Trying to carry on a conversation in the middle of a sports arena during a NCAA Basketball Championship is a little difficult. The poor acoustics of the large concrete and steel structure do not lend any help in the matter at all. It almost becomes impossible to talk about after game plans, how great the game is, or why a website has just gone dark.

To make the situation worse, you only need to add a bad cellphone connection. It makes the conversation seem like it’s taking place during an intense battle scene with a lieutenant major barking at the radio jockey to call in air support, while enemy gun fire and explosions are zipping and banging all over and the tanks start rolling in.

I kept dialing my virtual hosting company but it just kept ringing. Finally, after twenty minutes an operator answered but with all the “gun fire” and “explosions” around I had to repeat everything over and over again as did she. I almost started to use words like ‘roger’ and ‘over’ to help make sense of it all.

I was making some progress until I heard the words, “9 Net Avenue offices” and “fire”, you know, “fire” that flamey thing that encourages the use of firemen, fire trucks, and water.

On “fire”. My site was melting under the heat of a raging fire somewhere in urban New Jersey.

I asked the operator to repeat but she said that she had to go and disconnected.

I kept calling back, hoping to to get a second opinion on the matter. Meanwhile university officials came around for a friendly visit to inform me that the press was asking questions like, why is your website down? How do I get to your website? Should I include the web address in tonight’s newspaper article or not? The heat was on in more ways that one.

Hours later I finally connected to a tech support guy who laughed at my frantic questions about melting servers, burning wires and water damage. He shouted (again with the Arena acoustics) that it was only a fire drill, not an actual fire. It was just a coincidence that the server hosting my site had gone down just as they were forced to leave the building. After a few minutes of assurance I put the phone down and refreshed the browser window, we were back in business.

The rest of the event went without a hitch. The site had doubled in size and traffic during the seventy-plus hours spent adding new content. It was kind of sad when the last game ended and the tournament was over — the loud fans left, the ESPN crew started packing for their next gig and the arena fell silent while my team and I kept working on the post-game update. As I recall, it was snowing when we started to haul all the equipment back to the lab.

I will never forget my Thanksgiving week in 1997. There were many long hours of stress and frustration with stupid software, a dead website, really loud people and a cranky dial-up connection. I learned a lot in those two weeks, skills and experience that I still use to this day.

I am thankful for the opportunity and support lent to me by Dr. Pearce and for the challenge set forth by Mel Kalkowski just days before the event was to take place. I am also thankful for my wife who has always supported every endeavor that I have ventured on. I am also very thankful for my family (including my wonderful in-laws) who always show enthusiasm and excitement for my work.

And while it took me two days longer than most writers to express, I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.