Happy 2019!

Happy New Year!

Today I’m closing out the last day of a Christmas vacation. It frankly hasn’t been a great vacation — I came down with a GI bug just before Christmas Day dinner at my brother’s house. I’d been fine when I left here, but an hour or so after we got there, things went south; I lost my appetite, was unable to eat my sister-in-law’s wonderful roast beef dinner, and when the chills started up, I knew I needed to get home, the sooner the better. I had my mother do the driving, and we nearly made it home before the puking started. Fortunately, I had a pan with me.

That night is a blur of fever and gastric upset. I distinctly remember thinking some code I’d written the week before must have had a bug in it that made me sick; I was dreaming of editing the code to fix the bug. I haven’t been that messily sick since I was a kid.

The rest of the week was only somewhat better. I spent Wednesday and Thursday kind of tippy-toeing around my GI tract — the fever was gone, and so was the imaginary coding, but I still felt nauseous, and I wasn’t eating much. So I spent most of the week playing games on my iPad, catching up on Twitter, and color correcting old photos. I’m finding that Photos does a much better job of color correcting underwater pictures than Aperture or iPhoto did (or else I’m better at it now) and I’ve been able to bring up some pictures quite nicely.

I did try to get out on Friday, to the Museum of Fine Arts to see the Ansel Adams exhibit, but as I drove past, I could see a line out the door, and I knew I was in no condition to stand in the rain waiting to get in.

I was finally feeling better enough to try again on Sunday, and did in fact, spend the afternoon there. It’s always cool to be able to see his actual photographic prints, made by hand, and signed by him. Juxtaposed with his pictures are some pictures of the same subject matter both by earlier photographers, and current artists.

I decided to give First Night another try yesterday. We were expecting rain in the evening, so I went in around 3 to see the ice sculptures, and take in a performance. I got into Copley just in time to get over to Old South Church to see a performance of the King of Instruments — Old South Church’s massive organ.

Old South Church's massive organ pipes
Organ pipes at the back of the church

The organist talked about all the various kinds of instruments it could emulate, and played about six pieces. It was very enjoyable.

Unfortunately, the rest of First Night was a real let down. I remember when there were massive multiple installations at both Copley and on the Common; this year, there were a couple at Copley Square, and then I walked up through the Public Gardens to the Common, and couldn’t even find the installation at first.

I finally found it: unlit, unloved, only about the size of my motorcycle, and with a pile of trash nearby:

Ice sculpture by the Frog Pond
Ice sculpture by the Frog Pond on the Common.

Compare this with this sculpture from ten years ago:

Ice sculpture of surfers, from December 31, 2008
“Pipeline” ice sculpture, from 2008

After finally finding the ice sculpture, I wandered around the Common a little, and got some pictures of the Christmas Tree. To be fair to First Night, the Grand Procession probably would have been cool, but rain was approaching, and it was already cold and raw, and the only other show I would have liked to have seen was another performance at Old South Church. It used to be that First Night had a variety of performances of all kinds at all sorts of venues across the city; now there are only a couple of locations and some open air performances at Copley Square. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I headed home.

Today, the Christmas tree came down, and the living room’s been restored to its normal layout. It feels empty. The overnight rain left this morning, and left behind almost springlike temperatures, so I took the motorcycle out for an hour or so. It was great to be on the bike, and I was not the only motorcyclist out there. Tomorrow is back to work. It’s about time.

Making of a Christmas Card, 2018

Most years, I tend to get rather frantic trying to figure out what I’m going to put on my card  that year. In 2013, I recorded this sequence of steps, and it’s pretty accurate for most years:

  1. OMG, I have no idea what I want to do, and it’s already December 8th (or 9th, or 10th. Sometimes as late as the 13th). Increasingly frantic as time goes by.
  2. Do I really want to do a card this year?  In the middle of this phase, I tend to get a card from someone saying they’re really looking forward to my card this year. Oh crap.
  3. I get an idea, but I’m not sure I can pull it off. Or more precisely, I don’t think I can pull it off, but I’ll give it a go, and if it doesn’t work out, go to Plan B. If I can think of a Plan B.
  4. A false start. Or two. I suck, and the idea is looking less and less promising.
  5. I start to figure out the mechanical details of how to pull it off.
  6. Hey, this is starting to look like something!
  7. Done! I did it! Now the purely mechanical chores of laying out the card, and printing them. Yes, my printer does still hate me.

This year, though was different, because last Christmas Eve, we had a storm the night before, which left everything under a coat of ice. 

Besides the hedges, I also got some pictures of the bows my mother put on the front railing. As soon as I saw this picture, I made a mental note to save it for this year:

Ice covered bow and greens

It turned out the picture required very little in the way of retouching, which was good, because my ancient copy of Photoshop has given up the ghost under the most recent version of macOS.

I’ve been printing my cards on quarter fold card stock for ages. I started using it over a decade ago because I was having difficulty getting cards through my printer, so I wanted to be able to get two small cards per sheet. I bought a new printer a couple of years ago, though, and production has been easier. So I decided to go with half fold stock this time, giving me a larger card.

I never know what to put on the inside of these cards. I generally put a holiday message printed on the inside, and add a handwritten note to each one, (hoping that the recipient can read my writing.) Most years, it’s the same message, just updating the year. But I had more room to fill this year.

The latter part of this year has been pretty crummy — starting in July, nearly every non-work moment for several months was either rainy, or devoted to chores. I haven’t had much chance to take the motorcycle, bike or kayak out, and I only went diving a couple of times this summer. But then, I was looking through my photo library, and realized I really had done some cool things this year – Bonaire in January, England in May, the balloon festival in June, and a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard. So I decided, since I had the extra space in this year’s card, to put some pictures and text of what I’d done on the inside. Since the front was a horizontal picture, I had the additional fun of trying to lay it out in Pages sideways.

Inside cover of 2018 card
Inside cover of 2018 card

As it turned out, the printer was less cooperative this year than last. For some reason, I could not get it to print two sided, meaning I had to print the two sides in steps, and apparently there is spilled ink inside it, as a fair number of cards were spoiled until I rearranged the layout so that if there were any smudges, they would be on the back of the card.

In hindsight, I think the quarter-fold layout works better for home-printed cards, both because it saves on printing time, but also because the smaller card size gives you cards that feel stiffer, even though the stock is the same weight. Nitpicking, I think I lightened up the picture a little bit too much. I may carry forward the idea of inside cover photography though. Here is the final result:

2018 Card cover

Merry Christmas everyone.

Christmas in Rockport

I first became acquainted with Rockport, a small town at the tip of Cape Ann, as a diver. I was certified at Old Garden Beach, and spent nearly every Sunday for the first couple years of diving in either Rockport or Gloucester, and gradually became familiar with the area, but I never spent much time in the town center.

Eventually, after a few years, I decided it would be fun to visit the town at Christmastime, and ever since then, I’ve gone back nearly every year. They put a big tree in the center of town, and the are a lot of small crafts-y type shops in the town center.

We paid our annual visit today, this time with my mother, sister, and sister-in-law. Before heading into town, we stopped at Halibut State park, where we took a hike down around an old quarry, and ended up at the overlook over the ocean. We wandered around for a while, then headed into town.

The there was a “Maker’s Fair” today; we had to park about four blocks up, by the train station. We poked into a couple of stores, and I picked up some stocking stuffers at Tuck’s Candy store, then stopped into one of the restaurants for lunch. We probably should have moved on when they told us they couldn’t sit us by the harbor as they had a large party coming in; as it was, the service was slow, and by the time we were done it was getting dark. 

When we got out, I got a couple of pictures of the Christmas tree. The iPhone XS automatically shoots in high dynamic range, which helps even out the exposure for both the lights on the tree and the tree itself. Then we did a quick tour of the shops on Bearskin Neck, and then called it an evening, taking the long way back in order to see the Christmas lights along the way. It was a good day.

Rockport's Christmas Tree
Rockport’s Christmas Tree

The Case of the Dead Drone

I took my drone out for the first time in a while last Saturday. It also turned out to be the last time.

I haven’t had the opportunity to do much shooting with it lately. The weather has been crappy, and the dry days we’ve had have been occupied with yard work. I’ve also been discovering that a lot of the area around here is restricted. Finally, at the end of the day last Saturday, I decided to take it down to the playground and just play with it.

The playground is at the end of a street, and is at the edge of some wetlands, so there are woods all around the non-street sides. Further down the street, there is a sewer road running through the wetlands.

Despite the cold, I had a good time with it, and despite being late in the afternoon of an overcast day, got some decent stuff. I got video circling the playground, then followed the sewer road. I followed the loop of the road around the block, and then crossed over the brook, through the woods, and found myself, rather to my surprise, flying over the ruins of an old barn that burned down in 1982. At that point, I switched over to stills, and got some pictures of it, plus some more stills of the area around the playground.

The end came about stupidly. I was flying at fairly low altitude rather quickly down the street. I’ve found that flying low and fast gives a really good sense of motion. The area above the street was clear; no trees; no wires. At least, there were no wires until it reached the playground, and the wires crossed over the street. I didn’t see them, and flew right in them. The drone caught, hung, then dropped to the ground, shattering its propellers  and spat out its battery.  Happily, it didn’t seem to have done any damage to the wires.

The other day, I carefully charged the battery to see how it was, and it seemed OK, and running the motors, they seemed to be running OK too, so I was cautiously optimistic when I went back to the playground to try it out again with a new set of propellers.

Unfortunately, as soon as I started it up, it was obvious that  it wasn’t going to work. The propellers made a buzzing sound; looking more carefully, I realized one of the arms — its a quadcopter — was bent, and the propeller was rubbing against the body.

At this point, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I really enjoy flying it, and I like taking aerial pictures, but I live in an area where a lot of the air space is restricted. I have to make a call just to fly it within my neighborhood. Eastern Massachusetts has a lot of helipads and small airports, and they all have to be notified when you want to fly nearby.

In addition, I never really got the hang of editing video. I put together a video of Medfield State Hospital that came out well for a first try, I thought, and then I forgot most of what I’d learned about iMovie because I wasn’t immersed in it.

I’ve already had to repair it once this year after it had been attacked by an osprey in Wellfleet Harbor; it ran me over $300, because the insurance I had taken out on it had expired. DJI had given no notification that it was about to run out; had they, I probably would have renewed it, but because of this history, I didn’t take the insurance when they offered it when they sent it back. I’m not sure I want to spend another $300 plus on something that I can’t use very much. On the other hand, it’s really fun, so who knows?

The Damage Trump Does

Shortly after the 2016 election, I wrote “So, Trump.” In it, I expressed the cautious hope that Trump would “pivot away from his more extreme positions, and perform reasonably,” and ended up concluding “it will come down to his willingness to be bound by the rule of law. If he recognizes that, while it won’t be great, we’ll be OK”.

Since then, I’ve been heartsick about what he has done to this country.

The American Constitution has been rightly celebrated for creating a government of checks and balances, and the way it balances the rights of individuals with the needs of the community to have law and order. It is set up to prevent too much power from accumulating in any one institution, and allows one branch of government to check another.

But just as important as the letter of the law in the Constitution, is the culture of respect for the law that has grown up around it. America was incredibly lucky in the Founding Fathers we had; they believed in the rule of law, and were respectful of it. Washington stepped down voluntarily after two terms; when John Adams was defeated, he made as many lame duck appointments as he could, but he also accepted the verdict of the election, and came home to Braintree. And when Jefferson became President, there were no purges of Federalists; the streets did not run with blood.

Over time time, this respect for the law became institutional and cultural. Sure, there have always been fights and arguments and disagreements, but they have been, for the most part, within the rule of law, because we’ve all internalized those values.

Character matters.  It matters especially with public servants. We expect them to have internalized the values our legal system was designed to promote. It is very hard to write rules to cover every contingency; oftentimes, it’s not hard to find a way to follow the letter of the law while flouting its spirit. Character matters with public servants because we have to be able to trust them to do what’s right, to respect our principles, and to put our interests ahead of their own, and we have to be able to trust them to do it, because it’s right, not because they’re afraid of getting caught.

About 10 – 15 years ago, a large company wanted to put a large complex in our neighborhood. The neighborhood organized, and it ended up in front of the local Zoning Board. I was so impressed by the Board. They were fair to both sides, they listened, they asked intelligent questions. It was clear that they were after what was best for the Town. They were what I expect from every public servant.

Trump is morally bankrupt. It’s rich that he and his mouthpieces bray about “Fake News” when he has no respect for the truth. I don’t think he would know what the truth is if it came up and bit him. He even lies stupidly, about silly things that don’t matter and are easily checked. He can’t help himself. He has – needlessly – squandered the trust in the office that the office requires.

He doesn’t think, he just reacts. He is constantly undermining subordinates, and tossing bombs foolishly on Twitter. He constantly needs to have his ego stroked.

He has made it very clearly that he regards racism and misogyny to be acceptable behavior, which has emboldened the racists and misogynists to come scuttling out of the woodwork.

Even before the 2016 election, it was clear that, at the very best, he had little respect for women, and at worse, was an abuser.

He has filled the government with the corrupt or the incompetent, or the corrupt and incompetent in the case of the EPA head.

Frankly, I believe he has sold us out to the Russians for the sake of his own business interests, and is following Putin’s instructions that will (and I don’t know if he is bright enough to realize it) wind up damaging our government, our nation, and our allies. I don’t know it, but I believe it.  I am hoping the FBI can either prove or disprove it.

But whether he is Putin’s Little Puppet or not, the damage he has done to our political culture is incalculable. He is dissipating the culture of respect for the law that has kept this nation going since its founding, and that’s the damage I worry about the most. He is constantly demonstrating that you can get away with flouting our values, that you can get away with disregarding inconvenient laws. You can get away with demonizing the free press, despite the fact that a free press is one of our core values. We cannot afford this erosion of respect for the law, because when the law is not respected, it cannot protect us any longer.

So far, he has kept — or been kept — within at least the letter of the law (mostly), but he has brought us a lot closer to the point where we are vulnerable to the kind of government takeovers we used to think could only happen in undeveloped countries. It doesn’t take much. Just a leader who feels above the law, and a force that will follow. It’s clear that Trump leans toward totalitarianism; whether he feels he could follow through, I don’t know, but whether he knows it or not, he is paving the way for some even more unscrupulous person.

I started this essay a few months ago; I set it aside because I couldn’t express what I was feeling. The mid term elections give me a little hope; it’s clear that respect for the law and our values is alive within many citizens, and they have made their disapproval known.

iPhone Ten Ess

I picked up the new iPhone XS a couple of weeks ago, the day it first became available.  I was replacing the iPhone 6s that replaced my iPhone 5s that shattered when some thoughtless fool knocked it out of my hands at the train station. I’ve had the 6s for about two and a half years; it still works, but the battery runs down quickly, and having skipped a couple of years of iPhones, I’d already decided that this would be my upgrade year, even before this year’s models were announced.

I took a lunch break the day the phone was released, and went over to the Apple store in Dedham. There was a very very short line — it didn’t run out the store — and they had the model I wanted: 256 GB, gold. It took them a few minutes to fetch it out of the back, then it was brought out, and I moved my SIM card over from the 6s to the XS; no fuss, no muss. I’ve kept the 6s, by the way, as I’ve been doing some responsive stuff for work, and it gives me another device to test on. Once I got it home, I plugged it into my Mac and restored it from the backup I’d made of the 6s that morning. A short time later, I was all set.

How it feels

Unlike the 6 and 5S, the XS has a glass back. It feels really nice in the hand, and the glass back is grippier than metal back on the 6s. I like it, at least until/unless I drop it.

The case is only a little bit bigger than the 6s case, so I don’t notice much difference in my pocket. The screen is much bigger, but I tend to use my phone two handed, so reaching the top of the screen hasn’t been too much of a problem.

How it looks

The XS is a revision of the form factor introduced with the iPhone X — it has no home button, and the empty area at the top has been reduced to a small notch at the top of the screen. Although the case is only slightly bigger than the old phone, the screen is a lot bigger — taller, especially. It is really nice for reading, both webpages and books. The text is sharp, and the screen is contrasty, thanks to the blacker blacks offered by an OLED display.

How it works

Because it has no home button, the way you use the phone is different from my old phone. Instead of touching the home button to recognize a fingerprint, and unlock the phone, the iPhone XS has Face ID – it can recognize your face by projecting an infra-red dot pattern on your face, and cameras to interpret the pattern, match it to your stored face pattern, and unlock the phone. 

It’s simple enough to set up; you go to Settings and Face Id, where the phone shows a picture of your face inside a circle of index marks. You move your head around until all the index marks turn green. 

So far, it’s worked well. It recognizes my face — even with my Oakleys on, and no one else’s. Operationally, Face Id will work anywhere where Touch Id was used before.

Because it has no home button, to get back to the home screen, you have to swipe up from the bottom of the screen. This has been mostly OK, though there are times I’m finding myself pressing on the home button that isn’t there to get back.

Battery life has been much much better than the 6s, but then, the 6s is nearly 3 years old. I was having real trouble getting the 6s to last through the day, and it nearly led to some problems while I was London, and heavily dependent on the phone for finding my way around. I spend most of my time at home, on wifi, and I’ve been able to get two days out a charge if I forget to charge it overnight. The phone does offer wireless charging, and I’ve been thinking of picking up a wireless charger for my desk.

The phone is much faster than the 6s, and in fact, doing work development, I’m noticing it actually loads web pages faster than my work Mac. 

I haven’t used the camera too much yet; what I’ve seen so far, I’ve liked. I have seen some complaints online that the XS over-smooths photos. The choice to shoot HDR (high dynamic range) or not is no longer a choice. When you take a picture, the camera automatically shoots a burst of photos and combines them to create a HDR image on the fly — the processor is that powerful. Take a look at this sunset picture I shot near the end of my bike ride today:

Sunset along the Charles

Not only is the sky not blown out, but there is detail in the foreground. 

One of the benefits of this computational photography is Portrait mode. In Portrait mode, the phone makes a depth map of the picture, and then applies lighting effects to the foreground and blurring effects to the background to simulate the effect of using a longer lens and a wider aperture on an SLR. On the XS, the artificial depth of field enhancement can be applied after the fact.

I was showing off the camera to my friends the week after I got it, and snapped a picture of Rich, because he was unlucky enough to be be sitting across from me, and then played with the picture, adjusting the “depth of field” until the lights behind him were slightly blurred. It was easy to go from no effect to too much; we decided to go with something in the middle.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed a couple of times now is Hand Off for phone calls — I moved the SIM card from the 6s to the XS, so the 6s is now wifi only, but because both phones are generally on the same wifi network, and the 6s is still active, both phones will often ring when I get a call. 

Overall, I’m pleased with the new phone. In a lot of ways, it’s the same, especially since I started with a backup of the 6s. I have the same apps and music and books and the icons are mostly in the same place — the home page layout is mostly the same, the icons are just a little bit bigger and more spread out. I love the speed and battery life, and the having the extra screen space without a lot of extra bulk is really nice.

Off Cathedral Rocks

I went diving with my friends Jack and Jane this Sunday. Between trying to do painting prep work, and other interests taking priority, I’ve been diving very little this summer. Bonaire aside, this was only the third time I’ve been diving this year, and the first time I took the camera with me; I seldom take the camera with me on the first dive after a layoff, and the lanyard I use to attach the camera to me broke right before the second dive — fortunately, before I took it into the water.

Sunday’d dives were off of Cathedral Rocks; it’s certainly easier to enter from a boat than it is from the shore there. The first dive was with Jack and his friend Rich, the second with Jack and Jane. The visibility was OK on the first dive, and less so the second dive. 

One of the things you see a lot of here in New England is cunner;  small brown fish flitting around the rocks, but they’re very hard to photograph — they’re skittish, and don’t tend to stick around much. I’ve been trying with less than great results for years to get pictures of them; I finally got a couple on Sunday.

We saw a couple of very large lobsters both dives; Rich found one, Jack, the other, neither one would have been legal to take, so they didn’t even try. Jack also spotted a large red anemone.

The weather was great Sunday — clear and calm and warm, and the water was relatively comfortable too. Thanks again to Jack and Jane for having me along.

The Road Trip Back

We got off to a leisurely start back on Wednesday morning. After posting the previous day’s travels, we headed out to breakfast at the Cracker Barrel near the hotel, then headed back to Matt’s apartment to pick him up so I could get the nickel tour of the Florida State campus, and Brian could hit the bookstore to pick up some FSU merchandise. The campus is impressively big, but modern. It felt like it was bigger than the Boston College campus, but then, BC’s campus is tri-level, and I spent most of my time in middle campus.

And then we brought Matt back to his apartment, and it was time to hit the road. Brian had plotted a route that was mostly back roads to take us into western North Carolina.

We started on Route 27 out of Florida, and into Georgia. Nice road; for the most part we were able to maintain a reasonable speed, but it still had tons of farms and scenery. At one point we saw a sign for a general store; we stopped, and it was like something out of the thirties.

Eventually, we skirted Atlanta on the interstate, passing by Marietta, where my Aunt Dot used to live. If she were still around, we definitely would have stopped.

During the afternoon, we passed through a corner of Tennessee, ending in Asheville, North Carolina.

The only hitch was that the whole day, I was burping up breakfast. Damn you, Cracker Barrel. By the time we got to the motel, I was tired and slightly achy all over, and uninterested in dinner. I sent Brian off to get something to eat, and fell into bed.

Fortunately, the hotel had a free breakfast, and was able to to have avoid fried food for breakfast the next morning. Feeling somewhat better, we set off for Virginia via the Blue RidgeParkway, after  making an abortive attempt to see the Biltmore Estate, and discovering that it was massively overpriced.

The scenery was gorgeous. There are overlooks all along, and we stopped at several.  At one overlook, we took a short hike up to a mountaintop overlook. We drove up to the top of Mount Mitchell. the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, even though from it, you can see another mountain that looks taller.

I also discovered that drones are not tolerated in parks. I hadn’t realized it was a “park”; I thought it was just a road. So we pulled over, and I flew the drone out over the valley, and the next thing I knew, a ranger was telling me to bring it back in. We then had to wait for another ranger to come, check my id, and issue a warning. I didn’t get much video — I need to figure out what’s going on there — but I did get some photos:

Valley View from the air

After the rangers departed, we took a look at the time, and decided it was time to make up some time. We got off the parkway, and headed up to Waynesboro for the night. 

Friday was the last day on the road. We skipped breakfast, as my stomach was not in a stable state, and headed onto the Skyline Drive, bound for Gettysburg.

We spent an hour or so on the Skyline Drive. It’s gorgeous. At one point, we saw a deer, and another, a bear cub. 

We would have liked to have spent longer on Skyline Drive, but we needed to get to Gettysburg reasonably early. We spent some time on local Virginia roads, where we saw the Shenandoah River, and then switched to the Interstate to get to Gettysburg.

We got there around noontime, and stopped at the visitor center, where we saw a movie about the battle, and saw a huge cyclorama of the battle. Then we did an abbreviated version of the self-driving tour.

Gettysburg surprised me. First off, Gettysburg was and is an actual town, with an existence apart from the battle. The battle happened because the town roads were there. So when you do the self-driven tour, you drive out of the visitor center, past a huge cemetery (the townspeople were the ones who got stuck dealing with all the dead and wounded), into the downtown, past McDonalds and insurance offices, and then you pass some older houses, take a left and you’re on Confederate Road, where the Confederate troops were massed.

 I was surprised by how big the battlefield was. The field the Confederates had to cross was huge, and the rock formations the Union troops were defending from were tall, and afforded a good view of the approaching troops. I don’t understand how Lee possibly thought he had a chance.

Gettysburg is a place where you could spend a lot of time if you wanted to, but we were just about out of time. We drove around the battlefield for an hour or so, sometimes getting out, but for the most part just looking, without stopping to read the markers. We were done for the day by 3, when we started the eight hour trip back home.

Overall, I really enjoyed the trip, gastric issues aside. For me, it was kind of a reconnaissance trip — I bought the bike to do some touring, and I was taking mental notes along the way. Hopefully, I’ll pass by these ways again.


Into Florida

We made the second half of the trip into Florida yesterday, traversing North and South Carolina, and Georgia on I95 before crossing into Florida and heading west along he panhandle into Tallahassee.

I was struck by how many tall straight evergreens there were growing along the highway. I knew lumber had to come from somewhere, but it clearly didn’t come from the maples and oaks I’m accustomed to in New England. These grew straight and tall, and while they had branches growing off the sides, they didn’t really have crotches where the tree splits in two and then splits again.

As we were going through Georgia, we ran into thunderstorms. At one point, as we were approaching the storms, I could see an industrial complex way off in the distance under heavy dark clouds and shrouded in mists. Then, further along, we got into the storms themselves and saw lightning pounding the ground off to our sides.

We got to Matt’s apartment around 5:45. We met his roommate and girlfriend, then checked in before taking them all out to dinner. They seemed very nice, and we hung out with them for a while afterwards before heading back to the motel.

We’re running a little early this morning; as someone forgot to turn off his alarm. After breakfast, we’ll head back over to get the nickel tour of the campus before starting to head back north.

First Day’s Driving

Today was the first day of the road trip. Fundamentally, the purpose is to get my nephew Matt back to school in Florida; the plan is to get down there as rapidly as possible, then backroad it back.

We left Canton around 5:30 this morning, and drove through steadily straight through to the first exit in New Jersey, where we stopped for a coffee, fuel and bathroom break, then continued on until lunch in northern Virginia around 2, and then continued pretty much straight on until we got here in Fayettesville North Carolina. It’s been all highway driving the whole time, and most of it on I-95.

We managed to dodge a bullet just before lunch — we passed an overturned tanker truck that had tipped over coming onto the highway. It must have just happened when we passed it — there were people stopped there, but traffic hadn’t backed up very far.

We’ve passed through a couple of torrential downpours on the way down, and another one greeted us coming out of dinner.

Time to head for bed for another day of driving tomorrow. The goal is to be in Florida by the end of the day.