August 29, 2007

It's Dragon*Con Time

Melissa and I are off to Dragon*Con this weekend for a little vacation from reality. And the Dragon*Con LiveJournal springs to life about two months out, and the closer we get to the Con, the less and less you see of your friends' posts, in the sea of room requests, party announcements, Calls for models in the annual "Men In Kilts & A Girl with a Leafblower" calendar... and UNIQUE posts like this one:
"DragonCon Culinaria"
danceswthcobras wrote:
Folks who feel like drooling can click here for my con packing list:

I like to process my own meat, and I'm picky about buying organic small farm raised critters, so I fill my freezer with some amazingly good stuff. A good chunk of it is coming with me to con for provisions and possibly to share. I dry rubbed a six pound sirloin in sea salt and spices and slow roasted it just now, and the aroma in my house is incredible. I may do another roast-to-go tomorrow so there will be enough to share with the deserving.

I'll swap a big steak every day (well, a steak sized slice of incredibly yummy slow roasted beef) for a couple of cubic feet of storage in any hotel room on site and access to it maybe two or three times a day for a few minutes to change costumes and dump dealer room swag. Plus additional consideration to be negotiated, if desired. My hotel room (way off site) has a fridge and a freezer and I'm bringing a chest of dry ice for further cold storage insurance.

I don't bother eating steak in restaurants any more, even the nice ones, since it's pretty sad stuff compared to what I have at home. A few chefs do go to the lengths of buying organic small farm "microbrewed" beef, but you'll be paying $40 a plate and up for the experience. Or you can buy the whole cow like I do. :)

Or just say hi at the con and I may be persuaded to share. :)

In short: "Will sell personally prepared steaks, in exchange for on-site hotel storage space." It's THAT kind of convention, where crap like that happens all around you.

And I can't wait for it.

August 20, 2007

Great Ideas (Vol. 2)

Mel: Matthew, What do you want to be when you grow up?
Matthew: I want to be a SUPERHERO! Zoooommmm Pyow pyow!
Chris: and what super-powers would you have?
Matthew: I'd have um, the power of Fire... and Fish... and... BOOM!
Mel: And what would your SuperHero name be?
Matthew: Super Matthew K!
Chris: Yeah, good way to keep your secret identity, there, kiddo.

I wish I could draw, because a guy in tights throwing flaming, exploding fish would be so damned cool.

Farewell, Casa De Kern

It has begun. Melisa and I have moved the bulk of our belongings out of our house, Thanks to some heavy-lifting help from Craig and Ron. We are now living with Mel's parents about 20 minutes down the road, and Matthew is attending school in the new place. Over the next few weeks, we'll be cleaning out the rest of our belongings and cleaning up the house, prepping it for sale. The bathrooms need new linoleum, the walls need paint, the carpets need steam cleaning, the outside needs pressure washing, and some serious landscaping needs to be completed before we can put this house on the market.

The plan is to sell the old house, stay here for the schoolyear and save up some money for a new down payment, and find a new place in Gwinnett or nearby.

I know this might come as a bit of a shock. But 30 year-olds do NOT take the idea of moving back in with Mom & Dad lightly. It's a major lifestyle shift for all parties involved. Not only will the bulk of our possessions remain in U-Haul boxes, but now we have 5 people living under one roof. Sharing one kitchen. Sharing one laundy room. Everybodies skivvies appearing folded in visible laundry baskets. And lack of Private Nookie Time for both couples.

But there are also positives: I pitch in to do a portion of a flat lawn, instead of doing 100% of one that is mostly a 45-degree incline. We have an experienced chef that can help us eat decent food for a while, instead of falling back on take-out food as much as we have for the past few months. We can put Matthew to bed and leave for a late movie every now and again, without a lot of hassle. Both parties will be spending less on food & utilities, since we'll be sharing the expenses.

We're hoping to catch a break selling the house, because our luck has not been so great lately:
(1) A/C, Transmission sensors broken in Mel's car, emitting loud noise
(2) Lightning strike from last month eventually killed the A/C unit outside the house, so Cats had to be moved from 96-degree house to basement of new place before it was ready.
(3) A/C unit in MY car is faltering, nearly stranded Melissa and her mom on Jimmy Carter Blvd one friday.
(4) Matthew is re-testing every boundary in the new house, seeing if he'll still get punished here like he did in the old place. (Or, "Raptors testing the fences" as I call it.)

The good news is that Matthew's apparently doing well in Kindergarten, and not giving the teacher the amount of difficulty he's giving us. Good to know. Here's his account of his first day of school:

Update: We did get some good news the other day. The neighbor across the street runs a landscaping business, and I asked him to give us an estimate on tidying up the old house's yard. He came back with a price 1/2 of what some other guys wanted to charge us. He even knows a guy that does heavy-duty pressure-washing that might be able to get the oil spot off the driveway (from My car's LAST big repair). I was very grateful to him.

Update#2: There will definitely be some adjustments made to living here. Brenda just opened the door on me when I was using the bathroom. Luckily, I was hunkered down, not standing up, so she didn't see anything. I'll have to learn to lock the door.

August 13, 2007

First Day

Matthew starts Kindergarten today. Melissa and I waited with him at the bus stop and he's off to school.

*Guh* I'm sure it'll be a bit scary at first, but Matthew's always been a very social kid. The teachers may have trouble keeping him quiet if he finds a bug, but I think he'll learn the way things work fairly quickly.

[Aside to Teacher Friends: Is "Fairly Quickly" correct? A double adverb?]

August 07, 2007

Little Rock Trip Journal

A diary of my business trip to HQ in Little Rock, Arkansas last week:

Sunday, July 29th
5:30 PM - Dropped off at Hartsfield-Jackson-Turner-YourNameHereFor$1Billon Atlanta International Airport, plenty early for my 6:55 flight to Little Rock. Once I see the departure boards, I realize there's even MORE time, since it now shows the flight leaving at 7:10. No problem, I head to Concourse A and walk the mile to gate 33 at the end, but there's no flight to Little Rock on the board, this one's going to Columbia, SC. I check this set of departure boards and the only flight to Little Rock is at geat D-26, and is now departing at 7:30. A dash to Concourse D later, the departure boards THERE claim the flight is now departing at 8:10.

I knocked off the first few chapters of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows while I waited, interrupted briefly by an announcement that a flight was cancelled due to the crappy weather. Luckily (for me), it was a flight to Toronto. But 20 minutes later, my spider-senses were tingling - something wasn't right here. I double-checked and my flight number didn't match this gate either. A quick check with the gate agent confirmed my suspicions: My flight WAS actually at gate A-33, but it had been delayed until 9:50 PM. With such a late departure, it was no longer listed on the Departure boards as "current" since it was over three hours off, causing my re-direction.

So not a great start to the trip. And I was even denied a beer to pass the time, as the Budweiser Tap Room and the Houlihan's had an hour wait. But because of that, I can pass this processed nugget of wisdom to you: Don't believe Krystal Burgers about their Black Angus burger. Even if it really IS made of Black Angus Beef, they don't specify which PARTS of said cow that they use. By the taste, I'd say the nostrils and the soft inner part of the Hooves. (You know, the part that trudges around in their excrement all day in the fields.)

8:12 PM - The flight has been delayed until 10:25 PM
8:32 PM - The flight is departing at 9:50 PM again, but now at gate A3, at the other end of the terminal
8:53 PM - After just getting settled, the announcement comes over the PA that the flight has been moved again to gate A15.
9:50 PM - Finally we are loaded up and push away from the gate. I'm in the window seat with two gray-haired ladies sitting next to me. I try to read as we slowly taxi out to the runway, but the two old ladies seem intent on pointing out every other plane they see and wagering on how many planes have to go in front of us. Every two minutes, when another plane is visible out my window, the nearest one points a finger at it, within two inches of my face.

10:30 PM - Looking at the light pollution from the city below, I think about all that energy is wasted sending light bouncing upwards where it's not needed. I wondered to myself if science could ever create "Heavy Light" that would be affected by normal Earth gravity, and thus only brighten things directly below it, without the photons traveling back upwards. It would save energy, since these streetlamps would only need do be half as bright, and there would be none of the light pollution that we get in cities, so the stars would be visible at night, instead of the haze of the city (or "loglow" as Neal Stephenson called it). Light, imbued with mass, flowing along the path of least resistance like water. (I realize that would be an invention tantamount to invisibility, having light not bounce and return in all directions.) Anyway. Just a thought.

11:52 PM - Landed, Car rented, drove to Company Guest House where I'll be staying for the week. Not a bad little cottage, nice amenities, but I can never sleep in a king sized bed, (unless you count diagonally). Best part: There's a lobby, probably for entertaining clients that might be staying on-site, complete with couches, HDTV and a stocked bar. A glass of Dewar's later, I'm thinking this might not be so bad after all.

Monday July 30th
A little more poking around in the guest House revealed a professional-level kitchen, like you may find in a small restaurant. Cereal, milk and breakfast bars were also available for the culinarilly challenged like myself. The Guest house is just across the complex from Building 4 where I'll be working, so it's almost as good as telecommuting. I set up in an empty manager's cube and wait for Bob, the upgrade consultant to show up. I picked him out immediately from the crowd of regular employees because he was wearing a tie. This is Little Rock, Arkansas, where "business casual" means "No Flip-Flops or Daisy Dukes."

Bob is a mid 40's guy with gray-blond hair and a soul patch on the chin, who chortles when he laughs, but he's easy-going and fine to work with. He professed to like Moby, so he didn't mind one bit that I like my electronica playing while I work. We get along fine, and he's a good talker, or perhaps just doesn't like silence as we worked. We've each already told about our work history, family, kids, where we live, and he's already covered how his father was a fine art painter and died at age 64 after 10 years of dealing with Alzheimers. And that's day one. What the hell are we going to talk about tomorrow?

I won't bore you with the drudgery of details, but I'm responsible for a website tracking tool called WebTrends, and he's helping us upgrade to the latest version. The version we had was so old, the only help that the support line was allowed to give us was help on how to upgrade. Day one was "Devil-in-the-Details Day" where we checked every little thing to see if it was all working and validated properly, and MAAAAAAN do I hate checklists. But progress was eventually made, and I think we'll be ready to start (on schedule) tomorrow morning.

5:36 PM - Most of the staff here works 8:30-4:30, but I still have work to do. My other areas of responsibility have not stopped for me while this one has taken sudden and total precedence.

8:15 PM - Apparently all of the movie theaters in town start at 7 or 9, and I'm not going to just wander around their lobby waiting. So I take a drive down Cantrell Road, one of the main drags in Little Rock, trying to get my bearings again and remember where places are. Melissa calls and says she had to leave work early tonight because it feels like there's something jammed in her eye. She's heading up to the hospital to have it looked at.

Notable scenery: A townhouse complex whose units are barely visible from street-level due to a severe drop-off. Name of the complex is "Valley Heights".

11:30 PM - After driving around most of the evening, which includes becoming completely lost in some bad areas of town, I'm back in my room, ironing my suitcase-crumpled clothes and waiting for Melissa's call from the Hospital. Ends up she has Pink Eye. We thought Matthew's bloodshot eyes were related to his fever, but apparently not. (It's not at all funny, Melissa's in a lot of pain, but I can't help but think about that South Park Halloween special. Worcestershire Sauce....)

Tuesday July 31st-
The issues we had yesterday with the program are gradually working themselves out, but it's tedious work. At least things are easier to diagnose today, and I feel like we've gotten somewhere. By the end of the day, after backing up the current state of things, we start part 1 of the upgrade and it works fairly quickly. We're out of there by 6 PM, saying we'll meet up later in the guest house's computer room and see if the files are processing correctly.

The week passed quickly, and rather uneventfully. We made gradual process with the Software upgrade, and everything went well, but nothing worth writing about. It ended with two half-day training classes for me and the other two people who use it. Bob and I went out each night for dinner, I took him to the places I knew in town, and down to the RiverWalk downtown.

One night, we sat at the bar of a BrewPub called Bosco's facing the constant CNN coverage of that highway bridge that collapsed in the MidWest. It was a terrible tragedy, but like always, there was no real need to keep watching the same 6 video clips playing over and over. We left there, a relatively upscale joint, when our food had not arrived 50 minutes later, and Bob distinctly saw his plate of pork chops sitting on the serving shelf for 15 minutes. We hopped across the street to The Flying Saucer, a bar with regular pub fare, and received beers and ordinary sandwiched in very little time. The place was loud with friendly-talking patrons and no televisions to be seen, which made for an infinitely better atmosphere than before.

Bob picked up my tab for the sandwich and two beers, and in return, I picked up his meal at Hunan Chinese restaurant the next night. Amazingly, we've kept up the friendly conversations all week, and my good opinion of him has not changed.

Last night, I left him smoking a cigar on the guest lodge porch and went out to catch "Knocked Up" at the local movie house. The print was so scratched up in places, it looked like JAWS used the film to floss with, and the sound cut out in a few places. Funny movie, but I think it stretched the premise a bit too far: upwardly-mobile hottie has drunken fling with unemployed, bong-smoking adorkable slob, they decide to keep the kid and form a relationship, each one trying to be a little more like the other in order to get along, fights happen and are resolved, complications during the Labor, hilarity ensues. But at the end, the inevitable transformation of the guy happens WAY too quickly in a 2-minute montage to be believable. And the only other family we see is a bitter, unhappy couple where the over-bearing nag of a wife kicks the husband out of the house for sneaking out once a week to play fantasy baseball. So while the story is cute, the couple's odd-couple chemistry is good and the jokes are there, there's just to much depressing, bad-marriage plot and a bit more drug use than even I care for. I expected a little more funny from the director of "40 Year-Old Virgin". [C+]

Friday - 1:28 PM
Waiting at the gate for my flight back to Atlanta, and Little Rock National is not a large airport. It only has 10 or 12 gates, but I've never left out of one over #3. (Case and point, the gate steward calling out two passengers by name and saying "If you two want to go to St. Louis, now's the time.") And it's the last place I'd expect to hear a PA announcer lady with a British accent, but there it is again, asking someone to return to the TSA inspection site if they've lost a bracelet. I've been able to re-read most of the last Harry Potter book this week at a more leisurely pace, mostly at night. This explains my dreams last night of Melissa and I taking Matthew to some sort of Potter-esque theme park with Voldemort chasing us. In any case, I'll be glad to return home, see the wife and kid again, and get a decent night's sleep in my own bed.