"Be good and you will be lonesome." - Mark Twain    
 

California VacationUse this URL to link Sunday, July 29, 2007

Monday, 7-23-07

Landed in Burbank late last night, slept in until 9:00am this morning. Spent the day at Perris Valley Skydiving. The DZ was amazing, complete with a vertical wind tunnel (indoor "skydiving"), swimming pool, gear store, restuarant, bar and grill, showers, sleeping facilities, and even an outdoor barber shop.

I've previously only jumped from Cessna's carrying up to 4 jumpers, so it was fun to make jumps #59, 60, and 61 from a Twin Otter, which carries 23 jumpers. These were also my highest altitude jumps thus far, with #59 and 60 from 12,500' each, and #61 from 13,500'. Ironically, I was in freefall for 61 seconds on jump #61, my first time exceeding a full minute of freefall on a jump.

Eli Thompson - Host of Stunt Junkies on the Discovery Channel

I want to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean later on this trip, but tonight I got to see it set over the mountains... while in freefall.

Met Eli Thompson (host of 'Stunt Junkies' on the Discovery Channel). Talked to him about why the show was canceled (insurance too high), and sat next to him in the plane on my 60th jump. That's Eli in the attached pic I took.

Also met Joao Tambor, who did the airplane hangar swoop stunt on episode 27 of 'Stunt Junkies'.

Tuesday, 7-24-07

Got up this morning and drove to Hollywood. Spent the morning hanging out in a couple coffeehouses by Hollywood & Vine, and later walking around the Hollywood walk of fame.

Got a 1-hour massage after lunch, then headed for Hollywood Hills. Meandered around there for a while on my way to the Hollywood sign.

I would have expected the sign to be a bit more accessible, but found you have to park at the bottom of the hill, hike up a horse trail, and then split off to follow a service road (for the transmitter tower) to the top. I'm pretty sure the public is not intended to get to the Hollywood sign, since I saw no signs or directions to it -- the only signs I saw were 'No access to the Hollywood sign' along the neighborhood streets, signs along the horse trail warning of mountain lions and rattlesnakes, 'Do Not Enter' at the bottom of a service road (which I was pretty sure was the same service road I later took to the top, but Google Maps later proved me wrong), and a sign warning of dangerous levels of radiation if you pass the fence surrounding the tower. I don't want to glow, so I didn't venture past that one.

Eli Thompson - Host of Stunt Junkies on the Discovery Channel

The view from the very top of the mountain was great, worth the hike. Nobody else seemed inclined to make the trek to see the sign from above.

After working my way back down, I decided to head for the coast, and got my first real taste of L.A. traffic on my way. Got to the beach in Santa Monica a while before sunset and strolled along the shore, but didn't get to see the sunset over the ocean because it was overcast. Wednesday maybe...

Wednesday, 7-25-07

The last two days have been great, but honestly, today was pretty much a bust...

Stayed in Santa Monica last night so I could drive the Pacific Coast Highway today, and woke up this morning to find that it was still completely engulfed in fog. Hit the road at 8am and headed north, hoping it would clear off later in the morning, or at least for the return trip. No such luck. What really bit was that it was only foggy over the ocean and about a half mile or so inland along the shoreline -- hiding the exact view I wanted to see.

I drove on up the coast to Santa Barbara, and swam in the ocean for about 15 minutes. For southern California in July, I expected it to be warmer... a LOT warmer... Now I see why surfers wear wet-suits.

The return trip to Perris was 168 miles, which should have taken well under 3 hours. In L.A. traffic, it took over 6. Yeah. I averaged less than 28mph on the interstate for more than six hours.

Thursday, 7-26-07

Spent the day at Perris Valley skydiving. Made four jumps from 13,000 feet. Did some math and determined I've logged 23 minutes 46 seconds of freefall time in my career.

Was on a load early in the day with Joao Tambor (see Monday's Stunt Junkies reference). Later in the day I met Jimmy Pouchert, who did the reverse-bungee-turned-base-jump episode of Stunt Junkies.

Rode in the co-pilot's seat on the last load, which was cool, but it was a very tight fit with my rig on. With the extra 10 inches on my back, I was pressed up against the controls and had to do everything I could not to bump any buttons or toggles and take the plane down. I had to 'suck it in' each time the pilot turned or increased his rate of climb in order to allow room for the co-pilot's yoke.

I almost decided not to jump on that flight. They're not very good about organizing loads beforehand, so I didn't know until after we were airborne that I'd be leaving the plane following a 20-way formation. This meant that the airspace would be congested with 20 canopies suddenly opening below me, and they were planning to open 500 to 1,000 feet higher than usual. Even if I deployed even higher, I didn't like the risk of getting into that mess and the potential for a mid-air collision.

However, I got the pilot to agree to make a second pass before the last three of us jumped, which gave the first 20 jumpers an extra 45 seconds to get lower and clear the airspace. I still decided to deploy at 4,500 feet just to maintain that extra bit of vertical separation.

All in all, a really good day.

Friday, 7-27-07

Was at NBC studios before 6am so I could get a ticket to be in the audience for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Having a ticket doesn't guarantee you'll get in because they overbook -- you have to be in another line at Studio 3 pretty early to actually get in. Made friends with a guy in line (Michael Morthorst from Germany), and we got a few covert tips from the girl in the gift shop about where to be, when to be there, etc. (hint: have lunch at noon at Acapulco across the street, ask for a window seat facing Studio 3, and be done with lunch before the line gets past the bench).

We were in line at noon for the taping at 4:00pm. Michael and I were 17th and 18th in line, which garnered seats in the 4th row (the seats in the first three rows were filled by people on the guest list).

The guests were Kevin James (The King of Queens), Jack Pugh (who swam 1km at the North Pole in sub-freezing water), and Katharine McPhee (singer).

Really enjoyed seeing Jay Leno, Kevin Eubanks, the guests and the studio up close and in person.

Saturday, 7-28-07

Today I got to do something I've wanted to do for a long time, and have been planning since Tuesday but didn't think would work out logistically.

I got to jump out of a helicopter. Specifically, I did a reverse swan dive out of a Rogers R44 Raven II from 5,200 feet.

It was different than leaving a plane, where you leave the aircraft already traveling 80 to 130mph (horizontally) and you can immediately fly your body in the relative wind. When you jump out of a helicopter, it's just hovering, so you have no control until you build up speed and have wind to fly in.

The two of us who were jumping climbed out onto the landing skids on opposite sides of the helicopter and rode there, standing on the skids, at arm's length from the chopper for the last five minutes of the flight before the jump. What an amazing view! It felt like being a stunt man, standing there at more than 5,000 feet.

Mark and I faced each other through the open helicopter cockpit. Once given clearance by the pilot, we did an exit count, let go, leaned back, and fell backwards. As we fell away from the noise of the rotors it got quiet for a few seconds, since we hadn't yet built up enough speed for wind noise. Falling on my back and continuing into a head-down position, I looked up and watched the helicopter as I fell away. Once I had enough speed for control, I continued the backflip the rest of the way over, and transitioned into normal, belly-to-earth freefall.

Mark stayed on his back for a few seconds longer than I did and was just below me, so we waved to each other in freefall before tracking away and deploying.

Definitely the most unique jump I made this week.


I'm no fashion mogul...Use this URL to link Friday, June 02, 2006

I've had various ideas for t-shirt slogans bouncing around in my head for years, and I've finally decided make some of these a reality. Check out delightful-lunatic.com to see some of my designs.


I shook hands with the President of the United StatesUse this URL to link Tuesday, September 07, 2004

While at a Rock the Light concert on Saturday night, Jason asked if I'd be interested in skipping work this morning to see President George W. Bush at a re-election campaign stop in Kansas City. Of course I was in, so we immediately left the concert to pick up tickets for today's event.

Last night, Jason camped out in my living room to accommodate an early start today. We woke up this morning at 3:45 and were outside Lee's Summit High School by 4:30, two of the first to arrive.

The Secret Service let people on the high school grounds after 5:30, and by 6:00, we were through the metal detectors and 30 feet from the lectern where President Bush would speak in a few hours.

President George W. Bush

The Secret Service agent nearest us prior to the President's arrival was particularly friendly. He posed with his sunglasses and handed peoples' belongings back to them when they dropped them over the barricade. The team of agents that would later swarm in with the President, however, were all business.

Before the President's arrival, we listened to bands and various candidates. When the President's motorcade arrived, we all shouted "four more years!" until our throats were sore. The President spoke on the same topics as at the convention in New York.

Afterwards, he came around the front edge of the crowd, reaching out to us and letting us reach out to him. He shook hands with some of those in the front couple of rows. I was speechless when the President of the United States reached out and shook my hand.

Then he was back on his bus and gone. We left with pictures and memories. This photo I took with my sister's digital camera should give you an idea how close we were.


My water-cooled PC. And yes, I am a geek.Use this URL to link Saturday, August 16, 2003

Last week I finished a complete overhaul of my home PC. My primary design goal was to end up with a quiet system that didn't sacrifice in terms of performance, with style being another key goal. Going "all out" is one of the hallmarks of a true geek, so in the style department I wasn't content to simply ban beige as a color choice or just use UV-reactive round IDE cables. I wanted things like multicolored lighting reflecting in the water reservoir.

My water-cooled PC.

Yes, I said water. The system is water-cooled, which means it has a radiator, pump, reservoir, and water blocks. In case you're wondering why one would want to water-cool a computer, when compared to an equivalent air-cooled PC, a well-designed water-cooled PC will be much quieter (far fewer fans), run much cooler (water conducts and dissipates heat four times faster than air), and will have more headroom for overclocking.

Every component was carefully selected with the above goals in mind. In addition to the standard requirements of a case, I needed one that had a side panel window, was spacious enough to accomodate the water-cooling components, and had been constructed of aluminum, since hardened steel would be difficult to cut into with a Dremel. I selected a power supply that achieves ultra quiet status by way of large internal heat sinks and a low speed fan, and a hard drive with a fluid bearing, which allows it to be virtually inaudible when idle.

Here I've flipped the green lighting off.  With the front panel door open, you can see the water reservoir in one of the 5.25" bays.

Keeping with my self-inflicted style requirements, I selected components like a black power supply with wires I had sleeved in purple sleeving, lucite-topped copper water blocks, blue and white LEDs to replace the standard green and amber LEDs in the case bezel, and black anodized aluminum thumb screws for the expansion slots. I cut down on cable clutter by omitting items such as a floppy drive, which I never use anyway, and by replacing my separate CD-RW and DVD-ROM drives with a multi-format DVD burner that combines the functionality.

Once I had the proper components, it was time to start modding. (A computer geek weilding power tools... [shudder] ...there's a scary thought). First I gutted the case, removing unnecessary components like the extra rails from the case floor, two 80mm exhaust fans from the rear panel, a support bracket for extra-long PCI cards, a fan bracket, the secondary 3.5" drive cage and it's support bracket, etc. Next I cut a hole in the front of the case for the radiator's air intake, and fashioned a backing plate out of steel to add structural integrity to the front panel. I drilled mounting holes in the plate so I could mount the radiator, and inserted rubber grommets to prevent the vibration of the radiator fan from transferring to the case. To mount the water pump, I drilled similar holes in the floor of the case, and again used rubber grommets. I cut a hole in the back panel of the case through which I ran the pump's power cord. Finally, I drilled two holes for rocker switches in one of the 3.5" bay cover plates, and inserted the power switches for the cold cathode lights.

I replaced the heat sinks and fans on the graphics processor, the CPU, and the chipset with appropriate water blocks from Danger Den. Normally I would avoid the use of thermal epoxy, but to mount the block on the chipset, which utilizes unusual mounting loops, I saw no other option. Ironically, the very day I finished this project, Danger Den announced a new version of the chipset block that can be mounted using the mounting loops. Since the video card's RAM chips previously had no cooling mechanisms, I had no aversions to affixing passive RAM sinks to them with thermal epoxy.

A side view in the day time.  Even when the room is brightly lit, you still can't miss the internal lighting of the PC.

After re-assembling the system, I spent a while running the hoses, then another week determining that I couldn't come up with a better way than the first. While the hoses I used are known to be the best in terms of flexibility and kink-resistance, they're still exceedingly frustrating to work with in the tight confines of a PC case.

After filling the water-cooling subsystem with a bottle of Aquafina, a capful of Water Wetter, and some UV-reactive water dye, I torture-tested the system for 36 hours. It's far quieter, and can be stably overclocked by 23% (to 3.2GHz) while still running more than 16 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than it did at 2.6GHz with air-cooling. Seems to be a winner in every category. :)

Computer system components:

With the front panel door open, you can see the water reservoir in one of the 5.25" bays.
  • Chieftec Dragon case with side panel window
  • ABIT IC7 motherboard
  • Pentium 4 2.6GHz ( @ 3.2GHz ) with an 800MHz FSB
  • 512MB of Corsair XMS PC3500 DDR433 memory
  • ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB graphics accelerator
  • 80GB Seagate Barracuda IV hard drive with FDB
  • TDK 440N Multi-format DVD burner
  • LinkSys WDT11 / WPC11 802.11b network card
  • Zalman Ultra Quiet ZM400A-APF 400W power supply
  • Round, silver braided, UV-reactive IDE cables
  • One green 12" pcToys cold cathode
  • Two blue 4" Sunbeam cold cathodes
  • pcToys black anodized aluminum thumb screws

Water-cooling subsystem components:

With a black light on, you can see a hint of the effects of the UV-reactive dye.
  • Black Ice Extreme radiator
  • Vantec Stealth 120mm radiator fan
  • Hydor L30 pump
  • Tygon R-3603 1/2" ID 1/8" wall tubing
  • Danger Den Maze 4 CPU block
  • Danger Den Z-Chip chipset block
  • Danger Den GeForce4/Radeon 9000/9700 GPU block
  • BayRes bay reservoir
  • FrozenCPU blue UV-reactive water dye
  • Arctic Silver Ceramique thermal interface material
  • Arctic Alumina thermal epoxy

Miscellaneous water-cooling factoids:

Water-cooling uses a pump to circulate water through a loop where heat is drawn from heat-producing components into the water as it flows through copper or aluminum blocks. A fan pulls air through a radiator, dissapating the heat from the water. Many systems contain reservoirs to aid in the process of filling the system and bleeding air from the lines, while other systems use various valves and air traps for this process.

Water-cooling can be much quieter than conventional air-cooling because numerous small, high-speed fans can be replaced by a water pump and a large, low-speed radiator fan. In my particular case, I removed five fans that ran as fast as 6500RPM (one from the CPU, one from the chipset, one from the video card, and two from the case), and replaced them with a single 1500RPM fan on the radiator. The pump produces very little noise, and is virtually inaudible when mounted using rubber grommets or suction cups to minimize vibration transfer to the case.

The PC in the dark, lit by a black light.  The UV-reactive water dye glows quite nicely.

I've found UV-reactive water dye to be a great addition to any water-cooled system, and not just for the aesthetics of the bright colored glow. While even a tiny water leak in your PC can be disastrous, it can be very difficult to detect in the dark nooks and crannies in a PC. With the aid of a black light and UV-reactive dye in the water, a leak won't go unnoticed; it's easy to spot an errant drip of water when it's emanating a bright blue glow.


Road Trippin' RevisitedUse this URL to link Monday, July 14, 2003

Kevin has posted some excellent pictures from our road trip on his web site. Currently, the first 44 pictures are from our trip.


Road Trippin'Use this URL to link Friday, July 11, 2003

I've been road tripping with Jason, Cooper, Kevin, and Marna this week. I've stayed offline all week, but Jason has been logging our trip on grizzlybase.com


DIE SPAMMER DIEUse this URL to link Sunday, July 06, 2003

I've borrowed the headline from Kyle Bennett of HardOCP (one of my favorite computer sites), one of the few people I know who gets more spam than me.

Being quite computer-centric, I've used e-mail as a primary method of communication for almost eight years. That's changed over the past few months, even though I spend more time than ever going through e-mail. By the time I get through the 300+ spams I receive every day, I'm hardly in the mood to write anything. Besides, there's not as much mail for me to respond to, since I've been writing very little and I overlook many valid e-mails while sifting through the deluge of filth and rubbish.

I get more than 300 spams per day on my primary e-mail address, which I've had since early 1996, before most people could spell "www" or had ever heard of the internet. In those days, we hadn't anticipated that spam would eventually become such an issue, so we had no reason not to indiscriminately plaster our e-mail addresses on web sites, message boards, and the like. Eventually, our addresses were harvested and added to lists that have been sold to spammer after spammer countless times. When your address is on those lists and the amount of spam you receive has been snowballing for the better part of a decade, there's no way out.

I don't get that much spam at work, but spam causes me plenty of headaches there nonetheless. I'm the network administrator, so I get all the non-delivery reports, bounced messages, and administrative alerts generated by our corporate mail server regarding any mail account in our organization. As such, I get plenty of alerts when spammers attempt to use our server to relay spam. And then there's our clients... Supporting their mail servers is definitely not our responsibility, but when one of their mail servers is hijacked to relay spam, and their would-be administrator gets more than half a million messages in the first day (I kid you not), I'm the one who is called in to secure the server and clean up the mess.

I've been using message rules and anti-spam software to weed out the junk, but that's becoming less and less effective as devious spammers constantly develop new tactics to evade anti-spam software. Being unable to reliably identify spam, the software ends up allowing a lot of spam through, and there are many "false positives" in which legitimate messages are flagged as spam. Because of the occurence of false positives, I look at all the messages in my "Junk Mail" folder anyway, to try to find anything that was incorrectly identified. Kinda defeats the purpose of having the spam sorted out if I'm gonna look at it anyway, doesn't it?

To attempt to regain control of my own inbox, I'm now using various "white lists" (specific lists of criteria under which mail will be accepted) based on e-mail addresses, e-mail domains, key words, etc. Most anti-spam software uses white lists, but my approach is different in one respect: if an inbound message does not match at least one of my white lists, it's rejected along with an explanation of how to be added to my white list.

I now no longer have a need for a "Junk Mail" folder. Since everything that would otherwise be in it is deleted instead, I won't have any junk to sort through. While there will be a rare "false positive," the original sender will be notified, and they can easily send a quick, simple e-mail to resolve the situation.


Ballooning has been slow the last few weeks...Use this URL to link Monday, June 30, 2003

It was too windy for Jason Jones and I to make any balloon flights the past two weekends, but we did get to do three flights the weekend before, with Saturday night's being the most interesting.

My cousin Rodney and his wife Gina were finally able to make their schedules sync up with Mother Nature's after 11 months of trying. Rodney had a bike wreck at about 35mph during a triathlon the week before, so he lost a substantial amount of skin, was heavily bandaged, could hardly walk, and had to keep his leg up to keep the swelling down. But, being the Iron Man he is, Rodney opted to tough it out and seize the opportunity to take the balloon flight.

Desperado (the balloon we were flying that night) is 105,000 cubic feet, so of course it acts as a giant sail, with even a little breeze making a huge difference. The winds were borderline (in ballooning terms) at lift-off, making for a tricky inflation, and the passengers really had to hustle into the basket. Rodney managed to jump into the balloon amazingly fast for someone who could hardly walk.

An hour into the flight, while Jason was looking for a place to land, Eric and I were scouting potential landing sites. When I pulled into a driveway simply to turn around, a very irate landowner from the area blocked us in, got in my face, pulled the sign off the side of the truck, and started screaming at us. His was livid, to say the least, trembling during his lengthy tirade. Eric and I politely and calmly tried to explain that we weren't landing on his land, and had no intention of causing any problems for anyone. But he kept cursing and screaming that we had no business there. I'm pretty sure he meant that we had no business in the air in general. That, of course is not the case.

[Editors note: Balloon pilots must be FAA-licensed and must follow Federal Aviation Regulations like any other pilot. Balloon pilots, however, must frequently land on private land instead of at an airport. Knowing the wind speed and direction before a flight (based on checks with all local airports, the National Weather Service, and the release of pibals) only enables a balloon pilot to determine the general vicinity in which they'll land, not an exact location. An exact location isn't determined until just prior to landing.]

After a while, although still livid, he moved out of our way allowing us to resume the chase, but the balloon now had a 15-minute lead on us, so much so that we lost radio contact. The lay of the roads forced us to swing way south of the balloon and double-back, so it took us a half hour to overtake the balloon. Jason informed us of us a spot downwind where he wanted to land, so Eric and I located the landowner and secured permission. Steve and his wife were quite happy to see the balloon, and let us know that we were welcome to land or take off from his property any time we wanted.

Meanwhile, the same guy who'd accosted us earlier showed up, having followed us for the last half hour. He waited for us to pack up so he could confront Jason. He tried forcing a confrontation, but Jason succinctly put an end to it by pointing out that we had permission to be on Steve's land, and inquired if he had permission as well. The guy's whole argument was that we were someplace we had no right to be, yet he thought nothing of driving his truck out into someone else's field without so much as asking permission. I wonder if he realized how hypocritical he was?

Every so often you run into someone like this - someone who is REALLY not happy about balloons flying over their land. We make a conscious effort not to disturb livestock and the like, but very rarely a landowner will be less than enthusiastic to see us. All said and done, it's not a big deal.


My trip to New YorkUse this URL to link Monday, February 17, 2003

I returned home Sunday night (the 16th) after spending 14 days on the east coast. We'd finished our business the previous Wednesday night, but due to some travel glitches, Larry and I ended up spending a good part of Thursday in Manhattan, and we stayed in Long Island until Friday afternoon waiting for a flight home. As we were checking in at the airport, I decided to postpone my flight and stay for a couple of days on my own dime to see New York. Larry couldn't stay, unfortunately, because he had to leave the following morning for yet another business trip.

Friday afternoon, I rented a car and drove back toward Manhattan, stopping on the east edge of Queens to stroll through the park featured in the climax sequence of Men In Black. Rather than hopping back on the interstate, I took the scenic route on surface streets through Queens.

I meandered my way into Manhattan, and had dinner at Houlihan's in the base of the Empire State Building. After dinner, I headed to the outdoor observatory on the 86th floor. It was bitterly cold, but the view was absolutely majestic. You can see all of Manhattan from that one point... the Chrysler Building, the World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, the UN, the Trump World Tower, et cetera.

Upon leaving the Empire State Building, I walked around Midtown until about ten, then I drove down to the World Trade Center site and walked around Ground Zero until about one-thirty. Still exhausted from the business trip, I shelled out the cash to stay at the Marriott Financial Center, just one building away from Ground Zero. Not only was it right there, but I'd also I'd avoid wasting time in traffic in the morning.

Saturday, I awoke to the view of the two buildings next door, both shrouded and considered for demolition. I walked around Ground Zero again on my way to J&R, the paramount computer store in Manhattan, where I expanded my arsenal of digital photography equipment.

Driving back to Midtown, I parked on 42nd St, just west of 8th Ave. Due to the war protests at the United Nations, and the Orange Alert to boot, the streets were lined with swarms of police in riot gear. They were restricting what streets people could walk down, keeping the crowd spread thin in an attempt to avoid problems.

I made my way over to NBC Studios for a tour, although I have no pictures inside the studios, because they maintained a strictly-enforced "no cameras" rule. I went on the sets of both Dateline NBC and The John Walsh Show, then I got to watch Jennifer Garner (of Alias and DareDevil) and Horatio Sanz doing a dress-rehearsal on the set of Saturday Night Live for that night's performance. While on each of the sets, I was privy to a slew of behind-the-scenes information.

At dusk, I went to the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. Then I went across the street to peek in the windows of the set of the Today show, and to walk around the permanently-blocked-off street where a sign-wielding audience stands every morning to meet Al Roker.

On the way back to the car, I stopped at Dunkin Donuts to warm up and enjoy some hot chocolate and a donut. There I met Fran, a girl from Boston who'd come for the war protest. She and I talked for several hours, and although our opinions differed on many of the topics we discussed, we respected each other's viewpoints, and we had a great conversation. She seemed worried that she was "wasting" my evening, but assured her that I really didn't have anywhere to be just then. I can think of no place I'd have rather been than having a perspective-changing conversation with a cute girl in New York over hot chocolate on a cold Saturday night.

Eventually, she commented that she's soon need to catch a taxi back to her hotel, which we realized was only a block from the Marriott, so I offered to drive her. She accepted, indicating that she felt comfortable with me after our conversation.

After dropping Fran off, I took the Lincoln tunnel over to New Jersey, looking for a good view of the Manhattan skyline at night. After meandering through some neighborhoods that most people wouldn't go near even during the day, I found myself at Liberty State Park. I had to kneel in a snowdrift so I could prop my camera on the railing, but the pictures turned out well enough to be worth the cold and wet drive back to the hotel.

Sunday, I awoke in the morning to the sound of the hotel's emergency alarm system. My first thought was that someone pulled the fire alarm as a prank, but another possibility did briefly go through my mind. After all, people in New York were basically expecting some sort of terrorist attack over the weekend, with hotels as one of the likely targets, while here I was in the Marriott, one building away from Ground Zero at the WTC site. After a few minutes, the manager notified the guests via the hotel intercom that they had "corrected the situation," so I assume someone was playing a prank, or a chef burned someone's breakfast.

Time to sight-see was running short, but since I was in New York, I was going to see the Statue of Liberty even if it meant missing my flight and getting snowed in by the imminent blizzard. I walked down to Battery Park, where the lines for the ferry weren't bad, presumably because the heightened security meant that statue had been closed indefinitely. While visitors could go to Liberty Island and walk around, they couldn't go inside the statue.

The ferry stops for only 5 minutes before moving on, and another comes by about every 30 minutes. The idea is to leisurely walk around the statue, enjoy the view, and catch the next ferry ride back. But not on this cold morning; many got off the ferry, made a bee-line around the statue, snapping a few quick pics, and got back on the ferry. That's pretty much what I did, too, but I opted to spend 30 minutes on Liberty Island in the gift shop with some hot chocolate.

I also wasn't going to leave New York without riding in a cab, so I hailed one at Battery Park. The cab driver was reluctant to drive me a mere three blocks north to the Marriott, but I tipped him well enough to make it worth his while. I asked the valet at the Marriott to bring my car around in about 10 minutes, while I walked over to Ground Zero one last time to use the last of my digital film.

With the nation at Code Orange (it's highest state of alert), and New York considered to be a prime target for terrorist attacks, security at the airport was somewhat tighter than normal. Adding to the chaos was the impending blizzard, which had already shut down other east cost airports, and would soon bury New York under more than 20 inches of snow overnight. Top all that off with all the people in town for the demonstrations, plus the tourists from Valentines Day and the three-day (President's Day) weekend, and you can imagine what the airport was like. I'm glad I got there early, for once.

While in New York, I saw a number of other points of interest in addition to those listed above. I also walked around Times Square for a while, walked down Broadway, walked by Radio City Music Hall, walked by Macy's, went through several of the buildings of the World Financial Center (across the street from the World Trade Center), drove past the UN building and the Brooklyn Bridge a number of times, drove down Wall Street by the New York Stock Exchange, drove past Shea Stadium, drove past the USS Intrepid, drove through the Bronx, Brooklyn, Central Park, the Holland Tunnel, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel... The list could go on and on... Too many great places to see, so little time. Unfortunately, I missed Grand Central Station, the New York Public Library, the Guggenheim, Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, Penn Station, the studio of Late Night with David Letterman, et cetera. I'll try to see those next time. :)

I think the pictures turned out really well. Here are a few...

World Trade Center site (Ground Zero):
Ground Zero 1
Ground Zero 2
Ground Zero 3
Ground Zero 4
Ground Zero 5
Ground Zero 6
Ground Zero 7

Manhattan at night:
Manhattan At Night 1
Manhattan At Night 2
Manhattan At Night 3
Manhattan At Night 4

Rockefeller Plaza / NBC Studios:
Rockefeller Plaza 1
Rockefeller Plaza 2
Rockefeller Plaza 3
Rockefeller Plaza 4
Rockefeller Plaza 5
Rockefeller Plaza 6
Rockefeller Plaza 7

Times Square:
Times Square 1
Times Square 2
Times Square 3
Times Square 4

Miscellaneous:
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Random musings of a tired concert-goerUse this URL to link Wednesday, January 15, 2003

I saw Avril Lavigne in concert at Memorial Hall tonight. Ironically, the concert, entitled "Snowed In," ushered in KC's first snowfall this season.

The opening acts were Sev (who sings "Same Old Song" in the Pepsi Blue commercials) and Sister Hazel.

I was on the floor, front and center, close enough to touch Avril. Could have, but didn't. :)

There's always going to be a bit of moshing at any concert. While this was one of the tamest concert I've been to in that regard, there were the usual "bad seeds." In this case, there were two guys behind me who had pocketed a couple flasks of vodka, which they'd been thoroughly enjoying. They were shoving people around in the crowd, forcing their way to the front. Security grabbed them a couple of times, and even kicked them out once, after someone snitched about their booze. But they made it back in, and for whatever reason, must have thought I was the rat. A couple people relayed to me one of the guy's various slurs about me, and I chose to not even look in his direction. I knew I'd get ticked, and why get riled up because of this moron? While the rest of the crowd wasn't pushing or shoving, this guy started shoving me hard, charging, focusing solely on me. When he grabbed two hands-ful of my shirt, twisted it tight, and used it as a handle to sling me and slam me into the people in front of me, I had to acknowledge him. I "acknowledged" him quite hard, right in his chest, with my elbow. He retreated far enough for the crowd to scatter, and for me to get in his face. I told him in no uncertain terms that he'd better "bug" off, because I would finish it. I turned to pay attention to the concert again, and it wasn't long before security jumped him again. That time he stormed in a fit of rage through the crowd, and we didn't see him again. I got quite a few "atta-boy" remarks after that. "Good riddance to bad rubbish" seemed to be the consensus.

A woman we were chatting with during the concert had won back-stage passes for she and her daughter to meet Avril during Sister Hazel's performance. When they got back, they told us all about it. They wouldn't let anyone have cell phones or cameras. Avril is extremely shy, and if people start taking very many pictures, she'll start crying. Because people want proof of their back-stage experience, the tour provided someone to take their pictures with Avril, and they'll get copies of the pictures via e-mail.

At one point, Avril let some other girls on the stage, and let one of them sing quite a bit of "Complicated."

I don't have any pics from the show to post quite yet, because I opted to go the (dare I say it?) analog route this time. Don't get me wrong, I'm the biggest proponent of digital cameras, and one of the very first adopters, but mine is too big to be practical in most circumstances where I really want to use it. (What good is a camera that you don't have with you when there's a photo op?) This has been an issue when I'm hot air ballooning, snowboarding the mountains in Colorado, or just jamming in a mosh pit at a concert. This time, I opted to grab a disposable 35mm camera instead, which I could actually pocket. I loved my cousin Rodney's Canon Powershot Digital Elph, which we used while snowboarding in Vail last season, so I'm eyeing the newest model in that series.


BummedUse this URL to link Friday, November 01, 2002

I got back to KC this afternoon after a 5-day business trip to an out-of-state client site. This was the sixth time I've flown into Indianapolis during the latter half of this year. I come back in mixed spirits. The install went well. I did end up pulling one 42-hour shift partly because of router issue, but there was nominal disruption to the client, and we were able to complete the system upgrade and return home as scheduled.

The downside is that I had no desire to come home. Truth be told, there was a girl at the client site that caught my eye. As it was only appropriate for me to maintain my professionalism, I never really spoke with her except to answer a few questions about the software. I was able to observe her a little as while I waited for opportunities to configure software on various PCs. She was really nice, and I inquired about her. My source(s) described her as being very sweet, and whom "everyone gets along with." I'm also told she's attending a Bible college, and is reportedly available. Hmmm... She's absolutely breathtaking, sweet, highly respected, attending Bible college, and available? I'm telling you, she must be an angel. :)

Unfortunately, it's not like I could really just ask her out. So another opportunity passes me by, it seems. And I'm bummed now.


Blue SkiesUse this URL to link Sunday, September 15, 2002

Tonight had great ballooning weather. There was only a slight breeze, making for a slow flight and an easy chase. We launched two hot air balloons from the school at 163rd and Nall, and flew pretty much straight south along Nall to about 190-something street. (Like I said, it was a slow flight).

While waiting along Nall at about 185th Street, I struck up a conversation with a motorcyclist and his wife, who had stopped to watch the balloons. As it turns out, he is a fixed-wing pilot, so we talked for quite a while about our mutual aviation interests. When he told me he primarily flew Cessna 182's, I commented that I used to jump out of them. We talked about balloning, powered paragliding, etc. We noticed an ultralight fly between the balloons (at a safe distance, as they were fairly far apart by that point), so the converation naturally steered toward ultralights for a while.

Just before sunset, the winds dropped to virtually nothing, and the balloons were slowly drifting over the woods near a set of railroad tracks. Landing spots were scarce, but Jason was just about to pass over a small yard, so he had me request permission to land from the landowner. The landowner was more than happy to oblige. There was *just* enough space to set the balloon down, with it touching a tree on one side, almost against a barn on the other. It took some tricky manuevering on my part to lay the balloon down without letting it touch any of the potenially balloon-impailing tractors, farm implements, trees, and the like. Additionally, I had to "choke up" on the crown line quite a bit, as the rope was much longer than the yard. Even so, I still had it pulled taught *under* the clothesline, beside a small tree, *over* the bird bath, etc...

Mark, piloting the other balloon, wasn't quite as lucky. We had already disassembled and packed our balloon away before I finally stopped hearing Mark's burner firing in the distance. Jason called him to verify that he did, in fact, set down safely.

Up to this point, it had been a great evening: beautiful weather, fun passengers, and a great flight. Then...

On the way back, a police car heading the other direction flipped on it's lights and siren, spun around, and pulled up behind us. We initially thought he was coming after us, but he flew around us, then turned east down 175th Street. We had no idea what was going on at the time, but I noticed another police car already just down 175th street a half block or so.

About 90 minutes later, I flipped on the TV, and the top news story was that an ultralight had crashed in Johnson County, at 175th and Kenneth Rd, killing the pilot. They showed a picture of it. It was the same ultralight that we'd seen flying, playfully checking out the balloons, just shortly before it's fatal crash a few blocks north of where we'd last seen it. According to the news, it was reported by a passer-by who spotted the already-crashed plane; no one had reported having seen it actually go down. They don't know at this point if it was pilot error or equipment failure.

"Those here without the Lord, how do you cope? For this morning we don't mourn like those who have no hope." - Newsboys, Breakfast


Whazzup?Use this URL to link Sunday, August 18, 2002

It's been pointed out that "VanBooven.com is past its expiration date and it's starting to smell a little," so after an unannounced summer hiatus, I think it's about time to start updating again.

In an unusual coincedence, I ran into my brother-in-law 460 miles from home on Friday.

I had been in Indiana on business for a week, and George had been in Minnesota on business for two. I was returning home, and my connecting flight from Indianapolis went through Minneapolis. As I was walking through the terminal on my way to Concourse G, I looked about 8 feet ahead and noticed that the guy in front of me, going the same way, was George. As it turns out, he and I were on the same flight back to KC. I was supposed to be a few rows behind him on the plane, but altered my ticket at the counter so we could sit together on the flight. Then I gave him a ride home from the airport when we got back to Kansas City.

Out of all the flights on all the airlines in all the airports on all the days... What are the odds?


Get outside and do somethingUse this URL to link Friday, April 19, 2002
On the way to a cache in West Virginia

I picked up a new hobby recently: geocaching. What is that, you ask? It's a modern twist on a treasure hunt. People around the world hide "caches" in various locations, such as parks, woods, and other public lands, then other people seek out those caches using a GPS. It's a great excuse to go for a hike, explore the great outdoors, and learn a little about the history of the area while you're caching.

There's a cache hiding here...

So what's a GPS, you ask? What, have you been under a rock? (Did you cache the pun? Oh, no, I can't stop.) From geocaching.com:

Relaxing at the lake on top of a hill in West Virginia

A GPS unit is a electronic device that can determine your approximate location (within around 6-20 feet) on the planet. Coordinates are normally given in Longitude and Latitude. You can use the unit to navigate from your current location to another location. Some units have their own maps, built-in electronic compasses, voice navigation, depending on the complexity of the device.

The waterfall at Watt's Mill

Kevin introduced Jason and I to the sport the last time he was in Kansas City. We started at Watt's Mill, and spent a large part of the afternoon walking the trails in Leawood, hunting a couple of caches along the way.

Kevin signs the log as Jason looks on

These pictures are from some of the geocache hunts I've been on so far. My score card includes 4 caches in the Kansas City area, as well as 2 near Charleston, West Virginia.


The ice man comethUse this URL to link Thursday, January 31, 2002

About 349,999 of my closest neighbors and I are without power after the recent ice storm. Here are three quick pics from today's ice storm.

My back yard is gonna be a fun mess to clean up.

I think I lost about 30% of the big tree in my back yard. This is going to be a fun mess to clean up; my power line is laying in here, somewhere.

This tree looks cold and miserable.

The tree on the right looks cold and miserable. Normally, this tree doesn't look nearly so pathetic.

Are trees supposed to be able to touch their apex to the ground?

Are trees supposed to be able to touch their apex to the ground? These trees at the building next to our office sure seem to be coming close.


What color should I paint my office?Use this URL to link Sunday, December 16, 2001

I am not a fan of the cowboy boot wallpaper trim in my home office, so I'm going to redecorate it. I made a virtual model in Caligari trueSpace to aid in picking a color scheme before doing the real thing.

The original idea was just to do a basic visualization, and not to include much detail. However, as I put more and more time into making the 3D model, my focus changed, and I decided to make it much more true-to-life.

I finished rendering these back in October, but haven't gotten around to posting them until now. Please note that none of these are photos, they are all renders.

The office as it is today:

Creme with ivy trim:

Purple with green and blue trim:

Hunter with green and blue trim:

Creme with creme and blue trim:

I'm partial to creme with ivy trim, but that's just me. Should I use one of the color schemes from above, or do you have a better idea? I'm open to suggestion, so let me know what you think before I repaint.


Chillin' out in ColoradoUse this URL to link Tuesday, December 04, 2001

My cousin Rodney and I flew to Colorado the weekend of Nov 30 - Dec 2 for skiing and snowboarding. The drive from Denver to Keystone was beautiful; I couldn't get over the spectacular view of the mountains.

Photo taken by an anonymous passerby in November of 2001 in Keystone, Colorado.

We stayed in the Arapahoe Lodge at the base of Keystone's slopes; we could walk from our room to the lifts. We geared up and spent Friday afternoon and evening on the slopes.

Photo taken by Dr. Rodney Malisos in December of 2001 in Vail, Colorado.

Vail had quite a bit more snow than Keystone; about 3' as opposed to only 5" in Keystone, so we rented a car Saturday morning from "Rent A Wreck" (the name is a misnomer) in Silverthorne, loaded our gear, and drove to Vail. Just before hitting the slopes, we stopped at an Aussie pub for an early lunch. We both had the "Aussie Burger," a $10.95 burger with cheese, bacon, egg, beet, pineapple, mince, carrot, and other unusual condiments. It was surprisingly good.

Photo taken by myself in December of 2001 in Vail, Colorado.

My legs could only take so much snowboarding; after a few hours of standing on my toes, my calves were too exhausted to cooperate. At that point, controlling my snowboard became absolutely impossible, and I took several hard crashes, twisting both ankles and one knee way beyond the manufacturer's specifications. I snowboarded for a while longer before I decided to quit, and although I could barely walk, I managed to successfully snowboard all the way down the mountain on my own. Granted, I had to stop frequently, so it took a while.

Photo taken by Dr. Rodney Malisos in December of 2001 in Vail, Colorado.

There's nothing quite like a hot tub when you're exhausted and sore. The hot tubs were outside, surrounded by snow and ice, making for a unique setting. From there, we enjoyed the view of the mountains, watching the last few skiers come down the mountain.


My vacation in the CaribbeanUse this URL to link Friday, November 16, 2001

Last week, I went on a 7-day cruise through the Western Caribbean. Here's my journal.

Sunday

It was a seemingly endless race from checkpoint to checkpoint to get through the airport, to the pier, through the maze at Carnival, and onto the ship. Once aboard, they were already starting a emergency drill, and I barely had enough time to get to my room, drop off my carry-on, grab a life jacket, and head for the life boats.

A Royal Caribbean ship passed us on the way out of port in Miami.  We followed moments later.

Departure was around 5:15pm under a dark, ominously stormy sky. Make no mistake; it was absolutely beautiful. It was exremely windy, but it was only misting, so I stayed out on the deck chatting with Clarence Clark, a Baptist minister from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

No, it's not a wave pool.  Hurricane Michelle rocked our ship.

The captain changed our ports of call to route us through hurricane Michelle. Although the captain ordered everyone to stay inside as we plowed through the hurricane, Clarence and I went up to the panoramic deck under the open sky to watch "Michelle". The sides of the ship shielded us from feeling the brunt of the wind, but you couldn't miss the roar of the wind above. The swimming pool on the Lido deck gave a fairly good indication of how the ship was rocking.

Monday

I spent the day getting acquainted with the ship and getting unpacked. In the evening was "The Captain's Dinner," which was a formal affair.

Tuesday

In the morning we arrived in Cozumel, and I went on an excursion on a 65' catamaran, snorkeled, and spent some time on the beach.

A rainbow over Cozumel.

In the afternoon, I took a taxi downtown. The sales people at the stores are like car salesmen on speed. You have to admire their determination, though. The stores are open whenever tourists are there; I'm told they open when they see ships on the horizon, and they stay open until we leave -- in this case, 11:30 at night.

Sunset in Cozumel.

I went clothes shopping at a store on the main strip with no fitting rooms. The sales girl said to just take off my shirt and try on whatever I wanted. I'm glad they don't sell pants. :P

On a side note: I'm glad that, with the exception of the recent additions to airline security, we don't normally see police (military personnel) patrolling the streets carrying assault rifles.

Wednesday

A beautiful evening sky at sea.

I just kicked back and chilled. The seas were still rough, but I got used to it.

I grabbed dinner, a magic show, and a comedy show in the evening.

Thursday

It was raining harder than it looks in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Greetings from Jamaica, mon. I'm irie (happy/good). It rained all day. The captain had never docked in this port before, so he had to make a second attempt, delaying us about 90 minutes. Can't blame him though; the dinky little dock looked like a toothpick next to the 900-foot Carnival Victory, and we had to spin the ship around 180 degrees in shallow water.

Once ashore, I hopped in a van with eight other people, and we rode to the top of the tallest hill near Ocho Rios. Once there, we mountain-biked 7.5 miles through the rain forest, noting the bananas trees, bread-food trees, egrets, and countless other plants and animals that I'm not accustomed to seeing in the wild. We biked through mud all the way, through a stream as deep as the tops of our bike tires (nearly up to the seats), down many steep, slimy slopes, etc. We ended at the mouth of Dunn River, which has a 950-foot waterfall at the edge of the beach.

Dunn's River Falls, Ocho Rios, Jamaica

We spent the next hour-and-a-half climbing up the waterfall. Not beside it, mind you, but IN it, in water ranging from ankle to chest deep. I'd guess that the whole slope averaged a about 45 degrees, some parts being more level, some being pretty dang steep. We had to hold hands all the way up in case someone fell (which happened a few times). This "power wash" was useful after the ever-so-muddy bike ride.

At the end of the bike ride, the tour guides made a toast:

"Cheers to those who wish us well,
and those who don't can go to Hell.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,
If beer don't kill us, something must."

Jamaicans are really nice, but they drive crazier than the people in Cozumel.

Friday

In the morning we dropped anchor off-shore of Grand Cayman, then rode ferries ashore.

I'm in Hell

Our first stop on the tour was Hell. I saw the devil there, and what I could swear was brimstone. It wasn't all that hot, and while it's a safe bet that it won't be freezing over any time soon, it was raining in Hell, and it was hit by a hurricane on Sunday.

Snorkeling in Stingray City

After I got out of Hell, I went to Stingray City, an underwater sandbar about a 45-minute boat ride from shore. We got to snorkel among the many stingrays for an hour or so. I took an underwater camera, but the water was really rough and I don't think any of the shots will turn out.

We got to see a few touristy sites on the tour, and were able to sample Tortuga Rum cake.

As we pulled away from Grand Cayman this afternoon, and the Cayman Islands faded into the distance, I couldn't help thinking that the next time we see land, it will be Miami, and our cruise will have come to a close.

Saturday

Today I did something I've never done; I got a full body massage at the onboard spa. After the massage, I went to the steam room for a while, then to the dry sauna.

After the debarkation presentation, explaining the procedure for debarking the ship, what to expect in customs, etc., I went to get food. This was the first and only time in the last week that I had eaten anything I'd normally eat: a burger and fries. The rest of the time, the food was more exquisite; lobster, veal parmesian, filet mignon, prawn shrimp, caviar, baked alaska, creme brulee, and the list goes on.

One last sunset at sea.

In the evening I caught the final sunset of the cruise, one of only a couple that were visible; the rest were obscured by ominous skies well before sundown, if not all day.

Dusk at sea.

We're 3 for 3 now; it has been overcast and has rained on us in all three of our ports of call. I didn't mind, actually, because I don't like to wear sunscreen (although I did the one day that was sunny), and I haven't gotten sunburned. I'd rather come home pasty white than have leathery skin when I get older. Of course, I wouldn't mind a little bit of a tan. :)

Here are some more pics:

It's been a blast, and I hope you've enjoyed following along.


Kansas City Chiefs scareUse this URL to link Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Kansas City Chiefs' early morning football practice was delayed today for nearly two hours at Arrowhead stadium. One of the players, while on his way to the field, happened to look down and notice a suspicious-looking, unknown, white powdery substance on the practice field. Head coach Dick Vermeil immediately suspended practice, while the Missouri Bureau of Investigation & FBI were called in to investigate.

After a complete field analysis, the FBI determined that the white substance unknown to the players was the goal line. Practice was resumed when FBI Special Agents decided that the team would not be likely to encounter the substance again.


An interesting day of ballooningUse this URL to link Sunday, October 21, 2001

The winds aloft this morning were quick, making for an exciting chase. I couldn't keep up in the chase truck, and pretty soon the balloon was so far ahead that I lost visual contact. There's a pretty good range on the radios, but even they started to lose contact before I caught up with them at Longview Lake (see picture below).

Jason Jones flying over Longview Lake - Photo by James Van Booven

This evening was a bit abusive. The weather had been fine, but suddenly got weird when we started our first attempt at inflation. The wind unexpectedly started hitting the balloon from the side, rolling the balloon around. We unsuccessfully wrestled it for a bit, then aborted.

After untwisting the balloon and letting the winds calm down, we tried again. This time inflation went great, and after the balloon stood up, I overheard Jason tell the passengers that "unless something really weird happens, we're gonna get our flight in tonight." Immediately, I hollered at him to kid him about jinxing us. But it was too late; as I was shouting his name, the balloon lunged to the side. From there, it went to heck in a balloon basket. We wrestled the balloon around for a while, hoping that those "something really weird" winds would subside. Unfortunately, during the struggle, the wooden uprights suffered some structural damage, and we aborted again. The balloon will be temporarily out of commission, pending replacement of the uprights.

Other than the unfortunate damage to the equipment and having to abort tonight's flight, today was a lot of fun. I love the excitement and physical abuse that comes with ballooning.


Just a Fly On The WallUse this URL to link Friday, September 21, 2001



"Look Osama, it's from James Van Booven! What is it?"


Check out Grizzly Base this weekUse this URL to link Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Jason, my best friend, is in Washington, D.C. this week. Be sure to check out Grizzly Base throughout the week for some very cool updates and pictures.


The World Trade CenterUse this URL to link Tuesday, September 18, 2001

"I feel this way about it. World trade means world peace and consequently the World Trade Center buildings in New York ... had a bigger purpose than just to provide room for tenants. The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man's dedication to world peace ... beyond the compelling need to make this a monument to world peace, the World Trade Center should, because of its importance, become a representation of man's belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his beliefs in the cooperation of men, and through cooperation, his ability to find greatness."

--Minoru Yamasaki, chief architect of the World Trade Center, long ago


Attack on America: Terror Hits HomeUse this URL to link Tuesday, September 11, 2001

This, tragically, is another day that will live in infamy. My heart goes out to the victims. My only solace comes from an excerpt from Breakfast, by Newsboys.

Breakfast clubbers, drop the hankies
Though to some our friend was odd,
That day he bought those pine pajamas
His check was good with God

Those here without the Lord,
How do you cope?
For this morning we don't mourn
Like those who have no hope


Who what when where why how? 

I woke up to the sound of incoming instant messages on my PC. It was just prior to 8:30am, and Nick was urgently trying to get my attention, asking if I was watching the news. He said two planes had hit the World Trade Center. At first, I thought it was a sick joke. Not because I thought he would say something like that, but because it was better than the alternative; that it was actually happening. I flipped on the TV, and the first image I saw was that of smoke billowing out of each of the World Trade Center buildings. I listened intently, instant messaging several friends to keep them up-to-date. I watched, live, as the towers burned. Reports came in that the Pentagon had been bombed. No, a plane crashed into the Pentagon. One of the World Trade Center buildings collapsed. Minutes later, the other crumbled as well. A plane crashed in a field 80 miles north of Pittsburgh. A plane was missing. The airlines weren't sure whose planes had hit what, and if the missing plane was among those that had already crashed, or if it was en route to another target. My colleagues and I convened at Larry's house, and we watched in horror as the reports came in. No one was reporting on the potential numbers of casualties, but we knew the total had to be thousands. For the first time ever, all flights nationwide were grounded, and all the airports shut down. Inbound international flights re-routed to Canada. Our borders were sealed.

We made it back to the office around 2:30pm. None of us got any work done.


Quote for thoughtUse this URL to link Friday, September 07, 2001

I keep trying to find a life
On my own, apart from You.
I am the king of excuses;
I've got one for every selfish thing I do.

--An excerpt from dc Talk - In the Light


Another AntiVirus virusUse this URL to link Thursday, September 06, 2001

From this article on WinInfo:

A German programmer released source code for a new worm called CodeGreen, which he designed to combat the Code Red worm. The Code Red worm infects unpatched Microsoft IIS systems by exploiting a vulnerability related to index services. Once the worm infectes the IIS systems, the worm spreads rapidly. CodeGreen works by running on a system and waiting for Code Red to attack that system. When CodeGreen detects an attack, it launches a counterattack that removes Code Red and installs a copy of CodeGreen on the attacking system.

...

CodeGreen also attempts to remove the root.exe Trojan horse and drive mappings that Code Red installed. CodeGreen next determines the system's language and attempts to download and install the Microsoft patch (MS01-033). The CodeGreen worm also scans for other systems that Code Red has infected and attempts to patch those systems also.

Well-intentioned or not, it's still a virus. And more-over, it's dangerous, and causes many of the same problems as Code Red. Scanning for, and infecting, systems that are infected with Code Red generates plenty of network traffic. Taking other action on a server, such as deleting drive mappings, removing executables, and downloading Microsoft hotfixes (which can easily BSOD a server), is just plain bad. There's a reason people have gone to jail for releasing this sort of thing.


No breakup in Microsoft case 

From this article on WinInfo:

In an unexpected move, the US Department of Justice today said that it will not seek a breakup of Microsoft Corporation when the remedy phase of the company's antitrust trial resumes later this month. But the decision to forego a breakup, which seems to indicate a willingness of Justice's part to settle the case, wasn't the only bombshell. The DOJ also said that it would drop the product-bundling charges as well, effectively ending a central argument in the case.


How hard could it be to change a car battery?Use this URL to link Wednesday, September 05, 2001

Last night after work, I saw Bill and Suzan Smiley flying their hot air balloon, so I joined the chase crew and helped them pack the balloon away. When I got back to the car, I learned that usage of the hazard lights for 10 minutes had killed my car's battery. (Talk about irony: I stopped to help them, and now I had to get their help to jump-start my car).

I went straight to Advance Auto Parts for a new battery. I'm a computer geek, so I don't feel bad that I couldn't find the battery. It wasn't under the hood, which is where I would have expected it. But one of they guys who worked there came out to help, and he spent 30 minutes trying to figure out where my battery was. It turns out that it's in the wheel well; you have to take the tire off to get the battery out.

Since it was getting late, I decided to wait until this morning to mess with it. This morning I jacked up the car, and started loosening the lug nuts. The last one was on pretty tight, and while trying to get it loose, I knocked the car off the jack. I jacked the car back up, and tried again, this time being particularly careful not to jar the car. Unfortunately, it fell off again, this time bending the jack. Great. No jack, and I can't simply tighten the lug nuts back down and give up; there was no way I could get the tire on straight without jacking it back up and tightening the nuts properly. Now what?

I knew Javier has a couple of good jacks, so I borrowed one from his wife. I got the car jacked back up, took the tire off, and started to remove the battery, only to learn that one bolt was recessed far enough that it required a socket to remove. Not having any sockets, I hopped on my bike and rode to the nearest O'Reilly to buy a socket set.

When I got back home, I pulled out the socket set, slapped the right socket on the ratchet, and discovered that the ratchet was defective. The center post spun freely; not even the clickety-click sound was present. I tried to use the ratchet anyway, putting pressure on the back to try to prevent it from turning (in relation to the ratchet), to no avail. Drat, foiled again!

After rifling through my garage for a while, I managed to find an old electric ratchet that was dead, but I managed to make it work for the job at hand. It took me over 3 hours just to change a car battery, but I chalk it up to Murphy's Law: That which can go wrong, will.


A+ certification? What a joke!Use this URL to link Tuesday, September 04, 2001

A friend of mine took the A+ certification exams last week. On a whim, I decided to take the exams, too, although I opted to take them "blind"; no studying, no practice tests, no research to see what the tests covered. I passed the Core Hardware exam in less than 9 minutes, and the Operating System Technologies exam in less than 8 minutes. Talk about simple.

Update - Jason is mocking me on GrizzlyBase. Cut it out ya bum! "James Van Booven, A+" is about the same as saying "James Van Booven, Loser."

We all know I'm not a los... Oh, wait, nevermind.


Rock the LightUse this URL to link Sunday, September 02, 2001
Newsboys in concert - Photo by James Van Booven

Jason and I went to Starlight Theatre yesterday for Rock the Light, a Christian music festival. We got to see Superchick, Pool Boys, Pete Orta, Rachael Lampa, Stacie Orrico, Waterdeep, Inspire Team Worship Band, SONICFLOOd, True Vibe, and one of my personal favorites, Newsboys.

Since there were so many artists, each group only got to play a rather limited set. Newsboys rocked, as always, and managed to play Take Me To Your Leader, Reality, God Is Not A Secret, Breakfast, Shine, and Love Liberty Disco, among others.

Newsboys in concert - Photo by James Van Booven

At one point, they pulled off a rather interesting stunt. The drummer and lead singer both hopped up the drummer's platform and strapped themselves in. The disc-shaped platform then raised in the air, flipped on its side, and started spinning like an amusement park ride. All the while, they kept drumming.

Jason points out that I'm "fudging" a little bit by saying that "we" got to see Waterdeep and the Inspire Team Worship Band. For the most part, I only got to hear them. Since we were at Rock the Light for more than 7 hours, we decided we had to get food. I went to the in-amphitheatre Papa John's for pizza, and spent quite a while waiting in line. I won't say how long, but let's just say that Jason and I figured that between the actual price of the pizza, and the opportunity cost, the pizza cost about $10 per slice. It was the best pizza we'd ever had. At least, that's what I'm gonna keep telling myself...


Night Time FlyingUse this URL to link Wednesday, August 29, 2001
Night Time Flying - Photo from unknown source, via Caleb Bailey.

Caleb e-mailed me this today, with the following blurb:

This is an awesome pic. It is of a Navy Seahawk helicopter landing in the desert at night. The green glow is from the sand hitting the rotor blades and sparking.


Birth announcement: Paul Owen Van BoovenUse this URL to link Tuesday, August 21, 2001
Paul Owen Van Booven - Photo by James Van Booven

Ken and Carmen are happy to announce the birth of their first son. Here are the stats:

  • Paul Owen Van Booven
  • 8 pounds, 1/2 ounce
  • 19 inches long
  • Born at 2:38pm

I took a "Personal Holiday" from work, and hung out at the hospital all day. Be sure to ask Ken and Carmen about a red flower with blue thorns.

Pictures will be available at http://www.vanbooven.com/paul_owen/ for about a month or so.


A cool weekendUse this URL to link Monday, August 20, 2001

My parents came up over the weekend. Ken, Carmen, my parents, and I had dinner at T.G.I. Friday's on Friday evening, then went back to Ken and Carmen's apartment to visit for a while.

Saturday, we watched American Pie at my house, which strangely enough did not seem odd to watch with my parents. We met up with Tim Jones, one of my former colleagues, for dinner at Cactus Grill, and then headed to the Olathe Studio 30 to see American Pie 2. We visited for about another hour after the movie before heading back to my place, where my parents spent the night.

Sunday, after church, my parents and I had lunch at IHOP. The wait was long, and the service was lousy. Go figure.

The coolest part of the weekend was that for the first time in as long as I can remember, my family did not spend the entire time berating me. Sure, they ribbed me about a few things, but no more than what you'd do with your friends, which is cool. Normally, they focus on making me the butt of virtually every joke, they don't know when to stop (even when I make it clear), and I resent having wasted my time with them. They think I'm always stressed/uptight, but it's actually only around them. (Coincidence? I think not.) This time was different. And I actually enjoyed the weekend with them.


Enter Ora Martindale, VUse this URL to link Saturday, August 04, 2001

I got home from paintballing a little after 10:00 tonight, and found that Ora Martindale, IV, left a message on my v-mail at 4:30 this afternoon. Turns out that Ora Martindale, V, was born at about 2:00 this morning. He weighed in at 7 pounds, 3 ounces. I haven't had a chance to talk to the presumably proud parents yet, but will plan to congratulate them tomorrow after church.


Words of WisdomUse this URL to link Friday, August 03, 2001
  • Accomplishing the impossible means only that the boss will add it to your regular duties. -Doug Larson
  • Don't be irreplaceable; if you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.
  • All men can fly, but sadly, only in one direction -- down.
  • Breaking the law of gravity isn't painful, it's getting caught that hurts.
  • There is a fine line between falling and flying.
  • Always remember you're unique, just like everyone else.
  • Diplomacy is the art of saying "good doggie" while looking for a bigger stick.
  • Half of all doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class.
  • Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
  • Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
  • I didn't say it was your fault. I said I was going to blame you.
  • The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
  • All my life I wanted to be someone. I guess I should have been more specific.
  • Having a "non-smoking" section in a restuarant is as effective as having a "non-peeing" section in a pool.

Mr. Etiquette rides again 

About a week ago, the guy I sarcastically refer to as "Mr. Etiquette" left the following message on my answering machine.

James, this is [omitted]. If you're there, *please* pick up. It's *urgent*. I *desperately* need to talk to you. I'm not even at home. It's *super*-mega-important. Ok, you're not there... Uh, maybe I can get a hold of Ken. I'll try and see if maybe he's around. I don't have your cell phone number with me or I'd call you there and try to get it that way. Thanks a lot man. I call you later and tell you what's going on. Bye.

The "urgent" reason he "desperately" needed to talk to me? He wanted a serial number for Windows 95, which he was trying to install at his friend's house.


Another Online BranchUse this URL to link Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Yesterday, I launched the Telco Credit Union Online Branch, the third one I've written thus far. The Online Branch is a secure web site that allows credit union members to access their accounts over the web. Once logged on to the Online Branch, members can see their current balances, view recent tranactions, transfer funds between accounts, request copies of checks and statements, apply for loans, etc.


Cell phone bans in automobilesUse this URL to link Tuesday, July 03, 2001

Consider the following excerpt from an article on News.com:

According to the American Automobile Association, wireless phones were not among the top five contributing factors in auto accidents. From the more than 32,000 accidents analyzed, wireless phones contributed to 1.5 percent of accidents, according to the AAA research published in May.

The most distracting was an outside object, person or event, which contributed to 29.4 percent of accidents analyzed. AAA also determined that cassette or CD players were more distracting than cell phones, resulting in 11.4 percent of accidents analyzed.

Distractions from another occupant in the vehicle, such as a chatty passenger or baby, contributed to 10.9 percent of accidents. Eating or drinking contributed to 1.7 percent, according to the AAA study.

This is another one of those phobias people have about new technology, like the fear of using credit cards over the internet. While fears in that arena have mostly subsided, for several years it was a huge deal... People were afraid to use their credit cards online, even though it's much safer than using them in a resturant or store. Granted, there were a few times that credit card numbers were comprimised, but it's a disproportionately small number compared to the amount of credit card fraud from other sources. And when it happens one time, it gets blown way out of proportion, while people dismiss offline credit card fraud as "normal."

Why, when talking on the phone is statistically much safer than the other "normal" activities mentioned, is there such a controversy surrounding cell phone usage in cars? Because they're relatively new for most people, and those people are scared.


Almost done...Use this URL to link Friday, June 22, 2001

As you may know, I started modeling my home office in 3d last fall. It all started because, not being a fan of the cowboy boot wallpaper, I decided to repaint and/or repaper it. But I wanted to experiment with various themes in a virtual model before doing the real thing.

3D rendering of my office.
3D rendering of my office.

The original idea was just to do a basic visualization, and not to include much detail. However, as I put more and more time into modeling the room, my focus changed. No longer was it about testing a new paint scheme before actually painting (I could have repainted the room dozens of times by now), but it was about testing my skills in 3d modeling. It was about art. And it was about having fun.

By winter, the project ended up hitting the back burner, and only recently did I pick it back up. The renderings seen here are essentially complete (although I'll probably tweak a few things), and depict my office as it is today. I plan to add renders of proposed color schemes in the near future.

3D rendering of my office.

Some stats regarding the renders:

  • On a 1.4GHz AMD Athlon with 768MB of RAM, each of these images takes more than 7 hours to render at a resolution of 1280x1024.
  • To get soft shadows, there are 192 light sources in the scene.
  • There are 44,782 polygons and 53,868 vertices in the geometry of the scene, plus a few NURBs (Non-Uniform Rational B-Spline) objects.
  • All items in the room were (painstakingly) measured, and are accurate to within 1/32 of an inch.
  • I created all but three of the texture maps used in the scene. The textures from other sources are the wood textures of the desk, the floor, and the bookshelf.
  • There are 66.5MB of textures in the image.
  • Around 95% of this project was done between 10:00pm and 5:00am

Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 available?Use this URL to link Saturday, May 12, 2001

At the time of this writing, it's not listed on Microsoft's official Windows 2000 Service Packs site yet, but you can get it from Conxion. At about 101MB, it can be a hefty download if you don't have some variant of broadband.


I'm published on BaconUse this URL to link Tuesday, May 08, 2001

While I was in North Carolina, I saw a business that had a somewhat questionable name, and being a fan of ilovebacon.com, I took a picture and sent it in. Sure enough, they posted the picture on their front page today.


Pics from my six-hour vacation 

After finishing up at the client site, and getting a few hours of rest, I got back up at 1:45am, and headed for the coast. I made it to the beaches in Nags Head (about two miles south of Kitty Hawk) by 5:30am, giving me plenty of time to watch the first hint of light come over the horizon; sunrise was at 6:08am. I stood barefoot on the edge of the Atlantic ocean, watching the sun come up. It was a beautiful, cool morning, and the ocean was cold.

Taken May 2nd, 2001, at Nags Head Beach, Nags Head, North Carolina.
Photo courtesy of a passerby.  Taken May 2nd, 2001, at Nags Head Beach, Nags Head, North Carolina.

There weren't many people out this early in the morning; only 5 or 6 within eyeshot. I meandered up and down the beach, visiting with those I met along the way. After chatting with one woman, I realized that it was a good photo-op. She was more than happy to take a quick picture or two.

The sun came up quickly, and changed colors just as fast. It took only a few moments for the sky to change from pink to bright orange. That oft-mentioned figurative group of people, known as they, talk about how the early bird gets the worm. Looks to me more like these early birds are more interested in seafood.

Taken May 2nd, 2001, at Nags Head Beach, Nags Head, North Carolina.
Taken May 2nd, 2001, at Nags Head Beach, Nags Head, North Carolina.

Here's a shot down the beach. See, I wasn't kidding, there really weren't very many people out this early. To the 5,999,999,999 people who weren't out there that morning, you have no idea what you were missing.

This is Jockey's Ridge, a huge sand dune on the Outer Banks. There's a hang-gliding school in the park. I would have taken lessons, but the class had started about 30 minutes before I got there. Still, I hung around for a while and watched the students try to fly. In addition to hang-gliding, kite-flying is a popular activity at Jockey's Ridge. If you look at the large version of this picture, the tiny white specs on the top of the dune, to the right of center, are people.

Taken May 2nd, 2001, at Jockey's Ridge, Nags Head, North Carolina.
Taken May 2nd, 2001, at the Wright Brothers Memorial, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

As it says on the boulder, "The first successful flight of an airplane was made from this spot by Orville Wright, December 17, 1903, in a machine designed and built by Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright." This is the spot where the Wright brothers took off during their first four flights. The three markers a little way down the path, and the fourth marker waaaaaaayyyy down the path (all the way to the trees) indicate where they landed on those flights.

This was taken from the hill on which the Wright Brothers Memorial stands. Starting just left of center, and working right, you can see the markers that indicate where the Wright Brothers took off and landed on their first four flights, their hangar (the small brown shack), their house (the even smaller brown shack), and the visitor center.

Taken May 2nd, 2001, at the Wright Brothers Memorial, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
Taken May 2nd, 2001, at the Wright Brothers Memorial, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

As you can tell from the previous picture, which was taken from this hill, The Wright Brothers Memorial stands upon a huge hill. After trekking up the hill and walking around the memorial for a minute, I snapped this picture and then headed for the rental car. My six-hour vacation had come to an end, and although it was only 11:30am, it was time to get on the road; I still had quite a drive back to Raleigh for my 5:30 flight home.

This was a great six-hour vacation. Sure, I was already way behind on sleep when I got up at 1:45am and drove for almost four hours, only to have to a five-hour back to the airport to look forward to, but it was worth it just for the experience of watching the sun rise over the ocean. As a lover of flight, being in Kitty Hawk for the first time is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Watching people learning to hang-glide... Very cool.

Through all the business trips where I've worked about 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, I've never before been able to see anything but the airport, the client site, and the hotel. Sure, it was a disaster when a set of servers at the office crashed while I was inaccessible. And yes, since I wasn't able to guide them through repairing them, fixing the mess when I got back was a nightmare. But it was soooooo worth it.


The Atlantic is cold this time of yearUse this URL to link Thursday, May 03, 2001

Monday, after very little sleep, I got up early to fly to North Carolina to a client site. After 11 hours of traveling, I worked for 8-and-a-half hours at the client site, then spent another hour waiting on the clerk at the hotel to figure out how to check me in (and I had a reservation).

After a couple hours of sleep, I got back to the client site. I had less than two hours of work left to do, and my plan was to get that done, hang around for a couple additional hours for good measure, then take off around noon. However, it never matters if the job I was sent to do was done early; the clients always figure that since I'm there anyway, I should fix every hardware, software, and network glitch they've ever had, even the stuff that can't be fixed. This was no exception; they had so many other issues they wanted me to look at that I didn't get done until late in the evening.

Since my scheduled flight wouldn't get me home until 7:00pm, I wouldn't get anything done at the office Wednesday. I could delay my flights, sight-see in the morning, travel at night, and still be at the office Thursday morning, not missing any additinal hours in the office. I mentioned that to my boss, and he said that's what he'd do if he were me. So I arranged it with the airline, then went to bed at 10:00pm.

I got back up at 1:45am Wednesday, and headed for the coast. I made it to the beaches in Nags Head (about two miles south of Kitty Hawk) by 5:30am, giving me plenty of time to watch the first hint of light come over the horizon; sunrise was at 6:08am. I stood barefoot on the edge of the Atlantic ocean, watching the sun come up. It was a beautiful, cool morning, and the ocean was cold. There weren't many people out this early in the morning; only 5 or 6 within eyeshot. I meandered up and down the beach, visiting with those I met along the way.

I have pictures, which I'll post later. Check back for them.

Here's the clincher... When I got back to Raleigh and my phone got reception, it started alerting me to message after message after message after... Well, you get the idea. I had recieved 10 messages that morning, and my mailbox wouldn't accept any additional messages. A server at work had crashed, and since the office couldn't reach me, they reloaded it, and both of it's counterparts, from Ghost images I made two weeks ago. That wiped out all the many changes that I've made in the last two weeks... I backed up the data Sunday before I left, which I reloaded today, but there are a lot of configuration settings that had to be manually restored. It was a mess that took me all day to clean up. I think Scott was right, in this situation, they should have accepted a couple of hours of down-time and waited until they could get in touch with me; I could have walked them through it over the phone and in an hour. Still, they did the best they could, and they thought through the decision weighing the potential consequences of waiting for me versus working the issue on their own, so while I don't agree with it, I respect the decision that was made.

On top of that, Nick was at a client site and needed my help with an issue. He was sitting "dead in the water" until he could reach me, and time was of the essence.

Now I remember why I've taken only one week of vacation in the last three years.


Cyborgs are not science fictionUse this URL to link Thursday, April 19, 2001

There's an interesting article in The Washington Post that outlines dozens of experiments similar to this one:

The cyborg is no RoboCop, but it is a revolutionary experiment in combining a mechanical device with living tissue. The robot is controlled by an immature lamprey eel brain that was removed, kept alive in a special solution and attached to the hockey-puck-sized robot by wires so it can receive signals from the device's electronic eyes and send commands to move the machine's wheels.

Many of the cyborgs are practical, but this one made me laugh...

Moths use their antennae to detect different odors. Baker attaches electrodes to the base of the antennae to try to develop an olfactory "signature" for any odor he seeks, including high explosives. The eventual goal is to put the antennae in a mobile cyborg that can both sense a land mine and flag the target.

The system now works with a remote-controlled vehicle, Baker said, but a trained researcher has to walk beside it to listen for the tonal patterns that signal "hits," and find their source by assessing the wind direction.

I guess they know they've found a land mine when the researcher is blown to smithereens.


Microsoft cancels Windows NT4 Service Pack 7Use this URL to link Wednesday, April 18, 2001

This comes as no surprise. The moment Microsoft releases a new version of a product, they virtually eliminate support for the previous version. Service Pack 6a, the final service pack for Windows NT 4, was released in November 1999, three months prior to the February 2000 release of Windows 2000.

What I find intriguing is this quote from Paul Thurrott's WinInfo:

The company notes that it's committed to delivering service packs for its current OS, Windows 2000 and that the oft-delayed Win2K SP2 "will be released in the near future." Given changes to the software-updating systems in Windows XP, Microsoft is evaluating whether that OS will even need service pack releases.

When I skimmed across that, I missed the point and thought Microsoft was vainly asserting that Windows XP would be stable. But alas, when I actually read it, I realized that they're just enhancing Windows Update. This brings up a few questions...

  • Will it ask before it downloads a 40MB update, or will it just assume you want to?
  • If it asks first, will it ask "Are you sure?", "Are you really sure?", "Are you sure you're sure?", and "Really?"
  • Will the updates be available to download and burn to CD, or are computers on private networks without direct internet connectivity out-of-luck?

Marijuana in 30 minutes or it's freeUse this URL to link Monday, April 16, 2001

So weird, it has to be true. After all, I can't make this stuff up...

"A new company claims that it will soon allow residents in Amsterdam to order marijuana over their WAP phones."

For more information, read the article about iToke.


A hair-brained idea 

I have a goatee, and I happen to like it. But, if Kansas City ever tried to pull something this stupid, I'd shave in a heartbeat. Read about a new, ridiculous law.


Happy Birthday to Mom!Use this URL to link Tuesday, April 10, 2001

I want to wish my mom "Happy Birthday," as today is like her 152nd birthday, or something like that. ;)


Happy Birthday to me! 

Sunday was my birthday. Jeanie and George invited me over for lunch on Saturday to celebrate. We took my nephews to the park to try (unsuccessfully) to fly kites in the sporadic winds. Brandon climbed a tree and couldn't get down; I climbed up and gave him a piggy-back ride back down.

I had a BBQ at my house on Sunday. Jason, Holly, Ora, and Enid came over for the afternoon and we enjoyed hanging out in the back yard visiting. Cooper, Caleb, Rick, and Josh were unable to make it, due to a network outage at work.

On Monday, the company president took everyone out to lunch for a birthday celebration, rounding off three days of celebrating with family, friends, and colleagues.


Pics of Ora Martindale, V?Use this URL to link Saturday, March 24, 2001

Martindale.org has pictures of Ora Martindale, V. Or it could be his sister. Either way, congratulations to Ora and Enid. My friends and I were developing on the Internet long before today's web developers could spell www. Yet I am still in awe of the idea that people across the world can see inside of Ora and Enid's unborn child.


I want to work for Cerner. Not. 

The Kansas City Star has an interesting article about a memo by Cerner Corporation's Chief Executive Neal Patterson accusing employees of not working long enough hours. Some interesting excerpts...

"As managers -- you either do not know what your EMPLOYEES are doing; or YOU do not CARE. You have created expectations on the work effort which allowed this to happen inside Cerner, creating a very unhealthy environment."

Jason noted that they normally "blow smoke up their employees arses by calling them associates. But when [they are] pissy, it's EMPLOYEES." Here's another one:

"The pizza man should show up at 7:30 p.m. to feed the starving teams working late. The lot should be half-full on Saturday mornings...You have two weeks. Tick, tock."


Bud Brown Chrysler Plymouth sucksUse this URL to link Friday, March 16, 2001

Last Friday I spent $400 to have Bud Brown Chrysler Plymouth, Inc. replace the motor and pump assembly for the roof of my Chrysler Sebring convertible. Last night, much to my dismay, I realized they didn't bother to put it all back together. Putting the top down will tear up the liner, so the convertible is out-of-commission until it's repaired.

Today I called them to set up an appointment to fix it. Since they "don't do that kind of work on weekends," I have to wait until next week. While one would think that since this is their goof-up, I should be able make an appointment have them repair the car while I wait, they refuse to do that. Instead, I have to leave my car there for the entire day. Unless I can figure out how to fix it myself, I can't put the top down during what will probably be the first good weekend of the year.

I think I might call them on Monday to raise some heck.


The beginning of the end - Part II 

It looks like it will be the beginning of the end for... (drum roll, please) ...our implementation of MIFST (Microsoft Internet Finance Server Toolkit). I've been working for a few weeks on a Winsock (Window Socket) COM object to replace the functionality of MIFST, and yesterday I got the first set of transactions going. Soon, we will be rid of MIFST, and our clients will be very happy. But not half as happy as I. :)


The beginning of the endUse this URL to link Thursday, March 15, 2001

Today is an interesting day. It marks the beginning of the end for at least one of two things that have played a very important role in my life during the last several years. I won't know until later for sure which one of those two things will be coming to an end, and whether or not the other one will matter. Either way, I'm pretty much assured to remember today for the rest of my life.


Mom's had a really bad weekUse this URL to link Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Last Wednesday, my mom was mugged. Two guys ambushed her from behind and clubbed her over the head with an unknown weapon, knocking her to the ground. After stealing her purse and another bag she was carrying, they smashed the window out of the car and ransacked it.

My mom was OK, although she had a nasty 4.5" gash on the back of her head, along with a number of bruises from being knocked down. The police managed to track almost everything down, except the one thing of real consequence... The lousy, no good SOB's who clubbed my mom! It's probably just as well, because what I would do to them wouldn't exactly be legal. Or anywhere close. I'm not a violent man. But that changes when you mess with my family.

Today, mom totalled her car. She lost control on the ice, and slid off the road into a tree. She got a concussion, and is in the hospital for at least a day or two. Dad said they think she'll be fine, but she is repeatedly vomiting, which my research on WebMD indicates is not a good thing.

The roads are really bad right now. It's at least a 2.5 hour drive to the hospital in good weather, but the snow and ice make it a much longer, more treacherous trip. With any luck, the roads will clear off enough that it will be safe to drive down tomorrow afternoon.


The Microsoft cover-upUse this URL to link Wednesday, January 24, 2001

As you are probably aware, many of Microsoft's sites have suffered major outages today. As of the time of this writing, Microsoft and the media are downplaying the fact that they know what really happened, and referring to it only as a "possibility."

Consider the following excerpt from this article on ZDNet and the exact same article (typos and all) on News.Com:

"Microsoft scrambled Wednesday afternoon to find the cause of extensive outage that blocked traffic to many of its major Web sites, acknowledging the problem may have been caused by an attack rather than a technical glitch."

What do they mean it may have been caused by an attack? It was an attack (I'll show you proof in a minute), and they've known it all day.

Here's another excerpt from the same article

"Microsoft's problem seemed to be a glitch that crept into the latest DNS update."

A "glitch" that "crept" in? Glitch my butt! It was a hack. Plain and simple.

The rest of the article suggests that it could be something else, including the possibilities that it was "hacked, under a DDoS attack or there (was) a configuration problem."

The proof

A friend jokingly asked me this morning if I had hacked Microsoft's NS record, which meant he already knew that's what had been hacked.

I wrote two applications yesterday to let me communicate via Winsock (Windows Sockets) as a learning excercise for a project at work. The client application lets me establish a socket connection to any listening port on a remote computer, then transmit/recieve raw data. I decided to test the application today by connecting to InterNIC's database, which tracks domain names and their associated DNS servers. I used my Winsock Client to establish a socket to port 43 on rs.internic.net, and then I queried for "microsoft.com"

Here's the response:

Whois Server Version 1.3

Domain names in the .com, .net, and .org domains can now be registered
with many different competing registrars. Go to http://www.internic.net
for detailed information.

MICROSOFT.COM.WILL.LIVE.FOREVER.BUT.LUNIX.SUCKS-BYBIRTH.ARTISTICCHEESE.COM
MICROSOFT.COM.SHOULD.GIVE.UP.BECAUSE.LINUXISGOD.COM
MICROSOFT.COM.SE.FAIT.HAX0RIZER.PAR.TOUT.LE.ZOY.ORG
MICROSOFT.COM.OWNED.BY.MAT.HACKSWARE.COM
MICROSOFT.COM.N-AIME.BILL.QUE.QUAND.IL.N-EST.PAS.NU
MICROSOFT.COM.MUST.STOP.TAKEDRUGS.ORG
MICROSOFT.COM.IS.SOON.GOING.TO.THE.DEATHCORPORATION.COM
MICROSOFT.COM.IS.SECRETLY.RUN.BY.ILLUMINATI.TERRORISTS.NET
MICROSOFT.COM.IS.NOTHING.BUT.A.MONSTER.ORG
MICROSOFT.COM.IS.NO.MATCH.FOR.THE.UEBER-GEEKS.AT.JIMPHILLIPS.ORG
MICROSOFT.COM.IS.GOD.BUT.LINUX.SUCKS-FOREVER.ARTISTICCHEESE.COM
MICROSOFT.COM.IS.BORING.COMPARED.TO.TEENEXTREME.COM
MICROSOFT.COM.IS.AT.THE.MERCY.OF.DETRIMENT.ORG
MICROSOFT.COM.INSPIRES.COPYCAT.WANNABE.SUBVERSIVES.NET
MICROSOFT.COM.HAS.NO.LINUXCLUE.COM
MICROSOFT.COM.HACKED.BY.PSYKOJOKO.ON.A.ROOT-NETWORK.COM
MICROSOFT.COM.HACKED.BY.HACKSWARE.COM
MICROSOFT.COM.GUTS.NL
MICROSOFT.COM.FAIT.VRAIMENT.DES.LOGICIELS.A.TROIS.FRANCS.DOUZE.ORG
MICROSOFT.COM.ER.IKKE.NO.I.FORHOLD.TIL.LATHANS.NET
MICROSOFT.COM.AINT.WORTH.SHIT.KLUGE.ORG
MICROSOFT.COM

To single out one record, look it up with "xxx", where xxx is one of the
of the records displayed above. If the records are the same, look them up
with "=xxx" to receive a full display for each record.

Last update of whois database: Tue, 23 Jan 2001 10:55:29 EST

The Registry database contains ONLY .COM, .NET, .ORG, .EDU domains and
Registrars.

This was not a "glitch" that "crept" in. Somebody didn't accidentally write some faulty code that, when it fails, accidentally results in derogatory remarks about Microsoft in InterNICs database. Obviously, this was a deliberate hack.

With that record hacked, computers can't resolve (look up) the IP addresses of Microsoft's servers in DNS. If your computer can't get the IP of the servers, it can't connect to them.

I've known about this since this morning, and you can bet Microsoft knew quite a bit sooner. Yet at the current time they are still not conclusively acknowledging that it was a hack.


My virtual office (revisited)Use this URL to link Thursday, January 11, 2001

My virtual officeI've spent very little time working on the 3D model of my office lately, for several reasons. First and foremost, I haven't had (or made) enough free time. Secondly, I'm kind of procrastinating, as a new version of the modeling software I use is supposed to be released very soon, and I'd like to take it for a spin. I hope to be able to get back into this project within the next couple of weeks.

This is the current version. As you can see, I have made some progress since the last time I publicly released an image.

My virtual officeThe current list of items still waiting to be done:

  • model the computer monitor
  • model the doorknob
  • add the "idiocy" lithograph to the back wall
  • finish the venetian blinds
  • add some more junk to the bookshelf

I'll want to try to add some other stuff, too. The little details are what polish an image like this.


My new God-son...Use this URL to link Saturday, December 09, 2000

Congratulations to Michael and Paula, who just had their second son. James Nathanial Bales was born Friday, December 8th, at 12:32pm CST. He's a cutie with blue eyes and a full head of black hair. At birth, he was 7 pounds, 13.8 ounces, and 20 inches long. I went home for part of the weekend to see everyone. The second I walked into the hospital room, Paula bundled James up and handed him to me. What a cute little guy!

He hasn't been baptized, so technically I'm not his God-father yet, but they've already asked and I've accepted. I don't think he'll be baptized for a while, as a God-mother has not been selected. I think Michael and Paula would have selected Christine, since she and I are Anthony's God-parents; however Christine is currently stationed in Kosovo until Spring 2001. Mike and Paula haven't decided whether they'll postpone the baptism select an alternate God-mother.


Does YOUR mom ask YOU for I.D.? 

After leaving the hospital, I decided to go visit Mom where she works. While I was there, Dad called, and the three of us arranged to have a quick lunch before scattering to run some errands. Dad had to clean up first, so I told Mom that while we waited, I was going to go get cash at an ATM. She said not to bother, since the business could cash a check for me. I wrote a check to the business, and Mom asked me for my I.D. I commented "Funny, Mom." She said "No, really, I need I.D." I gave her my license and she made a photocopy of both it and the check. Rules are rules, and she was right to make a copy of it just like she'd have to for any other customer. Later, I realized that I should have asked her if she needed any personal references, or other personal information such as my mother's maiden name...


See, it is hereditary... 

We planned to meet at 1:40pm at McDonalds. Dad was 35 minutes late. He was ready early, figured he had a few minutes to spare, and wanting to maximize the efficiency of his time, he decided to run an errand on the way. Unfortunately, it took much longer than he anticipated, and he showed up way late. See, it is hereditary! Speaking of that, were you aware that insanity is hereditary, too? Yep, it is. You get it from your kids.


Geez, what are you, my mother? Oh, yeah, you are... 

Here's another amusing anecdote from lunch. Since Dad was so late, I decided to run over to the other McDonalds to verify he hadn't gone to the wrong one by mistake. Dad showed up to the right one while I was gone. Since there was about a 15-minute wait for food, Mom ordered for me, so that I wouldn't have to wait too long after I got back. I was planning on eating moderately healthy: a grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce and BBQ sauce, and water. What did Mom order for me? A Big Mac combo with fries and a soda. I could barely restrain myself from ROFL (Rolling On Floor, Laughing), because if I would have ordered that, I'd probably have gotten the obligatory motherly lecture about eating healthy... The food was really good though. Hehe. Thanks, Mom, I love you! And of course you, too, Dad. :)

All-in-all, it has been a seriously awesome weekend. So far. Let's hope my luck persists through tomorrow...


Proud to be an American? Should I be?Use this URL to link Friday, November 10, 2000

America is the laughing stock of the world. This is nothing new. "The President of the United States of America" used to be a prestigious position which commanded respect, but now it's a joke. In the last few years, how many jokes about cigars, Monica Lewinsky, and Bill Clinton have you heard? Not "President Clinton," mind you, but "Bill Clinton." That's pretty informal for addressing our president, don't you think? I still say he's getting more respect than he deserves. I'd call him "the lying, adultering sack of dung in the White House." But maybe that's just me. He lied under oath. That's perjury, and he got away with it. "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" my butt. And I won't even go in to the immorality of having an extramarital affair... People used to look up to the president, and dreamed that their kids would grow up to be like him. Now people have nightmares that their kids might grow up to be like Bill Clinton.

During this process of electing the next President of the United States of America, Al Gore is questioning the very fabric of our democracy. I don't see what his problem is... Bush was elected. Florida's 25 electoral votes are the tie-breaker. Bush won the popular vote in Florida. After a recount, he still beat Al Gore. During the recount, Al Gore's campaign kept pointing out that the recount was automatic, they didn't request it. True, but they demanded another recount after that... I think it's obvious Gore's campaign would have requested the first recount, but Florida law just beat them to it.

Al Gore himself said that whatever the results of the recount, he would support them, and if that meant George W. Bush won, he would support him. Gore, being the liar that he is, is now not only demanding another recount, but is promising to support any legal challenges of the results of the election. He's acting like a whiny little kid. I can almost hear him saying "Mommy, mommy! I wanted to win the election! Wah! It's mine! It's mine! Give it to me!"

During this election I've heard some of the most ridiculous arguments as to why people think Gore should have won.

Claim: "Gore got more popular votes. The electoral system doesn't work."

I used to agree. However, a friend helped me understand the reasoning behind the electoral college. It is designed to balance the voting power between the big and small states, so that the large states still get fairly substantial voting power, but that small states get a bit more voting power than they otherwise would if elections were determined by popular vote alone. It all boils down to making elections fair, and ensuring that the election isn't necessarily determined by the majority of the popular vote.

Claim: "The ballot was confusing. People in Palm Beach accidentally voted for Buchanan instead of Gore."

Have you seen the ballot in question? Has the Florida sun fried some brains down there? You don't even have to be literate to follow the big, bold arrows pointing to the right hole. There's already a legal precedent for this situation. In Florida in 1974, the Second District Court of Appeal unanimously overturned a trial judge, and let the original election stand in a case like this. (Nelson v. Robinson, 301 So.2d 508, Fla. Ct. App. 2d Dist., 1974.) Here's an excerpt of the court's explanation:

"Keeping in mind that we are talking about a claim made after an election, and not one which may have been enforceable before, if a candidate appears on the ballot in such a position that he can be found by the voters upon a responsible study of the ballot, then such voters have been afforded a full, free and open opportunity to make their choice for or against that particular candidate; and the candidate himself has no constitutional right to a particular spot on the ballot which might make the voters' choice easier. His constitutional rights in the matter end when his name is placed on the ballot. Thereafter, the right is in the voters to have a fair and reasonable opportunity to find it; and as to this, it has been observed that the constitution intended that a voter search for the name of the candidate of his choice and to express his of the candidate of his choice without regard to others on the ballot. Furthermore, it assumes his ability to read and his intelligence to indicate his choice with the degree of care commensurate with the solemnity of the occasion."

Al Gore seems to be much more worried about winning this election than doing what is right for this country. His supporters are demanding a "revote" and amendments to the constitution. They'd sooner tear the country apart than lose the election. Can you imagine if we start to allow "revotes" in our country? The losers in every election would go to court to get a "revote" until they win the election. Rather than accept the fact that he lost (twice), Al Gore is going to threaten to sue, question our Constitution, whine, and further degrade the presidency of the USA.

Quick, the rest of the world is watching... Has anybody seen Al's pacifier?


My virtual officeUse this URL to link Wednesday, October 25, 2000
Early test render of my office.

My office at home is in need of redecoration. But I'm not going to just grab a bucket of paint at The Home Depot and start slathering the walls with it... I decided that I'm going to make a 3D model of the office first. Then I can use the "virtual office" to play with different decor, and I'll know exactly how the office will look before I spill - I mean apply - the first coat of paint.

Our annual User's Conference at work was this week, and with all the preparation for that, I haven't had much time to work on the model of the office. I'm only showing you the wireframe for now, as it's still in it's early stages, and I don't want to spoil the end result.


The bike tripUse this URL to link Saturday, October 14, 2000

My sister and I challenged ourselves to a bike ride today. It was cold and wet, but decided to try the trek anyway. We left from Station Casino at 7:30 am, and we headed towards our home town. I ride quite a bit faster than Jeanie, so I let her set the pace. Our dad followed us in the car to prevent us from getting run over on the narrow, shoulder-less stretches of highway. The ride was slow, but scenic.

Shortly into the trip, it had warmed up and the sky cleared off. That lasted until early in the afternoon, at which point it clouded over again. Forty-eight miles into the trip, a few miles before Norborne, it started pouring. We hopped in the car for a few minutes to decide what to do. Jeanie was done for the day, but I decided to keep going when the rain stopped. Below a blackend sky, I rode on. Just after Norborne, it started to pour. I rode on for another hour in the cold, pouring rain. At 6:00pm, in Carrolton, I decided that it was time to stop. I was cold, wet, and tired, plus it was pretty dark. My total distance covered: 63 miles.


What's with these stupid lights?Use this URL to link Tuesday, October 10, 2000

This summer, I installed some landscape lights around the outside of my house. Fourteen, to be exact; eight in front of the house, and six behind. The other day, I noticed that the 6 lights out back weren't on, while the 8 out front were. Odd.

Here's the setup for the lights. There is a power supply box behind the house, and it plugs into a standard three-prong outlet. There are two other power cables coming out of the power supply box; one goes to the lights in front, one to the lights in back. The individual lights clamp on to the power cables, driving metal spikes into the "hot" and "common" wires within the power cord. This allows you to string the power cable anywhere you want lights, and then you just clamp the lights on the power cable where you want them.

Follow my thought process here. The lights attached to the cable out front are all on, but none of those attached to the cable in back are. The lights form a parrallel circuit. If one light goes out, they do NOT all go out, so one bad light isn't causing the problem. My first thought was that the power cable for the back set had come loose from the power supply box. Nope. Maybe the "hot" or "common" post (terminal) for that set shorted out. I swapped the two power cables, anticipating that the back set would come on, and the front set would go out. Nope. The front set came on again, and the back set stayed off, meaning that all the terminals on the power supply box were good. It must something with the cable. It must have gotten cut, or an animal chewed it in half somewhere between the power supply box and the first light. To test this theory, I grabbed an extra light and clamped it on to the power cable just a few feet from the power supply box. It came on. Ok, so the cable has power up to this point. I moved 10 feet down the line and did it again. Again, the light came on. Hmm... The power cable is OK at least to this point... So I hooked it up just an inch before the first light on the set. Again, it came on. But all the other lights were still off. Maybe that first light is shorted out, and none of the others are getting power. Just to be sure, I plugged the test light in on the other side of the first light. It came on again! What the heck? How is this getting power and that one isn't? I then hooked the test light up all the way past dead light number six, and again, it came on. Why aren't these lights coming on? There's power in this stupid cable...

At this point, I realized what was going on. Have you figured it out yet?

Somehow, all six of the lights out back had burned out at once. I took the bulb out of the test light, put it in the last dead light, and it lit. There must have been one heck of a surge on that power cable that nuked 'em all. But, honestly, would you have thought that maybe ALL six of those lights had burned out while NONE of the other eight had?


Busy weekendUse this URL to link Sunday, October 08, 2000

This weekend, in addition to the usual stuff like doing laundry, vacuuming, and getting a haircut, I picked up brush in the yard, replaced the cap on an attic vent, cleaned the gutters, took a chain out of a tree, took a bullhorn off the chimney, fixed the latch on a gate in the yard, replaced a doorknob, ran some cable in the attic, moved the cable modem to the network closet, mounted a smoke detector in the network closet, replaced the lights in the aquarium, sorted a bunch of papers, cleaned the guest bedroom, scrubbed the tub, picked up a few things I needed from The Home Depot, etc.

For fun, I saw Meet The Parents, which was hilarious. I also crewed for Chris and Amanda Sabia, of Kansas City AeroSports, on one of the RE/MAX hot air balloons. We took four passengers up for a nice evening flight.


The Empower balloon 

Chris and Amanda told me that the Empower balloon, which I used to crew for, is for sale as of today. I don't have any details, although I heard Empower is asking for something in the neighborhood of $14,000 for it. Considering it's original price, that's a bargain.


Good-bye, Sean Baird, part 2Use this URL to link Friday, September 29, 2000
Sean Baird - photo courtesy of Chris Miller

Wednesday night we flew five hot air balloons in memory of Sean. A few of us got together with some balloon pilots who knew Sean, and we launched south of Kansas City. We only flew for about 45 minutes, as winds quickly brought the balloons back to the outskirts of the city.

A few of us are getting together at Tanners tonight and tomorrow night. It was always a fairly popular post-flight hangout, and was one of Sean's favorites. Although I'm not fond of the bar/pub scene, I do remember going a few times to hang out with the guys.

The funeral will be tomorrow morning. Sean's parents had him cremated, and the tentative plans are to scatter his ashes from a balloon on Sunday morning. Balloons were Sean's passion; I think he would be honored by such a fitting tribute.


Good-bye, Sean BairdUse this URL to link Monday, September 25, 2000

I received the following via e-mail this morning. It was written by Ann Sherrill, formerly of Empower.

It is with much sadness that I am sending this message.

Jamie Hohman and Sean Baird went to Dallas this past weekend for a balloon rally. Unfortunately, on their return trip home, they were involved in an automobile accident. Sean Baird did not survive the accident.

As we all know, Sean was a wonderful, happy, vivacious, bright young man. God must have some incredible plans for him which may be difficult for us to understand. That's why He is called the Master Planner.

Funeral arrangements have not been made at this time. Should I hear of anything, I will most certainly share the times and location with all of you.

Please forward this message onto others whose e-mail address you may have and whose lives have been touched by knowing Sean.

With deepest sympathy.

I've known Sean since early 1997, when I started working at Empower. After Toby Brown left, Sean became pilot of the Empower hot air balloon. I remained on the balloon crew even after I left Empower in 1998. It's only been a couple of weeks since the last time I crewed with Sean and Jamie.

Good-bye, Sean.


Happy 1st Birthday Anthony!Use this URL to link Sunday, September 24, 2000
Anthony on his new trike

Anthony Durham Bales, my Godson, turned 1 on Friday. I spent yesterday at the birthday party in Warrensburg. This was the first time I had seen Mike and Paula's new place, which is really nice. After we all had lunch, Anthony opened his gifts (with a little assistance), while everyone else took pictures. We played cards for quite a while, and then went to Mass. Anthony was definitely a handful in church, but he was well-behaved for a one-year-old. I got to hold him most of the time, so several people in church assumed he was mine. Being a Godfather is sort of like being an uncle in that you can usually send the little one back to Mommy and Daddy for things like diaper-changes. I love that. :)

Anthony is ready for bed

After Mass, we finished our card game and visited for a while. After almost everyone else had either left or went to bed, Mike, Paula, Marion, and I went to the campus and shot pool for a couple hours. Mike and I won seven games to Paula and Marion's four.


Other stuff 

This weekend has been a busy one. I've been running constantly from one thing to the next, and I still can't keep up. Very early this morning I realized that a server at work had been down all day yesterday, but I hadn't received any notifications because my pager doesn't have coverage in Warrensburg. I went to the office and brought the server back online, but that made me late for other engagements. Bad weather cancelled my plans to go bike riding today, but at least I got in about 18 miles on Friday night before the storms hit.


Web site updatesUse this URL to link Sunday, September 17, 2000

One thing's for sure... VBC (VanBooven.Com) was long overdue for a renovation. Well, this is phase one. Notice anything?

I've tweaked the fonts and graphics a little. The opening splash screen and multiple themes have been eliminated.

I've updated my Résumé and made it available in three formats. I've also updated the Jump Log, About Me, and Links sections.

I've added two new sections; Artwork and Photos.

The Software, 3D Gallery, and Balloon sections have been eliminated, although the images from the 3D Gallery are available in the Artwork section, and the images from the Balloon and About Me sections are available in the Photos section.

Many of the images on the site have been thumbnailed for easier browsing.

On the back end, I've upgraded the site from HTML to XHTML, I've moved to a new server, and one section of the site is now database-driven.

After you've had a chance to check out the new layout, drop me an e-mail to let me know what you think.


Jason's Montana trip 
Fires in Bitterroot Valley, near Hamilton

For the first time in over 5 years, my best friend Jason has gone home to Montana. During his week-long trip, he's keeping an online journal on his web site.

It's sadly ironic that he hasn't been back for so long, and now that he's finally going back, half the state has burned down. The fire pictured is in Bitterroot Valley, near Hamilton, somewhere south of Jason.


August 28th, 2000Use this URL to link Monday, August 28, 2000

Jason and I biked 20 miles yesterday. That was an easy ride, but it did leave me a little tired for today's much more intense, abusive ride.

I took the morning off work to mountain-bike with Rodney. We started in Minor park and took the dirt trails through the woods to the south. We rode on horse trails, over logs, through gullies, through streams, up and down steep inclines, etc. There were many places that the trails were just ruts. Rodney didn't realize I was serious when I said that we needed to stop and rest for a bit; I was starting to suffer from heat exhaustion. We kept going up a big hill. When we got to the top, we turned left up another big hill. At the top of that one, we turned left up another hill (what ever happened to downhill?). All the while I kept saying "Dude, really. We NEED to stop. No, really. I'm not kidding. Dude. Let's rest. I'm serious..." but Rodney still didn't think I was serious. Finally, I told him I had to stop and throw up. And I did. Twice. Heat exhaustion isn't fun.

The price of an intense bike ride through narrow trails in the woods is...

  • A spider up my nose
  • Road-rash on my shoulder
  • A sore rotator cuff
  • Funky purple marks on my arm
  • Scrapes on my elbow
  • Scratches on my back
  • A bruised, swollen lump on my leg
  • Bruise on the palm of my hand
  • Slight pain when I bend my wrist
  • A sore hip

The trip was awesome, definitely worth the abuse my body took. Hey, it just adds "character." We're looking forward to doing it again.


August 22nd, 2000Use this URL to link Tuesday, August 22, 2000

Sunday afternoon I rode my bike from home to the office and back, which is a little over 20 miles round-trip. Jason and I rode from 103rd and Roe to 127th and Quivira after work both Monday and Today, and we figure that's about a 15 mile round-trip.

I flipped my bike end-over-end Monday night. It was almost completely dark, and something ran across the trail in front of me. When I hit the brakes, I got the front one first, flipping the bike and throwing me off. I landed on my feet, not scraping or hitting myself on anything. I walked back, picked up the bike, and we continued on.

When you think of all the accidents I've been in and walked away from without a scratch, it's obvious that I have a very skilled guardian angel watching over me. Jason and I were discussing that mine must get some serious hazard pay. Bike wrecks are nothing. I've been in a bus that rolled. I've been in a truck that rolled. I've been on a 4-wheeler that rolled. I went through a tree at 100mph without a parachute while skydiving. I've had some pretty nice wipe-outs while snowboarding and roller-blading. Need I go on? The only injuries sustained during any of those incidents were a couple of bruises and puncture wounds from going through the tree. I've never broken a bone in my life. And it's not for a lack of trying. :) It's not like I ever do anything risky, or anything. Cough cough.

If my guardian angel ever retires, I'm in big trouble...


August 10th, 2000Use this URL to link Thursday, August 10, 2000

I took my car to a body shop and had them work on it. Most of the scratches came out. I was pleasantly surprised at how good of a job the guy did. If you ever need work like that done, I know someone I can recommend.

I have a couple of religious tid-bits that I was sent recently, and thought I'd share them here.


A New Twist on "Footprints" 

Imagine you and the Lord Jesus are walking down the road together. For much of the way, the Lord's footprints go along steadily, consistently, rarely varying the pace.

But your footprints are a disorganized stream of zigzags, starts, stops, turnarounds, circles, departures and returns.

For much of the way, it seems to go like this, but gradually your footprints come more in line with the Lord's, soon paralleling His consistently. You and Jesus are walking as true friends!

This seems perfect, but then an interesting thing happens: Your footprints, that once etched the sand next to Jesus', are now walking precisely in His steps. Inside His larger footprints are your smaller ones, safely you and Jesus are becoming one.

This goes on for many miles, but gradually you notice another change. The footprints inside the large footprints seem to grow larger. Eventually they disappear altogether. There is only one set of footprints; they have become one. This goes on for a long time, but suddenly the second set of footprints is back. This time it seems even worse! Zigzags all over the place. Stops. Starts. Deep gashes in the sand. A veritable mess of prints. You are amazed and shocked. Your dream ends.

Now you pray: "Lord, I understand the first scene with zigzags and fits. I was a new Christian; I was just learning. But you walked on through the storm and helped me learn to walk with you.

"That is correct."

" .. and when the smaller footprints were inside of Yours, I was actually learning to walk in Your steps; followed you very closely."

"Very good. You have understood everything so far."

".. when the smaller footprints grew and filled in Yours, I suppose that I was becoming like you in every way."

"Precisely."

"So, Lord, was there a regression or something? The footprints separated, and this time it was worse than at first.

There is a pause as the Lord answers with a smile in his voice. "You didn't know? That was when we danced."

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to weep, a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance. - Ecclesiastics 3:1,4


Baby Moses 

Baby Moses


August 4th, 2000Use this URL to link Friday, August 04, 2000

I worked at a church camp July 24th - 27th at Tan-Tar-A. Since I was working for the camp, the trip was free, but it turned out to be very expensive. More on that later. But first...

The trip was a blast. Every morning the 14 volunteers would get up around 7:00, and the girls would come over to the guys room at 8:00 for breakfast. By 8:30, we were at the Auditorium serving breakfast. After that, we'd move on to one of our three assigned stations (pool, dock, devotional), each of which we'd spend 2 hours at.

At the pool, we'd play with the kids. Basically, just make sure they had a good time and didn't get hurt. I gave kids piggy-back rides, towed them around on little rafts, and played 500, water volleyball, keep-away, etc. One three-year-old in particular loved to "dunk" me.

At the dock, we were responsible for 2 boats and 2 Yamaha WaveRunners (aka jet skis). The boats took people skiing and inner-tubing. Our responsibilities included flagging people in when their time was up, catching the vehicles when they came in, helping people on and off, and keeping people safe (watch your toes!). I've never driven a WaveRunner before, so I jumped at the opportunity to take a few kids for rides. Most of the kids seemed to have the same attitude... They were afraid of falling off and wanted to go slow. I assured them that I really didn't want to fall off either (I'd lose my sunglasses and contacts), so I'd do my best to not throw us off. Once I told them that, they wanted to go as fast as possible. I quickly learned to spin out and do 180's and (almost) 360's. I loved racing across another WaveRunner or boat's wake. If you hit it right, you can do a pretty sweet jump.

On the last day, Jake (an 8-year-old) came up to me at breakfast and asked me if I would drive for him during his turn on the WaveRunner at 10:00. When I got there, he said he was glad I showed up, otherwise he'd have to have his dad drive. I felt really bad at that point, because I didn't want the dad to miss out on a great father-son experience. I went to the dad and casually asked him if he'd like to take Jake out or if he wanted me to. He asked Jake who he wanted to ride with, and he picked me. Thankfully, the dad was cool with that, since that's what Jake wanted. I let Jake drive, but reserved the right to overpower him if he did something dangerous. He was good. We'd gain some speed and then (intentionally) spin out, over and over again. For an 8-year-old, he's a wicked (for those of you over 40, that's kinda like "awesome") WaveRunner driver. He had me drive after a while, so I showed him how to jump.

Devotional time was for us to "refresh" ourselves both physically and spiritually. That time was to be used praying, reading the bible, reflecting, and napping if necessary.

After supper, the volunteers would take the kids out while the parents had parental-type discussions. We took the kids out to play miniature golf, ride go-carts, swim, play dodge-ball, etc. At various times we had skits, comedy routines, singing, etc.

All in all, the trip was awesome, and it was worth every penny. But as I said, it turned out to be quite expensive. Let's turn back the clock to 25 minutes before we were supposed to leave for Tan-Tar-A. I was on my way to the church to meet everyone, when I suddenly noticed a wasp hovering 2 inches in front of my nose. I hate wasps, so I quickly rolled down the window to try to coerce the wasp out. Along that stretch of road there's no curb. While I was somewhat distracted by the wasp, I failed to notice that the road suddenly narrowed by 2 feet, and that there was a brief section of curb, which was covered in overgrown grass. You guessed it, I hit the curb. Quick inspection and mental inventory: "Blew front right tire. Busted steel-belting on rear right tire; huge bulge sticking out. Both rims bent. Both hub-caps destroyed." I checked the time. "Two FUBAR'ed wheels, and only 23 minutes to get to a church about 15 miles away. Never called any of the people going on this trip, so don't know their phone numbers." I ran home. I looked up TJ's home number and called him. He said they'd just send someone to pick me up. "Cool. But I can't leave my car parked in the 'hood for 4 days. I'm screwed." I ran back to my car. Normally, I could change a tire pretty fast, but I couldn't figure out how to get my jack low enough to fit under the car. A big (I mean really, REALLY BIG) guy stopped to help me out, and he figured the jack should go lower, so he forced it. Sure enough, it did. While I was laying in the ditch changing the front tire, my ride (4 people who've never met me) showed up. (They didn't see me in the ditch, but they saw the big guy. Later, they admitted they were all freaked out, thinking that he was me, and scared that they were going to have to squeeze into a car with him all the way to the Ozarks). I got the limp-along / donut / spare tire put on the front, and the back wheel was drive-able, so I drove the car home and we left for the Ozarks. When I got home, I had to have a few minor repairs, but it was nothing that 2 new tires, 2 new wheels, 4 new wheel-covers, a front-end alignment, a rear-end alignment, and a lot of money couldn't fix. D'Oh!

Think that's bad? It gets worse. The car (a Sebring convertible) has to be hand-washed because the top leaks in most commercial car-washes. It's pretty dirty, and I was planning to wash it this weekend. While I was shopping this afternoon (for computer equipment for the office), someone sat several very heavy boxes on the trunk lid, then drug them across to load into their car. The dirt that was on the trunk lid, and possibly the boxes themselves, were abrasive under the weight. They marred/gouged the paint in 4 three-foot-long six-inch-wide swaths across the trunk and quarter-panel. It looks like someone wiped the car with heavy-duty sand-paper. I'm not talking minor scratches here, folks. Strap some heavy-duty sand-paper to your keester and slide across your car four times, then you'll see what I'm talking about... I'm taking it to a body shop tomorrow to see how much buffing, clear-coat, and paint it will take to repair.


Just FYI 

By the way, in case you've been under a rock since Memorial Day, Jennifer and I broke up. In short, we realized that we wouldn't be happy together in the long run.


May 23rd, 2000Use this URL to link Tuesday, May 23, 2000

We had a family get-together on Mother's Day at Kenny and Carmen's apartment. I took some pictures but haven't gotten around to uploading them until now. Some of these are soooo cute... Check them all out.

Image1.jpg - Great-Grandpa admiring Jordan
Image2.jpg - Grandpa comparing Jordan to a pencil
Image3.jpg - Avery holding Jordan
Image4.jpg - Avery holding Jordan
Image5.jpg - Avery holding Jordan
Image6.jpg - Avery kissing Jordan
Image7.jpg - Avery, Brandon, and Jordan
Image8.jpg - Avery, Brandon, and Jordan
Image9.jpg - Avery, Brandon, and Jordan
Image10.jpg - Avery
Image11.jpg - Avery just hangin' around
Image12.jpg - Jennifer and Avery... Uh... Well... Nevermind...


May 9th, 2000Use this URL to link Tuesday, May 09, 2000

Jennifer and I both just took some time off work. Jennifer took five days (followed by one sick day, as she wasn't feeling well), and I took eight days. It was my first vacation in two years, and my first paid vacation ever. A lot has happened.

I bought another car. It's a burgundy '96 Chrysler Sebring JX (convertible) with a black top and dark grey interior. It had just shy of 70,000 miles when I bought it. Interestingly, it spent a year in Hawaii before being shipped back to the US.

We rented a 2000 Dodge Intrepid for the trip. More on that later.

Jennifer and I spent Easter weekend in Salisbury. From there, we went to Branson with no plans whatsoever, except to figure it out as we went.

We rented a condo for a couple of days. It had a full kitchen, sleeping accommodations for four, a two-person Jacuzzi, and a second-floor balcony overlooking the lake. There were geese and ducks on the lake, and we ended up feeding an entire loaf of bread to them before we left.

We went to Inspiration Tower, which sat on a hill overlooking the outskirts of Branson. It was a cool aerial view; however, the jury is still out regarding whether or not it was a worthwhile attraction.

Next, we went to the Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum, which was very cool. And the exhibits were cool too. Confused? The museum itself (intentionally) looked like the aftermath of an earthquake; all walls were cracked, some were leaning, others were crumbled, plaster and mortar had fallen off, and there was rubble lying around. Parts of the interior were designed to match; some ceilings were caving in, exposing the pipes, furnace ducts, wiring, and support beams above. Very cool, indeed. I could tell you about the exhibits, but you wouldn't believe me, anyway. Jennifer and I spent 5 hours and 10 minutes in the museum, followed by another hour goofing around in a photo booth in the lobby.

We went to Talking Rocks Cavern, and our guide made the tour a lot of fun. It was just a tour, no get-on-your-belly-and-slither-through-the-cold-muddy-water spelunking. Jennifer seems to be up for that though, so we'll have to make arrangements... :)

On the way back, we realized about halfway through an intersection in Springfield that we'd just missed our turn. We pulled into the parking lot of a mansion Jennifer spotted, and decided to take a break from driving to investigate. It turned out to be a bed-and-breakfast called The Mansion at Elfindale. We got a guided tour of over a dozen different rooms. Eventually, we may return to spend a couple of days. Eventually.

Although neither of us is into hunting or fishing, we decided to make another stop in Springfield at the Bass Pro Shop. They sure managed to get a lot of outdoors indoors.

When I made the reservation with Budget for the rental car, it was for 5 days with unlimited mileage, and they quoted me "$224 plus minor surcharges," which I estimated would bring the total to about $400. We returned the car the night before it was due back, and we used less than 800 miles. A guy met us outside, punched the VIN into a handheld PC, and handed me a receipt for $533. How they managed to add $309 of "minor surcharges" on a $224 rental, I'm not sure. Obviously, I'm going to call and make them account for every penny.

I decided to sell my Daytona, and it only took about an hour to sell. It still ran fine, but I found out a while back that it had virtually no compression in cylinder #6, and it was only a matter of time. I found a garage that I could have hired to put a new motor in it for me, then I could have sold it myself. However, that would have taken an investment of a lot of time and money, and I could almost guarantee that I would not have gotten a worthwhile return on that investment. So I suggested that they buy the car from me, put a new motor in, and sell it. They liked the idea, and the deal was done. I'll miss the Daytona. Even at very high rates of speed, it was a smooth, quiet ride. It's a shame that most of the money I got from selling it was used to pay the sales tax and registration for the Sebring.

Ora and Enid had a couple of extra concert tickets for the Sixpence None the Richer and Audio Adrenaline concert on Friday, so they invited Jennifer and I. On the way to Kemper Arena, I ended up getting pulled over, allegedly for speeding, but probably because of the lack of plates on the Sebring. I explained that I'd just bought it, showed him the title, bill of sale, proof of insurance, etc., and explained that I had the license plates from the Daytona with me, and he said everything was OK. Then he handed me a screwdriver and told me to go put the Daytona's license plates on the Sebring (which I didn't think was legal, as they were still registered to the Daytona). I put them on while he wrote me a ticket for going 73mph in a 65mph zone, which is a load of bull; I was only going 65mph. Don't believe me? Ask Jennifer, she had just checked. We think that he just wanted to give me a ticket for something, supporting the hypothesis that convertibles are cop-magnets. That whole ordeal made us miss the first 25 minutes of the concert, including Sixpence's best songs... Bad cop, no doughnut for you!

I grew a beard in '95. In April '98 I trimmed it down to a mustache and goatee. Over vacation, I decided to shave the mustache and leave just the goatee. It looks different, but I think I'll keep it this way for a while.

Now for a rant: Jennifer and I are tired of visiting family and friends, only to find them checking her left hand to see if there is an ornamental addition to a particular finger on her left hand, and then telling us "This is wrong" when there is no such addition. If/when we decide that Jennifer needs any jewelry on that finger is our decision, and we don't appreciate being hassled about it or pressured into it.

This just in: My sister had her baby today. Jordan Leigh is a 5-pound, 12-ounce, 20-inch-long baby girl. I've put 5 pictures online.

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October 24th, 1999Use this URL to link Sunday, October 24, 1999

You've probably been wondering why I haven't updated my site in a long time. I've been spending all my available time lately with my girlfriend Jennifer (see photo). I haven't updated this site because I haven't used my home PC since early September, except to show Jennifer some music one evening, and to play some games with my brother and his friends yesterday (during my brother's bachelor party). I don't forsee myself spending much time on my PC any time soon, so don't expect any updates for a while.


September 8th, 1999Use this URL to link Wednesday, September 08, 1999

Let me start off by saying that I'm normally a very nice, mellow, forgiving, innocent guy. Really. But not tonight. This is not a nice update. In fact, this is the most callous, insensitive update I've ever made, but frankly, I don't care. I'm in a bad mood, I'm stressed, and I don't have sympathy for careless idiots.

It all started when I was on my way home tonight... Near my house some guy and a kid were riding a go-cart down the street, and I was driving slowly following them. Nevermind the fact that those are illegal on the streets, by the way. But do they care? Nope. So I'm driving slowly along behind them. There were also some kids playing in the street, and a couple of them ran right in front of my car. Because of all these complete morons playing carelessly in the street, I was barely creeping along in my car, being careful. All of a sudden, I saw something behind me to the left out of the corner of my eye, and I heard BAM BAM BAM against the side of my car. Some dumbass kid didn't look in front of him before running full-tilt across the street, and ran smack into the side of my almost-completely-stopped car. Hard. I mean really, really hard. He left three large dents in the side of my car, knocked the window loose, and chipped the paint all the way down to bare metal. No, I did not hit him, he was running on foot (going faster than I was) and he ran into the side of my car at the back of the driver's door. I was berely even moving because of everyone playing (like morons) in the street.

After the dumbass kid ran broadside into the side of my car, and causing all that damage, his mom came and took him home without the courtesy of giving me a NAME! He ran into me, so his insurance should legally have to pay to repair the damage, but without a name I can't contact anyone... So the repairs will have to come out of MY pocket (I have a pretty high deductible on my car). It's a hit-and-run, really. Ok, more like a SLAM-and-LIMP. That was comment probably a bit mean, but I told ya, I don't care. When I'm not ticked off at that stupid little brat anymore, maybe I'll take it down. Maybe.


August 24th, 1999Use this URL to link Tuesday, August 24, 1999

I've been busy lately, and haven't had time to use trueSpace 4.2 much. I started playing with it again the other day, and decided to try my hand at making a QuickTime VR movie. I made a QTVR of my desk (sans computer). Please note that this .zip file weighs in at 8.63 MegaBytes.


August 14th, 1999Use this URL to link Saturday, August 14, 1999

My car got stolen on Saturday. Well, actually, that's not exactly true, but it feels like it. A friend from out of town is in KC this weekend. We decided to go skydiving Saturday afternoon, and on the way we stopped at Enterprise for them to rent a car for a day. Since we were both going to the drop zone, we decided to just take one car. I was gonna leave my car at Station Casino (it's on the way and has HUGE parking lots), but they suggested that since Enterprise had plenty of extra parking out front, we could just leave my car there and get it when we got back from the DZ. When we got back, Enterprise had their entire parking lot locked up tight. With my car inside. They don't open till Monday. Taking their "fence" apart would be easy. It's just a steel cable around the whole lot, and it can be unfastened by removing four nuts. Then I could drive my car out, and put the four nuts back on. However, I'm sure they noticed my car in their parking lot when they locked up, and when they open Monday and notice it's not there, they'll know I disassembled their fence to get it out. And they have video surveillance on the parking lot, so they'd have it all on tape. If I did it and they wanted to press charges, I could go to jail for tresspassing, breaking and entering, etc. The police verified that, and said I can't do anything until Enterprise opens on Monday. I should have gone with my idea to park at Station Casino. They never close and lock their parking lot up.


August 11th, 1999Use this URL to link Wednesday, August 11, 1999

My brother is seeking new employment. His position will soon be phased out at his current employer, and because of his loyal service over the past few years, they are assisting him in seeking new employment. Here is Ken Van Booven's Resume.


August 8th, 1999Use this URL to link Sunday, August 08, 1999

It's been a while since I've updated VBC. I apologize for that. I've been really busy at work (to the point that I eat lunch only once a week anymore, if that). By the time I get home from work I really don't want to have anything to do with the web, so I just veg' (that's short for vegetate, in case you didn't catch that). What have I done since the last update?

Well, at work I've written a web site that serves as an Online Branch. What's that? Imagine a web site where you can get all your bank (actually in this case, credit union) account balances, see recent transactions, transfer funds, request copies of checks and statements, etc. I've learned ASP (Active Server Pages) and a lot about OFX (Open Financial eXchange). I've also picked up a lot of ADO (ActiveX Data Objects; a method of connecting to a SQL database through ASP), and brushed up a little on my SQL skills.

What have I done away from the office? I went to my cousin Rodney's bachelor party in early July, and July 24th I was one of the groomsmen in his wedding. That was quite an honor. He's one of those people that everyone deeply respects. He's a genuinely great guy; he's smart, he's kind, he's modest, etc. You can play tennis with him, and even if you suck he sounds sincere when he tells you that you're doing great... I wish there were a lot more people in this world like him. Fortunately, Gina (his bride) is as great as he is. Those two really are a match made in heaven. That's a marriage that you know will last forever.

I went to a colleague's wedding on July 31st. It was a much longer drive than I expected, and because of an ambiguity in the map, I overshot by 15 miles before I realized the error. Oops. The wedding was great, but it was really hot and Nick (the groom) was feeling the effects of the heat all day. Unfortunately, I think he was feeling pretty sick during the reception.

I went roller-blading with Jeanie (my sister) yesterday. That was kinda fun, but she learned quickly that there is a big difference between different brands of 'blades. Specifically, less-expensive 'blades have inferior bearings in the wheels, and the wheels drag. I could easily coast down a hill and keep coasting for quite a distance, but she had to start pushing again as soon as she hit the bottom of the hill. After we got back, we were talking about one time when I lived in a bad neighborhood, and the police were flying a search-helicopter in our yard so low that I was afraid they were going to hit my truck. She didn't quite believe me until she read in the KC Star today about somebody who once lived in a bad neighborhood, and the police were flying their helicopter so low that you could almost carry on a conversation with the pilot.

I made skydive #23 this afternoon. Yeah, I know my jumplog is way out of date. It's just such a pain to update it all the time, you know? I rarely have time to actually go skydive anymore, let alone update the jumplog...

Now it's time for a VoodooExtreme-style "Blah." I've always been big into 3D gaming (particularly Quake 1, 2, and 3, and Unreal), and as such I've always paid close attention to the 3D accelerator market. Originally, 3Dfx (now 3dfx) came out with the Voodoo family of graphics processors, and nobody else could come close. Not until nVidia came out with the TNT series, that is. Still, I've always been loyal to 3dfx because their cards were superior. But I've most decidedly changed my mind at this point. I've been waiting through generation after generation of 3dfx cards (Voodoo, Voodoo Rush, Voodoo2, Voodoo Banshee, Voodooo3), and they still haven't gotten off their lazy arses to fully support the OpenGL standard. Enough of this MiniGL BS (MiniGL is a stripped-down proprietary version that only works with a couple of apps). I've had it up to here with 3dfx not supporting the industry standards. I don't care if the Voodoo4 supports OpenGL or not, at this point I'm just morally opposed to 3dfx because they keep saying they're working on OpenGL support, and 5 generations of cards later, we still have nothing. Nada. Nil. Zero. Zilch. If they would have just said from the beginning that they'd never support OpenGL, that would have been fine. But this is ridiculous, so I'd like to take a moment to shout a big "Bite Me!" out to 3dfx.


June 3rd, 1999Use this URL to link Thursday, June 03, 1999

Have you ever been upside-down, falling out of the sky at 120mph? No...? You should try it sometime. It's pretty cool. :P

You guessed it, I went skydiving over the Memorial Day weekend. After the first jump, Terry cleared me for the next level. Just before the second jump, Spad commented that he'd be out of the plane "shortly after" I was. I assumed that meant he was going to evaluate my jump, then he'd jump. Instead, I jumped and he followed immediately. I looked up, and Spad was less than ten feet away.

When you're going that fast, a subtle change in body position will change the air flow over your entire body. Every time I looked down at my chest-mounted altimeter, I tilted a bit head-down. Freaky... Another cool thing was the clouds. There are regulations about going through clouds, so we had problems getting to altitude and finding a place to jump from. After circling for a while, we found a good place. Both jumps Monday sent me between clouds, which is quite a spectacular site while you're falling...


May 18th, 1999Use this URL to link Tuesday, May 18, 1999

Authentic Star Wars Episode 1 tickets

Yes, I've got them! People have literally been camping out for over a month, but I haven't worried about it. I figured I'd wait a week or two till I could buy tickets without having to stand in line forever. Thanks to a hot tip from Jason and Cooper, I managed to pick up 4 tickets for the 12:05am showing at the AMC Studio 30 in Olathe. Five minutes after Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace officially opens, I'm going to be watching it in the theater, and I only bought tickets six hours in advance. To all the losers with no lives who camped out for a month, I must give Cooper's trademarked "High-pitch Ha Ha!"

This will be a day long remembered... :)

Side note: Something came up, and I'm not leaving on that business trip until tomorrow morning.


May 18th, 1999 

I'm heading out of town on a business trip late tonight. This is one of those the-boss-says-it-is-gonna-take-two-days-but-we're-really-gone-for-over-a-week type trips... See you in a week or so when I get back. :)


May 11th, 1999Use this URL to link Tuesday, May 11, 1999

Sorry about the lack of updates; I've been busy. I've almost got all of my stuff moved into my new house. Fairly soon I'll be able to start unpacking... Moving is exhausting, especially if you have a lot of junk to move.


May 2nd, 1999Use this URL to link Sunday, May 02, 1999

The weather was great yesterday, but high winds had put us on a weather-hold by the time I got to the drop zone. Some more experienced jumpers use smaller and faster canopies, and are allowed to jump in higher winds. From the ground, I got to see an attempt at an eight-way formation. I was able to spot the plane while it was on "jump run." Normally, you can only see jumpers with the naked eye after their canopies open, but because of the lighting and Spad's white jumpsuit, I could actually see him from the ground as soon as he left the plane at 9,000 feet (maybe higher, I'm not sure). I used Spad as a reference to spot the other jumpers. I could see all eight of them with my naked eyes as they fell through 45 seconds of free-fall. Previously, the only time I've seen jumpers in free-fall was on video (which just isn't the same), and on one jump from 10,000 feet where my jumpmasters free-fell on either side of me.

At 7:15pm the winds had died down enough that we could jump. I was at a point where I needed to make one jump and do a PRCP, get my jumpmaster's approval, and then make one free-fall jump. Since there were only 45 minutes till sunset, the DZ staff raced to get me geared up. They re-arranged the jump loads so I was the first one out on the first load. When I jumped, I burned off altitude and landed as quick as I could. Meanwhile, Spad radioed down from the plane that he approved of my PRCP, and I was cleared for the freefall. I went back to the packing area, dropped off my rig, and put on another that they had waiting for me. I was quickly back out the door and into to the waiting plane. This time, it was just Spad, the pilot, and myself. We went back up to 3,800 feet, and I jumped again.

Since it was getting dark by this point, I sat through the night-jump briefing (no, I'm not going to make night jumps anytime soon, but Spad was giving the briefing, and I waited until after the briefing for him to sign my jump log). Afterwards, we waited until it was completely dark, and then each jumper bought two chemical glow-sticks, which they strategically placed so they could see their altimeter (and possibly their canopy) during the jump. The night jumps were a lot different than daytime jumps. The plane took five loads of four jumpers to 9,000 feet. You can barely see anything, so only one jumper is in the air at a time to avoid mid-air collisions. Since you can't see the wind socks, we parked two cars in the landing area with their headlights pointing in the direction of the wind line. This was the only indication for each jumper as to which direction the wind was blowing, and which direction they should be facing when they land. The pilot radioed down when each jumper was away, forty seconds would pass silently in the dark, then we would hear the "whooomp" sound of their canopy opening. Then a couple more minutes of silence would pass, and finally, when the jumper was about 10 or 15 seconds from landing, we could see the chemical glow-sticks adorning their gear. I stayed until about 11:30pm, at which point I left in search of food. One cheeseburger had been my only source of food during the whole day.


April 28th, 1999Use this URL to link Wednesday, April 28, 1999

I've added two new themes to the site, and made a couple of minor enhancements. Check out the new themes using the links at the bottom of the home page.


April 21st, 1999Use this URL to link Wednesday, April 21, 1999

As you probably know, I've recently been house-hunting. I found a great house, I made an offer on it Monday morning, and they accepted last night. They'll be moved out by the end of this month, and I'll be able to close on the house and move in very quickly if I want to.


April 19th, 1999Use this URL to link Monday, April 19, 1999

What a weekend! I took the retrain class for skydivng on Saturday, but the weather was cruddy and I didn't get to jump.

Saturday evening I got stabbed in the back again, had the knife twisted, and pulled out sideways. Ouch.

Sunday was an absolutely beatiful day. My parents came up to check out two of the houses that I was most seriously interested in purchasing. We finished looking by 2:45.

Since I had the rest of the day free, I went out to the drop zone and, after being on a "weather-hold" for a couple hours, I got to jump. Terry and I were kidding around as usual. While hanging from the wing at 3500 feet, I stuck my tongue out at him. Then he smiled and gave me the finger. So I just stuck my tongue out again, and he gave me the finger again and nodded. That was my cue to jump, so I went! I hope the weather is good next weekend, I want to get back to free-fall!


April 12th, 1999Use this URL to link Monday, April 12, 1999

Mom and I had our respective birthdays last week, and I went home over the weekend to celebrate. Our driveway has a huge concrete pad that can accomodate about 5 cars. Jeanie, Dad, and I bought 45 huge pieces of colored chalk and decorated the driveway in order to announce in a not-so-subtle way that Mom just turned 50. Anyone flying over Salisbury can see the birthday cake and read "Edie is 50! Yay!" We also decorated about 80 feet of sidewalk with the number "50" in a variety of colors. Sorry Mom, but the secret's out! :)

I finally got my taxes taken care of. I've had Federal taxes taken care of for a while, but hadn't gotten around to having Missouri, Kansas, and Kansas City taxes done until today. Note to self: Always have taxes done by someone else. It's sooooooo much easier.


April 10th, 1999Use this URL to link Saturday, April 10, 1999

Damn it. Every time I take a chance and go out on a limb, someone stabs me in the back. And then they twist the knife.

People ask me why I have no qualms about jumping out of an airplane, but I very rarely get up the nerve to do simpler things like asking a cute girl out. Do you want to know why? Other than my close friends and family, I can trust 99% of the human population about as far as I can throw them. I hate to take a risk unless my life is in my own hands. Give me good a good skydiving rig and get me up to altitude, and whether I live or die is my own responsibility. Put my trust in the hands of someone else, and my fate is in their hands.

From now on, feel free to stab me in the back -- I'm used to it. Just don't twist the knife.


April 9th, 1999Use this URL to link Friday, April 09, 1999

After being out of town all week, I just got back to the office a few minutes ago (8:30 Friday evening). It was an exhausting trip, and I'm looking forward to having the rest of the weekend to relax.

Please be patient while I take the time to respond to all the e-mail and v-mail I received this week.


April 4th, 1999Use this URL to link Sunday, April 04, 1999

I ended up not going to Dodge City this weekend, but the situation still hasn't been resolved. I'm flying out tomorrow morning, but don't know when I'll be back.

Also, I guess I haven't mentioned it here yet, but last week I got approved for a home loan. Now, if only I can find the right house.


April 2nd, 1999Use this URL to link Friday, April 02, 1999

What a rotten day! We've had a situation with a client that we've unsuccessfully been trying to resolve all week. I've been on the phone all day trying to determine our course of action. I may be flying out to Dodge City first thing in the morning. If I do, I'll be returning just in time to go straight from the airport to my family's Easter dinner. I already called the drop zone to cancel my plans for skydiving tomorrow. Grrr...

Well, most people seemed to think yesterday's April Fool's joke was pretty funny. (Refer to the April 1st news update for more info).


April 1st, 1999Use this URL to link Thursday, April 01, 1999

I wrecked my car on the way to work this morning. There was a traffic jam on 470 that I didn't see until it was too late. The police say that based on the skid marks, I was going in excess of 100mph when I slammed on the brakes. I'm OK, but the Daytona is completely trashed. It's a good thing that I've got a spare, but I loved that car. Unfortunately, I won't be driving it for quite a while, as they've suspended my license for excessive speeding and careless driving.

Also, I was supposed to be at an 8:30 meeting this morning with one of our biggest clients. Because of the wreck, I was several hours late for the meeting, and our client was very upset. I tried to explain, but they didn't believe me, and asked why I didn't just call on my wireless phone. Trust me, when your car is flipping end-over-end, you don't think "hmmm, maybe I should call the office and tell them I'm going to be late..." We may lose our biggest account.

I guess I'd be a little more bummed out, but I'm only kidding. What do you expect? It is April fools day, after all.


March 27th, 1999Use this URL to link Saturday, March 27, 1999

I recently had a job offer from Cerner. It was a tough decision, but I ended up declining it. At the time of the offer, I had already been in negotiations with ICSI for a while. By staying at ICSI, I received a promotion to "Senior Applications Developer / Network Administrator" and a compensation package that I am comfortable with.

Thursday night was my nephew Avery's first birthday. He's sooooo cute. Karen, Scott, and I went to Jeanie and George's house to celebrate.

I met with my mortgage broker yesterday for the first time. I had all the paperwork that he needed, so filling out all the applications was a breeze. He said that he expects to know by next Friday if I'll be approved for a home loan.


March 22nd, 1999Use this URL to link Monday, March 22, 1999

I had a lot of fun in Houston over the weekend. I stayed at the Hyatt Regency on the 19th floor. All the rooms were around the outside edges of the hotel, leaving an huge "atrium" in the center. You could go to the top floor and look down to the people in the lobby. There were rumors of people throwing paper airplanes from the top and letting them fly all the way down. There is no truth to that rumor... We didn't do it, nobody saw us do it (shut up George), and you can't prove anything.

On the way back, we stopped at the site of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Construction is underway on a memorial to the 168 people who died in the blast. The construction site is encircled by a living memorial on the surrounding fences. Words can't describe how it felt to look at the living memorial, which included many personal items and pictures of the people killed in the blast. Especially tragic were the pictures of the 19 children who were among the victims.

We rented several mini-vans for the trip, one of which was a Chevy Venture with an automatic sliding side door. Some of it just noticed it last night, but Don Brown proved that it wasn't exactly the greatest thing since sliced bread. He took a fresh banana (still in the peel) and held it in the open door. Then he said "imagine that this is a child's arm" and he hit the button to close the door. The door shut quickly, easily crushing the banana into banana mush, part of it falling into the van, part of it falling on the pavement. There's a 20/20 or 60 Minutes episode waiting to happen.


March 17th, 1999Use this URL to link Wednesday, March 17, 1999

I'm going to a seminar in Houston, Texas, this weekend. I'll be out of Kansas City from Thursday until Sunday. I'd like to apologize to anyone who has been trying unsuccessfully to contact me this week. I've been very busy and hope things will calm down somewhat in the next several weeks.


March 11th, 1999Use this URL to link Thursday, March 11, 1999

My Grandma never let Grandpa skydive because of the danger. She was already convinced that it was too dangerous, so I never told them about my accident. Grandma passed away last November, and recently Grandpa has mentioned the idea of skydiving several times. Some people are opposed to the idea, but I think that if he wants to go, let him. Let him enjoy something that he's wanted for so long. I can recommend the best drop zone in the area (MRVS), I'll take him there, etc. But he should know about my accident (at a different drop zone) before he goes. I personally don't think it should make a difference. After all, he's very well aware that skydiving can result in death. I don't think that the fact that I happened to come close (very, very, very close) shouldn't change his mind.

On another topic, I went to a car show last weekend with my brother-in-law. I saw cars like the Dodge Viper, Ford Mustang Saleen, Porsche Carrera, Jaguar XK8, and Plymouth Prowler. Yeah, I guess those are moderately cool cars. But not when compared to the Acura NSX-T. Now that's a sweet car. Too bad they cost way more than a Viper.


March 1st, 1999Use this URL to link Monday, March 01, 1999

Wow. After I left work at 9:15pm Friday, I didn't go back in to work for the rest of the weekend (although I did return a page from the company president on Sunday). It's been a long time since I've managed to go for a whole weekend without going in to the office at least a couple times. It was nice to be able to just kick back and relax. I didn't really do anything all weekend, either. I met Mom and Grandpa for supper Saturday night, went to Atlantis after that, and just goofed off the rest of the time. Ahh...


February 24th, 1999Use this URL to link Wednesday, February 24, 1999

Blah. The weather has been nasty all winter. Actually, it's been really good considering that it is winter, but it's been bad enough that I haven't gotten to skydive for over two months. Snowboarding has been a "no-go" most of the season too, since it's rained on most of the weekends. That doesn't leave me a lot to do for fun. The lack of fun and stress relief all winter has bummed me out, which you've probably noticed already based on my February 5th update.

The weather is getting better, though. In fact, it was great today, maybe it will hang around till the weekend. I can always hope.


February 19th, 1999Use this URL to link Friday, February 19, 1999

Looks like InterNIC finally updated their records. You're now accessing VanBooven.Com on the new server. Yes, I know I just moved the site to a new server a couple months ago, but that turned out to be a mistake. This time I picked a fast ISP. Really. :)

I would like to point out that there are now three versions of VanBooven.Com, all of which contain the same content, they just have a different "look and feel." Ok, ok, you can't really "feel" a web site (Don't they all just feel like glass?). It's just an expression web designers use, so get over it! Anyway, the three versions of the site are:

Main - Very Low bandwidth, professional look.
http://www.vanbooven.com/main/

Hicolor - Low bandwidth, professional look.
http://www.vanbooven.com/hicolor/

Goo - Medium bandwidth, fun look. (Requires 800x600)
http://www.vanbooven.com/goo/

Check them all out, and let me know what you think!


February 5th, 1999Use this URL to link Friday, February 05, 1999

Be forewarned, this is long and it's personal. I'm venting, but I have a right to on my own Web site.

A few years ago, I had to decide where I was going to go to college. The two finalists were the University of Missouri and DeVry Institute of Technology. I chose DeVry for a number of reasons, such as the small class size, their focus on the classes that are important, and their good reputation.

I didn't know how good that reputation really was until I went to Madison, Wisconsin, in 1997 for the annual collegiate conference of the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP). While talking to students from other colleges, I found out that DeVry has a reputation for "cleaning up" in the competitions. In fact, the next year at the collegiate conference, DeVry represented only 6.5% of the competitors, but took more than 33% of the awards.

I got a 4-year Bachelor of Science degree in 3 years by going to school year-round. Finding a job was simple. I had a lot of offers, and to this day I have many recruiters call me to arrange interviews. Most recruiters seem to call me up out of the blue; others get my resume from my Web site or my friends.

I have a good reputation. The president of the company personally thanks me and tells me how much he sincerely appreciates what I have done for the company. I was pictured on the front page of The Kansas City Business Journal. I've been named in DeVry Directions, in a national publication of the AITP, and several others. I've gotten personal letters of recommendation from some very highly respected individuals, including the IT Director of Belmark and an offer for another one from the President of DeVry, which I haven't bothered to take him up on yet.

I have a lot of friends, most of whom I've met either at DeVry or at work. They are a great group of brilliant professionals. My parents, my brother, my sister, my brother-in-law, and my newphews are all wonderful. And then there's the extended family, all of whom are wonderful too.

I have a job that I enjoy, and I earn more than most of the people I know. But don't get jealous just yet though; I have college debt like you wouldn't believe. It'll be a long time before I pay it off. Still, I can afford a couple televisions that I never use, the latest and greatest computer hardware, a PCS phone that I use constantly, ice skates, roller blades, all sorts of snowboarding gear, and I still have enough money to go skydiving whenever the weather is good.

I'm 21, and I have two sports cars that can double the speed limit on the interstate without getting even half way to redlining. Not that I've ever tried, of course... ;)

The truth is, it seems like I've got almost everything going for me. And in one way or another, I owe most of that to DeVry. But sometimes things happen that make me wonder, if only briefly, whether I would have been happier going to school somewhere else... Somewhere with more of a social scene. DeVry consists of one large building. There are no dorms. Instead, DeVry rents apartments from nearby apartment complexes, and subleases them to students. I didn't live in student housing, though; I rented a house with a couple other DeVry students.

I missed out on "the dorm life". I missed out on the social scene. I never went to parties, because there weren't any to go to. I never got drunk (but then again I never wanted to). I didn't really ever date. I spent all my time either at work or at school. You're not supposed to date anyone you work with, and there were very few young women at DeVry because this industry tends to be male-dominated. I don't have the nerve to go start a conversation with a stranger, and I have to say that a big part of that is because I never had a chance to go to a "normal" college. I had classes with the same group people all the way through school, and there were only about 30 of us that made it all the way through. I've never been in an environment that lends itself to meeting new people.

This past Wednesday night, I went to visit my best friend from back home. We've known each other since we were in kindergarten, and I'm going to be his best man in January of 2000. We went out with a group of his friends Wednesday night to see a comedy routine in Warrensburg, where he goes to college. The group of six included three very cute girls. For everyone else, it was just another normal night. They went out to a comedy club on campus with a group of guys and girls. I didn't do that in college. First, we didn't have a campus, just a single building. Second, when I went out with a group of people, it was at most 5 people: Cooper, Jason, Kevin, Ora, and myself. No girls, but that was normal for DeVry.

I had more fun than I've had in a long time. The performers were The Second City National Touring Company, a group whose alumni include some of the greatest comedians of all time (see a list of alumni at http://www.secondcity.com).

I guess it's the simple things in life that make you happy. Some of the others went to a party after that, and I came back to Kansas City because I had to work in a few hours. To everyone else, it was just another normal night. But it was a night I won't forget any time soon. I've never gone out with a group that had a 1:1 male-to-female ratio. Since I've graduated and I work in a small company, I rarely have time to go out at all, and I'm usually alone.

Looking back, I think I made the right decision by going to DeVry. But I have no life. I sacrificed my social life in order to gain my place in this industry.


January 29th, 1999Use this URL to link Friday, January 29, 1999

If you're an internet professional, you should check out the salary table in this article on News.Com to see if you're getting paid what you should be.

If you use Internet Explorer, you should check out NeoPlanet, a free 2MB download that really enhances your web browser.

You've probably noticed that this site has been very slow since December. Well, I've had it with the servers at ICOM, because I could get better performance hosting the site on a 386. I'll be moving VanBooven.Com back to Kansas City soon. I've already arranged web hosting with Web One, Inc., and anticipate making the migration in the next two weeks. Stay tuned.


January 25th, 1999Use this URL to link Monday, January 25, 1999

I went snowboarding Saturday and Sunday. I love my new snowboard because it's wide enough that I don't get "toe drag" while wearing size 13 boots. I am learning to jump with my snowboard. If you have enough speed, jumping isn't really hard, and landing is simple; gravity works about 100% of the time. Landing without wiping out and sliding 60 feet, on the other hand, is not so easy.

Jason Roberts let me know that Southwestern Bell will be offering DSL in Kansas City by 2nd Quarter 1999. Prices are expected to be $39/month ($49 with internet access) for 1.5 Mbps downstream and 128 Kbps upstream. A faster version will be offered, with 6 Mbps downstream and 384 Kbps upstream. Which version customers can get will depend on how far they are from their local switching office.


January 19th, 1999Use this URL to link Tuesday, January 19, 1999

I've updated the 3D gallery with a couple of new pictures. These were done in Terragen version 0.6 alpha, a landscape generator written by Matt Fairclough.


January 4th, 1999Use this URL to link Monday, January 04, 1999

Happy New Year! Ok, so that was 3.98 days ago... Better late than never. So far 1999 has been too busy. It can only get better! :)


December 26th, 1998Use this URL to link Saturday, December 26, 1998

As previously mentioned, my Grandma passed away November 14th. In keeping with tradition, our family gathered on Christmas Eve. Grandma had started Christmas shopping just before she got sick, and the only gift she had the opportunity to buy was for the unborn child of Scott and Karen (my cousin and his wife). Since Grandma passed away, Grandpa delivered the gift on her behalf. A gift from a deceased woman to her unborn great-grandchild is very special. Making it even more special, the gift was a small statuette of a guardian angel kneeling over a newborn baby. We believe that Grandma is that guardian angel, and the baby depicted is Scott and Karen's unborn child.

My sister, Jeanie, taped interviews with Grandma and Grandpa a few years ago, and used them to write a short book appropriately titled "Their Life Story." On Christmas Eve, Jeanie presented each member of Grandma's immediate family with copies of all 8 of the interview tapes. What a great way of preserving what Grandma said about her life, in her own voice.

Grandpa pointed out that we celebrated two things at Christmas. The birth of Christ, and Grandma's entrance into Heaven. As Grandpa said, if Grandma didn't make it into Heaven, then nobody else stands a chance.


December 21st, 1998Use this URL to link Monday, December 21, 1998

Welcome to the NEW home of VBC! You are accessing VanBooven.Com from its new home. This is yet another complete re-write of the code behind VBC. Over time, I hope you'll have the opportunity to see the benefits of the new code and structure of the site.


December 18th, 1998Use this URL to link Friday, December 18, 1998

I've been out of town on business most of this month. Here's a summary of my schedule thus far:

December 4-9    Rockford, Illinois
December 10-12   Muncie, Indiana
December 14-17    Galesburg, Illinois

We have another project next week in Connecticut. However, I got out of that one... The president of ICSI is afraid I'll get burned out from all the exceedingly long hours I have to put in when I'm on the road. He's probably right... :)


November 27th, 1998Use this URL to link Friday, November 27, 1998

Before my brother graduated from college at DeVry, he and his classmates frequently complained about a classmate named Sam. Sam was a loose cannon who frequently lost his temper and started fights. I remember people telling about a time when Sam had road rage; he got out of his car, pulled a man from another car, and beat him. One time, someone I knew had to testify when DeVry was trying to decide whether to suspend or dismiss Sam from school because he threatened to beat up a professor and a student.

There was recent shooting in Kansas City, now referred to as "The Penntower Incident". A man returned to the office from which he'd been fired the day before, shot someone, and during a six hour standoff with police, he threatened to kill himself. This became our Thanksgiving dinner conversation topic. Shortly into the conversation, my brother mentioned "oh, that guy was in my class." I quickly put two and two together and realized that Sam Perry (the gunman in the Kansas City shooting) and Sam (Kenny's former classmate) were the same guy... Witness, if you will, the theme from "The Twilight Zone" playing in the background of reality.


November 22nd, 1998Use this URL to link Sunday, November 22, 1998

I haven't updated this in a while. Sorry about that. My grandmother died on November 14th. She was a great influence on my life, and I can't imagine what it will be like without her. Whenever I would go back to my home town, I always looked forward to telling she and Grandpa about what was new in my life. She didn't understand the techno-babble, but she loved to listen anyway. I'll miss you, Grandma.


November 10th, 1998Use this URL to link Tuesday, November 10, 1998

My weekend started out good. Some friends and I helped Ali Bray move her furniture this weekend. It was cold and wet but overall it was fun. Ali took all of us out to dinner and a movie afterwards.

However, Saturday evening I found out that my Grandma had a stroke. At first it didn't seem too serious, but as time went on we found out that wasn't true. I made it to the hospital on Sunday to be with the family. Grandma is still unresponsive, and the neurosurgeons have suggested that we should expect the worst. The doctors told Grandpa not to go home, and Aunt Judy and Uncle Rogelio have flown in from Texas.


November 3rd, 1998Use this URL to link Tuesday, November 03, 1998

It rained all weekend, so no skydiving for me. But I did go to a friend's place and try (unsuccessfully) to fix his Mac. I called Mac Support (aka Jason Roberts) for help, but he determined that I didn't have the necessary resources to fix the problem.

With Cooper's help, I rearranged my room this weekend. I moved my computer in and an old table out. I like the new arrangement because I won't have to move a TV around in order to hook up the DVD player any more. Once the furniture moving was done, we watched Lost in Space. It's pretty cool.


October 26th, 1998Use this URL to link Monday, October 26, 1998

I went skydiving again this weekend. The weather was bad Saturday, but I got two jumps in on Sunday. I did my last static line jump, followed by a freefall jump. The freefall jump didn't include more than a few seconds of actual freefall time, but I got to pull my own rip cord. It's cool when you know that if you don't the rip cord yourself, you're gonna bounce. Once the door was open, I looked for the airport, the jumpmaster had the pilot cut the engine, and out the door I went. I climbed all the way out, hung from the strut under the wing, gave the guys in the plane a quick smile, and away I went...

Now, as soon as I bother scanning my 4 most recent jumps, I'll update my jump log... :)

Total Jump Count So Far: 13

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