Monday, November 24, 2008

Here, There and Everywhere

Last Wednesday I headed off to Berkeley to help with a proposal. I got to visit my buddy Tom and his family over there in hippy-ville. I learned a lot about how to write a NASA satellite proposal. I have to say that it is just nuts. NASA requires a HUGE amount of work, with the proposals covering every single aspect of the design and build - from how to fit together the instruments to the bus to how many meetings per month the project manager should have with different team members. Everything. The review that I was at was to make sure that they actually accounted for everything, and not just almost everything. This happened on Thursday.

On Thursday night, I flew down to Los Angles to spend a day with my friend Joe. We spent the night chatting about crap. Then in the Morning I got to see how a different family does school in the AM. I was amazed. The kids got up and watched a little TV. Then, when Joe got up, they got dressed and got ready to go. Joe handed them a granola bar, grabbed their lunches and we left. Holy Crap! No 20 minutes of eating Rice Krispies! No arguing about wearing jackets or coats (since it was 70 degrees!) It was like a Festivus Miracle! If only we lived in LA! The grass is literally greener on the other side, since it is snowing here.

After dumping the kids and a nice breakfast (no granola bars for us!), we went looking for a bike for me to ride. We found a place that rented mountain bikes ($20 for the day!!) I don't think that there was actually a new bike in the place - all used. It was interesting.... We debated for a little while about getting a patch kit and a pump, but hey who every gets a flat?

Next we drove north on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway for all you non-hipsters out there) past Malibu, to a little state park. We unloaded the bikes and started off down the trail. Joe had only been to this particular place once, so, of course, we got lost. No big thing. We biked about 7 miles in before I got a flat.

Turn around, start walking.

We come to a fork in the trail, and being smart and all, we decided to take the route that we had not gone down before, thinking that it would be a short cut. We also thought that there may be more people. We did run into someone after about 1/2-1 mile. He had a patch kit and all, so I changed my tire. Here is a nice picture of me in action with the nice fellow who helped out.

At that point, the guy (who Joe called "Frenchie" - you will never guess why) informed us that we were going in the wrong direction. We were like "nu uh!" and he was like "you guys are morons". After the tire was changed and all, we got back on the bikes and went back the way that we came. At the branch Joe whipped out his iPhone and realized that without cell service, the GPS doesn't provide much info. So, being tricky (and a smarty pants), Joe holds his iPhone up to the sky. God beamed down the appropriate information, and we got the map. Frenchie was right. We are idiots.

On the way back from biking, we stopped in Malibu to go to Starbuck's and hit the bathroom. Interestingly, Joe knew exactly where there was a public toilet. Of course, with kids, you know where every bathroom is within 20 miles of your house (in LA, this is expanded to 100 miles, I guess?) After that, we headed back home, had dinner and headed to the airport to catch the red eye.

I actually slept a little bit on the plane, which is pretty good for me. I think that this is two flights in a row (both red eyes!) that I slept on. The airport is always fun at 5 AM - all the stores are closed, there are people sleeping on benches, and it is typically quite empty. Anyways, I grogged out to my car. When I went to the airport on Wednesday, the lot was quite full, so I had to park someplace different than normal. So, of course I walked out to my normal spot, looked around, and realized what a moron I am, turned around, and walked back to where my car was. Did I mention that it is much more cold in Michigan than in California?

I then head off to Monroe High School, where Crab-Girl had a Lego Robotics competition. Her school entered the competition with no real experience with the Lego robots or the competition or anything related to it. So, with a month or so to go before the dealy, they started working on a robot and accomplishing all of the things the robot was supposed to do. Crab-Girl is leaning over my shoulder while I write this, so I will defer my description until later. As a small taste of the event, envision, if you will, 150 middle school students trapped in a cafeteria with free access to Mt. Dew, Pizza, Candy and robots. Yeah, you get it. Here is a picture of Crab-Girl with her team mate at the competition, running the robot. She was the lead programmer. Hell yeah.

We stayed there until about 4 PM (after arriving at 6 AM, 2 hours before anyone else...) We gave her team mate in the picture a ride home, and who would guess that they both love fishing? There was much Bass-Talk in the back seat as we drove the hour home (she points out that they were also discussing Pikes). Once home, we collapsed. Well, at least I did. Who the h*ll knows what anyone else did.

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