Hello, Shelby Heritage Center in Las Vegas, Nevada

Several years ago when I was researching pickup trucks to decide which one to purchase as my daily driver, I saw that the Ford F-150 Raptor had a spe­cial high-performance version modified by Shelby American. Although it was tempting, I decided to make a much more reasonable selection of pick­up truck and purchased a GMC Canyon instead.

Funny enough, when I moved into a luxury high-rise condominium on the Las Vegas Strip in 2019, one of my neighbors owned a Shelby Raptor, so I got to look at it every day in the parking garage whenever I drove in and out.

Since moving out of that tower, I hadn’t seen too many Shelby Raptors on the road. After I found out that Shelby American had their headquarters in Las Vegas, I decided to make a quick visit during my midday break today in hopes of seeing the newest model of Shelby Raptor.

Their facility also housed their modification shop. A paid guided tour for US$59.00 included a tour of the shop, but I opted to go for the free self-guided tour instead. Fortunately, there were windows looking into the bays, so I was still able to take a look at some of the vehicles they were working on.

The rest of the museum had a variety of different Shelby vehicles on display with a wide range of different models and model years.

Notably missing from all the displays… was any pickup trucks. At all.

I looped back around just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, nosily peeked in through some dark hallways in case there was anything hidden, then checked the modification bays to see if there were any trucks being worked on. Shelby has an F-150, F-150 Super Snake, F-150 Super Snake Sport, F-150 Raptor, F-250 Super Baja, and F-150 Centennial Edition, so I feel like it was reasonable to expect to see at least one single truck … but there were none.

There was, however, a huge merchandise section.

I paid nothing for my visit, so I guess I can’t be too disappointed (though, if I did choose to purchase the $59 guided tour, I imagine I still wouldn’t have seen any of their wide selection of pickup trucks, and would have still left somewhat disappointed).

I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that all the pickup trucks are just so insanely popular that they all sell at a huge mark-up im­me­di­ate­ly upon production, so they don’t have an opportunity to leave any on display due to the queue of enthusiasts eagerly waiting for the day they can accept delivery of their new Shelby truck.

As consolation, I decided to just take a picture of my own pickup truck in the parking lot instead. And yes, that is indeed a humongous model of a bottle of Corona Extra beer in the background. Very Las Vegas. 🤷

The warehouse is about a mile south of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign on the Las Vegas Strip, so if you’re already in the area and are a car en­thu­si­ast, it’s a neat place to check out. However, if you don’t care much about classic and sports cars, you’ll probably feel like you’re just walking through a car dealership, with the museum area being the showroom and the modification bays being the service center, so it might not be too special for you.




Hello, THE CLAW in Las Vegas, Nevada

My brain doesn’t understand gambling on pre-determined disadvantaged odds.

I think a reasonable type of gambling is event betting—like on sports, or political elections, or other major world events. Betting has had its plentiful fair share of scandals, but in general, it’s relatively controlled randomness—you’re considering past statistics, calculating the likeliness of a future outcome, and wagering your money.

Betting has actually been one of the most reliable indicators of certain outcomes of events; listening to “industry experts” is often pointless, but if you look at betting odds, the combined wagers from thousands upon thousands of people frequently calibrate the odds to reflect the actual likelihood of a certain event playing out in one way or another.

I think an unreasonable type of gambling is participating in things where there is a certainly disadvantaged pre-determined outcome. For example, in rou­lette, if you bet on either black or red, there is a guaranteed 18/38 chance of winning and 20/38 chance of losing. Is the promise of losing over 5% of your money over time truly worth the “thrill” of… placing casino chips on a table?

A similar premise applies to slots. Even the loosest RTP at major casinos in Las Vegas is about 92%. Is the promise of losing around 8% of your money over time truly worth the “thrill” of watching a slots animation play over and over again? Why not just watch a video of a slot machine on YouTube for free and save the 8% cut you’re donating to the casino?

You can probably guess where this is going. A similar premise also applies to claw machines. There is an element of skill with claw machines, because you have to line up the claw properly. There is also an element of cheese with claw machines, because some have intrinsic issues with their mechanics and you can abuse those exploits to consistently win. However, assuming that you are the world’s best claw machine player with perpetually perfect drops and you’re not relying on a bug, the success of your pull is strictly up to chance.

The machine controls the strength of the grip. It will look like you firmly grabbed the prize, but on the way up and over to the payout chute, the ma­chine’s algorithm will determine whether or not you actually get to have what it’s holding. If you get unlucky, the grip will be too loose and your reward will fall back into the pile before it ever makes it into your hands.

This algorithm is controlled by software in the machine. If you look up the owner’s manual for pretty much any claw machine, you will almost always see a section titled “margin” or something substantially similar. This allows the owner to control the profit margin of the machine—they input the price of each prize and the cost of play, and the machine will control the flow of prizes to make sure the owner makes their desired revenue. This means that, if the machine decides it’s not time to pay out yet because it hasn’t met the appropriate profit margin numbers, you won’t get the prize, no matter how good you are.

… I still accompanied my friend Dani to an arcade dedicated to claw machines.

We went on a Sunday, so it was absolutely packed. The building was also much smaller than I had originally anticipated, so we were literally shoulder-to-shoulder with other people the entire time and frequently had to wait for machines to free up. The quantity of people made it so the air conditioning had trouble keeping up, and with the noise of the kids, it was very overstimulating.

With that being said, it was definitely a very interesting place; I’m glad I stopped by for a visit, because I have never seen anything even remotely close to this before.

I’ve been to plenty of regular arcades before, but because of the compactness and linear layout of THE CLAW, it felt like you were stepping into an entirely dif­fer­ent world—almost like a movie set—and being “hugged” by the rows of machines with their bright lights. All the arcade features were lavishly ex­ag­ger­ated, and if there hadn’t been so many people, I think it would’ve been easy to just get lost in the spirit of the arcade.

I did not participate, but Dani purchased US$70.00 of tokens, which yielded five plushies’ worth of spoils.

Yes, I have to be “that guy” who does the math now.

Dani practically purchased these plushies for $14 each. (In theory, it is technically less than $14 each, because we also purchased the “fun” that was in­clud­ed in that $14, though it is not realistically viable to assign a dollar amount to that right now, so we will simplify that and omit it from the cal­cu­la­tion.)

The cost to the owner for each plushie is highly dependent on things like physical plushie size, bulk order size, and the trademark licensing of the char­ac­ters, but as an overgeneralized average, you can expect each plushie to go at-cost for about $3.50 from a wholesale supplier. That means that the own­er’s profit margin is 300%, i.e., for every $1 spent on plushies, the $1 is made back and another $3 goes into the owner’s pocket (excluding labor and other operating costs, of course).

The $70 of tokens took about half an hour or so to use up. With a very rough and vague estimate of about 15 people continuously playing (there were more people, but many of them were just parents accompanying their kids), that’s about $2,100 per hour and $18,900 for a 9-hour day. After deducting $4,725 for plushies, $810 for paying six employees $15/hr. for nine hours, $300 for a day’s worth of rent for a spot like that, $300 for a day’s worth of utilities, a generous $500 for a day’s worth of miscellaneous business operating expenses like insurance and repairs, and another few hundred for buffer, that leaves just over $12,000 in net profit after a busy day.

Keep in mind that my math could be off by literally several thousands of dollars, considering that I am just using very generic numbers and don’t truly know the ins and outs of running an arcade.

With that being said, now that I have made my attempt at ruining claw machines for you by giving an example scenario of how much money is being farmed off of you by arcades, here is a photo of the five plushies Dani won:

If you can’t tell by now, she really likes arcades. The night before going to THE CLAW, we also made a stop at Round1 Bowling & Amusement. I don’t know how much money she spent there, but she seemed to have better luck at Round1 than at THE CLAW.

She won four large plushies and was eager to make me hold them for her for the photo opportunity, the results of which I have reluctantly agreed to post here as a bonus picture… under the condition that nobody misconstrues this as a sign that I have been won over by the psychological warfare waged a­gainst you by arcades. 🤨

Adam Parkzer holding four large plushies at an arcade




Hello, Chanko Shabu and Izakaya in Las Vegas, Nevada

While my friend Dani was in town this past weekend, she had a list of places she wanted to visit, one of which included a nice restaurant in Chinatown. Unfortunately, it was an extremely popular spot with walk-ins only and the wait time was about two hours, so instead, we drove a mile west and went to Chanko Shabu and Izakaya.

Overall, my experience was pretty “meh,” with the good dishes being counteracted by the bad dishes.

Dani ordered shabu-shabu with spicy pork broth, Mugifuji pork, assorted vegetables, garlic chili, and house special sauce. I tried some of her meat and vegetables, and it was my second favorite dish of the meal.

I usually don’t like all-you-can-eat “cook your own food” restaurants because the service is (sometimes, intentionally) slow so they limit the amount of food you end up being able to eat. However, because this was an à la carte experience unlike many other shabu-shabu restaurants, that downside wasn’t relevant. The upside, however, was relevant, because restaurant food often comes out too salty, so by being able to cook the meat ourselves, we were able to limit the saltiness and allow the rich flavor of the meat to stand out.

Something we ordered that is not pictured here was Japanese fried oysters with tartar sauce, from the agemono menu. They were fairly traditional and straightforward, and were exactly what you’d expect from fried oysters.

Similarly, I also ordered some baked green mussels from their hot appetizer menu, which were also exactly what you’d expect from baked green mussels.

My next dish was tako wasabi, i.e., raw octopus. This tasted great and the texture of the octopus was very satisfying, but I think they overdid it a bit with the wasabi sauce, because my nose was stinging every time I took a bite. I took some of Dani’s rice to mitigate some of it, which made it taste a lot better, but the intensity was still pretty strong.

Next up was a quarter dozen of Pacific oyster with ponzu, scallion, wasabi, and ikura. It wasn’t anything particularly revolutionary or orgasmic, but the portion size of each piece was pleasantly large and they tasted straightforward and refreshing, which made it my favorite dish of the meal.

I also ordered two plates of kushiyaki. I wanted to get an A5 wagyu skewer, but they said they did not have any left, so I decided to try yakitori instead, which is a mixture of chicken and vegetables. I received two skewers, one of which was saliva-suckingly dry, and for the other, it tasted like they some­how managed to put more chicken fat than actual chicken on the skewers.

I also got an Angus beef skewer. I originally didn’t get the dish when I first ordered it, so I asked about the missing plate, and the waitress brought it out near the end of our meal. I only got one skewer instead of two like I did with the chicken, but I didn’t bother asking about it, because it was horrible.

The meat was cooked beyond well-done so it was unchewably tough, it had a very gamey smell to it, and the only way to make it remotely palatable was to dunk it into Dani’s shabu-shabu broth to attempt to tenderize it a bit.

I wouldn’t necessarily say the restaurant was high-end, but the pricing wasn’t exactly on the cheap end either. The shabu-shabu was nice, and the raw dishes weren’t bad, but because of the hard misses with the quality of the skewers, I can’t really recommend this restaurant.




Hello, Mob Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada

The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, better known to the general public as the Mob Museum, is a museum that’s been a­round Las Vegas for over a decade now and is regularly rated as one of the better tourist attractions in the Valley. While my friend Dani was in town vis­it­ing, she wanted to stop by the museum, so I joined her yesterday.

Fortunately, we were both able to get discounted general admission tickets at US$16.95, I because I’m a local Las Vegas resident and Dani because she was a student. Regular admission costs $29.95 each, with deluxe and premier passes going as high as $48.95.

Dani took a photo of me sitting in an electric chair. Luckily, it was inoperable.

Adam Parkzer sitting in a replica electric chair

Back to some more normal museum things…

One of the floors of the museum had a little movie theater that played a short film about how that very room was previously a court used for questioning witnesses about mob activity. They even had a little concession stand outside and sold popcorn for people who wanted to enjoy a snack while enjoying the movie.

Back to even more normal museum things…

The later sections of the museum about casinos, fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion were interesting to me because of the background knowledge I have in legal and financial matters. I’ve studied a lot of these topics to ensure I have a comprehensive professional understanding of the topics for the purposes of running my own business and advising other businesses as a consultant, so it was nice seeing some historical real-world applications of this information.

My favorite part of the museum… was the random fish tank in the basement of the building. I’m not sure why it was even there, but I made some new fish friends.

The basement had a bar that served food and drink, which we visited but did not participate. The bar had a little glass window through which I snapped a photo of some of the equipment used to make moonshine.

At least with general admission tickets, the Mob Museum was an extremely traditional museum that was very display and text heavy. I think it was a good visit at the discounted price, but I’d say the value proposition gets a little bit questionable at full price. The most memorable museums have always had a high degree of interactivity, and it’s unfortunate that anything involving more than just a self-guided tour requires an upgraded tier of admission.

Out of the three available interactive experiences, none of them seemed particularly compelling to me—the crime lab and firearm training simulator are both things that I’ve done in a professional capacity, and the distillery tour and tasting wouldn’t have been relevant to me because I don’t drink alcohol. However, for someone who doesn’t have quite the background in law enforcement as I do, I think the two investigative activities could be fun.




Hello, Meow Wolf’s Ωmega Mart at AREA15 in Las Vegas, Nevada

Back in December 2018, I attended a networking event in Las Vegas at AREA15. It was basically an empty warehouse at that time—I vaguely recall there being a lit-up sculpture of some sort at one end of the building, but otherwise, it was just a bunch of people standing around and talking. Back then, I had no idea what the building was, but I later found out that it was a retail and entertainment complex scheduled to open in December 2019.

December 2019 came and went, and because of new ideas being implemented into AREA15, it didn’t formally open to the public until September 17, 2020. Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart’s grand opening was on February 18, 2021, and since then, I regularly saw a steady stream of advertising and organic social media coverage about it. I knew I wanted to check it out at some point, but I wasn’t in a particular rush to do so.

Earlier today, my friend Dani flew in to Las Vegas for a vacation with her family, and one of the things she had on her list of tourist activities was Omega Mart. I figured this would be a decent time to explore the installment for the first time, so I joined in.

The first section of Omega Mart resembled a regular supermarket… but with a strange twist. I’ve heard other people describe it as “walking through a grocery store while on LSD.” There are a lot of very strange products, and there are random hints sprinkled around that indicate something might be wrong.

From the supermarket area, there were a few pathways to a hidden area in the rear that had a completely different vibe. This section was basically a giant multi-floor maze of illusions, mini-games, and other attractions.

For admission, Dani paid US$64.00 for a general admission ticket and I paid US$54.00 for a discounted locals ticket, for a total of US$118.00.

Because we went on a Saturday, it was packed with people. Dani upgraded her ticket for US$3.00 (on top of the ticket prices above) to add on a scav­enger hunt, but a lot of the special stations were already in use and also had a few people waiting in line. We originally thought the scavenger hunt was just a fun way to sprinkle in a few additional vid­eos into the experience, but we later found out that it was actually a full-blown alternate reality storyline.

I’m conflicted about what my final verdict is, on whether or not I liked Omega Mart. However, I do have a few thoughts which might provide some fur­ther insight on why I can’t decide whether or not I would recommend going to Omega Mart.

The quantity of people there was overwhelming. In Omega Mart’s defense, I am on the extreme end of introversion, so I might just be biased here and could possibly be exaggerating how busy it was, but I had difficulty focusing on things in front of me because of the number of people around me. There were many times when I felt like we had to “dodge” bigger crowds so we weren’t wasting time just waiting around. It felt like we were sort of being “pushed,” assembly line style, to each subsequent intersection in the aisles and hallways. Some of the lore involved discovering surprises, but it wasn’t very surprising when you’ve just watched two other people uncover the surprise, such as a secret passageway through a hidden door.

I went into the experience having no idea what was going on, and I felt very lost for the first hour or so. I knew that I had entered some insane grocery store and I found the puns on the grocery products funny, but it never occurred to me what I was actually supposed to be doing. By the time we found the strange passageway through a “freezer” into the rear section of the mart, I was very surprised because I did not expect that at all. If I had a better plan from the beginning, I think my experience would’ve been more positive.

The layout of the rear area is extremely confusing. I think it was intended to be built as a maze, so I think having a map would’ve defeated the purpose, but we were going around in circles trying to find new things while re-visiting areas we had already seen a few times. On top of that, there was a certain room that seemed to be the most important in progressing the lore of the alternate reality storyline… except they had a really thick fog machine running, so I got a pretty bad headache and wanted to get out of that room as quickly as possible.

I think a simple way to put all this is that the barrier of entry is a bit high. You have to know what Omega Mart is about and how you “win,” otherwise there is a decent chance that you will miss important clues and hints that lead you the “next tier” of the exhibit. I know for a fact that if I had a better idea of the big picture of Omega Mart, I would’ve had more intrinsic motivation to be patient and go through everything more carefully, but because I was in a more casual mindset, I missed out on a lot of the experience.

As a side thought, I also think there is a near-guaranteed chance that there are at least a few people who never even found the rear section behind the grocery store (which was like 80%+ of the content) and left upset, wondering why admission was so expensive.

Based on my experience today, I would consider Omega Mart to be a “two visit” kind of place. I’d say it requires more than one visit for the optimal ex­pe­ri­ence for most people, because I think a lot of the base “discovery” process happens during the first trip, and then you go into the second trip with a clear objective, knowing what you have to do to “emerge victorious.” I’d also say that it doesn’t require more than two trips, because Omega Mart is a ver­y comprehensive and (presumably) static alternate reality puzzle, and it’s not like a regular art museum where you can go back every season and they’ll rotate out the exhibits with new material.

If you’re visiting Omega Mart and you are only able to do one visit, be it because of budgetary or time or other reasons, there are two routes you can take. The first is to do a lot of research about Omega Mart online so you know what to do right as you show up… though keep in mind that this will probably spoil a lot of the twists and turns in the lore for you. The other option is to allocate four or more hours for your trip and go very, very slowly and carefully through everything, doing multiple passes of everything and making sure to stand in every line and not skip anything.

Apart from the friend I accompanied this time, there have been a few other people who wanted to go to Omega Mart with me, so I am willing to give it one more shot (though I think going on a weekend during peak times would be a dealbreaker). With that being said, it’s definitely not for everyone, and it’s not something I would go to again by myself unless I had literally completely run out of other fun activities to do in Las Vegas.




Hello, Welder Up in Las Vegas, Nevada

I know quite a bit about pickup trucks and like following pickup truck news, but I’m not much of a car fan, and I’m definitely not much of an old car fan. As someone who likes the rapid advancement of technology, I never really saw the magic in classic vehicles.

Considering that my preferences expose me to a fairly pigeon-holed breadth of vehicles, I decided that would be a great reason to go to a rat rod mu­se­um, featuring cars that are intentionally built to look old, unfinished, and worn down—something that I otherwise wouldn’t actively seek out for hob­by purposes. My museum of choice was Welder Up, which apparently also has a television show on the Discovery channel.

They definitely went all-in on the rat rod vibe. There were also a few specially-themed vehicles with incredible craftsmanship and attention to detail.

This museum was unusually light on text and descriptions. There was one placard at the beginning describing the “cancer car,” which was designed to visualize the stages of progressing through cancer. But otherwise, none of the other vehicles on display had backstories, which I found to be unfortunate, because there were some very unique and interesting cars that I would have liked to learn more about.

Admission was US$5.00, which is extremely low for a Las Vegas museum, but the ticket price was proportional to the size of the museum—it was rel­a­tive­ly small, with one warehouse area and a few additional vehicles on display outdoors. It took me a little bit over half an hour to go through every­thing, and I thought it was a nice pit stop between some of my other errands I was running in the neighborhood.