I was just (Thu-Sat) in Minneapolis for CPTSC. Very quick, pretty good conference. Amy Patrick volunteered to drive; I agreed. On the way there I slept and wrote. On the way back, I drove a lot. I made only one major wrong turn, going about 15 miles out of the way. Whee… regardless, much less hassle than flying, even if took a bit longer.
The first night keynote, in the pattern of conference talks which fail to take a position, but just “present issues,” was underwhelming. The plenary session the next morning was better, especially Dan Riordan’s talk. But the sessions were most rewarding; the “five minutes per speaker, no PowerPoint” format delivered. Every panel I attended was followed with a strong conversation, and while there were a few of the typical show-off or didn’t-listen questions, real engagement was the norm. Highlights: Karl Stolley on integrating free and open source into TC programs; Richard Johnson-Sheehan on sustainability; Gretchen Perbix on TC and IT; Jason Swarts on situatedness and software. And very good conversations afterward with Jim Dubinsky, Susan Katz, and other folks. No strong negatives at the conference, but a lot of little problems: very late posting of information on the web site, some unpolished presentations everyone had to sit through, lots of errors on name tags and in the program, a very cramped and loud hallway outside the session rooms.
Given that I had to do the conference on the cheap, I stayed in a hostel ($30) instead of the conference hotel ($130). Thursday on the way there, I drove through a neighborhood filled with Carribean restaurants, and I ate at a Jamaican place. Buffet-style. Lordy, it was good. Lentils, chicken, goat, red beans and rice, steamed vegetables, rice pudding. I plowed through a huge, heaping plate and pretty much didn’t feel hungry until we left Saturday morning.
The hostel was in a typical city neighborhood, a mix of rentals, beatifully groomed two-story houses, places a little run-down, small apartments. New BMWs parked next to listing Pontiacs. Lots of Somali and other African influences and people. A guy at the gas station where I bought coffee was selling sambousas. Beef, or I would have bought a few. I enjoyed the opportunity to get off campus a bit, though I imagine the folks I heard complaining about the shuttle ride from the airport wouldn’t have taken the bus with me. I was in a room with four beds, but had no roomies either night. And my room really did smell like diesel… thankfully, not the whole time.
But the best experience was two trips to Stub and Herb’s, once for lunch with my former student Joe Weinberg and later with Amy for drinks before the dinner session. They’ve changed hands about a year ago, and their Beer Advocate page reflects a lot of problems which I believe are no longer present. Let me put in a vote of confidence: about thirty taps with excellent variety, local flavor, and multiple beers I hadn’t seen. Our waitress was outstanding. When she began explaning something to me, I started to cut her off, then realized: this woman knows her stuff. I apologized and went on to have a great conversation with her. My bill of fare:
- Tyranena Hop Whore (Am Imperial IPA): powerful citrusy hops, nice balance of malt/hops, and bitter/flavor/aroma. Not aggressive up front, and stronger than it seems.
- Lift Bridge Farm Girl (Saison): lovely pale yellow-brown, with a little funk. Excellent.
- Two Brothers Cain & Ebel (rye ale): nicely hopped, with a little astringency from the rye. Lighter than I expected. Amy ordered one of these after trying mine. “I didn’t think I liked beer,” she said. “You need to drink my kind of beer,” I replied.
- Boulder Brewing Cold Hop (English IPA): very true-to-style English, not outlandishly hopped, pretty solid malt, even that touch of metallic flavor I identify with British beer.
Wish I’d gone back for a few more I didnt’ get to try (Surly Cynic, Flat Earth Onvi, St Croix Maple IPA), or made it to Town Hall. Next time.