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09 November 2014 @ 12:08 am
Would have liked to be sociable tonight, yes, but not at con-bar noise levels. Settled in on the couch in our room with A Corner of White off the book-swap table. Charming, madcap, like a YA Jasper Fforde. Pleased to see there will be more: this is Book One of The Colors of Madeleine.

Crikey, no wonder I was confused all through about which Cambridge it was set in. There's clotted cream, and star jumps (jumping jacks) and glandular fever (mono) and mould, but they've Americanized the crucial word Colour to Color throughout. Result, mishmash.
08 November 2014 @ 08:39 am
Just one person can make the difference between "pathetically eating dinner alone" and "convivial convention meal experience". Last night was rescued by Susan from Calgary, who has now eaten Ethiopian food and told us about motorcycling in Brazil.
20 October 2014 @ 11:37 am
The writers/producers/directors of Boxtrolls can't be arsed to consider women as people in their boys' club fantasyland.

In Boxtrolls, women have no power, and no voice. The one woman with lines in the script is Mrs. Lord Whosis, very, very briefly. Winnie spends much of the movie trying to tell her father about various crises. There isn't a whisper of an idea that telling her mother might be useful. We don't even know a mother exists until late in the game.

Women's place in this society is as dancing partners and as object of lust from the power elite, period. Yes, Madame Froufrou turns out to be a male in drag, but that doesn't change the fact that the men believe she is female as Lord Whosis is fondling a round of brie and comparing it to her lush flesh. That is what they establish "her" place to be.

Yes, there is The Girl. (There is almost always The Girl.) She is morbid and irritating and dynamic, with all the energy that is lacking from Eggs. She is also done up in ringlets and pink ruffles -- perhaps so that we don't get confused and think that she could possibly be the main character instead of the sidekick?

A friend tried to excuse all this on the grounds that it was "typical for the society this was modeled on." My response: THIS IS FANTASY. There are trolls who live in cardboard boxes! Cheese that makes someone explode! The filmmakers had control over this world and THEY CHOSE THIS.

Shame on them.
01 September 2014 @ 12:57 pm
Fuck. A thing just happened. Cluster of people walking steadily by on opposite sidewalk, our quiet residential neighborhood. 2 or 3 adults, one with a stroller, one wheeling a small pink girl's bike. Fifteen-twenty feet behind, small pink girl, screaming incoherently and running after them. Not running very fast, because she's screaming and sobbing and about 7 years old and wearing a bicycle helmet. Audible all the way down a very long block.

I watched, disbelieving, upset, wondering what the hell was going on-- and what it could accomplish for me to challenge them. Challenging an adult bully can let an older victim get away. Challenging adult bullying a child, their child? Are they really going to change their mind about what they're doing? Maybe she just ran over her brother one too many times on the bike and her parents said "That's it, you're walking."

What would you have done? I feel sick about this.

I finally got up but I'd lost the trail.
20 August 2014 @ 11:48 pm
Hello. Still alive, still in Europe. I don't know why I have a so much harder time than David when it comes to travel blogging. Sorry.

Today, first of two full days in London qua London. Energetic hotel owner of indeterminate accent said "good morning! What can I get you? Coffee, tea, whiskey, amontillado, marmalade?" I was struck speechless by the image of amontillado with added marmalade. Certainly marmalade with added whiskey can be nice.

Later I requested a second cup of coffee. "no, you get only one." "Then I'll take it in trade for the whiskey I didn't have." That got me a brisk nod and a cup of coffee.

Apparently in Britain fried eggs only exist one way: with a firm white and the yolks As Runny As Possible. Seriously, that's it. There's page after page online telling Brits how to order eggs in the US, explaining the mystery that is "over easy" vs. "sunnyside up." What I need to know is how to order here and get a yolk that can be smeared, not poured....

Sir John Soane's Museum: He was an architect and packrat, specializing in decorative chunks of buildings, broken sculptures, and watercolors of what the buildings he hadn't built yet would look like in 1000 years' time. It felt like a very cramped sort of Winchester Mystery House, with the scaffolding and banging noises (they're trying to undo some previous renovations) lending the impression that it is still accreting.

He had an Egyptian sarcophagus carved inside and out with heiroglyphics. It was like an oversize alabaster bathtub, and I kept envisioning the poor bugger who was told "Clamber in here and inscribe an epic ode with this icepick."
08 August 2014 @ 10:25 pm
We spent a week helping celebrate Ellen Klages' 60th birthday in Normandy. Cider, cheese, sausage, more cider. Eventually the wine would come out but because I don't particularly like it, I would have more cider. There was a bottle of Armagnac for a while. I think the calvados & cream hung around as long as it did because it was in the fridge out of sight.

Some days people took off to see Omaha Beach, or the Bayeux Tapestry. We went to Mont St. Michel with Pat Murphy and Greer Gilman. Even as tourist-encrusted as it is, even with Mère Poulard seemingly taking over every second restaurant and gaufre window, it is still a breathtaking place. I'm glad we went back.

Back at the farmhouse (converted barn, we think), there were comfy chairs and a large wooden table inside, an even larger plastic table and small swimming pool outside. Cows came and looked at us over the fence, chiming in with great comedic timing. We went and looked at the cows sometimes: great creamy beauties, Charolais I think? And we had a pig! Traipsing over to empty our carrot tops and melon rinds into her trough made us inordinately happy. Needless to say, it made the pig happy too.

David wants me to help me sort through photos now. I haven't been taking many at all, as he always seems to beat me to the punch. Check out davidlevine for the visuals.
26 July 2014 @ 07:29 am
The apartment shower is literally the size of a phone booth, such that if you dropped a dime (if you happen to take dimes into the shower, which I'm not judging) you'd have to open the door to pick it up.

Which I think makes it even smaller than a phone booth.

Do you still use "the size of an LP" as a unit of measure?

When you do, do you find that your listeners' hands involuntarily curl into a pair of parentheses roughly 12" apart?
25 July 2014 @ 09:14 pm
If you stand in front of Notre Dame and look to the west, you are gazing back at hundreds of cameras, all held by people trying unsuccessfully to get the towers and Mom into the shot at the same time. Hundreds of others have looked their fill and are just waiting for the entrance time on their ticket, or the rendezvous time for their tour group, or for Britney to get back from the bathroom, if there even is one which they're starting to doubt. If they are teenagers, they are sprawled on the flagstones, blithely confident of their ability to get up again at will.

At the back of the plaza, near the entrance to the Crypte archéologique, is a hedge at just the right height that one can look across to the cathedral and see no people at all. It's a nice touch.

Across town, the terraces at the Palais de Chaillot have an uninterrupted view of the Tour Eiffel. Also of children and teens holding out one hand at a particular angle as if only half willing to walk like an Egyptian, their associated camera-wielder squatting and bobbing to make the effect come out right. Sometimes a girl will leap into the air over and over and over, flinging her arms out enthusiastically, then huddle with her girlfriends to learn the result.
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25 July 2014 @ 09:26 am
My reaction to jet lag seems to be not so much brain fog as a wholesale bodily leadenness.

David has given an account of our first couple of days. I shall be more scattershot.

Went out this morning at 7:30 or 8, leaving the sleeping journalist behind, to forage for fresh-baked butter at the boulangerie Julien. Pleasantly cool and unpopulated: few people to be seen except garbage collectors, some shopkeepers cleaning their windowfronts, and men with pugs. One could walk freely in the street, a treat as the sidewalks are quite narrow (and blocked, now, every few yards by green garbage bins).

Some reviews of Julien hinted at a dislike of Americans. I suspect it's a simply a dislike of ditherers and those not quite with the program. I sensed mild irritation, for instance, that I spaced out my requests for deux croissants, svp... un pain au chocolat... et un kouign amann, instead of rattling them right off. But un de ces choses INCROYABLES avec des figues!! and a gesture towards the window won me a quiet smile.

Yesterday when it was time for lunch, we set off for a Senegalese place quite nearby, with the (Ikea-sponsored) cafe at the Swedish Cultural Center we kept passing as Plan B. Well, Le Petit Dakar was closed (summer hours). We started towards plan B... Then said "bugger this" and swerved into the bistro on the corner. This "plan... back-up... serendipity" protocol serves us well.
01 July 2014 @ 02:49 am
Can't sleep. Profitably using my time by browsing the catalog of books held by the Family History Library in Salt Lake. Have identified plenty that are of potential relevance to various branches of my ancestors and David's.

Will not fall prey, this time, to ground-floor volunteers who earnestly want to walk me through Online Search 101, re-creating things I could do at home (and already have).
23 June 2014 @ 04:36 pm
Saturday we went and celebrated Mark & Shannon's new deck. It is a thing of beauty, split-level, with ensuite greenhouse. The massed container plantings and hanging baskets had me agog. Keeping them watered and happy must take dedication and patience. I suspect that our traveling means we are in no more position to keep domestic flora than we are to keep domestic fauna. Damn they're pretty though.

I got braces last Monday. "Invisalign", the ones that are like clear plastic retainers that you snap over your teeth. You swap them out for a new set every two weeks and gradually shove things back into place. My lower teeth have been drifting forward over the last few years, one of them pushed forward enough that its neighbors are almost touching. Nothing would have induced me to go back to metal braces & wires -- been there, done that -- but this seemed doable.

Hmphm. Well. I would probably have made the same decision -- but there were surprises. I did not do my due diligence here. Lord knows people have blogged their experiences.

Some of the things my orthodontist didn't tell me going in:
= It's not just a question of snapping them on over your teeth as-is. Most cases need some number of "attachments", little nubbins bonded to your teeth for the aligners to shove against. I am lucky; I only have 7. Some people write of having 18 or 20, including on the front teeth, where they make the clear sheath decidedly less "invisible".
= There might be rubber bands.
= The "smooth, comfortable" precision-fit aligners can have sharp edges you'll want to file down.
= The aligners have to be out if you're consuming anything other than water(!), and you want to clean both teeth and aligners before putting them back in, lest you get cavities and they get grotty.
= You're supposed to wear the things 22 hours a day.

Think on that for a bit. It goes beyond fitting three meals into 2 hours. I like a bowl of cherry tomatoes or grapes out for casual snacking. Nope. Coffee while you work? Nope. Popcorn at the movies? You'd blow your whole two hours right there, unless you floss at your seat. Have a cookie, have a cocktail, suck on a cough drop, sip on hot honey & lemon -- aligners out, and don't take too long!
28 May 2014 @ 10:10 pm
No, not mine. The Last Five Years is a musical written by Jason Robert Brown, which I've known of for years and finally have had a chance to see performed! Portland Center Stage mounted it in their small "studio", placing the "stage" wall-to-wall across the center and the audience in two sections gazing across it at each other. That called for artful blocking to keep the action facing both directions at once, and while indeed they did it well, I was more aware of the blocking than I'd like to be.

The story itself goes in two directions: he's living forwards, she's living backwards. The play opens with Cathy finding a note and wedding ring on the kitchen table, and the expressiveness of Merideth Kaye Clark's face as she tried to take in what this meant, oh, it could break your heart. As for Drew Harper as Jamie, I was constantly entranced by how he moved.

Both were strong clear singers. I wish they hadn't had to fight the piano for volume.

We came out of the show debating which is ruder, "schmuck" or "putz".
12 May 2014 @ 10:11 pm
Or so they tell me. I've been hopelessly turned around all day. My inner pigeon takes its readings off of "big land mass" vs "big water", you see, rather than anything involving the sun or the rotation of the earth. As such, after 40 years in the Pacific Northwest "towards the center of the continent" quite firmly equals "east". This isn't conscious choice, it's just how things work with me.

Now factor in that my home base for this trip is (a) at the opposite end of Manhattan from usual, and (b) on a block where downtown happens to be uphill. See? Don't stand a chance. I wonder just how much of today's mileage was from backtracking. Every time I thought I had my bearings they rolled away.

It is perhaps appropriate that I went to the Guggenheim.
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16 March 2014 @ 09:55 pm
== Sorry, problems posting. This one was verbatim repeat of previous, which see.
16 March 2014 @ 09:19 pm
Something is definitely wrong with either my iPhone's mike or the sound meter app. No way on earth can this be 34 dB. It's like every Greek restaurant in Chicago, simultaneously, in a living room. Either a men's chorus is singing football songs in the back, or I'm having auditory hallucinations under the onslaught. Could be either.

But the fish was excellent! I might even go back for lunch tomorrow. (La Cuerva del Mar, the one on calle Loiza not the one in Old San Juan which is just for the tourists, said the Argentinean gentleman on the boat who also showed me how to clear my snorkel tube.)

A large family, clearly regulars, are celebrating Grandpa's birthday at the next table. Once the trick candle finally burned down to the frosting line and stayed out long enough for Mama to cut the cake, they brought me a slice too, which was sweet of them.

I am bone-tired. Up before 7 to grab breakfast at the bakery/deli across the street, the one that has had a line every time I walk past at any time of day. My mini-baguette had slices of actual turkey, not slices of something processed FROM turkey: yay! Then to the sidewalk to wait. I booked a snorkel expedition today, pick-up time 7:30. Or, y'know, 8:35. Whatever.

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"I wanted to be a maid."

"I wanted to live in New York City, like Valley of the Dolls but without the steep decline."

"Actually, I wanted to be a giraffe before I wanted to be a maid."

"I wanted to make crossword puzzles."

"I wanted to live on a commune and raise goats. It's good that never happened, because I don't share very well."
07 January 2014 @ 10:43 pm
Somehow a wistful mention that I still want to see New Orleans someday has turned into plane tickets and hotel reservation, in the space of about a day and a half.

I pretty much spent all of yesterday afternoon and evening online, prodding at various airline and hotel sites. Prices for both components varied dramatically from one date to another, and I didn't want to unwittingly wipe out a lucky fare find with a disastrous room rate, or vice versa. As it is, we were in the process of booking when we noticed that flight #1 involved a 41-minute layover in Denver. 41 minutes? Seriously? Southwest offered that, or 4 hours and 41 minutes. I went back to poking.

In the end, United has a decent fare, and sane layover times. We'll be in New Orleans from Monday to Friday; thence to San Jose for the weekend, for Potlatch; and home. I like that we're piggybacking it onto another short jaunt. Southwest still worked for legs 2 and 3 of the triangle; this lets us use frequent flyer miles which face a sharp devaluation come March 31st, so yay.

And after a couple hours of back-and-forthing between TripAdvisor,, etc, I found a nice little courtyard hotel in the French Quarter that was running a "stay three nights for the price of two" weekday special. It took a lot of wrestling with their reservations website to establish that yes, the rate for Sunday night really is double the other nights! It took David to realize that it would give us the special only if we went through this link here, and then only asked for three nights, not four. It couldn't cope with four. Sigh. Talked with a very nice human the next morning who coaxed it into submission.

We might make a restaurant reservation or two ahead of time. I look forward to eating well in New Orleans. I'm sure we'll hit at least one history museum, probably a cemetery, ride a few streetcars. But no rental car, no cooking classes, no elaborate day trips. Gonna keep it simple. Take it easy.


It's not nice to smirk like that, you know.
09 December 2013 @ 11:17 pm
Disneyparking with an avid pin trader and penny smasher puts the enterprise at a tempo I can easily manage with the still-healing knee. At Epcot today with davidlevine and scarlettina.

Yes, we did our usual process of compiling touring plans via RideMax, this time starting with a spreadsheet and ranking system to take into account the priorities of all three people involved. (Well, how else?) And we did thus ride Soarin' twice, on a morning where wait times in the normal line were posted at 70 minutes. Overwhelmingly, however, our ease of access all day long was due to action taken months ago: when we chose to come this particular week. Crowd quotient "2 out of 10 today," said one of D's apps this morning.

Perhaps I shouldn't be telling you this.

No hot applejack cider (UK), Glühwein (Germany) or hot mint tea (Morocco) for me today, despite all the red-bowed greenery and ambient xmas music. It's "Christmas in July" down here.

We began and ended today on boats, in both cases the sole passengers. I think we astonished and delighted the people at "Living With the Land" by being there waiting to ride before they'd quite gotten running! "That never happens!" Bookended it with Maelstrom in Norway, which I didn't remember clearly but told Janna it was "more active than Peter Pan and less than the Matterhorn." yup. A cute little baby flume ride.

And so to bed.
14 November 2013 @ 11:18 am
I have a question for those of you with experience of credit cards from the business side. Do you pay higher fees if a purchase is made with a card that gives the customer mileage/rewards points?

I don't use credit cards in person much. Quite happy to use these universal payment token thingies from the US Treasury, among other things because I remember how justifiably pissed we were about that whole "too big to fail" banks crisis, and it is insane that CitiBank, Chase & Co. should be getting a slice off the top of nearly every freakin' retail transaction in the country. Cup of coffee, use a credit card? $8.27 at the grocery store, use a credit card? Seriously? I despair.

So. But. We certainly do use credit cards for travel costs and larger purchases. We're planning next year's Worldcon travel, wondering whether we can wangle Business Class, and I'm kinda regretting that I got rid of my Chase-administered, United Airlines Mileage Plus card and the "miles" I could have been accruing with it.

I read somwhere that rewards cards cost the merchant more. I do not want my cushy lie-flat transatlantic bed to come out of the pockets of the local retailers, local restaurants, and independent craftspeople I'm trying to support by patronizing!

Is this really the case? Or am I getting het up over a misconception?
13 November 2013 @ 08:21 pm
I upgraded my iPhone's operating system to iOS 7 today. Haven't yet sat down with David for a demo/tutorial on its new bells and whistles. So when an attempt to play Words w/Friends got me stuck in a recursive error message, I finally resorted to flail-y swipe-y gestures in hopes of pulling up the control strip so I COULD, in fact, "go to Settings and enable Notifications [OK]".

Instead I apparently put the phone into voice-activated mode. Ish. I say "ish" because after displaying a couple of screens related to that mode, during which I DID NOT SPEAK and DID NOT TOUCH THE SCREEN-- it decided to ring up my brother.

Sure. What the hell. We should talk more.

Except apparently the mike wasn't on, so he couldn't hear me....