Arrival

View of Austin from my hotel room

I made it!

Not that it was ever really in doubt, but you never know.

There was a near disaster at Sydney airport when I put my passport and boarding passes in my back pocket, only to have my backpack knock them out. A couple of minutes later as I approached the gate, I pulled out my passport and… no boarding passes. AHHHHH! A mild panic and retrace of steps, and hooray! they were still on the ground. Like a trail of breadcrumbs, I picked them up, one by one, narrowly avoiding an encounter with airport security and whatever bureaucratic nightmare would have ensued.

Compared to that, everything was basically uneventful. United business class is like Qantas premium economy, only at twice the price, but with a fully reclining seat. I actually slept ok. I bumped into John Davidson (@DLLabs) of the AFR on the shuttle to the hotel, and apparently the economy class meals were hilariously awful. I’ll write more on United in a separate post after the flight back, to give them a full treatment.

The TSA are just as lame as they were last time I was here, only with longer lines for the “premium” check area. Almost no one is opting out of the pornoscanners, though there was an older couple: he in waistcoat, jacket, overcoat and natty bowtie, she in matching leggings and shawl, and white socks. For a couple of minutes, the TSA didn’t seem to know what to do about a “female opt-out”, as the agent called her. I was admonished for putting things on top of my laptop, which is fine in Oz, but not here. I guess x-ray machines aren’t as good here, or something.

I was lucky enough to be basically on time in arriving at the hotel (the Austin Hilton, right next to the convention centre), so I had a chance to catch up with a friend of a friend, Ben, who showed me around a little, and gave me a quick bit of history. Central Austin was built on a flood plain that regularly washed away bridges and buildings until they build dams upstream sometime around the ’20s, I think he said. There’s a bridge that in summer hosts a colony of bats, and people swarm the sidewalks to watch them emerge at dusk. The state university campus is huge, and the Delta Gamma sorority house looks like a cross between a motel and a dance club (at least, from the outside), which I suppose it is.

The Austin Hilton is a fine hotel, with a comfy bed and all the pillows you can eat. Breakfast today was at one of the hotel restaurants (courtesy of Dell, they’re really looking after us here): the Liberty Tavern, which purports to serve “American Cuisine”. I had poached eggs with bacon and toast. At least, that’s what I ordered.

A black, bitter, watery liquid they laughingly refer to as “coffee” is free, which is too high a price. It does cut through the strangely cloying, oily texture of the papery shards of bacon-esqe meat. The eggs were poached just fine, and the yolks were a good yellow colour (though not as yellow as my own chooks), and yet they were oddly tasteless. By themselves, there was subtle, decent flavour there, but the delicate taste was overwhelmed by the bizarrely sweet toast. Admittedly, the toast was served on the side, cut into triangular halves, with strawberry jam, so perhaps one is not supposed to put them on the toast? But then how do you mop up the runny yolk? With the “breakfast potatoes”? Actually, the potatoes were pretty good, if soggy from sitting overlong in a bain-marie.

But enough from my inner food-critic! Today is a press day, with a lunch with Dell execs, a panel chat with Michael Dell himself, and something called “Austin City Limits”. I’m told by my friend-of-a-friend that this is actually hard to get into, and is one of the famous music events of Austin, along with SXSW. I guess I should go, even though the line-up doesn’t thrill me personally, unless a more appealing option presents itself.

Onwards to the Dell-ification!

Schwag count:

  • Flights (as covered previously)
  • Room for the week at the Hilton
  • Breakfast
  • Pack of Texas Chili flavoured popcorn
  • Pack of AustiNuts nut mix
  • Quite a nice aluminium coffee thermos thingo
  • Wifi access in hotel and conference

 

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