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June 17th, 2003

On "working" weekend trips

The vendor customer symposium was pretty useful. The company's not too huge so we actually get to hear from the CEO and the actual product managers, not any PR tools. Although someone from PR did approach me to see if I'd be willing to talk to the press about our implementation of their equipment. I guess so... we're reasonably happy with it. I had to filter out the flattered reaction I felt first, though, in order to give her a true answer. So I guess I'm supposed to be hearing from them in a couple weeks. We'll see if they follow through.

I'd never been to the Napa valley before and found it very pretty, if very odd and forced. It's extremely touristy, and of course there is NOTHING growing except wild scrub and grapes, grapes, grapes. We had a few interesting conversations with the locals about the dangers of monoculture and how fragile it made the valley and its huge winemaking economy: any agricultural pest that attacked the grapevines and that they couldn't stop easily would literally wipe out the entire region.

Had wine (of course: it was Napa) and food events both nights, and our choice of three social outings on Saturday: golfing, the Napa wine train, or a Napa "arts tour". Kate doesn't drink and neither of us play golf, so we opted for the latter. This turned out to be the least popular event, so there were only three of us being led around. Not exactly social, but it did mean we had an almost personal tour of some really neat things, including COPIA, which is the "American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts." It's kind of hard to understand... there are living exhibits in the form of large garden squares, each with a different theme and story; there are cooking and wine demonstrations in a first-class demonstration kitchen and amphitheater, plus there is an "ordinary" museum with exhibits about food, the history of food, and food in different cultures and societies. We really enjoyed it.

I do wish I could be a better "schmoozer", though... seems like a lot of personal networking happens at these things just by people (brazenly, to my eye) walking up to other people and introducing themselves. I guess that's "how it's done" but it is very difficult for me. I managed it more often than I thought I might, though.

on schmoozing

On the aforementioned flight home, I sat next to two girls who had just graduated from UC Davis the day before and were now headed to Spain for two months. We had some pretty good conversations, and they seemed really cool.

To practice my social bravery, I forced myself to screw up my courage to ask them if I could buy them a drink to celebrate their graduation since we all had a couple hours' layover at O'Hare. I finally did so, and they politely declined, but at least it served to reinforce in my head the reality that the world doesn't end when things like that happen.

So I had a beer by myself anyway, and you know, it was just fine.

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Charley

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