Cabin in the neon woods

Yesterday I returned from my annual vacation in Las Vegas.  This was my 32nd trip to Vegas over the last 25 years.  (I made a couple weekend jaunts over the years when I worked for a boss in Silicon Valley.)  I love Vegas because they entertain me, because I can leave my problems 3000 miles behind me for a week, and because there are no time constraints.  If I want to go to breakfast at 1AM or play blackjack at 10AM or see a show at 3PM, Vegas will accommodate me.

I’ve taken traveling companions with me to Vegas a few times, but mostly I go by myself.  And having been there so many times, it’s no longer an “adventure” per se.  I have seen everything I want to see at least once, so I’m never under any pressure to fill every moment of every day and night with activity.  What I don’t get to this year, I’ll get to next year.  So if I feel like sleeping in or watching TV in the hotel room, so be it.  That’s why I refer to Vegas as my cabin in the woods.  (Disclaimer: The only way you would ever catch me in a real cabin in the woods is if it had a TV.  And a casino.  And air conditioning.  And no woods.)  I never bring back great stories of what I did, because largely, I sit around and play blackjack, and wander the Strip sightseeing the rest of the time.  My motto: What happens in Vegas is boring to others.  What stays in Vegas is my money.

But, because of my God-given gift for sensing weirdness all around me, I always find ordinary things that entertain or astonish me.  I’ve taken some pictures of my trip, which are posted here.  Below is a sampling of non-visual events from Las Vegas 2013:

  • I realize that I have become a jaded traveler.  As the plane landed in Vegas, an 8-year old kid a couple rows behind me exclaimed, “It’s so exciting we didn’t die!”  I’ve been on probably 200 planes in my life.  Somewhere along the way, I guess I started taking not dying for granted.  (I also wonder who put the idea of dying on a plane in an 8-year old’s mind.  I really hope it was a 12-year old sibling.  Otherwise it’s borderline child abuse.)
  • There are a lot of Gordon Ramsey restaurants in the hotels on the Strip.  Given all the yelling and swearing, why would anyone work there?
  • One of the casinos has a “comedy hypnotist” show.  I heard one of their advertisements over the PA system.  “Come watch your friends do outrageous things, or be hypnotized yourself!”  Hmmm, I can come watch my friends be publicly humiliated!  Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll get up on stage so I can be hypnotized to stop smoking and feel better about myself!
  • I happened to arrive on the last day of something called the Electric Daisy Carnival.  It’s some sort of techno-rock weekend festival that attracts upwards of 100,000 people every year.  If you took Woodstock, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Lady Gaga and threw them into the Brundlefly machine, it would approximate the crowds waiting in line for the shuttle to the fairgrounds on Sunday night.  The average male was early 20s, dressed in something tie-dyed, something with a superhero logo, and some sort of headgear.  The average female was also early 20s, and “dressed” in a thong bikini, thigh-high striped stockings, fake fur snow boots, ribbons, and glitter.  Tutus are also common, and one girl was carrying a hula hoop.  From the pictures in the Las Vegas paper, the audience made the performers look like an IBM board of directors meeting.  Go Google “Electric Daisy Carnival” if you think I’m kidding.

Vegas Picturebook 2013

We are all individuals, aren’t I?

This happened to me a couple years ago:

I’m at the grocery store, and I walk past this woman: late 20’s, long blonde hair, black coat, very pretty. We’re shopping in different directions, so a couple minutes later I pass her again, and I think to myself, “Wow, she’s really beautiful – much softer facial features, not as old as I first thought.” A couple minutes later I pass her again and thought, “Either my memory or my eyesight is going — she’s beautiful, but no way she’s under 35!”

As I leave the store, there are three blonde women in black coats checking out at three different registers, and yet I saw them as one shape-shifter. I don’t know if I’m relieved or disappointed.  Sure, shapechangers are cool, but the incidence of three unrelated hot blondes in a sample size of one evening grocery store trip just says something really good about the world we live in.

Noble humor circles


Comedy is a very personal thing.  Different things make some people laugh, while leaving others cold.  My sense of humor tends to revolve around satire and wordplay.  My comedy heroes include Douglas Adams (who had an astounding way with words), Dave Barry (who can manage to set up five jokes at the same time), Steven Wright (who can generate punchlines with no setup at all), and Groucho Marx (who could deliver a joke like no other).

On the other hand, I have no real affinity for slapstick humor.  The one trait I can relate to in women is the inability to see the appeal of the Three Stooges.  And I have a pretty low tolerance for vulgarity, so getting a nervous laugh simply by swearing is wrong to me on many levels.  But even if I don’t share the sentiment, I can understand what makes most people laugh.

And then there’s Christopher, my friend’s 5 year old son.

(Disclaimer: I have not seen Christopher and his mother for many years.  Working from the dates below, today Christopher is about 25 years old.  And yet I’m certain his mother looks 23.)

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Clarification re: Spamming Gliese 526

It has been pointed out to me that an earlier post on the Lone Signal project to send crowd-sourced messages to Gliese 526 indicated that there were no planets orbiting Gliese 526, and yet warned of a possible invasion by the Gliesians.  This was not intended to confirm the existence of hostile sentient life on the surface of Gliese 526 itself.

The statement was intended to warn about the possibility of the signals being intercepted by the GNSA (Gliesian National Security Agency) on neighboring Gliese 527, which may possibly have more hostile intentions that the friendly, peaceloving star dwellers of Gliese 526, whose existence I am still not confirming.

I regret the confusion.

Disclaimer: I would like to welcome the spybots of the National Security Agency, whose attention was attracted by oblique references to the NSA.  As is well known, the NSA is famous for enjoying a little good-natured ribbing from time to time.  Please do not send an IRS drone to my house.

The Tyrrany of the Alphabet


When my nephew was much younger (around 4 or 5) he used to love to play on my laptop when I came home for Christmas.  However, since I really didn’t have any games for preschoolers on my laptop, and my parents live in 1974, where there is no Internet, our options were limited.

My solution to this was to play spelling games with him.  And by “play spelling games” I mean open Microsoft Word and let him type.  The game had the following rules:

Round 1) I pick a word (“cat”), and he has to type it in by finding the letters C-A-T on the keyboard.

Round 2) I spell a word (“H-O-U-S-E”) and he types it in and tells me what word it is.

The game lasts until he gets bored, or until I think of an escape plan because I’m bored.

One night after dinner we were playing, and he decided to up his game (so to speak) and enter Round 3, where he would spell out a word on the keyboard, and I would tell him what it spelled.  Round 3 went something like this: Continue reading