Ugh… Not sleepy at all

Past midnight here in California and I have work tomorrow. The week’s been pretty long already what with the conference and my lungs acting up today and all the whatnot.

Yes, the lungs. We’re experiencing a drought in California. It must be true, because Governor Schwarzenegger said so, and the Terminator doesn’t lie. Plus it’s been awful windy lately, so there’s fires everywhere. Some of them too close for my own comfort. I’m pretty sure we’re safe here in our little bit of Sacramento but because I am who I am I just can’t help worrying.

We’re also in spitting distance of the capitol. I’m sure Arnie hangs out there a lot but I’ve never seen him in person. There’s always some sort of weird protest going on around the capitol as well, of course, and I’m told there’s going to be another one tomorrow. Well, I suppose, technically today. It’s going to make going to work sort of painful, I’m sure. Between worrying about the fires and the situation downtown tomorrow and the weird news coming out of Australia and New Zealand, I’m just having a hard time even thinking about sleeping tonight.

So… I guess I’m going to try again now.

Quick Note

On the whole, MoodleMoot 2008 was pretty good and I’m glad I went. There were good panels, many of which, like any self respecting panel in any event where you have a bunch of nerds gathered, went over their time limit.

I focused on the panels that seemed most appropriate to my situation. There were a couple of panels on Moodle customization and on Moodle as a social networking tool, and those seemed most important to me. I also picked up some good strategies for completing our own upgrade.

Of course there were also panels I didn’t expect to see at a large conference devoted to educational technology. "Distance Learning for the Metabolically Challenged?" " as a Model for Post Mortem Social Networking — What Can Moodle Learn?" They seemed like interesting panels but I assume they were just jokes and I didn’t bother attending. I would have if I’d had the time.

I did find myself at the same lunch table with a few of the lead developers of Moodle, including Mr. Moodle himself, Martin Dougiamas. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to ask them about any of my particular issues, which is a shame because I’ve been stuck on an upgrade issue for nearly a year now. Of course, it did feel good that every person I talked to about my own situation had pretty much the same reaction: a quick, sharp intake of breath followed by, "Oooh, ouch."

So I think I have some good ideas for when I start tackling that project again.

Basil? Is that you?

I admit that I put off finding a hotel until pretty close to the last minute, so maybe I should have expected that things wouldn’t go perfectly well. Still, when I first spoke with the front desk clerk to make my reservation, the fact that I had this conversation should have alerted me that the owners of the hotel were named Mr. and Mrs. Fawlty:

Me: I’d like to make a reservation for next week, please.
Clerk: Sure. What kind of room would you like? We have king sized beds available, queen-sized beds, and double twins all available.
Me: Ooh, I’d like a king-sized please.
Clerk: Just a sec, let me see if one’s available.

I made some sort of "Whu?" noise, because she needed to check on the availability of the rooms she’d just told me were available, but she was gone. Then she was back a moment later:

Clerk: I’m sorry, we have no king-sized beds available. Would you like a queen?
Me: Uh… Sure.

Then when I got to the front desk to check in:

Clerk: Would you like a room with free high-speed wireless Internet access?
Me: Sure, that would be great!
Clerk: (After checking on his computer) I’m sorry, we don’t have any rooms with wireless available. We’re overbooked, you see. But I can give you a cable to use in a room with an Internet jack.
Me: Uh… Sure.

That was okay. Actually, it worked out better for me, because my Kubuntu laptop is always a little shy when trying to connect to wireless networks in strange places, whereas wired Internet access is always just fine.

I also asked for directions to a local grocery store. I got directions to a local Walgreens, and was told that there were grocery stores close to it. There weren’t any really close to the Walgreen’s, but I did find a Trader Joe’s about two miles away. That worked out well too.

Now, because the University I work for makes it notoriously difficult to get reimbursement for expenses, my boss suggested I should arrange to have our financial services department pre-pay with a check that they would FedEx to the hotel. When I checked in I was told that the check hadn’t arrived, but that was no surprise. I’d checked in on Sunday, and even if the check had arrived the day before there would have been no one in Accounts Processing to deal with it. When I called on Monday to make sure the check had arrived I was told it hadn’t. "But," the accounts supervisor told me, "there is a package at the front desk for you."

Curious — and kind of annoyed that the check hadn’t arrived — I went to the front desk. Where there was indeed a package. Sent from me, with the shipping label I had filled out with my name in the sender’s name field and addressed to Accounts Processing.

Me: This isn’t for me. This is for Accounts Processing.
Clerk: (points at shipping label) But your name is on it.
Me: Yes, in the sender’s field. It’s addressed to Accounts Processing.
Clerk: (blank look)
Me: Would you like me to open it?
Clerk: (looking relieved) Yes, please.

Meanwhile, the Accounts Processing supervisor was hovering over the front desk clerk, sniffing. "He thinks that the check for his room is in there," she said with the tone that suggested I was a lunatic and idiot child for even thinking such a thing.

So I opened up the package, sure that opening a FedEx package not addressed to me is a violation of some sort of policy. And sure enough, inside is a check for the hotel, written out by my University’s accounts payable department.

Me: Well, this certainly looks like a check. Here.
Clerk: Thanks, we’ll take care of this right away.
Accounts Processing Supervisor: Sniff.

The first day of the conference passed without any issues. I went to the pre-conference event and had a pretty spiffy time, though the information wasn’t as valuable to me as I’d hoped it would be. The pre-conference event was in my hotel, but the main conference was in the Convention Center a couple of blocks away.

For the main conference I went to the convention center a few minutes before the keynote speaker was to begin and asked for my nametag. After some hunting, the girl at the desk told me mine wasn’t there. After some hunting and some asking around, it turned out that my hotel had actually thrown away several dozen nametags that were on their premises. Mine was among them, but at least I wasn’t the only one spending the day without a nametag.

There were other minor incidents throughout my stay at the hotel, but those are the ones that really stood out. None of them were really bad, and I was never really horribly inconvenienced so at no time was I really annoyed. So it was kind of like an episode of Fawlty Towers, but without the comic genius of John Cleese.

So that was my grand adventure in South San Francisco. Oh, and there was a conference or something where I learned some stuff which I’ll talk about later.

Why the English Language is awesome

A word I vaguely remembered last night from my high school English classes:

e·ruc·ta·tion (Ä­-rÅ­k-tā’shÉ™n, Ä“’rÅ­k-) n. the act or an instance of belching.

And another word that was brought up at work a couple of weeks ago:

con·tu·ma·cious (kon-too-mey-shuhs, -tyoo-) adj. stubbornly perverse or rebellious; willfully and obstinately disobedient.

We discussed this at our write-in last night. One of the attendees is a high school English teacher who was out of the room when we discussed these words. Naturally, when he came back, we asked him whether he had any students who were "contumaciously eructative". Without pausing for an instant, L. told us that no, he didn’t have any students who deliberately belched frequently just to be disruptive.

The conversation degenerated at that point, with jokes about people who were unable to belch suffering from "eructative dysfunction", and so on. We also figured that someone who went out of their way to disrupt a situation by belching out the alphabet was engaging in contumaciously eructative soliloquizing.

I’m not sure I can work that last phrase into a story but I’m about 100% sure I can use the word "eructation". It’s just that awesome.

Don't Forget…

…This Friday, June 13th, it’s time to BLOG LIKE IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD (again). There was a great deal of discussion as to whether this year’s apocalypse would be a zombie attack again, or whether some other catastrophe would befall mankind. Robot uprising, perhaps. Or maybe triffids. Or maybe something very else altogether. But all indications are that the zombies will be attacking again this year. If you were around last year you might recall that I died. Hopefully this year I’ll have a happier ending.

Anyway. It’s gonna happen again.

w00ts required

I just got notification that my short story "The Bride Price" has been accepted for publication. I’m especially pleased with this, since the prompt for the story came from my good friend RM Solberg and my local writers’ group had a good chuckle over it as well.

I think that this acceptance is particularly instructive for me (and perhaps for other writers as well). A good deal of the humor in this piece comes from the character names; I gave them names from various characters and actors from the old Frankenstein movies. The story was rejected by one market mostly because they thought that this particular bit of humor was "reaching for low-hanging fruit"; yet the editor who bought the story hinted that she found this naming scheme pretty clever. So I think that the process of rejections and acceptances is in large part a matter of an individual editor’s tastes and mood in addition to the quality of the piece itself. I don’t know if this will help my fragile self esteem the next time a story of mine is rejected, but it’s still good to know.

On another note, I should mention that the editor did request one minor revision to "The Bride Price". It was to the last paragraph which, honestly, I’d always had a problem with. Her suggested revision resolved the major problem I had with the story, and made it, in my own opinion, at least 100% better. Further proof that editors do, sometimes, know what they’re doing.