I was very glad I was able to get myself up for the presentations on Wednesday, since they were really very interesting. The Sunday presentations weren't as interesting to me since I knew most of the content, but Wednesday was cool. These are very smart people who know their business and are dedicated to creating industry standards for the Internet to keep functioning better and better. The fact that only a few were missing for even the morning sessions after Tuesday night being the really let loose & get really drunk night for most of them was impressive in itself. ;) I really did want to last through the last 2 sessions, but I was so exhausted I took my chance to pack & take a nap. One of the best naps ever, even if it was only a little over an hour long! I decided sleep was more important than the "poolside drinks" scheduled at 5:15, since we already were having yet another cocktail party from 7-8pm, so I dressed for dinner & the evening, then got to the cocktail party around 7:20. Dinner wasn't nearly as good as the lobster the night before...my onion soup was nothing compared to even what I made recently in my crockpot, let alone the famed Scotland French Onion Soup from last fall...but since one of the organizers wanted it & wanted to pay, our table had 3 whole bottles of 1999 Chateau Lafite Rothschild! I have no idea what that bill will be, but I did get the chance to taste two glasses worth. Quite good, but a lighter red wine, and I tend to prefer reds that are fuller-bodied...so I guess I'm not as cultured as I should be...heh! ;)
After starting at the salsa club again for the mojitos, plus I did get taught the actual salsa steps so I was able to try that out on one dance, and was told I was good enough I should keep trying, it was back up to the Viking Crown Lounge, with tiny glimpses of better music hopes, dancing & drinking until they closed earlier at 2:45 this time. I had quite the workouts dancewise! ;) Others had eaten pizza & hot dogs at the 24-hr food place up to 5am one of the other nights, so some of us headed for that next. Too bad they'd closed already! All we got was a giant plate of French fries which 5 of us polished off in about 5 minutes flat. We even headed to the pursers desk to ask about room service, but when the ship is so close to docking, they have to close all those things down earlier to get everything ready for the customs inspections. So at that point, being 3:30, we anti-climactically parted ways and I headed for some sleep. Since again I wasn't even tipsy & still awake & needing to unwind, I tried typing a couple notes into my work laptop, but all of a sudden it crashed hard with the last note as "dumping physical memory"...I tried restarting it and all it says is "boot drive not found, press F1 to retry or F2 for status" and F1 just gives that same message again...ack! By the time I tried a couple restarts, I gave up & went to sleep about 4:20am.
The Thursday Travel Trials & Tribulations
Since we were supposed to start leaving the ship in groups around 9am, I set my alarm for 7:30, but I woke up to voices outside my door, so I looked at my clock paranoid I'd overslept...whew! Only 7am! I turned the lights on to get my eyes used to the light, but kept dozing until my alarm went off. Since I had my hair up & had taken my shower the night before, I was ready earlier than I thought, so I left my stuff in my room & grabbed some breakfast. I found some others of our group & got the morning gossip - two of our friends were woken at 6am by US Customs pounding on their door! They were questioned & their room was searched, finding nothing, and they were never given any explanation as to why they were searched. Since they had only gone to bed about 5am anyway, they were pretty tired to say the least. I also found out we were ignoring the official groups & meeting ourselves up on the pool deck as a last chance to say goodbye. I got my stuff & met them there about 9am, passed out my business cards & took a couple last photos in the overcast muggy heat. Everyone kept asking & hoping I'd be on the cruise again next year or at least NANOG inbetween, but I said I wasn't sure if I'd be allowed since both the LA NANOG & this cruise were special circumstances. There was talk of a possible Oktoberfest get-together just for fun over near Munich, so I asked them to keep me in the loop in case I could do that as a vacation. Donna finally made it up there, and since her flight was 2pm and mine was 2:50pm, we shared a cab that went by the way of a FedEx so we could ship the extra business stuff vs. trying to check it as extra luggage for both of us. Since wearing my pirate hat was easier than carrying it, I brightened the weary workers' days all along the customs & immigration lines and even at the airport...I kept getting "Nice hat!" "I like your hat!" and "What's the hat for? Where did you get it?" along with smiles...heehee...I joked that I probably wouldn't be searched at customs because anyone trying to smuggle anything surely wouldn't wear such a conspicuous hat that garnered so much extra attention! ;)
We got to the airport about 11am, and Donna & I were at different terminals, so I was by myself for the rest of the day. I took my computer out again, but it was still doing the same, so since by then it was 8:45am back home, I called the office & got the IT guys to walk me through the diagnostics...unfortunately the verdict was "It's toast - hopefully we can try to get some data off of it, but we'll order you a replacement ASAP"...so much for working from home on Friday, doing laundry & catching up on sleep! I called my boss & left a voicemail after that explaining how my computer was broken. All this was extra torture since I kept hearing the canned announcements for the free wireless access - argh! ;) I killed time by grabbing a little food, talking with my mom on my cell & resting my eyes.
We boarded the plane by 3pm and then sat there. I had checked in with exit row window seats on both flights, prepped myself with my neck pillow & earplugs, so I tried napping immediately...but we taxied out & never took off. This went on for a long time...uh oh...the crew came on the speaker explaining that flight control wasn't allowing any planes to the north or west because of heavy thunderstorms, and the incoming flights were the ones taking the only safe approach windows, but all those incoming flights were also taking the gates, so we weren't even able to get off the plane. 3 hours later, we finally took off, with all of us knowing we had totally missed our connecting flights out of Houston, so who knows what would happen later. I got a hold of people on my cell warning them I wouldn't be home anytime soon, then napped for the rest of the flight. When we arrived at 8pm Houston time, they said "Since virtually all of you have missed your connections, please head to gate C40 to the agents." The next flight to SJC wasn't until 9am, but he found a 9pm flight to SFO instead, so I was last to leave the desk as he booked me into a window seat & tried to get my luggage transferred onto that plane. I took a pit stop & was so hungry I stopped at Taco Bell, where one of our pilots was in line in front of me. He said how frustrating it was for all the crew as well, since they were just stuck for so long, and he still had to get to JFK that night! I thought they'd be boarding when I got to the gate, but there were still people coming off the plane, so we didn't even board until 9pm, finally leaving 45 minutes later. We must have made up some time in the air, since we landed in SFO 30 minutes late at 11:30pm, and when I called Ben, he was already there inside the airport! I patiently waited just in case my luggage made it, then placed my claim. Hopefully since now I have to go to FedEx by the SJC airport anyway tomorrow, my luggage will just go there & I can make one trip. We'll see what happens since they're supposed to call me when they find it. This is the first time I've ever had missing luggage, so I guess I was due...at least it was on the way back, otherwise I would have had a really cool pirate hat with no costume to go with it, let alone no fancy red velvet dress, bathing suits, etc! :)
Now for a shower & finally to sleep in my own bed!