May 2007 Archives

Jetlag links

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Landed back in Austin at 9pm, slept some, and jetlag has me up reviewing the links saved from the week.
The Germans really are nutty over Knut! He's on tv nearly every morning.
Why not get married at the airport? Probably cause they might have an announcement along the lines of "Guest Rembrandt, you are delaying the marital bliss of the happy couple. Finish buying the wedding present at duty-free and report to Passport Control for the ceremony."
The street I lived on in Munich now has its own website. That's cool.

The inlaws head home...

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There they go - back right over Chicago. I've worked from Munich today.. Skype and VPN are the way to take care of business.

How'd I miss this skit?

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Its only funny cause its true.

Mission Accomplished

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I think we've exhausted them. And I'm afraid it wasn't the 2 weeks in Europe that did it, rather just the 2 days in Munich. They've seen 3 castles including Neuschwanstein, woken up at 3am for a hot air balloon ride over the foothills of the Alps, eaten far too much food at a restaurant in the Olympic tower, eaten far too much food at local restaurants, and haven't even seen the city yet. The weather has been terrific, and they've got a day left. I'll let them sleep in tomorrow.

Dutch responsibility.

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This rocks. When someone has not shown up to a flight, the pages here in the Schiphol airport are as follows: "Attention passenger Smith. You are delaying flight 555 to Berlin. Immediate boarding at gate D22. We will proceed to offload your luggage." That's the way to do it.. make them take responsibility.. jackasses delaying the flight.

From the Ship's Hell.

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What a name for an airport [see history]. I'm a bit disappointed that they wouldn't let me in the KLM lounge, as I wasn't on a SkyTeam/Continental flight. I'm taking Lufthansa, so no lounge for me: I have to pay for a my brews like a commoner. Scandalous.

een biertje

This has been an awkward visit to Amsterdam. Both Charles and I had moments where the air was hard to breathe and we didn't know if we were 'home' or just visiting, or caught somewhere in space, or if we even knew where our home was. I feel roots here. There's a familiarity that has me content and at ease, yet walking his parents about town and trying to convey what it meant to be a part of the ebb and flow of a dense town like this was kind of futile. I don't think that they can quite feel the same energy that we do. Maybe I'm just using nostalgia to fool myself into believing that I understand what life here is like. I'm not quite sure, to be honest.

Charles and I had a discussion about his father for a bit, especially surrounding the reason why they never came here to visit when we lived here. Evidently, his father had quite the issue with our relationship and the sexuality issues during that time. Only the death of Charles' sister and the aftermath of helping them through that time in 2002 turned his father's heart to realize that the definition of family was broad. On one hand I'm kind of ticked that it took that event to be accepted, on the other I'm glad that he's come around. I suppose I can only hope that when he goes home and tells about his trip to his other closed-minded friends in the KC's, that he doesn't gloss over the fact that it was his queer son that made it possible.

The tourism had some high points, and some low points. On Wednesday we rented a car and took the parents to Keukenhof and out to the Aflsluitdijk, to see if there were any leaks which needed stopping.

The Keukenhof was disappointing to me for the most part, as the season was over, and instead of blooming beds of flowers, there were a few crates of greenhoused flowers placed on the lawns next to the beds. There was however an amazing display of lilies in one of the trade-show greenhouses which made up for the lack of color outside. I was the driver for the tour out to the dike, so got to deal with quite a bit of the traffic frustration on some of the national roads among the tiny towns between the highways. The driving was fun though. Our little VW Golf had a tight gearbox, and could haul ass pretty well down the highway when I got to open it up. I think the in-laws were a bit underwhelmed by the dike, but they've seen it now.
Thursday was the most amazing day we've had, and I owe it to Jan and Timon and the trusty AYOR. While our amorphous plan and delayed schedule royally ticked off captain Jan at one point, they were gracious enough to host the four of us on the boat for a ride throught the canals. The day wasn't especially warm to begin with, however the clouds parted at one point, and we had some quite glorious sun for puttering around the town. We went by the gracht where we lived, out to the Ij, saw some of the countless new apartments being built on an old wharf, and sidled up to an enormous cruise ship. We motored through the university and the red-light districts, all the while enjoying some tea and cookies and a couple of beers. I know they both enjoyed the ride, especially Jan's unique captaining abilities and his warning horn that he blows to warn other craft that the AYOR is coming through. I need to get a video of that next time. Thanks again, Jan & Timon... I don't know how to return your generousity.
Tanned from the ride, we wandered the town a bit more, searching out some knoflook saus to bring back as gifts, as well as some souveniers. For dinner we made it to the Divan restaurant in the Jordaan; our favorite local place when we lived there. Last time we were back here, the owner welcomed us back most heartily, and chided us for not letting her know we left. On our return this time, it was no different: she asked why it had been so long since we've been back in the restaurant, and even prepared a special baklava for us. Chaz's parents were a bit uneasy with the slow service that is the standard at the restaurant, but they enjoyed the food, and we got through it all. I probably tipped far too much, but asked her to enjoy a drink in our honor. Again, it may be that she treats every guest like they've been gone far too long, but I can fool myself into believing that she recognizes us. Maybe she does; it is a very small planet after all.

Hop Skip and Jump across the Atlantic

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Three hours to NYC, then wait 2, then six hours over the water and I'm back in Amsterdam for the first time in I think 3 years. Amazingly, the sun is shining, and the weather is mild; I was sure that the plane landed on the wrong continent. While they prepared my room, I did a quick walk through the town, and as you'd expect for a centuries old town, not much has changed, which is comforting. Chaz and his parents arrive shortly on the Thalys, and I'll go meet them at the station. I forgot how much walking is involved around here; this might be a tricky place for us to show them. Some ugly camera-phone snaps behind the link.. Chaz has my camera with him.

Must be dinner time in Rome..

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Chaz just sent me the above from his phone. Trattoria del Pallero was recommended by Rick Steves over 5 years ago when we went with my mother to Rome, and obviously she's still going strong there. We neglected to get reservations back in 2001, so wound up waiting 2+ hours to get in, but we were rewarded with one of the best meals we'd had anywhere in Europe. A quick search shows its popularity.

While we both have been on the road these past months, its a bit more noticable when you can't pick up the phone or chat online with one another during the day. That's a drag.

Chaz's flight begins..

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There they go!

Cleveland update

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I had company on my journey to the airport this morning. Today's the day Chaz's mom and dad took off to go to Europe on their vacation. They accompanied me, and I made sure they got in through security and all settled at the lounge prior to their flight. TSA guys at the gate surprisingly didn't give us any flak despite needles and liquid medicine.. they just hustled 'em right through the gate, wanded her with her metal knee, and we were in. Her quart baggie didn't even get a once over. Was probably a shrewd move on our part to put the Marine Corps hat on his dad.

Speaking of his dad, there was an interesting moment when the person checking their IDs said she hadn't seen them in a long time. Evidently, she remembers Norman from 20 years ago when he was a bus driver for greyhound, and she was riding the bus back and forth from places afar. Norman didn't know her from anyone, but her recognition reminds me its a small world.

They enjoyed the lounge, had a good call with Chaz on the speakerphone, and as I write, the three of them are in Chicago about to board AAL88 to get to Brussels and Rome, while I'm waiting for my late flight to Syracuse.

I'm now convinced that the entire sport of cycling is populated with cheating asshats. Armstrong too. There's smoke there.

Saturday's motorcycle ride to Dallas on the weekend was a bit drizzly, but a good ride. I was 2 hours late due to a non-charged battery and wasting 45 minutes at the worst honda cycle dealership ever. Chaz and Matt met me on the road in Hamilton, and we had a good ride in to Dallas, getting a little damp from some showers. Sunday Chaz grilled some meat for us and my family and some friends to welcome us in to our new pad. It was a nice gathering, complete with my dad's eyes bugging out at NASCAR on Chaz's HD tv.

Being in Austin in the empty house was a bit difficult. I think I'm ready to get it sold and be done with it. I had neighborhood association meeting last night, and the new guard is ready to take it over. In the meantime, the neighbors are nuts - one is building a fence across the front of his yard against convenant, and the latest vagrant hangout is the front of the vacated Albertons where they're sleeping and crapping where the carts used to be stored at the front of the store. I'm glad they're out of the elements, but its probably frustrating for those neighbors closest to it. And the one house that was listed at 230K that I was hoping would sell, looks like its being rented out. We need one to sell above 200 this month.


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Gawddammit.. Now I have to watch the Yankees.

May Second

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Somehow its the 18th week of a year that seems like it just got started. How'd that happen?

Google's Phone 411 (800-GOOG-411) makes me happy. It saved me a buck and a half in looking up the Applebees this week to order my take-out dinner in Binghamton.

Last weekend, the furniture and all the belongings were moved out of the house in Austin up to Irving. As a result the whole place echoes, and my heart aches like never before. Ten and a half years I've been there, and the memories rattle around in the empty rooms now. Raucous laughter and parties, the crushing helplessness of an early morning call when Chaz's sister passed away, the patter of racoons taking up residence in the attic, packing the house up to live in Amsterdam, doing dishes after a dinner party when every pot and pan in the house had been used, lots of naps on the couch; the house has seen it all, and perhaps its a good thing that the walls can't talk.

The project with Lockheed came to a head. The team in Dayton continued to have problems with the software install, despite my not being able to reproduce any of their problems. The executive leadership finally stepped in and handed the package to a team in Montgomery, Alabama to install. The install in Montgomery went flawlessly and the software runs fine there. Vindication is pretty rewarding. I'd love to be a fly on the wall when Dayton is getting their budget cut.

Next week begins the May European Adventure. On the 8th I take Chaz's parents to the airport with me, and put them on a plane to Europe. They'll spend a few days in Rome and a few in Paris, then head to Amsterdam with Charles as their tour guide. I'll meet then in Amsterdam on the 15th, and spend time with them there and in Munich. After they leave Munich, I'll spend a few more days in Munich with Franz, doing some remote work, and catching up with my friends there. While the tourism with the family will be fun, I'm looking forward to a couple days of just being in Munich again. Just being. Franz has a couple things planned, we'll see how they pan out.

After Munich, I'll be home for the memorial day holiday where Chaz and I will get the house ready to put on the market. A coat of paint, some unfinished projects to cap off, and she should be ready to show.

In recent days I've had more and more opportunity to reflect on the trip I took last fall to Nepal. And as I look back, the trip and the time seems to be more and more amazing. The 'Today Show' had a broadcast today from a monastary in Bhutan, and seeing the bhuddist monks and the mask dance brought back a snowy evening in Tengboche where Franz and I got to watch a similar festival.

We slept in a stall, but got up to brush our teeth under a crystal clear blue sky, with Everest, Lhotse, and Ama Dhablam watching over us, closer to the sun than ever. A washroom near the top of the world.

I'm a member of a mailing list that has one of our Austinites who's redeployed back to Iraq. This time around he's giving some training, so has more time to send some photos and updates on a personal level. That's been pretty fascinating, and I admire the work he's doing. (Note that the powerpoint art below is NOT the work he's doing, as far as I know.) It's just a shame that Colin Powell's "Pottery Barn Doctrine" has come true.
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