CityCenter is rising. A city themed hotel in the middle of the carnival that is Las Vegas, they hope to capture a sophisticated crowd by building a sanctuary that is on the strip, but doesn't feel like the strip.

The tram going from Monte Carlo to Bellagio is out of commission until the two hotels are completed. We now had to walk past the construction sites in what amounted to the middle of street. With the reckless driving, the drinking, and the number of people venturing down the boulevard, it was a miracle no one was run over.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Breakfast

We awoke Friday morning, and the full New York-New York team formed up. 7 of us in all, we were a 2 taxi assault force primed and ready. Or maybe we were a group of hung over, jet lagged tourists dying for some breakfast.

Did I mention our hotel had some construction happening in the main lobby? Did I mention they were using actual, real life jack hammers? It's New York, but come on. Did it have to be right next to the buffet?

We abandoned that idea and struck out for the Luxor. We knew where the buffet was there and that it was tasty. To get to the Luxor you have to walk through the Excalibur. In fact, you have to walk past the Excalibur's buffet. We knew this. We also knew the Excalibur's buffet was bad, Furr's bad.

It's a long walk, and ultimately we found ourselves standing in front of the Sherwood Forest Buffet starving. Maybe it had changed. Maybe it'll taste great!

And maybe we'll regret that decision for the rest of the day. I'll let you figure out which was correct.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sapphire

So this is the part where I tell you all about the bachelor party. Unfortunately for you, that story stays in Vegas, or at least off the internet.

Instead I'm going to talk about hotel rooms. Our hotel room was pretty normal. However, we did manage to get a ridiculously low rate through some shadowy deals. You see, we know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy, who works for MGM/Mirage. You would think something so far removed from the actual hotel patrons would fall completely apart. Lucky for us, it didn't, and we got the cheapest rate I've ever seen in Vegas.

Another couple from our extended group stayed at the MGM. When they arrived their room was trashed. For whatever reason, the cleaning crew hadn't gotten around to cleaning it. To make up for the mistake, the hotel upgraded them from this to this. Not to shabby.

Yet another couple's room, the happy couple in this case, had the best view by far. Where we were stuck looking out at the New York-New York roller coaster from our room, they had a view of the Bellagio fountain. At night, the fountain runs every 15 minutes.

We sat, in the dark, in their giant bathroom, and looked down upon the best attraction in Vegas.

Jealous? why yes, yes we were.

Friday, January 11, 2008

And Now We Are 5

As the evening wore on, we acquired another member to our motley band. We returned to the hotel to collect him. We ate dinner, each with a two foot, 48 oz margarita, and made our way up the strip. We ran into Elvis, robbed a Fat Burger, and hit ABC liquor; just another day on the strip.

Our rendezvous was the new Planet Hollywood, formally the Aladdin. This was the Grand Opening weekend, and it was a bit of a to-do. The event wasn't scheduled until Friday, but we had other business to attend.

Tonight was the bachelor/bachelorette parties.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

And We're Walking

Now safely landed and tucked in at New York-New York, we ventured forth. A few of us had never been to Vegas, so a tour of the hotels was on the list. Our whole group wasn't going to arrive until midnight, so we burned the afternoon by hitting the nearby hotels of low interest: Excalibur, Luxor, and the MGM.

That doesn't sound like much, but the hotels are huge. Just walking through one can take half an hour. We did learn one helpful fact on our journey. Las Vegas allows you to carry your alcohol with you through the hotel and out onto the street, just not onto cabs or buses.

Drinking a 24 oz Piña Colada while walking in the desert sun is highly satisfying. I recommend it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Vegas Baby!

I was recently informed that Wichita was looking to build a casino. It's a big money maker of course. After the city studied the suggestion, they came to the conclusion that all that money made goes to the builders and the owners. The casino makes virtually nothing for the city.

The notable exception, of course, is Las Vegas.

This represents my fourth trip to Sin City, and they've all been highly enjoyable trips. There is just something addictive about the place. A 'mob rule' feeling permeates everything, and the rule is to spend money.

The city is in continual flux. Things change pretty quickly, and a number of things had. The airport was undergoing major construction in the main advertising room, sometimes called the baggage claim. TI had closed its external show for cleaning. (Though one cabby indicated that the Sirens weren’t doing very well, and it may in fact be reworked.) Two new casinos had appeared on the skyline since my last trip and two more were being built for 2009.

Vegas' biggest new trick was with a paint brush. Some foolish individuals decided that the hotel architecture wasn't the only kind of advertising they wanted. They decided to paint ads directly onto the sides of the hotel. I mean they covered the entire side of the building. The Luxor, which is a sleek black pyramid, placed an Absolute Vodka bottle on the front of the pyramid. A 400 ft liquor bottle greets you as you roll into town.

It's basically a giant sign saying "We have no class!"


Games
GameInterestRelease Date
Civilization IV1
C&C 31
Company of Heroes1
Half Life 21
Half Life 2: Episode One1
Supreme Commander1
Call of Duty 22
Darwinia2
Dungeon Runners2
Dungeon Siege II2
Far Cry2
Galactic Civilization II2
Hitman: Blood Money2
Jade Empire2
Neverwinter Nights 22
Prey2
Psychonauts2
Sam & Max: Episode 12
Titan Quest2
Dark Messiah Might and Magic3
Defcon3
Heroes of Might and Magic V3
Indigo Prophecy3
KOTOR II3
LEGO Star Wars3
Marvel Ultimate Alliance3
Space Rangers 2: The Rise of the Dominators3
STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl3
Stubbs the Zombie3
War Front3
Warhammer: Mark of Chaos3
Infernal35/8/2007
Shadowrun25/9/07
Pirates of the Burning SeaM6/1/2007
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars?6/5/2007
Two Worlds?6/26/07
Sins of A Solar Empire?8/1/2007
BioShock18/21/2007
Mass Effect19/7/07
Age of ConanM10/30/07
Crysis1Fall 2007
Elveon?Fall 2007
Half-Life 2: Episode Two1Fall 2007
Portals1Fall 2007
Spore1Fall 2007
Stranglehold?Fall 2007
Tabula RasaMFall 2007
Team Fortress 22Fall 2007
Dragon Age?Winter 2007
Fable 2?Winter 2007
Field Ops?Winter 2007
Halo Wars?Winter 2007
Gods & Heroes: Rome RisingMWinter 2007
Haze?Winter 2007
Hellgate: London1Winter 2007
HuxleyMWinter 2007
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men?Winter 2007
Left 4 Dead?Winter 2007
The AgencyMSpring 2008
Empire Earth III?Spring 2008
Guild Wars 2 MSpring 2008
Jericho?Spring 2008
Sacred 2?Spring 2008
Savage 2?Spring 2008
Time Shift2Spring 2008
Universe at War: Earth Assault3Spring 2008
The Witcher?Spring 2008
CellFactor?2008
Darkest of Days?2008
On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkeness: Episode 122008
Warhammer OnlineM2008
Alliance: The Silent War??
Alone in the Dark??
Assassin's Creed??
BioWare MMO??
The Crossing??
Dungeon Hero??
Fallout 3??
Lego Batman??
Mythos??
Overloard??
Space Seige??
Culdcept SagaPC??
Gears of WarPC??
God of WarPC??
Beautiful KatamariPC??
OkamiPC??
Resistance: Fall of ManPC??
Odin's SpherePC??
Castle CrashersPC??

1 - I will buy it
2 - I'll buy it at discount
3 - Other people think it's good, but I wasn't interested when I first heard about it
M - Mainly Multiplayer. See if friends get interested.
? - Find out more about this game
PC? - Will it be released on the PC?