Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ye olde year-end flurry of activity.

Christmas again already, is it?  My, that year went by fast.  But it was an exciting one - and not just in the "may you live in interesting times" sense!

Unsurprisingly, I'm sitting in a telescope control room on Christmas night.  Not something that happens every year, but maybe half of the years.  I was in the same place the night of Christmas Eve.  However, in between, I did make it up to the top of the mountain to do a bit of work during the afternoon and get snowed on!  Yes, not only was there snow already on the ground (has been for weeks now), but snowflakes were falling on me.  That was neat.

So it's December, and I'm scrambling.  Scrambling to work as many hours as possible toward the 1000-hour annual cap at my main job.  Scrambling to sort through all kinds of mail and deal with it.  The nice folks who send me a bunch of paper every quarter about my IRA, which I never ever read (the value has gone up nicely in the 3.5 years I've ignored it!), I told to just email the info instead.  I gave in to the Astronomy Society of the Pacific, who've optimistically sent me a nice letter every year since 2005 asking if I wanted to renew my lapsed membership... but only because they, too, seem to be going more "electronic."  See a trend here?  Yeah.  I don't like lots of paper filling up my mailbox.  Unless it's paper that has the words "PAY TO" followed by my name - then I'll make an exception.

I came across an advertising piece from the airline that they apparently sent me early this fall, encouraging me to purchase a membership in their lounge, on the basis that I'd actually save money by not having to pay for soft drinks, juice, bagels, muffins, snacks, cookies and internet access (let alone espresso, alcohol, and other things I don't buy anyway) whenever I was in an airport that had a lounge available.  It was somewhere on my floor, unopened.  I think I had ignored it... but I had figured out the math and joined up anyway.  Their calculations were using an example of someone who flew 12 times a year.  Ha. Ha.  That reminds me, I need to bug them because they've only credited me miles for sixty-three of  sixty-four flights I took this year with them or their partners.  I think I might fly less next year.

Other than that... work, work, earn money, pay off debt.  The balance on the credit card that doesn't earn me miles is approaching zero, which I'm happy about.  I hope I can pay it off completely in the next few months.

Funny mail from "HomeLoanCenter": "Your Mortgage Payment could be REDUCED to $644.00."  How do they propose to REDUCE something to $644 that's currently about $550?  Silly dead-tree financial spammers.

Oh, going through the mail is part of trying to tidy up the house.  I'm working every night until the end of the year, so I can take some with me each night and destroy it. :)  After New Year's, I'll have a little bit of a break, so I can look into doing things like washing dishes and sweeping and rearranging closets and furniture and all that stuff.  My friend Joanna from Honolulu has offered to help a bit with that when she comes over on weekends to volunteer with me on the mountain.

I found out last week that the bookstore that carries one of my photos has run out.  Bumped into the manager today and he said that yeah, we need to work on getting more ordered.  One little victory.  And I have to get around to finding the time to work on another product or two that I want to provide for them.

Oh well... back to digging through the mail.

Mele Kalikimaka & Hau'oli Makahiki Hou to all.

The Most Interesting Man in the World, on Careers

 I don't drink (at all, ever) but I found this short commercial (part of a series) both funny and wise. The character is "The Most Interesting Man in the World." In the longer commercial which launched the campaign, he was described as follows:

The police often question him just because they find him interesting.
His beard alone has experienced more than a lesser man's entire body.
His blood smells like cologne.
He is... the most interesting man in the world.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What distinguished the Rollins family, according to Daniel Webster

 I've been poking around a bit genealogically today, and in looking up members of the Rollins family (some of my ancestors), found that the Google Books project has scanned, and made available as a freely downloadable PDF, John Rodman Rollins' 1874 book, Records of Families of the name Rawlins or Rollins, in the United States, courtesy of Oxford University, England.

In the introduction to his book, Rollins excerpts an article by Charles Lanman in the September, 1856 
Harper's Monthly, entitled Social Hours of Daniel Webster, in which Webster - a noted New Hampshire attorney, congressman, and U.S. Secretary of State - recounts an experience with some members of the Rollins family.  I don't know whether anyone in my particular branch of the family has read this already, but in case they haven't, here it is.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Is your trip necessary?

I had a couple airline vouchers sitting around, one of which was scheduled to expire in late December if I didn't use it.  And I had a little bit of free time in early December.  So I checked to see whether the vouchers were usable, and set up a bit of a trip to visit my parents, with side jaunts to see my sister and nephew, go to the Air & Space Museum in Washington D.C. with a bunch of other frequent flyers, and various and sundry other things. I set off Wednesday morning from Hilo, getting a good view of the Hamakua Coast waterfalls from my window seat on the way over to Honolulu.

Arriving in Honolulu, I was reminded of what I already knew - Aloha was running 3 hours late due to rough weather, while Hawaiian (who I flew) were perfectly on schedule.  That's why we say "Friends don't let friends fly Aloha."

Thankfully, since Hawaiian was perfectly on schedule, I had a nice relaxing stop in the lounges at Honolulu, then slept all the way to Los Angeles on Delta, had a nice relaxing stop in the lounge there, got upgraded to first class, got on the plane, which didn't take off because something broke, got off, got on another plane with slightly fewer seats (still managing to be in first class), which did take off, and so on.

North of the Mason-Dixon line, things were pretty snowy.  My stop to change planes in Minneapolis was snowy, and the plane east from there had to get de-iced before takeoff.  Flying east, I had a good view of Racine, Wisconsin just as we started out over Lake Michigan, and later, as we were beginning our descent, I got to see Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.

After a couple nights' rest in New Jersey, Saturday came, and it was time to head down to Washington with my parents to see my sister and nephew, the other frequent flyers and the museum full of airplanes. At 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, we learned that it was National Elevator Escalator Safety Awareness Week, then took the stairs down to our Amtrak train to Washington D.C.  

We got to see lots of scenery from the train, including the Susquehanna River.

Once we arrived in Washington, we found my sister Sue and her son Mitchell, and all had lunch in the food court at Union Station.  Everyone decided to take the Metro over to the Smithsonian (changing at Chinatown) but I felt like walking, so I went briskly down Louisiana Avenue to the Mall.

While waiting for everyone else to show up, I took more photos.  Above is the Washington Monument, and below is the Capitol, where we banish our worst criminals in a practice we call "capitol punishment."

Once we were all at the Air & Space Museum, we hung around for a bit until all my fellow frequent flyers arrived, then got a private guided tour of some of the highlights.

Of course, I spotted this poster from the WWII era.  Needless travel, indeed!

I guess flying from Hawaii to the east coast and back partly just to use up some vouchers from the airlines and hang out with some other frequent flyers in a museum full of airplanes might qualify as an "unnecessary" trip... There's nothing quite like a museum that tries to make you feel guilty for coming to see it.

Why I'm leaving Twitter.

I've stuck it out and continued participating on Twitter while Elon Musk has run it into the ground, made it progressively more inhospit...