Back in Knoxville!
We had washed the car before leaving Maryland, but the roads were salty
all through Virginia. We had E re-wash the car for us:
This wash might last longer, as I don't think Tennessee believes in salt
(or plowing for that matter). I think their theory is that snow will
melt eventually, so why bother doing anything.
On Wednesday they were calling for rain, possibly turning to snow
after midnight. Yet somehow by 4pm we had a few inches of snow
on the ground:
We've managed to move to Knoxville during a cold and snowy series of
winters. The average yearly amount of snow is 9" and I think they've
hit that already and it's barely January.
On Saturday we thought we'd go to the Knoxville Zoo! We got the whole
way there only to find out it was closed. We'd forgotten that
here in the South things like Zoos will close when you get 2" of
Unlike the Wednesday snow storm (where they were calling for not much
and we got a lot) the Saturday storm was supposed to start Friday
early... but didn't amount to much at all.
We did finally get to the Zoo on Sunday after church.
We attempted to phone or check the web-site to see if it was open,
without much luck. It turns out we are too old-fashioned: the modern
way to find out was to check the Zoo's Facebook or Twitter pages.
We activated our
zoo membership, which was a very nice Christmas present from K's
sister. It was very cold,
so we spent a lot of time inside at the children's play area and
not as much time looking at the Elephants, Gorilla, and Zebras.
They have an area when you can pretend you are a zookeeper preparing
foods for the animals. E spent a long time slicing up the
fake food with a fake knife:
K and I stopped at the "Pizzaria" they had there; E was our
server. The service was a bit slow, but she
brought us ice-cream cones while the pizza was cooking.
She refused to let us eat until the "movie was done" (it was unclear
why and where there was a movie playing, it had to do with the curtains).
Then she wanted
$4 for the pizza and wouldn't take pretend money. By the time we worked
that out the pizza was cold so she had to put it back in the oven
Here's a picture of some llamas at the zoo messily devouring a
The big storm hitting the South today is supposed to give us 4-6" of
snow by Monday night. I'll believe that when I see it, but as you
can imagine the locals are a bit paniced.
SNOWBOUND! Well, not really, but 3" of snow was enough to
close the University of Tennessee for the day.
I took the following picture when putting out some mail on the off
chance that the mailman might come (she did! Score one for
the postal service). The road out front doesn't look any better now,
12 hours after the picture was taken.
Well the snow melted enough that I eventually went back to work.
A snow plow finally showed up about 24 hours after the snow had stopped,
but the roads were pretty clear by then anyway. It has been unusually
so the snow has been sticking around, but next week is supposed to be
warmer and rainy.
Despite temperatures hovering around the freezing point, the snow we
got was dry and
powdery. Thus my attempt at a snowman didn't get very far.
The sled tracks across our yard are actually from
neighbors possibly two streets up who I think were impressively trying
to sled the _whole_ hill that our development is on, weaving between
houses, even if it meant
getting hit by cars on the way down or ending up run down by a train
at the very bottom.
On Saturday we went to the
Museum of Oak Ridge. It was super crowded when we got there;
it turned out admission was free in celebation of the inauguration
of Tennessee's new governor (who was the previous mayor of Knoxville
and the owner of Pilot Truck Stops).
Apparently no children's museum is complete without a life-sized statue
of Annakin Skywalker in full pod-racing regalia. There was a cool
spaceship in this room but E didn't want to go into it.
Here's a vintage adding machine
left over from when Oak Ridge was a Secret City developing nuclear
weapons during WWII:
As an aside, I can't hear people talking about Secret Cities w/o
Commander Mark. Thats's probably dating myself though.
I ejoyed the WWII part of the museum, but K was annoyed. She thinks
parts of this museum weren't very childreny, that they just took
a regular museum and added a few things you can touch.
They had a cool water room. E had fun moving boats around; I'm
an engineer so I wanted to take the boats through the working locks.
The best part of the whole museum is a two-story playhouse.
Here's looking up at the upstairs:
There was a train exhibit, but we've seen so many of those lately it
wasn't that exciting. They do have a window where you can watch
the Knoxville Model Train club at work though:
Temperatures were back above freezing, as our melted snowman can attest.
Though as I'm writing this it is snowing big snowflakes outside; they
are calling for an inch or so by morning. I hope the locals don't panic
and cancel things,
as there's free pizza at lunch tomorrow and I don't want to miss
On Saturday we went to the
East Tennessee Discovery Center which is a small children's
museum right next to the zoo.
We got there early and for a while we were the only people there.
My favorite part was the spaceship. Here's E and K
I had fun making my logo on the rubber-band board:
We got to see a show at the planetarium there.
Luckily there was only one other family there, as E kept
making loud comments throughout.
Here we are playing with Legos:
The weather was very nice out: it was over 60° and sunny.
We had a picnic lunch in the park that surrounds the museum.
Not many other people were out and about, except everyone at the gun
show at the nearby fairgrounds, and the old guy looking for cans
who stopped by to ramble a bit about Eisenhower being the last
K has been re-reading some Austen books, which inevitably
leads to watching the various movies (none of the 6 hour versions yet
though). In all of these movies the bad guys always have
long sideburns and last names starting with "W". So you can't
say she wasn't warned.
We've been in Tennessee for a year now, so I'm starting to repeat
comments. I'm continuing to be shocked (just like last year)
that we get crocus flowers coming up before it's even
Sadly the warm weather is ending with a front going through that's
giving the rest of the country ice/snow. E has a concept of months
now (she knows it just turned to February) and she decided that the warm
weather meant summer would be here soon. I guess we'll have to see
what the groundhog says tomorrow.
Sunday the weather was supposed to be sunny and warm, but in the morning
when we were out and about it was still cloudy and chilly.
We swung past the UT Hospital to make sure we knew how to get there.
Due to various insurance concerns (and the fact that in theory
I might get an employee discout at UT) we are making a
last-minute change in hospitals for the impending baby.
We next stopped by Fort Dickerson, a civil-war era fort that overlooks
Knoxville. We first stopped by the quarry overlook:
The signage at the various Knoxville parks never really inspires
The siege of Knoxville was complicated: I won't even try to summarize
it here. On the lower right you can see a picture of Burnside and his
The famous attraction at this park is that
they have cannons! E was having fun looking at them all by
I bet you've all been sad I haven't posted any GPS tracks recently.
We actually didn't climb to the top of the fort, we were lazy
You can see the fort from my office which is just across the river
next to the football stadium.
You can see the hospital on the left over by the bend
in the river.
We thought we'd take E to Fort Kid to play on the playground, but
it was closed due to disrepair. So we went to the playground down
the hill at the World's Fair park instead.
We had a pizza party watching the Superbowl. We only watched the
first half, and then it was E's bedtime. Also by that point
K decided that most of the commercials were innapropriate for
It's supposed to snow a few inches tonight, we'll see if that happens.
That would almost make up for any endodontist vists that might have
happened this week.
On Saturday we drove down to Sevierville to the
RainForest Adventure Discover Zoo. That turned out to be
a lot of fun.
Interesting business plan: selling the skins shed by your snakes.
that people seem to prefer the venomous option:
E and K got to hold a Skink. You might think this was
an official thing to do, but from all appearances the skink was
some lady's own personal skink that she brought to the zoo with her
and was letting people hold.
K was annoyed that many of the visitors were harassing the animals
by tapping on the glass. Her theory is that this is an Appalachian
trait, much like how no one down here can go through a tunnel w/o
beeping their horn.
There were a lot of exotic tropical animals around, but you can see
where my priorities were, as I took lots of pictures of guinea pigs.
Here's a blurry picture of a cute guinea pig family:
There were windows for viewing animals;
the baby doll got a good look too:
Many of the bird exhibits also had guinea pigs living in the bottom.
This surprised me a bit, as guinea pigs often don't like birds very much.
You can't tell (because the picture is blurry) but the animals have
just been fed and the birds are feasting on muffins of some sort.
There was an Australia exhibit outside; by the exit they had an endless
loop of "I come from a land down under" playing. That got old pretty
Here you can see the famous goats of Australia:
The Australian roosters were being noisy:
They did have some emus and a kangaroo.
We only got a dusting of snow the other day in Knoxville, but they did
get a few inches down this way.
Here are some peacocks and some cool chickens that looked like they were
wearing slippers. In the background you can see that we are
near the Smokies not far off of the infinite tourist-trap highway,
but not quite to Pigeon Forge:
The bird area was pretty neat. There were a lot of Budgerigars:
We stuck around for the animal show, and it's good we did because
it was enjoyable. The guy giving it was a bit strange, he did a lot
of magic tricks and thought it was funny to pretend to throw
scary animals into the audience. We were in the front row so this
was alarming at times.
We did get to touch a lot of neat animals, including a friendly
African porcupine (who later almost managed to open the door and
escape its enclosure). I
tarantula. Here's a picture
from near the end where there was a giant snake:
On the theory that it takes a long time for only 3 of us to eat a
birthday cake, we started the celebration of my birthday at sundown
the night before.
One of my presents was a cool
"Emergency" Electronics kit that fit in a little tin. Despite
what K will tell you, I didn't only ask for it because the product
description mentions MacGyver. You can see the first thing I built
involved lighting up an LED.
Sunday was my actual birthday. Usually my birthdays are cold and snowy,
so it was a bit of a novelty for it to be sunny and in the 60s.
I took E for a walk to the nearby playground.
That night was my actual birthday. E refused to believe it
was my birthday unless I wore the proper headgear:
Monday was even warmer, with temperatures around 65°. Nothing
says Valentine's day like burgers on the grill prepared out in the
There's a crocus that's impressively growing up through a crack in our
There's probably a good metaphor in this somewhere, but I'm not sure
what it is:
This weekend everyone who lives in North America should be particpating
in the Great Backyard
Bird Count. Unlike in Ithaca (where all the birds knew about the
count and would hide from me all weekend), here we've seen a huge variety
of birds in our yard. You'll have to take my word for it that the
following picture contains an Eastern Bluebird rolling around in
I usually don't post pictures of what I'm up to, because in general
they are pretty boring. Here's a picture of my birthday present
being configured to automatically blink an LED. Yes, it takes a
surprising amount of circuitry to make an LED blink (unless you buy the
self-blinking kind). Notice I am using a swiss army knife to fit in
with the MacGyver theme for the kit.
Do it yourself passport photos! This means it has been 10 years since
I got this one when living in Lowell (possibly for the off chance that
I'd make a trip to
Don't worry, when clipping the photo down
to be 2" by 2" (and making sure my face is 1 3/8") you can no longer
tell I'm an Orioles fan.
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