Saturday, September 29, 2007

Greetings From Maggie Valley, NC

I arrived back in Orlando yesterday around noon and by the time I retrieved my checked luggage from baggage claim and my in-laws graciously picked me up, it was 12:35. I then enjoyed a wonderful lunch with them at Cracker Barrel and spent some time catching up before they dropped me at home. My afternoon was spent doing laundry and watching a couple of episodes each of "Weeds" and "Californication" on the DVR, just to wind down some.

When Cindy got home from work we went to dinner at Olive Garden, bought a couple of new bluetooths since ours were dying, and went home to hit the sack.

We were up at 4am this morning and left the house at 5:10am to drive to Maggie Valley, North Carolina. We made the 615 mile drive safely, arriving here at 3:30pm. Our only stops were for breakfast at Cracker Barrel in St. Augustine, FL, lunch at Subway in Columbia, SC and two fueling operations for the car.

By the way, does anyone know why gasoline in South Carolina is almost 20 cents cheaper than it is in both of it's neighboring states (Georgia and North Carolina)? In Florida, Georgia and North Carolina gas is $2.78 a gallon, but in South Carolina the price is $2.59.

Here are some pictures of the outside front and back and inside of the cabin we are staying in for the next two nights.

After getting to the cabin and unloading the car, we left to go meet the real estate agent and then rode together to the piece of property that Cindy really likes. Tomorrow morning we'll meet with a building contractor at the property site to discuss how a house might best be placed and other concerns, then we're off with the real estate agent to look at some other pieces of property.

Cindy and I are enjoying our time together after being apart for three weeks, but this is a very busy weekend.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Goodbye Minnesota

It's 2:30am here in Rochester. I'm finishing my packing and then I'll go check out of the hotel, drive to the airport and return my rental car, then catch a 5:10am flight from here to Minneapolis (in a turbo-prop, no less). Once I arrive there I have a 90 minute layover before my flight leaves for Orlando.

Photos from my walk around downtown Rochester this past Sunday, as well as a few of the exterior of the world-renown Mayo Clinic, are uploaded over at Flickr.

Orlando, here I come!

Monday, September 24, 2007

I'm A Travelin' Man

The original schedule, when I came out here to Minnesota, was that I would be going home last Saturday night. This would have allowed me to go to at least the Sunday festivities of last weekend's Orlando Comic-Con, where I had free entrance arranged with a press pass and an in-person interview scheduled with Mike Kingston, creator of the new comic book "Headlocked" for Athena Comics Guide. Alas, that was not to be and I have made arrangements for an e-mail interview with Mike which will appear soon over at Athena. I was very much looking forward to meeting him in person and discussing his comic book creation.

My new schedule has me arriving home this Friday around noon, which unfortunately means I will not be able to attend the BlogOrlando meeting that starts Friday morning. By the time I could get my baggage and get from the airport to the meeting site most of the tracks will be over. I REALLY enjoyed last year's first BlogOrlando and was truly looking forward to this year's with it's multitude of informative blogging tracks that were scheduled.

But, that's the way things go and I knew things like this were a possibility when I took this position.

Sunday I slept in and then got up, showered and drove a few blocks over to downtown Rochester. I parked the car and spent about 90 minutes just walking around taking pictures of the downtown area, the Mayo Clinic and one of the most interesting Barnes & Noble bookstores in the country I suppose, the Chateau Barnes & Noble.

The Chateau Barnes & Noble was originally a theater, one which Dr. Charles Mayo laid the cornerstone for in April of 1927. It was originally named the Chateau Dodge Theater because the Dodge Lumber Company had previously stood on the site. By the time construction was complete 6 months later, the $400,000 theater opened with the movie, "Spring Fever."

It has a very rich history which, unfortunately, I don't have time to recite at the moment.

The outside is designed as a French Chateau and the theater marquee remains but with the Barnes & Noble name in place of movies that showed here, such as "Gone With the Wind" in 1940. The box office also remains, though now it serves to display books rather than to sell 25 cent tickets to see a newsreel, cartoon, movie and comedy act.

The first 2 floors on the inside have been designed as a Medieval village complete with castles, arches, streets and a starlit sky above on the ceiling. It is absolutely magical when you step inside, especially as you take the escalator up to the second floor and see the castle walls that seemingly rise up at your arrival. I was wishing so much that Cindy could have been here to see this and walk through it with me because I know she would have enjoyed it and been entranced by it even more than I was.

Anyway, I took lots of pictures of it and they are over on the Flickr badge if you want to see them. I hope to get the others of downtown Rochester and the Mayo Clinic uploaded soon.

So, I return Friday afternoon to Orlando, but then 16 hours later Cindy and I leave to drive up to North Carolina for a 3-day weekend to look at some more property. We return home on Monday afternoon and then the rumor is that I will possibly be getting back on a plane soon thereafter, but to where just yet I don't know. Possibly back to Minnesota, possibly somewhere else.

That's why I'm A Travelin' Man.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

L'Etoile du nord

The schedule here has been pretty tough and has taken it's toll on my writing and photography desires. I leave the hotel for the office when it's still dark outside and leave the office at the end of the day as the sun is setting. Six days a week. Well, five and half this week as we went to a half-day on Saturday starting today.

Anyway, I'm reading other sites and looking at other folks photography to live vicariously through their words and pictures during this time that I can't produce my own. Here's a great article on the subject of "Photowalking" by Thomas Hawk, the CEO of Zooomr. While I currently practice a lot of his points, some I have not. By the way, there were three days that I was "in the field" and took tons of shots from three different towns for myself, but since they involve work issues I can't post them here as I did the Minnesota Bridge Collapse photos. When my mind is not so burned out and I can think a little more in depth about it, I'll figure out a way to post them somewhere, perhaps under a password protected system.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mayo and Maize

Arrived safely in the town of Rochester, Minnesota, home of the world renowned Mayo Clinic. In fact, my hotel is just a few blocks away from the clinic. I had hoped to take the 2 hour tour of the Mayo facilities while here, but I'll only have one day off during my stay here and they don't offer the tour on that day. Of course.

I have been invited by several of my female co-workers to join them on a trip to the Mall of America, and that is very kind of them. The Mall is something I'd actually like to see, experience and photograph, but I'm having trouble working up any excitement for a 90 minute road trip (each way) in a car full of ladies on my only day off. Maybe if I listen to my MP3 player the entire time...

Speaking of photos; I had to go to Minneapolis/St. Paul today for a meeting in the state capital, so I stopped by the site of the tragic bridge collapse that happened on August 1, 2007 and took some pictures. They are available over on the right in the Flickr link. It was sobering to see the spot where 13 people died as a result of the collapse.

Well, I'm beat. My schedule is 11 hours a day and today was a lot of driving, meetings and other work. Tomorrow is more of the same and 5am comes early.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. I'm surrounded, it seems, by corn. And the weird thing is that all the corn stalks are the exact same height. What's going on out here in the breadbasket of America?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Minnesota, Here I Come

I'm sitting at Orlando International Airport awaiting the boarding call for my flight. My day job is taking me to Minnesota for the next two weeks.

Normally I'd be happy to be going, but this trip means I don't get to go to North Carolina with Cindy for her birthday or to look at the properties we planned to visit.

Also, and this is not a BIG thing, but I have to admit to feeling a little "eerie" flying on the sixth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, especially since I'm flying American Airlines.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Madeleine L’Engle, 1918-2007

I read the sad news this morning that Madeleine L’Engle passed away Thursday in Connecticut at the age of 88. Ms. L’Engle was an accomplished writer of dozens of poems, plays and books, including her first best-selling children's novel (and perhaps most well-known work), "A Wrinkle in Time", which was published in 1962 and won the John Newbery Award for best children’s book of 1963.

My first contact with Ms. L’Engle's work was at the age of 10 when I checked "A Wrinkle in Time" out from either my school library or the local public library in 1965, 3 years after it was first published. It remained one of my favorite books through the years and I read it multiple times in my youth. A few years ago Cindy and I were discussing with our friends Kirk and Laura books we enjoyed and Laura mentioned how much she loved "A Wrinkle in Time" as a child. It occurred to me that I had not read the book in over 30 years, so shortly after that I again checked it out from the local library and re-read the wonderful tale.

Here is part of what she said in her Newbery Award acceptance speech back in August of 1963:

A writer of fantasy, fairly tale, or myth must inevitably discover that he is not writing out of his own knowledge or experience, but out of something both deeper and wider. I think that fantasy must possess the author and simply use him. I know that this is true of A Wrinkle in Time. I can't possibly tell you how I came to write it. It was simply a book I had to write. I had no choice. And it was only after it was written that I realized what some of it meant.

Now, in the "strange, but true" category; last Saturday Cindy and I were at Borders Books near our home (Hey Rhon!) and as I was making my purchase I noticed a stack of "A Wrinkle in Time" paperbacks on the check-out counter right in front of me. I picked up one and showed it to Cindy saying, "Hey, look! I should get this." But I didn't. I remember thinking, "I wonder how old she is now?"

Then, a few days later, she was gone.

But I prefer to think Ms. L’Engle did not die this past Thursday, she just got caught in a tesseract.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Eliminating Squeaks

I spent a few minutes the other day walking around Casa de Wetherington with my trusty spray can of WD-40 (do you ever wonder what became of WD's 1 through 39? I do), applying its lubricating wonderfulness to all the squeaky hinges on doors in this palatial residence. It not only makes me a "manly man" in Cindy's eyes (and, she says, I look a hell of a lot better than Bob Villa doing it), but more importantly it removes the sometimes distracting noises that occur, especially when I'm trying to sleep in while Cindy is going in and out of the bathroom in the master bedroom.

That got me to thinking about "squeaks" in writing. You know; you're reading along and all of the sudden something pulls your attention away from the story. It could be a misspelled word, an obvious (or even not-so-obvious) grammatical error or perhaps nothing more than poor phrasing, but whatever it is that "squeak" interrupts, and sometimes even spoils, your reading experience.

While I'm certain I don't always succeed, I feel it is incumbent upon me as a writer to do my very best to eliminate as many of those "squeaks" in my writing as is possible. I have a responsibility to check my research, spelling, grammar and phrasing in order to try to be sure that the reader has the best experience possible.

Because, as we all know, those "squeaks" can be downright irritating.
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