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Megafest 6.0.5

Started: 2007-12-06 20:02:49

Submitted: 2007-12-06 21:30:50

Visibility: World-readable

In early October, once I figured out where I was likely to be living this fall, I looked at my calendar and tried to figure out when the next Megafest should be. Various possibilities presented themselves, including various combinations of pre-Thanksgiving Megafests. (In early October, a proposal was on the table for Kiesa's family to visit us for Thanksgiving instead of our flying to Portland, though it didn't happen.) Low-key discussion ensued; the principals finally met on IRC to hash out the details. Yanthor was planning on taking long-overdue vacation time around Thanksgiving, and invited anyone else who wanted to come by to do so. I looked at my calendar and frequent flyer miles and discovered that I could redeem 15,000 miles for a United flight to Omaha at the very beginning of the Thanksgiving travel season. (Had I booked in advance, I might have been able to get flights out of Lincoln, but Yanthor's changing management meeting plans and my laziness in scheduling conspired against me. Besides, I hadn't previously flown through Omaha. Only once have I flown out of Lincoln, for Thanksgiving 1998.)

I drove to DIA early on Saturday afternoon, 17 November. Since it was the first weekend of the famous Thanksgiving Travel Season, I expected chaos. My luck was a bit better; I parked in the closer Pikes Peak shuttle lot rather than the out-in-Kansas Mount Elbert lot. I forgot to take my WMD (weapon of minor destruction) out of my pocket before going through security. The screener gave me the option of going back and keeping the Swiss Army Knife or giving it up and going through. I didn't think I had enough time to drop it in Motoko, so I let it go, knowing I would second-guess my decision all the way to Omaha and back.

Once through security, I took the train all the way to Concourse C to grab lunch at Einstein Bros Bagels, then took the train back to Concourse B and hiked all the way to the east end of the concourse for my regional flight. I didn't get to fly out of the shiny new regional concourse (part of the bargain United got when they moved Ted flights to Concourse B); my flight departed from gate B71, a door in a long hallway on the tarmac, with doors on the left side every thirty meters resembling portals to distant locations, or the alien starship in Chindi. I flew on an Embraer ERJ-145, a stretched regional jet version of my favorite turboprop. The flight was uneventful; I read The Economist and spotted what looked like a buried natural gas pipeline cutting west-north-west south of I-80 near North Platte.

On the ground in Omaha, I surveyed the tiny airport (at least, in comparison to Denver), grabbed my bag, and made it to the curb by the time my flight was scheduled to land at 1659 CST. (There is something to be said for small airports.) I called Yanthor, who was inside the terminal heading in my direction. We drove back to Lincoln (missing the appropriate exit along the way) and headed for Megafest fortifications. Willy called from DIA's shiny new regional jet facility, which I had narrowly avoided mere hours before; his flight from Pasco turned back yesterday due to deicing issues and he didn't get out until today.

Humblik arrived at The Republic of Haven (otherwise known as Yanthor and Anya's residence) as Yanthor and I arrived. Anya arrived moments later with Taco Inn takeout. We headed downstairs with supper to watch an episode of Pushing Daisies, an amusing show new this season, and two episodes of Angel clone Moonlight. (I'm not sure I'm buying Jason Dohring as a vampire hundreds of years old.) Around midnight, I talked Yanthor and Humblik into playing Empire Builder, which I acquired earlier in the week (on a frigid trek to It's Your Move on Pearl Street). As their first game, it took several hours; I finally decided to go to bed sometime around 0300.

On Sunday morning, I amused myself by playing with my trail-mapping code (mostly merging recent modifications into CVS) and discovered I need to rethink my algorithm for deciding how tracks map to junctions. Linknoid came over at some point during the day and joined us in another game of Empire Builder. We ran into trouble with the game bogging down early on and studied the rules for possible modifications to make things run better. As suggested in the rules, we ended up allowing players to borrow money from the bank at 100% interest, payable immediately from all revenue, which seemed to prevent players from running out of money early on (which proved to be a problem when, more than once, Festors whose names I won't mention confused the symbols for corn (available throughout the plains) and sugar (available only in San Francisco and providing higher payoffs to mid-west destinations)) and kept everyone in the game.

Linknoid departed, there was probably supper sometime in the evening, and we recruited Anya for a back-to-back pair of epic Seafarers of Catan games starting at midnight. The second game was an exploration scenario; I almost managed to cut Yanthor off from exploring the vast untapped (and unexplored) ocean but Yanthor was too fast; he ended up looping around and colonizing two prime ocean-front spots I wanted and (despite my best efforts) eventually went on to win the game. Yanthor put on the NASA channel in the background, which kept looping five-minute programs including a "moon buggy race" with two-man teams peddling four-wheeled vehicles at some sort of NASA picnic. (This program was notable mostly because Yanthor had seen it before and related it to me on the drive from Eppley Airfield on Saturday evening. We took time off from the game to watch.)

On Monday, Humblik called in sick (as in, had he drug himself into work it wouldn't have been pretty, since he stayed up until roughly 0400). (Yanthor would have had an even worse time being productive; he stayed up much later playing an addictive Flash game and ended up with only a few hours of sleep. I was below my normal eight-hour functional minimum but remained fairly coherent through the day.) We recruited Anya to join Yanthor, Humblik, and I for one last game of Empire Builder, optimizing the game further by eliminating the event cards. That seemed to work well at speeding the game up and eliminating a bit more uncertainty and didn't hurt my shot at winning.

I packed between turns during the game; by the time we finished, there wasn't much time left before I needed to leave. I checked my flight status and discovered that my flight was at least an hour late, though I didn't think there was much value in not going to the airport. (If I were going to sit and wait for my flight anyway, it seemed to make sense to do it at the airport.) Humblik folded himself into Yanthor's Lexus' back seat for the drive to Eppley Airfield. (I'm still impressed that Omaha calls its airport an "Airfield", when every town with a few thousand people and an airstrip calls it an "International Airport".) Rush-hour traffic was less than we feared, and I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I used my shiny new United Premier status to go through the short check-in line (rather than use the touch-screen terminals with the long line that the mere mortal non-elite economy passengers had to use), which did seem to provide better service than I was used to. I went through security and entered the ten-gate north concourse at 1800 CST, with an hour remaining before my flight was originally scheduled to depart.

I ate a muffin from the uninspiring coffee concession in the center of the uninspiring on-concourse dining options. I tried (and failed) to connect to the wireless, watched a computer security video, and paced the concourse while talking to Kiesa. My plane eventually arrived and I boarded, an hour and a half late. The 737 was two-thirds empty, which seemed unusual for week-of-Thanksgiving travel (though the delayed departure may have hurt matters). I returned to Denver and drove home without further incident, albeit late.

When ignorance is bliss
Won't you save me from myself?
- Jars of Clay, "Fade to Grey"