Incredulity and Learning in Las Vegas

Ballys Monorail Entrance

It’s my second time in Vegas and I definitely think that the best way to first experience Vegas is arriving at night, as I did this time.  The city really looks wrong and ugly during the day.  Like a bar where they need to keep the lights dim so you’re 100% sure what that person you’re flirting with looks like.  Today I was up early (0700) to make it to the conference.  Vegas is weird early.  Most of the tourists are sleeping so they do all the maintenance work that you don’t see at night.  It’s very weird as if all of Vegas is on some walk of shame after an all-night bender.

This is the second vegas conference I’ve been to.  Before it was Blackhat.  Boy does VMWorld blow Blackhat out of the water in terms of opulence.  There’s a hangout place that’s full of volleyball courts, basketball hoops, and a bunch of areas made up to look like grassy picnic areas.  It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen and it could only make sense in Vegas.  (Although I’m sure they do similarly crazy things in other cities)  So far the biggest disappointment for a tech conference is that the wifi isn’t working.  (Eventually that situation is fixed)

VMWorld at the Venetian
VMWorld takes over 5 floors of the Venetian Conference space

I underestimated how far away Paris (where I was staying) was from The Venetian (where the con was).  It turns out it’s 0.85 miles away.  (Give or take .05)  So between my walks to and from the hotel and a visit to the Hoover Dam, I ended up walking about 6 miles on Monday.

People in Vegas are nothing if not enterprising in their attempts to separate you from your money.  So the latest thing I noticed were kiosks where, for a fee, you could print your boarding pass.  While I do try to print out my boarding passes when I check in early, it’s usually not that crucial.  The line to print out your boarding pass after you’ve already checked in online is usually pretty short.  So I wonder how much money they actually make off of that.  Probably “enough” just like the guys passing out the quarter cards for prostitutes who don’t seem to ever get anyone to take the card.  And from those that do, most of them just toss it onnto the floor.  (Same goes for the guy who drives this truck)

Of course another set of people trying to make a living in a pretty Vegas way (although some other big tourist destinations have similar dudes) are those dressed as pop culture icons.  Sometimes the costumes are great and sometimes they really, really look ratty.  How much money do they really make from standing there and taking photos with tourists for tips.  Is this all they do for a living or a second or third job?  It’s so odd.  Maybe I’ll try and talk to one of the less costumed (and better able to talk) people next time I see them.

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe is alive in Vegas (so is Elvis)

One neat thing with a tech conference this large is that you have the potential to meet some really neat people.  One day I met a guy who works in IT for an insurance company/hospital.  It was neat talking to him about the type of workloads they see and how they’re using virtualization.  Another day I met some ladies who work for one of the few nationwide car dealerships.  (Most of them are local or regional)  I can’t remember the name, it’s something like Henderson or something, but he sponsors Dale Earnheart Jr and a bunch of other A-list NASCAR racers.  I know they’re A-List because I don’t know jack about NASCAR but I recognized the names.  (Another was Jimmy Johnson)

The parties out here have been pretty nuts.  I went to one last night that had “heavy” hordervs (spelling?) that were so delicious and so heavy that I could have had dinner there if I wanted to.  (I wanted to save my appetite so I didn’t eat too much there)  They also had unlimited free alcohol (you weren’t even allowed to tip the waiters).  That’s not a big thing for me because I’m almost, but not quite, a teetotaler.  I did take advantage and have one screwdriver. (Which I think brings my total number of alcoholic drinks consumed in 2011 to 4)   But some guys found out they were free and were ordering buckets of beer.  (Dunno what it is about our culture and beer obsession)

The night of the reception I went to Kerry’s Gourmet Burgers.  This is one of those theme restaurants that’s hilarious now, but wouldn’t have been so in my youth back in the 1980s.  Taking advantage of the fact that the initials are KGB, the restaurant is themed around Soviet Russia.  It works relatively well.  The uniforms are the kind of thing that could only really exist in Vegas.  The food was good, but not incredible.  I have yet to eat a restaurant burger better than 67 Burger in Brooklyn.  The fries were crunchy in just the right way.  The vanilla bean milkshake was also good, but not great.  The total was somewhere around $25 (after tip) and I think it was worth closer to $15, but whatever.

Decorations at KGB Burgers
Decorations at KGB Burgers

At first I thought there were a few ladies that were a little provacatively dressed for a tech conference, but I reasoned it was Vegas and people should be able to live it up a little.  Then I finally made it out to the vendor floor (which disappointintly opened very late on the first day and I wasn’t really able to get to it because of my schedule until the third day) and saw that they were booth babes.  This being a tech conference and not a video game or comic conference, there actually weren’t that many booth babes.  But there were definitely some.  And I did notice that it was primarily the women who brought people into the vendor booths while the men tended to give out the details afterwards.  There were some exceptions of course – some booths only had men or only had women (who were dressed in regular business attire).  I thought about whether these women were regular company employees.  If so, were they part of marketing?  If not, how did they get the memo to “dress to impress”?  If they were hired specfically for the conference, I wonder what the pay was.  Again, these women weren’t execptionally provacative (I’ve seen worse) but they were defintely a level above what everyone else was wearing.  (And some of them *were* wearing ridiculously tight tops)

3/4 of The Killers
3/4 of The Killers

The final party was amazing.  The only way to describe it is: “This must be what Wall Street bankers feel like all the time.” There were unlimited drinks and food. There were two bands: Recycled Percussion and The Killers. They paid someone to dress as a mermaid and swim around at the pool party. To get an idea of how crazy it was, start watching the videos and looking at the photos from here.

On the last day I had an awesome chess game. It took about an hour and we had a crowd gathered around us. I lost, but I think I gave the guy a run for his money.

My Chess Game
My Chess Game just before it ends

One response to “Incredulity and Learning in Las Vegas”

  1. I believe the word you are looking for is “hors d’oeuvre”. Don’t you just love French words?

    Beer is kind of awesome, that’s why, hermano. Just gotta drink the right stuff. The popular American stuff is swill.