Feren (feren) wrote,

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Landing an airplane is a lot like a controlled crash -- except it's different.

I have no idea why that line popped into my head just moments before we touched down at O'hare, but it was a damned strange thing to think. It was also mightily unsettling, because moments after the front gear hit the ground the pilot was doing all he could to stop the plane without applying the brakes. I've never felt the airframe of an A320 do that before, and if I'm lucky I will never feel one do that again. I can't think of a more unsettling sensation (and sound) that I've ever experienced before, short of the one lone earthquake I was caught in while visiting Federal Way, Washington. I suspect that the pilot's rationale for doing it was that the ice and sleet covering the runway would have made actually applying the wheel brakes somewhat dangerous, what with the potential to skid and all. I suspect that going 250+ MPH with that much mass could very easily lead to skidding and potentially worse things when on wet or icy tarmac.

And people tell me I'm crazy because I like to race my car on the 1/4 mile strip. I think that looks pretty sane compared to landing that 93,000 lb (and that's dry, with no cargo/luggage or passengers!) plane on an icy runway. Why did I never think about the risks of flying in the winter before? All this time I've just been bitchy that the parking ramps could get iced up and cause me to bang up my pickup on the way down. This just goes to show you that my priorities are completely skewed. Some people may not be surprised.

My flight out to Denver was rather uneventful, aside from the fact that the plane was late to arrive at the gate due to inclement weather, which delayed my departure by about 45 minutes. I wasn't terribly pleased about it, but I certainly can understand why it would happen. Chicago must be one of the most difficult airports to fly into or out of, short of the airports out in California where they have to do crazy things like steep banks and cut throttle on departure to keep the noise down so the people who live near the airport aren't bothered by the noise. Hello, idiots -- if you don't want to hear jetliners taking off and landing all day and all night, do not buy a home near an airport. For crying out in agonized silence, I never knew that the day would come when such feats of what I believed to be nearly inescapable logic would be so far beyond the grasp of ordinary people that I'd have to get upset about such things.

Oh yeah, did I mention that at one point the overhead speaker system at my gate was playing the funeral march on piano? That was fucking ominous.

Regardless, I arrived safe and sound at Denver. I came in one day too late, it seems, as the temperature was 25F that night, where as it had been about 54F the previous evening. It's just my luck that I'd bring the cold air of the North with me on my trip, but fortunately I didn't have long to stand outside while waiting for my shuttle to the hotel. Once I got there, I checked in, grabbed a bottle of water, and crashed in my bed. I was a touch miffed that I had gotten "dinner" at the airport after I arrived (this so-called dinner consisted of McDonald's) because right across the parking lot from this Hilton was an Applebee's, which would have provided much more decent fodder. Ah well, such is the way things go. The next morning I awoke, showered, and arrived down in the lobby to find... nobody. Not a single face I knew. So I had breakfast, and waited. Still, nobody showed up. I began to panic, and started to pester everyone I could to see who was supposed to be there, if they'd checked in, and when I was supposed to be there. I started to think I was at the wrong hotel, or there on the wrong day, or something, because normally these people beat me down to the lobby, yet here it was... time to go (0800 local) and nobody had showed up yet. Now I'm on the phone with my counterparts back at the office, trying to collect last names to double-check room reservations as well as cell phones so I might be able to contact the consultants and determine just what the hell was going on. I met with no success, in fact the names that I turned up had no actual reservations at the hotel, a fact that did not serve to reassure me. Around 0822 a lone consultant showed up, making me heave an immense sigh of relief. She explained that the lead consultant was staying with friends/family, and she had forgotten my last name much as I had hers, so she couldn't call me to confirm meeting plans. I guess she's something of a sleepy head, because her cohorts usually awaken a full three hours before she claims she got up.

We made our way out to the campus, getting lost three times on the way there. Damn you, Mapquest, and your horrible vagaries when it comes to giving directions in the Denver area. While I'm at it, a pox on whatever genius did the street signage for Denver, it's beyond sub-par and bordering on downright pathetic. Once we arrived there, we made quick work of the site evaluation/audit. It amazes me how some of the admins think at this location, there was KSU equipment that wasn't hooked in that was still sitting in their IDF; this equipment was easily pushing an age of fifteen years or more. When I inquired why they didn't throw it out, since they obviously weren't using it, I was greeted with blank stares and an answer of "Well, it's ours!" Great logic, Sherlock. I'll be sure to hire you the next time I have a mystery to solve. Additionally, I don't think I've ever seen such horribly wrong things done with an Adtran CSU/DSU and a T1 line. Scary, scary stuff.

Once the audit was completed I jumped into the regional engineer's rental and made tracks for Colorado Springs, where we AGAIN got lost looking for our destination (are you sensing a theme yet? I am). We were only able to find the street we were looking for with some luck and the courtesy of the local utility company, a couple of their linemen were nice enough to give us directions when we pulled up next to their rig and begged for salvation and sanctuary. Once I was safely checked into the new hotel I flopped in the bed, took a three and a half hour nap, and then watched some TV when I at last woke up (let's hear it for the 80s classic "The Karate Kid!"). Once the movie was over I made my way down the lobby, saw that the consultant's car was parked in the lot, and settled in to a dinner of strip steak, rice, veggies and MGD. I thought that the chef took me seriously when I said I wanted my steak medium rare, because aside from some of the evidence that it had been on the grill, the middle of that steak was completely, utterly raw. When I cut a piece away I could see a bit of cooked meat around the outside, and the inside looked like steaks do when you pick them up from the butcher. I later found out that it wasn't my order, but an incompetent chef... the consultant ordered a burger cooked medium not long after I finished my meal, and got meat that was prepared about the same. Hint for the chef at the Hilton Garden Inn, Colorado Springs: You have to use FIRE when you cook meat, not a heat lamp.

I went back to my hotel room, watch a bit more TV, then settled in to deal with some paperwork I'd had to pick up as I left for O'hare on Tuesday afternoon. It seems one of my "star" campuses has put in a budgetary request to do some rebuilding at their location. Their genius plan involves moving all their equipment from an overcrowded room that measures 8x10, into a room of the exact same dimensions. Genius! Sheer genius! And what else do I spy on here, but carpeting for the server room. I'm so glad these people are using their brains. We all know that static electricity and sensitive computing equipment go together about as well as nitro-glycerin and a blow from a steam-operated pile-driver. A few phone calls later and I seemed to have put a stop on that bit of foolishness, hopefully postponing it from getting approved until I can get back into the office and speak with the request originators. Maybe, with luck, I can get them to compromise on a few things and make their money work a little more intelligently. I'm all for form and having a sharp-looking server room, but form should not exceed function in a data center environment. I have a hard time believing that if this director has always had this hare-brained mentality that he has maintained his position this long.

I spent most of the night in the hotel room tossing and turning. First it was too cold, then it was too hot. Finally, once I got the temperature issue resolved, I just couldn't sleep. Great, 0200 and I can't sleep. What sleep I did get was broken and fitful, much like the previous night's rest, and plagued by very weird dreams that dance on the periphery of my memory like fog. I think I'm probably better off for not remembering them. I got up before my alarm went off, did the morning rituals, repacked my bags, and then went down to the lobby. Cooking must not be an art that the chefs at these Hiltons are all that familiar with, because my morning meal was equal with my previous night's dinner in terms of being messed up: the bacon was burnt, the hash browns raw, the biscuits a week old and seemingly made from quick-drying cement. It was a wholly unsatisfying meal, but I managed to choke it down with the help of three glasses of orange juice and a dosage of coffee that probably would have given the most jaded of caffeine addicts the jitters.

The consultant and I met up with the regional engineer on our way out the door, compared notes, and then made our way off to the second location. Once we were within about three miles of the second campus, what should happen? You guessed it, Mapquest once again lead us astray. It took yet more directions from the kind local population to put us back on track and we arrived at the second campus right at 0900 on the dot. That audit went even smoother than the last, it got done around 1200 on the dot. Amazing, something that once took us six hours has now been reduced to a sub-three-hour endeavor! We must be learning what questions to ask ahead of time, or something. Whatever it is, I hope the trend continues because I'd like the rest of my campus visits to go this smoothly.

Once things were packed up, I hopped another ride back to Denver, stopped at the previous campus so that I could get a quick diagram drawn up of the wrongness that was the Adtran's connections to the various routers and PBX equipment, then we zipped off to Denver's airport. What a piece of work that place is, it's incredibly immense. It's all new, too, since the construction was completed sometime around six years ago. There are columns of brushed stainless steel, bright skylights, and wall patterns that are outlined with incredibly bright neon lighting. All in all, it seemed a great deal like what an airport should be. Chicago could stand to take a lesson from Denver if they ever plan to renovate ORD. On my way to the gate I happened to see another United flight that was bound for O'hare, leaving almost a full hour earlier than the flight I was scheduled for. I put myself on the standby list and, sure enough, I made it on. So I made it home an hour earlier than planned, huzzah!

That's about where we came into this entry, as near as I can figure. I walked out to my truck, dusted the snow off the windshield (There was no snow in Denver while I was there, and it's snowing in Chicago, but only near O'hare, when I get back? This weather is messed up), then hit the roads. Once again, I-90 was a total gridlock. A gridlock, at 7:30 at night? It seems that not only can people in Chicago not drive when the roads have even a drop of moisture on them, but construction further adds to their inability to cope. They need to alter the testing for drivers licenses to put you through situations in all the seasons you'll encounter in your home state, I swear. Ultimately I ended up hopping off the toll way and onto local back roads, thus neatly avoiding a delay that people on the CB seemed to have ranging from 35 minutes to an hour to get to the exit I was originally planning to take.

Once safely home I was greeted by Ra, who seems to have missed me a great deal these last three days. He hasn't left my side since I got into the apartment and has been quite insistent on my giving him attention. As I'm typing he's occupying my shoulder (a trait he seems to have picked up from Jen's kitty), my lap or trying to wedge himself between the chair's backrest and yours truly. I also had some bills waiting for me (yuck) and a package from Swingline. That's right, the glorious red stapler, featured in the movie "Office Space," has made its way to my home. Tomorrow it will make its way along with me to my office, and take up its rightful place of honor in my cubicle as ruler of all that is corporate. Before you ask, Jen, yours arrived as well.

I'm also rather amused to discover that Forum2010 has recently incorporated a SOMAD with whom I share a remarkable likeness. I'm surprised and, well, quite pleased to see this. Not to mention I'm laughing pretty damn hard right now. :)

That's the recap of my travels for the week. I have next week to rest up and do some much-needed laundry, before I'm shipped off to Atlanta for a three day trip much like this one. I believe I shall now take a break from the keyboard, pay my rent, and make a few phone calls.

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