Thursday

Aug. 17th, 2017 04:22 pm
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I'm back home in the USA and back in the saddle at work. The past few days have involved:

1) Waiting for Air France to deliver my luggage. When I had to clear customs and take a bus an mile at de Gaulle airport to catch my second flight, I had suspicions my bag would be MIA. What was irritating was, when it didn't show, there was an Air France agent standing at the luggage carousel with a clipboard with my name on it. They knew my luggage didn't make it, but made me wait to ask about it! Not happy.

2) Got the first real American steak in 19 days. It was delicious.

3) Got the first real American hamburger in 19 days. It was also delicious. The place I visited for the burger, Shanahan's, also installed a piano bar. I sat and partook for a while.

Now home and thence to my first personal training session in three weeks.
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I'm writing this in Helsinki airport, specifically in the Air France Business Class lounge. It's another nice place with help-yourself food and drink. Herewith, various random thoughts.

Vilnius, Lithuania and Roads

After my trip to The Olde Sod (Rietavas, for those not following along) I drove to Vilnius, the historical capital. It's just over 100 kilometers from Kaunas, or a bit over an hour. Well, until I had my Griswold-esque "European Vacation" and got completely lost trying to find my hotel. I succeeded on the third try, only to find the hotel had no elevator. Fortunately for my overweight bag, they got me a room on the first floor. Small room, but with functional air conditioning and nice bed.

Vilnius is (to my view) nearly impossible to drive in. I can understand the old town being a snake pit of roads, but one would have thought that in the modern parts somebody would have imposed a grid. Nope. Snake pit all the way. Also disconcerting is that the main expressway, once it hits town, becomes (with little warning) a regular street. Nor are any of these streets (modern or historical) well-marked. Fortunately I got set of good directions on how to get out of town, although for a minute or two, as I drove through a residential area, I was concerned I had missed a turn.

Helsinki

Having no reason to attempt to drive in Helsinki, I didn't. I don't think it would have been any easier, and my hotel does not appear to have parking. I stayed in the Hotel Arthur which proudly notes that it was founded in 1907 and expanded in 1957. Except for light bulbs, they haven't changed a thing since. I kept expecting to see a couple of torpedoes from Chicago, snap-brim fedoras and pinstripe suits, step out of the woodwork and ventilate somebody. But it was clean, safe, cheap and well-located, so it met my needs.

I found the Finns a very helpful, friendly and just nice people, who went out of their way to make tourists feel welcome. On my last night here, I ended up hanging out with a group of them at a bar near my hotel. Two of them were staying at my hotel, and explained that part of the building was designated as the YMCA, and so signed (in Finnish, of course).

I was getting tourist-ed out, so I did not visit any of the local tourist spots. I went to the convention, and most of my sight-seeing was looking out the tram window. I note that Finnish cuisine is rather boring, consisting of potatoes, fish, sausages and root vegetables. It's boring enough that it can be hard to find a traditional Finnish restaurant in Helsinki. For example, last night I ate at a Mexican restaurant. (Pretty good, actually.) I did a lot of my drinking and some eating at Sori Brewing, an Estonian micro-brewery. (Try the Baltic Porter.)

Well, today is travel and tomorrow is back to reality.
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I am back fromm my adventures in the countryside, where I drove out to Rietavas, Lithuania and Laukava, Lithuania, ancestral homes of Clan Gerrib. Herewith is a long report.

First, getting there was interesting. Kaunas is a city of 300,000, with an airport to match. An airport in which the main terminal is getting rebuilt. The rental car place is in a temporary hanger, and was unmanned when I arrived at 9:30 AM. I called the service number, somebody was sent, and about an hour later my Mazda 3 and handheld GPS were on the road.

There's a modern 4-lane road between Kaunas and Klaipėda, Lithuania's seaport. Rietavas, a town of 3500 or so, is about 15 kilometers north of that road on a two-lane blacktop. Overall, I found the countryside (and the roads) reminded me of Indiana - long flat stretches broken up with sets of low rolling hills. The Motorway was okay, albeit not entirely limited access, and the back roads were "Indiana standard" winding and poorly-paved.

I got to Rietavas and ducked into City Hall to use the toilet, then toured the church, an ornate Romanesque Revival pile. I couldn't find the cemetary, so I had lunch at the only place in town, a roadside gas / food / motel (apparently some kind of Lithuanian chain) then headed to Laukava, which was 21 kilometers away on another indifferent blacktop 2-laner.

There were five or six named hamlets in between, none of which seemed worth stopping at. Laukava was even smaller than Rietavas, with only one business in town, a mini-mart. The church was in poor shape, although when I arrived construction workers were doing their thing. An older man, possibly the priest in civilian clothes, was there when I arrived. He had no English and I no Lithuanian, but he broke out their monstrance to show me, which was a nice gesture.

I then headed back to town. My GPS let me down - I missed a turn and instead of auto-recalculating it said "off route" and stopped. I had to manually kickstart the thing to redirect me, which it eventually did. In any event, I made it, and photos to follow.
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I'm sitting here in the hotel bar at Kaunas confusing the waitresses. (I think that when a Lithuanian orders vodka he does so like an American with bourbon - ice or neat.) Anyway, I've toured the highly walkable city of Kaunas, the Pittsburgh of Lithuania.

I say Pittsburgh because the city is at a river junction (two, not three rivers) and because of location it's been a trade and military hub since people moved into the area. Also because it's between two rivers, the streets tend to flow parallel to the river, making a hash of a grid system.

Kaunas is a very walkable city. They took two semi-major streets and made them pedestrian only, and said streets flow into the very car-unfriendly Old Town. My hotel is a block from the eastern (modern) end of that walkway, which is about a kilometer long. I've walked it both ways.

The old town is quaint and old, and I've visited all of the sites to see. Unlike Pittsburgh, Kaunas was a capital at various points in its history, but it largely retained its "down home" feel.

Getting here was a bit interesting. First, I messed up my ticket, buying something from Lufthansa that didn't allow me to check baggage. 100 Euro later, I'm in business. Then the flight from Frankfurt to Kaunas involved two buses - one in Frankfurt taking us to the ass end of the tarmac to walk up the stairs to the jet and another bus in Kaunas taking us to a temporary terminal in a tent. All the while, I'm stuck in the middle of an Italian tour group. (Read, a bunch of pushy retirees who speak no relevant languages and insist in talking loudly enough to prevent one from hearing any announcements.)

At Kaunas, my hotel had a taxi waiting for me. The driver, a kid in his early twenties, got me to the hotel, although I was amused at his musical tastes - American Top 40 via a local FM station.

I had dinner at the "Zalias Ratas" restaurant in Kaunas Lithuania. First, please note grammar cops - in Lithuanian, one uses quotes where in English we would use italics.

In any event, one walks down a very unpromising alley to a little wooden house sandwiched between various more modern buildings. Inside, its cozy and rustic, but, per Travelocity and my stomach, it's the best traditional food in town. It's also damn cheap - I ate and drank for 20 Euros. You have to know to look for it, but it's worth it.
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Written in Hamburg Airport, posted in Frankfurt's due to the vagaries of Wi-Fi while traveling. Having said that, herewith are my thoughts on The Cruise That Was.

Business Class


After my literally painful flight to Loncon 2014, I decided to splurge on business class flights across the Atlantic. I am here to tell you it’s expensive, but worth every penny. I flew KLM (which is owned now by Air France) into Amsterdam. First place, business class has a separate, faster, check-in line. Then, one gets to sit in the Business Class lounge while waiting. Said lounge at O’Hare is small, but comes with good seats, free pour-your-own drinks and a decent snack selection.

Then on the plane, drinks are free, the seats are comfortable and have massive leg room, and finally lay completely flat! For the first time ever, I slept on a plane! Let me tell you, that four-hour nap does wonders for fighting jet lag. It allowed me to stay up until 10 PM, which meant that I was 90% over jet lag when we boarded the ship.

In Amsterdam, KLM’s hub and a place I had several hour’s layover, the lounge is massive and the food and drink plentiful. Having said that, several people including a pair of native Dutch folks took the train from Amsterdam to Kiel. Given the amount of sitting around time I had, a train might have been cheaper and just as timely. Oh well, live and learn.

The pre-ship hotel and the ship

The night before the cruise, we all stayed at the Hotel Atlantic in Kiel. Some of that time was used for orientation and related administrative tasks, including outlining the ship boarding process. The Hotel Atlantic is a very typical European hotel – small lobby and small rooms. Like many European hotels, the room lights don’t work unless you put a room key in a slot on the wall. (Actually, we discovered on the ship, which did the same thing in their cabins, that any appropriately-sized piece of cardboard works as well.) Being a German hotel, the water service in our meeting rooms was bottled water, half of which were carbonated and strong-tasting mineral water.

We sailed on the MSC Fantasia, visiting the Baltic Sea ports of Kiel (departure / arrival), Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallin Estonia and St. Petersburg Russia in that order. I was struck by a number of things. MSC is a European line, and service levels are lower than what you’ll see on Royal Caribbean. Some of this is staffing – it was rare to see all bars open and those that were tended to be short-staffed. The casino never had staff to use more than 50% of their tables. (Oh, BTW, I made over 150 Euros on this trip at the casino.)

The ports were also “interesting.” At Kiel when we left we were docked in town, as we were in Tallin. In Copenhagen, Stockholm and St. Petersburg, we were docked at some distance from the tourist sites at what felt like temporary or seasonal installations. Since the Americans at St. Petersburg couldn’t leave the ship unless on an excursion, this was less of an issue, but at the other sites, it was a pain. Lastly, we debarked at a different terminal in Kiel (the ferry terminal) and the process took place in tents.

Actually, a word on the debarkation “process.” We had the yellow debark group, which was supposed to leave at 9:15. Due to issues with luggage offloading, we didn’t leave until 10. Then, our “process” for getting our luggage was that it was assembled in a tight square and everybody was cut loose to go find their stuff. The mildest term for the “process” would be “group grope.”

Excursions

I signed up for three ship-based excursions. I was generally underwhelmed. All three were whirlwind in nature, and I have taken to referring to the St. Petersburg “walking tour” as the “Saint Pete Deathmarch.” Stopping was verboten. I visited the Vasa Museum in Stockholm (famous sunken ship, raised in the 1950s). All the signs were in English, it was well-laid out, and what she should have done was just say “meet back at place X at time Y, have fun.” Instead I was dismayed to see that the tour guide insisted on marching us through the museum.

At Tallin, I took part in a writing date. One of our instructors led a herd of us into the old town to a very quaint local coffeehouse where we had coffee and wrote. One was then on one’s own to get lunch and/or back to the ship. It was relaxing and much more enjoyable.

Health

Prior to departure, I was fighting my allergies and resultant cough. Said cough was persistently not getting any better, so I finally broke down and saw the ship’s doctor. I was not surprised to get diagnosed with bronchitis. (It happens with me.) I don’t know if it is European medicine or shipboard medicine but the treatment was two ten-minute sessions over as many days with a nebulizer breathing a cortisone concoction. The diagnosing doctor, an Italian woman in her mid-30s, said that “you’re from America and they believe in Z-packs” so she gave me a packet of same. The nurses, all Croatian and fifty-ish, were very helpful. I did have to pay for the treatment, so I will be sending it into my travel insurance.

Writing, Classes and Social

We had two full days at sea, and most of my organized excursions were back in the early afternoon. Thus, I got 5,155 words done on two separate books, facilitated in part by a conversation where I got unstuck and a critique of my older but yet unpublished SF novel. There were several classes which I found useful, and several “writing prompts” sessions which I completely ignored. Although 5,000 words is a very solid week for me, especially since I took the St. Petersburg day off and didn’t even fire up the laptop, several writers turned in 10,000+ word-count weeks.

One of those massive word-crankers was Alexander “Xander” Hacker, my roommate. Due to the fact that I’ve got another week on the Continent, I decided to take a roommate and cut costs. Xander is a nice kid, early 20s, clean-cut Mormon type. He had one irritating trait, namely he didn’t really even attempt to shift his body clock to European time, which meant he was crashed out at times I was up and wanted to move about the cabin and vice versa. Fortunately, I can sleep with a light on so we made it work.

chris_gerrib: (Default)
Over the past few days I had to travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a science fiction convention. Tomorrow (or next blog post) I'll share my thoughts on my in-flight reading material. Today, some random thoughts about the trip, the con, and San Juan.

1) For years, TSA checkpoints have been providing plastic bins into which one dumps your stuff, to include your laptop. At both checkpoints, I got sent through a line where not only did the laptop stay in the bag, but no bins were provided. The contents off one's pockets were to be put in your bag. I had a bit of a problem with that because I have loose change in my pockets and didn't want to scatter it in a large pocket.

2) In the flight over, I had a layover in Orlando. I was amused to see at my gate two teenage girls that had to be Central Casting's idea of "Puerto Rican teenager." Big hair, too much makeup, too tight and too skimpy shorts and tops, all while radiating waves of attitude.

3) The Old Town of San Juan is quaint, but with the heat and humidity I faded fast. I did have a Pina Colada and a nice grouper filet at Barrachina, the birthplace of the Pina Colada.

4) The convention itself was sparsely-attended. Despite a big production about making sure everything would b bilingual, there were hardly any locals present. Pretty much everybody there was from out of town.

5) Speaking of bilingual, apparently I look like a gringo. Everybody started talking to me in English.
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Clarification

Some people understood my Friday post to read that I had missed a flight. No, somebody else in line had missed their flight.

Research

So I mentioned that I'm traveling to The Old Soil in August. One of the pre-travel questions I had was "where in Lithuania exactly was the old soil?" Fortunately, my great-uncle Walter went back to Lithuania for a visit circa 1927. This meant he had to formally get naturalized (I don't think my great-grandfather bothered to do that) and get a passport.

In the process of doing this, two (at least) separate government forms were generated, asking Walter where he was born and where his parents (John Gerrib, who had returned to Lithuania) were residing. The answer to the first question (birth) was Laukuva and the second was Rietavas.
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Randomness that's accumulated from the Week That Was:

1) If the departure time on your ticket says 9:05 AM, it is 9:04 AM, and you haven't cleared security, there's really no reason to try and jump the security line. The flight has been missed, and you need to go to the airline ticket counter to see about rescheduling. (I let the person in ahead of me anyway, just because.)

2) One of my high school classmates died. (Obituary here). I'm going down to Westville for the day for the visitation.

3) The convention I was attending was held at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC). That collection of buildings is every bit as big as McCormick Place in Chicago, and we had to transit the building the long way every day for our sessions. I got a lot of walking in.

4) Related to #3, the GWCC was on five levels, and our meetings were mostly at the lower-most level. I was struck by how narrow and constricted the escalators were. It was as if nobody had expected to move 40,000 people up and down them at one time. They were congested enough that security people were stationed by the emergency stop buttons. If somebody had tripped coming off the escalator, disaster would have struck.

5) In Atlanta, I took MARTA to and from the airport. It was clean, cheap and at least during reasonable hours safe.
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The Magic of Rotary

I have been spending the afternoons here at the Rotary Convention in Atlanta doing tourist-y stuff. Today’s outing was to the Georgia Aquarium. The trip is worth it, although I was a bit distracted because my iPhone decided to completely die. It had plenty of power but just locked up. As this would be highly inconvenient to say the least, I decided to find an Apple Store and get it fixed.

When I exited the Aquarium, I asked a cab driver to take me to one. $25 later, we pull up to a mall well outside of walking distance to my hotel. This was a tactical error on my part – I should have gone to the hotel and had them at least check for a closer store. But here’s where the magic of Rotary came into being. While I’m in line waiting for a tech to look at the phone, I see a guy wearing a Rotary hat. I say hi, and I discover he’s from Nigeria. I also discover that he’s been taking MARTA (Atlanta’s version of the EL) to the con, and there’s a MARTA station at the mall. Money saved!

Even nicer, when I get to the MARTA station, I’m approached by a couple wearing Rotary gear and, in German-accented English, they ask me where the mall was. (It was behind an office building, and not immediately visible.) So I helped them out. That’s what Rotarians do.

Other Good News

In other good news, it appears that I will be on programming at Worldcon. They’ve sent me a draft schedule which they’ve asked us not to share so I won’t, but that does suggest I’ll get something. Go me!
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Over the weekend, I reviewed my European travel plans. After checking with the travel people that any flight out of Hamburg after 2 PM on the day the cruise ship arrives should be safe, I found a 5 PM Lufthansa flight to Lithuania. I still don't get to Lithuania until nearly midnight, but that's better than my previous arrival time of 4:30 Sunday afternoon. Since I have to fly into Kaunas, as Vilnius airport will be closed, I went ahead and booked myself for 2 nights in Kaunas. That gives me 2 days to do other explorations.

My next stop is the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture for some research. Hopefully I can get some clue as to where the old Gerrib stomping grounds are. Right now I'm flying to Finland on Wednesday, although if I get some useful information I may make that Thursday instead. The preliminary business meeting at Worldcon will have to do without me. Frankly, other than being a minor member of the Best Series committee, I really don't have any business for the Business Meeting.

Also over the weekend, on Sunday my Rotary club volunteered for the Darien Dash, our annual 5K and 10K run. The weather forecast said mostly cloudy, so I left my hat in the car, then the skies turned blue for a good two hours, so I'm red-faced today. Oh well.
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I’m going to be curled up with a warm calculator this weekend making some financial decisions.  Specifically, travel-related.


This year, I’m already committed to go to Atlanta for a Rotary event (expensive), a European cruise (costly), and visits to two European countries (costly).  I normally attend two out-of-town science fiction cons.  Last year it was ConQuest in Kansas City and InConJunction in Indianapolis.  Both are driveable, but that’s still several nights hotel, food, gas, etc.


Now I’ve been invited to be on programming at NASFIC.  On years when the Worldcon is not in North America, we hold a big convention this side of the pond.  This year it’s in Puerto Rico, of which I’ve only seen the naval station.  So there’s the chance to visit an interesting place and be on programming, which means I get to wave my book around in front of people from around the world.


But I’m not driving to Puerto Rico, and NASFIC is a 4-day con, not over a holiday.  Thus vacation days become an issue as well.  Again, decisions to be made.  Watch this space.

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
...it's hard to remember that your original purpose was to drain the swamp. That's my subtle apology for not posting recently.

[insert segue here]

I recently got back from a brief business trip to (cold and rainy) Atlanta, and I decided:

1) People aren't very smart. I got into a conversation with a not-so bright bartender, a dull seatmate on the plane, and watched multiple people get baffled by the concept of boarding a Southwest plane. (Pick a row, step into the row, put your big case in the overhead, sit down. If you have a coat, put it on top of or in front of your big bag.)

2) I do like Southwest, at least for short-haul flights. The crew actually seems happy to be at work, and that's infectious. If I'm going to be treated like cattle, at least I'd like to be a happy cow (cattle?).

3) We got hit with a snowstorm in Chicago the day I flew out. I nearly changed my flight three times. I'm glad I didn't - the regularly-scheduled flight went off without a hitch.

4) I think I got a free breakfast. At my hotel, I hit the restaurant at 8, charged the $14 buffet to my room, but have yet to see a charge for it. Oh well.

Back to the swamp.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Servers

I note that LiveJournal's servers (and thus the host for this) have moved to Mother Russia. I see several people migrating off as a result. When I get a Roun Toit, I'll probably set up my Wordpress site and use this as a mirror. I find that I'm in no rush to accomplish that.

Travel

I attended the inaugural Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat (on a boat). This year's edition involves a cruise in the Baltics, which is by far the easiest way to see St. Petersburg Russia. It is also shockingly handy to Worldcon 75 in Finland and my dad's family Old Soil, Lithuania.

Over the past few days, I've booked the Writer's Workshop cruise, the hotel in Helsinki and flights to Hamburg for cruise and from Helsinki to Chicago. It hurt me right in the wallet but I booked business class for both flights. Yeah, it's three times the money but damn do economy seats hurt my ass for 7 to 9 hours. I have never been able to sleep on a plane, so this is an experiment.

I've set up travel insurance, so I can recover what I can't cancel if I have to. I've not yet booked the Hamburg to Lithuania leg. I'm having problems finding a flight that doesn't dump me in Lithuania at midnight or later. This is in part due to me not getting off of the ship until after 10 AM.

Due to Lithuania being on Russian-gauge rail, trains are a problem. I looked into driving, but it's 844 miles or 13 hours to drive. Also, German car rental places won't let me drive their car into Poland or Lithuania, so that means renting a car in Poland plus cross-border fees.

I'm going to double-check Air Baltic, but it looks like the most viable alternative is to walk on a ferry in Kiel (cruise ship port) and walk off in Lithuania. I'm also reading that due to the rail network in country, renting a car is preferred.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I have returned from vacation at Gulf Shores Plantation. This lovely resort property is 10 miles or so west of Gulf Shores, Alabama, heart of the Redneck Riviera. Golf was played, seafood was eaten, and some writing was accomplished. Now, I'm back in the land of ice and snow.

Two thoughts on my return. First, my favorite costume-maker has profiled my costumer on her site. Second, one would think that the picture below goes without saying.

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Update

Yesterday I made a one-day business trip to eastern Tennessee. It involved an oh-dark-thirty wake up call to catch the dawn patrol flight to Nashville, an hour's drive, and a late evening return to Chicago. I seriously considered flying in the night before, but that would have meant a night in a chain motel and a dinner at a chain restaurant. In short, six of one or a half dozen of the other. In any event, I'm back in the saddle.

Random Thoughts

1) Via various news sources (use your own Google) former general and Secretary of State Colin Powell is quoted has having said in email that the Benghazi affair was a witch hunt. He was also quoted (a sentiment I agree with) as saying the problem was our Ambassador thought the Libyan people loved him (which they may have) and thus he was safe (obviously not).

2) Again via various sources comes news that the Trump charitable "foundation" was yet another scam. Trump collected other people's money, used same to write checks to other charities while siphoning off as much as possible to pay family and buy junk for himself. The technical term for such conduct is "felony fraud" and usually earns one an orange jumpsuit.

3) Over at Wright's House of Wrong, the proprietor quotes Chesterton on the loss of honor due to the South's defeat in the Civil War. I am gobsmacked to note that the entire just under 2000 word article has not one mention of "slavery" in it.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I told my staff to look at their vacation schedule for the rest of this year. Since we are in fact open both the day after Thanksgiving and the week between Christmas and New Years, I do in fact need people to be here to provide IT support. So, since I try to do what my staff does, I went to look at my vacation schedule.

Christmas and New Year's Day are both on Sundays, which means the holiday is observed on the following Monday. I actually don't mind working the week between the two holidays - it's usually quiet, and this year will be a 4-day week anyway. Windycon is on Veteran's Day, so even if I take a recovery day after I still end up with six vacation days to burn.

Earlier this year, when I had a desperate need to take some time off, I used my parent's Travel Advantage Network and booked a vacation condo for a week at Hilton Head. I note that, right now, several properties in Florida and Alabama are available. My question is, do I want to take another week of lazing around in a condo (in warm weather) or do something else?

Budget remains an issue - 2017 will soon be upon us, and that means (for me) a flight to Finland and back. That will also probably be a two-week trip, albeit in somewhat cheaper parts of Europe, and thanks to Brexit the Euro is weakening relative to the dollar.

Decisions, decisions.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
In the mid-1990s, the State of Illinois decided to build at least two hotels. They were the Illinois Beach Resort at the state park of the same name and the Guest House at Argonne National Labs. I've had occasion to stay at both, most recently at the former for a Rotary event this weekend. I've come to the conclusion that they are both upscale college dormitories.

Both buildings have the indifferent maintenance levels of your typical dorm, and the same heavy-duty institutional furniture. They were built fairly cheaply, and used a lot of glass walls. They are both inappropriately sized for their location. The beach resort has 100 rooms (too few) and the Guest House has way more than it needs. Now, don't get me wrong - both places were perfectly adequate for my needs, but neither was particularly worth writing home to Mom about.

About the only noteworthy thing was the view out of my room's window.

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I'm on vacation, not in a coma, so I do have thoughts. Herewith are a few:

1) Comes news that a woman in Texas who made at least a side job of being armed and talking about it got shot in the back by her 4-year-old with her own gun. (Google it if you need to.) Here is Land Gerrib, 4-year-olds and guns do not mix, full stop.

2) Hilton Head Island is pretty. It's also nuts to drive in. Whomever laid out the roads has a near-vampiric allergy to right angles, and they don't believe in streetlights, even at major intersections. Add to that the local signage laws are "small and discreet" and that 90% of what you're looking for is in a shopping mall, finding stuff is Right Hard. (as opposed to Left hard, or whatever.)

3) I am not good at just "hanging out." I had a 30-minute argument with myself before I gave myself permission to do what most people do on vacation, namely hang out at the pool and read a book. I've also rode a bike up and down the beach, done some editing, caught a movie and relaxed.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I feel the need for a vacation, so I started to look for one. Having said that, I've spent a lot of money the past two years on travel (UK / Ireland, Washington State, Writer's Cruise) and I'm looking at another grand for Worldcon in KC this year. Thus I am in the market for inexpensive vacations. I considered a staycation (stay home) but I find these somewhat less restful. It seems like there's always something at home I should be doing. Working with a goal, I hit the travel sites.

Thinking that I might be able to score a last-minute deal, I looked at Hawaii. (Optimism never dies!) The cheapest I could come up with was $1800 for airfare and hotel. Except this was a collection of red-eye flights on three airlines and a 2-star hotel in Oahu. Visiting other islands, upgrading to a rational flight schedule or even a modest step up in hotels put me over two grand. And that's just getting there and having a bed. No ground transport, no food, no tourist stuff, just a room.

Then I looked at a time-share-swapping deal my parents have. Hilton Head SC (admittedly not Oahu but nice) had two-bedroom condos for under $500, Southwest can get me there free on my miles, and I can rent a car for under $200. Plus this is a condo, so I can go to the store and get some provisions and eat breakfast at "home." Lastly, if I get bored, I can drive to Charleston and/or Savannah for the day.

This was not a tough decision, so Hilton Head here I come.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Thing 1 - Sometimes when sailors go down to the sea in ships, they don't come back.

Comes news that the US-flagged containership El Faro is missing and presumed sunk off of the Bahamas, a victim of hurricane Joachim. 33 sailors were aboard. The last communication from the ship was recieved Thursday October 1, and reported she was dead in the water and had a 15 degree list.

The ship had sailed south from Jacksonville Florida to Puerto Rico, presumably thinking that then-tropical-storm Joachim wouldn't strengthen or would move out. They presumed wrong, and ended up sailing into a storm that was briefly a Category 4 hurricane.

Thing 2 - The movie The Martian

On Saturday, I went to a 4 PM showing of The Martian. It was comfortably full and the 2-D version. The story was beautifully-filmed, had appropriate amounts of tension and humor, and was a very accurate portrayal of the book. I highly recommend seeing it.

Thing 3 - Holst's The Planets

In a bit of scheduling that I don't think was accidental, the College of DuPage's symphony, the New Philharmonic, performed Holst's symphonic suite The Planets. COD spent a ton of money redoing their performing arts center, and to show it off the orchestra played while showing pictures of the planets in question. I caught another matinee, this time the 3 PM Sunday show.

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