Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Beantown




I couldn't pick between the two pictures so I had to add both! :-)

After getting of the train in Boston, I spent a few days with Kara and Shawn since I seam to be following them all over the country, of course I saw them in Boston too.

It was good to be back in Boston, I liked it back in 2006 and I think I like it even better now.  One thing I never realized is that Boston is a real craft beer town.  Out of all the bars that we went to I don't think any of them had Miller, Cores, or Budweiser on tap, but rather all good beers!  Cool!

We walked around the city and stopped at different bars, bakeries, coffee shops, and restaurants.  All were pretty cool, but the best was probably the beer tasting at Harpoon Brewery.  It was for one hour where they described the beers they had on tap (about 10 or so) and let you try as many as you wanted within that hour.  Most of them were quite good.  Even though Europe has some good beer, I do miss the American craft beers every once in a while.

All in all, good trip as usual.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Amtrak!






After my work trip in Washington I went to Boston to visit Shawn and Kara and I got there with Amtrak!  This is the intercity train company in America.  I was so looking forward to this to compare it with European train travel.  Above is a picture from Wikipedia of what the train looks like.  So old compared to European trains, apparently the cars are from the 1970's!

There were a number of people that were really surprised that I was taking the train, they asked was flying too expensive.  I answered I did not even look, I wanted to ride the train, it was a big part of my trip!  Yes it took 8 hours to get there, but a nice 8 hours getting to see a lot of things like Baltimore, Philadelphia, NYC, little towns, and all kinds of cool abandon warehouses.  It was really cool and the time really just flew right by between me reading and gazing out the windows.  Really enjoyable.

Now, about the train.  It was much better than I expected!  Still no Thalys, but still.  I road in coach and the entire ride was only $70!  The weird things was that in Washington you had to go to gates like you were about to get on an airplane.  Everyone lined up too like they were waiting to get on a plane...I was like WTF.  When the opened the door I thought to my self, this is stupid, it is a train, and I just walked in front on the line to the train.  First strange thing was, there was no platform!  This is a major train station and you had to walk up the train steps to get on the train!  Strangest thing was that this was the only stop on the entire trip that was like that...even the little tiny stations had platforms.  Strange.

The seats were huge with lots of room.  There were even power outlets which was nice but I did not use them.  The windows were a bit small compared to most trains I've been on but not too small I guess.  The whole inside look and feel kinda reminded me a bit of being in a plane.  The bathrooms were also really clean.  That was a nice surprise.

Going through NYC was pretty cool.  It was such a bummer that it was not possible to get out there for a while to look around and then take a different train the rest of the way to Boston.  I did get some nice pictures of the city from the train though:




Almost everyone got out in NYC and a whole new group of people got in even the train workers.  Throughout almost the entire ride, the train was full.  That was a nice surprise as I didn't think people in America rode trains.  I think it's a bit different on the east coast though compared to Pittsburgh.  This too was also apparently the only electrified tracks that Amtrak has and the only section of tracks that they actually own.

In any case, I would highly recommend taking Amtrak if you have the opportunity.  So much better than a plane and much less hassle.  Next thing I want to try is riding through the mountains in the west, that is supposed to be pretty cool.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

OPNETWORK2012


A few months ago I was asked what I thought about looking into performance at work.  I thought it sounded cool and got invited to go to OPNETWORK2012 presented by OPNET.  The conference was in Washington D.C. and I really enjoyed it.  This was not your average conference where you sit and listen to things all day long.  No, here you got to pick classes to go to where everyone got computers to use.  At the class, you learned different things and got to do labs using the real software to test out what was shown to you.  There are a lot of things that I hope to use now that I know they are available to me.  I'm also looking forward to trying some new things at work as well.

The craziest part about this thing was it was totally free (except transportation and hotel).  It was well worth it I thought.  The only bad thing was the food was pretty gross and almost the same every day.  Me and some other guys from PPG just went out to eat most of the time instead and had some really great food.  I had the best tapas I ever had the one night.  Such a good meal.  Then at night, OPNET hosted drinks on the rooftop of our hotel with a view of the Washington monument.

Friday my parents came to see me and I got to spend the afternoon with them since there were no more classes.  That was nice.  We walked around to do some sight seeing.  Above is the WWII memorial.  It looks cool in the picture, but you really should see it in person!  Later we met my Aunt who works only a few blocks away from my hotel in the FBI building for some yogurt.

After that went back to the hotel and just relaxed for a while.  The next day was my first day on an Amtrak train.  More to come on that next time.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What to do when people change?

It's a fact of life, people change, things never stay the same no matter how much you either want or do not want them to.  Eventually nothing is static.  This never makes it easier to deal with.

I've lost someone who I considered my best friend.  Nothing bad happened between the two of us, and no one moved, things just changed and that is that.  It's strange the way things happen.  At first you don't even really realize it, then you think it is just a phase, and then there are all these in between steps as well.  I don't really know how to explain it.  Then one day all of a sudden it just hits you like wow, things are really different now and they are probably never going back to how they used to be.  It sucks and there really isn't a way to prepare for it.

I still feel like I'm some kind of weirdo that never had a "best friend" growing up and always had that person be there for you no matter what from childhood until well...forever I guess.  I've gone through stages of having really good friends and then loosing touch and then making new ones.  It's really hard to connect back with the old ones after a while I find.  While I look forward to making new friends (as I'm sure it will come) I'm just not ready to let some go.  But the problem is the more I try the worse off I feel.  Recently I've just stopped trying altogether.  It makes me feel awful but I don't really know what else to do because I feel trying and trying and trying while receiving nothing in return is even worse.  There is only so much you can take of: let's go to the bar: no | Let's go to the gym: no | Let's hang out: no | Let's go out: no | Let's grab some food: no | After a while you get sick and tired of hearing that answer and just start answering for the person, you don't even ask anymore because you know there is a lurking: no just waiting to answer you back.

I just wish I knew how to better deal with these kinds of things or maybe even to prevent them from happening all together.  Sigh, at least I have a trip coming up.  Travel always cheers me up, especially when it is longer than a couple of days.

This post probably sounds strange but I really don't want to include details or make it easy to identify who I am talking about.  I just need an outlet to "talk" to at the moment and since there is no one else around that can listen, I am using Blogger as my outlet.  I also don't want a ton of people feeling sorry for me either, that is not what this post is about, so I am disabling comments for this post as well.  Don't worry about me though, I'll cope, I always do...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gent

I would have to say that Gent is now the coolest city in Belgium.  I like it better than Antwerp, just look:

What a cool place!  The trip started out on not such a good note though.  I made it to Rotterdam to transfer to Fyra (high speed train to Belgium) but it was over an hour late and the train was then absolutely packed!  That part sucked, but once I got to Antwerp and transferred there to a Belgian train the rest of the way to Gent (Ghent in English by the way) I had no problems.

I got out in Gent St. Pieters even though it was a bit further from my hotel, I wanted to see the place.  It was pretty nice as expected but under construction so I did not take many pictures.  From there I walked to my hotel.  Not too many interesting things of note there, but my hotel was really cool.  I stayed in an old nun's room at a monastery that is now a hotel.  It is called Monastarium PoortAckere.

Walking around the city after that, people probably thought I was crazy, I was turning in every direction and just saying wow, wow, wow.  Everything was so amazing, really!  I took so many pictures.  Had a beer along one of the main rivers and just explored the city.

For dinner I at at a place called Vier Tafels (four tables).  It was excellent!  I had smoked salmon with a wasabi cream sauce, then duck best with sweat chilli sauce veggies, and rice, and finally chocolate mousse.  Yum, I was happy.  After this I actually went back around taking pictures both at dusk and at night, that's how much I liked this place.

The next day I found a great little coffee place for breakfast.  It really reminded me of an American neighborhood coffee shop that really cares about quality and not just getting people through the line.  Very cool.  I walked around a bit more then decided to go but of course I got a box of chocolates first!  Instead going directly home instead of just switching trains in Antwerp, I got out and hung out in the city for a while.  Good idea, the cathedral in the middle of the city was playing a bunch of songs from it's bell tower outside.  I grabbed a seat at a nearby café, got a Belgian beer, listened to the bells, and read my book, perfect.

All and all, was a good trip and am really glad I decided to go at the last minute even though no one else wanted to.  Here is a link to the pictures.