Thursday, July 30, 2009

Khoury's Fine Wine & Sprits

If you enjoy a nice glass of vino, you'll want to visit Khoury's Fine Wine & Spirits. Khoury's is a locally owned business, which always warms my heart, and their staff is friendly and knowedgable. I visited their Durango location last week for their free wine tasting, and I had a heck of time deciding which of the terrific Brazilian wines I liked best. Their wine cooler, set at a constant 55 degrees, is both beautiful to look at and a pleasure to step into during these hot summer months. If you're not a wine lover, Khoury's also has a large selection of premium spirits, all at very reasonable prices. If you're out and about on Wednesday or Thursday, stop by Khoury's for their free wine tasting--and if it's not a Wednesday or Thursday, stop by anyway! You know you'll enjoy a nice glass of something, and the folks at Khoury's can help you pick just the right thing.

Khoury's has two locations: in Green Valley at 9915 S. Eastern, and in Las Vegas at 7150 S. Durango. These pictures were taken at their Durango location.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Las Vegas Hummingbirds: Unconcerned About Foreclosures

I went through my clippings file today, looking for something positive and uplifting to write about Las Vegas. The best thing I found was an article about a new History Channel reality show, “Pawn Stars,” set at Gold & Silver Pawn down on the Strip. Not exactly what I was looking for. I went over to Google, and found nothing but a collection of doom and gloom. Sigh. Around my house, I don’t need an extra dose of information about everything that is wrong with Las Vegas these days.

When I’m overwhelmed with stories about unemployment, foreclosures, and all the other associated ills of our city, I do my best to look for something positive. On the social networking sites, it’s heartening to see so many Vegas businesses getting creative in their search for customers. Khoury’s Fine Wines and the Las Vegas Hilton are spreading the word about their events through Twitter (both have events tomorrow). I recently found Duck Creek Studios through Facebook. If necessity is the mother of invention, those of us who are sticking around Las Vegas should get an award for innovation.

Sometimes the best way to find good news about Las Vegas is to avoid the news altogether. I like to sit in my backyard and watch the hummingbirds. They don’t care about any aspect of our current economic meltdown. They just want me to keep their feeder full of food and free of ants. In return, they give me something beautiful and inspiring to watch. I'd say that's a pretty fair trade.
My pictures of the hummingbirds at my feeder.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Vegas Job Seekers: Beware!

Combine an unemployment rate of over 12% with the highest foreclosure rate in the nation, and what do you get? You get a lot of scammers looking to take advantage of out-of-work people, which strikes me as being not too different from embezzling money from senior citizens.

Back in the olden days, also known as “pre-Internet,” people scoured the newspaper’s want ads on Wednesdays and Sundays. Today, almost all job postings have migrated to online sites like CraigsList. Even those of us who are accustomed to sloughing through CL listings (it’s a common way for freelance writers to look for leads), have noticed an uptick in the number of scams. Does it sound too good to be true? It probably is. Is the ad all in capitals and studded with grammatical errors? Another scam alert. Is the information about the opportunity and/or company vague or non-existent? Proceed with caution. Are you being asked to pay for job leads? Just say no. DO NOT give out your credit card information, or any other personal information.

Even with my cautious approach, however, I’ve still had several dubious responses. For instance, one seemingly normal ad I responded to was a gentleman looking for women to interview naked men. Now, maybe in the years ahead I’ll find that this was a perfectly legitimate opportunity that I let escape. I’m not a prude in any way, and at first it sounded like a odd but actual gig. However, as our conversation progressed, we went from interviews in public places to interviews alone to “Do you have any friends you can bring?”

I decided that signing up with an employment agency would help me weed out the real jobs from the naked interview jobs, but when I didn’t hear back from the first agency I contacted (which really disappointed me because they requested an extensive amount of information that took me quite a while to collect and submit), I thought I would try other agencies. I went to the sites that handle virtual assistants because they have work for both run-of-the-mill administrative work and “creatives,” as freelance writers are often known. I found that the VA field has a whole side industry of certifications and requirements. Some of the sites require that you attend their training sessions on a regular basis, which puzzled me. Training for what? If I meet the requirements to do the job, and I have over 20 years of experience, for what am I attending training? I also found that simply having a regular home office is often not enough for the VA sites. They want you to sign up for virtual fax by e-mail and virtual voice mail, and the sites I looked at charged for those services. These sites specified that having a stand-alone fax and a dedicated phone line were not sufficient. Why a dedicated fax line, high-speed Internet connection, and land line phone were unacceptable was not entirely clear to me, but perhaps I just didn’t read closely enough.

I did find one online job site that looked pretty straight-forward; sign up, upload your resume, and get job leads mailed to you. At least, that’s what I thought it was. I had noticed that in addition to the VA sites pushing their training, some of the job sites were promoting various online colleges, and this one was no exception. When I went through the job app, I de-selected the box for “Send me more information about going back to school!” Within five minutes of sending in my information, my phone was ringing with a telemarketer trying to get me signed up for college courses. I hung up on them. This morning, they called again. The girl gushed, “We see that you asked for additional information about furthering your education and going back to college!”

“That is incorrect,” I said. “I am not interested in going back to college right now. Please don’t call again.” I haven’t checked back with the site to see if there are any job leads, but I sure don’t have any in my in-box. Don’t get me wrong—if the time was right, I’d consider going back to college. However, with a homeschooled child at home, a household income that has been slashed by 75%, and college costs in the stratosphere, this is not the time. Besides, if I wanted to go back to school, I would have called UNLV.

A quick look at CraigsList shows that I’m not alone. On any day, you can read other job seekers’ frustrations over ads that ask for pictures, credit report information, and so on—just look at the “re:” listings. I liked this response from one annoyed person: “If you want to scam people, at least use proper English.” I agree. At the very least.

Update: In addition to telemarketing phone calls, I've also received two e-mails from an anonymous "HR Department" demanding that I supply information about my credit report to complete my application. The e-mails almost look like they are legitimate--they state that an applicant's prior work history and references must be verified, but the only item they're asking more information about is my credit report. Don't be fooled into clicking these links and giving these scammers your information.

On Sunday, July 19, RJ reporter John Przbys wrote about CraigsList scammers in the other (non-employment) sections of the site: "Don't play games with online scam artists." On August 3, RJ columnist Doug Elfman also wrote about CL: "Craigslist: A 21st century den of thieves, deviants, scammers."
Photo courtesy of Carin Araujo at

Monday, July 13, 2009

Driving to the Red Rock Overlook: Still Beautiful at 50 m.p.h.

Whenever my brain becomes overloaded, I like to take a drive up to the Red Rock Overlook. After leaving behind the 215 and the outer reaches of Summerlin, a person can almost feel like she’s left the city behind.

One of the things I miss the most about Old Vegas is the wide-open desert. In those days, it was easy to find lonely roads far from civilization and 45 m.p.h speed limits. My dad used to cruise at 100 m.p.h to Mesquite, where one of his best bartending buddies worked at a little hole-in-the-wall. (Dad also used to let me play the pinball machines inside and hang out on the sidewalk in front of the bar, which I remember had a planter full of ice plants. Today, he’d probably be arrested for child neglect.)

Obviously, things have changed a lot around here. Las Vegas residents who long for the open road must drive a little further… and a little slower. On the way to the overlook, I noticed a Metro officer with a motorist pulled over. On the way back from the overlook, he had another driver. I took note of the speed limit sign and was surprised to see it had been lowered to 50 m.p.h. And you know what? It’s still a beautiful place, even if I can’t hammer the accelerator and get that Old Vegas/open road feeling.

Motorists: Be alert on Route 159, the two-lane highway that connects Vegas to Pahrump via Red Rock Canyon, unless you would like to meet that nice officer face-to-face.
Photo information: My pictures of Red Rock Canyon, taken from the Red Rock Overlook.

Signs of Better Times Ahead

Last week I talked to a friend of mine who lives in Florida. The high-rise condo she bought a few years ago is worth about half of what she paid for it. She has a lovely view of a neighboring, unfinished, abandoned high-rise building. We compared housing values—my home’s value has fallen to just slightly more than what my husband and I paid for it ten years ago. Its value today is $150,000.00 less than its last appraised value in 2007, and over $250,000.00 less than its value at the peak of the housing craziness. “It will just take some time for things to turn around,” I told my friend.

“You really think things are going to turn around?” she asked me. “I’m not so sure about that.” She’s pretty sure the entire country is going to you-know-where in a hand basket.

I don’t think that things will return to the insanity of the housing boom, but I do think better times are ahead. As I told my Florida friend, supply-and-demand will come into play as more and more people start snapping up incredible deals on everything from homes to clothing.

Businesses are starting to slowly take over some of the empty buildings that dot our landscape. Near my home, Walgreens has taken over the old Rite-Aid building, Chipotle Restaurant occupies the former Blockbuster building, and a handful of smaller businesses have their “Coming Soon!” or “Now Open!” banners splashed across the faded names of now-defunct stores. Theoretically, this is the market at work—the old and failed businesses disappear, and the new and innovative step in to take their place.

What do you think? Can you see signs of better times ahead, either here in Las Vegas, or in the city in which you live?
Photo info: My picture of the new Walgreen's at Fort Apache and Sahara.