Thursday, September 25, 2008

To the Lands of Mice, Ducks and...Fairies

Well, the time has finally come. Tomorrow, George and I are flying off to Florida.

Our first “real” vacation in years. “Real,” as in actually getting on a plane and flying a few thousand miles to the other side of the continent. Not just a quick 300-mile drive to Los Angeles for a weekend.

Our last “real” vacation was several years ago, when we flew to New York City for a few days over Thanksgiving. It was George’s first time to the Big Apple then and it’ll be his first time ever to Florida. I’ve been to both places so many times that I lost count.

Doesn’t matter. I’m just so excited that we’re finally getting away from the rat race for more than a week. We’re ready for a change of scenery.

Boy, oh boy...are we ready!

Endlich ist es soweit. Morgen abend fliegen George und ich nach Florida.

Unser erster richtiger Urlaub seit Jahren. Ein richtiger Urlaub, wo man mit einem Flugzeug einige tausend Meilen an das andere Ende des Kontinets fliegt. Nicht bloß schnell mal 300 Meilen mit dem Auto nach Los Angeles fahren, um dort ein Wochenende zu verbringen.

Unser letzter richiger Urlaub war vor einigen Jahren. Wir flogen für ein paar Tage nach New York über Thanksgiving. Es war Georges erstes Mal in New York City and es wird auch seine erste Reise nach Florida sein. Ich kann mich gar nicht mehr erinnern wie oft ich bereits in New York oder Florida war.

Egal, ich bin total aufgeregt das wir nun endlich für über eine Woche dem Alltag entfliehen können. Wir sind beide reif für einen Tapetenwechsel.

Mehr als nur reif.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cat solves printer-problem (with subtitle)

When I first saw this clip I laughed so hard, I almost peed in my pants. I'm such a cat person. Don't get me wrong. I love dogs too and we used to have plenty of them. But cats rule!

Monday, September 15, 2008

To Boldly Go No More

The home page of Star Trek: The Experience's web site (, which has already been taken down.

One of many things we did over the Labor Day weekend was trying to squeeze in one last visit to the “Star Trek: The Experience (STE) attraction at the Las Vegas Hilton. George’s brother was also in town visiting us over the long Labor Day weekend, so us three space cadets ventured out to encounter some Klingons and being invaded by the Borg.

“Star Trek: The Experience” (STE) is closed now. It’s last day was on September 1st, after a 11-year mission to explore a strange new world, called Planet Vegas. Then reality and greed of corporate America has put a screeching halt to the exploration of the final frontiers of space. Due to some disputes of the leasing agreements of the attraction between Paramount Pictures, Cedar Fair Entertainment Company and the Las Vegas Hilton, it was decided to cease operations altogether. All the outcry and pleas of thousands of Star Trek fans to reconsider and keeping this mecca for Trekkies open, went unheard. The attraction also had seen better days and it’s visitor numbers plummeted over the last few years, which also helped to set all phasers on stun.

Although I like “Star Trek,” I’m certainly not a Trekkie. Neither is George and his brother. I do not know the registry numbers of the various Star Fleet vessels or each and every single alien species ever introduced in the Star Trek universe. However, I did enjoy STE, the Deep Space Nine Promenade with it’s stores, Quark’s Restaurant and all the actors who got into character as Klingons, Ferengis or Andorians.

This is me with an Andorian.

A model of the U.S.S. Voyager hovers above the dining guests of Quark's Restaurant & Bar.

The ultimate reason for STE’s existence were it’s two rides. The older one was a flight simulator type ride, called the “Klingon Encounter.” The other, more recently added ride was “Borg Invasion,” a so-called 4-D attraction.

Before boarding either one of the rides, guest would walk through an expansive exhibit of original Star Trek costumes, props and artifacts which were used in all the four television series and the ten motion pictures. People could also pass the time by reading very extensive historical time lines of Star Fleet, their starships and missions and their encounters of intergalactic species and other worldly places. It’s always been quiet interesting and fun. The massive models of two versions of the U.S.S. Enterpise, Voyager and a Klingon Bird of Prey, all suspended from a massive black, starlit space ceiling, were quite impressive.

One of two giant models of the starship Enterprise.
This one is Enterprise-D from "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

While people were waiting in line for the rides, they could look at hundreds of Star Trek artifacts being displayed in a impressive exhibition.

Since this would be the last weekend of operation, STE was drawing a huge attendance. People from literally the whole world were coming to help sent off STE on it’s last few missions. Some people were dressed up as Star Fleet Officers, Borg and other curious characters. And there was a long waiting line to get on these two rides. Even though we got there early in the day, we still had to wait over an hour for the more popular Klingon Encounter ride.

We’ve never been on the “Borg Invasion 4-D” attraction before and the line for it wasn’t as long. And now we know why. This ride was just lame. The pre-show was more exciting, with real-live actors playing the Borg as they are trying to “assimilate” the Star Fleet crew and the guests who just happen to be right in the middle of a Borg attack. The 3-D film was surprisingly unimpressive and the simulator itself barely noticeable. In the end I couldn’t believe that millions of dollars were invested into such a boring ride. It was utterly disappointing.

On the other hand, the original ride called “Klingon Encounter,” was still a lot of fun. The waiting line for this one was way over one hour long. Once it was finally our turn, we and a small group of other guests were “beamed” aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise-D and after being led through some corridors, ended up on the all too familiar and “fully functioning” bridge of the Enterprise. This still being part of the pre-show, we then ended up on the actual ride which was essentially a flight simulator, environed by a giant movie screen.

This was taken from the STE web site before it was decommissioned.
The bridge of Enterprise-D, part of the "Klingon Encounter" attraction.

The story line for this ride goes like this. We were accidently “beamed” through time and space to the 24th century and ended up on the Enterprise. One person in our group of riders is a descendant of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the Klingons are attacking to kill that one descendant. So we are put on a runabout shuttle to be “time-warped” back into the past and hopefully safety. Of course, the Klingons are after us, attacking and shooting at us and we all end up in present-day Las Vegas. Which, by the looks of the film, is still sometime in the mid 1990’s. When our vessel flies over the nightly Las Vegas “Strip,” one can still see the long-gone Sands Hotel & Casino (now the Venetian), the Holiday Casino (now Harrah’s) and the old neon marquee of Caesars Place, promoting the Moody Blues, where now the ever popular Forum Shops mall stands. Hilarious!

Anyway, we all somehow make it back to the Las Vegas Hilton safe and sound. Good thing too because now we can continue to feed the slot machines or whatever else visitors do when visiting Las Vegas these days. After our brief intergalactic stunt, George, his brother and I decided to head on over the Planet Hollywood Casino, formerly the Aladdin, to enjoy a nice dinner at their Planet Dailies coffee shop.

Thomas' new girl friend, a Klingon beauty. K'plah!

It’s kind of sad to see “Star Trek: The Experience” close down. But I guess, that’s the sign of the times. The Disneyfication of a highly themed Las Vegas had it’s heydays in the 1990s and nowadays Las Vegas re-inventing itself again as an adult Disneyland. And the nerd factor of Star Trek doesn’t fit the bill of Las Vegas’ new vision of trendy clubs, sophisticated restaurants and high-end shopping.

Oh well, live long and prosper. Just not in this century.

And most definitely not on this planet...called Vegas.

Both photos above show the Space Quest Casino inside the Las Vegas Hilton, which leads into the "Star Trek: The Experience" attraction.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Not Kaputt Anymore

They both have served us well for 17 years.

George and I were so looking forward to the long Labor Day weekend. Well, it came and went...way too fast. There was a long weekend? Really? What happened to it? Oh, that’s right. That particular Friday we had two air conditioning units replaced. Since one unit weighs around 3 tons and the other 2 tons, one can imagine that installing these two babies would take a little bit of time.

From the back and the front of our house

As a matter of fact, it was a whole day event. The old units were located on top of our roof. It involved renting a crane to take the old ones down and lifting both new units back into place again. First, the guys from the A/C company had to go up on the roof to clean up and cutting metal sheets to size. They were also taking down the old cat walk, which a times sounded as if they were about to demolish our whole house. I expected the ceiling to come crashing down any minute. That was a little unsettling.

Demolished catwalk with rust, pigeon poop and all...

Waiting to be lifted to new heights...

It also didn’t help that it was rather hot that day. Obviously, the A/C wasn’t turned on while they were working up on the roof. It got fairly warm inside the house very quickly in the morning hours and I tried to avoid doing anything too strenuous. But there’s only so much one can do to stay somewhat cool in the middle of summer, in the middle of a desert, in a house without an air condition. Sitting in front of a computer screen in one’s own puddle of sweat is not that much fun.

The crane dude

Easy, easy, steady now...

Only weighs two tons or three

Finally, around four o’clock in the afternoon one the technician turned on the units to see if they were working properly. And success...they did a wonderful job. Ahhhh, cool air was blowing out of the vents. How great that felt.

It’s amazing how we take things for granted. Growing up in Germany, people have no air conditioning there. It’s unheard of and Germans tend to make fun of those spoiled Americans and how they waste all this energy to make their homes feel like they’re part of the arctic circle. It can get hot and humid in Germany during the summer, but people just deal with it. Of course, this being the desert where temperatures can easily hover around the 120º degree mark, one cannot make a comparison. No, you just can’t live without an A/C in the Mojave desert.

I have no clue how those pioneers did it back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when they first started to settle here in the Las Vegas Valley. Different times, different lives.

We’re just glad to have nice cool air again to keep our home all comfy.

The event of the day, but no one even noticed.

George und ich haben uns so auf das lange Laber Day Wochenende gefreut. (Laber Day ist in etwa mit dem Tag der Arbeit zu vergleichen und fällt jeweils auf den ersten Montag im September). Nun, es kam und ging und alles war viel zu schnell vorbei. Wir hatten ein langes Wochenende? Echt? Haben wir was verpaßt?

Ach ja, an diesen besagten Freitag vor dem Feiertag wurden unsere neuen Klimaanlagen installiert, nachdem die alten nach fast 17 Jahren fast ihren Geist aufgegeben hatten. Da nun eines der Geräte etwa drei Tonnen und das andere um die zwei Tonnen wiegen, kann man sich wahrscheinlich vorstellen, daß diese Angelegenheit nicht in fünf Minuten erledigt war.

Genauer gesagt dauerte es fast den ganzen Tag. Die beiden alten Klimaanlagen mussten zuerst abmontiert und vom Dach unseres Hauses mit einem Kran herunter gehievt werden. Dann mussten die Installateure alles sauber machen und Metallplatten zurecht schneiden. Auch musste der alte Laufsteg entfernt werden. Mit all dem Lärm und Hämmern konnte man meinen die würden unser Haus regelrecht abreisen. Ich hatte die Decke schon herunterbrechen sehen. Es war schon ein wenig beunruhigend.

Es half auch nicht das es an diesen Tag sehr heiß war. Logischerweise war die Klimaanlage ausgeschaltet, wenn Leute gerade daran arbeiteten. Im inneren des Hauses wurde es relativ schnell warm während den frühen Morgenstunden und ich versuchte mich so wenig wie möglich anzustrengen. Aber man kann nur so viel dagegen machen um kühl zu Hochsommer, in der Mitte von einer Wüste, in einem Haus ohne Klimaanlage. Und im eigenen Schweiß gebadet vor dem Computer sitzen machte ja auch nicht so viel Spaß.

Aber dann endlich am späteren Nachmittag hatte einer der Arbeiter die Thermostate eingestellt und die Klimaanlagen eingeschaltet, um zu sehen ob beide Geräte richtig funktionieren. Sie haben ganze Arbeit geleistet. Denn siehe da, wunderbare kühle Luft blies aus allen Öffnungen. Es fühlte sich einfach herrlich an.

Es ist schon erstaunlich wie man nun alles für selbstverständlich hält. Als ich noch in Deutschland lebte, hatte niemand eine Klimaanlage. Das hat sich bis heute nicht grundlegend verändert. Und Deutsche machen sich schon mal gerne über die verwöhnten Amerikaner lustig und wie sie die Energie verschwenden um ihre Häuser in Kühlschränke zu verwandeln. Auch ein deutscher Sommer kann schon sehr heiß und schwül werden, aber die Leute kommen deswegen auch zurecht. Natürlich kann man das nicht mit einer Wüste vergleichen, wo Temperaturen weit über 40º C steigen können. Nein, ohne Klimaanlage kann man in der Mojavewüste nicht leben.

Ich habe wirklich keine Ahnung, wie die Pioniere das in den späten 1800er und frühen 1900er Jahren ausgehalten haben, als sie angefangen haben die Las Vegas Gegend zu besiedeln. Das waren eben andere Zeiten.

Wir sind bloß froh unsere Klimaanlage wieder zu haben, um unser Haus so richtig schön gemütlich kühl zu halten. Und das ist etwas das man in Deutschland auch nicht allzu oft hört.