Monday, August 14, 2006

Sandy Eggo Ketchup

I'm writing from the carpeted floor of the airport terminal in San Diego. It's totally packed in here since everyone arrived early to avoid the long lines stemming from the UK airline bombing scare. It's good to see that people generally have their shit together--everyone I saw had already pruned all liquids, gels, cremes, pastes, sauces, marinades, curries, syrups, yogurts, cuds, urine samples, liquid bombs, and (in my case) magma from their carry-ons. The catch is that we get checked again AT THE GATE in case someone manages to McGyver something together from the condiments table at McDonalds. (Little do they know that I'm smuggling a methane bomb inside my body. Muah!) Anyway I figure the sight of TSA guys snapping on rubber gloves is enough to dissuade just about anyone.

Our week-long GIS conference here finally wound down yesterday. It was interesting at points, predictably numb at others, and completely surreal in the beginning: imagine walking in to a gigantic darkened conference hall filled with 14,000 GIS professionals (read "map dorks") all cheering for Jack Dangermond's disembodied head gazing lovingly upon them from three enormous movie screens. Cheers erupted for phrases like "new map labeling engine!" or "introducing the workgroup geodatabase!" I am seriously not making this shit up. The first word that jumped in to our minds was "Orwellian". It wasn't a stretch to imagine thousands of conference attendees happily walking straight into a hideous wood-chipping machine that spat out boxes of ArcGIS software at the other end. "IT'S MADE FROM PEOPLE! ArcGIS IS MADE FROM PEOPLE!!!" I hesitated at my choices: laugh in pity at the spectacle or sprint out the door in terror. Several blocks later I ran out of breath and accepted my duty to enthusiastically suffer through "ArcGIS Network Analyst--Data Preparation", "ArcGIS Data Models: Transportation", and of course "Linear Referencing Systems in Transportation". There were enough "Arc-" prefixes floating around to spawn a world of euphimisms: ArcBullshit, ArcWTF, ArcPrrrffff, ArcAss, etc. It was hilarious. Really. You had to be there.

Anyway the week was spent in a downtown condo/racqueball court with my co-worker Will and boss Eric. Will actually got a job offer while he was at the conference ... he's still deciding if he's ready to leave Eugene and head back to Boise. I also sat next to a guy on the plane with Northrop-Grumman in Portland who works with the crew considering my resume. Then I ran in to him again today in this very same terminal. He says the guy reviewing the resumes definitely knew my name. Sweet! Opportunity abounds! Anyway most of our time was split between the conference center, bars, or trying to sleep through the sound of constant traffic right outside our door. San Diegans like to drive as fast as they can between red lights, especially if they have motorcycles or shitty aftermarket mufflers. They also like to honk and occassionally yell at each other (which I admit I've missed for the last two years). This can make for a difficult sleep environment. One of my dreams consisted entirely of trucks crashing to an accompanying suite of honking, revving diesel, and metal grinding. I awoke to the same soundtrack on the street outside.

Having no car, no bicycles, and no money, Will and I decided to walk the 600 miles it took to reach the USS Midway which has been converted in to a dockside museum. It was very cool to wander around the massive flight deck. We sat and listened to an old F-4 pilot talk about night landings and the evacuation of Saigon. We also threw fake blood on a jet fighter to protest the Iraq war. Haha, of course not ... no, we used real blood. San Diego has lots of homeless people!

So now, through the magic of time-travel, I'm sitting in Seattle six hours later waiting for the flight to Eugene. The flight along the Sierra Nevada and Cascades was spectacular--Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Reno forest fires, the Warners, Sycan Marsh, the Three Sisters, Jefferson, Hood, St. Helens, Adams, and Rainier at sunset--but now I'm anticipating my Saturday morning. Travis has spent the last week at my house cleaning and organizing so I'll have to see what he's dicked up in my house. So he'll be picking me up tonight along with his girlfriend Heather who is also visiting and who should provide some balance to his negativity. Tomorrow I will get up early and continue trying to get my house in selling condition in case this Portland job (or any other) comes through. Part of this involves stripping lead paint from the exterior of my house and repainting it myself, since contracting a full lead "abatement" is outside of my budget. I'll have to put up all kinds of covers and sheets around my bushes/lawn to capture all the flakes that would otherwise flutter about and create a tasty toxic coating. Between painting the house, working extra hours at work, and a single long ONDA trip, my entire August is pretty much shot. September is looking similar but I am determined to squeeze in a Banff/Jasper trip in there. Being a single home-owner with a semblance of a life pretty much sucks. Next time I do this I'm getting married first.

A few weeks ago I took Chris V. for a quick tour around Central Oregon. We hit Crater Lake and then drove east for a big loop past Lake Abert and the booming metropolis of Wagontire. It was a perfect day, complete with a handful of thunderstorms scudding across the open spaces as the sunset streamed between the clouds.

Chris stepped out for a photo but got tired halfway across the road.

We happened across some sand dunes and went exploring. I'm seriously infatuated with dune fields. Sometimes if you walk downhill on the right kind of dune, each footstep will make a low squealing sound like a finger across wet glass.

Chris was literally astounded at the emptiness. Occasionally he would just start laughing in amazement.


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