Sunday, December 24, 2006

Inner Chicken (Funny Bird)

Ok, so this is totally random.

I was messing around on that Thank a Chicken website ( )
and I found a quiz to help you find your "Inner Chicken", or what breed of chicken is most like you.

I am an Orpington.

What are you? Take the quiz at:

Quitting Civil 3D Cold Turkey (Eagle)

I am doing my best to forget about Civil 3D for a week. I think it has been 34 hours since I last had it open, which may just be a new record for me. Since James took my keyboard, I am working on Panorama's Hello Kitty Laptop. But that is OK, since I like Hello Kitty very much.

Yesterday on my way to Target to buy some bookshelves to tame our collection of software reference texts and weebles, I saw a Bald Eagle. Actually, I almost hit a Bald Eagle.

At first, I thought it was a seagull because it was swooping down across the road to try to grab a drop-off chicken.

Some explaination is required.

I live in Delaware, which according to is the 7th biggest broiler producing state in the USA. Delaware produced 282,300,000 broiler chickens in 2005. Considering the population of humans in Delaware is approximately 800,000.... You get the idea.

A drop off chicken is a chicken that for whatever reason fell of the truck. Sometimes these chickens didn't make it into one of the truck cages and are just sitting loose on the side of the truck. When I see them at traffic lights, I yell out the window- RUN CHICKEN RUN! YOU CAN MAKE IT! DON'T JUST SIT THERE!

For more info on the Delmarva Chicken Industry, check out

This drop-off chicken wasn't very lucky- since it was now a road kill drop-off chicken. Hence the reason I thought the Bald Eagle was a seagull from a distance- I didn't think they ate things that were dead, but I was wrong

Thinking it was a seagull, I sped up and aimed to kill it. Luckily, I quickly realized my mistake or else I would be writing this on my Hello Kitty keyboard from jail.

Seeing a Bald Eagle isn't all that rare in Delmarva. One of the last land development engineering projects I worked on at my former firm had an eagle's nest right smack in the middle of it. If you go into any significant patch of woods and look up at a bird of prey, most usually it is a buzzard, but maybe 4 out of 10 times it is the shy eagle.

But for some reason, no matter how common they are, I always stop to look at a bald eagle and get that feeling of awe inside. I think it is kind of like James Wedding. He's my friend and team mate now, I talk to him all the time and see him whenever I can. But I always get that tingly feeling in my toes in his presence because he symbolizes the strength of this great nation. Wait.... maybe that is the Bald Eagle. Anywho....

I pulled over, watched him and attempted to take a picture of the bird with no luck. He was through trying to enjoy Delaware's favorite protein treat, so he flew off.

See the Bald Eagle in this Picture? Yeah, well, neither do I.

What does this have to do with Civil 3D, Civil Engineering or Hello Kitty? Absolutely nothing. I just had to prove I could talk about something else.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Never Grow Up

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Anyone Get the Tag Number of that BUS that hit me? Oh yeah--- AU2006

It has taken me a week to recover, and I doubt I will ever be fully unpacked. AU 2006 hit me like a cheese wagon on a runaway truck ramp.

I had an AMAZING time. It was awesome. The hotel was lovely. The people were great. Here is what happened day by day...


I wake up with my sore throat, froggy voice and bronchitis on the mend. I am prepared for a week of fun and excitement.

Jason and Nick arrived on Sunday. I receive frantic text messages alerting me that a modest (sic) Grey Goose and Soda costs $114.95, and the cheapest beer is $75. Neither price includes tax or tip. So on my way to the airport I stop at Uncle Stew's House of Discount Bait -n- Package and pick up one of everything that isn't crawling.

I arrive at the airport and roll my bags into the corner so that I can figure out how to fit six bottles of liquor into my suitcases, which are already at capacity. Manage to wrap the cargo in socks and sweaters and then I slosh my way up to check the luggage.

My big suitcase weighs in at 49.8lbs. No lie. The attendant, who watched me pack the bottles in, winks and says "Now THAT'S good packing"

Thinking that Nevada was on Mountain Time as opposed to West Coast time, I time my Pocket PC battery to keep me actively playing Bubble Breaker until the plane lands. Much to my surprise, I was forced to read SkyMall for an hour. Where do they come up with the ideas for those gadgets? A stairway so that your aging dog can climb into bed with you? GENIUS.

I squeak out enough phone battery to call Jason once I arrive at the hotel and talk him into helping me schlep my bags to a safe place.

I join the gang at a hotel lounge and finally get to meet John Postlewait in PERSON.

New rule- at AU you must also wear a nametag with your Discussion Group Login AND the name of your blog (if any).

After a few hours of meeting, greeting and drawing parking lots on coasters, my froggy voice and brochitis are back in full force.

AU TIP No. 1:
If you live in an indoor smoke-free state, practice not inhaling.

Typical Delaware Air Particle

Typical Las Vegas Air Particle
with a whole lotta


Beth and I continue our AU ritual of getting to breakfast right as it opens. In Florida, this meant we had the place to ourselves. In Las Vegas, this meant everyone from the East Coast had been waiting in line for two hours already. The food was very good, and as usual, I was impressed with traffic flow at these big events.

The rest of the day is unclear to me... I think I helped set up the EE booth, and then I know I assisted James in his Styles Lab. After class, my main mission- to find Mark, Marc and me some GUM. We are about to shake the hands of everyone who stops by the EE booth on opening night, and we have breath that could kill a horse.

I haul myself all the way to the little shop by the gondola ride (which is by the way a bargain at $60 for a ride in a cement pond).

$60 ride on a Cement Pond. Or is it a Concrete River?

The gal at the counter informed me- they do not sell gum. So I bought $20 worth of Certs.

The night on the trade show floor is great. I didn't get a chance to wander even for a minute. The EE booth was jumping with friends- old and new. We gave out about 1000 little jars of playdoh and I got to meet so many readers and reunite with so many old CAD pals.

My froggy voice... creek.... creek.....

I go upstairs and realize I had taken the last of my cold medicine. I figure I will be OK. I take a long bath to soak my aching feet (great bathtubs at the Venetian), set my hair, do some prep work for the next day. I fall asleep. At 1AM I wake up HACKING cough. So bad I couldn't rest and I thought for sure the folks next door were being disturbed. So I get up, unset my hair, and go downstairs to either find a cab that can take me to Walgreens or a store in the hotel. I luck out. There is an apothocary right under the escalator. I manage to fall asleep for a few hours.

AU TIP No. 2:
The Venetian does not sell gum. They sell Mentos, cough drops, candy, Certs, and hard liquor. But they do not sell gum. I guess people were spitting on the marble floors or something. If you want gum next year- bring it yourself. They do however sell Robitussin. At the low price of $99.99.


Beth and I meet again for breakfast. The crowd is a little thinner this morning. Not so many early birds. Hmm....

I spend most of the day prepping for my Stormwater Management Class and trying to make the AU Speaker shirt into something that didn't exactly look like a trash bag. I assist Lucy Kuhns with her Civil 3D Basics lab and got to spend some time with folks new to Civil 3D, which is always a thrill. I attend a few classes, including Nick's Partbuilder Class where I get to meet an allstar audience of the biggest gearheads from the Discussion Group and Blogging world.

You know when you are a little girl and you dream that someday, just someday, you too will have your very own parametric flared end section? Well, thanks to Nick, I now have one.

Last class of the day- I give my Stormwater Management Lecture. What a thrill to see so many people in the room. Wow! 200 people.... oh my God.... 200 people! Looking at me...... Do they think I know what I am talking about? What am I doing here? Can I escape? Nah. It goes well. I have some fun. I think people learned some stuff and got some ideas for how they can take advantage of some of the Map Polygon tools and AutoCAD table things available in Civil 3D for overlays and composite CNs. Plus some ideas for pipes. I am pretty pleased with the way things went.

I can't thank Beth , Jason , Nick, Scott and everyone else who came out to support me.

AU TIP No. 3:
When you teach your first AU class, bring a small but dedicated cheering section. And believe them when they tell you that you did a good job.

Afterwards, I go down to the EE booth. I am totally drained. Beth and I hear there is some kind of reception. I envision: cocktail weenies. We head up. I am still wearing my cinch sack AU speaker shirt and carrying the M65 which right now feels like a bag of hammers around my neck.

We get up to Tao. Apparently, there are no cocktail weenies. This is a happening night spot.

Beth, who is sometimes mistaken for a high schooler, gets in no problem. I follow behind her, with my slightly older DE drivers license. While hers was examined, mine was scrutinized. He flexs it. He puts it under the blacklight. He stares at it. He stares at me. He asks me about my address and age and birthday. Finally, he decides I am safely over 21 and lets me in.

Hmmm.... I have another class to teach tomorrow. I am so tired. My froggy voice is creak... creak.... croak... I look around the club and think- this would be so much fun without this bag of hammers around my neck and these nails being driven into my feet.

So with mornful backwards glances about how much fun we probably would have had if we weren't party poopers, Beth and I head back to our rooms where I take a long bath to soak my aching feet (great bathtubs at the Venetian), set my hair, do some prep work for the next day.


Beth and I meet at 6:30AM. The only people at breakfast today look suspiciously as if they are dressed in the same clothes they were wearing at Tao last night. And they look like they had a good time. Dang it.

We attend the mainstage presentation for ISD. Wow. GBA had some great project work up on the stage, as did many other firms. Got a small sneak peak at some new tools coming in 2008. Got to see Anthony G do a live demo. He gets a special gleam in his eyes when he does the live demos.

I spend the balance of the morning fretting and chewing through what is left of my nails. My River class is next and though the subject is something that I have done many times, it is not something that I speak of very often. I was so keyed up over my SWM class that the River class seemed like it would never come. And here it was in 2 hours, in 1 hour, in 20 minutes, NOW!

Before class, some clients from back East come up to say Hi! Wow. So glad they could make it. I see my cheering section in the room and I relax a little. I manage to build a few surfaces, my simple channel and a complex stream. Hopefully everyone got the idea that Corridors aren't just for Roads Anymore. For more ideas, screen captures and a sample drawing, head here.

With a great weight lifted off my shoulders, I head to James's Vault lab where Jason, Nick and I were assistants.

That night, Mr. Probert arrived. We hung out at the social dinner and Blue Man Group event with Beth and Mr. Uczynski. Our favorite part was losing Mr. Probert in a crowd of 7000 people at dinner. Our second favorite part was the comedian. Anthony G. also slipped me a Civil 3D Power Track tshirt at dinner. He always knows what I want. I'd been coveting those tshirts all conference.

I get back to my room and I remark that EVERY SINGLE bottle I had brought with me was still lined up on my counter with the seals intact. Dang it. Where did the week go?

I call up a few of the guys and get takers for the bottles. So I go on a little room service delivery mission. I gather up about six bottles of spirits in my arms and head for the elevator. The elevator is full. I get on. Snickers abound. Someone says- "You going to a party?" I respond "This Las Vegas air is sooo dry. I get really thirsty"

I fall into bed and sleep like a log.

AU TIP No. 4:
If you are coming to party outside of the AU umbrella, plan on coming BEFORE the conference instead of staying AFTER the conference. By Thursday night when Mr. Probert arrived, I just wanted to lay on the couch and mutter to myself I was so tired.


Beth and I meet for breakfast at 6:45AM. There is nobody there but the staff.

I attend Dan and Anthony's double header Project Management and Keep the Model classes. Lots of good information and lots of people to catch up with. There is a sense of eagerness to go home mixed with sadness that the party is all over.

Mr. Probert is on his "Wife's Tour". Every ten minutes I get a text message from some Las Vegas landmark. "I'm at the White Tiger" "New York New York is Cool" "The Pirate Ship is Closed", etc.

After class, I head to the Mexican joint inside the Venetian with Anthony, Peter, Ian, Jason and one of Jason's clients. I finally am able to relax and enjoy a beverage- my favorite- a margarita with at least an inch of salt on the rim.

Lunch tastes amazing- maybe it was the company, or the salty tequila. I am not sure. I think it was that I had survived my first AU as a speaker (Taught 2 classes, Assisted 3 labs (ok 2.5 labs, thanks Jason)).

I wander around the Grand Canal shops. I get a Lemon Gelati. I feel happy.

It was a blur. But an amazing blur. I have never learned so much in such a short time. But the best part was getting a chance to meet everyone. I can't wait until next year.... Armed with an understanding of the Venetian Floorplan (next time- request HIGH room in the Venezia Tower and wear SNEAKERS), and having more human faces to put with all of those names from the DG and blogworld- I know it can only get better.


Doing the Vegas thing... Mr. Probert and I met up with Beth and Mr. Uczynski. We saw fountains and volcanoes, tigers and buffets. We went to FAO Schwartz and bought Panorama a stuffed Australian Shepherd ("Roman" for Caesar's Palace).
Me, Roman and Lemon Gelati

For some reason, the scene in "Showgirls" where Nomi and Cristal eat lunch at Spago near, as Nomi calls it, Vare-sayce, comes to my head. So we filed in for dinner at Spago where we were joined by Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf (well, they were at the next table). I take a picture of Versace, darlin'.
My bad photo of Vare-sayce

Saturday night we eat out, we party a bit and wrap things up with salty marg's at the mexican joint and one last lemon gelati.

Sunday, we run into the Fashion Show Mall. Here, I find the store that I have been looking for all my life. I buy many, many things


Hellooooooooooooo Kitty!!!

Heading home was bittersweet. I missed Pannie very much, and I had been gone almost a week. But it was sad that AU was really done.

It felt very much like planning a wedding (no, not James, but the kind where you get married).

You spend all year getting ready, making thing perfect. You think of the clothes you need, the stuff to bring. You make lists upon lists. You think of every detail. So much comes up at the last minute which you just muscle through.

Then, the day comes. You are busy from morning till night and you never get a chance to see those centerpieces you spent weeks picking out, or taste those canapes you agonized over.

You just wind up in autopilot and though the day is AMAZING and perfect you always wonder if you kissed all the right cheeks and danced with all the right guests.

And you never even open your super special order dyed-to-match purse to take out the $150 Bobbi Brown perfect pressed powder compact because you don't even want to take a second to be vain- you are having way too much fun living in the moment.

Thanks to everyone to helped make it great. See you next year!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Lost in transportation (and Drainage)

Last night, I flew home from Vegas. (AU Recap and photos forthcoming)

On the plane, I watched a movie that I have been carrying around in my bag for months. It's a movie that I have wanted to see for awhile, but I didn't really know anything about it. The movie was Lost in Translation.

I had a vague idea that it was set in Japan, and I was pretty sure Bill Murray was in it. I figured that since I like edamame, sushi and Hello Kitty that I would be interested in seeing the film.

The film delivered far more than expected. Set entirely in Japan (mostly Tokyo with a little Kyoto) it gave a fascinating picture of a culture so different from ours.

The story was one of crossing paths and timing. The two characters lock eyes across a smoky bar (cliche, perhaps) and they have one of those lightning bolts that you get when you first cross paths with someone of potential consequence.

They spend time together and it becomes clear that as much as they may subconsciously want to go further, any relationship beyond the platonic would cheapen the little time they have.

We are left with the unspoken notion that "If things were different, thing would be different".

And during this beautiful story of unrequited love, I was endlessly enthralled by the Japanese public rail system, roundabounds, bridges and highway signs.

We have all had those moments, though, those crossed path timing moments.

For me, one of those moments was about a year ago in downtown Newark, DE. Not quite as glamorous as Tokyo.

I don't remember if I was picking up the training laptops or dropping them off, but either way it was 2 hours up to Newark and 2 hours back down to my house after teaching all day on minimal sleep.

It was about 10PM when I was heading back home, so I go into town to get some coffee.

Downtown Newark is a college town with a quaint main street and the requisite Starbucks.

I go into Starbucks for two Venti Cafe Mochas and I notice that the barista is a tall, goodlooking fellow with a twinkle in his eye.

He takes interest in my mocha and asks sweetly "Are these both for you? Long night ahead?" and when I nod, he winks and puts one in a double cup with extra insulation so that it stays warm.

He asks me what I do for a living and why I am out so late and look so weary. He wasn't just looking for a tip, he genuinely cared, something that is so rare even at your most highly rated college town Starbucks. But more than that.... he was someone I could have gotten to know. I was crossing his path.

I hated to leave him and that cozy embrace of dark roast Colombian air, but as I stepped out into the fog in wool coat and listened to my tall boots hit the sidewalk, I wondered if he was watching me walk away. And I wondered if he wondered, too.

Then I rested my coffee on the trunk of my car and wondered if he was still watching me as I proceeded to spill the entire contents of the double cupped mocha onto my wool coat, my boots, my trunk and the road.

I didn't think to be embarrassed, however, since the torrent of steaming brew gave me a chance to remark how efficiently the straight faced curb and gutter delivered the liquid into a DelDOT Type B catchbasin.