and I can't tell if it's fatigue or adjusting to being on land. Or both.

Thanks to the extreme generosity of Chad's parents, we went with them on a Disney cruise this last week in the western Caribbean. I have been almost entirely offline as a result, and have opened half-a-dozen posts from the last page of my reading list to read and respond to, but am unlikely to go further back than that, sorry (see above).

Cruise was great; challenging solely because of the children's ridiculously narrow tastes in food, which the staff bent over backwards to accommodate, and a little because SteelyKid has a very low melting point. Also I did get a smidge motion sick but not that often. Rooms very comfortable, lots of stuff to do (even if you're not that into Disney characters), quite good food, generally a well-oiled machine. SteelyKid snorkeled for an hour and a half straight and swam with a dolphin, the Pip touched a sea turtle and went on a waterslide ten times in a row, and I smeared sunscreen on the kids at every opportunity and some that weren't and they didn't burn, go me.

Sadly I was on the same ship as Susan Egan, who voices Rose Quartz in Steven Universe, and did not lay eyes on her or, more to the point, hear her sing. (New episodes next week!)

. . . there was more, but I have no idea what right now. (Oh, wait, it was about the MCU, and therefore needs the next rock.)

(Edit: Chad has a more thorough review.)
We are taking SteelyKid and the Pip on their first plane trips very soon, down to Florida to see my mom and her husband, and I have anxiety like whoa over the trip. I don't have time to write out all the things we've already planned, but tell me your essential and/or non-obvious things about traveling by plane with a five-year-old and a two-year-old? Either I can feel glad that I've already thought of it or glad that someone else suggested it before we left. => Thanks!
Tonight, I clear nearly-finished or quick things out of the posting queue. First: we took a quick vacation last weekend: to the Baltimore/DC area, thanks to a friend's wedding reception and the generosity of Chad's parents, who took the kids.

We left early Friday morning, and after our flight, went to the Udvar-Hazy Center of the Air and Space Museum, a.k.a. the branch next to Dulles where they have the space shuttle Discovery.

I got surprisingly emotional about this! They have it set up so once you walk a little way in, you can see the front of the shuttle down a big hallway, all lit up from below in landing position. Which is beautiful. Then you go into that hall, and it's right there, and you can see the scorch marks on the tiles, which means it was actually in space and it's right there almost within arm's reach, but it's not going back into space again, and then there are the shuttles that are not on display because they never came back . . .

I just had a lot of feelings about it, okay?

This branch also has just an impressive density of aircraft and space vehicles. It could do a little better on its signs, because too often it was a little difficult to tell where to look: though the signs all had pictures, sometimes the paint schemes were different or they showed the planes at a different angle. Otherwise, it was great: I looked at space vehicles and WWII aircraft and fighter jets, and now I want to re-read Apollo 13 and Code Name Verity and some Tom Clancy book with lots of aircraft neep, none of which I am actually going to do (Apollo 13: not available electronically; Verity: wrong mood; Tom Clancy: already filled my quota for the decade or so).

Then we slowly wended our way through mid-Friday-afternoon traffic, checked in to our hotel in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, rested briefly, and headed back out for dinner with friends, which was great: good food, lots of great conversation, and no checking our watches for when we had to get back to the kids.

Saturday morning we walked down to the National Aquarium (the one in Baltimore, not the one in the basement of the Commerce Building in D.C. that Chad thought had closed). Very expensive, but excellently done: couple different reef exhibits, shark tank, dolphin show, rain forest section, and many smaller exhibits with cool and interesting fish and associated water creatures. My only problem was that I discovered that I could make myself motion-sick if I looked around too much through the glass into the water, because of the refraction.

Then we had a somewhat too-leisurely lunch at a tapas place on the water, La Tasca; I had a chicken dish that was not very interesting, but Chad's were all good, and the fried eggplant slices with cheese dipping sauce were amazing. As we ate and looked at the harbor, we tentatively decided to bring the kids down for a long-weekend type vacation early next summer: it's a short direct flight from Albany on Southwest; if we got a suite right on the harbor we could easily walk to the Aquarium, the Science Center, and some ships, all of which would be big hits; we could also drive to Udvar-Hazy and the National Zoo for changes of pace; and we know a few families in the area who have kids who might like to come along to some of those activities.

Then we went to an afternoon wedding reception, a casual party at the home of a friend who got married in the Midwest earlier in the summer; it was really good to see her and meet her husband.

Last for the vacation, we went to see The World's End, which we enjoyed; more about that anon.

So that was a really nice trip, and I'm glad we were able to do it.

Yesterday afternoon, Chad's parents picked the kids up (both kids; their first overnight with the Pip without us there).

Last night, I stayed late at work, had a lovely dinner out, fought Quicken into admitting that my account was too reconciled, cleaned off my desk of a week's worth of mail, took all the ornaments off the tree and put them away, and then slept so soundly that my back is stiff this morning (apparently my body is no longer used to sleeping the night through and, I don't know, doesn't automatically move or something any more?).

The only bad things about this are (a) look how adorable they are! and (b) I am worried about inflicting the Pip's variable sleeping ability on people not used to it . . .

But as changes of pace go, on the whole pretty nice. Now, pack and dress and off for a whirlwind vacation.

We're going to be in New York City this weekend, and right now have only tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon free. What should we do?

home safe

May. 30th, 2011 05:55 pm

If I believed in cosmic balance or suchlike, I would point to today's trip as evidence, because except for the minor inconvenience of spending all of Chicago-Albany making (pleasant!) small talk to a seatmate who was having serious anxiety issues (I stitched while we were talking but had planned to tackle the mountain of posts resulting from WisCon), I had amazingly easy travel today.

My favorite part was spending literally 24 minutes in the air between Madison and Chicago. In only a bit of a black-humor way thinking about the three hours forty-five minutes that same trip took me on the bus on Thursday.

Much, much more to come.

who aren't watching [community profile] wiscon/[ profile] wiscon and who had flight cancellations yesterday: a cautionary tale.

Chose bus from O'Hare over going on standby list for 9:45 plane.

On one hand, am here now.

On other hand, so motion-sick.

Bed now.

My flight is delayed 90 minutes, which makes my connection look really dodgy too.

Oh well, even before I checked the flight status I was telling myself that this is a vacation, today is a day just for travel and relaxing, I am not going to get stressed out, I have lots of stuff to do and am just going to take it as it comes.

Let's see how well I can stick to that.

I'm quite happy living in suburban upstate New York. We have a house with a fenced backyard, to the delight of the household's helpless mammals, and live more than comfortably on the salaries of a college professor and a government lawyer.

But every so often I need to go to an actual city: walk the streets, eat in new-to-me restaurants, watch the people, look in the store windows, listen to the street musicians and the conversations and the traffic, check out the billboards and the subway advertisements and the named street corners, maybe get in a dose or two of high culture.

This weekend I took advantage of SteelyKid and Chad being away and popped down to New York City to visit some friends. Saturday mid-day I walked up to the Fashion District, admired bolts of fabric in hues that you just don't see in the Albany area, wandered briefly through stores with more kinds of buttons and zippers and whatnot that I could shake several sticks at, and picked up a few useful things for my current stitching projects. Then I headed toward Bryant Park, where I gave a couple bucks to a street musician drumming the hell out of an assortment of buckets, and enjoyed stretching my legs in the sun.

Of course, and I promise I'm not making this up for dramatic effect, just as I was thinking how nice it was to get my city fix, I turned the corner and found someone being sick at a payphone stand. (I didn't look to see if there were actual payphones there, under the circumstances.)

And today I came home to a delighted SteelyKid who taught herself to do somersaults while she was away (!!) and collected two rocks, an acorn, and some leaf-buds on our first walk of the season. I've caught up on my e-mail, done various necessary Con or Bust things, and when the laundry's done I will gratefully collapse into my extremely comfortable bed.

It's good to have been away, and good to be back.

Consumer roundup:

  • Holiday Inn on W. 26th: new furniture, digital cable, switched my room type without fuss or rate change, but not particularly comfortable beds and, most significantly, mold in the shower that was not removed after I mentioned it Saturday. (Maybe it was particularly persistent mold, but I'm not sure it was even attempted, and regardless.)
  • Gaetana's: we had a thin pepperoni pizza and pumpkin ravioli with brown butter and sage, both of which were perfectly what I want when I order those items.
  • CafĂ© Zaiya: quite inexpensive Japanese baked goods (extensive) and meals (a few basic). I didn't have any of the baked goods but they seemed well-received, and my udon and tempura was just fine. Not designed for extensive hanging out, but they didn't kick us out, either.
  • Meskerem: it's really weird to have Ethopian not served family-style, but we just all ate off each other's plates. And it was tasty.

Just for the sake of completeness:

I have no luck with the iHome alarm/iPod docks that are becoming standard in hotels, and thus slept through my alarm Wednesday morning and got, again, a late start. But I spent a couple of hours at the American Museum of Natural History, taking a nice leisurely look at the evolution of vertebrates through dinosaurs and into mammals (dodging school groups all the while) and then at shiny gems. (I usually play a game, at art museums, of what I'd take home, assuming I had somewhere to properly display it and so forth. At the Met this time it probably would've been this triptych of Japanese landscape hanging scrolls: one, two, three. From AMNH I think it would've been some of the opals they just acquired.)

Then the train in the rain back to Albany, only slightly delayed, and home. SteelyKid was having a snack when I came in so I was able to get my suitcase up the stairs without her noticing, but then we had a lovely reunion and I got to marvel at how much more verbal she'd gotten in just a week.

It was a great vacation, just long enough to really feel like I did things and to be ready to come back home. I woke up Thursday happy and refreshed and full of resolve to keep better habits, which mood still lingers. What more could one ask for in a vacation?

Last night I saw the Roundabout Theater Company's revival of Tennessee Williams' play The Glass Menagerie. I highly recommend it.

I don't really understand why I like The Glass Menagerie, since ordinary people doing ordinary things and being unhappy while they do them is really not my usual kind of thing. But it was my favorite of the Williams plays I read in high school for a paper, and pieces of it have stuck with me. When I saw that it would be playing while I was in NYC and got a good review, I went to some trouble to get a ticket.

I think I'm going to put most of this behind a cut so that I can talk spoilers freely. Non-spoiler points: it's funny, it's sad, it's very well acted and staged. One of its characters has a physical disability; I didn't see the play's treatment of that as problematic, but I'm not a great judge. If you like the play and you're able, you should definitely see this production (except that it ends the 13th, so you'll have to hurry).

spoilers )

Got a later start today than I would have liked and then had a big hole put in my afternoon when the nice person at the TKTS booth downtown told me that they didn't get tickets for The Glass Menagerie there, they got them in Times Square, and I should go there at 2:30. Since I was having lunch in that area at 12:30, well, that pretty well accounted for the first half of my afternoon.

But I had a fun lunch with [ profile] glvalentine and then did get a ticket to the play, which is the one I'd really been excited about seeing, so that was good. Except then I did something unwise, which was go to Coney Island without double-checking exactly how long it would take: almost exactly as much time as I had left before meeting [ profile] coffeeandink for dinner. So I resolved to make the world's fastest trip: on the Ferris wheel and then right back on the subway. And I saw the roller coaster as I was walking toward the Ferris wheel, but I didn't see any cars moving on it, and I had some vague idea that it had been shut down.

Of course, what do I see when the Ferris wheel gets high enough but cars moving on the roller coaster. So I spent the rest of the ride wrestling with my conscience: It was already going to be very tight making it back. But it was a famous roller coaster and I LOVE roller coasters. But I hate being rude and late. But maybe there wouldn't be so many delays on the way back. But it would be rush hour. But ROLLER COASTER.

So I eventually decided that I could go on the roller coaster if I ran everywhere, or at least as much as my sadly out-of-shape shelf could. And I did. And it was totally worth it. It's not that big or high, but it is fast (starting even with the ascent) and tight and low and rattly and so very much fun.

A good thing, too, because not only was I late and didn't get to change before the show (I know it's not expected any more, but I like to), but the touchscreen of my Palm TX is now cracked so badly that it is unusable, and I presume it happened on the ride. (I feared that I'd broken my phone, too, but its battery was just really out of charge.) So since a monthly voice and data plan makes no sense for me, I'll be keeping it old-school for a while longer and getting another TX from eBay.

[ profile] coffeeandink and I had reasonable food and a nice time, and then I went to see the play. Which deserves writing about when my eyes aren't crossing, so I'll leave that for tomorrow.

Still NYC

Jun. 7th, 2010 08:43 pm
Sunday, brunch at Bee Desserts (formerly/sometimes still Cafe La Palette), which had a shady back garden, very nice savory crepes, interesting honey cakes, and crepes Suzette that were not as good as they should have been.

Then to the World Science Festival, where Chad's book signing went well and where the street fair was really impressively extensive and energetic. In a few years SteelyKid will love it.

Then after a few hard-earned lessons on my part [*], we made to it New York Classical Theater's production of Richard III in Central Park. This is the free & roving Shakespeare I've mentioned before, and as always it was a lot of fun. I'd never read Richard III or seen it performed, but I was familiar with it from The Daughter of Time and The Dragon Waiting.

It really is quite a piece of propaganda—most blatant, I think, in the Duchess of York's laughably over-the-top dialogue—yet survives as art because it manages some plausibility all the same. When it sounds almost not ridiculous that Anne should kinda-sorta-half consent to marry Richard (the murderer of her husband), or that Queen Elizabeth should agree to try and convince her daughter to (later) marry Richard (the murderer of her brothers [**]), or that we should feel a bit of sympathy for Richard when it all comes unraveling, well, that's good writing.

[*] (1) When getting subway directions via Google Maps, be sure to put in the proper date, as some trains do not run on weekends. (2) Check ancient hazy memories about restaurant density against reality ahead of time. (3) Do not buy an unsalted pretzel from a vendor who is packing up for the night. Also, later: (4) Pretzels from street vendors aren't as good as you remembered even when they actually have salt and a consistency softer than rock.

[**] This production omitted young Richard for the sake of time, rather to my confusion.

Then we had better street cart food and overpriced Times Square diner food and went to bed.

Today I went to the Bronx Zoo, where it is baby season. Two words: lion cubs. There will be pictures, oh yes.

The weather was perfect, the many school groups (I wonder if there were more because it was a Monday and therefore other museums weren't an option?) mostly avoidable, and I had a lovely time meandering around and backtracking and imagining SteelyKid's reaction in a few years ("Oh! Kitty!") and playing Where's Waldo to my heart's content.

Then dinner with [ profile] oyceter at the Shake Shack, where the food was perfectly fine but nothing to inspire cult-like devotion in me, and now some more writing or maybe cross-stitching or reading. Because hey, vacation!

NYC update

Jun. 5th, 2010 11:43 pm
Good Mexican, very attentive service at Ofrenda with [ profile] leighdb, [ profile] scifantasy, and [ profile] richboye.

I, uh, kinda blew off the talks associated with stargazing in Battery Park without really consulting Chad, for which I have apologized. When we got there, it was about 9:30 and cloudy, so no stargazing. But we headed toward some bright light and found a small cluster of people at a stage around Neil deGrasse Tyson, who was signing autographs and answering questions. And we stood there and listened, and more people drifted up to listen, and someone put a mike in front of him, and people started sitting down in seats in the audience, and when Chad & I left at 11:00, he had been answering questions and telling stories for at least 90 minutes without a break or a drink. And he was still going!

That is a man who is generous with his time and remarkably energetic. But you know, he made several references to himself as a science educator, and here he had people out on a Friday night asking him questions about science! He was clearly in his element, and I had a blast listening to him. (Part of his talk is up on YouTube already, a discussion of scientific literacy (ETA for accuracy); also his more offical talk we missed, part one and two, which also has a bunch of Q&A.)

Then we went to the Met today and mostly focused on the special exhibitions:

I took some pictures and will post them when I get home.

Delicious Caribbean food at Negril Village in Greenwich Village, which we found randomly.

Then a World Science Festival event called Hidden Dimensions: Exploring Hyperspace, which you can watch online. This didn't tell me anything I didn't know about physics from Chad, but the art historian did actually explain Cubism to me (artists were fascinated with the idea of a fourth spatial dimension, and also X-rays revealing different layers of things). And I see Chad has written up the panel while I was typing, so I will defer to him for the rest.

And geez, now I have to go to bed.

NYC so far

Jun. 4th, 2010 03:02 pm
Frozen yogurt at Pinkberry, really excellent vegetarian food at Gobo, and overpriced tea and snacks somewhere I can't remember, in the company of many excellent people. I imagine the people around us may have been a bit traumatized by some of the topics of conversation, but oh well.

Night at Staybridge Suites in Times Square, which is very nice indeed; go, Priceline.

A wander on the Highline, which is pretty neat, and then a slow stroll back up to W 37th to the new hotel, enjoying just being somewhere so lively.

And now I think I'm going to shower (it's hot, even using my umbrella as a sunshade) while I wait for Chad to arrive.

The suitcase and shoulder bag are packed [*], and SteelyKid is off to daycare. I've got a few more things to do around the house, a couple quick errands, and then I get on a train to go to New York City for a week.

Or, in the words of a rejected song-lyrics title for this post: vacation, all I ever wanted. (Woo!)

[*] Trivia: this is the first trip I have not packed any paper books for. I actually have two I want to read that we don't have in e-book format, but I didn't have space.

But not this one. Alas.

To make up for it, I'm taking a four-day vacation to NYC sometime in the last half of June, all by myself. I'm thinking during the week of June 20, because I'd like to see the New York Classical Theatre do Richard III in its roving-around-Central-Park fashion. But if there's anything else coming up in NYC in late June, or later in the summer, that I shouldn't miss (theater, concerts, museum exhibitions, whatever), do let me know.

  1. Chad has real books! (On shelf Dec. 22; see for more information.)
  2. Rubin Museum of Art: excellent new (2004) museum focusing on the art of the Himalayas. Explanatory text that comes close to the Asian Art Museum's (in San Francisco) for clarity and informativeness. If you like that kind of art, go.
  3. Bronx Zoo on an unseasonably warm November Saturday: thumbs-up. Even at 60F, some of the colder-weather animals were more active, and most of the warmer-weather animals we looked for were out. Very close looks at tigers (hello, gorgeous top predators!), a red panda (hello, animate stuffed animal!), etc. But even on a usual November weekend, I bet it would be worth going: the winter signs make a point of saying which exhibits are in heated buildings, and as long as it wasn't too cold to walk between them, with quick pauses to admire the cold-weather animals on the way, well, I think it would be pretty cool.

And now, the stack of mail, and unpacking, and brief-writing, and so on and so forth.

An extreme miscellany this time: tigers, lemurs, Amazonia exhibit, wolves, and a beaver.

15 pictures )

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