I am now spoiled to commercial air travel forever

Yesterday I traveled with five coworkers from Cedar Rapids, IA to Wichita, KS, to participate in our quarterly update meeting with the FAA.

Normally, commercial travel to Wichita from CR means taking a flight connecting through either Chicago O’Hare or Dallas-Fort Worth. For a Wednesday morning meeting you’d need to leave CR early afternoon on Tuesday, spend hours in airports, 3 – 4 hours actually flying, spend the night overnight in Wichita, then reverse the procedure on Wednesday afternoon to fly home, possibly making it home in early evening… assuming the weather is decent and all the flight connections happen.

To counter this massive hassle and resulting lack of productivity for several engineers, enter this fine little piece of hardware: the company Hawker 800 XP.

Hawker 800 XP

It’s fitted out nicely on the inside, too, similar to this:

Hawker interior

Being able to fly on our company jet made our itinerary for the trip to Wichita run something like this:

  • 0715: Arrive at company facility at CR airport
  • 0716: Announce myself and get name checked off on the manifest
  • 0725: Walk out onto the tarmac and board the plane
  • 0730: One of the pilots points out the emergency exits to me, the first-timer
  • 0735: We take off. Once we climb out, we cruise at 36,000 feet and nearly 600 MPH
  • 0840: Land in Wichita. Climb off the plane and walk across the street to the FAA office.
  • 0900 – 1230: Meet with the FAA
  • 1230: Walk back across the street to the airport
  • 1245: Board the aircraft and take off again
  • 1300: Eat a box lunch after we’re back up at 36,000 feet
  • 1405: Land back in CR
  • 1415: Get off the plane after being towed into the hangar
  • 1435: Arrive back home

It’s still stunning to me – we went down to Wichita, had a half-day meeting, came home, and didn’t even use the full workday.

I am now spoiled to commercial air travel forever.

More busy than a one-legged man at a butt-kicking contest

That’s the way my friend Steve used to describe it, and this week has been one of those weeks. Half my calendar at work has been meetings; each meeting seems to generate more tasks for me; the remaining non-meeting time doesn’t seem to be sufficient to complete the tasks at a rate that will bring me anywhere close to keeping up.

Help is on the way, though: a loaner laptop to help me get work done during meetings, and a minion junior engineer who can be responsible for some of my lower-priority-yet-still-time-consuming tasks. Next week is still meeting-heavy, but I have hope that my group and I are making progress.

On the home front, we were able to keep Katie asleep long enough last night for Becky and I to blow off some steam on the new Wii. So far we’ve only got the Wii Sports and Wii Fit, so we played a bunch of head-to-head sports. She quickly proved she could beat me at tennis, baseball, and golf. It’s some small comfort that I can still take her in bowling, though. One of these days I’m gonna pick up Mario Kart and then we’ll see who’s boss.

Now we approach Easter weekend, and it’s gonna be the most relaxed Easter weekend we’ve had since I don’t know when. Saturday is the 8th (!) annual egg hunt out in Stone City at the Berberich’s – will be so good to catch up with them. It’s been far too long.

I’ve got a post on music floating around in my head that I’m gonna try to get written this weekend, but until then, dear readers, be patient and put up with my automated link posts. Go read the articles if you’re bored – they’ve gotta be good before I’ll link ’em. 🙂

A dilemma of sorts

Last week I accepted a position in a new group here at work. It’s a group I’ve worked with for several years, and I knew I wanted to work in that group if the opportunity arose. The opportunity did arise, and I got the position. While the exact transfer date has yet to be settled upon (sometime today we’ll get it figured out, I hope), it’s just a matter of time.

Which leads me to this dilemma. I have two options for my new office. (I’m not quite senior enough to get my own full-sized office yet… one more engineering grade to go.)

Choice 1: share a two-person office with a co-worker, getting the end of the office near the door. One desk, one table, file drawer.

Choice 2: get my own little mini-office. Basically it’s standard cubicle-based office furniture inside a room with a door. It’s not very big, but it would be my first-ever “own office”.

One thing that makes the choice easier: my new department will be moving to a different building within the next couple of months, so my choice really only impacts the near term. What think ye, friends and readers?

No, I don’t play golf…

This week has brought me to Augusta, GA for the quarterly SC-213 meeting. The inevitable first question/comment I’ve gotten from friends when I say Augusta is “did you take your golf clubs along?” So as a preemptive strike: no, I don’t play golf. I’ve never hit a ball in my life. Yes, I know they have some fancy course here where they play some tournament every spring. I even know that a guy from Cedar Rapids happened to win that tournament last year. But it doesn’t mean I’m gonna be playing it in my spare time. 🙂 I will probably drive by it at some point just to have done so.

You don’t want to read the litany of my travel travails; suffice it to say that Monday I was scheduled to get into Augusta (including drive from the Columbia, SC airport and everything) by about 6 pm – I ended up getting in about 10:30 pm. Not so much fun.

Yesterday was the first day of meetings, and it was fairly useful. Last night I was looking for something to do and noticed in the paper that the local ECHL hockey team (the Augusta Lynx) was playing at home. The arena was only six blocks away, so I headed over, bought a ticket, and watched my first hockey game in some time. The game was poorly-attended (maybe 300 present) and the local team gave it a good effort against the first place Texas Wildcatters, but took too many penalties and couldn’t seem to pull the trigger and shoot the puck on the few power plays they had. Final score: Texas 3, Augusta 1. (As a side note: I went to look up the Wildcatters to find out where they are located in Texas; their team website actually didn’t say, any place that I could find. Poor website content. The ECHL site tells me they are in Beaumont, TX.)

So now I’m eating breakfast and getting prepared for another day of meetings reviewing this document my committee is creating. Good times.

Halloween at Work

No costumes ’round our building today, but we’re having an event that appears to be proving popular enough that it should be continued in following years: a chili cook-off. A dozen or so contestants brought in crock pots full of chili of varying color, flavor, and spiciness. (Question, though: can green tortilla chicken soup really be called “chili”? I think it should be disqualified. It is tasty, though.) The rest of us brought in acoutrements. Voting ends at noon. Sampling has been going on all morning.

Maybe next year I’ll have to give it a whirl… but the competition would be stiff. Were I to have brought a pot of my usual chili along today, well, I wouldn’t have voted for it. There are some amazing chilis out there.

Might be time to go through and sample some more. The little styrofoam cups are just the thing, though one guy should win the innovation award for sampling utensils: he brought along a 6-cup muffin tin. Brilliant!

Flying it!

Part of the goofiness with my job is that by the time we get these announcements, I’ve been done with the software for months. Still, it’s fun to know that they’re flying these things now.

From AvWeb:

FIRST CITATION ENCORE+ DELIVERED TO CUSTOMER

Cessna Aircraft announced Tuesday that it delivered the first Citation Encore+ to an undisclosed customer. The latest Citation V derivative is powered by two FADEC-equipped, 3,400-pound-thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada PW535B engines that offer “high durability and reliability,” and “surpasses the most stringent environmental standards for emissions, set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.”

Besides the upgraded powerplants, the $8.273 million Encore+ has an increased gross weight that allows for a full-fuel payload of 1,170 pounds, 340 pounds more than the original Encore. According to Cessna, this weight increase also extends the airplane’s range with higher passenger loads. In the flight deck, the Encore+ sports a Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 integrated avionics suite, which marks a
significant change from its predecessor’s Honeywell Primus 1000 avionics.

The new monitor’s here!

A trusty IT guy came by this morning to deliver a new Dell 19″ LCD monitor. He was also good enough to haul away the old 21″ CRT behemoth. Amazing how my 19″ CRT now looks fuzzy and crappy in comparison.

The one downside is that the resolution of the LCD is only 1280 x 1024, and I’m more used to running 1600 x 1200. But I’ll adjust some font sizes and then get used to it. Well worth it to have the new monitor. And I can see some of my desk again!

The new monitor’s here!

A trusty IT guy came by this morning to deliver a new Dell 19″ LCD monitor. He was also good enough to haul away the old 21″ CRT behemoth. Amazing how my 19″ CRT now looks fuzzy and crappy in comparison.

The one downside is that the resolution of the LCD is only 1280 x 1024, and I’m more used to running 1600 x 1200. But I’ll adjust some font sizes and then get used to it. Well worth it to have the new monitor. And I can see some of my desk again!

The new monitor’s here!

A trusty IT guy came by this morning to deliver a new Dell 19″ LCD monitor. He was also good enough to haul away the old 21″ CRT behemoth. Amazing how my 19″ CRT now looks fuzzy and crappy in comparison.

The one downside is that the resolution of the LCD is only 1280 x 1024, and I’m more used to running 1600 x 1200. But I’ll adjust some font sizes and then get used to it. Well worth it to have the new monitor. And I can see some of my desk again!

Feeling Squeezed

Yesterday I was sitting at my desk working away when suddenly, bzzt! and one of my monitors went dark. I have been using two monitors for the past couple of years; I have two CRTs on my desk; one 21″ behemoth and one 19″ behemoth’s-younger-brother. My desk panel that they sit on is bowed down in the middle by about an inch because of the weight. I’ve been wishing for LCD monitors for a while (hey, the new folks have them!) but the company’s policy is that we’ll only replace them when they die.

So yesterday my 21″ HP monitor died. It had been showing symptons for a month or so now, so I’m not too suprised. I have a new 19″ LCD monitor on order; hopefully it’ll get delivered yet this afternoon; if not, definitely tomorrow. Then I can go back to working in wide-screen happiness. As it is right now, I’m limited to 1600 x 1200 resolution, and I’m feeling a bit squeezed.