Welcome to August

Spent a great weekend with the family in Minneapolis. It didn’t start so well; I took last Thursday afternoon off to take Megan over to Grand Forks so she could head back to Kansas City for the fall. “Send Megan Home” days are my least favorite days of the year, by a significant margin.

The weekend wasn’t what we had planned; we originally were going to take Minneapolis with us and have her hang out there, then meet up with her mom in the usual place on Saturday. But plans changed, and we ended up taking her over to her great grandma’s in North Dakota on Thursday instead. She got a chance to see a friend of hers on Friday that she otherwise wouldn’t have, so that was cool for her. But it was a letdown for me to not have all of my girls together in Minneapolis for the weekend. It’s how things go.

Aside from that, the weekend was great; we spent time with some of Mel’s friends, including one who drove up from Iowa City for the occasion, and had a great few days of eating and shopping — which, really, the best visits to Minneapolis all have in common. I found a really great shirt and a jacket to go with it, and about a half-dozen super-cheap t-shirts and buttonups on crazy final clearances at various Gaps; that was nice, as Mel is the one who typically finds the deals.

Not much else to report. I’ve spent the last two of my post-Megan nights, where kids are tucked away in bed by 8 or so and not up until 9:30 when she’s here, watching Anchorman and playing the bonus single-player campaign in Warcraft 3 — in other words, being ridiculously and pretty stupidly non-productive. I’ll get back into the flow of… something… eventually… maybe. Whatever.

We’re taking Helen over to Bagley tonight for the Hubbard County Fair, since we missed out on taking her to the one here in Bemidji last week due to rain and our Grand Forks trip with Megan. That’ll be fun. Then, the Bemidji Fire Department is running a full-response high-rise drill in a dorm on campus, complete with smoke and everything; we may take Helen to check that out when we get home, just because it’ll be cool and unusual and she’ll love it.

Mel and I got new phones this week; we started with HTC Heros, hated them, and traded them in the next day for Samsung Intercepts. I’m still not remotely sold on Android; it’s sluggish and not at all intuitive to use. I’ve just been spoiled by how easy iOS is on my iPad and iPod Touch, even though I’ve never had an iPhone. I’m still very much trapped in the learning curve; things are improving slowly. Expect more photos, etc., here and on Facebook now that I can very conveniently shoot and upload them from the same device; that’s the plan, anyway. We’ll see how it works out.

That is all. I started a couple of new drawings – a four-pack of bounty hunters from Empire Strikes Back and a new Lego Gaga; I’ll try to get them finished up and posted soon(ish).

Signing off.

In Minneapolis

I’m hanging out in our hotel room in Minneapolis waiting for Mel and Helen to come back from breakfast. We got down here yesterday afternoon for a three-day weekend, and today is Mall of America day. Mel’s planning to go insane on the Gap with her 25% off coupon in tow, and I’m already on the hook to take Helen to Lego World. It would be fun to score a nice shirt at Nordstrom Rack, too; finding something there that is nice and also affordable is always fun, because it happens so rarely.

In all, I’m expecting a long, but fun, day.

Baltimore: Day 2

Well, I’m wrapping up my second day in Baltimore (well, my first day really – more on my travels yesterday in a bit).

Registration started this morning at 11:30 with the sessions getting underway at 12:30, so I had some time to kill this morning. Rather than just walk around the hotel, I walked maybe a mile and a half from the hotel to a neighborhood called Federal Hill. The bummer was none of the businesses opened until 11 a.m., by which time I had headed back in the direction of the hotel – it was pretty hot this morning so I wanted to cool off a bit before heading into the conference as a big sweaty mess. So I was only able to visit a 7-11, take a lap through an open market, kill some time in Barnes & Noble and grab a couple of doughnuts on the walk back to the hotel. I found the comic store I want to try and hit up tomorrow, and in total I probably walked around four miles. So, a pretty solid morning.

The wireless Internet in this hotel is a joke. It works great in the lobby. On the 13th floor, where my room is located, my computer can see the existence of the hotspot but assuming the planets are aligned correctly and I can actually connect to it, I have, at most, one bar of signal strength. I currently cannot see it. The conference is being held in an adjacent complex to the hotel (which is actually incredibly beautiful); in there, the wireless works great on the second floor, but is nonexistent on the fourth. Of course, I spent half my day on the fourth floor.

But, I did discover today that I have a hardwired connection available in my room also – I’m using that now, and it seems to work OK.

The conference itself has been a mixed bag; it hasn’t been great, it hasn’t been terrible. I would fairly classify it as just “OK.” There were three panel presentations and a session of roundtable discussions today. The first panel presentation was a mixture of two useful and one useless panelist; both panelists were pretty worthwhile in the second; and the third was a mixture of two useful and one useful for completely non-related reasons. And I had a good time and actually participated a little in the roundtable discussion, so that was fun. A decent first day; I’m looking forward to the second full day tomorrow.

Right now, I’m going out to find something to eat. My diet today has consisted of three doughnuts, three peanut butter cookies, a cup of coffee and two diet Pepsis. Probably not good, but as a bonus, I’m ready for some actual food now, big-time. I may end up trying to get into the Irish pub down by the waterfront. I’m seriously tempted by Fogo de Chao, but I’m not sure I want to drop that kind of scratch on dinner and I’m not sure I’d enjoy it as much without Melissa with me. There are plenty of options down there for dinner; I’m sure I’ll find something.

So, my travel day yesterday… SO not what I had envisioned. My original plan was to get into Baltimore early yesterday afternoon and have mid-afternoon and evening to do what I did this morning – go for a walk, explore some things and maybe do some touristy stuff. But, I screwed that up almost immediately.

I had it in my head that my flight left Bemidji at 6:50 in the morning. It did not. It left at 6:45. And I was being an idiot and trying to cut it right down to the wire so I wouldn’t have to sit around the airport. Stupid, stupid mistake. I missed the cutoff to get my boarding pass for the flight by less than the five minutes I was off on the departure time for my flight. The airport people gave me this number to call to rebook my flight. I called Delta, and the woman on the other end offered to rebook me. For $1,100.

I declined.

I went back into the airport, and this dude just rebooked my flight – no change fee or anything. He just rebooked me. I had a direct flight from Minneapolis to Baltimore orignally and my change ended up routing me through Cincinatti,and I lost my afternoon in Baltimore, but I didn’t care – at that point, I just wanted to arrive yesterday.

I was amazingly early to the airport to catch my “new” departure flight. The flight was one of the worst I’d ever had – to the point that I almost threw up on the approach to Minneapolis. I haven’t had a flight that bad since I was on a football charter to Rice in 1996, and haven’t felt like I was going to throw up on a plane since we were coming back from Germany in 1986. It was terrible.

But I arrived in one piece, and did so without booting all over the woman next to me. I get to the gate for my connection to Cincinnati, and promptly find out the flight is overbooked. I realize this is partially my fault, since I wasn’t supposed to be on that plane to begin with. I then discover that there’s no boarding pass printed for me. I’m not going to make this flight.

The gate crew says they’re looking for volunteers to sit, and that they don’t have a seat assigned to me. I asked if I was bumped how I might get to Baltimore. The woman says “there’s one seat on a direct flight to Baltimore out of here at 7:20. You can have that if you want it.”

So, Delta gave me a seat on the flight to Cleveland, immediately bumped me, gave me a $400 flight voucher for bumping me, gave me a $7 meal voucher to use at the airport, and I instantly had a four-hour layover in Minneapolis. Basically, I got paid to sit out on a flight I never should’ve been on in the first place. It was awesome.

I successfully murdered four hours in Minneapolis, and arrived in Baltimore around 10:50 p.m. after watching the majority of “Star Trek” on my iPod. A $40 cab ride later, I was in my hotel.

A crazy day, but I got here in one piece — and since I missed the Cincy flight but my suitcase did not, I didn’t even have to wait for baggage claim in Baltimore. My suitcase was just sitting off to the side waiting for me.

In all, a pretty good travel story considering my stupidity in getting the day started.