Maui, March 2013 — Part 1

From March 5 to March 20, we were in Maui having a lovely vacation. This is the eighth trip I’ve taken to Hawaii and the seventh family vacation. We usually stay at the Luana Kai condos in Kihei. A condo is nice in that you get a kitchen and a washer/dryer. This allows you to pack a bit lighter and means you don’t have to eat out all the time. Our view from there looked like:
Josh, our son, and his significant other Bethany were also along for the first week. This was Bethany’s first trip to Hawaii so we tried to pack in most of the sightseeing type activities in the first week.
(Note, click on photos to embiggen.)

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Out to sea Across the bay
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Kite Surfers Sunset

On the 6th we drove to Lahaina (about a half hour drive depending on traffic) and did a bit of shopping along Front Street. You can buy all the trinkets you may want here as well as some nice artwork. If the shopping proves too hectic, you may always just look out to sea:

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We ate lunch at the Aloha Mixed Plate. This is a lovely restaurant with an emphasis on local food. A “mixed plate” typically contains white rice, macaroni salad and a choice of protein like teriyaki beef, kalua pork and cabbage or lau lau (beef or chicken in taro leaves). When you are seated, if you mention that you won’t need alcoholic drinks, you will often get a table next to the sea. We were right next to the water and our view was:

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And, the food is good, also. 🙂
Continue reading Maui, March 2013 — Part 1

Chicon 7, 2012 Worldcon Recap and Adventures

This was the first Worldcon I have attended and I had a great amount of fun. In this post, I’ll tell you about it.
We arrived in Chicago on Thursday about 6PM. We took Amtrak from Winona, MN to Chicago Union Station. The train is kind of fun and easier than driving–you get to look at some decent scenery along the way. Here is the view from our room, the room was quite nice:

View from our Room — Chicago river.

Once at the hotel (Susan exclaimed, “Hey look, that guy has a tail!”) and safely ensconced in our room, I proceeded down to registration. I started to realize at this point that the hotel and conference area was large–quite large. Registration was set up quite nicely and I quickly collected my materials and badge. We then ate dinner at a hotel restaurant. David Brin and a bunch of other authors were seated at some tables next to us, so that was my first official author sighting.
After dinner, I wandered around a bit familiarizing myself with the layout (split between two towers) and then at 9:00 I went to the panel: “Ozma Plus 50: My Week Among the Searchers for Extraterrestrial Intelligence” presented by Bill Higgins. This dealt with some of Bill Higgins experiences on a tour of the Ozma SETI site. I only stayed for about half an hour. The panel was interesting, but I wanted to go up to the 34th floor where the Minn-StF people were hosting a party. So, up there I did travel. I hung about there for awhile. Jo Walton came in and mentioned that she had a new summary post on tor.com. I said that I had seen it and then she was whisked off. That was all I got to actually say to Jo over the Con–she was understandably busy.
Friday morning I discovered the Jo Walton Kaffeeklatsch was full and so I went to the panel: (9:00 – 10:30) “Anarchism in Fantasy and Science Fiction.” This was quite a good panel. They discussed anarchism in various works and its relationship to various groups in real life. After this, I proceeded to the Dealer’s Room. This was quite large and I started walking back and forth browsing things. I was extremely happy when, as I browsed, I came upon Glen Cook’s booth. I hadn’t known he was going to have a both so this was a nice surprise. I chatted with him for a while. He mentioned that he was working on a new Garret Novel, book 4 of the Instrumentalities series, and that “Port of Shadows,” is a real thing and is the next Black Company novel. It will take place in the time between “The Black Company” and “Shadows Linger“. He also pointed out that he had written parts of that as a couple shorts in two anthologies that he had on the table.
I then went over to the Angry Robot tables and talked with Amanda Rutter, now editor of Strange Chemistry and one of the reread reviewers for the Malazan reread on tor.com. We mentioned that it was fun to see one another after having exchanged so many words in the reread.
From 11:00 AM-11:30 AM I went to the Seanan McGuire reading. She read from one of the October Daye books. I missed the first couple minutes, so I am unsure which one but I liked what was read and plan to check them out.
Next, it was time to head over to Ian Tregillis’ reading (12:00-12:30). Ian read from the Klaus/Gretel/Jar portion of The Coldest War. This is a really really good portion and it was quite nice to hear Ian read it. The readings were scheduled in half hour time slots. That gets lots of authors slots to read in, but doesn’t leave much time for questions or anything. So, after the reading a number of people wanted books autographed and Ian was happy to oblige. He found a table down the hall and started autographing. I tagged along in my quiet fashion. When the last autographee was satisfied, there were about six people left. One of them glanced at me and said, “You I recognize from the website.” At that point Ian saw me and we chatted about how it is odd to have had lots of conversations with people (I post over on his website and he posts over here) but to have never actually met them. He then kindly invited me along to lunch (Potbelly’s). There were six people along and we chatted about a number of things from food dislikes to the annoyances of the film Prometheus, Ian’s need to learn about Exoplanets for his next panel and the disappointments of the Torchwood:Miracle Day series. This was a very great deal of fun.
At 2:30 I bid adieu to the group and went to Jo Walton’s reading. She read from her work in progress–a generation starship in mid voyage. After this, I again wandered around the dealer room and other exhibits. At 4:30 I went to the panel “Exoplanets, Exobiology, Extensions of SF” (4:30 – 6:00). I addition to Ian Tregillis, David Brin, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Geoffrey A. Landis and G. David Nordley were panelists. They discussed some of the recent findings in extra solar planets and how that might relate to science fiction and reality. Ian must have effectively looked up some good stuff as he had a number of good comments.
At 6, Susan and I went to dinner with her brother and his girl fried, so, non-con related.
At 9:00PM I went back up to the 34th floor and went to the Tor party for a while. David Brin autographed an imprint sheet of Existence for me. These sheets address a need of which I hadn’t even thought–with eBooks, there isn’t really anything physical that you can carry along and have someone autograph if you are so inclined.
Continue reading Chicon 7, 2012 Worldcon Recap and Adventures

Chicon 7

Tomorrow we’re off to Chicon 7. That’s the Worldcon this year in case you don’t know. I’ll post a report when I get back. I hope to talk with a number of interesting people about any number of things. From the program guide, I can already see a number of panels that I want to see that are booked in the same time slots. Choices, choices, …

Roman Holiday – Part II

As we were wandering about Rome on Tuesday, I noted a few general things. As large cities go, Rome was quite clean. There was pretty much no garbage lying about (plenty of trash cans) and while buildings did have some darkening due to auto exhaust, it didn’t seem as bad as, say Chicago. There seemed to be far fewer “homeless” persons than in a typical American city of a comparable size. Since gas prices were at around $10/gallon (converting from liters and Euro) there were basically no large personal vehicles (SUVs). Also, while driving, it might seem like you are constantly about to either hit someone or be rammed, there was very little evidence of actual collisions. There weren’t any little pools of broken glass on the road or even very many dents in autos. An initial hypothesis is that Italian drivers may actually pay more attention since the rules seem to be more fluid.
Another very fine thing is gelato. There are lots of places that sell gelato as you wander about. This makes getting lost not too bad. How lost can you be if you can stop and have some delicious gelato. We found one place (whose name I can remember) just outside of the walls of the Vatican that was very good. Another, Valentino’s, was just down from the Trevi fountain–also very good. We found that places that made their own and specialized in gelato to be better than places that happened to also sell gelato.
On Tuesday, we decided to see the Colosseum and the Forum area. We took a taxi there and disembarked near the Colosseum. The line to get in was quite long there and we didn’t have a ticket, but we did have SECRET KNOWLEDGE! I will know reveal this. Instead of getting your ticket at the Colosseum, you can go about 100 yards down Via di San Gregorio past the Arch of Constantine where you will find the entrance to the Forum/Palatine hill area. The line here is much shorter and you can buy a combined Forum, Palatine Hill, Colosseum ticket there. Here is the Arch of Constantine:

Continue reading Roman Holiday – Part II

Roman Holiday-Part I

Susan and I returned on the 26th of April from our 11 day excursion to Rome and I’ve gotten the photos in order enough to write up the trip. The short account is that we had a great time. The weather cooperated the whole time with temperatures in the 60’s and usually some sun–very nice for walking around and looking at things.
We arrived in Rome on the 16th and arrived at the hotel (Rose Garden Palace) around 11:30am. That’s 4:30am CST so we had been up about 22 hours by that time, but we’ve learned that powering through that first day is a good way to get your clock onto local time. After getting unpacked (the room was very nice with a walk in closet and nice speedy wi-fi) we walked a couple of blocks to the Villa Borghese gardens. We managed our first days goal of staying awake.
On the second day, we took a taxi over to the Vatican museum entrance. We had gotten tickets online and were quite glad as the line for the unfortunates who didn’t have tickets was very long. Several people tried to persuade us to join their tour group but we demurred as we wanted to go ourselves. This proved to be a very good decision as once in we often had many parts almost to ourselves. The typical tour groups seemed to follow a pretty much direct line to the Sistine chapel–driving their customers before them wailing and gnashing (or something like that).
Anyway, we strolled about and saw things like:

Hall of Pope transportation

This was a long room with various carriages (up to “Pope-mobiles”) that had carried various Popes around.
This artifact in the Cortile della Pigna claims to be a sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro entitled “Sphere within a Sphere.” I personally suspect that it is a crashed Berserker Probe.
Continue reading Roman Holiday-Part I

Travel Impressions

We went on vacation last week–Jamaica. I’ll be posting some pictures later when I’ve got them off the various cameras and organized. In the meantime, I thought I would say a couple of words about air travel in general.
On this trip, we made all our connections and our luggage arrived on time, so that was good. On this trip we had to (for various reasons) take two suitcases of the checked variety. This freed us to only take a small carry-on each (camera, i-pad and 1 change of clothing just in case.) Since the checked in luggage wasn’t lost this worked well. We both noticed that there was quite a bit of freedom in not pulling along a carry-on.
I did notice that many people seem to be desperately trying to cram as much as possible into larger and larger carry-ons. This strategy fails(of course) once the carry-on gets too large to fit into the overhead compartment. The airlines main check of the size of the carry-ons seemed to be the failure to fit rule rather than any pre-screening. This leads to everyone waiting while the people desperately try to fold their luggage into a space that is too small. Maybe they needed more topology classes. I would guess that the carry-on size increase comes from the airlines now charging for check-in bags. So, rather than sensibly packing less, people are trying to pack the same (or more?) into less space.
The one place in which having checked luggage was annoying came on the return flight. When we arrived in Atlanta (from Jamaica) we had to clear customs. This means that you have to retrieve your checked bag, wheel it 50 feet and then put it back on a conveyer. Then, you have to go through security again. I’m fairly unclear on what security hole this arcane exercise is trying to fill. I did get to go through one of the full body scanners. It reported that my right leg was suspect. The pat down dud then patted my leg and confirmed there was nothing there (other than a leg). So that was kind of interesting.
The other mildly annoying thing was having to turn off my Nook at the start and end of each flight. Someone, somewhere has a great fear of all electronic devices and the vast energies they emit.
More on the actual trip later.

Labor Day Trip

Over Labor Day weekend we went on a train ride to Chicago. Actually, the first half (MN to Chicago) was on a bus as Amtrak called us the night before and told us the train was about 4 hours late due to the flooding in North Dakota. They said we could either wait for the train the next day or they would be providing a bus that left on time. We picked the bus. That was actually pretty nice of them as opposed to the airlines that usually don’t give any warnings of delays and then tell you to sit and like it.
We stayed at the Palmer House. We’ve stayed there a number of times and like the hotel and its location. The lobby:
is really quite awesome. The entrance with the Peacock doors:
We went to a game at Wrigley (the Cubs won 6-3):

So that made for a nice weekend getaway. On the way back we got to ride the train. It takes about the same amount of time to take the train as it does to drive to Chicago from where we are. I find it a much more relaxing trip than being cooped up in a car.

Alaska Trip

Normally, after a Minnesota winter, warmth is one of the key things we seek in a vacation. This year we decided to mix things up and take a cruise to Alaska. We picked the Norwegian Pearl as our vessel of choice and decided to spend a day in Seattle on either end.
The trip schedule looked like:

We had a very enjoyable trip. The ship itself was quite nice. The size of these cruise ships is something you really can’t quite picture until you are next to one. Quite literally hotel/skyscrapers afloat. We had a balcony cabin. This was quite nice for looking at scenery without having to be out on deck. Very nice if crowds aren’t your biggest delight.
The scenery was fantastic. In Juneau, we saw our first glacier, the Mendenhall glacier:

and went for a tour of a temperate rain forest (good place for wood elves):

In Skagway we took the White Pass Railway up into the mountains. This was originally built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush.

All of the snowy mountains made me think of the Lord of the Rings when they tried to take the pass by Caradhras. Not surprising they didn’t make it. Of course, the miners didn’t have a wizard and had to haul two tons of stuff each into the Yukon. Here’s a steampunk snow removal device they used:

In Glacier Bay, we saw a number of glaciers. My favorite was the Marjerie Glacier

For a sense of scale, that’s about a mile across and 250 feet from the water to the top of the ice.