steuard: (physics)
Sunday, May 20th, 2012 10:54 pm
When we realized that our trip to see family in Los Angeles was going to line up with the (partial) solar eclipse, Kim and I made sure to bring a pair of the solar viewing glasses that Harvey Mudd sent out to alumni a few weeks ago. We were on our way to dinner when it started (after showing off the baby to a bunch of thrilled relatives all afternoon), and Kim's mom and I got to watch it begin from the car. (We politely declined to pass the glasses to Kim in the driver's seat when she asked for a turn.)

When we got to dinner, it was about halfway to maximum, and we all popped outside in turns occasionally to have a look. I was just about done with dinner when it reached maximum coverage (about 85% here), so I went outside to look. It was great, and when some people nearby looked at me curiously I got all excited and showed them, too. That drew more attention, and more and more people were drawn in by all the ooohs and ahhhs. (There were even a bunch of servers and staff from the restaurant.)

All in all, I probably shared the event with two or three dozen people. It was a fantastic science outreach experience, and I think Kim and her mom mostly forgave me for abandoning them in the restaurant with the baby for 15 minutes or so. (My only disappointment was that with the sun so low in the sky, there wasn't a good view of the crescent shadows under the tree leaves: that's one of the most awesome sights during an eclipse.) I hope Alma's public viewing of the transit of Venus in a few weeks goes as well!
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Sunday, July 24th, 2011 04:38 pm
After two years, I've finally managed to download photos from my phone's camera. So here are a handful of random images that seemed interesting:

A few years back, Harvey Mudd advertized the upcoming reunion weekend by sending us a set of word magnets for the refrigerator. We haven't had a set of our own (maybe we should), so there were only so many sentences we could form with them. Here's the one that's been on our fridge for the past couple of years:


For a few months, Kim and I saw this billboard every time we drove to Lansing, and it always made us laugh: we thought it would work much better if we snuck out one night and changed the "L" to an "R".


And a few more... )

Maybe I'll eventually track down some new baby pictures, too. :)
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Monday, January 17th, 2011 10:26 pm
[Sorry this one's a bit long, but there was a lot of great stuff on that final day.]

Friday, January 7:
Our final day at sea began with Peter Sagal leading a quiz show featuring the various entertainers. It was listed on the schedule as "Hey Hey... I'm Clever!", but after one of his comments about a pet peeve at Monday's Q&A session it was renamed "Hey Hey... I'm An Asshole!" Much like the Q&A session, this was a great chance to see a bunch of the performers a bit less formally and just cracking jokes with each other: those were some of my favorite parts of the cruise. This also may have been the only time all week that we saw David Rees's deadpan nonchalance break down into laughter. (If folks eventually get video of this online, I'll try to post the appropriate clip.)

After lunch, I ventured to the game room once again and entered the Pirate Fluxx tournament, competing for the chance to win a copy of the not-yet-released game. Sadly, Fluxx is always very random and we didn't have nearly enough time (or speed) to do lots of rounds to even that out... or at least, that's my excuse. :) While waiting for one particularly long round to finish at another table, my table played a game of "Once Upon a Time": it's a fascinating game about collaborative storytelling, but I got the sense that it could easily be prone to rules arguments and misunderstandings between players. I'd like to try it again now that I've got the gist of it. Once I was eventually bumped out of the Fluxx tournament, I played "Apples to Apples" for a while before it was time for the show.

The final evening of the cruise featured an all-request show by JoCo (we'd been turning in request cards all week), though it opened with the cruise director telling us how much he and the staff loved us. My ex-students Liana and Phil wound up sitting next to us, and as we discussed the week during intermission Liana commented that the last thing she'd expected from the trip was to find herself sitting next to her physics professor with both of us singing all the words to "I Feel Fantastic". JoCo sang lots of great songs, many of them more obscure (and many of those with more than a few stumbles along the way), and it was wonderful. There was a Fancy Pants Parade (and competition). We got a fun explanation of the underlying story for "Under the Pines", and generally lots of other great songs (including a cover of "Birdhouse In Your Soul"). Our one disappointment was that JoCo started to lead into my request ("You Ruined Everything", a favorite that Kim and I have been thinking of a lot lately), but held off because he hoped his daughter would come back from getting pizza first, and then he never got back to it. But to counterbalance that, JoCo's own request for the night was a song by John Roderick (with JoCo, Paul, and Storm as backup) called "The Commander Thinks Aloud" that was just amazing. I'll embed it below; Peter Sagal called it "[his] fav[orit]e cruise moment (among many)" (many indeed... but this is the one he tweeted about three times). All in all, this was a great final show for the week.

After that was dinner (a fancy dinner show by the staff); toward the end, one table and then more and more spontaneously got up, faced JoCo's table, and started singing "This was a triumph. I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS." I helped Kim pack and fill out our comment cards, and then I went up to spend a bit of time at the farewell party on the back deck of the ship. I said goodbye to a number of people I'd met during the week, and I chatted with some famous people. I told Wil Wheaton that a friend of mine remembered meeting him when Will appeared at his dorm room to visit his roommate Dean, and Wil filled in a detail: Wil knew Dean because Dean was trying to steal away Wil's girlfriend at the time, a project in which he eventually succeeded. (Who knew?) I also expressed my admiration for Peter Sagal, and found that he did indeed remember [livejournal.com profile] ukulele from his show ("How could I forget a name like that?" he asked). After some final goodbyes and a brief attempt at stargazing, I headed off to bed.

The next morning was simple: just a final breakfast and then a wait until our turn to disembark. It was a little sad seeing all of our cruise partners scatter away, but hey, we may all get to do this again someday. (Another cruise is almost certainly in the works.)

Video evidence: I haven't seen any significant footage of the quiz show up yet: people seem to be uploading mostly in order. However, it looks like at least one person has uploaded the full request show: here's the first part (which is actually entirely Paul and Storm doing administrative stuff), but it should lead directly into later bits with actual music.

Finally, John Roderick singing "The Commander Thinks Aloud", a tribute to the astronauts who died when the space shuttle Columbia broke up on reentry. I'm tempted to embed the relevant segment of the full concert recording, since it's a bit higher quality and includes John Roderick's introduction to the song, but for now I'll stick with the music:
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Sunday, January 16th, 2011 09:01 pm
Thursday, Jan. 6:
This was our day in George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands. Kim and I took a semi-submersible boat tour (like a glass-bottomed boat, but a bit spiffier) of the coral reefs and shipwrecks in the harbor, which included some nifty facts (did you know that something like 70% of the lovely white sand on Caribbean beaches comes from parrotfish ingesting bits of coral rock and then, um, excreting them?).

While waiting with some other JoCo folks for our shuttle bus to take us back to the port, a woman a bit older than us commented that she liked my "Aperture Laboratories" shirt. We chatted a bit, and at some point I mentioned that we taught at Alma College. That prompted a startled "What?!!!" from a younger girl and guy also waiting with us. Another awesome coincidence: it turns out that they're from Ithica, MI, which is just fifteen minutes from us, and that half of her family had gone to Alma. Further conversation also revealed that her grandmother was from my home town of Lincoln, NE. Small world! Eventually, we all got tired of waiting for our bus and just walked back to the port (it really wasn't far). After lunch, Kim took a nap while I went up to the top deck and read a book in the sea air for a while.

The JoCo show for the night was a really wide range of people and styles. David Rees did a terrible job of spoiling movies as "The SPOILER". Peter Sagal read some neat personal stories. Stephen "Stepto" Toulouse talked about working as the Xbox "banhammer" at Microsoft. Peter Sagal reappeared and did his great "Dr. A's Henchman" sketch. And finally, John Roderick of The Long Winters played a fantastic set of sad but funny/geeky songs. (Check him out!) Sadly, with all that going on, the show went way over time and Roderick had to leave the stage before he finished his set. We had dinner with some very cool people (including Famous Tracy from Monday's Q&A session). After that, Kim headed to bed and I went down to watch some JoKaraoke again before joining her. All in all, another great day.


Video evidence: David Rees as The Spoiler was odd. Peter Sagal did lots of stuff; here's his first segment. Stepto's stuff is online (right after Peter's final remarks), too. EDIT: Here's a recording of Peter Sagal's "I, Henchman". And several of John Roderick's songs are up, starting with "Stupid", then "Scared Straight", "Seven", "Gimme all your lovin'", "Ultimatum", and "Not Moving to Portland" (this one's for you, [livejournal.com profile] 175560 :-) ). I quite liked Honest, too.
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Saturday, January 15th, 2011 09:38 pm
[For some particularly good photos of everything, the official photographer has uploaded a lot of his best.]

Wednesday, Jan. 5:
The ship visited the town of Ocho Rios, Jamaica, but Kim and I mostly sat it out. Few of the things to do sounded worth the money to us, and the one that was most tempting (walking up a pretty series of waterfalls) sounded potentially unwise for her uterus and my knee. We had a relaxing morning, and after lunch we walked out maybe a quarter mile onto the island just to say we'd been there. (And it sounds like we didn't miss much: most people seemed to agree that it was the least interesting port of call.)

The JoCo show for the day started with Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett from RiffTrax doing their MST3K treatment of a couple of short instructional films: Shake Hands with Danger (construction site safety) and Drawing for Beginners: The Rectangle. (They were joined by Peter Sagal, who got some good lines.) After that, Molly Lewis played a good set of songs with her ukulele. After that, Mike Phirman came out and did some music and some standup comedy (much of it simultaneous) that was a lot of fun. He ended right on time at 7:30... and then suddenly the RiffTrax guys came out along with John Hodgman to do one last short (about making crafts with grasses), followed by a big group singalong of a generic national anthem, "Our Nation's Better Than Yours". In other words, we ran way over time, but it was fun.

We had another pleasant dinner with some neat people (new ones again: I liked that), and then Kim and I both went to the game room for a bit. I played a game of "Back to the Future", a substantially simplified variant of Chrononauts based on the movie trilogy (simpler to play, but still fun and probably much easier to learn). It was fun chatting about the design of the game with the founder of Looney Labs, too; she's pretty cool. After that, Kim headed to bed; I stayed up to watch folks play Rock Band for a little bit, but I joined her pretty soon.

Video evidence: Bits and pieces from the show: Molly Lewis singing "Road Trip" (it's the only video of her show that I've found so far; not my very favorite of her songs, but still fun), Mike Phirman's show (with bonus excitement when the camera falls from the balcony, happily failing to hit anyone), or perhaps better, Phirman's standup bits and his music, and My Country's Better Than Yours. (Also, I just added a video of Molly Lewis singing at JoKaraoke to the previous day's video list.)
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Saturday, January 15th, 2011 12:01 am
Tuesday, Jan. 4:
I wore my awesome Large Torso Collider T-shirt for this day at sea. That turned out to be handy, because when I headed to breakfast on my own (Kim ate early) I randomly ended up on an elevator with a woman about my age who'd been a code monkey at CERN; we had a fun conversation over breakfast together.

That morning was a big Q&A session with JoCo and practically all the other featured guests. It was a really neat chance to hear them all respond to a range of questions about creative work and pet peeves and a bit about "What's it like to be famous?" One of the last questions was asked by another woman about my age named Tracy, who commented that she found it easier to talk to famous people if she silently told herself, "I'm famous, too." A bit later, one of the panelists commented at some point that, "Of course, I'm not as famous as Tracy; she should really be on stage with us." Without missing a beat, Tracy got up from her seat, walked to the stairs, and got up on stage. Someone handed her a chair on the way up, and "Dammit Liz" (stage manager and organizer supreme) even handed Tracy her own bottle of water like the others when she joined them. It was awesome.

After the Q&A came a big group photo at the front of the ship. (We'd had to file through a narrow hallway to the small-ish door, and after a while it started to feel like watching a clown car as nerd after nerd kept appearing through it.) After that was lunch, and then Kim took a nap while I went to a swing dancing lesson. Turns out it was a somewhat different style of swing than what I'd learned in Social Dance at Mudd, but I was glad of that (since I've recognized for a while that what I knew didn't seem to be universal). That was really a lot of fun, and another good chance to get to know some some people. (Despite much improvement over time I'm still shy about barging up and introducing myself to strangers, so I benefit from events like dance lessons and open seating dinner that make the "approach" step automatic for everyone.)

The evening's show was the first actual JoCo concert, followed by John Hodgman doing various funny stuff. JoCo played a fair number of familiar songs (and some less so), and several of them were together with Paul and Storm or with Molly Lewis with her ukulele. After that, Hodgman came out and presented a bunch of facts about the ship and other topics, some of which might have even been true. He then acted as judge to settle two relationship disputes: one about when it's proper to play seasonal/Christmas music, and one about whether it's acceptable to eat brown gravy (instead of white) with a fried chicken dinner. (That last featured Adrienne and Francis, whom I'd hung out with a couple of times the first night.) After a brief intermission, JoCo played some songs from his new album and a number of more familiar ones. (Near the end, folks backstage announced that they'd found a lost camera in the game room, and when the owner claimed it they told him he had to post all the backstage pictures they'd just taken on Flickr, including a sort of mini-play.)

We wound up sitting with just one other couple at dinner, but we all got along very well (perhaps because the topic strayed to our total of eight cats). Kim headed to bed, and I went down to watch some JoKaraoke (which was being run by JoCo himself: that must have been a bit odd for him). I didn't convince myself to sign up, but it was a tremendously supportive crowd (the weaker singers may well have gotten the most heartfelt applause) and a great atmosphere. The crowd invariably provided backup vocals and harmony parts as needed, too. :) Eventually, though, it was again time for bed.

Video evidence: No video of the Q&A seems to be up yet, but look for it if it's there! One video sequence of JoCo's part of the concert begins with "The Future Soon" (and more) before continuing in three more parts in the linked playlist. The only Hodgman video that I've found so far is a recording of the Gravy Ruling, which was pretty amusing. [Edit:] Also, here's a recording of Molly Lewis singing "Brand New Sucker" at JoKaraoke.
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Thursday, January 13th, 2011 10:56 pm
[Note: I've added links to a few videos at the end of my last post, many of which by some miracle include glimpses of me.]

Monday, Jan. 3:
We woke up early (Kim eats these days on a schedule a hobbit would envy), and I put on my Vinyar Tengwar T-shirt in honor of Tolkien's birthday. The ship had reached "Half Moon Cay", so we took a tender to the island and found a place to settle in a good distance down the beach (as it turned out, Wil Wheaton and his family spent the morning just a stone's throw away). Kim relaxed in the shade of some trees while I went for a swim in the stunningly clear, blue water. I swam along the shore for quite a ways, and despite my lack of glasses I managed to recognize our friends from the hotel and hang out with them in the water for a bit before heading back to Kim. (I found Kim's shady spot on just my second nearly-blind guess. :) ) After I did a bit more of a stroll to the far end of the beach and back, we headed back to the ship for lunch.

In the afternoon, I went to the game room again (I'd decided that was one way to make myself actually socialize a bit). I played a soon-to-be-released game called "Orbit" with its designer (and had a conversation about the Elvish letters on my shirt along the way), and then I moved on to a game of Monty Python Fluxx followed by Munchkin Cthulhu (both of them new variants of games I know well).

Finally, at 4:30 it was time for the very first JoCo group show! When it was time to start, the lights went down and "I'm On A Boat" started playing from the speakers. Moments later, Jonathan Coulton came on stage along with Paul (from Paul and Storm) for "morning announcements" (about schedule changes and upcoming informal events), the crowning of the "Monarch of the Seas" before introducing Wil Wheaton. Wil read three of his narrative stories, with musical accompaniment by Paul and Storm. They were fun and touching and it was all very cool.[1]

After Wil's stories, Paul and Storm played their own set. I hadn't heard them play before, but again, lots of fun. In their patter between songs, they quickly established what became the meme of the cruise: "_____ is my _____ cover band." (One example: after Storm explained his expanded facial hair by saying, "Yes, my beard is in double overtime", Paul jumped in with, "Double-overtime beard is my ZZ Top cover band.")

After the show we changed for dinner. It was open seating, so we joined an eight-person table and had a good conversation with a wide range of other geeky types. There was a mysterious, never-explained delay of half an hour or so between the time we finished soups and salads and the time they finally brought our entrees; we got the impression that there was some sort of problem in the kitchen. But it was all tasty once it got there. After that, we went back to the room to rest a bit (sadly, we skipped the Mustache Formal event, which sounds like it was a lot of fun). Finally, at 11pm we went to the "Drama Club" event where Peter Sagal and Bill Corbett each presented a play.

Video evidence: Videos are only gradually showing up, but here's [updated!] a somewhat complete set from the first night's show in a handy playlist. And here's the beginning of Bill Corbett's play "My Monster"; I won't link to all the separate parts, in part because this camera was apparently out of focus. [Or follow the original links I gave for the main show: Welcome and announcements, Monarch crowning, Wil Wheaton intro, "The Trade (I)", "The Trade (II)", [missing video about Rocky Horror], "The Excellence Incident" (a good, brief example), Paul and Storm: "Opening Band", "Cruel, Cruel Moon", "Nugget Man" (with JoCo), "Nun Fight", "Ten-fingered Johnny", The Frogger Musical, various tribute songs, and finally "The Captain's Wife's Lament" (with Wil Wheton and zillions of "X is my Y cover band" jokes) (two more parts will be uploaded shortly).]
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Wednesday, January 12th, 2011 09:55 pm
When I first mentioned that Kim and I were going on Jonathan Coulton's Caribbean cruise, [livejournal.com profile] ukelele said "Blog or die, of course." We didn't have internet on the cruise (we were members of the Wifi Temperance Brigade), and work's been insane since we got back. But I think I've caught my breath enough to start posting brief summaries on a 10-day delay. Alas, I'd planned to take lots of pictures, but our digital camera failed the first morning and only worked sporadically later on. (I'm pretty sure these ~3000 Flickr photos are publicly viewable, though.) Despite that, it was a fantastic trip in almost every way. So on to Day 1!

Sunday, Jan. 2:
Kim and I got to Fort Lauderdale, Florida Saturday night. Sunday morning, we recognized some fellow "Sea Monkeys" while checking out of the hotel (easy enough: he had an Aperture Science T-shirt and she was wearing a USB necklace). We took the shuttle to the Holland America port together. We boarded the ms Eurodam and settled into our cabin (with its ocean view... through a lifeboat). At lunch, we played "spot the nerds": our ~380 nerds were hidden among thousands of senior citizens and vacationing families, but some of them surprised us. We registered and got our name badges and bags of goodies while admiring the geeky shirts of the people around us.

There was a Sail Away party on the back deck of the ship, where we saw JoCo and Wil Wheaton and other famous people mingling with the crowd. Once we were underway, we headed up to the opening reception for our group. After a few minutes came the first (and most surprising) Moment of Awesome: from across the room, I heard someone exclaim, "It's our Physics professor!" and suddenly two of my advanced E&M students from Claremont were running up to give me a hug (Liana and Phil, both from Pitzer). We chatted and caught up for a while, and then Kim went to change for dinner. I socialized with various people for a few more minutes and then did the same.

Our 8:00 dinner was perfectly pleasant (we shared a table with a couple more or less our age), and after it ended (around 9:30!) Kim went to bed and I went down to the tabletop gaming room for a bit. I jumped into a game of Telestrations: I'd never heard of it before, but it was a delightful cross between Pictionary and telephone. (This example captures the dynamic as the sketchbooks are passed from player to player quite well.) After that, it was time for a late night movie, which wound up being the RiffTrax version of The Happening (these are the guys who did MST3K, and two of them were on the ship). A terrible, terrible movie... so naturally they made it pretty funny. And at last, somewhere past 1am, I finally went to bed.

(Edited to add:) Video evidence: There are a few videos from the opening reception now online, including the opening comments by Paul (not Storm) and by JoCo. (Some funny bits, but mostly just setting the stage.) A video taken a few minutes later is just a crowd shot, but Kim and I can be seen standing at the bar about 5 seconds in (I'm in a grey shirt and she's wearing green that's dark and shadowed in back). More interesting(?) is a video of David Rees sharpening a pencil (no, really, and he takes it seriously: it's 8 minutes long). I'm actually right behind him in a grey T-shirt for a good bit of the video: I first show up at 2:42, and there's a glimpse of my face around 5:20. (Kim had already left by then.) Finally, here is some video of the game room, and those are my legs (in khaki slacks) and torso (in a green shirt) visible at the 15 second mark at the back left corner of the table playing Telestrations (right behind a girl named Adrienne drawing a fantastic voodoo doll).
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Saturday, January 8th, 2011 11:05 pm
[Ok, one quick blog topic.] Kim and I have taken Spirit Airlines three or four times in the past few months. They are quite cheap (even when you factor in all the other charges), but we've decided that we're not going to be flying with them again.

The real deal breaker is legroom. On every flight we've taken with them, regardless of its length or the type of plane, the legroom has felt at least as cramped as what we'd normally expect on a small commuter plane. I was never able to fully extend my legs: my shins bumped up against the bar under the seat in front of me long before they could straighten out. On top of that, it was actually difficult to fit my backpack between the seats to get it to the floor and to lay it down once it got there (yes, it was stuffed quite full, but I've never had that kind of trouble before). If you're remotely as tall as we are, this really is a serious issue despite the cost advantage.

Also, a minor grumble from today: our flight was scheduled for 4pm. They started boarding at 3:15 (as scheduled), and pretty much everyone was in their seats by 3:35. Then we sat there, waiting. They started preparing to leave a bit before 4:00, but then everything stopped: we waited until 4:20 for a few people from a connecting flight, and didn't get off the ground until around 4:30. Now, I approve of making sure they made their plane, but why did they pile us into that cramped plane so very early? Even without the connection delay it seemed silly. (Also also, presumably not their fault, but there were a lot of twits on the flight who ignored all the usual seatbelt and luggage and electronics rules.)
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Saturday, January 8th, 2011 10:46 pm
I'm much more in the mood to collapse into bed than to post oodles of news here, but we have indeed made it home safe and sound. The house seems very quiet compared to what I've been used to lately, and it seems to be rocking considerably less. It's good to be here! We'll surely say more soon.
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Saturday, January 8th, 2011 01:52 pm
I'll be brief, because I have much more important things to do than blog. But we're back to Florida after our lovely geeky cruise (which was great). I'll say a good bit more about that eventually, but right now I'm going to sit here waiting in the airport and edit my pre-tenure review portfolio (due Monday), my course syllabi (they start Monday), and possibly some work emails (some of them due Monday). We get home to Alma late tonight.
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Saturday, January 1st, 2011 02:11 pm
I've just given the house a once over with a vacuum, and now it's finally time to pack up this computer and the last few things we need before we hit the road! I've still got a bit of work to do before the first day of class, but I'm content that I'm ready enough. :) (I may end up sitting at an airport in Florida for five hours waiting for our flight back, anyway.)

So farewell, all! We'll have little to no internet access for the next week (maybe a bit at the hotel tonight), which should be a nice change. I'll look forward to reporting on JoCo & Co. once we're back.
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Tuesday, December 28th, 2010 12:29 pm
Kim and I just got back from a very pleasant trip to see my family in Nebraska over Christmas, which means that it's time for me to buckle down and work hard for a few days. I've got my mid-tenure review portfolio due on the first day of class: the results at this point are purely for my information, but doing a good job so I can get the best possible feedback is tremendously important. (I should probably prepare for my new classes and submit this research paper, too.) It's fairly stressful.

I'm confident that I can do a good job on it: the stress factor comes mostly from time pressure. As I think I've mentioned before, Kim and I leave next weekend to go on a cruise with Jonathan Coulton and a bunch of other cool geeky people. That's awesome (and we promise to tell you all about it, except that we've opted not to pay exorbitant rates for internet on the boat so you won't hear a peep out of us until it's over), but it does mean that the odds of me getting much work done after this week are low. (I could finish a few things up on the boat, but I'm pretty sure that would detract from the quality of both the cruise and the work.) But I'm really looking forward to the trip despite the stress.

Finally, in the "wanna-do" category, I've been trying to figure out how to get a bit more physical activity in my life. While in Nebraska, I visited my old Karate instructor Tim Snyder. (If it means anything to you, our style, Koburyu, is part of the Uechi Ryu family.) It was great to catch up with him, and as I watched a bit of a class I kept finding myself twitching with the urge to join in. My years practicing karate were one of the few times that I've managed to get real exercise on a regular basis, and it was also one of the first activities that convinced me that I could have real success in the physical side of my life, too. Frustratingly, my knee issues mean that a lot of the activities there would be a Bad Idea™ for the foreseeable future. So I'd like to find some injured-knee-friendly activity that can capture my interest as much as karate did. (My teacher pointed out that he has knee problems himself, and that there may be ways of modifying our kata and other exercises to work around such issues. I may look into that.)

Ok. With all that babble out of my system, maybe I can buckle down to work now. Right after lunch. :)
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Friday, November 26th, 2010 09:51 am
Kim and I are on a lovely trip to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving, staying with her mother and visiting lots of family on both sides. On our way here, we shared a plane from Detroit with a number of people heading to a family reunion in Baja California. They were all wearing bright teal T-shirts with "Family Reunion: Cabo 2010" on the back and their own name on the hip (one older woman was "Dora Sanchez", for example).

The thing that really struck me, though, was the big text on the front of each shirt, which read "The Dirty Sanchez's". Innocent that I am, I just learned that term from Felecia Day's song "These Are the Things I Adore" in "The Legend of Neil" last year. I wonder who came up with the name for the reunion... and I wonder if Dora and her husband (and the rest of the family) know what it means.
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Monday, August 30th, 2010 11:00 am
On our recent trip, our first stop was a party in Georgia to celebrate my grad school friend Will's wedding. Will's wife and her family seem to be great people; it was neat to get to know them, however briefly. (I'm just sorry I didn't have the chance to meet her late father, who must have been right up my alley: he was known for weird antics like arriving at a restaurant wearing a cape and carrying a candelabra, which would adorn his table during dinner. Even if the restaurant was Burger King.)

During dinner, Kim and I ate with some friends of Will's, our friend Mark (whom we'd only seen once(?) since grad school), and Will's sister Jane. Jane was excited to hear that we'd be driving not far from her home in Vermont in a few days, so she jotted down her contact info in case we wanted to stop by. As she handed it to me I started laughing, much to the confusion of everyone else. I had to explain, "This is the first time in my life that a girl has ever given me her phone number scribbled on a napkin." That got her laughing as well: "It's my first time, too!"

I hope she wasn't too disappointed that our schedule didn't take us to her neighborhood after all. :)
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Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 01:41 am
Kim and I have been out of town for a solid week and a half, so it feels great to finally be back in our own home. Our cats were thrilled to see us when we stumbled in a few minutes ago (noticeably after midnight), though they've now shifted gears to chasing each other around and sniffing dubiously at odors on our bags. (Yes, we admit it: we've been cheating on them with other cats.)

I'll say at least a bit more about the trip eventually, but every part of it went well: the post-wedding celebration of a grad-school friend in Georgia, the jaunt through New Hampshire and Vermont, and the time in Boston visiting a bunch of cool friends there. (Special thanks to [livejournal.com profile] ricevermicelli and [livejournal.com profile] danceboy for being lovely hosts while we were in town, and to [livejournal.com profile] schr0dinger for offering essentially non-stop entertainment whenever we were at home... at least until bedtime. Miss Hotspur Daffodil offered non-stop winning smiles on the same schedule.)

Sadly, in the time since we scheduled this trip, our various pre-semester activities have expanded to fill practically all available space. I've got a meeting at 10am tomorrowthis morning. So I should probably get to bed or something.
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Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 07:30 pm

It appears that Kim and I are absolutely insane. But we think it sounds like a lot of fun, and we don't do enough crazy fun stuff. What exactly is the insanity in question?

JoCo Cruise Crazy is a 6-day Eastern Caribbean cruise on Holland America’s ms Eurodam, with music and comedy performances from Jonathan Coulton and friends, featuring John Hodgman, Wil Wheaton, Paul and Storm, Bill Corbett & Kevin Murphy from Rifftrax, Molly Lewis, and Mike Phirman. It departs from Ft. Lauderdale, FL on January 2, 2011 and returns January 8, with ports of call at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Georgetown, Cayman Islands.

We figure, worst case, we get a decent-sounding cruise on a pretty nice cruise line with a particularly nifty entertainment package. Not bad at all. (Holland America doesn't have a "party cruise" culture, which is just fine with us... though it does mean that the passengers tend to be on the older end.) Best case, we get a week-long geek-con/w00tstock experience with a bunch of awesome people kinda like us who are actually fun to get to know and hang out with.

We're hoping for "best case". Anyone want to join us?

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Friday, May 21st, 2010 12:37 am
Kim's mother has been visiting us this week, and one highlight of her trip was a quick jaunt over to Niagara Falls. She's wanted to visit Canada for years, and Kim and I were glad for the excuse to cross the border again, too. I hadn't been to Niagara for thirteen years and the others hadn't been there at all, so we all enjoyed it a lot.

I'll put a few more pictures behind a cut. A few more details to follow... )

One of the less beautiful things about Niagara is its carnival atmosphere. Our hotel was separated from the falls by about three blocks of cheesy attractions like wax museums, "4D" movie theaters (the seats move), and haunted houses. I've copied the picture below from Google Street View to point out Google's attempt to protect web users from Dracula's hypnotic gaze. (Gotta love face recognition software.)
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Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 01:15 am
If you transfer to a Continental puddle-jumper at the Houston airport anytime soon, be prepared to undertake an epic quest! (Here's a map of the airport for reference.) My flight from Detroit arrived at gate C-43, and my next flight departed from A-7. Now, C-43 is pretty near the center of the airport (in the lower-middle on that map). Following banners with directions through construction in the center of the airport, I was eventually led to the TerminaLink shuttle train station next to the north concourse. The trains there ran to Terminals B, D, and E, but a sign said that I should go to Terminal B on my way to A.

The train dropped me off near the center of Terminal B, from which I proceeded to take a couple of not-obvious turns to reach a long hallway on my way to Gate B-84T. It turns out that "B-84" is actually a whole big set of gates: once you finally reach the B-80's area, you go around another corner and down another hallway and a flight of stairs to an independent spur jutting off to the side. In the middle of all the other Gate B-84's you find B-84T, which turns out to be a door that takes you to a shuttle bus stop on the runway. The bus winds its way around the roads and runways of the secure area (occasionally waiting for planes to pass) until it finally drops you off at gate A-2. From there, it's a relatively easy shot over to A-7 (though I was momentarily worried when A-7 stopped being listed on the overhead signs as I got close).

I fully expected that before being allowed to board I would have to correctly answer three subtle riddles and then prove my purity of heart to the magical dwarf who guarded the only key to the jetway. Fortunately, they were content to simply tear the corner off my boarding pass instead.
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Saturday, March 6th, 2010 05:18 pm
Kim and I just got back from our mid-semester break. I enjoyed it a lot: we spent the week in LA, and we got to see a bunch of family and friends in the area. (Hi, [livejournal.com profile] donaithnen, [livejournal.com profile] shelleycat, and [livejournal.com profile] thaisa!) We had a bit of time to just kick back and relax, but most of the time we had at least some plan for the day. Happily, I felt like the balance was pretty good.

That's got me thinking about what I look for in a vacation. I'm not usually the "lie on the beach" sort: I can do a pretty good job of relaxing at home. (This is one of the many ways in which my sister and I are different.) If I'm going to go to the trouble of traveling somewhere, I want to make the travel worthwhile. (I don't want to be over-scheduled, but I like feeling as if I've accomplished something with most days.) That often involves people: the chance to see people I care about is important to me, and for better or worse I have friends and family scattered all over the place. That's what this trip was all about.

When I do travel somewhere for the sake of a place rather than people, my urge is to explore: to see a bunch of nooks and crannies and places that most people don't find. That's a part of why Kim and I honeymooned in the Canadian Rockies, and it's the reason that I clamber up obscure staircases and turrets when visiting old castles despite a fear of heights, and it's why my one experience with a Caribbean cruise (a family trip just after college) involved more time winding along island paths than it did lounging in the sun. (Again, big difference from my sister on that one.) The same often goes for historical or cultural sites: it's worth seeing the important ones, but I like to visit some interesting but obscure ones, too. (One day, I swear I'll visit the Museum of Jurassic Technology in the LA area.)

I'm not sure what the point of all that is, but hey, it was on my mind.
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