The Missouri geek camp and bar-b-que

The time, 5:15 pm, August 19th. The place, St. Louis, Missouri….

“Good afternoon campers, and welcome to GeekCamp 2005!”

Happy Camper One: “Yeah, yeah, hi, hi, where’s the air conditioning?”

Happy Camper Two: “It is so hot, my fucking TiBook is melting.”

Happy Camper Three: “Hey, don’t stand so close! You’re sweating on my iPod!”

Happy Camper Four: “You take a picture of me right now when I look like this, and I will hurt you. ”

Happy Camper One: “What’s the Flickr tag for this anyway? ‘hellcamp’?”

The time, 11:45 pm, August 19th. The place, a bunch of tents on a lawn, in St. Louis, Missouri…

From one tent: “What bit me! Something just bit me!”

From a second: “What was it?”

First: “Some kind of brown spider. It was in my sleeping bag, and when I crawled in, it bit me!”

Second: “Wow. That’s like, really too bad.”

First: “What do you mean, that’s like really too bad!?”

From a third tent: “Where did it bite you?”

First: “On my ankle, just above my tatoo.”

Second: “Well, then, that’s okay. You wanted to get rid of that tatoo anyway.”


The time 6;45am, August 20th. The place, a big outdoor tent with lots of tables and chairs.

Overheard: Do I want some grits? How would I know? What the hell are ‘grits’?

Geek A: “So what sessions are you going to?”

Geek B: “There’s a hands-on session on Google maps and satellite tracking I’m going to this afternoon. Should be awesome.”

Overheard: Do they serve pork at every meal here?

Geek A: “That one is held outdoors, you know.”

Geek B; “On the other hand, the session on weblogging, should be fun. Can never attend too many sessions on weblogging.”

Overheard: What is that crap you’re eating? Biscuits and what? Looks like something you’d see on the sidewalk in the Mission District.

Geek C: “There’s a Dukes of Hazzard gadget car demo this morning that sounds cool.”

The time, 4:00pm, August 20th. The place, the asphalt in front of a big building, in St. Louis, Mo.

Sunburned Geek One: “Hey, I had a chance to meet with Larry Page!”

Sunburned Geek Two: “Cool! What was he like?”

Sunburned Geek One: “Well, I don’t know. When I walked up to him, his face was really red and clammy looking, and his eyes were kind of glazed. When I said, ‘Hi’, he sort of gurgled and then fell over.”

Sunburned Geek Two: “Wow!”

Sunburned Geek One: “Yeah, last time I saw him, they were taking him away on a stretcher.”

Sunburned Geek Two: “Man, poor guy.”

Sunburned Geek Two: “So, did you get your picture taken with him?”

The time, 4:15pm, August 20th. The place, the same asphalt, in St. Louis

Sunburned Geek Three, walking up through the tall, tall grass: “What are you guys doing, standing on that hot asphalt instead of the grass.” Shakes head, and starts walking away. “Jeez, you losers.”

Sunburned Geek One (whispering): Should you tell him, or should I?

Sunburned Geek Two (whispering back): No, let’s wait until he gets completely covered, then we’ll tell him.

The time, 9:00pm, August 20th. The place, kegger, right next to tents.

Slightly drunk, sunburned, geek camper A: “All they got to drink is Budweiser.”

Even more drunk, sunburned, geek camper B: “Well, it’s made here so it makes sense that’s what they would serve.”

camper A: “Tastes like piss.”

Stumbling, drooling, geek camper C: “You guyz shuuld try the stuff in the jars.”

camper B: “What stuff in what jars?”

camper C: “Ish over there” Pointing. “Shee? The clear stuff. Oh hey! Thars roast pig butt over there.” Weaves away.

camper A: “Let’s go try that clear stuff.”

camper B: “Okay, I’m game.”

Suddenly, a voice raises above the noise of the crowd…: “Oh my god, I’m blind! I’m blind! I can’t see! I’m blind!

camper A looks at camper B. Camper B looks back.

camper A: “On the other hand, I like Bud.”

camper B: “Yeah. Cool horses.”

The time, 4pm, August the 21st. The place, the large meeting room at Geek Camp.

“Well campers, I want to thank you for coming, and we hope you got as much out of this event as we did.”

You are really covered in bug bites. Do they itch?

“This year’s GeekCamp was the best ever!”

I heard that Page was running down the hall at the hospital, bare ass naked, tapping people on the head and crying out, “You’re a 6″, “You’re a 8″.

Better sell your Google stock.

elsewhere: I’m peeling so much, I look like a snake.

Yeah, but at least you’re not blind. I heard…

“It’s going to be tough to beat this year at next year’s GeekCamp.”

You couldn’t get me back here if you paid me.

You could promise me links from both BoingBoing and Slashdot, and I still wouldn’t come back.

I wouldn’t come back even if they filled the room full of VCs with money to burn.

“Unfortunately, next year we’ll only have space for about half of you, so we won’t be able to invite some of you back…”


“Now wait just a minute!”

“I was really looking forward to returning next year…”

“How could you say that we’re not invited back…

And so ends the Missouri Geek Camp and Bar-B-Q for 2005…

Just a little southern geek humor…

Insects outdoors Photography Places

Last call

I’m off tomorrow into the wilds of the Ozarks, into that part of the state new to me. There will, of course, be photos when I return, but maybe code, too, as I like to work on code when I’m in a hotel room — gives me something familiar.

Today, though, I went to the Botanical for another chance to get photos of the water lilies. Last chance, really, as the summer is waning and you can see this in the richness of the trees, and the activity of the insects. Particularly the insects, as the garden was ripe with butterflies today; so with yet more water lily photos you’ll also be getting yet more butterfly pictures.

Next time: code, I swear. And pictures of something different, I hope.


Still, I don’t think I can or ever will, get tired of being surrounded by butterflies and water lilies. It’s like you’re in the middle of a cartoon drawn by a young child with a new box of Crayolas. Everywhere you turn, you see another bright splash of color.


In the Spring, the insects are lazy, shy, and elusive. Today, though, you could almost reach out and hold them they were that close. But they were moving, constantly, which made getting a photo a little challenging. Now is the last chance for the bees to get nectar for the hive; the butterflies to store up energy to finish the migration; the dragonflies to, well, I don’t know why the dragonflies were frantic.

Not just the bugs, the photographers were out in force today, even at the 7am opening of the garden. Of course, the weather was going to be hot, and the sun isn’t that good for photography, but I must have ran into a dozen photographers within one hour. Most had tripods, a few were like me — just winging it.


Today’s bright and busy activity reminded me of years ago when I would go to a bar, and the bartender or band would announce last call. The lights would come up in the place, and people would scurry about, making good on the last few moments before having to head out into the night.

This girl would run up to her friends and whisper something into their ears and they would giggle and leave; that young man would be writing a phone number down in a match book. Of course now everyone carries pocket computers and cellphones and numbers would be jotted down into some kind of electronic device, but it’s not the same.

Friends would come together and split apart, some for home, others for another party somewhere, yet others to go to breakfast. And not just a small breakfast, either. I don’t know what happens now, in this Atkins Diet time, but back then, it was large, it had eggs, and it had potatoes and butter. Mega-cinnamon roll was optional.

There was one place in Seattle that was famous for the after hour breakfasts they’d make: huge plate size omelets covering a bed of crisp, perfectly done hash browns, served with good, hot coffee–all accompanied by thick, buttered toast and real preserves. The place was small, and people would be lined up for a block to get in, it was that popular. We’d sit there and laugh about the night, none of us wanting it to end–caught up in that perfect moment that’s not quite morning, but not evening either.


I remember a morning just like that in Salt Lake City, walking all night with friends, greeting the dawn with outstretched arms. The last of summer, and summer’s golden light.

This is a good time of year. The roses and other flowers have started to wilt, but in doing so they let out their richest scent. The leaves are at their darkest green, just before they begin to turn. Birds are everywhere, no longer bound to nests or to mating, and free to fly, and sing, just for the joy of it. It’s warm, but we’re starting to get a cool breeze now and again. And of course, all those butterflies.

I did like to walk among them today. They’re not shy of you at all, unless your shadow falls on them and then they take off into the air. As I walked by the rows of flowers, butterflies would leap into the air behind and around me, as if I were a June bride. My last chance to be a June bride, really, as I’m of an age with the summer.


Photography Places

Blazing sunshine

A two day trip to the Ozarks can seem like a week, and I mean that in a good way.

Sunday I drove down I44 to 63 and then eventually to a series of back country roads where the only company I had was the ubiquitous white pickups and motorcycle riders. The recent rains have saved the Ozarks and by the rich green color, I think we’ll have a good fall, at least in the hills. And I didn’t kill one creature as I covered the windy, hilly roads, which we can count a good thing.

Sunday ended up being hot and like other Missourians impacted by the high gas prices, I kept the windows down the the air conditioner off. I developed a habit of driving one handed, the other resting on my door, which I think makes me look rather wordly, especially when the wind is blowing through my curls and I’m wearing my Big Sunglasses. Of course I ended up with a truck driver tan–one arm burned a deep brick red, while the other is a pale honey color. Or dead fish, if you prefer.

Fish. Fish was the operative word this weekend, as everywhere I went I talked with people who told me stories or who fished. Can you imagine a better weekend?

I stopped first at Rockbridge Mill, arriving in the early afternoon under 90 degree sun. Few of the pictures came out but I got a couple: one of the mill, and one of a very lucky angler.

Rockbridge Mill

Success comes in wet packages

The water was low, which wasn’t surprising for this time of year and the drought we’ve had, but it was high enough for the trout to move, and as I got to the falls, a lady who was fishing had just pulled in what looked to be a monster fish. She was kind enough to pose for the picture, which was one of my favorite from the trip.

She said she’d gone out for a relaxing hour or two of fishing, but no sooner had she put her line in then a fish caught it, and she was finished in 10 minutes. She was pleased at catching the fish, but since the river is ‘catch and keep’, she had to stop at the point. I think she was disappointed at having success come too quickly. There are people who fish to catch fish; then there’s the lucky bastards.

From Rockbridge I followed more windy, hilly back country roads to Hodgson Mill. I had read it was under restoration, and was pleasantly surprised to see it fully restored. The sun, though, was just too bright and I really couldn’t get a good picture, and had to settle for a photo of the watercress growing along the spring.

Watercress and Waterfall

From Hodgson to Dawt, where the place was full of innertubers, but I had a monstrous headache by then, so I didn’t stay long, and headed to 160 to Branson.

I was lucky to have light traffic my entire trip, which was good because 160 is nothing but 35MPH corners, which can be fun to drive, but can also be exhausting at the same time. Happily Branson is odd enough and colorful enough to wake the dead, much less a tired driver.

What can I say about Branson? It is a town that is based on early tourism because of the nearby lakes, such as Table Rock lake. As it grew, though, it morphed into something really different: a town carved into the hillside above the lake, full of hotels and inns all decorated to a theme, full of shows. Each hotel, inn, store, has a videoscreen that displays bits of the shows currently playing. And neon lights, of course. It’s like Vegas, but without gambling.

I got lost twice, because I would be driving along, mouth open as I was blasted by all the videoscreens, and would miss a turn. When I finally got to the hotel where I was staying, Welk Resort, it was late afternoon and just starting to rain.

The hotel clerk was exceptionally nice, and when I told her I was out ‘milling’ she told me about the mill in use at the College of the Ozarks (more on this in a separate post sometime). As we talked, I could hear a tapping against the window and we were both surprised when we found ourselves in a monstrous storm. I quickly unpacked my car and in my room watched as we were hit with hail, and microbursts grabbed the poolside furniture and tossed them about. It was a really nice show.

I walked around downtown Branson for a little while, taking a few pictures. They don’t do the place justice. It is a one of kind place. I wish, though, I had grabbed a picture of the Peace Frogs Cafe. Next trip, it’s on my must see list.

I’ll cover the next day in a separate post.