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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

[travelogue] Brain full. Must get new brain...

OK. I reached overload today. This happens sometimes. The genius of yesterday is replaced with today's dullard. In the first two days I've taken over 20 pages of detailed notes about a hugely complex process. This is really one for the recordbooks. I can't go into it however, so you'll just have to use your imagination. Suffice it to say that Bob and I have a lot to analyze and sort through to make some recommendations, although what we figured out last night still stands; just with some complications. Such is the life of the solution architect.

I was dreaming about something to do with dolphins when I woke up this morning. Once again I slept strangely. I opted for a little more rest instead of working out, figuring I'd work out after work today. We had a gruelling 8+ hour day of data collection. All good stuff, but just a ton to sort through. I cut my lip on a sharp plastic spoon during lunch.

After work, the client took us to a really cool restaurant/bar called Anton's. It was in an old log cabin that had several additions. We sat in the screened-in patio upstairs, overlooking the Sauk river. The river was filled with geese, who honked and swam about all evening long. I had tilapia, a local beer, a cesar salad, and the largest popover I've ever seen. I don't even know what a popover is, but it was easily the size of my head. Fortunately, like my head, it was mostly filled with air. But, the quiet atompshere and softly flowing river helped me relax and gain a sense of balance again.

I came back and worked for a while; answered a emails from Mark, my sales minion on the lateness of the DTD I am *cough* working on. At 9pm, Bob and I met for about an hour to talk strategery and planning and all that nonsense. He gave me some good tips on extracting data from SQL to create the data model for the XML, and that gave me some good insight into how the XSLT has to be made so it can facilitate table joins and stuff like that. Just nod if you don't know what I am talking about.

Now I am catching up on emails that came in while I was out, and plotting my day tomorrow. We are ahead of schedule on our agenda, so we are likely returning home on Wednesday evening instead of Thursday mid-day. This will be good.

So, catcha layter, okayy? You betcha. Have a good niyt!

Monday, August 18, 2008

[travelogue] The road, unravelled

As expected, all my jitters went away today. It was a really good day. Our client was very honest and direct about the information they provided us. This location has employees that are retained for a very long time and it shows in the demeanor. It's a welcome change to talk about saving money through process, re-engineering, and data control rather than indescriminate slashing of dollars demanded by sweaty, wide-eyed executives fearful for their jobs. They were very relaxed, very clear, detailed, knowledgable, and great to work with.

After one day, I already had some broad strokes on what to fix, some areas where we can help, and a general improvement model that is focused on creating content once and distributing it many times. I've been doing this lately - after part of the morning I am able to see a conceptual model of how this could be better, rather than needing many days. The extra days help fill in the details and give me time to work on the solution model (pardon my jargon). Bob and I talked about my ideas at dinner and it's what we're going to use as a template for the next two days as we delve deeper into the processes here. We have some good questions to ask tomorrow, based on this approach. I still think it's weird that I have ideas and concepts that no one has thought of before. Surely they have, right? Who made me this thoughtful? Why am I figuring out things that big-ass corporations can't? If you know the reasons, let me know.

It's tough to write about work and not write about it at the same time. A lot was accomplished today, and my abstract analysis is making me feel more and more confident each time it engages well. And today it did very well.

So, at mom's request I need to talk about food and other things. To start with, I slept badly, which I always do in general but particularly so the night before an engagement. I get nervous that I'll wake up late. So, after going to bed at 11pm, I woke up at 3am, then 4am, then 5am, then finally got up at 6am. Went to workout in the little gym here - 30 minutes on the treadmill while CNN spouted its usual nonsense. They need to change their slogan "news you can trust" to "free bullshit".

I had a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast, and orange juice. Light. I spent the day in boardrooms and small workrooms. Saw a press shop which brought back fond memories of my days at Minuteman Press, although this one was considerably bigger. Lunch was boxed - sandwich, chips, cookie. I had turkey deluxe. This is in no way meaningful.

After meetings, I went back to the hotel room to cool off (one of the work rooms was toasty) and promptly got too chilly. The Holiday Inn here provides an enviable AC unit in this tiny room and the controls are not subtle: "off" or "absolute zero". The blankets are warm, however. I worked for a while on a DTD (document type definition - that helps, right?) I need to finish by Wednesday. I didn't have all the tools I needed however, so I'm going to have to resort to writing it from an SQL schema script dump. Yay for me. I'll do that tomorrow when my fingers aren't numb.

This room has some weird noises. The tiny fridge makes a drippy gurgling digestive sound at frequent intervals, followed by a sudden louder knock every now and then. Also, the wall ticks. I don't know how else to describe it. It's like the wall by the bed is constantly settling so there's some kind of rattling or clicking. But, the CPAP device drowns out everything else, so when I slept last night, I slept well with good dreams.

Bob and I met up for dinner at 8pm and we talked over my theories and our stories about publishing and technology and jazz and things. We sat outside and a enjoyed the duck pond next to our table. A duck came up to my feet and begged for bread. We ate at Granite City Food & Brewery. This place makes its own beer varietals. I had an India Pale Ale that was very good. I broke from my generally healthy diet and had a BBQ bacon burger with shredded cheddar cheeze. Let me rephrase that - I had a shredded cheddar cheese burger with some meat and BBQ sauce. Srsly, I took off 2/3 of the cheese because it was past obscene and fell somewhere into arterial plaque disgusting. I didn't even finish it. But naturally it was good because it was bad for me. The best part was the berry cobbler with ice cream and whipped cream for dessert, which Bob and I shared. It's 1/4 of a pie, and is too much for one human to consume without their pancreas exploding. I had coffee, and this is in every way meaningful.

Our cheery waitress with the midwest accent announced she was "oot for the night, gentlemen" and bounced away with the check. We walked back across the highway and here I sit, writing non-creative blog copy. Publishing is everywhere. Fear it.

So I'm headed to bed shortly, to catch up on sleep and to hopefully not dream of XML and content management systems. I need a break every now and then. Off to read my trashy sci-fi novel. See you tomorrow.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

[travelogue] St. Cloud

And so I go... to Minnesota. Am I always this pensive before meetings? I was grouchy the last day or two and I don't really know why. It seems like I should know the reasons for my own grouchiness, but I guess sometimes it escapes me. Nevertheless, I'm here now. The flight to Minneapolis was uneventful and I sat next to a young woman rather than a huge hairy man, so bonus points.

Bob met me at the gate and we drove about an hour to St. Cloud. It's about 1 hour NW of Minneapolis, and is a nice pastoral drive, not unlike driving in Iowa or Wisconsin. I was amused to note that this morning I drove on I-35 to get to the airport and then passed it again on the way to St. Cloud, fortunately bypassing rapidly the 2000+ miles in between the two points I saw. 35 is a long north/south road.

So, I've settled into the hotel and Bob and I are going to go use our free drink tickets and then get some food. I last ate around 12:30 so I'm hungry (it's 7:35pm). Not much else to say. I know you are all biting your fingernails right now. Calm down.

This trip kicks off at least 2 more trips in September (Boston, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania) and maybe a third one in there too. October will find me in San Antonio for vacation, and we might go somewhere else for vacation also. Dawn and I have not had a single day of vacation yet this year. So, we're kind of due. Work work work. More soon.

P.S. Subscribe to my blog via email using the subscription form to the right... that way you can get notified via email when I post. I probably won't send individual emails as much anymore. Yes, it's laziness.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

It's that time of year again

There's a special point in time, somewhere between official summer and official fall, where something in me shifts.

Some years I notice this shift when I step out the door on my way to the office and somehow the world looks just the same yet entirely different. Maybe it's a couple of degrees cooler (although in Texas, a cold-front this summer means it's 99 F outside). Maybe the wind is from a different direction. Maybe the earth shifted in its axis or interrupted its orbit because of solar mascons.

This year, I started buying books. And looking up scholastic career paths on the web. I observed this behavior, so different from my usual relentless playing of World of Warcraft, with an air of curiosity and tried to wait it out. I tend to be good at starting things of new interest, but not continuing on with them unless they take on some significance.

So this year, something is stepping up. I found myself looking at the SMU (Dallas campus of course) school of Engineering. I wandered into Borders and wandered over to the math and statistic aisle. I purchased a great design book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward Tufte. (I also purchased two science fiction books, naturally). I discovered, almost by accident, that I was reading an "Algebra for Dummies" book in the store and considering it might not be so tough.

Am I thinking of an engineering degree? Why did I purchase a solar power educational kit recently? Am I going to start mucking around with electricity and rocket fuels next? Mythbusters the other night was about using meat as a fuel source in a rocket. Fascinating!!

To steal the best phrase from my friend Patricia... "here we grow again." It's that time of year. I am so the opposite of everyone else. Most people get excited by Spring; I get excited by Fall. I look forward to the cooling air, the different light as Earth's orbit swings away from the sun, the rush toward winter and crisp clarity.

It's the fall where I pick up hobbies and interests and new things. What's on my plate for hobbies this fall?
-- Piano lessons, self taught
-- Finally really hunkering down with genealogy
-- Learning at least one level of a new language: French or Spanish
-- Um, engineering degree start???
-- More space madness - hopefully to see another shuttle launch if I can wing it
-- Learning about solar power and building solar-powered mobile things/gadgets/toys
-- Tapering off WoW? Although, the expansion comes out sometime this year. hmmm

In addition to this is the usual work related stuff and travel. At the moment I know of:
-- Minnesota, late August
-- Boston, early September
-- Pennsylvania, mid-September

So that's it for now. Gotta go build some process diagrams. And live in the new universe I've created for myself recently. Have fun!

Monday, June 23, 2008

[travelogue] Red Eye

Saturday morning dawned early and bright. OK, not so bright. I was up at 4:30am and it was still darkish out, but the light was starting to make its presence known.

This trip was strangely confusing to my internal GPS and I nearly got Mark late for his early flight on Friday because I had no idea where I was. So, at 5:00am when I departed the hotel, I asked the receptionist how to get to the airport. He gave me a small map and some very simple directions and after stopping for gas I was there in 15 minutes.

I sat watching the early planes depart, with one beautiful shot of a plane's nose facing me as I dined sleepily in the airport cafe on a bagel. The sun was rising and light was streaming through a cloud with this giant plane facing me in the foreground. It was enough to make any airline executive weep with joy and pride. I bent down to retrieve my camera because it was going to be a prize-winning shot. When I looked up, 5 second later, plane was gone having been taxied backward onto the runway. The clouds covered the sun and I resumed nom-nom-noming my bagel, saddened that my award-winning picture was taken from me and my chances at a successful future receded.

A few minutes later I was on board my American Eagle flight, bound for Dallas. After a beautiful liftoff (again the clouds and sunlight were really pretty at dawn), I zoned out for the two hour flight. Arrived 20 minutes early at 8:40am and had to sit for the 20 minutes because our gate was still occupied. I landed in a different terminal than I left from so I had to take the shuttle to my car, then the 30+ minute ride home. Touchdown at 10:00am.

Here are some pictures from my Wisconsonian adventure.
Big La Quinta room... complete with hot tub.
The little yellow car. It's such a pill!
Madison, the capitol of Wisconsin
View from the Pier where we ate fried cheese curds and sipped beer
Mark and Roxy*
Walking down state street. Restaurants, museums, and hippies on bikes.
Part of the university on the way to the student union.
More of the student campus - here we see the torture castle, where they make new students consume large quantities of beer. Actually, a recreation center, if I recall. There may not be much difference.
Business as usual... chilling with several thousand students, consuming libations, and listening to an angry rockster moan about amputation. Still, it was a nice night.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Midwest Austin

I'm someone who often misses the obvious, but there's no mistaking that Madison is a college town and that drinking is no mere pastime, but a full-on profession. I am clearly in the 80s/90s version of Austin before all the kids grew up and had kids -- but in the Midwest.

We had some very good meetings today (from a personal development standpoint, one of the first times I've led an analysis engagement, so major props for me for a change). I can't talk about it, so all that's left is food and alcohol. At lunch we walked over to Erin's Snug, a great Irish pub. I tried a midwestern beef burger -- good!

After meetings, Mark, Roxy*, Cleopatra**, and I went to downtown Madison and we started the partying set. I admit to being tired, though and was the night's buzzkill. Conserving my energy for walking, eating, and processing a ton of information from the day, I lapsed into what was probably a very awkward silence. Fortunately, Mark stepped in and helped fill the void that is Michael being tiredly thoughtful. People kept remarking, "you're being very quiet, Michael." This in and of itself is not a surprising statement to my ears. A closed mouth gathers no foot.

The first place we went to was a bar/restaurant on a peir right on one of the large lakes near downtown. The name escapes me at the moment. We tried cheese curds (we had to sign a waiver that we'd try these before we left Wisconsin). These were, well, fried cheese balls. Oddly delicious when dipped in a light wasabi sauce. I had a couple of local beers in 1/2 pint glasses and gravity intensified.

Cleopatra** departed for an existing appointment and we moved on to a place right near the university. We saw the capitol and took some pictures. We went to a Mexican restaurant and had some food - I had nachos, trying to be light, but it was huge. The meat was like pot roast rather than fajita meat I am used to in Texas, but it was all very good. Food + margarita had me positively silent. Mark again filled in, hassling the waitress who took it and dished it right back. Our hero! All with the lovely accent of the region. You betcha! Did we all look that young and thin and unconcerned back in those days? Surely we must have. I might be approaching 40.

From there we walked down the long street to the student union. The walk reminded me a ton of Iowa City, actually - a long pedestrian mall of unique, interesting shops. We went to a former-student bar in the union and sat outside on the patio with a few thousand people as a band warmed up for a show -- right on the lake. It was extremely relaxing - a state I was already having great trouble avoiding. Relaxation with extreme prejudice.

After a shared pitcher of beer, I cried uncle ("crazy uncle Mark!!") and we headed back to the La Quinta. I am one tired analyst. I plan on sleeping better tonight.

I don't want to paint a fully drinking picture of Madison - the people we've interacted have been super nice, and the place is creative, fun, and uninhibited. People were playing music or singing on the sidewalk toward the university. Some people were practicing juggling en masse in the courtyard. Tons of people were just out, enjoying the summer, the quiet atmosphere and lakeside. Yeah, this is a fun place to be, don'tcha know?

Delerious. Going to bed now.
*, **: Names have been changed, etc.


Usually before important meetings, I can't sleep well. It's not that I'm nervous about things going wrong. I think I just get worried about finally getting that one good night of sleep where I wake up an hour after the meeting starts. Consequently, fitful sleep last night. The sun rises astonishingly early way up here in the north, too. No lie - at 4:something am, I peer groggily out the window at the lightening sky and wonder why Mark hasn't called me wondering where I am. My friends know that light triggers me to be awake, so around 5:30 or so I gave up pretense of sleeping and got up to get ready. What a very nice sunrise, though.

Madison has the big sky of Texas, actually - you can see very far into the distance and the clouds and sky just seem to go on and on. The area we are in is somewhat a new development, and it has a very Uptown, Dallas feel. They have the new style of condos that are very close together and tall. Nice looking places with new amenities and so on. Like that place in Dallas: flip-flop luxury style homes. I don't think I came to Wisconsin with any preconceptions, but was surprised to feel it was like home. Big D is all about facade, so Madison has the sophistication without all the silicone and botox. There's a lot of farmland still, so the surrounding area reminds me of some of the more rural areas in the hill country near San Antonio and Austin. All the hauling trucks and farm support infrastructure can't hide the farming roots - and it shouldn't.

Tonight, after work, we're going into downtown Madison for dinner. I've been told its quite picturesque and cool. I'll have some pictures later tonight.

Off to finish getting ready. Travel is the only time you will find me ironing.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

[travelogue] Screaming Hella Busy

Greetings! I write to you today from Madison, Wisconsin!

But first, what's happened since Auburn, Indiana, my many (*cough*) readers want to know.

First of all, Auburn went fine. A lot of potential work then came in so the India and Philippines trip was placed on hold while I worked my butt off for two months. Postponing the big trip was one of the weirdly hard decisions I had to make, and I did it with a heavy heart. Meghna's siblings were married without me there (somehow they made it), and Vikas went on to India and recently started up with a new company. Imagine my sad and happy face all at once - happy for him, sad for me. At least I have a friend for life in India, and I'll visit once I get there.

Then, the morning of my flight to Minnesota in March I started up a rapid fever, some intense shivering even under a mountain of blankets (I am always warm, so this was disconcerting) and had to cancel my flight and my attendance from the workshop. Yep, you guessed it, I got the flu -- from someone on the airplane back from Auburn. I suffered for a week - it was that ass-kicking flu that went around this year. It was debilitating.

Things got better, and I had a quick trip to Iowa City in May. This was pre-Noah's arrival with the boat, although I commented to dad how high the river looked. There was still a lot of meltwater from the spring, and I guess it didn't clear out fast enough. Flying in to Wisconsin today I could the massive flooding.

After Iowa City, no travel until last week. I had a super-fast "It's Saturday morning can you go to Phoenix on Monday" trip request, which I did. Spent two days in Phoenix, Arizona. It was hot. I didn't go beyond a 4-block radius and it was a kind of tense meeting. The kind my friend Margaret would say was fraught with opportunities. It all turned out ok... the kind of meetings you learn from.

This trip to Wisconsin, however, had the feeling of being "a trip", hence the blog entries and subsequent emails for the RSS feed challenged.

Today I got to use the perks of being an American Airlines Advantage Gold member. I've been noticing the last few times that I've traveled that I've always been in Group 1 to board. I also realized that Group 1 means you get to go to the quick line at security. Ah, benefits. However, I wasn't exempt from security's rigorous examination of all my carry-on crap. I don't mind taking off the shoes, but for some reason putting my belt back on in front of a bunch of strangers is a little intimate. I feel like I just did something ilicit that turned out to not be fun at all.

There was a little confusion about gates but I figured it out, flew out on a very quiet and calm flight to Madison, Wisconsin. The pilot was very interested in telling us what we were flying over. He pointed out Mustang, OK, interestingly, where one of my newest online buddies, Div, allegedly lives in royal puppy-filled splendor. We also passed over Wichita, KS, where one of my longest RL buddies, Naomi lives. Shout out to Naomi & Div! For the Horde!!!

Upon landing in Madison, hopefully not at all like the premise of disaster, was a small private plane, slightly listing to one side in the grass of the runway. About 10 emergency vehicles surrounded it. After making my way through the terminal, I got to meet our sales minion, Mark, whom I've heard on the phone but never seen in person. Very cool to put a face with the voice. Our company is so spread out sometimes. It makes the homecomings and meetings very pleasant.

Why in Madison? We're meeting with a client who is improving publishing processes and technology, and if you've been reading along at all (I know at least a couple outside of friends and family who have, now) you know this is where I come in. No, there's not a super-hero costume. There might be theme music.

Mark and I met with our client for an awesome dinner at the Cloud 9 Grille. I'm not supposed to talk about details around clients, but lets just say the entire experience was heavenly. Salmon, steak, and rice.... mmmm. Tried a local beer, Spotted Cow, which I moooed over. I reached my serene place very quickly... stars in alignment, all that.

It's when you relax a little sometimes you realize how busy things have been, and I realize I like the travel part -- yes, me, who 3 years ago would rather have driven to Wisconsin than fly. Props to Tom for the maiden voyage to Florida for the space shuttle who in large part got me over my fear of flying. The ensuing 100,000 miles over 2 years helped a little. But, my wandering point is that meeting new clients, helping solve problems, and focusing on one thing instead of 40 are the nice aspects of travel and of my job. It helps to have willing, participating clients.

Before I lapse into marketing euphoria and start shouting buzzwords down the La Quinta halls (by the way, above and beyond the nicest La Quinta I've stayed in - makes the one in Austin look like a hovel), I'll depart. My final props are to my budy Wayne, who gave me a ton of good information on places to go in his former haunting areas here in Madison. Friday night, after wrap up I may wander.

I've got two days here, and I return home to Big D way too early on Saturday (6:30am flight).

Upcoming trips? Anne-Sophie and Florent (co-workers) will be coming from Paris to visit our Dallas office in late July. Unfortunately the Euro to USD ratio is not supportive of me traveling over there. Aside from that, no other trips currently planned... but it's not Saturday yet.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Indiana, oh Indiana....

Greetings... I haven't posted since Cincinnati because there's been a gruelling amount of work to be done. Last week all this hit critical mass as I tried to schedule 3 travel engagements in March and then a trip to India and the Philippines for April. As of today, my lovely wife's birthday, India and Manila have dropped off the April date in order to be scheduled for a later time. Client work and planning drove the decision, although I deeply am sad not to be going with my friends Vikas and Meghna.

Nevertheless, I am writing from Indiana... my first stop of at least one more visit (next week) to the midwest. Next week I'll be in St. Cloud for 4 days.

To be precise, I'm in Auburn, Indiana. A quiet but growing town northeast of Fort Wayne. Fort Wayne is northeast of Indianapolis a couple or so hours. Indianapolis is about 1 hour north of where I spent some of my favorite childhood years in Bloomington, Indiana.

Getting here was a pain though - when travel is fun, it's fun. When it isn't, it sucks. There was fog in Dallas this morning and it stacked up delays into DFW airport, so my flight was delayed an hour - finally left at 7:30pm CST and had the quietest two hours of my last two weeks on the flight. I watched "A fish called Wanda" on my iPod. I was on another American Eagle (read: tiny-ass) plane. But it was smooth, and I was pleased to see snow on the ground as we landed, even in the dark. I had to drive about 40 miles to the hotel from Fort Wayne, and it was cold, quiet, and relaxing.

There must not be many people at the La Quinta I am staying at because I am in the largest room. I think it is almost the size of our apartment in Dallas. It's a wheelchair accessible room, so there's lots of space. A large entry area, "living room" with TV and chairs and large work area. To provide bizarre counterpoint to the whole "disabled" experience, adjoining the living area is a huge room with a king-size bed -- and get this -- an in-room, huge whirlpool sauna. Right next to the bed. I feel a little like I'm expected to host a wild wheelchair accessible party.

Partying is not what I'll be doing however. Tomorrow is an all day training by our client on eforms, and then on Wednesday, more of the same. With any luck, my cohort, Vikas, will arrive. He was delayed worse than me today and is stuck somewhere I can't remember because of snowy weather - he came from New Jersey. He was supposed to land at the same time as me tonight - now he can't make it until 12pm tomorrow at the earliest. If all goes well, we'll finish up around 4pm on Thursday and fly back to Dallas, to arrive around 11pm. I'll be documenting all the processes and workflow and technology we use on Friday.

On Sunday, off to St. Cloud until Friday morning. More about that later. It's been a long day and I need my sleep.

I will close by saying it's nice to be back in Indiana, even if NE Indiana is less attractive than Bloomington, at least nature-wise. It's more industrial here. But, it was cool to see "Hoosier pride" stickers, and the state bird (Cardinal) printed on signs. Maybe I'll see some live ones tomorrow when it is light out.

Until then... off to bed.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Home... again

Just a short note for the moment... just got in, about 9pm CST after a bumpy but eventless flight. We left directly from the client office to the airport, so I didn't have time to update the site.

An intense couple of days: 2 day workshop, 8 hours each day. I captured 13 pages of data on process, technology, and publishing. After the formal "day" on Wednesday, our team would meet, have dinner, and then do work from these meetings to prepare for the next day. I ended up having to install an open-source content management system on my pc and did a demo today. I am very sleepy.

So I haven't eaten since 12pm EST, so I am ravenous. Burger Bar was just called and we're gonna go pick up and eat. This weekend I will post a handful of pictures and write more about the trip. Hang in!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Travel sometimes begets drama. For example, I did not expect when I woke up this morning that the following things would happen: Vikas didn't make our flight, I would be on an extremely tiny plane, and that as a result of turbulent weather, I would watch a man barf after we landed.

It's been a day. Worked most of the morning getting things ready, then went to the airport with Vikas. We had a leisurely lunch then went to the gate. As we arrived, the announcer people were explaining that they had overbooked the flight and due to weight restrictions needed to eject some people (after trying to bribe some volunteers with $250 and a next morning flight). Vikas was one of 7 people randomly selected to be denied boarding. So I went on without him, and he started looking for another flight.

The plane was tiny. 3 seats across, 18 rows. "EMB" is the plane type. Extremely Miniature Boeng, I thought. I could have reached from left to right of the plane if I lay on the floor. Tiny! Which meant a lot of turbulence. Going up it was like being on a roller coaster. The flight itself was smooth and we arrived fairly quickly because we had a tailwind behind us. Supposed to be 2:15 flight time and it took around 1:45. Up then down. The landing was pretty rough -- not as rough as the landing in Seattle last year for the windstorm, but because of the smallness of the plane it was a little more intense. I really felt like I was the plane rather than I was in the plane. I wasn't so worried except the last couple of seconds as we were hovering over the runway and the plane rolled pretty dramatically from wind. The pilot handled it fine and we didn't even bump hard.

As I was leaving the restroom, I watched a guy who was on the plane walk in and approach the trash can. He was beet red and he barfed pretty dramatically. Guess the flight didn't sit too well with him. He looked fine a few minutes later at the baggage claim.

Picked up a car at Thrifty about 10 minutes later (the car is a convertible, although it's not going to get much use this snowy, windy, cold couple of days). The drive to the hotel was about 40 minutes, and my internal GPS failed me -- a rare occasion. I partially blame Google Maps for having 3 of the roads and exits wrong. But I turned the wrong direction 3 times. I was able to undo it quickly, but still, my pride is a little wounded. It was dark out, never been here before, google maps told me to go West and meant East. So, still. My GPS rocks.

Checked in to the hotel and met Mike in the lobby (he's our sales minion). Doubletree gives you a warm cookie on arrival. This would have been perfect because it's cold and wet outside, except when I went out to move the car to a parking spot, I dropped the little cookie bag onto the pavement and it rolled out. 5 second rule doesn't apply when it's wet, so I chalked it up to the universe telling me I didn't need the extra calories anyway. /cry

Mike and I had dinner, talked about work, then he went off to a conference call. I went to my room and took pictures of it -- I think the square footage of the room is bigger than the plane I was on. So now just relaxing. Vikas just called and he arrived and we are going to meet when he gets to the hotel. I am about to review documentation for tomorrow and figure out what I am going to capture from the analysis.

So that's it! The day starts early so I will check in later in the afternoon. I want to see comments about the space shuttle - so watch for it!!

Cincinnati Snow

So a lot of people have asked how Cincinnati went. I guess we are all busy because it hasn't yet. I leave for the airport in a couple of hours to head out that way. Subscribe via RSS, below! You will be notified when I post!

The last few days have been a blitzkreig of preparation for this event. On top of that I have spent a lot of time working on several projects at once. It' not so bad, actually. Keeping busy is good for me, but finding the right level where it's not hands-on-my-head stress is the challeng. So far, no 'home-alone' moments. The work level is just about right.

I'll be arriving in Cincinnati tonight about 6pm with my compadre Vikas, who is a great system guy. Snow and rain is expected as we land. I'm renting a car. I've never driven in snow/slush. Hilarity is sure to ensue. However, I am banking on the fact that it's been warmer there and the ground is not so frozen. Plus they are in the north, so they are prepared for these things. The drive is about 30 miles from the airport.

The trip is going to be very quick, so probably not a lot of excursions into Cincinnati proper. I'll have Vikas take pictures as we pass through, and I'll try to find things to write about that you all find so inexplicably interesting/funny.

For the plane ride I'll be reading workflow diagrams (fascinating!) or Al Gore's 'Assault on Reason', which I am in the middle of. Pretty fascinating, for real. He has an interesting perspective on a lot of the political issues going on in our age, with a lot of analysis, history, and context I totally didn't think about. I've been more active in this latest political campaign than I ever have been, and there's an explainable reason why, interestingly. You'll have to read the book to find out why though. Neither of the candidates I've contacted have a solid space policy yet. Irritated, but is to be expected. For late evening cool down, I'll be watching episodes of Battlestar Galactica, lent by my brother on DVD. Good show!

Speaking of space. Space shuttle Atlantis lifts off tomorrow - don't forget to tune in. I'll be in a workshop, so will miss it... booo!!! So, watch for me and post some comments about what you thought. I have to add in my little bit of 2009 NASA budget proselytizing:
WASHINGTON - NASA announced a $17.6 billion budget for fiscal year 2009 to continue exploring the solar system, building the International Space Station, studying Earth from space and conducting aeronautics research. NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale said the increase [of about 1.2 billion] for NASA's 2009 budget demonstrates President Bush's commitment to the agency's missions. With the increase, NASA still accounts for less than 1 percent of the federal budget. The NASA budget includes $5.78 billion for the space shuttle and space station programs, $4.44 billion for science, $3.5 billion for development of new manned spacecraft systems and $447 million for aeronautics research.

Think of how much more we could do with technology and innovation if we spent 2% of the budget - about $120 per YEAR per American, via taxes (we currently spend about $60 a year). That's not even a month's worth of gas for most people. Grrr.

OK. I gotta go. Lots to do, travel, blah blah blah. See you in Cincinnati tonight.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Let there be travel... again!

Whoa. The last week and a half has been work work work. I know I talk about how low key my job can be sometimes, but when we throw down the work, we really do it. All of the sudden I have five projects to work on all at once, and in several timezones.

The main project is for a publisher in Cincinnati, so guess where I am going next Wednesday? Strangely enough Cincinnati's airport is in Kentucky and our client is on the NE side of Cincinnati. I'm only staying for two nights, so probably the most I'll see of the city is when I pass through it in a cab. There's a slight possibility of going into town on Thursday, unless the client wants to take us to dinner. Here's what my unofficial, official travel-guide Fodor's has to say about Cincinnati. And here's a wiki page. Now you know.

What will I be doing, you ask? We're doing an analysis workshop to help them movie from a print-centric publishing model to a single-source publishing model (so they can send out their content into web pages, cell phones, etc). If you're interested in this you can read along at one of my other blogs, The War on Error - a publishing blog. Don't go if you aren't into publishing. You'll be bored. And I need to add more content soon.

Aside from that I am working on a project to automate some publishing software for a company in Australia that makes music lessons. Also, maybe doing some XML training for a company in Washington D.C. I am not even daring to think that I might get to go to Australia this year. That would require a vacation. What happens if I go on walkabout and never return? National Geographic readers will point at pictures of the extremely pale dude playing the didgeridoo next to the natives and remark how badly I need to wash my hair.

Guess it has been a while since I last wrote. Life has mostly been work and play lately. Dawn and I are still enjoying Dallas greatly. We work a lot, then we go out and have fun a lot. We've been working out a lot too - not as much as we want of course, but well more than we did during most of our existence in San Antonio. We make up for it by eating a lot of really good Dallas food with our cohorts Tom and Jen and a few of the other folks we've met. We play World of Warcraft a lot, for stimulating and often bizarre social interactions with the online gaming world. And we slay much evil and are rewarded with phat loot. Shout out to Div, with whom I aggro lots of skettis for epic flying mount rep. Don't worry if that didn't make sense to you.

In closing you will note I am on a different blog server than the one I used for NASA stuff. I'm not terribly happy with blog software these days and since I don't have time to write the code for one myself, I switch around a lot. I'll be posting my travel stuff here for the Cincinnati trip, at least, so check back - put the link for this site in your Favorites, Bookmarks, or whatever the kids call it these days. Check in, anytime. I'll write more stuff about me in here as well, as opposed to stuff about NASA, although you might see some of that here too.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Well that came out of nowhere

Why does my perception of the world seem so fast these days? I got up this morning, early, and we (Dawn, Tom, Jen, and I) went walking on the Katy Trail. I noticed how cold it was, and breezy, and how felt that certain sense of "morning-ness" that you get when you are out walking in the dark on a cold-brisk morning. It's a very different sensation than the conditioned daily office air.

Despite the fresher experience of the walk, I still feel like I was focused just off-center. Like my perception was just behind the present moment. Or just ahead. I didn't feel saturated in the moment like I used to when I was younger. I remember being outside in rainstorms and just feeling the sensation of the storm in the moment -- not when it was going to be done or what happened before. I remember playing outside and feeling a spacious moment around my activities.

Now it seems like everything is so fast - even the slow things, like my focus is always somewhere else. But that somewhere is nowhere.

Then there's other times like when I'm playing WoW where I feel like my attention is hyperfocused and I can handle vast amounts of information happening to me in a single moment. So it's not like I don't have practice or can't handle it... but I just often feel like I am floating just behind or ahead of myself. What's up with that?

Maybe we are all in such a keyed state of hyper-attention we forget the moment point. Or, we haven't accellerated up to the keyed state we are capable of achieving and the off-focus feeling is just wind resistance.

Hmmm. I dunno.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Meanest Mom

Of course I don't mean my own mom.

Check this out - a mom sells her son's car because there was alcohol in it: