Technical difficulties

Yesterday afternoon, my phone died. I went to the Apple store where they concluded that it had a problem that was under the warranty and they issued me a new phone. That was at 7:00 p.m. my time. Now, at 3:00 p.m. my time the following day, I finally got my phone running again. The problem seems to have been that no single person — and I dealt with multiple people at Apple, Sprint, and Best Buy — had sufficient knowledge to solve the problem. Instead, every person to whom I spoke, starting at 8:00 this morning, had another piece of information to add to the puzzle. And of the many people to whom I spoke, only two were useless. The rest were very helpful and very kind. But I’ve still spent my day bouncing from phone call to phone call and store to store on this treasure hunt.

I’m incredibly happy that the situation is finally resolved, but I regret the lost day. I’m only now getting to the business of the day. It’s a reminder that technology is wonderful . . . right up until the moment when it’s not.

Aargh!

Getting back in the groove

Back in the grooveWhen I’m on the airplane heading home from a vacation, I always mean to dive into blogging the moment I get home, but I never do. I’m always a bit tired, often a bit jet-lagged, usually have a cold I caught on the trip (as is the case this time around), and have mountains of things that I have to attend to after having been away.

So here it is, 5 in the afternoon, and I’m only now getting around to reading the news. I’ve been tracking things a bit but, to be honest I’ve found the news of the past few weeks so deeply depressing, I was grateful for a vacation intermission — even if that intermission took me to the tragically blood-soaked battlefields of the Civil War. Contemplating Antietam or Gettysburg was actually nicer than thinking about the Iran debacle, or the Supreme Court’s unconstitutional arrogance, or any of the other toxic issues poisoning not just the headlines, but the world we’re about to hand to our children.

I’ll be back in the blogging groove tomorrow, but for today, I’m opting for the music and a blank mind:

And a fun cover of an old song:

Washington, D.C.

We did another of our mad dash tour days, once again in D.C. We made lightening visits to the Air and Space Museum (crowded and cheesy), the new Native American Museum (gorgeous building paired with slender hagiographic exhibits); the Botanical Garden (very beautiful); the Capitol (under construction and reeking of hypocrisy as gun-control Congress-critters are heavily protected by armed guards); the exterior of the Supreme Court (I truly felt like egging it); the Library of Congress (too self-consciously awe-inspiring, but I was in fact awed by the Gutenberg Bible); and the Natural History Museum (I adore the mineral and gem collections).

Here’s a kaleidoscope of pictures:

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Tomorrow is a travel day. I’ll be returning to blogging on Wednesday.

Travel diary — Montpelier, Bull Run, Gettysburg, and Antietam

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Sorry for the long silence. Yesterday was a tiring travel day that ended too late for writing. This post, like myothers, will be brief since I find it difficult to write at length on an iPhone (so please pardon typos too).

We started yesterday at James and Dolley Madison’s beautiful and homelike Montpelier. Their home has the study in which Madison researched the best form of government — which resulted in our much-abused Constitution. I couldn’t take interior photos, but in addition to the view of the front, above, these few photos give a sense of its lovely setting (and the extensive archaeological digs):

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From Montpelier, we headed to Manassas, scene of the first and second Battles of Bull Run. As is typical for all the battlefields we’ve seen, it was hard to connect the peaceful setting with the tremendous carnage that occurred there:

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This morning, we got up very early to take a horseback tour through Gettysburg led by a licensed guide. Just as we were mounting the horses, word came that a thunderstorm was coming in. The gal who owns the touring company refunded our money and, because we couldn’t stick around for the 2:00 ride, the tour guide offered to take us around — so we got the pleasure of a sopping wet thunder-and-lightening storm (a rare pleasure for people who live in a drought-stricken region that never has thunder and lightening at the best of times), plus a personal, in-depth tour of the battlegrounds. Owing to the rain, I have only a few pictures. The panorama is of the view from Little Round Top:

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From Gettysburg, we drove to Boonsboro, which is near Antietam. Romance writer Nora Roberts owns an Inn there, and was apparently at a book signing, for the streets of this exquisite old town were swarmed with happy looking women, many standing in line outside a bookstore. I’m not sure this picture captures the site, but I offer it anyway:

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Our next stop was Antietam, but the childre melted down at this point — literally, given the high heat and humidity affecting their coddled California bodies. We went to that famous sunken, bloody lane so that we could say we were there. Even now it’s a sad place:

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Our final stop was Arlington, where we so the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I actually found even more moving the seemingly endless rows of markers for those who served our country, with some dying because of that service and others living out the full measure of their days. The most moving gravestone was the one naming an entire Air Corps crew that died together in 1944. Even as we were fighting the racist Germans, that doomed American plane included an Anglo, a Scot, an Italian, and a Jew among its ethnic mix of names:

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Travel Diary — Richmond, Monticello, and Charlottesville

Finally at the hotel and too tired to write. Also hard to take photos today, and the hotel internet is excruciatingly slow.

Short version — Jefferson Davis’s home was a hideous mid-19th century amalgam of clashing colors, randomly mixed patterns, and unbelievable clutter. No photos allowed.

Monticello was graceful and imaginative. For the first time on our trip, the tour guides were dreadful.

Charlottesville: unexpectedly charming and beautiful, with a Mennonite chorus on the street corner.

No photos of Richmond, but a few from Monticello and on from Charlottesville:

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Travel diary — Jamestown and Yorktown

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We visited Jamestown and Yorktown today. They are an interesting matched set because Jamestown marks the beginning of the British presence in the New World and Yorktown marks its end.

I found Jamestown unexpectedly interesting. We started off at the Commonwealth of Virginia’s site, which isn’t on the original archaeological spot, but is nearby. It consists of reproductions of the ships that brought the settlers there in 1607, of the Indian village, and of the settlement compound. It was all very well done.

As is always the case, there is no one who tells history better than the passionate amateur. The people who are playing roles clearly adore what they are doing and are happy to share it with anyone who has a question, even if it’s the same question over and over and over again.

I liked even more the actual archaeological Jamestown site, which is part of the National Park System. It was only identified in 1994, and has been heavily excavated since then. One has a real sense of history there.

I’m sure that part of my pleasure was due to the wonderful NPS guide. He had a marvelous deep, gravely voice and was so excited by the story he told. I took a picture, but it doesn’t show his dynamism.

Yorktown was a bit less interesting. The area dedicated to re-enactments is in the early phase of its development so there wasn’t much to see.

The young people who worked there however were delightful and well worth the price of admission. They knew what they were talking about and conveyed it lucidly and with charm and humor.

We ended the day driving from one pivotal Yorktown siege site to another. The kids were tired and overloaded at this point, though, so we didn’t get too much out of it. Tomorrow, we head for Monticello and parts west and east.

Finally, I have to say once more how staggeringly beautiful Virginia is. I would be in love with its lushness even if I weren’t living through a drought back home in California.

As always, please pardon typos. Because I took the pictures on my iPhone, I’m doing the blogging on my iPhone which is a challenge to say the least.

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Colonial Williamsburg open thread

We spent today at Colonial Williamsburg. It’s quite breathtakingly beautiful — another triumph for a harmonious partnership between man and Nature. I discovered that I found it fascinating when the people plying a trade talked about their work. It was less interesting to see actors pretending to be famous people.

Of the latter, though, by far and away the most interesting (and the best performer) was the man who played the black Baptist preacher, arguing scripture with a Church of England cleric. Talk of religious freedom resonated strongly with me now that we live in an era when people abroad and at home are being persecuted because of their religious beliefs.

[Sorry for typos. Doing all these posts on my iPhone.]

Here are a few photos:

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Mt. Vernon days

Lovely, lovely Mt. Vernon. They have really tried to incorporate info about slaves. Mr. Bookworm used this information as a springboard to introduce the New Yrok Times view of the South: racist and backwards. I pointed out that we’d seen more mixed race social groups here than we ever see in the Bay Area, that blacks are returning to the South, and that blacks are safer here than in Democrat-run city. He scoffed. Your takes?

And while you’re thinking, more of my lousy photographs, this time of Mt. Vernon.

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Travel blogging — Annapolis

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After spending several hours in the Air and Space Museum, we hit the road, headed for Annapolis. (If you’re Navy League, I have a strong feeling that visiting Annapolis is a moral obligation.)

Visiting Annapolis was a good idea. To begin with, the drive was just beautiful. Marin is a lovely place, so I’m not complaining, but the sheer lushness of the countryside down here takes my breath away. And while the verdant countryside in places such as Colombia has a menacing quality, as if humans have completely given up trying to control the aggressive greenery around them, in the area around DC and heading down to Annapolis, Southeasterners have cheerfully accepted the task of imposing their will on Nature. It may be incredibly lush, but it’s also groomed and inviting.

The picture at the head of this post is the view from the restaurant at which we ate dinner. It was right on the water, with about 30% of the diners stepping right off their boats:

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After dinner, we headed to Annapolis, which is undoubtedly one of the most charming towns I’ve ever seen. The State House is gorgeous, sits on beautifully groomed grounds, and is steeped in early American history. Wow! Just wow!

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We ended the evening at the United States Naval Academy, where we were fortunate enough to run into an alumnus from the early 1970s who lived in the region and volunteers with the USNA mentoring applicants through the process. He was delightful, so we effectively got a short, private tour. Oh, and I saw my first fireflies ever on the campus. Talk about magical.

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More tomorrow….

Travel notes — Herndon, Virginia

We arrived at Dulles airport at 12:30 this morning after a very pleasant flight. I miss the days of free food service, but the food we paid for on United was better than I had expected. (Yes, I could have packed food for us, but I was busy right up until the moment we left for the airport.)

Our hotel was theoretically only an eight minute drive from the airport, but Mr. Bookworm lost faith in the Google Maps app when it seemed to drive us first out of the airport, and then right back into the airport. We should’ve have trusted Google. The reality was that we had to get to the far side of the airport to get to our hotel. What ended up happening was that we spent five dollars on a toll road in order to drive 800 feet to get to the other side is airport. :) If that’s the worst thing that happens to us on this trip, we will have had a wonderful vacation.

Next up on the agenda is a visit to the Air and Space Museum here in Herndon, Virginia. I believe I was here many years ago, but the kids were small and we really didn’t get to explore it at our leisure. This time will be different. I will keep you posted.

For now, here’s a picture of the offices across from our hotel. Which make it indistinguishable from a stay somewhere in the bay area, such as Silicon Valley.

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