Leaving (for) Las Vegas

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If you have the slightest interest in using your Mac as a broadcasting tool of any kind, then I can't recommend the annual National Association of Broadcasters Conference highly enough. I just returned from a one-day excursion to this Nevada oasis (and boy, are my arms wired!) and have a few observations and pointers to anyone who might be interested in attending next year's conference.

If you have never been to Las Vegas, then this annual spring conference is a great excuse to visit. The temperatures on the day I visited were in the unseasonably warm low-nineties. But as anyone who's ever experienced the Las Vegas heat will tell you, it's a dry heat. This means that, while the temperature doesn't feel quite as sweltering as, say, the 90-plus degrees accompanied by 90-plus percent humidity that you can find on a typical August afternoon in New Orleans (not coincidentally, these are the exact same atmospheric conditions as you have right now inside your own digestive tract!), it does leave your entire body -- especially the lips and tongue parts of your body -- feeling extremely parched. However, as I mentioned, the temperatures were unseasonably warm this year, so you should be able to look forward to a balmy vacation in an adult playground during a typical NAB conference. Be sure to check the AccuWeather forecast before packing.

Speaking of adult playgrounds, Las Vegas suffers from no shortage of activities in which the consenting adult can choose to participate. The mid-week conference gives those of us with a penchant for gaming the option to slip out of the conference for a couple of hours to hit the tables when they are at their least crowded. A stroll through the Treasure Island casino on Monday at 11:30 a.m. revealed that the only people present at most gaming tables were the dealers.

But -- and I'm sure I don't have to tell you good people this -- there is a lot more to do in Las Vegas than just gambling. When the sun goes down and the Las Vegas Convention Center doors lock up for the night, the main strip through town holds in store for you show attendees what could be the single most exciting experience of your lives. I am referring of course, to Siegfried and Roy. And, oh no, the fun doesn't stop there. Assuming he's still alive for next year's conference, Don Rickles is bound to be inflicting his own unique comedic brand of ethnic cleansing upon some unsuspecting casino audience. If you play your cards right (literally and/or figuratively), you might just be in that audience.

Before I get too far into the whole Las Vegas aspect of the show (too late!), let me say that the show itself is well worth the trip. Apple had an enormous booth there this year, which was one of the most highly trafficked attractions at the show. Our favorite Cupertino company has long been the darling of the broadcasting industry (Hollywood does love an underdog.), and they were at the center of a great deal of the show floor buzz. All of the software exhibitors were proudly displaying their support for Apple's new QuickTime 4 (despite the fact that it was still in beta), and Final Cut Pro was a huge hit with showgoers. If you are an Apple fan, this is a great show to get some positive feedback about your platform of choice.

But let's get back to the Las Vegas theme, since I did promise you a few tips to help you prepare for next year's show. You already know to check the Weather Channel before packing, and I'm sure you're going to remember to bring your lip balm, but there are a few other things to keep in mind leading up to next year's conference. If you are a man, start growing a ponytail right now. One of the most noticeable differences between the natives and the tourists was that we were the ones without those long streams of hair flowing down to at least mid-clavicle. We were also the ones who were not chomping on cigars -- another sure way to tell the experienced NAB showgoer from the novice was that the wizened ones constantly had their lips wrapped around big, awful-smelling stogies. If you forget to pack your humidor next spring, don't worry -- you can buy cigars right there in the convention center.

Another fact of Las Vegas life that you should prepare for is that traffic lights are required by law to take a minimum of an hour and a half to change. If you plan to rent a car, be sure to carry around an extra can of gasoline in case you need to add some to your tank while waiting for the light to turn green in front of the Sands. If you're in a cab, don't be alarmed to watch the meter go from $2.80 all the way to $179.40 while waiting to exit Caesar's Palace. Remember -- Uncle Sam lets you deduct all of this as a business expense, so just relax and enjoy the ride, or the lack thereof. Oh, and if you do intend to travel by cab, be sure to allot at least 15-20 minutes just to wait in the taxi stand line. It's not uncommon for them to swell in size to 100 people or more during peak times. Use this time to leaf through the brochures and press releases you've gathered on the show floor.

But, hey, every city has its unique annoyances and attractions -- long stop lights and the constant stench of cigar smoke (Seriously, though -- Did this silly little national fad arrive late in Las Vegas, or have the bright lights distracted the Las Vegans [Isn't that Spanish for people who don't eat meat or meat by-products?] so much that they haven't yet noticed that the entire rest of the country has come to its senses and stopped participating in this incomprehensible craze? Or perhaps cigars are a longstanding institution in Las Vegas, immune to the whims and fancies of popular culture. It could be that the constant exposure to such a high volume of Freudian imagery just results in an irrepressible oral fixation that high rollers are best able to resolve by suckling on a Cheech and Chong-sized roll of fine North Carolina tobacco. But we're not here to judge.) shouldn't deter anyone from enjoying a fabulous show in a town that exists solely to entertain. Just remember one thing: if you're taking pictures of the waterfall in front of the Mirage and a guy walks up to you and volunteers to take a picture of you and your traveling companions, the proper response is to politely refuse and walk away without making eye contact. Keep that in mind, and I guarantee that you'll have a great time at next year's NAB conference. See you there!

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