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Tag: travel

Vacation Tales

by on Jul.13, 2010, under family

I’ve decided that I need to redefine what I term a vacation. While I enjoy visits with my family immensely as they are rare due to distance, such visits are not truly vacations and often another one is required shortly thereafter (no offense intended to those family members I recently visited – we absolutely enjoyed coming down). Being back at work is no vacation, that is for sure. Anyway, there is no single cohesive narrative of my trip, but a number of small anecdotes. So that will be the form of this post.

Part of our visit to my parents’ house overlapped with a visit from my grandmother. My grandmother is very religiously-minded and has a very low tolerance for bad language. I like to think I was tame, but my wife pointed out on our drive home that I still managed to drop a few mild bombs (e.g., what the hell, darn) and whenever I did, my grandmother would visibly flinch. Meanwhile, one of these overlapping evenings she was playing cards with my mother and had a moment of frustration with her choices in discards to which she exclaimed some phrase that was clearly not a swear, but carried all the tone of one. I made a comment along the lines of whether it was really not cursing if the inflection was there to which I got no response from her, but my mom nearly burst into snorting laughter.

On the ride home (which was during the day this time), the kids spend good amounts of the time ‘reading’ – by which I mean the got out theyr Tag books and let their Tag readers read the stories to them. They were entertaining themselves and not complaining, so I can’t fault them on it. Well there was a book that Cricket wanted to read that was one of Grasshopper’s and which was only on his Tag reader, so she asked him nicely if he wanted to switch readers. He responds by looking at her and saying “No,” in a tone suggesting it was a stupid question then turns to the back of the reader where his name tag is affixed and drawls out his name as if reading it slowly to her. Being as he is 3 and can barely recognize all of the letters in his own name, I couldn’t help but find the moment hysterical.

Due to coincidental travel, my sister-in-law had left her cat at our house while we were gone (there are clearly a lot of questions as to the logic there, but bear with me). See she lives about 30 minutes away from us and her parents (who live a mile from us) and she doesn’t have any reliable acquaintances near her who could feed and check on the cat at their own home. But she didn’t want to have to burden her in-laws with another cat in their own house, and since my mother-in-law had already been commissioned to water our plants, it seemed to stand to reason that she could feed the cat while she was there. So we came home from our travels to a paranoid cat. It would spend the majority of its time hiding from all of us and only seemed to eat food at night when we were all sleeping. Cricket wanted to take it for a walk … in its carrier. She seemed rather disappointed when we turned her down.

We also managed to fit in a beach trip this weekend (though it still involved visiting family). The kids had a blast – Cricket spent hours getting knocked over by waves while Grasshopper chose to have no truck with the sea and stuck to digging randomly in the sand. I played in both capacities off and on and eventually resigned to relaxing in a beach chair and reading on my new Nook (book and product reviews coming soon). Being that it was a very sunny day, we were vigilant with sunscreen application – the kids got at least 2 extra coats and I reapplied at least 3 or 4 times. Ironically the kids came out of the day with minor rosiness in a few spots and I ended up lobster red from waist to neck. But I was able to drown my pain in boardwalk food, so it is all good.

Now if only I could find time (and money) for a real vacation ….

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Travelogue – Vacation Update

by on Jul.04, 2010, under books, technology

Just to be clear, I don’t intend to do daily updates of my vacation events – that would be semi-contrary to enjoying my vacation. Yesterday was an eventful day in leisure. We started by heading to a local swimming hole (a lake nearby that had several swimming beaches) where we enjoyed several hours of swimming, playing in the sand, and picnicking. Then we attempted to go hiking, but due to heat and navigation issues, we gave up after about ten minutes and headed to the mall to watch Toy Story 3 in 3-D. Finally we stopped by Barnes & Noble for an early birthday present – a Nook.

The swimming was fun and went as would have been expected. Cricket spent as long as possible in the water. Grasshopper spent as little time as possible in the water. Gumba (their grandfather) spent the majority of the swimming time fabricating various tall tales for my daughter to consider. Grammy spent little time in the water and mostly sat either in the shade or on the beach playing with my son. The water was as warm as bath water which made the hardest part of the day getting out of the water – despite the air temperature being in the mid-80’s, leaving the water was a chilling affair. Then we enjoyed some sandwiches and chips while we dried off before changing and heading out to eventually arrive at the movies.

Toy Story 3 was much better than I had anticipated. As usual, it tackled the same types of issues typically addressed in this series – themes of loyalty, pride, betrayal, love, and friendship in the face of adversity all masked behind the role of a toy and its relationship to its owner. In this film the struggle came in the form of Andy growing up and going to college, both he and his toys coming to grips with change and learning when to hold onto the past and when to let go of it. I don’t typically find myself emotionally moved by movies (well, except in the forms of excitement or frustration), but this movie moved me to such levels of empathetic joy that I almost started to feel choked up (almost). Of course constantly keeping my son from swinging from the seat or running down the aisle helped keep me grounded.

So finally, the Nook. As is probably obvious by how many books I’ve been reviewing here (and there are several that I read and opted not to review), I’ve been reading a lot of books lately. So I’d been considering going digital with my hobby for a while now. And to my fortune, my parents had also observed my reading affinity and opted to help me achieve my digital goal. Yesterday they sprung for my Nook as well as a nice travel case for it. By the end of the day I’d already setup my account, bought my first ebook, and went to bed having gotten to chapter 7. Now the only outstanding issue is figuring out what other books to download.

There were other events that occurred after the Nook purchase, but they generally blurred together as I was somewhat distracted. Though among those events was my children camping out in Grammy and Gumba’s yard for the night (my wife volunteered to spend the night with them). It seemed to go well – no middle of the night fallout – but they did troop in early this morning at which point they became my problem so that my wife could get a couple hours of rest in a soft, dry bed. So I put on some cartoons, grabbed my Nook, and settled on the couch for a low-key morning (or at least as low-key a morning as is possible with a 3 and 6 year-old).

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Half-Baked Plans

by on Jul.02, 2010, under family

So we’ve been planning a trip south to visit my family for months now – and by planning I mean we intended to come and we knew generally when we would do so, but beyond that few of the details were thoroughly worked out. In the end the main driver to our travel plans was the time I schedule as vacation (figuring picking some time is better than waiting for a fully-baked plan to come together). We debated many variants to the plan (camping either on the way down or on the way back, taking day trips to places while we are down here, etc.), but many were nixed through lack of effort, lack of planning or lack of enthusiasm. Sometimes just the trip itself is enough. And sometimes I make impulsive decisions that are not well thought through.

So we are packing and cleaning late into the evening on Wednesday when a ‘brilliant idea’ pops into my head. Knowing that the following day of travel would likely be long and arduous due to the combination of other early holiday travelers, various rush hour commuters, and my own children’s shortage of patience for long car rides, it strikes me that we can avoid all of the above by hopping right in the car that night. The loose plan was that we would drive as long as we could stay awake – taking shifts as needed – while the kids slept through the trip down. In the least, we get past the major cities and find a place to crash for a few hours until we can continue south. While my wife was hesitant, the kids were all about getting to their grandparents’ sooner and I was able to sway her.

So by 12:30 AM we are finally packed and ready to go (bad omen #1) and we get started. Grasshopper had already fallen asleep before we left so we just had to move him into his car seat. Cricket was awake still, but fell asleep within the first half hour. After 3 hours and a couple brief stops to refuel, I’m starting to wane. Unfortunately my wife (partially due to me being chatty to start off) hadn’t really gotten enough rest to take us much farther. We made it south of DC which was our main concern, but my wife was hesitant to stop at a hotel that would cost over $100 and I was too tired to Google one that didn’t, so we settled for parking at a rest area near Potomac Mills. My wife was paranoid about the kids developing some weird leg disorder I hadn’t ever heard of, so I had to convert the seats to beds they could lie flat in. We had pillows and blankets and were all set … in theory.

Grasshopper decided he had his second wind and kept trying to talk and play – which I mostly responded to with loud shushing and barks of ‘go to sleep’. After about an hour and a half he finally settled back down. Then an hour later I was awake and couldn’t settle back down (it couldn’t have been the discomfort of sleeping sitting up in a mini-van). After silently arguing with my wife about getting the kids re-situated for the next leg (where she conveniently through a good handful of sharp I-told-you-so’s she’d been saving up since I suggested the night drive), I finally started quietly shifting the kids back into sitting positions to continue the trip. They stirred and grumbled, but were back asleep within a half hour on the road. And we made the rest of the drive with little incident. Around 9 AM we stopped for breakfast and a driver switch, and I got a shallow nap for a good amount of the remaining leg.

After 11 hours we finally made it to our destination. In truth, even if we had left bright and early Thursday morning, it would likely have taken just as long between traffic and stops. So it generally worked out. But most of the ‘extra visit time’ we gained was spent either alternately napping or dealing with meltdowns from cranky, sleep-deprived children. But both of these are easily washed away by a normal night’s sleep for all … I’ll let you know when we get one of those.

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Travel Epilogue

by on Jun.21, 2010, under career, family, money, video games

11 cents.  That’s how much cash was left in my pocket after two weeks on the road.  I honestly only used cash for minimal incidental expenses that required it (e.g., train & bus fares, items from convenience stores and news stands) and I only started with a little over $100.  I just find it funny how closely my funds matched my needs.

Anyway, I’m glad to be gradually returning to normalcy.  Though while Saturday with the family went smoothly, Sunday my children did their best to remind me of what I didn’t miss while I was gone.  Grasshopper seems to be going through that phase in life where he is realizing that he is not in charge and is fighting that reality tooth and nail.  And Cricket seems to be giving us a preview of her teenage drama queen years to come.  All upon the backdrop of dinner with the in-laws – their older cousin got fed up with the behavior and I’m sure the parents of their younger cousin were not thrilled with the image of their possible future.  It seems my wife and I have some work to do with them.

On a good note, there were some positive aspects of Father’s Day this year.  My family made me French toast in bed, got me a nice geeky card, and got me Super Mario Galaxy 2 (which the kids proceeded to watch me play for hours).  The game is a good continuation of the series in that it keeps some continuity with the previous installment.  But it is also an improvement – the level layout is much more sensible and enjoyable.  In the first you had this huge “ship” with various rooms to navigate to find the levels of play.  In the new version you steer the ship (which is smaller and simpler) to the various worlds which are all laid out on an easy to navigate map (more similar to games like Super Mario World or Super Mario Bros. 3).  And they brought back Yoshi which adds a fun new variation on the game play (plus the kids love to watch me make him eat things).

Anyway, now that my travels are done, I must return to reality and be a productive member of society.  I look forward to getting back into more interactive tasks than just sitting still and listening all day.  I look forward to getting to go home every day and enjoying some time with my family (maybe a bit less of it like this weekend panned out).  And I look forward to getting refunded all of my travel expenses so that I have more than a dime and a penny to line my pockets.

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Travelogue – Homesick

by on Jun.18, 2010, under career, family

I’m tired.  It isn’t jet lag or a hangover or lack of sleep.  I’m just tired – tired of sleeping in foreign beds, tired of being in unfamiliar terrain, tired of feeling like I’m connected to my normal life by a long tether.  I’m ready to pull that tether and reel myself home; ready to go back to dealing with chores, crazy Kamikaze children, and chicken little-esque panics over issues that take moments to right (I’m not specifying which front that comes from for fear of incrimination) – ready to re-immerse myself in my familiar routines and environs.

In truth this week has been going relatively smoothly.  The training course has been informative and useful.  My colleague has been much more tolerant and tolerable than I would have expected in such close quarters (though apparently he has been spending half of most nights beating me with fancy pillows to stifle my snoring).  We managed to catch a couple shows while in NYC … ok movies – we saw A-Team and Get Him to the Greek.  The former was surprisingly well conceived given the premise, and the latter was ridiculously funny (though they put some of the funniest bits in the trailers which sort of ruins them).  Besides that and the happy hour earlier in the week, we played our time here pretty low key, which I was perfectly happy with.

I can say with confidence that I will never stay at the hotel in which we stayed this week ever again.  The room, with 2 bed rather than one, was about half the square footage of the place I stayed in while in San Francisco and it cost almost twice as much.  The room service pricing was nuts and the service itself spotty.  Their menu is completely in Italian (since the cuisine is as such), but if you read them the Italian names for the dishes, they are confused – they only recognize them by the English descriptions.  They charge $3 for an 8 oz. soda and no food item is less than $10.  And they will forget to ask appropriate questions regarding ordered items as well as forget to bring some of them (though I assume that we were charged for them anyway).  While I avoided as much as possible eating food at the hotel in San Fran, when I did the service at least was comparable to what I’d expect of such a hotel.

Anyway, as I said before – I’m tired.  I’m tired of sitting in training sessions (there is only so much sitting still and listening one can do).  I’m ready to take that quiet, smooth train-ride home.  I’m glad that my company was willing to send me globe-trotting in the name of education and networking (though I feel I haven’t been very successful at the latter), but I’m ready not to travel for work again for at least a few months.  I’m ready to stop living out of a suitcase and go back to living out of laundry baskets.  I’m ready to be able to consider going places more than a few blocks or a transit line away.  I’m ready to drive my car again.  I’m ready to stop carrying bags everywhere and instead go back to carrying children everywhere.  I’m ready to have access to a refrigerator and a microwave and a toaster and a stove, none of which have motion-sensored food that I need to eat with plastic utensils.  The journey was good, but I’m ready to be at the end of it.

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