hacker emblem
Search | Tags | Photos | Flights | Gas Mileage | Log in

Christmas 2010, Logan Edition

Started: 2010-12-24 08:26:17

Submitted: 2010-12-26 10:42:22

Visibility: World-readable

After putting Kiesa and Calvin on a plane to Walla Walla, I worked for three days before joining them for Christmas with my original nuclear family. I'm not used to having to fend for myself for meals (at least without getting takeout) but I managed to survive with frozen pasta and a dish Kiesa calls "Easy Asian" (which I can link to even though I'm in an airplane thanks to my browser history), which is pretty much just as advertised.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

My flight to Pasco wasn't scheduled to leave Denver until the middle of the afternoon, so I spent the morning poking at my bike wondering if I was going to be able to put it all back together after deciding to upgrade its straight handlebars to road-bike-standard drop handlebars. I ordered handlebars, road bike brake/shift levers (apparently known informally as "brifters"), and new brakes in early December and didn't get them until the night before I was scheduled to leave. The brake/shift levers were easy enough to install, but I ran into trouble with the brakes themselves because I had forgotten to consider the brakes' reach: my frame was designed as an entry-level frame and gave more tire clearance, requiring longer brakes than the ones I'd ordered online. (I also lacked the appropriate brake cables: my new brake/shift levers came with shift cables and housing, which was low-end Shimano gear identical to my existing cables and housing, but the V brakes installed on my bike used a different cable, lower-speced than my new brakes.

I headed for the airport at noon, checked my suitcase because I was feeling lazy, navigated the security-theater screening without incident, and grabbed lunch at Einstein Bagels before heading back to Concourse B. I waited for Willy's flight from Chicago to arrive; my itinerary was specifically planned to get me on the same flight as him from Denver to Pasco. (I only needed a modest drive to the airport and one flight to get to Pasco; Willy had to take a van to Atlanta, stay the night at an airport hotel, and then fly from Atlanta to Chicago to Denver to Pasco.) Willy was one of the last people off the plane, and neither of us could remember the last time we actually met someone at their gate immediately after disembarking rather than meeting them after they exited security.

Willy looked at the handful of vintage airplanes displayed around the concourse and started spewing buzzwords he learned in graduate school, including the "progress ideology" that led to replacing cloth-covered wooden planes with all-metal planes in the first part of the last century, despite the lack of compelling evidence that metal planes were actually better than composite planes. I made a note to use this phrase to describe some of the progress-for-progress'-sake things I do in my day job. (I also learned the phrase "counter-factual history", which also proved useful.)

Willy and I were on the same plane from Denver to Pasco but we didn't manage to sit next to each other. We flew north out of Denver over Laramie, then turned west to follow I-80 over most of Wyoming. On our way into Pasco, I spotted Walla Walla Regional Airport and the state penitentiary but the position of the plane prevented me from seeing College Place or my parents' house.

Kiesa and Calvin were waiting for us in the terminal along with my parents. Calvin was happy to see me and spent much of the weekend clinging to me. We drove to Walla Walla and exited the newly-built Expressway to Nowhere on the highway from Pasco to Walla Walla. We settled into my parents' house for our early Christmas celebration. The first thing we needed to do was back-fill the fall birthdays I missed: I gave my father a plush Android (since he runs an Android phone with my code running on the modem) and Willy got a guidebook listing the fifty states' highest summits (only some of which would be recognized as such by Colorado standards), one of which we climbed this summer.

Friday, 17 December 2010

My mother decided she wanted to reschedule Christmas for early Friday afternoon to give Calvin as much time as possible to play with the toys she was getting him. This meant I needed to wrap the collection of Christmas presents I had ordered online and drop-shipped to my parents' house. With my wrapping complete at the last minute, we sat down in front of the tree for Christmas. Calvin got the most stuff: books, toys, a stuffed Auburn Tiger (from Willy), and a plush Elmo (from my mother); as he tore away the wrapping paper he caught a glimpse of his favorite Muppet and exclaimed, "Elmo!" in his distinctive Calvin accent. He did better with the unwrapping than last year. We usually needed to get the unwrapping started but he was able to rip open the paper from there. I made Calvin a Cafe Press t-shirt with a QR code referencing his website on it, but I had to explain it to everyone present. (It didn't help that my QR reader on my cell phone started behaving badly; it would run fine once but refused to open the camera on subsequent runs.) We gave my mother a digital picture frame loaded with pictures of Calvin, though we haven't yet figured out a good way to refresh it with new pictures.

Calvin was not especially interested in taking his afternoon nap, but he was getting cranky, so Kiesa and I took him on a walk around College Place, looping around campus on the sites we saw on a daily basis a decade ago. Calvin fell asleep almost immediately in the late-afternoon fog and continued sleeping after we returned home. Now that I've been away from Walla Walla for nearly nine years it's ceased to be a deeply emotional place but a vague place from my past that I have to dig to find the memories of. It's not so much the place but the people, one of whom I see daily, some of which I see once or twice a year, and some of whom I haven't seen since I graduated.

(At some point during the weekend, Willy mentioned he was thinking about saving his graduate student stipend and going back to visit India and I was briefly possessed with the urge to go with him. I had to lie down before the feeling passed.)

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The rest of my family went to church, leaving me to poke around the house playing with my barcode-reading phone software and entering books in our library database. After church, Swinyar, Heather, and known geekling Veronica came over for our afternoon main meal, arriving just as I managed to get Calvin down for his afternoon nap. (This may have been the only time this week that Calvin actually napped in his crib rather than requiring a walk or a ride to go to sleep.) Calvin got up after dinner and he and Veronica (and their parents) played with the Waffle Blocks, argued over artistic vision, and eventually chased each other around the living room, with the adults playing zone defense to keep the toddlers from straying too far from the safe path.

In the evening, Dad wanted to pick something up from his office, so Willy and I tagged along. My father had hung his painting of the seasons at Walla Walla College viewed from Kretchmar Hall in his office, less than a hundred meters (and forty years) from the view that inspired the photo. Two of the buildings in the photo are no longer standing, but two remain. I compared the view from the window with the view in the painting, then perused the economics textbooks on my father's shelf, before examining the gingerbread model of Kretchmar Hall.

Back at home, Willy showed off a new slide show of pictures of his adventures in India. I got the pictures he took from our visit to Darjeeling, which showed the things I remember from a different perspective. I resolved to combine my pictures with his pictures for one comprehensive slide show of the whole adventure.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

We ended up with more stuff than we could easily carry back home with us, forcing me to consider various options for packing before eventually settling on shipping a box to myself, which turned out to be cheaper (and easier) than checking an extra piece of luggage on my plane flight. I packed the gifts we got that we didn't need to see until we returned home into a box and we dropped by the UPS Store in Kennewick on our way to the airport.

My parents dropped us off at the curb in front of Pasco's airport. Kiesa checked luggage for her and Calvin's flight to Seattle, where her mother would pick her up and she'd spend the next week in Longview. We went through security together; two adults with one toddler made it much easier to juggle Calvin and our carry-on luggage.

I put Calvin up on my shoulders to watch the arriving CRJ-700 that would take me back to Denver. He was fascinated by the plane and the equipment deployed around it to remove the inbound passengers and their luggage and replace them with the outgoing passengers and their luggage. We watched a morbidly obese woman shuffle off the plane and down the portable ramp onto the tarmac where a wheelchair was waiting to take her to the terminal. She wedged herself into the wheelchair and an attendant began wheeling her toward the door. All was well until the wheelchair struck a bump in the tarmac, throwing the woman forward out of the wheelchair onto her hands and knees on the concrete. She stayed on the tarmac for ten minutes, though I couldn't tell if she was actually injured, emotionally injured, or just feeling litigious, as a parade of attendants swarmed around her trying to figure out what to do. At one point one of them pulled around a luggage cart and it looked as if they were going to try to lift her onto the cart, as it was apparently the only vehicle available that would hold her bulk. A pair of paramedic-looking men in blue uniforms arrived and looked her over. It finally took three or four people to lift her up into the original wheelchair, and the whole entourage escorted her off into another door into the terminal.

By the time the spectacle wrapped up, my flight started boarding. I gave Calvin back to Kiesa and boarded the flight, walking across the tarmac in the chilly gray afternoon to the regional jet waiting to take me back to Denver. I found my aisle seat near the back of the plane and waited for takeoff. As the flight attendants were preparing the cabin for departure, they called my name on the intercom and asked me to identify myself. I wasn't quite sure what I was getting myself into but I obediently raised my hand, then pushed my call button. A guy wearing a high-visibility ground-crew jersey came down the aisle and handed me a boarding pass with my name and the seat 2D printed on it -- I had been randomly upgraded to the plane's tiny six-seat first-class cabin. I grabbed my backpack and my coat and headed up to claim my new seat, with the paranoid back of my mind warning me that this was just like The Island and I had better be careful, lest they pull me away for enhanced security or involuntary organ donation. No such trauma awaited me at the front of the plane; I claimed my window seat and a flight attendant hung up my jacket on the tiny coat rack.

After taking off from Pasco, my window seat afforded me an excellent view of Walla Walla and College Place, laid out in black and white under the gray sky. I identified my parents' house, Walla Walla University, and various landmarks around Walla Walla before we started to climb through the clouds.

The larger seat, better leg room, and built-in armrest cup holder were all nice, but the best part about first class was the substantial snack box: The time Calvin and I spent watching the spectacle on the tarmac precluded me from being able to avail myself of the meager concessions at Pasco. As I snacked, I wondered what sequence of events had led to my being randomly upgraded and concluded that United's yield-management software had identified me as the most likely to buy upgrades, if only I knew what I was missing at the front of the plane.

We landed in Denver without incident and waited on the tarmac for ten minutes for the previous flight to clear our gate at the regional jet concourse on the east end of concourse B. I ate supper in the airport, then headed home. The cats were glad to see me as I settled in for my final four days of work this year before returning to the Pacific Northwest for Christmas with the Stone family.