News about me, and my thoughts, jokes, and stuff.

Sean's Blog

He’s at it again

Most people who know me may remember my fundraising bike ride in 2007, which I did to raise money for MS research.  Well, I’m going to be doing that ride again this year.  My reasons remain the same – knowing people with MS and wanting to help out in some way.  The last time I did this, I set a low goal, and ended up getting quite a bit more in contributions.  So this time, I’m more ambitious in what I think I can raise: my goal is a cool $1000.

I’m riding 50 miles again, a distance I have not tackled since that previous MS ride.  Once again, I need to work up to it, so I’ll be posting here about my training rides.  I also expect that I will be able to live blog some of the event this time (I thought I could last time, but my cell phone wasn’t up to the task – I have a better device now).

I have a page setup on the National MS Society web site where you can make contributions, though you can also contact me to pledge and then pay later.  If you have any questions, please do e-mail me.

Posted by seaking on 08-31-2009 at 10:08 pm
Posted in Biking, News with 0 Comments

Memphis: Young Man Preacher and Old Man River

My last full day in Memphis began with the conference, but that finished in the mid-afternoon, so I had a lot of time ahead of me.  I first went to the National Civil Rights Museum.  It’s located South of downtown, in the old Lorraine Hotel – the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.

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A white wreath hangs on the balcony railing where King was shot:

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Photography is not allowed inside the museum, so I have no pictures to show of the interior.  Much of it is not necessarily worth photographing, as it has a lot of informational text on wall displays, with some images to illustrate.  The whole museum is structured so that visitors traverse it in a linear fashion, and are following a timeline of the African-American struggle for civil rights in the U.S.  It starts in the days of slavery and progresses forward, but most of the length deals with the events of the 1950’s and ’60’s.

There are certainly some eye-catching exhibits, though, such as a bus from the period, which visitors can walk through, and which has a statue of Rosa Parks sitting in a seat near the front.  There’s also a lunch counter mock-up with statues of student protesters sitting at it; a partial, burnt-up bus illustrating the Freedom Rides exhibit; and a garbage truck flanked by statues of striking sanitation workers, wearing “I am a man” signs.  The tour of that building finishes with visitors walking by a preserved version of one of the rooms from the time, right by where King was staying, and being able to look out the window onto the spot on the balcony where he was shot.

One then leaves the building, and crosses the street.  One goes through this gate (which was slid to the side when I went through – I took this picture after the place closed).

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This leads to a tunnel, which goes into the basement of this building:

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One then ascends to the top floor and goes through an exhibit all about the investigation of the assassination.  This includes being able to look at the bathroom from which James Earl Ray fired the shot.  The small window in the middle of the picture below is that bathroom window:

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The main floor of the building finishes the museum, with exhibits dealing more broadly with other struggles for rights and equality, and detailing some progress made in Memphis and the nation since the ’60’s.  The place was certainly money and time well spent.

After I left the museum, I walked West toward the mighty Mississippi.  At one point I got to a stairway that descended to a road, across which was a park by the river.  Here’s a picture taken from that stairway:

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Here are views of the river taken from the riverbank – looking North:

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and looking South:

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I walked North along the river for a while, which took me back into downtown.  I came upon a smaller park on the edge of downtown, and was a bit surprised (though maybe I shouldn’t have been) to see the name of the park:

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I wouldn’t think too many people would want to commemorate the Confederacy, but then there was a big fight to keep the Confederate flag atop the South Carolina capitol a few years ago.

Soon after that park, I came to a city visitors’ center, which was closed, but had this mosaic egg out front:

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From there I moved away from the river a bit, and headed North up a different street.  I encountered this interesting piece of sculpture:

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I went inside that large part on the left, which had a bench around the interior.

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I could look up at the high part:

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and then I went back outside and looked up through the high part:

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I also took some pictures of the sculpture’s underside:

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A bit further North is The Pyramid, which is a currently-unused arena:

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In front of the place is this statue:

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Just past the Pyramid was a bridge over to Mud Island, which has a parks and residences on it.  I walked across, taking a couple more pictures of the water – this time of the narrow channel that runs between the Tennessee bank and the island (known as the Wolf River).  This is looking South:

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That’s the island to the right, with the Interstate 40 bridge going over it.  This is looking North, with ripples cause by a boat heading in to dock:

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Technically, the ‘island’ is a peninsula.  If you look at a map (or satellite photo), it is connected to the mainland at the Northern end.  I did venture that far, though.  Once I crossed the bridge, I headed across the main road, and into another park, where I could look across the large part of the river, and watch the sun set on the Arkansas side:

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I then headed back the way I’d come to go back to the hotel.  On the way, I was passing under I-40, and saw these bears propped against a column:

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Perhaps they were put there as a memorial to someone?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Posted by seaking on 08-16-2009 at 07:08 pm
Posted in Travel with 1 Comment

Memphis: Long Live the Kitsch

The conference I attended included, as part of the registration cost, a group tour of Graceland on the first evening we were there.  I’ve never been an Elvis fan, but I was curious about the place, and it was no additional cost, so I went.

Graceland seems to consist of 2 parts.  There is the mansion itself, with its grounds and other buildings, and across the road, where all the parking is, there are a couple of restaurants, Elvis’ car museum (he owned a number of vehicles), and at least 6 different gift shops (each selling a different theme of memorabilia, e.g. music-related stuff, movie-related, etc.).  When we actually went to tour the mansion, we rode across the street in shuttle buses (even though it would have been a 3-minute walk).  Each person was issued an audio player with the tour guide recording on it.

Here are the gates to the estate, seen from near the gift shops across the road:

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The front of the mansion, with attendant lion statues:

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No flash was allowed for photography inside the place, so some of my pictures are dark and/or blurry.

Here is the front parlor/music room:

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The stairway (the public isn’t allowed up to the second floor):

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The dining room:

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The kitchen, which looks like a lot of 70’s-era kitchens, really:

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From there, the tour went into the basement, where things got a bit weirder.  Here is Elvis’ TV room:

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Note the mirrored ceiling:

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The room is all done in yellow and navy blue, and it has 3 TVs because Elvis wanted to be like Lyndon Johnson, who purportedly watched all 3 networks at the same time when he was president.

Just after that, we saw the pool room, in which the walls and ceiling were decorated with many, many yards of fabric:

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We then ascended to the “jungle room”, at the back of the house:

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This wall has water trickling down through the stones:

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We then went outside to visit some other buildings.  Here’s the back of the mansion:

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The bulk of exhibits of Elvis’ stuff is in the Trophy Building.  This includes a gold lame suit (I don’t remember when or where he wore it):

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All of his gold and platinum records hang here:

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Here are items of clothing from some of his concerts:

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Just before I left the building, there was this interesting painting:

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We then proceeded to the former racquetball court, which held more memorabilia:

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especially more jumpsuits:

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After that was the shrine where he and his family are buried.

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Here’s the King’s grave itself, followed by his mother, father, and grandmother:

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The King is watched over by the King of Kings:

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And thus conlcuded my visit to Graceland.  Parts of it were more garish than I’d expected, but parts looked like almost any other American home from the period.  It was certainly an eclectic mix.

Next post: a different King.

Posted by seaking on 08-09-2009 at 04:08 pm
Posted in Other with 0 Comments

Memphis: Luxury and Ducks

In mid-July, I went on a business trip to Memphis, attending a conference put on by a software vendor.  It was my first time being anywhere in Tennessee.  The person who wanted me to go, and who was in charge of the travel budget, insisted that I should stay in the same hotel where the conference was taking place: The Peabody.  It’s a rather fancy, historic hotel, but when I checked in, I was informed that I’d been upgraded to the Peabody Club.  Among other things, this meant that my room would be on the exclusive 12th floor, which you can only get to by putting your room key in a slot in the elevator (this turned out to be more of an inconvenience than a feature – it’s certainly not like I was worried about the riff-raff populating my hallway).

My room turned out to have a few amenities I’m not used to from past lodging experience.  For one, in addition to a couple of chocolate squares on the night table, there was also a plate of confections:

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That’s a white chocolate-covered strawberry, a petit-four, and a white mixed-nut cluster.  It turned out that they put a new such plate in my room every evening (and it was the same stuff each time, except that one night the cluster was dark chocolate instead of white).

The room also had an lcd tv, which wasn’t of much interest to me since I didn’t watch any tv while there.  It also had a nice Bose radio instead of the usual cheap alarm clock.  Here are other pics of the place:

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And here is the view out one of the windows:

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Including a little architectural feature:

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The room was in a section of the building that jutted out, so another window had a view of the building wall, and the edge of the roof:

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Later on, I was on the roof, and took a picture of that window from above (the one with the rounded top):

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The rooftop had some nice views of the city (and the river):

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Also on the roof was this structure, which one could not enter:

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But it had these creepy-looking paintings of children in the windows:

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Here is the neat sign on top of the place:

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The Peabody is also home to the “World Famous Peabody Ducks“.  I had not heard of them (or the hotel, for that matter) before I planned this trip, but apparently they are pretty well-known.  The ducks live most of the time in an enclosed area on the roof called:

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In their palace, the ducks have their own little fountain, as well as a miniature version (not exactly to scale) of the hotel:

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At one point they were all partaking of some salad:

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Part of each day, the ducks are not in the palace.  They are led in the late morning to the fountain in the lobby of the hotel, and there they stay until 5pm.  I got a few pics of them in their daytime workplace:

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The ducks seem to be a major attraction, as people come to the lobby in large crowds (whether or not they’re staying at the hotel) to see the twice-daily duck marches.  Duck logos are printed on all of the hotel’s materials, stationery, etc.  Did I mention that they even have duck-shaped soap?

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That soap in now in use at our bathroom at home.

Next post: a different kind of palace.

Posted by seaking on 08-09-2009 at 03:08 pm
Posted in Travel with 2 Comments