Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mmm, Enjoying a Greek Treat

Slowly I'm getting caught up with emails, writing, responding to blog posts and blogs following the Italy trip. It's been one heck of a week. Thankfully this is a four-day work week, but it included class three times this week, a field trip Saturday and open house at the school on Sunday. Plus, there are some groovy things going on in Tally over the weekend (Market Days and the Jingle Bell Run, just to name a few).

Upon returning home, I had a nice surprise from the Borderline Gypsies (Paula and Keith). They spent the summer in Greece and long story short, Paula shared Greek treats with her avid blog readers. This is a honey and sesame seed bar and is yummy! Not too sweet and has a nice earthy, nutty flavor. I know Paula posted on the blog specifically what its name is so I'll be heading over there soon.

Thanks Paula and Keith!

GPS Insight is Necessary for Today’s Drivers and Companies

One of my Mom’s cousins was a moving van driver and growing up, I was always fascinated how he moved families coast to coast and lived out of his truck. I always wondered how someone would know if something ever happened to him. Times have changed since way back when and today we have global positioning systems (GPS) and satellites to make life for drivers safer and efficient. My friends over at GPS Insight have some tools to manage truck fleets.

While I’m not in the trucking business, I do understand how good management and efficiency keep a business growing. GPS Insight offers GPS tracking devices and nifty software to track vehicles and I can obviously see how important that is for a business dependent on ground transportation. I checked out their Web site and spent about an hour learning about the various products but have to admit, I loved seeing the capabilities with the maps.

Basically how this all works, a simple tracking device is installed in each vehicle (no, you don’t need to be MacGyver to install it). Hardware can be purchased or leased and for $1.50 to $2 a day per vehicle (contact GPS Insight for specific prices), the vehicles are tracked with the GPS Insight software, which includes maps on Google Maps and Google Earth Maps.

Some of the GPS tracking features include:
  • Tracking of all vehicles on a map.
  • Daily reports.
  • Engine diagnostics.
  • Determining whether a specific vehicle is speeding, idling, etc.
  • Determining how long a vehicle has been stopped.
  • Tracking the direction a vehicle is going.
  • Pinpointing the exact location of a vehicle.
  • Evaluating traffic in specific area, for instance, through a color-coded system, heavy to light traffic is indicated, which would allow the driver to be re-routed.
  • Odometer readings.
  • Watching history of where the driver has been.
I think you get the point and easily see these are pretty vital things to know in order to run an efficient fleet and business.

The maps are impressive and can easily switch between the atlas-style Google Map to Google Earth. A feature can eliminate the topography if the reader prefers reading a smooth map.

GPS Insight’s tracking devices must be good. SoBe Beverages contracted with the company in July 2007 to track the Love Bus Tour vehicles on their Web site map. The services are ideal for any company with drivers on the road, be it delivery vehicles, long haul trucking or a sales force. With GPS tracking, a driver’s time can be monitored, efficient routes can be mapped for fuel and time savings and safety is enhanced.

Dispatchers and managers can easily track and monitor activity (and real geeks will love playing with all the capable, groovy features of the maps) and to me it seems to be a no brainer, having this product is absolutely necessary to manage a team on the road in order to have a successful business.

Interested in learning more? Visit the GPS Insight Web site. Or, checkout their support page or blog.

[BTW: Don't be shy, click on the screen shots to see what I'm talking about or check out the GPS Insight Web site.]

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Italy Trip in a Few Thousand Words

I'm going to let a few photos speak for themselves about the Italy trip. Over the next few days (maybe even the weekend), I'll get a chance to write about the experience after it's sunk in a bit. I will say having the Rick Steves' Italy 2008 Guidebook was really handy. Saw loads of other Americans with it, too.

Enjoy these images!

BTW - the one of me and the pigeon on my shoulder is probably my favorite experience of the trip. It was the first day in Venice at San Marco and feeding the pigeons is the "in thing" to do. I didn't feed them, I suppose the vendors selling bird food get a kick out of throwing seed at tourists and watching the pigeons flock on and around them. Also, seeing Saverio was cool, too - pictured in front of the Pantheon in Rome. And of course, seeing the Pope (that's the dude in white in the distance with his hands raised) was pretty cool, too. Ciao!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving in Florence

Today's just another day in Italy. Highlights since I last logged on, when did I last log on?

My feet are starting to ache but want to take in as much as possible.

Had quite the adventure yesterday, hopped on the wrong bus from the hotel, thinking we were heading back to the Florence train station, well, it was going to the train station, just at the end of the 70 minute run. Grabbed an hour and 15 minute train to Pisa to see the tower. Got there around 8 p.m., wandered around until we found it. Long story short, made it back to the hotel around 11 p.m.

Today, touring Florence all day with the Original Walking Tours of Florence - three tours, excellent! Saw the highlights and have a better understanding of the Italian Renaissance. Met an FSU alum on the first tour and a Calif. guy named Vince who traced his family to Rome and visited relatives prior to Florence.

Saverio will meet us at the Rome train station tomorrow, will be good to see him. Will try and pack in as much as we can.

Although I already know it, there's no such thing as getting lost while traveling, it's all about the adventure, journey and experience. I'm not a sightseer but a traveler.

As for dinner tonight, steak, pasta and a bottle of good wine. Ciao!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

In Italy! Venice, to be Exact

Well, made it with little incident (flight was late getting into Frankfurt and was impressed the airline had people waiting for us - those Venice bound - to escort us through German customs and security.) Had to sit in the middle seat which sucked but was not as bad as I thought.

Venice has been good - lots of walking, taking the boat (vaporetta, aka: water bus) and getting lost, but it's easy to find our way back to the hotel - just follow the signs. As the guidebook said, Venice is an island, you'll eventually find your way back.

Heading to Florence later this morning via train, should be another adventure.

Ciao!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Italy: It's Here! It's Here!

I've done as much preparing as I can for Italy and I'm about ready to head out the door in 30 minutes. I'm packed and ready to go, I think. I should be able to access the Internet over there (I'm told Internet will probably be the cheapest thing I pay for) and have just registered with Twitter this week (long story short, word from the World Blog Expo is Twitter - microblogging - is the in thing) and will try to update over there, too.

Oh! Save (from the Afghanistan trip) is going to meet us in Rome on Friday to give us an insider's tour. It'll be nice to see him and get a non-touristy tour.

Ciao!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Countdown to Italy

The great thing about travel is all the people you meet along the journey and finding ways to cross paths again. Has it been three years since I met Paula and Keith, the Can-Am Gypsy Couple, in Key West at a travel writing workshop?

I met Cordelia during the March 2006 trip to Afghanistan (and be sure to visit Cordelia's blog, she recently returned from Iran) and have seen her twice since then.

I'm hoping to see another Afghanistan traveler, Saverio who lives outside Rome (and the sole male on the trip). He's a fantastic photographer (be sure to visit Save's site and see the Afghan images he captured). We haven't made firm plans but there's a good chance we'll connect. If not, that's alright.

I'll also be visiting my aunt and uncle who live in Jacksonville prior to the trip. Since I'm flying from there, thought I'd visit a day early and see them.

I need to finish packing and figuring out the itinerary. Worst case scenario, I punt. Have passport, will travel...

Hey Sarasota! 60's Band Yesterdayze Playing Nov. 24

Wish I was gonna be in Sarasota on Saturday, November 24. The groovy 60's band called Yesterdayze will be rockin' it out at the Eagles Hall, 2926 Wilkinson Road, 7 - 10 p.m. Buy your tickets in advance for $8 either at Fogt's Gulf Coast Music or online. Otherwise, $10 at the door.

The band has a good buzz going for them and from what I hear, can really get the crowd moving and grooving.

Hope I can catch them in March when I make it back down to Sarasota.

Peace out.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I'm Excited About Italy, Really

A week from now, the Italy trip will be half over. I'm not being negative and thinking about the end, I'm excited about the trip, really. I'm not so jaded that I'm not going to take advantage of the opportunity waiting ahead and I know for some people, it's a trip of a lifetime. I just wish circumstances were different, primarily, I wish I had more of a cash flow.

So no need to be concerned, the trip is going to be fine and I have a positive outlook.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Less Thank a Week 'Til Italy

It's crush time now to get plans finalized for Italy. I leave Sunday. Walking tours have been booked for Florence (me and David on Thanksgiving Day!), I've made contact with a walking guide in Venice (including a pub crawl) but the minimum number of people haven't signed up. Venice is definitely going to be play-it-by-ear situation. I'm stressing about Rome. My friend wants to see the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican, don't know how that's going to fit in with all the other Roman things to see. *sigh* I just need to remember to breathe...

I've been using Rick Steves' Italy 2008 to plan this trip. The book says it's doable to spend $35 a day on meals, but I think the exchange rate was calculated at 1.30 (Euro to the U.S. Dollar) and I think it's about 1.46 now. Yeah, it sucks. I wonder what the begging laws are in Italy? Should I bring along a piece of cardboard and black Sharpie to stand on a street corner?

But overall, I'm trying to keep a positive outlook. I looked up the hotels and they don't look as scary as I thought they'd be (one used to be a palace and they look quite lovely) and I've figured out ways to (cheaply) get from the airport/train station to each hotel.

For various reasons, I'm stressed about the trip.

On another note, being Veteran's Day, I'm sharing a beautiful story called "When Veteran's Day is Personal" by the Barefoot. Grab your box of tissues!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's the Little Things

It was one of those off days, you know, one of those days where nothing goes right and the world's working against you. I overslept (that seems to be happening a lot), grabbed the wrong thing out of the fridge for lunch (grabbed green Jello vs. tuna salad and didn't realize my error until I pulled it out at lunchtime) and the work forces were against me.

Since I had to eat my dinner for lunch (PB&J, I had class tonight), I picked up a Happy Meal from McDonald's. I dug around for my cookies (no cookies - don't Happy Meals come with cookies these days?) but was really excited to find Jerry Seinfeld in my bag! No wait, it wasn't the REAL Jerry Seinfeld but Barry B. Benson, the character Seinfeld narrates in Dreamworks' "Bee Movie."

Making this even more exciting, I learned over at the Corporate Social Responsibility Wire (CSRWire) with the press release titled, "Bee Good to the Planet," how the movie contains an environmental message and how McDonald's is taking that theme to encourage kids to eat healthier, enjoy the outdoors and "inspire environmental citizenship." Looks like I should have had the chicken nugget Happy Meal with apples and milk vs. the hamburger, French fries and Coke. Hey! I only had three bucks on me and that's what three dollars gets you these days.

Anyway, Little Jerry Seinfeld (true "Seinfeld" fans will appreciate that!), er, Barry B. Benson, kept me entertained during my 45-minute drive to class. He's going to ride shotgun with me for a while. Suppose I have to collect the other "Bee Movie" characters.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Brrr! Baby it's Cold Outside and I'm Lovin' It!

Tallahassee temperatures are finally dipping and the humidity has gone buh-bye. The feather down bedding is back on so I can nestle in my own little nest and sleep comfortably while evening temps dip down to the 40s.

Maybe it's a coincidence, but I noticed gas prices jumped about 15 cents over night. Is it because fuel will be used for heating? Glad I fueled up on Saturday. Keep warm!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Does Anyone Have a Chainsaw?

Just when I think I have my financial life under control, I looked at the joint boat account with the ex-husband this morning. Guess what? He missed another payment. For those unfamiliar, prior to getting married, he had me co-sign for the boat loan thinking he couldn't get it himself. Since I did the do-it-yourself-version of divorce (aka: I didn't consult an attorney because I didn't have any money; if I had to do it over, I'd get an attorney), he told me was going to refinance the boat and take my name off.

Why do I want my name off?
1. We're divorced!
2. I haven't been in the thing in about five years.
3. It shows as revolving debt I owe.

Three years after the divorce was finalized, my name is still on the d@mn thing and this is at least the second time he's missed a payment. It also means another ding against my credit. I know this is his way of controlling me and it sucks, I can't do anything about it except starting up my barrage of emails begging to get it refinanced and take my name off (I stopped contacting him for a while hoping he would do it but that didn't happen).

I've threatened to drive down to South Florida and get my half of it. Anyone have a chainsaw???

Saturday, November 03, 2007

This is What I Got to do Today...Play with Fish! (And Other Critters)

Today was the Green Guide Class field trip to Mashes Sands Park (yeah, I had no idea where it was either, but now I know!) and then to the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory. Check out my Tallahassee blog to read about my day but also enjoy this video of remora (aka: suckerfish) feeding.

These are the fish seen on the underbellies of sharks, manatees, turtles, etc. They basically eat what the bigger animal doesn't. Look at the tops of their heads, it's like a giant suction cup. And don't worry about the guy's hands who feeding them. He (who is Jack Rudloe, founder of the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory) said their teeth are like sandpaper. Enjoy!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Too Much Time on a Friday

Had the day off, used it to sleep in, catch up on errands and shop for Italy. I've been holding off on that part because I want to lose as much weight as possible. The shopping experience wasn't as dreadful as I anticipated.

Not only do I need to find cloths which fit for the Italy trip (most of my stuff is failing off me) but feel I need to find fashionable items. One of the reasons I have no interest in visiting Italy is the country seems so fashion-forward and more formal than the U.S. That's just not me. My travel wardrobe will consist of the basic blacks with the occasional pop of color. Got my thrill at the Gap and having things be too big.

I also decided to dye my hair. The box said "Hot Cocoa" but it looks black to me. Luckily, it should wash away after 28 rinses. What do you think about the new color?

I Like it So Much, I'm Posting it Again

For those who don't make it over to my Tallahassee blog (www.QKGTallahassee.com) and are curious about this image, read about it here.