Comment 5,000

Earlier this afternoon Woody Hoyt posted comment 5,000 on this blog. Wow. Even I’m impressed… and it’s my blog. Actually, I’ve heard from a few people how tough it sometimes is to post comments, so the 5,000 number is even more significant.

Thanks to Woody and all of you who’ve taken time to add your two cents to this little ad hoc community.

Thirty Years Ago Today

Today marks a milestone for me. 30 years ago today – March 3, 1979 – I got my first

computer. It was a life changing event – more than I imagined at the time.

My friend Peter Mokover sent me an email today about his thirtieth anniversary. I thought I’d share it with you.


Today marks a milestone for me. 30 years ago today – March 3, 1979 – I got my first computer. It was a life changing event – more than I imagined at the time.

It was an Apple II Plus. It was the first Apple computer ever sold in Rhode Island (where I lived at the time).

It came with 32KB of memory. I remember the sales person at the store said I could get an additional 16KB for around $400. I didn´t think I would need that much memory so I didn´t get it. Today that amount of memory is so small it would cost a fraction of one cent.

My Apple was considered advanced because it had two floppy disc drives and a modem. Most computers then had either one floppy drive or none and no modem. Many used audio cassette tapes to store programs and data.

I´m currently building a new PC for myself. To show how much technology has changed…

The Apple had 32,000 bytes of memory. My new PC has 6 billion bytes.

The Apple had 280,000 bytes of storage. The new PC has 2.3 trillion bytes.

The processor chip in the Apple (Motorola 6502) had a single core and a speed of around 1,000,000 instructions per second. The processor in the new PC (Intel Core i7) has four cores and a speed of around 3 billion instructions per second.

The Apple displayed up to 16 colors on a low resolution screen. The new PC displays more than 16 million colors with a resolution greater than a new HD television. (Who knew there were than many colors!)

The Apple had a modem that downloaded data at up to 30 characters per second. The new PC´s modem averages around 1.5 million characters per second. I recall paying around $8.95 per HOUR (off peak) back then to connect to the Internet. I now pay a little over $50 per month.

Over the past 30 years the power of computers has increased many thousands of times yet their price has dropped significantly. There aren´t many things other than technology for which that can be said.

Thirty years ago I already had my TRS-80 Model 1 with 16 Kb of RAM!

The 23&#162 Check

Hidden away somewhere, Helaine and I have 300 shares of Disney stock.

When I first came to New Haven, WTNH was owned by Capitol Cities Communications, which bought ABC, which was then bought by Disney (or maybe it was the other way around – who remembers). We thought it was a well run company, we bought some shares.

Today we received a notice. Disney has sold their radio station holdings to Citadel Broadcasting. Since Helaine and I are among Disney’s de facto owners, we will benefit.

Our 300 Disney shares gets us 23.038839 shares of Citadel stock. They won’t let you own fractional shares, so our stake was rounded down to 23 shares. We got a check to cover the rest.

It’s a check for 23&#162!

It’s surely just boilerplate, but on the check is the inscription, “only twenty three cents.” “Only!” Don’t you think that’s a little judgmental?

I know this stuff happens all the time. I remember, thirty years ago, my friend Peter Mokover’s parents had a 1&#162 check from LILCO hanging on the wall of their beach house on Fire Island.

What is the real cost of our check? It surely cost more than 23&#162 to print and stuff it in an envelope. It cost more than 23&#162 for postage. It will cost my bank more than 23&#162 to process it. Citadel’s bank has processing costs too.

The check comes attached to a form explaining the whole thing. It says “Retain for your records.” Yeah, I don’t want to serve time if I forget to declare this.

I hate to propose anything that might smack of corporate welfare, but maybe it’s OK to let companies off the hook for this little stuff. We are going through the motions and no one actually gains in this transaction.

Actually, let me take that back. I got a blog entry out of it.

Commenting On The Blog

It’s just been pointed out that my comment system was broken. Anyone attempting to add their two cents found their entry rejected, with a long cryptic ‘explanation.’

I’m firing my web development team. Check that. They’re me. Oops. It’s now fixed.

Briefly, in order to keep this blog from getting ‘comment spammed’ with porno sites and Viagra offers, I have a blacklist system in place. It scans your comments for offensive words and web addresses.

Recently, when I added to the blacklist, a “[” character got appended to an address. That one square bracket caused the system to reject everything!

So, it’s fixed… but it continues to be slow (as always).

If you make a comment, wait. Don’t re-enter it. It will register. Really, it will.

My Wife And I Have Balls

It’s cold. It’s the winter. The countryside is covered in snow. This is not perfect weather for the Fox Family.

It’s also Saturday. We wanted to do something and not waste a perfectly good weekend day.

A quick check of the paper showed nothing at the movies we wanted to see. The Yale Rep and Yale Cabaret are both dark&#185.

I looked for a comedy club. The Treehouse, in Fairfield County, had listings for Wednesdays and Saturdays in November (update the website guys) and December, but is mysteriously empty this weekend.

Finally Helaine suggested we go bowling. She made the suggestion knowing full well I’d find an excuse to say no. I didn’t.

I called our local bowling alley (I’m sure they’d rather be called a bowling center… and they can, on their blog). There were lanes open, but they asked for my name, in case things got busy. No names – I had my info.

We went and had dinner at the local Chinese buffet. Overhead speakers blasted Christmas music from a local radio station. My favorite, Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” played.

The bowling alley was only a few minutes away. We walked in and found the place more empty than full.

Helaine and I have a history with bowling, and this seems as good a time as any to tell the story.

Back in Buffalo, among other duties, I was the weekend weatherman. Helaine, living and working in Philadelphia, would come and visit on weekends. We were the proverbial strangers in a strange land.

Saturday nights, after the late news, we would join a bunch of people from the station and go to “Moonlight Bowling.” There would be Phil Kavits and Mike Andrei, Rhona Shore (one of our reporters) and Jim Sherlock (assistant news director and her boyfriend).

I’m sure there were others, but this was nearly 25 years ago. Forgive me.

The concept of “Moonlight Bowling” is simple. You turn off most of the lights, light a few black lights, add a smattering of multicolored pins on each lane, and pay bowlers cash when certain pin arrangements come up and they make a strike.

It was a quarter here, fifty cents there. Not big money. It was a blast. And we had fun blowing off a little steam. Like all employees, we weren’t adverse to second guessing our bosses.

This group from the TV station would go nearly every Saturday night. Then, when it was over, we’d get breakfast. That was around 3:00 AM.

It should be noted, somehow in those years I had entered into a pack with the Devil, allowing me to eat anything and never gain a pound. The Devil and I have had a falling out since then.

None of us were ever good at bowling. But, we had a great time bowling.

Flash ahead to Connecticut. When we first moved here, Helaine met some people and ended up in a bowling league. When she bought a ball and shoes, I did too. So, as the title says, we both have balls. Even better, neither of us wear rented shoes – one of life’s stranger concepts.

Over time, we just haven’t bowled much. Steffie had a bowling birthday party while growing up and I’m sure we went to parties thrown for other kids, but that’s a long time ago.

12-10-05_1910Actually, there’s a better way to demonstrate how long it’s been since we bowled. When we went to unzip our bags to take out the balls and shoes, the zippers were rusted shut! Really. You could see a tinge of green around the immobile zipper.

The bowling bags ‘live’ in the garage, so the culprit is probably salt spray from our cars’ tires. Another reason to dislike winter.

Luckily, the guys behind the counter were happy to help… and much stronger than me. Before you knew it, the zipper was zipping and we were ready to bowl.

12-10-05_1915We moved to lane 11.

Just as we were about to begin, the lights went out and the music started blasting. It was “Moonlight Bowling” all over again! There was one addition, stage fog, and one subtraction, no cash payouts.

We started slowly. My first ball was a gutter ball. In the first game, I barely broke 100. Helaine wasn’t far behind.

The second game went a little smoother, but I was still out ahead. In fact, Helaine trailed by thirty pins in the seventh frame.

bowling1Then, she caught fire!

Helaine rolled a strike in the eight frame… and the ninth… and two in the tenth – four strikes in a row! By the time all was said and done, Helaine had beaten me 158 – 143. She will be tested for steroids later.

Did she want to bowl again? Hell yeah!

bowling2We started our third game, and this time it was my turn to get hot. I made marks in my first 8 frames, finishing with 175, my personal best.

Helaine probably won’t admit this, but she’s just as competitive as me. Now there’s incentive for us to go again.

I’m a lucky guy. Two decades and change since “Moonlight Bowling” and I still have fun with the girl I took back then… and I still beat her.

&#185 – I’m embarrassed to say we’ve been to neither. That’s a shame. As much as I enjoy theater (and I really do), I need to be taking advantage of local resources like that.

The Meisels Go Home To New Orleans

Back when Hurricane Katrina was threatening the Gulf Coast, I did my best to get Ruth Meisel out. The day she drove to safety up north was the last time she saw her home, until yesterday.

With her two adult children in tow, Ruth Meisel returned to New Orleans to see what could be salvaged and tie up loose ends. She will be among the tens, maybe hundreds of thousands, who will leave their homes and move elsewhere.

New Orleans is being abandoned, wholesale.

I asked her son, my friend, Farrell to type some of his thoughts so I could put them here in the blog. I’ll sprinkle a few of his photos here, though the best way to see them is in this slideshow.

Clean up goes on. 80% of the city was affected. Some parts of the city have begun to function, albeit at half speed. This area is still without electricity and is deemed unsafe. It’s expected that electricity won’t be restored in New Orleans East for six to nine months. My mother returned for the first time since the hurricane and subsequent floods, to survey the damage and see if anything could be saved. She’s suited up and ready to go inside. In the background, my sister, Cheri, ready to suit up, as well.

It’s nice… no, it’s amazing to see Ruth smiling.

Here’s my read. She could be distressed with what she’s about to see, or she could be happy to see she raised her children right, and they are accompanying and supporting her. She chose the latter.

My mother knew from earlier reports and a prior visit by my sister, that things didn’t look so good. She’s been very optimistic and hopeful, looking forward and giving us much encouragement. My mother’s house survived the storm on the outside, but the inside looked and smelled awful and was a total disaster. Entering the front door we were greeted by a living room chair that wasn’t there when my mother left in August. That gives you an idea of how we were greeted.

From the marks on the wall it looks like 4-5 feet of water made it into the house. From the ‘bunny suits’ the Meisel’s wore, you can assume it wasn’t spring water.

Nearly everything was ruined.

One of the things that struck Farrell when we spoke on the phone was the proliferation of signs advertising Katrina related services. There are also markings, scrawled on homes with spray paint.

This house has been FEMA’d. FEMA is not an acronym here. It’s a four-letter word. BTW, so is Bush.
One of the city’s synagogues, Beth Israel, an Orthodox house of worship…Also one of the city’s oldest, which used to be in the historic uptown area until the late 1960s. Also on Canal Blvd, note the watermarks. Reportedly, the head Rabbi fled town, leaving the Torah scrolls to flood and be rescued from religious volunteers. The Rabbi has since been fired. My sister spotted prayer books and prayer shawls on the ground in front of the now-deserted synagogue….a sin in the Jewish religion.

Here’s how Farrell ended his note, and I’ll leave it pretty much intact:

As I visit here, for the first time in several years, 3 months after the devastation that has been chronicled worldwide, I have now discovered: A Missing City. Parts of the city and neighboring parish (Jefferson) we have seen are beginning to function, but it’s slow and without spirit.

In our many conversations with New Orleanians and Jeffersonians, one hears a great deal of anger leveled at Government. I could only find one person with a nice thing to say about President Bush. I asked why? The waitress at the seafood restaurant said it was the Louisiana Governor’s fault for not letting Bush send FEMA and the troops in. I then asked, out of curiosity, did she know that Bush was on a fundraising trip in California for three days before he did a “fly-over”, VP Cheney was buying a vacation house and the Secretary of State was shopping in Manhattan, while her home state, Alabama, was flooded. The waitress hadn’t heard that.

A newspaper stand owner or manager clearly vented his anger towards Bush, but didn’t spare either the local, regional and state governments, but felt, the US Government let Louisiana down.

Most of the Greater New Orleans area, (Orleans and neighboring parishes), as it’s known, with some 1 million people once living there, don’t have electricity, a home, assistance from FEMA, insurance companies, and they feel forgotten just three months after the hurricane and floods.. As is the case with crises the world over, once the cameras leave, the sense of urgency goes with the camera crews.

The stores and shops that are open are operating for limited hours due to two factors: limited shoppers and limited staff.

It’s quite unusual to be driving in one part of the area, say neighboring Metairie, where the shops and malls have reopened, only to continue on Interstate 10 to downtown New Orleans, and pass through darkness because whole areas have no power.

There were some signs of life downtown and in the French Quarter. The beautiful St. Charles Avenue historic areas seemed to be untouched and lit, yet, just a few blocks away, one would have thought we could have been in a war zone.

Rumors of price gouging exist. Household stores are reportedly charging double for goods consumers can buy in the middle of the state or in Mississippi for less. Gasoline is 30 cents a gallon more expensive than in the center of Mississippi or Louisiana reportedly.

Residents feel abandoned now. From the newspaper shop owner to restaurateur, residents don’t feel the city of N.O. census will approach even half of it’s close to 461,000 registered residents.

Employers are looking for employees. Potential employees are looking for housing, assistance from FEMA and the insurance companies, and those are the few, who have returned.

The Times-Picayune reported today that the New Orleans Mayor, Ray Nagin, rumored to be in Washington on business, actually wasn’t there on business, but took his family on vacation to Jamaica. While I’m sure he’s deserving of a break, there are several hundred thousand to one million people, who’d love to take that break, if only they could get some help from the various government agencies so they could get on with their lives and rebuild. And I haven’t even begun to discuss the levee system.

As I write this at 2am Central Standard Time, I was trying to think, after only two days here, how could I best describe what I have seen and heard? The word that comes to mind is “abyss.”

New Orleans, which had once been described as the “city that care forgot,” from an old Mardi Gras tale, has become the bottomless gulf or pit. There are only a handful of truly unique cities in the U.S. with some history and character. When tourists think of those cities, New Orleans had always been in the same company with San Francisco, Boston, New York, Savannah, and perhaps one or two other cities or towns.

It would not be an exaggeration to suggest, if there is no sense of urgency, New Orleans could drop off that list in my lifetime.

Please, look at the pictures. It is so sad… so tragic.

Who Is Controlling The Weather?

Here’s a comment that was left earlier to another entry. Because this isn’t the first time I’ve gotten something like this, and we all get these forwarded to us, I might as well add my two cents.

On an unrelated (weather subject), I heard reference to this site, on the George Norney (Coast to Coast AM radio program). The person being interviewed, Richard Hoagland, contended that “someone” is trying to minimize the potential impact of hurricane Wilma. The link shows, to a non weather guy, a unique bright red band of storms. Hoagland contends that is evidence that “someone” is artificially trying to sap the energy of Wilma, before it might become a cat 5!

Geoff –Any comments?

This kind of electronic noise often appears on imagery. Part of my ‘real’ job is to look for this stuff and not show it, because it’s misleading.

Here’s what the website that hosts these images says:

The individual images that are used as input into this product sometimes contain bad data in the form of missing scanlines or anamalously high or low values that often stretch in an arc across the image. When these areas are incorporated into the MIMIC product they form artifacts that fade in and out, and appear to move with the storm center. However, they have no physical meaning and hopefully they will not obstruct your interpretation of the imagery.

Before you listen to anyone who says we can control the weather, understand the power of these storms. When a hurricane stretches over hundreds of miles and reaches up vertically through the atmosphere, that’s a lot mass being dragged around.

Clouds look pretty and seem weightless to us on the ground, but they are real physical objects with real mass. There is nothing we have… probably nothing we can conceive of at the moment, that has the power to affect something this immense.

There will always be people with off center ideas who are willing to exploit the unknown by assigning meanings to meaningless observations. In other words, they’re full of crap.

No More Tenths Please

I’m not as studious as Helaine when it comes to gas prices, but I look. Most are currently over $3 per gallon. The cost of actually producing a gallon of gasoline is tiny in comparison.

When I first began driving, I could fill up the tank of my 1960 VW Beetle for about 349&cent a gallon. A gas war, while I was in Florida, once took it down to 299&cent a gallon (and I heard it hit 249&cent a gallon for a very brief moment).

Why are gas prices expressed in tenths? It makes no sense.

First, no one actually buys by the gallon. We buy by price… “I’ll take $20 of regular,” or abstract measure… “fill ‘er up.”

The difference between 399&cent and 40&cent is .25%. Ramp up the price to $3 and that one tenth cent is .03% of the total.

Is anyone fooled? Does anyone care?

Some price quoting is nefarious. When an airline quotes you a one way fare… which they won’t sell you, I consider that lying. This is just ridiculous.

If thse tenths of a cent really entered into the price and weren’t just a sleazy appendage, it wouldn’t always end in a 9&cent which, of course, it does. Enough already.

Steffie – Reoriented

Tuesday we took Steffie to college and came home without her. Maybe she doesn’t realize this was a seminal moment, but Helaine and I did. We may joke about diapers and Desitin but it’s all true – all part of the fabric of our lives.

Steffie should still be a baby in much the same way candy bars should still be a nickel, phone calls a dime and the subway fifteen cents.

We came home ’empty nesters.’

With nothing to do Wednesday (I took another vacation day), we decided to head to Foxwoods Casino&#185 to try our luck. We’re lucky because Connecticut’s two casinos are close enough to get to with no problem and far enough to keep us from going more than a few times a year.

As a poker player I’m always looking to see how my brick and mortar skills stack up against what I do online. I think I’ve become a good player and this would be a test.

I sat down at a $10-$20 table, hoping to hold my own and setting a ‘stop loss’ amount in my head. With a break for dinner, I played around nine hours.

My bankroll went up and down like a cork bobbing in a stormy sea. I was up early, then watched the money bleed away. After a few hours I went ‘all in’ on a hand, risking my limit, but winning the pot.

As I approached our time to go home, and my last hand, I was down enough to note, but not enough to matter. I was big blind – forced to bet. My two cards were King and Four of Spades.

Normally, I’d throw them away, but I was in by virtue of the blind bet.

The flop came with two more spades… and then the betting. The odds were less than 50:50 I’d pick up another spade. On the turn, nothing – what poker players call a rag.

More betting. Now, with one card left, my odds were under 1:4. Because of the substantial money already in the pot, over the long run it made sense to invest in this hand. Sure I’d lose most times, but when I’d win it would more than make up for the busts.

The river card brought the Ace of Spades. My flush was made – and I bet.

I had ‘the nuts’ – an unbeatable hand. The one other person in the pot (I’d later find he had two aces already, giving him 3 of a kind) immediately knew I’d hit. He called my bet, adding twenty more dollars to the stack of chips.

That one hand took me from small time loser to substantial winner.

I got up and cashed in my chips. Then I walked across the casino floor to where Helaine was playing Caribbean Stud Poker. She was sitting at a moderately full table with at least one semi-obnoxious drunk. Everyone else, including the dealers and bosses, were very nice.

After a few minutes my cellphone rang. It was Steffie and she was very upset. There had been a dance to culminate her orientation session. When she returned to her room, her Ipod was gone!

She had done all the right things – spoken to campus security and filled out forms. That isn’t the point. Even the cost of the Ipod, substantial as it is, isn’t the point.

Having someone enter your private space and go through your belongings, then take something of yours, is unnerving. You feel unclean. You have been violated. It has happened to me and I feel her pain.

That this would happen in her second night in a dorm is awful.

I told Helaine my hope was there would be a silver lining in this cloud – and there was. The kids Steffie had become friendly with stayed at her side. She said a contingent actually slept on the floor of her room.

Today, when we came to get her, it was obvious she had been bruised by this experience – but not scarred. That is an excellent sign.

Other than the Ipod incident, everything went perfectly. She got the classes she wanted at the times she wanted. She wouldn’t go to school too early on Mondays nor too late on Fridays.

I am so jealous.

I have a good feeling about this college thing. Steffie exudes a confidence and maturity I haven’t seen before. She wears it well.

She had always been told, kids from her high school found college to be easier than what they’d just experienced. As she began to hear this year’s expectations of her from the school administrators, she realized that was no fairy tale. They were scaring kids with stories of work less demanding than what she’d just completed!

She has the preparation and ability to thrive.

I will miss Steffie when she goes to school. The truth is, life with her has never been better or more fun. I’m not writing anything she doesn’t already know.

&#185 – Connecticut has two casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. They’re both quite nice. Mohegan Sun is a little closer. It used to offer poker, but mysteriously (about twenty minutes before the big poker explosion) they closed their room and moved in slot machines.

My Trashy Story

Every week, on Friday, our trash goes to the curb. Every other week it’s supposed to be accompanied by recycling. It doesn’t work that way in our household.

Whether it’s our distance from the curb or the amount of recycled newspapers we have (we subscribe to both the New Haven Register or New York Times) or maybe all the boxes we get because of online shopping, going to the curb bi-weekly doesn’t work. So all of this recyclable material piles up in the garage. A few times a year we stuff it into the SUV and I drive it to the transfer station.

Transfer station, what a lovely phrase. It’s so much more genteel than town dump.

I drove up to the transfer station this morning only to find the new policy – no newspapers. I had an SUV full of recyclables, and of course, the supermarket bags of newspapers were on top!

I unloaded the 20 or so bags of newspapers to get to the cardboard and other material underneath. At this point the transfer station folks took pity on me and found a place… a transfer station loophole if you will… that allowed me to drop the papers off. From now on it’s newspapers to the street, I suppose.

I want to be a good citizen, but it is increasingly difficult to follow the rules. In fact, it would be much easier to hide the newspapers and cardboard and bottles with our weekly trash. I’m sure a lot of people do just that. It also always strikes me as a little ironic that the two most talked about recycled products are made from sand (glass) or grow on trees (paper).

I know this is supposed to be good for the environment, and I’m for that. But, is it really? Is this just a feel good exercise with no payoff… or negative payoff?

From “Recycling Is Garbage” – New York Times Magazine, June 30, 1996:

Every time a sanitation department crew picks up a load of bottles and cans from the curb, New York City loses money. The recycling program consumes resources. It requires extra administrators and a continual public relations campaign explaining what to do with dozens of different products — recycle milk jugs but not milk cartons, index cards but not construction paper. (Most New Yorkers still don’t know the rules.) It requires enforcement agents to inspect garbage and issue tickets. Most of all, it requires extra collection crews and trucks. Collecting a ton of recyclable items is three times more expensive than collecting a ton of garbage because the crews pick up less material at each stop. For every ton of glass, plastic and metal that the truck delivers to a private recycler, the city currently spends $200 more than it would spend to bury the material in a landfill.

I don’t know what to think. I want to do what’s right, but I am really not sure. Until I know otherwise, I will follow the rules.

In the meantime, part of our recycling life at home will have to change. Newspapers to the curb. I can hardly wait for the first really big rain on a Thursday night.

Continue reading “My Trashy Story”

My Invitation Must Have Gotten Misplaced

50 Cent, the former drug dealer, hopefully former thug and current rap multimillionaire, threw a party last night at his mansion in Farmington last night. My invitation must have gotten misplaced.

This was a major deal. Lots of ink, lots of air time.

A friend, one of many, at a Hartford radio station sent me this.

I’ll have to make sure to avert my eyes.

50 Cent (or FITTY as we, his neighbors call him since he moved into Mike Tyson’s place a 1/4 mile from here) is coming to our Hip Hop station this morning and his people warned us — no autographs, no approaching him, no looking at him.

The cops are coming to shut down the road and only station employees with ID will be allowed in.

I cant beleive I cant get an autograph!!!

With all the RIAA kvetching of the past few years, I can’t believe how much money there still is to be made in recordings. Call me old – I just don’t want to say music in this case.

Saturday… time’s running out.

First things first. This was another really good day at the poker tables. Somewhere north of $250 won playing $6-12 Hold’em. I am definitely getting better… and the cards are running my way.

OK – now to the real events of the day.

Earlier, we had played in the ‘No risk slot tournament’ at Aladdin. It’s actually pretty cool. You play in the tournament… and lose and then you get $10 in free slot play and a $20 comp for food. So, for $30 you get the chance to win and you get your money back.

And, Aladdin’s not stupid, because the food brought us back.

I have always been a huge fan of the buffets at Mirage and Bellagio (Bellagio with cracked King Crab legs). However, I could easily be won over by Aladdin. This is also an excellent buffet with pretty much everything you’d want. The quality seems excellent. There are a half dozen (or more) separate stations with individual specialties.

One thing I don’t like about Aladdin (and Bellagio and a few others) is where you retrieve your car from valet parking. It is under cover and stiflingly hot!

Helaine wanted to try and get some beads and maybe a Chippendale’s shirt for Steffie, so we headed to the Rio. Here’s another hotel I can take or leave. We tried their buffet years ago and I found it very un-special. There’s no poker for me, and the casino is ho-hum. But, they do have the Masquerade in the Sky.

The show this year was different from what we had seen in the past… but they’re all pretty similar. I was somewhat surprised at the number of beads thrown, which I remember as being more in years past.

All week I had been asking Helaine to go downtown. Downtown is where Vegas used to be, before the Strip cam into being. It has been a difficult journey for the hotels there. They’re older, more cramped, without good parking. Many of the older ones like Binions have very low ceilings and, when last I entered, were quite smoky.

We pulled into the valet stand at the Golden Nugget. Valet was full, but I said I was staying at Mirage (same owner) and after looking at my key, they let me in. It is very convenient to park at the GN valet. You’re less than a block from Fremont Street.

Before the hourly Fremont Street Experience started, Helaine took me to the Golden Gate Hotel. This is a Las Vegas tradition… actually more like a legend. You can go to the Golden Gate and get 99 cent shrimp cocktails!

They were very good. The sauce is strong and tangy. The tiny shrimp are more texture than taste. But, it’s amazing that it’s still 99 cents.

The Fremont Street experience, with thousands (maybe millions) of lights projected above your head and set to music, was very good. Fremont Street itself is a little bit like New Years Eve in Times Square or Mardis Gras in the French Quarter. And, there are every type of person you would and wouldn’t want to meet.

It’s a shame we’ll have to leave tomorrow. Helaine is starting to get melancholy. It will be nice to get back to Steffie and my folks, but this has been a really great vacation, and as always, we’ve done a lot.