Josh Play Gay motss.con.xx (Palo Alto, CA)

The following is my motss.con.xx con report, or my experiences of the 20th soc.motss.con (held Aug 16-20 in Palo Alto, CA). If you don't like such things, feel free to hit 'n' and not read it. It won't bother me. Much.

Thursday, August 16

I woke up earlier than I'm used to (6am) but still before the alarm, packed the CPAP, made the bed, put the clean dishes from the dishwasher away, chugged some juice, packed the laptop and toiletries, and was out the door a little after 6:30am to get to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) in plenty of time to clear security and wander to my gate. The flight to Dallas was on-time, the DFW airport is nothing like I remember it (I still remember when the terminals were 2E/2W/3E/4E and 3W didn't exist yet), I grabbed an overpriced sub sandwich to tide me over, and then caught my flight to San Jose.

A local friend of mine (thanks, Rob!) picked me up at SJC and took me to a light lunch in downtown Palo Alto at a Greek place whose name escapes me at the moment. Had yummy gyros. We then adjourned to the hotel where I checked in and got settled. My room was palatial: 2 queen beds, 2 sitting nooks), a corner office space, plus plenty of walking-around room, and that's before the large wall closet and bathroom. Unpacked, caught up on the work crises, grabbed a shower (travel, ew) and a disco nap, then met folks in the hotel lobby for the travel to the restaurant.

Tonight was the dinner at Three Seasons. We went with a preset menu of several of Arnold's favorites:

As a table of fifteen (Arnold, Chuk, David, Jack, Jed, John, Ken, Lars, Matthew, Mike, Ned, Robert, Rod, and Sim), we also went through three bottles of a muscadet (that nobody took notes on, oops) and three bottles of Terrazes de Los Altos malbec. The food was excellent, as was the company; certainly nobody left the restaurant hungry.

We headed back to the hotel and chatted for a bit outside the lobby (it was a gorgeous night), then in the lobby, then we all wandered back to our rooms and crashed.

Friday, August 17

Friday started with the hotel's continental breakfast. I wound up having a lightly-toasted english muffin with butter and strawberry preserves, a banana, and three servings of orange juice.

We gathered in the lobby then headed out to the local bus stop to head off to the Googleplex. We met up with Jason who was kind enough to take us first to lunch in their main cafeteria — I had a burrito and some chips and salsa — and then on a tour of some of the public spaces. (For those wondering, yes, we signed the NDA when we signed in as visitors.) Following that, a group of us walked over to the Computer History Museum. Doing it as a walk instead of on a bus or in a car was a mistake; the museum exhibit space is on unpadded concrete and between the walking and the standing, my legs have been unhappy ever since. The museum itself was intersting, but our docent (a) had a lot of interesting stories, (b) went on about twice as long as he should have, and (c) gave us the equivalent of the public tour instead of realizing we were mostly computer professionals. Several members of our party worked on the older systems there — they even had a Convex C1 machine donated by one of our cofounders and the CTO.

After the museum, I got a ride back to the hotel to change for the official opening event. Hung out at first the pool then the lobby before the carpooling to dinner at Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, where one of our party is a frequent diner and used some of his reward points to throw us a free party. We had appetizers then a buffet-style dinner:

Excellent food and delightful company; we were joined by the locals and pseudo-locals (more or less all the bay area motssers who could make it). My legs were starting to go such that it hurt to sit or stand, so I headed back to the hotel by bus around 10:45pm.

Saturday, August 18

I woke up to loud next door residents arguing with their door open about changing their crying baby's diaper. Yuck. Grabbed a waffle in the lobby at breakfast, then met up with folks to head to downtown San Jose. After a (too long for my failing legs) hike from the Caltrain station to downtown, we all had lunch outdoors at the Sonoma Chicken Coop; I had the chicken carbonara skillet which was large pieces of boneless chicken and very thin haricot verts in a carbonara sauce with large pieces of thick-cut bacon in it, over rice, plus a slice of onion and tomato focaccia bread.

After lunch we headed to the Plaza de Cesar E. Chavez area, where folks split up into two major groups: Most folks went to the textile museum for the quilting exhibit, and a few others headed over to the technical innovation museum. I stayed in the plaza and napped a bit. Folks met up in the plaza then we adjourned to the Museum of Art for a rest in the cafe before most folks toured the two exhibits at the museum. We then headed back to Caltrain, making the 5pm train with 2 minutes to spare, before going off-itinerary to improvise. Most of us were too zonked to walk around downtown Mountain View, so we headed back to the hotel to freshen up quickly, then back out to California Avenue for dinner at Café Brioche. I had prosciutto-wrapped prawns (served over a salad of mixed greens in a lemon vinaigrette) and the coquille st. Jacques (scallops and prawns in a champagne-based sauce) followed by the cherry claufoutis; wines were the 2004 Domaines Schlumberger pinot blanc and the 2005 Page Mill pinot noir, and I ended with a glass of Graham's Six Grapes port. We walked back to the hotel; thanks to the knees, ankles, hips, thighs, and feet being sore as hell, I was at about a 2 fps pace (or 1.36 mph or a 44-minute mile). I crashed, mostly to get off my feet, around 10pm so I don't know what the other folks did.

Sunday, August 19

Woke up too early — going to bed at 10pm will do that — so I caught up on writing this, some work-related email (the Blackberry had 116 new messages when I opened it up, but most were spam from a bad monitoring script from another team), and did some packing so I don't have to later tonight.

The official day started with assembling in the hotel lobby before heading out to Tai Pan for the traditional Sunday morning dim sum. We all stuffed ourselves then headed off for more museums. I went to the Museum of American Heritage which is a house showing the 1930s-1950s era of what life was like, and toured the house and gardens. I then went on (with thanks for the lift, Arthur) to the Gamble Gardens where we toured the herbs and fruits and vegetables and ornamentals. After that, several of us (notably Arthur, Bitty, Dean, Ken, Robert, and I) headed back to the hotel for bridge (all six of us at one point or another) and swimming (just me and Arthur), before heading out to a Mexican feast at Palo Alto Sol. I had pork enchiladas, one in a spicy queso sauce and the other in a sweet mole sauce, which complemented each other really well (the mole by itself was too sweet for most folks at the table), with refried beans and spanish rice, and the house margarita.

After dinner, most of us hiked back to the hotel, where I said most of my goodbyes since I had an early morning checkout to catch my 10am flight.

Monday, August 20

Alas, since travel on this airline required a stopover, I had to catch the 10am flight out to Dallas to make the connecting flight back to Minneapolis, so no Stragglers' Breakfast for me this year. Luckily, Rob (Remember Rob from Thursday?) picked me up at 7:15am to drag me to breakfast (at Hobees) thence to the San Jose airport in time for my 9am clear-security and 10am flight.

The flight to Dallas was uneventful and got us in on-time. That means of the three flights I've taken so far this trip, all three were early or on-time and problem free. Murphy's Law and general travel karma did indeed hold true: All DFW-to-MSP flights were delayed due to air traffic control (ATC) holds due to weather in Minneapolis and only 2 of the 3 runways being in service. So my 4:55pm scheduled flight became a 5:15pm flight when I landed in Dallas, a 6:00pm flight by the time I got to the gate, and a 7:00pm flight shortly thereafter. We did board and pull back from the gate on-time for the 7:00pm departure, only to have a 70-minute penalty-box ATC hold before finally taking off shortly after 8:00pm. Got home a little after 11:00pm, unpacked, processed the immediate physical mail, and finally crashed around 1:00am.

See you all next time, I hope!

Last update Aug21/07 by Josh Simon (<>).