Monday, August 28, 2006

My Trip to the Fair

(Why do I feel like the next line needs to be "by TMWA's six year old alter ego, little TMWA, or tmwa."?)

Scary looking carny rides, lots of animals, and tons of junk food. Not having been to many fairs, I had to sample quite a bit. Started with "Garbage Fries", which are french fries with cheese, chili, sour cream, jalepenos, ranch dip, salsa, onions, and who knows what else. Then had a fantastic rib dinner from the local fire department, and finished with a funnel cake. (And before you ask, no, I did not sleep well that night. But it might have been worth it; the jury is still out.)

There were also animals, like a very fluffy bunny:

Or a bunny which thought it was a sphinx:

(You can tell I like bunnies.) I didn't get a picture of the cow which sprang a leak just as we were walking behind her. I had no idea those things were full of water! I hope they got it plugged up; I'm sure at the rate it was going, there was just going to be a flabby cow skin on the floor in a few minutes.

Oh, and ponies. Ponies are cool too. Not as cool as bunnies, but cool.

And then there is the large tent where almost a week earlier various produce won awards. Of course, a week sitting outside in the heat doesn't really set well with produce, which at best was getting pretty wilty:

You should have seen the blackberries. Just a pile of little nodules in yuck and a puddle of sticky juice.

I'll definitely have to go back next year. But find a way to eat smaller portions. (Of the junk food; I wasn't sampling the wilty produce. Even I have standards. And yes, I know I ate the Garbage Fries.)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

1,720 Miles in Six Days, or What I Did on my Summer Vacation

Here I post the brief log of my trip last week down to see my partner M, that others may be edified.

Tuesday, 8/15, 11:00 am: Left home no more than an hour behind schedule, which I feel is doing good for me. Have seven hours to go, but will see M tonight, so I can be moderately happy.

11:30 am: Remembered what I forgot at home. Did not turn around.

7:00 pm: MapQuest got me to Kentucky, even past a section of highway which turned into a 35 mph road through a residential area, but on finishing the last leg, I am in the middle of nowhere with no Day's Inn in sight. I look for a place to turn around on a road which is now two lanes each way with a median, and eventually find my way back to the hotel. I have to go past quite some way again until I can cross to the other side and come back. My partner later tells me that the correct way to do this is to go over the concrete median, which does in fact have moderately sloped edges to make this easy. I spend the rest of the trip jumping these medians somewhat guiltily, although everyone else is doing it.

11:00 pm: Am coming to realize that sharing a full-size bed in a motel (M's house will not be vacant until Friday) means that I will not be sleeping tonight. Will get hotel tomorrow. Will get nicer hotel. Holiday Inn Express down the street looks good, although we have not yet found a way to get to the parking lot; it seems to be surrounded by fences on all sides, but there are cars in the lot.

Wednesday, 8/16, 9:00 am: Drop off the other half, and find my way to the Holiday Inn. (It requires going down a side road and then sneaking through an abandoned restaurant's parking lot. Interestingly enough, the abandoned restaurant has a giant banner on front which reads "NOW OPEN!".) Hotel has one room (a suite) available that night, which is thankfully non-smoking. Explore the campus a while afterward.

4:00 pm: Enter room and find it reeking of smoke. Go downstairs to complain. Hotel eventually swaps my room with someone else who is getting in later that night. I discover that I seem to now be in the handicap accessible room (with all the interesting bars and whatnot in the shower and extra wide doorways). Hotel still will not let me park in handicapped spots.

11:00 pm: Hear sirens nearby. Hope they are not here to rescue a disabled person who slipped in the shower after being overcome by smoke fumes.

Thursday, 8/17: Day mostly passes without incident. Spend more time on campus, which is built in the valley of some serious mountains, and is as a result extremely vertical. Had this brought strongly to mind when I noticed the labels on one building's elevator included something like:

First Floor: Smith Street ...
Sixth Floor: Jones Street ...

Very trippy. But be careful not to trip at the top of the hill.

Friday, 8/18, 8:00 am: Today we all leave our hotels and get to move to the new house. We try to pack all the remaining stuff into my car, because M's brother has already left with the other car. After some extended efforts, I feel I am ready to revolutionize the field of packing theory and we are able to check out. Movers in Atlanta are simultaneously beginning to pack up the apartments to travel up here.

Noon: We go to lunch, then to the Realtor to tie up loose ends and see about keys. Turns out Realtor had left a message earlier in the week (which no one got) that the previous owners wanted to stay through Saturday to finish stuff at the house.

4:00 pm: M and brother decide they need to retrieve their mother from Atlanta, and so plan a trip down that night to get her and the three cats and come back immediately. I would be helpful since they will have to bring back two cars with three people and three cats for seven hours, but I will need to leave my car somewhere. Somewhat reluctantly leave car in the garage of the house under care of previous home owners.

6:30 pm: Start seven hour trip to Atlanta. Nothing like a good early start, and this is nothing like one.

Saturday, 8/19, 2:00 am: Arrive in Atlanta. Surprise M's mother. (By phone. Coming into the apartment unexpectedly in that neighborhood would cause more surprise than would be good for anyone.) Crash as best possible.

9:00 am: Up again and moving. Much to be done; final cleaning, trash and random junk to be moved. There's tons still to do. Much was left by the movers. Part of the difficulty is that M's mother was left with too much to do by herself to get ready for movers and finalize the move-out, and there was no way to get help to her.

1:00 pm: Find someone who will the clean apartments for a fee the next week. Also agrees to sell a left over washer and drier in the brother's apartment.

6:00 pm: Am sitting with two paper shredders and a giant pile of papers. One shredder is too small, and the other only has a CD slot which still works. I'm sitting together with my adopted second mother, feeding papers in as fast as possible. It feels much like a scene from some fleeing third-world dictator's office in the final hours.

8:30 pm: Getting close to finished, but must eat and desperately need a shower. When I say finished, I mean giving up. The piles of stuff still left everywhere are staggering. The screams of the woman who agreed to clean will be audible from Kentucky on Monday. M and I are traveling separately from mom and brother, so we separate for dinner, which allows us to visit our favorite Indian place one last time, which is wonderful. Back to apartment, showers taken, car packed up, and it's finally time to get the remaining cat in the car. (Other two cats went in the first car.) We put the car in the garage and I attempt to take the cat out to the passenger side while M waits to leave. After several iterations of this attempt (and a fair number of claw wounds), M has to take the cat to the car. (We have the cat which does not travel well.)

Midnight: We are finally leaving Atlanta. (What I said earlier about good early starts? Strike that; I mean that now.) Cat is climbing around car and howling. I do my best to stroke him (when I can find where he has crawled off to) or hold him when he will let me. Note about cats in a car: They are always desperately in need of looking out the window, but as soon as they do, they are not happy with what they see. I think it would be better if they just didn't look.

Sunday, 8/20, 2:00 am: Cat actually seems to be sleeping some in the back, although an occasional bump or lights wake him and he hollers for a few minutes. M is now nodding regardless of my best efforts to keep him awake, so we decide to swap. First attempt is at an exit with a gas station that turns out to be closed, although lights are still on. We abort the idea of swapping places however when M notices there is someone sneaking around back behind where we are stopped, so we go on to the next exit. Next exit has open gas station and convenience store, so we stock up and I take over driving. M also receives a free gospel music tape in the store. Discover that Coca-Cola Blak (a mixture of Coke and coffee) is pretty vile. (This coming from an avid Coke fan, although granted not a big coffee fan.) Thankfully, I'm actually still pretty alert, mostly owing to the fact that poor sleeping habits have left me with an average bedtime of about 3:00 am this summer.

6:00 am: About two hours or so from final destination, we have to check into a hotel because I can no longer stay awake either. (And M is no help; he has started carrying on conversations I'm not privy to.) Find hotel that takes cats. Take cat, food, litter box, and little else into room. Cat hides under bed. We collapse and sleep.

1:00 pm: Ready to go again, and cat is calmer and now moving around hotel room to check out his new home. Cat is not happy to be taken back out to car. M calms cat by playing gospel music tape from convenience store last night. Cat converts to Christianity. Converts back when Jesus does not rescue him from car.

3:30 pm: Arrive at new house, which is large and lovely. Will camp there tonight; the moving van arrives tomorrow, and I will leave to go home. M goes in to teach at 9:00 so I plan to leave about then, just before moving van comes. Am somewhat exhausted, but glad I could help. Am also relieved to find my car is undamaged in the garage.

Monday, 8/21, 8:30 am: Damage my car trying to back out of the garage, by scraping off driver's side mirror. Now the dilemma: Fixing right will take time for parts to be ordered somewhere, but I must be back tomorrow. On the other hand, I can't drive seven hours with a mirror hanging off the car. I drop off M for class and go to hunt for some glue to see if I can re-attach the mirror.

4:00 pm: After trying two superglues with no luck, an epoxy seems to (eventually) be holding the mirror on. I take M out to lunch/dinner before I go, and to see if the thing will hold on while I drive. It seems to.

5:00 pm: Leave Kentucky. My one hour late departure on the original trip down doesn't seem so shabby anymore. I buy duct tape just in case the epoxy gives out suddenly at some point.

7:00 pm: Stop in Charleston to visit my bank, which does not have any branches in Pennsylvania. (I'd joined a credit union in PA, but hadn't received my materials yet.) Got to deposit a bunch of checks I'd been accumulating.

8:00 pm: Remembered I had also meant to take more cash out, since I was completely out. Did not even think about turning around.

Tuesday, 8/22, 1:00 am: Arrive home, mirror miraculously still in place.

And that concludes the tale, which is probably a cautionary example of something or other.

As an addendum, the side mirror has stayed in place ever since, although it's not quite flush with the car, which leaves me in another quandary: Do I try to get someone to fix this right, or just leave it as it is?

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Beer Chronicles

Since everyone up here seems to drink a lot, I figured I'd better get started. I've recently been doing some beer sampling to find out if there are any beers I actually like. (Up to now I've mostly agreed with my grandmother, who just said "pour it back in the horse it came out of.") But plenty of people seem to like them, and I figured I'd really just tried a few, mostly pretty cheap brands, so what the heck; maybe I'd find something I like.

The first thing I found out may be a partial explanation to why everyone drinks so much in Pennsylvania: you cannot buy any alcohol in a grocery store. My first thought was to just find a recommendation and try out one or two things picked up at the local supermarket, but the state in it's infinite wisdom thinks it's better if you have to have specialty stores which sell nothing but huge cases of hooch. Of course, I was a little hesitant to pick up a full case of anything I wasn't sure if I'd like or not, so I opted to take advantage of a local "happy hour" organized by friends and start sampling at a bar. The other plus to this is that there were plenty of people willing to give me advice.

My starter beer was a Yuengling lager. Interestingly, Yuengling is a Pennsylvania beer, and it's also the oldest brewery in the US. So I gave this a shot. Yup, tastes like beer. Which is to say, while it's not a horrible experience, I have no urge to try it a second time.

Next week, I wanted to branch out and try something quite different, so I picked something called Blue Moon which people told me was more of a "fruity" beer. I like fruity things. I like sweet fruity desert wines. I like fruity mixed drinks. I'm fruity. I noticed that to emphasize the point about the fruitiness, the beer was even served with a slice of orange on the glass. I was at a loss as to whether that was purely decorative or if I should squeeze the orange and dump it in, and my companions were no more sure. I tried both ways. I couldn't tell any difference. In fact, I couldn't tell any difference between this and the previous beer, so this is also going into my "not a winner" column.

During dinner at an Irish pub style restaurant before my next bar date, I got a suggestion to try a cider called Strongbow, as it might be more my style. I have to grant, this was not bad. It still doesn't make it on my "Ooh, I want that" list, but it's on my "I may drink that again" list. It may help that it has a high alcohol content, and after two I was nicely toasted.

My final experiment was in the "humorous beverage" category. I call it that because when one friend suggested I could try a Guinness stout, everyone else laughed. But I was game; I was looking to try the full range of tastes. After all, it was Hobbes who said "Tigers don't know if they like ice cream until they've tried every flavor." (Were you thinking of the right Hobbes when you first read that? If not, I'd like to gently remind you of just who you're reading right now.)

So next happy hour, I ordered the Guinness. I could at least recognize a difference between this and every other beer I'd tried, but it wasn't a huge difference. My summary of the basic problem with this and all the others: They all taste like beer.

I feel safe in wrapping up my experiments now, and writing my conclusions: Having sampled some variety of beers, I have come to the conclusion that I don't really care for it. Cider however is passable as something which tastes almost, but not quite, entirely unlike beer. I'm sticking with Coke.

Friday, August 11, 2006


I have office keys, and I didn't even have to dress in drag to obtain them.

I should explain.

Keys were requested for me over a month ago. From what I hear, I'm lucky that the physical plant got them ready so quickly. For security reasons, the department cannot simply give me the keys turned in by the person whose office I took. Those keys must be sent back by our department and much paperwork must ensue. Other keys would then be issued to me (at some point) by the physical plant if I were deemed worthy. Since I couldn't be trusted with my own keys to get into my office, I had to use the master key whenever I wanted in. But I digress.

On Monday, I found out my keys were ready, so I went to the physical plant to get them. Only one person was still in the office, since it was around a quarter after two, and she told me the office closed at two in the summer. (I'm glad I didn't come after everyone left; I didn't see any posted hours.) But she looked for the keys, and found a labeled packet of keys to my office and the environs. Then she gave me a funny look.

"You don't look like a Carol*."

The keys were for the right places, and had my last name, but the first name was Carol. So now I'm wondering if there is any way to get around this, considering that I make an ugly woman. (Well, that's not entirely true; I was told I had good legs. But I'm digressing again.)

Thankfully, I got the keys (in my own name no less) the next day when I came back (well before two) to a fully staffed office. In fact, I ended up with no less than five keys, which seems like overkill. I'm going to have to find some colored stickers to put on these suckers, or I'm going to spend half my life trying to read and remember five different codes printed on the keys. (I thought I had trouble with this when I had three keys.)

You know what's even better? The keys all seem to work in the intended doors. Really, I'm amazed. I thought surely narrative causality would result in at least one key that didn't work, preferably the one which actually opens my office. It seemed like the only way the story could end, but instead it ended with me sneaking over at night with loads of boxes from my old office and unpacking them.

So I'm settled in, more or less. The office is not bad, although not as nice as the office I left (that would have been nearly impossible 'though). It will take some getting used to.

Once again, "I'm home."
*Not my real false name.