Thursday, July 16, 2009

Finally Some News

Yeah - power to the people.  Something has flicked their switch.  CNB Newschannel went to a red "Breaking News" screen for about 5minutes solid, that's why the crowd gathered by the lunch room.  When it 'broke' it was more surreal than before, if you can believe that.  CNB only half jokingly said they had a minor coup in the news room!  Get this - they say that they have over-ruled their management, and are no longer going to keep the public in the dark.  They said the station had a big meeting, and even though they were all fired on the spot, they realized that the station manager was not going to be able to do anything to stop them so they are going ahead!  Crazy stuff.

So they said, they were detaining him in-communicado for 30min while they file this report, then will let him do what he must. They say they expect to be cut off, but feel their ethics require them to not hold out any longer.

Here's what I got out of the info dump that followed.  They say that several other stations around the world, well in the west anyway are doing the same thing and shared info over the net to coordinate their timing.  So don't be surprised if the Army starts shutting down your TV whereever you are, but if you can, get to the TV to see before then.

They have video of fighter jets headed towards Scandenavia, and say they've heard that as they go in, they go radio silent and never come out again.  Ground troups have gone in and also not returned. It's like a big black hole over there, and nobody can get any info. It's a big area in Norway, Sweden and Finland, around the gulf of Bothnia and upper Baltic. Weird.

And satellites are unable to do anything. Oh and they've confimed too that the Space station is indeed on the other side of the fricking MOON.  How weird is that.

They said that they agreed to news silence due to unknown nature of the threat and fears about panic, but have now decided that the lack of information is causing too much fear and rumour and journalists are all over the world forming some sort of freedom of information pact.  

Last I saw they were mostly reporting on themselves - typical. I guess that means they have limited additional info about the "space crisis' - I can't believe they're calling it that.  Then again, I suppose they could call it space-gate, and that would be ten times worse.  So anyway they're mostly going through which stations have been shut down and more encouragingly, there are countries in Europe and elsewhere that have agreed to be open now, and no longer restrict their media.  Sadly Britain, Germany, France and the US are not among them.  Canada seems to be in limbo.  There is Army at several transmitter sites and media outlets they say, but they aren't doing anything.  Someone must be trying to decide.

So how long can it stay like this? Can we really have a chunk of the planet where nobody gets out for a month? A year? A decade? Too weird.  How can that become the new normal.

Oh, I did go upstairs, and Kate wasn't around. Drat.

I guess I'm going to cut out, nothing is getting done here now, and I'm going to meet up a couple of the guys at the Roasted Bean for a cuppa and see what's going on.  Tam says he'll be there too.

Strange Workday

Strangely I made it into work today.  The place is half deserted though.  Driving in, they were doing sports and weather and news was mostly inane stuff like "Travel problems continue to mess people up." As if it's just a long weekend rush.  But apparently borders have all but closed all around the world. Why would they do that?  Most are still letting people through at a trickle, after lots of checking, so people are getting really antsy about it all.
They mention military out on the streets everywhere, saying that they have been called in to help managed crowds.  Uh, there are no crowds.   This really has to stop.  Why is the media playing ball with this whole news black-out.  You'd think that the only news was a minor logistical mess up, or a heat wave, or bus strike. 
I did see one crowd - around the AM news radio station I drive by near my neighbourhood.  Signs said "Tell us what's going on" and "Don't gag the media."  How long can this last.

Internet news sites - not associated with the big outlets are still talking about rumours and crazy stuff. Someone in the office has turned the lunch room TV to the news channel and yet there still just repeating the same stuff. In fact, I think some of it is just tape on a loop from yesterday.  They were referring to 'tomorrow, Thursday's weather' when I was in for a coffee.  Pretty crazy when even the cable news hype machine isn't feeding.

So I'm actually doing some work between rumour collecting sessions - either online, or with the little gaggles of other folks around the office.  I haven't seen Kate - though she works on another floor.  I think I'll swing up there and say 'hi.' It's lunch time now anyway.

Hey a few gaggles have become an uber gaggle by the lunch room. Checking it out...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Back from Pub

The Snark was rather quiet. I thought our fav pub had a better clientel than that. I thought they'd be a good 'Sean of the Dead' type of crew, who'd pop in for a pint while alien lasers toasted the outside of the building.

At least there were a few of the guys in there, and I got a hardy welcome. It was Kira, Mina and Jack sitting there with an almost empty pitcher when I arrived. They'd only been there just less than an hour they said, and it was strangely my turn to buy the beer. Hmmm.

No biggy - it's actually an honour. Some of the other guys travel a bit with work, so we have this thing that if anyone was travelling on expenses, they buy the beer when they're back, as they've had it easy while travelling on someone elses dime.

There is some news channel going on a big screen with the sound turned down. We all agreed it was the scariest part of the whole thing that they weren't in full feeding frenzy over this. I mean last year you get a couple of people with a case of the flu and they're all over it as if the world was almost over, or a celebrity breaks up with their spouse and it's big news. Here we get little tidbits that sounds strangely like little green men attacking and the details are only touched on in passing.

Jack said the same think I did - it's got to be so scary, that the US government is using some sort of extraordinary powers to stop anyone reporting and speculating. Apparently the Canadian gov't is in the same pact, because the Canadian news channels are similarly playing it cool, though they are talking a bit more about the stuff going on in Norway, which you don't hear from the US channels at all. Also talk about the border. Sounds like it is closed up tight now.

After 9-11 back almost a decade, it was a huge issue when border traffic was stopped. Now the media is treating it like it's just a travel advisory. "Beware that the border is closed, so don't try to drive down that way. In other news, it looks like rain..."

Then Tam shows up - great more beer on me. But he works at a TV station and we're all on edge to hear what he's going to say. He takes a sip of beer, and just looks around the table at the blank faces.

"So what's going on, guys? You're all up late on a school night" is the best he can do. We all erupted in derision as if scripted. "So what's the scoop!? What's going on in TV land? Is there martial law or something?" Jack asks.

He tries an "I can't talk about that" very gallantly, but it's not going over with us. He sips again, clearly revelling in the info he possesses. He leans in close and we all follow suit, and he starts to fill us in.

Turns out he knows pretty much nothing, but has a lot of rumours and scuttlebutt from the office. What was interesting was that there was a station memo that went around saying that the current affair was being reported, but restraint was being shown for 48 hours to help preserve public order. It also said that he couldn't tell us what he had just told us.

That pretty much satisfied us that our suspicions had been met - there was a lid on this thing. And the fact that the lid had been put on so effectively was amazing. The rumours still flew around on twitter and blogs, but without formal channels to get details, stuff happening in space was pretty much beyond the access of the grass-roots pseudo-media.

We all speculated what to do, but other than declaring a breakfast get together, we pretty much left it to sleep on, and pick it up tomorrow... oh wait - later today now I guess. Something tells me I'm going in late tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Moon Base Alpha

This would have sounded totally crazy a couple of days ago, but now... well it's still crazy. Can you believe this stuff about the Space Shuttle and the ISS?!

Oh, we're back in Ottawa by the way, and we dropped the car off to a pissed off looking guy at the rental place. "You can't do that" he says. "Well, we're here, Kate says - deal with it." She was funny. So he gets on the phone and comes back with this $400 extra charge and we say "yeah, whatever." Kate's further up the hierarchy than I am, so I figure her card would be the best choice. As she signs and walks away, she says - "Well, that wasn't so bad."

We share a cab to the airport where we both have our cars - and she actually gave me a hug, and says "My hero - good instincts there you got us home." A mutual smile ensues and a brief moment of silence "Well, I guess I'll see you at work tomorrow," I said, and we both laughed.

What do you do when the earth is being invaded - do you go to work?!

Oh yeah - that's the I can't believe it part. The Space Shuttle and space station being moved out like that. First it was reported that the orbit was increasing. Now they admit that something has moved it way out - and now it's BEHIND THE MOON! WTF!?

So what happens now!?

I'm at home - home sweet home. I've got to catch up with the guys at the snark and see what's been going down here. This will be my first post-earth-invasion beer.

So apparently the government is having a big pow-wow just now, and their sending a guy off to the New York special UN session. There are military jets flying around - but I don't know what the hell their doing. There's nothing to chase.

Oh yeah, and if that wasn't enough.... everything that goes into Oslo Norway, or that whole chunk of Norway and Sweden - disappears. There's no contact and no way in or out. But everything else seems so normal. I mean - hell I'm on the Internet aren't I!? Like, you'd think someone would have shut that down.

No army on the street corners yet, or crowds with torches. I assume the pubs open so I'm headed over. Some things don't stop for alien invasions. I'm going to text the guys and see if anyone else is there. You'd think I'd be tired after this marathon day, but a few winks in the car must have been enough. That plus I'm dying to talk to someone!!

What Luck!

It's about time we find some supper, but just now I'm probably too stressed out to eat. Man was that a close one!

Oh yeah - we're in Canada! HA! We aren't stranded on the other side of the border - which appears to be closed! Oh yeah, back up a bit. I will type rapidly as I've got only a few minutes while Kate is on her cell phone trying to reach her mother in Toronto.

So looking back for a second - oh yeah, we were sitting there waiting for the line to inch towards the gate. It kept moving, but stuff started happening.

First we're just inching into the border post on the US side, and a military helicopter lands in this field off to the right, beside the river and a half dozen military, gun laden guys get out and are milling about. The traffic is backed up over the bridge to the Canadian side's customs as it has been for hours, but we can see that hardly any cars are coming through the US customs either.

Then as we are just mounting the bridge, Kate turns around and says look, and I look back and I see a convoy of military vehicles has come along the shoulder and pulling in around the inspection point. We wonder what's going on, never thinking it's related to what we were upto, our car rental extravaganza, and the air travel issues.

The radio starts saying some other stuff about questions being raised about flights being grounded all over the place, and strange things in the sky in Northern Europe. Then music interrupts the guy, and someone else comes on with some entertainment report crap.

We laughed out loud - what was that - did they yank him off the air?

We just get over the crest of the Blue Water Bridge, and we can see that on the Canadian side there is also a helicopter down in this baseball diamond, and a pair of military trucks as well, with a bunch of guys standing around in green.

By now, we see that nothing has been moving into the US side for a while, and people are out of their cars, standing around talking. Our side is still moving. Please don't make us spend the next ten hours on the bridge we commented.

So we get to the Canadian customs guy, and we see why the delay, he stares at us, checks both our ID asks a hundred questions, and then we get to go. The traffic opens up on the other side, as people have been going through so slowly.

We speed along then, on the 402 - this stretch of open, straight as an arrow expressway, happy to be in Canada. What do we do - continue on with the car to Ottawa, or perhaps we should drop it in London and get a plane, train or Canadian car? Who knows, I've never done this one-way rental thing before.

But now we change the radio to CBC, the public radio in Canada and the mood is different. It's music with interruptions every 15minutes talking about the 'situation'. They say the borders are closed - check with authorities if you're planning to travel to the US. They say, all flights are grounded, and that something has happened to three passenger planes in Northern Europe. They've disappeared, and are presumed crashed, but nobody has seen any sign of a crash.

The US are speculating about some sort of terrorism thing, but nobody is being specific about anything. Up in Nunavut there were reports of big black square airplanes whatever that means - but that was just some hunters or something way out in the middle of nowhere they say.

The chat boards are all-aliens-all-the-time. Kate's coming back. I think we should just pedal to the metal for Ottawa, and deal with the car later. This is too weird.

I'm amazed that we made it through the border - The Canadian one is closed too. I look like a bloody genius now. Ha! What Luck.

What's Happening in Oslo?

We're in a big line up in Port Huron. I'm driving, Kate's sleeping. Yeah, I know - how can I be driving if I'm typing. Well, we haven't moved for the last half hour, so I figured what the hell.

The radio's on but it's no use - they aren't saying much at all. But I tuned to CBC from Canada, and I hear some international news. They are saying that there's been some sort of disaster in Oslo, and all communications are out. They think it's maybe nuclear or something - but how could that be? If it was nuclear, it would be detectable surely from some sort of instruments somewhere. Why would it knock out all the communications. Like isn't there satellite phone and shit that they can be using. Something weird is going on for sure.

We actually just moved a bit. Kate's managing to sleep pretty well in spite of the 100 metres we crept forward. I can see the border ahead now at least, but it's probably going to be a while still. I just hope it doesn't close. But then again, nothing seems to be too out of the ordinary if you go by the media.

But on the blogs, let me tell you. This guy Jakki - somewhere in the netherlands say that the sky was lit up bright in the west (towards Sweden) early in the evening - I guess it's late at night there. People are speculating everything from alien invasion to nuclear blasts to a new volcano. Someone said it wasn't a big glow, but a bunch of small lights close together.

Why do we know so little about this in an era where we know everything a movie star ate for breakfast while on an showy aid trip to poorest African villages? Why isn't even the rumour mill churning away, based on media-types reading the blogosphere?

Something is strange. Some of the blogs I visited earlier are just gone now. Like, how does that happen. This stuff normally persists for years.

Chatting with Kate she was saying, "What the heck are we doing out here" as we drove through ramshackle areas in the middle of nowhere Michigan. I try to keep my speculation down, but I do heckle the radio a bit when they say that "Airline delays are continuing - experts deny that there is a terrorist threat." They go on to claim it's a 'computer glitch' in the air traffic system, and they are being cautious. I wouldn't want to be fielding PR questions on that line. They must be costing the economy many millions an hour.

Oh, I hope we get to have supper in Canada tonight. Hey, a bit more movement.

I saw some military looking helicopters fly over a few minutes ago. I haven't seen them flying in formation before - four of 'em. Looks pretty neat - glad they aren't coming here. Must be a base near by. I wonder what the scuttlebutt is there!


We've pulled over for lunch, and I'll take over the driving shortly. Kate's on the phone and talking with someone - probably at the office. I'm sure we'll be ridiculed for driving back. Or then again, we'll be seen as brilliant and intrepid. As far as I know nothing is flying.

We're in a little place near Elba, just outside of Flint. I never thought I'd be driving through Flint. Just makes me think of the Moore documentary - what was it "Roger and Me" I think. It's a little depressed looking in places, but I guess I've seen worse.

Wasn't Elba the island off Italy where Napoleon was exiled after losing the battle of such-and-such? I hope we aren't marooned here as well.

We're here cause the main Interstate 69 is slow moving. The adjacent road is not too bad. It's highway 21 and heads directly towards the border at Port Huron. Just across the river is Sarnia, and home territory. Yay.

I'm in the car finishing a vanilla shake. On the TV in the roadside restaurant they had news stations that seem to be going about their business. But it's weird. Why are they not in a feeding frenzy on this stuff. They do updates on the stalled air travel across the Northeast US for the past 12 hours, but are calling it a minor outage. Whatever that means.

I assume most people are still waiting it out in airports. Oh - here comes Kate - off for now, and another couple of hours of driving worst case probably.

Waiting for the Wall

I'm in shotgun position now - Kate has taken over the driving as we agreed. I thought I'd snooze a bit, but things have changed and I feel vindicated now.

Even an hour ago, when it appeared we'd done this silly thing for nothing, Kate didn't seem to be holding it against me. "Hey - it's just money," she said. "Even if the company thinks we're nuts and won't refund the cost of the rental, it's not going to ruin either of us." She had a good point. "Plus you've managed to make this my weirdest trip to California ever... And I've been there a lot."

"Well that's something" was my best response.

But things are suddenly happening. What the radio news originally was saying were 'delays to international flights because of disruptions in Europe,' has evolved. First the chatter on the blogs and usenet groups is that international flights are just outright cancelled, and not just to Europe. The radio has finally caught up with that now, and it's sounding like even short hop flights to Canada have been 'delayed' so they say. So we're presumably on the front edge of a bunch of Canadians trying to get home.

So we're expecting this cruise to come up against a wall shortly. We're not sure about the borders in general. It might be just aviation - man I hope that the border isn't just generally closed. That would mean something really big is going on. There's billions in cross border business that relies on open borders... plus I'd hate to be stuck in Port Erie indefinitely. That would be nuts.

I'm really digging this G3 card that lets me type while we drive. I see the link drops occasionally, but it's not too bad. We're just getting out of Flint, Michigan now. It's only about another hour to the border or less I think.

"What are you typing?" Kate asked a few minutes ago.

"My last words before our abduction," I answered.

"Great, do I get a say, or are you speaking for both of us? And are you hoping the aliens leave your laptop behind? Maybe they are robots and will abduct your laptop and discard you as a worthless hunk of protoplasm."

I laughed at that, and answered "I'm not sure whether I should be insulted that you called me worthless protoplasm, or excited that you called me a hunk."

"Ha," she laughed "So where is this going." - Uh, oh. Red alert. I don't want to have to skim back through all my postings and strip out any comments on Kate.

"Oh, it gets posted to a personal blog. So people don't see it, but I can refer back to it for future reference... but I'll probably forget about it and delete it."

"Oh yeah. Well - are you ready for me to dictate my last words to the world?"

"Yeah sure shoot." And she rattled on flamboyant, random philosophical thoughts. They were pretty funny. After she said about 300 words I just typed about 4 characters and said. "Okay, got it."

We had a good laugh. But one of the things in there was interesting - she said something about "... as we cruise across the landscape of planet earth, I and my favourite hunk send this message out to future anthropologists that blah blah blah..."

The 'favourite' part was kind of neat to hear, even if it was followed by the hunk joke again.

Kate looks great driving. She seems comfortable there in control of the wheel, hammer down and casually shoulder checking and blowing the doors off the crappy American cars that populate the highways around here. We're in a Grand Am. More junk, but at least we fit in on the roads. I guess we're in domestic car country.

When we were going slow out of Kalamazoo, we turned off the AC and dropped the windows to let some coolish summer morning air in and it blew Kate's hair around. She said something about "Great - my bad hair day is going to be even worse." and brushed long strands of sun-illuminated, browny-blonde hair out of her eyes. She looked pretty hot. I'm feeling rather comfortable with her - long car trips seem to either do that or make you despise each other. Some sort of lens for personality that focusses it so that it either burns a hole in your forehead, or warms you both up.

Yikes I better make sure she doesn't see the URL for this site, or it could be mucho embarrasing.

We'll see what the next hour brings for us. Somewhere, probably a wall.


Well here's a line I really never expected to type. I'm sitting in a car in Kalamazoo, Michigan! So, as you can probably guess, I did it.

I think I was right - Kate did think I was nuts. I called her room and woke her up. She briefly sounded really cold and angry. I figured I had really blown it, but to her credit as she woke up it got bit better.

"What!?" she said. "Who is this?" How quickly they forget. I guess I'm not the most memorable guy. I tried again. "I know this sounds crazy," I said to her, "But that thing..." I was about to lead into the space station, and lights in the sky and everything as I had discovered it. But I realized it was 4 am or thereabouts and this was going to sound extra crazy. Start with something more easy to get your head around, I thought. So I said "I think they're going to cancel all the planes shortly and we're going to be stuck in Chicago. I think if we were to go to that rental car place across the street we could get a car and drive back into Canada and not get stranded here. I know this sounds a bit crazy, but if this thing," I quickly skirted the explanation of the thing for now, "if this thing is as big as it looks in Europe, I wouldn't be suprised if they crank up security at the border and stuff too."

I paused to let her get her breath. I briefly thought of her sitting on her bedside in something slinky, but thought it best to move on. "Kate, I know this sounds crazy, but If there's something really weird going on, the last place I want to be is a couple of thousand klicks away from home and in another country."

"Umm. Yeah - I hear you." A big sign that seemed to say oh, crap, why is he bugging me with this.

"So anyway," I went on, fuguring I should bail out here and hope my insanity didn't get around the office back home. "Anyway, I'm sorry I bugged you so early, but I figure I'm going to go and do this, and I figured, you know you'd wonder what the hell happened if I suddenly didn't show up for our flight later this morning. So anyway I'll let you go and..."

But she jumped in there sounding all awake and motivated suddenly.

"Shit - you know, you might not be so crazy. Umm. Give me five minutes. I'm going to look like hell, but I want to come along too. No, it's okay, I appreciate that you called and everything. I do want to go too. Let's do it. See you in the lobby." and that was it!

She hung up and we met downstairs, paid a bored desk guy and popped across the street and rented a car. We were going to ask about one-way rentals, but we figured then, lets just rent it and drop it off at the same company back home and play dumb. We'd rather get penalized than find out the guy won't rent to us.

So anyway, that was about 3 hours ago. The highway was pretty good for a while. Still not too bad I guess. There is a lot of traffic headed into Lansing Michigan direction I think. We've been driving on I94, listening to the radio.

I've got driving duty, but we said we'd switch after a few hours. The initial adrenaline is wearing off. We've pulled over into downtown Kalamazoo. I have to hand it to Kate. She could be playing this like "what sort of crazy thing have you got me into." But she seems to be almost laughing it off. A couple of times she's said - we must be crazy - oh well - I'm sure the company will laugh at us, but cover the cost anyway.

Kalamazoo isn't as tiny as I thought it would be. Some nice old buildings here. It's just after 8am and people are up and scurrying around. I have no idea what people do here. The radio is pretty much not saying a lot. The news at 8:00 just as we pulled in here mentioned a short story about some air travel being disrupted in Europe and some strange lights in the sky, but they're reporting it like it's a quirky UFO story and moving on to baseball scores like it's ordinary. The European news sites seemed to be much more serious.

Oh well. We were going to stop for a sit-down breakfast, but we're still not sure what to think. So we agreed, lets not dawdle. Let's get something to go and move on at least to the border quickly.

Kate's making a call and going to the ladies inside, and I'm sitting here trying to avoid digging into these egg and bacon sandwiches that are smelling up the car. Man I'm hungry.

I got online with this awesome 3G card and see things are still going wacky in Europe. Flights are suspended across the continent. Borders are slow from the EU into other countries they say - so maybe we're doing the right thing.

This is so surreal - why is it going crazy over there and nothing much is happening here. Well I see a few of the web sites for the big news channels are showing pictures of weird lights alright, but the story still has a different spin on it. They are reporting that airports are messed up due to flight cancellations to Europe, but otherwise they claim flights are on still.

Oh well, more news on the radio soon - oh and here comes Kate. We're almost ready to roll, and man I'm hungry too!

Early Morning Thinking

Okay, I couldn't sleep for some reason, and so I get on the web and I think - hell, it's 4:00 am and I'm bored and wide awake - I think I'll try out my new wireless 3G PC card. I think it uses UMTS. I picked this up in California and figure it's supposed to be easy to set up so, I've plugged it into my laptop and and configured a few things, and bingo - I'm live on the web with no cords. So cool.

But I'm worried now. There's a bunch of chatter on some usenet groups about weird lights in the sky in Denmark and Sweden and Norway area. I found a few news sites in the UK that are actively reporting on it too, and connections are being made with the strange bit with the silent space station. What worries me is that flights are grounded in Stockholm and a few other airports over that way, and the article speculated about further restrictions. They must know something, you don't ground airlines if there is nothing going on.

So I'm sitting here, now its about 4:13 and I'm wondering. When everyone wakes up here, will they do something wacky here too? What if they stop flights in the US we're stuck in Chicago with god knows what going on.

I'm starting to think outloud here - well through my fingers. Maybe I should pack up and go rent a car before it gets too weird. It's probably only a few hours to the Canadian border and we'll at least be there. I'm sure I can get my company to pay me back - it must be cheaper than airfare. One way rentals though are a bit more pricey perhaps?

Should I call Kate and wake her up? She'll think I'm bloody nuts. I mean, we talked about this weird thing and aliens or whatever while at the airport, so I know she's aware of it. Shit - what should I do.


Okay just clicked away and looked at a few other European websites. It's sounding like they might ground all the planes in Northern Europe!!! Crap, crap, crap. I think I'm going to do this.

Yeah - I'm packing up now!! Gotta go!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Strange Days Indeed

Okay I'm back - man this is like my own personal news channel. Thanks for the emails guys, I didn't realize there were so many people following what's going on through here. I obviously don't know anything more than anyone else.... so I don't know why you would follow this, but I guess some folks are, and thanks for the notes and the comments.

But I'm still in Chicago - Don't know what we're going to do tomorrow. Hell, I could have driven home by now - It's only 8 or 10 hours probably.

You'll be interested to know that my rapid sign off a few hours ago was due to another huge coincidence. I was sitting there watching the news, and typing and I looked up to see a familiar person walking across the concourse. It was Kate! She was walking my way but hadn't seen me yet then. So anyway, I signed off and was about to jump up and say hi, but thought I'd play it cool and let her discover me. Of course, I would have jumped if she didn't notice me, but I pretended not to notice her and she said "Hey there stranger - I thought you weren't leaving till tomorrow!"

I looked up and did my best casual Zaphon Beeblebrox (oops, obscure reference) "Hey, Kate how's it going!" I explained that the director sent me home early because of the craziness going around and now I was stuck waiting for a plane that doesn't look like it's going to show up.

She was similarly expecting to be on that plane and had come and gone and was just getting back to check for a new ETA - oops that means arrival... ETD I guess. Still nothing from the Airline. So we sat around for a while, and talked and talked. We were both speculating about what all this space stuff meant, why the big crowds in some cities and none in the others.

That got on to religion and what all this would mean to churches and stuff, and it got on to our own feelings and beleifs. I could have sat there all night talking with her. She's great to talk too. I guess in times of weirdness it brings people closer together if they have something in common - like living in the same country/city.

I asked her flat out at one point if she's attached or anything, and she just said - "I'm flying solo for a while. Getting to know what it's like to be single again." and then she changed the subject. Shit, she can be cryptic at times, but I guess that means she's divorced or separated or just out of a longterm relationship or something.

Anyway's we seem to be on the same page with a lot of our views. She doesn't beleive in any sort of religion, and, while I held back a bit, that's my position too. I usually rant a bit about religion causing all the evil in the world, but you never want to spout too much on that topic to someone - unless you know them really well. She's pretty smart though. Seems to know more than just accounting stuff. She actually seems to be aware of the outside world. She seemed similarly impressed with me. She said something like "Wow you're pretty well informed. I thought most software guys were pretty clued out when it came to stuff like politics and literature and junk." I always think that too, based on the guys I talk to, but it was pretty cool having someone say that to me. Especially someone nice like her! (blush).

Anyway, nothing on the news in the last several hours except the same breaking news about nothing. Oh - the shuttle/ISS thing keeps moving further out. Now the speculation is that it's moving into a geosynchronous orbit as well - which means something like 35k kilometres! So weird. Maybe the aliens are going to eat the thing up! If we ever see those astronauts again, it's going to be some story.

Oh yeah, so where am I and what's going on? It's almost midnight and I'm in the Hilton at the O'Hare airport. The airline gave us all a hotel and food voucher and put us up for the night. Apparently the plane was held back for mechanical errors or scheduling errors or something - they can't seem to decide what their story is. Kate is just down the hall. We had a beer at the hotel bar after getting in, and now it's off to sleep. Glad the hotel has free wireless so I can keep in touch.

Dave tells me the guys have been almost living at the Snark - I feel so left out!!! Ugh. But it's been fun talking to Kate too. Anyway, they're hanging out watching the no-news-news and quaffing pints. I suppose it's just as well. I'd have to run twice as much to work off the calories of that much beer. I am over 30 now you know!

Hmmm - I wonder if Kate is asleep yet. No, you idiot. Don't bother her, you'll make a fool of yourself. I'll surf the usenet groups for some good rumours and hit the hay. I don't want to be too tired tomorrow. Hell, I might have to sit around for hours and God knows I wouldn't want to be drowsy for that.

Man, I hope I'm not stuck here for long.

Slow Motion World

Everything is moving so SLOW, yet so insanely fast. These are wacko days of coincidences and earth-shattering changes, and terribly mundane, boredom. I don't know whether to change my blog's name or if it's perfectly apropos!

So I'm sitting here in Chicago, and it's 9pm ish. My connecting flight is messed up and nobody is saying why. I'm watching news on a big TV in this waiting area, just hoping I'll get home.

So, the news is now is in full feeding-frenzy mode. As is typical, they just say the same thing over and over, and get reaction comments from dozens of people, none of whom know anything more than anyone else.

Tomorrow is going to be scary for my savings - the stock market was taking a big dive just before closing. There's speculation that it's the tech stocks that are leading it, because if there really is some sort of unknown spaceship out there, it might mean that new technologies are about to be had which will make ours obsolete. Can you beleive that!? That's pretty tangible impacts on our lives from a silly unidentified thing in space that is probably space junk or a funny shaped asteroid or something.

Then again, I guess it is staying in a weird position so that nobody has gotten a good picture of it. It's staying on the sunny side of the planet, and near the sun, so taking a picture isn't possible. I guess they have a radar track of it, but that doesn't do much for you. No word on what's up with the space station and shuttle yet.

Hey - this is happening as I type... AMAZING NEWS! They say the space station is no longer where it should be! Apparently the space station and shuttle are still not in contact, and they've started to change orbit, but thermal cameras don't show any engine activity. The orbit is increasing apparently and slowing down - I mean in terms of it's speed around the earth. It was in a 360km orbit, and it's moving out - now it's at over a 1000 km from earth!

That's GOT to be proof of something wacky going on. There is NO WAY this could be something they are doing themselves - I don't think they'd have the fuel to be abled to change their orbit that dramatically.

I don't know whether to be scared or excited or laugh! Well, most of all I just want to get home.

Holy crap! Gotta go...


Can you beleive it, I'm at the airport! The new guy seemed to confident to finish the stuff up on his own, and the director here said I should probably try and get an earlier flight back, with all the hysteria going on and such.

The hilarious thing is that this is all about some thing in space and a broken phone at NASA. There are crowd controls in the major cities, and some places have the army out "just in case" one reporter said. In case of what!?

So here I am at the airport. I'm checked in, but it took me forever to get through the security. Go figure. So how does that work?! Is it in the manual - when aliens show up, tighten up baggage screening and wand every person who goes through security at the airport. What are they expecting to find! This is crazy. "Oh sir, yeah, we found a metallic alien in this guys pants, should we take him in?"

The news reports that some gas stations in Georgia and Maine are being charged with gouging. Okay - aliens show up - charge more for gas. I guess if people are all rabidly filling their tanks, someone is going to take advantage of it.

Then again, I suppose I might be inclined to get some more gas in my car if it was low too. I suppose you never know where you might have to go. Then again, I don't even own a car, so what the hell. Buy some more bus tickets I suppse.

Ah hell, I hope this plane isn't delayed much longer. I wish I knew why planes get delayed everytime aliens show up. I'm loving this stuff. I can't wait to get to the Snark with the guys and see what they're thinking. They're probably there right now. I think I'll text 'em and see what they're coming up with.

Wow! History is Being Made Right Now

I found a TV in the conference room here, and it's now full, the conference room I mean.

The media is on a serious feeding frenzy, and for once it's even justified. I even saw this news channel hasseling their own station owners asking "Who asked you to stop us from broadcasting" and the guy's being ominous and saying - "There's no interview Jenna, put the camera away," and can you beleive she keeps pushing him. What a trooper. Glad to seem some real journalistic integrity. How are they getting this on the air? Is there a revolt in the station or something. The news reader is saying - "We may all be fired, but as journalists we need to be on top of this, perhaps one of the most important stories in human history."

Can you beleive that? I guess they don't want to be left out of this crazy stuff.

So it's all blowing wide open. NASA had their news conference and admitted they were wrong to suppress the story and they claim they are coming clean now. They ARE out of contact with all the personnel in orbit, and they can also report that radar has an unidentified object confirmed at about the orbit of the moon. Hubble is offline as well apparently, and they're hoping that terrestrial telescopes can get a view if the thing either catches the sunlight during the day, or remains in place after dark. They say so far it has been avoiding the night side.

Radar has also confirmed that the shuttle and space station are still there - I'm not sure why they would say that!? Where's it going to go - perhaps they mean it hasn't re-entered or anything catastrophic. But they claim something isn't jamming the signals, but rather has just shut them off.

So the obvious question is what is it. And NASA shared a bunch of pictures - one of which was the one on the net. So it WAS authentically from someone inside. This is amazing stuff. The thing is white and looks long, but you can't really judge. Though if it's at about the orbit of the moon the thing must be like several kilometres long! It's got lumps on it like it's a stalk of brussels sprouts painted white or something.

The guy was trying so hard to avoid using the word Alien but can there really be any doubt!?

This is so amazing. The whole office is a buzz. I'm mostly amazed that the internet is still functional. Sure it's slow-ish, but overall it's still working. The cell phone networks are pretty busy, and the phone is too. The news channels are showing big crowds gathering all over the place, and for some reason there's actually a run on grocery stores. You'd think this was a hurricane or something.

Man - I can't beleive this is happening. I'm going to grab a coffee and head back to the TV. Are people really suppsed to keep working when aliens show up and make first contact? I'd better check my employment contract. There must be a clause in there somewhere.

Oh crap - am I going to get stuck here? I hope the planes are still flying. And what about my travel insurance on my credit card? It covers delayed flights, but what about delays due to aliens??

Sure hope they're friendly. There was a woman crying here - some people are actually pretty scared. I'm just excited. I don't know what's going to happen - maybe it will turn out to be a hoax or something but I don't know how it could be.

Coffee Time

Okay - I've gotta try and find a TV here. I'm taking a break while the new guy runs a bunch of scripts. He's got a good handle on it all, and I think we're going to be though it all in another hour or two. Checking email and stuff, and I see on the online papers and such that this whole NASA thing is blowing up big time - I don't mean literally.

Turns out that a Houston paper is reporting that NASA employees were not being allowed home, and their family couldn't talk to them. Then the shit hit the fan, and this morning the media is all over it. They even admitted that the big stations asked the staff not to cover the story last night and sit tight until today.

So we've got NASA with no contact with the Space Station and Shuttle, and none of the staff leaving or in touch with their family. Now the papers exposing that the TV news was told not to do anything more than the headlines about the communications failure. But there's supposed to be a big press conference starting about now. I wish I could find a TV. Gotta go hunt. This is getting pretty weird.

Late Night in NoCal. What's Going On!?

Okay, weird stuff going on. The net's a bit slow and I suspect that's cause of all the activity. Strangely the news channels aren't in normal feeding frenzy mode, but the net is certainly busy.

Oh - yeah, hey backup a minute. This is the first time I've ever written three blog entries in the same day.... well actually it won't be the same day much longer, it's just getting to midnight now. I've been back in my hotel room since 11:00, but on the net since then.

Okay - backup even further. So, I'm getting ready to leave the office, and actually I'm outside the door and I hear my name, and turn to see Kate with her white Grand Am rental beast. She's just unlocking it and says "hey, how was your first day in California?". I walked over and told her it was fine and we'd made good progress and all that. She seems in a good mood, and cracks a joke. "So are you looking for the nearest shawarma place now?"

I just laughed and said, "Yeah, I gotta find some food I guess - you know of anyplaces around here?" And then I mentally kicked myself, cause it sounded like a come-on. She was pretty good about it. She says there is a strip mall just a couple of blocks on the otherside of my hotel that has a few places - like a sushi place and a burger joint or something. But then she adds: "So are the IT guys down here going to take you out and give you the tour?" Checking on my evening - this is sounding promising, I thought, but had better play it cool.

"No, everyone's got family stuff and such - nobody's eager to feed the Canadian, so I'll have to scavenge on my own." Ouch - did that sound too much like pity fishing? Crap, I should have thought before speaking.

"Yeah, well the finance crew is a slow one too - all accountants in my meetings today, so not much going on there either..." Oh well, snap. She's going to make me do all the work, is she. She's standing in the doorway to her car, and tossing in her purse and briefcase. Okay - I'll jump in and see what happens.

"Well if you..." Oh, man I'm starting that out weak - but I'm saved almost immediately.

"I've got the car on the company - if you want to have supper together we can scare something up that is Canadian worthy?" Whew - that's better. The company car thing works out well too, so it's not all datey or anything. "Hey - yeah. It's a corporate expense saving mission! Trust the finance department to figure it out."

"Hey we're always thinking," she said tapping her temple with a manicured finger.

"So how do you want to work this?" I added.

"Well, I'll drop you at your hotel if you like and I can swing by again in say 30 or 40 minutes and we can go from there. I know a few spots - how about a swanky brew pub with pasta and stuff?"

Already, I'm thinking swanky that's even the same part-of-speech as snarky. I think this place is going to become "the swank" to me from now on. Hope it's good. "Sure," I say and we're off.

So we're at this place called the Fault or Fault line or something and we had a great time. I hear all about her job and she hears about mine and stuff. We talked about family and stuff, and she actually asks at one point if I'm married. When I say no, she ribs me about why not, and does the usual chick prodding thing and says "Does your girlfriend want to get married do you think?" Ha - this gets a bit old as you get into your 30's it seems, but I guess we all gotta know, and if you just ask flat out it's too, I don't know, something.

"The answer's no - I mean no, I don't have a girlfriend"

"Oh right, okay." and it goes on from there. We had a big meal and desert and some beers - though she says she's more of a wine person. But I keep telling myself, this isn't a date - it's a job.

So she drops me off at 11:00 or just before, and says she's probably heading back mid-day tomorrow, but see you back at the office. So I'm off to the room thinking, yeah, nice girl. But how did I not manage to find out if she's married or anything. She never mentioned a husband or boyfriend. You know how they always do. You meet someone and then about 5 sentences into the conversation they do the "My boyfriend's car is blue" or some excuse to basically say - "I'm taken bucko."

Yep - didn't get that, though she wears a ring on that finger. She must be close to 30 too, I suppose, and by that point a lot of girls have the FO ring to avoid the prey.

So back in the hotel, I'm thinking about her still, and turn on TV and just see a crawl across the bottom of the screen about photographs and internet and space station, but it's not very clear any of it.

I get on to check my email, and I see one from Dave saying "Where are you dude, check the chat and pic sites." And I see that there's some sort of communications failure with the shuttle, and there's this picture that someone claims was sent out of NASA by someone there of a big white thing - long and lumpy looking, with the space station solar panels and part of the shuttle in the foreground.

The chat groups and Usenet chatter is flying around. It's a fake everyone was saying around 8:30. How could it be real, and the news have nothing on it. Then around 10:00 is when someone first reports that NASA says they have a communications fault and can't talk to the space station.

Weird coincidence they say. And the speculation goes on from there. Some other guy says they have multiple channels and stuff and how could all them be out, and there must be some coverup, and the guy at NASA leaked the picture because he didn't want to let them get away with it.

Okay - sounds like crackpots, I'll admit. Still I'm seeing the crawling text about loss of communications, and yet, strangely nobody is talking about it. Even if they lose a bolt in space during a spacewalk they talk about it. How come nobody is mentioning this communications failure?

Well, I'll watch a bit more then gotta get some sleep. Another full day tomorrow, and hopefully I can wrap up early and get away from the office for an hour or two - then it's back home the first thing next morning. I'd like to slip over to Fry's and check out the stuff. That place always makes me think of the early days of the computer revolution and guys like Jobs and Woz hanging around dissing Bill.

To sleep!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Days Wrapping Up

Well, that's about it for the day - got about half an hour before official quitting time. I don't know what I'm doing tonight - I guess I'm headed out by myself as Manuel is busy and nobody else offered. Haven't seen Kate, so I can't weasle in there.

I nipped out for half an hour just around lunch time to go across the road. There's a big-box computer store there and I picked up some stuff that I figured would be cheaper down here. I got a TieWire XM2400 3G wireless card for my PC for only $150! This is supposed to give me something like a Meg or so datarate, but I'm skeptical. Can't wait to try it out at home, should be cool.

Hey - I was just surfing a bit and there's some hilarious speculation already about the weird white line seen in the NASA shuttle picture just after connecting to the Space Station. One guy on Usenet says that the thing was there still on subsequent orbit. Apparently that's huge news according to him, since that means it's not just crap floating around, but something far out in space. But someone else says if it's just junk in orbit, it could be a strip of metal about a mile or two away and catching the sunlight.

Strangely, the NASA website has taken down the image - but of course lots of keeners already have a copy, so I don't know why they'd do that. Or why they'd care.

Some other guy on Usenet says it's a spaceship and we're all going to die as they take over the world. That's a good one - I think he's not seriously that whacko, just making a joke. Next orbit they should get another look at it, and some article on CNN mentioned the flight is going fine, and in a last paragraph of the article, they mention the little thing and that if it's space junk it's far enough away from the shuttle that it shouldn't impact them. Plus, if they can see it stationary, it's not moving very fast and wouldn't hurt them if they bumped it.

I guess its the fast moving stuff that hits you at a thousand kilometres and hour that you have to worry about, and you never see that.

Hey, I think I see Kate in the distance, better hang around obviously, maybe I'll get a pity invite to join them for supper.

California, Yeah!

Hey, hey. I'm actually down here now and found a few minutes to jump online and check email etc. Can take a few seconds to update the blog.

Manuel is a nice guy and pretty sharp. He's catching on fast. Things are in a bit of a mess, so we're cleaning up a bit as well go - taking a new snapshot of my disk back home and testing all the scripts. I'm letting him do it with my direction and it's working well. Nice that the documentation all seems to work fine. I'm reading through my doc as we go, and making a few notes for future fix-ups but everything is smooth.

Stroke of luck - I get to the airport, and Kate is sitting there doing a Sudoku thing. So we got to talk for a while before the flight. She is in San Jose too. She's at another Hotel just down the street from mine. It's a better spot, but her trip was booked a week or so ago, and there were no rooms left for me in that place at the last minute. Both are close to the office anyway. She is in Finance it turns out, and doing some sort of audit with the local guys. I saw her walk by the window of the server room with some guy once. A suit type. She's looking hot in her biz suit. She's a girl with a mind like a diamond and eyes that cut like a ... how does that go? Reminds me of the short skirt and long jacket chick. She rented a car, but I just took a cab from the Airport. Less hassle I was thinking, but maybe she has a better idea.

I should try and hang around near quitting time, and see what she's up to. Manuel mentioned his family has some thing tonight. I guess he's married and has in-laws in San Jose, that's why they moved down from Boston. A long way to go for free babysitting.

Just checked the NASA site and they were showing some cool video of the outside of the space station and there's this weird little white line in the sky that someone noticed, and the Jorge guy focussed the camera on it briefly. They thought it was something on the lens, but it's clearly not when he moved the camera. Zooming in didn't make any difference. Must be space junk, or a small piece of ice.

Anyway, better get back to work.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Busy Busy

Well, it's late night on Tuesday and I think I'm ready for tomorrow morning. Today was busy, and of course got no time to do any coding. I was on the phone with Manuel in San Jose for a while - he seems like a nice guy. He's got some good experience, but I need to show him one-on-one the main bulk of the scripts and shit that we use to run our site. Plus I think I know enough about the old [XYZ] company site (gotta keep the co's anonymous!) that I can help him get ramped up on that too.

I haven't been down that way in about 2 years - but there's a bunch of places I want to see if I can get an hour off. Manuel is from Boston himself, and hasn't been there before. Maybe we'll catch a few of those spots together. Hope that brew pup is still open, and that Sushi place as well.

Got a haircut on Monday night, and went out at lunch to get some American money. Tickets arrived just after lunch.

Oh hey, get this. I go to Makkesh for a quick Shawarma at lunch, and who's there but Kate! So, I play it cool and say hey how's it going. We really don't do anything related at the company. She's in finance or something, and I'm on the floor below. But she's cute and seems friendly enough, so I chat anytime I get a chance. (She's probably on to me.) I'm pretty lousy about asking women out though. I don't know it seem sleazy some how asking out someone just out of the blue. But also, since she works in the same company, so it might be awkward.

But anyway, the cool part. I say, "what's up?" etc. And we're chatting about weather and caffeteria food and stuff, and how good Mohammed's Chicken Shawarmas are (no garlic sauce for her she says). But then she says, she's travelling tomorrow. And I go (casually, like I do this all the time) "Yeah, me too. Where you going?" And she says "California" and just then her co-worker, Wendy something, says "You ready" and they leave just as I'm saying - "Hey, so am I".

This is so cool - so she's actually going down that way. What a stroke of luck. Don't know if it's San Jose though. I think she laughed when I said "So am I" - Maybe she thinks I'm joking?

Anwway she could be going a few places down there. We've got some sort of sales office in Los Angeles and some other affiliate in San Diego. So I don't know for sure. Plus she's probably got colleagues down there she'll be hanging with and the last thing a bunch of Finance types will want is to hang with a techy down for web site stuff.

I guess I'd better find my passport and stuff, and it's getting late. I'm all packed, but should get some sleep. Maybe I'll watch some shuttle stuff on my laptop before sleep. I think they dock to the space station this evening some time. Crap they've probably already done it. It's like watching paint dry as they move slowly in, but it's still engaging somehow.

Weird, it's so boring, most of what they do - kind of like my life down here. But somehow it's also hugely entertaining. Maybe that's all I've got to do is move my life into orbit and it will actually be exciting.

I got a text about an hour ago to go to the Snark and I had to answer "0". Crap, they're probably all hoisting a pint there now. I wonder if Mina made it too?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Worker Bee

Just me the regular old worker bee. I've actually been coding this morning for a while, without interruptions. Well, I had been. About 11:30 (it's always just before lunch), Casey calls me for an impromptu meeting.

So turns out I have to go down to our office in San Jose for a couple of days, leaving Wednesday! They've got a new guy down there, and they have their own mirror site there, hosting our stuff as well as well some separate stuff that is still specific to their biz. Truth is we bought them out and they still haven't integrated everything to our system. But having them mirror most of our site is helpful in case of an outage up here.

But anyways, I'm supposed to go down and spend two days with this new guy, cause the other guy (Jim) had quit a couple of weeks ago. You'd think they might have known that someone would be replacing him (I certainly knew) but nobody also thought far enough ahead that they would want to send me down to train him (or her). Hey maybe it's some hot chick - no I think I heard it's someone named Manuel. So it's either a really hairy chick or a guy. But anyway, I'd have thought that they would have thought ahead and could have given me more than 24 hours notice about flying down to California. Oh well - at least I get a trip out of it.

Last night I was watching some shuttle mission television, cause everything else was lame-ass reality TV crap and re-runs. It was pretty boring, but still engaging. Just some guys floating around inside the shuttle as they get ready to dock with the space station. I don't know why that's entertaining, but it's better than watching some strutting, goatee wearing asshole on that reality show. Ever notice how every second phrase out of Americans on reality shows is either "Step up" or "Baby"?

I swear there's going to be some new reality show where all the dialog is just going to be...

"Baby, are you gonna step up baby?"
"I stepped up baby, it's that don't step, up"
"Well whose stepping up now, baby. Y'all ain't stepping up, I stepped up."
"Nuh-uh. I stepped up, you don't wanna step up, I'm gonna win without you baby"
"Hey Baby wanna form an alliance and step up together?"
"Okay, yeah baby."

Anyway, the shuttle stuff was better. The Swedeish guy is a hoot - he's very professional, but always has a joke in there. Sharp wit - what's his name Jorge Pederson says the website - jeeze he's also 58 years old. Well really experienced. The youngest guy on the crew is Michael Bradley at 38. When those two talk it sounds like the 38 year old is a youngster taking direction from a kindly uncle.

I'd love to be on one of those missions. The lift-off must be awesome, so much power and a real kick in the ass. I guess they don't need a web-guy on the mission. I could see it...

"Atlantis, Houston...
"Go ahead Houston."
"We've got alarms on your registration page. Can you check your perl scripts and confirm that the page loads okay from your end."
"Roger that, Houston, checking perl scripts... Houston, confirmed page is active and loading correctly. We suggest a re-boot at your end, and probably changing browsers to Firefox."
"Atlantis, Houston. We copy that and concur. We're dropping IE and running Firefox. Be advised Atlantis that flight control is now suggesting we de-install Windows and cut over to Linux, so we'll be offline for a few days. See Ya."

Oh well, not a lot of web hosting involved in payload specialist work

It's always neat to see the doors open up after orbit and see the CanadArm there. They've been showing a shot of the payload bay occasionally, and it's great to see the view. Just as the suns coming up, the bay is dark and you can see stars. It must be amazing to be up there in the dark and see the stars. When I think of how bright they are inside the atmosphere when you're out in the bush up north, or that time out on the prairies when Dave and I were camping on the way back grom our trip out to BC and Washington... They must be blindingly bright in space. I wonder what the milky way looks like out there.

Shit, I'd better take off work early and get some stuff for my trip, I probably won't have a lot of time tomorrow. Wednesday, I'm off to San Jose.