The (In)Complete and (Un)Authorized Vegas Autobiography

I’ve never been on a real vacation on my own, so I had been looking forward to this trip to Las Vegas with friends since it was booked in October. We got a great fare for the flight and one of our buddies hooked us up with a free stay at a hotel. We had roughly 3.5 days to take in as much as we could, and I must say, it was just about the right amount of time. Click the links for pictures and video clips.

Tuesday: Our flight out was great! After having my traditional McGriddle before traveling, we headed to the airport and breezed through security. Well, actually, I got the full search. The metal detector went off on me, which turned out to be from the large metal buttons on my shirt. The TSA agent was very nice and professional, even explaining to me that if he needed to search a “sensitive area”, he would use the back of his hand. He then asked if I needed him to define a “sensitive area.” I think I had it pretty well defined. On the plane, the flight attendants really went all out for us; guess they liked the idea of a group of guys heading out to Vegas for a good time. They comped us a round a drinks and even made Ryan a crown of peanuts! Our flight arrived 45 minutes early and we embarked for the hotel. My buddy Craig and I stayed at MGM Grand, while Kyle and Ryan stayed at Caesers Palace. Not only was Kyle able to get the rooms comped, we got upgraded to suites, aka bungalows! Sweet!

We spent the afternoon checking out the strip. When someone tells you that the hotels appear to be close together but are in fact, quite far apart, they speak the truth. By the end of the week, my poor feet would be revolting! Seriously, most of our day time passed by walking. We checked out a few hotels then headed back to our respective rooms to get ready for the evening. On the way to our venue, we got to watch a fountain show at the Bellagio. The main feature of the evening: Penn and Teller’s magic show at the Rio. Two words: Ah-mazing! I have no idea how they did the things they did. Their gimmick is to “reveal” how many traditional tricks are done, but as they are doing so, throw in a new twist that leaves you wide eyed and mouth open. The evening topped off with the “magic bullets” trick. If you haven’t seen it, you have to! After the show, Penn and Teller signed autographs.

Wednesday: Today, we were up early because we had a bus to catch. We booked a Hoover Dam tour. This was a definite highlight. After about a 30 minute ride out to Lake Mead, in the Black Canyon, we arrived. Currently under construction is the largest arch bridge in the US. It is part of a new highway being built due to frequent delays this area deals with. The driver said that 30 minute trip we just took could take 3-4 hours sometimes. We took a tour underneath dam, standing over the huge pipes. The power of the rushing water flowing through that 30 ft pipe is quite overwhelming. We also got to see the generators by which the power is created. Returning to the surface, we got some free time to walk along the top of the dam and look around.

Heading back, we stopped at some casino (I can’t remember the name) for a buffet. We were left there a long time. No doubt, the tour company was given a little incentive to leave us there for enough time to play, but I would have liked 30 minutes more at the dam and less at the casino. We got back to the hotel and once again got ready for the evening. Kyle made us reservations at a high-end steakhouse called Smith & Wollensky’s. We all wanted to eat out nice once. I had one of the best, and definitely the biggest, prime ribs I’ve ever had. And no, I couldn’t finish it. After dinner, we took a walk down the strip and visited some more casinos. The dress shoes I had bought and were wearing were killing me. I was pretty miserable. We ended up stopping at Treasure Island for a while…and by a while, I mean until 4 am! Time can certainly fly when playing and having fun! For some reason, my body just cannot sleep late, so despite finally falling asleep permanently at around 6 am, I woke up at 9 am.

Thursday: Today was to be our “touristy” day. Craig and I attempted to geocache for a little while. I don’t know if the 3G was so congested or what the problem was, but neither of us could get our Geocaching app to work. It kept freezing. Pretty disappointed, we gave up. Instead, we visited more hotel/casinos. So far we had walked through Planet Hollywood, Paris, New York, New York, Venetian, Bellagio, and Treasure Island, as well as a few smaller ones. So this time we went the other way to visit the Mandalay Bay, Luxor, and Exalibur. Besides, we had to pick up our tickets for the evening venue.

That afternoon, we met up with Ryan and headed way down the strip to the Stratosphere. We stopped off so Ryan could do the indoor skydiving place. He said it was really fun, but short. Heading to the Stratosphere, it was a very windy day. We bought our tickets to the top of the observation tower and ride passes. Yup, there are three rides at the top of this 109+ story tower…the highest in the world. The Big Shot is the highest…it’s like a reverse death drop, shooting you up the needle of the tower. The Xtreme is a teeter totter that tilts and slides over the edge of the tower. The last one, Insanity, is a spinning swing set, but it was closed due to wind. Craig isn’t a fan of heights, so it was up to Ryan and I to complete this feat. And ride we did. So I can now say I’ve ridden the highest rides in the world! Sweet! To be honest, the rides themselves were really wimpy; 90% of the battle is just being on top of this tower (Big Shot is 1100 ft up). On the ride, we met this crazy girl who is self-described as a “weird ass adrenaline junkie”. Her boyfriend wasn’t so much excited (see previous picture to know exactly what I’m talking about). We gave her and extra ticket and rode the Xtreme, then headed down. Riding the tram back to our hotels, we got ready for an evening at the Mandalay Bay and the musical “The Lion King”.

This performance blew me away. The staging, acting, and costumes were absolutely phenomenal. Many lines were word-for-word from the movie (my favorite Disney, by the way), with a few added scenes that I’m sure were to complement the different medium. The show was only slightly spoiled by two things: 1) After the second scene, we noticed the sound guy started moving frantically and talking on two phones; then the curtain went down and the lights came up. They then announced that the performance would be delayed due to an actor taking ill suddenly. After about 20 minutes, we resumed. 2) A couple of foreigners behind us felt the need to comment about EVERYTHING going on to each other. A couple in front of us turned to shoosh them once, then I finally turned around and asked them to be quiet as well. I really can’t stand rude audiences. Craig and Ryan were equally as impressed as I; it was definitely worth the ticket. I was wiped from only getting about 3-4 hours of sleep, so I opted to head to the hotel; the others stayed out a while longer.

Friday: No agenda today; just finish out the things I wanted to see. We played a table during the day before the stakes would go up. Did some shopping at the Coca-Cola store. Visited some more hotels, including Caesers Palace. Stopped by the Apple Store in there. We watched the Treasure Island pirate show and the Mirage’s lava show. The night’s agenda was to hit a club for one last night of frivolity. We hit up “The Bank” in the Bellagio. It was an exquisite club! First of all, there were tons of security. To sit in this place would cost you about $400, which would include a bottle and table service; otherwise, the cover was $20. The cheapest thing at the bar was like $10! It was crazy how this one guy and (what I’ll call his) slave-boy would run up and down the club. The first guy would shine a light on something and yell at his fellow to pick it up. I’m talking a piece of lint on the carpet! If you took your hand off your drink, it was gone. Match books were replaced within seconds. These guys were serious about keeping it clean! The place was so packed; it was hard to move. Although it was fun to let it loose for while, I was done in about 1 am and headed back.

Saturday: Up in just enough time to pack, grab coffee, grab some souvenirs and head to the airport. It was an awesome, unforgettable vacation shared with some great friends. If/when I ever go back, there are still some things I’d like to do. Unfortunately, Cirque de Soleil was taking a production break and the NY, NY roller coaster was down for maintenance. So those would be on tap. I think I’d be up for hitting more clubs in the evening too. But overall, I did it all, saw it all, and had a blast.

The (In)Complete and (Un)Authorized Vegas Autobiography

Sports Broadcasts Rants

I’m a hockey fan. Huh??? you say? It’s true. It happened back around 1999-2001 when the Stars won a couple Stanley cups. Being from the Dallas area, I got caught up in the hype and watched. But I came to really enjoy the game. It is a non-stop battle. It’s so hard to score that when it finally happens, I think it is the most exciting score of any sports. Now saying all that, I’ve pretty much self-taught myself the rules. And there are plenty I’m still not familiar with.

And that brings me to the point of this rant. Fox Sports, the channel Stars games are featured on, is really bad about not explaining anything, particularly when it comes to penalties. Well they all are bad about it, really. Sometimes they’ll say something like “2 minutes for high sticking” but they rarely show it again. I need to see the penalty so I know what constitutes it. Sometimes it can be as bad as just saying “2 minute minor”…no indication of what foul was committed. It’s hard for me to see penalties at the high rate of play most sports are, so it would be nice if broadcasters would take a second to show the penalty while play is stopped. The other day, I saw my first “misconduct” penalty…a 10 minute one! No explanation.

Explain a rule every so often! I’m not asking for something unreasonable like explain everything every game (more on that in a second). That would suck for the fans that know what is going on. But every few games, when something happens, just take a second to explain it. For example, icing. This was hard for me to figure out. If a commentator had simply said “and the puck travels across the lines without being played so icing will be called”…I’d have known. That’s a non-invasive way of slipping in an explanation, I think. (Incidentally, icing is a rule so that players are forced to play the puck across the rink and not just shoot it down the ice. If called, the puck comes back to the other side for a face-off.) They all list season records with 4 numbers, as in something like 10-4-2-0. Okay, win-loss-tie?-??? What the crap are those numbers? They never say! What are these “points” a team accumulates that determine who gets into playoffs? How are they different from points an individual player gets? How the heck do either EARN the stinking points??? Frustrating!

There are still plenty of other things I don’t understand, like what exactly constitutes interference or the technicalities of where a face-off happens…but the internet has been helpful to some extent. I’ve even downloaded the NHL Official Rule Book. Haha. In summary, I think broadcasts would benefit from this notion because it would pick up new viewers long term by keeping them interested (because they are learning) and informed. Finding a balance for the pro-viewers and the new viewers is win-win!

But at the same time, it can’t be taken to the other extreme, which is to over-explain a procedure every stinking time. And the overly glaring offender here comes from football and the video review. How long have we had reviews now? WE KNOW THE EVIDENCE HAS TO BE INDISPUTABLE! Do you have nothing else to say? Yes, it must be conclusive enough to overturn. Thank you! We got that the first year. Gah!

And just while we’re on this subject, can I just say how useless coach and player interviews are? Just play a record that says “we need to work harder, score more points than [the other team], and come out ready to play”, etc…because that’s basically all these interviews amount to. Well, duhhhh! Can I get the last 5 minutes of my life back please? If you didn’t do those things why show up? How about some substance. Call out some specifics! I know they don’t want to point to individual players, but come on! What about the “running game” do you need to work on? HOW do you work on not turning over the ball? Substance! Amirite?

Sports Broadcasts Rants