Spring Vacation 2023 – Day 2

Yesterday we landed at LAX, got our rental car, and headed to our hotel in Glendale: Embassy Suites by Hilton.  It’s surprisingly reasonably priced, considering the location and the amenities which include made to order breakfast every morning and a late afternoon reception in the lobby with an open bar!  After getting settled, Amanda’s Dad Kevin joined us and we walked a few blocks to the All India Café.  I ordered lamb vindaloo which is a favorite of mine.  Halfway through I saw what looked to be a green bean.  I shrugged and popped it in my mouth, biting down on it, chewing, and swallowing.  About a minute later I realized that it must not have been a green bean, because my mouth felt like I had taken the hottest chicken wing I had ever eaten and then poured some acid on it and then ate it.  I started gluing my beer just as the waitress walked by.  I pointed furiously at my mouth while waving my hand in a fanning motion.  She quickly went to the kitchen and came back with a bowl of rice pudding, followed by some yogurt.  The fire eventually went out, but I may not taste anything on that side of my mouth for days!  🙂

After walking back to the hotel we finished unpacking and went to bed.  This morning we met Kevin for breakfast at a place called Bea Bea’s where I had the most delicious egg Benedict I think I have ever had.  Amanda and I walked back to the hotel, then left to pick up Kevin and we drove north to Santa Clarita and visited the Vasquez Rocks.  

This was something of a pilgrimage/bucket list item for me, as the Vasquez Rocks are rather iconic and have been used as the backdrop for many movies and TV show episodes, not the least of which is the original Star Trek series of which I am a huge fan.


After visiting the interpretive center, we went to Maginn’s Irish Pub for lunch.  Maginn’s is owned by my cousin Chris Rowlson’s sister in-law and I thought it would be fun to stop in.  Sadly, the server we got did not know Chris, but the food and the beer were delicious!  I had bangers and champs with Smithwick red ale.

We made our way back to Glendale for an afternoon rest.  As a follow up to Wednesday, you’ll recall that we re-booked our flights out of Syracuse.  There were two return flights for Monday: one at about 12:30am and one at around 12:30pm.  I did not notice that we got booked on the 12:30am return flight!  I called the airline to see about getting switched to the 12:30pm flight.  The nice lady who answered tried to help me, but the system was not cooperating with her and the best she could do was to make the switch, but it would cost us $1400!!  I thanked her for trying and have decided that tomorrow morning I will get up early and drive to the Burbank airport where JetBlue has a presence and talk to someone in person to see if we can get the flight switched.  It won’t be the end of the world if we can’t, but we are spending all day Sunday at Disney Land, and having to fly at 12:30am probably will mean cutting that day shorter than we otherwise might have, which would be too bad.

So after that we picked up Kevin again and headed to Hollywood where we saw the original Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit.  It was amazing!  I took a few 360 photos and got 360 video of the whole thing.  I can’t wait to see how it came out.  After Van Gogh we went to Ovation Hollywood, a new-ish shopping complex on Hollywood Boulevard.  This whole area is L.A.’s answer to New York’s Times Square.  There are all manner of shops and restaurants and street food and street performers.  And tourists—lots of tourists!  Kevin had bought tickets for the Icons of Darkness exhibit which is a fascinating curation of original production-used costumes.  It is a guided tour with some jump scares.  We took lots of photos!  After Icons, we had dinner at California Pizza Kitchen and then returned to Glendale for the night.


Spring Vacation 2023 – Off to a Rocky Start

Amanda and I planned a short vacation. The principal motivation is to visit her Dad in Los Angeles.  The fact that there’s a midnight showing of “Xanadu” at the Turner Classic Movie Festival this coming weekend may or may not have had something to do with the dates we selected.  We hope to visit some cousins of mine as well.

We booked a non-stop flight from Buffalo.  We did not want to chance missing a connecting flight.  It’s happened to us before and we know it’s no fun.  We booked flights leaving on Wednesday of this week and returning overnight Monday arriving early Tuesday morning.  Tuesday after work we drove to Rochester to stay with Amanda’s Mom and step-Dad.  We spent Wednesday morning with them and left for Buffalo in plenty of time, arriving at the airport 3 hours before our flight.  If something was going to go wrong, it wasn’t going to be because of us! 

Something went wrong.

At first we didn’t know what it was.  Our flight got delayed.  Fine.  It happens.  We didn’t really care.  We weren’t in a hurry.  We could get there whenever.  And there was no connecting flight to miss, right?  The flight got delayed again.  And again.  And again.  Free snacks showed up at the gate counter.  That was nice.  Then I overheard someone use the C-word: “Cancel”.  I had found a site on the internet that not only showed the status of our flight, but it showed where our plane was coming from: Fort Lauderdale, FL.  It hadn’t even left yet which is why we were delayed.  We didn’t know it at the time, but Ft. Lauderdale was getting hammered with rain, and they eventually closed the airport; which cancelled the flight from Florida and thus cancelled ours as well as there was now no plane for us to board and there wasn’t going to be one.

Everyone lined up for accommodations.  We waited in line almost 2 hours while the nice gate attendants processed everyone.  8 sheet pizzas showed up as we waited.  Everyone was disappointed, but no one was really upset.  I was pleasantly surprised by that!  I spent some of the time looking up other flights and scenarios.  When we got to the counter we asked about an early flight out of Syracuse the following morning (today).  After some back and forth and a phone call to the home office they were able to make it work.  We made our way back to our car and drove the 2 hours back to Syracuse checking in to a hotel right outside the airport entrance at 12:30am.  We got up at 5:00am and went straight to the airport, got some breakfast, and made our new flight to JFK in New York.  As I type this we are halfway to Los Angeles, having made our connecting flight with plenty of time to spare.

This was completely out of Jet Blue’s control.  It made me realize the folly of trying to plan air travel.  There are so many variables it’s a logistical miracle that anything gets anywhere on time.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I have a tendency to (arrogantly?) assume that when I travel I’m the only one doing so and that once I’ve bought my tickets the entire system is brought to bear exclusively to serve me.  If I decide to leave from Buffalo, well, then there will be a plane at Buffalo just ready for me to board, right?  Because why wouldn’t there be?  Even if I were the sort who looked at weather reports and who knows what else when trying to decide which flight to take from where, it never would have occurred to me to wonder where the plane I would be boarding would be coming from.  I mean, they just sort of materialize out of thin air at the gate when I’m ready to board…right??  Nope.  Travel planning is a crap shoot on a good day.  Yesterday we lost.  Today has been better.  We’ll see how it goes next week when it’s time to come home.

So much for “simple”.

Last Thursday I was asked if I could be in Cambridge (Boston) on Tuesday (yesterday) for a demonstration of IBM’s Cyber Range, a facility where mock security incidents are staged.  I booked a flight from the Adirondack Regional Airport, flying to Boston on Monday afternoon and returning the following afternoon.  (I had been told that flying from Massena was also possible, but their flights were sold out.) So I flew Cape Air from Saranac Lake.

I got to Boston without incident.  We flew through clouds the whole way, which was boring—nothing to look at!  I texted the friend with whom I would be staying.  He was house/cat sitting just north of the city and said he would pick me up at the Oak Grove T station.  I texted him, “State Street” when I was on the subway and on my way up to Oak Grove.  Then something in my brain told me to check my text conversation with him in which I had worked out the details of my trip.  I had told him I needed a place to stay on TUESDAY night, not Monday!  Fortunately, he was also able to accommodate me on Monday night and happened to be home and able to meet me.  

On the way to Oak Grove I checked my email.  There was a message from Cape Air informing me that my flight the following day had been cancelled.  Crap.  I had packed extremely light, having showered, shaved, and dressed just before leaving for the trip, I planned to wear everything I had the whole time and only had a change of underwear in my bag.  My friend was there waiting for me.  I got in the car, thanked him profusely, offered to buy him dinner anywhere he wanted, and then said, “and since I know you have no plans for tomorrow…” and proceeded to tell him I’d need a second night, which was fine.  (Whew!)  When we got to his friend’s place I called Cape Air and talked to a very nice agent who re-booked me on their flight early Wednesday morning.  I was pleasantly surprised by the interaction.  The agent was very polite, apologetic, knowledgeable, and empowered to re-book my flight at no charge.  Wonderful!

Tuesday morning my friend dropped me off at Oak Grove and I made my way into the city.  The T station nearest to IBM was about a half mile walk.  That’s no problem for me on a good day, but Tuesday was not a good day.  I slogged down the streets in wind-driven, near-freezing horizontal rain.  It took me an hour to dry out once I reached IBM!

While on my way to the airport I was mentally inventorying the contents of my sling bag/purse.  I have 3 different battery packs for recharging my phone; small, medium, and large.  I had planned to bring the medium one because it can also plug right into the wall in order to recharge.  But I had forgotten it.  (I did remember to pack my multi-port charger, but it has no battery.) My phone’s battery isn’t what it once was and so I decided to check on its energy use to see if there was anything I could turn off that would let me eke out a few more minutes of energy before needing a charge.  Lo and behold I was told that my battery was severely degraded and needed replacement.  Since I now had time on my hands, and since there was an Apple Store in the mall around the corner from IBM, I went to see if they had a battery and could perform the installation right away.  I was stunned when I learned that the answer to both questions was “yes”!  It took a couple of hours, but a mall is not the worst place to spend time when the rain outside has a tendency to go up your nose!

After getting my new battery I made my way to Quincy Market for a New England Clam Chowder Bread Bowl.  And that made the hassle of this trip completely worth it!  SO DELICIOUS!  I have “clam” chowder elsewhere, but nothing compares to what I had yesterday!  I went back to Oak Grove and my friend stopped at a place he likes for dinner and I had clams casino and a beer.

When we got back to his friend’s place I checked my email.  Cape Air had cancelled my morning flight!  Crap.  I let Amanda know and she asked me what I wanted to do.  I checked the Boutique Air site and they still had a flight leaving in the morning for Massena, and they had seats.  So I booked a flight with them.  If they also cancelled, then I would call Cape Air and hopefully get re-re-booked on their afternoon flight the next day.  If Boutique did not cancel, then I would request a refund from Cape Air for my return flight.

Shortly after booking my 8:35am flight, I received a text and an email that it had been delayed to 9:55am.  No problem.  Then I got another text that the flight had been delayed again to 10:05. Seriously? 10 minutes? Hardly worth bothering about, right? But no—I also got a phone call from a real person letting me know that my flight had been delayed!

Fast forward to this morning.  I made my way to the airport and was on my way to the TSA Pre-Check line when I got a text.  Boutique was asking if I was flying with them this morning!  I said yes and then was asked if I had bags to check.  I said no and that I was in line at the security checkpoint.  They said they’d see me soon.  I believe that was a real person on the other end.  When I got to the gate, I received another text that they were at the gate.  Well, I could see the gate and was actually just about to check with someone because the gate in question was labeled “Air Canada”.  But as I looked up I saw a couple of people putting up a temporary “Boutique Air” sign!  I replied to the text, “so am I.  We are still departing at 10:05?”  I was assured this was true.  And then a minute later, “Would you please come to the gate?”  They wanted me to check in!  Wow.  I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such attention to detail from customer service.

I made it to Massena.  Boutiques planes are also much nicer than Cape Air’s.  If ever I want/need to go to Boston and get more time to plan, I will be flying Boutique!

My takeaways from this experience:

  • I probably ought to pay some attention to weather forecasts when I am traveling.  I normally do not pay much or any attention to them because, well, I don’t care.  But had I done so I might have packed clothes or an umbrella.
  • The older I get, the more a creature of habit I am becoming.  My “every day carry” (EDC) bag is a beast.  It’s a backpack, carefully curated and packed, that has “everything” I need or might need on a daily basis.  It goes with me wherever I go.  For this trip I decided to downsize.  It was mostly fine, but I forgot a couple of things I would have liked to have taken (but did just fine without).  But the experience of doing so (downsizing) was interesting.  Not “anxiety” inducing, but I realized just how much of a pattern/routine my life has become and what a disruption this experience was.  I’ve gotten used to relative “sameness” day-to-day, week-to-week; and having this thrust into my routine was more frazzling than I would like to admit to myself.


I’ve been an audio/video geek since elementary school.  I always wanted to be the kid who got to turn the filmstrip projector, run the 16mm projector…I could go on.  I never met an A/V receiver I couldn’t find a use for and must have at least 4 of them around the house.

Amanda and I are at the new house in Keeseville this weekend.  Whenever we come we try and bring more stuff from the house in Potsdam.  This trip I packed up my “occasional use” stereo set from upstairs–the one I use when I want to hear vinyl.  It’s comprised of an RCA receiver from the 90s or 2000s and two Harmon Kardon floor speakers I found by the side of the road shortly after moving to Potsdam.  I brought this and the TV from my den to the new house and got it all hooked up last night.  Amanda and I watched some TV and went to bed.

This morning while we were enjoying some coffee I turned all the gear on and noted a slight buzz coming from the speakers.  It was annoying, but not unbearable; and you couldn’t really hear it while content was playing.  Then all of a sudden the audio started cutting in and out and the amp was making clicking noises.  I got out of my chair and proceeded to do the things once does to such equipment when one doesn’t really know what’s wrong with it–you know; turning it off and on again, blowing dust out of it, hitting it, etc.  While I was doing this, Amanda exclaims, “did you see that?!”  I hadn’t, and asked her what she was talking about.  She had seen a spark come from the right-hand speaker.  I looked over and saw some wispy smoke coming from the speaker, which I thought was novel.  After all, this wasn’t “This Is Spinal Tap” and I certainly hadn’t dialed anything up to 11!  And anyway, amp was still buzzing, so I should probably pay attention to that, right?

Wrong.  10 seconds later I noticed that the smoke wasn’t going away.  There was more of it, and as I stared at it, the speaker burst into flames!  The cloth grill very quickly started burning along with the speaker cone.  I blew on it, but that was no good so I shrugged, picked it up, and told Amanda, “get the door!” and brought it outside tn tossed it face down in the snow.

That receiver and speakers have now been replaced by Dad’s old Fisher receiver from the 1960s and the KLH speakers he bought from the Hi-Fi shop when at college in Potsdam.  I never thought that speakers could/would catch fire like that.  But I’ve learned a valuable lesson: If there’s AC voltage going IN to something, then there is the possibility that that voltage can come OUT of it on any kind of wire if the right things go wrong; and that this is why equipment should always be unplugged whenever you are making any kind of change to connections.

One of these things is not like the other…

Closeup of the dead speaker.

Burnt speaker cone and cloth cover.

CLoseup of speaker cone without cover.

The Big Move

tl;dr: Amanda and I have bought a home near Keeseville and will be moving there in the near future. Not right away, but “soon”. We have things in Potsdam to take care of before we can “transfer our flag”.

I was born and raised in Keeseville, NY. I attended college in Potsdam, NY. After college I lived in Keeseville and had several different jobs. Then I moved to Potsdam as part of one of my jobs for a computer store in Plattsburgh, NY, traveling back to Plattsburgh at least once a week. I moved back to Keeseville when I married my first wife. In December of 1996 I accepted a job at SUNY Potsdam and we moved to Potsdam a year later. I have been here ever since and have now spent a little over half of my life here.

Moving again is not something I ever thought I’d do. Potsdam has been very good to me. I have advanced in my career, it’s been a wonderful place in which to raise the boys, and the Arts and amenities abound relative to other communities in northern New York. I used to think, “home (my home town) is only 2 hours away!” That was and is still true. But the more I realize that there are fewer days ahead of me than there are behind me, the more valuable those hours become.

And then there’s Amanda. She has always loved the area around Keeseville—Camp, Plattsburgh, the Adirondacks. Many times over the years she would break the silence as we rode through the Champlain valley, the lake on one side of us and the mountains in the distance on the other saying, “We could live here!”

We had a house in mind and were waiting for it to become available. (A longer story for another time, perhaps.) But over the last year or so we would casually browse the real estate listings in the Keeseville area. Nothing really jumped out at us—until last October. It was a new listing just north of Keeseville in a little subdivision off route 9. We made an appointment to see it, loved it, got approved for financing, made an offer, and bought the house, closing on December 21st! (That last sentence is a wildly gross oversimplification of 2 months of dealing with realtors, bankers, and lawyers.)

And so we are moving to Keeseville! (Well, “Peru,” technically, if you go by Zip Code. Town of Ausable, but Peru Zip. Weird.) We aren’t moving right away. We have details in Potsdam to take care of first and are fortunate to be able to own and maintain both homes for awhile. But the new place is ours and we have begun the process of moving some of our things there. If all works out as we hope, we’ll be officially relocated by Summer. We will miss Potsdam and our friends here. But this makes sense for us in lots of ways I needn’t go into here, and we are looking forward to this next chapter in our lives.

Some Things Never Change

Some weeks ago Mom’s kitchen flooring was damaged and her floor has to be taken down to the sub-floor. Asbestos is involved and the project is on-hold awaiting abatement of the asbestos. All of her lower cabinets were removed to the garage as was her kitchen sink. She has been without tap water in her kitchen for 7 weeks and has been washing dishes in the bathroom sink.

This weekend I am visiting her and since there has been no news on when she will get the abatement done I decided to brainstorm how I could get some of her kitchen’s functionality back. A slop sink is $140 at the hardware store. I put out a call on Facebook thinking someone local might have one lying around in a barn or something—no luck. Then Mom told me that when she and Dad bought the house from his mother there was a laundry sink on the other side of the kitchen which had been removed when they made changes to the kitchen when I was just a baby. She described it, and I said, “I wonder if that’s the thing under the stairs in the basement?” I’d seen it as a kid and always thought it was an old washing machine or something and never paid much attention to it.

I went downstairs to check and it was the old laundry sink! It was old and the base was rusty and the faucet was in pieces (in the sink) and the copper feeder tubes had been cut; but it was a sink! Kelly and I brought it upstairs and I started taking inventory. All the parts for the faucet were there. If I was lucky I wouldn’t need to buy a new one. The feeder tubes simply unscrewed from the bottom of the faucet. All I seemed to need was a long horizontal tube to connect the drain up. ($10 at the hardware store, cut to length.) And the feeder lines from the sink that was removed to the garage had the same fittings as this antique!

After a couple of false starts and pipe cuts and having to put a couple of 4x4s under it to get the right height (it’s a DEEP sink!) I got everything hooked up. Then…the moment of truth: I gingerly turned on the cold water valve. Water spluttered from the faucet! And it wasn’t spraying all over the place! It went down the drain and there was no leaking there either. The same thing happened with the hot. I was flabbergasted.

There are fancy-schmancy faucets around which people design whole homes, if ads on TV can be believed. But basic plumbing fixtures in the U.S. have not changed in decades. This sink and its faucet are 70 years old and have been sitting in a basement for 50 years. That I could reconnect them with a minimum of fuss and see it all work is impressive to say the least, and is a testament to the craftsmanship that went into their manufacture. Kelly said, “they don’t build them like they used to,” but they DO build them like they used to which is why I didn’t need 6 trips to the hardware store to make this happen.

Wherever he is, Dad is smiling a great big “I told you so,” as he undoubtedly was asked why he was saving that sink instead of throwing it away and very likely said, or at least thought, “we might be able to use it again some day.” He took it apart and left everything as if he would be hooking it back up next week. 50 years later I was able to pick up where he left off and give it new life. (Which hopefully will be very short!)

As Dr. McCoy said in the original Star Trek episode, “The Devil In The Dark,” “I’m beginning to think I can cure a rainy day!” And that, too, thanks to Dad.

[Oh P.S.: No one told Mom that they hadn’t disconnected her dishwasher, which is plumbed and drained completely separately from the sink! So I screwed it to the wall so it wouldn’t tip over and it’s now working fine too.]

Lucky 13

Today is June 13th.  It has been 13 weeks since I fell and tore my left quadriceps tendon.  I had another follow-up with the surgeon today and he is impressed both with his handiwork and with my progress.  I still have a way to go to build up my strength and my range of motion, but he has officially declared me to be “brace-optional.”  I no longer have to wear the brace when walking about!  I will still keep it handy for times when I am walking on uneven ground (e.g., push mowing).  But he said that unless I actually fall on that knee again, there’s no way I’m going to tear it again at this point.  

And most importantly, today is my 13th wedding anniversary!  13 years ago today Amanda and I gathered with family and friends on a cruise boat on Lake Champlain and promised ourselves to each other.  The honeymoon continues!!  

5 Weeks And Counting

It’s been five weeks since my surgery.  I can feel my knee getting a little stronger every day.  Mom came to Potsdam on Saturday and I asked her to bring the shower seat Dad was using before he went to Meadowbrook.  I showered for the first time in 5 weeks!  It was glorious.  (Which is not to say I haven’t been cleaning myself for over a month–’cause EWW!) 

I had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon on Monday.  He’s hard to read, but seemed skeptical about the brace.  (You may recall that his preference was that I remain in a full cast for at least 6 weeks.)  I was hoping that he’d prescribe some form of formal strength-building regimen or refer me to physical therapy; but no–a few more weeks of just walking.  And he admonished me to keep the brace locked/straight whenever I walk.  I’m allowed to let the knee bend and stretch a little while sitting, but that’s it.

That was a little disappointing.  I’ve seen a few videos online of people with (apparently) my same injury.  Some of them were not as far along as I am.  One or two were way ahead of me, doing exercises and stretches and all sorts of things that only made me wince.  I just keep telling myself that every body is different and that even if those people did have my same injury, they may not have had the same repair procedure done.  My doctor is an expert and has done and been through this before.  I am not and have not.  So I’ll do as he says.  “I don’t want to screw this up,” I told him.

Looking ahead to Summer, I can’t see how I’ll be terribly inconvenienced by my recovery.  As long as I can manage to swing my foot up onto the porch rail at Camp, everything else will be fine!

Driving Strength

This coming Monday marks 5 weeks since my accident.  I will see the doctor who performed my surgery that afternoon.  I hope to get some specific direction on strength building and exercise.

My knee continues to grow stronger.  I notice differences every day.  I was instructed to leave the brace set at 30º and I have done so.  My leg can now flex that full amount with no pain.  That was not true even a week ago.  The 30º angle has allowed me to sit normally in a chair which has been great.  Last week I tried again to get into the driver’s seat of a car.  I managed to figure out how, but it was painful and involved me manually lifting my leg with my hand.  This morning I tried again and was able to slide in with minimal difficulty and no assistance from my hand.  I can drive again if I need to!  Yesterday I started walking cautiously with the brace unlocked (still set at 30º).  It’s been a little liberating, but I know I have a long way to go.

3 Down, 3 To Go

Today marks 3 weeks since my knee surgery–1 week with the leg brace.  I went to see the Nurse Practitioner again today.  It was more of a check-in with me to make sure I had taken to the brace OK.  You’ll recall that it was the surgeon’s preference that I remain in a full cast for 6 whole weeks, but that last week I opted (in his absence) for the brace.  They had tried to get ahold of him while I was there, but could not.  Well, he called back and re-stated his preference for a cast, but the NP and the aide convinced him that I was OK with the brace.  It turns out that he and I have something in common: years of dealing with people who don’t follow instructions!  🙂  In his experience he can’t trust patients to keep the leg as straight as possible, so he doesn’t give them any option.  I’ve demonstrated that I can follow instructions and he was convinced of this and so approved of my keeping the brace.  (It’s ultimately my decision anyhow, but it was nice to hear.)

I have permission to continue slightly stretching the tendon by bending the knee, but no more than 30 degrees.  I have tried and still cannot get into the front seat of the two cars I currently have at my disposal.  Our 3rd is in the shop and is a larger car–I may have better luck with that.

My next appointment is on Monday, April 18th–5 weeks to the day after my fall.  It will be here before I know it!  I’m hoping he’ll authorize some kind of physical therapy at that point.