You should be able to see all of Saturday's photographs here.
Our flight back home was at 3:30 Saturday afternoon, so we didn't have time to go out and do a lot. We decided that since we'd seen only a small and relatively unexciting part of Balboa Park on Tuesday, we could drive up to the interesting part Saturday, wander around, and find lunch before heading for the airport.
Balboa Park brags about having one of the highest concentrations of museums in the country, and they have the right to do so. If you're in the right area, start walking in virtually any direction and you are guaranteed to hit a museum, garden, or building/set of buildings of interest very quickly (see http://www.balboapark.org/in-the-park for links to the whole list of things in the park). There's an outdoor organ pavilion where there are apparently performances on a regular basis. There's about a bazillion museums, including a few different art museums, a model railroad museum, separate science and natural history museums, a bunch of gardens… it just kind of goes on and on.
The buildings are all stunning. A lot of them look they were built in the ~1930s (though I'm not at all certain that I'm right on that: they've got that heavily ornamented neoclassical/Gothic thing going on. The most impressive of these is the building that houses the Museum of Man, a catch-all for all those exhibits that perhaps didn't obviously belong somewhere else. (I would have liked to go into the Museum of Man, sheerly on the basis that any museum simultaneously housing exhibits on torture devices and beer has got to be interesting, but we didn't really have time to make the admission fee worthwhile.) Anyway. The Museum of Man has a fantastically mosaic'd bell tower and dome, and has a gorgeous stone-carved front. No wonder they offer the opportunity to do weddings!
We did go into two buildings: the Timken Museum of Art, and the Botanical Building, mostly on the basis of their being free. The Timken is a tiny (but air-conditioned, which was important) museum housing a handful of paintings and a statue. That said, the Putnam Foundation collection that it houses includes Rembrandt, Reubens, and Copley, among other painters whose names I didn't recognize. We were happy to give them a donation on our way out. The Botanical Building was an impressive building with a huge collection of plants, but was not the most welcoming spot. Even though the slatted roof gave a fair amount of shade, it was open to the air and so was pretty warm. And the signage explaining this or that group of plants was clearly written with the enthusiast in mind. I'm not sure _I_ could tell you what a bract was without a dictionary, and I took a class in intro plant biology way back when! (You can see at least some of the text on a typical sign in the photo album.)
We had lunch at The Prado, an upscale but still pretty tasty restaurant located in the House of Hospitality. (Yes, I thought of Elrond. I know the name's not quite the same, but still.) If the server offers you chips with your sandwich, take them up on it: the taro and potato chip combo is made on site and is excellent.
After lunch, it was time to head to the airport, return the car, and fly home. Everything was reasonably uneventful. We got home in one piece and were probably as happy to see our kitties as they were to see us. I'm glad we went! But home is nice too. :)
You should be able to see all of Saturday's photographs here.
Before diving in, let me just say that the Safari Park kind of gives you a safari before you ever reach the park. It's way the heck out somewhere between the Escondido wine country and nowhere, and it could stand another sign or two along the way just to reassure you that you're really headed the right way. Also, when visiting
Africa Escondido, we found that it is hot. Hot hot hot. And, the Park people being careful to mimic the plant density patterns found in Africa, meant that sometimes there just wasn't a lot of shade. I was very glad for my hat!
If you're ever in San Diego, plan to spend a day at the zoo. (Unless you can't stand animals or something like that. Then maybe you shouldn't go. But even then, you should seriously consider it as a possibility.)
Where to start..?
The zoo is huge. Unless you have infinite amounts of energy, there's just no way to see it all in one day.
But in a way, the large size of the zoo almost doesn't matter, because the quality of each section is so impressively high. Everywhere we went, I was impressed by how the zoo had managed to combine sizable and appropriate habitats with good spots for the humans to watch the denizens. For example, in most zoos that have gorillas, the gorillas have a good-sized enclosure that they tend to stay out in the middle of, far away from their gawping, noisy, upright cousins. I'm not quite sure how the San Diego Zoo managed to design their gorilla space such that the gorillas wanted to nap _literally on the other side of the glass_ in one of the viewing platforms. The human side of that viewing platform was fairly dark, and the glass was thick and went all the way up to the ceiling, so there was a lot of soundproofing and vision-proofing that went into it. Also, the really large enclosures (gorillas, tiger, hippo, polar bear, etc) all had multiple viewing areas that, if the animal in question wasn't visible at one, they were likely to be quite visible at another, assuming that they were actually in the enclosure at the time. The zoo's also obviously put as much thought and work into its plantings as it has into its fauna. There are trees and bushes and ferns and stuff everywhere, much of it signed and all of it really nicely done. If I lived here, I would get a zoo membership in a heartbeat.
We did not see the pandas 'cuz there was a line. We didn't see many bears up close. And there's two sections of the zoo we barely touched, but I kind of think we may see some of the animals we missed at the Safari Park on Friday.
You can see pictures that I took here (hopefully).
( San Diego, day 1 )
One project that took me by surprise was that I've submitted my first-ever FAQ to GameFaqs. It's an in-depth one about the accessories in the game - how to make them, how they affect your stats, and perhaps best of all, how to produce accessories that give bonus abilities (take less damage, regain health faster, don't slip on ice, etc). It's something that the boards have seemed to want for a while, and I've gotten at least a partial list of how to derive these special accessories from the regular ones. It hasn't been posted yet, but I'm hoping it'll appear after the new year. I think it's got a good chance; there aren't that many FAQs for the game, and this one addresses a previously un-covered area.
Can I have another couple of weeks of vacation, please? It would be really nice...
Latitude and longitude of Auckland, NZ: -36.847385,174.765735
We'd have to go a fair additional chunk west to get to exactly opposite where we are now, but it's close enough to make a good poetic title. And I feel a little like things are upside down and topsy-turvy - we set up this whole trip basically ourselves, starting from no more than a whim on my part. It feels both weirdly grown up, and like something we'd never ever do. (Not us, not the
We leave tomorrow! We've spent the past week running around, shopping, doing laundry and cleaning, and tonight we pack. We have books to read on the plane (I have Gaiman's Stardust, Huz has Neverwhere), snacks, 20 hours or so of audiobooks (not counting the ones I've downloaded for myself), a whole lotta printouts of hotel reservations and flight info and the like. We pack tonight.
I'll be updating mostly through our NexusOne whenever we can get onto a wireless network. Because the NexusOne has the idiotic fault that it can't upload photos to most websites (it's only configured to do so to Picasa, Gmail, twitter, facebook, and maybe one other thing), I'll write text posts here letting people know that there's new photos in my Picasa album. The address for that album is here:
(The N1 interface seems to be poorly set up for hyperlinking as well, so please just refer back to this post for the album address!)
Those of you following my Buzz will see the pictures as they're uploaded to Picasa, as I've got them linked. I'll post when I can, but I expect wireless access to be sketchy at best in some parts (particularly Paihia and Te Anau).
Anyway. Packing time!
• It's started sprinkling. Go here to read a neat poem about the upcoming storm by my friend nezumiko. Hope the kitty room in the garage doesn't flood.
• Work is busy but cool. We will hopefully get a somewhat important result tomorrow.
• Scribblenauts is also cool (Huz gave it me for my b-day.) However, I do Not Approve of their opinion of Science (try it as an object, then interact with it!). Also, it does not know the word terrarium. Ribosome, I can understand and forgive it not knowing. However, when it doesn't know the word I typed, it comes up with 2-3 suggestions, of which I often won't recognize one!
( Cut for shop talk )
But now I am at home, on another required vacation day, waiting for the tree guys to finish their work so I can go do stuff. My right arm is pleasantly sore from having played FFT A2 for too long. Opened up the Fusilier jobline!
Had a lovely super-long holiday weekend - my department decreed that All Regular Employees Shall Take Thursday Off to help us spend down our vacations. So I spent Thursday taking a kitty to the vet (just regular checkup, no emergencies!), having lunch and hanging out with a work buddy from the Genome Center, rummaging at the library, finishing Chapter 2 of Paper Mario 1K-year Door, and generally relaxing. (I was sorry to miss seeing nezumiko - hopefully next time she won't have the flu!) Friday we both had off. Um... we went skating, and I think we just hung out. Saturday I did a pretty thorough vacuuming of the bedroom, which badly needed it. Privet trees/bushes, to which I'm horribly allergic, are just starting to come into bloom, so anything I can do to lower the amount of allergens around is a Good Thing. We spent the evening indoors with the kitties with the doors and windows closed, so the noise of the fireworks wouldn't freak them out too much. Sunday I went to church, we skated again, I cleaned the living room/dining room, and finished Phoenix Wright 2. (If you make the last couple of in-court choices wrong, you get a surprisingly detailed 'wrong' ending; much more interesting than the usual simple slamming of the courtroom doors. The 'right' ending is, of course, even better.)
We also finished reading Neal Stephenson's Anathem aloud to each other. It definitely deserves its own post, hopefully I'll get to it soon. For now, suffice it to say that it's a book that demands your close attention on pretty much every page, but is overall worth the effort the reader puts into it.
Finally, a marvelous video ganked from kayray - College Humor's reworking of West Side Story into Web Site Story. It's only about 4 minutes long, and extremely well done. (Worksafe.)
My parents are doing pretty well, it was good to see them. We went to the special Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts together in the middle of the week. Special exhibitions at the MFA are usually good; this one was no exception. :) What was exceptional, I thought, was that each and every painting had a blurb next to it talking about one or more aspects of the painting: style, content, sweep. Given that it was an exhibit looking at three rival painters, it sensibly grouped the paintings mostly by subject matter, so that the viewer could see what each man had done with, e.g. Saint Catherine in conversation with Mary and the infant Jesus, St. George and the dragon, portraits, etc. Fascinating exhibit, and worthy of visit by anyone interested in comparative art study, Titian et al, and/or pretty paintings of people. Even Dad seemed to enjoy himself.
Friday we took the train down to New Haven for the huz's 15-year reunion, and had a good time. There were a number of people we knew from his class, and a couple of people outside his class (a friend doing the 20-year reunion who we knew from Storyreading, and - somewhat astonishingly - a lady who worked in the cafeteria of Huz's residential college when we were undergrads and who I would swear hasn't changed at all in the intervening years who was on the catering crew. We were pleasantly surprised by the food at this reunion - much better offerings than the dining-hall quality food that we had at the ten-year. We don't know whether this was due to Yale food generally improving, Yale recognizing that 15 years out of college everyone has good jobs and is used to real food, or that as the number of years out of college increases the cost of reunion does too and some of the cost goes to better food, or some combination of the three. (We will be interested in hearing from the folks going next weekend what the food quality's like for them.)
Now that we're home, we're discovering that the cats really shed a ton while we were gone. There has been much hair removal, sweeping, and vaccuuming. It's getting to the point in the year when the cats shed out their winter coats and I need to vaccuum twice a week to keep the hair density under control. Woo. We need to do laundry as well. In a while we'll go skating for the first time in well over a week, and I will have a voice lesson after having pretty much not practiced in close to two weeks.
Huz finished Phantom Hourglass at my parents and has started Final Fantasy A2. My current point of pride is that I have gotten to the warp point after level 6 in the Phantom Dungeon with only 29 seconds gone from my hourglass. (That, of course, is using every shortcut and every golden pot I can get my greasy little hands on.) Huz is now whacking Ganondorf in Twilight Princess, a reasonable thing to do on the last day of vacation.
• Had a lovely (and productive!) day with nezumiko yesterday. Acquired new sneakers, new jeans, and new tea and adorable teacup. Then we went back to her place, watched the last four episodes of Fruits Basket, and made Tea Drinks! We need to name them though. The recipes are below.
Brew a cup of Teavana's Rooibos Key Lime tea. Add a dollop of Bacardi Limon and enjoy! If you wish, you can also add a small amount of honey, further smoothing out any edge that the alcohol might have. But mostly it doesn't have any in the first place. It's a quite refreshing drink, and I bet it would be simply lovely over ice.
Brew a cup of Teavana's Earl Grey Creme. (Straight Earl Grey would probably work too; if you do it that way, add a little vanilla extract to the mix.) Add a jigger of Tuaca (it's an Italian liquer) and enjoy. It's quite good just like that; add a spoonful of honey to turn it into liquid candy, and some half-and-half on top of that to turn it into a drink you could seduce someone with. (This is the drink that really needs the name.)
We're now hanging about waiting for Super Shuttle to turn up, which they should do in another hour or two. We'll be in Boston tomorrow through early Friday, then down to the Ancestral Homeland for Huz's reunion. See you!
Every year our church has a big fundraiser for the charities it supports. The fundraiser consists of a nice dinner (fee) plus the opportunity to bid on silent and live auction items. There's a couple at the church who (I think) have a timeshare of a condo in New Zealand. For the last few years, they've put up varying amounts of time at the condo as an auction item. (I actually came much closer than I intended to winning it the first year they put it up - I thought that $XXX was a more than fair deal for a week's stay in New Zealand, even though the sheer dollar amount was getting a little high as dollar amounts go. Happily, someone outbid me.) This year, they were offering 3-4 nights' stay as a silent auction item, with a minimum bid amount listed. Just for a lark, I put my name down with that minimum bid amount (an amount that would be a clear steal for a few nights' stay at a lot of places around here, anyway). I figured that either someone would outbid me, which was fine by me, or... they wouldn't. Even if we didn't end up going if I *did* win, it would a fun way to give a donation of that amount to the church charities.
Anyway. I won the bid. Huz thinks it's a neat idea; I figure we'd stay at this place for however many nights we negotiate with the owners, then find a hotel to fill out a week - if you're going to travel that far for a vacation, you might as well make a reasonable stay of it! I have not yet contacted the owners to find out things like where in the country it is, when it could be available to us, etc. Once that's determined, I'll start looking at plane tickets.
We've done a good combination of "distinctly useful" and "just fun/pleasant" things today. The combination of having company coming tomorrow and being in a somewhat messy environment for much of last week inspired us to do a fair amount of cleaning. I tidied the dining room and coffee table (though the coffee table could stand more), cleaned much of the bathroom, and thoroughly vacuumed the dining room and living room rugs. The huz cleaned the stovetop and went through a pile of stuff on the kitchen table that's been collecting for quite some time. We went ice skating for the first time in a bit over a week (last time was Saturday of last weekend), we both played our Wii games that we're working on (one star for the huz, and unbepuzzlement on various paths in Hyrule Castle for me), we've done computer stuff, read, and I even lay down for a while this afternoon after skating. I beat Golem at card dueling in Chocobo Tales too. Oh, and we've spent time with the kitties, which is both fun and useful. Tazz is dozing on my lap even now.
The more I play FFF:CT, the more impressed I am by how generally kid-friendly it is. Sure, the little chocobo hero is generally saving the world from a nasty demon book-thing, but how threatening is that when the method of saving is to play lots and lots of little games? Especially when the worst that happens when you lose a challenge, either in a minigame or a duel is.. okay, fine, you lose, try again? Even in a card duel, if you lose, you lose all your HP and the duel is over. But the 'real world' chocobo avatar is just fine. It doesn't die; there's no Game Over. Golem (or whoever) just stands there and waits for you to challenge him again. Eventually, you must beat him to advance the plot, but it's entirely likely that there are several mini- and micro-games for you to wander off and beat in the hopes of changing the local environment (usually to access a new area), rescuing one of your chocobo buddies, or gaining a new dueling card with which to improve your deck. It's true that some of the games are kind of tough. The microgames are set up in such a way that if you get some moderate number of points, you get an okay sort of dueling card; if you get a much higher number of points, you get a rather cooler card. For most of the microgames, it's not hugely difficult to get that first level of card.. but of the many many microgames that I've come across, I've gotten the second level card all of twice, and there are two microgames where I haven't managed even the first level. All these games are short, no more than a couple of minutes, and almost all of them give the sense that if one tries just one more time, one could beat battle level five or achieve the hardest trial run. Just one more try, really! Frighteningly addictive, but straightforward in terms of its structure to play for five or ten minutes and then shut it off again - a really excellent setup for a portable system. Very very good investment, this.
Home. Some jetlagged. Laundry in the dryer. Going to go lie down now. But yay, vacation! And yay, C&C, for completing the first of their three weddings together!