kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
Yesterday Chad was giving a talk in Bristol (his post-mortem, with a link to the host's writeup in comments), so we stopped in Bath along the way for some tourism, and I also stomped around Bristol a bit.

We had an extremely nice time in Bath. The Abbey right next to the Roman baths is very beautiful: St. Paul's is more impressive, but this was more lovely. The ceiling has this beautiful fan-shaped vaulting, which is carried through in the rest of the design, such as the altar. Also, there was lots and lots of stained glass, which I missed at St. Paul's.

The Abbey also hosts an amazing set of diptychs by Sue Symons that pair calligraphy with needlework to tell the life of Christ. I noticed the needlework first, of course, and here are some pictures: needlework portion of one diptych, needlework portion of another diptych. I also tried to get a picture of a full diptych, calligraphy plus needlework. I ended up buying a set of postcards of all 35 diptychs, on the ground that while a print was bigger and easier to see, I didn't really have anywhere to put it, but I could rotate through the postcards at work.

Then we went to the Roman baths, which are mostly pretty nicely done. They rely more heavily than I would like on audio tours, which I find annoying because I can read so much faster than I can listen. (Also, there is a Bill Bryson portion of the audio tour that is not nearly as funny as I was hoping, though Chad enjoyed it, so YMMV.) But the signs were generally sufficient and did a good job of putting things in context. Chad's post for the day has more pictures, but here a few I took: Gorgon's face, temple of Minerva; Julius Caesar, on the left, looks down at the (untreated) swimming pool in the rain; and The Pump Room, of Regency novel fame.

After lunch, I continued my not-very-serious quest to do research for the Strange & Norrell re-read / generally amuse myself by doing things I'd read about in books by sticking my head in at the Bath Assembly Rooms, where you can see the Tea Room and the Grand Octagon for free. I also indulged myself by taking a picture of the fancy mirrors in the Grand Octagon, which are exactly opposite each other.

Then we went to the Museum of East Asian Art, which is small and has very little explanatory text, but has some nice things and is worth a look. I took a lot of pictures, and these were just the ones that were lit well enough to come out reasonably on my phone: jades: pig and carp turning into dragon; ceramics: crab and horse; ivory: cheerful Immortals and
ocean life card case; other: dragon and fox and drum netsuke (I forgot to write the material down, but it looks like clay?). (Full titles and time periods are in the links.)

Then we went to Bristol, and while Chad gave an interview and prepped for his talk, I took a little walk around. In Castle Park, I found a Bristol space egg at St. Peter's Church, which for reasons you can see in the last picture is dedicated to those who died in the Blitz. I walked down to Queen's Square, which has many elegant buildings around it, and then got slightly off-track and stumbled upon a very tiny but lovely park behind the building where the talk was being held, which turns out to be Temple Church and Gardens. If it had been earlier I could have visited the ruins of the church and seen the former Templar church revealed by the WWII bombing and admired the leaning tower, but instead I was delighted by the tree-lined path and the gardening along the ruins.

After Chad's talk we went out for dinner at The Stable, where I discovered a cultural difference in the form of my instinctive "no, one does not put a soft-cooked egg in the middle of pizza!" Also, I had some very good cider, but unfortunately I can't recommend varieties because it was a tasting menu and we didn't get the number key—I mean, I'm never going to be back there, so it hardly mattered. Then we came back, getting to the hotel after 1:00 a.m., which is why there was no post yesterday.

Today, again on the vaguely research-ish theme mentioned above, we went to Apsely House, which besides never looking correctly-spelled no matter how many times I check it, was Wellington's house after he was created the first Duke. No pictures, because a lot of it was very dimly lit—not good for art viewing, unfortunately, especially since the explanatory text was minimal and many of the painting labels were on the paintings themselves and angled in a way that I had trouble seeing. But it definitely gave me a sense of the aesthetic of the era and the massive gratitude toward Wellington—literally, in, e.g., the form of two huge porphyry candelabra from Russia and the centerpiece of a Portuguese plate service that is literally eight meters long. (Not all the plates and dishes and stuff laid out end-to-end. Just the centerpiece.) Though to my mind the most boggling was the porcelain Egyptian-themed china service than Napoleon commissioned as a divorce gift for Josephine: yes, I want to display seven meters of replica Egyptian buildings and statues at formal dinner parties and say "hey, my emperor husband divorced me, but at least I got this nifty porcelain service out of it!" (She refused it, which is why Wellington got it; the King of France gave it to him after Waterloo, IIRC.)

Anyway, I wouldn't recommend it as a general matter, but for my purposes it served well enough. But I realized I should read a decent—short!—bio of Wellington (Napoleon too, but that can wait); any recommendations?

(Oh, and there was a fox rolling and stretching in the private garden, which was pretty great; I've never seen a wild fox at such length before.)

On the way to Wellington Arch, I was amused to note that equestrians have to push for the light like anyone else.. On the way out, we walked through Hyde Park, which is very nice. We were at the end with the Rose Garden, which is very lovely but this statue is a bit of an odd introduction, since it looks like the kid is forcing water out of the fish's nostrils by kneeling on it and squeezing. (Here's another bit of the Rose Garden.) We also came across this fabulous tree with branches that grew down to the ground; as I said on G+ when I posted it, imagine growing up with this to play hide-and-seek and tree house with?

Then we had very good pub food at The Victoria near Lancaster Gate, and came back for the con, about which more in a moment.

Oh, and here's Chad's pictures for today.

Now let's see if the WiFi is back . . .
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
Today, after some frustration trying to buy rail tickets to go to Bath and Bristol tomorrow (which as I start this post may not be over, as we discover further convolutions of the British rail system), we made a quick pass through the Tate Modern, mostly because it's very close to the Globe Theater.

Modern art is mostly not our thing, but it was free and I found some things I liked. I put pictures on G+, along with links to the museum's information in the comments, which in some cases include better pictures. G+ won't let me create new albums at the moment, so I'll link the posts individually.

"Seated Nude" by Pablo Picasso (cubist mother of future robot armies)

"Before the Storm," by Zao Wou-ki (photo doesn't do it justice but maybe hints at the quality of the small amount of light that's in it)

"The Invisibles" by Yves Tanguy (visually-appealing surrealism)

"Ships in the Dark," Paul Klee (the tiny bright dots are, unfortunately, the ceiling lights)

"Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams 1," by Ibrahim El-Salahi (large striking modernist figures)

Chad has more pictures in his album for the day, including one toward the end of "Eluhim" by Leonora Carrington which I also quite liked (oh, and me on a very large couch that was a public art installation on the way to the Tate, I think).

Then we went over to the Globe, picked up our tickets, and met up with [personal profile] thette ([personal profile] filkerdave, I didn't get any email from you and we figured that Chad would be spottable even among the crowd; if we miscalculated, sorry). Chad and I hadn't had lunch, so we tried the pork pies. I didn't like them, I thought they needed more spice or flavor, and gave my uneaten portion to Chad and had one of the anachronistic energy bars I'd brought for emergencies.

The play was great. There had been some tomfoolery with actors in costume in the ticket area and outside the seats, such as someone telling us not to go in because it was all lies and *shudder* actors in there [*] , and people in costume had been finishing setting up the stage when we got in, so when the play actually started, it was very subtle and natural: Act I, Scene 1 opens with Flavius asking commoners why they weren't at work and why they were out in the streets, so the commoners were down in the yard with us, and it took me, at least, a little while before I realized that no, this is the Chorus-equivalent, the play's started, this isn't more crowd warmup.

[*] And, to my great delight, an actor making a puppet deliver Aragorn's "a day may come" speech from the movie Return of the King, while another actor commented sarcastically. It was amazing.

It was tons of fun to be in the Yard and to have the actors move through you and be among you. (And though standing for 2:45 is not ideal, the seats did not look comfortable, though I don't know if the reconstruction kept the dimensions of the benches or maybe quietly added a few inches to allow for modern heights somewhat more. Happily it only rained a smidge at the very end, and I'd brought a raincoat.)

The acting was excellent, though I wonder how well the highest and furthest seats heard Caesar's lines, as they were notably more quiet than the other actors; it worked for me, because I could hear them and they gained power from that contrast, but I did wonder. I don't know if casting two of the main Citizens in Act III as women is ahistoric, but I appreciated it, because it gave the excellent women playing Portia and Calpurnia more to do. (Sometimes the doubling of actors was confusing to me; I didn't always catch names, so late in the play I would find myself thinking, "Is this one of the conspirators / Brutus' servant taken up arms / etc. or a different person?") And I never fail to be impressed by actors who can deliver incredibly famous lines as natural speech.

Spoilers, insofar as one can spoil Shakespeare. )

The close of the performance was also not what I expected: after the last lines, everyone came out and lined up . . . and then did a big stompy group dance around the stage. I think I saw some Charlie's Angels poses in there. It was very lively! But a bit jarring. I don't know if that tradition is historically-based either.

Then we met up with [livejournal.com profile] kjn and child and went to Tas Pide, where we had excellent Turkish food. It's not great if you don't like bell peppers or eggplant/aubergine, as I do not, but I had one of the variants on the dough-based dish that gives the restaurant its name with potatoes, goat cheese, parsley, and red pepper flakes, and it was delicious. Chad had a similar one, and Thette and KJ had an assortment of small dishes, and then we had wonderfully sticky desserts and I had a very small glass of dessert wine that was smooth and sweetly honeyed and potent, whoosh, if I held it in my mouth too long my tongue started going numb. Anyway, good stuff, recommended if that's the kind of thing you like.

Then we walked across the Millennium Bridge so we could say we'd done it, and I got a shot of St. Paul's that emphasized just how many stairs we'd climbed yesterday. And that was Tuesday.
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
Today we started our tourism with a walk around the Tower of London (we decided not to go inside when we saw that adult admissions were over £20 and that there was a big line. I would have liked Chad to see the ravens, because they are really much bigger than I personally expected, when I saw them in 1997, but that was about it). The still-in-progress ceramic poppies installation is really beautiful and moving; here's a picture I took of poppies mounting in a wave, or maybe an incomplete arc, and Chad has a nice one of the shadow over the moat in the start of his picture set for the day.

We also amused ourselves by noting the two space eggs visible from the Tower: one, two. As I said when I posted those, Chad noted that if they hatch at the same time, London's in trouble . . .

Then we walked over to St. Paul's Cathedral, which isn't super-close but which was a perfectly fine stroll. I particularly noted the Bank of England, which is even more fortress-like than the Tower, honestly: that is just one monolithic lump of a building saying "No."

St. Paul's is of course very big and very impressive. We did go inside for that, and admired the architecture and the ornamentation. We also climbed a whole lot of stairs to get better views.

note: contains discussion of stairs, heights, and unhappiness with the prior two )

We also looked at the chapel at the back of the ground floor, dedicated to the American dead of the Second World War, and a striking video art installation called "Martyrs" (information).

After St. Paul's we had a very pleasant lunch at Cote Brasserie, and then stopped by the British publisher of Chad's first book and had a nice chat (and admired the cover art on the wall). After that, the British Museum.

The British Museum and I did not get off to a good start with the first exhibit we went into, on the Enlightenment. It was in a long room with floor-to-ceiling specimen/book cases and for some reason I just found it oppressive and unwelcoming, all those looming cases that were only minimally labeled. (The actual thematic bits about the Enlightenment were in cases out on the floor.) And after that I may have somehow led us in the wrong chronological order or something, so I felt disoriented.

But things got better! The Assyrian lion hunt reliefs are very excellent (though my enjoyment of the realism of the lions was tempered by the fact that they were being led out of cages to the slaughter; really, they should be "lion 'hunt' reliefs"); the Nereid Monument had three statues of sea-nymphs (not placed in the reconstructed temple) whose dramatically-billowing draperies made them look like fashion models; and there were the Parthenon Sculptures, known to readers of Regency novels as the Elgin Marbles.

Really, that's why I wanted to see them, because they're in so many books I've read (e.g., one of Kate's early letters to Cecilia: "The second day, we were taken to see the Elgin Marbles, which was interesting, and to listen to other people see the Elgin Marbles, which would make the eyes roll right back in your head with boredom."). Unfortunately, the gallery they're in now is modern, donated in 1939 if we did the Roman numerals right, so the experience isn't the same.

Of course one can't talk about these sculptures or a good deal else of the art in the British Museum without talking about how it was acquired. The tone of the display's discussion is somewhat fascinating to me , such as the statement in bold letters that no, we can't put these back on the Parthenon, it's in too bad shape, even the Greeks are taking the remaining statues off . . . (You can get a sense by seeing the museum's online statement on the matter.) To me, whatever the merits of the preservation argument for removing them in the first place, the current arguments don't seem very strong, and it always seems a shame to me to split up works of art that were intended to be see as a single piece. But then, I'm probably influenced by rolling my eyes at a prior display, which noted that an ancient cylinder had become so important to the Iranian people that the British Museum gave Iran . . . a replica. Gosh, you shouldn't have.

(There was also a large totem-like carving from the Pacific Northwest, IIRC?, that the label made a point of saying was sold by the chief of the tribe after the tribe had already moved locations; things like that made me think the museum was aware that people would or should have those concerns.)

But the Parthenon exhibit is well-done and more interesting than I expected (art from the Greek & Roman eras often does not particularly speak to me). After that we popped into African art, but got shooed away before we saw more than a couple of great contemporary pieces (Chad has pictures at the end of his post). I'll never believe British museums' stating closing times again, as we were shooed out by 5:15, when the listed closing time is 5:30.

We had a bit of an unpleasant adventure after that, trying to find a Vodaphone store to buy international voice minutes (since our Internet is so bad that Skyping home won't work), during which we conclusively decided that Google Maps is no good for real-time walking, because it just doesn't update fast enough (and also showed us two stores that apparently don't exist any more). (I realize we don't walk faster than we drive, and so I can't explain why it works for driving and not walking. And yet, both after the museum and on a prior occasion during the day, it just didn't.) Also, it was raining.

After we threw in the metaphorical towel and came back to the hotel, we had restorative Indian food at a place right outside the convention center (Bollywood Brasserie or Bollywood Grill, depending on which sign of theirs you read), I lost the fight to buy international minutes online (it was trying to validate my credit card's zip code as a post code and, unsurprisingly, failing) and looked up a nearby store location for tomorrow morning, and now I've taken much too long writing this up. I think from now on I have to stop putting in links, because half the time I have to find them on my phone and then sync them in my text editor program over to the tablet, because the wireless is just that bad, which takes up lots of time.

Tomorrow, Shakespeare at the Globe in the afternoon, and maybe Wellington's house in the morning. Wednesday, Bath and Bristol for Chad's evening talk. Thursday, Worldcon starts (though there may still be tourism in the morning.) And no more spiral staircases if I can help it.
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
The trip report commences!

Yesterday we drove down to Long Island, where Chad's grandmother lives: we were leaving the car at her house and she was driving us to JFK. The drive down was awful, it was like Zeno's paradox of traffic, the closer we got the slower traffic was (accident, construction, accident, accident . . . ). But we'd left ourselves plenty of time and were able to have a nice sustaining dinner at an Italian place near Chads grandmother's before making it to JFK with no traffic at all.

Of course, if we'd known what was in store for us, we might not have eaten outside the airport after all . . .

cut for conspicuous consumption and liberal guilt )

We're staying down in the Docklands, near the convention center for WorldCon, which is a good ways from Heathrow. By the time we lugged our stuff in it was about 2:30 on a bright sunny warm afternoon, and we decided to go over to Greenwich.

Our timing was really not good on this. We took a cable car over the Thames, and as we crossed, it was like heading into Mordor, looking at the wall of thunderstorms heading our way and then overtaking us. To my very, very intense vexation, I don't seem to be able to link to individual photos within Chad's G+ photo album, I'm on my tablet so I can't right-click and get the image URL and direct link that way, and I'm too tired to decide which is more vexing, selectively re-sharing individual pictures so I can link to the post, or having you all page through the entire album, or some other more sensible solution. (The hotel wifi is AWFUL. The data plans on our phones is very variable speed-wise. So I'm not pulling the photos back off Chad's camera and uploading them into my own spaces.) Taking the path of least resistance, then, Chad's full photo gallery. The, uh, fifth and sixth pictures should be of the approaching storm.

(The cable car is nice enough once, I guess, but I wouldn't go out of your way for tourism purposes.)

The rain was literally horizontal when we arrived, and we decided to make a dash for the nearest Tube, which is pretty close, because otherwise we can't do anything—the cable cars stopped running right after we arrived because of the weather. We got thoroughly drenched, and squelched our way onto the Tube and then the DLR [*] to Greenwich.

. . . where it is bright and sunny again, though windy, and stayed that way for the rest of the afternoon. The only five minutes it poured after we got to our hotel, and we were out in it. At one point we were in the park with all the Greenwich museums and it seriously looked like an oil painting, the light was so amazing.

[*] We managed to completely overlook the Oyster card touch-points for the DLR for, uh, rather a long time. I'm hoping the entirely unpaid rides are made up for by the trip from Paddington at which we entirely failed to touch out at all.

Anyway. We went to the Royal Observatory, which is pretty great. The actual observatory, up on the hill, is currently hosting a very fun steampunk exhibit re-imagining the quest to find a reliable method of determining latitude. Steampunk is not particularly my thing, but I was surprised how charming I found it. The wood-and-metal outdoor structure after the "Humped Pelican Crossing" picture (taken because, what??!!—don't explain it, it would spoil it) was part of that exhibit. The next picture is someone leaning over the meridian photo-op line; then there's a picture of part of the Octagon Room at the top that Christopher Wren designed (very pretty, hot as anything with all the windows and being at the top); then there's a series of pictures of a large drawing of a plan to lift elephants with balloons, which you all have to look at, because the adorable long-suffering elephants! Kept in a neatly-labeled Elephant Paddock! Also there is a squid under Yet Another Boat—don't worry, I'm sure the elephants will rescue their compatriot. There was lots of other things like that in the exhibit, plus some great outfits made by modern cosplayers, and an overall story about a Commodore who wants to solve the Longitude Competition with kiwi birds, and if you're even vaguely interested in steampunk, you should definitely check it out (and if, unfortunately, you can get up a steep hill and then steep narrow stairs).

We went over to the National Maritime Museum and saw the associated exhibit on the Longitude Competition ( Ships, Clocks, and Stars: The Quest for Longitude), which has John Harrison's original timekeepers as well as a bunch of other neat stuff. Unfortunately either I was too tired to get the upshot or the exhibit didn't quite make it clear that Harrison's timekeepers, though excellent, were too expensive and difficult to manufacture for a long time, so sailors used the lunar distance method (measure the angle between the moon and a star) instead for quite a while, because though it was incredibly difficult to develop (involving careful work by a pair of individuals known, deliciously, as the calculator and anti-calculator—the latter was a woman—whose work was checked against each other before being compiled), once it was done it could be mass-printed. But Chad tells me that the US Navy still teaches the lunar distance method today as a backup—not with sextants, but with computers, because it doesn't depend on GPS satellites which might be unavailable.

I'm entirely failing to do this justice! Maybe Chad will chime in if he has time. But it was pretty cool anyway.

After that we had a snack, because I'd seen signs everywhere saying the museum was open until 6 p.m., and I thought we had time. Well, no; the exhibits really all closed at 5, and they just gently shooed people out and into the gift shops then. So we missed the rest of the exhibits at the Maritime Museum; the only thing we managed was to peek into the Queen House, which had some interesting WWII illustrations on exhibit and a famous and indeed pretty spiral staircase called the Tulip Stair.

Then we wandered a bit, and had dinner at The Old Brewery which is just around the corner, and indeed part of the same building as, the "Discover Greenwich" tourist center, at which Chad had quite a good burger (with a surprisingly-large hunk of cheddar on top that goes to show that USians really do think of cheese as a condiment much of the time) and I had fried risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella and basil which is exactly what you want in such a dish.

We walked the tunnel under the Thames, which again has nothing to recommend it except that you've done it—no, wait, it also has, at least on the North end, a fabulous huge wood-paneled elevator complete with bench, and came back to the hotel. Where we fought with wifi and our new phones and then got the world's slowest drink in the bar downstairs, and holy cow but it is way too late for me to be up.

Anyway. Who's here already/always?

NYC, last day

Saturday, June 12th, 2010 09:21 am
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

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?

NYC update

Saturday, June 5th, 2010 11:43 pm
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
Good Mexican, very attentive service at Ofrenda with [livejournal.com profile] leighdb, [livejournal.com profile] scifantasy, and [livejournal.com 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.
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
  1. Chad has real books! (On shelf Dec. 22; see dogphysics.com 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.

Weekend in review

Sunday, June 8th, 2008 09:49 pm
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

We were in Williamstown this weekend for Chad's college reunion. The cult-like nature of Williams alums can be a little awkward for those outside it, but our hotel was within walking distance, allowing me to go rest frequently, and it was nice to catch up with people I knew already and to meet a few new ones.

Also, my reduced presence led to the weekend's great coinage. This morning at breakfast, Chad came over and pointed to me with both hands, saying to someone, "See?!" In the ensuing introductions, I learned that Chad had spoken to the other person three different times over the weekend. Every time, I happened to be someplace else—which led the other person to accuse Chad of having a Snuffleupawife.

If only I'd known, I could have denied knowing Chad when he came over . . .

We also spent a while in the Williams College Museum of Art, which had some interesting exhibits, though occasionally I would have liked a bit more in the way of signs or labels. For instance, the exhibit on manifestos displayed American founding documents with pieces of contextual art (press release). While it was astonishing to see, for instance, a draft of the Constitution complete with editing marks and George Mason's handwritten notes in opposition on the back, there were a number of works in the same room whose relation to manifestos of any kind was unclear; maybe they were just there because that's where they usually are? Not sure. The other example was the Model American Men exhibit (press release), where I wanted to argue with the works more than the labels did.

I was quite interested by a large exhibit on the prints of William Kentridge, a South African artist (press release). The labels here were excellent and gave a great deal of context for the social, political, and technical aspects of his work, which I found thought-provoking and challenging. The "Unchained Legacies" exhibit was similar though much smaller: excellent context for its two contemporary references (images at the bottom of the press release) to the Brookes slave ship diagram, which I hadn't encountered before.

We also saw exhibits of the work of Emily Driscoll, a Williams alum who created open, spare, almost SF-nal works (press release), and Julie Mehretu, who does large-scale abstract reimaginings of the urban environment (press release), both of which were worth seeing.

I don't recall seeing anything that I immediately wanted to take home and hang on my wall, but it was a good afternoon all the same, and much better than our experiences with contemporary art tend to be.

kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

I've pulled out 32 pictures from our visit to the Freer and Sackler Galleries in DC, almost all Asian art, and posted them in this gallery or behind the cut, whichever method of browsing you prefer.

For almost all of these, I took pictures of the labels and so have more information; if you're curious, just ask.

32 pictures )

Zoo pictures next.

kate_nepveu: stained-glass depiction of autumn foliage (Tiffany)

I don't really know how long it's been since I've done a life update, and so I will probably forget a boatload of stuff. On the other hand, if I've forgotten it, it probably wasn't that important.

Probably the most consequential news is my jaw. medical stuff, cut for length )

In other news, a friend from high school is getting married, so I've been back to Massachusetts for the shower & a bachelorette day (lunch and a spa visit. A facial is nice and all, but a massage—on a heated table—that's just bliss). If only I'd waited another week to write this, I could add the wedding to the list . . .

A while ago (err, end of April, which does put a lower limit on how long it's been since I did one of these), I was in NYC for work on a Friday, so we stayed over an extra night on our dime. We had a very lovely dinner with the Nielsen Haydens, and visited the Met on the way out. The new Greek and Roman galleries were more interesting than I expected, mostly thanks to the neat Roman wall paintings. The exhibit on Louis Comfort Tiffany's country estate has concluded, but I recommend seeing Venice and the Islamic World before it closes on July 8, because it was really excellent, full of informative and gorgeous stuff.

And I was absurdly happy to see that there was another offering of pennies at the same Ganesha statute as the last time I was there.

Anyway, the visit made me realize that I wanted a camera of my own. We have a quite good one, but it's too big for me to just toss in my purse when I go to museums, and there were a lot of things I'd have taken pictures of if I could. I have one picked out, but I'm not going to say what it is to discourage Chad from just buying it for my birthday. => (I think it's too expensive for a single-person gift and am somewhat uncouthly wanting money as gifts instead, which I can then aggregate into said camera.)

As for more recent stuff, I'm kind of behind on a lot of stuff I need to do this summer. There's reading all the Hugo [*] and Campbell nominees before it's time to vote, and re-reading the Harry Potter series before the seventh book comes out, and learning at least a little Japanese ("But I don't wanna, that's work," my subconscious whines), and getting all the logistics squared away (like what we're doing about the dog . . . ).

[*] Does anyone else use Palm's eReader and want the short fiction as nice marked-up files, complete with italics etc.? Minus the two stories only released as PDFs, that is.

And (not that it will help with getting stuff done) there will be Readercon. Woo!

Finally because I am getting tired, we saw Ocean's Thirteen today. Much better than the second, not as good as the first because oblique spoiler )

Month in Review

Sunday, April 1st, 2007 04:27 pm
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

Earlier in March, we went to New York City on the occasion of relatives' birthdays and saw a musical called The Drowsy Chaperone about which I intend to write more, really, I promise. Getting half-price same day tickets makes for a really long day, but if we got tickets ahead of time, going down for a matinee would be quite workable, so we'll have to keep that in mind. Any particular recommendations? I should note that Chad's not much on musicals unless they're metafictional or have some other reason for people bursting into song.

We've also booked our Japan flights and hotels. All we need is the rail pass (90 days ahead) and our flight seat assignments (ditto; not that I have any great hopes of getting an exit row, but we'll try). Now I need to start thinking about learning the language . . .

And as discussed previously here, I started taking a yoga class. It's certainly exercise, but I haven't decided if I'll take another one; the instructor hasn't been very useful in telling me which exercises I should avoid or modify because of the bursitis in my hips, and I'm not suited to the less-concrete parts of the class. On the other hand, having a scheduled class is a good thing for a procrastinatory Kate. We'll see when it's over.

Last weekend we went to Boston. We spend all day Saturday at the Museum of Science, as it was hosting the Darwin exhibit that originated at the American Museum of Natural History. It had all the stuff you would expect, documents of Darwin's and fossils and specimens, all of which were informative and interesting—plus two Galapagos tortoises that I found terribly comic in how very slow and deliberate they were. As a complement, we went to the IMAX movie on the Galapagos, which includes some great underwater footage. After a break at Papa Razzi, a local chain Italian place, we just wandered around the Museum. Lots of the hands-on stuff still needs fixing, alas, but we still found plenty to entertain ourselves before having dinner with [livejournal.com profile] prince_eric and spouse. Sunday morning we put in an intense two hours at the Museum of Fine Arts: Japanese Bamboo Art, Tsutsugaki Textiles, really cool marbled paper made by Sufis, and a fascinating exhibition called "Women of Renown: Female Heroes and Villains in the Prints of Utagawa Kuniyoshi." According to information in the exhibit, the MFA has thousands of Japanese prints and is starting to digitize them; you can see some online.

Finally and very belatedly, [livejournal.com profile] papersky tells me that I am Bapchild. I have what is "thought by many to be one of the finest Village Halls in Kent"; a cricket club (with fantasy cricket!); and a spring named after St. Thomas a Becket. I was the site of the Synod of Baccanceld in 694, and am currently involved in a controversy over the construction of a Kent Science Park.

(And now to post this while the borrowed wireless connection has faded in rather than out, since our DSL went out last night and Verizon doesn't know why . . . )

NYC in Review

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006 10:57 pm
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

Previously in Kate's life: Guster concert [*]; traumatic cooking experience (adding liquid to a cup of freshly-melted and caramelized sugar is even scarier than I expected); traumatic DSL experience (hooked up a new phone wrong and, all unknowing, toasted our connection for the best part of a weekend); traumatic dental experience ("Having heartburn lately? You have a cavity that needs a crown. Go tell your doctor that your dentist ordered to you have an upper GI."); miscellaneous work, insufficient reading, and not going to bed early enough.

[*] Chad's blog post lacks only a more detailed description of the dorky stage patter of the frontman, who first pointed out that the Saratoga Performing Arts Center looks like a UFO from the lawn, and that "SPAC is just one letter away from . . . space"; later said, "Okay, this next song is the end of our regular set, and we can just play right through to the encore or we can try something with you holding up your phones"; and after that song, had people hold up their phones as he pointed to their sections . . . in sync with the keyboardist doing the Close Encounters tones. He said "this is the most stoner-y thing I've ever done," and while I can't confirm that statement, it would not surprise me.

On to this past weekend in New York City:

An acquaintance had invited a mutual friend to his wedding, and I attended as the friend's guest. We decided to make a long weekend of it, as we hadn't seen each other for some time.

Friday, after travel hassles of varying degrees [**], we arrived in Central Park for the New York Classical Theater's production of The Comedy of Errors. This is the one with the two sets of identical twins with identical names, and is deeply, deeply silly. The comic relief twins were played by a single actor, who had a real gift for physical comedy. At one point he fought himself, passing behind a tree to signal his change from one twin to the other, and had the crowd about falling over with laughter. Chad and I had previously enjoyed their production of Winter's Tale, and I was glad that this one was also well-played.

(I am Not Thinking about the play's portrayal of the female characters.)

[**] Of principal note, my jay-walking abilities are intact, but my subway-riding abilities are gone. For instance, I forgot to check the endpoints of the lines and, when I had to make a split-second decision about which way we needed to be going, picked the wrong one—and then didn't notice until the second stop. Later in the weekend I got us on an express rather than a local, leading us about forty blocks total out of our way. I insist, however, that not all of it was my fault: one station had connections between two lines, but nothing warned me ahead of time that to go in the direction we wanted, we had to leave the station and cross the street. And of course there's no such thing as a transfer, so we had to pay twice. Grr.

Saturday we went to the the American Museum of Natural History and saw dinosaurs, a Fabergé menagerie in the Gems section (I want the lapis lazuli elephants), and an IMAX movie, Journey Into Amazing Caves, which was all very good. Then we headed to the New York Botanical Garden for the wedding, which was held on a gorgeous terrace under cloudy but rainless skies. Lovely wedding, great food, met some nice people, but the interspersing of courses with dancing does make for a very long night, especially for elderly relatives and those having to travel a good distance to get to their beds.

My friend decided on a leisurely morning Sunday, but I woke up around 9 and decided to go to the Met, even just for a couple of hours. I focused on the special exhibitions:

  • Girodet: Romantic Rebel: Apparently he was rebelling against his teacher, Jacques-Louis David. I was passing through pretty quickly, but I don't remember seeing any examples of what he was rebelling against, which would've been nice.

    A couple of striking portraits: Jean-Baptiste Belley, who was born a slave and made a passionate speech at the convention that banned slavery in the French colonies; the label said that it wasn't known why Girodet painted the picture, as he didn't seem to have any connection with Belley; and Jacques Cathelineau, who is absolutely fey—the whites of his eyes really pop in person—and whose Royalist self is posed in much the same way as Napoleon was in an earlier portrait. Girodet seems to have weathered political change fairly well.

  • Raphael at the Metropolitan: The Colonna Altarpiece: This exhibition reunites the three components of a very nice altarpiece by Raphael: the people look like actual people, and the colors are beautiful. It is a real pity that they couldn't put the exhibit in a larger space and have the three pieces arranged as they were intended, on top of each other, inside of side by side.

    Colorful people who owned parts of the altarpiece included Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-1689) and Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906); I was glad to be given a reason to look them up.

  • Treasures of the Sacred Maya Kings: This was interesting but the art was not really to my taste. I note that Mayan mythology is another with a world tree.
  • A Taste for Opulence: Sèvres Porcelain from the Collection: Too opulent for me. I was interested to learn that though true porcelain was produced in China since the Tang Dynasty, it wasn't known in Europe until 1708, and not in France until the 1770s. Thus, most of the pieces were made of soft paste porcelain, which is not as white or translucent.
  • A Sensitivity to the Seasons: Autumn and Winter: This occupies all of the Japanese galleries and makes me want to pick Genji back up, with its talk of layered symbolism: quails and their shrill cry conveying autumnal isolation; the remote plain of Musashino, that hardly anyone saw before the Edo period, but that everyone from the tenth century on associated with autumn; the celebratory mood of snow; the linguistic connection between "long rain" (naga'ame) and "to lose oneself in reverie" (nagameru), which led to numerous types of rain and their associated poetic responses—the rain of DOOM as in Saiyuki was not listed, but there were many, many prints of people in rain, some of whom were probably angsting.

    Maybe I will do one chapter of Genji and one chapter of LotR a week. (But probably not. Alas.)

  • But the best, the absolute best thing I saw, was not in a special exhibit. The Asian galleries had a particularly nice standing Ganesha, somewhat like this one, at the back of a corner room. From a distance, I could see that there was a lot more shiny than there ought to be; and as I approached, I realized that someone had made an offering to this Hindu controller of obstacles, just as the explanatory text said is done before undertaking a task: one penny on two of the four hands, the ones that offered flat surfaces; one penny between his feet; and 40-odd scattered on the pedestal where the statue rested.

    I admired this quietly for a while, wishing for a camera, and then notified a nearby security guard. He seemed befuddled by it, as did the couple other staff members he called over. I'm not sure why, as I could have removed all of the pennies without touching the statue (and I am a klutz), but half an hour later, the pennies were all still there.

    I wish I knew what the person made an offering for, and if they felt it was successful. But I really wish I'd had a camera.

After a quick lunch and the purchase of some cool Christmas ornaments, I left, as we were going to a show that afternoon, the Broadway musical adaptation of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I will talk about that separately because I want to post spoilers. We had a leisurely dinner after, and though we were balked in our attempt to try a particular wine bar, it was still a good night.

Monday I went to the Strand, which is indeed now air-conditioned, yay, but is still a frustrating experience: it's so big that I expect it to be full of stuff I want, but, well, it isn't. And the paperbacks are just a jumble, while the meticulously-organized review copies no longer interest me (if I wanted it in hardcover, I'd have bought it already; and if I haven't, then I want to pay paperback prices that go to the author, not more-than-paperback prices that don't. Also, this is what libraries are for.). I did pick up a Year's Best Datlow-Link-Grant anthology and a couple of sequels to books I haven't read yet, but it wasn't really satisfying.

Fortunately, I had an appointment for a late lunch with [livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink, which was most satisfying. I am very nearly persuaded to read the new Swordspoint-verse book, which apparently has a sensible person who spends a lot of time wanting to kick Alec. Also, new Minekura soon, woo.

On another note, having flailed at [livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink at length about the failure of the second half of Angels in America, I am filled with fresh determination to actually write that post. Of course, I felt that way over a year ago, when I wrote up the HBO adapation. But this time I mean it, really!

But first, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, with side musings on capers and morality. Tomorrow, that is. *falls over*

Long Weekend in Review

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006 09:58 pm
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

Friday we flew to Chicago for the wedding of a college friend of Chad's. We treated it as our vacation for the summer, and I, at least, was probably more successful at having a relaxingly good time than if it had been our usual just-us vacation.

Saturday we spent the afternoon at the Field Museum. In the three years since we were last there, the "Life Over Time" exhibit was revamped into "Evolving Planet", which was really quite good. I think the highlight of the additions was the Cambrian/Ordovician "aquarium"—three big adjacent screens showing an animated recreation of what it might've looked like underwater at the time. You can see some images on the exhibit's website; be sure to check out the "Curious Creatures." We also really liked the charming explanatory cartoons that replaced the newscast-style videos of the old exhibit.

Also, though this sounds silly: the Corner Bakery within the Museum is exceptionally well-run and a pleasure to eat at.

Saturday night we ate at a place on Orrington (we were staying in Evanston) called Vive la Crepe, which was delicious, and then had drinks with various people in town for the wedding. (Chocolate martini: yum. And I was not carded, to my surprise.) The goal for the day was low-key relaxation and enjoyment, and we achieved it.

The wedding was late afternoon Sunday, after a brunch hosted by two local friends. Very nice, characteristic ceremony, and the reception after was the same. They'd hired the same band that played two prior weddings of these friends; I danced like an idiot and moved gingerly all the next day. (I wore the dress without the sash and with a single pearl on a chain. We didn't bring our camera, but if pictures surface, I'll post them here so y'all can see the results of your fashion advice.)

Yesterday I spent the afternoon recharging by myself; one of the benefits of the wedding weekend was that I didn't feel too guilty about hibernating alone, because Chad could go hang out with the friends who were still in town. It worked a treat; I was quite cheerful by the evening cookout and fireworks at the groom's family's lakefront house. Apparently they were the Willamette fireworks, not the Chicago ones, but they were very nice all the same (and my first live fireworks since, I think, 1999).

Travel today went very smoothly, despite my fears about crews calling in sick and East Coast thunderstorms and so on. The dog was beside herself with joy to see us, which just about makes up for her being a nudge now. Well, it is nice to be missed.

I have a good deal of work to do in the remainder of the week, and at present we don't expect to get into Readercon until 9 or 10 pm on Friday. I'll probably do a quick schedule post tomorrow when the rest of the descriptions are posted, though.

Week in Review

Sunday, June 11th, 2006 10:07 pm
kate_nepveu: painting of woman in yellow dress against blue and yellow background (art)

Yesterday we drove to Williamstown to visit the Clark, or more specifically the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Sterling had a brother, Stephen; they fell out in 1923, and after that time apparently interacted with each other by beating each other to art purchases and making snarky comments about each other's taste (for instance, they both collected Impressionists, but one liked Modern art and the other couldn't stand it). This summer's exhibit brought together selections of the brothers' collections; one strongly gets the impression that they're both rolling over in their graves. The exhibit was thoughtfully displayed, with interesting compare-and-contrast pairings and amusingly snarky quotes from the brothers. I played the "if I could take home one thing" game, and I think it would be a John Singer Sargent painting ("A Street in Venice", linked outside because the Clark's version isn't linkable) admired by both brothers.

Other interesting items were another John Singer Sargent, "Fumée d'Ambre Gris", which wants to be cover art; a very striking painting by Joseph Mallord William Turner called "Rockets and Blue Lights"; and a work by Antoine-Louis Barye called "Tiger" (that I can't find online), in which the tiger, lying on the ground, just pops off the wall.

It happened to be Alumni Weekend at Williams, so as a bonus Chad got to say hi to a couple of people. Fortunately, despite the hordes of cultists alumni that descend on Williamstown for reunions, parking wasn't a problem, though the Clark was a bit crowded. Crowded college towns were a theme of yesterday; it was graduation today for Union College, so last night we found ourselves eating in the bar area of one of the local restaurants as graduation celebrations went on around us. Then we watched some of the first episodes of The Tick, which is very silly indeed, and perfect for brain-dead relaxation.

Today the sun was out! I even sat outside for about an hour, before needing to run errands. The forecast claims that it's not going to rain for a couple of days, even. What a concept.

kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

Last Saturday, we went to an open house of a local maker of pipe organs, Schreiner Pipe Organs, Ltd. (which appears to have no web presence), displaying part of an organ that will be installed in a North Carolina church. It's being co-made with C.B. Fisk out of Gloucester, and you can see a photo of a model on their web site. That was pretty neat; in the unlikely event that you have an open house for a pipe organ in your own neighborhood, I recommend you go.

This week was Thanksgiving, of course. We went to my parents' for Turkey Day itself. My brother and his girlfriend, and my grandmother, were there for dinner (Mom said it had been ten years since both kids had been home for Thanksgiving); my (adoptive) brother's biological half-brother S. (recently come into our lives), his mom, and his three kids came for dessert. It was the first time I'd met any of them; S.'s daughter called me Auntie when saying good-bye, which was faintly boggling.

(Oddly, this was the second abnormally warm Thanksgiving in a row. Last year we were walking the dike without coats after dinner at Chad's parents; this year we had all the windows open during the day, though we shut them at night when heavy winds came through.)

We drove to Chad's parents on Friday, making better time than I expected, for leftover turkey and apple pie. Saturday we went out to the Corning Museum of Glass )

We came back today, and found that the dog seemed to have done very well with being dog-sat for the first time. This was a huge relief, because I was very worried about it (and very tedious with my worry). We are most pleased to know it works well for her.

Link: Washington Post article (may need bugmetnot) about The Book Thing in Baltimore, a very cool-sounding store where books come in for free, and leave for free (except the occasional rare one sold to finance the place). It's facing big rent increases, and is looking for help. I know the holidays are a strapped time for everyone, but you might want to take a look, because, you know, giving away books to people who want them!

And now to bed, to be up too early for court in the morning.

kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

I was halfway through a chatty, fairly detailed trip report, but I am really tired today and work has come crashing down on me. So you're getting a minimalist version, though I'll keep a few paragraphs.

San Francisco, Friday August 13 to Tuesday August 17:

  • Travel:
    • Getting tagged for the random additional security screening makes my skin crawl. It didn't used to, and the people were very nice (if puzzled by the ice scraper I'd forgotten I had in my bag, because it was San Francisco), but my awareness that they could be arbitrary tyrants if they wanted and there's very little I could do, well.
    • Also, you can't check in online if you've been tagged for screening, which is stupid and annoying, because you can check in at a kiosk.
    • San Francisco Airport's United section has pathetic food options.
    • I do not recommend the Hotel Shattuck in Berkeley.
    • Yay, iPod.
  • Tourism:
    • The Asian Art Museum is huge, really excellent, and highly recommended )
    • Boalt Hall (the law school at Berekeley) is an excellent school. It's really too bad its facilities aren't the same. (We were visiting Chad's sister who's a student there.)
    • The walk from the Civic Center BART up Market isn't very nice. The cable cars are appallingly crowded. Taking a cab up to Fisherman's Wharf is the equivalent of taking your life in your hands.
    • Yes, I know Fisherman's Wharf is a tourist trap. Horrible, crowded, tacky, yes, yes. However: the sea lions at Pier 39 are the Best Thing Ever. I'm serious, you have to go see them. Words cannot express how cool and fun they are. SF Gate article with lots of information; webcam.
    • There are several cool ships that you can inexpensively tour at the Wharf: S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien, a WWII cargo ship; Eureka, a big passenger ferry discontinued when the Golden Gate Bridge opened; and the Balclutha, a full-rigged ship with a steel hull.
  • Food:
    • XOX Truffles are the best thing ever that isn't sea lions. We happened across them on Columbus purely by chance, bought a couple for the walk, and after I put the first one in my mouth I said, "I have to go back and buy a whole box." (They're much cheaper if bought in person, too: $7 for 20 in a little paper take-out box.)
    • Skates on the Bay has excellent food and an excellent view.
  • Socializing: lots. Saw/met Chad's sister, A. who lives with her, Chad's godmother and family, Chad's great-uncle and great-aunt (one of), one of Chad's college friends and his girlfriend, and Tom Whitmore at the Other Change of Hobbit.

Since then:

I've either been sluggish, or distracted by the Olympics (which I'm quite enjoying; the cable coverage is good, and NBC is much less annoying this year), or wasting time re-doing the book log, or (today) very tired and stressed. I'll be better once I can get my brain in gear and start thwacking work into submission.

kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

Yeah, it's been a while. In a nutshell:

Three weeks ago Wednesday, I got very unwelcome, not-entirely-unexpected news at work—the flip side of the very welcome, very unexpected news of the last Week in Review post. So I spent the next week and a half working like a madwoman. This last week has been merely quite busy at work, rather than insanely so. The coming week should be interesting; I'm moving offices Friday as part of our office renovations, and will have to pack and label everything. I will not complain about the move, because I'm fortunate enough to be moving directly into one of the renovated offices. But it will be interesting.

Two weekends ago, I went to Massachusetts for two baby showers, one for a friend and one for my cousin's wife. Got to tell the "Is there something you aren't telling me?" story several times (it's what Chad asked me, the night he came home to find two diaper disposal systems on the porch—presents for the showers, of course, but he hadn't made the connection), see my grandmother's new apartment, and catch up with friends and family, so that was good, though it was a long weekend. It was an oddly acquisitive—for lack of a better word—weekend: besides two new suits on sale from Macy's and belated extended-family Christmas presents, I was also gifted with china from one side of the family and silver from the other. Unexpected and a teeny bit disconcerting thereby, but lovely all the same. Guess we need to bump a china hutch up on the list after all.

Last weekend there was, of course, the Super Bowl. Other than that, we headed for a Saratoga-area used bookstore on Saturday, because it was sunny and we wanted to get out. We stopped over in Saratoga for lunch and ended up spending quite a bit of time there—a Christmas store having its post-season clearance, a kitchen gadgets store, a mystery bookstore, and various tchotchke stores that kept prompting me to say, "no, no, we don't need more stuff and we can't afford these anyway, get me out of here before I break down and buy anyway." Found one of Dunnett's mystery novels at the bookstore we'd set out for. Note to self: that's the store with the really friendly gray-and-white cat, the one that climbed up your back when you crouched down to look at the bottom shelves the first time you stopped in.

This weekend was quiet. Yesterday, I went museum-ing to recharge; the Albany Institute of History and Art has a Tiffany exhibit that ends next weekend, and though it was mostly lamps—nice, but not my primary interest—I thought it worth the trip. As a bonus, there was also an exhibit on Frederick Carder's art glass, which was beautiful, and some really cool engraved glass as part of an exhibit called "Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Royal House of Stuart, 1688-1788: Works of Art from the Drambuie Collection" (yes, Drambuie the liqueur). I really, really need to make it out to the Corning Museum of Glass, for all that it would take an overnight trip, because much of the Carder exhibit was drawn from its collection. Then I did some shopping, getting new casual boots for $17, some shirts to go under one of the Massachusetts suits, and a really cool brocade-tunic-thing with pants (discounted to within my usual price range for suits, but the cause of some agonizing nonetheless because it's not exactly a suit—I think I can wear it to work, though, and it's just cool). Rushed home for a paella night hosted by one of Chad's colleagues, which was very nice. Today I did a lot of laundry and played a lot of NetHack, and that was about it. Oh, and cooked a simple dinner. Yay, recharging.

(Oh, and I was cranky about Tolkien over on the booklog this weekend too.)

Link things:

  • In football news: a chatter on the Washington Post's website aptly notes, "Was it just me, or was this the 'Manic-Depressive' Super Bowl?"
  • In judicial news: I don't think I'd go quite as far as Jack Balkin on the recent Massachusetts gay marriage ruling (PDF link), but it was certainly a very odd path for the Supreme Judical Court to take.
  • I had no idea that the Wimsey Papers were online. I haven't read them before, and will save them for the end of the Sayers re-read (vaguely in progress).
  • On the second page of a fairly unremarkable story about movie-themed travel is this line about a UK tour (emphasis added):

    Participants also follow Harry [Potter]'s route on the North York Moors Railway from Pickering to Goathland and take a class in dragon-slaying with Britain's last licensed slayer of dragons.

     . . . you can't just leave it at that! Who is the last licensed slayer of dragons, who licensed him or her, what are their qualifications, have they slain any dragons? Geez. Journalistic standards really are slipping.

kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

We left for Chicago last Wednesday morning, and returned this Tuesday afternoon. We needed a vacation and were really looking forward to the trip, but I was not in the best shape for a trip, being badly sleep deprived. Sunday night, I was basically up since 3 a.m. because the dog was sick from the stress of meeting, and vehemently disliking, Chad's parents' dog, as well as all the new and varied treats she was given by Chad's parents. I didn't catch up on that sleep Monday or Tuesday nights, between work, laundry, packing, and playing with the dog so she'd go to the boarder's on a good note. (We dropped her at the boarder's Wednesday morning, and they took her right back with no fuss (she likes people)—it was traumatic for us, but doubtless it was for the best because if we had said goodbye, we probably would have just frightened her. I still felt incredibly guilty and sniffled most of the way to the airport. She's such a good dog.)

Public service announcement: I am probably the last person to discover this, but checking in over the Internet and printing out boarding passes: The Best Thing Ever. Especially if you do not trust your airline, as I do not trust United (it was the only direct flight we could get).

I dozed through an easy flight, and we took a van into town that was stuffed with chatty people. I spent about half the trip trying to work out their relationships to each other; turns out they were in town for a yearly convention of former Secret Service agents and their families, and so sort-of knew each other from prior conventions. Billboard that caught my eye: "Resurrection Health Care".

We stayed at the Lenox Suites Hotel on North Rush, between Ontario and Ohio, a block from the Mile, which was very nearly perfect for us )

After we ooh'ed and aah'ed over the room, we had a tasty Cajun lunch at Heaven on Seven (the Rush location of a local mini-chain), a place across the street that I'd spotted on the way in. This was notable for the veritable forest of hot sauces on each table; about twenty-five, by my estimation. Then we strolled up the Mile, looked at the old Water Tower, and got various supplies at a drugstore. When we got back to the hotel, Chad crashed while I spent approximately six years on hold with Verizon, trying to get our dialup Internet access to work. I had been in a good mood, but that pretty well killed it.

We headed out to the Navy Pier afterwards for reasons that frankly escape me now, as it is obviously a tourist trap (probably because it was in walking distance and we were curious). My rotten mood took a small dent when we discovered the cool fountains in the Crystal Gardens: four arching sprays of water arranged in a square, so that one came down near where the next started. If you put your hand through the end of one, interrupting its flow, the next spray would have a visible gap in it. I have no idea how they did that, but it looked pretty cool.

And then we went into the Smith Museum of Stained Glass, which I will rant about at length, because EVERYONE MUST SEE IT. )

After I'd finished exclaiming over the stained glass, we wandered the rest of Navy Pier (which, as I said, is basically just a tourist trap), admired the skyline, and then sat with drinks until the sun went behind a skyscraper and the wind picked up. Wandering around for someplace to eat, we landed in Rosebud, another place with several locations in the city, and had a bottle of wine and excellent Italian food: Chad had one of the house specials, chicken vesuvio, and I had a very simple but flavorful penne with vodka sauce (I think it was the mascarpone in the sauce that did it). Took my leftovers back to the hotel and called it a night.

It became brutally hot in our east-facing hotel room in the morning, as it slowly became clear that the fan on the air conditioner wasn't working. As this realization dawned, I was back on hold with Verizon; after another six ages, they told me that they knew what the problem was, they didn't need me to fix it, and they'd call me back. So we decamped and they called as we were on our way to the Field Museum, saying it was fixed. Oh goodie.

The Field was very enjoyable. )

It was late afternoon when we left and still brutally hot. We walked up Grant Park and found where they were setting up the Jazz Fest, which started the next day. It looked like it could be a very crowded space, so we mentally bumped it down the priority list a bit and eventually headed back to the hotel. Where the AC was not, as I was told on the phone, fixed. (Someone did come right up and fix it when I called again.) And, continuing a trend, the Verizon dialup was not, as I was told on the phone, fixed either. I gave up and called the next morning to cancel the service. We ate leftovers and then headed out to see The Second City.

We saw the Mainstage production of "No, Seriously, We're All Gonna Die." With a title like that, you know it's going to be topical, though there was a mix of non-topical humor too. Little of the scripted portion rose to the level of hysterically funny, but that's hard to do. There was an improv set after (free, so a few people came in) which had more moments that were incredibly funny in a very oh-that's-so-wrong way. It was generally quite good, and the tickets were only $17, so I'd definitely recommend it.

The next morning we stopped in at an Internet "cafe" (it had a cooler of drinks for sale, hence the scare quotes) to check e-mail. Since the weather was still very soupy, we headed back down to Museum Campus to the Shedd Aquarium. Again, quite good. The reef downstairs gets hyped for its sharks, which I don't understand, because there weren't that many sharks and they weren't the focus. The reef exhibit itself is excellent, though, as is the Amazon Rising exhibit. The dolphin show is far too preachy for adults; we should have skipped it and spent more time watching the sea otters play—they're much bigger than I expected and really absurdly cute. ([livejournal.com profile] ajhalluk, I'm definitely jealous that you have an otter now. We actually stooped to buying a small plush otter because they were just so flippin' cute.)

We took our time with the Aquarium because of the weather, and of course when we left it had broken and was nice and cool. We heard one song at the Jazz Fest (someone and the Well-Oiled Jazz Machine) and then headed to Pizzeria Due's to meet [livejournal.com profile] prince_corwin and [livejournal.com profile] publius1. The second location of the original Uno's, the pizza was quite good, obviously hand-made and not stamped out in a factory. We stopped in at Borders, where I forced books upon people per my usual procedure, and then adjourned to [livejournal.com profile] publius1's apartment, which is literally a storefront, for talk and petting of the roommate's neurotic Lab/Border Collie. We had an early morning coming up and were very tired, so we didn't stay too long. On the way back I saw my first Segways in use; two, actually, on the Mile.

In the morning we were off to a friends' lake house in Michigan, which turns out to be enormous: you could fit at least three of our house in it, without exaggeration. The guys went to play golf and I had a deliberately, gloriously antisocial afternoon: I took a long nap, read a trashy novel, and reveled in being alone for the first time in days. We had a quiet dinner in, then lunch, ice cream, and arty purchases the next day in the town of Saugatuck. Headed back in late afternoon through much rain. I have to say, I'm sure that Gary, Indiana is a wonderful place, but from the highway, it looks and smells like industrial Mordor. When we got back, we had dinner at a Big Bowl location (another local chain), which was extremely slow but had competent Asian food.

Monday, it was pouring rain so we spent all day at the Art Institute, and I took lots of notes. )

On the way back to the hotel, my bad computer karma continued, as we had an absolutely dreadful fucking experience at the Internet cafe. You'd think that a place like that would have printing already set up on all the machines, wouldn't you? Well, I did, and was I ever wrong. It took over half an hour to get our boarding passes to print, and I was convinced all the time that it wouldn't work and we'd have to try to check in again at the airport. I was not impressed. Fortunately, it did eventually work, and we stumbled upon Le Colonial, a very nice Vietnamese restaurant that a friend had recommended. We were entirely underdressed, but they didn't turn us away because of my jeans, and we had a lovely and relaxing meal.

Tuesday morning we got up too early, packed, checked out, and had breakfast at a Corner Bakery; alas, my bagel had the dinner-roll nature, but Chad liked his baked French toast. We killed a little time at Borders (we were up way too early) and then went to the Terra Museum of American Art when it opened at 10, because it was free and small and we'd walked past it a dozen times. This was a good way to kill 45 minutes. The folk art and Modernism exhibits weren't my kind of thing, though I did like a series of photographs by Stieglitz called "Equivalent" (one example on this page) and a lively sketch of the Woolworth building by John Marin. More interesting was the exhibit on Edward S. Curtis's print portraits of Native America; there was also a Whistler exhibit with really neat etchings of Venice. Apparently the Terra is closing in late 2004, though it will be rotating works through the Art Institute.

The flight home was uneventful, and we got in early, though not quite early enough to pick up the dog. It was good to be home—there's really nothing like sleeping in your own bed.

Overall, a really good trip. I wish we'd been able to see more of the city outside museums, do the Jazz Fest, that kind of thing, but the weather just didn't cooperate. I'm sure we'll go back at some point.

Week in Review

Monday, May 5th, 2003 10:36 pm
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

The first part of last week was spent running around trying to get stuff together for a case, the papers for which needed to go in the mail on Wednesday. The catch was that I wasn't going to be there on Wednesday; I was going to be in New York City for a conference. And I am a control semi-freak when it comes to work and really prefer to oversee things myself, even when I know I've left everything in capable hands. My state of mind was not helped by the discovery that things would have been ready on Tuesday, had I not been an idiot and overlooked something important. Fortunately it was all fixable and went in the mail properly—on Wednesday.

I spent Wednesday through Friday in New York City, at the National Association of Attorneys General's annual conference on corrections law (prisons and prisoners). I think it was probably pretty standard as such things go: a reasonable variation in the levels things were pitched at; one person who went on about "me, me, me, me, me" for far too long; and a widespread inability to speak into microphones. Unfortunately, the more advanced topics were ones that I'd happened to work on already, so there wasn't anything incredibly new to me. We did get a CD-ROM with our printed materials that looks to have a lot of very nice research on it, though.

I also took advantage of being in NYC by having a nice dinner with [livejournal.com profile] redbird on Thursday night, at La Bonne Soupe (mmm, cheese fondue), and then went to see Perfect Crime, a play that I'd gotten a half-price same-day ticket for. Thoughts on the play, no spoilers )

My plans for Friday afternoon fell through when I never heard from the person I was going to meet, so I went to the Met before catching a train home. Museum-ing )

It was good to be home.

Saturday, I actually did some yard work, raking and trimming hedges (fun with cordless hedge trimmers!) while Chad dug up bushes (breaking a shovel in the process) and improved our patio. Went to see X2 that night, which I quite enjoyed. It didn't rock my world—I got more of an adrenaline rush from the Matrix trailer—and I don't drool over the prospect of a sequel, but it was good clean mostly-non-stupid fun and I recommend it. Ian McKellen just oozes panache, and Hugh Jackman really ought to be a star—no, I don't find him attractive, but he just has terrific screen presence, dreadful hair and all.

As far as trailers: ooooh, Matrix Reloaded. I'm not sure which trailer this was—not the final theatrical, which is all that seems to be on the website now—but it had a beautiful sequence, towards the end, of intercut parallel shots of jumps/flips/pikes/general arcing motion. Ooooh, pretty. (It's like watching diving, only with better clothes.) The eponymous Hulk looks disturbingly like Shrek; I don't think we'll be seeing that. I could probably see The Italian Job, being a sucker for caper films, even though I suspect that we saw most of the movie in the trailer. Everything else looked dire.

On Sunday, we bought a swing (as in porch, though this one is freestanding with its own cover, not as in playground) and Chad spent most of the afternoon putting it together. I made a risotto with shrimp that, to my philistine tastebubs, is just as good when you boil the rice as when you simmer. (Is there really a difference?) I'd meant to update both this and the book log after dinner, but I was still so tired from the week (the hotel bed was dire) that I just stared the screen blankly for a while, mindlessly playing Bejeweled, and then went to bed in a stupor.

This promises to be an interesting week. I have the Mental Hygiene calendar this month, which basically means appearing every Thursday at hearings that determine whether people who've been committed to a mental health facility, stay committed; and on Friday, I have at least one oral argument. Also, though I told [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel that we wouldn't make Montreal this weekend because we needed the time at home, I have discovered that thanks to miscommunication here, we actually have a prior commitment for Saturday, and maybe a new one for Sunday too. Whee. Which means I should go to bed instead of writing enormous LJ posts . . .

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