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07.13.2003

Fear of Turbulence

Some people are afraid of heights, or spiders, or being stuck in a confined space. Some people are afraid of all three. The better half is afraid of fishes. I am afraid of turbulence.

A reminder to myself for the next time I decide to fly a fifteen-seater prop plane from Boston to Rutland, over mountains, on a hot and windy July afternoon: wear the brown pants.

I could have saved myself six hours, two flights, and a significant dry cleaning bill if I had just flown from Portland to Burlington, but something about the idea of a Rutland airport fascinated me. I had been living near Rutland for a year without realizing that it even had one. I could not recall seeing a plane in the sky. No one I had ever met knew that there was air service to Rutland, or believed that such a thing was possible. And yet, there it was, right up on the Travelocity site.

Rutland Airport turns out to be microscopic. I don't mean microscopic in the Burlington sense - one coffee shop and one baggage belt - but rather in the sense where the plane lands, stops, and you still have no idea where the terminal is.

It turns out the terminal consists of a single room, with a row of six plastic chairs, a sliding door in one wall marked "Baggage Claim", and five Transportation Security Agents huddled around a metal detector. This seems to follow the nationwide unspoken rule that TSA staff must outnumber (or outweigh) passengers by a factor of two. On the left side of the room, across from the baggage claim door, is the sole ticket counter. You can get a ticket to exactly one destination - Boston - from the one airline - US Airways - that flies there.

Guarding all this bounty is a scowling state trooper, who stands in the exit door leading out to the tarmac. If that isn't enough to thwart al Qaeda, there's also the fact that getting to the airport involves finding an unmarked rural road that meanders for miles through thick forest, as I discovered when the irate better half finally arrived to pick me up. I was still busy kissing the blessed ground.

----

The Open Source conference in Portland turned out better than I ever expected. I don't have much to write about, since most of the sessions I attended were Perl-related and very technical, but it was a most productive week. I spent a lot of time writing code with Schuyler and other Perl luminaries, who did me the favor of getting on my case and making me release a usable version of Search::ContextGraph. And the talk we gave was very enjoyable, even though some A/V problems probably made it annoying for the attendees. I'm still working on getting notes together to post, but they should be up on this site tomorrow.

It was the first time I had done programming with such capable people around me, and I could see how it could quickly become addictive. No bug was left unsquashed, even the nasty C++ ones. There was great pressure to write good documentation, and to do things the right way, not the easy way. And most surprising of all, the Microsoft-sponsored lunches turned out to be harmless (though I now have a strange craving to move the blog over to FrontPage).

I tried to get out into the daylight as much as I could, and Portland completely won me over. Powell's Book Store, in particular, strikes me as a good place to wile away six or seven weeks. A group of us went over to catch Wil Wheaton's book signing, and arrived early enough to hear him reading from his book. Sure enough, there was a grown-up version of Ensign Crusher, reading the chapter where he descibes how William Shatner is a colossal prick. Remember that next time you feel like getting all snarky with a fifteen year old in a Starfleet uniform - they grow up and tell all!

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