dr_tectonic: (Default)
Have we been up to much other than wedding prep lately? No. No we have not.

I don't know how couples manage to pull off weddings when they (a) haven't already been together for a decade and (b) are still in their early twenties and don't know how to organize big projects yet. (I mean, I know that the answer is mostly "lean heavily on their parents", "spend lots of money on paying people to do it", and/or "be super-duper stressed out by the whole process".) I'm just saying, it's a big undertaking, and I'm glad that we already know how to work together and that we know how to organize things so shit gets done.

Also, it's very entertaining how often one of us has said "So about this thing, I was thinking X," and the other has said "That's exactly what I was thinking."

There's still a fair number of things to do, but we've got all the essentials sorted out, and yesterday we made the master checklist of everything that has to happen between now and the day, and that was very helpful. (It was trying to mentally keep track of things that was stressing me out more than anything. Now that it's all written down I can just focus on what to do next.)

I realize I've been very scanty on details here, but it's because we're doing a bunch of neat stuff that I think will be even more enjoyable for the guests if there's no hype for it. It's gonna be good.

Okay, we haven't been up to much other than wedding prep, but there has been some stuff. Saturday before last there was a bonfire at Bob & Pyro's, which was lovely. Well, no actual bonfire, because it got rained out, but we still had an excellent time hanging out with bears in the barn. I made chocolate mousse, in large part because I had an inedible 99% cacao chocolate bar that I was able to use up by melting it and mixing it with semi-sweet chocolate chips. Then on Sunday we had the Kuma Go-Go (the five bears in our D&D group) over for practice cake-cutting. We played a bunch of Jackbox games on the Nintendo afterwards and had some good hangout time.

Had several short workdays last week because I was either meeting with people (like a collaborator from GFDL in town to visit our local NOAA collaborators) and had no brain left for other work when it was done or because I was running errands. I got a nice visit with Grandma & my uncle Dave on Wednesday. She's doing alright, but is definitely slowing down. Played some more Spirit Island at Chris's games night Thursday. I played a medium complexity spirit and felt like I had the hang of it, and we won pretty handily Maybe soon we'll finally be ready to start playing the full game!

On Saturday I manned a booth for the Inclusivity Board at Westy Fest for a couple hours. We didn't have a huge number of visitors, but we got good comments from those who did drop by. Lots of concerns about gentrification near the new train station and in the redevelopment of the area where the old mall used to be. I signed up for the 10-noon slot because I didn't want to lose the whole day to it, and I'm glad I did because the event got rained out later in the afternoon -- I guess it was a really severe storm that destroyed tents and everything! I'm grateful to be on the board, because with the news full of would-be fascist idiocy and other terrible things happening far away where I can't do anything about it, at least I have something that I'm involved in locally pushing in the opposite direction that might do some good.
dr_tectonic: (Default)
This week started lousy, but it's looking up.

Had a bit of a slow start on Monday. I had one important thing to do: write up my AGU abstract and get it submitted. That would get it done two days early, and clear things up for the rest of the week. I had already sorted out with my coauthors what we we're gonna do last week, so it was just a matter of writing it all out, finding the right session, and filling out the form. I decided that once I got that done, I could head home early and do a bunch of wedding errands along the way.

And then I just... didn't. I sat there in my office dinking around on the computer and getting nothing done until it was evening. Burned up most of a day's PTO on nothing.

I came home mad at myself for squandering the day, and then the next morning I woke up with sore lymph nodes and a little bit of a cough and realized, oh, I'm coming down with a cold. So I forgave myself for being useless the day before and sucked down 4 zinc lozenges before I left the house.

Got the abstract done and submitted. Yay! Ahoy New Orleans, I'll see you in December! (Moscone Convention Center in SF is being renovated, so AGU won't be back there until 2019.)

Came home early once that was dealt with (managing one errand along the way), did some more cooking (Mexican cabbage, which turned out better than the mushroom-spinach mixture I made Monday night, which was tasty but not enough so to warrant the effort invested), and otherwise just took it easy last night.

Today I decided to take a half day and go in late. I had a leisurely morning, and when I got into the office mid-afternoon with nobody else around, I Accomplished The Difficult Thing: I sat down and finally (FINALLY!) organized all the tasks for building a test system that will let me compare all the different tweaks to improve my code that I need to try out. This is the thing that I've been putting off for weeks in order to deal with all the urgent things that kept popping up. So now all I have to do is code up all the pieces that are written up in my nicely organized plans, which is a lot easier and more appealing than trying to figure out what to do when all the pieces are flying around in a tangle in my head.

Of course, I still haven't dealt with bills, but enh, tomorrow is another day.

Other stuff that happened: Star Wars on Saturday, which ate up my brain for a day and a half. Monkey helped Douglas drive a moving van to Phoenix on Wednesday, then flew back Thursday night. We had a work dinner at the Chautauqua Dining Hall that night; the view from the porch was lovely, bit to took forever for them to seat us and the food was kinda mediocre. And our waiter kept doing one thing and then vanishing. Anyway, I left from there and drove all the way to the airport to pick him up. I arrived a little early and tried to pull off into the cell phone lot, and either I missed it avoiding a massive line of cars coming off a side road or it's waaaay off out of the way, because it turned into a huge detour around the services area. Ack! But I got there in the end. Our second committee meeting got postponed, and then instead of postponing it again we decided that to just wrap things up over email.

Oh! And we saw Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets on Sunday. I give it a B-minus. The biggest problem was that the titular character was horrifically miscast. If it had been just Valerian's partner Laureline, it would've been a lot better. Otherwise, it had great visuals, a lot of neat ideas, and a weak script. It was a bunch of good individual bits that were combined into a lousy movie overall.
dr_tectonic: (Default)
Committee Meetings
At the Inclusivity Board meeting Wednesday before last, I volunteered for the committee that is sorting out how we communicate with city council and other entities. This resulted in a committee meeting at one member's house last Wednesday, and another one this coming week, and in me spending a chunk of this weekend writing up what we decided, and I would have said "foolishly volunteered" because it's not like I'm swimming in spare time lately, but I felt like this is exactly the kind of thing I wanted to contribute to the Board, and that getting it right matters, so here we are. (The solution: organizing our communications around the scale of the issue, and identifying whether it's a board-level, individual-level, or committee-level issue. And then impedance-matching the incoming message. Everything else follows naturally.)

Thursday Food Trucks and Gaming
The HOA has arranged for food trucks to come hang out in the parking lot near the (other) swimming pool on alternate Thursdays evenings, so Thursday of last week Jerry and I wandered over there and got teriyaki on a stick for dinner. Kinda pricey, but very tasty. Afterwards we went to Floyd's for game night and played a couple boardgames. Can't remember what the first one was called, but it was sorta like a sword-and-sorcery-themed 7 Wonders with buying cards and choosing actions instead of drafting. I liked it, but I won, and that usually helps give a favorable impression... For the second one we finally got to play Kanagawa, the Japanese mural painting game. Also fun.

Triple-R Brunch
Sunday we went to a housewarming brunch at Ray & Ron & Rich's new place, which they've been in for a while now but which I hadn't yet seen. Got a house tour. Socialized with bears, including Joe B., who I normally only see through work. (We only talked shop a little.) I was good about not eating baked goods.

Spirit Island
Having worked a long day from home on Friday and spent Saturday doing lots of wedding prep (q.v.), after the brunch on Sunday I was out of cope for actually doing anything productive, so Jerry and I played a two-player game of Spirit Island, which finally came in the mail. (I kickstarted it ages ago, and it was much-delayed in getting here.) It's a cooperative anti-colonization game, and there is a lot of game there. It solves the alpha-player/quarterbacking problem with simultaneous play and giving each player enough to manage that there's no hope of keeping track of all of it. We weren't even playing the full game and I thought it was meaty and satisfying. I enjoyed it enough that on Monday night I went over to the Nevilles' and played it with them, too. It's got a stupid amount of replay value, and I'm looking forward to exploring it.

The last couple weeks have been spent fighting fires, mostly in the form of provisioning data for other people's projects so that I'm not the bottleneck. Satisfying in the sense of providing good service (sometimes getting that lovely "OMG you are amazing" feedback, when it turns out I can do in 10 minutes what would take them a day or two to do), but a little unsatisfying because I haven't even touched my main project in ages. At least I had the sense to completely punt writing a 3-page short paper for a workshop in September rather than making myself crazy trying to get it done in a day and a half.

Wedding Prep
Preparation and planning progress proceeds apace. We're in good shape, but man are there a lot of things to do. We ordered rings today! My mom had the excellent suggestion of going to the jewelry counter at Wal-Mart to find out what our ring sizes are without pressure from commissioned salespeople. (Jerry went ahead and got an inexpensive silver ring to wear while practicing.) I got some new nice dress pants without cargo pockets. (Also new socks.) We went up to NCAR last weekend and figured out how various things would fit into the actual space. We have roughed out the ceremony itself and some of our vows. We got a portable bluetooth speaker that puts out a LOT of sound, and this week the little in-line amplifier that will hopefully let us plug a mic directly into it arrived, but of course, we have to get yet another plug adapter before we can test whether it actually works... (But if not, we'll just talk loud.) We've been spending lots of time on the choreographed thing, which is coming along nicely. Oh, and of course nagging reminding stragglers to RSVP. So many things done, and yet so many still left to do! I don't know how people who haven't already been together for at least a decade manage to get married.
dr_tectonic: (Simon & me)
Jerry and I saw Baby Driver this afternoon. It's good! And definitely one to see in the theater; not only are the visuals scoped for a big screen, the soundtrack matters a lot, so you want to see it in a venue with a good sound system.

Spoilers behind the cut )
dr_tectonic: (Mister Cranky-pants)
So I was gonna write up a rant about the Savery Savory Mushrooms water tower on Federal Blvd:

I was gonna rant about how the name is all wrong because "saver-y" is a lousy pun, and anyway it should be ordered "savory savery", and it's such a missed opportunity when they could have done "so very savory" instead, which has much better rhythm, and I was looking for a picture of it and I found the city's webpage about it and suddenly discovered that it's named for the guy who built the farm.

Mr. Charles William Savery.

Dammit! It's not lousy marketing at all, it's just a guy's name!

Which makes it a perfectly reasonable name.

Which totally torpedoes my rant. Harrumph.
dr_tectonic: (Default)
Let's see: I ran Star Wars on Saturday and the Jeff rolled ridiculously well on his observation check and noticed the stealthed Jedi in the room, so that plotline is going to advance a lot faster than I expected it to. Hooray for rolling with it!

Then on Sunday there was Unmunchkin at Neal's, and I got to play 5e DnD with a 9-year-old DM. Which was a lot of fun! And gave me a greater appreciation for boxed text. Also, my wild mage sorcerer got a wild surge the very first time he cast a spell in combat: confusion, 10' radius, centered on self. So that made me happy. :D

Last weekend I went up to Trevor's on Saturday afternoon and played board games. One was an interesting deckbuilder (Mystic Vale, I think?) with transparent cards that you slide into card sleeves to upgrade cards. It was neat, but I think it may have some unbalanced momentum issues with the accelerator cards. Then we played a round of Guillotine, which I hadn't played in ages.

On the 4th, there was a pool party at Bob & Pyro's in the afternoon, and then we did the usual fireworks-watching in Broomfield. I made Indian coleslaw for the pool party and promised the recipe to someone (Jason, I think), so here it is!

That recipe left me with extra mint in the fridge, so tonight I tried out a recipe for Thai spring rolls that was loitering my TRYME folder, rolling them up in lettuce leaves instead of rice paper. They were tasty, but the recipe was fussy, so I turned it into another coleslaw recipe.

Other than that, it's been all about wedding prep, which proceeds apace. Oh, and at lunch today the visiting grad student and I figured out how to science the thing she came here to figure out, and it turned out to be considerably easier than we originally expected. So that was pretty cool. Hooray for collaboration!

Indian Slaw (Bund Gobhi Nu Shaak)


1 bag coleslaw mix
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts
1/4 cup dry unsweetened coconut shreds (see tips)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
Juice from 1 medium-size lime
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric


Food-process peanuts to coarse bread crumb consistency. (Pulse to avoid turning them into peanut butter.)
Add peanuts, coconut, cilantro, salt, and lime juice to slaw mix.
Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat until shimmering.
Add mustard seeds, cover, and cook until seeds have stopped popping, 20 seconds or so.
Remove from the heat and add turmeric to the oil, swirling to mix.
Pour oil over the cabbage; grab some cabbage mix and wipe the pan clean.
Mix well and serve.

Thai Spring Roll Slaw


1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp molasses (heaping)
1 tsp Thai green curry paste
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (juice of 1 medium lime)
2 Tbsp fish sauce

1/2+ cup mayonnaise

2 packages coleslaw mix
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 handful mint, chopped

1/3 pound rare deli roast beef, thinly sliced and cut into short 1/2-inch strips
1 can of shrimp


Mix the first six ingredients, then whisk mixture into mayonnaise.
Taste and add more mayo if needed for flavor or consistency
Toss the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.*
Add the sauce and mix until well-coated.

* The last two steps may need to be done in two batches.

NOTE: The original recipe uses roast beef as a substitute for shrimp, but I think shrimp would be lovely, especially if you don't have to fuss with wrapping spring rolls. I haven't tried it; 1 can is a total guess as to amount.

DnD 5e

Jul. 6th, 2017 10:19 pm
dr_tectonic: (chibi dr t)
So the other night Jerry and I went off and had dinner at the kebab place in Broomfield, then popped into the games store next door and picked up a copy of the 5th edition D&D Players Handbook with a gift card that's been languishing in my pocket since Christmas.

I haven't had a chance to play it yet, but I have read through the main bits and my general impression is quite good. They've flattened out the power curve quite a bit and fixed a bunch of things that were clunky in previous editions, and all the fixes are things that make you say "well OF COURSE that's the right way to handle that." There are at least two significantly different ways to go with every character class, and they include a number of character types that were always popular but hard to build.

I'm particularly impressed with Backgrounds. Backgrounds are a standard part of character creation; they give your character a couple skills, some gear, and a benefit. You also pick a couple personality traits, a weakness, a thing you care about, and a goal or ideal, all related to the background, and here's where it gets clever: if you roleplay those characteristics, you are rewarded with inspiration, which you can use to get a mechanical advantage. (And while you can make up your own, all of the suggested characteristics are definite and concrete things that are easy to latch onto.) And they did a good job picking the nature of the characteristics; I sketched out four different character ideas, and with each of them, after I figured out the background and thought about what kind of person would have those characteristics, I felt like I had a really clear picture of the character's psychology and how they would behave. So it's a very well-designed mini-system for encouraging roleplaying.

I'm looking forward to playing at some point!

(I was working on a longer post, but then my browser ate it. Grumble! But this was part of it, and hey, for once I'm sharing an opinion about things instead of just recounting What I Did Last Week...)
dr_tectonic: (Default)
My group at work is having a check-in meeting this morning, and I feel like I have gotten nothing done since our last check-in because I have made very little progress on my main project (the R package I'm working on). But then I went through my email and tallied up all the things I did instead, and realized, oh, right, it's because there were literally a dozen other things that came up, and each of those took a day or two to deal with. Plus I went to Italy. And there you go, that's five weeks. It's all the context switching that really kills me.

Wedding preparations proceed apace. It's kind of alarming how much there is to do and how quickly time is passing, but we have lists and we're making progress on them, and everything seems to be on track. And really, pretty much every detail could fall apart at the last minute and it would still be fine. We'll be there and our friends and family will be there and that's the bit that counts.

Let's see, last weekend we had ice dyeing and Craig's housewarming and Floyd BBQ, and the weekend before that we had games at Jeff & Alice's (Sentinels, Seven Wonders, that Cthulhu investigation game) and Wonder Woman, and that's mostly all we've been up to.

Oh, and Douglas passed on to us a portable A/C unit -- one of the stand-up rolly ones that vents out the window -- which we picked up last weekend from Bob & Jeff's old place. It is AMAZING. I can cool the entire living room area, and about twenty minutes after turning it on, one of us says to the other "Are you cold? I feel kinda cold," and we turn it back off.
dr_tectonic: (Default)
More than one person asked for the recipes for the two kinds of coleslaw I brought to the Floyds' birthday barbecue this evening, so I figured I'd just post them.

Apple-Bacon Coleslaw


* 3 Tbsp olive oil
* 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
* 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
* 1 Tbsp lemon juice
* 1/2 tsp hot sauce
* 1/4 tsp salt

* 1 (16-ounce) package shredded coleslaw mix
* 2 large apples, cored and diced
* 4+ cooked bacon slices, crumbled / chopped
* freshly ground pepper to taste


Whisk together first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well to coat. Chill for at least half an hour.

NOTES: Use a good eating apples, like Galas or Fuji. Don't use Granny Smiths. Precooked bacon works fine if you don't feel like dealing with frying it up. You can go heavy on the dressing.

Vietnamese Slaw


1 package coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage + carrots)
1 small white onion or 3-4 green onions, sliced thin
1-2 stalks celery, sliced thin
1-2 carrots, julienned (macho) or sliced (lazy)
1 handful cilantro, chopped / shredded
1 handful mint, chopped / shredded (de-stemmed, also)

Mix everything up in a great big bowl.

Chicken (optional)

Add a pound or so of sliced / shredded cooked chicken to make it a main dish.


3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp crushed / chopped garlic
a few shakes dried crushed red pepper

Whisk everything together in a small bowl. Pour over slaw and mix well just before serving.
Tip: For a potluck, double the dressing; put the ingredients in a small mason jar and shake it up to mix before serving.

Topping (optional)

2 Tbsp peanut oil
1/2 Tbsp chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1 Tbsp brown sugar

Fry the garlic in the oil until pale golden, then stir in the chopped peanuts and brown sugar.
Alternately: just crunch up some honey-roasted peanuts and fried onions to make an easy approximate topping.

Bonus recipe: here's the recipe for carb-free parmesan spinach balls, which I brought to Craig's housewarming yesterday and to games night at Jeff and Alice's last weekend. The original recipe calls for Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs; to make it low-carb, I substituted chopped nuts, which also solves the problem of the originals being too dry.

No-Carb Cheesy Spinballs


* One 10-oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
* 1 cup walnuts or pistachios
* 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
* 2 eggs, beaten
* 2 Tbsp melted butter

* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp parsley flakes
* 1/2 tsp black pepper
* 1/2 tsp garlic powder
* 1/2 tsp onion powder
* 1/2 tsp dried oregano
* 1/2 tsp dried basil


Chop nuts in food processor to breadcrumb size.
(If not pre-grated, use the grater disk on the food processor to grate parm.)
Mix dry ingredients (nuts, parmesan, and spices) well in a large-ish bowl.
Preheat oven to 350.
Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with Pam.
Squeeze the spinach to drain, then add to bowl.
Using bare hands, mix until homogeneous.
Add eggs and butter and mix again.
Form into 24 ~1-inch balls and place on baking sheet.
Bake 22 minutes, until well-browned.

The base recipe doesn't make all that many; you may want to double it for a party.
Uncooked spinballs reportedly can be frozen and baked on short notice.
dr_tectonic: (Dr. Tectonic)
Jerry and I saw Wonder Woman this afternoon, and both thought it was excellent.

I liked pretty much everything about it. It's not perfect (there are nits that could be picked), but I liked the choices they made about the characters to include in the story, and what they did with various elements of WW's character design, and the storyline was interesting and novel (during the credits I turned to Monkey and said "wait, that was an origin story and I didn't even notice it!), and they did a good job of avoiding the tired and obvious, and I liked the arc of the whole thing. And it didn't drag; despite being almost two and a half hours long, I never wondered how much longer it was going to be.

And I now have a theory about what's wrong with the other DC superhero movies. Diana is allowed to have feelings. Plural. At different times she's happy, and sad, and angry, and confused, and outraged, and delighted, and so on. She feels different things, and those feelings are important to the progression of the story. And that's interesting and engaging.

Whereas the other superheroes tend to be very one-note. The further along you get in the Batman franchise, the more the Dark Knight only exhibits a single emotion: grim, brooding, vengefulness. Oh, sure, maybe it modulates a half-step into vengeful anger or melancholy brooding, but Batman never gets to be happy or grossed-out or embarrassed or affectionate, just some combination of angry + sad. And after not very long, that gets to be really boring.

Superman is only allowed to be alienated and repressed. He may have other emotions, but their only purpose is to strengthen his alienation and repression. Boring. Batman vs Superman? All repressed-anger-sadness all the time. BOOORRRINNNG.

(The problem with Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern movie was not a lack of emotions other than smug cockiness, but the fact that the movie's emotional arc was incoherent because it was fixated on Hero's Journey Dammit even though it makes no sense for that character. So it was Confusing instead. Which turns out to also be boring.)

So here's to hoping that the Justice League movie manages to figure it out. At the very least, it's got six different characters in it; even if they're all one-note, maybe they'll be different notes...
dr_tectonic: (Default)
How is it Wednesday already? How is it after 9 pm? Heck, how are we already a week into June? I feel like I just got up about two hours ago and that it should be, like, a Tuesday morning in late May.

Not much of note last week; work was mostly catching up from being away plus assorted meetings. We had Douglas over for dinner on Thursday evening. Assorted wedding prep stuff getting kicked into higher gear.

The weekend was busy. Saturday we spent the day at Gene & Brandon's doing ice dyeing, with mixed but promising results. Not everything came out well, but the good stuff is really good. It's a neat technique: you cover the fabric you're dying with ice, and then sprinkle dye powder on top of it and let it melt.

For best results, you want to soak the fabric in soda ash (sodium carbonate) solution first and let it dry completely. (Hanging things up to dry took up a chunk of Friday evening.) After you've got your ice and dye in place, you let it sit for 24 hours, so we had to head back down there Sunday morning to pick things up. And then there's the aftercare: rinse each piece in a bucket of steaming hot water for 30 seconds, then wring it out under cold running water until the water runs clear. Do that twice. Dry it in the dryer on medium. Then wash it in the washer (warm water) with a cup and a half of white vinegar. Then dry it again.

That and more wedding stuff took up most of Sunday. We managed to fit in dim sum at Empress with Verdun, though. So yay for that!

The kitties have been super-lovey since we got back. They're not quite clingy, but all three of them are like, oh, you're in this room now? Well, it just so happens I was planning to hang out in here myself, so that's convenient. I'll just be over here if there's any cat stuff that needs doing. Y'know, just FYI.
dr_tectonic: (Default)
After our afternoon wandering around the old city center, Aaron picked us up at the train station again and we did a little shopping on the way home. Monkey did a bit of clothes shopping while I wandered around the supermarket with Aaron. Sadly, you can't bring cured meats back through customs, so I just got a big wedge of aged Parmesan and several chocolate bars. (One is 99% cacao! I'm interested to see whether it's actually edible, or whether its only use is as an ingredient.) Oh, and some bags of haribo gummies to share with friends.

I always find it interesting to see how everyday things like grocery stores are different in foreign places. I would say that overall, Italy has better produce than we get in the States. (Although apparently you have to inspect root vegetables carefully, as they often go moldy very quickly.) Two "that's foreign!" things: you're supposed to use disposable gloves instead of picking through the vegetables with your bare hands, and you have to weigh what you're buying there in the produce section, print out a sticker with the weight, PLU, and price on it, and stick it to your fruit and veg.

Aaron's truck-driver father-in-law dropped in for a visit that evening, so in addition to an excellent salad and an assortment of meats and cheeses for dinner, we had mici, a kind of caseless sausage, that he brought from Romania and cooked for us. Yum!

So that was Friday; on Saturday we packed up and took the train back to Milan. Our hotel that night was at Malpensa airport, which is way far outside the city limits, so found a place a couple blocks from Milano Centrale to rent a couple storage lockers to put all our stuff in for the afternoon and set off exploring.

We had lunch at a nearby Turkish place, then walked through a busy street market where people were buying mostly clothes for next to nothing. Then we spent a while wandering off-course looking for the nearest Metro station. From there we were able to get to the old city center. We saw the Duomo, which is an amazing, huge, Gothic cathedral. It was very impressive, but we decided that we were content just to look at it from the outside, and not to spend a lot of money and stand in line for hours to go inside. We passed from the plaza through a beautiful 19th-century indoor/outdoor mall, which was exceedingly swank and filled with high-end couture shops, to a less-crowded plaza where we were able to sit down and ponder what to do next.

We decided that we wanted to get away from the very tourist-heavy areas, so we hopped back on the Metro and went to see San'Ambrogio, which is a very old church. The oldest chunk of it was built in the year 386! It's been reconstructed many times since then, of course, and now there are lots of pieces of very old stonework built into the walls around the courtyard. We didn't actually go into the chapel because there was a wedding going on. We wandered about in that neighborhood for a bit, passing by the Museum of Science and Technology, which has built versions of some of da Vinci's sketched inventions. It seemed like another neat place to visit, but we were pretty worn out by that point.

We took the Metro back to Milano Centrale and stopped to get some gelato at a little stand outside the station, which proved to be the best gelato of the whole trip. Jerry had dark chocolate and orange, I think; I had grapefruit. Amazing. (Most flavors of gelato are too sweet for me to want an entire serving, but the citrus flavors are tart enough that I enjoy them. So generally I ended up having a sample of some other flavor and then a scoop of limone.)

We collected our luggage and made our leisurely way back to the station, and after figuring out that you can buy TreNord tickets from the Trenitalia ticket machines, we waited for the Airport Express... on the wrong platform. When we figured that out, we had to RUN to get from Platform 9 to Platform 1. We did manage to get there just barely in time. The train doors closed like ten seconds after we boarded. Whew! But we got ourselves to the airport, found the hotel, checked in, and had time to get dinner at one of the restaurants in the airport food court before turning in for the night, ready to head home.
dr_tectonic: (Default)
My workshop at JRC being finished, on Thursday we left Ispra and went to Vicenza, where my friend Aaron O. from middle school now lives.

The trip was not without hiccups. We took a taxi to the train station in Sesto Calende and then the train to Milano Centrale. That was supposed to be just one train, but it stopped one station short at Porto Garibaldi and we had to get off and wait (for a worryingly long time) for another train to take us the rest of the way. When we got to Milano Centrale we had to figure out where to buy tickets (the big red boxes are ticket vending machines, we learned), and then we discovered that the train we were planning to take was sold out! This is not a circumstance I have ever encountered before. But that route runs every hour, so we just got a pair of business-class tickets on the next one. That gave us time to grab some lunch in the station (I had a shockingly good 7-Euro salad) before traveling onward.

Aaron met us at the station in Vicenza and then drove us to his home one town over, where we were introduced to his wife, Ana, who is Romanian, and to their small dogs Jack and Terri, who were very alarmed about these dangerous invaders being let into the house, and had to bark at us for a good twenty minutes, at which point we received our canine security clearances and became their new best friends.

We spent the afternoon socializing and catching up (Aaron and I hadn't seen one another in about twenty years), then ordered pizza for dinner. I got another one with arugula (yay!) plus prosciutto and cream cheese, while Jerry had to get the one with what Google Translate claimed was "nails" (turns out that's a variety of mushroom shaped like big round-headed nails). Ana got gorgonzola-walnut, which is an amazing flavor combo on pizza! Afterwards we played several rounds of a rummy-like game with tiles instead of cards.

The next day we had a low-key morning before Aaron dropped us off to wander around the Vicenza city center. (He would've joined us, but his hip was being gimpy.) We saw a whole bunch of buildings by Palladio, including the Palladian Basilica, plus assorted other nifty old structured, including a facade with no building that now made up part of a wall and of course the old city wall. One interesting point is that we ran across a plaque in Italian for a historical building -- formerly a home for those crippled and mutilated by war -- and I was able to make out all of it except a pair of two-word phrases just by knowing my Latin roots.

The Palladian Basilica in Vicenza:

In additional to grand old buildings all over the place, one thing that struck me about architecture in Northern Italy is that the prototype for "house" is much stronger than it is in the US. Just about every house is two stories tall, blocky, and made of concrete. (Lumber is much more expensive in Europe, Aaron explained.) They all have roofs of curved red tile with eaves that overhang a small amount and a pitch of 22.5 degrees. There are a few rectangular windows in standard proportions, (none on the north side of the house) and they have either full storm shutters or, more commonly, rolling shutters ("rolladen"). And they're all painted a color not too far removed from pinky-orange.

This one (in Ispra) is a little fancy with the tower-like bits and dormer window, but take those away and they pretty much all look not far from this:
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My workshop is done! It was good, but I doubt recounting details would interest anybody other than my boss, so I will skip it. Instead, I will tell you what I've been eating for the last few days.

Dinner Sunday: we got hungry late in the evening and were too tired to go anywhere, so we ate in the hotel restaurant. We both got mixed salads (greens, celery, and tomatoes, which was surprisingly satisfying with good balsamic vinegar and olive oil on it), and shared a caprese salad and a fried cheese and shaved ham plate from the appetizer menu, which made for a very satisfying meal.

Breakfasts: the hotel has a nice continental breakfast spread. For me, that means a few slices of salami, turkey, and cheese, a couple boiled eggs, and maybe a little wedge of spreadable cheese. Fizzy (frizzante!) water to drink. The eggs have very orange yolks; I got one on the first day that was only soft-boiled, and it was amazing.

Lunch Monday: the cafeteria at the Joint Research Centre. Tasty enough for cafeteria food and remarkably inexpensive. I had a hefty roasted chicken leg with romanesco (the fractal broccoli/cauliflower hybrid) and a bottle of fizzy water and it was like, 4 euros.

Dinner Monday: more pizza! From Julius and Benny, in part because that's what we could find within walking distance that was open before 7 pm. It took us a while to figure out the menu well enough to order, but the Google Translate app does live translation of text through the phone camera, and it's kind of like magic. Like, awkward and unreliable magic, but still magic. I had a "Campagna", which is tomato, cheese, proscuitto, arugula, porcini, and parmesan. Jerry had a "Billy", which was tomato, cheese, red onion, shredded lettuce(!), roasted red pepper, and pepperoni. They were both excellent, and so big they didn't fit fully on the plate. The crust was amazingly thin, and necessitated a knife and fork to eat.

Lunch Tuesday: terrible sandwiches provided by the workshop. I ate half a dry ham and cheese, then pulled out the filling and folded it around the filling from a roasted vegetable sandwich. Then I ate a package of nuts Jerry got me that I had in my bag Just In Case. No stars, but made up for by...

Dinner Tuesday: a five-course meal for the workshop at the restaurant in our hotel. It started with an aperitif on the balcony of champagne or fruit punch and salmon pastry nibblies. The first plate was a slice of eggplant parmigiana (middling) with slices of salami and prosciutto or speck (excellent) or something (I can't remember, they have so many good cured meats around here). Next was a very cheesy risotto with asparagus. Then some little ravioli, filled with spinach, maybe? Finally, they brought pan-cooked fish (something white with silver skin) with vegetables and butter. And for dessert, a fruit cocktail with lemon ice. It was a very good meal.

Lunch Wednesday: still kinda full from the big dinner last night, I skipped the terrible sandwiches at the end of the workshop and just had a couple handfuls of almonds and some cheese sticks when I got back to the hotel.

Dinner Wednesday: went back to the German restaurant (La Baita) that Jerry had dinner at solo the previous night. He had wurst with spaetlze and lentils, and I had the leberkäaut;se with a fried egg and green salad (instead of potato salad) that he'd had previously. Thumbs up on both. Afterward, we got (small!) cones of gelato: limone for me, and ace (lemon, orange, and carrot) for him. I liked his, but it would've been too sweet for me to eat a whole scoop. My limone was very tart, and suited me well.

(Needless to say, I'm being flexible about eating low-carb while we're traveling in Forn Parts.)
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We're in Italy! Trying desperately to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime.

I am attending a workshop at the EU Joint Research Center in Ispra on Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, then we'll head over to Vicenza to visit my friend Aaron O. from middle school.

The trip here was pretty uneventful. Denver to JFK on Delta, couple hour layover, and then JFK to Milano Malpensa on Alitalia. Left the house around 8 am on Saturday morning (thanks to Bob & Douglas for giving us a ride to the airport), landed in Italy around 10 am on Sunday morning. Which... is a very long day of travel. Got enough sleep on the airplane to feel like it was the next day, but not enough to really be rested and we are both so, so tired right now.

I watched Moana on the first leg, which was a pretty good way to while away a good chunk of it. I had intentions of doing some work coding on that flight, but of course the white noise and cramped space of the airplane kept me from getting anything productive done. The nice lady at the Alitalia desk in New York was able to reseat us next to each other in an aisle-window pair of seats near the rear of the aircraft, instead of two window seats in adjacent rows. So that was nice.

On arrival, we took a taxi to get from the airport to Ispra. It was pretty pricey, but I will get reimbursed and it was a lot more bearable than the 2.5 hour train ride would have been in our post-travel condition. It was slightly sketchy - more of a rideshare than a proper taxi - but it was a fixed price for the destination, so when the police closed down the main route and we got detoured all over the place through slow and heavy traffic, it was fine. And hey, we got a bit of a free scenic tour out of it. (I realized also that having GPS for the driver and in your phone so you can verify that you're going to the right place makes that kind of situation a lot less stressful.)

We checked into our hotel around noon and took showers to clean off the travel skunge, hooray! Then we went for a walk to look for someplace to get lunch. (And to be outside walking around in sunshine to fend off jetlag.) Saw a lot of very pretty Lago Maggiore (which I realized is literally "Major Lake" after hearing the name spoken aloud by an Italian). Saw a lot of pretty small Italian town. Saw a lot of closed businesses. Finally got lunch at around 3 after walking to a place about a mile away. Which, again, was fine. It's an adventure, we were feeling kinda hungry but not starving since our body clocks are totally out of sync, and it served the purpose of keeping us active in daylight. And the pizza was very good.

We came back to the hotel -- which is right on the lakeshore, by the by -- and wandered a bit more. Stuck our feet in the water, which was bracing and pleasant. Appreciated the scenery. Now attempting to stay awake until dark. Ish. We have, of course, already slagged an outlet splitter that turned out to be surge-protected for 110 volts by plugging it into a 220 outlet. All the fancy tech we have with us is happy to be plugged into whatever voltage, it's one of the most primitive components that turned out to be vulnerable. And it was only after it happened that I recalled this happening last time, too. Hooray for jetlag...
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So I missed the concert I was expecting to go to on Wednesday, because when I was looking up details on Sunday, it turned out that the date had moved since I put it on my calendar, and it was that night and already sold out! Curses! But only kinda; my disappointment was mitigated by the fact that (1) I hadn't had time to get any anticipation built up, and (2) I was really, really tired, and I did not mind having at least some downtime in the weekend.

Things have been hectic lately. My friend Mike from high school came up to Boulder for lunch on Wednesday. And then on Thursday, my Mom & Larry were passing through town on the way to the mountains to go fishing for the weekend, so we had dinner (Smashburger) with them. Then I went of to Chris's for Games Night. (There were only four of us, so we played a game of Sentinels with the one-mini-villain-per-player setup that seemed to be going only okay for a long while but then came together very quickly at the end.)

On Friday, we got dinner at the Mondoplex with Douglas and then watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which was excellent; just as good as the first one, in my book. So that was lovely.

The weekend was taken up with dealing with bills, and backing up data, and getting my new phone to actually work properly (turns out my cellular data plan got switched off when updating plans) and other such chores. I also got in a nice long visit with Grandma on Saturday evening. She is dissatisfied with her current housekeeper, who is nosy (or as Grandma puts it, "a prowler"), not good at following instructions, and who adds knick-knacks and doilies to the house. ("You don't have any table scarves for the side tables!" Like my grandmother, having lived in that house for well in excess of half a century, doesn't have it all set up exactly how she wants it?) I told Grandma that it sounds like she means well, but doesn't have a lick of sense. I also got to hear stories about pigs and cows from when Grandma was a little girl in Oklahoma.

Plus of course there's also wedding planning and trip planning and trying to get a bunch of stuff done at work in between all the cloud vendor meetings. But things are good; I'm a little stressed, but mostly just busy.
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We had a very busy, very social weekend with lots of out-of-town visitors.

Bryree & Marty were in town for a wedding, and the best time to get together was in the morning, so we had them come over for breakfast on Friday and I made eggs. There are not a huge number of breakfast places near us (especially since they were coming up from Littleton), and the ones there are serve everything with huge piles of toast and/or hashbrowns (which I can't eat), and then there's all the time you spend getting there and getting seated and ordering and so on instead of actually visiting, and since I'm used to cooking breakfast every morning anyway and had lots of breakfast components readily at hand, it was just easier and more enjoyable to make it than to go out.

Then, very late Friday night / early Saturday morning, my sister Sherilyn and her crew arrived. She and her hubby Devin were in town for a conference for a business venture they're involved in, and they drove down from Idaho, leaving on Friday evening and arriving at about 4:30 in the morning. They also brought their new baby Olive and a friend who grew up in Lakewood to babysit. They crashed in our guest room and library for a few hours of sleep, then ran off to Broomfield Event Center for the whole day. Again, breakfast was the best opportunity to have some visiting time, so I just cooked. That also meant I didn't have to be dressed for going out in public before 8 am. I made Denver omelets.

Went back to bed for a bit to recover from interrupted sleep, and then Jerry and I went off to the Lao New Year festival at the Lao Buddhist temple that's under construction over at Wasdworth & 108th. Did you know that was there? I didn't! Found out from Inclusivity Board, and it seemed like an important event to go and show community support for. Saw several other board members there, got some tasty nibbles (meatballs onna stick, gingery beef jerky), and watched some traditional dancing. Spent the rest of the day prepping to run Star Wars that evening over at the Nevilles'.

Sunday morning we said farewell to Sherilyn et al., who were headed out for church early, then off to visit Grandma, then back to their conference from noon-5, and then drove back to Idaho -- man, do 20-somethings have a lot of energy! We, on the other hand, went up to Boulder for brunch with Jofish & Erin, who are in town this week for the big HCI conference, plus Sarah and a couple friends of Erin's from E-Theta. So that was nice. We had brunch at Shine, which is one of the few places in Boulder that takes reservations for Sunday brunch. The food was tasty and it was far less twee an experience than is suggested by their website, so that was good.

And that was plenty of weekend as far as we were concerned. There was a gargantuan hailstorm in Denver yesterday, but nothing up in Boulder and very little in Westminster, so neither of us saw anything, although we have several friends with smashed-up car windows and/or houses. Yikes!
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So yesterday I took a half-day. I let the morning be relaxed and went about my full set of ablutions in a sort of semi-mindful way, which is to say mostly doing the stuff I was doing rather than putting all my attention on a Long List Of Things To Do. I did a couple errands (stopped by Kaiser for a blood draw, picked up a lunch salad from the kebab place in Broomfield) on the way in to the office and got there a little after lunchtime. And it worked! I had a lot more focus and was able to get a number of things done. Today was also pretty good.

Last weekend we had folks over to play Descent on Saturday. The scenario was horribly broken (everyone online agrees that it's just impossible for the Overlord to win), but we managed to have a good time anyway. Played a few rounds of Exploding Kittens afterwards. Mostly just visiting with friends, yay!

Then on Sunday, we drove down to visit Bob & Mike for cake tasting. We had pistachio and pina colada regular cake, and bakalava and root beer float cheesecake. They were all good; the pina colada moved up a couple notches, but otherwise they stayed about where we had them originally. I should mention that we were tasting varieties that we were unsure about, because we're going to have multiple kinds of cake at the wedding. (I had the realization that one of our strategies for dealing with difficult wedding planning decisions is to find solutions that involve not making them. So far it's working well.)
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Ugh. Today was pretty much a bust and I would like a do-over. I woke up tired this morning and really wanted to just take the morning off and go back to bed, and frankly, I should have. I got almost nothing done because I didn't have the energy to focus on anything complicated, so I tried to tackle some dumb and straightforward but semi-urgent tasks. But they were slow, and not only was I unable to deal with switching back and forth between tasks, I couldn't maintain focus through waiting for things to finish. So I ended up putzing around a bunch and then I didn't even have enough energy to disengage from doing nothing and stayed late at work for no reason at all. Bleah.

So despite the feeling that I really ought to be extra-productive with the rest of the week, I think what I need to do tomorrow is not push myself to go in early or anything, but instead make myself enough space to feel relaxed and rested so that I can get over feeling overwhelmed by the bajillion things on my to-do list and focus. And then I'll be able to get something done.


Apr. 30th, 2017 10:31 pm
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There's an awful lot of very good TV out there right now, but I gotta say, if you haven't watched Legion? You are missing out.

So Thing Number One is that the storytelling is unlike anything else I've ever seen. It's confusing at the beginning -- and frankly, even after having watched the whole thing, there are things that I'm still not entirely clear about -- but somehow it doesn't matter. I found myself saying "I have no idea what is going on, and I have even less idea what's going to happen next, but I can't wait to find out." Plus on a visual / cinematic level, the show does all kinds of bizarro things you've never seen before, and it makes them work.

Thing Number Two is that the acting is amazing. Whoever did the casting for this show deserves an award, because so many of the roles involve playing a wild range or weird mixture of personalities or deeply strange characters or conveying complex thoughts and emotions with little to no dialogue, and if anybody failed to pull it off, the whole thing would fall flat, but everybody just nails it.

Thing Three is... I don't know what it is, because it all happened at a subconscious level for me. It's probably something about the camera angles and the lighting and the sound and all that stuff, but whatever it is, it's really good. Because you'll be watching the show and nothing in particular is happening, and all you can think is something is really, really wrong; something terrible is going to happen and there's no reason at all to think that, except that something unidentifiable is off-kilter. Plus there's all this mental/psychological stuff happening, and a whole lot of it is represented symbolically and never gets explained, but it's plenty clear what it means.

I didn't binge the show because I don't like binge-watching and also because it's a pretty tense show, and sometimes after an episode I'd be like, okay, I'm really looking forward to the next one but that is seriously all I can handle for tonight. But I never once got bored with it.