Saturday, March 26, 2005

I Love LA

The APS March Meeting has certain scheduling problems: with 6,000 plus attendees every year it needs a city with a large convention center and hotel rooms. However, the rooms can't be too expensive, because the attendees are mostly college professors, postdocs, and students, with a smattering from the National Labs and industry. Expense accounts aren't very large. Furthermore, the meeting takes place around spring break, so the entire state of Florida is out, what with having the "No Vacancy" sign up and all.

This doesn't leave a lot of places. New York is out: too expensive, and no convention center. Madison Square Garden would be about right, but it's on the pricey side. Washington, Chicago or San Francisco? Again, too expensive. New Orleans? Maybe, but you've got to schedule around Mardi Gras. Pittsburgh? Ever tried to park there? They don't have room for another few thousand cars.

Las Vegas would be perfect: cheap hotels, lots of meeting space. We did it once, in 1986. And were asked never to return. Quite persausively, I might add. Physicists don't gamble much, being able to calculate odds. The games they do play tend to be poker and blackjack, which don't give the house all that much profit. So for a week the slots at Caeser's Palace were mostly quiet.

What's left? The middle level non-touristy cities: Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, occasionally Seattle or Baltimore — and downtown Los Angeles?

You'd think LA would be a tourist mecca, right? But downtown LA isn't very interesting. OK, they now have Staples Center there, but mostly downtown LA is a strip of hotels and banks. Also a few hundred panhandlers. It's perfect for the APS meeting: a big convention center, reasonably priced hotels, and no distractions.

Just a few notes I took while in LA

  • How laid back is California? In the mile-and-a-half between my hotel and the convention center there were only three Starbucks. OK, six if you count the two in hotels and the one in the convention center itself. That's a really low number.
  • I got off of Figueroa and walked in the actual downtown shops one night. The only major store was a Macy's. Not a bookstore in sight, and the hotel gift shops weren't exactly bursting with books, even Clancy novels. What do these people read?
  • Sign on a bank flashes "4.00% Percent". That really low, you know. But the next screen said "4.00% Yield". Which makes me wonder how they compound interest in southern California.
  • Just about every tall building was a bank. Every national bank seems to have a building in LA.
  • The don't show you all of the Figueroa Hotel in this picture. It is, however, interesting.
  • It may never rain in Southern California, but on Tuesday it did, indeed pour. Otherwise the weather was decent, and the ground didn't shake while we were there.
  • Overheard scalpers offering $40 for $65 Clippers tickets. I guess there is not much demand. Didn't hear what Lakers tickets were going for, but it can't be all that much these days.