I Got a New Job

Well, a temp-to-perm assignment, for the time being. I’m still working as a pharmacy technician, but won’t be in retail anymore. Well, I’ll still be in retail part-time for at least the next few months, because I won’t be able to afford the COBRA payments if I were to leave completely. Instead I’m going to work at least enough hours to meet my share of the insurance payments until I can get on my new employer’s insurance. After that, I may decide to continue working at my old job part-time, because I like money. Also, did you see the words “temp-to-perm” up there? If I’m not a good match, I don’t want to end up completely without a job. So if it doesn’t work out I can always go back to my old retail job.

I really, really want it to work out, though.

What does that mean for this blog? Well, I’ll have more weekends off for travel, and even as a temp, I’ll be making about 110% of what I’m making at the retail job. If I stay on after the initial three months, and my pay goes up as much as the temp agency guy says it will, then I’ll be making 130% of what I’m making now. This means that I might be able to go back to putting a little money aside every week for an international trip in the next few years. Also, my day will now be ending, at a minimum, two hours earlier than it is now, so that will hopefully translate into (a) visiting museums and parks and things in the evening sometimes, and (b) more energy for blogging in general.

I’m still just so nervous, though. I accidentally discovered the off-label use of propranolol for anxiety (I was prescribed it to prevent migraines) when I was in and just out of college. I wonder if I could get away with intentionally using a beta-blocker that way.

You Gotta Get a Gimmick . . . .

No, I’m not taking up stripping. There’s no way I’m in shape enough for it. I have to admit that I have nice legs, though.

When I first started blogging, I read a bunch of articles saying that you need a “niche.” If you don’t bring your readers something that no other writer focuses on, you’ll never find an audience or whatever. The examples they gave were budget travel, traveling with children, and so on. Like there aren’t dozens of blogs on those subjects.

Then, sometime this summer, it hit me. Two things I really love, and the reason I cannot see myself living in a rural area, are public art and urban parks. I’m not going to only write about those things, there aren’t enough days in the week for me to visit all of the art and parks in all of the cities to be able to keep up a regular schedule of posting on just those two subjects. But as Alex and I (and, once Alex is grown, just I) travel, I’ll be visiting the parks that I can get to and photographing and exploring the history of the public art that I see as we go. There will probably be a side order of museums along the way as well.

The plan (and I’ve saved nearly all of the money up for both) is to visit Quebec City, Montreal, and Toronto in July 2017 and then Memphis, Nashville, and Cincinnati (possibly Louisville as well, depending on how early we get out of Cincinnati) in August on our way to and from Kentucky for the eclipse. I think I’ve only visited one park in one of those cities, Centre Island Park in Toronto, so that will give me some new areas to explore while I’m on those trips.

Speaking of “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” it was probably about 10:00 p.m. or so when I heard Gypsy coming from the other room (my dad watches Turner Classic Movies a lot). I knew that Alex had never seen most of the classic movies and Gypsy was a particular favorite. So I offered Alex a choice, he could go to bed or stay up with me watching a movie about a stripper. I assured him it wasn’t *that* kind of movie (its TV rating is PG), and he was intrigued enough to check it out and interested enough to stay up until the end.

Where Am I Going (with This Blog)?

Frankly, I don’t know.  I keep reading about people who get comped meals and hotel rooms and things so that the blogging helps pay for their travel.  And that might be great for them, but it would make me uncomfortable. Besides that, as someone who’s taster-gene impaired, I really don’t think I’d give my readers a good idea of the food at restaurants.

Although, since I work in a retail pharmacy, I sure could use some help paying for travel.  As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t really done anything to monetize this thing. I’m just not sure I have enough of value to do so yet.

When will I feel that I have?  I’m not sure.  Possibly after I get back from vacation in two-ish weeks and have that trip written up, maybe not even then. I would, ideally, like to find some kind of audience and I fear that having ads on the blog might impede that.  On the other hand, perhaps the ads should be in place when I find the audience to begin with.

Should I experiment with clickbait titles? How could I make a clickbait title out of the Witte Museum, or Walker Ranch Historic Landmark Park?  Or even Yellowstone? Well, maybe I’ll have “Three Encounters with Wildlife at Yellowstone” or even “Three Encounters with Wild Life in West Yellowstone” or something of that nature.

Fortunately, I don’t have to make any big decisions.  I’m just navel-gazing at this point.

Merry Christmas from San Antonio, Texas

Locks and Dam, San Antonio
The Locks and Dam at Brooklyn Avenue on the San Antonio River, December 2015

Alex and I went downtown this weekend looking for the perfect San Antonio Christmas picture.  We took pictures of the Bexar County Courthouse and of the front of San Fernando Cathedral (the cathedral was undecorated, but Main Plaza was pretty empty, so I figured this was as good a time as any to get a really good picture, which I need to resize and crop and put on my post on the cathedral).  I also took pictures of the Christmas tree in Main Plaza and then we hiked to Alamo Plaza and I took a picture of the Alamo with a wreath over the door and of the city Christmas tree (which was decorated with ornaments shaped like basketballs and Spurs logos, which is definitely unusual, but not what I was looking for).

When I wrote my post on the Museum Reach section of the River Walk, I realized that I wasn’t sure if I’d walked the whole thing from downtown.  So while we were downtown, we walked the River Walk from the Paseo del Alamo (which leads from the space between the buildings across from the Alamo, down through the entrance of the Hyatt Regency hotel and then out into the River Walk proper.  We made a right and walked kind of east and north from there to the locks and dam (and I know that I’ve covered everything from the locks and dam to the Witte Museum, so I am no officially done with the Museum Reach section of the River Walk).  And there I saw the perfect picture — they had hung a wreath on the front of the dam.

I then spent the next few days massaging the picture in an effort to make the wreath stand out more.  I ended up just cropping the original a bit and then writing a few paragraphs to explain how I came to take this photo and to point out the wreath, just in case you miss it.

Looking to the Future

Now that I’m down to actual identifiable years in my travel, I did a quick count of the places I can remember having traveled and the years I went.  It looks like I have enough My Travel Memories posts to get me through until April or May of 2017, not counting the month or so that I will spend on my 2016 vacation.  There might be more.  I have a gap from 1983 through 1986 and if we went anywhere then, I can’t remember it.  So if my dad can find my mom’s old travel journals, that may spark some new memories that I can use to fill in those years.

My plans for my 2016 vacation are Salt Lake City, Fishlake National Forest, the Golden Spike Monument, Yellowstone, and Dinosaur National Monument.  So that will be a little more than a month.

So then I would be in June or July of 2017, which is when I will be taking my 2017 vacation, which is looking to be The Netherlands and Germany (if all goes as planned financially).  That should take me through at least August and probably into September of 2017.   After that?  I don’t know.

And who knows?  Maybe this travel blogging thing will lose its luster by January and I’ll stop in the summer of 1982 or wherever I am by then.  But assuming I’m in this for the long haul (and I’ve been writing with one site since 2011, so I probably can stick this out at least that long), I will keep going at least through 2017.

As of 2017 I will have three weeks of vacation a year at my job.  So maybe, just maybe, I can fit in some smaller trips to new destinations in that extra time.  Maybe if Wild Earth Llama Adventures is still in business by then Alex and I can make a trip to New Mexico . . . .

Texas State Parks Passes

There are 102 state parks in Texas, stretching from Resaca de la Palma near Brownsville in the south to Palo Duro Canyon south of Amarillo in the north; from Franklin Mountains in El Paso in the west to Sea Rim State Park in Sabine Pass to the east. Wherever in Texas you are, you are likely to be near (for Texas-native values of “near”) a state park. State Parks come in all sizes, as well, from the largest, the 311,000-acre (126,000 hectare) Big Bend Ranch State Park in Marfa to the smallest, the 16.1-acre (6.5 hectares) Old Tunnel State Park in Fredericksburg.

With a Texas State Parks Pass, which in 2015 costs $70, you and your guests can have unlimited visits to the parks of the Texas State Park System. “Guests” generally works out to anyone in the same noncommercial vehicle with the pass holder.  Holders of Texas State Parks Passes also get discounts on purchases in the stores of the parks and also on overnight camping, which can be done in a tent or in a recreational vehicle/RV.

This is not an ad, it’s more of a testimonial. On and off (mostly on) for the last ten years or so, I have been the proud holder of a Texas State Parks Pass. And we take pretty good advantage of our pass. Generally, my “guest” is actually a household member, my son (who has decided that he would like me to call him Alex in blog posts).  Occasionally, Alex and I will bring a friend (or two) with us to a park.

Being that Alex does not have a driver’s license yet, we haven’t wandered too far afield too often.  I am a native Chicagoan.  Where I grew up, anything farther than about 20 minutes away by car is far.  I have adjusted somewhat to the Texans’ idea of “close,” which is something along the lines of three or four hours (before we moved down here, Texans would tell us that San Antonio is close to Mexico, to Houston, and to the Gulf; the closest of these is two and a half hours away0. However, an hour, maybe as much as three for something really important, is about my maximum.  We have made it as far as the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site to the east, Mustang Island State Park to the southeast, Garner State Park to the west, and McKinney Falls State Park to the north.  Mostly, though, we stay pretty close to the city.  We visit Government Canyon State Park once or twice a year, and Guadalupe River State Park a little less frequently than that.  We also go to Lost Maples State Natural Area every few years. In another year or so, once Alex has a driver’s license, we will be able to go farther, since we will have two drivers.

I don’t know if we exactly get $70 of activity out of the pass, but we do pretty well.  It is nice to be able to go to a state park on a whim. It is also a nice feeling to know that I am helping support the conservation and preservation work that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department does.

The Photo-Scanning Project that Ate Cincinnati

In an attempt to remember all of the places that I’ve visited, I asked my dad to dig up all of our old photo albums.  I originally just intended to scan in the travel-related photos, but the project just kept getting bigger and bigger.  I now have scanned in more than 2,000 photographs and am on what I had originally planned to be my final photo album, but my dad has found five boxes of albums, so I suspect I may just be getting started.  And it’s not just albums. About three weeks ago, I dug out an old photo box that my now-ex and I bought to put our photos in since we didn’t have the discipline to put them into albums.  I just got effectively all of them scanned in.  I say “effectively” because my son had a pretty good eye for photography from a very young age. When he was three, we started letting him have those disposable cameras.  A stack about two inches high of the photos in that box are likely to be his and I have yet to get them scanned in.<!–more–>

My current album is mostly photos of my mom and her family from the 1940s.  Back when my mom was alive a cousin said that he was doing digital photo restoration, but she “heard” (and I am pretty sure I know from whom she “heard” this) that converting to digital is a waste of time.  Then she gave me the spiel about how because of technology, we wouldn’t be able to access digital photos forever, but anyone with eyes can see printed photographs forever.  I offered to do the scanning so that she could just send the disk to the cousin.  And I actually got a start on the project.  I got two photograph albums in (those photos are on a different external drive than the one I have attached to my computer right now) when everything sort of fell apart.  My mom died and my marriage ended.  My now-ex also took the scanner, since it was technically his.  As a result, stopped scanning the photos.  The album that I am on now was my next one up and I really wish I had done this album first or second, because if my mom had seen the shape of some of these photos, she would have agreed wholeheartedly with scanning them in.  A number of these photos are faded almost beyond recognition, and some are actually falling apart.  In an ideal universe, perhaps leaving the prints alone would work.  But right now, when these photos are 70 years old, I am thrilled to be able to preserve them as they are.

And I know that technology will change, but one of the sources I found says that the life expectancy of an “unmanaged” collection of digital photos (by “unmanaged” they mean that no one is there to port them over to new technology) is 20 years.  I fully hope to be here longer than that.  If all goes as planned, I have at least 30 to go and am doing my best to make it another 50.  I have too much traveling to do to die in the next 20 years.  Just in case, however, I have asked my son to donate a hard drive with all of this work on it to a library or archive after my death.  If I am not here to manage my photos, then an organization that exists to preserve memories can do it for me.

On that cheerful note, on to explaining the reference to Cincinnati in my post title.  Sometime when I was a small child, someone referred to something that had gotten out of hand as it having “eaten Cincinnati.”  I am not sure who it was or what the context was, and Google is not helping me.  However, it stuck and now I use it the same way.  Only in this case, I can say that this project may really have eaten Cincinnati, since I have Cincinnati (circa 1987) right here:

Cincinnati, from Covington, Kentucky
Cincinnati, August 1987, taken from across the Ohio River, in Covington, Kentucky.

1/25/2019 On or around November 28, 2018, I realized that I need to start monetizing this blog. To that end, I’m starting to put what I call Gratuitous Amazon Links into my posts. As of January 12, 2019, I’m going back to add GALs to my older posts. If I can’t find anything exactly on-topic to the post, I’m choosing from among the highest-rated items on the same topic as the post. For example, for a post on a park, I’ll search Amazon for books on parks and choose one of the ones with the highest reader ratings. Here is the GAL for this post:

Photography Demystified: Your Guide to Gaining Creative Control and Taking Amazing Photographs (Kindle Edition) by David McKay (Author), Photorec Toby (Foreword), Ally McKay (Photographer), Nick Sharples (Photographer), Steve Scurich (Photographer)