As I mentioned briefly in my first post this month, I went to Las Vegas for a convention for work (the same conference I went to in 2011). The trip out there was uneventful, and I made it to the hotel fine.
The hotel I and my co-workers were staying in this time was the Luxor. Yes, it’s the big, black pyramid:
At night it has that huge beacon shining up toward space from the apex. In a city that’s well known for its light pollution, this place may be the worst offender.
Some statuary out front (click any picture to enlarge):
Similar features are found on the interior:
Looking up at the apex from the ground level:
I ended up with a room on the 26th floor (there are about 30 floors total). Getting up there was kind of neat, as the elevators in the place travel diagonally in the 4 edges of the building (you can’t see outside the elevator while you’re in it, but you can feel that the movement is partly horizontal). On each floor, there are walkways which are open to look down, with the rooms all on the exterior of the structure. Here’s the view across the interior from outside my room door:
And looking down:
Here’s the room itself:
There were heiroglyphs on the bureau (not sure whether they’re real ancient Egyptian letters):
The hand soap in the bathroom was also part of the theme:
You can see by the angle of the window that the room is on the side of a pyramid:
Here’s the view, looking northward at the Excalibur:
Looking slightly to either side are the Luxor’s adjacent towers, which hold more guest rooms:
Here is the view at night:
It was a comfy room, and the Internet connection worked well, though I was a bit surprised that the rooms only offer wired Internet. Wireless is only available in the public areas on the lower floors. At least they provided an ethernet cable on the desk, given that I had not brought one.
So I posted a few weeks back about the 2 flowers that bloomed this year on our night-blooming sirius plant. It seems that it had not finished at that time with producing flowers. While I was vacationing abroad in September, 6 more flowers began to grow on the same plant! Now, none of those got to be the usual size at which the flowers bloom, and in fact none of them opened. They ended up withering and falling off.
However, that still was not all for this year. At least a month ago we brought the plants inside as the weather was getting colder. That plant started growing a couple more flowers. We still did not end up with a full bloom, but they got pretty big this time, and one almost opened.
This is the most developed that one got:
The other seemed to start blooming, but did not get past this stage:
I don’t know if the fact that it was hanging in the air made a difference (all the blooms we’ve had were resting on the porch surface).
I expect that there really won’t be any more flowers this year, but who knows?
On my third day in Iceland, I had a quick breakfast of yogurt and granola, or rather, of yogurt drink and granola. It turned out that the stuff I thought was yogurt, Skyr, is more like a thin smoothie. It still worked fine, as I even like having granola with plain milk.
Outside, before getting on the bike, I took a picture of Héradsskolínn itself (click any picture to see it bigger):
And here is Óli Stef up close:
And here is the peak across the road, without its summit obscured by clouds:
I started riding west, back up Route 365. When I say ‘up’, I mean that there is a long hill that I had to climb as I headed out of Laugarvatn. Here’s a view of that same peak from a ways up the hill to the west:
This is a view looking downhill at the town:
While I was paused at this point, there was a pretty stream off to the side of the road:
As I rode along 365, I took pics of mountains that I hadn’t stopped for when I came through earlier in the week:
I also saw some more sheep, including a variegated one:
When I came within view of Thingfallavatn, I could see what looked like a geyser on the other side of the water:
Soon I got to Route 36, and headed north into the Thingvellir park. A little ways after getting into the park, I turned off on a side road that goes west along the north side of the lake. There I was able to get close to the lake, as at this parking area:
The lake, complete with a fisherman off to the left:
I walked along the water a bit, and observed some interesting seaweed, which was very brightly colored:
It was also very stringy:
The plant life on the ground was mostly low-growing stuff, and not all of it green:
Continuing along toward the center of the park, I soon came to the odder parts of the landscape. Namely, various geologic fissures:
Iceland, and the national park in particular, sits on the divide between the North American and European tectonic plates, which are moving apart very slightly each year. It’s this action that causes much of the ground breakage there.
Around these fissures, I also saw my first view of this long rock wall:
That wall borders the parliament plain (the Althing Vellir) itself. This is where the world’s first parliament met, established in the 10th century by the Viking settlers of Iceland.
When I got to the plain, I locked up the bike in a picnic area, and headed up some steps toward the rock wall. Here are some views of the plain from most of the way up:
There was a path in front of the rock wall, which went slightly downhill to the north:
And uphill to the south:
I followed the line of people uphill, and came to the top of the wall, with a viewing platform, and a good view of the lake and plain:
I could also see Óli Stef from up there:
At the top, there was also a parking area and visitors’ center. I went in and watched a few videos on the history and geology of the place. Apparently, the land in the plain is slowly sinking, which is why water flows over so much of the places that people once camped for the annual assembly.
Here is the view back down the path along the wall, just before I headed down that way:
More of the wall:
Here, marked by the flagpole, is the Law Rock, where the Law Speaker would recite the country’s laws:
Looking down at the plain from here:
Further along the wall, I came to water flowing down from above:
Looking down from a bridge over the stream:
And here the water flows onto the plain:
I headed down onto the plain after that. Here’s a view looking south:
And looking back up to the Law Rock:
I wandered through the little collection of buildings on the plain, including a small church. There is a graveyard there:
And behind the buildings is this mysterious tree:
A wider fissure:
And here there is a diver getting ready to swim along the tectonic divide:
I headed back to the bike at this point, and noticed the lava rocks found around the picnic area:
On my way away from the plain, I saw some geese – a type that I don’t generally see in the US:
Riding eastward, I stopped to check out a couple of hiking trails in the park. The first one took me through some tundra:
There was a cable running across the ground, for some reason:
I came to a waterway which had more of the neon seaweed, as well as a much stranger growth of stuff on and in the water:
The other trail I hiked took me through a stand of evergreen trees:
And then up a hill which has a neat gully cutting across it:
There was another pleasant view from up there (looking west):
Once I hiked back down from there, I rode out of the park, back toward Laugarvatn. At the park exit, I stopped and took this picture to the north:
I had a rain-free day this time, but still wanted a shower when I got back to the hostel.
I met this individual in the hostel parking lot when I arrived back:
It was very friendly, and must belong to someone, as it was wearing a collar (but no tag).
After cleaning up, I had dinner in the hostel cafe, this time getting an item not written on the menu. It was local trout, baked with a cheese sauce, and with fried potatoes and salad on the side:
It was quite delicious, and a nice end to the day.
Catching up with a few photos from the past few months.
Back in January I was flying home from a visit to Michigan. As I waited in the Detroit airport, I noticed something moving through the air in the concourse. Then I saw more than one thing. It turned out that there were birds that had gotten into the building somehow. They just kept flying around, sometimes resting on the windows and some times in the rafters.
They clearly wanted to get outside again, but I didn’t have any way to help them. Hopefully they were able to do so later on.
Here’s our cat Mr. B doing his best impression of Monorail Cat:
(…except he has some visible paws.)
Finally, here is Deodat, lying one pillow lower than she usually does in this stack of pillows:
There have been a couple of times that she was completely sandwiched in there, without even her head poking out.
Continuing where my previous post left off, here are things I saw as I headed back south on Las Vegas Boulevard (aka The Strip).
I don’t recall for sure which hotel/casino this belonged to, but it may have been the Riviera:
Here’s the front of the Riviera:
Here’s a ship at the casino Treasure Island:
It is floating in actual water. Near it, “carved” into the “rock face” is this:
Then at the other end of the Treasure Island lagoon is another ship:
As I was leaving the sphere of influence of TI, I passed these statues, which I believe are related to TI:
It seemed to be popular for tourists to be photographed with their head in the lion’s mouth (I saw at least 2 people pose that way).
Soon I came upon Caesar’s Palace, which I think is one of the larger casino complexes. It has a lot of statues and fountains:
Here are the main fountains, with a couple of the buildings in the background:
Around this point, I took a picture looking south:
One thing I found fascinating about walking around this area is that it looked like everything was very close together, but then it would take quite a while to walk to a landmark that I’d been able to see for the whole time. I suspect the reasons for this are the large size of some of the buildings, as well as the flatness of the area (so you can see a long distance.
Here are some features of the Flamingo:
Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall:
Here is the Bellagio:
This place has famous fountains (at least I’d heard about the fountains). Specifically, there are water jets submerged in their lagoon/moat/whatever, which put on a show every 15 minutes. I waited a few minutes and got to see it:
I took some video of that show as well, so you can see what the motion of the water is like:
While I found the show impressive, I can’t help but wonder about all the water usage in an area that’s essentially desert.
Back down at Tropicana Blvd., kiddie-corner from the MGM Grand is the Excalibur:
I continued south from there, and came to the Luxor. That’s the one that’s basically a big pyramid:
With its sky-polluting light on top. They also have a sphinx and an obelisk sign:
Near the base of the obelisk:
South of the Luxor is the Mandalay Bay, which had one feature worth photographing – these creature statues:
The big casinos peter out at that point, but a ways further south is the Las Vegas welcome sign:
That’s the side you see if you’re headed north. Going south, you see this:
By this time, I’d spent a few hours walking, and my feet and hip were hurting. I headed back north to get back to my hotel room. On the way I passed a motel that had this statue:
Before I made it back to the Tropicana, I spotted a cat:
I had to bump up the brightness on that picture to show something besides the cat’s eyes. I moved to take a picture from a different angle, and another cat jumped up on a nearby cinderblock wall to get away from me:
I think these cats were feral, as this one jumped into a nearby tree when I got a little closer to it:
I then left them in peace, and ambled back to the hotel.
The following morning I got on the computer and mapped the distance I had walked. I had spent a total of 4 hours walking and taking pictures, and I had actually travelled nearly 9 miles in that time. Taken together with the walking I’d done during the day at the conference, it was no wonder my feet hurt. It took 2 days for them to feel normal again.
Visiting the Las Vegas Strip, that is. It’s a long section of Las Vegas Boulevard where most (I think it’s most) of the big casinos and attractions are located. On Monday night I had a the evening free, and decided to go walking up and down the Strip.
I started from the MGM Grand, which is at the intersection of Las Vegas and Tropicana Blvds. Just across Tropicana Blvd. is the Tropicana itself, which has these light-wrapped palm trees:
Right next to the Tropicana is this place:
Who knew they operated a hotel or casino? Not me.
I also noticed this set of signage:
With its helpful electronic portion, better seen in the darker picture below:
I think it read the same the whole time I was in town.
Coming around the corner onto Las Vegas Blvd., I saw a corner of the MGM that isn’t really visible from other angles, and where there is a large lion statue:
There’s your visual summary of the island of Manhattan.
Next I headed north on LVB. Here’s a view up the street in that direction:
I soon encountered a guy dressed like Gene Simmons of Kiss, who was being photographed by others. I went to take his picture, and he held up a sign saying that he appreciates tips for photos. So I gave him a couple of bucks. I would soon realize that there are a lot of such people on the Strip, some of them in pretty impressive costumes. Anyway, here’s “Gene”:
The sign in the background reads, in the Kiss font, “Kiss Me, I’m Jewish!”
In a glass case was this statue of – I’m not sure. Maybe it’s a Yak?
The casino called Paris has this balloon:
And some sort of tower:
That thing seems sort of familiar…
The Harley-Davidson Cafe has an unsurprising theme to it:
I ran into several more costumed folks, most of whom I didn’t take pictures of because I didn’t want to tip them. However, I couldn’t resist when I ran across a stormtrooper. When I handed him some money, he said “You wanna be in the picture?” So he handed me a lightsaber, and I handed my camera to another passerby to take pictures. Unfortunately, the passerby didn’t wait for the camera to focus:
Besides the costumed people, there were also occasional regular panhandlers. One of them I gave money to who had a cat with her, sitting in a short sack – the cat looked like it might be recovering from injuries, as it seemed to have bandages around its midsection. I didn’t ask what was up with the cat, but thought later that I should have.
Continuing up the street, I came to the Venetian, which has a “canal” with gondola rides:
They also have a fancy fountain:
In Vegas, even Mickey D’s is glitzy:
Also, while there aren’t many billboards on the strip, I couldn’t fail to notice this one:
Courtesy of the website World Net Daily (no link, as I don’t really want to send them the traffic).
Another thing you run into a lot on the Strip is these people:
They have shirts saying things like “Hot girls direct to you in 20 minutes”, and they attempt to hand out cards or flyers to anyone walking by. If they have cards to hand out, they make noise with them such as slapping one card against the rest of the stack before proffering it, or flicking the card edge with a fingernail as they hold it out. I assume the noise is to get people’s attention. Curiously, none of them say anything to passersby, though a few times I heard a couple of them talk to each other, or on a cell phone headset (these conversations always seemed to be in Spanish). I didn’t take any of the cards or flyers, but I’m assuming that these are for escort services or the like (prostitution is legal in Nevada, after all). The workers who do this (mostly men, but there were some women) are pretty expert at hitting just about everyone on the sidewalk moving around a lot to get people going in both directions (the constant motion is why my pictures of them tended to be blurry).
As I got near the Northern end of the Strip, I saw the casino Circus Circus (which I’ve heard of before):
Sometimes I wonder how the themes for different Vegas establishments originated. I suppose I could look at the websites of the different venues at some point (I haven’t been linking them all here simply because I’m lazy, but they should generally be easy to search for).
Not long after this, I came fairly close to the Stratosphere, which looks like Seattle’s Space Needle:
At that point, I think I was near the end of the Strip, and started heading back south.
I took more pictures of other things on my way south, which will be detailed in my next post. Stay tuned.
So I flew to Las Vegas yesterday to attend a conference for work. When was hunting around for fares, I found the best price on Southwest airlines, which I haven’t flown in a very long time. I was surprised to discover that I could get a direct flight from Connecticut to LV. The flight out was 6 hours long, but that didn’t bother me much, as the leg room was okay. Also, they did beverage and snack service more than once (and were generous with the snacks – initially letting each passenger take however many snacks from a box that we wanted).
Because the flight took off in the late afternoon, most of the ride was after dark. The cool part about flying at night is seeing cities all lit up, and trying to identify them. I was on the left side at a window, so I was looking south. At one point, I saw a city that I thought might be Toledo or someplace in Indiana. Then I suddenly saw a big blank area with no lights, closer to the plane, which I figured had to be water. “Lake Michigan,” I thought, though then I doubted myself. Maybe we hadn’t gone that far, and this was Lake Erie? Suddenly, a member of the flight crew came on the PA and said we were just about to see Chicago. So there you have it.
Here is a picture of Chicago, looking south:
That’s the lake off to the left, there.
Later I believe I identified Omaha, because after we passed it there were no other major concentrations of light until we got within view of Vegas. Vegas itself has a lot of lights, but I didn’t take pictures as we descended because all gadgets had to be turned off.
As soon as I left the gate, I knew what city I was in:
Yes, there are slot machines on the concourse. In baggage claim, too, as well as other places.
I took a city transit bus to the hotel (cheapest way to go), and checked in. Didn’t take pics of the hotel itself yet, but I’ll get some tonight (it is a sight, as is just about everything in this town). Also, I can only upload pics from my cell phone at the moment, as I forgot to pack my regular camera’s USB cable.
I headed for a late dinner around 8:30 pm local time, which is 11:30 where I’m used to, so it was a really late dinner. It was tasty, though, at a Mexican place in the hotel complex. As I was going over the menu, they brought chips with 3 kinds of salsa, and 3 salt blends:
Left to right are salsa verde, a smoky salsa of some kind, and salsa fresca. The salt on the left has avocado in it, but I don’t remember what the others are (and I hardly had any of the salts).
All for now, as I have another conference session to get to. More later!
The other night I was cutting up several leeks to make soup. When I sliced one of them open, I found that there was some waviness inside:
I’m not sure what could have caused this. It seems like something was pushing down on the middle of the plant, forcing those center layers to buckle. Maybe it was the snowstorm of a couple weeks ago (this leek came from the CSA we participate in at the nearby Hampshire College Farm Center). I could imagine a weight of snow on the leek pushing down in such a way as to cause this, and maybe the dirt would have provided enough support to keep the outer layers intact. This is pure speculation, of course.
By the way, the soup I was making is a pretty common recipe – potato, kale, and leek soup. My version is based on a recipe out of a cook book (the New Basics Cookbook, page 100, “Winter Vegetable Soup”), but I’ve made so many alterations and omissions that it’s really its own thing now. Basically, I saute a bunch of leeks (sometimes adding celery in I don’t have a ton of leek) in oil for 10 to 15 minutes, add some thyme and tarragon and saute a bit more, then add salt and many (12-14) cups of water. Bring that to a boil, and add cubed potatoes (about 5 pounds), and boil until the potatoes are near done, then add a pile of chopped kale, turn off the heat and set aside. The kale will cook fine with the residual heat. I soak and cook the chick peas separately (2 cups dried), and then add them after the rest of the soup is done. The soup is great with a big slice of bread.
Oh, and there was no discernible difference in taste because of the waviness of the leek.