It's been a while since I posted last and I've been looking for a reason, an impetus to start blogging again. Well, my friend Jenn over at www.youllgrowtoloveme.com tagged me in an interview meme. Of course I wanted to take part, but then I saw the questions. Oh well - here are the answers to her juiciest questions:
1. How many times have you been naked in public? Elaborate.
I guess the first question is what is public? I can't really remember any time that I've been out streaking or naked in public on purpose. The only time that I remember was a hot summer day at Aquabhagan - a water park in Maine. I was on the racing slide that goes incredibly fast and you race your friend in the lane next to you. When I hit the bottom pool, my bottoms decided that they had had enough and slipped right off. My times naked in public = 1.
2. Now that you've been knighted, what else is there to look forward to in life?
As amazing as being knighted has been, there is plenty more to look forward to. I'm still waiting for "the one" - the woman that I spend the rest of my life with. I'm still looking forward to my first job and even my last job. I'm looking forward to having children, a dog, a family. I can't wait to go skydiving, continue to blog and write. I look forward to meeting all the rest of the people that will be part of the story known as my life.
3. What is your favorite sound in the world? Why?
I think my favorite sound is the complete lack of sound when I am out in the woods alone except for nature all around. Living in the city, there aren't many times of quiet... I mean COMPLETE silence. When my mother's side of the family went whitewater rafting down the Grand Canyon, I experienced a complete silence that was indeed "deafening." Yes, the river burbled at the shore and the wind blew through the grass but the air was completely devoid of human sounds. I found the quiet comforting, rejuvenating, and personal.
4. What is the best thing about women?
I think the best thing about women is that they make men want to be better men - at least when things are going well. Have you ever noticed that a coed apartment is generally cleaner than the frat house you used to party at? Have you ever seen the way that men dress when they're trying to impress women? What about the man that learns about something from a woman and because they said something, they stick to the change. Recently, my friend Rachel made a cup of tea for me while I was sick. I've had tea before but her lack of coffee drinking and this amazing cup of tea seemed to spark something within me. Since that day, I've forgone coffee and slashed my caffeinated beverage intake to nearly none. Women are great - and they're pretty too.
5. How would you propose to me?
Jenn, the one who tagged me on this, loves to travel. She went abroad while in college and was in a different city each weekend for a time. At the same time, I have always wanted to travel with someone I love because I think there is nothing better for two people than to experience something together and make some amazing memories. This particular trip would be throughout Europe, backpacking style. In Paris, my favorite city in Europe, we would spend the day seeing museums, the Tower, and lounging by the river eating a baguette. As night falls we would walk towards the Tower once more and the timing would be perfect where it flashes just as I get on my knee and ask her to marry me.
Okay so here’s the deal. It’s now YOUR turn to be interviewed! Here’s how:
1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me!”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. Update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. Include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you get to ask them five questions.
Even if you’ve already been interviewed by somebody, you can still play. I’ll be sure to e-mail you new and exciting questions
When describing how to best take advantage of Podcamp Boston 3, Chris Brogan said something to the effect of, "It's not what people are teaching in the classrooms that makes Podcamp special. Rather, it is what goes on in the hallways, lounges, and small informal gatherings that makes the magic that is Podcamp" (Loosely quoted).
It was soon after podcamp that I started to learn this same principle while interning for the IT consulting firm, Accenture. We had formal training, workshops, on the job learning and the rest but what made working for them so special was the day to day interactions passing by a coworker's desk. It was the informal talks at internal networking talks that provided huge value, not the formal reports and speakers.
As I've entered my final year of college, I've brought the lesson of informal gathering, investing in intertactions, and the value of uniting others to my every day life within the University. It is easier to parse through the lecture notes and find the important chunks. Focusing in class is far less challenging now that I know what is important. All the classwork prepares me to work with peers in the hallsways and on teams. My experience informs my actions in student groups and guides the decision making I use every day.
So what are the next steps? Here are a couple:
Find what drives you - focus on it and develop it.
Get extroverted - we all have introverted days but getting outside yourself lets you see the value you have to bring to others and vice versa.
Get involved - you can find something that excites you every day that you're alive, I promise! Find it and follow it.
For me, I have found a new energy investing in the Student Alumni Council at Boston University. It wasn't until I took a leadership role organizing our members to assist with the University-wide Reunion and Alumni weekend that I actually rediscovered my love for the group. I do a lot of grunt work but the few hours of networking and the fun pay-offs of meeting new people were more than enough to jumpstart that drive within. SAC will be a new priority for me in the coming months.
What are you passionate about? Have you started to find the value in the hallsways and informal gatherings? What are you favorite conversations to have in the halls of conferences?
This past weekend, I spent my Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday out in the Blue Hills reservation just south of Boston, MA training the cadets of Boston Cadet Squadron. These young adults are members of Civil Air Patrol, the volunteer organization that I have been a part of for eight years now. Our goal for the weekend was to work as a single team while we trained in Emergency Services, survival, and overnight camping. At least that had been the plan.
I have been instructing these same topics for a number of years now but of late, my lessons have focused on learning through my teaching. Working with cadets that are from ages 12 to 18, I have found it a challenge for me to properly orient my instruction and leadership style to suit the varied needs of the cadets in our squadron. Timing can be ironic - I'm currently a teaching assistant and candidate for Teach for America. This means that I've been working in the "teaching" area for a while now and I am just starting to notice the issues that come along with being a teacher.
There are such varying levels of support needed by our cadets - everything from complete autonomy to complete and total supervision. There are a few that I would trust to be out in the woods for weeks on end but others that I would prefer to have a physical leash to. How does one cope with these situations? How do I change behavior when I don't have the "full" story on cadet conditions, attitudes, and history? Answer: you do your best and work as a team.
In order to make legitimate change with these cadets, I need to alter behavior. Through my experience, I have found this to be a difficult task, though not impossible. The United States Air Force Academy taught me many things about leadership and one of the most powerful tools we experienced was the power of peer accountability. This is the idea that you are responsible for the actions of your teammate, and they are likewise responsible for yours.
We are making changes in the way that we work within the group. I am changing my role within the power structure. We will go back to basics in order to obtain the correct temperment and attitudes. We will remove priveledges such as talking, break times, and "fun" activities if need be. We will provide structured rituals such as current event and news reviews, squaring of corners, and the buddy system. Finally, we will delegate responsibility to the lowest level possible while enabling those levels to make good decisions.
Hopefully, these changes will create the environment necessary for proper learning to take place, for friendships to form, and leadership to flourish. My goal for these kids is for them to develop into leaders with a sense of purpose, drive, and self respect that their peers in inner-city Boston do not have. I want them to be constantly thinking about the group, not just themselves, I want them to work as a team.
If you have suggestions for making this process easier, please email me at james(dot)m(dot)connors(at)gmail(dot)com or leave a comment here for people to share.
[Edit: removed "children" from first paragraph 10.10.08]
How do you know when it is time to let go? I find this to be one of the hardest things to do in my life. Whether it be parting ways with that extra snack that you were about to eat, or saying goodbye to a close friend. Sometimes the RIGHT thing isn't fun or interesting or even popular.
I believe that the way that we make decisions is a direct reflection of who we are as individuals. So many times in our lives we give into the group, let our "friends" influence our choices, or otherwise forfeit our ability to choose for ourselves and be independent.
I'm making a choice. I'm letting go.
Maybe it was the crappy weekend that you had. Perhaps it was a fight you had with a best friend. Perhaps you were let down by someone that you thought you could trust. No matter what the issue was, it's time to let go. Dwelling on the past doesn't bring more insight - just pain... especially when it's a bad memory.
I have made many mistakes in my life, done a lot of things that I wish I could take back. That said, I am starting to let go. The United States Air Force Academy was a really hard and sucky place to live. I decided that the straight up misery I experience wasn't worth the end result (I had decided I didn't want to fly anymore). So I left.
After leaving, I had to learn how to be a human again - I was a robot. Cadet James Connors now needed to become a normal person again. For a long time I hurt and was down about my decision. I had nightmares about the sucky parts of the Academy, the affects it had on my life and my relationships. Eventually they started to fade intot he noise.
Now, I only remember the good parts of the Academy. I have let the bad stuff go.
While in Ireland, I had repeated dreams of going back to USAFA and rejoining. The visions would leave me restless in the morning because I honestly wish I could go back most of the time. Then again, most of the time, I don't remember the bad parts. So it's up to me to remind myself of why I went and why I left.
Everyone has challenging situations and experiences in their lives. Some of them turn out really well, some totally suck and still other scome out with a mix of both. Let go of that nasty bits. They aren't going to help you move forward with you life. Do yourself and everyone around a favor, let it go. Just be. Stop worrying - you can't change it now.
And yes, I do remember it! Does that set the tone for the rest of the post or what??
Anyways, allow me to get to the story. Friday last, I had taken the day to work from home. I did some writing, worked out a bit of my reports and the like when not tending to the feast I was preparing. Scott and Lauren were off to their friends in Wexford for the weekend leaving Alison and I to our own devices in the apartment.
We had decided to do Powers Court Gardens in Co Wicklow on Saturday and Ryan would be coming too. Due to bad weather, the call was made to push it all back to Sunday which was fine with me. Unfortunately, they changed their mind at 8:30 in the morning and I wasn't so much interested in getting my butt out of bed on Saturday morning. So they set off on their own adventure but I wanted some fun myself. So begins the epic day that followed.
I decided that it being my last weekend in Ireland and all, that I would go out and do a marathon of the Porterhouse pubs. There are four in Ireland so they would be my stops for the day. The furthest away was in Bray - about an hour's journey on the DART (commuter rail) south of the city. I arrived in town and wandered around until I was able to find my way to the pub. It was a bit of a cave - dark with red lights to shed some light without making it bright.
I sampled their Porterhouse Red Ale while reading their little primer on the different types of beer and how they are made (Did you know a Lager is a "bottom fermented" beer?). I followed that pint up with a glass of their Porterhouse Plain Porter - so clean and smooth. The whole while Seamus, the bartender, and I had struck up quite the conversation. We were watching the rugby and chatting up the waitresses while sharing favorite brews and stories of the good 'ole days. After those were down I took my leave and decided to hike the big hill with a cross on it at Bray Head.
Let's just say that it was an hour or so later of walking that I noticed I hadn't come across a trail head and was making my way around the far side of the hill. Clearly, I had missed the boat on this one. Oh well - it was a good 10km jaunt to the next town over by way of a gorgeous seaside trail. After chatting up an old Irish fellow at the DART station, it was time to head back to Dublin City Center.
Upon arrival in the city I grabbed some food quickly and took note of the abundance of goth kids running around in their black, metal addorned clothing. One group rolled into the restuarant basically carrying one girl. She couldn't hold herself up let alone keep her head from flopping onto the table with flexibility that would make Gumby jealous. Being the concerned citizen I am, I made sure to tell the Guarda so she could get some medical attention (either on the verge of alcohol poisoning or had some serious drugs in her) and it was only about half six at this point.
To Porterhouse Central next where I ordered a Temple Brau - tasty for sure. More rugby to be seen and at that point I noticed another guy watching the match by himself. Side note -the match was international rugby for the Barclays cup and was being played in Chicago. Jeff, the guy's name, was a financial planner working for a Boiler Room sort of company and had dreams of going out on his own. Anyways, we talked a good bit and when he said he was home to the wife and kids I took my opportunity to part ways and head to the second to last Porterhouse in Temple Bar. Of course, it was on Jeff's way so he came too.
Now, mind you that I'm a responsible adult and all that but I felt rather uncomfortable with letting this guy buy me a couple pints. I didn't think that he was going to drug me, nor was he trying to take me home. To me, it was more like the guy wanted someone to drink with and since I was "on holiday" (as he put it) I wasn't allowed to buy a single drink. This was new territory for me. I've never had someone else buy me a drink that wasn't later reciprocated etc... I guess when you're as cool as me you've got to get used to that (HAHA BIG JOKE). He introduced me to an excellent Polish Strong Beer - Okocim Mocne (7% ABV) that was absolutely tasty.
To Temple Bar we go where he again refuses to let me buy a round for the two of us. We siddled up to a table and enjoyed some modern Celtic music - very cool. They had all sorts of traditional instruments alongside guitars and drums. A very interesting sound. Speaking of instruments - I've made a promise to myself. If I can teach myself to play the guitar this summer and stay at it, and really dedicate time to it as I've been neglecting to ever since that day mom and I got my Dean Exotica. If I can do that and really be true to it all, then I'll buy myself some uilleann pipes because I've been absolutely taken away by their sound and their songs.
From Porterhouse Temple Bar, Jeff steared me to the Brazen Head - Dublin's oldest pub situated on what would have been the outskirts of old Duvlin - the Nordic settlement. He got the Guinness and I got the seats. We ended up sharing a table with a Montreal transplant and a migrated Limey. They were good fun though it was a bit odd when the lady was probing to see if Jeff or I were cops - she wanted to light up a joint right there in the open air bar... which she did.
From the Brazen Head, I took my leave from Jeff - good luck to that merry soul. Thank you for the pints, my friend. I met up with my old roommate from UCD, Fergal. It was his last night in Dublin before heading back to Luxombourg with his family Sunday morning. After the hellos and a bathroom stop at Burger King on lower O'Connell, we headed our way to the Porterhouse North. It was the first time I had walked through the North Side - definitely an experience.
Upon our arrival at Porterhouse North, I walked in no problem despite my cargo pants and hiking boots... and Fergs was stopped immediately even though he was well kept (for him at least). I love not getting carded - it'll be a real change when we get back to the States. This time around I ordered myself the Oyster Stout, a beer that I had sipped before and could actually taste the seafood - GROSS! This time around, it was great but I'm not sure whether that was something to do with my current state or if my taste buds had really just changed that much. Oh dear it's going be interesting to come back to the States and the crappy beer etc etc.
Anyways, the cap of the night came next. We headed out the back of the clubby pub to their patio since it was a nice night out. Almost as soon as we sat down at a table, a bit of a fight broke out right behind me. Anyone who knows me well knows I'm very protective and can act like the security guard. Well before I knew it I was on my feet holding this drunk back so he wouldn't pummell this much smaller guy. When said drunk started to try to hit me I decided it was time to put an end to it. I told the guy we were going down and I *gently* brought the guy to the ground and *lightly* put my knee on his back to keep him from going anywhere. The bouncers came in as I was getting a good round of applause and they took care of boucning then entire group.
I had gone back to my beer when a LARGE black bouncer was coming towards me. All I could think of was theat he was going to bounce me for taking the drunk down and that I'd not get to finish my drink :-( sad thoughts, I know. Quite the opposite, the bouncer told me to talk with the waitress and that she'd take care of me for the rest of the night. Needless to say, I buy another drink that night - completely not expected but whole heartedly appreciated! Thanks, Porterhouse bouncer!
So for an entire day of travel, food, drink, and fun I had spent less than 20 Euro when I ought to have spent at least triple that for all the craic that had been had. It was an amazing ni Fergal and I capped it off by taking one last photo before parting ways and then I headed north and walked my ass home. I would say it was a learning experience and a confidence boosting night - I couldn't have asked for a better Saturday.
So back to work - I have the reseach report for work, a presentatifo them as well. Then there is that journal entry thing that I need to do for BU as well as their research report... this last week has inevitably come down to crunch time as it usually does with me. I need to learn how to plan this stuff out better!
This thought screamed through my head this morning as I woke up. Tomorrow is the last full Saturday that we'll be in the country, the last Sunday, Monday et all, following too. This weekend is last bit of our European adventure. I'm left stunned at all we did. I'm stunned with all that I've done. I came here saying "no judgement" and "no regrets" so it's been a few days that I've been thinking back through trying to evaluate my successes on that account.
It's time to remember the great times, the trying times, the hard times, the late nights of laughs, and the early mornings of tears. It's been a trip filled with a lot of firsts and a lot of lasts. Funny how the time seems to have been stolen back away from us. It was just yesterday that I was feeling the same bits of anxiety as I prepared to embark on this adventure in January... I have those feelings again. What will Boston, the US, the summer have in store for us - for me?
At the same time, I feel myself getting ramped up for production. I fell into this semester from the highest functioning lifestyle that I've ever experienced. Needless to say, my Irish lifestyle did not match the fervor of that pace. Having completed a number of phone interviews in the last few days, the first few conference calls for Accenture and some student groups, I'm reminded what it feels like to be back "on edge." Listening to my fellow interns address the analysts on the call while my mic was muted gave me the first example of how we Americans are always "on edge." They sounded tense, wound up but held back - like a mouse trap ready to spring. Is that really how we are?
This weekend will be busy with seeing my Irish friends and saying goodbye to them. We have the International Street Performers Championship going on too - I hope to make it over to Marrion Square for that one. Here's one that I never thought I'd find here in Ireland - International Gay Rugby Championship. I was on the bus with one team and helped steer them to the pitches the other day. In any event, they will be playing for an international cup this weekend just a few hundred meters away from our accomodation.
My projects are on their way to completion. I was able to collect over 115 responses to my online survey regarding student experience - that was amazing! Thank you to all that participated. That will be going into my research project that I will present to my office on Tuesday and hand in a report on Thursday. Also due on Thursday will be my research project comparing the Irish and American teaching methods at University as well as a internship journal. So, needless to say there will be a lot of working to be done... and of course, as soon as I say that the roommates are telling me that we're going to some gardens. So stay tuned for further info, I guess.
So, Friday was the last day of classes for the entire term. The day passed without much incident beyond a small group of friends doing the famed Baggot Street Mile (mile long pub-crawl). The Irish students had other plans though. The entire school was swarming with new security guards, ids and bags checked at all the entrances, and the largest display of public drunkenness that I have ever seen, save maybe Marathon Monday. People were sloppy everywhere - guys peeing in the bushes, girls flashing guys, it was a mess. I am somewhat glad that I slept most of the day away and then went out.
With the closing of the last few assignments over the weekend, I am left looking for something to fill the void. At this point, the void was filled with pontification. I basically came up with the thought that I should have some sort of BIG revelation from being here. The summer before freshman year of high school, I was fortunate enough to go abroad for a month in Australia. When I came back, there had been so many big learning moments and my parents said that I came back a different person. When I went to the Air Force Academy, my parents said I was a changed person. What will they say this time around?
I do not know what I am expecting, some sort of giant neon sign to tell me I am not the same. Perhaps it will be the way others treat me but I have not really noticed much change there either. One of my good friends told me that she thought I might have changed but I did not know it yet. I want to know it. I want to validate this feeling of obligatory learning. I mean, I am in a different country far flung from the states for six months, I would hope that I have learned something. But what has it been? My opinions have changed a bit; my worldview is broader. I have learned to do without an oven and can go weeks without doing laundry but where is the big achievement?
What I have come up with is that I might be done CHANGING and that the largest contribution that this whole experience has given me is that I have become more ME than ever before. I have had time to think, to explore myself and to understand who I am and what I want. Could this be the gift that I am seeking underneath my shamrock? I am hoping it is. I would love to know that this is the right thing because I don't want people to think I have had this tremendous opportunity and then just wasted it but that brings up another point. I have to care about what the other people think and let them have that force over me.
What I know to be the benefits of my time here in Ireland ought to be my own counsel. That private knowledge should be validation enough to prove that I have indeed taken advantage of where I am and what I am doing. My thoughts in private moments should count more than what anyone outside of those thoughts could say. Well, they are. I believe that I have gained strength here to take what I want, to do what I need, and to think as I may because in the end it is not about THEM, it is about me.
Well well well - another update for another trip. This time it was a long weekend in PARIS! What a gorgeous city. I have to say that it was probably one of the prettiest city that I have traveled to thus far this semester if not ever. It was after class was over on Thursday afternoon and a team meeting at the same that I boarded the Air Coach en route to Dublin Airport. No worries and an easy transit through security - surprisingly so. However, once I was given the gate assignment, I noted that it was in a different terminal. I headed out to the place where I was supposed to be a noted that it seemed like a commuter terminal, no jetways but rather doors that opened out onto the tarmac. Anyways, I found food and drink and found a seat to just cool my heals before we took off. On the plane, I was seated next to an Irish couple heading to Paris for a vacation. We spoke about what to do, practiced our little French and compared notes. They were so cute.
Upon arrival at Charles de Gaul airport, I thought I had stepped into a pipe dream. There were not the normal sorts of straight walkways that we are used to in the states. Rather there were moving sidewalks that dipped up and down as if it were an ocean swell that we were transiting. All the while, the path was in these huge tubes with concrete walls - it felt like I was in a cave spelunking or something. Once into the central terminal, it was through passport control (so many stamps now!) and into what they called "tube central." The atrium was literally something out of the game chutes and ladders with tubes crisscrossing through the center. It was so weird but I was able to find signs that pointed to the rail line that headed into the city center.
Onto the shuttle train it was and towards the RER (their version of a commuter rail I guess) station and trying to figure out their system of ticketing. I opted for the unlimited pass that would let me get onto pretty much anything anywhere any time just because I didn't want to have to deal with that sort of stuff while also trying to navigate and translate my way through the city. That first night, I made my way alone into the Montmartre (sp) area on the North side of the city and into my hostel for the night. The only other BU person was in the city on the opposite side staying with a friend so I would be alone at the hostel for two nights before setting myself in with the other BU people that would arrive on Saturday.
Friday started bright and early as the Australian pair, whom were staying their last night in Paris at my hostel (they had been on the road for 2 months then) got up at 0-dark-thirty. To my glee, there was breakfast waiting in the downstairs for me - croissant and crusty roll with coffee and OJ - I headed out into the city knowing only that I needed to meet Nicole at the Eiffel Tower at 10am. My plan was to hit the metro over to the Arch du Triumph, which I did, and then walk into the city from there. It was really need to see all these places that I had seen photos and videos of but now in the flesh. Onwards into the city, I went and moseyed in towards the center seeing Parisians going about their normal morning.
Nicole made it out to the tower just a bit later after getting lost on the C-Line of the RER (I do not blame her that line is CRAZY with odd end points and routes). We opted to save some coin and walked up to the first level of the tower, grabbed a quick snack, and then pushed on to the second level. Photos all around then found out how to get to the tippy top. The weather could not have been better - clear and relatively warm, minus the wind. We finally got into the HUGE line for the top stage elevator then it was on our way up! Hopefully you do not have a fear of heights and in the back of my mind, I was trying to remember that I am planning to jump out of a plane this summer...
Anyways, we hit the top and walked around taking photos as we went. Somewhere up there Brian and my mother become engaged and on thinking that, I saw a couple seal that deal right there as well - very odd but I took the opportunity to get on a knee for Nicole and ask her to take a photo of me. You should have seen the looks on people's faces when I said that - haha! After getting down, we walked around the park adjacent to the tower, took the obligatory photos, and then headed out for more adventure. The next spot would be Notre Dame Cathedral and oh, goodness it was beautiful. From the outside to the inside, it was absolutely amazing. History, stories, meaning, beauty all coming together. I lit a candle within for my family and friends so I hope good fortune reaches you wherever you are.
After the cathedral, it was to the Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxemburg Gardens) where we actually spotted David Letterman with his son, publicist, and personal assistant. It was SOO surreal to see him there, totally unexpected. I did not know where to place his face but I knew it was from US TV back home so I started to go through shows that I knew and I finally realized it was David Letterman with a salt and pepper beard. Too funny. Once we had had enough sun, we moved towards the Louvre where it was going to be a student's night with free admission with a student ID. It was a lot of fun to see the old and impressive stuff. We saw the naked lady without arms - very famous, old cuneiform tablets, the Mona Lisa and so much more. I was definitely disappointed that the real thing was so small and unimpressive - not to mention the room was completely different from the movie, The DaVinci Code.
That night we headed back to Nicole's friend's place at Cite Univeriste and had a cool little family dinner with parents and friends. Then I made my journey back north to my hostel for a night of annoyed sleep. Some drunken bitches rolled into the hostel room at 2am and not only turned on all the lights but were like yelling to each other. Of course, they were American. I bit my tongue while they were getting ready for bed but when they continued to yell at one another from the opposite sides of the room, I had to say something. Needless to say, they shut up really fast - I also adjusted my wake up time to be up showered and out before their alarm even went off.
Saturday started much the same way as Friday but I then ventured through the city on my way to Gare Du Nord (The North Train Station) where I met up with Nicole, Parker (her friend), and Parker's mom and aunt. We tried to find a train to Giverny, Monet's home, but there was not anything from that station - we found that it was on the other side of the city where we could make it out to the gardens there. We trucked and barely hopped on the train as it made its way out of the city center. I caught up with Lost on my iPod while on the train - much fun. Upon arrival in Vernon, we boarded a bus to get us to Giverny and we set ourselves loose on the small town. We devoured some delectable crepes at a small hotel/b&b before heading into the house and gardens of Monet. I took MANY MANY photos of flowers and really got my artsy on. With someone's suggestion, I have been trying to find marketable photos that I might be able to print and sell at some point in the future. Check out the Flickr feed for more of those.
That night, I wandered the streets of Paris after moving my stuff from Le Village to Le Montclaire hostels. Starbucks and all the rest of the American fat machines were around. After a brief dinner, I thought it would be a good idea to walk down along the Seine... well that was sketchy but I managed to navigate the stone boardwalks without getting mugged. I had a really good talk with a close pal, a long think while making my way from Notre Dame over to the Eiffel Tower. I snapped a couple fun night pictures of the tower just before and during the "sparkling" that happens late at night. That was really special for me. Along the way, I got a call from my softball pals that were in and we met up along the Seine and headed back towards the hostel by foot.
The next morning we (softball pals and I) trekked our way out to Versailles. WOW - that was an amazing experience. I do not think I can remember any buildings that are that old and that HUGE! Unfortunately there was a ridiculously long line to get tickets and then to get into security and to get into the halls. In the face of that, we headed around the back to the gardens. Let us just say it was just like the paintings and all the books - expansive gardens, trees, shrubbery, grass, lakes, ponds, fountains etc... it was perfect. We wandered snapping photos all along the way. Tucked away in one of the maze gardens was a café where we pickets up from paninis and that amazing ice cream that you just can't get in the states. More wandering and more photos ensued before we retreated to the train just as the bad weather rolled in.
It was a chill night that followed and then the next morning I had an uneventful trek back to Dublin. Sorry for the super long post... I sort of got away from myself. Hopefully this means my writing spirit is back and I will be able to keep this guy topped off a little bit better. Thanks for reading!
Sorry to keep you all hanging. There's really no reason for not posting - I've been having a great time relaxing in the past while since writing last. Brief overview of what's been going on to catch up quickly:
1 - Last week was the last week of class before our break. It was really uneventful except for the first bit of work that I've really needed to do. It was a term paper for our Irish history class and it's worth 30% of the grade. I'll be sure to let you all know how it went. I wrote about the causes of the 1641 Rebellion in Ireland. It was just like most of the other rebellions in Ireland (unsuccessful) except that it was the first look of the North vs. South and Catholic vs. Protestant conflicts that have been in headlines over the last few years. Needless to say that I did a lot of research for a 2000 word essay and got lost in the beheamouth that is James Joyce Library (HUGE - think Boston Public Library on steroids).
2 - Last weekend I went down to see parents and cousins in the southern portion of the island. Castle Island, Co Kerry where they called home. There was a lot of catching up, a bit of harmless birthday partying, and lots of relaxing. It was really great to see all those that I hadn't seen in 9 years now. How things have changed, but oddly stayed the same in some ways. I ended up doing some work online for one set of cousins while fixing a couple computer issues with another. I guess it's just my currency with which I can pay the family back for all their hospitality and the like.
3 - Currently, as of 5pm yesterday, I'm in the historic Amsterdam City. I met Grace, long time best-friend, at the airport last night then journeyed through the city to find our hotel. It's a cute little boutique hotel (Hotel Piet Hein) situated in the quiet and quaint depths of the museum district. Things here have been great so far and I'm going to be writing more for sure. So stay tuned and come back often for updates (I mean it).
Thanks for staying subscribed and keeping up to date. Just a reminder - if you want to get in touch, don't hesitate to email me at email@example.com or leave a comment here.
Welcome back from the break. Sorry about that, I was just crashing last night. As some may have noted on my fitness blog at http://surelybonds.blogspot.com, I have decided to start training for a marathon. Yesterday was the first day and even at just 3 miles, I was tired (we had just had 2 hours of softball practice - I am not that bad haha).
Last night, I made a couple revisions to the PHP coding of the website so now you have a date in the message feed around all of the items. I hope that this will help those of you out that were not quite clear on the dates. Sorry about that, it was part of the template I used and did not really do much modification before I left. I also posted up the article that I wrote for the Observer. Since then, they have asked me to come on board as a bit of a regular columnist in the science and technology field. Therefore, that has been kind of interesting. I submitted an article about nano-technology this afternoon - it will be posted up once published next week. In any event, I will continue here with the trip to Galway picking up with our tour of the Cliffs of Moher.
Flash back to Saturday night, there were two different camps when it came to deciding which tour company to take. One company got us back at "approximately 5:30" and came highly recommended by the hostel staff; it also was supposed to pick us up right there at the hostel. However, we needed to make it on a 6pm bus back to Dublin... The other company got us back at about 5pm but was not as recommended citing some customer service issues, was 2 hours shorter and departed on the other side of the city centre. Well, the camps were divided between the two and those that wanted to take the "better" tour knew that there were other options to get back on later buses or trains - we would just have to pay for the ticket again.
Needless to say, we ended up going to the "other" tour that got us back by 5pm because it was the safer bet and those that wanted it were not willing to compromise. I understand that but I really did not want to split the group up and I also wanted to enjoy the 20 euro that I would be paying to see the sights... Fortunately, for us, our tour was amazing. Billy, the coach driver and tour narrator, flung our agile bus around mountain switchbacks like a La Mans driver. He didn't seem to have any regard for the winding roads and charged forwards with the sort of determination a middle aged woman might have to get home when they need to pee (I remember that lmc...).
In any event, when I called to confirm the location for departure on Sunday morning, the owner/operator told us to stay put at our hostel and that he would come pick us up. Five minutes later, we were whisked away in a nice mini coach and delivered to the loading area for the main tour. I had a slight feeling that this tour was going to be better than we had heard. At this point, I bumped into a bunch of friends from the softball club that were also in the city for the weekend. We chatted a bit and then parted ways to get onto our respective tour company's buses. Our coach was not nearly full; each of us had our own row and got to spread out comfortably. This was a godsend because those of us with long legs rarely get comfortable on the cramped seats of the coaches here in Ireland.
Before we knew it, we were rushing past beautiful scenery as we headed south out of the city. It was still early and the morning fog still held the harbor but we could tell there would be better conditions to come. Our first stop would be an area known as the Burren. Billy explained to us that it was named such for the abundance of limestone rock that scoured the hills. Indeed, the landscape looked much like the alpine zones of high mountains with little more than scrub brush and grasses filling in the space between rocks. We let off some passengers at a welcome center for a preordered "walk" around the hills. I couldn't help but think of it as the Australian "walk about" where we just sort of wandered through the brush and such forth until we found what we were looking for. For the rest of us, we held on for dear life as Billy launched our nimble craft up some treacherous switchbacks and hills as we climbed the side of hill to reach a welcome center for some natural caves. Unfortunately, the tour was not included in our tour costs so I decided that once you see one set of caves, they are really all about the same. Mammoth Cave National Park pretty much got me set with all of that and the caves in Colorado Springs that we visited during basic training gave can't really be topped.
After dining on a latte - can I just say that this country is in love with its espresso drinks!? I mean I cannot get a regular filter coffee for the life of me. Instead, they hand me a café Americano and I am sorry, but that is not the same. Anyways, we left that facility passing an aviary that some researchers were trying to preserve and train hunting birds for public display. We then had to bypass the next stop because of road works - another thing this country has an awful lot going on. If there is so many road works, why do the roads still stink? I mean it really ought not to take 4 hours for us to cross this country... it's not that wide! Our backup was a spot called the corkscrew hill, which as you might guess had more switchbacks but also offered a beautiful view back down the valley. I am not sure that the pictures do it any justice because of the haze.
Next, we were dropped off at the cliffs - dropped because the city had decided to raise coach-parking costs from 5 euro to 60 euro per bus. In protest, the tour companies are boycotting the parking area. Anyways, the first thing we noticed was that the visitor center was built into the hill - that was pretty cool. The next was the odd look of built up steps and ramps around the edge of the field. It looked something more akin to the Great Wall of China rather than the dramatic landfall that everyone calls it. Ironically, the Cliffs of Moher are not the tallest cliffs in the country - they are about a third the size of those found in the northwest coastline near Ulster province.
We trekked up to the walls that contained us in the publicly owned areas. They kept us back from the edge by about 10 feet but even so, the view was absolutely amazing. Looking in each direction the site was just as majestic as the professional postcard photographers make them out to be. Craggy cliffs shaded in grey as far as the horizon to the south and a hill with a small castle to the north. Many photos and scenery shots were taken to be sure. A couple of us BU students ventured farther down the coastline and finally past the public area on a well-trodden path with a series of signs that were ironic. First was a Samaritans sign that read, "Feeling depressed? We care" and gave their helpline number. Good to know that I can call someone while I am enjoying freefall before hitting the rocks and water below. Next was a large national park style sign that proclaiming that we were entering private property. Finally, an even larger sign asked us not to go beyond that point. Well, we went past that point and with about a thousand of our best friends that day and the millions that have already gone before us, we pressed on further down the cliffs.
Now, we no longer had the fences holding us back and one false step would easily send us sliding down the mud and into the abyss below. I trod carefully. We took many more photos and had some great shots of the coast and cliffs since there were no fences to get in the way. I have posted all of the shots back up onto flickr and facebook so take your choice - links are to the right hand side in my blogroll. It was about time to get going so we headed back to the visitor center to avail ourselves of the restrooms and then headed for the gift shop (The visitor center "experience" was something like 12 euro... not happening. There were the standard knickknacks and Chinese made Irish gifts etc - we left without purchasing anything. Back to the bus for us.
We made another stop two stops on the way back to Galway. One, a nice rocky shoreline with 30ft cliffs on the edges, the other had an old castle. I think I slept through the second one, oops. We made it back to Galway in record time thanks to Billy's lead foot. We were so early that we caught the citylink bus at 5pm instead of waiting an hour for the 6. Good thing too because the bus hit traffic and made us about an hour behind schedule. It was to home and to bed that we went since all of us were about to get into bed on the bus already.
Well thanks for reading the annals of my journey over the weekend. This week I have got another article for the Observer - turned in today - a hiking trip to the Wicklow Mountains and Glendaloch on Saturday. We are also launching our private beta of my newest adventure with MinuteFix at http://www.minutefix.com where we offer community based IT support at per minute rates. If your problem isn't solved you don't pay anything. So we are off to Irish History class here in a little bit but I wanted to get this written and posted up now that I am back from grocery shopping in the city center. I hope you are all well and in good health. Thinking of you all!
This past weekend a rag tag group from Boston University ventured west to the far off city of Galway. While there we would sample the local flavor, shops, the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and ride the Aran Islands. I stayed in my first hostel (not like the movie Hostel fortunately) and enjoyed a nice weekend away from the stressed of the town we call home (UCD Belfield/Dublin).
Galway is in many ways just like a little town in Maine known to the world as Freeport - the home of outlets galore and the headquarters for L.L. Bean. Unlike Freeport, there wasn't any sort of huge anchor store, but much like Freeport, there were tons of little shops, pubs, eateries, classy hotels, and B&B's. Whole streets, "shop street" for example, were closed off for pedestrian traffic only and sort of resembled the Diagon Alley of Harry Potter fame. We explored many of these shops the first night we were there, Friday.
I've come to the conclusion that I enjoy a certain measure of touristy stuff but only to a point. I really don't like playing the tourist with camera in hand and city map in pocket. I don't like feeling like an outsider in this country. Slowly but surely, it's starting to dawn on me that we're here, that we're actually living here in the country and little by little I'm gravitating towards the local spots. For the first time, we've been able to find an organic Irish session where musicians sort of show up and play great music together. It was a wonderful time eating a late dinner while listening to some musicians jam away with a fiddle, pipe, drums, and banjo.
Saturday started early with our group getting some food before departing on a bus for the Aran Islands. Weirdly enough, Galway itself doesn't have a ton to do, but it's a hub for all the other cool places around - the Burren, Aran Islands, and The Cliffs. After the 45 minute bus ride to the docks, we climbed aboard a large ferry amidst the ever present haze and set off. Upon arrival on the island, a salty 30 minutes later, there was some dispute about how we should see the island. It was very much like the Bahamas with some vans cat calling and trying to get us to come on their tours. We opted for the road bikes. It would so much more intimate to see the island under our own power than to go flying by it in a van. That said, our entire group wasn't ready for that. Needless to say, we made it out to the ruins and the cliffs at the far edge of the islands. Let me tell you, it's a rather heavy hit to look out from a 300 vertical drop, see the horizon and know that the next landfall would be your country.
We climbed back down to find my bike's tire had gone flat, though there is suspicion that someone had switched their bike out with mine. Though, this would be the first of two flats in our group of 7 - I don't think they took good care of the tires... We took the coastal route back to town and saw seals in the bay though they weren't out on the rocks as promised. This was very disappointing but inevitable I guess. Finally, it was back to town, the sweater shop, the boat (sleeping), the bus (sleeping), and back to Galway for a nap.
The whole hostel situation was interesting too. I had been dubbed the accommodation booker/trip leader (I wonder why?) and therefore organized all of the rooms and such. I made sure the girls (4) were in a 4 person room with their own bathroom - this ended up being a great move for them. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get us 3 guys into our own room so we were sharing our accommodations with 3 other people who all woke up before us. So the rule of thumb was go to bed early because the last 2 hours of sleep sucked as others would hit the shower, slam the door, rustle through backpacks and leave. In any event, it was cheap, the place was clean and welcoming, had great service and generally didn't live up to the negative stereotypes that we sometimes hear. I definitely think that hostels are going to be the way to travel, except for that 5 star hotel Brian agreed to pay for in Amsterdam.
I'm pooped, I'll write more tomorrow and finish this off.
Well hey there everyone - I'm sorry that it's been a while since I've written anything on this blog. A lot has gone on, as you can imagine so I'm thinking that I'll break it up into a couple different posts. This one will cover our trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland.
It was an interesting trip, though not nearly what I wanted it to be. So what did we actually do? As I've written before, the Quinn School of Business puts on a number of great events and programs for us but this wasn't one of them. No, this trip was a sort of add-on trip for us from the Boston University program at Dublin City University. The few of us at UCD that went (6 of 11) were invited along on their special program as part of their Irish culture class.
I should have known this wasn't going to go well. Originally we were told that we'd be driven up in the coach with all of them and that there'd be a short presentation and then we'd be on our own for a few (3-4) hours to explore the city. Well, it ended up being a 1 hour presentation, followed by an hour lunch (tasty I must say), followed by 3 hours of bus touring seeing various paramilitary murals on the sides of houses or walls from back when there was such sectarian violence. Our guide was the same guy that gave the hour powerpoint on flags and their significance to the religious fighting.
Ok, so it wasn't a total bust but it definitely wasn't what I had been hoping for. I wanted to get to walk around downtown and see the memorials, I wanted to see the Giant's Causeway. I had such hopes for that sort of stuff and we really didn't get a chance to get off the coach unless it was to see a couple murals all in once place. Though, I do have to say that there was one stop where the locals came out to heckle us - including one little girl with blue hair. But let me tell you, I never thought I'd be bothered by something here in Ireland but the 10 year old with a bottle of beer drinking in the doorway of a block house really hit me weird. I get that it's a culture thing and that we're getting used to these new sort of cultural norms but come on! In a country where you can legally drink at 18, what're they starting at 10 for?
Finally we parted ways with our tour guide and a few of the students that had apparently planned to stay the night in the city and we were on our way back to Dublin. It felt like it had been a dream almost but that may have been the fact that I slept most of the way there (we had to be up at 6am... the earliest yet) and most of the way back (did I mention that we were up at 6am?). I wish that I could have spent more time in the country because I think there's more to see and experience there than just the reminders of how recently war had gripped this otherwise developed country.
After talking with Mom and Brian, I've decided that I'm going to grab a bus north next weekend to see around with or without anyone else. Obviously, I'll invite the rest but I'm not going to let them hold me back from seeing the country. I really want to see the Giant's Causeway and the northern coast up there. I've heard such amazing things. Next post will discuss some of the coursework from this week, an Irish house party, softball, and an article I wrote for the University College Dublin Observer. Thanks for reading!
Hey there, all. It's been a couple days since I wrote last - must be having fun, right? Well absolutely! It's been a very busy week so far - an absolute gas. To cover in this post: food shopping, sight seeing, and horse racing. Hopefully this will be a good read and you'll enjoy it. Remember, you can subscribe to the bi-weekly newsletter to the right and find out how to get in touch with me at the contact page.
Food shopping is one of those things that everyone takes for granted in the United States, isn't it? I mean, how many times do you really consider where, when, for how long or plan extensively your shopping trips? Yes, you may have shopping lists, a general time when you want to go but here in Ireland we do it a little different. First, there's a caste system of food shopping locations. For quick or urgent needs, one would walk to the Centra or Spar for their needs. If it's time to find a specific or hard to find item, one might get on a bus to the Tesco for higher quality and moderate prices. Finally, for general shopping and the purchase of staples, one would plan a trip to the city center to find and Aldi or Lidl. These are foreign owned, discount markets with stocking habits of Walmart super center and the cramped confines of Johnny's Fresh Market.
Here's another one for you - you need your own bags! This is such a twist. I mean, stroke of genius for sure, but sooo inconvenient when compared to shopping in the US. I had over a week's worth of groceries on the first weekend but I was hugely confused, embarrassed, and upset when I realized I had no way to get the food home, no one to help bad, and the people behind me were getting rather heated with me. Needless to say I figured something out but the 6km trip home was not gentle to my hands with the overstuffed bags etc. This gets me thinking about things - what are they trying to teach? One, don't be lazy, you can bag yourself. Two, don't waste, buy reusable bags combined with the financial disincentive of having to pay for your bags. Finally, buy what you need for the week. I had done a big shopping run for a week plus some staples. This earned me three large fabric bags to tote everything back to campus. That walk home taught me that it's best to just buy what you need for the week and leave the rest for later.
Over this weekend, we took a walking tour with a representative from the Erasmus Student Network (international student union type thing). We saw many of the staple locations around the city centre. We got to see Dublin Castle as well as many of the night hot spots around the city. We even saw a small time rapper doing a budget music video -we're talking Youtube production. I thought it was a really interesting trip and definitely helped with my sense of direction. As one could imagine, Dublin isn't really a planned city - New Yorkers curse the place often. If you're into Boston's layout, you'll feel much better about Dublin for sure.
After a nice lunch at Bewley's cafe on Grafton street, we ventured west towards St. James Gate - the beloved brewery of the Black Gold: Guinness Stout. This was such an improvement to the old facility that they don't even compare. The Guinness Storehouse is an amazing facility that's part museum, part amusement park. Starting on the ground floor, visitors make their way up 7 floors to the gravity bar - a 365 glass bar on the very top of the facility - looking at, touching, smelling, experiencing all of the steps to the brewing process. It was a really great trip and the post tour pint was scrumptious.
Sunday was another action packed day here in the Emerald Isle. After an early wakeup, it was off to the Leopardstown Horse Track for the AIG championship hurdles. It was a really nice location, professional security, catering, etc. Top notch for those that can afford it. I wonder if this is just a small version of the Kentucky Derby? Anyways, it was to the pub to get a pint (required for all school sponsored trips) then to register with the bookies. 40 Euro later, I was scouring the reports, the breeders notes, the critics and all just hoping to be able to pick out the horse that would make my fortune. The whole day reminded me of Mrs. Knight telling me how she used to be top notch at picking horses at the races back when she was younger - I definitely could have used her skills that day, haha.
Oh! I should note that when I got there, a structure on the far side of the field was burning - that was different. Apparently one of the TV camera stands caught fire and burned to the ground. Soon after, a bunch of large corporate helicopters came swooping in dropping off their precious cargo. At the end of the day I walked away with 36 of the 40 euro... I consider it a success.
Well, that's the bulk of the news from me this week. I'm hoping to get a newsletter sent out in the next couple of days - I'm trying to get out and enjoy the nice weather while it's around and get these posted up when it's crummy outside. Friday, we're going to Belfast with the other BU program so stories from that trek will follow soon after.
I hope all is well with you all - I'm missing you!!
Well it's true - the wind has seemingly blown into this strange little country called Ireland where the skies are grey and rainy and the people are strangely happy to talk for ages! Don't get me wrong, they're more than friendly and that's a great thing but gosh, I see where my family gets it! In all honesty, it's been a very crazy weekend since getting here and as such I'm a bit tardy with my web responsibilities.
Thursday morning was our first taste of what it meant to be in Ireland. After a long flight over night from Logan (surrounded by screaming babies mind you) we arrived to be greeted by a rather disinterested Guarda (Police office of Ireland) passport inspector who told me gruffly that I was authorized 30 days in the country... this would be only the beginning of the confusing revelations from over the next 4 days. Finally we met up with the others in our group and collected our bags. It appears that I packed much less than most of the others (this would come in handy in the next leg of the trip).
Obviously, after baggage comes communication so our group of 8 (3 had arrived at 5am) descended upon the poor Vodaphone store where we picked up sim cards and cell phones. Speaking of, my new number here in Ireland is +353 87 656 7404 for those of you that are interested. Next, we were introduced to the weather - POURING RAIN!! We got soaked whilst waiting for the correct AirCoach to pick us up. Of course, as soon as we loaded onto the luxury bus, the sun came out... for a while. We ventured forth to the city center and beyond, eventually coming to the UCD Belfield stop. Unfortunately, the rain decided this would be the perfect time to start pouring it on again. We were caught out in the open when the coldest, most bone chilling rain I've ever experienced fell down on our heads. It gets better - the reception desk decided we looked smart enough so she gave me the campus map... in Gaelic... :-(.
It took us about half an hour to find out accommodations on this campus but we were pleasantly surprised when we did. My apartment is AMAZING!! HUGE common room and kitchen (no oven though :-() with each room having their own bathroom and shower. The beds are tiny but we have ample storage and a nice big desk to work on - things were on the up and up. The group on campus met up with the off campus kids (they're staying 2km north) at around 2:30 to pick up our student ID cards after which we wandered over to one of two student bars on campus. Darts, pool, Guinness, and the like were the cure to our travel hangovers and signaled our arrival. Of course, we decided the campus pub wasn't good enough so we ventured into the city center not really knowing where we were going but knowing what we needed - food and SHEETS! Luck would have it that we got off the bus at St. Stephen's Green right next to a large mall where we found most everything we wanted. Then it was back to the dorms and to our beds. All told, we were up for a good 45 hours and I was BEAT!
Friday was our orientation to UCD which included a briefing by the directors and coordinators within the Quinn School of Management, a campus tour in the rain, and a rather tasty bag lunch. Shopping and pubs were the order of the evening... but we had a bit of a twist. The first came as we were walking in a large group to the pub in Raneliegh where the off campus people are staying - I was egged... that's right, one of these previously mentioned nice Irish persons decided that I was too good of a target and threw an egg at me. Luckily it bounced off my arm, struck another person in the back and then broke only after hitting the ground. Needless to say we were all a bit shocked and didn't really understand what just happened. We made it to the bar - it was filled to the brim with 40's and 50's (year olds) - and we were immediately met with people carding us. Unfortunately not everyone in our group is 21 so they wanted us to leave... we were packing up to go when the bar keep came over and asked for our order. Apparently the owner couldn't pass up 11 Americans looking to spend a few Euro at his establishment.
Later that evening Larry and I had the walk of our lives. Back in the rain - the cold, drenching rain, we walked back to campus from the pub. We started at about midnight. After an hour of walking, it became clear that we weren't where we should have been... we were lost(ish) in Dun Loughaire and we were getting tired. After finding a map at a local bus stop, we were about 1.5-2 km off track and needed to get over a "mountain" in order to make it back to campus. Thanks to my superior powers of navigation (haha... that's a laugh) we were able to get back to campus in one piece but not before confronting another danger of the Irish 'burbs - Teenagers. There was a large gang of teenagers beating each other drunkenly on the same road that we needed to take to get over the mountain. Being smart, we kept moving quickly without making eye contact and got away. Well, we thought we had... until we looked back behind us to see a few of the group running after us. Lucky for us we were able to get away and keep the from catching up but it was a scary experience none the less.
Saturday was our orientation to Dublin from our program coordinator for BU. This consisted of a monument scavenger hunt all over the city center... in the rain. Are you starting to see a pattern? It was fine and fun but we were ready to get back to home since it was already dark when we were leaving... a 4:30... Before we hit the bus back, we went in search of the 2 Euro store and the Lidl supermarket. Finding bargains at both, we made our way back home finally and called it a night. Sunday would be a day of rest until 8 when we found ourselves at a bar watching the Pat's topple the Chargers in the AFC championship. It was a good day to be sure - rainy, but good.
Today is gorgeous outside - the first day of blue skies and sun that we've had and it's the first day of classes. It must be a good Omen. However, when there isn't rain, there's wind and as our UCD coordinator put it, "it's blow'n a gale" out there. I was almost taken off my feet as I crossed the open field between my dorm and the Quinn building. In any event, I've been at this for a while and now it's time that I got on to my first class. I'm hoping that the rain will hold out until I can get out of class so I can get some photos of the campus and such put together and posted up. Thank you all for your emails and phone calls. Don't hesitate to get me on one of the connections I listed under the contact page.