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My grandmother

My grandmother died this morning at the age of 77.   Words can’t even begin to describe the misery she went through in the past several years of her life. Her immense medical record was just about as long as the list of doctors who were mortified at the prospect of having to navigate the murky medical waters of a woman who, by all rights, should have been dead five times over. Between her assisted living facility, the various wards of the hospital, and rehab facilities spanning across several

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2018

Dang it, where are our teleporters?

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The Problems of The Last Jedi

*peers around corner nervously*   Hi, y'all. It's been a hot minute. Life's been bananas, but the semester is drawing to a conclusion and though I have much left on my plate to finish before January, I fulfilled my obligations and saw The Last Jedi.   Going into it, I was somewhat nervous for where the series was headed. I really enjoyed The Force Awakens, though perhaps my enthusiasm was amplified by the fact that I was seeing a Star Wars film on the big screen when I thought for years that

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Doctor #13

Every three to five years, on average, the incumbent Doctor regenerates, and because the BBC doesn't want to keep things a surprise until the actual regeneration episodes—which seem to occur exclusively on Christmases, for some heretofore unacknowledged reason—we, as fans, are left with knowing who's next in line without the benefit of seeing their Doctor's performance in an actual episode.   I became a fan of the show during the Tenth Doctor's run, and I remember the absolute uproar that accomp

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The Journey Home

-----There were several ways to get back to North Carolina from the Lexington area, but we had several provisions for a successful return. The fastest route by time would have taken us through the mountains of West Virginia, which we had sworn off on the way up and were not about to risk on the trip's final day. Instead, we opted for a scenic drive—by Kentucky standards, which means lots and lots of trees and mountains—through Appalachia, which saved miles but sacrificed a bit of time.   -----

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Water We Doing

-----Over the past several days, our hotel breakfasts have been slipping from the upward side of mediocrity down towards the barely edible. After a couple of pancakes that hardly deserved the name—and how on Earth do you mess up a pancake?—we headed out of Champaign towards the Indiana border. We picked up much traffic en route to Indianapolis, and instead of skirting around it, we went directly into its heart to Victory Field, home of the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians.   -----But what was to

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The Staff Inflection

-----There were no clouds when we left West Des Moines, and post-mediocre waffles, we set out for downtown. The fastest route was through the city, and along the route lay the stadium of the Iowa Cubs, Chicago's Triple-A affiliate. With no game on the docket, we waltzed past the silent front desk people and straight into the team store, where there was no one there. My dad's timid "hellos" would have echoed eerily had the store been larger.   -----Most of what the Iowa Cubs sell is just regul

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Music of the Storm

-----We left Mitchell at 10:00 and hit I-90 towards Sioux Falls. For the first time since the day we left Olympia, we spent time off of that particular road, as we merged onto I-29 southbound towards Sioux City. But before Sioux City, we got off on ND-50 towards Vermillion, home of the National Music Museum. Like many of the great museums, it's one that withstands repeated visits and elicits the same stupefied fascination each time, even if a great many of their exhibits stay identical. Thei

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Summer Catches Up

-----Just like the past few days, it was I-90 all the way. It was the last of the Rocky Mountain foothills, as South Dakota brings with it the prospect of true plains where the speed limit of 80 almost seems low once you get used to going such a speed. We know that Wyoming can be a pleasant state, though it wasn't much so this time—but the "fajitas" weren't upsetting us.   -----We were to South Dakota pretty much before we knew it, and within two hours of our 10:00 departure had made it to Rap

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The Worst Wyoming Gets

-----We've put around three thousand miles on the vehicle since its last oil change/tire rotation in Anchorage, and the intervening three thousand include the Tok Cut-Off, the Top of the World Highway, and the vicious hills and traffic in the state of Washington. We wouldn't be able to get back home without a last stop at a dealership, and luckily, one was about a mile from where we stayed in Bozeman. My dad returned about forty-five minutes after leaving and reported that somehow, the brakes

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Big Storm Country

-----From Spokane, it was all I-90 today. We crossed the state line, through the treacherously mountainous fifty-odd miles of the Idaho panhandle and then downhill on precipitous curves into Montana. We were hit with our first heat wave of the trip, as the high was 80º as we went through the mountain passes. After the Rocky Mountains conclude, it'll be some smooth sailing ... but getting through them proved more difficult than initially imagined.   -----The first city of much size in Montana

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The Spokane Word

-----All online evidence pointed to us having a five-hour drive day ahead, which is a good amount for an average day on the return journey. From Olympia, we were to travel north to Tacoma before splitting off of I-5 and joining I-90 as it traverses the state eastbound. But there wasn't anything to really break the trip up, as five hours in the car isn't daunting so much as the thought of going that distance with no significant breaks in the action.   -----Tacoma is the home of the Tacoma Rainier

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Long Road to Hoh

-----Our early mornings have finally become routine, I suppose, as we were able to get up bright and early in Forks. They call themselves the rainiest town in America, but regardless of that statement's truthfulness, it was sunny and nearly cloudless as we headed southbound.   -----Olympic National Park is massive, as it covers nearly the entirety of the peninsula. It gets multiple entrances and thus multiple visitor centers for its myriad natural wonders. We'd seen mountains and gotten top-o

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The Twilight Zone

-----Mercifully, for the first time since Minot, we awoke with cell phone reception. It’s a minor miracle, and it meant that we no longer had to calculate our phone’s morning alarms from central time backwards, which was a great annoyance. Texts from Alaska’s 511 service poured through to my mom's phone, which proved a hassle as updates on the Glenn Highway popped up periodically with no obvious way to unsubscribe. (We eventually were able to do so, though not without significant hassle.)   -

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Nap Time

-----We awoke at around 5:00 to a very bouncy ship. No storm was around us, but we’d entered choppier waters, unprotected by any islands to our west. We’d go up and down, squeaking on our mattresses as we went along, before things settled down a bit and we were able to continue to sleep.   -----After breakfast, we came back to the cabin and continued to sleep, catching up on much-needed rest, until the afternoon, when we assembled some of our luggage for the afternoon car deck call. The car d

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Ketch as Ketchikan

-----We’d reached Petersburg at 1:00 in the morning, and Wrangell at 5:00 in the morning, but I slept throughout. There is something calming about sleeping on a ship—the dull, interminable roar of the engines far away, murmuring through steel, the gentle rocking to and fro, enough to feel but not interfere, etc. My dad is a much lighter sleeper than I ever recall him being, having been awoken that morning by kids running around in the lounge area directly above our heads—as it turns out, spurr

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Russian to Action

-----We awoke hungry, and breakfast ended at 10:30. Our cabin and the entrance to the galley were pretty much on totally opposite ends of the ship, and it was thus to our advantage that the Malaspina is not a particularly long vessel.   -----I remain nonplussed with the state of affairs when it comes to the operations of passenger services. Our breakfast was plentiful and tasted good … when we got it. There are too many options and the line takes forever to get through. But they piled the br

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Setting Sail

-----Our Alaska Marine Highway ferry was scheduled to leave the dock at 5:00, and we wanted to be there early enough for its departure. But the vessels of the Highway are juggled early and often, and upon our confirmation, we learned that departure was actually 7:00. But it was better to be early than late, so we left Whitehorse—this time, for the final time—around 8:40 in the morning.   -----The hour and a half of driving between Whitehorse and the next sign of human activity in Haines Juncti

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Show Me the Carmacks

-----It was a pleasant night's sleep in Dawson City and we awoke refreshed enough to leave at 11:00 sharp. On the way out of the hotel, we talked to one of the owners, who was doing housekeeping work and was telling us of the meat he was smoking for the night's dinner. One short scenic drive about town later, and we found ourselves on Front Street, which morphed into the Klondike Highway as we exited the city. It's one of the Yukon's most memorable places, to be sure, though hard to get to as it

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On Top of the World

-----Due to the lateness of the hour in getting back from dinner at Fast Eddy's and repacking the vehicle, we abandoned the idea of getting up early enough to be at the border crossing when they opened. Instead, we invested in a good night's sleep and showered in the morning to prepare for a difficult day on some of the most treacherous sections of road this side of the Arctic Circle. We knew what lay ahead and we came prepared, and so we left Tok bound for Tetlin Junction, once again rejoinin

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Feeling Cutoff

-----We got to bed fairly early last night as my dad regaled us with one of his signature stories—this time, concerning one Ethel Shmütz—a human with an avocado for a head—and her penchant for vacuuming people's mushrooms. When we awoke, my parents wandered off to find some kind of breakfast at one of the establishments in the vast building, only to find tour bus people withreservations who still had wait times. They ended up going to a fantastically overpriced Starbucks and brought back some mu

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Don't Rock the Boat

-----It was get-up-and-go from our hotel to the departure point for our tour boat around Kenai Fjords National Park. We had to be there at 7:00 for boarding at 7:30 for an eventual departure at 8:00. Our tour took us through the waters around Seward, and the wildlife we saw was impeccable: a dozen-odd sea otters (one of which had napped all the way to much deeper waters), several pods of orcas who crested early and often around and under the ship, several humpback whales who displayed their ta

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Homer Hospitality

-----I awoke in Homer with a horrid stomach ache a little before 6:00 in the morning, and though I got up with the intention of somehow distracting myself, before long, my gastrointestinal tract had simply had enough. My growing and legitimate concern over potential dehydration led us to the hospital in Homer.   -----The hospital was very new, very nice, and very well-staffed in their emergency room, where I was given two liters of fluid as well as some nausea medication. They ran several tests

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Tunnel Vision

-----The most ambitious part of our ambitious journey was the planning of routine car servicing along the route, and amongst the first things we scheduled was an oil change and tire rotation in Anchorage. We'd gotten a quick tune-up in Whitecourt, that simply amounted to an oil change; the tires, which had been rotated before we left, needed no such care. We were able to shift our 9:00 appointment to 8:30 and got there just in time. Within an hour, they'd done a full tire rotation and oil cha

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