The following is my motss.con.xxviii con report, or my experiences of the 28th soc.motss.con (held Aug 6-10 in Rochester and Perry, NY). If you don't like such things, feel free to not read it. It won't bother me. Much.
Travel! For a change I didn't have to fly to get to one of these that my city wasn't hosting (Chicago 1996, Minneapolis 2006, and Ann Arbor 2013 were all local-to-where-I-was-living). Left the house at 8am to run errands that I couldn't Wednesday thanks to not having a car most of the day — specifically, the bank and to pick up my CPAP supplies reneway — and was on the way to New York by 8:40am. Apple Maps noted that there was a lot of construction in Ontario so I chose to take the domestic route (US 23 south to I-80/I-90, stay on I-90 through Ohio and Pennsylvania and New York until I-390, then get off the highways and onto surface streets to the hotel). I stopped briefly in Ohio for gas (for the car) and lunch (for me), then again at a rest stop a couple of hours later to stretch and pee. I made it to the hotel a bit before 3:40pm (7 hours wall-clock, 5.75 driving). Got checked in immediately and headed up to my room to unpack.
The only thing official on the schedule for today was the foodie dinner at 7:30pm. I headed down to the lobby to see who else was around, and since nobody was I went to do some laps in the (short) pool. After I dried off, I ran into Dawn in the lobby; while we were chatting John and Robert arrived. We chatted a bit and then I bailed to go shower off the pool chemicals and dress for dinner. I headed back down to the lobby a bit after 6pm to socialize in advance of the "meet at 6:30pm to leave at 7pm" dinner.
Dinner was at Rooney's in Rochester. A former canal house and speakeasy, it's now a moderately high-end restaurant. My meal was:
- Plaintain-crusted jumbo shrimp with mango salsa, curry butter, and plantain crisps
- Salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, red bell peppers, and shredded carrots, in vinaigrette with blue cheese
- Beef tenderloin over whipped potatoes, with a side of mixed veggies (carrots, brussels sprouts, and haricot verts)
- Flourless chocolate cake with whipped cream, creme Anglaise, chocolate sauce, strawberry sauce, and mango sauce
We had a local reisling with the appetizers and salads, and an Australian shiraz with the mains (2 bottles of each for the 10 adults), and annB brought a bottle of local eiswein that went fantastically with the dessert course. Other than the overuse of fresh mint as garnish (they apparently had a lot of it and wanted to use it instead of throw in out in a day or three, negelecting to consider how it would affect the flavors of the dish if actually eaten), it was a delightful meal.
We got back to the hotel around 10:45pm and more or less went directly upstairs to crash.
Not unexpectedly, my body woke up at 4am. I managed to toss and turn in a doze until around 6:30am or so. Did my morning routine and headed down for an early "free" breakfast around 7am. (The hotel provides a daily hot breakfast. Today's was pre-made western omelettes and breakfast potatoes in addition to fruit, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, and waffles, plus juice and coffee.)
We all met in the lobby around 9am to head off to Equal=Grounds Coffee House to argue over where to go for lunch (no, I didn't understand it either). Some of us drank beverages or nibbled food, and we eventually broke into 2 groups: One went to a nearby deli and the other to Zemeta Ethiopian Restaurant. I was with the latter group; while vegetarian, the buffet was very tasty (and the potatoes very spicy, yum). Unfortunately I think that due to some subsequent issues I'll have to put Ethiopian with Indian and Thai on the list of cuisines I have to be very careful about ingesting.
After lunch the 2 groups met back up at Equal Grounds while waiting for Jason to join us. Once he got there and people caught up and finished their drinks, we all carpooled out to George Eastman House and Gardens. We got a guided tour of the house, and wandered through the galleries in the research/administrative complex, and got to wander around the gardens as well.
We left Eastman House around 4:45pm to head off to the welcome dinner at the French Quarter Cafe. While my food was good — a cucumber and strawberry salad with mixed greens, candied walnuts, and a brown sugar/balsamic vinaigrette — service was slow and the waitress not all that clear on the concept. Granted, we were a group of 15 (seated 10 and 5 at 2 tables), but the smaller table got their mains almost immediately after their appetizers, and the larger table had all of their food come out staggered. And the waitress managed to forget any dressing for someone's salad and the chef declined to accomodate someone with severe allergies. Because of that, we adjourned to the The Little for dessert (and a sandwich for our allergic person). I had the so-called chocolate cake, which was really a standard vanilla cake with a lot of chocolate frosting.
My back was seriously acting up, to the extent that I went outside to lie flat on a bench, so when Dennis left early to go to the hotel (to meet up with a cousin), I went with him. Got up to the room, popped my regular evening drugs, and added a muscle relaxant and 2 hydrocodone (5/500), and was in bed by 9pm.
Somehow I managed to get up only twice overnight (around 11pm and 4am) for biological necessities, and got up around 6:30am. Wrote up some of this con.report, shaved, showered, dressed, and went down to to the hotel breakfast buffet around 8:30am. Today's selections included cheddar cheese omelettes, sausage patties, and breakfast potatoes, as well as the typical waffles, oatmeal, cereals, fruit, yogurt, and pastries. (I had an omelette, potatoes, and croissant with sausage and cheese.)
After breakfast we met in the lobby around 9am to carpool out to Perry. I drove (in part to have a little more freedom in case my back went out again). We all met up at Burlingham Books, where I actually bought a copy of The Joy of Cooking for my brother (who didn't have one). We toured the Farmers' Market a block away, then did a tour through Main Street, including the Arts' Council building where they had an exhibit of 1970s- and 1980s-era clothing, before getting a tour of the permanent art exhibition at the public library. We eventually wound our way back to the bookstore before heading out to Questa Lasagna for lunch. We didn't allow enough time to eat, pay, and get to the dam tour so we scrubbed that from the agenda and instead did a Letchworth State Park tour. We stopped to see the dam, and to see the gorge, and to see the falls. We eventually made our way to the Burlingham farm in Perry, where we got a quick tour before most folks headed out to Shake on the Lake, a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest. My back wouldn't've been happy so I adjourned directly to the bar at the dinner venue, The Hole in the Wall. I wound up nursing a scotch (Oban 14, neat) and nibbling a couple of bbq ribs ($1 each before 6pm), before folks showed up for dinner at 8:30pm.
Dinner was great. I started with a house salad (mixed greens, tomato, olives, and a couple of house-made potato chips, in blue cheese dressing), then had a 16-ounce prime rib (medium rare) and baked potato. Finished that up with the caramel chocolate brownie, which was a brownie over a pool of caramel sauce and topped with vanila ice cream and a chocolate ganache, all served in a mason jar.
The GPS routed us very weirdly most of the way home, staying on surface streets instead of getting us to I-390 N. (Despite that, we still beat everyone else back to the hotel.) We eventually got back to the hotel around midnight, so I popped my evening drugs and went directly to bed.
Despite the lack of sleep, my body woke up at 3am and at 5am. I finally agve up and got up a bit before 7am, checked the work email, handled a minor issue with the web content synchronization process, and tried to catch up on TwitBook+. (I don't think I managed, but if I didn't I won't, so whatever.)
I took a quick shower and headed down to see what they had breakfast-wise (since it's included in the room rate). I wound up having a small amount of scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, a couple of strips of bacon (because bacon), and a banana. I then went back upstairs to brush my teeth, pack up for the day, and then back downstairs to meet everyone else in the lobby at 10:30am to carpool to dim sum at White Swans Asia Caffe (yes, with 2 Fs). We wound up starting with 2 of a lot of things, which we bumped to 3, and they wound up delivering 4 of a lot. We had enough food; all that was leftover was some bean curd dumplings. All that for only $12 a person, which was a great deal.
12 of the 15 of us went on the wineries tour afterward. We wound up visiting 2 cider farms (Embark Craft Ciderworks at Lagoner Farms and Apple Country Spirits) and then 2 wineries (Ravines Wine Cellars and Billsboro Winery), and I bought a bottle of hard cider at Apple Country Spirits and a mixed case of wines (3 bottles each Ayre, Gewurtztraminer, Meritage, and Riesling). My back went out again, so when we got back to the hotel a bit before 6 I popped 1,000mg acetominophen and one of my muscle relaxants, changed clothes, and then headed down to the lobby to head across the street to Sticky Lips BBQ Juke Joint for dinner.
We started getting there around 6pm and were seated by 6:35pm or so. It did take a while to get our drink orders in, to order food, and to finally receive the food, and the mains came out almost immediately after the appetizers. However, once it got there, everything was delicious and plentiful. I ordered a fried pickle spears appetizer for our end of the table (and nibbled one of Ann's fried green tomatoes), and I had a half rack of Memphis-style ribs with cornbread, home-cut fries, and barbecue beans (which themselves had a lot of meat in them), and was stuffed. We walked back to the hotel and wound up playing a few games of Exploding Kittens (I played one and watched two).
Due to logistics — I wanted to be on the road by 9am — I wasn't going to make the stragglers' breakfast, so I said my goodbyes and headed off to bed around 10pm.
Aw, it's over. Woke up by 6am, did my morning routine, grabbed a quick hotel breakfast, checked out, and hit the road by 7:30am. I made pretty good time, with only 1 stop for gasoline and 2 for biological needs. I chose not to eat lunch; I wasn't hungry at 11am or 12n or 1pm, and by the time I started getting a little peckish around 1:30pm I was 20 minutes from home so I figured I'd wait.
12 miles from home it started to sprinkle. 11 miles from home it turned into a small monsoon for 2 miles or so, and just plain ol' heavy rain the next 4. Got home safely, unloaded the car, started sorting laundry and what needs to go where. Then I made the mistake of checking the work email and dealt with a CMS problem none of my colleagues are familiar with fixing.