personal comments edit

The trip home was probably the most stressful part of the entire venture into Bellevue. I left convienently at 4:45p from the class - just enough time to struggle onto the freeway (all of those Microsofties leave around then, combined with the construction that screwed me on the way up in the first place) and crawl the 20 miles to Tacoma.

Of course, I had to stop and pee on the way because it took me like an hour and a half to get that far and I had been drinking loads of Mountain Dew.

The way home, other than that, was pretty uneventful. I discovered only a few things of interest on the way.

First, my car goes 95mph just as easily as it goes 50mph.

Second, there is definitely a Hooters in Tacoma, and I definitely need to go.

Third, if you see a giant neon sign advertising a “BJ Tournament,” it’s not what you think it is. It’s probably attached to a casino and it probably involves cards.

Finally, along the Washington-Oregon border there is a magic curtain that everyone passes through and instantly forgets how to drive. I mean, it’s like a wall. People can be going 70mph on the road with no issues not five minutes before, but you hit the border and people just forget how to drive. They stop signalling, they slow down for no apparent reason, they go slow in the fast lane and fast in the slow lane… it’s ridiculous.

And now I’m home. Not much more I can say about that. It was nice to sleep in my own bed last night, but isn’t it always nicer to sleep in your own bed?

net, personal comments edit

We’re just about done here. I’m going to post now and get things ready to go.

I’ve got a nice long drive ahead of me. Bah. Wednesday, June 25

8:42a

I was told last night that my classroom play-by-plays aren’t so interesting all the time. (Thanks, Jenn.) I won’t deny that. They probably are a little more boring than my standard rant about some stupid asshole who can’t figure out that going 30 to merge on a freeway traveling 60 isn’t going to work.

But look at it this way - you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Right? I mean, it’s not like I’m sitting here getting five days worth of class in three days while sipping piña coladas or some shit. I’m getting the crap beat out of me (from a mental perspective) and working on the “misery loves company” philosophy. Sorry this isn’t as entertaining as all that, but no one’s life is always entertaining. At least, not on paper.

Now, in person, clever-and-funny is my modus operandi. At least, I think so. I can probably find a few people out there who will [reluctantly] agree.

Ate dinner last night at Burgermaster, sort of a farewell between me and the master of burgers, and got a bacon cheeseburger with onion rings. My mouth is still greasy, and I continue to burp oniony goodness even this morning. I’m sure my classmates are going to love that.

I’m working on redoing my blog using CSS (in an effort to lower the quantity of HTML on the site), but I’ve run into some issues getting the three-column format to work entirely in CSS… I’ll have to keep working on this. I’d like to get rid of tables entirely so I can more easily change the look and feel of the site when that time comes. Plus, again, I’m running out of space on the server… I’ve gotta reduce the size of each page.

11:27a

We’re talking now about accessibility - making applications available to disabled users. It’s interesting how much infrastructure there is that I was never even aware of before. Definitely something that I need to take advantage of in my endeavors.

To that end, I should probably download this Zoom+ app (just for demo/development purposes): http://www.gipsysoft.com/zoomplus/

12:06p

We just finished talking about how to add help to your applications. Now it’s time for lunch - back to the little dicey deli they’ve got down the block. I had an iffy roast beef sandwich that actually bled a little, so I’m curious what else they’ve got up their sleeves for me.

1:56p

The deli provided a satisfactory lunch involving a sandwich of various meat-food types and some green lettuce-like substance. I had to remove one of the lettuce formations from the sandwich due to its recalcitrant nature. Those giant hunks of hard… whatever that stuff is… just don’t fly with me.

I barely finished eating before we started class again, so I’m just now getting to the lunch discussion. Not much to say beyond that, though. We’ve gone through application localization and now we’re into deployment. Yeah, that’s boring. I know. You should be in the class.

3:18p

We’re on the last module now - security. It’s starting to look a lot like the security talk I heard in the class I was in last week. I’m hoping this will be a review rather than a load of new concepts. I’m beat, and I’ve got a long drive ahead of me.

During the few breaks we’ve had I’ve worked some more on getting the CSS built up for my blog. It’s actually a lot more complex than I’d originally thought it was going to be, but I can already see the space savings it will provide.

You might wonder why I care about space. Well, right now I’ve only got like 10MB on my web host. With that little space, every bit counts. Since GreyMatter (my blog package) statically renders each entry into its own page, if I can reduce each entry’s size by a little bit, the sum total of savings is much larger. Each page currently is around 15KB in size. I might be able to cut that in half with CSS, which means I can have twice as many entries before I have to move to a new host. Plus the ease of reformatting that CSS provides. I can revamp the whole site with no issues. Win-win, as they say.

If I do end up moving, I’m going to migrate to Movable Type with a database back end. That way I can get pages rendered on the fly and save a hell of a lot more space. I’ll also be able to have a better search/category facility.

But I’m cheap, and I don’t want to pay for hosting right now. So we get what we get. Maybe I can get permission at work to put up a publicly accessible blog server. Hmmm…

4:14p

I think I’m just going to go ahead and post this thing. We’re almost done, and I’m sure nothing else is going to be interesting prior to going home.

All I know is I have a lot of messing around with programming to do before I really have this stuff down.

net, personal comments edit

Well, that’s the end of day 2. This is a little tougher than I’d like, with five days packed into three. Here’s the play by play. Tuesday, June 24

8:43a

I didn’t come in so early for class today, figuring I got here an hour early yesterday so I didn’t need to do that again. Even so, I was still the first person here. It makes me wonder if people work on “Bellevue time” or something.

After class yesterday I went back to my hotel to drop my books and things off, called Jenn, and headed out to find some dinner. I figured since I had a microwave, I’d maybe find some microwave meals and save a little money.

On the way into downtown Bellevue I scrapped that idea and decided I was craving some Taco Bell. Sometimes it’s a good thing to make a run for the border, right?

I drove around for probably 45 minutes getting a feel for the place and looking for Taco Bell.

Taco Bell, to the best of my knowledge, does not exist in Bellevue. Neither, for that matter, does Carl’s Jr., my second choice of eatery. I found McDonald’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Jack in the Box, and any number of other mom-and-pop food joints, but neither Taco Bell nor Carl’s Jr. were anywhere to be found.

To that end, here’s something else interesting: On my trip up here yesterday, I started getting hungry so I made a deal with myself that the next “Food Next Exit” sign I saw that advertised a Carl’s Jr., I’d go.

I made it all the way to Bellevue without eating.

Jack in the Box seems to be pretty prominent up here, though. Almost every exit had a Jack.

Anyway, all that adds up to me eating at Taco Del Mar last night, which is a great burrito joint despite the fact that I don’t eat fish tacos. I ate there several times (at Taco Del Mar, but not necessarily that particular franchise) last time I was up here. They seem to have quite a number of them here, whereas back home I can only think of one location off the top of my head.

There wasn’t much to do last night since I didn’t go to that party, so I ended up reading this book I’ve been pushing myself through for the last couple of months or so. I’m hoping to get it pretty much done by the time my Harry Potter book gets here, but I’m reading pretty slowly so I’m not sure that’ll happen.

8:54a

The guy sitting behind me, ever the proud father, is telling this story about how his kid was asking to take his training wheels off his bike and learned last night to ride the bike. He’s actually telling the teacher about it, but I can tell…

The teacher doesn’t care a damn bit, any more than I do.

I understand the whole “proud father” thing, but the proud father really needs to understand this right now - nobody but him gives two shits about this kid riding his bike. Seriously. I’m gonna have to slap this guy pretty soon.

9:06a

Interesting XML link (for those who are interested in such things): http://kensall.com/big-picture/

It’s a chart of all of the different XML specifications, how they relate to each other, and links to the specs themselves.

9:57a

Nobody calls me at work. Ever. Until I get into training, that is.

See, my cell phone rings when my desk phone rings. Normally, that means pretty much never. But when I get into training, people somehow decide that sending me email just isn’t enough anymore so they call me.

Again. And again. And again.

Because my voicemail message that says I’m out of the office isn’t fucking clear enough.

You know, I hate the phone. You want me to respond to you nicely? Send me an email. Chances are, if you’re calling me, it’s probably while I’m trying to focus on something. That doesn’t make me want to help you - it makes me want to pull your fucking chicken neck through the phone so I can throttle you to death. I will respond to your question quickly and completely in email. Call me? I’ll probably end up answering your question later… in email.

10:49a

We weren’t going to really get any lab time in this class due to the short time we have here, but the instructor is letting us do some of them that he thinks are important.

There is a total learning curve on this stuff for me. 11:41a

I’m starting to get this headache because I’m so exhausted. Sleep at this hotel is light at best, and the stuff we’re learning here is pretty heavy. Good stuff, but it’s stressing me out. I mean, I’m all for “challenge” and all that, but there’s only a certain amount of challenge that I can take before I get exhausted. When I learn a new concept, I need to use it and become comfortable with it before I move on to the next concept. The way this class is going, the new ideas come flying past and I’m feeling sort of overwhelmed.

Right now we’re talking about database access. Stuff that I learned about in last week’s class. I am totally blanking on the stuff because I barely got a chance to look at the stuff from last class and now we’re going headlong into this new stuff and I’m sinking.

I think I’ll feel better when I get to use this stuff. Also when I have some practice tests to look at and try. The way I work, I always use reference materials when I’m programming. No such luck on the tests.

Plus, I really have to pee.

12:02p

Lunchtime. Plus, restroom break. Rockin’.

12:52p

It’s amazing the difference a little food and a couple of Excedrin Migraine tablets can make in your outlook on things. Before lunch, I was feeling pretty bogged down by all this stuff, now I feel like I can take on the world.

I’ll have to remember the Excedrin Migraine before I take any of these tests.

My book (The Bear and the Dragon) is finally starting to get somewhere, which is good - it’s only taken like 400 pages. Tom Clancy spared no expense on the intro for this one. I’m actually starting to like what’s going on. I’m hoping the payoff is worth the time spent with the setup.

2:18p

Hey, we’re talking XML web services - the class I took last week. I’m good to go here. Score!

3:28p

Mind… wandering… can’t… focus…

3:59p

We just came back from break and while I’m a little refreshed, I can’t help but feel pretty wiped out. I mean, we’re learning a lot of good stuff here, but the key word there is “LOT” - this is definitely a five-day class packed into three days. By the end of tomorrow, I’m definitely going to be ready to go home. The more I think about it, the more irritated I am that this is the three-day version and not the five-day version.

4:46p

Well, that’s that. We ended up talking about how to get things to print properly… and it looks like a real bitch. Lesson: don’t print anything. Heh.

It’s time to go.

net, personal comments edit

I’ve found that I have some limited web access from the class, so I’m going to post this first day’s worth of info because, frankly, it’s just too much if it’s combined with anything else. This trip has become quite the debacle. Monday, June 23

8:50a

This is the first class I’ve had in Bellevue, and the first week-long business trip I’ve taken, so two firsts in one week. While that doesn’t sound so terrible, I’ll have to admit it is a bit of a stressor. Let me tell you about the trip and last night. This is sort of how everything has gone.

I left yesterday (Sunday) at 12:30p (after watching The Devil’s Advocate on TNT) to drive up here to Bellevue. It’s a three-hour trip, give or take, but I usually allot closer to four hours because of the Seattle and Tacoma traffic (mostly the Tacoma traffic on this particular trip).

The first trouble I ran into was the weather. It was reasonably gray and icky out, but it was only sprinkling rain so I figured everything would be just cool. Instead what I got was sort of like an attention-deficit case playing with a fire hose. It would be totally clear, then blast down rain hard enough that you could barely see anything on the road, then it would be totally clear again. That, combined with the fact that the traffic never stopped moving 80mph, made me pretty uneasy (even when you couldn’t see). But I got through it.

Then we had the construction issue. See, the trip is really simple - you travel on I-5 north until you hit I-405 north, then you take that to exit 14 - WA-520 west. No problem, pretty straightforward. Well, as soon as I got on 405, I started seeing these traffic warning signals and things telling me to tune into 530 AM, the traffic notification radio station. So I did, and the warning was that “I-405 is closed at Fourth Street.” Okay, well, I don’t know where Fourth Street fucking is, so I just kept on trucking and hoped that it was after exit 14.

Fourth Street is exit 12.

Fuck.

You should have seen the traffic. Backed up for miles. Having no choice, I waded through it to get off the exit before 405 was shut off and then I pulled into the nearest parking lot to consult my trusty Bellevue map that I bought the last time I was in town.

My trusty Bellevue map is sitting at home on the God damn bookshelf.

Fuck.

I guess I’d best put that on the list of things I need to remember to take for next trip.

Well, sans map, I figured I’d find some sort of road that paralleled 405 until I could get to 520. I mean, for God’s sake, I could see 520 right there! I tooled around and found myself on 108th Ave. NE, which is the street that my hotel is on (according to my MapQuest directions). Luck! I drove through downtown Bellevue on 108th Ave… and then it dead-ended. Huh? But my hotel is on 108th. I’d consult my map, but I don’t have it. So… find a way back onto the 405 (after Fourth Street) so I can get on the 520 and follow the directions from there.

I did that - found my way back to 405 (what an ordeal) and got onto 520, took the 108th Ave. exit (as instructed) and found my hotel. Cool. Crisis averted.

Walked into my hotel and find out that somehow my reservation wasn’t lost, but was cancelled. Right. Fight the computer user incompetence to get a room anyway and convince them that, yes, the training facility is picking up the bill for the stay. They come back and say that the facility will only cover Monday through Thursday nights (which is not what I was told) but I figured I’d get the facility to call the hotel and hash that out rather than fight with the front desk.

My room is conveniently located right off the lobby. Score one for the good guys.

Unpack all my stuff and get all set up in the room. I’ve got a small refrigerator and microwave, so I can go back to the Safeway that I found in my travels earlier and get some food.

After that, I decided to go find the training facility so that I can find it easily the next day. It’s on 112th Ave. Looking at my driving directions from the hotel to the training facility…

I see that 108th Ave. turns into 112th. 112th runs right into downtown Bellevue. In fact, I was on 112th earlier in my construction runaround. Well, then. Now I know how that all works. Day late and a dollar short, as usual.

The training facility is pretty easy to find, which is good. By the time I’d gotten there, I was tired of searching for things. Back to the hotel.

Next door to the hotel is this old-fashioned drive-in restaurant where they hook the tray to your window and serve you greasy spoon food. The place is called Burgermaster. Any place called Burgermaster is all right by me. I got myself a double-patty cheeseburger and some fries, then walked it back over to the hotel. (No, I’m not eating greasy food in my car.) Tasty.

After that, I basically sacked out and watched some TV. Played a little GameBoy. That’s about it. Went to bed at 10:00p after leaving a few voicemails for Jenn (she was out at some Job’s Daughters thing). Long car trip plus greasy spoon plus bored equals very, very tired.

11:00p and Jenn decides to call me and say good night. It took me a good hour to get to sleep on the apple crate bed I’ve got, and just as I’m getting to sleep, she calls. Typical. I fumbled around for the phone and ended up having to call her back because I couldn’t get there in time. She still wasn’t home and, no, she did not check the voicemail to see what the situation was. I told her good night and attempted to go back to sleep.

I slept like crap. I think I’d get about an hour’s worth of sleep between fits of tossing and turning. I didn’t bring my pillow, which is one of those senso-foam deals, not the soft standard pillow - put that on the list of things to bring for next time, too. So, no good. I’m totally beat this morning.

Got up at 7:00a, took my shower, realized I forgot my pitstick (put deodorant on the list of stuff to bring next time), called Jenn. Jenn was up late reading the latest Harry Potter chronicle (mine’s on its way from the UK now), so she was all groggy. Now you know what it’s like, baby! Talked to her for a bit and left to get to the training facility a little before 8:00a. Classes start at 8:30a.

Got to the facility about five minutes to eight. Turns out that classes in Beaverton start at 8:30a, classes in Bellevue start at 9:00a. Glad I’m here an hour early. Acquainted myself with the facility, went searching for drinks, etc. All is well with the world, right?

Oh, except for the fact that I think there’s a light coating of pitch on my car from the tree I parked under. Little sticky speckles that wipe off if you spit on them and rub, but annoying nonetheless.

Class started at 9:00a (it’s 9:40a right now, but I’ve been typing and dealing with things this whole time). Since class started, I’ve discovered several things. First, this is a three day class, not five days. It will be five days next time but this time it’s three (apparently it’s the last time it’s a three day course, too). Second, due to the class length, it means no labs. The labs are the good part in classes like this. Third, I’ve met the instructor before in some seminar or another I’ve been to. That’s a good thing, though - he’s a good guy and totally hilarious. Finally, I found out that the self-test software that we bought with my class package is no good (or not as good) for actual self-testing as far as the MS tests are concerned. You learn stuff, but they don’t accurately represent the tests. I guess I need to check out transcender.com.

So a couple of dilemmas have cropped up. First, with no labs, I’m really going to have to learn something without doing it. That’s hard for me. Second, I’ve got to get the whole hotel thing straightened out. Finally, since we’ve paid for a five day class, I need to get the pricing fixed.

Well, I go home a couple of days early. So I guess that’s good.

I’d best pay attention here.

10:17a

Break time because not all of the computers were set up right. We should have VS.NET 2003 installed so we can work along with the instructor but only three of the five do. So… now we wait for that to get updated.

This is quickly moving from minor fiasco to major debacle.

10:27a

I’m at a new computer now, this time with all of the software that should be there. Of course, now I’ve got to set all of my view preferences again. What a pain in the ass. What happened to roaming profiles?

12:01p

Lunch. We’re moving at a breakneck pace in this class, just like we did in the last three-day class. I am going to do a couple of the practice exercises so I can get a feel for this stuff since we don’t get to do the labs, then I’ll go to the deli place next door and get something to eat.

And I thought training wasn’t stressful.

12:42p

I went and got lunch at this little deli that’s in the same building as the training facility. It was a toasted chicken cordon bleu sandwich and was passable (that’s about all I can say for it). Came back, read a little in my book, and now I’m catching up on the review questions and so forth in preparation for the next module.

I’m still sort of irritated that there is no actual lab time in the class.

1:04p

Something I forgot to mention, one of the few cool things so far on the trip - I’m back within range of C89.5, the best radio station ever. It’s so much better to hear it on the radio live than it is to have to listen online. Much richer sound.

2:21p

Break time again. We’re totally cruising through this thing, but the instructor is good and calling out “exam watch” topics - stuff we’re likely to see questions on. That’s nice, and different than how the other classes I’ve been in work. I hope this guy teaches the next class I’m up here for.

I just went and took a crap and I have to mention that the toilet paper at this facility is way better than the facility in Beaverton. Beaverton’s TP was like fine-grain sandpaper. This is more like those fancy soft paper towels you see in expensive restaurants. I’m all over that.

While we’re on the restroom topic…

I was sitting there and I noticed that someone had spit on the wall next to the toilet. Why do people do that? Nasty.

Oh, and the toilet is this hyper-industrial power machine but it has a standard home-style flush handle. Why does that matter? Well, you have to hold the handle while the thing is flushing in order for it to work. But when you push down the handle, the ultra-suction starts, scares the shit out of you, and you end up letting go of the handle, which then stops the flushing action from happening. Talk about poor user interface.

3:58p

My friend Aarron, local in Seattle, just called me three times because for some reason he just now got the emails that I sent him like a month ago telling him I’d be in town. Apparently there’s some sort of a party going on tonight that doesn’t start until 8:00p, but there are some problems with that scenario.

First, I’m not really a party animal per se. Before I go to a party, I definitely want to know more than just one person that will be there so I know there’ll be someone to talk to. Second, if it doesn’t start until 8:00p, that means it won’t really get going until 10:00p. Being unable to sleep in my shitty hotel bed means that I should probably be in bed and attempting to get some sort of rest by then in order to maintain any level of sanity. Finally, and probably most importantly, I don’t have my God damn map so if I end up going and getting lost, I’m screwed.

Yeah, I could probably shovel out for yet another map, but with the issues I’ve already run into on this trip, this whole thing is just tempting fate to screw me. I think I’ll pass.

Plus, there’s the whole polyamorous/infidelity bent that these parties seem to revolve around that I’m just not really into so much. I mean, were I single, sure - go, meet some funky folks, hang out, and not worry too much about whether you come out of it with a date or something. But I’m not, so I can’t really go that route.

4:44p

Our instructor (in a heavy Indian accent): This code here is why I don’t do user interface code. I used to have to create my own checkboxes and everything, and I’m good at geometry but when you draw things on the screen they always look bad. This is much easier now, but when you do it manually it still makes you want to go to a counsellor.

4:47p

It’s time to go!

personal comments edit

I got my car back from the body shop and I’m once again in business. It’s nice to have my own car back; that rental was a piece of shit.

Jenn’s talking to me while I’m typing this, and let me tell you how hard it is to concentrate on BOTH things at the same time. Smile and nod, Trav, smile and nod. I just told her that it was hard to do this and legitimately listen at the same time and I’m getting the feeling that she’s pissed off about it. Can’t win for losing, man.

Just so you all know, I’m out of town next week for training - Windows apps in C# - so I probably won’t be posting but will hopefully have a play-by-play from the class. And I’ll try to make it more exciting than last time.