Reflections on Las Vegas


Donald Trump provided us with a nice photo op from our hotel window while staying at the Treasure Island hotel and casino earlier this month. The Donald’s casino high-rise features a subtle design trick of the eye thanks to its shiny mirror skin. The reflection of the Las Vegas strip on the lower section of the building blends right in with the horizon line behind it, while the cloud reflections above that transition seamlessly with the  surrounding sky.

Urban-Suburban Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

The houses are lined up in perfect rows like cars on a factory lot, some with manicured lawns and colorful landscaping, others with chain-link fence, beware of dog signs and weeds in the sidewalk cracks. This is a well-lived-in neighborhood on the east side of the San Francisco Bay Area where neighbors span the economic spectrum depending on street address. There are gangs of neighborhood kids riding bikes and playing with sidewalk chalk. And there are neighborhood gangs of kids carrying dangerous weapons.

But you can grow lots of fruits and vegetables here. 

Raised-beds of all sizes and filled with fruits and veggies.

Raised-beds of all sizes and filled with fruits and veggies.

 While traveling up and down the West coast this month on the annual Weekndr family vacation, we made a stop in the East Bay and witnessed an agrarian science project in full swing. A collection of raised bed gardens, cobbled together with scrap lumber, discarded containers, and other creative solutions, was alive with fruits and vegetables blooms.



 There were tomatoes planted in a soil bag, peppers of several variety lined up in rows. The heads of lettuce that hadn’t yet been clipped were thick and bushy. Even shoots of corn sprung from two planters after the resident amateur gardener discovered how to start a plant from seed (in this case a corn kernel).

lemon tree

lemon tree.



artichoke gone wild.

artichoke gone wild.





hot peppers

hot peppers.

Weeknd Project: Building a Small Fence and Deck

This weekend brought sunny summer weather and a few outdoor projects around the house. There was the moldy old white picket fence, which has needed replacing since we moved here six years ago. And there was the small deck extension I started last month, which was badly in need of a railing to prevent free-falling children.


I picked up a stack of 1x6x10 cedar boards on sale for $9.50 a pop at Lowes. It took six of them to build the short run of fence in the photo above.

The fence is constructed by nailing the boards upright to a pressure-treated 2×4 frame. That framing was already in place so after cutting the cedar to length I nailed each one successively using a nail head as a spacer. Next I capped the fence with a cedar board and nailed another two more lengths of cedar across the top and bottom of the fence.


The deck, photographed above, is simply two platforms made from pressure-treated construction lumber. I built each on a flat level surface and then arranged them as steps. Once the platforms were level and supported on blocks and 4×4 posts, I attached a pre-built pressure-treated railing, also on sale at Lowes. I had some left over cedar so I used it to box in the top of the fence posts. I’m not exactly sure what for, but I suspect we’ll find a use for it.

8 Things to Do in Las Vegas

Its what a burgers all about

It's what a burger's all about

Not listed in any particular order:

1. Eat a #3 at In-N-Out Burger
2. Play the maximum bet on the Wheel of Fortune Slot machine
3. Stay at a Casino on the strip
4. Swim in the hotel pool
5. Eat a greasy egg and bacon breakfast
6. People watch
7. Pay $5 for a venti drip coffee at the hotel Starbucks
8. Splurge for valet parking