Throwback 2 - Fog Party

It was seemingly out of nowhere that a heavy fog had descended upon one Ackerman apartment that night, shrouding all visibility save for a few feet. As navigation equipment ceased to function in the overwhelming mist, several Syracuse University students, disoriented yet determined, willed themselves to tread forward confidently, steadfastly, perseveringly, at the road ahead.

A quick scroll through all my frames taken that evening. Song is "Liza" by Django Reinhardt.

Moving in Las Vegas

On Friday the 13th of August I left Syracuse, NY to Las Vegas, NV to begin my year-long term as a Nevada Conservation Corps crewmember. It is unbelievably hot here.

Because we weren't able to sign the lease to our apartment and move in until the 14th, I stayed my first night in the Gold Spike Hotel and Casino. Immediately at the entrance of every building I walk into, including my hotel, are slot machines and seizure-inducing flashing lights.

This was my hotel room (click and drag to rotate 360 degrees):
Surely the bright light coming through that window is daylight.

Oh wait it's actually a spotlight aiming right at my window in the middle of the night.

After moving out of this hotel the day after, I took an expensive Taxi ride to our Oasis Meadows Apartments.

View from our doorstep (we do also have a patio on the other side of the apartment). Incidentally this is also our house number where all gifts and care packages can be sent (3150 S. Nellis Blvd. #2131 Las Vegas, NV 89121).

Some Oasis Meadows apartments.

The size of this living area really surprised us all. It's bizarre that a living community this large has virtually no information available online. In any case, it's a very surprisingly nice place, and our three bedroom apartment is equally delightful, albeit unfurnished.

We did manage to pick up our first items of furniture from a couple of the garbage dumpsters located in the community, including a 1.5x1.5 ft. end table and a huge (in size and weight) 36" CRT television that we all thoroughly struggled bringing from the dumpster to our 2nd floor apartment (no elevators!). Our furniture count is now two, unless you don't count TVs as furniture.

One quickly apparent plus about Las Vegas is how cheap food and alcohol are.

While the apartment is nice and we'd all like more time to get settled in, we begin our NCC orientation tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. and won't be returning to Vegas until later this Friday.

At this point, things aren't too clear on where we'll be going exactly during our orientation week, but we did get an orientation schedule that more or less outlined our activities. It seems that a lot of this week will be spent in "classroom" settings, where we'll be learning about controlling erosion, trail design, layout (brushing corridor, constructing tread, drainage features) and theory, tool maintenance, Leave No Trace, and hopefully how to survive in the scorching heat. It's hot enough wearing shorts, but we have to wear relatively heavy Carharrt pants during our shifts everyday.

Notably, we'll be camping out the entire time starting Monday night at a location called Spring Mountains, which I believe are west and a bit south of Vegas.

Ben, Rosie and Sarah immediately after carrying this remarkably heavy TV to our apartment from by a dumpster. We were so happy to see static, ensuring it was in fact a functioning TV.

Ben, Rosie and Sarah after recovering from carrying the TV to the apartment.

Ugh, our forecast:

It better thunder on Wednesday. Only 30 percent chance? Come on thunderstorm, you can do it!

Fruit fly infestation

There were only a few to begin with, maybe four or five that I had noticed. I've had fruit flies in the past, but not to such a severe extent as I have these past several weeks. Even after removing any remnants of food that may have been keeping the population afloat, they stopped at nothing to reproduce and before I knew it, literally hundreds of fruit flies had infested my kitchen. And because I'm living in a studio apartment, my kitchen is also almost every other room in my apartment.

The threat was now greater than I could have ever anticipated. I no longer felt that my kitchen was sanitary, and sitting idly was not helping, even though it has always worked in the past when dealing with fruit flies. They kept multiplying. At first I used regular old cleaning spray to stave the infestation but with lackluster results. Sure it killed scores of them, but it wasn't enough. I brought home some more lethal cleaning spray from work, but this also made little difference. The population would go into hiding until the chemical raids subsided.

I was going to have to outsmart them.

In the photo you see above are a series of traps I devised to destroy the scourge. I made about eight of these and they all worked quite effectively. For anyone who finds themselves similarly in the midst of a fruit fly pestilence, here is what you can do:

  • Fold a piece of paper into a conical shape and then tape the sides so it doesn't unravel. Make sure you leave a little opening at the tip. Or, when you're finished taping the sides, simply cut a small hole at the tip - big enough for fruit flies to crawl into. It's important that this hole is quite small.
  • Pour a small amount of balsamic vinegar into a glass. These bastards love the smell - and I have grown to hate it now that its smell reminds me of hellish hordes of fruit flies.
  • Place the conical paper into the glass as you see in the photos above. Make sure the tip comes down close to the vinegar, but far enough away so that it doesn't touch. Maybe a couple of centimeters or so.
  • Tape the outside where the papers extends out of the glass so no fruit flies can escape out the sides.
  • The flies will be attracted to the smell of the vinegar, go down the paper and into the glass. Yet the fools are too stupid to figure out how to escape. They'll eventually starve or will fly into the vinegar and drown. But not before covering the paper with disgusting fly droppings.

There you have it. The fruit fly population is all but destroyed save for a few individuals who cling to their lives in spite of imminent doom inside the traps.

Tubes, Stores and People

Edgware Station and the Bakerloo Line.

Today I went down to Oxford Street to do a little exploring and shopping. I'm really excited that I basically have the tube system figured out. It isn’t nearly as complicated as the NYC station is to me. It's also a ton cleaner, and there aren't dodgy or homeless people on it. It makes busy days on tube when everyone is cramming onto the train before the doors close a lot easier when it’s evident that the people you are uncomfortably close to are clean, normal people.

I got off at the Marble Arch station and walked along Oxford Street for a bit. The buildings on either side of the road primarily sell clothing, and the entire area was very busy. Saturday is the big shopping day. I’d rather go during the evening on weeknights, but the vast majority of stores close at either 5 or 6 p.m. for some reason. It’s too bad, because I wake up kind of late, have classes until 5, and then everything is closed for the evening.

Primark is almost the Wal-Mart of the U.K., at least in terms of controversy. It sells clothing and some household items like bed sheets and curtains, and everything is suspiciously cheap. Of course, with my budget and the fact that the USD is horrible, it’s hard to resist. Primark sources its supply very cheaply and uses sub par materials for their products, I have read. It also ran into some trouble just earlier this summer when the BBC uncovered three garment manufacturing facilities in India subcontracted under Primark that were using child labor. Primark said it had no idea. It’s also gotten some publicity about poor workers’ rights.

Everything else on Oxford Street was too expensive for me. I also stopped into a bookstore and bought a few travel guides on the countries I’m thinking of visiting for fall break, France, Germany and Switzerland.

The people in the flat below us had a note delivered to our flat, complaining about noise. But rather than the type of noise you’d think of somewhere like a house on Ackerman Ave. emanating, they referred only to a specific incident where someone in the house dropped a pair of shoes on the ground, and how they can also sometimes hear us treading down our corridor. They ended their note by suggesting we purchase softer shoes like slippers so as to help us quiet down.

None of us were particular happy about this, mostly because they’re being ridiculous. We’re all trying very hard to keep the noise down, conscious already about Americans having a reputation of being loud and obnoxious. I don’t know what their problem is.

Finding a Place to Live

Royston Graham of Graham Properties working in his office.

We found a relatively amazing place to live for the semester. At £130, or at about $233 per week, we will be living in a flat in Paddington called St. Mary's Mansion. If the fact that we live in a mansion wasn't cool enough, we also live on a street called St. Mary's Terrace. It's good to get out of the hotel, and it's a huge load of all our chests to have found a place, even though the price is a bit steep. Luckily, the price is within our per diem that SU is alloting, or rather returning to us. It's in a nice location by a section called Little Venice.