Wednesday, June 21, 2017

In the General Aria

I mentioned on the blog last week that the end of our New York trip was not quite the end of our traveling. After a week back home in Denver, we were back out to the airport for three days in Las Vegas.

This wasn't a carefully planned vacation so much as a nice opportunity. For my husband, it wasn't even actually a vacation. He was being sent to a conference for work. He already had the hotel room, and flights from Denver to Vegas are quite reasonably priced. So I got a ticket and tagged along. I'd have the days to myself as my husband worked; we'd have time together in the evenings -- though that might not be all that much.

It was a good trip, though it turned out we had even less time together than I think I'd expected. I don't have many stories to share, but maybe enough highlights here for one blog post:
  • We stayed at the Aria, which was far nicer than other hotels I've stayed in on previous Vegas trips. Be warned, though, about using the bedside tablet to set a wake-up call. Said call turned on the lights, opened the window shades, and turned on the TV all at once. We did that on the first night, awoke to what seemed like an air raid, and did not repeat the mistake for the rest of the trip.
  • We went to a couple of local breweries. Since we were staying on the Strip and weren't up for much of a trek (not even downtown), the options were a bit limited. It's not Denver, where you can sometimes find half a dozen breweries in one square mile. We weren't able to hit a friend's recommendation (Banger; that's downtown), but we did make it to two other places. Sin City was decent enough, but only had a very limited selection of regular beers. (They seemed to exist more to sell cheeky merchandise than beer.) Then there was Ellis Island, a casino with an on-site brewery, which was horrible. Every beer was only $2.50, which would seem like a plus, but it felt like that's all they could really get away with charging.
  • I played poker for the trip. Though I won some very nice hands, I lost some big ones too and wound up down for the trip. One of my losses I can blame on luck; an opponent I'd put all-in hit a two-outer on the river to take the hand. That said, my play is a bit rusty these days, so I must chalk up some of my losses to bad play.
  • The final day of my husband's convention ended with a keynote address by a neat guest speaker: Stephen J. Dubner, of Freakonomics fame (book and podcast). Both my husband and his boss recognized the appeal this might have for me, and encouraged me to sneak in to watch. Dubner's 45-minute speech jumped humorously from turkey sex to hospital cleanliness to monkey prostitution, but was overall a talk about a topic that applies just as much to my work as my husband's: what to make of a big pile of data you have on hand. Gathering accurate information on how people behave can be tricky enough, but it can be trickier still to understand why they behave as they do. Much of Dubner's speech talked about one step farther still: the challenges of making people adjust their behavior in the ways you want them to. That comes up in my job, directly or indirectly, basically every day. The talk was a fun end to the trip (and made me realize I should probably be subscribing to the Freakonomics Radio podcast).
There was a time when it seemed like I was visiting Las Vegas every year or two; it was sort of a favorite destination of mine. Times have changed. It had been nearly seven years since my last Vegas trip. I've been lucky enough to go to a variety of great places since then (and luckier still to go to them with the man I love). Vegas just didn't seem as special this time. It was a fun enough diversion for a few days, but won't stick with me for as long as the New York trip.

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