Friday, August 31, 2007

Hello from Japan!

I hope you appreciate the difficulty I have gone through to provide you with this blog post. Specifically, since I am writing this from my hotel room in Tokyo, Google has thoughtfully decided that I must be a native Japanese speaker, and has translated all of the navigational controls on this website in to Japanese. Which I don't speak. I have managed to get by on muscle memory, so far. If you're actually reading this post, that menas it has carried me through all the way to the end. On that note, on to the meat of the post.

Look, at right. See the diminutive, coffin-like enclosure (also, my feet)? That was my hotel room last night. I am in Japan for a week or so, visiting my good friends SonicLlama and Kori the Tomorrow Lady. Kori, in charge of accommodations for SL and I, decided it would be good fun to book us in a capsule hotel. I am genuinely grateful for the unique cultural experience this provides me; I am also grateful that I get to spend tonight in somewhat roomier accommodations, with my own bathroom. Luxury!


My trip so far has consisted of wandering around Tokyo, gazing upon the vastness and shininess of its splendor. In coming days, I intend to have more detailed and interesting posts about this. For now, though, you should look at this picture of Joe and I, who have decided to get drunk (and also, apparently, blurry) in public, just because we can. Gaze upon the glory of our crappy canned beer! Revel!


Also, because I think they are hilarious, you should look at the following picture of King Kong climbing the American Club (what a glorious image we project upon the foreign masses, fellow countrymen!), and Darth Vader, reenvisioned as a samurai. Oh, yes. Awesome beyond measure.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Skydiving

I fell out of an airplane yesterday. I was pushed by the 250-pound man who was strapped to my back. I should have known better; I'd just seen the same thing happen to my friend E not moments before, and as I looked out of the side of the airplane, I could see his body tumbling below me towards the basin of the Willamette valley.

Actually, E didn't tumble, since he got his form right -- he fell gracefully and belly-first towards the ground. I was the only one who tumbled, since I forgot to arch my back.. My friends E, K, and I got it into our heads to go skydiving yesterday, having decided that our company whitewater-rafting trip hadn't provided us with enough of an adrenaline rush. So we drove down to the Creswell airport yesterday, got a brief run-through of the jump technique (although I clearly didn't pay enough attention), and hopped in an airplane going up to 10,000 feet.

Of the three of us, my jump was by far the most rocky. K did everything essentially right, and E just couldn't pull the ripcord (which sounds like a bigger problem than it is -- there's a guy on your back who pulls it for you if you can't do it yourself). I, on the other hand, was so enthralled (synonym: terrified) by the prospect of sticking my feet on the wheels of the aircraft and hurling myself out that I forgot essentially all of the lesson we'd been given pre-jump. Critically, I forgot that as you're in free fall, you're supposed to extend your body and trail your arms and legs behind you, doing your best shuttlecock impersonation, so that you fall face-downward. I promptly went stiff as a board, and corkscrewed and flipped my way through several hundred (thousand?) feet of altitude. Fortunately, the instructor knew what he was doing, and was able to manhandle my arms and legs into the appropriate position.

I assume that at this point it was clear to the instructor that I was a lost cause, and he didn't even bother to give me the hand-signal to pull the ripcord, preferring to do it himself. This led to a rather pleasant 5 minutes or so of controlled falling as we steered ourselves towards the landing field. I even got to see E's chute drifting below me the entire way down. I am assured by the instructor that the next event was not my fault. As you come in to land, you're supposed to land into the wind, so that your parachute is pulled behind you and you slide into a landing. I had just witnessed E land without incident, so I wasn't worried. Of course, the wind died, the chute ended up flying ahead of us, and we stumbled on to the ground, with aforementioned 250-pound instructor splayed out across my back. Not comfortable.

Problems aside, it was an exhilarating experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to blow a chunk of money on an adrenaline rush. Fortunately, since K had to go up by herself in a separate flight, E and I managed to take pictures of her entire jump. Unfortunately, we both forgot to bring our nice cameras, so you have to make do with these crappy cell-phone pictures. Sorry!

Me after the jump, about to remove my harness:


K at altitude:


K coming in for her landing:

Friday, August 10, 2007

I hate flying

I am in the Rochester airport right now. Which, all things considered, is a decent airport. I am not, however, supposed to be in Rochester right now. I was never supposed to be in Rochester. Right now, I'm supposed to be in Chicago. Actually, I'm supposed to be about an hour away from LA now, where I was going to spend the rest of the afternoon researching apartments for next year.

To summarize my week thus far for those who have not been updated. I'm in New York on a work trip right now. I was at Rome, NY earlier this week (site of the Air Force Research Laboratories) to do a demo and attend some meetings. After that, I was going to (actually, am) travel to LA to try and find an apartment for the upcoming school year. Then, Monday evening, I'm going home.

Problems started Sunday night. The middle leg of our outgoing flight (from San Francisco to Philadelphia) was canceled without notice -- we were lucky to find out about it and rebook before we got to the airport. Then, due to weather in SF, our flight out of Eugene was delayed by two hours (and a further half-hour of orbiting over the SF airport). Which of course made us miss our connection and resulted in us spending the night in DC, rather than Rome. All of which would be OK, except that since I'm on the road for a week and a half, I checked my luggage. And, of course, my luggage was not there to greet me in Syracuse. Nor did it choose to arrive for several days. And when it did finally arrive, United sent it to my hotel. Which I'd already told them I'd checked out of, since I was driving back to Syracuse that evening. Fortunately, I found out about this before we'd actually left town, so we stuck around for a couple extra hours to pick the damn thing up (yay for clean clothes!).

Yesterday evening, we decided to print out our boarding passes online, rather than doing it at the airport. The fact that none of the three of us had assigned seats should have been a hint. Our flight was overbooked (by five people!), and they were looking for volunteers. Since I don't need to be in LA until tomorrow morning, I volunteered, but there was no way they could get me out that evening. But I'd stuck my neck out, and they knew I was weak. They struck, and I was bumped (my two coworkers, though, made it onto the flight without issue). The very nice lady at the ticket counter tried hard, but was unable to find anything before tomorrow. However, we figured out that if I could get to Rochester, there was a flight out that afternoon that I could take.

So, bidding my bags adieu (I hope to Christ they're waiting for me in LA), I hopped on the Greyhound down to Rochester. So far, I have had a conversation with a 71-year-old man in the Greyhound station (who's going back to his father's first church to find his roots, and then wants travel somewhere. Also, he told me he was the mayor of Fairfax, CA, used to program mainframes, and that he was featured in a recent album by the Psychedelic Cowboys (who are, in fact, a real band, so maybe he really is the mayor), and an evangelist taxi driver who very politely argued religion with me for a 20-minute car ride. I'm now exhausted, going to do more apartment research, and hope that nothing goes wrong with the rest of my trip.