I made a burrito and forgot to shave

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My job as a pilot is made much easier by checklists and routines. I do the same thing - the same way - every time. Checklists are written in a way that is intended to flow logically as we set up the cockpit for each phase of flight. It’s the times when something upsets that flow - that checklist items are missed. You’re midway through a taxi checklist and a radio call breaks the cadence of the “challenge and response” and it’s easier (and safer) to start over rather then stumble back into it. My life has become a series of checklists. I’m not sure if I was made for aviation or if a career in aviation has made me the way I am. When I’m on a trip, each day I do the same thing - the same way - every time. My evening ritual in the hotel has been modified slowly over the years to become the most efficient it can be. I check into my room and immediately strip the garnish bedspread off the bed and lay out my clothes for the next morning. Regardless of how long I have in the hotel, I ready for the next day by setting two alarms on my phone, one on the hotel clock and phone for a wake-up call. Each of these alarms are set for 1 min apart beginning 45 minutes before we are to meet for the van. I write the city name and tomorrows day of the week on the hotel key envelope and put it next to the alarm clock. The rest of the night, like a Roomba vacuuming robot, I mindlessly walk through a series of preprogrammed routines. Hopefully, this involves some Seinfeld. The same precision takes place during the morning events. Nothing gets skipped, nothing gets forgotten. Until there’s a change to the routine. A shower that won’t get hot or a broken coffee maker. I recently introduced a lunch box to the program. I’ve become a lunch box guy. I pack 4 days worth of  food on ice and make meals-to-go in my room for a picnic at 30000 feet... without the blanket or ants. It’s not as much about saving money as it about getting so freaking sick and tired of Sbarro pizza and Wok-n-Roll fried stuff with soy sauce. With the introduction of the lunch box, I’m all out of whack. Yesterday, although I made some excellent burrito’s out of Trader Joe’s Chickenless Chicken Strips...  I forgot to shave. Having to get ice from the ice machine for my lunch box threw off my whole program! While showering, I debated when to work ice retrieval into the equation. Should I do it before or after I put on my tie? This internal argument must have carried on into the “it’s now time to shave” portion of the ceremony and I overlooked it while I debated maybe just getting ice on the way out the door with all my luggage. Years ago, I left the keys to my car in the cockpit of the airplane I just gave to another crew and realized this as I watched them taxi towards the runway. Naturally, this happened because I just bought a new suitcase and hadn’t decided yet which pocket to store my keys. I had it down to a science with my old suitcase but had yet to find a convenient spot for them in the new one. I opted to keep them in my pants pocket until resolving this crisis but then they kept stabbing my thigh so I set them in the cup holder. Off to STL they went without me. Tonight, I may use a spreadsheet to map out a new routine for tomorrow mornings ice gathering mission. But doing so, I’ll probably forget to brush my teeth before bed.

Something I haven't heard in sometime. "First Available?"

Something I haven't heard in sometime. "First Available?"

I was asked this last night when looking for a table in Milwaukee. I haven't heard that in years! It took a second to register what she was asking... and then I couldn't remember what the alternative answer was. "Um... no. Last available? Er... Whichever is first - as long as it's not smoking. Well... unless it's going to be a really long wait. What is the divider between the two availables? If it's that half wall, I'll take smoking if I'm within a tables width of the divider. Where are the vents? Are they smoking near the bathroom?

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I got some lip from a ROBOT

I called to check on room availabilities at a few hotels in Towson for my parents when they come to visit next month. Google, of course, gave me a few pushpins just a few miles up the road so I started calling. What's amazing is that with each call to the front desks, they sent me off to some call center somewhere to field my questions on room rates and availabilities. I'm a mile away asking a question to a lady who could be my neighbor and soon I'm off to another part of the world talking to someone who pronounces Baltimore wrong.

With one call, I get sent to Lilly who speaks remarkably crisp and quite lovely. She asks the standard questions and when given my turn to respond, my questions are standard as well. "I'm wondering if you have any rooms for the weekend of Oct. 4th?"

"That weekend. Let me checking. I am checking. Yes, we have a standard suite available with one king bed and an attached living room for a rate of $116 a night and cancellation up until the day of for no charge. You can book now if you have a major credit card or online at our website."

I ask a follow up. "I may have more guests, can you tell me if you have another room for that weekend?"

"You can cancel up until the day of arrival for no charge either over the phone at this number or on our website." She answers.

"No. I'm not asking that. I have another...."

"I can't answer that," She steps in. "You can cancel for no extra charge by calling this number or online at our website."

"No, I need to know." I start to ask until she jumps in with the cancellation routine. Now I'm thinking. Although very human, she sounds very mechanical.

While she's talking, I interrupt her with some Ferris Bueller, "I'm afraid that in my weakened condition, I could take a nasty spill down the stairs and subject myself to further school absences."

She cut me off mid-stride with, "I cannot help you with that. Good-bye."

God knows I'm a fan of the geeky or side of things and I wouldn't mind having a robot of my own to answer questions directed my way but at some point we the customers need to be right again.

my summer hobby

and this is it WITH
and this is it WITH
and this is it without!
and this is it WITHOUT

I've always wanted to grow a beard - but have never had the time away from professional life to do so. This was my summer to let it ride. Looking at my beardless face now - and the pictures from 'then' - I think I should find an occupation that allows me to hide as much of my nerdy mug as possible.

6 hours ahead to 3 hours behind

On Woensdag (Wednesday), we left Amsterdam for Reno. Well, we attempted to leave Amsterdam for Reno. The daily Usairways flight from AMS to PHL was full and rather than roll the dice on one flight we figured a safer bet would be to roll the dice on two relatively full flights out of Frankfurt. And if we didn't make these flights? Hey, we get to spend the night in Germany! Fortunately, we had three days to meet my folks and grandparents in Reno. This was Wednesday and we were to meet them Friday.  We bought two tickets on the ICE train to Germany. It's a highspeed train that tops out at 175MPH between cities! Although the room we were in held six, we only shared it with one lady who played Sudoku in German. Sudoku is the international language of road warriors.

ice train

Upon arrival in Frankfurt, we only had an hour before the first of our two options for the states so we sprinted straight for the ticket counter. This flight was to Charlotte and from there we had a few options to get to Phoenix and then off to Reno.

I didn't have to understand German to know the agent wasn't happy about us showing up an hour before departure for an international flight. I'm bearded with a backpack, smiling telling her, "Today, tomorrow, next week. Whenever. No stress." 

"Run!" She says. "You may make it."

So much for pleasantries.

At security I got manhandled. I should have paid him for the attention he gave me. Security was both fast and friendly and done at the gate so the line was short. (The boarding was nearly finished so there was no line.)

airbus 330

We were the second from the last of the free loaders to get on and sat separate from each other which was unfortunate because typically I get the meaty portions of Susan's meal. My seat mate didn't seem too interested in abliging me in my coachclass habits. "You gonna eat your fat?"

Landed in CLT and I made the command decision to call it a day and spend the night in a hotel. The Phoenix flights were full - as were the connecting flights to Reno and rather than spend all day cramped in a plane, we'd rest and try again in the morning. I called the same hotel we stay at with the airline since it has several nasty food options within a walk that all sounded pretty good after a day of traveling - Waffle house, Cracker Barrel and some sloppy buffet place with squeaky green beans and overly buttered rolls.

Looking at the next days flight options, the most open westbound flight was an early San Francisco flight that would get us in at 9am PT. We could spend the day in San Francisco and then take an early morning Gotobus to Reno for $30 each. We found this option after Googling, "bus Reno from San Francisco".

gotobus

And this is where we are now... hours from the bus ride to Reno! The bus caters to the casino crowd and with a few extra bucks you can buy some chips for Harrah's and get a free steak. Since the bus leaves from Chinatown, I'm hoping it's full of aging chinese ladies off for a day at the casino. And us, two weary travelers with bulging backpacks and well used ipods.

My childhood "Boy named Sue" moment

This is a girls shirt!

In grade school we wore navy blue pants and white dress shirts. The boys had triangular collars while the girls wore the rounded ones that little Catholic school girls wear. There was an unfortunate era when my sister and I wore the same size shirt even though we were two years apart. And, of course, there was that day. One of the days that sticks with you forever and came back to me the other day when i was trying on used sweaters at an outdoor market in Amsterdam.

"This is a girls sweater." I said to Susan.

"Oh no it's not. It looks good on you." She answered.

"Irrelevant how it looks, the buttons are on the wrong side."

Back to grade school. The unlucky day must have been around 5th grade and it was made clear to me by my teacher that I was wearing a girls shirt. She asked, of course, in front of the class. "Are you wearing your sisters clothes?"

The class turned and errupted in laughter.

"Stork-dorks wearing a girls shirt!"

So my question is this, was it I who was half asleep while dressing watching Woody Woodpecker or was it my father who was half asleep while he ironed our shirts that morning. Where were the parental checks and balances to sound the buzzer for these things? Was this just a "boy named sue" moment in which my father tested me on how I would handle the rigors of manhood? The only thing it has taught me is to pay extra notice as to which side the buttons are and what shape the collar is.

Time for a break from flying

do accountants play accounting games on lunch break

I wonder if other jobs have simulators that workers play while on break. I'm not sure who this guy is - but maybe he has a checkride coming up and his is just 'training'? I doubt it. We've got plenty of aviation geeks that can't get enough of it. I do like the fact that he carries a joystick with him in his bag for between flight - flights. I will admit that I have, on occasion, found myself playing a few psp flying games while on the pad awaiting a wheels up time - these are games though that involve guns and missles and things I can't do in real life.

The Phoenix Lander seen from above

Phoenix descent as seen from above The image of the lander suspended by its parachute has been widely spread online and in the news but it wasn't until I was browsing through the Phoenix website that I saw the raw image with Mars in the background. (Click the image for the full view.) It is a spectacular view especially imagining the precision it must have taken to get it lined up. It's hard enough getting several people to smile at the same time in a picture. The shot was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as it passed overhead.

I have been impressed by NASA coverage of the lander so far. The two hours of live coverage during the "Entry, Descent and Landing" was captivating and informative (even though I watched it late via TIVO). A friend described it well in text during the coverage, "It is the most amazing real time planetary lander event I've ever seen from NASA!" I wrote back, "Don't tell me who wins - Tivo'ing"

The summer of fun just got 'funner'

With Susan off for the summer, I 'bid' to have some weeks off with her. I was awarded 6 weeks from the end of June through early August. Being anxious to kick the summer off - I asked (and was awarded) a drop of a trip at the end of June that slides up to vacation. Now I have the last ten days of June off stretching that 6

week vacation to ten days longer! Our plans - a few days in upstate New York with her family in an area she found on the show "Cash and Treasures". Follow that with three weeks on a houseboat in Amsterdam where we plan to do nothing but relax, see some good shows and eat great food. Top that off with a week in Reno with my family running around dude ranches and the sort. And then - Still a few weeks at home in the new house!