This is one of my regular disclosure posts. You can read more of them here. This one is about GitHub Universe 2018.
Flights and Accommodation
GitHub kindly arranged for my transfer from Austin, TX to San Francisco, CA on Friday 12 October so that I didn’t have to fly home to Australia in order to get off one plane and immediately get back onto another one back to the USA. I flew on Alaska Airlines, in first class which was rather a treat, and I must say that first class on Alaska is a vastly more comfortable way to spend the 4 hours than economy class on any domestic American airline.
I spent the weekend in San Francisco doing exciting things like working and getting a haircut due to external events not agreeing with my decision of when I would take a break for a family holiday a few weeks ago. I don’t recommend it, as it rather spoils the illusion that international business travel is glamorous.
I stayed at the Clift Royal Sonesta hotel on Geary St, which is next to the Tenderloin and a short (10 minute) walk from the Powell Street BART station, again paid for by GitHub.
GitHub will also be reimbursing me for certain incidentals like travel from the airport to the hotel, though I paid cash for my BART trip to SFO on my way home so doing the paperwork for that is likely to cost me more than the ticket and I won’t bother.
Food, Drink, Etc.
I looked after myself (via my company expenses) for the weekend through to Monday evening.
Monday 15 October 2018
The conference schedule kicked off for media and analysts with dinner at Bar Agricole on 11th St San Francisco. It turns out it’s a couple of doors up from Jamie Zawinski‘s (of Xscreensaver and obscure browser Netscape Navigator fame) DNA Lounge and DNA Pizza that I have long meant to see. Sadly I didn’t get time to stop in.
There were a variety of appetisers, the standout for me being the Jimmy Nardello Peppers which were excellent. The mains of Mt. Lassen trout and braised pork belly were lovely, with the trout being particularly excellent.
A word on the drinks: I struggled with them because everything I selected—and I mean everything—tasted of lemons. Well, not exactly lemons, but the acidic tartness of citrus fruit was dialled up to about 17 on every drink I tried. The only red on offer was a Beaujolais which I normally find too sweet, so I first attempted a local Chardonnay. Nope. Lemons. I had a second sip to check it wasn’t because of something like having just brushed my teeth or similar, but no, alas. I found it undrinkable.
I tried again with one of the cocktails, called a Monkey Gland and this was manageable, but oh my the tartness! I nursed it slowly.
With dinner I relented and tried the Beaujolais and again it was a citrus festival held at peak season but with the addition of a slight fizziness and mildly musty aroma. I realised about half an hour later (I was concentrating on conversation with my tablemates) that the wine was probably corked. It’s such a rare event for me now that Australia has moved almost entirely to aluminium screwcaps that I’m never sure a wine really is corked, but I think this was the problem here.
A hilarious* misunderstanding meant a nightcap cocktail of a whiskey became a whiskey sour indicating that I had inadvertently offended a citrus god of some kind. Is there a god of lemons?
I managed to salvage the situation with a glass of Glenlivet back at the hotel bar, purchased by PR who was also unimpressed by the whiskey sour incident. The bar is called The Redwood Room and is a gorgeously blood-red wood-panelled room full of Art Deco style. It’s really quite something, and worth a look if you’re nearby. Drink prices aren’t outrageous by SF standards.
I’m still not entirely sure the problem wasn’t my tastebuds and/or brain playing a cruel trick on me, but the evening appears to have been an isolated incident and everything else tasted normal from the next day onwards.
Tuesday 16 October 2018
Kickoff was an amazingly bad coffee in the hotel lobby before PR ferried us to the conference venue, the Palace of Fine Arts near the Presidio. The grounds looked to be amazingly beautiful, but inside was just another dark warehouse space filled with the event setup.
Mind you, the event was styled far more organically than the usual trade shows I go to. There was a mezzanine level build on top of meeting rooms and event management areas that overlooked a meandering path style layout where vendor booth spots were laid out. There weren’t a lot of sponsors (it’s a much smaller even than the datacentre-type shows I usually attend) but the layout made the space feel bigger than it was.
The downside of this layout was that walking from the keynote stages to the press room on the mezzanine level was made artificially longer than it needed to be, because the stairs up to the mezzanine were near the entrance to the venue—at the completely opposite end of the venue from the stages. It helped for walking off the snacks, I suppose.
Breakfast was another (much better, but still drip-style) coffee and a couple of small pastry things.
Lunch was whatever they served in the bain-maries for the conference. I seem to recall some broccolini and a sort of slice with lentils. It was tasty enough.
Mid-afternoon I discovered there was a cafe doing actual espresso coffee buried in the back corner near the keynote stages. I resolved to go there tomorrow morning, but had to console myself with standard conference drip coffee from those big steel dispensers.
For dinner my this-is-my-first-trip-to-the-USA PR handler had expressed a desire for some real Americana so I suggested Mel’s Diner on Mission St since it was a) close to the hotel, b) serves classic American diner food, and c) neither of us felt like a late night. I had a Mel’s burger with cheese, a side of American fries, and a vanilla milkshake that was so good I was still thinking about it the next morning. A really good vanilla milkshake restores the soul, and I can thoroughly recommend the ones from Mel’s Diner if your digestive system will allow it.
Wednesday 16 October 2018
PR put us in a car to the venue, and then made a beeline for the cafe to get an espresso. I think they misheard my order for a latte and gave me one with some kind of sugar syrup flavouring that made it very sweet. Still, it was better than the horrible coffee from the hotel. I grabbed a half-croissant pasty thing and a yoghurt and fruit cup which I scoffed quickly as the keynote was due to start in about 10 minutes by the time I got my coffee.
I skipped lunch because there was a long queue for the conference lunch during the half-hour I had available between back-to-back meetings and phonecalls. Instead I had a waffle coated in chocolate sauce and M&Ms courtesy of the waffle.io booth.
So. Much. Sugar. Whee!
At the end of the conference, DJ Mike Hodnick (@kindohm) was live-coding generative music in Haskell using a system called TidalCycles. It was amazing and I highly recommend you check out the YouTube playlist for some examples.
I had a couple of gin-and-tonics as my two included drinks for the reception, and then went back to the hotel with another press colleague via Lyft. I’m not sure if GitHub will be reimbursing me for that or not, but it’s possible, so I’ve included it here.
Dinner I bought for myself at the hotel: a meat board and a cheese board, because it was cheaper than buying a single-plate meal and I wanted something to nibble on slowly as I decompressed from the conference.
- A (brown paper) press gift bag containing a GitHub Universe branded notebook, a GitHub branded coffee mug, and a small plastic Octocat figurine.
- The conference bag which had a larger GitHub branded notebook and a Universe branded pen. The bag itself was a translucent neon-coloured vinyl-plastic thing that I gave back because I’d never use it and maybe someone else would.
- A sider.review branded Rubik’s snake and three Sider branded Rubik’s cubes I grabbed on the last day because they were trying to get rid of them rather than have to cart them all back to Japan. This often happens at tradeshows: if you want a bunch of swag, wander around at the end of the show because the teams usually don’t want to have to deal with shipping it all back to the office if they can help it.
- A Sider branded fidget cube.