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Sunday, January 29, 2006

DoD Cyber Crime Conference

(I'm finally getting back to normal - I got hit hard by bronchitis - see previous post)


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.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bronchitis and Apples

I will post next week about my trip to the Tampa area and the DoD Cybercrime Conference, but wanted to post a quick note explaining my absence.

I caught bronchitis from a flight attendant who was not on duty, but sitting next to me in first class on the flight home. I decided to pamper myself and upgraded for $100. There were no other seats to move to in first class when I sat next to her while she was coughing and sneezing. Oy. I am prone to bronchitis, took an Airborne and kept to the window of my seat as much as possible during the flight. When I got home Saturday night, I was okay, but in the middle of the night, my throat was inflamed and the next morning I was a mess.

I went to the doctor on Wednesday for meds, had a high temp then and then a high temp the next two days. I am slowly recovering, but am not online as much as I'd like.

As for Apples, I have been part of a rousing discussion on Usenet about Macs/Apple notebooks that are not compatible with some LCD projectors. I noted that at many of the conferences I've spoken at, speakers are requested to either use the PC laptop the conference has or bring their own PC laptop and not a Mac or Apple because their LCD projector isn't compatible.

Well, this raised the ire of a lot of Apple geeks. Good lord, people, Apple does not rule the world. Get over it. They demanded I provide a "list" of the projectors that Macs/Apples supposedly didn't work with. I wrote back that why would I even compile such a list when I have a PC and not a Mac and thus have no reason to make a list? Hello? Then they claim that *every* LCD projector *is* compatible with a Mac, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Why would I make up such as thing? I wouldn't have posted it if I hadn't experienced it.

These people are egotistical a--holes. I can not believe how nasty they've been. They've called me a liar, when I have had personal experience at many conferences in this situation or said I must only do my talks at the "local school or library." And what's that supposed to mean anyway - that schools and libraries don't have LCD projectors?

This is yet another case of adults acting like 12-year-olds online, not willing to accept another person's honest opinion, and refuse to take their blinders off.

Funny - and I was actually contemplating buying an Apple Powerbook to complement my Sony Vaio. At the conference last week in the exhibition hall was an Apple Kiosk. Had a nice chat with the guys there and came thisclose to ordering the Powerbook. But after the kooks who replied so nastily to my posts, I think I'll stick with my PC laptop and just order the new Vaio which is under three pounds now (and better for my traveling). I don't want to be associated with people as nasty as some Mac/Apple owners.

The Internet is a wonderful tool, but it doesn't take long for people to forget to act like the adults they are supposed to be.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Washer hell cont'd

UPDATE: 07/12/06

DO NOT BUY THE HE4 DRYER FROM SEARS. WE'VE HAD OURS FOR JUST OVER SIX MONTHS AND IT DIED ON US TWO WEEKS AGO. PLEASE SEE MY JULY 10, 2006 POST ABOUT THIS. THE FRONT DISPLAY PANEL STOPPED WORKING AND THE SEARS REPAIRMAN SAID THERE ARE MANY OF THE HE4 DRYERS WHERE THIS IS HAPPENING

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I haven't posted partly because of the holidays and partly because my hubby decided to upgrade my desktop computer and had some problems with the hard drive installation. So, I was on my laptop for a while, then had to reinstall Windows and all of my software on the new desktop (which is extremely fast and much better than my old one).

The saga of the washer continues. I decided to try what the saleslady had advised: Turn off the spin cycle and let the water drain out. It was either that or take my laundry to a laundromat, since Sears couldn't swap washers for a week. So, on Christmas Eve afternoon, I put a small load in the washer. I watched as the cycle progressed and it appeared the "no spin" was working. I went upstairs to help Chris get ready for dinner. His parents were coming over at 5 pm. At 4:30, I went downstairs and shrieked. Water was spouting out of the drain pipe. It was worse than it had been before. There was almost an inch of water on the floor.

I ran to the washer, pushed the pause/cancel button twice like it recommended on that darned DVD, but it wouldn't shut off. I got a bucket to try to catch the water. I pushed the pause/cancel button frantically and it finally stopped.

Chris came halfway down the stairs, then ran down to help set up the wet/dry vac. I began vaccuuming up the water, but the wet/dry vac was acting wonky now. It would suck up a lot of the water, then start spitting it out again.

Oy!

I finally got the mop and began mopping the floor, swearing the whole time. I heard Chris' parents come in upstairs and heard Chris explaining where I was.

I kept mopping, emptying the bucket, mopping. . .

Chris was finishing cooking dinner, so he couldn't help.

I finally finished and heard the door open and Chris called down to see if I was okay. I told him I was done and to make me a scotch and water. I needed it.

I forgot to mention that Sears Delivery told us we had to pay a 15% restocking fee. Yeah, right. Over my dead body. It wasn't our fault the salesperson wasn't told that a septic system and dry wells shouldn't use the high efficiency washers. When Chris called the day the overflow first happened, the woman on the other end told him she'd bought the same washer as us and had the same exact problem - and she had a septic system. Hmph.

On Tuesday, I had to return some things from Christmas to Sears. I stopped by the washer/dryer section and saw the saleslady who'd advised me to turn the spin cycle off and told her what happened. Then I told her about the restocking fee. She told me she'd make sure it didn't get charged to us. Good!

The next day the new washer was to be delivered between 230-430 pm. Previously, the deliveries all happened in the first hour promised. At 345, Sears called and said they were running about an hour late, but were trying to catch up. Fine by me. 5:30 came and went. No delivery truck. At 5:45, I called Sears Delivery.

She called the truck and came back to tell me they should be there by 6:10. I asked if they could deliver on Friday, since we wanted to start cooking dinner. She said they didn't have deliveries scheduled in our area until the next week. Okay, so we'll wait until 6:10. Well, you guessed it, 6:10 came and went. I waited until 6:45 this time and called the number. No one was there - just an answering machine. I called the 800 Sears number and the guy who answered got my info and began to say, "Your delivery is scheduled for this afternoon between 230 and. . .oh. They aren't there yet?"

No duh, Sherlock.

He put me on hold, came back and said the delivery truck should be here "any minute now." I told him if they weren't, I would be calling back.

Finally, the truck showed up at 7:30 pm. Three hours late; five if you count from the first promised time of 230 pm.

The two guys got the new washer ready to bring in. One of them came into the basement to unhook the HE washer. He also told us we never should have been sold the washer because of our septic system. That was *three* people now who told us this.

The new washer was installed; the guy ran it through a cycle. No problems.

Hooray!

I got a call the next day from Joyce, the saleslady who sold us the washer/dryer. She was upset that she'd never been told by anyone to warn people with septic systems and/or dry wells about not using HE machines. She promised the restocking fee wouldn't be charged to us, as it was not only not our fault, but that it was not a special order (which is usually when a restocking fee is charged).

I got a receipt in the mail on Friday from Sears with credit for the return of the HE washer. Then there was a $195 fee that had been charged as Misc. I'm calling Joyce at Sears tomorrow to let her know that I haven't received credit for the $195 I was charged.

I am not a happy camper. I am very disappointed, as we bought all our kitchen appliances from Sears and never had a problem before this.