Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Where was I?

Oh, yeah--getting all continually educated.

Thankfully, seeing as how it didn’t get underway until 8:30, I had time to grab a few more minutes of sleep before I had to get up, and since it was away from the office, I got to dress like a slob. Not really--a nice shirt and some deck shoes and a pair of jeans, and I even went to the trouble of trimming off the ragged threads from the hem!

Dropped the kiddies off at Grandma’s, then headed on over to the ultra-swanky Embassy Suites Hotel in Homewood.

In addition to it being overloaded with an amazing variety of obviously wealthy women wearing obviously tight power clothing over their obviously surgically enhanced bodies, it is also home of the gracelessly named and barely pronounceable Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Try saying that three times fast. For that matter, try saying it ONCE.

After a quick stop to make sure where the restroom was (and to ponder why such a ritzy joint had a restroom that reminded me of the downtown Greyhound station) I found the meeting rooms and was checked in by a cheerful young lady who reminded me both vocally and in attire of a young Edie McClurg. Went in, sat down, and was taken aback by all the free schwag--a Traco product binder, and the aforementioned Traco mousepad, and a wooden 6 inch long Traco architect’s scale (with plastic sleeve!), and a Embassy Suites pen, and an Embassy Suites pad of paper, and some more product brochures from the other folks at the event (it’s a joint venture sort of thing), and HEY, muffins!

I hadn’t had breakfast, and just couldn’t resist. They sure were good.

I was early, so I got to watch everyone come in. Meetings like this attract a different crowd of architects. The ones the AIA sponsor tend to draw more of the movers and shakers, and M&S wannabees--lots of earnest, artsy sorts in weird glasses and black clothes and with time to kill. The seminars by product vendors, which are usually free, and feature free food, and a lot of credit hours, tend to attract the more prosaic sorts of guys--a lot of sole practitioners who spend most of their time chained to a drawing board, and who only manage to get away when there’s the lure of a free(ish) lunch and some free CEUs, as well as a big bunch from further out in the hinterlands where there is much less access to continuing education programs.

The room got full and the program got underway, and just then one of the more well-known of the local guys showed up. As usual. The guy’s always late, but worse, he always makes sure everyone knows he has arrived. The Traco guy is up talking, and the Loudmouth interrupted him, “WHAT DOES TRACO STAND FOR?”

I had taken a moment and read through the brochure beforehand, and I knew the answer (Three Rivers Aluminum Company) but in the end, that’s just useless trivia, and NOT WORTH INTERRUPTING THE SPEAKER FOR! Jerk. The Traco guy got going again, and once more, Loudmouth opened up, “IS THERE AN AGENDA?”

You’re holding it IN YOUR STUPID HAND! Everyone got a big thick book with all the PowerPoint slides printed out, and on the front page was the agenda. Moron. He continued doing crap like this all through the meeting. Once he loudly kicked over a glass that he had set beside his chair. Of course, being big and important, he just left it there. Then there was the time he loudly answered his loud polyphonic ringtone cell phone. What a dingbat.

The first presentation was all about high performance paint finishes on aluminum extrusions, which was about as interesting as watching paint age for thirty years in the Florida sun. Actually, it really is interesting--it’s hard to believe how durable some of this stuff is. The lady from PPG who was doing the presentation passed around some samples--and yes, one of them was a thirty year sample from their paint farm in Miami, and it looked brand new. More interesting is that even though her business is selling folks on the wonders of painting this stuff onto aluminum, she mispronounced aluminum all the way through her presentation. Alunimum. Alumimum. But never aluminum. Or even aluminium. She’ll never get to be president that way.

Break, pee, then come back and graze on the fruit selection some more. Got some dweeb beside me who was like a little kid in need of Ritalin. I was trying my best to get some strawberries, and he got right next to me and was constantly swiveling around at the waist to see who all he could see, and had the peculiar habit of holding his arms out slightly. He was like a danged hyperactive weathervane. And highly annoying.

Next up, LEED certification and how windows can help your buildings be greener. Aside from using green glass. The same guy who introduced the seminar did this part of it, and no sooner had the first slide gone up that there wasn’t yet another clueless loudmouth in the audience who piped up, “WHAT DOES LEED MEAN?” Good grief, you putz, READ THE DANGED BOOK!

The LEED program is sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council (i.e., hairy godless Commies and tree huggers) to promote construction techniques and design that are economically viable, yet still environmentally sound. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is a voluntary national standard for sustainable building design and construction. Windows, being one of the major parts of the exterior envelope, have a lot of ways in which they can contribute to lower energy usage as well as enhance aesthetics. So we got to hear about all the ways. And it is a lot. And very, very, very, very, very sleep inducing. Not that it’s not good information, it is--but it was just the right temperature in the room, and the guy had just the right monotone going for him. Snnxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

Break, pee, something else to snack on, sit back down for an fast-paced talk on high performance glass by some chatterbox from Viracon in Minnesota. Lots of jargony jargonation, mostly about the various low-emissivity coatings they can put on glass to make it reject heat. Pretty cool stuff. So to speak.

Finally, lunchtime!

We were allowed out into the atrium, where I took a table with one of the guys who works downstairs here in my department, along with a couple of old-timers. I managed to get a seat with the sun beating down on me like a scene out of an old gangster movie when the cops are giving a guy the old third degree. Small Caesar salad, then the main course, baked chicken breast splayed out onto a china plate that had apparently been autoclaved until is was a thousand degrees or so. “Plate is hot--you not touch!” Okeedoke. Wow--listen to that SIZZLE! (I think it’s all part of that Ruththess Chrith Thteak House mystique.) The chicken itself was okay, somewhat tough and stringy, but it did taste much like chicken. I’m not convinced, however, of the utility, or of the wisdom, of using dishes straight out of the kiln to serve it on. Especially considering that it came with a side order of fried potato chunks with onion that was colder than Janet Reno on a blind date. I would have preferred them to both be hot. (The potatoes and chicken, not Janet Reno.) Afterwards, there was a gigantic slice of cheesecake the size of my head. I couldn’t help myself--I will have to atone for it for months.

Luckily, the conversation couldn’t have been more fun. The two old dudes were friends with my coworker, and regaled us with stories of the founder of the company I used to work for. He had long since died before I got there, and it became The Bad Place. It started back in 1926, and from the ‘40s to the ‘60s was THE firm in town--in the state, for that matter--and a startling number of the state’s architects had passed through its doors.

The older fellow at our table, who had been a SeaBee on Guadalcanal, related how the Old Man was fond of prankishness, and told of hearing once that he had driven down to Auburn to check on a project with a couple of employees. One had to stop and use the restroom, so the Old Man let him out, and as soon as he was inside, drove off. The poor guy had to hitch a ride all the way back to Birmingham. The story was confirmed years later when our table companion chanced to play a golf tournament with the guy who got left behind. Another time, an employee was summoned to his office, and nervous about what was about to happen, was surprised when the Old Man gave him a fancy, brand new scale as a gift. After a while, someone else in the drafting room started asking around, “Has anyone seen my new scale?” He was quite a character.

Time for the next presentation, about blast resistant windows. Hard to stomach the idea normal, everyday sorts of architects have to know about this stuff now. But we do. Equally disconcerting is having seen some test footage of various windows being blown out, and then realizing I am sitting with my back to a giant wood-framed window with regular old shard-producing panes of glass, situated right above the front entryway to a local government building. I sure hope no one gets mad at us. Or that I’m in the bathroom should anything untoward happen. At least the movie clips made it hard to get drowsy.

Break, pee, and then the final presentation of the day, on laminated glass. This is the stuff they have to use in hurricane-prone areas so that the glass doesn’t get busted by debris. And, apparently whoever put the meeting together was smart enough to know that in order to keep everyone’s interest and attendance, they needed something other than a guy in a suit, and therefore scheduled a blonde engineer who looked like a younger, less voluminous version of Dian Parkinson to deliver the presentation. It would have been better had she not been such a snottily sarcastic sort of person.

Finally over with, and I headed home, with a quick stop at the library, then the cleaners.

Supper, and then the Mother of All Cleaning Projects returned.

Had to get the dining room finished. I vacuumed, and went to the store and bought scratch cover and furniture polish, and dusted, and chased cobwebs, and polished the silver trays and coffee service on the buffet, and spilled over into the foyer and cleaned off the old Singer sewing machine that belonged to Reba’s grandmother, and vacuumed some more, and fixed, and did, and even tried to steam out the wrinkles in the curtains. Unsuccessfully.

Finally wrapped up that mess at 10:30. Now, it’s on to the kitchen--the countertops, being horizontal surfaces, seemed to collect everything that by all rights should have been put away in their rightful places. Or thrown away. Mostly the latter.

BUT FOR NOW, more typing to do for the meeting we had this morning. It was blessedly short--only lasted until 8. BUT BEFORE THAT--lunchtime!! Yippee!

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