I am in Denver, Colorado for the next nine days. After that, I fly to St. Paul, Minnesota and stay there for eleven more days. I am doing this in support of Tribune Publishing’s coverage of the two national party conventions. The Democratic National Convention begins Monday, August 25th in Denver. The Republican National Convention begins one week later Monday, September 1st in St. Paul. I am responsible for the networking needs for our newspapers for these two weeks.
Today was my first real day on the job. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been planning this work since November of last year. Then again, a lot has happened in the interim. Plans change. Sometimes plans change a lot. Sometimes plans change and you don’t even realize that they’re now nearly the opposite of what you thought they were in the first place. Or was that the third place? I forget. Plans change.
Anyway. It’s late. And I’m rambling. I thought it would be worthwhile to write down some brief observations about each of my days working on the conventions. I’ve brought the camera with me as well and am taking pictures. However I think I will publish the pictures a bit later, after the events have officially opened. I’ll tell you why a little later.
I don’t want this to be a litany of complaints or details about what went wrong. I think those sorts of entries in blogs are trite to the point of cliche. So I’ll keep this part short: the flight out was uneventful, on time and without incident. The drive into downtown from Denver International was likewise uneventful, on time and without incident. My reservation at the hotel did not exist– due in no small part to the ever-shifting plans of change– but was easily rectified in a matter of minutes. The most troubling moment came when I went looking for the crate of equipment I had shipped from Chicago almost two weeks ago and could not find it. It had not arrived.
The missing crate of equipment is important because it contained the infrastructure for our entire network on-site. Without it, the rest of setup week would be stalled. It contained the necessary equipment to bootstrap the rest of the setup. We finally located it. The crate had made it to Denver, but not to the Pepsi Center. It should arrive shortly. And it did arrive some time while I was away at lunch. By the time I came back, the crate was there. I was able to get things ready in time for the scheduled turn-up with our telecommunications vendor and everything was disco. We were right on schedule.
I’ve been warned that the sorts of obstacles I can expect to run into while working on these conventions are, frankly, not ordinary. Logistical mistakes are common, but the details of those logistical errors are different each time. So the advice is to roll with what comes, make do, and try to do the most with what is available. Keep things simple. I’ve taken these pieces of advice to heart and followed them in my design work. Simple, well-understood technology with backups and then backups to the backups if need be.
After the initial setup of the news bureau network, we wandered around to see how the rest of the final construction was going. We met our neighbors across the hall in our pavilion: PBS’ News Hour with Jim Lehrer. Whirl has asked me if I can get Jim Lehrer‘s autograph. I’ll see what I can do. That might make for a good birthday present for her, now that I think about it.
We went inside the Pepsi Center itself to see the startling transformation from a simple basketball and hockey arena into a dramatic platform for politics. It’s not complete and it still blew me away. The most impressive element is the four-story video wall that has been constructed behind the speaker’s platform and arcs across the ceiling. It was while I was taking some pictures of this wall that I was stopped and informed about the list of people who have been approved to take pictures in the bowl during setup week. — I was not on the list so I made nice and gave my information. We’ll see what, if anything I need to do to get on the list for later.
There are huge security concerns and I’d rather not get tossed out on my ear for doing something unreflected. — That’s not a terribly bad motto for a political convention, if I do say so myself. So I’ll leave it at that.