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Mike Pirnat

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Memories of PyCon

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About two weeks ago, Jesse Noller was soliciting favorite PyCon memories. I started jotting down a few, then suddenly realized I had written quite a bit more than I'd expected, so I'm turning it into that rarest of creatures in my online life, a full-blown blog post! In more or less chronological order (I make no guarantees about wibbley-wobbly, timey-wimeyness that may occur), here are just a sampling of my favorite memories of PyCon.

PyCon 2005 was the first time in my career that I'd been able to attend a developer conference, and it was on the flight back that I realized that Python might in fact be my programming language soul mate. I'm pretty sure Alex Martelli's epic two-part talk grew my brain by a size or two.

A convention of vacuum salesmen loudly occupied the main convention space while I sprinted with the TurboGears folks in 2006. I still kind of wish we'd crashed the "Vacuum Assassination" breakout session to see what it was.

I had a fun evening of dinner and drinks that year with a gaggle of Python folks: Mark Ramm, Kevin Dangoor, Dave Stanek, Bill Zingler, Ian Bicking, Jacob Kaplan-Moss... We all got a good laugh at the guy who parked his BMW underneath a veritable rainstorm of incontinent birds. Alas, we never did carry out our plans to streak at a Ruby conference.

I had breakfast with Ned Batchelder outside the main hall the morning of my Dateutil talk(2007?). He was so very gracious and welcoming that I was able to put aside my anxiety about my upcoming talk; the experience has really inspired me to be more social at PyCon and to make a point of meeting the people that I regularly read and admire on the Planet Python feed.

I brought my DSLR to PyCon 2008 and shot a lot of photos, a number of which ended up being incorporated into the banner montage on the PyCon website. I think about six or seven of the images on the PyCon blog banner (before the recent redesign) were mine, and it made me smile every time I saw them there. (I was actually in the banner for a couple of years, which felt kind of awesome.) It's nice to know that even if you aren't hacking on the standard library, or working on other well-known Python packages, you can still make meaningful contributions to the Python community in a host of other ways.

Tarek Ziade gave me a one-on-one tour of his Atomisator over lunch at PyCon in 2009, and then we talked about life and family and French wine... I felt very fortunate to have been given an hour of his time. His generosity and openness were truly inspiring.

Speaking at the TiP BoF in 2010... I didn't have my laptop with, so I didn't have any slides to add Testing Goat pictures to (long story). I invited Gary Bernhardt to portray a goat, and to my amazement, and to the significant amusement of all present, he did. I love the good-natured sense of humor that pervades the community.

At the 2011 TiP BoF, I showed off an extremely evil use of Mock to work around horrible legacy code, and it earned me a personal reprimand from Titus Brown (another of my Python heroes). I'm not sure if the ire was sincere or just extremely droll, but either way--achievement unlocked: scolded by someone whose work I admire!

Formally launching my hobby site How Old Is My Kid at the 2011 lightning talks--in front of an appreciative crowd of over a thousand Pythonistas--was definitely one of the top thrills of my life.

I've given three formal talks at PyCon (2006, 2007, 2011), and each of them has been an increasingly wonderful experience, but the stand-out has to be my 2011 talk. I'd been stressing about it for months, and, more worried than I'd ever been about any of my previous talks, tinkered on the presentation right down to the last minutes before I went on stage. Everything clicked, the audience got it--laughing and wincing at all the right places!--and the only thing more amazing than the love and appreciation from the crowd was the bizarre sensation of my phone, set on vibrate so that it wouldn't accidentally make any noises to distract me, and placed in my pants pocket, going crazy with Twitter notifications while I spoke, and for hours thereafter. Keeping my composure while my pocket was vibrating uncontrollably was harder than giving my talk!

Taping down power strips before the 2011 tutorials led to meeting new friends, catching up with others, a delightful dinner and conversation with Guido and the inner cadre of PyCon organizers... but most importantly to a feeling of pride throughout the conference--PyCon was part mine in a real and tangible way.

The best thing about PyCon is the feeling, upon arrival, of being home, of being with one's own kind. Forgotten memories come flooding back, friendships are instantly renewed, new ones are quickly forged, and the whole thing just feels right. At PyCon, we are all the "cool kids". And if we put our minds to it, we can do anything.

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