Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Luxor Sphinx

When I was in Las Vegas this past December, I spent some time at the Luxor, where I'd stayed earlier in the year. While there, I took a few pictures of the huge sphinx that's part of the architecture. So before it gets up and walks away, I thought I'd share a couple of pictures with you:

By the way, that beacon that lasers upward at night ... they say it can be seen from Los Angeles when the sky is clear and there's no LA smog messing up the air.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

SLS: End of the Line

At the north terminus of the Las Vegas Strip monorail sits SLS, fka The Sahara, one of the legendary Rat-Pack hotels, that shut down in 2011. It's been the SLS since August 2014.

I heard that SLS Hotel & Casino President and COO Rob Oseland said "SLS" stands for "Style, Luxury and Service." It was actually inspired by the Mercedes SL500. Who knew? And now that I know, who cares what it means? Just call it SLS and leave it at that.

However, in retrospect, I should have done some Internet research before taking the monorail there during my recent December Vegas holiday.

Then I would have paid more attention to the 3D video hanging over the Center Bar. Or ordered the not-on-the-menu tater tots at Umami Burger. Or placed a bet on the tiny sports book situated in Umami. Or taken a picture of the Sahara door-handles chandelier.

Instead, I wandered around in an uneducated daze, signed up to be a member of their slot club, The Code, and pressed buttons on slot machines. Good thing I did too. I won some dinner money:

It's a classy place. I should (and likely will) go back there.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Riding the Rail

Every now and then, I eschew renting a car when I visit Las Vegas. When I do that, my inter-hotel/casino and restaurant transportation is accomplished by taxi.

Or, if I stay on the east (Flamingo, Harrah's, MGM Grand) side of the Strip, I occasionally go via the Las Vegas monorail. Usually, I buy single-ride tickets @ $5, unless I plan three or more rides in a single day ($12/day). I'm cheap; I like to save the $2 and give it to the room maid as a tip.

By the way, if your party is three or more, it's a little cheaper to get into a cab.

A small bonus: An event/attraction discount coupon booklet is available at each station. I almost always pick one up ... I just never use it.

The only problem is that although the monorail stations are attached to the various casinos, the walk from the station into the casino is pretty long. And if you want to visit a casino on the other side of the Strip, the walk is even longer. When I have to do that, I just hail a taxi instead because the old people in our party can't handle the walk.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Where Hawaii Ranks 38

Here are five more “Best/Worst” lists in which Hawaii or Honolulu is mentioned. Top five results as usual, except for a few where I couldn't find lower-ranking states for the category.

Worst U.S. Airport Food (AirportXP, Phoenix Marketing International, 2015)
  1. HONOLULU INTERNATIONAL (45% Customer Satisfaction)
  2. Ronald Reagan Washington National (50%)
  3. Tampa International (53%)
Happiest States in America (Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 2014)
  1. Alaska
  3. South Dakota
  4. Wyoming
  5. Montana
Pedestrian Fatalities in Traffic Accidents (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2015)
  1. District of Columbia (39%)
  2. New Jersey (30%)
  3. Rhode Island (27%)
  4. HAWAII (25%) (Hawaii also ranks #1 in traffic accident pedestrian fatalities ages 65+, and #1 in ages 75+.)
Lowest Monthly Median Starting Salary (WalletHub, 2015)
(Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  2. Brownsville, TX
  3. Santa Rosa, CA
  4. Oxnard, CA
  5. Irving, CA
Lowest Housing Affordability (WalletHub, 2015)
(Most Unaffordable Housing)
  1. Miami, FL
  2. Newark, NJ
  4. Glendale, CA
  5. Los Angeles, CA

Friday, February 5, 2016

Emus 1, Australian Army 0

Esmeralda the Emu, Kentucky Down Under (Photo by Craig)
When I visited Kentucky Down Under in Cave, Kentucky, ‘way back in 2011, I had a jolly interface with a real, live emu. Y’know, it was one of the ugliest birds I’ve ever seen. Big too, about 6-feet tall when its head was held high.

I dubbed it Esmeralda because … well, just because.

Anyway, at the time, I had no idea what historical influence the emu had in its native Australia. Only recently did I find out about Australia’s Great Emu War of 1932.

See, during one of the annual migrations of emu from inlands to the coast, the birds discovered ample cleared lands and water in Western Australia’s farmlands. They ate the farmer’s crops, ruining the marginal farmland.

The farmers, many of whom were Australian and British veterans of World War I, were furious and demanded that the government do something about the problem. The Australian government capitulated and in October sent Maj. GPW Meredith and two soldiers to eliminate the problem.

Emu "Solder"
Unfortunately, heavy rainfall delayed the actual operation until November. But the tactics they used failed. Ambushing 1,000 emus, their guns jammed and the birds fled. They stalked the herd, killing 50 birds by Nov. 8 before withdrawing.

The emus persisted and four days later, military action resumed, eliminating a total of about 980 emus.

But gangs of emu are persistent if nothing else, and the farmers requested more military involvement in 1934, 1943 and 1938. But the Australian government had enough and turned a blind eye to the requests.

Winner: The emus.

I kid you not.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What the Hexx Going On?

The Sugar Factory at the Paris Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip has always been calling my name, but thinking it was just a dessert place, I never took the time to try it out. And then, when I finally did, it was too late.

In March 2015, it was renamed and re-conceptualized. It's now called "Hexx Kitchen + Bar."

The View from My Table
"Hex," of course, means a whole bunch of things, including a black magic spell. I always thought it also meant "jinx." Maybe that's not what the Hexx owners meant, but they may have accidentally hexed Hexx.

I had breakfast there in December, and a couple of little things went wrong.

First of all, the chair in the outside patio dining area was butt bone bruising uncomfortable because of the vinyl-coated metal-wire weave design. Uh huh ...

Then, my waitress Julia, a lovely, personable young lady, was late with my coffee and apple juice. She said she was clumsily delayed because she knocked them off her tray. Her self-admonition: "I am anything but graceful." Uh huh ...

Then, halfway through my banana-nut French toast, I had to remind her about my side order of sausage. She went to check and when upon returning with them, apologized before saying, "The "kitchen read the order wrong." Uh huh ...

The French toast with bananas and berries was not bad, but although the sausages were tasty, they were dry (not juicy inside in the least). Uh huh ...
There was a couple seated next to me who wanted lunch. Unfortunately for them, lunch started at 11 a.m. and they were 12 minutes early. So they just sat there and had to talk to each other.

They looked mighty uncomfortable (must have married for a few years and were all talked out), so he whipped out his mobile phone to kill time.

She, on the other hand, occupied herself with a minute-by-minute, then a final 10-second countdown, to 11 o'clock. Then, she announced "Bingo! It's eleven!" before lapsing into silence. And him? He grunted.

Twelve minutes later, Julia finally brought them menus and was advised, "We're starving." Uh huh ...

Definitely "Hexxed."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Phone Pix 62: Grocery Produce

We sure are lucky to live in America ... Hawaii in particular. Not only are we offered fresh fruits and vegetables from around the world, we also can select those that are grown here in Hawaii.

Maybe that's why I like to take phone pictures in supermarkets. The offerings are so fantastic, they're enough to make a more unfortunate visitor break down and cry.

To wit:

Papayas, Aug. 12, 2013, Foodland Supermarket, Honolulu, HI
Okra, Aug. 20, 2013, Chinatown
Marketplace, Honolulu, HI
Mini-Pumpkins, Oct. 8, 2013, Safeway Manoa, Honolulu, HI
Vine-Ripened Tomatoes, Aug. 14, 2014, Trader Joe's, Fremont, CA
Nectarines, Aug. 18, 2014, Sprouts, Fremont, CA
Apples, Nov. 13, 2014, Times Vineyard, Honolulu, HI
Various Chinese "Choy," Nov. 22, 2014, Marukai Market,
Honolulu, HI
Broccoli, Nov. 22, 2014, Times Beretania, Honolulu, HI
Nectarines, June 9, 2015, Costco, Honolulu, HI

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Lucky We Live Hawaii

Family Circus
I'm telling you, there are times like this (the dead of winter on the mainland) that we in Hawaii are grateful we don't have to deal with children who have this problem.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Breakfast Beppo-ing at the Buca

With 92 restaurants (five in the United Kingdom), chances are there's a Buca dI Beppo Italian Ristorante somewhere you. Did you know that Buca, Inc., is owned by Planet Hollywood?

There are four Buca di Beppos in Las Vegas — one near the Atomic Testing Museum on Flamingo, one in Summerlin, and one at the Excalibur Hotel & Casino. Since summer 2014, there's also a hybrid Buca Cafè Italiano in the Bally's Hotel where I stayed recently.

(Stupid question here: If they're owned by Planet Hollywood, how come there isn't one at the Planet Hollywood Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip?)

Anyway ... The Bally's location has a simple all-day buffet, or one can order separate breakfast or lunch dishes for singles. The dinner entrees are sized to feed two. Since I was staying at Bally's, I went there for breakfast one day and discovered that they have a pretty basic breakfast menu, nothing very fancy or innovative.

I had New York steak and eggs. Unfortunately, although nicely medium rare, parts of the steak were a bit on the tough side. I should have ordered ham and eggs. It's too bad Buca Cafè Italiano is the only restaurant serving sit-down breakfasts at Bally's.

By the way, "Buca dI Beppo" loosely translates as "Joe's Basement" — "Buca" is a Tuscan slang word for "basement," and  "Beppo" is a nickname for "Giuseppe" ("Joseph" in Italian).

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Where to Cut?

This panel appeared in a CVS Long's Drug advertising supplement recently.

My question is: From which end of the condom are they going to take 30% off? The opening end, or the tip? And why do you need a card for them to do this?

Well, at least they offer a pregnancy test just in case they cut off the wrong end.

But wait. What's an "Early Result" pregnancy test that they mention? If you can find out you're pregnant six days before becoming pregnant, then I guess it presupposes they cut off the tip end?

I'm soooo confused!