Da Weekend

Jul. 9th, 2017 09:18 pm
hudebnik: (Default)
So Friday evening we flew to Roanoke, VA, the nearest airport to the farm where my brother [profile] mankoeponymous was getting married. The wedding had a "burning" theme: part Burning Man, part fire-dancers (which has been a good deal of my brother's social circle for the past ten years or more), and since [personal profile] shalmestere and I are old fuddy-duddies who have never been to Burning Man OR (intentionally) danced while carrying or wearing anything that was on fire, we were a little dubious. But everybody was very welcoming, and it was a good chance to see a bunch of my family: my mother, two aunts, an uncle, my step-sister, a step-nephew, my half-brother, and my father. My mother and father, I gather, were halfway through introductions before they recognized one another; I guess they hadn't seen one another since my wedding, exactly 22 years before.

The bride had been in a pep band in college, so a marching band playing Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" accompanied the bride and groom to the space where the ceremony was to take place. (I played pipe-and-tabor, while [personal profile] shalmestere played sopranino recorder; I don't think anybody heard either of us. There was some confusion over what key to play the piece in: my brother sent out sheet music, but it was band score in which all the instruments are in different transpositions. Anyway, it was very spirited and peppy.) The vows were largely about recognizing that both parties are fallible human beings, that it's better to argue fairly and constructively than to not argue at all, that the only certainty in life is that things won't go exactly according to plan, etc. etc. During dinner, about a dozen twenty-and-thirty-somethings testified, passionately, in alternation about how wonderful the bride and the groom are. After dinner, we bid farewell to a bunch of relatives, watched a slide show of alternating kiddie pictures of the bride and the groom, and returned to our hotel before it got dark enough for fire-dancing (see "old fuddy-duddies", above).

Between Saturday morning and Sunday morning, we got to drink some good milkshakes, eat some good barbecue and Southern biscuits-and-gravy, and visit the Roanoke city zoo, which is on top of the mountain in the middle of the city (nice views of the other mountains that surround the city on all sides). It's a small zoo, where one can see pretty much everything in an hour, so it fit nicely between brunch with my mother, step-sister, and step-nephew and our afternoon flight home.

A bizarre but enjoyable weekend.

Da Weekend

Nov. 3rd, 2015 06:35 am
hudebnik: (devil duck)
Friday afternoon [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere rented a car for the weekend, ours being MIA for a week and a half. We know it was ticketed for being in a no-parking zone; we suspect a "predatory tow company" that's legally authorized to tow vehicles that have tickets on the windshield, but which illegally towed it to a chop shop rather than to the NYPD tow pound. Anyway, we then drove to [livejournal.com profile] isabeau_lark's house to rehearse for Saturday's performance.

Saturday we drove to the Philadelphia area for Will McLean's funeral. Funerals are a place where all the different "boxes" of a person's life intersect: we knew a fair number of the people in the "SCA and living history" box (although some we had never seen in suits before), had met a few of the people in the "family" box, and have no idea what the other boxes were. Anyway, the funeral was held in the chapel (the original church building) of an Episcopal church, and we (i.e. me, [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere, [livejournal.com profile] isabeau_lark, and Beth/Deonna) had contracted to provide some music during the service. After the Old Testament reading we played F. Andris's deploration on the death of Guillaume de Machaut, "Armes, amours", on recorders, and as a recessional we did a mash-up of Josquin's and Morton's takes on "L'Homme Armee", on shawms. Both pieces went reasonably well, considering we had one rehearsal with all personnel, and I think they contributed to the atmosphere.

We took advantage of having a car to do some grocery shopping and to eat out, thus getting home after most of the trick-or-treaters (whom we really weren't prepared to entertain, having not planned to be home this weekend at all).

Sunday was spent on household maintenance and more car-based shopping.

Next big commitment: Musicians' Day, which promises to have a bunch of good music classes, good food, and good socializing at a site overlooking a beautiful forest-girded lake. Be there or be square-note!
hudebnik: (devil duck)
Cut for pictures )

I hope that was enlightening and entertaining....
hudebnik: (Default)
We had breakfast at the B&B in Kilronan, talked to the very friendly horse next door (there are a lot of horse-drawn taxis on the island), and set off by bicycle to see the Black Fort, another stone fortification (reportedly not as large, but nearly as impressive, as Dun Aonghasa). Different guidebooks offered different opinions on how long it takes to get there, and we had a noon ferry to catch, so we weren't sure we would get there. As it turned out, our bicycling muscles were so sore from the previous day's exertions that we didn't even get to the trailhead, but came back to the village, returned our rental bikes, and bought some sweaters (to be delivered in two weeks or so) before checking out and walking to the ferry terminal.

The boat ride was considerably rockier than the trip to Innishmore the previous morning, but we got to Rossaveel without incident. It was raining. Got back in the car and drove past Galway to Dunghaoire Castle, a 16th-century tower house renovated in the 20th century and now hosting a nightly "medieval banquet" involving potato-leek soup, chicken supreme, and other dishes with no obvious connection to the middle ages; entertainment is a mix of 17th-20th-century Irish poetry and music. We passed on the banquet and drove west into the Burren.

The Burren, in northern County Clare, makes most of the bare, rocky, windswept ridges in Ireland look lush by comparison. The hilltops are almost completely grey limestone, with only the occasional vein of grass. According to the guidebooks, the resulting ecosystem is the most varied in Ireland, if not Europe, with Arctic and Mediterranean flowers growing side by side, but (between the time of day, the rain, and exhaustion) we didn't get far enough into the countryside to see this up close. The valleys are somewhat greener, largely due to human intervention -- according to a TV documentary we saw, most of the Burren was rock until people quarried it, piled it into walls and houses and cairns and whatever, and persuaded grass to grow in the few inches of soil remaining. (I had been wondering why there are SO MANY stone walls separating tiny little sheep pastures. It turns out it's not that there are that many farmers, each fiercely defensive of his flock, although that may be true at times too; they needed someplace to put all the rock, and the walls provide shelter from the wind for grass and cattle. One old-timer on the documentary described walking the land with his father and picking up any stone that had fallen from the walls: "that stone eats as much as a donkey." He also listed at least a dozen different kinds of shaped stones, each serving a different role in the complex construction of a proper stone wall.)

We drove on through Doolin and Lisdoonvarna to the famous Cliffs of Moher. It was intermittently rainy and foggy, and we weren't sure we'd be able to see any of the much-vaunted scenery, but we had enough of a break for a few minutes' worth of dramatic views before the rain and fog returned and we drove on to Ennis, our scheduled stop for the night.


Jun. 29th, 2012 08:14 am
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So we had an early breakfast and hit the road towards Rossaveel (Ros a Mhoile?), the port town west of Galway where the ferries stop. It was raining on and off for the 45-minute drive, but we got to the ferry terminal on time, picked up our tickets (reserved online the night before), and got on the boat without mishap. The 45-minute ferry trip was uneventful: no especially dramatic scenery or wildlife sightings, under heavily overcast skies. The rain held off until we got off the boat, but by the time we reached the B&B 200 meters away it was definitely raining. We checked into our room and ran next door for lunch (at the Aran Fisherman restaurant, very tasty and imaginative), and by the time we had finished eating, the rain had stopped and there were signs of blue in the sky.

Innishmore (Inis Mor) is less than ten miles long, and the standard way for tourists to explore it is by bicycle -- there are at least three bike-rental places between the pier and our B&B -- so we rented a pair of bicycles, applied some sunscreen (!), and headed off under increasingly sunny skies. The first attraction was St Benen's Church, which was built in the 10th century on top of a windswept bare ridge and is still in excellent condition (except, as usual, for the lack of a roof). The interior dimensions are 6 feet by 12 feet, so it's not the sort of place you would hold a large service -- but then, the location makes pretty clear that it wasn't intended for gregarious types. In fact, [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere said "This is the perfect introvert's vacation spot." Pictures to come.

We cycled on past the island airport and a cemetery, stopping on occasion to see the seabirds picking through the tidepools, looking for St Enda's Church. After passing the spot on the map where it should have been, we turned around and found it hidden in the middle of the cemetery (the guidebook didn't mention that detail). St Enda (Einne) founded a monastic community here in the 5th century where one of the students was St Columba (Colmcille), the patron saint of Ireland. The church was actually built in the 8th century, and is only slightly larger than St Benen's up the hill. Most distinctively, the ground has risen by three or four feet since it was built, so the church is set into a hollow, and if you're more than ten meters away you can only see the upper half of it. It has some amazing stone-carvings on the altar and internal walls.

By this time the sky was mostly clear, the sun blazing down, and it was hot (by Irish standards, i.e. maybe 70F). We returned to the B&B, reapplied sunscreen, dropped off the rainwear, and headed off in the other direction towards Dun Aonghasa, the main tourist attraction of the island (the tour book had recommended saving this for late afternoon or early morning to avoid the mid-day tourist crowds).

Like an idiot, I had failed to pick up a detailed map of the island before setting off, so we got a little lost, but it's not that big an island, and there aren't that many roads to get lost on, so that probably added only a mile to the trip. We took the less-hilly "coastal road" past the seal colony, and saw two or three seals in the shallows. Even the coastal road has some substantial hills and a lot of wind, so we were pretty tired by the time we reached the cluster of tourist shops at the Dun Aonghasa trailhead. But we parked our bikes and took the twenty-minute walk up the hill to Dun Aonghasa, a truly awe-inspiring Bronze Age stone fort built on the edge of a 500-foot sheer vertical cliff into the sea. Pictures to come.

As the astute reader will have predicted on reading the words "dropped off the rainwear" two paragraphs back, the clouds returned while we were exploring the fort, and it started to drizzle before we got back to the bikes. But that didn't last long, and the ride back to the B&B was mostly under overcast but non-precipatory skies. The tide had gone out, so there were now at least a dozen seals, each basking on its own tide-exposed rock. The ride was physically tough, since neither of us is really in bicycling shape, so we got to the B&B and lay down for a few minutes before walking a few hundred meters away to a restaurant (the Ostann Arann is described ion the guidebook as having "the best restaurant on the island", but we found it much less interesting than the Aran Fisherman where we had lunch), then back and crashing on the bed again.

It's Friday morning now. Two days from now we'll be on a plane back to the U.S. Today's itinerary calls for (possibly) walking to the Black Fort, another prehistoric stone fortification, taking the ferry back to Rossaveel, and driving around the Bay to County Clare.
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Rick Steves's guide book suggests a 200-mile driving circuit of Connemara and Mayo, with Galway as a home base. That seemed like rather a lot to us, since much shorter driving circuits of the Dingle and Iveragh Peninsulas had each taken us most of a day, and since many of the attractions on his loop don't particularly interest us. So we decided to drive up to Cong, see the medieval Cong Abbey, then head west into Connemara and turn back towards Galway whenever time and weather suggested it. On the way to Cong, we passed a variety of little brown road signs telling us about such-and-such church or such-and-such castle down such-and-such country road, and since we didn't have any particular destinations or deadlines for the day, we took pretty much every such opportunity.

The first such was Cargin Church and Castle. The church was originally built in the 12th century on the site of an older cemetery, and was already in ruins by the 16th century. The interior of the church has been completely overtaken with weeds and flowers, so it looks rather like The Secret Garden; it feels magical. The castle a few hundred yards away was built in the 13th century, abandoned in the 1940's, and renovated to modern livability standards in the 1970's; it is now used as a summer cottage and available for group rentals.

A mile farther on was another country road leading to the Ross Errily Friary, an extensive and well-preserved complex dating from the 13th-15th centuries (with some 17th-18th-century fireplaces and the like), surrounded by cow pastures. At the far side of the elaborate residential wing was a kitchen with a circular tank for storing live fish, and a walk-in medieval cooking fireplace. A hole in the wall at the back of the fireplace leads to the baking oven in the room next door. And of course a lot of people have been buried inside the building since it was abandoned in the 18th century. Fascinating stuff.

After all that, Cong Abbey was rather disappointing. It's your generic 13th-century church building with adjacent cloister, now filled with tombstones -- not particularly old, not particularly large, not particularly well-preserved. The most interesting feature is the fishing hut that the monks built on a platform over the river: apparently they hung nets through a hole in the floor, tied to a bell so the cook up in the abbey would know when his ingredients were ready. Anyway, we walked around the adjacent park, and into the grounds of the adjacent Ashford Castle, which after being built in the 13th century was extensively expanded in the 17th century and again in the 19th century; it's now a luxury hotel.

[livejournal.com profile] shalmestere remembered seeing another castle along the way which we hadn't turned aside to investigate, so we got back in the car and retraced our path for some miles without success. Although we did see a little brown sign leading down a country road to Ballymagibbon Cairn, a large (30 meters across?) mound of stones with a cylindrical stone platform on top, so we clambered up that and looked around. By this time it was mid-afternoon, we were tired, and we were halfway back to Galway, so we cancelled the wander-west-into-Connemara plan and returned to Galway to rest before dinner.

Along the way we did find the castle she was thinking of, just on the outskirts of Galway and only about six feet off the road. It turns out to have been extensively renovated in the past fifty years, and is currently occupied and not open to the public. (Now I don't remember its name -- I'll add that later.)

We walked a few hundred meters from our B&B into downtown Galway and had some tasty Thai-inspired food while watching a bunch of the local University juggling club practice on the riverbank. The pedestrian-only High Street was hopping, colorful, and crowded with (largely) twenty-somethings. We walked around the outside of the 13th-century church (considerably expanded and renovated; nothing particularly notable) but didn't go in because there was a concert with a mandatory 15-euro ticket price and we were sleepy. I don't think there's anything else medieval in downtown Galway, but there are a number of 16th-17th-century buildings that now house banks, restaurants, and the like. Back to the B&B, reserved tickets for the ferry to Innishmore tomorrow, and went to bed.

Today... Innishmore.
hudebnik: (Default)
The itinerary for this trip is not what anyone would consider efficient. We flew into Cork in the south, took a bus and a train the next day to Dublin in the east, then rented a car and drove to Dingle in the southwest, then the Iveragh Peninsula slightly farther south, then to Galway in the northwest, and will then drive back to Shannon airport in the west, passing through the Kilkenny Killarney area three times in all, and the greater Limerick area three times too. This is because I was unable to find decent air fares flying into Dublin (but flying into Cork was OK), and unable to find decent room rates in Dublin the middle weekend of the trip (but staying in Dublin the first week was OK). Yesterday involved a lot of driving (by European standards).

We started on little country roads from Kenmare (south of Kilkenny), stopping for half an hour or so to see the medieval sights of Kilmallock, to the Lough Gur site, which has been inhabited more or less continuously for 6000 years and has a range of archaeological sites from neolithic to early-modern. All of this was discovered in the 19th century when they lowered the lake and found vast quantities of artifacts, which were promptly shipped to museums and private collectors all over the world (except the ones that were melted down); very little remains at Lough Gur itself. Some of the archaeological sites are basically invisible, while others are on private land. "On private land" doesn't mean "you can't get there," as it generally would in the U.S.; it means you may need to pick your way over cow-patties to get there, and you may be asked to drop a few Euros into an honor-system coinbox. But some of them really are inaccessible. The visitor centre (modeled on some of the neolithic round huts the archaeologists found) includes a small museum with a video and the few artifacts that are still at Lough Gur, but the people behind the desk didn't seem to think we needed to pay for that, and invited us to just take the free self-guided walking tour. Shortly into this tour, it became evident that there was information about the various stops that wasn't in the one-page glossy brochure, so I stopped back at the visitor centre to ask if there was an audio-guide or something. The ladies behind the desk explained that it's an "i-Tour", i.e. you're supposed to download the audio-guide to your smart phone. Unfortunately, (a) there's little or no cell phone reception at the site, so it's difficult to download anything if you didn't do it in advance, (b) I couldn't find the audio-guide on the Web site, and (c) it's very difficult to even find the stops on the tour without the audio-guide telling you where to turn. A potentially good idea with some serious flaws in implementation.

Anyway, we did get to two early-Christian stone ring forts, a Bronze Age megalithic tomb, and a Bronze Age megalithic circle-temple, all of which were not only visible and reachable but impressive.

We then drove around Limerick and up to Galway, which is a long distance (by European standards), but it's mostly high-speed divided highway so it went fairly easily. We arrived in Galway to find the city socked in with fog, which I gather is par for the course. We were pretty hungry (it was almost 9 PM), so the B&B proprietor dropped us at a nearby restaurant he recommended, we had dinner (I had a tasty hake, [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere had a beef-and-Guinness stew to die for) and walked back to the B&B along the waterfront.
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OK, let's see. Saturday morning we packed and left the lovely Clonunion B&B and spent maybe two hours visiting the lovely village of Adare, outside Limerick, including a guided tour of Desmond Castle. Then we drove from County Limerick into County Kerry, stopping to visit the remains of Ardfert Cathedral, through Tralee and some lovely mountain scenery (i.e. twisty narrow mountain roads) to the town of Dingle, halfway out the Dingle Peninsula.
pictures from Saturday )

We arrived at our B&B to find there had been a misunderstanding, we didn't have a reservation after all, and the B&B was full. The proprietor called her friend up the road, who had a room in her B&B, but that one was well outside town and not convenient for pedestrian exploration. Fortunately, one of the other B&B's I had contacted in advance had had a cancellation, so we stayed at the "Last Cottage". Tiny room, but awesome harbor-and-hills view out the bedroom window, and two cute dogs.
view from B&B

Dingle was apparently unknown to most of the world until the 1970 film "Ryan's Daughter" made it a tourist attraction, and now every store that isn't a pub is a souvenir shop. Still a reasonably cute village, but one feels somewhat under assault. Dingle also has a reputation for great live music in the pubs, and we did what by our standards could be called a "pub crawl": we ate in one pub, stepped into another for a few minutes to listen to a quartet of aging hippies, then went to a third, sat down, and ordered dessert while listening to three guys with instruments -- one (I think the proprietor of the pub) playing accordion, another playing a variety of guitars and ukeleles (he also did an unaccompanied-voice number of his own composition), and a young fellow playing some fascinating and complex stuff on the banjo.

Sunday we drove a loop trip around the tip of the Dingle Peninsula, visiting a variety of prehistoric stone forts and awesome seaside scenery. It was only thirty miles around the loop, but it took us about six hours.
Pictures )
At the end of that, we were too tired to take the "scenic but twisty and narrow" Conor Pass route from Dingle back to Tralee, so we took the still-fairly-scenic, still-somewhat-twisty-and-narrow N86 road, then turned south from Tralee, through Killarney to our B&B in Kenmare.

Monday we had scheduled a similar loop trip around the Iveragh Peninsula (aka "the Ring of Kerry"). Since this is four times as long as the Dingle loop, which had taken us six hours, we were a little worried about timing, but it appeared that the attractions on this loop were fewer and farther between, and as it turned out, it took us about eight hours, including visits to several more stone ring-forts (c. 10th-11th centuries), the beautifully-preserved 7th-10th-century Gallarus Oratory, a 15th-16th-century castle, more awe-inspiring coastal scenery, and a 20th-21st-century chocolate factory. Pictures to follow. Spent another night in the same B&B in Kenmare, where the proprietor had done a load of laundry for us. Clean undies -- yay! Will tip well.

Today we're driving to Limerick, visiting the Lough Gur archaeological and historical site, then hopping on the motorway to Galway.
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Last night we had dinner at a sort of gastropub in Kilkenny. Decent food, and it's the first place we've been yet with an evening live-music show. It was three or four guys playing (variously) guitar, mandolin, harmonica, tin whistle, etc. and singing a mix of trad and trad-sounding songs.

Woke in the B&B in Kilkenny, had breakfast, checked out of the room, and walked a block away to Kilkenny Castle. Originally a wooden fort built by Strongbow, it was inherited by William Marshal (through his wife, Strongbow's heir), who replaced it with a trapezoidal stone castle. It abruptly became a U-shaped castle when Oliver Cromwell's artillery knocked down one of the four sides. The resident noble family finally abandoned it in 1935, then sold what remained of the building to the landmarks commission in 1995. A multi-million-pound restoration project aimed at restoring it to its Victorian glory, and much of the castle is now furnished in 19th-century style (although one can still see some of the medieval foundations).

Down the road is St Canice's Cathedral, which was built (IIRC) in the 12th or 13th century, except for the adjacent round tower which dates to the 9th century. St Canice's is among other things the final resting place of Bishop Richard Ledrede, compiler of the Red Book of Ossory (a 14th-century "filk book", full of sacred lyrics "to be sung to the tune of" various well-known pop tunes, only one of which survives). I got a photo of his tomb effigy, as well as of several other tomb effigies which are consistently dressed at least a hundred years behind the fashions: double-pointed hennins and V-necked gowns in the late 16th century? We also climbed the round tower and took a few photos from the top.
pictures from Kilkenny )

Then drove on to the Rock of Cashel, which was the seat of a series of feuding Kings of Munster until 1101, when the guy who had just grabbed it from his rivals donated it to the Church, thus effectively keeping it out of his rivals' hands and ingratiating himself with the Church. What had been chosen as a highly defensible castle became a highly defensible cathedral for several hundred years, until a 17th-century bishop got tired of living in a castle with six-foot-thick walls and one fireplace in the whole building, on top of a rock that catches every wind in Ireland, so he moved first his residence, and then the Cathedral, down the hill and abandoned the old cathedral site.
Pictures from Cashel )

Lunch somewhere in County Tipperary )

Enough of that. We're in a B&B in Adare, just outside Limerick.
Pictures of B&B )
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When we first went to London mumble-mumble years ago, we planned to spend a day between the Museum of London and the V&A. We ended up leaving the Museum of London for lunch, coming back, and spending the rest of the day there, with the V&A the following day. We had a similar experience at the National Museum of Dublin (History and Archaeology): we were at the door when it opened at 10:00, and by lunchtime, we had only just finished the "Prehistoric Ireland" section, so we left for lunch and came back for "Viking Ireland" and "Medieval Ireland", giving a miss to the Cypriot and Greco-Roman exhibits. Awesome stuff.

We were a little confused about photography: there were signs everywhere with an icon that appeared to read "no photography", but we saw dozens of people taking photographs of exhibits, right in front of the guards, with no consequences. So eventually I asked a guard: it turns out that the rule is "no video, no flash, but still photos are fine except in such-and-such room." (The "such-and-such room" contains fragments of an 8th-century psalter that was dug up, complete with its binding, in a peat bog in 2006. The binding is in pretty good shape, but most of the pages have only their edges surviving; there's just enough legible text for the conservators to tell that it's a psalter, and that Psalms 1, 51, and 101 are illustrated.) So we got a fair number of photos of exhibits in the Viking and Medieval sections, then went back and got a few in the Prehistoric section (e.g. 4000-year-old bronze ax heads with their stone molds).

Pictures from the museum )

The National Museum actually has four branches: History and Archaeology (which ate up yesterday), Decorative Arts, Natural History, and Country Life. Decorative Arts and Natural History are a block or two away from History and Archaeology, while Country Life is in a different County.

more pictures from around Dublin )

Anyway, today we're planning to pick up a rental car at the airport and visit a variety of attractions north of Dublin: the prehistoric passage graves at Newgrange, a couple of ruined medieval monasteries and abbeys, Trim Castle, etc. The excitement will presumably be driving on the left side of the road, but at least we don't have to drive any closer to the centre of Dublin than the suburb of Donnybrook, where our B&B is.

Posted via m.livejournal.com.

hudebnik: (Default)
Mishap the First: I decided to change money while we were waiting for our plane from JFK, and got a lousy exchange rate. I should have checked the rate and terms more carefully before handing over the dough. So that's 40 Euros or so down the tubes.

Mishap the Second: before we had even gotten halfway across the Atlantic, I broke a tooth. For the short run, I've been packing the gap with chewing gum to avoid tearing my tongue open on the jagged edge, but I fear that I'll have to spend some of our Dublin sightseeing time at the dentist. Yuck.

Mishap the Third: I had allowed an hour and a half between our plane arrival in Cork and our bus connection, to allow for late planes, customs, changing money, finding our way through an unfamiliar airport, buying bus tickets, etc. As it turned out, the plane was slightly early, customs took about 45 seconds, we had already changed money (see above), and the airport is fairly small and intimate, so we had an hour and a half to wait for the bus. No big deal.

Mishap the Fourth: I don't seem to have packed the cable that attaches our new phone to the computer. It should be possible to buy such a cable, though, so no big deal.

Actually, there haven't been a lot of mishaps so far; if those are the worst things that happen, it won't be a bad trip.

More narrative and photos )

But right now the sun is out, and we hope to get to some museums and other tourist attractions (e.g. the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow) today. On with the day.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
Walked around beautiful Bloomington, IN, seeing [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere's old stomping grounds.


Jun. 29th, 2011 09:34 am
hudebnik: (devil duck)
Woke up in central Pennsylvania, drove all day, went to bed in Bloomington, IN, where dance symposium will start Friday.


Jul. 5th, 2007 08:17 pm
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Two places in front of me in the line at the Post Office today was a woman who's going abroad in five days, applied for passports for her children three months ago, and hasn't gotten them yet. (From what I hear on the news, delays of three to six months are common. When the Feds started imposing passport control on travel to Canada and Mexico, they hired "dozens of new workers to handle the added load." That's right, dozens; they needed hundreds.) She was given a form to fill out and a telephone number to call, from which she'll allegedly get a number certifying that she has applied for said passports, which will allegedly do for now (at least as far as the U.S. is concerned).

One place in front of me in the line at the Post Office today was a couple who are going to Canada soon, and wanted to know whether their three-month-old infant needs a passport. The answer was "Yes, even a one-day-old baby needs a passport to go abroad."

The moral of the story is: if you're considering getting pregnant, apply for your child's passport now. If you're already pregnant (hi, [livejournal.com profile] woodwindy!) and haven't applied yet, don't plan on going abroad this year.


Jul. 4th, 2007 11:27 am
hudebnik: (devil duck)
KWDS was great. We spent at least six hours a day in dance classes, several more hours a day in balls, an occasional stint playing dance music, and a bit of Seattle sightseeing (I'd never been to Seattle except to change planes, and [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere had never been there at all. What a nifty city!) The weather was gorgeous -- a sprinkle of rain two of the five days we were there, otherwise clear, highs in the 70's, lows around 60. And the event organizers, predicting that people would be using unaccustomed muscles, arranged for a professional masseur on-site. That's what I call service!

Pictures )
hudebnik: (Default)
This was the weekend that fit into our schedule to drive to Vermont to deliver a damaged harp to its maker for repairs. It was also the weekend I had a professional meeting to attend on Long Island on Saturday afternoon. But the meeting was scheduled to end at 4 PM, and we figured if [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere picked me up there, with the Things, harp, etc. already in the car, we could get to Vermont (we'd reserved at a B&B that allows dogs) at a reasonable hour. Since we were out the Guyland, Google Maps recommended taking the ferry from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport (nothing about "swim the Atlantic") rather than driving back into NYC and out the Connecticut coast, with all the delightful traffic that entails. Conveniently enough, there was a ferry scheduled at 4:45, just about perfect timing.

My meeting, remarkably, actually ended at 4 PM, and I stood out front of the building it had been in to watch for [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere. She arrived at 4:20; the car had been low on gas, and I hadn't told her so, so she hadn't budgeted time to stop and fill it. But we raced off, following Google Maps's sometimes-weird directions, hoping to get to the ferry just in time to drive on. As we drove through the cute little streets of Port Jefferson, we switched to hoping the ferry would be delayed. As it turned out, neither of these hoped-for events took place, and we missed the ferry by 5-10 minutes. We considered getting dinner and waiting for the next ferry at 6:30, but estimated that we could get to Bridgeport (and thence to Vermont) faster by driving, so we headed back towards NYC.

There was, of course, annoying traffic, and we got hungry, so we got off the LIE in search of fast food, in an area we should have known well... but we were tired and hungry and in a hurry, so we took a road that has lots of commercial development but no fast food. By the time we found some, [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere had been driving for three hours, and we were fifteen miles from home. I took the wheel and drove through additional annoying traffic through the Bronx, to Bridgeport (which we reached half an hour after we would have by ferry, and over two hours later than we had expected to be there), and on towards Vermont. Whenever there wasn't bad traffic, there was rain. We reached the B&B about 11:15 PM.

At which point things turned a bit better. The B&B was in a lovely 19th-century building, in a lovely mountain valley; we arrived too late to take advantage of the traditional Japanese dinner they advertise (the proprietors are an Anglo guy and his Japanese wife), but breakfast was pretty good, if unexceptional. We walked/ran the Things around the back yard several times, and caught up on some sleep before checking out this morning. It happened that the brick-and-mortar Vermont Country Store (from which we had mail-ordered many times) was along our route for the morning, so we stopped there for some cheese, sugar-free sweets, and obscure things that one cannot live without once reminded that they exist. Got to the harp-maker's place a little after noon, handed over the harp to her tender care, and (on her recommendation) had lunch at the café attached to an organic farm. We sat at a picnic table with the Things, admiring the scenery and enjoying a delicious locally-grown salad and not-so-local crab rolls.

The return trip was less hurried, in daylight, with only occasional rather than near-constant rain. We're home now. Home good.
hudebnik: (teacher-mode)
OK, so trains are more comfortable and more environmentally friendly and more scenic and almost as fast and all that... but I didn't come home by train. I was to be in a committee meeting until 4 PM and needed to catch a train at 4:35, so on Saturday morning I asked the hotel clerk for the number of a taxi company. I called to arrange the trip, and was told "I'm sorry, we don't run on weekends." <arlo>Now I had never heard of a taxi company closed on weekends, and with tears in my eyes</arlo> I went back to the hotel clerk to ask for another taxi. I called to arrange the trip, and was told "Hi, you've reached XYZ Taxi. I can't answer the phone right now, but if you leave a message...." So I begged a ride from one of the other people at the committee meeting. On the way to his car, I realized I had left my jacket in the hotel room, but decided to abandon it rather than miss the last train of the day. And in fact I got to the train station at about 4:25. Nobody else was in the waiting room, which seemed odd... until the ticket agent explained that the 4:25 train doesn't run on Saturdays, and I had a reservation on the 4:25 train on Sunday. I would have shown them my ticket, but (a) it wouldn't have made the train come any sooner, and (b) my ticket was in my jacket, still in the hotel room, twenty minutes' drive away. So I walked about eight blocks to the bus station, through the sort of neighborhood that bus and train stations are usually in, and lucked into a bus to NYC only 45 minutes later. It wasn't as comfortable, and I got home at 1 AM rather than midnight as planned, and I still don't have my jacket, nor a refund on the unused train ticket, but I'm home.

My talk was scheduled for 8:30 Saturday morning. I had given much the same talk at a previous conference, also at 8:30 AM, to an audience of three... so I wasn't holding out much hope for this talk. But we had 15-20 people in the audience, which I won't complain about. My co-presenter and I hadn't found time to really discuss what we were saying until we got to the conference on Friday and started trying to merge her PowerPoint slides with mine in some kind of coherent way. By Friday night I had 98 slides for a 75-minute talk, a recipe for disaster. I talked through it in my hotel room in 73:51, but assumed that things would take longer in performance. Saturday morning co-presenter suggested I do most of the talking and she would pipe up from time to time with added comments, which sounded OK to me. Except that in practice, all of her added comments were things that would have showed up two slides later anyway, and she went on longer than I would have, and she persuaded me against my better judgment to work through a cool example, and... we got to about slide 70 by the end of the 75 minutes. I fast-forwarded to the final, "For More Information" slide, thanked the audience for listening, and got out. But from comments after the talk, I think people got the essential ideas, and some are interested in learning more.

One of the keynote talks was by a Famous Academic who's been teaching computer science since I was born. The first statement on his first slide said "If you're passionate about what you teach, it doesn't matter how you teach it; the students will get it." To which my immediate reaction was "And if you show enough resolve and confidence in invading Iraq, it doesn't matter how you carry out the invasion or the occupation; the result will be a stable, US-friendly democracy. And when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true." Now, I'll grant that a passionate teacher is more interesting than an uninterested one, and passion is infectious... but I will not grant that it's a sufficient condition for effective learning. I have to believe that in the real world, there are better and worse ways to explain the same subject.

Although I heard a talk a few years ago by a guy from the government agency in charge of research on education. He mentioned something called the What Works Clearinghouse, a collection of educational practices and interventions that have been proven (with statistical significance) to make a difference in learning, and he added "it's a very small database." Apparently in educational research there are so many uncontrollable random variables floating around that it's almost impossible to show (with statistical significance) that anything -- passion, textbook, order of topics, classroom management, homework, teacher expertise, etc. -- reliably makes a difference. Which makes one wonder why we bother putting students through schools of education, why we bother writing new textbooks, why we bother rating professors, ....

Anyway, I got home at 1 AM on Sunday, <arlo>went to bed and didn't get up 'til the same morning</arlo>. [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere and I had some chocolate-chip pancakes, went to the Cloisters and saw Ben Bagby's Beowulf performance (for about the sixth time). He had some kind of respiratory infection, so he cut things short, stopping at Grendel's death after "only" 85 minutes of gripping solo performance in Old English, from memory, accompanying himself on a Sutton Hoo lyre. ([livejournal.com profile] hlinspjalda will point out some shaky historical grounds of the reconstruction, both of the lyre and of Bagby's performance practice, but it's an incredible show anyway.)
hudebnik: (teacher-mode)
I left the house around 11:30 this morning, caught a train into NYC, then another train upstate to a professional conference. The Hudson was high, brown and roiling, and there were a fair number of semi-flooded fields along the way. I think I saw a bald eagle sitting by the side of the river; I definitely saw a lot of Canada geese, and perhaps a loon. If I'd taken the plane, I probably would have gotten here slightly faster (counting time getting to the airport, going through security, transferring in Atlanta or someplace like that), but on the train, any time I felt like it, I could get up and walk around, there was nobody in the seat next to mine, and I had enough leg room for a human being.

I'm safely ensconced in a hotel room now. Tomorrow I go to a 3-hour workshop (there are three of them, they all sound interesting, and I don't remember which one I signed up for!), then a bunch of miscellaneous talks about how to teach computer science. Saturday morning my colleague and I are scheduled to give a miscellaneous talk about how to teach computer science, so I spent most of the train ride trying to reconcile her PowerPoint slides with mine into a single coherent presentation. Last-minute? No, not us....

I made a bunch of sausage-egg-and-cheese tarts (aka "The Atkins Breakfast Special") before I left the house, so I didn't have to resort to Amtrak snack-car food. I'll have no alternative on the way home....

Da Weekend

Apr. 15th, 2007 10:32 pm
hudebnik: (Default)
It was a pretty good living-history show: the weather was quite good, neither too warm nor too cold, not too windy, not too sunny nor too depressingly overcast; we got a few spatters of rain just at closing time, when we were planning to pack up anyway. There weren't hordes of visitors, but a decent number, and we got to talk to them about armor, food & cooking, tents, music, fingerloop braiding, swordplay, etc. The Sunday show was cancelled due to weather forecasts of steady, often heavy, rain, so we packed up quite efficiently (under the threat of rain), went to dinner, drove back to [livejournal.com profile] sutragirl and [livejournal.com profile] snolan's house, unloaded stuff quite efficiently, stretched out things that needed to dry, and suddenly realized that we were all dehydrated and exhausted. I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it, but I mustered the strength to change clothes and spend half an hour or so in the hot tub with [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere, [livejournal.com profile] sutragirl, and [livejournal.com profile] snolan. <arlo-guthrie>And then we went to bed and didn't get up until the next morning...</arlo-guthrie> fairly late the next morning, in fact. Spent a pleasant, laid-back morning chatting and eating show leftovers, packed the car and headed back to NYC in the pouring rain. At least it's daylight and pouring rain, and we're not as tired and cranky as if we had done a show today.

[Writing this in the car:] We'll get home at a civilized hour, the good Lord willin' an' the crick don't rise (and I mean that literally -- there were a lot of soggy-looking fields a few inches below road level as we left [livejournal.com profile] snolan and [livejournal.com profile] sutragirl's house). Monday I have to teach a class at 9 AM, cover a colleague's class at 10 AM (since his wife is having surgery), teach a class at 11 AM, play a starring role in a faculty meeting on general education learning outcomes assessment from 12 to 2, and teach another class at 2:25. The rest of the week calms down a little, but I have a lot of homework to grade, and homework assignments to write, and a conference presentation to prepare before leaving town on Thursday to spend Friday and Saturday at the conference.

Let's see... what else has happened lately? [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere and I read Barbara Kingsolver's new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a nonfiction chronicle of her family's "year of eating locally": they swore to eat nothing whose provenance they didn't know (which in general meant either they grew it themselves or bought it from local farmers they knew). They made exceptions for flour and spices, since neither grows well in southwestern Virginia, where they live, and since spices are so light and non-perishable that transporting them a few thousand miles from where they grow to where they're consumed doesn't have much environmental impact. The book inspired us to get to some farmers' markets in Manhattan (there are apparently none in Queens until May or June), and on Tuesday, after the probable last frost of the spring, I picked up a flat of broccoli seedlings, tore up a few square feet of the front lawn, and planted them. I don't know how much sense it makes to try to grow vegetables in a suburban front lawn, but our "back yard" is concrete, so the front lawn is the only place to even try such an experiment. (Actually, I had slightly more seedlings than I could fit in one row across the front lawn, so a few of them are in a pot on the windowsill -- not that I expect to get a harvest from a pot, but if any of the ones in the lawn die in the next few weeks, I can replace them.) Broccoli allegedly likes moist, cool weather, which we've certainly had for the past week. We'll see how they're doing when we get home.

Update: We're home now. Even going at or below the speed limit the whole way, we got home in less time than it took to drive down on Friday, because there was no traffic. Which doesn't make it an easy drive, in heavy rain for most of the 6-1/2 hours, but at least we're home before my bedtime.


Jul. 14th, 2002 07:34 pm
hudebnik: (devil duck)
[transcribed from paper diary retroactively]

42 € dinner (not very good actually)
7 € ice cream
12 € lunch

Our last full day in Paris, and nothing specific schedule. We rose late, took the subway to the southwest corner of Paris to find the alleged Ceramics Museum, but didn't immediately see any signs for it, and we weren't sure it would be open on Bastille Day, so we returned to the 4me. Along the way we saw the remnants of a military parade, tried a lunch at McDonald's France (not much different), and visited the merchanges in the vicinity of the Centre Georges Pompidou.

Oh, yes: this morning as we waited for the subway (on an above-ground platform) we saw seven fighter jets scream overhead in formation, leaving trails of red, white, and blue, followed by an AWACS plane and several more formations of fighters, presumably in honor of Bastille Day. It wasn't as worrisome as when we saw the same sort of thing (sans colored smoke) from a window of the Louvre four days ago. In retrospect, it was probably a practice run for today, but at the time we wondered if somebody had declared war or carried out a terrorist attack or something.

Enough of that. We're getting on a plane home at noon tomorrow, and nobody will be smoking in the entire plane!


hudebnik: (Default)

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