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  • Is That Santa's Elf?

    While the holidays are always hectic, there's always time for a little espionage! Just before Christmas, Vanessa Costanzo was heading into northern IL to make a few deliveries, so I drove up to meet her near Skokie, IL. She and I "met" right near Claris Engage, so it was a real pleasure to get to meet in her in person! I had a blast exploring the contents of the suitcase over the holiday weekend...I found things that inspired me, things that made me laugh (one of which I just had to keep because it brings me joy each time I look at it), and things that confirmed I will never understand everyone! I even added my own touches to the contents as it moves on. The suitcase had a front row seat to Christmas at the Murillo house. We have two girls (2nd and 6th grade), so the suitcase saw everything from joy and laughter (and flying wrapping paper on Christmas morning) to typical sibling rivalry over even the silliest thing like who had the biggest/best present....and even had our cocker spaniel sniffing it out to determine friend or foe. (I think the jury is still out on that one.) For those of us who have survived 2020, it will always be remembered, as my daughters' ornaments so aptly put it, "2020: Stink, Stank, Stunk." However, for all of the awful things that have happened this year, there have been just as many heart warming experiences as well. In a normal year, you would celebrate your birthday, graduation, or other special event (or even your average weekend) with close friends and family. This year, those special parades extended into the entire neighborhood hopping into their car to join the parade to help you celebrate too (I mean, what else was there to do?). We had a couple high schoolers put together an app to organize able-bodied high schoolers to shop and deliver supplies to the elderly or at-risk populations, so they could minimize the risk for these people. Then we had some brilliant minds devise the suitcase protocol to bridge the gap in the FileMaker community to help us connect with one another on a personal level, when in-person conferences were put on hold. Silver linings everywhere! Alas, all good things must come to an end. A few days after Christmas Sully (David Sullivan) and I arranged a meetup so I could hand off the suitcase and it could continue on its adventures. So, on a VERY cold Wednesday afternoon (December 30th) Sully and I met at The Morton Arboretum (thank you, Sully, for the visitor pass!). You may ask why we chose to meet up outside if it was that cold? Well, IL has been in "Tier 3 Mitigations" since mid-November, so there weren't many indoor options available if we wanted to sit and chat. (Only outdoor dining available!) We were both running a few minutes behind our agreed upon time, but I pulled into the Visitor's Center right behind him, perfectly timed! Sully wanted a picture with the troll (sorry...not Santa's elf)...so, because it was so cold, we caravaned over to a lot closer to the troll, then hiked up to this guy you see here. If you ever drive out I-88 from Chicago headed towards Lisle, you will see this guy at the top of a hill as you pass by The Morton Arboretum. (He's even more impressive all lit up at night!) Illinois isn't exactly known for its mountains, far from it, but where he is positioned at the top of a hill, you feel like you are on a mountain peak....and it was even COLDER by him with absolutely nothing to break the wind! Thus, our photo op was short and sweet and we turned back around to hike out as soon as possible. Sully and I first met almost a year ago when I attended my first CAFDA (Chicago Area FileMaker Developers Association) meeting and we've chatted a few times this past year. It was great to catch-up with him about some of our recent FM (and client) experiences. Even after our hike, we stood talking for nearly an hour, and by that point we were both frozen. Into Sully's trunk went the suitcase and on to its next adventure. I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing where it goes next...

  • Is it your suitcase that's ringing? Is that safe?

    First of all, an update on the mysterious MJM. Despite the heroic efforts of several PoE agents, MJM successfully evaded capture on January 3rd. Although he/she escaped, we were able to recover what appears to be a secure line to MJM's handlers in Moscow. If you get the suitcase, maybe you can help us determine MJM's next move. I met Beth Murillo at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL for the handoff. The Arboretum, as it is known locally, has these really rad art installations of forest trolls that have come to protect the trees from us. This one towers over I-88. It's way up on a hill and it was pretty icy, so we climbed down out of the wind and chatted for about an hour. I really forgot how nice it is to catch up with developer friends. Thanks for starting this chain of awesome, Martha. I had so much fun doing this! If you're unsure if you should take a turn with the suitcase, just do it. You'll love it. Totally worth the effort. -Dave Sullivan (Sully) Sully@mandelbrotllc.com

  • The Suitcase meets the Fonz

    Met Mark Richmond at the Spirit of St Louis Airport and chatting for about 90 minutes Leaving St. Louis was fun. A beautiful morning and super smooth flight to Waukesha, WI. If was a very comfy palace ride and the Suitcase got to ride in the copilot's seat Along the way we passed over many power generating windmills Then upon arrival it was time to hit the sites in Milwaukee. First stop the Harley Davidson Museum. Unfortunately it was closed. Then on to see the Bronze Fonz along the riverwalk. If you're in Milwaukee in the summer you have to check out Summerfest. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until next year. Unfortunately, The Milwaukee Art Museum's beautiful Brise Soliel was closed also. Here it is in better times. But the new Northwestern Mutual Tower makes a nice addition to the Skyline We had to check out the new Fiserv Forum, home of the Bucks As well as the Jack Daniel's Christmas Tree Finally a stop at the Miller Inn, last stop on the Miller Brewing Factory Tour And finally back to MC Services Where will the suitcase be off to next?

  • Art or More...?

    Another clue... for those of you following the news these days, a monolith was discovered in Utah. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/24/us/Utah-monolith-red-rock-country.html They say it's an art installation. My further investigations suggest perhaps more to it than that.

  • A short visit to Boulder

    Scott Love delivered the precious item to the scenic overlook of Boulder. Great meeting him and chatting! The suitcase is indeed creating opportunities for people to meet in person. Then, I jumped on the opportunity to move the suitcase out of Colorado. Not that we're undeserving, slackers, or what have you... It's just that distances are so big in the West. Driving 100 miles for a delivery is one thing, but 1000 miles? So I met Eden at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, adjacent to The Flatirons mtn, and passed on the leather valise. He objected somewhat to taking it again, but came to understand the virtue of getting the case to St. Louis. Now it's on him, again, to find the next taker. I'm shooting for the shortest possession of the suitcase: Had it about 1.5 hours. I'm not supposed to reveal its contents, but let me say one thing: It now contains a collectors item for FileMaker developers.

  • The Truth is in Here...

    Fellow Protocolers, I received the suitcase from Eden Morris thinking nothing of it… just a suitcase. We had a wonderful day in Denver, and I assumed that would be the net of it. But it’s clear now this goes far deeper than I’d imagined. I’m not sure it’s safe for me to post this, but I don’t think it’s safe not to. I know there are those who do not want this information to get out there. It started with the space program, of all things. My first clue was a photo I uncovered seemingly at random. Cape Canaveral in the early 60s… in NASA archives buried, I saw this: It was just a fluke that I noticed it. Seems totally innocuous. Was this some crazy coincidence? The suitcase sitting right at my feet as I type this seems identical to that photo! That’s when things really got strange. I checked more records and did a little more digging. Then I discovered this right on NASA's own website: I remember the night well. What did Eden know? Which of these photos is the original? Which had been doctored? Why was the suitcase – was it the suitcase, or just a suitcase -- here? I followed the breadcrumb to another that sent chills down my spine. In digging through further archives of the Apollo program, one photo – I’ve enclosed a scan of the one I was able to secure in the suitcase itself – demonstrated this went far beyond anything I could have imagined. How is it possible the suitcase was on the Apollo 15 mission – or was it? Were all the lunatics saying the Moon landings were hoaxes actually right this whole time? Two photos and questions were exploding in my mind. A few days later -- too much to be a coincidence -- we lost our home in a fire. Sure, it looked natural -- impossible winds, almost 200 thousand acres burned – but I found strange evidence in the aftermath. A print of a boot, and the remains of something square, where no person should have been able to step. There's no way this wasn't related. The photo here came from under what had been the floor of our home. Who had stood there? How was it even possible to leave a footprint there, apparently before the fire consumed our home, complete with a screw later landing in it? What was the perfectly straight sear on the ground next to whomever had stood there? Was this another coincidence, a warning, or an attempt to destroy the evidence I was collecting? Was I in danger? I dug deeper, and the next material I uncovered terrified me. I knew this photo. There is no suitcase in the version we’ve all seen. Why a moon landing, why America’s first flight? Look at the stickers of the case. How is it possible the suitcase – as it appears today – existed in 1903?? This is the photo from the Smithsonian. Again – who is erasing evidence of the suitcase? To what purpose? How, even, have I been uncovering these images? The mystery deepened. I’ll share I do not have the answers. This message – I have to hurry – I need to get this suitcase in the hands of someone who can pass it on and continue the search – I know I am in danger… ARE THEY WATCHING ME? The next piece of the puzzle came from Berlin in 1989. This is bigger than all of us. What could possibly be going on? Travel around the world, in space, across time… And it’s not just images. Not only snapshots. A while passed and I didn’t uncover any further instances… I got discouraged. I changed the locks on our home in Denver. I made sure to cover all our windows so no one could see this evidence until I was ready to disclose this to the world. I deleted any email I'd sent mentioning a suitcase. I admit, I lost track of a few days... maybe a week... I've had the case too long. I had to be safe. I quarantined in my own home, not seeing anyone. I turned to Mrs. Zink’s playlist. And I have no idea why, but something in the music struck me. I followed another breadcrumb… and there it was, plain as day: Woodstock. What was it about this suitcase? What is the common thread?? Then it struck me… Innovation? Transformation? Each of these events were transformative in some way… did the suitcase somehow affect things, was it there to observe somehow, is it benevolent, sinister, or perhaps a platform of sorts of change? Or only a modest, brown relational container of scraps of information? Music led me further to Live Aid in 1986. I’d have missed it, but by now I knew how to look for the clues. I have no idea why this humble bag from MJM has followed us through history. Where it will appear next. What story it is telling. Is it a fellow traveler in our world – a mere container in time – or is it more? Its contents are a jumble -- I've added some of this evidence -- why the items it contains and not others? No explanation... no machine or object that can explain all this. I have carried the burden of its secrets long enough. I post this here to uncover the truth, but more, because I cannot carry this alone any longer. I reach out to you – our community – to help. Help us all. Together, can we better understand MJM’s intent, design, and purpose? -- Scott
    Denver, Nov 21, 2020

  • And West We Go...

    I have to admit it was very strange talking to a hippo... But after some time we got to know each other and it turns out we have a lot in common. Eventually Mark showed up with the suitcase... Then some democracy happened and the 900 mile journey began. And kept going... I really enjoyed my time the suitcase! In this time of always working from home and cancelled conferences this gave me an excuse to sit down with Mark and Scott, two people I have never really met before but to then have multiple hours worth of conversations with. To tell you the truth this is the main reason I go to conferences, to be able to sit down and have meaningful interactions with people in this community. One thing that was discussed was how this community is unlike most other tech centric groups of people and that the more you give and contribute the more you will get out of it in the long run. I hope everyone gets something similar out of this experience and I personally am looking forward to hanging out with you all again in person someday! P.S. I was going to take a picture of the suitcase with Sif but I forgot... So here she is dressed as a pumpkin being bored next to an actual pumpkin...

  • #7: Mark >> Eden (We Meet at Last)

    It was great seeing Chad. I mean really seeing Chad, live and in person, i.e. just a few feet away from me and for an extended period of time. As I write that I realize how strange that sounds, but these are strange times we're living in, no? In any case, the highlight of the handoff from Chad to me was certainly the chance it afforded us to catch up in person. Of course, this also allowed me to have the suitcase for Halloween, and while I wanted to take it on a ghoulish, costumed tour of the neighborhood, Halloween was sort of muted this year for our family, so while the boys did make pumpkins: ... and gather (and then thoroughly organize) their loot/candy: ... I failed to get some clever pics of the suitcase in costume or at a haunted mansion. That said, my office has been mostly empty since we sold our IT division last year and then sent (almost) everyone from our semi-virtual development team to work from home in mid-March. So while I can't say for sure that the office is haunted, I will admit to having heard the occasional unexpected noise or whisper that has drawn me from my office into the hallway with a hesitant "Hello? Is anyone there?", only to be disappointed(?) to find myself alone after all. It was nice to have the suitcase around the office to fill some of the space and add something unexpected and colorful to the mix. ... and it even made an impromptu appearance at our Monday huddle! As I pondered how far I might have to travel to hand off the suitcase to the next protocoler, a notification appeared on my screen from Eden Morris: ... and thus a plan was hatched to rendezvous in downtown St. Louis: ... proximal to where we all had hoped to meet this year, i.e. at The Last Hotel! I was lucky enough to get a preview of the location while plans were still being hatched for PoE earlier this year when Martha Zink came to visit a client in St. Louis and was gracious enough to find time to grab breakfast with me at the Southwest Diner. Neither of us yet fully realized the portent in the burgeoning news stories about 'the virus', and Martha's excitement about the venue was matched by my excitement at having PoE come to St. Louis (my adopted 'hometown'). Y'all know what happened next. Thankfully, Eden's message provided me the opportunity to humbly connect the paused Pause with the Suitcase Protocol. Martha was right – the venue is spectacular. Eden and I did what any self-respecting (and non-sober) pause-attendee would do – we hung out at the lobby bar, talked about our work, counted our blessings, and shared some personal stories while toasting the occasion: ... breaking some minor rules along the way (which I told Martha I would do) and enjoying the phenomenal hospitality of the crew at The Last Hotel (i.e., Mia, Eric, Carrie & Tyler). I can hardly wait for the pall of the pandemic to lift so we can reconvene at Last (pun intended)!

  • #6: Chad >> Mark (Meet Me in St. Louis)

    The best laid plans ... often go awry.

    I am a new private pilot (acquired my license in June 2020). I try to fly whenever I get a chance. I have a Cessna 150 which is one of the slower airplanes in the sky, but I can get to anywhere in this circle on a tank of gas. The plan was to fly down and get the suitcase from Susan (north of Dallas) and then deliver it to to Mark (St. Louis). Unfortunately the weather didn't want to cooperate. ROAD TRIP! :-) It was so nice to meet Susan, Craig (her husband), and Shelby (their dog). We had a nice lunch where we were able to get to know each other better. We had normal conversations about normal stuff. It was amazingly awesome! We met at a point about half way between Joplin and McKinney in McAlester OK which is an interesting little town. Jennifer (my wife) and I noticed a fun outside art sculpture as we came into town. Once back in Joplin, the suitcase hung out in my office for a few days and then on Wednesday October 29th, I headed to St. Louis to meet up with Mark Richman. Mark and I have been friends for over 15 years and he's been my boss at Skeleton Key for the last 11 years. It was great to see Mark and his family.

    When Skeleton Key has a staff conference, Mark will typically have the team out to his house, so I've known his family for awhile now. It was great to see them again. We ate homemade pizza. They introduced me to putting an egg on the homemade pizza (which I had never heard of, but am now a huge fan...try it!).

    Mark and I had some business to attend to in the northern part of the state and were able to spend several hours in the car together. We tried to solve the worlds problems, but I don't think we quite got it done, nevertheless the conversation was fantastic and "hit the spot" for what I've been missing. Once we were back in St. Louis the suitcase transfer was made on a beautiful sunny fall day (why couldn't it have been like this when I was trying to fly?) I understand the suitcase already has a new destination coming up, and may make a stop where POE was scheduled earlier this year. I can't wait to see where it goes from here. Thank you suitcase for bringing us together at a time when "together" is what we need.

  • #5: Susan >> Chad (+ Lucky gets beyond the chaos)

    I've known Brad Stanford for almost 10 years. Here in Texas, we've been going out and doing things for a while now. But, still not at the scale I like. And Claris Engage (virtual) made me miss my community even more. Enter, The Suitcase. Add in the opportunity to meet Brad's alter ego "Lucky McBeard" in person - and this was a winner for me. Lucky flew into my local airport - McKinney International (for real... but I don't believe there are very many international flights landing there!) Craig, my husband, played Uber driver in our video, as we picked him up at the airport, drove him through scenic downtown McKinney, showed off the fancy houses nearby (that we don't live in), and then brought him safely to our home. We had a blast doing the recording. It was quick because Brad had scripted it before arrival, and, of course, I'm a natural actress. (lol.) Then we got down to feeding him... which, is what we do. You can read/watch it all here. We solved the troubles of the world during our dinner conversation - at least in our minds. After Brad left, I went through everything in The Suitcase. It really took away my concerns about what value I could contribute to it. Nothing in there was deep code. Except it kinda was. It was code for a warm heart. As I touched each item, I wondered about who had put it in The Suitcase and why. Some things made me laugh. Some made me curious. But, then I arrived at the big question: what joyous thing should I take to remember it by? And what should I contribute? And I got to the work of making an experience for the next person. I was the last "pre-planned" stop for The Suitcase. Which is a lot of pressure. I was sure that people in the DFW area would be "signed up" by the time it got to me, so I wasn't worried. I also am not a video editor and probably not as creatively minded as some of my colleagues. Then, imagine my surprise when I discovered the closest person on the Protocol Map was over 300 miles away in Joplin, MO - a full state away! Luckily, Chad Adams is a pilot. But, small planes must adjust to weather. So, we set a couple of target dates. The first one had to pass due to winds. And, the second one was canceled due to low clouds. No worries though. We quickly modified our plans to drive instead, meeting about halfway in the grand town of McAlester, OK. Craig, Shelby, The Suitcase, and I piled in the car and hit the road. One of the things I thought was missing was stuff from Buc-ee's. It just had to be in there before The Suitcase left Texas. So, we made the obligatory stop. I don't know if my picture explains the scope of the greatest gas station chain ever, but let's just agree that everything is bigger in Texas. Stickers are important: It was a gorgeous day for a drive, and next, we had to cross the border. Departure from The Great State. So across the Red River we went and into Oklahoma. I always find driving in the "fly over" states soothing. It's like the comforting "old" way of life where our nation's food is grown. The lifestyle is simpler. The work ethic is hard to beat. The scenery is relaxing... cows, hay, working fields. So, our drive was quite pleasant. We arrived at the pre-determined restaurant, Los 3 Tarascos, to enjoy a quick meal with Chad and his lovely wife Jennifer. I had met Chad before, but only briefly, so having a moment to share our worlds and break bread - or share chips and queso as the situation called for - was great. Outside, I handed off The Suitcase for its next stop - back to Joplin with Chad & Jennifer. We also passed along some of the Dublin sodas that Brad had brought us. No sense in us hogging all the goodness there. Craig and I made our way back home with only Shelby along for the ride now. We listened to First Wave on Sirius/XM, as we always do, and were excited to hear a bit of The Cure and then one of our favorite sing-a-longs, The Promise by When In Rome. Eventually, we arrived back at the border and made it safely home before the clouds rolled in... almost a sign that The Suitcase would be missed. Chad and I talked about how the next stop was St. Louis. Safe travels to Chad and The Suitcase!

  • #4: Brad >> Susan (From Seasons To Susan's)

    Texas is a big state, and we like to remind people outside the state of that fact often. And while that's a great thing, everything has a downside, and one of the sometimes-not-so-great things is how long you can travel and still be in the state. Those of us at the beginning of the chain were trying to figure out how to go all the way from Houston to the border without getting bogged down too long in Texas. Seeing as I have a part-time gig as the airport manager in Dublin, TX, I know a few pilots. So I volunteered one (without asking) to take me around the state in an effort to move The Suitcase. Originally, I was going to fly down to outside of Austin to meet Will Mercer. But he had been at home since forever and wanted to get out. So he drove up to meet me as seen here, reducing the need for a lot of flying (good - less fuel costs and time; bad - less flying). We turned our attention to coordinating me and Susan and the Mooney M20J, and deciding how to shift the plot from character-based to anyone-can-do-this-based. I happened to have a client visit in Fort Worth on Monday, October 19th, so Sunday evening would be the drop off time. After shooting the necessary scenes, Craig & Susan treated me to a FANTASTIC steak dinner, to which I responded with some Dublin-made sodas from Dublin Bottling Works. After a lovely dinner, my sister picked me up and I stayed overnight at her place which was in Fort Worth just 10 minutes from my client's office. Everything worked to plan, and a great time was had by all. As far as the plot line shift, that can be seen here:

  • #3 Will >> Brad (Santa to Lucky)

    I have been in my house since the first of March...so I jumped at the chance to drive from Austin, TX to Dublin, TX...I didn't even know there was a Dublin, TX! So the story goes, after Aunt Pearl took possession of the suitcase, she realized it could be a part of the "War on Christmas" that the liberals have been waging for the last several years. Fearing that things could escalate between now and the election, she reached out to the only person she knew who could put a speed bump in their plans...Santa Claus. Santa, recognizing Aunt Pearl could be right, immediately set out to start the season early and spoil the Antifa plot. And where better to start, than with Lucky. And here is how the negotiation went down... The Day The drive was about 2.5 hours from Austin to Dublin. And it was just so nice to be out of the house! I listened to Broadway musicals and sang all the way...more than sang...I performed!!! Yes, I know. But I am a performer...so between singing my guts out and laughing at the satire of the whole story, I was in a great mood! The GPS didn't take me to the correct place, but I knew I was meeting Brad at the Dublin airport, and I noticed a plane. So I followed the plane and found the airport. I was greeted by Brad, his 16 year old son, and a burger and fries. That is how you greet a visitor! After eating and talking, we suited up and started filming. Brad's son did the video work, and we laughed our way through filming from various angles and playing with the script. It was a blast. After filming, we enjoyed our Dublin sodas and talked about everything. It was a fantastic time of socializing - many stories were told and there was much laughter. You know, we "know" each other from conferences, enough to say "hi" and share work-related stuff, but it was really nice to get to know Brad better. I even left with a Dublin Airport t-shirt! The drive home didn't feel like 2.5 hours because I was smiling and laughing as I remembered the shoot. This project has been a refreshing change of pace...and I am very excited to see what happens next. Stay tuned...