Friday, January 13, 2012

2012 CES trip report

"Who needs booth babes when you have Angry Birds at your booth?" -- me at the CES

The year is off to a good start as we went to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show with Dad's colleague Jim. This wasn't so much a vacation as we were there for business reasons, but it was still an enjoyable trip.

I'll start with some background: Dad has been working with a digital audio company for a few months. The team had decided to demo their product at the CES. The plan was to meet up in Las Vegas, but my father agreed to carpool with Jim so they could discuss the project. Though we couldn't bring much because Jim only has a sedan, that wasn't a big deal.

Day 1

The first leg of the trip was a 35-mile drive to Jim's house in Morgan Hill. Dad introduced us to the Langs before we hit the road. Angry Birds and Bejeweled Blitz kept me occupied during the long drive. I'm glad we got the iPad 2 last month!

Of note is that Jim used to be in the Marines and had interesting stories. Jim is extremely alert due to his military training and could spot hazards on the road much quicker than any of us. He's probably one of those guys that can take out an entire SWAT team. I wouldn't want to get on his bad side, that's for sure.

All of us were tired when we checked into Gold Spike. Jim picked this place because of its low rates and proximity to the Las Vegas Convention Center. The downside is that the Wi-Fi sucked: it only worked half the time and was slow as hell. The 3G-enabled iPad 2 definitely came in handy here.

Day 2

Because the team wasn't ready yet, Dad took us to nearby attractions in the meantime. This was possible because Jim heard we wanted to go on side trips and was kind enough to lend us his car. I truly appreciate his consideration.

The first stop was Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. We came here in 1996 but only went to the visitor center due to fatigue. It was nice to fully explore the place this time. There was a $7 entrance fee, but that could have been waived had we brought our national park pass. *facepalm*

The plan was to visit Spring Mountain Ranch State Park and Blue Diamond as well. However, our GPS had trouble finding them and kept sending us in circles. Seeing that this was getting us nowhere, my parents and I decided to continue on.

Valley of Fire State Park awaited us next. The valley gets its name from the sandstone formations that appear to be on fire as the sun sets. It was no doubt one of the most unique places in the world. Hiking here was the best part of the trip. I'd love to come back here in the future.

Another notable stop was the Moapa travel plaza. Moapa is one of the few places in Nevada that allows consumer fireworks all year. With its huge selection of fireworks, the store was like heaven. However, I didn't buy any because of the high prices. The fact that I recently lost my job made it even harder to justify purchases. :-(

Day 3

We met up with Jim and his colleague George at the hotel's on-site restaurant. After they finished their breakfast, the five of us took the shuttle to the Las Vegas Convention Center. Dad went with Jim and George while Mom and I explored the CES on our own.

The event was very crowded this year. Getting around was difficult, but there was plenty of time to look around. Haier's Brain Wave TV was the coolest thing we saw even though it didn't work for me. I imagine similar devices will be a household staple in the not-too-distant future.

One thing I noticed is that there was barely any swag. This was understandable as most exhibitors probably don't have enough to give to each of the tens of thousands of attendees. On the other hand, I got to chat with several cute booth babes. :-)

Dad picked us up as the show winded down. The three of us then had dinner with George and Jim at an Italian restaurant. The place had just opened three weeks ago. The servings were huge and quickly filled me up.

Day 4

The day was much like the one before: I checked out new products, looked for giveaways and talked to more girls. Mom and I also attended some keynote sessions that caught our interest. The best part is that I won $100 from TechnologyTell in their daily drawing. Oh yeah!

Our group met up again for dinner, after which my family checked out the nearby Fremont Street Experience. The light show and music were exhilarating. Figuring we have some luck left, I suggested hitting the casino upon returning to the hotel. This wasn't a bad idea: my father won $5 while I got $1.50 - all from the penny slots.

Day 5

Today was uneventful as Jim wanted to leave Vegas right after breakfast. The only major stop along the way was a sandwich joint in Boron for lunch. The food turned out to be quite good despite the mediocre reviews on Yelp.

Back in Morgan Hill, Jim invited us in to see his kitchen collection. He and his wife Betsy also love cooking and had tons of stuff. Looks like Mom has competition. :-)

Speaking of which, Jim gave us a stove-top smoker. That was so generous of him. After everything was said and done, my parents and I bid farewell to the Langs and began our drive home.

Conclusions

Business reasons aside, this was an awesome trip. Hiking in Valley of Fire State Park was my favorite part, although winning $100 at the CES and chatting with the booth babes were also memorable. Some of you may remember when a girl at the 2008 CES simply walked away when I tried to get a picture with her. It's nice to know not all attractive girls are stuck-up bitches.

Our options were limited as Jim was in charge of the plans. Jim is very punctilious, so we didn't want to bother him too much. On the upside, carpooling saved us hundreds of dollars in car rental fees, not to mention that having companions always makes traveling more fun. I certainly wouldn't mind more trips together. You can go here for pictures from our adventure.

In other news...

1. Dad and I are both getting an iPhone 4S tomorrow. Sweet!

2. I'm starting a course on Android app development in a few days. Being out of a job, I figured now would be a good time to learn about current technologies.

Currently playing: Bejeweled Blitz

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