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29 March 2005

t-minus one week

i've started talking about the departure date as 'next tuesday' rather than 'april 5th'. i'm still in the midst of packing and making final prepartions... i'm adding new items to my to do list at the same rate i'm crossing off old items. i'm excited, nervous, a bit overwhelmed, and very busy.

my laptop is ready to go and i've taken care of rerouting all of my old mail accounts to my new account. i still have a few things to clean up off of my desktop computer, but i'll most likely be using my laptop exclusively this next week.

i've purchased several applications for my palmone treo to help manage information on the road and will be installing those this evening. that should just about do it from the technology side of things.

posted by paul at Tue 29 Mar 2005 at 19:28:51 EST (-05:00) | comments (6)

25 March 2005

from sun to snow

so, finally... the miami details...

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i realize that to some people hotel amenities (room service, pools, continental breakfast, turndown service (which always seemed completely bizarre to me), etc.) can be important considerations when choosing a hotel room, but as far as i'm concerned, as long as there aren't cockroaches crawling on me as i sleep, the sheets have at least the illusion of being clean (here's a fun story), and there aren't crack dealers in the lobby, i'm pretty much able to sleep anywhere. whereas in the past my germaphobic ocd has necessitated full clothing body armor (pants, socks, long sleeve shirt, optional hooded sweatshirt) whenever i slept in a hotel bed (yes, really), i'm now able to forget about the thousands of other people who might have slept on those sheets and convince myself that hotels use industrial strength washing machines with boiling hot water to kill any little beasties which might be lurking in the fibers. i figure i'm not going to spending a lot of time in the room anyway... why spend hundreds of dollars on a room? price is high on the priority list.

my internet searches for hotels were extremely frustrating... march is heavy spring break month in florida and it seemed like all of the moderately priced hotels were already booked and those with vacancies were all at least ten miles from the beach. sarah generally wakes up hours before me, and we really wanted something within walking distance of the beach so she could wake up and head out in the morning. most of the hotel rooms that fit our criteria were over $150 a night... i'm told that's a normal rate for a hotel room, but to me, that seems ridiculously high. i was pretty much done with searching for hotel rooms. enter sarah. after some extensive online research she really came through in finding us a relatively inexpensive hotel right on north miami beach. we ended up staying at the ocean way hotel at 7430 ocean terrace in miami beach.

while we didn't have much of a view out our window, the room was generally clean and the staff was friendly. it turned out that the hotel was doing some maintenance on the room adjoining ours and so they reduced the nightly rate from $80 down to $70 (i'm assuming because there was a chance of some early morning racket). i wasn't complaining. the hotel was right on a beach (this is the view from the front door) and was within walking distance of several restaurants, convenience stores, and public transportation.

so what did we do? i didn't really keep track of the daily activities because i really considered this more of a vacation outside the scope of the global reconnaissance project. to say that i'm not much of a beach person would be an understatement, but i was actually looking forward to just lying around on the sand and enjoying the sites and sounds of the ocean. the day after we arrived, sarah woke up early and went down to the beach and i joined her a few hours later coated with a thick layer of spf 45 sunblock. i've been through the sunburn experience before and i know it's not fun... figured i'd work my way down from spf 45 to 15 throughout the week and maybe turn my skin from gleaming white to just a bright white. sarah on the other hand went straight for hawaiian tropic's 'dark tanning lotion' with spf 4 and by early afternoon she was already sporting a nice red "no, i'm not from around here" tan.

caught some nice pictures of the sunrise on thursday: 01, 02, and 03. i'm going to be creating a gallery page for all of my trip photos... still not sure what software i'm going to use, but i hope to have it up soon.

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on monday we went salt water fishing on the therapy iv, a 58' twin diesel engine sportfishing boat... something i've wanted to do for a while... just have never had the time in boston. obligatory stupid head shot shown above... sorry joe, no fisherman hat. sarah and i both reeled in a fish. sarah pulled in a bonita and i hauled in a two foot long king mackerel. the catch of the day however was a three and a half foot long barracuda reeled in by two young boys, emmitt and mitchell, who had joined us on the boat along with their parents, betsy and mick. it's hard to get a sense of scale from the picture, but this wasn't the kind of fish you just reel in and pull right onto the boat. chris, one of the crew members, had to haul this monster out of the water with a hooked spear (yes, that's a technical term). check out the choppers on this guy.

what else? we rented a scooter and drove into downtown miami. i was hoping for the lime green model sitting in front of the rental place... alas, we had to settle for the red. important note to readers: when contemplating driving a scooter with a top speed of 30 mph into the downtown area of a major city with no previous scooter experience, please reconsider. i'm not sure where we took a wrong turn, but remininscent of our adventure down to new orleans last august, sarah and i soon found ourselves in a fairly shady part of town where we witnessed a mob of police frisking a lineup of questionable gentlemen. suffice it to say that our scooter adventure into miami consisted of driving into the city, getting lost and freaking out, and then driving out of the city. sad, i realize.

i think that covers the highlights of the trip. less than two weeks before i leave for london and i still have a ton of stuff to do to get ready. i spent the entire day today rebuilding my laptop... i think it's pretty much ready for the trip.

posted by paul at Fri 25 Mar 2005 at 02:22:15 EST (-05:00) | comments (9)

24 March 2005

vaccinations complete

got my third and final japanese encephalitis vaccination today. with the exception of my third hepatitis vaccination that i'll get in june in north carolina, i'm all set with my vaccinations.

i bought a ticket to see nine inch nails in berlin on wed 15 june 2005. like the rammstein ticket, this ticket was purchased on ebay and will be shipped from a seller in germany. hope it gets here.

details from the miami trip are forthcoming.

rebuilding the recon laptop from scratch today... very time consuming.

posted by paul at Thu 24 Mar 2005 at 04:09:28 EST (-05:00) | comments (1)

20 March 2005

miami

miami has been fantastic. we had one night of rain, but other than that the weather has been great. going deep sea fishing tomorrow... very excited. we'll be back in boston tuesday night and the two weeks after that will be a whirlwind of final preparations. i'll fill in the details of the miami trip when i get back... my laptop still isn't recon-ready. i'm making sure to take more pics on this trip.

posted by paul at Sun 20 Mar 2005 at 16:26:04 EST (-05:00) | comments (1)

16 March 2005

spf 100 vacation

i'm off to miami, florida, this morning for a short vacation before the big trip. i'm going to maximize time with my girlfriend and florida-based family, so entries here will be kept to a minimum.

posted by paul at Wed 16 Mar 2005 at 09:54:37 EST (-05:00) | comments (4)

15 March 2005

rabid format change

i've made a slight change in the movable type configuration on this site which will prevent commenters' email addresses from being displayed. i'll still have access to the addresses, but they will no longer be available to the public. turns out movable type has a feature enabled by default which rewrites the email addresses to make it more difficult for spambots to harvest the addresses, but this configuration change will further ensure the privacy of all commenters.

got my third rabies shot today... that's it for the rabies series. i have to get one more shot for japanese encephalitis next wednesday and then i'm all set.

posted by paul at Tue 15 Mar 2005 at 15:19:57 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

14 March 2005

iron city

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the phantom is resting safely in pennsylvania and sarah and i are back in boston... flew in today out of pittsburgh with a connecting flight through washington dulles. had a great time hanging out with family and friends in ligonier... squeezed in a museum visit (please note stupid pic above [see # at the end of this entry]), checked out a band, and even played a little poker. i realized as i boarded the plane back to boston that i didn't take nearly enough pictures... the weekend went by so quickly. luckily i'll be seeing my family again in june at my sister's wedding... will make sure to take more pix then.

my dad has been putting out shelled corn for the deer around our house in ligonier... last night we counted almost twenty crowding around the feed bucket in the back yard. just one of the many missed photo opportunities... i shall not miss another.

my dana design swift traveler passed the carry-on test and i was allowed to bring it aboard each flight back to boston. each plane was fairly small and so we ended up stowing the bags in each plane's cargo hold as we boarded so i'm not positive the pack will fit in the overhead compartments of larger planes, but i don't anticipate any problems. we're flying down to miami on wednesday and i should be able to test the overhead compartments then.

i geeked out hardcore with my garmin 60cs gps both in the car and on the plane on this trip... the first real field use. it saved us two times while driving. the first, sarah offerred to drive for a while on the way to ligonier and i accidentally fell asleep before telling her which exit we needed to take... when i woke up i used the gps to quickly locate our position and discovered we were 20 miles or so past our exit. we were able to use the gps built-in basemap to find connecting roads to put us back on course without completely backtracking. on saturday, the gps saved us again when my dad lost his bearings in pittsburgh... the gps directed us right where we wanted to go. very cool piece of equipment... it should really come in handy in europe. i've purchased garmin's city select europe which includes detailed maps of most of the european countries.

on saturday we visited the carnegie museum of natural history in pittsburgh. i hadn't been there in about 20 years and the kid in me was pretty excited to see the dinosaur exhibit again. turns out the museum is in the middle of an extensive expansion of the dinosaur hall which will include a repositioning of the dinosaur skeletons to better reflect the current theories of their postures and behaviors. the skeletons of the tyrannosaurus rex and diplodocus both have the tails dragging on the ground whereas the current belief is that these dinosaurs used their tails as counterweights to their necks and torsos and so walked more horizontally with tails raised in the air. i would have thought this would have been corrected years ago... glad the museum is finally repositioning the bones.

scientists are currently working in the museum laboratory to remove a t. rex skull from the surrounding material. the lab sits right next to the main dinosaur hall and visitors can observe the scientists working on the fossils through a large window. the skull, found with its skeleton in south dakota in 1992, is believed to be the finest t. rex skull ever uncovered and recent ct scans have revealed that the skull has not been distorted by the fossilization process (apparently a rarity in the fossil world). the scientist working on the skull was using a pneumatic drill to remove the dirt from around the fossil (yep, missed this pic too)... looked like they had just begun the extraction process and so there wasn't much of the skull itself showing. i'm definitely interested to see the assembled skeleton.

so, back in boston, but not for long. i'm going to continue working on packing and hardening my laptop so i can connect it to the internet. stay tuned. third and last rabies shot tomorrow... yay.

# my girlfriend tells me that photos which involve people are much more interesting than photos of places or sites or things. so... there i am. hi. look at me with the giant dinosaur behind me. the camera i bought has a flip-around lcd screen which allows me to turn the camera around and still see what i'm shooting, so expect a lot of shots with my stupid head in them. hi, this is me in front of the eiffel tower. hi, this is me in front of the pyramids. question... do people really want to see me in these pictures? maybe a smile would be nice, eh? comments and suggestions are appreciated.

posted by paul at Mon 14 Mar 2005 at 19:25:38 EST (-05:00) | comments (5)

12 March 2005

arrival

i woke up at 7am this morning in order to make it to the scranton dodge dealership as soon as they opened. as it turned out they were booked until thursday and couldn't take a look at my van. i asked for a referral and began an adventure into downtown scranton's evil auto repair underworld... each place "right down the road a few blocks"... george's garage, dom's garage, and philip's garage... all too busy to take a look at the white phantom. during the trek, the van seemed to do fine... the water temperature was reading normal and the heater was actually throwing hot air. after a brief phone consultation with my dad, sarah and i decided to press on despite last night's problems. five hours later we arrived in ligonier warm and toasty and i'm writing this now from my dad's computer in my old bedroom. do not question the phantom's power.

we took a pic of me in ligonier's diamond right after we pulled into town, but i don't have a method to transfer the image to this site right now... i'll take care of that on tuesday.

posted by paul at Sat 12 Mar 2005 at 01:22:13 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

11 March 2005

the phantom is dying

mechanical difficulties with the white phantom (my supersexy 1995 dodge caravan) have forced us to make an unscheduled stop in scranton, pennsylvania, about halfway along our nine hour journey between boston, massachusetts, and ligonier, pennsylvania. there appears to be an issue with the phantom's cooling system and rather than push on through the night and risk damaging the engine or worse, becoming stranded with no heat along interstate 80 after midnight, we've decided to stop for the night and will have someone take a look at it in the morning. we've checked into the clarion hotel on meadow avenue and have decided to check out scranton's booming nightlife scene. there is apparently a youth hockey league staying on our floor... the players' parents are raging in the lounge outside the elevator and have invited us to party with them. rave 'til dawn!

posted by paul at Fri 11 Mar 2005 at 22:50:39 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

10 March 2005

test pack

i did a test pack and weighing of my backpack filled with gear and clothes... 23.5 pounds. that's pretty close to my 20 pound goal, but there are a few things which i haven't yet packed. i have a few ideas of where i can shed a few pounds.

i think i need to stop back into the shop where i bought my pack and see if they can give me a tutorial... there are straps, buckles, and harnesses all over this thing. quick plug for bob smith's wilderness house on commonwealth avenue in boston... everyone there was extremly knowledgeable and very helpful. great place... glad i bought my pack there.

posted by paul at Thu 10 Mar 2005 at 15:35:41 EST (-05:00) | comments (3)

drowning in orange

another day of packing... i'm sick of orange plastic bins. i made a run up to the storage space today and unloaded about twelve bins filled with mostly music gear. the rest of the day i continued going through the remainder of my stuff... throwing a lot out... consolidating... packing. tomorrow morning (well, today... in a few hours... yikes) i'm going to take another run up to the storage space. i didn't meet my objective of having everything in storage by thursday... the packing and organizing is taking longer than expected. i'm close, but not quite there. exciting stuff, eh?

after the storage run in a few hours, my girlfriend and i are off to ligonier, pennsylvania to hang out with family and friends. i'll be leaving my van there for the duration of my trip; we'll be flying back to boston out of pittsburgh on monday.

time for sleep.

posted by paul at Thu 10 Mar 2005 at 04:08:04 EST (-05:00) | comments (1)

08 March 2005

ticket received


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very cool. my rammstein ticket arrived in the mail.

posted by paul at Tue 08 Mar 2005 at 13:33:20 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

preparations continue

i moved some of my heavier music equipment items to a storage space in medford, massachusetts, today. i pretty much have to get everything into storage by thursday as my girlfriend and i will be driving home to ligonier, pennsylvania, to drop my van off at my dad's. i'll continue to organize and transport the orange bins up to the storage space over the next couple of days.

i didn't make it to the post office as i'd planned... i'm hoping a ticket i purchased for a rammstein concert in berlin has arrived.

i received some more gear today... bigtime geek gear to carry all of my gadgets... i'll include details and pics a little later. i need to create a gear page which outlines everything i'll be taking. it's going to be tougher than i'd originally thought to keep all of my gear under 20 pounds.

my 'to do' list grows... so many things to take care of.

posted by paul at Tue 08 Mar 2005 at 03:17:20 EST (-05:00) | comments (1)

the end of an era

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friday was my official last day of work. the funniest thing... about 25 of my coworkers dressed in black as a memorial to my less than colorful wardrobe. i didn't catch on right away, but as person after person walked by the entrance to my cube wearing black and i realized that it wasn't a coincidence, i couldn't stop myself from laughing. thanks again guys. i'd like to tell all of my former coworkers again that it's been a great pleasure working with you all over the past several years. i'd been with the company for almost six years as it grew from a ten person start-up to a very successful enterprise. after cake and some tales of my brief interview with the company back in 1999, most of the massachusetts staff went out into the building lobby for a few pictures. the 'standard' version is posted above... the more 'gothic' version is posted here.

posted by paul at Tue 08 Mar 2005 at 03:03:27 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

02 March 2005

internal army 2

two more shots today... rabies #2 and japanese encephalitis #2. i have two more appointments for rabies #3 and je #3 and that should pretty much conclude the building of my internal army.

posted by paul at Wed 02 Mar 2005 at 02:05:02 EST (-05:00) | comments (2)