Posts Tagged ‘travel’

World Class

15 June 2012

Dear J-

Of all the things you’d think I’d be doing now, would this be it? I’m not sure what they were thinking when they slapped that ‘most likely to succeed’ label on but I’ve always thought that between the two of us you’d be far more famous and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t mistaken in my belief. On the other hand I also didn’t think that I’d be in southern California, either, or doing this much traveling, or working outside of academia, either, so that goes to show you how good my predictive abilities are. I’m feeling better about the trip technically — I can support the project and make some progress on the road at night.

I’ve learned a lot this year, switching jobs and making for higher and higher ground, but there are times that I suspect I’ve made myself too narrowly specialized. The guy I first worked with on this project had the right perspective and worst-case scenario mapped out way back in February: what if we don’t get the unit back? What if we don’t get both units back? These things that I thought were merely academically interesting have become quite personal; I’m invested into getting us back on line and bear that sense of responsibility with me.

On the other hand and more importantly, to boot, figgy graduates today — tonight — and I was reminded to try to get home a little earlier so that we can all eat; it’s a preview of the year to come, when she’ll start kindergarten at 7:30 each morning, meaning everyone’s going to become an earlybird here before long. I’m excited to learn new things on the trip but equally disappointed that the new life at home is going to keep moving on without me; there’s a whole lot of change that’s happened already, and more to come in the next month.

Mike

P.S. That laptop I’m bringing on the road? I’m probably jinxing myself, but it’s working now, running xfce on top of Arch Linux; I’ll try to figure out how to set up my email and news readers and pretty soon it’ll be just like 1994 again.

Catch Up

14 June 2012

Dear J-

There are a thousand loose ends to wrap up before Friday afternoon and only a few hours left to get them done. My plan is to bring along a laptop along with company access to email to try to get things done on the road; whether or not that happens or indeed if I even have the inclination to keep working after a full day of training will be another matter entirely. I had hoped to make a clean break between work and travel, but when you’re traveling for work with unresolved projects then there’s a lot that they’ll ask while you’re out. Welcome, telecommuter.
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I’m bringing along an ancient IBM X31 with hopefully a not-too-corrupted installation of Arch Linux; with any luck the program will copy over nicely and I can use WINE to run it on the laptop. Otherwise it’s too late to scrounge up a copy of XP and do a clean install. Breathe. The more important things are happening tomorrow night: figgy is ‘graduating’ from pre-K and I need to get home a little earlier if possible, which probably means driving but I may be selfish and do one last bike ride before the four weeks off. Make sure the batteries are charged and the sound checks out okay; new life, new tools, new world order. Between now and her first day of school just after Labor day I’m going to be gone for a third of that time.

I try to convince myself that it really doesn’t matter, that there’s always be more chances later, but the longer we keep to our strange schedules and commitments, the more they expect. I’ve somehow gotten tangled up with an industry initiative to overhaul a computer model, and improbably, I may be the only one who can run the predecessor program on-site. How did this happen? If all I wanted was to draw a paycheck and breathe I wouldn’t have left my old job. This is exactly what I was asking for, I suppose, and maybe it’s what I deserve. It just feels like I’m always out of breath, though.

Mike

Three Things

12 June 2012

Dear J-

I wonder if I should make up new traveling rules or just stick with the ones I’ve got: local restaurants when possible (no chain franchised comforts, some regional franchises allowed), something new every night, sight-wise, and back in time to chat, which reminds me that I need to set up FaceTime on theVet’s iPad again. I remember wanting to travel when I didn’t have the chance, and now that my life looks full of trips I’m not looking forward to the remainder of my stint in this project, which oh by the way seems to be headed towards a long-term affair.occasional travel I suspect is nice, but the concentrated travel that awaits us (three weeks of the next four I’m out of town) will be decidedly less so.

Our ex-CEO made headlines yesterday for erratic driving, which was later linked to a seizure he may have suffered, but it made for juicy gossip around the office yesterday. Mind you there’s at least ten thousand employees and the portion of them that he regularly met with and who knew him well is probably vanishingly small in that population, yet here we are thinking that we can quarterback on Monday morning, saying what he should have done and what might have happened, fruitless exercises that kept us talking and chatting beyond measure.
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I think it might be smart to bring in some music again, as it would give me an excuse to ignore everyone else, right? I profess that I don’t understand the particular appeal of selfishness but there I am taking time away from my family, taking time away from the vanpool folks from a sense of duty to work and plant, which for all its steam and heat doesn’t warm my heart like its people do. After four years of being semi-competnet in accounting and then five years of proficient procurement engineering, I like to think that I genuinely like what I do because I’m a valuable contributor at it, and that includes being good at what I do and liking the people I work with, making the day go by faster than ever. Ten already, noon already? Time to go?? I need to sit down and get this under control, my lack of organizational skills.

Mike

Conjunction Junction

3 October 2011

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Dear J-

This is the new face of the internet: one computer per person, sharing items becoming easier to do online and electronically than just calling them over to the screen saying come see this. I’ve been guilty of sending something via IM instead of walking over the ten feet or so it would normally take to include someone socially. We grow increasingly connected and disconnected, don’t we?

We’re in San Jose tonight, our third stop on our whirlwind Northern California tour in four days and our final one: we’ll be back tomorrow night and then head back home on Wednesday. Calcifer has discovered his hatred of being strapped into a car seat again so the next couple of days will prove interesting.

Mike

Headed Back

8 July 2011

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Dear J-

We have had another full day but I’m looking most forward to collapsing in my own bed tonight. The nicest thing about travel sometimes is having it be over, but we hadanother great trip to Disneyland. figgy is now (just barely) big enough to fit on Space Mountain and so we went. You’d think that we’d have traumatized her for life by now but she’s just as happy to go on Pirates as the Tiki Room. Life is good.

1. Inside It’s a Small World. Calcifer was pretty fascinated.

2. Eighty dollars worth of food is pretty filling if you go to the right places (Rancho del Zocalo).

3. We made a last-minute decision to take the double stroller and it proved its worth over and over again for tired kids (here listing to port).

4. Pirate line. Sounds like a musical huh? I’m surprised by how efficiently the line moves: have they improved that process sine I was ten and had to wait an hour?

Mike

Road Work

5 June 2011

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Dear J-

7 AM and the line turns ugly immediately. I suppose it’s really no surprise given the line’s general sloth and the immediate defensive posture of the offender. He knows he’s jumped the line for the self-checkout kiosks and slinks away (I see him later in the line for first class, smug smile as he saunters up to be served by real people instead of the indifferent robot overlords who are our new masters). Minutes later the frustration boils over for one passenger, who’s been asking a little too loudly whether the few agents can even speak-a the English and suddenly storms off after getting to the head of the line and waiting a little too long. The Harbor Police are called and frazzled nerves are soothed. More agents arrive and the line resumes a torpid pace. As the travelers feel their feet carrying them forward the soporific of moving at least somewhat in the right direction has the intended effect and the mutters die down.

I’ve never understood the people who take their impatience out on the folks trying to get you along. Seven AM I keep telling myself. theVet has done marvelous things in calming what would usually be a rage-filled Mike through simple logic: can you do something about it? If yes, do it. If no, accept it. Move on. I sympathize with the frustration of waiting but I sympathize with the people who have to put up with that crap every day. I’ve been there. If you keep insisting that your time is the only time that matters its no wonder that the rest of the world sees you as you are.

Mike

Pre Plan

3 June 2011

Dear J-

Although I’m pretty sure the heat will be a shock I’m looking forward to traveling next week mostly because it’s a break from the grind of work work work with the same issues causing the same problems ad infinitum. It also gives me a chance to do things I’m not necessarily comfortable with — talking and interacting with strangers, dining alone, exercising some sefl-discipline. Well, let’s just say less experienced instead. Travel is good to break up the routines you find yourself in and I wonder if before kids I would have been more eager but then I remember the summer of Ann Arbor and the decisions I made because of it.

When I was working for a contractor instead of directly for the company that contractor was founded by ex-Michigan alumni and based in Ann Arbor. Well it tjurns out that because of some legal requirement the company cuts contractors loose for two months every two years, and my expiration date came up in 2004. We were all unsure what to do with me so I got called in to Ann Arbor, flying back every other Friday for the weekend (perhaps stupidly choosing the Sunday redeye). It was a good experience and I liked working with everyone at our headquarters; we did all sorts of fun things after work but after too long it would just get stale.

I remember that the contractor put me up in a reasonably nice suite outside of the Briarwood Mall where I could experience the amenities of home (which really meant that I could boil spaghetti and assemble the shame sandwich of bologna and bagel in the privacy of my own room) and not feel too cramped. Instead I’d hang out at the mall* and float through stores that would typically pique my interest at home — books and video games — without any real interest, just a glassy-eyed, dull shuffling as if the zombies had gotten inside after all. When I travel now the other guys are happy to be near malls and the suburban standard restaurants — Chili’s, TGI Fridays, Outback and the like — but for me it flashes back to those eight weeks spent in Briarwood pretending to be happy for everyone’s sakes and failing. Hmm. Maybe not quite so excited about the trip now.

Mike

* I will say that my lasting souvenirs from my time there, besides the Mad Catz Panther DC, are my favorite pair of glasses — with my first titanium frames. They replaced a pair I’d had for ten years and were mended with some old paperclips. I finally replaced those in 2008 though and now there somewhere in a drawer — I can’t bear to part with the frames.

Corporate Notes

9 March 2011

Dear J-

One of the things I like on these audits is comparing the way other people do business versus the way utilities do it without turning a profit, or so it seems sometimes. We can’t seem to get out of our own way sometimes because the financial incentive isn’t always there and as a result our processes reflect our bulk and inefficiency. On the other hand, being in the hyper-regulated industry that we are, you are indoctrinated from day one to be aware of all the requirements and laws that dictate and proscribe everything we do. So when we come out to a place like this and things we take for granted seem to  baffle the people we’re auditing I have to stop and try to understand where they’re coming from.

They say that no one comes to work intending to do a bad job, but sometimes it’s the way things are set up that causes the issues. If we say to do the wrong thing, and no one knows any better is that really their fault? It’s funny that we never seem to drive all the way down to the right reasons until someone else points it out to you. Maybe it really does depend on getting a fresh perspective on your issues that makes these trips worthwhile for me. Well, that and the chance to get out of the same old stuff in the office once in a while.

Mike

Gluttony Failure

7 March 2011

Dear J-

I completely failed at my self-imposed rules for travel eating yesterday with two meals in the airport topped off with dinner at a chain, Wendy’s. So today I tried to get back on track but ended up getting some crazy expensive mac-n-cheese instead (in my defense it did have lobster in it but still probably not worth the twenty it’s going to cost the company). At least I was able to keep up the rules: it was a local chain of three stores/restaurants that sells fresh fish and cuts of meat in the front while serving food in the back.

Spend enough time on the road and you learn that your eyes are often bigger than your stomach. The meal that sounded so good on paper and smelled so delicious in the car becomes a leaden weight in the belly. Let this be a lesson advertising the importance of moderation. Half a serving would have been plenty but now I’m stuck rubbing my gut and making animal noises, logy with the promise of more digestion even though I suspect I’ll never be hungry again for the balance of the trip.

This is ultimately the failure of me on my own: there is no sense of what’s enough and when to stop, instead watching Forrest Gump twice last night and failing to sleep. theVet thinks that I would starve to death without her but the truth is much more sinister than that: there are far more ways to overindulge than you think. It’s all right but I really need to stop as it’s doing me no good. I feel exhaustion coming on again.

Mike

Travel Day

6 March 2011

Dear J-

It’s too early to tell how the day is going to turn out but I’m willing to bet everything will turn out just as expected. Remember that the more dangerous part of my trip is going to be the drives and not the flight and things will be just fine.

On the way to Chicago I sit next to a loquacious midwesterner, Jim, and his unnamed girlfriend who sleeps through the entire three hour flight. The ice is broken over his breakfast, leftovers from Whole Foods, earning a smile from me and a quip that leads to the whole purpose of their trip to San Diego: reinvention. After sixteen years as a handyman he wants to return to school for acupuncture, coinciding with the girlfriend’s newly minted nursing credential. It’s a huge change from Akron and the way he lives now. I make the right encouraging noises and wish him luck, thinking privately that if he’s already come as far as making a visit then he’s already locked into the path, three cats or not. I never quite know how to respond to the dreamers, earnest souls taking life-changing journeys from all they know in order to follow their bliss, but I think those dreams need nourishment as flowers would. On the ground in Chicago I hurry to the next gate and bid them a hasty goodbye, squelching a sudden impulse to hand out contact information: I want to know how that story ends.

Later on the flight to Providence I’ve learned my lesson and so instead of trying to find a seat on the aisle I just grab the first available one which happens to be between two disinterested people. It’s not until the end of the flight that the guy pulls a purse out and hands it to the woman on the aisle that I realize that they’re together. The whole flight they haven’t said one word to each other let alone look at each other so I think it wasn’t unreasonable to believe that they weren’t together. It’s strange to think of two people who have either grown so far apart — or so comfortable with each other — that no words are needed. Life isn’t what you expect sometimes and it sometimes takes a bit of distance to have perspective on how lucky I’ve been.

Mike


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