Archive for October, 2012

Before anyone starts, this isn’t a pro-iPad or even a pro-Apple post. It’s a pro-technology post.

That’s 83-year-old “Grandma O” in Chicago, using Facetime on the iPad to talk to two of her great grandsons (Phoenix and Griffin) back in Oklahoma. This may be the closest thing to a Kodak moment I’ve ever had a hand in helping pull off.

I do believe Grandma has Skype installed on her computer as well, so maybe we can continue these sorts of video chats. But yeah, moments like these remind me that we really are living in the future.

Last Thursday Susan, the kids, my Dad and I hopped in the minivan and drove north to Chicago on a mini-vacation. Despite the fact that the Honda Odyssey now has upwards of 215,000 miles, it still runs and drives great — and, it’s the car we own that most comfortably seats five. And, it’s the car we least care about getting door dinged in Chicago.

This week I had a work meeting scheduled in Kansas City, Missouri, so instead of taking our usual route home from Chicago (through St. Louis), instead we veered east and I had Susan drop me off at the hotel in Kansas City. I’ve been here for a week now.

I took this picture this morning from the downtown Marriot’s Concierge Lounge. On the top floor of many hotels there’s a private lounge where frequent guests can enjoy free breakfast, snacks, and drinks. I never wanted to be a frequent guest of any hotel chain, but here I am.

I spent most of the week working in downtown Kansas City and eating and drinking (mostly drinking) down in the plaza area. The plaza is a nice area full of restaurants and bars that are close enough to walk to and stumble back from. The plaza sits at the bottom of an amazing hill. The walk down never seems bad but the climb back, especially with a stuffed gullet, can be brutal. I suppose it’s probably safer to drunkenly stagger uphill rather than down.

Each day after work we hit a local restaurant. Jack Stacks is a local BBQ place that’s delicious. We also visited the Thai Palace, where I ordered a meal so spicy I couldn’t eat it. My stomach paid the price for that one for a solid 24 hours. Last night we hit Cafe Trio for a second time. The seafood lasagna there is great. Evidently so were the drinks; everybody I’ve talked to this morning ended up with a three-digit bar tab …

Here’s a picture I took the other evening as we were leaving work. I love sunsets that remind me of 8-bit color fades. I wasn’t sure the colors would come out on my phone, but it looks pretty good.

My friend Johnny drove his truck up to KC, so in about an hour or so I’ll be riding back to Oklahoma with him and Emily. Looking forward to sleeping in my own bed again.

I’m way behind on my writing. Next week I’ll be sharing a bunch of pictures and stories from the past couple of weeks. So look forward to that happening.

I’m sure most of my tech peeps already know all about this story, but to sum it up in a sentence: last Sunday, Felix Baumgardner rode in a balloon to the edge of space (almost 25 miles above the Earth) and then jumped out of it, breaking the speed of sound before opening his parachute and landing safely in Roswell, New Mexico.

The entire thing was broadcast live on the Internet. (I heard this morning that there was a 20 second delay just in case things went terribly wrong, but still.) Yesterday, on my computer, I watched a guy skydive from 128,000 feet. If you missed it, here it is/ If you didn’t see it, please watch it.

I love the sound of Felix’s heavy breathing right after he jumps. I was breathing just as hard.

So, a few things here.

-- The older gentleman that can be heard talking Felix through the pre-jump checklist is Joe Kittinger, the man who up until this past weekend held the free-falling records. He set them in the 1960s, when he jumped from 19.5 miles above the Earth and hit speeds of 614mph. (Kittinger did not break the sound barrier in his attempt.)

-- According to the video, Felix’s suit contained just less than 10 minutes worth of oxygen. The fall took just over 9 minutes. To any kid in school right now thinking that math doesn’t count: math counts.

-- During the jump, Felix hit 834 miles per hour, or Mach 1.24, becoming the first human being to break the sound barrier outside of a craft. Yesterday was also the 65th anniversary of Chuck Yeager’s groundbreaking flight when he first broke the speed barrier.

-- According to the Guinness Book of World Records, “Fearless Felix” broke five world records: the first person to break the sound barrier in freefall, the highest vertical speed in freefall, the highest freefall parachute jump, and the greatest freefall distance. He also broke the record for the most number of people streaming from Youtube; over 8 million people watched the jump live on the Internet. One record Felix did not break was the longest freefall. Kittinger’s original fall lasted 4 minutes, 36 seconds, a full 16 seconds longer than Felix’s jump. If that was intentional, it was an honorable gesture.

Congratulations to Felix Baumgardner on his successful jump, and kudos to Red Bull for sponsoring Felix on his five year mission to break the record. I feel like drinking a Red Bull right now!

Mason’s been hinting around about wanting to watch a horror movie for some time now. To put things in perspective, Mason’s ten-years-old and in fifth grade. I was in sixth grade when I first saw Nightmare on Elm Street over at Jason Lee’s house, and Children of the Corn that same year over at Andy Green’s. To date, I think the scariest thing Mason has seen on television is either Something Wicked This Way Comes or the original Dracula. The last time he brought up watching a scary movie, we made it ten minutes into The Ring before he declared “I’M OUT!” and leaving the room.

So, disclaimer here — up until last night, I had never seen Psycho before; that is, I had never sat down and watched the film from beginning to end. I had of course seen “the shower scene” a thousand times on “best of” clip shows and knew the “twist” ending (hardly a twist, 50+ years later). But yeah, I had never seen the movie proper from beginning to end, so with Halloween just around the corner, I decided to take Mason on a visit to the Bates Hotel.

Unlike modern horror movies (or modern movies in general, really) it takes a while for Psycho to get going. Knowing what I knew about the movie, I was surprised at how long it took Marion Crane to meet Norman Bates. Prior to last night I knew nothing of the actual plot (the money, the affair, the disappearance, and so on). I really thought the movie was about Norman Bates killing people. Like I said, I knew about the murder in the shower, but I didn’t realize it was THE murder. Other than Crane’s murder, the only other murder that takes place is the killing of Private Investigator Milton Arbogast. I suppose in 1960, having not one but two on-screen murders was a big deal. In 2012, I think most horror movies have two on-screen murders before the opening credits roll.

I also read on IMDB that when the film was originally released, Psycho was the first motion picture to feature the flushing of a toilet. It’s unbelievable to me that 50 years ago this was considered groundbreaking or even notable. To put it in perspective, 52 years later, I watched part of the movie wirelessly on my iPad while sitting on a toilet.

I thought the end of the movie (not the arrest of Norman Bates, but the 15-minute exposition in which the police detectives explain the entire movie to the audience) felt old fashioned and tacked on. Audiences today are more sophisticated, in part due to films like Psycho. I have not seen the 1998 remake of the film (and can’t imagine what more it would bring to the plate), but especially to today’s audiences, I would think such a speech would seem borderline insulting. I would have rather seen the police interview and heard the story directly from Bates’ mouth.

As the movie ended, with the lights still out, Mason’s review of the film (and I’m quoting him directly here) was “Meh. Not scary.” He actually said “meh”. Without a second thought he said goodnight and went upstairs and went to bed. (He has the only bedroom on the second floor of the house.)

I, on the other hand, checked both the closet and all the door locks. Twice.

Today, I got to sit down and work from my desk for the first time in two-and-a-half weeks.

It all started with an invitation to a work meeting in Atlanta, which took place the last week of September (9/24-9/28). As I mentioned a week or so ago, my buddy Jeff recently moved to Atlanta, so I used the opportunity to travel a few days earlier than normal to hang out at Jeff’s house. (We are allowed to do this as long as there is no additional cost to tax payers.) I used a day of vacation on Friday, September 22nd to drive to Atlanta. (It took me just under 15 hours, although I’m sure I could beat that time.) I hung out with Jeff and his family that weekend, and reported to work in Atlanta on September 24th.

During that week in Atlanta I was invited to a second meeting, this one in Washington DC. Had I flown to Atlanta I would have flown home that Friday (Friday, September 28th) and flown to DC on the following Monday, October the 1st. But I didn’t; I drove, and driving the 15 hours back to Oklahoma City only to turn around and head back to the east coast the following day seemed ridiculous. So, I stayed in Atlanta at Jeff’s over the weekend, and drove from Atlanta to Washington DC on Monday, October 1st.

That weekend, Susan and the kids decided to drive out to Atlanta and see me and visit the Martins as well. We all had a good time together. I think Jeff’s kids enjoyed seeing some of their Oklahoma friends for a bit, and I know Jeff and Heather and Susan and I all had a good time catching up with one another.

I would also like to note that until I got there I had no idea how many friends I had living in and around the Atlanta area. I’ve already mentioned Jeff and his family, and I have several friends I’ve met through work (Earl, Curlen, and Deborah to name a few) that both live and work in Atlanta. Throw in a couple of friends from Digital Press, a couple of friends from the cDc, and my friends Jay and Thomas over at Video Game Trader, and … yeah. I could literally spend an entire week hobnobbing around Atlanta. The next time I’m in town, I’ll definitely set aside more visiting time.

On Monday, October 1st, I left Atlanta and drove to Washington DC. It’s not as far as it was from OKC to ATL, and I made the drive in around 10 hours. Unfortunately for me, I timed it to where I would arrive in Washington DC at almost exactly 5pm. Fortunately at that time of day the traffic jams revolve around getting out of DC rather than getting in. While the line to get out of DC stretched for miles and miles, the line heading in that time of day was relatively painless.

The part of DC we were working/staying in (Navy Yard) kind of sucks unless you’re willing to get on the Metro and head out. I think my phone showed less than half a dozen restaurants within walking distance (at least within my idea of walking distance). Normally on work trips I don’t worry about going over my per diem amount, but after being on the road for two weeks back to back I began reeling back the meal costs. Then again, I think I drank all my profit, so … yeah.

As the meeting adjourned, I had one task ahead of me; completing the third leg of the right triangle that would take me from DC back to Oklahoma City. The GPS said it would take 21 hours, straight through; I made it in 24 hours, leaving DC at 4:30am (no traffic for me!) and arriving in OKC at approximately the same time the following morning. For the most part the drive was uneventful, although I did have an orange and white safety barrel hurled at me by a careless trucker. Surprisingly, the Honda Crosstour handles fairly well even with the brakes locked into a dead skid. Once again, years of playing video games paid off.

For some reason, these drives always hit me the day after I get home. I drive literally all day Friday. Saturday I was tired, but not sore. On Sunday, I could barely get around. Thanks to Columbus discovering a place people already inhabited I was off Monday as well, which gave me an extra day to recuperate.

Because of the project I’m working on at work, there was no time to ramp back up; I hit the meetings at 8am this morning and had them all day long. Welcome back.

I’m slumming around Washington DC this week with plans of heading home on Friday. Our team is holed up in a building near Navy Yard, which smells. Not the building; I mean, the whole area. Outside it smells like a combination of fertilizer and dead fish. I’m pretty sure I smell too. It’s so humid here that every time I step outside I am instantly dripping with sweat. I have taken to wearing two shirts this week to hide my sweaty armpits. That of course is just making me sweat more, but at least the outside layer stays dry. Mostly.

Yesterday we took the metro a couple of times, to and from dinner. While buying a ticket and figuring out the metro system is kind of a pain in the ass, it beats paying $30 for four bites of salmon and $9 each for watered-down drinks back at the hotel. Even on per diem, that ain’t right.

Last night we had dinner at the Veranda Restaurant. For an appetizer we had Saganaki, which according to the menu is “Flambéed Greek Kefalograviera Cheese”. The waiter brings the cheese out in a frying pan and then ignites the entire dish with his lighter. Unsurprisingly, fried-cheese is pretty tasty. For dinner I had the chicken breast, which is served on a bed of rice and sausage. Again, unsurprisingly good. They also had sangrias for $4 which I didn’t think were terrific, but at least they weren’t $9 glasses of rum and coke and coke and coke.

After dinner our friend David walked us over and showed us his house, which is over a hundred years old and decorated beautifully. In the living room he has red walls with ornate blue trim. I knew David was a great photographer but I did not know about his 20,000+ vinyl record collection, which he recently had to relocate from the upstairs room to his garage because they were becoming too heavy for the floor. I’m glad we didn’t start digging through them because I would probably still be there.