I'm writing this 35,000 feet up in the air over central Texas, as I fly back in to Austin after a week in San Jose for the Embedded Systems Conference. Flying is one of the few times where I actually have time to sit and re-group, and even write a website update! To say I've been busy over the last month or so is an understatement, as I prepared training and labs and code for 3 events all happening with-in 5 days of each other. The first one was the one I'm flying back from, and we had 125+ people in each of the classes. It was by far the largest class I've ever taught, but amazingly it all went pretty smoothly.
The only real hiccup wasn't related to the class, but was the Internet connection in the hotel and convention center dropping down to early 90's 14.4k internet speed because of all the engineers trying to get on. You'd think in Silicon Valley of all places they'd be able to figure out that they should have more bandwidth.
I fly up to Montreal then on Monday to do another class for some distributors, but that will be a lot less hectic (I hope!). And even though it'll be my 3rd trip up to that particular part of Canada-land, I still won't have the chance to really check out the city since I fly in late, teach all day, and fly out early the next morning. Which normally wouldn't be a big issue to do sight seeing that evening, except the company I'm visiting is in the middle of suburbia and nowhere near public transit. Eventually it'll work out where I can stay a few extra days on my own, but alas not this time.
The week before this though I was in Florida for my friend Alyson's wedding. I met her freshman year of college, and it's crazy to think that now everyone's getting married. I was wondering when this would happen, but now I know at least 6 people getting married this year. Unfortunately I won't be able to make them all, but I'm starting to really feel old now. Me and Kara haven't set a date yet, but it's still tentatively planned for next Spring.
While we were in Florida we spent a few days at the beach (Daytona and Siesta), went up to UF for a day, and also went to Disney World. Thank goodness for the Unofficial Guide touring plans. I hadn't had to really worry about crowds for years since we had our annual passes while we lived in Florida and could just go during the deserted off season. But trying to do everything in a park in only a day was hectic. Feet killed us by the end but we did manage to see just about everything. Did Magic Kingdom and Epcot this trip, and plan to do MGM next trip when I'm in Orlando again for work in June. And thank goodness I kept my UF student ID, which I used to claim Florida Residency to save about $70 on tickets for those 2 days. Disney is soooo expensive for out of state!
I also used Priceline for the first time ever, and it definitely won't be the last. I did have a $22/day car rental reservation, but Pricelined it down to $12 a day. Then I got a $140 hotel room at Embassy Suites for only $52 a night. And with free hot breakfast! It takes a little bit of research to figure out how low to go, but well worth the time. Definitely recommend it if you're not super particular about location or amenities, and most importantly, know your travel plans won't change since they charge your credit card after you win the bid and it's entirely nonrefundable for any reason. Just pick anything 3* or higher and you'll be fine and get the biggest discounts.
As usual when I fly I pick up newspapers left and right to read on the plane, and so I can finally feel like I'm caught up with what's going on in the world, from the Gulf oil spill to Greece's financial issues.
And then I have my phone to play MP3's off of (Lady Gaga's Telephone on repeat, it's so catchy!). I'm still using the Bose fancy headphones I picked up while I interned at Intel. They bought them for everyone since it was so noisy in the server room I did benchmarks in, and then gave them to me as a goodbye present. Still getting a lot of use out of them 6 years later. My only complaint is that if the battery dies, you can't play music out of them then. All the other noise suppression headphones from other companies just don't do the noise cancellation without batteries, but you can still use them like regular headphones. Not these. Very annoying to have a battery die on you in mid-flight.
Speaking of flying again, if anyone reading this (yes all two of you and the 3 internet search crawlers) flies Southwest, they're doing double flight credits until mid-May. So one round trip is worth 4 credits instead of the regular 2. Took advantage of this with my flight to San Jose, and even coming back from Florida. It took a lot of finagling, canceling of flights and rebooking, but I LOVE Southwest since it's always incredibly easy and free to change flights or cancel tickets. They just credit your account for any cancellations, or charge you the difference is the flight you switch too is more expensive. And if the flight you switch to is cheaper, you get that amount credited to your account. Everyone else charges like $150 to change anything! And you get two free checked bags. And I swear I didn't have anyone paying me to type all this while on a Southwest flight. I promise!
I can see Lake Travis out the window, so we're almost home. Got to turn off the laptop and post this once I get home. I like seeing Austin from the air though, seeing my apartment complex and Zilker and downtown. It's good to be home and good to see Kara again after a whole week of being away. I honestly have no idea how we did 9 months half a world away, it seems like just a bad dream now :)
Oh and I just learned that ctrl+a highlights an entire document. Makes cutting and pasting so much easier.
Updating from 35,000 feet again, this time over the Great Lakes as I fly to Montreal for another work trip. I've been working on some lab documents and need a break. The in-flight movie is When In Rome, which isn't half bad I guess for a generic romantic comedy. Plus there's a lot of Rome scenes which I have a lot larger appriciation for since I met my fiance in Rome 2 years ago.
I also should be working on my Candian custom's form. Canada has by far the most humorless and hostile immigration officials I've met in my travels, though I'm not sure how much of that is because I'm always coming here on business instead of vacation.
One interesting thing about this trip though is that I checked in, went through security, and boarded the plane only using my cell phone. You can open up a web page with a square bar code and it's scanned like a paper boarding pass, but without the hassle of printing anything out. Unfortunately for my second leg the web page stopped working so I ended up having to get a print out anyways, and the scanners are kind of finicky on reading the bar code properly. Still a cool idea though, and it's nice to see we're catching up with the rest of the world in using cell phones for payments.
It's another busy week as I return on Wednesday and then drive up to Arkansas on Thursday for Kara's graduation. She's had all the credits for graduation for almost 2 years now, but took a detour with study abroads in Italy and New Zealand and then had to write an honors thesis which she finished up last week. I'm very proud of her, as she's graduating with a 4.0 in one of the top undergrad business programs in the country. I love that I'm marrying an even bigger nerd than I am!
Ok, my laptop battery is about dead so will have to wrap it up. Since I'm not staying in a $125+ hotel room it means Internet is free, so I can log in once I get to the hotel. Hooray for providing basic 21st century services complimentary!
Kara's up in Dallas this weekend for a friend's graduation, so I'm being left to my own devices for a few days. She took the Amtrak train up there, which marked the first time I've seen a train station in the US. They keep talking about a high-speed train corridor between Dallas/Austin/San Antonio/Houston but since this is Texas after all, I'll believe it when I see it.
Because I have lots of computer time this weekend, I had a chance to sort through the hundreds of photos that I've taken over the last few months and uploaded some of them up here for all 3 of my readers. It used to be just 2, but now I have some spammer who sends me emails on the feedback forming telling me he can increase my web traffic. Thanks for reading spammer guy!
I've slowly fallen into the Twitter fad, which amazingly hasn't petered out yet even though it's been almost 4 years since it was created. I have an account though I hardly ever tweet except during ACL and SXSW so my friends can follow what's going on who can't be there. But I am finding it really useful to follow the Austin news stations and blogs to find out about local news and things going on this weekend. It's kind of like a "push" RSS feed.
Another weekend and another update. But this time a 3-day weekend! I'm writing this on Kara's new laptop. It's technically not new, but I formatted the hard drive and put a fresh copy of XP on it. Her Mom donated it to us since Kara's old laptop's screen died. I always like the feeling of a fresh laptop without any random programs clogging things up. I don't even want to know how much money Best Buy would charge to do that. The hardest part was setting up iTunes actually. I don't understand how it's possible to even make it so complicated to play a song.
It's story's like this case of entrenched corporate sexism that makes me realize just how further we still have to go. But at least it's not as bad as it was in these ads.
Remember way back when Palin's email account was "hacked"? The Telegraph has a good piece explaining the whole story and how Palin milked it for all it's worth. But it goes to show how those innocent sounding "Forgot password" questions can really backfire on you. I actually found that out the hard way during my Junior year of high school, and ever since then I just fill out the questions with it's own special password that has nothing to do with the name of my high school (which is entirely trivial to find out in the age of Google, blogs, and Facebook).
Hope everyone has a good Memorial Day and thanks for our troops for everything they do for us!