Sunday, October 23, 2005

It's good to be home!

I had great expectations of updating my blog when I was in Michigan. That fell apart for a couple of reasons. Most nights I didn't get out of the client's office until 6 pm EDT, two nights I did some work when I got back to the hotel, and all but one night I was out until at least 8 pm exploring Kalamazoo (that was Thursday, when I had to write up a report for work). Most of the time in the hotel was spent on the cell phone with Alana, or online chatting to her. Sorry, but I much prefer spending time with Alana than "blogging"!

So, what is there to do in Kalamazoo? Well, as it turns out not a whole lot but shopping. Most things are closed by 7. I wanted to get to the Air Zoo (an aircraft museum) but didn't have the time. There are a couple of haunted houses around for Halloween, but that's more of a family thing. I spent most nights checking out stores.

Kalamazoo is about half again as big as Monroe, a little smaller than Monroe and West Monroe combined. It seemed to have fewer restaurants, but that's not surprising since that's about the only thing that thrives in Monroe (that and clothing stores, if the mall is to be believed). They did have a Perkins and a Denny's, neither of which exist in Monroe. I ate at the Outback once, only because I wanted lamb. Well, come to find out they didn't have lamb in the Kalamazoo Outback. They did in the one in Baton Rouge a couple of years ago. Without lamb there is now officially no good reason to eat at the Outback Steakhouse. There are better steak places in Monroe at much lower prices.

So, in the restaurant category it's a point for Monroe. In books it's a tie. We have Books-a-Million, they have Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble has a more interesting clearance section, though our Books-a-Million has a better military history section (and a Civil War section about twice as big as the B&N, but that's probably a regional difference). B&N did have a display of Osprey military books, including some on samurai. B&N has its own line of horror anthologies. I see that the Wicked Little Witches book is still for sale. This has a story by my friend Michael Skeet! I understand that West Monroe is supposed to get a B&N sometime.

I think Kalamazoo wins in the hobby store category, by a hair. I didn't see a listing in the phone book for a Michael's (though there has to be one somewhere), and most of Kalamazoo's hobby stores focus on radio control models. Our Hobbytown does that, while we have Michael's and Hobby Lobby. They have a comic/game store (the Game Shop). It's bigger and brighter than Clint's here in Monroe, and it has more game stock, but not a lot more and the prices are higher. They have the edge in selection so we'll give that to Kalamazoo. I also discovered two army surplus stores, one that specializes in paintball and airsoft. The ones around here are just camouflage clothing stores. Assuming there are craft stores in Kalamazoo and they just weren't under "hobbies" in the phone book, it wins out.

Kalamazoo has a Circuit City. This is something Monroe is seriously lacking. The only place you can buy computer peripherals here is Office Depot, Wal-Mart, or the video game places. That's pretty sad. We need a Circuit City, Best Buy, or Compusa. The closest stores to Monroe are in Shreveport or Jackson. Maybe someday someone will figure this out and put one in instead of yet another clothing store.

With all those places to check out, it's not surprising I didn't get back from supper until around 8 pm most nights.

I wasn't training clients in Kalamazoo, I was training clients in Plainwell, which is about 20 or so miles north of Kalamazoo. After the first two days I was told of a back roads route to Plainwell along a street close to my hotel. The trees were at their peak for changing colour, making this a beautiful trip each morning. I took my Nikon SLR with me, so I hope to have some nice pictures once I get the film developed. (Yes, I still use a film camera for this stuff. Film cameras still have way more resolution thant digitals.) I spent much of Tuesday taking pictures of trees and houses in Plainwell. There are some wonderful old houses in Plainwell that are striking with the trees changing colour.

The training went okay. Not great, but okay. We had some data conversion problems due to our client's current system set up, so things were failing because of that. We also had program issues. It turns out most of those were because an old version of the system was on their server and the folks back at the home office failed to tell me that they didn't install the latest version (they put it on their server, but left me to install it when I was ready; they forgot to cc me on that e-mail). As usual I had to work around this with a lot of "wiggle words". I hope that these problems are ironed out by the time our next client is trained. I'm not looking forward to Monday, because I know I will have to do some more data set up for these new people and support the last installation (our last beta test client) and get our next client up and running.

On the other hand, it's wonderful to be home! We're hoping the next time I have to travel Alana will be able to come with me.

I'm still not comfortable about air travel, but it's not as fear inducing as it once was. I even managed to nap a little on one of the flights back. I had to fly from Monroe to Atlanta, Atlanta to Cincinnati, and Cincinnati to Kalamazoo. I learned from my last trip, to South Dakota, that an hour between flights doesn't give you much leeway, so I made sure there was at least a 2 hour gap between flights. That worked out well, even though there were no delays. If I've calculated it right, the flight from Atlanta to Monroe was my 40th flight. I still like to close my eyes on takeoff, but I'm now able to stare out the plane on landing.

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