Home from Chicago

Diogenes's picture
chicago (87K)

So I'm back from the Drupal convention in Chicago last week and it was a great experience (with the exception of the airports and planes). It was my first ever convention, and I expected about 500 people, tops. There were over 3,000.

Chicago has an amazing skyline and some very impressive architecture, a blend of old and new. I've never seen so many cabs or stretch limos, but then I've never been to New York either.

One of the best things about the American experience are the restaurants and the customer service. A waiter is at your table in a minute. If you can make a decision quickly; you can order your meal when he returns with the drinks. I am no longer accustomed to this.

The Sheraton hotel that hosted the convention was full so I stayed at the Palomar - about 15 minutes away. It was a better price, the room and staff were wonderful, and the internet worked, unlike the Sheraton. No regrets at all.

There is a restaurant in the Sheraton called Shula's steakhouse. One item on the menu is a 48 ounce porterhouse steak. I must be in America.

I decided that a nice steak might be found at a Weber's Grill that was close by. It had this cute little Weber BBQ suspended over the sidewalk at the corner of of the building. It was about 8:30 on a Sunday night in early March in downtown Chicago when I set out to find the door.

wrigly2 (21K)

The place was huge, as long as a Chicago city block is wide, and it was completely packed. They told me it would be about a 1½ hour wait. Guess I'll have to come back some other time.

Drupalcon time

There were lots of conference sessions to choose from. I did my best, but it will be different next time. By the last session of the last day, my eyes were glazed and my brain had shut down. I floated in and out of 3 different talks, arriving late and leaving early, a behavior that I had previously considered unspeakably rude. But I was a Drupalcon zombie at that point and had taken leave of my senses. Next time, I'll just go to a bar instead, and join my fellow zombies.

Paying for the plumbing

drupalCon2011 (13K)

One of the sessions was titled Paying for the Plumbing. It dealt with the black art of setting contract rates and selling them to prospective clients. Most in the audience are either self employed or work for very small companies. The top-tier people charge $250-375 per hour, which I find stunning, even though I have, on occasion, paid more for less, which I regretted. But these people are not lawyers.

What really made my jaw drop was a question from the audience. He was self employed, had two kids, and had been contracting for about 4 years. In that time his health insurance had increased by 60%. He was literally paying thousands per month for health insurance. His question was rhetorical - what can we do about this?

chicagoSandstone (66K)

I was staggered. At a conversation at dinner that evening, I asked if this was possible. The answer was an emphatic yes. One of my dinner companions said family health insurance was more than the mortgage. He was maybe 35, with a wife and two kids which he clearly adored. He only carried 'catastrophic' insurance on himself, which meant a huge deductible.

It's crazy. Obama may have changed health care, but he didn't change the system. Who can? And what's it going to take?

iPad fail

Apple computers were definitely the most popular systems in use at the convention. Windows systems were few and far between. There were many iPads, of course, which was of interest to me because I am curious about what the big deal is.

In the exhibitors hall there was a bookstore kiosk that made use of an iPad for purchases and credit card transactions. It had this magnetic strip reader mounted on top for credit cards.

There were only six people in front of me, but I waited at least 20 minutes before getting to the front of the queue. I then had the honor of using the latest whiz-bang technology.

I was asked to sign for the purchase using my finger on the touch screen. I tried - my signature looked like something a 2 year old might produce with inChicago (45K) his first crayon. About ½ way through, I lifted my hand in horror as I realized the mess I was making of my signature. Apparently that was the signal to the iPad that I had completed the task.

I was then prompted to enter my email address for a receipt, since there was no printer. So I punched in my email address into this new fangled iPad like someone who is programming his very first VCR. It helps when there are many people behind you rolling their eyes and sighing.

I've never considered myself a Luddite, but the urge to smash this tablet on my knee was overwhelming. Maybe I'll get an iPhone someday, but I'll wait for now on this iPad thingy.