02 January 2019
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Las Vegas!

It's Show Season

The CES show is next week, and NAMM and NAB aren't far away. Las Vegas is the town where many big trade shows are held. That and mentioning climbing my antenna tower yesterday started me thinking about my near-death experience.

Q: You have had near-death experiences?
A: Well, sort of. And I'm not talking about the kind where other motorists are coming at you like stereophonic tapioca, either. It happened in Las Vegas...

In the Old Days

No, not the old, old days of Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano, but days of sufficient yore that you could still get an ice cream sandwich for a dime and tuck into a sumptuous buffet for $1.99. As a manufacturer, we would display our broadcast and audio products at the NAB show, often in Las Vegas. Our group included, until his actual-death experience, my buddy Joe Shapiro, who made a fetish of being even cheaper than I when it came to travel expenses.

It was easy then to be cheap in Vegas, unlike now, when hotel rooms are many hundreds of dollars per night and adding dinner for two barely leaves change from a thousand dollar bill, which the cheap buffet joined in oblivion. Not to interrupt the narrative here, although it does help build the suspense* about the near-death experience, but I'm not picky about hotels, and especially indifferent to accommodations during trade shows. The point of having a hotel room is mostly sleep, so it's good to have a serviceable bed, potable water in a functional bathroom, and maybe a reading lamp. Pretty much any hotel or motel can provide all of the above. (An on-premise food source was unnecessary—we grazed in the hospitality rooms of other vendors when the $1.99 buffet was too much of a nuisance.)

Can One Be Too Cheap?

In a spasm of frugality, Joe had managed to book a number of motel rooms in a facility that was on the periphery of the convention venue. I wish I remembered what it looked like from the outside; I doubt much effort was spent on maintaining it since was to be torn down soon. Inside was another story. It was aromatic. It was chaotic. It was occupied, in large part, by enlisted troops on leave. But it had a bed and a functional bathroom. And I was tired. I got in bed.

The Lights Flickered

Lights flicker all the time. I ignored it. I moved around in bed to get more comfortable. The lights flickered again.

The Apochryphal Herbert von Karajan Joke

Van Karajan just came back to his office after conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. He sat down at his desk to make some notes for the next performance and turned on his desk lamp. He immediately felt a jolt of electricity and noticed that there was a frayed wire going to the lamp. He called the maintenance department and asked for a technician to come up and fix it. He duly arrived. The notoriously persnickity Von Karajan complained about the state of his lamp and avered that he might have been electrocuted. The technician told him that he needn't have worried. Although there was plenty of voltage available, he wasn't a very good conductor.**

I'm Not That Good a Conductor, Either

If I had gotten in bed after turning out the lights, most likely neither I, nor this blog, nor, possibly, a detachment of the U.S. Army would be here today. But the lights were still on, I shifted my position, and the lights flickered again. Third time is enemy action: I investigated. Assuming that no primordial Alexa was trying to determine my intentions with regard to illumination, I decided that moving the bed (or the Magic Fingers attached thereto) was somehow causing a problem with the electricity. Crawling out of the bed and looking underneath, I found that part of its structure was a flimsily thin metal bar mounted a foot or so above the floor and holding the metal bed legs together at the correct spacing. The bar was at the precise height necessary to short out the Magic Fingers power cord plugged into an outlet behind the bar. The power plug wasn't fully seated, allowing the short to occur when my weight forced down the bar over the plug by a tiny amount.

Was it truly enemy action? Did some would-be assassin situate everything to try to either electrocute me if I were touching the metal frame, or burn down the bed and its occupant along with the motel if the short had remained? (Remember, although the lights flickered, the breaker, if any, didn't open.) These thoughts went through my alleged mind as I moved the bed and its shorting bar away from the wall. They fled only moments later as I fell asleep. I was alive! But mostly, just tired.

Has Las Vegas Given Up?

I'm hopeful. I've been going to Vegas trade shows two or three times a year since it's now driving distance. I have no evidence that it has murder up its municipal sleeve. Perhaps I'm worth more alive than dead, since the cashectomy it performs on each pilgrimage is substantial. They charge more for the spurious "resort fees" than a whole stay used to cost. And that included the food.

UPDATE! 13 November 2020

Las Vegas tried again. And failed again.

Did You Have to Look Up CES or NAMM or NAB?

Who knows what, if anything, these ex-abbreviations still mean. CES used to mean "Consumer Electronics Show" which would make "CES Show" redundant. Not any more! Along with ARRL and AARP, and no doubt a host of others, events and organizations from our past have become anacronyms.

*I've mentioned many times that I'm not good at suspense. This is good practice.

** I originally heard this joke with Hungarian-American Eugene Ormandy playing the part of the conductor, but I thought it would sound more impressive with the German Herbert von Karajan as the conductor, and related the joke so-modified. After writing it, I had second thoughts which were fully justified. As is often the case, a word used in multiple ways in one language, such as conductor, may not be appropriate in another. The German word for an orchestra conductor is Kapellmeister, an electrical conductor is Stromleiter. I could have gone back to Ormandy or even Bernstein, but having done this research I wasn't going to waste it.

Richard Factor


"My Love Hides From Your View"

The Paupers




Unlike many of my Tees of the Day, I do remember how I got this one. It was a gift from Sue Grey, adding a (sort-of) color to those in its message.

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