emergency weblog; or: epersonae; or: elaine nelson

in which I write about stuff

Atlanta trip wrapup, part the first

Categories: cascade user conference 2012

I’m going to do a separate post, quite likely on my work blog, about all the things I learned, want to try, etc. For that I want to be someplace where I can have my tablet sitting next to my work computer so I can look at my notes while I write my wrapup.

But I kinda want to write about the trip itself. I realized shortly before I left that this is the first time I’ve been on a plane since SxSW 2009; the first time I’ve been to the south; my first new place outside the northwest since the first time I went to SxSW; my first time in the Eastern time zone since a training I went to in Boston in…? 1999 maybe? It was for a CRM-type system we were installing at United Way. Why yes, I am a homebody.

Flying still pretty much sucks. Getting to the airport from Olympia is a hassle; this time I took the airport shuttle (another first), which meant leaving the house at 3:45am to catch an 8am flight. Since I had a D&D game the night before, I ended up staying up with C, cleaning, finishing my packing, and watching Zoolander. Twice. Because it’s that awesome. Going through security with both a tablet (mine) and a laptop (work’s) was a bit crazy. I had so many bins. Both ways security was not all that horrible, although the whole idea of it just rubs me entirely the wrong way. No backscatter for me, by the way, just X-ray.

I used the airline’s app to get my boarding pass on my phone. I’ll admit that I find the whole thing still sort of magical; and it was nice to have one less thing to carry. Also, fabulous use of QR codes, which get mocked a lot.

But flying itself is tiring, noisy, and crowded. (Also sort of miraculous, when you think about it.) I’ve been in a window seat near the back both times; to Atlanta the whole row was full — the whole plane was full — and it was awkward being crammed in there; on the way home (I’m in the air now) I have a row to myself, although on the other side of the aisle is a woman traveling with her toddler. That poor kid; spent most of the climb to cruising altitude FREAKING THE HELL OUT.

The tablet has been fabulous through this whole trip. I really appreciate the WordPress Android app, and keep wondering what similar options are available for Drupal. There’s two parts of it: a simple interface (if I want I can go to full-screen writing) and local drafts. I’m writing a blog post on an airplane! Ok, there’s actually wifi on the plane, but it’s $13, which is just silly. So I’m writing a local draft, which I’ll probably publish later this evening, and it’s as simple as changing the status and saving again. Besides the plane, it’s nice when conference center wifi is flaky, as it so often is. I just wish I could have used it with my work blog, but the authentication didn’t work. :( I’m pretty sure I know why, and it makes sense, but it’s a bummer. I love the smallness and versatility of this tablet, with the keyboard for all my note-taking, and then taking it off to read on the plane. I took my work laptop, in case I wanted to try to get any work done, and other than for going through airport security, I think I only took it out once, and that was to work on an Excel spreadsheet. I even checked my email on this thing…altho Outlook in the browser is horrible, it was good enough for skimming through to make sure nothing had exploded.

As for Atlanta…the gracious thing to say is that it was not generally my cup of tea. Some of that was probably the neighborhood around my hotel and the conference center, on the edge of Georgia Tech. It felt dead. Part of it was disorientation: I swear that every time I had to make a choice of which direction to go, I picked the wrong one. Every time. Thank goodness for Maps on my phone. Then again, much the same thing happened when I rented a car in Rochester, NY for HighEdWeb, way back when. Got completely lost twice in the space of about 15 minutes. And a lot of it was the weather. The temperature was about the same as Olympia; we’ve been having lovely September late summer/pre-fall, so upper 70s, low 80s. But the humidity! Which I know is a cliche, but damn, apparently there’s a reason for that. It just felt horrible. We got some thunderstorms, including a tornado watch, and luckily I only once got caught in a few raindrops. It was especially disconcerting to look out the window at overcast, and my brain isn’t expecting anything much warmer than low/mid-60s, but then to go outside and just melt. Bleh.

It did clear up Tuesday afternoon, just in time for the conference to be over, so I took the MARTA out to Decatur. Originally, the idea was to go buy some yarn and knitting needles. I brought a project with me, and ended up doing so much knitting on the plane & in sessions that I (finally!) got to a point where I had to stop. I have to decide whether to put buttons or snaps on this tablet sleeve I’ve been working on erratically since January, and until I’ve got something in hand, I don’t want to either finish it out flat or make buttonholes. I was pretty sure I’d want knitting for the plane ride. So I looked up knitting shops around Atlanta, and the one closest to a MARTA stop was in Decatur. And then I saw on the map that there was a Batdorf & Bronson coffeeshop like three doors down, so that seemed like fate. (B&B is an Oly institution, and the only other place that they have a roastery & cafe is in Atlanta. I don’t know why.) I’m glad I took the trip. It got me out of the tiny dull loop between the hotel and the conference center; the weather was finally manageable, and Decatur itself was quite nice. I found a lovely inexpensive yarn. The barista at B&B had gone to Evergreen for a year, and he also made a fabulous mocha, plus recommended a good place for dinner. That turned out to be incredibly delicious. (Joel’s on Ponce de Leon, FWIW.) There were quite a few cute quirky shops, an old courthouse & Civil War cannon, and music playing on a plaza. I came home at sunset, and by then the weather was pleasant, and I was in a much better mood.

What else?

That whole staying up all night on Saturday thing ended up mitigating the jet lag; it was like a full reset. I just wish I’d taken a nap Saturday afternoon. (We had a great game, I think mostly because I spent the whole day reading & writing & prepping.)

The hotel was swanky. I loved the bathroom, but found the abundance of overly fussy (?) doormen a little unnerving. Dude, I can open the door myself; I don’t need four guys greeting me and opening the door.

I sort of want to write about what I observed re: black/white, but I don’t quite know how or even whether to address it. In some ways it reminded me of L.A., only more so.

There was an Interface/FLOR (carpet tiles!) showroom close by, and I dropped in out of curiosity. Alas, it was their commercial showroom, but the woman at the reception desk was delightful. So friendly and engaging, plus she gave me the latest catalog, and it looks like now they have residential showrooms in both Seattle and Portland.

I don’t know that I have much more to say about it at the moment, halfway through my flight home. I’m very much looking forward to being back in Olympia.

[edit: written Weds, ended up not getting this posted until Friday morning]

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