So, it turns out that conferences kind of suck if you:
1. Don't know anyone.
2. Have never been before.
3. Aren't really interested in the subject matter.
4. Are too old to drink yourself stupid every night.
I've been to two of these in the last two weeks, and I could seriously stand not to go to another for a while. Not that I don't like HBO as much as the next guy, but in spite of (4), my natural inclination when lonely, bored and slightly anxious is to hit the bar and have that "just one more" that turns into a nagging headache way too early in the morning.
I have noticed that conferences seem to be having a hard time attracting anywhere near the number of participants they are used to having. I'm sure the economy is part of it, but it feels deeper, somehow. Like there is some fundamental need that used to be met by these gatherings that is either no longer needed or is being met another way. Sort of like the way the internet porn has made Penthouse and Playboy seem irrelevant. I don't know if it's a temporary thing, or if the industry conference is destined to go the way of the three-martini lunch.