Less Than Marvelous

Ben texted that he was too late to meet for breakfast, and I noticed a couple of cars parked outside the Old Mill Bread Bakery & Cafe, so I swung in there to eat instead. The guy was just opening up, and had to leave to take his son to school, so he just left me with another customer in the store. Then Ben called after he realized the sessions didn’t start until 8:30, and met up with me just in time for the guy to make it back. I had a breakfast burrito and a scone with some coffee, but in hindsight I probably should have gotten something on BREAD instead of a premade spinach wrap. The food was good either way, and then we headed to the conference.

I went to a session about budgeting and finance, which I thought would be helpful to start the conversation with my business office and admin team. Hopefully I can come up with a decent proposal, and then use Technology money for a better salary. After that session, I went to Ben’s talk about Burp Suite, which was interesting. I was in a room with a very small number of very smart folk, but I wasn’t sure I had an immediate use for it.

The final session was the closing ceremony. Charlie was in Ben’s session, and he let me have his room key to get into the garage and charge. Then Ben and I sat through the closing remarks and went to the lobby for our bagged lunches. They didn’t have very many left, so we were lucky to get anything to eat at all. I figured he might stick around for a little bit to chat, but he actually ended up sticking around the entire time I was waiting for my movie. We chatted about all kinds of stuff, and then he helped me fix my eSchool student photos, which was awesome.

That left me just enough time to get across town to the IMAX to watch The Marvels. I had a reward for a free hot dog, purchased an ICEE, and sat down in my usual seat. There were only a few people there for the IMAX 3D showing on opening weekend, which I thought would be a good thing just for myself, but for some reason the bunch of old folks just kept talking through the entire movie. It would have been way more distracting if I had been more invested in the movie. I just couldn’t take it seriously at all. It was fine, but it was far from great. The dialog and plot just made it feel like another forced girl team-up movie.

After the show, I finally headed home. I stopped at the old house to check on things and air up my tires. Then I washed my car and headed to the house. Everyone was awake, but nobody heard me come in. Eaddie had left the Murano unlocked, so I made her go out and lock it up. Then I realized she left the back door unlocked, as well as the front door after she went out to lock the car. I don’t know how to correct these habits other than to make her life really annoying by making her go back outside repeatedly in the cold. Summer only got out of bed to use the bathroom while I unpacked and got things put away. I got my acrylic chair mat in, so I cleaned it and set it up under my desk. For one day, it seems like it will hold up alright, but only time will tell.

No appointing here.

Boxed Whine

I made it to my usual breakfast place at my usual time for my usual seat at the bar. It’s almost been disappointing to have a different server every time, but I guess that’s staffing? Today I had the shrimp and grits with a Vietnamese coffee, and both were great as expected.

When I got to the Embassy, the parking lot was full and I couldn’t find a place to charge, so I just parked in the very back. Ben was walking to the building just as I was getting my things collected, so I followed him around for a while. Classes weren’t bad, but having a live barista helped. I even got a little heart in my latte. I was a little lost because there were so many sessions that I just wanted to attend, so hopefully the recordings will come in good quality. I really don’t know how they expect the microphones to work on those little tablets in the back of the room.

Lunch was better than yesterday, with fried chicken and some kind of fried steak patty. I ate at a huge round table with Ben and a bunch of strangers. Thomas brought Zach and Ryan just for the day, but I didn’t see them a whole lot. I did talk with Zach more than I really have since I’ve been gone from Russellville.

The afternoon dragged a little bit, but I liked the presentation with Amanda’s brother, Josh. As the conference wound down for the day, it had started to rain pretty hard. I circled through the exhibition hall, but didn’t get a single piece of swag apart from the Fortinet backpack I collected from trivia the night before. I couldn’t find anyone to hang around either, so I headed back to the hotel to clean up a little bit.

Summer texted, so I called and talked to her for a little while before heading back out. Howard had their dinner party at The Butcher Shop, so I met Ben there after charging briefly at the Embassy. Brody didn’t make it, so it was just Ben and me talking through dinner until we left. From there, it was back to the hotel until I heard from Brody at the CDW party at Hibernia Irish Tavern. We were just there long enough to win the raffle where I got a box of ready-to-drink margarita. Brody left first, and then I ended up chatting a bit longer with Charlie and Kristina before heading back to the hotel to crash for the night.

Guess lower!

EAT Conference

I went to Big Bad Breakfast again this morning because the Old Mill Bread Bakery & Cafe was closed, in spite of their Google Maps listing to the contrary. This time I had the shrimp po’boy, which was both an interesting breakfast choice, and also delicious. It was served with fries, which were piping hot and seasoned well. It didn’t even take long for them to prepare, which was incredible based on how busy they were in comparison to yesterday.

I made it to the conference in time to park up front and charge, which was good because I didn’t have a key card to get into the garage. Overall the sessions were a bust. The first couple hours was the state CISO basically just telling us the schools needed stronger passwords. Strangely enough, that’s what we’ve been telling them for years. The time after the morning break would have been a little better because some districts who had been compromised got up to talk about their experiences, but I was stuck in the hallway for that part.

Lunch wasn’t great, and afterward Ryan told us about seeing one of the employees leave the bathroom after doing some business, skip washing his hands, and then immediately grab some cake from the dessert table. The bathroom itself just got worse and worse, and looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since last Thursday. It has gotten progressively worse every single time I’ve been in there.

The afternoon wasn’t much better. I went to one session with a really sharp guy, but he was all excitement and no real education. He just talked about smart things for a bit, scared everyone, and then it was over. Then I heard from a legislative auditor, which was expectedly boring. Finally I went to a class with one of the DIS guys that I would’ve liked to chat to, but I didn’t get much out of that either.

The highlight of the day was scoring ninth in a post-session trivia game with over 60 other people. Cory was right behind me to win the last prize for the day. I let him pick first, so I was left with an IOU for a swag bag from Fortinet. I didn’t really want the $75 worth of gift cards anyway.

I hung out by myself in the lobby for a bit, unable to decide where to eat for the sake of eating on someone else’s dime. Then I went back to my hotel for a quick breather before going to Tokyo House. Eating a buffet by myself was a bit surreal, and I don’t think I’ll do that again. When I finished, I headed back to the Embassy to hang out for Casino Night.

A girl named Kristina walked up and introduced herself to me out of the blue, and we talked for a bit. She was actually the tech for Deer and Mt. Judea after Andrew left, so it was funny to make that connection. Brody eventually came along and joined the conversation, followed by Cory. Then she left and Steven walked by, and I took the opportunity to introduce myself to him. The group of us chatted for a while before eventually splitting off to our rooms for the night.

We’ve got a breacher!

Surrounded by Giants

I got out of the hotel this morning and went to a place called Big Bad Breakfast to eat. They had pretty good reviews, but I didn’t really expect it to be quite so “upscale.” I sat at the bar, turned down a mimosa, and had a Creole omelet with some fresh-squeezed, ruby red grapefruit instead. The juice was a bit more bitter than I expected, but the omelet was delicious. The andouille sausage and shrimp were unusual for breakfast, but great.

After breakfast, I headed to the Embassy and got checked into the conference by Darrel himself. Just after I got through, I caught Gary and Ryan coming in. Then Derrick snuck up behind me and said my name, and I chatted with him for just a moment. He was only there by happenstance, and wasn’t even aware of the conference.

I eventually made my way back to the classroom where we got things started. Brody showed up late, but he didn’t seem terribly interested in most of what they had to say anyway. I really don’t have a clue what he does in Clarksville, but I wish I had his job at that salary. The unbelievable luck of that kid is astounding to me.

Lunch at the hotel was pretty good, but awkwardly placed. They had different stuff for tacos, but it was arranged in a poor order for assembling, so I ended up with a huge plate of mush that I just sort of mixed together and ate with cold, crumbly tortillas.

I thought our session was great, and got a ton of useful information out of it even though we ended a bit early. I even joked that we had paid for the full session, and asked for a refund for the unused time. I caught up with Gary out in the lobby while he was waiting for Ryan, and ended up spending the rest of the evening with them.

We went up to Gary’s room for a little bit and chatted some more there while Brody went to the gym. Then we met him at Genghis Grill for dinner, but he was late to that too. The food was pretty good, but I had forgotten just how expensive that place was. When we got back to the hotel, I used Gary’s key card to get into the garage to charge. Then we hung out in the atrium where they had a band cranked up way too loud for being in the middle of an open area in a hotel with rooms facing inward. We could barely hear ourselves think, much less hear each other without absolutely screaming at each other. We could have easily cut the volume in half and been better off.

I was the last one out, and played on my phone in the car for a little while until I finished charging. Then it was back to the hotel to wind down and sleep before a day of cybersecurity.

No fair.

Country Roads

I was mostly packed up, but getting last-minute things together meant I ran a little late for work. Summer felt like she was getting sick, so she stayed home. Kim was back at work, and there wasn’t a whole lot going on there. I got fairly frustrated that she spent so much time talking and didn’t actually seem to close any new work orders, but we’ll see how she does while I’m gone this week.

I brought some leftovers to eat since the “pizza crunchers” didn’t sound too good. Then at quitting time, I headed through Plainview to get to Little Rock. I don’t think I’d ever been back that direction before, and it was a beautiful drive for as long as the sun was up. I got into the city well after dark, and my car routed me to the wrong hotel, so I had to turn around.

Check-in was fast for me after the guy ahead of me finally finished his business. I got settled in, and then drove across the street to charge at the Wingate while I walked down to eat at a place called Cheba Hut. I let the guy surprise me, and I ended up with a fancy BLT that I thought needed about six times more bacon. The sauces on the sandwich were amazing though. The flavor was there, but after an eight-inch sub, I was still super hungry.

I hung out and tinkered on my phone for a while just so I could get some more charge, and then headed back to the Hilton Garden Inn, where they lacked both EV charging and convenient parking. I’ll never make the mistake of registering late for a conference again. Once I got back to the room, I wound down and did my best to ignore the dog barking next door, and went to bed.

They’re a little too proud of those two free water bottles in the room.


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!