jamesq: (Don Quixote)
When I was in Vancouver over Christmas, we ended up watching Three Amigos (with Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short). Steph mentioned that Martin and Short would occasionally go on tour with each other and hold a show that was basically a melange of comedy, music, and banjos.  Sounds like fun, I said.

Flash forward two months. Steph contacts me and says that they're doing a show in Las Vegas in July.  Hmm, I should be able to make that, I said.  Good, she says, because I've already bought you a ticket.

So I'm going to be in Vegas on July 23rd for that.  Why not plan a vacation around it?

I also really liked last year's road trip, aside from all the driving.  I wanted a vacation that combined Las Vegas with a road trip through the mountains, and time in Vancouver to reconnect.  The only problem is to do all that I'd either need to drive from Calgary to Vegas to Vancouver to Calgary (which given my don't-drive-more-than-six-hours-a-day rule, would take longer than I'm willing to do), or fly in and out of Vegas, then drive to and from Vancouver.  That wasn't ideal either.  What would be ideal would be to fly to Vegas, then fly to Vancouver, then drive to Calgary.  The only problem being that my car would be on the wrong side of that trip.

What I needed was someone willing to drive the car out there.  I was tempted to ask Gerry to do it, but I'd likely have to pay for his lodging as well.  I poked FB to see if anyone was headed that way who would be willing and Wendy volunteered.  She's got a conference in Vancouver, and having a second car (she normally combines this with a family vacation) would help. Just provide me with gas money, she said. Sold!

So here's the tentative plan:

Pre-trip: Pack my folding bike (assuming I've received it in time, they're saying end-of-May now), my laptop (I'll do without it in Vegas because my electronics are none of the TSA's business), a mattress topper, and some extra clothing.  Then give Wendy the car.  This will likely be well prior to going to Vegas, so I'll have to do without my car the weekend before the trip.  Oh well, I have another bike, and car2go.

July 21-24: Vegas Baby! Plans so far include Martin and Short (of course), a Hall and Oates/Tears For Fears concert, the Pinball museum, and lots of gambling when I'm not in the same building as Steph.  We're staying at the Monte Carlo, unless I can get a sweetheart deal at the Cosmopolitan.

July 24-August 1: Vancouver. Grab a BnB, retrieve my car. Spend the small amount of overlap I have with Wendy/Ryan/Miss K to show them some of my favourite haunts.  Maybe some #DNDLive.  Other plans include fireworks on Saturday, andHarry Potter burlesque on Monday.  Hiking, exploring, thrifting, CYCLING.  Hell, maybe I'll daytrip into Victoria.

August 1-2: Penticton. Mostly this is because Penticton is halfway between Vancouver and Nelson.  Nelson really does need to be two hours further west. Or east, I'm not picky. Just close enough to make it an easy drive from Vancouver or Calgary.

August 2-5: Nelson. I'm hoping Rosie will join me for this part.  We'll see.  Fellow philosophers, you should join me for a pint in the Library.

August 5-6: Kimberley.  I've got an AirBnB all booked.

August 6: Home late on Sunday night, after spending an afternoon in Banff.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I decided to go to Las Vegas for my birthday. Or, more accurately, I decided to go see Postmodern Jukebox in concert in Vegas. The point of the trip was the concert, and I could have gone to another city (Chicago, say) just as easily. However, it had been a few years since I'd been to Las Vegas, and there were a few things I wanted to checkout aside from PMJ.

I booked a vacation package through Westjet that included decent flights (November 24th morning outbound and November 27th Evening inbound), and a room at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. I opted to upgrade my room to a one bedroom terrace, which was surprisingly inexpensive. For some reason, rooms have always been cheap in Vegas around my birthday (or as the Yanks call it, Thanksgiving).

Fun Fact, the Cosmopolitan does not have a 4th, 13th, of 40-49th floor. because superstition.
(My home away from home)

I normally don't need much in the way of a room. My requirements are basically a comfortable bed and a place to throw my stuff. However, one of the reasons why I choose a one bedroom suite was to entice my friends to come join me. If someone took me up on that, they'd have been able to skip the hotel room costs and just used a cot in the sitting area of the suite. No one took me up on that offer, though I'm confident several people thought seriously about it. Time and money did not line up though.

Almost all of City Centre is behind my tower - thats a lot of walking.
(The view south from my suite)

All that said, I really liked the room I got, even by myself, and I'd seriously consider getting it again in the future. The room was comfortable, roomy, had a nice soaker tub (allowing me to have my first bath in ages - fun fact, I have never had a bath in the house I've owned for twelve years), and the balcony was a nice treat. Just sitting outside enjoying a drink in the evening was a plus.

I could not see the fountains, unless I leaned over far enough to become a statistic.
(The view north from my suite)

Food

So I'm on Weight Watchers, and I've actually been following the program and losing weight. I decided that, while I wasn't going to be slavish to the program while I was away, I was going to go into the trip with a plan:

  1. My WW "week" ends on Thursday night and begins on Friday morning, So save all my bonus points from the week before for Thursday, and use all my bonus points for the next week right at the beginning, sticking within my daily points with no bonus after I return.
  2. Skip breakfast, since I was just going to sleep in anyway.
  3. No buffets.
  4. Two really good meals each day, from decent restaurants. If salad is a side option, choose it. As a wise woman once told me, salad may not be food, but it does help push the food through.
  5. One beer and one cocktails each day. I'm be by myself, so there's no reason to get drunk.
  6. No snacking between meals. I tend to pound back chocolates, treats, popcorn if I let myself.
As you can see, I wasn't a nightmare of deprivation. I figured while I wouldn't lose any weight, I wasn't going to gain any either.

I lost two pounds. And I wasn't hungry at all - I ate really well. So, some highlights:

  • Thursday lunch: The Earl of Sandwich's Holiday Turkey sandwich. It was American Thanksgiving after all. Plus I love that sandwich and only ever get to an EofS when I'm in Vegas.
  • Thursday supper: Holsteins at the Cosmopolitan. I had the Rising Sun burger. They also give free popcorn, which is one of those little flourishes that I love. Alas, I did not have one of their boozy milkshakes, which I imagine is one of those things you're supposed to do. Next time I'm there with a friend, we'll split one.
  • Friday lunch: Eggslut at the Cosmopolitan. The Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich. A really good take on one of the basics.
  • Friday supper: China Poblano at the Cosmopolitan. I opted for the tasting menu, which included a wide variety of the their menu. This was the best meal I had the whole trip. Highly recommended.
  • Saturday lunch: California Pizza Kitchen at the Park. These guys tried to kill me with kindness. First, they had that effusive service that I've noticed a lot of American restaurants have. Next, they had just opened, so they were trying to impress me. That meant free appetizers (bread/oil/vinegar, white corn guacamole and chips), that I didn't ask for in addition to the pizza (Sicilian) that was too big for me to finish. It worked, I recommended them on Facebook, and I'll recommend them to you, if you're in a social mood and in the neighbourhood.
  • Saturday supper: Culinary Dropout at the Hard Rock. Ribs. Very messy ribs.
  • Sunday Lunch: Left over pizza.
  • Sunday Supper: I returned to Holsteins for ahi sliders and a (non-alcoholic) milkshake.
  • Sunday's missed opportunity: I should have grabbed the fried rice from China Poblano for my flight home. I was going to, but changed my mind at the last minute. Naturally, there was no food service on my flight (it was bumpy enough that the pilot wouldn't let the flight attendants get out of their seats for an hour), and a guy two rows ahead of me had fried rice. Kicked myself there.
Pretty much everything I had was delicious. Holsteins is no better or worse than the other upscale burger joints. China Poblano was the stand out of all my meals.

Shows

I go to Vegas for the shows, and as I mentioned above, I went to see Postmodern Jukebox. That was on Saturday night. First, The Joint at the Hard Rock is a decent venue, and I had excellent seats, at least until the retired linebacker sat directly in front of me. This is probably some kind of seat karma since, I look like Shrek, and I've probably disturbed many a person's view in my lifetime. Mostly I just moved my head to the side, which no doubt caused a cascade of similar motions behind me.

And the show? It was a blast and I'm glad I went. The personal highlight was me white boy dancing to their version of My Heart Will Go On. Of note, I'm probably the only person - who is not a Celine Dion fan - that still loves that song. Don't judge me.



Mykal Kilgore, who sings the above version was the show's emcee. Scott Bradlee was there too, even though he doesn't really tour with the band. Best of all, Puddles made an appearance, and played Royals.

Stage full of talent.
(Postmodern Jukebox, during their encore)

Thursday night I went to see Pin Up with Claire Sinclair. I'm not sure how popular this show was, but I easily got half-price tickets (making the VIP section a mere $35), and the venue was maybe half full. I had a four-person table to myself about ten feet from the stage. Still, it was Thanksgiving Thursday, so I have no idea if that means more or less people than average.

The show was decent enough, but it's certainly no better than the other showgirl shows I've seen in Vegas (Jubilee, Fantasy, Crazy Horse Paris). Claire is certainly an attractive woman, and the four dancers were really good, but I think the show really belonged to Natalie, the singer. She's got a great set of pipes, and is certainly multi-talented. I wonder if she resents that she's holding up the show, and Ms. Sinclair gets top billing. Rounding out the show is the male side, one dancer, who does all the heavy lifting (literally), and a four piece band who played some fun retro tunes. There is no nudity - the closest is Claire in pasties and a thong - mostly the dancers are dressed in skimpy fashions from the forties to sixties, which is really the shows selling point. Note also, that Claire is only in about half the numbers. If you're looking for a more modern look, go see Fantasy. That said, I liked Pin Up, but I knew what I was getting before I paid for the ticket.

If you want some music, burlesque, singing, in an inexpensive venue, consider Pin Up. Join the Stratosphere's players club for half-off tickets first though.

Friday night I saw Jim Jefferies, the comic. If you've seen anything by him, it's probably his gun control routine. If you've seen anything more of him, you'll know he's ridiculously offensive. His last two shows are on Netflix. Check 'em out. But be aware, he's a little like a living Cards Against Humanity game - you will be offended. A lot of people walked out of the show.

Anyway, I really enjoyed it (right up until he went after Canadians - which I'll admit was spot on), and I think we got good value for our money. It's supposed to be a 90 minute show, but he was a wee bit drunk, and ended up going an hour over. I think the Mirage staff were a little pissed. He did a solid 30 minutes on the election/Trump, and it was really some stuff that I needed to hear. Politically, the world is still fucked - but it's nice to hear about it and laugh, rather than the huge amount of anger/frustration/worry I'd been having until then.

Miscellaneous

Went to the North Outlet mall and bought some clothing. This replaced the crappy clothing I deliberately abandoned in my hotel room.

I checked out the High Roller. That was fun, but try to get cheap tickets. It's basically a half an hour, once around, on a giant Ferris wheel, with a great view of the strip. I was there during the golden hour, so we got to see the sun set and the lights come on. Not a bad time to see it. I think, if I'm ever in Vegas with a big group again, we should try to do this and all get on the same car.

Going... up
(Before entering)

they should really simulcast the music over the PA system, rather than have us listen to the guy on the video
(View of the Bellagio fountains)

The benefit of riding during the golden hour
(Sunset from high above Las Vegas)

It lights up purr-ty
(after exiting)

I did a lot of gambling on this trip. First, because I enjoy it, and also because I collect chips. I checked out about seven casinos I'd never been to before. Luck was with me this time - I bet in the neighbourhood of $600 total (basically I staked $150/day), and overall I won $1100. Easily the best streak of good luck I've ever had. This paid for all my shows and meals.

Let the chips fall where they may
(A fraction of my winnings)

Conclusion

This was a good trip. It wasn't perfect - I could have stood with either a travelling companion and/or a bedroom companion, but that was not to be. It was a damn sight better than my last solo trip.

So why was this time better than that other time? I was just as alone, I did more-or-less the same things. The difference was that I wasn't sick as a dog, and not being sick as a dog, being alone wasn't triggering. I like not being triggered into a depression when I'm supposed to be having a good time. I came anticipating a good time, had a good time, and left happy and sated. That's the sign of a good vacation.

They do not care if you are a robot, they only care if your money is good.

So my burn out is gone, but I won't be back until I convince someone to go with me. That's been my habit the last few years: solo, group, solo, group... etc. I might drive down next summer. Take three weeks to go down to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, then back up the coast to Vancouver. Still very preliminary, but seems worth doing.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Since I've put it off so long, here is a brief report on my most recent trip to Las Vegas.

Lots of text and a few photos, so behind the cut it goes... )

A modified version of this post is available (with comments) on the Vegas Message Board.
jamesq: (Vegas)
Wow, it's been over a month since I blogged. I blame this on my utter despair over anything political right now. Thankfully I just came back from Vegas, giving me lots of grist for the mill!

Several months of planning went into this trip, and by planning, I mean nagging everyone I know to join me. Having had an earlier trip get whittled down from eight people to just me meant I knew that this was only going to go off if the stars were right and this time they were. Rounding out the trip was Brian, Tasha, Bruce, Allison and Melissa, the last being from the Windy City and everyone else coming from Cowtown.

Six people, six days, six times the fun... )
jamesq: (Vegas)
So we're going to Las Vegas. I managed to convince four other people to go. They, in turn, have convinced at least one other to go. I've also got two couples interested who might go if there is an alignment of time off, finances and the stars themselves.

Anyway, if you're interested, we're there over the Easter weekend and the week beyond. Specifically April 7th-12th. We're staying at the Bellagio, but you certainly don't have to. Plans for what we're actually doing are pretty vague at this point, but we're thinking the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender, Jubilee, mini golf, and of course, the usual assortment of booze and gaming!
jamesq: (Default)
Vegas planning continues. Since they cancelled my Love tickets I called them up to see if I could get any sort of deal on tickets. The seats are good, but they're not like the super-spectacular seats I got for Love. I tried telling my tale of woe to the operator to see if I could get some sort of deal, but she wasn't able to do anything that wasn't on her script. At least I managed to get the section I wanted, which is pretty much the only reason to talk to an operator rather than use the website to book.

Other possibilities include the Atomic Testing Museum, Crazy Horse Paris, the Price is Right, and Absinthe.

And hey, if you're interested in joining me, airfare/hotel prices for three days are still around $600.
jamesq: (Default)
I did my taxes yesterday. I owed an additional $4200. This has been paid and that chore is done for another year.

Before you go feeling sorry for this huge outlay in cash, I consider it a first-world problem (as they're coming to be known). The simple fact of the matter is that I wouldn't have to pay $4200 in additional taxes if I hadn't made an additional $12000 this year. I live in a country and have a job where that's possible, so I'm not going to complain about it too much. It adds a few months to my mortgage, but that's about all.

Still, I'm not going to Vancouver (or San Francisco) this weekend (unless I trip over an astonishing travel deal) - just can't afford it right now. I have a four-day weekend, so I might spend Friday or Monday in Banff - it depends on how I'm feeling that day.

This is a reminder that I'll be in Vancouver this summer though - that hasn't been canceled. Plans continue to be vague and ephemeral:
  • June 24 (F): travel to AT War.
  • June 25 (S): AT War - kick some archery ass.
  • June 26 (U): AT War - Pack up, say goodbye and drive to Vancouver.
  • June 27 (M): Fly to Vegas with [livejournal.com profile] stephtopia and anyone else I can talk into it. See Love again.
  • June 28 (T): Unspecified Vegas debauchery, possibly to include Absinthe (the show, not the drink).
  • June 29 (W): Gambling, drinking, whoring.
  • June 30 (R): I kind of want to see this or maybe this. Oh, and catch my flight back to Vancouver.
  • July 01 (F): Fireworks! Ale!
  • July 02 (S): Friends! Ale!
  • July 03 (U): Sushi! Ale!
  • July 04 (M): Friends! Sushi! Ale! Sadly no fireworks.
  • July 05 (T): Drive to Nelson, since I hear that's a decent place despite not being able to get a cup of coffee before 9 am.
  • July 06 (W): Drive to Calgary, possibly via Radium.
  • July 07 (R): Go to Dragonslayer site and help set up.
  • July 08 (F): Help with Dragonslayer.
  • July 09 (S): Help with Dragonslayer.
  • July 10 (U): Help clean up Dragonslayer.
All-in-all a super-busy and fun-filled vacation. I'm looking forward to it.
jamesq: (Default)
Regular readers know that I love to immerse myself into trip planning. If the trip doesn't go according to plan I don't mind (unless it's something important like missing flights or not having lodging). Before the trip, the planning is really just a fun activity.

T&A War is coming up soon. It's an event I find enjoyable, but a little too far away. To really enjoy it I need to at least take the Friday off or, better yet, combine the whole operation with a trip to Vancouver.

Except I find that a week in Vancouver is a little too long. Relaxing, yes, but I'd rather spend a long weekend there because that way I'll be able to actually visit my friends there. Luckily the weekend after T&A war is a long weekend.

But what to do with the days in between? Well, there's always Las Vegas. It would be midweek (June 27th - June 30th), which makes it remarkably cheap. Like $400-$600 per person cheap for airfare and a decent resort.

Anyone up for it?

I had a look at doing it with less driving: Namely convincing people to give me rides from Cowtown to the war, then from the war to Vancouver, then doing Vancouver first and Vegas last, using the Vegas trip as a three night layover in my flight home. It would have meant less time with friends, a lot of logistic difficulties and favours and the costs for the flights and rooms would skyrocket to over $1000.

The best plan is still to drive to Vancouver and back. This would be somewhat time-consuming, but since the trip out would be split up it wouldn't be so bad. I also have the option of taking an extra day coming back and using a different route (through Nelson for example).

Of course, all of this is contingent on T&A war actually being held. The date is reserved, but there is no event copy for it. If it's not held, I suddenly don't need a car at all.
jamesq: (Default)
They caught the Bellagio Bandit that I talked about back here. The biggest thing I got wrong in my analysis? I asserted that he was smarter then average, but thought he was smarter. I only got the second half of that right - turns out he's actually about as sharp as a sack of wet mice.
On Dec. 11, Carleo allegedly told the [poker] dealer he needed quick money and said, "Man, how easy would it be to rob a casino?"

The dealer told police Carleo dismissed the notion that it would be difficult, allegedly saying, "All you need is a black mask and a motorcycle, and I have a motorcycle."
Later, after the robbery, he went on a gambling spree at the Bellagio, proceeded to cash a bunch of those chips (any cash transaction over $10K in the states is tracked) despite having no means of income, and blabbed about it to people in person and on the net.
During subsequent talks on the phone and more e-mails — from cranberrykid25@yahoo.com, a reference to the color of the $25,000 chips, and signed "Biker Bandit" — Brooks told Bellagio investigators the subject allegedly confessed to the Bellagio robbery.
Source.

And to top it all off? The kid is the son of a Las Vegas Municipal Judge and allegedly owed $250K to the mob.

Clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
jamesq: (Default)
Another year has come and gone and I think, with hindsight, that it was a good one. Not a great year mind you, but certainly a serviceable one.

What would have made it better was achieving either of my two perennial goals. This didn't happen. However, I did succeed in not worrying about this quite so much. I caught a small amount of shit for this though because it's unacceptable in this culture to have anything but a full out, balls-to-the-walls, positive attitude.

Anyway, I'm over half-way through the Birthday-to-Valentine's-Suicide-Season without any depressive incidents (knock on wood), despite the fact that my physical, emotional and social shortcomings have not gone away.

So I'll continue to work at losing weight and hoping for a relationship to magically appear. Meanwhile I'll continue working on accepting that it's not going to happen. If acceptance means less depressive incidents, it will be well worth it. Doesn't mean I'm going to give up - the journey is the point after all, and what else am I doing with my time between now and death? Do more things to enjoy myself now, instead of waiting for a partner that will never come.

Weight-loss is the part I have control over anyway, and the benefits only go up with age. I've reached a point where my weight is starting to affect my health (I suspect I have obesity-induced high-blood pressure and sleep-apnea). I'm back on the Weight Watchers wagon, but it doesn't seem too onerous - I just have to get in the habit of eating my fruits and veggies.

January was spent preparing for the Estrella road-trip.

Februarywas the trip to Estrella and Las Vegas. The highlight of that was really the road-trip. It's always nice to find that there are people you can spend 60 hours in a car with and not want to throttle them. Plus the big SCA war and Vegas debauchery was fun.

March, April and May were fairly routine. I went to some plays, watched a few movies, hung out with friends. I made an entry that hit over 90 comments, which is a record from my LJ.

June was witness to one of the best and worst SCA events I ever attended - and it was the same event. Coronet was epic and underlined everything I like about the SCA. The Curia meeting that followed underlined everything I dislike about how the SCA operates. It was so bad it made me take a break from service for several months. I feel a little bad about that because I agreed to be on K and [livejournal.com profile] mommaquilter's retinue, but then proceeded to do absolutely SFA. I'm hoping to give them a hand at Estrella this year to make up for it. I still stand by my assertions about the SCA bureaucracy however.

Also in June was AT War, which is fun, but too short to go to unless you do what I do - combine it with a mundane trip to Vancouver!

July was my trip to the East Coast (Halifax and St. John's) for H&B's wedding. The company was good and I got to see lots of cools stuff I'd have had a hard time getting around to without the excuse of a wedding. I ran to the top of Signal Hill, which I feel deserves more recognition. If you've ever walked up Signal Hill, you'll know why. Next time, more days in Halifax and less in St. John's.

August started off with Quad War, which was fun. Later SCA stuff in the month showed that I was still irritated by it.

September involved a lot of introspection and cat shit - thankfully not simultaneously. Also learned what not to do to my brain chemistry.

October had a variety of small events: I ran a half-marathon in Victoria, had Thanksgiving dinner with my Vancouver peeps, Calgary got a new Mayor and [livejournal.com profile] othelianna had her once-a-year party.

November was my birthday trip to Las Vegas - it was so much fun I'm already planning my next trip out (probably a week or two after Victoria Day, in case anyone's interested).

December was mostly about the holidays.

Goals for the New Year:
  • Eat better and exercise more - test this by posting a better time in this year's RV½M.
  • Estrella War.
  • Go to Cancun for [livejournal.com profile] naughtynat07 and [livejournal.com profile] thekillerb69's wedding.
  • Attend [livejournal.com profile] conejita_diabla and [livejournal.com profile] thebrucie's wedding and be as helpful as possible seeing as how I'm in the wedding party.
  • A return trip to Las Vegas.
  • AT war and a summer visit to Vancouver.
  • Other SCA events to include: Anything in Montengarde or Bitter End, Quad War, Whipping Winds. Be generally helpful at them. Avoid Curia at all costs lest it spoil another six months of fun.
  • A half-marathon in Las Vegas?
jamesq: (Vegas)
Police say they're trying to find a helmet-wearing gunman who robbed one of Las Vegas' most recognizable casinos of $1.5 million in casino chips Tuesday morning -- and may also have robbed a different casino last week.
Source

It wasn't me, I wasn't there, you can't prove anything. Plus, I don't know how to ride a motorcycle.

The first rule of gambling is to not bet anything you're unwilling to lose. Problem gamblers forget that, because the house edge will always get you eventually. This guy is gambling his freedom. The house edge is the entire Las Vegas establishment and law enforcement want this guy caught. Someone successfully robbing one of the most recognizable casinos on Earth is not the kind of PR that MGM Mirage wants. They're not really "out" any real money at this point, but they will move heaven and Earth to find this guy because they don't want a repeat.

Here is my wild-ass guessing about the case:
  • The suspect is smarter than average. We know this because the heist shows good planning and preparation.
  • He's not that smart - casino chips are not that liquid and high-end chips are almost impossible to use anonymously.
  • He's probably desperate for quick cash, hence two robberies in two weeks.
  • He's working alone. Too many potential failure points in his plan could have been removed with an extra set of hands.
Alternatively, he's a thrill-seeker who's not doing it for the money. This makes him more dangerous because he'll keep upping the ante.

The plan:
  1. Make sure that a table close to an exit is in play.
  2. Park the motorcycle at the valet stand.
  3. Run into the casino wearing a full helmet.
  4. Pull a gun on the table and grab their chips.
  5. Hightail it out of the casino to the waiting motorcycle.
  6. Drive away like all the demons of hell are right behind you.
The points where the plan can fail:
  1. You can only do this if you've cased the place, which puts you on casino surveillance, either immediately before the heist, or at the same time of day. If the casino rotates which pits are in use during the slow times (like 3:30 am. on a Monday morning), the odds of one being near an exit are lowered.
  2. And hope no one messes with your motorcycle.
  3. Concealing your face in a casino is a pretty big "tell". Door and floor security plus the guys watching the monitors should all be paying attention at this point.
  4. Casino policy is probably to just give an armed man whatever he wants. The risk here is some tough guy deciding to be a hero. This isn't real predictable. The pit boss should be tripping a silent alarm and the guys on the monitors should be aware of a robbery now if they weren't before. The police are being contacted.
  5. If you watch the tapes of this guy, you'll see he's constantly craning his head on the way out - that helmet is now a liability because it keeps him from identifying peripheral threats. He's at greater risk to that random tough guy.
  6. He's in shit if his bike isn't there or it's been disabled. If the bike is still there he's now in danger of getting in a chase with LVPD.
So here's a guy that planned and executed a heist. The heist seems likely to have been done by a lone individual who planned out as best he could how to do it by himself. He minimized but could not eliminate all the risk. The problem is the end-game - how do you spend $1.5M worth of chips? Remember, he doesn't have $1.5M in real money. High-end chips have RFID tags on them, so they can be identified. I'm not sure if all of the chips have RFIDs on them, but given the denominations were $1000 and up, I think it's likely (there's really no good reason for not IDing any casino chip worth more than the RFID tag itself).

Now just because a chip has an RFID (or equivalent) on it doesn't necessarily mean an alarm is going to go off as soon as you walk in the door. Maybe they only get scanned when security is bringing them in or out of a pit. If this is the case, you could (with decent timing) walk up to a roulette table and start playing with your naughty chips, which effectively launders some of them. Doing so in a way that doesn't raise behavioral flags to security is hard and would take a lot of patience. The robber's new "job" might be to walk into the casino every day with $1000 worth of dirty chips and lose his way down to $500 worth of clean chips. That's better then what I make, but I don't risk going to jail.

The casino can swap out the chips for ones of a different colour. This serves to visually identify them and keeps them out of play. Of course, there's always chips floating around in peoples' pockets, which allows the robber some leeway. OTOH it forces anyone with chips to cash them immediately rather then launder them by playing, effectively eliminating the "job" option above.

Even if the chips don't have some kind of unique identifier on them, I've been told it's rather hard to cash them if you can't prove you've been playing. Walk up to a cage with $5000 in chips and be prepared for the third degree if you can't immediately point at a pit and say "I've been playing blackjack there for the last two hours".

There are two other ways of converting chips to cash that don't involve the casino. The first is to use them in Las Vegas' underground economy. The second is to simply sell them to someone at a discount. Ten cents on the dollar is still a remarkable haul for armed robbery. The Bellagio greatly reduced the chances of this happening by publicizing that the chips are useless. Only the truly dumb or desperate are going to be buying discount Bellagio chips for awhile. And if someone where to offer them to you, you might start wondering if the Bellagio was offering any sort of reward.

It's possible the robber knows of a way to cash a large amount of chips that bypasses the scanners and the cages - if that's the case it's now a job with insider knowledge.

Here's how he's going to get caught:

He talks to someone. Loose lips sink ships and they sink criminals too. At some point he's either talked about his plan to someone (perhaps back when it was still idle speculation rather than anything concrete) or he's bragged about it. People remember conversations and they can tell the authorities.

Even if he doesn't talk, he needs to convert the chips to money, that exposes him to the casino or people who could report him to the authorities.

Maybe he was sloppy before the heist - If I were casino security I'd certainly be curious about people near the craps pit in the weeks prior to the robbery.

Maybe he never gets caught and has a story to tell his grand-kids about years after the statute of limitations runs out.
jamesq: (Vegas)
Turns out lots of people I know are going to Las Vegas. Some are going in two weeks and some are going in three. I'm going in four - which means my intentions are good, but my aim is awful.

I was asked if I had any tips. In fact I do! I'm not a Vegas expert by any means, but I've been there twice now and I've chatted with people who have been there more, so here's what I've learned:
  1. The Las Vegas Strip is much larger than you think. If someone says, "It's two blocks away" consider taking a cab.

  2. Read through a travel guide at least a week before you get there. They will guide you toward the better shows/restaurants/attractions. Additionally, http://vegasmessageboard.com/ has been invaluable (and damned entertaining) to me.

  3. Don't be afraid to take some "me" time. Some people like shows, some people like to gamble. Some people like high-end restaurants, others like cheap buffets. Not everyone likes to do the same thing all the time. You don't need to do everything together.

  4. If there is an expensive show/restaurant/attraction that you want to go to, figure out where it is and join that casino's players club (they're all free, they just want to track your gambling). Typically you can get 2-for-1 tickets when you do this. This is how we saw Penn & Teller (Harrahs Group) and Cirque's Ka (MGM/Mirage group). Given the number of discount websites around, you shouldn't have to pay full price for anything. Just do some mouse-work before you go.

  5. That girl who sat next to you at the slot machine asking how to play the slots doesn't actually care about slot machines. Similarly, the cards the young men on the street corner are handing out are not free samples for a new Collectible Card Game.

  6. Remember that nobody headlines in Vegas unless they're supremely entertaining, so if a companion suggests "Carrot Top" or "Barry Manilow", don't immediately poo-poo the idea - you'll probably still have a good time. The only exception is Chris Angel's "Believe" show.

  7. It's not all about Vegas headliners - see if there are any concerts playing. That's how I found out about Roger Water's "The Wall 30th Anniversary" tour hitting my hotel the Saturday I'm out there. I haven't gotten tickets for that, but I'm going to try for some last minute ones when I'm there.

  8. A polite request for free room upgrades at the hotel check-in might yield positive results, especially if you discretely slip them $20. If nothing else, a strip view on a high floor near the elevator will improve even the worst class of room. There's no guarantee that it will work though - think of it as the first of many gambles over the weekend.

  9. Don't gamble more then you can afford to lose. Roulette is easy to play but has poor odds. Blackjack is harder, but the odds for good players approach 50/50. Only poker players make money in Vegas (because they're not playing against the house), and that's only if you're very very good.

  10. The exception to "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" is criminal charges and STDs - they won't stay in Vegas. Make sure that all of your debauchery is safe.
jamesq: (Default)
30 days to the RV½M! I'm in no way prepared since I haven't been running enough to really get in shape for it. Fuck it, I can still do it. It just means I'll hurt a little for the week after. Sunday I'll run 15k. Two weeks later I'll run 18k.

76 days to Vegas!
jamesq: (Vegas)
I've been fiddling with the Orbitz website, looking at my Las Vegas trip options. This exposed some weird, possibly temporary, artifacts of their pricing algorithms.

If I were to take Westjet on November 25th and stay 3 nights at the MGM Grand, it costs $616 (assuming double occupancy).

If I stay a fourth night, the whole things drops a whole dollar to $615.

Thinking about it, the Sunday night flight back to Calgary must be a lot more expensive then the Monday night flight back - enough so that it completely cancels out the cost of the extra night's stay.

Which is not to say it would be cheaper in absolute terms - I'd be staying in Vegas an extra day. Vegas: The city designed to vacuum up every cent in your pocket. That dollar savings would likely cost me another $200 once the meals, alcohol and shows kick in.

Another weird thing was that they had separate entries for "Paris Las Vegas" and "Gay Paris Las Vegas", the latter being $30 more expensive.

It's the same resort. Now I know that the Harrah's group markets their properties to different segments of the population (PLV towards gays, The Rio towards Hispanics, the Flamingo to older couples. Note, your money is good at any of the properties), but I can't think of any reason why they'd charge gays more. The amenities list didn't seem any different (and my checking it out may have flagged me as gay to Orbitz' data-miners. Oh well, more cruises in my inbox) and PLV itself didn't see particularly gay-friendly or gay-hostile by the standards of Las Vegas - which is to say, they're happy to serve anyone with discretionary income.

All I can think of is they modify the rooms slightly - different set of channels enabled on the TV, different magazines on table. Little touches that make the room less hetero-normative. Or they don't change the room at all and the $30 difference is to make people think that they've done all that.
jamesq: (Default)
I appear to be doing a lot of traveling this year, which suits me fine. It's not like I'm going to be needing that savings when I'm 80.

Short version: Whipping Winds, then Victoria/Vancouver over Thanksgiving, then Harvest Feast, then Vegas for Remembrance Day (or maybe my birthday)... )

Las Vegas

Aug. 9th, 2010 02:45 pm
jamesq: (Vegas)
As predicted, lots of people have bailed on the proposed trip to Las Vegas in November (11-15). However, I have had interest from other quarters. Ideally, we'd like 3-4 people at a minimum to go, which reduces our room rates nicely. Right now this is looking like about $750/person for the flight/hotel.

Of course, if you're planning on doing anything but staying in your room sucking ketchup packages, you'll need to spend a little more. Me? I plan on doing a show every night, and eating at high end restaurants, so I'm calculating about another $750 all told.

So yeah, if you can pull together $1500 in the next few months and the idea of exposing yourself to excessive amounts of radiation and debauchery, let me know.

If you're planning on gambling, add X dollars, where X is the amount you plan on losing.
jamesq: (Vegas)
The other show we wanted to see in Las Vegas was the Cirque du Soleil show . There was a bit of a debate as to which Cirque show to catch. I had never heard of Kà, so I was pushing for Love because I like the Beatles. I was also partial to Zumanity because I like nudity. Finally, there was O which was the fourth of the "permanent" Las Vegas Cirque shows.

I wasn't married to any of these. While I was kind of hoping for Love, the others talked me into Kà. I'm glad they did - Kà was the best stage show I've ever seen. And I've seen stuff in the West End of London as well as the world-renowned Tropicana show in Havana.

Seriously, if you're in Vegas, beg, borrow or steal a ticket. It's worth it.

It had better be worth it, we went through a lot of trouble just trying to buy tickets. And therein lies a tale... )

So go see Kà, but join the MGM Grand Player's Club first.

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