Author’s note: I started working on this post late on August 25 and while working on it, it became August 26. As a result, read all of the “tonight”s as “last night”s, all of the “tomorrow”s as “today”s and so forth.

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Hurricane Harvey made landfall not that long ago down in Corpus Christi. I’m really fond of Corpus and it looks like Alex and I may be visiting there again to see what it looks like after the storm sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Until then, though, here I sit in San Antonio, looking at the Weather.com map of my city and noticing that my neighborhood is pretty much surrounded by rain.

They’re expecting some flooding for San Antonio and at some point the electricity is going to go out. I got home from work a bit late, as we spent some time covering electronics with plastic bags and things, just in case the roof caves in or something. Then I got to work using electricity while I have it. Alex and I cooked some turkey bacon, I did a load of laundry (and probably will do another one while I settle down for bed), I’m running the dishwasher, and I’m charging pretty much everything that needs to be charged (I’m almost done charging my phone-charging batteries and am about to start on the bluetooth speaker that we bought for the Nebraska trip).

I’m probably going to do a lot of reading tomorrow (particularly if the electricity goes out), since the wind will probably stop me from really going anywhere. I may take a hike down to the creek, which is usually dry, to watch the water flow past (which will make a dent in the 6,700 steps I need to make to get caught up with my goal). And maybe I’ll start to make a dent in my next National Geographic post and, maybe even work on the post that will be the preface to our California trip, which will explain how Thomas and I ended up going to California for the very first time, in the mid-1990s.

Or maybe I’ll just stay in bed all day. That’s a possibility, as well.

I have an elderly dog and an elderly cat and now they’re cutting hours at work (my boss is doing a great job giving me as many hours as he can, but my paycheck has still gone down by multiple tens of dollars per pay period), so I’m not sure how much traveling I can do in 2018. I still have a fair amount of my backlogged travel savings, but I don’t think it’ll pay for us to fly to Seattle, rent a car, and pay for a hotel room.

This might end up being the year we finally do the Wild Earth Llama Adventures overnight llama trip. Alex and I heard about it a couple of years ago and have wanted to go ever since. It’s in New Mexico, so we could drive there, and we could make Capulin Volcano National Monument our biennial volcano. The original plan was for our biennial volcano to be Mt. Hood or Mt. Rainier. But all three places will probably still be there in 2019 or 2020.

Also, apparently Capulin Volcano is pretty close to Taos, as well, so that’s good.

Since we’ve been taking shorter trips in August, we could continue that tradition and go to Louisiana for a long weekend. We could drive to Baton Rouge, stay overnight there for one night, then go on to New Orleans for another night or two, then drive back in one shot. We probably should go to New Orleans in one shot, then drive to Baton Rouge and back to San Antonio, but I think we should do the more exciting destination last.

Back in the 1990s, Thomas* and I drove to Louisiana just to get out of Texas for a while. We drove to near Lake Charles and then drove south from there. We then took a ferry across a bayou and drove back up. I made several failed attempts to photograph an alligator (if I recall correctly, we saw about eight of them that day), but I cannot find the pictures at all from that trip or from our stop in New Orleans when we went there on the way back from my mom’s funeral ten years ago. So this would give me a chance to take new pictures.

I’m going to start acting as though this is the plan, and then hope that I can get more work hours (or a new job (or that I can find a way to monetize this to earn some travel money)). Then, of course, once I can go back to the plan to go to Seattle, I’ll be disappointed that I cannot take the New Mexico trip. Maybe in that case, I’ll bump New Mexico up to long weekend trip.

*Notice my now-ex’s new pseudonym. I set up a spreadsheet to choose a random number between 1 and 100 and then chose the name from his birth year that had that rank. So Thomas it is.

The eclipse was awesome. The part of Nebraska where we were going was overcast and so Alex and I drove as far as we could to the northwest while still staying in the zone of totality. We got Google Maps to plot a line from Lincoln to North Platte and stayed close to that line. We could see clear sky in the distance but never quite made it. The sky wasn’t too thickly clouded over where we ended up, so we at least could see the sun. By the time we stopped, it was nothing but gravel roads.

The odd thing is that it didn’t seem to be that dark. I wondered if we had left the zone of totality. Then I looked at the photos I took later and realized that it actually had been quite dark.

It was incredibly crowded on the way back. I read an estimate that only about 100,000 people were going to be in Nebraska, and that most of them were going to the western part of the state. But we came back quite a long way by a US Route and the road was solid. There also were crowds at all of the rest areas we passed on our way down. We finally used the bathroom at a Walmart (we had to stop for batteries and cheese sticks anyhow).

So now we’re home and all we have left to do is pay off my credit card.

We’re almost out the door. I just have to get dressed and we need to put our suitcases and provisions in the car (we’ll be driving for about 14 straight hours, so we’ll need to be able to eat on the run) and we’re out of here.

So one last thing before I go. Our eldest furbaby, Alex’s diabetic cat with IBD, may very well now be Alex’s cat with IBD. When we were in California, his glucose was normal all week, despite not being given any insulin. And then, for the weeks since, we also didn’t give him any insulin. For those playing at home, that means that as of today he’s gone exactly one month without insulin.

black domestic medium hair cat with burgundy knitting on couch

Alex’s baby, circa 2003, with some of my knitting. I need to get back to knitting someday.

They tested his glucose today, and it was picture perfect. We’ll need to test his glucose again in another month and then every two or three months for a while, but it sure looks like he may no longer be diabetic.

My now-ex and I used to hate driving up Interstate 35 during the daytime. Even back in the days when we were on 35 fairly regularly (visiting family in Chicago or friends in Austin or Dallas), which would be nearly 10 years ago now, Interstate 35 was awfully congested. So on occasions when we were leaving Texas, we started the drive up 35 at night. This generally meant that we’d see Dallas in our rear-view mirror by sunrise. Since Omaha is pretty much a straight shot up Interstate 35, Alex and I are going to continue the tradition by leaving at 10:00 p.m. today.

So once I get my shower done, we’re going to do our last-minute errands. We need to board our senior cat (16 years old with inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes) and then pick up some Sugru to reinforce the ends of my phone’s charging cable. Then we’ll run up to Walmart to pick up a few other non-edible items, then to HEB for refrigeratable food (they have big containers of sliced Gala apples that Alex and I have basically been inhaling for the last couple of months). I’m pretty sure that’s going to be it errand-wise for today.

Then we have to clean. I need to vacuum my bedroom floor and we need to clean the bathroom. I failed to clean the bathroom once before I went out of town, and what I came home to was not pleasant. Then we’ll take a nap so that we’re fresh for our 14-hour drive (which will probably take 16 hours, what with bathroom stops and things).

I’m pretty much done packing. I’ve got five shirts and five sets of underwear (I always bring one extra, just in case, and I have actually needed it) and have packed Alex’s and my medications and our soap. I just need to pack my deodorant and shampoo and I’m done with that.

So here’s a short post, just to keep my hand in.

I think that my next language is going to be Russian. I have two friends who speak Russian and one might be forgiven for thinking, “She has built-in conversation partners if she goes with Russian,” but that’s not the actual reason.

Also, Russian is the eighth-most-spoken language in the world, so Russian would give me the ability to converse with, or read books written by, another 160 million people (on top of the 1.9 billion that I already have covered with my first five languages). But that’s not the reason, either, really.

I really would love to go to St. Petersburg someday. The chocolate Lenins are supposedly really good. But that’s not it, either.

My maternal great-grandmother spoke five languages, one of which was Russian. And having that in common with her would be kind of cool, but I already speak two of her five languages — English and German.

Nope. I want to learn to speak Russian because I have only two official languages of the United Nations to go, and I really don’t feel up to tackling Arabic yet. I know there’s technically one more, but  I’m putting French off for my very, very last language; the first two times I attempted it, tragedy followed, so I figure I’ll leave it for a point where I’ve achieved everything else I want in my life.

That was odd. I started this post and, just as I was finishing the title, I got a message saying that the backup version of this post was different from this one (which is kind of impossible, since I was just starting this post) then, as I typed the word “California,” the message disappeared and took with it everything after “I’m.”

Since public parks are one of my things, I did visit a few parks while I was out there: Griffith Park (of course), Hancock Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Leo Carrillo State Park, and Point Fermin Park, among others.

I also had the opportunity to visit a doctor in the Los Angeles area. I accidentally smacked myself in the eye with my knuckle while drying off after my shower and scratched my cornea. It was healed by the next day, but I was terrified at first that I would have to spend my entire vacation holed up in my hotel, or limited to however-many sites I could get to by public transportation in a day. I didn’t even have to stay home for one day, since I could see okay and wasn’t sensitive to light.

I got to visit the desert for the first- (and second-) ever time. The only desert in Texas is considerably west of here and I don’t think I’ve gone that far west yet. I think that the Salt Lake City area is also subhumid and I don’t think we got into the actual desert at all there, either.

I’ll start going through all this in a more orderly fashion beginning in another couple of days. Probably.

Every time I think about posting here, I remember how long it’s been and put it off again.

Welcome to procrastination.

I think I’m going to stop recapping absolutely everything I read in National Geographic. So much of what they are writing about now, all of the scientific research stuff, particularly, is interesting to me to read, but not so interesting to blog about. So I think I’m going to limit myself to travel articles.

I’ve been stressed out by work and my elderly animals. Diabetic cat, Cosmo, has been losing weight and we’ve slowly been decreasing his insulin. Long story and I need to get to bed. We’ve added gabapentin to our arthritic dog, Foxy’s regimen. Another long story.

Why do I need to get to bed?

Because in about six hours from right now, Alex and I will be off to Los Angeles for our annual “big trip.” In less than 12 hours from now, we’ll be starting our trip along the Pacific Coast Highway starting in Orange County and working our way northwest. I also plan to stop off at Sweet Cup in Garden Grove for an ice cream taco in the morning, as well. So I hope to have a bunch of adventures to share with you once we’re back. I may make a post or two while we’re out and about.

Oh, and I’m doing the Samsung Health Global Challenge for the second month running. I ended June somewhere in the low 100,000s and right now I’m in the low 80,000s (with 194,000 steps so far this month). Hopefully we’ll find lots of opportunities to walk over the next week and I’ll be able to keep and improve upon my standing. We’ll see what happens down the line.

 

Upon digging through my subconscious, I remembered a high school trip to Pella, Iowa, and, several years before that, a trip to one of the Amish settlements in Iowa. I don’t have pictures from either, which is why I didn’t remember them. And to make things worse, I’m not entirely sure where in Iowa the Amish settlement was. I’m almost certain that the actual place we were visiting was a Girl Scout camp in the Rock Island/Moline/Davenport/Bettendorf area.

Actually, looking at the map, I think we were in Iowa City, which means that the Amish community was probably Kalona? And Kalona does have guided tours of the Amish community, which sounds like what we did.

Now, is there a Girl Scout camp in Iowa City? I don’t see one, but we’re talking about, oh, dear God, how long ago was that? 1979? 1978? I dropped out of Girl Scouts before the 1980/1981 school year, so no later than early 1980. A lot of things may have changed in the Iowa City area in 37 years.

The only thing I really remember about the camp was inside of the cabin we slept in. I guess I’m going to spend some time looking at photos of Girl Scout camps in Iowa. If I can ever figure out where in Iowa we were, I’ll be able to tell you which Amish community it was. And if I can’t, I guess I’ll just make a post “Amish Community, somewhere in Iowa” someday.

I really don’t know if I’m getting any better at all at this, but I’m putting a pretty decent amount of money aside this way.

So far, I’m up to Duolingo levels: 15 in Spanish, 13 in Italian, and 11 in German. And in 16 more points, I’ll be at level 12 in German (so tomorrow night, probably).

In Rosetta Stone Vietnamese, I’m just a little more than halfway done with the whole course. Halfway is the end of Unit 2 of Level 2 and I’m about halfway done with Unit 3 of Level 2. It took me six months to make it this far, but I haven’t hit the wall yet, which surprises the heck out of me.

In Rosetta Stone Mandarin, I’m at the Milestone for Level 1 Unit 3. I’m trying to keep Mandarin quite a ways behind my progress in Vietnamese because I’m afraid of getting the two languages confused. I’m pretty sure that I won’t, because I’ve been working on my Mandarin for nearly 10 years now, but the languages have some commonalities. Both languages have “measure words,” for example, which go before countable nouns. Like in Mandarin, “a dog” is “yī zhǐ gǒu.” The “zhǐ” is the measure word. In Vietnamese, “a dog” is “một con chó” and the “con” is the measure word. As a result, the structure of the courses are pretty similar.

Finishing both Rosetta Stone courses should bring me somewhere in the Bs of the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). I’ve heard that a three-level Rosetta Stone course takes you to the end of B1 and that it takes you to the end of B2. One thing said that it only takes you to the beginning of B1, but whichever way you slice it, I should have made or at least be ready to make the leap from Basic to Independent User stage.

I bought El Leon, la Bruja y el Ropero (the Spanish-language translation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) as an ebook from Amazon.com, and while on a road trip yesterday, I made it through 22% of the book.  Since that’s a 200-page book (give or take), that 22% was 44 pages, so I paid myself 44 cents. I also found a translation error. The room that contains the wardrobe is empty except for the wardrobe and a dead bluebottle on the windowsill. The translator made bluebottle into “botella azul,” which is a blue bottle. A bluebottle is a kind of fly.

And I spoke Mandarin to a patient today. I only gave her the amount of her change in Mandarin, and it took her a few moments to assimilate the fact that the pharmacy technician had just spoken Mandarin to her, but I did it. And someday, I might actually be comfortable with this. I’ve already made that leap in Spanish at work. Now, will I ever get my courage up enough to speak Vietnamese to my Vietnamese patients?

I’ve tried a new-to-me site called Language Zen, and it has me pulling my hair out. Almost literally. You can only study for 15 minutes then you have to stop for three hours unless you want to pay money, and every time I go to the site, I have hundreds and hundreds of words to work on (right now, I have “less (sic) than 580”) and I get the same damn questions every time. I fully accept that las noticias apenas duran unos segundos. I really do. Stop asking me. Part of why I have so many words and keep getting the same questions may be because I don’t spend much time there. But I don’t find it particularly rewarding. I’ve been doing the questions in another tab while writing this, and I now have “less than 575 words” to practice. I need to give myself a whole lot more than 30 cents (which is my current top payment, for a Rosetta Stone core lesson) to make me come back to that site more often than I have to.

So far, I’ve saved up more than $180 from this project and been paid a whole $0.64 in interest. I’m not going to make my fortune at this this way, but just maybe the profit motive will be enough to keep me going until I can turn this into a skill that I can get paid a decent amount for and I’ll make my fortune that way.