I'm back from four days of educational conference in Chicago. Nice digs - the Sheraton by the lake. Nice conference - I've got 20 pages of notes with ideation all over them. Nice folks. Nice time. I think my primary takeaway, however, is that there is a very large career slice out there I am perfectly qualified for. Good to know.
I flew in on Tuesday morning. I flew in a little early as I wanted to take the train from O'Hare (wait...can't you expense things like a cab, or shuttle?) and get dropped off down town with enough time to hang out, find some lunch at some place within The Loop, and take a short walking tour. It was a good plan, until I stepped off at Clark-Lake and it was raining. Raining a lot. I'm not adverse to getting wet, but I'm certain my suitcase is not waterproof.
And if Clark-Lake sounds familiar, that's probably because you may have caught it on the news. About 3 hours after I stepped out of the station a train derailed and filled the area with smoke, giving 150 people smoke inhalation problems. Two of them were still in critical care four days later. I guess they found their way out of the station by the light of their cell phones. If I hadn't been interested in finding lunch, there's the chance I'd have been there with them. It wasn't the worst thing I heard about while I was in Chicago - I'd give that prize to the four 20-somethings that beat a teenage kid with his own prosthetic leg. He's scared to go outside now - go figure.
As it was, I was in the rain, cell phone stashed where it wouldn't get wet. Hiding out under the canopy to the stairs to the train, I consulted my map and then hopped from door to door in what I hoped with the correct direction. It was correct enough to get me to a Dunkin' Donuts within a block. I remember something Erik or Kyle said to me, "People in Chicago swear Dunkin' Donuts coffee is as good as Starbucks." Bullshit! I had a lot of Starbucks over those four days (the conference supplied it) and there is no comparison. However, it was drinkable, and I hung out for an hour and a half sipping an enormous cup and eating a steak sandwich until the rain quit.
When it did, I hightailed it to the hotel. Although the rain was gone, it was still very humid, and I finished my walk, hauling a huge suitcase behind me, looking like I'd been standing in the rain - except it was sweat, not rain. But, for $179 a night, you get a shower and lots of air conditioning - as it should be.
The trip back was also by the Blue Line and also threatened to rain, although it didn't start until I actually got to O'Hare. But it was in the 90s and humid, so I'm not so sure rain might not have been a bit soothing.
Enough of the travel arrangements...what did I do? Enumeration is in order...
1.) Drank beer - WebCT had beer at their opening reception (Goose Island Brown, not just Bud Light) and an open bar at the evening reception on Navy Pier. They (with the help of Microsoft) rented the end of the pier and provided lots of food, alcohol, and entertainment (jugglers, artists [see my picture on the previous post], fortune tellers, dancing). Yeah...dancing. The head guys at WebCT and Blackboard are pretty young and actually took up the task of encouraging dancing by participating and offering free iPods for dance contestants winners - the result being scores of dancers (there were 1300 people at the conference, so maybe that's not impressive, but it looked like a lot of people), many of them wearing balloon hats and limboing under guys with stilts. I did not dance - waiting for my picture to be drawn took a long time (I had to swap beer fetching duty with some kids from South Dakota).
2.) Drank some more beer - I found a four pack of Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA. I once heard it was the best IPA anywhere. Probably the strongest as well at 9% ABV. I couldn't drink all of it before I checked out (literally, from the hotel, not as in "passed out"), which made me sad. It's Kyle's fault for cancelling going with me - he could have drank half the four pack and I'd have been less waste/ful/ed.
3.) Sushi. Kamehachi was two blocks from the hotel. The sushi and sashimi plate with sake sampler were excellent. Being their all by myself, not so excellent - once again, damn you Kyle. I also had the super white tuna, which made me feel a little guilty as I'd watched 30 minutes of a Secret History of KKK special that morning, but as far as I know, fish aren't racist. There was also a nice Indian restaurant, two other sushi bars, two liquor stores, a groccery store, tapas, Thai, and four other places all within two to three blocks.
For the lady at the table next to me, if you read my blog...it is rude to discuss the fact that you're having marriage issues because your food family food budget is $55 a day and you like to eat $30 seared tuna filets sometimes more than once a day. $1800 a month for two people? Your husband should have a problem with your behavior.
4.) Architecture tour via the river. I always wanted to go on an architecture tour of Chicago. I now know many many things about Chicago skyscrapers. For example, I like this building, because it's exactly as old as I am. I am also jealous of anyone who can afford two apartments in this building, as it's possible to remove the wall between them and occupy an entire node/petal, gaining a 270 degree view of the lake and Chicago. Sammy Sousa apparently did this. The park in the foreground is the future site of a park/memorial, but is currently plagued by radioactive dirt (thorium). I didn't go there, but there was a nice couple who had jumped the fence sitting nearby dangling their feet over the wall. Young, soon-to-be-mutants, love. I assume they hadn't been on the tour.
This picture taken through a fountain, is of a typical Chicago skyscraper, invented by Chicagoans in their second skyscaper period. You can recognize them by their seriously boxy shape with little ornamentation, like the IBM building.
I noticed this in a window as we boated by. I'm not sure who she is, but she looks familiar. I thought she might be a suffragette - but maybe she's that Mrs. O'Leary character. If you know, leave a comment.
This is just an excellent name for a boat.
5.) Superman - bleah. Any bad guy who has to rely on crystals as his modus operandi is immediately emasculated. I liked the (spoilers!) Aquamen on the pjs of Superman's kid. I liked the casually dropped reference to how to portray Superman in the lifestyles section of the paper (a nod to gay people who like Superman). The rest...not so much. And did they really do their science? Wouldn't indestructible sperm be a serious problem? Can Superman control the ejaculation speed - after all, it's an involuntary function (the actual ejaculating, not the process of getting there). Less disgusting - how do crystals create an island without pulling the energy from somewhere. An EMP-like pulse - no way, even it is sucking in all that energy. I'm pretty sure that to create a mountain from scratch (energy), you'd need to cool the rest of the planet to just about freezing, or worse.
6.) Pirates of the Carribbean, Dead Man's Chest. Much better! Just a lot of fun - put me in mind of seeing Indiana Jones movies as a kid.
Speaking of Pirates, there was a Pampered Chef convention at the hotel at the same time as my convention. Those women are trouble. They read my badge out loud to me a few times on the elevator (I couldn't figure out if this was flirting), ate popcorn in the movie theater without using their hands and snickered about it, and made dirty noises when Orlando Bloom lost his shirt.
A note to Kevin, who wondered who would attend Little Man: apparently anyone given a free ticket by the local radio station - I counted about 30 people.
7.) "There are many ways to slice that pig" is not an appropriate presentation metaphor in a room where 5-10% or more of the individuals in attendence may be Muslim or vegetarians of some sort. Particularly not if you follow it up with a demonstration slide of said pig.
8.) Mary Levan called my room and left me "love, hugs and joy" and asked me to meet her at Millenium Park for the concert - she had a front row seat for me. She heard from my "mommy" and she "loves me" - that's nice. I wish I knew her.
9.) There is a formula for sleep. It is Enya + Robert Frost + Introspective Portfolio Blog-like content mixed in, all presented via Powerpoint. Good presentation overall, but damn...
10.) WS-XXX does not look like an abbreviation for "various webservices", it looks like an abbreviation for the web service standard for porn delivery.
11.) If you're at a convention you should not treat the public toilets like you would one at home. If the match you lit doesn't cover the smell, you shouldn't have been making the smell in a public place. Also, when you whip it out at the urinal, do it facing the urinal, not at a 90 degree angle, and then turn to the urinal. I'd consider it showing off, but mine's bigger.
12.) Women from Texas are very friendly, I met several who just came up to talk, and they didn't even know each other, so it wasn't like a group of them taking pity on the solitary Minnesotan sitting by himself. I also learned that Odessa sucks.
13.) I read two books while I was at WebCT. Both mentioned "technology so advanced it's like magic". So I went to Superman and they used the same damn line. That phrase has officially jumped the shark. And crystals are not technology like magic. They're just dumb.