DoD Cyber Crime Conference
Wednesday, January 11th
Took US Airways flight from Manchester, NH to Tampa, FL via Charlotte, NC. I had a three-hour layover. At least the Charlotte airport had a mall in it, so I had a nice long breakfast, then wandered through the stores. I arrived in Tampa early afternoon, where my cousin Bill picked me up, with our second cousin Christopher (I guess he's a second cousin - he's my cousin Ronnie's kid). We had about a 45-minute drive to the Westin Innisbrook Resort, so we got a chance to catch up. Even though I keep in touch with Bill via email, I haven't seen him since November 2002.
The Westin Innisbrook is a weird setup. It's not a hotel per se, but a group of buildings spread out over 1,100 acres with 4 golf courses. The checkin is in a separate building, then you either drive or take a shuttle van to your building. Each building looks like an apartment building. Mine was Lytham (pronounced Lithum - I mispronounced it as Lie-them at first). Bill drove me to my building and helped bring my bags to my room. Even though I have a Westin preferred guest card, they didn't have any upgrade rooms available (boo-hoo), but the room I got was very nice. Two queen size beds with feathertop mattresses and pillows, bathrobe (always a plus in my book) and nice amenities. We said our goodbyes and planned to get together on Friday.
I took the shuttle to the conference building to register, meet the organizers who had booked me and to find out where my books were and what time to set up for the book signing. That went smoothly. I got yet *another* conference bag (anyone want it?) with a leather notebook (pad of paper inside but no pen). My books were there and everything was set.
At 5:30 I headed to the hall where the book signing was to take place. Other authors were supposed to be there with their books. It ended up just being me and one other guy and the bookstore table setting up their books for sale. It was fun though. I met a writer for Wired magazine, Robin Mejia and we hung out for a while. She is a very cool person and I hope she writes something about me for her article. I gave her a media copy of my book and she was thrilled (I hope, ha ha).
A Hollywood screenwriter, David Marconi was a special guest after the book signing and was wandering around the room. He wrote the screenplay for "Enemy of the State" with Will Smith and Gene Hackman and was at the conference to talk about his newest movie, "The Informer," a cybercop movie. He came over to my table and we got to talking. I gave him a copy of my book and he saw I had copies of The Ghosts of Okinawa on my table. Since it was a DoD Conference, I knew a lot of military folks would be there and more than likely some had been on Okinawa. He asked if he could have a copy of that. I told him if he twisted my arm, he could. He jumped around the table behind me and actually twisted my arm! Someone took a photo, while I will post. It was hilarious. He gave me his email address and actually responded when I emailed him to tell him it was nice meeting him. He is definitely not a "Hollywood type" and I liked him a lot.
Got back to my room, ordered room service, watched LOST (the monster finally appears!) and hit the sack.
Wednesday, January 12th
Got up early, made coffee in the room, got my things together and headed over to the building where I'd be speaking. I was doing a three hour mini workshop called The Wild, Wild Web: Investigating Cyber Crimes. There were just over 500 people registered for the conference and nine other workshops going on, but my audience was about 75 people, which was great.
The workshop went over very well, I got some great questions and comments (and a few good laughs), then did a quick book signing at the end. I had 30 books sent there and brought an extra on the plane with me. I sold every darned book (except for the two I gave away). I was blown away.
That afternoon, I splurged and had a massage, which was absolutely wonderful and relaxing, then took a long walk around the resort. There was a short "nature walk" that I did, which was nice. Took some photos with my cell phone - if they come out okay, I'll post them. I went to the restaurant and ordered takeout and the girl who had been my moderator, Michelle, came over and we had a great conversation. She ended up saying she was so impressed with me she wanted to volunteer with WHOA. I am now in the process of training her!
Friday, January 13th (oooooh, Friday the 13th!!)
My cousin Bill picked me up, with Christopher in tow again. They took me to WTSP TV studios in St. Petersburg to do an interview with one of my favorite reporters, Dave Bohman (and yes, he's just as cute in person). He's interviewed me a couple of times before, but we never got to meet in person. I'll post links to the interview when it's on their site.
Bill took me to see the manatees at a Viewing Center next to Tampa Electric. We had no clue it was a special day. Bill was shocked at how crowded it was. There were senior citizens dressed up as pirates and wenches (try to picture that in your mind!) giving out beads and 20th anniversary necklaces; booths with info about wild animals and sea life and all sorts of things. I'll post those photos as well.
Got to my cousin Christine's house a bit later. My aunt Kathy and Bill have been staying with Christine since one of the hurricanes, then aunt Kathy got very ill. They thought it was cancer, but slowly have been ruling it out. She did have to have some surgery and lost a lot of weight. She looked better than I thought she would and we had a nice talk. Then Bill took me shopping for some things for aunt Kathy and we hit the dollar store while out. We had a fun time giggling over the silly things there.
Christine finally made it home a little after 6 pm and we went to Sweet Tomatoes restaurant. I am not a big buffet fan, but this wasn't so bad. I had a little bit of everything - salad, veggies, pizza, chili and even splurged with soft serve vanilla ice cream. We got back to Christine's, watched "Monk" on TV, then hit the sack.
The next morning, Christine took me to the airport. I forgot to mention the menagerie at her house: Three dogs (a Dalmation and two miniature Poodles); six turtles; one large Oscar fish; two lovebirds; and three cats. None of which slept with me. The turtles and fish would have made a mess.
The first leg of my flight home was almost three hours and US Airways was offering an upgrade to first class for $100. What the heck? I upgraded and sat next to an off duty flight attendant who then went on to sneeze and cough, saying she was "getting over" bronchitis. I broke out my Airborne, drank it and sat as close to the window as possible. I couldn't change seats - none were left in first class and coach was full.
Got home, crashed and when I woke up on Sunday, my throat was so sore and I was congested. Thus began almost two weeks of bronchitis hell. I had three days of high fever (101+) and got medicine from my doctor. My fave is the cough syrup with codeine. Talk about psychedelic dreams. Boy. But at least I can sleep through the night without coughing. I decided to not take it last night and regretted it, coughing up a storm and finally getting up at 2:30 to take the cough syrup, then slept like a baby. . .with weird dreams.