Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

AstronauTraining

Reading up before the big mission

Many children have ambitious dreams for the careers that they would eventually like to have. Some examples of said professions are doctor, fireman, and athlete. Of course, there is inevitably one other profession that most kids want to be when they grow up. Astronaut. Unfortunately, not only do the astronauts of this world come in short supply, but their job is a difficult test of endurance, both physically and mentally.

And yet, many still persist in these lofty dreams. That’s where space camp comes in. Space camp is a good way to give kids a chance to experience a small part of what being an astronaut is like. I never got the chance to go when I was a child, and I’m completely fine with that. However, when opportunity knocks, I’m certainly going to answer the door.

In the final days of January, I participated in (what essentially boiled down to) space camp for adults. As part of a teambuilding and leadership training, I was able to use my position at the Missile Defense Agency as a part of its Career Development Program to go to space camp. This broke down into two days. Day 1 was a ropes course and day 2 was the astronaut training.

Over the years, I’ve had the chance to participate in many ropes courses. As such, I’ve been able to figure out some of the “tricks” of the teambuilding that takes place. Let’s just say experience breeds confidence. Of course, the first task was to break the large group into smaller groups. Standard icebreaker involving pictures taped to backs. All said and done, I ended up in team Charlie. Even though the other teams were Alpha and Bravo, I couldn’t help talking about going to Candy Mountain, the Leopluradon, and the fact that we were on a bridge.

The first activity of the day was the climbing wall. Again: standard stuff. And yet, there was a twist that I hadn’t encountered before. While you were climbing the wall, two others were climbing with you. Not only that, but all three climbers were loosely tethered to each other. The goal was to get to the top of the wall while keeping the tethers intact. Of the sets of three that attempted the wall, mine was the only one of our small group to make it to the top as a complete team. High fives and other congratulatory actions were well due indeed. Oh, did I mention that it was 40° outside? Yeah, it was cold. Yet another factor that made the day an adventure.

Next up was what I would call “Lumberjack Ninja”. The goal was to use metal pegs to climb to the top of a 40 foot pole and jump off. Easy enough, except heights can sometimes be an issue for me. Fortunately, the prior experience with ropes courses had ingrained in my brain the safety of the rope system, which definitely helped on the last few steps to the top of the pole. Once on top, I made a ninja pose, which really felt appropriate, considering where I was standing. Turning around (which is a difficult task when the pole sways with your movement), I leapt off the pole and fist-bumped the rope I was supposed to hit. I think the “rope hitting” part of the challenge was to make sure that you were far enough away from the pole so that you could be lowered safely. Of course, I took advantage of the situation to practice my best “Peter Pan” poses while I was lowered back down to the safety of the ground.

The last event of the day was the low ropes course. Nothing particularly special here, but it did enforce communication skills. With day 1 in the bag, I was looking forward to day 2. The end of day 1 consisted of a guided tour of the rest of the Space and Rocket Center, which was nice considering the last time I had been there, the guiding was left to the individual. Part of the reason I really liked this training, apart from the astronaut simulations, was the fact that we had many different teams that we had to work with. There’s no better way to become acquainted with your coworkers, than with a harmless assignment like a shuttle mission.

To start the second day off, our teams had to design our mission patches. I was a part of the space shuttle Atlantis, so of course I had the perfect slogan up my sleeve. “Let’s Get Kraken!” was proudly emblazoned at the top of our patch, which is only appropriate, considering the name of our shuttle. Once again, I found that my improvisational skills came in handy when we had to present our patch design in a clever manner. We decided upon the “evening news” method, and I was the head anchor to provide the explanation.

After an initial run-through of the mission on both flight control and shuttle sides, we made our way to what I would call the “simulation room”. This was a hangar-like building that housed a lot of equipment to simulate different conditions that astronauts might encounter. The first simulation I did was the “moon walk”, where springs reduced your “weight” to give the sensation of walking on the moon. A lot more difficult than it looks, mainly because a lot of the force that goes into walking isn’t put into going forward, but (apparently) into going up. The next simulation was meant to simulate microgravity, and it was pretty neat, considering I was essentially sitting in a mini-hovercraft. Newton’s laws definitely become apparent when there’s no friction to hold you back. Lastly, I went on the gyroscopic tumble simulator. This is the one that spins you around in every direction. Afterwards, I was reminded that I do actually get seasick, and that I probably wouldn’t make a good astronaut if this was part of the standard training. Well, that and the fact that I’m 6’1”.

By far the best part of the last day was the actual mission. Not only did we have blue flight suits (which I ended up buying), but we had tasks that were performed in a simulated shuttle environment. I was fortunate enough to be one of the Mission Specialists for the mission, which meant that I would be doing a spacewalk to assemble a structure for a satellite. This mission was replete with all the gear that would give the full experience. This included headsets, the bubble helmet, and various other accoutrement needed for a simulated spacewalk.

My only issue with the spacewalk has to do with the microgravity simulator. In order to give the feeling that you’re not being pulled down by gravity, you have to counter that force with a counterweight. Unfortunately, the compensation is perhaps a little more than the gravity pulling me to earth. Sitting in the chair for the spacewalk felt like being continually kicked in the crotch, because it kept pulling me up, when I wanted to just stay put. Of course, I can understand that there are certain limitations of trying to simulate a minimal gravity environment, but I kept fighting it instead of the alternative, which was to lose control. Add on top of everything trying to build a structure out of nodes and rods that were a little bit too big to really fit together properly, I definitely had my workout for the day.

Another observation I made about the mission in general was the critical thinking experience that many of us had. We were all college graduates, and many of us had engineering backgrounds, so the mission certainly did seem to go smoothly. There are a lot of checklists to work through, anomalies to solve, and switches to flip, and it was interesting to see how we were so well adept to these tasks already. Plus, I think most of us were old enough to really enjoy it.

The training concluded with a speech by retired astronaut Robert C. Springer. All said and done, it was an excellent 2 days and I wouldn’t trade them for anything else. Heck, I’d do it again. So in conclusion: yes. I have been to space camp. I just had to wait until I was 25.

LAdventure

HollywoodIf there was any business trip that made me feel like I truly have power over what I do with my work, it would have to be this most recent trip I took to Los Angeles. For a 3 day trip, I definitely got as much out of my time there as I could.

The trip was meant for me to visit a component vendor and see their production facility so that my Mechanical Engineering brain could wrap itself around some of the concepts that are key to the research I’m doing for my job at the moment. Here’s how the trip broke down: Monday – fly to LA. Tuesday – site visit. Wednesday – fly back to Huntsville. A whirlwind tour, but something about it not being 3 weeks long made it feel much more liberating. Also, despite the traffic (which seems to be pretty continual), it was nice to be in a location that had so much to do crammed so close together. On my drive to my hotel, I took a little side tour of Sunset Blvd. I did this mainly to satisfy my movie-geek tendencies, but as I drove, I came across Bel-Air and couldn’t resist taking a drive along that road too. The one thing I noticed is that there are a lot of nice houses that you can’t see. Privacy hedges and barriers are common, and the variety of driveway gates gave a little bit of an idea of what type of house lay on the other side. So yeah, not much to see there, but now I can say that I’ve been there.

Alfred HitchcockOf course, seeing as I know everyone in the United States, I took the opportunity to catch up with one of my college friends who had moved to Los Angeles. Even on top of that opportunity, I came down a little early and did a walk along the Hollywood walk of fame, because the restaurant we were meeting at was located on Hollywood Blvd. Either some people have stars for different things or whoever set up the sidewalks purposely repeated some people. I swear I saw Frank Sinatra and Alfred Hitccock every other block. What I found was most interesting was how many names I actually recognized. Not that I knew what they were famous for, but the name sounded familiar. This is mostly due to my exposure to the classics of film (having seen both top 100 lists from the American Film Institute), but also to the work of Stan Freberg (“Francis . . . uh . . . Langford?).

However, every trip has some adventure to it, and mine had to do with the rental car I was given. I’m not sure what it is about rental cars, but I always seem to get the more SUV-like ones, even though the reservation is usually for a Compact car. I’m fine with Compact cars. Heck, my own personal car is closer to a Compact than what they usually give me. Maybe it’s my height. They take a look at me and say to themselves, “This guy needs an SUV.” Well, they don’t charge me any more for it, so I’m not going to complain . . . too much. The issues I had with this particular rental come in two categories: control and comfort. Since I’m used to driving a smaller vehicle, I had to do some reaching to reach some items, like the rear-view mirror. The accelerator was also kind of touchy, and I would jolt more often than not. Perhaps the worst part of it was that it didn’t have automatic windows. Not only were they an inconvenience because I’d have to constantly roll up and down the window to get in and out of parking lots (which I shall discuss soon), but the handle of the window crank tore my shorts. I was getting out of the car (in a little bit of a hurry) and the handle caught and tore part of my shorts. Not only that, but if I had avoided doing it the first time, it happened again while I was there. Luckily the tear was kind of inconspicuous, but I’m probably not going to wear that pair of shorts anymore.

Since this was my first chance to spend any significant time in the Los Angeles area, I thought I would take a walk around and develop my own opinions. In my opinion, LA can be split into four categories:

1. Pornography – It’s everywhere, and it’s pretty blatant.

2. Tourist Traps – It’s everywhere, and it’s pretty blatant.

3. Scientology – It’s everywhere, and it’s pretty blatant.

4. Parking – It’s everywhere, and it’s pretty expensive.

In fact, #4 was pretty much the norm anywhere I went. I had to pay to park at my hotel. I had to pay to park in the city (which I can understand, for downtown LA). I had to pay to park at the beach. Although, I was probably a bit too anxious to get to the beach, because when I was leaving, I came across a state beach that was probably cheaper, or even free. Oh well, such is life.

Pacific OceanNow, the beach was definitely something that I felt I could handle this time around. For starters, I wasn’t going to go looking for it on Vandenberg Air Force Base, that’s for sure (lesson learned). This time I looked at a map of my surroundings and saw that I could take a nice drive through Toponga Canyon and connect into the Pacific Coast Highway and head to either Santa Monica or Malibu. I decided to head towards Santa Monica, since it was closer, distance-wise. I had made up my mind that I would find the first place I could and get into the ocean. Turns out I found a restaurant that was smack up against a pretty nice beach, so I paid for the parking and went down to the beach. I think one of the reasons I wanted to go to the beach (besides having lived in a landlocked state for most of my life) was for the photographic opportunities it would give me. I got plenty of nice pictures and definitely spent a fair amount of time on that beach so that I could get my money’s worth for the parking. The water was cold, but nothing I hadn’t experienced before. Definitely got sand in more places than I would have liked, but that’s the risk of going to the beach.

So, in the end, it was a nice trip that I utilized to the utmost of my ability. Now that summer is upon me, I am envisioning the utilization of my free time while traveling for work to be at peak efficiency. The next trip to Maryland is fast upon me and I look forward to what I have in store for it.

ColumbiAdventures

Well, scratch that. Forget I said anything about developing roots in Huntsville. Forget that I said I wanted to do a lot more cooking this year. Forget that I said I wanted to spend some time searching for someone to fill the void in my life. Apparently God and my job have different plans for me this year. Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to working on something that I can’t tell you about because of its security level and because of its infancy as a program. It’s just that I feel like any time I get some sort of game plan, some sort of path that I want my life to go that I immediately run smack into a brick wall.

Still, I try and keep positive about it all. This last week I spent in Columbia, Maryland has given me some time to think, some time to collect myself, some time to really do some soul searching. I look forward to actually doing some Engineering work. I look forward to a commute to work that is at least half of the time that I usually take when commuting to work in Huntsville. I look forward to being close enough to the Atlantic Ocean that I can occasionally visit it. This is something that I especially look forward to because I’ve lived most of my life in a landlocked state. I look forward to being close enough to Washington D.C. when spring rolls around to watch the cherry blossoms bloom. I look forward to catching up on all the reading I planned to do this year. In fact, I was able to do quite a bit of reading during my off time on this trip, and have almost finished reading Plato’s “The Republic”. I look forward to the brainstorming and structuring that I’ll be able to accomplish on my novel with fewer distractions around me. In fact, I was able to start laying out some basic bullets on characters and other important things relating to this novel. This was on the order of about 5 pages of notes. I look forward to finding all the little foibles of a new town. The new used CD and book stores. The new restaurants. The new surroundings.

However, these new surroundings do have their setbacks. Columbia is not a walking town. There are almost no sidewalks in this town as far as I’ve seen, which does not bode well for a walker such as myself. On top of no sidewalks, there are rarely crosswalks or crossing signals at traffic lights. Very dangerous. Columbia is not a driving town. Most of the main roads through Columbia are major state highways. You’d better be sure that you don’t have to drive somewhere during rush hour, because it gets clogged up pretty quickly. Luckily these setbacks are only transportation issues, and nothing that’s actually serious.

The hotel that I stayed in for this trip was brand new, as shown by its modernist style, lack of a building in Google street-view, and ongoing construction on the first floor. That being said, I did enjoy the size of the television, and the HD channels that came with it. I would have gone with my normal brand of hotels for this trip, but the closest one would have given me a 30 minute commute. Also, it was located next to the airport, which would have probably extended my commute by at least 50%. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to have multiple rewards programs, in the long run that is.

For the time I spent in Columbia this last week, it was kind of a trial run for me. A trial run to see if I could stand driving to Columbia from Huntsville. A trial run to see what hotel life would be like without anyone else with me. The drive out wasn’t that bad, in fact it was almost heavenly considering the weather I had. If you learn anything about me, it’s that I have a strong will. A strong endurance. Most things that others will crack under (like extreme temperatures, menial tasks, etc), I can accomplish with no thought to the contrary. I learned in college that when fellow students would complain and whine about some horrible class or other, I really didn’t notice it being quite as bad as they said it was. Again, legendary endurance. Previous business trips I had taken had always been with someone else, be it a mentor or coworker. This time I was on my own. By the end of the week, I had kind of gotten used to it. I had found my rhythm. I figure that perhaps in order to find true happiness being with someone, I need to find that same happiness being with myself.

Finally, there comes the “Adventure” part of this story. My original itinerary for this trip was to drive back to Huntsville on Saturday the 6th of February. I was unsure how long work would keep me on Friday, so I made sure that I would have all of Saturday to drive back. Well, the “Storm of the Century” kind of changed those plans. Luckily, the briefing I went to on Friday let out around noon, and I had nothing else planned for work that day, so I checked out of my hotel room a day early and started the drive back. I had been watching the weather and saw that the brunt of the storm would hit Friday night, leaving me with a foot or more of snow to drive through should I stick to the original plan. Originally, I was toying with the idea of leaving on Saturday after the snow had stopped, but quickly decided against it. My plan, as it now stood, required me to drive back to Huntsville, through the storm that had already started, with only a few hours of sunlight to help me on my way.

That’s right, my escape route put me driving towards the storm, instead of away from it. Illogical, right? I figured that due to relativity, I’d get through the storm that much faster. In the end, I was somewhat correct. There were only a few spots where I felt my car slipping on ice, and I even witnessed a SUV spin out of control in front of me. Still, I maintained my cool and remembered a few key tips to winter driving: 1- Don’t change lanes unless you have to. 2- If you do have to change lanes, do so slowly. 3- If you start to slip, don’t jerk the wheel, you’ll overcompensate and spin out of control. Most people get a rush climbing Mount Everest or going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. I got my rush driving through the “Storm of the Century”. As I drove, the precipitation turned from snow to heavy snow to ice to rain to nothing. The most dangerous part of the trip was the point where it was raining on top of the snow that was already on the ground. Not fun to drive in.

Of course, with something like inclement weather to focus me, I hardly even noticed if I was hungry or thirsty or had to use the restroom. When I finally did notice that I was hungry, finding a restaurant that was open proved to be a challenge because of the weather. Most places had closed down with hand written signs on the door saying “Closed due to weather”. Luckily, I found a Subway that was still open. In fact, it was just about to close as well. If the drive to Columbia was heaven, the drive back was definitely hell. I was definitely doing a lot of praying and thanking God for his divine protection on the trip back. In the end, my decision to come back early was a wise one, because as I watched The Weather Channel the next day, I saw that the Baltimore area got almost 2 feet of snow and that weathermen were saying that no one should be out driving unless it was a dire emergency. So, now I’m back in Huntsville, waiting until my next Columbia Adventure happens.

InterstatExpert

Even though I have had my driver’s liscense for many years now, I’ve never really done extensive driving by myself. If you recall from some of my first posts to this blog, I spent two days driving from Colorado to Alabama. Two 11 hour driving days. Sure, I’d helped with trips to Kansas City before, but I’d never really done the drive by myself. There’s a certain amount of mental preparation that is needed before going on a drive for half a day. I would have to equate the experience to the taking of the Engineer in Training (EIT) exam: the first four hours were easy, it was the second four that were the difficult ones (except that in this situation, it would be six hours, instead of four).

Well, once again it was time to do a day-long drive. I’ve never really been the type of person who would go on long drives just to clear my mind, because that’s wasteful of gas. However, if there was a reason to be on a long drive, then I might as well use it as such. Let’s just say that when a company asks if you’re willing to travel for your job, they probably mean it. As it just so happens, my job has given me an opportunity to work at the Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins for 8 months. When dealing with spans of time of that length, living out of a suitcase is a little difficult, so I decided to have a little more flexibility and take my car on the 12 hour drive up to Columbia, Maryland.

I couldn’t have asked for any better driving weather. The day before, a huge weather front had headed through the eastern part of the country and dropped a lot of snow on the ground, but the roads were all mostly bone dry. A layer of clouds in the morning blocked the rising sun from blinding me on the start of my journey. The rest of the day was clear and full of sunny blue skies that caused the trees encapsulated with a layer of ice from the day before to glisten and gleam with a beauty that I have only rarely seen. Driving on a Sunday meant that there were very few cars on the road. Sometimes it would just be me in my car, cruising along (literally, since I used cruise control for the entirety).

This trip definitely gave me a chance to trust in God. In previous circumstances, I would have worried about the road, the weather, the wildlife, the other vehicles, and many other things, like detours (luckily I had to switch highways before the detour happened). However, this time I just sent up a prayer before I left and He took care of the rest. It felt really good not having to worry about things that were outside of my control.

Having now done quite a bit of interstate driving, I have come to some realizations:

1. You can get pretty much anywhere you want to in the United States without a map. All you need to know is which direction you’re going, what major cities you want to head towards, and which interstates to drive on. It really does seem as simple as that.
2. Most people will go 10 miles an hour over the speed limit. This also applies to local driving. If the speed limit was the speed of light, these people would find a way to do 10 over. This brings me to . . .
3. Some people just shouldn’t be allowed to drive. These are the people who are doing 20 over the speed limit and are weaving through traffic.
4. Roadkill gets bigger the further east and south you go. The speed limits also get slower.

I was somewhat surprised to have to get on to I-70 on my way to Columbia, since that’s the highway that I took from Colorado out to Kansas City. Apparently it just keeps going. I also now know what number interstates will let me circumnavigate large cities. At any rate, it was a long day of driving, but it was a do-able drive. This is a good thing, because I’m going to have to do it a few times because I’ve got occasional training back in Huntsville.

TrustinGod

Well, the new year is well on its way, but already I’ve been challenged. I suppose that it’s just God giving me opportunities to work on one of my new year’s resolutions. In order for this to make sense to you, let me back up a bit. A few weeks into January, my paternal grandmother was admitted to the hospital and died a few days later. As a result, it became apparent that I would need to travel to Kansas City for the funeral. However, I had learned that week that I was going to be in Colorado again for work. I was fortunate that these two events did not intersect, but there still remained a bit of  a logistical issue in making sure that I was in the right place at the right times. I flew out to Kansas City on a slightly reduced bereavement fare which I probably wouldn’t have gotten had I not signed up for some frequent flier programs last year in relation to work. The problem on that day was that Alabama had recently come into some weather that had produced ice on some of the roads. On my way to the airport, I had to take a less direct route, because the exit to the highway that I was used to taking was blocked off. I suddenly panicked. I immediately thought up about 3 different ways to get to the airport, some of which required a bit of luck. Fortunately, I was able to make it to the airport on time, and into Kansas City at a somewhat reasonable time considering that I had to work that Friday.

The flights back to Huntsville are what really had me worried. Since I had already booked my trip to Colorado through the government’s system I didn’t want to try and adjust anything and risk canceling any flights. I also didn’t want to have to pack for two different occasions (work and family) in the same suitcase. As a result, I had to get back into Huntsville early enough that I could get to my car, move it out of the parking lot that it was in and re-park it so that I could get reimbursed for just the Colorado trip, switch suitcases and get back on a plane headed to Colorado. The problem with making this all work out was that I had a connecting flight from Kansas City to Huntsville in Atlanta. The layover for the connection was 50 minutes. Since most flights start boarding about 30 minutes before they leave, this made my time-frame about 20 minutes. So what did we do on the tarmac in Kansas City? We sat there for about 40 minutes as we waited for someone to come in and fill the toilets with the fluid they needed to work. To top things off, I was seated in the farthest back seat of the plane. I spent most of the flight freaking out that I would miss my connection and not get to Huntsville in time for my work trip.

Fortunately, I landed in Atlanta, the pilot told people to wait in their seat if they didn’t have a connecting flight or if their connecting flight was later, which gave me enough time to literally run from the gate I landed at to the gate I needed to be at ten gates away. I came up to the counter for the Huntsville flight and arrived just in time to board and get back with plenty of time to spare before my Colorado flight. By the end of that day, I had been in 5 different cities, taken 3 different flights and spent more than 12 hours driving, in an airport or in an airplane. Exhausting to say the least on every level.

Just to add the icing to the cake, I had recently learned that my first rotation for work (which is coming up in February) would be in Columbia, Maryland at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab for six months. I am quite excited for this opportunity, but not in the logistics that go with it. I was contacted by the department that would be in charge of this rotation and from the way that they worded their comments, made it sound like I would have to actually move to Columbia for six months. This, I did not want. I was under the impression that I would spend a lot of time there, but that it would be an extended business trip, not an actual move. An actual move would mean that I’d have to pack up everything, go find an apartment in Maryland, and then move back to Huntsville in six months and hope that there would still be available apartments in my current complex. Luckily, my mentor and supervisor confirmed that the rotation would be an extended business trip and not an actual move, which gave me some encouragement.

I’m sure by now you’re wondering as to how this fits in with the title of this post. For a long time now, I’ve had issues trusting God’s guidance in my life. As an engineer, I like to see a master plan. A set of steps that I can follow and end up where I need to be. As a result, I usually try and make my own plans for my life. These plans sometimes work out, but the majority of them are redirected. I constantly worry about things that I have no control over. I can sit in the back of an airplane and fret about missing a connecting flight, even though down on the ground there were plenty of flights still going to Huntsville and I would have been on one of them eventually, even if I had missed the connection. I can get caught in some traffic after seeing that the exit I need to take is closed because of weather and freak out that I won’t be able to get to the airport at all, after which I end up taking the first alternate route and get to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I can stress over having to pick up my life and put it on hold for six months while I have an experience that I’m sure I won’t regret having, despite wanting other things for my life (like the search for a girlfriend, for instance). God keeps forcing me to trust His judgment. He puts me in situations that make me need to trust in His plan. It’s a struggle that I’ve had, and I just need to let go of control. Saying it is easy, but practicing that simplicity is quite difficult. For now all I can do is pray that I can hear His voice and know what I must do.

AtlantAgain

Another few weeks pass, and yet again I was off to some part of the country for travel. This time it was Atlanta for a Radar course at the Georgia Tech Research Institute. This time it was also different because I drove there instead of flying. That was definitely nice and provided for a little more of a relaxed travel environment. Last time I was in Atlanta, I was there to see my cousin who happens to live there. This time I wouldn’t have much free time to spend with anyone other than the coworkers I was with. I have also discovered a perk of having a birthday away from home.

When I was in Colorado for my last business trip, I traveled up to Fort Collins to spend some time with my family. Since that was the closest that I would get to spending my birthday with my family, we celebrated as much. Of course, this mean that I got a home cooked meal and some birthday presents . . . and a cake. The cake was made by my littlest brother and was good, despite having a very candied coating below the frosting and having writing on the cake that looked like “Happy Birthday Beavis”. Needless to say, I appreciated that time with family. Fast forward to the actual day of my birthday. This was the day that I traveled down to Atlanta and met up with some of my fellow CDP coworkers at the hotel. I took advantage of the Manager’s reception at the Embassy Suites, then it was on to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, which was a new experience for me. We finished the night at the pool of the hotel and the hot tub that was associated with it. Spending that time with my new friends definitely made it a great birthday, but it did give me time to reflect on the past year and all the things that I had done.

In the past year I had participated in a play (in which I had a huge role) and a musical. I received my Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. I started my first job and moved to Huntsville for some independent life. I also had a wonderful six months in a relationship. It’s sad to see it go, but I need to move on. Now that I’ve had some time to grieve about it, I’m starting to come across some deep issues within me that need to be worked out. Still, talking about it helps and the more time I spend in the company of others, the better.

What will YOU have?

What will YOU have?

In terms of actual business that went on while I was in Atlanta, I can only tell you that there were some interesting pieces of information that I learned about radar which helped me get a deeper understanding of the radar systems that we deal with. So often we only get the system level explanation, with no depth, but now I have a little more knowledge on how some of the technical aspects work, which is kind of what I’ve been craving recently. Outside of the training course, there was the standard travel activities. I really don’t want this to seem like I travel to these places only to go to baseball games and eat at expensive restaurants, but that’s what ends up happening anyways. Since we were in Atlanta, our group saw a Braves game, which in itself was an adventure for me.

Definitely not as packed as Fenway

Definitely not as packed as Fenway

Apparently there was need for increased security, because when I got to the gates of Turner Stadium, I was told that I would have to go back to the car and leave my keys inside. Yeah, I can’t figure it out either. What if I was driving only myself? Then I’d have to go out to the far reaches of the parking lot and lock my keys in my car. Stupid, right? Still, I complied just so that I could get in and enjoy the game. However, that was only half of my adventure. Since everyone else was already inside and seated, I had to find my way to my seat by myself. My ticket said that I was on level 3 and there was an “L” next to the section number. Logically, I thought that this meant my seat was in left field. I trudged up to the fourth level on the left field side where I learned that I would have to go down one level and “through the glass doors.” This was quite the experience for me, because this was the fancy level of the ballpark. However, as it would turn out, I was on the complete opposite side of the stadium. I had to huff it all the way over to the right field area just to finally sit down.

Roll deep!

Roll deep!

It wasn’t really an exciting game until the last inning, when the Braves actually appeared to put forth some effort. Now I think that my grand total of baseball stadiums visited is now at five. Now that my fifth business trip is done, I have some observations about hotels. I signed up for the Hilton Honors program so that I could get points for my personal use. This means that I can go to any Hilton-type hotel and rack up the points. Of the three types of Hilton hotels I’ve now stayed in (Hilton, Hampton Inn and Embassy Suites), Embassy Suites definitely has the best perks. Not only does it have free breakfast, but there is a Manager’s reception that happens in the evening that has free alcohol. Good times. Also, the Embassy Suites has two rooms per suite. One for sleeping, and one for relaxing (there’s also a bathroom too, don’t worry about it).

Now that I’m back in Huntsville, it’s time for a long streak of staying in town. Actually, I’m looking forward to it, as travel was starting to get a little stressing on my body, both in food intake and sleep deprivation.

BusinesStalemate

Part of the frustration that came with canceling my flights to and from Boston before I left for that trip was that I also had to reschedule my travel to Colorado Springs. Originally, the plan was to do a week in Boston, then have a week in Huntsville followed by a week in Colorado Springs. However, some scheduling changes pushed the Colorado Springs trip smack up against the Boston trip. If I have learned anything from these two weeks of business travel, it’s that my equipment isn’t quite ready for such a long absence from the office (because it’s missing some key elements) and that finding someone and shaking them until your problem gets solved is a much easier method than e-mails or phone calls.

Anyways, on to my recollection of my Colorado trip. As I had been away from Colorado for two months at this point, I felt like I should take the advantages of business travel to expand out into some personal time. Since the plan was to travel out on Sunday, travel back on Saturday, I decided to push either side of those travel days by one day to get some time with my family. So, as it was, I spent the night in Huntsville after getting back from Boston and the next morning I departed for Colorado. Once at the airport, I waited around for a little while and greeted my parents, who had just came back from their trip to Hawaii. I then drove down to surprise my girlfriend with a visit, since she was at a convention that was nearby. After which, I drove up to Fort Collins to spend some time with my family. All in all, it was a good day, despite the checked bag fee and realizing that I was wearing my shorts that had a huge hole in them.

Sunday was a nice day to sleep in, considering how cloudy it was and how tired all of us were. I finally got my Master’s degree back to Fort Collins to get it framed in the same way that my Bachelor’s was. I was also able to get some of the items that I had forgotten in Colorado from my move to Alabama. Along with a “birthday” dinner, it was a good day . . . until I got to the hotel in Colorado Springs. At this point, I figured that I would see what the plan for Monday was, since I knew that the air force base that we would be going to was essentially out in the middle of nowhere. As it turns out, I became very frustrated with a particular individual, because it was looking like I would have to be his chauffeur for the week, and he was across town. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night due to going to sleep frustrated. This can lead to some interesting and possibly revealing dreams, but I’m going to leave that explanation to another post.

When I woke up early in the morning (so early that my hotel hadn’t even started serving its free breakfast), I learned that I would not have to drive this individual around. I was relieved, but the damage done to my sleep was already done. The activities on base were pretty interesting, especially considering all of the security that we had to go through in order to just watch a simulation. Heck, even to get to the building that we needed to be at, we had to go through a “portal” which was essentially a line of phone-booth type enclosures that would have a randomized number pad that you’d put in a secret PIN on and it would let you out the other side. Unfortunately, as we would all soon learn, Monday would be the only day that had anything going on.

Due to some circumstances, the rest of our week was canceled, which left all of us in Colorado Springs twiddling our thumbs until Thursday, when we were to go and visit Cheyenne Mountain. In order to prevent us from all going mad with boredom, we worked on some online training courses and radar materials to pass some of the time. We also took some trips to the surroundings to get out and enjoy Colorado. Garden of the Gods was definitely in order, since it is a Colorado Springs attraction (that you don’t have to pay for, mind you). Another trip we took was to Cripple Creek. Now that was a drive. Not only did we get to experience Colorado weather in the form of about 3 inches of hail, but we got to see some fantastic vistas and some aspen trees changing color for the fall. Since gambling is the only thing to do in Cripple Creek, I had decided to use my pocket change to hit the penny slots. Since I was about 4 cents short, one of my coworkers loaned me the change I needed to get a dollar from the cashier and start playing. Apparently casinos don’t actually use coins any more. It’s less exciting, that’s for sure. At any rate, I hit the slots and kept winning a few nickels and quarters occasionally. I made a vow to myself that I would stop playing the machine once I made more money than I put into it. It was at this point that I realized that I could stop the spinning at any time that I wanted. It was also at this time that I won 50 cents. With my 33% return on my dollar, I went back to the cashier and cashed out. I returned the 4 cents (with the 33% return) to my coworker in the form of a nickel. The best part about my winnings was that I was then able to walk down the street and buy the postcard for this trip without using any of my own money.

Finally, Thursday had arrived and it was time to visit Cheyenne Mountain. This experience was probably one of the more impressive ones that I’ve had. Partly due to the fact that you have to know someone to even get in to Cheyenne Mountain. At any rate, it was a very impressive facility with a lot of cool equipment and engineering that went into making it quite the stronghold. Now that the Cheyenne Mountain visit was out of the way, we had nothing else to d. Having changed our flights to earlier times (with varying degrees of frustration), we all came back to Huntsville.

In the end, the trip wasn’t a complete waste, but it sure was close. I got to see some interesting things as well as catch up with my family and my girlfriend. Although, by Thursday night, I was glad that I was still in Colorado, just for the simple fact that I had a shoulder to cry on.

PS – Here are my thoughts on flying at night: Where as during the day, the ground is all bland and it’s hard to distinguish cities, at night the cities are all lit up like galaxies with organized constellations spreading throughout them. It’s rather beautiful: like watching the night sky on the ground.