If you have looked at my photography index recently, you will have noticed that I have reorganized all of the existing photos, and added a lot of new ones. This is all thanks to the vast stretches of free time that I have had courtesy of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Presenting assorted photos from Basel, Switzerland.
Speaking of free time over the holiday... I recently rediscovered a wonderful way to waste time, courtesy of John (the enabler). I reinstalled Diablo II and the expansion pack on my desktop - after John waved the installer disks in front of my face while chanting "You know you want to". Such a great way to waste time. I can sit at the computer and kill skeletons and demons and zombies and all a manner of monsters for hours. This sort of thisng is exactly why I stopped playing a lot of computer games and couple of years ago and have been (until the other day) resisting putting nay games on my computer. How the mighty have fallen...
Today. Ah, glorious day off. I finally have some time to work on the photos I took while I was overseas. So I will be spending today the same way I spend most of my days… in front of a computer.
I think that of all of the pictures that I took in Edinburgh, this one is my favorite.
You can see more of the photos that I took in Edinburgh here...
Because the weather in Edinburgh while I was there - rainy and misty and foggy - tended to wash all color out of the city, it seemed to be appropriate to do most of the pictures that I took in black and white.
Yesterday. Ah, Thanksgiving. Glorious holiday devoted entirely to excellent food and an endless dinner. Given the fact that I just got back from a trip at the beginning of the week, and that I will be leaving for another (short) trip on Monday, I really didn't feel like going anywhere or doing anything for Thanksgiving. So John and I stayed in town and had dinner with Sarah and Mike and their parents. John made appetizers, and I brought the sweet potato dish, and Sarah's mom made the green bean casserole and the stuffing, and Mike's parents brought applesauce and dinner rolls, and Sarah and Mike made the turkey and everything else… mmmmmm. We went, we socialized, we sat at the table, and we ate. We gorged on the huge array of delicious food. And then we spent several hours in the traditional manner… laying around bloated and groaning like beached whales as we watched the complete rout that was the Detroit Lions game, and then popped in “Shrek II”. Then came dessert. In short, much fun was had by all.
Our own little floating holiday, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.
John, it has been a happy two years... and I look forward to many more. I love you.
I. Am. Home.
And I am glad of it.
Now I have to deal with the aftermath of all of that travel here at work - namely, getting caught up on emails and phone messages, filling out and submitting expense reports, and writing endless reports to describe what I did and why I did it and analyze the results and propose ways to move forward from here. Pretty heady stuff, I tell you.
Now, a word from our sponsor.
While I was out of the country someone out there emailed me about infogirl. You know who you are. And while I was in a sleep-deprived and jet-lagged state trying to check my email in five minutes before I had to run a meeting in London, I accidently deleted it before I could respond. I am sorry! I hang my head in utter shame over this dreadful faux-pas, and I beg of you to please resend the email so I can respond properly. Thank you!
Back to our regularily scheduled program, and to what I am sure that anyone who reads this site is REALLY interested in...
November 16 - November 21
The flight over to Heathrow from Cincinnati was nondescript. Your basic direct overseas flight, with little to distinguish it from any other. The in-flight movie was “The Terminal”, and considering the length of the flight (7+ hours) a movie about being trapped in an airport terminal was slightly ironic.
Despite having an entire row to myself to stretch out in, I got no rest on the plane. I think that I spent most of the flight shifting on the seat, trying to find a position comfortable enough to allow me to sleep even a little bit. If I got more then a light doze the whole flight, I would be very surprised.
There was only a slight hiccup when I transferred at Gatwick to my flight to Edinburgh, that hiccup being that my baggage did not make the transfer with me. When I arrived in Edinburgh it was not there to greet me. Fortunately it caught up with me later at the hotel. As much fun as it might have been to go on a little chopping spree at the airline's expense if my baggage had remained AWOL for more then a few hours, it would have also been a huge pain since most of the papers I needed for my meetings were in (you guessed it) the suitcase. Plus, with the way I was going to be city-hopping on this trip, if it hadn't caught up with me that day, it might never have found me until after I got home again. And that would have been no good at all.
The Radisson SAS on High Street in Edinburgh was quite nice. Very historic looking with all sorts of cool little historic touches, such a “floor warmer” in the bathroom… historic enough that there was no internet connection available in the rooms. No email checking for me, and no browsing websites, or reading the New York Times or CNN online. Well, there was a computer in the lounge that was wired for ethernet, but I didn't feel like paying 12 pounds for 15 minutes of internet fix.
Edinburgh itself, what I saw of it, was very cool and I would love to go back for more extended exploration, and venture into the countryside as well. But I think that I would rather do so in spring, or maybe very early fall, when the weather is a bit more congenial. Edinburgh in late November is very very stereotypical. The afternoon and evening that I had free to try and walk off my jet lag was cold and rainy and foggy. When I arrived at the hotel it was not quite noon , and it was already starting to look like evening outside. I hope that some of my photos turn out well, but conditions were pretty bad and I didn't like taking my camera out in the rain very much (remember San Diego… hey, it is still pretty new and I feel very protective of it) so I don't hold out much hope for anything truly spectacular. But maybe I can work with Photoshop a little bit to try and pull some images out of the fog. (ha ha)
Anyway, the hotel was right in the middle of what is known as the Royal Mile, over a mile of the oldest and most historic tangle of streets in the city, with Edinburgh Castle marking on end and Holyrood House the other. While I did go into the castle (duh!) I didn't make it quite all of the way to Holyrood House. As I said, it was cold and rainy and foggy, and by the time I was done at the castle and had finished wandering the streets which were on that end of the Royal Mile (and had paused to fortify myself with a mug of hot cocoa and some shortbread) it was starting to get dark in earnest.
Some parts of the castle were closed off while I was there and there were guards standing around looking watchful. I found out later that Princess Margaret had been by that day. Too bad I missed my chance to see royalty in person. Ah well. Anyway, the castle was pretty cool, and was also the site of several Scottish military monuments and a small museum, all of which I went through.
Dinner that night was at a local pub that I picked simply because I liked the name… “The World's End”. And, no, I did not have the haggis, though it was on the menu. Bangers and mash for me. However, when the meetings/user testing at the University of Edinburgh broke the next day for lunch and we all went to a local restaurant, I did try haggis. Now, mind you, it was on the menu as “vegetarian” haggis, and since I am pretty sure that haggis consists largely of organ meat, I am not sure how it can be altered so that it would pass as “vegetarian”. Whatever it was, whatever was in it, I admit that it was pretty tasty.
All I saw of London , the next stop on my tour, where I spent less then 24 hours, were through the windows of taxis, coming in, and leaving again. And a little bit on the brief, wet, walk from the Strand Palace Hotel to the London School of Economics. If I had to sum it up in a sentence, I would call it “ London , as seen by night and through the windows of a taxi, with some meetings.”
Not that I didn't get to see any sights… I did. It was just that they were all viewed from through the windows of taxis. Look... it's the clock tower, illuminated in the night, and quickly passing behind. Harrods. A brief glimpse of the dark waters of the Thames , with the Eye, the great Ferris wheel. Was that Buckingham Palace ? The Museum of Natural History ? Hyde Park ? That great edifice over there… maybe Westminster ? Unnamed churches and cathedrals in between old and new skyscrapers and buildings with elaborately carved facades. Brightly lit restaurants, coffeehouses, and pubs. People crowding the streets, despite the inclement weather.
Note: Are cabbies worldwide required to have some sort of an impenetrable accent? I don't honestly know which is harder to understand…cabbies who have a thick cockney accent, or those with a thick Boston accent.
Another note: I don't know if I just didn't get jet lagged, or have been perpetually jet lagged the entire time I have been here. All I know is that I haven't really slept much the whole trip. I just haven't been getting tired… I lie in bed till very very late (local time) and then have no more trouble getting out of bed in the mornings then usual. I estimate that I have been getting MAYBE four hours a night. I am just saying. I think that I am due for a nice long sleep when I finally get home.
Yet another random note: Foreign TV is odd. But at least British TV is understandable, being mostly in English and all. But not in Switzerland . The other night I watched parts of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” dubbed in German… which made it more surreal and unintelligible than it normally is. Of course, this doesn't top my oddest foreign TV experience, which happened years ago when I was visiting cousins in Spain . One evening we ended up watching “Betelgeuse”, dubbed in Spanish, and then subtitled (very badly) back to English.
Basel was my favorite stop on this trip. And not just because it did not rain (much) and was actually only partially cloudy, which easily qualified it as the best weather the whole trip. And not because I was getting tired of user testing my project with Endeavor, and was glad for the change of pace that meetings for the MDL project presented. And not because I spent the longest stretch of time here…two whole nights! And almost two whole days! But because it is a beautiful city. Or maybe because of all of the reasons above. (Plus, I think I got some pretty nice pictures there.)
After the Friday meetings ended at three, I changed into jeans and went out to wander around the city a little bit. Once again, I had a hotel that was very near an old, historic section on the Rhine . In the very old parts of town the streets were quite narrow and steep, and were paved with cobblestones. Some of them were too narrow for cars, so it was foot and bike traffic only. You could go along these really narrow, winding old streets, and then they would suddenly open up into a plaza with an old church or meeting hall. I saw houses that had been built in the early 1300s that were still obviously in use today. I walked along the Rhine , and bought hot chestnuts and coffee from a street vendor who barely spoke any English and sat on the steps leading down to the water to eat and drink. I went into the Munster – the oldest cathedral in the city. I wandered through open-air markets and bought a snack of black bread and bratwurst from a meat vendor. The smells in the markets were wonderful - I would have bought some of the breads and cheeses to bring back home with me, except that I knew that they would cause problems at customs.
That night I saw the premier of the Nutcracker (Nussknaker) in Theater Basle. Wonderful. Indescribably wonderful. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to go, and I am so glad that my colleague mentioned the show to me, and then was kind enough to have his assistant reserve me a ticket when I expressed interest in attending. When I left the theater, it was snowing - huge, thick, wet flakes.
Since my flight out of Basel wasn't until almost 6:30 in the evening on Saturday, I had all morning and most of the afternoon to wander some more. It snowed intermittently all day, and was bitterly cold. I admit that I paused frequently to pop into tea houses and pastisseries to have something hot to drink to warm up. The coffee and cocoa here is very good, but what else would you expect from a country famed for its chocolate?
And now the trip is over, and I am on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic , typing these pages up. Sometimes I enjoy flying – when I have plenty of room to spread out that is. I like to see what clouds are like when you are looking down on them, and I like watching the shape of the earth from around 30,000 feet. But this flight is very long (nine hours) … there have been two movies and a meal and still two over two hours of flight to go. My laptop battery is fading and I have read all of my books. Maybe I will start one of them again… just to pass the time. Or maybe I will try (ha ha) to take a nap.
I will be glad to be home.
This morning was the first hard frost in Dayton. Or, at least, it was the first frost that I had to deal with before work. Frost traceries look so pretty... until you are trying to scrub them off of your car windshield so that you can go to work. I suppose that this is exactly why my brother moved out of Ohio and to the warmer pastures of California.
Soon - in less then an hour - I will once again toss a suitcase in the trunk of my car and head off for the airport. This trip will be even more rushed then the last one... three cities in about a week. Some pretty neat places, too. But, as much as I wish it were otherwise, this IS a business trip and not a vacation. The most time that I will have to appreciate my surroundings will be the first day in Edinburgh wher I will probably be too jet-lagged to notice much, and the very last day when I will have a free afternoon to wander around Basel before I catch a plane back to England to catch my flight home. I am getting some good ideas for future vacations out of these trips, I tell you.
The weather over there won't be the best - cold and rainy the whole time - so here are some pictures of lovely fall weather, taken a couple of weeks ago when John and I were on a bike trail that goes through some of the Dayton metroparks.
I know that there I will have internet access overseas (let's hear a cheer for the information age) but I doubt that I will have the time to do much writing.
I didn't take a lot of pictures in San Diego because of adverse weather conditions, but the rain did stop occasionally, and I was able to get a few shots. With a single exception, all of these were taken off of Sunset Cliffs. The first is Brian, my brother who I haven't seen in quite a while and who drove down from Huntington Beach to San Diego just to spend an afternoon hanging out with me.
Now that I have been home about a day,and have had a little time to download the first load of pictures from the Canon Digital Rebel (my Preciousss) I thought that I would post a selection from San Francisco.
I thought that these lamps in Union Square were really cool.
The facade of a building (the Versace building, if I remember correctly) near Union Square.
Old skyscrapers and new, side by side.
A large bronze lion guards the entrance to an antique shop.
Tea? Why, yes... we have LOTS of tea, any kind that you want...
Really, what else would you expect from a shop in Chinatown?
A street sign in North Beach, a part of the city that, ironically, has no beach.
One of the steeper streets in the city.
Sitting at my table at the Stinking Rose and looking out along Columbus Ave. As he seated me, the waiter wanted to know, "What's a pretty girl like you doing having dinner all alone on a Saturday night?" I don't think that there is a good answer to a question like that.
The gate of Chinatown by night.
As for work, well... work. It always feel odd to return from out of town trips in the middle of the week. It just throws off my personal sense of time for some reason. I was a little less disorientated today then yesterday (though I still forgot what day it was a few times) but this may have been because I was distracted by the massive amounts of work that I need to do before I leave for the UK on Monday. And if I think I am a little disoriented now, I can't wait till I am sleep-walking my way through customs in the Heathrow airport in a couple of days.
Confessions, observations, and insane ramblings from someone who has spent a lot of time recently (and who will continue to spend a lot of time in the near future) in airports and on airplanes.
- All airlines and airports are created equal, but some are more equal then others, if you know what I mean. (And some airports have chosen to tear out the ceilings and expose all of the ductwork, not that I am naming any names here.)
- I paid how much for this ticket and now you want me to fork over some more for the “special” headset so I can listen to the in-flight movie? Just give me the damn headphones already!
- I listen to my mp3 player during take off and landing. I never heard of any planes that fell out of the sky because someone had their iPod on.
- Air travel + screaming baby/toddler = me fantasizing about additional uses for duct tape.
- No ice please. Hah aha ahahaha! This means that I get more soda then your regime wants me to have. Take that, fascist airline!
- Yummy. Nine stale pretzels. What a great snack. Thank you airline, this really alleviates my hunger pains.
- I prefer the aisle or window seat, not because I am “claustrophobic” and need a little extra space, but so I don't get sandwiched between two of my red-faced and sweaty fellow travelers. Don't touch me.
- I don't want to talk to you. Look, I am putting on my headphones and reading my book. Just leave me alone.
- I am working.
- No, I am not working, I am playing Diablo II.
- No, I am not working, I am watching “Once Upon a Time in China ” on my laptop's DVD player. Much better then the insipid in-flight movie.
- No, I am not working, I am writing a journal entry. Please don't read over my shoulder.
And now I am home again. For a few days, anyway.
This morning when I staggered out of bed (my flight got in at 1am) and went to the fridge, I saw one lone bottle of beer on the top shelf, and I thought to myself "That beer will be mine, once I get home from work". Then I stopped to wonder if I might not prefer a martini or two instead...while I work on a spec that is due Friday. A martini can make even the dullest spec exciting!
Contrary to popular opinion, the weather is San Diego is not perfect 100% of the time. When I asked John before I left on this trip what he thought the weather would be like, his response was "70 degrees and sunny, like it is every day". What was the weather like yesterday? IT RAINED. For the first time here in many months, it rained. For the afternoon I had free to bum around with my brother and see the city, it rained. We would have gone to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, but it rained. Looks like more rain today as well - I can see the storm clouds massing and it is even a little bit chilly. Curse you, weather gods! Now maybe I sound a little bit whiny here, and god knows that the good people of San Diego probably really appreciate the rain, but if San Francisco could hold off on the rain and fog and be sunny and warm for the duration of my stay there, then why couldn't San Diego toe the line and continue the good-weather trend?
My brother and I did go to Old Town, which he had heard was "really cool", but which we decided fit the phrase "tourist trap" better. Not that it was horrible, just kitchy. Good food there, though. We also wandered through the gaslight district, which probably would have been more entertaining if it hadn't been quite so damp. I would have preferred trying out the parks and beaches, but, you know... We did get out to Sunset Cliffs in time for the sunset, which obligingly broke through the clouds for a glorious half hour. Lovely. Pictures to come, of course. And despite the uncooperative weather, it was nice to see my brother again.
In other news, I still don't know if the meeting tomorrow morning is on or not. There has been a disturbing lack of communication with our contact there. If it does end up falling through, and I might not know if it has or not until midway through the afternoon today, it may be too late to change my tickets and get an earlier flight home. (Oh, how I long for home. My own bed and my apartment full of my stuff. Plus I need clean socks.) If this is the case, and I find myself twiddling my thumbs in the hours between when the hotel kicks me out and my flight leaves, I may go to the zoo after all.
If it doesn't rain.
When you are at the Stinking Rose for dinner, you can't leave without having their garlic ice cream for dessert. By the time I finished and staggered out of the restaurant, I could probably have felled a vampire at twenty paces with my breath alone. Damn, I love the food in San Francisco… besides my pungent dinner, my culinary journey of the day consisted of curried shrimp for lunch at Brandy Ho's in Chinatown and a nutella crepe somewhere in the depths of North Beach, and coffee and pastries in Union Square. But since I spent the whole day walking (and by “whole day”, I mean 9am until 7pm ) I feel like I earned every bite of it. Union Square to Chinatown to North Beach to Telegraph Hill, down around the Embarcadero to Ghirardelli Square and back. Last time I was here I saw some nice sculptures down the Embarcadero and watched to try to find them again. I didn't find them, but I also don't think that I went far enough down the Embarcadero either. Well, next time.
And proving that one can find friends anywhere, I spent a while hanging out with some opera singers (a tenor and a mezzo-soprano) who were performing near union square. Turned out they were SCA, and one of them was also big on madrigals. So I listened to them and in between songs we chatted about opera and late medieval/early Renaissance music.
I love my job when it brings me around to fun cities like this one. Heck, I love my job, period.
I couldn't bring myself to watch the real-time election results last night in my hotel. I really couldn't. The thought of the nail-biting, on the edge of my seat anticipation that would result from such a move made me feel queasy... and I really didn't want to watch Bush's slow march to victory, the slow twisting in of the knife. I watched "The Mask of Zorro" on TNT and "Adult Swim" on Cartoon Network while I worked instead.
I had such hopes for a change of administration... and I didn't want them to be crushed too soon.
How surprised am I that Bush won? Not very surprised. Kerry took too long to get out a coherent message about his policies and Bush was too eager to employ the slander and character-assassination and attack ads strategy.
I am pleased that Michigan , where I voted (for Kerry, incidentally) went Democratic, but honestly, with such a strong union presence there and the way that Michigan has been damaged by Bush's economic policies, that was almost a given... despite Michigan 's status this election as a "swing state". (Yet, glad as I am that Michigan went for Kerry, I am sad that they chose to write bigotry into the state constitution via that vile Proposal 2... the defense of traditional marriage/gay marriage ban.)
How disappointed am I that Bush won? Very. I think that Bush's policies... from the war in Iraq to his disastrous economic decisions to the tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations to the NCLB farce to faith-based initiatives (which, incidentally, he likes promoting because it means he can tout them all he wants without having to pay a dime toward them) to rolling back social programs and progress decades... well, they are just destroying the country from within. And from without, as we lose respect and credibility from other nations that we deal with. Do we want to continue to be a first world country? Or do we want to fall behind, lose ground, and stumble back to second world status? With a tight-fisted, controlling, narrow-minded, theocratic inclined administration in power (for another four years) this is not too far-fetched a scenario.
Consider this... this is Bush's last term (unless he manages to repeal the 22nd amendment) and he no longer has to worry about his electability. He no longer has to answer to the public. This gives him pretty much free rein to try to implement whatever policies that he wants, willy-nilly, without having to worry about that silly little thing called "public opinion".
As a fiscally conservative and socially liberal woman I am worried. I am strongly against many of his policies. Can I stand another four years of them? Should I give up and move? From the outside, Canada looks awfully nice and inviting.
Read the column by Mitch Albom in Today's Detroit Free Press (excerpted here) which I think does an excellent job of summing up post-election attitudes and feelings:
Will he understand that he has not been handed the keys to the funhouse, that his election is not a treasure chest meant to repay his friends? Will he understand that he was not chosen god, bishop, rabbi or high priest? Will he understand that he did not get a mandate from this populace? When nearly half the country doesn't want you in office, you have a lot of work to do.
This, let's be honest, was not something our President George W. Bush handled well these past four years, promoting self as a "uniter not a divider" yet somehow leading the country to the verge of a Hatfield-McCoy blood feud.
Bush does not speak for me. Bush has made it clear time and time again (remember the debates) that if you do not agree with him, then you are wrong. You do not exist to him. Your opinion does not matter to him.
And I will answer Mitch's question; if I do not matter to him, I do not know if I am willing to be lead by him.
One thing I gotta say about traveling for work… it sure is a productivity booster. Not that I am any sort of slacker when I am at home, but when you are traveling for business that is pretty much all there is to do.
Might as well stay in the office late, since there isn't really anything better to do. In the hotel after dinner… well, you can only spend so much time in the hotel gym and Law-and-Order reruns have a tendency to get really old really fast. What is a girl to do? I know… more WORK.
Yeah, I am near SF right now, and yeah, I could take the BART into the city. But on a weeknight with meetings the next day, well… with a good 45 minute trip each way I feel a bit lazy. Friday night and Saturday, though, I am planning on going into the city and having fun with my camera.
But right now I need to get back to work.