The Grand Canyon and Zion National Park were great. Last weekend weput over 600 miles on our rental car driving from Las Vegas first to ZionNational Park and then to the Grand Canyon. If you visit Zion and wantto have lunch at a good local place, both Sarah and I recommend Oscars’which is in the town of Springdale. Great food, friendly people, anda fun atmosphere. If you’re going to the North Rim of the GrandCanyon, the Jacob LakeInn, is also a good place to stay. It’s not a luxury inn by anystretch of the imagination, but the place is clean and the staff isfriendly.

Some observations on Las Vegas:- Casinos definitely go out of their way to insure that everyone who staysin Las Vegas (LV, hereafter) spends as much time as possible in front of agambling area or machine. For instance, there are no seats in thecasinos that aren’t either in a lounge (where they can see you food anddrink), restaurant, or in front of some sort of game. The only benchwe could find at the Luxor that wasn’t in one of the three types oflocations above was located in the outside the casino in the valet parkingarea.

  • Casinos want you to come down to the casino floor, rather than stay in yourroom. Our room didn’t have a fridge, a mini-bar, more than eightchannels on the television, and no second jack on the telephone to allow formodem use.
  • The Luxor had no Internet access on site. Their business centerhad a sign posted detailing their lack of Internet access. Apparently,Internet access might distract people from gambling.
  • The perception that LV is cheap is wrong. Shows are veryexpensive. Gas isn’t much cheaper than gas here in the Bay Area. Hotel rooms certainly aren’t cheap there. Food in restaurants wasjust slightly cheaper than food here in the Bay Area.
  • As we drove through LV we probably didn’t see more than twentyresidences, total. It seems that most of the city is populated withcasinos, restaurants, and warehouses.
  • You simply cannot walk from point A to point B in a casino. Youare forced to travel to point C and point D simply to make it to pointB. Not surprisingly, point C and point D are areas thick withgambling.
  • It appears that casinos would like to replace all table games with slotmachines and their derivatives, if possible. Slot machines have alower rate of return than table games for the player, and hence produce abetter percentage take for the house. Slots can be re-invented simplyby changing the graphics of game or adding little video hoo-ha to themachine. Table games require the application of mathematics and theservices of high level mathematicians to test the probabilities of thegame. You can’t use strategy on slots like you can on blackjack. There is no way for the player to level the playing field in slots. The percentages for both player and house are set. Most importantly,slots require far fewer human caretakers than tables. Everycraps table requires constant attendance by at least two people. Blackjack tables generally require one dealer for every five or sixgamblers. Most other table games have similar dealer/playerratios. Slots probably run somewhere in the range of 50-100 playersper human caretaker. If a blackjack is open, a dealer has to standthere, even if no one is playing. If no one is playing a slot, thereisn’t necessarily a human being standing around. If you consider thatemployees (read: salary and benefits) are the most expensive part ofa business’ operating budget, as a business you would want to minimize youremployee expenses to maximize profits. As such, it seems that casinospush the slots to minimize the number of people they have to have on staff.

Bike-to-Work Day was yesterday, and ironically enough, I didn’t bike towork. In the morning, I worked one of the Alameda Energizer stationsfor Bike-to-Work Day and then took the bus into San Francisco. Afterwork, I took a different bus into Oakland and gave blood at the local RedCross Blood donation center. Sarah met me there, gave blood herself,and then we rode home in her car. Giving blood is never pleasant forme (I always get hot, sweaty, and faint while in the process), but otherthan that, it’s okay and worth doing.