Fun in the Sun

I’m back in Silicon Valley after a long, circuitous transcontinental journey across that saw me in Orlando, Charlotte, Houston and San Jose. From that 12-hour odyssey, I can confirm three things: America is as beautiful as ever; I need to cash in airline miles earlier; and never eat Tex-Mex at an airport.

The conference was fun. I had a great time, learned a lot, caught up with a lot of old friends, and i made a few new ones.  And a few amusing things happened…

Best Line of the Conference

First Prize: Jeff Foust, talking about Virgin Galactic’s emphasis on safety (paraphrased):

“George Whitesides has said ‘safety is the North Star of our company’ so many times that they’re going to have to name one of their vehicles Polaris.”

Runnerup: Virgin CEO George Whitesides (paraphrased):

“Building a spaceship is easy, PowerPoint is hard.”

Best Way to Eliminate the Gap

Invite Will Pomerantz to a launch. Virgin Galactic’s new vice president for special projects has been down to the Cape six times only to have the shuttle launch canceled on him. If his luck holds, we’ll still be trying to fly the last two shuttle flights in 2020. Plenty of time to field a successor.

Best Watering Hole to Avoid

Applebee’s on Karaoke Night. A bunch of us went over on Tuesday and ran into the bane of anyone who wants to kick back after a long day: screeching American Idol wannabes. Some were not bad, but there were a few that were so awful that we asked the manager to turn down the sound. (What can I saw, we’re old and we just don’t like loud noise!)

I got into the act with Del Shannon’s classic, “Runaway.” My friends seemed sufficiently impressed, and there’s a picture of me singing out there somewhere. I was happy that they had left before my slightly off-tempo “On the Dark Side,” which I blame on the highlighting function being slightly behind schedule. I swear, it wasn’t my fault! Really!

Biggest Irony

It was a high-tech conference with everything — except power strips. The conference room appeared to have exactly one strip with six plugs for reporters and others to power up their laptops. When the room was divided into three to accommodate parallel sessions, two of the rooms had no power strips at all. Somebody missed that on the pre-conference walk through.

I guess building a spaceship is easy, the power strips are hard.