Before we begin, I want everyone to go hug or call or e-mail someone they love, right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Anyway, R:tAG and I went to Las Vegas over the weekend, thanks to his employer which flew everyone and their SOs down, gave us some spending money, and put us all up at the Palazzo for two nights. We saw O and Spamalot and the Star Trek Experience (again) lost exactly one dollar gambling (R:tAG insists on feeding a dollar into a slot machine every time we go, as some sort of appeasement to the gambling spirits) and had some really good meals* and got into this private club (the Foundation Room at the top of Mandalay Bay) and had an amazing view of the city thanks to a friend of a friend.**

Las Vegas gets more surreal every time I go, and more expensive. When I first visited in the early 1990’s, on my way to somewhere else, it was depressing and seedy and sleazy but cheap. They assumed that everyone was there to gamble, so hotel rooms and meals were pretty much loss leaders. Now that it’s more like adult Disneyland everything is about twice normal price, at least on the Strip. Most of the shops are designed to make you feel poor and fat but if you are blessed with robust self-esteem like me, it’s very entertaining to go in and giggle at what people will pay $800+ for.

You also do a lot of walking. They’ve just added a monorail which goes from the MGM to the Hilton, but because it was an afterthought and because the casino buildings are so unbelievably huge, and because it is not easy to walk in a straight line in Las Vegas,*** it usually takes almost as long to walk to the nearest monorail station as it does to walk along the street directly to your destination. In our case at least the schlep to the monorail took us through the Grand Canal, which is a pleasant if disconcerting walk because they’ve painted and lit the ceiling to look exactly like early twilight of a spring day. It is very disorienting to leave the noon-time desert sun and walk into cool spring evening.****

But we're home now and I'm glad. Las Vegas is about the one place in the world that makes the Bay Area seem humid and inexpensive. Now we just have to prepare for the next visitor and restock the wine rack.

* The tuna carpaccio at Olives immediately joined a pantheon of dishes that I keep in my head and dream about when I get hungry. The lemon crème brulee at Table 10 was also damn fine.

** The whole place was done in this over-the-top décor that I can only describe as Tibetan Bordello, and mostly consisted of dark red fabric-upholstered corridors, underlit private rooms and Buddhist statues. The main area was shoulder-to-shoulder with people far far younger and hipper than I, and we didn’t stay too long but it was a pretty neat place.

*** And not because of the tasty cocktails. The whole place is a living lab for social engineering. Maps don’t show anything outside of the area controlled by the people who provide the map. You pretty much have to rely on signs to find anything even with a map, because everything is designed to obstruct sightlines and put your attention on the advertisements or the gambling machines or the bars or the restaurants. And the signs do get you to your destination… eventually. After you get led past all the advertisements and gambling machines and bars and restaurants. Even the carpet patterns manipulate you. I kept oscillating between being appalled and lost in admiration of the psychiatry of it all and the money on display.

**** And because I was traveling with geeks, the wonder of this was expressed by “Did you see that sky file?”

Tax day is No Fun for us because we can’t seem to get the correct amount deducted from our payrolls and so for the second year running we ended up paying about $4,000. Phoo. My fault for not getting off my ass and figuring out how these Roth IRA things work last year.

But last Tuesday we went to the local instantiation of the Department of Homeland Security* and after waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting, and then a bit more waiting, R:tAG now has his Green Card. The actual Final Interview wasn’t near as stressful as we’d been thinking; we’d been picturing something like that game show where a husband and wife are (separately) asked questions and the audience merrily chuckles at the discrepancies but in our case the laughing audience would be replaced by a couple of stern officials and a deportation notice resulting from the fact that neither of us can remember the year we met.** But we brought a tote bag full of evidence that we have not been running a long con for the past nine years***, and happily it was sufficient. A key piece of evidence was our nephew, whose growth from an adorable ring-bearer to a handsome visiting teenager is handily documented in our photo albums and difficult to fake.

And Saturday was Yuri’s Night, which was like a rave-airshow-science fair up at Moffat Field. It was stinkin’ hot until the sun went down; the Bay Area had a bit of a heatwave over the weekend. We listened to a great talk by Will Wright about the Soviet space program (mainly), saw a bit of Spore, listened to music, gawked at costumes, learned about microbial mats, watched things burn, lusted after cars, and went home early like old people because I had the collywobbles from the heat and the sun. Here are pictures.

It's a walking eye, people!

Picture does not do the costume justice. All-silver body paint, silver gas mask, tangle of armor cable that made an eerie jingly scraping sound on the concrete... and then it got up on a harness thingy and did an arial show. Cool.

R:tAG in a Tesla Roadster. He wants one, but they cost more than our first house did.

Moving metal sculptures ON FIRE!

This guy did not win the costume contest, which was a crying shame. He was dressed as Sputnik, and he had little red lights on the end of the antenna bits, and he would orbit things given the least provocation. After the picture was taken, he shook my hand and said "Dosvedanya" and I managed to reply with "Spasibo! Dosvedanya!"

* Which shares a building with Gold’s Gym, and the gym’s sign is much much bigger. So that was confusing. Also, security in the building is more stringent than an airport’s, so we had to make two trips back to the car to drop off a pocketknife and then our cellphones.

** 1995? 1996? The only reason either of us remembers the year we were married is that we had it engraved on our rings. I’m glad we did that and not “Put It Back On” like I was wanting.

*** At least, I’m not.

Long time, no post. Some stuff has been happening (with work) that is keeping me busy, not that that’s an excuse.

So, what to talk about? R:tAG’s sister and her two teenage sons were here for four days, which was great. We went down to Monterey, of course, then we left them to their own devices for a couple of days before joining them in The City * and going to the SF Zoo and the obligatory trip to Fisherman’s Wharf. I hadn’t been to the zoo before; it was mostly good except for a few very old** and dilapidated enclosures containing pacing, stressed animals. Those enclosures also didn’t have any kind of signage,*** which made me think that this was just temporary accommodations for the animals except normally zoos put up the cutesy “I’m waiting for my new home!” type of thing to reassure people that the animals are being taken care of. The only sign was one between two enclosures; a generic “Adopt a Zoo Animal” solicitation poster that gave the subtle impression that the animals were being held hostage. But maybe that’s just me.

Next Saturday we are going to Yuri’s Night and I’ve half a mind to wear my steampunk rig. Most of my costuming resources are not futuristic since the only sci-fi LARP I’ve done is Fading Suns, which is so futuristic that it’s gone ‘round the other side and become old-fashioned. So it’s either the steampunk apron, or a floor-length black vinyl coat**** and my other pair of goggles.

Speaking of steampunk (nice segue, eh?), this looks cool. With the T-shirt, apparently, you get a lil’ sample of their special steampunk scent described as “Burnished gold and oiled bronze notes with Abramelin incense and sage.” I’ve been circling Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs for ages now, virtually, but the shipping to Canada was prohibitive. But I finally realized I don’t live there any more (duuur!) so I ordered a six-pack sampler.

  • Frumious Bandersnatch (“Redolent of spicy carnations, wild plums and chrysanthemum”)
  • Crossroads (“A chill twilit garden of blooms over dry earth and mosses, heavily laden with incense and offertory herbs”)
  • Zombi (“Dried roses, rose leaf, Spanish moss, oakmoss and deep brown earth”)
  • Arkham (“Maple, birch, dogwood, cypress and pine softened by a garland of New England wildflowers: bergamot, columbine, rue anemone, blue violet, creeping phlox, bloodroot, toadflax, and pixie moss”)
  • Vicomte de Valmont (“Ambergris, white musk, white sandalwood, Spanish Moss, orange blossom, three mints, jasmine, rose geranium and a spike of rosemary”)
  • Kitsune-Tsuki (“Asian plum, orchid, daffodil, jasmine and white musk”)
And they sent me two freebies:
  • Cairo (“The essence of holy Kyphi”)
  • Lucy’s Kiss (“The gentle scent of rose and a blend of Victorian spices”)
My favourites are Arkham and Crossroads, though Zombi is really nice too. All the scents that involve roses seem to end up being very strongly ROSE! on me for the first while, but Crossroads and Zombi fade into something more interesting.***** The two plum-based ones are a lot sweeter than I expected. And I might just be suckered into the steampunk scent.

Mmmmm, smelliness. In a good way.

*”What, like Oakland is just a collection of houses?”
** They had plaques on them saying “Built in 1940.”
*** Luckily polar bears are difficult to mis-identify.
**** Bought at a steep discount after last Halloween.
***** R:tAG, that olfactory master, took a deep sniff of my wrist when I was wearing Crossroads, furrowed his brow, gazed into the distance, and finally said “I smell… flowers?”


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