Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Maybe I Just Needed a Drive

"For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?" ~ Mr. Bennet I left the Winter Park at 2:35, only 5 minutes later than I had planned, and in plenty of time to get to the airport in Denver, even with the possibility of traffic or other unexpected delays. There was a little bit of traffic on I-70, but it only slowed down to 35mph, and instantly disappeared once the freeway expanded to three lanes. I was driving a Ford Taurus that I had rented online and picked up at the airport. When I scheduled my flight, I was counting on taking a shuttle to the ski resort, but the last one left at 10:00 PM, and my flight was scheduled to land at about 9:30. Korey, unbeknownst to me was on the same flight, but was counting on making the shuttle, and had therefore sent his checked bags ahead with TJ. The flight was delayed an hour, though, so it was good that I was there to give him a ride. I hate closed-ended time constraints. The morning that I had left, my skiing was dictated by the fact that I needed to be back at the lodge at 2:00 at the latest. I had also agreed to meet Matthew at the top of Mary Jane at noon, so my first runs of the day, I had to be sure that I was within striking range of the lifts that would take me there. Once we finally met up, we both had to keep an eye on the clock, as we both needed to leave at about the same time. We therefore again had to choose our routes carefully. It wouldn't have been so bad had we been on the left side of the mountain where all roads lead to Zephyr, but we had decided to go to the far right in order to accommodate Andrew, who was a new skier. There weren't many good blue runs on the left side of the mountain, and we had worn him out enough the previous day on the blacks. We had a later start skiing Sunday than Saturday, and the fact that all of Denver decided to come up for the weekend didn't help get us started any sooner. The lift line was pretty long, so most of us decided to ride as singles. It was at least 11:00 by the time I got to the top. I wanted to go up to the top of Timberline like I had the previous day, but I also wanted to hang out with the people I was with, so TJ and I did a mogul run (I'm not very good at moguls), and afterward I hit a terrain park twice: one with a double jump. The first one was small, so I hit it slow, and got some decent air on the second one. The second time I went, though, I hit the first one without slowing down at all. I got tons of air, and then hit the second jump at full speed. It was a blast! I only wish I had gotten someone to film it like last time. I went shooting into the air, and landed about halfway down the ramp. I wound down the mountain road, which was much clearer than the 100mph gust snowstorm that I had driven up in. The road took me to the interstate, which went through Denver on to the airport. Denver airport is isolated from the city by a 10-mile long road out into the middle of nowhere. There's nothing there but the airport; I suppose they planned it that way so that no one would have to deal with the noise and pollution. I guess if they have the space, they might as well, and they definitely have the space. I drove the car to the Avis lot, returned the car, and took the shuttle to the airport. Avis has two check-in places where you go before you get your car: the normal one and the "Avis Preferred" one. I have no idea what the Preferred place has different than the normal one; maybe the line is just shorter, maybe they put mints on your dashboard, speak with British accents, and have a duvet in the W.C.. When you get on the shuttle at the airport, they ask you if you're a member, and if you are, you get to feel special and get out at the special stop. Mostly I think it's to take more of their money, or at least their company's money, since it seems like the sort of thing corporations might buy into for their employees on business travel. Anyway, I was returning a car, not renting one, so I spoke to the attendant, got my receipt, took my luggage, and headed for the shuttle. They charged me for a full tank of gas: for some reason I was thinking that they would only charge me for what it would take to fill it up, but I guess that's why the rate wasn't exhorbant. The shuttle arrived at the terminal, and I took the escalator to the ticket counter level. There was a line, and so I waited about 15 minutes with my backpack, laptop case, skis, and bag. I had packed my boots in the top portion of my bag. I usually over-pack for trips like this, and so there was no room in my bag for the Wii that I had brought. The Wii, along with my Bible, camera, and books was in my backpack. All in all, quite a lot of baggage for a three-day trip. I hadn't really used my laptop except once to unsuccessfully check for WiFi upstairs. There was an Ethernet jack, but Tim was using it, so I just checked my e-mail on his laptop. Normally I would have watched a movie or TV episodes on the flight, but this time I was reading. Josh had lent me Thr3e. I finally advanced to the front of the line. There isn't really a comfortable way to hold that much luggage, particularly because my bag wasn't completely full, and so it wouldn't stand up on its own, so by this time I was sort of dragging my ski bag. I went up to the e-ticket counter, hit start, and selected English, and stuck my credit card in the slot. No dice. The display indicated that it had failed to read my card, so I swiped it again. Again, nothing happened. Annoyed, I exited the identification screen and started over. This time, after it had rejected my American Express, I tried my MasterCard. Still nothing. I pressed the "I need assistance" button, and was instructed to pick up the telephone receiver, which I did. While the line was ringing, an attendant came up to me and asked if I needed help. I told her it wasn't reading my credit cards. I had my itinerary printed out from an e-mail, but it wasn't the confirmation e-mail (which presumably would have had the confirmation number prominently displayed), because the flight time had been updated after the reservation, and this was the e-mail with the updated times. I handed her the printouts, hoping she would be able to find it, and looked at the screen to see what other forms of reservation confirmation were acceptable, and that's when she noticed that my flight was for Monday. This was Sunday. I had showed up 24 hours too early for my flight. Instantly I knew what had gone wrong. When I had scheduled my flight, I was planning on taking the shuttle. It was weeks later, after I had bothered to find out about the shuttle schedule that I had made my rental car reservation. It had bothered me then that I had thought before that I wasn't going to be in town for the first class in a series of Sunday night dance classes. My flight landed at 7:06, which technically was enough time to make it to at least part of the lesson, but definitely to be there for the dance afterward. I remembered that I had considered the ski trip as a possible reason to forgo signing up for this particular class. The reason I had thought I wasn't going to be able to dance on Sunday night was because I wasn't supposed to arrive until the following evening. Dance lessons aside, I had more pressing matters to attend to: I was stuck at an airport, with no car, and 25 hours to kill. I had two options: I considered trying to reschedule my flight a day early for about five seconds, but it simply wasn't what I wanted to do. I hadn't wanted to leave when I did: I wanted to spend time with my friends and my sister. The only reason I was heading back was that I thought that I hadn't taken Monday off. Had I? Yes, I was sure that I had, because I had scheduled my days off at the same time as I had booked the flight. There wasn't much I was working on at work anyway, so if worst came to worse I could call in and take the day off. Coming back was admitting that I had made a rather silly mistake, but it was the truth, and I wasn't going to give up my lost-and-found extra day of the trip to try to hide it. Yes, it made me look foolish, but it was pretty funny. It's just the sort of absent-minded thing that I would do. I headed over to the Avis counter, and explained my situation. The man told me in a matter-of-fact way that if I had returned the car, then the contract was over. I asked him how much it would cost to rent another one for 24 hours, and he said $50 plus tax. That was lower than I expected, so I said "Okay then, I'll do that." and he handed me a slip of paper. I took the Avis shuttle back to the Avis lot, "No, I'm not a Preferred member," got to the counter, "No, I don't want to buy extra insurance," and "I'll bring it back full." I was assigned another Ford Taurus, this one with only 302 miles on it. The radio in this car worked better than the last one. I programmed the presets as I made my way to the freeway, and zoomed across the plain and up the mountain. I stopped before SR-40 to get a chicken sandwich at Burger King, and made it to the Lodge just after dinner at 6:00 PM. I didn't get any skiing in the next day. Hardly anyone did, as most people were leaving early in the morning, and we had to be checked out by 10:00 AM. I did have some great conversations, though, and I hung out with the Boyds and their friends from Denver on the way down. It certainly made me appreciate being there. It was like finding $20 in your pants: you're not any richer, but you're richer than you thought you were five minutes ago; or like the woman in the parable who found her lost coin: she called her friends and celebrated. I think God knew I just needed a drive.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ski Trip and Ponderings

Tomorrow, I'm leaving on a ski trip to Winter Park, Colorado. I've been looking forward to the skiing, and spending time with friends (and family!) who I don't see often. I haven't been skiing as much this year as last year, and I think that last year at this time of year I was a better skier than I am now. All my dancing and hanging out with friends is cutting into my skiing time this year, and I'm not unhappy about that. I know that the snow here in Washington isn't nearly as good as the Colorado snow, and last year I was surprised by how easy it was to ski well once I got off of the "Cascade concrete." I hope that's the case this year, too. I was planning on taking a shuttle from the airport to the resort, but my flight lands a half an hour before the last shuttle leaves, so I had to rent a car. It ended up being about $50 more to do it that way, but having a car will give me more freedom. It might possibly enable me to help other people out, too. I'm thinking of taking my Wii along with me, as it's so small, and there will certainly be downtime to play it in the evenings. The Wii is especially fun with lots of other people, so hopefully there will be a large TV that we can use in a common area. I could bring my projector too, but that would be pushing it. The Virtual Console is a really great feature. I recently downloaded and played through Super Mario World. This evening is Valentine's Day, and as I am without attachment, I will be attending a "Lovely Literature Gathering" hosted by a young lady I know through BSF. I was at a BSF Valentine's party last Friday, and played The Dating Game. The "winners" were given a box of chocolates and a Starbucks card, and we are apparently to "go out for coffee" and report back. This will all probably happen sometime next week, as both of us are going out of town this week. My job is ending soon: my group is finishing up what we're doing and will be moving on to other programs within the company. At this point, I don't know what comes next, although there are a few possibilities that I'm keeping my eye on. There was a job opening in Anaheim (which would subsequently move to Huntington Beach), but that listing was withdrawn. The supply of software positions is a bit thin right now, but I'm not too worried about getting laid off. The job opening in California caused me to consider whether I would want to go back. It would be nice to be near my family and friends down there again, but at this point I don't feel as if I'm "done" here. I'm not saying I want to stay in Washington forever, and I'm not saying that I don't. I've built a life here, not without pre-existing relationships, but certainly more on my own than ever before, and I have friends that I don't want to just up and leave. I need to be willing to go wherever and do whatever the Lord is leading me to go and do, and I believe that I am doing that. When I left California, I could clearly see the Lord's hand in it, and I was sure that this was where he wanted me to go. He prepared me for the change, and he prepared a place for me here. I suspect that if the Lord wanted me elsewhere, he would give me the same kind of peace that he gave me then, though not necessarily through the same means.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Steve Jobs: Thoughts on Music

Here is an open letter dated February 6, 2007 from Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, Inc. to the European governments regarding the music industry. [Update: this event is covered at Ars Technica.] [Update: "DVD Jon" has an interesting take on Steve's use of statistics. (And so do I.)] This was not what I expected from him. I really believe he's telling the truth, and that doing so is in the best interest of his company, the global economy, consumers, and musicians. I think Apple is finally realizing that they would benefit more from an open music/player marketplace than from vendor lock-in marketplace. They currently sell 22 songs on iTMS for every iPod that they sell. If they were to sell DRM-free music, I would expect that number to skyrocket. DRM is the only thing keeping me from ditching the coasters, at least for music, and I for one would immediately jump on board. If a truly open marketplace were allowed to develop, I think we would see a global mini-renissance as more and better tools are developed to get musicians connected with people who like their music and vice versa. The ones who stand to lose are the brick-and-mortar stores. If this happens, say goodbye to the music sections in electronics stores. Oh, there will still be a nich market, just like we still have travel agents in the days of Travelocity, Expedia and their ilk, but it won't be the same as it has been. It will be better for the musicans and the consumers, but the middlemen will have to adapt. Here's hoping the Europeans have the cajones required to convince the music industry titans to allow DRM-free digital distribution. The biggest obstacle I see is the fact that the Big Four music titans are, to a certain extent, a large portion of the inefficiency that exists in the current system that will be eliminated before the dust settles when and if this finally goes down.