On recent bouncing

2017-Apr-29, Saturday 21:48
mindstalk: (Homura)
Twice cast out, shy of permanence, I roam the 'hoods of Boston.

Hilton was horrible to a friend. Her compensation? Three nights downtown for me.

Oak Grove home, great view.
Reason? Same as price: a steep slope
And slippery icy death.

Oak Grove, land of giant parks.
Malden Center, land of small shops.
Which is more alive?

Life in Orient Heights:
East Boston famed for plane noise
Home eerily quiet

In Cambridge, geese walk the River
In Revere, planes fill the skies

"No one takes the Blue Line", say Cantabrigians
Just poorer and browner people
Who enjoy working trains.

Blue Line stations clean, bright, spacious
Are they a real subway?
Red Line gut says no.

From a plain dark box, with two forks and no can opener,
To a home full of rugs, plants, and Buddhas.

If you meet Buddha by the catbox
Try not to piss on him.

Springtime paradox:
Plants have sex by wind pollen,
I hide indoors.

Jamaica Plain green and quiet,
Land of vegans, queers, Dominicans.
Co-worker fears crime: "Please don't die!"

One hostess: absent, unmet.
One hostess: garrulous and gift-giving
One hostess: fleeing to China.

Orange Line, Blue Line, Orange Line
Not a Trader Joe's for miles.
Just great Mexican food.
mindstalk: (Default)
After a couple of visits, I wasn't expecting surprises from Glendale, but that was foolish of me. On Monday I went on one of my walks, soaking up sunlight and enjoying a close hill to walk up, heading toward streets I knew climbed up while still have sidewalks. After a while having done so without water bottle seemed foolish, but I found myself close enough to push on to the Brand Library -- "currently open" on Google Maps -- where at least there'd be water, and supposedly some park.

So suddenly I find this:

Inside I find a library with the expected bathrooms and water fountains, but also extensive art galleries featuring the work of various artist collectives. When I was done with that, and paid more attention to the collection, I found nothing but art and music books. Turns out it had been the mansion/ranch of Brand, who held parties you had to fly in to attend. The property was donated to Glendale on the condition of retaining an art focus, and so we find a public library branch that's devoted to the arts.

There was also a teeny tiny Japanese garden (free!) on the property, along with some doctor's Victorian house that had been transplanted there, and roads up into "wilderness area".

As a bonus, when I finally left, I took a different route, that happened to take me to the "Kenneth Village" I'd seen hinted at on directional signs. Nothing *too* special, just a little cluster of shops and restaurants, but as northern Glendale is pretty thoroughly residential, it was a nice surprise too.
mindstalk: (rogue)
A post I made elsewhere, on my past many trips:

I had an awesome conversation with some girl I was sitting next to, though she never wrote me back afterwards. One of my first photos with a new camera was of another cute girl across the aisle (I asked permission.) One time I sat next to a vet who had a pet ferret in his backpack. I didn't ask where it crapped.

The station in San Francisco sells porn. The station in Omaha mostly sells stuff with crosses or other Christian themes. Also one time the Omaha station felt like a refugee camp: 4am, possibly some bus was delayed due to drivers, lots of people sitting around looking bleary with what looked like their worldly possessions. (not really)

It was neat stepping out in or near Salt Lake City and seeing the mountains there.

Heading west to Spokane I encountered my first dry electrical storm, not having ever heard of such a thing. It was really creepy: no rain, no sound, not even many visible lightning bolts, just the sky flashing frequently. I had crazy thoughts about Canadian nuclear barrage or something.

Montana really is Big Sky Country and it gives me the willies.

Some line not far west of the Mississippi river separates "not enough rain for many trees" and "trees will grow unless actively suppressed". This first became obvious when I woke up in Arkansas, going east, and Surprise! Trees! outside the window.

If you're north enough there are trees in the west again, but they're stands if not plantations of conifers and really boring.

Around 2005 our bus almost broke down in the Rockies; certainly the air conditioning stopped working. The driver said their new CEO had previously cost-cut Northwest Airlines into bankruptcy. Around this time the company also dropped a lot of the small town stops, including the not-that-small college town of Bloomington Indiana. Around this time I stopped riding Greyhound much...

travel notes

2015-Jan-15, Thursday 10:30
mindstalk: (Default)
Inbound, I'd noticed signs at Chile's immigration advertising their use of antimicrobial copper. Outbound, I think I actually found the use: the desk area in front of the agents looked like copper. I'm not sure how useful that is, but I guess it won't accumulate germs from the papers of the person in front of you, and the agent's hands might get cleaned resting on the copper.

Chile continues to be a model of efficiency for customs. There's a dozen or two agents, and a single line, with numbers and sounds telling the head of the line which agent is free. Very fast. Chile isn't always efficient, often not, but they're great at this. Unlike JFK's two agents for US citizens, one line per agent, and slow. Probably because apparently even dual citizens get fingerprinted, at least if they wave their other passport around. Being a US citizen doesn't save you from being treated like a criminal.

Santiago's security claims "no liquids" now, but they don't actually notice/care about a half-liter of water in my duffel. US flights still have agents between the gate and plane, confiscating such bottles. The replacement bottle cost $4.40 from Hudson's in JFK. Geez!

JFK's security was like half an hour long. And still having shoes off and laptops out, unlike my last two Logan experiences.

OTOH, gotta like the abundant plugs at the gates. Just one side of this wall has four plugs, 3 USB ports, and two Qi circles.

My actual gate, 2, has a low and dark ceiling; I'm hiding out in gate 5 which has high arched ceilings.

CNN is hosting two women arguing about family leave and Obamacare. White Republican talking about Obamacare "killing family business", black woman calling her on it.

I just noticed: in addition to the TV, there's an even bigger and eye level LCD display just carrying ads. I'd managed not to notice until now, in part due to being on my laptop, but yeesh. Welcome to America, land of ads everywhere.

mindstalk: (Earth)
States lived in, 4: http://www.amcharts.com/visited_states/#US-CA,US-IL,US-IN,US-MA

States slept in for a week or more, 11: http://www.amcharts.com/visited_states/#US-CA,US-GA,US-HI,US-IL,US-IN,US-MA,US-NV,US-NY,US-OH,US-PA,US-WA
I think Ohio is a composite of Ohayocon and visiting fanw in Cleveland before Europe.
For a month or more, just add WA to the lived-in list.

States slept in, not counting "on a bus", 22: http://www.amcharts.com/visited_states/#US-CA,US-CT,US-GA,US-HI,US-ID,US-IL,US-IN,US-KY,US-LA,US-ME,US-MA,US-MI,US-MN,US-NV,US-NY,US-OH,US-OK,US-OR,US-PA,US-TN,US-WA,US-DC

States visited at all, not counting looking around during a bus break, 25: http://www.amcharts.com/visited_states/#US-CA,US-CT,US-GA,US-HI,US-ID,US-IL,US-IN,US-KY,US-LA,US-ME,US-MD,US-MA,US-MI,US-MN,US-NV,US-NY,US-NC,US-OH,US-OK,US-OR,US-PA,US-RI,US-TN,US-VT,US-WA,US-DC

States I *know* I have been present in for any reason: http://www.amcharts.com/visited_states/#US-AZ,US-AR,US-CA,US-CT,US-FL,US-GA,US-HI,US-ID,US-IL,US-IN,US-IA,US-KY,US-LA,US-ME,US-MD,US-MA,US-MI,US-MN,US-MT,US-NE,US-NV,US-NH,US-NJ,US-NM,US-NY,US-NC,US-ND,US-OH,US-OK,US-OR,US-PA,US-RI,US-TN,US-TX,US-UT,US-VT,US-WA,US-DC,US-WI,US-WY

States I know I HAVE NOT been in: MS, AL, AK. Well, I'm 100% sure of Alaska, I'm pretty sure about MS and AL.
Dubious: SC, SD.
I must have passed through at least one of WV and VA, en route from LA to DC, but not sure which. I suppose I could look up routes and guess, but if I don't even know, it hardly seems to count.

Countries slept in, 11: http://www.amcharts.com/visited_countries/#EE,FR,NL,RU,ES,GB,CA,MX,US,CL,JP Though Estonia (EE?) and Russia were the USSR at the time, so is that 10 or 11? And Mexico is just a geology field trip.
I have also breen present in the Zurich airport, and I suppose my Paris-Amsterdam train passed through Belgium.


2014-Aug-31, Sunday 12:29
mindstalk: (Default)
Went on a little trip last week. B was driving up to see C and Montreal, and I went along. First time in Quebec, second time in Canada as an adult not counting changing planes in Toronto, third time in Canada ever ditto. I had fun. Subways are better than Boston's, I got a taste of the underground pathways (they're not too exciting, lots of shopping, but you could indeed get around much of downtown in the winter without going outside), it felt like a taste of French culture but where everyone knows English too.

Read more... )
mindstalk: (Default)
Current location: LA

MyFriendsInChile were spending a bit of their winter/summer vacation in San Diego this year, to meet with G's family, and I figured this was actually doable for a carless nebbish, compared to their annual stay in Malibu, and flew out to meet them. My figuring was technically correct: it was indeed more doable, though still not trivially easy, with a nearby busline that runs every 30 minutes at best, and not too late. I ended up splurging on an apartment a mile away so I could walk, and that was my only walkable option out of what had looked like multiple Airbnb rooms. And then it turned out I was paying a price discounted for construction work later into my stay.

Read more... )


I dunno. Hopefully I can see a few friends though nothing's arranged yet. The Getty would be nice. LA Zoo? I'd meant to explore LA more by the modern train system, though right now I'm grumpy at being not as close to it as I'd expected.

More on the awesomephone

In 2010 I got the N900 a bit before my Europe trip, and really appreciated the GPS, checking e-mail or even doing AIM chat (I IMed from a Paris restaurant), and reading ebooks. Now I've got Android and can appreciate a web browser that really works, apps, and tethering... actually that's a mixed bag; the N900 tethered fine, and Samsung Android did, but Cyanogen didn't. It can set up a wifi hotspot, though, and my host's internet is out so I'm using that wifi right now. I'm still missing the ability to easily copy files to and from the phone, though, stupid Google and MTP. But Google's "find directions" plus all the transport apps (transit, Uber, Lyft, Amtrak) are pretty awesome. I've also used Google Play to suck down a bunch of free ebooks; there's other ways of doing that, but hey. The way it can switch between "original pages" and flowing (OCRed) text is neat.
mindstalk: (Nanoha)
Late note from last night: one of the dishes I ordered was "tiny dumplings". What came out, and I confirmed that this was in fact what I ordered, were dumplings the size of pork buns or larger. 8 of them. No wonder my waiter asked if I was planning to take some home.

Also, while the dim sum dishes were good, the egg rolls/spring rolls were as horrible as Chinese rolls often are. Heavy on greasy dough with some light cabbage inside and little interesting flavor. I ended up sucking out the cabbage for vegetables and left much of the dough. Stick to Vietnamese rolls.

For today, I got up early enough to still have several hours to kill. Explore? Museum? I leaned toward museumy things. AMNH and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens were both half an hour away, the Met closer to 45 minutes or more, I figured future visits were likely to still have easy access to Central Park but maybe be further from Brooklyn, so I picked the garden.

When I visited NYC in 2001, smartphones were hardly a thing, I didn't even have a cell phone, and I got to struggle with some large Manhattan map, never mind the rest of the city. Well, not that much struggle: most of Manhattan is a very boring grid. Then there was the T.

This visit? Totally relying on Google Maps and directions. I didn't even think to dig up my old Manhattan map, I just phoned it in. The public transit directions were helpful and generally accurate, unless there was a service disruption it didn't know about. And the one thing more complicated than the MTA's system is the service disruptions due to maintenance. But hey, there's an app for that! Literally! Also a bus map app! And an MTA website would tell you how far a bus was from your stop.

OTOH I never found an app to tell me when a particular *train* was coming. Of course, with much of the system not having T-Mobile signal, it wouldn't have helped that much.

So yeah, the Garden. I'd expected to pay $10, vs. the "suggested" of AMNH, but apparently Tuesdays were free. Score!
Vistor's Center is a green building, using tricks I read about in 3-2-1 Contact in the 1980s: built into hillside, "living roof", solar overhang... a 400 foot earth tap for temperature control is a bit newer, and stippled? something, glass is even newer: various texture stripes both "reflect heat" and make the glass more visible to birds.

I was aiming for the greenhouses because that's my thing, but got turned around and ended up at a Japanese garden first. That's okay, they're also a thing. No islands or zigzag bridges, but a half-drowned torii, and a pond chock-full of koi and turtles. No waterfowl though, odd. Passed through a Shakespeare garden too, which had a thistle plant taller than I was. No mere ground weed that. It was scary. Pretty tall lettuces, too.

Greenhouses decent, I think Glasgow had much better ones. The bonsai room was something I'd never seen before, lots of bonsais of different styles, and wall placards about bonsai. Not just about trimming the growth above, but keeping the roots fine, so as to trick the plant into making smaller leaves, and you get a true miniature tree, not just a short one.

Aquatic plants room, tropical plants room, desert, warm temperate. The desert one was neat for putting a lot of American and African desert plants side by side, showing the convergent evolution.

Rooms weren't all that big; not much bigger than IU's greenhouse set, I think, maybe smaller than Wellesley or Spokane.

After that, a rather fragrant herb and food plants garden. A rock garden which fooled me -- it had nothing to do with Japanese/Zen rock gardens, and instead was a whole bunch of boulders and the sort of plants that live among boulders, like Swiss mountain pine.

Rose arc pool, and rose garden, but not many smellable roses. Also a bunch of girls (in the non-adult sense) wearing calf-length skirts and uniform black socks or stockings, escorted by women also in long skirts (but showing ankle) with covered hair, talking in a language I couldn't ID. White. I guessed something beyond Eastern Europe, like the Caucasus, but asked a woman, and got told Yiddish. So some variety of Orthodox Jew I'd guess, still raising their kids in Yiddish. That's kind of neat, though OTOH heavy clothes on a hot sunny day. Girls seemed playful enough, though.

En route, I'd left Jay-Metrotech station and seen NYPD apparently searching backpacks of incoming passengers. Later, my MTA alerts app warned the Brooklyn Museum station was being skipped due to "NYPD activity", but that cleared up by the time I got there.

Megabus arrived at 28th and 7th. It leaves from 34th and 11th. Walking from Penn Station to there wasn't much fun, especially as past 10th Avenue there's wide open lots, so the shade I'd been getting went away. I'd showered and changed clothes right before leaving for the bus, and then I wondered why I'd bothered. I'm really inclined to spring for the train next time.

Unlike last time, this time they did have the double-decker they were supposed to, and I got my reserved seat, up front and on top. From there, traffic is *scary*; looked like what I imagined of Grand Theft Auto, nearly running down pedestrians and hitting cars. I suspect most of that is simply the perspective of being up there. OTOH, I did wonder if we had a particularly aggressive driver; later -- much later, it took 50 minutes just to get onto a freeway in the Bronx -- it seemed like he was habitually tailgating cars until they fled to another lane. Not that most other vehicles were obeying 2 second following distance.

Also, it's really shaky up there, especially on Manhattan roads. I figured if I didn't get motion sickness from that, I'm close to immune. Not that I bothered reading, except on my smartphone, and people often say it's reading that sets them off. I listened to music, looked out at my great if sometimes terrifying view, and thought of fanfic relationships.

In the past, with bus rides that were longer than my reading material, I often killed time with various relationship fantasies. This was effective at killing time, though perhaps not mentally healthy, especially when dwelling on real people and things unlikely to happen with them. These days I lack plausible candidates, which is sad, but ficcing does mean entertainment that never has to face a reality check and disappointment. Woo! Of course, in the past I was hardly into fictional character relationships, but these days Nanoha provides a deep well of magic, SF, and yuri, that's of interest to me.

But I got kind of cramped up there. Next time... train.
mindstalk: (Default)
Day 2: met someone from IU for dim sum, walked Canal and Avenue of the Americas, bit of NYU campus, Bleecker Street Fair, Arab-American street fair, Washington Park, Greenwich Village (meh, given its reputation), Highline Park (neat, crowded), Penn Station (ugliest train station I've ever seen), some Chinese acts in honor of 35 years of US-China diplomacy at Lincoln, reading in Central Park.

Turns out most of the trains don't have the cool "next stops" signs. Some have a more standard "next stop" signs. Some don't even have that. Some stations have "next train in" signs, some don't. Cell signal is often not present in tunnels.

Day 3: met someone from Caltech for lunch near Union Square, walked around Union Square, Stuyvesant Town, east to the sea along 18th but it was blocked off past Avenue C, took L train to Lorimer in Brooklyn --

Things are a lot different there! Felt low-key and spacious with low buildings and wide-streets. Funny thing is, it'd still be fairly dense: we're talking 4 story buildings instead of 8 or 18 story ones. More like Camberville, less like Manhattan. Lots of people walking around, fewer open businesses to justify their walking. Some pretty nice residential streets.

G train to 21st St. station in Long Island City. Ugh! Very wide streets, an outright empty lot next to the subway station... first couple streets I walked down, 11th being the second one, were pretty depressing wasteland; 21st itself was better. Hopped another train (justifying that weekly pass I splurged on!) to Queens Plaza; itself meh, but around the corner is more interesting, lots of shops, also greenery under the elevated train at Queensboro Plaza. An elevated train! I rode the N to the end, Astoria-Ditmar, reminded of Chicago as elevateds always do. Nice neighborhood there, busiest I'd seen that side of the water, despite pretty low buildings. Lots of Greek and Japanese restaurants, Greek society buildings, a street festival I was told was for San Antonio, though it was all street food and carnie stuff (including a few rides.)

Day 4 (today): F to York, just the next station in Brooklyn, meh itself, but found Brooklyn Bridge Park, kind of neat and very popular. *Very* popular; all the restaurants had long lines, even at 2pm. Went down the park, realized too late there was less shade and fewer exists; the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (which is interestingly double-decked into the hillside) blocks off access, and the one pedestrian bridge was closed for construction. Next time I'll believe Google Maps when it shows no paths. Finally escaped out the south end, into Brooklyn Heights, again nice looking and human-scaled, though pricey restaurants. Wandered to the courthouse area, train to Prospect Park, read there, walked through much of the park, found the Brooklyn Public Library -- neat outside, less exciting inside -- a triumphal arch, walked up Flatbush, finally train to Chinatown, pigged out on dim sum, limped home.

Oh, I forgot to complain about York: there's only one exit, at the opposite end of the train from me, so I had to walk all that. And then you go up a bit, and walk horizontally some more, before finally hitting the surface. Who the hell designed this?

* My feet hurt. I need better shoes.
* I have yet to notice a single bookstore. I was reminded of this by seeing two sidewalk tables of books for sale.
* I looked at Wikipedia... Brooklyn has over 2.5 million people, even bigger than Manhattan's 1.5, which itself is probably bigger than the T-accessible Boston area. There's zoos in at least Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx. Giant parks in at least Manhattan and Brooklyn. WP noted that as its own city, Brooklyn alone would be the 4th largest in the US. Manhattan wouldn't be chump change either. Brooklyn has a huge art museum of its own, too.
* The subways are often seedy, hot, as noted surprisingly variable in tech level, and god help you if you don't have good legs, or legs at all -- stairs up, stairs down... but their coverage and frequency are pretty good. Going back to Boston and its miles between stations will hurt.
* Tip for people with hurty feet: don't go wandering everywhere; stick to within a few blocks of the station, or walk down streets between stations.
* I'm supposed to return to Boston tomorrow. I'm tempted to extend my stay, not to amortize my transportation cost (trivial) but my transportation time. Though it's getting a bit last minute to find a place, and if I want really good deals I should probably be renting a whole week at a time; I'd forgotten that.
** On the flip side, I've veered between excited at discovery and burning out already from overstimulus of novelty, and back. There's job-interview studying I want to do, and a San Diego trip in less than two weeks I haven't planned yet.
** Tempted to shift job hunt focus to NYC and move here. One reason for Massachusetts was for Romneycare health insurance backup if I got a job and quit it, but now the whole country has Obamacare. Of course, I barely know anyone in NYC (surprisingly) while I've got a slowly acquired social circle in Boston. OTOH, there's still not much of a really *close* circle in Boston, except for someone so busy I see her like 3x a year anyway.
* Megabus departure point looks a fair bit less convenient than the arrival point. Bolt Bus looks as bad. Nnng it's the train next time.
* Lots of bus stops/companies in Chinatown. Not just connections to Boston, but ones to Knoxville, Birmingham, or Montgomery. Wacky.

New York, day 1

2014-Jun-21, Saturday 00:08
mindstalk: (Default)
Finally visiting NYC for the 2nd time. Getting here is cheap by bus, but staying here without friends or family to host me has put me off; I finally bit the bullet.

Megabus: $55 round trip with special reserved seats. Which I didn't get, because instead of the scheduled double-decker with table seats and such they brought out a standard bus. I hope there's a refund in my future. Cramped, erratic A/C, erratic WiFi. Even more cramped than Greyhound? Felt that way, though it's been a long time. Schedule said 4.5 hours, driver said 4-4.5 hours, reality said 5.5 hours; friends were surprised it was only that. Much of the last hour was getting through Manhattan, especially down 9th, up 8th, down 7th again, then waiting for a curbside spot. Whatever Greyhound's problems, at least they go to the Port Authority.

First impression from the bus: "man, these really are inhumanly tall buildings." I felt better on the sidewalk, though also irritated by slow walkers. Transit was mostly good, though there's no placard telling you what standard fares are. I splurged on a $30 weekly pass even though I've here for 4 days; figured I might use it a lot, and anyway I won't have to worry about marginal costs. Train has fancy LCD display of the next dozen stops. Also openable windows, with a sticker saying something like "don't open, we have A/C".

Host is friendly, apartment decent, though room lacks full privacy curtains or a seal on the A/C. Well, it's not my power bill.

Staying on the edge of Chinatown, walked around a bunch. Got out late, 8:45pm, lots of things closed. Was looking for a sweet spot in restaurants, busy enough to be attractive, but not with a line. Hard to find... ended up at a cheap noodle soup place. I noted that all the Vietnamese or Thai places have A sanitary inspection grades, while most of the Chinese ones are B or C.

Found Little Italy. Mulberry street is sealed off from cars, with lots of fancy restaurants with street seating. I had some gelato from a Christmas tree ornament store. o_O Nothing about that sentence makes sense to me, but the gelato was good.

Whole lot of late night Asian "foot rub" places.

I'd heard NYC had a stink in the summer. I thought, surely not. Nope, definitely a trash smell to a lot of Chinatown. If you're unlucky a *really sour* trash smell. Possibly connected to the piles of trash bags out on the sidewalk, despite the rats...


2013-Aug-03, Saturday 21:36
mindstalk: (Default)
Some friends had an expedition to Lowell today, to look at industry/labor museums, then go to some very minor baseball game. The hardcore biked up the 20 miles, I took the train. First we were at the Boott Cotton Mills Museum. There's a room of looms, many at work. It's LOUD, they give you free earplugs, and this is with only a fraction of the looms in operation. Interesting to see pre-electricity power transmission up close: a big spinning wheel and shaft (originally driven by the Merrimack River, if not still) and leather belts from the ceiling shafts to the looms. Later a worker elsewhere said she'd asked what happens when a belt breaks, but apparently that hardly ever happened; the damage and losses from idle machinery would be too great, so they spent a lot of effort on making sure that didn't happen. Frequent oiling, inspections, splicing via stapling of new leather in for stretched segments.

Upstairs is a bunch of stuff on the history of the textile industry and Lowell, which I got kind of superficial impressions of since the group wasn't into deep museum study. I did wonder about pictures of cotton-picking slaves showing them fully clothed, and whether that was artistic license; OTOH, there was a repeated point of slaves being clothed in cheap Lowell cloth from the looms.

The museum also had some movie we watched. My notes say "labor movie" but I don't think that was the entire theme, I did note it ended around 1900, before any really inconvenient history. Did we see more than one movie? I dunno now. We laughed at some of the cheesy visual and musical effects, and the closed captioning saying things like [horn blows]. I also noted them saying 35,000 miles of railroad track were laid in 5 years, mostly by Chinese and Irish labor. Or as the movie put it, immigrants from Canton and County Cork. By contrast, the Interstate Highway system took 35 years for 47,000 miles (and $425 billion in modern dollars, by one adjustment.) Try to imagine the modern US doing either...

The docent in the loom room is a mill worker herself; I'd asked what portion of cloth or clothing prices comes from labor. Happily, a room I'd have loved to spent more time in had an exhibit addressing just this, with simple breakdowns for various pieces of clothing. Breakdown as in price attributable to retail, management, materials, and labor, along with where the work was done, and other notes. Answer: 3-5% in most cases, 10% in one, 20% for something made by US union labor. Two shirts were identical, except for one being organic cotton and $20 instead of $10. IIRC materials were only $4 vs. $2, but organic retail was $9 vs. $4. Retail profit off of people willing to splurge for organic? Labor was $1 for both. The two jeans samples both noted the high management costs associated with them, like $65 out of $150. I think there was a claim of high workplace comfort/safety standards being part of that.

All this is pertinent to my wondering about how much First World standard of living depends on a pool of cheap laobr, e.g. if workes were paid well would this triple prices for clothing and produce, or is the drive to cheap labor mostly benefiting corporate profits? The answer seems to be the latter. If labor is 5%, paying 10x as much would add 50% to clothing prices.

We also went to the Mill Girls Museum (free! Not $6!) which showed the boarding houses early "mill girls" lived. It was claimed they got meat or fish 3x daily, which sounded surprising for early-mid 1800s. Also that they got paid a bit more than schoolteachers, though possibly had to work a lot harder -- 13 hour workdays, half-day on Saturday, fairly high risk of industrial injury like losing your hand. People were surprised at a sample table setting of decorated if mismatched China; I noted this was the fruit of England's industrialization like cheap Wedgwood china.

I didn't want baseball, to split off to explore the town a bit more (get value out of my $17.50 round trip.) The 1800s canals are still around and have water in them, making for nice walkways, and maybe boat tours. Downtown buildings are pleasantly high and dense, but occupancy and use are still low, didn't feel entirely like a ghost down but definitely not as happening as major squares in Camberville or Boston. WIC fuel assistance is a thing I saw a sign for. There's trolleys, but I was told they're for tours, not really transport. One had 3 employees: driver, flag person, person in the bag with a steering rod? But then I saw it come back without the guy in the back. A high school has covered transparent walkways above the canal, connecting buildings on either side, that must be a neat way of getting to class.

I found a Tabletop Arena store, with all sorts of games and activities, including what seemed like a video game competition going on. I saw two women out of like 40 people.

A real estate store had signs about buses, claiming every 15 minutes M-F, 30 Sat, no service Sunday. A specific schedule for a different route was also shown, more like 40, 60, and none.

Curbside parking is $12/2 hours. In Lowell, and in Cambridge, with land values probably 5-10x as much. This seems to be a customary parking price completely divorced from any rational land use management.
mindstalk: (Earth)
I'm almost back in Chile, currently in JFK airport with a 4.5 hour wait before my next flight. So it's time for travel griping.

Huh, that almost sounds like Dido on the airport music. Sounds like the Dawson Creek song.

4.5 hours... feels like I could almost go into NY and get a bus to Boston in this time. But then I'd have to haul my big bag around and pay more money, and I've already checked that bag. Oh well, I'd likely just be on my laptop a lot once I got home, I can do that here.

Overall I have nothing to gripe about; nothing's gone wrong on the flights, my checked luggage made it from La Serena to NYC fine even though two separate tickets were involved, I had an empty seat next to me on the long plane, etc. But my Zen masterhood while I lose games repeatedly turns into close-grained nitpicking for travel annoyances. I suppose that's actually rational: someone has to lose a game, while there's no need for the inefficiencies I observe. Not that everything here is grumbling, some is observation, I'm sure you can figure out which is which.

1) I was getting the popular 1815 flight out of La Serena, and the checked luggage line was slooowww. I worried about making my flight but S noted this was The Flight and it wasn't leaving without the line. I timed: I spent 10 minutes in one place. OTOH, they printed my boarding pass to NYC and checked my luggage, pretty quickly too, so yay. Didn't get the NYC-BOS ticket and I didn't taken up S's offer to try to squeeze it out of them.

2) Previously in leaving Santiago for the US, there's been a surprise luggage screening between the ramp and the plane, X-raying everything and throwing out liquids. Last time a guy threw out my empty water bottle; I'm still bitter. This time general international screening had a separate line for USA people, with shoe screening and liquid disposal, so I figured they'd smartened up and I could take my refilled bottle onto the plane.

Nooooo, there's still a surprise check. No X-ray machine, just gloved women molesting our luggage for liquids. WTF. I don't know if this is the USA being insane or SCL being schizoid, e.g. having started doing X but not stopped doing Y. But they took the X-ray out, so they did change...

S points out on Skypechat that with separate lines you could pick up Dangerous Liquids from someone going elsewhere who didn't go through the USA line. I guess that sort of makes sense, given the premises. But no, then I realize that I could also have swapped footwear with such a passenger too.

I found power outlets in an obscure place, via checking the magazine; it's possible that my previous flight did too, and I just didn't look down far enough. I accidentally put seat entertainment machine ended up in Portuguese and there was no way to reset that. I was happy to listen to Bach all flight anyway, but the sound stopped working after dinner. Not sure if that was me or everyone, but I tried spare headphones and the adjacent seat too.

Dinner and breakfast were decent, though my Subway Italiano BMT was better than the breakfast sandwich. The usual free wine, metal tableware, and lots of water, and I accidentally discovered middle of the night snacks too when I went back.

Four hours of sleep I think, not quite a record for me. Yeah I'm getting punch-drunk.

Gotta wonder why no cell phones or cameras around the *baggage carousel*. I associate security paranoia about civilian cameras with soldiers in African dictatorships.
JFK has Boingo Hotspot Internet. At first I thought it was free, because Google (Search, Reader, probably Mail) worked, but nothing else does, so I'm back to tethering.
JFK Dasani liter water bottle was $4.35. Ripoff.
The water fountains have low pressure, and one didn't work period.

Scanners are millimeter, not backscatter; the guard said they'd trashed all the backscatter ones. I wonder if that's nationwide already. (G says no but soon.) I also got my ribs patted down afterwards, lending support to online claims that these fancy-ass scanners can't find a knife taped to your side.

That's all I can come up with. I'm getting mellow.

Oh wait! The airplane locator map on LAN. The map itself was actually quite neat, with the usual satellite coloring (green vs. desert) and even ocean topography (continental shelfs.) But it kept claiming that the outside temperature was -21 F and -53 C. It also kept claiming that the time in Santiago was one hour ahead of NYC, which would be true if you ignore daylight savings. It was giving the right NY time but the wrong Santiago time, which seems odd for a Chilean plane.

Very much #firstworldproblems

By way of some sort of contrast, I left my spare cash as a tip for the maid; I think it amounts to 3.5 days' wages for her.

Also it's -14 C in Cambridge, which I'm not even calibrated for. Calculations show that's 7 F which is way too cold and I have no scarf. Or probably warm enough layers. Well, only need to be outside for 7 minutes...

New Orleans, day 4

2012-Nov-08, Thursday 23:14
mindstalk: (Default)
My phone confuses me. One time being left on 3G tether drained it, but other times it actually charges.

Getting way more sleep than usual but still tired.

For, uh, brunch I headed straight to Mother's. Not early enough to beat the line. Had jambalaya (yum!), grits (bland) and turnip greens (okay.) Then went to cash in my ticket for the Insectarium, the US's largest insect museum and located in a courthouse. Security wasn't obnoxious, just a bag X-ray and a metal detector. Short version: I liked the museum.

Not a place to go if you're phobic, though. The first hallway has multiple human-sized models of insects on the walls. Freaked out by a grasshopper bigger than you are? Avoid. It also has lots and lots of live insects, in terrariums of course. Also a model kitchen exhibit with LOTS of roaches in it. I've seen one of those before, I want to say in London, but I have no log of it.

Random notes:
I did not see the word 'evolution' once. I did see 'evolved'. 'Adapted' was more common. No reticens about referring to fossils and extinction and hundreds of millions of years.
Mass extinctions apparently tend to pass over insects, at least at the higher taxonomic levels. One order? paleodictyoperans, died in the Permian.
Red swamp crayfish are sometimes blue. Rare in the wild, can be made pretty easily in the lab, but they don't know *why*.
Snail habitats are really diverse. Mountain, desert, rivers, oceans... pretty good for such a slow beast.
Centipedes are fast venomous hunters, millipedes are plant scavengers. The giant centipede they had possessed rather freaky legs.

There's a little session on insect cooking and eating, with a photo in the room of a girl and her cooked tarantulas that I'd swear is from Man Eating Bugs. We're told insects have a good ratio of protein to carbs to fat; land animals and fish aren't known for any carbs. I had some mealworms and crickets.

Union occupation and public works projects cut yellow fever in New Orleans, followed by a quote from a local doctor grudgingly granting that the 'tyrant' had brought marvelous benefits.

Love bugs have acidic bodies; wash them off your car fast.

Black widows are smaller than I thought; I'd also pictured them as tarantula size.
Fireflies bleed a toxin if caught. 3 million Japanese raise beetles; konchu shounen if they're boys.

Star exhibit is a butterfly garden room that's modeled on Asian gardens. It's nice even as an indoor garden, with plants and koi and blue roof with painted clouds, and lots of fearless butterflies, plus some caged Lady Gouldian finches and uncaged zebra finches. I told the guard he has the nicest museum guard job ever, he said they're rotated through in hour shifts. Also that it's not so nice when kids come in and have to be kept from touching the butterflies.


I was going to take my chances with the St. Charles streetcar/bus, but an 11 Magazine bus was *right* *there*. I hopped on, and got a ride through the shopping area of the Garden District, and on to the Audubon Zoo, while getting an impromptu tour guide from a drunk woman next to me who'd seemed to invite conversation by calling herself textlexic. Claimed to be a noir crime novel author struggling with her publisher; how New Orleansy. Can you walk across the giant bridge over the river? Hell no, I'm told. No walk, just a shoulder, and long long bridge.

I wasn't actually going to the Zoo at 4pm, but it's in Audubon Park, which I wanted to check out. It's okay. Big, maybe a 15 minute walk back up to St. Charles, but basically a walk/bike trail around a golf course and waterfowl pond. The course had a sign warning "you may be hit on the head by golf balls and die". The pond has a nursery island and a sign saying it was rare to be so close to a nursery, so that might be of interest.

North of the park are Tulane and Loyola Universities, apparently right next to each other. I think I was in Loyola. Architectures combines ornate fanciness with a brickiness that reminds me of Chicago public schools.

This time I caught the streetcar for real, and rode it to its construction imposed limits at Louisiana St., which happens to be the far-from-downtown edge of the official Garden District. Passed lots of nice houses and not many businesses. I'd guess the car has about 44 seats, as long as no one's too fat; seats are shorter than the usual two-seater. Getting off, I soon ran into Fresh Market, sort of an independent Whole Foods type place. There's an actual Whole Foods we passed on Magazine earlier. I have not encountered any normal supermarket chains, though I did find a decent market in the French Quarter the first night, plus various corner stores.

Hmm, according to one my maps, there's a Border's Book Store where Fresh Market was.

St. Charles continued to have nice houses and not much else, Prytania ditto, and I made my way down to Magazine and Washington, and turned toward Canal. I think the businesses were the other way. The bus had passed lots of shops in what I thought was the Garden District but I'm not sure where; I ran into more past Jackson, the near edge. Eventually I went back to St. Charles to catch the streetcar shuttle, which came in more than the 8 minutes it's supposed to; the Magazine bus runs every 30 so it had seemed a poor bet despite the long walk to St. Charles.

Dinner at Mother's again, crawfish etoufee with red beans and rice and potato salad. I prefer the gumbo and jambalaya. The place seems famous for its ham, debris (roast beef bits that fall in gravy) and sausage, so I ordered some sausage to go. This turned out to be several half-links, more than I expected. Figure I'll have a ham and debris po'boy tomorrow.

Again avoiding nightlife due to being tired myself, legs being tired, and my almost never doing nightlife on my own anyway. Still, I've had fun, despite all the ragging on the transit system I've done or could do. There's more museums or (with planning and patience) urban exploration I could do, but I think it's been a good visit; I'll leave kind of wanting more, rather than hating the place.

New Orleans, day 3

2012-Nov-07, Wednesday 20:05
mindstalk: (CrashMouse)
I'm writing this at 7pm. There may or may not be a further night post.

Got up and out earlier, had seen on Google Maps an interesting food possibility nearby, but scouted the warehouse district first. Julia has art galleries, St. Charles has a streetcar, Poydras is a business street. Between them I'd think there'd be a lot of food possibilities. There were some, but they streets felt deader than felt proper, and there wasn't anything I wanted.

(Side note: it's good for the residents to have lots of variety, like Chinese and Thai and Italian. But I don't go to New Orleans to eat Thai food.)

So I ended up having circled back to the Google place, Mother's, at Poydras and Tchoupitoulas, on which latter street I am staying. The menu looked promising -- lots of Cajun/Creole foods, for decent prices (10-12, vs. 18-22), also lots of people at 12:15. For once I stood in line, and ordered Mae's Filé gumbo, with chicken and andouille sausage, and it was good. So was the bread and butter, the latter served as a slab of soft butter on the plate, not wrapped in tinfoil. I decided I very well might eat all of my meals there.

After that it was a tossup between exploration and museums, but the aquarium here was said to be really good, so I went to the Aquarium of the Americas, buying a combo ticket for the Insectarium, but leaving aside IMAX or the Audubon Zoo. And yes, I'd say it's petty good. Highlights outline: coral reef you walk through/under; Amazon river 'walkthrough' with macaws and canopy-high trees (and skylights, so I didn't miss being outside; penguins (not that unusual, also not present until December due to renovation); sea otters, including one who opens an ice treat by banging it against the window that holds all the water in; bunch of sea horses; Mississippi river walkthrough with a white alligator (leucistic instead of albino) and chained (injured?) red-tail hawk and owl; scaled down but still large oil platform structure with lots of big fish and turtles swimming around it.

I also liked a small exhibit with three spiny lobsters and a moray eel. Active crustaceans are a lot more interesting to watch than fish, as they have more and more relatable behaviors. And spiny lobsters have so many sensory extrusions you get to wonder what will happen when they bump into each other.

A sign noted how weird seahorses are. Head of a horse, tale of monkey, armor of an insect (stretching it), pouch of a marsupial (but on the male!), males give birth, color changing of a chameleon...

Electric eels give themselves cataracts from the shocks they use.

You can touch stingrays (stings removed) at one exhibit. They're slimy.

3/4 of all Louisiana fishing is centered around oil platforms. There was a model of an Atmospheric Diving Suit that can go down to 610 meters without compression or saturation diving.

Odd thing: no octopuses or relatives.

Good old anabeps, the four-eyed fish.

One drawback: fish tanks weren't always well labeled with the fish in them. So you'd see something and continue wondering what it was.


I staggered out, my legs falling off, around 4. I thought about a dinner river cruise, 8-10, but it's $40 for the boat and $66 for the boat+dinner. I waited for the Canal streetcar again, then gave up again and walked, hoping a fast walk would feel better than the slow roll you do in a museum. And at 1643 my head swung and saw the words "OBAMA TRIUMPH" on what turned out to be USA Today, so that's how long my ignorance lasted.

Canal Street is full of businesses until somewhat beyond Rampart (border of the French Quarter) but they mostly felt like Shops and uninteresting to me. The street is lined with many tall palm trees, cue that LA feeling again for me. I was pacing a car with loud musing for several blocks, until it got fed up and turned around; traffic away from the river was literally at a walking pace. I thought the streetcar shuttle was running over the tracks, but at some point the tracks were being worked on heavily so it must go into traffic; that would have been fun.


So, I'd mentioned overly exposed strip clubs on Bourbon. By that I meant, in one case I could look from the street through the door and see a girl with a bikini bottom half *off* her butt. I've also seen Asian foot massage places which are equally transparent in their way: you can look through the window and see clients getting foot massages, so I assume for once it's an Asian massage place that isn't risque. Both kinds of place could be considered transparent.

On Canal I passed a place saying FOOT MASSAGE and REFLEXOLOGY, which sound above board and clinical, but with the blacked out windows and neon signage of strip clubs. I consider this sending mixed signals. Likewise a nearby VIP Spa, advertising Exercise, Jacuzzi, Steam Bath and Body Rub, likewise with blackout. I guess all of those could be risque, except, Exercise? I did not investigate.


At Treme I found the actual streetcars, but Canal was looking boring, and I turned back into the French Quarter, finding Remoulade at Bourbon and Bienville. I had natchitoches meat pies and cheese fries. The stuff was good, the pastry shell was meh, I feel like I should have gone all the way back to Mother's, but ow, my feet. (The legitimate foot massage places are actually tempting.)


At full normal non-exploratory pace, only 15 minutes from there to the door of my hotel room, big cut down from Monday's 30 minutes. Going to Frenchman Street -- or coming back -- seems more feasible. One future is I take a nap and do so. Another future is I stay in investigating election results.

New Orleans, day 2

2012-Nov-07, Wednesday 01:10
mindstalk: (lizqueen)
First, I have to really think about switching to AT&T. T-Mobile's plan is nice, but their signal is very unreliable. I was without for an hour in this hotel room, a new record. Also, 3G tethering apparently uses power faster than USB charging can replace it.

As for today, let me get the negatives out first. I looked up the transit here, NORTA. Canal Street and St. Charles aren't too bad, but odd, swinging between every 7 (St. Charles) or 10 (Canal) to every 30 minutes in frequency, and not in a clear pattern either; there may be every 30 minutes in the evening, then every 20 later. Or, no, I just realized Canal has PM times of 9:46, 10:36, 10:56(!), 00:16... St. Charles is better. Riverside is 20, going to every 40 minutes after 7pm, and stopping after 10 (the other two run past 1 AM, even if not very often.) The driver who took me up around 5pm claimed he ran every 13 minutes, or every 26 after 7 pm; the online schedule calls that a lie. Plus, the final Riverside streetcar stopped at Canal, when I'd wanted to ride it down to Julia St. to get to my hotel.

And this is the good part of the system. The buses run like every 30-70 minutes. And both St. Charles and Canal are under construction work, such that you actually take a shuttle bus along a fair chunk of their route at the moment, before switching to the real streetcar.

If I want to stay for the music on Frenchman street, which doesn't even get started until 9pm, I can count on walking home, or maybe figuring out the schedule of some other bus.

Transit rage!


As for my actual day, it started pretty late; I slept 10 hours straight, which I needed, and then found the phone had no charge (see above). Since I really like the backup of having GPS maps when needed, not to mention a camera and note taking device (and my real camera refused to take my rechargeables; not sure if they're read or it is, it's been increasingly prone to claim low charge on even fresh batteries.) So I got out later than ideal. But productive anyway.

Headed for the river, as my INTP brain went "Mississippi! You're near the Mississippi! Go look!" Had brunch breakfast at Grand Isle, which I think the hotel woman may have mentioned last night -- I don't remember the name, but there's an X on my map -- and had gator sausage po' boy (sandwich) and chicken andouille gumbo. Both were really good. Then I reached the actual river -- which isn't all that impressive looking around here, but is fairly big -- and caught the ferry over to Algiers. This is free for pedestrians, maybe a dollar for car? I'm impressed. Runs every half hour, trip itself is 5-10 minutes.

In Algiers I first found myself surrounded by green rises on three sides, and thought "levees". Never been on one before, even in the Netherlands! (Never got to dike country.) Grassy embankment, gravel path on top (paved path elsewhere, I later found.) The excitement wore off quickly, so I went back down among the houses.

THEY ARE SO PRETTY. I don't have the bandwidth to upload photos now, and googling for Algiers Point Houses gives a bit of an idea but is kind of disappointing compared to the physical experience. But they're carved and colored and decorated and it's all really really nice. A guy said the best streets were Olivier and Delaronde, and they are good, but the whole area around there is pretty, really.

A Catholic Church was closed -- surprised it wasn't a voting location -- and surrounded by signs saying "THOU SHALT NOT KILL -- God" I have no idea if the point is against war, crime, or abortion.

Oh, I forgot. There's a courthouse near the landing point, heading off to the left. It looks rather nice too, outside and in. Small, but high ceilinged with chandeliers and leather couches and such. That *was* a voting location. Voter ID laws are in effect, though there's a special ID you can get for free if you don't have a driver's license.

The place is pretty but there's not much neighborhood, so I headed back across on the ferry, walked down a bit to Riverwalk Mall, which is like a block long but has only one entrance (RAGE), then took the streetcar up to Esplanadade, as lyceum had recommended musing on Frechman Street. I went down Decatur first, then up Frenchman, and ended up eating at the Praline Connection. (Pralines in general seem to e a thing around here.) Service staff were all darkly black men in brimmed hats. I went for a seafood combo: catfish, shrimp, oysters, and crab, everything breaded, plus fries and salad. I really liked the catfish. The rest... I guess I'm not a big shellfish person. (Sorry, Mama.) (My mother loved all shellfish.) I give the restaurant props for not having a hideous Flash website -- that's a direct menu link, so you can see they don't say what kind of crab is involved...

As lyceum said, by 9 music was starting up, including a small street band I listened to for a while. I felt like exploring more, so stalked around the French Quarter some more. Bourbon is still the #1 street in activity by far, but others are Decatur and St. Peter, and maybe Toulouse (don't recall) which I came back on to catch the abortive streetcar.

Was tempted to ride the Canal St. shuttle up and back for the sights, but I waited for a while watching the bus not move, so gave up and went home.


Princess Bride novel: still good. _Tooth and Claw_ re-read: slow to catch me again, but good experience in the end. Railgun and Sora no Woto final episodes, and the Wedding of River Song: still fun. I did wonder if Railgun could be seen as a shounen format anime with girls.


I have managed to avoid any election news so far. I shall continue this and go to bed in blissful ignorance of any possible horrible losses or agonizing re-counts. This has served me well in 2 out of the past 3 elections, after all.


At one level I feel cheated that we're having high temps of 20 C, rather than 25 or 28. OTOH, with all the walking I'm doing, it's just as well. That reminds me: you can really see the signs of this in the buildings and plants (duh). It reminds me of parts of LA/Madrid/Santiago, but that's mostly because those are the "warm all year" places I've been in, and LA gets too much irrigation water; this is the first hot/humid place I've been in, apart from Hawaii and Atlanta, which are rather different. I've seen really big "swamp cabbage", what look like banana plants growing randomly but are probably some other plant, still with big leaves, and of course all those porches and balconies. I guess what's distinctive is cast-iron balconies hanging off of multiple stories.
mindstalk: (Default)
Had a long layover in Nashville, and spent some time trying to find the best BBQ in the airport, by asking local employees and looking online. Seemed to come down to Neely's (Memphis style?) and Whitts (Nashville style?) both holes in the wall; no one recommended the sit down tourist places with live country music. I went to Whitts and had decent pulled pork and, hmm, interesting fried okra. From the plane I'd seen a big river and appalling proliferation of suburban cul-de-sacs.

First impressions of New Orleans were off putting at best. Airport food close at 8 or 9; not that I personally cared, but I take it as Indicating Something. The shuttle I'd reserved through Southwest is $19 each way, yet seemed the cheapest option. And it seems to consist of 3 14 seat vans. Took at least half an hour to get us, by which time a half-decent transit system would have me downtown. The driver later was hard to understand, but seemed to be apologizing for speeding on the highway, justifying it by pointing to Saints game traffic we were just squeezing through, and saying a bit later we'd be stuck for 2-3 hours in traffic. If true that's rather appalling for Monday night football. Or would this be some special thing? I don't remember when football season starts. Anyway, it all smacks of a poor city run by corrupt small-government politicians.

But I started seeing pretty interesting architecture. My hotel looks nice, and the front desk woman was pretty friendly and helpful. Big room! I could almost do laps. Though I worry about morning noise from a skylighted garden I overlook. Speaking of which, I like these things, but it seems unnecessary for a subtropical climate. Though I think I saw "sculpture garden" on a sign.

I went walking, first away from the French Quarter, through the Warehouse District. Seems a lot like SoMa in San Francisco; an old, er, warehouse or factory district, that's been arted up a bit, but is still pretty dead. I did see many buildings packed wall to wall, and multi-story... still supporting no street life, in fact seeming unoccupied.

Finally I hit the French Quarter, first down the Canal Street border a bit, then into it. Here's there's life. I ate at Popeye's, sort of Louisiana fast food, which feels lame, but at that point I was getting worried about finding dinner at all. And it's an Experience too, though not one I'll rush to repeat. (Had popcorn shrimp, a piece of chicken, red beans and rice, and cajon fries, plus a biscuit. All meh. And that was the spicy chicken...)

I wandered a fair bit around the southwest French Quarter, and I did find a cheapish 24 hour bar/food place, Deja Vu. (Off Bourbon, not to be confused with some Deja Vu club on Bourbon.) Also found a corner store open to 1am and got some groceries in case of late night munchies. Lots of really amazing antiques in the windows of antique stores. More densely packed though shorter architecture, dominated by porches and elaborate railings.

But, Bourbon Street? Yes it's a cliche tourist street with lots of drunk college students throwing beads down at women. But it's also where most of the life is: people, open businesses, that sort of thing. Restaurants, music clubs, dance clubs, exotic dance/strip clubs (with some amazing, ah, public exposure), more. Of course, it's Monday night, so maybe more of the Quarter will stay up late later in the week. Of course, I leave Friday afternoon, so I may never know.

I seem to be about half an hour from halfway down Bourbon. Good thing I got groceries, not walking that far for a snack.

Plans: none cast yet. But there's possibilities of daytime walking, streetcars[1], a free ferry across the Mississippi, lots of museums, an aqaurium, a park and zoo that'll be a bit involved to get to, one of those touristy hop on/off buses ($40 for a day, but $60 for 3 days, almost tempting, especially if more frequent than the public buses.)

[1] "How frequently do they and the buses run?"
"Really frequently!"
"Like, every 15 minutes!"
mindstalk: (I do escher)
Tuesday I finally took advantage of the New England train network -- not counting my taking Amtrak to Maine for the cruise -- and rode the commuter rail to Providence, RI. I grew up in Chicago, with nothing nearby except maybe Milwaukee and if so I never knew. Then I lived in LA, and San Francisco, both isolated if sprawling metro areas. Once I stayed in Pennsylvania, and we took a day trip by car to Baltimore, which was pretty exotic to me. Taking an hour to another city in another state, and coming back, still feels exotic too.

I didn't have big expectations, which was good, since they would probably have been along the lines of expecting the atmosphere of a Lovecraft story and horribly disappointed. It was an interesting day, though.

* Weird stops like Route 128, with nothing visible but parking lot and trees. 3 girls got on here, probably late high school or early college, 1 one of them from Spain, as I deduce from the others asking her what you needed to get a license in Spain. Plus she had a mild accent and talked like someone having to translate their sentences. And, alerted, I noticed a Spanish-ness to her face.

* Prison visible from South Attleboro.

* Providence itself. To the south is downtown, to the north is a 'park' with state government buildings. I went there first, and found the statehouse and checked it out -- entrance is on the other side, ha ha -- which I've almost never done; I think my previous similar experience was showing Anna from anime club around Bloomington, and we checked out the courthouse. But the guard was friendly (apart from X-ray baggage and metal detector) and invited me to look around, and then this couple asked for a tour, so I hung along with them.

** There's "the Gettysburg gun" with a shell stuck in it; it got struck by a Confederate ball, heated up, and got a Union ball stuck in it during loading. The docent mentioned what the signs didn't: at some point people realized that they were walking to work past a cannon with decades old gunpowder still in it, slowly decaying, aka "a possible bomb", until they drilled to remove it.
** There's a painting of George Washington from the 1800s, supposedly worth millions now. "Because he's standing and not on a horse. Also because there's an optical illusion where his eyes always follow you around." I didn't point out that all 2D images either track you or don't.
** The original state charter in on display, in a heavily locked case; supposedly the key to the core is only in DC at the Smithsonian. "It's written in old English, which we can't read." Old handwriting, yes... To be fair the docent is from Asia, and subbing in for the regular docent. And I'm reminded of the UCSD tour guide who tried to tell us the original Richter scale was located in their geology building. But still.
** Anyway, it's a nice little building, and I got to see the legislative chambers.

* Heading downtown, I crossed a river, with a lower level walk. No waterfowl. A gondola, though. Smells more marine than Boston Harbor does.

* Young Lovecraft would not have approved: lots of blacks and Hispanics around, and the buses clearly do their announcements in both English and Spanish.
** The Roger Williams Zoo is supposedly the best in New England, and has a bus, but it runs every half hour. In general the buses seem to run every 20-30 minutes, though there's one that runs every 10. Providence has about 120,000 people in an allegedly dense area.

* And now we get to the providential bits. Expectations for Providence did not include lots of Spanish restaurants. And okay, there weren't a *lot*. But there were a few right in the tourist guide, and Flan y Ajo turned out to be this very small tapas bar, with four stools and 5 bench seats and generally a standing bar. Somewhat flamboyantly Spanish, with a menu on a blackboard only in Spanish such that you have to ask for a translation. Encourages the regulars to learn, I guess. I felt bad about not getting much, but Blake later commented that words I reported sounded Catalan or even Basque, and intro Spanish doesn't cover exotic food names.

(Also, I later found bilingual menu taped up outside, though not entirely synchronized with the actual menu.)

Anyway, it looked promising, and cheap, or at least offering tapas in the $3-6 range, rather than the $6-10 range; even if the portions are small, I expect low base prices so you can sample a lot. But the star attraction for me was in the cured meat section: jamon iberico de bellota Iberico is the really good stuff, which I never got around to hunting down in Madrid and which I've never found in the US. "de bellota" is the top end, the pigs who are finished eating nothing but acorns. $19 for a serving, I'd guess maybe an ounce, but I tried it, even while wondering about possible food fraud. It looked exactly like photos of iberico online, though; somewhat different from jamon serrano, and nothing at all like American ham.

Was it good? Yes. Was it worth the price? Not so much. Was it worth the $20/pound Blake said you can get it for in northern Spain (vs. $100/lb here)? Not sure. But hey, I got to try it!

Also pa amb tomaquet, garlic bread with tomatoes, and a serving of chorizo, spicy and not as greasy as I feared.

Of the two women working there, and sounding as if they run the place, one looked kind of Spanish and sounded accented, and the other looked like my mother -- Eastern European Jew but passed for Mediterranean -- though sounded totally American. The first said she was from Spain when I asked; I didn't ask the other.

* Just down the street is Tazza, another cafe, which I thought of as Spanish at first but I think was more eclectic European. Menu has gazpacho, but also Venezuelan ganache, Vietnamese sandwiches, brulee and mascarpone based dishes, and udon. I thought most of the waitstaff might be Spanish, but the one I asked said he was Italian, and that the others weren't Spanish. So I guess I can't tell my Mediterranean people apart, but I can ID them as a group.

It had lots of coffee choices, like drip, pour over, french press, and halogen siphon. And iced cold brewed coffee, which is what I had, because cold brewed is neat. Halogen siphon comes from Japan. I was told it and pour-over are about keeping the water temperature constant, vs. the recycling of drip. A different place had also had these options; I haven't seen them in Boston but maybe I don't go to cafes enough.

Menu had a salad with "house made olivewood smoked bacon" and "great hill blue cheese" over... "baby iceberg lettuce". This seems like pouring a great sauce over cardboard.

* Eventually I headed east into Brown University territory. I found the $10 art museum an hour before it closes, and a free anthropology museum 5 minutes before it closes. Found a Greek meze (appretizer) restaurant. Saw blue jays and a cardinal in a garden; I grew up with them at home, but haven't seem them often since. Found $2 BBQ turkey leg in a butcher, which seemed really cheap, tempting but I had plans. Wandered among nice houses and yards in a sparse boring neighborhood. Passed a license plate saying "SPQR 7". Found greenhouses, also closed.

* "Plans" meant a Cuban restaurant not far from the others mentioned. Had a "Cuban Revolution picadillo", pretty good, with cinnamon.

There's a good bookstore downtown too. All in all a fun time, and I could profitably go back for the zoo, and perhaps the museums.

Life on a boat

2012-Jun-15, Friday 15:27
mindstalk: (angry sky)
My ability to have unique experience is apparently enhanced by my ability to forget having had such experiences. Astronomy is one source, viewing eclipses or meteors or comets rarely but not having a strong visceral memory of them. More relevant to this post, until a few minutes ago I would have said that I had previously been on a boat four times: to Catalina Island for Frosh Camp, to view bald eagles in Idaho, in Loch Ness, and whale watching recently. Maybe others, but nothing I could clearly remember, and probably no more than one boat every two years.

Then I recalled having been on a narrowboat in the canals of London, only a month before Loch Ness. Now I'm not even confident of my number of boats being less than 10.

OTOH, I'm rather confident that I've never been on a sailboat, and even more so that I've never been on a boat or ship for more than a few hours at a time. Until this past week, thanks to the invitation of a college friend to go on her 5th anniversary cruise on a schooner off of Maine, where I've been for the past week.

June 8: train to Portland, finally leaving Boston by train. Pickup by Allison, hanging out with her friends and family. First lobster since childhood. First steamer clams. Allison got buzzed by a flying squirrel in the night.

June 9: First lobster roll. Got taken to outlets in Freeport, which is a bunch of clothing outlets. Boarding the ship, and bunking with the one other single guy in a tiny cabin with no headroom and coffin bunks. Had scallops, and envied someone's ahi tuna. Met someone who reminds me of both lindseykuper and oniugnip. Poor sleep.

June 10: under sail! Saw cormorant and seal, I was the one to first spot the seal too. Met people, played cards against humanity, the more offensive version of Apples to Apples. I tried to duck sun. I watched other people get into a rowboat, including one very nervous guy going to be with his wife, totally commiserating with his fear since while I can technically swim I sure wouldn't want to tip over. Then the right person asked me if I wanted to go for a row in the other rowboat and I said yes, so I had that experience. Didn't actually row.

That night was really impressive: cloudless night, very dark, great for stargazing. I'm still amazed at how few others seemed interested in that. Maybe they've had more opportunities. But I had Orrery out on my phone. Pretty sure I saw the Milky Way, as opposed to glowy clouds, despite my continuing to expect it to run E-W, not the N-W I saw. Also probably identified Mars, Saturn, and Spica in a triangle, being my first time knowingly seeing Saturn. Well, that I remember. Saw a satellite and meteor, which aren't new, but are rare. I thought about waiting for the ISS, but wasn't sure enough of where/when it's visible. Seizing the opportunity and staying up late to 11;30[1] turned out to be wise, since we barely ever saw stars again.

The *really* surprising bit was that I think I saw constellations reflected in the water. I didn't think stars would be bright enough, and I did wonder about bioluminescence. But we weren't seeing lights everywhere, just in a couple of patches, which had plausible angles of reflection with Cassiopeia in the north and Scorpius's tail in the south, and the water seemed to have Cassiopeia's W and most of the tail.

Slept well on the water.

June 11: Got up at 8 without complaint.

[1] Those who know my current habits will probably be shocked at such early bedtime and rise times. But everyone else was going under, and with noise and coffee at 7 and breakfast at 8... more evidence for my belief that I'm not inherently an owl or lark, unlike my parents (each one or the other), just someone whose social life and habits run to the nocturnal.

Turned out my sun avoidance was not entirely successful; nose was bright red.

Saw an osprey, read I Claudius, generally just hanging out during the day. In the evening we went ashore -- ship anchored, yawl boat took us over -- for a lobster bake. Where by 'bake' I think we mean 'steaming', and I'd feel happier if someone had known how to mercy-kill lobsters, rather than watch them flail around. Hiked around the island a bit, made s'mores, decided again that I lack some shellfish appreciation gene. It's not that I don't like it, but e.g. ha gow (shrimp dumpling dim sum) has never made me as ecstatic as it did my mother, and after one lobster I decided that the marginal pleasure vs. effort wasn't quite worth it. Oh, and my reaction to the first lobsters in years wasn't exactly "how have I been living without this".

Made s'mores. Saw porpoises. Sky cloudy. No one swam, the water was 52 degrees.

June 12:
Added top of forehead to my sunburn list.

Stopped off at the town of Stonington, on some island. Population 1200 by a post office sign. Reminded me of both Mallaig and Portree in size and appearance. Lots of old slat-walled houses with very steep roofs, huddled together by the shore, and climbing up steep hills, and stretching on for further than one might expect, because even 1200 is a fairly big number. Town supports two bookstores! Our cook said there was lobster ice cream, but I didn't see it; I did see a place selling "lobster tail" but with the explicit caveat that it contained no lobster, I think it's a color thing. Walked around where others shopped; found others getting pie in a restaurant, which ended up reminded me of a skit my mother told me about, someone in a diner asking for X from the menu and being told "X is out, dear" over and over, because they were out of about half the pies. But the blueberry was nice.

That night was weird. We could see some stars, in patches, but never a lot, even within the patches. It's like there were a lot of thick clouds obscuring much of the sky outright, and thinner fog obscuring most of the dim stars otherwise.

June 13: rain rain wind and rain. People pretty much stayed in their cabins or the galley. I opted for the galley, which turned out to have an excellent game table, but Chris never brought his Dominion over. At that, it was just a mildly miserable day, not a proper storm. In the evening there was a cake for the anniversary couple, with impressive erect schooners (not lying on the cake) in icing, and then a low-warning talent show, which was pretty good overall. I sang "Dragons in the Deep" with great impromptu a capella percussion accompaniment, and Galadriel's Lament, and then "One Misty Moisty Morning" for my second performance. Someone else turned out to know Steeleye Span too. I seemed to surprise people; the captain later said she'd taken me for the shy quiet type, not a crowd-engaging performer.

June 14: Got back into port. Got a ride to Portland from people who were stopping in Freeport for shopping; I should probably have pushed harder to go with the Jersey people, I could have made the 2:35 train. The next one was 7:55, and I ended up taking the Concord Coach bus instead. I thought about just spending a day in Portland to explore, but between clothes and chocolate purchases, didn't really feel like hauling stuff around, and was getting to the "I want to go home" feeling. Bus requires an ID for ticket purchase, which offends me; bus ride itself was decent. A movie, but you need headphones to hear it, though someone had their phones on really loudly... Shoulder seatbelts, which I don't recall seeing in a bus before. Nor the headphone jack and choice of channels, though in a way that's less surprising than seatbelts on a bus.

Going through Maine on rail or highways: green but kind of boring. An exception is the Amtrak stretch from Old Orchard up to Portland, which includes going through a marsh that has a rather interesting segment, though not for long.

I took a bunch of pictures, but most are more like memory supplements than great art, and I accidentally deleted my one view of the ship. I suppose the schooners in icing are worth putting up, but not now.

The ship itself was neat. The Isaac H Evans turns out to have its own Wikipedia page, which I did not expect. From what I was told on ship, it's an oyster-boat built in 1886, only later converted to human use and overnight trips. It had all the wood and complexity you'd expect of a sailing ship that old, though it also had RV toilets and shower, and running water in the cabins. I expect any ship out for more than a few hours has the highly efficient space use, with benches being storage cabinets and all. It has two rowboats mounted on the side, one of them able to take a mast, which also store a lot of junk when not in use, and what was called a yawl boat in back, though it was actually a motorboat, which functioned as tugboat, generator for the ship batteries, and of course motorized transport to shore. 65 feet long on deck, 99 feet long at max measurement. Captain Brenda said it could technically make a transatlantic voyage but you wouldn't want to; low sides (freeboard), so easy to haul oysters over but easy for storm waves to come over too. (Our trip mostly stayed within the barrier islands of Maine.)

Seasickness: none.

The crew was unexpectedly geeky. The two 18 year olds both had exposure to Hitchhiker's Guide -- one had read, one had seen the movie and really appreciated my Firefly T-shirt -- and a somewhat older guy sang Pippin's song from the Return of the King movie.

Social: I went in only knowing the star couple, out of 19 passengers. But they were half Techers (Caltech), and one was MIT, and I got along well with people. There was political argument, but none too aggravating. And! No vegetarians out of 24 people! Though one would be, if she weren't so allergic that she has to eat the few foods she can.

wtf body

2011-Jan-04, Tuesday 19:12
mindstalk: (Default)
Every time I've stayed in apartment by myself on my travels this trip, I've gotten sick.
London shared studio: no problem
London S. Kensington apartment: cold
London shared apartment: no problem
Paris apartment: cold or something
Amsterdam and Madrid shared apartments: no problem
Chile shared house: some but not much problem, pretty good for 6 weeks with kids.
Boston apartment: cold. Well, sniffles today.
Various hotel rooms haven't been a problem.

Well, I had a non-Airbnb apartment in Edinburgh, don't remember getting sick there. Though I was lethargic.

Blame Canada

2010-Dec-30, Thursday 11:06
mindstalk: (Default)
6-7 weeks later and the express walkway is still out of service. One of the ordinary walkways was broken, too.

Waiting for luggage. I took a nice break for bathroom and wi-fi. I grant that sorting 500 people's luggage going to different countries is a harder problem than a small local flight, but I'm still feeling there's inefficiency.

My host apparently can't find keys, so I've been offered an alternative. *Twitch*

It's so early, my friend on vacation in Hawaii might still be up! Or not, I thought it'd be 6 hours, not 5.

Travellers to the US get their own section here. Because Camada totally isn't a 51st state or anything.

Luggage has started appearing, only 45 minutes after the plane reached the gate.


I pick up my bag where Air Canada put it, and take the US Customs form Air Canada gave me to the US Customs line Air Canada told me to go. Half an hour later, the US official tells me "oh, American Airlines? Go out to Terminal 3". When I tried, a guard intercepted me and said I had to go through Canadian customs. Someone there was surprised I had my bag already. Then I was told, not asked, to put my bag on a belt for T3. Not sure if this was mandatory or some bag convenience, cause I have to pick it up there to take through Customs. Of course, my bag isn't here yet. A woman has asked two drivers to look for it. I'm told I couldn't carry it, as checked it had to be scanned. Again.

Got it, got check tags, got to spend half an hour in US customs, before slinging it on a belt and going through security. 3 hour layover and I'm at the gate with 35 minutes to spare from departure. Boarding was supposed to be 15 minutes ago.

So, flying to or through the US is bad, flying to the US through Canada is bad... Flying from Chile wasn't bad, but that was two years of security theater and tourism-destroying ago. Huh, Toronto is -6 C. But Boston is 0, and rising to 10 in the next few days. Bloomington's going up to 14. Both with rain, mind you. I BRING YOU WARM WEATHER FROM THE SOUTH. I AM AS A RAIN GOD. I forgot to decorate my big duffle so it'd be more distinguishable. I should have asked the girls to do something to it, they'd probably have tied ribbons or applied stickers.

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