Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

What Do You Call 28,000 Geeks In Las Vegas?

by Eric Stewart on Jul.20, 2016, under Networking, Technology

A) A Week With Friends
B) Summer Camp
C) A Learning Experience
D) Cisco Live 2016
E) All Of The Above

Of course, the answer is E.

Beyond the usual excuses (the PS4, I’m lazy, jet lag, work), I can’t really tell you why it took me a few days to finally sit down and write this blog post.  If I wait too long, things get forgotten, which makes the usefulness of this post more useless than it already is.  But maybe it’s because this post signifies that Cisco Live is really over; that it means that (other than Twitter) I probably won’t hear from any of my geek friends for another year.

Hopefully you’ll find this post a bit more useful than others, since Cisco Live 2017 will again be in Las Vegas.  For those who have never been there, especially if you’re from climates that differ in some way to Las Vegas, it can be a bit of a shock.

The Most Open Floor Space I Saw

The Most Open Floor Space I Saw

The first thing to know about Las Vegas is that the entirety of the city is designed to separate you from your money.

Right when you get off the plane, you’ll see slot machines.  Everywhere.  In the terminal, in the baggage claim … everywhere.  You’ll also see ads; one of my many CL16 friends likened it to New York’s Time Square.  And that was just baggage claim at the airport.  My coworker didn’t want to be “just” on the 6th floor of our hotel, so he waited for something higher … and ended up being in a room that was behind an advertisement banner.

I got the impression that our hotel (the MGM Grand) was not unusual in its design: the lobby was connected to a casino on the first floor that held what was essentially a city block’s worth of slot machines, table games, theaters, stores, and restaurants.  The picture to the right shows you something incredibly unusual – open floor space.  A local friend I met up with suggested it was probably because they had had table games (roulette, craps, poker) in the area previously, and just hadn’t gotten around to putting slot machines or other electronic games in.

It should be one of your goals during your visit to Las Vegas to avoid direct sunlight.

Las Vegas is in the desert.  Coming from Florida (93F and 54% humidity … which is low for us), the heat didn’t seem so bad (105F and 10% humidity).  This is because, as long as you’re not trapping the sweat to your body with a backpack or heavy clothing, the sweat evaporates immediately, whereas in Tampa you suffer from both the sweat and condensation.  However, that 10% humidity can cause other issues.  In Tampa, allergies have my nose so screwed up that I have a persistent cough that I haven’t been able to kick … except for that week I was in Vegas.  There, though, I would blow my nose and find out just how dry it was.  Luckily, there’s a Walgreens a short walk from the MGM Grand, and I picked up some stuff (Ayr and some saline spray) to try to deal with that issue.

So, my advice?  Be aware of how dry it can get; don’t be afraid to use saline spray; and drink water even if you don’t feel thirsty.

And visit In And Out Burger.  It’s probably the cheapest (and arguably tastiest) meal you’ll have while you’re there.

Speaking about meals – this year (again) the breakfast and lunch provided by Cisco Live was … not as desired.  Boxed lunches and carb heavy breakfasts.  The fruit is nice but some bacon or sausage would have gone over well.  The pastries were tasty, but there was a big lack of protein for breakfast, and others mentioned that their box lunches at least one day was near frozen.  If you’re comfortable with paying for your own food, do it … except that that can be an expensive proposition in a casino/hotel these days.

I really wish it was easier to get a little heat in the meals.  I understand there are difficulties with feeding 28,000 people (and this year, at least, the meal locations weren’t spread all over, so it was easier to coordinate meeting people for lunch).  But hot food goes a long way …

Uber’s perfectly fine for getting around.  However, Lyft is popular and seems to be cheaper when Uber is in the middle of “surge pricing”.

A Bit Better Than Last Year's

A Bit Better Than Last Year’s

Now … on to Live.

The backpack this year was roomier than last year’s, but while it wasn’t completely fragile, the materials make me wary of carrying too much heavy stuff in it.  It should be fine for my laptop, iPad, assorted cables, and whatnot; but I’m going to avoid stuffing a few books in there, too.  Even though there’s room, I wouldn’t want to strain the seams too much.

Oh – every opportunity you get, plug in your phone for charging.  At an event like this (it has its own app), particularly if there’s some new insipid little game out, you’re going to be using your phone a lot.  If you’re not careful, the battery will run down and you’ll end up hoping your Uber driver shows up soon since you only have 5% battery left …

Keynotes this year were held (for most of us) in Mandalay Bay’s Arena.  The only one worth mentioning is the closing … but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Shut Up And Scan My Badge!

Shut Up And Scan My Badge!

I have this kind of love/hate relationship with the World Of Solutions – the vendor expo.  I like the idea that you can see what vendors are out there and what products are available.  But I have this pathological aversion to talking to people who are trying to sell me something.  So, in a sense, WOS is perfect for Vegas … and this also explains why Las Vegas isn’t quite my town.  It would not be my first choice to go on vacation.  People gamble because they see this as a chance to win some money and make their lives a little better … but the house always wins.  So it seems sometimes with WOS.  Someone’s always out to scan your badge so that some sales guy can call you a week or so later and try to convince you to by that product you looked at while you were at Cisco Live.  Or buy one of a dozen other services or products they provide that you don’t have sufficient budget for.

But I really cannot resist a good pun.  I mean, a red Red Hat hat?  I will gladly wear that while working on my CentOS boxes.

I Was Allowed In This Year

I Was Allowed In This Year

This happened to be my fourth Cisco Live, so I qualified for NetVet status this year.  If you go to Cisco Live and have a question, and you can’t find someone in a (usually orange) shirt that says “Can I Help You?”, you might just ask someone with a red lanyard.  They may know the answer, having been around the block a few times.  They even have their own lounge. And being better than a NetVet is a CCIE NetVet, which gets you better seating at the keynotes … which it seems I will have to wait a little longer for, having gotten out of the practice of studying for mine, and my attempt to use the “Infinite Number Of Monkeys” method will apparently require a little more (possibly infinite) time.  Oh well, maybe next year.

I’ve gotten this far and I haven’t talked about classes!  Um.  Well, Live for me is as much a social event as it is an educational one.  The classes are always useful, and you should never be afraid of looking at the schedule while you’re at Live and changing your classes if something better is available.  Also, the later in the week it is (especially Thursday morning), the better chance you’ll have of being allowed into a supposedly full class.  And of course the course material is available for free online for some time after the event.  Why, even today I used the Cisco Live site to grab the presentation for a class I didn’t attend to answer a question I had (how the ports on a Nexus 7700 M3 10Gb 48 port blade were arranged).

Um, It Only Looks Like Two ... Honest There's Just One

Um, It Only Looks Like Two … Honest There’s Just One

More so this year than the previous two others (I mean, Orlando had us at Universal Studios … that can’t be beat), the Customer Appreciation Event was more about the food than the music.  Unfortunately, the food could have been better – what little I tried was a bit dried out.  Surprisingly, the music wasn’t that bad.  While I’m not about to run right out and buy an Elle King or Maroon 5 album, Elle King knew how to talk to the crowd (much like Lenny Kravitz did), and Maroon 5 gave an energetic and enthusiastic performance (which made last year’s Aerosmith seem phoned in by comparison).  Some of this can be explained by the venue; the previous two years were at baseball stadiums, whereas the T-Mobile Arena seems designed for concerts (or fights); designed to be a more … intimate setting, allowing an artist to connect more easily with the audience.

Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacey

Finally, we come to the closing keynote.  By way of comparison, I’ve seen Richard Branson, Sal Kahn (Kahn Academy), and Mike Rowe.  As motivational speakers go, Richard Branson is the suave guy who has great ideas; Sal Kahn is the shy genius that doesn’t realize he’s a genius; and Mike Rowe is the everyman stumbling his way to greatness.  The last two make you think you might just be able to do … better.

Kevin Spacey?  That man is an entertainer.

But he gave us an important message: Chart your own path.  Don’t do what’s expected of you if that’s not where your heart lies.

And stealing things from rich little old ladies is a viable option if no other option presents itself.

And this brings us to the end of another Cisco Live.  I missed my friends sitting in the Uber-sent Tesla that drove me to the airport a scant 45 minutes (15 of that being waiting for said Tesla) after Kevin Spacey left the stage.  I love going to Live … but I love being home after Live, so I always take the red-eye back.  It’s unfortunate that this year, the red-eye had me leaving shortly after the photo below was taken; there really wasn’t a sufficient time to say a proper goodbye …

But then, there’s always next year.

Until Next Year!

Until Next Year!

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