I went to OSCON!

This year was my eighth OSCON, all but one of which were in Portland. Portland is a fantastic place, and I would not be stretching things to say that I go to OSCON first for Portland and second for the conference. The conference was very good, though. This was also the second or third time that OSCON has meant that I was away from home for my birthday, and Gloria made sure that I would not miss out on enjoying my birthday. It ended up being a really good week on many fronts.

One front that wasn’t so great was travel. I set out from ABE, my favorite tiny airport, which is always a great start. Unfortunately, then I went to Chicago, where things often start to get fouled up. I was delayed quite a bit and I didn’t arrive in Portland about one in the morning, which meant I couldn’t take MAX to the hotel. Instead, I blew about $40 on a cab. I got to the hotel room at some unholy hour (according to my body’s clock) and found my bed decked out with birthday presents: enough for the rest of the week, as is our tradition.

presents awaiting me

I opened one (since it was after midnight, after all) and had a brief call with Gloria before crashing hard. Most of my presents for the week were books, most of which I’ve read by now, and all of which I’ve enjoyed. (I haven’t started Bentley’s Programming Pearls yet, but am looking forward to it. It’s even small enough to carry around!) I might post a bit about them another day. It’s been nice to get some reading done!

The next day, I woke up (eventually) and sought out Piers for breakfast. We started the day right: with raspberry shakes and Walla Walla onion rings from Burgerville. That place is an enigma to me. Their shakes and onion rings are really first class, but everything else is merely adequate. If their burgers were just a notch or two better, I’d probably go there twice as often. So, I guess it’s a good thing they’re not. Piers and I had a grand time, most of which was spent chatting long after our baskets were empty. Piers pushed me toward several books that sounded great, but I haven’t picked any up yet. Eventually, we swung by the venue, said hello to a few more people, and then parted ways. In not too long, I was having lunch with Abigail at Sizzle Pie, the pizza place near the hotel I like. The music was too loud, but the pizza was really good, and the beer that the woman there recommended was really choice. Abigail and I headed up to the conference center to register… and then continued on to Burgerville a bit later for more onion rings and shakes. I declared, “That was my raspberry shake quota for the whole trip.” This would prove to be a lie.

On Monday, I gave my three hour “Moose is Perl” tutorial, which went well. I really enjoy giving it, and although I thought I might retire it this year, performing the talk again made me want to keep doing it. We’ll see how I feel when the 2013 CFP goes out. On the other hand, I had one major screw-up, which I will never repeat! In the middle of any three hour talk at OSCON, there is a thirty minute break for snacks and drinks. Usually I just stick to water, but I decided to try the apple cobbler. It was fine. Unfortunately, it also left me sugar-crashing during the start of the second half. At one point, I had to stop, collect my wits, and carry one. Fortunately, I did manage to collect them, and I think it was much, much more disconcerting for me than the audience.

After the tutorials were over, I met up with David and Abigail and we decided to go to Le Pigeon. It had been on my short list of places to go in 2011, but hadn’t worked out. (The same was true of Sizzle Pie, but I felt much more disappointed about missing out on Le Pigeon.) We had to wait a bit for space to free up at the counter, but they brought us some nice Riesling (which only I drank) and pretty soon we were seated. Abigail noted that there was a tasting menu, and we went for it. What a good decision!

The seven-course tasting menu was as follows:

  • pork carpaccio with tuna mousse, cream, apricot, and saffron sauce
  • foie gras and quail egg in eel consommé and pickled pear
  • pheasant on [unknown leafy green] with garlic chips
  • beef steak with green pepper relish
  • lamb shoulder with pickled curried fennel and ricotta risotto
  • soft cheeses and apricot turnover
  • foie gras ice cream profiterole with chocolate cake and raspberry

It’s possible that I’ve got some of this slightly wrong. It’s pretty close, and it was awesome. I also had a flight of wines to go with it. I imagine that several people at OSCON 2012 are looking forward to seeing me at OSCON 2013 just to see whether I can talk about anything other than Le Pigeon.

Tuesday, I had nothing going on. I popped in and out of a few tutorials and caught up with a few people I hadn’t seen in ages. I went to the “Camp OSCON” dinner and had a hot dog and a hamburger. Neither one featured foie gras.

Wednesday, the conference was in full swing. I started my day with my talk about the future of Perl 5. It went pretty well, although I bloviated a bit and didn’t cover everything I’d meant to — just the most important parts. I saw talks by Eric Wilhelm, Tim Bunce, and Damian Conway. Amazingly, they put Damian in a tiny room several times this year. What? The crowds were pretty nuts. I’d love to see what the head counts looked for everything else… but it was fine, and I always enjoy his talks for one reason or another.

The expo hall had a “booth crawl,” which mostly meant “free beer.” I ran into Joshua Keroes, with whom I never spend enough time at OSCON. He gave me some great recommendations for places to eat and drink, as did Selena Deckelmann. Both of them seemed extremely happy for me that I’d gotten to go to Le Pigeon — and why not? I didn’t want to just stand around and drink beer and look at booths, though, and I certainly didn’t want to attend any of the off-site parties. Those events are almost always too loud and crowded. David Golden and I went to The Farm where we had a lovely dinner and I had a great cocktail. Frew has already heard an earful about it and attempted to reproduce it. He says it was really good:

  • 2 oz bourbon (wild turkey high proof!)
  • 1 oz cinnamon liqueur
  • 1 tbsp drambuie
  • 1 tbsp heering
  • 3 goodly dashes bitter truth orange bitters

We skipped dessert and instead went to Voodoo Doughnut Too, where I foolishly got two of my favorite doughnuts and ate them both before bed.

voodoo doughnut!

Notice that Amazon box in the picture? Yeah, my Kindle’s 3G had recently failed, which was making it annoying to work my through my new ebooks while walking around the conference. Fortunately, Amazon’s support still rocks, and they sent me a new device to my hotel. While arranging for its delivery with the front desk staff, I got to have a nice and weird chat with the guys there about ereaders and transflective displays.

On Thursday, I did a double-header. I started my day with my talk on “What’s new in Perl since 5.10?” It went well, although I was a bit flummoxed when someone complained that he couldn’t use the new features in an old perl. “Um.” After that, I immediately headed to Git for Ages 4 and Up, which Schwern and I have given jointly for three years running now. I really enjoy doing that talk, and I think that someday he and I will find the time to really put together a carefully constructed script for it and it will be fantastic. As it was, it was still a lot of fun and a number of people clearly experienced moments of clarity during the talk. The weird part was that we were put in one of the smallest rooms at the venue, even though we’d packed people into a huge ballroom the previous year. Oh well! I like a small room with a big crowd, although it’s a bummer when people get turned away.

I went to Piers’ talk about stealing liberally from other programming languages, and to David Golden’s Cooking Perl with Chef talk. I’m sure David’s work is going to be really valuable stuff in my near future, as we’re looking at moving to Chef and I know we want to do the sorts of things David was presenting. I also got a sweet shirt to take back home to Bryan.

Dinner was at Mother’s, and was delicious. Although I enjoyed everything I ate and drank there, the dinner roll has stuck with me the most. It was probably the single best roll I have ever had. Even more impressive than the food, though, was the company. I sat around chatting with Selena, Brian Behlendorf, Jos Boumans, Simon Wardley, Jesse Vincent, Robert Spier, and a bunch of other people whom I rarely see (or just met) and who are just really great. I really appreciated not only having the time to talk to them, but the agenda-free context, where we could segue between diversity in the open source community, Guns’n’Roses, and global financial trends. It may only seem like it in my memory, but I seem to recall spending six hours telling Brian how much better the 1984 Sherlock Holmes is than the current series.

Friday was session-light, as always. I enjoyed a number of the keynotes (as I did throughout the week — I should post a few links to them) and then went to Assholes are Killing Your Project, which seemed quite on-topic for my current work as pumpking, especially given how I’d described my primary goals for my stint. It was a good talk, and I left with a number of books to look at reading. After that, Piers was giving a talk on Test::Routine, and it’s not like I was going to miss out on a talk about something I wrote!

A good thing, too, because he started the talk by cutting to a video of Martha (my five year-old daughter, if you haven’t been following my journal since 2007) wishing me a happy birthday, telling me she loved me, and asking the audience to sing me Happy Birthday. They did. It was awesome. This, too, had been arranged by Gloria, of course! The talk was good, although Piers apologized quite a bit for doing much of it in Emacs instead of Keynote. It left me feeling nostalgic for doing technical talks about libraries I wrote, rather than the vague “what’s new in Perl” and “my so-called life as pumpking” talks. Next year: solid technical talks!

For dinner, David and Abigail and I did another tasting menu, this time the omakase at Biwa, an izakaya near the hotel. Ua had recommended it. It was good, although it was no Le Pigeon. That’s fine, since it cost about a third as much! They had quite a few drinks I wanted to taste, but I didn’t really want to drink much before heading to the airport. David told us all about his work on the Synacor OSCON 2012 Challenge, which sounded like great fun, and just the kind of thing I would have enjoyed, if I’d made more time for it.

David and I split a cab to the airport and then went our own ways. My flight home wasn’t great, but it wasn’t delayed much, and I got home in time to attend my nephew’s birthday party. I was glad to be home!

This year, more than many others in the past, I tried to talk to more people in other groups. I still didn’t do a great job of it. It’s hard! OSCON had set up a number of tables labeled with interests, and I avoided them: I wanted to sit with people I didn’t know and to have their interests be pot luck. I hope that next year I can do so even more, and that I can more aggressively (but pleasantly!) engage new people in conversation. The best thing about OSCON is all the people whom I’d almost never talk to otherwise.

Oh, and there were two disappointments for me at this OSCON: I didn’t eat at VQ and I didn’t run a D&D game. I’ll deal with both of those next year.

I’m sure that tomorrow I’ll think of things I’ve forgotten to mention today, but so be it. It’s late and I’m going to bed. Maybe tomorrow I’ll also write about some of the books I’ve read and the Nexus 7 that I came home with!

Written on August 2, 2012
🏷 oscon