Saturday was cake tasting (and decision making) day, so Jenn, Stu, Tif, and I all went down to JaCiva’s to decide what kind of wedding cake we’re going to have.

Pretty much anything JaCiva’s makes is awesome (which is why we went with them), and after some tough decision making, we’re getting a four-tier cake that serves 125 and breaks down like this:

  • First tier (bottom) - 14” - Chocolate Fudge cake with Bavarian Custard filling
  • Second tier - 10” - Pink Champagne cake with Strawberry Preserves filling
  • Third tier - 8” - Poppy Seed Pudding cake with Raspberry Preserves filling
  • Fourth tier (top) - 6” - Pina Colada cake with Pina Colada (pineapple, coconut, and rum) filling

The style is called “Chocolate Flow.” Each tier is iced in white and then dark chocolate is poured on top and allowed to run slightly down the sides, creating a nice flowing effect. It has red icing roses with silver leaf petals on each tier that accent nicely against the dark brown and white cake. Beautiful (and, in fact, reasonably affordable).

Sunday Jenn and Tiff met up with Jenn’s mom and sister and they picked out bridesmaid dresses. I haven’t seen the dresses, but Jenn assures me that they look great. I have seen the shoulder wrap portion of the dresses, and the red that Jenn chose is gorgeous. It’s going to be great.

That said… Jenn went back with Tiff to see how things would match up with her dress, and looking at the dress it turns out there are some holes in it that Jenn didn’t see when she first purchased it. She got it from a charity event for a steal, so it’s not like there’s a whole load of money out the door, but she really loves the dress and now she sees that someone must have torn some of it when they tried it on or something, which sucks. Now she’s going to talk to a bridal shop and see if it can be fixed. If not… well, looks like she’ll be dress shopping again. That would suck because, like I said, she loves the dress, but she’s like me: just “repairing it” may not be enough - you know it wasn’t perfect at one point, so it’s going to bug you.

I told her we should call her dress “Distort-o-Dress” after the TV incident that ended up causing me to get a new big-screen TV (“you only see it if you’re looking for it, but since you know it’s there, you always see it…”). That got a smile, which I’m glad for. It’ll all work out. At least we caught it early, right?

I went on a little business trip yesterday to take a class about Peer Mentoring. The class was awesome, taught by a guy named Steve Trautman from Practical Leader.

We’ll get to that, though. Let’s start at the beginning.

The class was in San Jose, but I couldn’t get a flight directly from Portland to San Jose, so I got this awesome Portland-to-Seattle-to-San-Jose thing on the way down. Nothing like flying north when your destination is south.

I don’t travel much, so a lot of the changes between now and the last time I traveled were pretty amazing. You don’t really check in with a human anymore. Instead, almost every airline has these sort of ATM looking machines planted around the airport that you go check in with. Punch in your confirmation number or put in your credit card, it looks up your reservation, and it prints you a boarding pass right there. If you don’t have any luggage to check, you’re good to go.

The security checkpoints are a little different, too. Your ID gets checked at the security checkpoint so the people at the gate don’t need to. Plus, last time I traveled, not everyone had to take off their shoes

  • it was more of a “random check” sort of thing. Now everyone has to take off their shoes, empty their pockets… you end up sending your carry-on through the x-ray machine as well as a bin full of everything not affixed to your body. My belt ended up setting off the metal detector (it’s never done that before) so that had to go through the x-ray. Once you get through the metal detectors, you pick your crap up on the other side and it feels like you’re getting dressed first thing in the morning: Put on your belt, put on your shoes, put your keys in your pocket. Crazy.

As I was getting on the plane to Seattle I bonked my head really hard on the door frame. Turns out the plane was super small - like, the ceilings were probably 5’ 10” clearance, so I had to hunker down to walk around. I’ve ridden coach before, but these seats were like “mini-coach.” I’ve never seen seats so small. Thank goodness the seat next to me was empty because I had to sit sort of diagonal to get my legs to fit with any level of comfort.

When we got to Seattle, we got off the plane right on the tarmac. I didn’t realize how common this was. I’ve only ever gotten on or off planes using the covered “tunnel” things that you walk down directly from the airport. On this trip, the only time I got on or off a plane that wasn’t right on the tarmac was that first boarding in Portland - every other time, I got on or off the plane by walking out onto the tarmac. In some cases, it was as loose as “follow the yellow line to get to the plane” - not even any cover at all.

Got to San Jose late and picked up my rental car. I had asked for a compact - not only for price, but because I hate driving around large cars. Lucky for me, they upgraded me - free - to a full size because they were out of compacts. Faaaaaantastic. I’m in an unfamiliar area of California where every parking spot is a sub-compact and I “get” a full size car.

Left the car lot and went to the hotel to check in. My room was on the other side of the complex. Of course, why wouldn’t it be? Got to the room and noticed there was a peephole in the normal spot on the door and one at the level of my navel. Why does my belly button need a peephole? Oh, I see - it’s the handicapped-accessible room. What does that mean? It means that everything has been moved down so that folks in wheelchairs can get to it easier. A noble gesture and I’m glad that they do things like that. On the other hand, it means that everything is down around my knees.

I suppose it didn’t really matter, though, since I basically just went to bed once I got in.

When I woke up the next day it was raining. In San Jose. I visit California, like, never, and it rains the day I’m there. Went and had some waffles at the little continental breakfast bar the hotel had, checked out, and drove to the place where the class was.

The class size was small - there were only seven scheduled - but we ended up starting a half-hour late because four of the seven decided to show up late. I hate that.

That said, the class went off without a hitch and was really awesome. I learned a lot of techniques that I want to apply to the way I do things, and I see how in the past some of the things I was doing wrong were causing frustration to others (as well as things the folks asking questions could have done differently to be better learners). I totally recommend it to anyone who has to answer questions or help people out with on-the-job training sorts of things, regardless of whether you’re in a technology business. It’s globally applicable stuff that can make everyone better mentors and better apprentices.

After class I returned the rental car and headed back to the airport to catch my flight. I had some time, so I went to the Togo’s in the San Jose airport. My instructor was in there just ahead of me, which was kind of “small world,” but then, San Jose airport didn’t strike me as all that big, either, and he was on the way to Seattle. Anyway, he went up and decided to order a sandwich… but wasn’t too successful, since they only had like three of the eight bread types listed. Oh, and they didn’t have all of the sandwich toppings listed on the menu, either. Hmmm. When he was done, I decided to skip the sandwich and just have the soup of the day (clam chowder). They sell soup one of three ways: small, large, and “in a bread bowl.” I decided to go for the bread bowl. “We don’t have bread bowls.” Ummmm, okay. Large soup it is.

Ten minutes before my flight was to depart, I figured I’d take a last minute restroom break. Unfortunately, a plane had just landed so there was a pretty significant line for the two available urinals. Eventually I got my turn. As I was going, the guy next to me finished, flushed, and walked off. The next guy came up to the newly vacated urinal and as he was about to start going, quickly backed off and left the bathroom. What? I then looked down to see that the urinal next to me was, in fact, overflowing all over my fucking shoes. The water had to be a good quarter-inch deep. What was I going to do? I was in the middle of peeing

  • you can’t just clamp it off, and it’s too late anyway, so… I ended up starting to laugh and said really loud, “That’s AWESOME.” The guys in line started laughing.

The flight home was in “mini-coach” again, but this time I didn’t have two seats to myself so I had to cramp in. It wasn’t a horrible flight, but I can see the value of paying for a larger seat. I had my coat out this time, so when we de-planed on the tarmac I was ready for it.

Just before I left, the last major upgrade since I last traveled hit me: Paying for parking. Now when you come into the lot, you get a ticket with a magnetic strip on it. As you walk out of the airport (before you make it to your car), you feed it into a machine, then it asks for money, so you feed in either cash or put your credit card in. It then spits your credit card out, your original ticket out, and a receipt. When you pull out of the parking lot, there are two lot attendants (to take money from folks who didn’t use the machine) and like eight automated exits where you feed in your original ticket (you keep the receipt), they eat your ticket and they open the gate to let you out. Very cool.

All in all, not a bad trip, and a really great class. Plus an eye-opening travel experience. Makes me feel like I really need to travel more so I can keep up with these things. Maybe I’ll have to make that a priority.

As part of the peer mentoring course I went to, one of the techniques we learned was to tell folks the best (and worst) ways to communicate with us so that when people have questions they know how to ask them in order to best get a valuable response in a timely fashion. As an exercise, here are my interaction preferences:

  • Email
    • If I am on the “To:” line, I will respond.
    • If I am on the “CC:” line, I will consider it an “FYI” and will not respond.
    • Put a real subject in the subject line. Do not put the whole message in the subject.
    • If you need a response or if I have to do something, put “ACTION REQUIRED:” at the front of the subject.
    • Do not use the “follow up” flag.
    • If it isn’t high priority, do not use the “high priority” indicator. Do not abuse that.
    • Make the first sentence a statement of the problem and the second sentence a statement of what you want. If you can’t do both of those in a sentence, I can’t help you. Provide requsite context after that.
  • Don’t call me. Tech questions generally can’t be solved over the phone.
  • Don’t leave me voice mail. I don’t get to it.
  • Instant Messenger is good, but pay attention to the status. If I’m busy or in a meeting, don’t IM me.
  • If my door is closed and/or my headphones are on, I’m in the middle of something. Don’t interrupt.
  • The best times to catch me are before 10:00a and between 4:30p and 5:00p - first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Other times are not so great.

I think I’ll also do another of these exercises - “how to ask me a good question” - so folks know how best to ask things to get the answers they need.

Does this seem like a lot of process around something? Maybe, but you have to figure: the person asking the question (the apprentice) is only half of the equation; the other have is the person answering (the mentor). Every time the apprentice asks something, it may be valuable, but a mentor can’t teach if they don’t want to, and part of being a good apprentice/question-asker is to go ask a question the right way so the mentor doesn’t get burned out on answering and not want to answer anymore. I think that’s been part of my problem in the past - I’m so burned out with the interruptions that I just don’t want to answer anymore.

Something I forgot to mention about my trip: While I was in the bathroom at the hotel yesterday morning getting ready, I pulled the cap off my deodorant and the entire deodorant stick, including the little turny-thing that pushes the stick out of the plastic case, flew out of the case and onto the bathroom floor.

That rocked. It took me a minute to decide whether I should go without or pick it up and attempt to use it.

I ended up using it.

But I sent Jenn an SMS message to pick me up some more deodorant at the store so I wouldn’t be screwed today.

She went to the store and they didn’t have my kind (again) so she picked up this Speed Stick Gel that she liked the smell of. I discovered a while ago that I am allergic to Speed Stick Gel, but this was a different scent, so I gave it a shot.

My armpits are on fucking fire.

I’m going to have to go wash them out and pick something new up at the store tonight. Burning armpits is funny, but it kind of sucks, too.

Yesterday was the worst. I had planned on getting a whole bunch of stuff done, but what ended up happening was me waking up with this stomach bug. I never get sick, like, ever, and this was horrible. Sweats, aches… gastrointestinal issues… It sucked. A lot.

Jenn had this same thing on Tuesday and I underestimated how crappy it makes you feel because, well, like I said - I don’t really get sick. Holy cow, was I wrong. I think I took well over the recommended daily maximum of darn close to every drug in the house. Slept most of the day. My parents came over for a little bit, but that’s the most that really happened.

Thankfully, it seems like it may have run its course. I’m still kind of achey and tired and I didn’t get much sleep last night… decided to just get up at 4:00a today because sleep wasn’t happening… but I’m not having all of the issues I was having yesterday. That’s not to say I’m going to be running around and such, but hopefully it won’t chew into work tomorrow.

Follow up from Friday - I ended up getting Ticket to Ride Europe at the game store, and it’s pretty fun. Jenn and I played a couple of rounds Friday and had a good time with it. I think my biggest problem right now with board games is that the premises are kind of lame. I mean, building a train route across the country just doesn’t sound like fun when you read it on the back of the box, regardless of whether the play is actually good. I don’t regret picking the game up, and I may well get me a copy of Puerto Rico now that I know the premise isn’t everything… but I’d be stoked to see more fun games that sound cool, too.