Sunday, August 16, 2009

PA Turnpike Rest Stops

If you've come across this page in hopes of finding a simple list of the rest stops on the PA Turnpike along with their mile markers, you've come to the right place. Find it below. But first, a little back story about the reason for this post.

This past weekend we traveled from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. At one point during the drive, I thought to pull out my shiny new iPhone and see if I could find a handy list of all the PA Turnpike rest stops and their mile markers. That was actually slightly harder than I had expected. The first hit was of course the PA turnpike website (more on that in a moment), and the second took me to the site WikiAnswers. I thought I would touch on that second one first, because the answer posted there was so abominably stupid it was funny. The posted answer stated "I cannot give you a whole list, but if you look for blue sign that say, like rest stop, or service plaza, that would be where."

Well, no kidding. Thanks for that valuable piece of wisdom.

And, yes, I then proceeded to register on WikiAnswers and put a REAL answer in.

Back to the PA turnpike website. They have a fairly handy and detailed map here that lists all the rest stops, but it's not very easy to read on an iPhone and impossible to read on a mobile device with lousy graphics. So, if you came across this link in hopes of finding a simple list of turnpike rest stops and their mile markers, here you go. And if you have room for corrections, please add a comment.


Oakmont: 49.3

Somerset: 112.3

Midway: 147.3

Sideling Hill: 172.3

Plainfield: 219.1

Highspire: 249.7

Bowmansville: 289.9

Valley Forge: 324.6


North Nashiminy: 351.9

King Of Prussia: 328.4 (this one is closed according to the map)

Camiel: 304.8

Lawn: 258.8 (this one is dog friendly, btw)

Blue Mountain: 202.5

Sideling Hill: 172.3

Midway: 147.3

Somerset: 112.3

New Stanton: 75 ('s not marked on the map)

Another new chapter begins

My visit to the strange and curious world of unemployment has come to an end. Tomorrow I start a new job as an implementation specialist for a tech company that focuses on continuing education for the medical industry, bringing to a close both my forced summer vacation and my 20 year career in the outskirts of the printing industry.

And I ain't looking back.

Hmm...medical and pharma industries. Well THAT'S new. But I'm kinda thinking it's an industry that isn't exactly going away any time soon, so there's that. All in all, I'm giddy. I've got my new pencil case with my #2's freshly sharpened, mom bought me that new backpack I was hoping for, the one with Obi Wan on the outside pocket, and I spent the evening cleaning out my thermos and making my salami and cheese sandwich. I'm ready. For my first day, I get to come in at 10:00am, have lunch with customers, sit through some training, and go to dinner at one of the nicer restaurants in town. Not a bad way to start a new gig.

So how was unemployment? All in all, not so bad. I'm still getting severance from my old place, so double-dipping for the next few months will be very nice. It was also nice having the time to focus on one thing at a time during the day, as opposed to constantly multi-tasking in an effort to avoid staying up til 3 in the morning just to find extra time to pay bills or watch the last three weeks' episodes of the Simpsons on Tivo. But all those stories I heard about unemployed folks tackling major projects like repainting the dining room or replacing the roof? Yeah, not so much. I've got a long list of projects that went untackled. And they will remain that way for some time. In fact as I write this is occurs to me that back in March I bought a new faucet for the guest bathroom, which is still sitting in the box. Hmm, I should get to that.

I suppose now would be a good time to list a few things that I've learned during unemployment. Sure, I could write a list that includes things like "make time for family" and "make sure to exercise" but you could find that in just about every professionally-published article on the subject of dealing with unemployment that exists on the web. Instead I will list a couple of things that might not have gotten mentioned on CNN.

1. Even if you feel you are comfortable with your current job and career, don't use that as an excuse to not look around, to not keep your resume current, or to not continuously network and learn. I fell victim to complacency while I was working. I hadn't brushed off my resume for almost 15 years and, even though I sensed my layoff coming, I still couldn't motivate myself to get moving on it until the day I was let go (okay, the day AFTER I was let go). Plus, as I networked and met people I was stunned to learn what was out there in terms of resources, industry knowledge, and continuing education.

2. Don't be late with your unemployment claims. Filing for unemployment was surprisingly straightforward, and the initial process was entirely done on the phone. Once filed, every two weeks I went to the state's website and file my continuing claim. But, my advice to you: don't forget. If you do, you might just get denied. I skipped a claim at one point, and when I tried to play catch-up a month later I felt like I'd been sent to the principal's office. Oh, and, most importantly, never, NEVER mention the word vacation. If you go on vacation, you can't claim for the week that you went. When asked why I was late in filing my claim, I said something like, "you know, I got busy with interviews, went away on vacation for a couple days...just forgot...". Yeah, I shouldn't have mentioned that middle part. Just having said the word meant I could not claim for that missing week. Now, I kind of feel like arguing this point, because when the family and I went on vacation I perhaps spent as much time following up on contacts and job applications as I would have if I were home. Yet just the fact that I mentioned the word in a sentence meant not being able to claim for it at all. Whoops.

3. It's ALL who you know. and similar sites were USELESS to me. And I never even bothered to fill out an application for a single job posted in the local paper. Instead, I looked first to the people I knew, then to the companies I thought I might be interested in working for. I very rarely came across a company that DIDN'T have a job posted on their website, so in many cases I applied directly through those website posts. However, the ONLY ones I got any traction on were ones where I knew someone, or knew someone WHO knew someone. so network. Network, network, NETWORK!!!! How, you ask? First of all, go to EVERYTHING. Come across a free seminar on social media? Go to it. Job fair? Go to it. Scrapbooking club? Join it. you never know who you might come across. My family and I went to the opening of the Roboworld exhibit at the local science center, and while there I struck up a conversation with a guy demoing a new robot built by a local startup. We talked jobs, he gave me my card, and I would have pursued it if in fact I could figure out how to operate the danged toy robot, but it daunted me, so I figured I wasn't qualified to work there. However, this new job I'm starting is a perfect example of the value of networking. I was forwarded a link to the job post by a former coworker who was laid off the same day I was. Turns out he wasn't the right fit for the job, but thought I might be. I applied, and heard nothing. Then, my wife discovered that the names of the executive team a this company were familiar to her, and that she knew a person who knew the team. This person she knew was a former coworker of mine as well. And I'd already interviewed at this person's company, where they are currently still deciding how to fill that position. Long story short, I contacted her, she contacted the company, I got an interview, and they liked me enough to throw me an offer after that interview. It's all who you know. You'd be surprised just how willing people will be to stand up for you.

4. Don't be a hermit. I read an article here about how lots of unemployed people are embarrassed to tell their friends, and instead dress up in a suit and tie every day and pretend to leave for work each morning. Morons. Absolute morons. I told my neighbors. I told the mailman. I told the guy behind the counter at PetSmart. In fact, as a result of telling my barber, he got his girlfriend to give me a reference at her company. You can't network if you don't talk to people.

5. Take notes. I use a program called Evernote to take all sorts of notes. I also use it as a todo list. During the job hunt, I had one note that served as an ongoing to-do list specifically pertaining to the job hunt. I had another that served as a daily diary of accomplishments, no matter how large or small. Whenever I sent a resume, my accomplishment note included a web link to the job, contact information, and even my opinion about what I thought my chances were like. I referenced it constantly. And the nice thing about Evernote is that it's a web-based service, so I could take notes on my computer and those notes would automagically sync up so they could be viewed on my blackberry, ipod, or on other computers.

6. Relax. It's only your job. Your salary. Your career. But it's not you.

Friday, August 07, 2009

That's ALL I need

Great. The last thing I need is another member of the family into Disney Princesses. Here I thought we were exiting that phase slowly but surely. But it turns out this is one of Daisy's favorite places to sleep.

Yet another child in the house that isn't willing to learn to use power tools. Sigh.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The dog honeymoon ends

In the vintage HBO special "Carlin At Carnegie", George Carlin had a lot to say about dogs. One of my favorites, went something like this:

"Hi George, how's it going?"

"Agh! The dog...goddammit never mind!!!!! He chewed the legs of off EVERYTHING!!!"

Well, we haven't quite reached THAT stage with our recent canine acquisition, but we've certainly had our share of adventures over the past several days. She has survived quite well in our care, perhaps despite repeated inadvertent attempts by me to poison her. But I'll get to that later. So far, Daisy has been a complete joy. She's almost ridiculously playful, has grown very comfortable with her new home and surroundings, and on flat ground can reach a speed of almost Mach 5.

The folks that owned Daisy previously (we got her from a foster home that found her on the street) had obviously trained Daisy JUST enough that she hasn't caused any problems yet. No accidents on the rug, on destroying furniture. Well, that is, except for eating the kitchen table. No really. She ate the kitchen table. Okay, not ALL of it, just one foot. I guess after 8 years of my children dropping applesauce, milk, and ice cream during regular attempts to fill their faces, the legs of the table have acquired a nice patina of flavors on them. I suppose if I was a foot tall I'd be snacking on them too.

Daisy also managed to chew through her first leash in less than two days. Her current leash is made of chain links, and if she gets through that one I'm going to contact that guy who just crossed the Allegheny River on a tightrope and borrow some of his wire.

Today was the first day we had the opportunity to leave her alone in the house. Based on her obvious chewing abilities, she's going to be confined to her crate when we're not home. I gave her a test run this afternoon. She cried, she barked, but she survived. When I got home, she was so happy to see me that she cried like I'd saved her from being trapped in a well, and promptly followed me around for the next three hours and anchored herself to my lap every time I sat down, making sure that I never, NEVER leave her alone again. In fact through the magic of the iMac camera, here's proof. Let me tell you, it's a challenge typing this way.

But you know it's funny, I certainly don't get a greeting like that from my FAMILY when I return from Home Depot. Not even close.

As I mentioned in the last post, Daisy's only real issue (other than her ravenous appetite) is her interaction with other dogs. She's so excited by the world around her that every blade of grass requires a sniff, every sound in the distance requires a perking of the ears and a bark of attention. And when she encounters another dog while on her leash, it's chaos. she immediately tries to assert her authority and go on the attack, so much so that we've had to tackle her for doing so more than once. Obedience training is definitely in her future. On the other hand, when we take her to the local fenced-in dog park, she's incredible to watch. Other dogs seem to flock to her, and as soon as they start to play those other dogs and their owners quickly discover just what kind of speed she has in those thin legs of hers. Virtually every other person at the dog park has seen her run flat out across the park has this to say.

"Holy crap."

In fact I witnessed an overweight black labrador stop in her tracks after failing to keep up with Daisy, and clearly heard her mutter the words, "sweet jeezuz."

Yeah, she's fast (and yes, Paul, she's the dog that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs). Next time we go, I'm taking the video camera.

Oh yeah, about my inadvertent attempts to poison her. The day after we got her was the day I decided to do a yearly cleaning of the deck with a bleach based solution. That was also the day she discovered the gravel underneath the deck is a great place to hang out, dig in the ground, and keep cool. The next day she decided not to leave my side for the entire afternoon, even while I was spray painting a piece of furniture. I have a feeling that one of those two incidents were the reason we had to bring the dog to the vet monday to have her red, swollen eye checked out. It's fine now though. And, yeah yeah, I know, let the lectures begin.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

2litlegirls and 1littledog

We've put another addition onto our home. This one comes in the form of a Whippet, Jack Russell, and Kangaroo mix. Or as I like to call her, a Smorgasbord, Meet Daisy.

My wife and I are dog people. Very much out-of-practice dog people, but dog people nonetheless. From the moment I was born to the day I left for college I always lived with a canine sibling (sharing a bed with an overweight yellow lab for 13 years, in fact). Since the girls were born, we'd often contemplated when the right time to introduce a dog to this house would be. So naturally we made the financial decision to add an expense to the household while I'm currently unemployed. Yup, careful decision making here. Truth be told, after putting the addition on the house, I didn't have a whole lot of interest in muddy paws messing up those brand new carpets just yet. But my lovely wife accidentally came across this little critter on the Internet, was smitten, and that was that. Be damned, the lack of paycheck! We're getting a dog!

Daisy was a stray picked up by Animal Advocates. Frankly she was quite a deal. She came housebroken, crate trained, microchipped, and spayed. She included a nicer carrying case (her crate) than the last power tool I bought. The family that fostered her told us she was a great dog for kids, though a tad on the "needy" side. She even had some basic training. In fact when she first got home we gave her a biscuit, which she promptly carried into the kitchen to eat lest she soil the living room carpet. Good dog.

Yeah, that needy thing. The moment I sat down to type this she realized I wasn't in the same room as her, dashed into the office, and jumped onto my lap. I hope this Mac's keyboard responds well to slobber.

Truth be told, we couldn't have done better. Okay, she's a little bit on the small side, but at least she's not the sort of dog you would carry in a diamond-studded bag through your local mall. for years I told my wife that my one requirement of a dog is that it be able to jump into my Jeep Wrangler on its own. I sold the Wrangler four years ago, but the rule still applies.

They say a loose Whippet is a lost Whippet. This part is going to take some adjustment. Growing up, the act of taking my dog for a walk involved opening the front door and saying, "see ya later". Only an hour after getting Daisy home, I went outside to get something and mistakenly left the workshop door slightly ajar. Within seconds I saw this flash as she launched herself like a fighter plane off an aircraft carrier. I figured we were in for the shortest period of dog ownership in history. But luckily I caught up with her when she stopped to examine he neighbor dog's poop, and even more luckily I got her just before she rolled in it.

The girls, of course, were beside themselves when we got her. We surprised them as they got off the camp bus, and the screams of delight were unreal. Thus ensued hours of "Daisy! C'mere Daisy! Daisy! Daisy! Daisy! Daisy! Daisy! Daisy! Daisy! Daisy! Daisy! Daisy! Daisy! Daisy! Daisy! I'm thinking we should have named the dog "space bar".

Daisy's first night was almost frighteningly flawless. As I mentioned she came with a crate, which we strategically positioned in a corner of our bedroom. After we tucked the kids in for the night and Daisy went in to check on them several times, she decided it was time to crash, and came into our bedroom. First she found a place for herself in the middle of the bed. After I kicked her off, she decided a good location would be on the floor in front of the bed. Then, just for kicks, I led her into her crate, where she settled down and I shut the door. And the next time we heard from her it was 7:30 in the morning. I NEVER thought that would go so smoothly, especially the first night in a new home.

Taking Daisy to the fenced-in dog park was an interesting time. Until that point, Daisy had been a pretty mellow, sedate sort of pup. But as we approached the gate to the park and she saw the local competition, she shifted into high gear. It was there we learned she can actually bark. We also learned that for a small female dog, she's got balls of steel. While still on the leash, she confronted the biggest, meanest looking shepherd she could find and, snarling and growling ferociously, she made it clear who was the new queen of the castle. At first we thought, hmmm, maybe this "dog" thing wasn't such a good idea after all, but an older, seasoned gentleman with three dogs older than him told us that she was just establishing her turf, and once she was off leash she'd be fine. So I took a deep breath, removed the leash, and off she went. And he was right. Daisy had a blast. She dashed around, jumping and playing with all the other canines, sniffing every new butt she could find. Running at a speed just under that of sound, whenever she came across an obstacle (like another dog, a rock, or one of my children) she'd simply jump over it without slowing down. we were highly impressed by her vertical leap.

So it appears this dog thing may just work out. Our only issue with her right now is her current tendency to growl and bark violently whenever she comes across another dog during her regular walk, but hopefully that's nothing a little obedience training won't cure. Now if I can just remember to keep the danged door closed (I repeated my mistake on day two, and luckily she dashed right into my arms), we might just be able to keep her around for a while.