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Daynotes Journal

Week of 2 October 2000

Friday, 05 July 2002 08:26

A (mostly) daily journal of the trials, tribulations, and random observations of Robert Bruce Thompson, a writer of computer books.


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Order PC Hardware in a Nutshell from Fatbrain.com

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Monday, 2 October 2000

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I've put a link at the top of the page for anyone who wants to order PC Hardware in a Nutshell, which should be shipping October 10th, although it may take a couple days after that to hit the bookstores. Thanks to everyone who's already ordered a copy. If you haven't ordered your copy yet, why not do so now? Thanks.


In New England all week. Jump to Sunday.

 


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Tuesday, 3 October 2000

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In New England all week. Jump to Sunday.

 


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Wednesday, 4 October 2000

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In New England all week. Jump to Sunday.


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Thursday, 5 October 2000

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In New England all week. Jump to Sunday.


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Friday, 6 October 2000

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In New England all week. Jump to Sunday.


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Saturday, 7 October 2000

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In New England all week. Jump to Sunday.


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Sunday, 8 October 2000

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We're back. We spent the week in New England, reconnoitering for a place to which we might relocate. Alas, it seems that New England is not for us. Short story: 

There are very few houses available. We heard stories repeatedly about someone who was pounding a for-sale sign in the front yard literally being accosted by people waving money. The average home stays on the market for something like two days. When we did an Internet search before leaving, we'd see that a town of 8,000 people had three houses for sale. Barbara did a comparison on realtor.com of six New Hampshire towns. In total, they showed a dozen "recent listings" and of those only five homes were still on the market when she checked. We figured that only a small subset of the homes for sale were listed. Apparently not. That was all of them. When we stopped at a realtor in Hanover (home of Dartmouth), there were fewer than a dozen homes listed in Hanover itself. That was all of them, from $40,000 mobile homes to multi-million dollar mansions. Apparently, the only choice is to buy a lot and build your own. And new housing costs something like $150 per square foot to build. 

Heating was another problem. Natural gas is available in very few areas. Most people--including those in large towns--heat with oil, bottled gas, or electricity, all of which are extremely expensive, particularly in a cold climate, and particularly this year. Natural gas won't be cheap this year, but compared to heating with electricity it's a bargain. Particularly in New Hampshire, which has very expensive electricity. Other utilities are no better. We're accustomed to even small towns providing city water and sewage service, and to that service being available outside the town limits for some distance. That's pretty rare in New Hampshire. Nearly all the listings we saw were for homes that used well water and a septic tank. Another show-stopper was that high-speed Internet access is available only in a few areas. And those few areas, unfortunately, pretty much correspond to places that we'd ruled out because of high taxes or for other reasons.

And speaking of taxes, they're hideously high, both those that are now in effect and others that are likely to be passed soon. Some of those weren't mentioned when we were doing research on the Internet, including a statewide property tax, "donor" taxes from formerly "low" tax areas transferred to subsidize higher tax areas, and the likelihood that New Hampshire will pass a state income tax. The statewide property tax is $5.50 per thousand, which means we'd pay $1,100 on a $200,000 home. That's about what we pay now in total property taxes. Beyond the $1,100, there are local property taxes which vary from perhaps $8/thousand to more than $50/thousand. If we bought or built a $200,000 home in one of the higher tax areas, our total property taxes would be more than $12,000 per year, which seems ridiculous.

Vermont was even worse, tax-wise, and Maine didn't look any better. So, regretfully, we've concluded that New England is not for us. It's beautiful, and we'd love to live there. But not at the cost of hideous taxes, high heating costs, and very poor Internet access.

So we'll drop back and punt. Tennessee, perhaps, or Virginia, or Pennsylvania. Or perhaps just elsewhere in North Carolina.

For all of that, it was a worthwhile trip. It was the first time in years I've taken more than two or three days off in a row.

Friday, 29 September: We finished packing Thursday evening and transferred all but the cooler and other last-minute items to the Trooper, leaving us little to do Friday morning before heading out. Our target departure time was 9:00 a.m., and we missed it by only five minutes or so. Our destination for the evening was Princeton, New Jersey, where we'd arranged to meet Caroline Llewellyn, one of my favorite mystery authors. One of my favorite people, come to that.

Barbara drove the first 285 miles, when we stopped for gasoline between Richmond, Virginia and Washington, DC. I took over driving then, and got us through DC, Baltimore, and Delaware, up to the New Jersey border. Mileage-wise, that wasn't a very long stint, but it was the drive from Hell, with incredible traffic. We got through half a dozen slow-downs that weren't caused by anything obvious like an accident. Traffic would simply come almost to a dead stop and then creep along for perhaps a couple of miles at maybe 5 MPH, after which we'd be back up to running 65 or 70 MPH. Until the next one.

Barbara took over driving again after we got to New Jersey. We finally arrived in Princeton at about 7:00 p.m., after a total of about 525 miles. We cruised up US 1 looking for a place to stay. We saw a Marriott Courtyard Hotel that looked reasonable, so we stopped and checked in there. I called Caroline Llewellyn and left a message on her machine to let her know we were in town and going to go have dinner.

By that point, we were both beat and didn't want to go back out on US 1 to find a restaurant. Fortunately, there was a Ruby Tuesdays adjacent to the hotel. We walked over there, only to find that there was a 30 to 45 minute wait. We left our name and headed back to the hotel for a short rest.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and collapsed. Barbara fell asleep reading her book, so I just let her sleep until Caroline called at about 10:30 to make arrangements for tomorrow. We agreed to meet for breakfast at 8:00 a.m. at the hotel restaurant. Barbara and I both then lost consciousness and slept straight through until morning.

Saturday, 30 September: Up at 7:00 a.m., startled awake by the wakeup call I'd left last night. Ordinarily, we'd both have been awake naturally by that time, but this time I was still asleep when the phone rang. Barbara, of course, had woken at about 6:45 and was already in the shower.

I showered and we got our stuff packed up and got down to check out. Caroline (pictured below) was meeting us at 8:00, but we decided to wait down in the lobby rather than the room. She was a few minutes early, and we adjourned to the hotel restaurant, which serves only breakfast. Caroline and Barbara chose the buffet. I, of course, had only coffee. The waitress, a fine example of her profession, was perceptive enough to leave the pot without being asked to do so..

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After breakfast, we drove into Princeton itself and parked at the Princeton Library, where Caroline volunteers a couple days a week. After a short tour of her library, which is beautiful, we went off on a walking tour of downtown Princeton and the University. Very picturesque.

As we walked, Caroline played tour guide, and did so very well indeed. She also talked about her past novels, and told us a bit about the one she's working on now. Until now, she's been turning out a novel about every two years, but her agent and publisher keep hammering on her to do one a year, and it seems that now her children are older she may be able to write on that kind of schedule. I hope so. Caroline is one of the finest mystery authors I've read, and I've read a lot.

I'd planned to leave about noon, but Barbara said she'd feel better about leaving around 11:00. Barbara is usually right, so we reluctantly left Caroline about 11:00 and headed for New England. When we made our reservation in New Hampshire, the guy said it'd take about 6 hours to get there from Princeton. Obviously, he thought we were taking the shortest route. 

Barbara didn't want to drive anywhere New York City. Nor did I, for that matter. So we decided to take the New York Thruway north to Albany and then drive east through New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire to reach I-93. We slightly underestimated how long that would take. We'd hoped to arrive about 5:00 p.m., but it was actually 7:15 p.m. by the time we got to our lodgings. 

By that time, I was beat once again, and all the restaurants were packed. We finally ended up getting takeout at an Italian pizza/sub place and eating back in our cabin. The cabin itself is small, basically a main room with a king-size bed and desk, with a small bathroom tacked on behind. We were kind of expecting a kitchenette, but there aren't any cooking facilities. Oh, well.

Sunday, 1 October: After two days and 1,000 miles of driving, we decided to make today a rest day. We stayed around the cabin all day, planning what we'll do this coming week. In the afternoon, we drove into the village of Lincoln to see what was there. We ended up stopping at a supermarket and picking up some edibles. Around dinner time, we headed back into Lincoln and had dinner at a Pizza/Sub/Greek restaurant.

Monday, 2 October through Thursday, 5 October: We drove all over New Hampshire looking at communities and talking to realtors. This entire period is a blur for me. We visited everywhere in New Hampshire at least once, I think, from Hanover/Lebanon/Eastman in the west on Monday to Concord/Loudon/Laconia/Plymouth on Tuesday, to Littleton/Berlin/Conway/Maine on Wednesday, to Portsmouth and the Southeast on Thursday. We hit every major road in New Hampshire at least twice. Both ways. We'd originally planned to stay through Friday night and leave Saturday morning, but by Wednesday evening it had become clear to us that we wouldn't be moving to New Hampshire. Barbara suggested that, even though we were past the advance notice period required to cancel Friday night's stay, we talk to the owners, thinking that they might just as soon have Friday night back for someone who would want our cabin for the entire upcoming holiday weekend. I spoke to them, and they indeed did want our cabin for Friday night and were willing to refund the charge for that night.

Friday, 6 October: We'd packed up Thursday night, and got a 7:30 start this morning heading back home. There was no way we were going to repeat the drive from Hell on Interstate 95, so we plotted a different route home. Back roads through New Hampshire to Interstate 91 at the Vermont line. I-91 south through Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut to I-84. I-84 west through Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania to I-81. I-81 south through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia to Roanoke, where we'd pick up US-220 home to North Carolina.

Being a man, I secretly planned to drive straight through from northern New Hampshire to home, which is about 1,000 miles (~1,600 km). After all, we were at point A and wanted to get to Point B, so it makes sense to get from A to B via the standard male Death March. No stops for anything except the absolute necessities--fuel and bathroom stops. We had a cooler with food and drinks, so we could eat while driving. If our Trooper had a larger gas tank (say 55 gallons instead of the girlish 22.5 gallons it really holds), we could have avoided even fueling stops. Neither does the Trooper have bathroom facilities. I was willing to use an empty 2-litre Coke bottle, but Barbara draws the line well short of that.

We were planning to get into Winchester, Virginia about 5:30 p.m., which we'd have made if we hadn't run into one of those parking lots. That was caused by a jack-knifed tractor-trailer in the right lane, and cost us about an hour directly. It also caused us to hit Harrisburg, Pennsylvania right at rush hour, which cost us another half hour. The upshot was that we didn't get to Winchester until 7:00 p.m., and Winchester is about 5 hours from home. Barbara spotted a Hampton Inn right at the exit. Knowing when I'm beat, I gave in gracefully and got us a room. There was a Shoneys right across the street, so we had dinner there, went back to the room and collapsed. By that time, it was about 8:00 p.m., so even if we'd driven straight home we'd not have gotten there until 1:00 a.m. or so.

Don't tell Barbara (I'll deny it if you do), but I'm glad we stopped. Things I could do when I was 25 are outside my capabilities at age 47. At 25, I would have thought nothing of driving 1,000 miles straight through by myself, let alone with a relief driver. Hell, when I was 25 one of my friends of the same age drove, by himself, from Pennsylvania to Kansas. Straight through, 1,700 miles and 26 hours, stopping only for gas and bathroom breaks. I remember thinking at the time that that was an impressive feat, but certainly not beyond my own capabilities if I were pushed. If I tried doing that now, it'd kill me. Literally.

Saturday, 7 October: We slept well (except for Barbara's strange recurring dream that I snore) and were up and off by 8:30 a.m., headed for home. We made it home about 1:30 p.m. to the surprise of my mother, my brother, and the dogs, none of whom were expecting us until Sunday. We got everything carted into the house, and then collapsed. It's nice to be home. I planned to order Chinese delivered or something, but Barbara said she wanted to cook. So she made a simple meal of pasta and garlic bread.

In the meantime, of course, I'd fired up my computers to see what awaited me. Surprisingly little, actually, given that I'd been away a week. After sorting through the spam and listserv stuff, I had fewer than 100 real messages in my inbox.

Sunday, 8 October: Still trying to dig out from everything that accumulated while we were gone. Barbara read a week's worth of newspapers, which I ignored. I figure if it's important I'll hear about it eventually. Barbara got some preliminary notes posted on her page, although there will be more to come. While Barbara cleaned house, I did laundry. As far as work and computer stuff, I have so much backed up that I don't know where to start. Oh, well. It'll all get done eventually. Or not.

 


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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.