Stetsons and morphine

Dave Wilson goes to Texas, buys a hat, learns a lot about technology and ends up in hospital.


‘Let us talk sense to the American people. Let us tell them the truth, that there are no gains without pains’ – Adlai Stevenson.


When the folks at National Instruments invited me to NI Week – their yearly bash in Austin, TX – I was filled with excitement and trepidation.


I couldn’t wait to get a first-hand look at the new technologies developed by a company that has excelled at producing some really innovative products over the past twenty years. Nor could I wait to invest some of my hard-earned pay in a rather splendid new felt Stetson hat, which I was certain that I could pick up at any number of outfitters in town. But I was fearful too. My identical twin Andy would also be at the event representing PennWell’s Vision Systems Design magazine. At some point in time I just knew that there would be trouble. And there was.


Fortunately, before the trouble started, I got the scoop on a number of exciting product developments and applications from National Instruments that will be finding their way onto the web pages of e4engineering at some later date. And I got my hat too. A rather natty looking grey affair with a black leather trim was purchased at the local mall for less than $45.


But, of course, my brother spoiled it all. Last Thursday morning at around 4.30am, if my memory serves me correctly, he called me to explain that during the night his right knee had swollen up to enormous proportions. In fact, it was almost as big as a melon. He was in tremendous pain and could not walk at all.


The problem with my brother, you see, is that he doesn’t know how to pace himself. His modus operandi at any trade event is to get there as early as possible, stay there for as long as possible and interview as many people as possible. And, fuelled by a heady mixture of caffeine and nicotine, that’s just what he did at NI Week, darting around like a man possessed. Until, of course, his leg could stand no more and gave up on him.


Down at the hospital emergency room, he was filled with $200 worth of morphine, scanned by a rather nifty $250,000 GE Ultrasound scanner and sold a pair of $100 crutches to hobble around on. But he was in too much pain to use them. So I pushed him back to the Driskill hotel in a wheelchair and left him there to convalesce for two days while I caught an aircraft back to this green and pleasant land grumbling profusely about missing the entire Thursday morning of the conference.


But not to worry. Thankfully, the chaps at National Instruments had obviously the forethought to plan for such eventualities. In what must have been a Herculean effort, they have put the whole NI Week shooting match – videos and all – on the Internet, where anyone can see for themselves what went on last week. While I’m checking out the half day that I missed, might I suggest that you invest a morning looking at the whole thing, especially the Tuesday keynote <link>here=http://www.ni.com/niweek/keynote_videos.htm#tuesday</link>.


If you’re not impressed, I’ll eat my hat. And believe me, it’s a very big hat.