February 2012 Archives

Drum Lessons Paying Off

Tonight Anne and I both remarked how good Colin's drum practice sounded:

I guess he was a little too into it. His first broken stick!


Bowling with Seven-Year-Olds

I took Colin and two friends -- the Zacharies -- bowling today. It was really a lot of fun. We arrived around 3:00 and I could tell by the fullness of the parking lot that we probably wouldn't get a lane, at least not right away. Inside there were two large birthday parties and a league of some sort. We blew through $15 in arcade tokens before it was time to bowl.

It became awkward for me to distinguish the Zacharies by name so I gave them nicknames. The first became "Skittles" because he bought himself a large bag from the vending machine. The second became "Whoppers" because he got them from the candy claw game and I had to open them for him. Colin's nickname was more of a challenge. To keep with the theme, I tried calling him "Hersheys" but he didn't like that. He wanted to be called "Whooper" but that was too close to Whoppers. For a while I called him "Bloopers" and he seemed to accept it.

That is, until I thought it would be funny to change his name on the bowling screen. Then he became upset and said it was okay to use the nickname aloud, but not on the screen. So today I learned that little boys like verbal, but not written, nicknames that are silly.

Colin was en fuego with the bowling, so I saved face and nicknamed him "Striker." He liked that, of course, and allowed it to be on the screen.


You can easily imagine where all this is going. Soon, the nicknames were changing from turn to turn and the boys were giving themselves better and better nicknames. Meanwhile, I was getting worse nicknames.


We had discussions about whether "hyper" was better than "ultra" and what might come after that. Intergalactic?


The second lesson of the day is that it is much more fun to edit bowler names, than to actually bowl. At least this holds true after the first game.



I think after "Burp Guy" I became "Hyper Looser" or similar. The third lesson I learned today is that super smart boys don't like it when you tell them they spelled "Loser" wrong!

Oddly, the tone changed after this, I think thanks to "Awesome Guy." My nicknames became better and better. By the end of the game I was "The Greatest Man On Ear!"


A long and boring description of my last trip

Last year I took 12 work-related trips. So, once a month on average. I generally enjoy traveling because it's a chance to see colleagues and coworkers, and sometimes I get to visit interesting places. My wife and friends like to joke about how I'm off doing secret missions, or visiting my other secret wives and families.

Right now I'm on my third trip of 2012 and I feel like doing a little documentary about it. I know there are few things in life more boring than other people's travel adventures. I'm going to write it all down anyway.

Day 1

This is a four-day trip to Reston. Usually I'd be gone for five days but Monday was a holiday this week, so I get a little break.

My previous trip got off to a bad start. I asked Colin if I should wake him up to say goodbye before I left. He said yes. But when that time came (about 5:45) he kept finding reasons for me to come back in his room. Then he got really sad. We had to wake up Anne so he could sleep in our bed the rest of the morning. I doubt either of them actually did.

This time I said that I wouldn't wake him up. That caused him to get sad the night before, rather than the morning of. I tried to put a positive spin on it, saying things like "Mommy will probably let you have more computer time while I'm gone." What a great message. I laid in bed with him and read "The Magic School Bus" until he fell asleep at 10:30.

Then I took care of some last minute things around the house and packed my backpack (computer, camera, books, etc). It was snowing and I worried that I'd have to clear off the driveway. I set the alarm for 4:30 and was in bed by about 11:30.

Colin woke me up at 3:50, worried that maybe I'd already left. He crawled in the bed but we didn't get any sleep for the next 40 minutes. When the alarm rang, he went back to his own bed while I got ready. The driveway snow was melting so I could've slept another 30 minutes I suppose. Instead I had a shower, breakfast, and tried to pack my clothes without waking up Anne.

I wrote a note for Colin and left it in his room. Also gave him a kiss on the forehead, which is probably what woke him up. We had a nice, solid goodbye hug and I think he wasn't too sad when I left at 5:50.

I generally have two choices when flying: leave from either Pullman or Spokane. Both are usually early morning departures. If it's to be Spokane, then I usually drive there the night before and get 4 or 5 hours sleep at a hotel by the airport. Leaving from Pullman is nice because it's close, but for a trip like this, it means I have a long layover in Seattle. Pullman can be iffy though, especially in the winter. I've had a number of trips scheduled from Pullman where I had to drive to Spokane anyway the morning of the flight. This time I chose Pullman.

The flight to Seattle was uneventful. Sometimes I enjoy trying to pick out landmarks (cities, rivers, mountains) from the air. This time I didn't have a window seat and it was cloudy anyway. I read a little and promptly fell asleep once airborne.

We arrived in Seattle at 8:00 am. My next flight, to Dulles, was leaving at 1:30, already 30 minutes later than originally scheduled. One nice thing about traveling for the company is they buy me a United Club pass. I checkin there and they tease me with the possibility of a first-class upgrade. I'm 5th on the list and there are 5 unclaimed seats, but (numero-logically suspicious) 5 hours to go before boarding.

One aspect of trips like this that I find annoying is meal planning. First class upgrades usually come with a meal. It would be a shame to eat just before boarding and then have to refuse a nice meal. And there is the time zone factor to consider. It will be 9pm when I arrive and really too late to have dinner. I decide my first class chances are poor and go get lunch about 11:00. My standard spot at the Seattle airport is the Asian joint in the food court. Orange chicken, rice, and root beer -- mmmmmmm.

Another annoyance is the boarding process. Almost always there is a crowd of people jockeying for position. Gotta be first when your it's your turn, or the luggage bins might be full. I have the "Premier Exec" status on United, which means I usually get to to in the second group, after the first-classers. And global service. And active military. And families with kids. And platinum elite. And anyone else needing a little extra time down the jetway.

But honestly, I have nothing to complain about. I just find it stressful when we're all standing around trying to find out who can go before who and trying not to be in anyone's way.

As I'm making my way toward my seat (11A) I see that my row-mates are already there. It's a mother and her young daughter. I point that I need to get past them to the window seat and she asks would I mind letting her daughter have the window. I agree, of course, but for some reason I'm bitter about it. And I try to justify my bitterness. Is it because I'm being sexist and I don't think little girls appreciate sitting by the window as much as little boys do? Is it because I just know that she (and her Mom) will have to get up and pee at least twice during the flight, whereas I, on more than one occasion, sat through much longer flights without peeing for fear of disturbing my neighbor? Is it because I hate being constantly bumped by people and carts in the aisle? I'm bitter than she even asked because how can you possibly refuse such a benign request. Eventually I convince myself that it probably wasn't really about the daughter looking out the window, but the Mom just didn't want the daughter sitting in the middle (next to me) or on the aisle. Better to corral her in the window seat.

Soon none of that matters because our plane has some broken equipment and isn't able to leave until the spare part arrives. The attendant jokes that of course, our Airbus-made plane would break down in a Boeing town. The nearest spare part is in San Francisco and will arrive in two and a half hours. The new departure time is 4:30 and we all unload.

I head back to the club lounge and settle in again, hopeful that maybe the first class people are in a hurry and will make other plans and that will free up some seats and I'll get an upgrade to make the delay worth while. No such luck.

The flight re-boards at 4:00 or so. I've been at the Seattle airport for 8 hours by now. Four and a half hour flight to Dulles, scheduled to land at midnight. This time I get to row 11 before Mom and daughter. Maybe they took a different flight or chose to spend the night in Seattle rather than Dulles? No such luck. They show up eventually and, of course, still want the window seat. It's theirs.

The spare part arrives and we're able to take off shortly after 4:30. I read a little and start to fall asleep. But I'm worried I'll miss the chance to eat, so I don't.

One of my favorite things about United is listening to the air traffic controllers. I just find it fascinating. I'm always bummed when it's not available, as was the case on this flight. There are lots of in the nearby seats so the wearing of headphones is required. The in-flight movie is The Big Year. It's decent.

Food choices on this flight are pretty much limited to snack boxes. So my dinner this day consists of chips, salsa, trail mix, chocolate-covered pretzel, granola bar, and a coke. About $7.50. The machine doesn't like my company credit card but is happy with my personal card. It turns out I was lucky to even get a snack box -- they didn't have enough for everyone on the flight.

As predicted Mom and daughter get out twice to use the loo. I'm bothered by the man behind me kicking the seat from time to time. Tapping his foot to music perhaps? I break out the laptop to review my slides for tomorrow's presentation. The flight lands very close to midnight. Its a dreary walk through the dreary deserted Dulles airport. I'm the only one on the Hertz shuttle. At least they have a car for me this time. I hook up the GPS and enter the Hotel's coordinates.

The checkin lady gives me a choice: king bed in handicapped room or a room with two beds. For some reason I chose the king. I'm checked in by 1:00 AM and in bed by 1:30, but not particularly sleepy so I watch a Bill and Hillary documentary until about 2:30. The alarm is set for 7:00 so I can walk over to the office by 8:00 and have time to prepare for the 8:30 meeting where I will give a presentation.

Day 2

I get to the office and find my new cube, which doesn't have a chair for me to sit in. Borrow a chair and submit a request online for a chair in my cube, please. We go downstairs for the meeting breakfast and I learn that I'll be up at 9:45, which is good. I have time to go through the presentation again. A chair arrived while I was gone.

Gave the presentation and it went really well, except that we sort of ran out of time and I rushed through the last few slides, stumbling over some words. Overall very good. Had lunch at the cafeteria with a coworker and spent the rest of the day doing normal work stuff.

After work I walked back to the hotel and then drove to Barnes and Noble to load up on books. Spent about two hours looking at books for Colin and myself. For Colin: A Wrinkle In Time, Guys Read Funny Business (short stories), a Phineas and Ferb, and a 39 Clues. Also some "archival quality" coin books where you collect all 50 state quarters. For me: a heavy book about photography. For Mom: oven mitts from William Sonoma. After shopping, dinner by myself at a great sandwich place called Potbelly.

Day 3

Today I am meeting a coworker at the building where our computers live. We're going to try to turn two crummy file servers into one good one. We're not meeting until 9:00 so I sleep in a little. I leave the hotel to get breakfast at Starbucks. I enjoy their surprised looks when I don't order any coffee. For some reason I cannot find Starbucks so I get a muffin and OJ at Panera, which was right next to the hotel.

I'm late for my 9:00 appointment. We encounter a number of problems with the server merge and get bogged down talking about future space needs. I leave without getting the server working to meet my boss for lunch. Its a nice day so we walk to a nearby sandwich place.

The afternoon is normal work stuff. Meetings, email, a little coding, and chit-chat with coworkers I rarely get to see in person.

But I'm really looking forward to 5:00 because the company has an informal group discussion for people interested in photography and we have decided to try monthly meetings to ask questions, share ideas, and share photographs. It worked out well that I would be visiting during the innagural meeting. A group of six meet in a nice conference room on the top floor of the building. We talk about gear and software. Eventually its time to share photos. Someone goes first and I got second, showing my 10 favorites. I got nice comments and very good suggestions for improvements. The meeting went longer than most people expected. Probably needs structure and an agenda next time.

I drive back to the hotel to drop my stuff off. Its about 7:30. I have a hankering for a slice or two of pizza. And I want to go to Old Navy to get some new work shirts. The good pizza places that I know about are 20 minutes away. I chose wisely and the pizza was great, although maybe one slice would've been sufficient. Then I drive to a mall and buy two new shirts. An honest-to-god Justin Beiber look-alike works there. He seriously looked like a 15-year old.

Back at the hotel I bring out the laptop and try to finish a little programming project. At about 11:00 an unexpected complication arises and I give up for the night, but then waste another hour online.

Day 4

Wake up at 7:15 and plan to be in the office by 8:00. The company provides free donuts and bagels on Fridays. I'm the first one there in my cubicle area until about 8:30. Work. Lunch. Work. I have to be on a board of directors conference call at 2:00 and then leave for the airport at 3:00.

Arrive at the airport with plenty of time, plus my flight is delayed by about 45 minutes. I hung out in the very full United Club for an hour, getting a little more work done. Again the tease of a first class upgrade, but I'm like 14th on the list, so not gonna happen.

While sitting on the plane during boarding I think about how I brought my camera along but didn't take any pictures yet. So I take a few for the heck of it. The sun sets and casts a nice glow on some nearby planes. Anne might like the lucky Irish plane:


As we climb out of Dulles there is a nice sunset and the pilot is doing some strange zig-zaggy thing for some reason. This could've been better perhaps, but I was a little slow getting it out of the backpack:


This time the pilot had the ATC on channel 9. For a while at least. As I'm listening there is a glitch and then it stops. All the audio channels stopped, except for the movie. As often happens I didn't watch the movie (In Time?) from the very start, but its impossible to ignore the screens hanging down from the ceiling. Also, as I recently learned on the Internet, this is one of those movies where the video is digitally-processed so that every scene is either orange or teal.  So I mostly watch while eating my Classic Snack Box (a step up from the Savory), but I refuse to listen. I get the gist of the story, and it seems like an okay movie, but probably not good enough to watch a second time with the audio.

It was a 6-hour flight to Seattle, and I unfortunately didn't get any sleep. Instead I listened to some podcasts and watched Battlestar Galactica on my laptop.

Had about an hour to kill at the Seattle airport and spent most of it walking around, with a break to get a little ice cream treat.

The flight to Pullman was okay. I slept for most of it with my head resting next to the window. Twice I did that thing where my head fell forward and woke myself up. It was a little more turbulent than usual. Given the timezone change I was pretty darn tired when we landed at 11:15. I get home and move Colin from Mom and Dad's bed into his own and look forward to a good sleep before we wake up early tomorrow to go skiing.


Here's Colin scoring a two-pointer last night against The Sharks. I was perfectly positioned to capture his rebound and his no-backboard shot. Unfortunately I let up on the shutter while he was taking the shot! I would be fired as the sports photographer for a small town paper.

Notice how he plays it cool after sinking the basket? I expected a big ol' grin, but he just acted like it was no big deal.

Skiing Mount Spokane

We had a lot of fun skiing at Mt. Spokane yesterday with Grandma Theresa, Bradleigh O, and the Perrymans. It was cold and snowy and very foggy.


Colin and MIck took a lesson in the morning and then went on the chairlift numerous times after lunch. Here's Colin doing a "pizza slice" with Grandma Theresa in the background.


I went snowboarding while Anne helped wrangle little Perrymans on the not-very-good tubing hill.

Back at the hotel we all enjoyed a free $5 Little Caesar's pizza and then hit the pool. After swimming we all played headbandz (you get to ask yes/no questions to guess whats on the card on your forehead).


Bradleigh had a tough time with Unicorn until we gave her the hint that it might be something imaginary. Then she got it right away. The little ones made us laugh by giving away the secrets and Anne learned that turkeys don't go in the water.

Trip Report: San Diego and USS Midway

This week I was in San Diego for the 54th NANOG Meeting. I serve on the NANOG Board, which means there is almost no free time for sightseeing. Nearly every breakfast and lunch are booked with meetings and social events often happen around dinner time.

One of the social events this time was as the USS Midway Museum — a retired aircraft carrier floating in the San Diego harbor turned into a museum. I don't consider myself a military buff, but I have to say I was a little excited to see it.

I brought my camera and tripod and spent the entire time walking around and taking pictures. There were food and drinks below deck, which I missed entirely.

Entrance to the Midway Museum

This was the first carrier built after World War II, and is named after the battle of Midway Island. The large "41" indicates that this is the U.S. Navy's 41st aircraft carrier. The Midway was active from the Vietnam War to Operation Desert Storm.

In addition to just roaming around the decks, we also got a tour through the ship's Tactical Flag Command Center, where we saw captain's quarters, the "war room," and lots of old-looking equipment. Some people gave the flight training simulators a try and said they were close to losing their appetizers.

Afterwards, I learned that my brother- and sister-in-law, both retired Naval officers, are pals with museum's president! How cool is that?

The rest of the trip was more-or-less uneventful. Lots of time spent at the hotel, another nice social event at a nearby night club. No free shower caps for Anne this time, unfortunately.

Moscow's Bike Bike Rack

Continuing the series of posting older photos from last year...

This is the "Bike" bike rack located at Moscow's East City Park, and this is the second time I stopped to photograph it. I'm not sure I'd lock my bike to that "K" though...


2012 Basketball

First game of the Spring 2012 basketball season. Colin took a couple of shots, but our team lost by quite a bit. He plays excellent defense and had a great block against a shooter on the other team.


A Moment of Zen

My lovely sister-in-law made the mistake of asking why I haven't been posting very many pictures recently. Fortunately, I have lots of old photos to look through! You will now be subjected to a few of them from last year.

I took Colin and a friend mini-golfing at Airway Hills. Some times he gets a little impatient waiting for everyone to finish their putts and he moves on to the next hole. I probably hollered at him to wait. When I looked up he was sitting like this:


I'm pretty sure he got this from Phineas & Ferb.