Vegas pulls out the stops for New Year’s Eve revelers

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Ronnie Tank Campbell from Fayetteville, N.C. on Fremont Street Experiences Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. This is what keeps me warm, said the 315 lbs. truck driver while he drinks his pina colada. (Jeff Scheid/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ronnie "Tank" Campbell from Fayetteville, N.C. on Fremont Street Experience's Monday, Dec. 31, 2012.
This is what keeps me warm," said the 315 lbs. truck driver while he drinks his pina colada. (Jeff Scheid/Las Vegas Review-Journal)


Posted December 29, 2013 – 6:22pm

Dust off those glitter pants and top hats, it’s almost New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas.

With a collection of super­star performers and out-of-this-world dining menus, the city’s tourism industry is pulling out all the stops to make celebrating 2014 a stellar event.

About 335,000 visitors are expected to come to Las Vegas on Tuesday, bringing an estimated nongaming economic impact of $213 million, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Both figures are on par with last year’s numbers.

“We expect the same this year,” said Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Although New Year’s Eve visitation is flat compared to 2012, the last day of the year still is attracting more people than in 2011 when 314,000 visitors came to celebrate in Las Vegas. That year brought in a $192.6 million nongaming economic impact.

Citywide occupancy on the last night of 2013 is expected to be at 98 percent, also the same as last year. And yes, guests are paying a premium.

A deluxe king room at Mandalay Bay on Tuesday, for example, is priced at $526.50. Over at Planet Hollywood Resort, a Strip-view room is costing $409, and a Strip-view king room at Treasure Island costs $386 on the big night. When booking your New Year’s Eve lodging for this or any year, keep in mind that Tull said prime locations go first.

The privately owned Trump International, which features a rooftop pool deck with prime fireworks viewing, has rooms for $334 per night. Guests there can attend a free fete in the DJT Lounge, or indulge in the prix fixe menu at DJT Restaurant.

“That’s been very popular,” said marketing manager Jason Demuth. “Our emphasis is service, so we don’t charge for music or entertainment on our property. And we have a complimentary champagne toast. I think that’s kind of unique.” Read more…


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Christmas in Provence By Susan Aiello

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Christmas in Provence
By Susan Aiello

Table du gros souper de Noël avec ses trois nappes, reconstitution dans le hall de l'Hôtel de Ville d'Avignon - by Jean-Louis Zimermann
Table du gros souper de Noël avec ses trois nappes, reconstitution dans le hall de l'Hôtel de Ville d'Avignon - by Jean-Louis Zimermann

It’s just before midnight on Christmas Eve night. The sky is clear, and a thousand stars glimmer above. A procession of dozens of shepherds, some carrying candles, some playing fifes, led by a young lamb in a straw-filled cart decorated with red ribbons, who in turn is led by the lamb’s mother, walk up the hill to the church for Christmas Midnight Mass. The lamb is presented to the priest, who leads it to the creche, to keep company with Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and all the santons (little saints). This is Christmas Eve night in Provence, France, where the two-month Christmas season is sparked with magic and laced with the enchantment of old, enduring traditions.

Before attending Midnight Mass, families gather for two ceremonies – “cacho-fio” (Yule log ritual) and then for Gros Souper, or Great Supper. Before the great dinner, the oldest and youngest members of the family cut a yule log from a fruit tree, then carry it around the dining table three times before blessing it with mulled wine and burning it in the hearth.

Gros Souper – Reveillion
Reveillion means “awakening” or “awake”, and a reveillion dinner is one that lasts long into the night, generally until the wee morning hours. At the Christmas Eve dinner, seven fish and seafood dishes are served, along with local vegetables and seven wines. Some say that seven represents the sufferings of Mary, and some say it signifies the wounds of Christ. Before all the dishes are put out on the table together, the table is set with three tablecloths, three candles and three bowls of wheat, signifying the Holy Trinity. The wheat – St. Barbe’s wheat – has been saved from December 4, which is when the Christmas season begins. An extra place has been set at the table, for a deceased ancestor, an angel, or a beggar who may drop by. When the meal is finished and the table cleared, some people pull up the top tablecloth and tie up the ends, leaving the crumbs inside, and then place this bundle outside their door, signifying their help for those who are hungry.

Table du Gros Souper de Noël, tradition provençale - Nov. 29, 2010, by Veronique Pagnier
Table du Gros Souper de Noël, tradition provençale, Nov. 29, 2010 - by Veronique Pagnier

Les Treize Desserts
After Midnight Mass comes the second half of the Gros Souper – dessert. Not just one dessert, but 13, signifying Jesus and the 12 apostles at the Last Supper. There are four dishes signifying the four mendicants (religious orders that have taken a vow of poverty): Figs for the Franciscans, almonds for the Carmelites, raisins for the Dominicans and walnuts or hazelnuts for the Augustines. In addition, there are two nougats, one white and one black, signifying, some say, good and evil. Dates are included, because Jesus was from the Middle East. The remaining six desserts can be fresh or preserved cherries, pears, mandarins, apples, oranges or winter melon. And included in this dessert meal is a sweet bread made with olive oil and orange. Traditionally, any un-eaten desserts are left out for three days, for ancestors, angels, beggars, and, of course, for the family to much on!

Around 4am, when everyone has eaten their fill of desserts, opened their gifts, and filled their spirits with the warmth of celebrating with loved ones, it is time to sleep. And then, up again in the morning, to prepare Christmas lunch, which is usually from noon to 4pm. Lunch may be a chestnut-filled roast turkey with lots of side dishes, or a more simple meal.

People purchase all these wonderful foods at outdoor Christmas markets, which open up on December 4, the beginning of the season. These markets sell foods, gifts and santons, which are made of wood or clay, and are usually just a few inches tall. While a creche always has figurines of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus, the three wise men, some barn animals, and perhaps an angel or two, all the rest of the santons are townspeople – a baker, the town crier, a fisherman, and all the ordinary townspeople of 18th -19th century Provencal villages, bringing Baby Jesus their wares.

During the French Revolution, when churches were shut down and destroyed, and Christmas Midnight Mass and nativity scenes banned, the people in Provence began keeping creches in their homes, and the little santons became important in continuing Christmas traditions. Santonniers are in great demand, and the little saints can now be purchased online.

Santon in Mistral Wind Arles.jpg,
Santon in Mistral Wind Arles,

A public nativity scene may have up to 600 santons. In public displays and also in private homes, it is common to move the figurines around each day, to signify the progression of the characters as they travel to the manger. Baby Jesus is put out at midnight on Christmas Day, and the three wise men, the Kings from the Orient, arrive on Epiphany, January 6.

Provence Mistral Santon,
Provence Mistral Santon,

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day bring another reveillion, with Gros Soupers on both days. There is much eating, much drinking of wine, and boisterous merriment all around the towns.

Epiphany is celebrated by serving Gateau des Rois (Kings’ Cake), which is made with candied fruit and sprinkled with sugar. Inside the cake is hidden either a santon or a bean. The person who gets the cake slice with the prize becomes the “servant”, and must perform songs and dances to entertain everyone.

Families and friends gather often between New Year’s Day and Candlemas, prolonging the season with dinners, lunches and wine parties. The Christmas season in Provence ends on Candlemas, on February 2. The Christmas decorations are taken down, and the santons are wrapped up carefully and tucked away for their 10-month sleep until next December 4, when they stir in their little paper wrappings, wake up, and are brought out to begin the next Christmas season.

Joyeux Noel! Joyeux Noel!


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Table du gros souper de Noël avec ses trois nappes, reconstitution dans le hall de l’Hôtel de Ville d’Avignon – by Jean-Louis Zimermann originally published on Flickr

Track Santa! By Susan Aiello

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First published December 15, 2013

NORAD Tracks Santa
NORAD Tracks Santa

Have you ever wondered where Santa and his reindeer are, at any given time, on Christmas Eve? Well, you can find out here: NORAD Tracks Santa

NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), has been tracking Santa since 1955. And, with the internet, the tracking and reporting are even better, because you can see Santa and his reindeer flying over towns and cities in Google Earth 3D.

But don’t wait until Christmas Eve to visit this website. While Santa and the elves are still making toys and preparing for the big trip, there is plenty to do on NORAD’s site. Log on now to visit the North Pole, play games and music, and watch movies. And be sure to visit the North Pole Library, where you can learn about Santa, his magic sleigh, and holiday traditions in different countries. And…for all you investigative minds out there, log onto NORAD HQ on the site to read the Secret Santa Files.

How did NORAD come to track Santa each year? In 1955, A Sears store in Colorado Springs, Colorado, printed an ad with a phone number for children to call to speak with Santa. The phone number, however, was incorrect, and was the phone number to NORAD’s Commander-in-Chief’s operations hotline. Colonel Harry Shoup, Director or Operations, did not know Santa’s phone number, but he had his staff check radar for Santa’s location on Christmas Eve, and children who continued to call were given updates. A tradition was born, and NORAD does a great job with this very special mission. This site is great fun. Enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

NORAD Tracks Santa – Official Website

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Full Cold Moon will be 100% Full Today at 1:29 A.M. Las Vegas time

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Full Moon
Full Moon

December 17, 2013

December’s Full Moon is called the Full Cold Moon. It is the month when the winter cold fastens its grip and the nights become long and dark.

This full Moon is also called the Long Nights Moon by some Native American tribes.

Full Cold Moon information from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Each month, we will explain the traditional names of the full Moon along with some fascinating Moon facts. In this video, learn about the Full Cold Moon and the ancient rituals of the winter solstice.

In 2013, winter begins with the solstice at 12:11 P.M. on December 21 (EST). Get more facts about the first day of winter.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac

LincVolt: Repowering the American Dream

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LincVolt is a 1959 Lincoln Continental, owned by musician Neil Young, that was converted into a more fuel-efficient, hybrid demonstrator vehicle.

According to the LincVolt website, the goal of the LincVolt project is “to inspire a generation by creating a clean automobile propulsion technology that serves the needs of the 21st Century and delivers performance that is a reflection of the driver’s spirit. By creating this new power technology, Lincvolt hopes to reduce the demand for petro-fuels enough to eliminate the need for war over energy supplies, thereby enhancing the security of the USA and other nations throughout the world.” Read more on WIKI page

From The Official LincVolt Website

Our goal is to inspire a generation by creating a clean automobile propulsion technology that serves the needs of the 21st Century and delivers performance that is a reflection of the driver’s spirit. By creating this new power technology we hope to reduce the demand for petro-fuels enough to eliminate the need for war over energy supplies, thereby enhancing the security of the USA and other nations throughout the world.

We want to build a zero emissions automobile that eliminates roadside re-fueling entirely, a safe powerful automobile that is comfortable and economic on both long trips and the commute to work, an automobile that can generate power to the home when it is parked, potentially creating an income stream for the owner.


By working with established technologies in new ways, with the best people and companies available in each field, and creating a film about the innovative re-powering of a 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible and its trip around the USA, we aim to publicize our story of innovation to make a major difference in the knowledge of, creation, and use of clean power in the 21st Century. a 2.5 ton 19.5 foot automobile, making automotive history with an extended range and mpg that has never been attained in a full size vehicle.

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Smoking Pot On Your Front Porch In Denver Will Likely Be Legal After All

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Posted: 12/03/2013 12:43 pm EST | Updated: 12/03/2013 12:57 pm EST

Pot Plant
Pot Plant

It looked like a done deal, but a controversial decision by the Denver City Council that would have banned legal recreational marijuana use in public view on private property went up in smoke Monday.

One of Denver’s city council members reversed his original decision on the marijuana use ordinance, citing concerns about private property rights and the enforceability of the ban which appeared poised to pass just last week.

“It’s setting a false expectation up,” said Councilman Albus Brooks, who flipped his vote on the ban. “Because we’re not going to address this issue. We don’t have the resources to do it.”

Now if the ordinance becomes law after a final vote next Monday, Denver residents will be allowed to smoke pot anywhere on their properties whether they are in their homes, in their backyards, or on their front porches in plain sight of their neighbors. If pot smokers are at someone else’s house, they would need permission from the owner of that property.

Previously, smoking marijuana in public view could have amounted to about a $1,000 fine.

The sudden reversal of the front porch pot ban came as a surprise, since council members had just voted in favor of the ban last Monday and had been expected to take a final vote to make the ordinance law.

“This has been like a pingpong game,” said Councilwoman Susan Shepherd, according to The Denver Post. Her reversal amendment against the ban passed 7-6. Read more…

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Denver Post Goes All In For Pot

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Denver Post Goes All In For Pot
Denver Post Goes All In For Pot

With the legalization of the sale of marijuana coming into effect in Colorado on January 1st, everyone in the Centennial State has been getting ready for the bloodshot eyes of the nation to be on them. In that spirit, the Denver Post has hired a marijuana editor, and their introductory interview with him is pretty amazing.

Ricardo Baca, who covered entertainment and music for the newspaper for the past twelve years, will be taking over the post. He seems pretty excited.

Does he smoke weed?

“The short answer: I’ve covered concerts for a living over the last 15 years. That means hanging out with musicians, working with people in the industry, attending music festivals in Austin and the Coachella valley and New York and L.A. So yes.

Will he share the “beat” with the other reporters in the newsroom?

My colleagues who first approached me about this job told me that I will have access to reporters throughout the newsroom, and the entire staff knows that this is our biggest initiative for the coming year. Best of all, the staff wants to be involved because we’re all professional journalists and this behemoth of a story is the real deal.

Will there be a marijuana critic?

We are absolutely hiring a freelance pot critic. And a freelance pot advice columnist. And a freelance video game writer. What we’re doing here is covering cannabis culture and news from a professional, journalistic and critical point of view. If you think you have something to offer: Read more…


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