Saturday, August 13, 2011

Last Day in Reno

Yesterday we went back to the hotel early, arriving in my room at about 4 pm. I watched television, packed my bags and went to the gym where I used the cross-training machine for 35 minutes and the stationary bike for 10 minutes.  I watched the news which was all about the roller coaster swings in the stock markets after S&P foolishly downgraded American debt to AA+. It was a stupid decision made during a time when the economy was recovering. The Iowa debate for the GOP candidates was also underway where each candidate gave good answers although some of the candidates’ answers on the economy were not very enlightened. One gets afraid when seemingly intelligent people in power try to get their views implemented when they know nothing of the intricacies of economics. For example, see Winston Churchill who brought England back into the gold standard when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. The result was disastrous and England hastily left the gold standard after the fiasco.

I cringe when new congressmen who win in their first election challenge professionals like Ben Bernanke or Alan Greenspan in the past regime. The nerve that these politicians can challenge the thinking or policies of men who have spent their lives trying to understand the intricacies of economics and implemented policies which probably saved the world economy during the financial crisis of 2008. One just needs to look at Churchill, a formidable thinker and politician who nearly drove England to dire economic straits with his well-intentioned ideas on the economy. Economic policy makers are like military leaders who are expert in their field of knowledge. Following the analogy, a politician does not make a good general in the battle field or an economist planning policy in the Federal Reserve. It is hilarious on the talk about the debt ceiling which is more an operational necessity to keep the government running and combine it with strategic plans like balance budget amendment. The result is chaos and as Bernanke said – the debt ceiling is not the right instrument to control spending. It was not the time or the place or the forum to have that discussion. Hence, the S&P downgrade and the stock market turmoil.

After working out in the gym yesterday, we went to the swimming pool to cool down. There was a strong wind which chilled my teammate. So we left the pool after 10 or 15 minutes although it was enough to refresh us. We no longer felt tired or haggard after the slow day in the office.  I went back to my room, dressed and met my teammate at the lobby bar were we had cocktails of rum and coke. We were feeling good after the swim and the drink. I wanted to try the all you can eat sushi buffet but my friend wanted to try the other buffet with continental food and a drink all you can wine bar. So we settled on the other buffet and I had 2 glasses of excellent wine while I ate chicken wings cooked in different ways, prawns, mushrooms in vinegar, sausage and sauerkraut, pepper in vinegar, pilaf rice and dessert of fruits and strawberry cake. I was a bit tipsy when we walked out to the parking lot again to look at the cars. My team mate is a car aficionado and he looked at the models closely. I took a video of the scene as my camera had run of battery power.

I enjoyed looking at the cars and the people who frequented the convention as well as the car owners. Most if not all where middle aged old couples who seemed to have found their passion in vintage cars. Some of the car plates I saw came from California, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado and elsewhere all converging into the desert for this yearly convention. I have seen many parades or cultural events since coming here in the states but this is the first time I have seen an event of this scale where the people where passionate about something and gave me a glimpse of the American spirit. The people here love their cars and are willing to spend large amount to keep it in perfect condition. As an example, as saw 2 middle age men driving around in a rare 1952 red Jaguar sports car. Some of the cars are being sold at least $ 32 thousand dollars as the sticker price while others are sold in auction. The hood of these cars opened so any prospective buyers can inspect the gleaming engines in pristine condition awaiting a new owner. The people were walking around talking excitedly and feeling good about themselves and the event.

We went back to the hotel at about 9 pm. I was scheduled to test at 11 pm so I decided to stay in the room and take a nap. But I received a call from IBM at about 10 pm and told the test was called off. I had trouble getting back to sleep. I struggled in different positions, trying to find one that would be good for my breathing as the air in the room was dry causing my throat and air passages to be dry, too. Somehow I managed to doze off and sleep a bit, waking up at about 5:15 am when the alarm went off. I called my team mate just to confirm he was able to get to the hotel and he was just boarding the plane. I had breakfast and left to go to the office and arrived at 7:25 am. I wrote emails and check the transactions here and the other site back home. I will go back to the hotel at about 10 am, check out, return the rental car and check in my flight. It’s a pity I am leaving soon during the midst of August nights but I think I have gotten my fill of Reno. It was party time here and fun to see the bars filled with people having fun, dancing, drinking, fooling around. It was a grand slice of American life.

I had a chance to drive here in Reno and it felt like driving in Los Angeles. The wide open spaces, the valleys surrounded by desert like landscapes, the bare brown mountains and the long freeways. I read somewhere that Reno has the happiest inhabitants of all states in the union. It may be right with its closeness to Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada range plus low taxes and legalized gambling and prostitution. The pleasant weather and the high altitude and the low density of the population would make it an ideal place combining both the charm of a small town and the excitement of a city. There is a certain feeling of remoteness and independence here in the locals that are fashioned from the harshness of the land. It is unlike the remoteness and independence of the people of the American south which has a hint of arrogance and superiority. My teammate who left this morning is a good example of the American redneck although in the good sense of the word - the back slapping, good old boy friendliness but intolerant of certain city ordinance, calling authority figure ‘butt-heads’.  The southern hillbilly will never be at home in the western states it seems.

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