I woke up at a usual time this morning since I didn’t have to do a lot to get ready, and headed to the shop to meet Gary and Greg. Gary drove us to Little Rock for ACOT, and I just sat in the back and played Into the Breach the whole way. I did learn, though, that apparently his cruise control will keep his lane and slow down to a complete stop for him without intervention. I really didn’t think any other vehicles did that for an extended period of time.

Once we got to the Embassy, we stole some breakfast before finding sessions to join. Greg and I stuck together for a couple, but otherwise we all bounced between different things that seemed interesting at the time. I was overall relatively happy with the ones I picked, though there was one pretty rough one lead by a guy who reminded me a bit of Allen.

They had snack foods all throughout the day, so by the time lunch rolled around, I really wasn’t that hungry. I still ate too much though, and continued to eat too much in the afternoon. Shane hosted a huge dinner for like three or more districts at The Butcher Shop, so the three of us walked down the hill for that.

While we waited to be seated, some old, belligerent guy started yelling at one of the bartenders. Gary offered to kick his ass, to which JOSH(!!!) responded with affirmation. Afterward we all had a laugh about it, and learned that the guy was just an asshole regular that was like that twice a week. When we finally got seated, we very nearly took up the whole center of the restaurant, though we were split into three or so large groups of tables. Gary didn’t even sit with Greg and me, but we enjoyed chatting with the gang from Farmington. I went for a high score of roughly $80, and heard that the food alone was a bit over $2,000 for everyone.

I kept ribbing Greg every time I made the Farmington crew laugh, and he kept poking back that he was going to play the theme from Rocky as I made the climb back up the hill. When we actually left, the Farmington guys drove by slowly in their van, blasting the song. By the time we made it up to the hotel, I was completely tuckered out – not just from the relatively short uphill walk, but from the day in general. I hadn’t had a stellar night of sleep the night before, so I just stayed in, took a quick shower, and went to bed.

The ACOT 10 is no joke.

Eight Minute Labs

I slept only a tiny bit better last night, which made it all the more difficult to get out of bed in the morning. It was my last day to present, and I was scheduled for the first breakout session block in the morning. I had plenty of time for breakfast, and decided to go present my session and then return to check out of the hotel before going back for the last session and closing.

Much to my surprise, my lab pretty well filled up and it made me feel a bit better to be a popular topic. Even Thomas showed up with his tech. I was more confident in my ability to present as well, so I assumed things would go about the same as yesterday. I could not have been more wrong. We started chatting casually just a few minutes before time, and as people quit trickling in, I started in on what I had. It took me all of about eight minutes to completely cover what I had. The room was dead silent the whole time, and none of my jokes got even a groan. I wrapped it up just as quickly as I started, and several people took off. I did have a few people come in a little late, which got the conversations going again. We did have more general esports chats going on, and I got to talk to the kid doing the last session I would attend. I ended up staying the whole hour for the conversation, but overall I considered the presentation a flop.

On the way out, I grabbed a big plate of catfish and chicken strips and headed back to the hotel. I packed everything as quickly as I could, then ate while Summer ran her stuff downstairs. Once I was satisfied with the room check, we headed back to the high school to wrap up the conference. Summer went to Planet Fitness while she waited for me. I went to Connor’s presentation where he tried to quickly go through his slides and then switched to open discussion after seeing how the HSTI fatigue had hit my last session.

We wrapped the conference with a comedian that went around the auditorium trying to make jokes about things people did. I wasn’t into it. The door prizes took forever, and I didn’t have the luck I had the first night. I shouldn’t complain, but I had other plans and was ready to leave.

Summer had met up with Amanda and come back to get me. I hadn’t seen her since her time with Brandon, so it was nice to catch up a bit. I was mostly surprised she remembered our comments on her Instagram and reached back out to me right before the conference. We went to a place called Cafe 1217 that had a bunch of what I considered to be “weird” stuff. It was good, but expensive. I was still kind of full from the quick lunch, which didn’t make me feel any better about it. It was a good time though, and I was happy that at least the staff there liked my jokes.

When we finished, we ran Amanda back home before heading toward home ourselves. I think we were both just too tired at that point to do much else. We stopped to fill our water bottles on the way out, and then made it all the way to the Hot Springs Village Walmart where we stopped for a restroom break and to peruse for clearance deals. Summer got a couple things for herself, and I picked up a couple cheap frisbees since I occasionally find myself in need of one. Finally we made the remainder of the trip home in good time, I unpacked and cleaned up a little, and we went back to her house for the evening. She has to work tomorrow, and hopefully I’ll be making a decision on an air conditioner.

I’ve never had a more successful conference, but I need a vacation after that!

May I Present to You…

We slept in a bit today since I didn’t really plan on seeing the opening keynote speakers. Breakfast had me feeling a bit off though, which made me a couple minutes late, which in turn made it awkward for me to walk into the first class I was thinking of attending. I ended up finding Ben in his booth for ARKSTE and chatted with him for a bit before making a round through the vendors and eventually finding my way to Esports 101 by the presumably unlikely ByteSpeed.

Fortunately that session ended up being wonderful, and in fact, one of the best I’ve ever attended. The guy was a former esports coach at the collegiate level, and you could tell he both really knew his stuff, and also wasn’t necessarily there just to sell us something. He definitely gave me some ideas for practice that I’ll have to use, assuming this thing ever gets off the ground for me.

My presentation was next after a bit of a break. I followed Adrian in the same room we were in before, and setup couldn’t have been easier for what I needed to do. I had a small crowd, including one guy that didn’t even know what esports are. It was small enough to be a little intimate, and my jokes were received well, so overall I thought it was a success. We actually used up the hour, which was my primary concern, and our conversations kind of floated from Discord to esports in general. All I can do is hope that tomorrow’s session will go as well.

I went to one more session before heading out. Summer came back to pick me up a bit early and was waiting outside, so I ran out after retrieving the laptop power supply I had forgotten in the classroom. Then we stopped by Dick’s to try and find something cheap to earn me the last point I needed for another reward certificate. Once we got that, we headed back to the hotel so she could get ready for dinner.

We met Ben in the lobby and had a few minutes to kill over beer, wine, burgers, and brats. I hadn’t eaten lunch and was pretty hungry, but I didn’t want to kill my appetite right before dinner, but I also didn’t want to be super hungry in case we ended up waiting for another couple hours to get our food in such a big group.

Dinner was at the same Back Porch Grill as last night, so we were welcomed back with open arms. I had the red fish this time, which was excellent. After trying Summers Cajun ribeye, I did have a taste for steak, but I still left satisfied. Summer did some work on some wine and wanted to go back to the room, so we dropped her off before heading to The Porterhouse for the ARKSTE party. I stuck to tea, and we spent most of the time chatting with a couple techs from Conway. The karaoke room was too loud, and the dining room was too old, so we stood by the bar like hip young men and got in the way of servers and ladies wishing to visit the loo.

None of us in our group won a door prize, and then they shut the thing down and we went out the back door. It was a quick trip back across town, and off to bed for one last day. I present early, and I need my beauty rest after today.

The eagle has landed.

Winner, Winner, HSTI Dinner!

I had an absolutely terrible fit trying to sleep last night. I climbed up into the window to try and mask the street light right outside our window, and only just barely got it too dark to read inside. My heart raced, and I had all kinds of anxiety about waking up early enough to get to my preconference meeting. After what felt like no sleep at all, I got up and ready, woke Summer up, and we went down for breakfast.

Ultimately I made it in plenty of time. Breakfast was fast, traffic wasn’t bad, and even parking that early for a preconference day was easy. The class was pretty good, but I think the biggest thing I got out of it was seeing the number of schools that were not only competing, but already had fully funded labs. It’s frustrating still waiting to see if I’ll even get paid for it in the future, since I’ve already volunteered all of last semester.

Lunch was cold, cold burgers and surprisingly good hot dogs in the cafeteria where I sat alone until another group of people spilled over into the seats by me. I have always, and still struggle getting to know individuals, so I didn’t actually talk to any particular person long enough to hunt them down for a lunch buddy. It wasn’t bad, and may have even been better since I kept getting mustard in weird places like some kind of man child that had never eaten food before.

We finished up early in the afternoon, so I headed back to the hotel and caught Summer exploring outside. We went up to the room so I could change, then went for a walk down the street, marveling at the near-million-dollar homes along the water. It really is the best of both worlds, being close to nature, but still having access to broadband internet.

Back in the room, we watched the end of The Amazing Spider-Man and the beginning of the new, dark Fantastic Four before leaving for dinner with Next Step. We went into The Back Porch Grill as relative strangers, but ended up sitting with a pretty good, chummy group of folks. It was a good time, and the conversation was casual and topical enough that Summer had plenty to talk about as well. I’d hate to even see the bill, but needless to say we all left with full bellies.

Charlie hitched a ride with us to Woody’s Big Party at Terry Martin’s bar, where things got a bit crazier than I’ve seen at other conferences. Summer had never seen anything like it, so it was a good experience for her to have, even if it was only educational. The craziest thing to happen was with the door prizes though. Those guys running the show were rowdy, and drew the whole thing out forever. Summer and I both had winning, sequential tickets. First I got up for a tiny Bluetooth JBL speaker and wall power splitter. Then at the end we won the grand prize, which was a new Lenovo Chromebook.

We split after that, heading straight back to the hotel and to bed to hopefully get a good night’s sleep before the regular conference starts tomorrow.


Wharf, or Art Thou?

“Lakeview Property”

I ran home to get things ready for my conference. We didn’t get out of town quite as early as I wanted, but I probably would have been too tired to do much else anyway. Once I got everything packed up and the pets all fed, I went to get Summer and we went to the high school to pick up a laptop. Dale came by his office just as we were finishing up, so we chatted with him for just a second before leaving.

We hit the road in the middle of the afternoon, stopping for some snacks in Ola before making the rest of the trip. It didn’t seem like a long drive, and I didn’t have any traffic in front of me for most of the trip. When we got to the Staybridge, the a guy from maintenance was in the room trying to fix the garbage disposal. I told him it wasn’t a big deal, but he wanted to fuss at the front desk anyway. We took all our stuff back downstairs and then stowed it away in one of the conference rooms while we went out to eat.

I had heard about Fisherman’s Wharf in my past travels, and it was just across the bridge from the hotel. It seemed really tiny from outside, but once we got inside and chose to eat outside on the desk, we realized just how big it really is. They had a pretty impressive outdoor seating area, and the food was pretty amazing. Summer kept getting up to take pictures of the geese and turtles. I was most impressed with how many roll up doors they had. I counted 19, and we can’t get even one for our warehouse. We sure can renovate an auditorium for the super’s singing club, though.

After we ate, we went back to the hotel and got moved into our room, then went downstairs to check out the social. We found the theater room and decided to tuck away in there for a movie. They had 13 Going on 30 on the counter, so I stuck it in and philandered with the remotes a while until I finally got it to play. Amazingly, Summer had never seen it before, and I thought it was right up her alley.

Once the movie was over, Summer went up to bed while I tried to make sense of my schedule over the next couple days. I guess tomorrow night I’ll have some time to try and put my thoughts together on how to present for my breakout session.

I do my best work when I’m rushed at the last minute, because I never complete any work until then!

The Junior High Issue

Just as I started to drift off, someone knocked loudly on our door. Summer and I both scrambled to our feet, and I peeked out to see who it was. I only saw one of the girls, but soon found out it was several of them outside our door, shaky with adrenaline. Johnny was there with them, and the first words out of his mouth were that this seemed like a junior high issue, so he would be letting us handle it.

Summer and Hannah jumped right into action, kicking ass and calling parents. I wasn’t sure what my place was, so I just laid back in the room waiting to see if I would be called. I started to doze off a little, but without my CPAP I ended up exhausting myself more. I don’t remember what time Summer finally came back to bed, but it was really late, and I knew that even sleeping a bit later we would still be deprived.

They kicked four kids out for vaping, including some star players, so they knew the rest of the team would suffer for it. It was a bad deal all around, and a part of me felt like maybe it was a bit much drama for some vape pens, but rules are rules, and these kids are used to a system without repercussions. I was glad they stuck to their guns, and had one of the kids out the next morning after having her sister drive all the way down overnight. It’s anybody’s guess whether the parents will actually do anything, but at least they could rest assured they did the right thing here.

I got down to breakfast just before they closed, and then ended up babysitting the three remaining kids with Dylan while the rest went to their game. I was excited to be in control of some punishment, though Dylan got them started with copying newspaper articles. After a while, I added a modifier by having them write with their non-dominant hands. I got the feeling that only one of them was really taking it very hard, but I’m not much for empathy anyway.

When the team finished, we walked to the Riverwalk for lunch. We didn’t really have time to do anything but eat, and I was still full from lunch. My ciabatta was pretty terrible, and I was just overall disappointed to be eating food court food in New Orleans anyway. Without time to shop the mall, we headed back so they could continue their day of games. It was so hot and humid that I was excited just to be back inside.

Once those games were over, we went back to the Riverwalk to let the kids shop for a few minutes before eating. Unfortunately we found out they would only be open for about another hour, so Summer, Hannah, Dylan, and I went to the opposite end of the mall for some frozen slushed wine first. Summer and Hannah had to go back to the hotel immediately after we got them though, because a second player’s parents were coming to pick him up. Johnny had also screwed up their plan to pay for dinner, but I was able to get everyone fed with my own card.

Dylan and I carried food back for the girls, and lead what was left of the group back to the hotel safely. We ended the evening with some more Mario Kart in our room, but we kept getting interrupted by kids knocking on the door. The delinquents continued being shunned for the most part, while the rest had a little get-together party in one of their rooms. We had to shut it down early too, partly because they were being loud, but also because the adults were too tired to exist any longer.

I’ve never seen a group of coworkers so divided before.

The City that Drowned

We finally made it to Quiz Bowl nationals trip day. Summer and Autumn went to pick up Burger King for breakfast while I got ready, and we made it to the high school to load everyone onto the bus. I ran into Ben outside the high school and told him my sick day was to meet a witch doctor from the south. We barely had room for everything and everyone, but I think they may have overpacked some supplies on the way out.

The first stop was Quiznos to pick up lunch to take with us. I guess it was easier than stopping somewhere along the way, and certainly expedited that process. I’m not really sure how we ended up with a full bag of extra sandwiches, but hopefully they keep until the ride home. I certainly would rather experience unique cuisine while I’m here.

Around three hours into the trip, we stopped at Lake Village behind a gas station, got snacks and took a bathroom break, and then walked over to a park to eat. Luckily it wasn’t too terribly hot out, but I did sweat a bit. It definitely took the bus a bit to cool back down after that.

Summer and I watched the first episode of Firefly after I did some finagling on my devices. I was upset to learn the iPad Plex app wouldn’t stream without a Plex Pass. I’ve never had that issue with my Android app for some reason. Not too long later we made it to a Walmart in Crystal Springs. I didn’t really need any snacks, so I wandered to electronics and picked up a couple clearanced smart light switches and a physical copy of Diablo III. It was all just so cheap.

The last leg of the trip was short, but took us through a bunch of traffic on what felt like the world’s longest bridge. It was interesting to see the water rushing out of the Mississippi River and just spreading out across what was once land. The water was high, and flooding has been expected all over, but here it just seemed a part of life.

We got to the Hampton in an old part of town, but really I think all of this area is old town. It’s been remodeled with new world commodities, but the outside shells of buildings seem to be left alone. We didn’t have any time to look around or do anything but eat, but I really didn’t want to eat the Domino’s pizza after overhearing the three telephone conversations it took to place the order. Instead, I opted to use Uber Eats to order some food from a nearby place called Magasin Kitchen. I got some grilled shrimp spring rolls and something called a bibimbap rice bowl that I didn’t dislike, but didn’t super care for either. It was decent food, but just not quite what I was looking for.

Summer passed out early for me, but it was really probably kind of late for her. I’m really glad I’m taking next week off after having to wake up early all weekend for this.

Love that chicken from Popeye’s!

Beats per Second

I got up early again this morning and picked Amanda up for our training day at Arch Ford. She said she was pretty hungover and couldn’t eat her Tornado from Love’s, so she gave the rest to me. Then I loaded up on Pop-Tarts and a Rice Krispies Treat. I really enjoyed learning and playing around in the lab again, so I was a bit upset that we had to leave at lunch time. I guess we really could have gotten away with not coming back, but Amanda was already begging to leave an hour earlier than we did. I didn’t feel too sympathetic since it was self-inflicted, but I did want to be back in time for the end of the year retirement assembly.

My anxiety was already pretty high, and I stopped by Oakland to see that my blood pressure was also really high. Then my anxiety shot through the roof once I got to the Center. I hadn’t eaten lunch either, and my hand started shaking while I was getting some punch, and I almost lost it. After we finally made our way in and sat down, my heart rate shot up to about 127 BPM and stayed about that high for the entire assembly. Nothing I did could calm it down, and I was left wishing I had brought my last Xanax. I guess I’ll need to ask to renew that for emergencies the next time I go in to the clinic.

Ben had a pretty decent speech for Dale’s retirement, but I think more than anything we were surprised to see anyone actually retire from our department. Mark’s closing statement to “trust him” regarding pay scales left some pretty bitter I think, but what do you do? When they won’t even let someone retire with their original letter and make them rewrite it to be more friendly, what kind of environment are we really fostering?

I went home for the evening feeling worn out from my body’s inability to properly human today. Summer had to pick Autumn up after she injured her knee somehow, and wants to schedule an X-ray now. I’m just ready for any kind of break.

I just want a field day like everybody else.

In the Unlikely Event

Amanda actually volunteered to drive to Plumerville today. She even picked me up at my house. There was a box turtle in the driveway right next to the garage door, so I put it inside the fence for safe keeping. We made the trip in good time, and even stopped at Love’s in Morrilton for meat breakfast tornados. Mine tasted about as good as one would expect. I probably should have stuck with the Soylent.

One of the guys from Arch Ford had a Model 3 there, so I got to see it up close. Not as close as I wanted, but it was still neat. I tried to hint that I wanted to ride with him to lunch, but he had other plans that didn’t involve driving a complete stranger around. Amanda and I went to Wendy’s, and I had a really good, quick salad.

The afternoon went by quickly as well, and I only got dizzy for a few seconds from what I assume was my new medication. It probably didn’t help that I had been sitting all day and had absolutely no stress at all to raise my blood pressure. I wish I could have measured it. It was a really good day of learning and playing around in the virtual lab environment. Everyone likes to complain about going to Arch Ford, but they just don’t get to do what I do.

When we got back home, I found a second snail had died in the kitchen aquarium, so I moved the other one back to the bathroom and cleaned a couple of the tanks up a bit. I think I’m most excited about moving to the high school so I can set up an aquarium in the office. I’m pretty sure every other aspect of the move still just gives me anxiety.

Eventually I went to get Eaddie from her grandparents’ house, and I took the old FryDaddy up to their house to start dinner. It worked perfectly to fry up a bunch of chicken strips for the dinner salads. I still ate way too many chicken strips, but they were just so delicious. I wish I had more right now with some of that spicy ketchup.

Ultimately I had to make my way back home for an early bedtime again. We’ll have to leave training early tomorrow to make it back to our mandatory end-of-year assembly, unless I can convince Ben to let us finish our training day, since central office has already approved our leave some time ago.

I’m not a cat. I don’t say, “meow.”


I got up early this morning and went to pick up the girls to head to Eureka Springs. We went to Ozark and then took the Pig Trail north from there. We stopped at Turner Bend to check out the tiny waterfall, but Autumn didn’t want to get out of the car. The rest of us took a few pictures, and then we continued on our way.

Eaddie handled the drive pretty well, but it helped that we got stuck behind some slow vehicles for a ways. We made it into Eureka right at lunch time, found a parking space, and started to wander. We should have gone straight to lunch first, but things ended up working out alright in the end. I ended up buying some tea after the girls kept sampling a bunch of things. Then we walked to the other end of the strip and went to Local Flavor Cafe for lunch.

I had fish tacos on the waiter’s recommendation. The girls had burgers, and Summer had something with avocado instead of meat. Of course I couldn’t leave without a chocolate lavender crème brûlée. We shared it three ways because Autumn is weird, and then we started back down the strip to do some shopping. The girls got a few things, and I got us some chocolate dipped stuff at the candy store that’s always pulling taffy. After our four hours were up, we headed to the Inn of the Ozarks to meet my parents for dinner.

We went to The Bavarian Inn Restaurant as is tradition. They had us sat in a room with a bunch of other magic folk. Dad was super excited for everything, which was nice. Even Autumn found something she liked. My food was fair, but it always feels so overpriced and under filling. Even Summer agreed that it didn’t fill her up. They seemed to make up for that with gas though, because by the time it was all said and done, I did feel a bit bloated for a while.

After dinner, we went back to the Inn for the magic show. They put on a really good, if short show. Evidently they had split it up into like three shows this time, and Dad performed at the afternoon show today that we didn’t get to see. Eaddie got to participate in the finale with a really solid levitation, and then refused to smile as she left the stage. She really enjoyed it though, and continued to talk about it for the first part of the trip back home.

The drive back was uneventful, except that Eaddie got to feeling sick as we got into the tighter curves. The Dramamine didn’t seem to help her much, so I just slowed way down until we got most of the way back to Ozark. Then we hit the interstate and made it home just before midnight. The girls all crashed, and I eventually made it to bed super hungry.

Alright, already we’ll all float on.