Joe's New Blog

Nothing special, this is just my third effort at writing a blog about my life and what goes on in it: Hobbies, cooking, work, maybe the occasional book or DVD review, and so forth. Nothing really noteworthy, but this is sort of a little subset of my world...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Into Massachusetts...

We slept in fairly late today. Not surprising, considering how tired we both were last night. After a good night's sleep, we got ourselves ready, got everything put in the car, and then headed across the road to the Dunkin' Donuts there. The girlfriend got a little flatbread sandwich they had there, and I got my usual cinnamon roll thing. Unfortunately, it looks like the flatbread sandwich may have had a bit of spinach in it. The girlfriend is allergic to spinach, and it tends to make her feel rather ill, but she was so hungry that she went ahead and ate most of it anyway. So far she's not showing any ill effects, so maybe it wasn't spinach after all...

The drive to get out of Rhode Island didn't take very long. We didn't really expect it to, considering that the state is only about a hundred miles in any direction. There were a lot of gorgeous old houses along the freeway, most of which probably weren't along any kind of highway when they were built. I did my best to get pictures:

IMG_4511

IMG_4510

IMG_4509

There was also this nice old church, as there seem to be hundreds of all over the parts of the East we've been through:

IMG_4506

And, after an hour of driving or so, it was into Massachusetts:

IMG_4515

We've stopped at the little welcome center on the freeway and picked up some literature and some suggestions from the nice lady who works here, and it's about time to head back on the road again. Last leg before we get to rest from driving for a while...

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A lovely town and meeting new old friends...

We had a great time in Providence. We got directions to the Trinity Brewhouse from Xian, and it turned out to be quite easy to find, right off the freeway. We had a bit of a problem finding a parking place, but eventually we did. And it seems that they turn off the parking meters, so we didn't even have to feed the meter.

A short walk brought us to the Trinity, which is a nice little pub and restaurant. We were warmly greeted by our hosts upon walking through the door. Xian and Mike were very nice and a lot of fun to hang out with. I've "known" Xian on Stumbleupon for a couple of years now, but this was the first time to actually meet her in person. She's as nice as I expected, and someday or another, we need to get back up here and actually be able to spend a little more time, not just an hour or so at dinner.

As it is, we spent a while enjoying dinner and trading stories of their mad drive across the country from Washington and our drive so far from Texas, along with whatever happened to come up in discussion. The tiny size of some of the states here in the northeast came up. It's funny that people here often won't drive to someplace 10 miles away because it just seems to far. Of course, considering that we're in a state that's pretty much a square 100 miles tall and 100 miles wide, I guess that's not too odd a mindset.

Unfortunately, I forgot to get pictures again. Xian did indeed have the glitter on her eyes that she often displays on her blog pictures. The girlfriend and I were also both expecting her voice to be a bit more high-pitched than it was. Oh, she displayed her "little girl" voice here and there, but in general, she's got a very nice voice that really isn't much higher than I would expect from seeing her. That's a good thing...

The meal itself was pretty good. We all pretty much had pub grub, but the burgers and fries were very tasty and well-prepared. And apparently the beer was pretty good, too. They brew it themselves, but I didn't indulge, because the hops tends to do very bad things to my body. My sweetie had a dark Russian ale, and she said it was quite good. I just had a couple of rum and cokes.

After we finished our dinner and drinks, and had chatted for a while, we had to call it an evening. My girlfriend and I were still pretty tired from all the walking and driving we'd been doing for the past few days, and I think if we'd stayed out too much longer, we would have had to take a nap in the car before getting back here to the motel. As it is, it took us a little longer than expected to get back here.

We walked back to the car, and I snapped a couple of pictures of some of the nearby buildings, which were lit up pretty nicely:
IMG_4497

IMG_4498

IMG_4499

We'd like to get back sometime in the future and be able to explore the city a little more in the daytime, but we didn't really have the chance this time around, and we didn't really want to drive around the city at night, when most of the interesting places were probably closed anyway.

So we headed back toward the motel. Or so we thought. We kind of got trapped in the wrong lane by a little bit of traffic and wound up hitting a different highway than the one we came up on. Of course, since it seemed like it would be so easy to find the Trinity and get back, I hadn't bothered to bring the laptop or GPS. So we wound up driving a few miles in the wrong direction. I really need to learn to trust the girlfriend's holistic driving techniques, because she would have had us back on the path a lot quicker than I did. I would have had us back in Connecticut before too terribly long. But we wound up backtracking after driving through a couple of little residential districts. At least we didn't end up in the industrial part of town...

After getting on the right freeway, it wasn't too tough to get back to the motel. And here we are, watching a bit of history on the tube and getting ready to call it a night. Overall, it was a really nice visit here to Providence, but tomorrow, it's on to the real goal of the trip...

Labels: , , , , , ,

Connecticut and Rhode Island

Only about an hour after hitting New York City, we were welcomed to Connecticut:
IMG_4463

The drive through Connecticut began well enough, and we were granted a number of little views of the ocean and its offshoots. I took quite a number of pictures, since I happen to like water views, but a lot of them look fairly similar, and a lot of them were ruined by the highway rails in the way. Here's a sampling, though:
IMG_4465
IMG_4475

And this one with the little lighthouse in the haze:
IMG_4480

We also saw a variety of other odd things, like this building:
IMG_4469

Unfortunately, one of the other things we saw a lot in Connecticut, which we hadn't seen much anywhere else, was traffic. There were two major places, around Bridgeport and New Haven, where we were slowed down to 15 to 20 MPH for a mile or so. In general, we hadn't seen much traffic at all before then, and we never really did see much explanation for the slowdowns here, like an accident or anything. And it wasn't rush hour. Oh well. In any case, that was about the only thing that went all that bad in Connecticut. It took us just about two hours to get through the state.

We did have an odd problem with my GPS unit. It stopped updating the trail just about ten minutes or so into Connecticut. Apparently, it was keeping track of them and recording all the data, but I couldn't get it to update to the screen, by refreshing it or anything. So we pulled over and I rebooted the computer, but that's just a minor inconvenience.

Around 4:15 local time, we came across this little sign:
IMG_4493

Followed shortly by the more ornate version:
IMG_4494

Now we're stopped at the Motel 6 in Warwick, Rhode Island. Unfortunately, they don't have a fridge or anything, and it appears that our Thai food, which we left in the car last night, have gone bad. It's too bad, because the food was actually pretty good. Oh well. The room is all right, pretty basic, as Motel 6 rooms are wont to be. It's clean, though, and the amenities they do have seem to work fine.

Right now we're taking advantage of the comfortable bed to put our feet up a little, trying to get them back in good working order, because we're going to go meet Xian and Mike in Providence this evening. And we don't want to be staggering around like a couple of cripples, now do we?...

Labels: , ,

New York, New York, it's a helluva town!

Not too long after leaving the Dunkin' Donuts in Edison, NJ, we found ourselves at a junction of several highways in quick succession. There was a little more traffic than we had seen before, not so much that driving was difficult, but things were happening quickly enough that I wasn't able to figure out exactly what turns we needed to make to avoid going straight through New York City. We had planned to go around it to the north, but that wasn't to be. Eventually, I gave in to the inevitable and just told the girlfriend to go ahead and follow the signs for the Holland Tunnel.

It wasn't long at all before we got our first hazy view of the familiar skyline:
IMG_4366

We passed by some shipyards, again that kind of industrial stuff that fascinates me sometimes:
IMG_4368
IMG_4369
IMG_4371

As we got closer to the city, we caught a little glimpse of the Statue of Liberty:
IMG_4382

Yeah, she's small, but she's there in the middle...

We got closer and had a few better views of both the Statue and the skyline.

IMG_4389

IMG_4393

Well, maybe not all that much better, but closer at least...

Before heading into the tunnel, we also saw this thing:
IMG_4394

I have no idea what that building was, but it looked pretty cool.

There was also a very nice-looking church along the way:
IMG_4400

And our final glimpse of the skyline before we went underground:
IMG_4402

Here's one of the obligatory shots while going through the Holland Tunnel:
IMG_4404

And our first view of NYC after coming out of the tunnel:
IMG_4406

Shortly after this was where we managed to pretty much get lost in New York City. We weren't actually that bad off, because the GPS kept track of us fairly well. It did have a few minor issues with the concrete canyons, though. We stopped near Little Italy, just to get our bearings, and we discovered that we were pretty much going exactly the opposite direction we needed to be going. While we were sitting there, quite stationary, the GPS had us moving a matter of several blocks in various directions. Fortunately, once we started moving again, it homed in on us pretty well.

Once we knew kind of where we were and where we were supposed to be going, the drive wasn't too bad. It wasn't as awful driving as everyone seems to tell us. I wouldn't have wanted to do it, but the girlfriend didn't seem to be having any problems with it. In fact, she seemed to be having fun. We went north on Hudson and then 8th Avenue, before turning east on 23rd Street. We continued along 23rd to the FDR Freeway, and then pretty much just hoofed it north out of the city. I wish we'd had a little more time to plan our route, because it would have been very easy to adjust a bit and go down some of those streets that we've heard so much about, but never seen.

One big thing we noticed was that the city was pretty clean. We'd heard that it was kind of dirty, and my mom had commented that she didn't like New York because it just smelled bad. Well, I'm guessing they've cleaned it up a lot since she's last been there, because we rolled the windows down as we rolled down 23rd, and it smelled fine. I mean, it's still a big city, and you can smell a lot of the things like exhaust and odd food smells and such that you will in any big city, but it certainly wasn't anything all that unpleasant. We only saw a small sampling of the city, of course, but we didn't see anything that's going to make us stay away in the future.

As we drove along, I was snapping pictures all over the place like an idiot tourist. Of course, that's pretty much what we are, but I'm sure some of the locals were still looking at us and just shaking their heads. The girlfriend realized that we were right next to the Flatiron Building at one point, and asked me to take a picture of the front of it. Unfortunately, I brain-faded at that point and didn't realize that was the building with the weird angle, and I missed the shot. Instead, I pretty much just got a picture of one of the sides. In any case, there are a bunch more photos on Flickr, but here are some of the highlights. Sorry some of them have the dark band on the top from the windshield, but I was looking up a lot more than usual...

IMG_4413
IMG_4414

The Chelsea Hotel, which the girlfriend wanted me to take a picture of. I didn't intentionally go for the "artistic slant"; I was just hanging backward out the window and that's the best I could do:
IMG_4417


IMG_4423

This is the face of the Flatiron Building, rather than the "front" of it that the girlfriend wanted a picture of:
IMG_4426

A statue along the side of 23rd Street:
IMG_4429

Eventually, we got to the FDR Freeway, where we could see Queens across the river:
IMG_4434

That's also where we had our best view of the Chrysler Building, which wasn't really that much of a view:
IMG_4439

I think this is the Triborough Bridge, although now it's been renamed the JFK Memorial Bridge:
IMG_4441

Kind of an interesting looking rock wall along the freeway:
IMG_4442

While we were driving along, there was this interesting set of four red and white smokestacks across the river. This was the best shot I could get of them:
IMG_4444

And here's a little lighthouse, or beacon, at least, along the river:
IMG_4445

I'm not really sure what this odd cylindrical building is:
IMG_4446

Getting ready to head onto the Triborough Bridge, heading toward Brooklyn:
IMG_4449

A lot of the rest of the way out of New York looked like this on one side of the freeway:
IMG_4456

And like this on the other:
IMG_4454

In all, it only took us about an hour to get through New York City, including the little bit of time when we were lost. That's a whole lot less time than we had expected to take, and it was a good thing, because Connecticut was next...

Labels: ,

America runs on Dunkin'...

We're stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts in Edison, NJ. We passed one earlier that advertised free internet, but unfortunately this one does not. The donuts are quite good, though, and it appears that there are nearly as many Dunkin' Donuts around these parts as there are coffee stands in Oregon.

We got a little bit lost getting out of Philly, because sometimes the GPS software doesn't realize that you can't make certain turns and such. In the end, we got out all right, although we didn't go over the Ben Franklin Bridge like I wanted, and we missed the Welcome to New Jersey sign. The girlfriend might have managed to get it out of the side of the window with her camera, but I was having issues trying to get a little charge on my battery so I could take any pictures at all. I did get a shot as we crossed the bridge into New Jersey:
IMG_4361

About half an hour after we left Pennsylvania, we stopped for gas. I was a little surprised to see someone come out of the little office to our car, but we found out that New Jersey is the only state aside from my old stomping grounds in Oregon where it's still illegal to do self-service gas. The guy who pumped our gas was a chatty sort. He's the first person I've heard who really had a distinct sort of northeast accent. It was pretty much that stereotypical Brooklyn accent, which I've really not heard much before except in movies and such. I know, I'm easily entertained...

We had a little trouble getting back to the freeway from the gas station, but that's because the GPS kept wanting to put us on the tollway, which we didn't want to be on. But after making a couple of U-turns and pretty much going straight back to where we got off the freeway, we made pretty good time. I noticed that New Jersey, like Maryland, has very nice looking overpasses across the freeway:
IMG_4362

I'm used to the plain concrete type things, so the nice stonework is kind of a nice change. Both the girlfriend and I also noticed that it seems like three-quarters of the overpasses have American flags draped on them or attached to the fences. I don't know if that's a northeastern thing or what. I've not seen much of that in either Oregon or Texas. Something to ponder...

After driving the freeway for another half an hour or so after gas, we got off to avoid having to merge with the tollway. Of course, the US highways are a bit slower going, with stop lights and lower speed limits and such, but after spending so much on those couple of toll bridges, we're a little leery of the toll roads. Plus being on the side roads lets us stop at places for lunch, or snacks, at least, and for internet access to try to find our way. Of course, the internet access part isn't happening here, but at least we can get our bearings a bit.

On to New York!

Labels: , ,

Philadelphia, Part 2

After leaving the vicinity of Carpenters' Hall, we continued on slowly toward Independence Hall. Both my girlfriend and I were still feeling a bit sore from walking all over Washington yesterday, so we weren't exactly feeling like sprinting around all the historical sites all over the place. At least everything was spaced a little closer together here in Philly.

Some other buildings and such we saw along the way included the Second Bank of the United States:
IMG_4314
IMG_4317

The Second Bank had this statue of Robert Morris out front:
IMG_4315

I know I'm expressing my ignorance of things I should probably know, but aside from the fact that there's a university named after him, I know nothing at all about who Robert Morris is.

This is part of the Library of the American Philosophical Society, founded by Ben Franklin:
IMG_4318

Not sure exactly which buildings there are:
IMG_4319

Then we were just across the street from Independence Hall:
IMG_4320

Unlike when I was a kid and visited with the family, they now have the access to the building itself pretty well controlled, and funneled through one entrance at the front of the building. But here are a few shots from the back, where you can at least stand around in the park-like setting and look at things:
IMG_4321

The statue in front of Independence Hall (or really, behind it, I think...):
IMG_4322

And here's the spire of the Hall itself:
IMG_4327

And the door on one of the side wings:
IMG_4330

Once we walked around the front and got inside, I took a few more snaps of the tower and such from much closer. Perhaps too close:
IMG_4339

They had these odd little octagonal outhouses. I doubt they were actually operational, but I thought they looked kind of odd sitting out in the plaza:
IMG_4343

And here's a plaque they have in the plaza, talking a little about the history and such. If you click it and go to the larger view in the photostream, it is actually pretty legible:
IMG_4347

Like the Washington Monument, Independence Hall requires you to get a free timed ticket to take their tour. We had been keeping an eye on the time, and even if we felt like going through the tour, we would have had to run back to the car and feed more quarters into the meter. And, since it appeared that there were a bunch of people waiting for the current tour, we decided that we were just going to have to pass this time around. So, with about twenty minutes left on the meter, we decided to cut our visit short and head back toward the car. I would have liked to have seen the Liberty Bell again, but I didn't think it was worth risking a parking ticket in Philly...

Here's a last parting glance at Independence Hall through the trees:
IMG_4353

We saw a number of interesting things as we made our way back to the car. The Pennsylvania Fire Insurance Company building has a modern office building sort of molded around it:
IMG_4352

A lot of the buildings have very ornate doorways and ornamentation on the walls:
IMG_4354
IMG_4356
IMG_4357

Another shot of the Second Bank of the United States:
IMG_4355

And here's the 18th Century Garden:
IMG_4359

We apparently walked past a few other gardens on the other side of the street, but we completely missed them. Honestly, I didn't even see any gardens, only buildings along the street, but the map says they're supposed to be there. I guess it doesn't matter too much anyway, because my battery died right around the time that I was taking the pictures of the 18th Century Garden. So then it was back to the car, and it's time for us to get our show back on the road...

Labels: , , ,

Philadelphia, Part 1

It didn't take us very long at all to get to Philly. Despite the nasty looking traffic reports on the Weather Channel at the motel, there really wasn't any problem on the road again. Speaking of the motel, we did notice as we were leaving that right on the opposite side of the building from where we were staying, one of the columns holding up the second floor seems to have been hit by someone's car at quite high speed. The two rooms immediately adjacent were cordoned off, but we were both wondering just how safe the place actually was. And that's not even counting the neighborhood where it was located. Oh well, at least we made it out alive and no one broke into the car...

I took a few pictures as we made the short drive through Delaware. Here's the skyline of Wilmington, such as it is:
IMG_4265

It seems like most of the area between Wilmington and Philadelphia is composed of a lot of industrial kind of buildings. For some reason, that kind of area sort of fascinates me:
IMG_4266

And this time I also managed to get the Welcome sign:
IMG_4269

For the most part, the skyline of Philly was on the wrong side of the car for me to get good shots, but I did get a few anyway:
IMG_4273
(Oh, and there are more views of the industrial stuff in Delaware and the Philly skyline on my Flickr site, if you care... Just click any of the photos.)

We passed by a few ships on the way in. I'm not sure what this ship was, but I'm guessing from the visible superstructure that it's a warship of some sort:
IMG_4274

There were also a big yacht-looking thing, the Spirit of Philadelphia, and a sailing ship moored next to it:
IMG_4280
IMG_4282

IMG_4281
IMG_4284

I think the sailing ship was actually a restaurant, but we didn't stop for a closer look.

We found a parking space fairly easily at around 9:30 local time, fed about an hour and a half's worth of quarters into the meter, and headed off to see where all the history happened. We were greeted by this building:
IMG_4286
IMG_4289
IMG_4294

It's the Merchants' Exchange building. According to a little brochure we picked up a bit later, it was built in 1834 by William Strickland. It's the oldest stock exchange building in the U.S.

There were several other historic-looking buildings right in the neighborhood when we got out of the car. These don't appear to be on the map, so I'm not sure exactly what the buildings are:
IMG_4287
IMG_4288

Just another block or so, we were standing in front of the First Bank of the United States:
IMG_4300

We stopped for a few minutes at the Independence Living History Center, which provided us with the map and brochure we used to find our way around. It's one of those working museums, where you can watch the people doing the work of putting together the pottery and cleaning the artifacts found in some of the digs they've done around Philadelphia. The people were quite nice and asked if we had any questions, but we just looked at some of the displays and watched for a few minutes before continuing on our way.

After we left the info center, we walked up Chestnut Street toward Independence Hall. I took a couple of pictures of different buildings along the way. Not sure what this one is:
IMG_4301

First National Bank:
IMG_4302

The National Library Museum:
IMG_4303

I thought the cellar doors along the street were kind of interesting. Not the kind of thing that I've seen anywhere else, really:
IMG_4304

One other thing I thought was kind of interesting, which I certainly don't see much down in Texas, is the people walking around the town in colonial outfits. Unfortunately, this lady was walking pretty quickly down the street, probably trying to get somewhere warm, so I didn't see her until she was already past:
IMG_4306

I suppose I probably could have yelled something at her and got her to turn around, but I had plenty of other things to snap pictures of, anyway.

This is the New Hall Military Museum, which unfortunately appeared to be locked up when we walked by, or we might have wandered through it for a bit. In the background is Carpenters' Hall:
IMG_4305

The Military Museum is a reproduction on the site of a building built by the Carpenters' Company in 1791 for their own use, but which was used by Henry Knox, the first Secretary of War. And the Carpenters' Hall itself was the building used for meetings of the Carpenters' Company. The Company itself was a guild dedicated to improving the skills of its members.

Here's a little closer shot of Carpenters' Hall:
IMG_4308

And this is a closer shot of the windows, showing the very ornate architecture:
IMG_4311

Here's a view of it from the side:
IMG_4312

And the front, or back, perhaps. Anyway, the opposite side as the first shots:
IMG_4313

More in the next post...

Labels: , , ,

Getting out of Wilmington...

We got up at a fairly reasonable time this morning, trying to get an early start on the day so we could get to Philadelphia fairly early to keep ourselves on schedule. I went out to get some ice from the motel's ice machine for our cooler, but it turns out that the temperature got down cold enough that the ice machine itself was frozen. I tried pulling some of the solid frozen mass out of the way, but without much luck.

So I checked in the freezer section of their little mini-fridge for some ice cubes, and guess what was in there, frozen to the side? A bottle of Crown Royal. That wasn't exactly something that I expected, but it was a pleasant surprise, at least. I have no idea how long it was in there. The booze was obviously not frozen solid, but the bottle itself was frozen hard to the metal sides. I'm guessing it was probably there for a week or so, at least. Especially since it wasn't even a real freezer, but just one of those little tray things at the top.

Guess I'll have to be sure to check in the freezers of all the hotels we stay in from now on...

The continental breakfast wasn't a whole lot to speak of. They still had some cinnamon roll type things and a few bagels, but that's about it. And, of course, the obligatory cup of coffee. I think sugar, starch, and caffeine are pretty much the standard for continental breakfasts. I guess they just figure you need that jolt to get going in the mornings...

We're about to roll on to Philadelphia...

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, March 23, 2009

Safely (?) in Delaware...

We had little problem getting out of Baltimore. The light traffic is still holding up, and the fact that we were leaving at almost eight in the evening local time helped out quite a bit, I'm sure. Aside from having to pay a couple of hellacious tolls, including something like $6.00 just to cross the Susquehanna River, we didn't really have any problems on the drive. Unfortunately, with it being dark and because it came up on us fairly quickly, I wasn't able to get a good shot of the Welcome to Delaware sign:
IMG_4263a

It only took us about an hour to get from Baltimore to Wilmington. Because we were both pretty tired, we decided it was far enough for the night, and we headed off the freeway to find a place to sleep. Of course, the exit which we chose pretty much at random was right in the not-so-great part of town. We stopped alongside a street and while I was looking on the laptop for where the main motel zone was located, the girlfriend got a bit of alarm in her voice and said that some guy walking down the street had just turned around and was walking toward us. Considering that it looked like it wouldn't have been surprising to see drug deals going on within yards of us, we decided to head on and try to find something from a little nicer parking place. I kept looking as we drove down the road, and we found a little motel row off one of the other freeways through town.

We're now staying at the Rodeway Inn here on the south end of Wilmington. I think we're technically in another town, maybe New Castle, but I'm not positive. There are a ton of little notices in the lobby of the motel, for various different fees that they'll charge for different things like early check-in, late check-out, or even wanting to get towels after 2:00. And, if you don't report problems with your room within ten minutes of checking in, they say the sale is basically final and they won't do anything to fix it. Fortunately, things seem to be all right, so we're going to retire for the night...

Labels: , ,

Dinner in Baltimore...

The drive from DC to Baltimore was pretty uneventful. There was a little traffic, but not as much as we expected, considering that it was right around rush hour. Since I missed getting a picture of the Welcome to Maryland sign, if there even was one, I figured I'd at least get a picture of the Baltimore sign that was along the road:
IMG_4237

I also snapped this picture of a random building as we pulled into the Baltimore area:
IMG_4239

I'm not really sure what the building was. I think it might have just been a restaurant or something like that, but I thought it looked kind of interesting.

We stopped at a little park and boat dock area on the south end of Baltimore, where we could get a few pictures of the Chesapeake Bay. It was the first time either the girlfriend or I had ever seen the Atlantic, or even an offshoot of it, so I figured I'd take a few pictures to commemorate the occasion.

Here's the first little glimpse of the Chesapeake:
IMG_4240

And a little closer:
IMG_4241

And this was from the park where we stopped:
IMG_4244

There was a very nice looking drawbridge, the Francis Scott Key Bridge, I think, right near the park where we stopped. I snapped a couple of pictures of it, too:
IMG_4242
IMG_4243
IMG_4246

Right next to the parking lot, there was a Vietnam War memorial, but we were just a bit too tired to walk over to it, and we'd already seen a ton of monuments earlier in the day anyway. Here's a picture of the flags in the sunset, though:
IMG_4245

After we figured out kind of where we wanted to go for dinner, or at least where there might be some restaurants, it was across the bridge and into the city proper:
IMG_4248

Here's the obligatory (for me, at least) shot of the river as we crossed the bridge:
IMG_4249

And one of the big freighters loading or unloading nearby:
IMG_4252
IMG_4253

I tried to take a couple of shots as we drove through the streets of Baltimore. They didn't come out all that clear, but they're kind of "art shots," as the girlfriend says:
IMG_4255

IMG_4254

We drove to the first place we had seen on the map, Nick's Fish House. It looked closed, although we didn't really see a sign that particularly said whether it was open or closed. I walked toward the entrance and saw that the outdoor seating area was taped off with yellow tape, and there didn't appear to be any cars in the lot, but it still had posters up in the window saying that it was voted the best fish place in Baltimore for 2008. We decided to pass anyway, and headed back on the streets.

After taking our almost mandatory detour through the industrial underside of Baltimore, we eventually found a place called the Bay Cafe. At least we thought we'd found it. We saw signs and such, but the building where the signs were hung appeared to be some kind of lofts for rent or something like that, so we spent a fair amount of time wandering around the building trying to find the place before we stopped one of the few locals we saw and asked. Turns out that the signs are on the front, street, side of the big building, and the restaurant is in a separate building on the water side, pretty much completely hidden from view of passers-by.

It appears that the Bay Cafe is more or less a local hangout sort of bar. There was a "please wait to be seated" sign, but the only person working at the place was the bartender. And it was several minutes before we even saw him. There were a few people, seemingly locals who knew each other, sitting at the bar, but that was about it. When we finally found the bartender, we got menus to look over to see if we wanted to stay.

We spent a little while trying to figure out where we could get a crab cake, which the girlfriend wanted to get in Maryland. It turns out that they have a full dinner meal with a crab cake, and they have a crab cake sandwich, but you can't just order a single crab cake by itself. So she got the sandwich, figuring logically enough that she could just take it off the bread. I ordered the softshell crab sandwich, since I'd never had one of those before and it sounded interesting.

The meal was good. She wasn't that terribly impressed with the crab cake, although she said it tasted fine. It's just that it wasn't really all that much different than the ones that I made her with the frozen Alaskan crab. I thought the softshell crab sandwich was pretty decent, but I'm not sure that I'd get another one, based on the cost vs. the taste. I've had a lot of other things for the same money that I liked better.

In any case, with full tummies, we headed back out here to the car, we're just about set to head out on the road again, and we're going to see how close we can make it to Philadelphia before stopping for the night...

Labels: , , , ,

On the road out of DC...

On the walk up to get the car, I passed several more monuments and such, thought I didn't really do much more than snap a couple of pictures in passing.

The Holocaust Memorial and Museum:
IMG_4235

And the John J. Pershing statue in the park which bears his name:
IMG_4236

I got to the garage pretty easily, although it looked like traffic was going to be a total pain. There were traffic cops at several of the intersections, and I figured it would take me one hell of a long time to get back down to where the girlfriend was waiting for me. I set up the car so that she could sit in the back seat again and put her feet up, got the ol' GPS going again, and headed back out into the world.

It was actually a whole lot easier a drive than I thought it was going to be. There was a whole lot of stop and go driving because of all the traffic, but it was an orderly sort of logjam, and everyone for the most part was staying in their lanes and driving like sane human beings.

So I pulled into the little bus turnout without having my blood pressure too high, although I did have somewhat pale knuckles. She was surprised that I had put the front seat down and such, because she was going to drive us out of Washington. But just so we could get out of there, she climbed in the back and we joined traffic again. I missed several turns trying to get where I was going, but we eventually got ourselves pulled over in a little middle-class neighborhood of southeast Washington, where we switched drivers and tried to figure out where we had to go to get on the road to Maryland.

Once she was driving and I was navigating, it became quite a bit easier, and we didn't really have much problem at all getting out of DC. We didn't see a "Welcome to Maryland" sign, but that's not surprising, since we were kind of driving like chickens with our heads cut off trying to figure out where we were going in the traffic and such. But we do know that now we're in Maryland, stopped at a little gas station on the road to Baltimore, gassing up.

And we're back on the road again...

Labels: , ,

Almost done walking...

The girlfriend and I are just about done with walking for the day. We're taking another break in front of the Washington Monument, after seeing the FDR Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. Both of us have aching feet and ankles, so it'd be pretty much pointless for us to try to see many more of the sights here in DC, since we'd be suffering more than we'd be enjoying anything.

I took some pictures of the FDR Memorial, but as we were wandering through, I got the low-battery light on my camera, so I had to severely limit the pictures I took after that in order to get any of the Jefferson Memorial. Here are the ones I took at FDR:
IMG_4222
IMG_4223
IMG_4224
IMG_4225
IMG_4226

There are a lot of water features at the FDR Memorial, but a lot of them were turned off now. Since most of the monument is brick walls and large stone structures, a lot of it just looked like piles of stones. I don't know if they're going to turn more of the water features on later or not. There were quite a few pieces of construction equipment in that area, so maybe it was just undergoing some repairs or renovations. The water features that were operational were pretty splendid:
IMG_4227

As we were walking toward the Jefferson Memorial, a tour bus full of Japanese tourists unloaded pretty much right where we were walking. So we were surrounded by a bunch of people taking pictures, chatting about things, and generally doing the same kinds of things as we were. Which is fine, except that it made us a little more conscious of trying not to get in the way of the photographers or in the way of the little groups trying to go places faster than we were going. In general, it just made us want to get away a little quicker.

Some pictures I snapped of the Jefferson Memorial, as we approached along the Tidal Basin:
IMG_4228

From near the back steps:
IMG_4229

From the side, showing a little glimpse of the statue of Jefferson inside:
IMG_4230

A view up the front stairs:
IMG_4231

And a view of the monument from a little further away in front:
IMG_4232

We were both feeling a little too tired to climb the stairs into the monument itself, and we also didn't really want to wade through the crowd of tourists inside, so we just settle with those pictures for now and head up toward our parking garage. We passed several people who we had seen during the course of the day, and all seemed to be pretty beat, including several couples younger than us, so we didn't feel quite as bad about having to cut our hike a little shorter than we would have liked.

Right now, we are resting across the street from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which I guess is where the stamps and the money are printed, or at least designed and developed.
IMG_4233

I like the designs on the walls which can be seen between the columns. Kind of a Greek-style scroll design:
IMG_4234

Now I believe that I'm going to go get the car and pick the girlfriend up from the little bus turnout here along the street. I'm pretty beat, but her ankles are hurting her too much for her to make the rest of the walk without being in total agony most of the way. So off I go...

Labels: , , ,

Taking a break along the Tidal Basin...

After we left the Einstein Memorial, we walked back through the Vietnam War Memorial. We passed a group of high school students, I think, crossing the other way after seeing the Memorial, and there was another tour going through, but we were able to just trail along behind them and not get pushed along too terribly much. I'm not sure that I'd really want to be there during the real tourist rushes during the Cherry Blossom Festival or during the summer vacation months. I'm sure it would just be a total madhouse.

I didn't take a lot of pictures of the Vietnam Memorial. It doesn't lend itself incredibly well to photography, in my opinion, but I did snap a couple of pictures. This is just looking down one of the walls toward the center corner:
IMG_4202

A close up of one section of the wall:
IMG_4203

And some roses left at the base of the wall:
IMG_4204

After taking our time walking through the Memorial and asking one of the Park Rangers how the names were organized, we passed the front of the Lincoln Memorial and took a few more pictures there. (Oh, and if you're interested in how the names are arranged, try this link. The explanation is about halfway down the page, under "How are the names arranged on the Wall?" They explain it better than I can.)

Here's another shot down the Reflecting Pool toward the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building:
IMG_4205

And the girlfriend posing in front of the Lincoln Memorial:
IMG_4206a

And then we wandered over toward the Korean War Memorial. I had never really seen any information about this Memorial before. It's pretty interesting, with a collection of statues of soldiers marching up a hill covered with small evergreen shrubs. Along the south wall is a polished granite wall, similar to that at the Vietnam Memorial, but not inscribed with names. These are the statues:
IMG_4207
IMG_4208
IMG_4209
IMG_4212

The wall along the south side of the monument is polished granite, very reflective. You can barely see the ghostly figures engraved in the stone in the bright sunlight:
IMG_4210

If you shade a section of the wall, though, the figures come into easy view:
IMG_4211

I'm sure that with the statues lit up from below at night, it's an incredibly haunting sort of memorial.

After the Korean War Memorial, we walked south toward the Tidal Basin. We didn't have the time or energy to go see one monument along the way, but we saw if peeking through the trees as we walked past:
IMG_4213

I believe it's the DC World War II Veterans' Memorial, but I'm not completely positive of that. Something else that we definitely need to go see on our next trip to DC.

While resting on one of the benches here along the Tidal Basin, I've snapped a few pictures of some of the memorials and such visible from here. There's a great view of the Jefferson Memorial:
IMG_4214

And a wider view:
IMG_4215

From just a little further down the walk, there are some great views of the Washington Monument reflecting in the Basin, too:
IMG_4218

And some of the other buildings between the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial:
IMG_4219

Unfortunately, we're here just a little early to see the cherry blossoms. They're budding out now, and it looks like it'll only be about a week or so before they're in full bloom. It's kind of hard for me to get a good, focused picture of them, with the wind starting to pick up a little, but you can see from these just how close they are to opening up:
IMG_4216
IMG_4217

Next time, we're hoping that we'll be able to come back in April, when they're in their full glory. Of course, that means a lot more crowds, but we'll just deal with that. And now, off to see the FDR and Jefferson Memorials, and we'll see how much more we can do before our legs give out on us...

Labels: , , , , , ,

Einstein Memorial

We passed the Vietnam War Memorial on our way toward finding something to eat, and I snapped this picture of the Three Soldiers statue that stands near one of the sides of the Memorial:
IMG_4198

We stopped at a little sidewalk cafe and souvenir stand which obviously caters to the tourists on the Mall. We each had a little pre-made plastic-wrapped sandwich and a soda, and it wound up costing us about $16. We also got some refrigerator magnets for our respective mommies and I got a shot glass as one of my souvenirs of our visit. After we sat on their little outside patio and ate our sandwiches, we headed across Constitution Ave. to see the Einstein Memorial which is in front of the National Science Foundation. Here's a picture from across the street:
IMG_4199

When we actually got across the street, there was a family there at the monument, and their couple of little boys were clambering all over the statue. It looks like it's pretty much designed for that, and they weren't doing any damage or doing anything malicious, so I just sat down on one of the benches and waited for them to leave so I could take a couple of pictures.
IMG_4200

The monument itself is kind of interesting. The semicircular pattern at Einstein's feet is a star map, with all of the stars down to 4th magnitude indicated by little metallic tacks in the granite. If we didn't have quite a bit of other stuff to see and a short time to see it all, I might have stuck around this little monument longer and taken more time to look at the star map.

My parting picture:
IMG_4201

And then we were off to see if the crowds had thinned a little at the Vietnam War Memorial, and to see how far we could get before our legs gave out...

Labels: , , ,

At the Lincoln Memorial...

Here are a couple of views down the reflecting pool toward the Lincoln Memorial:
IMG_4170

IMG_4171

And a view from the side of the pool, probably about a quarter of the way to the Memorial:
IMG_4173

This is on the tree-lined walk that leads up the reflecting pool, facing toward the Lincoln Memorial:
IMG_4175

And looking back the way that we came, toward the Washington Monument:
IMG_4176

Approaching the Lincoln Memorial from the side of the Reflecting Pool:
IMG_4178

On the plaza in front of the Lincoln Memorial:
IMG_4179

Looking back at the Washington Monument and the Capitol from the foot of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial:
IMG_4181

Looking up into the Lincoln Memorial from the foot of the stairs:
IMG_4182

The decorations on the stair banisters of the Lincoln Memorial. I don't know if these are actually lit as torches or what:
IMG_4183

And looking back from the top of the stairs toward the Washington Monument. The Capitol Building is nearly covered by the Washington Monument in this view:
IMG_4184

The statue itself appeared much larger than I thought:
IMG_4185
IMG_4186
IMG_4189
IMG_4187

The inscription of the Gettysburg Address on the inside of the Memorial:
IMG_4188

The girlfriend liked the murals painted in the side areas of the Memorial, which are lit by skylights behind columns. I couldn't really get a single picture of all of them, but this is kind of a quick snap of the entire side gallery on the north side:
IMG_4190

Here's a view down the portico, between the wall and the columns that front the Memorial:
IMG_4191

A few more views toward the Washington Monument and the Capitol, from the top of the stairs on the south side of the Memorial:
IMG_4192
IMG_4195
IMG_4196

And this is a view off the back porch of the Lincoln Memorial, looking back across the Potomac toward Arlington:
IMG_4193

Here's a little closer view of that, showing the monuments (lions? I'm not sure...) a little closer:
IMG_4194

Here's my effort to do the ubiquitous "grab the Washington Monument between thumb and forefinger" thing, but the wind was blowing fairly hard, and a gust knocked me off pose just a little before the girlfriend snapped the picture. I really wasn't feeling like trying it a dozen times till I could get it right, so we just skipped it.
IMG_4197

And now it's getting to be time to find something to eat...

Labels: , ,

World War II Memorial

After the Washington Monument, we headed down the Mall to the World War II Memorial.
IMG_4151

IMG_4152

It's a very beautiful water-park sort of monument, and you can see the Lincoln Memorial past the reflecting pool from near the entrance:
IMG_4153

This is the large engraved block which greets the visitors who come from the direction of the Washington Monument:
IMG_4154

The entry walk is lined with plaques showing soldiers, sailors, and airmen in action. I only took pictures of a couple of them which particularly caught my eye:
IMG_4156
IMG_4157

More pictures of various parts of the monument:
IMG_4158
IMG_4159
IMG_4160
IMG_4161
IMG_4162
IMG_4163
IMG_4167
IMG_4168

Here's the Lincoln Memorial, viewed over the waterfall that is sort of one of the centerpieces of the WWII Memorial:
IMG_4165

A view of the Washington Monument over the fountains in the Memorial, back through the entrance:
IMG_4166

And a view of the Jefferson Memorial from just to the south of the WWII Memorial:
IMG_4169a

We stopped here and rested for a while on the benches, enjoying the water and the sunshine. It's really rather cool, and the wind's been whipping around quite a bit, but the sun is nice. Perhaps a bit too bright, as we're both showing a little bit of sunburn, but we're lotioned up, so now it's off to see the Lincoln Memorial...

Labels: , ,

Washington Monument

We thought about getting the tickets to go see the inside of the Washington Monument, but seeing the line out front and knowing we had a lot to see and limited time, we decided to save that for our next trip to DC. We did, however, take a lot of pictures of the Monument:

IMG_4135
IMG_4136
IMG_4137

I tried to take two pictures of the monument and then stitch them together, but the result came out a bit wonky. I'm not sure if it's because I didn't take the pictures steady enough or because things changed just a little between the first and second picture or because the software I used wasn't all that great, but the result definitely shows a bend in the middle of a very straight building:
Washington Monument 1

Here's the top part of that picture, which I think stands pretty well on its own:
IMG_4139

Me in front of the Monument:
IMG_4146

And we took pictures of a lot of other stuff from around the base of the Monument. I think this is one of the Smithsonian buildings:
IMG_4138

I'm not sure exactly what the gold dome in this picture is:
IMG_4142

I think this is the Smithsonian's main building. I know they call it "the Castle," and this was one of the most castle-like buildings we've seen yet:
IMG_4143

The Capitol Building, and part of the same castle, seen from a bit further toward the south:
IMG_4144

A view back toward the White House from just west of the Monument:
IMG_4147

And pretty much a wider view of the same:
IMG_4148

This is a slightly different view the same direction, just pretty much showing the park scene in the Mall:
IMG_4150

And this is looking toward the World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Monument, toward which we are heading next:
IMG_4149

Westward, ho!

Labels: , ,

More buildings and monuments...

Various buildings and monuments, as well as a look back at the White House from across the Ellipse...

IMG_4126
IMG_4129

IMG_4128

IMG_4131

IMG_4127
IMG_4130

IMG_4133
IMG_4134

Labels: , ,

In front of the White House...

Of course, after seeing the back of the White House, we had to go see the front of it:
IMG_4116

And we did the obligatory poses in front of it. The girlfriend:
IMG_4117a

And myself:
IMG_4119a

And the two of us together:
IMG_4125

Some more shots of the White House itself:
IMG_4120
IMG_4122
IMG_4124

And here are just a couple of shots from the same spots, but facing out toward the Mall:
IMG_4121
IMG_4123

On to see some more monuments and the like...

Labels: , ,

Behind the White House...

The girlfriend and I weren't originally sure what building this was:
IMG_4112

We didn't have a map at the time, and you don't see all that many pictures of the White House from the back...

Some other buildings across the street from the White House:
IMG_4113

And this is the office building right next to the White House. I'm assuming this is where a lot of the real business of the Executive Branch gets done:
IMG_4114

And this is a monument in front of that office building. You can see that the building itself was under some kind of renovation while we were there:
IMG_4115

Off to see the White House itself now...

Labels: , ,

Buildings and monuments and flowers, oh my!

There are all kinds of things to snap photos of walking down the street here...

Some neat looking building. I've got no idea what it is...
IMG_4108

The Treasury Department, with the statue of Albert Gallatin out front:
IMG_4110

And a monument, I think of George Washington, in a park with some blossoming trees. (I was too lazy to go stop at every monument and find out the details, as there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of statues in the city...)
IMG_4111

Onward we go...

Labels: ,

Walking toward the Wasington Monument...

Another of the many monumental buildings in Washington, DC, with one of the real monuments looming in the background:

IMG_4108

Labels: ,

Our Capitol adventure...

We got out of the motel by about 9:30 local time, which was fine. It looked like there was a lot of traffic on our route before then, but we didn't have too much problem with actually getting across the river. I snapped a few pictures crossing the Potomac and driving down Constitution Ave., next to the monument row...

IMG_4092
(You can just see the Washington Monument peaking up through the trees on this one...)

The bridge across the Potomac:
IMG_4093
IMG_4094
IMG_4095

And actually in Washington, driving straight toward the Washington Monument:
IMG_4096

One of the random buildings along Constitution. National Science Foundation, maybe?
IMG_4097

A quick snap of the Washington Monument as we drove past it:
IMG_4098

Another of the random large, monumental-looking buildings as we tried to figure out where we were going:
IMG_4099

This large Polynesian-looking head was out in front of one of the buildings. I'm guessing a museum or something of that sort, maybe part of the Smithsonian...
IMG_4100

Driving right up in front of the Capitol Building:
IMG_4101

Some other large random building along the way:
IMG_4103

And what I'm guessing is the Postal Museum, based on the large banners hanging on either side of the door:
IMG_4104

All of that was really neat, but then we started getting into some of the more run-down parts of town, and it seemed like we were getting quite a distance away from the monuments and such that we were planning to see. It turns out that I'd programmed the wrong address into the GPS, and it was guiding us to Northeast G Street, instead of Northwest. And it was quite a huge difference. I think it was actually H Street that we were driving down, and it was a liquor store followed by a bar followed by a tattoo parlor and a pawn shop, repeated ad nauseum. And it was under construction most of the way, so we spent more time doing a mile down that street than it had taken us to get from the motel to the White House. We finally turned the block onto G Street, and it was like night and day. Still not the place we were looking for, but it was like the front of the buildings were pristine and classy, and the back was a slum. I don't know if it was really the same buildings, probably not, but it was just a really odd juxtaposition. Here are some of the places on G Street that the girlfriend liked:
IMG_4105
IMG_4106
IMG_4107

Now we've managed to find our parking garage, and we got what seems to be one of the last spaces available where we can actually get the car parked, so it's time to hit the bricks...

Labels: ,

Ready for DC...

We're just about ready to head into Washington. We spent about an hour this morning trying to find a parking garage or something of that nature where we could park for the day without having to either break our budget or get some kind of account which we'd only ever wind up using once. So we checked websites and called around and finally picked out a garage that's supposed to only be a couple of blocks from the White House. Hopefully they'll still have some openings when we get there...

We enjoyed the continental breakfast here at the motel, and hopefully the fact that it was all starch and sugar will give us enough energy to keep going through the first part of the day. It's funny that the breakfast offerings were pretty much all baked goods or cereal, with the exception of a bowl of apples. I guess they just want to get you hopped up on sugar and out the door fast...

Speaking of which, we're just about out the door...

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Another day's travelling done, near D.C...

We're safely ensconced here at the Day's Inn in Arlington, VA. We got in at about 7:40 local time, although it seemed like it was later than that. I guess that would have a lot to do with all the driving we've been doing that past couple of days. Seems like it's a lot of driving till we're completely tired out, and then just sleep when we get here. But we've certainly seen a whole lot of stuff.

After our little lunch break in Salem, we got back on the road with me driving. The girlfriend took a bunch of pictures out of the car when she wasn't taking a nap for an hour or so. There is a whole lot of nice scenery to be seen out in the Virginia countryside, and the weather has been gloriously clear. Traffic was a little bit of an issue for an hour or so, but it cleared out pretty well. I think we might have been passing fairly near one of the moderate sized cities when the traffic picked up, but it wasn't really much of an issue.

Here are the pictures the girlfriend took out the window:
IMG_4076
IMG_4077
IMG_4078

You can tell how light the traffic has been in this picture...
IMG_4079


IMG_4080
IMG_4081
IMG_4082
IMG_4084
IMG_4085

I thought the fence design looked pretty cool on these:
IMG_4083
IMG_4086

We stopped at the little town of Marshall, VA, at about 6:30 local time to get gas and to switch drivers, since it was getting fairly close to the DC area. It's just a little town off the freeway, but they have a lot of nice old architecture there. I snapped this picture of an old church, but it didn't come out all that well because the light was already failing:
IMG_4088

After we were gassed up, we continued on toward our motel here in Arlington. I had mentioned that I wouldn't mind stopping at the Manassas Battleground park, which we did, but it wound up being closed and dark. Not too unexpected, since it was about 7:00 local time when we got there. There wasn't a whole lot of photo opportunity in the parking lot, but I snapped this picture of one of the old fences as we drove down the little access road:
IMG_4089

I would have snapped a few more pictures of things, but we had a car behind us on the two-lane road, and we had to get back on the road anyway. At that point, we were still thinking that we might ride the subway or bus into Washington this evening, although we didn't wind up doing so.

The remainder of the drive here was pretty uneventful. I tried to take pictures of a few things along the way, but most didn't come out well because of the light dying. I did snap one of this crystal sculpture looking thing that was right off the freeway exit when we pulled into Arlington itself:
IMG_4090

The service here at the Day's Inn has been great. We got a few recommendations from the desk clerk for restaurants to eat at. We decided to just eat at the Thai restaurant they have attached to the motel, and the food there was pretty good. It wasn't really something to write home about, but it was definitely the best thing we've had on the trip so far. Service at the restaurant was good, too. The room itself is clean, appears to have a working shower, and has high speed internet available. In general, I'll give this one a thumbs-up. Hopefully the bed will be comfortable, because it's just about time to try it out...

Labels: , , , ,

Stopping for lunch in Salem, VA...

We're stopped for lunch in the parking lot of the public library in Salem, VA, just a little to the southwest of Roanoke. The girlfriend's legs were starting to get pretty sore, so we decided it was about time to switch drivers again. Unfortunately, it seems that the back seat of her new SUV isn't quite the size of the old one, so we're having some troubles getting everything moved around well enough for her to be able to lie down and put her feet up.

Plus we also had a few issues with the ice chest. We took a little styrofoam ice chest in which to put our sodas and a few semi-perishable items, like cheese and some fruits and vegetables. Well, all of that's fine except for the fact that evidently the water from the ice melting seeps through the foam, so there was pretty much a watery mess in the back seat where we had it.

So she was upset about all that, but we've got everything pretty much put together now, with the front seat laid down and my laptop put on top of that like a desk, and her able to use the back seat and the rear half of the prone front seat to put her feet on. We're having some cheese and crackers for lunch, which is fine. Not quite as filling as some of my usual lunches, but certainly better than Taco Bell or something like that.

The drive up here has been pretty nice. Here are a few snaps taken along the highway...
IMG_4071
IMG_4072
IMG_4073

And, as we drove into town, looking for a park or something to park at, we noticed that there was this very pretty row of white blossoming trees they had planted on the main road into town:
IMG_4074
IMG_4075

Anyway, I'm planted in the driver's seat again, and it's about time to head back out on the road. I don't know how much further to Washington, but we're probably not going to get there at least till the middle of the evening, local time. I'm staying with Central Time on my blog, but everything's an hour later now, and it's getting up to the middle afternoon now. At least it's not hot, even though everything is pretty clear and pretty.

Time to head on the road...

Labels: ,

Welcome to Virginia...

We're currently stopped for gas in Wytheville, VA. I think we've seen more police within the first hour in Virginia than we've seen during the entire rest of our trip. The girlfriend's ankles are not feeling all that great, but she said she's going to keep driving for a little while yet, and then I can take over for a few hours while she tries to get the swelling down.

Here's the "Welcome to Virginia" sign:

IMG_4068

And a couple of shots of Wytheville's very colorful water tower:

IMG_4069
IMG_4070

Back to the highway...

Labels: ,

Rusty old car...

We first passed this truck towing a rusty old hulk of a car yesterday afternoon, just after we entered Tennessee. Because of our various stops and such, we just passed it for the third time, so I figured I'd snap a couple of pictures. The guy driving looked at me like I had three eyes, but such is life.

IMG_4066
IMG_4067

I think we're only about half an hour or so from Virginia. There have been a few signs saying that there might be some congestion near the border, because it turns out that's where the Bristol Motor Speedway is located. I didn't realize that. I guess there must be some event going on there today. Hopefully it won't be like it is around the Texas Speedway near Fort Worth. I guess we'll see in a bit...

Labels: , ,

Nearing Virginia...

After having a few little delays getting out of Nashville, and having to stop and get gas a short distance from that city, we've had a pretty uneventful drive through Tennessee. I drove most of the morning, until we stopped a little outside of Knoxville to switch drivers. Traffic has been light again, but that's not too surprising with it being Sunday. It just seems like it's a little lighter than we expected even for Sunday. Not that I'm complaining, of course.

We did have a little bit of a delay around Knoxville, but that was mostly because of some construction happening on the main freeway. So we had to take one of the loops around the city, and it was just a little bit of a traffic issue because of everyone else having to take the alternate routes, too. And there are just a few idiot drivers out there, too, but it hasn't been as bad as Dallas is most of the time.

We stopped at a truck stop just past Knoxville, for gas and to switch drivers. Now we're driving through some mountains, enjoying the scenery, snapping pictures, and getting near the Virginia border. We should be there in the pretty near future...

Some of the scenery:

IMG_4053
IMG_4055
IMG_4056
IMG_4057
IMG_4059
IMG_4060
IMG_4063
IMG_4064
IMG_4065

Labels: ,

Heading out of Nashville...

We're just about to head out of Nashville. Again, it's a little later than we expected to go, but such is life. I never could get on the internet last night (hence my writing the entries offline and posting later). That was one of a couple of issues with the room. We also couldn't ever get the shower to work. When I called the front desk to see what the trick was to getting the shower to work, there was no answer there. And at this particular place, the front desk is quite a little distance from our room, so I didn't feel like walking down there to wring necks. So the girlfriend had to take a birdbath under the tub's faucet. With that, we also found out that the tub didn't drain worth a shit. I think there's probably still water in it now, nearly half an hour later.

Also, on our trip home last night, we took a little bit of a back way to the motel, and found out that it's pretty squarely in the industrial part of town. Looked like the kind of place where drug deals would have been happening within a few blocks most of the night. I guess that explains why they have a security guard out in the parking lot. Oh well. I guess we'll probably pass on Knight's Inn from here on out.

Anyway, time to wrap it up and hit the road...

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A fun night in Nashville...

The girlfriend and I drove down to the Sportsman's Grille in the Village, a nice little bar-and-grill type restaurant right near Vanderbilt University. We met the girlfriend's friend from Stumbleupon, Dethmonger, and his lovely lady Fontanelle, for dinner and drinks after an interesting drive through town. I was trying to use the GPS to get us there, and it was something of an adventure. In large part, that's because I always seem to forget what's might right and what's my left when I'm under pressure to immediately say what direction to turn. Fortunately, though, we did make it there without getting in any accidents or anything. Once again, there was very little traffic on the road, which helped a lot.

It's always nice when you meet someone in real life who you've been acquainted with on the interwebs, and it's especially nice when those people aren't total freaks. In the case of Dethmonger and Fontanelle (* see note below), they were not only not freakish at all, but they were incredibly nice people, and the girlfriend and I had a wonderful time talking to them for an hour or so. We got an invitation to crash out in their living room if we happen to be back to visit Nashville, and we'll almost certainly take them up on it rather than stay at the Knight's Inn again.

Unfortunately, we didn't really have a whole lot of time to go visit a lot of the places they suggested this evening, because both the girlfriend and I are pretty tired. We did drive back through the touristy area of town, where all the honky-tonks and bars and such are located. It was something of a traffic jam there, which was about the first time we've encountered any real traffic on the trip. I snapped a few pictures of things out the window, but unfortunately we forgot to get a picture of our newly-met friends while we were enjoying dinner. We did get a little note from Fontanelle to give to Xian and Mike, who we should be seeing when we make our way up through Rhode Island.

Anyway, pictures of random buildings and stuff in downtown Nash-Vegas follow, and it's off to bed with me so we can get a decent start and try to make it to DC tomorrow...

Oh, and note that both Fontanelle and Dethmonger do have real names, but they don't have them posted on their blogs, so I didn't feel that it was my place to post them. If you're interested in their names, drop them a line and ask. They're good folks, and if you're nice, they'll probably tell you...

The Customs House near downtown. The girlfriend liked the architecture...
IMG_4041

Different view of the Customs House, showing some of the neat windows...
IMG_4042

I liked the double-spired AT&T building you can see in the background. You can also tell the circus-like atmosphere of the downtown by all the neon in the foreground...
IMG_4044

The Sommet Center, where the Nashville Predators hockey team plays, and a general entertainment venue. Snapped quickly as we passed...
IMG_4046

Just a little street scene, with some nice buildings in the background. (Well, I think they're nice, and it's my blog, so there...)
IMG_4047

This is the stadium where the Tennessee Titans play football, but I'm not sure of it's official name. I think it's on the opposite side of the river from where we were driving...
IMG_4050

We got stopped in traffic in front of BB King's Blues Club...
IMG_4051

And that's all for today. Further travels tomorrow, though...

Labels: , ,

End of the day's driving...

After our stop for lunch in Arkansas, we continued on through the flat eastern end of the state. We stopped at one little rest area on the way, hoping to find some of those pretty pink trees that we'd been passing on the way, so I could get a close-up picture of some of them, instead of the blurry shots from the car. Of course, there was a big patch of them on the side of the road about a quarter mile from the rest area, but all there was actually at the stop was one pathetic little specimen:

IMG_4018

Of course, they had some other trees planted around the place, including this one nice-looking pink tree, but it wasn't the same kind as the ones that I'd been trying to photograph:

IMG_4016

Overall, it was another nice little rest area out in a not-too-urbanized area, but it certainly wasn't anywhere near the quality of that first one we stopped at. We switched drivers at the rest area and continued driving through some rural areas of eastern Arkansas until we got near Memphis. We stopped in West Memphis both to get our bearings a little and for me to pick up a couple of Arkansas souvenirs. We initially stopped at a Cracker Barrel, but they didn't have anything to speak of. So we stopped at a little truck stop, and I got a couple of postcards and a shot glass with Arkansas stuff on them.

And then it was into Tennessee...

IMG_4031

Here's the Memphis skyline, a little blurry...

IMG_4029

And the Mississippi River, as we crossed it...

IMG_4030

The Pyramid...

IMG_4032

And the sign for Memphis, Home of the Blues and Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll...

IMG_4034

In general, most of what we saw in Memphis wasn't all that great. It was kind of a squalid-looking little city from the freeway, with a lot of houses that looked like they could have been cute, but they just hadn't been kept up at all. I'm sure there are some nice parts to the town, but it's definitely not going to be all that high on the list of places we want to go back to. On the plus side, the traffic was still pretty light, even though we went through the city between about 4:30 and 5:00 local time. We figured it would be pretty high traffic, being near rush hour, but we really didn't have any problems getting through the city.

A little while after leaving town, I took this picture down the freeway...

IMG_4038

Traffic was like this most of the way between Memphis and Nashville, and the scenery was a lot like this, too. Just lots of leafless trees, and a lot of flat terrain. We stopped for gas and switched drivers after Memphis, and I took us most of the way to Nashville.

We stopped a little to the west of Nashville so we could figure out where a motel might be and so the girlfriend could drive us into town. They had a bunch of white flowering trees planted near the gas station where we pulled over:

IMG_4039

I'm not sure what these are. The flowers looked rather pretty, but they stunk quite a bit. Dogwood? I'm really not sure.

Anyway, we made our way into Nashville pretty easily, although we did get a bit lost in the downtown area. We saw the capital building from a bit of a distance, but I didn't get a chance to get a picture because I was trying to navigate us through town to our possible motels. We finally got here to the Knight's Inn, just across the river from the downtown area.

The motel seems like kind of a bare-bones sort of place, but I guess it's not too awful. Unfortunately, it sounds like there are a lot of loud people around, so we might not get all that great a night's sleep. I guess we'll find out, though. For now, the girlfriend is trying to find out where we're going to meet her friends for drinks or something of that nature. Guess I'd better get myself ready to head out on the town...

Labels: , , ,

More than halfway through Arkansas...

The girlfriend has said that we've missed most of the really pretty parts of Arkansas, which is the mountains in the west half of the state. Mostly, we've traveled to the south of them, and we're now into what pretty much amounts to plains. There are some pretty pink trees that are just coming into bloom alongside of the road, and I've been trying to get some pictures of them, but mostly they're just blurry shots of trees with a lot of reflection from inside of the car. It's almost become a game, with the girlfriend telling me they're coming up and me trying to get a good shot of them without just getting oncoming cars or a total blur because they're right beside the car. A few examples:

IMG_3981

IMG_3983

IMG_3986

As you can see from the pictures, the weather has been pretty nice, and there really hasn't been all that much traffic to contend with. So, even though the scenery might be lacking a bit, the drive itself hasn't been god-awful.

We passed a couple of interesting places along the way, although we didn't really stop much. We passed by Hope, the birthplace of former President Clinton. The girlfriend pointed it out as we were passing by, and I just barely managed to snap this picture:

IMG_3980

We really didn't see much of Arkadelphia at all, but they had a very colorful water tower, so I snapped a pic of that, too.

IMG_3988

We passed just to the south and east of Little Rock, but the closest we actually got to the city itself where we could see anything yielded this picture:

IMG_4005

Currently, we are stopped for lunch at a little Taco Bell in the town of Lonoke, AR. Being in the middle of nowhere, for the most part, they are evidently not all that able to get really good help here. The girl who helped us seemed to be right on the verge of being pissed off the whole time she was helping us. We're eating out in the car, and this is the lovely view we have out the front of the car:

IMG_4013

I guess I might not be all that happy all the time either, if that's what I had to look forward to after work...

Well, back to the road...

Labels: ,

The Journey Begins...

We got an early start out of Denton this morning, both because the girlfriend and I were very tired and because it took us longer to get everything packed into the cooler and the car than we thought it would. I drove out the first segment of the trip. The road was mostly straight and flat, and the girlfriend really is even less of a morning person than I am. She didn't manage to get any sleep like she had hoped, but at least it was an easy drive and she was able to pretty much just sit and relax. It took me a while to get my GPS unit working properly, and we had to stop a couple of times along the way to get everything set up right. I really need to get a new power cord for the laptop, because it kept coming undone and making the laptop go into sleep mode. Maybe once I get a new job, I'll take care of that.

Before we got to Arkansas, we stopped at a little gas station in Greenville. The girlfriend remembered stopping at that particular place a few times as a child when her family would go to Arkansas to visit relatives, and she said the bathrooms were always nice and clean. Apparently, things had changed rather significantly between the time she'd been there last and now, because it was pretty nasty there. I guess things do change. We got a few snacks while we were there and headed back onto the road.

We got to Arkansas just a little while ago, and I was driving, so I didn't get a chance to get a picture of the "Welcome to Arkansas" sign. I tried, but we were trying to find a rest area and such, and there was construction going on, so I didn't have the camera out until we were right on the border, and I didn't get a picture snapped. Right now, we're stopped at one of the nicest rest areas that either of us has ever seen. It's new, shiny, has incredibly clean bathrooms and pretty friendly people. I snapped this little picture of the Arkansas flag flying over it, at least.

IMG_3978

Back on the road, now. Many miles to go before we rest...

Labels: ,

And we're off, just about...

An hour and a half or so later than expected, but we're just about to get out the door.  Yay!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Going to be a busy couple of days...

This morning, the girlfriend called the dealership where she bought her car.  They said the 7500 mile service, which she's supposed to get done soon, just consists of an oil change and tire rotation.  She's just going to get those things done at her own dealership, so I don't have to drive down to Irving today.  That's a good thing, because I'm quite sure that I would have wound up getting lost along the way.  On the other hand, that also means that I'm not going to be stopping by Half-Price Books to sell off the rest of the books.  I don't think I'm going to have the time to do so this week, so I guess I'll do that the first day or so after we get back.  I don't think we're going to be that short on money where we'll need it during the trip anyway, so I'm not going to stress about it.

I have some laundry in the washer now, and I've picked up some more stuff in the upstairs room.  It's getting near the point where there's not going to be a whole lot more that I can do up there, but it's not quite to that point yet.  It'll definitely be done by the end of the day today, though.  Maybe not so clean that the girlfriend is going to consider it really clean, but I think it'll be fine for having her brother feed the cat and clean her litter box and such while we're gone.  I'll give it a good vacuuming, and I need to clean up her food and water area somewhat before we leave.  That might all be stuff for tomorrow, though, because I also need to clean the bathroom upstairs sometime today.

I want to bake some cinnamon rolls and some bread for the trip today, but I don't know if I'll have time to do both of those things.  I also need to go across the street and see if I can get the insurance agency to fax off proof of insurance to the car finance company before they decide to repossess my car.  They sent me a threatening little letter the other day, so I should probably get on that.  Especially since I actually do have the insurance, and just haven't sent them the proof of it.  Idiot procrastinator...
 
And somewhere in the course of the day, I need to get up there to Recycled and see what they'll buy out of the latest collection of offerings.  Hopefully I'll make enough money to be able to buy a couple of little souvenirs while we're out there in places I've not yet been.  I'm going to try to send off a few postcards to Mom and Irene while I'm out there in the world, and maybe a few to some of the folks back at KSD.  We'll see.  I have a bunch of old first-class stamps, which are now probably about a dime less than what I need to send a letter.  So I might as well use them for postcards...
 
Anyway, I guess I'd best get myself motivated and start at least doing something useful with myself...

 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Another day older...

I really didn't accomplish too much today.  I did find my USB PCCard, finally.  It was actually in the laptop case, but it was in a pocket that I hadn't checked.  Stupid.  So I figured out that the mapping software is working properly, the GPS unit is working properly, and I can have my portable hard drive hooked up at the same time as the GPS unit.  So, everything should go along fairly well for the trip, assuming I can get everything physically set up in a reasonable sort of way.

I got a fair amount of cleaning and sorting done upstairs, and I brought most of my stuff in from the back of the car and got it sorted out.  Tomorrow, I'm going to take the girlfriend's car down to the dealership where she bought it and get the oil changed, and on the way I'm going to stop at Recycled Books and see what they might want out of the collection.  Then on the way back from the dealership, I'm going to stop at Half-Price Books and see what stuff they might be willing to buy out of the mess.  Hopefully I'll make a little extra money out of the whole thing.

This evening, I spent most of the money that I'd made at Recycled the other day.  The girlfriend asked if I could go out and buy some ice cream, as well as a few other things that we wanted to get for the trip.  But, on the plus side, the girlfriend's mom gave her some money to use on the trip, so we can do some of the stuff that we might not have been able to if we had to just use the very limited funds at our disposal.  So, it might be a pretty decent vacation after all.  Not that I'm not still stressed about shit, but such is life.

For now, off to bed with me...

Packing and stressing...

I have three days left before we head out on vacation, and I'm trying to keep myself motivated to do the stuff that's necessary to get ready.  I know that the girlfriend is pretty anxious to get out there and get some time away from work, but I'm a little ambivalent about the whole thing.  I know that we're going to be spending a lot of money that we can't really afford, but we've already paid for a fair amount of it, and she's really had her heart set on it for a while.  So, it's off we go.

One of the major things that I need to get done is cleaning up the room upstairs, where I've basically just been stacking boxes of stuff from the storage unit.  It's a disaster, since there's half-unloaded boxes of stuff all over, things sitting around on the floor because I didn't really have any better place to put them, and not enough room to put all the stuff that's there.  On the plus side, I've found a few things that I've been looking for, so that's good.

Last night, I found the DVD for the mapping software that will hopefully be coming in pretty handy for the trip.  I don't know if it's going to be too much of a pain in the ass, considering how delicate the power adapter for the laptop is becoming and just how slowly the little bastard has been running lately, but I certainly hope I'll be able to use the GPS and keep track of our trip.  So last night, I got that software up and running and made sure that it worked properly.  I haven't yet hooked up the actual GPS unit, but I can't see any reason why it wouldn't work now, since it was fine the last time I hooked it up.  I'll hook it up later today and make sure it's working.  No sense screwing myself over yet again.

While I was doing stuff with the computer yesterday, I copied most of the pictures from my camera over to the computer.  I still have a bunch of them that I ought to post to my Flickr account, now that I've paid to have the pro account again.  Might just as well make use of it.  I think there are still some pictures on my old desktop computer that need to be posted, too, but I can't really do that until after we get back from the vacation and I get my desk out of the storage unit and set up upstairs.  All stuff for the future, though.

In the early afternoon, while watching some hockey, I baked my first ever batch of biscotti.  I didn't have anywhere near the amount of nuts they called for in the recipe, and I didn't have a few of the other ingredients, so I kind of halfway winged it.  They came out all right, though.  Not the giant biscotti that you see at the coffee shops or anything, but little ones about two inches long by an inch wide or so.  They're chocolate and cinnamon with almonds, and I think they came out pretty well.  They are a bit labor intensive, but actually not as much as things like the pressed cookies I made for Christmas, and definitely not as much as the cookie cutter cookies.  Might have to make some other variety whenever we get back from Boston.

The girlfriend didn't get a great night's sleep again last night.  I think the bed is pretty much screwing up her back, and that's making it hard for her to sleep comfortably.  We thought that getting a new bed would be one of the first things we'd do when we got back from vacation, but now that no money is coming in, it looks like it will be a while before we have the opportunity.

I didn't even hear her leave this morning, although when she was home at lunch she said that I kind of rolled over and muttered something when the alarm went off.  I woke up around 8:30 and lounged around in bed for just a little bit, then got up and made some coffee.  Since then, I've been going upstairs every ten or fifteen minutes and picking up something and putting it in the closet or in a box or somesuch.  I think I'm a little more than halfway through with what needs to be done.  I was really hoping that I'd find the USB PCCard adapter for my laptop, so I didn't have to keep swapping out my portable hard drive and other things, but I haven't found the little guy yet.  So I guess I'll be continuing the swapping while we're on the trip.  Oh well.  Better than not having a USB port at all, I guess.

I also just found a certain possible reason why Kala's grass isn't growing very well.  Not only are there gnats of some sort on the grass that's growing, but there are also weevils eating the seeds in the package.  I planted a couple more, and while I was holding the package, I noticed some little bugs trying to crawl out.  Little fuckers.  I sealed them in an airtight container, but I think it's already far too late for the seeds that were in there.  Guess I'll have to get some more of those when I go to Petsmart to get her some more food before we leave.  I should get a little jug of kitty litter for her, too.

Well, back to the cleaning, I guess.  The girlfriend also wants me to clean the upstairs bathroom before we leave, so I should get with it...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Counting down to vacation time...

Most of the evening was pretty uneventful last night.  I watched some hockey and baseball, and was pretty much just useless.  The girlfriend and I split a couple of games of Othello before we headed off to bed.  I slept pretty well, but I think the girlfriend had another restless night, as she was pretty terse this morning when she was getting ready for work.  I just pretty much kept my mouth shut and tried to keep my head down.  Before she left, she asked if I would move the TV and dresser and tape off the baseboard and ceiling in the corner and put Kilz on them, so she could paint the baseboard when she got home this evening.  I told her I would do that, and she headed off into the world.

Just a little after she left, she called and asked if I could bring her phone charger down to her, since her phone was showing low battery.  I told her that I would, but that it would be an hour or so.  As it turns out, it took me a little longer to get the corner done, so it was about two hours or a little more before I finally got down there.  I also sorted out some more of my books to take to Recycled, keeping in mind the things they weren't interested in the last time.

I spent a little longer down there at her work than I expected, since she was by herself and was apparently pretty bored.  We talked a little about the upcoming vacation and a few other odd things before I decided that I should head back this direction.  I had enough stuff to do and little enough time to do it that I decided not to stop at Recycled on the way home.  The books are all still out in the car, so I can stop tomorrow.  I don't think I have a whole hell of a lot else that I need to do tomorrow, so I'll have time to stop there.  Hopefully I'll be able to make a little more money than I did last time.

The girlfriend asked me to slice some bread to make lunch when I got home, so I went ahead and did that, plus filled the water jug for the plant food.  I then went ahead and tossed my laundry into the dryer, since I forgot to do so last night.  She had some other laundry she wanted me to do for the trip, but I haven't done that yet.  I should hop to it and get that stuff done, since I haven't really accomplished most of the stuff I wanted to get done today, and sports is coming on in the near future.

I sliced up the rest of the Irish soda bread for our lunch, and we had some toast with cheese on it.  The girlfriend wound up burning the tip of one of her fingers on the burner of the toaster oven, then a while later stubbed her toe on the bowl of water I'd put down for Kala in the kitchen.  Not a great lunch, I guess.  She was also not too happy because I used the wrong paintbrush for the Kilz, and despite my having cleaned it pretty well (I thought), the stuff doesn't want to come out of the brushes.  She had apparently kept the little one we used before, I but I didn't realize it.  Anyway, such is life.  At least the painting stuff got done.  Worst case scenario, we have to get a new brush.  I think even now, we can afford a paintbrush...

I'm seriously considering making some cinnamon rolls today, and maybe that loaf of whole wheat bread that I was planning to make last week.  I don't know where all my bread bags are, but I wish I could find them, because we don't have any bags around that can easily hold a loaf of bread.  Guess I'll have to make do with the plastic wrap or foil, like I did with the last one.  It's just that it came out a little dry, and it might be because the seal wasn't all that airtight.  I'll figure something out next time around, though.  Might as well get started on it soon...

Monday, March 16, 2009

A not-that-useful weekend...

Friday evening, I made some chocolate muffins with the remainder of the buttermilk.  Came out all right, but nothing splendid.  We'll be munching on them for the rest of the week, though, I'm guessing.

While the girlfriend was at work Saturday morning, I taped off most of the baseboard so she could do some painting.  I also started to do a little of the ceiling, but I got rather tired and didn't get a whole lot of that finished.  After she got home, she started painting the baseboards with Kilz while I pretty much sat around and vegetated.  Once she was done with the baseboards, she realized that she wasn't going to be able to get the paintbrush she was using cleaned up with just soap and water, so she asked me if I could do the edge of the ceiling before the brush hardened and had to be thrown out.  So I hauled myself out of my lethargy and got started with the painting.  Initially, I was thinking I could just press a piece of cardboard against the corner and use that as a sort of movable edger and work around the ceiling.  But no, the stuff was thin enough that it just ran behind the cardboard and started making little drip marks.  So I busted tail getting the ceiling edge taped and then painted.  And that was just about all that I did on Saturday which was useful.  I did sort through a few of my books and such and found some things that I'm going to try to sell off to make a little money.

About the only other useful thing I did on Saturday was cleaning the bratling's litter box.  It really needed it, and I need to make sure I keep up with that in the future.  I'm sure it's not all that pleasant for her to have to go to the bathroom in a box that smells horribly, and it's not really all that pleasant for myself or the girlfriend, either.  So, I need to scoop every day or two and do a full cleaning every three to four weeks, at least.

On Sunday, we got up and decided that we needed to be a little more productive.  Unfortunately for me, I wasn't really feeling it all that much, and I wasn't tremendously more productive than on Saturday.  I did make it through some more boxes of books and such, and I think I probably have a stack of a couple of hundred that I'm going to try to sell.  I also have a stack of stuff growing on the side of the living room, including some of my sports stuff that I'm never going to use and some various old electronic stuff that I doubt I'm going to need ever again.  Might as well sell some of it while I can make any money at all off of it.

I spend most of Sunday watching the World Baseball Classic, rather than doing anything remotely productive.  I did cook dinner, though.  I made some salmon patties and couscous.  I just kind of winged it on the patties, vaguely following the recipe that I used to make them a couple of months ago, but since I don't have my recipe software installed on here, I couldn't really read the recipe.  But they came out all right, I think, and the girlfriend thought so, too.  I only used one of the two cans of salmon I bought, but it still made six large patties and a little midget.  We each had a couple of patties and some of the couscous for dinner, so I think we probably have enough either for one of us to have it for dinner again, or maybe for both of us to have lunch.

I stayed up pretty late last night, since the last game of the Classic didn't start until 10:00 here.  I guess it was around one in the morning before I called it a night, and I still don't know who won, since the game was only in the seventh inning and was only 4-2, I think.  I fell asleep pretty quickly after heading to bed, but I think the girlfriend had a hard time getting to sleep, as seems to happen a lot lately.  I offered to play some Scrabble with her if she'd like, but she thought the game would take too long, so we passed.  This morning, she said that she was just getting to sleep when the alarm went off, but I don't know if that was her first sleep of the night or if she had just woke up earlier and was drifting back off.

I got up as she was leaving, around a quarter to ten this morning.  I didn't really feel all that ambitious this morning, which isn't really that much of a surprise to me recently.  I've been lacking any real ambition for quite a long time, but especially for the past week or so.  So I went through my e-mail, which I didn't do since Saturday morning, and I watched a military show and then Junkyard Wars, and then I decided that I'd better get off my ass and get something done.

I got out the girlfriend's travel Othello set, since that game doesn't take as long to play, and I put away some of the other games that we're not going to be able to ever get to play unless we actually find some more friends around.  I haven't received a call from anyone at MHMR since I got fired, so I guess that they're friends as long as you work with them, but once you're gone, you might as well go fuck yourself.  Oh well.

I took out the garbage and sorted out a couple of grocery bags of books to add to the stuff already in the car.  And then it was off down the road to Recycled Books and Records.  I brought in my two reusable grocery bags full of paperbacks and a copier paper box full of mostly hardback books, plus another copier paper box full of older computer programming books, mostly VB6 stuff.

After waiting around for half an hour or so, they had pretty much cherry-picked through it all and picked out maybe a dozen books, for which they offered $24 cash.  The rest they didn't want.  So I guess I'll be taking those down to get refused at Half-Price books later this week.  I also calculated that I should probably be bringing in at least $40 per day, or $60 if just on the weekdays, in order to make ends meet.  So, basically I've given myself another roughly half a day's cushion with the sale of those books.  At least now I know what they want, and I won't spend the effort to take down any more programming books and such.

After that little effort, I headed down to the storage place to pay that bill and get some stuff out of there.  I've managed to work my way nearly to the back of the unit, although it's just a path to the back, and not cleared out that far.  I brought back four boxes of books, although they're mostly stuff I won't be able to sell, as well as some other stuff we can use around the house and just some odd stuff that I might be able to sell off or otherwise put to use.  I did bring back one of my old computers, and I'm going to see if I can install some flavor of Linux on it, maybe configured as a firewall or something, and see if I can't get ten or twenty bucks out of it.  That'll be a low-priority job for the evenings, though.

Since I got back home from there, I've mostly just been sitting here watching TV, reading e-mail, and generally not being all that useful.  I've emptied the dishwasher and I'm running a load of clothes through the washer, but that's the extent of my utility.  Maybe once the girlfriend gets home in a few minutes, I'll get my ambition up a little more and go upstairs and dig through some of my shit there.  We'll see...




Friday, March 13, 2009

Meh...

I drove down to Kroger yesterday to do the shopping, realizing when I got there that I forgot to grab the money off the counter.  So, wasted a little gas and drove back home and then back to the store in a nice, useless loop.  I pretty much stuck right to the list, but I still spent nearly $40.  Hopefully, that will keep us going at least for the next week, until we head out on our vacation.  Before I headed off to shop, I looked through some of the ads and such in the paper, but there were no good coupons for anything that we needed.  Oh well.

I got back home just a little before the girlfriend did.  I had enough time to get the food put away, but that was about it.  We sat on the couch and had some chips and salsa for dinner.  Not that terribly healthy, but better than just candy or chips and regular dip, so I guess it's all right.  We had some leftover salsa and such from before, and I got some more at the store.  Not hideously expensive, but certainly not the cheapest dish.

I'm going to make another loaf of bread today, this one being a more whole-grain sort of thing, which is what the girlfriend likes.  I have some whole wheat flour, I think, and some wheat berries, so it should make some kind of a little whole grain loaf.  Hopefully it'll wind up being something that she likes.

We retired to the bedroom after the cold started to get to us.  It's even colder today, and I'm currently sitting in the bedroom typing this and watching a show about Humboldt squid on the National Geographic Channel.  I was out in the living room, but it's got to be in the low 50s or something out there.  Even with a sweatshirt on, I was starting to get a little too cold for comfort.  Yesterday evening, we finished watching a hockey game and then watched a bunch of her home shows, since there really wasn't all that much on the tube.  We finally got to sleep around midnight or so, although Kala decided to wake us both up a short time later by banging on the cabinet doors rather unexpectedly.  I don't know why she's been doing that so much lately, but I do rather wish she'd quit.

I got up this morning at about 9:30, and I had to reboot the computer again.  That took a good little while, but once it was done, I got a couple of things done.  I found out that my last paycheck got direct deposited, but it was about $140 less than what my usual ones were.  I'm guessing that they'll mail me my pay stub, and they'll have to say why they took the money out.  If it turns out it's because of the power adapter, then I'll raise a bit of a fuss about it.  If it's because of the insurance and such that I signed a week before my termination, I guess I'll just have to let it go.  That's one of those little things that annoys me.  Why did they have me sign all the insurance papers and shit if they knew I was going to be gone in a week.  Oh well.  On the plus side, I also got my Oregon tax return deposited, which just about makes up for the shortage to the paycheck.  Although I was kind of counting on that money to help pay some of the bills for April.  Overall, I guess I'm about half a week down on my "safety net" time.  Hopefully I'll be able to sell off some of my books and such today or tomorrow and get a little money out of that to make up for it.

I went to the Texas unemployment agency's website this morning, and it confirmed what I expected.  I'm not eligible for unemployment, since I was terminated with cause.  So, it looks like I won't be getting any help from them, and it's just a matter of whether I can find a way to manage to make some money aside from that.  I was looking at some of the listings on the WorkInTexas.com website, and there are a number of things for which I might be qualified, so I'm going to start trying to apply for some of those jobs.  One is as an IT specialist at UNT here in town, and that would be a great job if I can get it.  I'm going to see if I can use Dave, our ex-roommate Corey's new roommate, as a reference, since he works in that same field for UNT.  Can't hurt, at least.  Between having him, Danielle, and maybe Corey and Betty, all of whom work at UNT, I'd think I have a decent shot at it.  And it makes close to the same amount as my old job, which would be a really good thing.  There's also a bunch of other jobs, of course, but most of them are things I'd rather not take if I could avoid it.  Stuff like sorting pallets or doing cleaning.  We'll see what I can manage, though.  I just know that I need to do something...


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Another day, no 'nother dollar...

I am, as often seems to be the case, having a very difficult time getting myself motivated to do anything today.  On Tuesday, the girlfriend couldn't sleep, and we stayed up until about three in the morning playing Scrabble.  I beat her at two games this time, which puts us even at three games apiece now.

Before we got up and played, we had a conversation that makes me feel like I'm just fucking this relationship up the same way I fucked up my marriage.  I don't know what the deal is with me, but it seems like once I can have sex whenever I want to, I just lose interest in it.  And, of course, the fact that I'm sitting here in the midst of a major depression doesn't help my libido a whole hell of a lot either.  Fuck.

After staying up half the night, I wound up sleeping in far later than I should have, till about 10:30 or so.  It was cold out here in the living room most of the day yesterday.  I figured it would be better to just leave the heater off and save the power, therefore saving some money.  I really do wish the weather was a little more stable here, but that's the way it goes.  It's cold again this morning, and looks to be the same for tomorrow.

Once I did finally get up and about yesterday, I checked the e-mail and such after getting the computer back up and running.  It was busy running the antivirus scan, and it takes friggin' forever to get the thing to respond when the scan is active.  I miss the computer from work quite a bit, but I guess I'd better get used to this piece of crap again, because it's probably going to be a number of months before I can afford to buy anything better.

After I'd tinkered around on the computer for a while, I emptied the dishwasher and did most of the hand washing that needed to be done.  I then made a loaf of Irish soda bread, in an effort to use up the buttermilk in the fridge before it goes bad.  Unfortunately, the recipe which the girlfriend suggested I use only called for about 3/4 cup of buttermilk, and we had a whole lot more than that still in the bottle.  So today, I'm going to make some Irish yeast bread from a different recipe, and that will still leave enough for another recipe of something which I'll either make this evening or tomorrow.

I also brought down the DeLorme mapping disc that I'd found a few weeks ago while bringing stuff up from my storage unit.  I wanted to find out if it was the data disc for the new version of their software, but it turns out that it's just the disc with the telephone data on it.  I'm going to spend much of the next week and a half digging through all the crap up in the room upstairs, and hopefully I'll come across the main data disc.  Unfortunately, I don't have a really great feeling that it's going to surface in the mass.  We'll see, though.  We might have to travel old-school, using real, live paper maps.

After the girlfriend got home, we had a light dinner of fresh-baked bread with various toppings, and we sat and watched Cash Cab and Mythbusters, even though there was no new show on.  The cold finally got to us, though, and we headed into the bedroom a bit earlier in the evening than usual.  The girlfriend was also pretty damned tired from having stayed up so late and then opening at work.  So we sat there and watched the rest of the Mythbusters episodes and some of her house shows that she likes.  She kept drifting in and out of sleep, too, and she wound up staying up later than she really wanted because of it.  We finally did head off to sleep around midnight or so.

This morning, I got up feeling a little more refreshed, but still not very happy and not very ambitious.  I did go through a couple of boxes of books and selected out some more that I can take down to one of the used bookstores and sell.  I took a box and a bag of the sales fodder out to the car, and grabbed a few things out of my old car, which I need to clean out to sell.  I also did some of the hand washing and made a loaf of bread.  And, finally, I've hung up the mirror over the fireplace, which the girlfriend says that Corey's been promising to do for about three years.  At least I only procrastinated on that one for a couple of months...

The girlfriend had a late lunch, because she's closing today.  When she was home, she asked if I could go do some shopping.  I told her that would be fine, and we came up with a list of hopefully not that expensive food to get.  So, I need to head out to the store soon and do that, so I can get it done before she gets home.  She did say that she appreciates the stuff I'm doing around the house, but I'd still rather be working and making a living...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

One goal for the week accomplished...

I went through a bunch of the books on the shelf down here and some more up in the room upstairs and came up with two boxes of books that I can get rid of without really losing any sleep.  I don't know if any of the used bookstores will buy any Visual Basic 6 books, but I hope they do, because I have a bunch of them to get rid of.  If they don't, I guess I'll take them back and put them up on Craigslist for a couple of bucks.  Maybe I'll take them up to Recycled tomorrow and see.  If they won't take them, in the next week or so, I'll take them to Half-Price Books down in Lewisville and check with them...

Well, at least the car's legal now...

Not a really useful or a really happy day, but that's the way it goes.  I got a call from Tim, one of the HR people at MHMR, asking if I had the extra power cord for the laptop.  I told him that I did, and I planned to bring it in either this afternoon or tomorrow morning.  He said that was fine, but I thought, "What the hell?" and just brought it by half an hour or so later.  I didn't have anyone really say anything to me while I was there, which is kind of a good thing, I think.  No awkward conversations or anything like that.  I brought it to Tim's office, and he was interviewing someone, maybe for my old job, I don't know.  I just got his attention, put the adapter on a shelf in his office, and headed back out into the world.  I think I only saw about five people at all while I was there, and none of them were people from upstairs or anyone else I'd worked with much.

I had taken the recycling when I left the house, so after the depressing last drive back from MHMR, I stopped at the recycling center and emptied the recycling crap.  And then it was back home.  The girlfriend was home for lunch when I got back, and I think the fact that I wasn't there when she got home probably made for a less awkward lunch than it might have been otherwise.  I think she'd like it if I got out there every day first thing in the morning and came home after dark to try to find a job.  Which is probably exactly what I should be doing, but I'm really just not all that sure how things are going to go with the vacation coming up.  And I really don't want to cancel the vacation.  She needs it, I think it'll do me some good, and we've already spent something like $700 that we're not going to be able to get back.  So we might as well suck it up and just deal with it for a while.  I think the tax return will let us do fine at least until the end of April, and selling a bunch of my other stuff should probably get us up close to the end of May, I think.  At least I hope so...

After she left for lunch, I started watching a little bit of baseball and doing a little organizing of files on my laptop.  I guess I'd been at it for about half an hour or so when the girlfriend called and told me that the inspection machine was fixed at her work.  It was around four then, but I procrastinated until about a quarter to five before I headed down the road.  I probably should have gone earlier, to miss the traffic, but it wasn't really all that terribly bad.

I got there and got the car turned over to the service department, then wandered over to the office to talk to the girlfriend.  She's concerned about the cost of the trip, but I reassured her that we should be all right at least through April, and if need be, I'm going to see what needs to happen for me to get my retirement fund from my old work transferred to my checking account instead of rolling it into an IRA or something.  I know I'll have to pay penalties and such, but if I can actually collect something like $10,000 after putting aside enough for taxes and penalties, that would pretty much cover my half of bills and such through about the end of the year.  And, quite frankly, if I can't find a job by the end of the year, there's just going to be a whole hell of a lot more wrong than I can really fix.  So she might as well move back home with her mom and stepdad, and I can just go shoot myself or live under a bridge or something.

I finally got the car back at around six, and it was nice and legal and even washed, which is kind of a nice touch.  Especially since I haven't washed the thing in the two months that I've owned it.  I stopped back by the office and talked with the girlfriend and one of her co-workers for a little bit, and then headed back here.

I had leftovers for dinner, which is something I need to make sure I get used to.  I think I'll be eating a lot of cheap leftovers for the next few months, until we get back on our feet a bit.  That's if we get back on our feet, of course, but I think we might be able to.  And hey, we might even get another one of those stimulus checks I've been hearing about with the new government bailout package.

I finished working on the Colosseum page, I think.  I may go back and add some other stuff, fill in some of the more vague sections and such, but I think it's good enough for right now.  And since that's still just about the only page getting regular hits, I guess that's the one I should be worried the most about.  Currently, I'm watching the Stars getting their asses handed to them again.  I guess I should probably go find myself something useful to do...

Crawling toward infinity...

I'm still pretty damned depressed, although I'm gradually getting better toward things.  The girlfriend and I stayed up pretty late last night.  She wasn't very tired, and we played a couple of games of Scrabble.  She's now beaten me three games out of four that we've played, but they've all been close games except for one.

She found out yesterday that she was going to be closing today, instead of opening as she'd previously been scheduled.  She was going to take a shower this morning, but she wound up hitting the snooze button a few too many times and had to skip it.  I slept in a little after she left, and finally hauled my ass out of bed at around ten.

I made a pot of coffee and checked through some of my e-mail and such, after spending quite a little while trying to get the damned piece-of-shit laptop booted back up again.  I got an e-mail from Betty telling me about some jobs that are going to be opening up at the new Cowboys' Stadium, and I'll take a look at them, but that's going to be a hellacious commute if I need to do it.  Every time I see stuff like that, I feel just a little more depressed that I screwed up what was probably the perfect job for me.  Such an idiot...

Anyway, I watched a few shows on the tube, had some coffee, and called the dealership to see if I can get my car inspected today.  Not yet, at least.  They're still waiting for the machine to be fixed.  I think I might go down to my storage unit and see if I can dig out some of the stuff that I might be able to sell.  I really need to go to the unemployment office and such today, but I think I'm going to wait until tomorrow morning.  I also need to return the spare power adapter for the laptop from work, and I want to go talk to a few of the temp agencies and see if I should bother filling out an application when I'm going to be going out of town in just a couple of weeks.  Hopefully I'll get more and more into it over the next week or two, and I'll be totally ready to hit the market by the time we get back.  I did have at least the ambition to shave this morning, which I haven't done since Thursday, I think.  Got to keep the face looking at least halfway decent, so prospective employers aren't immediately turned off by the fur.  Anyway, I guess I should try to find something useful to do with the day...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Useless fucking Monday...

Yesterday was all right, I suppose.  We went down to Scott and Betty's apartment in Lewisville and had a nice, light supper and fun companionship with the rest of the book club.  While we were there, we also got a couple of little presents from Scott and Betty.  I got a little candy bar and some sports trivia cards.  I'm glad that it wasn't being held at a restaurant this time around, because we certainly couldn't have afforded it.  I got some good wishes toward getting a new job, and we got some tips from some of the more traveled members of the group about things to see in the various cities we'll be visiting on our trip.  Also, we should hopefully be able to get together with Scott and Betty a little more often, because we kind of explained to them the fact that we really don't have a whole hell of a lot of friends who will get together with us any more.  Sucks, but such is life.

On the way home, we stopped and the girlfriend put a couple dollars' worth of gas in her car, and I got the three main newspapers for the area to start looking for jobs.  I went through the Dallas Morning News in the evening, and I was rather disappointed with the number of even unskilled jobs out there on the market.  I guess I should have expected it, but it was even worse than I thought it would be.  Becoming even more depressed than before, I turned on the TV and watched a little of the World Baseball Classic and then fell asleep watching Kingdom of the Blue Whale on the National Geographic Channel.

The girlfriend woke me up at about midnight, and we toddled off to bed.  I fell asleep pretty quickly, considering that I'd been up since about six in the morning the previous night.  But I also woke up pretty early this morning, since I'd been lying there on the couch for a couple of hours, sleeping or nearly such.

She had to get up fairly early to open at her work.  I should have been up with her so I could get my show on the road, but I was feeling very depressed this morning and just lay there in bed, sometimes petting the cat, sometimes drifting in and out of sleep.  The girlfriend called me at about a quarter past nine to see if I was going to bring my car in for inspection in the morning.  I told her that I'd be in soon, but I just kept procrastinating, because I just really wasn't feeling like doing much aside from slitting my throat.  I did go through the other two papers and find all the jobs for which I think I'm qualified, and I was happy to see that there were a few more in the Denton paper.  Maybe there will be some hope after all.

When she got home for lunch, she asked me if the car had passed inspection, and when I told her I didn't take it yet, she sort of snapped, "Why not?" at me.  When I told her that I was just depressed and had a hard time getting motivated, she suggested that I try to not get depressed in the morning and save it for the rest of the day.  Of course, all of that just made me feel a hell of a lot better about things...

After she left, I was going to head out pretty quickly, but instead I watched some more of the World Baseball Classic, the game between Japan and South Korea, which was actually a pretty decent game.  I finally did head out the door to get the car inspected, just about the same time she was calling again to see where I was at.  I guess she's going to try to be supportive by nagging me until I find another job, which might be what I need, I guess.

I got down to the dealership with no real issues and talked to a couple of the technicians there, explaining the situation to at least three of them until I finally talked to the same guy who was there on Saturday.  He said everything was fine with getting it inspected until he was reminded by the actual tech that the inspection machine was down, and they were going to have to wait until at least tomorrow afternoon before the state sent someone out to fix it.  He gave me his card, so I can call and not have to waste another trip.

After that, I went over to the office and talked to the girlfriend and one of her co-workers for a little bit, telling them what had happened with the inspection.  Then I drove back home.  I managed to catch just the tail end of the baseball game.  It took me quite a while to get the computer to reboot, since it was trying to update the antivirus at the time, so I didn't get a whole hell of a lot of computer work done this afternoon.  I did empty the dishwasher by the time the girlfriend got home from work.

She made some fried rice, and we watched a couple of her decorating type programs and such, but now I'm watching some hockey while she makes some kind of Asian gelatin dessert.  And that's been about the extent of my day.  Fucking useless...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A test posting...

So yesterday, for reasons unknown to me, Blogger wouldn't update my
entries to the blog. It said that no path could be found to the site,
although when I clicked to view one of the previously posted blog
entries, it could get to those just fine. Anyway, I managed to post
them this morning using the girlfriend's computer. Now I'm going to
try this post-via-email capability, which I've not tried before. I'm
not sure if it will still do the same thing, since I'm sure it uses at
least parts of the same engine, but I guess we'll find out.

Yesterday I took the car down to the dealership where I bought it, so
I could get it inspected. That was another $40 that I can't really
afford right now, but I really needed to get it done so I can drive
around and look for a new job. I got there around 1:30 or so, after
dropping off some magazines and such at the recycle center and getting
some gas in the beastie.

After dropping off the car at the service center, I went over to the
office and sat and talked with the girlfriend, who works there as one
of the phone operators. We talked about what we're going to do as far
as money, which is really kind of weighing pretty heavily on both of
us at the moment. We were discussing what kinds of food to make to be
budget friendly, and other similar ways that we can manage to keep a
little more of the money that we do manage to make.

The service department closes at three on Saturday, and I got a call
from the service department about 20 minutes till. It seems that my
car wouldn't pass because the gas cap wasn't holding pressure. The
girlfriend called the salesperson who had sold me the car, only a
couple of months ago, and asked her if they don't check the cars
before they sell them. Long story short, she said that they could
probably take a gas cap from a similar Ford Focus and swap it with me.

So I ran over to the service department and got my car and keys back
after explaining the situation to them. I drove over to the used car
area and got a gas cap from a different car. I wound up having to rip
off the little cord that holds the gas cap onto my car, as well as
having to rip the cord on the other car, but I let the porter at the
dealership take care of destroying that one. I drove over to the
service department, but they had already closed down the area where
they do the inspections, so I just paid my bill and headed back over
to the office. Guess I get the privilege of driving back down there
tomorrow morning and getting the inspection completed.

After telling the girlfriend what had happened and talking with her a
little bit longer, I drove back home. She had asked me to do a couple
of things if I was feeling up to it. I was actually feeling rather
bummed when I got home, and I sat down and watched some of the World
Baseball Classic on the tube and nearly dozed off, but I finally did
rouse myself to do some of the cooking she had asked me to do. I
browned some ground beef that we already had defrosted and cooked a
big pot of rice. I didn't tape off the baseboards so she could paint
them, though. And I doubt I'm going to do that today, either.

When she got home, she made a sort of meat and rice casserole. It was
originally supposed to be a meatloaf, but it was a fair bit more rice
than originally planned, so it didn't really hold together in loaf
form. She also made some potato wedges as a side dish, and that's
what we had for dinner. She watched a few of the things she wanted to
and then went upstairs and worked on a couple of her projects up
there, and I sat here and watched some show about Einstein and an
episode of Iron Chef America that I hadn't seen before. I pretty much
just feel asleep on the couch while watching, and she woke me up after
she came downstairs, so I didn't just sleep on the couch all night and
screw my neck up more than it already is.

I fed the bratling and headed off to bed after that. She was watching
some of her home shows on the tube, and she asked if I wanted her to
turn it off, but I told her not to worry about it. Sure enough, I was
asleep in about 20 minutes. Didn't even hear the end of the show that
she was watching when I lay down.

I woke up this morning at about seven. I thought it was six, but I
didn't realize that last night was the change to Daylight Savings
Time. I couldn't sleep after that, probably because of sleeping on
the couch for a couple of hours during the evening. So I got up, went
upstairs and gave the cat her breakfast and checked the status of the
taxes and posted yesterday's blog entries on the girlfriend's
computer. I came back downstairs and made some coffee, and then went
in and talked to the girlfriend for a little bit, since she was awake
by then. After that, I've been mostly just sitting here doing stuff
on StumbleUpon and trying to keep my screwed up power cord from
shutting down my computer every five minutes. There's a hockey game
on, Boston vs. New York, but it's coming to an end soon. After that,
I suppose I should get ready to head out for the day. We have book
club today, which is fortunately at Betty and Scott's house, so we're
not going to have to spend any money on it. They asked us to come
down a little earlier than the actual meeting, so we could just hang
out and chat for a while. So that's most of my plans for the
afternoon and evening...

Now let's see if this thing will post...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Crap. And now it seems that I can't even post my blog entries, because Blogger's back end can't find a route to the host. What a fucking day...

Not very happy...

In fact, I'm very nearly suicidally depressed. I was fired from my job yesterday, which is the first time I've ever been actually fired. And unfortunately, it wasn't just that I was let go at the end of my probationary period, which would be bad enough. No, my bad habits got the better of me, and on a few occasions while I was at home I used the organization's computer to go to websites that I really shouldn't have. So that's going to show up as the reason for termination with cause. Damn it. It's going to be hard enough to find a new job with the economy the way it is, without that sitting there on my record. Fuck, I'm such an idiot sometimes...

So I guess tomorrow I'll buy the Sunday papers again, and I'll go through the old routine of trying to find any job that I seem suited for. I'm so bummed because this one was just about the perfect job for me, and I had to go and fuck it up by being both lazy and stupid. Fuck!

The girlfriend and I talked about things, and we're going to go on our vacation, since we've already paid for about half of the hotel nights. I filed my taxes this morning, and I should be getting about $1500 back between the Federal and my last Oregon filing. And I'll get my last paycheck of a little over $1000 deposited in the bank this Friday, so I think we're good for at least a month or so, since I've already paid my rent, car, and insurance. If I don't have money coming in by the end of April, though, I think we're going to wind up being screwed. We were also talking about having a yard sale, which we were discussing anyway. That might get us to the end of May or so, considering all the shit I have which I can sell. And then it might be down to the day-labor places to haul buckets or dig ditches or whatever. Fuck!

On the slightly happier side of things, we went to watch Watchment at the Movie Tavern yesterday. We had already told Corey, the former roommate, that we'd go watch it with him, since it'll be our first chance to see any of the old friends in more than a month, I think. The movie was all right, about what I'd expect for those superhero type things. Good special effects, a decent, if somewhat simple, story line, and actually not too bad of acting by the cast. A lot of those movies tend to be a little overacted, in my opinion, but this one was about what I'd think you would really expect if you saw masked superheros actually walking down the street.

The movie went till about 1:15 in the morning, so we both were about ready to just pass out when we got home. But there was this stupid fly that somehow made it into the apartment, and it decided that our room was the place to be. So we spent half an hour or more trying to swat the damned thing. It was hard to see against the brown of the walls, and whenever it landed, it seems like it intentionally picked places where it couldn't be reached easily, like right over the top of the TV. Eventually, we think it flew out into the main part of the house, so we were able to turn off the lights and get to sleep by a little past 2:00.

I woke up about six in the morning, and couldn't really sleep after that. I had the rest of the leftover coffee from yesterday and went upstairs to finish the taxes on the girlfriend's computer, since mine only has Windows 2000 on it, and the H&R Block site wants XP or better. Got that done, and I should get the refund in something like 8 to 15 days, in time to be able to help with the vacation if absolutely necessary. Although I'd like to move most of it to savings to let it at least try to draw those couple cents of interest. Since then, I've just been going through my StumbleUpon stuff
, and talking with the girlfriend once she got up. She's headed off to work now, and I need to follow soon, because I have to get my car inspected. Looks like I'm going to be putting a shitload more miles on it than I have so far, and I can't afford to get pulled over and given a ticket. And, if I don't get a new job, it's going to wind up getting repoed anyway, which is yet another of those lovely things that's never happened to me yet. Crossing my fingers that it won't...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Back at it...

So, I'm back at work after staying up too late last night and getting up too late this morning. I haven't heard anything from the boss about thoughts on the changes I've made to the contracts database, but today I'm not going to worry about that one. I'm going to put all of my programming efforts toward the new version of the gas cards program. Since the database structure hasn't changed, and I'm just trying to change the front end, it looks like two or three of my pages that I already had written for the old version work just fine. Since they're pretty much just report pages, I can keep them as-is and save a good deal of work that way. So now I really just have to do some modifications on the main page, perhaps to show some additional information on the main form and to fix the links and such, plus to get the button posting the right data when pushed, and then I need to create the form for adding a new card and for changing existing cards in the system. Shouldn't be that horribly difficult, but I guess we'll find out...

As one of the announcers just said, unbelievable. The Stars manage to give up a 4-2 lead with about three minutes left in the third period, and end up losing the game in overtime. Damn it...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I'm sitting here watching the Stars playing the Kings on the tube. The Stars had a nice 3-point lead with about four minutes left in the second period, but the Kings just scored two goals in the span of 33 seconds, turning it back into something of a nailbiter. Well, they have managed to get a goal back while I was writing that, so at least they'll have a 2-goal lead going into the third period. If they manage to hold on and win, they can jump two teams and lodge themselves into the final playoff spot, at least for the one night until they play Anaheim. And the Ducks are one of the two teams they'll hop over if they win, so beating them tomorrow would really help out the cause, giving them a little bit of a pad over at least the Ducks. We'll just have to see how it all shakes out, though...

I stayed at work a little later than usual, trying to work on an SQL view that I'm going to be using a whole lot, as long as I manage to keep my job after the next week. I didn't really get a huge amount of work done on the gas cards database, although I did at least get some done on documenting the contracts. Mostly I just screwed off, though, unfortunately. And then I forgot about going to get my car inspected until the girlfriend called me about 40 minutes after I got home. By that time, I was already cooking myself a snack and didn't really feel like getting out into the world. I guess I'll see if I can get the inspection done Saturday, and I'll just hope I don't get pulled over before that.

I've been pretty much just screwing off at the computer since I got home, too. I haven't even fired up any of the work projects, like I should, and I really hope I'll be able to get some kind of basic webpage up and running tomorrow so I can put it up on the server for the boss to look at over the weekend. I like the idea I have of making the primary interface a list view, with a change button to allow the user to do any available modifications to the card in question. That will make it a lot easier both on me and on the person using the system. And, with any luck, I'll be able to get it up and running incredibly quickly. We'll have to see, though...

For now, the third period is back on, and I don't really feel like doing much work this evening, so I'll vegetate through the rest of the game and then head off to bed...

I've done a little work on the bells and whistles for the contracts database, and I've done some work on the documentation, but now I'm finding my ambition flagging again. I upgraded my Flickr account again, so I can go back and see the thousand or so old images on there, as well as adding a bunch of the new pictures I've taken since I got down here to Texas. Almost a year's worth of pictures, and I don't think I've put one of them up on the web. Oh well. I think the hard part's going to be finding out which ones I've already uploaded and which I haven't, since I did have the Flickr account for a while after I moved to my old apartment, but I don't really know how many things I actually uploaded to it. Guess that might be one of the things I do this weekend as a time-waster, when I really should be working on my gas cards program.

In addition to the bits of work I've done on actual work, and in addition to upgrading the Flickr account, I've done a little rewriting to the index page for my website, and I've added a brief bit of a biography about myself. I'm thinking that I might head out the door a little early, since I have to get my car inspected this evening. And I'm just really, really not feeling the whole work thing right at the moment. I hate that...

Back at work. I've added a few little bells and whistles to the contracts database, and I'm starting to do some more work on the table of contents, but I can tell that I'm going to be doing serious work on it this evening, too, just to try to get it close to being fully done. The boss wants to see the documentation, the database, and wants to see what's being done with the gas cards application over the weekend. Which I suppose means I'd better get seriously busy on that, too. Damn procrastinator in me is going to drive me nuts one of these days.

The girlfriend called a bit ago and said that the cable is fixed at home. As I expected, they had hooked up the new splitter to a dead connection at the pole. In any case, I'm glad that's working, because I'm sure there will be a Stars game on tonight, and I might just sit there and watch it while I work on getting the gas cards application into some kind of shape...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I haven't done a whole lot of work on the database or the gas cards program today, unfortunately. And I pretty much just have until next Friday to finish the last of those. I should already be finished with contracts, but at least now I'm pretty much just down to adding a few little bells and whistles, cleaning up some cosmetics, and doing the documents for it. I did manage to do a little writing on my Roman Empire page and a little more cleanup on the Colosseum page.

I made dinner this evening. A couple of the salmon steaks that were still left in the freezer. I made a little sauce of some crab stock, mustard, chopped parsley, garlic and green onion, dijon mustard, and toasted sesame Asian dressing, all mixed with some vegetable oil. I sliced up a lemon and put a couple of slices on each steak, the covered them with the marinade and wrapped the whole mess in parchment paper. In the oven for about 20 minutes, and the main dish was done. I just made some Uncle Ben's rice for a side dish, and that was it for dinner.

Since then, I've pretty much just been sitting around watching stuff on TV. We watched a couple of episodes of Mythbusters, and then the girlfriend wanted to watch a new episode of Clean House. Since we currently only have the one operational TV, I figured I'd let her watch whatever she wanted for a while. After the show was over, she headed back upstairs to work on a project she's doing, and I watched a new episode of Man vs. Food. I'm pretty tired now, though, so it's off to bed pretty quickly, at least as soon as Kala is fed. Got to get a good night's sleep tonight, because I've got to get a decent day's work done tomorrow...

Stupid Charter...

So as I was sitting on the couch, I heard some voices outside the back of the house. The girlfriend (who didn't go to work today because of a bad headache) came out of the bedroom a while later and said that the cable was out. We weren't sure if it was because the bill was past due or what, but that seemed unlikely because the cable was still working in the living room.

It turns out that the voices I was hearing were those of the two guys from Charter who were working in the back yard. I asked them if they were doing stuff for our building, and they said that yes, they were disconnecting some of the illegal connections that might be there. I told them that they had disconnected one of our connections, and showed them where the outside location for each of ours was located. They said they'd get it fixed and apologized.

I went back inside and resumed working on my database documentation, after explaining the situation to the girlfriend. She went upstairs to look at something on her computer, and I didn't really worry much more about it. An hour or so later, I went in the bedroom and checked the TV. It still wasn't working, and by that time, the workers had already left. I went upstairs and checked, and that TV wasn't working either. I checked outside, and it looked like they had put a 3-way splitter in to connect all three of those connections, so I guess they must have disconnected it at the pole or something of that nature.

I called Charter and talked to someone for about five minutes, in between about half an hour of being on hold and listening to their stupid voice navigation system. It turns out that they can't get anyone back out here to fix their stupid foul-up until tomorrow morning between eight and ten. Idiots...

Staying at home, yet still working...

I called in sick today, although not really so much sick as injured. My neck is still feeling pretty bad, despite having taken a few ibuprofen when I first got up and then another couple just a little bit ago. I don't particularly want to go to work and find myself sitting in pretty much the exact same position for eight hours, staring at the screen and finding my neck as pretty well frozen into one position. That's what I've done before, and it certainly hasn't felt all that well for the next several days after. I'm hoping that staying home, getting away from the screen for a while, getting up and moving around a bit now and then, will keep it loose and let it actually heal up a good deal faster than it has in the past.

Despite staying home from work, I really do need to log in and get some more work done on finishing up the contracts database, plus I need to get a really good start on the gas cards website before I meet with the boss tomorrow morning. I'm sure he's going to want to see a copy of that little bastard before too long, too, and I've pretty nearly restarted it from scratch. So I guess I'd best put down the blogging had and get back to the programming side of things. Meh...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

So I demoed the contracts database this morning, and wound up with something like seven or eight errors that happened. That's not good, but at least I wasn't showing it to upper management or anything like that. Most of the errors were pretty easily fixed, or at least pretty easily worked around. I think most of them are already dealt with, and I have an idea for at least one other thing to add which will make life a lot easier for Deana. And, since she's the one who's really going to be using the beastie, making life easier on her is a good thing. Happy customers give good reviews, and that's what we want.

I stopped at the bank and deposited my cash today, and it doesn't look like the rent check has been deposited yet. Of course, at this point, the deposit still shows as pending, so it's very likely that the check will show up a the same time as far as the bank's concerned, and they'll ding me with some kind of fee. I guess I'll check it again tomorrow and find out.

In addition to doing a bunch of work on the database today, I also wrote a little essay about Roman gladiatorial combat. I noticed on my little visitor log that a lot of people were looking for information about what the thumbs up or thumbs down gestures meant in gladiatorial combat, so I figured I'd write up some of the information that I've heard over the past few years on the History Channel and similar places. We'll see if that starts getting any hits at all.

I've been mostly taking it easy this evening. I tweaked out my neck when I lay down on the bed after getting home this evening. Hopefully it won't be one of those things that keeps on dragging on for days, but I have the feeling it might. So, I've just mostly been sitting around here staring at the computer screen and watching some hockey. Right now, I'm watching the Stars and the Sharks, which has been a pretty decent game. And, whenever it's over, I guess I'll toddle my little self off to bed. Start the whole damned mess all over again tomorrow...

Monday, March 2, 2009

I'm nearly finished with the contracts database, finally. I think there's just a little bit of cosmetic work on some reports and such, a tiny bit of validation that all the necessary fields are filled out properly, and the documentation. I talked to Deana, the lady who will be using the system for the most part, and got some ideas of the reports she wanted, and I spent most of the day getting those created. I'm going to demo the whole mess for her tomorrow, so I'm trying to do a little bit of the finishing touches this evening, along with watching a hockey game. I stopped on the way home and paid the rent, and I realized after I got back home that if all the different outstanding payments and checks and such go through at the wrong time, I'm going to wind up bouncing a check. That's because I didn't deposit the money that the girlfriend gave me for her part of the rent yet. I looked at the bank account while I was at work, and I thought I was okay, but I checked again when I got home, and it turns out that my car payment has not cleared the bank yet. So, I really hope that nothing bounces before I stop and deposit the cash tomorrow morning.

So, I guess I should head off to do some work on the ol' database, maybe actually get that little son of a bitch off my chest...

This Day in History...

I got my little "This Day in History" message from the History Channel website this morning, as I usually do. What I found interesting about today's message was that the headliner was that it's Dr. Seuss' birthday. Then down in the "other stuff" sort of area, they mentioned that this is the anniversary of Texas' declaration of independence from Mexico. Being a still somewhat newly minted Texan, I guess this is one of those dates that I probably ought to go ahead and mark down to remember...

Back at the gristmill...

So, I'm back in the office, feeling rather tired. We went to bed some time around 12:30 last night, and I didn't get a really great night's sleep. So now I'm sitting here feeling like I'm just about to doze off, which isn't really a good thing. Especially since I have to finish off all the little bits and pieces of the contract database, some of which might not really be quite so little. I still have to do most of the validation on the data entry form, making sure that the person entered in all of the really necessary data before they save the contract. In addition, there are a bunch of reports that I need to get written, and there are a few of the forms that just need to be cleaned up quite a bit. And then, of course, there's the documentation which still needs to be mostly done for the whole thing, and then the technical documentation, which I know that the boss is going to want before he signs off on the whole project. Too damned much stuff and too little time to do it in...

And here I sit, not wanting to do any of it...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Weekend wind-up...

So, I wound up doing extremely little toward completing the database yesterday. The girlfriend and I wound up playing a couple of games of Scrabble, because I just really wasn't feeling any ambition toward work. I know that's exactly the thing that causes most of the issues in the first place, but that's just how I felt. We ended up splitting the games. She kicked my ass in the first one, and I narrowly edged her out on the second. We were going to play Cranium, but that one takes at least a couple of teams of two, and obviously the two of us didn't exactly add up to that many. We really need to find a new group of friends to hang out with...

I got up this morning a little after ten this morning, and I had to go out and run some errands before getting started on doing the programming stuff. I ran down to Petsmart and picked up a dozen cans of cat food for the little beastie, then headed over to Home Depot. I got some wire to hang the mirror over the fireplace, but they didn't have the wires that already had the loops on the ends. Hopefully we can tie the ends into decent enough loops to be able to hang the thing up without any problems. I also got a little mini paint roller and a couple of refill roller pads for it, so the girlfriend can finish doing the painting in the bathroom and the bedroom. After Home Depot, it was down to Kroger to pick up some buttermilk so she could make some biscuits and some ice cream, just because.

It only took me an hour or so to finish the shopping, although I was supposed to also stop at the bank and deposit some money, so I can write a check for the rent. I didn't stop at the bank, but I'm going to have to do so at lunch tomorrow, I guess. I just hope that the bank doesn't do one of those weird things where they post the check before the deposit. Otherwise, it's going to be another overdraft fee or something of that nature. Damn it. Guess I'll just do what I can and hope everything clears properly.

When I got home, the house smelled like cookies. The girlfriend made some chocolate chip cookies, which were rather tasty. I had cookies and coffee, and then half an hour or so later, had some of the biscuits she had made. They were a bit flat, but very tasty. After that, it was just about time to start working on the database. I got started right around noon, I think...

I made very good progress through most of the day, despite watching the Stars get thrashed by the Penguins during the afternoon. Five straight losses at home for Dallas, which is the first time they've done lost that many at home since 1978, when they were still the Minnesota North Stars. Looks like it's going to be tough going if they're going to make the playoffs this year. Oh well...

Since the end of the hockey game, I've been watching a few history and science type shows, and working on the database either during the shows or during the commercials. Despite spending so much time watching the tube, I did manage to get most of the view/edit forms done, so now I really just have most of the reports to do and finishing up the new contract form, mostly the validation and a few little automation details with it. And the documentation, of course. In any case, I think I'm good to do a basic demo tomorrow for the boss, and then a full demo the day after. We'll see how all that goes.

A couple hours ago, the girlfriend made dinner and asked if I wanted to watch a show about quantum physics and the nature of time. I watched the show with her and had dinner, and since then I've not really been feeling all that ambitious about doing any more programming. I'm hoping I'm far enough to be able to get stuff done tomorrow morning, but in any case, I'm not going to do much more this evening. I've been watching a show about World War II in the Pacific, and whenever that's open, I think I might just wind up going to bed. I should do some other useful stuff, but I just really don't think I'm going to. So, back to my show...