28 July 2011

A Dog and His Crown

Rascal with an inflatable crown from Mardi Gras 2011
Beth sent me this photo a couple weeks ago. I wanted to post it and laugh at the dumb dog. The story of how he came to our family is silly, and I'm not sure that I haven't written about it already. I couldn't find anything though.

About 7 years ago I was working at OSU, living in an apartment and having a pretty good time. I had just been unceremoniously dumped so was highly emotional (i.e. prone to giving into something like accepting a dog). But this dog was never supposed to be mine.

Across the busy road from our offices lived a guy named Sexy Chocolate. Seriously that's how he identified himself on his voice mail. He owned this puppy, Rascal, who jumped and escaped and loved to run in the road. After rescuing him several times from traffic, my coworkers decided that he had to be saved and that it would be easy to give him a new home (with Sexy Chocolate's permission, of course). Somehow I ended up being that home temporarily, despite the fact that I couldn't have pets in my apartment and didn't really need the hassle. (Although Rascal was pretty cute ... I'm not sure I have a digital photo of his puppy-dom ... if so, not on this computer.)

While Rascal lived with me, during the day he stayed in the bathroom, and I would come home at lunch to let him out. At night I'd make him sleep on a towel on the carpeted floor by my bed, but somehow he'd always end up in the bed with me. Meaning I never got deep sleep because I was constantly putting him back on the floor -- or imaging him jumping up on me.

After everyone who said they'd love to have the dog ignoring me I decided to drive the beast three hours to I-town. He puked on the way and hated riding in the car, but I had leather seats that were easy to clean and we made it.

Now he lives with my parents, and while he's never been a "good" dog he and my dad are good buddies. I'm sure his life is better in Indiahoma than it ever would have been with Sexy Chocolate, although he did end up getting hit by a car -- he survived.

27 July 2011

Vancouver Timeline

So I did a picture post, how about a quick bulleted list post of the things I did while I was in Vancouver? (Confession: every afternoon I took a rest/nap in the hotel ... I had to ask housekeeping to make up the room earlier so I wouldn't be disturbed ... talk about high maintenance!)
  • Saturday 7/16 we arrived and it was late. Checked into the swank hotel, showered off the airplane funk and conked out. We had free sit-down full service breakfast every morning so didn't have to worry about that!
  • Sunday 7/17 Shawn had to practice his talk so I walked around a bit on my own. Shops don't open up until 10 or later, so all I did was get a Tim Horton's latte and drink it on Granville St. Tim Horton's in NYC near my church on 86th and Park makes a MUCH better latte -- i.e. it's not a 7-11 style stick-the-cup-under-the-machine-and-hit-a-button as it was in Canada, rather in NYC they steam the milk and add it to the coffee. When Shawn was sufficiently rehearsed we walked north to the water, looked around, had lunch and then he checked into the conference. Dinner was a laugh because everything was closed on Sunday evenings. I think we ended up with kind of fast food pizza by the slice ... made me miss Mercado's even more.
  • Monday 7/18 Shawn is at his conference and giving his talk. I get up and around then take a public bus to Granville Island. Everything in Vancouver is expensive, even the public transit (and when my comparison is NYC, you know that's saying something). But I made it to the "island" that's really not. I did some shopping, had lunch, looked at the views of downtown, and toured the public market, wishing our hotel room had a fridge! Met back up with Shawn and had dinner with his NYC office mate. Was fun to catch up with her.
  • Tuesday 7/19 I was intrigued by all the signs on the Sky Train for Metropolis mall (450 stores!), and when I was at the Kid's Market on Granville Island I found a brochure that offered tourists a $10 gift card, free return transit and a free tote bag (something I was lamenting not having brought despite owning roughly 500 yet not willing to shell out $10 CAN for one). This time I took the Sky Train (subway) and did a little shopping. I had lunch at the food court, watched a lot of people, got myself a souvenir -- a Danier leather wallet -- and read a book I had downloaded to my Kindle (The Help). Shawn and I had dinner with a group of his cohorts at a pub-style place.
  • Wednesday 7/20 About mid-morning I met up with my friend who also happens to be a mathematician attending the conference, and we went shopping at the Pacific Centre underground shopping mall that was right near our hotels. We browsed but didn't buy, had lunch and mostly had a good time catching up. (She and her husband moved from Baton Rouge about a week or so before the trip, but we still had plenty to catch up on!) I was wearing terribly uncomfortable shoes, so I went back to the hotel thinking I would change them and go do something else later in the afternoon ... uh, nap time came instead! Shawn and I had dinner at a local pizzeria and got a discount because they were crowded and we waited patiently. Manners pay off I guess.
  • Thursday 7/21 I decided I had better play the true tourist and get on a tour bus to really see what the city had to offer. I looked online and got a second day for free (great thing about the hotel -- fast internet and free worldwide calling). I got to see Stanley Park on one loop and the city on the other loop. It was too expensive ($38 CAN), but kept me occupied and got me where I wanted to go. After I did the complete tour I had lunch and then took one of the buses to Robson Street, very chic, for shopping. I didn't buy anything other than a bottle of water and a cupcake from a Cupcake Girls shop (a show I learned about by watching Canadian TV during my rests ... although looks like I can catch it on WE stateside), but I got to people watch and get two free drinks -- a Coke Zero and Vitamin Water. One good thing about cities: lots of people all together means marketing promos/freebies. Shawn and I had a quick dinner and then went to a public math lecture at the conference. It was pretty funny, although all I had to contribute was critique of the guy's PowerPoint. I mean, he's this high dollar academic and he uses COMIC SANS in his presentation? GAG. :)
  • Friday 7/22 Beth's birthday! I did the bus tours again (I know a lot of facts about Vancouver now!), and this time I got off in Stanley Park at Prospect Point and looked at the Lions Gate Bridge for a while. When I was back at Canada Place I went to Gas Town, which is a little shopping district by the water. I got some souvenirs and ate lunch at the Old Spaghetti Factory (marketing paid off on me once again because the ads for this place were everywhere). One of my favorite things about being in Vancouver was eating outside in July. And the weather was always so comfortable (and even when it's raining most tables/patios are covered) that we ate outside quite a lot. After the conference ended Shawn and I went on a harbour dinner cruise. It was expensive but very fun and relaxing -- good buffet dinner (although I'm surprised I didn't fall with my full plate of food because we had to walk down stairs on a moving boat while carrying it) and stunning views of the city and the sunset over the mountains. Lots of smooches too!
  • Saturday 7/23 Grouse Mountain, which I already wrote about. After we got back we picked up our luggage from the first hotel and made the move to the second hotel (Shawn booked so far in advance and through the conference company that there were issues with extending the stay, so he found an alternate hotel for our last two nights). It was a schlep, but we did it with all our luggage and made it to the hotel in one piece. This was a little less swank but it was bigger and still clean and comfortable. It was a "suite" in that there was a kitchenette and a couch area. There was a balcony with a view from the 16th floor and again super fast internet, so we were able to Skype with Shawn's parents, which was pretty fun. We had dinner in the "new" neighborhood -- at an Irish pub that didn't serve fish & chips. Whoever heard of that?
  • Sunday 7/24 After a free hotel buffet breakfast we took the public bus to Stanley Park and went to the Vancouver Aquarium. It's pretty expensive, but we got to see beluga whales, dolphins, jelly fish, many many fish and frogs, and a 4D experience movie (which my favorite tour bus driver told me not to miss). As the day wore on it got more and more crowded with children (assuming many were local because their passes are cheaper). We stayed until we had seen enough then strolled in the park a bit (it is a HUGE park though) and took the bus back to the hotel. Had another lie in, then ate our last dinner at a really cool choose-your-own-pasta place (pick noodle type, sauce, toppings). Seemed like the kind of thing that would be a hit in a college town like Baton Rouge (and I think we have enough fro-yo shops). We also got gelato and saw a movie being filmed in Yaletown, although unlike NYC they don't list what the film is on the no parking notices on the street and we didn't see anyone famous so who knows. Then back to the hotel to pack up and prepare for the 12 hour journey home.
Overall a really good time and quite restful. I didn't check work email once, and I don't think I missed much of anything as I'm caught back up for the most part. I think I was missed at least a little, which is always nice. Things are picking back up on the work front, which I like, but it does entail a couple trips to New Orleans in the near future. I am not looking forward to that at all.

Got to hit the sack and really should have put off typing this post until I'm more rested. Maybe the blogger bug has re-bitten me?!

Vancouver: Favorite Pics

Canada Place!

At the conference center/overlooking the water

Absolute favorite -- on our harbour dinner cruise at sunset

Also on the dinner cruise -- cool breeze in our faces

Snow in July on top of Grouse Mountain

My favorite ... everything!

26 July 2011

Review: Grouse Mountain

This is my Travel Advisor review, plus some pictures. More about the Vancouver trip soon... (I had grand plans to pre-blog while I was away, but I basically carted my computer to Canada for random email and blog reading. D'oh.)

Still not sure if it was worth the money to go to Grouse Mountain ($40 CAN per person), although I'm glad to say I've done it so probably was. It certainly was a hassle to get there and back to downtown.

We bought our tickets at Canada Place to ride the free shuttle to the base of the mountain. The girl manning the queue -- I believe her name was "Bran" -- was very chatty and told us to walk around but be back 10 minutes before the next bus arrived. When we did, she said "where are your numbers?" and "has your receipt been stamped?" She was the only one who would have done that, and we didn't know that needed to happen. So we didn't make that bus, shortening our time on the mountain by about an hour (time we spent waiting around Canada Place). When we made the next bus there were additional issues -- at the hotel stops "Bran" hadn't held enough seats open so people who had been waiting there weren't able to make the bus. If catching the shuttle at Canada Place, be very specific and ask questions about what it takes to get on the bus -- don't just get on line and assume that's enough. Get the plastic number! And I guess you can only hope for no screw ups if you're picking up the shuttle at a hotel.

"Bran" was at the base of the mountain when we got off the sky ride, so I'm not sure if she did so poorly she was moved to somewhere with less chance for screwing up. But you still need to get plastic numbers to get on the shuttle returning. The park/mountain stays open until 10, but the last bus runs at 5, and if there are more people than can fit, you're SOL. There is public transportation, but that tacks on an additional $5 for each person and additional uncertainty as far as finding the stops, making the transfer to the Seabus, etc. They did say the boat ride across the inlet is nice, so maybe worth it.

The pictures on all the brochures show a semi-full gondola ride up the mountain. Perhaps because it was such a beautiful day (and a Saturday), we did not experience that and on the way up had no view at all, other than the other people around us complaining about no view. We were really packed in like sardines. I think each tram can hold 100 people plus the "driver," probably just there to try to quell a riot and explain the swaying that happens when the tram goes over the towers.

On the mountain itself we had a good time. Ate some too expensive food, saw snow in July and had really great views (although very few unobstructed by people, structures, etc.). There are two grizzlies who live there, a lumberjack show (v. corny but fun), a birds show and my favorite -- the chair lift to the peak of the mountain. It was scary but provided better views. And if you're a skier it probably wouldn't be any big deal at all.

Feet on a chair lift (as opposed to on a beach)
It was crowded and loads of kids, but that surely had to do with the weather and the summer Saturday. We had to wait for about 20 minutes to catch the tram going down the mountain. Because of the timing of the shuttle bus (and worrying we wouldn't be able to get back without additional hassle) we didn't end up seeing the movies or doing the eco-walk with a ranger. You can also walk/run up the mountain, which might save some money. But I'm not entirely sure/that was never clear. Be prepared for some hiking and walking around -- wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen.

Other things we didn't do because they cost extra were the wind turbine and the zip line. The "Eye of the Wind" takes you up even higher on the peak for better views and costs something like $20 per person. The zip line costs something like $120 and we heard from others who did it that it was too expensive and went too fast (i.e. not long duration) for what it cost. They also offer helicopter rides and tandem para-sailing, but I'm not sure how much those cost -- guessing a lot, like everything else.

Definitely something to do while in Vancouver, but not something we'll be doing twice.

View from chair lift going down the mountain

14 July 2011

She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)

Listening to some Beatles before bed. We still don' have Internet hooked up at the house BUT I've been able to connect to a rogue linksys router, presumably belonging to a neighbor. Not good enough to work from home or anything, but certainly doable for a quick blog post.

I got a university ID today. I'm not a university employee, but I work on campus. When I started I asked about getting an ID and was told no. A new guy started and asked and voila, request granted. Whatever works. Now I can use the library and maybe some other perks. We'll see how it goes.

In the course of acquiring the ID a colleague and I walked to the student union ... the thunder started. Of course I didn't carry my purse (it was late afternoon and I was tired), so I didn't have my umbrella. Yep, we got soaking wet walking back. Ugh. I guess the exercise was good? I went home soon after that since it was 4:30 and I'd been at work well over 8 hours.

It was still raining, and I have to cross a street to get to my car. There are cross walks, and cars are supposed to stop for pedestrians. I was very visible with my umbrella and not being what anyone would call small. Not one but TWO vehicles -- huge Louisiana trucks -- gunned it while I stood at the walk trying to get across. It was a miracle anyone actually stopped for me -- a soaking wet person carrying two bags and looking like fright. I guess all I can say is that I survived and hope that I'm a better motorist than that when I'm on the other side of the wheel. I'm certainly not a fan of LA drivers, and I know insurance companies aren't either based on the rates in these parts.

Have you ever played chicken with a car as a pedestrian?

13 July 2011

Another Moment of Genius

In continuing news on the brain drain, when packing my coffee maker I somehow managed to leave coffee IN THE CARAFE! Granted it's a stainless thermal carafe, but still. It's been so long since I've made coffee that it was extra gross. Shawn managed to clean it up before I got home and it didn't do any real damage other than ruining a box. But COME ON!

Wonder what other doofenschmirtz things I'll be doing. So far I'm just trying to stay out of Shawn's way before we go back to our house. The first night's sleep there was good, although I laid awake for a while after getting up to use the loo in the night. We'll have to crank the AC a bit more, as I always sleep better when I'm cool.

12 July 2011

Achieving Adulthood

We did it -- closed on our first house yesterday. The amount of space we have is mind boggling. We'll never be able to go back to our NYC ways of living together in less than 400 square feet of space!

Today Shawn and his amazing helpers got most of our stuff moved over (I'm writing this from the apartment and we'll take a load of foodstuffs and clothes to the house in a bit ... Internet not turned on at the house yet).

Shawn and the new fridge: Thanks Dale and Steve!

Mari and the new washer/dryer
Realizing I don't have a good picture of the front of the house. I could steal one from the real estate listing, but those were taken when the trees were bare. The trees are not bare now -- there's even one that flowers purple!

Best shot i've got for now.
We have a lot of work to do. I'm quite tired and ready to make the bed and fall asleep. More updates as we go from turning this house into our home.

Edit: Updated to thank Steve ... also, this was my 1000th post.

08 July 2011

Brain Drain

I'm finding that I'm losing my mind, brain cell by brain cell. I find myself making a few more mistakes at work than normal -- nothing job threatening, but still annoying for this do-a-great-job-at-all-costs girl.

Last weekend I did the grocery shopping, loaded my purchases in our reusable bags except for the meat, which I always ask to be placed in plastic. I get home, bring in as much as I can and send Shawn out to get the rest. It wasn't until I tried to make dinner on Monday evening -- 24+ hours after shopping -- that I realized the meat wasn't in the fridge. I guess it sort of helps that Shawn didn't notice the meat in the trunk either (apparently I'd tucked it behind the crate we keep in the trunk), but surely I should have remembered while I was loading up the fridge. What an expensive mistake!

We use a calendar at work that's online and everyone can see each other's appointments. I was looking at this week, preparing for what I'd need to do when I noticed something on Thursday that looked unfamiliar. From 10-11:30 I had a "Hold: Personal Time." I have no idea what that could mean or when I would have put it there. Seriously NO recollection. Thursday came and went, and as far as I can tell no personal time was needed. But things are certainly feeling mushy re: my sharpness.

Although I didn't sit on the beach in Galveston last week I did take my requisite feet shot when I was on the beach on Treasure Island, Florida, a couple months ago. So here's that.

Feet on the beach in Florida -- May 2011