Thursday, May 28, 2009

A touch of Reno

So I went to Reno a couple of weeks ago. This trip has been in the making since November, when I went to my usual conference (the one I suggested be named DILDO).

"We want you to come review our program," my friend from Reno said. Her two colleagues nodded. They listed four areas they needed experts in, to serve on the review committee. They picked me for one of the areas. As an expert.

An expert. Me. Ahem. World, Blogget is a expert.

I recommended another expert for them. A friend from Lubbock. One who actually witnessed the 10-drink night. Her name is Maria. She's actually damn good at what she does, so she was a good fit for this panel.

The ladies in Reno like to have fun. So, I packed business clothes and fun clothes. I had been told that we'd be business people by day, and party people at night. We were staying at Harrah's, which is a little lost on me because I'm not a gambler. Remember this conversation from Las Vegas?

"Have you gambled while you've been here?"
"How'd you do?"
"I lost a dollar."
"Hey! You're doing good!"
"No. I only bet a dollar. I've lost everything I wagered."

Okay, so I had to try again in Reno. I wagered three dollars. And promptly lost it. Blogget is a bad gambler.

I was the first to arrive. I caught the hotel shuttle on a Sunday morning, and was the only passenger. The sweet driver gave me the nickel tour of the town as we headed to the hotel. "There's a good buffet. And if you want snacks and sodas, go to that liquor store. Watch your step when you get out - they'll run over you."


I checked in and wandered the hotel a bit. I signed up for Internet access and did some of the work I'd be missing over the following three days. I checked out the online course they gave me to review, and made notes.

The second person to arrive gave me a call as soon as she got in. "Let's get something to eat," she said. We headed to the hotel's 24-hour diner. Not a bad place, although we were challenged by a language barrier with the waitresses. We took a walk by the Truckee River and watched people reveling in the River Festival. We found a delightful bookstore. I peered into the windows of closed shops, looking for souvenirs to take home to my folks, the kids, and Ranger.

After I stepped away from one window, she said, "You have a shopping habit, don't you?"

I thought that was bitchy. Bitchiness noted, and I'd be watching my back.

On the way back to the hotel, we talked shop, about administrators and our other panel members. She didn't know Maria well. We're all members of the DILDO group, but Maria has only been to one conference. The other three of us are DILDO Board members. (Okay, so that cracks me up to a ridiculous degree. What can I say? I have an inappropriate sense of humor.)

And speaking of....I'd brought a little toy with me, since I was traveling sans kids. Thought I'd have a little phone fun, while I had a hotel room to myself. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men...but more on that later....

I waited up late for Maria that night. I was so glad to see her! We had much to talk about. When she checked in, they put her in the room next door to me. We went to the 24-hour diner, too.

Once in my room, I started to change into my pj's. Sitting on my bed, I contemplated the toy and the phone call, wondering if it was too late on the other end.... Then, I heard it.

The unique ringer of Maria's cell phone. Through the adjoining door between our rooms. I could hear everything in her room. I do mean everything.

I looked at my phone. I looked at my toy. And put it back in the suitcase. Damnit. So much for privacy.

Our agenda for the next couple of days was grueling. We interviewed everyone related to distance learning there. The only time the tables were turned was in the first breakfast meeting with the college's administrators. Provosts, vice provosts, deans...oh my!

The Provost comes up to me and says, "You're from Mesa? I'm not familiar with Arizona. Where is that?"

"In Colorado," I said, smiling. "Grand Junction."

"Oh! In the south!"

"No, in the west. Pretty much due west of Denver, just before you hit Utah."

Here's the funny thing about this conversation. I later learned he was from Colorado. WTF, right?

So, he sees me put salsa on my eggs. He laughs. "Oh! Salsa on eggs! That's a Colorado thing!"

"No," I winked. "It's a Texas thing."

I've rarely seen such a bewildered look.

After the breakfast meeting, the four panelists were left alone. The one I'd had lunch with the day before said, "I'm sorry! I don't know anything that the Dean said! I just kept thinking how much he looked like Bill Clinton!"

She was right. He really did. "Did you keep thinking of cigars?" I said, laughing.

She was shocked. So was the other one. Maria about fell out of her chair laughing. See, she gets my inappropriate sense of humor. But guess which two I didn't share my DILDO joke with last week?

On the second day, they took us to lunch at an Italian restaurant that's to die for. I mean it, folks. If you're in the Reno area, you have to go to Casale's Half-Way Club. It doesn't look like much, but it's FANTASTIC! Apparently, one of the student workers in the office is the grand-daughter of the owners, who started the place in 1937. The kind of place where the grandparents start making meatballs in the wee hours each morning, and the whole place is staffed with family. The student came to lunch with us. We met her grandma, who left the kitchen long enough to greet us. Her grandpa sat at the bar. Her cousin waited on us. Her brother did the dishes. The flavors were unbelievable. Really...don't miss this place!

Travel log over. But I wanna go back.

We worked hard. Interview upon interview got wearing. They picked my brain, and I picked theirs. Then, we had a few minutes to talk together and give our debrief of our findings. It would not be comprehensive, but the administration wanted an idea of what our official report would bring. As an instructional designer, I had a few tips and tweaks to recommend for their online courses. And I chastised their IT department like I chastise ours -- communicate, people! No excuse for not giving these ladies the tools they need to succeed, when you already have them in your back pocket.

We stayed up too late that night, not wanting to say goodbye to everyone. Maria and I went to the market/souvenir shop across the street. I picked out t-shirts while she perused the selection of liquor.

"Oh my! i haven't seen that stuff in years! Oh look! That's back-in-the-day...."

Ranger called. "What are you doing?"

"Maria is walking down an alcoholic memory lane."

"Oh, like Mickey's Wide Mouths?"

"Yes! There they are!" And they were.

We went back to the hotel with little bottles of wine and Kahlua Mudslides. Two hours later, the bottles were empty, we'd caught up on all the old gossip, and I was sleepy.

Maria and I gave them an extra morning, on the day we left. The other two left early, but Maria and I came to their offices for a couple of hours. I talked shop with the administrator and instructional designers, while Maria worked on the system itself.

Soon, one of the ladies came in dancing. Literally, dancing! "Maria talked to our programmer," she said. "And it was...lingo...lingo...lingo....and poof! Pretty reports! We have pretty reports!" More dancing.

They sent Maria and I lovely candles the next week, for giving them extra personal time with our expertness. Wow. I'm bowled over by all this.

However, we left without our compensation checks. Two weeks later, no check. This bugs me. It's a bureaucratic-red-tape kind of thing, but it's bugging me. Checks are nice things to get, even though I like the candle a lot.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


"I heard from Old BF today," I said. "He says he needs to have a serious conversation with me some time."

"About what?" Ranger asked. He knows I still hear from Old BF and only minds it when he upsets me.

"He says to make amends for the hurt he caused me."

Ranger considered this a moment. "Sounds like he wants reconciliation."

I laughed a little. "Sounds more like part of a 12-step program."

Honestly, how he phrased it to me sounded very much like what I saw and heard at AlAnon, AA, and NA meetings I attended in college. Now, before you think I've been holding out an addiction past on you, understand that my minor was Substance Abuse Studies as part of my counseling degree.

Old BF comes from an addict household. His mother did all manner of drugs before, during, and after her pregnancy with him. Then, she resented him for being a "difficult" baby. Oh yeah...all kinds of issues there. He has photos of his folks sitting behind a table covered in pot, while strangers regularly tucked he and his sister into bed at night.

So, we had the conversation he wanted.

"I've been thinking a lot about us," Old BF said. "I was such an asshole to you the whole time. It's a wonder you didn't leave me sooner. I lied to you a lot. I was mean a lot, talking to you through my teeth and snarling at you so often."

"Yeah," I said. The talking through his teeth and curling his lip at me (what he called snarling) was a pet peeve of mine. He did it in annoyance and anger, like I was beneath him, and it sent me through the roof. I watch my dad be condescending to my mom, and I just won't tolerate it.

And of course the lying....always lying. That broke my heart.

"I just wanted you to know I'm sorry," he said. "If I could take it all back, I would, but I know I can't. I know you're not coming back. I really am glad that you're happy now."

I was quiet for a bit. "I appreciate that," I said. "I have to wonder, though. What brought this on?"

"I've been going to AA meetings for some time," he said. Ah, there it was. This WAS part of a 12-step thing! We'll leave alone the fact that I know he still drinks now and again....

"What made you decide to do that?"

He took a deep breath. "There's something I haven't told you. I got a DWI last year. I was at Billy's and had a few because I was all upset about losing you. I got lost coming home and got pulled over."

"I see," I said. It was inevitable. He drinks a heck of a lot, and I would see significant impairment in him after three beers. He never needed an excuse to drink, like he was trying to say now. I didn't want chase the bait he'd just hung out there, implying the drinking was somehow my fault, so I changed the subject. "What do you think of the meetings?"

"They're okay," he said. "But those people are a lot more messed up than me. I can still drink. I just can't drive when I do."

And that was about it for the conversation. His phone got turned off a couple of days later. I've gotten a couple of emails from him, but not much else has been said.

It's good to hear he's sorry. I'm not sure if he's sorry for my sake or his. In the past, whenever I've mentioned that he hurt me, he doesn't want to hear it. Is it an attempt at reconciliation? I don't think so. He still calls me by the pet names he's had for me, but still....I don't think so.

Would I reconcile? Hell no. My wounds have become scars. No need to reopen them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I'm just so tired....

Ranger had to appear in court on Monday. He had a hearing to change his not-guilty plea to guilty.

See, he admits to stealing some money, but not near the amount they are claiming. His lawyer's office reviewed the surveillance tapes and agrees, but the postal center's owners want their bad accounting covered by this, too. That way, they are not responsible for the larger shortfall they show. Ranger is.

I know...that's not fair. So, his lawyer approached the prosecutor with what he found. The response? Challenge this at all, and they'll go for jail time. Keep quiet and take it, and they'll go for probation. And restitution.

I have to pause here. The back of my brain is screaming because of what I'm talking about. I don't have vocabulary like "appear in court," "jail time," and "probation" in my life. I broken up with Old BF once because he was arrested for shoplifting. Oh, and he was cheating on me. Again. This is not shit I'm accustomed to handling. And I don't like it at all.

So why am I handling it for Ranger? Because he loves me like no one else has. Because I love him like no one else has, and he lets me. Because our relationship is how I've always dreamed two people should be together, but thought it was an idea in my own head.

And this makes me feel like those women I despise on Jerry Springer, when he asks, "Why don't you leave him?" And she says....

"Because I LOVE him!"

Am I that pathetic? Really?

A dear friend asked me what my breaking point was. I'm not entirely sure, but I know I cannot handle jail time.

I keep asking myself, can our dreams still come true? Did he put that on the line, too, when he did this?

I tried not to think too hard on that, sitting in the courtroom on Monday. Yeah, I went with him. It was in Denver, so it was a little road trip. We went Sunday and stayed at a hotel that I had a coupon for. Pretty nice place, actually. It all felt weird, though. It felt like we were on a little long as I didn't think about why we were going.

So, I sat in the back of the courtroom and watched the man I love confess to something awful. I listened to the judge tell him what the sentence could be and then go over his plea agreement. I listened to her set a sentencing date. It was 45 minutes of tearing my heart out. 45 life-altering minutes. His life could never be the same after that. Some of his freedom would then be gone. He'd just had a felony laid over his shoulders.

He had to meet with the probation officer, who will do an investigation prior to the sentencing. She'll basically investigate his whole life before making a recommendation to the court. In the meantime, he has to get a few things in a row. He has to get a job, which are few and far between right now. He has to find a new place to live because one roommate is a felon. If he doesn't find a new place to live, they'll make him live in Denver. Five hours away from me.

On the way back, it didn't feel like a vacation anymore. We were quiet. I was sad. And oh-so-tired. He put on a radio show to listen to. It annoyed me.

I'm still sad, but I've kept it under wraps. I need to talk to him about this, but I don't want to depress him or make him feel worse. But it needs to be known. It needs to be out there for the both of us, and not just festering in me.

My folks got a hot tub. When I got home, I soaked in it and watched the bats fly around the yard, in the fading light of dusk. I sure wish I could forget for a little while. I tend to be a Pollyanna as it is, but this is challenging my look-on-the-bright-side superpowers.

While I was still in Denver, I noticed several missed calls from my ex-husband. Then, my mom called. "I thought you needed a heads-up before Ex calls you," she said. See, Son has been ignoring his calls for weeks. He just got tired of being chewed out every time they talked. Ex even asked me about it, so I told him. "Well, tell him I won't do that anymore, if he'll answer," Ex said. I relayed the message, but Son didn't care.

Until Monday. He answered the phone on Monday. His lying-sack dad proceeded to chew on him. Son lost it. Combine the mood problems with the stress of finals, and you get supernova. My mother could hear him screaming at his dad: "This is why I don't answer you! All you do is chew on me!" Then, Son hung up on him.

According to Ex, Son let him have it, about what rights he did and didn't have in his life, about backing off, about....well, I don't know it all. But Ex is pissed. He called back and left Son and voicemail, telling him that he wasn't putting up with that behavior and it was now up to Son to do the calling and contacting. He wouldn't bother anymore.

I texted Son to see if he was okay. His response?

"I don't care."

Oh man. He's been in a foul temper ever since.

I do feel a little bad for my Ex. I know this is hurtful, whether or not he caused the rift. Actually, believe it or not, I think he's blaming me for a lot of it. I didn't include him enough as a father....when he moved 10 hours away. My dad stepped into the father-figure role in Ex's absence, and Ex resents it. So, that's my fault. Apparently.

But still, I feel bad because I know how it feels to catch the brunt of Son's temper. I haven't told my Ex that the boy has actually hit me. He'd mess up what threads of a relationship I'm building back together with Son. The man just doesn't get what a "father" should be.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What's in a name?

I'm a member of this particular professional organization in my field. The same one through which I met South Carolina. The organization has grown beyond it's original mission and the name doesn't reflect it. It's time for a change. Let the debate begin.

Some people want to acknowledge the history and make sure "independent study" is still acknowledged. All agree that we fall under the broader umbrella of distance learning now. Some want to be sure we're clear that both K-12 and higher education are part of the group. Some remind us that it was originally founded for professional development in the field.

Names are being debated. Acronyms are being thrown about. Some want something catchy in the acronym.

So, here I sit, watching the debate rage in email. I submitted a few suggestions of my own. I tried to be very professional about it, but my dirty little brain keeps churning on. The little devil on my shoulder keeps whispering. Finally, I had to share my name idea with a few people who understand how terribly inappropriate I can be.

Here it is....

Distance and Independent Learning Development Organization, or....


Friday, May 08, 2009

I am not an idiot

But some people persist in treating me like one. More specifically, our IT department. Okay, even more specifically, one particular bitch in IT. In fact, that's what I'll call her here. IT Bitch.

This is the same woman who would not give me access to the server where the backups I needed are housed. She wanted me to email her each time I needed a file, so she could send it to me herself. That's stupid on so many levels, but she has control issues where I'm concerned. It started Day 1 of my job, I swear. I used to share an office with her then.

See? My eye is twitching just thinking about those days.

Here's the thing. If I was just one of the non-techie people running around here, that would be completely understandable. But I'm not. I have a Master's degree. In Technology. With a 4.0 average. For pity sake....

So, I have two instructors with problems. I go as far as I can go with them, then I have to send it to IT for help. I write to IT Bitch and explain:

"1. Instructor #1 swears he submitted his request for his SUMMER course to be set up. I have his two requests for the Fall, but none for Summer. I watched him submit the Summer one again today, but it never appeared in our system. I submitted a test request and it worked. What's up with that?"

"2. Instructor #2 swears his course disappeared. It didn't. But now he wants a confirmation email when he requests his courses be set up. Can our system do that?"

Still with me? I know...a lot of details, but hang tight. There's a reason.

Two days later, IT Bitch answers me, but manages to be no help at all.

On #1, she says: "I'm forwarding you two requests from Instructor #1, dated 4/19/09. You need to search the system for these, and here's how...."

Guess what she sent me? The two requests I TOLD HER about. They're in my email to her. She completely ignored that I said the requests were from "today." Then, she proceeds to tell me how to search a system I've been using and searching for two years now. It's a simple search. Anyone who uses Google can do it.

Let me say again here, I am not an idiot.

On #2, she says: "Courses don't disappear. Our system has worked fine for a long time, and still does."

Wow, that was helpful. Not only did she ignore that I said the course did not disappear, but she also managed to ignore the question I was really asking.

IT Bitch and reading comprehension are not on friendly terms. I think I side with reading comprehension.

Anyhow, all of this just adds layers to my frustration with IT. I had another very important problem happening with our online courses. I asked for help many times. No answer. Finally, after months of this, I sent the question again, as high priority, and copied the IT Director. I got a response.

They'd come up with a solution, but planned to implement it this summer. Why they decided not to tell me is anyone's guess. In the meantime, I'm dealing with angry faculty and I'm empty-handed for an answer.

Thanks, fellas. And IT Bitch.

((Blogget fumes))

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Yeah, dude....that would be me

And only me. I can't begin to guess how many times I said that last week.

One bit of housekeeping, first: I added pictures to the previous post. So if you read it without the pics, you might scan it again. I think it helps!

Anyhow...on with the show.

My college has these professional development seminars for the faculty, twice a year. This time, they wanted to focus on online learning. Cool beans. That means I get to reach more faculty and, hopefully, recruit more instructors in my program. Grow, grow, grow, little online program.

The speaker they brought in was from an east-coast school with literally 10 times the students we have. We have 6,000, so you do the math and you'll see that their program certainly has more budget, personnel, revenue....everything. I had to give this fella a heads-up that we deal with limited resources here.

"So, I'd like to meet with your instructional design team," he said to me, in a conference call. My boss snickered.

"Yeah," I said. "That would be me."

"Oh, ok," he said. "How about the people who maintain the course system?"

"Me. Again."

"I thought you were the program administrator?"

"Yeah. That would be me, too."


"How about your media specialist?"

"Hi. Again."

And I explained to him that "media" in our courses is a touchy thing. We don't have a good media server. It's on the IT agenda this year, along with 99 other important things to get done. So, we have to house media on an outside source, like YouTube or iTunesU, which causes other issues because people don't like to share their stuff. Like it's gold or something, that someone else will get rich for stealing.

"I'd like to have a conversation with your president," he says. Comes across a little like "Take me to your leader," but okay.

So Speakerman arrives in Western Colorado and makes his way to our lovely, but small, campus. I decide to sit in on all of his sessions, so I can hear what's said and answer questions. I also need to know what questions he's going to generate for me, when he's long gone.

The first flare went up when the issue of media came up. One of my faculty piped up: "I want to use video in my course, but I don't know where to put it or how. What's the best way to accomplish that?"

"No, no, no," he said to her. "You shouldn't have to worry about that at all. You want to use a video? You should be able to hand that to someone in distance learning and say, 'I want to use this. Make it happen.' Then, they do it for you."

WTF?? I think I just felt that bus roll over me. You know, the one I was just thrown under.

The faculty person looks at me like You never told me this.

"Wait a minute," I said. "The person you're saying to hand it to is me. And there's just me. They do have to learn how to upload and such themselves."

A friendly faculty voice said, "Yeah, she's gotta do it all. She needs help." Thank you.

Later that day, the IT folks and department heads loved to hear that each department needs their own media specialist who "makes it happen" for faculty. Sure, that's gonna happen. I mean, we're being told to cut budgets here, not increase personnel costs. Get real.

The second flare went up when he was used an example of his own course development process: "So, I might contract an instructor for a course, pay him the usual $10,000 to develop it...."

Heads turned to me. They get $900 for developing a course. If they speak up soon enough and the money isn't gone for that year.

In some of our one-on-one time, Speakerman and I talked shop. I inadvertently gave him the falre gun for this one. I mentioned that we're starting the process to replace our online system. We'll start a campus-wide discussion of it in the Fall. We have a two-year timetable for migrating to whatever new system we choose. I've already visited with a couple of vendors.

So, imagine my dismay when he said to the faculty in his last session: "You need to build your content outside of your online system. Because here's what's going to happen. Your system is going away in a couple of years. You'll have a new system. What will happen to all that work you've put into your content? It will disappear. They say they'll 'migrate' it, but it doesn't happen that way. I know because we did the same thing two years ago."

Did I say "dismay"? Oh, by that I mean, royally pissed off.

Panic ensued.

I think the bus backed over me. He advised them to build content on their own Web pages, using Drupal.

Do they know anything about Drupal? Do they know anything about Web pages? No. Who do they want to teach them?


Boy oh boy, do I want to do these seminars again....

I'm going to Reno next week. I get there at 9:30 AM. Is there a bar open then?