Thursday, September 13, 2018

Paying More to Gamble

Years ago, the state of Nevada had some reputations that don't apply much any more.

It used to be where a couple could get a quickie divorce and then almost immediately get married to someone else.  Many states now have no-fault divorce laws, so getting divorced is far easier than back in, say, 1950.  Marriage chapels were once all over the place, but seem to be less common today.

Then there was the reputation of getting cheap lodging and good, inexpensive meals at casinos.  The idea was to entice gamblers using some not-quite loss-leader pricing.

I remember stopping off at Harold's Club in Reno where the hotel gave me a small roll of nickels for the slot machines.  I'm not a gambler, but just for the hell of it did use up their nest egg along with some of my own.  Then quit and went up to the restaurant at the hotel's top floor for a nice roast beef dinner.

All that was when Nevada was just about the only place in the country where gambling was legal.  Then it was legalized for Atlantic City, New Jersey.  And now almost every Indian tribe of consequence has a casino, so serious gamblers don't really need to go to Nevada to lose their money.

One way Las Vegas fought back was in the form of huge hotels with architectural/decorative themes.  For instance, there's the Excalibur that caters to families with its knights-of-old theme.  The Luxor next door was ancient Egyptian, though the decor has been dialed back.  The Venetian even has a canal with singing gondoliers.  The Paris evokes Paris, though it too backslid a little.

Some casino hotels have large shopping areas.  Planet Hollywood's is rather average, but Chrystal's in the City Center complex is very upscale.  Venetian, Palazzo and Caesar's have a mix from mid-line to luxury.  The Bellagio and Wynn's have small, luxury shopping areas.  And so it goes.  The same applies to restaurants.

The latest move to making every aspect pay is parking.  My late wife had a las Vegas time-share and we'd be in town Thanksgiving week.  We'd drive to the Bellagio and drop the car off at the valet parking, paying a few-dollar tip on its recovery. We could have self-parked in a casino garage for free, but this was more convenient.

I last was in Las Vegas in 2015 but returned briefly a few days ago.  Now the Bellagio charges hefty rates for valet parking and fees not very much less to use the garage.

I suppose top-echelon gamblers get some "comps" on this.  But I now find the town too expensive for casual visiting.  You have to go there with the idea of at least semi-serious spending even if you aren't into gambling.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Country Roads in Days of Yore

During the past month I've taken several road trips across the mountains to eastern Washington.  One thing I noticed is that the state highways I followed in many places were quite nice two-lane affairs that could be driven at near-freeway speeds.

They had wide shoulders, a useful safety factor.  Their paving was in good condition.  There were plenty of cuts-and-fills that helped isolate the roads from their terrain.  Perhaps the most interesting detail was that towns were bypassed -- especially smaller towns.  Because of that, motorists had fewer reduced speed zones and traffic lights to deal with, again speeding up a journey's flow.

Contrast this with many such roads of 60 and more years ago.  Those were built cheaply, conforming more to the terrain.  They were narrower (as were cars back then) and had small or nonexistent shoulders.  They went through every town, each a potential speed trap.

And some did not go from place to place directly.  Instead they went along borders of farmers' lands, tracing their way confined to a grid pattern.

Finally, since there were few superhighways, state and federal highways had to accommodate all the traffic -- cars, busses, trucks, military convoys, etc. -- that had to get from place to place.  That potential congestion is much less on many modern country roads and highways.

All it took was decade after decade of small improvements.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

I'm Back

I haven't posted in several months because ...

Well, I prioritize my Car Style Critic and Art Contrarian blogs.  Plus I travel a fair amount.  And then there's life to be lived as external factors emerge such as last week's high school classmates annual get-together.

I feel kinda guilty about non-blogging here.  So I came up with what might be The Solution.

It seems that towards the end of many afternoons I run out of internet-related things to do.  Worked on posts for the other blogs.  Read all that interested me on the blogs I follow.  Finished gathering images of automobiles for the styling blog.  But at this point I'm tired and am not in the mood for coming up with topics for Retired Blowhard.

The answer to this problem (I hope) is to create a System.

The system involves making a list of potential topics every so often while having my afternoon Starbucks.  Flip open a paper napkin, pull out my ballpoint pen and begin thinking and associating.  Today, with no distractions, I came up with 20 subjects by the time my "tall drip" was drunk.  Then I write in the afternoon when I've run out of other things to do yet have a topic available.

My idea is to post something once or twice per week unless I'm on the road.  I hope this works.  But no guarantee.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

My LII- Year Habit

Traditions, habits -- those sorts of things can be worthwhile.  Or silly.  I suspect that one of my longest-term traditions has been drifting towards the silly side for, oh, decades.

LII years ago I watched the first Super Bowl football game where my beloved Vince Lombardi- coached Greek Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs.  The following year proved more difficult to watch because whereas I was a Packers fan, at the time I also was a fan of their opponent, the Oakland Raiders.  Then it was the New York Jets beating the Baltimore Colts which gave the upstart American Football League credibility.

And on and on over the years.

I have made it a point to watch at least a tiny bit of each Super Bowl ever played.  Often, I had no interest in who was playing, didn't care who won or lost, but made sure to watch perhaps three or so plays just to say that I had viewed it.

This year, extending my streak to LII, I drove over to the University Book Store where I knew the game would be televised.  (My TV is not plugged in and I don't have cable service.)  So I did watch about three plays and walked away, over to the book sections.

I don't think my behavior is crazy -- it's not destructive in any way.  But silly?  Yes, I admit to that.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Changing Meaning of Chickensh*t

For at least the last ten years and probably much longer, I've been seeing the term "chickensh*t" implying cowardice.

It wasn't that way when I was younger.

Back then, it meant petty, arbitrary rules or orders that were annoying, rather useless, and a form of (possibly unintentional) low-grade harassment.

As for cowardice, the work "chicken" was used.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might claim that "they" wanted people not to have a term like chickensh*t for the petty, arbitrary, annoying, rather useless rules or orders "they" were giving us.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Remember When Only About 30% Were Smart Enough for College?

The current (January-February 2018) issue of the Atlantic includes an article titled "The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone" by Bryan Caplan -- link here.

It reminded me that back when I was college age (late 1950s) I sometimes heard or read the somewhat casual observation that to graduate from a decent (or better) college or university, one had to have an IQ of about 110 or better. That works out to around 25 or 30 percent of the population being that capable.

Elementary and secondary schools generally did a better job of basic skills preparation in those days. And on the job-hiring end, there was probably a lot less credentialism than now. The result was that not having a college degree wasn't a career crippler.

I think that system was better balanced than the current one whereby vocational education is often downplayed and in some cases eliminated from the high school curriculum for some reason related to "esteem-building."

In recent times I've heard calls for everyone getting a college education.  The fantasy behind this notion was that professional-level jobs would suddenly appear to absorb the universal attainment of higher education.  But if higher education is actually or even potentially universal, then the term "higher" no longer applies: college simply becomes added years of high school.  Which might be happening anyway, given all those college majors with two-word names, the second word being "Studies."

Friday, January 5, 2018

Censoring "Fake News"

When I was a lot younger appeals for bringing in experts to resolve or manage problems seemed entirely reasonable.  Some readers might even recall advertisements featuring an actor dressed up as a physician urging us to use some product or another.  Nowadays, appeals to authority seem to lack the punch they used to have: folks are getting a lot more skeptical.

Today's political climate finds major news media engaged in a nonstop effort to destroy the President.  All too often a negative story is presented, only to be sheepishly retracted when proven false.  This is "fake news."

There has been discussion of restricting dissemination of fake news -- try Googling on "censoring fake news" to see some examples.

Related to that are other efforts afoot to to have media providers ban Internet items that various "victim" groups claim to be offensive.  And over in Europe, governments might be beginning to take steps to ban political speech by certain parties that established parties consider unworthy.

Who would be brought in to judge what tweets, blog posts, etc. are worthy of being banned?  Why, some supposed experts ... who themselves surely have biases.

What we would have is a form of thought control, no matter what part of the political spectrum is in charge of the operation.  Open, unfettered speech, no matter how politically offensive it might be to certain people, is the best way to avoid dictatorship.

None of the above is original thinking on my part.  Nevertheless, the ideas are worth repeating in these confused, troubled times.