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Updated: 2016-12-09T05:19:28.388-05:00

 



50 States - Iowa

2014-06-28T19:03:23.553-04:00

In an earlier entry of the 50 States series, I pointed out that the tourism office for Nebraska had its work cut out for it. However, its neighbor Iowa is perhaps underachieving. For a state with a reputation as a boring cornfield, the region had a lot more to offer than I would have guessed.We used Des Moines as our home base. Des Moines was a surprisingly cosmopolitan place with a delightful riverfront park and an incredible amount of public art. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="148" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117939475/in/photolist-dnmvPq-dnmyuH-dnmyzH-dnmvLU-dnm2SN-dnkYug-dnm1q8-dnmum2-dnmvVz-dnm1Vg-dnmtCi-dnmw5j-dnmu3z-dnkZW1-dnm3Pw-dnkVLn-dnkZ6V-dnmtQn-dnmtLt-dnmwNo-dnm1vt-dnm1Jx-dnm4Dh-dnm19n-dnmBLW-dnm1ET-dnm1YM-dnm3ch-dnm4j7-dnkYW1-dnkYpk-dnm3Uu-dnm427-dnm15K-dnkXNv-dnmuaB-dnkY2M-dnm5AE-dnkY7F-dnkYBe-dnkYFP-dnm1tJ-dnmzbC-dnm2dw-dnm3iL-dnmwcR-dnmw8c-dnm1Z7-dnm1WA-dnmtFK/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117832394/in/set-72157631840171092/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117823247/in/set-72157631840171092/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> One must-see for me was the Pomodoro sphere at a regional insurance company's headquarters building which also had a lobby full of avant garde works. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117816857/in/set-72157631840171092/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117817765/in/set-72157631840171092/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">Des Moines is also the state capitol and the grounds of its state house are crowded with the usual kitsch like replica Liberty Bells and Statues of Liberty but they also have lots of oddly suggestive metaphorical statuary. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117922061/in/set-72157631840171092/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117923505/in/set-72157631840171092/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> We took a day trip across the state and our first stop was at the Maytag Cheese dairy which makes restaurant grade bleu cheese. The dairy is owned by descendants of the founder of the appliance company with the same name but is not affiliated with the washer makers. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117830392/in/set-72157631840171092/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117829498/in/set-72157631840171092/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">We ended up in another area not coincidentally named after an appliance manufacturer, the Amana colonies. These towns were the homes of a communitarian religious sect where there was no private property. Many of the former communal houses still exist and the common dining halls have been converted to homestyle German influenced restaurants. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/y[...]



50 States - Tennessee

2014-06-17T05:48:23.667-04:00

Of the 50 states, our very first trip to Tennessee was a getaway vacation to the Pigeon Forge region of the Great Smokies. It was our last fling before the birth of our son. It would be over a decade before we made it back through again.Long before I became a bourbon snob, I went to the Jack Daniels distillery, infamously in the dry county of Moore County, Tennessee. This was my first tour of a major distillery and it had a lot of folksy charm. You could see the wood palates being made into charcoal for the famous charcoal filtering. Said filtering being about the only substantial difference between a Tennessee whiskey and a bourbon, the former being technically a sub-class of the latter.  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="210" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/13519674225/in/set-72157643175855313/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/13519672505/in/set-72157643175855313/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="158">This was in 2003 and I was accompanying my wife to a teacher conference in Nashville. Nashville itself is the country music capitol and noplace more so than along Broadway where over a dozen bars have up to four bands a night working mostly for tips. It's a music smorgasbord. Just a block off of Broadway is the historic Ryman Auditorium which looks like a church from the outside but was designed from the start as a music venue. Part of the fun of watching the TV show Nashville is spotting places in town I've seen. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/219888090/in/photolist-kqZ4X-kqZ4Y-mAFTBR-mAGnp2-mAHz3G-mAFSAT-kqZ4V-kqZ4W-mAFSnM-mAFT1R-4s4ykf-4rZw2p-4rZvNH-mAFRo2-7pE1M/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="210" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/13519677205/in/photolist-kqZ4X-kqZ4Y-mAFTBR-mAGnp2-mAHz3G-mAFSAT-kqZ4V-kqZ4W-mAFSnM-mAFT1R-4s4ykf-4rZw2p-4rZvNH-mAFRo2-7pE1M/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">Nashville also has some unique tourist attractions for specific definitions of 'unique'. The oddest is the full scale replica of the Parthenon in Greece. This building is a recreation of the ruins most people are familiar with down to the statues on the inside. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="210" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/13520006984/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/13519671705/in/photolist-kqZ4X-kqZ4Y-mAFTBR-mAGnp2-mAHz3G-mAFSAT-kqZ4V-kqZ4W-mAFSnM-mAFT1R-4s4ykf-4rZw2p-4rZvNH-mAFRo2-7pE1M/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="158">A few years later we passed through Tennessee again, this time stopping in Memphis which has a musical history of its own. And the most famous spot in Memphis is Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. As perhaps the ultimate tacky tourist attraction, Graceland is so frozen in time as to be a historical document. It's tough to pick which room is the most over the top but my money goes on the media room with three TVs, one for each network. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/213657324/in/set-72157594235021362/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/213899776/in/set-72157594235021362/player/" webkita[...]



BooksFirst: April-May 2014

2014-06-01T07:42:17.004-04:00

Books BoughtAlison Wonderland by Helen SmithAudiobooks BoughtThe Fault In Our Stars by John Green Lunatics by Dave Barry and Alan ZweibelScrew Everyone by Ophira EisenbergOne More Thing by B.J. NovakShakespeare by Bill BrysonBooks ReadBilly Lynn's Long Halftime Walk  by Ben Fountain The Hammer of Witches by Shana Miwalski Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael LewisAlison Wonderland by Helen SmithBooks HeardSwamplandia by Karen RussellThe Fault In Our Stars by John GreeneLunatics by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel CommentsOne of the most recommended books of 2013 from the podcasts I listen to was Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk  by Ben Fountain. As the title suggests, the story takes place at a football game, a Thanksgiving Day Dallas Cowboys game shortly after the beginning of the Iraq War to be exact. Billy Lynn is one member of a squad being honored during a halftime performance by a pre-break-up Destiny's Child. The technical tour de force is that with a very minimum of flashbacks, the entire novel takes place between the arrival and the departure of Billy and his fellow squad members at the stadium. And a lot happens in between. It's almost unfair to go into all the incidents and running stories but they involve cheerleaders, Hollywood agents, greedy sports team owners, and jingoistic fans. The only complaint, and one that I was aware of because of reviews beforehand, is that Billy as a nineteen-year-old enlistee is perhaps a bit too sophisticated in his worldview. As a first person narrative, he thinks A LOT. Also, some of the irony from hindsight is just a little too pat. But the book is a great look at a rather specific time and place.Shana Miwalski is the second member of the OverthinkingIt.com website whose book I've read. John Perich has written two thrillers, reviewed here and here. Miwalski is working in a different genre, young adult historical fantasy. In her Hammer of Witches world, the era of Christopher Columbus has real magic which is being suppressed by an organization parallel to the never-expected Spanish Inquisition. Like Harry Potter, Baltasar Infante is a presumed orphan who is unaware of his powers and destiny until he joins an expedition to the yet unfounded New World. There he must battle multiple other magical factions. The book is strongest in Spain as young Baltasar figures out his true heritage. The story bogs down when they all reach Hispaniola and the magic starts flying fast and furious. The magic itself is clever and internally consistent but there is no real explanation of how it remains so hidden if it is so powerful and widespread.Columbus as a character is cut down the middle between the noble explorer of grade school history and the evil genocide of, say, Orson Scott Card's Pastwatch (a book I have tried multiple times to finish). By being ambiguous on Columbus, it pulls its punches a little. There are a couple of strong female characters in the book and it is a quick read but I'm not sure it really breaks new ground.Anything by Michael Lewis is worth reading and Flash Boys is no exception. It is an exceptionally technical story about how a stock trader discovered that this orders were being front-runned by high frequency trading (HFT) programs that were using advantages measured in nanoseconds. It's a maxim that the real scandal is not always what is illegal but what is perfectly legal. And front-running is not only perfectly legal, it seems like the means to do it were deliberately baked into the system.In some ways this book is a good counterpoint to his very first book Liars' Poker in that it shows just how much the world of finance has changed in just a few decades. Rather than loud mouthed Big Swinging Dicks, the real money is made by secretive quants running obscure algorithms to make low margin high volume trades. That front-running is intrinsically unfair seems obvious but regulators and brokers seem oddly indifferent to it. The one hero is Brad Katsuyama who not only discovers how [...]



50 States - Kentucky

2014-05-02T12:09:25.234-04:00

Of the 50 states, Kentucky has been featured twice already on this blog in my series of comparisons of bourbon distilleries. Here is Day One and here is Day Two.The third day never quite got written up because it was just one distillery, Jim Beam. They were tasting Bookers and Red Stag, two brands I have bought on my own since then. The tour was very folksy, a trait I hope they haven't lost in the new visitor center they have built since we went there. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5858577139/in/set-72157626894141007/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5859129902/in/set-72157626894141007/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">The second day of our stop in Louisville included a tour of Churchill Downs in full preparation for the Kentucky Derby. The place is very impressive and the tour included tons of areas such as the jockey lounge and the luxury boxes that you would never get to see on Derby Day. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="141" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/6369639923/in/set-72157628065475351/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/6369645351/in/set-72157628065475351/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/6369656713/in/set-72157628065475351/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">In addition to the full Bourbon Trail which consists of the six distilleries we went to (but not Bufflao Trace which we also toured), there is the Urban Borubon Trail in Louisville. This is a long list of bars which serve bourbon and if you visit enough they will send you a tee shirt and a flask. Never one to ignore a challenge we managed to hit enough in two nights to qualify. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/6369690847/in/set-72157628065610637/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/6369692461/in/set-72157628065610637/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/6369693773/in/set-72157628065610637/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/6369690451/in/set-72157628065610637/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">Just down the street from our rather large and gorgeous bed and breakfast was even a little dive bar nowhere near the Urban Bourbon Trail but still a good place for a late night drink. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/6369694151/in/set-72157628065610637/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/6369695105/in/set-72157628065610637/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">Kentucky might be a great place to visit even if you aren[...]



50 States - Utah

2014-04-29T07:28:46.715-04:00

Even though we have been to all 50 states, that doesn't mean we've stopped traveling. One case in point is Utah. We first went through there in 2006 on our cross country trip where we spent one night in Salt Lake City and did the whole Church Of Latter Day Saints tour. Salt Lake City is one of the cleanest places I've ever been. Even the bums have a certain fresh-faced glow to them. And the LDS tour guides are preternaturally perky. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/2230921645/in/set-72157603825572337/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/2231719936/in/set-72157603825572337/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">And the salt flat are the flatest place I've ever been and I used to drive across Florida once a month. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="165" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/2231728704/in/set-72157603825572337/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="128" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/2230935075/in/set-72157603825572337/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> On a later tour of the Southwest, we went from Monument Valley up to Mexican Hat just touch base on the each of the four corners (Four Corners itself was closed but that is another story). allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5369191012/in/photolist-9bpnW4-9bpo6X-9bsvqQ-9bpokK-9bsvhC/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5368580459/in/photolist-9bpnW4-9bpo6X-9bsvqQ-9bpokK-9bsvhC/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> But we still felt we hadn't gotten the full Utah experience so this year's Spring trip was to hit all five of the national parks in Utah. Of the five, Zion was the most gorgeous and lush. Full of steep canyons and thick woods, it was a hiking paradise. The compact limited access park had a well run shuttle service and a simple but gorgeous lodge. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/13919946916/in/set-72157644109490122/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/13919933596/in/set-72157644109490122/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">From there it was a fantastically scenic drive to Bryce Canyon. Unlike Zion which is at the bottom of the canyon, Bryce is usually viewed from the top. To see the inside of the canyon, we took one of the tourist mule rides down to the pine tree floor and then back up. Far easier than hiking it but I ended up sore anyways. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="159" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/13926221476/in/set-72157644177218324/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/13949793544/in/set-72157644177218324/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="ht[...]



50 States - Idaho

2014-04-14T09:12:03.737-04:00

It was about this time last year that we visited the penultimate of our 50 states, Idaho. Idaho had lingered long on the list because it's hard to get to and there is not much to see if you are not a hardcore skier. But it turns out there is more to Idaho than meets the eye. Boise in particular is a delightful college town, home to the Boise State Broncos and their signature blue field. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="190" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8687322468/in/set-72157633366013280/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8686207101/in/set-72157633366013280/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">As the capitol of the state, it has the requisite huge capitol building complete with a replica Liberty Bell. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="212" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8687326268/in/set-72157633366013280/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8686210687/in/set-72157633366013280/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="160">Downtown Boise is rather quaint with old buildings, one of which houses a very prominent drag bar. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8687327662/in/set-72157633366013280/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8687328320/in/set-72157633366013280/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">Just outside of Boise the Snake River, which seems to snake through most of the state, is home to grand overlooks and raptors. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="110" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8687332258/in/set-72157633366013280/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8686216807/in/set-72157633366013280/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8686217419/in/set-72157633366013280/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">But most of Idaho is rural at best. One area, the Craters of the Moon National Monument, is so foreboding as to be frightening. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8686938418/in/set-72157633365060098/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8686936962/in/set-72157633365060098/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="80" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8685811303/in/set-72157633365060098/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8686930460/in/set-72157633365060098/player/" webkitallowfullscre[...]



50 States - California - Los Angeles

2014-04-14T07:57:10.651-04:00

When people think of California, they usually think of Los Angeles. This seems natural since the movie industry is based there and its images such as the Mann Chinese Theater and the Hollywood sign.

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/364462159/in/set-72157594491606787/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="180">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/364460553/in/set-72157594491606787/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="180">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/364459052/in/set-72157594491606787/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="180">

LA also has beautiful beaches and the funky side show that is Venice Beach about any time of day.

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/364457950/in/set-72157594491606787/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/364458398/in/set-72157594491606787/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">

Even the streets are famous. On Rodeo Drive there is the Beverley Wilshire where Pretty Woman took place and the Whiskey on Sunset Strip where about everything has happened.

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/364460846/in/photolist-ycXvG-ycWWp-ycY4Z-ycWwA-ycWMu-ycXUk-ycWzY-ycWtj-ycXZJ-ycXA8-ycWpt-auAPzH-auARUB-auAM1n-auAUwR-auALka-mADTLS-4uwcjV-6brqb7-6brq3L-6bnbxk-6bn4oT-6brpA1-6brpd9-6bnhCT-6brryN-6bndye-6brcnS-6broxC-6bncaD-6bnd4P-6bndEP-6bndKT-6brdij-6broV1-6bro2y-6bnhog-6bnhbF-6brjp5-6bn4Zp-6bneaB-6bnbR6-6bnhSH-6bregb-6bneHT-6bnfii-6bneR6-6brswY-6bn5yD-6briWo/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/364461408/in/photolist-ycXFo-ycX5K-ycX2d-ycXdo-mACFNV-mADYN5-6bripf-6brhYW-6brgxs-6brgFW-6brhFS-6bri7w-5gMYEc-auAKa2-auDApb-6brjfj-6bnaZR-6brrLA-6bneet-6bneXe-6brmLQ-mADX1N-mADXms-mACGRr-mADYwd-mACd4P-mACdE8-mACgsn-mACfdP-mADWmm-mACh8k-mACF9D-mACHtt-mADUCG-mADVns-ycWHx-ycXnZ-ycXqD-ycXka-ycXNr-ycWRL-ycXhq-mACLsp-mADYkm-mADY9u-mACLcp-mACKS6-mACecR-mACcSM-mACew8/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">

I can see why people love LA.

Update: I haven't been back to LA since that trip in 2003 but I've been to lots of other places in California since then. See my comment below for links ot other photos.(image)



50 States - California - Bay Area

2014-04-13T22:15:02.026-04:00

California has been described to me by a Californian as a really great country club with pretty steep initiation dues. Of the 50 states, California has the most variety to offer. Nowhere does this seem truer than in central California where there are beaches, mountains, and culture all withing easy purview. Nothing is more emblematic of the wealth of the west coast than San Simeon, the home of Randolph Hearst and the inspiration for Citizen Kane:

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Between there and San Francisco, there is amazing natural beauty including elephant seals lolling on the beach and the zen-like beauty of the Lone Cyprus along the Seventeen Mile Drive in Monterey to the pristine vistas of Pebble Beach.

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This all eventually leads to San Francisco with the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and the chilling isolation of Alcatraz.

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From Alacatraz you can see the great skyline of San Francisco itself. And San Francisco itself has the elegance of the Palace of Arts.

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All the photos in this post and the accompanying Flickr set where scanned in from our trip in 2002 but I have been back to the San Francisco Bay area many times since and there is always something new to see or explore.(image)



BooksFirst- March 2014

2014-04-10T08:29:18.089-04:00

Books BoughtYou Can Date Boys When You're Forty by Dave BarryA Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuinRedshirts: A Novel With Three Codas by John Scalzi The Hammer of Witches by Shana MiwalskiBooks Read You Can Date Boys When You're Forty by Dave BarryThe Elephants of Style: A Trunkload of Tips on the Big Issues and Gray Areas of Contemporary American English by Bill WalshRedshirts: A Novel With Three Codas by John Scalzi CommentsLast year Dave Barry came through DC promoting his first novel in a long time Insane City which I kind of faint-praised in my review. So I was a bit reluctant to shell out hard cash when he came through DC again this year pushing his latest collection of essays You Can Date Boys When You Are Forty. Boy, was I wrong. This book was literally laugh out loud funny. I would just chuckle constantly as I read it. In addition to the titular essay about the travails or raising a teenaged daughter, he talks about growing old and life in general.I'm really not sure what makes him so funny but a lot of it is his dead pan observations of actual life. He just manages to get straight to the heart of any topic in a way that is instantly recognizable.Bill Walsh is a professional editor at the Washington Post who has a monthly online chat where he regularly refers to his books. Liking the chat, I went and bought his best reviewed book, The Elephants of Style. The allusion to the Strunk and White classic is deliberate and indicative of his irreverent style.Unfortunately, when all is said and done, it's still a book about nitpicky grammar debates. Walsh leans towards the descriptivist camp rather than prescriptionist (neither word which passes muster with spell-check) which is the way I lean as well. On most topics, he lays out what the dispute is, what the various sides assert and then gives the side he comes down on.His advice is always sound and logical but it's still arbitrary.At the end of the book he just outright starts padding. There is a certain random cotton candyesqueness to his musings. It's a fun read but not solid enough to serve as a reference book.In the past couple of decades, two styles of books have been winning Hugos, heavy tomes and light-hearted romps. Redshirts is definitely the latter. Borrowing heavily from the tropes of television science fiction, the novel is about a young ensign on a military style exploratory space ship NOT named the Enterprise who becomes concerned about the high casualty rates for landing parties. It seems anyone other than the headstrong captain, the stoic science officer or the folksy medical doctor is doomed. And while not always meeting a fatal end, the eastern European accented navigation officer always seems a little too close to the center of the action.At this point, it could have become farce along the lines of Galaxy Quest, but instead it becomes very intriguing metafiction. And while there is a little patchouli whiff of dorm room existentialism in the philosophy, it does become an interesting treatise on the nature of reality and fiction. It has a little of the self-awareness of Jasper Fforde novels but not quite as much cutesy cloyingness. It is a slight breezy read, but well worth the effort.[...]



50 States - Washington

2014-03-30T18:44:38.742-04:00

On the same trip in 2004 when we visited Oregon, we spent most of the trip in the state of Washington. Using Seattle as a home base, we took a big loop around the area. Seattle is home to a major coffee chain you may have heard of. In Seattle they use the original logo with mermaid hair not so strategically placed. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3044413005/in/set-72157609511932006/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3044413425/in/set-72157609511932006/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">Their first store is right near the Pike Street Market which is also where they throw fish around.    allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3044411703/in/set-72157609511932006/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3045248874/in/set-72157609511932006/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="180">From Seattle we headed down to Mount Ranier which is a truly majestic mountain. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3045254052/in/set-72157609511932006/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3044418627/in/set-72157609511932006/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">From there it was down to Mount St. Helens which has still to recover from the catastrophic volcanic explosion. Downstream of the crater is a lake full of timber still floating waterlogged. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3045261304/in/set-72157609511932006/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="180">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3044423591/in/set-72157609511932006/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">After a brief sojourn in Oregon, we headed back towards Seattle via the Olympic Peninsula. The Pacific Coast is rugged but beautiful. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3044431219/in/set-72157609511932006/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3044431725/in/set-72157609511932006/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">We saw amazing wildlife from a giant slug on a redwood tree to a herd of elk in a river bed. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3044433651/in/set-72157609511932006/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3044433155/in/set-72157609511932006/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> There were a[...]



50 States - Oregon

2014-03-29T09:14:54.550-04:00

Of the 50 states, Oregon is another one that while it fit into our rule of one night and one meal, it kind of got short shrift. Our night was spent in Portland which is a delightful city which I fell in love with long before the show Portlandia started gently mocking it. The point of going to Portland was to visit Powell's Books, one of the contenders for the greatest bookstore on earth. Inexplicably, I have no photos of that Mecca, but on the way into town we stopped off at the Horsetails Falls area along the Columbia River. These are gorgeous waterfalls along a beautiful hiking trail.

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I notice from the photos that I was wearing a tee shirt from The Strand, an enormous bookstore in New York City which is probably the only rival in size that Powell's has. I doubt this was a coincidence.

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Oregon is on the return trip list because there is so much more to see, both in natural beauty and urban fun. (image)



50 States - Nevada

2014-03-23T22:02:38.946-04:00

In going to all 50 states, I never thought I was Las Vegas type of person until I realized you didn't have to gamble but could just wallow in the sheer excess of it. We had gone through Reno on our way west back in 2006 and stayed at the Peppermill Casino which was poor preparation for the vastness of Vegas a few days later. We has arrived late in the afternoon and only had one night there.  And because it was a weekend we stayed at the Excalibur which is one of the least expensive hotels on the strip. It's the same place I stayed just a few weeks ago when I was stranded during a busines trip on the west coast when Baltimore was blizzarded in. It's also across the street from the nearly equally garish New York New York. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/213618829/in/set-72157594234599623/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/213621364/in/set-72157594234599623/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">We hit the Bellagio fountains and the Fremont Street Experience but the temperatures at midnight was still over 100 degrees. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/213612847/in/set-72157594234599623/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/213617908/in/set-72157594234599623/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">It was last year that we really experienced the real Vegas when for a weekend getaway we stayed at the Mirage and saw the Cirque de Soliel Beatles show Love. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/20899351@N00/8407495852/in/photolist-dNWBB3-dNWFXj-dNWEwm-dNRrA6-dNWGry-dNXaJQ-dNRz7D-dNX9VY-dNRyja-dNR2WH-dNX9Ld-dNRyyR-dNRxYx-dNWE3u-dNRxFH-dNWKAy-dNR9Pt-dNR9zi-dNWLqE-dNRaik-dNRa6B-dNRCtK-dNRubV-dNRe2M-dNWYvm-dNWTmf-dNRry6-dNRfSz-dNRhix-dNX4Jy-dNRjvP-dNWTif-dNWVGd-dNRnsg-dNX5xE-dNRCKr-dNWNmS-dNX4YJ-dNR4NB-dNWHKY-dNRAHe-dNWBG5-dNRC5D-dNWFom-dNXcqE-dNWEY5-dNWSPE-dNRv7H-dNWZkE-dNRuxp-dNWU7y/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/20899351@N00/8406407707/in/photolist-dNR38V-dNWD5Q-dNWGry-dNRrA6-dNX19q-dNWFXj-dNWEwm-dNWBB3-dNX9VY-dNXaJQ-dNRz7D-dNRyja-dNR2WH-dNRxYx-dNX9Ld-dNRyyR-dNWE3u-dNRxFH-dNWLqE-dNWKAy-dNR9Pt-dNR9zi-dNRa6B-dNRaik-dNRCtK-kpubYG-jSNqC-jSRrg-jSSbY-jSS1U-jSPZL-jSRRz-dNXcVm-dNWFom-dNXcqE-dNRtPB-dNX1AU-dNWMsQ-dNRgPp-dNRC5D-dNWVg1-dNRhSg-dNX92f-dNRzwK-dNRsrn-dNX7xj-dNWUsy-dNWTif-dNRvve-dNXdCw-dNWXfW/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">The Mirage is also home to Sigfried and Roy's Magic Garden where they keep their wild cats and dolphins.  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/20899351@N00/8407526394/in/photolist-dNWLFC-dNRefP-dNRuSi-dNR2dz-dNX8XS-dNRjFc-dNRmjF-dNWHcE-dNRqHD-dNRmfT-dNRvVZ-dNWZkE-dNRubV-dNRe2M-dNWYvm-dNWUGE-dNR83K-dNWCR1-dNRqz8-dNRrmT-dNX5xE-dNRCKr-dNXe9f-dNX1So-dNRk8F-dNX1AU-dNWMsQ-dNRc6x-dNR9r4-dNRf5M-dNWNeh-dNRAHe-dNRn8K-dNX5rs-dNX1sJ-dNWMhf-dNX4Jy-dNWJvJ-dNRhix-dNX9oW-dNRprg-dNR4iH-dNRAai-dNWVGd-dNRnsg-dNR23K-dNRu8B-dN[...]



50 States - South Dakota

2014-03-10T23:06:03.406-04:00

I f you read my fairly snide 50 States post snarking about North Dakota, you might think I will be equally dismissive about South Dakota. Nothing could be further from the truth. South Dakota has some literally monumental attractions, most famously that display of chutzpah carved under the impression that mountains are more spectacular when turned into sculptures of dead politicians. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="329" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/20899351@N00/3786844985/in/photolist-6LCz5M/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640">In the defense of Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum, they had to have been a bit right as otherwise why would thousands of people travel to the middle of nowhere to look at rocks. More pristine beauty can be found in the Badlands. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="183" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5165915864/in/set-72157625358767780/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640">But South Dakota has lots and lots of interesting smaller attractions. The most bizarre is perhaps the Corn Palace which has to be seen to be believed. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5165990588/in/set-72157625358989336/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5165386247/in/set-72157625358989336/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">And driving anywhere in South Dakota will expose you to billboards shilling for Wall Drugs. More than just a drugstore, Wall Drugs is a tourist emporium of epic scale. It seems to swallow the entire town of Wall. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5165391027/in/set-72157625358989336/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5165994208/in/set-72157625358989336/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">Speaking of swallowing, one of Wall Drug's gimmicks is that it offers free water to anybody that wants some. And it's very good water. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5165994508/in/set-72157625358989336/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="180">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5165993894/in/set-72157625358989336/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5165994020/in/set-72157625358989336/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="180">Perhaps the most overlooked destination in South Dakota is the town of DeSmet. Its claim to fame is that it was the home on the prairie to Laura Ingalls Wilder during The Long Winter. They have replicas of cabins of that era and even a one-room schoolhouse. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3880370776/in/set-72157622212110182/player/" webkitallo[...]



50 States - North Dakota

2014-03-10T21:45:07.588-04:00

In the continuing coverage of the drive-thru members of the 50 states, perhaps none are less memorable than North Dakota. One internet running joke is that the state doesn't really exist and the case for that is really tough to dispute. I dare you to name one must-see tourist attraction in North Dakota. Wrong, South Dakota. Nope, Wyoming. Again, South Dakota.But what is there? In our nearly day long drive across the state, we did make two stops before ending for a night in Fargo. Lunch was at Meriwether's Landing in Bismark overlooking the Missouri River. Alas, the internetz tell me this restaurant is now out of business. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5274645046/in/set-72157625631489816/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5274038063/in/set-72157625631489816/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="180">Hitherto unknown to me, North Dakota does have one named after none other than rough rider Theodore Roosevelt. The park covers part of the Badlands which aren't quite as vast and picturesque as the ones in South Dakota, but they are pretty impressive. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5274634874/in/set-72157625631489816/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5274035313/in/set-72157625631489816/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">What this park does have is easily accessible wildlife. It's very hard not to spot some deer or buffalo. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5274026803/in/set-72157625631489816/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5274030019/in/set-72157625631489816/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">But the most fascinating fauna were the wild horses which wandered freely. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5274031563/in/set-72157625631489816/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5274033255/in/set-72157625631489816/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">So if you ever do inexplicably find yourself in North Dakota if only to verify its existence, be sure to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park where you might even see a prairie dog. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="333" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5274644094/in/set-72157625631489816/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500">[...]



BooksFirst - February 2014

2014-03-02T10:45:43.253-05:00

Books Bought  Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain  Books Read The Left Hand of Darkness by by Ursula K. LeGuin  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt Books Heard  The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman  Comments  The Left Hand of Darkness is a multi-award winning novel by Ursula K. LeGuin which has long been a book I've been needing to read out of some sense of historical literary obligation. Unfortunately, I found it as tough a slog as the long trek through the frozen wilderness that makes up the last third of the book. My science fiction professor in college warned me as much when he said the somewhere along the line the LeGuin had gotten a snootful of Ulysses and everything had to be an epic journey.The premise of the novel is that an emissary from the Galactic High Council or whatever is trying to make first contact with a lost colony. The twist is that not only is this particular planet a marginally habitable world that makes Hoth look like Club Med, but the inhabitants have all evolved (it's not ever clear how much genetic engineering is involved) into an androgynous single gender so it's the male human from another world that is the sexual freak. However, not much is really done with this. LeGuin goes a little into how a single gendered society would work (more caring, less warlike, and absolutely embracing of family leave) but except for some unrequited sideward glances, nobody breaks any taboos in any interesting ways. Perhaps this was much, much more groundbreaking in the pre-Stonewall 1950s but now it seems almost tame.I just never quite knew what the book was trying to say and despite being only 200 pages in my paperback edition, it took a long time not saying it.Epic long books have to be really, really good to merit their investment in time and paper and The Goldfinch manages it. I came in with low expectations and was rapidly blown away. Speaking of expectations, low and great, I was not far into this book before I started making obvious parallels to Dickens. A young semi-orphan is shuffled around in several socially distinct milleaus where he is forced to survive. There is a scampish sidekick on the blurry side of the law. A sickly romantic interest that fate keeps away. A cruel and dangerous father. A kindly benefactor. And odd coincidences and circumstances to just tread the line of laughable implausibility. And I'm not alone in this observation as nearly every review I've read has made the same observation. Charlie might has well have been credited as cowriter.The MacGuffin of the novel is the titular painting of bird chained to a post. I quickly realized that I had seen this painting very recently. It was one of the Dutch masterpieces that was an exhibit with another painting with literary inspirations, "The Girl With The Pearl Earring". In The Goldfinch, Donna Tarrt rather than wrapping a story around the creation of the painting, literally wraps the painting up in mystery and adventure. The painting is enigmatic even before it it burdened with the weight of all the symbolism that ties it to the perch.And despite the length, the book is well-paced and taut. Everytime, just as I was getting bored or distracted, some plot twist would come along and suck me back in. My one peeve was that the both the main character and his buddy Boris do an incredible amount of drugs. Then I got to the end of the book and read the About The Author which said that Tartt went to Bennington College. Having just read The Rules Of Attraction by Brett Easton Ellis, all of a sudden everything fell into place. Very early into The Bedwetter, Sarah Silverman semi-apologizes [...]



50 State: South Carolina - Upstate

2014-03-02T09:39:21.296-05:00

As I mentioned in the last post about the low country, when going to the 50 states, South Carolina is one of those states that I have always spent more time going through than doing things in. One particularly well-rutted strip is the portion of I-85 between Atlanta and Charlotte. There was rarely ever any reason to stop. But while my son was at Georgia Tech I kept wanting to stop at one place in particular, the BMW plant between Greenville and Spartanburg. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="164" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12762298793/in/set-72157641492476814/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640">The factory tours fill up well in advance but one year I had the forethought to book early. In addition to the tour which does not allow photography to the point of confiscating cell phones, they have a museum with lots of great vintage BMWs. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12762595974/in/set-72157641492476814/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12762295313/in/set-72157641492476814/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12762295483/in/set-72157641492476814/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="200"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12762597294/in/set-72157641492476814/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="200"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12762297003/in/set-72157641492476814/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="200">While passing through Greenville, we went to their quaint downtown and found a distillery right in the middle of town. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12762158265/in/set-72157641492476814/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12762601344/in/set-72157641492476814/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">Also in Upstate South Carolina is Clemson, Georgia Tech's closest ACC rival with their ubiquitous tiger paws and the stadium ominously known as Death Valley. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12762588564/in/set-72157641492476814/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12762594934/in/set-72157641492476814/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> But the most prominent feature of the upstate area is the Peachoid, aka The Big Peach, a major landmark just off the interstate in Gaffney, South Carolina. This town is now famous as the home of fictional House of Cards congressman Francis Underwood. But for many years, it was my sign to take the next exit for Gardner-Webb University where my fu[...]



50 States - South Carolina: The Low Country

2014-02-24T22:25:51.466-05:00

 Since I am covering the states in the 50 states I drove through more than stopped in, South Carolina also tends to fit that bill. When our son was little, we would send him down to his grandparents in Florida and then a week or two later leisurely drive down to pick him up or vice versa, drive him down and drop him off for a few weeks. This was a great way to combine both a family vacation and getaway kidless trip.Back in 1998 on one of those trips, we stopped for a few nights in Charleston, South Carolina, which is definitely a city for romantic couples without kids. The horse drawn carriage is the only real way to see the city. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="210" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12602572843/in/set-72157641141369333/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="210" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12602573623/in/set-72157641141369333/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">It is a city of old churches and gourmet restaurants. It seems that Poogan's Porch, the restaurant seen below, is still in business although they have painted the building since we were there. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12602570603/in/set-72157641141369333/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="158">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12602896864/in/set-72157641141369333/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="158">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="210" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12602571413/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">In fact, it is the brightly colored Victorian era pastel "painted ladies" on Rainbow Row which are the signature feature of Charleston, although Forth Sumter is the draw fro Civil War buffs. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="210" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12602579313/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12602577213/in/set-72157641141369333/player/" width="320" height="210" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen>Fans of military history are drawn to The Citadel which has trained generations of southern gentleman.  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="210" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12602575613/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="210" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12602902804/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">Speaking of the Civil War, antebellum mansions like the one at Magnolia Plantation with its picturesque bridge is another tourist attraction. src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12602475885/in/set-72157641141369333/player/" width="320" height="210" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen>   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="210" mozallowfulls[...]



50 States - Connecticut

2014-02-17T20:10:18.828-05:00

Like Delaware, Connecticut is an easy one of the 50 states to pass through rather than stop in. But in 1999 on our way up to Maine we did make the qualifying night's stay in Connecticut. Our destination was Mystic Seaport, a destination I only knew about because of the Julia Roberts movie. And sure enough there really is a Mystic Pizza. And a shipyard. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12531754153/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12532113764/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">The Seaport is devoted to big sailing ships and they have plenty of them. The museum has active shipbuilding done the old fashioned way for movies and museums. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12531755413/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12531633965/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">The other town we stopped in was New Haven which is home to the college with the biggest inferiority complex in the universe. I'm not sure why because the campus is gorgeous with architecture that has both colonial and gothic themes. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="500" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12532111444/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="333">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="500" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12532112154/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="333">    We spent a lot of time in the 1990s and early 2000s visiting college campuses as part of a subliminal propaganda campaign aimed at our son. College campuses often show off an area at its best. They have beautiful buildings and lush lawns. A partial list of campuses we spent time at with him in addition to Yale, include Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Duke, Wake Forest, Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech,Tennessee, and of course, his future alma mater, Georgia Tech. Here he is at Yale and wearing a Yale shirt. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="500" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12531632385/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="333">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="500" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/12531752373/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="333">Connecticut is an interesting state full of disparities. The areas just outside of New York are enclaves of privilege but the neighborhoods surrounding Yale in New Haven are desperate slums. But it is definitely worth stopping for sometimes instead of just passing through.[...]



50 States: Delaware

2014-02-10T07:50:37.627-05:00

Despite being first, Delaware is one of the easiest of the 50 states to overlook, especially if you are not beach people, like we are not. Nonetheless, in the mid-90s we found reasons to go to Delaware. In particular, Delaware is chock full of mansions either directly or peripherally associated with the DuPont de Nemours family. Winterthur is a grand estate loaded with examples of the decorative arts. And the Rockwood Park and Museum hosts a delightful ice cream festival every year with great food and all sorts of Victoriana.Unfortunately, a thorough scouring of the my film photography archives has no evidence of my having been to these places. However, there is a place in Delaware that we have been to many, many times which features a large airy lobby and a great variety of dining experiences. That is the Delaware Welcome Center. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5284803310/in/set-72157625656170846/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640">Located roughly  in the middle of the section of I-95 that runs through Delaware, the rest area is a near perfectly placed stop for when we are headed to New York or points beyond. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5284205437/in/set-72157625656170846/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="231" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5284209487/in/set-72157625656170846/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  For dining choices, it is almost a embarrassment of riches with cuisines from all over the world. Italian, French, Mexican, you name it. And if you don't need a full meal, the centrally situated Starbucks nearly always has a line for those wanted to refuel with caffeine. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5284803990/in/set-72157625656170846/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="200"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5284206067/in/set-72157625656170846/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="200"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5284804280/in/set-72157625656170846/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="200"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5284804434/in/set-72157625656170846/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="200"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5284206491/in/set-72157625656170846/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="200"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/5284804708/in/set-72157625656170846/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="200"> But the building also serves as a billboard for Delaware with murals of all its attractions and display cases showing off its history. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowful[...]



50 States: Alabama

2014-02-03T21:30:41.978-05:00

When reviewing Pennsylvania as part of my tour of the 50 states, I compared the central part of the state to Alabama. Perhaps unfairly. To Alabama. But first let's go over the similarities. Both states worship football and have built huge stadia to house their teams. Here is the one in Tuscaloosa but I bet its counterpart in Auburn is just as massive. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7324601706/in/set-72157630020876518/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7324591206/in/set-72157630020876518/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> Inexplicably, Alabama also has a replica Liberty Bell in front of it's capitol building. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7324376686/in/set-72157630020876518/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">    allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7324360276/in/set-72157630020876518/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> The capitol is also across the street from the Confederate White House from when Montgomery was the capitol of the breakaway states. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="320" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7324379036/in/set-72157630020876518/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="213">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="333" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7324378716/in/set-72157630020876518/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500">This is only one of many places where you can still see a Confederate flag fly. Heck, even the official state flag bears a certain uncanny resemblance. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7324381154/in/set-72157630020876518/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7324387050/in/set-72157630020876518/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">In Alabama, we visited three cities, Mobile, Montgomery, and Birmingham. Mobile has a certain Gothic charm mixed with a modern vigor having an old fort right in downtown. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7324325778/in/set-72157630020876518/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7324325238/in/set-72157630020876518/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> Our bed and breakfast was a charming antebellum mansion and our innkeeper regaled us with the tale of all the Confederate era letters and records she found in boxes in the attic when she bought the house. Said breakfast of pecan French toast is [...]



BooksFirst - January 2014 - NaJuReMoNoMo

2014-02-01T23:28:29.590-05:00

Books BoughtThe Elephants of Style by Bill WalshBooks ReadDaemon by Daniel SuarezA Long Way Down by Nick HornbyBad Monkey by Carl HiaasenThe Rules of Attraction by Brett Easton EllisBooks HeardLoser by Jerry SpinelliThe High Place by James Branch CabellExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran FoerCommentsNational Just Read More Novels Month which I run every January encourages people to read as many novels as they can in the 31 days of January. This year I managed to only read two, but I did listen to three, which I also count. This edition of Books First also covers two books I read in 2013 which I forgot to catalog on my year end round up.The first of these is a cybertechnothriller set in the near future. Daemon unfolds when a brilliant but mad computer game programmer dies under mysterious circumstances. However, strange things continue to happen seemingly guided by his hand beyond the grave. Daniel Suarez's novel is told through the viewpoint of a couple of characters entrapped by his cyberweb. One, a cop is framed for other nefarious reasons. The other is superhacker who gets lured into an organization with sinister goals. The story is very fast paced even as it stretches credulity at every turn. Science fiction relies a lot on hypercompetent people, but the ones in Daemon would make Heinlein wince. Underlying it is a lot of crypto-libertarian philosophy about government and freedom and choice. It's really unclear which side of some of the rants the author is coming down on but they make for intriguing discussion.The second leftover from 2013 is A Long Way Down which got inexplicably overlooked since I am such a huge Nick Hornby fan. In this one, the narrative gimmick that Hornby uses is four interweaving first person narratives of a group of people that all independently wanted to commit suicide. They are in turn a disgraced TV show host, a spoiled rich girl, a failed American musician, and the mother of a special needs teenager.Each of the four people has secrets and baggage which get unpeeled slowly over the course of the book. However, not all four are equally intriguing. This makes the book uneven overall and drags some sections down. Part of the narrative force is watching them open up to each other Breakfast Club style while seeing them get on with their lives.Hornby is always intriguing to read but here he is stretching muscles and showing off just a bit. But still a good fast paced thought provoking read.My first novel of 2014 was Bad Monkey by Carl Hiassen. Hiaasen has toned down some of his excesses to good effect. The story opens very similarly to his first novel Tourist Season with the shark gnawed arm of tourist floating up. But there has to be more to the story if this is to be a Hiassen Florida Gothic novel, which it is.The hero is former Miami cop on a downward spiral in a petty feud with his Florida Keys neighbor. He is the only one willing to track down the arm which is hard to do as a restaurant inspector. He is joined by a slightly kinky medical examiner and the usual cast of Florida oddballs.The story is uproariously funny whether you are familiar with the Keys or not. The book does aim for a sensibility that is more 'realistic' than many recent Hiaasen novels were he seemed determined to top himself again and again for outrageousness and the book is better for it.In the 80s I read all the hip enfant terrible writers of which Jay McInerney was the spiritual ringleader. I read Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis but never delved deeper into his[...]



50 States: Pennsylvania - ...And Alabama In The Middle

2014-01-31T06:45:22.689-05:00

Pennsylvania is a big state and the parts between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are largely rural.  Some if it is farmland, including vast swaths of Amish Country, but a lot is woodlands and wilderness.Once on a whim we decided to take a weekend getaway to north central Pennsylvania. On the way we went through State College, the unimaginatively named home of Penn State. I've worked with a lot of Penn State alumni and everywhere they have tchotkes with the Nittany Lion symbol on it. Alumni and fans come from miles around to pose their families in front of it. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7189270557/in/set-72157630071086417/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7189270101/in/set-72157630071086417/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">The big draw for me was the Creamery, the campus ice cream parlor which sells flavors made on campus. This is the school which Ben and Jerry took a correspondence course from. The Creamery is huge and was especially crowded as this was the day of the annual Spring intramural scrimmage. That is how serious Penn State fans are, they fill the stadium for a scrimmage. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7189263685/in/set-72157630071086417/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7374496396/in/set-72157630071086417/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">From there we headed up to Wellsboro, a sleepy small town with a couple of cute bed and breakfasts and shops. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7374504500/in/set-72157630133316214/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7189272607/in/set-72157630133316214/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">Pine Creek Gorge bills itself as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania which is hyperbolic even by the standards of civic pride. Not that it isn't picturesque, it just isn't quite all that grand. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7189270975/in/set-72157630133316214/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7189274511/in/set-72157630133316214/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="164" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/7189278155/in/set-72157630133316214/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640">The valley has a wonderful bicycle trail that goes through it over bridges and past great fishing spots.   allowfullscree[...]



50 States: Pennsylvania - ...Pittsburgh In The West...

2014-01-30T10:07:02.666-05:00

Pittsburgh is only four hours from Baltimore yet we have only been there once, which is a shame since Pennsylvania is one of the closest 50 states to us. And not because it wasn't delightful because it was. Being an industrial town, it bears a lot of similarity to Baltimore but some how seems both more rugged and picturesque at the same time. The best views of the city are from the top of the Duquesne Incline overlooking the city. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="117" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3834492857/in/set-72157621949039919/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3833574782/in/set-72157621949039919/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3832782285/in/set-72157621949039919/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">And the place has so many gorgeous bridges. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3832771235/in/set-72157621949039919/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3833566520/in/set-72157621949039919/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> It's a city with some very good museums with huge dinosaurs. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3832768137/in/set-72157621949039919/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3832767845/in/set-72157621949039919/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">And while the dining scene isn't as trendy as Philly, Pittsburgh isn't without it's charm. Like Primanti Brothers where french fries are a sandwich condiment. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="180" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3832764717/in/set-72157621949039919/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="240">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="160" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3833558970/in/set-72157621949039919/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="240">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3832765401/in/set-72157621949039919/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="160">But just walking around the city is full of sights. I've always had a soft spot for the modernist charm of PPG Plaza which had a Heinz (another Pittsburgh trademark) stegosaurus. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3833572120/in/set-72157621949039919/[...]



50 States: Pennsylvania - Philadelphia In The East...

2014-01-31T06:54:48.635-05:00

Pennsylvania is a big state. It's got Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west, and as James Carville once described it, Alabama in the middle. I will get to all three regions in my photo tour of the 50 States, but this post focuses on Philadelphia. Philly, as I suppose I'm not supposed to call it, is a Big City. Eclipsed by New Your City just up I-95, it has a bit of a inferiority complex, but it has a lot going for it. One of the institutions that keeps taking us there over and over again is the Philadelphia Museum of Art. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="145" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/20899351@N00/3966535873/in/photolist-73vwVx-bAvTHX-bnB3rm-bAvU3H-bnB3nf-bAvTPB-71ZHgm-71VH9k-71VHfi-9k5WcP-9k91fC-9k919J-9k5WGB-9k5Wv2-9k91qf-9k5WDv-9k5WfT-9k91ch-9k91nh-9k5WsH-9Vroc5-9VoxZc-9VqcQb-9VnnKX-9VqcTw-bnAjUw-9Vqbgu-9Vnmkt-bAvbnM-9Vqc13-9Vnn3g-9Vqcrq-9Vnn8i-9VnnDX-af6TXK-af9HRm-af9J33-bnAjN3-cfshRU-bAvaxg-9Vnndn-9Vqcn5-bAvaDH-cfstej-bnAjZd-cfseuJ-bAvaAk-cfsbcN-bAvb9D-cfsza1-bnAjzY/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640"> This huge complex has an amazing permanent collection as well as wonderful traveling shows. And while it as a lot of everything, I particularly like the Impressionist and Modernist Wing. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="210" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3968149482/in/set-72157622483069328/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3967311246/in/set-72157622483069328/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> We are often in Philadelphia on Saturdays where the brides come out in droves for wedding photos at or around the PMA. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/20899351@N00/7383406422/in/photolist-cfrTuJ-cfs4TN-cfrGDN-cfs86w-bAvaNk-cfrZJA-cfrMJu-cfsHMf-bnAiD7-cfrBgq-cfsQZ7-cfsFSE-cfsSSs-cfsJZU-cfsNq5/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/20899351@N00/7383539838/in/photolist-cfsza1-bnAjzY-73zvGq-af6VtM-bnAjJh-cfsvRE-9Vpidf-9Vqbzm-cfrRej-9Vpi9u-9VnmtZ-9Vpi1m-cfsqoq-9Vqchf-bnAk93-cfsD15-cfrTuJ-cfs4TN-cfrGDN-cfs86w-bAvaNk-cfrZJA-cfrMJu-cfsHMf-bnAiD7-cfrBgq-cfsQZ7-cfsFSE-cfsSSs-cfsJZU-cfsNq5/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/20899351@N00/7383485022/in/photolist-cfshRU-bAvaxg-9Vnndn-9Vqcn5-bAvaDH-cfstej-bnAjZd-cfseuJ-bAvaAk-cfsbcN-bAvb9D-cfsza1-bnAjzY-73zvGq-af6VtM-bnAjJh-cfsvRE-9Vpidf-9Vqbzm-cfrRej-9Vpi9u-9VnmtZ-9Vpi1m-cfsqoq-9Vqchf-bnAk93-cfsD15-cfrTuJ-cfs4TN-cfrGDN-cfs86w-bAvaNk-cfrZJA-cfrMJu-cfsHMf-bnAiD7-cfrBgq-cfsQZ7-cfsFSE-cfsSSs-cfsJZU-cfsNq5/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="213" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/20899351@N00/7383398800/in/photolist-cfrRej-9Vpi9u-9VnmtZ-9Vpi1m-cfsqoq-9Vqchf-bnAk93-cfsD15-[...]



50 States: Nebraska

2014-01-21T10:53:29.867-05:00

When I tell people I've been to all 50 states, they ask me which one was my favorite. That's a tough question because so many states are wonderful for various reasons. But when they ask which state was my least favorite, that's a much shorter list.In looking over the last ten states or so to visit, Iowa and Nebraska were right next to each other making them perfect for a twofer. Iowa, as I'll probably get to much later, had hidden charms and was very delightful. Nebraska, much less so.The hardest part of visiting Nebraska was finding anything to do there. The ground rules of the challenge was that we had to stay at least one night and eat one meal. For the hotel, we stayed at the gorgeous Magnolia Hotel Omaha which was hosting several very fancy weddings that Saturday night. From our hotel window, we could see the Woodmen of the World building as seen in About Schmidt. And down the street the Orpheum theater was advertising the upcoming visit of the Capitol Steps. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="320" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117932067/in/set-72157631840395808/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="213">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="375" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117929777/in/set-72157631840395808/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500">For dinner, since we were in Nebraska, I wanted a big giant steak. For that we went to 801 Chophouse which has a giant golden bull in the middle of the dining room.  They also have Maytag bleu cheese potatoes which are delicious. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="320" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117929633/in/set-72157631840395808/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="240">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="240" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117929505/in/set-72157631840395808/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">From Omaha we drove through Lincoln which is both the state capitol and the home of the University of Nebraska. The stadium is just huge. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="426" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117946328/in/set-72157631840395808/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640">It was also a clear perfect blue fall day and the absurdly tall and slightly phallic capital building just shown in the sunlight. Even the oddly disturbing farmer on the top of it just glistened. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="332" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117944072/in/set-72157631840395808/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500">   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="320" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/8117944632/in/set-72157631840395808/player/" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="213">Finally on our way out of Lincoln we stopped on a whim at the Sunken Gardens which was resplendent in fall colors even if all the flowers were gone for the year. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height[...]