30 August 2007

Cute Things | August 2007

I accumulated several cute things in August. Here are a few. They each have a little story, but who cares? It only matters that they are cute.

And to wrap up the month: The weekend after we stayed at the Wynn, Jesse went back to Fargo. I went out with Lucy a few times. We had an open bar / open BBQ engagement one day from 7p - 9p and then again from 9p - 11p. The day after that, I went to their company picnic in Jesse's place, and Lucy and I tried a new bar downtown.

Standby September!

27 August 2007

Back At The Wynn 2 | August 2007

August 20, 2007
Las Vegas, NV

When I work overnights, I get out of work at 8:30 in the morning. On August 20th, I got to go from work, to a vacation at the Wynn. I saw Jesse briefly before he left for work and I set out to find something to eat. If I had known the ordeal it was to be, I would have brought a snack.

Jesse swears there was a coffee shop open. If there was, I was too tired to spot it. I walked the casino floor, looked into the buffet, and the read the menu outside the only open restaurant twice. I did not want to eat at the buffet. I actually just wanted some toast and hash browns. There was a restaurant open but nothing on the menu looked good. It was too fancy for my pallet. Back in the room, the room service menu had a wide variety of delicious foods. Each came with an 18% gratuity in addition to 7.75% sales tax and a $5 room service fee. If I ordered room service, I'd end up paying the same price as the buffet. I went back downstairs to the casino floor.

Eventually, I decided to indulge. I ordered a turkey burger and fries from room service. It came on a wheat bun with cheese and some strange sauce. My order also came with adorable condiments. I like all things cute. Things that are tiny versions of bigger things just tickle me. I hope they tickle you too.

After I ate, I watched TV and took a nap. The bed was so comfortable, I woke up refreshed just a few hours later. I had dinner with my friend Joel - which rarely happens anymore because he works nights and my workday is done 30 minutes after his starts.

Joel went back to work and I went to the pool. It was dusk, which is good for pictures, but bad for water temperatures. I had planned to bring a friend but it turns out all my friends work on Mondays. The pool was about to close anyway. I had to find something else to do.

I ended up going back to the room and flipping through the channels. Interesting note: the Wynn carries Al Jazeera. It's in the channel line up between local channels and CNN. Jesse came back from work and softball practice and went back out to play at the Venetian. I woke up just before midnight, took a fantastic Wynn shower and went to work.

Even though I didn't do anything exciting, it was refreshing to state at the Wynn. The beds are so comfortable and the showers are invigorating. Maybe it's the citrus soap - I honestly don't know. The stay would have only been better if I had gotten to spend more time with Jesse. But I'm not complaining.

25 August 2007

Back At The Wynn | August 2007

August 19, 2007
Las Vegas, Nevada

Jesse is a travel agent. In August, he was offered two nights at Wynn Las Vegas. We graciously accepted. We checked on Sunday, August 19th. We checked in after dinner time because we had wasted the day away. We were given room 517 and here comes a few words for the wise: If ever you have the pleasure of staying at the Wynn -- and you opt for the king sized bed with the strip view -- you should also opt for any room higher than the fifth floor. As you can see, our view left much to be desired. I'm sure Steve Wynn would be appalled if he knew such a room existed. I might write him a letter.

Great view or not, it feels good to be at the Wynn. The rooms have everything a guest like me might want. As a special guest, Jesse got a little gift bag of trinkets. We stretched and I took a nap. I was working overnights that week. Jesse had his own nocturnal business at the Venetian. He was trying to get enough hours to play in a free roll. So while I napped, he clocked in at the poker table. I know. It was a pretty boring start to our fabulous time.

15 August 2007

Networks, Networking, & Netting | August 2007

For the rest of July and the beginning of August I was busy planning for The National Association of Black Journalists 32nd Annual Convention & Career Fair (NABJ 2007). The convention was held here in Las Vegas and as a Secretary of the host chapter, I had to a lot to do.

Every year, the convention is in a different city. The host chapter uses it as a fundraising opportunity. The money raised is used for scholarships and to promote the chapter in its community. Here in Las Vegas, the local chapter has almost no recognition. The Las Vegas Association of Black Journalists started years ago, then disbanded, then reincorporated in 2005. I joined in 2006. My first year as a member, I felt as if we weren't accomplishing anything. This year, I was elected to the executive board. Even though there was still no real plan for the chapter, I was excited to plan for the convention. I figured it would be a good way for the members to be active, and to get our name out there as a legitimate organization. NABJ 2007 began on August 8th. As I soon learned, it was all about Networks, Networking, and Netting.

While diversity is defined as "the act of being diverse," and diverse is defined as "differing from one another," businesses tend to define diversity as "having different colored people." Networks use NABJ has a diversity supermarket. Representatives go, walk the aisles, pick out what on their list, and pay for it. I don't want to make it sound like a bad process - because the applicants want the jobs. It's a win - win situation. It's just that I disagree with the idea that diversity can be seen on someone's face. So I think - although it looks good that networks are out there doing what they think is right - they're missing the point.

In the TV News business, everyone knows someone who knows someone else. There are good markets to begin careers and good middle markets. But there are only a handful of top markets.. with hundreds of people vying for the same positions in those markets. This convention, like any other convention I suppose, is at much about schmoozing as it is about learning. I've attended a few conventions before, but this was the first time I had been as an observer. I didn't attend any of the workshops at NABJ. I was there to work the chapter table, selling t-shirts and drawing tickets. I did meet a lot of people, and I exchanged a lot of business cards but my focus was on making money for the chapter.

Being an observer showed me another side of the convention. I like to call it "netting." The "netters" are usually women, trying to catch attention. At first I thought they were looking for mates, then I realized it's more about being noticed. Being invited to this after party or that one, wearing uncomfortable clothes and shoes that are fun and fashionable - but not practical.

NABJ 2007 was a great people watching experience for me. I learned a lot about what I don't think is important in life and careers. That's another post for another time.

03 August 2007

Since The Cruise | July 2007

Since the cruise, you might have noticed I've taken time away from writing. Part of it was because I've been thinking about ways to travel on a permanent basis. Part of it was not wanting to officially put the cruise behind me. And another part of it was being extremely busy with a lot of minutia.

So here what happened at th end of July 2007:
*pieced together from pictures, emails, and my calendar

July 11 - My friend Melissa moved to Texas for a new job. There was a big party for her while I was away, but there was another (smaller) gathering when I got back. Melissa and I started around the same time. We didn't start talking or hanging out for more than a year - talk about opportunities missed. We did make up for lost time though. Now she lives in Texas.

July 14 - We had dinner at Gilley's at the New Frontier Hotel & Casino. The following week, both were shut down forever. Gilley's had been our favorite country bar & eatery here. We (and thousands of others) really enjoyed it... but the hotel was sold and scheduled for demolition. A bunch of us went there for dinner and dancing. We had fun - but had to leave because this really aggressive woman (wearing a short skirt and no panties) was chasing Jesse. I would have won the fight, and probably would have been arrested. So we left. But we did have fun.

July 23 - We saw the Blue Man Group with our friend Lizbeth & her brother Abner. We didn't take any pictures but I liked the show and recommend you see it. Later in the week, Abner and I bonded on the beach at the Hard Rock. I promise to take pictures when he comes back.

01 August 2007

Traveling | A Look Back

You've read the stories (the whats if you will), now I want to tell you about the hows. We love to travel. We're working on ways to do it more frequently and perhaps permanently. I believe the key to successful travel is preparation. Not necessarily reinventing the wheel, but it making sure you have the right treads for your journey. Today I'm going to tell you what we did right (by our standards) and what we will improve before our next adventure.

Danie's Unofficial Guide to Trip Planning
  1. Know where you're going
I'm organized. Okay, I am extremely organized. Before I go anywhere or do anything, I like to know what I'm going to do after that task is completed. Knowing I am going to be on a cruise and docking (or tendering) at a certain place for 7-12 hours inspires me to want to know exactly what there is to do in that locale. Even if I don't get to do it, or choose not to, I want to know what my options are. That way, if I run into someone and we start talking about Santorini, I won't have to say "I didn't go to Oia..." only to have them reply: "Really? Well the wine & crepes are spectacular." I doubt that would ever happen but you get the point.

Two weeks before we left, Jesse and I went to Barnes & Noble to read up on our ports of call. There are plenty of books out there with historical facts about cities - designed with the tourist in mind. They explain that which would make your trip worthwhile. You're never going to learn everything about an area from a book. But if you don't have time to absorb the culture and/or its history, books are a great way to fast forward. And in our case, we got extra tourism information on the ship the night before we docked.

For Rome, we ought a guide book from Frommer's, as well as a fantastic map. I also bought a moleskine travel journal. It came with a pull-out map, but the one we bought was more detailed and laminated. Aside from being a journal and having a map, the moleskine had sheets available for my likes and dislikes. I think it's perfect for creating a personalized guide. I highly recommend it.
  1. Know where you're going
  2. Know how to get there
Jesse took care of all of our travel arrangements. I bought my own flights, but I was only getting onto the same flights he had already booked. Once we were at the airport, a minibus from Bob's Limos and Tours took us from the airport to the ship.When the cruise was over, a member from Bob's team was there to take us back to the airport. We had no complaints for Bob. The prepaid trip includes all tolls and the drivers had a GPS Service that kept us on course. I'd work with Bob again.

We used the subways in Rome, Athens, Naples (Pompeii), and Milan. Trains are a fast (& cheap) way to get around. I also like that we got to see what commuters see. On the trip from Piraeus to Athens we saw gypsy slums - not something I would have walked through, but something interesting to see from a speeding train. Almost all of the train stations had automatic ticketing stations, so there wasn't necessary to speak the language. But you should know the direction in which you are heading. That way, you can note the last stop on the train. It'll help you stay orientented and get back to your hotel.

We used the Roman subways the most. There was a day pass available for 4 euros, but we never got it - and we never took the train more than 4 times in one day. Although, if we had purchased the day pass, we probably would have used it often just to get our money's worth. But we really wanted to see the city. During our two stops in Rome, we stayed far in the north and far in the south. We did a lot of walking to cover the ground in between and took a few cabs beause trains stop running at nine.

In Greece, we only took the train from the port city to the street closest to the Acropolis. I think the Greek subway was the cleanest and the least crowded.

The trains in Naples went out east past Pompeii... but not north to the Catacombs of San Gennaro. We walked about two miles to get there and planned to take the bus back down. But in Naples you can only buy bus passes in certain stores. We figured it would have taken us less time to walk than to find the right store. I think we werre right. We caught a train at the Metropolitan Museum and took it to the main hub in the city. There we bought roubdtrip ticket to Pompeii for 9,50 euros. The ride took about a half hour. During that time we realized we had no idea how far the ruins were from the train station. Fortunately, when we got off we were only two blocks away.

Milan had the dirtiest subways of them all. The main commuter hubs we saw (Milano Centrale and the Malpensa Express) were nice but the city trains were gross. I grew up riding NYC subways with my dad. Trust me when I say Milan's subway system is nasty. Still, they give the best value for your money.
  1. Know where you're going
  2. Know how to get there
  3. Know what you're saying
I studied Italian for two years. I like it. My problem is, if I don't know a word, I substitute the Spanish version. Sometimes that will work, but it's not a way to learn Italian. Before we left, I took out old notes from my last trip to Italy. It was a two week immersion course in Siena. I wasn't surprised that I had the notes. And I wasn't surprised that I never made time to study them. I did however buy an Italian phrase book. It helped a lot.

I also bought a Greek phrase book. It served no purpose at all. Words in Greek don't look like words at all. There's no way to even pretend to know how to pronounce them. I couldn't even use it translate street signs. While in Greece, I learned no Greek. It is regrettable. I recommend (wherever you go) you plan some way to communicate in the event no one around you speaks English.
  1. Know where you're going
  2. Know how to get there
  3. Know what you're saying
  4. Know what to bring
Not all luggage is created equal. We brought too much of the wrong stuff on this vacation. The idea was to have one big suitcase, one carry-on each, and my computer. I think that would have been fine if we were just cruising, but for the amount of traveling we did afterwards, we needed smaller, more easily managed bags.

Our recommendation (and what we will be using next time) is two pieces of luggage each. One small to medium bag to be checked. That bag should have wheels and a sturdy handle... and it should be easy to carry over the gaps between subway cars and platforms. In addition to that bag, a backpack with wheels. I'm looking for one with a cushioned laptop compartment. The goal is to carry neither a lot of little bags, nor one big one. That would have helped us.
  1. Know where you're going
  2. Know how to get there
  3. Know what you're saying
  4. Know what to bring
  5. Know what to wear
Women need clothes with pockets. It makes sense for several reasons, including not keeping your money in the same place and having money handy for quick purchases. A purse might be convenient, but I think a backpack is more convenient, because both hands are free at all times. It just keeps things the traveler moving.

I recommend two pairs of walking shoes that can be alternated. No matter how comfortable you think your shoes are, they will annoy you at the end of a long day. And even the shoes that annoyed you yesterday will provide relief. Flip-flops are dumb for site seeing. They don't have a lot of support or traction and marble just gets smoother with time.

Be comfortable. If you think you're going to sweat, wear an undershirt. Be practical, even if you're not as cute as you could be. Also, be smart. The Vatican has a dress code: bare shoulders, cleavage, midriffs, and upper thighs are not to be seen
  1. Know where you're going
  2. Know how to get there
  3. Know what you're saying
  4. Know what to bring
  5. Know what to wear
  6. Know how to go
Part of being Danie is having an intense dislike for public restrooms. Unfortunately, they are a necessary evil. I'm not sure how many I used during the trip, but I do know only 3 had both toilet paper and soap. I had my own wipes and hand sanitizer. But I wanted soap. I might bring that next time.

So that's my advice, not to be confused with a complete checklist of any sort. Overall our trip went well. We traveled well together and I think that had a lot to do with the planning we did ahead of time. Hopefully this will help you as well.