Friday, November 30, 2007

Panorama Loves Swag

Autodesk Subscription served up this healthy breakfast and wizard hat for Pannie.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

AU SNAFU (2005)

I'm sitting in the Vegas airport getting ready to board my red-eye back home to Panorama and Prospector.

AU this year was more of a blur than normal for me. I flew in on Tuesday afternoon and I'm leaving on Thursday night. There were two big booth nights this year that were amazing fun but very draining. I always find it difficult to make time for meals, breaks and fun in the midst of so much good old fashioned CAD frenzy. It's even harder to make time to visit with old friends who have their own booths to run, classes to teach and clients to meet with. I mean, even the DWF Spot didn't have time for me. I didn't see him once. Or maybe he got fired... I can't be sure.

I was trying to remember the other years I attended AU. This was only my third time. Each year is marked with it's own interesting memories... but my favorite is from AU 2005.

AU 2005
Beth and I were super keen that year. We got up for breakfast at 6AM and had to be forced out of class at 6PM. We went to every single session and read handouts on the shuttle bus and at our hotels at night. It was fun, educational and uneventful with one big funny screw up as we were leaving.

We had called the BeeLine shuttle to take us to the airport at 545AM. A white van pulls up to the hotel. Beth asks the driver if he is our BeeLine shuttle. He says yes. We get in.

Beth's cell phone rings. It's our BeeLine Shuttle driver. He's waiting at the hotel for us. Hmmm...

After figuring out that our current driver is not a kidnapper, but merely a complete idiot, we decide to just let him drive us to the airport. Funny thing is- he wants to charge us $50, and between the two of us we only have $15. He drops us off with his tail between his legs and we go into the airport.

So... our terminal is decidedly dead. Our flight is not listed on the board. Lovely. Turns out our flight was cancelled. Not just cancelled due to weather or something, but totally and completely removed from the flight schedule. Weeks ago. I guess when we checked in for the flight down the airline didn't feel the need to let us know this. Yeah, ok, we should have confirmed everything again, but C'MON.

So here we were. 6AM. We had barely dodged being stuffed into a gunny sack and thrown into the Everglades, and now we had no way home.

Luckily, we didn't have to rent a car and drive the 15 or so hours back to Philadelphia. Air Tran hooked us up with some surprisingly affordable and comfortable one way tickets.

My way out this year was uneventful, almost pleasant really. And though it is hard to say goodbye to 9000 of my closest friends, I'm ready for it to be done.

But the fun is only beginning really... smell that? It's beta season.

Looking for a Civil 3D book? Check out Mastering AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Best Conference Drink Ever

Hot water with lemon and splenda... Helps the digestion and gets you going.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Two Sweety Tuesday

What a fine morning at PHL. The sun is just streaming into the lovely terminal b-c food court, almost blinding really, which is why I probably didn't notice that they took down the signs that formerly proclaimed "Free WiFi in the B-C Food Court!". But even the cost of a 24 hour pass can't keep me down today- I am on my way to AU!

Yesterday was a bad day- almost as bad as being forced to go back to using Land Desktop. My usually adorable son was doing his best screaming tomato impression. Imagine a fire engine. Only not quiet like a fire engine. Loud. And instead of just driving by, that fire engine moves in to your house, demands food and expects a college education.

Since I had Prospector in one arm and my mouse in the other, I played one of those cards all parents keep close to their chest- TV. Panorama spend the day alternating between staring at Blue's Clues on-demand with a dull look on her face and sobbing because I wouldn't climb into bed with her to watch it. The parenting advice I get from my mother is bad enough- try getting it from a jealous 3 year old. "Just put him in the crib and come play with me. But shut the door so we don't have to listen to him". Lovely.

As I sit here at the airport, I already miss them with a feeling that hits me deep in the gut. But I am soooo looking forward to actually sleeping tonight. Or not sleeping. Whatever- it will be on my terms and not on the command of my 15lb boss.

So far my pre-AU buzz has picked up momentum from light traffic, easy parking and no lines at check in. I was called "Sweety" by both my parking shuttle driver (male) and my prescreening security guard (female). I just finished at the airport spa where I got, if not the best the most thorough, lip-n-eyebrow wax of my life. It better be good- it LITERALLY took longer, cost more and was more painful than the delvery of Prospector two months ago. Hopefully the recovery won't be as long.

Even getting dressed this morning was a delight. I've pulled my EE shirts out of the back of the closet and I've got a new pair of jeans. Say what you will about Kimora Lee Simmons, but the girl can make a pair of jeans. Not only that, but she makes her delightlfully stretchy yet super fashionable jeans in my size- which right now is somewhere in the "gained weight while pregnant and still eating" category. All women need to get a pair. Or ten.

So I'm off to my gate. This year, I'm getting my picture taken with the DWF Spot. He'd better smile.

Looking for a Civil 3D book? Check out Mastering AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pre-AU Freakout

It's an annual tradition for me... I notice that I only have one week left before I will be up in front of two classes of 225 people each and the trademark Dana Panic sets in...

...will my datasets survive? will i remember to bring them?
...did i install the service pack on my laptop?
...will something embarassing pop up on my screen while i am presenting?
...will I burp mid sentence?

And then there is the "Will I be able to..?"

...pack up two kids for a week with grandma?
...lose 30 pounds of pregnancy weight and 10 pounds of fried turkey Thanksgiving weight in 4 days? and if not, do I have jeans that will zip?
...receive my Zappos order in time?
...contain my excitement in seeing AG after 11 months?

I've decided to do some mobile blogging and take lots of photos this year. Last year was such a blur so I am hoping some digital records will help me remember the good times. I've joined Shaan's flickr group Shaan's flickr group and I will try to post my photos nightly.

I'm arriving on Tuesday and leaving Thursday night to minimize my time away from my sweet little cherubs- so catch me Tuesday night at the Beta Reception and Beer Bust, Wednesday in classes and at the Wiley booth doing Mastering Civil 3D demos and Thursday teaching two classes and helping with one.

Looking for a Civil 3D book? Check out Mastering AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Farming Is Always Funny

Will these guys have a booth at AU?


A little bit sore from those CAD Standards meetings? Try some of this on those aching pains...


Looking for a Civil 3D book? Check out Mastering AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Engineering School Didn't Prepare Him For This

Looking for a Civil 3D book? Check out Mastering AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Cure for Road Rage?

This hangs in my office.

It has been hanging here for over 5 years, so I didn't really notice it much anymore. I rediscovered it this week when I noticed Prospector was keenly interested in something on the back wall. I now position his baby seat so that he can see it at all times.

This giant smiley face (approx 2.5' X 2.5' square) is an actual road sign from a logging road in northwestern Alberta. (Alberta is in Canada. Go to Montana. Hang a sharp right. Drive for about 30 hours.)

We are not 100% sure of its actual intended design, but we have a guess. Logging roads are these awful, dangerous, narrow muddy affairs with ravines and such. If you fall asleep or get distracted you could easily become footage for a hilarious but tragic youtube accident. Perhaps this sign was supposed to surprise you with some unexpected sunshine,make you laugh and keep you awake for another 15 minutes.

Apparently, there is someplace in Scotland that also uses smiley signs: Speed signs reduce you to a smile.

The trouble is that they are so appealing that they wind up in home offices instead of out solving the worlds problems. Oh well.

Looking for a Civil 3D book? Check out Mastering AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My Autodesk University Packing List

Has it really been a year? My jack-o-latern is fully rotten and I fried up my last batch of green tomatoes, so it must be.

The other day I pulled out my suitcase and made my shopping list of AU Essentials.


You'll be shaking hands with everyone from Pete Kelsey to the DWF Spot- and who knows where they have been. Last year, I was responsible for spreading some sort of frog voice-cough-plague to everyone who visited the EE both. I also learned that a bottle of cough medicine at the Venetian Apothecary costs more than my honorarium. So this year, I am coming prepared. No need to bring the Sam's Club super pack, just a travel sized packet of a few meds will go a long way.

  1. Prevent yourself from catching the post Thanksgiving blerg by using Hand Sanitizer. They come in almost microscopic travel sizes these days- you should really keep it in your pocket and apply all flippin' day.
  2. Though I am skeptical, I still take Airborne. I like the taste and I figure if it gives me just the slightest improvement in my immunity, it would be worth it.
  3. I also like Zicam. It may turn out to be Zi-scam, but I truly think that it has prevented me from getting ubersick when I use it.
  4. Everything gets sore at AU. Your brain. Your eyes. Your legs. Your throat. Your beer drinking arm. Your fat lip after starting a barfight over Scaling Viewports. Bring tylenol, advil or something similar.
  5. Nothing is worse that snaking a hacking cough on the plane then fighting it through classes. Definitely bring Cough Medicine and Cough Drops.
  6. If you have ever gotten sick on the road, you know how hard it is to sleep. I so wish I had brought Nighttime Cold Medicine with me last year.
  7. Strange food. Strange people. You'll suffer from at least one of the following: Hangover, Norwalk, Heartburn. Bring Stomach Remedy
  8. Vegas is dry. You won't drink enough water. You just won't. It might even be impossible. For this reason, you need to bring fiber. I know, I'm like your embarrassing mother who shouts through the grocery store- "Honey, are you still CONSTIPATED?" At least eat some fruit, OK?
  9. If you don't like water, bring something to make your water taste good, like those Crystal Light packets.


For 51 weeks a year, you can hide behind a screen name and an avatar... but at AU, you gotta face the public.

  1. Dry, smoky air, excessive free beer and late nights guarantee you'll wake up with red eyes swollen shut. Bring cucumber pads and Preparation H to fix the puffies. Also invest in a bottle of Clear Eyes.  This is especially important if your boss is traveling with you. Ladies- be sure to bring lots of concealer and some eye brightener.
  2.  Vegas is freaking dry.  Really freaking dry. Bring moisturizer, the best you can afford.  Slather on a night cream before passing out, and be sure to have a daytime weight lotion too.   
  3. Chapstick. See Number 2.
  4. Super duper deodorant. You don't want to stain the pits of the AUGI giveaway t-shirt. Also, we don't want to smell you. Walking through the casino on the way to class is stinky enough.


You will be walking. I am always taken aback by the sheer scale of Vegas. If you get put in the new tower or in one of the satellite hotels, you will be walking even more.

  1. Chewing Gum. The Venetian doesn't sell it. Last year I had to hock my Recorded Speaker watch for some very unsatisfying Mentos. Bring Gum. (Just don't spit it on the marble floors you slob.)
  2. Candy, lollipops, breath mints, Listerine strips. Your breath stinks enough already and the dry air doesn't help. Spare us all and suck on something. Also, sharing candy is a great icebreaker and might help you start a conversation with your favorite AUGI HotNews columnist or Discussion Group poster.
  3. Comfortable shoes. I mean comfortable. Shoes that are your actual size without big heels or narrow toes. That means sneakers, Sketchers, Doc Martens, something.
  4. Patch up your blisters with moleskin and Band-Aids.
  5. Powder can be used in your shoes and your "easily chaffed" areas to keep the damage to a minimum. Also apply liberally to keep your stink down and those of us sitting next to you comfortable.
  6. Last year I was on a hospitality floor. I wish I had brought earplugs.


  1. How will you know where the cool kids are meeting during the next break if you don't bring your Blackberry or pocketpc? Bore the world with hourly mobile blog posts and remind your spouse back home how you are in Vegas and they are at work through a series of one word text messages.
  2. Since you only see these people once a year, be sure to pack your digital camera. You need to collect a year's worth of blackmail material.
  3. All of the transfer cables so that you can get those photos up on flickr or picasa IMMEDIATELY. Digital photos are like milk- if you don't get them put up within 20 minutes they lose their appeal.
  4. If you are a speaker, don't forget your laptop. Duh. (Just a note to remind myself.)


  1. Travel Sized Space Bags will get all of this crap inside your suitcase. Bring a few extra for use in the...
  2. An extra duffel bag or foldable suitcase for all of the junk you will collect.


  1. Workout clothes. It just isn't going to happen.
  2. Work. It just isn't going to happen.
  3. A lot of money. Unless you plan on gambling or hitting up Versace, you won't need a lot of dosh. Make a game out of finding all of the free food-n-booze events throughout the week.
  4. Family Members. I seriously almost left my husband in Vegas after last year. AU is a total drain on your strength, your patience and your ability to care about anything else. Trust me, your wife is NOT going to understand why meeting Lynn Allen is such a big deal, or why you felt the need to get totally drunk at the AUGI Beer Bust. She will not be entertained by you treating her as sherpa for your swag on booth night, and she will not share your excitement when you shake hands with James Wedding. If you do insist on bringing family, come out a few days AHEAD of the conference and pack them back on a plane by Tuesday at the latest.

Pack well, fly safe and I will see you there!

Savage Truths

My mornings are defined by certain rituals. After a night of baby-roulette (will he wake? or will he sleep? where it stops, nobody knows!) I wake up to small fingers pulling my hair, poking my nose and demanding Nutri-Grain bars and orange juice. I stumble into the kitchen and make a full pot of coffee (of which maybe one sip will actually be consumed) then turn on the TV to my favorite channel, Noggin.

At 8AM, Noggin viewers are treated to a delightful little show called Oswald. It's not cerebral, like say Dora or Blues Clues, nor especially jaunty and musical like the Backyardigans.

As an aside, Mr. Probert always volunteers to wake up with the kids on Saturdays. I had thought it was because he wanted to give me a break. Turns out he just secretly enjoyed the Backyardigans. It's his favorite show after Prison Break. Which, by the way, is his favorite show because the hero is a Civil Engineer.

Oswaldis a great show for first thing in the morning because unlike those obnoxious children's programs with hard skill curriculum objectives and learning goalslike math, logic or reading, Oswald is a simple story of an urban octopus and his companion dachshund, Weenie. The official learning goals listed on the Noggin web site include the warm fuzzy hot cocoa soft and comfy skills here:

  • Language and Early Literacy Goals:
    • Familiarizes viewers with conventions of narrative and story structure
    • Develops listening skills
  • Social and Emotional Development:
    • Models positive responses to conflict
    • Demonstrates taking turns, sharing, listening to others, and polite behavior
    • Presents characters getting along and working together to achieve shared goals

Listening Skills? Positive Responses to Conflict? Achieving Shared Goals? Anyone who reads my postings to the Swamp knows that these are things that I need to study up on. Is there an AOTC available?

Even with my four minutes of sleep and spit up encrusted pajamas, I can follow plots such as "A Day at the Beach" and "The Big Balloon Rescue".

While I can handle the anthropomorphism of octopi and penguins, somehow their friends Daisy (a walking talking daisy) and the Snowman (a walking talking snowman that runs a snow cone shop) disturbed me just a little bit. I also wondered who paid for Oswald's apartment, piano and Weenie's vet bills when he clearly didn't have a job. Despite these shortcomings, I still watched alongside Panorama as she ate her "blueberry grow-bar".


The other day as the credits were rolling, I caught a name on the list that sent my heart into a tailspin.

The voice of Oswald is FRED SAVAGE!

How did one of the greatest television icons of my generation get reduced to providing the affected voice of a repressed purple octopus?

The year Kevin Arnold started middle school, so did I. He went ice skating, to school dances, passed notes, got acne and was stuffed into his locker alongside my friends and I. Year for year, Kevin mirrored my emotional turmoil and clean cut teen angst (ok, so we didn't have Vietnam to deal with- what's your point?).

I thought the worst day of my life was when I flipped by Animal Planet and saw Mario Lopez hosting Pet Star. (Panorama instantly perked up because she has become a big Dancing with the Stars fan thanks to evenings spent with my mother and her pathetically middle aged television taste.) To add insult to injury, Pet Star was featuring special guest Danica McKellar**.

This must be the same kind of Hell my parents found themselves in the 1980's and 1990's when my brothers and I knew the songs of their youth only as adapted advertising jingles, Paul McCartney as that "old guy" who sang with Michael Jackson and Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire.

Perhaps this bothers me because I wonder if my life has followed a similar path. You come roaring out of the gate. You swear you will never compromise. You will lead an exciting life where you take only the most interesting jobs. You'll never commute. You'll always be creative and adventurous and raise your fist to resist the shackles of your parents, society and the "man".

Then you fall in love- with a house, with a job, with a person, with a pack of children and you search for ways to pay the bills so you can fund this life you would have once considered "boring".

Then you realize that this IS the adventure.. that dreams change... that you can't be expected to define your life at age 15...and that maybe just maybe being a purple octopus is your new dream.

**I later found out that Danica McKellar kicks butt. She has a math degree and a book called Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail . I also saw her guest star on How I Met Your Mother. Phew.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Scenes from the Home Office: Markups

Me: Why is there green scribble all over this set of plans, Pannie?
Pannie: I colored it with my green crayon.
Me: Give me the green crayon.
Pannie: I can't
Me: Why not?
Pannie: I accidentally ate it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Soon, He'll want his own desk...

Right now, I am catching up on some documentation and Prospector is catching up on being cute and sleepy. In general, he's a great office mate.

He does, however, have his moments.

All told, he's in the top 3 office/cube mates I've ever had- tied with Amanda in Edmonton. Anyone that can talk me off the ledge and into a Squishy at Mac's at 3PM when it is pitch black outside and forty below in the middle of winter has a special gift. She also snored less than Prospector and always took care of her own lunch arrangements.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Unexpected Wisdom: Standing in Line

At swimming lessons this week, the kids were taking turns jumping into the pool. Panorama took her turn, then instead of getting back into the line at the end, she cut ahead of some of her small friends.

Me: Pannie, why did you cut in front of your friends? Everyone needs to take a turn jumping.

Pannie: I went to the back of the line, but someone was already there.

While this logic didn't really fly in the swimming lesson situation, I couldn't argue with its unexpected wisdom in the big picture.

How often do we just shuffle to the end of the line without asking if this is the right line to stand in, or if the end of the line is where we really want to be? Or, are we that person that is already there and letting others move ahead of us?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Scenes from the Home Office: Sunscreen

I share my office with Panorama (Age 3.5) and Prospector (age 6 weeks).

Me: Pannie, what are you doing?

Pannie: Putting sunscreen lotion on my hand.

Me: Um... ok. Where did you get sunscreen?

Pannie: From my nose.