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Life &Work by Spencer on June 18, 2008

To Houston and Back – The Sequel

Second verse, same as the first?

Well, not exactly, but close enough.  I’ve decided that Houston doesn’t like me.  Yesterday, I had another client in Houston that I had to fly out to meet with.  I scheduled the same flights as before so that I could do all of my travel in one day.  Last time, if you recall, my flight was stranded mid-air and we were diverted to Austin and I missed my meeting and flew straight home as soon as I finally landed in Houston.  This experience wasn’t quite that bad, but it wasn’t good either.

The flight from Vegas to Houston was uneventful and we even arrived a little early.  Great.  I was able to meet up with my co-worker and we got to the meeting and the meeting went well.  Great.  Afterward, got to have Chick-Fil-A to eat.  AWESOME!!! Highlight of the day!  Got to the airport to fly home… and this is where the story unravels once again.

My plane was supposed to leave around 6:44 pm CDT and arrive in Vegas at 7:52 PDT.  I would have gotten home before 9:00 easily and still had some time to relax before bed.  Around 6:30, we hadn’t boarded yet and they finally changed the departure time from 6:44 to 7:16.   Not a big deal, that happens.  We board the plane and after everyone is on and they’ve closed the door, we get an announcement.  “Thank you for flying with us, we’ll be at the gate here for 30 minutes or so.”  Upsetting but whatever.  30 minutes pass by and the voice comes over, (using valley girl paraphrasing from our captain) “Umm, yeah, like there are 4 planes behind us blocking us in so, like, we’ll be another 30 minutes here.  Y’all can use your cell phones if you want to call anyone… oh and by the way, once we pull from the gate, we’ll taxi for about another hour before we take off, there were like, awesome storms that came through.  Totally cool, huh?”

About 45 minutes later we push from the gate and get the message (no paraphrasing). “Greetings from the flight deck, we’ve pushed from the gate.  You can probably feel us moving now.  It’ll still be about an hour before we take off as there are a lot of flights ahead of us due to the storm that passed by.”  That’s great, come on the speaker just AFTER we start moving to tell us we’re moving.  Our captain was a real winner, I think she liked the sound of her voice on the PA.

Now we’re on taxi and again the captain comes online and says, “If you’re on the left side of the plane you can probably see the really long line of planes we’re behind and that magnificent storm in the distance.”  I don’t care.  We’re on the taxi with the engines off, it doesn’t really matter how many planes are ahead of us.

30 minutes later, still on the taxi, the captain graces us with her presence again, “I’ve been asked to move the plane up so I’m going to start the engines and move.”  Did we really need to hear that?  Come on.  Around this time, almost 2 hours of sitting on the plane, they come around and offer a glass of water.  Great customer service.  Couldn’t they have at least run some programming on the TV’s during this wait; or even better not board the darn plane until we could have pushed away.  Continental’s customer service leaves much to be desired from my last two experiences.  It’s one thing to have delays, but the way the staff handles them could make things much more bearable.  Continental gets a D for service.

40 minutes later we’re taking off and I seriously hear clapping behind me.  What the ??? You’re clapping because we’re taking off 2 and a half hours late?  What an accomplishment!  As we’re just getting airborne, the flight attendant comes on and says, “Thanks for handling the short delay, we appreciate your business.”  Short delay, as if to say it could have been worse; which yes, it could have, but don’t try to placate me by pointing that out.  We took off around the time I should have been landing in Vegas.

The flight was uneventful from that point and I got home around 11:00.  Missed the entire Celtics game and any reasonable time with Kylah before bed.  Houston just doesn’t like me apparently.

I’m sure that when the time comes to fly again to Houston, I’ll be able to complete a saga.  Stay tuned!

Life &Work by Spencer on February 21, 2008

It’s Good to Be Home

Wow! I’ve traveled more in February than I ever have in the past. Three trips in three weeks (the first two already documented below). This last and final trip was to Elekta’s Atlanta headquarters for a Project Manager’s meeting. The meetings went well and were worth the time in general. Whether we needed to have them during the middle of 4th quarter (by far our busiest team) but now I am back in the office for the foreseeable future and ready to hit the ground running.

One very good thing is during my time in Atlanta, I was able to have some Chick-Fil-A! It was as good as always and I would have really been upset to go to Atlanta and not have some Chick-Fil-A.

I’m finding that travel really takes all of your energy in general. All of the trips have been short (1, 2, and 3 days) which makes for a lot of flying time in a short period and I’m worn out. Getting sick in the middle didn’t help either and I felt hopeless while away and having the rest of the family sick as well. We’re all getting better so it looks like we’ve turned the corner.

On a different front, I will soon be announcing the launch of the Stanton family web site. I’ve found a good content management system to use and have started to build some pages. I hope to officially debut it during the first week of March.

Take care everyone and have a great weekend!

Life &Work by Spencer on February 13, 2008

To Houston and Back

A semi-live blogging event.

Here was how yesterday was supposed to go:

  • 4:00 AM PST – Get up and head to the airport.
  • 6:40 AM PST – Fly to Houston and arrive around 11:35 AM CST.
  • 1:00 PM CST – Attend Kick Off Meeting with a client.
  • 3:00 PM CST – Conclude meeting and head back to George H. W. Bush Intercontinental Airport (that has to be the longest name for an airport around) .
  • 6:30 PM CST – Fly back home to Vegas.
  • 7:30 PM PST- Arrive in Vegas and go home.

This would have made for a quite long day with about 10 hours of travel for a 2 hour meeting. If only it could have happened that way.

Now for the real story:

  • Throughout the night – Wife and baby were sick with colds and fever. We all had rough nights sleeping.
  • 4:20 AM PST – Got up and went to the airport.
  • 6:40 AM PST – Fly to Houston… so far so good.
  • 11:00 AM CST – Announcement overhead stating that there are storms in Houston and we have been requested to hold over San Antonio for about 30 minutes. No big deal at this point. I’ll still have time to meet my colleague and get to the meeting.
  • 12:00 PM CST – Announcement overhead stating that we have been requested to hold for an additional 30 minutes. This makes things really tight but ok. Ah, but the message wasn’t over. After a brief pause, the pilot announced that we don’t have the fuel to stay up for another delay and we are going to land in Austin. Day ruined.
  • 12:30 PM CST – Land in Austin. Call work colleague and tell him I won’t make the meeting. He had already seen the re-route and was ready to go by himself. While we are waiting on the tarmac to get refueled, I was able to call home and found out my wife was going to take our son to the doctor for his cold. I really hoped all was well and couldn’t stop thinking about them. If I had known that this would have happened, I could have stayed home and taken care of them rather than fly half way across the country and back (dressed up nicely at that).
  • 2:00 PM CST – Get in line to take off to Houston. Decided to start writing this out on paper to pass the time. I’ve had nothing to eat or drink today, not even water.
  • 2:10 PM CST – Announcement that we will be able to take off at 2:40. Not holding my breath.
  • 2:53 PM CST- We have liftoff! Should be 31 minutes to Houston.
  • 3:35 PM CST – Touchdown! At this point, at least I’ve had one small glass of ice water. My plan was to eat at the airport and then try to find my way back home.
  • 4:00 PM CST – I look on the flight board and see a 4:10 flight back to Vegas. I don’t think I can make it in time but I also don’t see any other Vegas flights on the board (including my scheduled flight) so I skip food and try to make this flight. SUCCESS! I’m on my way back home, even if without food.
  • 4:35 PM CST – I’m in the air and heading home. I am so hungry I could eat a horse. Not sure exactly when I’ll get home but I’m glad this long ordeal is almost over. I watch Gladiator to pass the time.

I made it home around 6:00 PM with Burger King in hand. Such a long day with no real purpose. I’m glad it’s over.

NOTE: My apologies for the inconsistency regarding time (sometimes using present tense sometimes past tense). I knew I was switching back and forth but don’t want to worry about fixing it. 🙂

Work by Spencer on February 7, 2008

Linear Accelerator Installation: Day 2 – Unloading/Starting

Today’s installment of my trip to North Iowa will be much shorter as today wasn’t nearly as exciting. We got to watch two of our colleagues start to put together the machine. We all felt as if we were in the way most of the time as the vault is quite small. I don’t even have anything interesting to show a picture of.

To top it off, I seem to be coming down with a bit of a cold. Great to get when I’m about to fly home. 🙁 It’s not a bad cold, but flying when feeling less than 100% is a horrible experience. As soon as I get home, Zicam to the rescue!

Work by Spencer on February 6, 2008

Linear Accelerator Installation: Day 1 – The Push-In

My company has required all of the project managers to visit a site during the first three days of a new linear accelerator push-in. Today was the first day for me and some of my co-workers. Today’s main job is for the riggers to bring in parts of the machine and load them into the treatment delivery room.

The process takes a full day and starts with bringing in the base. This piece is bolted into the ground. After that, a large drum is put in place. This is the main component that holds all of the electronics as well as the gantry used to deliver radiation to a patient:

Base and Drum

After that, a bunch of 30 pound plates are added in the back of the drum at the top. This will counterbalance the beam arm where electrons will be accelerated and radiation will come out:

Beam Arm

This beam arm is about 12 feet long so moving around corners through the hospital can be quite challenging.

I’ve seen equipment used to move heavy items like I’ve never seen before. They use a large A-Frame with two pulley systems to lift pieces of the machine out of crates and into place. It was pretty cool to watch, even though most of the day I felt like we were all in the way of the workers trying to get their job done. The amount of work and effort it takes to bring in the larger pieces of the accelerator is daunting. The company that we contract to do these has got their stuff together and they know what to do to get the job done right. To think that in about 10 weeks, this empty room will deliver radiation treatment to a patient is pretty amazing and it helps me remember that what I do has a real impact to fighting cancer.

We’re all pretty tired from standing today but not nearly as tired as the riggers, I’m sure. Tomorrow is the first day of putting on the smaller parts of the machine and we may actually get to help where possible. I’ll write a full report.

Take care and have a great day, all!

Work by Spencer on September 27, 2007

I Thought I Was Spencer

Ok, so this isn’t a huge deal, but it is annoying enough to post about it so here goes.

My first name is Spencer; it is not Stanton.  I know, part of the curse of having two traditionally last names can confuse some people, but lately it seems to be confusing a lot of people at work.  My work e-mail name comes through to recipients as “Stanton, Spencer” and recently most people are ignoring the comma and replying with Stanton as my first name.

Here is the problem I face: how do you politely correct someone over e-mail.  It’s easy enough in person or over the phone because tone of voice will let people know that I’m not offended by the mistake, but still want to correct it.  Over e-mail; different story.  What’s the proper ettiquite over e-mail?  Do I close out a message with, “by the way, my first name is Spencer”?  That seems to come off a bit rude yet that is the nicest I can think of.  If people look at my signature, I specifically have “Spencer G. Stanton” leaving no doubt what my first and last names are but people tend to ignore that and mistakenly go by the name displayed.  If you have any thoughts, please let me know.  Again, it’s not the biggest thing in the world, but can be a bit annoying at times.