Boston Boondoggle

A while back I wrote about a Canadian fly-in fishing trip my buddy and I took back in 1996. The lake we went to was an old friend by then — it was a trip we took nearly every year for over twenty years (starting in 1985 or so). We’d bring people with if they were interested, but many years it was just the two of us.

This is the tale of a very different trip from the 1990s, although I don’t recall the exact year. I was in that work group in The Company (TC) from 1992 to 1997, so it could be any of the later years in that range. We supported the CAD/CAM system used by company engineers for facilities and manufacturing design.

The trip was to an annual CAD/CAM user convention in Boston.

I lived in New York the first five years of my life, so it’s possible my parents went to Boston and took me with them, but I have no memory it.

This trip is one of the fonder work memories. (In fairness, there are actually many of them. It was only the final year I felt “work sucks” and took early retirement.) This trip was so much fun I wrote a long piece detailing the week.

What follows is a heavily edited version (the original text touched on some proprietary aspects of work and was hastily written). Even so it’s many times longer than what I usually post. I thought about breaking it into multiple posts, but decided to post it all and let the reader decide how (or if) to read. This is essentially a very long “Dear Diary” entry…

The Boston Trip

Took a cab to the airport Saturday morning for my 11:40 flight to Logan Field. I was very early (wasn’t sure the cab would show up in time, or at all, so I left myself plenty of leeway). I was the first one there, but soon others started showing up. Dana, with Laura, came last. His folks bought a ticket for Laura, so they could have a small vacation together. It was good that she came along, since she was our tour guide on Sunday.

The flight was uneventful. I bought a Discman CD player recently to help screen out noise at work, and it turned out to be an ideal travel tool. I listened to music the entire way.

Surprise! The lunch they served us was tasty. Some kind of turkey rolled in bread. It was called “turkey/cranberry”, but I’ll be darned if I can figure out where the cranberry came in.

Logan field is the 8th busiest airport (in the World or U.S., I don’t recall which). It’s also old and grungy. I guess it’s no worse than Detroit. Somehow, I expected more from Boston.

At first it seemed some of our bags hadn’t made it, but after a painfully long time, they showed up. I’ve traveled enough that my carry-on always has enough to keep me going for a day or so. (Fresh underclothes, my toilet kit, a sweater and sweatpants. Also about a dozen CDs. Gotta have my music!)

The Car

I was the only one getting a car, so most of the group headed off to find a cab. Mike and I took the Hertz bus to the Hertz office. I had asked for a Ford Probe, which is a fun car to drive, but they didn’t have any. Instead, I had to settle for a cherry red Ford Mustang convertible (poor, pitiful me; first indication this was going to be fun).

The directions from the Hertz office (computer printed, no less) were very clear, and we only had a short way to go, so naturally we got lost. Boston turns out to be a difficult town to find your way around in (until you get to know it). Lots of one-way streets that end facing an oncoming one-way street. Every time I went for a drive, it was an adventure.

Folk here in Minnesota seemed horrified or scared by Boston drivers (which is why I was the only one renting). I was told several times, “You don’t want or need to rent a car in Boston.”

Well, as it turns out, I prefer Boston drivers to Minnesota drivers. True, you have to be on your toes at all times, and the general speed is even higher than it is here, but the drivers in Boston know what they are doing! I don’t have the impression most Minnesota drivers do. Other than getting lost a lot, I enjoyed driving in Boston just fine.

Still, it is disconcerting to have someone to your left make a right turn directly in front of you. On the other hand, it was so skillfully done that I barely had to touch the brakes.

The Hotel

We were booked at the Marriott, the location of the conference. In fact, the conference was so small (only about 300 people) that nearly everyone involved was booked at the Marriott. Mike and I made it to the hotel after finally figuring out how to get on the Longfellow (aka Cambridge) Bridge and drive across the Charles river to Cambridge (home of MIT; our hotel was in walking distance).

Our rooms were about what you’d expect. At least, about what I’d expect. I heard some complaints, so I think some people expected a lot more for their $150 per night. They were clean and had all the usual things (including a small ironing board and iron). No wet/dry bar, but the prices on those things are unbelievable.

I was up on 17 in a corner room, so the view was really nice. I would have enjoyed being on the other side of the hotel so I could look across the Charles at downtown Boston, but one must adjust to what life provides. I was able to see that view every time I took the elevator, since there were large windows facing that way at each floor.

In fact, I liked the room for being right next to the place where the ice and soda machines were — no long walks for ice! And as bad as my hearing is, I never noticed anyone else using those machines. For all I know, I was the only one.

The First Night

Some of our group was already in Boston when the six of us arrived. Others arrived slightly later or the next day. Those who were there met in the Lobby to go hunt dinner. The convention is held annually, so many of our group knew Boston and had ideas about interesting places to go. This, to me, is better than eating at the hotel or trying to find someplace nearby. When I travel, I hate eating or doing anything I could do at home, so I was delighted to explore.

We went to the “T”, the underground train system of Boston. That was a fun experience and not at all scary (like it can be in some cities). The T is well-lit, well-patrolled and feels very safe. Of course, we never had a reason to be there late at night, and we were always in large groups.

The stop by our hotel, Kendall Square (on the “Red” line) had a cool thing: a set of chimes hanging between the tracks (safe from human fingers). There was a mechanical linkage extending to the platform. The linkage ended in a large handle. Moving it back and forth swung a set of hammers back and forth, and if you got the right rhythm going, you could ring the chimes.

It was actually a bit tricky. There were two sets of chimes, long ones and short ones (these “chimes”, by the way, were long tubes of metal, ranging in the 3 to 6 foot ranges, and about six inches in diameter. The hammers were also long and short. The proper rhythm to get the long hammers going was the wrong one for the shorts (and vice-versa). To really do it right, you had to get the long hammers really wailing and then try to get the shorts going before you killed the longs.

Something to do while waiting for the train.

We took the T to Government Center where there is considerable Boston night life. And on a Saturday night, the place was truly hoppin’. Street vendors and musicians and magicians and people doing all sorts of things. Haven’t walked among that sort of night life since I lived in Los Angeles!

It was so busy we couldn’t go to the originally planned place (the line was very long), so just picked one of the hundreds of places and had a nice dinner. There is a building that consists of two long wings. Both wings are packed with places that sell things to eat — snacks, dinners, desserts (and, oh, the desserts). Most are counter service, but some have tables. That’s the kind of place we picked.

The service was delightful, and the food was fantastic. I had the first of many Sam Adams beers, and the first of many chowders.

And something interesting began to happen, but first I should back up a bit and explain about Bob.

About Bob

We have, in our office, a supervisor named Bob. He is known for several traits: (1) He’s highly technically competent; (2) he does well by his people; (3) he has little truck with social niceties, so he can be very hard to take (he tends to call’m as he sees’m, and the hell with anyone else’s feelings); (4) he seems to have a slightly negative approach to life; and (5) definitely has the attitude that he doesn’t come to work to make or keep friends, but to do a job. (The thing is, I agree with most of this outlook.)

Bob and I had crossed swords a couple times, but nothing serious. Then, about a week before the trip, he and I got into a discussion that got badly side tracked into irrelevant points and he said some things that really hurt my feelings.

I don’t take kindly to being hurt, and my usual response is to attack. However. 13 years at a company like TC (and perhaps, at long last, growing wisdom?) does finally train you to be circumspect in attacking superiors, so I didn’t go for the throat.

Still, it did create bad feelings in me. So much so, that I skipped the company picnic the week prior to the Boston trip. No big deal, really, but I knew my problem with the guy would taint the enjoyment, and I just didn’t feel like putting up with that.

Anyway, Bob was one of the people going to Boston, and he was with us that first evening (and many thereafter). I didn’t talk to him and I kept out of his space. No problem.

At the place we dined that night, he and I ended up across a small table from each other (with two other people at our table and four more of our group at another table directly behind me). Well, I can’t be around someone that close and shun them, so I made up my mind to put what had happened behind me and focus on facts (1) and (2) from the above list. I determined to not let him affect me negatively. And as a result, I began to enjoy his company.

True to tell, «I» don’t have much time for coddling the feelings of others. Facts is facts, and it doesn’t much matter how you feel about them, they is still facts. No matter how nice (or not) you are to your computer, it stills runs strictly on facts. I have a strong regard for that factual-based approach. (On the other hand, I know people are not computers and they do work better when they are happy.)

Well, the longer I forced myself to enjoy Bob’s company, the more I was finding that I actually enjoyed it. He knows his stuff, and anyone who knows me well knows that a primary criteria for evaluation has to do with skill levels, ability and competence.

And, as it turned out, Bob and I had a chance to air our feelings, but more about that later.

Meanwhile,…

The nice thing about that food court was that we were able to split up and seek out our individual ideal desserts after dinner. Being a man of simple tastes, I went for some Steve’s ice cream (coffee flavor).

We walked around a little and checked out the street scene. Then we took the T back to the hotel. Mike and I headed out in my car to buy some soda and snacks (the soda machine on my floor wanted 85 cents for a can of soda, and room service snacks, forget it!).

We found a place only a few blocks away from the hotel. Naturally we got lost on the way back. Oddly enough, we ended up on the other side of the Charles tracing the same routes we had traced earlier trying to find the hotel. Because I had been there once, this time we made it back across the river fairly easily.

And so ended the first night.

Sunday Sight Seeing

We were to meet in the lobby (“by the piano”) at 11 to determine what we were going to do that day. I slept like a log all night (unusual the first night in a hotel room) and woke up fairly early Sunday morning. (Early Sunday Morning for me is anytime before 10.) I decided to take advantage of the car and do a little cruising around.

Nothing terribly interesting happened during my 45 minute cruise, but I did start to get a feel for the layout. I was doing just great, except at one point I zigged rather than zagged, and it took me four tries to get back on track after that. (But it was all fun.)

When I got back to the hotel, I still had about an hour to kill, so I went for a long walk to check out the stuff right around the hotel. There wasn’t much to see (and a lot of stuff was closed on Sunday), but it was good exercise.

It took until 11:30 to gather those who could be gathered (some decided to sleep in until noon). It took a little while longer to decide on what we wanted to do. It turned out that one set of people wanted to do one thing while another wanted to do something else. Actually, the first set wanted to go on the “Freedom Trail” (follow a painted red line through the Historical Sites (and sights) of Boston). The rest of us wanted to do anything but that.

It ended that Dana, Laura, Rob and I went to (1) the Hancock Tower, (2) the Boston Aquarium, and (3) take a harbor cruise. Laura has a sister who lives outside Boston, so she was somewhat familiar with the area. The four of us breakfasted on french pastries and then caught the T for downtown and the Hancock Tower.

The Hancock Tower

Very tall. Great view. Not much else to say about it. It cost $3.

Actually, there are some worthwhile details: First, most of an entire floor is allocated to the view (you’re not on the roof, as such, but on a level with glass windows from ceiling to floor. Panels mounted above the windows show landmarks and give short texts about them.

In an enclosed room in the center is a historical exhibit: a model of Boston harbor (circa 1700’s). A voice-over tells of an important battle in the harbor, and lights above shine highlighting areas mentioned. Little red (British) and yellow (Colonist) lights in the model itself give an impression of troops moving about the landscape. Rather engaging, actually.

Another cool thing is that, in the area that looks out over Boston to the airport (Logan Field), they have a radio monitor set up so you can hear the airport/plane radio traffic.

After the tower, we tried to visit the Christian Science center to view a map (or model) of Boston (or the U.S, or the world… I was never clear on what it was exactly), but it was closed for the day. The buildings at the C.S. center were rather interesting, though. Neat designs and a cool fountain.

From there, we took the T to the Boston Aquarium.

The Boston Aquarium

The Aquarium was, in many ways, the highlight of the trip. I love the sea and anything to do with it. The building is four stories high, but is not divided into floors. Well, not exactly. In the center is the main tank. This is round and extends from the ground to the top. A walkway spirals around it to the top. Windows look into the tank every step of the way along the walk.

Pick your level, park yourself at a window, and just watch the fish go by. The inside of the tank is filled with (fake) coral, so there is a lot of structure inside. There must also be a fairly brisk water current circulating inside, because the fish keep moving at all times.

And the fish; quite a variety. An amazing variety, in fact. There were sharks, a giant sea turtle, at least one moray eel, some very big fish and lots of small ones. Very colorful and fascinating.

We agreed on a meeting place and time and then split up to pursue our interests. We had nearly two hours and there was no problem occupying the time. I’m sure I spent a fair amount of that just watching the fish in the main tank.

The walls of the aquarium, on all levels, are crammed with small tanks mounted in the walls displaying an incredible variety of environments and fish types. They had:

  • a huge electric eel
  • a starfish and sea urchin petting tank (yes, petting!)
  • a manta ray petting tank
  • lobsters and crabs
  • desert fish
  • rain forest fish
  • swamp fish
  • deep sea fish
  • fish that glow in the dark (in a special dark room)
  • a huge whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling
  • displays showing you how fish hear and perceive
  • a tank showing the color changes a depths from 1 to 100 feet
  • table, charts, graphs, pictures and displays

One could spend a lot more than just two hours in that place. I spent 20 minutes making eye-contact with a squid.

It’s a great place to take kids… which was part of the problem… there were many, many of them and nearly all of them were having a screaming good time. It would have been a little more peaceful had it not been a Sunday afternoon, but what the heck, it beats having them planted in front of the idiot box. Who can say where the next marine biologist comes from.

Two more things about this place: The ground floor is mostly taken up by a large pool (the main tank raises from this pool; walkways extend over the pool to access the spiral walkway around the main tank). The pool is filled with penguins! There are even nests with eggs! (On the other hand, penguins, being birds, contribute a certain fragrance to the place.)

Outside is (permanently?) docked a large ship (the Aquarium is in Boston Harbor on a concrete dock). Inside this ship is a large open area with a pool in the center and bleacher-like seats on two sides. The pool runs nearly the width of the ship. Here they presented Guthrie… a 600 pound sea lion. Great show, interesting animal. Very smart!

At one point, the lady giving the show has Guthrie get out of the tank, off the stage and walk around the “auditorium”. I envied the people in the front row… they got to see a sea lion very close up. The trainer also involved two small boys from the audience in the show (lucky boys).

Boston Harbor Cruise

I didn’t mention that, on our way from the T to the Aquarium, we stopped at a street vendor’s for fresh squeezed (like, on the spot) lemonade. Laura got a giant pretzel.

On our way back from the Aquarium to the cruise, I stopped there again for a pretzel of my own. Tasty. I was getting hungry at that point. Laura was right. The pretzels were very “bready” (and I love bread).

The harbor cruise was… okay. It was nice to get out on the water (and do some sitting down after the aquarium). Fairly large boat (or would it be a ship? not sure if it was over 100 feet or not). Had three decks (including the outside top deck), and two unbelievably over-priced snack bars in the inside decks.

Nothing terribly exciting, just a 90 minute cruise around the harbor with the captain pointing out things of interest. The most interesting thing was an old (old!) buoy. What was interesting was that, when the good citizens of Boston would catch a pirate, they would draw and quarter him and then hang all four pieces of him on this buoy as a warning to other pirates. Now, that’s law enforcement with an attitude!

The captain took a little detour for a special sight… the QE2 was in port. He took us right past it. Now, that’s definitely a ship. No doubt on that! The QE2 is the last of the ocean-crossing passenger vessels. Does the trip in about a week. And once a year, it does a round-the-world trip. Starting price for tickets is $55,000! Hard to imagine paying more than I make in a year for a vacation.

By this point, we’d had a long day filled with people and sights (& sites). I had a headache coming on like a freight train. Dana also had a headache. He and Laura had parked themselves on the forecastle deck (the open area on the bow). I had gotten four aspirin from Laura, but they were only holding the worst of the pain at bay.

I thought I was probably suffering from caffeine withdrawal. I hadn’t had my usual dose of diet colas that day. I’d had none. As it turned out, it may have been a mild bug or a touch of food poisoning.

The ship pulled back into port just about sundown. It was very pretty with the sun setting behind the Boston skyline as we pulled in. I don’t think the pictures I took will turn out, but it was worth the try.

That was pretty much it for that day. We took the T back and found that our other friends had already met and gone off somewhere to dinner. That was fine, we’d heard about a place walking distance from the hotel. It was called Cambridge Brewery, and they brewed their own beer. I love fresh “craft beer and Dana is also a fan (and a homebrewer). We went there.

Food: excellent. Beer: wonderful. Headache: trying to kill me.

I could hardly finish my Cajun shrimp on rice. In fact, I only ate the shrimp and then gave Dana and Laura enough money to cover me and headed back to the hotel as fast as I could. Took an overdose of ibuprofen and went to bed.

The Conference

As often happens at conferences like this, they feed you well (if sometimes rather cheaply). Breakfast and lunch were provided. Not a great breakfast or lunch, but interesting and sufficient unto the day. Breakfast was usually rolls of some kind (but good ones). Vast amounts of coffee and a wide choice of teas. Also a lot of juices, which I appreciated. Restaurants often give one such a tiny glass of OJ. The only thing better is endless amounts of bacon.

First day was introductory presentations. It was all interesting, although some more so than others.

Lunch each of the four days was served in a large room. I have to give Marriott low marks for its conference lunch service. That first day, they served a shrimp/scallops-in-cream-sauce thing that, while I liked it, is problematic. Some people don’t care for seafood or suffer allergic reactions to it. Not a great idea for a mass lunch, I think. (Although it is Boston.) One member of our group doesn’t eat things that “live in shells” (interesting rule), and had to wait nearly to the end of lunch to get her alternate.

The service was okay for the most part. The tea I requested usually showed up in a timely manner. No fault on friendly, which, in my book, makes a lot of points. (Unlike the waitress in the bar a couple nights later.)

Monday Night

There was a reception for the conference members from 6:30 to 9. With the conference materials, we got three drink tickets to spend at one of the four bars in the reception room.

They also had many food buffets. The food was rather interesting and tasty. I started with fruit and cheese and crackers, moved to mini-quiches and chicken things and finished up with the Mexican buffet: large chunks of chicken and rare roast beef with cheese, chopped tomatoes and lettuce wrapped in flour tortillas. Build it yourself. Some of us really zoomed in on that tasty beef and chicken!

I’d been campaigning for extra drink tickets (not everyone drinks, and not everyone who does wants three drinks (go figure)). Well, I wasn’t having a lot of luck in that area, but, mid-way through the reception, I got one from Bob and another from Robert.

Robert is hyper-elegant. One would never call him “Bob” — he’s so elegant that my mind couldn’t accept even “Robert” and kept presenting me with “Richard” After all, there have been a number of kings with that name. Anyway, Robert is really cool, dapper, and elegant. Very mellow fellow, as well. I really like him.

Meanwhile, Mike wasn’t feeling well. He felt so bad he gave me all three of his tickets and went up to his room. I think there was something going around, because I hadn’t felt well the night before, Dana had reported a headache and mild stomach upset, and I think someone else wasn’t doing all that great. (I felt fine by then.)

I ended up with eight drink tickets. I didn’t use them all. I only used… five, or maybe six. They had a micro-brewery beer (from Iowa of all places). It was called “Champions” — very tasty.

After the reception, Dana, Betty and I went for a walk along the Charles river and chatted. The weather was fantastic. Then we walked over to the Cambridge Brewery for a last beer. When we got there, we found some friends who’d apparently gone from the reception straight to the brewery. They were having a good old time.

We also met some new friends from Pritt & Whatney (jet engine makers; I jest). One guy, Bill, was a maniac (in other words, my kind of guy). It was a fun night.

Tuesday

The next day the conference started in earnest. Two separate rooms running throughout the day. Generally there was a morning session and an afternoon session in each. You’d pick sessions that were of interest. Each session usually had at least two different speakers, so it was moved right along.

For the life of me, I can’t remember what they served for lunch.

Tuesday Evening — Vendor Suites

Tuesday evening was the “vendor suites” evening. The major vendors hosted hospitality/demo receptions in their hotel suites. The main ones were SGI (Silicon Graphics, Inc), HP (Hewlett Packard) and DEC (Digital Equip. Company — always “dee-ee-cee” never “deck”).

SGI also had their “Magic Bus” parked outside the hotel. It’s a large truck filled with demo equipment. I started there (with Dana and Robert and Mike), because they were giving away baseball caps.

[Ed: This next section, from the perspective of 2020, seems awfully quaint.]

The toys in the Magic Bus were pretty cool (and the sales ladies were very pretty). I started by playing tic-tac-toe on a computer with one at the other end of the truck. We were each at a computer; each monitor had a camera on top. We had two windows on the screen. One window showed two pictures: the two cameras, so I could see her and she could see me (and we could see ourselves). The other window was for drawing or typing. I could see anything she wrote or drew and vice-versa.

FACT: Some SGI sales ladies cheat at tic-tac-toe, because they, “always get their way!”

I also saw a flying simulator and a driving simulator. Both had detail levels that blew me away. Wish I had a home system that good. There were also monitors displaying a looped video tape showing graphics that had been done on SGI equipment (scenes from Jurassic Park, for instance).

After the bus, we floated up to the suites (they were a little spread out: three different floors and only one of those floors had as many as two vendor suites on it). Each had an open bar (no drink tickets required). Better yet, a lot of them were serving Sam Addams. SGI had Mexican buffet, HP had Pizza Hut pizzas. SGI’s buffet was better.

Sun Micro systems was giving away a mini-workstation, but I didn’t win.

However, I was accosted in the hallway outside the Sun suite by the poor gentleman who had the room across the hall. The noise level was pretty out of line and he (the gent) was not a happy camper. Imagine checking into an expensive hotel, probably for vacation, and having this wild party going on across the hall. Door to suite wide open, people hanging out in the hall.

I’d be pissed. On the other hand, it was all over by 9.

Tuesday Evening Continues

The evening had two highlights for me:

Firstly, the SGI sales people all had these cool little badges with a red light (LED) that blinked. These were highly coveted by all who saw them, and I asked repeatedly for one (talk about deaf ears). But Bob, bless his heart, managed to secure several of them and gave me one. The condition was that we had to wear them the next night when the HP sales guy took us out to dinner! Cute, Bob!

Once the suites shut down at 9, Betty, Robert, and I, went for a walk along the Charles (only a few blocks from the hotel). We ended up crossing the Cambridge bridge (the ‘Bridge bridge?) and walking almost all the way to Fenway park. There was a game that night, and we were close enough to hear the crowd roar.

The Cambridge bridge has an interesting feature: the bridge is marked off at regular intervals: 100 SMOOTS, ….200 SMOOTS, ….300 SMOOTS and so on. We found that the opposite sidewalk also has the legend: “Halfway to Hell” on it. It was very puzzling until I flashed on a memory.

My recollection was that MIT students had laid a student named Smoot end to end across the bridge and marked off the bridge in “SMOOTS”. As I was to find out the next night (from the vivacious Vivian), memory did serve me. But that’s getting ahead of the story.

By the time we made it back (about a 90 minute walk), there was no trace of alcohol left in my blood stream, so to correct that omission, I dropped by the hotel bar (with Robert and Betty). We found Bob and Dave (and Pat M, one of our more “demanding” customers) having a good old time. We joined them.

Here we had the one bad waitress I experienced the whole trip. I left her a 2 cent tip on a napkin upon which I wrote: “Next time, please smile.” But, that was later. It so happened that, as we sat there, people began to leave until it was just Bob and I, and, best of all, we were both fairly well lubricated.

Several times during the trip, Bob had mentioned that I, and a couple others, didn’t attend the company picnic. Several times, so I figured it was a significant thing to him. (Well, his team did win the ball game for the first time in years, so he was jazzed about that. He hit a line drive right between the pitcher’s legs!)

I told him why I hadn’t gone: Because I was hurt and pissed at him. At this point, I really had begun to like and respect the guy and was eager to see if I couldn’t somehow clear the air.

The details aren’t important, but we did clear the air. Put our cards on the table. Expressed our feelings and opinions and viewpoints. Bob, like many Minnesotans, does not crave conflict (unlike, say, us ornery Californians and New Yorkers), so he had a bit of trouble with the conversation. Couldn’t make eye contact sort of thing. But we covered the necessary ground.

Bob’s basic points:

  • Not going to the picnic was your loss
  • I don’t come to work to make friends, but to do a job
  • I call them as I see them
  • I know I can be abrasive (but, that’s the way I am)
  • I never mean to hurt anyone’s feelings

My basic points:

  • Not going to the picnic was my loss… and my choice
  • I also call them as I see them
  • I also can be abrasive (but, that’s the way I am)
  • You know, Bob, we’re a lot alike
  • I reserve the right to treat you as bluntly as you do me
  • I intend to earn your full respect

There was a bit more going on between the lines. I think he was unhappy that he’d caused me distress. He clearly knows he affects some people that way. But I had gotten past that, and it was no problem anymore.

He said I didn’t need to work to earn his respect, which I took to mean that I had earned already. He didn’t respond to my several times saying that we were very alike (technical, blunt, fact-oriented), but he didn’t oppose the idea either.

It was, for me, a very good thing. A great weight lifted off my shoulders. I just can’t let a bad personal situation continue, and I will take steps to fix it if I can. After we’d covered all our points, I steered the conversation away from personal and into the technical area that had caused our tiff in the first place. We covered that ground in a very professional way and I learned somethings.

Thing about Bob is that, he is technically astute and has likely considered anything anyone else would suggest. So he can be impatient with others who haven’t covered that ground. I can relate; it can be painful waiting for others to get to catch up.

After that we walked out together. I was headed for a piano on the second floor and Bob came with me. He listened to a few numbers and tendered a very nice compliment. (Life Tip: the best way to respond to a compliment is to just say “Thank you”. Don’t downplay it, don’t over react. Just thank the giver. Turn it around. Imagine paying someone a compliment and imagine different ways they could respond. What feels best coming back?)

For my money, Tuesday night was the highlight of the trip.

Wednesday

More sessions, but none of great interest to me. I attended a morning session, but hung out in the Demo Room for the afternoon. Lunch was a plate of cold cuts and big rolls for sandwich construction…

[Why can you never go hungry in the desert? Because of the sand which is there! Why is a cat in the desert like Christmas? Because of the sandy claws!]

…but I had to steal two unused settings to get enough to eat. Mainly because I didn’t eat the salad… old, wilted lettuce; ugh.

The Demo Room

In the Demo room there were a lot of systems set up with sales persons attending them and demonstrating them. Betty and I discovered a computer that was locked up. There was no owner in sight, so we stole it.

No, just kidding. We rebooted it, but had no idea how to turn the demo back on. Instead, we played Windows games and found one game that was really cool. Kind of a dominoes type game.

You get a square area that is from 2×2 to 6×6 (your choice). The game gives you enough tiles to fit in all the squares (4 to 36, depending). These tiles are diagonally split into four parts with random numbers in each of the four parts. The idea is that the four sides of the tiles are labeled, and your task, should you decide to accept it, is to fit all the tiles in the square area such that the side numbers of touching tiles match.

The 2×2 version is trivial. Often the tiles are already in the correct orientation when the game gives them to you. The 3×3 version is doable, but it can take from 5 to 20 minutes. The 4×4 is hell! Those games took from 20 minutes to an hour, and we usually had to use HINT. I don’t even want to think about the 5×5 and 6×6 versions!! I tried to copy the game onto a blank disk, but when I got home, I didn’t have all the files to make it work. Just as well; that copying was stealing.

Legal Seafood

That night, the HP salesman, Mike, took us down the street to Legal Seafood (the Legal means the seafood is guaranteed to be safe for humans to eat; only taken from known good waters). We feasted like kings! I started with bluefish pate (also known as “Ambrosia from the Gods”), segued to chowder, dined on an inch-and-a-half halibut steak (mmmmmmm), and finished with homemade cappuccino ice cream (3 scoops).

(For extra dessert, some of us walked over to Cambridge Brewery for a porter.)

Some people from TC joined us. I don’t think they were there for the conference, but for something related. I was sitting next to a delightfully vivacious brunette by the old fashioned name of Vivian. She was not old fashioned, however. Truth is she was too young for me, but what a lovely and interesting gal. An MIT grad, so she was able to confirm and expand upon my recollection of Mr. Smoot.

Seems it was a frat thing (this is MIT we’re talking about, so even the pranks are techo). His frat brothers got him drunk and used him as a ruler. The markings are repainted each year with a great deal of ceremony. Mr. Smoot is gone, but his son now attends MIT. Apparently he joined a counter-frat fraternity.

Also, the legend about halfway to hell was done by the same crew, but I don’t remember which is hell, Boston (one side) or MIT (the other).

Local brew pub’s tee-shirt.

My other seatmate was an Indian gentleman (the country India), Gopal. He was fun, too. Both Vivian and Gopal (who work for the Pat M mentioned above) joined us at the Brewery where we all bought tee shirts that said: “Think Globally, Drink Locally”.

The discussions at the Brewery got deep and wide, from why Gopal’s little girl didn’t think she could be president (“But, dad, I’m a girl!”), to what we would do if we won the lottery.

This time Vivian was across the table and I could see what a lovely face she had. Personally, I think she should leave her Minnesota boyfriend (whom she made mention of many times… too many times) and become my sweetheart. We’ll deal with the age thing somehow.

Made some interesting connections with the HP salesman on the walk back to the hotel.

Thursday

We drove out to HP for a non-disclosure meeting. That is, HP gave presentations all day about things that were in the works for the future, and we can’t talk about it.

So I won’t.

But it would probably be okay to mention that they served stuffed chicken breasts for lunch along with a killer chocolate cake. Also, that the drive out to the place was wild and woolly. I was following the van that they’d hired. 70 was the minimum speed! When I braced the driver about it, he told me he was actually going slower than normal. It’s true; other cars were passing us.

Mike and I had a 6:20 flight, so we left a little early to get back to town, drop off the car, and make the airport. Happily, everything went very smoothly, and, but for the fact that they didn’t serve anything to eat on the plane (like I needed it at that point), it was a fun flight.

I was wearing my blinky thing. I told the flight attendants it was my Single Woman Attractor. After all, if it works for fireflies, it should work for me, right? Apparently I’ve not run into any single women since I’ve been wearing it. (Or perhaps it does not work? Nah…)

Mike and I and the flight attendants had a great time, and all of them wanted us to return and “Bring your sense of humor.” It’s true that Mike and I feed off each other and can really get going.

(The attendants were getting beat up a bit by the hungry passengers who seemed to blame the attendants for the lack of food. That’s an approach I really don’t get. Don’t people realize that angry wait persons can piss or spit in your food if you dis them? So dumb.)

Mike’s Bro-in-law picked us up at the airport.

I was home by 10 that night.

The End.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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