Thursday, May 24, 2007

travel roundup - jeffcity, mo

i just now am sitting in the airport in kansas city. it's not all that large an airport, and it's not all that fancy. but i'm in the admiral's club, enjoying my comfy chair and the fact that the bartender brings the drinks to me, and it could be a LOT worse. again, tonight, with the dallas weather and me being lucky: this is probably the fourth time this year that i've been scheduled on the one and only flight that is actually leaving for dallas because the weather has caused all the others to be cancelled. i guess that's the hidden blessing in the fact that i almost always end up on the last plane of the night. usually, by the time my flight is scheduled to land in dallas, the afternoon thundershowers have been robbed of their fuel by the setting of the sun, and so my flight is able to land.

whew. i really didn't want to spend the night in kansas city. getting here has already been an adventure, and all the adventure i need for a while. my flying day on the way here very nearly took over the top spot as my worst travel day ever. but it managed not to, and for that i'm grateful. the bullet-list of BadThings (tm, pat pend) that happened to me on my way out here:

  • I missed my flight out and got redirected through St. Louis
  • The TSA inspectors in Dallas decided that my hair gel might be in a container larger than the allowed 3.4 oz.
  • The TSA inspectors in Dallas decided that my hair gel might be a threat to national security since it was in an unlabeled bottle and might not even BE hair gel
  • The TSA inspectors in Dallas decided (after long deliberation) to throw away my hair gel and my Downy Wrinkle Releaser (the wonder drug that works wonders for the ironing-averse)
  • The Dallas ticket agent who re-routed me through St. Louis neglected to change my second-leg ticket, so it still said I was flying from Kansas City when I was clearly standing in St. Louis.
  • The delay caused by unraveling the Kansas/St. Louis conundrum caused me to check in so late that I was pulled aside for super-special seekrit sequiriti screening. At least those TSA agents were nice.
  • The airplane from St. Louis to Columbia, MO seats TWO ACROSS. Not two on either side of the aisle, but TWO ACROSS the whole plane; it's tiny.
  • The Enterprise desk in Columbia lost my reservation.
  • The Enterprise employee was not at the desk for 30 minutes, so I didn't know he'd lost my reservation until I finally tracked down his manager with my cell phone.
  • The desk clerk in my hotel SSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHH'd me while I was in the lobby talking on the cell phone about my travel misadventures. I think she took offense at the f-bomb I dropped regarding my hair gel.
  • THE TSA THREW AWAY MY HAIR GEL!!! it was in a 3 oz. bottle, in a quart-sized plastic bag. clearly, they are haters of teh curleez.

the good things that happened?
  • i got pizza and cookies for dinner.
  • the hotel had NOT lost my reservation.

and now, in spite of the evil weather that's coming on... i think i'm going to end up on a plane bound for dallas tonight. i had to drive up to the airport instead of flying back here on the tiny plane from Columbia. the weather in Columbia was threatening, and they tend to cancel flights on those tiny planes for much less weather than it takes to cancel a big jet flight. i had the time to drive up, and it was more appealing than sitting in Columbia on the hard plastic chairs for four hours to find out they were cancelling my flight. i actually got to the Kansas City airport before i'd have arrived if I'd waited for the flight in Columbia to take me. plus, they don't cancel the freeway for light rain, so i was guaranteed to get there, barring the usual highway travel perils befalling me.

and here's something funny for you... the airport bathrooms in Columbia, MO (where they have one gate and everyone waits outside security because they don't open it until the plane lands) were a helluva lot nicer than the ones in Minneapolis/St. Paul. in Columbia, there were self-flushing toilets and automated paper towel dispensers. the place was clean and smelled not unprofessional.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

travel notes and coincidences

so i'm at the chili's too in minneapolis/st. paul airport. and i managed to sweet talk my waitress into placing an order for me off the lunch menu even though i arrived during breakfast hours. that was good, because i was none to excited about a breakfast burrito from chili's and i really didn't want to pay $9 for a cup of yogurt and a plastic tub of cereal. i don't mind so much paying $9 for hot food.

while i was eating, i decided to use the washroom. that's canuckistani for "restroom". and i had to go outside of the restaurant to use the ones provided by the airport. and they were by far the most disgusting airport bathrooms i've ever seen. honestly. i've been in a texaco gas station with external bathrooms that you have to get a key from the clerk to enter, and they were cleaner, better maintained, and working more efficiently than the ones here. yuk. just yuk.

on the way back to my table, i happened to trip over a U-19 (that's rugby for "high school") team on their way to the national playoffs. unfortunately, due to some bad flight karma, they were sitting at chili's mid-morning on saturday while the games were going on one more hop down the line. they hope to make the last game of the afternoon. they were stunned and amazed to find that texas a&m had a rugby team and had had one long enough for an old geezer like me to have played on it. :) i wished them luck and now i'm off to catch my flight. and to see if i can't find a bottle of hand sanitizer. i know the CDC now disavows antibacterial sanitizers, out of fear that they're contributing to the rising percentage of the bacterial population that is antibiotic resistant, but i feel OOGY after useing that restroom, even after washing thoroughly with hot, soapy water. ugh.

on, one quick note: coincidences - when i wasn't playing rugby and wasn't interested in playing rugby and really just needed a break, i never ran into rugby people out in public. it seems like, now that i'm contemplating getting back to some involvement with the sport again, i trip over it at every turn. coincidence?

in response to the question "what do you do, and why do you like it so much?"

i'm an "applications engineer" or a "solutions architect" depending on who you ask and what day it is and whether or not the wind is coming from the north with a hint of snow on that day.

i spend most of my time teaching engineering modeling software to engineers. i like this for three reasons: primarily - i get to teach and that's probably my favorite activity of all time, unless my students are functionally illiterate! secondarily - i'm doing enginerd stuff with my brain that keeps me interested and challenged. tertiarily - i'm toying with modeling software, which i've always loved. any sort of lab experiment in which i get to recreate something that happens in the real world is my real joy.

the rest of my time i spend doing sales demos of and consulting for the software that i teach. demos are fun for me because i was always too extroverted to fit in with the other engineers. seriously, my excessive gregariousness was once described as a "character flaw" and was always a job liability for me. now, i put that flaw to good use earning myself a commission. (my sister's favorite joke: how do you know when you're dealing with an extroverted engineer? she talks to your shoes instead of her own!) consulting is fun because usually the reason people hire me as a consultant is that they don't know how to model something complicated. essentially, i end up teaching them how to use the software to do the hard and/or complicated stuff. and that's really fun for me, because i not only get to troubleshoot, but then i get to teach my solution to the clients.

it's the best possible set of tasks for me, and the fact that i'm responsible for upwards of 9 different software titles and each of those runs on at least two, if not four graphical platforms just makes it better. boredom comes easy to me and it's the kiss of death for my performance, but with this much variety in my workload, i haven't managed to get bored at this job yet.

Monday, May 14, 2007

grade eh!

i'm in regina, sk tonight. and no, the name does not rhyme with "tina".

so far, so good. the only thing unusual or noteworthy so far is that the pedestrian crossing signals here are weird-looking. the green walky-man is very jaunty looking, his shoulder raised as if to forge his way through the prevailing "plough winds" as they're called here. he also has feet, which i've never noticed on american walky-men before. i'll snap a picture of it, if i can remember to do so tomorrow. i have no idea if i'll be able to post it or not. i'll try.

additionally, i had a delightful elk steak with cherry sauce for dinner. and on the wall, on my way into the steakhouse, i saw a large and glossy poster bearing the following ad slogan for the canadian beef association:

Grade Eh. Canuck beef is better.

i wished AGAIN that i had a camera with me. these guys have the american beef association and their "beef. it's what's for dinner" beat hands down. maybe they have better material to work with, but i would actually buy food as a result of the canadian poster. the american one just makes me smile and hum a few bars of that copland tune the american beef people used in their tv commercials.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

i <3 Dahlia Lithwick

if you're scratching your head and wondering who that is right now, hie thee hence to and just peruse a few of her articles. she's an insightful journalist who never fails to cut through the b.s. with common sense and a really good look past the hyperbole to the issues at hand. i love her articles, and i hope if i ever get to have a cup of coffee with her, i'd like her, too.

her latest is on the blogosphere and what can be done or what should be examined about some of the hypersexual threats aimed at women bloggers these days at clicky. unsurprisingly, this is an issue of keen interest to me. not that i attract the sort of attention that tends to bring on detractors, but i would hate to think i ever attracted a stalker. i just don't want to have to choose between sharing these little random slices of my brain with you and the sense of security i cling to when i lie down in my bed at night.

sunday morning sidewalk

my sister and her boyfriend stayed over last night. aside from the fact that that entailed a massive housecleaning effort yesterday, it's great to have company. i needed the kick in the butt to make me crack out the vacuum and do the stairs, anyway. so, on this sunday morning, i'm kicked back in my living room sipping my mocha with my dog at my feet and blogging. for reasons unexplainable, i've slept well into the PM for the last two days. this morning, at 7:30 AM (!!!) i woke up and was unable to go back to sleep. i ran off to einstein's and procured breakfast for the masses, and i'm still sitting here waiting for the ungrateful louts to roll out of bed an hour and a half later.

on the upside, i did get to watch my computer clock roll through 05/06/07 08:09:10 this morning. nerdy, huh?

okay, maybe the sleeping in wasn't entirely for reasons unexplainable. i just got back from my place-of-employ's annual conference on the left coast. the most inexplicable part of that is that i never once ate sushi while i was out there. not even at the airport! food was provided at almost every meal by my employer, and it was tasty, and i had precious little time to go in search of dinner between all the various socials that went along with the conference. i must declare that the most fun was probably at the canuckistani social on tuesday. i still owe paul a couple of beers. somehow, he got stuck with the tab for my scotch, and i was drinking good scotch that night. hey, it's not my fault the bar was so well stocked. i finally got to try lagavulin, which really IS laphroiag's politer younger brother. and they had both talisker and oban, two of my all-time faves. if i'd been able to hold another drop while still maintaining vertical positioning, i would've gone for the dalwhinnie and made the night a grand slam. as it was, i retired at just the right time, because i was wearing my enormous hair down and loose, and it had gotten so large and wild that it was about to achieve sentience and crawl up to the room for some shut-eye without me.