wet luggage, 5 guys, the very hungry caterpillar and a virgin mary

28 07 2008

Rain happens. Planes don’t fly in thunderstorms. Weather-related airline schedule delays are inevitable, and I understand that a delay or cancellation of a flight in one city directly affects flights in other cities.

Yesterday, my work sent me off to Austin, Texas. I was booked on a United Airlines flight from Dulles (outside Washington, DC) to Austin. The flight was supposed to depart at 12:40 pm. I arrived at the airport at 10:40 am – two full hours before scheduled departure. At the self check-in kiosk, the video screen informed me that the flight was delayed & would be leaving at 2:00 pm. OK – not ideal, but not catastrophic either.

United Airlines leaves my bag in the rain

United Airlines leaves my bag in the rain

The delay allowed me to grab a hearty lunch – there’s a 5 Guys in the terminal. 5 Guys simply makes the best hamburgers – anywhere. In the early afternoon, a rain storm came into the area. Much of the east coast was bracing for thunderstorms. Flights were being canceled and delayed continually. The baggage crew had begun removing our luggage from the baggage cart. Once the rain began, the crew left our bags sitting on the tarmac, unprotected as the rain fell heavily. They sat for hours, as the rainstorm passed over.

The two United Airlines employees assigned to our gate area made only a few announcements as the hours passed. Neither employee spoke English well, and certainly not clearly. English clearly was not their first language. My flight departure time was continually pushed backward – hour by hour. The large cluster of plasma screens with flight departure routinely deleted flight, or marked flight as CANCELED – only to have them switch back to a delayed status later.

Finally, the thick-accented gate attendant announced that flight 7070 to Austin had been canceled. A group of us ran to the United customer service counter to see if they would/could get us on another flight. The line had several hundred people in it. After a wait for more than an hour, the customer service agent told us that the flight had been reinstated, and we were to wait at the same gate. It was perhaps 7pm or so now. The flight was still being bumped back, frequently disappearing completely from the video display for 10 minutes at a time.

Announcements ceased as the hours passed, and confusion & anger grew as the gate attendants spewed out excuses & lies regarding many flights. The customer service desk told us that they had made three announcements to alert passengers that our canceled flight had been resurrected. We never left the gate area, and all our ears were tuned to anything that came over the PA system. No such announcements were ever made.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

During the afternoon hours, I met a grandmother and her two granddaughters. They were travelling from Chicago to Norfolk, VA. Their stop in Dulles was supposed to be brief. It turned out to be almost 10 hours. The girls (4 & 5) really became restless as the hours passed – this was their first flying experience. In my iPod was a video of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. With no way to have them both hear the narration, I recited the story from memory – it wasn’t very long ago that Peter wanted to hear this story every night, and it was still committed to memory. The girls were happy, their grandmother was grateful, and I was able to forget that I had been waiting to fly out of Dulles for over 10 hours at that point.

A pilot, first officer & crew was finally corralled well after 9 pm, and our flight actually took off for Austin. While in flight, the attendant announced that the 1st alcoholic drink would be offered for free, and I suspect everyone accepted the gesture. I requested a bloody mary. A cup of ice & a can of bloody mary mix was set on my tray, and the flight attendant left… and never came back with the assumed tiny vodka bottle. I had no fight left in me – I drank the mix and chalked it up as consistent with how United Airlines treated me & my fellow travelers.

I arrived at my Austin hotel at 1:30 am (2:30 am east coast time). After 4 hours of sleep, I was off to teach an Adobe Acrobat class. Ouch.

Weather happens – flight schedules are disrupted throughout the system. United Airlines’ staff, their inability to pass along accurate information, frequent passing of wrong information, the treatment of my luggage, lack of English language skills, lying and inept video displays have convinced me to never, ever fly on United Airlines again.

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rehearsing together

26 07 2008
David & Emma wait for their rehearsal

David & Emma wait for their rehearsal

It was a first for us.  I perform frequently, and have done so professionally for over 35 years.  Nearly all performances require rehearsing.  This past weekend, Kathy’s niece Allsion got married – and I was asked to perform at the ceremony.

Emma rehearses
Emma rehearses

OK, so there’s nothing unusual so far, but the unique thing about the rehearsal for the wedding music was that Emma was with me.  In addition to my musical support to the wedding ceremony, Emma was asked to come to the pulpit & read a passage.  Emma was poised, polished and read her words with clarity & meaning.

BRAVO, EMMA!





nationals park – baseball’s newest gem

13 07 2008
Dave & Laurent enjoy our national pastime

Dave & Laurent enjoy the national pastime

Last August, my old college roommate Laurent Levy came down to DC for my birthday. He brought me to a Washington Nationals baseball game. It was played at their original home stadium, RFK Stadium. Its an old facility built in 1961 for the Washington Redskins & the Washington Senators. The Senators have long ago (twice!) abandoned DC (now the Minnesota Twins and the Texas Rangers), and the Redskins play at FedEx field in the Maryland suburbs.

Nationals Park, Washington, DC

Nationals Park, Washington, DC

We both had a terrific time at the game. His wife Karen phoned me last month to tell me that Laurent is still talking about that game, and that she wanted to surprise him for Father’s Day with more tickets to another baseball game in DC. That’s just what she did, and Laurent & I sat in great seats – right behind home plate – at the beautiful, new Nationals Park.

Houston Astros vs. the Washington Nationals – a classic battle of last place teams. It simply didn’t matter. It was an outing to celebrate the game of baseball in a beautiful new ballpark!

Always a highlight at Nationals home games; THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE!

Thanks, Karen & Laurent – another memorable day thanks to you both. I am grateful!





PID my HX – WTF?

11 07 2008

For many years, espresso machines operated on the same electro/mechanical principals. The boiler temperature is controlled by a mechanical pressurestat. When the pressure rises too high, electrical current is shut off to the heating element. When the pressure falls far enough, electrical contact is mechanically reestablished. This is old-school thinking. It works about as well as it did 50 years ago; Lots of temperature fluctuation.

21st century electronic devices are ideally temperature controlled by computer. A PID Controller (proportional–integral–derivative controller) takes temperature readings constantly & commands exacting adjustments in order to maintain precise and constant temperature control.

Bunn ES-1A with PID Controller

Bunn ES-1A with PID Controller

My Bunn ES-1A Espresso machine is a small professional model. It is a heat exchanger machine which was built in 1993. This past week, I converted it from “old school” to “new school” by disengaging the analog pressurestat and adding a PID controller in its place. By virtue of rock-solid temperature control, my espresso making should become more consistent, and hopefully better. Additionally, the pressurestat is a noisy device, clicking & clacking throughout the day as it makes & breaks electrical contact. The PID is virtually silent. A nice benefit for a home setting.





adobe acrobat 9 is here… and it’s cool!

5 07 2008
Adobe Acrobat 9

I travel around the country teaching business folks how to use Adobe Acrobat in ways they may have never thought possible. I have watched Acrobat technology grow and mature over the past dozen or so years, and have enthusiastically spread the word to thousands of people.

Adobe has recently released Acrobat 9. I have been a user & technical trainer on Acrobat since 1996, but this release has something new, and log awaited. Recently, Adobe bought Macromedia – the company that created 2 very important web media tools; Dreamweaver and Flash. Few professionally designed web sites are created without these 2 application’s help. Dreamweaver has now replaced Adobe’s GoLive as their flagship web site creation tool, and Flash – well, Flash is the technology behind nearly everything that moves and reacts to your input on the web anymore.

Adobe has taken the flexibility, interactivity & multimedia craftiness of Flash…

and built it right into Acrobat 9!

Perhaps the most noticeable way this is implemented is in the brand new PDF Portfolio. This is a new way to combine files for sharing with others. It will play movies, preview MS Word docs, play MP3 files, and arrive in your email inbox as a single file… but it is actually a PDF container of any type of file you desire. It will dazzle you!

Here is Adobe’s own description of What’s New in Acrobat 9 :

PDF creation, editing, and searching

Unify a wide range of content into a PDF Portfolio

Combine documents, drawings, email, and spreadsheets into a single, compressed PDF Portfolio. Use professionally designed templates that can be branded with your logo and include descriptions to guide recipients through the contents.

Convert paper documents to PDF

New optical character recognition (OCR) technology and support for a broader range of scanners improves searchability and appearance of the scanned documents.

Convert web pages to PDF

Improved web capture allows you to convert complete web pages or just the portions you want, including or excluding rich and interactive media. PDF versions of web pages are easy to print, archive, mark up, and share.

Compare PDF documents

Acrobat automatically highlights the differences between two versions of a PDF document, including text and images, so you can quickly and easily identify what has changed. See

Search across multiple PDFs

Enhanced functionality enables you to search multiple PDF files in the same folder to help you quickly find the information you need.

Collaboration

Use Acrobat.com for shared reviews

Participants download the file from Acrobat.com, and add comments or data using Acrobat or Adobe Reader. When finished, participants publish comments or submit responses to Acrobat.com. When using Acrobat.com for shared reviews, you can also allow reviewers to open and share the PDF in a live chat session.

Collaborating in online meetings

Use Adobe ConnectNow, a personal web-conference tool, to conduct real-time meetings on your desktop. Attendees join the meeting by logging into a web-based meeting space from their own computers. In a ConnectNow online meeting, you can share your desktop, use live chat, share online whiteboards, and use many other collaboration features.

Use Acrobat.com to upload and share large documents

From Acrobat or Reader, you can create your own user account on Acrobat.com. Use Acrobat.com to upload and share most document types, and to share PDFs or your desktop in online meetings.

Synchronize document views

Ensure colleagues, clients, and partners are on the same page at the same time with the ability to co-navigate documents. Use Collaborate Live to provide clarity, enhance discussion, and walk recipients through a document in real time.

Forms

Easily create and edit electronic forms

(Windows) Use the new Forms Wizard to convert Microsoft® Word and Excel documents or scanned paper into PDF forms. Form fields are automatically recognized and converted to fillable fields. Quickly add, edit, and name form fields. Use the Tracker to see when forms have been completed and who has completed them.

Collect and export form data

Easily collect user data and export the data to a spreadsheet for analysis and reporting.

Track forms

Use the Tracker to see when forms have been completed and who has completed them.

Use QuickBooks data in forms

(Windows English only) Import and export Intuit QuickBooks data using custom templates.

Multimedia and 3D models

Include Flash content in PDFs

Add Flash® videos and animations to your PDF documents. Native support for Flash enables reliable cross-platform playback. No additional media player is necessary.

Add comments to videos

Add comments to a video as you are watching it. Each comment is attached to a specific frame, so that when you view the comments, they appear in the context in which they were made. You can also enable Acrobat Standard and Adobe Reader users to add comments to videos.

Create interactive presentations

Use Adobe Presenter to liven up your slides with video, voice-over, demos, and interactive quizzes, then convert to PDF for easy sharing.

Expanded 3D features

Use the new Adobe 3D Reviewer to combine multiple CAD formats into one assembly, compare a revised design to an earlier version, measure and section on precise geometry, and create exploded views, animations, and balloons. Export your work to 2D vector or raster files, or save as PDF.

View and interact with PDF maps

Import, measure, and mark up geospatially enabled PDF maps. Discover the longitude and latitude by placing your cursor over a location. Measure PDF maps in kilometers or miles. Navigate 3D PDF map content in 3D with the Fly tool for better relational map viewing. Georegister PDF maps.

Legal

Search and redact

Search and redact a list of words or phrases or a specific text pattern (for example, phone numbers, credit card numbers, email addresses, or dates).

Bates numbering for PDF Portfolios

When designating documents for Bates numbering, you can add PDFs, PDF Portfolios, and any non-PDF files that can be converted to PDF. The process converts non-PDF file types to PDF, and then adds Bates numbers to the resulting PDF. If you add Bates numbering to a PDF Portfolio, any non-PDF files in the PDF Portfolio are replaced with the converted and numbered PDFs.

Creative professional

Output preview enhancements

Use the Object Inspector to quickly inspect content in a document. The information displayed is for all content that is directly underneath where the cursor is clicked.

Preflight enhancements

Validate PDF/E compliance and save documents as PDF/E. Run checks and fixups on selected objects. View improved reports.

Color conversion enhancements

Set the transparency blending space. Remap spot colors using the Pantone library. Easily convert colors using the new design.