28 October 2007

The Off-Season Vacation (part 3)

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(Part 1, Part 2)

Things I learned while on vacation:

custom t-shirtsIn my experience, all US Eastern seaboard beach towns with a boardwalk are the same: miniature golf, tacky tourist shops, arcades, rentable bikes. They are the land of 10,000 t-shirts, most of which are designed to be opinionated if not offensive to someone while the rest advertise the beach town. The main difference is how warm the ocean water is (or isn't).t-shirt store"Nattering on" is a totally accurate way of describing my 4 year old niece's speech. It's not a word I'm sure I knew before I heard my bro and SiL use it, certainly not one I'd think to use in conversation much, but it suits Little Red. She talks pretty much constantly whether anyone's paying attention or not. Since it's non-stop, you sort of do have to ignore it eventually to hear anyone else. The amusing thing is that my brother talks pretty much non-stop himself, going on at length about any and every topic with authority (assumed or actual). Can't say I'm sure Little Red's chattering is just a phase considering. We'll see. Might be some karma coming round there.

Am I a hypocrite if I won't eat at Hooters because I find it offensive, but I did eat at the Brass Balls Saloon? None of the wait staff (male or female) was scantily or revealingly clad, so I'm going to say no.

I definitely exhibit a bit more OCD behavior when I'm traveling which is not surprising if you consider repetition a means to seeking out assurance of something in an unfamiliar environment. E.g., is everything I usually carry in my pockets there, or has something fallen out? Sometimes things do fall out, so it's not an unfounded concern, but I checked all my pockets so many times while walking down the stairs at the Tut exhibit that Mom asked, "Did you lose something?"

"Hmm? Oh... no. Don't mind me. I'm just making sure."

Google docs is pretty damn cool.

Tiki Charm

After hearing it enough times, Tiki Charm seems like a perfectly reasonable name for the ice monster from Hoth.

Being on this vacation reminded me of past dual-family beach vacations. I never quite fit in because my bro and cousins were all boys and all older. Now, I still don't fit in, being an adult but unattached, not into sunbathing, swimming, or junky beach stores.ocean gallery hermit crabs
I do like watching the surfers though. And the waves through the glass doors to the balcony.

SPFs 50 and 55 diligently applied proved effective at keeping me tan-free throughout a week at the beach.

Hangin' with wild ponies is kind of awesome. horses and bikesSome are unexpectedly friendly. horse budThat's my new buddy sticking his head in my window. Mom couldn't stop laughing as he leaned further in and I leaned further back to get a picture.

Some know how to model. white horseThis one would walk three steps, stop, and strike a pose, then do it all over again.

Royal Farm is a very cool gas station, food stop. Mini-mart doesn't do it justice at all. It has one, but it also boasts fresh, fast foods. Picked up a pasta salad, Naked blueberry/blackberry smoothie and some pretzels for a late lunch snack. Could've gotten all sorts of breakfast sandwiches (available all day), or burgers, chicken, salads, just about anything- all made to order. Damn cool.

Some places on the boardwalk stay open later or open on the weekend when it's off-season. Some close up shop at the end of September and stay closed until the following spring.

Dexter is odd and funny.

The first time you select your difficulty level in arcade DDR Supernova, it doesn't actually set it. Technically, I figured this out after vacation as I couldn't figure out why it was forcing me to play the beginner level. So unsatisfying to play when the steps are spaced out so much, but I did score high enough to put my name on the machine twice (which stunned me since my scores weren't impressive). Maybe they cleared the top scores at the end of the summer or it keeps discrete top scores lists for different difficulty levels. Still, that should go on my Dave2-inspired list of stuff to do before I die that I've already done: scored high enough to put my name on an arcade machine, DDR no less- check.

Two years ago at TTaT: Miscommunication, From my other life

24 October 2007

Short term memory

I'm intrigued by this memory game on the National Geographic site. I did pretty terrible with the animals and landscapes- 6 out of 9 at best: clearly my strategy wasn't working, but I rocked out 9 for 9 on the numbers (not surprising to me as I've always been good with dates) and the letters.

The cover article on memory was really interesting.

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The Off-Season Vacation (part 2)

(Part 1)

The next morning, Mom, Dad, and I checked out of the hotel and got back on the road. It was another early day compared to my usual sleep schedule and I was feeling it. I refused Mom's offers to sit up front so I could put my headphones on, close my eyes, and lean my head back. On our trips when I was a kid, I would've stretched my legs out sideways on the seat with a pillow against the door. I had my pillow with me, but there was too much stuff piled up in the seat behind my Dad to stretch out. It was all right though; I spent the next couple of hours in varying states of semi-consciousness.

We stopped for lunch at a Bob Evans, and considering the church crowd was pouring in, we didn't have to wait too long for a table. Their stuffed french toast was all right but nothing compared to Doughboys's version with honey, ricotta, and banana.

An hour later, we were cruising the main drag in Ocean City, Maryland looking for the realtor's office. Since I was still in the back seat and address numbers were few and small, I was straining to read them out the side window. After some fifteen minutes of calling out numbers, I glanced forward and immediately recognized that the cross streets corresponded to the addresses. (E.g., 67th Street is where the 6700s start.) I was a little ticked that no one had mentioned this, but Mom and Dad just hadn't known. Not enough city time in their pasts. I relaxed back and told them what cross street to look for.

Mom called my sister-in-law's cell to coordinate meeting and it turned out that she, my brother, and niece were only behind us by 20 or so blocks. Our timing couldn't have been much better. We picked up the keys and met them in the garage of the condo.

Like every other rental I've ever stayed in by the beach, the condo's decor was dominated by fish, shells, and beach scenes. My bathroom, e.g., had starfish-covered wallpaper, a scallop shell soap dish, a school of fish sculpture hanging on the wall, a framed print of a rough map of the peninsula we were on, and a painting of a lighthouse by the ocean. The kitchen even had a large ceramic crab on its island.

Aside from the beach mania decor though, the place was pretty awesome. 4 bed, 4 bath, all stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, washer/dryer, fireplace, an HD TV in the living room and smaller flat screen TVs in each bedroom, lots of large windows, and 2 balconies, 1 facing the ocean, the other the bay. All right on the beach.

Of course, since I'm single I ended up in the interior cave bedroom while the married couples took the master suites at either end of the condo. My room did have one window of glass brick, but it was facing the lobby so I left the blinds down. I could've chosen my niece's room across the hall in theory, but I couldn't take all the pink and I knew Little Red would love it. Besides, my bathroom only had a massive shower stall (5' by 5' covered in stone tiles- I want one!) and at four years old, Little Red hates showers.

As we carried everything in from our vehicles, Little Red bounded around in excitement. "The beach is ready," she said, reminding us of our purpose there. I don't think she'd ever been to the ocean before, and we could see it through the sliding glass doors in the living room which opened up to one of the balconies. After the rest of us had recovered a bit from our respective drives, Mom declared that it was time to walk on the beach.

After a nice sandy stroll and dinner, Little Red was still totally wound up, chattering incessantly. Just watching her run around the living room made me exhausted. The rest of the adults were pretty tired too, and Little Red finally consented to sleep once we started going to bed. Too bad my mattress felt akin to sleeping on a box spring.

The next morning when I emerged from my room, everyone was gone. There was a note on the floor in front of my door: "We all gone to beach. Love, Dad" with a key to the condo on it. In the living room, a propped up whiteboard listed my brother and sister-in-law's cell phone numbers. I looked out the sliding glass doors and saw them camped out directly in front.

Being freshly showered and dressed, I didn't feel like slathering myself with sunscreen and then getting covered in sand, so I decided to hang out until they returned for lunch. I watched them from the balcony for a while-- building castles, taking turns holding Little Red's hand at the edge of the surf, sitting in beach chairs, lying on the blanket-- until I couldn't stand the wind anymore.


One year ago at TTaT: The Road is my Favorite Place: Day 9
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23 October 2007

Podcast Education

I know it's been out for a while, but I really like iTunes U. I started with the vlogs showing and discussing the Richard Serra exhibit at MoMA since I've always liked his work. Then I downloaded Penn's 60 Second Lectures. So far "Divided and Dangerous" is my favorite.

Turns out a museum near me lets you download its audio guides for free. I'm not a fan of walking around an exhibit with headphones on, but it's kind of cool to listen to the artist talk about his work after the fact. Also, I'm really familiar with the building, so the podcasts on its history were cool to listen to as well.

I'm not sure what I'm going to download next (for free!), but I know there's plenty to choose from.

Two years ago at TTaT: What are the odds?
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22 October 2007

For real

The grass was looking furry. I had just thought, "It's too bad Dad's mowing the lawn. I would've put some eyes on it," when I glanced over and saw:

lawn beast eyes
and then,

lawn beastI had just been thinking it, and there it was: a fuzzy lawn monster complete with teeth. What are the odds the sun would reflect off the house in the right arrangement at just the right moment? Looks like I've got some Halloween mojo working this year.

One year ago at TTaT: my 25 favorite tv characters ever
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20 October 2007

Misunderstood once

The phone connection was horrible: loud crackling static interspersed with complete dropouts. I was just asking to be sent information, so when I thought I heard him mispronounce my middle initial, I didn't bother correcting him. Oh, how I wish I had now.

When I called to actually switch my insurance plan, I made sure my name was listed correctly. Naturally, the card I received in the mail was incorrect. I called and got a new one. Then I received my first bill: same wrong initial. Called again and fixed it.

Now, months later I might add, I finally got the hefty stack of paperwork that says what my plan actually covers. Still the same damn wrong initial.

What irks me most is that I had a plan with the same company before. All they needed to do was call up my info, change the plan and nothing else.

Now because of that horrendous phone connection, I have to frakking call them AGAIN (though it will have to wait until Monday). It should be easier than this.

One year ago at TTaT: Downs and Ups; Hello, ABC.com?
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18 October 2007

Where am I?

My head is out of the writing game at the moment for which I apologize. I'm not sure what it is, but I don't blame my vacation for it because I wrote a fair amount during it either in my moleskine or in Google Docs.

I hadn't used Google Docs before, but I've got to say it's pretty cool. Definitely handy for word processing on the go.

In part my block is rooted in what I do and don't want to say here, the public and private selves and the line between the two. And then there's reevaluating the story in my head and thinking there's a completely different way to convey it that would probably be better.

Two years ago at TTaT: I have an underwear drawer!
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15 October 2007

Bring on the new hype!

I've posted about Hype Machine before- it's a cool internet music aggregator that I've been using for over a year to listen to all sorts of songs for free.

They're going to launch a new version of it but not until 10,000 people have the site open on their browsers. 3858 people have it open right now, so if you could go to The Hype Machine and leave the window open, I'd really appreciate it. Thanks!

One year ago at TTaT: The Road is my Favorite Place: Day 8
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13 October 2007

Knuckle burn

I was just carrying a laundry basket width-wise in front of me as I walked down a just-wide-enough hallway. I stopped paying attention for a moment or the weather reached in and messed with my equilibrium because before I could fix my trajectory, my knuckles were dragging across textured wallpaper, pulling the skin back. Knuckle burn.

"Ow. Fuck, man."

Or maybe more accurately wallpaper burn. Either way, now I have a red spot on the skin between my first two knuckles. Damn. I'm going to run some more cool water over it.

On an unrelated note, I totally dig Pushing Daisies. No doubt this means the show is doomed, but I'm staying optimistic. Don't screw this up, ABC.

One year ago at TTaT: Free mammograms
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11 October 2007

The Off-Season Vacation (part 1)

When I was growing up, my immediate family always made the 9-11 hour trek to Virginia to visit the extended fam in one day. For the past several years though, my parents have split the drive into two days since they have less stamina, and so they can stop and mess around more on the way. It'd been over a decade since I'd last spent more than 2 hours in a car with them, and I was not looking forward to more than quadrupling that figure for the vacation Mom had planned even if it was broken up.

I asked Dad about borrowing his portable CD player as I thought of playlists to burn, but in a prudent stroke of goodwill, they gave me my first iPod for my birthday a week and a half before the trip. I'd often said I didn't have much use for one since I don't travel much anymore: I had no idea how happy it'd make me.

Typically Mom sits in back since I have long legs, but I mostly let my calves fall straight down from my knees so it isn't a big deal; their car is pretty roomy anyway. Sitting alone in back however, there's no significant expectation to engage in conversation and none to navigate. My iPod contained a condensed collection of my iTunes library, all favorites, that kept me in good spirits for the first leg.

The water bottle holder on the side of my backpack provided a decent place to put the iPod while it was playing since I don't have a case for it yet other than the box it came in. (Any styles or brand suggestions for a 2nd generation nano? Flip case or plastic snap-on cover? Open click wheel or not? Seriously, I'm overwhelmed with all the choices so any advice would be greatly appreciated.)

We stopped at a Home Depot Design Center for a break: that place was cool. Full room kitchen displays; all sorts of sinks, tubs, and commodes, appliances; rooms of lamps and fans you can try out; and all the handles or knobs you could ever need. That night we stayed at a Marriot in a suburb of Philadelphia. Great mattress-even better than the one I have at home, terrible room location. I was right across from a side entry to the building and the door kept clicking open and slamming shut late into the night and then early on all morning. Nonetheless, I was still stoked for the one part of the vacation that I'd had any real say in.

After lunch at Michael's Deli, a sizable restaurant in the back of a mini-mart/butcher's/fishmonger's, we drove into Philly to the Franklin Institute Science Museum to see the King Tut exhibit. It was a Saturday and the second-to-last day of the exhibit, so the place was a mob scene. If I'd been traveling alone and known they were going to keep the exhibit open 24 hours/day that last weekend, I would've gone in the middle of the night.

Still, the exhibit was very cool and well displayed. Nearly all cases could be viewed from all sides, generally with the accompanying text printed on each of the 3 front-facing sides of the cases. The craftsmanship of the pieces was exquisite. There was a gold covered box made to house a missing statue that I loved. You could see the footprint for the missing statue inside. Outside, it was totally covered in hieroglyphs. Amazing decoration on all sides and the top.

I also liked the cane with the body of Nubian curved over the top of the handle in submission- a disturbing image, but beautiful piece.

The rectangular pectoral with the back counterweight that Tutankhamun probably wore at his coronation was sweet. I'll take one of those, please.

The gold decorated dagger and sheath that was on Tut's mummy was also very cool as was the cartouche-shaped box made of wood with fine carvings on it.

The gold Coffin of Tjuya (Room 4 on the gallery preview map) was amazing in person. It must weigh a ton.

Perhaps my favorite item of all was the large piece of stone balustrade (Room 5 on the gallery preview map) with Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their daughter below the Aten, the sun's rays ending in hands, presenting ankhs to the pharaoh and his family. Very cool, makes me want to sculpt bas relief.

The gift shop was pretty unimpressive as far as I was concerned. The postcard selection was kind of lame, but I picked up a few (95 cents each, damn) only to discover later that they were glossy on both sides giving them a terrible writing surface. (My pens kept giving out even though they had ink. I struggled through 2 cards and ended up doing the 3rd a couple of days later with one of my niece's crayons.) I liked the small statue of Sekhmet, but the quality wasn't that good, certainly not $40 worth. I did find a cool Ankh thumb ring for myself at last however.

I met up with Mom and Dad and we grabbed a snack at Ben's Bistro in the museum before the Mysteries of Egypt IMAX show. (Note to self: you were right, higher is better. Next time, sit even further up the stadium.) If you can't get to Egypt, an IMAX movie of it has to be close to the next-best-thing.

When we got out of the movie, it was almost 7 o'clock. After we'd checked out the regular museum gift shop, Mom said she was done and asked if we were. Dad said he was done and they both looked at me expectantly. I wanted to see what the rest of the museum had. "I'd like to see what else is on this floor," I said.

"Everything else is closed, isn't it?" Mom said.

I didn't think so, but she seemed sure which made me unsure. I felt pressured to leave, so I said, "I just want to see what's down this way," heading quickly down the hall for a cursory survey. This was where I made my mistake. They started following me, but the next time I looked back they were gone.

Other exhibits on the floor were still open. It was just the demonstrations that were done for the day. There was a large room full of displays and interactive games about the heart and its function. I was a little bummed they hadn't come because some of the games looked like fun. I looked back out the way I'd entered but didn't see them. I decided to take a quick look around before heading back. I walked through the giant heart model and then entered a room of displays all about electricity. Seeing a Jacob's ladder, I couldn't pass up pressing the button to see the sparks climb up, before exiting into another hallway.

My cell rang. "Hello?"

"Where are you?" Mom said.

"I'm in a side hall, where are you?"

"In the atrium."

"Ok, I'll meet you there."

There was a pissed off vibe coming from them as I walked up, but Mom said, "Have you seen Logan's circle?"


We stepped outside to the spectacular nighttime view of the park and surrounding buildings. Then, she hit me with, "You know your father wouldn't tell you if you pissed him off, but he thought it was really rude of you to walk away without saying anything like that."

"I can speak for myself," Dad said, "That was damn rude."

"I did say something," I said.

"You didn't say 'boo shit.'"

"I said, 'I wanted to see what else was down the hall.'"

"No, you didn't," Mom said.

Neither had heard my last comment, so to them it looked like I had just taken off, and neither was hearing my explanation now, so I said, "I'm sorry."

Mom said, "It would've been fine if you'd just told us you wanted to look around some more."

There had been such finality in their tones when they said they were done that I hadn't gotten that impression at all before. Maybe I was at fault, but it started with them staring me down after their "I'm done"s. To say now so reassuringly that they wouldn't have cared felt like a cheat to make me feel worse. I wanted to say as much but I kept my mouth shut, thinking It's only day 2.

I walked down a few steps away from them, ostensibly so I could see the front of the Institute with its massive columns and large "King Tut" banner. Then I looked away from them, out at Logan's Circle, trying to shake off their comments with the beautiful view. It didn't really work; I still felt physically ill from their reprimands.

We went back in so we could get to the subterranean parking lot. Leaving Philadelphia proved more difficult than driving in because some streets had been closed off for an event. Even though they weren't acting pissed off towards me anymore, I sat quietly in the back seat only speaking to offer up street names needed for navigation.

I didn't feel hungry at all but agreed to go back to Michael's Jewish deli for a late dinner. In the next hour, I summoned enough equilibrium to order and enjoy most of an open faced turkey sandwich. It's the only place I've eaten with a help yourself pickle bar. As Dad was paying for dinner at the mini-mart register on our way out, I noticed they sold barbeque flavored sunflower seeds.

Then it was back to the hotel with the great mattress and the loud clunking doors. 9 days to go.


One year ago at TTaT: The Road is my Favorite Place: Day 7
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09 October 2007

Time to recover

Got back around 10:30 last night, and though that's not really late, it felt really late due to a ~3 hour flat tire snag. All things considered, it wasn't bad. I was content to wander the mega-outlet mall we'd stopped at while it was getting fixed. Had some guy not pointed it out to my dad while we were there, we could've been stuck on the side of the Taconic parkway. There's nothing for miles and miles along that highway.

For all my wandering of designer outlets there, I can hardly believe I didn't buy a single frakking thing. I do much more greatly appreciate the complexities of finding just the right pair of knee-high black boots, however.

Due to the holiday, the place was mobbed and many stores looked wrecked. Lots of people speaking French, Spanish, Asian languages, Dutch or German, and some languages I didn't recognize at all. (The outlet center is not that far from NYC.) Most people had multiple bags swinging from each hand or even rolling suitcases with them.

I could totally take a nap now. More to come on the trip once I can make sense of my scattered notes and I'm not so tired my typing is all wonky, but for now, I wanted to say hi. Ooh and pictures...I'll have to see about getting those scanned or transferred to my computer.

One year ago at TTaT: Time to retire, Shelf aesthetic