But first, we needed to print some forms before going up there, but due to the lack of printers here in the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere and some poor planning on my part, we ended up at Kinko's at about 10:00 in the morning (ick). I had put the document we needed printing on the webserver here at the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere (floppies? What are those?). Download, print, no problem.
The setup at this particular Kinko's was quite nice—you slip your credit card into the reader next to the computer and you are automatically logged in. When you log out, you can then go to another machine, slide your credit card into that and get a receipt; never have to even bother the staff if you don't want to (of course, we couldn't find the receipt machine and had to ask—it was located around the corner from the computers partially hidden by a stand of merchandise). And before you print, the computer will display the charges per page of output and allow you to cancel.
What wasn't so nice was downloading the document we needed.
Because our cable provider filters (relative to the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere) incoming web requests, I'm running the webserver on a non-standard port; I just have to remember to include the port number in the URL. No big deal.
Execept that Kinko's (or the office we were at) doesn't allow outgoing web requests except on the standard HTTP port. Okay, I can still FTP the file down.
Except there is no FTP client installed on the machine. I can't get to the command line prompt on the machine (of course it's a Windows box) nor is there a way to run a command line program from the “Start” button. While I have an FTP server running on the firewall at the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere, I don't allow anonymous FTP so I can't use the web browser. And that's assuming Kinko's even allows FTP.
Okay, don't panic.
I need to get the document to a “real” webserver. To do that, I need to log into the firewall and transfer the document. To do that, I need puTTY, a fairly small Windows program that allows one to log into a Unix system. Nice thing about this program is that you don't need to install it—you can just download and run it. And that I was able to do. I was even able to log into my firewall, transfer the file to my “real” webserver, download the document and then print.
Ten minutes top.
And then we were on our way.
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Exhibition. Spring and I had finally arrived, registered, eaten lunch, and were now wandering the huge convention hall.
The convention itself wasn't really populated with booths from amusement parks like Disney or Six Flags but of companies that provide materials to amusement parks and attractions. Lots of engineering firms; what with roller coasters and animatronics, concessions with their free samples, artisans, costumers, scenery, just about everything you need to run an amusement park or an attraction.
Everything interesting and distracting as hell. We had found the booth to one of the companies we went up there to talk to, and just as Spring started talking to them I got distracted with an architectural model in a nearby booth and wandered over there, fascinated with the display. That, in turn, distracted and disturbed Spring enough that we ended up walking through the exhibits for nearly two hours, just to get it out of my system.
And it's a shame that pictures were not allowed. There was something at nearly every booth to take a picture of. The human statues—two people all in white standing so still that you had to watch for quite a while to make sure they weren't real statues. The Robocoaster (I think I have the name right)—a huge articulated robot arm (oh, 20′ high easy) with roller coaster seats where the hand would normally be. Two people can fit inside and the arm will then gyrate around in time to music. There was quite a line for that one. The one booth with the huge laser system, shooting beams of light across the entire exhibit floor. The Beast—a 150′ long, 40′ high inflatable monster you enter through the mouth and wander inside of (only to be expelled where in most animals most solid waste is expelled, with a most convincing sound effect). Animatronic dinosaurs, people, ghosts, zombies and monsters (Spring found the electric chair animatronic most disturbing).
We eventually ended up talking the companies we went up there to talk to and both meetings went quite well.
And then it was time to head back to South Florida.
Florida Turnpike about a mile north of a service plaza (where I was planning on stopping) when I heard a siren. I looked up into the rear view mirror and right there, just inches behind me, were the dreaded flashing red and blue lights.
I start to pull over and the cop flies past me down the Turnpike.
What the …
While in the service plaza Spring and I spot more emergency vehicles flying southward down the Turnpike.
Later, as we're passing Yeehaw Junction the off ramp is a parking lot; the overpass is yet another parking lot and just past the toll booths is a sea of flashing lights. Not entirely sure what happened there, but what ever happened, it was pretty bad.