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!

Where were you while we were getting pie...oh, I mean lobsters

We arrived home safe and sound late Sunday evening after three flights!! Anyhow, I just wanted to write a quick post to say that we are safe and had a great time. Mom and Dad took care of our cats as well as cleaned and decorated our apartment. We should go on vacation more often....

From our trip:

More info and pics from our trip to come~

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Captain! Turn around and take me home...

Mandy and I leave for the East Coast tomorrow in the earliest of AMs. Her parents have been visiting this past week, and will stay on when we leave to explore the mountains and feed our cats.

We are flying out step aboard that most excellent sailing vessel, the Steven Taber along with our two good friends Dean and Erin. Looking back on the last two years of blogging, I really haven't written much about the Taber. This surprises me considering how cool it is. The Taber is a schooner that calls Rockland, Maine its home. It sails throughout the summer and has been in continuous service since 1871. It saw action in both world wars and has been both workhorse and pleasure craft. That's what the sailing craft is, but not what it is about.

It's really like a time machine. When I walk the decks, see a whale surfacing for air next to the 100+ year-old railing I am leaning over as we glide through the Atlantic under no other power than the wind in the sails, I can't help but think how it must've been to live long ago. Not that the peole sailing in the 1870's had GPS guidance systems or a well-stocked and managed food galley, bit it's interesting to ponder nonetheless. I don't believe the past is a place we can get in a spaceship and fly to. It is a thing that exists in our minds and as an imprint on the world, but not a place we can visit (unless Einstein is wrong, and that dude is smarter even than Bush!).

The last time I sailed on Taber, Mandy and I had just been married two months prior. It was our long-awaited Honeymoon, and I spent most of the time considering the new path I had started. I was married, happily, but I didn't know what it meant or how it would affect me in the long-run. The trip was a great time to air out cobwebs in my brain get some sense of perspective.

I carried with me a copy of "Quicksilver" by the amazingly talented post cyber-punk author Neil Stephenson. It is the first part of a trilogy of books called The Baroque Cycle that mine the Enlightenment (the period of time around the 1650s-1750s where people like Newton and Leibniz and William of Orange redesigned the way the world works) for essential truths about the world we now inhabit. It is filled with romance, science, intrigue, and plenty of swashbuckling adventure. The book, like the experience of sailing on the Taber, deeply affected me. In many ways, the combined affects of reading Quicksilver while sailing on the Taber changed the way I view the world.

So, now, on the precipice of another trip to meet the Taber and sail her through the Atlantic, I am again at the beginning of a new path. Mandy and I, married still, and happily, are changing our nearly ten year old careers. We've moved across the country to live in the mountains like crazy people and are considering the next big moves in our lives. I have the next volume of The Baroque Cycle, "The Confusion" in hand and am ready to clear out the webs.

We'll be back on the 9th with plenty of pictures and updates. 'Till then, if you need to get in touch with us call and leave a message on our cell phone.

"Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars until I die. "