Thursday, July 27, 2006

Movin' on up...

You all know I've been house hunting forever now. Well I have an announcement to make. I finally settled on a house that I like. It's going to slightly increase my daily commute, but I think it's well worth it because I'll be happy. I kept the important things in mind, like utility costs, taxes, upkeep, etc... I took my video camera during my last visit so I could share my future domicile with the blogging community. So enjoy. Oh, and ignore the guy talking. That's just my realtor. He didn't realize I was filming and apologized later.

I close next Friday.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Northern Exposures

Let me just preface this post by saying that about 4 hours in to my picture taking excursion on day 1 of my trip, my freakin camera broke. Dead. Done. Don't ever buy a Kodak Digital Camera LS400. So the last few pictures here are from my cell phone.

So anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed Helena. It's the iconic small town America if there ever was such a place. It's the type of town you'd see painted in Norman Rockwell's artwork.

This shot was taken from about 2/3 the way up Mt. Helena. Just a small town. Friendly people. Working people. Nothing fancy. Simplicity in its finest form. I like that.

I managed to get out away from the "big city" and explore the outlying countryside a bit.

The landscape is just jaw-dropping beautiful. Look at that picture above and below. Take a deep breath. Not too deep, because you're not in Montana. If you're in Delaware, you just got a lung full DuPont freshness. But not in Montana. Maybe it's my uber-sensitive sense of smell, but I noticed the clean air right away.

Look at this place. And me without my kayak! What's a paddler to do? Perfect weather. Perfect clients. For a moment, just a moment, I forgot I was there to work.

One night we joined the local community for a good old fashioned local baseball game. The Helena Brewers had a home stretch and we opted for some roasted peanuts, brats, and beers. It doesn't get more "Ain't that America" than that folks.

I love that you can kick back and take in a game like this, with Mt. Helena in the background, and the atmosphere completely makes me forget that I freakin hate baseball. Seriously. I can't stand it. It bores me. But you know what? It didn't matter. I had a good time. It was about living in the moment.

The Helena Regional Airport was interesting. Both gates of it. Perhaps the thing I found most interesting was the interior design of the airport.

The interior was designed to look very rustic and very much represented the town. How many other airports have you seen where the support beams are built to look like trees with bark and have wildlife action scenes over looking the patrons. I found it to be a nice relief from the hustle and bustle of airports like Detroit, Minneapolis, or Baltimore. Well done, Helena.

This trip re-energized me in my drive to explore places I've never been. Shortly I'll be back off to St. Louis, but after that, I may actually take a (cover your ears) vacation and head back out west. Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe are calling my name, but for now, it's house finding time. And that needs to take priority, no matter how stress relieving Montana was. That, and the fact that I now need to buy a new camera....

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Snakes Skunks on a plane

I'm back from God's Country. No, no the middle east, but Montana.

I'll post pictures and stories about that trip later. But first, I'd like to address the situation of air travel in our country.

Most of us normal folk fly coach. And most intra-continental travel is accomplished on planes that consist of 737s or smaller. At most, you generally have three compact seats on either side of the isle. It's also not a secret that in the summer time air temperatures can reach close to 100 degrees.

Now let's go over a few of the fundamentals of aeronautical engineering. Most passenger jet aircraft have two main types of engines: those on the wings (or tail) for propulsion, and the smaller, less apparent, engine usually mounted over the tail just above the cabin. This is the auxiliary power unit or APU that allows the plane to power the little things like the air conditioning on hot days.

It is also used to start the main jet engines. When the plane is at the gate, it is connected to a generator that relieves the responsibilities of the auxiliary engine. This engine is not necessary to fly the plane and in more than one occasion I have been on planes where the APU was not working.

(As an aside, there's also one more thing I'd like to clear up. How many times have you been on a plane that's landing and someone says "when we land the pilot reverses the engines to slow down"? Well sorry to burst your bubble people, but that's not what happens. You simply can not just take a jet engine, where airflow is designed to move one direction, moving at thousands of RPMs and just "reverse it".

A- there is no transmission to put it in reverse, and B - IF that was possible it would rip the wings off the plane. That noise and deceleration feel you get when landing is caused by a combination of thrust reversers. There are two main kinds of thrust reversers. Their function is to take the air that is coming out of the back of the engine and redirect the airflow to help slow the aircraft.

The braking effect comes from the fact that the engine is swallowing very large amounts of air, creating a considerable drag on the engine, without producing any compensating thrust. Almost all of the braking comes from intake drag, not from the forward component of the exhaust.)

So now that class is over for this post, back to my point. When you are stuffed on a tiny plane and it's 100 degrees out and the APU is not functional, you can imagine the problems it can create. Now also imagine, if you would, me being 6'5" sitting next to a large, sweaty man reeking of body odor in said plane. Now imagine rolling out to the runway in the 100 degree plane with a reeking person next to you AND a scr-EAMING child behind you when the front tire goes flat.

Then imagine sitting on the taxiway for 90 minutes in that plane while they change that tire. We had people passing out, tempers flaring, but hey, we got free travel vouchers!

It was easily the worst flight I've ever been on. Even worse than the time I got searched because someone in the security line said "bomb".

But I will tell you this; after all that, it made the wide open spaces of Montana and the experience of being out there all the more sweeter.

After all, without knowing the sour, the sweet just isn't as sweet...

Saturday, July 15, 2006


So I'm off to Montana for a while. Just in case you were wondering. Feel free to come rob my house, just be sure to water my plant while you're there, please. I've never been to Montana before, but from what I've heard, this is what I should expect.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Since I take advantage of any chance I get to unplug for awhile, naturally I jumped at the chance to go kayaking again. A former coworker, who now lives in Elkton, MD, has a house on the water and recently purchased kayaks for himself and his family. Me, always wanting to have my own kayak to use on all the canoe / kayaking ventures I go on, thought that this would be the perfect time to buy one.

So having researched kayaks for some time now, my buddy and I trekked up to Philly to swing by the Philadelphia Canoe Club's Open House. My goal was to pick up a good used kayak for a decent price. I'd figure out where to store it later. But much to my dismay, the only used 'yaks were whitewater models and I wanted a "trekreation" model. After all, I use these trips to relax, not pump up the adrenaline.

So leaving with no kayak of my own, we head back to his house and decided to take his new 'yaks for a spin. I was totally and completely relaxed. And I was also sold on the exact make and model that I want after test driving his Wilderness Systems Pungo 120. Here's a shot from the bow camera.

I've only ever gone paddling in DE so navigating the Elkton waters was a surprisingly pleasant experience. I was impressed by the abundant wildlife. In all, we spotted a dozen or so herons, a crane, several ducks and jumping fish.

I also had a beaver swim next to my yak for a short time but when I fumbled around for my camera phone, he dove under my boat and disappeared. I had a small water snake swim up to my 'yak. I wasn't really thrilled about that and used my paddle to keep him at bay. Shortly thereafter he lost interest and swam away.

After this trip, I'm even more determined to get a kayak of mine own. Dover doesn't have much to do, but it is near several great paddling spots all of which are just down right peaceful. Now I'm on a mission.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fly me to the moon...

There's something really cool about space. Where does one start in trying to describe it? Is it the exploration? The achievement? The Pride? It's all those and much more.

I have had a natural interest in the space program and NASA in general ever since attended Space Camp in Huntsville, AL when I was younger. So of course I pay very close attention to every detail when a Shuttle goes up. Like many other things I'm fascinated with, I try to learn more about it. And more is never enough.

Fortunately for me (and the rest of the world), we now have the wonderful Internet to keep track of things. So as I was checking NASA's site today to keep tabs on the Shuttle rollover and dock with the ISS, I noticed something even more "cool".

Below is a video of the Shuttle Discovery rolling over before the dock so that the ISS crew can photograph and examine the belly of the orbiter for damage. But that's not what caught my eye. Watch the video and pay particular attention to the earth below. It gives a very good perspective of what it's like to travel at 17,000 miles an hour. But that's not even what caught my eye. Focus around the 50 second mark on the video. Watch as the orbiter passes over the geography below. You can clearly see a man made canal and all you fellow geographers out there help me out, but is this the Panama Canal? The Suez Canal? The Delaware Canal? (yeah, right).

Where in the world is this (Carmen Sandiego)?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Liberty, Happiness and the pursuit of a Life?

Happy 4th of July.

To celebrate this holiday, I went out and bought myself another new toy. Because that's my excuse. It was a holiday.

I recently had to buy a new personal cell phone because my "old" one, which was about two years old, just up and died. So being the techie I am, I made sure I got all the bells and whistles. The one thing that was vital for me was having Bluetooth capability. So naturally, I got a Bluetooth headset so I can walk around airports and be cool like everyone else who looks like their talking to themselves but really have headsets on.

This is not the toy that I'm referring to though. I am so hooked on Bluetooth technology that I just had to buy this:

Now this, my friends, makes me happy. A Bluetooth keyboard and rechargable lithium-ion mouse with hotswapping capabilities allow me to share them between my desktop and laptop with ease. I am no longer forced to sit in uncomfortable chairs or type with a hot laptop sitting on my lap. The mouse is an MX white laser. It's like a turbo-charged optical mouse that I can operate on just about any surface. To test this claim, I've put the mouse on just about everything and it works just fine.

The left side of the keyboard has touch sensitive controls to support my electronic crack habit, iTunes. While you're using iTunes, (or whatever media player) the song names scroll across the digital display on the keyboard. Email notifications also show up there.

So as I said, this makes me "happy". At least for a while. And we all know I already have the Liberty...

So that just leaves me in search of a Life. (Tell me something I didn't know.)

Sunday, July 02, 2006


There are several things in life that are severely underestimated. Sleeping in ones own bed is one of them.

When you travel from hotel to hotel it starts to just become the norm that each night you will be eating fast food, over paying for snacks from a vending machine, falling asleep to some free HBO channel movie that you've already seen but watch anyway because there's nothing on the other 5 channels the hotel gets.

When you do finally fall asleep, it won't be soundly. The air conditioning unit will kick on and off every 10 minutes and bring you out of whatever deep sleep you almost entered. And you never will get the temperature to hit the same setting that you have at home. You toss and turn because it's just a smidgen to warm or you pull the cheap hotel sheets over you and they just don't feel right.

In a lot of ways my job resembles that of a prostitute. No, seriously.

  • I'm in a different bed each night.
  • I'm responsible for making my clients happy, no matter what.
  • I'm extremely tired right after work; drained physically and mentally.
  • I have to make sure that I'm good at what I do because there's a lot of competition out there.
  • I have no plans for where I'll be eating my next meal. There's no time for cooking.
  • I'm often in a different car to get to wherever my actual work is going to take place.
  • For the stuff I put up with, the money is not that great.
  • I will probably "wear out" in 5-7 years.

See I told you. Me love you long time...