Saturday, October 27, 2007

Visiting my Sister

A few days before driving down to Virgina to visit my sister I was leaving for work and quickly dropped the top to the car. I guess it was a little colder then I thought since the rear plastic window was frozen and cracked instead of folding. Well replacing the frayed top was on my list of things to do, but we would be making the drive with a crappy looking rear window.
My sister S. lives in South of Washington DC while her husband is getting his MBA. In the vein of just being able to jump in the car and go somewhere we decided to visit them. I guess we were expecting an 8 hour drive to go a little faster. I did enjoy driving down where it was a little warmer but we arrived Friday night/Saturday morning a little later than anticipated and I felt bad for waking them up. (At least it was not unannounced.)
Of course they were proud of where they lived and wanted to show us around. We went to the Saturday market in town and had fun seeing everything there. From there they took us on a drive of the countryside and we rode the ferry over to Surry, Virginia. A funny thing we saw there was a run down part of town that the nicest looking thing was a marble monument listing the virtues of a confederate general and how he defended the "southern way of life and values". The sad part was that it was fairly new.
We came back across the the ferry and drove to Jamestown. Now this was the Jamestown experience as it was now called since they found the real Jamestown. Like anywhere else they can make history sound good. I found it very interesting but would have been just as happy with them saying a "bunch of desperate people came here trying to make a buck" as "many people hungry for adventure and a new life". None of us were really into re-enactments so we didn't stick around to long.
Colonial Williamsburg was really interesting. That, and it was just so big. There were so many preserved buildings. The architecture was very cool. The thing that I noticed was the lack of rain gutters, instead they paved a groove in the ground.
We stopped at a ice cream hut called Sno-To-Go that had a different take on the Slushy. They called it a Stuffed Snoball. It was layers of shaved ice with flavoring mixed with layers of soft serve ice cream. Messy? yes. Good? surprisingly so. For my gourmet review: The smooth texture and flavor of the soft serve ice cream contrasted well with the bright colors and flavor of the shaved ice.
My sister has been working on her hobby of being a gourmet chef so we were treated to a delicious dinner of flavors I wouldn't have thought of together and then they introduced us to and we played our first game of "Settlers of Catan". I remember people at school having game nights with it and I could see how it could be a very involved game.
On Sunday we enjoyed the drive home with the top down because of the warm weather.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Trip to Arizona

My first business trip at my job I was going to a ASSETS conference in Tempe Arizona. This meant it was my first try at trying to use the company travel reservation program. When fiddling around with the hours I rolled it around to PM without realizing that it also rolled the day back too. Of course the company bought the cheapest tickets that were non-refundable, so I was arriving a day early, without a hotel reservation. I didn't realize my mistake until a week before leaving. I felt like it was my fault so I didn't want to ask for a reschedule or have to explain an extra hotel day so I decided to play it by ear. As it always turns out my plane was late so I really didn't feel like getting a hotel.
I instead enjoyed a late night drive of Phoenix. It was weird being on the west coast again, especially a warmer climate. There were parking lots everywhere. The roads were devoid of pot holes. Admittedly it was the desert but there was space everywhere. I could not resist stopping at Waffle house for some pecan waffles that I like so much. Both my wife and my friend D. had jokingly asked me to get them a souvenir so I bought them both a small cactus from Walmart which was open.
My friend D. was writing a book about the desert so I took a drive out of Phoenix to take some pictures of the Saguaro Cactus. It was very interesting being able to watch the sunrise over the desert. The quiet calm and small breeze made it so that I could feel my stress and tension just flow away. I then came back, checked into the hotel early, and caught up on my sleep.
The conference itself was very interesting. It is about using technology for people with disabilities. As with most of these conferences I took lots of notes as ideas popped into my head that I will research later to see if other people had already thought of them. As part of the conference they had busses to take everyone over to Arizona State University computer lab. I admit that I spent most of my time in the haptics lab. While it was fun to pull off virtual colon polyps the most interesting part was the equipment that I we were able to play with. As a stroke of luck my thesis advisor had her paper accepted there so we were able to chat a lot and she was also very interested in the haptics they had there too.
In the mornings I had brought my rollerblades so I went blading to keep myself in shape. It was weird with it being so warm here and wearing shorts when it was already cold in New York. On the second morning a co-worker found out I was blading and went running with me.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Leaf Peeping

For the first thing to check off our "To-do list" was to see the changing fall leaves in the north east. This is serious business here, the term they use here to refer to us would be leaf peepers. The first thing we did was to check the leaf maps and leaf changing forecasts to go to the right areas. We booked our bed-and-breakfasts and we were off.
Our first stop was a cranberry festival in Wareham, Massachusetts. It just happened to be that week and I was interested in seeing how they flooded the bogs to harvest them. Yes it was touristy but so was everything else we were doing this weekend. It was actually quite interesting but there was only so many cranberries I could eat. We did get there early enough to see them sucking them up. I couldn't resist and picked a couple out of the water wiped them off and ate them. I must say they taste better fresh than when store bought.
We saw it all to fast so we decided to go see Plymouth Rock. After checking that off our list of things to do checked into the first Bed and Breakfast. and they recommended a nearby town for dinner. While walking around the old town we saw a wedding in one of the squares. Then it caught me, there were two brides. I thought if it were me I wouldn't want to pay for all the trouble of the all the pomp and circumstance of a normal wedding without the legality. Then I realized, wait we are in Massachusetts, this wedding is real. I suddenly felt real happy for everyone involved since they could all enjoy a real wedding instead of just having the ceremony.
The next morning we drove to Salem. It was October so everything was already decked out with extra witches everywhere. While very touristy I think they did a good job of acknowledging and paying respect to the innocent people that died because of superstitions.
We continued our drive up into Vermont. There were not that many more trees that were colorful then where we lived. The B&B here was great though. The people were very friendly. I would recommend Applewood Manor to anyone. The next morning we visited a marble museum because we got in free.
We drove home the next morning with still very few trees that had started to change colors. Everyone says it was just to warm which was not normal this late in the year. I know, everyone was saying global warming, but it could have just as easily been a warm winter. (I would rather rely on ALL of the data that says there is global warming rather than only my own personal observance making it true.)
We originally planned a four hour drive per day triangle but ended up driving a little more. It felt like the right amount in the car and made for a very relaxing weekend.