Saturday, August 29, 2009

More from New York

We've been keeping nicely busy here in New York. Yesterday Art's brother and his brother's girlfriend came over, and we packed the family into the RV for some sightseeing. We went over to a town called Naples, which is part of the wine-making region here. We didn't go there for wine though, we went for their famous grape pies. We went to a little house where the front door has been converted to a counter, where they take your order and bring the pies and tarts you ask for. I believe it was called "Cindy's Grape Pies"...pretty self explanatory. We got a grape pie, a peach pie, and a raspberry pie, as well as some grape filled cookies. We were saving the pie for supper, but snacked on the cookies as we continued driving. They were fantastic, I've never had such good grape filling. It tasted like grape juice, but less artificial and better.

From there we went on to a little farmer's market and picked up a few things to bring back home. They had some great looking produce, I picked out a basket of fresh peaches that looked excellent (and turned out to be as tasty as they look). We also picked up some honey from a local places called Wixson's that was selling there. Wixson's is a place Alan and I had visited a few years ago while he still lived in New York, so we were happy to get some of their stuff.

The next stop on our tour was a ways outside of town. The area we're in is known as the Finger Lake region, which has 5 very large lakes cut out by glaciers, so they are all very long in the north-south direction, but fairly narrow in the east-west. Most of the lakes are bordered by very high hills on the east and west banks. The lake we were on is Canandaigua Lake, and along one of the hill ridges on that lake they've put in a wind farm, with lots of new windmills.

Art took us up this long, winding dirt road to the ridge with the windmills. It was so steep that we had not actually been sure if the RV would make it up, but it did. You could drive right up to the base of the wind towers. I've seen them before of course, but never up so close. It was incredible to stand right under them, they're so large it's almost unbelievable. I was actually getting vertigo looking up at them. In an odd way, it didn't even feel real, it was like I was looking at a movie screen. I think it's just because you never see something so large like that in real life..huge propellers and motors that look like plane engines, but on a massive scale, are just not something that are part of your everyday sights. It was hard to wrap your head around.

The other thing that struck me was how quiet they were. Now, it wasn't a particularly windy day, so maybe that was part of it, but the only noise you could hear from them was a slight "whoosh" as a blade went by. It was such a tiny noise for such a massive object.

Once we were done gawking at the windmills, we headed back towards home, taking a scenic drive up the shore of Canandaigua Lake. When we got to the town of Canandaigua, we pulled up on a wharf and parked to eat supper overlooking the lake. When we got through supper, we had one of the grape pies we had bought earlier. They were just as excellent as the cookies had been...I can't believe I'd never thought of grape pies before, they're wonderful. Jacki, you need to learn to make grape things.

After dinner and pie it was pretty late so we headed home for the night. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day. Alan's parents have a knack for finding neat places to go and fun ways to spend the day.

Today was pretty quiet and simple. We slept in a bit, and then Alan and I headed over to an outlet mall about a half hour from here to see if we could find some deals. Alan found a very nice leather jacket at the Wilson's outlet store. He got it for $130, down from an original price of about $300. There were several coats I liked too, but I have a leather jacket already, so I contented myself with a new wallet.

We also got some good deals at the Reebok outlet store. They were doing buy one, get the second half price, so Alan and I both got a new pair of running shoes. They were cheap even without getting one pair half price. We got the two pairs for $100 together...I don't think we could have gotten one pair of them for that price at home, so we were very pleased. Alan also got a pair of jeans from Old Navy for $6.50...I mostly can't believe he only got one pair at that price, I'd have gotten more. That store was so busy though, I didn't really want to stay to find some myself. I'm kind of regretting that though, so I may talk Alan into going back on a less busy day than Saturday. Overall, some good deals were had!

I think that's all the news for now, except that we've decided to extend our vacation for an extra day for the purpose of visiting Jacki & John in Toronto on our way home. The place we have our cats boarded was ok with keeping them an extra day for us. We won't get to spend much time with them since we have to leave early the next day, but we can at least say hi and catch up a little bit, and see their new apartment. So mom, we'll be Friday, not Thursday, ok? I will post more as there's news.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Whew!

It has been a busy day. It was nice and sunny this morning, unlike yesterday when it rained, so we decided to go do some outdoorsy stuff.

Alan's parents have a few acres of land outside of town here, with a creek running through it. We went out there this morning, and did some hiking around and exploring. The creek has a lovely set of little waterfalls in the part that is on their land. It was really beautiful this morning, and I took several pictures of it. This is one of the nicer ones.


We had a really good time just poking around and exploring. I got to play archaeologist and point out chert deposits I found (a type of rock commonly used for making stone tools) and looked for artifacts (didn't find any). Alan's mom loves to ask me about that kind of stuff, and seemed to really want me to find a buried village on her land. I was sorry to disappoint her.

I got a special treat after this, as Alan's mom had driven her motorcycle out to the acreage. She was really pleased to discover that I recently got my licence, as both her and her husband are avid bikers. She was very quick to volunteer her little 250cc for me to go out on. While I am not yet feeling comfortable with taking a bike out on the road, there is a school across the road from their acreage, and she drove the bike over there and let me practice a bit in the parking lot. Alan took my camera and snapped a few pictures, so now I can prove that I do in fact drive motorcycles now! Here's me in all my gear, I think this is going to be my new profile pic for Facebook and Twitter.

I did a few laps of the parking lot, and Alan took some action shots while I did that too. It was a lot of fun to just putter around a bit. I was really pleased to find that I have not forgotten how to do it in the two weeks since the course. I was also happy to find that I am capable of going faster than 20km/hour, and can shift higher than third gear. A little more practice and I might actually feel road ready. My biggest obstacle at this point is that I am still paying so much attention to how to actually run the bike, that I'm not paying enough attention to things like blinkers and looking in my mirrors. I won't be going out on the roads until I have the mechanics of it down enough that I can pay attention to the roads around me. That day is a lot closer than it was a month ago though!

After I finished a few laps Alan and I went and found some ice cream, then headed back to the house. It was Alan's turn to have fun now! He and Art, his step father, got all geared up to head out into the lake for diving. I can't claim that Alan had all the fun though, as I got to go out on one of the jet skis while they were diving. And to put mom's worries to rest, not only was I wearing a life jacket, the life jacket had a radio built in, so I could call for help if I needed to. Alan's mom was on the wharf with the other radio in case I called. I was perfectly fine though...the jet skis are a lot less scary now that I'm a biker.

But yeah, back to Alan's fun. He and Art had gone out with the intention of checking out the drop off in the lake. The lake here is very deep at it's center, and the change in depth is fairly abrupt, going quickly from being about 20 feet deep down to 80. I think the deepest point in the lake is around 600 feet. They had just wanted to have a look at the drop off, because it looks very steep from the depth finder in the boat.

Their first attempt they just tried to swim out to the drop off from the wharf. It turned out to be further away from the wharf than they had anticipated, and it was too tiring to get out far enough. They happened to head back to the wharf at the same time I was coming back with the jet ski. After a few minutes discussion on the wharf, they decided to go out to the drop off in the boat and dive from there.

We ended up delaying a bit as Art's two sisters and nephew were coming over to the house, so we waited for them. Adding me, Alan's mom and grandmother, and we had a boatful heading out! We found a good spot where the depth started increasing, laid anchor and the boys headed in. Those of us on the boat just chatted a bit and watched Art's sister Paula goofing off on one of the jet skis (everyone else was on the boat).

Art and Alan came back up after about 20 minutes. Apparently the drop off had not been as spectacular as hoped...Alan said it was about a 15 degree incline, so not a gaping chasm of doom or anything. What had shocked them both though, was that the floor of the lake at deeper depths was nothing but zebra muscles. Alan said they went on as far as you could see, and were laid out in bands of of white and grey that looked almost painted, they were so precise and even. He couldn't believe how many there were. Unfortunately, he did not think to take his underwater camera out with him. I am trying to convince him that they should go out again to take pictures. Other than that, they said there was nothing of interest. They were glad to have gotten a bit of diving in just the same though.

The rest of the evening was just spent with the family. We just had a relaxed supper of pizza, and chatted til people headed home. Alan was pretty tired too, from the diving and hiking this morning, so we headed to our home away from home, and here I am now at the computer! I am pretty tired myself, but it's been a fun day :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

GPS fun

So Alan got a GPS from his parents last night, for his birthday. Of course, we had to try it out today.

Our plan had been to go into the town of Canandaigua today anyway, and to take a trip over to the acreage his parents own. Alan programmed the GPS with our destination, and off we went. The GPS performed just fine, though it did take us on some routes that Alan thought were a bit strange. Either way, it got us where we were going.

In my typical way though, I got to thinking about the GPS and how it could be made more fun. The first way is that it has a little car on the screen that drives around over the map. They totally need to make that customizable to look like your car. If I were designing a GPS product for the market, that is the first thing I would do. People would love that. With ideas like this, I don't know why I'm not rich.

The other idea sprung up while Alan was testing the GPS...he kept taking roads other than the ones that the map wanted him to, to see how quickly it would re-calculate routes and how well it could problem-solve. So the GPS would be announcing "Turn right onto County Road 16" or whatever, and Alan would turn left, or keep going straight, that kind of thing. It would then announce "Re-calculating" and then quickly give us new instructions.

After Alan had ignored it's instructions three consecutive times, I got thinking about how that GPS must be getting annoyed. It keeps working so hard, and Alan keeps ignoring it. It must be wondering why it took this job. Then I got thinking how fabulous it would be if the voice on the GPS was the voice of the computer in Portal. For those that don't know, Portal is a computer game. The main character in the game, other than yourself, is an artificial intelligence computer that is at least slightly insane. The game is excellent, and the voice over even more so. It makes the most hilarious, passive-agressive and downright crazy comments about every action you do in the game, in this friendly female voice. If you have played this game, you will instantly be able to understand the humor in having that voice as your GPS voice over. If you have not, you will probably be bored by the rest of this blog post. Ah well, it's my blog, and I want to share my funny (to me) thoughts.

So with this in mind, the rest of the drive became a game in my head of "replace the real voice over with what the computer from Portal would say". So Alan skips the first instruction, and I hear the computer saying "You've missed the turn Alan. I'm very disappointed." After the next deliberately skipped instruction, it would be "I could almost think this is intentional now." The third would be something like "Why did you want a GPS anyway, Alan?" After the fourth I think it would get more threatening, and would certainly make a reference as to how you're not getting any cake this way.

If you have played Portal, you will know how fun this game probably was. If you haven't played Portal, I suggest that you do, then go get a GPS and play this game. It will be worth it, I promise. Portal is a great game even if you don't have a GPS.

The downside of this game is that I am fairly certain now that I will never be able to be in the car with that GPS without hearing the Portal computer. Every missed turn, I will hear that crazy lilting voice singing "You missed the turn but I am still alive." You'd be giggling if you knew the song, trust me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Hello America....we meet again"

I said as we drove through Calais after crossing the American border. Alan thought this was funny and laughed at me.

So yes, I'm in New York now, typing in the comfort of the ridiculously nice RV Alan's parents bought, and which they are letting us use as our home while we stay with them for the next week or so.

The hurricane on Sunday was completely overblown. The reporters on the weather channel had been going nuts with dire predictions and warnings (i.e. telling people in condo buildings they should wait out the storm in the lobby rather than on higher floors). We did definitely get a lot of rain and a few areas did have some flooding, but on the evening news the only footage they had to show was of a single fallen tree. They showed that footage at least 6 times, I wish I was exaggerating. The storm did leave us a lovely sunset at least, as the sun tried to peek through the clouds as it was setting. I was driving over to Steve's house to visit him, and there was a break in the clouds with a beam of sunlight shining through, like the hand of something holy reaching down to bless the earth. It was gorgeous.

With no real damage reported, we decided to assume our house was fine, and to leave for New York on Monday morning, as was the original plan. We left Moncton at about 7:30 in the morning. The trip was largely uneventful, and we arrived in Geneva, NY only a half hour later than Alan had predicted, which was not bad considering we made a few more pit stops than we had expected. We took turns driving all day, though I'm pretty sure Alan did more than I did...during one of my turns my phone started ringing and I ended up having to let Alan drive so I could get some work stuff cleared up. It is a fact that as soon as I try to take time off, my phone rings off the hook.

All in all, it took us 14.5 hours to make the trip from Moncton. The worst part of it was not the distance (though I admit that many hours in a car is not fun on any level), but the lack of air conditioning in our car. It had been raining in the morning when we left, but it was much clearer in the afternoon, so our car was like a sauna. We were quite relieved when the sun started going down and it cooled down again.

Alan's family were, of course, very glad to see us when we got here. Having gotten in so late we didn't spend a lot of time with them though. They showed us around our accomodations, and we caught up for about half an hour, by which time Alan and I were nodding off on the couch, so we said our good nights and passed out.

We are much refreshed today, though we're taking it pretty easy after the long trip. Alan had a school paper he had to finish writing, which he did this afternoon (so yay, I can have my laptop back for important things like blogging!), and I took a walk in the sun for a while. I think Alan is in the house right now, visiting with his grandmother. I think I will go join him, and I'll be back here writing when we do some interesting things to tell you about! :)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blogging from Moncton

Wow, my blog is getting very well traveled...first posts from Montreal, now from Moncton. I feel so worldly ;)

So yes, I'm here in Moncton. This is a stopover on our trip to New York. The original plan was that we would stay here overnight, and head out tomorrow morning. We've changed plans, however, because of Hurricane Bill. We decided that we'd rather wait another night in Moncton and see if the hurricane is bad enough to have damaged our house. We'd rather be 3 hours away if we have to get home than 15 in New York.

So we had a good trip here. The cats had to be dropped off at The Cat's Inn early this morning. We've boarded them there before, they've got a nice place and treat the cats well. My cats don't realize that though, and were not pleased at all with being left. Alan and I both have the scratch marks to prove it. They'll forgive us for it eventually, I'm sure.

The drive itself was uneventful, there really wasn't much traffic at all. Most of the vehicles we did see had out of province plates, so I think all the tourists were heading out before the hurricane hits. It made for nice driving though, and we got to Moncton in good time.

We spent a nice afternoon relaxing with my grandparents, and then went out to a movie with our friend Steve after supper. We went to see District 9, which was pretty good. I think I would be raving about it quite a bit more if I had been able to watch it. It made unfortunate use of the "handy cam" type filming, which makes me ill, so I had to spend most of the movie looking away from the screen. It made it hard to get immersed in it. It was a good movie though, if you don't get bothered by that kind of filming, go see it.

That's all the news for today...we'll see tomorrow how bad the hurricane actually ends up being!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Slow week

Hi guys, sorry for the lack of posts...as the title implies, it has been a really slow week. I don't know if I'm still burnt out from the weekend or what, but I have not had the energy to do much lately. I don't think the heat is helping, it's so hot I can barely move. We can't win...it's either rain for weeks, or oppressive heat.

The only big news is that the family piano is now at my house. We have a beautiful antique piano, I think it's like 120 years old or something ridiculous like that (my sister can correct me in the comments if I'm off). I say it's beautiful, but I have a tendency to love old, impractical things. My sister is a fantastic piano player, I've never done more than dabble with it, but I do enjoy it. Our piano is not one a professional would want to play, but I've always loved it.

My dad has had it for several years now, in his basement. I had said quite some time ago that I would like to have it moved to my place at some point. It happened this week because dad wants to renovate his basement, which means getting the piano out of it. The place I called to have it moved by were very quick, picking it up Monday afternoon, and dropping it off to us on Tuesday morning. Now I just have to get it tuned, and get some of our old music books back from dad so I have something to play.

I was worried about my cats harming the piano, as they have scratched other wooden surfaces, but I think they're scared of it. When it was first moved to the house they wouldn't go near it. A few hours later, I heard a few random keys get plunked, so I assume one of them tried to jump up on it. However, the sound seems to have terrified them, and I haven't seen either of them go near it since, nor heard any other random plunkings. It is rare that my cats refuse to go near something they could wreck, so I'm quite pleased with this result.

The only other real news is I'm going away on Saturday. We're off to visit Alan's family in the States for a bit. I'll be getting ready for the over the next couple days, getting laundry and packing done, that kind of stuff. Seeing as that's not particularly exciting, I probably won't have much to say for the next couple days, but hopefully the vacation will yield some stories.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Motorcycles are still awesome

My apologies for not posting yesterday. I was so exhausted after a day of riding motorcycles in extreme heat while wearing black leather, jeans and a helmet, that I barely knew my own name by the end of the day. Most of it was heat exhaustion, but there was a fair amount of just plain old physical tiredness too. I have to say, I had no idea just how tiring driving a motorcycle could be.

We spent yesterday learning the basics, from "how do you turn the bike on?", to learning to shift, do turns and do figure 8's without knocking over all the pylons. I have so much more respect now for what goes into driving these things, it's incredible. It's much more physical than regular driving...there's no power steering to turn the wheel for you, you are physically moving the front tire when you do slow speed maneuvers (not like at higher speeds where a lot of it is in the leaning). The thing that hurts the most though, after 2 days of this, are my hands.

Overall, I drove somewhere between 30 and 35km this weekend, and never got higher than 2nd gear. I'd say about 90% of it was in first gear, and on a motorcycle, you ride the clutch in first gear a lot more than you do in a car. The clutch is a lever on the left handlebar, like the hand brake on a bicycle. So I was clenching on the clutch for the majority of the time spent on the bike. My thumb is so sore, it is ridiculous.

However, all the pain is worth it. A lot of the time I was concentrating so hard on getting things right that I would forget what I was doing, but then I'd have these moments of "oh my god, I'm driving a motorcycle!" It was so fun, I can't even describe it.

This morning they taught us emergency braking and swerving to get around unexpected obstacles. It was pretty easy compared to the complicated low speed maneuvers we had to do yesterday (and we got to drive faster, 20km/hour!). I was still pretty exhausted from yesterday, so I was glad that the morning was relatively easy.

After lunch we started the testing. First came the written test, which was ridiculously easy. If you had a pulse during the class, you could pass the written test. The practical test was another matter entirely. Two of the guys in my class already had their beginner's license (they were doing the course for insurance purposes), and they said that the DMV road test for a motorcycle license was essentially prove you can start the bike, and do a figure 8. I could have passed that test with what I learned yesterday morning. The safety course test was a whole other story.

It consisted of 5 different exercises, some of them timed. Now, I hate timed things. They panic me. You should see me trying to play video games that have timed tasks...I'm freaking out while I try to do them, even if I have way more than enough time to complete them. Knowing that some of the tasks were timed had me feeling pretty queasy while we were setting up. Even when they were explained to us, and I knew I had the skills to do them, I was panicked that I wouldn't be able to complete them in the time given (which we weren't actually told, btw). We also would not be allowed to redo tasks, and weren't told as we did them whether or not we'd passed them.

The first task was definitely the worst for me. I got through it ok, but I had no idea if I'd done it in time. I'd also had a pretty shaky start, having to put my foot to the ground a few times as I tried to get around the first corner. The worst was that at the end, we had to shift up to second gear, then back down the first as we came to a stop. The gear shift is a pedal on your left foot. To go to first, you put your foot on top of the pedal and push down. When you are in 1st and want to go to 2nd, you have to put your foot under the pedal and push it up. So I'm in 1st, put my foot under the pedal and shift up to 2nd. Then, I need to shift back down to 1st. I go to move my foot back on top of the pedal...and fail. My boot got stuck. I managed not to panic and did eventually get it free and stopped in time, but I was sure that in my panic I had slowed down too much and took too long. I was pretty nervous about whether or not I'd failed the task due to the time limit, despite having sucessfully done all the maneuvers.

The other tasks weren't bad at all, even when they were timed. The first exercise was the hardest of them anyway, and getting through it restored a bit of my confidence and soothed my nerves a bit, since everything else was so much easier. I felt pretty good about these four, but didn't know if the first task could make or break me.

So after all the test we had to wait a bit while the head instructor tallied up our marks. The two assistant instructors stayed with us and answered questions we had. It was a pretty nervous group of people there, because while the pass rate is high, there are often a couple of fails. So the head instructor comes back out of his office a few minutes later, and says they consider the pass rate to be a reflection of the instructors, which means that they must be great instructors, because everyone passed! There wasn't any cheering, but a lot of relieved faces and smiles (I was one of them).

He did take us all in one by one and go over our test results. He told me that you could lose a maximum of 11 points, and the average was 7 or 8. I had only lost 5 points, and all 5 of them were on the first exercise! I am perfectly fine with this, because I know the first exercise reflected my nerves more than my abilities, as I'm confident I can do the things that were required. I had done similar exercises in the class without any real issues. I was just nervous and flubbed it up a bit in the test.

So I am now the very proud owner of a motorcycle beginner's license, which I can trade in after 30 days to get my full license. I will not longer be a plain old class 5 driver! Alan is jealous that I know how to drive something he doesn't...I am sure he'll be taking the course next year. It was so fun, and I am so proud of myself for doing this, as it was very intimidating, and I tend to put things like that off.

I also need to put in a plug for Saftey Services Nova Scotia, the people who put on the course. The instructors were great, and the course was paced in such a way that each exercise felt like natural extensions of the one we did before. I learned so much, and can not imagine trying to learn to drive a motorcycle on my own. I definitely recommend them if you've ever considered getting your license.

In related news, dad has offered to take a Saturday with me to look at bikes and help me find one to buy. All the ones I've seen on Kijiji that I might like have been far out of town, and dad said we'll drive all over the province if we have to. Thanks dad :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Motorcycles are so awesome...

...and we never even started them tonight. But they're still awesome.

So I've been pretty much pacing the house all day waiting anxiously for my motorcycle course to start. By about 4:30 I had driven Alan nuts I think. I have been alternating between extreme excitement and extreme fear of failure.

As per normal, my fear of failure was completely unfounded. I think that overall, I was doing as well as anyone there. We didn't do a whole lot tonight, as it was only three hours, and half of that was signing waivers, doing introductions, and watching videos. There are 12 people in the class, and I'm one of three women (well, two...one of them was so short, she can't use any of the bikes there, and won't be returning). I actually knew one of the guys there, I used to work with him, so that was neat.

Our lesson with the bikes tonight consisted of first learning the major things to look for before you get on (lights working, throttle releasing properly, etc). Then they showed us how to properly get on the bike and stand it up, and then get off again. I know, sounds ridiculously basic, but they assume you know nothing, and I'm glad of that. It also taught me where both of the brakes are, which is really good to know.

Once we had mastered the safe mount and dismount, we paired up and took turns pushing our partners bike, in alternating straight stretches and corners. The idea was to start to get a feel for the balance, steering and braking of the bikes. We did that until it got too dark to see, and then watched another video.

Even though we never even learned how to turn the bike on, I already know I'm going to love this. I am very eager for tomorrow's lesson!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hooray for exercise

I know, who doesn't already know that exercise is great for them? Why am I bothering to celebrate it? Mostly because I just finished exercising, and it makes me feel good to do it, so I figured I'd write about it.

I've managed 3 straight days now of doing some sort of exercise. That is usually as many as I get before the weekend kicks in and I get lazy. Tomorrow is Friday, so we shall see, I guess. I try to alternate the types of exercise I do - weights and yoga one day, cardio on my Gazelle the next.

While I have not been consistent with this, getting in only two or three days a week, even that has been helping. I am starting to see something resembling muscle definition in my arms again, which is really nice. My biceps turning flabby is something that had really been bothering me, so it's great to see improvement. I also know I'm getting stronger because yoga isn't wearing me out quite as badly, and I'm doing longer sets with the weights (10-12 reps instead of 8). So it's little stuff, but it's improvement and it's encouraging. The more results I see, the more I actually want to exercise. I think I might even be losing a couple of pounds, which is really fabulous.

What I'd really like to work up to is biking. I have a really nice bike, and I really enjoy biking, but I live in the middle of a very steep hill. And all the streets around us are hills. It is really, really discouraging to try to go for a bike ride, and be too exhausted to move five minutes away from the house. I just don't have the strength yet to tackle the hills around here. While loading the bike into the car and driving somewhere else to bike always feels dumb to me, I think I'm going to have to start sucking it up and do that. I have a (very) long-term goal of biking the Cabot Trail, and I am never going to accomplish that by not biking.

It will have to wait until at least next week though, as tomorrow is the beginning of the other type of biking class. I will be blogging all about it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Home again

Greetings! Sorry for the lack of post yesterday, but I got home from Montreal early in the morning, and spent the day relaxing, getting unpacked, and spending some time with Alan since I hadn't seen him for 4 days. I also had to beg for my cat's forgiveness for leaving them. They seem to have gotten over it now.

Today I was back in the office getting caught up. One of my deals is getting a little messy, but we're having a meeting Thursday to sort it out, so everything should work out, though I suspect the closing date will be changing. Worse things have happened!

The exciting news was I picked up my motorcycle helmet today. I was a little worried about it getting in in time for the course starting, but my worries were, as usual, unfounded. It is very nice and shiny, I am pleased with it even if it isn't the girly one I tried to get. My cats seemed slightly alarmed by me wearing the helmet. This is not surprising though, as the cats still get alarmed when I'm wearing shoes, and I've been doing that since we got them. 3 more days til the motorcycle course starts! I am so excited.

I also picked up Alan's birthday present today (I don't think he reads this, but I'm not posting what I got him just in case). While I was in Montreal I missed both his and dad's birthdays, so I'm taking them out for lunch on Friday to make up for it.

Today was also the first day of getting my self back in order after the vacation. I did some weights and yoga today like a good girl, and I intend to do some cardio tomorrow. I find I do really well with exercise early in the week, but taper off as we get close to the weekend. This is an area in which I need to improve. I also need to get my eating in order. I started that today by cleaning out the fridge...that was more frightening than I had expected it to be. Tomorrow I get some proper groceries and work from there. I should figure out some good recipes to make over the next few days.

I guess that's all the news for now, I need to start finding some interesting stuff to post about. That will be part of tomorrow's projects too!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The last day

Sadly, this was our last day here in Montreal for World Con 2009. We took it very easy today, as despite how great the panels and events have been, you do get to a point where you just can't sit through too many more lectures. Knowing we had little energy left, we focused it on seeing Neil Gaiman as much as we could. He had 2 talks today, and we attended both.

The first was described as an interview of NG by a book critic, but they knew each other and it was really just a conversation between them, dominated by Neil. I think that was actually more enjoyable than an interview would have been. They talked about some authors they enjoy, and the joy of literature with multiple layers of meaning. Neil is really good at being thoughtful and thought provoking, with wonderful stories and bits of humor throughout.

The second session was intended to be a chance for NG to talk about Neil the person, as opposed to Neil the writer. We got to hear about Neil's beekeeping, former hobby of "growing exotic pumpkins" as he described it (which makes you wonder what on earth an exotic pumpkin is), how he got his dog, and how he met his girlfriend. It was, again, very entertaining. He's a great story-teller even when speaking about his own life, and really has a knack for leaving his audience in stitches.

We didn't attend anything else today, rather took some time to actually have a vacation. We just relaxed in the hotel for a bit, and went out for supper and walked around town a little bit. Overall I have had an incredible time, I am so glad I came. Erin has also had a good time, but I don't like to speak for her, of course. The World Con next year is being held in Australia, and I'm trying to figure out if there's any chance in hell of getting there (unlikely, but man that would be fun). Getting to see Neil Gaiman has been wonderful, and has left me with the impression that he would be an awesome guy just to hang out with. For some reason it is comforting to know that an author I love and buy a lot of works from, is also a clever, funny and nice guy.

The convention has also left me with a huge list of books and authors I need to check out, which is very exciting, and a renewed interest in writing. I am also looking forward to attending other conventions and conferences in the future, since this has been so fun and informative. There is one in Halifax next year (Hal-Con), and Erin and I are even thinking of volunteering for it.

Oh, that's another bit of happy news, while I think of it - Erin got an apartment! I've gone to look at a few places for her over the last few weeks, and her brother and dad were also looking at places for her. Her dad called Friday and said he'd found a great place, and Erin agreed and applied for it. We found out yesterday she got it, so that's awesome :)

Now it's bedtime, as I must be up early in the morning to get my flight home. See you again soon, Halifax!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Day 3

I can't believe I've been here three days already. I am having too much fun.

We had a bit of a slower day today. Slept in a bit to catch up on lost sleep, and spent a bit of time in the city.

We started the day with a fun lecture called "The Knights Who Say F***". Guy Gavriel Kay was one of the panelists, and it was on the use of contemporary language in settings of high fantasy. It was another fabulous and interesting discussion, and combined with several other people mentioning her in this convention, has left me with a desire to read some of the works of Ursula K. LeGuin.

After a little break, we attended another Neil Gaiman event. It was a reading. He read one of his short stories first, which was very good. It wasn't one I had read before, so it was a combined goodness of listening to Neil, and hearing a new story. His second reading was a "love letter", published in a collection of love letters released on Valentine's Day. He gave a funny intro about how he wasn't know for his handling of love affairs in his writing, and how he'd been delighted to write a "proper love letter" for this book. He then read his love letter, which was awesome, but showed why he's not known for his romantic literature. It was a really great reading overall, and he just keeps reinforcing my conviction that he is awesome.

After the reading we took a few hours off from the convention, and took advantage of the lovely weather to see a bit of the city. We strolled around a bit of old Montreal, and had lunch in a nice street-side patio. It was a really nice way to spend the afternoon.

For the evening we both went to a panel. I attended one on archaeology and world-building (i.e. creating histories for fictional worlds) which was pretty interesting, but not as good as I had hoped. Erin attended one on the making of "Who Killed Amanda Palmer?", a book of pictures of Amanda Palmer in various poses pretending to be dead, and stories about the deaths by Neil Gaiman. It's not a book I've read yet, but I think I will have to, as I love the concept.

The last event of the day was the Masquerade, which is the show of the costumes people made, to be judged. Most of the costumes were really clever and impressive. Some of the highlights were a phoenix costume, a vampire costume I think was based on a manga or anime character, and a Klingon/Batman crossover that was hilarious. There was a long break between the end of the show and the judging, during which they showed old Looney Tunes clips, including on of my favorites, the Barber of Seville. We stuck around to watch those until they were showing ones we didn't like, then headed out. We didn't care about who won the contest, we had just wanted to see the costumes.

Now we're having a relaxed evening watching The Two Towers, Erin doing her cross stitch and me blogging! Resting up for tomorrow, the last day we'll be here at the convention. It actually continues on Monday, but we fly out at the crack of dawn that day. I will be sad to leave, this has been too much fun. Ah well, I still have another day to enjoy yet!

Day two recap

Wow, so yesterday was incredible. So incredible that I was too exhausted when I got back to the hotel to write about it.

The day started with waiting in line to get tickets to go to the Neil Gaiman signing. As you can tell from my previous post, I did get them, but it was a significant wait. He clearly has a lot of fans at the convention.

After the line, we went to a fascinating panel on intellectual property rights and laws. I'm sure that doesn't sound exciting, but it was a really good panel featuring Cory Doctorow, an author I hadn't heard of before this convention, but definitely have some interest in now. He was a very good panelist, very informed on his topic. He also managed to make what could have been a very dry, boring topic into a very entertaining one.

Our second panel of the day was entitled "I For One Welcome Our Zombie Overlords", about, of course, the coming zombie apocalypse. I had been looking forward to this one since I saw it in the program, as had Erin. I have to say, it was disappointing. I can't complain too much because everything we've gone to so far has been great, this is the first dud. I'm just surprised that a topic so potentially full of fun turned out to be so lackluster. I think the problem was mostly the panel itself, not the topic. There were four panelists, and only one of them seemed prepared at all. I didn't really like a lot of his points or his shameless self-promotion, but he was the only one that had done any research, had a thesis and stuck to it, and did raise some interesting thinking points. Of the other three panelists, two just liked zombie movies, and I'm not even sure why the fourth one was there as she admitted to knowing pretty much nothing about the zombie-verse. It definitely did not live up to it's potential.

Happily, the afternoon and evening more than made up for that. First came the Guy Gavriel Kay signing. There was a line up for that, but it wasn't too bad, maybe 25 minutes to get to him. He was very nice. Erin got to him first, and he actually thanked her for waiting, which blew my mind. I feel like he's the one doing us the favour, not the other way around. When I got up there he noticed the sequence of two Erins and commented on it, so we had a tiny little chat with him about how yes, we did know each other. I liked him a lot.

Next came the highpoint of the day, the Neil Gaiman signing. After the line up for tickets, there was a line up started to see him an hour before the signing even started. It was quite a long wait but it was sooooo worth it. In the line they handed out post it notes upon which you had to write the inscription you wanted in your book(s), to speed things up. I had written out "Erin, Anticipation 2009" for The Kindly Ones, and just my name for The Graveyard Book. As shown in my last post, he didn't just write my name in The Graveyard Book, he drew a little headstone for it (in Erin's Coraline he also drew a little mouse). For The Kindly Ones he wrote what I asked but broke up "Anticipation" into "Antici-pation" like Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Erin was signing after me, and I just stood at the table while I waited for her. Neil noticed the duo of Erins as well, and started chatting with us while he signed her books. He saw on my tag I was from Halifax and asked about that and we said yes, we were both from there. He asked if everyone in Halifax was named Erin and I said, for the most part, yes. We had a little laugh with him and then he recalled an old sailor's prayer he'd once heard about preferring to go to Hell over Halifax.

Erin and I were just about beside ourselves when we left. We talked to Neil Gaiman! Actually had a little chat with him! He was so charming and nice, my face was so red while we were at the table. It was just so awesome. It was doubly nice to have my previous impression of him, from his writing and blogs, completely verified. I just think it's awesome that he goes to the trouble of adding little extra things to people's books, even when he has hundreds of people to get through, and even chat with you. He definitely gave the impression of having a good deal of apreciation for his fans.

The day's greatness didn't even end there. We later attended a panel on the lack of diversity in comics and SF. The panel was absolutely incredible, I think the best we've attended. It managed to take what could be a very touchy subject and dealt with it constructively, and entertainingly. It was very enjoyable, and could have been a lot longer and still worth it.

The day ended with a screening of the movie Coraline, introduced by Neil Gaiman. Erin and I have both seen the movie but love it and had no problem seeing it again. Neil was, again, very charming and great to listen to for the intro. He told us about the making of the movie and how they did it. I have even more respect for it than I did before. I knew it was mostly stop-gap animation, but assumed there was some CGI involved but Neil dispelled that. There is *one* scene in the whole movie that is CGI, everything else is stop-gap. The only CGI was to take out rigging lines and lines on thier faces where parts were. That just blows my mind and makes it an even more incredible movie.

Of course, there had to be technical problems. The poor tech crew could not get the movie to play, their Blu-ray disc kept crashing. It was handled with humor by the crew and the audience though, and really difused what could have been a rotten experience with angry movie-goers. The anticipation of the movie starting being broken by error messages on the screen was only greeted by laughter and shouted comments like "Is there a techie in the house?" which brought more laughter (there is something hilarious about asking for a techie in a sci-fi convention full off geeks, you had to be there).

They did eventually get the movie going, so we got to enjoy the show and then headed back to the hotel to pass out. Now it is time for me to stop posting and go start the day!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Oh. My. God.




I will post more later, but look!!!

I had the privilege to meet Guy Gavriel Kay today, and got my much loved copy of The Fionavar Tapestry signed.

If that wasn't cool enough, I then met (OMG) Neil Gaiman, who signed both my Sandman #9 (The Kindly Ones), and my new copy of The Graveyard Book. He drew me my own headstone!

I seriously turned bright red when both of them spoke to me, and giggled like a school girl afterward. I am still pretty giggly. Today has been awesome. I will post more details of the day later, but it's supper time now! Just had to share the awesomeness.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Day 1 of World Con

Bonjour!

Like my French? That's what they speak here in Montreal, if you didn't know. As mentioned a couple posts ago, my best friend and I traveled to Montreal today to attend the World Con. It has been a very fun day.

It started at 3:45 this morning, which was unfortunate, but I got a really good price on a plane ticket, in return for having to leave at the crack of dawn. Erin (my best friend's name is identical to my own, if you were not aware) also had an early flight, so I just waited for her in the Montreal airport until she arrived, and we traveled to the hotel together.

Our hotel is quite nice, as all the cheap ones were booked before we got our acts together. We have a festival going on outside our window though, so we were warned that it would be noisy until midnight every day. It's not that bad, we get free music, and neither of us go to bed particularly early anyway.

Our first impression of the convention is that it does nothing to dispel the stereotypes of the type of people you would expect to find a sci-fi convention. I guess that is not really surprising. What did surprise me is the number of women present, it really seems to be about 50/50, which I did not expect.

Our first big event was to see Neil Gaiman, the reason we came in the first place. He is one of our favorite authors, and he is the guest of honor for the convention. He was doing a question and answer period this afternoon, which was a delight to attend. He was just as funny and intelligent to listen to as I had imagined he would be. My desire to kidnap him has not lessened. He just seems like the kind of guy you would love to hang out with all the time. Yes, I have a bit of a crush on him. Tomorrow, Erin and I will be trying to get tickets to attend the first of the two book signings he's doing. I guess they're expecting enough of a rush on it that they decided tickets are necessary. I can see that, considering the number of people who were at his talk this afternoon, and rushed his table at the end to try to get signatures.

Later in the day we browsed the art expo. Some of it was quite good, and I'm thinking I may go pick up a few small pieces tomorrow that I liked. There were a few I was interested in that are definitely outside my budget. I wish I could have taken pictures of it, but that was not allowed unfortunately.

This evening we attended two lectures. The first was on genocide in sci-fi, and the implications of it's use and acceptance in sci-fi literature. It was a very interesting debate that made some interesting points, despite a few audience questions trying to lead it astray. The second was on Wonder Woman and feminism in comics. It was also quite good, but a little disappointing in that the panel was made up of 2 men and only 1 woman, which seemed odd for a discussion on feminism. The men on the panel were quite sympathetic, to their credit, but their perspective was quite different from that of the woman on the panel, unsurprisingly. For Erin and I it raised the question of whether or not the convention organisers were able to find more women for the panel and what that meant. It left us with interesting thoughts and much discussion anyway, which I think is the important thing.

Overall my impression so far is really good. Today was very fun, and I suspect it will only be more so over the next few days. I will keep posting!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Safety First!

Hello! See, I'm a good blogger, posting regularly. If I keep saying that, it will eventually be true.

So yesterday I purchased a motorcycle helmet. But Erin, do you own a motorcycle? No, no I don't. But I intend to! And next weekend I take the motorcycle safety and licensing course to learn to drive one. Of course, they require that you have a helmet for the course (they supply the motorcycles, so it's not a bad deal in that respect).

Now of course, I know very little about motorcycle helmets, other than that the silly little half-head ones are dumb and won't protect you from anything unless it drops straight down on you from directly above. My motorcycle-enthusiast father has taught me enough for me to recognize that things like that increase your chance of being killed. While I recognize there is a level of danger inherent in riding motorcycles, as with most things, I do want to reduce it as much as possible.

Knowing very little about helmets and what I should purchase, I had invited my aforementioned motorcycle-enthusiast father to come shopping with me. He proved invaluable from the get-go, by telling me which of the local cycle shops would have the best selection of helmets. We met there when he got off work, and spent a fun hour of selecting from what they had.

Dad pointed out various features of the different helmets since I didn't know what to look for, and pointed me towards the best style for the type of bike I intend to get. Beyond that it was mostly selecting a paint job. My first choice was, I admit, a bit girly. Not super girly...from a distance it would just look like a silver helmet, but up close it had a nice design of swirls and flowers in another shade of grey. Feminine, but not in your face, OMG-it's-pink kind of feminine. I also did not opt for the helmet with the buxom woman riding what looked to be a motorcycle exhaust pipe. I did not really understand what kind of woman that helmet was aimed at.

Sadly, the pretty helmet was not there in my size. We asked one of the salespeople if he could order one in for me, and when he tried we found out that helmet had been discontinued. I was very sad, but clearly it was not meant to be.

The other helmets aimed at girls were way too over the top for me, so I went for a simple, functional model, which you can see here. I got the FS-15 Solid in Anthracite. If they had had red I would have gotten that, but alas, it was grey, black or yellow. Grey it is.

Again they did not have my size in stock, so I had to order one, this time with success. My helmet should be arriving early next week, and I will be one step closer to being a biker! I am very excited.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Catch up time

So, four years...bet a lot of stuff has happened in that time. Here's the short version of the long story.

First, boyfriend and I bought a house. We have been living together here for almost 4 years. The house turned out not to be quite as fantastic as we thought it was, and we are trying to get it fixed up so we can sell it when our mortgage is up for renewal in a year. We have two cats for children.

The dream job ended up not being so dreamy. After much mucking about chasing contracts and empty promises, I decided that I was not getting anywhere there. Opportunities for archaeology are limited in Halifax and after much soul searching, I decided a new career path was in order. I am now in real estate, which has been quite enjoyable. It is definitely a hard business to break in to, but I work with some great agents and a great company (RE/MAX). I am two years in now, and they say it takes 3-5 years to really be fully "in" the business. I feel like I'm doing well at it.

My personal life has had its ups and downs, like anyone's does. I've slowly been making some changes for the better, like quitting silly games that suck my time and creativity away. I'm also trying to exercise more, and just generally develop some good habits and new hobbies.

My sister moved to Toronto last week, which is sad (only for selfish reasons, her and her boyfriend have great things awaiting them there). My best friend is moving back home from Toronto next month though, which is happy! Also, her and I are going to Montreal on Thursday for World Con, where we are going to geek it up hardcore. I am very excited. At the end of the month, Alan and I are going to New York to visit his family for a week, which should also be fun.

That's the last 4 years, and current events, in a nutshell. Now it's time for me to start blogging responsibly again so people have something to read if they check my site!

I'm not quite dead yet....

...I'm getting better!

So yeah, here I am four years later. How have you been? Good, glad to hear it.

I know, I know. WTF have I been? Well, having gone back through my old entries, I can see the posts trail off at exactly the same time classes started ending and I felt like I was allowed to play MMO's again. MMO's for me mean nothing else goes on in my life. Blogging was one of the things I gave up.

So why am I here again? I finally got my head on straight, or something resembling it, and have stopped playing games. I've been trying to find something to do with all the spare time I now have, and remembered I used to really like doing this, and thought maybe I could resume.

It's good to speak to you all again (and by "you all" I mean probably no one, at least til I email people and tell them I'm blogging again), and hopefully I won't make a mess of things again.