July 29, 2009: Hanging at SpiceWorks

It was way too early when my alarm went off at five this morning.  That gave me only two and a half hours of sleep and rather restless sleep at that as I knew that I would be hearing the alarm shortly all night.  I did, however, wake up on my own without the alarm waking me up which was very important for my being able to leap out of bed and go straight into action.  I am pushing my schedule as much as I can to get what little sleep that I did last night so now everything is going to be a rush.

I showered and finished my packing by five thirty.  I woke up Francesca so that she could drive me to the airport.  I am flying out of Houston Hobby which is the small airport on the southeast side of the city near where the Grices live.  We always use this airport as it is so much more convenient than using Bush Intercontinental.

We left just early enough that there was no appreciable traffic and the trip went quite quickly.  Francesca dropped me off and I was right through security in no time at all.  Allowing one hour at Hobby this early in the morning is definitely fine.  It was as easy as could be to get to my plane.  I had plenty of time to stop by at Subway and to grab a breakfast sub that I ate in the airport at the gate while I waited for my plane.

This morning is my first time ever flying on SouthWest.  They have great prices but do not have assigned seating which I do not like at all.  I like knowing where I am going to sit.  I don’t mind aisle or window seats (I prefer aisle) but I definitely do not want middle seats.  I need a little extra room and like some airspace around myself for air circulation.  The flight today was very sparsely populated so I actually got an entire three seat row to myself which was great.  The flight was over in no time and everything went perfectly.

I hit Budget in the airport and rented a Chevy Cobalt for the day.  I figured that it would be easiest to just have my own car for getting around Austin today.  I have never been to Austin before and do not know the lay of the land so this will be a little challenging but I have my mobile phone with GPS on it so I am hoping that that will save the day and make this relatively easy.

The GPS on my phone did not end up making things easier.  I drove in several wrong directions before realizing that the phone was consistently stating the directions backwards.  I have no idea why but as soon as I used the GPS to provide the street names but drove in the opposite direction (north instead of south, west instead of east) everything was fine and it showed me approaching my destination instead of driving away from it.  I don’t know what that was about.  I did managed to get to the SpiceWorks offices just fine.  I only lost ten or fifteen minutes at most figuring out the GPS.

The drive to SpiceWorks was just under twenty miles but went pretty quickly.  Traffic in Austin is nothing like Houston.  Austin is a much smaller city and a lot more like a desert than Houston which feels more like a swamp.  I did not get much of a chance to actually see the city today although I did drive in a big loop from the airport on the southeast side to SpiceWorks which is on the northwest side.  While there I always felt like I was a pretty good distance outside of the city but when checking the locations on the map I realize that I was actually rather close to downtown the entire day and just never really got a good look at it because of the hills.

I was not sure how to find the SpiceWorks building in the complex that they are in.  Finding the complex was super simple but finding their building was a bit tough.  I lucked out, though, that I parked and immediately as I got out of the car with the intention of wondering around and just looking for the building and saw someone walk right by me wearing a SpiceWorks t-shirt!  I grabbed them and they recognized me after a minute and then took me right in to the offices – which it turned out I had parked directly at.

The SpiceWorks folks set me up in a conference room so that I could work and, when there was time, throughout the day I wandered around the offices talking to all of the people that I talk to so often but have never met previously.  A group of us went out to lunch at a well known TexMex spot nearby.  That gave us a good chance to talk about SpiceWorks and SpiceCorps and to get to know each other.  The food was good too.

It was a good day and well worth the trip over to Austin even if I was exhausted all day.  I was really fighting to stay awake for much of the day.  It was fun and a good use of my time, though.  I am definitely glad that I went over there.  Dominica and I have been interested in Austin for a while anyway as there is a definitely possibility that we will be buying a house there at some point.  Austin is a major tech center – one of the four big IT centers in the United States – as well as being inexpensive and close to most of her family.  Her family keeps moving to Texas making it make more and more sense for us to be there.  Due to the lack of state taxes Texas also has some major financial advantages.  We will definitely be considering Austin when we make the decision about where and how Liesl will be doing her schooling.  We have several years before we need to make that decision but it takes a long time to get to know an area remotely so that you can make good decisions about it.  Right now western Connecticut and Austin are our two big contenders.

My plan was to wait until the very last minute and then head out for the airport but there ended up being some problem with my tickets and I was unable to print them out so I ran to the airport “early” so that I could deal with that.  The ticket issue was nothing really and I was able to print my tickets from the United Airlines kiosk as I entered the airport so I ended up having about forty-five minutes to kill before needing to go wait at the gate for my flight.  I hit the bar near the gate and had a few whiskeys while waiting my flight time.  I spent my time there on my BlackBerry trying to wrap up everything that I could for the office as I had to leave earlier than expected and there were a number of items needing my attention.

My flight from Austin to Washington/Dulles left on time and without any incident.  I sat on the aisle next to a military forensic photographer who travels more than anyone I have ever met.  He too carried multiple BlackBerry devices so that got us talking and we talked over half the way to Dulles.  That made the trip go by pretty quickly.  It would have been even faster if I was not so groggy.

My layover at Dulles was supposed to be really short – just twenty minutes or so.  It ended up being longer as first we had mechanical difficulties and then weather problems in the northeast causing all kinds of delays for everyone.

As always seems to happen at the airport I got to witness someone completely losing their mind and almost going to jail.  Some guy determined not to miss his flight even though his connector got in too late ran past the airport staff and manually opened the “do not enter” doors leading to the tarmac because he was going to get on his plane one way or another.  Alarms sounded, the police were summoned, screaming and belligerent jerkiness ensued.  It took a lot of explaining to make him sort-of understand that just because he was running late and that he had been on planes all day and that, according to him, it was not his fault that he was too late for the plane would make him understand that he was about to be arrested and that people being arrested do not get to board their planes regardless of the fact that the plane might be sitting on the tarmac just several yards away from him.  He seriously asked if he could just get on the plane as the police were on their way to get him!!  It took even more explaining to tell him that the plane he was attempting to board was the broken down plane bound for White Plains, New York and not the working plane that had already left long ago for St. Louis, Missouri that had been gone for so long that no one waiting for White Plains even knew that it had ever been there.

I called Dominica and put her on standby for picking me up.  No way to know when I would be leaving Sterling, Virginia.

My flight ended up being only about one hour late which was pretty good all things considered.  At one point they were not telling us anything but our flight had been removed from the departures list making us pretty confident that it had been canceled and that we were going to need to look for alternative means of reaching New York tonight.  I was intending to get a rental car and just drive up rather than waiting until tomorrow and going through all of this again but we got our flight rescheduled and we were off.

The plane from Dulles to White Plains was a little propeller plane with just one seat on the side of the plane on which I sat.  It was loud and it jerked around a lot as we got caught in some of the big storms hitting the northeast.  The pilots attempted to go around the storms but were unable to really avoid them.  It made for a very rough ride.  It also made the flight longer than necessary as we had to fly around other cities that had all of their planes in holding patterns like Newark, New Jersey.  So the flight was physically a bit longer than originally expected.

Dominica was at Westchester Airport waiting for me when I got off of the plane.  She had arrived just a few minutes before I did and had seen my plane landing so she knew that I was going to be there soon.  She had spoken from Dulles and she knew that my cell phone might die at any time.  That is one thing that I am not happy about with my new Blackberry Tour – the battery dies in under one day of use.  I can never leave the house and be confident that I can make it back with a working phone.  It died while I was out at SpiceCorps in Houston and while I was traveling home tonight – in both cases I had charged it overnight the night before and it discharged completely during the single day while I was using it.  Partially this is because I am using several Internet features plus GPS all which puts a toll on the battery but still.  It is going through the battery way too quickly.  Hopefully with some conditioning this will improve.

Dominica picked me up just a little before one in the morning and we drove back home.  Liesl figured out that I was home when we got to the house and she wanted to stay up and hang out with me for a while.  I ended up being awake until after three in the morning!  What a long day.  I am going to be exhausted tomorrow again as well.  No getting around that!

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