I sit right now in San Francisco International Airport, in the gate lounge along with a good dozen or so of my compatriots, many sporting the popular “Veni. Vidi. Codi.” shirts from the conference. We’re all flying out together on the same flight, which starts boarding in a little over an hour and a half.
I’ll start by saying that getting through security was pretty trivial. There was a bit of a line, although it took not much more than five minutes to get through, and all that was required was the usual scan of laptops and whatnot, and of shoes. Since I’ve had to remove my shoes several times before, this doesn’t strike me as out of the ordinary at all. What is unusual is the apparent need to present a fingerprint and passport at various terminals in the gate area before you can depart. They issue a receipt which then lets you board. They certainly didn’t have that last time I was here. It’s an extra hassle, which will no doubt slow down boarding, but no more invasive than the rest of the process.
So the last week has been pretty crazy. I’m very sleep deprived, although pretty excited at the moment – I finally got over my jet lag Thursday night, although that was perhaps exacerbated by my roommate Graham’s cacophonous snoring, which places him clearly at the top of my Worst Sleepers list. 😛 Still, once I actually am asleep I can sleep through world war three if I feel like it, so it didn’t really bother me most of the time. I woke him up at 2:30am this morning when I went to bed, so we’re probably even. 🙂
The conference itself was pretty cool, overall. The sessions were great, and I was able to chat to a few people, and catch up with various people from work, including Myke, whom I spoke to for quite some time at the beer bash. There were more labs this year, more machines available to play with, and a lot more positive atmosphere – the Intel switch had tempered a few people’s moods last time. I was really happy to hear a few of the first timers this year talking about how amazing they felt the atmosphere was going into the keynote – exactly how I felt last year. This time around I wasn’t so giddy, although the keynote was pretty good still. ‘course, as an Apple employee you have a different perspective on it, of course.
There were a few things about this year that weren’t too great. Some I perhaps can’t discuss, so I’ll limit myself to the trivial ones – the bags and food. I was expecting a backpack, just like last year and the years before, but instead we got little laptop satchels. Pretty useless for me with all my junk, so mine spent the entire week in the hotel room. On the upside I really like the shirts this year, as mentioned – I’m wearing mine now – which I think are significantly better than last year.
The other thing was food. Last year there was reasonably good food, and plenty of it. Breakfast was a little bland – mainly bagels and crap, as is the style in San Francisco – but still sufficient. Lunches were good – fully cooked eat-in meals. Dinner wasn’t technically provided every night, but invariably there was something suitable available.
This year, in contrast, was disastrous. Breakfast was pretty similar to last year, except that it was very often just bagels. They had some great stewed-Apple scrolls which I really liked (although they would have been more suited for a lunchtime meal), but they were hard to get – some days I missed out. Since our hotel, the Courtyard Marriott, didn’t provide any meals – which is ridiculous given how expensive it is – this was a real problem this year. (last year I had breakfast at the hotel, because they had toast & muffins, not just bagels)
Morning tea this year was composed mainly of coffee. Just coffee. They sometimes put out chocolate bars, but many contained peanut butter – which is absolutely feral mixed with chocolate – and when there was Twix or Ghiradelli bars, they were snatched up in no time at all. On Thursday, for example, the guy next to me went out to go to the toilet. He came quickly back in not long after with a couple of chocolate bars, saying they’d just put them out while he’d been out there. I jumped up and moved quickly out, getting there just in time to see them wheel away the empty cart. It couldn’t have been more than 90 seconds. It was disgraceful. Ghiradelli chocolate bars good; having 1/10th as many as there were attendees, just stupid.
And so forth. DInner wasn’t provided most nights – only three, and on one, the campus bash, many people missed out because they abruptly took away the food half way through the night.
I know it sounds really silly to be complaining about this, but let me explain. First up, food in San Francisco is expensive, especially where Moscone is in the downtown area. It’s also hard to find restaurants at all, let alone ones that are open past 9pm. Furthermore, for food during the day, it’s really stupid not to have enough there for everybody; it makes people hungry, which is very distracting, or makes them seek out food outside, which means they miss out on sessions. There should have been enough food for everyone, like last year. Last year worked really well for that reason – I didn’t think about food or drink because there was always plenty around, and I got much more out of the sessions and labs as a result.
There were a few other things too, as I mentioned, which smell suspiciously of some major underlying problems, but I won’t air that laundry here. I hope things improve next year. I’ll submit my two cents to Apple via the appropriate channels, and I hope others do too. I understand that the actual fee to attend the conference doesn’t nearly cover the expense of it, but it partially defeats the purpose of having the conference at all if people are out hunting down necessities like food and water instead of actually attending the conference.
I’ll also not stay at the Courtyard Marriott again, I think. The rooms were quite nice, but lacked a fridge or any kitchenware other than glasses – so I couldn’t, for example, go buy some cereal & milk for breakfast – and the free in-room internet was unavailable several nights. No breakfast either, as mentioned. Not worth the cost, in my opinion. I’d much rather stay at the Mosser or somewhere cheaper, and doing so would save me more than enough money to cover the missing amenities.
Anyway, nonetheless the conference was great, and a lot of fun. I socialised a lot more with the other Australians this time around, partly as a result of staying in the Marriott with many of them, and had quite a bit of fun exploring San Francisco with them. Last night a lot of us congregated in the lobby until the wee hours of the morning. Partly because the net was down again in the hotel, so people were thieving the free wireless from nextdoor, and partly because people were unwinding after a very tiring week. At about 12:30am Mathieu, Sam, André and I decided we could all go for something to eat, so we went in search of food. Mathieu and I both had aching sweet tooths (yes, tooths… we just had an discussion about this in the lounge and I’m sticking with it 😛 ) so we ended up migrating towards McDonalds. Luckily they were closed, so we then diverted to a 7/11 nearby. I wasn’t too keen on that, but there weren’t many other options. As it turned out, right up the very back of the store they had an ice-cream fridge, in which I found Mega Triple-Choc Drumsticks. That’s right, Mega – twice the size of a normal Drumstick. 😀 You can’t get them in Australia, and I enjoyed mine greatly. 🙂
Suitably satisfied, we went back to the hotel lobby – arriving back to find they’d turned the lights out, the gas fires off, and that we were the only ones left. Undeterred we sat there for a while again, eating and whatnot, before finally retiring to our respective beds at around 2:30am or so.
Andrew Jeffrey’s and possibly a few others had booked Segway tours of the San Francisco waterfront, at $70US a pop, which I was really close to going on, but it a) was $70US a pop, and b) started at 9am. 9am! On a Saturday! Bah! 🙂
As it turned out of course I didn’t get to sleep until well after 3am, so a 7:30am wake-up wouldn’t have worked. 🙂 Instead I got up at around 10:45 at Graham’s instance, since we had to clear out of the room and check-out by midday. He went off for a bike ride from Fisherman’s Wharf across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, as others had done on previous days. I was interested in doing it, but wasn’t too keen on exhausting myself and spending more money when I could quite cheaply catch a bus somewhere and just wander around. Which I did, with Brett – we went to the end of Geary Street, to Seal Rocks, Sutro Park and all up towards the Presidio. That was really cool – I hadn’t really seen the west half of San Francisco in previous trips, other than a brief car ride down through Haight Ashbury and whatnot, so I didn’t realise how nice it was in some places. China beach, in particular, is a really nice area – plush houses with immaculate gardens, windy streets lined with Ferarris and so forth… really nice. The park around that area was a really nice walk, too – from the ruins of the old baths to Lobos Point and right around. We ended up having to come back, since I have this flight to catch of course, but it would also have been nice to keep going up into the Presidio.
I should note that once again I have failed utterly to make it to Golden Gate Park. Fourth time’s a charm, though, right? 😉
So, that was today. I’ll now rewind to yesterday. The conference finished at lunchtime for some reason this year – apparently the place was completely cleaned out by this morning – so Ashley, Zac, Nick and I went off to do a spot of shopping. We ended up going to Borders, which I was thoroughly unimpressed with – they didn’t have Amit Singh’s Mac OS X Internals, or any other of the Mac OS X books I was interested in. Their organisation was horrid; Zac had a list of books his family wanted him to get for them, so we all split up and went searching for them. It took a good twenty minutes just to find the first one. It was a disaster. And the store was much smaller than any of the ones I’ve been in in Australia (this is the one on the corner of Union Square, above the Disney store). I was very unimpressed. But it was kinda fun anyway. We dropped by the Disney store as well – Zac has a young sister – which was sort of amusing. I wanted to get a Stitch doll, but the only ones they had were really creepy looking.
After that Ashley and I swung by the Apple store so that he could use my employee discount to get some silly external hard drive – which could have been had much cheaper off eBay back in Australia – and then I went back to the hotel. That morning I hadn’t been able to get any breakfast and there hadn’t been any more food provided, so I ended up at about 11am getting fed-up and leaving the conference to go get something. It was a good breakfast, but the damage was done – a few hours later I was feeling pretty poor, and with the walking around the city that got worse. I ended up falling asleep back in my room, for a few hours, and wake up feeling even worse. I took some Nurofen – that I had sneakily smuggled into the U.S. once more 😀 – but that of course takes a few hours to kick in. It did eventually, so despite a slow start at the AUC dinner I did end up feeling fine.
The AUC dinner was at Brandy Ho’s, as it usually is; a pretty posh Hunan Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. The AUC went there last year, as did I – although I ate separately with dad & Cheryl. This year it was good to be with everyone, and share in the massive over-abundance of food. I thought the food was pretty good, especially the dumplings we started on, but others were unimpressed… when the bill worked out to $30US each, including a compulsory gratuity, my opinion of the food wavered. They served so much, it was just silly – more than twice as much as we needed. Granted there were a few unfilled seats, but there were still a good thirtyish of us, so they shouldn’t have over-served us like that. I’d go back there again, but I’d be a lot more cautious about what is ordered.
Anyway, my Powerbook’s battery is now charged, so now I have to get off the power point so others can have a turn. Hopefully my iPod is well charged now, so the flight won’t be completely boring. It’ll be good to home, although I’m sure the flight will be a pain nonetheless. Anyway… I’m off, so, I’ll see people soon, hopefully. 🙂