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Saturday, July 22, 2006

TechNet Mid America Conference

I got this gig from doing the DoD (Department of Defense) Cyber Crime Conference this past January. Jay Walker and Sharla Warren, of Technology Forums, are big fans of mine! So they booked me for the TechNet Mid-America 2006 Conference, held in Collinsville, Illinois July 17-19, 2006. Why Collinsville? I asked the same question. Most of the attendees were coming from Scott Air Force Base, located nearby.

Sooooo, the night before I left, Sunday, July 16th, I planned on getting to bed early, as I had to leave the morning at 8 am for the airport. But no. I was letting Guin out and when she went down the stairs, she missed one and tumbled to the bottom, whining. She has this problem where her left back kneecap sometimes pops out and all I do is gently rub it until it pops back in. That's what I thought it was until I started rubbing her leg and saw blood.

I yelled for Chris, ran back upstairs to change from my jammies into regular clothes and we bundled Guin in the car and drove to Portsmouth to the emergency vet hospital (it's the closest at about 15 minutes away). One of her claws was bent at an odd angle, but she was really good in the car.

When we got there, only three other people were in the waiting room. One couple was waiting to pay for their pug, which they'd given an antihistamine to. The pug got a little wiggy and wouldn't stay still so they brought it in to get a calm-down shot. A woman had a cat in a basket on her lap - the cat had been hit by a car the day or so before and wasn't peeing, so she was worried and had brought him back. The last was the owner of two dogs who had encountered a porcupine. Ouch. They all made Guin's claw look like nothing.

So we settled in the waiting room, but were put into an exam room fairly quickly. The vet was very nice, pulled the bent claw (which turned out to be broken, not pulled all the way out). Guin yelped, then calmed down as the vet wrapped her foot in a pink bandage. I put Guin on the floor and she promptly began hopping around. Put her in the car with Chris, then it took for-ever to pay and get some pain meds for Guin. Finally got home about 11:30 pm. Slept badly because I was worried about Guin, but she crashed on the bed and slept like a baby.

Monday, July 17th, flew out of Manchester, NH airport on Continental (good airline!). Connected in Cleveland (oh so exciting). My ticket showed the connecting flight was at a different gate, so I called my mom and began walking. I was going by some monitors and decided to doublecheck the gate. Good thing I did! It turned out I was on the same darned plane I'd just gotten off of.

On the plane, this guy sits next to me. Not bad-looking. We talked for a short time, then I popped my iPod headphones in my ears to listen to a book and ate my sandwich. When we were landing in St. Louis, we chatted some more. Talk about eerie coincidences - turns out he was not only going to Collinsville, he was staying at the same hotel as me (although he was there for a different conference). We cracked up and he flirted with me. I made a point of mentioning Chris several times. But it was nice to have the attention. Made me feel purty.

It was hotter than hell. Got my bags, then had to wait for the Avis bus to take me to my rental car. Their computers were down, so instead of going directly to the rental, I had to go into the office at the lot to wait for my car info. I ended up getting a white minivan (it was the least expensive, only $169 for four days), hopped in, cranked up the A/C and headed to the hotel.

It was a quick and easy drive and guess who I pull up in back of? The guy I sat next to on the plane. He and his coworkers had rented a SUV. His name is Nick, BTW. We walked into the hotel together, checked in, then said our goodbyes.

I quickly unpacked, went to the convention center next door to check in at the conference and say hi to Jay, then went back to my room. The wireless Internet wasn't working, so I called downstairs and two guys came up to help figure out what was wrong. The heat was affecting the wireless, so one of them had to hard boot the base and I was up and running. They almost had to move me to another room, but thank goodness they didn't. They gave me a couple of free drink coupons for the trouble.

I went downstairs to the hotel restaurant for dinner (lamb chops and asparagus w/hollandaise sauce) and a scotch w/water. I ended up not using the other coupon. I was too tired. I did stop by the bar when I saw Nick and his coworkers in there. They looked at me like I had three heads as Nick and I laughed and chatted. I said good night and went to my room to crash.

The next morning I caught up on email, then headed over to the conference for the lunch keynote, Lt. Gen Charles Croom, Jr. He was energetic, but honestly, it was all military talk, so it was kinda boring. Lunch was good though. I was told a lot of people had signed up for the first half of my talk (it was split between two days) and the room was half full when I started. Some people sneaked in during it and I got good feedback and sold a few books.

I met up with Jay, his wife Dawn (a dead ringer for Jennifer Garner), Sharla and others from Technology Forums for dinner at Lottawatta Creek. Good restaurant, great waiter, my dinner was excellent, but the others weren't too happy with theirs. To be honest, their meals didn't look too good.

Wednesday morning my room was packed - more people showed up than were expected. I was told word had gotten around that I was a good speaker. Why thank you! I personally think that when military/law enforcement see my name in the schedule and read that I'm a woman and a civilian that I must not know what I'm talking about. Then word goes around and they flock to my talk. Go figure.

I sold the rest of my books, got great questions and was pleased with myself.

I got a lovely wood box with the conference logo laser etched on the cover and a wood pen/pencil set inside. Very nice!

I drove through White Castle for lunch (I'm just not thrilled with their burgers. Too many onions for me), then took a long ride around the area. Lots of cornfields. Lots and lots. Hit the Hallmark store to buy some things, the grocery store to get juice, water and some snacks, then went back to my room to crash for a quick nap.

Got up and the wireless was out again. Picked up the hotel room phone to call downstairs, but it wasn't working. Checked the plugs, etc, no go. So went down to the front desk to tell them about the phone and the wireless being out again. They sent a guy up with a new phone, which worked fine. But the wireless was down due to the heat again, so I headed down to the lobby to get the wireless access there and answer emails.

Nick called and left a message on my voicemail. When I called him back, he said he wanted to get together. I reminded him I was married. He said he knew and just wanted to hang out or maybe we could go swimming in the pool. Huh? I told him to have fun with his friends and not to rush. If he got back early, I'd meet him in the bar for one drink. He agreed.

I did takeout from Ruby Tuesdays (buffalo chicken tenders w/salad) and settled in to watch Shrek 2 for the millionth time. All of a sudden a thunderstorm hit, the cable went out in the room and I called Chris to have him tape Deadwood for me (I'd missed the previous episode). I took some photos of the lightning, which I'll post on my photos link later.

Nick didn't call (I was kind of glad). Got up the next morning and checked email. I got one from one of my WHOA volunteers, Ron. He let me know that our WHOA-KTD Vice President, Joan Welch had died. I was in shock. I've known Joan for 10 years. She was with Cyberangels at the time, at the height of my cyberstalking case. She then went to Safetyed.org, then came to WHOA just over a year ago to help me launch the Kids/Teen Division. She was always so enthusiastic and had some wonderful ideas to promote the KTD.

I called Ron and he only knew she'd been in the hospital the previous Saturday and died that night. She was only 63. Her mother, who is in her 90s (and not a nice lady, from what Joan told all of us), either wouldn't answer the phone or hung up on anyone who called to ask what happened to Joan. I cried on the phone. Poor Ron. I then got a message from a Deputy who was another friend of Joan's. I called him and he said he was trying to get more info on Joan. At the end of my conversation with him, I burst into tears again. My flights home were going to be hell.

I packed, crying, called Chris, cried some more. I couldn't eat breakfast. Drove to the airport and couldn't figure out why the gas station had a waiting line. It turned out the thunderstorm had knocked out power for over 500,000 residents and many of the gas stations were closed.

Got to the airport, checked in my bags and bought some souvenirs for my niece and nephew. Nick called again to tell me to gas up the rental. I told him I was way ahead of him and was already in the airport. Turns out he was on the same flight to Cleveland I was! So he'd see me at the gate.

Got a sandwich from Starbucks, but no coffee - the water was contaminated from the storm. Yikes!

Nick came by soon after and we talked while we waited for the flight to board. He's a funny guy, kinda stocky, but cute and blue blue eyes. No, I'm not going to cheat on Chris. I never could. Chris is my rock. But Nick made me feel good about myself. I know I'm overweight, but I've been exercising, eating right and slowly losing the weight. His attention made me feel great!

Got on the plane, got to Cleveland and had to run to my connecting flight. Said a quick good-bye to Nick and ran.

Got home at about 6:30 pm. Chris had made filet mignon for dinner. Delish! I went to bed and crashed. Now to find out what happened to Joan.

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