Jul 30, 2017

Vegas dispatch

WTF am I doing, writing here? So much other stuff I could be doing...

WTF am I doing in Vegas? It's a strange place. The internet doesn't work well. Maybe that's a blessing.

Can you find respite in the heart of the debauch?

Vegas is a strange place.

What are you going to do tomorrow?

Tomorrow I'm going to get up early. I'll exercise, maybe. Clean myself up in the bathroom. Head out, down the long hall, through the casino.

I'll stop at Starbucks. It'll be empty because it's early. I'll get a coffee and maybe do some reflection.

Around 8:00, I'll head over to Caesar's. There won't be a big line for the social engineering (SE) village, so I'll get in easily. Maybe it starts around 9, maybe later. It doesn't really matter. If I have to wait in line, I'll read or write (the line doesn't move prior to door-opening).

I'll spend the morning in SE village. It'll be good. I'll learn a lot, and it'll be entertaining.


This is a very weird town. On my Lyft from the airport, my driver mentioned how cheap it is to live here. $900 for a 3-bedroom in a good neighborhood.

But who wants to live in Las Vegas?


I'm staying at Bally's, on the strip. Bally's is part of a consortium of casino-hotels, the "Caesar Group" or something like that. It sits kitty-corner to Caesar's, at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard & Flamingo Road.

There are monumental pedestrian byways arching above all four lines of the intersection. The byways are accessed by escalators (with elevators for the mobility-challenged). Once up on them, you follow the flow of people across, then descend another escalator to the other-side sidewalk. When I crossed the Flamingo byway last night, a small woman was selling bottled water out of a big cooler in the middle of the byway. When I crossed the Flamingo byway this morning, a different small woman was burnishing the metal side-panelling of the escalator as I descended.


Saturday. I went to bed early (21:30), and got up reasonably early (7:20). Lots of sleep. Recall Gwern's melatonin page - are we all chronically sleep deprived?

Caesar's was pretty quiet when I arrived. There was only a small line at the Starbucks in front of Bally's (a 16oz coffee today, slowly coming down from the 20oz yesterday). Vegas is not an early town.

Now I'm stretch out on a divan at Caesar's, across the hall from SE village.

Man, how badly I want to publish this. Make it seen.

Jesus, let it go. You should let it go.

How safe is a laptop when wifi and bluetooth are off? Definitely not as secure as an airboxed machine, but still, that has to be pretty secure, right?

The paranoia is in the air. I think people here enjoy it.


Sitting in line for SE village before it opens. A circle of middle-age guys is in line behind me, chatting about nothing much. One guy has a cool badge from last year's con, another guy was ripped off by a taxi driver who took the long way to the airport.

This doesn't feel like my tribe.


At the Stage Door, directly across Flamingo Road from my room. $1 PBR bottles, at the recommendation of my Thursday-night Lyft driver (and backed up by Yelp).

Conventions really aren't my bag. I felt it two years ago at EA Global, and I'm feeling it now. Why aren't conventions my bag? Cause they are chock full of talks (boring!) and unstructured social time (unproductive and occasionally uncomfortable).

... Every casino I've been to has these Buffalo slot machines. They seem to be placed without regard for context. Bally's, Caesar's, and (most discontinuously) Paris.

I suppose no one is trying very hard to maintain their illusions here. The illusions are so in your face, yet they're undergirded by a deep pragmatism. Everyone in Vegas knows they are in Vegas.


Jesus, it's only Saturday afternoon. Amazing how time expands when away from people you know and a connection you can trust. It feels like I've been here for a small eternity.

This is one of the benefits of travel, knocking you out of one routine and into another. It lengthens.

I should get back to the con.


Passing thought: are slot machines with eyes on them more profitable than those without eyes? A lot of the machines have characters branded on them, staring at you with piercing eyes. Echoes of Jaynesian authorization.


A reclining beach chair in the pool area of Caesar's palace. It's a pleasant night.

A yellow-shirted guard just asked me to relocate. Apparently my reclining beach chair was in an area closed for the evening. So, around the main pool and on the other side of a black tubular rope, I'm now situated in another reclining beach chair. Must be a liability thing.

I never have had much respect for institutional authority (this caused a lot of grief when I was younger). But I don't get riled up by it either. It's easier to keep my disdain quiet.

There are sizable crickets roaming the floor around beach chair #2. Desert crickets? I don't know much about desert ecology.

Before yellowshirt interrupted me, I was reflecting on how brimming full of contentment I've been this afternoon. It's a strange feeling. My lower-hierarchy needs met, it feels good to just be here. Not "good" in a very hedonistic sense, though I suppose you could class it as a pleasure sensation.

More "good" in the "high-on-life" sense, in the "every-particle-of-my-body-is-resonating-with-every-other-particle-in-the-universe" sense. Pretty similar to how I felt up in the Cascades, actually, when I crossed over a mountain pass and found myself in a valley with no evidence of human intervention. The entire world was contained in that valley, and now the entire world is contained in the courtyard of Caesar's. Not a comparison I thought I would be making.

Another important quality of this present contentment: I don't feel like I have to be doing anything. No need to ship anything useful, and no itching desire to fulfill some hedonistic imperative. It's 20:15 as I write this, and the evening could go any which way from here. Go to bed early, people-watch on the strip, some more PBRs at the Stage Door, back to the con... any of these ways would be fine.


My room is unremarkable. 1198A. Presumably there is a 1198B, not sure if there's a 1198C. There are two connecting doors in 1198A (the kind that open onto the back of another door, such that both rooms have to consent to having the portal open before making it so), one in the entrance hallway and one by the head of the bed.

When I slid back the bolt of the entrance-hallway connecting door, what sounded like a small, wiry dog began howling. This same howl occurs about every other time I walk past the room that houses the dog.

1198A being part of a suite, the bed is a fold-away. It's not uncomfortable, though not especially comfortable. I've heard that if you take a blacklight to hotel rooms, you reveal all sorts of interesting stains. Never done that myself. I already know that hundreds of other people have slept, eaten, fucked on 1198A's bed. I don't need to make that more visceral.

Strange that people shy away from purchasing used mattresses but sleep happily in hotel rooms.

A wall-mounted thermostat is set to 60 degrees. It's not 60 in here, but it's cool enough that snuggling under the covers feels good. There's a nested quality to sleeping in Vegas – the HVAC battles against the 95-degree outdoor nighttime temperature, and the duvet warms the pocket around your body against the coolness of the room.


Down to a 12oz coffee today. If I keep up this trend, I could be entirely coffee-free by the end of the week! Somehow that feels virtuous.

Just logged on to the Google Starbucks network. I hope it's not compromised. The network's name lends authority, legitimacy, security. But such signals don't do much against a motivated attacker.


Cross-legged in a corner by Gate E12 of McCarran International Airport. I tried walking to the airport from a Jimmy John's by UNLV. It's under two miles, but this was a mistake.

On the approach to the airport, the sidewalk stops and the road branches into a tangle of highway-like ramps.

I found myself walking parallel to the airport on a perimeter road, separated from the Arrivals area by at least one fence and two roads. I gave up and called a Lyft. How do you get to the airport if you don't have a car?

...I intended this as a concluding vignette to tie together everything above, but it's not coming off. Yes, my walk to the airport was hot and unsuccessful. So what?

There's no Gate E13 at McCarran. E12 smoothly transitions to E14. Institutionalized superstition, or an inside joke?

[rereads: 2, edits: punched up the phrasing, cut some of the less interesting parts]

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