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Las Vegas, California, New York City

June/July 2000

Las Vegas

In Las Vegas I visited the PDPTA 2000 conference. I gave a talk there on Tuesday afternoon. Of course I also had a look at the casinos and some of the other attractions out there.

Monday, June 26, 2000 (Las Vegas)

06:15 I can't sleep any longer, get up and head for the window. How bright might it be outside at this time? I open the curtain and nearly get blind. Okay, the sun rises early here. When I have got my vision back, I skip through the pages of the local entertainment guide and recognize some of the attractions that friends have advised me to see.

06:45 I try to have a shower, but there is only one handle which controls the strength of the water flow. And the water is cold! I call some hotel service number and ask for explanations. The voice at the end of the line seems to be amused about this (so am I), but is extremely friendly (as everyone seems to be here, as long as her job depends on your money). I am told that it is possible to get hot water, I just have to turn the handle in the other direction. I reply that this is not possible, but I promise to try again. Finally, I get behind the handle semantics. Counterclockwise turned the water output is: none - cold (light flow) - cold (strong flow) - hot (strong flow). Neither a light flow of hot water nor moderate temperatures are observables of this showering system. And, by the way, the toilet flush here sounds like sound samplethis.

07:30 I grab my notebook and my camera, go down to the lobby, and ask for a deposit box. Then I look for breakfast, which is not included in the room price ($69 + Tax). I go to the ``Buffet'', which turns out to provide lots of hot meals, but few selections of what I like to eat in the morning. So I start with two croissants and a donut, and am feeling extremely sick within a few minutes. Quite impressing. Looking around at all those guys and gals stuffing themselves up with food that seems to consist of fat and some unimportant trace elements, I head to the buffet again, desperately seeking something more healthy. So I finish my breakfast with some cereals and milk.

08:29 The PDPTA 2000 conference officially starts with opening remarks by Hamid R. Arabnia and the presentation of the four ITI awards by I.S. Tuba. The PDPTA 2000 outstanding award goes to John R. Koza, who continues with the keynote speak ``Human-Competitive Machine Intelligence by Means of Parallel Genetic Programming''. The talk introduces nice ideas like the construction of an optimal yagi antenna by letting a LOGO turtle randomly draw lines in the three-dimensional space, and then optimizing the turtle moves by genetic programming.

12:35 Since I used most of the lunch break for typing this travel report, I only have 15 minutes left for eating something. The hotel has its own McDonald's, so I end up with a Big MacTM menu, which is much better than the breakfast.

18:35 No free Internet access is provided for the participants of PDPTA 2000. What a shame. So I pay $13.92 for a slow, insecure and uncomfortable connection provided by the hotel. For the next journey I definitely need a mobile phone with builtin modem. I hope the University at Santa Barbara will do it better at SAS 2000.

21:00 What was announced as the ``Conference Reception'' turns out to be the biggest dinner buffet I have ever seen. Completely stuffed I fall into my bed later on.

Tuesday, June 27, 2000 (Las Vegas)

07:15 The day of my talk. I get up, take a shower, and iron a shirt. Then I try to get some breakfast. The queue in front of the Buffet is very long, so I decide to save money and time and eat breakfastfood at McDonald's.

13:13 Vegetarian Pizza for lunch. Quite good. On my way to the elevator I drop my first coin into a slot machine: Monte Carlo 1, Ben 0.

Ned Flanders: ``Aw, leave me out of this, Homer. Games of chance are strictly forbidden by Deuteronomy 7.''
Homer Simpson: ``Seven, eh?'' [Places his chips on seven; the ball lands in the seven slot.] ``Way to go, Flanders! The Bible's finally pulling its weight. Got any more holy numbers?''
The Simpsons Episode AABF06 ``Viva Ned Flanders''

15:52 Theo C. Ruys (University of Twente, The Netherlands) starts his talk by expressing his complaints about this conference. In his opinion, the papers did not undergo any review process at all, since nearly all papers seem to have been accepted and no one has received any reviewers' comments. This might be due to the fact that CSREA (hosting the conference) is a commercial company and is only interested in the number and not the quality of papers. ``I feel tricked'', Theo says.

16:16 My talk begins. It is not easy to get a video projector (what a strange conference hotel), but luckily also Theo C. Ruys insisted on using one. The talk was okay (as far as I can judge), maybe a bit too fast. At least my English was understandable for everyone, I guess.

Ralph Wiggum: ``Me fail English? That's unpossible!''
The Simpsons Episode 2F05 ``Lisa on Ice''

18:00 This day's lectures have finished. Now it's really time to go outside, which I actually did not do since I arrived in the hotel Sunday evening! Thus, to start somehow relaxed into the evening, I head for the hotel pool (which is outside). I take a towel from my room with me, and end up as the only one at the pool having a yellow towel, since towels with in a Burgundy color are handed out at the pool. Nevertheless the pool is great, and it is really hot outside.

19:40 Since the tab water seems to contain chlorine, I invent another way to get cheap drinks: I fetch a bucket of ice cubes for free from a machine in the hallway, and let time and temperature do the rest.

21:10 After checking Carsten's emails with sightseeing tips on my laptop, I go down to the lobby, exchange my camera in the deposit box with the laptop, and walk, for the first time, down Las Vegas Boulevard, also known as ``The Strip''.

Ned Flanders: ``Gee, Homer, it all looks so garish. Oh, the lights, the noise, the letter `X'! It's, it's all designed to enflame the senses. I'm over-stimulated, I gotta get out of this town!''
The Simpsons Episode AABF06 ``Viva Ned Flanders''
Sea battle at Treasure Island First I go to Treasure Island, because the pirate ship show is about to start at 22:00. The distance is longer than I thought, and the streets are very crowded. I manage just in time go get there, but no good places to watch are left. Nevertheless, it's a nice show, and the pictures I take will turn out to be very nice.

Waterfalls at the Mirage 22:20 Leaving the pirate ship show, walk past the artificial waterfalls at the Mirage. Shopping mall at Caesar's Palace Then I have a look at Caesar's Palace (big shopping mall with simulated day/night change at the ceiling and a nice casino with sound sampletwo live bands, very impressive) and Bally's (dropped one quarter into a slot machine: Bally's 1, Ben 1). It is still very hot outside, and it is not easy to wear the right clothes for the streets as well as for the air-conditioned buildings. Thirsty and tired, I go back to the hotel, and conclude this evening with an episode of sound sample``Married... with Children''.

Wednesday, June 28, 2000 (Las Vegas)

08:30 I have breakfast at the Buffet again, and this time I select the food very carefully: two rolls with jam, cereals, fruits, a muffin, orange juice, tea. It is important that you order ``hot tea'', since just ``tea'' might be confused with the so cold so-called ``iced tea''.

11:42 The talk I am listening to right now is extremely boring and badly presented, so I use the time to drop some words about the Monte Carlo Resort & Casino. My overall impression is that everything is done here to create a nice and pleasing atmosphere. The background music you hear everywhere (different music for casino, hallways, pool etc.) is chosen very well. Of course there is no music in the private and conference rooms. A bit strange is the use of perfumes everywhere; often almost unnoticeable, sometimes massively, e.g., at the pool. The air conditioning has its advantages and disadvantages. Of course it would be very hot inside without, but maybe also significantly colder outside in the streets. It is also nice that one seems to have fresh air everywhere. The disadvantage is that you have a steady movement of air, which can be very annoying. And, of course, air conditioning is not noiseless. In my room I turn on the air conditioning on when I leave, and keep it switched off while I'm in the room. But maybe this is all boring to you, so I'll stop now.

14:41 For lunch I have pizza and pasta. On TV they say that we have 101F (38C) outside. I go down to the casino and sound samplefeed 20 quarters into a slot machine. Not for me, but for someone who asked me to invest $5 into gambling. Well, it was no good investment, since the machine only returns 17 quarters. Gambling is only fun if you win. So I should play some more until... - I guess that is the principle this city is built on.

17:00 Pool again. Hot!

Stratosphere Tower 20:42 This evening I want to go to Freemont Street in Downtown Las Vegas. I take bus number 301 up to the Stratosphere Tower, which has a roller coaster going around the top. Then I start walking. Again I underestimate the distance and have to walk quite a bit. This seems to be the sleazier part of Las Vegas, with lots of motels, strip shows, banks, and law firms.

Freemont Street 22:10 Finally, I arrive at Freemont Street, which is home of the older, smaller casinos of Las Vegas.

22:55 A Coca Cola vending machine generously takes $1.25 from me, and refuses to give me something to drink or my money back. I am used to not getting back my money from slot machines, but this is robbery!

23:00 The light show projected on the roof of Freemont Street starts. This must be the thing they call the ``Freemont Street Experience''. Very nice.

23:15 I take bus number 301 back to the Strip. Since everybody seems to leave Freemont Street now, it takes about 10 Minutes until everybody has entered the bus. The bus is full, so some even have to wait for the next bus.

23:55 Back at the Monte Carlo. I go to bed and watch the shows of Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien. Maybe I should try to attend one of the shows' recordings at NBC Studios in Burbank (Los Angeles) or New York City.

Hotel corridor

Thursday, June 29, 2000 (Las Vegas)

08:10 Breakfast at the Buffet.

10:45 I move my luggage and camera to the luggage locker room, go down to the reception and check out. However, I will stay in the hotel until the afternoon. The two-minute international phone call I made on Monday appears on my receipt with $13.91. Hmm. So they earned more with this call than with the money I spent in the casino.

14:11 The speaker of the last talk I wanted to listen to is not present. So PDPTA 2000 ends earlier for me than expected.

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Ben Lukoschus  (ben@lukoschus.de)
Last modified: 2002-05-04 14:55:29 CEST (+0200)