This trip report describes my trip to Boston and Cambridge in November 1996. While it generally describes the trip quite well, I do consider my trip reports to be somewhat fictious as well, so not everything described below might actually have happened in the way it is described. He, if you don't like part of it, then that's probably what I made up. :-)
Thursday, November 14th
I wish I could say it was one of those gloomy windswept Dutch fall days, where rain pours down hard and continous, and grim, dark, clouds race the sky. It would have suited my mood so well. With hardly any time to prepare, lack of sleep, and a headache, this trip seemed like it might just be getting the worst one yet.
The weather was earily calm, though, almost serene. As I was driving through the Netherlands to the airport the weather had this calm, almost frozen quality. Bright sun and no wind were putting a crisp blanket over everything. Well, the Weather Channel had predicted snow for Boston, so I still had some hope to match the weather to my mood.
The flight was, as usual, uneventful. Next to me a serbian lady speaking no English at all prevented conversation. Good thing two movies were shown: the rock (ok), and mission impossible (well..). The weather in Boston was nice as well, with plenty sunshine to light up the day. And my mood as well, it just seemed easier to adjust my mood instead of the weather. US immigration was friendly as ever, but I didn't have any problems. Really, the only interesting thing happening was the very roundabout way the driver of the shuttle bus took on his trip to the hotels, driving by the same landmrks up to three times. Maybe he was still thinking he was driving a cab with unsuspecting marks? Anyway, I was to tired to even bother, and after a while I did get dropped off at my hotel, just off of the Charles river in Cambridge.
Nothing happened until later that night. I killed the time by watching TV, reading my book, and by having a quick nap. Boring, yes, but also delighful after such a day. We met at about nine to get a drink in the Lobby, but this social time quickly turned into a planning meeting as Rodney showed up. We had vowed to not talk much about upcoming CHI 97, but we ended up getting quite a few things done, even though as I was getting really tired. Maybe I have comitted myself to horrible things. I don't really remember. Yet.
Friday, November 15th
Got up at about 7.30 am. My usual time, except today it was EST. Busy day ahead, with wiring and configuring Internet during the day, and the quintesential conference SV job during the evening: bag stuffing. But first breakfast. Yesterday we already discussed how lost and lonely we would be in this hotel. Nothing exciting in a circle of about 10 miles of travel. An amazing location, considering we were in Cambridge, with Boston on the other side of the river. We had breakfast in the hotel, which was nice but expensive. (The hotel or the food you wonder, mocking my grammar? Well, both.)
After that we started to roll out the Internet. This proved to be no problem, thanks to a skilled contractor and a good feed. There was the usual share of excitement as we found out rooms we wanted to work in were not available, that there was only one outlet in our Internet room with 10+ Macs, etc, but really, all of this turned out to be small stuff. We kept to our schedule pretty good.
When our Internet stuff was pretty much done, bag stuffing was already well underway. I helped move some of the stuffed bags to other rooms, but didn't get a chance to get myself some nice painful paper cuts. Not that I minded. Bag stuffing went well, and ended on schedule. Next on our schedule: party.
We decided on going to John Harvard's brewhouse on Harvard Square. Named after the founder of Harvard University, this pub consists of a large basement, with a packed bar, and a large number of tables. The whole place was packed, but getting a table turned out to be easier than we anticipated. After some 15 minutes we got a large one for all 13 of us. The found was somewhat typical for a brewhouse. Their award-winning Chili got my attention, and it turned out to be quite good. Animated talk and good beer provided a good way to get to know each other. All in all a pleasant evening.
Saturday, November 16th
On Saturday I had my tutorial for this conference, on the much-hyped topic of Java: Java, a language for active internet content. The tutorial was given by Jim Waldo from Javasoft. He presented his material well, and during the first part I got a pretty good impression of the Java langauge, and the way it dealt with some of the object-oriented features in it. I had been meaning to look into Java for some time now, and this proved to be a good and efficient way to get some knowledge about it. The afternoon provided somewhat of a disappointment. Jim wanted to get into distributed computing, claiming early on that a) this was important, and b) Java provided answers for these problems. He addressed his first point in detail, but didn't get to solutions (or rather, told us that if we'd come up with a solution, we'd be rich, and we could become the next Bill Gates. I stopped thinking about it right away. :-)
Anyway, the second point did get somewhat lost, and turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment. I must admit to skipping out early, though, so maybe the last part did provide some interesting stuff.
Skipping out didn't have anything to do with the tutorial in itself, but rather with the arrival of Bruce Damer from the Contact Consortium. He was one of the closing plenary speakers on this conference, and he would also give a technology-intensive tutorial at CHI 97. I decided to look over his shoulder as he was setting up his software.
...and at this point, the original trip report stops. It seems I ran out of steam. Now, a good five years later I can't even work from memory anymore. All that is left are some scraps and notes, collected below...
I recall that this software was Utopia, a virtual world inhabited with avatars. I never cared much about those, even though this one got voice chat. In the evening we went to a middle-eastern restaurant. I do recall that place, so I assume the food was nice.
With recollection spread so thin it's better to just jumble everything together. The conference went on, with more tutorials and a lot of setup activity, including an internet room and getting the virtual worlds demo in Utopia running. We had our conference reception in the computer museum. Lots of exhibits and old computers, but a fun place to explore together. The food seems to have been a bit of a bad deal, though. This was followed by another evening of fun, including beer and, it was in the notes, the coriolus effect in coffee. I'm not making this up... I don't have many additional notes on the conference, other than the closing party in the Boston Beerworks. It seems we had to clear out the budget for that party even though only half the people showed up.
After the conference we had a day of demos at BNN and Lotus. Going to BNN was fun, especially when they found out not everyone was American even though they had just shown all kinds of military things. After that I spent a night of sleep at Mike's house with a bunch of other SV's. We rented Fargo, which I think is still a great movie, and I recall seeing my first annotated music video on VH-1.
The last day we had a real American day. It all started with shared pancake breakfast cooking. Next a road trip to Cape Cod. We stopped for lunch in a place called Sandwich, having sandwiches from Sandwich's Sandwiches. In the afternoon we visited Dennis. The tower we came to see turned out to be tiny. We thought about going to the vineyard but we would have gotten trapped there, so we went to Plymouth instead. Saw the Mayflower II, Pilgrim rock, and all of that Thanksgiving stuff started to make sense. We even visited a cranberries field.
So that's it. I know a lot more things happened during those last days, but I didn't write them down, and now they are gone.