webcowgirl: (Travel)
Well, the day started off lovely, except for not getting enough sleep. I decamped from my room, had lunch with [livejournal.com profile] lastwordy_mcgee's mom, then went and hung out at the pool until it was time to go to the airport. I'd discovered earlier in the day that I'd lost my book club book sometime earlier in the week; I only read about three pages of it, and had no luck at the previous hotel getting it. But I had enough money to pay the airport tolls, which was good.

Anyway, I got to the airport, checked in the car, and nearly got run over trying to get out of it. When I got to the BA counter, there was no line, but my bag was overweight :-( and I had to pay $50. Then I realized I didn't have my wallet. I had seen it in the car, right before the other car nearly hit me, and I was so startled I didn'tOb reach down and pick it up from the floorboard of the car. So I had to go back to the rental agency and sweat it out. I noticed while I was there they'd charged me $80 for 8 days of baby seat rental (I'd only had it for 3); so at least I got the opportunity to get that refunded. I got my wallet back, but, joy, the English money that was in it was gone. :-( Then to make it special I had to go pay for my bag.

So, here I am, realizing that anyone clever enough to just take my money out of my wallet might have written down my card numbers, so I'm trying to cancel all my cards, from an airport, without a phone to do it with. Obviously I'm relying on J to help me here but the US credit card is going to be a little more irritating as he's not on it. I suppose things could be worse but it is a bad ending to my trip. I could have used the scale, that's for sure, the one I couldn't find before I left, and I really hope I don't have too many problems getting my train tickets when I get to the station on Friday to go to Bradford.
webcowgirl: (Holo Holo Girl)
Well, today was mostly oriented around driving to Cocoa Beach to catch a boat at 2 PM for a 2 hour manatee tour in the Thousand Island nature preserve. It was gorgeous; multiple mangrove swamps surrounding a giant lagoon (the so-called Banana River), with all sorts of wildlife just everywhere. I kept a tally of birds: Minor blue heron. Great blue heron. Cardinal. Anhinga. Brown pelican. Osprey. Ibis. Cormorant. We succeeded in seeing dolphins, who were racing back and forth against seawalls (protecting people's houses from erosion) catching fish, and also some manatees, who were doing their manatee thing (eating) but being very shy about coming near the boat. That was a little disappointing but we enjoyed the two hours of chilling out under the boat's canopy, and the scary fundies sitting across from us kept to themselves while the pack of four gay boys got more and more fun as we kept puttering around the channels between the islands. It was supposed to be roasting hot and humid today, but it was cooler near the coast and the breeze was pleasant; really, I thought it was just perfect.

Though short on manatees, this tour was a great nature lesson, and I took some notes, for your edification (and my memory): we saw three kinds of mangrove. Red mangrove: roots drop down, covered w/barnacles. Black mangrove: spiky upwards roots. White mangrove: expansive roots. We also saw lots of Australian pine, which the Nature Conservancy is working to rip out to help restore the little islands to better health. If I come back to Florida in the next two years, rather than staying in Orlando, I'd like to settle myself at the Beach Place guest houses, Atlantic Avenue, Cocoa Beach, where I could walk straight to the ocean, as we did after we were through with our boat ride. We never made it to the wildlife preserve we were going to see, but we had a great time doing what we did do and didn't feel rushed.

We then headed back to Orlando and stopped by the Clarion to pick up my rather tardily-arriving pile of tea from Silk Road teas; then went to Number Uno for more Cuban food (they treated us like kings and asked about my sister and my niece, which was totally gratifying) and then went to I-Drive for a round of Pirate theme goofy golf. It was just ridiculous and totally fun if a bit sweaty; it was cruel that so many of the holes had a water feature that actually meant the ball, if hit incorrectly, would be swept away into a pond in the middle of the property. The water also raised the ambient humidity to near-sauna levels. That said, I did get to shot a hole inside a cave, a lifetime first for me. (Pix are on FB if you're interested.)

We finished up around ten then went back to the hotel, where we got the accounts sorta settled and then packed, took showeres, and did the normal end of day/end of trip stuff. I figure I'll be heading out of here around 2PM tomorrow; I've got a late checkout, but it's not nearly as late as I'd like it to be, so I'll have some time chilling in the lobby. This has really been a great trip - this part, anyway - and I certainly won't mind staying here for a while longer and getting in one last swim during the heat of the day.
webcowgirl: (Kayak)
Today was full of awesome with awesome sauce on top. We started off at a Venezuelan restaurant down the street, where we had fried bananas, rice, beans, an "arepa" (like a muffin made of grits) and eggs scrambled with salsa for breakfast. Wow. Share photos on twitter with Twitpic So good and so filling!

Then we headed to Wekiva Springs state park (per [livejournal.com profile] lastwordy_mcgee's recommendation). I was kicking myself for not looking up what was going on there before we left, but the center of the park was this amazing, clear pool people were swimming in and I didn't have my suit. Aargh! Still, that didn't stop us from going kayaking, so after we did the little boardwalk nature tour, we headed down the river in a double kayak. It was a totally gorgeous day although just a bit on the warm side, but it was nice and cool on the water.

This kept us going until about 2:30, when we headed back into Orlando. I collapsed for a bit, then revived myself in time for us to head out to see Xanadu: The Musical, which we both loved (review to follow, I think). Then it was slices of NY style pizza and back to the hotel, where we swam, then hung out by the pool and did more catching up (me with a margarita). It's really been a fantastic day. Tomorrow will be Cocoa Beach and a manatee tour! I can't wait. We're even going to play some miniature golf. I can tell I'm going to be sorry when this vacation is over (though technically the vacation part has been very short, just the last two days and tomorrow).View of the kayaking path from Wekiwa Springs - a nice day to... on Twitpic
webcowgirl: (Kayak)
Slept until 9:30 today (up until 1:30 though so just barely 8 hours), then after some breakfast Mary and I headed off to the Brevard zoo. I had read in the Frommer's guide that it had kayaking, and since it got a two star rating to boot, I thought that sounded well worth an hour's drive.

As it turns out, it took us rather longer to get there that I expected (not that I minded, somehow we haven't run out of things to talk about), but this turned out to be a really amazing zoo, small but with fabulous exhibits, including a python cage set up to look like a camp bed and a rhino exhibit that was both large and full of great enrichment activities. Not one of the animals looked like it didn't have enough room to roam or was acting neurotic. (Photos are up on Facebook.)

We did make it kayaking, too, which only took about 20 minutes but was loads of fun. It was warm and very humid out, though, and M had made plans for dinner with her cousin, his wife, their kid, and M's aunt/cousin's mom, so rather than doing the other kayaking trail (the African one!), we headed back into Orlando.Me & my best friend Mary getting ready to kayak around the Br... on Twitpic

Best part of dinner: being at cousin's house and having his home made salsa and guacamole. WOW AND YUM. Worst part: dinner was in one of those horrible corporate restaurants I try to avoid like the plague. Now, it was still most nicer than most of the UK corporate restaurants, but there's a reason why I make an effort to drive all over the place to get nice food, and Bonefish was not cutting it for me.

Still, as it turns out, dinner was on Auntie, so that was alright, and since I'd been eating so much heavy food, having a chicken salad was about the right thing for me. And after dinner we were done, as the toddler was near exploding and I was tired. Back to the hotel we went, and, after changing into my suit, I went for a dip in the pool. It turns out tonight was "dive in movie night," so I spent some time watching Planet 51, which was mostly dull but worth about 30 minutes (including a bit of time nursing a frozen banana daiquiri). Then it was back to the room, where M and I spent the night chattering away, her showing me pictures of her wedding, her daughter's 3rd birthday party, and videos of them chasing the potbellied pig they recently bought (at a swap meet of all things) all around their farm. It was, really, a fun day and a good night. I'm not sunburned but boy am I tired!
webcowgirl: (Tiara)
I'm at the hotel waiting for Mary to show up now ...

So today was the "bonus" day at StarEast, not a free bonus, mind you, but a bonus if you were looking to really learn some more about how to be a good manager, which I am. We had four scheduled talks and one "problem solving" session, and, overall, I'd say it was a good day but not as brilliant as I had hoped. I guess that's one of the disadvantages of being in this industry: your idea of perfection is always really high. Normally, my attitude is to dream low and avoid disappointment, but I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to feel after this section of the conference, and we didn't quite hit it. Ah well.

First we had "Navigating Rough Waters," by Jane Fraser. We started with a slide saying "You have to reduce your team of 40 by 60% because your management has ordered these jobs be sent to some place cheaper. How do you manage it?" At 8:30 in the morning I have to say that question about made me cry. It's really not the first thing I would ever want to deal with in the morning, even just as an academic exercise. Gah! If this was what the day was going to be like, how to offshore jobs, how to identify weak performers and fire them without getting sued, how to do all of the worst parts of the job, I didn't want to deal with it.

This, in fact, is not how it turned out; it became quite the question and answer session asking Jane how she had dealt with this problem (for, indeed, she was in the middle of dealing with it) and rather a remarkable story of how she helped transition the team without having everyone abandon ship. Now, as a slideshow, this wasn't much of a presentation, but it turned into, in my mind, an incredible vision of how to build a team that stays by you in the very worst of times. She talked about how she went for transparency, how she worked to ensure those that stayed to help transition were taken care of (job opportunities that helped build up their resumes, frequent contact with recruiters for jobs elsewhere, interview practice), how she actually divided the work between the five different sites (including Vietnam and Argentina), how she continued to haggle to keep just one more person - wow. She was really the picture of a leader and I wound up asking her how she had built this incredible loyalty. ("Transparency and always looking out for people's careers," she said, making me think I'm on the right track.)

Next up was "Systemic Innovation" by Miles Lewitt. This presentation didn't seem to relate to my situation once because I have never found myself in a position to push major innovation in how we develop products or do works. I've never been concerned with reducing people's work time to give them ore time to innovate; I've been more concerned with reducing the amount of time people have to spend fixing bugs so they can spend more time actually building code.

Next up was a problem solving session, in which the room was divided into about 20 groups, demarcated by tables that each had a banner on them saying what the topic of that table was going to be (i.e. "automation, "Agile," "environments," things testers get fussed about). We had to define the problem as an elevator speech, describe some barriers, then describe our "action plan" for dealing with the barriers. I sat at the "metrics" table, where we decided our action plan was going to be "interview people about what questions they need to have answered, research industry standard ways of generating that data, continuously review our questions and methods to keep improving the data we're presenting."

We never got to present, though, as we just ran right up into lunch. I used the opportunity to ask someone who I thought knew the answers (Rob Sabourin of Ameribug) how he would try to measure the effectiveness of the requirements quality assurance program I'm trying to get into place, and he suggested either we measure the total number of hours the developers spent fixing defects, or we do a defect origin analysis to see if we've reduced the total percentage of defects caused by requirements. Either will keep me busy, to be sure. Even better, he gave me a contract he'd written for another company detailing specifically how he was going to measure the quality of the code they delivered to him for acceptance testing. This is awesome as it's something I've been working on at work, fixing the contracts so we've got something solid to say people agreed to do.

Lunch was, as ever, with the guy from Virginia I ate with every day, and it was good, only the line took 20 minutes to get through.

Afterwards we had a real honest to goodness motivational type speaker come on, Andy Kaufman of the "Institute for Leadership Excellence and Development, Inc" (which I suspect is his company), who with big smiles and more enthusiasm than any of us knew how to deal with spoke on how to increase your influence at work by working to ... increase your relationships with people. This was creepy at times as it seemed to look at building relationships with people and even talking to them as a way to tick boxes of accomplishments, something I am very much against, but he did mention a bunch of useful stuff. I was particularly entranced by the idea of finding someone that will give you honest feedback about how you're doing - including telling you when you've screwed up. I could really use this at work as half the time no one says anything at all, but I fear I occasionally say stuff in meetings that is going over the line, but no one ever says a word to me about it. He also said it's a good idea to like everyone, because if you think you can hide that you don't like someone, you're just plain wrong. However, I'm not going to get in the habit of sending everyone I know birthday cards - that's just smarmy - and while meeting a new person every day might be a great way to practice small talk, as a person who has a hard time remembering names it sounded like a nightmare.

Finally it was Goranka Bjedov talking about testing quality vs testing productivity. Her belief was that people love to do easy automated unit tests, but though they generate lots of numbers, they don't really prove quality because they frequently fail to test negatively. Furthermore, her belief was that we are heading to an age when people are just willing to settle for low quality, and it was our job to try to push back and say, "It's just not right when people die" (for example).

Oops, Mary is here! Anyway, afterwards I went on a nature walk behind the conference center (located on the banks of Shingle Creek - we saw no alligators but did see an ahinga) with a woman whom I met - through Twitter - during the conference. Yay!
webcowgirl: (Tiara)
After another less than ideal night's sleep (seriously, I woke up 3 times between 6 and 7 AM), I was off to the giant roofed football field that is the Rosen Center for Day 4 of StarEast.

The day got off to a great start with a really fun talk by James Bach called "The Buccaneer Tester." While I was afraid it was going to be yet more claptrap about his particular flavor of exploratory testing, instead it was about how to make a name for yourself in the testing industry. It featured this great video he made from The Towering Inferno showing how a tester approaches disasters.

After a break Matt Heusser started in on "2010 A Test Odyssey: Building a high performance, distributed team," which I thought was going to be tips for working with teams in a variety of different locations but which just didn't hit the issues I was concerned about and talked more about ... I don't know, really, I took almost no notes. I did, however, get kinda weepy reading a post by [livejournal.com profile] the_wrong_hands that made me feel like I was leading a really unconnected life, and I was feeling extra sensitive because one of the conference organizers (whom I'd dealt with two years previously) had given me the massive cold shoulder at the end of the first talk and made me feel like a buffoon - and like I was wasting my time thinking I was ever going to make a name for myself in this industry.

After this I spent some time puttering around the wifi zone, where I actually met a guy from England who might know people who would be a good fit for the open test management position at my company. I also bought two books, one on test case design, the other on reporting. The book stall was way too expensive - about 20% more than Amazon - and I later wound up wishing I'd just ordered them and had them mailed.

Then I went to a last minute talk called "Testing Tips from the Great Detectives." I thought it would be fun and light, and it was, only then I realized I could be down the hall at a talk by Bob Galen called "Creating Crucial Test Conversations," so I ducked out the door and immediately got some great tips on selling what QA is doing to the rest of the organization. I talked to him later and he said he'd mail me a four hour version of the presentation, which I will do as the activities were really great and I think I could share it with a lot of people at Il Postino, not just my employees.

Finally it was time for lunch. I went back to the table I'd been at before, and, lo, the same dude I've been sitting next to for lunch for the last three days was there, and we had a good laugh about my night being hit up by the truck driver who couldn't take no for an answer. But I didn't get to talk to Lisa Crispin about my book ideas, which is sad as I would really like to write a test book but could use some guidance.

Then it was back to the main room and to Lee Copelands "Quantifying the Value of Testing." This was another good talk about selling QA, only his point was that if you don't know what people need to prove (or disprove) in the first place, you'll get caught up in creating all sorts of metrics that don't really matter. Ask what the question is first, then figure out how to measure it. He had lots of other good ideas, too, which I'll research more when I'm back at home and can sit down with his presentation at my leisure.

During this talk a guy sat down in front of me who'd responded to a tweet I'd sent earlier with the message, "You should introduce yourself!" (I recognized him because Lisa Crispin had tweeted a picture of him on a scooter jetting around the conference room). I said hi, and we then got into a chat (while he sat at the book signing table) about what was going on at my company and how I might handle it. I don't feel like we came up with any good answers, but I do feel that by articulating what I was thinking of doing, I got a better handle of what my actual plan was, and also that it seemed ... doable! I also think I scared him about the work environment I was dealing with. He liked how I was managing my employees, though. I think how much I like them really shows through.

This conversation carried us all the way through the next to last slot, and I decided against going to the final keynote speech, about how crowdsourcing was used to test Mozilla. I was just feeling burnt out and tired out, and though I tweeted and said I was going to the beach, in fact, I went to the hotel and ... got the treat of my day, a phone call from [livejournal.com profile] wechsler. We talked for about half an hour, me about the conference, him about everything else that had been going on in his life. Then I crashed.

After I got up, I tried to go for a swim in the hotel pool, but it was actually too cold (!), so I just read by the pool for a bit (10 minutes max) and went back inside. Then it was off to a Venezuelan restaurant [livejournal.com profile] lastwordy_mcgee's mom had recommended to me - and now back here, where I've packed up (I'm checking out of here tomorrow and moving to a schmancier hotel down the road for the last four nights) and am ready to call it a night. I'll leave you with an Anime version of "Gay or European."
webcowgirl: (ActionFigure)
Just had a table of people roaring at my story about the guy from last night. Let's recap.

Him: "Would you like a beer?"
Me: "No thanks."
(Later)
Him: "You wanna shoot some pool?"
Me: "No, not really, I'm tired & getting ready to go home."
Him: "What do you mean you're tired? I'm a truck driver. What do you do to be so tired?"
Me: "I think it's the time change. And I need to be awake to drive back to my hotel."
Him: "How far away are you?"
Me: "About half an hour."
Him: "My apartment's only five minutes away."
Me: "..."
Him: "Are you sure you don't want to party?"
Me: "No, I'm married, that's not really my thing."
Him: "Hey, I'm married, too. C'mon, let's have some fun."

Anyway, it was a pretty hard come on, but I couldn't figure out what was funnier: the thought that I could be "bought" for a beer, or the thought that the fact he was married and his apartment was five minutes away were somehow facts that were 1) in his favor 2) going to make me change my mind.

If nothing else, at least it got some good laughs over lunch, which was very social and pleasant.
webcowgirl: (Tiara)
Today was the first day of the conference proper at StarEast. I'm still not sleeping so well, but only woke up 4 times last night as opposed to 8, so I guess I'm feeling a little more confident about my alarm going off (not that I've not awakened before it has each and every night so far. Gah!

Talks today were: "You Can't Test Quality into Your Systems" (which spent too much time talking about the history of software and not enough time about the future - his goals of "Short term: QA requirements; Medium: learn how to read code; Long term: become a coder" was both glib and too narrowly focused. Next was "Agile Testing: Uncertainty, Risk, and Why It All Works" which was a good look at how to make testing an integral part of an Agile development process; not really relevant to me anymore but a good talk. This got me talking to Agile test guru Lisa Crispin later about my horrible experiences at Tango Foxtrot; she thinks I've got a good article in there and also wants to interview me for a "women who do Agile" thing she's working on. And she promised she'd talk to me about what kind of book I should write, though we didn't actually wind up doing this over lunch like we'd planned on, as some other women at the table got caught up asking about how to improve the Agile implementation they're in the middle of; given that the entire table was participating in the conversation (sort of a group therapy thing, or maybe a large "Dear Abby" session), I saw no reason to rush my chat, and, really, it was fun having people working together. Taking advantage of the group mind is my favorite part of this conference.Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

The shorter talks I went to were about reducing duplication (the talk was too short to do much, she should have timed herself and added at least another 20 minutes), dashboards (I got some ideas about this but feel like what I need to do is show the guy who held it the one we've got and figure out how to 1) make it universal 2) make it easier to read), and ... um ... something about testing as a service that was so "This is what you do wrong!" that I got bored and left. LATERZ.

We ended with "Stop Guessing About How Customers Use Your Software," which was a guy from Microsoft showing a bunch of ways they measure what people actually do or would like to do with their software, from the ever popular A/B (i.e. Optimost) tests to the error messages that feed back to them to these little "what matters more to you, X or Y?" quizzes they give to their beta testers. It was actually a very informative session about what Microsoft does, but as a firm that develops things that don't use the internet, for almost strictly internal customers, it wasn't particularly relevant. I did almost win a book, though.'

Anyway, 5:30 and no luck seeing Mom [livejournal.com profile] lastwordy_mcgee, as she was booked already for the evening and not free again until after M comes to town. So I took myself to yet another mall, this time buying *drum roll* socks, underwear, and some soap. I was, at least, on the right end of town to go to Jalapenos, which I did and where the food was amazing - I had the plate that came with a chile relleno, a green enchilada, and a tostada. OH SO FULL. Even the beans and rice were amazing. I also had a guy at the place MASSIVELY hit on me, offering me a beer ("no thanks, I'm driving"), then asking me if I wanted to play pool with him "or just party," then following me out to the car and asking me to change my mind. Yeah, no. Ah well, at least I know where the action is now, and I have lots of new socks, so no more of this Oliver Twist crap with the multiple holes, I'm having a sock chucking party when I get home.
webcowgirl: (Holo Holo Girl)
I gotta say it's breaking my brain to think of the fantastic beaches I could be at right now. Tomorrow morning looks really soft, I notice ...

Great quote about mistaken understanding of Agile: "Doesn't it mean that I get to do whatever I want, do a kumbaya every morning, and go home at 5?"

This would all be so much better if someone could have come with me. How come there's no one here for Expedia or Microsoft besides one speaker?
webcowgirl: (Tiara)
Last night I slept like crap on a stick again. Since I slept fine Friday and Saturday, I have to blame this on the jitters about not waking up in time for the conference. This I managed to do today, sneaking out at 8 AM and giving my sister a hug as I walked out the door - Dawn was still asleep so I didn't want to wake her up. They're not here so I assume they made their flight.

Today was a long, full-day session with Rick Craig, whom I took a lecture from last time, on "Essential Test Management and Planning." Unfortunately I think it was aimed more at the people who needed the essentials rather than me, though the three hours we spent on how to craft a good test plan were doubtlessly useful (as I'm planning on redoing all of our templates). However, I need more about selling and measuring the organization - about long term planning, not project planning - so I wound up feeling very sorry I wasn't at the talk on making unambiguous requirements next door, as that's part of a project I'm planning on ramping up at work this year. Ah well. I did get the notes from the other class, and get an idea of how to do requirements review from Rick's class, so hopefully it will come together.

Then it was off to the mall (skipping the reception; I didn't feel like chatting with strangers and didn't see any point in the drinks, given that I was driving), where I bought three suits; one pinstripe, one gray, one reddish. Jones New York poppy shirt from Dillards. Too expensive at $5... on Twitpic (I did not buy this shirt, I just wanted to.) I kind of want a black one, too, but given the pinstripe was full price and even at half price the other two added up, I'm not sure if I'm going to get another one. I also got a present for a friend from the great stash of Alice in Wonderland "Disney Couture" jewelry on sale at Macy's and then also a gift for a coworker from the Lancome counter in Nordstroms. I was actually getting really fuzzy brained before this was over and struggled to find the car, briefly worrying that it had been stolen. A white car in a Florida parking lot is very much like a needle in a haystack - only more like a piece of hay in a haystack, except it's a special because your key works in it. Earlier on my way out of the conference I tried to let myself into someone else's car - I just can NOT tell the damned things apart, especially when I'm firing on 3 cylinders.

I managed to get to La Hacienda - a Colombian restaurant next to the mall - and have a very yummy dinner, including a glass of juice of some fruit I'd never heard of before.My delicious dinner at La Hacienda, 8204 Crystal Clear Lane, ... on Twitpic

Anyway, now it's 10:30 and I've discovered my charming hotel charges $10 to receive packages for guests. This is especially delightful given that they couldn't even be bothered to take it to my room, so I'm not sure just what sort of "service" I'm paying for. I've also managed to not read a lick since I've been here, which seems kind of crazy given how many books I've brought & what a dedicated reader I am normally. Let's just hope I get some sleep tonight - I sure need it.
webcowgirl: (Tiara)
These days so much of what I do has so very little to do with testing, or even knowing how to do testing, but rather with relationship building. This was basically confirmed as the right tack to take by Randy Rice's "Becoming an influential test team leader" talk today at StarEast. Well, he did say that you should know your technical stuff, but when we reviewed a list of 31 problems testers face, 95% of them were caused by human factors, so it seems that dealing with the people issues, i.e. convincing people that the thing you want them to do is worth the effort or the money, is really the thing to do.

Me, I've noticed that the higher up you go in the management tree, the less it matters whether or not you can do the testing; it starts to matter that you can manage the workload for your team and that you can get them the resources they need to do their job. They become your eyes and your arms and your legs; you have to use them to get the information you need and to accomplish the things expected of your department. But they need you to help them, by getting people to understand what they do, by planning ahead (further than "just the next project"), by getting them training, by making their jobs enjoyable if not by the nature of the work itself then by the support you give them and they give each other. Then of course you have the joy of doing things like reports and metrics, but, really, those are also tools you can use to help your team, and you need to embrace the fact that it's something you've got to do and you have to be responsible for. Maybe in some ways my whole career as a manager (or potential manager) started when I took that class Steve McConnell held on software project estimation, then came back and tried to figure out how to apply it to my work; suddenly I was able to give status reports in a way no one ever seemed to have done before, in terms of percentage completion of total test cases with nice linear charts showing where we should be and where we were. Before people just focused on how many bugs we were finding, but ... anyway, I loved the statistics and the measurement, which is a good thing given where I am now.

Ahem. At any rate, Randy focused on things like "understanding your team's training needs," "selling your message," "developing your team," etc. We had a lot of fun solving each other's problems; I had one girl tell me I'd done such a good job of building someone up that I should be a motivational speaker. (Gosh, heck!) I also talked to Randy a little bit about getting a paper together for next year; I am interested in talking about "growing your team's leaders" but he suggested I should figure a way to measure it. Ooh, a challenge! And I left with all sorts of ideas about helping to train the leads I already have, but also for some stuff for the rest of the team to make the job better and help me do my work more effectively (by better understanding my team).

In between I managed to stop by a class on "Becoming a Trusted Advisor to Senior Management" and get the notes; chat with fellow tea fan Nicole on the quality of tea provided (Revolution teas, individual boxes with cloth bags and whole leaf, really top notch, sadly missing from first coffee break when I needed it most); and get in a long visit with Stephanie from Pop (back in Seattle) over lunch. This was all fun and energizing and good consolation for the crap start of the day, when I discovered the conference was not at the Rosen Center hotel I'd booked my crummy hotel room nearby; rather, it was at a different Rosen Center ("Shingle Creek," sounds like a disease) two miles and $10 in cab fare away. Grrrr, not pleased to start 20 minutes late (at least ten of which was just in walking the immense distance from the entrance of the hotel to the registration desk and then halfway back to where the actual lecture hall was - the place is a barn). I guess when I said I was going to go nuts before I left for this thing I was right in this respect: I did drop a few balls due to juggling too damned much.

Anyway, back home and my sis and niece and I went out first for a little shopping (Ann Taylor: love the suits, not feeling so great about dropping $200 to buy one; $10 silk shirt much more my speed) then to eat dinner at Numero Uno Cuban Restaurant, which beat the pants off of the massively overpriced Cuba Libre restaurant we walked to Saturday night and had utterly fantastic food to boot and super friendly service. They gave Dawn some free fried banana and a bit of toasted bread with butter. She spent the time not really wanting to eat anything but then stomping around and chewing on a butter holder and finally flirting with the men who came in the restaurant, one of whom was teaching her to blow kisses IT WAS TOO FUNNY. She got quite screechy - best guess was teething - and we high tailed it back to the hotel, where I'm now sitting typing this in the dark so as not to wake Dawn up (and my sis is taking advantage of the peace and quiet to take a bath). They're off tomorrow, and I'll be settling in to Day Two of Star East and "Essential Test Management and Planning." With luck I'll try to set up to have dinner with [livejournal.com profile] lastwordy_mcgee's mom tomorrow, but I won't be able to set it up until later - at worst, hopefully she'll be free on Wednesday. She seemed like such a nice lady and full of that Lastwordy charm - I'd really enjoy having some time to hang out with her!

Boo update

Apr. 23rd, 2010 01:24 pm
webcowgirl: (kitty)
Boo has a gut full of tuna but she refused both renal food mixed with tuna and dry renal with tuna juice on top. J will of course be taking care of her while I'm gone (& can you let me know if the saucer of wet is empty when you get home). I'm sat in my seat waiting to go to Orlando for StarEast, the best software testing conference in the world. See you Londoners after the bank holiday's done!
webcowgirl: (Tiara)
They counted 136 attendees and 99 evaluations filled out -

my average was 7.1.

I think that's pretty good, really, since I didn't rate anyone higher than an 8 (since 10 is reserved for, you know, Casablanca).
webcowgirl: (Default)
1 1/2 hours until I leave the hotel and I am ready.
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webcowgirl: (Default)
Well, my flight isn't until 7 PM, and what am I going to do for the next ten hours? I'm supposed to be checked out of my hotel in one hour (at 10 AM). I'm going to call the front desk and move back my checkout time, but even if I change it to noon I'm going to have pile of time on my hands. I was thinking last night, "Ooh, you can go to the water park across from SeaWorld ([livejournal.com profile] jhg, where are you when I need you?)," but ... I don't quite know how to describe this, but ... something about the shoes I was wearing yesterday and the way they pressed on the back of my heel has made me pull up lame. I don't have a blister, it's more like someone whacked me in the Achilles tendon or something, and I am walking with a serious limp. Neither Aquatica nor Wet & Wild sound like even the least little bit of fun right now. I want to stay off of my feet, and I also don't want to be walking around lugging my piles o' crap everywhere.

Foo. This would be the perfect time to take care of a bunch of other stuff I wanted to do, like talking to my sister, writing some stuff for Gungfu Girl, mailing things, and any bunch of things in town, but I can't take my stuff with me if I leave the complex (as if I know where a post office is) and I don't think there's wireless in the lobby of the hotel. And it's supposed to get up to 95 today (34 C for yez what uses aught than good old Fahrenheit), which means that all I'd want to do is be inside or be by the pool.

Okay, I've moved my checkout time. Now I'm going to see about getting that shuttle for the airport. And maybe I'll sleep for a bit longer, though my nerves are in the "going to be leaving soon" state of excitement and I don't think I can get back to sleep.
webcowgirl: (Kayak)
I am back and I have showered all of the manatee goo out of my hair. (Okay, it was plant material from the river, but still.) I have a lot of packing to do but I still don't have any tortillas. This irritates me.

Uh .... the trip today with Florida Dolphin Tours was great (provided that you didn't pass out from not getting lunch until 3 PM - I had learned from Egypt and carried food with me but some parents did not have such luck). The manatee swim was hardly some kind of beautiful communing with nature kind of thing - the water was quite mucky (though it seemed not particularly polluted, just planty), and there were only two manatees for our little group of ... er, 20 ... to interact with. The description we'd had earlier of manatees hugging you and sneaking up behind you to check you out just seemed a bit like overenthusiastic drivel, but, who knows, this is apparently "manatees head out to other grazing grounds" time so maybe there just weren't too many around. It was still really neat. Manatees don't feel like squeaky wet inner tubes like dolphins do; they feel like tires that have been left in the river for months on end and grown slime (apparently they move too slowly to escape its grasp, and manatees in the ocean will get barnacles). I'm afraid I got a little enthusiastic at the gift shop afterwards and may have bought ... things.

The airboat ride on the river later was pleasant enough, if loud (we were supplied very substantial ear covers to block out the noise). We didn't see dolphins or gators, but we saw frolicking otters and a manatee and an incredible landscape of flat, flat islands with lonely palm trees peeking out of them, seas of grass, a lazy river, and pelicans/ospreys/ibises/bird4/bird5/bird6 etc. And when it all comes down to it, I did not get sunburned and it was relaxing, and that was as good as I needed.

Then I fell asleep on the bus. Oops.

Then we got to the Homosassa State Wildlife Park, and it was just great. They had six lazy and lovable manatee rescues there who lipped the ranger begging for yam slices; they were just adorable and SO fun to watch from so close. The setting is a collapsed limestone cave that's become the center of a spring-filled pool, and the water was as clear as could be and utterly gorgeous; you could see the fish like nobody's business. I wanted to swim in it so much.

The rest of the park is a really nice collection of birds of Florida as well as reptiles (ooh gator! ooh coral snake!), a few mammals (black bear/cougar/lynx/fox), and a, er, hippo that came with the park (she'd been a movie animal). The bird collection was amazing - Florida turkeys, four varieties of owl, black vultures (who were actually just wild birds that nested in the park), roseate spoonbills, white ibis, a Crested Caracara, flamingos, and ... two pairs of Whooping Cranes, including two babies. My God, I died of cute. And it was just so exciting to see these birds that had been on the verge of extinction for so long - I must have spent twenty years listening to conservation people talking about how they were almost wiped out. It gave me such hope to see those two little guys hiding under mommy's skirts on their little island. Actually, the whole park made me think about how pretty Florida must have been at one time, though doubtlessly there's beautiful springs out there somewhere still that haven't all been turned into the centerpiece of some golf vacation home - I just think there's so many fewer than there used to be. Who knows, there may be a lot of good to come out of the mortgage market collapsing yet.

In summary: great tour, I no longer feel bad about how much it cost because it was totally the highlight of my week here. The rest of the evening? Not full of fail but just ever so "God, why can't I be home already." And along those lines, I'm going to bed now.
webcowgirl: (Kayak)
A manatee in your garage? Who'da thunk it? But apparently when you have a waterfront house on the (humorously misnamed) Crystal River with covered parking for your boat, this is a possibility. In fact, this is where we spotted our first manatee.picture.jpg So, as I got ready to approach the water monster, sneaking up quietly on him in my wet suit and snorkel mask, peering through water with, oh four to six inches of visibility, I suddenly realized - maybe I'm not so okay with having an EDIT 800 2000 pound animal appear suddenly in front of me, even if they're a herbivore. And I think I started to hyperventilate a little. I think my lizard brain was just not okay with it. But I calmed down, and later I saw and touched one. Now to the wildlife refuge ...
webcowgirl: (Default)
I am on my way into town (on the bus of course) to meet up with the tour group at the all-you-can-eat Sizzler breakfast buffet. Then it's oss to the Crystal River and manatees ... manatees ... manatees manatees manatees! We get to go to a wildlife refuge later.

Manatees!
picture.jpg

webcowgirl: (Default)
The margarita will ease the pain.
picture.jpg
webcowgirl: (Default)
T - 15 now - excited!
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