Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

 

Roxie And Stef Are On The Way

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Helaine spoke to Stef a little while ago. They were on their way to the airport. Roxie took a pill and a half which hasn’t taken effect yet. Uh oh. Earlier Helaine saw Stef’s Chicago flight was the continuation of a Sydney/Los Angeles.

“It’s running an hour early,” she said.

It’s not quite that simple, because other than the flight number these seem like two totally separate flights. The Sydney/Los Angeles leg is aboard a 747. Los Angeles to Chicago is on an A320.

Why does United present it this way? Is it so they can claim ‘direct’ Australia/Chicago service? I don’t know.

In the meantime I’m hoping Roxie sleeps coast-to-coast.

The Nicest Star I Ever Met

Monday, February 1st, 2010

I’ve met a lot of famous people. That was especially true when I used to fill-in on Good Morning America¹. Stars–real stars–were coming through that studio every day.

They were working. I was working. Often we’d just pass in the hallway or when they were placed in my area waiting to go on. I was the fill-in weatherman, not exactly a major player.

“Are those children’s drawings?” A short trim man with a deep Texas accent asked that one morning while looking over my shoulder.

“No Mr. Perot. They’re weather maps.”

Any respect I had for H. Ross Perot disappeared in that one instant! He was in the studio promoting a book he surely didn’t write.

I’ve already chronicled my biggest celebrity disappointment. I might as well tell you who was best.

First though, honorable mention to Ron Howard. Holy crap I watched this man my (and his) whole life. He could not have been nicer. He was promoting Apollo 13 and I’d just been with him two days earlier in Houston at the Space Center.

Under any other circumstances he’d be number one. He’s nice and a Renaissance man.

dennis franz.jpgThe winner is Dennis Franz. Remember him from NYPD Blue?

I can’t even remember what Franz was promoting, but he was walking down the hall near Spencer Christian’s dressing room (which became mine for the day) as I walked out.

He was paunchy and rumpled–just like TV! His accent screamed Chicago.

I introduced myself and told him how much I enjoyed watching him on TV. He thanked me for my kind words, but it wasn’t just a thank you. He was speaking as if I was the first person ever to say something nice to him. His response dripped of humility and sincerity.

Of course I wasn’t the first. He was already a big deal. He knew that. It didn’t matter. He wanted to be nice right back and worked hard to make sure he was.

I have never forgotten that short meeting. It is still vivid in my mind.

I’m sure I have been short with people who come up to me asking for an autograph or photo or just wanting to say hello. No one is perfect–certainly not me. But I always try and remember Dennis Franz and use him as my guide in how to be when someone has taken the time to give me a compliment.

It was a little tiny thing which took so little effort on his part and yet it was so meaningful.

Hey Dennis–I hope you get to see this. Believe me, the pleasure was all mine. I meant every kind word then and now.

¹ – Still available. A decade between appearances isn’t that much.

Restyling The Blog Continues

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

2010-blog-screencap.jpgIt was 5:30 AM by the time I got to bed this morning. Helaine’s extra unencumbered sleep was courtesy of my blog redesign. I hit a problem around 3:45 AM. If left alone my worry was I’d never be able to unravel it.

I have no training in this. It’s all self taught… incompletely self taught! Every time I code I find more I don’t know.

My goal is cleaner and bolder. Over time websites deteriorate and lose their tightness¹. This one has.

There are many similarities between the new and old look. I suppose that’s unavoidable. At the same time there are lots of differences. Some are visible, but many lie in the invisible way the blog functions… how it’s feed if you will.

The new look runs on WordPress using a theme based on “Byty,” itself a child theme which runs under the Thematic framework. That last sentence was just to show how meticulously detailed and arcane the whole process is.

Nothing is straightforward. Nothing is where I expect it to be. Here’s a link to the home page with some bells and whistles revealed.

I threw up my hands and spent some quality time on the phone with Gary Choronzy. Gary often serves as my website guru since those things I lost sleep over Gary can do in his sleep!

Most (not all) of the styling is done. Even Gary was surprised how far I’d come already. Now I enter the phase where the loose ends get tidied up. Of course there will be loose ends that slip by regardless of my diligence.

When the switch gets thrown everything changes at once. The website moves from Chicago to the suburbs of Philadelphia. Some pieces will untestable until that moment. There is little chance to go back.

It’s all exciting and simultaneously daunting.

If you’d like to take a sneak peek it’s temporarily visible here. Comments welcome.

¹ – Around a year ago I went to Karl Rove’s website while following a news story. Rove is not my cup of tea, but his website was really well done. No more. It is a perfect example of how tightness goes away with time. Pieces have been added that don’t fit.

It’s tough to look at the site and think I once used it as a model of what I wanted.

I’m Getting Set To Change My Blog

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

blog backend screencap.jpgWithout getting too terribly geeky my blog runs on Movabletype. That’s a software package which puts my typed words into the visual format you see. Moveabletype has served me well, but the trend in blogs (and other similar sites) is toward WordPress.

Simply put WP is supported by a huge community of developers and MT is not. That means WordPress can do lots of tricks this blog can’t do right now. In a Twitter, Facebook, search engine optimized age some of the tricks are pretty important.

There is a feature in WordPress to actually import a Movabletype blog like this one…. hold on… I’m laughing hysterically. You really don’t think it’s that easy, do you? I mean there is that feature. It almost works!

Others have blazed this path before me and dropped breadcrumbs along the way. I’ve been in arcane files located on a distant server changing “\n” to “\n \n.” I’ve created files to remind my server which version of software it needs to run.

Each of these steps is tiny, but none of them is particularly well documented. If anything’s been left out I won’t know until it’s failed!

The blog’s server will move too. Right now it’s hosted by a company in Chicago. It will probably reside on the Pennsylvania servers of a German company when I’m through. That should be invisible to you.

With all this the look of the blog will change. Though it has to change a little it’ll probably change a lot. There may be fewer full stories on the home page but more summaries and links. Maybe a better way to show photos? I’m mulling the decisions.

It needs to look nice while not pissing you (my readers) off.

I’m thinking of designing the theme myself from scratch. The more I look the more that seems doable. Most folks choose to use a pre-designed theme.

More than I can chew? Possibly.

I’m fixated on typography. Some blogs look so pretty because of the way they use type–how it’s spaced and formatted for headlines, quotes and lists. I’ve been searching for advice on this particular nuance but have come up short so far.

I’m open to suggestions. It’s like a fresh sheet of paper has been laid before me. It’s geekily exciting.

The process should take a few days… by which I mean a few weeks… so probably by late March… 2011.

The Guy Who Deiced Our Plane

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

the-guy-hwo-deiced-the-plane.jpgThis is a story about changing expectations. Today we expect everyone to be protected from nearly every hazard. That’s why what Helaine and I saw at Midway Airport in Chicago stood out.

The guy spraying the deicing solution on our airplane is our problem child. He’s wearing goggles (or glasses–it’s tough to say for sure), but breathing in the deicing mist¹!

The American Chemical Society says:

“aircraft deicing fluids are aqueous solutions of a glycol, or mixture of glycols, along with proprietary additives. Depending on the formulation required, the additives might include a surfactant, polymer thickening agent, pH buffer, corrosion inhibitor, flame retardant, or dye.”

Why is anyone breathing in this stuff? Shouldn’t he have some sort of protection, or have I just become a bleeding heart liberal with a nanny complex?

¹ – As always, click the photo for a larger, clearer picture.

On Our Way Home From Los Angeles.

Monday, January 11th, 2010

lax-gate-three.jpgI’m writing from Gate 3 at LAX. It’s sunny. It’s warm. It’s not a happy departure. We came as three. We leave as two.

Stef’s reasonably set up. Her furniture is assembled. The TV is working. She and her roommate, who also just moved in, still have unpacking to do but it’s under control.

Helaine is profoundly affected, but she’s showing strength. This is our only child. Stef and she have been as close as parent and child can be.

Stefanie was very apprehensive up until two or three days ago. As things started to fall into place she began to relax.

As I type a woman is sitting next to me living her life via Nextel Direct Connect… at full volume! Good grief. It would be better if she had more interesting stories.

I’m in a row of comfortable chairs with electrical outlets and USB ports. I like that.

We stopped to get some lunch before heading down the concourse. As I sat at a table waiting for Helaine I noticed a tall, slender Asian woman. OK–I know, I notice all tall, slender Asian women.

Back to the woman. She was wearing porn shoes! I don’t know how else to describe them. They were high stiletto heels with the sole hiked a few more inches up on a platform.

Maybe she was slender and not tall? Tough to say now that I think of it.

We’re flying home through Chicago today. The weather should cooperate. There are some flurries expected at Midway, but nothing worse.

By the time we land at Bradley we’ll have lost a good fifty degrees. A good fifty? No–the best fifty!

The Long Trip Home

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

I’m home. Google says if I drove it it would have taken 43 hours covering 2,885 miles. I’ll keep that in mind as I look back on the 12 hour door-to-door trip.

My secretive friend called “Super Shuttle” to take me to LAX. He told them the flight, scheduled for 12:25 PM, and they offered a 9:15-9:25 AM pickup. That sounded awful early for a drive that normally clocks in under a half hour. I was at LAX two and a half hours before my flight.

I checked my bag at the curb. The skycap wrote Gate 14 on my boarding pass and pointed me in the right direction. The departure area was busy, but I found a seat.

LAX isn’t particularly WiFi friendly. There are few electric outlets. The WiFi service is “pay-per-byte.” I pulled out my BlackBerry and played around. I was in my own world as flights came and left.

Around 12:10 a young man came and asked me if I was on the Chicago flight? He was wondering why it wasn’t on the board at the gate and why it hadn’t been called. Good question. We went to another gate where we were told it wasn’t at Gate 14 it was at 4A.

I’m normally a huge Southwest fan, but they failed on this. No announcement was made when they moved the gate. It’s probable the move was made shortly after I headed there… maybe while I was heading there. There were a handful of us waiting in the wrong place! Without this lucky questioner I surely would have missed the flight–something I’ve never done in 40+ years of flying.

Southwest compounded their failure by not having information monitors. We had to wait in line and see a person to get the gate info.

Though I had an “A” boarding pass by the time I got to the gate the waiting area was empty. Nearly everyone else was on. I walked back to the only non-middle seat left. It was 20F in the non-reclining last row. On the aisle was a man who looked to be around 30. In his lap, Randy.

I’m a dad. I understand you can’t control small children–you wouldn’t want to. What follows is observation more than kvetching.

At 10,000 feet the first ding rang over the PA and Randy, nearly two years old, was moved to the middle seat. He was mostly quiet but squirmy. Me too. I pulled out my horse collar and tried to fall asleep.

I’m not sure how long I was unconscious when the pounding began. Randy was getting me with his feet and his hands. He meant no harm. In fact, he probably didn’t understand what he was doing. This continued intermittently for the next four hours or so. He did a little yelping as well.

Delayed Southwest flightWe landed at Chicago’s Midway Airport, waited a few minutes for a free gate and pulled in. I had about an hour between flights… well it was scheduled as an hour. The sign at the gate said otherwise.

Though I criticized Southwest for the earlier gate debacle they get a pass on this. Our flight to Hartford, last of the day, was being held for incoming passengers. I have been on the receiving end of this act of airline kindness in the past.

It was a bumpy ride as we passed over the disturbed weather that’s raining on Connecticut today. At one point the pilot asked the flight attendants to be seated and phone the cockpit when they were! Nice touch, but probably overly cautious. Let them err on the side of safety.

We landed in Hartford behind a Southwest plane from Las Vegas. Their bags came off first. That gave me the opportunity to run into and talk with my friend Harold and his wife Karen who were coming home from their daughter’s graduation (PhD, thank you) in Santa Cruz.

My drive home was uneventful though I was beginning to drag. I walked into my darkened house around midnight.

“Feels like you’ve been gone three weeks, doesn’t it?” Helaine asked this morning. Yup. Why is sitting in a seat so exhausting?

About That Last Entry

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

I could have sworn I entered text in on the last entry! I used my Blackberry which might not be the optimal solution to blog posting–obvi.

More on the trip over the next few days. A few quick words about Southwest Airlines. We are such huge fans. If you think it’s some cramped, cattle call thing you’ve never been aboard.

Today’s flights were no exception to the usual Southwest experience with flight attendants having such a good time it made us have a good time. Our plane change in Chicago was painless and, even adding this stop, took around two hours longer than the coveted non-stop.

Today we also experienced our first funny TSA agent. His name tag said “Wallace” and he was at McCarren in Las Vegas. As we were removing our shoes and loading our stuff onto the X-ray machine he was humming tunes. He asked Helaine to step into “the aquarium,” that glass lined sniffer machine used to make sure my wife isn’t a terrorist.

I asked if I could take photos so you’d know what I was tlaking about. You’ll notice there is no photo.

We’re home now and exhausted.

Midway Is Part Way To Vegas

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

midway-power-plug.jpgWe are on-the-ground at Chicago’s Midway Airport. As we taxied to our gate it was easy to see how shoehorned in this airport is. There were row homes just feet beyond the airport’s fence. The runways here are about half as long as nearby O’Hare.

Our gate has more of those big chairs from Bradley. These, however, do have power plugs. It’s so nice not to have to find a powered wall to sit near (usually on-the-floor).

No free Wi-Fi at this airport. I’m using my cellphone as a modem. It’s perfect for short stretches like this. No Bluetooth in this laptop either (who knew) so I’m wired up through a USB port.

I just checked on Stef’s flight. She’s crossing the border into Ohio, doing 407 knots at 36,000 feet. My folks are 32,000 feet above Tallahassee cruising at 380 knots. They should get to Vegas on-time or close.

The incoming leg of our next flight is behind schedule from Norfolk. We’ll be a little late to McCarren.

Not Yet To Bed

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

I’d like to think I’ve remembered everything. I just went downstairs and signed a few anniversary cards. That’s important. I think everything I’m responsible for is packed. God–I hope so.

I have packed too much gear. I’ve got my camera, plus five lenses and a tripod. I wish I knew how to cut back. On top of that there are all these wall wart items that need a discrete one-of-a-kind plug. Phone, camera, computer, GPS–there’s a small bag full of electronics.

For the past few years we’ve been bringing a strip plug extension when we’re on-the-road. I told my mother–bringing one too! When do hotels start adding on electricity surcharges?

I’m trying to remember back 25 years ago. This night before our wedding was reasonably quiet. There had been a beautifully fluffy early season snow which quickly melted away. I was relaxed about what I was doing. Helaine and her family looked like they were on their way to a firing squad. All the pressure is with the bride.

There’s an immense amount of coordination taking place today. We should land in Las Vegas about the same time as Stef, who is flying non-stop from JFK. My parents get in a little earlier, non-stop from Ft. Lauderdale. Our California cousins have an early morning court date (they’re attorneys) then drive through the desert.

We have to get a car, check-in at the hotel (if they let us check-in early), freshen up, then drive to the chapel. As the Sun goes down we’ll be getting re-married.

Our weather looks quiet until Las Vegas where rain is expected. We are changing planes at Chicago/Midway–always a wild card, though we’ll be early and the weather non-threatening.