Picture taken with my new Blackberry Pearl
Today, we went to Five Guys for lunch before an offsite meeting.
On a Friday in Lent, I was sorely tempted, but I had one of their Grilled Cheese, and it was pretty good.
Not as good as their burgers, but not much is.
I missed the last night shuttle launch. I am so bummed.
I just went outside and snapped this picture, which shows the last rays of the sun on the shuttle smoke trail:
As I said, I'm bummed I missed it.
It's March, and that means books in our area: specifically, the Antiquarian Book Fair in St. Pete, where booksellers from all over the country come and display their wares.
We set out, and along the way I snapped a picture out the driver's side window:
Not a good picture, I know, but it's not easy to get a picture of the Airstream Ranch
Next, through Tampa and on towards the Tampa Bay bridge:
Finally, on to the Coliseum to the book Fair.
Old Blue waits patiently...
And we're off!
Every Saturday, I make a list of things I'd like to accomplish over the weekend, and then set out mid-morning to run some errands. Here's what I did today:
First, took the wife's Bruiser to the carwash.
Next off to the Super Target near my house to buy a waffle iron and socks.
Third, off to 'ffice Depot for some miscellaneous supplies.
And then winding up at my favorite part, Publix for grocery shopping.
Notice the lovely weather. It's great to live in Florida.
It's been a long while since I did one of these. This is my office space.
Me, with my latest purchase: a Vespa LX 50.
I rode it to work every day last week. It's SO MUCH FUN!
Biltmore Estate in Asheville is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited. It is the closest thing to one of those beautiful French palaces scattered around that country that you are likely to find in the United States; and it was built with the same dedication to comfort and disregard for expense that marks the fruits of French aristocrats of the 18th Century.
Biltmore was built by George Vanderbilt in 1895 as a home for his family, and was conceived as a self-supporting estate, along the model of such estates from the English countryside. How successful it was is in this goal is questionable, but they certainly produced much of the considerable resources necessary to support the vast staff necessary to keep the house going. Every modern convenience was incorporated into the estate, from electric lighting and telephones to elevators and washing machines.
In addition, the Vanderbilts were followers of progressive thought concerning the education, health and comfort of their servants; and also followers of the ancient concept of noblesse oblige; they cared for the families of everyone who worked their vast estate in the most grand style.
The house today is open to the public, and has been restored to its fullest beauty, as it was when it was built. The place is stuffed with beautiful works of art and furniture and has a library that had Mrs. Agnostic panting and feeling faint. The gardens surrounding the house are beautiful and ornate, and the estate itself is set in the midst of rolling, wooded hills of great beauty.
We spent a lovely morning and afternoon touring the Biltmore, and had some yummy barbeque in their Stables restaurant for lunch. It was really amazing. We also visited the Biltmore winery, did a little tasting and bought a few bottles of the ones we liked.
As far as I can tell, the Biltmore is really the only thing worth seeing in Asheville. Afterwards, we drove down town to find a book store, and it was a pretty nice place but rather empty on a Wednesday afternoon.
My brother visited Asheville a couple of years ago, and had a different experience. He had some adventures and enjoyed the funky down-town area near the college and rubbing elbows with the hippies.
We saw hippies too, but declined to rub elbows, or anything else, with them.
The rest of our stay in Asheville was uneventful. We had an uninspiring supper someplace forgettable (which is perhaps for the best). The next morning, we woke up to rain, which dogged us all the way to Charleston and hung around for the rest of the trip.
From Savannah, we drove on to Asheville, North Carolina, where we had a really bad sandwich at a place called "The Upper Crust." This sandwich was absolutely disgusting. Let me set this up.
The trip took about five hours, and it was a lovely drive. As we traveled through the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, we had no idea what kind of horrible meal was awaiting us.
We checked into our hotel about 4:30, and decided to drive out to a place called the Grove Park Inn, which is a fabulous resort and spa in Asheville. We'd been told that we had to go out and have a drink in the lobby, and so we did. The lobby is HUGE, with two enormous fieldstone fireplaces on either end. We had a drink and an appetizer, but the ambiance was spoiled somewhat because they were vacuuming the carpets. We decided, though, that if the spinach dip we ordered was the best spinach dip we'd ever tasted, in keeping with the beauty and elegance (except for the vacuum cleaner) of the hotel, then we'd have dinner there.
It wasn't, so we didn't. Really nice place, though.
So, we drove back to the vacinity of our hotel, and passed a lot of chain restaurants along the Interstate, restaurants that we could eat at anywhere in the country and many with whom I have business dealings and so didn't want to deal with while on vacation. Down the road, we found what we hoped was a small, intimate little gem of a restaurant, one of those ubiquitous and often charming places that advertise "Pizza - Subs - Pasta" under the rubric of Old Italy.
Little did we know what horrors awaited us inside.
Here are some indications, when entering a restaurant, that you should immediately turn and leave without even looking at the menu:
- You are practically the only ones in the restaurant even though it's dinner time.
- None of the chairs match.
- Every booth bench has torn or cut coverings.
- You order a beer, and they tell you that they've "temporarily lost their license."
We did not heed these warnings. The appetizer we'd had at the Grove Park Inn had been pretty filling, so we decided to each just order one of their Italian Subs.
My memory gets a little blurry after this. I remember waiting what seemed like a long, long time while the hostess/waitress/cashier read the sports page. When the "food" eventually came out my memory goes pretty blank, but I have an impression of hot, tasteless cheese, rainbow lunch meat and gritty bread.
We fled into the night, our dinner uneaten and our appetites gone.
Thus ended our first day in Asheville. I'm drained; I'll write about the next day later.
After St Augustine, we moved on to Savannah.
I can't begin to tell you how nice this city is. Lots of fun things to do and see. It's a terrific city for walking, and there are tour busses you can hop on and off to get you from one part of the town to another.
We stayed at a wonderful old inn call the Hamilton-Turner House; we stayed in the Earl of Chatham Suite. It was absolutely heavenly.
Here's a picture I took of the front of the house. Our room was on the top floor, the rightmost window.
Here's another view of the house, from Lafayette Square which fronts it.
Hamilton-Turner House is purported to be "the most haunted house in Savannah" which is saying a lot, because they have a lot of tales to tell about their city. Their particular ghost story involves a billiard table, and the ghosts apparently play pool late at night. And I actually heard them! That is, I heard the sound, which may emanate from shifting tiles or the air ducts, or from the ectoplasmic plane! Ooooh! Scary, eh kids?
Adjacent to the square can be found the beautiful Saint John the Baptist Cathedral.
We also drove by, but did not tour, famous Mercer House, wherein Jim Williams shot a man, as told in "The Book".
Jim's sister still lives in the house and has tours, but will not answer any questions about the murder or her brother. Apparently, it's a sore subject.
Incidently, "The Book" is everywhere in Savannah; you really must read it, or at least see the movie, before you go to Savannah because it really makes it a lot of fun. I mean, images of this thing:
...and this guy:
...are just everywhere.
(OK, another aside; my brother recently saw the movie version of "Midnight" and thought that their choice of Kevin Spacey to play Jim Williams was odd. But, look again at that picture above, and compare it with this:
I rest my case.)
Ok, we had a lot of other non-Midnight-related fun. We went on another ghost tour, this time a walking tour that was very entertaining.
The USS Cole was docked, and I got a picture:
Also, we went to the Telfair Museum of Art and viewed their Maxfield Parris exhibit, very beautiful. It's also where the famous "Bird Girl" statue is now located, because it was being damaged by fans who wanted to chip pieces off of it. Needless to say, they won't let you touch it in the museum.
We were in Savannah two days and nights, and enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. We walked our little feet off, but it was worth it.
Update: My brother writes to tell me that I misstated his misgivings about Kevin Spacey in the Williams role. He correctly reminds me that it wasn't on the basis of appearance that he protested the casting, since Hollywood can make anyone look like anyone else. He found Spacey's performance as a Southerner unconvincing. I'll leave it to the reader to judge this issue, but I've lived in the South for a number of years, married a Southern girl, and my in-laws are from Birmingham. He sounded authentic enough to me.
We were in Saint Augustine only one day, Saturday October 1st. The drive from Orlando was only about two hours, so we were there before noon and spent the night.
Mrs. Agnostic and I have visited here many times, so we really just wanted to have some fun and start to unwind.
First, we went to a terrific bookstore called Wolf's Head Books, which we were lucky to find because they had just moved into their new building; in fact, we were their FIRST CUSTOMERS there!
Next, we went to lunch at a place called The Reef on Vilano Beach that has a wonderful view of the ocean. I submit the following in the grand Pious Agnostic tradition of lunchblogging:
Yummy grouper sandwich at 'The Reef'
We went a little pirate crazy in St. Augustine. Must have been the grog!
Also, we visited a bar where we once had a hilarious time many years ago, and the beer was still quite cold.
For dinner, I had paella at a place that brewed its own beer, but I don't remember what it was called; are you detecting a theme?
At night, we went on the Ghosts & Gravestones trolley tour, which was corny but fun.
St Augustine is the oldest city in North America, and one of the most cheerfully touristy places I know. Everything is pretty goofy, and while there are opportunities for education, they can be hard to find among the ice-cream parlors and the souvenir stands, bars and tour guides. But it's a fun place, there's lots to see, and I recommend it.
Last night, at 8:50, was the final launch of a Lockheed Martin Titan 4B from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station . This heavy lift rocket is being phased out for other models.
Here's what we saw from our front yard:
The orange flame of the rocket lit the horizon like a small city. It immediately turned to the north, which is typical for a launch inserting a classified payload into orbit.
The Titan was configured with two solid-rocket boosters, which you can see detaching here:
The three lights shown here are the Titan second stage (top) and the two ejected solid-rocket boosters as they burn out (two lower orange specks).
Update: I changed the name of the launch facility...I still want to call it 'Kennedy Space Center'.
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. Here are a few pictures from the day.
Here I am demolishing the bird to the best of my ability.
Donna shows us the secret ingredient in her delicious southern dumplings. (click to enlarge - "Made with Love")
And here's the result. Thanksgiving isn't the most beautiful of meals, but probably the most tasty.
Flavour of India
I took the wife to work today, and went on my way through surface streets downtown. I'm sure glad I have my camera back.
Today, we drove to St. Petersburg to go to the 23rd Annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. It was an absolutely beautiful day.
After a long day wandering the aisles, we stopped at the Branch Ranch on the way home for supper. Sorry, no pictures of our dinner this time.
A fine time was had by both.
6107 S. Orange Blossom Trl · Orlando
Yum! Vodka martini with
blue-cheese stuffed olives
13-oz filet, medium rare.
Then, the batteries in the camera ran out. We didn't order dessert, though, so you haven't missed anything.
I can take no credit for this, as I ignore them all year long. This is God's work.
As I mentioned in a previous post, we had some new wood floors put in while we were away this last weekend. We're pretty happy with them.
Wondered why you do not have an article about Halliburton being cleared of overcharging. Seems like an obvious choice for your site. And how the news media doesn’t talk too much about it. Probably will never make it on Terry Gross’s show.
Frankly, I don’t know anything about the Halliburton story. I’m really not that smart, you know. I wasn’t interested in it from the beginning, because I never thought it was true, so its completion doesn’t surprise me. I realize that there are leftists who believe that Halliburton is the entire reason for the war, but that kind of thinking is so foreign to me, I have a hard time giving it credence. It shows a capacity for cynicism that I just can't accept.
That said, here's a link:
Also, on how the story is being played by the networks (featuring 'Dean Hookups').
You're right, though that it's unlikely that Terry Gross will mention it.
But, back to Bill's email:
Also. Where are more pictures? I figured you would be flooding your blog with them by now what with your new camera.
I really feel bad I haven't taken more pictures, but I have to overcome a lifetime of camera-avoidance behavior. But, just for Bill, here is a short photo-montage of my work environment:
There you have it. Oh, and Bill, the animated pictures I sent at Christmas were made with GIF Construction Set Professional from Alchemy Mindworks. I've found it to be a pretty powerful tool for doing my very limited animation projects.