Wow, so today must be my lucky day or something. I spent the morning the same as yesterday, doing prep work for the same seminar. Yesterday I had gotten two of Tufte's books at the library. We had a break this morning between setup and registration so I was reading one of them, when Tufte himself walks in. First of all, he gives each of the temps an extra $20, which was pretty nice of him. But then he saw I was reading his book, so he invited me to sit in on the seminar, since we only had to work until everyone was checked in. That was really cool -- everybody else had paid a couple hundred dollars to be there. So I was listening in the back of the room and it was very interesting, and then one of Tufte's assistants, who I had been working with earlier, came up to me and offered me a copy of Visual Explanations for free (it's a $40 book). Apparently there was something wrong with a few pages so they didn't want to sell it but it was still perfectly usable. I managed to get it signed, too. So all in all, I got a pretty good deal for two half-days of work.
The talk itself was very good, though I suppose I'm sounding exceedingly geeky, being excited about a seminar in "Presenting Data and Information." He speaks very well, and can be quite amusing (e.g. The Gettysburg Address, done in PowerPoint), but I did think that he could have covered a lot more. He held his presentation to a much lower standard of information density than he applied to visual data. I suppose that made sense, given the difference in media, but I still think he could have done more. And it was slightly lacking in an overall point, though all the examples and details were excellent. But heck, for a free seminar, it was awesome.