Tucson (Arizona) and Las Vegas: Nov 22-28

posted Nov 24, 2012, 12:01 PM by Jan Willem Lindemans   [ updated Jan 4, 2013, 8:58 AM ]
Last week, Ting and I went to Tucson, Arizona, for a conference. It celebrated 50 years of experimental economics (= have people play economic games for real money in the lab, to prove that economics is wrong in assuming that people are fully rational and selfish). Great occasion, and two Nobel prize laureates were invited (Vernon Smith and Reinhard Selten, who had a stroke though and could only send a video). We had bad luck on our way to the conference, Thursday afternoon. We had to change planes because of a leak, which resulted in 4 hours delay. Luckily we could reschedule by phone our shuttle bus from Phoenix to Tucson. The driver had a GREAT southern accent and spoke like ten words per second. It was getting quite late when we arrived at the resort where the conference was at: a niiiiiice resort - these economists sure know how to combine business with pleasure. So we enjoyed the jacuzzi next to the pool and watched the Tucson stars... 

<- - blue Tucson sky

<- - our bungalow

<- - Ting's feet

Economists know how to make business pleasurable, but they do start at 8 in the morning, so the night bubbles didn't last that long. The conference was really a die-hard experimental economics conference, so it was really her stuff. I think I was the only philosopher there. But it was very interesting. And I am working on a paper with Ting on lab experiments on bribery: That was the aim of the visit, and Ting presented it Saturday.

Sunday morning, Ting and I had a nice breakfast, a swim and a walk. Then Ting had to go back to Philly - there were two people visiting there whom she needed to meet. In the afternoon, I went hiking a bit: the Pima Canyon. 5 hours, Arizona afternoon sun, me, bunch of cacti and a lost snake... Beautiful!  

Had you ever heard of cacti woods? I hadn't! There you go...

Cacti must be the world's most undervalued flora. They are beautiful, impressive, expressive, huge, but tender. And so humanlike... It must be the 'limbs'. Look at this couple of cacti, in a warm, elegant, proud embrace! (The guy should quit smoking though.) Is it father and daughter, or husband and wife? That is only up to your imagination!

"I'm a poor lonesome cowboy, and a long way from home..."

Picture taken at the Hacienda del Sol, where I stayed Sunday night.

Monday, was a transitory day. I had a bus at 1:30 am (middle of the night) to Las Vegas. I went seeing the LATEST movie possible, Skyfall (James Bond, bad story but great performances and shooting, recommended), from 9:50 pm until 12:30 am. Sadly, when I arrived at the bus stop, I was told that the bus was stuck at the Mexican borderline... perhaps it would be there in an hour, or two... It was 5:20 am when the bus finally arrived. Bad transport luck on this trip. Bad transport luck. We arrived in Vegas Tuesday around 2 pm. Crazy place. Disneyland for grownups - well 'grownups', lets say adults. I wouldn't have gone there were it not for the fact that the original plan was to drive to the Grand Canyon and take the plane in Vegas - a plan that was cancelled quite late due to our third companion whose name shall not be mentioned. Still, Vegas is something you must see. It is the summum of American materialism. I imagine that in five hundred years, people will come and watch the ruins of Vegas: "Yes, people turned this wheel, betted on certain numbers and hoped to get rich!" I stayed at the New York New York Hotel and Casino. I felt a little bad paying a cheap price for a room with jacuzzi which I knew was sponsored by the people who were spending the money they barely got in the Casino at ground floor... I spent a few dollars on the slot machines - I mean, you're in Vegas - but happily took my loss and strolled on. 

Jan Willem, at the fortified (yet wide-open) gates of the Excalibur hotel/casino and with a view of the New York New York hotel/casino, with its skyscrapers and roller-coaster. Backpack full of 100 dollar bills, of course.

Wednesday morning, I took craps class, in the Monte Carlo casino, just around the corner (for the Vegas newbies, Vegas really has a casino density of 100 per square kilometer). Yes, dice game class. Free of charge, of course. It's like these free snacks that are often handed out in public places. Now that was fun! (Made me think one should open a casino in Vegas where people gamble for play money, toy currency. Just pay a Disneyland kind of entrance fee. And stay in the New York New York hotel, of course, sponsored by real gamble money!) Anyway, after 45 minutes of playing, I ended approximatively with the 100 dollars in chips I started out with. The 'stickman' (they have these sticks to gather the chips... see James Bond...) told me I probably made a bit of money, but we didn't count the chips, and I think he was purposively overoptimistic. He even told me 'I was playing well'! How can that be? In a sense, I was hedging... Betting on multiple possibilities... but you cannot play craps well, like you cannot roll dice well - no matter how much some people seem to think that some excel at this, rolling the one six after the other, while others suck. OK, I had a free craps class, subsidized by these poor fortune seekers sitting behind the slots machines with their cigarette and Starbucks coffee... What can you do?

In the afternoon, I went to the airport. Ten minutes by cab. I could see New York New York from the airport. Nobody cares about airplane noise in Vegas - nobody sleeps in Vegas - and the roller-coaster makes more noise anyway! For those who still had any money left in their pockets, Vegas international airport had an offer you could hardly refuse:

Seems that not much money was left in these pockets... Time to go home and bring in the bacon!