Las Vegas Review

March 30, 2009 at 8:39 pm | Posted in Fun Indoors, Rants | Leave a comment

It’s been at least 7 years since I’ve been to Las Vegas, and it was a place of contrasts. The hotels were full, the casino was busy, and the streets were gridlocked – you’d think that we weren’t in a recession, but the acres and acres of empty houses south of the airport tell a different story, along with illegal aliens handing out adult calling cards to people of all ages on The Strip.

What bothered me about the growth of Las Vegas was how much public good was sacrificed for the sake of the corporate casinos. Even though the insides of the casinos / resorts are nice, trying to travel between them, or even getting around town convinced me that this city is unliveable. Public transportation is pathetic, traffic is terrible, pedestrian traffic is difficult, riding a bicycle around town would be suicidal, and the monorail is a classic case of special interest politics – it does not go to the airport nor is it located within a reasonable distance from most hotels. This city cannot complete in future of high fuel and water prices, low home prices, and even lower disposable income.

On the positive side, I got to see one of the last showings of the Folies Bergere; it closed last weekend after a 49-year run. I have never been to a Las Vegas show until last week, and it was a nice experience to see a classic show featuring showgirls and vaudeville acts. Still, I don’t think I will be going back anytime soon.

Folies Bergere

The Future of the GOP

March 10, 2009 at 10:42 pm | Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

Never underestimate the future of a broken and defeated political party, but God willing, the GOP will follow their Whig and Nazi predecessors into the dustbin of history:

The True Cost of Cell Phones

March 8, 2009 at 10:48 pm | Posted in Rants, Technology | Leave a comment

This LA Times article mentions a study showing that most cell phone users do not use most of their monthly minutes and pay as much as $1 to $3 per minute. Even in this economy, people will continue to pay for too many minutes they will never use. This is due to the cell phone providers charging outrageous fees for going over your monthly minutes (even though their marginal cost for overuse is close to zero), and not giving enough information or in-store exposure about their prepaid or pay-as-you-go plans. Who can blame them when their customers are sheep wanting and willing to be fleeced?

With a good prepaid plan like the one I have with T-Mobile, you always know how much each minute costs and how much you will pay every month. My average monthly cost for the past three years is about $8 a month, and the maximum I’ve paid for a single month was $17. All cell phone users should evaluate their usage once or twice a year and change their plans as needed.

Wall Street Math for Engineers

March 1, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Posted in Rants, Technology | Leave a comment

I recommend this fascinating Wired article on the mathematical background that led to the current financial crisis. Although I believe that mathematics is itself an abstract intellectual construct, when it is applied without any validation or confirmation to reality (as is done in engineering, physics, and as should have been done in finance), you are asking for trouble.

The financial “engineers” performed sensitivity analysis on the Cupola function itself, to see how small changes in the input data affected the price; they saw the results, and unlike real engineers (i.e. those not asked to put on their management hat), set them aside in denial.

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