Teeth grinding on Northwest Airlines

The schwag of the conference was limited to a breath mint/toothpick dispenser courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, one of the “gold” sponsors of the conference. I don’t know if they’re intentionally suggesting anything to the 90% male attendance at the conference, but biting down on the mints did help me keep my cool and suppress my bad thoughts about Northwest Airlines’ check-in personnel.


The presentations Thursday and Friday were very good, easily justifying my attendance. I especially found Maureen Stone‘s tutorial insightful. Some of the stuff I already suspected from trial and error, like blue text on a black background (the default for the linux “ls –color” command) is a terrible idea. Other areas were thought-provoking.

Centroidal Voronoi Tessellations

Today was my first full day at the visualization conference in Minneapolis “dang it’s cold here” Minnesota. All of my local contacts informed me there were still tickets available for the Packers-Vikings game. Not wanting to find out if pigs were clogging the airways, I passed up the opportunity and went to the conference.

Putting it to the Travel Man

When I was in my late 20s, travel seemed glamourous. I took every trip I could get. By using the pedestrian “Saturday Night Stay” tactic, I could easily finagle planning trips from point A to point B with time to actually see point B. Adventures in Point B were, of course, fully-funded by saving the company enough on airfare that they’d pay for my hotel, food and rental car. I got to see a lot of the US that way.

Back in Seattle

Back home! It’s warm,
so no cookie for me.

The weather cooperated Thursday morning, and I had a pleasant 25-ish mile morning ride. I had my helmet, but if I ever do a bike rental again, I’m going to bring a couple of tools to adjust things and change a flat. Thankfully, I didn’t have a flat, but if I did, I would have been pretty horked, armed only my nearly-depleted cell phone. I did need my universal toolkit because the steering tube thingie was slightly loose, unaligning itself directionally. While I’m bringing my entire toy entourage, I might as well have brought the Camelbak. Austin es caliente.

Austin: Day Four

Flash Flood Warning… and
not all from perspiration

The tone for Wednesday’s episode of the trade show was foreshadowed by the two Mexican brown-tailed bat carcasses on the sidewalk of the Congress Avenue bridge. Dead.
The printed schedule said the show was going to run until 6pm. Morning attendance at the plenary session was about half of previous days’. The final drawing, with primo items like a portable DVD player and a grainy mimeograph of Computational Yatta Yatta was scheduled for 4pm for those persistent attendees.

The vendors on my half of the room asked each other when they were bugging out. I made some jocular comment as the exhibit manager came by, so I asked him flat out when we should expect to pack up. His response was wishy-washy, suggesting anytime after noon would be okay, but we were “encouraged to stay for the final drawing.”

I didn’t want to be the first one to tear my booth down. Well, that’s a lie. I did, just not obviously so. Noon seemed like the perfect opportunity to start packing, but the several vendors took extremely long lunches, I couldn’t employ my jedi mind trick and start the process until they came back. Luckily, the “burly guys used with the franchise moving boxes between points A and B” — I can’t think of the name for the group — wandered the hall offering to pull out crates. I have a booth-in-a-tube, and the tube was buried under the $50 rented tablecloth. The other vendors came back, took that as a hint, and started boxing up their crap. I was so outta there.

Austin: Day Three

SPF: 45, It’s not Chicago

This morning was very slow. One of the other exhibitors set up his laptop to display a live feed of the space shuttle Discovery launch. The new cameras were cool, but everyone was wound up about it and nearly flogged a woman who made lame attempts at humor with comments like “what was that flash? juuuuust kidding.” My friends at NASA were in a mixed mood. They’re glad it launched, but unhappy they’re going to be spending the next week analyzing debris trajectories.

When this afternoon’s door prize drawing commenced, my direct competitor came over and introduced himself. He was an amiable fellow, probing for my background (inapplicable to this industry), opinions on open source competition, and any other useful competitive information. He said he’d love to have my market share (8x his), which I immediately countered I’d love to have his price point (5x ours).

Our door prize was slated to be given out, so I kept half an ear out for the winner’s name. In my haste to pack Sunday, I left the box of software sitting on my desk. I wrote an official-looking letter festooned with the company logo (since I don’t stock corporate stationery at home) congratulating the lucky winner and asking them to contact me with information on where to send it and which version. A business card and tress were enclosed, and the envelope was sealed with a wax ring imprint making it official looking. Just kidding about the hair and wax ring.