Monday, October 23, 2006

Acute viral nasopharyngitis?

I think I will take this opportunity to tell the world that I have felt lousy (read: pitiful) all day. I feel as if I'm coming down with some sort of common illness. I had a bad sore throat when I woke up this morning and I've had a mild one for the rest of the day. So far it hasn't prevented my going into work at all, which isn't saying much. Hopefully I will remember not to mention this again in great detail when I finally catch up to now in my chronological saga.

I added Adsense Google ads this evening. It's more out of curiosity than anything else, because I'd kind of like to know what sort of ads it will put next to my posts about food and guitar practice. It will display a public service announcement for the next day or two, until they decide that I'm worthy.

Until then, this post was sponsored in part by the generic versions of Claritin and Sudafed.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Science of the Circus and a Riverboat on a Lake

The next morning in Arkansas, we briefly had breakfast downstairs at the hotel. Then we had the pleasure of changing rooms. The ordinary rooms weren't nearly as nice as the Presidential Suite, so I guess you actually get something for the price difference of $270 or so.
Mid America Science Museum
Then we met everyone who could wake up early enough to meet us downstairs and headed for the Mid America Science Museum, which was pretty impressive. It is a Smithsonian affiliate and each year they have a different theme. This year's theme is the circus. It was actually one of the nicest science museums I've seen. Below you can see my dad and his little brother (my uncle) playing with blocks.

The Belle
After leaving the museum, we drove over to Lake Hamilton and took a cruise on the Belle, a riverboat. Getting on the boat was more than a little nerve wracking, because they had had a metal flap that came down for a ramp. Since the lake level was on the low side, the angle was 75-80 degrees. Fortunately, one of the ship's crew clearly knew what he was doing and got me down more easily than I expected and before I could argue against it. My dad and I had to sit on the first level, because there was a flight of steps up to where everyone else sat. Later on in the cruise, several other family members came down to visit.

We were served a sandwich with ham, turkey and American cheese on a croissant with a dollop of potato salad. The cruise itself was very nice. We got to see all of the ritzy houses along the shore of Lake Hamilton and hear more of the history of Hot Springs. I was nervous about getting off the boat, but that was actually somewhat easier.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Familiy Reunion Begins

The morning after we arrived in Arkansas (Bastille Day), my dad and I had breakfast at the hotel with my dad's cousin, UB, and her husband, RB. The Embassy Suites definitely had the best breakfasts of any of the hotels where we stayed. It was a full complimentary breakfast buffet and you could pretty much get anything you wanted. I fondly remembered some of the Tivoli quarterly company breakfasts that we had at the one in Cary when I first started working for IBM. I hadn't seen UB and RB in 14 years, so it was great to spend time with them that morning and throughout the reunion.

Once my uncle, WR, his wife, BR, and my two cousins, NR and MR, arrived, we all had lunch at the hotel. I actually don't remember what I ate. Imagine that!

My dad's cousin, HR, and his wife, SH, arrived late that afternoon. The hotel had cheap ($1) drinks at the bar every evening, so we all took advantage of that. I got them to make a nice fruit juice and soda water concoction. UB's daughter, BO, and her husband, MS, arrived. Finally, UB's son, CO, his wife, JO, and their kids, ACO and ARO arrived. I'm sure the initials are confusing, but hopefully it will be useful for the next few posts.

Next we had dinner at the hotel. Each meal took several hours, because the service was extremely slow, but we were in no hurry. After days of traveling, it was nice to take a break from driving and chat.

After dinner, almost everyone went up to our suite. We got to show off all the luxury and hang out in our dining room. We all looked at the photocopies of the old photographs that I had been sorting and people marked their initials next photos if they wanted copies. I've been working on scanning them and I need to spend more time on it. HR and SH brought wine, so we all had a grand time.

Take a look at the faucet on the whirlpool. I would imagine that it would take forever to fill a whirlpool tub of the size that was in our suite without a fancy faucet, such as this one, but I still thought it was cool.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Actual Arrival in Arkansas

After we left the National Ornamental Metal Museum, we briefly got lost and then drove over the I-55 bridge and crossed into Arkansas. Yes, you did see that bridge in the pictures taken from the museum. Arkansas was a new state for me, so that was pretty exciting. When we crossed the Mississippi, the land was extremely flat. It was flatter than any land I could recall, but it had been approximately 25 years since I'd been to Indiana so I may have just forgotten how flat that was. It looked as if much of the land was taken over by agribusiness and they were mostly growing a lot of short leafy green things.

As we got closer to Little Rock, the terrain was reminiscent of the Piedmont of North Carolina. By the time we arrived in Hot Springs, we were in the mountains again! It was definitely a remarkable transition in just a few hours.
When we checked into the hotel, the Embassy Suites in Hot Springs, they said that for two nights there was a problem with our room. We would have to stay in the Presidential Suite. Goodness. That was certainly an imposition. We had a huge living room, a kitchen, a dining area and two bathrooms. The gorgeous master bath had both a huge whirlpool tub and a large shower. The room was on the ninth floor and every room had beautiful views. The bedroom even had a telescope. I never did ask about the square footage, but it seemed almost as big as my house. Plus it was decorated with pottery, flower arrangements and candles.
Once we'd settled in a bit, we went downstairs for the first of many meals in the hotel dining room. I had white bean chili and decent bread pudding for dessert. Below is the view of downtown Hot Springs from our hotel rooms.

Déjà Vu Feed

I apologize to those of you who read my blog via the atom feed, because you've been seeing a lot of old posts listed. If you haven't guessed, that's because I am trying to tag all of my old posts. Hopefully that will make it easier when you all want to go back and read things I've said in certain categories. Of course, if you try looking at the posts tagged with "food", then you might as well just read the whole blog.

It's actually been fun reading through my old posts, because my style has really changed. I miss writing about what is actually on my mind while I'm writing, so I may try to do that more. Hopefully I'll actually catch up someday, but I also don't want to leave out any of the gory tales of my adventures.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The National Ornamental Metal Museum

Following the excellent lunch at the Beauty Shop, my dad and I headed back toward the river to see if we could find the National Ornamental Metal Museum. We ended up getting severely lost. If I haven't mentioned this before, I have to convey that the combination of my and dad's attempts to navigate in an unfamiliar area are truly comical. Of course, countless people can tell you that my attempts to navigate in a familiar area are comical as well, but it's usually on a much smaller scale and I don't confuse north and south quite as often as a I did a few years ago.
National Ornamental Metal Museum from the Van
Eventually, we actually found it. By then, it appeared that we would have a thunderstorm, so Dad went inside to check it out, before I even left the van. The buildings were quite dilapidated and there was even one guy on a ladder fixing the roof. It wasn't really what I expected for a "National Museum", but it was rather cool. When Dad returned with positive news, we headed across the street and inside. The lady at the front desk gave us an umbrella and recommended that we go out again to take a look at their view of the river, before it started raining. We weren't disappointed in the view, in the least, because the view was even better than the one at Tom Lee Park and were very close to the I-55 bridge. We also got to see a boat pushing a huge barge down the river, which I'd never seen before. A barge would get more than a little stuck in the Eno River. I'm betting canoes get stuck sometimes.
I-55 Going over the Mississippi River
Next we went to their blacksmithing forge. That was pretty nifty. We got the impression that they were more artists than people doing production work. They were working on building a sarcophagus for a blacksmithing friend who had recently passed away.
Finally, we went to the actual museum. They had lots of what I would describe as small sculptures made of gold and fine silver. They also had old gates and other decorative, but functional, work. I managed to resist buying earrings in their gift shop. They seemed very proud of their entry gate and I photographed it as we were leaving.
National Ornament Metal Museum Gate
An amateur radio operator had seen my license plate and left a note on my windshield while I was at the museum. It was nice to have a greeting from a fellow ham.
Gate Made in 1935

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Visiting the Mississppi and the Beauty Shop

Our next morning in Memphis, we set out to get the tire fixed at a tire place that the hotel recommended. We headed down the wrong street, but eventually discovered that the directions they gave us were from a different entrance. It turned out that the tire had a broken valve stem, which cost only $11 to fix! I had feared that it would be so much worse, but we were on our way in no time.

Our next top was Tom Lee Park, to see the Mississippi River. That was really cool because the park had these long flat sidewalks with a clear view of the river and the giant houses along the levee. The only downside was that it was extremely hot since there really wasn't any shade. In the photo, you can see the Mississippi River and the Interstate 40 bridge on the left, downtown Memphis on the right and the Pyramid Arena in between.

Next we looked at Mud Island River Park, but it was only easy to get to via overhead rail. It was cool looking, but I wasn't in the mood to explore that method of transportation, plus we didn't have much time to spend there.

We drove across town, to Midtown, and ate at the Beauty Shop, which HB recommended. Basically, it's an eclectic restaurant in a building that used to be a beauty parlor. They used original furniture from the parlor, had mismatched silverware and glasses and added some very interesting art glass lamps. That was just the decor. The food was really quite good. I ordered whole fried chicken wings in a spicy sweet sauce with cashews, small chunks of bleu cheese and large pieces of watermelon. It was a great combination, but it was a lot of food. I wanted to try their desserts, but I just couldn't eat anymore. I would have loved to have also tried their savory crepes and several other dishes.

Bird Returns for Fall Break?

I have to interrupt the scintillating tale about my flat tire to let you all know that the Crazed Woodpecker is back. I hadn't seen him in about three months or more, but somewhere around the crack of dawn this morning, I heard him flinging himself into the great room windows. He's still at it.

In other news, I received a tip from one of my dear readers that Pepsi Co has purchased Izze Soda. My initial thought was to cringe, because yet another giant company has swallowed a little one. They also might mess with the ingredients, such that it will be less healthy and delicious. The only good that can come out of this is that Izze will likely become more readily available and might (this is a stretch) be cheaper. I'm still cringing.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Walking in Memphis Due to a Flat

The drive to Memphis was fairly uneventful, although we did run into an extremely heavy downpour. I literally couldn't see the car right in front of me. This was still not as noteworthy as our actual arrival in Memphis.

When we pulled into the parking garage of the Memphis Holiday Inn Select and I maneuvered into the parking space in their garage, they pointed out that our tire was aflat. Very flat. I was somewhat distressed, because HB had given me all these recommendations of what to do in Memphis and I figured that we might not get to do all of them.
Horse Drawn Carriages
The people working at the hotel were extremely nice and put on the spare for me. I then had to drive the van up to the third floor, up an extremely steep ramp, so they could pump some air in the spare. The spare was very low, so we were worried about the seal, but we made it. Overall, the hotel, the Holiday Inn Select, was very nice and was across the street from the famous Peabody hotel, where they have the ducks that march to their fountain at scheduled times. The Peabody looked cool from the outside and they had quite a collection of horse drawn carriages. The room in our hotel was not quite as spacious at the Hampton Inn room, but the service was just incredible. The bathroom was also nicer and more accessible.
Down the Street
Since we weren't confident about wandering about on just the spare, we abandoned HB's dinner suggestion and decided to walk somewhere. We first went around the corner to Erika's German Restaurant, but that had closed. Then we went across the street, to Sawahdii, a Thai place. That was quite good. Unfortunately, I had attended the cocktail hour at the hotel and apparently ate more than I should have. I couldn't come close to finishing my Pad Thai. I also had Tom Ka Ghai soup, which was excellent.
Pad Thai at Sawahdii
One funny thing at the hotel was that one of the elevators refused to stop on our floor, the fifth floor. It reminded me of Grey 17 is Missing.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame

The morning after my dad and I arrived in Nashville, we had breakfast at the hotel, which was ok. They had strange egg discs, which were surprisingly good. As we were leaving the hotel, I got a call from RR to say that she had her baby. That was an exciting way to start the day!


We visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. I thought it was pretty interesting thinking about what sort of things my ancestors would have listened to and the instruments they would have played. Plus, I'd heard the music of at least some of the musicians they featured there. I've never been a huge country music fan, but I am more likely to like the old stuff. Of course, the Joan Baez Country Music Album is one of my favorites. I took an inexplicable number of pictures while I was there. The lobby was one of the coolest things, from an aesthetic perspective. Another cool thing was the architecture of the room containing the Hall of Fame itself, particularly the ceiling.
We had lunch at the cafe in the lobby area and David Andersen was playing guitar while people ate. He showed me a few things, both simple and complicated, and seemed extremely nice. We bought a CD and a book from him. My dad was most amused when he recognized a Bach piece, because he hadn't realized that Bach was a country musician. Andersen apparently will play just about anything that's requested, showing off incredible versatility. I had a fried green tomato BLT for lunch, which was pretty good.