Culture

Linking Las Vegas

lasvegas

At the end of August this year, I was contacted by a new startup called Gild.com that had an interesting business: they use various public online sources to score computer people as developers. Some of these are things like LinkedIn, Stack Overflow, and personal GitHub pages, plus recommendations and frankly I don’t know what else, but it comes up with a number between 0 and 100 for your quality as a software developer. I’d scored 99.3.

Being me, I worried about how I’d lost that 0.7 points, but they assured me it was actually a very good score. In fact, they were calling because they wanted to make contact with those of us at the far-right of the distribution (I don’t think they were looking at my PJM posts for that, no matter how it sounds) and see what our experience with recruiters had been. It happens my mother was a recruiter for umpteen years, so it was inherently interesting, as well as complimentary. They construct a sort of “scored résumé” from those public sources, and make it available to their clients, who are usually recruiters for large firms. Mine is here (click to download the whole thing as PDF):

Screenshot 2013-10-31 12.52.40

(Speaking of which, I’m still looking for a day job: you can find me on LinkedIn.)

The idea is a new direction for several startups, like one run by my friend Sumaya Kazisumazi.com — called “social data intelligence”. The idea is that you can, using Big Data techniques and social network theory, learn about potential customers, or potential markets, or find people who can do a job for you.

I guess I must have sounded reasonable on the phone (hah, fooled them!) because they called me a couple of weeks ago with another question.

“Would you like to come to Las Vegas at our expense to attend a dinner during LinkedIn’s Talent Connect conference?”

“Well, duh!”

Gild turned out to be an interesting group. I had lots of sort of second-hand connections to them anyway, and it was interesting talking to them. They’ve been covered in a couple of major media sources, the New York Times and PBS.

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So I get to Las Vegas. They’ve got me a room at New York New York; I’ve stayed there before, and the room is nice — comfortable bed and — I’ve got to say — a great shower. One of those big rain-storm sorts of shower heads. Which, after the travails of modern air travel, I need.

I used to travel 45 weeks a year. I can’t imagine how any more.

In room wi-fi sucks. (Hint: Big Vegas hotels don’t want to do anything to encourage you to stay in your room if you’re actually awake.) Okay, so I go downstairs, buy a cappuccino, wander through the casino.

Now, I actually do like some of the basic gambilng things — routlette and blackjack. I know I’m going to lose, but I lose slowly and I enjoy the game itself.

I can’t find a blackjack table. Or at least a real blackjack table. They have “free bet” blackjack, which I’d never heard of, and I refuse to play any game where I don’t know the house take. (According to that link, it actually has a simpler optimum strategy than regular blackjack, but I have enough trouble remembering the standard strategy.) There’s another table with “blackjack” but with some different rules — like they only pay 6-5 on blackjack, and dealer pushes on 22. Again, screws up the strategy and in that case increases the house take. Lots of Pai Gow tables, but that’s in Cantonese and I only have some Mandarin.

They do have, of all things, Star Wars-themed electronic slot machines. In an offering to the gods of change, I put a $20 into one of those. In about 15 minutes I’d bought the gods of chance a hamburger, so I went on to dinner.

Dinner was in the MGM Grand, which is right across Las Vegas Boulevard from New York New York. I wander across the bridge, look around the hotel a bit and finally find the restaurant, Hakkasan.

Here’s an odd thing: I actually like Las Vegas. Always have, since I visited the first time during Comdex a million years ago. The sort of slight seediness of the hotels, even the expensive ones, is somehow endearing; more so is that everyone working there is anxious be be nice to you if you give them half a hint. I ended up chatting for twenty minutes with a greeter who I’d asked for directions — yes, inside the hotel, I should have brought a ball of string — and for ten minutes with a clerk from the Philippines.

Hakkasan-Las-Vegas_Horiz_Dinning

This is exactly the part of the restaurant our dinner was in. By accident, this is an image from the web.

I got to the restaurant, met some of the folks from Gild, and discovered I was one of two developers they’d brought in to meet about 30 directors of HR. I realized, suddenly, that I was more or less the entertainment, which made me a little more confortable — I sort of put on an extroverted role and started talking with everyone. It was actually fun.

Dinner was positively astonishing. They basically had about twelve courses in a sampling menu, including soups, dim sum, duck, and seafood. It was all wonderful, and I wish I’d have taken pictures; I will say that I particularly remember a dish called “Silver Cod with Superior Sauce”. Perfectly fried pieces of cod, the sauce was sweet and sour and included very find confettie of red and green papers. It was amazing.

No joke, Hakkasan was the best Chinese food I’ve had except in a waterside food court in Singapore. Expensive, but I wasn’t paying for it, hah-HAH.

Things finally tapered off about 10PM, and I went back to my room, utterly exhausted. That extrovert act takes a lot of energy. Up early the next day, still exhausted, and go to the airport. For complicated reasons (which can be summarized as I’m an idiot) I was there two hours early and un-breakfasted.

It was there that I think I finally understood why I like Las Vegas. Most airport restaurants are, well, tolerable at best. But this one, the Las Vegas Chophouse and Brewery, like pretty much every restaurant I’ve eaten in in Las Vegas, was quite good. Excellent omelet, they had no trouble organizing around my low-carb diet, pleasant people.

And that’s when I understood. Hardly anyone in Las Vegas comes there by accident: it is the American dream. You go there to become a great chef, even if your first gig is in an airport pub. If you’re working as a clerk, you want to become a dealer; if you’re a hostess in a restaurant, it’s a day job while you wait to be discovered. The whole town knows that they live on tourists and repeat business.

So, I finished breakfast, got on my flight home; total elapsed time, 28 hours.