A Busy Couple Weeks!

Today I am heading down to IANS in Charlotte, NC [ia] where I will be moderating sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. Friday and Saturday I will try to pretend to have a life and then the next week I’ll be doing it again in Washington, DC [ia] then Thursday night (instead of driving home) I’ll drive up to Syracuse, NY for NYSERNET’s conference [ny] where I’m delivering the Friday morning keynote. Then, I drive home and try to remember who I am for 2 days and it’s back down to the DC area to keynote BroCon [bro] in Arlington, then swing by Herndon for a day on the way home to sit in on a Technology Advisory Board for a start-up that I’ve been consulting to for the last few years. After that, it’s a 3 hour drive back to the farm.

My spring and fall are my busy season. This year, it’s died down considerably. I used to agree to do talks all over the country in September/October and some years I was only home a few days out of the month. Try figuring out an expense report for a 5-legged ticket that goes back and forth across the country (hint: total the miles and just expense each organization their percentage of the combined mileage, then make sure you screenshot what a round-trip would have cost because they’re usually paying half that)

There was a time when I used to bring home a shotglass from each city I visited. Finally, it filled the shelf in the knicknack cabinet and then filled the next shelf, and then I stopped and started using the shotglasses as rifle targets (they’re a good size for 200-meter shots) The first year I flew over 400,000 miles was enough for me. A few years ago, when a fellow I know suggested I use this app he liked, which showed all the places he’d been, I recoiled in horror.

Because I’m always traveling on someone else’s schedule, I get some crazy connections like (this actually happened) Milan teaching a class -> Buenos Aires keynoting a conference -> A week in Jeddah doing an incident response. Then home to change my dirty laundry out of my bag and figure out where I am going next. Then, there was the time I was at a conference in Dallas and got called into an incident response in LA for a week. In LA I found a western clothing store near my hotel and bought a couple pairs of jeans and some embroidered shirts off the markdown rack, and fedexed my dirty laundry home.

This is my airport face. Sao Paolo, 2018

My parents, being academics, travel very differently from me. I used to get, “Oh, you’re going to Milan? Make sure you see ${this} and ${that}.” I then have to explain that my connections are tight, which means I’ll be going BWI Airport->Milan Airport->a taxi->a hotel->a meeting room->a restaurant for dinner->a taxi->Milan Airport->BWI Airport to sleep in my own bed. I’m not complaining – this is the lifestyle I have chosen, and it’s turned out pretty good for me. Mostly, I’m happy that I’ve managed to maintain my technical chops and I can still pick stuff up very fast. But it turns out that as we age our brains age, too, along with our bodies and joints. But mostly what ages is our patience.

The next three weeks are going to be something that I’m just going to hunker down and get done. I’ll keep up my postings here but I may not be as talkative as usual.

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Since I spend a lot of time writing powerpoint decks for talks that I’m giving, I usually don’t talk about those topics here. I guess that’s one area in which my patience has run thin – I’m really tired of hearing the sound of my own voice after a couple days of this. Some of the ideas I am trying to get across are interesting (I really think that!) and possibly useful (ditto!) so maybe I’ll do a few postings about some of that stuff. It’s all wrapped up in the whole security/system reliability/integrity/politics/cyberwar thing and those are all pretty depressing topics to me, now. I have a pretty good track record about warning people not to stick their tongue in the light socket, but they do it anyway (at least they pay top-dollar rates for tongue de-lightbulbing consultants)

If you want to experience true travel hell, do an Initial Public Offering road-show. In 1997 I did the tech pitch on V-One’s IPO road-show and our investment banker, Piper Jaffray, didn’t have enough weight to control the meeting schedule. We had to scramble to get to whoever would meet with us, and that meant, once we were on the west coast, a night-time limo ride from La Jolla to LA, to catch a late flight to Denver, and then – I am not making this up – we went Denver->Minneapolis->Denver->San Francisco->Denver->Washington the next day. That was surreal. The day after, we went to Zurich and stayed at the Witter Hotel, which is a beautifully modernized medieval building. I was exhausted and confronted by this German-designed shower controller that I simply could not figure out, and suddenly I was sitting on the floor of the shower bawling like a baby. The front desk sent someone up to teach the stupid American Chief Technology Officer how the shower worked. They were very nice.


  1. says

    Personally, I perceive traveling as exciting and fun. But, yeah, after reading your schedule, I do get why you aren’t as fond of traveling as I am. If my travel schedules were anything similar to yours, I’d also quickly start to hate traveling.

    Wishing you a nice trip is probably pointless, so I’ll wish you a safe trip instead.

    And, by the way, you can always let me know if you someday end up anywhere in Europe and with some moments of free time during which we could hang out together.

  2. kestrel says

    Sounds exhausting. But is probably exhilarating too. And think of all the airports you’re seeing! Over and over! May the journeys go well.

  3. lorn says

    Back in the day I used to travel a bit and , as always, there was a lot of hurry up and wait. What got me through it was a ‘cane seat’ and a good book.

    Here is a short article that covers a few types. I don’t know any of those and can’t endorse any, the one I had has wandered off years ago and I can’t remember the brand. I remember that it had a solid plastic seat and a tripod, and wasn’t a very expensive one:


    When I first got it it was because I had a bad knee. After the knee got better I kept using it. Being able to sit and read, and possibly listen to some tunes or a reading of a book, while waiting in line made a big difference for me.

    The other thing that helped was ear plugs. Airports and hospitals (pretty much all of the places humans are made to wait ) have an acoustic ambiance that raises tension. The half-heard talk, shuffling, PA systems combine to be just annoying enough to keep me on edge. I usually asked the next person in line to give me a nudge if I missed anything. For the most part it wasn’t necessary. The ear plugs just take the edge off and I could always still understand normal speech.

    I used to use them a lot. Working at a machine shop they made the difference between leaving slightly rattled and out of sorts, or not. I keep them around when using any but the most quiet power tools because the noise does make a subtle but profound difference in my mood and patience.

  4. komarov says

    Denver->Minneapolis->Denver->San Francisco->Denver->Washington

    Can’t fly to Denver if the airport caught on fire. Just a thought.

    Re: chigau (#4): Sleep whenever you can.

    Maybe I’m alone in this, but my experience has always been that sleeping en route does at best nothing. Maybe I manage to skip a little time but it’s never ever been restful and merely sends me deeper into the traveller’s torpor – cue airport face.

    This is probably not helping. Sorry, Marcus.

  5. says

    A good book and shooter’s earmuffs is my usual distraction. No batteries. And I can put earbuds in under the muffs if I want a bit of music. It works so well that there have been times I completely failed to hear announcements – i.e. “our flight is delayed and you’re going to miss your connection.” Ignorance is bliss!

  6. voyager says

    I haven’t flown much (no one cares what palliative nurses have to say). but when I do fly I find the seats too close together and too small. I’m short, so I don’t know how anyone over 5’2”” copes.
    Safe travels, Marcus. Zone out when you can.

  7. says

    I’m short, so I don’t know how anyone over 5’2”” copes.

    Am I really the only one who feels like the size of airplane seats is just fine? They don’t feel too small for me. And I’m not even that short, I’m 176 cm tall.

  8. John Morales says

    leva, your problem is that you are young, so can’t compare how it was to how it is. It was better.

    (Think about it; why do you imagine that cattle-class seats don’t line up with the plane’s windows?)

  9. says

    leva, your problem is that you are young, so can’t compare how it was to how it is. It was better.

    True. I have no memories of airplanes being better. I only remember public transportation being worse than it is nowadays. Back when I was a child, I had to use Soviet busses, and those were awful. Seats were made from hard plastic, with no soft cushioning at all. Sitting on one of those for a while made my butt hurt. And uncomfortable seats weren’t even the worst problem. Air quality inside the busses was awful, and that made me feel sick. Perception of comfort being relative, I feel like airplanes are extremely comfortable only because I know that public transportation can be a lot worse.

    Anyway, larger seats mean also more expensive airplane ticket prices. Personally, I prefer cheaper plane tickets, because I don’t need the large seats anyway.