Thanksgiving road trip: back home

It was a long week (4 days of travel, 3 days of vacation) but we’re back in warm Florida after our trip up north to Ohio for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Despite the heavy snow on Thanksgiving day, slightly warmer temperatures on Friday allowed for the roads to be clear and easy to navigate, so once again weather was not a factor in our trip. We left Cleveland around 9:00am (36 degrees!) and stopped for a late lunch with old college friends in Lebanon, Ohio (46 degrees). We ended up staying and visiting a little longer than expected so we weren’t back on the road until 3:30pm. Around 4:00pm we crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky on I-75 South. We stopped for gas and a driver change in Lexington around 5:30pm (55 degrees!) and at 7:00pm crossed the Tennessee border. We grabbed dinner at a Zoë’s Kitchen in Knoxville around 8:00pm (not bad!). Another long night of driving into Georgia and we stopped just north of Atlanta at our hotel in Kennesaw at 11:15pm.

Sunday morning we were checked out of the hotel and driving south on I-75 by 8:30am, and then stopped for a quick breakfast at Sublime Doughnuts in Atlanta. We crossed our final border into Florida at 1:00pm and stopped for lunch in Lake City about 45 minutes later (and it was now a wonderful 75 degrees). We ran into terrible traffic through Gainsville (Gator fans driving home?) that seriously slowed us down. Instead of a three hour drive from Lake City, we didn’t get home until after 6:30pm.

Our total round trip was about 2,739 miles, 48 hours in the car, whew!

Offhand note: I learned that Touch ID on my iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t work reliably when my hands are cold and dry like they were in Ohio.

Happy Thanksgiving from Cleveland

Happy Thanksgiving from snowy, Cleveland, Ohio!

What posessed us to drive over 1,200 miles from warm, sunny Florida to Ohio around arguably one of the busiest travel times of the year? 1) It was a little last-minute; we didn’t have any big plans for Thanksgiving and had nowhere else to really be. 2) Our dog is 16 years old (17 next month!) and we don’t like leaving him in the kennel for extended periods, so we wanted to bring him with us and didn’t want to deal with last minute flights with a pet. 3) Road trip!

We actually left Florida early Monday morning (75 degrees). We crossed into Georgia on I-75 North around noon and stopped shortly thereafter for gas and food in Valdosta (now rainy and still 75 degrees). After a brief stop for my daughter at the American Girl store north of the city, the rest of Monday was just more driving until we eventually stopped in Clinton, TN for the night at 8:30pm.

Tuesday morning found us back on the road, crossing into Kentucky and making a brief stop at the Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum (yes, the first KFC). It wasn’t open, and seems to be under rennovation, but at least we got to peek in the windows and read the historical marker. The weather continued to cooperate (although it was getting chillier as we header further north) and driving was smooth: we were through Lexington around 1:15pm (after a stop for “lunch” at Graeter’s, something we can’t get at home), then Louisville about 45 minutes later. Yes, we veered west to I-65 North because we were going to go through Indianapolis to see my wife’s grandmother on our way. I-65 is where we ran into some bad construction traffic (and I witnessed a tractor trailer swerve, hitting a van, and going into the median). But by 5pm we were in Frankfort, IN (north of Indy) visiting briefly with grandma. We continued on I-69 North to Fort Wayne and then onto US-24 to cut northeast into Ohio, crossing the border around 7:45pm. We finally connected to I-80/90 and made it to our final destination at 10:30pm. It was a long day, but we made it (and by now it was under 40 degrees).

We won’t be doing a lot of sight-seeing while we’re here …mostly spending time with family and friends. Tonight, Thanksgiving, the snow is really coming down! On Saturday, we start the two day trek back home (I hope the roads are clear!).

WIJFR: Lucifer’s Hammer

The gigantic comet had slammed into Earth, forging earthquakes a thousand times too powerful to measure on the Richter scale, tidal waves thousands of feet high. Cities were turned into oceans; oceans turned into steam. It was the beginning of a new Ice Age and the end of civilization. But for the terrified men and women chance had saved, it was also the dawn of a new struggle for survival–a struggle more dangerous and challenging than any they had ever known….

I just finished reading “Lucifer’s Hammer” by Larry Niven, a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel that tells the story of a stray comet that collides with the Earth and the resulting aftermath.

Continue reading ‘WIJFR: Lucifer’s Hammer’ »

NextDesk Terra

NextDesk TerraI spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer both at work and at home, so for some time I’ve been considering getting a standing desk (reading reviews on LifeHacker and The Wirecutter) but was never really serious about it. Then for my birthday my siblings all contributed money towards the standing desk fund so I decided it was time to pull the trigger and try it in my home office.

It definitely wasn’t the cheapest option, but I selected the NextDesk Terra. I tend to keep and use stuff for a long time. My last setup, just your typical MDF computer desk and hutch, I got back in 2000 and survived multiple moves. Hopefully the Terra lasts just as long and from what I’ve seen so far with the build and materials quality, I think it will.

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Back from New York (and I don’t have ebola)

The past two weeks involved a lot of hard work (and very long days), but the upgrade was a success and I’m back home in Florida. Here’re some tidbits from my trip:

  • $17/night for WiFi at the Marriott East Side? and no room service?
  • there’s literally a Starbucks on every block here … sometimes more than one on a block!
  • next spring our office is moving to 1 Rockefeller Plaza, right across from the ice rink and Today Show
  • ah, NYC pizza and chicken parm from La Bellezza
  • saw a crew filming an episode of “Blue Bloods” across the street from the office at St. Bart’s
  • missed the solar eclipse (couldn’t get anywhere where I could see the sun in the city)
  • I saw “Pippin” at the Music Box Theater, with Lucie Arnaz
  • the ebola thing happened the day before I left
  • got to use TSA Pre-Check at JFK on the way home … nice!

Two weeks in New York City

Hard to believe it’s been four years since my last business trip to Manhattan! But it’s time for another PeopleSoft Financials system upgrade so I’m off to New York City for the next 12 days.

I left this morning from Tampa, flew into JFK on JetBlue, took a car into the city, checked into my hotel, and was in the office on Park Avenue by 3pm. Until next Friday, this’ll be the easiest day of the trip. We’ll be working all weekend, so that means 12 straight days in the office.

I forgot how loud the city can be, even up on the 18th floor. The weather is moderate, but looks to be rainy and chilly next week.

Apple iPad Air (5th Gen)

iPad AirWell, that didn’t last long. Just six months after getting my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Android tablet at work I’ve now been given a 5th generation iPad Air.

The Note 10.1 had promise but we just never ended up rolling many of them out. Android is still a minority in my office where the majority of the devices I am assigning to people are iPhones and iPads. Now we’re considering moving more services into the cloud (like Office 365 and OneDrive for Business) and since there’s still no Office for Android tablets (yet?) going back to the iPad as the corporate standard seems to make sense.

Truthfully, I didn’t use my Galaxy Note 10.1 that much … except for note taking. I love the stylus and Lecture Notes combination. I’ll probably keep it around just for that (and I do a lot of writing on it) instead of going back to a fat-ended stylus and Note Taker HD like I used to.

My last iPad was the original first generation iPad which was stuck on iOS 5.1.1. So it’s nice to have a current device with new hardware (at least, until next month, that figures) that runs iOS 8 (especially now that I also have an iPhone 6 Plus – no more 32-pin connectors). The iPad Air is pretty much exactly the same as the Galaxy Note 10.1, dimensions- and weight-wise (see my comparison photos below), but the name is a lot easier to type. :-) I chose the iPhone 6 Plus because I wanted something closer to a mini tablet in size. Had I known I was getting a new iPad, I might have gone with the regular model.

Two new Apple toys in a week … I’ve got a lot of setup and configuring to do.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

iPhone 6 Plus

I’m not what you’d call an Apple fanboy, but for some reason I felt compelled to wake up at 3am on September 12 to place my 64gb iPhone 6 Plus pre-order with AT&T. I was disappointed to learn (later that day after finally receiving my order confirmation e-mail) that my new phone wouldn’t even ship until between October 2 and October 11!

Launch day, September 19, came and went, but the Plus was hard to find so I didn’t feel too bad about not having it right away. In fact, I felt a little foolish for getting up early and drinking the Apple kool-aid.  Oh well, whatever.

Surprise! Early Wednesday morning, September 24, I got a shipment notice from AT&T, and it was already out for delivery! After all of that, I ended up getting my new big (and yeah, it’s big!) phone just 5 days after launch.

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WIJFR: The Martian

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

I just finished reading “The Martian” by Andy Weir, and it is great!

Told mostly in the first person in the form of daily logs, “The Martian” is a story of survival on the red planet. Six days into a 31 day mission on the surface, a dust storm forces the crew of the Ares 3 to abort and evacuate, unknowingly leaving a single crew-member behind, thinking him dead. Botanist and engineer Mark Watney is stranded, alone, on Mars … no one knows he’s still alive, he has no way of contacting Earth, and the next manned mission won’t arrive for four years. He has food, water, shelter … 6 persons’ worth for 31 sols. How will he last over 1,400 sols until Ares 4 arrives?

Take some Mars SF novels (like “Red Mars“), mix in a healthy dose of Mark’s irreverent personality and snarky sense of humor, throw in a little MacGyver, “Survivor,” “Cast Away,” and “Apollo 13,” some chemistry and astrophysics and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what a fun read “The Martian” is. Considering his dire situation, Mark always seems to be in good spirits and some of his one-liners made me laugh out loud.

As I was reading it I was constantly thinking “this would be a great movie.” Well, of course there’s going to be … next year. Ridley Scott and Matt Damon. Hope it’s as good as the book.