Drupalcon SF: AfterThoughts

25 Apr 2010
Posted by jcfiala

So, I'm finally back home after a week in San Francisco. The trip had two main reasons - one was to attend Drupalcon SF, the other to spend some time visiting my brother in law, Tim. Things went well on both fronts, and I got in some bonus treat as well.

First off, we landed in San Francisco on time, and quickly met up with Tim, who'd agreed to pick us up at the airport. We had some time before we could get into the flat we were renting with a few other folks from Examiner.com, so he took us for a nice lunch at Chow Food Bar, after which we looked in a bead store, a bookstore, and then wandered around to look at Mission Dolores, which was around the corner. Mission Dolores was originally the Misión San Francisco de Asís, which was the reason the whole town is called what it was, and it's quite a pretty building. Witht hat done we made our way slowly over to the flat and moved in.

The Flat is basically one floor of a Victorian rowhouse on Fell street, with one of the closets turned into a second bathroom, and it was generally a really nice place to stay. Among other things it was near Divisadero street, which is a cool mix of bohemian and practical stores - there was an art bar, several places selling a mix of grocery items and liquor, and a quick favorite of Tammy and mine, the Bean Bag Cafe. I'd recommend going by sometime - although it does get really crowded, the food is good.

The first full day, Sunday, in San Francisco I met up with the other Examiner.com folks, and we met for a nice breakfast, and then some work, Examiner having rented a hotel conference room for folks to work in before the convention. It was great to meet with some of the folks I'd been working with remotely. Amusingly enough Lunch was a collection of misturns - my friend and coworker Matthew S. wanted soup, so we tried to find this place called Soup Freaks, initially getting a little lost, but then finding it... closed on Sundays. We almost walked to a second location, but had the bright idea of calling first and discovering that they were also closed on Sundays. After walking six-eight blocks, we eventually ended up eating at a restaurant across the street from the hotel. Heh.

On Monday at the convention I went through panels, but quickly realized that the tickle in my throat I was afraid was a cold coming on definitely was one, and started trying to handle it with Vitamin C and the like. This continued through the next day, where I went thorough a few pocket packs of tissues and did my best to keep myself going, although on both Monday and Tuesday I needed to leave the conference a bit early to head back to the flat and rest - I generally missed out on a lot of the post - convention entertainments. It's a bit of a shame... but I don't really enjoy those things anyway. Setting aside my distaste for beer, there's also the fact that I really have trouble listening to people talk with noise in the background - like a crowded room with other people talking.

Wednesday started about the same, but I quickly realized I seemed to be over the worst of the cold, and had really improved by lunch, which happily my wife Tammy was able to join me for, along with Karyn and Mike from Canon Communications and Karyn's husband. That was Sushi at a local restaurant which was really very good. We went a bit late, so I missed the day's keynote on the White House using Drupal, but those are recorded anyway. I did get to attend the end of day Convention Closing presentation, which was fun. Once that was over I met up with some of the Examiners again, as we were escorted firmly out of the Convention Center, apparently no longer welcome now that the event was officially over. We all went off to dinner (again with Tammy) at the same Sushi restaurant as for Lunch, had another Japanese dinner that couldn't be beat, and happily wrapped up the day.

Thursday I got to really enjoy the city. Tammy and I came downtown and rode the cable cars - really, you may think that it's such a cliche thing to do, but it really can be a lot of fun, and you get some great views of the city as you're going up and down the streets - literally up and down. We were lucky enough to end up on the rear platform for the first part of the trip, where we got to chat with the Brakeman as we went, and then on one of the benches facing outwards on the return, where we got to talk to the other guy. It's pretty physical work, driving these things. After that, I had a meeting, but then we made our way down to the Ferry Market, where a farmer's market was going on, to meet up with Tim for lunch. We ended up eating at Gott's Roadside, where I got some absolutely fantastic Ahi Tuna burger along with some great onion rings. That done we wandered up to Pier 39... which is really just about a total tourist trap thing. We got some cool tourist things there - I still need to send out postcards - but I really didn't like it that much. After a nap back at the flat, Tammy took me out to the Japan Center, which was full of a ton of great stores. We took some time in a bookstore with lots of japanese anime related items, including a ton of manga which I noticed with humor was all plastic wrapped, probably to prevent people from sitting around and reading the manga like I see so often in Borders and Barnes & Noble.

After a bit of shopping we ended up at this great restaurant - Juban, which was neat - similar to a Fondue restaurant where you cook the food in broth, only this restaurant lets you cook your own food on a grill instead. It was really interesting to do, and tasted good. After that we browsed through the rest of the Center, but everything was pretty much closed, so that mostly involved looking through windows and looking at things we'd like to buy. It was probably a good thing for our bank balance the stores were closed. Heading back partway worked, but we ended up about four blocks from the flat, on the wrong side of a hill. We settled in for a wait for the next bus, when an older lady who showed up called a number and said that there wasn't going to be a bus for fourteen more minutes. With that sort of a timeframe Tammy and I decided to walk back on our own, since even if they were largely vertical they were still only four blocks... and the lady came along. We chatted as we went - well, Tammy chatted more than I did at first. She had lived in the area for a while - I want to say 22 years - and quite liked living in San Francisco. We chatted cheerfully about the area and what we'd seen, and said goodbye at the aforementioned Bean Bag, where Tammy and I got some banana nutella crepe to take back home. Yum!

Friday was the usual moveout shuffle - get up, get cleaned, throw towels into the washer, make sure you haven't left anything behind. Beth, Tim's wife, then picked us up and took us around. We first went into the Golden Gate park and visited the Japanese Tea Garden there, which was astounding and fun, very serene and beautiful... wrapping up our tour by stopping and having tea. Mmm. After that we zipped across town to the SF MoMA, where we enjoyed a fantastic lunch - I had some lamb meatballs with some chickpea soup and noodles - and followed that up with a browse of the museum, which was fantastic, but a little overpowering. Right now they have an exhibit showing some of the great stuff they've been showing for the last 75 years, and it's great to see if you haven't yet. Also, they've got this neat sculpture garden/coffee house thing on the top floor with snacks inspired by modern art!

Once done, we went back to Tim and Beth's house in Oakland, relaxed, and passed the time. For dinner we went out to a great Chinese restaurant in the area, following it up with a visit to Fenton's Ice Creamery, which was that ice cream place they showed in Up. It's quite good.

The next day we ran off to Lakeside park in Oakland, which is where Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn and other fine books, was going to have his Birthday Party. We got there early to try and find the party, but couldn't find it, convincing ourselves we were in the wrong part of the park. Happily we were wrong and they were just late, and I got to spend a little time talking with Peter, even getting my picture taken with him. It's a lovely park, and the oldest bird conservatory in the US. Tammy got some lovely bird shots with her camera.

Sadly that left us a little late, and so we had to skip the farmer's market there in Oakland - which is a shame, it looked like fun - and instead we rushed off to the airport, fought our way through security, and finally got home. Whew!

The next Drupalcon is in Copenhagen. I'm not sure if I'm going yet - it looks to be an expensive place to visit, and it's not as big of a drive for me as Paris was. We'll see. After that's Chicago in 2011, which I probably will attend, although I doubt Tammy will want to come along like she did with Paris and SF.

All in all, I had a good time. But I really noticed this time that I spent a lot of time tired. Admittedly some of that was my cold, but really, I need to lose some weight. I'm too tired for what little activity I'm doing. On the plus side, I really enjoyed using the netbook and moleskine notebooks I brought with me. The first held a charge all day and weighed only ounces, and the second allowed me to take nice, neat notes in a format that felt good. With those I went about the conference with only a small bag instead of a huge backpack, which was really nice.