30 May, 2011

Vegas: architecture

Much of the architecture in and around Las Vegas is stunning, for a variety of reasons. And given the magnitude of the spectacle, it's incredibly easy to miss the people who help make Las Vegas what it is. Here are some construction folks working on what appears to be a building fa├žade.
Pedestrians stand on an outdoor escalator as they gaze upward at the Veer Towers in the afternoon sun.
Sun transitions to shadow within one of a multitude of open-centered tents at the Las Vegas Premium Outlets, North.
The well-polished floor and a reflecting pool complete the reflection of a large Dior window display, on the lower level of the Crystals shopping center.
The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health appears through a bus window on the way to the outlet mall. The striking resemblance to MIT's Stata Center is no coincidence; both this building and that were designed by well-known architect Frank Gehry.

28 May, 2011

This is Stan

I'm a bit strapped for time, so here's a blast from the past. This is Stan in his Christmas garb, as seen in early December, 2008. In his free time, Stan tries to eat the flamingoes that constantly stalk him.

25 May, 2011

Care for some tea?

Stopped by the Blue Front Cafe this weekend with a friend. They had a varied assortment of teapots, teas, and flavored syrups hung on the wall in an arrangement I thought looked pretty nifty.

24 May, 2011

Vegas: smoke

I was surprised by the prevalence of smoking in Vegas; it's one of the only places I've been in recent memory that allowed and encouraged smoking everywhere — near as I could tell, there were no designated smoking or non-smoking areas.
Spotted this woman while we were walking along the Strip toward CVS.
And this one after walking outside of The Venetian after dinner at Bouchon.
There were a variety of street musicians and performers playing near pedestrian walkways, and many of them were smoking as well.
This was perhaps the most curious case. I'll forgo any attempts to interpret what's going on here.

23 May, 2011

Roughhousing

I love craftsmanship. I grew up watching Norm Abram turn carpentry into magic on "This Old House" and "The New Yankee Workshop," and witnessing my dad and his friends try to use some of the same tricks on our own homes.

Around the same time, I would spend hours in our basement, sticking an assortment of copper pipe-fittings together like Legos, pulling them apart, and then doing it all over again. I would sometimes wonder if maybe, just maybe, Dad might show me how to solder them together like I had seen done on TV, so that water might finally flow through my contorted masterpiece.

Those days are long gone now, but the passion remains. I try to spot the skill and the craftsmanship in everything I see, and when I can, I try to capture it in a photo. This is in part what led to the Roadwork series from 2 years ago (Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.)

So it was touching and slightly upsetting when I read Mike Rowe's testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The crux of his argument was that America's single-minded fixation on four-year college educations has created a stigma for educational paths leading toward skilled workmanship.

So with that said, here are a few of the under-appreciated craftsmen of our world.
Office construction. At times, the floors literally move beneath you while you're trying to get things done. I was amazed at how thoroughly and efficiently these workers were able to build a tunnel of plastic one evening to contain the dust as they removed temporary walls from the building.

The teamwork was also impressive: two people did the tape on the ceiling, while another two maneuvered the large plastic sheet into place. In the picture above, they were working to seal the edges with tape to prevent dust from leaking past the sides.
Here, a man prepares to run a section of a tree stump into a truck bed to be hauled away. If hauling heavy objects with a wheelbarrow were like to learning to ride a bicycle, this might be akin to carving corners on a steep descent — once you know what you're doing, it's reasonably straightforward, but it can take a lot of practice and confidence to be able to do it consistently.
John (far right), a homeless person, points as he explains part of the design for a mural he's working on, "Finding Home." Though still under construction when I took this photo last June, the mural was already listed as the fourth stop on Philadelphia's Mural Mile. Unlike the other murals on the list, however, John mentioned that many of the people helping to construct this one were homeless, and that the mural sat in an alleyway leading to one of the city's homeless shelters.

20 May, 2011

Vegas: service

Vegas seemed like a culture built on service. The variety of service-people was amazing, and I was also struck by their sheer abundance.
As mentioned in one of the prior posts about Vegas, we took a shuttle from the airport to our hotel. The driver offered a couple tales of the histories of various hotels we passed on our way to Aria, the very last stop on the ride. Above, the driver is seen in the rear-view mirror as he takes a right-turn to pass a hotel under renovation.
This was in the lobby to the Bellagio; the butterfly atrium was off to the right, behind this wall. I really liked the juxtaposition of the man's posture and red coat next to the large red painting; both hanging there, waiting...
Note only was there an abundance of people watching and waiting, I was surprised at how many of them were wearing an inconspicuous earpiece like this guard (I presume) at the entrance of a jewelry shop. It made me wonder if there were really that serious of a constant threat of theft or other liability, or if there were some other motivation behind it.
And another, also with the earpiece. These are pillars of ice on the right. The cores are chilled, so they form interesting shapes as they very slowly melt in the ambient-temperature air. I was taking photos of the reflection of this fascinating wooden structure in the distance when the man left his post to come over and stand off to the left here.

I wasn't sure why he had approached or what was happening, so I kept shooting. Eventually, a custodian came over to wipe up a small puddle of water that had spilled from the reflecting pool. Who needs "Wet Floor" signs when you have an abundance of people?
The custodians were also ubiquitous. Whereas the guard-type people stood and watched, the custodians were basically always on the move. As a city that never sleeps, Las Vegas also happened to be a city that never stays clean for long, and these folks seemed to be constantly on the march to maintain that cleanliness as much as possible.
It seemed that most of the people whose primary role was to interact with people were those employed by the casinos and hotels. Here, one of the people in the lobby of our hotel, Aria, offers an expedited check-out service where guests can view and approve their bill from an iPad, at which point a paper copy of the bill and receipt is sent by email.

19 May, 2011

Prep

Took a photo at dinner tonight, where the chefs were doing prep for one of tomorrow's meals.

17 May, 2011

Vegas: family

Given the reputation that Vegas has attained as a furtive playground for lascivious party animals, I was somewhat surprised at the number of families who were also there.
Many of the ones I noticed were in or around the Bellagio hotel. This bride and groom, trailed by their photographer, were walking around and clearly trying to find picturesque backdrops for wedding photos. I ran into them a couple different times. Above, they walk out of the Bellagio lobby and into the heat of the midday sun.
When I spotted this pair, the child was kneeling on the ground in the middle of the Bellagio lobby, oblivious to passersby, and was writing something on a sheet of paper as the woman watched over.
This is a moving walkway, near where I spotted the father/son silhouette from a few days ago. The people were headed away from the Bellagio as I was being whisked toward it.
This boy was fast asleep as his mom waited for a bus to ferry them along the strip.

16 May, 2011

Vegas: Bouchon Bistro

During a recent trip to Las Vegas, I and the folks I visited with had dinner at Bouchon Bistro, a French-style restaurant. Owner Thomas Keller writes an interesting description: "A Bouchon can be, and should be, whatever you need it to be. It's a casual place, a social place, a place where people come to relax talk and to eat. A kind of home."
The restaurant served us rolls that were somewhat reminiscent of a prickly pear cactus, in how each successive roll seemed to grow from the top of the prior one. They were warm and delicious.
One of the other people ordered a steak, but the thing that struck me most about the plate was the non-serrated steak knife.
Given that it was a French-style restaurant, I ended up ordering a croque madame, one of a variety of foods I had learned about years ago while I was learning French. It was surprisingly filling, given the size, and I didn't come anywhere close to finishing the mountain of pommes frites.

15 May, 2011

Autocross, it's been awhile

The last time I went autocrossing, it was still the year 2010. So yesterday, May 14th, I finally drove down to Marina Municipal Airport to hang out and practice some good 'ol car control with the Golden Gate Chapter of the BMWCCA.
The GGC events manage to combine a laid-back attitude with a consistent atmosphere of safety. Here, Praneil Prasad waits before waving car 12 (far left) from the pre-grid to the start line.
Ovidiu Predescu spins so much he could be a DJ. In just one example of why he's attained this reputation, Ovidiu gets a little tail-happy during one of the slaloms in yesterday's course. As another driver put it, "You're not driving hard enough unless the rollover protection deploys."

13 May, 2011

Vegas: silhouettes

Las Vegas is a city in a desert. The midday sun beats down through a cloudless sky, but the harsh shadows can make for interesting silhouettes.

Also, apologies for the posting delay. Blogger had some issues between yesterday and today.
A boy holding a model plane sits on his father's shoulders as the two head down an escalator in the direction of the Bellagio hotel.
A waitress walks outside at the PBR Rock Bar and Grill, where we had lunch on Thursday.

11 May, 2011

Vegas: some more people

I explored Vegas with some other folks. Here are a few more of them.
During another of our regroups, Eric whiled away the time by playing some Angry Birds Rio on his Xoom tablet.
We had dinner Thursday evening at Bouchon, a French-style restaurant housed in the Venetian hotel. Here, Xia has some tea during dinner.
Guang makes a face before diving into his seafood platter.
People split into smaller activity groups for Friday afternoon. Above, Emily (left, reflected) and Tsu (right) look out of a bus window as we ride it to the outlet mall at the end of the line.

10 May, 2011

Vegas: some people

I explored Vegas with some other folks. Here are a few of them.
Rajni watches a bleak construction site slide past our window in the glaring midday sun. After we got off the jet at LAS, we took a shuttle to our hotel; little did we know that we had inadvertently signed up for the "scenic" route. At the end of our trip, taking taxis back to the airport was both much cheaper and much faster.
This is Tommy. We would typically regroup in one of the hotel rooms before heading out as a group. Different people had different pastimes as we waited; some played games; some talked; others took photos (*cough*).
Another regroup, another portrait. This is Emily, trip-planner extraordinaire.
Another regroup, another portrait. Eric was optimistically hopeful for the outcome of Friday's championship match between the San Jose Sharks and the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately for the Sharks, that apparently wasn't enough.

09 May, 2011

Vegas: an experiment

Howdy, all. So, my purpose for this blog is to tell stories; to provide photos with context in a way that allows y'all to connect with the subject of the photo, even if it might not be apparent from the photo alone exactly what's going on.

Over the past year or two, I've been struggling to figure out a sustainable way to do posts quickly after an event happens, with context for every photo, and without burning myself out in the process. With these goals in mind, I came up with the following experiment:

I'll post at least one photo every day. Each photo will have some kind of caption, and if there are multiple photos on a given day, the photos will share some common theme. On the other hand, a single theme may persist across multiple days.
I nearly always take photos when I fly. It's been awhile since I came up with a decent self-portrait, but I think this one turned out well. This was SJC->LAS on a Southwest Airlines 737.

08 May, 2011

PAW: Ripple

A ripple appears in the stream of an overhead water arch, as seen in a butterfly-themed atrium of Las Vegas' Bellagio hotel.

03 May, 2011

Birthday

A day transpired recently which was a year after my most recent birthday. I walked around Menlo Park with some friends and took some photos.

During our jaunt, we stopped by Penzey's Spices. The store was large, open, and well-stocked. It had an old-timey feel and the light inside was fantastic. I managed to grab this photo of my friend Stephanie sampling one of Penzey's many selections.


On a wall just past Cafe Borrone, I spotted this oddly-done "Fire Dept" stencil. I was struck by the two different kinds of shadows — one instantaneous, the other from long ago. I found the persistence of the stencil's shadow to be slightly reminiscent of the persistent human shadows which occurred after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.


We passed through a farmer's market a few blocks off of El Camino Real, in the parking lot behind Penzey's. We were fairly late — many of the proprietors had already departed, and others were starting to pack up — and the high noon sun beat down on everyone.

This young fellow didn't seem to notice, though. The awning of the stroller provided enough shade for what looks like a pretty comfortable nap.