Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mommy, I want to be an astronaut!

So remember when you were a kid, and people asked you want you wanted to be when you grew up and you said 'Astronaut!' And you really, really wanted to attend Space Camp at the Kennedy Space Center over the summer but weren't allowed to? So then you made do with the awesome field trip there in the 5th grade but were uber-disappointed when you weren't picked to ride in the flight simulator?

Well I do.

But today I heard some very disturbing news that potentially made me regret ever having that dream. Apparently, the gloves used in the space suit can make your fingernails fall off! Seriously, read on!

I mean, I don't know about you, but I'm kind of fond of my fingernails. I get annoyed when they get any longer than the tip of my finger and I have to cut them, but I'm glad they're there. They scratch things, portray my annoyance or boredom with a situation, and keep the tops of my fingers warm...

I actually lost an entire thumbnail in college when I slammed my finger in a car door. It turned black and was only hanging on by one side of my thumb, so you could actually lift it up because I was waaaaay too wimpy to pull the thing off. Here's an unattractive pic for your viewing pleasure:

Fun Fact: I had red hair for a time in college ... I got over it.

Gross, right? And although it was awesome that I was rocking Spider-man Band-Aids all the time to keep the nail attached, it was still pretty disturbing. And that was just a thumb! I can't imagine how I would feel if I lost all of my fingernails.


Although really, I suppose it is a small price to pay for actually being in freakin' space. So it's weird and gross, but I think I could handle losing some fingernails to be able to say that I took part in an EVA.

Maybe then I could rock some of those ridiculously long acrylic nails that some women have!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Weekend Wonderland

After my latest whirlwind European business adventure, I spent this weekend relaxing and spending some much needed time with my fantastic boyfriend. Between my business travels and his silent takeover of the Sacramento sports production scene, we're going to have to start scheduling time to see each other.

Saturday morning I woke up early (unfortunately) and decided to treat myself to some Saturday Morning Cartoons...which ended up turning into afternoon cartoons. But it was still really nice to lay on the couch and do absolutely nothing beside watch...

It's a little campier than the original X-Men series, but I find it to still be enjoyable.

Then, Saturday evening Steven got VIP tickets for a few friends and I to go see the Sacramento Mountain Lions take on the Florida Tuskers (UFL, in case you were wondering). We watched most of the game from the VIP tent, since that provided free food and booze, and overall it was a very enjoyable event. Despite a slow start, the game was pretty good, resulting in a 24-20 Mountain Lions victory. I rocked my UCF hat to show my support for Dante, and it was also conveniently Mountain Lions colors.

Sunday was very laid back. Steven and I began with brunch and Bloody Mary's at the always delicious Fox & Goose Public House. Then we went cruisin' in his new ride:

Isn't it awesome? We went driving around East Sacramento to see if there were any cool places for rent and finished off with some very domestic grocery shopping to stock our very bare shelves. Overall, it was the perfect weekend to recharge the batteries and gear up for another busy week at work!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Airport Agony

Well dear blogland, I promised that my next post would be from the States, and I did finally make it home! And let me tell you, what an adventure it was.

My story first starts from when I arrived at Zurich airport probably a little earlier than was necessary. That's OK though, as I like to have enough time to navigate through security and customs and also give myself some leeway when trying to navigate a new airport. But I made it through quite easily and had some time to wander throught the Duty Free shop to see if there were any last minute souvenir trinkets that I couldn't live without.

Then the trouble started.

Apparently it was too foggy in Amsterdam to land our aircraft, so we were stuck with an indefinite delay. But they did know when they were able to update us. I killed some more time catching up on work emails, they told us our connecting flights would most likely be held or delayed due to the weather, no big deal.

Well the flight ended up being delayed and hour and half at the airport, and then another 45 minutes in the air as we had to circle and wait for our turn to land.

Needless to say, my flight did not wait for me. I missed it by 55 minutes.

Then started the arduous rebooking process. Apparently KLM only has one re-ticketing counter in the entire Amsterdam airport. Due to all of the delays, the line was ridiculously long. All the while, the KLM attendants were telling us about this mysterious room of 20 workers who were working to rebook all of our flights. While waiting in line, we were to check our flight status at the kiosks to see if we were rebooked.

After about an hour and half, I could finally see the golden ticket counter, and still had no reservation information from the kiosk. But it seemed that when I finally reached the point that I could see the counter, the line stopped. The whole front of the line was a clusterf!@$ of people - people cutting, First & Business customers that were allowed to skip the line - just no organization whatsoever!

It was at this moment (and no, I don't know why it took me so long to think of this) I had the bright idea to just call the airline to be rebooked. So I pulled out my handy international cell phone and phoned Delta. Within six minutes I was rebooked through Minneapolis!

But I wasn't out of the woods yet, I wasn't able to print my new boarding pass from the Kiosks and had to proceed to the gate to receive my boarding pass. Now before getting to the counter, you need to go through customs, where they ask for your boarding card.

Needless to say, I was nervous.

Turns out, though, I was nervous for nothing and everything worked just as Sasha on the phone at Delta said it would. The attendant even made my day a bit brighter by prompting, 'What, you didn't want to wait at re-ticketing?' He made all of us who were in the same situation laugh and really lightend the mood.

And so I finally get on my miracle plane back to the States, and that plane got delayed for about an hour. Then there was terrible movies to choose from on the plane, and of course I wasn't able sleep.

I arrived in Minneapolis exhausted after having been awake for 24 hours, and just really needing to sleep. And of course, my flight was delayed again. Fortunately, as soon as I boarded the plane I passed out and slept for almost the entire flight back to Sacramento.

And now I'm home!! Huzzah!

So moral of the story kids? Avoid connecting throught Amsterdam, and if you do have the misfortune of travelling on a bad weather day, don't wait in their disaster of a line. Always call the airline, seriously their attendants are rubbish.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jessica's Jauntings: Day 8

Well I must say, I am exhausted. Today I met with a teacher at the International School Wintethur - another meeting that went quite well. We discussed BASIC Stamp Educator's Course possibilities for next June and he is quite enthusiastic about our products.

After the meeting, I walked around Zurich for a bit (a very little bit) and explored some areas further from the hotel. From a distance I saw St. Peter-Kirche (Europe's largest clockface) and the Fraumünster.

After wandering around I grabbed some quick food from a cart and returned to my hotel room. I've got a 4:30am taxi to the airport scheduled so I'm hoping to go to bed pretty soon.

Overall, I would consider this trip a success. I've made some great contacts and covered a lot of ground on this trip. I didn't get too much time to sightsee or do much for 'fun', but honestly I had a blast meeting new people, experiencing new things, and especially riding trains everywhere! (Too bad I can't get one last train ride to the airport in tomorrow - but unfortunately, the first train doesn't leave early enough.)

So the next time you hear from me Blogland, I'll be back Stateside! Probably doing a lot of sleeping - did I mention I was tired? :]

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jessica's Jauntings: Day 7

Today I had a very good meeting with our Swiss distributor, ZEKO Kolbicz. He was very friendly and took me on a drive around the town and explained some of the local customs.

One custom that I found quite entertaining is that at the end of winter the entire town gathers and builds a large snowman. Then, they load the snowman with explosives and blow it up! Depending on how long it takes the head to melt is how good and how quickly spring will arrive.

I told him that our equivalent tradition, Groundhog Day, wasn't nearly as exciting.

After the meeting, I headed over to the Swiss National Museum, or Landesmuseum Zürich.

Landesmuseum Zürich

Their collection was very interesting and included a history of the Swiss Army Knife. The museum was very large and I kept viewing the exhibits backwards, I think. But overall it was a very interesting place to visit and a nice way to spend the afternoon.

After touring the museum, I decided to head back to the hotel and rest since I am not completely over my cold. Below is a picture of where I am staying, can you believe there is a Starbucks underneath? I suppose they really are everywhere.

So now I am relaxing before dinner, I am going to try a restaurant that boasts authentic Swiss cuisine made with local ingredients. Unfortunately, they do not open until 6, which is too bad as I could eat now and would like to go to sleep early again to help fight this cold. But the restaurant looks very interesting and should be yummy, so hopefully it's worth the wait!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jessica's Jauntings: Day 6

First off, I woke up this morning and officially have a cold. Not a terrible one, but enough of one to be an annoyance.


Anyway, today I took the 8-hour train trip from Vienna to Zurich. The train was rather nice with plenty of legroom and not crowded at all!

Sick face - gross. But I'm on a train!

The ride was very pleasant with gorgeous views of the Austrian countryside. Since it was a high-speed train, we moved ridiculously fast so I wasn't able to snap any pictures. For one, the lady sitting in front of me decided she wanted to be lame and pull the shade down, and two, because we were moving so fast, every time I would try to set up a shot, something would get in the way!

So you're just going to have to trust me - it was a very pretty trip.

Now I am all checked into the hotel and ready to get to bed and hopefully get rid of these sniffles. Because I must say, being sick in a foreign country is no fun - only a couple of TV channels are in English, you can't walk to your fridge and get juice, and in Zurich apparently a bowl of soup is the price of a normal meal!

Ah well, tomorrow I meet with our Swiss distributor and hopefully get things settled for a potential Educator's Course here next June.

Goodnight, moon!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jessica's Jauntings: Days 4 & 5

Yesterday was the first day of the Robotics in Education Conference at the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava. It was a long, but rewarding day filled with many lectures on various topics relating to hardware platforms, teaching methods, research projects, and more. It was very interesting to attend and hear how educational systems work in other countries.

After the conference we had a walking tour of the city of Bratislava, which was very interesting. It was nice to learn the history of all the places I walked around and saw the day before.

This, for example, is St. Martin's cathedral, which was used for the coronation of 19 Hungarian kings.

And this is Michael's Gate, the only remaining medieval gate in the city.

After the tour was a welcome dinner at the Hotel Arcadia, which was very delicious. I enjoyed good food and good conversation with some new Austrian friends.

Today was my day to present at the conference, and I think the presentation went quite well. I did receive many questions afterwards. After the conference lunch, I decided to head back to Vienna to get settled in my hotel before the final conference dinner. I am starting to feel the beginnings of a cold, so I wanted to get some rest.

Unfortunately, as I write this, I am not feeling much better, so will probably skip the conference dinner. It is sort of far from my hotel, and I'm not sure how safe I feel taking the U-Bahn at night. Plus, I still have two more meetings to make and would like to be in top health for them!

Overall I enjoyed the conference very much. I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly and welcoming everyone that attended was. (When one woman overheard that I was starting to feel sick, she offered her cold medicine!) I very much enjoyed this experience and am excited to share what I learned with everyone else at Parallax.

Tomorrow I am taking the train from Vienna to Zurich. With going to bed early, I am hoping to catch the earliest train so that I can get settled in my hotel earlier. I am excited for this trip, as well as to meet our distributor and visit the International School Winterthur.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jessica's Jauntings: Day 3

Well, I decided to travel by train from Vienna to Bratislava since the time I needed to travel by boat was sold out. Navigating the train station was much easier than anticipated, so I had some time to kill before my train arrived.

That's me, killing time at Wien Südbahnhof.

The train ride was rather pleasant, and I got to see some Austrian villages along the way. I also got to see this huge windmill farm. Literally, there was probably 50 windmills, it was pretty incredible.

I arrived at my hotel in Bratislava with out issue (although I may have been charged too much for my taxi ride), and now have this hideous view outside my window:

Yes, that is the Bratislava Castle in the far left.

After settling in and checking some email, I decided to walk around a bit and explore the city. It really is quite beautiful, and very interesting to wander around. I don't know why I was concerned about visiting in the first place!

Having missed lunch, I decided to have an early dinner and I popped into a typical Slovak restaurant - Modrá hviezda. The food was very yummy and the interior was way cool. I felt like I was eating in a medieval dining hall! The waiter was super friendly even though I was the only customer in the restaurant, and as I was snapping pictures he came over, shook his head and motioned that he should take a picture of me in the restaurant instead. So of course I said OK.

It was rather dark in the restaurant, since I assume they were trying to stay true to the style, the only light provided was by candle!

Now I am back in the hotel preparing for the first day of the Robotics in Education Conference tomorrow. It is going to be a long day, certainly, but I am very interested to see how robotics programs are taught in other countries. Should be fun!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jessica's Jauntings: Days 1 & 2

I arrived safely in Vienna yesterday afternoon. The most interesting thing did happen on the flight from Salt Lake City to Paris - apparently every single one of the toilets on the airplane stopped working about an hour and twenty minutes before we landed. This required the flight attendants to rather reluctantly make this unique announcemnt: "We would appreciate it if you would limit your fluid intake so that we do not have to land the plane before arriving in Paris."

It was rather funny.

The flight from Paris to Vienna was rather uneventful, as was the metro ride from the airport to my hotel. And may I just say that I'm kind of awesome when it comes to navigating metro lines. I did have some trouble finding the hotel since the map I printed from Google had two streets that were named the same when they really were named two different things. And the walking directions it had me take were completely unnecessary and out of the way. But I finally made it here:

It's a very nice hotel, typical European style. After I arrived, settled in and checked my email I grabbed a quick falafel from a cart and wandered around the neighborhood a bit and people-watched. Soon though, my tiredness was far too overwhelming and I retreated back to the hotel for a hot shower and some shut eye.

Today I awoke with the plans to meet with our Austrian distributor:

I ended up being late, however, as even though I updated my phone to the proper time zone, apparently Daylight Savings Time wasn't taken into account! And of course the hotel didn't have a clock in the room. Thankfully Michaela (who I was meeting) was very gracious and understanding.

We ended up having a lovely day visiting and chatting. Michaela was the only one in the office that spoke English well, so I only briefly met the rest of the staff. Everyone was very nice and welcoming, and apologized for not speaking English. To which I replied, "That's alright, the only German I know is 'Ich spreche kein Deutsch.' and 'Was ist los.'" So they were a lot better off than I was, and this now marks the second business trip that I've been on where I wished I spoke German!

I spent the better part of the day at Wien Schall, so when I returned to the hotel, I decided to do some sightseeing that was within walking distance. Luckily, the Schönbrunn Palace was just around the corner. What a gorgeous place it was! The palace, an old imperial summer residence, was just outstanding, and the gardens that surround it were gorgeous. There were also many joggers around the gardens, and I just thought, how awesome would it be to live in a place where your daily jogging routine takes you through a piece of history dating from the 15th century?

Here are some pictures!

Das Palmenhaus - The Palm House

Schönbrunn Palace

That's all for now, but rest assured that more will be on the way - I'll probably post them on Facebook at some point.

Tomorrow I'm off to Bratislava and am currently debating whether to take a scenic boat ride down the Danube or take the train. Decisions, decisions...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Life of a Quasi-Grownup

As I am making last minute preparations for my business trip to Europe tomorrow (fancy, right?), I can't help but think that this is someone else's crazy awesome life, not my own.

I mean, with this trip I will officially qualify as a Delta Medallion Member, a status that brings free checked luggage, priority upgrades, boarding with First Class, and of course - the coveted short check-in line.

But this was a status that my dad always had when we would travel, not me. When I was a kid, I looked up to him so much (well, still do really), admiring the finesse he had when traversing through the airport, always seeming to know right where to go with just a quick glance at one of the boards, like traveling was the most ordinary thing to do.

Of course now I know airline travel is pretty ordinary, but when I was younger, traveling on an airplane was one of the biggest treats and extremely exciting. I would try to stand up at the checkin counter with my dad after we'd gone through the short "special" line, wishing that I had an ID that the airline attendant could check, and then hurry to keep up with my dad's brisk, purposeful walk to the terminal - hoping to the unknowing eye that I, too would look like traveling was the most mundane thing in the world, like I did it all the time.

And now, I look at myself and realize that I have reached that status as well. I get annoyed with the n00bs in the security line who take ages to put their things through and with the people that think all 12 members of their family need to crowd around baggage claim. (Seriously - you just need one.) But I'm most annoyed with the terrorist who tried to blow up an airplane with a liquid bomb - which resulted in the requirement that you cannot bring liquids over 3 oz on the plane. So I am forced to check my bag because my facial cleansing supplies are 4 oz. ::Grumbles::

Through all of this, however, I am still in awe that this is my life. Yesterday, I watched Up in the Air with George Clooney and totally related to his travel tricks. This made me stop for a moment and think: Wow, when did I become this grownup business traveller?

I mean, these trips are certainly rad, and I love taking them. Most of the time I don't feel like a grownup - and certainly not a grownup international business woman! But apparently that's what I've become, and tomorrow I'll board one of these:

...and embark on my next European business adventure. This time I'll even be giving a presentation at an International Robotics in Education conference, which is totally mind boggling.

So wish me luck dearest interwebs, I'll try to keep you updated on my adventures!

Oh, and on a slightly less-grownup note: my cell number will be active while I am away. However, I will be paying international call and text prices. Therefore, please try to refrain from any unnecessary texts or phone calls. If you do forget, I won't be angry, and all I ask is please don't get upset with me in return for not responding to your call or text. I do love you all, just not necessarily enough to pay $1.29-2.89 a minute to talk or $0.50 to text.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Welcome Fall!

So this morning, I wake up and am instantly excited. Why? Because I smelt the cold.

And whatever, you can call me crazy all you want, but cold does have a smell. And this morning I smelled that wonderful smell and relished in the fact that fall is coming.

So I popped out of bed (OK I laid in bed and enjoyed a few extra minutes of shut-eye), got dressed in a lovely collared shirt and sweater vest combo and got in the car to work. Then to properly pay homage to the beginnings of fall, I popped into Starbucks because...

Pumpkin Spice Lattes are my absolute fave. They're uber-yummy-in-my-tummy. And starting my morning with 60 degree temperatures and a Venti latte in my hand was the perfect way to start my day. Even the ridiculously long line at Starbucks could do nothing to kill my mood!

I love the fall, especially here in Sacramento. Back in Florida, we had two seasons: hot, humid & rainy and not-as-hot, humid & rainy. Here in Northern California we have dips in temperature, leaves that change color, and an actual reason to wear cute sweaters and sweater vests.

And it also means that ski season is right around the corner - huzzah!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Proud UCF Alumnus Here!

According to The Academic Ranking of World Universities, the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Central Florida ranks alongside Yale as one of the top Engineering/Technology and Computer Science Schools in the world!

I'm always proud to be a UCF alumnus, but reading this article really just made my day!

Goooooo Knights!