Friday, October 29, 2010

Rollin' (Senior High Fall Work Trip - Day 1)

I'm happy to report that we've arrived in the Twin Cities with the same number of folks we began with. Unfortunately, that can NOT be said of our tires. Just as we neared Weyauwega (half hour out of town), one of the tires on the trailer started spewing bits of itself across the world. So with that, a run to Fleet Farm once we reached Steven's Point for a new tire, and a bit of a late start to begin with, it was 1 AM before we were in the church with the trailer unloaded. So, *yawn* I believe we'll turn in!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A fob story

Once upon a time, there was a girl. One day this girl who was walking with her friend Linda, when she realized she badly needed to use the facilities. As luck would have it, it was after dark, and their path was in the middle of nowhere, so there was little option but to use the facilities as nature provided: a tall patch of grass near the side of the path. Unfortunately for our protagonist, she happened to be holding her key fob in her hand, and somehow let it drop somewhere in the grassy patch. There was no hope of finding it in the dark without a flashlight, so Linda and the girl finished their walk.
The next day, she returned to the spot, and spent about an hour looking for the fob and mourning her carelessness. No good. A week or so later, Linda had pity on her, so they again walked the path. This time they searched more accurately, as Linda had a better idea of where it had been dropped. Still no trace.
A month later, our scatterbrained hero found herself with an unexpected afternoon off work. She decided to use the time to price out a new fob ($60) and a metal detector rental ($14). Armed with that information and 2 hours before the rental place closed, the girl rented a metal detector and made her way up the path to the fated site. This time, after 20 minutes of searching (and nervously watching the rapidly dropping battery indicator), she heard the joyous signal that all was soon to be well with the world. Sure enough, there it was, partly hidden in the grass right next to the path.
And our story draws to a close: the metal detector is returned to its shop and our hero and the adventuring fob are happily tucked in for the evening, all set to live happily ever after.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Boston love

Hello from somewhere up in the air between Boston and Chicago. I don't always like to blog about what I'm up to ahead of time because, well, this IS the internet. And while I have the hardest time ever imagining that any "bad guys" would ever find me - or find me attention-worthy if they did - it still probably not a bad idea to be a tad bit cautious. Right? I suppose my tweet updates saying "hi from Boston" might mean I come home to a robbed apartment... but it would have to be someone who knows pretty well who I am. And in that case, well, mi casa es su casa. Make yourself at home and take some some frozen venison from the freezer while you're there - it's good stuff and I'd like to make sure it's appreciatively used before this hunting season comes around!

So, Boston. Boston played host to a huge conference this week on Microsoft Sharepoint. My co-worker friend Wendy and I got to go because they say you always install Sharepoint twice: the second time because you screwed it up so badly the first time. Wendy and I went to try to prevent just that scenario: hopefully to save our organization thousands (if not hundreds of thousands - literally!) in rework and employee frustration. What is Sharepoint? Jeepers. It's basically a software platform that allows you to do all sorts of web based things. Document management, content management, workflow automation (think getting away from paper-based forms and processes), searchability, reportability, and electronic collaboration and knowledge sharing. It will be SO COOL if we do well, and SO NOT COOL if we don't.

All the above meant that the two of us really kept our noses to the grindstone for the three days of the conference. (Except, of course, when we paused to get my photo taken with a random vendor dressed as a ninja. You know, the usual.) As we stayed in the hotel that hosted it, we probably wouldn't have known we were anywhere in particular until we actually ventured into the city on Saturday. Ok, ok, we did make it to Legal Seafood Thursday night (golly was it lovely to have good lobster!). That almost counts, doesn't it?

Saturday found us trucking downtown on the subway, taking the Freedom Trail - first with a guide, then on our own - stopping for lunch at Cheers (even though nobody knew our names... k, sorry for that!), wandering around historic houses, burial grounds, and churches, and then meandering a bit out around Harvard just to see what that was all about.

All in all? I liked it! I liked it a lot. Both of us talked about how much we'd like to come back again when there'd be better opportunity to see and experience more.
And now for re-entry! We both have mountains of work to catch up on as well as the challenge of assimilating all this mad Sharepoint stuff into how we move forward. No problem, right?!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Three days in the wilderness with an axe murderer

So, Tom and I have been on many backpacking trips before, but this was the first one with Tom's friend, Michael - who we're pretty sure is an axe murderer. This is not based on any data, mind you, but more of a strong, "feels too right NOT to be true" sort of way. We did not mind, though, as one of Michael's friends assured us that it's been a long time since he struck, and we figured he'd be useful since he offered to knife any bears that became too threatening. It was only later that we came across a sign that assured us, "garbage kills bears". Man! If only we had known that at the outset we could have had a few granola bar wrappers at the ready and dispensed with Michael's services altogether.

My weekend really began Thursday night when Tom picked me up from the airport in a Miata with the top down. He had borrowed it from a friend for the week and after we had dropped my stuff off I got to take it out for a spin. Wooooo hooooo! I worked during the day on Friday (let's hear it for remote meeting software) which was ok because I got to break up the day with lunch with Tom's family: Tom Sr, Mary, Nancy, and new baby Elise. Tom Sr. treated us to Schlotsky's and we sat out on the patio catching up and enjoying the beautiful fall weather. I got to hold Elise for quite a while and she ended up falling asleep in my arms :). After Tom was done with work we went out to eat at a nice little restaurant with a ridiculous name: the Irregardless Cafe. The food and live music made up for it, though, so it was in good spirits that we headed to the Walnut Creek Amphitheater and joined maybe 15,000 other folks to hear The Avett Brothers in concert. Have I mentioned before how much fun they are as a band and how genuine their music is? It was just fantastic to be there.

Saturday morning found us picking up our axe murderer friend (whose spirits, we were happy to note, were high) and hitting the road. Michael is a ER nurse, so we whiled away the 5 hour drive hearing stories, talking healthcare and politics, sleeping, and arguing about whether it would be interesting to see a video of all of earth's history. Thankfully, the drive became increasingly beautiful as we entered the Smokies. Fall is just beginning here, and the weather was sunny and clear all weekend - which means we actually got to SEE the Smoky Mountains.

Our path, after a mile or two, joined up with the real live Appalachian Trail! I was pretty excited about this, as of course I've heard the stories and read enough of _A Walk in the Woods_ to get a sense that it's a pretty big deal. No one dubbed us with trail names in our short time there, bit we did run into others who had 'em. Our first night was spent in a shelter on the trail near Davenport Gap with a mother-daughter pair who went by the names Mama Monkey and Baby Monkey. They were able to share a few trail stories and give us the low-down on shelter etiquette. They also informed us that the crazy calling noises that were a continual backdrop for the entire weekend came from tree frogs. Good to know.

Michael had been up all night so was pretty shot, and the monkey pair wanted an early start, so Tom and I were the only ones to stay up playing Pass the Pigs. This is a game requiring incredible skill, strategy, and intelligence, as you will quickly see if you take a good look at the score sheet after the third game.

Sunday involved a LOT of hiking, with maybe 2000 feet of elevation gain, not counting the ups and downs in between.

Thankfully, there was good return for all that hard work: we hit the peak of Mt. Camerer at the peak of the day, and it was just beautiful. It was pretty much clear as far as the eye could see, and all of the hills were just... well... just beautiful. We dawdled around the Mt. Camerer lookout tower for maybe an hour, taking pictures, climbing around, and generally enjoying how smoky the Smokies *weren't* for the moment.

Then it was time to don our packs again and starting heading down to our second site for the weekend. It was a long way, so we were pretty shot by the time we finally rolled in. Site 37 is a big group site, so we got to know a few fellow campers (Kyle and Rich - air force dudes) as we set up and began cooking. We had fun joking about the folks in the next site over and chilling around the campfire they built.

After it got dark, we decided to try to find the stars. The tree canopy was heavy, but we figured that if we could find an opening it would be worth it because there would be so little light pollution. After walking around for maybe 20 minutes, we finally settled on jumping out to rocks in middle of the river near our tent. The trees still really blocked our view, but we DID see enough open sky to be able to see the main stars that make up Cygnus the Swan. Pretty stinkin' sweet.

For the second night in a row, our axe murderer was too tired to contemplate any deed more dastardly than simply going straight to sleep, but what with the beautiful rushing river sounds and the long hike, I don't think either of us was all that far behind him.

Our trip wrapped up on a lovely note. Another fellow camper, Will, accompanied us on the trail along the river as we headed back to the car. And Will had been camping/hiking here before. He pointed out Mouse Falls, which we would have missed completely had we been on our own. Better yet, he knew of this great swimming hole that was on our way. Tom and I couldn't resist. So we ended up plunging in, splashing around, and eventually working up our courage to climbing up the rocks taking a huge jump into the swirling water. Ahhhh! That alone turned the entire weekend trip from a 9 to a 10.

By the time we returned to the car, Michael must have decided we weren't worth the trouble, for he showed no more evidence of his violent pastime than he had for any earlier part of the trip. Good thing we knew who he really is, for we never would have figured it out from his behavior on the trip itself.

We got back in time to drop Michael off in time for work, grab dinner at an Indian restaurant, and get me to the airport (unshowered!) in time for my flight. I wasn't ready to leave!