May 19, 2006

Vegas, Baby

As usual, Shelby's already way ahead of me with a writeup of our trip to Vegas earlier this week. So I'll just throw in a few (mostly geeky) observations:

  • Technology Changes Everything!: Coins have disappeared from slot machines — you can only feed the machines with bills, and when you cash out, instead of dropping coins into a tray, the machine prints a voucher with a barcode and a dollar amount (some of them, to indulge/infuriate the nostalgic, will play a sound effect of coins dropping as the receipt is printing). As Shelby said, the receipt system has brought back the penny slot — now that they don't have to handle coins on the casino floor anymore, it doesn't matter what denomination the machines are. So a five-dollar bill can last you for hours. (Although a 'penny' slot doesn't have to just cost a penny; if you chose all of the options — playing thirty different 'paylines', ten coins per line — Shelby's favorite, the Star Wars slot, could cost up to $3.00 per spin!)

    Also changing the face of the casino floor since our last trip to Vegas is the advent of cheap LCDs; they're everywhere! Now it's easy and economical for even the most humble of penny slots to be as flashy as it wants to be.

  • Jonathan Root, who played the lead character in the performance of Avenue Q that we watched on Monday night, has a blog. He's not talking about much that's Q-related at present (probably because the production is being prematurely closed at the end of the month — if I were him, I'd just be bitter), but it's interesting to go back in his archives and look behind the scenes.

  • Boy, I'll bet the wizards who decided to rebrand the pirate-themed Treasure Island casino into the ambiguously-themed "TI" are really glad that they finished all that just in time for Pirates of the Carribean and its follow-ons to make pirates cool again. (And — geeky — driving past their giant "TI" sign made me think of the TI-99/4A, also-ran home computer of the early 1980s.)

  • The Prius: Performed admirably — took about a half-tank of gas to make the trip between Anaheim and Vegas, averaging about 46 mpg. We discovered some weak points: it doesn't particularly like long uphill stretches; it'll run smoothly until the battery is depleted to a certain point, whereupon you'll lose any battery assist and turn into a 76-hp four-cylinder mid-sized car, fighting its way uphill (while trying to charge the battery at the same time). But it all averages out on the downhill side, as you acheive insane fuel economy while topping off the battery at the same time. So unless your route is the proverbial uphill-both-ways hardscrabble path, things work out okay.

    Our other embarassment came on the Strip, when we were stuck in gridlock while trying to drive from the Mandalay Bay to the Wynn. It was a balmy early-evening 110 degrees outside, so we had the windows rolled up and the air conditioner on. Again, the Prius valiantly tried to keep things going solely on battery power for as long as it could, but without any motion to charge the battery, eventually it had to kick in the gas engine to keep the battery at an acceptable level. So we ended up with ten minutes of sad zero-mpg not-driving on our fuel-economy display.

    Thankfully, we don't commute uphill through gridlock in 100+ degree weather every day. Otherwise, I guess that we'd be pretty upset.

Posted by Kevin at May 19, 2006 09:51 AM
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