Monday, April 26, 2010

Troy at 6 months

Time for a Troy update!

Well, that boy is learning by leaps and bounds every day! If a week goes by without seeing him, we are amazed at what all he's learned in those 7 days.

In these videos, he is 5 days shy of being 6 months old and he has virtually full control of those arms and legs. Now, if he can synchronize those limbs, he'll be able to crawl and walk!

The videos are from a week ago Sunday when our daughter-in-law Lucy brought him over. They show him the first time he is placed in a walker at his grandparent's house (he has another walker at his own house). We quickly discover that the walker works much better on the bare wood floor than on carpet and move the carpet aside. He seems thrilled and frustrated by his ability to move around on those floors. We are pretty sure this is the first time he's used a walker that is not on carpet. Take a look!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Aria Las Vegas: Arrival and The Room

 So we finally made it! After planning our spring Vegas trip for a couple of months, we finally rolled into the new Aria hotel at the huge (and new!) City Center development in Las Vegas.
 Here is Nikki, excited at being back in Las Vegas. She only gets to gamble twice a year, so she really enjoys these trips. This is just outside the main lobby, which can be accessed via a side road which connects up with Las Vegas Blvd.
 This is the hallway outside of our suite. The elevators are nearby, but not once did we hear them during our entire stay. You'll probably hear me mention quiet several times...we like loud and rockin' atmosphere when we are out having fun (that is why we like the Hard Rock Casino), but when it's time for bed, we want to leave that behind.
 Along the back side of the elevators was a lobby of sorts, but not once did we see anyone there. Nice and quiet. Can't you just hear the 'ding' of an arriving elevator as you view the photo?
 We had a Crystal Suite. This is the foyer, looking back at the entry door. Once we swung the camera around 180 degrees, we saw...
 ...this. A very nice view of MGM, Hooters, the airport, Tropicana and a glimse of the Monte Carlo on the right.
 Zooming in a little, here is the view (looking a little to the right out of the room).
 Walking over into our living room a bit and down, we had a great view of the Monte Carlo pool.
 Another look at that pool, zoomed out slightly.
 So once we got past the view, what did the living room look like? This.
 And this.... the laptop on the coffee table is mine, it didn't come with the room. :-) Another nice feature of Aria: free high-speed wireless internet!! Pure heaven.
 Whoops...there is my wife (couldn't resist a shot of her)...
 And the TV & bar. The TV was very nice and could be used to control lighting, the temp in the LR, BR, and bath (all separately!), the stereo, and several other things. It is a very modern, ultra-tech room and we really appreciated that.
 On to the bedroom, with its own flat screen.
 Here is Nikki again. I don't think this was taken when we arrive it, may have been taken our second day there.
 And finally, a view out the window of the bedroom. One of the nicest feature in the whole place: motorized curtains! Hit one button and the blackout curtains open, another and the sheers open. Very, very nice! Same thing in the bathroom and living room. Now if you head to the window and turn right you see...
 ...this. The bathroom. One mistake in the design is that all guests must walk through the bedroom to get to the bathroom. That's Nikki's curling iron on the back of the tub.
 Entering the bathroom and looking left, this is the view.
 Here is why the curling iron was on the tub. There is very little room for "stuff" on the bathroom counter. Designed by a male, Nikki says.

 A trend we've noticed in all new hotels: Bathroom doors made of textured glass. A lot less privacy than the old solid doors, but a lot more light too.
The Hard Rock Hotel, San Diego's Omni Hotel, and now Aria all have doors like this.
 ...the shower stall...
 he shower floor was one solid piece of granite! I liked that alot....
And now the view at night....niiiiicccceee! It was awesome coming back to the room near dawn and seeing this view. It brought a smile to our face every time.
 Looking straight out the living room window, this was the view. Wish I would have remembered to turn off the lights behind me.
And one more shot, looking slightly left towards Planet Hollywood. Would we stay in this room again? Definitely yes! We love modern, we love convenience, and we love new. This room had all of that. Give it a try.

Aria Las Vegas: Amenities

 Once we settled into our room, we went downstairs to explore the City Center amenities. Here is my wife at the base of the elevator, on the casino floor. Notice that, as opposed to most casinos, there are not wild colors. It is all shades of brown.
 Here she is close to one of the bars that line the casinos. I don't show it anywere, but there are numerous restaurants on the second floor. There is also a very nice chocolate shop on this floor that our friends drooled over, but we're not much into chocolate so we didn't go in ourselves

 Veer Towers are pretty interesting. One tilts to the left, one tilts to the right. These are condominiums that are for sale, and we could see right inside many of them from our hotel room. Not much activity there, not sure if they are finished and ready for sale yet.
 Another view of the Aria tower with the tram track in the foreground. If I had turned the camera to the right, we would be able to see the shops at City Center. They are all ultra high end shops where a pair of shoes would cost, say, $2000. We walked through but did not stop. Thankfully.
 Out front near the hotel entrance is a fairly spectacular water fall - here's a shot with Nikki. Unfortunately, I don't think it can be fully appreciated except in person. But the movies below will help.
 We also spent two afternoons at the pool. Actually, there are at least 3 pools and a spa. Here is Nikki on the way to the pool. It was very relaxing, very laid back, and relatively kid free (no splashing!). There was also a bar at pool's edge so the liquid refreshment just kept on coming.
 Here is what the hotel looks like from the pool's edge. Our room is on the opposite side, so we had a view of the Monte Carlo pool, not the Aria pools.
Another view of the other side of the pool. Now bring me my liquid refreshment (we recommend the Poolside Punch - very good). Speaking of liquid, they also have a 4th pool for adults only called Liquid. It is topless and actually more like a nightclub with a live DJ. Since it only costs $20, we decided to give that a try and went was going to be Nikki's first time topless. Well, what they forgot to tell us is that it is another $60 - each - to sit down! Every seat in the place had a "reserved" sign on it, and a "host" would choose which seat we could have for $60. We decided it was not worth that price to us, so we got a refund and left. Then we noted that scouts from Liquid kept coming by offering to "comp" the young females around the regular pools into Liquid....they weren't getting many takers, but a few did go.

Anyway, that's our take on the amenities. Our recommendation: if you want to be close to the Vegas strip but want something just a little more laid back, not as loud, more adult, try Aria. It's a great hotel.

Aria Las Vegas: Chihuly Gallery

 It's going to start seeming like I am a Chihuly fanatic, since I posted about his San Francisco exhibit last year and now this Chihuly Gallery in Las Vegas, but I'm not. We just happen to stumble across his work. Yes, there was a Chihuly exhibit at City Center in Las Vegas and we took a gander inside.
 Several of the displays were similar to what was shown in the San Franscisco show, such as this yellow starbursty thing, and the blue objects in the previous photo (they were purple in SF).
 But where his work really shines is with a spotlight, in a dark room with black walls.
 To be fair, there were a few other non-Chihuly glass works in this gallery, such as this painting.
 But most of what was shown was Chihuly. Here is a piece that wasn't at SF.
 When his pieces are lit just right, they are pure candy for the eyes. This one would require quite a bit of wall space, but it extremely nice.
 Another piece that was not at the de Young museum in San Francisco. For some reason, this piece reminds me of a cross between Dr. Suess and Monsters, Inc (one of my favorite movies).

 A close-up of the piece from three photos back.
 See? back to a brightly lit room. Not nearly as impressive.
 As opposed to San Francisco, all the art in this gallery is for sale. Yes, you too can own a Chihuly for the right price. On one wall was a grouping of smaller pieces (see right), about the size of two fists. How much were these?
 Here is an example. This piece, entitled Misty Persian Pair, was selling for $6000.
 As beautiful as these are, I can't see putting them in my house even if I had six large to spend. The first reason is that they only come to life with a spotlight in a dark room with black walls (none of those in my house, though I suppose I could build a niche like that), and the second is I don't want anything in my house that is that expensive, that light, that small, and therefore that easily carried off by the first thief in sight.
True not that many dishonest people come in, but we do hire contractors and other workers sometimes and all it takes is one person and whoosh! it's gone. So I'll enjoy these pieces from afar. And if you buy one, please invite me over. I promise all I'll take away are memories and a few digital photos.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Drive By Shootings Part 1: Talking, Picking, and Smoking

For years, I have pondered setting up a camera in my car so that it points straight out the passenger window. With a remote control, I could snap photos of interesting drivers as I cruise down the freeway. This has come to mind because I see so many crazy characters as I while away the 30 minutes to work, and 30 minutes home.
 I haven't set up such a camera yet, but I was the passenger on a recent trip to Las Vegas with my wife. I decided to grab the camera and snap a few test photos so I could see how feasible my idea was. I mean, I need to figure out whether it will work before going through the trouble of rigging up a camera. So on Interstate 15 between approximately Ontario and Barstow, I took the photos of 75 drivers. Let me know if you find these photos interesting or boring.
 Some drivers attempt to hide covert operations such as cell phone use - a big no-no in California. Yes, dude, you are stealth. But the camera sees all!
...and dudette, if you wanna slow down traffic please do it in the slow lane, not in the #2 lane. Thanks.
 This guy was in the slow lane, and I'm not entirely sure he was on a cell, but it sure looks like it to me.
 And not even deeply tinted windows (I've lightened things up in Photoshop) can hide that finger in your nose! Yessirree Bob, we see you!
 Not positive about this one either, but Mr. Trucker could sure be searching for gold. I don't know.
And not to be forgotten is the sheer elegance of holding a filtered tobacco cylinder while cruising down the turnpike. Aaaaahhhhh, refreshment!~