Ultipro Connections: How to do a Conference

Off The Top of My Head

Like most young adults I’ve been to my fair share of conferences for work. I’ve attended them across the street from my office. In East TN so east it’s almost in North Carolina. I’ve had to man booths, I’ve had to sit through boring talks, and even had to give boring talks. But I can honestly say I’ve never been to a good one until the Ultimate Software Connections Conference in Las Vegas, NV 3/7-3/11.

They did some things that I think other event organizers could stand to do, and while it wasn’t perfect (there were a fair few sales pitches, but you come to expect those kinds of things), it provides a good template for how to do a good convention.


  • Book A Nice Location: Connections was at the Bellagio. It’s a little pretentious and pricey (especially if you’re doing the reimbursement thing) but staying in a good room and having nice surroundings for daily meetings and breakout sessions made for a much better experience. I don’t even gamble (I lost!) but the variety of locations and the excellent accommodations (I could spend the rest of my life in that bathroom) made for a perfect event atmosphere.
  • Have Good Speakers: If you’ve got a keynote make sure your keynote speakers are effective and entertaining. If you have breakout session instructors make sure they are comfortable and interesting presenters. The first keynote was Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs I had no idea what to expect but, he turned out to be a terrific story teller and had the crowd roaring with laughter in minutes. Even the self-help presenter, Chester Elton, did a good job. The session presenters were experienced speakers, and one in particular (Jarik Conrad on the neuroscience of human behavior) actually worked the audience and made for an intriguing session.
  • Provide Breaks: I’ve been to too many conferences and conventions that are planned like a ten-year old’s birthday party; scheduled event from beginning to end, and the sessions contain waste-of-time “getting to know you” sections. In a city like Las Vegas, the programmers were smart enough to give essentially two evenings to the attendees to pick what they wanted to do. It let us explore the city, try non-conference food (which was good but you can only have hotel buffet food so often…) and see a few sites. Also between each session there was usually (I planned badly for lunch on Wednesday) a good thirty minutes to take a break.


  • Good Entertainment: This is where the convention did its best. Along with Mike Rowe they had Catapult on Wednesday morning and A Cappella group Home Free on Wednesday. Even their appreciation night dinner was good stand up food with a decent DJ. And on the subject of Entertainment…


  • Having Journey Play Your Appreciation Night Doesn’t Hurt: First of all no conference I’ve ever been to has had an “appreciation night.” Secondly they had Journey play the show. The new lead singer, Arnel Pineda, worked the crowd like a good front man should and with Steve Perry pushing 70 he might have a bit more power in his voice than the original front man. At least when you could hear him over the crowd singing. At one point the girl in the glasses next to me and I were belting “Don’t Stop Believin’” to each other at the top of our lungs. She was a rockstar in her own right. How often do hear of that kind of performance at a business conference?

It was the first time I ever felt the experience of being on site was actually worth it and it made me appreciate a company that would actually put all this on for their customers. It gives everyone in a cubicle in every industry hope that maybe there next work conference might be a little less manila folder and little more Rock n Roll.

How to Investigate Weird Noises: 7 Tips from a Horror Fan

Learning how to investigate weird noises could potentially save you from almost every horror movie scenario possible. Let’s face it, weird noises happen. And although it may not seem the best idea to investigate them, sometimes we must.

how to investigate weird noises
I’ve investigated dozens of weird noises over the years. I used to hear things from the basement and would have to go down there at night. Usually, it was just something outside or the dog, but I couldn’t rest until I knew everything was safe. I’ve made some mistakes, but I want to share my expertise on how to investigate weird noises:

Decide How to Investigate

Most times when you hear a weird noise at home, it’s nothing threatening. Why wake up loved ones for nothing or put them in danger? Go it alone at home. You can laugh at yourself and avoid embarrassment when it turns out to be a branch scratching a window. However, if you are in a horror movie setting – including hospitals, graveyards, and creepy cabins – never go alone. The more people you have around you, the better.

Grab a Weapon

Once you hear the noise and decide to investigate, pick a weapon. It should be easy to carry and use. One of my favorites is a working LED flashlight. These are typically made of metal, easily weigh 1 lb., and serve two purposes: You can see from a distance and bludgeon something if needed. You will find these at any major retailer for about $20. Also, make it easily accessible. For example, don’t store it in the basement.

Breathe Through Your Nose

If horror movies teach us anything, it’s what not to do. Take a moment and take deep breaths through your mouth. You’ll notice two things: you’re really loud and will eventually feel light-headed because you’re not getting enough oxygen. Breathing through your nose allows for maximum oxygen intake, so you don’t pass out and controls your adrenaline/heart rate. It is much quieter, so your ears can listen for noise. You need to find the source of the weird noise and listen for anything else.

Walk Slowly

This one comes naturally for most people. After all, you’re a little freaked out, so you’re not likely to go running through the house yelling AH-HA! Walk with intent, and keep your eyes open. If possible, wear quiet slip-on shoes in case you have to run. This rule changes if you have to go up and down stairs. I’m a fan of the element of surprise when it comes to stairs. For example, get downstairs fast and make noise. Most basement stairs squeak, so you’re going to make noise anyway. I vote for loud and threatening as opposed to quiet and squeaky.

Turn on Lights

When entering a room, turn the lights on first. Flip the switch, so you can see whatever is in there and feel quick relief. Leave the lights on when you leave the room. This will give you more visibility as you investigate and eliminate places for the source to hide. Pay attention to the lights as well. If one is turned off later, you’ll know something is wrong.

Do Not Talk

“Hello, is anyone there?,” said no one ever in real life. It’s common horror movie knowledge that the person who asks, gets slashed. Not talking aloud allows you to breathe easily, keeps your ears open, and doesn’t reveal your location. Having an internal dialogue is fine, but don’t talk to yourself aloud or yell for the source to reveal itself. You want to find it, not let it find you.

Run, Run, Run

So, you’ve finally made it into the basement only to find a zombie or ghost. Run. Run away fast. Don’t walk up on it. Don’t talk to it. I don’t care if you know them. Chances are if they are in a corner, they are bait. Run and never look back.

Stay safe out there, and feel free to share your comments below!

*The purpose of this post is for entertainment. If you think there is an intruder, use common sense and call for help.

X-Mas Family Traditions

It’s the holidays and while many traditions have entered into the realm of the universal, there are some that undoubtedly are only known to the families and friends who created and maintain them. One of the most famous is of course Festivus, a strange secular tradition created by Seinfeld writer Dan O’Keefe’s father Daniel. It is an unusual example as random stories from Seinfeld writers’ personal lives often ended up as plots on the show, but it makes you think how many other family-specific traditions exist out there and how many might gain wide-spread popularity if they were known. I’m sure every family has at least one; I thought I’d share a couple from my family:


  • Christmas Donuts: This is the biggest one in the Castro family. My maternal grandfather is a retired country musician who traveled extensively during his career (my mom told me a story of how a BeeGee was once her baby sitter at a bar). Due to his hectic traveling the family never knew where they would be or be during the holidays and developed a tradition of stopping and getting everyone donuts for a treat on Christmas morning. Even after the traveling stopped Christmas donuts continued, and my mom carried into my Christmases growing up. We used to get up painfully early on Christmas Eve, drive to Shipley’s Donuts, buy an ungodly amount of donuts, and put them in the fridge until Christmas. One year we decided early that no one needed donuts and chose to not get them… Then Christmas Eve afternoon we decided the tradition couldn’t die. We went to an absolutely packed H.G. Hills store, got bags of cheap Kruellers, and had those the next day instead. Even though I don’t have Christmas breakfast with the family now I still get Christmas Donuts. I guarantee sometime before 6AM Christmas Eve morning I’ll be driving to the nearest Shipley’s to get some donuts…

  • John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together: Like most families the actual present opening for a couple kids and parents on Christmas took considerable time. My mom decided to make it an annual tradition to put in a cassette tape of the John Denver/Muppets Christmas album A Christmas Together while we opened presents. Even skipping the slow/sentimental ones it would often play through a couple times during the morning. It’s still not Christmas until Animal shouts “Run Run Reindeer!” and Miss Piggy becomes dramatically offended at the misunderstood lyrics of “Christmas is Coming” (“Piggy pudding?!”)
My dad’s kelaguen actually looks even better than this. The chicken is charred more and the ingredients very thoroughly mixed…
  • A Chamorro Buffet: Most people will have Turkey, dressing, gravy, potatoes, and ham on Christmas. Essentially Thanksgiving again. I can’t remember ever having that for Christmas. From the earliest holidays I can remember my dad always made the feast food from Guam. Kelaguen, Lumpia, charcoal BBQ ribs, chicken, and steak. I’d take it over any turkey or ham any day. He always makes enough that it’ll last a few days. Everyone eats their fill then eats their fill for about three days afterward…
  • Framily Traditions: Of course the modern family extends well beyond relatives. My RevPub partner and I have a number of annual traditions we do to celebrate the holidays. There’s the annual shopping day, which once would often start at 8 in the morning and end around 8 at night and the annual viewing of Scrooged. All of my friends also typically do individual Xmas exchanges as well. Just stopping by around the holidays to see what weird random stuff we found we thought we’d all like.

We here at RevPub wish everyone a happy holiday season and we hope you enjoy all of your family holiday traditions. You never know, one may end up as a storyline on a sitcom one day!

Being Thankful for Thanksgiving Specials

Thanksgiving always seems to be a bit of a no-man’s land holiday. Wedged between the “cool kids’” Halloween and the consumer-palooza that is Christmas, Thanksgiving in the United States is usually just a day to eat food and get a preview for how uncomfortable Christmas dinner with these same people will be in three weeks. At least once upon a time my family had a “let’s just get Chinese food” tradition, but lamentably that too seems to be a faded memory…

Because of this rather nebulous state, Thanksgiving doesn’t tend to have big holiday specials or events. Even the Thanksgiving Day Parade, once a staple of the holiday, has become a reason for celebrities to hock their latest projects and it has mostly been taken over by Christmas as well, after all everyone waits to see Santa at the end of it.

Despite this, some great Thanksgiving episodes of TV shows have been made. I took a moment to list a few of my very favorites:

Seinfeld: The Mom and Pop Store

The Gang at Tim Whatley’s Pre-Thanksgiving Day Party. Though Jerry Crashed…

Following the Seinfeld rules of “no learning and no hugging” this episode takes place with Thanksgiving as kind of a backdrop, without the episode being about anyone being thankful or hitting anyone in the feels.   Elaine wins her boss, Mr. Pitt, the opportunity to hold one of the ropes of the Woody Woodpecker balloon in the Macy’s Parade. The gang goes to Tim Whatley’s party to view the parade and the trophy she won along with the tickets falls out the window and pops the balloon. This episode also contains the Jon Voight car and Jerry sneaking into Whatley’s party to get dental advice (he wasn’t invited because he’s an instigator). The namesake comes from Kramer’s business with a shoe repair shop he accidentally gets shut down for code violations. The episode ends with a great Midnight Cowboy.

Frasier: A Very Lilith Thanksgiving

That turkey mysteriously vanishes while Niles is cooking it later this episode…

One of my favorite episodes of this venerable show. Frasier and his ex-wife Lilith are desperate to get their son Frederick accepted into the prestigious Marbury Academy. The dean of admissions can only interview them briefly just before Thanksgiving and hilarity ensues. Frasier was always at its best when it was played as a stage farce and this is that quality perfected. Frasier and Lilith obsess over what they said in the interview, make multiple, increasingly cringe-worthy visits to the dean (one of which includes mention of Golda Meir’s little known relative “Oscar”), steal the Crane family turkey, and cause a huge fight in the Dean’s family. In typical sitcom fashion everything works out of course, though in typical Frasier fashion not like anyone expects.

Frasier: The Apparent Trap

Are they getting remarried for real? Frasier’s face says it all…
“What’s this joyous news I hear?”

Yes there are TWO episodes of Frasier and yes they both have Lilith in them, and it has nothing to do with my celebrity crush on Bebe Neuwirth. In this episode Lilith and Frederick end up stuck in Seattle for Thanksgiving and Frederick seems to be trying to maneuver his parents to get back together. Through more excellent farce setup, Frederick puts the seeds of this concept into each of his parents’ minds, and both Frasier and Lilith seek council (Frasier from Martin, Lilith from Niles) about what to do. The absolute discomfort the two of them feel just before they discover that Frederick has been setting them up is gloriously funny. This episode also has some of my favorite all-time Frasier quotes: Frasier (upon hearing Lilith’s date caught something from lab rats): “Now, nobody ever got anything from a rat that wasn’t resolved in a day or two;” Martin (Instructed to find a subtle way to tell Frasier if he think Lilith is coming on to him): “Run for your life!” and Niles (after hearing from Frederick that Frasier and Lilith are getting remarried, in an absolutely flawless strained line reading): “What’s this joyous news I hear?” It is family holiday anxiety to the extreme.

Spin City: The Competition

The fun starts at 4:00 in…

The City Council challenges Mike and the Mayor’s office to a competition to see who can feed the most homeless people turkey dinners (Mike: “Did she just question….my stones?”). The loser has to perform a song at a press event. During some great, typical sitcom setup Mike and crew are Daffy Duck’d into picking the worse shelter, have to improvise their cooking, and deal with personal issues, including James’ girlfriend (played by Jennifer Garner) coming to visit him from home. The absolute payoff of this episode comes after the credits, when Mike and the Mayor’s office have to sing “So Long Farewell” from The Sound of Music at a press event, having lost the bet. Their deadpan delivery of this song is one of the funniest events in the show’s run.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force: The Dressing

The Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future (aka “Hustlin’ Tom Turkey”)

Yes this absurdist show had a Thanksgiving episode, and it’s a great one. The Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future returns in a new “sleek turkey body” interrupting the Aqua Teens’ Thanksgiving dinner with Carl (he stayed outside for fear of catching “some disease,” though his roll was wet…). During typical Aqua Teens nonsense the story told by TCGoCPftF’s story is disassembled and he’s discovered to be a malfunctioning “Hustlin’ Tom Turkey.” Though apparently his old sock is still laser-guided… The story ends as dozens of Tom Turkey descend on the Aqua Teens’ home only to be sent next door to Carl’s where they unleash laser-guided sock vengeance upon him for eating a turkey leg. It’s ridiculous, hilarious, and contains a burned taco pie. What else could we want?

BONUS! Addams Family Values

As a bonus I have to bring up Addams Family Values. Not only is this one of the rare sequels superior to the original film, but it also has one of my favorite Thanksgiving moments in media history. Sure a lot of people point to other movies as “Thanksgiving Movies” (Sorry, I don’t like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles…) but how many of those have an original Thanksgiving play including a song?! Not just any song but a great song.  Yes, a turkey just yells at the audience to “Eat ME!”

I Want Halloween, But …


It’s the third week of September, and I have been looking for Halloween decorations for two weeks. It’s my favorite holiday, and I planned to decorate and enjoy it in September and October. Just like people who decorate for Christmas on November 1.

However, I cannot find anything. My local grocery store is the only place with decorations, but I want more variety. I want aisles of cool decals and props, masks, and costumes. So, that takes me here. Why do retailers stock Christmas decorations before Halloween is over, but I can’t find Halloween decorations six weeks before the day? I know many people love “the holidays,” but I don’t. October is my favorite month, and I want to celebrate!

Time for a Change

We need to bring back the fun in Halloween. It’s about scary movies, pranks, costumes and, of course, candy! By the way, you can find a $ ton of candy right now. And maybe that’s it. Retailers know we will buy 800 lbs. of candy in the fall, but we may not buy a skeleton or pumpkin. Maybe if we traded the 300-ounce bag of candy for a pumpkin to carve, we’d shed a few pounds and enjoy creating something.

Let’s save some money and reduce stress, too. Halloween is considerably less expensive than Christmas. You don’t have to buy a costume; you can use stuff around the house. You don’t have to buy anything for other people or face crowds of shoppers. There’s little traffic, usually the weather is warmer, and it’s the last fun holiday of the year. The remaining require lots of eating – which means more weight gain – and time with people you may or may not like.

It’s time to bring back Halloween! It’s time to buy a scary mask, and pop out at someone. Carve or paint a pumpkin for a cheap activity. Have movie marathons, decorate the house with lights, skeletons, witches, ghosts, and whatever else. Most importantly, have fun!

I did manage to find purple placemats to finish the table 🙂

Upcoming on RevPub

In honor of our Halloween traditions at RevPub, we’ve decided on our post theme for the October. We are discussing horror originals vs. remakes, and we are very excited to review them for you. Which ones we have picked are a surprise though. If you want to catch up on previous year’s themes, check out these posts:

Ranking Horror Movies

Our Halloween Costumes

RevPub Picks Halloween Specials

Jem’s Rolls Royce and the Post Office Adventure

Who remembers this car/toy? This was Jem’s Rockin’ Roadster, released only in 1986. The next year it was replaced by the Glitter N’ Gold Roadster, which was probably more appealing to little girls. I disagree.

Jem Rolls Royce

I was 4 years old when the Rockin’ Roadster came out, and I believe Santa brought it to me. I was Jem obsessed – and still somewhat am – and had most of the dolls, accessories, books, tapes, and whatever else we could afford.

This car symbolizes my childhood. Crazy colors, fun, and energetic. Nearly 30 years later, when I hear “Jem” I think of this car.

And I found one. Oh yeah, I bought this fabulously 80s treat. Scheduled to arrive early this week, I had trouble containing my excitement. Not only was this more than affordable for what it was, but it was in great condition. Even the radio works.

The Post Office Fiasco

This week rolled around, and on Wednesday I received a slip saying the post carrier left the package with my apartment manager. I visited the office, and they didn’t have it. I remained calm and called the post office.

A wonderful lady took all my information, and said to check back later. On Thursday, I called the post office, and no one had seen it. This time I spoke to an idiot, who answered the phone laughing and put me on hold, so she could contain herself. Then she was useless and advised me to call Friday morning to speak to the carrier personally – “only they know what they did with the package.”

Friday morning came, and I called again. Thankfully, the nice lady answered and spoke to the carrier for me, and they had no idea where it was. The carrier’s daughter ran the route and said she left it in the package box. Well, guess what? She didn’t because it was way too big. And again, no one knew where it was.

By Saturday, I was about to have a nervous breakdown. When I placed the order last week, I had this terrible feeling something would happen to it because it was so special to me. That’s just my luck. I called the post office again and spoke to another useless person who was less than helpful. I had lots of errands to run but ended up back at the apartment office. I decided to check the packages for the third time, and my manager found it! Apparently, it had been dropped of late Friday afternoon.

After 10 minutes of getting through the packaging, the Jem Rockin’ Roaster has a new home! Here’s a full tour of its awesomeness!

Jem Rolls Royce
For scale: It’s 24 inches long.
Jem Rolls Royce
Gorgeous 80’s plastic chrome. Only the top cars had this feature.
Jem Rolls Royce
Roomy interior, but it was hard fitting the huge dolls.
Jem Rolls Royce
Missing the stick shift, but the hot-pink interior more than makes up for it.
Jem Rolls Royce
Beautiful curves and gem white-wall wheels.
Jem Rolls Royce
Check out the working FM radio! I mis-remembered this as a tape player, but I do credit the radio for my love of The Monkies. It picks up a whopping three channels and provided music on many days!
Jem Rolls Royce
Pimpin’ in 80’s style. The end.