Tubing season opens; no vendor change

Me, tubingMemorial Day weekend, around here, marks the opening of the tubing season at Ichetucknee Springs State Park. I was pleased to read in the paper Friday that a plan to change the tube rental arrangement from the status quo (“the way it’s always been done,” to quote many Episcopalians) to a single-vendor “inside the park” system. To me, going to pick out your tube at the rental place and figuring out how you’re going to get it to the park is an essential part of the whole tubing experience.

In sort of related trivia, did you know that Googling the phrase “Ichetucknee tubing” is one of the more common ways that readers find this site? It turns out that a photo album from a previous adventure there is on the first page of search results.

My favorite podcasts

One of the main reasons I bought my iPod last year was to use it as a portable hard drive to backup my photos from my laptop during my trip to Britain last year. Another reason was to consolidate the CDs in the car. I wasn’t buying the whole podcast thing, not quite.

A year later, what do I use it for? Listening to podcasts while driving–more on out-of-town trips than commuting. This morning I am loading it up for a trip to Mom’s. Here’s my top six:

  • The Digital Story – O’Reilly author and editor Derrick Story is building a cottage industry around his “online camera club.” I have a draft of another blog post about this. If you want to improve your digital photo skills, listen to this.
  • Science Friday – Ira Flatow’s NPR news show on the hot stories from the world of science that week. Listen and learn.
  • News from Lake Wobegon – The weekly update segment from Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” radio show. Last time I was at Mom’s, I played a bunch of these for her.
  • Living on Earth – Another public radio program, this one showcasing environmental stories. The producers do a great job of giving balanced coverage to the issues they cover. This show and Science Friday have both had very good coverage of alternative energy issues of late.
  • To the Best of Our Knowledge – Yet another public radio show, this one featuring authors of books. The official summary says it’s about “new ideas.”
  • This American Life – Mostly funny stories, both first person and fiction, hosted by Ira Glass. Sometimes the humor very dark. You have been warned. (Yes, it too is a public radio show.)

Looking at the list, I guess I get what I want from public radio when I want it. Another thing you may notice is that almost all are done by radio professionals. The common thread is high production value.

I read somewhere a while back that production value is what keeps people coming back to a podcast. I know I tried listening to one or two where a newspaper columnist basically read a printed article into either a small digital audio recorder or a computer microphone. It was almost unbearable.

Most of my CDs have yet to be ripped and copied to the darn thing. My headphones hardly get used either–that might be different if I flew more.

Feel free to leave further listening recommendations in the comments. I don’t know when I’ll get to them though. I seem to have a backlog. Maybe I’m not driving enough… or I need to fly more.

More on TV

Someone* IM’d: “I didn’t know you watched business shows; you’re so well-rounded :)”

The comment above was made in response to a comment I made about a fund I have in my retirement portfolio being picked as a good fund to have this year on one of my favorite TV shows, Cashin’ In on the Fox News Channel, which airs Saturday mornings as part of The Cost of Freedom block of business shows. If I’m home and inside on Saturday morning, they’re on, at least as background noise for whatever I’m doing. When I win the lottery, I’m calling Jonathan.

Since I previously commented here on what I watch, the IM above prompted me to think and write about other things I watch besides network series.

About the only other thing I still regularly watch on Fox News (especially now that Kiran Chetry has departed for CNN) is Fox News Watch, a great panel-discussion show where they “cover the coverage” of the week’s stories.

I get my evening network news from NBC and Brian Williams. I got interested in them sometime post-Katrina after reading somewhere on the net about their blog, The Daily Nightly, and checking it out.

I watch Good Eats on the Food Network.

I watch This Old House on PBS and This Old House Classics on DIY Network.

In other notes since I last wrote….

SciFi has moved Battlestar Galactica to Sundays at 10 from Friday. It now faces off with Brothers & Sisters, which I now TiVo (and have a couple of unwatched episodes queued).

I somehow got hooked on 24.

Fox put Standoff on hiatus and I read this week (doing my research for this) that it will return this Spring on Friday nights, which usually is a death knell, unfortunately.

That’s all for now.

*Name withheld to protect the innocent because if I publish the name, someone will be a real jerk and take it out on the innocent.

Christmas Update 2006

Finally completed on Saturday evening, Feb. 17.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

Florida BayI suppose the year in review actually starts this week last year, after I had already mailed last year’s cards and update. I thought I’d spend go spend a few days in Key Largo. The weather was not real cooperative. It’s actually been warmer here this week up here than it was that week down there (when it was really cold here). I saw lots of cool birds there and got bitten by this bug called kayaking. Click on the photo to go see my pictures from the trip.

I thought then that I’d probably own a kayak by now, getting one during the summer after the London trip, but some other things got in the way (as you’ll read below, but maybe not until a later update). So my lone other kayak adventure this year ended up being in February in Vero Beach with Andy. He got his this year. I still want one like the orange boat in the photos.

The trip to Britain

Westminster AbbeyMuch of the excitement of the first part of the year revolved around deciding to go and then planning the trip. The opportunity (or motivation) presented itself when I heard about this conference in London during June. I decided to go to the dean and ask, “If I happen to be in London on vacation at the time of this conference, will you pay my registration so I can attend?” She said, “yes.” Then came convincing Mom to go and got convinced when a visiting Aunt Linda told her that this was an opportunity she better not pass up.

We invaded Britain via 747 on the anniversary of D-day. After a couple of days of getting acclimated and our first family meet-up when Jean Peach (she’s in the Bence family) came from Newbury to London to see us, we hopped on a train at King’s Cross station that Friday for a weekend in Scotland. London to Inverness by train makes for a very long, but very scenic, travel day. During that morning on the train, we passed through Durham and Newcastle, which is where the Jeckells came from.

Me and my relationsWe spent the weekend in and around Inverness with some cousins of mine from the Galleymore line (my Dad’s side of the family). Actually, Jean Taylor is the first living relative over there that I tracked down, about seven years ago, when I was more actively researching family history. They put up Mom in the spare bedroom at Jean’s and me at Jenni and Alan’s.

On Saturday, we piled into Alan’s Vauxhall for a drive around Loch Ness. Highlights of the drive included Urquhart Castle, Fort Augustus, and the Caledonian Canal. We had a fine dinner at the Snow Goose pub in Inverness.

Mom in her elementSunday’s drive headed west toward the Isle of Skye. Parts of this drive reminded me of driving from Eugene to the coast in Oregon three years ago. We stopped in Plockton and other scenic places around Loch Carron and eventually found ourselves in Broadford on Skye. We took a different route back to Inverness, along Loch Alsh, and found ourselves at the Eilean Donan Castle along the way, where Mom met Ross the bagpiper. We enjoyed the Snow Goose so much the night before, we went back there again for Sunday’s dinner. I need to note that during mid-June in Inverness, it gets light around 4 a.m. and sunset is around 10 p.m.

Monday morning we boarded a southbound train not knowing where we would spend the next night, which Mom found disconcerting. It was also a rainy day. We headed toward (and through) Wolverhampton (changing trains in Edinburgh and Manchester) to meet up with some other Galleymores, but that didn’t happen and we ended up spending the night in Oxford, where we relaxed and did laundry the next day.

Buckingham Palace and MeWednesday morning we took the train to Newbury where I dropped Mom off with the Peaches while I went off to London for a few days of conferencing. I got off the tube in London and was headed for my hotel when I first felt a stabbing pain in one of my achilles tendons. I took no footstep for the rest of the trip (and for some time afterward) that did not involve some measure of pain. The conference was great and I enjoyed seeing some old friends, making some new ones, learning, and scouting that part of London for when I returned with Mom on Sunday.

IMG_0475.jpgThe conference finished Friday evening and Saturday morning I boarded a westbound train to meet back up with Mom, Jean, and Gary. The agenda for the day was another road trip. Our first stop on the trip was Stonehenge, which, I have to say, was one of the bigger disappointments of the whole trip. It’s smaller than it looks in documentary films and was overrun by tourists, which is to be expected the weekend before the Summer solstice. Our next stop on the road trip was lunch at The Carpenters Arms pub in Lacock. After lunch, we stayed in Lacock and visited the Fox Talbot museum of photography and Lacock Abbey. The latter served as a set for part of Hogwarts in a couple of Harry Potter movies.

Avebury panorama

Our last stop on the day’s road trip was Avebury–a stone circle larger and older than Stonehenge with a town in the middle of it and surrounded by an earthen berm. It is also permitted to walk among, and even picnic in the shadows of, the stones. That is, if you don’t mind sharing the countryside with grazing sheep. I climbed atop the berm and took the above picture. I sat down for a few minutes and felt more connected to the landscape there than anywhere else in Britain.

Mom and Big BenWe headed back to London by train for the last time on Sunday morning. We settled into a different hotel in the Bayswater area this time and set off to Westminster where I showed Mom around the Abbey, the “Great Clock,” Parliament, the Eye, Whitehall, etc. while scouting things for the last few days of our visit.

First on Monday’s agenda was a cruise down the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich. After pausing briefly at the Cutty Sark and stopping in the gift shop to buy Mom a windbreaker, we set off up the hill to the observatory. The observatory is really worth the trip, and not just for the geeky photo opportunity. We had a nice lunch at one of the museums and then headed back to Westminster on the boat. Back in Westminster, we did our gift shopping at the Abbey before heading back to Bayswater for dinner and the evening.

Mom, the great clock, and meTuesday’s main event was one of the other “must-dos,” the London Eye. Mom said she could ride that all day. I started out with a slight case of the willies, but that went away as soon as I turned around so I was not facing the machinery. In case you don’t know, it goes really slowly, you go around just once, it takes about 40 minutes to do so, and the view is phenomenal. After the Eye, we took a walk down the south bank of the Thames to the Charing Cross Bridge. We crossed the pedestrian bridge and then caught a subway headed for St. Paul’s Cathedral. We didn’t go in the “paid” part of St. Paul’s, but what we did see was amazing. We had lunch in the basement cafe. After lunch, we walked to the middle of the Milennium Bridge and back before going gift shopping at Harrod’s on the way back to the hotel.

35 Winchester Road - June 2006Wednesday was our last full day in Britain. The first order of business was a trip to the Hampstead area to look for some addresses related to the Bence family. We struck gold in that regard about one block from the Swiss Cottage tube station where the former storefront office of the construction firm of H.R. Bence & Son looked almost unchanged from pictures taken about 60 and 100 years ago. If you get close, you can still see where “H.R. Bence & Son” was chiseled off the facia. From there, we set off on foot to find one of the old Bence homes, which was nearby at 17 Crossfield Road. It was neat to imagine that my ancestors had once walked down the same sidewalks.

The final touristy thing on the agenda was a trip across town to the British Museum. The main attractions there were seeing the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin marbles (Greek relics from the Parthenon), and Greek statues. You could easily spend a week in that museum. We capped off the trip by meeting and having dinner with my cousin Deon (of the South African branch of the Galleymore family). I really wish, for a number of reasons, that we would have met up with him earlier in the trip.

Check out all the photos from the trip in the Flickr album.

Mario

Tired doggieMario turned 16 in September. My biggest fear about going on the trip to England was that he would die while I was away. The vet says he is very healthy and energetic for his age. That seems to have taken a downturn just this month though. He’s had a heart murmur for as long as I’ve had him. He has mild case of congestive heart failure. He’s also been having trouble lately with something called “geriatric vestibular syndrome,” which is best described as being like vertigo in humans. The first time I saw him through a spell of it, I thought he had a stroke or something. Now if I notice the problem, I just have to modify how he enters and leaves the house to visit the yard. I won’t be surprised at all if I write next year about his passing, but I know I’ve thought that the last two years too. Update: Mario was put to rest on 12 Jan 2007.

What else happened?

What I’ve been watching on TV this Fall

I thought I’d break out my old entertainment writer cap and write a little commentary on what TV shows I’ve been watching this Fall. I’ve enjoyed it so far. So here goes:

Sunday
Brothers & Sisters (ABC, 10 p.m.)
I ought to hate this show because it has so many actors that I haven’t liked through the years like Sally Field, Patricia Wettig, and Ron Rifkin. However, I find myself glued to the TV for it every Sunday night even though I don’t watch the desperate lead-in show. Is Calista Flockhart (playing someone like Ann Coulter) the attraction? I don’t know. Maybe the attraction is Rachel Griffiths, who first caught my eye in Six Feet Under on HBO. Oh, and it’s very well written. That’s probably the real key to my attraction.

Monday
How I Met Your Mother (CBS, 8 p.m.)
I didn’t watch this last season, but gave it a look over the Summer one night when it was the critic’s choice in the paper and there was nothing else interesting on. I got hooked in two episodes or so. This is the worthy successor to Friends as the current standard bearer as a “New York-based sitcom about 20-something singles in the city.” Neil Patrick Harris shines as Barney, a great wisecracking womanizer full of one-liners (that writing thing again).

I was watching Vanished on Fox on Monday nights, but it got banished to Fridays and then canceled shortly thereafter. I don’t watch, but wish luck to, Studio 60 on Sunset Strip (NBC, 10 p.m.) because I like Matthew Perry and Amanda Peet and I typically love any show that Aaron Sorkin is involved in.

Tuesday
Standoff (Fox, 8 p.m.)
How can you not like FBI hostage negotiators at work and somewhat secret lovebirds after hours Matt and Emily? Once again, you gotta have good writers to pull off something as dialog-heavy as hostage negotiation.

NCIS (CBS, 8 p.m.)
While I’m watching Standoff, I’m recording NCIS on my DVR for later viewing. I haven’t watched this from the beginning, but quickly became enamored of this show once I did give it a look. Hmmm, witty banter again, do I sense a theme?

House (Fox, 9 p.m.)
I think that while House is intended to be a medical drama, I watch it as a comedy, albeit a very dark one. I would not recommend this show to my mother. I started watching it on recommendation from a student.

Wednesday
Lost (ABC, 9 p.m.)
Well, I’m not currently watching this because it’s had it’s Fall finale, with new episodes not in the offing until February. I’m not sure I like the latest new direction the show has taken this season, but I’m willing to stick with it to see what happens.

Thursday
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, 9 p.m.)
Yes, I watch the trendiest show on TV. I have to in order to keep up with the discussions of the show among all the students at UF. And yes, they all watch it.

Shark (CBS, 10 p.m.)
Shark edges out Standoff as my favorite new show. Start with James Woods as a very successful former defense attorney turned prosecutor of just the sort of high-profile cases he used to provide defense counsel for. Also make him a single father of a teenage daughter. Oh, just watch the show.

Friday
Battlestar Galactica (SciFi, 9 p.m.)
I was a teenager when the original aired way back when. The new show is about a thousand times better. No camp here. And the visual look is most reminiscent of the Alien films. Not even the metallic cylons are particularly bright and shiny. Nothing is.

After writing this, I have now officially decided that I probably watch too much TV.

Casino Royale

I’m excited about Casino Royale opening at the movies today. I don’t think I’ll see it this weekend, but hope to see it by the end of next weekend.

I read the book last weekend. I happened upon a copy of it at the “store closing” sale at the bookstore at the outlet mall last week. I have a couple others that I inherited from my Grandfather, but I had never read one of the books in its entirety even though I’ve seen most of the movies many, many times. I recommend the book to fans of the Bond movies.

You may be aware from the movie publicity that Casino Royale was the first novel Ian Fleming wrote in the Bond series. Here are some reasons to give it a read:

  • You get to read Bond going to see M for the first time.
  • Yes, that means Miss Moneypenny.
  • You get to read Fleming’s original dialog of Bond ordering a martini. Yes, it’s vodka. No, it’s not your average vodka martini. Yes, it’s shaken, but no, he doesn’t utter the words “not stirred.”
  • You get to find out just what SMERSH was.
  • And yes, Vesper Lynd is the original Bond girl.

Check it out.

But I’m not Korean

But I'm not KoreanFor some reason, I found this direct-mail piece humorous enough to blog about. This is not the first time I’ve been assumed to be Korean based on having a surname that’s very common in that culture. This may be the first time though from a company that I’m actually a customer of. I’ve received mail from Korean Air before and had one from them in the same mail batch as this even.

At work, it’s not uncommon for Korean graduate students to be quite surprised to discover that I’m not Korean upon first meeting me. What usually happens is a faculty member tells them to come see me for access to some Web service. They always get the same sort of surprised look on their faces when they discover that who they found is not who they thought they were looking for.

This is not the first case of mistaken ethnicity I’ve experienced either. The former Jennifer Lee (my ex- for you newer readers) used to regularly get offers for Chinese affinity Visa cards. That’s not surprising though given the commonness of the given name Jennifer in the Chinese-American community. However, how the marketers figure that a guy with a Scottish name like Craig might be Korean has me scratching my head.