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SMOFcon 28 Report - RonO's Ramblings

Dec. 6th, 2010 06:40 pm SMOFcon 28 Report

(Before we start, I think I may have fixed the settings bug that caused both WordPress and LiveJournal to send posts over to facebook.)

This last weekend, I went to SMOFcon 28, my third SMOFcon overall, and the second time one wasn’t in the metro of my current residence.

Since SMOFcon was in San Josè, I decided the best approach was to fly up in the morning after dropping The Kid off at school – which I ended up not having to do since Tara ended up without work for the fourth day that week.  But, instead of going to the Bid Boot Camp (perhaps adding credence to my thoughts that I don’t know which way I’d run if a San Diego Worldcon bid generated), or hanging around, I went to the Santa Clara office to meet with the rest of the team I’m a part of and do a bit of work.

I got to the airport before 8:00 for my 8:50 flight and got my bags checked without incident.  However, when I went to head through security the line for Gates 3-? – a.k.a. The Southwest side of Terminal 1, except for Gates 1 and 2 – was stretching most of the way across bagage claim.  But, it was moving fairly fast, and it wasn’t too long before I got up to the ID check.

Beyond the ID check there were two magnetometers set up and no sign of a backscatter x-ray set up for this checkpoint.  I quickly got into what appeared to be the shorter of the two lines, and removed my laptop.  As soon as I could, I grabbed two trays, putting the laptop in one and my shoes in the other and stood and waited while a man 10+ years older than I removed his lace-up shoes, a much younger man removed his down jacket and gloves, and a woman removed her ankle high zip-up boots.  During this I turned to find a woman behind me also standing in bare or stocking feet, holding two trays.  We exchanged knowing looks and went back to waiting.

As I was waiting for the flight, I booted up my work laptop hoping that Google’s ability to remember addresses would let me get the work address I’d forgotten to grab before leaving work on Thursday.  Since my work laptop has no functioning battery – even though it has both an internal and external battery – I had to find an outlet to use, but was able to do so.  I also ran into some problem with the airport wireless that was preventing me from accessing anything – including www.san.org, which is the airport’s own website.  So I had to fire up my “MiFi” unit to connect.

The flight to San Josè was smooth and quick.  But by the time I got to baggage claim, and got my rental car at the attached garage, it was nearly 11.  I tried calling a couple of co-workers for the address, and finally e-mailed them from my cell phone.  One called back quickly – as it turns out the only one who actually got the message – and I was able to get the address into my GPS, while simultaneously checking out of the rental car garage security.

I got to the Santa Clara office fairly quickly – at least once my GPS had a fix and wasn’t trying to route me from home – and saved the location in my GPS for next time.  I then found the correct building and located my team leader’s office with some help (as it turns out I’d turned the wrong way almost in front of it) and found an office to work out of for the day.

My main accomplishment was getting one of my test phones reloaded – which turned out both a bit trickier than it should have due to the way that the phone has to be connected, and a chance to work with a couple more people in Santa Clara who I know by e-mail and not in person.

My team did go out to lunch together.  We ate at an Indian restaurant in downtown Sunnyvale (Turmeric, I think), and I ate more from the buffet than I probably should have.

I left the office about 5 or 5:30, and followed the GPS’s directions back to SJC – which resulted in my ending up on US-101 which resembled a parking lot more than an expressway at that time.  I did manage to get the GPS to kick out a detour after a bit, which worked out not too badly.  Once I got the car checked in and on my credit card, I found the VTA #10 bus to the Light Rail station and headed towards The Sainte Claire and SMOFcon.

If I hadn’t misread or misinterpreted Google’s directions, I would have reached the hotel a few minutes earlier.  But when I read “Downtown Mountain View – Winchester” without a usable end point, I thought that both points indicated the direction I needed to travel, until after a train had come through in the direction I needed.

I got to SMOFcon, said “Hi” to Nolly who’d arrived about the same time, checked into the hotel and dumped my bags in the room before heading back down to get my badge.  If I recall I spent a bit of time in the Con Suite looking for a drink before heading down to the reception that proceeded the mixer/open space programming session.

I talked to several friends at least briefly during the reception, and failed to generate any programming items to suggest.  I did observe that it seemed like I was mostly running into friends I’d seen just a week before (i.e. people I’d seen at SMOFcon) and others I hadn’t seen for over a years (i.e. in Montreal at Anticipation)  - got understanding agreement from anyone I shared that observation with.

The open space programming planning was less than ideal due to the conditions of the space – basically the lounge off the hotel lobby – including the lack of strong lighting and poor acoustics.  The later was aggravated by the microphone technique used by the person giving the majority of the instructions or perhaps the choice of a fairly directional microphone for the purpose.

During the afternoon, and through the beginning of the mixer, I was concerned that I’d forgotten to grab both my thyroid replacement and the medicine I’m taking to try to break the migrane cycle that developed after my thyroid surgery and ablation.  When I started to get a headache, this coalesced into a fear that without either for two days I could end up getting a major migraine.  So I finally went back to my room and did some unpacking – enough to confirm that I had both medicines.

After reviewing what panels would be held, I retired to my room about 10:30 and was asleep (or at least close enough to warent turning off the TV instead of watching the full local news) before 11.

On Saturday I got up fairly early  - at least for a con – having set the room’s clock to give me a chance to take my thyroid early enough to have the hour before eating.  I got moving and was ready for breakfast a bit before 8:00 when the con suite was supposed to open.  But when I went in past the door sign (that was on the “Please come in side”) at 7:58 I was told that they weren’t open.  Given that my glance around seemed to show that they were setting up lots of cheese trays, I decided to seek a more normal breakfast elsewhere.  After only seeing pastries at the two open bakeries/coffee shops near the Fairmont, I asked my phone for a Starbuck’s which I quickly located.  After waiting in a line mostly made up of high school aged girls wearing shirts that indicated that they were participating in Sunday’s holiday parade.

After eating, I headed back to the hotel and spent some time in my room checking e-mail etc. deciding that I wasn’t interested in any of the items during the first programming slot.  During this time I did head downstairs and print out a copy of the hotel proposal for CONjecture, along with some other pieces of information in case I had an opportunity to discuss it with anyone in detail.   I would have loved to have a copy of their first proposed contract to discuss with people – and got lots of agreement from people that it would have been a good opportunity.

During the second programming slot, I went to the panel on facilities tricks and traps, and made several notes that I will try to keep in mind when I finally get to see the contract.  I then headed up to the Con Suite for the lunch provided by the KC in 2016 (exploratory) Worldcon bid, where I had a pork barbecue sandwich and some other related side dishes.

After lunch I took the opportunity to take the tour of the San Joseè convention center – mostly to see how a pre-sale convention center tour would be run.  I then took in the panel on encouraging younger people to join SF convention fandom – both as participants and committee/staff.  After that panel I decided not to go to any panels during the last slot and retired to the Con Suite for observation, talk and eating.  I had a nice conversation with Randy Smith, at least until the Big 12 championship started and I let the Nebraska native go cheer on his football team.

A bit before six, I was approached by Peggy Rae S(????) who introduced herself and invited me to join her party for dinner.  We headed downstairs (with me taking an opportunity to grab a coat since it was a bit cool out).  After our first choice of restaurant was closed for a private party, we choose a Thai place that turned out to be practically next door.  We walked over there and were shown to our seats.

We were quickly given water.  After a reasonable amount of time, our orders were taken and the drinks for those who ordered drinks were delivered.  Then we sat in conversation for what turned out to be over an hour – with our water only being refilled once.  When it was realized that it was after seven, and at least one person needed to get to the Fanish Inquisition at 7:30, someone managed to track our waitress down and ask about our food.  This managed to produce my dinner and the dinner for one other person.  After a few more minutes of debate – while two of us stared at our food without utensils to eat it with – we decided to box the two delivered dinners, pay for what we’d eaten, and head back.

So I ended up heading quickly to the con suite to get a plastic fork (not included with our to-go box) and ate before heading to the Inquisition.

The presentations for SMOFcon 29 went fairly well.  But, even knowing one of the people behind the Maui bid, I felt that the Amsterdam bid sounded like the better choice.  I’d considered not voting since I’m 99.99% sure I would be unable to make either location.  The vote went smoothly – due in large part to Glenn having pre-printed ballots.  When the results were returned, it was clear than Amsterdam had won by a large margin and the Maui people conceded without requiring a formal count.

The rest of the Inquisition went smoothly.  Of greatest personal note was that Dave McCarty mentioned that invitations for second level positions at Chicon 7 would be going out shortly.  Since I suspect that both my skills and ability to commit time would make a second level position more ideal for me than a top level position, this confirmed that I hadn’t been forgotten (not very likely in any case).

After the Inquisition, I went up to the con suite and spent quite a while talking to people about various topics – I think including a few words about convention running.

On Sunday I slept late enough to have no chance of not having the con suite opened.  But most of what they had to eat was pastries which probably led to me eating more than I should have and feeling hungry an awful lot of the morning.  Instead of going to any of the morning panels, I spent most of the morning watching the parade from the con suite – and making my share of snide remarks and observations.

I ended going to lunch with a group of mostly Chicon people, and one of the two people up from New Zealand.  We went over to Tandori which is a Indian quick service place, where I had a very good lunch.

After lunch I took in one more panel, on Marketing and Other Hard Stuff.  I didn’t end up taking as much out of the discussion as I might have, but it was still a good discussion.

I spent some more time in the Con Suite before heading down to the feedback session.  After the feedback session, I went back up to the Con Suite for a few more minutes before saying “good-bye” to people and heading down to get my bags and work my way over to the light rail and eventually the airport.

As I anticipated, just as I was exiting the hotel, I saw a light rail train heading the direction I needed to go.  But the wait for the next train wasn’t too long, and there was a bus waiting when we got to the correct stop.

Checkin at the airport was again quick, and I found security without any problem.  The line was a bit long, but not as bad as on Friday morning.  When I got past the ID check, I observed that there were three checkpoints using magnetometers  and one using the x-ray equipment.  But the choice of which to use was being left to the traveler.

Once inside security, I found the food court and grabbed a bite to eat, found a place to sit and power my phone for a quick call to Tara, and then waited for my flight to leave a bit before 8.

The flight back was a bit bumpy, and clouds obscured much of what might have been seen out the window.   Once we got to San Diego, it took a while for my bags to come, but the shuttle to the parking lot was waiting so I didn’t have to.

But once I got to my car, I couldn’t find the ticket, so getting out took a bit longer than it might have (and I may have paid a bit more or less than I should have).  I got home late, and didn’t get to bed quite instantly.

So, this morning, I decided that going to work wasn’t a good idea, and took the day off.  I then proceeded to get an extra four hours of nap (and I’m still pretty tired).

One thing that did come from being at SMOFcon is the thought that this might be a fun con to run – and I managed to spend a too many brain cycles on it during the trip home.  I know that the earliest I’d think of doing this would be 2014 or 2015 – after any of the currently announced bids.

I would look for an appropriate sized hotel somewhere not too far from the trolley.  Unless finances forced me to, I’d prefer something outside of Mission Valley.  A second choice of location might be something near Balboa Park since I’d probably be running the same weekend as the December Nights.

I even thought about programming ideas.  Two areas that I think could be used either alone or together if I wanted to go to three tracks (one being an “anything else” track) would be “technology in conventions” and “member interaction.”  The first would have both programs on computers and network technology, and on audio-visual technology (sound systems, lighting, image-magnification, etc.).  The second would include hospitality but aslo other parts of the “member services” arena such as registration.

There are obvious pre-requisites for this.   First would be a sponsoring organization – preferably one of the San Diego orgs, but one of the L.A. orgs or others that could provide the backing would be acceptable to me as well.  Second, would be at least a couple of key staff positions: hotel and hospitality.  Neither of these are positions that I would want to take on as a second job (assuming I’m also the chair).  Also, I know I wouldn’t be able to purchase an appropriate quantity and variety of intoxicating liquids.

Were I to be convinced that this was worth pursuing, I’d also probably need to have someone volunteer to speek for me at Amsterdam since, as I previously said, I’m 99.99% sure I won’t make it there.  I’m  pretty sure I should be able to make Philadelphia and Toronto, and hopefully many of the future SMOFcons to follow.

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