Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I'm back

Virginia is a beautiful state, full of magnolia trees which fill the air with a perfumy scent that makes me wish I could have one or two of them right in my own backyard. The surroundings are green and lush with flowers everywhere and colorful songbirds flying all around. Settlers who arrived from the Old World in the midst of springtime must have initially thought they had found paradise.

Our first stop was Mt. Vernon. The home and plantation of our first president is quite beautiful and serene, nested high on a hill overlooking the Potomac River. The spacious mansion is three floors (tourists are only allowed to walk through the first two floors.) No one is admitted to the third floor for whatever reason. The house is full of interesting things and wonderful etchings depicting various historical events. George Washington was a man of many interests, and also a very private person who did his best to keep his family and home life separate from his public life.

Here is a view of the back of the house (left) where we sat for awhile and just enjoyed the view. The weather was wonderful, breezy and in the mid 70s. I am glad that we didn't wait till the end of our trip to visit Mt. Vernon as it was in the 90s the last two days of our trip. The house is air conditioned now, but there is a lot of outside walking to do to see the stables, greenhouse (right) and gardens, orchards, farm, coach houses, etc.

Washington's tomb is on the grounds of Mt. Vernon, his wife Martha buried alongside of him, his stepchildren and other family members are buried in the tomb, also.

To the
left is the home of Thomas Jefferson (Monticello). Jefferson's mansion is big, but there is no wasted space at all, no big staircases or huge hallways. Jefferson was very practical and efficient, making every inch of his home useful. We could only tour the first floor of his home because the stairways to go upstairs were too narrow and steep, and they do not want people to get hurt on them. Jefferson was big on knowledge and was continually educating himself. He was fluent in seven languages, and read books in their original language. He believed much was lost in the translation of literature, which is very true. Much is left out or altered when translated from one language to another. Jefferson loved books and his library collection was large.

Ironically, both Washington and Jefferson believed in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and devoted their lives to upholding freedom and justice, yet both owned many slaves, releasing them only in their wills upon their deaths.

While visiting with our daughter for a few days, we toured the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. James Monroe is buried there (grave left) and also John Tyler (right). James Madison is also buried here, but we couldn't find his grave and didn't feel like going all the way back to the office to get a map. The cemetery is full of those magnolia trees, and the air smells so good. The cemetery overlooks the James River. It's a beautiful place.

We also saw the state capital building in downtown Richmond. Had to be searched before entering, even our camera bag, purses, etc. which is sad, yet understandable in today's world. This building combines the old Confederate capital and a new capital built around it.

After leaving our daughter's place, we went on to Williamsburg which turned out to be a huge tourist trap. The information center resembled a large train station, with stalls for humans to be herded up to counters to choose which package they wished to squander their money on. To be able to even walk through the town of Williamsburg, one must buy at least the minimum ticket. There is no access to parking around the area without a ticket of some sort. So we said screw that part and went to Jamestown and Yorktown where we could buy tickets separately and there were free parking lots at both places.

Jamestown was very much smaller than I expected, and there were two of the usual three ships docked there that people could take a tour of. We went on the Susan Constant (pictured below) that was the biggest of the three ships. The other one was a tiny ship called Discovery. The ship, Godspeed was on the James River in Richmond for special events, and is where our daughter played with the orchestra on the dock in front of the ship. (Godspeed pictured above)

There was a small re-created Jamestown fort and buildings complete with actors in character doing chores and activities just as if they were back in the 1600s. It was very interesting, and lucky the weather was still cool or I would have roasted in the heat and humidity. I don't do well in extreme heat and humidity.

We went on to Yorktown Victory Center which was a Revolutionary War site. There is a recreated military camp and also a farm area with re-created buildings from that time, along with actors to tell about life in Yorktown during that time. There were also farm animals walking around, including a turkey that got pissed off when I got a bit too close with my camera. It turned its backside towards me and fluffed out its tail feathers and started gobbling. I am not really crazy about animals other than cats, dogs and Bearded Dragons.

Lastly, we went out to Virginia Beach and then the day after to Cape Henry Lighthouse at Fort Story. Virginia Beach is a boring version of Atlantic City, though the beach is very nice, Atlantic City and Brigantine Island Beaches were more fun, and more things to see and do, and more reasonably priced food places, places to go buy a lemonade. Virginia Beach is more "resort-ish".

The day we went to Virginia Beach was warmer than most other days on our trip, but the last day we went to Cape Henry lighthouse, it was hot and humid and I managed to get sunburned. Going back on a military base was like deja vu...and brought back lots of memories of our days when my husband was in the Air Force and we spend a lot of time going on and off the base, each time having to be waved through, and even stopped at times for the little "war games" the MPs play. We were stopped at the entrance to Fort Story, but it was no game. We had to get out of our van, open all the doors and glove boxes and engine hood and step far back away from the vehicle while military personnel made a search of everything. Once they were satisfied we didn't have any weapons or anything, we were given a pass and allowed to go on to the lighthouse and beach...but no farther.

The cost of going up into the old lighthouse was $4 each and I am afraid that m
y $4 was wasted because when I stepped inside and readied to go up the 172 steps to the top, I looked up and saw a very high, tunnel to the top and became very claustrophobic! I couldn't breath. I had the same reaction in an MRI machine a few years ago. I wasn't claustrophobic when I was young, it's a recent development. I waited in the hot sunshine, dodging the biggest flying insects I have seen since our days in Arkansas while I waited for him to go up, get some photos and come back down.

Afterwards we went across the road for a little lunch in the van, and then walked out the planked trail to the beach where soldiers were training in the sand and water, and m
ilitary families were enjoying the surf on a hot Saturday afternoon.

The next day we drove back to Richmond to have breakfast with our daughter and see her one more time before heading home. I hate saying goodbye to her each time we leave her. That part never gets any easier.

I have other stories but will write them individually as this is getting to be way too long!

Friday, May 18, 2007

On the road again . . .

This little dog looks exactly like the dog my husband and I had for our first seven years of marriage. Sadly, we had to give him away because our oldest son was so sick with asthma all the time, and this dog had rabbit-like fur that shed all over the place. Anyone who came to visit was sure to take about a pound of it back home with them all over their clothes.

We are going on a long-anticipated vacation and are looking forward to it very much! More importantly, we get to see our daughter again for a few days, then we plan to go to the seashore and watch waves for a few days. I will write about it when we get back, and hopefully will have some nice pictures to post.

Feel free to comment, I will be checking off when I have access to a computer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I got 40 hours this week!

Some good news on the work-at-home front. I actually worked a full 40-hour week this FOUR days! I can't believe it!

This is a new project and takes more time than the last project because there is more to look for. It's scoring a math word-problem. I am not at liberty to write about the contents of the question I am scoring, but I can give a bit of vague highlights about what I do.

I get up at 6 a.m. and allow myself a little time to wake up, get some coffee, take a quick shower, get dressed, make a bowl of oatmeal and then I log on. Each day that I logged in, I expected to at sometime to get the "no more work available" message, but it didn't happen. In fact, they seem to be a bit behind for this one. That is because it's a four-part word problem and kids can think of every kind of way to work out a problem, and many of them are wrong and confused. It is my job to untangle the mess of their written thoughts and answers...and the occasional comical drawings that go along with their answers.

I need to find four things for four points. It's frustrating when they illustrate three things and are so close to getting a full four points and do something stupid like invert the numbers, or guess and write something totally off-the -wall, causing them to not get a perfect score. Or they make a simple mistake in addition, like 40 + 20 = 80. Grrrr! I think it's because they are in such a rush and under pressure to get through these answers that they don't take time to proofread what they write down.

It's ironic that I work for a test-scoring company when I am against these standardized "memorization and regurgitation" tests. It takes precious time away from real education and we can see from much of the way they express themselves in these tests that they are lacking in the areas of spelling, grammar and basic math...bigtime! It's not just one or two students I am talking about, I would say it's more than 60%. These are 8th graders and many of them have the writing and math aptitude of a 5th grader.

Some kids are good at these things and have memorized well, and will probably grow up to be presidents and CEOs of companies because they know how to play the game...or at least are good at doing exactly what they are told. On the other hand, one can tell who the daydreamers are, whose minds wander throughout the memorization drills of "test preparation". If they are like I was when I was young, they think about other things they would rather be doing or places they would rather be than sitting in a boring-ass classroom listening to a teacher drone on and on while "reviewing" the test material.

I feel sorry for kids in the public school systems.

Leak, electrical problem and a dead mouse - hot tub installation update

On April 19th I wrote about a used hot tub we bought from a couple who lives in our town. I wrote how I couldn't wait to get it installed and running so I could soak away my aches and pains. Well, it's almost a month since we bought it, and the dang thing still isn't running! Though I tried to be enthusiastic about hubby finding such a great deal, I had underlying pessimistic concerns about why the owners were letting a hot tub that is originally worth thousands go for only hundreds. My pissy negative attitude was not unwarranted...the thing has more wrong with it than what the seller had told us, and since we bought it "as-is", knowing that it had a leak (that hubby says would be easy to fix), we can't go back and complain. He just has to deal with it, which is what he has been doing almost every day since the parts he ordered for it came in several days ago.

Moving it was a breezer for the company who we had pick it up from the seller and deliver it to our house. My husband checked it out thoroughly, and while I know he can fix just about anything, I also know from being married to him for almost 32 years that used things we buy always end up needing much more work than anticipated. Sure enough, the thing had leaks, but he bought the parts he thought was leaky, and also bought a new ozonator and assured me that he can fix anything (which I must admit he usually can, but usually takes awhile of trial and error). He installed the new parts, started putting the water in, and much to my still leaked. At the risk of getting my head bit off, I said, "it would be our luck if the leak was underneath where the foot jets are, and hopefully there is nothing wrong with the electric." He didn't like that comment very much, said I was always thinking the worst and said it was going to be no big deal to fix, whatever it was.

He drained the water back out that he had put in it, and then figured out that he would have to remove the blown in foam crap that all the pipes and stuff are encased in. In the diagram at the top of this post, you can see where all the pipes and stuff imagine all that encased in hardened blow-in foam. It's a bitch to get out without damaging anything else. He worked and worked on digging out about five large plastic trash bags of foam, and found the leak...he assumed there was only one leak. He got a new piece of pipe, put it in there and filled it again and guess what? Yep...another leak. He now thinks I am right about it coming from the area of the foot jets in the middle, which may mean that the damn thing needs to be stood on end to get at it.

He decided to try the electric since it had water in it, though it was still leaking some, and I hate to be right about these things...I really do, but it doesn't work! Am I shocked? Not at all.

After taking more stuff apart, he found that what happened was a MOUSE got in there and fried itself and shorted out the transformer, which in turn probably caused the pipes to freeze since the sellers had this on their deck outdoors year-round. He just removed the mouse carcass, and took the transformer out and is now looking online for a new one...and isn't having any luck yet since the damn thing is made in Canada. A new "discovery" while I am writing this, is that the panel where the buttons are doesn't work either. The whole damn thing is shorted out. Now we have already bought pipes, diverter, ozonator, and all the electrical supplies to install it's own electrical box, conduit, wires, etc. Now he has to buy the transformer, and a control pad.

Looks like this is going to turn into being his summer "hobby".

Stay tuned for more updates.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Zimmers "My Generation"

This is cute! Keep on rockin' on no matter how old you are!

The oldest and greatest rock band in the world - meet The Zimmers and their amazing cover of The Who's "My Generation".

Lead singer Alf is 90 - it's quite something when he sings "I hope I die before I get old". And he's not the oldest - there are 99 and 100-year-olds in the band!

The Zimmers will feature in a BBC TV documentary being aired in May 2007. Documentary-maker Tim Samuels has been all over Britain recruiting isolated and lonely old people - those who can't leave their flats or who are stuck in rubbish care homes.

The finale of the show is this group of lonely old people coming together to stick it back to the society that's cast them aside - by forming a rock troupe and trying to storm into the pop charts.

Some massive names from the pop world have thrown their weight behind The Zimmers... The song is produced by Mike Hedges (U2, Dido, Cure), the video shot by Geoff Wonfor (Band Aid, Beatles Anthology), and it was recorded in the legendary Beatles studio 2 at Abbey Road.

Look out for the single being released from May 21 - with proceeds going to a good cause.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Unclogging writer's block

For the past several months I have had a problem with writer's block. I'm not talking about blog writing, but in the coming up with ideas for new short stories and poetry. I think the problem is that I spend a lot of time in blogland and reading on the internet and I need to get back to brainstorming ideas. It's hard to brainstorm and get the creative juices flowing when one is receiving a steady stream of input.

So, I made a decision today to get back at it and set aside hours during the day where I don't surf the net, don't blog, don't sit looking at YouTube videos, etc. It's time to get crackin' if I seriously want to write, and publish that book of short stories. No more slacking! All it will take is self-discipline and use the time during the day I have alone in silence to write. I can always blog when hubby gets home and starts blasting the television and people talking to me, etc. But during the day is going to have to become my writing time if I am going to have any hope of having any more of my stuff published.

I plan to be making new entries to My Writing Place blog, very soon.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy 27th Birthday Jeff!

Happy Birthday, Jeff! This is my middle son and his fiancee, Whitney. Also, there is a photo of Jeff at age 4. He has always been a happy guy, and when he smiles, his whole face smiles and his eyes squinch up. :-D He has a boisterous laugh that is contagious, always has. He laughed out loud at two days old. It was a real laugh, not gas like some might immediately assume. He has had a sense of humor since birth, and it's infectious. On the other hand, he has a Lithuanian/Irish temper that flares up fast, but quickly fades and he is back to his same smiley, silly self. :-O

Jeff is a person of multiple talents. He can draw, paint, paints miniature figures, plays the French Horn and is a good singer. He knows a lot about computers and is the one we all call for personal computer tech support. ;) He is also knowlegable about website design and computer graphics. Also, he has excellent math ability and is going to school now to earn his degree in accounting and plans to get his CPA. For the past three years he has had a very demanding job of driving a semi-truck, over the road and semi-regional/local. Typical work-weeks for him are 50-60 hours. A regular 40 hour schedule is like part-time to him. I hope that the career-change plans go well for him because he really needs to get out of the trucking industry where they abuse their drivers and treat them like slaves. He is too smart and talented to waste it in an industry that cares little for their employee's welfare.

Jeff has been through a lot in life, and has gotten through it all with determination and self-discipline...and of course has had lots of help and support from his sweetheart, Whitney. :-)


An hour and a half

After a week of no work and no pay, I finally logged onto the company website today, and was excited and happy to finally find work to do. I planned to work the whole day, getting in as many hours as I could because I knew that tomorrow I would only get two hours at the most.

I was happily zipping along, and glad to be working again, and BOING...after only one and a half hours of working, I received the dreaded message "NO MORE WORK AVAILABLE. CONTACT SUPERVISOR FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS". I just about popped a vessel! But then calmed myself down and thought maybe they were just slow at scanning and downloading new papers, and kept checking back.

After about an hour of this, I checked the company main page and it said that the project I was working on was completed and finished! Isn't that just dandy for them?

I am already signed up for the next project that starts on May 8th. I will give it another shot, but it's the same bullcrap as this project was, it's not worth another minute of my time and aggravation.