After the fun I had at OSCON last year, it was no effort at all for pjf to convince me to spend June and July in the USA this year, conferencing.
I arrived at midnight on the 31st May and was met at the airport by Schwern, pjf and Nadia, who took me onwards to donuts and pies. Having traveled for something like 30 hours at the time I was rather wiped out and probably not as appreciative of this as I should have been, but I soon got to bed and slept very soundly.
Schwern warned me ahead of time that he was going to be a busy, and thus less friendly host, and that he and his housemate Nick had been a little guested-out due to an almost endless procession of house-guests. He must have exaggerated. Between them, Schwern and Nick took us to the local farmers' market, to a parade, to numerous dinners and drinks out, and more. Schwern helped us get to the conference location, and also accompanied me home most nights.
Open Source Bridge
The conference was Open Source Bridge; and it is unlike any community-run conference I've ever attended. It was extremely professionally run, with copious amounts of information, high quality keynotes and speakers, an excellent feedback system... big and little things that the conferences I've been involved with are still struggling with after 6+ years and this was only OSB's second year! My talk was very well received, I was spoiled for choice for every single session and the unconference at the end really just capped things off. It was good to see so many familiar faces, and I caught up with some Australians, and Australian-expats that I hadn't seen for quite some time.
If you get to choose the geek conference you go to next year; make it Open Source Bridge!
More Portland, Oregon
The following two weeks, Sherri and Christie kindly hosted Paul and I. When I ran into some personal issues, I could not have hoped for more generous hosts. Sherri made sure I got out of bed each day, and many days Schwern and others made sure I got out of the house. Apparently we were lovely guests, but really Sherri and Christie were excellent hosts. Sherri cooked copious amounts of extremely yummy vegan food, and let me eat it for breakfast and lunch. They took us strawberry picking, to a great Ethiopian restaurant, and took me to an amazing vegan cafe for breakfast on my last day in Portland.
YAPC::NA, Columbus, Ohio
Next up was YAPC::NA in Columbus, Ohio. Very much like YAPC::EU I felt completely at home in this crowd. It was great to know that I could walk into any conference talk and have a pretty good idea of the topic matter. It did feel a little strange that many of the big names, and the people I view as particularly important knew me, but many of the regular people neither recognised me nor my "handle", but I suspect I shouldn't have been so surprised.
My tutorial was very well received, I met a whole lot more people, learned a bunch of new things, and got all fired up about finishing writing our Enterprise Perl course and documenting perl5i. It was really, really awesome to catch up with Karen, Jesse and Piers again, specifically.
Milwaukee wasn't originally on my list of places to visit, however a friend online invited me to drop by and visit, and I had a few days free, so why not? My friend, Jordi, and Sarah, invited me to stay with them. Jordi is an astrophysicist who spent some of the first afternoon explaining to me how it is that neutrinos do in fact mutate. Which was actually much more interesting than I think he thought I'd find it.
We walked the riverfront, found great restaurants, saw the music festival from afar, went to a nearby Strawberry festival (yum!) and spent time playing with the newly arrived arduino set. I've been wishing I could get involved with arduino for years, but also never been into electronics. Jordi and I worked through the basic tutorials with his board, and I found the whole thing very cool!
To top the trip off, Jordi and Sarah invited me to hang out for drinks with some of their colleagues one evening (they all work at the nearby university). I had a thoroughly good time, and felt I fitted in just fine, even though most of them use Python.
New York City
My next scheduled stop was the big apple. While at YAPC::NA I discovered that a fellow Melbourne Perl Monger (Patrick) had recently moved to New York, and he insisted that we should stay with him. I had some minor adventures getting to his place, but received a very warm welcome, and was glad to take a cold shower. That was the first summer-like weather I'd seen for my whole trip thus far.
While in New York, I explored the New York Public Library (and saw the Rose Room), had a tour of Google with lunch (thank you to Tom Limoncelli), caught the Staten Island ferry, saw the Statue of Liberty, walked down Wall Street (and saw the cordoned-off outside of the New York Stock Exchange), checked out the Empire State building, the Sex Museum, Times Square and the Rockerfella(?) building. Much touristy stuff.
Patrick and Helen were lovely hosts, and it wasn't their fault at all that the temperature refused to drop to something reasonable for the whole time I was in town.
My last touring destination was Minneapolis where Steven Levine arranged an amazing weekend of activities to keep me busy. I did my best, but arrived with the start of a sore throat and fever. I arrived on a Thursday afternoon and first up was dinner with Matt and Deb followed by a scotch tasting. Even though I'm not a scotch drinker, I wished I was well enough to participate, but having already had some paracetamol, I dared not. It seemed like a lot of fun though.
On Friday, Steven took me out to a favourite breakfast location (which we did every day, actually), and then later to a wedding of two of his dear friends (Denise and Jim), neither of whom I knew. Both bride and groom sought me out and told me how glad they were that I could come. There was shape-note singing, morris dancing and contra-dancing and a fantastic time was had by all - especially me! I also got to meet more lovely people including a sweet, sweet gentleman by the name of Mal.
On Saturday we drove off to a little township which has a cafe in a cave, explored some antique stores and enjoyed the river before going to the arts museum (very cool) and then saw a documentary about Joan Rivers (fascinating) and finishing with dinner at Pizza Luce's (with a fun story attached).
Sunday was July 4th. So we started the day with a traditional block party at Matt and Deb's with a children's bike parade (or race), more morris dancing, a jazz band, singing and much neighbourly entertainment. I also managed to squeeze in a chance to run off and meet another friend, Yevgeny, for coffee where we talked about scuba diving and the Con I hadn't made time to attend). We ended the day with dinner with Michael and daughters followed by fireworks. By this point I was taking painkillers every 4 hours just to be able to talk, so I was getting a bit worried.
Monday we'd planned to go to the Taste of Minnesota festival, but I asked instead if I could go to a doctor (after talking with my travel insurance people first). The doctor was lovely, ran some tests and advised me to take various over-the-counter drugs. They helped immensely, and made it possible for me to attend the sea shanty singing that evening (although the drugs weren't quite good enough to allow me to sing).
The next day was a day of sad farewells. I felt so welcome and adopted into Steven's crowd that I would have loved to stay in Minneapolis for another month! However, it was time for my next adventure, so Steven drove Mal and I to the airport and he headed off to work. Mal I and had some minor fun getting through security, caught our planes in different directions, and thus far, lived happily ever after.
Two weeks on, and I might be over whatever it was that made me sick, too.