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?)