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Places I've Been And You Should Go
San Francisco & Napa
Stockholm, Sweden
Oslo, Norway
St. Andrews, Scotland
Tokyo, Japan

Good Reads
Bitter Pill

march 2006

The Jet-Setting Lifestyle

March 30, 2007 5:43 PM

I better get used to flying multi-city triangles around the world.

The first triangle around the globe will take place in a matter of weeks. Right before I go to Japan, I'll be traveling over the other ocean to Sweden. The trip is for work, but I plan to stay for a few days after the work is done and be a tourist. I'm also going to head to Norway to see some family friends that live in Oslo. The only question is whether or not I bother coming back through the USA or just fly from Europe to Japan. It will be a giant circle all the way around the Earth. For it to actually count as a true global circumnavigation I'd have to cross the equator twice. Oh well.

The second triangle isn't quite as dramatic, but is in a much more compressed timeframe. I have several places I have to be this fall, and two of them happen to be on different continents 4 DAYS apart. For that trip I'll be entirely on Delta, but I'll be connecting through Atlanta on EACH flight. That's at least three trips through the South.


But I don't really mean that. I love to travel, and living this jet-setting lifestyle is pretty fun. While air travel isn't all that glamorous any more, seeing so many different places and cultures definitely is.

Plus, by the time I get back from my second triangle, I'll be well above WorldPerks Elite status. Bring on the upgrades, exit rows, and priority boarding!

Here are the trips, courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper.

32,000 miles in six months, on four continents.


Shelter From The Storm

March 29, 2007 6:06 PM

I figured out why I like music so much, even though I have no musical talent to speak of. When I hear something good, it doesn't make me think, it makes me feel. Much like a powerful image or photograph can do too. Some stuff just hits me.

Something about a Bob Dylan song this morning struck a chord with me as I was pulling in to my parking lot this morning. People seem to read into this song as having religious overtones, but I really think it's just an analogy for a man who hurts, and the love of a woman is his Shelter From The Storm.


'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I'll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved.
Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail,
Poisoned in the bushes an' blown out on the trail,
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Suddenly I turned around and she was standin' there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair.
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Now there's a wall between us, somethin' there's been lost
I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed.
Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten morn.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount
But nothing really matters much, it's doom alone that counts
And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

I've heard newborn babies wailin' like a mournin' dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love.
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation an' they gave me a lethal dose.
I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Well, I'm livin' in a foreign country but I'm bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razor's edge, someday I'll make it mine.
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Life Update

March 29, 2007 1:44 AM

I haven't posted anything out here in awhile. I guess you could say I've been lazy, but actually I've just been REALLY busy. Work hard, play hard seems to be an adopted philosophy for me the last few weeks. I guess the other reason I haven't written anything out here is simply because so much has been going on, it's hard to stick with a singular thought. So, here's a quick list of stuff:

  • I was on the KSTP evening news! it was actually back in February but I didn't post about it because I was waiting for them to throw the little video clip up on the web, but dealing with San Diego threw a wrench in that, and it appears to have come-and-gone. Anyhoo, it had to do with the woman who had a bunch of stuff from her house stolen, including the family dog. Several friends from work and myself managed to replace everything, including covering the costs of a new animal from the Twin Cities Humane Society. The Star Tribune recently published an update of her story. Check it out.

  • I think I set a single day bar longevity record on St. Patrick's Day. It was the final week of the Six Nations Rugby Championship, and Rob and I were actually able to recruit a few other brave souls from work to join us. Rob and I hit the bar at 7:30 in the morning, and held down the fort at Brits until about 3:30 or so in the afternoon. We even caught some of the Cricket World Championships, where we learned that cricket is the most boring game in the world. After leaving Minneapolis, I met up with my sister in St. Paul. As I was walking down the street, I bumped into the guys that own a really cool store a block from my employer's building. It's a complete "man store" as they sell suits, shirts, ties, flasks, lighters, and cigars. They had a groom's party in earlier in the day, and had a bunch of beer left over, so I managed a great cigar and beer (free for repeat customers like myself of course) with those guys before my sister started to wonder where I was. Caught some live music on the 7th place plaza with her and my bro-in-law before heading to another bar to meet some friends where the damage continued. I don't remember what time I finally got home, but I easily did 14+ hours in a bar in a single day.

  • My workout-until-I-die routine continues going very well. Overall results have gotten better. I'm down about 18 pounds in weight, 2 inches (at least) off my waist, and have managed to put on at least five pounds of muscle. (18 down, 5 up = 13 total loss) My strength is way up as well, as I've increased the weight when I lift quite a bit. Last month alone I dropped 2.3% in body fat. The most important thing to me though is that I just plain feel better. My diet is so much better than it was, and I have more energy than I've had in years. I'm dominating our survivor-style health contest at work this year too. I will continue to be healthier as a long-term goal. It is work, but the return is more than worth it.

  • I'm getting excited about my upcoming trip to Tokyo. My brother and I have been talking online a bit about things to do and places to see, and while it will be a busy week, it should be a lot of fun. As I've gotten some distance from my horrible travels to San Diego, I'm getting re-psyched to hop on a plane again.

  • A virtual repeat of the allergy problems I had with my ear last year has reoccured this year. I'm back on a lovely cocktail of antibiotics, antihistamines, and some extra things like eye drops and stuff. Not a lot of fun, but my ear isn't as bad this year as last. I do find humor that traveling for my company's annual conference each year seems to make me lose my hearing shortly after returning home. Strange, huh?

  • Thoughts of Nina have reappeared, which I find strange, as a few months ago, the busier I stayed, the more they went away. Despite having to muscle through those thoughts, I've seen so many of my friends in the last few months it's almost inspiring. Even tonight driving home from work I ended up on the phone with somebody who I haven't really talked with in over a year. I've also met so many new, great people that despite feeling "dark" some days, things in my world are definitely brightening up. Hell, last night I ended up out late with a new group of friends (after spending a late happy hour with Geri in uptown) downtown at Block E in Minneapolis. A bar down there had a music trivia contest and we decided to test our muscle. As they announced third and second place, we were hanging our heads, but in the end walked out in first place taking home a hundred bucks! That, combined with a $50 gift certificate for booze that one in our group had, more than covered the evening for all of us, including dinner earlier. Not bad, eh? To any of you who actually read this crap, it's been soooooo much fun spending time with all of you, and let's keep the fun going!

That's about as much as I think I can get in tonight. I've got a bunch of around-the-house stuff to do yet tonight. I'm still not sleeping (I've logged a whopping 18 hours of sleep in the last four weeks) and I've found the middle of the night can sometimes be great to get mindless chores done.

Oh, one other stupid detail. People viewing the new izeon.com with 1024 x 768 resolution screens probably saw some cut-off text on the right side and a header image that didn't line up right. It has been fixed, so y'all can see it in the glory everyone else could now too. Enjoy.

In a few days a rather strange milestone is upon me, so check back early next week for an update.

Something Is Different

March 15, 2007 4:34 AM

So anybody reading this shouldn't have much trouble figuring out that I've given izeon.com a massive facelift.

I started izeon.com sometime in 1998. Originally it was all done using Macromedia Flash, which I was blown away with at the time. The only problem was that it is really difficult to maintain a website using all flash. I know the tool has matured very much (I started on Flash 3, and have made my way to a measley Flash 5) but I haven't had time to keep up with it. My original izeon.com logo was the one you see above, in the very strong blue. Blue and white was the color palette.

After I went to techies.com in 2000, I used some new-found web tricks and released what really was the first version of izeon.com. It was the first version that used the dark purple and the 3D logo.

The site y'all have been accustomed to was the second version using that palette, and it was a lot cleaner than the first, but still pretty basic. I slapped it together while working on a contract job over the summer in 2002 or there-abouts.

As I've seen my friends websites mature, all the little design issues started to bother me. It was too dark, had no "depth", and was getting a little long in the tooth. So it pissed me off enough I finally changed it.

The new izeon.com will soon support Wordpress themes, meaning you can drop Wordpress stylesheets in and use them for formatting. The other neato thing I was playing with tonight and decided to implement was a theme switcher. I like how the results have turned out quite a bit! I'm also liking the 2D logo again. Despite not being 3D, it has a bit more "pop" to it.

Play around with the themes and let me know what you guys think! I know there's a problem with it not saving your selected theme, which is a problem I'm working on. The "jack" theme so far is my personal favorite. Man, do I miss my buddy. :-( The sunset theme is a picture I took flying out of Orlando at 30-some thousand feet.

There will probably be a few other minor changes going forward, but nothing too shocking. More themes will be on the way too. It takes about five minutes to throw one together. And yes, I did take all the pictures in all the themes.

I hope you like the changes I've made!

Conference Day 5: A Phone, A Pen, A Piece of Paper

March 9, 2007 12:30 AM

I jumped in the shower Wednesday morning with a mild hangover, which should have been a given considering how much booze I had the night before.

Wednesday's only saving grace was that the exhibit hall closed at noon, which would signal the end to this conference. The exhibit hall was very quiet and provided for an easy, but seemingly long day. I ran out of Advil and the pain in my feet and legs began to get bad again as standing around for so many days in dress shoes had taken it's toll on my feet and legs.

Bill would end up leaving directly for the airport from the convention center as he had a mid-afternoon flight. As the convention center closed, he managed to change his clothes and catch a cab to the airport. My flight wouldn't leave until shortly after 7:00 p.m., so I had a few hours to kill.

I didn't want to pack my suit jacket, so I ended up changing into it and wore it for the rest of the day. After the exhibit hall closed, I went and helped a few people from marketing pack up their stuff and start closing up shop. I then had lunch with a few of them on the convention center patio. It was nice to finally sit down, and a cool ocean breeze was surprisingly refreshing.

After lunch, all the girls decided to go shopping. While I don't think an invite was ever extended to me, I wouldn't have taken it anyway. After getting back to the hotel and storing my bags in their bag check, I drifted out to the hotel bar patio, and sat down by myself. I ordered a beer and tried to reconcile a lot of the emotional pain the week threw at me. Prior to meeting up with "the girls," Jennifer stopped out on the patio and sat down with me for awhile. She's been nothing short of a spectacular friend to me this week, listening to nothing but an endless stream of whining from me. I thanked her for dealing with me, and I had my first moment of visible pain show. As I sat there, one and only one lonely tear managed its way down my cheek.

After 15 or 20 minutes, she would leave to go shopping. It was only about 2:00 p.m., so I still had several hours of time to kill. Despite how bad my feet hurt, there was one thing I had to do. It had nothing to do with our conference, but I could see it every day from the balcony of my hotel room.

In San Diego Harbor sits CV-41, The USS Midway aircraft carrier. After it was retired from service, it was converted to a naval museum and opened in 2004. I had toured it a few years ago when our conference was in San Diego, but this one would be much more personal. In May of 2006, the Midway Museum put a newly restored aircraft on display on the flight deck of the carrier: An EKA-3B Skywarrior. The same type my father flew during the Vietnam War.

I took my time going through the hangar deck of the carrier before making my way up the stairs to the flight deck. My feet were absolutely killing me, but the anticipation of seeing that bird (which I could see from afar on our balcony) would put the pain near the back of my mind.

I drifted around a few other aircraft first, like an F/A-18, F-14, and an S-3 Viking. Finally, I went towards the Skywarrior.

I couldn't help but start at the tail and run my hand down the entire fuselage all the way to the nose. It was the largest plane ever designed for regular carrier operation, which is something that's tough to appreciate until you are standing right next to it. I had this image of running my hand down the leading edge of the wing, but the wing stands a good 10 feet off the ground, well out of my reach. The tail dwarfs the other airfraft and the horizontal stabilizer feels so high that it's practically untouchable by the tails of the other aircraft.

I took in every inch of that plane. It was a very sobering experience. Despite being a museum with some fascinating aircraft, it also stands as a stark reminder of all the people who never came home. Lucky for me, my father did.

One of the few benches on the stern of the Midway's flight deck was under the starboard wing of the Skywarrior. I sat down for about 30 minutes and just took it all in. Coming face-to-face with that bird put a lot of feelings about my father smack on top of all the emotional pain of the week. It took every ounce of energy I had as I sat there in a suit and tie not to completely break down.

I actually called my dad as I sat there. He was very upbeat and excited that I was sitting next to a Skywarrior, and told me all these neat things to check out. It was interesting to hear him describe parts of the plane as I stood right next to them. Gave me the feeling that if he was pressed into it, he could probably jump right in and fly the thing right off the front of the Midway.

After I got off the phone with him, I wrote down the military tail number of that bird. It's been painted to represent a 1971 detachment where that Skywarrior was aboard the Midway, but as I would later find out, most of it's career was spent elsewhere.

I found a staff person aboard the ship who worked closely with the group that restored several of the planes aboard the Midway. Using the tail number, I would quickly learn that it's past would intersect my life very closely.

My dad mentioned something to me on the phone that I was unaware of. When he was deployed to Southeast Asia, he flew with VAQ-135 Black Ravens aboard the USS Hancock. What I didn't know until I talked with him under the wing of that plane was that when he was stationed in Alameda (near San Francisco) prior to his deployment to Vietnam, he was with VAQ-130, a replacement air squadron.

This plane, nose number 612, served with VAQ-130 stationed in Alameda prior to being deployed to the Midway. Sometime during 1969, VAQ-130 EKA-3B Skywarriors nose numbers 612-616 had a pilot who I'm very familiar with: John A. Nist.

The amount of information you can get sitting under the wing of a 45 year old plane with nothing but a phone, a pen, and a piece of paper is amazing to me. The power of a phone, a pen, and a piece of paper would happen again at the airport.

After finishing my solo tour of the Midway, I made my way back to the hotel and had a snack out on the restaurant patio. After finishing my food, I got my bags from the check and hopped a cab to the airport.

Sun Country offers a sweet deal for upgrades when you get to the airport, and given my week I thought I should treat myself to something nice, so I paid for the first class seat. After a quick run through security, I bumped into a bunch of guys from our R & D department that I know. We all had a beer and waited for our departure.

A small conversation between two of us started a upgrade rush with a few others in our group when they found out it only cost $75.00. They made a fatal mistake however: There's no Sun Country gate agents until 45 minutes before departure.

I knew another person that was in coach on that flight. At that point in time, I decided to test the powers of my phone, and called Sun Country directly. I talked with a wonderful reservation agent named Anna, and managed to get her upgraded as well without her knowing at all. She would check-in and find herself moved from row six to row one. The only downside was that it cost a wee bit more than the airport counter upgrade. Still more than worth it. It was the right thing to do to put my week to rest.

Funny how with one phone call, I was able to control more than 15% of the first class seats on that plane. Every seat in first class and coach was booked, but I pulled it off anyways. You can't just have the phone though, you have to know what to say. A skill I'm remarkably good at.

Despite being allowed to board first, I decided to board last. I sat down, saw the woman I had upgraded curled up in the corner of the first row, and found my seat one row back on the other side. Shortly after they wanted everybody to turn off their cell phones, I sent her a text message that read "Happy belated birthday. I hope it helps you sleep." I then shut my phone off, had the flight attendant get me a glass of red wine, and enjoyed the city sparkling below as we followed the BORDER5 departure from San Diego.

Upon landing in Minneapolis shortly before 1:00 a.m. and finding my way down to baggage claim, she came up to me and said that I didn't need to do that, but thanked me for the upgrade. Awkward silence would accompany our wait for our bags to come down the carousel. Hers eventually appeared, and all I could think to say as she made a line for the door was "Sleep well."

My bag was the last one down the carousel. I was so exhausted and completely numb by then, I casually walked my way through the Humphrey Terminal to the taxi stand. I crawled into the back of a cab and began the last leg of my journey home.

I arrived at my door to find that my good friend Beau had shoveled very nicely for me, so I owe him some food and beverages. I walked in the door, opened up my suitcase and carried my still full bottle of wine downstairs into a wine rack I have down there. The bottle will continue to rest, surrounded by the ghosts it now represents.

After that, I hung up the suit I traveled in, and made my way to bed. I managed a few hours of tossing and turning, but it was enough to make me feel a little bit better.

As much as I was looking forward to San Diego, I'm disappointed in myself. I set a lot of unattainable expectations. I was looking forward to the fun that normally accompanies this conference and buffers the extremely grueling work and hours it takes. When that fun evaporated in front of me, what was left was probably the second worst week of my life. Having to come face-to-face with some emotions I've brushed aside for a long time combined with the sheer emotional drama of running my hand down the side of that Skywarrior has been almost too much to take in one week.

Tomorrow, much like today, I plan on relaxing. I have a massage gift certificate that I plan on using, as well as a return trip to my counselor's office.

Meanwhile I wait for the numbness I've been feeling since I crawled into that cab to give way to something else. A week of strange risks on my part is slowly coming to an end.

It's hard to take risks. But sometimes the greatest risk is not taking one at all.

Conference Day 4: Long Day, Longer Night

March 8, 2007 11:29 PM

Tuesday's events at the convention center proved to be basically a repeat of Monday. Bill and I spent the entire day in the exhibit hall, helping customers and keeping smiles on our faces. As I had finally stopped taking DayQuil, I decided to swap it out for some Advil to help with the pain of standing on unpadded carpet laid over concrete for 10 hours. It helped immensely.

Tuesday night was also the night of our customer appreciation party. This year found us headed to Sea World. Prior to going, a few other employees who are friends met us in our room and we soaked in the balcony while having a drink prior to heading for the bus to Sea World. Bill decided to stay in for the night and enjoy an evening with the hotel room to himself. The line for the bus was so long, we ended up just splitting a cab and beat most of our co-workers there.

We of course found the bar immediately and began throwing back beers like they were bottled water. About halfway into our night, Sea World put on their Shamu show, which was really neat. Those killer whales are HUGE, and the precision with which they are trained and interact with the staff was amazing. I'm really glad I saw it, instead of heading with the other half of my group to the rides.

As I would meet up with the rest of the group after the show, I would find out that the few who went on a splash mountain style ride would get so drenched, they would have to buy new clothes at one of the gift shops. This of course brought on endless ridicule to them, as they bought matching track suits. They looked pretty funny standing next to each other, and my CEO laughed at them almost as much as I did.

I would hop on an early bus home with one of them as we had a devious plan to go bar hopping in San Diego that night. We ended up at a pretty shady place (after she changed out of her Sea World track suit of course) and began to drink A LOT. We stumbled back to the hotel sometime around 3:00 in the morning.

A quick travel lesson: If you're sick the entire time you're traveling, when you start to feel better, don't get so wasted you have to deal with a hangover the next day. It's not a lot of fun. Especially when you end up with a sleepless night combined with the spins.

Conference Day 3: Sunrise to Sunset

March 8, 2007 11:13 PM

Monday was the first morning that I actually started to feel like I was turning a corner with the nasty cold that had been lingering with me since I got on the plane to fly to San Diego. The wife of my VP at work replenished my supply of Airborne as she had the same kind with her. As Bill and I made our way to the exhibit hall first thing in the morning, I could finally breathe again for the first time in several days.

Upon arriving at the convention center, Bill and I decided to steal a few stools for our area given that a half-day on Sunday had already destroyed both of us. The stools didn't help much however, as we had enough people stopping by our area we ended up on our feet pretty much the entire time anyways.

The day dragged along, and an attempt at getting lunch, as with every year prior, was met in vain. Bill is a resourceful guy though, and found a Starbucks with some sandwiches in the convention center. He bought himself a sandwich, and when he got back to our booth had one for me as well. It was enough to get me through the afternoon, but the clock couldn't move slower. It was tough to stay fired-up and ready to help every person who needed it, but I managed to keep it together pretty well.

By the time we left the convention center, I was about ready to collapse. Bill and I had requisitioned some beer in the hotel lobby and had a couple out on our beautiful balcony before deciding on dinner plans. Bill had a desire to go to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse since the minute we landed, but started to balk at the idea since he was pretty wiped out too. I managed to talk him into it, and we walked the five blocks down the street to get us some great steaks.

The restaurant had a very small balcony, and we managed a table on it overlooking the harbor and the cruise ship port. We dragged a guy named Brett from our marketing department with us, as he doesn't know many people from the company and was alone on the only night with no customer events.

It ended up being a very satisfying meal. I had a new york strip, my preferred cut, while the other two had filets. we had a pretty good conversation, and I enjoyed a very nice glass of wine.

After getting back to the hotel around 9:30 that night, I collapsed. Literally. I walked in to the room, shut my door, and blacked out. I came to a few hours later, lying in my clothes on top of all the covers on the bed. I thought maybe I was physically exhausted enough to finally sleep, but that would prove to be false. I ended up turning the chair in my room around to face out the window, threw my feet up, and watched the lights of Coronado and San Diego Harbor twinkle all night long.

I took a very good, very expensive bottle of wine with me to San Diego. That night, it was supposed to be gone. Instead, it would sit as a tangible representation of the sleepless nights, the emotional exhaustion, and more than anything, the ghosts of not the past, present or future, but the ghosts of potential.

Within us all lies the ability to be great, but our choice to execute on that ability is frequently brushed aside. As that bottle would sit on the small counter in my room, those ghosts would sit right beside it.

Conference Day 2: Game Faces On

March 8, 2007 10:48 PM

Sunday was the first day that our conference was officially open for business, and Bill and I had to be in the exhibit hall for the first time that day. We had a horrible location, off to the side of the hall hidden behind some other exhibition booths. We didn't draw nearly the traffic we had last year in Orlando, however we did draw enough people to make us successful in what we were trying to do.

Sunday in the convention center remained fairly uneventful, except my sickness continued to get worse. Spending each and every day going 100% from sunrise to sundown and not sleeping at all every night had resulted in me being just flatout worn down. The other side effect is that standing around on a concrete floor kills your feet and legs, and being in deteriorated physical shape already only accelrated the pain of dress shoes from morning until night.

Sunday night I had the opportunity to revive a joke from last year. In Orlando, our customer reception, which occurs the first evening of our conference every year, was an outside casual pool party. The answer Bill and I came up with for that was to dress formally. This year I wore a black suit, french cuffed shirt, and a nice, modern tie. It had much of the effect of last year, and was hilarious to me.

The reception was nice, but given my health condition I shouldn't have had anything to drink. Instead, I got ripped.

After the reception shut down, a group of us ended up in the lobby bar of the hotel that hosted the reception. It was one of the few bright spots of the trip, because it was a lot of good people having some cocktails together. The only problem was that the subcurrent of the problems that began to surface at the Meat Reunion would come smack to the forefront.

Last year, a few in the group that were rooming together managed to get into a makeshift fight. This was the first I had heard of this, which was a bit surprising considering I was the object of the fight.

After hearing the high-level version of this scuffle (the details of which I'm not going to share), I excused myself from our little gathering and escorted one of the women staying in the same hotel as myself back, as it was pretty late. The small scuffle between two other co-workers last year would bring to the forefront of my world something that I was able to ignore for a long time. However, this week, there would be no escape.

That night I wouldn't sleep again. Despite my best efforts and enough drugs to put down a large mammal, my brain would betray me.

Few people know, but I haven't actually slept for a full eight hour night since our conference last year. I've been to a sleep doctor at Southdale Medical Center, I've seen a shrink, and I've had enough prescription sleep aides to put most people in a coma. These days, I shrug off the drugs like they are Flinstones vitamins. I know exactly why I can't sleep, and it's something nobody can cure. Like the opening line in the song "River of Deceit," my pain is self-chosen.

The situation with Nina has left my "pain sponge" fully saturated, and this week would take that sponge and throw it into a giant puddle. Each day became an accelerant of the previous.

Much like a hot Midwest summer day, the atmosphere in my world would be left ripe for storm clouds to unleash emotional fury on me, already worn down by sickness and an unstoppable stream of physically and mentally exhausting work.

Conference Day 1: The Meat Reunion

March 8, 2007 10:15 PM

No sleep has begun to catch up with me.

The torture of unwrapping all those laptop bags started to surface first thing Saturday morning. When I woke up, Bill's comment on my voice was that it sounded like I spent all night gargling thumb tacks. My throat was raw, and the skin around my nose was literally cracking from so much blowing and wiping of it.

Saturday again found Bill and I at the convention center early, however there wasn't much work to be done. Friday morning when I had shown up, they were running about 15 hours ahead of schedule, and with our help, had managed to get even farther ahead. Bill and I ended up wandering around San Diego for a few hours until it was time to suit up in our company-issued clothing and make our way back to the convention center for primary purpose of our trip which was meetings with our customer user groups.

The meetings went very well. We had actually come up with some stuff that was well beyond anything they had asked for in the past year, and we caught them relatively off guard with some very innovative ideas. It was one of the first user group meetings I had presented at that didn't turn in to a bloodbath.

After those meetings, Bill and I barely had enough time to head back to the hotel and throw on some street clothes before having to go back to the convention center for a mandatory employee orientation meeting. Outside of a fresh change of clothes, the only thing I had time to do was capture a picture of an amazing sunset.

Orientation lasted about an hour, and then we were primed for the Meat Reunion. When we were in Orlando last year, we ended up at a Brazilian steakhouse called Texas De Brazil. We decided to re-celebrate that dinner in San Diego, and I found a Brazilian steakhouse called Rei De Gado. When the rest of our party finally got to San Diego, we all met outside the convention center and caught a cab over to the restaurant.

One of the key members of the Meat Team is deathly afraid of flying. As a result, she had to get pretty drugged up to travel. She was one of two people who had landed about an hour before we headed to dinner, and the effects of the drugs were still boldly evident. She could barely walk, barely talk, and looked pretty green.

She lasted about two bites into a piece of watermelon before she said she needed to leave. I arranged for a taxi for her, and told the driver to take her back to her hotel. Her struggle echoed a strange feeling though that despite best efforts, the Meat Reunion didn't live up to the fun of the original. It was very disappointing and hurt me personally, as I was the one trying to organize a night with my closest work buddies to go out and have a good time.

The Meat Reunion's failure was the first echo of what would become one of the worst weeks of my life.

Conference Day 0: Airborne Without Flying

March 8, 2007 10:01 PM

Despite my best efforts, I was unable to keep this site updated while actually in San Diego. It was a combination of ZERO time and ZERO Internet access in the hotel. I did however manage to keep a running journal saved on my hard drive while I was there, as well as a few pictures. So here you go...

Have any of you ever heard of this stuff called Airborne? It's like an Alka Seltzer version of a vitamin with a bunch of stuff to boost your immune system. My VP had recommended it as I started to come down with a cold before I left. As the flight out West progressed, I started to feel worse and worse. By the time we landed in San Diego, my ears had plugged up and refused to pop.

Riding with the big guys also had another perk: We were picked up by the conference planning company we use and got door-to-door service from the airport directly to the hotels we were at. They dropped me off first, and after finding my room, I immediately went to the hotel bar/restaurant for some food. Given the blitz that I left in, I hadn't had any food all day and was starving.

I ended up having a good meal and a good glass of Cabernet to wash it down. There was an attractive woman from Memphis at the bar, and as the only other person there, I was the target of her conversation. She had some very provacative things to say, and I clearly could have used the single business traveler routine to my benefit, but gave up on that plan we she said exactly this: "Things have just been so different for me since my husband was murdered." I promptly paid my bill, and walked as fast as I could back to my room.

NyQuil Sinus (which is actually the old NyQuil recipe...If you look at a box of NyQuil now, you'll notice NO decongestant...FYI) was only able to keep me down for about two hours before I was awake again. Ended up just watching TV as my cold got worse and worse all night long.

By 7:00 in the morning, I couldn't take it any more. I jumped through a shower, grabbed some breakfast, and headed over to the convention center to find some Internet access. I had a ton of work that I should have done Thursday afternoon, but the change in travel plans nixed my ability to do that. I found the I.T. command center buried in the bowels of the convention center and managed to get through my work.

I then thought it would be appropriate to keep my "stock" with the conference company up, since the president of it knows me and takes good care of me when it comes to accomodations and other things during these conferences. We were giving away laptop bags to all the customers who attended, and they were each individually wrapped in plastic. My job: unwrap 5,000 of those suckers. It was actually pretty exhausting work as I had to lug all the boxes of them around, tearing into each one, unpacking them all, then repacking them after unwrapping them from the plastic.

Bill made it to San Diego a little after mid-day and came over to help. After a few hours of that, we finished the last box of bags. I was feeling a lot worse, despite several shots of Airborne and several doses of DayQuil. Bill and I decided to head back to the hotel and just chill out on our balcony for awhile. The picture above is our view, which included the entire San Diego Harbor, Coronado Island, and the North Point Naval Air Station. It was a gorgeous view, but one which we wouldn't have much time to enjoy.

Later that night we went out to Old Town San Diego for dinner. It's no longer Casa De Reyes, it's now called the Cosmopolitan Restaurant, but the menu is much the same, and the patio is still wonderful. Jennifer and Rich were in town so we met up with them. They had been walking around Coronado all day and were completely wiped out as well, so it was a rather quiet evening for all of us.

After grabbing a cab back to the hotel, I popped some more NyQuil Sinus in an attempt to get some sleep. It was again in vain, and I spent most of the night staring out the window of my presidential suite.

Conference Day -1: Fate Deals Some Strange Cards

March 2, 2007 2:44 AM

I am intending to document much more closely my company's annual customer conference this year, and today it all begins. I call it Conference Day -1 because it wasn't supposed to begin until tomorrow...

As anybody in Minneapolis probably knows, the last week has seen two near-blizzard storms roll through the Twin Cities Metro Area. Last weekend we received a foot of heavy, wet snow that provided plenty of disruptions for anybody going anywhere, regardless of car or plane. Round two of the storms began last night, leaving a few heavy inches on the ground, with another 8-14 inches expected to fall before midday Friday.

Shortly after arriving at the office this morning and sorting out the morning's fires, I decided I'd try to check in for my flights to San Diego. I was booked on a Delta flight scheduled to leave at 8:35 Friday morning where I would connect in Salt Lake City. I was somewhat looking forward to going to SLC, as I haven't set foot in Utah in well over 13 years. I'm glad I decided to check in as early as I could, because a very quick attempt at doing so informed me almost 24 hours in advance, that my flight had already been cancelled.

This presented me with a rather large problem: I'm one of the few employees that HAS to be in San Diego on Friday. I have a meeting in the evening that I need to be at. Combine a tight work schedule with an airport that is just limping through a winter storm warning, and I have a big problem.

I immediately called our corporate travel (this is around 10:00 a.m.) and spoke with a wonderful woman who slowly started to try and untangle a way for me to be in San Diego before 4:00 p.m. Every Northwest flight was booked solid all the way through Saturday, and every Delta flight was cancelled. My only option was to catch a flight out TODAY on Sun Country, direct to San Diego. I jumped at it, and the woman at travel even managed to arrange a room in the same hotel I'll be spending the rest of my stay, which makes things very easy for me.

But if merely getting a new flight wasn't enough of a problem, my schedule and the absense of several coworkers from the office today left me in a bit of a bind. That bind was that I had to be at a meeting with my CEO and several other executive staff to go over some last-minute items before I left for San Diego. This meeting would go until 12:00 noon, and I had to be at the airport by 2:00 to catch a 3:30 flight. In addition to having to drive home immediately after that meeting, and being the procrastinator that I am, that would also mean packing in my already slim window, which I had planned on doing tonight.

After a quick blitzkrieg through my suitcase and attending to several last minute things I needed to take care of, I made it to the airport. While attempting to figure out which gate exactly I was departing from, I ran into a familiar face. My Chief Executive Officer. Yep, same guy I was in a meeting with no more than two hours prior.

Turns out we were booked on the same flight. My Chief Product Officer was also booked on the same flight. It also turns out the tables from last year have suddenly turned. For anybody who has read my blog regularly, you may recall my CEO stiffed me (comedically) on a $12.00 glass of cabernet last year. Well, shortly after boarding the plane, the flight attendant informed the passengers that there was one first class seat available for upgrade. Not more than 30 seconds later, she's standing over me asking if my name is "Bob" and that a few gentlemen in the front had requested I join them. My CEO even refused to let me pay for the upgrade.

He did even up on the glass of wine at our company golf tournament (which I organize) last fall. So, I guess I owe him now.

We were scheduled to leave at 3:50 p.m., but didn't go wheels-up until almost 5:45 p.m. Despite the delay, I'm now enroute to San Diego, nonstop, riding comfortably up front in seat 3A next to the big guys. Having just broken through the upper level cloud ceiling, I can tell you it is a magnificent day, hidden to all below by the unfortunate weather. The picture above I took while we were still climbing out between cloud layers, probably between 50 and 60 miles outside of Minneapolis.

I should probably buy these guys dinner. :-) I'll see how up for some food and drinks they are when we land.

Despite being a day early, I'm happily chasing the sunset westward at 38,000 feet.


This is the word barf of a guy named Bob (Ethics major turned Software Engineer) who lives in Minneapolis.

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