Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Vegas 2019, Part II

Iconic Las Vegas,Image by skeeze from Pixabay

For me, visiting Las Vegas once every four or five years for a long weekend is enough to pacify my curiosity for gambling, staying up all night, consuming too much food and alcohol, and reminding myself that I'm no longer in my 20's.

This year, I found myself in the oasis-ish place twice. Once in February to golf with one of my good friends and once just last week for a conference; and to golf with that same friend.

The Rio, from

The conference was during the week and was held at the Rio All Suites Hotel. It was nice, however I'm starting to realize that all casinos are pretty much the same. They have the same gaming options, same types of slot machines and everything is roughly the same price; which gets jacked up during the weekend. It is a little cheaper to play during the week off of the strip, but those differences evaporate fairly quickly when it's busy.

Still, the Rio did have some decent affordable food near the sports book. I recommend a slice of the supreme pizza or "The Foul" chicken sandwich. Now that I write that, I'm a little grateful that I didn't get sick.

Conferences are fun for me on account of getting to see a lot of my old colleagues. This one didn't disappoint. I was never short on someone to interact with. Still, there could have been a few more familiar faces.

One of many vehicles from the SEMA show.

The last day of the conference was my busy day. I was a chairperson for the morning poster session and gave my presentation as the second to last talk in the afternoon. There was a lot of time in between duties, so I took that time to switch hotels to the Marriott Renaissance. The Renaissance is near the convention center, which was crazy busy with the SEMA automotive show going on. There were custom trucks and cars everywhere and you could readily hear drivers doing burnouts in a designated area of the parking lot; quite the spectacle.

The SEMA show also made for transportation challenges as the roads around the center were completely constipated. To return to the Rio for my talk I ended up walking a few blocks away to a McDonalds and hailing my Lyft from there. It still took 20 minutes to get across town as the LA and other crowds were starting to file into the city, but I made it.

The turnout to my talk was decent, especially considering I was one of the last talks of the conference. That last afternoon is often a somber one. The exhibitors are gone as well as a large number of attendees. Many of those who remain typically have their luggage and are largely passing time before they need to head to the airport. I guess with the promise of a Vegas weekend, many decided to stay around.

Talks have become rather comfortable for me as I have switched from a lowly grad student or postdoc just happy to have some approval to an industry veteran where it's sometimes more helpful to pontificate in an effort to steer research in a useful direction. My talks are usually a mix, this time I showed off some sensor noise data and then placed it in the context of designing actual sensors.

As is often my hope, I was approached as I was leaving the session by someone looking for sensor information and perhaps needing some samples. The neat part is I've had at least one successful R&D program start this way.

Post conference, I met up with my adviser from grad school and we met with my golfing buddy for dinner at a steakhouse at the Mirage. I had an amazing ribeye and a pretty good old fashioned. Okay, two old fashions. We wandered and gamed until late. Luck wasn't really on my side that week, but that's okay I'm not a big spender.

The view from a tee box on The Lexington course at the Revere golf club. Image by Joe Davies.
My friend and I golfed Saturday and Sunday mornings. The Saturday course was the Lexington course at the Revere golf club. It was a beautiful, challenging course. Enough so that I decided not to keep score. Our golf partner listened to the Minnesota Gopher football game during the round. Rodney Dangerfield was ahead of his time bringing a stereo on the golf course in Caddyshack, now it seems a Bluetooth speaker is part of the standard equipment.

Legal marijuana is one interesting aspect of spending time in Vegas. Frankly, it's not my thing and the smell is a little too overwhelming for my nostrils, but I impartial to others smoking. It would be nice if they found a way to mellow it out though. I also don't get smoking something that mellows you out during a sport, even golf, but oh well. The guy we were paired with smoked throughout the course. I don't think it affected his game, but was just interesting for it to be so casual. In other words, there's no story to this paragraph, just filler. Sorry.

Sushi...drool....Image by nile from Pixabay

Saturday night we ate a good "all you can eat" sushi dinner. I must have also been dehydrated as I had massive charlie horse cramps during dinner. It's hard not to laugh, or be laughed at as I try to wriggle free from the pain; especially when both legs are cramped. It's weird to be giggling and in so much pain, but I somehow manage.

After dinner we went to the old Vegas downtown, now dubbed "The Fremont Street Experience". There was a lot going on. The nice part about non-strip Vegas is you find a lot more relaxed/normal people. There's no need to be dressed up while drinking a cheap beer and playing the older casinos.

My view. LDB was raising money for veterans.

One treat was the live music. In fact, Gary Sinise, THE Lieutenant Dan, has a band and was playing on one of the stages. "The Lt. Dan Band" were actually quite good and looked to be having a lot of fun as part of a veterans day celebration as well as raising money for the Gary Sinise Foundation.

The Mantis at The Container Park.
We also wandered off of downtown and went to the El Cortez. The first place I ever stayed in Vegas as well as wandered. There were a lot of neat art installations including this praying mantis sculpture that shot flames out of its antennas.

Sunday, we played The Royal Links, a popular course that is meant to emulate famous holes from the British isles. Except, there was no water, the grass was painted green (likely with a water holding coating), there were no accents accept drawls, it was sunny and beautiful, not dreary, the course was backed up and super slow, and I saw a coyote. Other than that, it was just like Scotland. Okay, the course was nice to play, there were some deep sandtraps, and it was flat with some undulations with fescue-like grasses lining the fairways. The thing that drove my friend and I nuts was the slow play. In fact, we cut our round at nine holes. Slow play throws timing off and is just not fun. I also had to head to the airport before long and would rather enjoy the last bit of time in the warm weather.

So we left and grabbed a lunch at the In-n-Out burger near the airport. This is a treat for a mid-westerner as there aren't any InO's in Minnesota. It was really a great way to end the week.

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