city

Manhattan, Thursday

Short form: long island to manhattan; cloisters, dinner and broadway. Yes? Yes.

We left dan's parents' 10:30. Arrived at Penn Station 12:30. Checked into hotel near Grand Central; caught the subway up to the Cloisters, the A line up to 190th Street. I meditated, listened to Tapestry podcasts. One had the gem pointing out if we're lucky, we get 80 years- 1,000 months. This sort of stopped me in my tracks, and was one of the filters through which I spent the rest of the day. I guess last week was my 475th?

We got off the subway into a park, which led to a castle made in the 1930s to hold medieval world art. I spent a while looking at gorgeous 800-year-old chess pieces. They were found in Scotland; they think they are Norse. One of the rooks seemed to be a Berserker, chewing the top of his shield. The kings and queens looked  adorably nervous.

Saw wonderful medieval sculpture, tapestries, and paintings; then we caught a bus and the subway back to hotel.

Dinner at "Craft": simple foods, done expertly. I ordered squash ravioli with sage, then scallops (with a Meyer lemon hollandaise) and brussels sprouts. Dan got raw tuna, then swordfish (no longer overfished, it seems) and kale. My favourite of the mains were the scallops- having now had two incarnations of dry scallops to die for, they might be my favourite seafood. Maybe. Deserts: 3 kinds of ice-cream (olive oil ice cream: just OK). But dan got doughnuts, with Meyer lemon curd dipping sauce and dark chocolate. These were the Best Doughnuts Ever. I have never had a transcendent doughnut experience before, and didn't realize it was a possibility. Just wonderful.
Drinks: I tried a sparkling wine from North Fork Long Island (very good); dan tried a citrusy mixed drink. With dinner, I had a taste of "Gruvurtz grape  juice" but, um, it was way too sweet (as I guess you might expect; but our waiter was happy to let me try it). And with desert I had hot chocolate, which I realized in the first sip was gilding the lily. Ah well. So tasty.

Then we caught the train to 42nd avenue and saw Follies. Bernadette Peters was amazing; the show was neat, and leaves me thinking once again about choices we make in our 20s that we live with through our 50s and onward. Thankfully, I have a less dramatic set of choices and mistakes than the leads of this show- I haven't been pining for my best friend's partner for the last twenty years!

Today? Well-seized. 
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Film Review: Hugo

Last weekend, I got to see Hugo, the new Scorsese movie, and I wanted to report that it is just as good as the reviews say. The basic story is simple enough: around 1930, an orphaned boy lives in a Paris train station, risks capture by the station-master, makes a friend, and tries to find a message he believes was left by his deceased father. Woven in is the history of moving pictures by magician/inventor Georges Méliès, who built the first film studio in the world and produced hundreds of films (including the 1902 "A Trip to the Moon").

It is a fairy tale, with a light magic-realistic touch, balanced by an amazing amount of "this really happened" (which you'll have to go learn yourself; it isn't brought up in the movie). Or, ask me about it if you don't mind spoilers.

The plot has some nuance, which I appreciated, though the acting could have used a lighter touch- everyone was capable in their roles, but nearly all of the characters felt cartoonish at times.

The train station, clock works, movie studio (walled in glass to let in light- apparently historically accurate) and Paris street scenes are all gorgeous. Visually, I loved it. This is the first movie I've seen where the 3d truly enhances the art, rather than feeling to me like a gimmick. (I saw and liked Avatar, and I won't argue with somebody who felt this way about Avatar- but I'm a "gears, steam, and clockwork" kind of guy, rather than "blue alien jungle". TMI? [hush!])

What else to say? I don't think it passes the Bechdel Movie Test- there are various scenes of women talking to each other about men. I wonder if this was different in the original novel or a Scorsese touch. Oh- perhaps I'm wrong- a women talks to a girl (and boy, but mostly the girl) about how wonderful it had been to be an actress; that might count.

Anyhow, I am glad I saw this in the theatre.

One of Those Days

Thursday was One of Those Days. I didn't sleep well, which is probably enough excuse. I...
- spent much of the day staring off into space like a zombie;
- forgot my keys at home;
- spent a while writing up work-project accomplished steps, and nearly put them into the wrong work ticket;
- was visited by a prof, who asked a very reasonable request, and it took me something like 10 minutes to get her stuff working properly, though it should've taken just a few minutes, tops;
- at the end of the day, suddenly realized I wasn't going to be at pilates on Saturday because I was taking the dog to the vet; and proceeded to send an apologetic un-reservation for Saturday (only to realize the next morning that of course I had already told the instructor, on the day I made the vet reservation).

The thing about Thursday was that I spent a lot of time thinking I was operating normally, and luckily caught myself before I did anything *really* dumb.

On the bright side, I also got to upgrade our parking pass at the University (we carpool in winter; a few years ago I put my name on a waiting list for a nearer parking lot, and apparently my name finally came up; so this winter we get to park just across the train-tracks from our building!) And in the evening, we got to go hang with catbear and dawn_guy, at catbear's arts reception, and also ran into zanate. And then I think I came home and crashed hard. :)

And then Friday I wasn't a zombie any more, which made me quite happy.

Vermont and Massachusetts

So, yeah. We had a week of vacation. The second half:

Suddenly coming up on a pack of bicyclists on a twisty Vermont road? Slightly scary. Seeing their reaction to a car: scatter in all directions, to both sides, and the middle, including making hand-gestures for us to slow down? Eeek! We were a bit rattled, for a while, and I'm glad for dan's reaction-time while driving. When we later ran into them at a nearby town, I was sorely tempted to get out of the car and have a stern conversation with them. (Dan's comment was something like: "what is this, Critical Farmland?")

Sutton, Quebec is charming. I took a jaunt across the border because I wanted to give the wedding couple a bottle of Sortilege maple whisky, which one cannot easily buy outside Quebec. Hey, we were 30 minutes from the border, and it was a nice day for a drive. And Sutton wowed me. Particularly compared with the tiny towns in northern Vermont, Sutton seemed to be a hopping place. Just between where I parked and the SAQ, I found three cafes and a chocolate shop and museum. Also a pair of realty offices, which put the price-per-square-foot at much closer to, say, Stratford, Ontario than Northern Vermont. I found my Sortilege, and the chocolate croissant I got was very tasty, too. (I got a second bottle, for home, and I expected to pay duty on it, but the US customs guard was confused enough as to how it was that an American was living in Ontario, that he only paid attention that I was giving one of them away as a gift, and he waved me through. Whatevs!

We got much better weather than we probably deserved. It was supposed to rain all three days we were in Vermont, but it only really rained one evening. So we got to leaf-peep as well as hike a portion of the Long Trail (we climbed 1,000 feet; the peak we aimed for was apparently a further 300 feet altitude, but we were pretty pooped after that hour of climbing). Rover was quite helpful at finding our trail, actually- it wasn't well marked, but we used an effective heuristic of "if two of the three of us thought it went one way, we'd go that way".

As commented in my last entry, it turns out we weren't the first people we know to stay at this B&B- in the same bizarre room, no less. They were great hosts; I would go back to the B&B, but I think not back to that room.

Onward to Massachusetts! We realized that our route took us through Hanover NH, and managed to get in touch with our friend Judy, so we got to have lunch with her on Friday, as well as stopping at King Arthur Flour, a baker's paradise in retail form. It was Dartmouth's Homecoming weekend, which Judy didn't know when she suggested we have lunch in town. We used up probably a month's worth of parking karma to find a spot just next to the restaurant we were aiming for. And after a really good time catching up with Judy, we were back on the road.

We got to Essex, MA without any Boston drivers actually doing damage to our vehicle or persons; and in the process of getting dinner at a local seafood shack [1], discovered that the next day was Essex Clam Festival. Darn! We'll miss it due to the wedding we came all this way for! Aha- the Clam Fest was at lunch time, and the wedding wasn't until 3:30.

So, Saturday morning, we and a few other people went back to Essex, and sampled a dozen types of clam chowder for $5. Local beers were $4. We had to try a few chowders more than once. In order to properly determine our favourites. Damn, that was good chowdah. We also got our photos taken with Shucky the Clam, the mascot for The First National Bank of Ipswitch (Slogan: "We Dig Our Customers"). Our bank (TD) was also giving away freebies; Rover now has a TD-branded neckerchief, which is adorable.

So, success all around.

OH YEAH. The wedding! Very well organized; the weather once again cooperated, so they got to be married next to a very photogenic pond. The officiant was the groom's mother; she told stories she hadn't cleared with the wedding couple, and they recited vows they wrote themselves, which were very sweet.

Dinner was fun; one of the themes was plush viruses, because the bride has traveled the world working on water-treatment engineering. We came home with Giardia, which felt apropos.

We also got to meet several really nifty people, friends and family of the bride and groom. Sunday we had a big brunch with everybody and hit the road at 11.

At 12:30, we stopped for a stretch-break and dan realized he had migraine symptoms. So I started driving; and I drove until sundown, when he woke up feeling much better. And at that point I realized I had migraine symptoms, in part from staring directly into the sun. So dan drove the rest of the way. All in all, we were lucky that we got our migraines serially, instead of in parallel; we would have stopped and rested if we needed to, but it's good we didn't have to.

Aside from the migraines, the biggest down-side to the last part of the trip was that Rover picked up some ticks in Vermont, and I just discovered them on her this evening. Now taken care of, but... ick!
...and now she is running and barking in her sleep on the floor of my study.

It is good to be home again.

Alive!

Bullet-point form; sorry; I may fill in later.

* left my parents' yesterday after an early lunch at a Thai place down the street.
* the drive through the Adirondacks was pretty, but Vermont has been gorgeous.
* I seem to have slept 11 hours last night
* our suite overlooks a babbling river, has a full kitchen, a wonderful bed.. and more taxidermy than I ever wanted to wake up staring at. The room has four mounted deer-heads, one wolf, one boar, and 2 deer-hoof lampshades.
* Apple waffles for breakfast.
* Today consisted of country drives, mountain roads, a bit of hiking, pretty towns with no open restaurants, and a bit of local color in addition to the trees. Did not successfully shop for cheese. Snacked on the cheese we found yesterday. Yum.
* Almost got clobbered by a 12-tired tractor coming down the middle of a tiny road. Whee!

Now, I hope, a quick nap.

underwater

In post-cold torpor. Woke up early enough to drive dan to the train station (he's working at a University Fair all day today) and was going to go back to sleep, but it turns out I'm not at all tired.

Discovered the basement has had undetected standing water long enough to mildew a few cardboard liquour boxes, and probably ruined a bag of flour, sigh. So I did the "dry out the carpet with the big box fan" dance (lifting a dripping carpet to put crates to air out underneath while trying to not get dripped on) along with the "eek, there are multiple spiders in there" shuffle.

And for the last few hours I've worked on pruning the bookshelves. Found roughly 20" of books to go to the thrift shop, along with another pile that aren't worth anything to anybody other than me-of-20-years-ago (Cornell Student Handbook for 1992?).

Haven't figured what to do with two thin books I bought even before then: "Young, Gay, and Proud", and "One Teenager in 10." Almost certainly as much use today as... hm... the Whole Earth Catalog? With less obvious charm?

There's a melancholy of going through bookshelves one hasn't touched in years, especially if one can remember, 4 or 5 years ago, choosing to keep some of the books based on a plan to actually read them. My pleasure reading for the last few years has been almost entirely the daily Globe and Mail and 3 monthly magazines that I am underwater on reading. I've been forging my way through the last six issues of Harpers, dunno what I will do about The Atlantic which I never seem to get to...

I could choose to spend less time browsing on the web, and more time with a good book. But why do I have the feeling that I won't?

Friday night Mullings

Two weekends from now is the opening of the Stephen Hawking Centre at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (at right; click for more flickr stream). It will soon house three times as many smart people attempting to turn coffee into theorems which might in 30 years escape into a different form as (currently) indistinguishable from magic. That same weekend may see Stephen Hawking at the public opening, though if I were he, I would find something better to do that weekend.

I, however, am not he, and I am taking a tour. You could also if you're free Sunday the 18th; let me know if you sign up for something around the 3pm slot and we can meet up.

They are also hosting two free public talks on the evening of Saturday the 17th (which I'm waffling on; but there are still apparently tickets still available for both as well.)

---

I have a fairly unplanned Labour Day Weekend, which means it is going to go by in a flash. I'm going to do some cooking, play some games with friendly peeps, go to a potluck, and possibly go for a long bike-ride on Monday if it isn't storming.

Dan is away until next Thursday; he is currently in Luxembourg, which my father tells me officially speaks Luxembourgish (and Wikipedia backs him up).

---

This evening I talked to my folks. They recently had a distant cousin visit from out west. She brings news of the History of the Allens. Apparently, my relatives who settled in Watertown, NY in the mid-1800s came there via Medford, MA, where they lived since the late 1700s, when they emigrated from England (not Scotland, as my father had believed). In the early 1800s the Medford Allens founded a Unitarian church, which subsequently schismed into a competing Unitarian church just across the street. And there is an Allen Homestead in Medford, which this distant cousin had visited. And that's all the detail I got this evening. I hope to extract more from my folks, as it sounds like there's potential for some juicy stories, or at least some amusing coincidences given that I was, y'know, living in Medford for a year. (A year which ended exactly 10 years ago last Monday! Hey, we've lived here for 10 years now. I can barely believe that!)

Stories from Canadian Yearly Meeting in Windsor, NS

Pretend I did finish this on Sunday, OK?...

--

It's good to be home.

I just returned from my first visit to Canadian Yearly Meeting, with approximately 150 Quakers from all over our country plus a handful visiting from the US. My week in Windsor Nova Scotia was awesome. I expected to eventually get bored with Business Meetings every day; I expected people to be less engaged in meeting newcomers (versus reconnecting with friends they hadn't seen in a year); I expected the food to be mediocre. Surprise!

I didn't skip a single Business Meeting, nor did I want to. Quaker process is so cool to see in action, even if the action is sometimes slow. I sung (in a chanting workshop) every day (except Wednesday, when I played hookey to go find lobster). The cafeteria was surprisingly good, with plenty of variety and lots of fresh veggies. The worst thing I can say about the place is that they completely failed at mobility accessibility- nearly everything required at least one stair, or flights of stairs; and there were quite a few people using canes. My new friend Claire, who gets around in a wheelchair, was philosophical, in addition to being patient with being wheeled up single steps all over the place. She said given that the school is 220 years old, they were excusable in her book. I can't say I agree. Anyhow, that's not the main purpose of this post.

Which is telling a few stories about just one of the characters I met.

--
"So, Tom, how are you getting home?" We were in the cafeteria, both eating fried fish, which was quite good. [1]

"Well, circuitously." Tom spoke slowly. He's 90 or 91, a skinny stick of a man with a bushy beard, round glasses, and a baseball cap. He lives by himself somewhere north of Lake Superior in a solar-powered house. "I'm going from here to Maine, for the 40th reunion of some students of mine at Friends World College on Long Island. We built canoes from scratch and paddled them around New York City into the Hudson and tried to see how far we could get over water."

"How far did you get?"

"The Bering Strait," he said, with a twinkle in his eye. I cracked up. He said his boat was well-built, and he brought lots of maps. He went up the St. Lawrence, across the Great Lakes, and at Lake Winnipeg he took a detour, spending a few years in Manitoba doing research on water testing and safety.

When he finally got to the Bearing Strait, he spent a while trying to figure out how to cross it, having mapped how he could get to Western Europe through Russia. But this was the middle of the Cold War, and it didn't seem safe, so he stopped at the Bering Strait.

But they got a lot of water-testing research done over the journey. [2]

--

Tom grew up in Princeton, through the Depression. It turns out he lived in the same block as Albert Einstein and Paul Robeson. Einstein was friendly; he always waved from the street as he went by with his huge hair. Robeson came back to give a concert at Princeton University, but the hall master refused to let him sing. So he gave the concert in a church instead, which Tom was fortunate enough to go to. He says he's had a very lucky life.

And here's a photo of Tom, from five years ago.

--

I have more stories that aren't about Tom, but they will wait, as I want to get myself to work!

[1] haddock from Truro, caught 2 hours away.

[2] Google tells me he gave an invited talk to CYM in some previous year.

MBTI

I spent 20 minutes earlier this week filling out an online MBTI, and today I went to Career Services on campus to review it with their resident expert, Liz K. (Free for staff; and mah boss has told me it's job-related and I shouldn't count it as personal time. ...But wait till she hears I'm going back.)

It was an entertaining hour, and I took a few notes on things that tickled me. To be read with various grains of salt.

* One area the Myers-Briggs has no predictive power is in the workplace. People with widely different types can both be happy in the same positions.
* However, it is useful for identifying preferences that people might not realize, based on cultural assumptions against those preferences- and, to some extent, strengths and weaknesses for personal interactions.

* ESTJ is what employers almost universally want from their front-line staff. Though many of these companies seem to brand themselves as looking for ENFP. And Introverts get no respect in the workplace. (Which is why we get to impersonate the E/S/T/J types at the office).
* N's are stereotyped as creative, but S's are creative as well- one such area is toward efficiency, parsimony.
* S's prefer to work a project from bottom-up and use language for accuracy; N's prefer to design from top-down and use language to play.
* N's might buy a fast car as a status symbol; S's might buy the car because they like the sensation of driving fast.

* NT's might be energized developing strategies; NF's energized by nurturing people.
* NT's may be known for their sarcastic humour.
* NF's may be known for enjoying taking the MBTI and learning the psychology of others; whereas FP's hate how the MBTI questions try and box you in without any subtlety or context.

* A bad combination in meetings: EN's tossing out half-baked ideas one after another, and after everyone else is in agreement, the IS might come up with his/her best answer, which s/he has taken the time to hone and finish in his/her head; coming across as passive-aggressive.

* A meeting of all J's may make a quick decision that's wrong; a meeting of all P's make the same decision over and over and over.

* Couples usually pair a P and a J. If both are P's, one will probably "fake it" as a J in order to keep the household running and bills paid.

* For J's the T/F dichotomy becomes crucial for how they deal with the outside world (setting their structure/organization via logic/objectivity or values/subjectivity).
* For P's the S/N dichotomy becomes crucial (via present/concrete or future/abstract).

---

I've tested myself online every once in a few years, and I consistently turn out IN__ - neutral between T/F and J/P. Sure enough, this time I rated "T" but just one point away from being rated "F"; and I was rated a "mild J".

But that didn't satisfy Liz; she said this didn't make sense with what I told her. And if I was J, I would be dominant for Feeling/Thinking- I certainly wouldn't be ambiguous on that measure. So, yay! I'm an aberration! She said perhaps I operated as a "J" both at work and home, but they aren't my preference? This seemed likely. So, she had me read some summary descriptions, until we zeroed in on INTP or INFP.

And when I read the long-form descriptions, I identified most with INFP, the same type as I self-identified 4 years ago.

She said if I come back, she can print out the appropriate pages out of their guide for me, but as it was, my custom printout wasn't at all accurate.

A cynical person might conclude that I've been told to vote early and often. Or, roll my character stats but change them around until they look right.

We were supposed to talk about strengths/blindspots I might want to know about, but we ran out of time. Fortunately, the second hit is free as well.

One thread of thought I found interesting is that I will make to-do lists, and refer back to them, which is a "J" type activity. However, the system for lists that I have settled on, GTD, allows maximal flexibility for choosing on-the-fly what tasks you're up for doing next. Which is the embodiment of "Perceiving" type.

So: yeah. INFP inna ESTJ wrld.