Monthly Archives: September 2008

Road Trip Report: “State of the Art, Military Bang Bang!”


We’d started out from San Jose, driving through Reno en route to Salt Lake City. It was the first day of the trip, and it was due to be the longest single day’s drive: over 768 miles in 11 hours.

We stopped for gas in Reno, and decided to walk into The Nugget to grab a coffee and do a restroom break. As soon as we got into the casino, however, our Californian noses were shocked by an alien–yet strangely familiar smell…tobacco!

Yes, Dorothy, we were not in San Jose anymore. In Nevada people are actually allowed to smoke. Indoors, no less!

But it didn’t stop there. In Nevada, you can talk on your cell phone when driving. And gamble. And you can drive 75 miles an hour legally on the highway (which meant I was doing 80, using the old traveller’s logic of, “Heck, the cops have gotta spot you five miles over the limit!”)

Giddy with freedom, I was also drawn to the numerous signs on the highway past Reno pointing to a fireworks outlet store. On a whim, I turned off the highway and discovered a shop crammed with enough consumer-grade explosives to make even the Mythbusters giddy with glee.

“Can I take a picture of these?” I asked the baseball-hat-wearing proprietor?

“Are you a member of a law-enforcement agency?” he asked, as a reply.

I assured him I was not, and right then, I knew I was at The Coolest Place on Earth. The whole store was stocked to the walls with colorfully wrapped explosives with awesome cartoons advertising their particular pyrotechnic properties.

You light the fuse, loud things happen, and his head blows off. I bought two.

This one was called, “Osama-Bomb-Noggin”. You light the fuse, loud things happen, and his head blows off. I bought two.

“Those ones over there are the ‘safe and sane’ ones that are legal in California” he said, pointing to a decidedly less impressive collection of wussy fireworks. “Which way are you headed?”

“East” I said. And immediately began heading for the rows of rockets, shells, roman candles, firecrackers, smoke bombs, multiple launchers, and other wonders of modern explosive technology.

Why is Bill Clinton driving a flying saucer? Who knows, but the Chinese box art was awesome!

Why is Bill Clinton driving a flying saucer? Who knows, but the Chinese box art was awesome!

My increasingly worried family looked on as I started grabbing one find after another. The proprietor helpfully answered my questions about each device, as well as providing suitably gruesome cautionary tales of the people who’d shot rockets at each other, held onto flying fireworks devices, and tried to use exploding toy boats in the family bathtub. I promised to do no such thing, and proceeded to pile my arms with illegal-in-California explosive after explosive. I figured that in some fireworks-friendly state far from Nannyvile, CA, where I apparently lived, I was going to have about ten wonderful minutes of illicit-where-I-live pyrotechnic fun. I couldn’t wait.

Some of the bigger shells. I don’t even know what these do, and I was scared to find out.

Some of the bigger shells. I don’t even know what these do, and I was scared to find out.

“Really… uh… I think that’s enough, Dad” said Neil, worriedly noting the growing stack of munitions in my arms and moving to interpose himself between me and the row of heavier duty shells. Reluctantly, I headed for the counter, but the proprietor insisted on showing me a few extra things, and even threw in a lighting punk, and a few extra fireworks “for the kids”.

I was just one state away from home, but already the trip was off with a bang.

The Big Road Trip

3 Years Ago:

“You know what we should do, Carolyn? Take a big road trip with the kids. You know, the old ‘Alright kids, everyone get in the car. We’re off to see America!’ sort of thing. And then you just disappear for a month and drive to every little town and landmark from coast to coast. It’s be amazing! Yeah, we should totally do that!…”


Dear Lord, we’re actually going to do it. What was I possibly thinking? If only I hadn’t had that extra glass of wine that night…

In just ten days, the family and I will be heading off on what should be a heck of an adventure. We’re going to be spending four weeks travelling from California to the Grandparents’ place in Gettysburg, PA and back—by car—with stops along the way including Salt Lake City, Mount Rushmore, Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C., Orlando, New Orleans, Austin, San Antonio, Las Vegas, then home to San Jose. Not counting the inevitable side-trips, it’s going to be something like 9,000 miles in all.

Yes, it’s the big, “Let’s take the kids and go see America!” trip that a lot of us had when we were kids, and which I’ll likely never have the chance to do again—at least not when my kids are in those magic ages between being old enough to sit still in the car for hundreds of miles at a stretch, and being too old and jaded not to wonder at sights like the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell, and the Smithsonian.

I’m sure that at some point on the trip, I’ll wonder what madman dreamed up the idea of sticking four people in a car for a month, but I still suspect it’ll be a vacation that we’ll all remember—for better or worse—for a long time to come.

The current plan (subject to change based on technological soundness and human endurance) is to try to keep in touch with the world back in San Jose as much as possible, or at least wade through as much email as I can during the inevitable downtime. It’ll be interesting to see what an extended road trip is like in a world where many of the Wide Open Spaces still have the Internet, streaming audio, and Remote Access. I guess this is all a way of saying that although I’ll be winding my way around the country for a month, I won’t necessarily be out of touch during that entire time. (I’m not sure if that’s a Good Thing, or a Very Bad Thing).

Speaking of geek stuff, I will shamelessly bleg (blog + beg) for help on two issues that have me stumped. If anyone can offer expert advice on these, please drop me a note or comment:

1. How the devil do I hook up an iPhone to read Exchange Server mail? We’ve got a Sonicwall firewall (T1705, I think) in the office, and no amount of twiddling with the iPhone firewall settings ever resulted in my new, supposedly Exchange Server-ready Phone seeing my mail server. Any iPhone/Exchange Server users out there who can give me some advice?

2. I just got my first real video camera, a Canon which shoots HD video in AVCHD format. Unfortunately, however, this format is utterly unsupported by my current video editing suite (Adobe Premiere/Production Premium CS3). I’ve tried the Pinnacle suite suggested as an alternative, but, as Jean-Louis Gassee used to say, “it could be even better” (i.e., it’s an unusable mess of a product). Can anyone out there suggest an alternative? (Or alternately, are there any Adobe folks reading this who know if CS4 will do the trick?

Thanks to all for any help you can offer (and bribes of comic software and/or freshly baked cookies are certainly within the realm of possibility!).


Blast from the Past: Chicago Comic-Con 1995

Here’s the ComicBase booth tricked out for the Chicago Comic-Con in 1995. I just recovered the photo from a long-forgotten folder of pix taken with–I’m pretty sure–a QuickTake 150, my first digital camera (I may have even been borrowing it at the time!).

If memory serves, this would have been ComicBase 2.0 (possibly 1.2 or 1.3 at the time). Fabulous wife Carolyn is serving as booth babe, and looking terrific as always!