Balloons over Greeley

We had the great pleasure of having some Italian house guests last weekend. My friend Silvio and his son Davide came to the U.S. for a trade show in Charlotte, NC and decided to make the trip out to Colorado to pay us a visit. I first met Silvio in 1992 when I was working on an Agilent Technologies Headspace Sampler, which is manufactured in Italy. It astonishes me that 13 years later, the product is still in production. It’s a testament to the fine work Silvio did on the product, I’m sure. Davide would have only been 7 years old at that time. Today he’s a 20 year old college sophomore majoring in chemical engineering in Milan. He is a well-spoken young man now with a passion for music and science. He got to eat a donut for the first time, much to his delight, and thus walk in the shoes of the our national hero and cultural icon, Homer Simpson.

Balloons over Greeley

Terri and I have visited Italy several times and we stopped to see Silvio and his family each time. I know that somewhere we have a lot of pictures from Italy and I’d like to scan them into the computer eventually. I suppose if there were weblogs back then, I would be able to search for the details of each visit and link them here but the Internet was just getting its start back then. We always have a great time in Italy and hope to return there soon, perhaps next summer. We are already planning some motorcycle side trips through the Italian countryside with Silvio as our guide and hope to return the favor when he visits the U.S. again.

As you can see from the pictures, we had a balloon festival in Greeley and the wind was such that the balloons flew right over our house. I counted more than 30 at one time, but the local newspaper said there were more than 50 launched from the old HP site.

Silvio and Davide get their fist LongEZ rides

We also flew the LongEZ this time. Silvio and I share a passion for airplanes. He likes to fly the small RC planes and I like them at 1:1 scale, although I do have some limited RC experience. Silvio has flown with me twice before, the first time in Pennsylvania in the Piper Colt and the second time here in Colorado. The first time I flew with Silvio, we came across an accident when we attempted to land on the runway at New Garden airport in Toughkennamon, PA. I was rather surprised since I had never actually witnessed a plane have a crash before, but this was rather minor where the gear had collapsed on a Bonanza during landing. We landed in the grass field next to the paved runway and taxied around it. I told Silvio it was quite unusual to witness a plane crash, even though you read about them in the news all the time.

The next time we flew it was in Greeley and, although it was calm when we departed, it was rather windy when we landed. Upon landing we saw a small Kitfox airplane that obviously had a lot of trouble landing and had flown directly into a hangar. The plane was destroyed and the people had to be taken to the hospital. According to the NTSB report, the injuries were minor. I mentioned to Silvio how unusual it was to come across and accident like that. He just smiled and said to me, “That’s what you told me last time!” So I was a little apprehensive when we flew last weekend and was hoping that no other accidents would occur. The weather was great and we got a lot of aerial photos and, much to my delight, witnessed no accidents.

After the flying, we visited a local RC airfield where a lot of people were flying their airplanes. Most of the RC airplanes were large aerobatic-type planes and Silvio was able to pick out a few Funtanas, designed by Sabastiano Silvestri from Italy, who Silvio knows personally. I was amazed by the large enclosed trailers that several club members had that contained many large models. Later we visited two hobby stores in Greeley, Things with Wings, and Don’s Hobbies, both which have large selections of RC items where Silvio picked up some nice gifts.

Estes Park, CO
Bull Elk in RMNP

On Sunday we traveled to Estes Park and stopped by the Stanley Hotel the place that inspired Steven King to write The Shining. Much of the book was written there in Room 217, although the filming wasn’t done there, contrary to popular legend. We also visited many of the tourists shops that line the main street in town. Then we went to Rocky Mountain National Park where the elk were out in large numbers. We also were able to get to the top of Trail Ridge road, the highest continous road in North America, which was quite a surprise since it’s usually closed due to snow by this time of year.

It was a fun weekend and we enjoyed catching up with Silvio and Davide and we are looking forward to visiting him and his family in Italy soon…

Napoleon Dynamite


I saw the movie Napoleon Dynamite a few months ago, and I’ve been hearing snippets of it and references to it ever since. It’s a wierd movie and the main character is extremely quirky, yet not as quirky as the rest of the characters, which makes him somewhat sympathetic. I’m pretty sure that it’s the only movie to spawn a legislative bill. While watching the movie, I realized that I have met a few people who were exactly like the main character. I’m talking about people with the same look, same hair, EXACTLY the same speech patterns, and, of course, the same attitude. The first time was when I was at Penn State. The went by the nickname ‘Milt’. Milt liked punk rock, especially the Clash, and thought that they would eventually be recognized as the greatest band in the history of the planet. I am not sure anything like that is likely to happen in my lifetime…at least I would hope not.

The second Napolean Dynamite-like character I met was a dude shortly after I started working in Greeley, CO. Again, same blonde ‘fro, same mumbly speech pattern, etc., it’s almost like these guys were the result of the same alien spore. I once drove down to Mardi Gras with him and a friend and we stayed at his sister’s place along with about 20 other people and a large number of dogs and cats sleeping on a wooden floor in several inches of dust. It was a weekend to remember… but not an event I’d care to repeat.

I’m not sure why I’m even posting about this, other than perhaps to have someone wander across it and let me know that they know that they also have Napoleon Dynamite character in their past and were thinking the same thing as me when they were watching that movie :-). I can’t help but imagine that the character was based on someone the writers knew personally.

And if you’ve seen the movie, then you may just want to learn to dance like Napoleon. It seems to be a popular goal for several hundred people registered on 43 things.

Update: Shortly after posting this entry, I got an email from a long lost friend from high school who directed me to this top 10 list from David Letterman read by Napoleon Dynamite himself. It’s a classic!

JetBlue Landing


I was amazed at the amount of news coverage of the successful JetBlue landing that took place a few weeks ago that resulted in a landing of a disabled aircraft with minimal damage and no injuries.

JetBlue nosegear ground down after successful landing

Usually, the mainstream news only likes to cover air disasters, but they covered some very good news in this case. But I’ll bet you didn’t know the whole story, and that is that the pilot was assured that the nose gear was OK, and that he only had a sensor problem. He remained calm and didn’t make any rash decisions such as retracting the nose gear and chose to land at the nearest suitable airport.

The pilot really is a hero in my view, especially for avoiding the press and not showboating his performance, which was quite remarkable.

Rocky Mountain High


Lee's BMW R1150RT and Terri's Ducati MonsterTerri and I took a ride up to Rocky Mountain National Park on the motorcycles last weekend and were joined in the ride by our new friends Mike and Janet. The aspen trees were just starting to turn and the elk and big horn sheep were out in large numbers (but so were the people 😉

Long's Peak as Viewed from Bear Lake

It was a little chilly, but still good mountain riding weather. Maybe we’ll have more this weekend too. I’ll keep riding into November, weather permitting.

I hear about cool things on the Internet all the time. Usually, I wait until I hear about it 3 times in succession because otherwise, I’d be spending all my time on the Internet checking things out. Over the past month, I’ve been using Google Earth, which is a downloadable free application that lets you ‘fly over’ anywhere you like on Earth. It’s a truly stunning program. I use it to check out places where I’ve been and places I’m about to visit, or would like to visit. For example, I’ll be going to Taiwan soon. I can just type in “Taipei, Taiwan” into Google Earth, and it flies me there like I’m in a rocket in just a few seconds. You get to see the countries you’re flying over, the curvature of the earth and get a real sense of distance. Then, when you arrive, you can ‘get your bearings’ and see what the city looks like from the air. You can click the scroll wheel of your mouse and get a 3D view of mountains, buildings, roads (with names), rivers, landmarks, etc. and it’s almost like being there. You can pan and zoom effortlessly. I highly recommend you download it and try it. It requires a high speed Internet connection, because the maps are stored on Google’s servers but it retreives them very quickly.

Last time I blogged about my friend JD’s cornmaze. Well, he’s been profiled in the Fort Collins Coloradoan and they wrote up a nice article about him and other corn mazes in the Northern Colorado region. Terri and I have never been in a corn maze. Maybe we’ll have to check one out this year.