Monday, November 24, 2008

Giving Thanks in Grand Rapids


(Bush and Turkey. Turkey is happy. Bush is happy.)

We are off to Grand Rapids for our annual Thanksgiving visit to our old stomppin' grounds. Much eating and making of conversation is sure to be had. We are landing late afternoon on Wednesday the 26th and leaving on 30th mid afternoon. As much as we've tried, we've been unable to keep our schedule as open and flexible as we would have liked. If you're going to be in town and would like to hook up, give us a call or write us an email and we'll see if we can make our schedules cross yours.

We are going to be able to spend some quality time with the clan Forton, which is great, as we haven't been able to hang for an extended period in, well, years. Time seems to get away from us, especially living 18 hours driving distance (or spening $1,400 on airline tickets), and we never have enough time to spend with everyone as we'd like. Many people have taken us up on our offer to fly anyone out to visit (frequent-flier miles allowing). Mandy's parent's have visited twice, my Dad and Jan came out, Chad, Mandy, Jess and Mike, then Jess by herself, and Mandy's aunt, uncle, and cousins. It's good thing we invested in an apartment with a spare bedroom!

As much as we're geeked to be back in town, we are quite happy to not be there for Thanksgiving. It seems the holidays bring out the best and worst in people. Even with a conscious effort to avoid family drama this time around, it seems unavoidable. Maybe that is the problem; we spend so much time trying to avoid it, we lose sight of the fact that when you get all of the members of an extended family together, there is going to be some amount of friction, no matter what. I think my ability to disengage myself from the drama is hightened skill, but even with that I can't help but feel my blood pressure surge when I have to deal with people who are so stubbornly adicted to generating pointless drama.

As I said, it will be great to see everyone, but it will just as nice to not have to deal with the drama come Christmas.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Body Builders - Body Modification: Here it Comes!


(Holy God Almighty: Click her muscles for an image gallery of these beauties)

Can anyone make a good argument for how this isn't the most extreme form of body modification? In my humble opinion, Tatoos and branding don't even come close to this.

On the other hand, being an adherent to the principles and doctrine of the transhumanist movement (if you could call it that) I openly welcome extreme body modification. It's not like the ability to remake yourself in increasingly bizarre and Kafkaesque ways will get more difficult with time. So, it's not really a matter of being able to stop it, it's more a matter of being a happy or unhappy person when it arrives and others want to do it.

We don't all live in a vacuum, remember? Most people don't think exactly like you because, well, they're not you.


(The future US President: c. 2050)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hello, Mr. DJ? (Part III)



Excuse me, can you direct me to Soviet Emmmmbasy?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Top Ten Flying Tips

In one year, I have been on 81 flights. 81 times I’ve turned off my cell phone and waited as the plane rocketed into the sky. 81 times I’ve stowed my tray table and returned my seat to its full, upright position in preparation for landing. I’ve adjusted my watch 77 times for a new a time zone and been through 18 different airports in four countries on two continents

Shortest flight: 31 minutes (Chapel Hill, NC to Washington, DC)
Longest flight: 11 hrs 45 mins (Denver, CO to Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Here are the top ten tips I can give people making a quick visit to Airworld. The tips are not listed in any particular order of importance or anything, nor are they complete. I’m bored on this flight to DC, so I thought I’d share…

Top Ten Flying Tips

1. Avoid checking your bags.

Most airlines charge for any checked bags. United, for example, charges $15 per check bag, per flight. That means, if you’re on a round-trip voyage to New York, you will end up paying $30 to check one bag.

Fill a suitcase that falls within the size requirements with your clothes and bathroom supplies, and pack a backpack with the rest. There’s still a useless ban on liquids in the US, so make sure to not bring any liquids over 3 ounces. The liquid containers you do bring have to be packed in a clear plastic bag that can easily be placed, separately, on the security conveyor belt. I assume the TSA put this ban in effect to determine if there are any teeny, tiny bombs suspended in the liquid. I’ve lost two bottles of expensive cologne and countless bottles of water, shampoo, and mouthwash because of this.

If your bags are in your keeping throughout the trip, the airlines can’t lose them and you don’t have to wait around for them to show up on the baggage claim. Trust me, you don’t want to be in a position where, after 20 hours of straight travel, you find yourself Oslo, Norway listening to the helpful attendant say, in broken English, “Matthew J. Fox, please go to the lost baggage claim counter.” This has happened to me and it sucks.

2. Put an empty water bottle in your carry-on backpack.

Due to the completely useless, misguided, and draconian ban on carry-on liquids, you cannot pass through the security checkpoint with a full bottle of water. Whether you’ve purchased the bottle in the airport (within viewing distance of a TSA agent or not, you’ll still have to pitch it). However, you can get an empty bottle through. The theory is: Empty bottles cannot contain sizable amount s of the airplane-blowing-up fluid “Blowiquid.” Safe!

Once on the other side of the check-point, fill up the bottle at a water fountain (be sure not to use the fountains labeled “Blowiquid” or you might just blow yourself up with your bottle of water). This will save you having to pay $3+ for a bottle in the DMZ. Plus, the low air pressure / high altitude on the flight will dehydrate you much faster than at sea level. If you want to be at all functional when you land, make sure to drink lots of water.

3. Sign up for the frequent flier, rental car, hotel programs

These programs are free and can only benefit you. Most give sizable bonuses simply for signing up. It often takes a while to build up enough miles for a free flight or for an upgrade, but most point systems take forever to expire, so you’ll eventually get something free.

4. There is no need to arrive at the airport overly early.

When I started traveling for business, I would find myself clearing security and sitting down at the gate with 2 hours to spare. Unless it’s a holiday, Monday morning or Friday evening, or you’re traveling internationally, arriving at the airport an hour and a half early is plenty of time. If you’re not checking a bag, and you’ve checked in online, you can easily get to your gate with up to 20 minutes to spare. If you are checking a bag, most airlines will stop allowing the checking of any bags if you try less than 45 minutes before the plane takes off—also, there’s a 50lbs limit on all carry-on bags. If you go over that, you incur even more charges. Keep it in mind.

5. Check in online.

After you purchase your ticket, you will receive a confirmation code (a six character alphanumeric number), make note of it. 24 hours prior to take-off, you can check in online with that confirmation code and your last name. Go to the airline’s web site and look for the online check in section. This will guarantee you seats, and, many times allow you to pick the best seats.

Most airlines oversell popular flights. This means, if you don’t check in online, there is a good chance you will get bumped to the next flight.

Also, if you don’t have a bag to check, you can bypass the ticketing counter entirely. Just head straight to security with your printed ticket. This makes the process much faster.

Also, while you’re online checking in, be sure to sign up for that’s airline’s flight status updates. These can either be emailed or sent via text message to your phone. It’s much more convenient to find out your flight has been canceled or delayed before you leave for the airport.

6. If you’re on a short flight (2-3 hours), get an aisle seat. If it’s a long flight (more than 3 hours) get a window seat. Avoid the seating letters B and E like the plague.

Aisle seats have their perks. They allow you to stretch out your legs. You don’t have to climb over anyone to get to the bathroom and you will be the first person out of the row when the plane lands. Sadly, it also means that every person who walks down the two foot wide aisle will bash you with their elbows, bags, heads, etc. On long flights, a window seat gives you something to learn your head against other than the seat, and no one will have to crawl over you to get to the aisle or to vomit (sadly, also, this has never happened… at least to me).

A quick sub-tip: If you’re going to sleep on the flight, make sure to buckle your belt on the outside of the blanket so that the damn flight attendants won’t come around and wake you up to make sure your seat-belt is on. They can see it on the top of the blanket a go bother someone else.

7. Airworld is mean. Be aggressive in everything or be prepared to be run over.

If you want to get on the plane with any hopes of having overhead space to place your bag(s), wedge your way to the front of the line. If someone is kicking the back of your seat, turn around and tell them to stop or get a flight attendant. If you’ve been directed to a security line that is really long, look for a shorter one and cut over to it. No one is going to spare you any unnecessary courtesy. Most are like me, who fly every week of the year and will take any advantage possible to get through the maze of lines and checkpoints faster. Most us aren’t going on vacation or having an adventure. We’re working and want to get through the system as fast as possible.

If you want a can of Coke and a cup of coffee and another bag of pretzels; ask for them. Flight attendants are trained 70% safety, 20% security, and 10% hospitality. They really don’t care how many complimentary bags of nuts they hand out. Just ask. If they say no, punch them. They love that.

8. If you are traveling for an emergency (funeral, health concern, etc), call the airline directly and ask them for their reduced emergency fare

When my grandma died this past year, she was to be buried less than 48 hours after dying. This kind of radically-quick burial, make it very difficult for people who live on the other side of country to get to the funeral home before the person is buried. As a result, the round trip, less-than-24-hour-notice tickets from Denver to Grand Rapids were nearly $1000.00 for the two of us. This isn’t a trivial amount of money. I ended up calling the airlines and asking if they had any specials for people who were traveling for funerals, etc. They confirmed that yes, there were. We had to provide them with the name of the mortuary and funeral director, complete with telephone number. In the end, however, we ended up getting the same tickets for $300.00 total; a significant drop. Keep it mind.

9. Book in advance, but not too far in advance.

If you can avoid traveling on Saturday and if you can purchase your ticket 2-3 weeks before the flight, your tickets will be significantly less. In addition, there is much more availability in seating. You should be able to avoid the dreaded B and E seats.

However, if you book a month or more earlier, there is a good chance the flight you want will be canceled or have its details changed. If you can avoid booking that far in advance, do it. If not, ask the reservationist if the flight is a daily commuter flight. If so, it should still be there when you try to take it.

10. If you need/want something, butter up the counter agent.

“Hey, I have a question for you.”

“Shoot.”

“How much would I have to pay you to get this plane to arrive early?

“Hahaha… you.”

“But seriously, I need anything other than a center seat. I’m sure a charming/intelligent/green person like yourself could do this for me.”

“Hhahaha… you. Here you go!”

And so forth. It’s amazing what these attendants can do, if willing. They have the power to change anyone’s seat, get you on a flight, and bump you up the standby line. It’s hardly ever what they can do. It’s always a matter of whether or not they want to. You have to make them want to.

They are supposed to use their powers to help people with a high standing in their frequent flier program (Premier, Premier Executive, 1K, Gold Alliance, etc) as they spend the most money with the airline, etc. However, I’ve gotten them to do things for me that they refused for the Gold Pass carrying curmudgeon in front of me because I said I feel sorry that they have to put up with those types of people. HAHAH!!! Bastard that I am. (see #7 again).

Curmudgeon: “I DEMAND that you get me on this flight!”
Attendant: “I’m sorry, sir. We’re completely booked.”
Curmudgeon: “Do you see this?” He shoves his Gold Pass in the dude’s face.
Attendant: “Yep. There it is. In my face.”
Curmudgeon: “This mean I can get you fired!!!”
Attendant: “I’m sorry, sir. We’re completel-“
Curmudgeon: “Nevermind!”
Me: “Damn. What an asshole.”
Attendant: “Can I help you sir?”
Me: “Are people with those cards always like that?”
Attendant: “Sometimes.”
Me: “It must take some amazing patience to deal with them.”
Attendant: “Sometimes.”
Me: “Look, I need to get on this flight, but I heard what you said to that guy…”
Attendant: “I’ll see what I can do.”

BOO YAH!!!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Have Job, Will Travel

Hey everybody! It's been a long time since I've posted. I think the longest time since we started the blog. All the excuses are the same so I'm not going ot repeat them. In addition to the usual reasons I don't post I have a new one: Facebook. It's true. I've avoided the social-networking site the same way I've avoided all of the other fads on the internet (like photo-sharing and blogging...). I really dig it. It's easy to keep in touch with people and all that, but the thing I really like about it is that people don't have anything to maintain. With this blog, Mandy and I have to always be posting to remind people it exists. If we don't, people rightly stop dropping by. After we start up again, slowly people start checking it again. With Facebook, everyone you have connected with is a potential source of communication. So, even if 99% of the connections don't generate anything new, odds are 1% will and that'll be enough to keep you coming back.

I'm not writing this because I'm going to stop posting to the blog, I just write it to say if you're reading this, and want to stay in closer communiacation with us (other than email, telephone, or in person), Facebook is probably the most consistant way to do it.

----

During my junior year of university life I had to take a class called “Script Writing 101.” I had taken several writing classes, but never anything directly related to the creation of stories for cinema. I can only remember the teacher’s first name, Gretchen, because she worked with friend of mine at the local public access station. She was a nice lady and an apt teacher, though I haven’t thought of her in more than four years.

For our final project, we had choose between writing a script for a short film or the first act of a three-act movie. Being more of a “concept” person, and less of “completing anything I start” person, I decided to go with first act of a full film approach. Further, I had learned that we could do an adaptation, if we so desired. So, not only did I not have to write an entire script, with beginning, middle, and end, I could just crib the idea from someone who is generally regarded as person who has them. I immediately thought of Walter Kirn’s glorious book “Up in the Air.”

The novel “Up in the Air” concerns the life of one Ryan Bingam, a man who literally lives on airplanes. He refers to the netherworld of airports, rental cars, and hotels as “Airworld” a kind of no-man’s-land where marketing ideals and the American Dream actually exist. He claims that there is nothing better than smoking a Marlborough cigarette on the back of a horse or drinking a Coke in a cheesy 50s dinner. It gives one the feeling that they are moving with the right forces.

You can call me Ryan Bingam. Not in the literally sense, of course. I have a residence, a loving wife, a slobbering dog, and two deranged, increasingly feral cats. Unlike Ryan, I really do like my job, my coworkers, and my life. The main thing we two have in common, is we both spend significant amounts of time in Airworld. I wouldn’t go so far as calling it home the way he does, but I am a frequent visitor and have a green card.

I started working for Global one year ago today. Much has changed in that year, both in terms of the logistics of my life, and how I have changed due to my circumstances. Sympathy doesn’t suit this kind of a post. I don’t write any of this to illicit an emotional response. My life is the sum of my personal decisions, for which I take full responsibility. There is no unseen power forcing my hand in any of my choices. I firmly believe that if we like or don’t like an aspect of our own lives, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Here are some statistics to get us started. I am only including trip I have documentation for. I’m sure the numbers are a bit higher, but I’m hoping err on the conservative side:

Over the course of the past year, I have been on 81 documented flights.

I have changed at least one time zone on all but four flights.

Six of the flights have across the Atlantic Ocean, and one has been across the North Sea (between Norway and Ireland)

Average flight time: 3 hours

Average number of flights per trip: 2.7

Total amount of time gone on business (not including working Denver): 30% of the year (or 3 out of every ten days).

Here is a link to all of the sites I have visited, a little information on each site, and the number of times they have been visited. LINK

If I may, that’s a shit-load of traveling. Prior to this year, my average annual flights were somewhere around 2-3flights. Total. In effect, I have been on 27 times more flights this year, than any year previous.

When I took the job, I was told, in no uncertain terms, that travel would be required. After asking if I was comfortable with air travel (to which I lied in response, saying “Of course I’m comfortable with it!”), I was asked if was married.

I said, “Yes.”

The owner looked away for a bit and asked, “Happily married?”

I said, “Yes, extremely.”

He sighed.

“How long?”

“Have I been married? About a year and a half.”

Again, the sigh. “Did I mention there is travel involved?” He said with a wry, British smile.

My next post will be “Lessons Learned from being on 81 Flights in a Year”

The next will be, “How my life has Changed as a Result”

Stay tuned for some tips!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bootcamp pt 8

I almost skipped bootcamp today. I was so tired and the bed was so warm. Alas, I did not give in and got up. Here is what we did:

1 Mile (9min)
15 reps 2 times through
  • Squat to shoulder press on upside down Bosu ball
  • Rear foot on Bosu lunge w/bicep curl
  • Forward food on Bosu lunge w/lat raise
  • Bosu hip extensions
  • Upside down Bosu push up w/Brazilian crunch
  • Chest press on Bosu ball
  • Bosu knee dip crunches
  • Bent over row standing on Bosu ball
At the end we were supposed to "save time for a 10 min mile." I got on the treadmill and felt pretty good, so I decided to run at 9:13. At about 1/4 mile Tim came around and started increasing our incline- from 0 to 2. Although difficult, I felt that I could still handle it. It wasn't until he went from 2 to 4 that I felt that I was going to die (not in the literal sense of course). I moved the pace to 9:45 just to keep up. I did have to step off the treadmill for 10 seconds, but I got back on and finished. He waited almost another 1/4 mile before taking off all of the incline. Needless to say, I was really tired when it was all over.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Weekend Wrap up...

Sorry a head of time....this may be a little long.

Matt and I were sick most of Thursday and Friday. Yes, it was only a cold, but it was bad as we were achy and headachey and grouchy. Saturday I woke up and convinced myself to go to Bootcamp and I'm glad I did.

First a quote from Tim, our trainer: On a scale of 1-10, we are going to be doing about a 12.5. Nice!

Here is what we did:
• Ran to Washington Park
• High knee running 30 seconds
• 8 point body building move 30 seconds
• Butt kickers running 30 seconds
• 2 minutes to complete the following (we went through 2 times)
  1. 10 regular push ups
  2. 10 crunches
  3. 10 wide shoulder push ups
  4. 10 lower body crunches
  5. 10 tricep push ups
  6. 10 full body crunches
• 2 minute to complete the following (2X – second time we did 15 of each)
  1. 10 squats
  2. 10 lunges (per leg)
  3. 10 pile squats
  4. 10 curtsey lunges
• Half Plank (on elbows and forearms) – we held the position in a straight line and the person at the front ran and jumped over our legs, we went through two rotations
• Side Planks 30 seconds each side
• Run back to the Gym
The end.....for today :)

Nikki started Intermediate training and she did fairly well. I'm sure she will progress rapidly over the next few weeks.

We hopped over to a friends birthday party later that evening. Although we could only stay about an hour, we had a really great time. We played a game called Apples to Apples and it was a lot of fun - thinking about picking it up this week.

We then met our other friend down at Oktoberfest where we drank some biers and ate some turkey leg. Yum! We planned it out well and were able to get to bed around 12:30am.

Sunday was laid back with a small amount of shopping and driving through some neighborhoods looking at houses. As we were driving past one of the open house signs, Matt pulled over and said we were going to go look through it. It was nice...but I don't know about $850,000!!!

I dropped Matt at the airport around 4:30. He is traveling to LA for a few days. I'm sure he will post something if something interesting happens.

Today I got up and went to Bootcamp, here is what we did:

Section 1
• ¼ mile run in 2 minutes or less
• 3 sets of 30 crunches on Bosu ball
• 3 sets of 24 walking lunges
• 3 set of 15 row machine

Section 2
• ¼ mile run in 2 minutes or less
• 3 sets of 10 stabilizer squat with 1lb weight
• 3 sets of 30 seconds plank on stabilizer ball
• 3 set of 10 bicep curl on stabilizer ball

Section 3
• ¼ mile run in 2 minutes or less
• 3 sets of 12 side crunches
• 3 sets of 15 squats on upside down Bosu ball
• 3 sets of 12 push ups with Brazilian crunch

Section 4
• ¼ mile run in 2 minutes or less
• 3 sets of 15 leg lifts
• 3 set of 15 chest press
• 3 set of 15 lat pull down

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bootcamp pt 4, running group, Bootcamp pt 5....catch up

This will be a quick wrap-up of what has happened the past couple of days.

Monday morning 6am started Bootcamp pt 4. We met up at the gym again, ran a quick 1 mile and got right into the Life Fitness machines. They have about 20 different machines, which condition a large amount of muscles (quads, triceps, biceps, chest, calves, etc.). We did 2 set of 15 reps each. In between our cycle, our trainer pulled us into the "torture room" as I lovingly call the exercise room. Here he set up 3 areas: inverted leg dip on an upside down Bosu ball, jumproping, rope ladder (two steps between each rung). We did each exercise for 2 minutes.

I also participated in a Running Group on Tuesday night. We ran around the perimeter of City Park (next to the museum Matt works at). The distance is around 3 miles, and boy was I tired by the end of it.

This morning I was in the process of convincing myself to go back to sleep when the guilt set in. The Bootcamp class has only 10 sessions...I'm sure I can make it to every one of them so I got up. Today will be forever known as bands and benches. We met up at Washington Park, ran a mile and got right into the bands session. We used the bands for all sorts of exercises and then when we were tired, we used them some more wrapped around the bike rack. Finally, we headed off to run around the lake again, except this time we stopped at every bench and did 8 bench dips and 10 full body crunches. There are about 12 benches around the lake and I felt the pain at each one. All in all, I am really glad that I got up this morning. I feel great!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bootcamp pt 3 and the rest of the weekend...

I woke up on Saturday in less pain than I had been since Wednesday, so I decided it would be ok to go to Bootcamp class, and it turned out really well. The coolness of the morning went away quite quickly as the sun came out from behind the clouds. We jogged over to Washington Park (about a mile) and set up to do circuit training in the grass. There were four areas containing one of the following items: medicine balls, dumbbells, cones, and exercise balls. We worked in each area for 2.5 minutes before moving (bear walk, crab walk, lunging, high knee run) to the next area. We all worked out and sweat furiously, with finality coming as a run back to the gym.

Later that day I met up with one of my friends Athena (no not my cat). We met up at a local place called Cafe Europa and had a great time catching up. Cleaning plagued most of the rest of the day, until I was saved by my friend Eric. He had just bought the 1st season of Mad Men and wanted to watch it. Yeah! Now I had a reason to stop cleaning....for awhile at least. We got some wine and pizza and watched two discs (7 episodes). It's a good show and I can't wait to get together with him again and watch some more.

Sunday I drove Yellow Thunder (our scooter) to Wild Oats and got some different kinds of flour in order to get my "bake-on". I ended up making a couple of different types of yeast bread, banana bread, and peach crisp. IMHO they all taste good. :)

Matt came home from the airport around 6:30pm. It's about time, seeing he was gone for a week. We had just enough time to for him to hug and kiss Nikki as well as sneak in a hug and kiss for me before we went out to dinner with our friends Krishna and Yagnesh who are visiting from Cincinnati, OH. We had some great food at Uoki and then we quickly showed them our house (and crazy dog).

All in all a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bootcamp pt 2

It was a bit easier getting up for bootcamp this morning, although Nikki looked pretty hung-over. Funny, I don't remember buy her any booze last night. Anyhow, this will be a short post as I am only going to document what I did.

Ran 1 mile (9:13)
60 Pull-ups
120 Push-ups
180 Squats
240 Crunches
Ran 1 mile (9:45)

My armies hurt...sigh...I am taking some Advil now.....

Monday, September 08, 2008

Bootcamp pt1

The morning was moist…no this is not another Throw Mama from the Train story, this is one of a total different caliber. This one begins a week ago where I paid money to join a month long class named Bootcamp. My thinking was that this was the class I would need to help give me the extra boost to kickn my workouts into a higher gear. My goals included increased stamina, better circulation, overall better feeling, possible weight loss, and fun. Did I say fun?!? Sorry, I am getting ahead of myself.

We met at a building at Washington Park. The sun had not risen…of course it wasn’t in the sky yet, the class starts at 6am! Anyway, I digress…we started off with 30 jumping jacks and moved into some light stretching. We did a warm-up jog/run around the little lake which is approximately 1 mile, then jumped right into the work-out….

I don’t really remember the order in which we did the exercises, after a couple of them it all became a blur. Squats, walking lunges, push-ups, step-ups, jumping side to side, jumping back and forward, plie squats, running, donkey kicks, and some more that I can’t recall at this moment.

I had a funneh thought as I was doing the last run, I actually paid someone to inflict this pain on me? Oh well, as Matt always tells me “You’re a crazy masochistic person!” I guess I will stretch out today and get ready for my next session on Wednesday.

PS Keep the donations for the Susan G Komen run coming in…thanks so much!!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Running a 5K for Susan G Komen foundation, can you help??

The company that I work for, SPECTRUM Human Resource Systems Corp has decided to sponsor a running group for the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure®. Of course I signed up as I would like to get another race under my belt, but also because I very much support the breast cancer research that this company is known for. My company is paying for my entrance fee, but I am writing to you to ask for a donation to the foundation. Please check out my "personal" page: http://www.komendenver.org/site/TR/Race/General?px=1492659&pg=personal&fr_id=1070&s_tafId=17990

The race will be held on October 5th, which is right around the corner. If you are able to donate please click on the link above and then either click on the Support Mandy! link or Make a Gift link. If you know others who may like give please feel free to forward this on.

Here is some interesting information that the foundation forwarded to me:
The Komen Race for the Cure® is the largest series of 5K runs/fitness walks in the world. In 2008, races will be held in more than 100 U.S. cities and 3 foreign countries. Over 1.3 million participants are expected to attend. These race series help fund important breast cancer research, as well as, breast health initiatives on a local level. 75% of the proceeds remain in the local communities where the race is held. 25% of the Race proceeds help fund breast cancer research.

Thanks for your support!
~Mandy


I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.
But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!
~Dr. Seuss

Friday, August 22, 2008

Califonia Academy of Science

Back from the land of fog and crazyness. San Francisco, the odd city that it is. I will put up a few posts over the next couple of days detailing a couple of the interesting places and peeps I met. Most of the time we worked. Oh, how we worked. We worked so hard at putting together a video of how hard we worked, and worked hard at it.

Here it is! Love, and lots of it, to everyone!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The hilarious dog-ness....


Matt and I get so much entertainment from Nikki. From not being able to grip the hardwood floor to over-sized jowls flapping in the breeze, everyday is a new adventure. I have decided to share a few...

Earlier this year, I took her outside to go to the bathroom thinking that it was business as usual. As she was squatting to go potty (poo to be exact) a fly went by her which made her pinch it off and run to the other end of the yard.

A couple of months ago my mom and I were walking around the neighborhood. We stopped to let her sniff the grass. Lo' and behold another dog had been in this area and his/her owners did not pick up after them. Nikki, not paying attention as usual, stepped in the poo. Feeling this new scary thing on her foot, she leapt in the air and landed behind us on the sidewalk.

Last night Nikki and I were walking around the neighborhood, again. As we were coming up to this one yard I noticed a couple of statues in the grass. As we passed I saw that they were two dogs squatting with bubbles over their heads that said 'No poo' and 'Not here'. I thought they were cute - Nikki was terrified. I looked down and she had her eyes all bugged out and was trying to get away as quickly as possible. For the next block she kept turning back and giving them the stink eye.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Check this out...

Last night we watched a spectacular documentary named War Dance. Set in the Northern part of Uganda, it followed a group of school children who were competing in a dance/song competition. I really liked it because it was able to tell a story of the school on the way to the competition along with giving a background on three of the children without any lull points. The music and cinematography were excellent. Make sure you have tissues, this one will make you cry.

Information about the organization helping children in Northern Uganda can be found here:

Monday, August 04, 2008

Absolutly Bas-Ass Spaceship Blog!

Thanks to MetaFilter for this link. It's a blog of really good, high-quality scans of spaceship concept art. Bonus cool thing: It's a blogspot blog.

http://conceptships.blogspot.com/

Friday, August 01, 2008

IPS Dome Breakdown

Here's a quick video I shot and a co-worker edited detailing the company breaking down our vendor dome. Enjoy! (be careful of volume)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008

4th of July and Travel


(One of my more successful firework pics)

I am writing to you live from San Francisco, where I have to returned to work on another planetarium. The weather here is not what I was expecting. In fact, the city itself is not what I was expecting. 'Frisco has a certain grime and dirtiness I wasn't prepared for. I guess that comes from basing all of my assumptions its various depictions in movies. It's not a bad place. There are many good restaurants and cool shops to check out, don't get me wrong. But what justifies it being one of the most expensive places in the United States to live? Is really that cool?

The visit to the homeland of Grand Rapids was wonderful. Mandy ran the Buck Creek 5K, we had a great 4th of July party (complete with a fireworks-prompted visit by the law--link to pics), a well-executed surprise party for Jess (link to pics), and many other tales of fanciful whimsy. I will try to migrate these pics over to Flickr, once it stops acting like a bitch and lets me upload again.

I left on Wednesday last week (the 9th of July) for San Fran. Mandy has stayed on a few additional days and will be leaving tomorrow with her mom and Nikki to drive back to Denver. Her mom is then flying back out to Grand Rapids at some point early next week. I will be returning home on the 23rd or 24th of July, returning just in time for a visit from Chad. Wish Mandy and family good luck on their travels.

It's been a crazy summer so far. It's been great to have so many visitors come out to Denver. It's also been equally amazing that I have found ways to be there at the same time they've come to visit. By the time I get back home, I will have been gone for over a month... a long time to be away from home. I'm looking forward to being back there for a little while before heading out again. Maybe I'll get some time to ride our new moped, an amazing 150CC monster. I will take pictures of it when I get back and write a little post on the guy who sold it to us, and why we think it's a good investment.

That's it from San Fran. Peace n' love!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Satisfied / Exhausted

I am sitting on an Amtrak train in Chicago waiting for it to depart. I am connected via a wireless cell modem that the company I work for has bought us to use around the US and in the UK. It's a nice fringe benefit for working there. It does, however, come at a cost, even if it's not a monetary one.

This past week (9 days in total) was IPS. The International Planetarium Society meeting. IPS is the single largest gathering of planetarium vendors, directors, content producers, immersive display engineers, and VR junkies in the world. It only happens every other year, and it alternates what side of the Atlantic it's held on. Next time (2010) it will be held in Egypt. Due to its size and our status as a relative new-comer to this field, it was vitally important that we showed well. In the end, I think we did that, though, and at the risk of repeating myself, it came at a cost.

We demoed two of type of ulta-black projectors (500,000 to 1 sequential contrast) that SEOS develops. These two projectors were placed in a 15' fiberglass dome and fitted with two tons (4,000 lbs) of gear shipped out from the UK at some exorbitant price. The dome assembly and subsequent fitting of gear began last week Wednesday (the 25th of June) and continued through the end of the show (July 3rd). To assemble the dome and make all of the gear function, we assembled a team of five engineers, two project managers, and a carpenter. In addition to that, we had to use union teamsters, electricians, and decorators. Apparently, this is required by law. Some of these guys were great, and I had a good time ordering them around. Others, however, were not. For example, we had to wait for 2 hours for a union decorator to arrive so he could Velcro our black curtains over the dome, a job any one of us could have completed in less than 10 minutes. The dome went up with little trouble. Since I have no experience assembling such things, I concentrated on getting the servers and projectors functioning. Here our troubles began.

I don't want to bore anyone who has read this far with all of the technical hurdles we had to overcome throughout the show, but I can at least say it was intensely frustrating. There were more times than I'd like to remember where the group of us would work for 18-20 hours straight and be worse off than we were when we started.

In spite of these difficulties (or maybe because of them) we came off as a very cohesive group. The general attitude from show-goers was that we were very professional, approachable, and technically adept. I think I'd agree with everything, but there is obviously much room left for improvement. These tradeshows need to be managed like any other project and have the same time and resources applied to them as there would be for any other project we do. If not, we're going to end up Egypt running around like headless chickens with flashlights. [Interestingly, in Egypt we will not be allowed to wear our black polos, since black is only worn by people in mourning].

Our central showpiece on the night we sponsored was a project called Space Confidential. It was sort of a contest to get teenagers to produce content using the our software. It worked really well. The two winning girls were flown out with their mothers to Chicago for the event, where they presented the space show they had created and answered questions about how they did it. It was especially good since all of the rest of the main-stage presentations were tech-demos. Ours really got to the heart of the idea that content still is king.

We finally have a new site up that goes into more detail about what we do, who we are, etc. You can check it out here. The web tester in me has already noticed a slew of grammatical errors and dead links and will be passed on to the company designing the site.

I've posted a bunch of pictures I took at the summit on our Flickr stream. The stream can be accessed by clicking on a picture on the little slideshow applet running on the right-hand navigation bar.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

It's 3:30 in the morning... do you know where your geek is?

Sorry for the delay in posting. Yesterday, I worked from 7:00AM to 5:30AM, with very few breaks for eating, etc. I slept from 5:45AM until 10:00AM and have worked straight until now... 3:30AM. I don't write this to complain. In fact, I'm having a great time. It's been a little stressful with some of our preparations going awry, but everything seems to be falling in place. The light at the end of the tunnel is due, in no small part, to the amazingly diverse and flat-out brilliant peeps I work with. It's been a great ride so far, and we haven't even opened the doors to public yet.

Currently, I'm sitting in the server-room of the Adler Planetarium waiting for a cohort to return with a license dongle to activate a server we have here. I will write more about this nifty piece of hardware, but only after its unveiled. Imagine the announcement of the G3 iPhone, except for planetarium nerds. It's going to be that cool.

I have been taking lots of pics (some actually are pretty good) with my new lens, and will posting them once I've had more than 18 minutes to sleep. All is well in the Chi-Town. Peace n' love!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

IPS Update 1

I think I'm going to try to do video updates while I'm here. I have the camera and I'm way too tired to do much typing, so here it is. Peace n' love from the windy city.



(Tired Matt rambling about domes and whatnot in Chicago)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

On the Move



Everyone's on the move. This next month is going be crazy for all of us. Here's a quick breakdown of our travels. While reaching us here in Denver will be ny-on impossible, you can still reach us on our cells, email, text messages, twitter accounts, and blog posts. With the various modes of communication available to us now, there's no excuse to not get in touch.

I am going to bring my web cam with me. Time-permitting, I will post a few video updates on IPS in Chicago, the integration in San Francisco, and the festivities back in Grand Rapids.

Matt
San Francisco - June 22 - June 25
Chicago - June 25 - July 3
Grand Rapids - July 3 - 9
San Francisco - July 9 - 18

Mandy
On the road between Denver and Grand Rapids - June 25 - June 26
June 27 - 28
Grand Rapids - June 26 - July 14
On the road between Denver and Grand Rapids - July 14-16

Mandy's Mom
Flying from Grand Rapids to Denver - June 24th
Denver - June 24 - June 25
June 24 - 27
On the road between Denver and Grand Rapids - June 25 - June 26
June 27 - 28
Grand Rapids - June 26 - July 14
On the road between Denver and Grand Rapids - July 14-16

Jess and Mike
Flying from Denver to Grand Rapids - June 23

On the road again... just can't wait to get on the road again...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

VIDEO - Surgeon Uses Robot to fold Origami

Impressive. The wingspan of the bird is less than the length of a penny. The robot arms move so fluidly, it looks like the doc is right there. Actually, he was on the other side of the country, controling the robot from over the internet. Impressive.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

This is quite the toolset



This is a 1,470 piece tool set available at Sears. Insanity.

Simple Post - Pic


Friday, June 13, 2008

BBQ: Hell. Yes.


This guy knows how to BBQ. Like a pro, he's even using implements of torture.

I love BBQ'ing. There's something so immediate and primal about reducing cooking to the basics: Gather food, apply heat, eat. I love it. It's simple, it involves things on fire, bits of animal flesh, and, of course, eating.

The BBQ'ing season is upon us. This summer, I plan to smoke, cook, and consume my own bacon. No, not bacon made out of Matt, just regular bacon made by me out of pork. As much as I'd love to eat Matt Bacon... mmm... Matt Bacon.

It turns out that it's not that complicated a process. To do it, a person needs a smoker, some raw pork belly (complete with piggy hair that needs to be shaved prior to smoking), plastic bags, and curring agents (mostly salt and sugar).

Here are few links that suggest different methods of preparing the bacon.
I am going to check with the butcher down the road about procuring the necessary pork stomach lining this weekend, and report back with pricing and some pics.


Francis Bacon. Known as the catalyst of the scientific revolution in England. Also: First mayor of Baconsville.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

School Lesson: Never trust authority figures

A school in California shocked the students by telling them that 20 students were killed in a drunk driving accident. The fifth-graders (yes, they were in 5th grade) High school students obviously went crazy, cried, some went hysterical.

Then they told the students no one had died, and they better not drink and drive.

A teacher is quoted as saying, "We wanted them traumatized." I guess they succeeded.

What person, in what twisted version of reality would think this is a good idea? Unbelievable. I hope they did learn their lesson: Never trust authority figures.

Monday, June 09, 2008

It's all coming together....

The past weekend was strictly working time. Saturday we spent the day cleaning and organizing the loft. It is amazing how much crap you can accumulate over the years....what am I a saying, we just moved into this place last December! Anyhow, we had many things that we moved that we were going to "deal with when we get there"....Saturday was the day.

Sunday we took a drive over to an unmentionable large store. Although we felt very dirty walking through it we had no other choice as they were the only place in town that carried the items that we liked and needed: end table, small dresser, and wardrobe. We assembled the wardrobe and end table last night while we watched Henry VIII on Masterpiece Theater.

The next three weeks will be busy as we are having people visit from Michigan. The Valentine's will be in Denver this week - we plan to spend Wednesday and Thursday with them. Jess and Mike are coming out next Tuesday and staying for about atweek. Mom will be coming out the day after they leave and staying for almost a week. Then her and I hit the road (with Nikki in the back seat) and drive back to Michigan for the 4th of July festivities. I will be in GR the first couple of weeks in July. If you want to hang out you can either write me email or call my cell phone (or my parent's phone after June 29th).

Matt has bestowed upon me luscious gifts for our Anniversary: KitchenAid mixer and a Cuisinart Food Processor. We made pizza last night. I used the mixer to make the dough and Matt use the Food Processor to make the sauce. The pizza turned out fantastic and we had a lot of fun creating it. More info to come on the creations from the new appliances!!!

(Nikki's feet don't even touch the bottom of the fountain.)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Busy couple of weeks....

Sheesh!!! The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind.

We began and are almost finished with painting our room. We will post pics on Flickr when it is totally done.

In case you haven't heard I completed my first 10K - the Bolder Boulder. It was pretty challenging and a lot of fun. I am looking forward to doing at least one, if not two, more before I come back to GR in July. Hopefully this time around I won't do yard work and painting two days beforehand.

This is what pain looks like.

I have changed my major.
I have now decided to become a vet technician. I have enrolled in a Technical Institute out here named Bel-rae. They are a small school and the only program that they offer is for vet tech. My classes start September 29th!!!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lovin' The Star Wars

This video has been floating around the intertubes for a while now, but I thought I'd share it with the crowd out there. Watch it through to the end, and if you're at all a Star Wars fan, you will laugh. Oh, how you'll laugh.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Foster's Australian for....

There seems to be at least one Aussie that needs to get the priorities straightened out: Beer



Sheesh!!



Sunday, May 11, 2008

United Airlines Sucks

I am now getting close to entering my third hour of waiting on a plane. The cause? A 'slide' is missing. No one seems to know what this means, but here we sit nonetheless. The best part is I won't get to my hotel before 1AM at the earliest, and I have to work at 7AM EST. Woot.

I better get some frequent-flier points or something for this.

Reckless Abandon

It's hard to come across any true absurdest humor. Adding something strange to a setting does not make it absurd, it just makes it silly. It's hard to see that perfect balance of something odd, not repeated somewhere else, and accessible. Behold: A funny video...



Damn. Five minutes after posting the above video, I found another by these guys. They're called "Waverly Films" and they're amazing. It reminds of me of some videos me and some friends made in high school and after. We always had a deep appreciation for good absurdist humor. One of our earliest (in my opinion funniest) videos was an interviewer asking a man it it was true that he couldn't stand having nickels next to his ears. The interviewee says, "Yes." Smiles and winks. The skit ends with a shot of the interviewee staring at the camera and two nickles appearing next to his head. He gasps and the screen goes blank. I love it to this day... and if anyone reads this blog and still has this video accessable, I am kindly requesting that they upload it on YouTube or something so I can embed it here for the dropmystraw audience (all three of you).

I especially enjoy absurdist humor that has a twinge of maliciousness running through it. Think of a band like Ween. They are very talented musicians, and enjoyment of the music comes not only from the melodies and rhythm, but also the humor. And the humor itself is profoundly absurdist, and profoundly creepy. A great example is the song "Spinal Meningitis," wherein the band sings about a child who has spinal meningitis and is asking if he's going to, "see God." The enjoyment comes from it being so absurd and evil and well performed. It's a strange combination that many people don't seem to get into, but I love it. Here's the great example from these "Waverly Film" peeps. Enjoy.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Tomorrow's the run

We are Jess and Mike's house getting ready for the Riverbank Run tomorrow. The shirts have arrived (and no one has collected theirs except Chad and Megan). We're all stoked and ready to go down and chill with the masses. I am going to bring my camera with me and take pictures as we talk. I'll post them on the Flickr stream when time allows.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Hello, Mr. DJ?


(Pardon me, but can you tell how to get to the Soviet embassy ...?)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

UK pictures and other miscellaneous items of potential interest

After many problems with our crappy Mac uploader "JetPhoto Studio", we've finally gotten our good UK pictures up on Flickr. The Flickr slideshow stream on the right-hand navigation bar should be showing the last 10-15 photos we uploaded. I am still in process of naming and organizing all the pictures into their respective sets and collections, so if you check them out right away, they won't be named or have any hilarious notes written on them. We will create a set of our top ten favorite pictures from the collection once they are all organized. I'll post about it later, when we've assembled the set.

I am still in partial-recovery mode from the knee surgery last Friday. My pain meds have run out, so it's back to the grind (literally) as I work on getting my knee up to snuff for the 5K walk in a little over a week. I have an official go-ahead from my doc, so I'm not really worried about blowing the knee up right after having it worked on. There is lingering surgery pain, but the chronic pain that I had been dealing with for the past few years seems to have abated some. That, and the horrendous grinding/snapping sounds that would accompany any lateral movement of my calf have also greatly diminished. So far I have to say I'm very pleased with the outcome.

Now that I've had a few days off for medical leave, I've been able to get a some things done that have been piling up due to me being out of the state on business and plain, old procrastination. I now have an official Colorado license, I am registered to vote, washed, vacuumed, and got an oil change for the car, and have two new pairs of glasses on order. The last thing I really should do with this semi-free time is go in for a teeth cleaning. I dread this as I'm pretty sure I have a cavity that needs filling, and we have no dental insurance. Alas. Might as well get it done before they all fall out.

Nikki has been having doggy-seizures. We've always been kind of suspicious that when she stares off into the distance and her head begins to shake (like a palsy, not a foaming, rabid grand mal kind of thing), it might be a seizure. She has been having them more frequently (she had a good 5-minute one this morning), so we decided to set up an appointment with our vet to get some tests run and try out some anti-seizure medication. Another clinching thing is that Nikki is having many of the side-effects from seizures on dogs are prone to. She looses her appetite before having one (she refused to eat breakfast and even treats this morning - just before having a seizure). She'll also get restless and won't sleep. Hopefully we'll know more tomorrow when her appointment is done.

That's about it from here. We're heading out to GR next week Thursday and will be sticking around until Sunday at the earliest. I have work at the Smithsonian in DC and in Minneapolis starting that Monday, so I don't know if I'll leaving Sunday night late, or Monday morning early.



(I want one very badly.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Surgery, Travel, and Bacon

Just got my kneecap scraped by a steady-handed surgeon here in Denver. This was done to correct issues lingering from my heroic knee-injury of nearly ten years past. I was put under general anesthetic (totally knocked out) then scraped, and awoken with a video of the procedure in hand. I have included that video below for those of you who want to see a shredded knee from the inside, and how it is shaved and cleaned up. I think it's pretty cool.


(Inner-space)

I recieved a present for my impending birthday last night: four pounds of Father's Bacon. Father's Bacon! Father's is the Roles Royce of the bacon underground. It's cured so perfectly, that no refridgeration is needed. It is considered by many the greatest bacon made. I have a long-standing discussion with Mandy's dad about my love for bacon and how I really want to smoke my own this summer (I have already bought the smoker), and how I should buy him a bacon-of-the-month subscription. It seems he and Sue beat me to the punch with this delivery. So, tomorrow, to celebrate my birthday, I will stay laid up on the couch and eat me some bacon.


(I call this "Knee Injury with Bacon, Cookies, Pain Medication, and Dog")

We are still planning to be back in Grand Rapids over the weekend of the 10th of May for the River Bank Run. Depending on how that knee heals and becomes stable, I am planning to do the walk. The Torpedo Monkey t-shirts have already arrived at Mandy's parent's house and are ready to be picked up. We'll be sending more out about what we're planning to do before and after the room, so keep checking the Torpedo Monkey blog for more info.

Too much Torpedo Monkey!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Amen, mama

This editorial restores some of my faith in humanity. It's about a mother who (gasp!) let her 9-year-old child ride (gasp!) the subway by themselves. In... NEW YORK! (isn't that where the terrorists go?). And despite the raging horrors that lie in wait for every child who isn't tagged with a cell phone, bicycle helmet, or a private investigator trailing their every movement, the child actually made it home in one piece.

It's very refreshing to see this one example of a calm, reasoned response to the ridiculous amount misplaced fear inflicting our culture. The only thing that would be better is if this didn't illicit a blog response due to its extreme rarity. It wish it were a common thing that people take a second to consider the real difference between the percieved and actual threats lying in wait for them and their children.

Read the whole thing, it's great.

Link to article.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cool Idea....

While reading the news on the BBC website I ran across this article. It seems there is a new automated restaurant in Germany where customers order their food via a touch screen and then they receive their food from a machine which looks like a roller coaster.

I don't think this will take over all of our restaurants, but it is a really cool idea.

I want to eat there!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Back in the States

We made it back safe and sound. Well, safe at any rate. We're still decompressing from the flights and jet-lag. Mandy's back to the testing grind and I'm off to NASA for a couple days, so it's business as usual around here.

I am going to recount the trip in some kind of blog form as time permits. We have gigs and gigs of images to organize, name, and arrange in sets and collections. Our two traveling companions Dean and Erin also took gobs of pics that they have started to upload to Flickr. In fact, we used their TomTom GPS satellite navigation gadget to get us around the country, and there is a feature that should let Dean upload our driving routes to Google maps. We're also going to organize a top ten list of pics for those of you (like me) who don't want to rummage through 200 pages of pictures without any kind of context.

All of this should be coming within the next couple weeks as, again, time permits.

I think the twitter thing was pretty cool. I would've kept it more up-to-date as I traveled, but I had a horrible time getting my phone to work with the UK cell system and I am lazy. I'm going to try it again with this trip to NASA to see if I will be any better at it in the states. If not, I'm going to drop it from the right-hand nav. I only want to keep things there that I have an intention of keeping updated.

I've been listening to the new Gnarls Barkley CD. The first time I heard it, I wasn't impressed. I listened again, and was still not that impressed. But the third time... the third time is a charm. It also may have been the first time I listened to it, it was through a FM transmitter built into the GPS, playing out of the car stereo speakers while I drove around the UK, for the first time, on the wrong side of the road. The second time was through a pair of noise-canceling headphones, on a 747, floating over the middle of the Atlantic ocean, bonked out of my head on jet lag and stress. This morning I listened, uninterrupted, through my new reciever, and it totally changed my mind on it. Anyway, here's a video from it.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Meet me on the other side of the world

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,

I know of no reason

Why Gunpowder Treason

Should ever be forgot.


Last night in the UK. We're flying out on the BA0297 to Chicago with a quick two hour jump Denver and into the waiting paws of a slobbering doggy and two very pissed off cats. I can't wait. I've been out of the country for half a month now, and a week of that was spent working (fun though it was, it's still work).

The trip has been great fun. We saw a sizable chunk of the Greatest of Britians, but now it's time to return to ole' Stars and Stripes, home of the boogie-board sized steak and magical, ever-descending dollar.

(HDR Image we took of Bodiam Castle)

Friday, March 28, 2008

London Heathrow Airport Crazyness

From a Bloomberg Press article titled, "Heathrow T5 Opening `Chaotic'"

March 27 (Bloomberg) -- London Heathrow airport's 4.3 billion-pound ($8.6 billion) fifth terminal canceled flights after the baggage system broke down on the first day of operations, prompting passengers to brand the opening ``chaotic.''

As many as 68 inbound and outbound flights were scrapped by British Airways Plc, the terminal's sole occupant. Baggage check- in was halted while Heathrow owner BAA Ltd. worked to resolve ``operational issues'' and the airline said in a statement passengers should fly with hand luggage only, rebook for another day or claim a refund."

Guess which airline, airport, and terminal Mandy is flying into this morning...


Saturday, March 22, 2008

There's a hole in the world, like a big black pit...

And it's filled with people that are filled with shit.
And all the vermin of the world inhabit it.
And it's called... London."
-Sweeny Todd

So, I'm off across the pond yet again. Only, this time it will end with my friends Dean and Erin and my beloved Mandy joining me in the Big Smoke, where we will spend a week touring Scottland and the eastern coast of England.

Rather than put random postings on the blog, I am going to try something new this time around. I am going to maintain a Twitter feed at the behest of my friend Josh. To use this feature, you will need to subscribe to the Twitter RSS feed. This is really, really simple. It's so simple, in fact, that I have already added the RSS feed to the right-hand nav on the Blog (where it reads "Matt's Twitter Feed" and everytime you refresh the page, if I have added something new, you will see it). If you would like to subscribe, simple click this link LINK. Then, on your browser of choice, click the Subscribe Now button, and the feed will be added to your bookmarks. Then, to follow our progress around the globe, you simple have to check the feed and you'll see. If you have any problems getting this to work, either post a comment or email me and I'll step you through it.

I am heading over to the UK to attend the Immersive Cinema conference, an amazing conglomeration of the visionaries guiding the dome, curved-wall, and virtual reality crowd. The web-page for the conference can be found here, and the itinerary of amazing speakers can be found here. I know four of the people giving talks, and one of them, Mr. Dan Neafus, is giving the keynote speech on the last day on of the con. I am bringing my beautiful Canon XTi with me, so I will be posting and live-blogging as much of the conference as I am able to attend.

Either way: I'm off! And soon, so is Mandy, Dean, and Erin to explore the Ole' Country 'Cross the Pond. Love and well-wishes to the lot of ya'!


(Starballs are sweet!)

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Tongue

"It can't be bargained with! It can't be reasoned with! The tongue doesn't know pity, or remorse, or fear... and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are licked!"
-The Terminator


BBC Again - This time with alien birds

Mandy and I watched this at home and laughed so hard we had to see if the clip was floating out here somewhere. Guess what! It was!


(What planet is are these birds from?)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The BBC and the co.

The company I work for has recently been showcased by the BBC. Being a company based out of the UK, it makes sense. It's also because we recently installed the projection, audio, and real-time space simulation system at the largest digital dome in the UK.

Since the BBC is made up of boogers, I can't embed the video in the blog, so you'll have to follow this link to see the videos of my boss and co. talking about how super-sweet our presentation solution is. We rock!

Here's a more detailed article on the technology we use, with specific emphasis on the projectors we use. Sadly, I have note been able to convince them to give me one as a bonus, but I'll wear 'em down, so says I. Aarrgghhh... (that's my pirate projector voice)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cutest bear ever!!!



I don't know about you, but it looks like a stuffed animal to me. Her name is Flocke, which means flake in German (as in snowflake).

For more cute pics check out this website.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Here she is....

Our singing and licking doggy.....


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Building Bases on the Moon! Woot!

While I am a big fan of exploration, I can't help but watch this and think of David Cross when he pretended to be a homeless man asking a lady for some money for food. She replies, "No, we don't have any money to give you for food... we're putting a robot on the moon!"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Laugh or Cry?

The headlines says it all, "Sheriff: Kansas woman sat on boyfriend's toilet for 2 years; didn't want to leave bathroom"

And

"
WICHITA - Authorities are considering charges in the bizarre case of a woman who sat on her boyfriend's toilet for two years - so long that her body was stuck to the seat by the time the boyfriend finally called police.

Ness County Sheriff Bryan Whipple said it appeared the 35-year-old Ness City woman's skin had grown around the seat. She initially refused emergency medical services but was finally convinced by responders and her boyfriend that she needed to be checked out at a hospital."

I think... cry.

Link: http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_8547307?source=rss

Sunday, March 09, 2008

It's been a long day coming...

Hey all,
This is the first post in a while. I'm hell-bent on posting more than last year (128), and I haven't been doing very well with that resolution.

The main cause for the delay has been sheer busyness. But, everyone's busy, so that's really not much of an excuse. My grandma died on 21st of February, and I could use my grieving as an excuse for not posting, but that's not it either. Sometimes I lose interest, and sometimes I don't. I think that's about it.

I am planning a long write-up on my grandma, my thoughts on her death, and how she's impacted my life, but this isn't that post. I need to think more on it before I post something.

I was out at NASA Ames Research Center last week and this week I'm off to Houston (to buy me some pants -Beck) then from Houston to NYC until next week Tues. Then home for four days, and I'm off to the UK for two weeks. It goes without saying that I'll be as busy as always, but it shouldn't stop me from posting and updating. I will make a conscious effort to post more over the next few weeks as I bounce from one side of the country to the other, from one side of the world to the other. I have recently updated the cool-ass Google Map on the right-hand navigation bar with my visit to NASA, and will update it as I pop around the next few weeks.

Updates:

1. As I mentioned before, my Grandma (on my father's side) died on the 21st. She wanted the funeral and visitation to be done with as soon as possible, so she died on a Thursday, the visitation was on Friday, and the funeral was on Saturday. Mandy and I literally jumped on a plane and did a crazy circuit with family and friends for the few days we were there. I will write more on this later.

2. Nikki, our dog, graduated from her Pet Smart Beginner's Training course. The cool thing is, the class has a practice exam before the real one, that way the dogs have two chances to complete the list of commands they have to obey. Nikki passed on the practice exam, a week earlier than the time normally allotted. Only her and one other dog out of a class of ten completed early. The teacher of the class told us we should run her through the rest of the classes because she's smart enough to complete them, so we're signed up for the intermediate. Hopefully she'll pass, and be as well-behaved as Mandy's sister's dog Stormy. Either way, Nikki did really well and has been adapting to her new behavior modification like a champ. She's so smart... (*Note: If this is how I talk up my dog's training, just wait until we have kids... there will be no end to it)

3. The house here in Denver is really shaping up. Thanks to all the help from Mandy's parents, we have a fully functioning set of curtains in our newly painted kitchen and an awesome fold-out spice rack on its way in the mail. Mandy painted the upstairs, and we've put in a faux-bamboo roll-up to cover the closet, and bought new office furniture. As we find places for the rest of the crap, the upstairs is finally turning into a work / living space. Our next steps are to finish the furnishing of the living room, paint that area, then start working on the master and guest bedrooms. By the time people come out to visit this Spring / Summer, we'll be mostly done decorating and organizing.

4. Work has been crazy for both of us. Mandy is hard at work pointin' out bugs in her HR software. Point of fact, the other day, she found a bug so devastating it might delay the whole product launch. Go Mandy! My work has involved lots of traveling, big displays systems, and crazy dancer / astrophysicists (it's true). I have begun my HSPD 12 security clearance process, which should take about six months. It's a security clearance I need to access NASA computer system as well as gain access to any NRL (National Research Laboratory) sites. Some of you will be getting calls from the goverment asking about my ability to handle sensitive government docs. Whatever you do, don't tell them about that time I ruled the small island-country of "Kalembesh" in the Adriatic sea.

That's about it from here. Many of these items need more info and updating, I realize. I will be doing my best to fill in the gaps of these past few weeks, and will work harder on putting up more content.

Thanks for tuning in!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

BEWARE....

THE JACKAL



She comes from all directions!!!!





You have been warned....

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Beatles Music in FIlm

Mandy and I watched "Across The Universe" last weekend. If you are a Beatles fan I would recommend seeing it once, just for the music. If not, you could as easily skip it and not miss very much. The most striking thing about the music of The Beatles, is how transcendent it is. The simple melodies and 4/4 rock timing of the majority of their songs is simple, bordering on formulaic, but it's still so good. As an example of how Beatles music can carry even the simplest imagery, here is one of the most toe-curling cute videos I've ever seen, and it's topical.

Enjoy!


Monday, February 11, 2008

Airports...

Some days, I guess, you shouldn’t try to fly. Today is one of those days. It went down thus:

I got a ride out to the airport with my trusty cabbie Pamela (yes, I know her name… I travel a lot). Arrived at DIA around 9:00AM, breezed through the check-in line and security, and with a quick stop off at Einstein Brother’s Bagels, I was on my way to the gate to catch my 10:49 flight to Raleigh. After arriving, eating my bagel and drinking my coffee, I looked up at the digital marquee to notice the flight had been delayed to 11:15. Not terribly unusual. I shrugged, put on the new Hot Chip CD (Rolling Stone gave it 4 stars, by the way), and continued reading a great book by Jimmy Carter.

I didn’t hear the announcement since I had my noise-canceling headphones, so when I looked up and noticed the departure time had changed to the awful, blinking “Plane Being Serviced” message which really means, “You’re Screwed” I pulled my headphones off and asked kindly elder gentleman next to me what was up. He looked over his crossword puzzle at me and, this is true, pulled his spectacles down saying, “The fucking place is fucking delayed until God fucking knows when.” He must have been filling out a naughty crossword, I think to myself. Too startled to respond, I picked up my bag and walked over to the counter to ask the flight attendant what was up. It turns out something was wrong with the plane, and that we would be delayed for another hour.

I chose a seat further away from the man suffering from what had to be Turrets Syndrome, and kept reading my book, but with my headphones off.

“Passengers on flight 802 to Raleigh/Durham. Things are looking up. We’ve secured another plane, and will be departing within the next 30 minutes at Gate B50.” A slight cheer went up and we all shambled one gate over to wait for our plane. I didn’t bother to put on my headphones again and kept reading my book.

Thirty minutes passed before the same flight attendant piped up, “Passengers on flight 802 to Raleigh/Durham…we seem to be missing one of our flight attendants. No one knows where she’s gotten off to, but as soon as she’s on the plane, we’ll begin boarding.”

Another thirty minutes pass and he pipes up, “The flight attendant has been found. We will begin boarding shortly.”

Twenty minutes pass and the flight attended, obviously frustrated, comes back on, “Well, ladies and gentlemen, it turns out the GPS on this plane won’t start. We have a decision time of one hour. In one hour we will make a determination about the departure time. Please note, this is not the departure, this is the decision time.”

An hour passes. “Ladies and gentlemen, t he plane has been fixed and is certified to fly. We will begin boarding in twenty minutes.” A louder cheer goes up from the crowd.

Twenty minutes pass. “Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has refused the flight. We are attempting to rectify. We will give more information as it becomes available.” At this point several suit-and-Bluetooth-headset wearing glitterati leap from their seats and crowd the attendant’s desk with shouts of suing, lawyers, and more suing. This, apart from the swearing 70-year-old man, was the most amusing part of the whole ordeal. I put down my book and listened to this alpha-males, now emasculated by this flamboyantly gay flight attendant, puff their chests and pound the desk. It was very reminiscent of the scene from Fear and Loathing where the police chiefs are trying to check into the Flamingo Hotel and gay clerk is messing with them. It was a delight to behold.

Another thirty minutes pass. “Ladies and gentlemen, the a new plane has been found and we will begin boarding in two hours at gate B33.”

So… here I am. In the airport bar eating a burger and drinking a diet coke. If this plane does actually take passengers on, and gets airborn, and lands in one piece, I’ll be as amazed as you.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Rocket Man!!!

My work requires me to travel quite a bit. The traveling is pretty interesting as it affords me the opportunity to see how completely homogeneous the world is. It really is the same everywhere. From the music played on the radio, to the chain stores, to the types of cars. I'm sure this feeling would lessen if I had to fly out to Cambodia and consult on a display system in the middle of the steaming jungle, but so far it's just been Western cities and countries I've visited. So, my view is naturally skewed.

Anyway, to keep track of the places I've visited and to supply some information on the types of virtual reality displays and what the clients are trying to use them for. There is a new link added to the right-hand nav that says "Matt's Travels." Clicking the link will bring you to a custom Google map that shows all of the displays and, when not prohibited by Federal Law, I've included some information on the displays. I've included the Google API below for a quick view, but click the "View Larger Map" link on the right for a bigger display. Also note, both the map below and the map to the right are interactive. Click on a thumbtack for more info, and click-and-drag the map to look around. Man, I love the Google Map API.


View Larger Map

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Paul Simon and Allen Ginsberg

I love Paul Simon's writing. While a unquestionably talented guitar player, his true strength as a songsmith lies in his writing. He's still cranking out the tunes, and melding his folky, contemplative writing and playing with contemporary luminaries such as Brian Eno. I recently started listening to "The Rhythm of the Saints" the sequel to his every-possible-away-winning album "Graceland." While not as much a critical darling as Graceland, Rhythm showcases some of the most profound lyrics Simon has written.

For your consideration, the lyrics to the climatic song "Cool, Cool River." The song always reminds me of Ginsberg's epic beat poem "Howl."

"Cool, Cool River" by Paul Simon
"Moves like a fist through the traffic
Anger and no one can heal it
Shoves a little bump into the momentum
Its just a little lump
But you feel it
In the creases and the shadows
With a rattling deep emotion
The cool, cool river
Sweeps the wild, white ocean

Yes boss. the government handshake
Yes boss. the crusher of language
Yes boss. mr. stillwater,
The face at the edge of the banquet
The cool, the cool river
The cool, the cool river

I believe in the future
I may live in my car
My radio tuned to
The voice of a star
Song dogs barking at the break of dawn
Lightning pushes the edge of a thunderstorm
And these old hopes and fears
Still at my side

Anger and no one can heal it
Slides through the metal detector
Lives like a mole in a motel
A slide in a slide projector
The cool, cool river
Sweeps the wild, white ocean
The rage of love turns inward
To prayers of devotion
And these prayers are
The constant road across the wilderness
These prayers are
These prayers are the memory of god
The memory of god

And I believe in the future
We shall suffer no more
Maybe not in my lifetime
But in yours I feel sure
Song dogs barking at the break of dawn
Lightning pushes the edges of a thunderstorm
And these streets
Quiet as a sleeping army
Send their battered dreams to heaven, to heaven
For the mothers restless son
Who is a witness to, who is a warrior
Who denies his urge to break and run

Who says: hard times?
Im used to them
The speeding planet burns
Im used to that
My lifes so common it disappears
And sometimes even music
Cannot substitute for tears"

Sample of "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg
"
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix;Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night."