Waiting in the airport

Filed under:General — eric @ 6:03 am

Today, the fog’s in Boston. My flight out has been delayed enough that my connecting flight will have left by the time I get to Charlotte. So, I guess I’m spending the night there. Since it’s weather, the aurline won’t put me up for the night. Luckily, I’m on business, so I don’t have to foot the bill, either. I’ve yet to find out for sure if there are any open seats at all on Saturday. We’ll see.

On the plus side, I’m posting this from the airport terminal, which is pretty neat.


The food is worth it

Filed under:General — eric @ 3:43 am

This entry got cut off. I added more at the bottom.

I would gladly endure the travel troubles I had, both directions if necessary, for the dinner I had last night.

There’s a group of restaurants here called The Common Man. I ate at the original one in Ashland, NH, celebrating its thirtieth anniversary. The meal ranks up there with the best I’ve had, all time.

I started things off with a bowl of French onion soup (topped with rye and crusty swiss cheese) and an order of escargot. I’ve only had those once before; they’re not on many menus. A garden salad followed, dressed with homemade blue cheese dressing. All this was accompanied by a Black Martini, which was equal parts Absolut, Bombay Sapphire, and three-quarters ounce of Chamborde. Fantastic! The main course was chicken Kiev, with herb stuffing and a wonderful mushroom sauce. Also on the plate was mashed potatoes and mashed sweet potatoes (with a hint of maple syrup, but just a hint). I ended things with a baked apple (which I had to order early, as they’re baked to order) and homemade ice cream. Along with a hunk of homemade white chocolate. And an “Uncommon coffee” — coffee with kahlua and brandy and fresh cream. Delightful!

I know that sounds like I was living large, and to be honest, I’d not kept up with the prices. So, I was shocked and amazed to find the total bill at only $33 — even after the New Hampshire 8% sales tax. True, it was more than I’d budgeted for a whole day’s food, but my breakfast and lunch were covered for me, so I splurged.

Now as you know, I’m a cook. So when I eat out, I’m gathering recipe ideas, guessing what I could do better, and so on. With this meal, there was only one thing I could improve upon. The escargo, rather than the traditional complete crust of puffed pastry, had individual squares of pastry over each snail. I’d guess they were cut with a dull knife, because they didn’t puff. But that’s minor, compared to the rest.

Across the street is the “Company Store”. It was closed when I left the restaurant, but I’ll be back tonight. I’m sure I’ll find some goodies for my new house.


A day at the airports

Filed under:General — eric @ 12:02 pm

I had the kind of travel day you only read about.

My scheduled flights yesterday were to begin at 7:30 at the Athens airport, taking me to Charlotte and then to Boston. At Boston, I was to rent a car and drive to my hotel in Ashland, New Hampshire. Total travel time: under six hours.

Instead, after I got to the airport at 6:30, I waited around the gate for four hours. Charlotte was fogged in, they told us, and nothing was getting in or out. After a series of delays, they cancelled the flight at 10:30. By then, all the rest of the day’s flights out of Athens were booked. My options: wait until Tuesday to try again, or try my luck in Atlanta. My schedule wouldn’t allow me to wait a day, so I took their offer of a cab to Atlanta. Traffic was heavy, so the trip took two more hours. In Atlanta, all flights to Boston were full, so I was told to wait on standby at one gate after another. They definately could fit me in on a 7pm flight to Philidelphia and then to Boston, they said, but maybe I could get there sooner. No dice. I left Atlanta for Philly late, at 8pm. On the good side, they flew me first class. I’ve never gone first class before, and of course I greatly enjoyed it. Free irish cream while reading a cheesy science fiction book? I’ll take it.

When we landed in Philly, I was late for my connecting flight to Boston. I ran to the gate they told me, only to find a (overbooked) later flight to Boston on the sign. My flight, the new person said, was actually two gates down. I got there to find a flight to Chicago boarding. My flight? Two concourses away, with two minutes to get there. I ran down the moving escalator and arrived to find a long line at the gate. They needed volunteers to stay behind, but I went ahead. We boarded the plane, they shut the door, and we sat there. For a long time. The pilot finally came on and announced the company had “forgotten” to schedule any baggage handlers to load the plane. We had to wait for handlers form other flights to get some spare time to load us. That only took an hour and a half. I finished my book (the second one for the day) and began another. We finally departed, and I arrived in Boston after eleven pm. The place was deserted.

I literally got the last rental car on the lot. I rent National, where they let you choose your own car, so mine was the car everyone else rejected. The engine worked, so even though the mirrors were broken, I took it. I didn’t have directions to New Hampshire, other then “North” and “Interstate”, but my boy scout training got me pointed in the right direction. From what I could tell in the darkness, Boston was signs. There were giant holes everywhere. Lanes stopped for no reason. I guess I was witnessing “The Big Dig“.

I pulled into my motel a bit after one in the morning. I’d hoped to get dinner (I’d grabbed lunch at one of those carts between the gates in Atlanta), but every restaurant between Boston and Ashland was closed. Even the fast food places. I guess the open-late policies I’m used to are a regional thing.

Anyway, I’m here now, a little weary but hard at work. Maybe I’ll have an easy evening tonight.



Filed under:General — eric @ 4:36 am

Not content to take things easy, I’m having both my parents and Chris’ family over for Thanksgiving. The house isn’t even close to being unpacked, but there’s enough space cleared in the kitchen to do what I need to do. The menu includes an afternoon course of tea-smoked duck and brie in pastry, followed by a full dinner of turkey, stuffing, mashed tubers, gravy, vegetables, and so on. Can’t wait!

Next week, I’ll be in New Hampshire on business. Updates will be sporadic (kinda like now, really), depending on net access at my hotel.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Sleep’s a crutch

Filed under:General — eric @ 12:12 pm

This morning I found myself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife, and I asked myself, “How did I get here?” The calendar tells me it’s Friday, and I believe it, but this week has been one blur.

That’s what happens when you don’t sleep for, oh, a while.

I used to do a lot of that in college. Not sleeping. In a given week, I might pull two all-nighters and sleep five or six hours most of the other nights. There were quite a few “five minute power naps” thrown in there, too. One of my mottos was “Sleep’s a crutch!”

I still think that, but I’ll freely admit it’s a mighty comfortable crutch. So soft and warm and cozy. And refreshing. And it’s a handy way to demarcate one day from the next.

The other night — I could tell you which, but I’d really have to think about it — Chris and I moved the chickens. I live the kind of life where, in the span of twenty-four hours, I can go from having complete strangers up on a stage trying to impress me while reading children’s literature to helping make the professional lives of a group of electrical engineers halfway across the country easier to stuffing sleeping chickens into cat carriers by the light of a weak flashlight. The whole operation was relatively painless. I’d designed the chicken coop to come apart with the removal of a few hinge pins, but the theory wasn’t put into practice until now. The only hitch came when we realized the roof too large to fit into the U-Haul, but it was a simple matter to saw it into two still-sound pieces. I had my doubts, but it was reassembled in a matter of minutes in its new locale. The chickens slept right through the whole thing, including the stop for dinner at the all-night diner, and woke up in the same house on the same perch with entirely different scenery. I don’t know if they were amazed or not.

The move is now mostly done. We never got time to properly pack, so there are a lot of loose things still at the old house, and it needs a world of cleaning, but thanks to Chris’ hard work, that should all be taken care of by the end of the day. And I’ll know right when that is, because I’ll be sleeping.

Yay, sleep! That’s where I’m a viking!

Advanced HTML

Filed under:General — eric @ 1:22 am

My coworkers refer to this little gem as “The World’s Most Advanced Web Page”. It’s meant to be printed, landscape on legal-sized paper with minimum margins.

< proudNerd > It doesn’t look all that complicated, really, but it took me a week or so to get it to work. It gets created on the fly by our software package, drawing in data from a number of sources. It uses HTML, CSS, Python, and a computer language we made up ourselves to create what you see. The problem is that the language underneath web pages wasn’t designed with printing in mind, so it is very hard to manage margins and page breaks and exact layout on the paper. We really shouldn’t be using it at all, but we needed to take advantage of the protability, size, and the fact that every computer had a pre-installed viewer. In the next few months, we’ll be moving to PDF files created on the fly. PDFs are meant to be printed, so I’ll have exact control of the layout, but I’ll need to create the pages at the programming language level — no WYSIWYG editors or anything like that. It will be just like when I programmed PostScript Diplomacy maps by hand. < /proudNerd >



Filed under:General — eric @ 1:11 am

The Leonid meteor shower is upon us this weekend. The cool dry air usually makes this shower worth watching, but sometimes this shower turns into a full-fledged storm. In 1966, for example, an estimated 500,000 meteors were seen in an hour’s time. I can’t imagine that; it would be like watching a rather intense fireworks display, I suppose. It has always been a tricky affair predicting the intensity of these things. It was known that they are caused by the earth travelling through the debris field of a comet, the remnants of the cometary tail, but we didn’t know much about the debris itself. It was supposed that it was a cloud of dust, and if we were lucky enough to travel through a dense part of the cloud, we saw a good show. In the last few years, though, a few astronomers have made a breakthrough. We now know that a comet leaves behind a small but dense trail behind it. With each orbit, it leaves behind another track, but not exactly in the same place as the last, so the net effect is rather like a grape vine wreath. The tracks do eventually dissipate, but the last several hundred years’ worth are still there. These astronomers have now mapped out the precise positions of these trails and can predict amazingly well when we will cross one of them. Usually, we go through mostly empty space, hitting the dissipated dust. This year, though, we’ll go straight through the heart of one of the trails. It’s an older one, so the models differ on exactly how many meteors we’ll see, but the range is (over my new house) between 500 and 2000 an hour. In a typical year, we see maybe 20 an hour, so this should be quite a show. Check the predictions for your area, set your alarm clock for early Sunday morning, and join me outside!



Filed under:General — eric @ 4:13 am

These once-a-week updates will become more frequent, I promise. In time, this place may even resemble a weblog again, with links to content and everything! For now, though, a brief update:

We spent the night in the new house last night and even had a fire going in the fireplace. As far as we can tell, the fireplace had never been used before. Having a fire inside is mighty nice! The water is drinkable (we’ve been told), but still comes out of the tap bright orange. Our ground water here is pretty high in iron, and our well has a filter, but the filter wasn’t maintained during the last three years or so. There’s iron build-up inside all the plumbing. We’ve treated the pipes and re-built the filter, but it will take time for the water to wash all the iron away. Hopefully not too much more time, though. We moved most of our stuff on Sunday, filling a 26 foot U-Haul truck. There’s plenty more still to move, though, along with a lot of cleaning. We have to be out of the old house by this weekend. It might happen.

In other news, I am holding auditions tonight for Lanford Wilson’s THE HOT L BALTIMORE. This project will keep me busy through December and January, though I expect I’ll be less busy than I am now. I don’t want to be as busy as I am now for a long, long time.


Pictures from the wedding

Filed under:General — eric @ 5:00 am

So there I was, getting married. . .


We have the keys.

Filed under:General — eric @ 10:56 am

The papers are signed: We have bought the farm.

More later…