[livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I left for NYC on Friday, returning late last night. He was the instigator, saying he really wanted to see Pippin, and after watching the Tony awards video (which you can see on that link right there ^^ ), I had to agree it was worth seeing on Broadway. So, in for a penny in for a pound, we also made plans for Kinky Boots, another Tony winner this year.

We had our next-door teenaged neighbour watch Rover for us, which worked out quite well, compared with boarding for the weekend- R. likes her routines, and our neighbour certainly likes Rover! (And now I notice that Rover has to sniff their door when she comes back from her walks... I think this may have something to do with bacon on the weekend...)

We got to Pearson and discovered our noon-time United flight had been postponed three hours. Well, indefinitely. Well, we might be able to rebook onto the next flight in three hours maybe. Instead of following the gate agent's instructions, I found us another United agent who instead put us and one lucky other guy onto an Air Canada flight at 3pm, and standby for an earlier flight. So the three of us trooped out of the ground-level prop-plane area to our waiting gate, and crossed our fingers, because 3pm was going to make it tight for us to get into the city and to our hotel and to Pippin. dan did his thing and got us from an unlikely standby to a much more likely standby flight- and lo, all three of us got lucky. And found ourselves on the ground at Laguardia just after 2pm. And we made it to our hotel in Hell's Kitchen, Midtown, in fine time.

At the end of this trip, I'm quite appreciative for the chance to run off and do things like this. We both really love Manhattan. We were idly talking about how great it would be to live there; perhaps when we both retire; perhaps for a short period on one of dan's sabbaticals. If this works, it will certainly involve a lot of planning- and being flexible, perhaps more so than with the flight rearrangements...

This was a full, but not overly full, trip.

We stayed in Hells Kitchen, the first time either of us had spent much time on the West Side. It was quite convenient to Broadway, our hotel was comfortable, and there were many good restaurants, including an eponymous Mexican restaurant "Hell's Kitchen" which had amazing fish.

Pippin was eye-poppingly neat. The acrobatics were the most awe-inspiring I've ever seen (see ^^ video). The first act is easily in my short list of favourite first acts of any musical. (Whatever that list is; I haven't given it serious thought except that the first act of "Sunday in the Park with George" is currently at the top. But I digress.) The story feels like it sort of unwinds in the second act. I hadn't seen the show before and wasn't prepared for a bit of storytelling where a certain amount of plot seems to be un-done in order to tell a completely different story in the second act- the story felt stapled together, and the main character AND the main actor started to grate on me a bit. I see from the wikipedia page that it could have been smoother in the second act. But the Leading Player/"Ringleader" character was wonderful throughout, including the very end where she offers Pippin a suitably glorious finale for his life aspirations. All in all, seeing this was my favourite part of the trip.

We had left Saturday mostly unscheduled, with an idea to get half-price tickets for an evening show, and a plan to see my Aunt who lives in Manhattan in the mid-afternoon. d. and I negotiated this one pretty well, also; I was going to see my Aunt while d. went downtown to buy us tickets. She accepted my sending his regrets about not seeing her, even though in advance she had said she would be very offended if he decided not to see her. Anyway, she and I got to visit, she got to show off her local Whole Foods and get me a mid-afternoon snack, and d. got to stay the hell away and do some clothes shopping downtown while ostensibly "on a line" getting us tickets at the TKTS booth.

But I get ahead of myself: In the morning we went to the Guggenheim. The main exhibit was by James Turrell, a Quaker artist and architect who works with light and shadow. In addition to designing a Quaker meeting house in Austin Texas, he's done other arts installations that have felt Quakerly to me, inviting contemplation and inner stillness. His big new work turned the seventy-five foot tall spiral atrium into ... Well, sort of the inside of a mood lamp, with gorgeous curves and subtle slow colour changes. Some 50 people laid back in the atrium looking upward at the colours. It felt meditative to me, even with the occasional conversation nearby. Though: it didn't feel like Quaker Meeting, not by a long shot. But it was at least as meditative as I could hope for in a crowd of New York tourists. I'm not sure what Frank Lloyd Wright would have thought about what they did to his atrium, but I'm grateful for the chance to see the exhibit.

There were also some great abstract art from the Guggenheim's collections, from between World War One and Two- including some great dadaist work, and some great Miró and Klee. These would have been a fine stand-alone reason to visit the museum.

And then we hit the Armory for "WS", a retelling of Snow White by Paul McCarthy. This, like the Turrell, was large-scale, covering the stadium-sized Armory (we once went to an art-sales show there, which took many hours to get through). Unlike the Turrell, it was loud, edgy, and quite profane, and I'm quite surprised they weren't sued by Walt Disney's estate. Every staff person we asked what they thought of it, said they couldn't wait for it to finish- which it was to do the day we saw it. In retrospect, I would have been fine if it had closed just before we were there.

After we met up after my Aunt, d. and I walked down to the High Line, the multi-mile linear park which used to be an elevated train-line. I wanted to like it, as a floating-park-in-midair. But there were too many people, too many rope barriers telling us what was off limits, and too few comfortable benches. All it needed was a roof and it would feel like the train- in the end I think it didn't escape far enough from that which it once was. I hope that it can gradually shift into something more than that, over the decades. Maybe a few exits into adjoining buildings? That would be spiff.

Dan's ticket find for the evening was "Phantom of the Opera", which neither of us had seen, though 20 years ago I listened to the CD quite a lot. Now in its 25th year, it was exactly like the CD, not a note different from what I remembered. And the music, instead of being a fond reminisce, sort of felt late-80s cheezy. Upsides? The costuming was great- particularly, I loved the spectacle of the masquerade ball. I guess it's good to finally see this; just as later this month I'm finally seeing Cats (in Toronto). I hope I like Cats more.

On Sunday, we walked to the Hudson River Park, just a few blocks from the hotel. Now this, this is how to redevelop an urban park. It was less manicured, more varied, and most importantly, not cramped. There was also free kayak instruction and consequently lots of people *in kayaks on the Hudson*. Which felt a bit weird to me, since I always considered the water there to be too dodgy to do anything with. For that matter, the ducks we saw next to the water looked a bit scruffy.

We did quite a lot of walking: after the Hudson park, across midtown to Central Park, lunch near Lincoln Center, and back down Broadway and down to 42nd street to see Kinky Boots. Which was great fun, and deserved their Tony wins. I might buy the album; it felt like a Cindy Lauper CD but in drag. (Which is possibly the same thing).

And then we retrieved our luggage and headed for Newark airport for our evening flight home. And we returned to Rover in our house, which was the best return ever.

Porto, 2 of 2

Sunday, 14 October 2012 05:10 pm
Yesterday we took an all-day excursion up the Duoro River, 100km into the wine-producing areas. While the temperatures in Porto during the day in October were around 20°C, and nearly always humid, we were told that during the summer in the Duoro it often reached 35°C+, and there were cacti growing on some hillsides. But there were also lots of grape terraces, and we were told the conditions are perfect for the hardiest of hardy grapes.

So the grapes are grown there, they are picked in September and processed (one cellar claimed they preferred the traditional foot-stomping method because it doesn't crush the seeds along with the fruit; the other said they only use stomping for sentimental reasons. Who am I to say? Except if I were more investigative, it might have been the perfect opportunity to find out for myself, since they had JUST finished picking at the beginning of this month). After crushing, they are only fermented a day to a few days, and then they are housed for a year or two before they are trucked down to Porto to the appropriate producers where the wine spends many years aging in oak barrels or 40,000-liter (!) vats. They call the cellars "caves" which is sort of accurate, though they appeared to be actually damp, dark, stone warehouses. Built into the side of hills. Oh, and I did see a bat in the one. (So  OK, caves.)

Anyway, the caves were earlier in the week. Back to the tourist boat from yesterday. 

We started in thick fog, with six or so other participants in the tourist company we were using, and a 75-member party of Portuguese taking the same boat, some who knew each other, many of them boisterous. Dan suspects it was a wedding party, but I didn't see any hallmarks of wedding, only large-group tour. Anyhow, they sang along with some of the traditional songs piped over the speakers, and were very jolly. I would have enjoyed having a bit of the language, but the few times I said something in English to someone, they tended to give a friendly smile and reply in Portuguese. 

We chatted with a British couple, but mostly each did the social introvert thing and sat quietly looking at the world.  From the top deck, watching the coastline speed along at close to 20kph was fun. There were a few very pretty towns and vineyards we passed. For me another high point was passing through two locks, one raising the boat over 35 meters, which turns out to be the highest lock in Europe. 

From the arrival at Regula town at around 5pm, we spent 45 minutes in a regional wine museum, which was interesting enough for the local growing history; and had a port sample, and then walked with our tour agent to the train station for the two-hour trip back to Porto. There wasn't really a plan for dinner. The train station had a cafeteria, where dan got a ham sandwich (contents: a bun; a few slices of ham). The tour agent (OK, technically "guide" since she did tell us to follow her; just not really why or where to) bought us tickets and made sure we knew what to do when we got off the train.

The train had the grungiest smelliest seats of any train I've been on. Here's a thought- if your paper head-rests are YELLOW you should probably change them! Oy.

But we made it home, and today had a morning to wander around a bit and then head to the airport. The good: dan discovered a food-market near the old stock-market building, and we then discovered a restaurant above the market that was really tasty, and the scenery was nice too. A pleasant finish to the trip. And then we caught a cab to the airport.

The bad: our flight is delayed three hours, which means we arrive at 9:30pm, aka 2:30am body-time. But  there are worse  airports to be stuck in, for certain- I've found  a quiet corner to write this and and I'll use 30 minutes  of free boingo wifi to post this and catch up on mail. 

Samples of port tried: 14. Ones that I liked: about 2/3. Ones that I *really* liked: 3 or 4, including a 20-year-old tawny from Taylor, and a 10-year-old white port that we're bringing home with us. Ways I don't like port: as port-and-tonic, and part of sangria.

We are both feeling rather travel-worn, and looking forward to our own bed and seeing Rover in the morning. But I'm glad I came on this trip, even if one visit to Portugal turns out to be the right number. And hey, my brain may end up merging the Porto transit system and rabbit-warren buildings into my standard "lost in the New York City transit-system" dreams... 

See you on the flip-side!

The Azores

Tuesday, 9 October 2012 12:39 pm

So, as I mentioned, going to Portugal was just as cheap including a stopover in the Azores, so we did that last Thursday through Sunday before dan's conference in Porto this week.

Recommended vacation? Yes! It's the most tropical place I've visited, though it's only in the subtropics. It's amazingly green and alive. Nearly every rock face on the island is covered with moss, and most of them are then covered with grass or something flowering. The island we were on, São Miguel, has about 140,000 residents (half the population of the 9 islands) and it's been lived on continually since the 1400s. Stone construction is common; just about all the wood we saw was in some stage of mossiness and I can't imagine wood structures last long.

From the airplane, you can see these green tall fences that look like shrubbery, and that's what they are- to keep larger animals in or out, including people. There are a lot of farms on São Miguel- besides tourism, the economy runs on fishing, dairy, and livestock exports to the mainland. Driving around the island for three days, we were stopped a few times by cattle being driven down the road, just enough times that it was still charming; especially when one driver tried to pass around them in the other lane and was promptly stopped by a few strategic cattle (I suddenly imagine a Critical Cattle demonstration, mooing "whose streets? our streets!")

Renting a car was the right idea. There were tour-busses, but dan was happy to drive us all over, and the roads are usually well-signed (except they really need a few more "steep road" signs, maybe including one or two "don't even try it"). The island is 65km by 15km, and we were able to tour most of the bigger towns and attractions in three days. It would have been even nicer if we'd had Thursday to tour as well, but Hurricane Nadine would have made things difficult for us even if we had landed, so three days of visit is all we got.

There is a new superhighway from Ponta Delgada in the south-west to Nordeste in the north-east. It means a traveler could make a day-trip out of visiting all of the towns along the north coast, returning on the highway instead of having to turn back just halfway. We took the winding and twisty roads along the coast, which had so many gorgeous views (more dramatic than Cape Breton- don't take away my citizenship for saying that, Canada!) After making it to Nordeste, and an ill-conceived attempt to view a lighthouse down a steep road, we headed back to Ponta Delgada for the night.

There are beautiful (and free) attractions all over the island, that are kept in remarkably good condition given the amount of work it must take to trim back all the aggressive greenery. My favourite visit was to a roadside waterfall and park called "Ribiera dos Caldeirões" near Achada in the north, with lots of beautiful flowers, old water-mills and many levels of stone aqueduct.

There was also Furnas, a town centered around hot springs and bubbling pipes coming out of the earth. DId I mention the Azores are situated on volcanic mountains? They are at the union of three continental plates, which are moving outward very slowly. It's amazing that the only net effect on the surface today is a few hot springs; apparently in the 1800s somebody discovered a brand new island, which he claimed for England; only to have the next explorer report that it had disappeared underwater again. Fun. Anyhow, Furnas had outdoor hot springs which were awesome, and there were claims of three indoor springs to go and bathe in, only two of them were closed and the third one was empty and creepy, so we didn't bathe in it.

And there was a neat little hike at Calderia Velha, around the middle of the island where a waterfall and hot-springs-warmed water coincided in a pool. Again didn't swim, but it was a nice hike.

We spent a morning driving to the west corner of the island, up Pico da Cruz, only the weather was foggy enough that we could see nothing but white mist. We descended into Sete Cidades, a town centered on three lakes (gorgeous views from above- or so we're told) and then had a lot of twisty roads back along the coast.

The city of Ponta Delgada would have perhaps been more interesting if we had been there on a different set of days: Friday was a regional holiday, and many shops are closed on weekends, so we mostly only visited restaurants. There were a few museums that weren't open. We went to a pineapple greenhouse, which was a "must see", but touring dozens of nearly identical greenhouses wasn't so exciting. There was pineapple liqueur, though. Oh! And Sunday afternoon, I came across a 4x4 truck rally, which was really great for people-watching.

There were also requisite visits to cafes, where we had some tasty sweets though I fear I didn't do nearly enough lounging in traditional Portuguese style. But I tried. I think will try for more lounging in Porto, where we are from Monday through Sunday.

I hope to post photos once I've done some processing, which may happen after I am home again.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

Short form: long island to manhattan; cloisters, dinner and broadway. Yes? Yes.

We left dan's parents' 10:30. Arrived at Penn Station 12:30. Checked into hotel near Grand Central; caught the subway up to the Cloisters, the A line up to 190th Street. I meditated, listened to Tapestry podcasts. One had the gem pointing out if we're lucky, we get 80 years- 1,000 months. This sort of stopped me in my tracks, and was one of the filters through which I spent the rest of the day. I guess last week was my 475th?

We got off the subway into a park, which led to a castle made in the 1930s to hold medieval world art. I spent a while looking at gorgeous 800-year-old chess pieces. They were found in Scotland; they think they are Norse. One of the rooks seemed to be a Berserker, chewing the top of his shield. The kings and queens looked  adorably nervous.

Saw wonderful medieval sculpture, tapestries, and paintings; then we caught a bus and the subway back to hotel.

Dinner at "Craft": simple foods, done expertly. I ordered squash ravioli with sage, then scallops (with a Meyer lemon hollandaise) and brussels sprouts. Dan got raw tuna, then swordfish (no longer overfished, it seems) and kale. My favourite of the mains were the scallops- having now had two incarnations of dry scallops to die for, they might be my favourite seafood. Maybe. Deserts: 3 kinds of ice-cream (olive oil ice cream: just OK). But dan got doughnuts, with Meyer lemon curd dipping sauce and dark chocolate. These were the Best Doughnuts Ever. I have never had a transcendent doughnut experience before, and didn't realize it was a possibility. Just wonderful.
Drinks: I tried a sparkling wine from North Fork Long Island (very good); dan tried a citrusy mixed drink. With dinner, I had a taste of "Gruvurtz grape  juice" but, um, it was way too sweet (as I guess you might expect; but our waiter was happy to let me try it). And with desert I had hot chocolate, which I realized in the first sip was gilding the lily. Ah well. So tasty.

Then we caught the train to 42nd avenue and saw Follies. Bernadette Peters was amazing; the show was neat, and leaves me thinking once again about choices we make in our 20s that we live with through our 50s and onward. Thankfully, I have a less dramatic set of choices and mistakes than the leads of this show- I haven't been pining for my best friend's partner for the last twenty years!

Today? Well-seized. 
So, yeah. We had a week of vacation. The second half:

Suddenly coming up on a pack of bicyclists on a twisty Vermont road? Slightly scary. Seeing their reaction to a car: scatter in all directions, to both sides, and the middle, including making hand-gestures for us to slow down? Eeek! We were a bit rattled, for a while, and I'm glad for dan's reaction-time while driving. When we later ran into them at a nearby town, I was sorely tempted to get out of the car and have a stern conversation with them. (Dan's comment was something like: "what is this, Critical Farmland?")

Sutton, Quebec is charming. I took a jaunt across the border because I wanted to give the wedding couple a bottle of Sortilege maple whisky, which one cannot easily buy outside Quebec. Hey, we were 30 minutes from the border, and it was a nice day for a drive. And Sutton wowed me. Particularly compared with the tiny towns in northern Vermont, Sutton seemed to be a hopping place. Just between where I parked and the SAQ, I found three cafes and a chocolate shop and museum. Also a pair of realty offices, which put the price-per-square-foot at much closer to, say, Stratford, Ontario than Northern Vermont. I found my Sortilege, and the chocolate croissant I got was very tasty, too. (I got a second bottle, for home, and I expected to pay duty on it, but the US customs guard was confused enough as to how it was that an American was living in Ontario, that he only paid attention that I was giving one of them away as a gift, and he waved me through. Whatevs!

We got much better weather than we probably deserved. It was supposed to rain all three days we were in Vermont, but it only really rained one evening. So we got to leaf-peep as well as hike a portion of the Long Trail (we climbed 1,000 feet; the peak we aimed for was apparently a further 300 feet altitude, but we were pretty pooped after that hour of climbing). Rover was quite helpful at finding our trail, actually- it wasn't well marked, but we used an effective heuristic of "if two of the three of us thought it went one way, we'd go that way".

As commented in my last entry, it turns out we weren't the first people we know to stay at this B&B- in the same bizarre room, no less. They were great hosts; I would go back to the B&B, but I think not back to that room.

Onward to Massachusetts! We realized that our route took us through Hanover NH, and managed to get in touch with our friend Judy, so we got to have lunch with her on Friday, as well as stopping at King Arthur Flour, a baker's paradise in retail form. It was Dartmouth's Homecoming weekend, which Judy didn't know when she suggested we have lunch in town. We used up probably a month's worth of parking karma to find a spot just next to the restaurant we were aiming for. And after a really good time catching up with Judy, we were back on the road.

We got to Essex, MA without any Boston drivers actually doing damage to our vehicle or persons; and in the process of getting dinner at a local seafood shack [1], discovered that the next day was Essex Clam Festival. Darn! We'll miss it due to the wedding we came all this way for! Aha- the Clam Fest was at lunch time, and the wedding wasn't until 3:30.

So, Saturday morning, we and a few other people went back to Essex, and sampled a dozen types of clam chowder for $5. Local beers were $4. We had to try a few chowders more than once. In order to properly determine our favourites. Damn, that was good chowdah. We also got our photos taken with Shucky the Clam, the mascot for The First National Bank of Ipswitch (Slogan: "We Dig Our Customers"). Our bank (TD) was also giving away freebies; Rover now has a TD-branded neckerchief, which is adorable.

So, success all around.

OH YEAH. The wedding! Very well organized; the weather once again cooperated, so they got to be married next to a very photogenic pond. The officiant was the groom's mother; she told stories she hadn't cleared with the wedding couple, and they recited vows they wrote themselves, which were very sweet.

Dinner was fun; one of the themes was plush viruses, because the bride has traveled the world working on water-treatment engineering. We came home with Giardia, which felt apropos.

We also got to meet several really nifty people, friends and family of the bride and groom. Sunday we had a big brunch with everybody and hit the road at 11.

At 12:30, we stopped for a stretch-break and dan realized he had migraine symptoms. So I started driving; and I drove until sundown, when he woke up feeling much better. And at that point I realized I had migraine symptoms, in part from staring directly into the sun. So dan drove the rest of the way. All in all, we were lucky that we got our migraines serially, instead of in parallel; we would have stopped and rested if we needed to, but it's good we didn't have to.

Aside from the migraines, the biggest down-side to the last part of the trip was that Rover picked up some ticks in Vermont, and I just discovered them on her this evening. Now taken care of, but... ick!
...and now she is running and barking in her sleep on the floor of my study.

It is good to be home again.

Alive!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011 05:50 pm
Bullet-point form; sorry; I may fill in later.

* left my parents' yesterday after an early lunch at a Thai place down the street.
* the drive through the Adirondacks was pretty, but Vermont has been gorgeous.
* I seem to have slept 11 hours last night
* our suite overlooks a babbling river, has a full kitchen, a wonderful bed.. and more taxidermy than I ever wanted to wake up staring at. The room has four mounted deer-heads, one wolf, one boar, and 2 deer-hoof lampshades.
* Apple waffles for breakfast.
* Today consisted of country drives, mountain roads, a bit of hiking, pretty towns with no open restaurants, and a bit of local color in addition to the trees. Did not successfully shop for cheese. Snacked on the cheese we found yesterday. Yum.
* Almost got clobbered by a 12-tired tractor coming down the middle of a tiny road. Whee!

Now, I hope, a quick nap.
Pretend I did finish this on Sunday, OK?...

--

It's good to be home.

I just returned from my first visit to Canadian Yearly Meeting, with approximately 150 Quakers from all over our country plus a handful visiting from the US. My week in Windsor Nova Scotia was awesome. I expected to eventually get bored with Business Meetings every day; I expected people to be less engaged in meeting newcomers (versus reconnecting with friends they hadn't seen in a year); I expected the food to be mediocre. Surprise!

I didn't skip a single Business Meeting, nor did I want to. Quaker process is so cool to see in action, even if the action is sometimes slow. I sung (in a chanting workshop) every day (except Wednesday, when I played hookey to go find lobster). The cafeteria was surprisingly good, with plenty of variety and lots of fresh veggies. The worst thing I can say about the place is that they completely failed at mobility accessibility- nearly everything required at least one stair, or flights of stairs; and there were quite a few people using canes. My new friend Claire, who gets around in a wheelchair, was philosophical, in addition to being patient with being wheeled up single steps all over the place. She said given that the school is 220 years old, they were excusable in her book. I can't say I agree. Anyhow, that's not the main purpose of this post.

Which is telling a few stories about just one of the characters I met.

--
"So, Tom, how are you getting home?" We were in the cafeteria, both eating fried fish, which was quite good. [1]

"Well, circuitously." Tom spoke slowly. He's 90 or 91, a skinny stick of a man with a bushy beard, round glasses, and a baseball cap. He lives by himself somewhere north of Lake Superior in a solar-powered house. "I'm going from here to Maine, for the 40th reunion of some students of mine at Friends World College on Long Island. We built canoes from scratch and paddled them around New York City into the Hudson and tried to see how far we could get over water."

"How far did you get?"

"The Bering Strait," he said, with a twinkle in his eye. I cracked up. He said his boat was well-built, and he brought lots of maps. He went up the St. Lawrence, across the Great Lakes, and at Lake Winnipeg he took a detour, spending a few years in Manitoba doing research on water testing and safety.

When he finally got to the Bearing Strait, he spent a while trying to figure out how to cross it, having mapped how he could get to Western Europe through Russia. But this was the middle of the Cold War, and it didn't seem safe, so he stopped at the Bering Strait.

But they got a lot of water-testing research done over the journey. [2]

--

Tom grew up in Princeton, through the Depression. It turns out he lived in the same block as Albert Einstein and Paul Robeson. Einstein was friendly; he always waved from the street as he went by with his huge hair. Robeson came back to give a concert at Princeton University, but the hall master refused to let him sing. So he gave the concert in a church instead, which Tom was fortunate enough to go to. He says he's had a very lucky life.

And here's a photo of Tom, from five years ago.

--

I have more stories that aren't about Tom, but they will wait, as I want to get myself to work!

[1] haddock from Truro, caught 2 hours away.

[2] Google tells me he gave an invited talk to CYM in some previous year.

State of the da_lj

Wednesday, 1 June 2011 10:58 pm
At the moment I'm:

feeling well-exercised. It turns out to be 13km round-trip from work, up to the local BBQ place, and home again. Dinner was a totally awesome shrimp poboy.

I"m slightly worried about [livejournal.com profile] roverthedog - she got an abscess next to her ear, and the vet gave us a fairly substantial set of drugs to deal with everything, including an ear infection. She's been wearing her Cone of Shame for a few days, though we trimmed it down so it's slightly less awkward. The cut is doing much better now than it was on the weekend, though, so I'm only feeling slightly anxious about how she's doing. She's a trooper, and she seems in good spirits (she even enjoys being pilled. What a cooperative dog!)

Really looking forward to the weekend- [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I are off to Ithaca on Friday! Wegmans! And Viva Taqueria! And Quakers! Oh my!

A big regret is that we can't take Rover- we had been planning to, but it makes the most sense to kennel her at the vet's. It would be a tougher decision if 1) they didn't love her as much as they do, and 2) she didn't love staying there as much as SHE does.

I'm starting to feel nervous about the Quaker workshop I'm co-leading next weekend in Toronto. I will spend a bit of prep-time between now and then, and I am sure everything will go fine, and now having done this before, I can answer the question of "why the hell did I think this was a good idea?" - because during, and afterward, it is totally rewarding. It's just the before that's a bit anxiety-inducing. :)

I'm grateful for all of the people who spoke up at the Regional Council meetings these last two days, concerning light rail. If you read this, you know who you are- you rock. And I'm also grateful for the people who've been live-tweeting the council presentations. I am cautiously optimistic, though I think the next few weeks are going to feel more nerve-wracking to me than the federal elections were...

I'm frustrated that I got half-way through a book and it got auto-returned on me. I checked it out online, via the local library; it was good for 14 days and there was a hold on it. (Though really I don't know how many holds there are- so who knows when I can check it out again.) While I did take notes on the parts I had read, I'm not sure how easily I'll be able to reconnect with it whenever I can wrest it back again. ...Ironically given my inability to finish, it is Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, about focusing one's attention on the things that matter to you. More words to come, I hope.

And speaking of Rapt, I was reading it over the unRapt long Weekend, which included celebrating Queen Vicky's birthday, my birthday, very few raptures, [livejournal.com profile] amarylliss visiting us from Toronto, and a few people over to watch Left Behind and Left Below.

And on that note, I think I'm Left for Bed. Night!
Icky story: Near the beginning of February, some automated system broke into my gmail account and sent spam to a small set of people in my address-book. Which it could do, because my stoopid password was only seven characters and contained a dictionary word. Not good! Fortunately, one of the recipients was my other email account, so I saw it almost immediately, and I was able to log in and immediately change my password. Unfortunately, two recipients were mailing-lists, which was fairly embarrassing. The email was your standard spam, links to some russian pill site.

Story over? I had a new password (MUCH stronger- a full sentence, with punctuation...) and more info about how gmail protects account-owners. NOT QUITE STORY OVER. This Saturday, I got more spam "From" my gmail account. As did some select members of my address book, including the same two mailing lists. A quick check of gmail proved to me that it wasn't actually coming from me; they were merely spoofing it, using an open relay (via a German ISP, sending to hotmail, which accepted the sender).

So, by this point, I set my own email to "moderated" on one mailing list, as did the manager of the other list, and I sent around apologies, and damned if the jokers didn't try to resend more spam to the mailing lists.

And (after submitting the spammer info to spamcop.net), now I wait; either they will keep trying, or try with different parts of my mailing list, or I'll decide to bite the bullet and tell everyone to block mail from 'dada.da at gmail', or I'll just sit here and be embarrassed about getting my account cracked because I wanted a convenient password instead of a nice long password. (Yes, sometimes my purpose in life is to be an object-lesson for others. That's mostly OK, even though I was pretty grumpy about this on the weekend.)

---

Tasty story: My Saturday breakfast was leftover pancakes that [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball made a friend for lunch the day before. Lunch was amazing brioche french-toast made by [livejournal.com profile] thefateyouare. Dinner was chili with ground turkey, made by my sweetie. Sunday breakfast was a bagel made by d. the day before (he's getting quite good at bagels! I will pay close attention with the next batch, because I want to learn these! (Requires being comfortable with using lye! DANGER! But MMMM that crust.)) Sunday afternoon snack was a cannoli from a batch made by [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and [livejournal.com profile] the_infamous_j. Aaaand dinner was pad thai, also made by d., with a leftover cannoli for desert. All of this made me less grumpy! (thanks guys!)

---

Good things come by courier: My macbook pro has gotten progressively creakier over the last few years. There is a problem with its graphics; this particular graphics card is apparently prone to a data-corruption that somehow corrupts the graphics memory, so I get weird visual artifacts on the screen: horizontal bands of background showing through windows; occasional triangles of warped screen... Weird stuff. I've gotten accustomed to it, though lately it's been getting worse- I can barely open iPhoto without it crashing. At one point I tried resetting everything and reloading my configs, but that didn't help; apparently a complete reinitialization may fix it, but I decided last summer when Apple redid their Macbook Pro that I'd wait until this year to replace it, since the hardware is now 5 years old. And lo, they released their update last week, instead of the anticipated April or May. So, for the first time, I ordered a computer on its first day of sale, and I have a fancy new machine winging its way to me. 5 , no 10 models newer than my early-2006 laptop, according to wikipedia. Same weight, slightly wider screen, 130% pixel-density, a gazillion times faster, and hopefully equipped to last another five years.

---

And some things go by Air Canada: Last weekend (Family Day weekend, here in Canada) was amazing. I was in North Carolina, for the mid-winter Gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns. I don't feel equipped to describe it, other than being happy that I got to hang out with so many awesome people. It was one intensely packed four-day weekend.

I'm a lucky guy, ya know?

On an airplane

Saturday, 25 December 2010 06:50 pm
December 24, 2pm: Somewhere over northern Florida-

dan and I on our way for three days in Tampa with our friend Tom, then two in Sarasota. As usual, the University is closed between Christmas and New Years, so we're taking the time for vacation. Somewhere warm(ish): Tampa temperatures are mid-teens Celsius (60ish F) for the next few days, but it's due to go down to freezing overnight on Saturday through Wednesday. Ah well; It will be warmish.

I just watched an episode from Treme, season one, which I've been hoping to check out for a while. It's gritty and depressing, and makes me want to visit New Orleans. Some other vacation.

It's been a while since I've had energy for writing. I might say I've been too busy living life, to record it; or I might say I've felt too boring to write. It sort of feels like both.

I'm curious if this week will find me less busy and/or less boring-feeling.
Or, Columbus Day, or both, if you prefer!

Today we took on the challenge of the Butter Tart Trail, through Arthur, Mt. Forest, and Damascus, Ontario. We didn't have a designated driver, but did practice safe sampling, not too many tarts at each location.

We met up with [livejournal.com profile] amarylliss in Guelph, which is under a metric buttload of construction (detour D-twelve?!), enough backtracking to get downtown that we were fairly grumpy at their not communicating if there even were an alternate route to the centre of town. And then saw a detour sign which they didn't even bother labeling with the detour number. "D minus." Yeah, that's Guelph in a nutshell right now...

The plan was to hit the two stops on the Butter Tart Trail we knew were open on Thanksgiving Monday, and see what else we found on a long weekend drive. Success!

Fergus had practically nothing open, being Thanksgiving Monday. But Tara got some bouldering in on a cliff at the waterfront. And Rover got her first swim of the day.

In Arthur, River's Edge Goat Dairy was open to our surprise, and we had our first butter tarts with goat's milk in them. And they sold us some amazingly good chevre. The goats posed for photos, though they didn't want to be in the same shot as [livejournal.com profile] roverthedog.

Kenilworth Country Kitchen, in Kenilworth, had half a dozen types of tart. We had lunch in their restaurant, cheap tasty eats (their breakfast special had slabs of home-made bread and thick slices of turkey sausage. Mmmm.) And as we ate a Butter Tart Sundae, our waitress told us about moving to the middle of nowhere from Toronto a few decades ago for her daughter's sake, and being a criminologist for the RCMP as her main job. She called Kenilworth "Never-Never Land", which having lived in a tiny town, I can identify with. Dan got peach pie instead of trying a different flavour of butter tart, which was also quite tasty.

We stopped in Mt. Forest for their waterfront park, which gave us all a chance to walk off a bit of lunch. Rover had a chance to swim and wag at Ducky Friends, and Tara took the chance to climb a tree.

In Conn, we picked up a pack of Walnut Butter Tarts at a country market. And in Damascus, we stopped at the Damascus Emporium, which had such a jumble of junk masquerading as a rummage sale that we didn't feel like actually going inside, despite writeup in the Trail guide as having "Old Fashioned Charm."

We did not have a conversion experience either on the roads to, or from, Damascus, even as we unwrapped the Walnut Butter Tarts. Mostly we looked at the leaves and did the road-trip thing. Perhaps we would have had an epiphany had we been walking.

But we all agreed the trip was a success, and I'm so glad to have friends to go with on this sort of thing. Because that would have been a lot of butter tarts to eat all by myself.

UK trip notes

Saturday, 11 September 2010 11:37 am
Caution: contains Super Lambananas )
You know, I'm looking forward to home.

[ETA: Comments disabled due to spam]

In an airport

Thursday, 2 September 2010 04:39 pm
I'm sitting with [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball at Pearson. Next stop: Manchester. By early afternoon, we will be in Wales.

We're spending two nights in Wales; then 4 nights in Liverpool, where d. has a conference.

Then, we fly to Long Island, for the memorial for my grandmother who died this spring; we're spending two nights at dan's parents' place, and one night at my aunt's.

Possibly the biggest factor into whether this is a good trip for me, I expect, is whether I sleep OK. Last night it took me a while to fall asleep, and at 7:15 this morning there was street construction, which continued all morning. I tried napping, but it's really tough to sleep through random vibrations. I do hope I can sleep on the plane.

I am looking forward to this trip. I expect I'll take lots of photos.

This is the first time I've used my brand-new Canadian passport.

Since we're traveling to the US, we're bringing both US and Canadian passports. I admiit this makes me feel like a spy. :)

Happy Friday

Friday, 6 August 2010 11:53 pm
As I write, [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball is sitting laying a-bed [1] on an airplane enroute to Amsterdam; he's gone 'till next Friday. In the morning, [livejournal.com profile] roverthedog and I are enroute to the exciting metropolis of Watertown, NY, for dinner with my parents, then to their 2nd house, 45 minutes further away. I'm looking forward to seeing them, and I hope I can be useful helping them reduce clutter as they slowly work their way towards moving into the Watertown house.

I'm wiped out from my week. Monday was a civic holiday, which we took to drive to the beach in Goderich on Lake Huron. The rest of the week sort of flew past. Even though I mostly got enough hours of sleep, I tended to feel un-rested in the mornings. I hope that trend is over.

I had other things I was going to say, but they have evaporated. Perhaps in the morning they will have re-coalesced.

[1] d. sent me a text-message that his upgrade to first-class was successful. Which means hopefully he'll be well-rested when he gets to Amsterdam. There's a parade to go see, after all. ...Yeah. Nice job if you can get it; his conference in Holland just happens to be at the same time as Gay Pride. ;)

(no subject)

Friday, 2 July 2010 11:22 pm
Dan, rover and I are at an inn a town over from home; we're spending the night, and tomorrow I'm going home, repacking, and heading off to a week with 1,000 or so Quakers.

The experience here has been delightful. They fed us well. We shared a table with three other couples, each with good stories. There were fireworks. Our room smells of wood fires. Tomorrow breakfast will be tasty.

The irony of going off to a Quaker gathering afterward is not lost on me.'that will also be good, but differently so. There probably won't be buttery croissants at Bowling Green State University.
Bless me LJ, for I have been quiet. It has been two weeks since my last post.

Hey, I'm 36! My birthday was low-key; bookended by food: takeout BBQ one night and yummy home-cooked shrimp scampi. And ice-cream on my birthday. 36 so far feels like 35 with more things falling apart.

I've lost track of how many times I've had bike flats in the last month. It's at least five.
Tomorrow morning might be exciting; I'm biking to work by way of the bike shop, to replace the rear tube (again) and tire (overdue). The tube/tire on the bike might hold long enough for me to get there.

On Saturday morning, I went to reinflate my bike tire to the recommended pressure... and didn't notice a hole worn in the tire sidewall. "Hey, that side's bulging. Hey, maybe I should let the air out before it - " BAM! My ears were ringing for a while. I had to laugh out loud at the absurdity. I immediately pictured birds flying in circles around my head.

In the last week, I've had high hopes for a long bike-ride after work, or on the weekend, but with the different flats, it just didn't seem like a good idea. Hindsight, at least two of the flats were caused by wearing through the tire sidewalls. One was glass, one was a bad patch (over a seam) and I don't remember what the rest were. At least I can still say Rapid Flat-Fixes Я Us.

The odometer did roll over another 200 km, Friday evening just after I replaced the n-1th flat on my way home from work; exactly 30 days after the last 200km.

Other stuff falling apart? Goodness. My laptop has been crashing (though I now have Time Machine running backups, so at least that's automated), my phone/camera has been acting finicky, my iPod has been refusing to update again, our front stoop has lost a chunk of stone and now looks a bit gap-toothed, and I think the front doorknob is possibly loose. Whee! Oh, and we're probably going to replace the car reasonably soon, as upkeep costs begin to approach trade-in value. I feel super-lucky, though, that none of these are dire situations, as long as everything doesn't fail simultaneously. (*glares menacingly at laptop, phone, iPod*)

Anyhow, this weekend included a batch of errands, a wonderful walk with [livejournal.com profile] roverthedog and [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball in a leash-free dog-park along a river, and a fairly recuperative Pilates session that made me feel all stretchy.

Work recently has included a foray into writing some C code, which is quite challenging for me. So many ways to screw up! But I've hopes that I (and colleagues I can rope into helping) will end up with a minor contribution to OpenSSH. Srs!

Since I last posted, I also went to Philadelphia for a Quaker thang, which was useful at unsticking some "how should I do this" sort of questions I'd been stuck on (and perhaps will post on eventually) and also for some good news about the Quaker Quest program- there will soon be funding to hire some number of additional staff. And then I spent a wonderful afternoon with friends in the Philly area, and we romped in the park with their dog and their 5-year-old, AND had a visit from NJ friends who came into town for the afternoon; and then they fed me soup and brownies and sent me on my flight back home with a big smile on my face.

Ithaca

Sunday, 2 May 2010 01:10 am
What with current weather (mid 80s) and the wonderful lilac smell in the air, Ithaca is reminding me of Key West. All it needs is fewer Volvos and more chickens. Any chickens, come to think of it.

I saw the brand new Quaker meeting house-to-be. It's an abandoned restaurant in the middle of a downtown residential neighborhood. It looks great from the outside. It will need many hundreds of thousand dollars of work inside. The Meeting had a work party as soon as they got possession. 50 adults and 20 kids. The general contractor says they did approximately five thousand dollars of cleanout work. In a day.

Ithaca's traffic is just as much a mess as ever. Wegmans is just as awesome a food store as ever.

There was a May Day concert on the Commons, with pretty good music, but which looked almost unmoored enough to become a protest march led by the socialists, judging by the signs against the racist immigration stupidity in Arizona and a few other worthy causes around the country. (which as always, have zero connection to things that a local protest could expect to affect). Am I cynical? Maybe a bit. I lived here eight years.

The conversation in the coffee shop at the old used bookstore today was about how in the old days, we didn't call them glass shops, they were head shops. And did the town need quite so many, after all? I did not weigh in.

Spent a lot of time catching up with my hosts. We went to Viva Taqueria for lunch (super basic burrito with black beans and mole sauce), which gave us the strength to start an evening Settlers of Catan game, and nearly finish before we were hungry for dinner. Plus I was teaching them the game at the same time.

This won't mean anything to anyone but [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball , but I walked right by Unemployed Community Activist Fay Gaugacis at Wegmans.

Tomorrow: Quaker meeting, followed by goodbyes as I head home with Rover, while one of my hosts heads north... To my parents' house. Yeah. Weird. :) But very much good weird.

... On the drive down I listened to the TAL episode about Michael Poyzner, who made fairly exaggerated reporting errors writing a book which became the basis for his California governor's election platform. About the grim urban schools. Which were possibly much less exciting in real life than his story. With an eye to that, I consider and conclude that everything I wrote here was at least as exciting before the retelling.

Berlin

Sunday, 14 March 2010 10:40 pm
I'm going through the photos I took in Germany. Backwards. I've finished the last batch, from Berlin and Frankfurt. I thought I'd combine some of them with a writeup of the latter 4 days of the trip, something I've wanted to do for the last two weeks. Cut for the uninterested... )

blorp

Monday, 1 March 2010 11:46 pm
I was supposed to return home Sunday afternoon, but high windsclosed Frankfurt airport (and roads and main train terminal), so Air Canada put some 200+ of us up in downtown Frankfurt. In a very posh hotel, which fed us two meals (late dinner, surprisingly tasty; early breakfast, full buffet, again more tasty than I expected) and gave us comfortable beds to sleep in, though not for long enough at all.

My Monday began at 4:38 local time, with a wake up call from Air Canada. For a 7am departure from said hotel, for a 9am re-scheduled flight which took off at 10am, getting me to YYZ at 12:30 Eastern Time (8.5h flight. Less said the better. (Wait: I will say: sleeping on plane foiled by 2-year-old who enjoyed screaming at random intervals FTL)).

After waiting forever for my baggage (with the same 200ish people, who I had spent the ENTIRE LAST DAY WITH) I finally was able to drive home and shower and change clothes. Oh, that felt good.

I set my alarm for a 1-hour nap so I could go pick up Rover this afternoon (they are open from 4-7pm). Woke up; turned off alarm; laid down again just for a moment and five hours later, was roused from an awful dream that I had slept through the afternoon. Er.

I can't find much of my consciousness. I'm sure it will return, as will an appetite, eventually. I will eat something light now anyway, then go back to sleep, I hope. And pick up Rover at 8 when the boarding place opens. Sorry Rover! (not that she will have any idea. But I do.)

Ugh. Ton of bricks on head.

But, I will say, glad to be in my own house (that place I live, as [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball puts it). He doesn't come home until Wednesday afternoon, as he's doing work with former students in Bratislava.

I have photos of the trip, and I have the end of a travelogue to write up. Berlin was neat, though I don't have many spare words right now.

(no subject)

Sunday, 28 February 2010 05:19 am
I find myself quite looking forward to coming home today. I've had an amazing time in Berlin. I could happily visit again, going to more museums or seeing more amazing architecture or... being here in a season without winter sludge, perhaps.

The city leaves me with contradictions and questions. How much and in what ways does it matter what happened here 70 years ago? And 20 years ago? What kinds of things are happening today? I probably will do some reading on Berlin after I get home. I wonder how much of my positive feeling about the city are from the amazing new architecture and from missing New York City.

August 2013

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