Posted by mike d. Filed in travel

We are back from our Italian honeymoon adventure! It was an epic 11 day trip through Venice, Florence, and Monterosso (Cinque Terre). We have 1300 photos, so get ready for pictorial overload!

Well, not really.

Here’s the deal. We’ve all seen more than our share of beautiful vistas, impressive architectural feats, and flawless art – so instead I’m going to post a combination of our atypical pictures bustling with personality, and the comically bad pictures.

So get excited: The Italy 2014 recap is coming.



Posted by mike d. Filed in travel

On Thursday I zipped out to Ohio for the day to meet a customer with a colleague. We had the luxury of taking the company plane; a rare treat that saves us a wealth of time and the pains of airport patdowns and lines. The machine is a small Cessna Mustang from 2010 – with fairly up to date technology. The cockpit glows from the multitude of bright electronic maps and screens.

It’s mostly quiet inside the cabin. There’s a constant growl from the engines, but it’s comfortable enough to carry on a conversation. The plane itself is fairly steady – we weren’t deeply effected, outside of a schedule setback, by the 100knot headwind.

That headwind was just one piece of the wacky weather that marched into New England on Thursday. While we were out in Ohio the fog rolled through Connecticut like a tsunami of marshmallow fluff. On our landing approach the cabin carried an eerie light, illuminated via the thick white clouds that blanketed the windows. As the plane began its descent I looked to the cockpit and watched the altimeter.

Mike D: We’re at 1000 ft.
Colleague: Wow. Clouds are low.
Mike D: 800.
Colleague: Can you see anything? I can’t see anything.

Note, we were landing in Hartford which has an elevation of about 180ft. So at this point while our altitude was 800, we were only about 620ft off the deck.

Mike D: 700.
Mike D: 600.
Colleague: That can’t be right. I still can’t see ground.
Mike D: We’re at 500ft.

At this point one of the two pilots was looking out the window trying to see ground. The other pilot kept his hands tightly on the yoke.

Mike D: 400ft.
Still complete white.
Mike D: We’re at 300.
Colleague: this is crazy
Mike D: 250.

Suddenly, the pilot pulled back hard on the yoke and threw the throttle all the way forward and we climbed climbed climbed from 250 to 4000 in what felt like seconds.

The pilots kicked into action mode and immediately started pulling out charts, flipping switches and bantering back and forth. A decision was made. We took a hard turn looped around and 30 minutes later were on the ground in New Haven, where the winds of the sound held the carpet of clouds at bay.

It was more fascinating than frightening. It was interesting to be able to witness the decision and the action of a pilot in a less than ideal situation. Both of the guys in the cockpit are ex-airforce guys and it was quite clear given their reactions; The pilots acted with impressive authority.

When we first got in the plane, one of the pilots guided us through the emergency exits. “If we’re in an emergency and you need to escape the aircraft, pull this lever, turn it clockwise, pull the door in and it’ll come right off. If it comes to that feel free to pull the rest of us out of the plane too.”

And while I never felt at risk, I’m still glad to be home!



Posted by mike d. Filed in travel

One of my colleagues out here in Ohio pointed out an unusual trend. Rental car agencies, when they give you keys to the car, give you two keys.

This in itself is not unreasonable. Hotels typically give you two swipe cards. This way if you have two users, you’re cool. Except for the odd fact that the keys are connected via a crimped metal cable. You can not separate the keys.


I looked into this a bit and it looks like the reason for doing this is to assure that the two keys, which are required for resale, are not lost. If one key was ever lost by a user, then the rental company would be required to make an expensive replacement. I guess the car companies presumed that the minor inconvenience to their customers is not worth the potential cost for key replacement.

Posted by mike d. Filed in travel

Gate opened.

Welcome to flight 3503 with service to a place you probably don’t want to go. This flight is uncomfortably full so we are limited in overhead baggage storage. Please make sure you take advantage of the underseat storage. Anything larger than a loaf of bread will need to be gate checked.

At this time we’ll be boarding senior citizens and anyone with disabilities who require additional time on the jet bridge.

Now, we would like to welcome active, uniformed military personnel to board.

Families with infants are now encouraged to board.

All families traveling with children under 4 are now invited to board the aircraft.

We will now be accepting first class passengers through our priority lane.

Group one is now welcome to board.

Platinum members of our rewards program can now board.

Participants in our credit card Milage Premium program can now board.

Group two can now board.

Gold level rewards program travelers are now welcome to board through the priority lane.

Group three is invited to board through the economy lane.

Passengers without carry on luggage can board at this time.

Group four can now board via the economy lane.

Anyone named Phillip can now board.

Group five is encouraged to board.

Group six is invited to board the aircraft.

Silver level rewards program travelers are now welcome to board through the ‘we call it silver, but its virtually worthless’ lane.

All remaining passengers with a group assignment can board at this time.

Any passengers without a group assignment can now board.

Standby passengers with seat assignments can now board the plane.

Last call for flight 3503 to a place you probably don’t want to go? Last call for flight 3505?

Gate closed.

Posted by mike d. Filed in travel

Out on the job site, we take lunch whenever we can at wherever we can. Sometimes our installation locations are not conducive to traditional venues and we find ourselves at ‘Chuck’s Hot Dog Stand’ every day for three weeks straight.

Other times we are afforded the luxury of choice. Out here in Ohio, I have that luxury. We’ve been alternating between Subway, Panera, and a few local diners/eateries where the pie is to die for and the chicken you might die from.

When we go to Panera, my peers (Sander and another Mike) give alternate names to make the ordering process easier. Sander goes by Steve because “wait Sandhuhwho? How do you spell… is it Sandy?” and Mike goes by his last name because there are just too many Mikes.

My Dad used to do this at restaurants. Instead of saying Andy or having to spell out DiDonato. He’d just say his name was Sting.

It’s a pretty good plan. I’ve been thinking of doing the same, but I need a snazzy name. Any recommendations?

Posted by mike d. Filed in travel

Surrounded by industrial equipment, I can’t help but wonder what machine would dominate a battle royale:

Fork Truck
Dump Truck

They have one other massive machine here called a straddler. It looks like a war machine from the hit 90′s computer game Descent. It’s 20′ tall and can carry 60,000lbs of steel.

I’m thinking the fork truck’s maneuverability plus it’s bull spears would make it a pretty effective war machine. Even excavator payloaders, though fast, probably could only execute one or two awkward swipes before the fork truck could get up close.

The dump truck’s only effective strategy would be to plow its opponents. Assuming the bed was full, it would make for a nearly unstoppable force. But I don’t think it would charge a fork truck with raised forks – too risky.

These are the guiltless musings of a travel weary project manager.



Posted by mike d. Filed in ExtremeWeb, travel

I am back in Ohio at my usual Holiday Inn. I was cheered this morning by the buffet breakfast lady who recognized me and welcomed me back – not from my most recent trip – but from my stint here about 4 years ago! I must have made an impression with the buffet people. It was nice to be recognized. It’s like having a little bit of home out here in Ohio.

In other news, there is a blizzard approaching and the building where we are working has no heat and is missing some walls.



Posted by mike d. Filed in travel

I have been in Ohio this week aiding with an installation of some equipment. The hardest part of the job has been the cold. The building is barely a building. Sheet metal walls with large gaping bays for product movement do little to protect from the elements. Earlier in the week we were looking at single digit temperatures. Not fun.

I’m staying at a holiday inn where there happens to be a major marble conevention going on. Marbles. Like the small colorful glass balls.



This is an atypical convention because the collectors are all spread out across the hotel in various rooms. Each room door is open and signs are put out in the hall advertising Bill’s Marbles! Cape Cod Marbles! Vintage Marbles! and people are encouraged to go between the various rooms to buy, sell, or trade.

Thousands upon thousands of marbles. Most of which are carefully organized, labeled, and tagged.

Marbles organized across sheets of foam

Marbles organized across sheets of foam

I talked to a few of the vendors and learned a lot about the different processes for making marbles. Firstly, many of these marbles are old – form the late 1800′s and early 1900′s. The marbles came from any of 20-something american producers, or producers overseas.

I learned about the cheap, plentiful Japanese cat-eye marbles – and the more ornate glass marbles that encase porcelain figurines. Some marbles are made in batch processes while others are individually made.

Marble 1

I realized that it’s not the easiest thing in the world to take pictures of marbles. If any of you photo people have recommendations I’m open to hear them!

Marble 2

Marble 3

The marbles I saw ranged in price from a few bucks a pop to $2,400. Just as in any world of collectibles, the rare, flawless, unique marbles fetch the highest prices. The vendors are armed with magnifying glasses and small flashlights to justify their prices and share the beauty of their treasures. For the most part visitors are encouraged to pick up and examine any piece of glass – I chose instead to keep my hands in my pockets. I didn’t want to be part of anyone losing their marbles.

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