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Margie's excellent blimp ride

Watch Margie go up in the blimp!

I'm one of those people who spends a lot of time at trade shows asking, "Where did you get that?"

Whether it's a pair of Styrofoam deer antlers, a particularly piquantly sloganed T-shirt, or tickets to see Seigfried and Roy attempt to tame Steve Ballmer, it seems that all the great trade show giveaways have "just run out, sorry" by the time I've figure out they exist at all.

Not anymore. This week, the hottest Comdex ticket netted the holder a ride on the Altavista blimp, and I had two.

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Experience the blimp!
With my trusty video camera operator, Trish Brown, I set out to savor my perks, no longer suffering from the delusion that every one of the other 199,999 Comdex attendees were sneaking off to a secret room to drink brandy, smoke cigars, and talk about that clueless redhead who keeps asking where to get a flashing "Intel Inside" pin.

I'd like to think that it was my superior inside connections that landed me a ride on the airship AltaVista, but the truth is that these days the best way to rise above the noise at Comdex is to fly over it. Seems that running the lighter-than-air rides all week not only craned a lot of necks around the Convention Center, but also cost a lot less than putting on a Comdex dog-and-pony show.

Our Digital guide wouldn't say how much the company dishes for the floating advertisement, and neither would our pilot. But a knowledgeable source told us that the Fuji blimp, which is a little larger, costs $300,000 a week to keep aloft.

If it does, it's worth every penny. Not only did AltaVista get the attention of people who might never venture near their corner of the show floor, but it made me a very happy woman. For just one Comdex, I could smile cryptically and say, "I think they just ran out."

Photos by: Margie Wylie, CNET

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