Saturday, September 15, 2012

Art electronic and tangible

I know that being somewhere by 11:30 on a Saturday morning is not any sort of hardship for most people, but given my fatigue and my late bedtime last night, it felt rough to make this morning.  Still, I succeeded and was in Durham way before the start of my panel at the Escapist Expo

At noon, in a small room packed to its capacity, Richard Dansky, David Drake, Mur Lafferty, and I began the panel.  On short notice and with no desire on her part to do it, Mur graciously agreed to moderate the discussion.  Here's how the con's program book described the panel:

Being able to communicate with your fans in near real-time over the internet is a new challenge for authors, even those who write about speculative worlds. Prominent science-fiction authors discuss what the internet has brought to publishing, if they’re embracing it or fearing it, and how the net has changed their relationship with their fans.
What we actually discussed was a little bit of that, a little bit of the economics of ebook publishing, a little bit of self-publishing, a little bit about publishing in general, and so on. Mur steered the conversation well; I'd be happy with her moderating all my panels.  She, Dave, and Richard had plenty of intelligent things to say, and I tried not to embarrass myself too much.

I wore my EFF anniversary shirt in recognition of the geek nature of the con, but if anyone noticed, no one said anything.

After the panel ended, a group of us strolled into Durham's lovely CenterFest in search of lunch.  The show proved to be quite cool, and I hope to spend more time wandering it after tomorrow's panel. 

While looking for lunch, we stumbled across the booth of Mikel Robinson, an artist whose work I think is wonderful.  Sure enough, a piece spoke so loudly to me that I had to buy it and take it home.  If you don't know his art and you're in the Triangle area, the trip to Durham is worth it just to see everything he has on display--and from what I saw, CenterFest features many, many more artists worthy of your attention as well.

So we talked about art, and I took some home with me.  That's a pretty good day.

Friday, September 14, 2012

On the road again: San Francisco, day 6

These early-morning wake-up travel days continue to plague me.  You might think I'd be used to them by now, but I'm not.  Still, once I was up and moving after very little sleep, the day went well.  Checkout was painless, the cab ride was quick (and cheaper than the one from the airport to the hotel), and though a couple hundred flights out of SFO were delayed, mine was on time.  I grabbed a sandwich for lunch on the plane, worked in the Admirals Club, and boarded and took my exit-row aisle seat.

Normally, that location would be pretty much a guarantee of a good ride, but not today.  Today, I was seated next to a six-foot-three, two-seventy-five ex-football player.  He was as nice as he could be, and I stayed nice, but we both spent over three hours sitting with our shoulders curled.  It's hard to work in that situation, but I managed, and the distraction helped.  He put himself to sleep.  I think we'll both be happy if we never see each other again.

I rushed like mad to make my gate in DFW, only to find my flight had slipped an hour.  That was okay, though, because it gave me time to grab my now traditional and always delicious Red Mango parfait and to do some more work in another Admirals Club.

I was lucky enough to get a first-class upgrade, which was great, but the woman in the seat next to me was a nervous passenger who hated flying and so who really wanted to talk.  I preferred to work.  We compromised on a fair amount of talking.  So it goes.

I'm home safely, so I can't complain but so much.

Tomorrow, an Escapist Expo panel!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On the road again: San Francisco, day 5

Today was the last day of the conference.  Per IDF tradition, Justin Rattner, Intel's CTO, gave the morning keynote.  His talk focused on multiple future technology projects that Intel has under development.  I enjoyed it and recommend it for those who are really interested in tech. 

Technical sessions and work filled the rest of the day until dinner. 

That meal was something special, a wonderful 18-course tasting menu at Benu.  Chef Corey Lee, who worked previously at French Laundry and other leading restaurants, started this restaurant a bit over two years ago.  His food reflects an emphasis on local ingredients, an Asian focus, and an extensive use of modernist cooking techniques.  The dishes are also inventive and playful. 

What matters more than any of that, of course, is how the food tastes.

It was simply delicious, easily the best high-end meal I've ever eaten in San Francisco and a truly top-drawer dinner.  I mentioned in Sunday night's blog entry that I'd eaten dinner at Boulevard, the restaurant that won this year's Beard Outstanding Restaurant award.  My meal tonight absolutely blew away that earlier dinner.

If you live here, you owe it to yourself to save up the cost of the tasting menu and go.  If you visit this area, make a Benu reservation a top priority. 

For my taste, Benu is simply the best restaurant in San Francisco.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On the road again: San Francisco, day 4

I found today's keynote address and the technical sessions I attended quite interesting and informative.  Yeah, I know:  what a geek I must be to really enjoy sitting in technical presentations about computer stuff.  Well, yes, I am a geek.  Being a geek has been good to me. 

For dinner tonight, a small group of us went to the nearest Max's, where I stuck to tradition and ordered their absolutely delicious patty melt.  The sandwich did not let me down.  As soon as it arrived, as always I took this picture (click on it to see a larger image) and emailed it to my friend and colleague, Elizabeth, to torture her. 

I know it's cruel, but it's also fun--for me, at least, and I think for her. 

Now, back to work for me, and then some sleep, because the conference resumes early (for me) in the morning. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On the road again: San Francisco, day 3

Today's opening keynote at IDF began, appropriately enough, with a short reflection on the tragic events of 9/11.  I was down the road from here, in the Westin Burlingame, when the news broke and the first plane hit one of the Twin Towers.  It was a somber beginning to a talk that then turned optimistic, as it should, when the topic turned to the future of computing.

I enjoyed the show and went to several different interesting technical session.  Between it and keeping up with my regular work, however, work was almost all I did today.

The non-work part was a good dinner at Burma Superstar.  I'd never tasted Burmese food before, but I liked every dish I sampled.  I learned two important lesson:  a lot of the dishes contain mint, so I have to ask about each one before ordering it, and many are quite spicy.  I'm fine with spicy, but it's good to know in advance. 

And now, a bit more work, and then some sleep. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

On the road again: San Francisco, day 2

San Francisco is lovely right now, the air brisk, the sky clear, the usual collection of interesting people roaming the streets.  I wouldn't want to endure the high costs of living here, but I certainly like visiting it. 

I spent most of the day working, but I took a short walk and so was able to enjoy the daylight hours a bit.  That was a treat. 

Dinner was at Mel's Drive-In, a little diner near the hotel.  The food isn't particularly great, but it's reasonably tasty, and the wait staff are always funky and nice.  I also am always going to have a weakness for a place that emulates diners of the 50s and plays oldies non-stop.  Of course, what passes for oldies nowadays is anything not in the 2000s or later, so there's a bit of a disconnect between the setting and the sounds, but I'm okay with that. 

Tomorrow, the conference kicks off at what is, to me, an unreasonably early hour:  9:00 a.m.  I should be thankful, though, because in past years it started even earlier.  I'll have to get up much earlier, though, to catch up on email, so I'm heading offline now.  Tomorrow, tech talks!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

On the road again: San Francisco, day 1

Getting up early is never going to be fun for me, and getting up early on a Sunday definitely sucks.  Still, that's what I did today, because my plane left in the late morning.

Aside from the problem, though, the rest of the trip went as well as one could ask.  Both flights were close enough to on time that I could manage, and on both of them I was lucky enough to get an upgrade.  Both also had bandwidth on offer, so I was able to work.

The most tense moment of the day came right before the second flight.  I had only 40 minutes in DFW to make my connection.  The first flight was actually early, but by the time the previous occupant of the gate made way for our plane, my connection time was down to 35 minutes--which meant the next flight would be boarding in five minutes.  I took the Skylink train to my next flight's distant gate, two terminals way, jogged to the gate, and found I'd gotten an upgrade.  That was good news, except that I had to see the gate agent to get my new ticket.  When I approached her, an older woman stepped in front of me, told me, "This is important," and proceeded to berate the gate agent about the lack of staff for her upcoming flight to Madrid--which didn't leave for four and a half hours.  The gate agent tried over and over to explain why no one was on duty yet for that flight, and meanwhile, they made the last call for my flight.  I talked to the other gate agent, who sent me back to the busy one. 

Finally, I said to the older woman, who was still furious and still talking, "Ma'am, I will miss my flight if I don't get to talk to that agent." 

"Humphf," the woman said.  "This is important."

The gate agent took pity on me, told the woman to wait, and we exchanged boarding passes.  It took maybe 15 seconds. 

As I left, the older woman said, "People these days."

I was consequently not in the best of moods when I boarded the plane, but I calmed myself and got down to work.  While I was doing email, I learned via a message from Jain that the memo chicken had an important message for me.  (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

Every flight improves when you receive a message from the memo chicken!

Dinner was a high point:  a meal at Boulevard, which won the 2012 James Beard award for Outstanding Restaurant. I enjoyed it quite a bit and recommend the restaurant, but nothing about my meal made me think the restaurant deserved that honor.  Of course, I don't know all the factors that go into that decision, so perhaps I'm missing some important data.

All in all, for a travel day that began far earlier than I'd like, not bad.


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