Sunday, March 24, 2002

I'm back from SLC, after a roller-coaster landing and crazy cab ride home from the airport yesterday. I'm happy to be back on land and not flying for a while.

I was busy drinking at Port o' Call Wednesday and Thursday nights, so I forgot to update the blog.

Wednesday evening was the Styx concert. I'm going to re-post my comments from an earlier e-mail I sent to a few people:
It was an excellent show. They played everything from Styx Classics 15, except for "The Best of Times," "Babe," "Mr. Roboto" (actually a quick interlude of it, but only about 5 seconds), and "Don't Let It End." They did a few other songs I didn't recognize, but since I realized several years ago that songs like "Come Sail Away" and "Too Much Time On My Hands" are better than their later stuff, I went away happy. There are only two original members left, James "JY" Young and Tommy Shaw, but the band sounded just the same. In particular, the guy who replaced Dennis DeYoung sounds just like him, only without the rock opera pretentions. They are old, but they did a high-energy show and the crowd seemed to be into it. There were no assigned seats, so I was about 15 rows back from the stage, 2 rows up from the floor and I had a great view. I got a few decent pictures with my digital camera, too. All the songs were great, and it's hard to pick a favorite, but I think I did the most air guitar and spastic body movements to "Come Sail Away" and "Too Much Time on My Hands." Overall, I had an fantastic time.

Thursday evening was Meet the Experts, which would have been more useful to me if I'd come with a list of questions to ask. Since I didn't have too many issues to bug anyone about, I used the time to compliment the people who represented the technologies we use and like. Some of them were pleasantly surprised that I didn't have a complaint or loudly take them to task for making something that didn't work. I suppose that's what most other people used the time for: to abuse the people who can help them. I don't know if I made any sort of an impression, but over the course of the conference I made a few contacts that may turn out to be helpful later on.

On Friday afternoon, the conference ended at 4:30 PM, so I had a chance to sightsee and take pictures. I went to Temple Square and took the half-hour tour along with another family, given by two Mormon missionaries. The tour left me feeling creeped out and a little dirty. The tour guides were pleasant and not overtly "conversionary," but they did use the tour and the exhibits to tell us about their faith. I was impressed with the size of the temple (enormous) and the Tabernacle (much smaller than it looks on TV) and the architecture was fascinating. Also, the entire Square was peaceful and seemed like a great place to sit and reflect. OTOH, they asked us to fill out comment cards with our names and addresses (I used my work address) and invited us to ask for more information or our own copy of the Book of Mormon. Of course, I politely refused and got the heck out of there. I had to keep reminding myself that their beliefs are no stranger than mine, that the idea of Joseph Smith being the only one who could translate the golden plates that became the Book of Mormon is no weirder than the ten plagues on Egypt or the parting of the Red Sea.

On Friday night, Jeannine, Amy (Jeannine's friend) and I went to the Wagonmaster Steak House, south of SLC. Jeannine found out about the place at the Salt Palace visitors' center. The interior of the restaurant was designed like a old West town, and all the tables were booths set up as covered wagons. They even had a few guys dressed as cowboys and marshals who had a little shootout. The food was OK, but the steak wasn't anything special. The best thing I can say about is that the steak tasted much better after I dumped A1 sauce on it.

And that was about it. I'm happy to be back home. Liz and I are settling in to watch the Oscars. This year's bet is that the winner gets to take the loser out for a day of whatever the winner wants to do. I won last year, but I'm not too confident about my picks this time. It should be a fun night anyway.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

I was planning to write last night, after the Jazz-Pistons game, but I was invited out for drinks after the game by my local (NY) Novell rep. Two huge beers, a Maker's Mark, and a tequila shot later, I was feeling no pain. Until this morning, that is. I'm not 27 anymore, and I can't . The higher altitude out here doesn't help, either.

Yesterday's sessions were better than Monday's. I picked up a lot of good information, so much that I was having trouble retaining it all long enough to write down the key points. The Jazz-Pistons game was a fun way to unwind after a busy day. My seat was in the lower bowl, just under the upper level, at one end of the court. The Jazz lost, but it was amazing to watch John Stockton run the point. He's like a Jedi Knight out there, using the Force to find a way to get the ball to the hoop. Karl Malone must have unbelievable stamina: he must have played 40 minutes, and he's recovering from the flu. Novell gave everyone $15 in meal vouchers, so I made the most of mine. I had a bratwurst with sauerkraut & mustard, some nachos, and the biggest Coke they had. With that, and the drinking, I'm surprised my digestive system hasn't gone into total shutdown.

Today's keynote was a waste of time. It was structured like a late-night talk show, but everything was so heavily scripted that was just boring. I missed the first part of it after getting up late to allow for hangover recovery, and I left early to wander around and let the headache kick in. I'm just now starting to feel human again.

Tonight will be the highlight of the conference for me: Styx, at the Delta Center. It's not that big an arena, so I'm hoping to get a good seat and some close-up pictures of the band.

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

My first update from Utah.

I'm out here for Novell's annual BrainShare conference. This is my first major tech show, so everything I've encountered has been exciting and unique.

Salt Lake City seems like a good place to visit. I haven't seen many locals so far. The downtown area is deserted most of the time, except for the thousands of people attending the conference. Instead of being surrounded by 50-story skyscrapers, Salt Lake has a handful of 20-story buildings and magnificent mountains on three sides. I've been walking to the Salt Palace Convention Center from the hotel, getting a little exercise in the process. I like the snow on the ground. At least I'm getting to see some this winter, even if I had to fly 2000 miles to find it.

The conference itself has been one wild scene, at least in my opinion. One way to describe it would be wholesome. The entertainment so far has been cheesy comedy, three BMX stunt bikers, and a half-decent cover band in bad wigs. That was Sunday night at the welcome reception. Nothing the least bit edgy or dangerous. Today (Monday) we had our first keynote session, featuring tribal drums and a half-naked man in a fur loincloth running into the convention hall carrying a huge Novell banner. While everyone, male and female, were impressed with the gimmick, I doubt we'll see him in any ads anytime soon. We heard from a few VPs, who talked about Novell's new product line and their new marketing tactics. They showed a hilarious commercial parody of Microsoft's Windows XP commercials. I'm sure that will never be aired either. I spent the rest of the day in breakout sessions learning about products and solutions. That's basically how I'm spending the rest of my week: in class, learning new technologies and getting headaches. There are different events every night to break up the program. Tonight was "tech night" at the Salt Palace, where they kept all the labs and play areas open late so we could see more demos, win more prizes, and pick up more free stuff. So far I've collected a baseball cap, a t-shirt, a Matchbox car, a foam football, a superball that lights up, a laser pointer, and countless flyers and CD demos. I'm going to need another bag just to bring home all this junk.

I'm really enjoying the wireless network at the Salt Palace. I got a wireless network card for my laptop before I left New York, so I'm able to browse the web and check my e-mail anywhere in the convention center. We're just starting to deploy wireless networks back at the office, but I can really see the power in them. They're all kinds of fun. Easy to hack, too, if you don't know what you're doing.

Saturday, March 09, 2002

I thought I'd update this more often than I have so far. I've been playing too much Empire Earth lately, like the game junkie I am, so that eats into my writing time. I keep thinking I'm going to update this while I'm at work, but I end up finding actual work to keep me busy. That's OK; I should probably do what they pay me to do.

I had written a long entry about a problem I have at work, and then I realized that some of the people involved in the issue might happen upon this page, and see themselves in the story, and that might not bode well for my career. So I'll keep those thoughts private for now. In any case, the situation will work itself out next week. I just need to determine the level of my involvement in the outcome of events.

I didn't get much sleep last night. Liz had an early-morning appointment, so I was up when she was up. Since we usually sleep late on weekends, it's strange to be awake and out of the apartment by 10 AM. I had all of my daily errands done by 1, which leaves me with the entire day free to cause trouble. One of the errands was mailing a bundle of letters for our apartment residents' group. We're fighting a proposed rent increase in our building and I had to mail certified letters from some of the other tenants to the landlord, arguing that our high rents already include the increase. It's a waste of time and money, because the landlord will reject the argument right away, but I'm told we're establishing a "paper trail" in advance of possible litigation. We had a tenants' meeting a week ago, where we heard about all the dirty tricks and shady deals the landlord have made in the past. And we found out about recent changes to New York City rental laws that provide tax incentives to landlords who jack up rents and force tenant turnover. It's enough to make you wonder if there are any honest landlords in the city, or if it's worth anyone's money to be an honest landlord. Our lease runs through September 2003, so we are effectively stuck here until then. I don't really want to consider what's involved in breaking our lease. And what's the bigger pain in the ass: dealing with the devil we know in our current landlord, or going to all the trouble of moving in New York City, possibly into another bad landlord situation? For the moment, I prefer to stick with the devil I know.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

I just created a blog because I feel like doing some journal-like writing occasionally, and I figured that my under-used web site is the best place to put anything I come up with. I used to write stuff on different topics, but those items are so far out of date (like the one on Mark McGwire's 1997 contract with the St. Louis Cardinals) that to keep the links on the page as writing samples would be doing the reader a disservice.
More to come later....