South By Southwest

Due to my unforeseen “clerical error”, last month I realized that I would come up one leg short of the requirements for qualifying for Southwest’s A-List for the next year. This left just over one month (and a busy one) to try schedule a quick flight, and hopefully an inexpensive one.

Having A-List status is a real boon for our vacation trips, as it allows me to board earlier and store overhead bags as well as save a neighboring seat for Mo. Besides that bonus miles, it also avoids the hassle of logging in 24-hrs in advance to reserve a line position. Unfortunately, our vacation trips this year had been purchased using frequent flier points, which is why I came up short in the first place.

SWA had a brief sale going on, and the cheapest flight I was able to identify at the least inconvenient time was a roundtrip flight Saturday Dec. 2nd from here to Wichita, KS, returning by way of…Las Vegas?!

The morning of the flight, I pocketed a free parking coupon to use at the airport, a free drink coupon for on the plane, and filled with Christmas cards, Christmas newsletter, Christmas stamps, and return address stamps — I was resolved to use this forced exile as a time to get all my holiday cards written and mailed.

Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport in Wichita is a nice, quiet little airport — it made for a peaceful locale for lunch, and a counterpoint to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

I enjoyed quite a few excellent vistas with the deserts of southern US passing by my window.


Utah/Arizona border near Tower Butte and Antelope Island

After the turnaround in Vegas, I returned home in the evening with all my Christmas cards completed, along the way probably picking up the cold that I’m only now getting rid of. :/ An A-List cold, though.

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A Bit Of The Mid Atlantic States

When the “save the date” arrived for Greg & Tiffany’s wedding, Mo and I sat down and worked out a vacation trip around it in which we could leisurely visit several locations for the first time.

Our trip started on the end of September with Niagara Falls. We could easily see the mist drifting up from Horseshoe Falls in the distance as we landed in Buffalo. Mo had our first stop though for lunch at Sophia’s Restaurant, a Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives-featured restaurant in Buffalo.

After getting settled into our hotel, we walked over to Niagara Falls State Park and made our way over to the American Falls. As we got closer, we could see the Niagara River picking up speed around Goat Island. It was a real eye-opener as we reached the US side of the river and saw what all the rush was about.


Mo poses with American Falls

While the view was outstanding, it was pretty obvious why everyone says to see the falls from the Canadian side — the American side is closer (you’re right on top of American Falls!) but the other side of the river gives a better panorama of all the falls.

After a leisurely stroll across from the falls, we drove further into Canada to the southern shore of Lake Ontario, where we had a nice lunch at Lake House Restaurant overlooking the lake, with the tall buildings of Toronto visible across the lake at the horizon. We then travelled south into Twenty Valley and bought some homemade fudge, and sampled wines from Cave Spring Winery.


American Falls and Horseshoe Falls from the Canadian side

Leaving Niagara Falls, we took the NY Thruway to Syracuse and then northward to Lake Placid. The trees were changing, and there were lots of burgundy and deep orange and red colors, but not so much yellows — maybe we were spoiled by the Aspens of Colorado.

We were also spoiled by the lower elevations compared to Colorado. We hiked several trails while in the Adirondacks, but the most taxing was the 1/5th mile climb from the parking lot to the top of the Whiteface Mountain — a combination of stairs and large rocks. The temps at the top were just a bit above freezing, but the view was outstanding, with Lake Champlain visible to the east and the skyline of Burlington, VT and Montreal visible at the horizon.


Lake Placid from the top of Whiteface Mountain

Just two hours away is Fair Haven, VT, home to several of Mo’s immigrant ancestors. This was a great excuse to visit Vermont for the first time for both of us. We had a chance to hang with the locals as we lunched at The Wooden Soldier, then made our way over to St. Mary’s cemetery, where after a little searching we found the grave markers of Edmund and Mary Pinders, James and Catherine Morgan, and Patrick and Ellen Sloan, who are Mo’s g-g-g-grandparents, g-g-grandparents, and g-g-grandparents, respectively, all originally from Ireland.


Edmund and Mary Pinders’ grave marker

On our route back to Lake Placid we passed Fort Ticonderoga, and we stopped at Swedish Hill Winery, where we made my life more difficult by picking up two more bottles to pack for the flight home (plus a wine glass).

Following our stay at Lake Placid, we spent one night in Lancaster, PA, and the next morning on our way to pick up K at the Philadelphia airport we had a pleasant drive on roads shared with several Amish horse buggies.

This was the first time in Delaware for all three of us, and the wedding and reception at Thousand Acre Farm were beautiful. We enjoyed catching up with the Morgans and with others we’d met a few years back, and our time with them went by much too fast.


the wedding couple with some additional Morgans and tagalongs

(btw, the three wine bottles arrived home unscathed)

Killer Cards

The blog posts are getting further apart, so here’s an update on the collection to fill the space while we wait then next few games for the Twins to lock down a playoff spot — it’s been a while!

I finally have all of my backlog of autographed and game used cards scanned and posted. Some are newly acquired, including the two Harmon Killebrew cards and my first autograph of Twins player and one-time manager John Goryl (the 210th different Twins player in my autographed card collection), plus another manufactured patch letter, a Boof Bonser “N”.


clockwise, from top left: 2007 Upper Deck SP Authentic By The Letter Signatures “N” #BL-13 Boof Bonser [33/75] (manu-patch/auto); 2004 Fleer Greats #GBA-HK Harmon Killebrew (auto); 2003 Fleer Fall Classics Series Contenders Harmon Killebrew (bat); 2003 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres Star Rookie #P46 Matt Moses (auto); 2007 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Ultimate Future Signatures #FS-JK Jason Kubel [03/25] (auto); 2013 Topps Heritage Real One #ROA-JG John Goryl (auto); 2003 Upper Deck UD Patch Collection Rookie Innovation #160 Willie Eyre (manu-patch); 2003 Donruss Champions Rookie #157 Rob Bowen [352/375] (auto)

Umbraphile

Once again the sun used its 93 million mile cue stick to line up the moon with the continental US and I was on the other end to see the magnificent results.

My earlier blog post recalling the 1979 eclipse which I saw in Winnipeg, Canada has gotten consistent traffic, and quite a bit more in the weeks leading up to August 21st. On a personal level, I had been doing my best to convince people to do everything possible to situate themselves within the band of totality, which in my case began barely 10 miles from my house. I likened settling for a nearly-total partial eclipse to going to see a great concert but just standing in the parking lot instead.

My initial ideas for watching The Great American Eclipse started out with Washington, MO, but then changed to St. Clair, MO, which changed to Desoto, MO, then changed to Hematite, MO…when it became apparent that we were going to have a huge influx of people (and traffic), we eventually looked closer to home. We “invited ourselves” to our friends’ home in New Melle, MO, where we would have ~1:49 of totality. Both Mo and K took the day off, and we were also pleased that many our our Sunday School class also planned to attend.

We left early the morning of the eclipse, not knowing what traffic would be like. It turns out our fears were unfounded, as traffic at least in the direction we travelled was not affected at all. As we all began arriving, our hosts the Pikes and their dog Moses made us feel at home with a large spread of breakfast goodies supplemented with drink and food items we’d all brought to contribute as well.

We flipped between the NASA channel and local channels on the TV up until we had first contact (about 11:48 AM) and we began putting our various eclipse glasses, welder’s goggles, and pinhole boxes to work. We were quite pleased to have only a light cloud cover — certainly not enough to be a problem, although it was pretty humid and in the low 90s out by that point.

While waiting for totality, we paid attention to the changing shadows, and the light quality dimmed, dropping noticeably in stages the last few minutes before second contact.


Ava and Moses check out the crescent shadows on the sidewalk

Totality was new to everyone but me at our gathering, so there was quite a few shouts of amazement as the diamond ring faded to a bright ring and I reminded everyone that the eclipse glasses could come off, with the corona looking surprisingly as predicted. Using what I’d learned since the 1979 eclipse, I quickly went to my binoculars (I played it safe by not waiting until later when it got closer to third contact), which showed a nice red glow of prominences across the “top” of the sun. In addition, I’d learned that the five seconds before and after totality were still within safe limits for the naked eye, so as I warned everyone when I noticed the beginning of a diamond ring following third contact, I took in a couple seconds of it before donning my eclipse glasses. We were told that temps dropped ~9° throughout the eclipse. We also noticed the cicadas and crickets did in fact chime in for a while. Moses on the other hand didn’t seem to care one way or another.


intrepid eclipse watchers

The one regret I have is not having a working digital camera ready to take along, so I don’t have any personal photos of the eclipse itself, but like my first eclipse, I’m not likely to forget what it looked like. I’m pretty sure that all of us will want to try see the 2024 eclipse (not quite as conveniently located, east of us in Illinois) as a result of our experience with this time around. I know I do.

Not Even Close

This past winter Madding at Cards on Cards had an eighth reincarnation of his college football bowl contest. In two of the first seven contests (and ALMOST a third), I took the “prize” for last place. Well, it happened again.

To repeat what I’ve said before, I’m not intentionally trying to lose; my “strategy” has changed little over the years — PICK: B1G conference teams, Mizzou, UCLA; PICK AGAINST: USC, Notre Dame, Nebraska, SEC conference, Texas teams — any other match-ups are picked on a whim. For the most part, B1G teams helped continue my long run.

What were my winnings? What looks like a standard team dump* of Twins cards actually had several neat non-baseball cards too (the best half of the Apple duo – Steven Wozniak, UofM hockey player Sarah Potomak, etc.) and a couple packs of awesome wax. Clearly the valuable treasure of this package though was the two reusable team bags, bubble wrap, penny sleeves, blue painter tape (reusable, of course), packing blanks, and mailing bag — reusable.

I kid!

*yes, Madding did manage to hit my wantlists, too


the whole kit and kaboodle

Thanks for putting up (again) with my shenanigans, Madding!


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A Stand Up Guy

After returning to work following each of my hip replacements, I found it difficult to sit while working (for obvious reasons), and seriously considered looking into a standing workstation for my home office. When we did a little home upgrading recently by swapping out some furniture, I pulled the trigger on a sit-stand workstation setup.

I spent quite a while researching the various models and brands available — if I’m going to spend money on this, I’m not going to want to end up with sore shoulders, neck, or arms after a day’s work, so I wanted one that would fit me (and Mo). The only one I found that was tall enough when I stood yet extended low enough when I sat was built by Ergoprise. I bought the dual monitor model, and picked up a VESA conversion needed for mounting one of my monitors, plus a wireless keyboard to cut back on the number of wires.

So far, I’m finding that I’m good for about 45 minutes at a time before my feet begin to hurt. I may get a mat to stand on sometime, but for now I’ll take breaks and sit a bit.


Ergoprise S2S Dual Sit-Stand Workstation

It will take some time to work into standing for more extended periods, and it may take even longer to clean off my desktop!
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The City Hall Talking Jigsaw Puzzle Solution

I finally found the last of the Talking Jigsaw Puzzle series at a reasonable price, and I’ve completed the collection with The City Hall “Talking Puzzle” by Buffalo Games.

The premise for this one is the same as past puzzles: you must first complete each of the 4×4 piece rooms, and then you use the “conversations” between the rooms as clues to the ordering of the rooms. This particular puzzle had a minor twist in that it had an east and west side to it, and brick between rooms.

The only real complaint I have is like with all of these puzzles — the edges don’t distinguish themselves well enough, and you’ll end up having to resort to using the pattern on the back to put some in their proper place. Still, it was as fun to put together as all the others in the set.


solution — click to embiggen