AUC Conference 2005 – The Arrival

I’m going to have to cover this in multiple parts, since there’s so much to write about, and I’m a very verbose writer in any case. Part 1 in your local newsagency for the low starter price of $9.95. ;)

The conference was placed in the Wrest Point Hotel in Hobart. Attendees flew in on the Saturday and Sunday, for the conference which kicked off in earnest Monday morning, and ran through to Wednesday afternoon.

My silly mistake to start off with was in choosing flights. There were only a few available, as the booking was to be done in just a few large groups, for efficiency and economy. The selections were made months ago, and I didn’t realise at the time that the conference fell unto to the mid-semester break. Thus, I mistakenly thought I would be missing uni during it, and so endeavoured to return as quickly as possible. That meant a flight out Wednesday night, and a silly early flight Sunday morning – departing 8:25am, to be precise. That meant, what with all the check-in and so forth to be done, that I was up at 5:00am, to be on the way to the airport by 6. My father drove me there, which provided a good opportunity to catch up, as I hadn’t been seen much for the past few weeks, on account of various uni committements. As it turns out, the trip at that hour on a Sunday was uninterrupted, and we arrived before 7am. So, we had a second breakfast and chatted for a while, before I eventually went through the metal detectors and x-rays to the boarding lounges.

I should add at this point that I am most definitely not a morning person. In fact, getting up before 6am usually makes me feel ill, as it did in this case. It wasn’t until lunch time that the “oooh, I think I’m going to throw up” sensation dissipated. Needless to say I wasn’t much with it all of Sunday.

It wasn’t long ago that I was flying to San Francisco for WWDC, and that wasn’t the first time I’d flown by any means, so the novelty had worn off somewhat. Still, I think I’ll always love that pushed-to-the-back-of-your-seat feeling as the plane first takes off, and will hopefully always appreciate and admire the amazing view one always gets from a plane. The world looks so simple and small, even from only a few kilometres up. I was one seat away from a window, 6E, so I could still see out the window. I sat next to a very pleasant older lady – and I say older in the nicest possible way, since she was probably in her fifties or possibly even sixties, but was mentally a far cry from the stereotypical senior – and on the other side a web designer, probably in his thirties or so. As is always my way, I can’t for the life of me remember either of their names. I’d forget my head if it weren’t screwed on.

Anyway, they were quite pleasant company down to Hobart. It was interesting the route we took – heading west for a wide berth around the city, then cutting across Rosebud (or thereabouts) on the Mornington Peninsula, to then turn south and cross over Philip Island. It was sporadically cloudy most of the way, so I didn’t see all that much. I would have loved to have seen more of Tasmania as we flew over, given it is reputably such a beautiful scenic place, but alas I was granted only a few brief looks as we descended into Hobart International Airport.

It’s odd how changes in pressure can effect you. Having had the flu (or somesuch) for nearly two weeks by the time of this flight, my sinuses were quite well blocked. As we flew up and decompressed slightly, my sinuses cleared very nicely, and I was having a great time. Of course, once you start to recompress on the descent, well… it can get icky. More worrisome was the pain I experienced in my neck – feeling very stiff and as if all the blood was at a very high pressure. It almost felt like I was heading towards passing out. I nearly called for assistance from the air hostesses, but didn’t want to worry anyone – most of all myself, I suspect. So, I toughed it out. It lasted only a few minutes, although after landing I did still feel a little stiff. We did descend very fast, I thought – a sentiment shared by many others, including those on other flights that day. Perhaps it is just the way it goes flying into Hobart.

But in any case, I did arrive safe and sound at Hobart International Airport. Which, if you’ve been there, you’ll no doubt find an immensely humorous name. As someone later joked, they could barely fit the name on the building. The first thing I noticed was that the only aircraft in sight, parked right under the name, was a two-seater light plane and a tiny Leerjet-style craft. I half expected the mayor and some locals to be greeting us in our great huge flying device. :)

Quite a few people were confused once they walked off the plane – which of course meant down the steps onto the tarmac, and then the short distance into the one and only building. I myself walked in and nearly all the way out of the airport before I realised that, yes, really, that was it. Several people were audibly confused that they could not see any baggage carousels. As it turns out, the “shed” we were in sufficed as baggage pick-up. 50 feet or so away it was hauled off the plane onto one of those baggage trains, which was then driven into the shed alongside us. We then watched for a few minutes while a beagle was instructed to thoroughly trample our belongings, before finally being able to pick them up and depart.

I found myself onto one of the standard airport<->hotel buses quite quickly, and was on my way. It was quite funny – there were at least 30 AUC people on that flight, possibly more. Indeed, we may well have consisted of the majority of the passengers. Yet I was not forward enough to introduce myself – it seemed everyone else knew everyone else, and in my groggy early-morning state, I wasn’t mentally equipped for actual conversation. My iPod served as a convenient escape.

Anyway, the situation on the bus was more or less the same as the plane – in fact I think only three or four of the 15ish people on the bus weren’t heading to the AUC conference. I found myself sitting just in front of two rather attractive women (older than me a little, I think, but well within my interest). Now, I’ve never been to an AUC conference before, but I do know geek events in general, and knew the odds of any woman being involved is pretty slim. So I presumed these two were unrelated to us. A pity – of course they were attending the conference, and I should have used that fact to generate some appropriate line. But, poor shy old me, no, I couldn’t summon the courage. In any case, I was enthralled with the scenery as we drove from the airport, through Hobart, out to the Wrest Point.

I must say that Hobart is probably the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. It reminded me a little bit of Sydney, only without the snobs and much nicer, and quainter. It’s so hilly, as is most of Tasmania, that nearly every house has a beautiful view over the Derwent River (which is bogus – it’s salt water and no more a river than the Yarra is to Port Philip bay, but anyway)… although I did notice that there were extraordinarily few blocks larger than about a quarter of an acre, which seemed extremely odd. Even the brand new housing estates we passed on the way, which were a good 10 minutes east of Hobart centre, were poky little quarter-acre affairs. Very strange.

Now, the check-in time for the hotel is officially 2pm or somesuch, which meant up to four hours of waiting around, potentially. They had a concierge for baggage storage, so it would have been all right, but as it turns out I was lucky enough to have a room already ready, at 10:30am or so, which meant I was straight up to drop of my crap and relax… which involved a little bit of poking around on my Powerbook – more in a moment – followed by a nice healthy nap for two hours. That brought my total sleep up to somewhere in the vicinity of seven hours, which got me through the rest of the night.

What really stunned me more than anything else that day was the view from the hotel room. When I came in the shade curtains were drawn shut… I opened them and was blown away. I was on the 9th floor, facing east, more or less. To the north I could look up the river to Hobart centre and the bridge, and to the south down out towards the Tasman sea. I was actually laughing out loud to myself at this, thinking that the AUC had really done us up sweet. I sat for a good ten minutes or more just admiring the view. I even messaged my mother, father and Bobo to tell them I’d arrived safely, and that the view was fantastic. They all thought it quite uncharacteristic, which emphasises how amazing it was.

Of course, being a true geek I inevitably whipped out the Powerbook and iSight, to try and capture the beautiful view. Unfortunately my iSight has decided not to do infinite focus anymore, so it’s all a little blurry. :( The photos are available here.

So, after a little nap and once settled in, I head downstairs and wandered around a bit, to get my bearings and see what the hotel had to offer. There were numerous restaurants and bars, a very nice outdoor area (as shown in the photos), and of course the casino areas. I never ended up going into the casino proper, although I’d wanted to – apparently no one else was willing to spend $10 or so for a half hours entertainment. :)

Eventually of course 5:30 rocked around, and it was time to the welcoming reception… which I’ll write about in the next instalment. :)

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