Friday, August 28, 2009

Haiku. Can you?

I've never been much into poetry--at least not until now.

After being challenged to write a haiku poem about the best novel I read over the summer, I can't seem to stop thinking in a 3-5-3 and 5-7-5 manner.

For the novel, which was Still Alice, a tale of a woman suffering early onset Alzheimer's, I wrote:

Leafless tree
Alive but barren
Is still Alice

But that was pretty much my first attempt. Since then, I've considered that Alice, the character in the novel, was not a leafless tree. She was losing leaves--losing them fast. But by the end of the story, she still had a few leaves remaining. So I wish I'd have taken time to ponder before I submitted. Lesson learned.

(Photo through Creative Commons by DaDaAce on Flickr)

Then, I thought of how I feel about my own life right about now:

Though northern winds blow
Though old man winter creaks near
I seek metamorphosis

Do you have a favorite haiku poem to share? I'm really interested in exploring the subject further. And I have more poems seemingly blossoming within me! I better get them down while the muse is here!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

REVIEW: Quality Inn, South Ocean Boulevard, Myrtle Beach SC

In summary: STAY AWAY from this Quality Inn.

We initially selected it based on several factors.

1. Location: across the street from the beach
2. Price: just under $100 for an "efficiency" with a kitchen and living room
3. Food: a deluxe breakfast included
4. Internet: Free wifi in all rooms
5. Reviews: A smattering of positive online reviews tossed in with the negative

All I can say is that the hotel IS across the street from the beach, so you could walk over and not have to take your car to the public lot. That's about the ONLY positive thing I can say. I can't speak to the breakfast since we didn't stay overnight -- but I'm thinking it would be nothing to write home about.

My first inclination that this would not be a good hotel was when we first arrived and had to use the bathroom. The woman at the desk gave us a key and pointed us to what I assume was the pool bathroom, locked and with a large sign that said, "OUT OF ORDER." Obviously it was not out of order, as my son and I were able to use it. I think they must keep it locked to keep the pool people out of it ... not good if you're a guest using the pool and you have to go to the potty! Plus, the bathroom STUNK something fierce ... it was dirty and stinky enough that my daughter said she'd "hold it" until we got to the room. I really had to go so I held my breathe and hurried!

Our distaste must have shown on our faces, as the woman at the desk later told us that she saw that we were unhappy when we first arrived; we were "looking around," she said. And she was right. The place looked very dumpy.

We took the nasty looking elevator up to our room on the fifth floor. At least it was a fast ride, is all I can say about that!

When we entered the room, my heart sank ... and my nose wrinkled. I wish I had taken photos, because the room was really a dump. The carpet was worn ... the lights dingy and yellow. The bathroom had cigarette burns on the counter and the floor looked nasty. The other room--where the very old, very dirty stove and refrig sit--also held the couch and a table. And for some reason, this room SMELLED something fierce. It smelled like a broken sewage line, or like someone had the runs on the carpet and just left it there to swelter in the heat.

Ok ... I thought. We'll just buy a few air fresheners ... we can make this work ... we won't be in the hotel much anyway .... After giving myself and my kids a pep talk, we decided to log online to see what we could do for dinner. But--there was NO Internet.

I found the little card that tells you what to do to troubleshoot Internet issues, and then my husband got on the phone with the Internet folks. Turns out that there was nothing the guy on the phone could do--he said he would have to call down to the office to have them "reboot" the system. At this point, I wasn't freaked out because something similar had happened to me at a Hampton Inn in West Virginia ... where the support people had to call the office and get them to reboot the system. My husband called down a little while later to ask if she had it worked out .. she said she had "one more thing" she could try.

By this time, we noticed that the room had started to get uncomfortably hot. Seems the AC unit in the bedroom section--where we all hovered because the smell in the other room was putrid--had stopped blowing cool air! We decided to get out of there and go to dinner ... hopefully everything would be fixed by the time we returned. Hubby went to the office in person before we left so he could express upon her the importance of us having Internet, and to report that our AC was not working.

We drove around for a while and found a pizza place off the island ... ate and then returned. Our first stop was the office. Hubby asked the woman at the desk if Internet was up yet ... and she went off on us with an attitude. "I sweated in that phone room and it's not even my job ... the Internet won't be back tonight because noone else is here." I asked if it would be ready tomorrow and she said yes. Then we asked about the air ... she said she "forgot about it" because she was trying "so hard to please" my husband! She offered us several times to let us leave right now, without penalty, telling us that we had obviously been unhappy since we arrived ... "looking around," or so she said.

I won't repeat all the verbatim; suffice it to say that the exchange continued back and forth until I got pretty hot, asking her if she expected me to kiss her butt and get on my knees to thank her for TRYING to fix the Internet for us. At that point, I knew I better get out before I said something I REALLY regretted. I told her I couldn't believe her attitude--she said she couldn't believe mine! She told me that this whole encounter was being video-taped and recorded ... I was like, "Good!" Looking around for an unseen video camera, I said to the air, "SEE! This is the attitude I'm talking about!"

She told us there were plenty of hotels on the strip and that we should find another one. I told her that we needed Internet to find another hotel -- she told me I was "CRAZY" to think I needed the Internet to find a hotel considering I was on a strip lined with them. Did I mention that it was nearly 9 pm and that we had been up and packing and traveling since 7 am that morning ... with three kids?

I didn't want to leave without having a place to stay ... and I didn't know what else to do ... so we went back to the room. She grabbed the maintenance guy and said, "Go up with them RIGHT NOW and fix their air. And you better fix it or God help you!" I could not believe this. So when we went back up, the AC had cycled and was working again.

He left ... and shortly after, so did we. I asked my husband to apologize for me when he went back down, because I wish I hadn't have lost it. He said that she apologized too, then proceed to rail on and on about how she works 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, yada yada yada, blah blah blah.

After stopping at maybe seven or eight places, we found Ocean Park Resort, which is where we wound up staying.

That is our horror story.

Let me warn you that the negative reviews you read online about the Quality Inn on Myrtle Beach are TRUE. The photos make the place look clean and fresh--it is anything but. Even the pool looked skanky and green--not something I'd want to swim in. We've taken our chances on places with mixed reviews in the past, and we've always been in luck, feeling that the negative reviews were written by people who were "too picky." But in this case, we were wrong. The Quality Inn is a TRUE DUMP that I suggest you avoid at all costs.

Also, if you're planning your first visit to Myrtle Beach, know that there are MANY more places on the strip that you won't find by looking online. I'm almost thinking that you get a better deal if you can drive down there and then find a place ... this way you can also see it in person before you commit. I wouldn't do this on a weekend or during a holiday, but it's probably an okay strategy for weekdays and off-times.

In any case, I hope you have better luck than we did! :)

EDIT: By the way, you can read my review of this place at TripAdvisor as well. I wrote that review the very night the incident happened, so it was fresher in my mind at the time. See it here:

Ocean Park Resort, Myrtle Beach

This monster-sized postcard shows where we stayed during our three-night vacation at Myrtle Beach. We were luck to have found it after about an hour of driving up and down the strip searching for a place to stay--this, after we had a horrible experience at the Quality Inn on Myrtle Beach. I'll write about that sad tale next.

Ocean Park Resort was pretty nice overall, not a hotel but a condo complex, and pet-friendly, at that. Our unit was pretty run-down and well-worn ... and the beds were NOT comfortable. But, we had an OCEAN view, microwave, stove, full-sized refrig and COLD air. And, frankly, compared to our experience at the Quality Inn, we initially thought we had found paradise!

The pool you see in the image is really a large hot tub ... it was VERY hot and VERY relaxing :) We would stay again ... and would recommend this resort for the price.

The Pavilion, Myrtle Beach

This larger (and costlier!) postcard caught my eye because it shows a street view of Myrtle Beach ... unlike most of the other cards I saw for sale.

Myrtle Beach views

A few other postcard views ...

Myrtle Beach Amusement Park

Myrtle Beach Amusement Park, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

From the back: "Myrtle Beach Amusement Park closed after 58 years...." I like this card because it reflects a time since passed.

Myrtle Beach Pier

Myrtle Beach Pier, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

We didn't visit this pier but we saw it while driving down the strip.

Umbrellas along Myrtle Beach

Umbrellas along Myrtle Beach, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

It was neat looking out from our hotel room to see the colorful umbrellas lining the beach! This looks like a photo taken early, before noon -- because later on, the beach is PACKED with people and umbrellas!

South Carolina Lighthouses

South Carolina Lighthouses, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

We didn't see any lighthouses on our visit, but I'd sure like to do a "lighthouse" vacation along the outer banks some day!

South Carolina Fun Facts & Figures

Another new map card for my collection. By the way, Myrtle Beach is in Horry County, near the middle right edge of the card.

Monday, August 10, 2009

New Zealand Kiwis

Funny, the only "live" Kiwi I've ever seen was in the National Zoo in Washington, DC. It was one of only 17 Kiwis in the United States at the time. I like this card because it tells about rather than just shows a kiwi!

New Zealand Kiwis, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

New Zealand Map

My sister Maria sent me another batch of NZ postcards ... this is a cool, larger map card showing the major cities and sites! (Thanks, Maria!)

New Zealand Map, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.


Steinlager, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

My brother-in-law picked me up a pack of Steinlager while I was in New Zealand :) Good stuff!

Sheep Mustering, New Zealand

Sheep Mustering, New Zealand, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

This is too adorable! :)

New Zealand Map Card

New Zealand Map Card, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

This is the first of a series of three map cards that show progressively closer views of an area of NZ my sister recently visited. I love this set of maps!

South Island, New Zealand

South Island, New Zealand, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

And here's the South Island .... I didn't get to visit the South Island while in New Zealand, but I hope to do so next time! Look at the mountain range there! The southwestern side of the South Island is also where they've had those pretty big earthquakes recently. From the back, "Separated from the more populous North Island by Cook Strait, which is some 23km [about 14.3 miles] across at its narrowest point, the South Island is world-famous for the beauty and grandeur of its scenery."

Canterbury, New Zealand

Canterbury, New Zealand, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

This is the third postcard in the series, showing the Canterbury region and Christchurch, where my sister visited recently. I love all the extra detail on this map, and how it shows the area represented in the box at upper right. See Mt. Cook there in the background? It is NZ's highest peak. I want to visit here! From the back: "Noted for its sheep, grain and mixed farming, Canterbury is bounded by the magnificent Southern Alps in the west and by the Pacific Ocean in the east. Its plains constitute the greatest expanse of flat land in New Zealand. Fewer than 1,000 Maoris inhabited the area when the original European settlers arrived in the early 1840s."

Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Christchurch Botanic Gardens, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

This is beautiful! From the back: "Situated adjacent to Hagley Park and bordered by the Avon River, the colourful Botanic Gardens nestle amongst English-style lawns and woodlands."

Avon River, Christchurch, New Zealand

Another lovely view -- my sister also sent links to photos she took of this very pretty river. Looks like a lovely spot for a picnic! From the back: "Named after a river in County Ayrshire, Scotland, the Avon River is bordered by trees and flowers and is very popular for punting." I guess punting is ... rugby?

Millenium Chalice, Cathedral Square, Christchurch

I love public sculpture .. and this one is awesome! My sister sent a photo she took of it, so I am doubly glad to have a postcard of this image! From the back: "The Cathedral and the Chalice provide a contrast of the old and the new in the centre of Christchurch's Cathedral Square."

Christchurch Cathedral, New Zealand

What a beautiful, old church. From the back: "Christchurch Cathedral was built between 1864 and 1904. Its gothic-type architecture contributes to Christchurch's reputation as New Zealand's most 'English' city."

The Sign of the Takahe, New Zealand

Glorious view is all I can say! From the back: "This Tudoresque stone building, a familiar landmark on the Port Hills, looks out across the Canterbury Plains beyond Christchurch to the distant Southern Alps."

I needed more information and, happily, Wikipedia was glad to provide it: "The Sign of the Takahe is today a function centre and tea rooms built in the style of an English Manor House. Designed by J.G. Collins, construction was carried out between 1918 and 1948. The Takahe also provides one of the better panoramic views of the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, the Canterbury Plains and the Southern Alps.

Named after the flightless native New Zealand bird, the Takahe, it was initially one of the roadhouses planned by Henry George (Harry) Ell as part of his scheme to preserve the natural state of the Port Hills which overlook Christchurch and Lyttelton harbour."

Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch, New Zealand, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

I saved the best for last. This is a stunning view of Christchurch, looking west towards the Southern Alps ... at dawn. I cannot believe such a view exists. I must see this in person! I would LOVE to live in a place like this!!!

Ikea Art Cards

Ikea Art Cards, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Ok, so they're not postcards ... but they could be, simply by writing on the blank backs. They're the same size as postcards, too, so they fit into my postcard albums. I picked up this pack of five cards at a recent visit to Ikea, one of my favorite places to while away a few hours dreaming and shopping! :)

Ikea Art Card

Ikea Art Card, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Ikea Art Cards

Ikea Art Cards, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Ikea Art Cards

Ikea Art Cards, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Ikea Art Card

Ikea Art Card, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Historic North Carolina

Historic North Carolina, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Picked up this info-rich card at the Reed Gold Mine. Too bad I can't read it without a magnifying glass! I scanned it at a higher resolution in hopes that you could click to read more details!

Reed Gold Mine, North Carolina

We visited this mine just to the east of Charlotte because my son did a project on it last year and wanted to visit in person. From the back: "Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site in Cabarrus County, NC is the location of the first gold discovery in the United States. Visitors can take underground tours, see exhibits and pan for gold seasonally." Being claustrophobic, I skipped the tour. And my kids "panned" for gold, given a plate of dirt, finding no more than one teeny, tiny fleck. They still enjoyed it though--enough to go back for "seconds!" Others were finding more gold than they did, so I guess it is possible! :)

Reed Gold Mine

Reed Gold Mine, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

This entrance to the underground mine was put in by the state when they opened the Reed as a visitor attraction.

Cabarrus County Miners, 1880

Cabarrus County Miners, 1880, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Neat old-timey view of life in the old days.

Monday, August 03, 2009


My daughter is very creative. She drew this while on a long car ride. Its title is, simply, "Bored."

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Free online "Brain Works" test pretty accurate

My professor turned us on to this free, online assessment called Brain Works, the Left Brain Right Brain Test. You can access it at the Mindmedia site.

The test was very accurate in my case. Here's the result I got:

"Renae, your hemispheric dominance is equally divided between left and right brain, while you show a moderate preference for auditory versus visual learning, signs of a balanced and flexible person.

Your balance gives you the enviable capacity to be verbal and literate while retaining a certain 'flair' and individuality. You are logical and compliant but only to a degree. You are organized without being compulsive, goal-directed without being driven, and a 'thinking' individual without being excessively so.

The one problem you might have is that your learning might not be as efficient as you would like. At times you will work from the specific to the general, while at others times you'll work from the general to the specific. Sometimes you will be logical in your approach while at other times random. Since you cannot always control the choice, you may experience frustrations not normally felt by persons with a more defined and directed learning style.

You may also minimally experience conflicts associated with auditory processing. You will be systematic and sequential in your processing of information; you will most often focus on a single dimension of the problem or material, and you will be more reflective, i.e. 'taking the data in' as opposed to 'devouring' it.

Overall, you should feel confident with your life and yourself. You are, perhaps, a little too critical of yourself--and of others--while maintaining an 'openness' which is redeeming. Indecisiveness is a problem and your creativity is not in keeping with your potential. Being a pragmatist, you downplay this aspect of yourself and focus on the more immediate, the more obvious and the more functional."

Take the free assessment to see how learn best!