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F. and I decided, pretty much on the spur of the moment, to go up to Austin for ArmadilloCon this past weekend. It was a lot of fun, in a low key kinda way. One of the highlights for me was Steven Brust, who was on a number of panels and was always entertaining (as well as informative). At his reading on Sunday he did a piece from Tiassa, the new Vlad book coming out next year. I can't recall the exact details, but he said it's a departure from the previous books in that it's a collection of two (?) novellas, an interlude, and I think a prologue and an epilogue and that there are four different narrators, including a section from Paarfi. The bit he read had a hint to Devera's father, who I believe had never been mentioned before in the books. After a little research online, it appears that my guess from the hint matches with what Brust outright said elsewhere in an interview. I hadn't known about the interview, so it was a surprise to me.

Other highlights:

The Broad Universe reading, where I won a copy of Phoebe Kitanidis's Whisper in a drawing. They had six books to give away and my name was picked second, so I had a choice of nearly everything and Whisper was the piece that had been read of which I most wanted more. Read it cover to cover that night. It's young adult, so it was a quick read. It's definitely a junior high/high school sort of book, focusing on issues of fitting in and self identity, but I enjoyed it.

Having the winning bid on a signed print by Jeff Ward at the art show. The one I got isn't on that web site. It's a forest scene with a tree trunk that has a doorway in it that is glowing with light. I think I know where I'm going to hang it. But first it needs framing.
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Paperwhites: After a few days in the laundry room there didn't appear to be any change in them at all. I was afraid it was too cold there, so they are now residing under the kitchen sink. Still no visible growth just over a week after planting, but I will bide and see. I fear that having been kept for a year they may be past their prime.

Project Dining Room: We went with the pretty glass table. It's scheduled to be delivered tomorrow! In anticipation, I have procured a tablecloth of the appropriate size and I have a very cool table runner on order. Also a pine centerpiece should arrive in the next couple of days. I'm hoping it will smell like the Christmas trees of my youth.

Project Spice Organization: I did make mole to celebrate having reorganized the spices and herbs. It used seven different jars of components. Not bad, but I might be able to find an Indian recipe that uses a couple more.

Other House Projects: We've acquired and deployed a plethora of little tables - a pair of end tables to hold snacks near the TV seating area, a plant stand for the sun room, and a small table for use near the main sofa. Now I'm working on trying to find a comforter that will plausibly go with the lovely red flannel sheets I found on sale. Plain white looks sort of sterile and plain black seems a tad bordello. Hoping to find a black/white pattern that appeals. And I'm starting to think about a table for the front hall.

Travel: Since this topic was last mentioned here, six weeks ago, I have been to San Diego, Baltimore, Rochester, and Portland. Baltimore and Portland were quick in-and-out trips, one a project meeting and one a seminar visit. Rochester was actual non-work travel for Thanksgiving and was lovely, with many people to see and a visit to the Strong Museum of Play. San Diego was a very productive conference.
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I was in DC for grant reviews last week. When I started reviewing, some years back, I scheduled my trips so as to be able to include some sight-seeing each time. I saw many art museums and the new World War II memorial and the new Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian and Arlington Cemetery. But then, after going to DC 3+ times per year for 5+ years, the novelty wore off and I started cutting my arrival and departure times closer. Last week, I decided to fit in a treat and I took the way, way too early flight so that I got to DC before the museums closed on Wednesday. The (very nice) hotel I was staying at was a mile or so from The Phillips Collection, which I had never visited. They had a lot of paintings that I really liked. My two favorites were Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party and Van Gogh's Road Menders. Somehow the thing I like about Van Gogh's work doesn't translate well to 2D. The picture on that web site doesn't do it justice. I love that rich yellowy-orange color of the leaves on the trees. It's the same color that is in his famous sunflowers and it doesn't come through well in most photos I've seen. But there's also something about the sinuousness of the lines that I love, particularly in the tree trunks. And I think the layering of the paint is important and that that's the thing that doesn't translate well to photographs. The Renoir I like for the pastel colors and the peacefulness. Whenever I can, I send my mom a postcard from my travels. This time she got one of the Renoir because, alas, the Van Gogh just doesn't look as good on a postcard as it does in real life. Slightly trailing these two favorites were a blue period Picasso and a colorful Kadinsky. They also had a Rothko room, nicely designed and of an intimate size so that it was dominated by the four paintings, one on each wall. This I mention, in part, because of Vardibidian's recent Rothko reference in his blog. Alas, Rothko does not do it for me. Perhaps I will mature into an appreciation of Rothko some day. Happened for Van Gogh, who I didn't used to like nearly so much. Also notable were the beautiful fireplace surrounds in the museum. The Phillips Collection is housed in two (?) connected old mansions and there were several rooms that had been preserved at least in part, some with beautiful fireplaces with tiled surrounds or wooden mantels. All in all, it was definitely worth getting up early. I won't schedule museum time on every trip to DC (this is my fourth visit there this year), but every once in a while it's nice to have a treat.

Rambling

Jun. 26th, 2009 05:29 am
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I had a good travel day yesterday, coming back from a conference. All of the planes were on time, very fortunately since I had less than an hour to make a connection, and I got to sit up front for the long flight. I have to head right back out again today, so I'm hoping today goes as well as yesterday, though I'm a bit worried about that as I have to connect through Newark which is notorious for delays. This weekend's trip is non-business, for once, going to a family wedding.

I was home for less than 12 hours, but it was good to eat at my own table, have a swim in the pool, sleep in my own bed, and not have to drag both business and wedding clothes around all week. Also, I note to remind myself in the future, that I kinda like swimming in the pool after dark. It's very relaxing and certainly warm enough right now.
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The advantage of having to be at the airport at 4:45 am: there was no traffic on the way there and I got a great parking spot.

The disadvantage: the security checkpoint must have just opened. The line was the longest I've ever seen it, but it moved pretty quickly so a minor disadvantage in the end.
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I'm in town for my annual 24-hours-in-Boston trip next Sunday-Monday. If the airplanes behave themselves, I get in around 1 pm on Sunday and have that afternoon and evening free. Anyone want to get together?
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In the last month I have eaten tapas in a bar in Barcelona, visited Buddhist temples in Kyoto, and watched salmon swim up the Humber river in Toronto. Each trip was wonderful, with productive conferences, good colleagues I hadn't seen in a while, and fun sight-seeing. But, as usual, it is good to be home. I get to stay home for 2.5 weeks and I'm looking forward to it.
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My home airport now has free wireless! Which I am accessing for the first time even as I type this.

I am optimistic that I may finally get to my conference in St. Louis. My flight is projected to be only 40 minutes late. Since I had spotted the delay well ahead of time, I have already changed my connecting flight so as not to miss the transfer in Houston.

If we don't get any later, it's possible I could make my original flight, if they have open seats. If there aren't any open seats, I'll have plenty of time to get dinner. If we do get later, I have some cushion to spare.

Argh.

Sep. 14th, 2008 07:22 am
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Continental's computer has called me six times between 4:15 am and 7:15 am to tell me that my flights are canceled and I should call their 800 number for details. UnFortunately, I knew yesterday that my flights were canceled and had already re-booked for Monday. But after the sixth call, I sat on hold at the 800 number to confirm that it wasn't Monday's re-booking that had been canceled and to ask if they could possibly persuade it to stop calling. I've considered turning the phone off, but they're going to try to patch me in by phone for the business meeting I'm missing this morning and that's in an hour and a half, so it's probably not worth it.

Home

Aug. 2nd, 2008 12:39 am
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In the last two weeks I have been on 12 plane flights for three separate trips to St. Louis, Boston, and Indianapolis. But now I'm home. It's very good to be home.* And I get to stay here for the rest of August! More than four weeks in a row with no planes! I have such plans for this month, starting with sleeping in my own bed.

*Which is not to say that it wasn't also very good to be other places, particularly Boston where I got to see many wonderful people.
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Jhegaala has arrived! I am still tired from having been on the road from the 2nd to the 13th, so I'm not going to start it tonight, but possibly tomorrow night.

My travels took me to DC, upstate New York, and Long Island. I started with a project meeting, had a bit of a rest over 4th of July weekend, and then worked very hard for an entire week, teaching at a course. I'm one of the course organizers, so it's my own fault that the schedule ran from 8 am to 9 or 10 pm every day. It went very well, though. And I managed to learn the names and countries of origin of all 19 students this year. (Some years I fail to remember the names of some of the quieter ones.)

After twelve days of travel it is good to be home.
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My new userpic is an architectural detail from the Taj Mahal. Many of the places we visited in Delhi and Agra were built by the Mughal Emperors, who were Muslim, and featured wonderful inlay and carvings of flowers and geometric designs. (Islam forbids art depicting people or animals.) Gorgeous shining white marble, onion shaped domes, and ornate arched doorways also figured prominently in the designs. In addition to the Taj Mahal, we saw Agra Fort, the tomb of Humayun, the Qutab Minar, and in a departure from the Islamic architecture theme, the very modern Baha'i Lotus Temple.
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I have been to the Taj Mahal. It is gorgeous, truly deserving of its reputation.

Also, the breakfast tacos in India are pretty good. ("Masala scrambled eggs wrapped in a parantha" off of the hotel's room service menu.)

But now, after nearly 36 hours in transit, I am sitting in the Houston airport waiting for my last, brief, 45 minute flight home. It will be good to be home.
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Just put down a deposit on a Prius. If all goes as planned, it'll be waiting for us when [livejournal.com profile] creed_of_hubris and I get back from our New York trip on the 12th.

If anyone in the area didn't get the news through other channels, we'll be in New York City from tomorrow (Thursday) evening through the following Thursday and are hoping to arrange some socializing (dinner, shows, museums) while we're there.

The last decision on the car front, I think, is whether to take the extended warranty. We are inclined toward 'no' as Consumer Reports generally recommends against them.
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I was cleaning the store receipts and random scraps of paper out of my purse today when I came across a list I had compiled of the condiments available on the table at the pub across the street from our hotel in York. [livejournal.com profile] creed_of_hubris and I were a bit tired our first night there and didn't want to venture very far, so we popped over to the pub for dinner, where we found a Morris dance team practicing in the back room, multiple vegetarian options on the menu, and the following on our table:

Brown Sauce
Mayonnaise
Tartare Sauce
Heinz Horseradish Sauce
Heinz French Mustard
and Heinz English Mustard

We puzzled over the mustards and I posited that perhaps the French was dijon and the English a sturdy brown mustard? And is the Brown Sauce something like A1 steak sauce? Oh, and note the absence of ketchup, though as it has been surpassed by salsa, I can no longer call it the most frequent American condiment.
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I get extra helpings of birthday this year, thanks to the magic of time zones. When I woke up this morning, 28 hours ago, I was in Shanghai. But now I'm home.

It was a good trip, an excellent conference and an interesting country to visit. But I'm glad to be home. LiveJournal was one of the few web sites I couldn't get to from there (blocked, I assume), so I have a lot of catching up to do on my friends-list reading.
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When last seen, reading Chabon on a plane, I was en route to Chicago for three days at a conference there. I think the business end of the trip, including several meetings with collaborators, was productive. On the recreational end, I only had time to do a little sight-seeing, which presented problems as there were many museums I wanted to visit. I lived about 90 miles outside Chicago until I was 10 years old, so many of our elementary school trips were to the museums in Chicago. I really liked the aquarium and the planetarium and the Field Museum was ok, but my favorite was always the Museum of Science and Industry. (Foreshadowing of my future profession, but little did I know it at the time.) I particularly remember the giant walk-through human heart model and the coal mine and the submarine (which was my dad's favorite). Unfortunately, the Museum of Science and Industry is somewhat distant from the others and wasn't walkable from where I was staying just across the river from Navy Pier. I did find the bus route that would take me straight there, but given my limited time, I decided to visit one of the museums I had never been to as a child, the Art Institute, and the adjacent Millennium park. Both were fabulous. I can't regret the choice.

I had no idea the Art Institute of Chicago had such a fabulous collection. Why haven't I heard of it before? I saw American Gothic, one of the iconic paintings of 20th century America. They also have Caillebotte's Paris Street, Rainy Day and Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. Another iconic American image, Nighthawks, is also part of their collection, but I didn't get to see it as it was on loan for an exhibition. I did get to see quite a lot of Monet's water lilies, several Renoirs, some unusual Picassos, a fair bit of Georgia O'Keeffe, and some Kandinsky and Mondrian and Magritte. Another highlight was their modern design collection, which includes some of Frank Lloyd Wright's furniture. I believe they also have some of his stained glass, but the architecture gallery was closed when I was there.

Millennium Park was also chock-full of art. My two favorites were the Crown Fountain and the Cloud Gate. The fountain has two giant towers at opposite ends of a shallow rectangular pool. The towers are surrounded by glass blocks and have water running down the sides. On the inner side of each of the blocks, a face is projected so that the two faces are facing each other across the shallow pool. They just sit calmly for a while, blinking occasionally or smiling slightly. Then they each form an 'O' with their mouths and a big jet of water shoots out of each open mouth. Then the images would change to two new faces and the process would start over. There were kids playing in the fountain, splashing in the pool and leaning against the sides of the towers to let the water run over them. When the mouths opened, they would rush over and huddle together to get under the jet of water, which was large enough to soak four or five kids at a time. It was neat to start with and it was made even neater by the fact that it was clearly ok for the kids to be playing in it. I really like public art that is designed to be interactive. The second piece, Cloud Gate, was equally interactive. It's essentially a gigantic, shiny, silver bean. It reflects its surroundings in a slightly warped way that makes it fun to walk all the way around and see how things change as you go. You can see yourself and other visitors, the skyline of the surrounding buildings, and the clouds for which it is named. It's designed so that you can also duck underneath it, where the curvature of the underside makes it seem like a huge tunnel that is far deeper than the outside dimensions would possibly permit. Way cool.

I hope I have more excuses to visit Chicago in the future.

p.s. Confidential to [livejournal.com profile] elysdir, I left Chicago on Wednesday afternoon, so I don't think we overlapped at all in our visits.
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(typed earlier this evening and saved for later posting)

I have a project meeting tomorrow with collaborators in New Haven. Yale’s part of my intellectual heritage and all and it’s kind of fun to revisit it as a full grown prof-equivalent, but it’s a rather inconvenient place to get to. Tweed airport, just outside New Haven, is tiny and shares only one airline in common with San Antonio – USAir. Taking USAir from SA to Tweed takes longer than going to Europe and costs about as much. Hartford is the next closest airport to New Haven and somewhat easier to get to, but then I’d have to rent a car and drive the rest of the way and I’m not fond of driving in unfamiliar places. So, the obvious thing would be to fly into New York and take the Metro North commuter train. But since I want to be in Boston this weekend, let’s have a look at that too. Turns out flying into Boston was almost as efficient as New York and the transfer from Logan Airport to Amtrak at South Station involved a single bus and was even easier than the Newark to Grand Central transition. So now, as I type, I am riding Amtrak for the first time in roughly a decade.

Wow! The seats are nicer than I remember. And they have outlets! I don’t have to worry about my laptop battery dying. And I accidentally found the ‘quiet car’, which I love – no screaming babies, no cell phones, no incessant chatting even. And they actually enforce it. It’s wonderful. I wish they had a ‘quiet car’ on the plane. And there’s scenery, lush greenery interspersed with occasional views of the coast. And no one made me take off my shoes or confiscated my bottle of water. Beats the pants off of plane travel.

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