Potential Exterior Look of Building
May 22nd, 2011 | View Post
We’re still working on dozens of facets with respect to the look and feel of the building, but this is an image depicting more or less the exterior facade of the warehouse space. It’s very simple and clean, but is actually a meshed type of metal surface. Not only is this material lightweight, but it will greatly help us to control light, particularly on the westerly face of the warehouse.

Again, not set in stone, but this is the type of thing that we are considering.

The Space Shuttle
May 16th, 2011 | View Post
Between May of 2009 and May of 2011, I visited Orlando and ultimately Cape Canaveral 13 separate times in hopes of seeing the Space Shuttle lift off. With NASA's 30 year Space Shuttle program finally coming to an end, this was the last chance I would have to see the spectacle. The only thing I've ever really wanted to do was to become an astronaut and visit space; this was as close as I might get.

I was originally scheduled to see the 3rd to final shuttle launch. My friend Dave G. and I drove across the country for the opportunity. After the launch was scrubbed several times, we had to drive back home. Dave wasn't interested in trying again, but I decided I was going to see the launch regardless of the effort involved. I missed the 3rd to last launch due to obligations and the situation grew more dire; there were only two launches left. After two years of routine trips between Austin and Orlando and after many, many thousands of dollars spent (and some 60 hours in the air) I finally saw Space Shuttle Endeavour lift off on May 16th, 2011 at 8:56am EST as part of STS-134.

The story of how it happened is even more amazing.

My dear friend Tim had a connection with the NASA visitors team at Cape Canaveral. As a hotel executive with the Gaylord Palms, he ensured that families and friends of astronauts and other important people connected to NASA had the opportunity to see launches from the 3-mile VIP center.

My visitors badge

The incredible F5 engines on the Saturn-V rocket
Experiencing a scrubbed launch was both frustrating and exhausting. The launch process basically consisted of me driving 90 minutes from Orlando towards the outskirts of Cape Canaveral. I'd then have to board a private NASA bus that would take me from the bus terminal to the visitor's area 3 miles from the launch site. I would often sit with families of the astronauts and extremely gifted scientists from around the world. That part was wonderful. The weather was a different story. It was consistently hot and very humid. I would be on-site for six to eight hours at a time. I passed the time by strolling around the NASA museum gazing at the old Saturn rocket series. Those spacecraft are absolutely amazing marvels of engineering. The launches would usually be scrubbed after about 8 hours of waiting when the clock was down to the last hour. It was gut-wrenching every time and I'd have to spend another 2-3 hours fighting traffic to get back to Orlando.

I had just flown back to Austin after yet another scrubbed launch and was extremely disappointed. This was the 12th launch that I had seen scrubbed. I had become pretty well known to many of the officials at Cape Canaveral as "Tim's friend from Austin". Despite being a bad omen at that point, they were very welcoming. I hadn't been in Austin but a day when Tim called me up and told me that the launch had just been rescheduled and that he had a seat for me (he always got the relaunch dates and times before they were made public). I really did not want to make the trip because I was so exhausted of the process, but he had a good feeling about it and so I did. The catch was that he would be in Jacksonville going on a date with a girl named Courtney - she was a friend of a friend. I wound up getting to meet her that weekend and attended their wedding the following year. I bought a last minute ticket to Jacksonville; Tim told me he would take care of everything else. He did.

When I arrived in Jacksonville I had a text message from Tim instructing me to visit the valet in front of the airport. I was to show them my ID. I did. They presented me the keys to a car. I got in the car and inside was a post-it note on the GPS telling me to follow the directions to the pre-programmed destination. There was a note instructing me to use a false name when I got to the gate and that I was there to see the Daltons. There was also a ticket to the Jacksonville PGA tour.

Without talking to Tim I drove about an hour to the GPS destination as instructed. When I got to the private community gate I told the guard I was Brian Dalton (as instructed). He welcomed me and directed me to their home. When I finally arrived at their home (complete strangers to me mind you), there was a guy waiting for me on a golf cart with a beer. He asked me if I was Kevin and upon confirmation told me to get in and to bring my ticket. The beer was for me. He drove me on the golf cart to the front of the PGA security gate and walked me in with my ticket. He walked me over to Tim hanging out with the girl he had just met and I got to watch all of the famous golfers do their thing. I'm not much for golfing, but it was an enjoyable time getting drunk.

The official clock with about 1hr 20m to go
We left around 8pm with a bunch of people (including Courtney), had an incredibly drunken sushi dinner, and proceeded to drive to Tim's house in Kissimmee, Florida. By the time we got there it was around midnight. We went to bed, woke up at 4:15 in the morning, and drove our way to Cape Canaveral with the top down in his car jamming out to Lonely Island. We were on our way to see the final NASA shuttle launch of all time.

Two hours later I saw one of the most spectacular sites of my life. It's impossible to describe what a shuttle launch is like in person. There is no film I have ever seen that truly captures the power of it. I was delighted to check off another bucket list item.

Tim is a really great friend. Even sweeter is that NASA wound up adding one last flight; Courtney was there for that one.
Flors for President
April 29th, 2011 | View Post
There's really only one thing that I can draw, and it's Stewie Griffin. When I was visiting Rymo and Tim in Florida for yet another shuttle launch attempt, I drew this on Tim's office whiteboard with a black dry-erase marker. I took a picture of it with my cell phone, emailed it to myself, and then colored it in with Photoshop.

Stewie Griffin endorses Flors for President

As Usher for the Kujdas
April 27th, 2011 | View Post
So my buddy Jason Kujda had wanted me to take part in his wedding as an usher and thought he'd be clever about asking me.

He is always asking me to help him debug his web projects and this one particular morning he asked me if I could check on something. I loaded up a few different tools (namely Firebug) and started prodding away at his markup. Everything looked okay and I couldn't find any problems. He kept insisting there was a problem. Unfortunately I was late to get going and didn't really have time to be messing with his code. After getting frustrated, he asked if perhaps I could just take a look at the source and see if I noticed anything in particular.

I did. Ahh that Kujda, always full of tricks.

My invitation to be an usher in the Kujda wedding.

The HTML comment read:


I would have much preferred if I could do this in person. But, you didn't come in town last week.

Amanda and I would be honored if you could be a part of our wedding in December.

I would like for you to be one of our ushers. Which, for a single person, is ideal. As you will have opportunity to greet all guests and already be in fancy attire.

This will require some conformation to wedding standards on your part, but I think you can handle it for a day. =]

Commercial Architect Selected
April 14th, 2011 | View Post
So I’ve talked to a bunch of different people about various design ideas, and was fortunate enough to have a friend who works at Cotera-Reed in Austin. As of today, we’re going to be using them as the architectural firm in charge of designing and overseeing the construction of the Axel Warehouse.

They are a fantastic firm with a super impressive resume. Most people in Austin will recognize their work as they designed Austin City Hall (in addition to a number of other local landmarks). You can see some of their projects on their website: http://www.coterareed.com/

Civil Engineering Firm Selected
March 25th, 2011 | View Post
As of today, we have selected Nobel Surveying and Engineering Works, LLC to be our civil engineer for the Axel project. This firm came highly recommended to Preston Graham (my general contractor and president of Fig & Co. Builders). We had a few different meetings with the founder of Nobel and had his firm run a few different site-plan ideas for us - really just to get an idea what we’re looking at.

To those not familiar with this process, the civil engineering firm is required by the City of Austin for commercial development projects. They will design and oversee dozens of city-required outlets such as water hookups, parking lots, erosion control, landscaping requirements, impervious cover laws, and on and on.

The civil engineering part of commercial development in Austin can unfortunately be a very expensive piece of the puzzle. The sad part as a resident of Austin and small-business owner, is that the civil engineering cost structure of a million dollar building is roughly the same as a small facility like ours. Nevertheless, it is a required component if we’re going to move forward.

We are hoping that they will be able to design our property in such a way that the City of Austin will not require us to have water retention ponds, but that remains to be seen.

The three images above show three different concepts for how a simple warehouse could be constructed on the land. In particular, they consider the amount and type of impervious cover that would be needed (given parking requirements, sidewalk requirements, and etc.) and figure how large the retention ponds theoretically would be.

The plan will now be to alter the building in such a way so that we can avoid those requirements.
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