Archive for January, 2011

ResolutionarYeaRedux

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

– Jeremiah 29:11

A new year full of golden opportunities

Once again, the new year is upon us and it’s time to assess how we did on our resolutions for 2010 and to develop our goals for 2011. Let’s see how I did last year:

–          Staying in one place: Partial – I spent a lot of time in Maryland, and I ended up moving out of my apartment into another one. At least it was an apartment in the same complex.
–          Bad habits: Failed – only lasted about a month.
–          Dentist and Doctor: Failed – still pending on actually visiting the dentist, and haven’t really looked for a doctor either.
–          Working out & constant weight: Accomplished – only had a 1% gain, but considering the circumstances, that’s pretty good. Plus, it’s probably muscle weight anyways . . . from working out.
–          Cooking: Success – plus many other social benefits.
–          Reading: Accomplished – a book a week is pretty good, but there’s still some left to read.
–          Movies: Accomplished – still have a few more to watch from my collection, but I did manage to finish watching all the Best Pictures.
–          NaNoWriMo: Success – not only did I complete the challenge, I took a little extra effort to complete the novel.
–          Prayer: Accomplished – although not as much in my personal life as I would have liked, I have found myself in more opportunities in which to participate in prayer than in years past.

So, on average, a successful year. Despite some emotional turmoil at the beginning of last year, I managed to work through it and pull myself up to a new high. 2010 was really about finding myself. It was trying to figure out who I was, what I believed, and what I could do. The time up in Maryland was kind of like going into the wilderness for a vision quest (or some similar activity). I spent a lot of time alone, thinking and diving deep into my inner self.

But that was last year. Last year was laying a foundation for this year. Now that I’ve figured out what I’m about, it’s time to take this year and really reinforce the new life. It’s time to develop roots, but also to still take time to grow. I think that one of the best results of the resolutions I had last year was that they gave me goals to strive for. I’m a very goal-oriented person, so once I set my mind to something, I’ll usually finish what I start. The resolutions for 2010 were a good balance of tasks to develop many aspects of my life; to remain well rounded. Also, the resolutions were attainable and realistic. It always feels better when you can accomplish a goal, but also know that there was a challenge to it.

Now, on to 2011. I turn 26 this year, and I think that 26 is a good number to use for many of the following goals. It’s a week in, but here are the 11 resolutions I’ve come up with to work on for this year:

1.       Bad habits – same deal as last year. They’ll continue to make the list until I stop. A lot of them are ingrained on my subconscious, so it’ll be a challenge to break them. However, I have heard that it usually takes about 28 days to break (or gain) habits, so February may be the month I really sit down and work at breaking them.
2.       Health – Now that I’m not travelling so much, I will probably take some time to finally visit a dentist and to find a doctor. As usual, I will continue to work out at least twice a week, in the hopes that I might be able to lose the 1% of my weight that I gained last year. I think that my 2010 baseline was a good spot to be (even if it is a little heavy), so I’m going to aim for that baseline.
3.       Softball – Once again, my lack of extended travel means that I can get involved in activities like recreational softball. I really enjoyed playing in the one game that I had the chance to participate in last summer, so I hope that the team starts up again this year so that I can join its ranks and really get in shape.
4.       ‘Splorin’ – There’s a few places in Alabama that I just haven’t gotten around to visiting yet, and this year I’d like to do so. One of the places I’d like to visit is Cathedral Caverns state park. I passed by the sign for this so many times that my interest has been piqued. I’d also like to visit the high-point of Alabama (such as it is) so that I can claim another state’s highest altitude. I might even make it down to the Gulf of Mexico if I can put forth enough planning.
5.       Cooking – Now that I am well versed in the culinary world, it’s time to expand the repertoire. I’m not going to go quite as crazy as I did last year and demand 52 different recipes, but I am still going to hold myself to something. I figure that I can cook 26 new recipes this year. Now these will be recipes that I have not had before, so that’s where the challenge will come in. I already know that I can cook what I’m familiar with, so it’s time to branch out. Also, I’ll probably still have the dinner parties from time to time, as they were excellent ways to socialize on my turf.
6.       Reading – Once again, I don’t think I’m going to read 52 books this year, but 26 is still a good place to start. Now that I’ve stopped buying new books, this goal will definitely get me close to having read every book I own.
7.       Movies – I definitely know I can finish watching the DVDs (and Blu-Rays) from my collection that I have not seen yet, so that will be my goal. Right now, that’s about 26 movies. Depending on what wins Best Picture this year, I may or may not have to watch that film as well. However, I do not have any particular list that I am looking to complete this year.
8.       Videos – I no longer have an excuse. Now that I own a HD camcorder, and now that I have an upgraded computer, it’s time to get back into making videos. I’ve been on about a two to three year hiatus, and I’m really looking forward to getting back into this. Expect new videos to start appearing by the end of January.
9.       Writing – As it stands right now, I will not participate in National Novel Writing Month this year. However, the novel that I wrote last year will go through the editing and revising process starting in March. I’ve already got some of my friends working on notes for the first draft, and I have many areas that I know need work. At the very least, I want it passable by the middle of the summer, so that I can get my free proof copy published through CreateSpace (an Amazon subsidiary).
10.   Music – I started teaching myself how to play the piano last year, and so far it’s gone pretty well. I now can read sheet music, albeit somewhat slow. By the end of the year, I would like to know how to play 26 more songs on top of the 20 or so that I already know. I still enjoy the learning process, so I hope that trend continues. Also, having participated in the choir at my church for a full year now, I feel that it is time to step up into a role of more responsibility and leadership. Starting this year, I will be singing on the front line, and I look forward to developing my ministry.
11.   Relationships – Partly due to my constant travel last year, I did not actively pursue the search for a girlfriend. I was somewhat passively looking, but I didn’t go out of my way to try and find new venues for opportunities to meet single women. Also, from the soul searching of last year, I now have a better understanding of myself, and what I am looking for in a potential wife. This year I will provide myself with these opportunities. One of the best words of advice that I was given last year was, “Draw nearer to God, so that when she’s looking for you, she’ll have to look to Him first in order to find you.” I know this resolution is a little vague, but the point here is that now I’ll actually put some effort forth. And yet, such as it is,  I am definitely open to any local suggestions.

All said and done, a lot of the same resolutions, but also some new ones to start branching out my skill set. I hope to do a better job of updating this blog this year, and hopefully these resolutions and adventures will help me to post something more than just once a month.

Lastly, for the Christmas musical last year, Jeremiah 29:11 was the only solo line that I had. I don’t know if the director purposely gave me that verse, or if it was merely by chance, but it’s definitely a word that has gotten me through 2010. Now that 2011 has started, I’m going to declare the LORD’s plan over my life. I know that He wants me to prosper and I know that He knows my future, so I’m just going to have to put my trust in Him to make it happen.

AeronautiChagrin

“Flying is a privilege, not a right.”

After my trip home for the Christmas break, I really question this privilege. If it were a privilege, you’d think the service would be better. Not only did I encounter problems flying out to Colorado, I encountered even more problems flying back. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This tragic tale starts, as many do, in the early morning hours of a Friday. I was racing to the airport after realizing that I did not accurately plan the time in which I was to wake up, and was therefore running a little late. I was fortunate that I did not have a bag to check and that I had printed out my tickets ahead of time. I also figured that I was flying out at an odd time, so the TSA line would be short. Unfortunately, I was wrong on that last part.

I got in line and nervously waited for it to slowly move along. Apparently there were about 4 other flights that were departing the same time mine was, which would explain the large amount of people in line. What I can’t figure out is why they only had two lanes open, when there was obviously equipment for at least one more x-ray / metal detector line. After having one or two panic attacks, I finally made it through security and ran to my gate. I got to the plane, found my seat and finally began to relax.

Of course, my relaxation would only be temporary. The minutes ticked away and we still hadn’t left the gate. It turns out that there was a serious mechanical failure on the plane, which meant that everyone had to get off and start planning for alternate flights. Now I’m not an expert in airport affairs, but I would think that the first flight out for the day would be checked well in advance, instead of right before departure. I mean, the plane has been there all night, at which point someone could have checked to see if it was working so that if anything was broken, it could be fixed in time for a timely flight. Right?

Needless to say, I automatically missed my connecting flight. As I was at the gate with the airline representative, I motioned across the terminal to a flight that was going directly to Denver, and leaving in about 15 minutes. I inquired whether there were any spare seats on it. There weren’t. Figures. At any rate, I managed to get booked on the next direct flight to Denver so that I wouldn’t have to deal with any connections or layovers. Unfortunately, that flight left 7 hours later.

After informing my family of the delay, I set in for the long haul. I was fortunate to have some cookies I had baked a few days before, as well as my iPod, free Wi-fi, and a charging cable for said iPod. For compensation, I received two $6 vouchers for the meals that I would be eating in the airport (breakfast and lunch). These vouchers seemed terribly inadequate, considering the inflated prices in the terminal. I ended up using both (that’s $12) on 2 slices of pizza and a drink. Outrageous.

So, after panicking that I would miss my flight, I ended up spending my morning in the terminal of an airport. Just goes to show you that panic and stress sometimes do little to change the outcome of a situation. And yet, this was not the end of my airport problems. Not by a long shot. On top of the 7 hours that I had stolen from me while flying to Colorado, I would eventually add at least 13 more on the flight back.

One of the aspects I do not like about flying is the ticket prices. In order to get tickets at a reasonable price, you’ve got to buy them well in advance. I ended up buying my tickets for Christmas a little before Thanksgiving. As such, one can not anticipate what the weather will do when it is actually time to fly. If I had known, I would have flown back to Huntsville a day earlier. Or even a day later. Instead I flew on a day marked by the only snowfall I would see during my two weeks in Colorado.

Having learned my lesson, I gave myself plenty of time to get to the airport and get through security. This was a much more relaxed procedure than I had experienced on my trip out to Colorado. I ended up sitting in front of the gate for about an hour before I was to depart. Unfortunately, I would sit for another hour while in the airplane, sitting on the tarmac, waiting to be de-iced. Of course, this was after the plane finally arrived at the gate around the time that we were supposed to depart. I understand that the delay was weather based, but that’s not where my frustration sets in.

When I finally landed, my connecting flight had already been gone by 10 minutes. The next flight to Huntsville was at 9:30 in the morning. Fan-freakin’-tastic. Considering that the connecting flight was probably the last one for the night, I really wished they had delayed it by 15 minutes so that I could have gotten back that night. I mean, Huntsville is not a connection airport. There were probably no connections after that flight anyways, so why not delay it a little bit to make sure that everyone can be happy? Do these people not communicate with each other?

So now I was stuck in a closed airport at 8pm with a ticket for a morning flight and a discount for a hotel room. Not a free hotel room. A discount. Considering that the extra day I would be gone added to the fee I’d have to pay to get my car out of the parking lot, I couldn’t justify the expense. Plus, I had checked a bag with the stuff I would need for an overnight stay (all that Christmas swag justified the checked bag). I really wished they had given me one of those $6 vouchers for breakfast, for all the trouble I had suffered at their hands. This would be the second year in a row that I would be spending the early morning hours in an airport on my way back to Huntsville. At least last year was due to a red-eye flight and not a delay.

In order to avoid having to go through security again, I hunkered down for the night. I was fortunate on a few aspects of my non-ideal circumstances. Firstly, I found a blanket and pillow that I used to make myself comfortable underneath one of the benches of chairs. Also, the lights were controlled by motion sensors, so if I kept still, it would become slightly darker. I ended up getting about 30 minutes of on-and-off sleep by the time that the bicycle security guard caught me.

Apparently the terminal closed down at night and everyone had to congregate outside the security screening area. I’m just amazed that I went undetected as long as I did, considering how many times I heard them pass by. This must have been a procedure that this airport had adopted, because I have been in a few other airports essentially overnight (both before and after 9/11) where this was not the case. Oh, the troubles I go through to avoid going through security again. So now I was out in the main concourse, failing at trying to sleep once again.

I am amazed that anyone can get any sleep in an airport at all. Not with that PA system constantly blaring announcements at regular intervals. It’s almost like an annoying grandfather clock, but instead of chiming every 15 minutes, it seemed to occur every 10. As a result, I didn’t sleep, but I did get a lot of reading done (no free Wi-fi in this airport). I knew I wanted to get some reading done during the break, but not like that. Finally, the security checkpoint opened up again and I was able to get back into the terminal.

And yet, now I know why they wanted me to not sleep in the terminal. On my return trip through security, I was passed through one of the body scanners. First time that’s happened to me, so I guess the real reason for not allowing anyone to sleep in the terminals is so that privacy can be invaded (or something). After a quick gate change, I was finally able to get some sleep. Once again, the lights were motion activated, but this time some of the seats did not have arm-rests, which made for a very comfortable place to lie down and sleep. I think I may have gotten an hour’s worth of sleep before other people started arriving at the gate. Hours later, I was finally on the plane for the last leg of my journey back to Huntsville. All said and done, from the time that I boarded the shuttle to the airport to the time I walked in my apartment, 23 hours had elapsed. A whole day wasted on travel.

Now the real irony of both of these situations, and the combined 20 hours of wasted time I was forced to endure, was that when I travel for business (and not pleasure, as was the case for this trip), I never have these kinds of issues. It’s only when it’s my own free time that’s at stake that I get put in these trying situations. This frustrates me to no end, considering how much more often I travel for work than I do for pleasure.

Of course, I’m sure that there were many alternatives that I could have taken in both the trip out and the trip back. For instance, I could have taken my car, drove it to the connecting airport and flew out to Colorado so that when I was stuck at the connecting airport on the flight back, I could have taken my car and drove back to Huntsville. That’s how ridiculously close it was. I ended up waiting 13 hours for a 30 minute flight. Ridiculous. However, since my checked baggage was essentially being held hostage, I would have had to make my way to the airport to pick it up once I had gotten back to Huntsville. I could have even rented a car and drove back to Huntsville, if it weren’t for the extra expense. Once again, that cheapskate in me comes to the surface in these types of situations, even if it would have saved me 10 hours of waiting.

However, I wonder sometimes if I choose the more stressing and difficult options so that afterwards I can have a great story to tell. Do I purposely put myself through tortures so that I can tell my story to others? Do I seek out the “adventure”, even when simpler options exist? Perhaps. And yet, I felt that the time that I was just sitting in an airport was time that was in essence stolen from me. On the flight out, it was time that I had planned to spend with my family, which is why I chose the early flight out. On the flight back, it was the time that I wanted to spend getting back into my routine and relaxing before heading back to work on Monday. Either way, I’d like that time back, but I don’t think the stingy airlines have a voucher for that.