Jun. 5th, 2009 08:28 pm
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After turning in my grades for everyone except the grad students (whose essays I have still to grade), I decided to visit my former roommate [profile] moltvikh and his partner Paul in Portland, OR. I had never been to Portland and he had a few weeks left before he was going to start his new career in nursing school, so it was the ideal time to visit (plus it meant that I would be away during the chaos of the Manayunk Bike Race, which is right near my house). It also meant that I would miss the Swarthmore Alumni Weekend, but as it turns out, I'm going to have my own Swarthmore reunion with several folks while I'm out here! The plan is for us to have dinner with [personal profile] hhw tonight, and drive to Seattle tomorrow to see [profile] syndicatedebby and [profile] jhp64 and their kids and also Ellie, her partner and their daughter. [profile] moltvikh and I will stay overnight so that we can more easily visit Mount St Helens on Sunday. Since I've never been to anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, I'm happy to just roam around, visit folks, and sightsee. Today, I went to the Chinese Garden in Portland and it was beautiful and relaxing. We took a guided tour and learned all about the architecture and the plants. I highly recommend it. We had tea and mooncake there (they have an enormous selection of all kinds of teas). Then we visited Powell's Books, which was amazing! It's a bookstore that spans an entire city block. I was in heaven. So, I am enjoying vacation, and have even made friends with [profile] moltvikh's dog, Pedro (who is a cross between a pit bull and a German shepard). Fortunately, I have good animal mojo and we have gotten along. I'm looking forward to a bit of fun and downtime, since I've been very fried from work. Now to relax!


Aug. 2nd, 2008 04:27 pm
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I drove down to Alexandria, VA, yesterday with my parents for my cousin's wedding. We managed to survive the trip - they had me drive their car, and we alternated choosing the music. Thankfully, the directions were good and we did not get lost. We are staying at the Old City Hilton, which is quite nice. My cousin arranged for us to receive a goody bag of munchies upon check in, which was quite nice. We walked around Old City and had a yummy seafood dinner at The Wharf, which looked a lot less touristy than some of the other places and turned out to be pretty good. This morning we had brunch at the hotel with some old friends of my parents, whom I had never met. Then I went for a walk and found a comic shop and a used book store, both of which pleased me greatly. So I'm spending the afternoon relaxing, waiting to get ready for the wedding in the evening. Tomorrow there will be a brunch for the out of town guests and then we pack up and head home.

Day Tripper

Aug. 2nd, 2008 02:56 pm
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On Thursday, I went to NYC to spend the day with my friend [profile] moltvikh, who was visiting NYC on his own for a few days. I drove to Trenton and took NY Transit to Penn Station. Whoever thought that it was a good idea to name Newark's stop Penn Station, too, should have their head slapped. I almost got off there, but quickly realized that I was not in New York. I made it there by 1:00 and due to the magic of cell phones, [profile] moltvikh and I met at the station. If I remember correctly, in the days before cell phones, we would have specified a meeting place; but I admit, it was loads easier this way. We had lunch at a Jewish deli named Ben's. I had an authentic corned beef on rye with spicy mustard and it was wonderful ! (If anyone remembers, that was what Captain Sheridan was poisoned with in the torture episode of Babylon 5, and thinking of that makes me enjoy the sandwich all the more :-)

Since we were in the Fashion District, I decided that we should take an impromptu tour of the locations for Project Runway. So we walked by Parsons School of Fashion and Design, we stopped in Bryant Park, and we went to Mood, where they often buy their materials. Mood is located on the third floor of a large building, and access is by an old fashioned elevator, complete with an operator. There is a poster of Heidi Klum introducing the show on the door, but other than that, there were no other touches from the show. It turned out that the store has three floors and is basically wall to wall fabrics, with one floor dedicated to upholstery. The aisles were not wide, and it is hard to imagine how they maneuver the cameras and lights to film the designers selecting fabrics for the show. In any event, it was fun to see where the magic happens!

Next we went to the Whitney museum of contemporary art, where they had a display on Buckminster Fuller. They had is specially designed car in a showroom, and models of his ideas for houses and the geodesic dome. There was a whole display on how he developed the mercatur projection map. It was much more interesting than I would have expected. Also in the museum was a gallery of Maplethorpe's early Polaroid photos, where one could see that he was exploring elements of lighting, subject matter, and composition that appear in his later work. There was also a room of moving architectural art, the idea being that one expects architecture to be stable, so having it move challenges one's expectations in a disturbing manner. It certainly did. There was a floor platform with four walls that swung away from the base and each had a door that opened and shut with a bang! I felt sorry for the poor attendants who had to stand there all day listening to the commotion. The regular collection had some interesting pieces, including some paintings by Hopper, that I now recognized after having seen his exhibit in the National Gallery last Fall. This was all very cool to see with [profile] moltvikh, now that he has been studying art.

We walked through Central Park and had dinner at a Vietnamese/Thai/Asian fusion place, which was quite yummy, hung out for awhile more talking and catching up, and then I caught the train home. I had a fun time, and I'm delighted that the timing worked out so that we could both be there together.


Jul. 29th, 2008 11:46 am
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Now that my summer course is done, I've decided to take a vacation. Actually, it will be mostly a "staycation," since I plan to spend much of it working on house projects and catching up on reading for fun and watching Dr Who, as well as visiting with family and friends. So far, I've gone to a birthday pool party, helped my brother take the kids to two kid birthday parties, seen Dark Knight (it was wonderful, but it did give me nightmares), played bridge, bought light sconces for the bathroom, mowed the lawn, noodled around on facebook, and played with the cats. I received a clean bill of health at my dental check up, and I got myself a haircut. My major house project will be finishing all the fine detail touch up painting in the upstairs bathroom. I do have a bit of work to do during my time off (final grades, getting pieces of a new grant together, writing some recommendation letters), but I can fit it in at my leisure. After lunch, I plan to do battle with the strangling clematis vine that is clinging to my lilac and butterfly bush. In the meantime, I am trying to remember what relaxing feels like.
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Today began my 10 hour trek to the 12th International Symposium on Neural Regeneration, which is held at the ASILOMAR conference center in Pacific Grove, CA. I got up at the unjedly hour of 5:00am in order to drive to the airport for my 7:50am flight to San Francisco. The highlight of the trip was bumping into Jeffrey Sebelia, the winner of third season of Project Runway, who was buying breakfast at the Au Bon Pain in the Philly airport! I recognized him by his distinctive neck tattoos. Other than that, the plane ride was long but uneventful as I travelled with most of my research group. Once we arrived, we claimed out bags and my colleage Scott and I rented a car and drove 100 miles south to the conference, stopping for lunch and to by a map along the way. The facility reminds me of a summer camp on the beach. There are lots of small buildings with a dozen or so rooms. The rooms have no tv or telephones. Cell phone signal is sparse and there is wireless access only in the main building (although my room is close enough to get a faint signal). Apparently, this is intentional in order to create a more personally interactive atmosphere. There is a dining hall and we are all on a meal plan. Tonight we had dinner and then a talk followed by a social (which I ditched, being too tired). The conference has programming from 8am to 11pm each day, with these group meals scheduled inbetween posters and talks. There are about 200 people here and it looks like it could be pretty intense. On the other hand, we are in a park right next to the beach, which is beautiful, and I've already seen seabirds, deer, and a racoon. There is a sign posting advice on how to scare off a mountain lion in the event that we see one. Walking on the beach trails is a traditional conference pastime. Overall, it should be fun, but it's going to be work and not a vacation.
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This morning, M. went for a run with his Frontrunners group and I joined him for coffee afterwards. I've been being good to my ankle and it has been feeling better, but I think it was wise that I declined the invitation for a morning run or stroll. Some more of his friends came for coffee and then he went off to the gym with one of them and I went wandering.

I went to the Renwick Gallery of American Crafts and saw a fascinating exhibit on quilting during the pioneer era. The detail, innovative fabric choices (one quilt was made out of neckties!), colors, themes, and craftsmanship were quite amazing. The blurbs talked about how quilting was one of the few means of artistic expression available to frontier women and how they formed community around the activity.

I met up with M. in Dupont Circle after pokng through Kramer Books, the CD/DVD store, and Lambda Rising. We had a late lunch of Mexican food and then M. and I went to the National Gallery to see the Edward Hopper special exhibit. It was incredible. Hopper is the American artist who among other things did Nighthawks (that's the one where several people are sitting at Phillies Diner late at night), Automat, and Chop Suey. He specialized in painting unusual views of cities and towns inhabited by individuals depicted as tense or lonely or engaged in their own thoughts. He masterfully rendered sunlight and shadow to create dramatic tension in depictions of lighthouses, rooftops, and windows. It was a full retrospective of many of his major works and very crowded. I was very glad to have seen it.

Next we went to the E Street cinema to see The Darjeeling Limited. We both really enjoyed it and spent most of our time talking about it over a yummy Ethiopian food dinner at Zeds. It is about a group of broken people's search for family. It's the sort of film that one should see twice to be sure to catch everything. Well acted and well directed, it also featured one of my favorite foreign songs Les Champs Elysee at the end. It's a cerebral comedy and I'd recommend it to those who like that sort of thing (If you liked I "Heart" Huckabees or The Royal Tannenbaums then you'd probably like this movie).

Tomorrow, I get up early in order to take the Metro to my friend's place, where I will ride up to Philly with them to play D&D and have wine and cheese all day. It's been being a very satisfying vacation!
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I've been enjoying my trip to DC. On Thursday, I went to the International Spy Museum. I did the interactive mission tour, where they have the group solve puzzles, search rooms, run surveillance, escape in a simulated truck, and direct the mission. That was a blast! The museum itself was pretty cool. They had lots of short films on lockpicking, sabotage, historical spies, etc and a wealth of display items. There were also computer terminals with exercises in code breaking and disguise spotting and other cool activities. One of the most interesting was about deciphering the Navaho code used by the US during WWII. They had displays on ancient spymastering in China, Japan, and Greece, as well as during Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, WWII, Cold War, and Modern times. While there was a lot of balance between male and female spies, I found it interesting that there was very little regarding people of color, although they definitely highlighted what little there was. I spent over 5 hours there and thoroughly enjoyed it.

In the evening, I went to see the play that B. was performing in. It was an adaption of Camus' Caligula. I thought it was terrific and that B. did a great job. The lead was phenomenal and several of the other actors were able to match or reflect his intensity. It's a very disturbing nihilistic play, but I was quite entertained.

Today, I went to the American Indian Museum. They have an incredible cafe that showcases cooking from each different region. I went to the Pacific Northwest booth and had salmon that was roasted and glazed along with corn pone and mushrooms and a salad of wild rice and cranberries. Yum! The museum itself was fascinating. It was presented in a nonanthropological style, meaning that items made 10 years ago were beside items from 100 years ago and that there were no historical narrative blurbs. Instead there were videos of people telling stories about the things on display. It created a feeling of timelessness, which I suspect was the intent. While I was there, a dance troupe performed a set of tribal dances. The troupe consisted of almost two dozen men, women, and children (some carried in papoose type pouches) as well as drummers and singers. They created a real sense of community and at some points even had the audience join in. Very cool. There was a special exhibit on dressmaking and I now know how to tell the difference between a dress made from one hide, two hides, or three hides.

Next I went to see the Impressionism by the Sea exhibit at the Phillips Gallery. It was very impressive and featured an audio tour that you could take using your cel phone. The colors and textures they used to evoke sea and sky were simply breathtaking. I did the tour and enjoyed the exhibit and the rest of the museum. There was a Rothko room, which both amused and impressed me.

I must have done something to my ankle, because it began hurting while I was walking. Combined with the intermittent rain, this was enough to convince me to return to M. and B.'s house to rest for awhile. M. and I then met some of his friends for a drink and then went out to dinner at a Middle Eastern place called Skewers. We shared Hummus and Baba Ganoosh appetizers and I had Beef Biryani which was very tasty. M. and I were too tired to go out clubbing, so we came home and met B. who had just returned from his Friday night performance. After a nice chat, and some computer typing, everyone is now off to bed.
logisticslad: (marge)
I was dithering about whether to take one or two weeks off for vacation starting today until I spoke with my Dept Chair on Friday. After I handed him the paragraph he had asked me to write for his grant, he told me that he still hadn't submitted me for promotion, because one of my key recommendation letters hadn't come in. I sweetly asked him to see if he could expedite that and then informed him that I was going to be away for TWO weeks. Of course, I discovered that I have some work to do today while I'm off, but it directly benefits me to get it done now (I'm editing one of my student's papers for submission and I realized that I hadn't finished it before I left). Sigh.

So this is why I spent much of the weekend watching a marathon of America's Next Top Model :-)


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