June 22nd, 2005


Clear Lake, Iowa

I cannot believe how humid it is here. And hot.

The rental company gave me a metallic green PT Cruiser. I hated those things from the first time I saw them. But I'd never been in one, let alone driven one.

There are some good things to be said for it. Excellent sound system. I like the window washer mounted on the wipers. And the rear windshield wiper. The seats are very comfortable. And that's about it.

The shocks are hard. I had to drive in the left lane as much as I could because the right lane, where the trucks have made each slab of concrete separate from the next one, bumped so bad I couldn't stand the feeling or the noise. It has slightly less turning radius than my Corolla. For a narrow car, this is bad. When you use the windshield washer on the freeway, it coats the front windows to the point where you can't see out of them for a couple of minutes. The side mirrors are not wide enough, there's a huge blind spot. And it is mostly gutless above 60 MPH. The controls for the electric windows are on the dashboard above the radio. How stupid is that? None on the door. The door locks are manual.

And the kicker is the PT Cruiser they gave me has no cruise control. Made the drive pretty nasty, 120 of it was straight freeway.

The lady at the hotel desk recommended a place for dinner. I told her I was looking for prime rib. She gave me a map and directions to The Half Moon. It's on Buddy Holly Drive. She said the locals like it.

From the outside it looks like a bad dive bar. Inside it is very nicely appointed, maybe 25 tables and a few booths, and low lighting. The bar seats about a dozen. The menu is only a handful of items. Prime rib is only on Fri-Sat. I had top sirloin. The serving they gave me was about half of what I expected for my $12. And not as good a cut either.

And then people around me lit up cigarettes. Yuk.

There is no no-smoking section. They don't even have that concept here.

Not So Clear Lake

Day 1 on site. Got up at 7, went to the lobby at 8, breakfasted on the continent, though it was definitely the continental US of A. Used the very nice waffle maker, which worked to perfection, though the batter was just a tad bland.

Went downtown and bought some hand lotion. Took off my thumb brace before flying out here - it was due to come off on the 19th, anyway. The after-effect was very dry skin on my thumb, some chafing at the base, and cuticle as hard as a rock. And everything felt rough to the touch when rubbed over that thumb. Bizarre nerve ending death throes, I think.

Walked around downtown, took lots of pictures. It's a town trying to be quaint, and pretty much succeeding. At 8:30 am it was already in the 80's. Humidity is oppressive.

Back to the hotel by 9, expecting a call from Bob the engineer back home who had emailed at 2:30 am (12:30 am Pacific) that he had done some work and was going home, and would call me. He didn't.

I called him at 11:30 to let him know I was going on site after lunch, 1 pm, and headed downtown for lunch. About 5 blocks from the site, the site manager called, and said they were worried I'd gotten lost. I told him the news about the network being down, and said I could be there in a couple of minutes. So I went to the site, he set me up with a desk and an internet connection, and I poked around till I could access the servers. By then it was his lunchtime, as well as that of the other fellow I was working with there. Both good people, which has been my experience most places I've been.

I walked around and shot more pictures downtown, and then had lunch at a nice Italian place,sitting outside on the covered deck, overlooking City Park. That's what it's official name is. Clever, don't you think? Very very humid, but a nice breeze. Had the rigatoni & sausage. It was smothered in some generic tomato paste, processed sausages not Italian style. The combo of the heavy paste and the humidity kept me from eating much of the pasta.

While at lunch, someone passed by the patio and said to one of the customers at another table "Where have you been? I haven't seen you all Summer!". The customer sputtered something, and hung out to dry for a minute or so before the passer-by reminded her today was the first day of Summer. :-)

Walked around some more, and then back to work.

At about 4 pm we had a conference call with all the companies involved in this setup, and discovered that what I had been told Monday that I was supposed to set up was not at all what was supposed to be set up. This by the same guy who told me on Monday. Net result is my company now looks like a bunch of amateurs, and we probably won't have this playing video before I leave on Friday.

The evening's adventure was a trip halfway around the lake on a sternwheeler. At 7 pm it was still in the 80's, humidity up near the same percent, and it seemed like a good time to be out on the lake. It was, sort of, but as we got out farther from shore it actually became difficult to breath. Staying up on the bow helped. All the people smoking did not. Way too many people here smoke.

Got some nice photos, will post them on my return.

It's a huge lake. You can't see the far side from the dock. About halfway across you can. It would be great for hydroplane races. Lots of different water traffic, and plenty of room to safely play. The water is not clear, it's the usual green murky lake color. The lake is lined wall to wall with houses, condos, apartments except for two state parks which have sizable beaches. Funny thing is the rich kids who have the lakeside houses are almost all flying the flag of their alma mater from their dock. The vast majority were U Iowa Hawkeye flags. I only saw two Iowa State Cyclone flags. I think I saw one Indiana flag, too.

After the cruise I went to Bennigan's for dinner, across the highway from the hotel. I figured it would have the kind of variety the one in Santa Clara has. I figured wrong. The only steak-like object was a rib-eye, which is what I ordered. Good size, adequate quality, but again nothing like what it should have been for cattle country. The waitress was superb. She had a way of personalizing the service, even though she was juggling four or five tables.

And here I am, back at the hotel. Will go onsite after breakfast tomorrow.
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