Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Above are some pictures taken at the Karen Traviss event tonight at my store.  One of the pictures is in focus, the rest are not.  Guess which one picture I took.  That's what I get for handing my camera off to another person who is unfamiliar with it.  My fault, not hers.  Oh well.  Enjoy.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Too Busy to Post

Obviously I have a wee bit of time to just write this, but I don't have the good hour of time and the significantly greater amount of focus and patience that it takes me to compose the "Hell at Sea" chapters. 

All my focus and patience is gone by the time I return home after work.

Sorry, for the time being, you lovely people get short shrift. 

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hell at Sea, Part 2

Previously on "Hell at Sea"...

We learned that I remember my quitter days of yore.  But after visiting my family this past Sunday I was reminded that it was AstroWorld in Houston we visited rather than a theme park in San Antonio.  I had an 'a-ha' moment in my tween years and vowed never to be a quitter again!  

And now...."Hell at Sea, Part 2"...

My friend and travel companion, a little gray-haired 60-year old lady named Nancy, who also works for the same company I do, had wanted to see puffins for many years.  When I told a group of friends a year and a half ago that I wanted to go to Maine, and they were all invited to come along, she immediately shouted, "I want to see puffins!"  Well, okay, then.  Over the months leading up to the trip, people bugged out one by one, leaving just the two of us.  That's fine.  It would have been much cheaper per person to have 4 or 5 people go on the road trip to Maine, but lives and careers intervene as they always do.

Nancy made the reservations for the whales and puffins tour, and following a cancellation one morning due to fog, we finally were greeted with a clear day on Thursday, July 3.  Now the sun seems to rise at 4:30am in Maine during the summer, so getting up early to get ready and drive to the town pier early in the morning is not a difficult feat.  We were up and at 'em and made the 9 mile drive to town rather freely.  

I had had a bad seasick experience many years prior while deep sea fishing off the Texas Gulf Coast with my dad on a catamaran, so I had dramamine'd myself quite early in the morning before the whales 'n puffins tour.  Feeling nauseous while trapped on a boat at sea is bad enough, but to feel that way under a hot August Texas-ish sun is 100 times worse.  I felt confident that the invigorating cool temperatures of a Maine Coast morning, in combination with my trusty dramamine, would allay any seasickness possibilities.

Nancy and I were prepared for the voyage.  When she had made the reservations she was told by the representative that the temperature on the water would be in the 30s.  We chose to take the rep at her word and dressed accordingly.  I wore jeans and a long-sleeve t-shirt to the pier, but also took with me a thermal fleece pull over, a fleece zip up vest (in a very pretty pink and raspberry color combination which I had bought in a shop earlier in the week), a rain coat from a camping supply store in Dallas which I had purchased specifically for the trip, and a knit cap.  I forgot to pack my gloves, silly me.

We arrived at the pier, parked my car, then went to get our tickets and stand in the line for boarding.  

In my mind, everything is a competition.  It doesn't matter what it is, I compare myself to others.  And this day, this morning, while standing in the boarding line, I was comparing my clothing preparedness with the other passengers.  I could tell some folks also heeded the advice of the ticket agents; some folks did not.  I eyed the hoodies and fleeces of the smart-choiced folks while inwardly smirking at the people who thought a cotton GAP pullover and capri pants would suffice.  I wondered if others were eyeballing my not-so-small wad of clothing and either judging me overreactive or thoroughly prepared.  I assumed my best standing-with-confidence composure and let them judge away.  Another hallmark of a competitive person is that she (oh, meaning me) thinks that everyone else is also always observing and gauging, watching and judging, comparing themselves to her.  Some might call that paranoia; some might call it an overly emphasized sense of self.  And yet others who have read "Now Discover Your Strengths" by Marcus Buckingham, and subsequently those have taken the online gallup survey on Main Themes, would realize this in a person who has "Competition" as the most dominant of their five themes.  If you don't understand a word of this, you'll now have to do some research to understand.  Go google it now, if you must.

But I digress.

The morning was still chilly, and the Bay was a bit choppy, so I mentally prepared myself for passing what is called the 'point of no return'.  We gave our tickets to a young lady and stepped aboard the Atlanticat, a 3 deck catamaran which picture is above.  Though I must note that the picture was taken on a calm day several days before our actual tour.  It is just a guess, but I estimate at least 300 people were on that catamaran.  

Now I don't like being in situations that I cannot get out of, which is why I have difficulty flying on planes, boarding sea-faring vessels, and the like.  I have not always been this way, it happened after a series of instances where I was trapped in an uncomfortable situation that I wanted to get away from, but couldn't.  Perhaps it started with the roller coaster at AstroWorld, it probably grew a bit with the experience in the Texas Gulf, but I think it was triggered by a particularly horrid flight to Detroit Metro a few years ago when the turbulence was just terrible and we kept having to circle the airport because we couldn't land due to wind sheer.  Yikes.  Yep, I wanted to get off that airplane right NOW.  When we finally landed we all applauded in celebration of our safety.  Yes, you see, I can do without that experience--ever--again.

So here I was on the catamaran, sitting at a nice table on the 2nd deck in a lovely enclosed cabin area/common room.  And even sitting there, still docked, I could tell this was going to be an, um, challenging situation for me.  After everyone had boarded, one of the crew made an announcement on the PA system that the off-shore buoy was recording 5-6 foot waves, high wind speeds, and very cold conditions.  We were told that if we wanted to get off the boat right then that our money would be refunded.  But once the boat left the dock, we'd be on it for the duration, and anyone with a sensitive stomach might want to consider this offer.

I had to tell myself, "I will not get off this boat.  I will not get off this boat.  I will not get off this boat."  And then we pushed back from the dock.

Oh, Fuck.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hell at Sea, Part 1

I can remember precisely two events in my life where I gave up, quit, chickened out, retreated.  The first time I was about 7 or 8 years old.  My family were vacationing in San Antonio, and we went to an amusement park there.  We wanted to ride the big roller coaster, and I thought it to be very exciting...until we were walking up the ramp to join the queue.  Then I could see what was going to happen when I got on that ride, and I didn't want any part of it.  I told my Mom I didn't want to go, and she very aggravatingly told me to go back down the walkway and wait for them at the end.

And so I made the walk of shame back down, held held low, red-faced, very embarrassed...too embarrassed for such a young kid.  I was ashamed I had chickened out.  From time to time I think of this.  Perhaps it unfolded in a different manner.  An almost-thirty-year-old memory is not to be entirely trusted, but one never forgets how one felt.

The second time I was 13, maybe 14 years old.  Mom would take my sisters and I swimming every day at a pool at the local Jewish Community Center.  We were neither Jewish, nor very much into community, but fortunately neither were required to purchase a summer pass.  I loved to swim.  Mom tells me I taught myself how when I was a toddler.  I'm not sure if that's even possible, but it makes for an interesting tidbit.  

One of my sisters is 2 years older than I, and the pool was going to hold a lifeguard certification and training course.  Very uncharacteristically for her (she not being interested in anything remotely athletic...that had always been my department), she voiced interest and signed up for the class.  Not to be outdone by anyone or anything, and though being too young to officially be certified as a lifeguard, I wiggled my way into the class.

We received our book to read and learn at the first class, then went straight into the physical conditioning portion of things.  We lined up and dove in the pool one-by-one, swam across to the other side, got out, then hurried around to the first side to line up and do it again and again, over and over.  Imagine running lines in basketball or running the bases in softball/baseball, and you get the general idea.  Endurance had never been my strength.  I was strong, very very strong at that point, and I could sprint fairly well, but anything involving long term exertion was not suited to me.  That's why I preferred softball over soccer and basketball, though I played all three.

Well, I reached a point where I could no longer catch my breath in the 20 seconds between sessions, so I gave up; I quit.  I told the instructor I wasn't going to do this any more, and I went over and sat down next to my Mom, red-faced and embarrassed yet again.  I had proven them right...the ones who said I was too young to be in the class; and that burned me even more.  I had to look on as the participants made their way through the subsequent classes and eventually became certified as lifeguards.  Bully for, really.

I don't think there was a particular point at which I vowed to never quit again, at least never quit because something was scary or too difficult; I think it just became a sort of internalized motto.  I still quit some things:  a terribly dull book, a failed attempt at a new ice cream recipe, you get the idea.

And so, when I find myself in a situation that triggers my 'fight or flight' instinct, I think about how the fear or discomfort or hardship will be temporary, but the shame from quitting will last a lifetime.  And so, this refusal to feel chicken-shit-ish is what made me stay on that catamaran in Frenchman's Bay in Maine exactly 2 weeks ago.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Even More Maine Photos

All of the photos below were taken with my trusty Nikon Coolpix 4600.  I've had the camera since July of 2005 and abused it mildly, but it has always remained stout of heart and true of focus (for the most part).  The prints I make from it at the local Walgreens store always come out looking gorgeous, pretty much like they do here.  I love it and would hesitate to upgrade to anything else, because, if I may be so bold, I think the pictures I take with my Nikon turn out exceedingly well.  And I give all the credit to the camera and the beautiful scenery.  I hope you enjoy them.
Above:  I took this picture on the first clear day in ANP.  The tree is interesting to me as is the stark contrast between its bright green and the blue of the ocean. 
Above:  Same location, different view.
Above:  There is about a 20 foot drop from where I'm standing to where those rocks are.  It doesn't look that far, does it?  It's all about perception!  I took a series of 3 shots with the water coming in and out of this area.
Above:  I think this is the same location as the first picture, just a different view.  The rock strata are fascinating to me.
Above:  I normally don't like to photograph people, but I like this shot.  This guy had his lunch cooler out there with him, and his kid was playing farther down the rocks.  It looks like he's sitting on the edge of the cliff, doesn't it?
Above:  The Porcupine Islands are barely visible through the fog in this view from the top of Cadillac Mountain.  I drove to the top.  I would have suffered a coronary had I hiked or biked it.
Above:  The colors of lichen and such on the rocks at Cadillac Mountain are intriguing.
Above:  The Porcupine Islands are more visible in this shot above.  Cadillac Mountain was crawling with people; like so many ants on a hill were we.  But you would never know it from these pics.  
Above:  God, I love to use trees to frame a shot.  I just like this a lot.
Above:  Same spot as the above picture.
Above:  Seaweed and plant-ish things growing on rocks at Sand Beach.  Obviously the tide was out when this was taken.
Above:  This shot is also taken at sand beach.  I'm standing between two tall walls of rock and looking out at the ocean.  I had to move back and forth, left and right, and wait a minute or two so that I wouldn't get any of the people on the beach in the shot.  
Above:  After I took the above photo, I turned to my right, pointed the camera up, and took this photo of the rock wall.  It's really neat to see the all the lines in the rock.
Above:  The fuzzy bumble bees where working hard.  They were so adorable I wanted to pet one, then I realized how stupid that would be.
Above:  This is day 2 of the Puzzle From Hell!--aka Da Vinci's The Last Supper.  Holy cow, so many of the pieces were completely interchangeable with other pieces.  It took us a day and a half to get most of the border completed.  I figure we spend over 80 man hours working this hellish thing.
Above:  This is actually the very first picture I took upon arriving in Maine.  Silly, I know, but this was the view I had looking out from my bedroom windows.
Above:  Throughout ANP the roads are bordered by large rocks.  Lovely.
Above:  Sand beach.  As you can tell, it was quite dreary that day.
Above:  Such a neat old rock that I don't mind that skinny-legged person being in the background.
Above:  Also at Sand Beach....anyone hungry for a salad?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

More Vacation Photos

Above:  This was taken from some point inside Acadia National Park.  I don't remember what prompted me to take the picture...perhaps my interest was piqued by the layering of the triple hills.
Above:  This is Sand Beach in ANP (Acadia National Park).  The sand is not really sand at all; rather, it is very small pieces of shells that have been ground up by the ocean over time.  It was extremely foggy this day, with water temps in the 60s, and there were still a great number of people actually swimming in the ocean.  Crazy!
Above:  Inside ANP.  I remember taking this pic to see how well distant greenery would show up in all the mist/fog we were having.  Getting the bird in the pic was just a lucky accident, but I really like it.  He is perfectly positioned.
Above:  This is one of many stone bridges supporting the carriage road system in ANP.  It was raining this day, and it took me a while to get the shot because I stopped my car on the road and kept having to wave traffic around me.
Above:  I rented the right side of the nice townhome on Mt. Desert Island.  I found it on, and it was lovely.
Above:  The large catamaran pictured here is the Atlanticat, the boat I was on for the whales/puffins tour.  More on that entire hellish experience later:  four hours of torture, in all seriousness.
Above:  The windjammer Margaret Todd.  It was always docked at the Bar Harbor Inn pier.  I never saw it with sails raised in all her glory...somewhat disappointing.
Above:  The Bar Harbor Inn.  I believe this was our first day in town, and it was chilly and dreary.
Above:  The woodworking above the shop windows of a Native American Art Gallery on Main Street.
Above:  My adorable car (Tangerine Metallic Honda Element EX-P 4WD) is shy and hid behind a rock when I took this picture.  Isn't he handsome?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

It's the FOOD Portion of the Vacation Blog Entries!

This is Jordan Pond.  The Jordan Pond House Restaurant is famous for its tea and popovers.  The only appropriate place to be seated, in order to fully enjoy the experience, is on the lawn over looking the pond.  Above is the view of the pond from the lower lawn.
Behold the famous tea and popovers.  I elected to try to blueberry tea, as Maine is known for its blueberry industry and owes much to its continued success.
Geezum, Petes!  Lookit the size of that popover!  So warm and wafty with goodness.
My luncheon meal also consisted of a Maine lobster roll, ridgey tater chips, and some very tasty grapes.  
And this is an awkward looking shot of the back side of the Jordan Pond House.  Lovely gardens.

Travel Journal Entry:  Day 9, July 4th, 2008  (Happy Independence Day!)

"What a beautiful day!  After yesterday's hideous roiling in the sea in 30 degree weather (I'll save that for another entry, dear readers), today is sunny and clear.  We wanted to go back into town this morning to go to the shop that sells handmade musical instruments, but there was so much traffic leading into town for the parade, and cars parked alongside the road for a mile along Route 3, that we made a U-turn and went back to the Park entrance instead (Acadia National Park).  

We decided to try to have lunch at Jordan Pond House, and we very easily found a parking space in the North lot and followed a very pretty little trail to the restaurant.  It was only 10:45am, and lunch would be seated at 11:30am, so we looked around the gift shop for a long while.  Blueberries, lobster, and moose are all the rage here, and there was also an assortment of Jordan Pond products, mostly tea and popover related.

We asked to be seated on the lawn, and we had a nice view of the beautiful water and hills behind.  My friend and I both ordered the lobster sandwich which came with chips and grapes and a popover.  We also split the cranberry, apple, feta cheese, pecan salad with house vinaigrette which also came with a popover.  I failed in my duties as photographer by forgetting to take a picture of the salad.  I ordered blueberry tea and my friend ordered the house blend, so now we can say we had tea and popovers at Jordan Pond House." 

And now for some notes added later:  I found my tea to be somewhat bitter and had to add sugar to it.  I was hoping to be able to experience it straight and naked, free from any additional ingredients.  Still, it was enjoyable, though it did cool off quickly due to our being seated outside.  

Our server was Sasha, and he was quite courteous and patient with us as I tried to decide whether or not I wanted to experience a full Maine lobster meal at 11:30 in the morning.  I opted instead for the lobster sandwich which was advantageous, as I got to taste of the succulence without participating in its extraction from the shell.  I win!

No mention of a meal at Jordan Pond House would be complete without describing the pleasure of eating one (or more!) popovers.  So simple--eggs, flour, salt, baking soda---and yet that simplicity translates to a light and airy palette for mixing the butter and strawberry preserves.  I don't recall ever having a popover before, so I wondered what all the fuss was about, and now I know!  I could easily have made a meal of several popovers.

Tasty food in a beautiful setting.  It felt solid.  It felt good.  

And now I have to run off to work.  

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

My Thirteen Original Colonies

Please enjoy this photo of the lighthouse at Petit Manan off the Maine coast.  I am in amazement that I was able to take a level photo while the catamaran was tossing and pitching in 5-6 foot waves.  

I have a large number of errands to run today and a baseball game to attend tonight, so while I am hopeful that I'll be able to create a full length entry sometime today, I cannot promise it.

This blog title, "My Thirteen Original Colonies" refers to the thirteen states I drove through on this vacation:  Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.  Whew!

I could also call this blog title "The 4400" as that is the number of miles I put on my car during this trip.  My car also celebrated it's 50,000 mile birthday while on the return is only 2 1/2 years old.

More's already 9am and I have miles to go before I post...