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Royal Friday

We won another kickball game, this week, and wound up going out until well into the night. A couple relatively unique things happened. too. One thing was that I went into the office on Wednesday, so tie up some loose ends before the conference in Orlando, next week. I have been working from home the rest of the time, sharpening up this web application I built for work. It's finally completely converted to perl, so now I can make a lot of the feature improvements I wanted to make.

The American Royal Barbecue is going on, this weekend, down in the West Bottoms. It's the biggest barbecue cookoff in the world, so it attracts some hundreds of thousands or spectators and competitors from all over the USA. The Friday night portion of the event is widely regarded as one of the biggest parties of the year in KC. I had never gone before last night, and now, having gone, I will never miss it again, as long as I have a way to get there.

It was a perfect 70-degree day, yesterday, so Geoff, Joel, and I were going to walk down. But Joel hurt his knee recently, so we took a cab down. The event is laid out as rudimentary outdoor booths, each complete with kegs of beer, and gigantic smokers, seeping out the heavenly odor of the barbecued meat attaining perfection inside. All the booths are technically private, paid for by their occupants, or more commonly, by their employers, but the whole event is so friendly that the people running the smokers are more than happy to show you around, give you a beer, and a sample of their slow-cooked wares. Walking from booth to booth, getting more and more numb, surrounded by thousands of beautiful women, also getting numb, combined with an absolutely perfect day, permeated with the sublime odors of cooking meat, just makes for a fantastic evening. That's why it was such a shame to leave.

On Wednesday, our kickball team was a little short on women, so Carrie volunteered to give us a hand, as she has done a couple of times before. She came out with us after the game, as we played lots of shuffleboard and foosball, until about 2 AM. Luckily, she lives downtown, and gave Erp and me a ride home. On Friday night, however, she hosted an open-invitational t-shirt grafitti party in Westport, starting at 9 PM at Buzzard Beach, as a going-away party for herself, as she's moving to Boca Raton on Sunday.

Getting from the Royal to Westport was much more difficult in practice than it was on paper. The ATA offered a free shuttle between the Royal and various park-and-ride points in the downtown area, including Union Station, from where I could hop on the MAX to Midtown. So, around twenty after eight, I said good night to the folks I was with at the Royal, and got a beer for the road. I walked the half mile or so from the booths to the main entrance at Genessee, where I expected to see the ATA buses lined up, like at Royals games or at Oktoberfest, but instead found a menage of crossing foot-traffic, and the occasional car making it through, but not a bus in sight.

I waited for about fifteen minutes, and still didn't see a single bus, gave up, bit the bullet, and hailed a cab to take me to Union Station. On the way from the Royal to Union Station, I must have seen ten buses. Such is irony. I couldn't understand a word the driver said, so I just smiled and laughed, before I forked over eight dollars at the circle drive at Union Station. At least I now had a one-dollar bill to use for the bus. I walked over to the stop, on the other side of the building, and saw on the MAX's handy "next bus" display, that I'd have to wait over twenty minutes for the next bus. Luckily, a 57-bus rolled up about five minutes later, to run along the exact same route as the MAX, for the stretch I had in mind. I slipped my crusty dollar into the beeping machine, waved off a transfer pass, and took a seat. I was finally on my way.

I hopped off at 39th, and walked the mile or so to Westport from there, arriving, of course, first at Buzzard Beach at about a quarter after nine. This gave me ample opportunity to relieve my aching bladder, get a $1.75 PBR, and wander out to the deck to watch for a familiar face approaching the building. Carrie, with two guys in tow, walked up to the bar about ten seconds after I rested my elbows on the railing and took a sip. She rewarded me with a big hug when I walked downstairs to meet her. We set about playing shuffleboard as more people filtered in to wish her well.

Since Carrie was the only person I knew there, I set about barging into people's conversation circles, until just about everybody knew who I was, and, for some reason(especially the women) started scribbling things like "I like women with children," "I like Sex and the City," "I'm great in bed," and "Bald is sexy," among other things, on my shirt. As with all meetings of people that don't know each other, we all soon knew where everyone was from, and a girl named Noelle(I think), drew a keg on my shirt with the words, "Peoria Brewing Company," on it. Upon seeing this, a girl across the table piped up, "I lived in Peoria for twelve years."

Upon closer inspection, it turns out that this girl, named Heidi, was three years behind me at not only my high school, but also my grade school, and knew my family(but ironically, not me). Nonetheless, I scribbled, "Go Comets," on her back. She's eager to get into some local jazz flavor, and instructed me to show some of it to her when I get back from Orlando.

We moved on to the Beaumont Club, where Carrie managed to get the $5 cover waived for all of us. When we were out on Wednesday night, some relatively obvious rock and alternative standards would come on the jukebox, and she'd say things like, "I've never heard this before," or "Oh, I love this song since I heard it for the first time last week." Very curious, I thought. I figured it out when the music started playing at the Beaumont, though. She's a country fan. That explained it.

Outside, at the attached Westport Beach Club, there was a full-scale banda concert going on, which I thought was awesome, but apparently nobody else in our group did. But my tab was outside, so whenever I needed a drink, I'd go out there and dig the banda for a while. I think I was the only gringo there, though.

It was a great group of people I was with, and I got a bunch of phone numbers so we can all hang out again. Last night was a very worthwhile evening, and one of those times that I really am ecstatic to live in Kansas City.

11:16 PM, Oct 1, 2005

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So How Was Orlando? - Part 1

I spent all day, last Saturday, sitting around, packing, and getting ready for the trip to Florida. Not wanting to fly hung over, I spent the evening in, so I could get a full night's sleep and all that.

I woke up on Sunday morning refreshed, and ready to go, so I called Loor, over at Atlas Cab, for a ride to the airport. The trip went uneventfully, besides the fact that I still really just hate the hassle of flying. As the plane started its overly drawn-out descent into America's tourist haven, my phone started vibrating with calls, alerts about missed calls, and text messages. I felt popular. It turns out that I was just being chastised for holding everyone's dinner up, as they all expected me at the hotel at a the time I had told them, as opposed to that time indicating the target time for the plane to land.

A wall of heat, humidity, and insects washed over me as I stepped out of the baggage claim area to get a cab. I just don't understand why there are fifteen million people living in that place. I started sweating immediately, and found that I needed to walk three hundred yards down to the "taxicab area," with my luggage, sweating some more. I was a little irritable by the time I made it to the taxicab stand, where i had to put my name in for no line.

The ride to the hotel, on International Drive, was a quick one, for a goodly $30 fare. I checked in, signed what I needed to sign, had a couple of "sidebar" conversations with various coworkers, and headed to "Amigo's" with Geoff, for dinner.

The conference I attended all week was of the sort that only career military types could really appreciate, with plenteous bursts of "HOOAH," from random spots all around me, and enough acronyms that I suppose that the conference would have taken another three days if they had said everything in its expanded, unabbreviated form. Mostly, I just took notes on programming ideas that I got, in lieu of losing my mind from boredom.

On the second day of the conference, I demonstrated the monthly report application I wrote to some of the senior executive types in the program, and they loved it. I have been tapped as a project lead to make the application work for everybody, with help from two other guys to document it and make the site prettier. As you can see from this website, and from my clothes, I don't really have much of a sense of what looks good. It looks like work'll want me to fly out to Seattle in the coming weeks, to get some structure requirements for other kinds of users, and so I can go to some brewery tours.

On the third day, Geoff and I met up with some people with whom he used to work, when he lived in Orlando, two years ago. We drank entirely too much, and ate entirely too little, resulting in a rash, drunken decision to go downtown at 10PM, and drink more. We went to the Back Booth for 80s night and great beer on tap, and floated from there to other places until about 2AM, consuming a total of about 15 or 16 drinks. Everything would have been fine, but for one thing: on my recommendation, we stopped by McDonald's on the way back to the hotel, where I got the biggest, greasiest, stomach-stretchingestly disgusting burger on the menu, shoved its dripping greasy mass down my throat in three bites, and went to sleep.

I woke up to the space shuttle launch noise of my phone's alarm clock at 7AM. It was horrible. I hadn't even slept long enough to be hung over. I was just sleepy, in a worse way than I had felt in a long time. I did the best I could to clean up, and trudged downstairs, just in time for Thursday's thrill-o-rama of acronyms and hooahs. I struggled through the first hour and a half, holding my eyes open like beartraps longing to snap shut, wisking me off to slumberland.

Geoff missed reveille altogether, so I went and woke him up about an hour into the proceedings, to find that he was no better off than me with an extra hour of sleep. At the first official break, Geoff came in, and asked me how I was doing. With heavy eyelids, I told him I was exhausted, and at that precise moment, a small tremor broke out in my digestive tract. I immediately thought, "Double quarter pounder. Shit." I gingerly walked out of the conference room, taking deep breaths of recycled, air-conditioned, but still heavy and humid Florida air.

If I had been in Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, or anywhere else that has normal autumnal weather, I might have staved it off with some cool, dry October air, and a pleasantly violent trip, a couple of hours later, to the thinking chair, over a chapter of Clear and Present Danger, but as it was, I didn't even make it to the bathroom. A fountain of stomach acid, brown, body-warm water, and hamburger fixins splashed impressively on the previously reflective floor of the Embassy Suites' crowded main conference hall, as I, in a futile attempt, tried to block the flow with my hand. This, in addition to being useless, also served to cover my clothes with what had only moments before been in my stomach.

Twice I stopped, on my forty-foot route to the bathroom, and made people turn their heads away in disgust, cringing at the horrible screaming noise I was making, in my misery. I finally made it to a stall in the bathroom, and busied myself wiping off with toilet paper, but rejoicing that my stomach had nothing left to give. When I emerged from the bathroom, the mess I left on the carpet had already been covered with lye, and the other spot had already been mopped up. Noticing this, I thought to myself that the Embassy Suites must be pretty well-managed. These thoughts were quickly replaced with overwhelming shame, however, as all eyes were drawn to me as I made my way to the elevator.

In three minutes that felt like three hours, I was back in my room, pulling off my soiled clothes, and trying to regain some breathing through my nose. The nasal passage, while filled with elements of what my stomach had expelled, had completely swollen shut, making me breathe burning acidic breaths through my mouth. I left a conciliatory message on my boss' phone, showered the remains of "it" off, and lay down to drift in and out of a fitful sleep in 10-20 minute segments for about the rest of the day, as my nasal passage slowly cleared over a period of about seven hours.

By about 4PM, I was feeling fine, relatively. I was hung over, but the discomfort from that was nothing, compared to the wrath of the hamburger, that morning. I rejoined everyone to chuckles and stories about my little, "show," that day.

I went to bed early that night, and even though I had spent most of the day resting, slept straight through to feel surprisingly chipper on Friday morning. While shortened to less than half a day, the conference was very sing-songy, and resounded with hooahs all around, along with numerous awards given to the executives by each other. With no illusions intended about paying attention, I brought my computer downstairs, paid my bills, and worked on some perl during the bulk of the proceedings.

Wait, there's more? Indeed there is.

7:40 PM, Oct 10, 2005

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So How Was Orlando? - Part 2

Wait! There's a first part. This isn't just a clever title. Go and read it before you get too invested in this part, or you shall be lost.

They released us from the conference at 11 in the morning, so I hurried across the street to the tourist office, and booked myself a round trip on the 1PM shuttle to Disney World. While waiting for the shuttle, I had lunch with Geoff, and exchanged hopes for good weather that day. It had been raining all week, and the forecast for that day had sedately called for, "A few thunderstorms." The sun was out now, and people were walking around. I was optimistic. Geoff was getting on the 1:15 airport shuttle, to make a flight back to KC sometime shortly after that, so we shook hands, and wished each other good luck.

The driver picked me up about ten minutes early, and dropped me off at Epcot Center, where, as I knew from the previous year, the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival was taking place. Wanting to try something different than last year, however, I hopped on the monorail and headed for the Magic Kingdom. When I got off the train in front of the park, it started pouring down rain. Not really thinking anything was going to change, I walked calmly over to the ticket booth, and forked over $63.64 for admission. By the time I had my ticket, and had gone through the rather technologically impressive ticket gate(they take electronic fingerprints to make sure nobody else can use your ticket!), the rain had died down to a sprinkle.

I walked into the park that had always been my favorite to visit when I was a little kid, and started looking around for a place to get a beer. A place like Disney World is unparalleled in its potential for people-watching, so i figured wandering around with a beer in my hand would be a nice way to spend the day. I found an information booth, and asked the attendant where I could go to get some beer on tap, and was informed, "Oh, there's no alcohol in the Magic Kingdom." Completely amazed, I wandered from attraction to attraction, stone-sober, and wondered why I liked this place so much when I was a kid. At that time, as well, the rain stopped, and was replaced by oppressive heat, which continued for the rest of my trip.

At about 6PM, I left the park, which was closing for some kind of Halloween celebration, and went over to Epcot. Good old Epcot. I had previously arranged to meet Frank, who used to work with Geoff, there, and because his wife is a Disney employee, he was able to get me into the park for free. Then, I wasted no time drinking the beers of the world. When I walked out at about 9:45, I had consumed no less than nine beers in three hours. I took the monorail over to the transit plaza, another monorail from there to the Polynesian Resort, and a bus to Downtown Disney, where I had arranged to be picked up at midnight. I payed the crazy $23 cover charge, and made a beeline for the Adventurer's Club, to see a whole new cast of characters playing the roles I saw last year. Very fun, nonetheless.

At 11:45, my phone rang. It was the shuttle driver, commanding me to come outside, because he was ready to go. It was a very quiet ride back to the hotel. When I called from Epcot earlier that night, the dispatcher at the cab company said that it'd be an additional $24 to be picked up any time later than 9:30. When the shuttle dropped me off at the hotel, I started walking toward the door, and he called after me, asking for my original ticket. I produced it for him, minus the part with my information on it, which had been collected by the driver that took me to Disney earlier.

"Did you pay for a round-trip?" he demanded of me.

"Yes, I did," I responded. He seemed appeased by that, but still flummoxed. Not flummoxed enough, however, to demand the $24 the dispatcher assured me I'd have to pay. Making sure that they make all they can make from their overcharged cab service is hardly my responsibility, so I made no attempt to remind the driver that he needed to get some money from me. I went inside, checked my email, read a chapter, and went to sleep.

The next morning, I got a call at about 9AM from my Uncle Matt, who lives in Orlando, and with whose family I would be spending the remainder of my trip. He said that because of the timing of several events that day, he would have to come and get me in twenty minutes. I leapt out of bed, into some clothes, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and packed everything up. I went downstairs, checked out, and walked out the front door just in time to see Uncle Matt drive up.

We went to his daughter(my cousin) Sarah's soccer game, after which we hurried over to Charlie's football game, where I sat with Uncle Matt, Matthew and Aunt Cecilia. After that, we made a quick run back to the Kelly house for a shower and a nip of some lemon-lime soda, before heading off to the Florida Citrus Bowl, to watch the University of Central Florida play the University of Memphis, and win. It was an excellent game, and I'm really glad I got to go.

After the game, we headed back to the house and hung out until well after the regularly-posted bedtime. In the morning, I enjoyed a delicious breakfast, courtesy Uncle Matt and Aunt Cecilia, before Uncle Matt drove me to the airport. I had a great time in Orlando, but it looks like it'll probably be the last visit I make for a while, as the annual conference will be in San Antonio, next year.

7:47 PM, Oct 10, 2005

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My Foot

I have spent the last couple of weeks simply enjoying Kansas City on a budget of just about nothing. I am still looking for a roommate, and have hit a development that may allay my budgetary issues soon. We'll have to wait and see.

After yet another successful kickball matchup against "Ghost Man on Third," there was much rejoicing. However, in just about the last play of the game, I was up, and kicked a nice line drive over the pitcher's head that bounced just behind second base. I suppose I was admiring the kick so much that I wasn't really watching where I was going. The kick didn't cause enough of a stir for me to make it to second base, but I rounded first nonetheless. As I stepped on the bag with my right foot, I guess I twisted my body wrong, or something, because when I stepped on my left, I felt a very satisfying, but very alarming pop in my left foot.

Almost immediately, I found it painful to put weight on my left foot. Recalling the incident when I broke my leg, making fun of Tim Casey, a jolt of alarm shot through me. Before I could ask for a pinch-runner, though, the inning ended with a pop fly, and I hobbled into the dugout. The game ended soon thereafter, thankfully without any plays that required any action from me. I caught up with friends, shotgunned a beer, and went home.

The next morning, it was impossible to walk without limping, yet no swelling at all had occurred. I had a meeting in Leavenworth that day, that forced me onto my injured foot, in which I had by this time isolated the location of the pain to the top of the arch. A couple of days passed, and it got to the point that I was able to walk comfortably, without limping, and without any pain, such that I was able to take a walk to and from Washington Square Park, with roundabout routes, a walk of several miles, without any showstopping pain. The only reason I stopped walking was because it was getting dark.

At this point I must state that having an mp3 player while walking is just wonderful. Further, a shirt with a breast pocket makes this experience all the more convenient.

By the time I saw a doctor this week(my first run-in with the medical industry since my broken foot, almost six years ago), no apparent damage could be divined from the X-ray images, and I was at complete ease while walking. Running, however, was and still is quite excruciating. I walked a couple of miles last night, in my normal Friday night happenings, and had, at one point, to run across Grand to avoid the angry carhorns of suburban people bound for the Cashew to watch the rescheduled Chiefs-Dolphins game. The pain from that five-second jog made it apparent to me that I have not yet healed.

The doctor recommended some insoles for everyday use, and I must say that I'm sorry I haven't been using them all my life. They make walking long distances immeasurably more comfortable and less tiring.

In other news, I get to leave town for five or six days, starting tomorrow, for a simulation exercise way the hell out in Salina(pronounced "Sa-lie-nah," and not "Sa-lee-nah," like any intelligent person would assume), KS. At the bare minimum per diem rate of $60 for lodging and $30 for meals, per day, and a nightlife considered boring even by Baptists, I will be doing a lot of sitting and staring. I suppose It'll be nice to have a couple of days on the company, though.

3:58 PM, Oct 22, 2005

1 comment »»
Salina and Halloween

I have been in Salina, KS for a couple of days now, and I have gotten wind of some criticism, aimed at my previous post, regarding my comments about the pronunciation of the town, along with my own opinion of the purported nightlife in said town. This criticism came from a guy named Mike, most likely as a channel for his Salina-bred wife. To this criticism I say, I apologize for the nightlife comment, as I really have no way of knowing what there is or is not available to do in this town, as I have never tried going out here, and will not get a chance before I leave. I based my comment solely on the fact that it's a small town.

As for the pronunciation comment, I stand by it.

As I expected, I haven't really had time for anything, while I've been here, but working, sleeping, and eating. That's the nature of this job. Eleven months of sitting around pushing papers, and 30 days of hard work. That's my year.

The simulation center where we're working is wired to the internet, which is very handy, and the hotel has an even faster connection. As a result, I've been able to get a lot of work done in my spare time. On the phone with a friend, last night, I announced that when ENDEX comes, on Thursday, I'll be celebrating profusely. Thursday will be fun, at the least, and then, on Friday, Alex will be coming to KC for a visit, provided he doesn't get a flat tire in Osceola, IA.

For this weekend, I have Trivia Riot at the Brick, taking place on an honorary, "Pirate Night," at three parties to choose from, and at least one trip to the following establishments: Grinder's, Harry's Country Club, 75th St. Brewery, Boulevard Brewery, Barley's, and Charlie Hooper's.

It'll be a fun bunch of days.

7:09 AM, Oct 26, 2005

3 comments »»
Cameraween

When I got back from Salina, I was looking forward to hitting the town. Unfortunately, my plans for the evening fell through, and I wound up just going to 12 Baltimore with Geoff and Katie, for a drink or two. Just prior to that, however, I got a new camera. My old rig, a Canon Powershot s410, which I loved, just went to crap on me. Through several occasions of dropping it on stone or paved floors, both the screen and the comfactflash door ceased functioning. The latest infraction, however, is that it corrupts about 80% of all the pictures it takes, now.

I was on IRC recently, and I offhandedly asked if anyone is looking to get rid of a 3 megapixel camera, and it turned out that someone was trying to get rid of a 6 megapixel rig that they were given for free. I offered $200, and now I am the happy owner of a Fuji e550 camera. I spent a good deal of Friday walking around and getting some autumn pictures of downtown.

Alex came down to visit, this weekend, and joined us for trivia night at the Brick, and we got entirely too drunk, all around town.

For this and other embarrasing photography, see the newest album in the pictures section.

1:45 PM, Oct 31, 2005

1 comment »»
Gross!

You never know how dirty your bathtub is, until you clean it.

4:54 PM, Oct 31, 2005

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