Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Vacation - Continued

Sorry for another longer Blogging absence. Things are still a bit crazy with Rach and I, as we have entered our 3rd week together in captivity - The Residence Inn (I'm now in my 8th week of living out of a suitcase).

Since I needed to organize the pictures from our vacation, I decided to use that opportunity to blog about the rest of our trip in California. After getting drilled in the Cal game, Rachel and I said "Farewell" to Caleb and Mike Johnson and headed off down the California Coast.

The drive was beautiful, and the weather was perfect. It was sunny and 70 for our entire trip. On the first day, we drove from San Fransisco to Monterey, where we spent the night. Remarkably, the picture to the left, is someone's back yard. I would hate to think how much the land is worth, and I certainly don't think I could afford the taxes on it.

Later in the afternoon, we drove 17 Mile Drive and went to Pebble Beach Golf Course. Lots of great pictures, which I have posted at the end of this blog. We bought some souveniers for the dads at the Pro Shop.

We had dinner at the wharf in Monterey that evening. It is a neat little town, but lots of tourists. The next morning, we got up and went to the Monterey Aquarium. The jellyfish to the right is a shot I took at one of their tanks. The otters were our favorite. They are so playful and energetic.

We left the Aquarium a little before lunchtime and went to Carmel by the Sea. This was Rachel's favorite part of the trip. It is a quaint little town with lots of shops. We bought a couple of trinkets for ourselves and then had lunch at Clint Eastwood's restaurant. It was a pretty darn good cheeseburger.

After lunch, we left Carmel and drove through Big Sur National Forest. Rachel was actually successful in getting me to take 2 hikes while we were there. This is an excellent shot of a huge redwood tree. They are really spectacular. Ironically, this trail led to the most pitiful little water fall I have ever seen. The trees were beautiful though.

Luckily, the second hike that we went on had a much better waterfall, pictured here. We then left Big Sur and spent the night in San Simeon.

I am including some additional pictures below, including one of the gas pump at the station entering Big Sur (if I didn't include it, noone would believe that I actually paid that much for gas).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Jackpot - We Have a Place To Live

8th day in captivity - Rachel and I have now officially been homeless for 8 days. However, hope is near. We close on a new place on November 14. After much debate and some solicited help from our blog readers, we went with another townhome. Although not one of the original 4 options listed, this one is in the same development as the townhome that we liked the most (as did the majority of readers) in the original blog.

This one does not have a finished basement, but it does have a finished loft though, so there is still room for an office and "man den". It is also already painted with neutral colors, which was an important criteria this time around, as Bill "Pops" Langston would be unavailable for Alternative Fall Break - Philadelphia and the painting of the Kennedy's home, as he and Erin celebrate the arrival of Carter Langston (see blog links). Congratulations guys!!!

The townhome is 20 minutes from my current work location and 10 minutes from a train station, which will take me to work, once our office moves back to center city.

There is a breakfast area adjacent to the kitchen, which looks out onto the farm. I am excited about this part, as I think it will be a cool place to drink coffee on Saturday mornings.

Another advantage of this townhouse is that the kitchen has more room and counter-space than our townhome in Chicago. It also has dual ovens, which is kind of cool. The selling point for me was that the gas fireplace comes with a remote control (quick, sign Cedric the Entertainer up for more Bud Light ads, cause this has potential).

All readers are invited to come visit when they get a chance. We love visitors!!!

Reflections Part II - Distinctively Southern I am a southerner, and I will always be a southerner at heart and by action. I still do peculiar things that many refined southerners would consider - "redneck". Clark likes to point this out to me on occassion. Still, after living in the north for 3 and a half years, I occassionaly run into things when I visit home that never would have crossed my mind before. Now, I find them "strange".

For instance, during our visit for the Georgia game, I stopped by the bank that I have used since I was a child. I used to take pennies from the piggy-bank there when I was 3 years old. On this visit, it struck me odd that a gentleman at the teller window would be depositing checks, without his shirt on. If this was not funny enough, one of the tellers, who had been in the back room, came by and greeted him, "Hey Ted!!!" Apparently, she didn't think it was that strange.

Even more impressive... Rachel and I marched from our tailgate at the G-10 Garage south of Neyland Stadium to our gate at the north end of the stadium. As we were approaching the gate, we noticed a family of four in front of us - mom, dad, a 6ish year old girl and a 4ish year old boy. Before I continue with this story, I would like to state that this appeared to be a somewhat normal and middle-class family, not someone who wreacked of "redneck".

The mother had the boy by one hand and a "road coke" in the other. As we approached the gate, her husband told her, "You better finish that, or they'll take it away from you at the gate." She quickly turned to Rachel, standing behind her, and replied, "That's OK, I got more where that came from." She then proceeded to tell my wife how she had airplane bottles of liquor stuffed in the 4-year old's shorts waist-band. "I just tell him to keep his arm down as he goes through security. They never check the kids," she proudly explained to Rachel (Bill, at this point, I would like to personally offer to take Carter to his first Tennessee football game as soon as he is able to walk).

Yes friends, this lady was using her own 4 year old son as a liquor pack mule.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Goodbye Chicago... Hello Philadelphia

Sorry it has been so long since I have updated the blog. Thanks to those of you who complained to the management (Rachel) about my delinquincy in updating this page. I will do better in the coming weeks, as our life will hopefully return to some level of normalcy. Here is an update of the past few weeks:

1) Rachel worked in Chicago, while I worked in Philadelphia. It was a bit like dating again. She even thanked me for visiting when I showed up in Chicago for a weekend a few weeks ago.

2) We found a place to live in Philadelphia. I will write more on this in my next entry (complete with pictures).

3) We caught up with many friends the weekend of the Georgia game - Larry and Keri Wray, Salim, Cooney, Kristen, Steve Rodgers, the guys I lived with in college - Kevin Tharp, Brian Bean, Tim Hylund, and the always entertaining Mark Clark. Sorry if I left anyone out here. The only thing better than beating Georgia is taking them out behind the woodshed!!! That was a great Saturday. Following the game, several of us went to Laddy's and Amy's house to watch the LSU vs. Florida game and indulge ourselves into some of Amy's fine cooking.

4) Rachel and I sold our house in Chicago. Thanks to the ridiculous relocation practices of Cartus Corporation (Rohm and Haas's relocation firm), this process was exceedingly painful. With the help of our real estate agent, we were able to hold the deal together, and we received confirmation that our house was sold on Friday. Hopefully, I will not require triple-bypass as a result of this process. If you ever move to Chicago, I can recommend an excellent real estate agent and also give you the name of a home inspector to avoid!!!

5) Please congratulate Rachel on her new job. She interviewed last week and accepted a contract position part-time through Thanksgiving near where we will eventually live. This position has the prospects of moving to full-time after we are fully relocated after the Thanksgiving Holiday.

6) Last night, Rachel and I spent our last night in Chicago. We went to a "Toast for the Fallen", which was a fundraiser for the families of fallen U.S. soldiers. We met, Greg Taunt and Matt Adams (and Matt's "pre-wife" Heather), two of my friends from Kellogg. Heather is his "pre-wife" because they do not like the term "fiancee". It was a great time, and we ended our stay in Chicago, much the way we began it, staying at the same hotel, where we had first visited with Mark Clark 3 and a half years ago, when we began our relocation.

I have decided to conclude my blogs with a segment entitled "Reflections". The purpose of this segment is to spawn deep thought,inform, and hopefully, entertain. I welcome comments on this segment.

This Reflections topic is - Restroom Hand-washing Automation
As I have been traveling more with work lately, I have found myself pondering a technological question, "What is the appropriate level of restroom hand-washing automation?"

There are 3 essential pieces of hand-washing equipment in public restrooms - 1) soap dispenser; 2) sink faucet; 3) drying apparatus (this tool is typically manifested in one of two forms - dryer or paper towel dispenser). Each one of these tools comes in an automated or unautomated form. These options provide 8 (2^3 for those desiring mathematical proof) combinations of automation on this equipment (NNN, NAN, NNA, ANN, AAN, ANA, AAA, NAA, where N = non-automated and A = automated). I am pretty certain that I have seen all of these combinations in my travel over the past month.

I belive that ANSI, OSHA, Congress, the SEC or Nobel Prize Winner Al Gore should take on establishing a standard for this equipment, as I do not believe that all of these combinations meet the logical cleanliness threshold. I will attempt to provide a logical ranking of acceptable practice given the absence of such standards:

1) AAA - complete automation of all devices minimizes the opportunity to spread germs. The travel plaza at milemarker 13 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) is an excellent demonstration of this high-level of automation.

2) NAA - I do not believe it essential for the soap dispenser to be automated, as one should be able to disinfect germs after charging said soap from dispenser. However, the sink faucet and towels should be automated, as both of these devices are used after the germs should have been cleansed. This appears to be the most frequently used package in modern restrooms. Examples include Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park, IL, Atlanta Hartsfiled International Airport and the travel plaza at Ohio mile marker 235 off of the Ohio Turnpike.

3) AAN & NAN - I believe that the sink faucet is the key automation device. Again, the germs from the soap dispenser will be eliminated with proper scrubbing. Assuming that no "unclean" hands use the non-automated papertowel dispenser, then it should be germ free, as it should only be touched by clean hands. This is the exact setup in the bathrooms at Kellogg. While I believe they should be able to automate all features of the bathroom (and all other aspects of the building for that matter), given the tuition, this setup does achieve my standard for cleanliness.

4) NNA, ANN, ANA - These are all unacceptable standards. Regardless of the level of automation of the other apparatuses, it is essential that the sink have the motion detector. Without it, any germs washed off during the cleansing process will be reacquired when the washed hand is used to turn off the germ-infested faucet, which was recent turned on by the uncleansed hand. Unfortunately, these conditions still exist routinely - Philadelphia Airport and the Travel Plaza at mile marker 135 on the Indiana Turnpike.

5) NNN - while no less safe than the combinations listed in 4, a completely unautomated bathroom lacks any imagination and is "dull" in addition to unsanitary.

Word of advice - when encountering any of the scenarios listed in "4" above, please use the drying towel to shut off the faucet, thus providing a prophylactic barrier for your clean hand. If a dryer is used instead of towels, you must make a decision between your health or abusing mother earth's precious resources.