Wednesday, November 30, 2005

There and Back Again

How soon the blog withers away. It's been awhile since I've updated, but, well, I'm feeling particularly mouthy today. It might have something to do with the amount of diet coke I've managed to consume today. Hmmm...

First things first. Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate. That special time of year when families get together and try to pretend they like each other while giving thanks to those noble native peoples who made this great country possible before having their land ruthlessly stolen from them.

All kidding aside, I like the Thanksgiving and I enjoyed visiting my sister, her husband, and his family over the much too brief holiday. I was able to get out of work a little early on Wednesday and start my drive to Pittston, PA. Even with the traffic on the NY throughway and a couple of stops it only took a little over 7 hours. I was greeted by 4 of the 5 cats. Vinnie, a rescued stray, was a little too shy to come meet the guests. I'm told he's quite affectionate when the house is a little more empty. The others are Chewy and Tylo who was declawed and then put outside, both rescued
from a previous neighbor; Jacob, another rescued stray; and Liza, the old queen of the house, now currently missing an eye due to cancer, but otherwise fine.

Instead of cooking dinner at home, we decided to go out for a Thanksgiving buffet. The food was great and while I made a great attempt to sample a little of everything, there was just too much to choose from. The bueaty of a buffet is that there is something for everyone there. Don't want turkey? Try the ham, roast beef, fish, or pasta dishes. Not in the mood for pumpkin pie? Go for the chocolate silk or one of the many cheese cakes. Needlessly to say, I left with my pants fitting a bit tighter than when I went in. The only downside - no Thanksgiving leftovers (although this wasn't such a problem for me since I ate enough at dinner to last me a couple of days).

On Friday morning we went to Steamtown, a train musuem. We looked at a few of the exhibits and some great WWII propaganda advertising and then rounded out the visit with a ride on one of the trains. I'd like to go back next time I'm in the area to finish looking at the exhibits. Unfortuanely because of my tight schedule I didn't get to look at the technology exhibits. I'd also like to go on a day when they're running the steam engines. The train we rode was a 1920's-ish diesel engine.

After lunch I had to get back on the road to head home. The trip was pretty uneventful and I was kept energized and awake with the help of Rob Zombie, StaticX, and Mastodon. I arrived safely home and said brief hellos to my own cats before repacking my suitcase for my trip to Chicago. This trip, unfortunately, was for busines and not for pleasure. My boss had asked me to attend the RSNA (Radiological Society of North America) annual meeting, talk to vendors about new products, meet some colleagues from around the globe, and attend a couple of lectures. I would have been much more excited about the trip if the timing had been a little better. I'm not sure who decided the Saturday after Thanksgiving was the best time to start a conference, but he (and I'm pretty sure it was a he) needs to be beaten about the head and shoulders with a tirkey drumstick and perhaps a pumpkin pie.

Which brings me to holiday traveling and our friends at the TSA. I like to think I'm generally good natured about things and handle most stresses well. However, the brave people of airport security just really get to me sometimes. I stood patiently in the unexpected line at Burlington International Airport. Who'd have thought that many people would want to fly out of Vermont on Saturday at 6am. I removed my shoes, belt, coat, and suit jacket before I got to the metal detector, thinking I'd be able to just zip through. Nope. First I was asked to get rid of my coffee, the one I had bought just around the corner at the airport coffee shop kiosk. Grumble, grumble, ok, what ever. I threw the coffee away. Now my bra sets off the metal detector. I know it's the bra, the guard knows it's the bra, but I can't take it off, nor can he wand me or pat me down. So he calls a female guard and she wands me before I go on my merry way.

I had a brief layover in Newark. There is nothing good about Jersey. Sorry, but there really isn't (ok, maybe the possible exception of Bruce Springsteen, but that's it). I don't like to fly through Newark and have actually paid a higher fare to not be routed through here. It was unavoidable that day. I had to do the sprint across the airport, not the terminal, the entire airport, while wearing those cute heals that look so good with my suit. What's really obnoxious about Newark? When you enter another terminal, you need to go through security again even if you just got off a connecting flight. So I got in line to repeat the process above.

I arrived in Chicago and make it to the conference on time. Sitting through the 3 hour lecture was rough. At times I started to zone out and then snap back to reality with the thought that I needed to be learing something. There was an absolutely amazing number of vendors at this show. I knew there would be a lot, but I was unable to grasp just how many. The vendors were spread out over 3 buildings of the conference center, all with shiney new equipment and flashy displays to grab your attention.

When I got to my hotel and unpacked my bag, I noticed I had been the lucky recipient of a random TSA bag search. I must just look guilty or something, because I'm always the person chosen for the random search. I had one of the neat little letters from the TSA explaining why it's necesarry to search luggage sitting on top what was once a neatly packed pile of clothes. Somebody needs to teach the TSA guys how to fold. My packing jobs are generally a work of art (too much Tetris as a child) to get them into the suitcase. I make an effort to not wrinkle my business clothes. Whoever searched my bag just kind of wadded everything up and through it back in. Thanks. I wanted to have to iron everything.

The rest of the conference passed pretty uneventfully and I headed back to the airport on Monday afternoon. I was told my flight was running about 2 hours behind and that I would miss my connecting flight in Cleveland. I was in luck though, Continental was bale to put me on an earlier flight to Cleveland. As it turns out, whith all the flight delays I left at roughly the same time as my orignal flight. Getting through security at O'Hare was slightly annoying. I had expected and was prepared for large lines. Even being the random person called for a thorough search didn't irritate me. What got to me though was the guy in front of me that had to argue with the security guys. Just take your freaking shoes off and we can all get on our flights!

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