I haven't had this much fun at a technical convention since Novell BrainShare 2005. It's awfully nice to be surrounded by IT professionals, and to be able to understand what they're doing and why, but not to have to feel emotionally attached to any of it. It's also nice to be under exactly ZERO pressure to appear technical. I got checked in at around 3:00 today, and collected my welcome packet. Then I hauled my box o' drawing stuff down to the main hall with the intent to corner Cliff Stoll, get him to sign a book for me, and to maybe give him a caricature. It worked out better than I could have hoped. Cliff and I ended up sitting and talking for about 45 minutes. He loved the caricature, and we both came away edified from the conversation. He's a brilliant man, and I had him all to myself for the better part of an hour. WHEE! Since I'm here on a stipend of sorts (they're paying me to speak -- I LOVE that) I figured I'd whip out as many free caricatures for the event's organizers as I could (okay, mercenaries like being paid twice, but I wasn't feeling like pushing the envelope). They were universally well-received, which points up another nice thing about tech conventions as compared to comic conventions: What I'm doing is very, very special here, as opposed to being embarrassingly mediocre at places like Comic-Con (or "not big-eyed enough" at Anime conventions). In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king (even if it's not an especially BIG eye). Anyway, I did some caricatures, and talked all sorts of shop with fans and non-fans alike. I met up with an old acquaintance from Novell, ate some hors d'oevres, and then stayed late talking audio engineering, film critique, and SF/F literary principles with a few members of the convention's production team. The hat-tip for the evening goes to Charel of Stone Circle Productions. She and I discovered that we both studied music (Music Composition for me, Musicology for her) and we both worked in the recording industry. We swapped audio anecdotes for an hour or so, likely to the point of tedium for the rest of the folks at the table, but who cares? It's not every day you find somebody with whom you can discuss the more esoteric aspects of a field you spend almost no time in. She actually GOT it when I told her about Rick's accidental acquisition of a pair of Sennheiser mics with sequential serial numbers. Eventually the table-talk wound down and I decided to head out into downtown Austin where Sun Microsystems was hosting a billiards party. I warily walked the four blocks or so through a bar-and-club district, walked around the party for about five minutes, and then headed back to the hotel. On the way back my wary eye picked up a very nervous convention attendee trying NOT to stick out as he tried to find his way home through the probably-safe-but-scary-to-outsiders crowd of clubbers, bar-hoppers, and loiterers. I caught up to him and asked "you coming back from the Sun party?" He seemed very relieved to have company for the rest of the trip back to the hotel. I may not be especially streetwise, but he was walking more like prey, and I figured it wouldn't hurt for him to be walking alongside someone who eyes the crowd around him more like a predator. The boots and the Punisher shirt go a long ways towards helping me pull off that particular attitude. So... I'm back in my room, and ready for bed. If you're here at the event, come get a sketch from me tomorrow in the main hall (sometime before 4:00pm, when I head out for game-time with Evil Stevie). I'll have books available, too.