unbibium: (animated pacman)
so I flew to Buffalo, NY two days ago with my parents.

it's strange, I feel like I have no self... that's a state that's easy to get into when you're with your parents, and haven't done any of the trip planning yourself. On top of that I have a mild sore throat that makes me a little reluctant to speak aloud, though it hasn't actually interfered with eating.

The voice mails from recruiters are starting to pile up. I'll have a lot of phone calls to make when I get back into town, or perhaps even Monday from my hotel room.

Today I saw the house my great grandfather built; it's an impressive feat of homebuilding, and contains a few innovations that were about 20 years ahead of their time. It's still not only standing, but well kept; in my brief time I didn't see a single plank askew, a warped door frame, or any sign of deterioration. Much of this is due to the house's new owner, who added some rooms, and even took up gardening after the house was bought.

I also met my great aunt Mary for the first time in 22 years. She's 85 and never married as far as I know. She lives alone in the lower level of a duplex. The upper level was where we stayed as visitors 22 years ago, and where another family lived when I visited 30 years ago. Today it's empty, she's too old to climb the stairs, though she still gets around town.

It largely served to remind me how I've neglected my own house, and my own life.

and, of course, I just woke from an afternoon nap that literally spelled out in words my fear in finding a new job: what if I'm not actually good enough, and the place I left was the only place I could have fit in?
unbibium: (Default)
ok, i got internet in my hotel room and I don't know for how long

I'm in DC and having an OK time. People remember me.

I participated in some research, and might sign up for some clinical trials.

They keep having late night get togethers at loud bars. I think I'll put my foot down and not go to any on Saturday night.

Apparently in DC, hotel rooms have all kinds of obscure news channels, like NHK World, and RT. But they have the normal ones. I'm starting to think that HLN is almost worse than Fox News. Apparently Lindsay Lohan's outrage over going to prison counts as "Breaking News" after midnight.
unbibium: (Default)
There's one hidden reason I haven't left Phoenix yet.

It's not just that I'd miss my family when I was away, but it's that I'd be silently obligated to plan vacations to go back home, instead of to new places.

I couldn't stay with my immediate family unless I wanted them around the entire time, because my parents and my brother both live way our in the exurbs of the West Valley where the buses don't run, or take two hours to get into town.

I couldn't stay with my extended family; my maternal grandfather lives with my control-freak uncle whom I couldn't take for more than a day or two. He's the uncle that I think about whenever I'm tempted to give up on work and move back in with my parents and stagnate; I would become him if I did that. And my paternal grandparents watch Fox News 24 hours a day, which is just as deep a pit of negativity.

I still have friends in town, but I'd hate to presume on crashing with them.

If I were to leave Phoenix, I'd have to be very comfortable with the idea of not looking back.


Oct. 1st, 2009 07:26 pm
unbibium: (Default)
So I went to Orlando last weekend. Spent too much money on tourist traps. The Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum is way better than Wonder World.

Sea World was neat but maybe not quite worth $75, but it was pretty close, thanks to the penguin and puffin exhibits. I didn't even know puffins existed; it turns out they are arctic birds that evolved convergently with penguins on the opposite pole. Like penguins, they have a black and white color scheme and can dive underwater. Unlike penguins, they can also fly. James Bond doesn't even have vehicles that can do both those things. They are also cuter, although that might owe partially to the jaunty 16-bit Level Map music they were playing in the puffin room. Also, when puffins dive, they beat their wings underwater, as if they're flying, which looks really badass because they have very angular-looking wings.

When I got home, I got some new toys from Cube4You: a new Rubik's cube, a 5-cube from Eastsheen, and a Gigaminx. I haven't solved the Gigaminx yet, but I've figured out how to gain a bit of territory on it. It's going to get much harder as I solve more sides and have less freedom of movement in the unsolved space. I put it away early for tonight not because I was stuck, but because my hands were getting tired.

I've ordered some more wall decals, one of which will go in my bedroom, and perhaps make it presentable enough that I'll bother keeping it clean. Pictures if I succeed.
unbibium: (Default)
I bought a memorial poppy pin at the newsstand today. Apparently it's a tradition, but I hadn't learned of it until this year. Is it because I'm in Canada, or because I've been watching BBC World News so much in my hotel room?

First, I saw the aquarium. The frog exhibit was amazing, and had this slow-motion video of frogs striking their prey, and you could control the playback with this little dial. Lots of PWN3D moments. No penguins, though, and I couldn't find the turtles in the rain forest. And, as usual, absolutely no mention of the extinct furry old lobsters of the northeast. But I did learn, and promptly forget, the names of a couple of categories of amphibian that I never knew existed. One's snake-or-eel-like, and another is apparently an alligator-like thing that people mistakenly buy as pets when they're young.

The seaplane was cancelled, but I had a good long walk through some rainy autumn woods, capped off by an expensive dinner at a seafood restaurant.

There were three women at the next table celebrating one of their birthdays. I didn't realize until they all left that, whoa, it's my birthday too.

Thanks for the wall wishes, Facebook Army. I return home tomorrow evening.
unbibium: (Default)
I'm in a bit of a weird predicament, that this place is both awesome and sad at the same time. Awesome because everyone's really nice, and sad because the economic slowdown means a lot of empty marketplaces.

I visited the science museum here, as is Kibological custom, but the place was overrun with children, more so than most science museums I'd been to. It seemed the only thing there inclusive of adults was the IMAX movie. They show four different films throughout the day, and the one I saw is partially set in the Grand Canyon, and one of the other ones is entirely set in the Grand Canyon. Arizona gets a lot of science press, it seems.

Harder to find a restaurant than I'm used to. I don't know why. I ended up buying pierogies at another big indoor marketplace, and they gave me a plate full of them with a knife and fork and a Snapple, but there was nowhere to sit anywhere. I ended up finally finding some empty benches surrounding this comedy magician that did some escape act while going through insufferably long tangents involving his audience volunteers.

Ferry rides everywhere, and parks, and beaches, and dogs and birds and ducks, and more museums that I ended up not going into at all for whatever reason. I explored the woods next to the music academy. When I got deep enough, I saw some tents and umbrellas set up somewhere in the distance, and that was when I turned around and tried to get back out, with some difficulty, but not much.

After a lot of walking, I finally found a bus stop that went definitively where I wanted to go next: Chinatown. And I found a restaurant there with dim sum and steamed buns. It had a beggar parked outside whose story was that he'd been there for two hours trying to score up enough for a steamed bun. I ndined inside, and had potstickers and shrimp dumplings. After that, I wanted to order steamed buns, but they make you do that at the register, and I couldn't get helped, so I walked out and took the ferry back to my hotel.

I was all set to have crepes for dessert, but the crepe place closes at 7, and I got there at 6:50, which is apparently too late. Yeah. In this economy. So I went next door and got an overpriced cookie. I think I'll just buy some snacks at the supermarket and stop breaking my back trying to give people money.

My room has a refrigerator and a microwave. Not a minibar, or any other collection of objects that the hotel charges me for if I dare to use it. A real working mini-fridge, completely empty. I could have bought a half-gallon of milk and a box of cereal and some styrofoam bowls and been set for breakfast for the whole trip. And I would have, if I'd known that there aren't a lot of places open for breakfast here. I've been McGriddling my mornings away.

There's got to be more to vacations than looking for something to eat. Which is why tomorrow, I'm taking a seaplane tour.

And I must say, I love the idea of two-dollar coins, except when the panhandlers start coming out.
unbibium: (Default)
I'm in CANADA!

Not so cold here.

I'll be doing most of my updates on twitter: http://twitter.com/pentomino -- though only my parents would really ever care to follow that closely. But tweeting helps me build an accurate record later on, when I'm wondering what all the pictures are of.


Nov. 9th, 2008 09:40 am
unbibium: (kuribo)
So what's the best way to get Canadian dollars out of my Chase checking account? I neglected to cash up at an ATM before going through the checkpoint. The exchange desk at the airport was buying US$ at CAN$1.09 and selling at CAN$1.27, and something tells me I can do better than 8% commission if I go to the right place once I land.

US Airways Flight 506 leaves in an hour and a half. And it looks like my slacks are coffee-stain-resistant.
unbibium: (Default)
Not taking the laptop.

And, strictly speaking, I should leave the books behind with full knowledge I won't read them, when I have new books on my iPod. But that Japanese puzzle book begs to be takwn to a coffee shop and solved.
unbibium: (Default)
The laundry has built up, but it's getting chipped away at. And the dishwasher is churning away.

Big goals today:

  1. Pack some warm clothing for tomorrow's trip:
    • Warm clothing
    • My tickets
    • A fully-loaded iPod. At least one new audiobook.
    • Books. Just two:
    • Medication for 3 nights and 3 mornings.
    • Toothbrush, toothpaste
    • Electric razor, razor brush
    • Camera
    • Laptop?
    • Cell phone charger
    • If I end up throwing in anything that's not in the above list, I should write it down, so that after the trip, I can really examine whether I used it.
  2. Go to bike shop and buy that light kit and collapsible cage. I'll need it when I get back.
  3. Time permitting, copy some French in Action to my iPod so I can brush up on my French. I don't know how well 1987 Parisian will go over in 2008 Vancouver, but I want to be prepared.

unbibium: (Default)
I'm going to Vancouver, largely thanks to [livejournal.com profile] atillathehung's suggestion and specific hotel recommendation. I'm going for 3 nights, leaving the 9th, coming back the 12th. I don't know anyone in town, but there's plenty to do there anyway.

I have all of tomorrow to pack, which I will do while unpacking all my winter clothes from the SpaceBagsā„¢.
unbibium: (Default)
Yesterday came and went, no ticket. I also didn't do the dishes or laundry. And I'm certainly not packed.

The voice in my head says "it won't be worth it."

The other voice in my head says "you have to; what else are you going to do?"

I'm going to work now. But it does occur to me that I can empty the dryer right into my luggage.


Nov. 6th, 2008 10:32 pm
unbibium: (Default)
I don't really want to go anywhere.

But I'm afraid if I stay in town, I'll be bored, and just lay about the apartment all day.

Also, there is pressure to be doing something on my birthday, though at the same time I don't really want to invade anyone else's schedule.

And, I have memories of being a little happier when I traveled, but I don't know why.
unbibium: (Default)
I can get four night in London for under $1000 too much with hotel. Haven't checked Ireland or France yet. Berlin is over 1400 so it's out. And I just remembered how cold London is, and that there are other parts of England I'd like to see if I ever went back.

Domestic travel will definitely be cheaper. So where haven't I been? Another Seattle or New Orleans trip is always good.

Well, you have a few hours to make suggestions. My expected arrival-departure dates are Saturday the 8th and either Wednesday the 12th or Thursday the 13th.
unbibium: (Default)
So I'd like to spend the week of my birthday (November 11) in Seattle.

I used to have a big Kibological following there, and some college buddies. Of these, I think only [livejournal.com profile] sunburn remains. I've lost touch with Lleah (a Kibologist) and Ellery (a college buddy). And [livejournal.com profile] w_b_yeats moved away I think.

I selected it because it's on the west coast, so fuel prices won't make traveling there all that expensive. But lodging for that long might cost more money than I want to burn, and I'm a bit tired of hostels. Think a bed and breakfast might be better?
unbibium: (Default)
If you don't have a car, is a Greyhound bus the only way to get to Tucson and back?
unbibium: (Default)
I know I said I wanted to save up money... but, probably more important is to keep my sanity.

Therefore, I'd like to spend my 31st birthday away from Phoenix.

I'm thinking Seattle again. It's been three years.


Jul. 27th, 2008 11:42 pm
unbibium: (Default)
I had a lot of interesting times at the blackjack tables this time around.

I've been to Vegas about six times, and I've always played blackjack, but I've never worked out a strategy beforehand, until this time. As a result, I'd play very submissively: if I had an 16 and the dealer showed a 10, I'd stand. Basic strategy says that you hit in that situation, because even though you'd probably bust by doing so, the dealer has very little chance of busting, so in this case, it's better to go out with guns blazing.

This time around, I memorized a basic strategy chart off the web, except the splits and soft hands. And I also heeded a warning I heard that single-deck games have the biggest house edge these days, because blackjack pays 6 to 5 there. So this improved my results a great deal. Hitting those 16's wasn't easy, but it paid off a few times.

Did I finish ahead? No, not in the long term, but I walked away from more tables as a winner than ever before. I probably lost an average of $20 per hour. I came out behind because I varied my bets at exactly the wrong time. I'd lose $20 on one hand, and then I'd lower my bet to $5, and then I'd get Blackjack. If the reverse had happened more, I'd have come out ahead.

But, I had ridiculous amounts of fun at those tables. There was a strange instant connection between everyone at the table. Granted, I played at mostly the cheap tables, $3, $5 and $10, where people weren't pissing away their life's savings or anything. Every table was different.

I mostly played at Circus Circus, where there are usually $3 tables. At those tables, you will find people who don't play basic strategy. There was one guy who kept leaving the table to talk on his cell phone. And that's why I generally played the $5 tables. But the $5 tables had this cheap little side bet thing that caught a lot of suckers. If you put an extra dollar chip in this coin slot, and you got a King and a Jack as your initial hand, then you'd get to push a button that would win you some big prize. The odds against hitting that hand were such that it couldn't possibly be worth it, but some people faithfully put that extra dollar in for every single hand. This was fine when the machine worked. But when the machine malfunctioned, and it didn't register the dollar, they'd have to call in the pit boss and the table would grind to a halt.

Fortunately, I was able to try other casinos. Unfortunately, $10 tables were more common elsewhere. But that bought you a more charismatic dealer, and more sensible players. It was a lot easier to feel like part of the group in these tables. At Paris, we had one Vietnamese woman dealing, who took a break to do another table, but a half hour later, came back to our table shaking a little. She said some player called her an F. "Imagine if they'd called you the whole word," I said. I wonder if it works in her favor that she pointed out whenever I saved the table by busting my hand -- if my 16 hit to a 22, when the dealer had 15, for example. "Well, that's what's important," I grumbled.

And I drank lots of free lemonade. Except I think at Paris, they slipped me a Mike's Hard Lemonade. I have no evidence for this, apart from a little mental fatigue and euphoria.

Playing Blackjack is a good feeling. I've got to find a cheaper way of feeling like that, though.
unbibium: (puppy)
So, Sunday morning breakfast happened at the same location as the banquet. The conference admission price sure includes a lot of meals. The day would see me confronting three failed crushes.

So, I go downstairs, I pass Catholic girl in the hallway, and we basically wave and pass each other going opposite directions. I sit at a random table. They announce the next conference will be in Washington DC.

I know a lot of people are staying an extra day, and I try to arrange some hanging out, but I don't really have a lot of power left in the brain, so I do the same pacing around... I run into another woman, who is also there, never more than a few feet from her parents, who was my 2004 crush but more like a sister to me now. She was going to the Star Trek thing at the Hilton, which I also wanted to do. The timing didn't work out, because the second to last time I checked the ballroom, there was one table, and all the principal characters were sitting at it. Catholic girl, the photographer, the genetics doctor, all there. And there were a handful other people there discussing something gravely imporatnt. Even though my crush has gone away, my IQ points have not recovered, so I sit down and see what's going on.

I posted about this earlier. In America, albinos and their families face problems like apathetic teachers, unknowledgeable doctors, getting stared at on the bus, that kind of thing. In Tanzania, albinos and their families face problems like being unable to find sunscreen in Africa, there being only one hospital in a country of 39 million equipped to treat skin cancer, and oh yeah, albinos are being killed because our body parts are said to have magical properties. Major bum-out, and my contributions to the discussion generally cause the photographer to tell me that I'm getting off-topic. He's ultimately right, but I found it odd that he was the one interrupting me. And he, of course, is well-connected enough that he knows the cause as well as the Tanzanian representatives at the table, and who we can count on as resources, and so forth. Again, I should have left much earlier.

The Star Trek girl called me in the middle of this, and I elected not to leave the table. This decision was incorrect, as I gave up and left the table soon after, at the same time as the doctor. We commisserated about how frustrating the situation is. And then I doubled back, and the photographer was leaving. Something possessed me to ask him whether Catholic girl was still in there, he said yes, and I went in, and there was nothing but hotel staff clearing off tables. That struck me odd. But, it was enough of a confidence hit that I was bummed the rest of the day, and left me a little more suspicious of that guy.

I get to the Star Trek thing, can't find Star Trek girl, though I run into some other people from the conference. They take a picture of me next to the white-haired salt sucker creature from TOS. And I eat at Quark's and browse the stores. Star Trek girl eventually emerges from the rides, and we browse the merchandise together, and she doesn't say a lot. I hem and haw and decide, for the second year in a row, not to spend $50 for a 20-minute ride. Not necessarily because I can't afford it, but, to be honest, in my old age I'm starting to find Star Trek a little cheesy.

So I leave the Trek area, and go to the blackjack table, and win $125. I take a bus to Paris, where I go get some crepes, and lose $75. But I find I'm having a lot of fun at the blackjack tables, even when I lose. Complete strangers, all with a common goal, and even the dealer is happy for us when we win. Somehow I felt more like part of a community there, than I have in months. Charismatic dealers help. I may devote a whole post to that. The important thing was that I'd memorized the basic strategy table, and thus I didn't really have to make my own decisions, apart from how to bet and when to leave the table.

Then I saw the Penn & Teller show, as described in a previous post. If I'd gone to bed, or even to the airport, immediately after seeing them, then the vacation would have had Good Finish.

But then, I go back to my main hotel, and encounter all the conference stragglers... including, the trio of British girls, one of which was my 2006 crush. And they're all hanging around with, guess who, the photographer. By this point, it's too late to attempt to re-charm my 2006 crush, so I clumsily ask her for her email address, she clumsily tries to invent an excuse, I say "you don't really want to give it" and she says "yeah" and I go back to my room and fail to fall asleep.

So I started Saturday as a relatively healthy, independent human being, and ended Sunday as a lost puppy dog looking for a master.

P&T review

Jul. 14th, 2008 11:41 pm
unbibium: (Default)
I saw Penn & Teller live for the second time last night. It was glorious, even though my seats weren't quite as good.

They brought back some old bits I'd seen on TV, like Penn's fire eating, the cigarette sleight-of-hand demonstration, and the cups and balls with clear cups. And they repeated some tricks I'd seen before, but only live: some shadow pruning and goldfish bowl stuff by Teller, and the stealing of an audience member's glasses to open the show. And, of course, there were three irreplaceable acts that were present: the psychic comedian act, the bullet catch (renamed "magic bullets"), and the flag burning and restoration.

The new bits were notable. Especially the nailgun trick that was so new, they had an equipment failure they couldn't deal with and had to abort it. There were a lot of red balls appearing all of a sudden, both featured in new acts, and taking the place of other props in old acts. I thought there would be a theme, but not quite yet. They also sawed a woman into halves, which they then pretended to explain.

My favorite new bit involved creative use of the video monitor, much like my favorite bit last year. I suppose it's because these videos would be difficlut, or impossible, to do on television. They pulled an audience member out, and had him operate a handheld camera, so that Penn could do some close-up magic. But before the camera was turned on, Teller appeared on the monitor holding a sign telling the rest of the audience that we're doing a different trick. There was some important information I missed because I was distracted by a ringing cell phone that just kept going. So I kept watching the video, even though I was supposed to be watching the real stage, where we could see that Teller was assisting the trick from behind the scenery. And like most P&T tricks, the trickery escalated to points I'd rather not spoil for anyone who's going to see the show live, which I hope is at least one of you.

This time, both Penn and Teller were doing meet and greets after the show. They were on opposite walls, so as to keep the crowd dilute. I got another Penn photo, but both of them signed my copy of "How to Play in Traffic", and neither of them could tell me where to get tiny circles of red foam for my state ID for one of the tricks in the book. I perhaps should have gotten a Teller photo too, because a lifetime of silent performances has given Teller a wide variety of face poses. But, after my Penn photo, I said into thin air, "Dr. Penn, how do you type with boxing gloves on your hands," which was what I asked when I called into his radio show two years ago. And he said he remembered that. I said he had me on the phone for like 20 minutes, which was an exaggeration, but if you'll listen, you'll find I changed the subject twice before a commercial break forced the call to end. Who knows, I might have been able to chew Penn's ear off all night, but there were other fans who needed his attention. The crowd was so much thicker than last year.

Since I'm a sucker for swag, I got a T-shirt, and a CD of music by Mike Jones, the jazz pianist who opens for the show, and implores people to sign the envelope used for the psychic comedian trick. And, though [livejournal.com profile] motis is the only one who would ask, no, I didn't request "Monkey Tuesday" while Jones was playing.

I'm a pretty big fan, but the guy next to me claimed that Bullshit was the best show on television. I said that it was good, but there had to be one better. I proposed Firefly, but he rejected that, so I rejected a few of my other favorites, like Futurama. So I next proposed Carl Sagan's Cosmos, to which he said he hadn't seen it, and would have to take my word for it. Victory came a little too easy, for I could have defended that series against Bullshit easily.


unbibium: (Default)

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