Tuesday, October 18, 2005

In Kansas ... Still

[Tech Geek Note #1: I'm writing this on my AlphaSmart Pro in the airport. I'll upload it to Blogger as soon as I get home.]

[Tech Geek Note #2: I'm (finally) home, but the PS/2 cable which allowed me to upload text from the AlphaSmart before I left is no longer working. Damned if I know why. So I'm transcribing from the AlphaSmart screen. I hope I get this fixed so I can retreive my novel text... Grrrr.]

Well, "Jack Kilby Science Day" was a big success. The kids all seemed to get a lot out of my keynote address, so I that helped get them fired up for the day. I did two activity sessions, as well. The first, the Marsbound! card game I created, went over extrememly well. The kids were totally into it. The second, a competition to build both a rocket and an airplane out of a soda straw, went over fairly well. The kids seemed to have a good time -- and learned a little about the aerodynamics of a stalled wing, I think -- but it was right before lunch, and I think they were all a bit hungry. They were into it, just not as into it as the morning group. That's okay. Apparently the evaluations were very positive, so that's gratifying. Most importantly, the organizaer that hired me to speak was extremely pleased and satisfied, so that was the real kicker. I made a thousand bucks on the deal (which is actually on the low end for keynote speakers, believe it or not), so I'm certianly not complaining!

What I am complaining about it that I'm still stuck in Kansas City. Coming out here I was worried that I wouldn't make it, since I only had about 40 minutes or so between flights and had to change planes twice and airlines once. Even though I had to go through security again between flights in Kansas City coming out here, I still made it with no problems. Coming back, I was take a US Airways flight out of Great Bend to Kansas City and then catch a non-stop on America West from Kansas City back to Phoenix. I had an hour between flightss, and as it turned out, we got here 20 minutes easrly (and since I was the only passenger to fly out of Great Bend, I got great personalized service!). You'd think I'd have it made coming home, wouldn't you?

Ah, but the key words in the above are "America West." They lost our baggage a few years ago -- we never got it back, including my wife's new glasses, disk drive, and a bunch of other stuff. They never even paid for it, either, saying they only cover clothes (and only a depreciated value at that). When we asked where we were supposed to carry the other stuff, they said, "Oh, that should go in your carry-on luggage." Never mind that they overbook flights and there's no room for carry-on luggage anyway. I swore I'd never fly on America West again. My wife even made up a little song:

Oh, don't fly America West Airlines!
They'll screw you for everything you've got!
Oh, don't fly America West Airlines!
They'll take your money and leave you there to rot!

Well, I broke that vow, tempting God and fate. Never a wise move.

America West decided to cancel the flight to Phoenix, leaving me here to rot. I was pretty pissed off when I saw that the next flight to Phoenix didn't leave for three more hours, but I was even more pissed when the America West agent said, "Oh, that flight is full. Sorry." The best they could do to get me home tonight was to put me on a Southwest flight that leaves at 9:45 PM. So instead of rocking my baby to sleep right now, I'm sitting in an airport terminal fuming. What fun.

On the plus side, I've written about 5,000 words of my novel today. I have to say, this AlphaSmart [ed. note: IF I can get it to upload] has definitely been the bright spot of this trip. The ability to simply switch it on and start typing is huge. No batteries. No cables. No need to save files. No waiting two minutes to boot up and two minutes to shut own. It really is perfect for writers. And at $13 on eBay, you really can't beat it. I still want an AlphaSmart Neo for Christmas, mainly for the slightly larger screen (six lines instead of four) an for the larger memory size (128 pages instea of 64). Being able to transfer files over the USB port instea of having the AlphaSmart type into Word (or whatever) in a minor convenience, but a welcome one [ed. note: And become less of a minor convenience at the moment]. The Neo is $250, but I think for a lot of us, the AlphaSmart Pro is hard to beat.*

*Here's a quick tip when you're looking at AlphaSmart Pros. If you can find one that has the 2.1.3 or higher chip in it (most are 2.1.2), you can use the "Get Utility" to send files to the AlphaSmart as well as read them. That's worth having, but probably not worth paying a lot more for, since you'd have to buyt he Get Utility as well. Most of us are just going to use the AlphaSmart for first drafts, not for editing, anyway.

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