Oh, Irene

Aug. 27th, 2011 07:44 pm
jmc_bks: (Default)
First, [livejournal.com profile] why_me_why_not is having a Hurricane comment party.  



Cape Cod was awesome and relaxing and I loved all of it except the drive (more on that in a bit). The house is a little bungalow near the Sea Street beach, on a cul de sac.  Less than a hundred yards to the 30 steps down to the beach, which is on the Nantucket Sound.  If I left the sliding doors open, I could hear the crash of the waves on the beach as I fell asleep.  And the beach was never too crowded, even though it was right next to the public lot with beach parking.  The water was still and calm on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, but higher and much windier on Wednesday and Thursday.  There's an osprey that nests nearby and I got to watch it dive for fish and pluck up a crab.  And the little birds that pick at whatever lives in the sand at the edge of the water, they were hilarious.   Two of them "owned" that little stretch of beach, and they patrolled vigorously, puffing up and running intruders off their territory.
Early morning view looking east toward South Monomoy Island, a long, narrow barrier island hanging off the eastern elbow of the cape that hosts the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.

On Tuesday, while sitting on the beach and chatting with my neighbors, I felt my chair shift.  It was a little odd, because I hadn't moved or adjusted the chair, but I chalked it up to shifting sand.  A while later I went to the house for a drink and the phone happened to ring while I was there -- there'd been an earthquake in VA/DC/MD and my mom was calling to make sure I was safe (she'd forgotten I was on vacation).  In retrospect, I wonder if it was shifting sand or aftershocks of the earthquake, which were felt all the way to Boston and as far west as Cleveland.  Checked with my neighbor -- no major damage, nothing leaking, no gas smells, don't come home early for this.  So I didn't.  When I got home, I found a few books on the floor -- they weren't wedged into the shelves tightly enough, I suppose, maybe I should buy more? ;)

I used sunblock assiduously but still managed to get a few odd streaks of sunburn -- across the tops of my thighs, and that little tender spot where my arm meets my torso -- the outer part of the armpit, I guess.  And oddly, despite remembering to put sunscreen on them, my feet are the brownest part of my body, an odd reverse of the usual sock-tan-lines :P

Ate a lot of fresh seafood, yum.  I feel like I'm about to confess to something terrible: as much as I love seafood, I don't really *love* lobster.  I mean, I ate a lobster roll and it was good (although why are the rolls always stale?), but the clams and scallops were more to my taste.  And the fish and chips.  And the clam chowder.  And Cape Cod Creamery's ice cream?  Delicious, especially their Dennis Double Chocolate, which is a dark chocolate ice cream with small chunks of dark chocolate and cinnamon.  Marion's Pies in Chatham does great savory and sweet pies, and the orange citrus rolls were out of this world.  Think cinnamon roll in texture and size, but lose the cinnamon and add a lemon and orange flavored sugar glaze with bits of zest mixed in.
Lounging at the sea wall at the top of the stairs down to the beach.

Remembered (at last) to take the 1,000 piece puzzle along, but didn't get very far since puzzling required too much time indoors and too much concentration.  Did very little reading, at least compared to what I expected to accomplish.  Visited The Book Rack, a used book store in South Yarmouth with a huge collection of historical romance books.  Picked up several Harlequin Romances from the 60s that I plan on reading and posting about over at WordPress.  I'll post a book report over there in the next day or so, too.

Ended up coming back a day early because I didn't want to be driving down the east coast as Irene was hitting MD, NJ, NY.  Which has turned out to be a good thing.  Traffic was pretty easy yesterday (except through NYC), since no one had evacuated yet.  C ended up not coming, which was not a huge surprise, given the weather and other things.

As relaxing as the trip was, I'm not sure I'll go back any time soon for a couple of reasons.  First, the drive.  It was 8.5 - 9 hours with no major delays or backups, and frankly the Outer Banks is a closer and easier drive (plus fewer tolls, which I think totalled about $45, must check my EZPass).  The Cross Bronx Expressway is miserable -- yesterday we crept along going 10mph or less from the entrance to the GW Bridge.  No lane closures, no road work, just volume and drivers who couldn't figure out which lane they needed to be in.  And it was just as bad on Saturday, plus the bipolar driving through Connecticut.  I've mapped out other routes, but they all add 2 or more hours to the trip, which is already long to begin with.  Second, although the bungalow's location was excellent, it needs some cosmetic work -- nothing that couldn't be fixed with elbow grease and $1,000 or less, but there are a lot of other rentals out there in the same price range that are better.  Still, the rental agency was very good and Essential Rentals (bike, linens, grocery delivery) was excellent.  

ETA: why is LJ ignoring my paragraph breaks and multiple returns?
jmc_bks: (GK_Not Impressed)
I'm looking at hotels for a trip that's several months away. There's a luxury hotel (the high end offering of a chain) that lists a bunch of amenities like wireless internet, fitness center, whirlpool, hot spa, etc., as part of the basic package for an overnight stay. But then when you look at their rates, as you've selected the type of room you need, you see that there is a $27 charge PER DAY for those amenities...even if you don't use them.

Okay. Um, no.

The budget hotel owned by the same chain offers wireless interest, a fitness center (not as well-equipped, I'm sure), and whirlpool, but does not add surcharge.

Maybe people who are typical customers of luxury hotels don't notice "little" surcharges like that? It would work out to just under $200 for the trip I'm planning, so it's definitely noticeable to me.


Unrelated: chocolate covered marzipan hearts are my favorite.
jmc_bks: (seagull)
Yeah, more photos. After the cut. Read more... )
jmc_bks: (flaming june)
It's just occurred to me that my trip to London was four weeks ago but I haven't managed to post any photos or a travel narrative.  Must get organized, or someday I'll just be saying, I know I did stuff on that trip but can't recall exactly what...

The weather was rather wet, unsurprisingly, but at least there was very little snow.  Which was a plus, since I left home during a lull in historic snow falls for the area, and I understand that there was a lot of snow in southern England this year.  Without going to look at my travel journal, here are the things that stand out in my memory.

Had planned on visiting Oxford but not the first day.  Thank you, National Rail employee who refused to read the small print on my London Plus BritRail Pass, insisting that the train trip from the airport activated the pass for the day, rather than counting separately.  (No, it didn't, according to the fine print on the back of the pass.)  Anyway, the train ride to Oxford was unintentionally entertaining, as I was seated directly behind a young woman of very decided opinions who shared them with her companions for the entire trip and eventually sucked them into her jaunt to Blenheim Palace.  I was tempted by the thought of the gardens and grounds, but wasn't sure my boots (sturdy but not Wellies) would be up to that much rain.  Instead, I wandered around Oxford, enjoying the glimpses into the different colleges and the busy streets.  Climbed Carfax Tower just off the high street -- up was fine, but coming down made me nervous.  At Market Square, I watched cakes be decorated and fondant-ed; admired leatherwork; chatted with a clerk in the butcher shop; and window shopped at a lovely jewelry shop.  Had lunch in the cafe in the church of St. Mary the Virgin, can't remember the name, but the food was organic, served homestyle, and quite delicious.  Enjoyed the tour of the Bodleian Library, especially of Duke Humphrey's library and what I believe was the original lecture room of the divinity school, which can be seen in the Harry Potter movies as the library and infirmary, respectively.  (Photo is of Christ Church College, taken from War Memorial Garden.)

Woke up the next day and saw that the sun was out!  Last minute change of plans: took the tube to Wimbledon.  Well, tube and bus.  The tour and museum were a little spendy in comparison to other museums and entertainments, but I would recommend it to anyone who is a tennis fan.  We had a chance to sit in Court #1 and Center Court, which absolutely rocked my socks (also, all the seats in Center Court were just replaced, and each has its own individual cover, unlike any other stadium I've been in).  (I am TOTALLY going to the Championships at Wimbledon someday, even if I have to sell my soul  take out a second mortgage on my house to do so.)  Anyway, learned all kinds of odd and random things interesting probably only to tennis enthusiasts, such as:  the two largest courts are regrassed every September (rye grass); it takes 9 months to build a new stadium but a year for the earth to settle, which is why building is going on now for a new court to be used in the 2012 Olympics; the two largest courts are open enough that local foxes sneaking in to use the grass is a problem...hence electric fences.  There is a temporary exhibit on Fred Perry in the museum that was interesting, and I loved the display on women's tennis kits, especially the video that showed the 10 kilograms of clothing that women used to wear!

Seemed  a shame to go to a museum or anything that would leave me indoors on such a nice day, so I went to Kensington Gardens and people watched.  Lots of material, especially around the Round Pond and Prince Albert Memorial.  (And, hey, Depeche Mode was playing Royal Albert Hall later that week!)

Despite a rainy and dreary day, Hampton Court Palace was a nice day trip.  The kitchens of Henry VIII were fascinating, especially the bits of the tour when experimental food historians talk about trying to recreate recipes, utensils, and cooking methods.  Food as status -- what you are served, how you are served, when/where you are served -- isn't something I'd ever thought about before.  Stood next to a huge fireplace for a few minutes to warm up, and was given the chance to turn a spit.  Even empty, it took muscle, and I couldn't imagine trying to turn it when half a cow was on the spit.  In one of the galleries upstairs, I looked out over the Fountain Court and noticed the carvings over the arches -- are they gods and goddesses?  The nearest one was horned, which made me think Pan or Bacchus.  Checked with one of the museum guards/docents, but she wasn't certain -- no one had ever asked her about them.   Lovely galleries of paintings - especially Kneller's Hampton Court Beauties and Lely's Windsor Beauties.  The garden probably shows better in fair weather, but I still enjoyed the Maze.

The British Library...I took a tour of the library and was the only person on tour.  Marta, the guide, was very helpful and informative.  I got to see the mechanical system used to ship books from the underground stacks (8 stories!) to the different reading rooms, and to admire the very modern reading rooms.  The BL receives 4,200 items per week.  And cannot cull the collection, unlike the average lending library, since its job is to archive materials.  Many materials are stored offsite in Yorkshire, and if requested, will be available for viewing in London within 48 hours.  Didn't realize that they were part of the British Museum until recently.  The building is lovely and rather naval, which I mentioned.  Marta smiled and told me that the architect was a retired naval fellow, and the resemblance was intentional, from the exterior cruise ship-like profile to the round, porthole-like windows on all doors.  The collection of George III is front and center, as required by the bequest, light and temperature controlled.  More than 35,000 volumes collected by a magpie king who didn't actually read many of the books, but had an agent on the continent whose job was to acquire them for the king.  (Hmm, I can only imagine that my TBR pile would be of equivalent size if I had an unlimited budget and an agent whose sole job was to acquire books that I might be interested in for my collection.)  The temporary exhibit was of editions of the Rubiyat by Omar Khayyam, and the permanent exhibit includes all kinds of things, ranging from the oldest known Beowulf manuscript and one of the original duplicates of the Magna Carta to handwritten Beatles lyrics.  Was blown away by the Turning the Page (TM) technology and ability to view virtually some incredibly delicate and valuable books, manuscripts and documents.  The new library was supposed to have three phases of building, with this first building followed by more, but the funding has been cut for the other phases, so this is it.  Marta said that if they'd known, likely a lot of the open space in this building would have been used differently, but that would be a shame -- it is a gorgeous building, very open and welcoming.  (My brain was quite full after leaving the library.)

On the next sunny day, I had a dilemma: day trip to Canterbury or Dover Priory.  Fortunately for me, the same train went to both destinations, so I had a while to make up my mind.  Ended up picking Canterbury, which was a happy choice.  After exploring the pedestrian-only area and window shopping, I went to the Cathedral.  Christchurch Gate is a little creepy, frankly, with the blue figure hovering over the gate.  Is it copper and the blue is corrosion, or is the color intentional?  Anyway, the cathedral is majestic, even partially laddered with scaffolding and netting.  While wandering inside, I paused to take note of an interesting memorial (the fellow seemed to have led an interesting life, governor & commander of Hong Kong, ambassador to China) and was asked if he was an ancestor?  No, just someone to look up.  But the lady (a guide in training) kept me company for the rest of my visit, and chatted with me about the cathedral cats; the daily Great War memorial -- recently relocated due to falling masonry from the Great South Wall; the Red Dean of her youth; the pea fowl that the new, young dean kept; the speculation that Thomas Becket's body had been moved by the monks before Henry VIII sacked the shrine in 1538; and how, if I'd come a little earlier, I would've seen the gorgeous altar cloths and flowers that usually decorated the cathedral but which had been put away for Lent.  Walked to the Roman Museum, and had a hurried visit, then back to the cathedral for Evensong (beautiful).  Far and away, the thing that most impressed me was the fan ceiling of the Bell Harry tower.  Gorgeous.  None of my photos came out well, so I'll just link to a pic here.

Let's see, what other stuff?  Walking tour of Legal & Illegal London, which included the four remaining original Inns of Court.  Aside: I didn't realize that the bells John Donne referred to in Meditations XVII arose from the bell tolling the death of benchers.  I thought it was much more generic.  The insight into the legal history of England was entertaining and informative, and drove home how very different our legal cultures and communities are, despite the fact that much of American common law is based on English common law.  

Saw "The Misanthrope", which I enjoyed but is not my favorite work by Moliere; I'm supposed to scorn Alceste for idealism and naivete and his unwillingness to engage in hypocrisy even when it would be to his advantage, but he's my favorite character and I am frustrated that he's essentially dismissed as a Cassandra.  In this interpretation of the play, Damien Lewis played Alceste, and Keira Knightly played Jennifer (Americanized and modernized Celimene).  Both were very good, although I found Knightly's American accent to be not quite right -- I'm not sure I can explain it, other than to say it was a little too nasal and the consonants too hard...plus, she lost the accent almost entirely whenever she had to pronounce a word ending in -ing, like "anything".  

The 100 artifacts exhibit at the British Museum is worth seeing, as is the temporary exhibit of medieval York artifacts.  The Sherlock Holmes Museum?  Eh, if you are a huge, huge fan, it's probably worth your time.  I went primarily to take photos for the Holmes fan in my family, so I enjoyed it, but probably wouldn't have gone otherwise.  Plus, I was a bit out of sorts since it was snowing and the wind turned my umbrella inside out, and a French brat kept asking me to move despite the fact that there was no place to move to.  [I'd've happily moved just to get away from him if there had been any room to spare.]

While standing in front of the National Gallery, a squad of red-coated soldiers on horseback came trotting up the street.  Not sure where they came from or where they were going (are the Horse Guards nearby?), but it was certainly a sight to see.  

Hmm, my unthreatening-factor remains in effect: I was asked for directions no less than four times.  And was able to help twice!  

Took a lot of pics that I'll eventually label and upload to FaceBook.  I guess.  Here's one last photo.  I loved the huge buttresses with the tiny, tender buds of spring flowers.



 
ETA: edited a bit for typos
jmc_bks: (star fort kinsale)
London was awesome. I would totally go back. I will go back, actually, because there is so much that I didn't have time to do, like visit Wimbledon, and the Portobello Road Market, and walking down Bond and Oxford Streets. And seeing the Magna Carta, the British Library and the Bodleian Library.

But that's for another trip. Let's focus on this trip, shall we? Photos will be included, most or even all taken on my phone, despite the fact that I took a real camera with me. Please forgive the quality, as they may be blurry or grainy.

First of all, the hotel. It was in South Kensington, just up from the Gloucester Road tube station. Clean and comfortable, it was a bargain. The only real knock was that the walls were paper thin...and my neighbors were a voluble Italian family who never closed a door without slamming it. Would I stay there again? Maybe, because the price and convenience of the location would be hard to beat.

Second, the Oyster Card. Oh, Oyster Card, how I love you. Purchased a week's fare for unlimited bus and tube trips in the main tourist zones of town, and it too was a bargain.

Arriving at about dawn, took the Gatwick Express train to Victoria Station. Was fascinated by the houses and architecture; no matter what the age, the houses and buildings looking distinctly English to me. Sheep in the fields. Passed a couple of neighborhoods where the houses had little plots of land separate from their homes and lots, each with a little garden and shed or greenhouse of some sort. Tube to the hotel, where I dropped my bags. After having cocoa and a muffin, spent the day wandering up Cromwell Road toward Knightsbridge, visiting the Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Cool things in each: the Cocoon, which is such a huge contrast, architecturally speaking, with the exterior of the NHM; the interactive expedition planning for plant sample collection within the Cocoon; the Darwin Centre; the ice skating rink outside; the Islamic and Arabic gallery at V&A; the book and printing press display and video at V&A; etc. After they closed and the sun set, I walked up Cromwell Road to where it ran into Brompton and window-shopped. Emporio Armani has a cafe, and serves breakfast, lunch and tea. (Do Armani-wearers eat? Really?) Ogled a gorgeous, copper-burnished range at a high end kitchen supply place, then was appalled by the price (20,000 pounds! on sale at more than half off!). Finished up at Harrod's, where I bought souvenirs for the office (tea, toy cars, etc.) and had a ridiculously expensive and incredibly tasty sundae by the name of Pear Helene. Chatted with two ladies in town from Essex who were treating themselves to the trip as a gift for Christmas. [I now understand the phrase "Essex Girl", which I've heard used derogatorily. Seems pretty judgy to me, but whatever...] Anyhow, by then it was almost 8pm and I'd been awake for ~30 hours, so I staggered back to the hotel and fell asleep immediately.

Thursday. Forgot it was Thanksgiving. No turkey, cranberries or pumpkin pie. Instead, there was Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Big Ben, Jubilee Walk, the Tate Britain, King's Cross, the National Portrait Gallery, Leicester Square and Seven Dials. I forgot to tell The Biochemist, but Jeremy Irons narrates the audio guide to the Abbey. Perhaps not so oddly, Westminster Abbey did not feel particularly holy to me; it felt historical and museum-like, but not very religious despite periodic moments of silence and reflection, perhaps because of the crowds of people. Saw the tombs of Elizabeth and Mary, the coronation chair, Poet's Corner, and the memorial for Darwin. From there, walked around Parliament Square, then over Westminster Bridge to the Eye. Four hour wait, no, thanks. So I walked down the Jubilee Walk to Lambeth Bridge, then to the Tate Britain. The Turner Prize nominees were showing, but I didn't look. Instead, I concentrated on slightly older work, especially the Lawrence and Singer Sargent displays.

Went to King's Cross because The Biochemist mentioned Platform 9 3/4, and discovered the lowbrow culinary pleasure of the sausage roll from a vendor there.

Friday. I went to Bath. Loved it and would absolutely go back to see the other stuff I missed. First stop was the Abbey, because I hit it first on the walk up the hill from the train station to the Royal Crescent. The difference between the Bath Abbey and Westminster could not be more striking. Although people worship at Westminster, Bath is clearly a community or neighborhood church. Smaller (but by no means small), its interior architecture is more airy. It was being decorated for Christmas, and stalls were set up outside for the Christmas bazaar. The church vault or catacombs, dating back to Roman times, were open, too. Walked over Pulteney Bridge, then up Gay Street to the Jane Austen Centre and up to the Circle and the Royal Crescent. Gorgeous. Walking back down, I spent the afternoon in the Roman Baths, which are a marvel of architecture and engineering, even today. Sadly, the Pump Room was closing early for a private function, so I could not have tea there. Instead, I had a bun at Sally Lunn's, and checked out the kitchen museum in the basement. Followed by window shopping up the high street -- the price of real estate is insane! and there's a Lush boutique (smelled great), plus bookshops and more. Had an excellent dinner at The Hole in the Wall, then took a late train back to London.



Saturday. The Circle Line and District Line were closed for the weekend for engineering works, which was extremely inconvenient. So whines the tourist. Anyway, I planned on doing several things, but ended up spending the entire day at the British Museum. And I didn't even see all of it! I did a quick walk through of the Egyptian display and Parthenon display downstairs, then went upstairs to stay. The Staffordshire Hoard! Revolution Paper. And all the other stuff. Plus, there's an exhibit on Moctezuma (paid and ticketed, unlike the rest of the museum, but worth it) that's worth seeing. Stopped for tea at the court cafe, which was excellent. [Have I mentioned that clotted cream is my new favorite thing?] Then back to more displays. My brain was full by the end of the day. Stopped for a little bit of window shopping and souvenir shopping on the way back to the hotel.

Sunday. Once again, planned to do a bunch of stuff but ended up spending the entire day at the Tower. Which makes sense since it is huge and also because it has more than a thousand years of history to learn about. Particularly enjoyed Beauchamp Tower, and the graffiti done by prisoners on the stone walls. Is it sacreligious to say I felt kind of ~meh~ about the jewels? They were pretty and shiny, and I liked learning about the mining and cutting of Cullinan I and II, but otherwise, the settings are rather gaudy, aren't they? Stopped at Piccadilly Circus on the way back to the hotel, walking by a huge Waterstones and Hatchard's, stopping at Fortnum & Mason for (overpriced) tea and gifts.

Monday. Mailed post cards. Went out for tea in the morning, then checked out and headed home.

Theater posters for Les Mis, Phantom, and the coming holidays cracked me up, which I don't think was the intent. But the pathetic image of Cosette and the mask under the holiday banner and wishes just didn't seem that tragic. Also, Damien Lewis is going to be starring in The Misanthrope starting next week, and I so want to see that show despite the fact that Keira Knightley is in it, too -- her wooden acting is painful to watch IMO.

Was entertained by the temporary ice skating rinks set up outside the Tower and the Natural History Museum. It wasn't particularly cold while I was there, but they were put to good use. The weather was good, and rain held off until Sunday, when it poured. Or pissed down, in the vernacular :p


My approachability (or non-threateningness) factor remains in effect: I was asked for directions three times. And twice I could answer helpfully!

There's more, but that's what I remember off the top of my head and without consulting my trip diary.
jmc_bks: (Stupid)

Today's earworm:  alternating songs from Cobra Starship's Hot Mess album.  The title track and The Scene Is Dead - Long Live the Scene.  In particular the chorus and the lyric, I can love you like a sailor, I can make you dance all night.  As I mentioned to The Biochemist, whenever I hear this song, I imagine all of the Cobras in sailor suits with bellbottoms and pinafore tops.  The image needs to Go Away.

It may not (hah! isn't, I'm sure) obvious from my blog, but one of my primary characteristics is curiosity.  Four words that describe me best are I want to know.  Which is politely called curiosity but could also be incurable nosiness.  My mom tells stories about me being frustrated at school as a child because I wanted to know more than I was being told/taught. And also of being accidentally elbowed because I hovered too close as she worked at the counter in the kitchen.  I needed to see what was going on!  One of the reasons I'm good at my job is that when I see anomalies, I want to know why they are, to figure them out and fix them if possible.  Which means that a lot of people ask me to fix things for them that aren't really within the scope of my job.  I don't mind usually.  But I've reached the point that 1) I don't have time for this because of my own workload, and 2) I've felt like one colleague (who everyone agrees -- including his supervisor -- is really not up to his job, intellectually speaking) is taking advantage, shuffling "problems" to me that have been assigned to him for resolution, then taking credit for my solutions.  Today I said no, which is pretty hard for me in the work context.  No, I'm not taking those back and fixing the problem.  They were correct when I gave them to you, and all of the documentation attached verifies that; anomalies in the electronic files that appeared after I turned them over to you, perhaps because of a bug in the database, are a computer/tech problem.  To resolve that, you need to work with IT and solve the problem yourself.  I felt lazy, like one of those people who refuses to perform any task not specifically listed in their job description (we have many of those at the office), but also justified.   

And for Kate, a beach photo:

 This was taken just after sunrise on one of the windier days last week.  So much wind that despite the sun, the beach was empty that day.  The boardwalk and neighborhood businesses did brisk business though, since people couldn't really lounge comfortably in the 20mph wind.
jmc_bks: (Seagull)
Books that I might read while lounging on the beach:

The Betrayal by Pati Nagle:  fantasy, RWA book
Her One Desire by Kimberly Killion: historical, RWA book
Rescue Me by Christy Reece: romantic suspense/adventure, RWA book
Lord of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle: historical, RWA book
Nightkeepers by Jessica Andersen:  paranormal, not a RWA book but picked up from HPB because I got the second book of the series at RWA and must read in order
Written on Your Skin by Meredith Duran: historical, not RWA book
Demon Bound by Meljean Brook: paranormal, pulled off the TBR pile
Mistress of the Art of Death by Arianna Franklin: mystery, pulled off the TBR pile A+
Packing the Heat by Penny McCall:  romantic suspense, RWA book (DNF)
Hill Country Christmas by Laurie Kingery:  historical inspiractional, RWA book  (DNF: characters blathering about god providing when the heroine is destitute hit a really sore spot for me; their attitude was, don't you worry, honey, god will fix things and you'll be taken care of.  Screw that -- take care of yourself without expecting miracles.)

Also, I am a moron.  Bought a 1,000 piece puzzle of "Las Meninas" specifically to do while on vacation at the beach.  I'm at the beach.  Where is the puzzle?  On the table at home, where I left sitting out so I wouldn't forget to pack it.  Dammit.

Also:  Dear Atlantic Ocean, I have missed you.  I never realize how much until I can smell the ocean air, then feel the sand under my feet and the shriek of gulls and pounding of waves.
jmc_bks: (Default)

I'm back home -- I decamped for warmer and calmer places during the inauguration.  It was 2F in Baltimore when I left on Saturday and 70F in Houston.  The return wasn't quite so bad (70F -> to 30F).  Security was a little tighter than usual for the return -- TSA was checking ids at the security lines and again at the gate.  Or it was for all flights headed toward DC, at least.

The flight to Houston?  Packed.  I sat next to a sweet boy named Shane, who was on his way home after a trip to NYC.  He reminded me how fun Go Fish can be, and taught me to play Speed.  I totally kicked ass at that game, btw.  He also recommended some things to do if I ever visit Vegas, checked out my musical taste, told me that an iPhone would be better for me than a Blackberry Storm, and told me that NYC is his favorite city ever, but that he was glad to be going home.  [Very opinionated, not at all shy, but sweet.]

The Biochemist and The Chemist are doing well, if worried about the layoffs at his company.  He ran the half-marathon, and we went to the movies (Last Chance Harvey was pretty good).  For the first time in ages, we didn't go to Japaneiro's.  The Chemist and I were supposed to go while The Biochemist did a fan-girly FOB thing, but he was feeling under the weather, so instead we hung out and watched football, ate carry out.  Generally speaking, we were couch potatoes, although I went for a walk each day around the neighborhood, which keeps growing.  The newer section is markedly different -- much younger trees, no detached garages, slightly different architectural style.  I tend to like the older houses best, although I'm not thrilled with the landscaping.  I still haven't made it to a Sonic, although I intend to every time I visit -- people keep telling me I must; the only one near me is on the way to the beach, and I missed it last summer.   Maybe next time.

Now I'm off to check Google Reader and placate The Goofy Cat.

ETA:  I forgot to share my glee over my Xmas presents!  So, when TB&TC were in town over Thanx, I mentioned that I don't own a pie pan, and just use a round cake tin to make quiches.  And then we made Nana's Chocolate Cake, which calls for sifting -- yeah, I don't own a sifter, so we ended up with lumpy icing.  Which wasn't a problem, really, since the cake doesn't linger in the kitchen.  I think this may have appalled The Chemist, who could have a second career as a pastry chef.  Srsly.  So for Xmas, they got me a sifter!  And a pie plate!  And Mad Libs, which I love.  And, coolest of all, autographed photo/cards of the guys from The Cab.  Well, 3 of 5, because the other two were lost...or maybe picked from TB's pocket in the crush of the Rock Band Live show.  Still, they are matted and framed, and they totally rock.  TB&TC are excellent gift givers.

jmc_bks: (blue)
I haven't been to Spain since I bought a house (six years now). Since I went annually before that, at least once I finished school and became gainfully employed, the lack is most noticeable. The first couple of years, I was house-poor. [Still am, really.] Then I ended up going to Hawaii, then had a couple of conferences -- for the non-profit, but still had to pay my way plus the conference fee, which was hefty. Last year airfare was just too much; airfare anywhere outside the US was, really.

Yesterday I found round-trip airfare, including all taxes and fees, for $477. And I want Want WANT to go. I have enough leave accrued. My vacation fund would cover that and the hotel or apartment rental, depending on whether I just hang out in Madrid or decide to go to Granada or Barcelona.

What's stopping me from booking the flight?

Prudence. My job is relatively stable, but there's talk of merging with another agency, and positions are bound to be eliminated if that's the case. The head of my office considers my position to be "mission critical", but even so... It just seems frivolous to spend much on entertainment/travel, when bad things are looming on the horizon.

Am I being too cautious? In the end, would the cost of the trip make that much of a difference if I were suddenly unemployed? I don't know. Opinions?
jmc_bks: (daffs)
I didn't watch the VMAs last night, being disinterested in MTV generally. Although I'm the right age, MTV just never interested me much. Anyway, The Biochemist sent me a list of observations and questions. One of them was about Lil Wayne's red handkerchief in his back pocket. A gang thing? I don't know; but it is definitely a signal for fisting, dating back to bath house days I think. Clashing cultural symbols, I guess. Maybe the gang land stuff is more widely known than the other?

Despite the application of copious amounts of sunscreen, I still have a few red, tender spots. Around the edges of my swimsuit top. The tops of my feet. Etc.

Now I'm off to meet some friends and eat a totally un-nutritious dinner. Maybe a huge tub of Thrasher's fries -- salt, grease and starch. And if I get ketchup, the fourth food group (high fructose corn syrup) will be satisfied.


Editted for typos.

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December 2011

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