Nov. 23rd, 2016 03:35 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Okay, look, LJ. It's not that I don't love you. I just don't know what we're doing anymore. It's like after all this time, I hardly know you. Maybe we've changed. I WANT to post more, I want to share, I want to interact, I do. But the time flies by, one day after another, and it just doesn't happen. It's not you, it's me. I feel like I need an LJ reboot, somehow. So to that end, last week I combed through my flist and removed a whole bunch of people. Most were people who abandoned the LJ ship years ago, but who I still kept listed in case they ever come back. But they aren't coming back. I know that now. I accept it. I also removed dead communities, and a few people who are still active but who I never really connected with, and/or had otherwise been meaning to remove--absolutely no offense intended, all the best to those folks. My LJ has always been 99.5% public anyway, and I don't really expect to change that, so feel free to follow me if you like. But I kinda want to get my friends page down to just the people I feel a real connection with, if that makes sense. So that's what I'm going to try as this year winds down and the new one rolls in.

So hey, my last post was November 3--what's happened in the world since then, anything noteworthy? Ahahahahahaha, I kill me. I'm not going to belabor the horrendous new world in which we woke up on November 9, enough has been said about that everywhere else, and if you actually want my political ramblings we should connect on FB. Suffice it to say that I was not pleased, and every day of this transition period feels more and more (to borrow a Glen Phillips lyric) like a train wreck, that could have been avoided, in a third-world country, by a long stretch of farmland, where the waters had run high and run the topsoil down the river so that next year there would be no crops. But it is, as they say, what it is. Now we resist, now we defend those who find targets on their backs, now we refuse to let hatred and graft and incompetence and delusion and actual neo-Nazism become normalized. That's all we can do, until we can take it all back.

In other news, there was our family road trip up to northern Georgia, which went quite well. There was a drought going on, and a wildfire that made for some smoky mornings, but aside from that the weather was gorgeous and we saw and did lots of good stuff. So here's a batch of photos from the trip:

Clicky! )
Okay, that's about it for now. I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving, or just a nice weekend. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Well, pretty soon, anyway. I'm working today, off tomorrow to do some stuff around the house and pack the van full of stuff, and then Saturday morning we head out on our road trip up to northern Georgia. Seems like whenever we plan a trip, often as not it falls through for some reason, so I hadn't spared too much thought for this one until the past couple weeks, but I'm fairly excited now.

As is my wont, I drafted a tentative itinerary for each day, which I know sounds a bit anal. But hey, I like to have a plan, even if the day comes and we toss the plan out the window. Putting that together gives me an idea of what options we have in each general area, which things cluster together, which things are higher on my wanna-do list, and forces me to think about the timing of getting from one to the next. So it usually ends up working out pretty well. We're at the cabin for 3 full days, so those days we can sort of wing depending on what we feel like doing each day--or just pick a direction and run with it. But for the drive up I definitely wanted to sketch out an agenda, since we're stopping for a night to do a thing or two around Atlanta, and want to otherwise break up the drive a bit. On the way home, we plan to push through in one day, I expect with a stop or two along the way.

Anyway, I've been looking at which hikes and waterfalls I'd like to do. I'm trying to keep everything to 2 miles or less, round trip. As much as I'd love to hike all day, the girls do have their limits. :) And most days I'm trying to include some non-hiking stuff, like Babyland General Hospital (the home of Cabbage Patch dolls). The girls have never had or cared about those per se, but I think they'll enjoy seeing the place, and I'd be surprised if we don't walk out of there with at least one doll for someone. Maybe my wife!

I think the top thing on my must-do list is the Hurricane Falls trail at Tallulah Gorge State Park. It looks pretty awesome, especially with the suspension bridge and many hundreds of stair steps. Hopefully everyone can keep up! The views look awesome. I've got a number of other waterfall hikes on the list, though I'm sure we won't get to all of those. And speaking of views, I think we'll drive up to the top of Brasstown Bald. Looks like we might have just missed the peak of fall color up there, but there should still be some around. That will be a treat for us all, since Florida isn't too big for fall color!

And the weather looks fantastic, so hopefully everything will be awesome. I just hope the girls will go along with everything with minimal complaint. The younger two especially, they can be quite stubborn when they don't want to do something, so I kinda imagine some episodes of having to drag them along kicking and screaming, literally in Amy's case. We shall see.

So yeah, I'll probably not being paying much attention to LJ until we get back, so keep the major news to a minimum while I'm gone, yeah? For sure don't go electing a megalomaniacal narcissist tangerine-tinted dumpster fire as President while I'm gone. Okay? Promise?

Hiya LJ!

Oct. 3rd, 2016 04:29 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

I dunno, I don't really want to bore you with my photos from NYC, mainly because I'm not especially happy with them. I can't even really say why, but they feel more like snapshots than usual. Out of practice, perhaps. But it was a nice day in the city. The above is from the Empire State Building's observation deck, which I visited a little before sunset, which was nice. It was packed up there, though. Like whoa. Central Park was pretty similar, which isn't surprising since it was such a gorgeous day. I think the high temperature was right around 70F, which was a very refreshing change after a summer in the mid-90s down here.

Anyway, the quick recap: Flew into LaGuardia on a smooth red-eye flight, and caught a Lyft (my first!) to Penn Station in Manhattan. Stowed my luggage there and set off on foot. Visited Herald Square, Bryant Park, the library (closed, unfortunately), Times Square, popped in for a quick peek at St. Patrick's (it was Sunday so a service was underway). Then to Central Park (did I mention it was packed?), where I walked for a bit. Caught a cab over to the west side for the Intrepid Museum, which was pretty decent. Then another Lyft to the ESB before walking back over to Penn Station to catch my train to Connecticut.

Actually, one more photo:

Exciting, right? It's a hunk of iron stuck in a rock! But I was thrilled to find it. You see, in the early days of New York City, the now well-known notion of the (mostly) orthogonal and evenly-spaced grid of streets and avenues in Manhattan was a new idea. And urban parks were rare, so Central Park had no place in the original plan. Starting in 1811, a man named John Randel (the same man who designed the grid layout in the first place) began the process of marking where each intersection would be, by means of iron rods or marble monuments. Most of those markers were of course removed as the streets were built, and others disappeared to the ravages of time and humanity. But a few remain, especially in places where streets were planned but never built. And this one is there in Central Park, marking the never-built intersection of 6th Avenue and 65th Street. It's actually pretty much right out in the open, surely passed within feet by many thousands of people every year. But I'd wager hardly any of them ever notice it, let alone have any idea what it is. So I thought that was pretty special, to seek out and find this little piece of history, a simple iron rod set in its place two centuries ago and left to watch as one of the world's greatest cities sprang up all around it.

The visit to Stamford was pretty okay. It was nice to actually meet the people I've been working with by phone and e-mail for the past couple months. And we covered a lot of stuff, but not the most top-of-mind thing, which is how our organization will actually look when all is said and done. I think my Presumptive New Boss (PNB) really thought it would be settled by the time we got together, but no such luck. Maybe within the next few weeks. It's certainly 99.9% obvious that I'm destined for his team, but exactly what form that will take seems a little less clear. And some of it may depend on whether I'm willing to relocate to CT, which frankly I'm not. Even if finances didn't constrain us to our house here, it's not an area we'd really choose to move to, and it's not like this is my dream job that I'd chase anywhere. So I'm planning to stick around here, and if that means the job and I eventually part ways, I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

In other news, we got the information on the pension payout, and... underwhelming is putting it mildly. I don't know what math they used to calculate it, but it was a lot less than I was minimally expecting, and FAR less than I was hoping. So refinancing the house is basically a non-starter. We can at least pay off the cars and some other small things, which will put some money back in the budget each month. And there will be some left over, which can go to trips and whatnot. Bottom line, it still beats a kick in the nuts, that's for sure. But I can't help but be disappointed that it wasn't the game-changer I was hoping for.

Speaking of whatnot, I did get permission to use some to get myself a new camera. My venerable 7D has exhibited a couple of concerning symptoms recently, which made me realize the thing is very nearly 5 years old. And as much as I use it, that's gotta put the shutter at or over its expected lifespan. So I found a great deal* on a 7D Mark II--I figure I may as well stick with the crop sensor since for most of the work I do it's a benefit, and the shooting speed is crucial for my HDR predilections. Hopefully the high-ISO performance is improved, and I think it adds some other nice upgrades as well. That should arrive in a couple days, something to look forward to. And good timing, as I have a photoshoot this weekend with a family I work with every year. I'll bring the old camera as backup, just in case. :)

There's probably more, but that's plenty for now. I hope your week is off to a fine start!

* Photographer friends, let me throw out a tentative plug here for Canon Price Watch. I was planning to just snag a 7D2 body at Best Buy since I have their credit card and they do no-interest financing, plus it was on Canon instant rebate for $1499 ($300 off the usual price). But none of the stores nearest to me had it in stock, so I Googled and came across CPW, which mentioned a deal on the body PLUS the genuine Canon battery grip for $1349 total. The battery grip alone retails for $200, so yeah, that's a great deal. CPW seemed a bit shady, somehow, at first--on the CPW site you submit your name and e-mail address, then they e-mail you with a few potential deals on the product you're after. You reply with which deal you want, along with your name and address, and only then do they actually e-mail you the info on which store you're dealing with, and a link to the deal you selected. In my case, it turned out to be a camera dealer out of Ontario. But hey, no sales tax, free shipping, and I figured if it was a scam I'd just reverse the charge, right? So I bit, and got the shipping notice from Canada Post within just a few hours. That was Friday afternoon, and the camera should arrive Wednesday, which was actually the best Amazon Prime said they could do anyway. If it's truly new-in-box product with a valid Canon warranty and all that, I will be a CPW customer from now on, no question. I still want a Canon 100-400mm, after all. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I took Hermione and Amy to Magic Kingdom this past Monday. Hallie didn't come because she's not a roller coaster fan (yet, anyway) and we were planning to ride a couple. Space Mountain (Amy's first time on that one), and I finally scored Fast Passes for the (relatively) new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. It was all of our first time on that one, because I never see available FPs for it, and the standby lines are almost always 60-120 minutes when we go. And we live here, so we're damned if we'll wait that long for anything! Anyway, I was worried how Amy would do on Space Mountain since it's dark and all, but she'd done Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom with me a few weeks ago and loved it, even though it had more dark parts than I remembered. So no worries, her first words when we pulled into the unload station at SM were, "Can we do it again?" Heh. And then we all loved the Mine Train--that may be the smoothest coaster I've ever experienced, very nice indeed. Other than that we did Peter Pan, the Haunted Mansion, and the Mad Hatter's Tea Party to kill time between FPs. I must say, it's kinda nice to be able to pre-book rides with the FP+ system these days. Even so, I suspect when our passes expire next year we may be done with the Disney parks, at least for a while. I tend to get a pass because I occasionally book photo sessions at the parks and it pays for the pass, but as a family I think the girls are starting to grow out of it, and/or just generally be Disney'd out. Yes, it's possible. :) So maybe we'll go for Universal passes next year, unless I hear we're still doing our company event out there. I rather expect not in the post-merger world, but who knows?

What else.. the wife's parents are coming for a visit. They get in Saturday evening, and leave on Wednesday. I'm taking Tuesday and Wednesday off, though I don't think we really have much planned. They're both Trump supporters, so let's just say it should be interesting. I think politics will be off the table as a topic of discussion.

Thinking about my day in NYC coming up in a few weeks! I haven't really planned too much out since it's just one day--I may end up just seeing where my feet take me. Central Park is the one place I know I really want to spend some time, that's really an incredible place in my mind. I hope to find some of the nooks and crannies and historic bits that most people don't see. Other than that, I think maybe the Empire State Building since the girls and I didn't make it there. Perhaps a little time in one or two of the museums around Central Park. I could do the Intrepid Air & Space Museum, I think I get in there free which is nice. We'll see what happens, I guess!

And then we've more or less decided to take a trip in early November, a drive up to northern Georgia to spend a few days in a cabin and do lots of hiking. I've found some really nice cabins in the area where we plan to stay, now I have to pick one! A number of them have pool tables, which is a big attraction for me. When I was a kid our neighbor had a nice pool table, and I'd go over there to play all the time. And then eventually he gave it to me, so we moved it over to our house. But once I moved out it was all apartments for a while, and I wasn't going to haul around a huge slate pool table even if I had room for it, so that was that. Anyway, I never get to play anymore and I'd love to see how the girls take to it so I like the idea of getting a cabin with one! Just need to talk the wife into splurging a few more bucks for that, but I think that will be easy enough, especially if and when the pension payout info comes. Which I hope will be soon!

Okay, enough babbling for now. Almost time to call it a day. I hope you're all doing well out there in LJ-Land!


Mar. 16th, 2016 10:40 am
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Yesterday was not a great day. I'm not even going to talk about yesterday's round of Presidential primaries and what all that means. I'm not even going to talk about waking up with pinkeye. Again. As always seems to happen this time of year when the oak pollen hits and my allergies flare. Nah, let's talk about the pool.

So it's that time of year when I work on the pool, clean things up, make sure everything is in working order. The girls have already been going in the water, despite the water temperature only being 68F or so. They're crazy. But anyway. Yesterday evening I was working on it, cleared out some leaves, cleaned the salt cell, and replaced the filter. For reference, the filter housing looks like this:

The big nut on top attaches to a steel tie-rod which goes down through the middle and screws into the bottom of the housing to hold everything together. As has been the case the past few times I've opened the thing, the rod came unscrewed at the bottom, when it's just supposed to come unscrewed at the top. Whatever, after taking the top off I just unscrewed the rod there and screwed it back into the base instead, swapped out the filter, and screwed the top back on. Cranked up the pump and all seemed well.

Until a few minutes later, when we suddenly heard a loud pop, and I ran over to find the top had shot off and water was gushing everywhere. Good thing that happened while I was still out there working on the pool and could get it shut off in short order! Anyway, turned out the threads in the base where the tie-rod goes in finally failed, and there's really nothing to do about that except replace the whole thing. So that's ordered. So yay. I guess I'll try to get the old one removed this evening, and then hopefully installing the new one will be easy when it arrives tomorrow. It's the same make and model, so it should be a pretty easy swap. As long as I can do it without messing up the pipes that go in and out of it. I hate plumbing.

The joys of home ownership, especially with a pool. We weren't planning on the extra expense, of course, so we've decided to cancel our road trip for next week. Luckily we weren't committed--I booked hotels that were easy to cancel, and nothing else really obligated us to go. I'll still take the days off work, though--I need to burn a little time anyway, the year going by as quickly as it is. But we'll stay close to home, tackle some projects around the house, maybe take a few day trips to places we've been meaning to check out. Should be fun enough, if not quite the same adventure we were planning. Next time!

Okay, off to lunch. Hope everyone is having a better week than I.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I know, I've been scarce around here. Not much excuse, really. Can't say work has been especially busy! Though I have been spending a decent amount of time researching and planning for our upcoming road trip. We leave a week from Sunday, yikes! We had to juggle things around a little based on my step-sister's schedule, so we're going to drive up to Savannah and spend 2 nights there, then we'll go up through Columbia to Greenville, and spend the night in Spartanburg. Then on to Charlotte, where we'll stay with my sister for a couple nights. And then we're planning to make the drive home in one day with a stop somewhere (probably Columbia) to break it up, though we could decide to stop for a night somewhere along the way if we like, and get home Saturday instead of Friday. Should be a good time, I hope the weather turns out nice for us!

Otherwise, not much to report. Work is work, home is home. This weekend should be fun enough. Saturday morning is our neighborhood's annual Easter thing, a pancake breakfast and then an egg hunt for the kids. We always enjoy that. Sunday is the annual neighborhood festival in College Park where Heather's band always plays--I take the girls and we roam around the craft booths and whatnot while they play, and grab lunch after. Then that afternoon we're expecting storms, looks like, so it sounds like a good time to stay home and relax. I did have an engagement session at EPCOT last weekend which I need to finish editing, good opportunity for that.

And that's about it for now, I think. Hope you're all doing well too!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

This morning I got the rest of my stuff moved over to the new office and (mostly) put away, so I thought I'd take a couple iPhone snaps to give you the gist. I have some more posters and whatnot I can hang on the walls, but I dunno if I'll put that much effort into it. Marilyn came along and that's the important thing. :)

I feel like I forgot some updates when I posted last. Let's see.. while I was struggling through my illness one of the fence posts for our backyard gate broke (okay, okay, I broke it), so I fixed that over the weekend. Really I'd like to replace a good bit of our fence, and that thought must be in the air because yesterday when I got home our neighbor to the rear was having a stretch of theirs replaced. Might have to do it as a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses sort of thing now!

Starting to think about our next family trip. I've had an idea for a while now, fly to Birmingham (Alabama, that is) and rent a car, and spend a few days making our way up I-65 through Tennessee and Kentucky on the way to Indianapolis, whence we'd fly home. There's lots I saw in Birmingham and Indy that I know the girls would enjoy, and along the way we'd pass through our old Nashville stomping grounds, plus Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. I'm thinking it would make a good fall trip, though--the October colors in southern Indiana were glorious. So for the spring I think we're considering something closer, just a shortish road trip. Atlanta, maybe. Not a bad time for that, gas prices as low as they are!

Oh yeah, I remembered the other thing! Saturday I woke up feeling sickly and planned on a relaxing day doing as little as possible. So of course instead we decided to indulge our hobby of rearranging furniture. Maybe I've mentioned it, but we have a fairly large LEGO collection. The girls like to play with LEGO, of course, so we like to keep it available. But I had it stored in a big 5-drawer metal lateral filing cabinet, which was a) rather ugly and b) fairly inconvenient, since you can only open one drawer at a time. So I'd been tossing around the idea of replacing that thing with something like an armoire instead, with shelves inside so everything can be hidden when the doors are closed, but easy to access with the doors open. And as it turned out, we had just such a thing in our upstairs bathroom. See, the previous owners of the house were big on hand-built antique stuff, so the bathroom vanities and a few pieces of furniture they left behind were just that. The armoire upstairs was fine for towels and linens, but always felt a bit out of place to us anyway. So we decided Heather could use the metal filing cabinet in her sewing room for fabric and patterns and whatnot, and we'd bring the armoire downstairs for LEGO. And that turned out to be much easier said than done, because the doorway out of our bedroom is 80" tall, and the armoire is 81" tall thanks to an arched top and trim. It was a bit of a comedy of errors for a while. We tried to get it through the door several ways and actually managed to trap ourselves in the little alcove at the top of the stairs, with the armoire completely wedged and blocking our bedroom doorway--I had to climb over the rail and down the outside of the staircase, and then climb a ladder into our bedroom window to pull the thing back through and set Heather free. :) But eventually I figured it out, and only almost got crushed into goo once getting the thing downstairs. And all's well that ends well, right? I'll have to get a photo of that too, but first I want to add a couple more shelves in the armoire for the smaller bins of LEGO. First World Problems, right?

Speaking of LEGO, have I mentioned how bad I want the Ghostbusters Firehouse? Oh man. We went to the LEGO store at Disney Springs a couple weeks ago to see if they had it, and it was every bit as awesome as I expected.

Okay, I should find some actual work to do today. Hope everyone is having a good afternoon, or whatever it is when you're reading this. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Another year-end thing I sometimes do is a recap of the year in photos. And usually there are a metric crap-ton of 'em. But to keep it (more) brief, this year I'm restricting myself to just one photo for each month. So let's see what I come up with, shall we?


Clicky! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Okay, I'm just gonna power through the rest of the New York photos and recap, cool? So this will be a whole mess of photos, be warned. :)

So where was I? Okay, Sunday, last full day of the trip. The weather looked to be a lot better and we wanted to explore more of Central Park, and I figured we'd start out at the Central Park Zoo. But we were up early, and the zoo didn't open until 10am, so I thought first we'd check out the 9/11 Memorial Plaza since it was so close to the hotel.

Clicky! )
Okay, that's it! Thanks for looking, as always. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Saturday dawned grey and rainy and windy--pretty ugly on the whole. I expected it to start clearing up later in the day, but to start out it made sense to head to something indoors. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was high on my list of must-do attractions, so we hopped a subway and off we went.

Clicky! )
Thanks for looking, still more to come!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Okay, got the first couple days of NYC photos done, and the rest sorted. So since I'll probably break it up into a few posts anyway, here's part one! You know the drill, lots of photos under the cut. :)

Clicky! )
And that was Thursday and Friday! I'll probably get through the rest this weekend, so look for more next week! And thanks for looking. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
A proper recap will of course have to wait until I get the photos edited--we just got home last night and I'm back at work today, so I haven't even unpacked, let alone gotten to photos. But I thought I'd jot down a few notes while they're fresh in my mind.

-General Impression of New York: Mostly what I expected, I suppose, though I was pleasantly surprised in some ways. I guess I had the impression that the city is busy everywhere, all the time. But really most of it is like any urban center as far as crowd density goes (Times Square excepted, of course), and there were plenty of times when we were the only people on the street. But the tourist attractions were pretty crowded, of course.
-The view from our hotel was awesome, at least to one side. It was a corner room so we had a view in two directions--one was towards the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, the other was just buildings, mostly under construction. But we were high enough (44th floor) that we weren't just looking at the sides of other buildings, so that was cool.
-Central Park is a wonderful place. And I oughta know, having now walked it from one corner to the other and quite a bit in between as well. We loved the terrain, as the girls always have a blast climbing on big rock formations, of which there were scads. And the iconic spots were really cool to see.
-The weather could have been better. The first 2-3 days were generally miserable: chilly and windy and rainy/drizzly. But Saturday things started improving, Sunday was cool and windy but otherwise beautiful, and yesterday was downright glorious. I'm glad the hurricane gave the region a miss, that would have been pretty awful.
-The subway was actually quite nice. I expected it to be on the grungy side for sure, but it really wasn't. I'd almost put it right up there with the DC system, which I prefer mainly due to the general architectural style of the DC stations, and the cool lights along the tracks that flash when a train is coming. :) But the NY system seemed plenty clean, and efficient--we had no issues there at all. The price seemed steep--for the 3 of us it was $8.25 every ride, and that adds up fast!
-Finding and taking taxis was quite convenient, especially with their app (Arro), which was pretty awesome. But it's a pricey way to go, for all but the shortest rides. And the one and only time I felt ripped off on the trip was a cab ride. The guy gave me a shady vibe from jump, acting like our run wasn't worth his time--until he figured out a roundabout path to turn what should have been a short and cheap run into the most expensive ride of the trip. Jerk. The other taxis we took were fine, though. And only one guy drove like he was on the run from the cops, though I thought it was pretty cool. :)
-Speaking of apps, shortly before the trip I found one called CityMapper, which was extremely handy for navigating the subways. Put in a destination, and it gives you options for which trains and stations will get you there and when, plus estimated time and cost for a taxi to compare. Very nice, took a lot of the worry and time out of getting around. For walking around I mainly used Google Maps, which worked well enough, though the GPS fix was often pretty spotty down amongst the tall buildings.
-One of my fears was aggressive panhandlers and street vendors, and I'm happy to say neither was an issue. There were a few panhandlers here and there, but not bad. And the only street vendors I'd call aggressive were the people selling books down by the WTC site, and the carriage-ride hawkers by Central Park. But they all took no for an answer well enough.
-Another fear I had going in was crime and safety, of course. Big city, anything can happen, and I'd read a bit here and there about the NYPD slacking off because they haven't been happy with some of Mayor de Blasio's decisions. But I never once felt unsafe, in the subways or on the streets, and I never felt at all awkward or unsafe for carrying my camera or bag. Indeed, I saw plenty of tourists carrying nice camera gear most everywhere we went. I also saw NYPD presence around most of the tourist-y areas, and quite often pedestrian safety officers helping direct foot traffic. So that was all a big relief.
-Food was expensive, as I expected, but not as bad as I feared. We mostly had lunch at whatever attraction we were at when we got hungry, which was mainly crappy theme-park-style food but convenient. Dinners were pretty good, though. We did a couple Italian places, a cool Mexican place, and the Times Square Hard Rock Cafe (kitschy, I know, but it was there and I knew what to expect from it). Oh, we did do lunch in Chinatown yesterday, which was very yummy.
-The hotel was very nice--my main gripe was that the tv in the room didn't have a USB port, and that's a pretty minor gripe indeed. I'm glad breakfast was included in the rate I got, as it would have been $24 per person otherwise! They did try to tack on some bogus charges, but luckily I spotted and disputed those before we left. And now the pending charge that was on the credit card (which was the wrong price due to the bogus charges) has disappeared. Maybe it won't reappear! Doubtful, I know. But hey, I can dream.
-New Yorkers seemed pretty cool on the whole. I didn't see much rudeness, really. On the subways most people just kept to themselves, but seemed cordial enough. The only bad interaction I had personally was with a guy who decided it was his place to lecture me for not dressing the girls warmly enough for the weather. And okay, look, he was actually right and I already felt bad about it--we were going to a show and they wanted to wear their dresses, and the weather turned out worse than we'd hoped. But you can be right and still be an asshole, and that was that dude.
-So. Much. Walking. To save money and see more stuff, I tried to avoid taxis and subways except for getting between areas of town, so we did a LOT of walking. And that's in addition to the things where the walk was the idea, like Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge. After the first day or two my feet were sore pretty much all the time, and I can see where I actually wore the rubber of my shoes down a bit. On one hand I'm curious as to how much distance we actually covered. On the other hand, I don't even want to know. :)
-I'll save the rundown on what we did and my thoughts on all that for the photo recap. Suffice to say we did a lot, saw some amazing stuff, and had a fine time. That said, I don't know if I'd go back. It's a very impressive city, for sure, and there's no shortage of things to see and do. But it's kind of a hassle too, you know? Our favorite thing by far was Central Park, probably because it felt the least like being in the middle of a big grey city. And there are plenty of places like that which aren't indeed in the middle of a big grey city. :)

So, more to come, sooner or later. But we made it to New York, and we made it back home, and that's good.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
And I do mean news! So this Boehner thing, shocker, right? I'm of two minds about it. Well, three, even. On the one hand, I despise the guy, so I'm glad he will be gone. He's always been so smarmy to me, with that special blend of arrogance and ignorance I so loathe. So him being gone is good. And I am also happy that with the announcement of his departure, he is now free to utterly ignore those in his caucus who are calling for a government shutdown. He's free to ignore his own rule that says he can't bring up any legislation for a vote that can't be passed by his caucus alone, and instead seek Democratic votes to override his right flank and avert the shutdown. I am hoping that will happen early this week, so I can at least eliminate that particular worry about our NYC trip.

But the bad side of it is that despite his smarminess and despicability (is that a word?), Boehner was at least a pragmatist. He would occasionally stand up to the lunatic fringe of his party when it made sense to do so, and he would occasionally compromise for the greater good. Not often, but sometimes. And he got grief for it from that same lunatic fringe, of course--the people who think compromise is a dirty word, the people who got elected to government because they think government is evil and dysfunctional, and spend their time in office trying to prove it. And those are people who will have a fairly loud voice in picking the next Speaker, so I think it's all but certain that the next one will be even worse when it comes to compromise and pragmatism, and we'll end up with even more polarization and paralysis in the House, which is bad news for all of us. So it's great that the GOP is tearing itself apart these days, I suppose--but it's gonna be messy and dangerous while it happens, and what emerges from the ashes might just be pretty awful. We'll see. I just hope liberals show up at the polls next November (and in the primaries, for that matter) to check the steady rightward drift of the past few years.

Speaking of NYC, we leave in 3 days! Yikes. I'm still scared/excited, of course. Agenda-wise I guess I'm feeling okay. I figure to toss out the detailed itineraries I'd drawn up, and we'll just make sure to hit the highlights I've drafted up and see what else in each area we have time for. I don't want to script it too much, you know? I want to hit a lot, but I also want to be able to explore at our leisure. The weather is becoming a concern--for a few days the extended forecast was looking awesome, but as it gets closer it looks like the temperatures are dropping and the rain chances are increasing, neither of which is ideal. And now I see there's even a tropical system heading that way, which may well bring rain as well. So everybody face east and blow, okay? Meanwhile, Hermione's been complaining that one of her ankles hurts, which is not music to my ears when I think that we'll be walking a LOT for 5 days, and climbing a lot of stairs to boot. So I'm hoping that will go away, or maybe it's just something minor that doesn't bother her that much. I certainly don't want to call off the trip (again) at this point, but that is still an option. And I'm sure Heather wouldn't mind if I did, at least from an expense perspective. I guess I'll see how rainy and miserable it looks in a day or two. But the girls would be bummed, so we might just have to grin and bear it. Which makes it sound like I don't want to go, probably. I do! I just want it to be awesome, and I don't want to start out with strikes already on the board, you know? Bah.

Hm, can't think of anything else to mention presently. So have a great Monday, people!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Recently returned to the office--I was home watching the older girls while Heather took Amy to the orthopedist to get a cast on her arm. Yep, almost 11 years into the adventure of parenthood, and it's the youngest who finally broke the first bone. Hell, I've never even had a broken bone myself!

She was rollerskating in the house yesterday evening and took a fall. It wasn't a bad fall per se, but her left arm took pretty much the whole impact. She didn't cry all that much, surprisingly, but it clearly hurt her, and Heather was convinced that her arm looked a little.. bent or something. So we all loaded up and went to the urgent care clinic, where they determined she had indeed gotten herself a small fracture. And the doc today said the other bone in her forearm, while not broken, did appear a bit bent, which I guess isn't too unusual for smaller children whose bones are still growing and haven't fully hardened. So he put on pretty much a full-arm cast, to make sure it stays good and immobile. She went with the bright pink, of course. The good news is that she only has to keep it on for 3 weeks, and then she goes to a splint of some sort instead. Fun times. Poor little girl. She's been quite the trooper, though. Her only concern about going to the doctor was that she didn't want any shots, and we assured her that shouldn't be necessary. :) The doctors and nurses were all pretty amazed at how well she bore the pain and followed directions. She can be a terror sometimes, but really all our kids are pretty darn good.

So anyway, that's the big news lately. The weekend up to that point was okay. The girls have suddenly developed an interest in superheroes: we watched the first Avengers movie recently, and they all liked it quite a bit. So I signed them up for a little SHIELD agent training thing Saturday at a big comic shop in the area, and they enjoyed that. Sunday we really didn't do much, worked around the house a bit, cleaned, relaxed, went swimming, broke an arm, that was about it. :)

I am closely watching the government funding nonsense underway in DC. Reading an analysis now that puts the chance of shutdown at 75%. Goddammit. It would be just my luck if the f--king Republicans cause another shutdown, since it would take effect October 1 and we're booked to visit the Statue of Liberty (with crown access!) and Ellis Island--national parks, of course--on the 2nd. Seriously, how do these people keep getting elected when they so regularly prove how completely unfit to govern they are? And several of the shut-er-down! ringleaders are in the running for the GOP Presidential nomination! The mind truly boggles. Can we at least get a continuing resolution for just a few days? Please, you freaking assholes?

Okay, back to work. Hope everyone's week is off to a good start!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Sorry, I keep hearing the countdown as a Beastie Boys song. So the calendar stands at fifteen days until the two older girls and I leave for our New York City adventure. I would have to say I am equal parts excited and terrified.

The excited part is obvious: it's New York City! There's so much to see and do, and so many iconic and historic places--in that respect I will be in heaven. When I had to delay the trip back in the spring, I pretty much dropped my itinerary and all the research I'd done to that point, so I've been getting back into it and just hammered out what I think is a pretty decent agenda. We have 3 full days and two partial days, and I managed to include all the big stuff I want to hit, plus some smaller hit-and-run sights. It will mean rushing through the museums, because I know several of them could easily be multi-day affairs if we really sunk our teeth in. But a few hours is usually enough for us to get the gist of a museum, and the key for this visit is to see as much as we can in the time we have. I think it's a busy itinerary, but not insanely so. I just hope I'm not horribly underestimating the time it will take to get between locations. I have these next two weeks to make sure about that, and to tweak the details.

On the other hand, I'm terrified because.. I dunno, NYC has just always terrified me, which is really why I never even particularly wanted to go there. I love to travel, as my journal has made clear, and while I have a preference for slightly more natural and off-the-beaten-path destinations, I don't mind exploring in an urban environment. But somewhere with SO MANY people in a relatively small area.. yeah, that just frightens me. I'd say the largest city I've explored so far is Los Angeles, but that's a sprawling city that doesn't feel so crowded. Plus I've always had a rental car when I've visited there, which provides some peace of mind to know I could hit the road if I want to. In NYC we'll be trapped, essentially, and at the mercy of public transportation (or walking, or cabs). I guess that's not so bad per se. But the people! I'm not an agoraphobic or anything, but I do like my personal space, and I don't at all like being accosted by people--vendors, panhandlers, etc. I'm also a little concerned since photography is such a big part of the travel experience for me, and I doubt I'd feel comfortable hauling around my usual load of gear. My go-to camera bag for travel and gigs is a messenger-style bag, which I feel pretty secure with. Usually I have my camera on a neckstrap with one lens attached, and the bag holds 3 additional lenses and/or a strobe. I think I'll have to pare down to 2 lenses (or maybe 3, if one is my 24mm pancake lens) so I can fit the camera body in the bag as well. At least that way it won't be quite so obvious that I'm hauling around a bunch of pricey camera gear. And for some days I might take just the camera with the 24mm pancake, since that combo is relatively small and light, and doesn't look so much like a high-end dSLR rig. We'll see, I guess.

The weather is looking nice so far--too early to tell about rain chances, of course, but as long as the temperatures are near-average it should be lovely. I did change our return flight this week. We're limited to Southwest because that's where I had points and airfare vouchers, and at some point they tweaked their schedule so our layover on the way home became 3 hours. Eww. So rather than leave from LaGuardia at 4:30pm and get to Orlando at 11:30pm, I decided it would be better to grab a nonstop from Islip/Long Island that leaves there later and gets here earlier. Plus by that point I'm sure we'll be ready to get home, so a nonstop sounds perfect. I am aware that it will take us a couple hours to make our way on the train out to ISP, but that still sounds like more fun than twiddling our thumbs in ATL for 3 hours instead, so what the hell. Plus the train fare will actually be cheaper than getting a car or cab to LGA anyway!

So yeah, excited, scared, kinda want to throw up a little for both reasons. :) But I think it should be a pretty awesome trip, as long as all goes well. Or as long as nothing major goes wrong, anyway!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

So I went into this thinking I'd just pick a few of my favorite photos from last week's trip to share. But ha! Do you even know me at all? Like I can ever do that. So here's a crapload of photos, as per usual. :)

Clicky! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I was hoping for a more substantial update by now, but the guy I mentioned early this week who disappeared? His truck and surfboard were found at a beach in the Outer Banks, but there was (and remains) no sign of the man himself. So it's still a mystery. Maybe he drowned and washed out to sea? Maybe he ditched the truck and made good his disappearance. Something seems fishy about the whole thing, though. His wife went on television about the disappearance, and declined to show her face on camera. I just found that odd, somehow. Anyway.

Coasting through the rest of the day here at work. I think I'll knock off a little early so I can go home and pack, and comb over the van. I changed the oil and air filters last weekend, but I should check the air in the tires for sure, and make sure the jack and wrench are where they should be and in good shape. The spare looks good and I made sure of where the nut to lower it is, so that's all good.

Road trip to Myrtle Beach starts tomorrow morning, see! Last year we did overnights on the way up and back, to break up the drive. But this time I guess we're planning to go the whole way in one day, with occasional stops. I dunno, I left the planning on this one to the wife. I rather feel like I'm just along for the ride (but as the chauffeur, of course). But that's okay, I'm looking forward to a mostly-relaxing time. Maybe I should bring the Wii. ;)

We do have a few things planned for the trip, of course. There's that botanical/sculpture garden and zoo that we really enjoyed last time. And I booked a spot to climb the Oak Island lighthouse, which actually looks a little terrifying. But that should be fun. Otherwise, though, I dunno. I'm sure I'll take the girls to do MagiQuest a time or two, and we'll hit the little children's museum in town, and probably the beach a time or two. I guess we'll see how the weather is. Hopefully not quite as hot as last year!

Soda cutback is going fairly well. I've been good about sticking with ice water for my morning drink at the office, mostly. So most days I just have one can of soda with lunch, which isn't too bad. I should work on cutting that back to a few times a week instead of every day, but it's been a decent start.

Scored a couple deals on cheap Wii U games lately. Amazon has Batman: Arkham Origins for $10, so I jumped on that. It arrived yesterday and I gave it a try, looks pretty sweet. And then Best Buy had the Ninja Gaiden game for the U on clearance for $6, and I couldn't pass that up. I loved the original NG game for NES, and this one is well-reviewed (though everyone says it's pretty brutal difficulty-wise). Seemed worth the few bucks, anyway.

Okay, gonna pack up and go pack some more. :) Hope everyone has a lovely weekend and a good week!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Okay, got the rest of the trip photos done, so here you go!

Clicky! )
And that was our trip. Could have been better in places, but certainly could have been a lot worse too. :) And since the main (or Maine?) idea was to escape the Florida heat for a week and see some cool stuff, mission definitely accomplished.

Now in a few weeks we head up to Myrtle Beach to hang with the in-laws for a few days, like we did last year. Not an especially interesting area, that. But still, oughta make for some good photos. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

I has returned! The trip was pretty good, all things considered. We wanted to escape the brutal Florida heat, and for the most part we did. I was concerned about the rain chances up where we were going, but aside from 2 semi-rainy mornings, everything held together pretty well. The worst thing about the trip was all the driving. I guess I was pretty ambitious in my itinerary, which covered a lot of ground over 6 days, and we ended up spending several hours a day in the car--about 900 miles in total. I didn't mind the driving (probably because I was doing all the driving), but everyone else got pretty sick of it, plus it sorta felt like we were rushing through some things because we knew there was a drive to the next stop (and to our hotel at the end of each day). So lesson learned: next time be a bit more conservative, concentrate on a smaller area, and leave more time to enjoy each destination unless I know it's a quick hit-and-run stop.

So anyway, I've got the photos from the first few days of the trip edited, so I thought I'd go ahead and do a Part 1 recap. So here you go! Lots of photos, of course. :)

Clicky! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
It's turned out to be a bit of a challenge to plan next week's New England adventure!

I thought I had the itinerary all laid out, and the hotels were all booked, but for some reason I wasn't thrilled. And today I finally realized why. We're flying into and out of Manchester NH, and that's all set. But from there I had us heading over to the coast to go right into Maine and up to Acadia National Park, by way of Porstmouth, Portland and Boothbay. From Acadia I had us looping up a bit to Bangor and Augusta--but then back down to Portland and Portsmouth on the way back to Manchester and home. And that seemed like a waste, to travel through so much of the same territory twice. Plus it meant going nowhere near the Franconia Notch area, which I really wanted to revisit--we didn't spend much time there on our 2013 trip, and I wanted to explore the area a bit more. Plus, waterfalls are quite literally a nature photographer's wet dream. :)

So today I searched and mapped and tinkered and mapped some more, and drafted up an alternate itinerary. I couldn't completely start from scratch, because one of the hotels I booked was a non-refundable advance rate (that'll teach me!). But even with that one restriction, I was able to come up with a new plan, and I think I like it. So now I think we'll head north from Manchester to the White Mountains and Franconia, swing over to Grafton Notch (which was another place I was sad to miss), and then over to Bangor. From there down to Acadia, and then back towards Manchester, down the coast via Boothbay, Portland and Portsmouth.

I was afraid doing a loop like that might add a lot of driving time, and it does make for some longer stretches on the road--but in sum it only adds a couple hours onto the total, which isn't too bad spread over the course of the trip. Especially since it looks like those longer stretches will be in the afternoons, when the girls can nap anyway.

So I haven't cancelled anything yet, but I did go ahead and book the two new hotels for the loop route. I'll show the wife tonight, though she's said she doesn't really care as long as we have places to stay lined up. Everything is free cancellation, so no worries there. But I'm pretty sure we'll go with the loop. I'm certainly more excited about it!

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