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July 18th, 2007

I met Myra, Kathy, and Holly at Clark Hall at 7:00, and George drove up with the BAV (big-ass van) at about 7:10. We stopped at the Harrison Avenue exit and picked up Patti in the shopping area where Sam's Club is.

We arrived at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center at right around 11:30. After some credit card drama, we were able to check in to one room. We dumped all of our bags into it temporarily, and grabbed some lunch in the center restaurant.

Our waitress was totally out of it, and a menu error started us off with mass confusion. Patti and Myra, and maybe Holly, ordered a salad that was only on the menu that Patti had, after verifying with the waitress that it was an available choice. After a few minutes, the waitress came back to say that the one menu was wrong and that that item shouldn't have been on it.

After a long time, and various and sundry errors—such as no cheese on Holly's sandwich after negotiating what kind she could get on it to begin with and Patti's request for a little blue or Gorgonzola cheese to be sprinkled on top of her salad and honey mustard dressing, after which she received one with no cheese sprinkled on it and blue cheese dressing instead of the honey mustard.

We finished way too close to 1:00, but fortunately the opening session started a little bit late, so it all worked out. The keynote speaker was Alice Lovelace, and during her hour and she was both interesting and engaging.

After a 15-minute break, we were introduced to the idea of "Story Circles," and then we broke out into eight or so groups to tell stories for two hours.

We had six people in our group, including our facilitator, whom I really liked. After 10 minutes, one person (who had warned us) left, as she had to present at campus orientation, which was also going on at Tech today.

By the time our two hours was up, I was quite ready for it to be. Three of the people in our group—that would be everyone but me and the facilitator were very unself-aware people, which really grates on my nerves after a while.

Their "stories" often wandered off topic, were full of whining and complaints, and contained little, if no, element of "this is how I, myself, or my organization is contributing to this problem I'm whining about."

Another unself-aware thing that was extremely annoying was that even after our facilitator gave them the "you have one minute left to wrap up your story," they went on for at least another two or three minutes.

We gathered back as one group to "wrap up" the afternoon, and during that short time (15-20 minutes) we did a "popcorn exercise," where people took one minute to write down one thing that they learned as a result of the story telling, and then for 10 minutes people were free to just stand up at any time and share theirs.



At about 5:30, our group all met back in the lobby, and Bronson—who didn't ride up there with us, as he has family in the area he stayed with Tuesday night, but had now joined us, and who is an alumnus of Virginia Tech—gave us a walking tour of the campus.

We stopped by the memorial to the students who lost their lives in the April 16th massacre, which is still the temporary memorial as the permanent one is being built around it. It was a sobering time and place, with at least one flower (usually) a blood red rose, now dried up, resting on each stone, while one was covered with fresh flowers that gave the impression that someone was still visiting every day to maintain.



We had dinner in the little downtown area at the edge of campus, in a Vegetarian restaurant called Gillie's. We had water without ice, and I had a Miller High Life beer, because they didn't serve mixed drinks. I had a delicious cheese quesadilla, which came with a choice of three "toppings," which weren't on top at all, but cooked inside. I chose black olives, mushrooms, and jalapeños. Delicious!



We saw a little more of the campus on the walk back, and at one point Patti and I lagged way in the back of the group and we had a very interesting philosophical conversation, specifically about my correcting someone when they assume I'm straight. And no I don't mean by screaming at them, "Are you blind or deaf?"

As we approached the Inn, Bronson walked back toward us to "check on us," and then asked if we'd be interested in continuing farther to check out a potential breakfast place for tomorrow morning—a coffee shop that Bronson used to hang out at when he was there in grad school completing his PhD. We did join him, and it turned out to still be there.



Back at the room, it was late, and I was pretty exhausted. I had a brief instant message conversation with Robert, read just a few pages of Owen Meany, and then passed out.

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