Wednesday, January 11, 2012

CES:: Day 2

It was another day of lines. First, having decided that I'd brave Starbucks rather than have no coffee at all, I headed downstairs where Starbucks has a presence right by the elevators on the first floor of the casino. Mind you, with the exception of my friend Carl, I know no one who actually likes Starbucks. I think most of my friends tolerate the coffee if nothing better is available. That certainly describes my own feeling about the brand. But, beggars not being choosers, Starbucks was my only option for a 16 oz hazelnut latte, what I'd normally make for myself at home. Off the elevator, I turned to the right and found--yes, a line, a long line that wasn't moving. Rather than hunt for another coffee shop (I did remember seeing another Starbucks nearby, but couldn't remember just where), I took my place at the end of the line and tried to be patient. Shortly thereafter, a man came by and announced "There's another Starbucks directly upstairs from this one, and there are only ten people in line." Well, that was enough for me, so upstairs I headed and became number eleven. Much to my surprise, no one else from the first floor line joined me.

I got back to our room in time for Kevin to announce that we had to leave for the Las Vegas Convention Center. Back down the elevator, heading for the Monorail, and, yep, you guessed it, another line. No one was being allowed onto the loading platform (one flight down from the ticketing kiosks). We wondered about this, until we heard a train come into the station. Once it departed, the line moved forward as those in front got to go through the barricades. It took a second train before we were allowed through, and I was the last one in our group. On the loading platform, there was no room for anyone else. I guess that's why they were holding people upstairs. The trains were running every four minutes, and Nokia was providing entertainment in the form of a young man twirling a contraption made up of square metal rods.

Our train arrived just as the young man was finishing his act, and we squeezed on board for the short ride to the Convention Center. This isn't Japan, so we didn't have pushers, but I don't believe that any more Americans would have been able to fit in the car. I have been on a train that was more crowded once in my life. In 1965, my father took me to Japan where I had the experience of riding the Tokyo subway at rush hour. Looking across at my father, I asked if he had ever been anywhere where all he could see was hair.

Off the train, following the crowd, we crossed a parking lot, dodged taxis and limos that were unloading passengers illegally, and headed into the center. First task--find breakfast. Once more, a line. But a quick reconnoiter and we determined that this line was for, why couldn't I have foreseen this, Starbucks. There was no line at the booth where they were selling scrambled eggs, sausage links or bacon, fried potatoes and peppers, and biscuits and gravy. All for $8.00, or so. Once we had filled our bellies, it was time to brave the beast and enter the arena. For today, I chose to stick close to Kevin, and thus found myself looking at lots of cables, cell phone battery packs, cell phone cases, etc., etc., etc. I quickly decided that I'm not nearly enough of a geek to fit in here. Half the time I had no idea what Kevin was talking about when he'd speak with the vendors.

This is a predominately masculine crowd, and I saw men of all sizes, shapes, races and religions. I was surprised by the number of Hasidic Jews I saw wandering through the aisles. There were a number of very handsome men, some vendors, some buyers, some just observers. I was taken by the t-shirt mottos that manyof the vendors sported. Jaybird, a company specializing in wireless headphones (as near as I could tell), dressed their reps in black t-shirts with the motto "Wires are for puppets."

The next thing I noted was that many, if not most, of the booths were offering products made in China. The company names all seemed to start with the hometown of whatever was being manufactured, with most items coming from Shenzhen, Guongdong, Shanghai and Hangzhou. I began to wonder if there were anywhere other than China manufacturing things today.

As the day wore on, I wore out. I don't know if it's a form of claustrophobia or agoraphobia, or just what, but in crowds similar to what we were facing, I have trouble breathing and start to go into panic mode. Eventually I told Kevin that he was on his own, and I was heading back to our room. Leaving him in the middle of the hall, I searched in vain for an exit. The longer I spent walking, the more drastic my need to escape. Alas, it was as if I were trapped in Sartre's play No Exit. I asked two different folk how I might leave the place and got two different answers. On the way, I did find a booth offering photographic equipment--Kenko tripods, Tokina lens and Hoya filters. Finally, something I understood. No one seemed interested in talking to me, however. A few booths further on I found a very friendly vendor showing portfolio cases for digital images. She didn't know Montana, but she traveled to Spokane, Washington once a year and told me that her product was available at Michael's, a store I frequent in Missoula.

Based on what I saw today, I'd have to say that the most plentiful "toys" being shown were headphones, flashdrives, cell phone cases, and tablet or notebook computers. What I've read in the press is that this show is heavy on something called ultrabooks. Apparently an ultrabook is a notebook computer that is super slim, some of them roughly half an inch thick at their thickest. No one seems to know if anyone really needs something that small, because you have to give things up to gain sleekness. The diet these ultrabooks have followed rules out such things as disk drives and USB ports. Sorry, but if you want to be thin, you have to sacrifice.

Also in the press I've read that somewhere on display at CES there are vibrating razors and mattresses designed to allow you to use your electronic gadgets. Gee, I'm doing that now, without the benefit of an electronics-friendly bed. But there are so many booths, and so many different vendors, that I'm not sure a person could see everything if they spend all day, every day wandering through the displays. The U.S. Postal Service has a huge booth, although I have no idea why. Other large booths belong to Verizon, Samsung, Sennheiser, and other names familiar to electronics buffs. I saw robotic vacuums, toy animals, a Lamborghini, and several motorized bicycles.

And in the end, I saw the way out and took it,only to find myself in yet another line--the line of those trying to escape. The monorail back to Harrah's was just as full as the one we'd taken in the morning, but I found myself surrounded by a group of Florida bears. I told one of them that I always felt safer in the company of bears, and he agreed that he did too.

There were several booths showing different electronic massage tools, and I tried one out. Fifteen minutes of electro stimulation of the muscles in my shoulder and lower back, and I felt much better. So much better that I actually bought the unit. (And this is supposedly a no-no. The show is all about demonstrating products, NOT selling them.) Back in our room, I broke out the new unit, put the slippers on my feet and the electrodes on my neck and shoulder and sat through another fifteen minutes of bliss. Then a nap until Kevin came in and said it was time for dinner.

For our evening meal, we caught the monorail back to the MGM Grand, and thence to New York New York where we had the Original Fulton Fish Frye's fish and chips. After wandering the streets of old New York, and crossing back past the lion's den in the MGM, we returned to Harrah's for a dessert of IcePan ice cream. I can't really describe the stuff, but Kevin had mint chocolate chip and I had pistachio with almond. You choose your flavor, your dairy (skim, 2%, whole milk or soy milk), and they make the stuff in front of you. Never have I seen anything like it. But it was good, and we carried it upstairs to our room for dessert.

Kevin has now gone to bed, and Iwill join him just as soon as I finish this up. The last image above is the Las Vegas skyline as seen from the Convention Center Monorail Station. We've had glorious weather while we've been here, as you can see.

And by the way, on another front, my friend Terry Cyr just was honored by being featured in the blog of Martin Brant, The Enlighted Male. Just last week I had told Terry about Martin's blog, and now the two have connected. If you are at all interested in superb imagery of the human male, I recommend Martin's blog. Here's the link to the post that features Terry.


RBrownLassen said...

This convention sounds bigger than the American Library Association's, which figures.

The post office is there so you don't have to pay excess baggage fees for all your swag. Mailing the stuff home is much, much cheaper.

RBrownLassen said...

This convention sounds bigger than the American Library Association's, which figures.

The post office is there so you don't have to pay excess baggage fees for all your swag. Mailing the stuff home is much, much cheaper.