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I also squeezed in a visit to Hoover Dam during my Vegas trip, paying an extra $20 to see a couple of more esoteric areas of the dam that are normally closed to tourists.  My experience of Hoover Dam was a bit bittersweet.  While I was impressed at the number of tourists who streamed in to see a large and technologically interesting but fairly unattractive-looking historic engineering project instead of simply gambling in Vegas, seeing the dam reminded me of the much larger Three Gorges dam in China, which I saw a few years back when it was under construction.  Hoover Dam was built during an era when US urban engineers dared to be big and bold with their projects -- buildings like the Empire State building, bridges like the Golden Gate bridge.  These were symbols of national pride.  However, the US has stopped pushing the limits of construction technology, leaving it instead to places like Tokyo, Shanghai, and Dubai. 

We are certainly making progress in subtler ways; energy efficiency has dramatically improved, and mass customization techniques are allowing for new types of structures with fine nonrepeating detail and an organic feel.  There are also certainly drawbacks to structures like dams, which can damage ecosystems despite providing clean power, and I don't advocate aggressive damming of every valley in sight.  Also, there are also certainly other areas in which America is excelling, including most major internet businesses.  However, it seems that new construction and civil engineering projects don't fire our imaginations anymore.  I don't want to see our urban development mired in a morass of entrenched interests and excess regulation, leading us to gradually fall behind as it becomes too difficult to make progress.  For example, building a modern SF-LA high speed rail seems hopelessly complex and political. 

Anyway, the visual experience of Hoover Dam, built in a jagged and lifeless canyon of burnt-brown with a tangle of power lines emerging from a central core deep in the ground, is not unlike a mid-1900s rendition of Mordor.  The stark landscape helps add to the feel of the project's audacity.

Hoover Dam  Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam  Hoover Dam  Hoover Dam
The spillway was the most enormous pipe I had ever seen.  NOM!
Hoover Dam

From the interior... 80-year-old grafitti, among other things:
Hoover Dam  Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam  Hoover Dam

Faraway rocks had a burnt look -- here's a quick feel for what they'd look like without all that silly air in the way:
Hoover Dam  Hoover Dam
Full Flickr set here
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I'm the sort of person who'd be normally have nothing to do with Hooters.  Their lone San Francisco location sticks out like an archaic sexist relic, situated solely to pull in Fisherman's Wharf tourists from other parts of the country and provide solace to bridge-and-tunnel post-frat kids who failed to pick up women at North Beach clubs.

However, my friend's employer found her one of the few remaining hotel rooms in Las Vegas for CES, and she offered me the spare bed -- at the Hooters Hotel and Casino. 

I sheepishly told the taxi attendant where to take me, and he shouted it to the driver as I stood there slightly mortified.  I'm That Douchebag who booked a room at Hooters.

However, within a few hours I realized that Hooters is actually one of the least sexist hotels on the Las Vegas strip.  Let's review:

Women working the casino floor as most casinos wear some minimal sparkly (and probably itchy) uniform that covers just enough of the naughty bits to make them street legal.  They also walk around all day in sparkly and undoubtedly uncomfortable super-high heels serving drinks to gamblers.  Some casinos now have pole dancers strategically placed at the blackjack tables to distract the gamblers. 

At Hooters, the women wear either a tight-but-skin-covering t-shirt or some black-and-white striped shirt, and shorts.  They wear white sneakers.  They don't have to pole-dance.  Overall, their required dress and behavior is quite tame by Vegas standards.  They have a more relaxed down-home southern atmosphere compared to the rest of Vegas's often pretentious glitz.

Their famous chicken wings consisted primarily of corn syrup and batter.  The chicken breast sandwich I opted for instead was sliced 90% of the way and then flipped so that it formed a pair of breasts.  They do handle their branding reasonably well. 

Not everything is always as it seems.  Sometimes up is down, and sometimes Hooters is the least sexist place around.


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February 2011

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