Category Archives: Work

Aimless Rambling About My First Job

I started my first job in August of 1980. My mother worked at this doctors office as a secretary, and they needed an office boy. That’s how I thought of it, office boy. I don’t know if I even had a job title, and I don’t suppose there’s such a thing as office boy anymore. But back then there was. And I became one.

I started right after I was finished with some sort of summer school thing with Tom and Kevin. I think we were helping Mr. Windt with classes of like elementary school kids or something. I don’t really remember much except the kids and the Rolling Stones “Emotional Rescue” on the radio. Minimum wage was $3.15 at the time, but I got hired at the princely sum of $3.50 per hour. I think Tom was making $3.15 at Bell at the mall. I don’t know if Kevin was working yet.

I seem to remember that there was some thought at first that I would do some courier work as well as be office boy. I rode around like maybe my first day with the office courier, between the Alexandria office and the Springfield office. A few years later I became the actual courier and drove the Mercury Lynx that the office owned, but this one day I rode around in this guy’s own car. Was some sort of old Falcon or Dart, some sixties vintage thing. It was pretty awesome, now that I think about it. At the time I probably thought it was just old.

And this guy, I can’t remember his name, was pure eschatologically nuts. Told me all sorts of things about the Book of Revelation, about how the U.S. government was going to tattoo all of us on our necks with like our social security numbers and how this represented the Biblical mark of the beast. Dude was probably in his mid-twenties or something, but I was all of sixteen and he was an adult and I took him pretty seriously. He freaked me the fuck out is what he did.

I told my mother about it and she just kinda laughed and scoffed and told me to ignore him. Whew.

But I didn’t do much in the way of courier stuff after that. Mostly I made copies. The office had a copier, but there weren’t really such things as document feeders or sorters or collators or anything back then. That was what office boys were there to do. So that’s what I did. Made copies one page at a time. Copies of thick folders of medical records.

There was a computer system that printed out a big fat list of all charges every month. I guess this computer didn’t have enough memory to store these charges, because there was a book of these charges for every month going back a few years, and if anyone wanted an itemized bill of their charges then I would go down into the basement to where these books were stored and hand copy the charges out of them for each month. Then one of the secretaries would type up the list and we’d send it to whoever had asked for it.

The computer was an IBM System 34 mainframe. It was about the size of a pickup truck. There were dumb terminals scattered around the billing office, maybe half a dozen. I suppose Shirley would have definitely had one. Mrs. Lyles too. Then Candy and Vicky probably. Maybe Mr. Brossette and Mrs. Higgison would have had them too, but maybe not.

I guess hard disks were a few years away. The system used like this cassette pack of floppy disks, like the old five-and-a-quarter-inch floppies, except that they were bigger, eight or ten inches. The cassette held maybe six or eight of them. They couldn’t have held much more than 512 kilobytes probably. Is why everything had to be printed out every month. Is why I had a job, I guess.

The place was called Northern Virginia Orthopaedic & Allied Specialty Clinics, Inc. (or maybe Clinic was singular). Abbreviated as NOVOC. Later it became like Orthopedic Group or something like that, and it was NOVOG. When I started there were eight orthopaedic surgeons and four radiologists. They were somehow affiliated with National Hospital for Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, because I used to work there sometimes too. Again in the billing office. There was no computer system there at all. Each patient’s information was saved on a paper form, a half-sheet of letter-sized paper, thinner than regular copy paper stock, though not quite like onion skin paper. There were tens of thousands of these forms, and I had a stack of them to file every day.

We used the doctors’ initials in a lot of things we wrote down. Dr. Bigley was ECB, for Elmer Clarence Bigley. Dr. Rosenthal was SJR, and while I knew his first name was Sheldon, I always thought of him as Sammy J. Rosenthal. There was Dr. Leabhart, but I don’t remember his initials. Same with Dr. Kaye, who used to be a GP before he became an orthopaedic guy. I used to get him to write me a prescription every time I got conjunctivitis. I used to get that a lot, for some reason. I remember MCR was Marion Restivo. Later when I was the courier he used to make me go deposit his paycheck. We got paid once a month, and his paycheck was generally somewhere around $10,000. It was almost too much money for me to comprehend back then.

Later Mr. Brossette left and Mrs. Higgison took his job as office administrator and my mother took her job as office manager. Years after that Mrs. Higgison left and my mother became administrator. I think I was long gone by then.

Through the magic of the web, I find out that Mrs. Higgison apparently moved to Florida. Does good work down there still, as of a few years ago anyway. Mr. Brossette apparently left the healthcare field and opened some restaurants in Rehoboth. I used to go to Rehoboth in the late eighties when he maybe was there, but I didn’t run into him. He died in 1997 at the young age of 41. Funny to think that he was only 24 when I worked for him. He was the boss, so I remember him as older.

Rubbing Fins with Fishes and Friends

Easily the most fun night of Annual Meeting 2007.

It starts out poorly, however. At my ticket booth for the ASH Bash, we declare tickets sold out around 4:00 p.m. No, even worse, I’m wandering the exhibit hall, trying to get a picture of Avery Clyde at the Eisai booth, around three, when Ayuko calls me on the Nextel to tell me that my booth is swamped and that I should come help. I foolishly thought that ticket sales would be minimal today, the day of the event. Wrong.

We stop sales per Ayuko, around 2550 tickets sold. I let Kyle and Rita bolt, since we’re not selling tickets anymore. But then I get swamped by folks still stopping by to turn in their plastic badge-tokens for their tickets and drink coupons. And so then I’m late getting back to the staff office to make copies of the ticket list for use at the door at the aquarium. And it’s like 6:40 when Ayuko Nextels me again, telling me to get my sorry ass to the aquarium. Run, she says.

You know how like the old saw goes where drill sergeant says jump and the recruit asks how high? Except of course that the recruit isn’t supposed to ask how high, the recruit is just supposed to jump as high as he can jump. So I don’t ask nothing, just start running as fast as I can. It’s only half a mile to the aquarium, but I’m an old man and I’m like fucking dying by the time I arrive. To my credit, it’s only like four minutes later. But I’m sweating and can barely breathe. LaFaundra holds Ayuko off for a minute while I pace and try to get back to normal.

Ayuko then takes me through to the other side of the aquarium, where the second copy of the list will be used. I sit with Melissa and help check people in. Finally we’re relieved and we’re able to go enjoy the festivities.

Later I hook up with a group of folks, Clare and Helena and Virginia et. al., and we head through the Ocean Voyager exhibit. Then some want to go see river otters or sea otters or some other fuzzy aquatic mammals again, so Virginia and Helena and I go to pet the sharks and shrimp.

After the event is over, I walk them back to their hotel, the Marriott Marquee, where we repair to the lobby bar. We order clear drinks, Helena the vodka martini, whereas I have the regular gin martini, and Virginia has Sprite. Once, back in the day, I used to recite Shakespeare sonnets in bars. But I haven’t in years. But then tonight there is again such recitation. Helena goes first, although I am completely unfamiliar with the sonnet she recites. I do my basic number 30, the Proust one I call it, the one with “remembrance of things past.” Great fun.

LATE UPDATE: Helena reports that it was number 64, “When I have seen by time’s fell hand defaced.” She claims to have substituted Death for Ruin in line 14. I sure didn’t notice, and Virginia didn’t say anything about it.

Night Off

In Atlanta for the ASH Annual Meeting. I arrive Sunday night, too late to go bowling with the Meetings Department. I call Ayuko on her cell phone after I’m all settled into my hotel room. Turns out that they didn’t go bowling anyway, they went to ESPN Zone. I like bowling as much as the next man, having been in various bowling leagues starting when I was seven. But I’m not much of an ESPN Zone kinda guy. I meet the gang when they return.

Monday night Ayuko takes us to Emeril’s restaurant, up Buckhead way, across from some mall, maybe Lenox Mall. I’m surprised at how nice it is. Not the celebrity food factory that I thought it would be, like Hard Rock Cafe or something. I don’t know that I’ve ever in fact seen Emeril on any cooking show or the Food Network or whatever. All I know is that he says bam.

Tuesday night is the chic little bistro One Midtown Kitchen. Our waitress is adorable, reminds me of the young Elizabeth Hurley.

Wednesday we (as part of the meetings dept) are on our own. I’m pleased when Joe invites me to go out with his department. Then I’m less pleased when he says that they’re going to Ted’s Montana Grill, where they serve bison. I check the menu on the web and there’s really no vegetarian option. So I beg off, but Joe says that Ted’s is not written in stone, that we can go somewhere else. I’m embarrassed to make the whole Education Department change restaurants for me, but he insists. So I find City Grill and Joe agrees.

Even better, turns out that it’s not the whole department, just Joe and Helena. Two of my absolute favorite people at ASH.

Joe and I meet early, at 6:30 at the Sundial atop the Westin. This turns out to be a crucial mistake, starting drinking early. After a few beers here and then two bottles of wine at the restaurant, I’m very much worse for drink. Apparently I keep telling our waiter how cute he is. Joe and Helena wisely pour me into a cab back to the Omni, rather than let me wander back on foot, most likely to be mugged on the way.

The hangover will last a solid two days and then some.

Upgrade, At Last

Oh my goodness. The TIMSS upgrade that’s been consuming my life at work has finally, finally happened.

And it was only from version to Shouldn’t have been that hard, right? It’s only taken all fucking year.

But, finally, like I said, we did it.

ASH Happy Hour

We have an after-work happy hour at Mai Thai, promptly at 5:01 p.m. Actually, I’m about five minutes late getting out the door, so most everybody else is already on their way. I meet Kyra heading down as well. She needs to hit the ATM first, so we step across the street to the Wachovia. It’s not her bank, so she gets nailed with a fee. Two dollars and fifty cents. Ouch. I haven’t paid an ATM fee in like five years, not since Dawn took charge of our finances. I guess I thought it was still only a dollar to get money from a different bank.

As per usual in group drinking situations, I bus my own drinks from the bar. I learned that from Dave. And as per usual at Mai Thai, I get the draft Bass Ale, ridiculously cheap at like $3.85 or something like that. I do not like, however, that they serve the draft beer in a mug. I like pint glasses or pilsner glasses far better.

I sit between Virginia’s husband Patrick, on my left, and Helena, on my right. Helena is going to see the Kirov Romeo & Juliet on Friday. Dawn and I are seeing it on Saturday. We discuss how much I liked the ABT Othello last weekend. Helena says that her father always complains that the dialog at ballets is never loud enough. And that Giselle gives him the willies. (Rim shot & thank you & try the veal, she adds.)

Kyra bails early to meet friends at the happy hour up the street at the Front Page. I leave with Elisa, Courtney, and Kat, all of us heading to the Red Line at Dupont Circle.

Holiday Party

We’ve got a short Friday of work, as our office holiday party starts at one. Or, even earlier, or shorter, I guess, since it, the party, is at Zola, at Eighth & F Streets. We’re at Nineteenth and M. So we pile into cabs to get there.

I ride with Ryan, Michelle, Nancy, and Joe. Ryan’s in front with this giant poinsettia, so the other four of us are smashed in the back seat. It’s your basic Ford Crown Vic cab, like most of them seem to be, built to seat three in back. But four of us make it work somehow.

At Zola we’re led this way and that. Through the kitchen at one point. I tell Joe I’ll give him a dollar to yell La Migra to the kitchen staff. We’re led by a landing, where we’re up above the Spy Museum, which is next door to Zola. Then we head to a back room, our private dining room.

It’d be fairly grim, with its concrete walls, but said walls are somewhat cheerfully masked by hanging sheer fabrics. Scrims? The tables are round and seat ten each. There’s an open bar that we pass on our way to the tables. I ask after their white wine, but they’ve got no pinot grigio, just chardonnay. Yurk. I go with the red, a shiraz. We’re each given a slip of paper with whatever entree that we chose by email a few weeks back. Rodney hands out the tickets for the prize give-away.

I sort of semi-follow Joe and Ryan to a table in the back corner. Ryan’s recently bought a house in Silver Spring near Joe and they’re standing discussing the neighborhood. They’re also standing directly beneath a speaker blaring music. I choose at the table as far away from the speaker as possible, although I’m not sure it’ll be far enough away, that I’ll be able to hear anything.

Kyra and Lauren arrive and sit next to me, to my left. To my right, along the wall, are two empty seats, then Ryan, then Joe. Gladys sits to Lauren’s left. Michelle sits to Joe’s right.

There’s munchy vegetables as appetizers. Then Marty speaks. Or tries to, but we can’t hear her until they turn the music down. Marty gives a nice speech summing up the year. Then we eat. Then Marty and Matt give out the fabulous prizes.

I win something that I’m supposed to pick up back at the office, which thing I promptly forget all about. Days later I’m in crisis as to what is the protocol for such a situation. Should I ask around about whom to ask about the thing that I can’t remember? Should I keep quiet and hope that whoever is holding said thing at the office notices that I haven’t picked it up? (Though I’m pretty sure that there’s no like physical record that I was the winner of whatever it was that I won.) Should I keep quiet and hope that no one ever notices the one prize that’s left unclaimed? If there’s like an email out to all staff about unclaimed prizes, should I still keep quiet, so as not to be that guy who’s so ungrateful as to not even remember what it is that he won?

ASH Kickers v. Off in Public

Second kickball game of the new season. I go home first to get the car, since I promised Tiffany that I’d give her a ride home after the game. She has a soccer game in Columbia MD at nine p.m. She was fine when the game was scheduled for eleven, but they’ve moved it up to nine.

Who plays soccer at eleven at night?

We have a good crowd, although Elisa is on vacation and Kate can’t make the game because she’s off at orientation or training in PG County. Clare joins us though, which is a treat, although she doesn’t play.

By game time Off in Public only has six players. They promise that more people are on the way, so we give them some more time. Eventually they end up with twenty-one players. And they win, darn them, after we were so nice. Ungrateful wretches.

Actually, they’re fairly nice enough, most of them. We ourselves suffer a bit from a lack of enthusiasm, without the cheerfully boisterous enthusiasm of Kate perhaps. And then there’s that one unwise throw from third to first, unsuccessful even, for not even the third out, with a runner on third.

As promised, I take Tiffany home, and I do not attend the festivites at Irish Times. Kevin does, however, the great trooper, even though he is among only five ASH Kickers in attendance there, and only one of them female.

6.3 Demo

A field trip today, leaving the office about 11:30 a.m., returning about 3:00 p.m. Off to Tysons Corner VA, to TMA Resources Inc. hq, for a demo of an upgrade to our TIMSS software.

I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to handle working in the morning and then getting out to the burbs. I didn’t want to park in the garage in the building for fifteen bucks. I suppose it would have been reimburse-able. But I don’t know. I just wouldn’t have been comfortable with that. But I didn’t want to have to schlepp all the way back home after only a couple of hours to get the car.

I talked to Sasha, who was going as well, and who also lives in the city. She doesn’t drive, especially. So she was catching a ride with Jen, who drives in every day anyway. So I asked Jen if I could tag along too, and she said okay.

We have a funny moment when we get down to the garage, and we’re just standing there. I imagine we’re waiting for the right person to come along for Jen to grab to go get her car. But Jen explains that she doesn’t even have to talk to anyone. They just see her and they know her and they go get her car. This same moment had happened recently with her brother, who finally after standing and chatting a few minutes had snapped and demanded when Jen was going to get someone to bring up her car.

Jen’s car arrives and it’s a pretty cool Celica convertible. We ride with the top up, however. We discuss the scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary where Renée Zellweger’s hair is a big afro mess after a ride in a convertible. Jen had spoken before about having had some water leaking in and filling up the car during all the rain we’ve had recently, but evidently that’s all been repaired as I can detect no remnants of such. Jen’s got London Calling in the CD player, so we listen to that on the way. Jen and Sasha talk about Project Runway, about which I really haven’t got a clue. Also, Kathy Griffin’s soon-to-be ex-husband.

There’s lunch waiting for us at TMAR when we arrive, about ten minutes late. We weren’t sure if they were going to feed us or not. Along with Sameer, there’s Tony, April, and Parag. And Matt has arrived separately. So we’ve got a good-sized meeting.

The demo is mostly presentation, of good stuff surely, but no hands-on. I don’t get a chance to see if some bugs have been fixed. I’ve brought along a list with me to do this, but there’s no time. We go overtime as it is with the agenda that we’ve got.

I ride back to town with Matt, and he tells me the sad story of how much he dislikes his Passat. Seems there was an unfortunate software issue, that’s recently been fixed, but the couple of years of problems has generated such ill-will that he’ll never make peace with the car.

Julie’s Happy Hour

I head out of work right at five with Kate, as we’re all having a happy hour for Julie who is leaving us. She’s leaving the Meetings Department, going off to be some sort of event planner for a bookstore farther north in Maryland, closer to her boyfriend. Said happy hour is down at Rumor’s, which I guess is technically in our building, although they have some sort of extra structure built on to the side of the building as well.

Right away we spot Dwight and Sameer, who are discussing the upgrade to 6.3. We join them, as others from ASH keep trickling downstairs. I share my time between the upgrade discussion and the celebration for Julie. The best beer I can find with the happy hour special price is Rolling Rock.

Sadly we get booted out about an hour later, for a private party. As we’re heading out, I stop at the back bar, the one up a couple steps, to say hi to Anna, whom I had seen walking by earlier. Anna dances at Camelot, but I know her from way back when she used to dance at Archibalds. I’m sure that she doesn’t remember me, but I ask after her and her son, who must be heading off to college soon. Next year, she says, to study engineering. Good for him.

I head with Kate, Elisa, and Stephanie, in the direction of Mai Tai. But we detour and end up at Porters, which used to be Acme, years ago, before the war. I spent many an evening at Acme, usually with Paul Abugattas. Elisa shows us some clothes that she’s bought today. A couple of folks walking by stop to talk to Stephanie. I try to be just one of the girls, or like a kindly grandmother or something.

I get home late, much later than I wanted to or should have. Dawn’s a little peeved.

Two Years

I celebrate my second anniversary at ASH, the American Society of Hematology. I have my evaluation with Matt at three o’clock. It’s an easy evaluation for him to do, since pretty much the things I did well last year I still do well and the things where I need improvement I still need improvement. At least the things I do well I do a little better this year, and I have improved a little in the areas where I need improvement although I still need to improve more.

I get a raise, though, happily. Four point eight-nine-five percent. It rounds off to five percent, so I’m happy. Well, I’m happy to keep the job, happy I’m not handed a box and given five minutes to collect my personal effects before a guard escorts me out of the building. I’m happy to get paid as much as I do now.

I’m thrilled to get a raise.

A software system designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction over a network

I have a long conference call today, lasting from 11:30 to 1:00. It’s one of those sort of broadcast conference calls, where I’m just a participant listening while others present. The presenters use LiveMeeting, and those of just participating watch their slides go by. We’re able to type in questions if we want. And every so often one of the presenters shares their desktop and shows us what they can do.

They’re specifically discussing web services. The most interesting part is when Antonio from TMAR shows us the development environment that they use. It’s not just XML code, rather it includes some sort of interpreter that allows him to drill down into a data view. It’s pretty cool. And apparently they wrote this development application themselves. Even cooler.

Then there are a couple of customer presentations, showing how they use web services. Yeah, yeah, we get it. Show us the development environment more. But, I’m able to listen and watch and also, while listening and watching, I’m able to organize the pile of papers that hides what I assume to be my desk underneath. And I finally find it, the desk.

Farewell Happy Hour for Tait

Tait is leaving ASH at the end of the week, to go to NYC and teach ESL. Or I think maybe that’s like a temporary gig, until he starts some fellowship or something. I don’t remember. I’ll have to ask him.

We go to Mai Thai, just up the block. Used to be Fin. I arrive closer to 5:30 than 5:00, when the shindig was scheduled to start, so I’m late. The place is pretty much empty, except for the ASH group in the lounge area to the right. I head to the bar to bus my own beer. I always prefer that to joining a group tab.

The bartender seems to be having trouble figuring out something, although she’s got all of three customers at the bar. She goes back and forth from this one customer and the cash register computer, and she takes a long time to get to me. Finally it’s my turn and I order a Bass on draft and hand her a ten. She pulls the Bass and fiddles with the computer screen. Then she hands me the beer and returns my change to me, in a cup. Strange. I pull out the bills and the receipt, and there are more bills back than I was expecting. Oh, apparently it’s happy hour. My beer is all of $2.75. I leave her the quarter and another dollar as tip, feeling mighty generous, having spent all of four dollars.

I go over to the gang and stand for a few minutes. Elisa is telling a story of having attended the Preakness the weekend before. She spent eight hours there, much of it packed in with drunken people, people who’d been drinking like since eight in the morning. She mentions not being able to count the number of men she saw urinating in public, but I ask her to try anyway. She guesses about eighty. And some women too, evidently, although the guys were polite enough to hold up a urine-soaked blanket to shield the poor young women. But there were cops on horseback on the other side of the fence. One of them whipped out a camera and took pictures.

Nice guy.

Lauren leaves because it’s her roommate’s birthday and there’s some sort of party or dinner going one for the roommate. She gives me her seat, between Kate and Sasha. Next to Sasha is Elisa, who talks more about the Preakness. There’s some discussion of spending time in the sun and then having to wear dresses to friends’ weddings and such. Dealing with tan lines. Guys never think about these things.

Ayuko the director of the meetings department shows up, and I feel a sort of twinge of nostalgia. When I was at Arthur Andersen, or even later at Deloitte, when a partner would show up for a happy hour, everyone was greatly pleased, since said partner could be counted on to pick up the tab. But those days are long gone.

I’ve been feeling sick the last couple of days, so I don’t plan to stay long. But of course I get settled in and so I stick around for another Bass. Finally I leave with Kate, who has to meet Ben Block on the corner of 19th & M, because Ben is dropping off the kickball bag for tomorrow. It’s our team’s turn to squat on the Mall, to save the fields for the league. Ben and Jeremy were going to do it originally, but now I think Kyra’s going to do it.


Back at work for one day this week. We have an IPR of the online application that Krishna is developing, with too many folks in my office, on a conference call and WebEx session with Krishna. It all goes pretty smoothly, though, and the membership folks like what we’ve got so far, with minor tweaks.

Later we’re off to Tony & Joe’s at Washington Harbour for our Staff Appreciation Week lunch. I’ve been out of the office for the first four days of SAW, so it’s good to be able to do at least one event. I share a cab over with Marty and Mila. At lunch I sit with Sasha, Michelle, Laura, and Joe. I have the salmon, which is pretty good, with a not good salad and a blah baked potato.

Later there’s giveaways from vendors, and I win a two-night weekend stay for two at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta. The Hyatt’s on Peachtree Street, just a block up from where I used to work at 133 Peachtree and where my first wife Rebecca used to work at 191 Peachtree. Yeah, I’m so looking forward to staying there and reliving all those memories.

I know, I’m being unfair. And ungracious. It’s a nice gift, a remarkably generous gift, worth like five hundred bucks or so. ASH did bring twenty thousand people to Atlanta in December at the annual meeting, so it’s probably a small gesture on the Hyatt’s part, but it’s a lot to me. But I’m not sure Dawn and I can ever use it, though. We do go to Newnan GA, just south of Atlanta, every year, but we stay with my in-laws. We’ve only got a few days down there, so seems like we shouldn’t be staying downtown.

I don’t know. Maybe we can use it. Or maybe we can give it to her brother or sister, give one of the couples a weekend away from their kids.

Wednesday in Savannah and back to DC

Another KeyTech breakfast. I sit with Richard Lamb of the American Water Works Association. With him is a woman whose badge says simply “Brooke Lamb, Denver CO.” So I ask her if she’s here as a spouse, at a spouse rate, being that I also have brought my spouse. And she is. But I hadn’t seen anything about spouses and spouse rates. She says it was two-hundred bucks, but maybe not worth it. And she’s probably right, for me and Dawn anyway, since Dawn’s had such a grand time wandering Savannah by herself.

Then it’s off to the application extender swap meet. Rob Kaighn is there, along with Ike Irozuru of the Young Presidents Organization. There’s lots of code examples. Also piping up from time to time is Bruce Edwards from TMAR, who’s kind of a surfer dude. That makes me think he’s probably from Silicon Valley. Like he’s a California surfer dude.

Then finally it’s the closing session, with a pep talk from John Graham of ASAE. And, what we’ve all been waiting for, the announcement of the up-to-now-closely-kept-secret location of next year’s TAUG. We found out last year when they starting throwing little foam tchotchke peaches with “TAUG” and the date and location. Peaches as in Georgia. So now we see them getting ready to throw little red chile peppers at us. So it must be southwest, even though we were in Tucson AZ last year. Or maybe New Orleans, more famous for jazz maybe, but a spicy cooking kind of place. But still. I guess Albuquerque or Santa Fe.

And they throw them at us, and they say

Save the Date for TAUG 2007
April 22-25, 2007
Albuquerque, New Mexico

I scoop up two, one for me and one for Dawn. Later, when I give Dawn hers, she expresses far less enthusiasm than I had hoped. She didn’t go to Tucson with me, and has no interest in Albuquerque either.

I skip out to spend the afternoon with Dawn. I check out of the Westin and then get them to stow the bags for a few hours, then I ride the ferry over to the mainland. Dawn meets me and we start walking south. We walk up Abercorn, then detour through Colonial Park Cemetary. Then we make it back to Abercorn to eat lunch at Clary’s Cafe, what’s become a favorite place for Dawn. It’s featured in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, where That Guy character actor Geoffrey Lewis as Luther Driggers is at the lunch counter with all the flies tied to him and flying around him. Dawn gets egg salad and I have a club sandwich.

We then walk further south, further into the neighborhoods of Victorian homes. Some are beautiful grande dames, while some are in need of a whole lot of restoration. Dawn says that a lot of them are student housing for Savannah College of Art & Design, or SCAD as it’s abbreviated around town everywhere. We walk around Forsyth Park, then head back to the historic district. We stop at a used bookstore, so I can look the next Horatio Hornblower book, since I’m in danger of finishing Lieutenant Hornblower and want the next one as soon as possible. They actually and surprisingly have a mass-market paperback edition of Lord Hornblower, but I’m looking for Hornblower and the Hotspur, so we leave empty handed.

We make it in time for the three o’clock tour of the Wayne-Gordon house, where Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, was born. The house was built in 1821. JGL aka Daisy was born there in 1860. It’s been restored to c. 1886, about the time she was married to the bounder William Mackay Low. Our tour guide is a rather sour but knowledgeable young woman. I ask about the old crank telephone in the hall downstairs, if it was there in 1886. Seems like maybe phone would have been a little later. She’s not happy with the question. Later, for revenge, she yells at me for stepping into the family parlor while she’s still talking about the formal parlor.

In the back yard there’s a rather small formal garden, with two quite huge and unbelievably ugly plants. They look like octopus. Or Audrey II.

We make our way out, then back to the ferry, to get to the Westin, grab our luggage, and catch the shuttle to the aiport. Lots of people waiting for shuttles, cabs, rental cars, etc. It’s kind of a disorganized mess. A couple of Low Country Executive Transportation shuttles arrive, and it takes a while to figure out which one we’re supposed to be taking. Finally gets all sorted out.

And Libah Grossman joins us on the shuttle. And we determine that she’s on our flight to Atlanta as well, where she’ll connect to KC instead of DC. She’s in the same row on the plane even. We chat on the ride to the airport, our driver not nearly as fast as Eric was getting us to the hotel.

At the airport we discover that our flight has been delayed. We go grab an early dinner at the only non-fast-food restaurant in the airport, a Phillips Seafood place. I’ve heard of the Phillips name, knowing it to be some sort of famous name in Maryland blue crab. I read a story recently in the Washington City Paper about them, about how all the blue crabs are gone, about how it’s all crabs from Vietnam now. I order a crab cake anyway. Dawn gets steamed veggies. It’s all pretty awful. But at least there’s beer.

We go through security and settle in for the long wait at the gate. Libah’s there already and we talk a while. She gives me a copy of a CD she’s recorded, the CD being a benefit for African AIDS orphans.

When they finally call for boarding, they call for first class and mileage club people first, then they start with the back of the plane. Rows 20 to 29 or something. We’re in row 15. But then they skip us and call rows 1 to 9. Then they call us last, rows 11 to 19. What’s up with that, calling the middle of the plane last?

It’s a short flight to Atlanta, where we say our goodbyes to Libah. Then we make our way to our gate for the DC flight. It’s down at the end of the terminal where there’s everything ripped up, walls and ceilings, under construction. And there’s gratingly loud PA announcements, for other terminals, as well as the usual security warnings. We lie on the floor in the hallway for a while until the flight before ours leaves and there’s room to sit at the gate. I put in my earplugs as well as the industrial strength ear muffs that I got for the workshop. Cuts out a whole lot of noise. It’s almost like being under water.

Finally they call our flight, and we get on quickly since we’re sitting right next to the jetway door. It’s late and we’re exhausted. We get to Dulles, then get a bus to long-term parking, then find the car. I’m dangerously sleepy on the drive home. Dawn talks to me, making up conversation, to keep me awake, but I fall asleep once anyway, on Eighth Street, just south of the turn onto Independence. I awake pretty much immediately, with a jolt and a start, and so Dawn gasps and asks what’s wrong, not realizing that I conked out for a sec. We make it the last few blocks without incident, getting home and to bed just before two in the morning.

Tuesday in Savannah

Another day at the conference while Dawn wanders around Savannah.

Another breakfast sponsored by KeyTech. More breakout sessions. In the morning I go to the training and documentation swap meet. There’s a lot of talk about LMS’s and video capture software and RoboHelp. They give out a CD of the presenters’ training materials and SOPs and stuff. Towards the end I pipe up with another use for video capture software, which is to quickly record and document errors and send them to tech support. I’m pleased that the suggestion is well received. Three people ask me for my card and ask me to send them more info.

Sadly, I’ve stupidly forgotten to bring business cards with me to Savannah. I take their cards instead, and promise to get in touch.

Before that is one of the highlights of TAUG, the Ask TMA Resources session. Paul Gannon introduces Tony Orlando, Paul Sanborn, Tom Brantigan, and Edi Dor. They first take questions from cards that we’ve handed in and Paul Gannon has sifted through. Then they take questions from the floor. As usual, most questions are directed to and handled by Tom Brantigan.

Staci Dixon from Corenet Global asks a couple questions. Then Wes Trochlil from Effective Database Management. Then Victoria Corbett from the ABA. Then Ron Moen from the American Management Center. More people, I think, but those are all I can remember off the top of my head.

At lunch, again sponsored by Syscom, I have a small incident while going through the buffet line. Just past the coleslaw, potato salad and pasta salad, but before the burgers and hot dogs, there’s a chafing dish of baked beans. There’s a serving spoon for each side of the table, and as I’m putting our side’s spoon back and moving along, I knock the spoon against the other spoon. The other spoon goes sliding sideways, slowly sinking into the beans before I can save it. I fish it out and hold it with two fingers, looking for a napkin or paper towel to wipe it off, or at least a spoon rest to put it down. But neither is available. I look over at the tables, but there’s only linen napkins. So I just put the dripping spoon back in the beans, warning the people in line behind me about danger spoon now, not to touch it. A moment later a server comes by with more hamburger buns, and I tell her that some dolt has dropped the serving spoon into the beans. The people in line all laugh, knowing that I’m the culprit.

In the afternoon I go to a session on XML standards, because (a) Tom Brantigan is there & is very excited about this topic and (b) it’s about not just XML standards but XML standards specifically for the healthcare profession. But it turns out to be a great waste of my time, but I’ve made the mistake of sitting up front so I don’t want to make a spectacle of myself by leaving in the middle. It’s all presented at a sort of high strategic level way above my poor brain and skills. I thought maybe we’d learn some code. Parag and Dwight are both in attendance, and afterwards we discuss, and they rave about it and seem surprised when I tell them I didn’t know what the hell was going on.

For dinner, Dawn and I join in for the dutch dine around, picking the Italian place, il Pasticcio. We’re supposed to meet Lori McCarthy in the Westin lobby at 5:45, and we’re on time but she’s late. There are various TMAR people holding green signs with restaurant names on them, but our il Pasticcio sign lies solemnly on the table for a while. Finally Lori arrives, and while she’s getting other people together, I take charge of the sign and hold it high above my head. And I continue to hold it up and show it, like Sally Field in Norma Rae. And continue as we board the trolley, and continue as we sit there for a while. I ask people if they’ve seen Norma Rae. Some laugh, while others are weirdly perturbed.

At the restaurant, the hostess at first mistakes us for the Faircloth party of eleven and seats us in a private room downstairs. She soon figures out her mistake and hustles us back upstairs, just as the elderly Faircloths trudge down the stairs to the room we tried to steal from them. We get seated at tables pushed together in the middle of the dining room. I’m on the side of the tables with booth-like seating, so that I’ve got two people to my right and four to my left.

It’s actually Dawn to my left, and the very cool Jan Golding of Girl Scouts USA on my right. Across from me is April Manning of TMAR, and to April’s left is Lori. Lori is a total Italianophile and goes to Italy like four times a year or something, so she’s in charge of ordering the wines. Mostly everyone goes along with the merlot, but Dawn & April & I share a single bottle of pinot grigio before switching to the red, until the restaurant runs out of bottles of the merlot. It’s a grand and wonderful meal and time. We expect to pay for our share, but, when the check arrives, Lori ends up picking up the whole tab. We protest, but she insists.

Back at the hotel, in the lobby, we see Libah Grossman of Votenet Solutions. She’s sitting at the piano, playing and singing, with Mike from the IBEW next to her. We stop to listen.

She’s singing very softly, and it’s hard to make out what she’s singing. And I don’t recognize the music, but it’s lovely. She’s clearly looking at something in front of her, so I go around to see what book she’s playing from, like she must have found sheet music on the piano or in the bench or something. But turns out she’s playing from a hand-written sheet. When she’s done, I ask her, and she explains that it was something that she herself wrote. She then proceeds to pull out of her bag a book, an edition of the Hebrew psalms. No, seriously, actually in Hebrew. And then she proceeds to sing a few psalms, in Hebrew, to music that she again has written.

This is all totally blowing me away. She asks if I know Psalm 50, and of course I do not. But I do know Psalm 55: Oh that I had wings like a dove, for then I would fly away. That and Psalm 38 got me through some dark days in Atlanta in early 1996. So she takes a shot at Psalm 55, explaining the Hebrew to us along the way. Apparently, dove is similar to Jonah in Hebrew.

An amazing evening.

Update to Monday

I forgot to mention Roy & Marlene, whom we met on our wanderings on Monday night.

We were by the Lutheran Church of the Ascension on Wright Square, and I was taking a picture of Dawn. This older couple stopped us and asked if we knew the way to Juliet Gordon Low’s house. Dawn had been wandering the historic district all day, so she had a bit of a clue, as much as I sure didn’t. Dawn and Roy consulted the map while Marlene and I checked out the statue of Tomochichi in the middle of the square. I declared that life could never be bad for a guy named Tomochichi, and Marlene agreed.

Dawn and Roy figured out the direction they needed to go, and we walked with them for a while. We talked a little about a building to our northwest, likely a church, with a steeple, but I remarked that I thought it odd that there was no cross at the top. Marlene said that their church at home had no cross. So I asked what flavor they were, and they said LDS.

Southern Mormons! How cool is that? And I asked where they were from originally, and Roy said Hoboken. I of course first thought NJ, as in Frank Sinatra, but apparently there’s a Hoboken GA. And then we learned that Roy and Marlene were brother and sister, not husband and wife. I had thought it odd that Marlene had called Roy “Brother” at one point earlier. Roy’s wife was relaxing at home and we weren’t too clear on Marlene’s situation, although she mentioned having had like three husbands or something like that. They were somewhat familiar with Savannah, having visited before (pace being lost earlier), soI asked for dining suggestions. Roy recommended Miss Wilkes. He said the Lady & Sons had become too popular too fast and isn’t that good anyway. We said our goodbyes and Dawn gave them her card and told them to call on us if they ever visit DC.

Monday in Savannah

I’m in my conference all day, from the breakfast meeting sponsored by KeyTech Services, through the morning breakout session on web services, to the lunch sponsored by Syscom Services. That’s a lot of services, now that I think about it.

Then through the afternoon breakout session on TIMS e-business, where I’m actually a presenter. Yikes! Then I’m done, as I skip the southern-style dinner at Johnson Square to have dinner with Dawn.

We wander around the historic district for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, checking out menus in windows. We actually try the Lady & Sons at one point, at 5:45 p.m. There are a lot of elderly folk hanging around outside, so we’re a bit embarrassed to be dining early like old folks. But then the hostess tells us that the earliest she can seat us is 8:45. Goodness, this is a popular place. We end up back down on the water, at the River House.

It’s mostly a seafood place, but they’ve got a little cheese pizza for Dawn. I have the crab cakes, which comes with a caesar salad. There’s also French bread, that Dawn dips in some sauce but I’m having none of that. Just good bread. We of course share a bottle of pinot grigio. Our waitress is Jen, who tells me, when I ask who Eddie is, because there’s a section on the menu called Eddie’s Favorites, that Eddie was the owner who tragically died last year. We have a toast to Eddie.

On the way back to the ferry we stop at Wet Willie’s for frozen drinks to go. While Dawn’s deciding what flavor she wants, I wander over to a cool display they’ve got up behind the bar, of confiscated IDs. They’re all really, really good for fake IDs, I gotta say. I ask the bartender, and he says that a lot of ’em are real, but that they’ve been slightly altered or else were being used by someone other than the person actually pictured. I talk to the bartender about my youth, how the drinking age was eighteen back then, and it was just before Mothers Against Drunk Driving came on the scene, and it was easier because a lot of places didn’t bother carding. Plus I had my brother’s military ID after he got his driver’s license at eighteen. And I remember that my brother-in-law Danny, his driver’s license in New Jersey didn’t even have a photo on it. It was still the old paper kind, with just height and weight and eye & hair color.

I spy a waitress on the other side of bar. She’s got on a sleeveless t-shirt, showing off great tattoos. She comes over to the bar and I ask her to turn around so I can look. It’s some sort of flower motif. Great ink, I tell her, as if I know what I’m talking about. Dawn comes over to check it out too, and the waitress lifts up her shirt in back to show us how it really encompasses so much of her back. She tells us that the whole thing took five hours, in two sessions. Just enough time to stop oozing in between, I figure, and she says that’s about right. She’s got other tattoos that she doesn’t show us.

She tells me that I should get tattooed. I demure, saying that my skin is too old now, no longer young and beautiful like hers. Dawn adds that my back’s too hairy now too.

Ick. She’s right.

The waitress says that they’ll shave the hair before doing the tattoo. But that’s really beside the point. Who wants a hairy back tattoo? Tattoos are for the young. The waitress says that when she gets old and they look awful, well, they’re on her back and she can’t see them. Smart thinking.

Dawn gets the margarita and I get sex-on-the-beach, and we get them in plastic cups and walk back out onto River Street. Who doesn’t love drinking in public?

We walk by a guy in a little mini park area, playing guitar and singing What a Wonderful World. We stop to listen for a while. There’s another guy with him, wearing shades, who sings along and dances on other songs. They sing Kansas City. The guy playing guitar asks for requests. Someone lamely asks for Jimmy Buffet. I ask him to play what I always ask buskers to play: Mean Woman Blues. But, incredibly, he doesn’t know it. He asks me to sing a little for him.

I got a woman mean as she can be
I got a woman mean as she can be
Sometimes I think she’s almost mean as me

A black cat up and died of fright
Cause she crossed his path last night
I got a woman mean as she can be
Sometimes I think she’s almost mean as me

I tell him that Elvis recorded it, Roy Orbison too. He still doesn’t know it. He asks if I want to sing it while he plays. No way. I plead that that’s his job, and he lets me off the hook. And then he and the other guy sing something they say is similar, a funny song called Don’t Roll Those Bloodshot Eyes at Me.

We have to head back to catch the ferry, and but then we end up waiting for like forty-five minutes, and wishing we’d stayed and listened to the guys longer. The ferry is delayed because of some sort of medical emergency on the other side of the river. We hear later that someone had an allergic reaction or something. We have to listen to the guy who leadenly plays the bongos down at this end of the pier.

Sunday to Savannah

Dawn and I are up early to get to Dulles Airport. We’re off to Savannah.

I work at the American Society of Hematology, the professional society of doctors who work to treat and cure blood diseases. The software we use for our membership database, as well as committees, meeting and book products, exhibit products and all hosts of other things, is called TIMSS. That apparently stands for TMA Resources Inc. Integrated Membership Services Solution. TMA Resources Inc. (hereinafter referred to as “TMAR”) has an annual conference called TAUG, which itself stands for TIMSS Annual User Group. As in TAUG Meeting, I guess. It was in Tucson last year. It’s in Albuquerque next year. This year, obviously, Savannah.

Our flight is out of Dulles at 10:20. We leave the house at 7:20. We actually blast over empty roads, getting to IAD before eight. Then there’s the long bus trek from economy parking to the terminal itself, then a long walk to the B gates. Then the long walk to the end of the B terminal to where the economy flights are. There are only a couple of other sleepy people here. We get bagels and water from Starbucks, then settle in for the wait. I’m reading Lieutenant Hornblower, so I’m happy.

We get to Atlanta in short order, but then our connecting flight to Savannah is delayed. Dawn was already unhappy with the three-hour layover, already announcing that I am never to be left alone to book plane tickets again, so the delay doesn’t help me any. And I was cutting it short, as the TAUG welcome reception is from five to six-thirty, and we were due to land at SAV at 4:45. We have lunch at Sbarro, and the court area where we sit is crowded, so we join a young woman and her mother at a table. Said young woman is on her way to Carolina to get married to an enlisted man in the Army. She’s from upstate New York and has never especially travelled before. She’s in for some big changes.

We grab a beer after a while, still waiting.

We get to SAV at about 5:45, then have to wait for the shuttle to the Westin on which we’ve reserved seats. Eric drives mighty crazily. We’re riding with women slightly older than we are, having some sort of reunion. They’re from Indianapolis. They love the president.

I get to the reception at exactly 6:35, able to catch like the final beer. It’s a Budweiser, sadly. But I see Rob and Parag and Charlene and Suzi from TMAR and Dwight from ITAG and meet Mary and Rashida and Denise and Scott and Glenn from SHRM, all out at a gazebo overlooking the river.

Dawn and I then hop on the short ferry ride over to the south side of the river, to the historic district, and have dinner at Huey’s on River Street. I order filé gumbo and pasta jambalaya, but our server forgets the gumbo and only brings the jambalaya. Dawn has some sort of penne formaggio. We share a bottle of pinot grigio and lots of cornbread.

Our bed is huge, a king-size. We wave to each other from across it. We’re used to our double at home. We meet somewhere in the middle of this expanse of bed and snuggle and sleep.


I’m a little sore today from playing kickball last night. I guess from madly dashing around the bases, since I play catcher and don’t otherwise run around much. And my face is a little banged up from taking a foul ball right in kisser, which jammed my glasses up into my eye socket.

And I went to the bar, the Irish Times, afterwards with the team. Well, I walked over with Malaika and everybody else either walked a whole lot slower or they drove or took Metro. Our walk took twenty minutes, and we talked about history. She used to be a tour guide at Mount Vernon and at the Air & Space Museum.

I used to be a young person who went out with the gang and drank at bars. I suppose it was as disgusting then as it is now, but I just didn’t know it. The kickball teams follow up at Irish Times with a competition downstairs called Flip Cup, where teams compete in a relay of drinking and then putting the plastic cup upside down on the edge of the table and flipping it until it comes to rest right side up. The table, players and floor become slick with beer. I watched one round and then had to leave.


We had our first kickball game last night. Our team is the Ash Kickers. We all work at the American Society of Hematology, known as ASH for short. Thus the name. Hematology, acoording to the OED, which actually has it as hæmatology, is “[t]hat branch of animal physiology which relates to the blood.” We are the professional society of hematologists. I had submitted the name “Home Platelet.”

I arrived at the fields before anyone else on our team, having had the day off and thus coming separately, just before six p.m. No other Ash Kickers being around, naturally then I assumed I had screwed up and gone to the wrong place. But then the gang arrived. It took awhile for WAKA to get everyone organized and shirts handed out. Ash Kickers, latecomers to the league as we were, got no shirts yet. They likely will be tan, when they come in.

While waiting, Kate and Stephanie and Elisa warmed up and tossed and kicked the ball around. Stephanie promptly kicked the ball wildly, hitting members of some other team just standing around, immediately earning herself nickname of Danger Mouse. Everyone should get a nickname. Smart people will find a way to make up their own nickname. Stephanie doesn’t like her nickname.

We finally found out we were on field four, on the other side of 7th Street, playing the Layups. There were as yet only 3 Layups; clearly they’re even latercomers than Ash Kickers. And they received no shirts either, although they will apparently be getting pink. We Ash Kickers went over to the field to warm up. Charlie the Ref arrived, assessed the situation, and then immediately wandered over to a different field. The Layups finally got together enough people to play. WAKA League rules require at least four men and four women. Four women finally arrived, but then two of them promptly left and never played.

The Ash Kickers played very decent defense, everyone catching the ball remarkably well, Julie especially making a spectacular catch. Tait was a dynamo at tagging runners. Kyra pitched very well. We made only one major defensive error, by Elisa “Buckner” Shea at first base. I played catcher, but in fact touched the ball exactly twice. I did, however, fulfill the vital role of politely asking each batter (kicker?) their name and announcing them as they arrived to kick. There were John, Jack, Patrick, Cam, Chris, Karen and Sarah, that I remember.

The Layups won 2-0. Dawn, Laura and Elizabeth were fabulous troopers, watching the game, and in fact they were the only fans in attendance, despite the bone-chilling cold and wind. I left with them to take Laura and Elizabeth to the airport, while most of the rest of the team went to Kelly’s Irish Times to play the Layups in a drinking game called Flip Cup. Once again, the Ash Kickers lost.

Lunch with the Boss

Had this sort of get-to-know kind of lunch at work today with the Executive Director. She apparently has these every so often, as a way of meeting employees other than the regulars she usually sees at the senior staff meeting. I used to go to the senior staff meeting, actually, but haven’t since we’ve gotten the ITAG consultants.

The regular cast at these meetings seems to be Marty, Matt, Rodney and LaFaundra. The guests today were me, Ryan, Renee, and, unfortunately absent at the last minute, one of the Julies or Julias, I’m not sure now which. But, since she wasn’t there, doesn’t really matter.

It was a good chance to meet Renee, though. She’s quite tall and striking, and then it was funny to see how reserved and soft-spoken she turns out to be. She’s from Brooklyn and went to the University of Maryland.

Marty spoke of her first career as a dental assistant in Nebraska. Matt and Marty both have dads who are dentists. Rodney and LaFaundra were both born in DC. Ryan is still happily married.

We have pizza. LaFaundra had sent an email beforehand asking if there was anything that we “cannot” eat on pizza. I replied that I wasn’t sure if being a vegetarian meant that I cannot, or just will not, eat meat. I thought also about mentioning being Catholic and that it was Lent, and under the old rules that meant no meat since it’s Wednesday. But I left that one alone. And she ordered a veggie pizza as one of the pizzas anyway.

Later I went downstairs to re-load TIMSS onto LaFaundra’s laptop. After I was done with that I stepped over to the Blood offices right behind the conference room and found where Renee sits. And she sits with Malaika, whom I got to know a little bit at the holiday party last year. We talked some more about what Renee had brought up at lunch, about job titles and experience.

I encouraged them to follow up with the director of their department and even with Matt and Marty, telling them that changes don’t just happen. Somebody has to make them happen. Both Marty and Matt seemed very receptive to what Renee had said, and Ryan had some good input on the subject as well. But Malaika seemed to indicate that she would wait to see what happens, now that Renee had brought up the subject. I urged her to not now just expect something to happen, but to follow up and try to make something happen.

They, or at least Malaika, seemed to have some sort of impression that I was in some way more important to the organization than I in fact am, because of being up on the seventh floor maybe. I made very clear that I was just a regular joe, exceptin’ for being more like twice their age and sagely wise and that’s why they should listen to me.

Back to Work

It’s a hard day at work digging out after having been off on Friday. I spend much of the day messing with committee rosters.

Our database has any number of reports that produce rosters, but the assistant to the executive director wants a report in Microsoft Word format. Now that’s a harder thing to do.

Our database application TIMSS uses Crystal Reports as its reporting service. Crystal features its own viewer, from which you can also print. The viewer also will export to a number of formats, Microsoft Word included. So you’d think that’d solve my problem, right? Oh, no.

She wants the resulting Word document to be editable. Crystal exports to Word using frames, which are really not very friendly to editing. I mean, they are editable in and of themselves, but they are placed on the page more as vector objects rather than flowing text. Plus Crystal seems to separate each page with a section break. So, while the document is in fact open-able by Microsoft Word, it’s not especially use-able by Microsoft Word.

So I had been working on getting Crystal to export to an Excel record format and then using those Excel records as the data for a merge in Word, but she found that whole process too cumbersome. And so today I was trying, at the suggestion of the business analyst at our software vendor, merging into Word directly from the database application from a query result set.

It does work. I’m not sure if the executive office will like it, but I think it’s pretty handy.

Monday Forgetfulness

I get to work and immediately realize that I was supposed to go straight to a seminar before coming to work. I leave my hot cup of coffee on my desk and shuffle outside. I figure I can catch a Circulator bus on K Street, but I spot a D bus to Union Station coming and hop on that instead.

I get to the Four Points Sheraton at 12th & K just before 9:00 a.m., and luckily they’re still doing registration and coffee and continental breakfast. Whew. And there’s further luck in that nobody really likes ever sitting in the front row, except for me because I’m such a huge dork, so there’s a place to sit as well. Then I learn all about how to “Enhance Your TIMSS Investment by Leveraging New Microsoft Technologies.”

Mardi Gras

There were a couple of folks at work giving out beads for Mardi Gras. Late in the day it was the executive director, who happens to be named Marty. It’s short for Martha. Although I guess thinking about it, it’s not short for Martha, since it’s exactly the same length and number of syllables. I guess I need to say that it’s the diminutive form of Martha.

Anyway, as she gave me the beads, I was thinking how her name sounds similar to Mardi. So I told her that, in her honor, we were spelling the name of the day with a T instead of a D, making it Marty Gras rather than Mardi Gras.

And as soon as I said it I realized my grave error. As did she, but luckily she thought it was very funny.

In other news, my dashing young protege Kate is a little down today. She traditionally spends Mardi Gras in New Orleans. She apparently had written an argumentative paper for a freshman comp assignment, arguing that the university should schedule spring break during Mardi Gras. And then she actually sent the paper to the school administration for their consideration. And during her senior year, spring break was scheduled the same week as Mardi Gras, and so she went to New Orleans.

This year, what with Katrina, and what I gather might be personal budget reasons, she did not go to New Orleans. She plans to spend the evening at the bar Lulu’s Mardi Gras, which is just a couple blocks down the street from us, and then head to Arlington to view the Clarendon Mardi Gras parade. But, she says, not the same.

I used to go to Lulu’s for swing dancing. I think Tom and Debra used to be there. There was a bartender named Dan, whom we used to tip utterly lavishly for the first few drinks, and then he’d start comping us. Dan and his wife took some sort of personal interest in and care of a bartender there, a young woman who had been a stripper named Tawana at Archibalds.

I ask Kate if she’s going to be dragging her sorry ass in to work late on Wednesday, but she says that she won’t be out that late.