Thursday, February 22, 2007

Brush with a B-17

Recently my great friend Andy called me up and told me he was designing a web site for a non-profit mobile museum. A mobile museum that flies in the air. A B-17 bomber!!!

The B-17 has been one of my favorite planes since I was little and saw a TV show in the 80's called Amazing Stores. An episode entitled "The Mission" revolved around the belly gunner of a B-17 bomber. I was fascinated that a plane could be large enough to walk around in and have so many compartments and stations. It was neat to see a team that worked together to operate a complex machine for such a dangerous purpose.

Later I saw a movie called The Memphis Belle, which was about a real-life B-17 crew that flew over Germany, and an animated segment from the animated "art film" Heavy Metal that featured a B-17. Each story I saw with a B-17 in it just intensified my interest in the plane.

So my friend Andy called me and told me that the mobile museum was going to be in the Atlanta area and would be giving rides. The rides were pretty steep at 400 some-odd dollars for a forty-minute ride, so I opted to simply see the plane in action... which is all I really needed.

I arrived at the local airport while the plane was in flight, and walked up to a chain-link fence where a group had gathered. I met up with Andy and talked a little before the plane finally roared into view. It had already landed out of view but taxied, fully functional, right up to the fence where we stood.

The enormity of the plane overwhelmed me. My eyes swept across its gleaming silver surface and my hair blew in the wash of the props as it did a one-eighty and slowed to a stop. I ran along the length of the plane and spied the pilot through a window high on top, and the classic forties-style pinup girl painted on the side of the fuselage with the words "Liberty Belle" in block letters next to it.

What an experience!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A little conjoined, a litte sunny

I watched two great movies this evening. The first was "Stuck on You," a movie about conjoined twins and their trials. It starred Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon. To me it is still a new release even though the copyright date says 2004. That's the kind of thing that happens when you leave the country for a year. It's a part of my time warp experience. It has some great humor and some pretty touching moments. I think what really makes the movie special is the behind the scenes footage that shows the two actors actually strapped together for hours on end. It brings home the point of the movie in a very real way to see how these actors lived as conjoined people for endless hours everyday for months.

The second one I saw was Little Miss Sunshine. It is one of those everybody-is-dysfunctional comedy/drama movies where you get to watch through your fingers as neuroses collide. Most of the movie is incredibly painful to get through, by design, which is what makes it such a good movie.

In one of those "clarity" moments towards the end, a young, awkward, teenage boy says, "Sometimes I just wish I could go to sleep till I was eighteen. Skip all this crap. High school and everything. Just skip it." That expresses perfectly how I felt in high school.

Fortunately his uncle, who is in the middle of his own life-wrecking crisis, offers a story about a French writer who was a "total loser." He couldn't keep a job, was gay and nobody loved him. He spent a tremendous amount of time writing a book that nobody read, but is "probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare." The writer, sitting upon his deathbed, looked back on his life and realized his years of suffering were the greatest years of his life because they helped form who is was. His years of happiness "were a total waste... didn't learn a thing."

Now, I don't think I am anywhere near my deathbed, but I can reflect on the short life I have led so far, and think back to the painful experiences I've had, and I can say without a doubt they formed me into the person I am today, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Certainly I can look at the struggles I experienced in Egypt and I can say it has altered my life in all sorts of positive ways. While everyone feels some awkwardness from high school, how many people spend a year in Egypt? My struggles there were fairly unique, which, in turn, has pushed me to a level of self confidence I've never experienced before.

So, now I say, "Struggles? Difficulties? Bring 'em on." They only help me realize my true potential.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Flash Fix

Those of you who use Internet Explorer have probably noticed in the past that the header of my web site didn't work until you activated it by clicking on it. This problem arose after Microsoft lost a lawsuit filed by a small company who held the patent on the technology that inserted the Flash movie that contains my web site header. ... or so I have heard. I don't know all the sordid details. All I know is that every Flash item on all the web sites I created had this problem. I knew there was a work around for the problem, but I've had too much going on during the last 8 or so months to fool with it. I am proud to announce the problem is no more. Now you can click directly on my menu buttons without a problem. Now I'm off to fix my other sites!

If you are interested in becoming one of the ever-increasing legions of people who are abandoning Internet Explorer for a better browser, I recommend Firefox. That's the browser I use.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Fantastic Dreams

I have had a number of amazing dreams in recent days.

The first, and best one I will tell you about happened several weeks ago. It is still quite vivid in my mind even now so retelling it won’t be a problem.

The first thing I remember is walking through my neighbors’ backyard. In real life the backyard slopes down from their house and then levels out as it meets the woods. In my dream some of my family members were walking through the level part, away from our own house. For some reason there was a funeral tent, one of those things that covers a gravesite at a graveyard. I remember commenting to myself even in my dream how strange it was as I walked under it.

We walked to the back right corner of their yard, which would have been woods in real life, but was a gigantic rocky hill. The hill had small bushes and short pine trees growing out of crumbly, salmon colored soil. We walked up a winding path that carved deeper into the hill the further we went and eventually came to an earthen tunnel. My family proceeded into the tunnel ahead of me with no problem, but when I approached it, only my face could fit in it. I shouted for them to proceed without me, that I would find a way around the tunnel. I climbed up the left side of the of the path and up over the tunnel opening then walked along the rough surface of the hill until it dropped off to the other end of the tunnel. I looked down and saw my family exiting the tunnel and heard them chatting to each other. I made my way down to them and we looked out over a large gully.

The tunnel opened onto a ledge about eight feet deep at the side of the gully. The gully looked like a place for water to run off, or a road that had been cleared through the woods but hadn’t been paved yet, but was 200 feet wide. We turned to the left and walked along the ledge about twenty feet before the ledge ended at an earthen wall. By some miracle my neighbors had built a large, sturdy, steel bridge that spanned the gully to another ledge on a hill on the other side. As we walked across, other people, strangers I didn’t know, were milling about on the bridge, smiling and playing with their children as if it were a public park. We reached the other side and the dream took a major turn.

My family kind of disappeared from the dream without me really noticing and was replaced by my old boss, Doug from New Jersey. The bridge was similar enough to a launch pad gangway because all of a sudden we were on an Apollo-type spacecraft. Inexplicably we skipped the launch and were suddenly in space. I looked out the window of the spacecraft and saw Saturn looming large ahead of us. I remember thinking, “We are going incredibly fast if we are already approaching Saturn.” Doug seemed excited and decided he was going outside the spacecraft. He opened the hatch and I panicked, realizing I needed to put a helmet on, but to my amazement found that it was already on.

Saturn’s light cast a white, dreamy glow on everything: the instruments on the inside of the spacecraft, Doug, and the edge of the hatch. I drifted over to the hatch, which was on the left side of the ship, and stuck my head out. Before me was a vast field of stars, to my left, behind the spacecraft, was the distant disk of Jupiter. Doug, like so many people in my dreams, simply disappeared at this point without me even noticing. I looked back to my right, but Saturn wasn’t there anymore. It was replaced by what looked like a movie studio. The back wall was off-white with an octagonal hole in it, which seemed to be about 20 feet across. The floors and walls were white where they met the wall, but transitioned to black the closer they got to me and then disappeared into space, as if they blended right in to the fabric of space itself. On the floor, angled in my direction were a few studio lights shining brightly.

I was floating untethered outside the spacecraft, traveling at the same incredible speed, and I watched the studio lights as they whizzed past me to my left. When I looked back to my right, the spacecraft had disappeared without me noticing, and I was hurtling towards the octagonal hole in the wall, which I found out shortly was actually an octagonal tunnel. All around the mouth of the tunnel were fluorescent bulbs, angled randomly, which were colored pink, yellow and orange. Some of them blinked, and some of them were steadily lit.

I floated at a high rate of speed directly into the middle of the tunnel and saw that the colored fluorescent bulbs continued down the tunnel a few hundred feet. They gave way to unlit, transparent, acrylic-looking tubes about the same size and length, and they too were colored similar colors: red, yellow, and orange. They were mounted at random angles on off-white walls that seemed to be illuminated by soft fluorescent lights, though there was no discernable light source. I floated rapidly for a long time down the tunnel, which was now much wider, probably at about 50 feet, and realized I had no way to steer in case the tunnel changed direction. Almost in response to my thought the tunnel began to gradually curve to the right and I eventually hit the wall and bounced off the tubes, which flexed and sprung me off to the right.

The tubes, while still covering the walls, began to appear in clumped masses extending from the walls so that I had to avoid them. Somehow I had gained the ability to slowly steer in wide arcs, perhaps just by willing it. I steered under and over them a few times as the tunnel continued to turn this way and that. Somehow I could tell that the tunnel had made a full U-turn and I was headed back the way I came. The tunnel gave way to open space once again and I could see Jupiter in the distance, but somehow I came to a stop and landed on a “floor”.

There in front of me was a large air cushion, the kind that sit at the feet of bungee jump towers, with kids jumping up and down on it. Standing around it was a small group of people talking to each other. I walked up to them and saw that they were the crew of the original Star Trek series, but they were teenagers. I only remember Scotty specifically. He was squat and had long black hair and a long, greasy, pointed, black moustache. We had a conversation, but I don’t remember what we said. In fact that’s where my dream ended.

Strange huh?

I do know some visual imagery that influenced my dream. The spacecraft looked much like the Apollo capsule from Apollo 13 when the craft was dimmed without power. The steel bridge was almost exactly like the gangplank in Apollo 13, but much wider. The octagonal tube came from 2001: A space Odyssey, as did the fluorescent and acrylic tubes. They come straight from the end sequence of the movie with all the abstract lights.

I think Doug was in my dream because he is a small business owner, which I intend to be soon. I think the bridge and tunnels all have to do with transition. I am assuming it has to do with my transition into business for myself. Perhaps even the funeral tent was a symbol of change. The anxiety over the lack of control as I drifted down the tunnel has to do with uncertainty of the future. The future, I suppose is represented by the 2001-influenced tunnel. It was futuristic in design even though the year in which the movie took place has already passed.

Friday, February 09, 2007

In the meantime...

It's been a while since I've posted. But I've been pretty busy lately, so I hope you will excuse me.

One of the most important things I've been doing in recent weeks is growing a beard. It's a first for me. It's really interesting the pattern of facial hair nature chose to give me. I barely have any hair between my lower lip and the edge of my chin, you know, that jumping off place that eventually leads to your neck. What little hair I do have in that region is blonde, which doesn't help at all. And by some cosmic joke, my beard is dark RED where my normal hair is sandy brown. Weird.

I've also been working on putting together my own company. I'm planning to open a business designing web sites for churches and non-profits. I'm going through a few test cases to see what it takes. What I've really been struggling with is how far behind I am on web site standards. We spent absolutely ZERO time trying to stay fresh on standards at my last job, so I had fallen very far behind.

My cousin is taking a basic HTML class and I was disheartened to discover that CSS formatting is included in the course. Yes, a part of BASIC HTML. Whew! A few weeks ago I knew what CSS was only in theory. I found my cousin's textbook online and ordered it for myself and have been devouring its pages. (Not literally. Paper cuts don't work so well in the digestive tract.) I've learned a great deal in a small amount of time and look forward to new and exciting projects in the future.

Once I've gotten my company formed and a website designed (for myself this time), I'll post the address here.

Until next time. Cheers!