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Farewell, 2014

It’s time to send out 2014. On this site, I wrote almost nothing, but at least I got that thing about My Flag is on Fire off my chest.

Somehow, I missed this, or I probably would have posted about it. So, while it’s still the same year this material claims to have been released…

If it was a lo-fi year for you, maybe you’ll appreciate this. It’s the Instagram filter of music, and it’s welcome. If it was a hi-fi year for you, and you just need to lean back for an hour or so and drift in and out of consciousness, this’ll do, too. Good work, whoever.

I’ll try to keep the lights on here.

A few words of unsolicited advice for Michael Dell

Techies who follow the news have no doubt heard that Michael Dell has partnered with Silver Lake to take the computer company bearing his name private.

Dell is in a tough spot right now, and it’s good that Mr. Dell is trying to salvage the company that he started in a college dorm room and turned into a powerhouse of PC manufacturing.

Nobody's made a better desktop machine than this.

Nobody’s made a better desktop machine than this.

Dell’s initial claim to fame was build-to-order, high quality, competitively priced computers.  Things really heated up for Dell when Windows 95 and Windows NT 4 transformed the way PC’s were sold into enterprise.  Dell was on the spot with extremely high quality, very innovative corporate PC’s like the Optiplex line.  In 1997, I was working in IT and the only computers I wanted to use were the Optiplex machines.

They were solid as a rock and incredibly easy to service.  They had a hinged case that opened with no screwdriver required.  Processor and memory were tucked neatly under a hinged power supply.  All the expansion cards were in a detachable carriage that also took no screws to remove.  Nobody has made a computer so easy to work on since, not even Dell.  I had one of those Optiplex machines powered on for 6 years straight acting as a web server, and I still have it.  It still works.

Dell must have garnered a considerable amount of loyalty amongst IT people like me, who must have proceeded to recommend Dell products to less computer-savvy people.  Sadly, Dell would spend a whole decade squandering that loyalty, putting a lot of us recommenders in a tight spot.  Those of us who bought Dell machines for ourselves were also caught with egg on our faces.

When it came to building computers for business, Dell never really messed up too much.  But their failure to build anything of quality for the consumer market, especially in the laptop form factor, didn’t make them any friends in the ’00s.  Loading up the machines with tons of so-called “crapware” didn’t help, either.  Their OS images were in many cases not very well tested.  By 2010, under almost no circumstances would I have recommended Dell products to anyone.  All this, without mentioning Dell’s ill-advised forays into smart phones, media players, and the like.

Here’s where the unsolicited advice comes in.  It’s pretty straightforward:

1. Computers aren’t dead.  People still need them.  Lots of people still want them.
Build only solid, well-tested portable machines with rock solid no-BS OS installs, and take them on the road to show the people who are still buying computers.  What’s not accounted for in this talk of “post-PC” this and that and the other thing is that a considerable percentage of people still rely on computers for lots and lots of tasks.  Computers aren’t going away.  Macs attracted such a large share of the market of people still buying computers because they are innovative, high-quality, and no BS.  Don’t copy the Mac, but build an innovative, high-quality, no BS computer, and make sure everybody knows about it.  Now that consumer desires are driving corporate IT, make a computer that appeals to the former and is engineered to withstand the needs of the latter.

2. Build an awesome tablet
Take Microsoft at their word.  The Surface is a signal to the market of what is possible to build.  A considerable share of people’s “computer use” outside of getting things done will be on tablets.  So build a great one.  And make sure everyone knows it.

3. Don’t take on any new work until you’ve nailed those two things
Let’s assume you can do these two things I am suggesting and that you’re not having any trouble also doing servers, storage, consulting services, workstations and desktops for enterprise.  Take a step back and marvel at all the things you’re doing.  If you can recapture your formerly unparalleled reputation for mass-market quality, you’ll be in a strong position.  The people in the back of the house will like the same stuff that the people in the front of the house are demanding.

I’m probably not alone in wanting to see Dell make a comeback.  Whatever the company ends up doing, it will start with winning the hearts and minds of the right people, and not squandering that goodwill again.  Good luck.

‘Weedpass’ to take effect nationwide in Netherlands in 2013

If you’ve visited the Netherlands, you’re aware of the famous Dutch ‘coffeeshops’ where they do sell coffee, but they also sell marijuana in small amounts for personal use (the max they can sell you at one time is 5 grams.)

Starting in 2013, the privilege of entering the coffeeshops and partaking of the wares offered therein will be the exclusive province of Dutch citizens and legal residents.  So if you visited and enjoyed these coffeeshops and had hoped to one day do it again, the clock is ticking – you might want to go sooner rather than later.  Already, the border provinces of the Netherlands have instituted the system, called the ‘Wietpas,’ or in English, ‘Weedpass.’

You might be wondering why this is all happening, and I’ve done some research and thinking on the subject.  Here’s what seems to be going on.

First, comes the issue of ‘drug tourism.’  If you are an American and reading this, you probably aren’t thinking of the same ‘drug tourism’ as the Dutch, Belgians or Germans are thinking of.  For an American to visit the famous coffeeshops, basically means taking a trip to Amsterdam, and it is not cheap.  An American needs to come up with at least a thousand dollars for an excursion to Amsterdam, and in most cases much more than that.  But the Netherlands borders Belgium and Germany and in a more limited sense, England and France, and for these folks to visit the Netherlands, especially the Germans and Belgians, requires little more than a tank of gas.

There are two groups of victims here – one group of actual victims and another group of imaginary victims.  Let’s start with the first group of victims.

These victims are the Dutch who live in the towns bordering Belgium and Germany.  These Dutch people are more conservative (socially) than the Amsterdammers and they only get more conservative as a few weekends a month, Belgians and Germans come into their towns and ransack them, acquiring and using as much weed as they can while they are there and then carting the rest back home to last until the next trip over the border.  The Dutch are remarkably tolerant people, but at some point, even the most tolerant person will throw up their hands and say, “Enough is enough!”

The second class of ‘victims’ is the imaginary ones.  It’s necessary at this point to take a step back and compare the marijuana situation to prostitution (another area where the remarkably tolerant Dutch have been pulling back a bit lately.)  Outside of legalization, there are two ways legal systems deal with prostitution.  One way is to arrest prostitutes, treating them as criminals, and the other way is to go after pimps and johns, treating them as victimizers.  Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this.  The latter method is generally regarded as the more enlightened one.  Arresting prostitutes, the alleged victims in sex trafficking, only ruins their lives and does nothing to deal with the problem of demand for their services.

Outside of decriminalization of both the cultivation/distribution side and the consumption side of drugs, there are generally two approaches to prosecuting drug crime:  arrest the users, or go after the cultivators and dealers.  The logic is the same as in prostitution, really, only as a mirror image.  The users are the victims, so why arrest them and ruin their lives, when you can go after the victimizers, the cultivators and distributors of the substance?

Which leads to the point.  Belgium and Germany have both to a considerable extent decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, but the cultivation and distribution of marijuana remains a crime.  If a drug user is a victim, and a drug dealer is a victimizer, and you live right next door to a drug dealer, then who is the victimizer?  That’s right, your neighbor.

Faced with this situation, the remarkably tolerant Dutch, who correctly see that in marijuana-related matters nobody is really a victim, have two choices:  keep their remarkably tolerant attitude for themselves, or bow to international political pressure and give it up entirely.  Belgium and Germany would do well to realize that the primary victimizer in marijuana matters is the state and its legal policy of prohibition and open up their own coffeeshops.

The Dutch are very pragmatic, nonetheless.  It is entirely possible that this move to restrict access to the coffeeshops will lead to an increase in black market drug activity precisely of the sort that the original policy of decriminalization and tolerance was designed to avert.  If that happens, it is not unthinkable that they will declare the weedpass idea a failure, and go back to the way things were.  Time will tell.

Reno Image – Scattered Pride, Bitchy Inaction and Trashy Chic

Normally I don’t like to give other alt-weeklies, be they paper or online, much of a mention, as one of two things will occur.  One, I’d be seen as piggybacking on ideas and writing them (…which I kind of am right now…) and the other is boldly standing dependent on the output of another.

This is different.  The Reno News & Review, long-time alt-weekly of Reno, love it or hate it, is presenting an editorial, kind of doing what a lot of folks are doing in and about Reno: identifying a problem, chanting negativity, and leaving little else in the way of solutions.

It’s a subject I have talked about and discussed, pondered and chin-scratched over for years, more recently tackling some other ideas and thoughts via God Hates Reno, the predecessor to this here site called Burncards.  Why Burncards even exists, and GHR before it, was the idea that Reno can be more than it is.  It seems like such a theme in so many people’s eyes, that Reno can be so much more, but we’re almost hard-wired to expect it NOT to be.  Investors come in thinking this is an easy cleanup job, invest in a few properties and rake in the cash–it ain’t that easy.  Nor is it easy to have a necessarily good viewpoint on this town, and so I give a partial pass to those who might highlight their negativity.

This time I’m going to into a bit of a criticism-of-a-criticizer’s role, which seems mighty pointless, until I justify my intent.  I realize news and opinion, public opinion and the like, are really based around honesty.  I might add as well, there is no dishonesty going on.  What I do see, however, is a matter of civic pride that seems to almost be a cliche in Reno, because usually, we have none.  It’s quite easy for any one of us to write up a laundry list of what sucks here, and we look at fan-boys and girls of this town that actually like it here as eccentric nobodies–I mean, how many times have you heard someone say, “Oh well I’m STUCK here like the rest of the few displaced talented/cool/rich/decent people.”   Erm, okay.   Real nice attitude.

Editorials are great.  In the futureworld of 2011, EVERYONE gets an opinion.  The problem is, opinions are not always geared with the intent of the recipient, it’s usually the ego of the writer.  The  R&NR editorial piece here, as written by anonymous, is worth exploring.  It is a typical and classic example of what we here at Burncards call QRA, (also search the site for “QRA” for other instances).   We have here, someone who apparently has remained nameless, sitting back, comfortably on a computer, basically blackballing Reno.  They get a pass and a nod because they aren’t all wrong.  What isn’t flying with me is the commonness of how this is applied versus nothing being DONE about it.  No where in the article, which outlines McCarran’s inner ring as a source if problems (never mind MidTown, a baseball stadium, the Old Southwest neighborhoods, parks, rivers, art galleries, bike paths, etc etc etc etc etc etc), dropping the typical “Vegas” comparison (which, if you know me, L.V. can K.M.A.),  further comparing to San Francisco, then just going after low blows calling vendors “carnies,” and essentially calling the town a circus.  The town needs a little help, especially downtown, and no one is perfect.

My question is, who is this bitter San Jose vacationer, and how faster can I get his or her ass back to their two-story, expensive, cookie-cutter, law-saturated utopia?  Did you bother leaving your Silver Legacy suite on a weekday special or just sit in your room on the Internet calling up Yelp reviews and opinion columns?

Perhaps it is a local.  To that I challenge, so what’s your solution?  Should YOU move or should you start enjoying funnel cakes and Natty Ice by the river?  There’s some really fun, dirty, shameful things to do in this town, along with some pretty sophisticated “big city” type lifestyles.  That’s part of the charm.  Without either of those things, it’s chain coffee shops, check loan cashing joints and bad gringo-fresh-Mex food—-utter HELL in my eyes.

The ludicrous end in this pointless debate stops where the words start:  so where’s the SOLUTIONS?  I know so many business owners that not only are out there doing something for a living, they’re making a community!  Beyond them are event organizers that are NOT Hot Exhaust Blights oriented, couldn’t give two shits about Street Vibrations or ArTown, and actually work quite hard to turn over zero profit for the sake of culture.  They exist in art galleries, on small side streets off Virginia, occasionally develop in living rooms, basements or warehouses.  Side streets, converted dwellings and even motels running art spaces.  Music ideas turn to bands that turn venues that turn to scenes.  Cookingklatches can turn to groups to co-ops to restaurants.  Coffee and beer aficionados throw caution and life savings to the wind and risk it all for a business they really love—that all come together and create a TOWN they love, so that people will have something more.

There really is no excuse to come here, live here or even leave your front door, if all Reno is and ever will be is a dead shell, compared to Vegas and San Francisco (like comparing a 1949 Porsche to a 2011 Bentley–i.e, unfair) and call residents nothing but (and I mean, no exceptions) trash and losers.

It is suggested Reno has an image problem.  I say residents then must have an acceptance problem.  When we are faced with a problem, and they (defined as anyone else but the complainant) can’t fix it, then you (defined as you) find out how to exploit and enjoy it.  Lemons into lemonade, ya know.  See this website?  The one I made before it?  My bands?  My shows?  My participation in my community?  Yeah.  Get the picture?  Here, I’ll help those that are a little lost to understand:  I don’t know how to fix this town, but I DO make it better.  It’s called effort.

There are then those that simply need to get out and go make some other town miserable.  They are hopeless.  They are the losers.  They make a career out of their own inaction and thrive on the lack of effort of others.  No art museum is big enough, no event classy enough, no party exclusive enough, no business front-page enough will ever, ever, satisfy them.  With that said, I love this town, that’s why I stay here, work here, live here, drink here, play here and enjoy my many good neighbors, fellow business owners and ultimately:  people that are INTO Reno.   WE are THIS TOWN!

May Reno’s real, positive and constructive voices, efforts and success rise above those that chain themselves like anchors to this town’s feet and keep it down by ignorance and rhetoric alone.

Reno pride, motherfuckers.

Distractions Of The Author While…Hold On A Sec, My Phone Just Beeped

The Internet has really changed the way we do things, and it’s getting to the point where we almost take it for granted. Generations like mine (as a mid-thirtysomething) can certainly remember times when we did things “the old-fashioned way,” such as using our minds, pencils and papers to write or research something. We were also the first generation to grow up using computers as an every-day interaction in our schools—-I began school in 1984, which means we had a library full of Apple IIe computers that all the classes used. Once a day, we got one hour on the computer. There was a computer in my learning curve ever since, and little has changed today.

One thing we don’t realize is the valuable process we lose by using the ever-increasing technology that we enjoy on a daily basis. I know a couple of friends of mine jokingly were calling any phone with any kind of Google searchability “The Oracle,” as questions can and will be answered. I’m only getting to the point now where I realize I have a pocket full of information with my phone, which makes us only more interdependent on our silicon-based lifestyle. One that will poke us in the ribs every time someone tweets, messages or demands our instant attention, no matter what we’re doing. I’ve done everything I can to make me in control of my blasted phone, rather than the other way around.

When I write, it is usually on a computer. A once-steady hand of pen-holding and paper medium, I probably couldn’t write more than a page or so before my hand started to cramp up. Muscles gone to hell in a once proud method I used constantly, before this infernal laptop and phone began routinely joining my travels. Similar as it goes, according to this article, those seeking a writing refuge in Iowa City, long known for its tradition in writing, will find many using the old ways, and sternly encouraged to do so!  From a lack of distraction to a long history of fiction writing that has become a cultural norm there, it’s good to see people even attempting to find out what writing, publishing and the writing environment really means without necessarily the help of some kind of bothersome technology.

What about students?

Recently, my partner Zack was at home watching “The Whitest Kids U Know,” and this amusingly offensive and NSFW video touched upon something that teachers undoubtedly are probably fighting every day: the telltale “Internet reference,” such as… “…but Wikipedia said so!”

You know when it’s become part of our comedy routines, it’s at least common enough to question how technologically-reliant we are, or the common denominator like an informational website like Wikipedia being the first (and sometimes only) stop in our quest for knowledge.

At the same time, what would have happened in 1984 when I was in school had things been different, or say I was a first grader right now? Likely, if I wasn’t being forced to do some kind of research in a stinky, old library with stinky, old librarians, I’d probably be ignorant to my subject matter, or at the whim of some teacher’s interpretation of the information. Wikipedia, arguably, if not correct, at least naturally opens doors in which we didn’t have back then, either. Otherwise, ignorant of information we would stay, unless that is, we stuck with stinky, old-fashioned learning and continued into higher education.

It’s a pointless battle to choose sides and say one is superior to the other. Long have we had the information and we have been just as dedicated (or lazy) at obtaining and retaining it, and perhaps we just have to remember the experience is best, and we’ll leave that up to the individual to discover (or rediscover, if you will). Distracted or not.

Mining Tax Cap Elimination Gains Support and Another “Claim Tax” Deemed Unconstitutional

The Nevada mining and minerals industry is really on a roller coaster these days.

Those in Nevada opposed to the elimination of the tax cap put on state net proceeds of mines (Constitutionally at 5% currently) are likely none too happy with state Senators Ben Kieckhefer (R) of Reno and Michael Roberson of Las Vegas (R) as they cross party lines and join the Democrats in support to amend the Nevada State Constitution.  The movement partially-known as the “Fair Mining Tax,” soon, it will be going to the State Assembly for a vote: we’ll just have to wait and see what turns out. If voted in-favor, it would be required to be approved by State Legislature in 2013, and then put on the election ballot in 2014. Incidentally, the two main groups behind changing the constitution to eliminate caps on mining taxation are the Nevada Teachers’ Association and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. It’s another polarized political push in the name of perceived “good.”

Why is this happening in such a fiery manner? The unthinkable has perhaps happened: Casinos are failing, and we’re going broke. We got too used to one industry padding our system here in Nevada, and with few to choose from, we’re asking old ideas to work with a different industry rather than fixing the problem.

It’s true, I’m one of those none too happy, as someone who makes a living doing geotechnical assistance for minerals exploration in this state, it means one of two things to me. The first being that these tax-cap percentages are now unhindered, and mining opponents, the kind of people who apparently dislike working Nevadans, have access to push through taxation on Nevada’s best job opportunities and state growth potentials. Taxes are almost never lowered, they’re re-named (as I’ll go into on another subject below) and raised, often without representation, but usually they just get higher, usually due to increased spending, thus, more hands get held out. The second being what those taxes actually mean to the producing mines (who they are intended to penalize—-and I choose that word carefully) and what that means on down the chain of economics in Nevada. Workers get thinned out, hours cut, benefits reconsidered, less possibility of mine (and then job) expansion, etc. That’s just at the surface. Likely, the workers will then blame the company (they’re not accountants, nor would they want to be), possibly form unions because they’re “being treated badly,” and force what they once had, further buckle the company…okay, that’s extreme. It’s also how these things can happen.

Back on my side of the fence, if larger companies can’t invest in us little guys because they’re paying taxes, well, we don’t get the clients, we don’t get hired, and then we don’t pay our taxes, and then we go out of business and collect unemployment. Again, extreme, but that’s a timeline of possibility. Even half of those in my fine hyperbole might be a bad thing, and certainly isn’t good for a shaky economy, statewide or even nationally. This is just my opinion.

On the other hand, wouldn’t more taxes for Nevada be good? It’s my argument and understanding that a tax dollar is a tax dollar. It can come from anywhere if we put our minds to it. Usually, our simple minds look at simple numbers, say, the price of gold, and immediately (and seemingly sensibly) put two and two together: Our state mines, gold is at an all-time high. Sure, the big production companies are doing well. Will they in 10 years? Gold has a bad habit of not staying the same in price: that’s why the Mining Law of 1872 and helpful things like 5% caps on mining taxes in Nevada are there. If gold goes back down to $200/oz, Nevada will be stuck paying 8%, 10%, 25% taxes on production: which means, we’d be broke either way, if we’re as broke as we are now AND suddenly gold takes a dump. It won’t support us, and it will punish our industry. What a wonderful thing if you just happen be anti-mining ala Bob Fulkerson.  Masquerading as solutions equates fanatical success–don’t let spun, misleading pie charts fool you.  What mines pay in other taxes and fees outside production is WHY the taxes are what they are.

In good news, in an emergency session last year, not known much by the public, known to the chagrin of mining claims holders, a “fee” on all mining claims in the State of Nevada.  This has recently been deemed unconstitutional by a Carson City judge. What is this “fee” you ask? It happened to be a fee of as low as $70 and as high as $195 per mining claim filed with the BLM, handled by the county, and piped right into the state’s “general fund.” That’s right, it was a tax that was dodged by use of wording (aka, “fee”), was not voted on whatsoever, and blew right past everyone to become law. The only repercussion of not paying this fee was…yep, more fees. It was really causing havoc with the counties (as they were responsible for collecting the money and doing the paperwork…the state just sat back and watched the unconstitutional tax money roll in) and the smaller mining companies.  They had no idea who was in charge of what, or what would happen if they were late, or didn’t file. Ah, but finally enough protest and uproar from the counties and claim owners went to court, and now these taxes are on hold until further notice. My question is now, what about the money they collected unconstitutionally? When will we be seeing that returned?

Mines are expensive to run. It is not the same as oil producing, log cutting or any of the other industries that produce raw materials that come from the earth. Profit gained based upon money spent by said company is usually not in favor of the industry, with exception to rare times like we’re in currently. It’s a bust or boom industry, it always has been: fat or famine. Mining, as an industry, are among the most environmentally-scrutinized, safety-necessary and harrowing jobs out there. They indeed can be clean, profitable and beneficial, especially to our state.  It’s the only industry that actually cleans up other old mines, sets aside wildlife sanctuaries and wetlands, and makes an attempt to give back (…casinos don’t even do that!). This is why we have to be very careful about what are “fees” and “taxes,” and why they are there.

I believe we as Nevadans owe it to mining to scrutinize our politicians and the obstructionists that would like nothing more than for mining to just pack up shop and head to China, make sure we know what their real angles are, look beyond the words “Fair!”  “It’s for Nevada!”   “It’s for the people!”   “It’s for the earth!”    Mantras that have been used as leverage for years.  We need Nevada MAKING something again—-something besides tax laws: we all know how great California’s doing. Traveling this truly vast state,  I know there is plenty of Nevada for all of us, as citizens, nature-lovers and industry folk alike (which to my reckoning is all of us), and we can, in fact, get state revenue without punishing someone else.

(info from mineweb.com — a great resource for all news Nevada mining)

(image WSJ)

Is CommRow The Thing?

We here at Burncards have been following the new CommRow development as closely as we can.  We attended the initial Planning Commission meeting where the special use permit was issued.  I watched and tweeted on the City Council meetings where the garage agreement was denied and subsequently approved.  I’m in favor of the project and I support the developer, Fernando Leal.

Judging by the comments threads on other local blogs and an op-ed piece by Diedre Pike in the RN&R this week, it seems there are a lot of people who think this project is a joke.  The sentiment can be summed up like this: Leal “failed” at his only other venture in town, the Montage, and closed a perfectly fine hotel-casino and then screwed the city out of back rent on a parking garage they had no business buying in the first place.  Oh also, this new project CommRow is a stupid idea and nobody will ever go there and it’ll be closed before you know it.

Well, let’s just take those points in order.  First, while Leal may have ended up turning Montage over to the bank, it is a stretch to call the project a failure.  Want to see a failure?  Look across the train trench from the Montage at King’s Inn, which has been closed since approximately 2 days after it opened back in 1975.  Montage has people living there and this summer, at least on a temporary basis, a neon sign museum will open on the ground floor.  It’s a nice looking building, a good project, it’s open for business and if the housing crash hadn’t happened, the ownership situation would look different.







For Phase 2:  A BMX park on top of the parking garage

The garage situation is a sordid affair, and certainly doesn’t speak that well to the City Council’s exercise of their fiduciary duty over the years.  Getting the garage off the city’s books will probably be a good deal for the city in the long run regardless, and Leal has to pay two years’ rent up front in order to use the garage until the purchase option kicks in.  The ideal situation?  No.  But not the end of the world.

Somehow there’s this notion that if someone is building a project in Reno, that’s the way Reno is going, that’s Reno’s new “thing,” so there’s been a lot of talk about whether this “thing” is the right “thing.”  Frankly, it’s irritating.  Is a hotel with a climbing wall and a boulder park the new model for things to come in Reno?  Not necessarily.  Why should it be?  Not every other property or new project in town has to be the same.

But I can tell you what Reno’s new “thing” should be, are you ready for it?

Reno’s new “thing” in this writer’s humble opinion should be getting all the closed hotels, empty buildings and vacant storefronts in downtown open for business.

You read that right.  Reno’s new “thing” needs to be, not only is some of Reno open for business, all of Reno is open for business.  Stuff is happening, it’s not sketchy or scary, it’s not all the same old casino experience.  There are some non-gaming hotels, some upscale, some old time Reno style hotel-casinos, office buildings, condo buildings, souvenir shops, restaurants, bars, yes tattoo parlors, pawn shops, art galleries, a YMCA downtown wellness center, a movie theater, coffee houses, maybe even some stores that sell stuff nearby residents or even long term visitors might need.

It’s not all casinos here, but it is all open for business.  Photo:  New To Reno

Everything in Reno, open, open for business.  Reno, a real town.  With stuff going on.  That should be Reno’s new “thing.”

From where I’m sitting, Leal, the one who is trying to make a go of this project, is doing something that points toward that goal, he deserves the support, I will remain optimistic and see how it plays out, and all you negative people, go see if you can round up millions of dollars and do your own project.  You ain’t doing the rest of us any good sitting in the corner guffawing.

It’s Meme versus “Me Me Me” These Days

Granted, I have no idea if the owner of this license plate is a physicist that works long, arduous hours up at the Desert Research Institute playing around with molecular structure and different forms of matter, but generally speaking, they usually aren’t driving polished Soccer Mom SUVs, either.  There’s a practicality problem with that lineup.

It could be a very enthusiastic voter, encouraging others to matter, too.

More to the point, I had to wonder if this person simply has taken Mr. Rogers’ message to heart, and has ran away realizing that they are not only unique, special, and need to turn that sheepish “cog in the wheel” feeling upside down and declare:  “I matter!”

As Ken might say, “Of course you do, sweetie!”

It’s another example in my theory we’ve ruined our X and Y generation with false notions of being important.  Wait, they aren’t important?  My little angel children I tried to shield from the 1980s and all of its terrors and let be raised by the apathy and faux-hippie 1990s?

I sort of talk about it more  in another article “Quick-Fix Politics: The War Against Politeness.” Fueled by pills such as antidepressants and Ritalin, they forged a new path of can-do-no-wrong, growing up after this era and having kids of their own.  While largely not a disagreeable bunch, I sometimes wonder what will become of them.

I have never before seen 30+ year old adults sit around without jobs, unemployment numbers be damned.  The sheer amount of  irresponsible Generation X/Y-ers that just don’t care.  They aren’t looking, and until it come served on a silver platter, refuse to go another step.  Homelessness?  No way, I always have a safety net.   I had one kid mention recently his married mother and father were quite happy on unemployment, and could just sell a thing or two on ebay their grandmother gave them for money.  Say what?  This is child rearing, eh?

“Kids these days!”  as I shake my fist.   They aren’t all too bad, just lost, I suppose, but generally speaking, stick close to home, within a block or less, don’t go outside, for fear of the child molester–like their teacher.   Yet news reports abound about video social networking sites that host “video chat,” and even teenagers in the digital age are going to do funny things without clothing given the chance to be around one another.  Even if it is from their own bedrooms.   They have their own MySpace pedestal, credit cards, and it isn’t a matter of “…if I get a car when I turn 16….” it’s a simple choice of what color and model–totally expected.  Television shows of wealthy family situations, “You Can Be A Star Too, Joe and Jenny Average Boy or Girl!”  show us the spotlight is available, ever brighter, ever further.

I can’t say I am/was immune from this either.  Something fundamental (and I don’t mean religious, either) has changed with our attitudes, and life now is just expected to be easy.   Working is farther down on the list of important things to do than ever, degrees are for superfluous “experience,” than a job (philosophy, liberal arts, English), everything we do hurts something or someone, so therefore, do nothing.

Personally, I have had times when I needed a job, and breaking the inertia to go do it was almost impossible.  I would have rather figured out a way to survive by my own means than be “owned” by someone else.  Even if it meant a drastic change in my lifestyle.  You know, probably even harder than getting a full-time job.   In my youth, I don’t remember too many people telling me to do otherwise.   See?  Even right there:  I’m more willing to blame someone else rather than my own inability to get out of my own way–and in conflict I am.   I know I’m not the only one.

I wasn’t unique or special (gasp), I don’t think other kids were told it was more important what we chose to do, in lieu of what what we were.

Because, after all, you, I matter, we all matter.  Just by being you.  Our simplicity of entertainment is even so bad we’ll soak up anything original, because practically no one in pop society is even trying anymore, what with remakes showing us how great our past was (consequently showing us how lame we are now)–enter the age of the Internet meme!  Instant satisfaction and easily amused; we’ll wear anything on a t-shirt.  Nyan Cat anyone?  (That reference will be obscure in three months from now.)

Let’s face it:  we get what we want, and we don’t have to do anything.  China will make us stuff, Japan will ship us cars, Canadians give us syrup, India answers our tech gripes, some Arab guy gives us oil, Australia makes us laugh, Europe gives us suggestions on how we should live , and there’s always a fruit-bearing tree giving us the means (we don’t even have to get up and pick said fruit–thanks, Mom and Dad!) and it will never, ever run out.  Ever.  It’s always been this way, so far as we know.

Thanks, feel-good entropic society.  You have given us utopia at last.

A Casual Walkthrough Of The New Siena

So, I coursed through the Siena last night, and it was…interesting to say the least. Downtown Reno was bustling with activity. On a warm summer Friday night, why wouldn’t it be? A friend and I had some walking and wandering to do, and I figured I’d see what the new Siena looked like. The only reason why I’m writing this is just as a snapshot experience, I have no idea what the amenities are of this hotel, as I’m likely not going to sleep there, I’m not a gambler, and I it’s only possible I may have a meal there. I’m not generally a fan of casinos.

It was about 11:00pm, the place was largely empty, there was a stereotypical casino cover band band called “Steel Breeze,” upstairs.  Nice folks, bad music.   People working there were so bored they were practically doing anything just please the few people who were drunk and wandering in or folks like us, trying to get a feel for the place. They tried really hard to get us to grab a bit to eat. Who could blame them? Much of the looks on everyone else was “watch checking,” (…is my shift over, yet?) and/or just begging for people to cater to.

I saw the quasi-food court area they had going on, and to be honest, it’s set up terribly. It’s really almost an afterthought, too small, and the pathway they sectioned off to go to the northwest doors was, in my eyes, a mistake. The lighting is not very flattering to the place at night: super blue, cold, bouncing off the slightly-brighter-than battleship gray paint…which is unfortunate, because the art in there is really, really cool. The name “River View,” is misleading–you can’t see the river very well as it is.  Maybe in the daytime?   The sushi place is set up a little better, a littler “warmer” feeling.  The menu selection was basic, and quite expensive at River View, but the Asian side had a few more tempting offers. We weren’t there to eat, sadly.

The casino floor, the area holding the least amount of interest to me, had a mixture of innovative LED arrays mixed with the same old Siena.  The carpet is still the same, the “Tuscany” rock-face walls clash with the contemporary lights—-badly. There are weird “close encounters of the third kind” lights over the gaming tables are far, far, far too bright, and being fluorescent, make it look like an institution (think DMV or hospital). Again,  almost no one was in there.

“The Loft,” upstairs is set up kind of cool, but again, totally wrong lighting. The spillover heat, sound and light from the too-bright casino is totally off-putting for an “intimate show space,” area. The bar is tucked way in the back, the furniture is extremely small, and not very comfortable. Great dance floor/stage area, though.

DaVinci’s looks neat, but it was closed. Is it a bar, or a restaurant?  Is the wine cellar still downstairs the same?  Does it exist?  I couldn’t tell. Either way, it should be open on a warm Friday night.

The lobby is the most impressive part of the place, properly-tuned light, furniture arrangement, good marble work, fountains, and artwork. It looked more like a boutique hotel I’d find in San Francisco or New York. I’m surprised they didn’t try harder to make this a feature throughout the rest of the casino.

Again, this was just a preliminary walk-through on my part. I have overheard and read a lot of mixed reviews about the place since it has re-opened, and I’m getting the feeling why. It’s not a very inviting hotel/casino, except the lobby. Overall, the lighting is bad, it’s disjointed and has no “theme,” and is greatly suffering from the “herd syndrome,” which means, there’s no people there, so why be there? People off the street are not usually drawn in by empty buildings, being clannish and skittish creatures.

For another point of view and some pictures, hit up Downtownmakeover.com’s recent look at the Siena.

I’m not a casino guy, never have been, never will be. Maybe I just “don’t get it.” A business is a business, however, and theme, poise, invitation, lighting, location, presence, offerings and value are no exception here. It lacks restaurant space, vibe and uniqueness.   There’s too much “old Siena,” clashing with obviously expensive new ideas.  Obviously, the new owners have a vision, and future change is capable of fixing all of this. The Siena, at a glance, I hope isn’t finished, because it has a long way to go in the short time before their May 20 grand opening.  This better had not be a “finished product,” because this hotel was a bargain-basement auction grab, and it’ll do Reno better to make it into something that’s worth it.

Lithium Mining – Nevada’s New Green

Western Lithium Reno

Yep, did that one on purpose…I love catchy double-meaning titles, don’t you?

Well, Nevada needs the money kind of green, as in taxes, revenue and jobs, and there’s likely room for there being some of the movement known as “green,” too. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find a way to establish another actual industry for Nevada? While at the same time supporting one of the existing ones?

Lithium has long been a source for battery production. In fact, the chances of you yourself using some lithium in a battery is almost assured. Have an iPod? A cell phone? A laptop?  Thinking larger, how about hybrid or electric vehicles that are becoming so popular and important?   That’s just the beginning.  There’s already some interest in making Nevada a lithium mining hub, which would beg for new, green sources of power gathering (such as solar), which then would naturally need a way to hold such power… batteries?  Gold and silver production are already one of Nevada’s great products and active industries, perhaps lithium mining would fit right in.

According to this article in the New York Times, some developers would like to bill Nevada as the next place to really consider for some lithium mining, all while using new techniques to extract lithium from the earth.   Western Lithium,  which has an office here in Reno, is already drumming up some business interest and capital for the project.  Named King’s Valley (at the extreme middle-north end of the state), years of lithium mining and production there could open Nevada up to an entirely new industry.   One hurdle, the capital to be raised is quite lofty ($250M), because this new process to extract the lithium, which as to do with heating clay and making the lithium water-leachable,  is quite expensive–hopefully not too expensive in the current economic climate.   More locally though, perhaps more importantly to those here, this project’s location will mean even more to Northern Nevada for jobs and other potential.

The other issue they’re going to face is  on Capitol Hill.  Like most new mining operations, there are miles of red tape, permits, and process one must go through in order to get something like this going.   There’s a lot of people out there that don’t like mining or view it as solely destructive, that could hinder an already arduous task to get to production with all the politics, people, ideals, and other speed bumps.   Hopefully they find a few friends over there in Washington D.C.

If the hurdles can be cleared, we (as Nevada AND the USA) could be on the forefront of production, competing with China, Chile and Argentina–and doing something our country isn’t doing a lot of by comparison to other countries:  making something.  90% of the world’s lithium is supplied from outside North America, too.   Lithium demand and prices are both high, and this could be a gold rush without the gold.  Especially if those at Western Lithium and us Nevadans play our cards right.  I think the biggest selling point to naysayers and politically is the less environmentally-invasive mining techniques–this could keep the political, possibly pointless, obstructions to a minimum.   The Kings Valley project holds the fifth largest known lithium deposit in the world… no small potatoes.   This means good things for “green,”  job seekers, and tax revenue for the state.

For Nevada, this, again, could provide a HUGE opportunity.  California has Silicon Valley, Detroit has Motor City, Texas has oil– I can easily see Nevada being Battery Alley.   Or something to that degree.  They just need to get started with mining at Kings Valley in 2014, which isn’t far away.

A hopeful possibility, I wish the King’s Valley project, Western Lithium and all who are working towards it the best of luck:  you have my support!

(information courtesy Western Lithium and the New York Times – image courtesy WLC)