Sun, 12 Mar 2006

Was going through some old tomboy notes today, and realized that I’d written a couple blog posts that never got posted. Given the choice between deleting them, and posting them badly out of date and out of order, I’ve chosen the latter. Sadly, they were intended to have picture links, but my gallery is busted ATM, so no pics for you! :)

From my flight back home after New Years:

What a great and relaxing break. Very little email; very little thinking about school applications at all. (Work, it turns out, is the least of my stressors right now, by a large margin, though I expect things to come fast and furious when I return.) This entry is almost entirely of the personal diary-nature (sans several book recommendations), so ignore it if that’s not your cup of tea :) (And yes, one of these days I’ll switch to a blog system with categories, but I’m not in any hurry ;)

First leg of the trip was to California to see Krissa’s parents. Read Market Forces and Broken Angels by Richard Morgan on the flight out. If you’re looking for light scifi that will clear your mind of other thoughts without challenging you too much, I recommend them both. If you’re looking for something more challenging, my sole attack on that over the break Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds, which my brother and sister got me for Christmas. It is not as challenging as his books usually are (more character-oriented, less analysis of culture/history/etc.) but still fun and more complicated/involved than the Morgan books.

California itself was great. In the ‘architecture is law’ category, I finally realized that part of why Krissa’s dad’s house is so spectacularly family-friendly is that there is no place to go in the house that isn’t the joint living room-kitchen. If you’re awake and in the house, you’re going to be in the same room with everyone else, in a room oriented around the kitchen and the table instead of the TV. Obviously the fact that the family is incredibly open and friendly is the prime reason the house is so friendly and sociable, but I think the layout of the house helps out a lot more than I’d realized before.

At any rate, much socializing (mostly in the form of a family card game called Shanghai) and wine drinking was done. On the 23rd, we went wine-tasting and picked up a dozen bottles or so for ourselves, and a bottle for my dad’s 60th birthday party.

Christmas itself was sort of weird- my first one ever not with my mom or grandparents. Enjoyed it nonetheless. Krissa’s nephews are going to be spoiled (they are the center of the universe, basically) but are adorable adorable kids right now- very smart and talkative for their age. Unfortunately one of them got sick and missed some of the post-Christmas festivities. Was a theme- apparently part of Christmas day at my grandparent’s was spent at the hospital, as my grandmother got some kind of 24 hour stomach virus which she passed on to my mom, aunt, and brother too. Not a great end for a long year at their house.

After Christmas, flew home to Miami to celebrate my dad’s 60th. My dad is a very successful, well-liked guy (well, by everyone except my mom ;) and the party was quite a success. The party theme was ‘the king’ (yeah, that would be my dad) so there was a jester and lots of crown-shaped chocolates. Was good to see some family members I haven’t seen in forever.

Highlight of the trip home was probably actually the boat trip the family took on new year’s eve day. I am still kicking myself for not bringing the camera, because I’ve never seen dolphins in Biscayne Bay so frolicsome. We saw at least three, probably four, pods of three dolphins, and one in particular had a younger/smaller dolphin and was just having a blast- jumping, rolling, and basically wresting with each other. Miami really is a wonderful, magical place sometimes.
Spent some time reading at home, of course, sprawled on a hammock between two palm trees. Between that time and the flight I read the excellent Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer by Warren St. John, Century Rain, and Futebol by Alex Bellos. Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer was a great look into the psychology and behavior of sports fans, particularly through the lens of the University of Alabama football fans who tailgate before games in RVs. Really fascinating book- explaining in much more eloquent terms than I can some of the compulsions and behaviors of the slightly insane fan, such as myself. He also dug up some great research (most of it, sadly, published after my last attempt to research the topic) showing that in fact many rabid fans are pretty sane, normal people.

Food-wise, it was a sort of dull holiday- I ate very well, but nothing new that I can think of offhand. Among other things I’m returning with are a brick of guava jelly (yay) and some incredibly interesting chocolate chips that my brother got for Christmas, from Vosges Chocolate. The first bag are ‘red fire’ chips, which include ancho and chipotle chillies and cinnamon in with the dark chocolate. The other bag are ‘black pearl’, which add ginger, wasabi, and black sesame seeds to the chocolate. Am looking forward to what Krissa invents to put them in. [Ed. Note later: these were delicious, and my brother got us more for my birthday a couple weeks ago. This stuff is silly expensive, and silly pretentious (never thought chocolate could be pretentious, huh?) but fricking crazy delicious.]

New Year’s resolution, I think, is not to say anything out loud that I would be uncomfortable putting in my blog. Last year’s resolution, for the first time ever, was a success- I got a couple new suits for Christmas, and I vowed that by this Christmas I’d lose enough weight to force them to be adjusted. Mission accomplished; have dropped two pants sizes and am hoping to drop at least one more this year. We’ll see how that goes. [Ed. Note: not doing great on this year’s resolution, but not terrible either. We’ll see how it goes :)]

I also found a short note from Berlin:

The new Reichstag is pretty cool, except that you can’t actually walk on the lawn of the republic (or whatever they call it) so you can’t really see the dome, and from within the dome, you can’t really see the floor of the Reichstag unless the angle is perfect. This is a shame; I really like the symbolized idea of a ‘transparent’ government- much better than the powerful but aloof architecture of DC. (Open Question: were the white columns always ‘aloof’? Or are we reading it to it modern feelings about our government?)

The new holocaust memorial is fairly powerful, but (1) is not embedded in something like DC’s Mall (it is in the middle of cityscape/construction) and hence loses some of the meditative/emotional power. (2) It does not provide any context… a little bit of context and separation, and the raw design of the thing would be massively powerful. (compare/contrast the miami beach holocaust memorial, with stark images of starvation, or the personalization and scope of the vietnam memorial.) You want to walk into it, explore, think, but the surrounding cityscape and the lack of anything to even say ‘by the way, this is a holocaust memorial’ sort of dampens the effect. [There is some kind of vistor center-y thing, but there was only a line- no signs that I could see, even in german.]