May Update: Google I/O & Clockwork Alchemy

Farewell to May. This month seems to have come and gone a lot faster than the others. I wonder what happened?

First, an update on my health. The new doctor was very helpful (and very prompt!) and we got the medications I needed right away, which I took for the last few weeks or so. So I would say that my health is improving for a change, but let’s keep the fingers crossed with hope that improvements continue to have an upward path. 🙂

This month there were a couple of events, the first of which was the Google I/O conference in Mountain View. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I work in mobile apps as a UX designer and thought it might be beneficial for me to attend this conference since I was one of the lucky few to win access (Google I/O is notoriously exclusive b/c of high demand, so Google distributes tickets via a lottery system. I got accepted from the wait list last minute, so went).

This is where my opinions of Google I/O take a negative turn. I’ve never gone to a Google I/O conference before, but their reputation as an important, exclusive, event with nice swag and developer experience persuaded me to attend, even though the online schedule didn’t exactly have a lot of panels of interest to me. In the past, Google I/O was held at the San Francisco Moscone Center but this year, Google decided to host it closer to their headquarters in Mountain View by making it an outdoor event at the Shoreline Amphitheater.

To summarize the experience, I would say that the content of the conference was interesting, but the logistics and location were poorly designed. Outdoors in 90 degree heat for a tech conference where most people will have laptops and intentions to do business… set in a location that is difficult to get to by car (and does not have hotels in walking distance) is not a good idea. Unless you were press, there was no place to sit besides the ground and it was a hunt to find any place not directly under the sun. The panel sessions were in closed tents with A/C pumped in, but unfortunately, every tent was way smaller than the number of attendees present at the conference, several only fitting about 50 people at full capacity. You had to line up 30-45 minutes in advance in the heat (on tarmac!) to get in. And the sessions were all back-to-back so if you went to one, you weren’t getting in to the next. I felt sorry for anyone who was there in business casual clothing actually planning to do some legitimate tech networking that day. 2nd day was better, but again… I really missed the presence of actual tables with chairs to sit a laptop on and network.

Unfortunately for me, all this meant I could only get in to half of the panels that I wanted to attend. And the heat made things difficult on my health so I really had to shorten my stay and just go home early when I could (Being in the heart of Google country, traffic around rush hour (which start at 4pm and end around 7:30pm) is near impossible to get through). I heard the concert and after party were great, but without a place to rest or an easy way to go home and come back later (traffic, and lack of parking), I didn’t have the energy to stick around to find out. So for me, even though I wasn’t footing the bill, $900+ for Google I/O is just not worth it, especially when all the talks (the important takeaways) are available for free online.

Swag-wise, I got a t-shirt and a sports bottle. Not quite the “new phone” or “chrome book” of past conferences that Google is known for. We got credits to the new Google Cloud Platform later on via email, but that’s not useful to me at all. Bummer.

But… The following weekend, I went to Clockwork Alchemy!

Clockwork Alchemy is a steampunk convention (convention, not conference… There’s a difference, Google!) held every year in conjunction with Fanime, the anime convention of San Jose. I intended to only go for 1 day but after arriving, I impulsively bought the weekend pass and am so glad I did.

Clockwork Alchemy is small, at least in comparison to its sister conference, Fanime. Held at the Double-Tree Hotel, it takes up several of the conference rooms and the ballroom with various activities and displays. The small size allows them to coordinate some uniquely fun activities, like a scavenger hunt coordinated by the Sacramento Steampunk Society, where you had to find certain vendors (not all of them labeled either!) and perform a task for them (usually something silly, like reciting text) to earn a stamp. Completing the hunt earned you a prize! Which for us (Nite was with me), was a wooden fan and a bullet pen.

bullet pen and wooden fan
The prizes for completing the Sacramento Steampunk Society Scavenger Hunt.

I loved the tea parlor too. And the writing panels I went to were really useful! The war room was a little silly, and a little dangerous (I nearly got whacked in the head when a pole arm ricocheted off someone else’s stick during one of the “games”. The lack of moderation and training made me decide not to stick around for a round 2), but fun if you picked the right panels. Again, I didn’t partake in the after hours activities due to exhaustion, but I think next time I’ll book a hotel room to share with friends so we can retreat during the slow hours and return for the parties later on. I hear the Emperor’s Ball is the highlight event of the entire convention. Personally, I loved the mix of cultures and fandom here. Fanime being a conjoined convention meant we had some people coming in and out of each

deadpool serving cookies
Deadpool donned an apron and began serving cookies and biscotti to the patrons at the Tea Parlor in Clockwork Alchemy steampunk convention.

My favorite event had to be the fashion gallery. What an eerie display! Models stood behind wooden frames and either took a still pose, or moved slowly as if they were animatronic figures instead of real people. It reminded me of that scene from Firefly where they go to Persephone and Kaylee ogles fancy dresses on models in a display window. Very posh-feeling. Of course, the models and attendees eventually started talking to each other, which was less posh, but who cares. It was all done in fun and fantasy. 🙂

A model showcasing a Steampunk dress
My favorite “display” at the steampunk fashion show at Clockwork Alchemy 2016