starlady: The Welcome to Night Vale Logo, with clouds over the moon (welcome to night vale)
One weird trick for getting over jetlag: have it merge with your post-election stress insomnia so you just don't sleep or just don't sleep enough.

I don't recommend this one weird trick.
starlady: Korra looks out over Republic City (legend of korra)
I've been here for two months, and I'm leaving on Monday.

Favorite chocolatiers: 
1. Yuzu in Ghent
2. Laurent Gerbaud in Brussels (much more convenient, as it's just uphill from the National Library)

Favorite beer:
1. St. Bernardus Christmas ale
2. Cantillon geuze at A la Becasse in Brussels

Favorite Christmas market (so far; I'm going to Liege tomorrow)
1. Leuven
2. Louvain-la-Neuve

Favorite bandes-dessinees
1. Tintin of course
2. Les Cites Obscures

Favorite hot chocolate in Brussels
1. Pierre Marcolini
2. Laurent Gerbaud

I love Belgium a lot. It's so chill. It's a combination of France and the Netherlands (I'm oversimplifying grossly, but if you walk around in Ghent or Antwerp, it feels way more like Amsterdam than it does the rest of Belgium), but chill, and with the best beer and chocolate in the world, and some pretty good food, too. As usual I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of the country, but it is more than a little like Japan in some ways, the trains run on time (mostly) and everyone bikes everywhere--except the chillness/"whatever" aspect of the national character extends to things like the existence of a government and the country itself, and the drinking culture here is that everyone just drinks whenever and is chill, instead of getting shitfaced and vomiting in the streets. Except it's Europe, so you can be in a centuries-old bar on the canal in Ghent and at 17:00 they will start banging bad Eurodance from the late 90s as you drink your Christmas beer surrounded by parents and children. It's so much easier this year now that I've been issued chip cards, even if they are chip and signature rather than the actually useful and secure chip and pin.

My toes are destroyed from hiking over the cobblestones everywhere and I'm really looking forward to going home (basically I've been on the road since the end of April last year, and I'm not going to my actual legal domicile for the holidays, but I'll be spending it with my family in Jersey and that's nice) but I'm really glad that I get to come back next year. Top of my list for that trip:

1. The Atomium
2. Moules frites
3. Luxembourg
starlady: Holmes and Watson walking around New York (springtime in new york)
I was in Victoria, British Columbia for a thing this past week, and while I'd heard the scuttlebutt about yoga on the beach et al, I was kind of blown away by how pretty Victoria is. The Pacific Northwest is beautiful, of course, but Victoria seems especially so--something about how much water and blue sky there was everywhere, to say nothing of the snow-capped peaks of the Cascades randomly visible throughout the city. Victoria itself reminded me of nothing so much as a cross between Madison and Portland (the one in Oregon). It was all very different from Toronto, in interesting ways. (People here are so friendly. So friendly.)

I didn't get a chance to go whale-watching, but I did wander around the city a fair bit, and I also did check out the Royal British Columbia Museum. I knew nothing about BC and little about Canada (though more than 90% of U.S.-ians, since I can tell you when Canada started), and it was an interesting lok at the human and environmental histories of the province. I was particularly interested to learn more about the histories of the First Nations peoples of the area, which were presented in what seemed to me to be a pretty respectful and interesting manner. There's a great exhibit on the indigenous languages of the province and what's being done to preserve them, and a great mini-exhibit on the Nisga'a Treaty. Wandering through the exhibit "El Dorado in British Columbia," on the BC and other C19 gold rushes, certainly suggested reasons why, as friends of mine report, acknowledgment of the First Nations peoples with whom the settlers share the land is more assiduous than in other parts of Canada. I only wish we had similar habits in the States.

Anyway. I'm not sure I quite buy Victoria's reputation as "Little Britain"--nowhere did I see a chippy, for example, the scones were just okay, and they served my friend a Strongbow with a twist of lime at one of the pubs (!?)--but I had some great food, including a burger with pickled beets on it (!), and some great new Polish cuisine, and all in all, it was a really nice place to spend a rather intense week. I would love to go back.
starlady: Carl's house floating above the fields (always an adventure)
I got an email the other day (from the tour company I'd used for my daytrip to Machu Picchu, natch) reminding me that I was in Peru a year ago. There were many amazing things about that trip, Machu Picchu not least among them, but one thing that has stuck in my mind is the completely serendipitous and completely amazing trip I took to Teatro Yuyachkani (actually formally known as Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani) in Magdalena del Mar in Lima. As it turned out I had weeks before made a connection with the head of the Hemispheric Institute, which maintains a very well-curated archive of digital video of performances in Latin America, including many from Yuyachkani. Which is how I found myself piled in the back of a taxi with four other people including the head of the HASTAC network (we had a hell of a time getting taxi drivers willing to go to Magdalena del Mar from the Ministerio de la Cultura, and Yuyachkani actually held the show for us) driving across town to a performance which I had no idea what it was about beforehand. Sometimes when people in the know say "come on!" you just have to go along.

"Yuyachkani" is a Quechua word meaning "I'm thinking" or "I'm remembering," and based on putting things together online since that night I've come to understand that we were seeing a repertory performance of Con-cierto olvido, the group's 40th anniversary piece, more or less. My Spanish is crap and my Quechua is non-existent, and it didn't matter at all. Masks, instruments, and the human voice as well as their bodies and expressions got the point of most of the pieces and vignettes across perfectly. Yuyachkani is a populist theater group--they found their youngest member more or less in his village in the Andes during a performance/residency/workshop tour there, if I understand correctly--and in point of fact under the dictatorship they mostly went their separate ways in order to survive. So there was a lot about what is euphemistically referred to as "the internal conflict" and life under Fujimori, but there was also a lot of Brecht, Shakespeare, and more familiar experimental theater. It was, in a word, stunning.

I found a review of the show orginally published in Cultura on the Yuyachkani site, and it may help to convey what I'm trying to say (i.e. what I want to remember):

The result is immediate: an impeccable performance. Instruments that everyone plays constitute a melody of memories of past presentations. They treat each musical instrument as an extension of stage presence. The ritual on stage exploded by Edgard Guillén`s Peruvian theater, remains in force with the "yuyas". They have a well defined group culture, not only between the actors and the director, but they work at La Casa Yuyachkani. At Con-cierto olvido, mask work is impeccable: before, during and after use, are respected for their meaning to cultural tradition. Con-cierto olvido collected poems, songs and musical pieces that evoke texts by authors such as Edward Gordon Craig, Bertolt Brecht, Jorge Manrique, and the "yuyas" own plays. In this review of the memory of his service, the actors play different instruments like guitar, charango, mandolin, violin, saxophone, trumpet or clarinet. Great musicians and actors. Yuyachkani, which means "I'm thinking, I'm remembering", invites us to take a cultural tour and a tour of life we can not miss. This is one of the best theater groups in Peru and the world. True to form, seeking truth "not believing they are the owners of it" as they say. The play is over, but [I'm] still standing, clapping.

Of course, as fate would have it, Con-cierto olvido isn't in the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library. They do, however, have a YouTube channel, and you can get a taste of the mask work involved in the show (NB the actors changed into and out of costume on stage) from this talk show segment, filmed in 2011:

starlady: (run)
I really need a Carmen Sandiego icon. As [personal profile] oliviacirce pointed out, I am Carmen Sandiego.

Airports for [personal profile] copracat 

I traveled a lot this year. A lot. I did the math when I got back from Australia last month and it was the next best thing to 85,000 miles in planes, which doesn't count bus, train, and car trips. I think I was in 22 different airports this year. Many were repeat offenders, so it was hard to keep track.

One thing about airports outside the States is that they almost all have a particular kind of flooring, that kind of (pseudo?) marble or shiny polished stone that you never see in U.S. airports. Most U.S. airports have linoleum and/or carpet in my experience. I greatly prefer the carpet like they have in the terminals in MSP. Spoilers: I think MSP is the best airport in the States and one of the best in the world. It has tons of great food, is super convenient, and has lots of coffee. Of the airports that were new to me this year, I have to say that Baltimore BWI was one of the worst--I flew out of there twice and nearly missed my flight the second time because it's so ungodly far from everything. It's not actually that much better than Dulles in that respect, but it also has shitty and/or nonexistent food options. Blech.

One of the bad things about throwing my lot in with Delta irrevocably is that I have self-exiled myself to SFO Terminal 3, which is a benighted cesspool compared to Terminals 1 and particularly 2, which has just been redone with far superior food, drink, and sitting options. All the SFO ads show Terminal 2. Fuck you, SFO. That said, it's great that it's right on the BART (much like National in D.C., which almost makes up for National being an unreconstructed 70s pit), and it's better than freaking SJC, which is far away from everything and has some of the worst baggage service on the continent for no obvious reason, particularly given the miniscule number of people who fly in there. I haven't taken the new OAK airport shuttle yet, but I'm sure as hell not looking forward to the 200% markup on the fare, which was formerly $3. I thought the bus service was fine.

Also, good lord, but LAX is terrible. On the day I flew out of there Delta's computers were down so I waited nearly two hours to check my bags (good thing I made it from Riverside in 45 minutes flat), and then I was in Terminal 5, which is a hellhole with too many people and too few food options at a nearly 200% markup compared to off-airport prices. The Southwest terminal at LAX is nowhere near as bad, and it was the only one I had experience with until then. Terminal 6 was okay, but when I went through there I was too nauseous to appreciate it or the complimentary food and beer on Delta's LAX-SFO shuttle. The Flyaway is okay I guess, but depending on traffic it can be pretty abysmal. I rented my car at Union Station to save $40, and I'd do it again, but damn, the Flyaway can be slow.

I was delayed into Seattle SEA on my way out of the States for the last time so I didn't have time to go the African Lounge in Terminal A and have Mac & Jack's African Amber, a beer so good that the company refuses to sell it in any form but on tap, meaning you can only get it in Seattle and Portland. The African Lounge itself is nothing to write home about, though I absolutely snarfed my nachos there in 2011 after coming home from Japan and three months without cheese. The BLT was okay, at least, and the beer makes it all worth it.

I've now been through Atlanta enough that I have reliably located a place to get a salad (not as easy as you'd think), and I also have a pretty set routine for Narita, which involves eating at Soup Stock before doing basically everything no matter whether I'm going in or out. Given where I live, taking the Narita Express is also only ¥200 more than other options, and though I'd actually never taken it before this year, I've gotten used to it.

For a while there airports and planes were the only places I got any extended reading in, though to some extent that's abated now that I commute by train. And I must say, it's a lot nicer to be doing your reading on a plane in first class or economy comfort, both of which I now get upgraded to occasionally. Anyway. I spend enough time in airports that I try not to hate them, but it's easier to do that in some cases than in others.
starlady: (run)
One specific place from this year for[personal profile] juniperphoenix 

Well, I think I'm going to say the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney. I went a hell of a lot of places this year and there are many that I could talk about as being beautiful, interesting, and awesome in their own right, but this one sticks out for reasons we shall get to shortly. One thing to say at the beginning is that I was not expecting Sydney to be anywhere near as beautiful as it is. [personal profile] unjapanologist and I kept looking at each other and going, "Is this for real?" because…it's gorgeous. The water is blue, the city is green, and given that our motel was a two minute walk from a ferry stop, we had a gorgeous view of the harbor every day. The Bridge and the Opera House are beautiful in their own right, and the Harbor makes them look even more amazing. Even now I look at my photos and I find it a little difficult to believe that it's as beautiful as they look--but it's more so. (I think October is a pretty good time for Sydney; it was warm, but not hot, and certainly not invent-a-new-color-on-the-weather-map-bats-falling-dead-from-the-sky-climate-change hot.) And I had a really excellent cream tea in one of the malls on George Street.

The Botanic Gardens are next to the Opera House, and we walked there after our tour of and lunch at the same (great, except for the flies). We never even made it Mrs. MacQuarrie's chair, because we got sidetracked by the beautiful flowers and trees and sculptures and scenery and ornamental ponds--the Gardens are right on the Harbor, so we had intermittent great views of that, too. On our way out we saw the Wollemi Pine, the so-called "Dinosaur Tree", which was also really cool--it's a Lazarus taxon and the only surviving member of its genus, as well as critically endangered.

We chilled out for a while under a cluster of trees because we saw a flock of (sulfur-crested) cockatoos. There were also bunches of ibises wandering around in the Gardens, and they were there too. Ditto crows, of course. Cockatoos and parrots are everywhere in Australia, and I love birds, so this was predictable. But one thing I noticed about people in Australia was how outright friendly they were--in Sydney and in Wollongong, people routinely went out of their way to be kind and seemingly thought nothing of it. Knowing that, I mustered my courage when a group of people showed up with a loaf of white bread and started feeding the cockatoos (who were all tagged, and presumably thus known to the Gardens), if I could have one of the extra slices of bread. The woman said yes, and so I stood up, held out my arm with the bread in my hand, and a wild cockatoo landed on my arm and ate the bread out of my hand. (After pretending, of course, that it wasn't interested, in true bird fashion. Its cooler than thou act was ruined when the branch it was perching on just above me broke under it.) I fed a wild cockatoo some bread!!!!!!! And thus my wildest Australia dreams were accomplished, though I still wouldn't mind being swarmed by a whole flock like in that one YouTube video. The wild cockatoos were quite gentle, and compared to their domestic relatives, very quiet. THEY WERE SO SWEET. PRECIOUS BABIES. PRECIOUS BABIES SOME OF WHOSE SPECIES ARE CRITICALLY ENDANGERED DUE TO HABITAT DESTRUCTION. STUPID HUMANS.

Anyway. There were signs around saying not to feed the cockatoos, but as we left the park we saw the same flock munching contentedly on the trees, and I suspect that if humans disappeared tomorrow the cockatoos would not only survive, but thrive. It was amazing. I regret nothing except not getting better shots of the gallahs in Woollongong.
starlady: (run)
I unpacked my suitcase for the first time in six months yesterday and it was awesome.

Yes, I'm back in Japan, this time for what passes for good in my world, namely just under a year. I got in without any problems worth mentioning on Thursday, except that we'd been delayed an hour in Seattle, so by the time I got in it was too late to get to the housing office to get the key to my apartment before it closed, so I used my handy-dandy portable wifi hotspot, which I decided to rent instead of going through the cell phone malarkey (more of that anon) to book a night at an airport hotel, breakfast included, for ¥10,000. It wasn't even the best deal I could have gotten, but it was pretty darn good, particularly since the exchange rate is now favorable to those of us getting paid in dollars, but it's so nice to have the resources to solve at least some problems with money.

On Friday morning I headed back to Komaba and got my apartment--it's so large! And by "large" I mean "25.2 m^2", but for one person, that is pretty ginormous, and it comes with all appliances, and I was able to rent bedding on the spot (it's quite overpriced, but I'd rather pay ¥18,000 for bedding for ten months than have to a) buy my own and then b) get rid of it frantically at the end of my stay. I'm willing to do a lot to avoid dealing with the trash laws in Japan). I think the building also has insulation, which is pretty amazing. There are trees outside my balcony and I have a direct view to Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Tower, which is basically all you can ask for in Tokyo. The building internet appears to be a joke for which they are charging ¥14,000 a month, but this is the other virtue of the wifi hotspot. Even with all that, my rent is less than $800 a month, which is just ridiculous.

Meanwhile it's autumn, and it's been four years since I've done autumn, and it's…going to take some readjustment. I love autumn, but autumn in Japan also makes me miss Kyoto. Part of the reason I miss Kyoto right now, I admit, is because I know where everything is after having lived there for more than a year, whereas I need to go on a quest to find a grocery store nearby as soon as Kuroneko delivers my other two suitcases this afternoon. This too shall pass, but I do want to get back to Kyoto as soon as possible.

I'm already worried about making a schedule to get work done, which I think is good; I'm going to Australia in a week and a half, however, which means that I'm just going to focus on administrative stuff for the next week rather than trying to frantically do too much. Australia should give me a good chance to focus on my dissertation and be re-energized for it, which is also good. In the meantime, I get to unpack MORE suitcases! Too bad there aren't any shelves in the closet…
starlady: Holmes and Watson walking around New York (springtime in new york)
The day after I got in to D.C., I actually went back to the National Gallery to see the Degas & Cassat and Wyeth exhibitions before they closed again, because I liked them so much. I also popped in to see Van Gogh's wheat fields again--still enchanting--and spent some time alone with the North American Da Vinci. You can't do that with the Mona Lisa, IJS.

A few days later I went to the National Zoo, which is also part of the Smithsonian and thus also free, for the first time, and probably the first time in 15 or 20 years that I've been to a zoo. I'm not a big fan of zoos for a lot of reasons, and on the heels of the WWF report that wildlife worldwide has declined by 52% since 1970, it was particularly depressing, although the zoo is quite nice, if showing its age in parts. We wandered around the bird house, and the birds certainly noticed my purple fedora--the red fan parrot fanned his feathers at us as we left, and the macaws bounced up and down on their rope when I bobbed my head up and down. I'm not sure if it scared them or if they liked it. There were eclectus parrots in the central "fly free" portion, too, but they were in their nest box and making quite a lot of noise! Outside there were bustards (!) and I took some pictures of the aggressive cranes and their signs. Sadly the cassowary and the emu were nowhere to be seen, but given that it's literally a five minute walk from my friend's house, I'm sure I'll be back. We also saw the anteaters! I had just packed up my copy of Aunt Eater Loves a Mystery, so I was especially happy about that. We also saw the lion and tiger cubs, and all in all, had a great time.

My last full day in D.C. I flipped a mental coin and headed for Natural History instead of Air & Space, which…was kind of not really that great a decision. Natural History is small, and to be quite frank, most if not all of its galleries could use some serious freshening up; I haven't been there in about 15 years, which is as recent as their newest displays. I think some of the rocks displays might have been slightly newer. I do like rocks, so I paid pretty close attention in that section. It was also quite crowded, which I guess I should have expected; I skipped the dinosaurs, much as I love them, because Tuesday is free butterfly day and so I got a free ticket to go wander around in the butterfly enclosure. There were a lot of butterflies, and since I was wearing my customary bright colors, quite a few of them also landed on me. It was fun, and at the end I wandered into an exhibition of photos celebrating 50 years of the Wilderness Act, all of which were lovely. Not everything is lost, but after I left the museum I actually crossed back through it to Constitution Avenue and went through a small gallery of North American birds that have gone extinct during the history of the Republic, including the passenger pigeon and the Carolina parakeet. Birdies. Not everything is lost, but many things are, and more will be. 
starlady: Twitter quote: @magneto "come home" (my offer still stands)
I'm in Istanbul this week and so far I've been having a very good time. Based on my experiences in Belgium, I was expecting to sleep a lot and not see that much, but so far I think we've actually done quite well--I've seen the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern, the Archaeological Museum, the Topkapi Palace, and the Chora Museum, the latter of which was particularly fantastic. I'm staying with a friend on the Asia side, so we've been taking the ferry back and forth every day (she doesn't trust the Marmaray line) and it's been pretty grand all in all. I will definitely be back, and in the meantime, it's been kind of wild wandering around a city about which I've only read so far. This is what being in Rome was like when I first went there, except I don't have a map of Constantinopolis in my head the way I do Rome.* There's a lot more porphyry floating around than I would have expected from its rarity in the Western Empire--there's a joke there somewhere about πορφυρογενητος, but let it be. Tomorrow we're going to Taksim and the Galata Tower. Istanbul reminds me a little bit of Cuzco in that the jointures between civilizations are so blatantly displayed. It's all quite fascinating. And the food is good.

*Sort of. Long explanation redacted.
starlady: a barcode with my DW username & user ID (barcode)
Hello again from London. I went to Belgium in the interval of my last entry and it was grand, not least because Belgium is beautiful but also because I slept a lot. And now I am back in another, slightly nicer hotel (we have leveled up to a hair dryer being included in the room!) and am at Loncon. It's pretty great so far, mostly because of the awesome people I've hung out with including [personal profile] littlebutfierce[personal profile] qian, and [personal profile] such_heights, whose vidshow today was quite awesome. [personal profile] seekingferret made an interesting comment about lim's Marvel vid, namely that it lost some of its force up on the big screen, which I think is related to the fact that she managed to make it very comic book-y, very animated, and that some of its energy comes from the compression of motion on the smaller screen, so that the energy spills out into us.

And thanks to [personal profile] liv for organizing the Dreamwidth meetup yesterday, at which I met many lovely people including [personal profile] kaberett. *waves*
starlady: Holmes and Watson walking around New York (springtime in new york)
I'm in London for the first of three mini-jaunts for various things from now until 28 August. [personal profile] unjapanologist and I have been having a good time so far! Yesterday afternoon after I got off the Tube from Heathrow we went to St. Paul's and saw the poppies at the Tower (I'm not sure if you've heard about this, world, but this year is the centennial of the start of WW1) and crossed the Millennium Bridge (me: "It's the bridge the Death Eaters wreck in HP6!" Her: "Let's go!"), observed the flocks of bankers in their natural habitat, i.e. out on the street outside anywhere labeled "pub," "bar," or "tavern" from 17:00, ate a late lunch in a graveyard, and found dinner in the City, which is more work than one might think. I've never spent so much time in the east part of central London before (and the last time I was in London proper it was 14 years ago), and it's quite different from the western part, i.e. full of banks and business-type places. There are a lot more healthful chain food places and a lot more bicyclists than when I was last here, for sure. And some of the healthful food chain places have FLAT WHITES.

Still the same: the tear-jerking dollars/pounds exchange rate, though it's apparently actually slightly improved relative to when I was here in August 2000. Well, that's a nice change.
starlady: Holmes and Watson walking around New York (springtime in new york)
Yes, where the sun is hot, the humidity is nil, and the elevation is…considerable. Very inland. Much empire. It's weird here in ways that I can't describe--like, it really is not dense population wise, and it's so spread out. It's like New Jersey, maybe, if you stretched New Jersey out like…something that stretches. Also, so many palm trees.

I've been lucky, though, in that I've been meeting up with people I haven't seen in a while while I'm here, and that the traffic has thus far failed to be horrendous. And I'm leaving on Saturday afternoon for Japan, which is exciting.

So, it's looking like I'm going to be in London from 24-27 August. Does anyone have crash space? I can provide Turkish delight! Failing that, does anyone want to meet up during that time frame? I will be at WorldCon and NineWorlds, but the latter only sporadically. 
starlady: The Welcome to Night Vale Logo, with clouds over the moon (welcome to night vale)
I tried to write this last night, and then I fell asleep at 10:30 with the lights on. 

I went to DC for Con.Txt and to see some people last week, and it was a lot of fun. I hadn't been back to the National Gallery of Art in about fifteen years, so last Thursday I headed down that way. It turns out that there are some pretty good exhibitions on right now! The first one, Degas and Cassat, was really good--apparently the artists were friends for more than 40 years, and worked together very closely for 10. I've never seen so many of Mary Cassat's works in one place, and the exhibition also put Degas in a new perspective. 

There was also an Andrew Wyeth retrospective focused around his paintings of windows--many of the paintings are hung next to their preliminary studies, so you can see the process of abstraction he went through in all his works. I'd never really considered Andrew Wyeth before, but I really liked his stuff from what I saw. It was also kind of a kick to be able to recognize, despite the abstraction, the countryside of Pennsylvania in many of his works. 

There was also an impromptu Van Gogh exhibition--the museum has recently acquired two new Van Goghs, and has the loan of one of his portraits of the postmaster from Rotterdam, and as far as I'm concerned the painting of the wheat fields should be understood as the daytime counterpart to Starry Night. It's easily now my second-favorite Van Gogh after that one, and it repays standing and staring at it from multiple angles. It's--enchanting. And the National Gallery owns not one but four Vermeers, which I'd totally forgotten about since I hadn't been there in fifteen years. I'm definitely considering going back again when I'm there in October. 

I also went to the Folger Shakespeare Library, which was cool, though sadly their board was meeting in the Founders' Room, with the result that we couldn't see the whole thing. My friend M and I also went to the National Geographic Society After Dark, which was cool--they have an exhibition of Peruvian artifacts on display right now, and the gold headdress that's one of the standouts is actually a piece I had seen a replica of at its home museum in Lima in April, so it was doubly cool to get to see the real thing in person. I also had gelato at Dolcezza twice and it may well be the second-best gelato I've had in North America. 
starlady: Mako's face in the jaeger, in profile (mako mori is awesome)
As I've told many people, in the end I had a fantastic time in Peru. The conference was good, my fellow attendees quite cool, and Machu Picchu and Cuzco fantastic. The altitude was definitely an adjustment, but I'm definitely in better physical condition than the last time I climbed that high (Mt. Fuji, in 2008), and I only wish I could have stayed longer. Cuzco in particular was fascinating--the Spaniards simply built all their major colonial structures on Inca foundations, and so it's still possible to see, in everything from the city to the food to the figures worshipped in the churches to the people themselves, how a hybrid culture was created. It's still possible to imagine a world in which a new empire emerged from the crucible of the old, still possible to imagine a new world being born. Someone should write that fantasy novel; not me, for obvious reasons.

I was frankly nervous about spending 12 hours in Lima by myself on my last day, but I was equally certain that I wasn't going to spend those 12 hours in the Lima airport, so I jumped in a taxi and threw myself into it. I wound up having quite a good time; between my absolutely crap Spanish, the guidebook, and the kindness of strangers, I had a very nice last day. One usually sits up front with the taxi drivers in Lima, and I wound up with one who had on a radio station that approximated my own taste in music reasonably well, and I had quite a good time as we zoomed around the city. It felt, frankly, empowering; for as much as I've traveled, I've not done as much of it solo, or in countries where I don't speak the language. As I waited for my last taxi a stray cat came up and made itself at home on my lap; the Lima strays are ridiculously friendly, but also cats just seem to like me these days more than they used to. Cats, man.

And then when I came back I read a post that has unfortunately since been deleted talking about how for women there often are no good choices--do you take a ride with a guy you don't know well? Do you not? There are potential consequences either way, and it's a calculus you're always making, filled with only poorly known variables. Nothing untoward happened to me in Peru; as much as the country often reminded me of Greece, Peru is clearly a much more functional country, and I experienced approximately 200% less sexual harassment there than in Greece. I wondered whether I had been foolish, concluded not; there's no real conclusion to this story. Just variables that are only ever more or less poorly known.
starlady: (bibliophile)
I'm in Chicago (well, at the moment, technically Oak Park) and it's been wonderful. I got here on Friday afternoon and I wandered around the downtown and just felt so happy. (I like Chicago in and of itself and haven't been back in eons, I've started watching due South and thus was having a lot of feels, and also I learned a decent bit about Chicago in American history last semester, so all in all, feels.) It's so nice to be living such a low-stress lifestyle! Like, what even. Who am I.

Not that I don't have a million things to do in a very short time frame when I get back to Berkeley, because I do, but it's been an excellent cap to my three week adventure. I'm currently in my friend K's lovely apartment--I haven't seen her in far too long, and we picked up just where we left off--and I had a lovely time at the wedding yesterday with friends old and new. If I met you at the wedding yesterday, fellow fan people, please say hi in the comments!

starlady: (run)
Well, we made it. I flew United for the first time in…eight years, and it wasn't actually as bad as I feared; the coffee is actually quite good. That said, we were still delayed an hour in San Francisco because of maintenance issues and then because of an inability to find a United crew to staff the spare United plane they found (where from, who knows; the previous plane and crew were Continental; reconciling seniority systems is the hardest part of airline mergers), with the result that I was running through Houston to make my connection to Lima. Considering that I got on the jetway of my arriving flight twenty minutes before our scheduled departure, and the flight to Lima was not in the same terminal, I felt pretty proud of that.

I'm in a hostel for the first time in…many years (I've been lucky enough to crash with friends, or to get travel grants to cover conference hotels), and it's weird. Fine, but weird. I slept about three hours, maybe, and I'm a little paranoid about my laptop and passport, though I have a private room. Lima seems nice so far, though admittedly we are in Miraflores, which is evidently a relatively ritzy part. I haven't seen much more of the city than walking from the hostel to the hotel to get the conference shuttle, which is what I did this morning.

Equally importantly, Pablo Neruda's "Canto XII from the Heights of Machu Picchu" came up in [community profile] poetry today, and it couldn't be more appropriate, given my travel plans.
starlady: (run)
I'm going to Peru for a week (Lima and Cuzco) very early on Wednesday morning. If anyone has tips of things to do, things to avoid, I'd greatly appreciate them.

I also have two specific questions: if you've been and if they're applicable, how did you handle carrying around/bringing your laptop, and how did you handle using your smartphone?
starlady: (run)
I had a really excellent day today! I have the loan of a friend's car for a few weeks, so me and some other friends headed down to Monterey to go to the Aquarium but more generally to get the fuck out of Berkeley. We had a lovely time! My friend E injured her back a few weeks ago, so we had to break the trip in San Jose; after some misdirections, we wound up at Barefoot Coffee in Los Gatos, which is now the only place I've seen a cafe Cubano for sale outside a Cuban restaurant. Thanks, espresso map

Less than ten miles south of Los Gatos we hit a bump, literally, in the form of a piece of debris that flew across the highway and went right under the front driver side tire. We pulled off the road at a handy country club literally half a mile down the highway and discovered that the tire was in fact flat; luckily, my friend had a spare in the trunk and, secondary to the horrible not-trip to Austria in January, my dad renewed our AAA membership and sent me my card in the mail, so we only lost about 40 minutes to calling AAA and waiting for them to come change the tire, which they did for free. It was a beautiful day to be hanging out on the side of the driveway to a country club, let me tell you.

When we finally got to Monterey we were starving, but thanks to Yelp we had pre-identified an absolutely delicious vegan Mexican restaurant, and after stuffing our faces, we went down to the aquarium. It was indeed really cool, although the price was not cheap, even with a student discount. But! There were many fish and OTTERS and PENGUINS and PUFFINS, and it was generally really fun and awesome, and I was well-satisfied. Monterey is beautifully located, and the sand dunes and the ocean were beautiful.

On the way back we drove up the bay and through the Santa Cruz mountains, then hit Liang's Village Cuisine for dinner. OM NOM SO DELICIOUS AND SO REASONABLY PRICED. And then, because it is practically next door, we hit Fantasia Coffee, albeit after a lot of wandering around semi-lost in the shopping center where it's located. But my friend E found a store selling some of the Chinese snacks she likes (she does Song Dynasty-era Chinese history), so even the wandering around wasn't a loss.

After I dropped people off at their domiciles in Berkeley I took the car and went driving aimlessly up in the hills--I went down Marin Rd. in lowest gear because it's just that steep, I doubled back up Grizzly Peak a few times, and then I wound up on Wildcat Canyon Road, up through the houses in Tilden, up Grizzly Peak again and to the Laurence Hall of Science parking lot to look at the view for a while before heading back down through the Botanical Gardens down to the Rim Way and past the stadium before back down into Berkeley proper. It was a beautiful night, the moon at first quarter and low in the sky over the bay, fog lying lightly over the city.

I could get used to this. Have I mentioned that I've been doing really well? I'm ridiculously, ridiculously busy with orals, but my mindset flipped about a month ago and now everything seems doable and mostly interesting and I'm generally in a very good mood. I just wish I could give some of my own recent good fortune and good mood to some of my friends who aren't doing so well.

Tomorrow I get to see about getting the tire repaired at the Toyota dealership, and on Monday I have to do a lot of paperwork and actual work and hopefully figure out why I still haven't been paid for one of last semester's gigs, but still: it was a good day, and a great adventure.
starlady: Orihime in Hueco Mundo: "damned to be one of us, girl" (damned)
Today we tried to send my sister on her way to Austria. I say tried because she's not leaving until Friday. More on that later.

We'd had grand plans of hitting the mall for a few last things before we left, but what with one thing and another we didn't leave the house until 26 minutes before we were supposed to meet our dad at his work so he and my sister could say goodbye. But Dad works in Satan country, aka Pennsylvania, and it turns out that there are TWO DIFFERENT OFFICE BUILDINGS WITH THE SAME ADDRESS there. So we were in the bumblefuck nowhere of the Tinicum wildlife refuge and then we had to burn rubber back in the opposite direction, so we didn't get there until about eight minutes before his meeting. He did that on the phone on the way to Rite-Aid so we could get tape for my sister. Then we went back to his work and then drove to a Wawa so we could get gas because the gas light was on and also food because we had no lunch. I had to pump my own gas in the freezing cold because PENNSYLVANIA, and then when I tried to turn the car on after we got a sandwich and a pretzel…nothing.

By this point it was ten minutes to three and my sister's flight was at 4:30, so I called my dad to come back and get her and take her to the airport. While we were waiting we inhaled our food, and I got bright yellow mustard on my blue coat. I was planning to get it dry-cleaned anyway, but. So my dad showed up and we transferred my sister and her stuff to his car and I sat in the car at the Wawa and called AmEx roadside assistance, who very helpfully showed up 25 minutes later. It was not in fact the battery, but rather the starter, which was solved after two firm taps with a metal mallet, for which I paid $45. I was driving back to the highway when I got a call from my sister, whose flight had been cancelled because of the cold weather and who was standing in the rebooking line. It took me three times around the airport to finally find the entrance to the short-term parking, and then when I finally got there, the ticket machine was broken, so I had to go to another one. My sister wound up in the line for almost two hours--apparently in Toronto, where she was supposed to transfer, it's too cold for the aircraft people to work outside, and the rumor was that the fuel was freezing in Philadelphia. We left the airport at ten after five with my sister on the first flight out, on Friday evening. Then we got to the Toyota dealership after the technicians had gone home and had to wait in the dealership lounge for our dad to come get us, since he wanted us to leave the car to get it serviced asap. And we didn't eat dinner until an hour later.

My flight, scheduled for 09:00 tomorrow, is still saying it's on time. We shall see.
starlady: Kirk surrounded by tribbles: "What the crap is going on here?"  (kirk)
My sister and I went up (out) to Portland this weekend to see Trek in the Park, which is concluding its five-year mission this summer with The Trouble with Tribbles.  We had a really good time! I have missed her. 

Of course we went to Powell's on Friday night, and I was proud of myself for exercising restraint (I still have books from my first trip to Powell's four years ago that I haven't read) and only buying one book. We saw Only God Forgives at the theater across the street, which was…interesting. The colors were beautiful, and the story was interesting too. My sister loved it, and though I was not as enthusiastic, it was still cool. 

On Saturday we went to the coast, specifically Astoria at the point of the state, where we saw the Goonies house, and heard seals in the harbor but did not see them, and then down to Cannon Beach, where One-Eyed Willy's treasure is, somewhere. It got sunny by the time we got there, and we walked on the beach to see the famous rock, which was cool. We also had the Oregon version of salt water taffy, which is just sad, and tried the sea salt chocolate caramel apples. Too much sea salt. We also found a coffee shop with very tasty Aztec Mochas, and had a chestnut cream/banana crepe. If there's one thing I've learned about shore towns the world over, it's that they're all fundamentally the same, and it was fun. We also finally got to Lemongrass, a Thai restaurant in a house, and it was delicious. We drove around the fancy houses in the west hills before winding up at a fancy cocktail bar downtown, because what else was there to do.

Yesterday we got up and went to Slappy Cakes, and it was delicious, as usual. (Think Benihana except you're cooking the food yourself and it's breakfast.) We had to eat at the bar because it was so busy, so we were not able to cook our own pancakes, but it was still delicious. We went to Extracto Coffee both days. Our consensus is that it is probably the best coffee in Portland. 

Then we went to Pencil Test, which is a bra shop Spike had heard about at Reed, and got fitted for bras. Bras that fit! What a miracle! It really is true that Victoria's Secret bras do not actually fit most women well. So now we know what sizes we are in various brands, and can begin the slow process of replacing our VS bras with ones that fit. 

It has become something of a tradition for us to drive out to The Bird Hut to see the birds, so we did that (Spikeo was making friends with a rose cockatoo, unsurprisingly; they were both pink) and then drove way the hell out to Cathedral Park in North Portland. We got there at two for a five o'clock show to get good seats, because as I said, I didn't come all this way to get bad seats. One of Spike's friends showed up at about quarter to three and we sat around and hang out and drank his homebrewed beer before the show started. 

Trek in the Park! It was so great. The cast was good, and we could hear decently well, and the costumes and effects and music were very well done. A very minor thing that I enjoyed a lot was that Admiral Fitzpatrick was played by a woman, and that one of the security officers was female too, although I was sad that the helmsman (who apparently has no lines in The Trouble with Tribbles) was played by a white dude. I thought that Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov were the best among the lead cast members, although Uhura was awesome too; she just has too few lines in general. Spock was also good, though it seems clear that Gerrold was writing specifically for Nimoy's very arch delivery style, which this guy didn't quite achieve. But the scene with the tribbles in the storage compartments was amazing and hilarious (they just kept falling on Kirk's head!), and it had been long enough that I'd forgotten the denouement with the Klingon spy at the end, and it was really great, and I got a very nice T-shirt to commemorate the whole thing afterward. Long live Trek. Go boldly. 

And finally last night after eating Japanese food and going back to Powell's we wound up at Ruby Jewel Scoops, which is very tasty artisan Portland ice cream. This morning we got up very early (especially considering that my flight has been delayed an hour) and went to the airport, and so a good time was had by all. 


starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)

March 2019



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