Saturday, January 10, 2009

On the road again: Las Vegas/CES, day 3

Today's rhythm was the same as yesterday's: work, CES, work, out, work. We hit the South Hall of LVCC today and saw a fair amount of cool stuff, though nothing that really blew us away. We hit our first netbooks, and our take is decidedly mixed. We tried multiple Asus offerings, and after typing on them for several seconds, we both concluded there was no way we'd personally want them. The HP Mini family, by contrast, was interesting, in large part due to its keyboard's larger size and more sensible layout. We also found the HP Media Server of interest.

Dinner tonight was flat-out great, courtesy of Robuchon, where we had the special tasting menu featuring black truffles. Every dish was a winner. Wow.

After the meal, we worked a bit and then headed to the Bellagio to see O. I've seen this Cirque du Soleil show five or six times now, and tonight, like every other time, it was magical.

I wish I could afford to take all my friends and loved ones to Vegas so they could eat this meal and see this show.

If in my books I can provide moments of magic anywhere near as powerful as those in O, I will have achieved a very great deal indeed.

Friday, January 9, 2009

On the road again: Las Vegas/CES, day two

Morning was work, then an early lunch, and then off to the Sands to see the exhibits that couldn't afford the main halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. We hit the Sands on the first day of the show because most people are at the main areas; avoiding crowds to the greatest degree reasonably possible is a good thing.

Two years ago, the Sands had many interesting tech products. Today, we saw very, very little of real interest. One of the oddest and most memorable products was a fairly old one: the Paro robotic therapeutic seal. Unlike this correspondent, we were not particularly charmed by this thing. When we heard the sales weasel proclaim its price tag in the U.S. was a hefty $6K, what little charm it had held for us evaporated quickly.

The most amusing thing I saw at the Sands was the set of AVN Adult Entertainment Expo information booths that the AVN show organizers had sprinkled right in the pathways of the CES attendees. The CES crowd thus had to walk by scantily clad women offering information about the AVN show. Great move by the AVN folks for their show, which is running concurrently with CES.

Late afternoon brought another work session, after which we headed to the Wynn to see La Reve, a show by former Cirque producer Dragone. This was my second time seeing this show, and I enjoyed it quite a bit, though it just isn't as magical as a Cirque production.

Afterward, I remembered that Bill is a fan of seafood, so we strolled over to Barolotta, a restaurant in the Wynn that just happens to be one of the best seafood places in the country. We were able to get a table immediately, and we then enjoyed a tasting menu whose highlight, for me, was an appetizer portion (just two bites) of mackerel that completely redefined for me how good that fish could taste.

We haven't hit the main CES hall yet, but so far everything I've seen reeks of a bad economy and a smaller CES than usual: casinos running at less than half their usual crowds, sparse attendance at the Sands part of CES, an instant table at a major restaurant, almost no cab lines, and so on. Not good signs for Sin City.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

On the road again: Las Vegas/CES, day 1

So it's 10:10 p.m. local time, which your body believes is really 1:10 a.m. where it woke up after three hours and fifteen minutes of sleep, you're in Las Vegas, you've been working solid for a good while, and you're staring at a big lump of work still awaiting your attention. What do you do?

Why, go out for pie, of course.

Not just any pie, mind you; oh, no. This is very special pie, and you can find it in your hotel, the MGM Grand, only a couple of blocks walk (no exaggeration) from your room. This is the Emeril's version of banana cream pie, and it is the best BCP on the planet.

It is from this very line of fine reasoning that I found myself sitting at the bar of the Emeril's restaurant here savoring a piece of this most delightful pie and sipping a cold glass of water as a trio of seriously drunk, CES-bound, marketing women a few stools away provided free entertainment. The cute Indian woman with the British accent rarely spoke as the pale, paunchy blonde and the trim brunette fought for the coveted Mary role in front of three geeks they would never have noticed had they not been so far into the bottle. People-watching is at its best in Vegas.

Having moved my tired self across the country, spent way too many hours on a plane, had a good dinner at Fix, and done a ton of work, I think it's time for me to finish the final pending tasks and fall into my bed.

Tomorrow, Bill and I begin our walking tour of CES.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Heading to CES

Tomorrow, I hit the road again, this time to CES in Las Vegas. I'm quite looking forward to the show, both to see some of our clients and just to bask in the uber-geekiness of hundreds of thousands of square feet of tech on display. I'm particularly interested in seeing the many varieties of netbooks, because I'm still not sold on this computing category. It feels to me like an awkward middle ground between a three-pounder, such as an Air or a Lenovo T3100, and a smart phone, such as my iPhone. I'll report my opinion after I've checked out a lot of them on the show floor.

In unrelated news, as you would expect, I am chipping away at the plot of Children No More. I understand it at a macro level and have for some time, but I now must work out the details so I can write an outline and get busy on the book. This one will in many ways be darker than any of the others, but I'm still looking forward to getting back to writing; everything up until the point at which I'm putting down text always feels a bit like cheating.

While I'm in Vegas, I'll eat at least a few really good meals, see three shows, and if time permits, grab a few hours at a poker table (though this last is definitely lowest on my priority list). Stay tuned over the next five days for my report.

The breakup of America is near

or so Russian Igor Panarin would have you believe. My friend and fellow writer, John Lambshead, brought this to my attention via this article in the Wall Street Journal.

Panarin exhibits craziness of a high order, the kind you usually get to read only in fiction or in stories of people under treatment. When he discusses the fate of Alaska, for example--it will become part of Russia--the story says,

A framed satellite image of the Bering Strait that separates Alaska from Russia like a thread hangs from his office wall. "It's not there for no reason," he says with a sly grin.
You have to love a guy who's already decorating for the coming economic apocalypse.

The best part of the story, however, is the map at its end, a beautiful drawing that shows the eventual fates of all us loser Americans. Just stare at it and enjoy.

Though I know this guy is predicting the collapse of my nation, I couldn't help but smile and be happy at the sheer wackiness of his vision. Wow.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Vacation ends

Tomorrow, I return to my day job. I like my job, but I have to admit that I'm not really ready to go back. I entered my vacation far more burned out than I had realized, and I am ending it more than a little toasty. I also feel that other than keep up with the holidays I accomplished nothing these past two weeks. I must remind myself that this is simply not true. In particular, I

* turned in Overthrowing Heaven, got Toni's comments, addressed them, and turned in the final copy (that last bit tonight).

* finished everything in the budget box; hurrah!

* figured out chunks of Children No More. I'm not ready to outline yet, but I hope to start doing so before the end of January.

For those who are joining me in returning to work tomorrow, I hope your Monday goes well and as painlessly as possible.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Personal IT hell

I'm heading back to work Monday, and then on Wednesday I'm flying to Las Vegas for CES. (I know you're feeling bad for me--great tradeshow, fabulous meals, a couple of Cirque shows, it's rough--but I'll try to be strong.) In preparation for the trip, I'm trying to get a bunch of my computers up to date, a process that has landed me in personal IT hell. So, I'm going to keep tonight's entry short and leave you with this song. It's been rattling around in my head for two days, so with luck this video will transplant it to yours. Enjoy--and go re-watch the wonderful Grosse Pointe Blank if the song compels you to do so.


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