Monday, December 31, 2007

Bowling for Pigskin

Bang for the Buck

Back in the late 1800s when I was a college student and football was played with leather helmets, and there were no TV contracts and no BCS and Appalachian State would not be allowed to play Michigan. Colleges played 10 football games per year and a few conference winners got to go to a bowl game. There were a handful of bowl games - the granddaddy of them all of course was the Rose Bowl where a team from snow country got to come to the land of milk and honey to get tromped after they woke up and smelled the roses. I can remember reading about the Orange Bowl which offered all the orange juice you could drink for a dime, and the Sugar Bowl, but not many more. Seems they were all played on New Years Day. In those days the guys who completed college eligibility and went on to play professionally made, maybe $ 10,000 per year. Not bad for playing a game. The professional football season didn't end with a bowl. It just ended.

The decades since have become the age of marketing. Ever since that little black and white box was able to broadcast games clever marketers have been figuring ways to squeeze more dollars out of the sporting public. College bowl games making money? Let's add a few. No, a few more. Ok, a few more. Pigskin bowl games began to multiply like rabbits until today when the "Bowl Season" spans three weeks and some 32 bowl games are played. Gone is the conference champion prerequisite. These days a team has to have six wins out of 11, 12, or 13 in order to qualify. The bowl season has been devalued but the money keeps on pouring in. Clearly the saturation point has not yet been reached.

Oh yes, the "Granddaddy" has been replaced with a rotating system. The supposed two best college teams in the country, as determined by the mysterious magic of the BCS (although many sports fans feel the "C" has no place in BCS) now play the last bowl game of the year. This year it will be played January 7.

Wait. Did I say the LAST bowl game of the year? Whoops. No, there are more. Post-season, post-Bowl Game month finds bowls that are played by those who are nominated or elected to play in all-star type games. There are more all star candidates than the year's Democrat and Republican presidential candidates combined.

Oh, and did I mention the so-called "Super Bowl?" That's played by the real professionals. It is played a month after the other "Bowl Games" are completed but only after teams with a record of 8-8 or worse successfully navigate through the playoff season. PLEASE! I'm getting overloaded with bowl games. I think I'll hang my head over the toilet bowl and wretch over this wretched practice.

A little blogging music maestro.... anything but "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Only Two Sevens Left

Whoop De-Doo

Although I'm not a numerologist we assign certain to numbers in our society. The number 13 is supposedly an unlucky one. There is even a term for the fear of anything 13, Triskaidekaphobia. Of course, anybody who lived through the 1960s and the drug culture had another meaning for the number 13. Since "M" is the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, the term "13" was code for marijuana.

Twenty one is used as the age of majority and is often considered to be lucky. I'm not sure of the reason. Perhaps because of a blackjack hand that totals 21 is a winner. Eighty-six is a term often used to throw out or get rid of. In restaurant parlance, "86 the corned beef" means that the supply of corned beef has been exhausted. However if you are in a bar and become too rambunctious, you might get "86ed" or thrown out of the bar. Other numbers have sexual innuendos assigned to them.

Three can be lucky or unlucky, but it is often associated with ultimatums - three strikes and you're out. But the third time is often the charm. Four is lucky - not because of the number itself, but only if it is associated with a clover. Clovers usually have three leaves so to find one with four leaves is not only an anomaly, it is considered to be lucky - not for the clover, though because it gets picked and often dried and squished between the pages of a dictionary or other very large book.

Who hasn't heard of "Lucky 7?" A jackpot that aligns 777 is generally the winner. With that in mind, the year that will soon end should have been a lucky year but there are many who will disagree about the state of good fortune in terms of the war in Iraq, the economy, and certainly the housing market. But regardless there remain just two more days counting today in the old year, so I guess that would be 7-7. Not a winner.

Eight is the year to which we look forward. In Chinese cultures 8 is considered to be a lucky number. Since the shape signifies infinity, other cultures also consider it to be lucky.

Until tomorrow, New Year's eve. While waiting perhaps I could get a little blogging music.... Maestro, do you know Meatloaf's "2 out of 3 Ain't Bad?"

Dr. Forgot

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Weekend Update

Catching up on Minutia

Who do buy? MGM sales of shares are those some buyers do buy. Sometimes the sales are as sweet as dew buy. Other times selling is what share owners do by. But a recent large purchase made the SEC and other gaming company watchers ask, "Are those the folks from Dubai who do buy MGM stocks?" The sentence might be a tongue twister but the purchase by Dubai investors of nearly half a billion dollars of MGM stock qualifies the investors for a seat on the MGM Board of Directors. That milestone came as a shock to many gaming insiders, not to mention some folks from Dubai where gaming is illegal. There is no truth to the rumor that MGM placed restrictions on the sale of their stock - such as the ability to spell MGM backwards.

Slip Sliding Away: The line from the once popular song, "The nearer you get to your destination the more you keep slip sliding away," seems to capture the sales figures of new home sales nationally as well as in Las Vegas. While new home sales locally are down more than 40% compared to the same month last year, housing prices have not taken that severe a fall. Although those numbers might convince so many Chicken Littles that not only sales but the sky is falling, there is another side to the coin. The only people who point out that a falling market presents opportunities for those in a position to buy seem to be economics professors.

Make it So: Remember Data in the old Star Trek series? He was the android who just wanted to be a real boy even more than Pinocchio. But sadly, unlike Pinocchio he remained a "droid." In several episodes of Star Trek Data wore a poker visor. A Trekkie bought the visor for 6 grand at an officially sanctioned auction. But when he tracked down the actor who played Data for a signature, the real life actor told the hapless collector it's a fake. I smell a lawsuit here.

All Things to All People - Not: Wal-Mart. The place where you can buy nearly anything from HDTVs to lunch no longer offers online movie downloads. As shocking as that might seem to the millions of Americans who are on the edge of their La-Z-Boys, folks who want to rent flix will have to try Netflix or one of its competitors. If Wal-Mart is your huckleberry for DVD rentals, I hope you're already stocked up for New Year's Eve. Otherwise you might be singing, "Should Auld old movies be forgot..."

Gimmee a Break: Tourism folks who talk about New Year's eve in Las Vegas predict that crowds will break 300,000 this year setting another attendance record. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority thinks that number will pump $ 212 million of non-gaming revenue into the economy. There are 10 new clubs in which to party hearty and few new rooms available but they're priced slightly higher than last year's. If you are a steely-eyed gambler you might wait until the last minute to see if the price drops - but if they all sell out you could be sleeping in your car.

Dr. Forgot

Friday, December 28, 2007

What's Happening New Years 2008?

Vegas Wins Hearts in Diamonds With Clubs

Last New Year's Eve celebration in Las Vegas saw well over a quarter million revelers singing, dancing, hugging, and kissing to gamble on a great 2007. This year the trains, planes, and automobiles promise to bring more than 300,000 to try to outdo last year. With all those folks in town, where's a body to party??? Two main public venues will be the Downtown Fremont Street Experience - a seven-block party that begins at Main Street under the dazzling Viva Vision light show canopy, and continues beyond Las Vegas Boulevard to Seventh Street. Two blocks have been added to last year's five-block venue. The intimate setting includes the front doors of the Golden Nugget, Golden Gate, Four Queens, Fitzgeralds, Plaza, and El Cortez and several casinos.

The other and much larger venue will be the famed Las Vegas Strip, which will be closed to motor traffic between Russel Road and Sahara Avenue, a distance of four miles. But most of the action will probably be from Flamingo Road to Spring Mountain - a bout a mile that includes Paris, Ballys, Bellagio, Caesars, Flamingo, Mirage, Treasure Island, Wynn, Venetian and it's new cousin scheduled for a soft opening this weekend, Palazzo.

But if your tastes on New Years eve favor clubbing several new ones join the fracas. The Palazzo boasts the 40/40 modeled after its sister club in NYC, the CatHouse and LAX at the Luxor, Planet Hollywood's Prive and Triq, Tryst or Blush at the Wynn, Body English at the Hard Rock, Jet at the Mirage, Pure at Caesars, Tao at the Venetian, Mix at Mandalay Bay, Rain, Moon, Playboy Club, and the Ghost Bar at the Palms, Risque at Paris, MGM's Tabu or Studio 54, and Tangerine at the TI (Treasure Island). Did I miss something? Probably, but you've just got to be here to writhe in the ambiance.

Lest you feel worried that with all the action going on in the Clubs, girls getting Diamonds, and winning guys Hearts, that the Spades are absent suits in the casinos, fear not. As the revelers revel outside and the clubbers club inside, and tipsy couples exchange diamonds and hearts, spades will be dealt with the other suits in a business as usual fashion inside the Four Queens and all other casinos. The Big Wheel will keep on rolling and some gamblers will win - or lose the hard way.

After the fireworks are fired and all the booze has been imbibed (no bottles or cans allowed outside, thank you very much), and the revelers have all unraveled, and the sun is about to rise in the desert for the first time in 2008, the cleanup crew will traverse Fremont Street and the Strip and do an amazing job making both areas spic and span before the first wave of tourists stagger out of their beds. Tis a sight to behold. Only in Las Vegas.

A little blogging music Maestro... How about "Viva Las Vegas!"

Dr. Forgot

Thursday, December 27, 2007

We're Number One! (again)

Nineteen of 20... Not Bad

Ok, I admit it. Although I'm not a member of the Chamber of Commerce or on the board of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, I was bummed last year when I discovered that after a run of 19 consecutive years, Nevada had ceded the title of fastest growing state in the union. To Arizona, no less. Silver Staters felt stepped on, lied to, cheated on and treated like dirt. How could the census takers have given our long-held title away? Could they have missed somebody in the nation's fourth largest state? Perhaps a few aliens living in Area 51. However, this year, despite housing slowdowns and a near recession nationwide, the Valley of the Dollars and other areas of Nevada have regained the title. (add noisemakers here)

Between the two Julys - 06 and 07, Nevada's population grew at a rate of 2.9% to 2.5 million souls while the second place Arizonies grew at a paltry 2.8% according the Census Bureau. Nevadan's take this stuff seriously enough to plan a gaggle of Las Vegas resorts to open beginning in 2009. Even Ivana's ex - the guy with the funny hair has seen the light in the desert and is building a Tower to Trump all others. With the new building and the jobs they create new residents who will continue to flock to the Entertainment Capital should turn the housing slump upside down.

Let's talk for a minute about the so-called housing slump. Historically Las Vegas has had cheap housing, especially when compared to the Earthquake State to the west, reasonably-priced utilities, and decent wages. A couple of years ago housing prices started to boom. It was not unheard of for a development to begin selling homes based on a few models, and buyers selling the homes before they were completed at profits over six figures. Mortgage money flowed easily as "values" continued to increase. That brought in speculators who bought multiple houses with plans to "flip" them. And they did, until the bubble popped and the Ponzi scheme stopped with a few residents and many speculators holding the bag - uh mortgage.

But for resident homeowners of 5 years or more, many saw their home values double, triple, and more. Now that the big city pundits are bemoaning the great sub-prime debacle, they tell us that the average home has slipped in value about 6%, but in California, Phoenix, and Las Vegas the decline could exceed ten percent. HELLO!! It doesn't take a mathematics Phi Beta Kappa to figure that if your has house doubled or tripled in value, then loses 10% of that value, that fact does not send you directly to the soup kitchen without passing Go or collecting $ 200.00. The folks who are hurt are those who bought at the peak of the market - mostly speculators. Save your crying towels for those whose homes were destroyed by Katrina and those who did not have a 4-5 year run-up in prices.

What's the big deal with states such as Nevada, Texas, and Arizona growing in population while others such as Ohio, Michigan, and Rhode Island losing? Well for one thing, the U.S. House of Representatives and electoral votes can be affected. Texas will probably gain seats, Ohio will likely lose seats, and Nevada, Arizona and Utah may well grow enough to gain another. A little blogging music Maestro.... How about Barbara Streisand's "People."

Dr. Forgot

Kennywood Park

Long Ago and Far Away

I often write about the Valley of the Dollars as I call Las Vegas. But I grew up in another valley, one called the Monongahela Valley, or Mon Valley for short. The towns that lay along the Monongahela River from Pittsburgh south to Monongahela and beyond were collectively called the Mon Valley. Homestead, Braddock, Munhall, Duquesne, McKeesport, Glassport, Clairton, Elizabeth, Monongahela, Donora, and Monessen are among the Mon Valley - all steel towns that raged with open hearths and open hearts. Poles, Czechs, Slavs, Italians, Greeks, Russians, African-Americans, Irish, Anglos.... all worked side by side, attended schools together and played together. And at least once each year made the obligatory trip to Kennywood for the annual "Kennywood Picnic."

Kennywood Park is nestled on the edge of West Mifflin, just above the Monongahela River's Lock and Dam #2. It has been standing there for more than 100 years. It predates Disney World, Disneyland, Seven Flags, or any of the other major parks. Each year each community would have their "Day" at Kennywood. Tickets were presold at schools and a train was available to take kids from Clairton, in my case, To the Kennywood station. We'd trudge up a long hill then spend the day at the park riding the Pippin, Racer, and Jackrabbit roller coasters, pitching woo in the "Old Mill," or frightening the younger kids about snakes allegedly found there, rowing on the pond, etc. Each ethnic group also had its designated day at Kennywood. Italian Day, Slovak Day, Irish Day, etc. It was part of the culture of every kid who was lucky enough to grow up in the Mon Valley.

The steel industry began to fade in the 1970s and mills began to close in the 1980s but still family-owned Kennywood Park was a haven to the kids of the area. Through the 1990s and into the 21st century the area continues to struggle economically. Homes can be purchased for less than the price of a new car. Still, Kennywood, albeit a little faded, remains a haven to take the kids and get away, at least for a day, from those economic woes. The Steel industry might have gone overseas and foreign investments might have taken over many of the large businesses in the area, but at least Kennywood Park was still locally owned. NOT.

Kennywood Park was recently purchased by a Spanish firm that also purchased several other theme parks in the area. Quicker than you can say, "Potato Patch Fries," (a Kennywood staple) the bumper cars, merry-go-rounds, and Laugh-in-the-Dark added a Spanish accent.

The park was actually started in 1898 when the Monongehela Street Railway leased a picnic grove from Anthony Kenny. In 1902 Fredrick Ingersoll built one of the first figure-8 roller coasters at Kennywood and in 1906 two families, Henningers and McSwigans bought the park and the families owned it for more than 100 years. In 1910 a second roller coaster, the "Racer" was build at a cost of $ 50,000 and was the world's largest racing coaster at the time. The double dip Jack Rabbit and the other coasters at Kennywood became legendary.

Over the years the park has been updated. Swimming pools, Noah's Ark, dance halls, rides for romance, rides to scare you, and places to picnic are all standards of Kennywood. Multiple generations have enjoyed the park and taken children and grandchildren. As the community has grown and the bi-lingual immigrants have died off, the park has updated and changed. Whether the sale to a European company is simply another change, another upgrade, or a fiasco remains to be seen. But those of us who have enjoyed many a summer's day at the park will continue to treasure those memories.

A little blogging music, maestro.... How about the "Since I Don't Have You," by that old Pittsburgh group, Skyliners.

Dr. Forgot

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Morning After

Vegas After Christmas

Twas the day after Christmas,
And throughout the Strip,
All of the wise guys,
And their molls who were hip.

Walked through casinos,
And into the Malls,
Ignoring the Roulette Wheel,
And other games calls.

They hoped they'd find bargains,
Their glassed-eyes were bleary.
The girlfriends with no jewelery,
Were disgusted and teary.

Etc. etc. etc. There have been so many spinoffs on "The Night Before Christmas" that I thought I'd bring you up to speed on what things look like in Las Vegas the day after. And they look pretty much like Dubuque, Iowa or Winston-Salem, North Carolina, except for the leftover tourists who have not yet departed. That and the casinos and the buffets, and the all the things that make the Valley of the Dollars a unique place to live.

December used to be dead time in the old days. Shows went dark and performers went home to visit with their families. Then some clever marketer thought, "Why don't we take these slow times and bring in some action?" And before you could say, "Yippie Kai-o" the National Finals Rodeo moved from its cramped space in what New Yorkers call the Southwest, to the real Southwest. December has become the real cowboy month with pickup trucks and big belt buckles and lots of hats.

Years ago the December holidays would be used as a "thank you" for locals, especially cab drivers, culinary workers, and the people who make this giant carnival wheel turn. Hotels would provide comps, 2 for one shows, and many other perks and all you had to do is to prove you were a local. In fact, one year, the local school teachers were trying to decide who would represent them - the union or the teachers organization. The union brought in a university - the first ever besides UNLV, and the teachers organization cut deals with the hotels to comp teachers to food and beverages as well as shows. The result? Free food and shows won out over university credits.

This week the community is gearing up for the giant new year's eve celebration. Some 300,000 visitors will come from around the world to celebrate. Local legend says it is second in size only to that ball-dropping experience in New York, complete with fireworks, blocking off the Strip, back-to-back and belly-to-belly crowds, and lots of booze and entertainment.Let's all raise a cup in hopes that 2008 is a better year.

Are you ready for the blogging music maestro? No, I don't think it is too early to start to practice "Auld Lang Sayne."

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Who's Your Daddy,

"Mommy, Where Did I Come From?"

For decades America was described as a melting pot. More recently some have described it as a mixed salad bowl. Immigrants who were once courted in this country by the inscription on the Statue of Liberty are now often looked at with scorn, disdain, and suspicion. But are things really that different now than they were at the turn of the twentieth century when millions of immigrants left poverty for the opportunities available in the U.S.?

There has always been resistance to immigration. The Indians didn't want the first wave of English immigrants who didn't want the second wave of French, who didn't want the Germans who didn't want the Eastern Europeans, who didn't want the Asians who don't want the Hispanics. What a country!

Somehow each wave of immigrants was absorbed and by the third generation the offspring of often illiterate peasants became part of the mainstream with proper grammar usage and formal education and highly placed jobs. They had one other trait - they didn't want the next wave of immigrants.

After a couple of generations children and grandchildren often see the richness of the culture becoming homogenized. Grandchildren rarely speak what had been the first language in the childhood home of their parents and they begin to ask the eternal question, "Who am I and where did I come from." That question gives rise to the search for one's roots. Hence the popularity today among many non-hyphenated Americans of genealogical research. The first generation views themselves as natives of the country from which they emigrated. The second generation considers themselves hyphenated-Americans (Italian-Americans, Croatian-Americans, Mexican Americans, etc.) and the third generation simply sees themselves as Americans, albeit with surnames that are often difficult to spell.

The search for ones ancestors can be pursued with many resources, not the least of which is the internet. One of the best resources I've found is It is moderated by Robert Jerin. If part of your heritage is Croatian or Eastern European you will find a wealth of idea interchange. If you are not of Croatian origin you will find yummy recipes and scads of interesting facts. Other ethnicities have similar websites.

Somehow the nation will get past the current immigration flap. In a couple of generations the grandchildren of those who are the targets of angst will be among our most prominent and productive citizens, just as top notch entrepreneurs, sports figures, inventors, community leaders, etc. are descended from previous generations of immigrants. That's what makes this country great.

A little blogging music maestro... How about "What's Your Name" by Don and Juan?

Dr. Forgot

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Weekend Summary

Around the Horn

Psssst, Buddy, Wanna buy a house cheap?: Well they're at it again. Those folks who track the housing market are tracking Las Vegas and they tell us that housing prices are down as are sales of new and existing homes. So if you are tired of getting sleepy in your tepee, now would be a good time to lasso up a homestead. The news is not as bleak as the media and market trackers would have you believe, unless you're a speculator. Problem was that like the tech stock boom, housing prices in Las Vegas continued to get higher than a wino on Two-Buck Chuck. That led to speculators and flippers who moved from flipping fingers during road rage incidents to flipping houses in the hood. Then Crash! Bam! Alakazam! the bubble burst.

The above paragraph is for pessimists. Optimists see that thousands of new hotel rooms are coming on line within the next 24 months or so. A rule of thumb is that every room supports two and a half jobs. The population of Las Vegas has topped two million and is still making like the energizer bunny. My contrarian mind tells me that now would be a good time to either hold or buy but not sell. As Longtime Vegan Kenny Rodgers used to say, "You gotta know when to hold, know when to fold em. Know when to walk away and know when to run." Who'd a thunk Kenny would have been able to predict the future Las Vegas housing market?

Oh my. The economic sky is falling!: The headline in the local paper trumpets, "Jobless rate rises in month. Unemployment in November at highest level since May 2003." The item tells us that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose two tenths of a percentage point. I guess that is because all those elves will be laid off after Christmas toys are delivered. Hello! A five percent rate of unemployment means that 95 % of workers are working. But dadgum it, if you put it that way, it ain't news.

Caesars dealers get together: Some 560 dealers at Caesars Palace have decided to affiliate with a union of labor , not matrimonial. After all the years of Caesars dealers being sans union, what had been the impetus for organizing. I can name that tune in four letters - t-i-p-s. Another high end casino on the Strip changed the way the way dealers' tips would be distributed and shock waves rocked the paranoid work force. Can the same thing happen at Caesars? Depends who you ask. Executives say it has not ever been discussed. Union organizers say, "Liar, liar, pants on fire." Looks like for the moment at least, the organizers have won a hand.

Heat is on in Las Vegas: Premium gas in the Valley of the Dollars has become more expensive than bottled water. As prices of petrol continue to rise, some folks are actually paying attention to Al Gore's rantings about global warming and the need for renewable energy. Where better to tap solar energy than in Las Vegas where the sun shines 400 days per year (that's like giving 110%). A company that makes solar power equipment recently announced plans to do so among the casinos and the largest solar photovoltaic power plant in the country recently opened at your neighborhood air force base. So why aren't there more federal subsidies to encourage such clean industry? And why doesn't Nevada Power encourage locals to build and farm solar power for their homes? To quote Tevya from Fiddler on the Roof, "I'll tell you why! I don't know." Although ours is the perfect community for the next big musical, "Solar Panels on the Roof."

A little blogging music maestro.... how about, "The Heat is On."

Dr. Forgot

Friday, December 21, 2007

Like, Don't Never Say That

Are You Talkin' To ME?

I just read a piece in the local newspaper that talks about an unofficial political blog that endorses one political party. It matters not which party is being endorsed, the crux of the piece is that people, mostly immigrants, are using non-standard English in the blog. It included examples of poorly and grammatically incorrect copy in the blog. The blog expresses certain American values that supposedly include proper use of the English language but is written in a fashion that is anything but.

The author of the blog claims to represent a particular constituency and feels that her writing in non-standard or "broken" English is perfectly fine among those who would read the blog. The logical extension of the blog's author is that many immigrant American citizens do not speak standard English so they should be able to read the same in a blog and anybody who disagrees must be racist.

Good argument, but totally flawed. I grew up in an area, an era, and a community in which most people of my grandparents generation spoke a culturally rich version of fractured English. Some might call it pidgin English. In effect the language spoken was a mixture of terms and expression from their native language, mixed in with terms used in the trades in which they worked, and sprinkled with survival English (if you can order food and find the rest room, you speak survival English). Many of the immigrants were illiterate or borderline literate in both their first language and in English. Others were able to read daily newspapers, and other English printed material, even textbooks, but spoke with distinct language differences.

Hence, written and spoken English can be vastly different. The way one speaks, especially if one speaks in a non-standard fashion, does not necessarily reflect the way one writes or reads. Poor written English is poor written English. That's all there is to it. Further, with the advent of computers and word processing programs, no writer has an excuse for misspellings or grammatical errors, as spelling and grammar checks are as easy as moving a mouse or clicking a button.

In sum, writing professionally or academically in non-standard English, with misspellings or grammatical errors is simply not ok. I never got into e.e. cummings material style during the avant garde 1970s. If you wish to be a writer but your grammar and spelling is suspect, use the tools literally at your fingertips. If you wish to further streamline your writing, hire an editor. But never, EVER take the position that poor writing is somehow chic or clever. Amen.

A little blogging music maestro... anything but, "I Ain't Givin Up Nuthin."

Dr. Forgot

Vegas Update

All The News That's Fit to Blog

College Sports: UNLV has a football team. No, it really does. No kidding. Ok, so they've won about as many games in the past three years as you can count on one hand. And there is no truth to the rumor that the team has been invited to play in the prestigious post-season Toilet Bowl held each year in Flushing, New York. But Las Vegas does host a post-season Bowl. It is called the Las Vegas Bowl. How clever. Not the Silver Bowl (Las Vegas is the Silver State) or the Gambol, or even the Entertainment Capital of The World Bowl. But simply the Las Vegas Bowl. I guess that's more descriptive than the Poulin Weedeater Bowl.

Ticky Tacky Taxes: Nevada's governor has had a rough start. Even before the election he was charged with, shall we say, being less than discrete in his behavior toward a lady. At least it was a member of the opposite sex. But once elected the path has not gotten much smoother. He has had several run ins as the result of some of his decisions and appointments. The most recent hue and cry has com from his plan to cut public school funding. The fact that Nevada ranks 47th among per pupil spending aside, and despite his promises to not cut the budget for schools the good Governor dropping funding schools to an even lower level. I can hear the students shouting already, "We're Number Fifty-one!"

Education Honchos Earnings: Nevada's superintendents can earn salaries into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. College administrators can do even better. If 50 top administrators pool their salaries the total will exceed $ 10 million. Not too shabby but not the bottom line. Many also receive perquisites such as housing and car allowances and entertainment budgets. Perhaps they should pool their resources and buy a casino. Then they would be paying taxes, although some educators say not enough. Who do these high priced administrators think they are? Politicians?

Busted Homeless: Lots of down-on-their-luck and poor people live in Las Vegas as well as everywhere else. Often they apply for public benefits, government subsidized housing, and the like. Criminal background checks of applicants for benefits have been completed recently and a staggering 144 of 212 families living in federally underwritten housing were found to have criminal backgrounds. If the criminal backgrounds are found to include murder, rape, or arson, those in Section 8 housing will find themselves 86ed.

Hasta La Vista, Baby: It's all about the money. That is true in any business be it gaming or grocery stores. So when two Vons stores failed to measure up in Las Vegas, company owner Safeway shuttered them. A third Von's near Las Vegas High School will be closed at the end of the year. I guess those yummy school lunches kept kids from shopping at Vons. But Vons did open a store in Henderson recently which brings their total in the Valley of the Dollars to 22, which might bust if its a blackjack hand, but works out fine for the grocery chain.

Dr. Forgot

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Do Senior Coaches Ever Graduate?

Although some people find it difficult to believe, most college athletes do not major in eligibility. And even though there are jokes like the player who received his grade reports that showed 5 F grades and a D- in Music. He went to his coach to ask what he was doing wrong. The coach wrapped his arm around the players shoulders and said, "You're putting in too much time studying music." Despite the stereotypes coaches have spent the past couple of decades providing academic support services to help their players graduate and move on into the world.

Such is not the case with the coaches themselves. Despite the merry-go-round of fired coaches each year many emulate the battery-operated bunny and go on and on and on. One such long-in-the-tooth coach is Florida State's Bobby Bowden who has been in the business so long that he has children and perhaps even grandchildren who either have or could possibly coach against him.

But the Great Grandpa of college coaches is Penn State's JoePa, more formally known as Pennsylvania State University's Joe Paterno who has been coaching at the school for as many years as Heinz has varieties -57. Like the Energizer Bunny, he keeps going and going and going. He has nary a hint of gray on the pate and runs with the big dogs each day at practice. JoePa puts the "Happy" in Happy Valley. And, oh yes, today he also puts the "Happy" in Happy Birthday as he celebrates his 81st.

Here are some stats that are probably not found in the usual places: Coaches Bowden and Paterno have a combined 75 years of head coaching experience at their current schools. They also have 744 wins between them with Bowden holding a two game edge. During his 500 game career as a head coach, Paterno has coached in 34 bowl games. He is currently preparing his team for the Alamo Bowl in which they'll play Texas A&M. During the time since Paterno took the head position at PSU, A&M has had eight head coaches.

Why can't these coaches graduate and move on like their players do after five years or so? Perhaps one reason can be found in the story about the starting running back who failed his math class. His coach took him to the professor's office and pleaded for a retest so the player could play in the upcoming big game. The professor thought for a moment and said, "Ok, I'll give you a passing grade if you can tell me, quickly, what is 6X8?"

Without blinking the running back said, "48."

The coach responded, "Give him another chance!"

A little blogging music maestro... How about "Heartache By The Numbers?"

Dr. Forgot

Thursday, December 20, 2007

'Tis The Seasoning

Cooking Can Be a Crock

Mmmmmm-mmmmm Good: Only five days left for all of you folks who think saying "Happy Holidays" is somehow blasphemous. Talk about being sensitive. But regardless of your race, creed, or national origin, this is the time of year when aromas wafting through the air are of things sweet with sugar and spice. So let's do a little varying from our normal poking of fun and discuss meaningful stuff - like chocolate, cookies, appetizers, chocolate, breakfast, brunch, lunch, chocolate, dinner, chocolate, and the like.

Start your day with some of the favorite Christmas ornaments: meat balls, cheese balls, or pastry puffs. Be sure to complement the appetizers with a good portion of eggnog, cider or champagne while you still have room in your holiday tummy. We'll pick one... The problem with living in America is when it comes to food there are too many choices, and the more you move up the socio-economic ladder the more that become available. Maybe the good old days were so good because they were so much simpler. I guess my word of the season is, be a stocking stuffer, not a tummy stuffer.

You Betcha: Are we becoming a nation of wagerers? Or do we simply want the freedom to choose to do what we as adults want to do? Let's take internet gambling. The industry itself is pretty unregulated. So the feds placed a ban on it. A bill went before congress to repeal the ban. Attorneys General from 43 states have come out against the rollback of the ban. Five will get you ten that regardless of the outcome, somebody will make money on the outcome.

That's no jelly, it's a jam: Air traffic in many parts of the country has emulated the LA Freeways especially during the holidays. Mix in a dash of splash (rain) or a sprinkle of powder (snow) and the air traffic system comes tumbling down. LA freeways have meters on the on ramps to control traffic during rush hour and the air traffickers from the right coast have decided to emulate them. The sky will not be the limit at JFK, La Guardia, or Newark during holiday rush hours. After all, paths must remain clear for the fat man with a white beard and a red suit.

Plazas popping up all over: Speaking of Old York's newer relative, if it is unable to spread its cheer aboard as many planes as it would like it can still export lots of other items of recognition. The famed Plaza hotel is said to be planning a building spree around the country starting with the glitter and glamor of Las Vegas. The $ 5 billion Plaza project, of course, would boast the largest Strip casino and sit on the property of the Last Frontier, where a fledgling performer by the name of Ronald Reagan once entertained.

Kiss and make up: Finally, three internet giants have settled a federal charge that they permitted wagering ads on their respective platforms. Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google chipped in an ante of $ 31.5 million to stop the federal blackjack from conking them on the head. Of course, to listen to the giants response, none of them did anything wrong and they all voluntarily stopped doing whatever wasn't wrong.

A little blogging music to get us out of this olio, maestro... How about "Ain't Nothin' Like The Real Thing."

Dr. Forgot

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Believe it or Not

Anybody reading this who has an email address also has people who forward humor to them. Mostly they are jokes that we've heard starting in the seventh grade. Oh yes, there are also the virus warnings that supposedly came out yesterday and were on CNN. Sometimes they even include a note that says, "I checked this out on Snopes and it is really true. Send this to everyone you know..." Or the one about the child who has cancer and wants to get as many business cards as possible, or the one about a police officer who is warning you about "pre-verts," or even, I suppose, post-verts. Finally are the Darwin or Stella Awards, named after Stella something-or-other who burned herself at a McDonald's after dropping her hot coffee in her lap while driving. All of course are hoaxes. I often wonder what drives otherwise rational people to become so gullible when they receive email from somebody who received it from somebody that the recipient doesn't even know. Perhaps the more outlandish the story the more ready somebody is to believe it really is a good cause.

Well, this one is the real McCoy. Pull it up if you wish. It appeared in the Las Vegas Sun newspaper 12/19/07 and has been followed up on by several local radio and TV stations. Let me set the stage: Boulder City is a world away but in fact is just a few miles south of greater Las Vegas on the way to Arizona. Until not too many years ago Boulder City was dry - as in no liquor, and I believe it still observes a ban on gaming. The town was built to house the bosses and their families during the construction of the Hoover Dam and it is still pretty much a cultural company town. The raciest thing that exists is the sign that offers the "Best Hamburgers by a Dam Sight."

Residents are not jaded as they might be in the glitter and glamor of its sister cities to their north. They are more like Mayberry residents, or perhaps folks from Grinnell, Iowa. That is why this story is perfectly believeable to anybody in Southern Nevada who has ever gone to the Boulder City Art Fair, or otherwise spent time in BC.

It happened in the Boulder City AutoZone parking lot. Some legal tender, as in cash American money, started blowing around in the lot. A couple of BC residents chased down the errant cash and walked it back to the car to return it to the driver. Remember, folks, this is not New York, Chicago, or Miami. The finders, not keepers, even joked with the driver about winning a jackpot or looking for the bank's dye bomb in the bag. But the owner of the car was no Chatty Kathy. He scooped up the money and without a word peeled out of the parking lot.

"Odd," thought the resident who had just completed his good deed. So he copied down the car's Arizona license number and phoned the local peace officers who pulled the car over within a few blocks. The cash had come from the car's spare tire -over $ 500,000 worth. Air must be expensive in Arizona. Oh yes, the driver said he had no idea how the cash had gotten there - he had borrowed the car for his vacation. The coppers were born on a Tuesday, but not last Tuesday. The BC police will likely get a windfall. A little blogging music maestro... How about "Goin' To The Bank" by the Commodores? Don't know it? Well, anything by Johnny Paycheck will do.

Dr. Forgot

In Vegas Green Means More Than Money

Other Cities Green With Envy

Years ago I earned extra money by driving a taxi in Las Vegas and later a limousine. When people would get into my taxi or limo a couple of questions would fall from their lips. The first was always, "What is the secret to winning in Las Vegas?" To which I'd answer "Don't play." Fortunately for me and the economy of the town few if any ever heeded my suggestion. But I would follow up with, "See all those beautiful and glamorous buildings? How many do you think have been built as the result of tourists winning jackpots?"

Once it was determined that I did not hold the secret to their winning a bundle they would usually follow with, "Do you live here?" I usually ignored the urge to respond by saying that I really live in L.A. and fly in each day to drive this hack because of the retirement benefits, so I'd tell them that yes, I do live here and this is my second job. The follow up question then became, "Do you live near the Strip." And with that I"d give them my other pat answer, "No, I live in a regular community that you will probably not see during your visit. Ninety percent of the tourists see 10 percent of Las Vegas."

Times have changed since my cab and limo driving days and the population has increased in the Valley of the Dollars from about 150,000 to more than two million. But still probably 90 percent of the tourists see 10 percent of Las Vegas. They see what appears to be a huge waste of natural resources. Artificial lighting is practically everywhere and fountains abound spewing precious water like, well, water. But the lights on most buildings have evolved from energy wasting types to energy efficient and the water in the fountains and to water golf courses is non-potable water known as "gray water."

Las Vegas has made valiant efforts to "go green," and to be more ecologically efficient, led by the Las Vegas Valley Water District. The District has paid residents to give up their midwestern type lawns in favor of desert landscaping, limited watering days and times, and even built a Desert Demonstration Garden to show the kinds of beautiful flora that thrive in the desert.

Adjunct to the Garden is a newly opened meeting space in which local companies can learn how to hold ecoconscious meetings and appeal to national companies that wish to have their conventions and meetings in green surroundings. Nationally recognized convention industry spokespeople have given Las Vegas high marks for being on the cutting edge of going green. So the next time you have a meeting or convention to attend in Las Vegas, leave your green in the casinos and meet in a green environment. A little blogging music maestro...perhaps a little Tom Jones singing "Green Green Grass of Home."

Dr. Forgot

Now THAT'S the Spirit

Ho-Ho-Ho Yuk-Yuk

'Tis the season and that time of year to be merry and joyous, and have lots of fun. Although some grinches still do their road rage and people too often forget to do random acts of kindness, the Christmas season is a great time to try to remember to be joyous and jolly. BTW, women are almost always kinder than men with one glaring exception. Many is the time over the years that I've run into the super market for one or two items and all the lines are packed with people who have hundred dollar plus orders to check out. Almost without exception if I begin my two items to a cashier with a man shopper ahead of me he will say, "Go ahead of me." But if there is a woman with a big purchase order she will almost never do the same. Score one small victory for the guys.

But the best Holiday Season Celebration Award goes to some clever person at one Las Vegas Washington Mutual bank branch. Not sure if it was a creative guy or brilliant gal who thought up the promotion but they named it the "Goofiest, Most Unusual, or Otherwise Unwanted Holiday Gifts" promotion. The object was to get people to come to the bank, obviously, and bring in a gift as described above. The first 100 donors received a $ 100 in exchange for their "donation." Gifts exchanged ranged from a plastic pancreas (first donor) to a "World Champion Beer Drinker" trophy. Other gifts included the obligatory fruitcake and even a decorated bedpan. The gifts will be given to charity, although I"m not sure which charity organization will opt to take the pancreas. Kudos to the WAMU crew with a creative mind and great sense of humor.

That got us to thinking about other gifts that might be turned in by people in the news: many political candidates who had been less than discreet in their younger years might want to turn in their resumes. President Bush would have several gifts to choose from but might select the protocol he was given to follow after the Katrina disaster since he seems to be standing firm on Eye-rock. Hillary should keep her style consultant as they have done wonders for her appearance, but she might want to dump the campaign plan. Nevada's governor would probably be happy to dump the current tax structure that put the state in an $ 80 million shortfall, and Nevada's casinos would love to get rid of the plan to raise gaming taxes.

Others throughout history might simply want to take back words they've said, like the construction boss building the tower Pisa who said, "Let's just cheat a little on the cement. Who will know?" Or the genius at ford who said, "We really need another model. Let's call it Edsel." Or even the spotter on the Titanic who said, "No, stupid! That isn't an iceberg, its just fog." Even some of Santa's reindeer might want to change their positions on the sleigh - aside from Rudolph, all the others have the same view! A little blogging music maestro... how about "I'm Gettin' Nothin' For Christmas."

Dr. Forgot

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Weekend Summary

Say Ahhhhhh Sh*#

Dox Outfoxed: In a recent post we told you about abuse of J-1 doctors. They are doctors who are in the US on a special visa which qualifies them for a green card in exchange for working in areas of the state that are medically at risk. Seems like their masters, uh, I mean sponsors, who had total control over their lives during the two year period found ways to cheat and overwork them. And like so many other immigrants who fear being expelled from the country, the Docs just took it. The Las Vegas Sun newspaper exposed the scam, it was investigated and guess what? The abusers escaped any punishment. Chalk up another "typical politician" move.

More on Politics: The hottest soap opera includes Oprah, Rude Rudy, and plenty of other wannabe presidential candidates. Not so sure it was a good idea to start campaigning so far in advance. Several shining stars have fizzled and "Who the Heck is Huck?" has surpassed Huck Finn in popularity. Hill might have said, "Oh Hell when America's most popular woman said, "Oh... BAM!" Mitt has pulled out his kit to try to repair religious bigotry and the pundits seem to have said to the cigarette company whacker, "Sorry Charlie." Finally, it looks like it takes something other than a deep voice, a cute wife, and comparisons to an ex-Teflon president to score enough points to matter in this race. Who knows? Maybe next year will be "Happy Newt Year."

Ride the 'Roids: A recent announcement by the baseball head honcho that steroids are (gasp) being used by pro athletes is shocking. In fact, it is about as shocking as the head detective's reaction in "Casablanca" when told that illegal activities might be going on in his city. Hey guys, teeny tiny players who could not hit the ball past the pitchers mound suddenly became home run sluggers. And the media blamed it on, what? Balls being 'juiced?" Seems like the players were juiced, and I don't mean a mixture of orange and grapefruit. Here's a clue: when everyday guys and gals start recklessly breaking records, somebody has to make them pee in a bottle for more than marijuana testing.

And Finally for a while: We are taking a short trip to the earthquake state. You know, the place where San Andreas once said, "That's not my fault." Our posts will resume next Tuesday. In the meantime, maestro, how about a few lines of "I'll be seeing you..."

Dr. Forgot

Friday, December 14, 2007

Las Vegas Happenings

Snippets of Events

Ride 'em Cowboy: Plenty of goings on to celebrate the Valley of the Dollars this week. Pickup trucks have replaced limos as the primary means of transport among attendees of the National Finals Rodeo events. Of course, bucking broncos, Brahma bulls, and bareback steeds are among the means of transportation inside the Thomas and Mack Center, although some of the rides have been briefer than the cowboys had hoped. Wearers of huge silver belt buckles and their posses will have pumped more than fifty million smackeroos into the local economy during their stay. Yeeee-haw!

Palazzo Lallapalooza: One thing hotels and casinos do really really well is market. "Marketing idea of the season" goes to the Las Vegas Sands Corp. that decided to merge swinging hips with rose hips and enter a float for their Palazzo Hotel in this year's January Rose Parade. Never heard of the Palazzo hotel you say? That's why it is so brilliant! The $ 1.8 billion hotel will announce its opening to 40 million television viewers who watch the parade. The float will also show off the Palazzo's sister hotel, the Las Vegas Venetian. A brilliant idea by any other name doth smell as sweet.

Teaching is Taxing: Everybody knows that teachers are overworked and underpaid. Nowhere is that so evident as in Las Vegas. Reading, writing, and 'rithmatic may be taught to the tune of the hickory stick, but teachers need salary to pay for their cups of joe and celery. Each school year starts with thousands of teaching positions absent licensed teachers in large part due to poor salaries. The teacher's union did its homework and decided the gaming industry had not contributed its fair share of taxes. It hopes to send a discipline slip to the voters that will increase gaming taxes to pay for education.

Casino Execs Disrupt Classes: In junior high school many a fight has been started by talking about somebody's mother. In Nevada, fights start by talking about raising gaming taxes. Several big guns who collectively are building $ 14 billion worth of new resorts have told the teachers union, "Don't paddle my canoe." They are willing to write 100 times on the chalkboard, "We will not pay higher gaming taxes." The proposed 3% increase is not the new math gamers want to calculate. They want educators to look for the jackpot in another classroom.

Las Vegas Sings "O Solar Mio:" The Valley of the Dollars boasts more than 350 sunny days per year yet it continues to use the falling levels of the Colorado River, Hoover Dam, and Lake Mead as its primary source of energy. That's where the water turns the turbines that create electricity. With all the sun shining over the valley, developing solar energy resources seems to be a no-brainer. That's exactly what the solar company Ausra of Palo Alto, CA thought when it decided to build a huge solar thermal assembly plant in Las Vegas. The company makes solar power collectors. Las Vegas has as much solar power as anywhere else.

With that we will end today's blog. Maestro, how about a little blogging music.... lets do, "You Are My Sunshine."

Dr. Forgot

Height of Stupid

Merry Christmas, Grinch

Americans have always treated their soldiers with love and respect. Even though many wars were unpopular among some camps, we have always agreed that the soldiers were not the ones to blame, protests in the 1960s being the exception. It is old fat men who send young fit soldiers to war. Such is the case with the warmongers who reside in Washington today and who, using phony evidence, put so many of our nation's finest at risk. The current administration has a laundry list of gaffes, errors, omissions and commissions that would far exceed the amount of space allotted here - from disappearing WMDs to "Mission Accomplished," to the Axis of Evil, the bumblers in office have continued to place innocents in harms way.

The harm that has been caused will not end for generations - that is how long it will take your children, grandchildren, and their children to pay for the middle east fiasco. Those soldiers who have avoided death and returned home carry physical and emotional scars that will remain with them for life. It is nearly impossible to calculate the damage done to humankind in the form of physical and mental cost because of the incapacities of injured soldiers. This war is not being faught by professional soldiers but by citizen soldiers who have been ripped from their often productive jobs and returned as near-hollow images of their former selves. It is the common person who suffers, not the fat and pompous asses who send the young people to fight.

Despite the goofs and faux pas by the administration the average American has found many ways to support their troops. Organizations celebrate the soldiers when they leave and when they return (at least for those who are able to return in something other than a coffin). Yellow ribbons grace neighborhood trees, families are given moral support by communities and cards and letters of encouragement and hope are sent to soldiers serving overseas. Such concern is important to members of the armed forces, especially at times of the year that are considered family times such as the Christmas holiday season.

A Texas woman decided to send Christmas cards to soldiers who had been wounded. She did not have anybody in particular in mind, just a "thank you" and well wishes to those who had sacrificed in military service. She addressed her cards to any American soldier. But she was stifled. Seems that mail sent to unnamed or anonymous soldiers is forbidden lest some crank send one that is offensive. Huh?

Add one more "Humbug" to those in charge - the same folks who criticize war opponents as being unpatriotic prohibit those who have been wounded in combat from getting well wishes. Fear is a great tool to control the masses. The current administration are masters of doing so. But this instance is just one more incidence of "Stupid is as stupid does."

Dr Forgot

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Uplifting Towards a New Low

Nadir of All Game Shows

Something about game shows has always fascinated me. Not the ones that test intellectual ability or even trivia knowledge, but the shows that reward inane, silly, and asinine behavior. The outgrowth of shows where people dress outrageously has been the so-called "reality shows," in which people demonstrate behaviors that are designed to shock and awe. But just because it is not my cup of humiliation does not mean that many others feel the same. Those shows consistently get high ratings - the more outlandish and self-deprecating, the better the ratings.

Just when I thought it could not get any more depraved or sick, a new competition debuted in Las Vegas. The object of the show is for contestants to qualify for free breast implants. The show is called, "Boobs or Bust 2: Go Big or Go Home." The contest, such as it was, took place at the Jet nightclub inside the Mirage. The contest featured has-been and wanna-be celebrities to get the hype going.

The "game" is played by providing funny money, which is called "boob bucks" to "gentlemen" in bottle-service booths inside the club. These guys are low end high rollers who pay $ 600 for a bottle of booze and consider themselves what in the old days would be called "the cat's meow." The 50 or so contestants become as flirtatious as possible in order to secure as many bucks as possible. The one with the most bucks at the end of the game wins a $ 5,000 "enhancement."

The game is as old as mankind. Women audition for men in hopes of attracting enough attention to turn his wiles into a long term relationship - but in this case, "long term" lies in the eyes - or chest - of the beholder. The contest continues until the very wee hours of the morning when three potential winners move to center stage to count the bucks secured from the bucks. A winner is declared, takes the check and giggles her way offstage. Only in Las Vegas? Maybe so, maybe not, but I'm not sure such a game show would play in Peoria. Ok maestro, do the first fer lines from "Money... The best things in life are free, but you can leave them to the birds and bees, I want money....."

Dr. Forgot

Aussies Get Canned In Vegas

A Crown in the Can

Las Vegas continues to be invaded by immigrants. Just as many local companies decided to try their luck in the new, hot Asian market, a group from Australia called Crown, Ltd. made a nearly $ 2 billion purchase of the Cannery Casino Resorts. The purchase caught many locals and Vegas watchers a bit off guard as the Cannery recently topped off construction on its newest casino on Boulder Highway, the former Nevada Palace. The Cannery casino opened a few years ago in North Las Vegas, adding to plethora of successful off-Strip neighborhood casinos in the Valley of the Dollars. Shortly thereafter the management team took over operations at the mucho upscale J.W. Marriott casino in Summerlin. The same group is also building a casino next to the Meadows Race Track outside Pittsburgh scheduled to open in 2009.

The fellows from the land of kangaroos are jumping with joy. They have been trying to enter the US gaming market for some time and apparently found their entry with the deal. No word yet on whether they will put a shrimp on the barbie in Cannery restaurants but the outback boys seem to be ecstatic over the deal which will take an estimated 18 months to fully consummate.

The announced deal will not be completed immediately. Gaming licenses must be obtained in Nevada and Pennsylvania. Crown is no stranger to the resort and gaming business. They have a couple of high class joints on their home turf as well as part ownership in casinos in Macau, Canada, and the United Kingdom. But the Cannery and J.W. Marriott casinos will clearly be the Crown jewels.

We predict that the deal will not only bring thunder from Down Under, it will bring marketing of Aussies to Las Vegas in order to gamble in "their" casinos. Crown owner, billionaire James Packer has a bloodline whose DNA runs deep in Las Vegas. His papa was a well known high roller on the Strip. Legend has it that Papa Koala Bear once walked away from the MGM Grand with nearly $ 40 million in winnings over several days. Junior of course plans to be on the other side of the casino cage. A little blogging music maestro... how about "Pennies From Heaven?"

Dr. Forgot

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Who The Hell is Harvey Hyde?

The Trojan Knows

In the early 1980s UNLV was looking for a head football coach. Yes, UNLV does play football - think Randall Cunningham, Ickey Woods, Keenan McCardell, Charles Dimry... A coach named Harvey Hyde was identified. He had been the very successful head football coach at Pasadena City College but was virtually unknown in Las Vegas. Local fans would have settled for, oh, Vince Lombardi or even Mike Ditka but the football program at the time was barely a dozen years old and had just begun playing at the Division I level. Harvey Hyde was the choice. It turned out to be not such a bad choice. After an initial losing season he took the Rebels to their first Division I post season bowl game.

Years have passed and Harvey Hyde's tenure as a head football coach is but a memory but he still graces the radio waves as a sports talk pundit. He does pregame shows for USC as well as a post-game show. Today I was his guest on one of his shows along with engineer/sidekick Chris Engler and as always topics were varied and controversial. Questions arose such as, "Did Bobby Petrino show disloyalty to by bolting from the Falcons after less than a full season? (No - he probably made the right move scooting back to the Arkansas and the college level). Will Les Miles skip from LSU and go to Michigan after the bowl game? (No, the average pay for head coaches in the Big 10 is roughly half that of head coaches in the SEC). Why do high visibility players such as Mike Vick get into trouble? (See my post of a few days ago on that topic).

The topic of sports is one that gets people interested and passionate. When a college administrator once asked why athletes received scholarships to go to college a grizzled coach responded, "Because 60,000 screaming fans will not pay to see a math off." Nearly everybody who ever attended college has a warm place in their heart for the old scarlet and silver, or blue and gold, or whatever the school colors may have been. Sports allows the alumnus of long ago to stay active in their school's activities if only tangentially. Rumor has it, for example, that there are more California judges from USC than any other school. Hmmmm, I wonder if that is why OJ.... but that's another story.

So Hail to the Victors, On Wisconsin, dot the i in Ohio, and ride the Oklahoma wagon celebrate your band effecting the outcome of the game. A little blogging music maestro.... How about "Be True to Your School."

Dr. Forgot

Fickle Gamblers

Kiss, Kiss, Bye - Bye

Gamblers are a fickle lot, not unlike other consumers. Many pine for the good old days even though others say the good old days are old, but were not as good as the legends purport. Stories abound of the relationship between gamblers and casino owners. One in particular tells of a high roller (they were not called whales in those days) who gambled away all his money. In those days there were no cell phones nor ATMs, which may have been a good thing for the habitual gambler. But, as the story goes, the casino owner put his arm around the shoulder of the drunken busted high roller, comped him dinner, and paid for his return airline ticket. Those little things endeared players to casinos just as surely as bonus points and free samples endear high spenders today to upscale stores today.

But make no mistake. If a shopper finds a better deal elsewhere s/he will scamper there faster than you can say, "customer loyalty." As corporate stores replaced mom and pop stores it became easier for individuals to shop elsewhere without feeling guilty. Ditto casinos. Just as Howard Hughes might have run the mob out of Las Vegas casinos, so have corporations run out the individual owner for the most part. That put the gambler one step farther away from the casino owner and customer loyalty took a hit.

Further encouraging the fickle gambler to take his business elsewhere was the opening of casino gambling in New Jersey. No longer was a four hour plane ride required to pull a handle or double down. The Las Vegas casinos moaned a bit but continued to reinvent themselves by offering other attractions and making the Vegas experience even grander. But another setback in the life occurred as Indian casinos began to compete for the gaming dollar. Still, shows and top name performers as well as new, even grander hotels, broader-based events, and conventions again reinvented the Vegas experience as visitor numbers continued to climb.

New Jersey didn't follow the Las Vegas model of continuous review and reinvention and as has Las Vegas and find themselves in the midst of a fall in gaming revenue. As betting and slot parlors open in New York and Pennsylvania, gamblers find it no longer necessary to fight the traffic to get to Atlantic City. Those staying away are some of New Jersey's best customers. The result is that for 10 of the last 11 months revenue has fallen.

Gaming has more competitors than ever. Internet gaming as well as some sort of games of chance available in 48 states offer plenty of choices. No longer are a handful of establishments the only games in town. A little blogging music maestro.... "Don't it make my brown eyes blue..."

Dr. Forgot

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Abuse and Exploitation of Immigrants

Still They Come

Las Vegas has grown by the tens of thousands of new residents over the past decade. In 19 out of the past 20 years the Valley of the Dollars has been the fastest growing community in the US. From a sleepy little desert town whose claim to fame was that it served as a pit stop between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles the area has grown to a population of two million. Nearly all the newcomers are from other localities and many are from outside US borders. That's the way its always been. As immigration becomes an issue throughout the country it continues to be an issue locally and statewide.

One group of immigrants has recently become more vocal about immigrant abuse and exploitation. They come here to offer whatever skills they might possess in an effort to make the Valley a better place. They work hard and ask little in return but many find themselves being taken advantage of because of their hard work ethic and their immigration status. Employers often force the immigrants to work many hours beyond what is considered a normal workweek, cheat them out of pay and threaten them with deportation if they dare complain. The immigrants, for the most part suffer in silence and work the long hours in hopes of someday overcoming their immigration status. One day perhaps they could earn a coveted green card or become citizens of the United States and practice their trade without such harsh oversight and conditions.

By now you as a reader should have formed a visual of the hapless immigrants who toil under conditions cited above. What type of work are they doing that is so demanding? There is not a landscaper among them, nor a maid nor a bricklayer nor a construction worker, nor any similar tradesman. The group which I describe does not hail from Latin America for the most part but from India. They are highly educated in the best universities as physicians, surgeons, and other medical personnel. And they have come to America to practice under a federally sponsored immigration program called J-1 Medical Doctor Approval Waiver.

J-1 doctors are subject to a requirement under section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to return to their last country of residence for two years before becoming eligible for the H1B permanent residence (green card). Waivers from the two year residency requirement can be obtained by doctors who agree to work for an employer under a government sponsored program. Doctors must agree to serve in medically undeserved rural and urban areas. A recent investigation by a local newspaper revealed that some doctors were overworked, underpaid and assigned to clinics in areas that were not undeserved - all of which is in violation of state guidelines and federal law.

One doctor who complained said his employer took advantage of his immigration status to financially cheat him then threatened to have the doctor and his family deported if he did not agree to extend his employment contract and guarantee a loan to finance the clinic in which he worked. Information gathered in the investigation resulted in further investigations by state officials.

Of the 55 or so doctors currently in the midst of working toward the J-1 waiver it is difficult to find many who will overtly complain for fear of damaging their immigration status. Such is the power wielded over them by employers. Even doctors who have obtained their green cards and received the J-1 waiver are reluctant to speak, especially in a public forum for fear of professional reprisals.

This country was built by immigrants. Those who accept the lowliest jobs perhaps can find some solace in the fact that some of the same issues they have faced are encountered by the most educated, able, and professional immigrants. Lou Dobbs, where are you when we need you?

Dr. Forgot

You Can Take the Player Out of the City...

But Can You Take the City Out of the Player?

The sentencing of Michael Vick in the animal abuse case has given rise to many many hours of discussion by sports pundits, most of whom come from middle class white backgrounds. That does not mean that the pundits do not have a perspective on the issue, after all, one can write about a hanging without first having experienced it. They just don't have the same perspective as an inner city kid.Hollywood and television have had a history of showing things as they think the public will pay to watch them rather than how they really are. This is certainly evident in sports.

In most "Friday Night Lights" type shows, the football hero is a rich white boy. Sometimes he is a white boy from the wrong side of the tracks - father is a drunk, mother is an abuse victim, etc. But the fact is that most gladiators are poor, and in the case of basketball and especially football, minority. College coaches comb the inner cities for tough young men who can run fast and are willing to sacrifice their bodies in exchange for a college education (what the coaches will tell you) or "a chance to play on Sunday," (what the players will tell you).

When you think about it, football is a sport in which one must sacrifice his body. What else does a poor, inner-city kid have of more value than his or her body. The poor youngster is more willing to trade that body for a chance to move up the social and financial ladder than is the middle or upper class kid regardless of race, creed, or national origin.

During my stint working with college athletes I saw many phenomena, one of which is described above - the poor, undereducated, usually minority lad with a strong body is given an opportunity to raise himself socially, academically, and financially. And although most inner city schools do not pride themselves on generating Rhodes scholars, students from such schools may be behind because of having gone through a school that is likely an academic wasteland, but nearly every one is intellectually capable of earning a college degree. So why don't more do so?

The earlier a child in our society is identified with potential star athletic ability, the sooner he is fawned over, given perks and breaks not available to his peers, and the more time is spent developing his athletic abilities and not requiring him to develop his academic abilities. So the economically deprived inner city kid often enters college on scholarship but without comparable academic grooming that has gone into grooming of his athletic abilities. He is much more likely to drop out than his non-recruited peer even with the help academic support services.

A second issue that is often difficult to overcome is his loyalty to his culture - meaning his extended family and peers who were with him during the years of his teen development and often do not value a college degree. Such bonds that usually begin in childhood or junior high school are often lifelong bonds of love and loyalty. To the peers the scholarship football player becomes an up and coming star, and if he is fortunate enough to make it to the professional ranks, his old high school buddies become his "posse" or his "home boys," fawning over him and often becoming his "advisers." For they gain wealth and status by associating with their childhood buddy.

The problem is that even though the professional athlete has been schooled in the proprieties of society, his posse has a different frame of reference - inner city survival abilities and values often coupled with newfound wealth and with bonds just as strong, and in some cases stronger, than the athlete's fear of legal consequences. It is a recipe for the failure of the wealthy young athlete to grow and become a model in society.

Some professional athletes are strong enough to divorce themselves from the issues that place a drain on them and place them in harms way. Others are able to turn aside and ignore the problem, often supporting family, friends, and hangers on financially but keeping their distance. And others succumb to the pressures and make a mess of their lives.

One other issue with the young, unsophisticated males who come into huge sums of money through their athletic prowess is a syndrome similar to that of lottery winners. They are preyed upon by scammers, beggars, and many other parasites who wish to separate a portion of the wealth from the host. But in the case of high visibility athletes, the wealth makes them more obvious targets for not only parasites but thieves who would do them harm for money. Such was the case in the recent fatal shooting of a football player in Florida.

Some athletes have taken to sequestering themselves inside guarded homes. They have come full circle - from being behind walls in fear of their safety as a youngster, and protecting themselves with guns and vicious dogs due to extreme poverty, to hiding behind gates and protecting themselves with guns and vicious dogs and fences due to extreme opulence that comes with financial success. It is a sad commentary.

Dr. Forgot

Monday, December 10, 2007

Green With Envy

Green Peace or Eco War?

The latest fad in.... well, everything is to "go green." While nobody ever comes out and defines exactly what going green means, Cheeseheads feel they've been doing whatever it is that needs to be done by naming their team Green Bay Packers. Others who either manufacture or market goods have seized on the green machine to tout their products over those that are not green, which I suppose are orange like carrots or red like tomatoes, unless of course, the tomatoes are presented fried and green.

Although we have not yet heard an updated version of a holiday classic that croons, "I'm dreaming of a Green Christmas...." merchants are hoping to rake in as much green as possible by selling items dubbed green or eco-friendly. As you will recall, last year's holiday sales, despite a strong black Friday, left many manufacturers in the red and merchants feeling a bit green around the gills. In an effort to resist feeling blue this year they have decided to go green. They hope the switch does not leave them with a scarlet face.

The green marketing campaign was not started on a whim. A recent poll by a major marketing agency reported that nine out of ten Americans considered themselves "conscious consumers," which supposedly translates into potential customers who sit at home and watch reruns of Green Acres or listen on their old time radio to tales of the Green Hornet. Merchants who have hopped on the green trolley hope that their robust sales make their fellow merchants green with envy.

Some of the green marketing comes from the store with an orange logo - Home Depot, which currently offers a line called Eco Options that offers stuff to make your house more environmentally friendly. Target, Wal-Mart, and Barney's of New York are just a few of the chains that have decided to take up the cause of spending green cash on eco-friendly stuff to make a white Christmas. Outdoor LCD lights that use 80% less energy and car manufacturers selling hybrids that use less gasoline are but a few examples of going green.

Nature has its own level of color consciousness. A blackberry (the fruit, not the phone) is red when its green. As for my contribution to the movement I'll drive over to Bowling Green and spend the afternoon aiming for the putting green. A little blogging music maestro... no, not "Red Roses for a Blue Lady," how about a few bars of "Greensleeves."

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Vegas Justice

Dis-Order in the Court(house)

The Las Vegas judicial system is like every other judicial system in the US - overworked, overburdened, and overwhelmed. Despite the national coverage when OJ Simpson was recently charged the average alleged lawbreaker has to wait his or her turn for justice. Two years ago a brand new Regional Justice Center was opened at a cost of $ 185 million and the old courthouse was cast aside like a deserted ex-wife. Here come 'da judge but there aren't enough courtrooms.

Some years ago I saw a play titled "Hot L Baltimore." The setting was a once-proud dilapidated old fleabag hotel. In its heyday the neon sign proudly announced "Hotel Baltimore," but as the building went to seed so did the neon sign's letter "e" in Hotel. Although not done in neon, such is the case with the sign in the old courthouse that reads, "Eighth Judicia District Court."

The problem is that as the population of Las Vegas continues to grow at a pace of five to six thousand newbies per month, (the Valley just surpassed the 2-million mark) services of all types including legal services are needed. The new judicial digs have not yet celebrated birthday #2 and are already bursting at the seams like Baby Huey. The wheels of justice got fresh grease but they're moving as slow as ever.

The new place is not exactly Mayberry size. The Center is more than 711,000 square feet (that number is sooooo Vegas) and stands 18 floors. (Why not 21 floors in keeping with the Las Vegas theme?) But it seems the space has crapped out and those who are being tried are stacked up tighter than a dealers 4 deck shoe. In a little more than a year six new District Court judges are scheduled to be added to the docket. Getting a prompt court date looks to be harder than making 12 straight passes on the craps table.

Here's an idea: Las Vegas loves to tout itself as a 24-hour town. Casinos, hotels, restaurants, clubs, gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, and even convenience stores are open 24/7. Want a quart of milk at 3 a.m.? No problem. Want to dance the night away until the sun comes up and later then go out for breakfast? You've got plenty of choices. Taxis and buses are at your beck and call any time. No blue laws or last calls at local watering holes. So why not make the court system available around the clock? Police are already on the job day and night. Why not judges and lawyers?

Utilizing the courthouses more efficiently will at least double the availability of courtrooms without adding a single one. It may be an idea whose time has come. How about a little blogging music maestro. Can you do a few bars of "Rock Around the Clock?"

Dr. Forgot

Ocean's 14

7-7-7 Busted!

Those of a certain age can remember the Rat Pack in Las Vegas, Sammy, Frank, Deano and the boys hung out at the old Sands, now just a memory where the Venetian now stands. Local legend has it that Frank got a little too rambunctious one night and was slugged by a Sands floorman. Not sure of the veracity of the story but over the years I've med probably a dozen local who claim to have been related to the floorman. He must have had a big family.

The Rat Pack was highly popular during the heady days of Las Vegas and they made a movie about a group of slick players who robbed a Las Vegas hotel. The movie was called Ocean's 11 and became a cult hit for Las Vegas visitors. Decades later the movie was remade followed by sequels Ocean's 12 and Ocean's 13. Recently a real life happening has occurred which, were it a movie, would be called Ocean's 14. Of course this one is not nearly as romantic as the others. Nobody breaks into a vault. Julia Roberts doesn't flash any skin, and neither Frank Sinatra nor George Clooney are around to make teens and middle aged housewives swoon.

In the old days slot machines ate coins and spit them out when jackpots were won. In the interest of progress, however, machines are still able to eat coins, as well as dollars and chits issued by the casinos, but they only pay out paper tickets that must then be cashed in. It is not clear if the slot machines get indigestion by not being able to pass their coins when jackpots are hit but casinos save lots of coins by not having to pay change persons and others to attend the machines and pay jackpots that exceed the number of coins held by a machine.

In the real version a group of high tech computer nerds who were employed by the casino to work the slots were able to manipulate software in slot machines to print out phony jackpot payouts on tickets. Confederates posed as customers and cashed the tickets in. Gaming regulators estimate the thefts have gone on for more than a year and one hotel had been taken for more than a million.

Unlike the movie version the crooks were caught. At least one has pled guilty and agreed to pay restitution. But locals take this robbing the casinos stuff very seriously. Felony theft carries a maximum prison sentence of ten years in the hoosegow. It is estimated that casinos lose about six percent of their revenue to in house crooks. If you are considering trying to break the casino with a scheme, be careful, you just might end up doing hard time. A little blogging music maestro... how about "Jailhouse Rock."

Dr. Forgot

Friday, December 7, 2007

Well Buck My Bronco

Events For You, Buckaroo
A quarter century ago the weeks preceding Christmas were pretty quiet round about the Valley of the Dollars. Showrooms were dark. Entertainers left town to be with their families, and folks who would mosey on down to the casino any other time of the year would stay home or go somewhere else. Then some dude who probably drove a pick-em up truck got an idea how to change all that. A delegation from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority ambled on down to the headquarters of the National Finals Rodeo (NFR), sashayed into the offices and sat a spell with the head honchos of the NFR. Those dudes had a problem - the annual Rodeo Finale was getting too big for its Oklahoma britches. Brahmas and little dogies needed more room, not to mention the crowd that had to be shoehorned into the arena.
When they left the headquarters, the hindquarters of all the participants - cowboys, cattle, and conventioneers had a 10-year deal to saddle up their ponies in Las Vegas. The deal has been extended and for the past 23 years what had been nigh a ghost town in December saw thousands of people and millions of dollars pour into the winter economy.
The rodeo crowd is a great one. Cowboys have this way of talking straight. No fancy jawing or whistling Dixie, they say what they mean and mean what they say. And lots of those buckaroos and buckarettes who come to watch the Rodeo Finals sit high on their wallets. If you think bluejeans and shirts that snap are low-end clothing, you have not seen the outfits at the NFR. The past 22 years of hosting the event has brought an estimated $ 650 million to local coffers. Not too shabby for two weeks that used to be as lively as a graveyard on New Years morning.
The town changes its outfit for the rodeofiles just as quickly and completely as the Convention Center changes its motif for each convention. The main venue is where UNLV basketball plays its home games, which are, of course, never played during these two weeks. Hotels bring in entertainment that is far less hip-hop and lots more country and western. Mechanical bulls are brought into bars. There is even a Cowboy Christmas Show that is sort of like a swap meet but with nearly all products having a cowboy theme - hat blockers, boot shiners, western clothing and art for sale, etc. The entire ambiance of what is glitter and tinsel based for 50 weeks out of the year brings Las Vegas back to its old time western roots.
Participants vie for cash prizes in the tens of thousands of dollars. The entire rodeo is worth $ 5.5 million, and that ain't hay. So if you mosey on up to Las Vegas this week don't fret if all you see are big ole belt buckles, jeans, and rhinestone-studded denim jackets. Pardner, this is the 2007 National Finals Rodeo. How about a little blogging music maestro-dude.... do ya' know "Don't Fence Me In?"
Dr. Forgot

In the Spirit of Las Vegas

Two Streets, 160 Pages
This blog goes to lots of places but usually keeps its Las Vegas and timely events theme. Las Vegas has become a haven for not only gamblers, those who love entertainment, fun seekers, and shoppers. In 1980 I attended the grand opening of the Fashion Show Mall. Anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Nieman Marcus, and Robinsons, it was a shoppers paradise like none other in our town. Since that time its next door neighbor, the Frontier, has become rubble, Across the street the Desert Inn disappeared and was replaced by Wynn Las Vegas, caddy corner the Sands was literally blown away and replaced by the Venetian, and on the remaining corner the Mirage replaced the Castaways and a few years later the Mirage parking lot gave way to Treasure Island (TI). Throughout the Fashion Show changed her clothes regularly to keep up with the times and she remains as glamorous as she ever was.
Last night while attending a function at Nieman Marcus inside the Fashion Show I picked up Jen Worthington's new book, In the Spirit of Las Vegas." Its 160 pages present an overview of the birth and growth of the Valley of the Dollars both with text and photos. The author follows a time line from the earliest settlers in the valley to the boom of the downtown area and subsequent booms both in downtown Glitter Gulch and later on the Strip. The photos range from nostalgic to avant guard and include several classics including the famous "floating craps game" photo in the Sands swimming pool. The book is a good read for locals as well as tourists as well as a feast for the eyes.
Las Vegas is often considered a town without history, save Ben "Bugsy" Siegel whose legendary building of the Flamingo Hotel and his subsequent demise as the result of cost overruns and the hotels poor performance after its grand opening. But many gems of history exist. An early example is the Hollywood power couple of Rex Bell and Clara Bow who bout a ranch in Searchlight, a slice of desert in the farthest southern corner of the state. They had a son, Rex Bell, Jr, who grew up to be a Notre Dame football player and booster of the UNLV athletic program as well as the local District Attorney.
The little village of Searchlight must have had something in its water because it spawned other prominent Las Vegans including a poor kid who literally fought his way through college (as a boxer) to become a local politician and the go on to Washington to become one of the country's most powerful senators - Majority leader Harry Reid.
Not all prominent Las Vegans were home grown. Steve Wynn parlayed a leveraged grub stake to buy the faded downtown Golden Nugget which he rebuilt into a downtown gem, sold it, and with creative financing built the Mirage then the TI, the Bellagio, and finally Wynn Las Vegas. Kirk Kirkorian has his fingerprint on several Strip hotels and of course the Howard Hughes story is legendary. Las Vegas has been described in various ways, some accurate, some not. But Jen Worthington got it right when she described it as, "The spectacle of brilliance and innovation."
A little traveling music maestro.... how about "Viva Las Vegas."
Dr. Forgot

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Send Immigrants Back

Charges of Racism
Immigration problems exist in Las Vegas as in many parts of the United States but some of the local natives recently spoke out passionately at a rally. The feds were called in and patiently listened to all arguments. They got an earful. More than 200 people attended the rally and it was clear that the locals had made their voices heard - immigrants are causing problems now and have been causing problems for decades in the area. Charges of racism and the government's right to make decisions in the matter were discussed but the message rang clear - "those people came here uninvited, many illegally, and they continue to cause problems." Now they are trying to use the federal government to force their right to be here and enjoy the kinds of activities to which they feel entitled. One of the leaders even accused the others of racism.
The setting for this rally was of course Las Vegas and the topic was whether or not the federal government should be permitted to bury some 77,000 tons of nuclear waste deep underground in Yucca Mountain, just north of Las Vegas. The immigrants who want to place the poison near the Valley of the Dollars are people who have come from other places with their nuclear waste. They want to use Nevada and Yucca Mountain as a garbage dump but many locals are fighting the move. Among them are the real locals - members of the Western Shoshone Nation who have lived in the area long before the white, black, brown, and yellow immigrants arrived in the desert.
The Western Shoshone were not asked to provide input on the proposed dump site and that caused their leader to hurl angry words at the planners.Western Shoshone Nation Council member Ian Zabarte spoke, "Transportation of waste to Yucca Mountain would place a disproportionate burden on the Western Shoshone Nation. It is environmental racism.
"Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman countered claims that the waste material was not harmful. "If it is as safe as we're told it is, let it stay where it presently exists."
Nuclear waste is generated from a number of sources. In the process of making nuclear power and military applications, toxic waste is created. The federal government has proposed dumping all that waste in a big hole in the ground dug under Yucca Mountain. The current administration has been trying to bulldoze this plan through since they first got into office but Nevadans have been able to stave off their efforts thus far. Perhaps the theory is that Nevada is mostly desert so it must be wasteland. Perhaps they feel that since LAs Vegas has neon glowing all night, another glow from Yucca will complement the view. Whatever the logic of the Beltway Boys, Nevada's native sons and daughters will continue the fight to keep the nation's toxic trash at arms length.. A little blogging music maestro.... how about "Light My Fire."
Dr. Forgot

Stand Up and Be Counted

Millions, Billions, Zillions

Las Vegas is growing up, out, and every other way. When I arrived in our fair city in the 1960s vestiges of the mob still operated in the town (which many old timers will tell you was not all bad), rain was rare but gully washers (floods after summer rains) were common occurrence when the 3.75" annual rainfall fell, and the two tallest structures were probably the Mint downtown and the Dunes, both of which boasted "Top of the ..." restaurants. A sign at the city limits announced the population as 152,000.

Let me clarify that when locals say Las Vegas they usually mean greater Las Vegas which includes Clark County. Few non-Vegans realize that the city of Las Vegas ends before the Strip begins. The Sahara Hotel, which is the first hotel on the "Strip" actually resides not in the city of Las Vegas but in Clark County. Although the city has grown over the years in size, county commissioners have strongly resisted the city's entreaties to merge the two entities. In the early 1970s Las Vegas City Police which sported fancy blue and white cruisers merged with the County Sheriff police force to become Las Vegas Metropolitan police and adopted their more traditional black and white prowlers. City and county fire departments remain independent.

Greater Las Vegas includes the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, Mesquite, and several smaller villages as well as plenty of unincorporated land. Why the geography lesson? Greater Las Vegas reached a milestone of surpassing 2,000,000 residents. As recently as 1980 the area boasted only a half million permanent residents.

Consistent growth has mixed blessings. The good news is that since 1981 the economy has been in a growth mode every year. That means more taxes paid and lots of people making lots of money while other parts of the country saw slowdowns. The bad news is the infra structure that has struggled to keep up and outguess where development would take place. But it is fascinating to track the growth of the Las Vegas Strip hotels. Before the area reached the one million mark the Mirage opened (1989) followed by Excalibur (1990), Luxor, Treasure Island and MGM Grand (1993).

The boom continued with the opening of the Monte Carlo (1996), New York New York (1997) Mandalay Bay, Paris, and The Venetian (1999) and the Wynn (2005). They built it and they did come - not only tourists (39 million last year alone) but those who came for work and did not leave. Each new hotel room that was built brought seven new jobs and 14 new residents. The pace made Las Vegas the fastest growing area in the nation 19 out of the past 20 years.

Other facts and changes include the billions of dollars put it into flood control to tame the gully washers, usually successfully, two billion dollars to build 285 miles of pipeline to bring more water to the valley, five billion dollars to build streets and highways, and opening the equivalent of one new school each month over the past couple of decades. Locals used to describe Las Vegas as, "Big city, small town." Much of that has changed since more than 50% of todays population did not live here thirteen years ago.

Entertainment on the Strip has changed too. Live music in showrooms is pretty much gone, a victim of cutbacks, name entertainers have given way to variety shows, and Lido, perhaps the variety show that started it all in the 1950s is gone as its host hotel the Stardust - which is now all dust awaiting a new even more grand edifice to replace it.

The rate of growth might have changed and some housing might be overpriced at the moment, but latest reports say that new residents still arrive at a rate of 5,000 per month. You've gotta love it. How about a little blogging music maestro.... how about "Runaway."

Dr. Forgot

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Leaded? Unleaded? Bull Chip

Gambling Can Be Hazardous

Anybody who has seen The Godfather or any of its 2,000 sequels, or anybody who has watched Tony Soprano knows what happens to guys who welsh on their gambling debts. Their lives become, well, hazardous. You know, a guy named Guido or Jelly, or Fatso, or some other musical sounding name either beats the poor sap to a pulp or worse. Those kinds of retributions, so we are told, only happen in the movies but now gamblers have one more thing to worry about - tainted chips.

Years ago some bright entrepreneur had a brilliant idea to make potato chips in Las Vegas and call them "Vegas Chips." They weren't bad as potato chips go but they must not have been that good either because the company went belly up. No horses head, no kiss on the cheek, just poor business practices. Still those aren't the chips that we refer to here. According to an Arizona reporter, there might be gold in them thar hills in Arizona and silver in Nevada mines, but dad gummit, there's lead in the gaming chips. And we're not just talking any old tiddly-wink chips here but the Paulson chips made by Gaming Partners International, the largest chip makers in the world. Their chips might not be as well known as those once made by Famous Amos, but they are used as a means of exchange in virtually every casino in Nevada and most outside the state, not to mention home games and others. Up to 20 million chips are minted each year according to the report.

Word has spread through the gossip channels faster than a 777 jackpot. Some dealers are reportedly terrified that they have been handling lead tainted chips for years. Could this be a plot to get the lead back to China by sending leaded chips to Asian casinos? Could it be the beginning of a new advertising plan by the group that brought us "What Happens in Las Vegas....?" How about "Better Red than Lead." Or could this be all just part of the plan to frighten American citizens take our minds off Iraq?

Yes, exposing the public to unhealthy levels of lead is serious, but we have seen so many Chicken Little "The Sky is Falling" instances that we can't help being a bit skeptical. Gaming Partners International denies that its products are unsafe and experts say the chances of being harmed by handling leaded chips is remote. Whether the response is the beginning of damage control or the real deal remains to be seen, but to some dealers and their union reps, company responses are going over like a lead balloon.

Just exactly what components are mixed to make the chips is as closely guarded secret as the Nieman Marcus chocolate chip cookie recipe. While most in the casino business admit to some lead in the chips, they say that the amount of lead in the secret ingredients has been reduced substantially. Still the two sides are like two chips passing in the night.

If you want to make a safe wager, bet on the fact that gaming will continue, chips will continue to be used, and some hillbilly in Mississippi will find a lawyer willing to sue the chip makers for millions. But I don't see this as a storyline for a Julia Roberts movie. Gaming Partners International will continue to be a blue chip stock, and the debate will cause no harm to the Chippendales. A little blogging music maestro... remember "Chip, chip chipping away?"

Dr. Forgot