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I thought I'd dump some stuff here that I don't feel like putting on my Alpennia blog because it's mostly about cranky physical stuff.

I've been gradually getting used to the notion that travel is exhausting and I need to not plan on doing anything else on the days I do it. And, of course, flying nearly halfway around the world intensifies the effect. It used to be that I could at least count on getting bits of computer housecleaning done while sitting in airports, but I've more or less given up on that and stick to things like getting caught up on listening to podcasts and the like. Yesterday I woke up in Ireland and went to bed maybe 20 hours later in California. I successfully avoided napping on the plane and managed to get in about 12 hours of sleep with only a few biological interruptions. It won't get me completely re-set onto Pacific Time, but it's a good start.

I don't seem to have gotten any sort of post-con crud, but around the time I was traveling from Durham to Dublin I started feeling the beginning nibbles of a Respiratory Thing. I slammed it with drugs and managed to stave off any level of symptoms that would have significantly impaired enjoyment (took it down to a scratchy throat and a minor cough) and we'll see whether my plans for a very low-key recovery weekend succeed in getting it out of my system. (I've tried the pre-emptive cold pills method before and often it just means I get a zombie cold: as soon as I think I'm past it, I get slammed with full symptoms. So I don't count myself out of the woods yet.)

In a secondary benefit, I think that using the CPAP has really cut down on convention-related respiratory symptoms, in part because it means I don't get the irritation that comes with dry mouth, even without using the water reservoir. (My machine has a detachable water reservoir but leaving it off cuts the physical size in half, and besides which I didn't want to deal with tracking down distilled water while traveling. I did have some interesting logistics with the relative location of electrical outlets and hotel beds. Facebook friends suggested I should have asked the desk for an extension cord, which was a sort of "doh!" moment. But I've gotten used to hotels having outlets on the bedside light fixtures. And I have an unfortunate reflex of  assuming that I have to work out my own solutions rather than asking for accommodations. I need to think about that some more.

One of the things I enjoy about touristing in European cities is the ability to see a lot of fun stuff on foot. And in the particular places I was staying, there was a great concentration of things to see at that scale. But all that walking gradually started messing with my right knee to the point where, in the last couple of days, I was limping rather significantly, especially right after getting up. I've had periodic problems with this knee ever since I sprained it badly skiing when I was 10 years old. It's a chronic thing, not an acute one. Possibly more troubling was that my right hip was also a bit painful. Since that's the side of my body that has the sciatica, the aches and pains tend to be of complex origin and manifestation. Lots of walking usually improves the situation, but perhaps there's also too much of a good thing. In any case, it never got to the point where it bothered me enough to not do any sightseeing, but on that last full day in Dublin I did get to a point where the tradeoff was getting close.

All in all, my decision to focus my trip on seeing people (and staying in specific locations for multiple days) rather than trying to include a more whirlwind tourist experience was exactly the right decision. It was great spending time with Irina, Sara, Liz and respective families as applicable, and I got the extra bonus that they lived in delightful cities to visit. And I simultaneously am inspired to do more travel/visiting and to be very aware of how exhausting the travel part of it is. I need to mull over how to balance that.
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Yeah, yeah, it's supposed to be Alpennia day. Consider yourselves all reminded to buy, read, and review my books. Now let's talk about New Orleans.

So this was my unprogrammed day for sightseeing (the conference doesn't start until mid-day tomorrow). I hadn't managed to connect with any of the GCLS folks about sightseeing in the morning, so I just took off on foot (the Hilton is right at the base of Canal Street, and so on the edge of the French Quarter). Picked up a couple of walking tour guidebooks and then settled in for coffee and beignets at Cafe Beignet (which is recommended as the place to go if you don't want to deal with the crowds at Cafe du Monde). I spend half the day wandering up and down most of the streets on the river side of Bourbon Street (which itself is not all that interesting in terms of historic features during the day). You can check out some photos if you're one of my fb friends.

Just around the time I was ready for a break (with the heat and humidity rising steadily) I got a text from Lauri that her plane was on the ground, so I headed back to the hotel and settled in with a cold lemonade and air conditioning to wait for her to show up.

Not even quite unpacked, I dragged her off for more meandering along with a couple of GCLS buddies and then we took in a Segway tour (my first time on one). While we were getting our tour briefing and getting used to the equipment, there was a brief intense rain shower, which made the temperature much pleasanter for the tour. We had a delightfully knowledgable guide and took in a larger scope of sights than I would have made it to on foot.

After a brief rest back a the hotel, Lauri and I headed out to dinner. I think we only have one other "unprogrammed" dinner during the conference, and I had my heart set on dining on a second floor balcony eating traditional dishes. So we ended up at an upstairs eatery on Bourbon Street (which is a much more happening place after dark), sharing a Cajun/Creole sampler platter and watching the people go by in the street below. (Alas, the most audible music was from the restaurant sound system rather than the random live musicians along the street, but you can't have everything.)

Tired now.
hrj: (doll)
I'm feeling a little like Lucy just yanked the football out from in front of me. The other half of the family gathering got stuck in New England, due to a combination of weather delays, missed connections, no available rebookings, and the logistical difficulties of widening the travel options. So it'll continue to be just the California half hanging out, watching football, playing card and board games, and indulging in food designed for a somewhat larger crowd. The original modified schedule (designate New Year's Eve as the official Holiday Dinner and New Year's Day as the gift exchange plus Open House) continues as planned. But it isn't the same as it would be with all of us here. I guess we'll add a ceremonial Packing of the UPS Box to the activities.

I think I may need to scare up a couple more dinner guests for the NYE roast beef.

On the up side, I still have 6 sewing days until 12th night and I'm well ahead of schedule. I'm doing two 16th century men's outfits comprising shirt, breeches, doublet, and coat. Of those, both shirts are done, both pairs of breeches are done except for lacing eyelets, one doublet is virtually done except for lacing eyelets and buttonholes/buttons, the other is cut out, one coat is completely done and the other is cut out. No time for slacking but I have no doubts of finishing it all.
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I can reconstruct the convention from the schedule on the back of my tent card. They kept me quite busy. GFiNY and I dodged around the Macys crowds Thursday morning to catch our train at Penn Station and discovered that a "reserved seat" on Amtrak doesn't necessarily mean you'll _find_ a seat without walking from one end of the train to the other. We settled into the cafe car because it offered the first available pair. Don Sakers picked us up in Baltimore (Penn station again --we passed through an additional Penn station going through New Jersey) and delivered us to the hotel. Then it was dinner at the hotel buffet with the usual pre-convention crowd and then hanging out socializing in Judy's room until bedtime.My forestalled cold was definitely back, determined to progress through all the usual stages, so I got snifflier as the weekend went on and skipped out on late-night activities. Friday I three panels, the usual one on "researching historic details for fiction and why do people love medieval fantasy so much anyway?" Next was a very energetic and (I think) successful panel on "Do/Should minorities get a 'pass'?" in the sense of "Should authors avoid making minority characters into villains/victims?" I'm told by an audience member that watching the body language of the panelists was as much fun as listening to what was being said. Last up was an alt-history panel on "what would have happened if famous people had been of the opposite gender?" On which my position was the largely boring "mostly they would never have had the opportunity to do what they became famous for."
We'd had dinner before my third panel with [livejournal.com profile] the_cheese_lady and her husband, but afterward bumped into GoH Nalo Hopkinson who was about to have dinner alone and joined her for company. (One of the secrets of Darkovercon is that it's a great opportunity to snag GoHs for cozy chats around meals.)
Saturday I had a solo panel on designing names for use in fiction which had a small but enthusiastic audience. The afternoon panel "Making it real" (how to use details to create realistic settings) covered ground from how to research and use expert consultants to writing techniques for how to insert those details into your story smoothly. I went to the all-authors autograph session but no one dredged out any old copies of Sword & Sorceress or "Baby Names for Dummies" this year, so I mostly took notes for the panel I'd be moderating later. The post dinner panel was "Alien Romance", which had a prompt suggesting how laws and ethics might handle relationships with sentient non-human beings, although the discussion covered a fair amount of speculation on mechanics as well. (For actual alien species I have a hard time getting past how much groundwork you'd have to do after first contact before something like "informed consensuality" could reasonably be discussed.) I skipped the midnight Hallelujah Chorus for the first time in years because I was still fighting through the cold and sleep seemed more important.
I had a reading scheduled for 11am on Sunday but my only listener was the GFiNY, so rather than reading from Daughter of Mystery (which she's read) I read the prequel short story "Three Nights at the Opera" (its debut). I was a little disappointed to not have a bigger audience, but I did spend all weekend being allowed to squee about the novel sale. My last panel was to moderate "Reinventing Religion" on various topics relating to fictional religions and the uses I'd theology in world-building. The day finished up with the all-author Q&A session which was more lively than some have been in the past. It also allowed me to line up a ride to the train station for the trip back to NY, which is where I'm typing this at the moment.

NYC Day 2

Nov. 21st, 2012 08:42 pm
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After dinner yesterday, we went out to see Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. It was visually striking and clever and the aerial work was breathtaking, although I have to say that the music was, for the most part, forgettable. A romp, though not a classic.

Last night, alas, my winter cold decided to manifest itself again and I'm dealing with a minor sore throat. So much for the theory that I could head it off entirely.

Today we nattered around a bit in the morning then went out to meet people for lunch (various textile-geek friends and their relations). In the middle of lunch I had to step out to take the pre-scheduled call from Bella Books, mentioned in the previous post. (I'd gotten an initial e-mail from them last Thursday saying they wanted to talk to me, but I didn't want to make any public announcements until I'd actually confirmed the substance of that talk.) Then there was a stroll along the Macy's parade set-up route, watching them blow up balloons. Later there was dinner with a small crowd of GFiNY's theater friends, after which I got a whirlwind pre-performance tour of several of the most gorgeously restored theaters, slipping out of the last one just as the doors were opening. I felt deliciously "inside".

Now it's a dose of cold medicine to help me sleep and then up in the morning to take the train down to Baltimore for Darkovercon. There was a brief panic when we heard that a switching problem had shut down Penn Station in NY tonight (it's a bit confusing since our trip is from Penn Station in NY to Penn STation in Baltimore) but by the time I'd gone online to check it out, they say the power was restored and things were operating almost normally.

NYC Day 1

Nov. 20th, 2012 05:33 pm
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If I don't post a trip report as I go along, I won't remember to do it at all.

Uneventful flight to Kennedy airport, at which I was met by my Girlfriend in New York, hereafter to be referred to in usual LJ pseudonymy as "GFiNY". We took an assortment of public transit to get back to her apartment, which is literally half a block from Central Part (and just across the street from the Dakota of John Lennon fame). I feel a bit like I've fallen into some sort of archetypal Old New York experience. I don't believe I've ever previously visited someone where you get let into the building by an actual doorman. The building was originally build as a hotel, so the kitchen-like-object literally started out as a closet, but the first-floor lobby is all glitzed up with stone tiles and ceiling ornaments and whatnot. We went out to dinner at an Italian place in Grenwich Village and then did a bit of a walking tour all around that area afterwards before toddling off back home.

This morning we started out with a stroll across Central Park, followed by wandering around a tiny snippet of the Met (mostly the Egyptian, Roman, and Medieval rooms) and lunch. Then more walking tour of downtown architecture (I love the little narrow old buildings squashed between later additions), a stop for coffee, then a look at a private textile exhibit (which was supposed to be a meetup with one of GFiNY's friends but she didn't show), more walking tour plus subway back. There will be sending out for Chinese and then we're off to a show. (Spiderman.)

I still have no holistic understanding of the subway system, but so far I haven't needed to.
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Once again I will be live-blogging the sessions I attend at the Kalamazoo medieval congress. Just for fun, this time I'll be doing it by iPad. (Up side: less intrusive; longer battery life. Down side: to avoid the annoyance of significant amounts of screen typing, I picked up a new case with integral bluetooth keyboard. Oh, wait. New hardware isn't a down side.) Oh how I missed my 'Zoo last year when I was busy selling and buying houses!
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It's not that I haven't had anything to say -- far from it! But I'm still spending a lot of time settling in to the new house and the new routine. And part of that new routine is that most of my LJ reading is done on the iPhone on BART, which is not conducive to posting long thoughtful essays. So as a way of getting back into posting, how about I review my new daily routine? This is a composite and, to some extent, an ideal (especially with regard to gym activities).

6 am - The alarm goes off. I get up, am thankful for having laid out my clothes the night before, get dressed, feed the cat, and verify that all the essentials are in my bike bag. (purse, keys, transit card, work ID, glasses case with the pair that aren't on my head, phone, and depending on other activities lunch bag, gym bag, and shopping backpack) If I've been very good and gotten to bed on time and therefore feel up to it, I've gotten dressed in my gym clothes and have the work clothes in the gym bag.

6:30 am -- Into the garage; door up; bag onto bike; helmet on; wheel out to the driveway; click the door-closer and make sure it closes; check for traffic and away we go. My ride to BART is about half on either lightly traveled residential streets or recreational paths and half on Concord Ave which has nice wide margins and not terribly heavy traffic. I get to ride past backyard roosters crowing and delinquent bunny rabbits on their way home from foraging and families of urban waterfowl swimming in the canal by the trail. The ride has one slightly hairy cut left across three lanes of traffic to make a left turn followed immediately by waiting at an intersection with a major artery (Clayton Rd) that only cycles the cross traffic every five minutes or so. (At least that's what it feels like.) Then I'm at BART, folding the bike up and waving my Clipper Card at the turnstile. I cannot say how delighted I am with the Clipper Card (eletronic transit debit card). I can remember back when I first moved to the Bay Area thinking someone should invent something like this. Especially the bit about setting it up online to auto-load when the balance gets down below a certain point.

7ish -- By now I'm on BART. The timing gets a bit loose from this point because a lot depends on the precise timing of my connections. The BART leg of the trip takes about 20 minutes, at which point I've worked my way through e-mail, facebook, and LJ. Off at MacArthur Station and switch to the Emery-go-round shuttle. In theory, at this point I've moved on to reading a magazine or book, but more often than not it's just solitaire games. The streets for this leg are a bit rough and I normally sit in the back of the shuttle to keep my bike out of people's way, so the ride is pretty bumpy.

7:30-ish -- If it's a gym day, I ride the block from the shuttle stop to the gym and spend about half an hour doing weights, showering, and changing to work clothes. (If it's not a gym day, I probably lazed in bed an extra 20 minutes or so and haven't really gotten any further ahead in the schedule.) Then ride the 3 blocks from the gym to work.

8-ish -- At work.

Lunch -- On Mon, Wed, & Fri I bike down to the Emeryville Post Office at lunch to check my PO Box (which I'm still using to transition mail from the old house to the new one). So far there's always been at least one piece of mail every time I check. On the day the box is empty, I'll go down to only checking one or two times a week. On PO Box days I often swing by Berkeley Bowl on my way back to work and pick up a few groceries (since I can keep them in the break-room fridge at work until the end of the day -- no frozen foods, though).

5-ish -- Off work. If I didn't hit the gym in the morning and I don't have to rush home for something in the evening, it does here. Otherwise, bike the few blocks to the shuttle stop, shuttle to BART, BART to Concord, repeating the "read e-mail, FB, and LJ" part as necessary. Home by 6pm if nothing else intervenes. The trickiest part of planning the commute is chosing clothing for the day: warm enough for Berkeley fog, not too warm for the afternoon bike ride home, not involving carrying multiple changes of clothing that take up too much space in the bike bag. I haven't yet mastered the trick of hitting the garage door remote while still on approach so that I can just ride up into the garage. Park the bike, put away any groceries and mail, take care of the cat, make sure stuff (clothes, food, etc.) is organized for the next morning.

Thursdays I swing by the farmers market on the way home. Wednesdays, unless I'm feeling overbooked, I'll generally go to fighter practice (odd to call it that when there isn't necessarily any fighting going on any given week). Alternate Thursdays is a sewing group. Enough other less-regular evening social events that it seems like more than half my evenings are booked. If I'm not going out for anything, I'll cook a nice meal and sit down to relax over it and try to catch up with anything online that's too awkward to do on a phone. And just about the time I'm thinking about getting some more unpacking and organization done, it's ...

10pm -- Bedtime. The computer is scheduled to automatically go to sleep. I'm less automatic about it. The later after 10pm I get to sleep, the less likely I'll get to the gym before work. If I do the gym after work, I get home proportionately later, everything gets pushed a bit later in the evening, and I'm more likely to not be in bed by 10pm. She is a vicious cycle.

And that's what my weekdays are like at the moment. The rhythms are still settling in. I've stopped worrying that I'll forget something essential, but I'm still trying to optimize what I haul around with me. Next post: the state of the unpacking.
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I've come around to the philosophy that any all-day travel day where you arrive at your destination on the same calendar day as planned is a good day. I think I missed the goal if you count it by Kalamazoo time, but not if you count it by California time. The connection out of Phoenix was only 2.5 hours late, which got me into Chicago ca. 8pm and on the road with the rental car ca. 9pm. What with losing an hour crossing into Eastern Time that made it early Thursday morning by the time I checked into my dorm.

The trip was, on the whole, very pleasant, despite not having any chunk of time to sit and have a nice birthday meal at any point. (What the heck, I'm going to be going out to dinner with the gang every night, so it's not like I'm deprived.) I did have a celebratory airplane-bottle of Glenlivet on the second leg and celebrated further by buying a drink for my seatmate (because the credit-card processor hated his Canadian credit card and I was feeling in the mood to do something of the sort -- made the obligatory joke about it not being a come-on). We had a delightful conversation for about an hour after which I attempted a sleep-like substance.

Thunder and lightning all night and awake way too early in the morning. Hit the bookroom for the first crack at David Brown/Oxbow. (They always have a few things they've only brought one copy of, so it's worth hitting it first thing.) But I think in general I'm going to leave the book shopping for tomorrow, since I have all my responsibilities to take care of today (paper and the session I'm presider for).

For those who are new to my LJ as of this year, I've gotten in the habit of live-blogging the paper sessions I attend, partly as a way of sharing the conference with all my friends, but also partly as a way of helping me to focus more on the papers. (I'm one of those people who needs to fidget when I listen to lectures.) So this will be my completely subjective and impressionistic, often stream-of-consciousness notes on the papers I listen to (and the books I buy).
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My return travel adventures are still on-going at this point. The blow-by-blow saga has been / is being posted on Facebook and will not be repeated here. Suffice it to say that, rather than being on a plane between Newark and San Francisco at the moment (as I was originally scheduled to be), I'm on a bus between Portland and Boston. But with any luck I'll be flying out of Boston in the morning, and in the mean time Continental AIrlines is paying for all sorts of things like taxis and buses and meals and hotel rooms.

I even managed to get in some work on the novel (here on the bus ... which has wi-fi). I'm still doing a few little fill-in scenes that needed more background work. I did succeed in getting all the name work done by the end of the year, although I haven't quite completed a thrice-revised complete draft of Part I. The fill-in scenes and the detailed complete review-pass ended up needing more concentrated attention that I was able to give during holiday visiting. (The name work was quite convenient to do when I was constantly picking it up and putting it down among other activities.)

I think I'll spend the weekend recovering from my vacation.
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It is the ultimate judgement on how discombobulated this Christmas holiday has been. Normally, it is required that there be two (2) pecan pies. This ensures that everyone who wants some gets a piece. This year, we baked only one (1) pecan pie. It sat untouched until two days after Christmas. The final sliver was not consumed until last evening.

2009 still has one more opportunity to bite me: the de-icing delays at Newark (my transfer point) are currently 3 hours and climbing. And keep in mind that de-icing delays are experienced in the plane. This means that the deicing delays do not decrease the possibility that I will miss my (half-hour-window) connection entirely. Fortunately, they were able to double-book us onto the next flight out just in case. But at the moment I'm not betting on arriving in SFO this year. (Note: currently I'm posting from Portland, and Continental is still claiming that our Portland-Newark flight will be on time, so all of the delays are still potential at this point.)

Home Again

Dec. 2nd, 2009 01:53 am
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... and looking forward to some decompression time before it's back to the family whirl. I'll know in a few days whether I'm correct that my stress levels are way back down in the green zone again. It's really hard to tell when I'm not in my own native environment.
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I got the call this afternoon saying "come now", so my original Thanksgiving travel plans have been changed to flying out tonight (instead of Wednesday) to Augusta ME (instead of BWI). Those of you who were expecting to see me at Darkovercon (or who might have been surprised to have seen me at Darkovercon, knowing what was going on) -- sorry to miss you. Next year for certain.

This totally validates my decision to pack my suitcase yesterday.
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Some time ago, I briefly toyed with the idea of popping out to Maine for a weekend to get a chance to see the middle brother performing musical theater (Cabaret) and celebrate my Dad's 80th birthday. But I'd just done a bunch of traveling, and the calendar was a little full. But then I got an email from my Dad this morning saying "[livejournal.com profile] cryptocosm is taking the red-eye out for my birthday party, would you like to come?". And after about 15 minutes of pondering the logistics, I decided, sure, why not?

Well, "why not" includes the question of how to e-mail my boss to ask/tell him I'm taking two days of unanticipated vacation. I have the vacation. I don't have any major deadlines pending. And if I'd simply gotten unexpectedly sick, everyone would cope and cover. But I still feel guilty. At least my boss is very understanding about family stuff.

I'm still very much in "Ack!" mode.

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