Personal Update 201912 | 31 Dec 2019 | Tuesday


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The photo at the top of this page was taken using the wide angle lens on the iPhone 11 Pro and then processed using the Dallas filter effect in the Prisma photo app.


This month I had a chance to visit Las Vegas for the first time. Makur and I spent about four days there seeing the city and surrounding areas. I went there with some negative expectations which were mostly based on what I’d seen in movies. Some of those expectations were reinforced, but there were some unexpected positive aspects to Vegas that really made the visit worthwhile.

We booked a room in a “smoke-free” hotel/casino. Upon checking in, we were told that getting to our smoke-free room involved going through a smoke-filled casino. We’d also been warned at check-in, “Don’t touch the Pringles container in the room. There is a sensor on it, and you’ll get charged $15 if it’s moved even slightly.”

As we made our way through the casino, I could see what looked like impoverished senior citizens with a small bottle of whisky or bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other, spending their social security checks on slot machines. With us were parents with children, toddlers, and newborn babies in strollers, all making their way through the wall of smoke to their own smoke-free rooms. Once we reached our room, there was a very strong offensive room freshener smell that didn’t seem to fade away.

In the streets of the city, the smoke was made stronger by the addition of marijuana and cigar smoke blended with the fumes from the open over-sized alcoholic beverages that people carried with them from one venue to another. After four days in the city, I had developed a smoker’s cough. I imagined that my lungs must have become like those of a 90-year-old 2-pack-a-day smoker. I eventually went to the doctor about my cough and found my oxygen level had declined to below a normal level (94% instead of my usual 98%). In addition to the 7000+ chemicals found in second-hand smoke, there were additional pollutants from the cars, trucks, and the airport adjacent to the city. In the photo below, you can see the thick layer of smog that blankets the city.


Despite the drawbacks I’ve described above, there was a lot I really liked about the city.

The things I saw people doing in Las Vegas would be illegal in Iowa City. People carrying open drinks, selling marijuana, smoking marijuana, smoking cigarettes, advertising “girls” for rent, and gambling. But because those things were legal in Las Vegas, the police presence seemed very minimal or even non-existent. The environment there created a feeling of everyone being welcome. A Muslim woman wearing a burka was on the same street with barely clothed Vegas show girls. Despite marijuana being legal, there weren’t masses of people lining up to purchase. Legalization just means you need fewer police. The city streets seemed quite peaceful and people were happy.

We found a very nice organic vegan restaurant and many places selling fresh-made vegetable drinks. A variety of food energy bars were available. Many Starbucks locations were available. Delicious spring water was available in gallon sizes at Walgreens and CVS near the hotel, so we could stay super hydrated. The Las Vegas Strip is about 4.2 miles from one end to the other. So, over 8 miles both ways, including many stairs to climb where escalators were broken leading to mandatory skywalks. It was a good workout.

There were oxygen bars where people could breath fresh oxygen infused air, and also boutiques where you could get an IV infusion of water and electrolytes directly into your veins.

We enjoyed seeing Red Rock Canyon to the west and also the Hoover Dam area to the east of Las Vegas. You can see some photos from those areas in the gallery further down the page.

Las Vegas has over 150,000 hotel rooms with some hotels having more than 5,000 rooms. Many of the hotels cost billions of dollars to build and some have what seem like cities within them – indoor depictions of European towns with evening sky and real gondola rides. There are exclusive luxury brand shops which might only be available in places like New York and London. For example, the PRADA store was selling a new designer water bottle for $500 (water sold separately). Another designer store had baseball caps for $350. It’s a city of extreme extravagance. Yet, if you know what you’re doing, and avoid the traps, you can have an enjoyable and economical visit.

Experiencing Las Vegas made me appreciate Iowa City even more. Iowa City is like a Las Vegas for people who like bike trails, nature, breweries, coffee shops, great food, yoga, education, and the arts. Iowa City is its own kind of overwhelming extravagance.


In the fall of 2018 I’d been using an iPhone 7 from 2016, and it stopped working just weeks before the new iPhone X models were to be announced. Because I’m very dependent on my phone for my work, I wasn’t able to wait a few weeks for the new phones and I ended up getting a year-old model iPhone X from 2017.

My broken iPhone 7 was eventually replaced by Apple under warranty with an identical one, but that process took about a week.

I’m typically a year or two behind on my phone model. So, this month I decided to trade in the old 2017 iPhone X for an iPhone 11 Pro Max which is a larger iPhone that has three lenses. The larger size phone offers good battery life, and the lenses provide better quality photos than previous iPhones. There is a standard lens, a zoom lens, and a wide angle lens. These work for photos and also for video. Unless someone is planning to sell enlarged prints at an art festival, smartphones these days are sufficient for sharing life’s events with friends and family.

What I really appreciate about the three lenses in the new iPhone is that I can get some photos that I previously would not have been able to take. Most of the photos in the gallery below were taken with the wide angle lens. Using a regular lens and walking backwards to get everything in the photo wouldn’t have been possible.

Click on any image below for a larger gallery view.


Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.


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Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 19 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and activism. This is based on the life map presented on the Resources For Life website.