The following is my motss.con.xxix con report, or my experiences of the 29th soc.motss.con (held Mar 24-28 in New Orleans, LA). If you don't like such things, feel free to not read it. It won't bother me. Much.
Travel day! I woke up before the alarm, of course. Finished the leftover pizza for breakfast, emptied the dishwasher, remade the bed, showered, packed up the CPAP and toiletries, and shut down and packed the laptop. Loaded up the car and headed off to Detroit Metropolitan Airport about 90 minutes earlier than necessary, but as I said on Twitter I'd rather wait there and not at home while stressing about traffic, security lines, hikes to the gate, and so on.
Traffic was moving at posted speeds or better despite the drizzle. Got to the airport without incident (but found that the airport parking rates had gone up). Parked in my usual area and waited over 10 minutes for the terminal-to-terminal shuttle (one showed as "approaching" then vanished from the screens). When I got to my terminal there was a very long line to check bags, probably because of Denver having been closed yesterday due to over 16" of snowfall.
Got through that process and through security without incident. In fact, I got to go through the old-style magnetometer instead of the new body imaging scanner, so yay for me. Hung out at my gate, having remained 90 minutes ahead of schedule (I was at the gate at 6:30am for my 8:35am flight), and read (or at least skimmed) through all of my accumulated magazines (including the issue of ;login: with my System Administration in Higher Education workshop from LISA 2015) before boarding.
The boarding process went smoothly; we started on time, everyone got on board and seated pretty quickly, I got my screwdriver (easy on the vodka), and we closed the doors and pushed back a minute early. We had perhaps my quickest taxi at Metro ever (from the gate to U, F, M, then runway 21R/3L, taking no more than 5 minutes once we started moving forwards). The flight was a bit bumpy now and then, because of storms across the country, but we had some periods of smooth air.
Breakfast on-board was a pretty decent sandwich (scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, American cheese, and a pich of parsley, grilled on rye) with sides of a fruit salad (canteloupe slices, dark grapes, and one big strawberry) and a strawberry Greek-style yogurt, with another screwdriver (easy on the vodka). Heck, I'm on vacation and not driving; I can drink if I want to!
We arrived early and the bags came out pretty quickly. Grabbed a shared ride to the hotel... and thanks to the weather (thunderstorms) traffic was a royal pain. It took closer to 90 of the supposed-to-be-60 minutes to get to my hotel (which was last, of course). The room wasn't ready yet so I wandered around a bit until I found a low-key place for lunch, Dreamy Weenies. I had a foot-long kosher hot dog with onions, mustard, and relish, with a side of seasoned waffle fries and a drink. Wandered back to the hotel where the room... still wasn't ready, but John D. was on-site. Decided against heading out to the Pharmacy Museum in favor of a nap once the room was ready at 2... and it wasn't actually ready until shortly after 3pm.
Finally got into my room, which was across the street from the main property and with its own dedicated entrance. Unpacked, stripped, showered, and didn't really have enough time to nap before it was time to dress (jacket required) and head back to the main hotel lobby at 4:30pm to meet before dinner. Chatted with Leith and John D. and Max, and briefly with Emily and John K. on their way out to their own dinner, before the 13 of us headed out around 5:30pm to Commanders Palace for the Foodie Dinner at 6pm. We all went by cab; some tried to catch a bus but the stop was bypassed so they had to improvise. Once the restaurant started seating a bit before 6pm we got right to our tables.
I was part of the group doing the prix fixe menu, which was:
- Hand Carved Bluefin Tuna — Compressed Covey Rice Farm tomatoes, Louisiana Coupique caviar, shaved radish, quail egg, and purple sweet potato paper
Drappier Carte d'Or Brut, Reims, Champagne, France
- Caribbean Crab Bisque — Louisiana blue crab and lemongrass velouté whipped with crab fat, saffron, pickled chiles, tangelo "caviar," and a plantain crisp
2013 Adelaide Cuvée by Anne Amie, Pinot Gris blend, Willamette Valley, Oregon
- Argentinian Churrasco Shrimp — Wild caught deep water shrimp, avocado, buttermilk brown butter vinaigrette, and chimichurri
2013 Domaine Bachelet-Monnot Chassagne-Montrachet, Burgundy, France
- –le Cup de Milieu–
Blood and Sand — Chivas Scotch, Cherry Heering, sweet vermouth and orange juice, garnished with flamed orange peel
- Chili & Citrus Crusted Redfish — Wild caught Mississippi redfish, charred cauliflower, lobster brown butter, farro, and grilled kale
2012 Joseph Drouhin Laforet, Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France
- Braised Leg of Milk Fed Veal — Tender osso bucco with melted leeks, wild mushrooms, and French demi glace, over puréed poato
1995 Chateau Gombaude-Gillot Pomerol, Bordeaux, France (from magnum)
- Louisiana Citrus Tiramisu — Housemade ladyfingers soaked in local eum with lemon mascarpone filling, strawberry-lime coulis, pistachio brittle, and candied citrus supremes
2013 Naufragar Malavasia di Casorozo DOC, Piedmont, Italy
For dessert rather than get us 8 of the citrus tiramisu they wound up bringing us just 2 of the tiramisu... and 2 bread pudding souffles, 2 bananas Foster, and 1 each of the cheesecake, creme brulee, praline parfait, and pecan pie. We wound up having the group from the off-the-menu table come over to help nibble and sent the remaining creme brulee back with them.
That said, all of the food and all but one of the wines was a hit. (The pinot noir with the redfish was too young and only okay; by the time it had breathed enough to taste decently we'd finished the corresponding food.) Picking favorites is hard; the tuna tartare was excellent, the velouté sublime, and the osso bucco heavenly.
I caught a cab back to the hotel with Max and Leith, gave Max my con.xxviii packet (which had been sitting on my table since the Rochester/Perry con; I'd been too lazy to address and mail it), and then stripped out of the suit-n-tie, popped the evening drugs, and collapsed into bed.... whereupon I couldn't fall asleep because my back was so unhappy with me. Added some muscle relaxants and ibuprofen to the mix and tried again. That helped... at least a little.
I finally got about 5 or 6 hours of interrupted sleep. Some of it was "first night in a new bed" syndrome, some of it street noise (the cop with sirens and lights going didn't help), and some of it was having to deal with biological processses. I woke up around 6:30am and couldn't get back to sleep so I went through my morning routine and headed to the lobby for the hotel breakfast.
I ate my scrambled eggs, sausage, and biscuit with Emily and John K., and Robert C. and John G. came down as we were finishing up. Because they were doing renovations on the stairwell and the volume was up on the CNN on the TV, Emily and John headed out to wander and I went back to my room to write up some of this trip report before we gathered in the lobby again for the cemetery tour.
The tour itself was infotational. My inner — okay, and my outer — organizer was astounded at how many opportunities the organization lost in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. They had at least 3 groups of various sizes all trying to start at the same time, and nobody knew who was starting where, and groups in the cemetary itself kept running into each other because other than "We want to hit these 6 places" there's no rhyme or reason to who goes where when.... It drove me nuts(er). Have a known starting point, stagger your start times by 5 or 10 or 15 minutes, and have a set route, and most of the timing problems solve themselves.
After the cemetery tour we split up to wander around the French Quarter until lunch at Red Fish Grill. I wound up with the alligator sausage and seafood gumbo (delicious) and a BBQ shrimp poboy (very tasty and large), and some chocolate sauce from Chuk and David's chocolate bread pudding souffle (which I managed to get on my (white con.ix) T-shirt, d'Oh).
Headed off to the City Segway Tours place for our 2-hour tour. Watched the video, got some practice, and headed out for the tour. It was fun and would have been more educational had we been able to hear our guide clearly (background noise was an issue). I did get a shot of the Agam riverside Holocaust monument, which was nice.
Hiked back to the hotel, ran into Bitty who'd arrived earlier that afternoon (Arthur was napping), and took a dip in the (unheated) courtyard pool. Got out, dried off, rinsed off in the room shower, and met up with everybody in the hotel lobby at 6:30 to walk back to the French Quarter for dinner at Bourbon House (coincidentally, across the street from Red Fish Grill).
I had a bourbon flight as my cocktail and at-dinner drink: Three 1-oz. pours, one each of Four Roses, Knob Creek, and Henry McKenna 10-year; the Kbo Creek had the strongest vanilla flvor but the McKenna was smoothest. For the meal itself I started with the crawfish mac-n-cheese appetizer (very tasty, though only warm not hot by the time it got tableside), and helped finish off the ceviche someone didn't care for. My main was paneed veal with lump crabmeat served with smashed Yukon Gold potatoes and grilled asparagus. For dessert I had the chocolate pecan crunch (a sort of layered chocolate-and-vanilla wafers pastry covered in chocolate ganache, topped with some pecans and served with strawberries and salted caramel) and a glass of orange muscat.
Hiked back to the hotel through the Friday evening crowds on Bourbon Street and pretty much crashed right away.
I slept poorly again overnight, despite application of the muscle relaxant and painkillers in advance. Gave up around 8:30am; showered, dressed, and headed to the lobby for breakfast (scrambled eggs again, but sausage links not patties, and between my first and second pass they'd switched out the biscuits for croissants). Borrowed a TIde stick from Chuk and David and went to use it on both of the motss.con T-shirts I'd worn yesterday: Chocolate from lunch on Chicago (ix) and juices from shirmp or crawfish from dinner on Minneapolis (xix).
We all met up in the lobby a bit before 11am to head to the nearby NOLA Poboys for lunch. I wound up getting too much food — a small crawfish etoufée and a small shrimp poboy. Ate the etoufée and half the poboy, then the innards but not the bread from the other half of the poboy.
After lunch we got back to the hotel and all headed off in a dedicated-to-us tour bus for a swamp tour. The 20 of us had a boat to ourselves and we got to see birds (at least a peacock, cardinals, egrets, and herons), snakes (both laying in the trees and swimming in the river), turtles (including the three we accidentally knocked off their log with our wake), and the feral pigs (in what Sim called the Bay of Pigs and to whom the guide fed marhmallows), as well as lots of spanish moss and various trees and lilypads, some decent waterfront homes and some falling-apart hunting camps, and the bayou, marsh, river, and swamp. And we only had to make one (very long) pit stop so Someone could pee (and pee and pee and pee) off the back of the boat.
We got back to the hotel a bit before 5pm and decided to meet in the lobby at 6pm to figure out our dinner plans. I changed out of my shorts, moved the hotel's gift of Easter candy from the bed to the desk, took a quick power-nap, then changed into jeans before heading to the lobby pool area.
We eventually took off to start finding places to eat. Leith and I wound up at Mona Lisa where I had shrimp scampi (served over linguini and with a side salad). Very tasty, not too garlicky, just the right amount of filling, and reasonably priced. We headed back to the hotel and hung out poolside for a while, but my hips and knees weren't too happy with the chair so I went back to my room a bit after 8pm to pop a muscle relaxant and a couple of Tylenol. I lay down for them to take effect... and wound up napping long enough that I didn't go out again.
Finally, some sleep! Other than a couple of bio-breaks around 1am and 4am, I slept through almost to 8am. Got dresed (in yesterday's clothes) and went to the lobby for a light breakfast (with Bitty and Max) before heding back to my room to shower and get into today's clean clothes. The remaining 18 of us met up in the lobby by 10:15am to head out in the rain (which lessened and finally stopped as we went) to our 11am brunch at Palace Cafe. I wound up having the trutle soup, andouille-crusted fish (served with broccoli, haricot verts, and onions), and bananas Foster.
After brunch (which lasted until nearly 2pm) most of us wandered back to the hotel. I did so then hung out briefly in the lobby before deciding to take a nap until either the 4:30pm meet-for-the-parade or the 6:30pm meet-for-dinner. I was up briefly around 4:30pm (and nobody'd chosen to do the parade) so I went over to get some beignets that Bitty had brought back from Cafe du Monde before returning to my room for more napping. (Alas, there was a couple that sat on my stoop to smoke a cigarette or two, so I had to put on my jeans and politely ask them to not smoke there. They apologized and left without argument.)
As it happened, a parade or two ended by the corner of Dumaine and Burgundy by the hotel so we got to see that (and catch some beads) anyhow.
At 6:30pm we started gathering for dinner. The decision was to walk down to Canal Street to catch the St. Charles Street streetcar and take it until we saw some good places. We did that and got off at Felicity to backtrack a block or two to Hoshun, a pan-Asian Chinese place that also did Thai and sushi. I wound up getting a combination platter of General Tso's chicken with hot and sour soup, vegetarian spring roll, and fried rice.
After we got back to the hotel, I did my first round of packing and then got dressed to go out to the nearby leather bar, Rawhide 2010. I had fun but managed to lose my glasses in some of the confusion. We couldn't find them so I made arrangements to come back closer to closing time (at 4am for a 5am close) to see if anyone had turned them in.
I got back to the room around 1am, napped and dozed until the doorknob turned and rattled at 3:30am. I had someone trying to use my room to get into the adjacent courtyard space, but you can't get there from here. He then asked if I could let him into the courtyard (which has a locked gate), but the short answer is that I couldn't because my key doesn't open that gate.
As long as I was awake I got dressed and headed back to the Rawhide. Hooray: Someone had turned in a pair of glasses. Boo: They weren't mine (thick brown solid plastic frames with more rectangular lenses). The bartender grabbed his flashlight and we went hunting. Hooray: He found them along the baseboard in the bathroom (huh?). I thanked him profusely and went back to my room around 4am to catch some sleep.
I woke up again around 7:15am, grabbed a quick shower, and finished packing (except for the laptop) before heading to the lobby to meet up with the first round of stragglers — Arthur, Bitty, Chuk, David, John G., Ken, Max, Robert C., Robert W., and me — for the (off-site) Stragglers' Breakfast at Camellia Grill. Leith joined us as the second round of straggler very soon thereafter. I got the chef's special omelette (bacon, ham, turkey, onions, potatoes, and American and Swiss cheeses, all smothered in chili); it was very tasty. We were joined in the third wave by Sim and Mike, but as we were all finished and there's no real hangout space we all traipsed back to the hotel and hung out by the pool for a bit until folks started to leave to catch their buses and planes.
I took a quick power-nap before packing up the laptop and checking out. I then joined Ann, Aunt Terry, Henry, John D., Kathryn, Mike, and Sim for a quick lunch at Mister Gregory. I had a traditional croque monsiuer (think "ham and cheese") and it was delicious. Ran away to get my bags out of hock from the hotel and waited for the shuttle.
Max and I (and another two guests from the hotel) caught the 2:25pm Airport Shuttle — which didn't get there until closer to 2:35pm — back to MSY. I got through baggage drop-off and security with little effort (and again was waved through the magnetometer instead of the nudie scanner due to the backup of people to process). My gate was close to the checkpoint, too, so not a lot of extra walking was involved, which made me happy.
Boarding began a little early, and I got on-board and to my seat pretty quickly. We had an on-time departure, reasonable taxi, and takeoff was uneventful. The flight itself, however....
First off, let's ignore that catering didn't get to the plane so those of us traveling in First didn't get a meal. The gate crew provided $15 meal vouchers but they were only good at on-concourse sit-down restaurants and were provided about 5 minutes before boarding began, so it was a sop at best. The cabin crew helped make up for it by providing the typical snack service (for first-class flights without meal service), as well as free snack boxes that coach cabin passengers would have to pay for. Stuff happens; it's annoying but no big whoop in the grand scheme of things.
What made the flight more eventful was the medical emergency. The passenger in 16A was experiencing some unspecified problem that led to her being put on the crew's emergency portable oxygen bottle and to our detouring to Nashville for an emergency landing. Paramedics escorted her (and her sister and their belongings) out on foot (and still on oxygen), and it didn't sound like CPR or the emergency defib were necessary, so yay for that. We got our water restocked but didn't get any replacement O2 so we had a lower flight path to Detroit and thus needed refueling before we could take off and resume our travels.
We got into Detroit about an hour and change behind schedule (so all things considered that's not bad). Got to baggage claim quickly, but had a bit of a mixup there. The baggage claim signs were misleading; they said that flight 3681 from New Orleans had its bags at claim area 1 (which didn't list our fllight on its screen and which had no bags), but they also said that flight 3681 from Nashville had its bags at claim area 7. Our bags were indeed at 7.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. My bag was there, there was little wait for the interterminal shuttle, no delays in getting to my car, no line to pay for parking, no heavy traffic out of the airport and on either I-94 or US 23, and I was home by 11:30pm.