picture of Amelia
the Great never look back

[something clever and obscure here]

The chronicles of Amelia's post road trip adventures

Tuesday, August 31


It's been a good few days of keeping in touch with people. I can't get as much done as when I'm being a hermit, but the emotional and health benefits of human contact allow me to rationalize the time I've spent on the phone and at the coffee shop.

Random Stuff to Ponder:
65% of newborns in the US have a circumcision performed. That's a lot of missing foreskins!

From Slashdot:
A vote tabulator that is widely used in the US is easily tampered with. Read this. I've called The Board of Elections in NC and checked out the websites for my county and surrounding counties and found that we don't use the Diebold equipment which has the security vulnerabilities. Election fraud is a scary thing to me, because I like to trust that my elected officials are there legitimately. Be an active and informed citizen.

From Arts and Letters Daily:
I owe my olympic medal to George Bush and the GOP.

Have a nice day surfing the net, and send me something interesting that you find.

Monday, August 30

Mr. Meng goes to Washington 

I've got a friend, Henrik, of the liberal persuasion who recently attended a convention in DC and covered an address by George Bush. He has put together an EXCELLENT audio record of his experience [which isn't biased in anyway ;)] which I'd like to share with my readers. Through this amazing medium, the internet, you have access to news that isn't filtered through the major television networks. Hooray for grassroots reporting!


I KNOW readership is also correlated to how often I post! It's just lately I've come up with too many excuses not to. Posting is correlated to how often you text me!

pictures = readership 

It's been a very dry month. There have hardly been any pictures on this website. I've dropped from 40 visitors a day to 25 and I have only myself to blame. Tsk, tsk. I can learn from this cause and effect, and maybe I might actually do something about it. I do have a DUTY to keep life interesting for those who are living vicariously.
So, here, in a last ditch effort to keep you involved in my travels, I give you [dramatic pause] "Pictures from August (part I)."

a very interesting flying insect, August 4, 2004

views from our hike in the Blue Ridge, August 7, 2004

the blue ridge (Appalachian) mountains, August 8, 2004

sunrise over a tobacco field, August 9, 2004

does this really need an explanation? August 10, 2004

taking apart my phone, August 14, 2004

Friday, August 27

2 cats, a tree, and me 

My car smells a little worse, since I've spent the last 48 hours driving two cats and a housetree from Houston to North Carolina. Sorry I haven't had the chance to tell you about it on the way, but I'll try to make up for it now.

I planned to leave Houston early Wednesday morning. Harlan had left for Florida on Sunday, so it was just me and his cats hanging out. I would have stayed longer if there was internet access. I liked the solitude, but it was too much trouble to get work done. Anytime I needed to get online, I'd have to walk outside and sit on a bench near another building in his apartment complex. If I wanted airconditioning and electricity to power my computer while being online, then I needed to sit in my car a block away. It was a less-than-ideal situation.

Harlan and I never seem to get along very well for the first few days that we're apart. We'd rather hate each other than miss each other, I think. By Tuesday, he'd already gone out a couple times in Orlando and had girls falling all over him. I didn't want to stay in another night and hear about how much fun he was having while I kept his cats company. I walked down to the Tavern, our local pub, and bought myself a margarita. It's no easy thing to go out by yourself, but I recognized some guys we'd met before, and let them talk me into staying for more than one drink. I stayed out too late, and should have gone home before the crazy waitress brought out Jager shots. Needless to say, I didn't leave early the next morning.

When I finally got out of bed Wednesday, I dragged myself down to James Coney Island for a jumbo dog, fries, and a coke. Everyone knows that the best way to beat a hangover is caffeine, nitrates, and trans fatty acids. You can't do it with a spinach salad and spring water. This was a severe case, which required an Excedrin, as well, but by four in the afternoon, I had the car packed up and ready to go. I was just in time for rush hour.

I knew that the drive would be a little different. I can drive all day and night, stopping only for gas, a restroom, and occasionally a nap, but the cats were going to need more of a break, I thought. I had brought some litter for them, and food and water, but they were like children and were going to get restless. After 6 or 7 hours of driving, I found a motel that would take us in Picayune, Missisippi. I got the cats in and settled and grabbed some of my stuff from the car. They were so much fun to watch as they explored a room with all new smells [and most of those smells weren't so great]. I went out to get a couple of more things from the car, and with my hands full, didn't realize that I didn't have my keys when I shut the locked door. I walked back to the room and laid everything down and carefully confirmed that my keys weren't with me. Since there was nothing I could do about it at midnight, I went to sleep.

It was a nightmare to get a locksmith out the next morning, because AAA had decided that my membership was cancelled. I was nearly in tears of frustration, because I was on hold for too long and was paying godknowshowmuch for long distance from my hotel room [cell phone was locked in car]. I called my mom for assistance, and she got things sorted out for me. Yay SuperMom! It turns out that "Amelia A Smith" had an active membership, but "Amelia-Smith-no-middle-initial" had a membership that had been cancelled years ago. Christ, people, work with me! After 2 and a half hours I was on the road again.

A couple of hours into day 2, I realized that there was no way I was going to make it home that night. I had too little sleep the night before worrying that the cats were going to pee all over the hotel room. When I got to Douglasville, Georgia, I stopped at Lee's Motel. I put the cats in the room and sprawled out on the bed, tired, but unable to settle down for a nap. I tossed and turned and watched the Simpson's, but nothing was making me feel better, so I took a shower and went out on the town in search of a thin crust pizza.

I was ravenous, but also to the point of hunger where nothing really seems good enough. I thought that a crispy pizza with lots of veggies on it may approach acceptable. I found a Pizza Hut, bought a six-pack of High Life [knowing I would maybe drink one], and drove back to my motel. I ate three pieces of pizza before I got back to my room. I was feeling much better, and I donated the rest of my beer to some local kids [in their 20s] who were having a party next door.

I'm tired of writing about my trip. Nothing much else happened, except a torturous third day of driving home. The cats are in North Carolina, most of the tree survived the drive, and my car will possibly never smell the same.

Monday, August 23

i feel better already 

I have a dream that one day the internet will be free and available to all people. I have a dream that one day everyone will use truly standards-compliant browsers. -me

Let me tell you a bit about my life lately. I decided that I was going to spend some more time in Houston. There is a nice boy who lives here, and I'd like to see if we can still stand each other when we're in closer proximity. I'd rather be nearer to North Carolina, and the feminist in me struggles to rationalize following a man anywhere (but what's one more time..). Regardless, my plan was to sublet an apartment for a few months and see how things worked out. I'm ultra-wary of commitment, but not so foolish that I think I can live happily without it. I've placated the cautious part of my brain with: "I'll just do this for a few months." Haha! I've definitely heard that before.

If only it were that simple. I drove to Houston on Thursday and get a call, somewhere in Louisiana, that Harlan has gotten a job offer to do FEMA disaster consulting in Florida. What do you think about that? he asks. I think it's a great opportunity, lots of money, and you've been desperate to leave your current job, I say. Will you go there with me? ...

Of course, I'm going to go. If I was going to give Houston a shot, why wouldn't I also move to Florida? It's only a days' drive from NC, so it's even better. I'll take my work with me, do some volunteering, maybe get a contract job with FEMA myself...

There is, however, one teeny problem with all of this: somehow it seems that I'm no longer in charge. The implied directive wasn't "jump," it was "move," and my response wasn't "how high?" it was "how far?" but the difference is only semantics. When I start to feel as if I may be losing footing on this slippery slope, I remind myself that it's ok, I am actually still in control, and I'll only play this game as long as it suits me. Let the record show that, despite certain actions to the contrary, I yain't nobody's bitch.

Friday, August 20

Ahh, it's time to relax, and you know what that means: a glass of wine, your favorite easy chair and, of course, this compact disc playing on your home stereo. So, go on, indulge yourself. That's right-- kick off your shoes, put your feet up, lean back and just enjoy the melodies. After all, music soothes even the savage beast... --The Offspring

Driving 1,230 miles in 22.5 hours doesn't leave much time for sleeping (or posting to this website), and it looks like I'll be driving even more next week. I don't really have anything to say of much import, which is disappointing. I'll try to come up with something to fill this space.

Let's see:
Google's IPO was scheduled for today and is up around 102 (from 85) at the time of this posting. There's no way I would have gambled with this stock, too much hype (that, and I don't really have any money I could stand to lose), but apparently there are some winners. If you bought it this morning, please sell now. Take your money and run. Don't wait around for other people to get smart and sell. What is it that Google makes anyway? Evidently, they now make money. Any conspiracy theorist might as well visit gmail-is-too-creepy.com/ again. and if you still want to join the gmail in-crowd, contact me. I wouldn't actually use my gmail account, but I also wouldn't want to prevent you from making that decision. It's the libertarian in me.

and speaking of liberty:
Learn more about intellectual property and copyrights:
Information wants to be free!
Free Culture, by Lawrence Lessig

In the New York Times:
Ted Kennedy speaks about being mistakenly placed on a terrorist watch list. It's a good thing he has friends in high places.

and my life:
I had breakfast with Monica yesterday morning, in Baton Rouge, and currently I'm sitting in my car in the rain, in Houston. Today it looks like I'll be moving to Orlando for a couple of months. Adventure and free accommodation beckons. I'll still be freelance web developing, but I'll also be volunteering some of my time doing the odds and ends of disaster relief.

By the way, when I leave you with links to follow, they're just ones I consider to be interesting reads. I'm not endorsing anything or trying to force my opinions on you. Sometimes, I might do that, but I'll let you know first. For now, feel free to make up your own mind.

Tuesday, August 17

put your back into it 

I picked my niece up from her first day at high school yesterday. It's an exciting time for her, and I'm so glad that I don't have to be in her shoes! We stopped to buy some used CDs. It was about that time for me. Acquiring music makes me feel good. I enjoy experiencing the consumer high that keeps our capitalist country running. Buying CDs is one of my regular rewards, and it's good to treat yourself. I still do it frugally, and I generally buy only those CDs that are really cheap or those that I've wanted for a long time. There's a balance to strike when it comes to managing your money. My natural sense of this balance has worked out so far, and I usually have a fairly good idea of what I can afford. However, seeing as I have been in school and traveling for nearly the last 2 years, the time has come to either stop spending or start making more. It's not that the "vacation" is over [I still have 9 more states to venture into this year], but that it might have to become a more part-time endeavor. It's time to stablize a bit [notice I didn't say "settle down"], and put more effort into running a prosperous business.

Speaking of which, I stayed up late last night preparing for a new client. I like the analytical number crunching that comes with doing business. I like to calculate. Figuring what I'm worth to my clients and what the market can bear is enjoyable for me. Yes, I know I'm a big dork. So what? I also take apart my phone and my laptop in my spare time. Geek and Proud.

Monday, August 16


It's Monday. It all starts over again. You can do all of those things you've been planning on doing. Lots of people hate Mondays, but it's a clean slate, a fresh week, so enjoy.

I'm unsatisfied with life right now, today, this morning. It's very silly how that creeps up on me, but it does. I know where it's coming from, because I've gotten to know myself fairly well. I'm a live-in-the-moment girl, and if I'm not 'going' then I need to be 'doing.' If I'm not traveling to some obscure destination, then I need to be crossing things off of my list and making great leaps forward. I'm not happy growing moss.

Today's ennui-breaking activities will be of a boring nature, but necessary nonetheless. I have a few things that have been lurking on my to-do list for months. Today is Tying-Up-Loose-Ends Day [and Don't-Waste-More-Time-On-This-Website Day...] bye.

Saturday, August 14

surprise movie recommendation 

I really hate to admit it, but I saw Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights tonight, and I thought that it was fantastic! Yeah, yeah, stop your moaning. It was a great movie. Just trust me, I've been dancing all over the house. [Possibly it's because my expectations were so low... and because I love dancing... and because I'm extremely caffeinated. Still-- a good flick.]

less is more, more or less 

Saturday afternoon.
It's been raining, so I've got a good excuse to stay inside and work.

It's great to have competing deadlines. I can be working on one thing and still have the satisfaction of knowing that I'm procrastinating.

Luke, Sue and I were supposed to see OAR at Regency Park last night, but it was pouring, so we went out for drinks instead. We ended up at Playmakers singing karaoke like superstars.
I've got to take Sue to the airport now. :(

Thursday, August 12

magical night 

meteor shower, bioluminescent creatures in the sand, building sand castles lit with candles, wading in the warm ocean in my jeans

Wednesday, August 11

long time, no... 

Hi. My name is Amelia. Remember me?

I thought that it would be a crime to let a week go by with no post to this website, so here it is.
the great-aunt
Sue and I drove to the mountains (Asheville) via Charlotte last Friday. I had received a call that my great-aunt was in the hospital and we stopped by to visit for a couple of hours. She's a lovely woman who has almost 84 years of life in her brain to pours out on visitors. One story quickly leads to another, and I feel as though she'd talk for two years. She has this great love of words, and often the connection between two different sentences would be merely that they had a common word. For example, we'd be talking about cows having calves, next we were talking about the calf muscle in our legs. Once you get the hang of what's going on, it becomes a fun game to play. It's a unique way of communicating. I'd like to spend more time talking to her, because I can easily see myself being just like her when I'm old. She writes things down a lot so she can remember them and keep them straight in her head. I need to do that right now, and I've only got 26 years of life in my brain. I really can't afford to get much older, my brain feels stuffed already.

the bears
We were staying at Aileen's apartment in the mountains. It's the second time that I've given her less than a full day's notice of my arrival, and she took it in stride. "Aileen, what are you doing this weekend? I'm thinking about coming to the mountains tonight. I don't want to impose. Feel free to say no. I mean, we could find someplace else to sleep. Worse comes to worse, we could sleep in my car." We had a good laugh about my last-minute habits, but there are some relationships that can handle this behavior. You've got your flexible friends and your inflexible friends. Each have their pros and cons.

Aileen was going to be dog-sitting at someone else's house, so her place was free for Sue and me. We got there late, went for a pint, and went to sleep.

Breakfast at a diner. Sue tastes grits for the first time. Farmer's market. We buy some fresh vegetables and goat's cheese for dinner. Hiking. We find a map for some trails near Hot Springs and choose a 'Difficult' trail that's a little more than 3 miles long. We walk and stop some and walk and stop some more. It is all uphill, and I know that my glutes are going to be aching the next day, but when we come to a clearing, the views are worth it. We have plenty of water and a sandwich, chips, and cookies to share. The trail is overgrown and Sue is bleeding from thorns. We find the end of the trail and turn around. We're in the middle of a conversation about getting married when we hear rustling on either side of the trail. Sue looks to the left and sees a bear 10 feet away. The bear is just as shocked to see us, growls in surprise, raises up, turns and runs away.

Sue and I turn to each other, both of us nervously laughing, and pool our knowledge of bears. She thinks that we should try to look as big as possible so we scare them off, and I think we're not supposed to look them in the eye or show our teeth to them. We know that they are faster than us and that they can climb trees. Nobody told me I was going to have to be meeting big wild animals on this hike. I am seriously unprepared. Give me a flat tire, a grease fire, or no cellphone reception: these are emergencies I can handle. I don't know what to do with BEARS.

What we are worried about is that we heard rustling on either side of the trail and we think that there is another bear ahead of us. The one that we've seen looked small to Sue (compared to Grizzlies, yes) so we're worried that we've run across an adolescent and parent. I don't really want to be surrounded by bears. This was not my idea of a fun outing. We've got a few hours of light left and no one knows what trail we're on. We're out of food. We decide to creep on.

I'm in front now, walking quietly, because I don't want to startle a wild beast. After we walk 10 or 15 yards, I see the other bear to the right, hiding behind a tree. It's being very quiet, and after a few seconds, it runs away in the direction we are walking.

We make it back to the car without anymore confrontations. We thought that we'd survived some amazing thing, but it turns out that there are bears all over the place and if you leave them alone they'll do the same to you. We're very disappointed with the reaction we get when we mention our harrowing adventure. If I didn't have anything to worry about, couldn't someone have told me that sooner? Sue and I were so proud of ourselves for being brave little hikers...

the rest
We made dinner for Aileen, goats cheese and tomato pasta [we bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate our adventure] and danced to a bluegrass band all night. We went white water rafting the next afternoon. It was fun, but too mild. We were clearly the strongest in our raft, and that's pretty sad.

Now we're at the beach [I'm showing Sue what the great state of North Carolina has to offer]. It's an overcast day and I've got some websites to work on, [we've at least got a dial up connection here], but that's what's been going on lately. Hope you're having a nice week.

PS: Oh yeah, and we serendipitously found the "World's Largest Frying Pan" yesterday in Rose Hill, NC. Sue said, "It's pants." We weren't too impressed.

Thursday, August 5

It's been a long day. I'm lying on my couch, laptop in lap, with only the glow of the screen lighting up the space around me. I'm relaxing in the rare quiet of the house and relishing the time I have to aimlessly surf the 'net.

Today was super. After Sue and I treated ourselves to pedicures (now we have pretty toes) we went out for Lilly's Pizza (my favorite in Raleigh). We traipsed all over Crabtree Valley Mall for 5 hours and I came away with 5 tops, a skirt, jeans, and 5 pairs of "knickers."

Now I'm learning about designing sites that are accessible by mobile phones. I've created my first one, with two lines of text. It's not very exciting, but I'm brainstorming how I could become rich from doing it. It's more like a braindrizzle, though, all the shopping and being pampered has turned my noggin' to grits.

Sue arrives 

I lived in England for a year, and the first week I was there, I met Sue. We were both in a hostel in a room with 8 other girls. I had moved to Oxford with no place to stay, and she was starting a management training program. She was nice to me when I was stressed out about moving to a new country and we became fast friends. She was my best girl-friend and we did all the things that girls do: dance all night at clubs, shop all day on the weekends, and talk about sex and boys over pizza lunches. We haven't stayed in touch since I left last year, only a handful of emails, but it's like no time has passed at all.

We're making plans for the rest of the week: lazing at the beach, hiking in the mountains, maybe exploring Charleston...we'll figure it out over pedicures and shopping today.

and then we're going out for a pizza lunch. We'll try to keep our voices down.

Wednesday, August 4

do you PuTTY?  

"Anyone who has PuTTY has got to be cool."

Ever so often this website will actually produce something useful. Today it's alerting you to update your version of PuTTY to the latest (0.55) which fixes a serious security flaw in the software. Of course, anyone who uses PuTTY probably also reads Slashdot and therefore already knows about the new release.

PuTTY is a free Telnet and SSH client. It's not always the most user-friendly, but it's very useful, so I overlook the interface.

The other open source software recommendation I'll make today is for an FTP client: FileZilla. I've been using it every day, and I have nothing but good things to say about it. You should use it.

For my readers who haven't a clue what I'm talking about (like my mom), Telnet, SSH, and FTP are three ways that computers can communicate with each other. The first two allow the remote control of computers, and FTP is used for transfering files between computers.

9568 and counting... 

What we do not call education is more precious than that which we call so. -RW Emerson

Today is my 9568th day of breathing. It's fairly sunny.

More adventure begins today. I pick up Sue (lovely British bird) from the airport sometime this evening. I'm not exactly sure when to pick her up, because of conflicting emails, but I'm sure things will work out (as they always do). Then, after a good night's rest, we'll be off, exploring America.

This morning I must do the necessary things one must do before entertaining an international guest. I must buy root beer, because it's Sue's favorite and she can't get it in England. I must clean up the house a bit, and my car, since it's the first place she will sit. I must also hide all the TVs and radios so she doesn't leave believing that Kerry v. Bush is the only thing we think is important in the world.

Tuesday, August 3

at least I'm not underwater, like Ocracoke 

I finally have a chance to plug myself into the global mind. Ahh. Reconnected. I can't believe that there hasn't been a post to this site since Friday. Falling down on the job, I have been.

I flew into RDU this evening. I made dinner for my mom and reunited with Tigger, my 19-year-old cat. Tigger visited the vet today. I don't know how to read a cat's mind, but I figure she's pretty happy about not being dead. She might be pissed off that I'm never around and that she can't jump as high as she used to, though.

Blah, blah. It's difficult to come up with things to write when it's been such a long time since I last wrote. I want to wow my readers, but I'm not feeling very "wow", so you'll have to settle for a short, painfully teasing recap.

I've seen lots of movies in the past week. The Village, De-Lovely, Pitch Black, Bull Durham, Hellboy, Butterfly Effect, and Love Actually. See The Village if you like anti-climactic crap, or if you just like Joaquin. I don't really feel like I wasted my time with Pitch Black or Hellboy, but I like mindless action movies. If you see Butterfly Effect, make sure you see the director's cut. It has a completely different ending, one that didn't sit as well with test audiences, apparently. I prefer the director's version. Bull Durham: I can take it or leave it. What Kevin Costner lacks in acting skills, he makes up with good looks. I'd seen Love Actually, and I don't know if I'll ever get tired of it. Yes, it's full of gooey happy endings, and real life rarely works out that way, but sometimes warm fuzzy movies are a welcome vacation from the real world.

Aside from that I've been working mostly.

I'll write something more interesting here later. This was just to get me back in the swing of things.

Have you run out of stuff to read? Check the archives!

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