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.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
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.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
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.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
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.
chris_gerrib: (Default)

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.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
One of the noteworthy things about cruises is that one can order pretty much whatever food you want. However, the individual portion sizes tend to be small. So, consider this a cruise portion of link salad.

A) A detailed analysis of what happened at the Westgate mall in Kenya during the terrorist attack a few years ago. Basically, the terrorists were killed by private citizens and regular police a couple of hours into the attack, and most of next couple of days was the mall being looted by the army.

B) Michigan's M-185, the only US highway where cars are banned.

C) For fans of the TV series Vikings, when the characters talk in their "native" language, they are really speaking Old Norse, Old English or another period-appropriate language.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
When the Writing Excuses workshop and cruise came up, I was concerned because September is the height of hurricane season. Fortunately, we missed all the bad weather. Now comes news that Joaquin has just hit hurricane status and is rambling around in the same waters we were sailing in.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I made it back to Chicago Sunday night, but my checked bag didn't. Fortunately, there was nothing I needed in said bag, so it was more of an annoyance than a problem. Well, Southwest eventually cracked the code and found the bag, and I woke up this morning to find it on my doorstep. Yeah! To celebrate, have a couple of links.

1) An interesting article by Megan McArdle on what Republicans (should) learn from losing Boehner. Money quote: Imagine that you tried negotiating for a car by announcing that you intended to pay no more than $2,400 for a fully-loaded new truck. Would this improve your bargaining position? Of course not; the salesman would decide that you were wasting his time, and go find another customer.

2) The novel Ancillary Justice has been bashed vigorously by conservatives on the grounds that it promotes lack of gender distinctions. But as this fellow points out, the people in the novel doing the no-gender thing are the bad guys! It's like arguing that Star Wars promotes chocking people you disagree with.
chris_gerrib: (Pirates of Mars)
I ended up getting off of the cruise ship fairly early, which means that I have a lot of time to sit around and use the Fort Lauderdale airport's free wifi. Herewith, some thoughts on The Cruise and Writer's Workshop That Was.

1) I'm highly indifferent to cruises as a form of vacation. It's nice to only pack / unpack once (more on that anon) but there's a God-awful amount of waiting in line with regards to the ship.

1a) Regarding packing, I managed to not pack deodorant, break my watch at 8 PM Friday night before a 8 AM car pickup Saturday, and leave my phone charger in the intermediate hotel at Fort Lauderdale. I was rather frustrated, and ended up paying too much money for a watch in Falmouth Jamaica.

2) The workshop portion was productive, but some of the shore excursions weren't. We visited a historic plantation in Jamaica, which [livejournal.com profile] maryrobinette used for her last book. It was historically informative, and the drive through the desperately poor town of Falmouth opened a few writer's eyes. I got dehydrated due to heat, which made the next day's snorkeling excursion a bit too much for me. (No, Mom, I'm fine, just got a bit tired and spent most of the snorkel trip on the boat..) I cancelled my Cozumel excursion, and other than a stroll to the pier for free wifi didn't leave the boat.

3) As mentioned, I made an "American Regency" costume for the trip. Herewith is me wearing same at the party.

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Like the headline says:

1) Mount Rainier: It's big, and wilderness-y, and pretty. Do go.



2) Yakima wine country - they make a lot of good wine in the Yakima valley. It's not nearly as touristy as Napa or Sonoma, but the wines are just as good. Again, do go.



3) Seattle food - Seattle isn't quite as big of a city as Chicago, but they have a very broad restaurant selection. Yuppie-town (where [livejournal.com profile] daveon took me) is chock-fulla trendy places, and The Brooklyn has a "food bar" - you sit at a bar and watch the cooks work.

4) About 50 miles outside of Seattle on the main interstate is the town of Snoqualmie. It's a quaint town, worth an hour's break. See the falls.



5) Spokane is actually quite pretty, and the convention center is nearly ideal for a con our size. They also have a nice falls and downtown park. (Sorry about the picture - that's smoke, people.)



Now, about the time I recover from this trip, I'll be on a cruise with writers.

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