Friday, January 30, 2009

Checking out the sights #2

Another thing I wanted to see when I got out to Vegas was the water show at the Bellagio. Although the show plays for most of the day, it is especially great to see at night when the lights come on. I took some video to show Wifey and the kids when I got back home...

Con Te Partiro (Time to Say Goodbye). Artist: Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman

Hoe-Down. Artist: London Symphony Orchestra

Singin' in the Rain. Artist: Gene Kelly.

Right across the street from the Bellagio is the Paris Hotel and Casino. If you know Wifey you must know it is her greatest wish to someday travel to the real Paris and visit the Eiffel Tower. Too bad I got to Paris before her. :)

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Some more random pics from the Strip. I didn't do too much walking around. One thing I learned was that there are two times you definitely don't want to come to Vegas.

First, when you are alone.
Second, when you are on a budget.
I came here when both of these applied to me. This can be a very lonely place without anyone to share it with.

Anyhow, back to the pics... Next door to the Bellagio is Caesers Palace.


This is the Bellagio, truly the nicest casino I've ever been in. True upper class. Just look at what they put on for Chinese New Year!

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And yes, I couldn't believe it! A building-sized advertisement for Donny and Marie. This is all the proof that you should need that anything can happen in this place.

Checking out the sights #1

There were a few things I wanted to make sure I saw when I got out here to Vegas. First was the Hoover Dam. I was really looking forward to getting out there when we were planning someone's bachelor party a while back. (Some of you know what happened to that. For the rest of you, just be happy you never had to get involved.) When I flew in early the day before the conference on Tuesday I knew I should take advantage of the time and get myself out there. Who knows when I would be able to do this again, especially without the kids in tow.

Driving over the hill from Boulder City, down into the valley where Lake Mead sits, was a wonderful sight. It was a beautiful day, couldn't ask for a better view. Here is a panoramic view from the Lake Mead observation area (not pieced together really well, but what do you want from me and my less than professional equipment?).

It was amazing, and well worth the trip and cost of the uber-tour I took. The normal tour takes you down into the tunnels that they used to divert the Colorado River when they were constructing the dam...

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(um, yeah... did you notice the metal scaffolding and plastic sheets in the tunnel? Yup, that's to divert the dripping water from falling on people's heads. No, it wasn't scary at all being hundreds of feet under ground, with a lake big enough to cover the state of PA to a foot deep or CT to 10 feet deep right through that little wall there)

as well as the room where they house the huge generators....

As if that weren't cool enough, the really cool part started after this. Those of us nutty enough to pay for the special tour got to go further, into the dam itself. Yeah, that's right, into the actual concrete that makes up the Hoover Dam. No, really, I paid extra for this!!! It turns out that when they made the dam they didn't use any steel or other supports inside of the concrete. Apparently they knew that when the water got in (I'm sorry, did you say when the water got in? They planned for that?) it would eventually rust out the rebar which would weaken the whole thing. So there I was, walking around inside of a few hundred million pound solid block of concrete. But wait, it gets better... our tour guide was nice enough to inform us that Arizona was third on the list of states in terms of seismic activity. The dam measures a 2 or 3 magnitude earthquake every 3 or so days! I'm no expert in earthquakes or anything so I took his word for it when he said you don't even feel those small quakes. Gee, thanks. Didn't really make me feel much better though.

Here are some very cool images from inside the dam-

- Tour guide on the left - very good at his job - taking us into a ventilation tunnel that leads out to the face of the dam. No joke, this is us buried deep inside the concrete of the dam.

- Waiting my turn to take a look at the view of the Colorado from the face of the dam.

- I wanted a pic without people in the way.

- The view of the Colorado from the vent in the face of the dam. I've got a pic below that shows where this vent is in the face of the dam. One of the coolest things was the idea that millions of folks get billions of pics of the dam but I wonder how many people get this kind of pic? Very cool.

- Same view, from out of the vent.

- The "hallway" leading down to the vent. Yeah, there was no standing all the way up for me in there.

- This is at the same spot as the picture above. Down to the right is the hallway leading to the vent. Straight ahead is a hallway that allows the engineers to keep going into the dam. The guide told us they go down there to take core samples of the concrete to make sure everything is still holding up. I asked when they expected to have to replace the dam. I'm pretty sure he said a few thousand years.

- This? Oh, it's not much. Just a crack. Yup, I said a crack. Totally to be expected, no worries. And no, I didn't see any bubblegum holding things together. This is down that hallway I showed in the previous picture, behind the direction I was facing.

- Same hallway, this is a spot that they use to measure how much the dam flexes. A few centimeters a year, so not all that much. Yes, the dam flexes! Another thing they expected. Just mind boggling.

- I loved this. Vandalism almost as old as I am in that same hallway. Hundreds of feed below ground, under millions of tons of concrete. Too funny.

- This is that same hallway, just a creepy view. The funny tour guide scared the crap out of all of us by turning out the lights at one point. I've got to brag a bit and say that no, I didn't squeal like a little girl.

- I asked someone else to take this picture of me in the hallway. Too bad the guy couldn't take a picture in focus.

- There is a stairwell at the end of the hallway. Up is outside. Down? You don't want to go down. The tour guide said he went down once. He counted 700+ stairs until he reached water. Yup, water. Apparently the smartys that designed this place knew that some water would get inside, trickle down through cracks, and cause problems. So, they planned for this and built into the structure huge pumps to keep the water at bay. Even with this there is about 200' of water down there. And no, he wouldn't let me go down there.

Among the more interesting things he told us was that it would take more than 20 minutes to climb up from there and they had to replace the gate at the top of the stairs and the stairs going down because of all the water at the bottom was rusting everything out.

Here is a video of the stair case.

Here are a bunch of pics from the outside of the dam.

- Intake towers from up on the Arizona side.

- These are the overflow spillways in case a flood sends too much water at the dam.

- Looking north from the parking areas on the Arizona side. Notice how low the water is? The top of the white (calcium deposits) isn't actually where the water should be. Although the "normal" level is something like 11' below that top line the lake is about 60' low at this point.

- Another view north from the AZ side.

- They are building a new highway and huge bridge to help with traffic and to keep so much traffic from having to cross the top of the dam each day.

- Another shot of the dam and towers from the AZ side.

- This is from the observation deck on the visitors center looking straight down about 500' to the power generation buildings below. The huge generators from the picture above are inside of these buildings.

- Looking south along the Colorado river from the observation deck.

- Looking at the visitors center and observation deck and the NV side of the bridge from the deck of the dam.

- This is looking straight down the face of the dam from the top. If you look carefully you can see the vent cover that I was looking out, right in the middle of the picture.

- This is looking north again at Lake Mead but this time from the deck of the dam.

- There is a clock on the NV intake tower and the AZ tower showing the different time zones.

- I took this pic just for Wifey's pleasure. I knew she would freak if she saw the bridge that leads up to the dam on the NV side. Just don't look down and everything should be fine!

- This is looking past some of the construction wires (supporting a huge wire crane from the original construction that they still use!) toward the dam.

- Here is the wire crane they still use to pick up supplies and other equipment from tractor trailers from the road and lower it down to the generation plants 500' below.

- Nice view of that bridge that would have made Wifey sick.

Some videos of outside the dam -

First, a video of the dam and Colorado valley from the observation deck. Don't mind the drop. :)

In this one I wanted to show the water churning out from the power plants and going on down the river.

This was taken from the lip of the dam and I wanted to show where the vent cover was. Look carefully at the end and you'll see it right in the middle.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Learning about Web 2.0 tools

Listening to Tony Karrer speak about Learning 2.0 he brought up what seemed to be a lot of topics that were new to the audience. Apparently spending my years in education, focusing on tech integration, really put me in a great position to know about these tools and private industry is playing catch up.

So, as Tony was introducing each topic I kept wishing he would bring up the videos made by Lee Lefever. I posted about these videos more than a year ago, and they were created well before then. I know that Tony was under a time crunch so I'm wondering if he made an executive decision to not show some of these vids but I know they would have helped some of these new users understand what these tools do, the purpose behind the tools.

*Note - this goes along with my last post about Internet access - apparently someone pulled the plug on the wireless as I was writing this post yesterday while in Tony's session. This is just mind boggling that a tech conference does not have wall-to-wall coverage. I heard a rumor today that they are thinking about making coverage part of the cost of the conference next year but if the coverage they are planning on providing is anything like that which I've suffered through in my room these last few days then they should save their money. Trying to check email using the Rio's network was like watching paint dry.

Live Blogging

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm spending some time in Las Vegas attending the TechKnowledge2009 conference. Because I know the leaders of this conference are going to be doing some searching on key words, looking for comments relating to the conference, I need to write something here...

This is a tech conference. See? It even says so in the name. So, here's my question... why isn't this place covered in wireless access so all of us can be live blogging, connecting, communicating, actually interacting in the social media that all of our speakers have been talking about? At this point I'm lucky enough to be sitting in a conference room, listening to Tony Karrer speak about Learning 2.0, and this room just happens to be close enough to ASTD's wireless node that I can grab a bit of access. The rest of the rooms were so far away that I couldn't take advantage of the technology we were all speaking and learning about!

It just didn't make sense, and these folks need to know that if they are putting on a technology conference dedicated to the use of new tools that advance social learning then they need to give us the access to make that really happen.

More on the conference later but I needed to get that smallish rant off my chest.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Vegas Baby!!!!!!!

Yeah, that's right. I'm headed to Vegas tomorrow, for the first time ever. And you know the bestest part of all???? Work is picking up the tab. I'm going to the ASTD TechKnowledge2009 conference to do research on a new e-Learning platform for work but how cool is it that they're having it in Vegas?

Now, some may ask why I haven't brought this topic up prior to this late hour. Well, it really all boils down to one word... Wifey. Wifey hates me right now. I think by now you've figured out that Wifey will not be joining me on said trip. And that sucks. For both of us but wayyyyy more for her. We tried to make it happen but in the end the finances won out. Like I said, it sucks.

So, being the sensitive-to-all-of-her-needs (don't pay any attention to my last post and you may actually believe that) kind of guy that I am I've been mum about the trip. In fact, I've tried to not really even think about it at all, lest my excitement get the better of me. Like it is doing as I write these words. hehehehehehehehehehehe

Without boring you with too many details of how amazed I am at my luck (seriously, this kind of thing never happens to me), I wanted to point to the most in my face at the moment- the weather. The D.C. metro area is bracing for the worst storm of the last two years (seriously? they're expecting like an inch and the whole place is going gaga!!!) and I'll be enjoying suffering through 60 degree weather.

A side-by-side weather comparison.

Yeah, Vegas so totally wins.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

The longest pseudo-comment ever

My large friend over at Huge Orange Enigma wrote a post asking for stories about, among other things, the general life of a married couple dealing with real life when real life isn't what you expected it to be. I'm paraphrasing. I started to leave a comment but realized after my scroll bar got REALLY tiny that I might want to take my thoughts in another direction. So, here goes...

I know Wifey will be over to Enigma's site to tell you all about the idiot who comes strolling through the door right as dinner is getting on the table but I wanted to jump in and say my piece (hopefully peacefully :0) before she could tell you the truth.

Enigma mentioned the heroic (yes, heroic... not many guys would have figured out the "right" thing to do in that instance) thing he did when he got home and found hope and love throwing up all over his house. (I've really got a flair for imagery don't I?) Then he went on to talk about the disparity between man-chores and woman-chores in their household. It was almost like looking into a mirror. This is something that Wifey and I have struggled with for our entire relationship. I've always not held up my end of things on the 'ol score card (the one I've been assured hasn't been kept but we all know the truth of that don't we?). I suck at seeing what needs to be done. Unless it's staring me right in the face, or maybe even biting me, it just doesn't register. I know it, all of her friends know it, it isn't a secret. Trouble is... even with everyone knowing it, despite my good intentions, not much gets better. No, that's not true exactly. If I take a look back at the day we got married and compare that poor schmuck (RUN!!!!!! Why didn't anyone convince him to RUN!!!!!!) to this poorer schmuck, I know I'm head and shoulders above where I've been. But, let's be honest... that wasn't hard to do.

One thing about our life nowadays, my schedule doesn't allow for picking up any of those daily (during the week), mundane things that happen before we're done with dinner. If Wifey wanted to share some of those fantastic tasks with me she'd have to step over and around them all day waiting for me to get home. I'm blessed, really and truly blessed, to be able to walk in and see my three wackadoo kids still breathing let alone playing, with JAM's homework done, and dinner almost ready to be put on the table. I know I'm not even close to being worthy enough for all of that.

I know I don't take on nearly the same amount that Wifey tackles during the weekends. We've tried all sorts of ways to get me to see what needs to be done... doesn't seem to help much. But it isn't like I'm sitting around filing my nails or anything, I'm always on the go with chores, projects, etc., but it isn't the same inside the house-type stuff she takes care of. The real kicker is when she has to do all the things on her list while still refereeing the three amigos while I "get to" go to Costco or Safeway or to the various home improvement stores for that one thing I forgot all about. I often try to grab at least one of the little ones when I go on my jaunts, but it still isn't the same.

I do take care of "all" the outside stuff (to varying degrees of competency and completion), the errands, the attic trips, etc. and I do try to help with some of the other chores. Again, I am absolutely blessed that Wifey takes care of a TON of the routine-suck-out-your-soul stuff during the week, like a lot of the laundry, dishes don't pile up, etc. etc. etc. I know I should grab some of the other things from her, and recently I've tried to be more aware. It probably won't ever be absolutely equal, but the best we can try to do is work as hard as we can and pull our family in the right direction. As long as we don't add to the problem, like I've been known to do at times in the past (and maybe a little bit today even with an impromptu invite to some friends to come over for dinner when there was a million things to do before I left for a trip next week - yeah, totally didn't foresee that idiot move), I think the family running smoothly is all that matters. If it gets too out of whack then something needs to change but you'll be sure to see that coming a mile away. Just listen for the steam shooting out of her ears, it's a dead give-away.

All this is to say I know Enigma's pain. Well, its not really his pain we're talking about is it? The best I can say is grab something, anything, that she usually takes care of and make it yours. Unless your married to Super Woman who gets it all done before you get a chance, I'm sure it will be most appreciated.

Now, to try and own my own words....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Not being there

Way back in November, as the polls were closing and the realization that a new day was near, Wifey and I said we would be "there." "There" of course was the National Mall for the inauguration of Barack Obama. Living in the D.C. metro area provides us with a wealth of opportunity. We have world-class museums, often free of charge. We have restaurants, theater, music, comedy, national events, all within 11 miles of our house. However, living here also affords us a great deal of realism. We understand what it means to sit in hours of gridlock, traffic of epic proportions, delays on our substandard mass transit system that just can not move the amount of people who sometimes need to be moved.

All of those things collided this week as we realized that it would just be absolutely insane to try to get downtown for the ceremony. Even though this is a once in a lifetime opportunity we thought it would be wrong for us to try to drag our kids down there in single digit (wind chill puts it at a balmy 8 degrees) temperatures.

So as I sit in my office at work, enjoying a nice hot beverage and eating my breakfast, I watch the CNN newsfeed and all these jubilant but freezing people down on the Mall. I mourn my nonattendance but I realize that it was a good choice.

Good luck Mr. Obama, and stay warm.