Friday, June 22, 2012

Good friends and conferences

We are parked at the home of friends near Earlham, Iowa, about a half hour west of Des Moines. No map link today in respect of their privacy. We arrived Tuesday afternoon after the short drive from Dayton; as it happened, our friends were out when we pulled up, so they arrived back home to find a giant bus in their driveway. It was a bit of a squeeze into a narrow driveway under some low trees, but it's a wonderfully shady spot, they have a nice property, and they've generously provided us a 15-amp power circuit.

This last item was plenty to run the air conditioner Tuesday and part of Wednesday when it was quite a bit hotter; it's cooled down some and we're enjoying the shade and a nice breeze. Once the A/C was off our batteries charged all the way up. The other service they are generously providing to us is access to their high-speed network connection, which has been essential for our conference, which started Wednesday and will run through Sunday.

That conference would be the annual General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, to which we are again voting delegates from our congregation, which comprises, among others, many folks like ourselves who, for one reason or another, are not served by a brick-and-mortar congregation. Long-time readers will know that we have attended many General Assemblies in the past, always in person. They are held in major cities with large conference centers, and the last one we attended was in Minneapolis two years ago. We missed last year's event in Charlotte, NC because we sprung an oil leak en route, and ended up diverting instead to the Choo Choo Garage near Chattanooga.

This year's event is being held in Phoenix, Arizona. Before the last of our restaurant investments in downtown Phoenix closed its doors in March, we had planned to attend this conference in person as well, sort of a two-for-one deal. With that motivation gone, Phoenix was long way off-route from Seattle to Sioux Falls, and it's hotter than the hubs of Hades in June, so we opted to skip it.

Fortunately, the organization has instituted a system to engage delegates remotely via streaming video, computer polling, and teleconference technology, and so we were able to honor our commitment to be delegates again this year. There's simply no way, however, that we can stream the video from the conference using our on-board satellite technology. For one thing, the satellite bandwidth is just a bit too low for the video stream to work properly, and for another, that much video would exceed our daily download allotment of 475 MB.

We'd been scratching our heads about where to park to get an unlimited high-speed wireless connection, including researching full-service RV parks and even considering hopping between Flying-J truck stops and buying a few days of their wireless plan. So we are very grateful to Mark and Mary for letting us use their Internet service while we are here. Mark moved their WiFi access point a bit closer to the bus, and I've been displaying the conference video on our 32" monitor, with the audio through our stereo system. It's almost like being there, except I can attend the early-morning sessions in my bathrobe.

When we are not in session, we've been enjoying the company of our friends, who have been sharing the bounty of their enormous garden at meal times. We're done with our meeting for today, and this afternoon we will all be heading downtown to the Des Moines Arts Festival, which we have heard is not to be missed. We'll have dinner someplace downtown as well.

Our conference runs through 8pm Sunday. We are trying to be mindful of our hosts and their schedules, so it is not clear we'll be here all the way to the end or if we will do the last session or two from elsewhere. Whenever we do leave here, though -- Monday morning at the latest -- we will head south and east. (This is Iowa -- "southeast" is not an option, as the whole state road system is pretty much a rectilinear grid.) We will work our way over to the Mississippi and thence downriver to Saint Louis, en route to Kentucky.


  1. Replies
    1. Hi, Lance. Sorry we could not be there in person to say hello.

  2. Sean & Louise,
    Say "Hello" to Mark and Mary Jane from me. After all, one year ago I was there.


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