Well, I made it to California...

May 04, 2007

0814 EST5EDT - Writing offline on Windbringer, high above the state of Virginia, I believe.

Somehow I managed to get to bed at a decent time last night in preparation for my trip to the LayerOne conference in Pasadena, California this weekend. However, that should not be construed to mean in any way that I had an easy time of falling asleep... being naturally inclined to life as a night owl (professionally and otherwise), retiring before midnight is often problematic, unless I've run myself into the ground and really need the rest anyway. Still, somehow I caught a few hours of sleep and one of REM to get ready for today. I was showered, dressed, packed, and ready to roll by 0430 EST5EDT for Hasufin's house. He was kind enough to let me leave the TARDIS there while I was gone, and drive me to the airport to catch my flight.

I forgot to leave him a spare key. Damn. Note to self: Have Lyssa bring one to the cookout on Saturday.

Anyway... Sometimes you have to catch flights as they present themselves to you if you're going to get to where you're going in any decent time. To that end, I had to fly out of DC at 0715 EST5EDT to make it into Pasadena by 1800 PST8PDT. On the whole it hasn't been bad - my natural sleep cycle is usually a hair shorter than normal for humans (about three hours and thirty, give or take some missing time here and there), so I was bright, chipper, and sipping seltzer water with a clear head. Hasufin and I arrived at the airport just before 0530 EST5EDT, in plenty of time to clear the security checkpoint and find my departure gate.

Airport security is busy, I would think, at all hours of the day. Even at 0-dark-45 there was a line, albeit a short one. I'm also guessing that it's the shift that they put trainees on, to give them more time with low pressure to learn their jobs. The woman behind the counter was very interested in the contents of my backpack and travel coat, but her supervisor was able to guide
her through the complexities of a number of books of various sizes, the earpiece of my cellular telephone, and my sonic screwdriver. On the whole I was very impressed to have made it through in such a short period of time. The woman behind me wasn't so fortunate - she made the cardinal mistake of putting a bottle of shampoo into her carry-on luggae, and was summarily
escorted away by security guards for questioning and confiscation of contraband hair care products.

Once again, I find myself agreeing with Bruce Schneier on the topic of security theatre. I remain heartily amused that they will confiscate bottles of liquids and gels that are too large (bigger than three fluid ounces in capacity) and yet it would take little effort for someone truly bent on airborne mayhem to assemble the makings of a toxic gas generation device out of the wares from the smoke shop in the secure area of the airport as well as the duty-free shop. Assuming that one is there while they happen to be open, which they were not at 0600 EST5EDT.

At any rate I wandered about the terminal for a time, purchasing my customary morning cup of coffee and browsing the miniature Borders store and listening to my iPod. On days like this I feel very much like the character of Case from Neuromancer - all the time in the world, nowhere in particular to go, nowhere in particular to be, no trouble to get into to speak of, and waiting for the moment that things will explode into action. It's kind of lonely, actually. Most people travel in cliques, temporary or otherwise for
companionship. The bakery I visited was very busy, full of travellers hoping to catch a quick bite to eat before meeting their flight. All of the tables were occupied and busy.

In some ways, it's not a bad thing, running solo. You get to see more of what's around you and what's going on. It's kind of neat, actually.

Unfortunately, Dulles International Airport doesn't have free wireless net.access, like many these days. There are, however, multiple competing pay-for-play services in the airline terminal: AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint PCS Wi-Fi, and the "Free Public WiFi" ESSID that doesn't actually mean anything that has been spreading like a virus over the past year.

Lately, I've been using the second-generation hibernation system for Linux on Windbringer, my laptop computer. From the tests I've been running over the past few months it seems to work quite well if not perfectly. I've been able to suspend and restore my portable without glitches or problems repeatedly, which will come in handy on this trip because I've turned off a goodly amount of his hardware to conserve battery power.

The tiny little biscotti that they give you on flights these days (or at least this flight) are really tasty, I have to be honest. They're good for taking the edge off, if nothing else.

0953 EST5EDT - Somewhere over the continential United States

I forgot how dehydrated air travel makes my body. I made sure to drink extra water last night but my skin's suffering. Specifically, my hands look nasty. I should have picked up some hand lotion before we took off.

1342 EST5EDT - Back in the air over Arizona, headed for Burbank, California

We made it to Phoenix without incident, in fact, nearly a half-hour earlier than scheduled. Unfortunately, we burned that surplus of time and more while stuck on the runway because the plane occupying the entry slot was delayed, so we didn't actually get into the airport terminal until somewhen after 0930 MST. Then I got my roadwork in, assisted by the moving sidewalks because I had to beat feet for the other end of the airport to catch my connecting flight to California. On top of all of this, I hadn't eaten since shortly after taking off in Virginia, so I was fairly ravenous and just feeling the effects of low blood sugar.

I found the right gate just as they began the process of loading everyone who needed first dibs on board the plane... that left about fifteen minutes to find a hurried lunch, get back to the gate, and board the plane. Thankfully, my ticket was for a later group, so I had a few extra minutes, but I still cut it far closer than I prefer.

Of course the burrito stall that I visited was staffed by people living the high life behind the counter with rather a long line of hurried passengers standing out front for lunches to carry with them on board. I couldn't help but think back to some of the other people who were sitting casually outside of the larger restaurants and bistros that dotted the Phoenix, Arizona airport, sipping coffee, reading the paper, and enjoying a leisurely lunch... on top of all of this, the burrito stand was out of coffee, so I wasted my money on it.

It wasn't even good coffee, either: It was Maxwell House.

I prefer to think of it as paying for the privilege of not having to drink crappy coffee, the production and sale of which I maintain should be a capital crime, punishable by summary execution by drain cleaner and garlic puree' enema.

I write this from my seat near the front of the airplane as the vegetarian burrito with a small amount of (unusually good and spicy) salsa begins to digest. This is little more than a commuter flight - all things going as they should, we should land in California somewhen around 1345 PST8PDT. At that time I'll probably kill another two hours waiting for my luggage and finding a snack to get me through until dinner later today (California local time) and then see about hailing a taxicab to the hotel. I'll probably take a quick shower and clean up, send a few e-mails, and then look up some of the other con-goers for dinner. There's supposed to be a meet and greet at a restaurant a couple of blocks away from the Hilton, which I'm planning on attending.