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May 14th, 2007

Minneapolis Trip—Day 3

I was up at 7:00, and after a quick SSS, and I was walking to Panera's by 7:32. While there, I had a bagel and some apple juice, updated the STC newsletter with two corrections from Sarah, and then walked to the convention center for the 8:30–10:00 Keynote General Session.

Before entering the ballroom, I posted my "GLBT OUTing" advertisement on the message board.



The first 50 minutes of this keynote session was more motherhood and contemplating our own navel in terms of "the Society," and I spent most of it completing my conference schedule for tomorrow and Wednesday morning, having both a first and second choice, as suggested in the First Timers Session. If after a couple of minutes, a session sounds like it's not going to be what you expected or need, it's okay to walk out and go to your second choice session.



The last 40 minutes of this session, however, featured the Keynote Speaker, who was most excellent.

His name is Simon Singh, and he's an author, journalist, television producer, a film maker, and the Society's Honorary Fellow for 2007. He write a book and produced a documentary around Fermat's Last Theorem and the mathematician who finally solved it. Fascinating stuff.



After this session, two "info stubs" had been ripped off of my GLBT OUTing announcement.



11:00–Noon: My first educational session of the day was from 11:00–Noon, and it was called, "Incorporating Usability into Content Management." It was interesting, well-attended, and well-presented. The speaker had brought 25 handouts, and there were about 120 people in the session.

After this session, two more info stubs were gone. While checking, I watched two ladies burst into laughter when they got to the sentences: "Straight people welcome. No orientation verification will be conducted!"



1:30–3:00: This session, "An Interview with Usability Expert Jared M. Spool," was just okay. I was a little put off by the speaker, whose communication style involved too much sarcasm with respect to the audience-speaker relationship.

Normally, I'm not bothered by sarcasm, but I do think it's one of those rhetorical devices that should be employed only once you've reached a certain intimacy level with your audience, which this speaker failed to reach, and which most people don't within ten minutes of knowing each other.

But I digress into technical communication jargon and theory...

He did have a couple of zinger lines that I loved:
  1. At one point, he wandered off topic for a few minutes, and when he finally realized it, he said, "Sorry, I'm a manic digressive..."

  2. He told of one call to a help desk where the user said:

    "No matter how many times I type '11,' it doesn't do anything."

    "You're typing 11? Why?" the help desk person asked.

    "There's a message on the screen that says, "Error type: 11."
I know there are a thousand funny help desk stories and a web page (or two, or a hundred) that capture them. I just hadn't heard this one.



I checked the message center again during the next break, and a young kid was reading my advertisement. "Interesting," he said as he reached up and tore off an info stub.

"Hi, I'm John Martin," I said offering him my hand. He asked me a little about the club, and then said, "My three friends and I just scratched our names off the 'Pub Crawl' for tonight. I'm going to see if I can talk them into doing this tomorrow night instead." Cool.

Before the next session, I received a voice mail message from Heather, who asked me about having dinner either tonight or tomorrow night. I returned her call, and after trading voice mails, we agreed on dinner tomorrow night, just after our 3:30–5:00 sessions.

I also had a voice mail from one of the people who had tore off an info stub about the OUTing tomorrow night. He's going to meet me at the hotel to walk over with me.

I knew there was a lot of family here!



3:30–5:00: This session, "Podcasting Production 101," was just "interesting enough" content-wise, but the guy presenting the session was freaking hilarious. I just loved his sense of humor, which means to a lot of you, it would probably have been "corny."

His used some freeware, sound-editing software called Audacity to show the process he uses to produce podcasts.



I wore my "No one cares about your blog" t-shirt to the conference today, and as you might expect from a bunch of technical communicators, I saw a lot of people laugh, and some of the comments made to me included:
  • I love your t-shirt.

  • I love your t-shirt. Where'd you get it?

  • I never laugh at t-shirts, but that one is hysterical.

  • Oh my god, at first I thought it said, "No one cares about your dog."

  • I love your t-shirt. It's just perfect. These people with blogs. "'Read my blog.' Forget that, I'm not reading your blog; pick up the phone and call me and we'll talk about it."

  • In that last session, with the funny presenter, a couple of people had made comments about my shirt, and then the presenter opened his session by saying, I didn't get a URL on my presentation that I want you to have, but at the end of my presentation, I'll give you a link to my blog..."

    I took a deep breath, hoping everyone wouldn't yell in unison: "No one cares about your blog!"


I stopped at Panera's on the way back to my hotel, where I uploaded yesterday's blog entry and made it public.

While there, I got a voice mail from Kate, the girl in my department I was supposed to hook up with on Sunday (she was supposed to call me, but never did) asking me if I wanted to try to meet up this evening or tomorrow evening.

I called her back, and I asked her what she was doing right then and she said, "I'm about at the end of my walk around the Expo (at the convention center)."

I knew that she was staying in the same hotel as I was, so I said, "Well, why don't you stop by at the Panera's on your walk back. I'll be here until about 7:00. Stop by and meet me."

She did, and we had a nice 20-minute or so chat. Though she is in my department, and I thought she lived in Austin, she actually lives in the DC-Northern Virginia area.  Who knew?



At 7:00, a guy named Dave, who was at the Eagle on Saturday night with his "clique" (his word, not mine) of friends and had introduced himself to me and "brought me into the fold," picked me up at my hotel, and we went to a Thai restaurant in the Minneapolis gayborhood known as "Uptown."

Turns out Dave is from, from all places, Fall River (Fucking) Massachusetts, which is exactly where I'm from. He lived on Eastern Avenue once, as did I. "Right down the street from Kerr Mill," I said of Eastern Avenue. "Burnt down," he retorted. True, that.

His mother is Portuguese (family from the Azores) and his father is French (family from Canada). My mom is French (family from Canada) and my dad is Portuguese (family from the Azores).

The only minor difference in us was: I graduated from high school in 1975; he, in 1991. Baby.

We had a great chat over dinner, and the food was just delicious. The name of the place was Chiang Mai Thai, and I had their Pineapple Fried Rice. We split an appetizer of fried wantons stuffed with cream cheese and jalapeño peppers, which were out of this world.



Back at the hotel, I devised this quite long (what else is new about my travel entries?) blog entry.

At about 10:45, I walked over to The Gay 90s, where it was karaoke night. Dave was there, and he introduced me to his friend Ron and to the bouncer, Nate, who has it turned out, had a boyfriend in, of all places, Greenville, NC.  Small world.

The karaoke wasn't too excruciating, but they didn't have monitors that showed the words to the crowd, which I think takes away an essential element of karaoke—the participatory part that often really draws in the crowd.

Later in the evening, I asked this full-figured black girl if she knew who sang a song that was being sung. When she didn't, I said, "Oh you're way too young to know this one."

"I'm forty!" she proudly replied.

"Well, you're beautiful; that's all I know," I said.

"I've been through a lot in my life. You're not from around here are you?"

"No," I said.

"I can tell," she said, and then she walked away.

About 15 minutes later, she came back and handed me one live, deep red, long-stemmed rose.  We hugged.

Oh well. Speaking of well, the well drinks were 2-for-1, so I got two "tall" bourbon-and-diets for $3.75. Or is the plural of that like mothers-in-law, so bourbons-and-diet? Sorry, I too, am a manic (digital) digressive... [Ba-dump, bump. I'm here only one more night, folks. I fly back on Wednesday.]

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