Friday, August 23, 2013

Utah 2013: Part V

For previous installments in this series, please see Part I, Part II, Part III, and/or Part IV.

Tuesday, August 20th
We’ve had the same laptop for several years now. It was a low-end laptop at the time we got it, considering which I think it’s had a very good run. Although opinions vary, I’ve been led to believe that a cheaper laptop may only last you three or four years. We’ve gone a year or two beyond that with our current model, and I feel good about that. But lately, it’s really started to show signs of old age. Although we don’t use the laptop for anything fancy, it’s started to run slowly and get hung up on things somewhat often. This has been annoying, but with so much of Edison’s and Peter’s schoolwork needing to be done online, the deteriorating state of the laptop has become increasingly problematic. I’ve seen it coming for a while now that we’d need to buy a new laptop. And now that Edison and Peter are back in school and the laptop is even worse than it was a few months ago, we decided to act now. I did some research online and then went out on Tuesday morning and purchased a new, lower-end laptop.

You’d think having a new laptop would be kind of fun and exciting. Melanie and I aren’t tech geeks by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of buying something like this. Unfortunately, I’m feeling a bit lost. Every new laptop PC I could easily find runs Windows 8, and Windows 8 is radically different from any of its predecessors. Everything is based on the idea of “apps” rather than “programs,” and the setup is geared toward touchscreen interface rather than a mouse. You can still use a mouse, of course, but you can tell that’s not what it was designed for. It is not an intuitive system to me, and I think it’s ridiculous how long it can take to figure out something really basic like how to shut down the computer or how to get out of a program -- er, app. There is no longer a start menu, so the normal way you might try to locate something (like calculator or notepad, two basic programs I actually use quite a bit) is not available. Sure, the new ways of doing things might be simple -- but they are new, and hence, they are not the least bit obvious. It’s a far greater learning curve than I’ve ever had with a new computer, and it drastically dampens any fun I might otherwise be having. I really miss the way I used to have things set up, and some of it can’t even be replicated on this new system. In this regard, the new laptop is very bittersweet.

Alas, turning to happier news, Melanie and I took the kids over to my parents’ home in the later afternoon on Tuesday. It was the smallest crowd we’ve faced yet, and as much as I love seeing people I don’t often get to see, I think it helped to have less competition in the room. I was actually able to interact with people in a more sustained way. We also hit a milestone by leaving our kids alone with my parents for the first time. They (the kids) were totally comfortable with it, which was really cool. Our kids absolutely love Melanie’s parents and have a really great relationship with them. They are fairly closed-off to my parents and pretty much avoid speaking to them. What it boils down to is that they just don’t know my parents. My parents are basically strangers to them. Melanie’s parents, on the other hand, are like their best buds. The reason is simple, really. They have had a lot more interaction with Melanie’s parents. Melanie’s parents have come out to visit us several times, unlike my parents. Melanie’s parents regularly speak to our children on the phone, unlike my parents. My mom told me that she doesn’t want to bother our kids because they don’t seem comfortable around her, and so she tries to leave them alone. But that’s just guaranteeing that my parents will remain forever strangers to my children. It’s kind of sad, to be honest. I imagine my children growing up and not having a clue as to what to say about my parents. That’s kind of depressing to me, but I can’t force things, can I? Anyway, returning to the positive side of this story, Melanie and I left the kids with my parents and went out to pick up dinner from the nearby Woody’s Drive-In. Woody’s is an old carhop, a burgers-and-malts type of place. Utah seems to have quite a few of these places, but I’ve never found anything similar in Atlanta or Tallahassee. Sonic or Dairy Queen is about as close as you can get, but it’s a poor comparison in my mind. The places I’m talking about have awesome food that seems mom-and-pop produced rather than mass-produced. They have tons of shake flavors and a wide variety of food -- not just burgers and fries, but hot dogs, fish, gyros, fried zucchini, fried mushrooms, Reubens, flavored sodas, and on and on. Melanie and I both ate bacon mushroom burgers with fried zucchini. Melanie also had a caramel cashew shake, and I had a raspberry cheesecake shake. Tell me where you can get all that in Tallahassee? That’s right. You can’t.

Wednesday, August 21st
I had to spend some of the earlier hours on Wednesday working on a syllabus for the fall semester. You see, I’m teaching Symbolic Logic again. They offered it to me, and even when I told them I’d be out of town for the first week of the semester, they said the job was mine. The department chair is going to fill in for me during the first week of school, but it’s mine after that. This is a really great opportunity, and I’m excited about it. I TA’d for this course in the summer, and it made me desirous to teach the course again, even before I knew it was a possibility for me to do so. The hard part is that I’m going to have 48 students, rather than the 17 or so students I had when I previously taught the same course, and I won’t have a TA to do all the grading for me. Still, I don’t think teaching the course will require much prep time, and that’s a huge bonus. I’ve already got a nice set of PowerPoint slides I can utilize. It’ll be nice.

One of Melanie’s and my very favorite parts of our Utah trip last year was what we dubbed our “super date.” We left early in the morning and didn’t come back until after our kids had been put to bed by Melanie’s parents. This year, we went on what you might call a “super duper date.” At my mother-in-law’s suggestion, Melanie and I actually went on an overnight date. We left around 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon and didn’t get back until 8 p.m. on Thursday night. It was quite lovely. We started off by heading to Ruth’s Diner, where we enjoyed eating dinner al fresco. A bee started harassing Melanie near the end of our meal, which was kind of a drag, but it was otherwise extremely pleasant. We then headed downtown to the Broadway Centre theater and saw a movie. Being at the Broadway once again made me think that Salt Lake City is like Manhattan when compared to Tallahassee. Not just the culture of having a theater geared toward independent film, but seeing the bustle of the slightly upscale restaurant attached to it and the general sheen of the peripheral nightlife. Many would scoff at the notion that SLC offers something of a nightlife, but compared to what Tally offers, it’s something else.

After the movie, we headed to the city of Bountiful, which is about 10 minutes north of SLC. Melanie and I had hoped to stay in a hotel downtown, but we couldn’t find anything that wasn’t substantially more expensive than what we could find elsewhere. We actually got our hotel room via, with one of those "last minute deals" types of things. Basically, they tell you the general area in which the hotel is located and how much the room will cost and then you decide if you want to accept the deal or not, all without knowing the actual hotel at which you’ll be staying. Once you accept a deal, they reveal which hotel you’ll be staying at. We stayed at a Country Inn and were extremely pleased. We were given a spacious king suite, and it was less than we’ve paid for a hotel room in years. Not much at all, really. It was awesome. I don’t know if people will find it pathetic or not, but we quite enjoyed just kicking back in an oversized bed and watching Househunters without having to worry about kids interrupting us. It was blissful. By the time we went to bed, it was something like 2 a.m. The room was dark, and we were able to drop the thermostat to whatever we wanted, which kept the room quite cool. Yes, it was very, very lovely. Not that it amounts to much, but here are a few photos of the room:

Thursday, August 22nd
The super duper date continued. I woke up shortly after 8 a.m. and got ready for the day. It felt great being in bed, but I knew I wouldn’t fall back to sleep very easily, and I worried I might actually feel worse if I did fall back asleep and have to wake up again. I also get antsy whenever I feel like I’m wasting time, so up and to the shower I went. Melanie woke up a little while later, and we got our stuff together to check out. We had hoped to catch breakfast somewhere bakery-like. I didn’t want to eat anything too heavy, because I expected us to eat out for both lunch and dinner. We also planned on going to a couple of movies, and I assumed we’d get popcorn at least one of those times. As it turns out, we ended up skipping breakfast altogether. Not that we wanted to, but it’s what happened. You see, we had spent some time the night before figuring out what our first movie of the day would be. We discovered a movie theater not too far from our hotel that had early showtimes. It was a theater we’d never been to before, and that made it seem fun to go there. And so we had a showtime all picked out. By the time we were checking out of our hotel, however, we felt that we had better go straight to the theater. And so we did, hoping that the theater might actually have something light that we could eat. (This isn’t an outrageous hope, given that many of the new theaters of this particular brand offer a variety of food options.) Sadly, the theater didn’t offer much beyond the standard fare. Feeling starved, we ordered popcorn and a couple of drinks. That was our breakfast.

As Melanie rightly points out, Utah has a strange habit of making dirt-colored buildings. Isn’t being a desert good enough without having to make the buildings look like dead earth, too? We don’t get it.

The rest of our day didn’t go quite as I’d expected it, either. I’m amazed at how little time it felt like we had, all things considered. After the first movie of the day, we returned to Salt Lake City proper and went to Grinders 13 for lunch. I was happy to hit them for a second time during our vacation, because I love them so much and they have two equally delicious sandwiches that rival for my affections. I had the pot roast sandwich this time around, which was not quite as good as it should have been, I think because the guy making the sandwich originally forgot to put on the gravy and then just gave me a cup of gravy after the fact that I could add to the sandwich myself. It wasn’t mixed into the sandwich in the way it would have been, and it made a difference. Still, it was good. After lunch, Melanie and I slowly meandered back toward the south of side of town, briefly stopping in at a grocery store to pick up a few things, and then heading to yet another movie theater. We bought our tickets, then quickly dropped in at a nearby Target to kill a few minutes.  We then headed back to the theater and watched our second movie of the day. (In this case, we saw Kick-Ass 2, with Melanie being one of only two females in the theater, I believe. BTW, Utah movie theaters list Kick-Ass 2 simply as Kick A 2. How quaint!) By that time the movie ended, it was 6:30p.m. How is it that our super date last year seemed so much longer than this super duper date? Who knows. At this point, Melanie and I drove to our final date destination, a new pizza place we’d heard good things about called Pizzeria Limone. Melanie and I both chose a pizza that was olive-oil-based and marinara-free. My pizza had fresh basil, thinly sliced pear, prosciutto ham, and crushed pistachios. Melanie’s also had fresh basil, but featured thinly sliced lemon and red onion. I must say, Melanie’s was better. The lemon really made it taste fresh and lively.

By 8 p.m., we were back at Melanie’s parents’. Eddie, Peter, and Creegan excitedly ran to Melanie and hugged her aplenty. Eddie gave me a hug. Peter and Creegan barely looked at me. I had to special request hugs from them. After talking for a few minutes with our boys and Melanie’s parents, we put the kids to bed. Despite the wonderful break we had been afforded, I almost immediately lost my patience with my children and they were soon expressing that they hated me. It was rather depressing, to be honest. Melanie and I are hoping that next time around, we can get away for two nights. I can’t wait.

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