Back from Christmas...
... and it feels like two different worlds. Dropping back in with my brothers was just like life as it always has been. Then returning to Boston was almost like I had never left ... like I had been there up through yesterday ... Strange.
We had a good time. Of course we did the usual skiing and general running around. We had everyone in this year. It's been a few years since we had everybody in the house all at once.
I don't know if we ever remember what Greg gives people for Christmas, but I realized that we reference our Christmas's according to how he wraps different gifts. This is the year of the Christmas Crock. Past Christmases include the Bucket of Dirt, the GPS Gift, the Ball of Duct Tape in the Highest Corner of the Ceiling, and so on.
The several storms rolling through Denver turned out to be a lot of fun... that is, once I made it into Denver (Go Jet Blue!!!). The snow came down and all the neighbors came out in the morning. We had a big block party shoveling everyone's driveways, and our culdesac. I'd forgotten what a good workout snow shoveling is. I'd pick shoveling over the gym any day of the week.
And it's good to see an occasional reminder of all the fun stuff I used to do as a kid, building snow forts and everything else in the snow. The funny thing is, we weren't snowed in a single day all break. Colorado is prepared to deal with snow.
I do forget how nice it is to eat breakfast to this view every morning. I enjoy going home. I'm glad I enjoyed it while growing up through high school and everything.
On my way out of town, we built a rail for my Grandparents in their garage. They've been really active until the last couple years. I guess that age thing starts to hit everybody at some point, but my Grandma says I've earned a PhD in "Taking Care of Grandparents" so they get along just fine.
My Mom showed me the solution to always forgetting to leave extra space for flying home with the excesses of Christmas: Space Bags! You can buy them at any Linen's and Things, or wherever, and you can vacuum your clothes to a third of their original volume! Just be careful of stopping in three cities along the way back ... A small leak causes real troubles while zipping that bag together on the last leg of the trip.
Huntsville, Alabama #
On my way back to Boston, I made a few stops, including a visit to Huntsville, Alabama. I wanted to visit several companies there and get a feel for the business environment. I must say it was a very worthwhile trip, I learned a lot more than I anticipated, and I am very impressed with the hospitality of the people in Huntsville.
I felt like they rolled out the red carpet for me, and have prepared every business incentive possible to open up shop in their town. Huntsville is presently the home of the 2nd largest research park in the US, 4th largest in the world, and they have plenty of room for expansion. It was surprising how disciplined they were in following the advice of Werner Von Braun in designing their city to be attractive for engineering, with the University right next door to the research park, an International airport with excess capacity just waiting more traffic, and plenty of resources to accommodate increasing business. Huntsville has a rich Aerospace heritage with the Redstone and Saturn rockets, but with 4,500 new engineering jobs coming to their town in the next two years, they're looking to the future more than they're looking to the past.
Redstone and Saturn V Rocket models
Through the LFM faculty, I was lined up with an alum who graduated from LFM, spent 2 years with Boeing in Seattle, transferred to Boeing's Huntsville site where they treated him very well and he gained very diverse experience running several aspects of the business. Then he jumped ship to run his own company producing control solutions for military helicopters. That venture crashed from some decisions by the majority owner of the technology, and now he's spent the last couple years playing a key role in another smaller aerospace firm. He scheduled for me to visit people from a whole range of businesses from small engineering analysis firms and startups, to business incubators, mid-size companies playing the acquisition games, Northrop Grumman on the largest corporate scale, and even a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce. I gained more insight into how the aerospace industry eco-system works, as well as what I personally will enjoy doing.
One of the most interesting visits was a small business incubator, housing several startups. One of the groups I met is successfully deploying a GPS-independent local positioning system using the same RF concept I was considering with an Astropreneur $100K team! That was a fun conversation, and their success is brilliant!
I was surprised to learn that the real people scarcity they run into in this environment isn't technical expertise, but business, management, and leadership ability. Of course they can always use more competent and creative engineers, but they have a harder time finding people fluent with effective business management.
In between a couple other stops, I dropped into my little bro's place and saw his new house. Cool place, with a huge front, back, and side yard. He's stationed in Delaware flying the C-5, and it seems like a good area to live. Cruising out the next day, I remembered how relaxing it is to drive through country farmland. It was only by chance that I escaped getting pulled over for what would have been a hefty speeding ticket, but the trees, rolling meadows, and intermittent houses are really settling on the mind.
The whole Baltimore to DC area doesn't seem so bad. Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems Sector headquarters is there, so I scheduled a visit that was very worthwhile. Just within that sector, we have 52 Engineering sites and 29 Manufacturing sites (one of them in Huntsville, AL). Huge company, with a lot to keep track of. They want to push to develop a strong LFM network within the company, and I think it could really be of some value.