July 26th, 2007


Work and relaxation

These last 2 weeks, I've been traveling and reading and going light on the work. I buckled down and got some done yesterday. I will feel so good when I'm more caught up on both work and blogging.

I woke up at 8:30 to the sound of blasting (warning whistle, silence, BOOM!!! vibrations) and clanging metallic hammering. I'm not sure if they've started at the new, very close construction site or the one down the street. Either way, it's going to be a noisy year or however long it takes these buildings to go up.

I realized I'd never get anything done with all that noise, so got to the Times in the early afternoon. The unwanted ergonomic keyboard tray was still there, despite my request last week to remove it. I'm not optimistic about it ever getting uninstalled, and wrote to Will's admin person to see if she could help.

Then the printer gave me a page with a large white streak down the center and very little Sunday puzzle. It said "toner low" and I asked the people nearby if they had another cartridge. They said they rarely used that printer (though I have seen output other than mine), and a woman removed the cartridge and went to get another. About 15 minutes later, she returned with a cartridge that didn't fit and told me I was on my own. I said that might mean there'd be no puzzles next week, but really it wasn't her problem.

Two of the three computer guys I deal with are on vacation, so I left a message with the third, and with Nicole in Digital Media. No one was responding, and I really needed to print out the puzzle (in extreme emergency I could convert it directly to Across Lite and solve that way, but that's not the ideal way to test the print puzzle). A printer next to the one I use appeared to carry 11x17 paper (needed for Sunday) but the address listed on the outside could not be found in the list of printers on the NYT printer web page. Strolling the floor, I found another possible printer, was able to put it in my menu, printed (after loading it with 11x17 paper, which I took from the first printer), and found it was smudgy around the edges. But it was readable, and I proceeded to do the Sunday puzzle.

While I was solving, Nicole called back and said I could print on their printer. It's 4 floors up, but that's better than nothing, so when the dailies came, I printed them there. I discovered there's a nice open stairway going the whole way between our floors, but that wouldn't be convenient for the long run. Someone needs to replace the toner in the original printer!

I could have used the all-purpose tech support number, but I learned last week that Will's listing got lost in the move, and since I'm a freelancer and also not listed, they aren't very responsive to my needs. Sigh. I e-mailed the vacationing computer guy, who I hope can get the printer back in service.

With all this stress, I had to calm down to actually do the puzzles. Nicole called in the middle of Sunday, and even with the somewhat long interruption I took less than 20 minutes, so my real time couldn't have been too awful. I've finished the past few Sundays in less than 10, which is unusual while proofreading. On the other hand, Saturday 8/4 took MORE than 10. Grr, I'm never on that constructor's wavelength.

By the time I finished, the cafeteria was serving dinner, but none of the selections appealed to me (I have to get up there during lunch sometime when there's more variety), so I went home. I stopped at the boycotted grocery for the first time in a few weeks, but they did not have the juice or blondies (or pupusas or grape leaves) I like. I did get some frozen yogurt and other items, so we're back in business. I'll probably never get loose fruit there again - who needs that hassle?

After eating, I still felt a little stressed out, so took a bathmat to sit on and went outside to read. Very pleasant. I finished a Star magazine from February. I should get some terrace furniture (and even plants), and take advantage of the luxury of the 18x6 space. [Update: I just ordered an outdoor folding recliner.] I heard my neighbor tell someone about his umbrella blowing away and the guards finding it on the ground, and how another time it went to the other terrace and was returned (yup, that was me). I just kept quiet and stayed on my mat (the terrace divider is opaque so we can't see each other).

I clipped off a large nail flap where I cut my finger last week, as it was almost coming off on its own. The cut was not deep and it doesn't hurt anymore, but the nail needs to grow back so it's even. I'm assuming nature will do this; otherwise the nail will look very weird.

Netflix lowered the price of my subscription plan - yay!

Philadelphia Freedom

I have 3 weekends to write about (Stamford, NPL con, and last weekend), so I might as well do the most recent.

My sister's family was picking up my nephew at magic camp at Bryn Mawr, so I met them in Philadelphia. Joel had a great time - but why is magic so male (there were about 100 boys and 9 girls there)? We stayed at the Sofitel, scene of our first post-Sundance "Wordplay" event. This time I was in a regular room instead of a suite, and they still don't have drawers for storage. The shower worked, though it wasn't the greatest; and there was no scale in the bathroom.

I took Amtrak down Saturday afternoon, a short 1.5 hour trip even on the non-Acela train. We had dinner at Pod, an Asian fusion place near the Penn campus, where I had chicken/macadamia stir-fry. Afterward, we walked around Penn a bit, and I remembered almost nothing from my 3 visits to see M in the 70s. The campus seemed nicer than I recalled. We went to the bookstore, which had the "Wordplay" book (my sister always pulls it out to be more prominent). They had tons of Harry Potters, but my b-in-law and younger nephew had gotten it at midnight. The big chains had waiting lists, so they got a full-price copy from an independent bookseller.

We took a cab back, although the driver warned us it's illegal to have 4 in the back seat (Philadelphia police, come arrest us now!). Linda and I hung out with the boys for a while, and then I went back up. I had requested a room near them, but the hotel's idea of near was the same room 6 floors up (was I supposed to travel by rope?). I also was never certain if my room was really non-smoking, as it had a smell which could have been smoke - but no ash trays so it probably was OK.

We had Independence Hall reservations at 11, but when I got to the lobby found the boys didn't want to go. When you're in a city with historical sites, you're supposed to see them, not stay in the room reading Harry Potter! They finally came down reluctantly and we just missed the Phlash bus and took another illegal cab to get there in time. But the rangers at the info desk didn't have the reservation (we assumed the hotel screwed up, but the concierge insisted the rangers screwed up). So we made another one for 4 pm. We just missed the beginning of a movie on the Constitution, but the big Constitution exhibit didn't open until noon so we went in to the movie anyway. It reminded me of the musical "1776" without the music.

Then we headed to the Constitution exhibit, where I treated since they always take me out for meals. Linda and I sang "Philadelphia Freedom," making everyone else pretend they didn't know us. First was a live presentation with an actor, and then many interactive exhibits. We adults found it interesting (my b-in-law is a lawyer), and they even highlighted "Gideon's Trumpet" which I read in 12th grade social studies.

Lunch was at the Bourse food court, where I had some mediocre Sbarro's ziti (the boys had pizza, which seemed a lot better). We still had some time to kill, so wandered in to what eventually will be the National Museum of American Jewish History but is now very limited. We had a nice talk with the guy at the desk (Mark's family lived in Philadelphia before going to South Florida), who was reading Harry Potter just like Jeffy. I always feel at home among my Jews.

Then it was time for the Independence Hall tour. Joel was busy practicing his coin tricks, but I found the lectures interesting. The old stairs are very steep, and they don't let you up into the tower. We saw the rooms where the Constitutional Convention was held, historic documents signed, and where Congress first met when Philadelphia was the capital. I didn't realize that in the early post-Revolution days, the states were autonomous and even had their own currency. The Constitution changed all that. Last, we headed for the Liberty Bell, skipping the exhibits and going right to the bell. It's a bell. With a crack in it. I remember it being in the park with the brick buildings when I visited in the 70s, but it's now in another site in the mall.

After the long day, we took a Phlash bus home, taking it further than we needed so we could see the museums (from the outside, anyway). We gulped down soda and I belatedly realized that last weekend I had taken a diet ginger ale from the hospitality suite, put it in my refrigerator and forgot all about it. Too late now. We had dinner at an oyster house near the hotel. They were out of oysters, which didn't bother me. I had some great lobster bisque and a mixed seafood entree though grilled bluefish might have been better. We hung out with the boys some more and then I went back up.

Luxuriating in the hotel room, reading in the comfy bed, I envisioned going on short trips to stay in hotels, be a tourist, and do nothing but relax. Or even stay in hotels in New York over a weekend sometime. A little extravagant, and I don't really like to travel, but worth exploring for its pure escapism. I need to make my apartment more like a nice hotel, and sitting out on the terrace tonight was a start.

On Monday morning, we took 2 cabs to the station avoiding the illegality of 5 people in a cab and ensuring that all the luggage would fit. They rented a car and I got on a train for home. This week they're looking at colleges for Joel: Ursinus, Muhlenberg (which has a magician/professor who lectured at the camp), Goucher and McDaniel. Joel's been paying more attention to his magic than his studies, but he still has junior year to bolster his academics. He'd like a cozy atmosphere like Bryn Mawr (but he'd need a sex change).

In the course of the trip, I finished Trip's "Sit & Solve Crosswords 5" (fun) and Karen Brichoux's "Coffee and Kung Fu." This novel's relating events to kung fu movies was a little contrived. The best part of the book was its painfully accurate depiction of the heroine's bad relationship, though it took the whole book for her to appreciate the good guy right under her nose.

(no subject)

Last night, while lounging in bucolic splendor on my terrace, I noticed flashing lights down the street and didn't think anything of it. Turns out a retaining wall collapsed at the construction site and a buildingful of neighbors was evacuated. Work other than that required to fix the damage has been stopped. Scary how close that hole is to the existing building.