It's Been A While...

posted on 05/11/04 at 09:41:52 am by Joel Ross

Man. It's been a long time since I last blogged anything useful. Of course, it's debatable if I've ever blogged anything useful, but for the sake of argument, let's say I have.

I have.

There, I said it. Anyway, I'm not even sure how long it's been. I know since I did, that I've been to Miamisburg, OH for a night (just outside of Dayton), and then to Santa Rosa, CA (about an hour from San Francisco) for a week.

So while it's been a long time, it doesn't seem that long to me. The Miamisburg trip was nothing special - except that we rented a Toyota Prius, a hybrid car. I have a few comments on this, so bear with me. I understand the need to be environmentally friendly, but there are limits. First, why, just because it's a different type of engine, do you have to change the body? Do I have to stick out like a sore thumb just because I want a hybrid car? Do I need a crowd to watch me park so that trees can breath easily? I'm thinking no. Also, do you have to change the way everything else works in the car just because it's hybrid? Push button starting is fine - I get that one. Gear shift on the dash though, with a separate button for park? Why? Heating controls on the steering wheel are cool, but no one else does it (that I know of) so why this one? Did an engineer think, "I'm going to try every new thing I can possibly think of on this car!"? Of course, maybe it's because it was 5:00 AM and we were trying to figure out how to use this thing! Which brings me to my other point - if you are a car rental place, do you really want to rent cars out that you have to show your customers how to use? It just seems like more overhead than it's worth.

One last little jab at the Prius. Driving to Dayton, we only got about 37 or 38 MPG. Is it worth it? Not to me - maybe the real advantage is city driving, when the gas motor wouldn't be needed as much. Who knows.

Anyway, there wasn't anything special about Miamisburg. I did have a nice prime rib dinner - can't beat those! Other than that, I got up early Thursday morning (4:00 AM) and got home late Friday evening (8:00 PM), and rode in a car for more than 10 hours in that time period. Then I got to sit in a classroom and learn about a few simple web services. Well, it wasn't about web services, it was about THEIR web services, but they are pretty simple. Sorry I can't go into more details, but the services were fairly straight forward. It wasn't the T in IT that makes it valuable, it's the I.

Anyway, after getting back from a long couple of days, I had a short weekend before heading to California. This was my first trip out there, so I was pretty excited. Not looking forward to being away from my family, but excited none the less. At least I was traveling to someplace nice!

I didn't do much over the weekend but relax with the family, and get ready. But come Sunday night, I was waiting at the mighty Gerald R. Ford International Airport for my trip to California.

<tangent>Every time I think about going to California, the same lyric pops into my mind: "I'm going, going back, back to Cali, Cali," which is odd, since I've never been there in the first place. Oh well, back to your regularly scheduled blog.</tangent>

I got to fly through Midway, which if you've never been to Midway (the other airport in Chicago), well, you're not missing much. It's much better than it was 5 years ago when I first went through there, but it's still nothing to write home about. Bigger than Grand Rapids, but right in the middle of a neighborhood. And I do mean in the middle of it. I remember flying in there the first time I ever flew for work - flying right over a Burger King, seeing the guy in the drive thru window, and then landing. And taking off, that's a treat. I think the pilots actually try to squeal the tires!

Anyway, after a quick dinner in Chicago, it was off to San Fran. I flew ATA (cheap), and they don't provide dinner. Well, they do, but for $5.00. I was kind of surprised by that. But having just eaten, and having plenty to do, I just had my Sierra Mist and cheddar crackers and typed away.

My partner and I planned out our next product for Tourney Logic. It's a new market for us, something we haven't ventured into yet. It still involves tournaments and our bracket control, but not in the same way as in the past. Hopefully, by the end of the summer, we'll have something in place. I'll get more details out as we solidify things.

Once we got to San Francisco, we got our car, and headed out. It was dark, so I didn't get to see much, other than what the city lights showed us. Still, I was impressed by the area. I could tell it was very hilly - something unheard of in lower Michigan. The Golden Gate was impressive. Maybe it's my "homerism" coming out, but I think the Mackinac Bridge is more impressive. Don't get me wrong. The Golden Gate is very cool. We stopped, got out, took some pictures in the dark, and the bridge is massive. But it's not five miles across. I guess the water is deeper there though. We also could see the spotlight from Alcatraz, which was cool. It's not that far out. I think I could swim it!

Yeah, right! I can barely swim across the bathtub.

So we got to our hotel about an hour later. The highways are very similar to Michigan's, and the one thing I noticed (later in the trip) is that everyone seems to drive near the speed limit. I saw very few people going over 70, let alone over 65. The hotel was nice - it's actually a spa resort and business center - an odd pairing if you ask me, but I guess if I ever had a business function there, I could bring the wife. The room was an odd color - not sure what it was (if it isn't in the 8 pack of Crayola Crayons, I don't know it). It was a reddish color, maybe a little lighter. Kind of like a grapefruit.

Anyway, the work I did there was fun. I'll get into that in another post. The guys were great. Hilarious. I'd go into some of it, but when I told my wife, it lost some of it?s luster. There was one part that got us going, and you have to be a geek to get it. One of the managers there was a little older, and started programming back in the days of punch cards. He started the story (which he'd told everyone else there had heard multiple times) and the two coders jumped right in. It's not a direct quote, but here it is - picture a country bumpkin voice. "So there I was, with all my punch cards, ready to go, when I dropped my dart, and caused a virus!" I'm sure it loses something in writing, but being there, it was hilarious! We were tearing up. There was another story involving a backwards thong and a door to door salesman, but I'll keep that one to myself.

We went to Oakland, to see the A's play the Yankees. So I got to see the Coliseum, which reminded me a lot of Spartan Stadium, for two reasons. First, the concrete supports look very similar - 70's like, is what I was told. Second, the men's rooms have troughs in them. The only other place I've seen that is at Spartan Stadium. And a men's room at a bar in Redmond, but that didn't have the cement supports.

Anyway, the game was a good one. I'm not a huge baseball fan, but the Yanks have an all star lineup and it showed. The A's were up 8-3 in the 7th, and gave up 6 runs, eventually losing 10-8. All because of a homer by A-Rod.

After the game was my first chance to drive. First, I had to trade in the rental - it started, but very slowly, and every time, we thought we were going to get stuck - including leaving the game.

I didn't do much on Wednesday (touristy, that is). Mostly work. Including prototyping an application for them most of the night, so no time for much.

Thursday came, and it was my last day. For lunch, we went to The Tides, a place out by the Pacific where parts of The Birds was filmed. Then we went out to the ocean, to a small beach so I could say I walked by the ocean while I was there. It reminded me of the scene from Vacation, where they go to the Grand Canyon, get out, look, and get right back in the car. We didn't have much time, and what do four guys dressed for work do on a beach anyway? We looked, watched the waves roll in (I thought they were pretty big for a nice day - much bigger than we get on Lake Michigan), watched some surfers, and left.

After the work day was done, I headed back to airport for my red eye back to Michigan. I had about 6 hours to finish up the one hour journey, so I stopped along the other side of the Golden Gate, and got a much better view. The other side has an outlook that is above the bridge, and you can see out into the ocean one way, and the bay the other way. I could see Alcatraz this time, and not just the spot light from it. I could see downtown San Fran, and all of the high rises there. I could see the bridge, which was much more spectacular from above.

After doing that, my directions lead me through San Fran, from one part of 101 to the other. The story I was told is that the highway was going to be connected by a double decker bridge, much like the Cyprus bridge. Remember that one? The one that collapsed on top of itself in the '89 quake? Well, they were in the process of building the same thing for 101, and it collapsed too, so the project was never finished. The long and short of it? You have to drive through the city to get to the other part. Most people take 19th street to bypass that. We took that a couple of times - the houses along there reminded me of the opening shots to Full House.

I didn't take 19th this time. I took Lombard Street. And when most people turn off, I stayed going straight. Straight up that is! The incline seemed like it was more than 45 degrees. I had the rental floored, and my top speed was 20 MPH! Three blocks of practically straight up. What was at the top? From what I was told, the curviest, steepest street in San Francisco! I drove down it, and it was pretty cool. Very steep. I was surprised to see garages off of it.

Once I got to the airport, it was smooth sailing to get back to Michigan, and except for only getting one hour of sleep on the plane, it wasn't too bad. I got back Friday, slept for most of the afternoon, and was back to normal by Saturday.

So there you have it. That's why I haven't blogged in a while. I'll get some of the details about the business aspect of the trip up soon, as well as some of the other stuff I've been working on.

Categories: General