And having trouble getting home. My flight to Tucson is delayed by two hours, and I've tried three times to get it switched to a flight to Salt Lake, but United won't budge. Jerks. It was stupid in the first place to fly through Tucson. I did it because I thought I needed to fly from/to Tucson in order to get reimbursed, but I bet I don't need to do that.
Anyway, it's nice to be back, but I'm really looking forward to getting back home.
I'm in Shanghai for the week for an astronomy conference. I'm getting a bit tired of fried rice, fried noodles, fried vegetables, fried potatoes, fried cookies, fried shoes, etc. Seems like everything is fried (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even the showers).
My bag missed the flight to Shanghai and wasn't delivered to me until yesterday morning, so I had to wear the same clothes three days in a row.
There's a lot of pollution in the city and the stinky cars make the air smell not so great. This is in spite of the fact that many many people bike, and the bikers and bus riders far outnumber the car drivers.
As far as the conference goes, there have been about 20 15-20 minute talks every day so far, and it's just exhausting. Especially when combined with the fact that my body still hasn't adjusted to the time switch (I woke up at 6am the first day...). The talks end each day at 7pm, and the last session from 5:30-7 is usually a waste for me because I just can't pay attention.
Today we only have talks in the morning, then go off to a nearby village for some sight-seeing. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to see some things outside the city center. Then there's a dinner on a boat this evening. It should be good.
I've seen this pseudonym for John McCain around the internet for awhile now, but not until last night did I finally think he really deserved it after all of his lying attacks against Obama. It was predictable of course, since he is so far behind in the polls (see http://www.fivethirtyeight.com), but it was still sad and shameful to say the least.
I don't remember if I've posted this here before, but the country is going even further down the toilet than we already are if McCain wins. I mean, imagine if something happens to McCain and Sarah Palin becomes the president of the USA!! But that scenario doesn't even have to happen for us to remain boggged down in Iraq wasting billions of dollars a month doing nothing but providing incentive for terrorist organizations everywhere.
Thankfully, I don't think McCain will win. The American people have seen through the attacks and have recognized that the last eight years were awful, and that we need change.
One of Tiff's co-workers has a 10-month old dog that they can no longer keep at home for two reasons: 1) new jerkish neighbors called animal control the day they moved in when he barked continuously (supposedly) for 20 minutes. Evidently, one more call to animal control by the neighbors and the dog goes to the pound. 2) the kids haven't taken to the dog very much (he smells like a dog, they complain!).
The dog is a black or chocolate lab mixed with something else. I haven't met him yet, but Tiff describes him as tall, black, and lanky. His name is Sirius. I think he's secretly an Animagus. Anyway, it sounds like a really good situation for us, because the current owner has offered to take care of him any time we are out of town on trips and such. She doesn't want to give Sirius up, but she has no choice because of the neighbors and her kids.
We're still trying to sort out exactly how we feel. Do we have enough time and money to take care of him? Probably yes on both counts, but are we ready to commit that much of our time to him? Hard to say. I think we'll at least take him for a weekend (maybe this one, maybe the next) and see how it goes. I think we should also have him for a full week too, since part of the deal will be seeing how we can work our schedules so that he isn't home alone too often.
I had a dream last night that Tiffany and I got to meet President Clinton somehow. He and I had a nice conversation where I asked him what he liked to do when he wasn't shaking hands and meeting with new people doing political stuff. I think he said he liked to run, but his lungs weren't as good as they used to be. Then I said, my lungs are pretty good, but they're nothing compared to Tiffany's. She's a real big-time runner, you know. I think that's all I can remember...
I went with Tiffany to the SUWA roundup, their annual get-together for all their members who want to show up for a weekend of camping, hiking, and pot-lucking. It was a cool event in a beautiful place (San Rafael Swells, south of I-70 and a bit west of Moab). We just got back a few hours ago and I posted pictures from Tiffany's camera tonight.
I think I had some other interesting things to say... Oh well. I'm not sure why I'm still awake, since it's almost 12:40am. Maybe I should go to bed....
It turns out that a visa is nothing more than a stamp on your passport! So the consulate kept my passport because they need to put a stamp on it! So I haven't lost it after all! Yeah!
I had been pretty stressed about it the past couple days. I even started looking at flights to LA to spend a day there before going to China, so I could apply for a new visa with my new passport. Wow.
In other news, as Jessica pointed out, CERN is about to start up the Large Hadronic Collider and end the universe. The thing I haven't been hearing people talk about, is how all the little black holes the LHC creates are going to run back to the center of our galaxy and wake up the (currently dormant!) super-massive black hole residing there. Naturally, it's going to be outraged at being awoken, so it's going to come hunting us down. And believe me, there's no escaping a super-massive black hole. Oh well, it's been nice knowing everyone.
Yesterday I spent six hours trying and failing to get a Chinese visa at the Consulate General of the PRC. I showed up at 12:30, right in the middle of the lunch break. Not wanting to wait a half-hour without any sign of a line, I walked around for a bit and talked to Tiff. Then I came back around 12:45, and all of a sudden a big line had formed. And then a huge throng of people all waving tickets in the air showed up and moved straight ahead of the line I was in. They opened the doors at 1 and started letting all the people with tickets in, and nobody had a clue what was going on.
Our line didn't move for a solid hour, which we eventually realized was because they had a hundred people left over from the morning session (9am-noon) that hadn't been served yet. I started to think things were looking bleak. Finally around 2pm I got inside the room and got my ticket, which was number 281. I looked up at the board and saw they were on... 200. Yikes, another hour to kill. I went outside and re-parked the car in another 2 hour spot, then made it back inside (now having a ticket I didn't have to wait in the outer line again, thank goodness).
The only decent thing about the entire disaster was I was able to use that time to read some Harry Potter. That made the hour inside pass a lot faster. So, around 3pm, I get my number called and walk up with all my papers. I hand them to the woman behind the window, and the first thing she says is, "This is red ink, you cannot use red ink." Me: There was zero indication that red ink was not acceptable. "Sucks for you, jackass! Go back and fill out the application in black ink, then come back to this window. Use this [cheap, easily replaceable] pen, but make sure to bring it back!"
So I go back and copy my application over in black ink, then go back to the window. But there's one person already at the window, and another person in line at the window who must have been like me and missed something on the application. So finally the first dude finishes, and then the next guy goes up. I kind of look over his shoulder and overhear the conversation, and it sounds like the guy is trying to do a study-abroad in China, but didn't buy a return ticket yet. After a few minutes of talking, the poor guy has to leave because they won't give him a visa.
So then I get up to the line, and once again hand over my papers. This time she looks them over and says, "This picture is unacceptable. It must be printed on photo paper, not ordinary paper." Me: But there was no indication on the form that photo paper was necessary! "Doesn't matter! Go to the information desk to get your photo taken." So I walk over to the information desk, where I wait in line behind a few other people. Then I finally get to talk to her, and she says, sure, I'll take your picture. Ten bucks please! Obviously I have no choice, so I fork over the cash.
Five minutes later, my shiny new, printed-on-photo-paper visa picture is in my hands. I walk back to the window and wait again behind someone, and then finally I hand everything over and miracle of miracles, there are no problems. She hands me the slip of paper and says, "Come back and pick it up on the 16th." I'm about to walk away until I realize, "hey wait, I want that thing mailed to me!" So I remind her that I want it mailed to me. And she's like, "Oh yes, right. In that case, you will need to pay the $130 in cash, in person, immediately." Fuck! I don't have that much cash on me! So that ends that!! No hope of getting the damn thing mailed to me. I'm totally, completely livid at this point, but there's nothing I can do. I grab the slip and walk away from the window, not having anything to do but pace around the stupid consulate general until they open the door (which they do every five minutes since it's after 3pm). What a horrible experience.
And now, oday, I discovered I don't have my passport. I had it right up till the very end, when the woman told me I would be able to have my visa mailed to me unless I paid in cash (this fact was NOT made clear on the website!!). Naturally, I did not have $130 on me, so I was left to walk out of there dumbfounded. After all the other crap I went through, I was completely livid. I don't remember picking up my passport, but I really thought I did. Then there was about a five minute wait to get out of the building, since it was after 3pm and they only opened the doors every five minutes or so. Then I walked straight to the car and got in. I didn't have anything in my hands, I remember, so I must have lost it before then. Maybe somebody pick-pocketed me in the five minutes before I left the building? It was only a block or so from the consulate general to my car, so it's hard to believe I could have lost it then. I was just so upset at the whole thing I wasn't thinking about anything.
I'm at home in SJ at my parents' house for the weekend. Yesterday was my Mom's birthday and Tiff's friend Katie's wedding up in Livermore. It was a nice reception (we unfortunately missed the wedding because it started 7 hours earlier than the reception and we wanted to spend some time in SJ with my Mom on her birthday), but we had a lot of wine and needed to spend a bit of time sobering up before heading back home, so we accepted an offer from someone to drive us over to their hotel room where we could hang out until we were ready to drive. The only problem was that their hotel was quite a ways from the wedding, and we didn't know where to go once we were ready to leave. Plus it was past midnight and we were already getting really tired. So we somehow ended up on 580 east until we got on I-5. We should have turned around immediately at that point, but I figured we could go south then east instead of east then south. Unfortunately, that's not the way it worked! I-5 goes more southeast than straight south, and there's no turnoff until you're as far south as Gilroy. About 2am we were still on I-5, and so we decided to pull off at a gas stop and take a nap for an hour or so. We woke up around 3am, still exhausted, and got back on the road. We ended up getting home around 4am. If we hadn't gotten lost we would have made it home at 1am instead of 4am. It was pretty crappy. But at least we survived.
And Serena Williams just won the US Open! Cool. It was a great match, and I'm glad I got to see the end of it.
Tiffany is probably at a layover in Las Vegas right now, on her way to SLC for work tomorrow morning. Hopefully she's winning lots of money at the slots. I'm heading to Tucson in a couple days to stay there for a week and work on observing proposals, then I finally get back to SLC on Sept. 18th.
Biking back from work there's this busy intersection where the cars fly by at 40 mph and don't have to stop. I made a stupid decision to try and cross when there was a brief break in the traffic, but I failed to check for traffic on the right (for the previous minute there had been nothing but a steady stream of traffic from the left). Naturally there's some old lady zooming down the road from the right who has to break really hard so she doesn't hit me. It wasn't actually THAT close, but her breaks sure did make a lot of noise. I decided I'm not crossing that intersection anymore. At least not at rush hour...
Tomorrow we are headed back to the bay area for a friend's wedding and my Mom's birthday. Should be a fun weekend!
Tiff is still working on protest stuff for SUWA, and it's 12:30am!! There's this crazy push from the Bush administration to force the BLM to open up practically all of their land to off-road-vehicle use and other really environmentally-unfriendly activities before Bush is outta there. So SUWA has to work like crazy to protect the Utah wilderness. Gotta fight the good fight!
Jay arrived yesterday afternoon after driving from Colorado Springs. With the threat of thunderstorms in the next couple days, we decided to do a bike ride right after he got here. It ended up being a nice ride through the university and up into the mountains for a little bit. We biked for about 2 and a half hours and got some really nice views along the way.
So far the weather today has been pretty good, so maybe we'll actually get to go on a ride today as well.
Yesterday we went to the farmer's market and got some awesome fresh produce. I especially liked the tomatoes, which are so good you can eat them like any other fruit without anything else!
All the walls are painted. There's still the ceiling, and it turns out the shelf thing in the basement is nailed in and won't come out, so we probably won't be painting that. I doubt we'll do the ceiling either. Who knows...
I just uploaded a ton of pictures, since tonight is the first night I've brought my laptop home in a week or two. The last set is our hike last weekend, which has a bunch of good ones.
We made apricot leather tonight, which is basically just mashing up apricots, cooking them for awhile, putting it through the blender, and then drying it out, either in the oven or outside. We're going to let it dry out tomorrow outside, and then we'll see how it tastes!
I finally submitted my paper today. It was good to finally get it done, although it dragged on for so long that there's a bunch of stuff I need to catch up on. For tonight though, we celebrate!
I made some pita bread tonight. It smells good! Can't wait to try it for lunch tomorrow with the walnut-feta pate. Ain't that moosewood cookbook great?
We went on a great hike in Little Cottonwood canyon on Sunday. It was about 8 miles or so with a lake along the way. We were trying to get to the top, but the trail wasn't clear and we lost our way. Tiffany took some pictures on her camera, and I'm hoping to get them uploaded this week
Tiffany also did some painting in our upstairs bathroom tonight, finishing it off with a stripe of purple along the top. It looks really fantastic. There's a shelving unit down in the extra basement room that we think might go well in the bathroom, and that would pretty much finish that room off! Then there's the downstairs bathroom, then the ceiling in the upstairs hallway, and I think that's it for the house.
Let's seee.... It's still hot, up to almost a hundred today. Yikes! But it's supposed to drop down to 87 tomorrow, which should be quite nice. Fall is coming!
Tiffany made a wonderful apricot pie using the apricots in our backyard, with the recipe from my Dad. She even made the crust herself! It turned out great, as I said, and didn't last more than three days with just the two of us devouring it.
I've started working at my little cubicle at the university of utah. So far I haven't met anyone in the department other than the administrative people and the chair. And the table and lamp, etc. Har har har. Anyway, actually my cubicle is rather big. Enough space for two people for sure, so we'll see if they stick anyone else in the cubicle with me.
I signed up for fall league tonight. Hopefully it will be better than summer league, which was pretty crappy. At least these games will be right by the university instead of 10 miles south of it. I don't know why, but almost none of the really good players play in league. It's very different from Tucson.
We got a piano a few days ago. It fits in perfectly in our front room and Tiffany is enjoying it right now as I type this. It hasn't been tuned yet (and wasn't tuned for the past three years or something like that), so it still sounds a bit rough, but once it's tuned it will be fantastic.
I started doing some minor yoga stuff the past couple of days to improve my flexibility. We'll see if I stick with it.
Take for example raspberry. Raspberry is really good friends with chocolate, and chocolate is really good friends with raspberry. But chocolate is also good friends with peanut butter. Peanut butter and raspberry don't really get along that well though. Ok sure, you can have raspberry jam on a PB & J sandwich. But raspberry ice cream with chocolate/peanut butter ice cream? Forget it!!
Aren't you glad you waited for that? What an amazing post!
at least we have a place!!! We found a really cute place that will have plenty of room for George Washington Disaster to sleep the night before/after falling leaffing it down the mountains of Salt Lake City.
I'll post pictures when I can, but for now Tiffany and I are travelling round the southwest. We left Friday evening (after signing the lease Thursday night) for San Diego. That's where we are right now, in the airport. One of my friends from high school got married at a brewery (a good idea, for those of you thinking about where to hold your next wedding ceremony) in SD, and so here we are.
Next we fly to Tucson to pack and clean up our old house. Then tomorrow night Tiff flies back to SLC for work, and I hang around for another week to work and finish packing. Then I get to drive by myself (unless I can find a volunteer to go with me! any takers?) up to SLC, where hopefully our new landlord and his friends will help me unload. Then we can start painting! With the help of Jeffra, who will be arriving on August 5th. Yep Jeffra, aren't you lucky!!
We're still at the same hostel, and we're still madly searching for housing. Although we just got back from a two day road trip to the western desert of Utah, to check out a number of wilderness areas that Tiffany will be protecting (Protector of the Wilderness!!).
We're going to check out a triplex for the second time today. It has ugly carpet and a not-so-good floor plan (it's a four bedroom designed for college students, so each room is fairly small and isolated), plus there was kind of a weird smell the last time we were there. BUT, every room has several windows, and there's a cute attic with a couple of rooms where we could put a guest bed and some office stuff. The carpet will supposedly get cleaned before we move in (or possibly replaced, but if we're getting a dog it might be better if we didn't have to worry about a brand new carpet). There is space to grow a garden or three, which is nice. We'd have the front yard while the other two units have the backyard. The other two tenants are below us, so we probably wouldn't ever hear them, but nonetheless there was a weird, not very agreeable smell that would be a deal-breaker if it was still there when we check it out again today. If this place doesn't work out, we'll try to find a month-month place for August.
Tiff and I are set up in a hostel in SLC. We got here Saturday night and have spent just about every free moment searching for a place to live on a more permanent basis, but so far we haven't found anything quite right. We've found a bunch of places that are too big and expensive and a bunch of places that are too small. There was one close call two nights ago, but it had a major drawback: the bathroom was tiny, in lousy shape, and every time I walked in I would have to duck down about a foot or so just to get through the doorway. Also, the kitchen had no cabinets. But the outside was nice, it was in a great location, the living room had wood flooring (although it was painted brown...) and the landlord seemed like a good guy. Alas, the bathroom was pretty much a dealbreaker.
Tiff's in Moab today for "orientation." I'm checking another place out at noon, then we have a couple appointments for Saturday. Hopefully we'll find a place soon. I'd rather not stay in the hostel for another week.
Back when I was a youngster and my family would watch Star Trek: TNG every night, it was always tough at the end of the season when they would do the cliffhanger episode that ended the season with "To Be Continued". Then when the next season started, they would start the first episode with "And now, the conclusion". Unless it was one of those three part episodes, in which case they'd say "And now, the continuation." And you'd be like, damn, I had to wait all this time for the end of the cliffhanger, and it's still not going to be over after all that?!? Well don't you worry, there will be no continuation here, only conclusions.
Apparently, from the last post, I indicated that we spent night 9 in "some nice hotel along the way to Barcelona". My memory is a bit fuzzy, but I think that puts us at June 18, the day we were supposed to arrive in Barcelona. And what an ARRIVAL it was!!! But before we get to that, there was some climb in very southern France that we considered doing before deciding we were all tired and it'd be best to go straight to Barcelona. So just keep that tidbit in the back of your mind as you read about.... THE ARRIVAL IN BARCELONA!!
Here's the setup: I'm in the passenger seat of the minivan with Jay driving and the bikes in back. We're leading the way, since I have the maps and the GPS unit. I repeat, I have the GPS unit, so we're navigating. Meanwhile, Nelson is driving the BMW SUV behind us, with Jayme, Tiff, and Mary all riding with him and the rest of our luggage. Did I mention that I had a GPS?
So the GPS tells us how to get to the hotel we're looking for: Arc de la Rambla, in the heart of oldtown Barcelona. Sounds quaint and quiet, don't it? Ho ho ho.... Anyway, we're heading Southeast on C-16/E-9 and everything is going fine. Then all of a sudden we cross B-20, we're about 4 miles from our destination, and the population density quintuples and quintuples again in a matter of a minute. I'm staring at the GPS trying to figure out which street we should be turning on, but there's a new street every 50 meters, and it's really frickin' hard. Somehow we ended up on Avinguda Diagonal (thank you google maps, where the hell were you when we were driving!) and that's when the shit really hit the fan.
The GPS is telling us to turn right on Carrer de Balmes, but the right lane (on a huge, busy street teeming with every conceivable mode of transportation) is advertised as for taxis and busses only. But, we're stupid Americans, so we ignore all the signs and barge right into the lane, preparing to make a right turn. But we get stuck at the light, right before we turn. And then some dude on his bycicle comes up to our car and is like "No puedes something something en la calle a la derecha!! I know enough to know that means "You can't something something to the street on the right", and being the next Sherlock Holmes, I put two and two together and figure he means, don't turn right here, idiots. So we decide to skip the right turn, but tremendous traffic (did I mention it was rush hour!!!!) made it impossible for us to merge to the left. Meanwhile, Nelson was unable or unwilling to merge into the taxi/bus lane, so he had to speed ahead of us (that's right, ahead of the car that was navigating!) when the light turned green. Like I said, we couldn't merge, so eventually we decided to just go for it in the taxi/bus lane, traffic laws be damned.
Things were totally hysterical at this point. We couldn't even see Nelson's car anymore, and to make matters worse, another, almost identical BMW SUV showed up a little bit behind them, confusing us even more. We stayed in the taxi/bus lane for probably a mile, with the GPS continually screaming at us to make a right turn, then recalculating the route when we missed it. At one point, it told us to make a U-turn to the right, directly in the face of oncoming traffic. Whee! I don't even remember when we finally managed to turn right, nor do I remember how we caught up and passed Nelson's car (that was a real miracle), but somehow we made it and didn't hit/kill anyone/anything.
And that's only the first half of our ARRIVAL story. Now for part two.
So we arrive at L'Arc de la Rambla hotel, and it's nice and fine and everything. But we reserved two hotels online, one a bit cheaper than the other but is within walking distance (only 0.5 km). We figured it was cheaper because it didn't have internet access. HAHAHA. Excuse me, forget that for the moment. Anyway, after checking at L'Arc, we walked over to the second hotel, Hotel Barbara. It was a nice walk through old alleyways in a diverse neighborhood, although we kind of noticed a slight change in the apparent economic status. And then we saw the hotel sign. And then we saw a bunch of scantily clad women standing on street corners (more than a few of whom looked more like men, if you catch my drift). And then we realized why it was cheaper. We probably could have gotten an even cheaper rate if we asked for the "half-hour" pricing. It was really quite funny, although if we had done the bike ride earlier, we wouldn't have arrived until after sunset, and then it would have been much much less funny.
So we high-tailed it back to the original hotel and hoped that they would have two rooms available. Thankfully for us, we did. It ended up being good, because both Nelson and I (as well as Jay) needed to use the internet. And that was our introduction to Barcelona. Our ARRIVAL, if you will.
The next day we spent walking around Barcelona, checking out the beach (Tiff and Nelson went in for a swim), then this huge cathedral that's been under construction for hundreds of years and isn't scheduled for completion until another 20-30 years or so. That amounted to about six miles of walking, so everyone but me and Tiff took the metro back to the hotel, while we walked. It took about an hour (another three miles) to get to our hotel, but it was a nice walk. The area of town we were in was really nice, so long as you didn't go too far to the west (i.e. near Hotel Barbara!).
I had a plane to catch at 8:30am at the Barcelona airport, so naturally we went to bed early and... er, wait, no, we didn't go to bed early. After we ate dinner, me, Tiff, and Jayme and Nelson walked down to the beach for a little night swimming. It was a log of fun and there were far fewer people. Plus the moon was out, so it was really cool. Oh yeah, and they groomed the sand (wtf!!) for some bizarro reason.
After packing everything up, I didn't get to bed until 3am or so, and then had to wake up at 6am to catch my taxi to the airport. Things in the Barcelona airport went fairly smoothly, except when I walked up to the check-in counter and confidently said "Buenos dias!", and then the women responded and said something in Spanish I couldn't understand (oops). But other than that, everything seemed fine, at the time (queue ominous music).
After a two hour flight to Dusseldorf (yes, Dusseldorf), Germany, I arrived in a land where I really didn't know the language or anyone at all. But, thankfully, many Germans speak English (the reverse is not true, sadly -- stupid Americans). I had about 1.5 hours to get checked in for my flight to LAX. At first, I almost walked straight out of the airport, but suddenly saw a path on the ground for "Connecting flights", which I followed after talking to someone about where to go to reach my connecting flight. But I had a funny feeling about my checked bag, so I asked a woman behind a ticket desk at the Air Berlin counter what the deal would be. After looking at my baggage claim ticket, she realized that my bag was going to stop in Dusseldorf, since I didn't show the woman in Barcelona the documents saying I was ultimately ending up in LAX.
I still had an hour at this point, so I wasn't too worried. She told me to contact lost and found and ask them for help. Trouble was, I didn't know how to contact lost and found. The woman I asked gave me directions, but I assumed I was to look for a lost and found office, instead of a little buzzer and intercom to get their attention. So I set off for a fun trip around the Dusseldorf airport that had me leave the airport building at one point, go up floors, then down floors, and basically all over the place to the extent that I really started panicking. I finally found it with about a half hour to check in, and the people were really nice and explained they were wondering whose bag it was, since no one picked it up off the mat. Then I hustled over to the check-in counter, almost left my passport at a counter in front of the check-in counter (but fortunately I still had to present it for check-in, so I never went far away from it). Finally I arrived at the gate and bought a tiny bottle of Jack Daniels to celebrate surviving Dusseldorf.
The flight to LAX was cool because I sat next to this 14 year old kid that grew up in England, the Philippines, Thailand, and finally Los Angeles since a year ago. And he was fluent in German. Pretty cool. We had a good time making fun of each other for most of the trip and it made it seem a lot shorter than 11 hours.
And that's it for Europe (for me anyway -- Tiff and her family are still in Europe doing a bit more biking in France)!
Time for an offline blog entry! It's 9am on the morning of the 18th of June. I'm sitting in a hotel room in Southern France somewhere, and we have to make it to Barcelona tonight, so we have about 3-4 hours of driving to do today, but probably (although who knows with this crowd!) no biking.
My last entry was quite awhile ago. Let's see... Was it the first hotel we stayed at in France? The one in St. Jean de Luz?
Day/Night 1: British Airways (June 9)
Day 2: Phantom of the Opera
Night 2: Sofitel at Gatwick airport in London
Day 2: Arriving in Bordeaux, getting the bikes, driving to St. Jean de Luz, avoiding striking truckers, and biking 38 miles to St. Jean Pierre de Pied or something like that
Night 3: St. Pied or whatever
Day 4: Jay and Tiff bike to Oloron (50 miles!), while the rest of us drive there to find a hotel and a bike shop
Day 5: First climb (Col du Marie Blanc)
Night 5: Can't remember where we stayed (need a map!!)
Day 6: 7 hour hike straight uphill; trail went through a tunnel filled with water that was thankfully closed; ate at a bowling alley
Night 6: same as last night
Day 7: Second climb (col du Tourmalet); wet and cold at the top, but a great little restaurant with some awesome french onion soup
Night 7: stayed at a little hotel on the way to the next spot and had amazing food from a little magician (Father's Day)
Day 8: Off day from the bikes, we decide to head south into Spain in hopes of better weather, but it's actually worse through the tunnel; we go for a one hour walk along a road in a beautiful canyon; I say "Donde estamos?" to some dude working at a gas station
Night 8: Stay at a 3-star hotel back in France with wireless internet and talk to Jeffra with Tiff, Jayme, and Nelson on the webcam
Day 9: Third climb (Col de Mente plus another one before it); Tiff and Jay say it's the toughest one, but I thought the toughest was the first one; my legs feel like lead after doing it!
Night 9: some nice hotel along the way to Barcelona
Day 10: end of this blog post, but not getting you all the way up to date. More later!!
Tiff is currently sleeping (which she darn well should, since she biked over 50 miles yesterday and almost 40 the day before that!), but I haven't been able to, so I got up a bit early to write a blog post. I just uploaded some pictures from London. The Phantom of the Opera was great, even though we were all really tired since most of us didn't sleep very well on the flight over the Atlantic. After the show was over, we hiked about two miles or so (with all of our luggage, since we didn't have time to get to our hotel before the play started), until we got to the train that took us to the hotel at the Gatwick airport. We got to bed around midnight or something, then had to wake up at 6:30am to catch our 7:55am flight to Bordeaux, France.
In Bordeaux, we spent a couple hours trying to find the DHL place and unpack our bikes, then we drove for another couple hours to St. Jean de Luz, where we started our crazy bike race. It was a 38 mile trek that was mostly flat, but my bike and Tiffany's both were not in good shape, since it had been a long time since we cleaned them and they got jostled around a bit from shipping. So we arrived in St. Jean Pierre de Piet, or something like that, after about 2:30 of travel time. We met up with Mary, Jayme, and Nelson at the hotel, where the people were very nice and let us keep our bikes in the basement. We made it just in time for our dinner at 8pm (although fairly exhausted).
After the quite nice dinner (I had duck and probably the best roasted potatoes I've ever had), Tiff, Jayme, Nelson, and I went for a walk in the town, up to a creepy fort where there were ghosts, goblins, and other such things. It was also pouring rain, so we got soaked. But definitely worth it. Then we headed back to the hotel around midnight, and woke up at 11am the next morning. Neither Tiff nor I were quite ready to wake up, but that's the way it goes! We spent a few hours eating breakfast, looking at the maps, and trying to fix my bike, but ultimately I decided I shouldn't ride it the way it was. So I got in the car with Nelson, and Jayme and Mary got in the other car and we drove to Oloron. Tiff and Jay got on their bikes and also took off in that direction. Fortunately, once we got to Oloron (a 50 mile trip), we found a bike shop and a hotel to stay at fairly quickly. Also, the bike shop mechanic was an incredibly nice guy who did a really good job fixing up my bike. Sadly, the main hotel person was a jerk who didn't like us very much, but that's the way it goes sometimes. I think we've got another fairly long ride today, but hopefully not too long, because my legs aren't that strong and Tiff's knee is acting up. Also, there's an enormous smell of chocolate pervading this town that we should really try to find, but don't know if we'll have time.
That's pretty much everything so far. I'll check back in later, hopefully. (See the pictures!)
Here we are in our hotel where I just got internet access for my laptop. We also just got Mary's phone working. I biked for one day, Tiff and Jay for two days. It's been full, although there hasn't exactly been much of a break yet.
I'm hanging out in the Denver airport with Tiff and her parents. I'm eating a pretty good sandwich I made at Mary's house right now. It had turkey meat, tomato basil bread, provolone cheese, and cherry tomatoes cut in half. That last bit about the tomatoes is actually kind of important, because one of them had a will to be free, and went flying from my lap, deflected off my right pant lag, and landed face up on the ground. The seeds and juice decided they were happy on my pants, though, and declined they continuing trip down to ground level. I tried to pick the seeds off, but the juice wasn't going anywhere. Thankfully, Mary had her Tide To Go (TM) and we got rid of most of the juice. Hopefully Her Majesty's Theatre will accept my slightly red pants.
Speaking of the theatre, we'll be leaving from DIA at 8:15pm and arriving the next day at 12:15pm London time. Then we have a bit less than seven hours to get to Her Majesty's Theatre to watch a showing of Phantom of the Opera. It should be a good show, but the people behind me may have a hard time seeing around my backpacking backpack, since there won't be time for us to get to the hotel and then get back to the theatre. Should be interesting!!
Once we arrive at the hotel after the show, we have to wake up early for a 7:45am (or 8:45am, too early whichever it is, according to Mary who's currently sitting across from me in the airport) flight to Bordeaux, France. Then we pick up the bikes and go for 38 miles uphill all the way. In the rain, most likely. Should be very interesting!!!!
Ta ta for now. Hopefully I'll be able to keep up the posting throughout the trip.
The problem with Tucson in the warm season (in Tucson, it is either warm or it isn't warm; there's no spring, summer, fall, or winter) isn't the heat, or the dryness. It's the god damn mosquitoes. I just got at least three bites around my ankles in the past 15 minutes or so. And I just killed one of the little pricks. Ohhhh I hate mosquitoes. Salt Lake City better not have very many mosquitoes.
It was very difficult to tone down the language in this post.
We found the male cardinal on our porch this afternoon. He probably hit a window. It's incredibly sad. Tiffany says she had just seen him feeding the female cardinal the other day. We buried him next to the tree that the cardinal feeder hangs on. It was really really sad. I'm so sorry.
Nelson, Jayme, and Mary are here in Tucson visiting us this week. Nelson has been educating us on various movie quotes that Tiff and I are woefully uninformed about.
I just signed up for Delta Skymiles, which ought to be useful after we move to SLC. Tomorrow morning someone is coming to replace the windshield on my car.
I'm captaining a frisbee league team this season, and so far it's going great except that we didn't have any beer last week. Shameful.
Tiffany had a nice treasure hunt the day of her birthday, and then had a little party the following Saturday night that was a lot of fun.
Last weekend I was in SJ with my family for Easter, which was great. They've done a lot of work fixing up the house and and it's looking very nice. Not only that, but Jeffra bought a new car! I was there at the Mazda dealership most of the day when she bought it (a Mazda 5) and I think it's a great car that she's very happy with and got a good deal on. Yeah Jeffra!
The weekend before that Tiff and I went on a backpacking trip with a few other people in the Chiricahua's National Monument. It was a good trip, but next time I think we might try to go a little further away from civilization. Tiffany is really looking forward to the opportunity to get mauled by a pack of enraged mountain lions on our next backpacking trip. Me too. On the plus side, our MSR nuclear fission reactor works like a charm. After splitting the atom, it was able to heat the water to boiling within something like 2 minutes. Nice!
We had the Men's Competitive League finals tonight, and our team was playing against the other team that made it to finals (as you might expect, given that we both won our semi-final games, which occurred last Wednesday while I was in Pasadena). Now, going into the game, I thought we had a decent chance against them, because we beat them the first time we played them. On the other hand, the second time we played them they crushed us, so I also thought they could beat us.
We started out on D and got a turnover, then scored the first point of the game. They scored the next two points, with us throwing a scoring opportunity away (literally) when an errant hammer toss floated westward out of bounds. We got it together with a nice huck deep to tie the score at twos. And then they reeled off three points in a row before we knew what hit us. It was around this time that the two best players on their team started to take the game over. They basically play at a different speed than all the other players on the field. If I were Nopey, I might call them "3-sigma" ultimate players. We hung in there though and got the next point to make it 5-3. But then they got two quick, easy points (largely thanks to the efforts of the 3-sigmas) to make it 7-3. The game had all the makings of a blowout.
It just irritated me that these two guys were totally dominating the game. I thought, shouldn't we be doing everything we can to stop these two guys, and make the rest of their team pick up the slack? We had tried a little zone defense, but it hadn't been very effective. I decided that it might time for a "modified" zone D, one where we have a normal three man cup, a deep-deep, a short-deep, and two guys who shadow their best players. The truth is that no-one on our team could come close to covering their best two players one on one, but if you have help deep AND help short, then your job becomes a lot easier.
Somehow we scored the next point (7-4 now) and after a brief discussion, decided to implement the game plan. After all, we HAD to do something. And then a beautiful thing happened... We scored the next five points and took half 9-7!! I was stunned. I had no idea it would be so effective. The first point we tried it, they weren't expecting it, so things were a bit chaotic on their side, and we capitalized for a quick score. They adjusted fairly quickly, trying a different strategy on the next few points. They figured they could send their two superstars deep, thereby making it a 5 on 4 in the shorter field and theoretically giving them an edge. Unfortunately for them, it didn't work too well. I'm not too sure why, exactly. I think our whole team kept gaining confidence with each point, and we just picked up the energy on D. We also played smarter on O, although it helped that we had a number of easy throws in transition.
Things kept going our way in the second half. We scored the first point after half (which was big because we were receiving). Then I'm pretty sure we got another D and score right after that. Finally they put one on the board, ending a streak of eight straight points for us. I was worried we'd lose momentum, but we kept going strong. Soft cap was called with the score 14-10. We got the next point (huge), but they got the next two and it looked like a comeback might be possible. But we shut them down and got the game-ending score to win 16-12.
It was an amazing game. It really looked like we were going to get blown out, and then all of the sudden they were the ones getting blown out! The funny thing is, if it had been a close game, I don't know if I would have had the courage to suggest a "weird" strategy on defense. In a way, it might be better that the game looked like it was getting out of hand early on!
I definitely had a blast. My first league victory of any kind in ultimate frisbee!
Tiff and I are back in Tucson after both being away for the better part of last week. I visited some co-workers in Pasadena who helped me reduce/analyze some data for my thesis. Tiff's visit was a lot more interesting though.
She was in White Plains, NY, for an environmental moot court competition. She and her two partners have been practicing hard all semester to get ready for the event. Unfortunately, they didn't make it past the first three preliminary rounds. However, Tiff did really awesome as it turned out, getting top oralist honors in one round and only 0.4 points off top honors in the other round. That round where she didn't get it had this really jerk-face judge whose primary comments regarding the arguments where the nature of the candidates' voices! He claimed that Tiff's voice was "meek" and "tinny" which may be why he docked points off her argument. Then he would tell these tall guys with deep voices that they gave a fantastic argument, even if those people basically just muttered their way through the argument. So he was basically just a mega-jerk. I think she ended up enjoying the competition on the whole though, which is good.
Tiffany got the job in Salt Lake City!!!! I threw my back out throwing her up in the air when she told me! He he. Anyway, this means we'll probably be moving to SLC sometime in May. We'll miss Tucson, especially all the great people we've met and the beautiful house we live in, but I think Salt Lake will be a great place to live.
Well lots has happened since the last post. Tiff and I took a road trip through Wyoming to Salt Lake City, then Flagstaff, and finally back to Tucson. In Salt Lake Tiff had an interview with SUWA, an environmental non-profit looking for a new field attorney. It would be a great job for her and Salt Lake seemed like a very nice place to live, so we're both hoping she gets the job, but who knows with these things.
On the road trip we went snowboarding in Snowbird (UT), hiked up and rode down one run at Snowbowl in Flag, then did some cross-country skiing at the Nordic center nearby. We covered a lot of ground on the cross-country skiis and I had a lot of fun, although the downhill part was a lot tougher than I thought it would be.
I've been fighting off a cold for what seems like weeks now, which is kind of annoying. Yesterday we went hiking in Madera Canyon, which is between Mt. Wrightson and Mt. Hopkins about an hour south of Tucson.
Things have been pretty stressful at work since we got back from the road trip. I haven't been getting enough done, so I'm trying to work harder to make up for it. If I keep having to work this hard to just to stay in astronomy over the long run though, I can't see myself continuing on in it. Who knows what the future holds...
A day late is better than never, as they say. I'm here in Colorado at Tiff's Dad's house in Colorado Springs. We spent New Year's Eve watching the most amazing light show you've ever seen in your entire life. They had this ball lit up at the top of the Antlers Hilton, and then at the stroke of midnight (minus five seconds), then began slowly lowering the ball. Eventually, about 20 seconds after midnight, the ball reached the dumpster they lying on the ground to "catch" it. Except that the ball never got lowered all the way, so we could still see the top part of it above the dumpster. Amazing, simply amazing display of technological prowess.
In any case, it was nice just to be hanging out with a bunch of people around to celebrate New Years. It was especially nice to spend it with Tiffany.
Kudos to Cal for coming back from a 21 point deficit against Air Force two days ago. It looked like the bad Cal team showed up for the first quarter, then all of a sudden the good team showed up, the one that had disappeared since the end of the Oregon game. Too bad that team missed the Big Game. Grrrr.
I did some ice skating yesterday, which we got on videotape and I may or may not be able to post online at some point. The files are kinda big...
Ok, that's all for now. Maybe next post I'll be in Salt Lake City!