Monday, December 31, 2007

"They were conducting a surprise killing attack on everybody."

So, it's a new year. 2008. Two years from 2010 (the year, not the movie) and we are no closer to robotic slaves, Matrix-like brain interfaces, or immortality through through some scientific means. I was brought up to believe the future would be one thing, and one thing only: Great. It wasn't my parents that put this thought into my head, it was the television shows I watched, the books I read, the highway billboards I drove past. The media, in general is responsible for this belief in the future.

To be fair to the future, robotic slaves and flying cars might be just around the corner. Or, as is the case with many discoveries, these things already exist, I just don't know about them yet. It could even be that they are really common, and I'm so completely out of the loop that I didn't realize my maid has shiny-metal robotic arms it uses to squeeze my morning glass of OJ. Could be...

I predict this year will be more of the same, and not in a bad way. There will be wars, famine, and pestilence. There will be previously undreamt-of scientific discoveries, more Wii games released, and the invention of inflatable planets we will all begin to live on with our robotic assistants and robotic taxi-drivers.

What I'm really trying to say is, I want a robot already.

(that's me on the left)

It also turns out that Colorado is in for a bad year, what with painted goons conducting an attack. And not just any attack, mind you. A killing attack. Via

"After the 9-11 Tragedy, approximately 2002, I had an incredibly frightening dream. ... I was in my home with other people, it was night and dark outside, our lights were on in the house. I heard repetitive explosion like noises outside in the distance. I looked out the window to the west and could see fire and smoke in the sky coming from Boulder. The noise and fires continued and were quickly coming our way, some just at end of my block. We shut the lights off and I heard a voice in my head say "beware of the shadows, be careful of the shadows." I saw the grass moving outside and houses being set on fire, in the darkness soldiers were moving with weapons and grenades, war paint, or dark camouflage paint on their faces, others wore gas masks. They were conducting a surprise killing attack on everybody. I was terrified and thought of hiding in the attic, but knew I would be burned. I thought further of crawling into the grass to hide, but I had seen them shine lights on the grass and destroy anyone found. I knew it was the end for us. I heard them say they were the "peacekeepers.""

The line I can't get over is, "They were conducting a surprise killing attack on everybody." It's just so silly. This highlights my potential big problem with 2008; fear. This quote from the poor poster "Kathy" is a great view into the mass-consciousness in America. Her writing style attempts convery scientific detachment, but it's really a scene from any number of B action movies playing out in her imagination, superimposed over the ideological topography of an idealized American take-over scenario metaphysical-jumble-terror-reexamination-plughead Robot! The subject is contextualized into a mode that includes narrativity as a reality. Therefore, the premise of cultural nihilism suggests that the law is part of the collapse of consciousness, but only if David Hasselhoff is a robot; otherwise, narrativity is capable of significance of Kathy's insane ramblings... like mine. Ugh.

Pyscho-babble will be on the rise.

It was 8 years ago I was in Key West celebrating New Years with fellow globe-trotting chum Jon. We slept on a Grayhound bus two nights in a row and rode for 50 hours to get there. When we arrived, we had no place to stay, so we slept on the beach, hoping the cops wouldn't arrest us, which was possible (and likely). When the conch shell dropped from the roof of "Joe's" at the stroke of midnight, the streets exploded into a massive city-wide party of epic proportions that lasted well into the night.

When some people we met dropped us off near the Grayhound station the night before we left, we still had no place to stay, so we slept in what we thought was a ditch. Late that night, a truck came roaring the down the 2-track lane we were sleeping and missed running us over by about 10 feet. We found a white chair in the woods and set it in front of us, hoping any other truckers, out tearing up the 2-track at 3 in the morning, would see it and swerve to miss it. Why we didn't just move out of the road, is still a mystery. Come to think of it, it was probably because we had another 50 hour Grayhound bus ride in front of us and we were hoping for the quick, merciful release that being crushed under a truck would bring.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dog Revalations and Car is Still Dead!

The car is way dead, it turns out. Transmission blown. Poof. Like that. Sadly, this comes only about a month after we dropped $1,300 on a new timing belt, spark plugs, and a belt tensioner. The cost will be somewhere in the vicinity of $1,000 to fix the transmission, and that's with the used-parts kit. The suck of all sucks with this is, right now the car is worth nothing*. If we drop another thousand dollars into it, it may run for another 30,000 miles... or we may blow a rod the week after the repairs are complete. If we do end up sinking the money into the car, we can at least recoup the cost of the repairs and a little more (hopefully). This should give us enough time to have a functioning car that will allow us to drive around and look for another car, then sell this car, and buy another. Bleh.

Did I mention my not liking cars? No? Well, truth be told, I don't like cars.

On a lighter note, the voting for the crazy fact about one of the many dogs Mandy watches is closed. It seems that the readers are going with the patriotic, 9/11 people-saving dog.


The truth is, the dog is a Thompson, of the Hunter S. variety. Yes, Bodi's owner is the ex-wife of Hunter. Hunter's son, he keeps his dog at the day car too. I hear ego-Googling is up, so it's likely that these people will come across this blog and find out the secret identity of their dog is now in the requisite domain of the interweb tubes where any Hunter-obsessed sicko can find it. Sadly, these are the times we live in. I don't get a chance to interact with many bona fide celebrities, let alone their dogs, so I hope you'll grant me leave to indulge in this particular instance.

Hunter's dog! I don't love the man. I've never met him. And from what I understand, he was an absolute bastard to interact with in real life. That makes sense, considering how crazy and reckless his writing is. On the other hand, being a bastard and a being a good writer seem to go hand-in-hand. What I can say is I like his writing. He was a great social mover and shaker. Like me, he hated hippies and the laziness they embodied.

*Update: It actually is going to cost $1,500, and we've decided to go ahead with it. I'm not totally sure why, but there it is. Again, hopefully, this will be the last major repair on it for a year or so, and we can continue to drive it. If it bothers us, we will sell it and hopefully break even with these repairs. The transmission is totally gone. Nothing salvageable. It should be done today, so when we get it back, I will post about how it drives like it always had, except a little faster due to the lightness of our wallet. Bleh.

(It's so satisying watching cars crash. Crash cars, crash!)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Today is the Winter Solstice! Our car is dead!

Solstice. Sol (Latin for Sun) Stes (Latin for unmoving, as in to stand still). In effect, the day that the sun stands still in the sky. In the Northern hemisphere, this marks the first day of winter. In the Southern Hemisphere, it marks the first day of summer. At whatever Northern latitude you are, this will be the day with the shortest amount of daylight. Since the Summer Solstice, the sun has been rising progressively lower in the sky with each passing day. On the Autumnal Equinox, the sun rode the same line as the ecliptic, or the plane of the solar system. The great part is that while this is the darkest day of the year, with each passing day, the sun will rise a little higher in the sky and we'll get a little more daylight.

I was in Norway recently. Friedrikstad is not within the line of the arctic circle, but it is close. When I was there, a month ago, the sun was only up for about 5-6 hours a day. By this point, it's down around 4 1/2. Crazy. But they make up for it in the sumer with 16-18 hours of sunlight. Bastards.

Mandy's parents showed up this morning. We've been hanging out and catching up. Our car died last night. Likely cause: The transmission is blown. This is great because we were thinking of updating our entertainment system with a new center speak, satellite speakers, and a receiver... but what we really wanted was to spend that money on a new transmission. God. I hate cars. We can't really do anything with the car until after the holidays because all the shops are closed until Wednesday. If it does turn out to be the transmission, I think we're just going to junk to car and get a new one. At least the new one will be (in theory) slightly more reliable, but still. We spend $1,300 replacing the timing belt a month ago.

To reiterate: God, I hate cars.

Bacon: Chocolate for Men

(Happily lifted from

Don't forget, there's only one day left to vote for what amazing secret a dog from Mandy's doggy daycare has! Cast your vote now!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Packing / Unpacking

Man, it's been crazy around here. We've been unpacking, cleaning the apartment at Grant, and getting ready for Mandy's parents (and our new dog) to arrive. We've purchased a new Queen-sized bed. We're going to pick that up tomorrow with a rented truck. Other than that, we've just been trying to figure how we're going to decorate the place, where the dog will sleep, putting plastic on the windows, etc, etc, etc.

I can't believe Christmas is only a few days away. It's nuts. It doesn't really feel like it here. I'm sure we'll be missing the family and friends part of it most, but having Mandy's parents here will help lessen that. It's going to be good to have a little down time.

That's it from this end.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I pledge to be your you know what that means?!?!

A forwarded message I received from the Cat-Fattener:

1. When you are sad -- I will help you get drunk and plot revenge against the sorry bastard who made you sad.

2. When you are blue -- I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.

3. When you smile -- I will know you are plotting something that I must be involved in.

4. When you are scared -- I will rag on you about it every chance I get.

5. When you are worried -- I will tell you horrible stories about how much worse it could be until you quit whining.

6. When you are confused -- I will use little words.

7. When you are sick -- Stay the hell away from me until you are well again. I don't want whatever you have.

8. When you fall -- I will point and laugh at your clumsy ass.

9. This is my oath.... I pledge it to the end. "Why?" you may ask; "because you are my friend".

Friendship is like peeing your pants:

everyone can see it,

but only you can feel the true warmth.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lots of updates....

There are a lot of changes happening now, which is one of the main reasons that I haven't written in awhile. Mostly it has been because our internet was kinda flaky while we moved and I wasn't able to get online for almost a week!

I got A's in the three classes that I took this fall......but I also found out that I am not able to get into my major this semester. This means that I have to wait until next fall to start my classes. Sigh! Anyways, I decided that I didn't want to sit around on my butt until then, so I applied at a part-time QA job. They said they would like to offer me a job, pending my background check approval. I will start after the first of the year and will be working 30 hours a week, M-F. Right now I am on the schedule at the dog shop for 2 nights....we'll see how it all works out.

We are looking forward to having myparents come and visit this weekend, so if you have anything you would like to send with them like notes or goodies (like an Xbox360 - Matt) pass it off to them before they leave on Friday.

We are getting unpacked and organized at our new place. I have a couple of pics and we will continue to post more as we get through all of this moving stuff :)

Our new rug - we got it off from Craigslist!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

There's a monkey in the jungle, watching a paper trail

Caught up in the conflict between his brain and his tail...

So, yeah. No updates for a while, huh? That would be in part because we have no internet connection, but mostly because we've been moving all of our belongings from one location to another.

Mandy and I have moved so many times, we have it down to a science. Not to brag, or anything, but damn... when we move, we move very well. We were able to pick up the rental truck, move everything into it, drive to the new location, unload its contents into the new house, gas-up the truck and return it in less than 6 hours. The total cost of renting the truck, with gas and mileage included: $33.00. That's roughly 1/8thth of the cost just to fill up the gas tank one time on the truck we moved out to Denver in. Craziness.

Right now, as would be expected, the house is in shambles as we decide what goes where, who does what, and when does which. Once all of that is settled, a little painting is done, and some furniture procured and gotten rid of, we will post some pics.

In a few weeks, we will be entertaining the lovely Mr. Cat-Fattener and his wife Sue for a week or so. They will come baring gifts, or gift, rather, in the form of a dog. We need to have the place someone spiffed by then, as well as make up the spare room so Mandy and I won't have to sleep on the air mattress and give up our bed. It will chaotic, but fun. We're really looking forward to spending some time not doing much of anything.

Work is going well for the both of us. I'm sure Mandy will want to share her school/work situation herself, so I'll leave that be. My work is also going well. Very well, in fact. I've learned more in the past four month working at this job than I did in four years of college education. It's been stressful, rewarding, and energizing all at the same time. Lovin' it!

That's about it from the mountains. Mandy has some new dog pics she'll be posting to Flickr soon, so keep an eye out for those, especially for the yet-to-be-taken picture of me with Bodhi. There's a good story behind that dog. One you will never, ever believe. When I was told, I nearly spit out my drink and shouted, "No way!" To ramp up the suspense, I've added a poll to the right-hand nav of the blog. Just choose what crazy, unbelievable fact is true about this dog, and we'll see if the readership of this humble blog can read my mind.

Monday, December 03, 2007

If you are in Grandville, MI....

Mom and Dad found us a sweet baby. Her name is Nikki.

Shhh....don't tell Athena or Ocyrus yet!
Nikki in the kitchen

If you are in the neighborhood you should stop by and see the newest addition to our family!

Nikki sleeping

Not so identical cousins...Nikki and Stormy

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In the UK

Hopped a flight back to the UK last night with chums Craig and Graham. The flight was pretty short, once we baked the jet under a de-icing machine. We fly into Heathrow. First time I've ever seen London. Simply put: Amazing. It's so enormously big. Norway is some bitter, cold country. Man, I thought Michigan had bad weather. At least in Michigan they get more than 4 hours of pale light near the horizon.

I am working today (10AM-??) and all day tomorrow, then a straight flight back to Denver via Heathrow on Saturday. I'm not sure what time the flight puts me back in the US, but I'll figure it out today.

Gotta run off to work. Anarchy in the UK!!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Foiled by Homeland Security.....

I realized yesterday that our plates expired November 8th, instead of the end of November as I had originally thought. So, I decided to head over to the DMV to get new plates and registration, which I thought would be an easy task. I got a little turned around on the directions, all those slight lefts and such, but I eventually found it.

My number was called after being there for maybe a minute and I was thinking that this was going to be the easiest experience at a government office I had ever encountered. I handed her all of my information, hoping that it wouldn't cost too much. Instead of telling me the price, she told me that due to the Office of Homeland Security I would not be able to get the plates and registration because Matt's name is the only one on the previous registration. The only way for me to get the whole thing done is to either have Matt sign the car over to me on the title or have him fill out a power of attorney form; both of which he needs to be in the country to sign. Sigh....I will have to wait until next week.

A couple quick pics

Howdy all,
Still kickin' it Scandanavia. Norway is really strange. It's kind of what I always assumed Iceland would be like; all glacial rocks, ice, and strange, guttural, Bjork-sounding languages. A few quick observations and pics, then off to sleep and return to training. I passed today's training (DLP chips and color wheel algorithms), but tomorrow's is a bit more difficult, from what I understand.

There really is a difference between the British Isles and Europe. I can't really identify it, but when I landed in Amsterdam, I felt it. It had that feeling I have come to associate with my trip with Chad a few years back. It's a mix of cigarette smoke, open sewers, and being really disoriented by foreign, incomprehensible languages. It is a totally different feeling from UK. When I was there a couple months back, I had no strong sense that I was back in Europe. I wasn't. I was in the UK. But just running through Amsterdam and spending these past couple days in Noway, I have recaptured it. It's strange, but welcoming. To anyone traveling East, don't just hit the islands. Go down into the continent. They're very different, more different than I realized.

That's about it from here. I studied/tested all day, drank some beers with Norwegians and Brits, and now I'm due for a long sleep before I have to get up, train, test, and fly to the UK. I leave here tomorrow night around 8:30PM (+1GMT). I will post more when I can get back online. Peace n' love!

(Me, taking a picture of me in my room in Fredrikstan)

(The lobby of Raddison in Fredrikstad)

(A pub where I shot a drink that tasted like pickle juice and vodka and discussed the Simpsons Movie. Graham on the left.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Home again....

I am finally back to Denver. I was greeted at the door by two fat and furry beasts. They are a little miffed that daddy is gone, but I explained how he had to work in Norway in order to bring them tasty treats home and I think they are ok with it........for now.

Our Man in Amsterdam / Norway

Made it. Made it all the way. Now I'm in Norway. At the Radisson. Sans my luggage (it's still in Amsterdam). Now I get to sleep. Sleep. I will recap when I am able to type again. 'Till then: Goodnight.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

In Detroit Metro

That was the shortest flight ever. From take-off to touchdown, it was no more than 40 mins. This next flight, I think, will be a little longer...

I will post when I land (3:00AM EST). Peace n' love


Just checking to see if this works.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving of Thanks

We landed in Chicago this past Monday, and rode with Mandy's dad back to GR. Other than a 30 minute weather delay in Minnesota, the trip over over was uneventful. Tuesday Mandy and I went out shopping. I needed to pick some mini-toiletries and jeans for my impending trip to Norway, and Mandy needed some garb for working with the doggies back in the mountains. Tuesday we went north to visit my Grandma in a rehabilitation center in Alma, MI. She's looking good, and seems to be making a pretty speedy recovery from her heat attack/sroke/falling episode a few weeks back. We saw my cousin, her daughter, and my aunt, which was especially cool because we haven't seen them in going on three years now. It was good to see everyone. Afterwards, we drove back to Grand Rapids and spent the evening with Angie and Mark. We went out to get some good Mexican food at Little Mexico Cafe, a Grand Rapids landmark restaurant that serves, possibly, the best Tex-Mex in the state of Michigan. After dinner we went back to Mandy's parent's place and played with the Wii while Mandy cooked bread for Thanksgiving. On Thursday we celebrated Thanksgiving with Mandy's family. Our friends Dean and Erin showed up and, again, Wii was played and movies were watched. Tomorrow, we're going to do lunch and spend the afternoon with my dad and step-mom, then head out on the town with some friends. Saturday we're doing Thanksgiving, yet again, with the Forton clan and mom, where we will partake in the traditions of eating good fun, engaging in fellowship, and making virtual similes of people who have died in the previous year with a wrestling simulator and have them fight each other.

All-in-all, it's been an insanely busy visiting schedule. It's been good to see everyone, but there's never enough time to spend catching up and seeing everyone. Alas, one of the drawbacks of living 18 hours away from family. But, honestly, with weather like what we've been having, I already miss Denver... :)

Also, we added a new slideshow page element to the right-hand navigation bar that shows some of the most recent pictures we've posted to our flicker stream. You can pause, rewind, and play the pics. If you click on any of the images, it will pop open a new page taking you to a higher-rez copy of the picture. It's really neato. Check it out!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Ghost Map


Science as benefit to society, miasmology, and urban sprawl. What do they all have in common, apart from being very interesting topics? They are all covered in great detail in Steven Johnson's amazing book, "The Ghost Map." Johnson explores the city of London during the most virulent outbreak of cholera through the eyes of the city, its citizens, and the bacteria itself. It's a disturbing read considering the amount of detail how goes into when discussing the various occupations of Londoners during this time period (1850s). From raw sewage scrapers, to muck dealers and slime peddlers, Victorian England had it all! In reading these parts, I couldn't help but be reminded of the famous scene in Monthy Python's "Quest For the Holy Grail" where the two peasants are in the middle of an empty field, in the rain, piling mud in heaps for no reason.

ARTHUR: [To WOMAN] I am your king!
WOMAN: [To ARTHUR, stopping her muck-piling] Well, I didn’t vote for you.
ARTHUR: You don’t vote for kings!

The Ghost Map tells the true story of John Snow and Rev. Henry Whitehead, and how they systematically disproved the idea that disease is caused by foul-smelling odors. It tells how persistent ideas can be, even in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary (homeopathy, anyone?). The thing that struck me was how people ignored seemingly obvious cures in favor of ideas that were so nebulous and had such a horrible track-record of success.

Cholera, it turns out, causes the victim to expel water from every possible orifice on their body. Victims essentially die from dehydration. The obvious solution to dying from loosing all of your bodily fluids would be to replace them. Simply drinking water with a little salt in it holds most people over until they get rid of the bacteria on their own. That's it. Loosing a bunch of water? Drink more. That simple idea was completely missed by nearly every person in the medical establishment of the time. It has become so effectively treated with an intravenous saline drip, that people are routinely infected with cholera in lab settings to test their effects, with virtually no chance of loosing a life.

I found myself shaking my head in disbelief more than once reading this. It's depressing to think that simple ideas like, "Don't eat other people's feces," And "If you start spraying water out of your eyes, ass, and mouth you should probably replace it," haven't made it to some parts of the world. Poor sanitation, lack of basic (and I mean basic) medical knowledge, and extreme urban density are some of the biggest problems facing 3/4ths of the world's population. It's disheartening to think even while it's so easily cured on an individual basis, it's so hard to fight at a population level.

< /rant >

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Man marries bitch to beat curse....


I was intrigued by the title, and thought the article was going to report on something totally different. I thought maybe the guy had some past issues with his mother that he was trying to resolve by marrying a woman that was mean....

It takes all kinds of people for this world to keep moving round.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Just a dog...

By Richard A. Biby

From time to time, people tell me, "lighten up, it's just a dog," or, "that's a lot of money for just a dog." They don't understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for "just a dog."

Some of my proudest moments have come about with "just a dog." Many hours have passed and my only company was "just a dog," but I did not once feel slighted.

Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by "just a dog," and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of "just a dog" gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.

If you, too, think it's "just a dog," then you will probably understand phases like "just a friend," "just a sunrise," or "just a promise." "Just a dog" brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy. "Just a dog" brings out the compassion and patience that make me a better person.

Because of "just a dog" I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future. So for me and folks like me, it's not "just a dog" but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.

"Just a dog" brings out what's good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.

I hope that someday they can understand that it's not "just a dog" but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being "just a human."

So the next time you hear the phrase "just a dog." just smile, because they "just don't understand."

"Just Dogs"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Video Walkthrough of New Apartment

Mandy and I have signed a lease on our new apartment/house. It's much more spacious and groovy than our previous, and our intention is stay here for the next (minimum) 18 months. We're planning to really move into this place, paint, decorate, etc. If this does indeed happen, it will be the longest time we've stayed at a single place since we've known each other. In the seven years we've known each others, we've moved eight times. With this move, it will be nine. I think we've earned a little respite from boxes, packing tape, and extortionate truck rentals.

We have already started the moving process, and expect it to take the next month and a half due my traveling and both of us being back in GR for a week over Thanksgiving. We'll add more updates as we do things to the place.

No excuses for the video quality. It was shot on my new 8525 phone.

(Boy, this new blogger-video is really nice.)

Trip up a Treat

Have returned from the land of no hills and lots of humidity. Not much to report other than I have no love for Houston. I haven't been there since I was traveling with the monks many years ago, and very little has changed other than it appears to have grown in surface area, not density. It just keeps expanding and thinning, like a balloon being inflated. It's amazing how big the city is. It may not have as high a population density as cities like New York or Chicago, but what it lacks in density it makes up for in sheer size. You can drive for an hour and still be in what you'd recognize as a downtown, urban area. There be some money in that oil stuff, I hear...

The visit with the client was successful, albeit a little rushed. I had planned to spend two days working with them, but due to miscommunication and scheduling conflicts, I only ended up spending one day with them. Still, we accomplished quite a bit.

On the evening of the 8th, I went to see the re-cut "Final Director's Cut" of the Sci-Fi classic Blade Runner. It was amazing to see a print of the film that had been cleaned up and remixed into a really good 7.1 surround track. I've only ever seen the VHS or the really crappy DVD print, so it was a treat to see it how it was originally intended to be seen. I can't get over how good this version of the film is. Easily one of the best science fiction films of all time. The funniest thing about watching the film, is how sparce the flying crafts in sky over Los Angeles. They were trying to show how crowded the skies would be, but I think they undershot it. Sci-Fi is best when it talks about the present instead of predicting the future. It always gets the future wrong.

(Pic of a completely booked flight from Denver to Houston)

Friday, November 09, 2007

US House approves gay rights bill

This bill will make it illegal to hire, fire, promote, or base salary on a person's sexual orientation. It seems that the House is making as step in the right direction. On the other hand, President Bush already has claimed that he will veto the bill, and the House does not have enough votes at this time to over rule the veto.

This bill is necessary because any type of discrimination should not be tolerated within the workplace. I have worked with a lot of people, straight, gay and bi-sexual. During all of these experiences I have never found that the gay or bi-sexual people were incompetent or unable to complete tasks on time. In fact, many people would not have even known if they were gay or bi-sexual just by looking at them let alone by observing the work that they produced.

The gay and bi-sexual people should have the same rights and privileges that heterosexuals have - especially in the workplace. I think it is unjust to judge a person by their sexual orientation and we as Americans should stand together to make sure that this type of discrimination is not found in our workplaces.

Full story is found here

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Headin' Off To Houston, To Pick Me Up Some Pants!

(Don't mess with Texas. He'll round-house your ass)

The skies are calling me again. This time, not quite so far as the other side of the 'pond.' I will be heading out to Houston, TX for a couple days to work with some peeps on a geology simulator. I don't know much more than that, at this point. The cool/worrisome thing is I will be working with this client on my own.

The original plan was for a more experienced mentor to guide me through the steps of working with new systems; learning by doing. That kind of thing. This time, however, he can't make it over from the UK, so I will be going solo. I'm pretty sure I can handle any issues that might come up, but dealing with budgets and designs and architecture that could potentially affect the whole company isn't something I'm all that accustomed to. Wish me luck!

I will post some pictures of my hotel room and whatnot. Hotels are such strange things. I have such mixed feelings towards staying in them. On one hand, they keep the rain off my tired brow. On the other, they smell like pee-pee. Give a little, get a little, I guess...

(I couldn't resist...)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Get your bonfires and fireworks ready...

Remember, remember the fifth of November....

It is Guy Fawkes night tonight....a night to remember the Gunpowder Conspirators of 1605, who attempted to blow up the House of Parliament, kill King James I of England, thereby killing off the Protestant aristocracy and rule.

Although not successful, their efforts are remembered each year.

More info on Guy Fawkes

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Top Ten

We've finally put our top ten favorite pictures taken on the schooner cruise. There are many more than the list of ten, and you can find links at this past blog entry.

Here is the top ten. Hope you enjoy them!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Updates, Dogs, Projectors, and Scared People

Hey everybody. It's been a while since I've posted anything, so I thought I'd throw something out there to let everyone know we're still alive and kicking.

We've recently signed a 18 month lease on an awesome 2 bedroom + loft house in the Washington Park area of Denver. The place is really spacious, has a nice backyard, and allows dogs. We're really looking forward to this being the last time we move in a while. Since it's only about a mile and a half from where we're living now, we can ferry much of our belongings to the new place with our car. We'll hold off on any kind of moving van until the very end, and just make trips back and forth clearing out this place.

One of the nice things about the new place is that it will have a prepared spare bedroom. Perfect for any road-weary traveling wanting to rest their heads. Many have expressed an interest in coming to visit next year, and this will make the stay quite a bit nicer, we think. It will also give us a little more space for some activities (brewing beer, for instance) that we simply are unable to do here because of space limitations.

Work is going extremely well for me. I've been learning a ton from my new coworkers and have really enjoyed getting back into the tech end of things, with a really amazing creative aspect. Odds are I'll be flying out to Houston next week to consult with some engineers on a geology/tectonic visualization system for Exxon. It's a really strange world.

Mandy is doing well in her classes. They are set to wrap in the next few weeks, freeing her a mind a bit when we come back to GR to visit friends and family for Thanksgiving. Her work is also going well; it fills her with some of the funniest/strangest dog stories I've ever heard.

Speaking of traveling, for those of you who don't know, we'll both be back in GR from Nov 19th to the 26th, though I may be leaving a day early due to work. Our schedule is filling up very quickly, so if you're hoping to hook up and hang out while we're in town, drop us a line so we can find the time. The next time we're likely to be in town will be in March, or possibly later.

That's about it from this end. To wrap up this long-overdue post, here's a really good compilation of people scaring the hell out of each other. Enjoy!

(What is it about people being scared that's so funny?)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Words Fail Me

(Read the title aloud, then consider the cover art. Aren't there people whose job it is to catch these things?)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Team

We woke up yesterday morning to the sound of screaming. Possibilities raced through my mind. Political protest? Horrible car accident? The rapture? I stumbled into the living room and laid out on the floor (my back has been killing me since I literally spent five hour crammed in a closet-sized space,hunched over a fried DLP light engine, with two other techies) and waited for Mandy. She came into the room and gave me a few stretching suggestions while the tone and ferocity of the screaming rose a few decibels. As I stretched my horribly out-of-shape body, Mandy looked out the window and yelled, "It's a race! There are supporters on the corners cheering the runners on!" I groaned and got up to look out the window at all of the runners. There they were, hundreds of racers plowing through the cool October drizzle, cheering and having, what seemed to be, a good time.

Later, as breakfast was prepared, the conversation kept coming around to running and wanting to get back in shape again (mostly me). And not some flabby shape, a nice, taut, visually pleasing shape. An idea is starting to form. It's very nebulous right now, but I hope it will coalesce into something concrete by, oh, around next May.

So, here's the idea. We're looking for feedback, ideas, and participants. Please comment, email, or call.

We'd like to get a group of people interesting in running (not walking) the Riverbank Run in Grand Rapids May '08. We want to create a team name, t-shirts, running support, playlist ideas, etc. The trick to doing this is to get other people interested and training. The other thing Mandy and I need is a liaison in Grand Rapids, or at least closer than an 18 hour drive, who can coordinate efforts there. Let us know soon.

If I'm going to run, anyone can do it. A couple years back I went from not being able to to run a mile, to running two 5Ks with respectable times. We have six months to get prepared. If that's enough time for people to recover from massive back injuries, it should be enough for us. We need ideas for a team name, t-shirt designs, playlist ideas, where and how to hold the necessary after race gathering, etc.

The sooner we get started the better prepared we will be. We still plan on being back in GR around Thanksgiving time, and hopefully we can plan an hour or two to meet with those of you who would like to join in on the fun!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Science - Visualizing the 10th Dimension

I haven't posted anything science-related to the blog in a while and when I happened across this nifty little animation on VideoSift I thought I would change that. This is a cool, 10-minute video demonstrating a way of thinking of higher-order dimensions. It really reminds me of Edwin Abbott's classic "Flatland" 1884 novella. Flatland is a little book (you sometimes see it in the checkout line at Barnes and Nobel) that describes dimensions via the perspectives of little people living only in one dimension or another. Here's a link to the electronic version of the book, so you don't have to spend the $15.00 Barnes and Nobel wants you to pay for a book that is in the public domain.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sailing in Maine - Photo Collection Online

After much delay, Mandy and I have finally gotten around to sorting the pictures from our sailing trip in Maine. We've uploaded them to our Flickr stream and have made them available at the links below. These images are released under a creative commons license, so you may do what you wish with the images, so long as you credit us and don't sell them without asking either of us.


The main photo collection can be found here: Main Collection
Sailing and boating photos can be found here: Sailing
Pictures of people can be found here: People
Images of landscapes we traversed can be found here: Landscapes
And images that don't really fit into a particular category can be found here: Miscellaneous


Convoy Part 2: The Drive

Note: This is the now months-overdue second part of the story of us moving all of belongings out to Denver. If you'd like to read the earlier installment, you can find the prologue here and part one here. You can also search and read old entries by using the left hand navigation table to search the archive.

Saturday, June 23rd
Hamilton, OH
7:00AM (EST)

Awake now. Not happy about this. Awake and unhappy. Must move. Cats. Cats biting face. Biting. Biting.

Saturday, June 23rd
I-275, about 30 miles west of Hamilton, OH
8:30AM (EST)

Slowly coming to. Casey helped* us attach the car the carrier and we're underway. The keys have been dropped off at the Shadow Creek lease office and we're slowly making our way down I-275 towards Indianapolis. And by slowly making our way, I mean not moving very fast down the road. The Suck's highest speed seems to be somewhere between "Sucks" and "Slam-My-Fist-Through-The-Windshield Slow." It seems to be topping out at around 60MPH... downhill.

[*Read: Did everything]

Saturday, June 23rd
I-275, about 31 miles west of Hamilton, OH
8:31AM (EST)

An identical 27-foot U-Haul pulling a similar-sized car just passed easily going 70mph. It must be this truck. Man, I sure hope we don't get passed like that again.

Saturday, June 23rd
I-275, about 32 miles west of Hamilton, OH
8:32AM (EST)

We just got passed like that again.

Saturday, June 23rd
Harrison, OH (Exit 1 - I-74)
9:20AM (EST)

Stopped off to eat at a Cracker Barrel. We're both exhausted, but now happily filled with carbs of all shapes and sizes. I also procured a much-needed cup of coffee. With caffeine surging through my veins I will be able to put another hundred or so miles behind us. I never appreciated the "Trucks, RVs, and Campers" welcome sign on the Cracker Barrel lot until today. The Suck is massive and a bear to maneuver in and out of parking lots, so the big lot at Cracker Barrel was a nice thing to find.

Saturday, June 23rd
West of Indianapolis, IN (I-70)
10:10AM (EST)

Just discovered The Suck wasn't fully gassed up before we left. We've only gone a hundred or so miles and had to put gas in it. Since it wasn't full the last time, we can't gauge the gas milage yet, but it's not looking good. Not so much.

Saturday, June 23rd
Somewhere in IL (I-70)
12:10PM (CST)

Refilled. Gas mileage so far: 5/mpg. Yes. We are able to drive 5 miles for every $3.20 of gas we pump. It costs aprox. $150 to fill the tank. At 5mpg, the gas alone should cost somewhere around $900. That woke me up.

Saturday, June 23rd
Somewhere in Missouri (I-70)
3:10PM (CST)

An alarm just went off on the dashboard of The Suck. It read "Check Guages!" and made an annoying beeping sound that is played through the car stereo speakers. We checked the gauges and everything looked fine. It went away about 30 seconds after it started. Odd.

Saturday, June 23rd
Somewhere in Kansas (I-70)
5:10PM (CST)

I picked up a flier on some hotels throughout the West. One of the places looked pretty good, so I called and reserved a room for around $50/night. The nice thing is it has easy access to the highway, a large parking (in which to stow The Suck), and free internet. So, I will write more when we get Laurence, KS. Woot!

Saturday, June 23rd
Lawrence, Kansas (I-70)
7:10PM (CST)

The hotel had a tiny a parking lot. Not a big one. I pulled the truck in, found out that it was too small to actually turn The Suck around without backing up, tried backing up, failed, tried again and again. Luckily this dude came whipping into the parking lot and walked up to the cab saying, "Hey! I used to be a truck-driver. Need some help." "Yes. Yes we do."

He had the thing turned around in about 5 minutes. It was amazing to watch. He did it with about 10 inch clearances on every corner of the truck / car.

We went into the hotel and found it's the wrong hotel. The conversation went like this.

"Having some trouble with that truck, eh?"
"Yeah, you noticed?"
"Ok. We have a reservastion under Fox."
"No you don't have a reservation or no my last name is not Fox?"
"No reservation."
"I just called here and reserved it."
"Do you have a reservation number?"
"No, I was in a giant, rattling, stinking truck with no pen. I didn't write it down."
"Sorry, no reservation."
"Ok..." I pull out the ad and show it to him, "This is your hotel, right?"
"It's our hotel, but the number is wrong."
"It's wrong?"
"Who's number is it then?"
"I have no idea."

So, I call the number and it turns out to be a different hotel in the town. For some reason, the hotel had changed it's name and telephone number.

Saturday, June 23rd
Lawrence, Kansas (I-70)
10:00PM (CST)

We've finished eating a delivered pizza from Pizza Hut. It was so good. I'm guessing the perception of quality of the food is due more to our being very hungry than any actual objective goodiness of the food. So tired... so we sleep.

Sunday, June 23rd
Denver, CO

We've arrived! Several things have happened, but I'm so late in returning to this post that I've forgotten most it. It mostly involved driving, filling up the gas tank over and over, and various warning lights blinking on and off on the dash. In couple years, I'll probably get around to writing the unpacking story. Oh! Doesn't that sound like fun? Reading an endless blog post about people unpacking. Man oh man! We do know how to keep our reader's interest here and DropMyStraw.

Epilogue: We arrived safely. Nothing was damaged in transit. We even successfully talked U-Haul into refunding nearly several hundred dollars due to all of our inconveniences. In retrospect, I'm still glad we decided to do it the way we did. Moving all of our belongs across the country makes for a much better story than it does actually experiencing it. If end up moving back to GR, I'm not sure how we will accomplish the task. I think we'll either sell everything we own and just drive home in our car, or we'll bite the bullet and let one of those crazy moving companies move us.

Our lease is up in December of '07, so it looks like we'll be moving somewhere here in the city. We just can't get enough of it, apparently.

Friday, October 05, 2007

How incredibly infruriating....

(Image Source:

If you haven't heard, a 32 year old woman from Minnesota was found guilty of illegally file-sharing 24 songs. The jury decided that each song was worth $9,250! So, she must pay $222,000. I think that her lawyer sucked! He took the stance that she did not do it, which was proven by her MAC and IP addresses, password protected PC, and email addresses over the years using the nickname that she used on KaZaA. One side note, I hate KaZaA, but I digress.

What really pisses me off about this is the music industry once again bullying people of who OWN songs and how we take away money from the artists when we copy and share. Um no, not so. It seems that they must forget that the industry usually gets anywhere from 70-90% of the profits...are we still bitching about the artist not getting any money. Also, how can you own the bits in my computer and then charge me over $9000 per song.

Richard Gabriel, a lawyer and spokesperson for the recording industry, was quoted as saying ""This does send a message, I hope, that downloading and distributing our recordings is not okay." Nice gloating on his part. Way to take down a 32 year-old-woman downloading 24 songs, boss! You sure did show her!

Hmmm....that is an interesting thought. This is totally the appropriate time to protest this kind of litigation. Other than not buying from the big record labels what should we do??

[Matt: I thought I'd throw this link into the discussion: A very in depth collection of Wired articles expanding on the trail Mandy is ranting about (not unreasonably, I must add) and all of the details that went into it. My stance on large corporations suing their customers over downloading music that helps them makes money is well documented in the annals (or is it anals?) of DropMyStraw. It really does suck that people like the defendant have to take the wrap (sp?) for the rest of us to wake up and realize how utterly and truly fucked up our copyright, patent, and, for that matter, legal system has become--how desperately we need to take action to reform the creative substructure of our culture. For a totally non-jaded, unbiased, totally objective blog that delves into the very real and troublesome issues of copyright reform, I can't offer a better link than Sorry for the interruption.]

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Grandma Updates & The UK

Quick Grandma Update: She is doing much better than expected. It turns out the initial diagnosis of heart attack + stroke was a little off. It turns out she had neither. Why she was found unconscious, with a dresser drawer on her back, and a broken hip, we're not exactly sure yet. In any case, and in spite of her broken hip, she's doing better. Tomorrow she goes in to have surgery to pin it all back together. This is a bit risky, due to her age and such, but it has to be done. I will post news as I get it.

(Our temporary office in the UK)

UK: So, yeah, I flew out to the UK for 5+ days. It was a fun yet baffling ordeal. England is a land of many different peoples and geography. In my mental preparation for the trip, I substituted Canada for the UK, so I'd have some idea what to expect. My thinking was: It will be just like America, only slightly, vaguely different. This assumption was incorrect.

My trip was essentially an exercise in learning how the business works, how to deal with the Brits, and whether or not I like them and they like me. At the end of the week, we were both mutually satisfied in the possibilities of a future relationship so they decided to make me a good offer and I decided to accept.

(Me, stuck in the Houston airport due to a delayed Continental flight)

In lieu of writing up a long explanation of my adventures, I have come up with something quick and easily digestible. A top 10 list. But, before I start, here's the obligatory Pulp Fiction quote.


But, you know what the funniest thing about Europe is?


It's the little differences. I mean, they got the same shit over there that they got
here, only there it's a just a little different.



1. Cost

They use pounds sterling as their standard of currency, but they don't readjust for its strength against the US dollar. Right now, the ratio of dollars to pounds is about 2:1. That means, if you brought a pound back to the states and converted it into American dollars, you'd get $2. Their pound is worth two of our dollars. However, everything still costs the same in pounds. In short; it is so friggen expensive.

Example: A t-shirt costs 20 pounds, just like how in the states it would cost $20. Except, the 20 pounds is really worth $40. A coke still costs 1.50, but it's 1.50 in pounds. So, it's really $3 when you convert.

2. No Ice-Machines in the Hotels

I thought my hotel had an ice-machine. It didn't. I asked several coworkers if this is odd. Their response was, "Ice Machine? As in... a machine made out of ice or a machine that makes ice?" To which I would respond, "I'll take that as a no."

3. No Clock in the Hotel Room

Same as above, except dealing with clocks and the lack thereof. No clocks in hotel rooms. That made my getting adjusted to the time change all the more strange confounding.

"'Ello, front desk!"
"Yeah, can I get a wake up call in one hour."
"In one hour, did you say?"
"Yes. I want to take a nap, but you don't have any clocks in your rooms."
"Ah yes! One hour it is. G'bye!"

4. Trouser-Press

While the Brits have no problems with their hotels having neither clocks nor ice-machines, they do find it neccessary to have trouser-presses in each room. This is a machine that lets one iron their pants. This should tell you everything you need to know about England. They don't care so much about arriving places on time, so long as their pants are ironed and ironed well.

5. Driving on the Left Side of the Road

Yes, yes. Americans always say it's strange. They always carry on about how it's bizarre and unnatural. For once, I completely agree with the status quo. It's so strange. Imagine riding on the left side of car, where the steering wheel is on a US car, while the passengers drives you at break-neck speeds down the left lane of a tiny highway. It would be unnerving enough, let alone being ridiculously tired and jet-lagged while it's happening.

6. Tea Not Coffee

It's true.

7. Everything is Old

I ate lunch in a pub that was older than the United States of America.

8. Everyone Manages to be Cheerful and Depressed at the same Time

Pink Floyd calls it, "Quiet Desperation." It's also true. I don't know how they manage to pull it off. It's very disoncerting and funny at the same time.

9. Everyone Swears

Nice old lady at the grocery store trying to using cash register, "Oh fuckin' hell."
Receptionist at the hotel, "There's not much 'round 'ere. You are in the fuckin' hills, aren't you?"

10. No food. Just Beer.

These blokes go out, every night it seems, drink 3-5 pints of really good beer, and go to sleep about 1-2AM. Then they're back at work at 7:30 bright-eyed and ready for work. This may give some insight into how they manage that whole cheerful-yet-depressed thing.

And to wrap up this post, here is a video I meant to post while I was in England, but forgot about it until I got back home. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

On the ground

I have made it back from the United Kingdom. I'm still vaguely jet lagged, so I will wait a day or so to write something longer. I'm thinking a quick summary and a list of the most noticeable differences would make good reading. I'm going to be crazy-busy this next week working with some coworkers on the planetarium here, getting my paperwork sorted out, and meeting with some other people from the company later in the week.

Also, my grandma on my dad's side had a heart attack and a stroke this morning, and is in intensive care in Mt. Pleasant in stable condition. I'm doing a lot of phone juggling as I try to coordinate details from Canada, the UK, and Michigan. Alas, this is one of the major drawbacks of living so far away from family: I can't just drive an hour and a half to see her. It's an 18 hour, two day drive or two expensive round-trip tickets just to stop by. My feelings are more frustration than anything else right now. Frustration at not being able to do anything to help and frustration at not being able to be there to show my support.

The only light-hearted thing I have to report, the thing that makes me look forward to the future is that the new Radiohead album has finally been announced. It's called In Rainbows. Here's a link.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Flying Footage!

I am flying back tomorrow, as originally planned. Things have gone very well and everything is looking up. That's about it from here. Hopefully, I will slightly be over my jetlag Sunday and will write up a little more informative post.

Footage from flying!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Not an update, just entertaining....

I'm heading off to dinner with some friends, but before I left I came across the following video and wanted to share it with those of you who have never seen it before....for those of you who have, you know it's all good!!!1!


Monday, September 24, 2007

10:00 GMT

Ok, so, again here's an apology. There is a trend of me apologizing on this blog before I write silly things. I think I'll stop doing it. This last apology covers all the rest of my bad, tired, grammatically-incorrect writing. Here it comes. Enjoy it.


I have arrived safely in the Old Kingdom. The flight over wasn't too bad. A quick two hour jump from Denver to Houston followed by a not-so-quick nine hour jump from Houston to Gatwick/London. The long flight was mostly uneventful. Some guy did pass out in the left isle and collapse to the floor. He was old and apparently short of breath because down he went and several people came to his aide. The flight attendants revived him with a quick wiff of oxygen. We had just started the three hour flight window over the Atlantic. I kept my eye on the little progress monitor to see if the plane was going to turn around en route and land in Canada or Iceland or something, but we continued on our merry way. We landed on time in Gatwick (6:45AM GMT).

After landing, I was stuck in the passport control line for nearly two hours. Once through, I met up with a dapper taxi-driving bloke who drove me to my hotel. I'll post what my room look like when I get back from work tomorrow and the maid has cleaned everything up.

I went to work today and did pretty good as far as staying awake with the time change. I got a couple demos of the software, worked on some servers, and saw a demo of the new projector a distributor of ours is building. It was absolutely amazing. The odd thing about interacting with these people, is I still get the feeling I'm being interviewed. In a sense, I am. There is a 6-month trial thing we're doing to see if I like the work I'm doing and they like the work I'm doing. It's just strange. Maybe it shouldn't.

That's about it from here. I think I'll post a video update tomorrow. Save me some time on typing.

Peace n' love!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The UK has my man....

It's been less than a day, but I miss Matt. He began his flight to yonder England at 9:30 (MT) and should arrive arrive around 7:00 (GMT).

I spent this evening pining after my love....along with my EMO attitude I was surfing the web, IM-ing, and talking on the phone with my cousin Lyza.

Just before I fell into the depths of despair of either boredom or loneliness,
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (of the UN) sent me an email wishing Matt the best of luck with his new job. I'm not even trying to figure out the picture that was attached....that is between the General and Matt.

Ban Ki-moon

P.S. I love you Babes!!!1!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

And the details keep pouring in...

After posting my nearly impenetrable wall of words yesterday, I will keep this brief.

I have decided to procure a Nintendo DS. From various conversations I've had with people over the past couple of days, I've come to conclusion that a DS is the perfect thing to kill the many, many hours of traveling planned for the next week and thereafter. I'm still deciding on what games to get for it and where to purchase it, but I will be getting it tomorrow.

I have more updates on the impending travel. I will be flying out of DIA Saturday at 11:30AM(MST). I will fly to Houston (2 and 1/2 hours) where I will transfer to the flight that will take me across the Atlantic. I will arrive Sunday morning around 7:00AM (GMT). The flight is 9 hours, but since there's a 6 hour time difference, the clock will show the flight as being 15 hours. It's all very confusing. The nice part is I will have Sunday to relax and decompress from the traveling before I start work Monday--training on the new systems and meeting my new coworkers.

I still don't know where I'll be staying, or whether or not they'll have WiFi access, but I will post as soon as I know.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"I can't stand to fly. I'm not that naive."

This post is going to be all over the place, so I'll post my apology in advance. Here it is. Get ready for it. Sorry. There.

I gots me a job! Or, at least, I think I gots me a job. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been courting a 3D display company for about a month now. The last thing I mentioned about the courtship is that I was going to meet with some of the peeps in New York City. That was last Thursday, and the fruits of that encounter have plopped out of the allegorical tree of design and technical what-have-yous.

Let's start with last Thursday. That's seems as good a place as any to start. So I shall.

(You've already been warned that this would be all over the place--no turning back now)

Due to Mandy's having to work very early on Thursdays (6:15gawdawful-AM), I had to drive myself out to the airport to catch a United flight to the East Coast. I mention this only because there are several reports that find people who are tired are much more likely to cause accidents than drunks. This fits me to a tee. I am barely conscious until around 10:00AM most mornings, and even then it's touch and go. I was up and about at 5:00AM to make my 7:30AM flight (gotta love the TSA).

Alas, I made it to the airport, and found I was able park my car in the garage. This is one of the few luxuries of arriving at the airport hours before the main rush of travelers arrive. I made a mental note of what direction, color, section, and letter my car was parked in (West-Red, 40-D). If you've never been through Denver International, take it from me: The airport is insanely large and insanely confusing. If you don't remember, or write down where you park, it's likely you'll never find your car again.

The flight was about three and a half hours from take-off to landing. It was a straight shot from DIA to Laguardia airport. We were actually about 30 minutes ahead of schedule, but that was eaten up by getting stuck in a holding pattern above NYC for thirty minutes. While it was frustrating to get stuck doing figure-8 2 miles above the ground, I did get to see all of New York. The view is simply incredible. It's amazing that people built that city. It's so ridiculously big. We landed on time.

From there, I hopped a taxi to the Hayden Planetarium. The Hayden is part of the Rose Center, which is, in turn, part of the New York Museum of Natural History. The Hayden is considered by many to be the best planetarium in the world. It formerly ran off a silicon graphics computer called the Onyx2. Well, 7 Onyx2s, one for each piped video signal. The system is now primarily used for astonomical research. Let me run that by you again: A 7-tier super computing complex that is now used to do the science of astronomy was formerly used only to create the display for the dome in the planetarium. It's basically a video card that takes up an entire server room. Here's a picture of the sphere the Onyx system is enclosed in:

(If that doesn't give you geek-wood, I don't know what will.)

The company I was going to meet with is replacing the projection system and the media-server system. At this point, I should tell you I'm not going to mention the name of the company outright. If you're interested, write me. This blog is personal, and my feelings about the company should remain separate.

I met with the owner of the company and one of the head engineers. After meeting, the owner conveniently excused himself to go to a meeting. That left the engineer and me to get lunch and "chat." This is the British equivalent of an interview. We ate at a local lunch joint and chatted about 3D displays, CRT projectors, geometry warping, and all many of super-geeky stuff I won't bore you with.

After the lunch meeting, we headed up and into the Hayden to see a show running on the new projection system they were installing. To say it was eye-popping is an understatement. I can say this from experience. I've worked around dome projectors for years, attended conferences with Chad where we saw the most advanced 3D modeling systems in the world demoed, and have coded for and supported said systems. This knocked all the previous ones I've seen out of the water (or, is it the sky?). More impressive than the system itself is the knowledge that this was being run on conventional CRT Barco projectors. The company has a brand-new projector in the works that has unimaginable black-levels (helps with contrast) and sick-fast response times.

After seeing Cosmic Collisions (narrated by Robert Redford), I and the owner of the company walked up through the empty corridors of the museum to an office buried somewhere within. As we wandered, it slowly dawned on me: This is the museum where "Night at the Museum" was shot. I've never seen the movie, but I could tell from the trailer. I asked our guide and sure enough it was shot there.

The owner and I chatted amiably enough for about an hour and half about the future of the company and whether or not I could deal with the travel the job requires. In the end it was determined I did. He asked me to sleep on it and give him my answer the next day. I had a flight to catch back to Denver, so I had to bid him farewell and head out to the street to get back in time.

Here's the coolest part of the trip: I hailed a taxi in Manhattan. It may seem unimpressive compared to the amazing technology at the Hayden, the prospect of getting a dream-job, and being in NYC, but it was so cool. I walked up to the street, saw a taxi with it's roof-light lit up and held out my hand as if I'd done this a million times before. The taxi pulled up, I hopped in, and said, "LeGuardia, please." I half expected him to say, "You got it, Mac." It was so cool.

The flight home took about 4 hours. It was long, uncomfortable, and occasionally the plane would buck around. This gave me plenty of time to contemplate the traveling-aspect of the job. It's no secret I'm not a fan of flying. I refuse to let my fear of flying dictate actions in my life, so I've never once missed a flight due to being afraid to board. That doesn't seem to make much of a difference when flying at 40,000 feet above the ground, at 500 mph, looking down on the clouds below me. I have this same problem with the bucket rides at Cedar Point. I will ride every ride in the park without hesitating. From the tilt-a-pukes to the PowerTower (a ride that lifts you 400 feet in the air and shoots you down faster than free fall), I have no qualms about riding anything in any amusement park. Except the bucket-rides. It's ride where you slowly float through the air on a cable-line, taking in the sites. My palms get sweaty, my heart races, I go bonkers.

I've often thought about the connection between the two. Upon reflection, two things become pretty obvious. One, when the ride is slow enough for me to gather my wits and actually contemplate how high up I am, how there is no hope for rescue if the cable breaks, and how a good gust of wind could kill me, I freak. The second is, I hate not being in control of the ride/plane. I understand the aerodynamics of a plane, I just finished reading "Beyond Fear" (a fantastic book on the state of security in the US) and know how astronomically low the odds are of a plane crashing. I know all that. I even understand the silliness of knowing that no matter how nervous I am, I will always get on a plane and therefore there is no reason to worry since I will always get on the plane no matter what. None of that knowing seems to help my sense of worry. The only solution I can think of is what's called "Exposure therapy." This is the idea that repeated exposures to something that triggers a phobia will reduce it's effects, and bring the worry in-line with reality. If a person is afraid clowns, a good treatment would be to expose them to clowns over and over until they get over the fear (or kill the clowns). So, I'm self-medicating myself with what will be repeated exposures to commercial air flights. Hopefully, this will reduce anxiety over flying and help me get to the point where I will actually enjoy the flights. Well, as much enjoyment as a 6 foot 4 inch man crammed into economy class seats for ten hours over the Atlantic ocean can have.

There's also the thought that if do go down in a fiery wreck, everyone will know I had a smile on my face and was saying, "I told you so." all the way down.

When the owner called the next day, I told him I was on board. He said he'd get me in touch with my line manager based in Canada and that he would figure out the details of compensation, benefits, etc. That's the holding pattern I've been in since Friday of last week. He and I have been ironing out all the little details that go into a British company hiring their first American employee. It'll all be ironed out by this Friday, but I was tired of waiting, so I posted this early.

I realize I haven't even mentioned what it is I'll be doing. Basically, the company I now work for bids for contracts on anything a high-tech 3D display facility will need to get their job done. The clients range from planetariums (primarily), aircraft simulators, NASA "Reality Rooms", and a few projects I have to get a security clearance to even know about. The company builds, tests, installs, and maintains the 3D projection systems, controllers, media storage systems, and media creation tools used by their clients. The case of planetariums, they also produce content to run on the systems.

My job will be to work on display systems they have installed around the US. This ranges anywhere from a phone call to flying out the facility to work on the physical system. I'll also be doing consulting for media production, this will entail working with the small, but growing, team of content producers in the UK until we establish more of a foothold in the North American region and setup a production shop here. This is a year or two out, but that's where it's headed.

To learn more about the management culture of the company as well as how these crazy-complex display systems actually work, I'm flying out England this Saturday. I'll be gone for a week at their headquarters learning the system and, likely, drinking a pint or two of bitter with my new mates. I've never been to the British Isles. I've been to mainland Europe, but never crossed the English Channel. It's extremely exciting and flustering. I'm trying my best to have internet access at the hotel I'll be staying at, so keep an eye to blog next week, as I'll be posting my experiences and pictures of the area of England I'll be staying.


I'm debating buying a Nintendo DS (a small hand held gaming system) to help pass the long hours of flying, driving, and train-riding I have stretching out before me. The problem is, I don't really know what games to get for it. If anyone has one and/or knows of any good games for it, let me know.

That's it for now. My fingers are bleeding from typing. If you've made it this far, good for you. You must be a glutton for punishment. We still haven't posted the pics from our trip to Maine, I know. Hopefully, we'll get to some of that tonight. I've added an RSS feed-reader to the right-hand navigation bar. It shows the last five pictures we've posted to Flickr. So, if you ever wonder what we've posted to the stream, but don't have a Flickr account of your own, you can alwats check there.

I also posted a snazzed-up picture of Mandy and I looking sweet and hipsterish on the right side near the top. Thanks to Dean for the sweet-ass picture I used as the source for it.

Also, this is a nod to my dad who found out about my trip to NYC by reading the blog. That's so cool. It's great that people are reading the stuff we post here. It makes being a thousand miles away from friends and family easier to deal with. Remember: Post comments if you have the time. They always make us smile. Also, comments can be questions. If you want us to post pictures of something or have a question, just post it, and will answer it as quickly as we can.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Almost New Updates

There are updates waiting in the wings, but I am waiting on the small details before I post anything. Life is good here. The weather is great and the city is fun. More to come.

While you wait, here is a wallpaper for your computer desktop. Several people have told us that they've been using our Flickr pictures as their wallpapers. So, instead of forcing you to download and resize (and for those of you who might notbe tech-inclined enough to do it yourself), I have posted a wallpaper at the bottom of this post. Choose the size that best fits your resolution.

(A lighthouse about 100 miles north of Rockland, ME)
1024 x 768
1280 x 1024
1680 x 1050 (wide screen)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"I'm going to blow up the ocean!"

Mandy summarized the arrival nicely. The trip was great. Some days the wind approached gale-force strength, so the sailing was absolutely amazing. We had the Schooner running at near it's maximum speed, if not at it a couple of times.

There were plenty of opportunities for picture-taking, so we ended up with nearly 1,000. I have been working on a client project since returning and haven't had any time to sort through them, remove blemishes, and uploaded. If you're chomping at the bit to see some of the photographs, I would direct you to our friend's Flickr stream where they have posted their own photos. The whole lot, and they're both good photographers, so I would check out the pics if you get a chance.

Canadacow's Flickr Stream

I don't think I'm going to post a full synopsis of the trip. Partially because I'm going to really busy for the next few weeks and partially because I think it would loose something in the blogification. It was great. I would (and will) do it again. I recommend the Steven Taber to anyone who has a good sense of adventure, good food, and a love for the outdoors.

Some quick updates, since we haven't done one of these in while:

Classes have started, and she's doing great. She's taking a light load this semester and probably next. This is primarily due to us having to wait a year to establish ourselves as residents of Colorado, thereby cutting the cost of her tution by a third.

She's working at a Doggie Daycare center about a 1/2 mile from our doorstep. She takes care of dogs, hugs dogs, and cleans up the dog's poo. She loves it. Of course, there is no way to avoid getting a dog when we move into our new digs when this lease is up, sometime around December or January.

I've been getting more freelance work through clients around Denver and back in GR. I've been involved with a 48-hour film project, a couple of commercials, and some editing work. The city seems to be a good place for picking up this kind of work. My hope is that all of this small, freelance stuff will provide me with networking opportunities that will lead to a full time job of sorts.

I have been courting with an amazing 3D display company based out of London (the UK one, not the Ontario one). They build displays for research, goverment, and civilian use. I am flying out to NYC on Thursday to meet with the owner and tour the Hayden Planetarium in hopes of securing a job with them. This opportunity is amazingly awesome and I'm trying me best to not get my hopes too terribly high, but damn, it's awesome. At the very least, I will get a free trip to NYC and a tour of simply the most bad-ass planetarium in the world. Hopefully I'll know more on Friday and will be able to share. Keep your finger and toes crossed.

The cats are doing great. They seem a little plumper since Mandy's parents dropped by, but who can blame them from spoiling them meat byproducts? The cats are so cute!