Vonnegut turns the last page….

RatcliffeBlog—Mitch’s Open Notebook: Vonnegut turns the last page….

I just now learned via Mitch’s blog that Kurt Vonnegut has died. Very sad.

His gentle humor inspired me as a young adult. My son Chris has become as voracious a reader as I was at his age. I’m compelled now to create a care-package of Vonnegut books to send to him in Chile. That is probably the best thing I could do to honor Vonnegut’s memory.

I actually had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Vonnegut, ironically at Texas Tech when I was a student there. He was wonderfully entertaining and very informative. He spoke as well as he wrote. There are several passages from his books which are firmly lodged in my imagination, particularly from Deadeye Dick, Slaughterhouse Five, and Galapagos. They spring into my thoughts constantly and make me smile, or ponder.

Goodbye Mr. Vonnegut.

Happy Birthday Christopher!

Today is Christopher’s 17th birthday. It is the first time he has been away from home on this day of the year. He’s 10,000 kilometers (6000+ miles) away. We’re going to call him later tonight.

I thought I’d share some photos of him over the years, in context of the usual subjects here on my website. The above photo was him in 4th grade, heading off to school in Wanborough, Wilts. Behind him is our trusty Volvo 440TD, a nice little Diesel car we owned in the UK.

Below are a bunch of photos taken on various rallies (some you have seen before), with Chris doing his usual stellar job of TSD Navigator. He’s REALLY good at it.

I miss you Chris!

Above: on the Deception Pass Bridge during the Tulip Rallye.

Above: Seattle Jag Club “Fall Colors Tour”

Above two: on the annual Poppy Rally in British Columbia. Due to weather issues, we took the Jetta!

Above: Seattle Jag Club’s Mt. Rainier Drive

Above two: The fateful 2004 Run To The Gorge

Weird coincidences

I just got off the phone with my father. He is in the Houston, TX airport, about to board a plane for Buenos Aires, and subsequently Santiago. This is a trip with my mother scheduled probably about a year ago… well BEFORE we knew that Christopher was going to be in Chile. Of course Santiago is over 500 miles from where Chris is living. But, to add even more irony to the situation, Christopher’s host family is travelling to Santiago tomorrow, and staying through the 20th! Their daughter is leaving as an AFS exchange student to Japan for one year. (can you imagine flying from Santiago to Tokyo? What a marathon!)

We’ve been trying to coordinate a meeting, which is difficult between three parties and over 70 degrees of Latitude, even with email and cellular phones! My father finally confirmed, just prior to boarding, that he has spoken with Christopher, and his host-father Gerardo, and they have made the arrangements. I had my dad pick up a book to bring down to Chris, as it seems he has almost run out of reading material (which made up half of his luggage!)

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Oh, the photo above is Christopher, in an especially geeky teen-age moment, during the Seattle Jaguar Club’s Mt. Rainier drive a few years ago. It has no relation to any of the above, I just figured the post needed a picture of Chris. 😉

Christopher’s first email from Chile

The beach was nice, but the pacific seems to be cold no matter where I go whether it be Alaska, Washington or Chile. I religiously applied sunscreen and avoided the sun as much as possible, but I managed to burn the one part of me I didnt expect to get burned or bother to apply sunscreen, back of my damn hands.

We received our first email from Chris in Chile today!

I emailed friends and family with his contact details last week. If you would like them let me know via email. (note: If you READ rather than click the “contact me via email” link over there in the right-hand column you can figure out how to contact me.)

He sounds well, and as I suspected is not quite up to speed with his Spanish language skills, but that will sort itself out naturally as time goes on.

Missing Christopher

As much as NOT having an incredibly tall, usually grumpy teenager around the house should be refreshing, I find myself really missing Christopher. I was wandering around the house after dinner and stopped in front of a bookcase, looking at a shelf full of his collection of history books. I saw his two books by British historian Antony Beevor and recalled discussing them with him on a similar evening after dinner. I picked one up to read. Maybe it will keep my mind of his absence.

I received the flyer for the local MG car club’s “Tulip Rallye” in April. Chris & I have done this run every year since 2004. I’ll have to find a new navigator for this year’s event. 🙁

Above is Chris biding his time on a Tulip Rallye segment with minimal navigation somewhere on Whidbey Island a few years back.

Christopher Calls!

My shower was interrupted by a phone call from Christopher. He sounded really good, and is with his host family in Copiapó. He says they landed in Santiago, and were rushed off to a campground full of sunburned Germans for an AFS in-country orientation.

He did report that being in Chile made him feel very tall. His bus ride to Copiapó was very long, but he enjoyed the a TV at his seat with a Spanish-dubbed version of The Simpson’s.

It is summer vacation there, so he’ll be off camping on the beach with his host family for the next week or so. School will start in early March.

Here at the Goolsbee house, we’re all relaxed and happy.

Miami, Day two.

My second day in Florida was full of one main activity, delivering this server to its new home. I awoke and ate my complimentary breakfast by the pool… which was worth every penny. ugh. Thankfully it was MUCH cooler than the day before. It seemed to be in the 60s, with overcast conditions. It appeared to have rained the night before. Remember how in Miami Vice the streets were always wet… that wasn’t a special effect. Every time I’ve been to Miami, there were puddles everywhere, and nothing has changed. I finally mastered lowering the Beetle’s roof (there is a switch between the seats, which I missed due to the armrest the day before.)

Let me diverge into a mini car review: I have plenty of experience with the VW New Beetle, having owned one for almost 200,000 miles and recently sold it. I always loved the way the Beetle drove, and this one was in some ways even better. My ONLY complaints about it were a bit of wind noise up by my left ear with the top up, and the fact that it had an automatic transmission. Mind you, as autos go, this one was pretty nice… a six speed DSG, but in the end, it was still a slush box. I MUCH prefer to shift myself. Anyway, the driving position was great, the ergonomics awesome. The boot was miniscule, and the back seat sort of a joke. If I had one I’d rip out the back seat and just make it a larger cargo area. It seemed MUCH peppier than my 2.0 liter Beetle ever was, and I discovered the reason why when I popped the hood open: It has an inline 5-cylinder 2.5 liter engine. It has much more torque than my 4-banger could dream of. Nice off-the-line acceleration, and excellent 60-90 jumps… once the damn transmission woke from its slumber a few seconds of agonizing lag after I push the throttle. With a manual tranny, this would be a killer car. It had several nice Teutonic touches, such as:
* a “drop/raise-all windows” with one button control.
* all the windows drop ever so slightly when you grab the door handle. This clears the glass of the weather-stripping as the doors open and close.
* an LCD at the top of the windshield that tells you when the top is fully retracted, or not.

Missing was the playful instrument colors and icons of the ’99 New Beetle I had, replaced with a far more serious-looking instrument cluster. It seemed a bit out of character for this playful sort of car.

Overall, I was VERY happy to have this car for the two days. So much better than a Sebring or a PT Cruiser!

Driving in Miami and environs hasn’t changed since last time I was here… basically Third World driving conditions and drivers, all contained within a distinctly US package. In other words, drivers swerving over lines and zero lane discipline combined with gigantic SUVs and people yakking on cell phones. Thankfully it got better the farther away from Miami I drove. First stop was Vero Beach, which was about three hours of driving north. As I arrived I called Steven Willis to get directions, and instead left him a message. So I wardrove until I found an open wireless network and looked up his address, plotted it on Google maps, and started navigating my way there. He called as I was within few miles and gave me a few hints. I found his place soon after.

I’ve known Steven for probably a decade, but we’ve only met once before, well over 5 years ago. Funny how the Internet has altered personal relationships like that… I think I have far more “virtual friends” than real these days. in 2004 Steven’s company was knocked off the ‘net by two successive hurricanes. Even though in many ways, we are competitors, I offered to help out any way I could. We set up a server in our facility for Steven to use as a DNS server, so that he could at least have some visibilty to the world. That, along with his evacuation of other critical systems to another location allowed him to weather the storms as best he could. In exchange, he offered us some rackspace to do the same thing. So here I was, finally collecting on that three year old favor, with a tertiary DNS server in the back seat of the Beetle.

Anyway, after a brief chat, we hopped into the Beetle and drove north to Melbourne and the datacenter that Deep Sky built, along with two other regional ISPs after the hurricanes of 2004. It is a nice, shiny new facility, with a modest three rows of cabinets and a lot of purpose-built considerations specific to the region.

Above is the row where our server will live. Below is Steven standing in front of their UPS. I liked the 8′ high conduit penetrations… something which makes no sense in Seattle, and a LOT of sense in Florida!

I unpacked the server and racked it up… only to find it not booting. Ugh. I unracked it, and found a desk to work on while I troubleshot the machine. It was working FINE when we left Seattle, and was carefully packed in the original box… but obviously either it was affected by the water, or rough handling (or both) along the way. I reseated all the connections, RAM, etc and got no joy, so I called the office. Thankfully this one was still under warranty, so I spent the requisite number of hours and troubleshooting steps on the phone with tech support in order to justify an on-site repair tech. That hurdle cleared, I left it behind and took Steven out for a late lunch. He picked an Irish pub, so I had a nice steak and a Guinness. hmmmm. I lost the wrestling match over the check (Steven is much bigger than I) and drove back to Vero Beach. About halfway back we had to put the top up due to rain. I left Steven, thanking him for all his help, and he promised to update me on the on site repair, expected the next day. I drove the rest of the way back to Miami, thankfully being late enough to miss the rush hour traffic. Halfway back I was able to drop the top again!

I arrived back at the hotel to see a crowd of exchange students waiting for the airport shuttle. No Chris though. While I was doing work up north, he was attending orientation. It was about 9 pm and I knew that his flight left around midnight, so he should be leaving soon. I dropped off my stuff in the room, and went back to the lobby for some Internet access (this hotel did not have in-room access!) Sure enough I leaned out to look at the front door and there was Chris, waiting for the bus. He looked around at one point and caught my eye… giving me the “stay where you are” look, so I just waved, and he waved back, giving me so subtle a smile that I doubt anyone else would have noticed it. I watched him from afar for a few minutes, until the shuttle came and took him away. I went back up to my room, slept for a few hours, then got up to head to my flight. The Beetle ragtop was growing on me, and if I could have, I’d have just driven it home. Oh well, I dropped it off, and made my way to the Alaska Air counter for my flight back to Seattle. The inbound flight was late, so my return was delayed. I was able to snag an exit-aisle seat though, and finished my copy of Peter Egan’s “Side Glances” best-of book somewhere over Wyoming.

I landed in Seattle about the same time Chris’ flight landed in Santiago. I came in over the snowy North Cascades, with Rainier’s top half completely shrouded in cloud; I hope that he was able to see the Andes, and Aconcagua in their full summertime glory.

I arrived home late, having suffered through typical Friday night Seattle/Everett traffic, and we went out to dinner at La Hacienda, just three of us.