It’s time again for that yearly desert pilgrimage to Las Vegas for another round of hacker conventions and adjunct festivities.
Goths attempt to attend a pool party
Prior to heading over to the Rio to check out Def Con, T and I ventured out to a pool party at Caesar’s. We had a bit of a time trying to get in. At first they turned us away for not wearing swim attire. Neither of us really packed with swimming in mind, to which I was told I could buy a swimsuit at one of the gift shops. T texted his friend who came out to try to negotiate to get us in. The guy at the door decided I was okay to enter if I took off my sweater, but T needed to at least put on shorts. So we went back to our hotel to change. On returning we got past the first entry, but then stopped to look through our bags and wallets. I wasn’t sure what they were looking for at first. The guy made to confiscate a bag of almonds I was keeping. I tried to argue, because I get weird blood sugar dips on occasion. He asked if I was diabetic, and I told him I was hypoglycemic, but no dice. Come to find out they were actually looking for drugs. Funny thing is I had a number of cold medicine tablets, Lactaid pills and a small punching knife in my bag as well which didn’t set off their radar, just the almonds. But after that was a decent round of conversations in a tent with a bunch of free drinks, so all was well with us.
Def Con day 1 and parties at the Rio
Sluggish after lunch following the pool party, we got a late start on Def Con, arriving in time to catch part of the Hacker Pyramid/Jeopardy gameshow and moved from that into a number of hallway conversations and the “pub crawl”, a series of party rooms with different lights and music. One room had a ball pit, and the adolescent in me who never got to experience a ball pit started silently screaming to jump in. T must have read the goofy expression on my face because he volunteered to watch my beer and boots while I went it. How surreal to be a 32-year-old woman sitting in a netted enclosure of plastic balls with a handful of hackers while we yell at each other over thumping techno music. Brilliant. I only needed 5 minutes to satisfy my inner child before I climbed back out and we strolled away.
A number of hours and hallway conversations later, we cabbed it back to the Quad, intending to get Chipotle for 3am dinner only to find it had just closed. Up the escalator to the 24-hour McDonalds revealed a restaurant crowded with inebriated people. T and I were a tipsy but not so far gone. We stealthed in like ninjas, T leading the way and taking advantage of the confusion and the drunk hesitation at the counter. In the land of excess, relative sobriety is the clear advantage. Despite the crowd, we were in and out within moments, trekking our way through Harrah’s with our bag of goodies. High fives all around.
Def Con day 2, aka Hallway Con, and more parties
I was a little hungover the next day but not too bad. Attempts to make it in time for a particular talk were derailed by further hallway conversations, to the point that we never even made it to that side of the conference hall. T affectionately referred to this phenomenon as Hallway Con, and it’s just as well because networking was our prime objective — T likes to save the talks to watch at home.
We took a shuttle back to our hotel, again intending to get Chipotle for lunch, turned off by the long lines this time and grabbed McDonalds once more. Food is always problematic in Las Vegas. That and the dry air, the constant AC, and the bad water does terrible things to my skin. I feel constantly oily and dry at the same time.
Heading back to the Rio that night, we started out at the pool party, reclining in plastic lounge chairs and staring up at the hotel lights that play tricks on your retinas. We moved from there to the “303” party, which was a hotel room equipped with DJ, sound system, lights, and a bathroom stocked with an epic amount of liquor. Again, we gravitated to the hallway immediately outside the room to engage in snappy conversation and verbal jousting over beers. I broke off from everyone to find a restroom and came back to find that security was closing down the party, so we went back down to rejoin the pool party, then upstairs to another friend’s room, and then back down to find a cab, plundering the convenience store at the hotel for chips and dips and cookies and plastic-wrapped sandwiches for our dinner of champions.
Def Con day 3, closing ceremonies
The next day was quieter, the atmosphere was heavy with the sense of something coming to its end. A number of T’s friends had already left. This was my first time catching the closing ceremonies, and I’m glad we did. Def Con is more than just talks and parties, it’s a whole community. Awards went out to winners of the different competitions and games. They announced the amount of funds raised by various organizations and charities over the course of the weekend. Words in memoriam for those who passed away recently, Brad “The Nurse” Smith and Barnaby Jack. It’s a strange thing. I know these names only from stories T has told me, but there’s such a feeling of genuine love and community in that big room, I found myself scrubbing embarrassingly at my moist eyes.
Killing time between events, T got me to try out one of the slot machines in the casino. My first time. I only put in a dollar and lost 30 cents straight off. Me: “What does this button do?” T: “I don’t know, push it and find out?” I pushed it and the wheels spun, but it felt so ridiculous and random I started to get mad, but the little icons on the screen lined up and I won back all the money I’d lost, putting me back at $1. So, feeling sassy, I decided that was enough gambling for me and cashed out.
Later that evening was a final get together with those who helped put together and run the conference. The “goons” and the old school guys with their significant others and some with their children. It was a more intimate setting of smaller groups.
Even if I’m not exactly a part of this group, I feel sentimental with the event drawing to a close, saying good byes. I made some new friends too. And more than one person, it seems, referred to me with the nickname Khaleesi, ha! What fun. When T and I got back to the Quad, drunk and weary, my voice was almost gone from talking and laughing.
These are the good feelings a conference should give you. Connections and inspirations. I want to get back to SF and *do* stuff, and be confident in my self and my abilities. I feel very CAN DO and enthusiastic. And I feel like I could also sleep for a week.