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Nawlins: Sunday [Dec. 21st, 2017|12:02 am]
Beemer
On Sunday we met up with my friend Diana ([personal profile] goddessdster). She came and picked us up from the hotel and we went to Willa Jean (recommended by Bats & Sarah) for brunch. We got a plate of pimento cheese and ham and pickles for an appetizer, and then I had a very tasty "hangover bowl". It was mostly braised short ribs over grits with a poached egg on top, but it had a bunch of little extras -- slices of bullseye beets, crispy garlic, pearl onions, tiny greens, a couple edible flower petals -- that gave character and variety to each bite, and that really brought it to the next level.

After brunch, we hung out and chatted outside for a bit, and then we went back to D's place and met her new kitty, Jane Eyre, who she had just gotten that morning! She was a beautiful and energetic little tabby, who was very inquisitive about the new humans and happy to jump up in our laps. She was pretty petite, but judging by her ears and paws I think she is going to grow up to be a big cat. (I would post pictures, but I failed to take any because I was too busy appreciating her. Luckily Jerry got some.) So we spent most of the afternoon doing that, and it was an absolute pleasure.

We wandered back over to the French Quarter for dinner (a muffaletta for me and a po-boy for him) at a cafe, and then went back once more to Cafe Lafitte to witness the famous napkin toss, which Adam had persuaded us we needed to see. He was right! It's kind of hard to describe; basically, they play this one song and everyone throws napkins in the air, but that doesn't capture the wonderful energy of the room. It's a weird, silly, sweet little tradition that is very particular to this one place, and it was just... really neat.

We hung out fir a while afterwards, but had to pumpkin fairly early because I had conference starting at 8 am on Monday.
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Nawlins: Saturday [Dec. 19th, 2017|07:15 pm]
Beemer
Normally this time of year I would just have gotten back from the Bay Area for AGU, but they are currently doing major construction and renovations on Moscone Convention Center, and somebody at AGU thought about that and said (quite sensibly) "y'know, I don't think we can put on a week-long scientific conference for 25,000 people while there's active construction going on," so this year it was in New Orleans instead. (Next year it will be in DC, then back to SF for the 100th anniversary meeting the year after that.)

Since he'd never been there before, Jerry came along with me. I've been there a few times before and done a number of the touristy things, so it worked out well, because he could go sight-seeing while I was at the meeting and I didn't feel left out.

We flew out Saturday morning on Southwest. Brandon very kindly gave us a ride to the airport at 8 in the morning, and we got there faster than I think I've ever made the trip. The flight was pretty uninteresting. We shared a taxi from the airport with my coworker Melissa; he dropped us off at the great big Hilton a block from the convention center, and she continued on to an AirBnB in the garden district. The NOLA airport is pretty close in; it only took half an hour, door to door.

After we got settled in to our hotel room, we needed to pick up supplies (breakfast for me, lens solution for him). After unsuccessfully looking in the Riverwalk mall adjacent to the hotel, we found a supermarket about a mile away in the Central Business District and make the trek there. I was surprised how expensive everything was -- about 20-30% more expensive than at home. It seems to be a kinda pricey town.

On the way back, we stumbled across the last night of Luna Fête, which was a bunch of light-based art installations along some blocked-off streets in the CBD. We wandered through it with our shopping bags in hand, walked through the interactive pieces, and it was pretty cool. A mini magical adventure!

So then it was dinnertime. On my own, I probably would have been boring, found something nearby, and settled in for the night because travel is tiring, but Monkey was keen on seeing some of the French Quarter and persuaded me not to be a slug. (Hooray for husbands. :) We found a cheap dinner place with good reviews in the Quarter and headed over there, only to find that it was closed. Permanently. So we redirected to another such place, not too far away, only to find that it, too, had just shut down for good. At that point, we were like "okay, need food now or murder will happen," so we just went to the nearest Willie's (a local fast-food chain) and got fried chicken. It was actually quite good, considering. Afterwards, since we were only a couple blocks away, we went to Cafe du Monde and got coffee and beignets. (Well, he had coffee; we split an order of beignets, and that was plenty.) Pro tip: if you got to CdM on at 9 pm on a Saturday when it is VERY cold for those parts (40 and damp, brr!) there's no wait to get a table.

Aside: for the last year and a half, I've been pretty successful at sticking to a keto-ish low-carb / high-fat diet, which clearly suits my body. I knew that it would be very difficult to eat that way while in Nawlins and that it would make me feel deprived and oppressed, so I didn't even try. So I ate lots of things that I wouldn't normally, but the interesting thing is that I didn't find myself craving them. Like, I realized that I miss the convenience of sandwiches, but I didn't go "oh my god BREAD I missed you so!" or anything. Actually, by the end of the trip, both of us were desperate for a salad and green some vegetables that weren't breaded and fried...

So now that we were finally all fed, we heard back from Adam L. that yes, he was around, and in fact was also in the French Quarter! He was hanging out at Cafe Lafitte in Exile, which is the oldest continually operating gay bar in the U.S., and was just a few blocks away on Bourbon Street. So of course we went there and joined him.

CLiE is pretty small, but it has a nice upstairs and a balcony overlooking the street. We hung out there for an hour or two chatting away, and then we wandered off to look at the Rawhide (but not go in because we didn't feel it was worth the cover that night), and then off some other bar because he wanted Jerry to try a Sazerac and theirs was the best. Then we felt like we were done with hanging out in bars, but we didn't feel like we were done hanging out, so we went back to the hotel and hung out there until it was very late, and all in all we had a lovely and delightful time. Yay!
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DC [Dec. 4th, 2017|09:01 pm]
Beemer
So I was in Washington DC last week for a meeting. It was okay. Not a meeting I'd be likely to choose to go to, but it's mandatory for one of the grants we got, and since I'm the one who's done the most work on that grant so far, I got to put a poster together for my boss and accompany her. Met up with some potential users of our data, which was good.

I did learn that the DoD actually supports quite a lot of environmental research. It's not so much that they care about environmental issues as such, but they play by the rules, and the rules include environmental stuff, and if, say, that means they can't use some chunk of land on a base because it's habitat for some endangered species, they are all about throwing money at the problem of making that species UN-endangered so they can get back to their wargames and suchlike. (And they actually believe in and are concerned about climate change as a national security issue, they just can't say the phrase "climate change" because it's not politically correct.) So that was kinda heartening, in a weird way.

Anyway, we had a useful poster session, and I sat through the plenary and a couple talks, but mostly I just worked remotely from my hotel room. My one complaint about the meeting was that after the first day (which was great), they didn't serve any food I could eat. Now, normally I wouldn't mind -- it's my restrictive diet, I can cope with finding suitable food -- except that on the registration form, they asked if I had any dietary restrictions. If they hadn't asked, I wouldn't have expected anything, but to ask if someone needs any special accommodations and then completely ignore the answer is just rude. (And I don't think it was just me -- I can't imagine what a vegan or someone with gluten intolerance would have eaten off there.)

More importantly, I got to visit with people! (And I know more folks in DC than I realized.)

Monday evening after I got in, Anna and Ryan brought themselves and their daughter and dinner (rotisserie chicken and spicy green beans) to my hotel room, and we caught up while I got settled in. It had been a long time (a decade at least) since I'd seen them, so that was quite nice.

Tuesday evening I got Chris N. and Ian to join me for dinner. We walked from the Hilton near Dupont Circle over to a restaurant (Commissary) near Logan Circle and had an excellent dinner and lots of good conversation there and back.

Wednesday was nothin' much; I got bi bim bap (no rice, extra lettuce) for dinner while I read a book. I was hoping to meet up with Seth S., but alas, he was waylaid by extra homework. Next trip!

Thursday was a personal day, and I was really not feeling like museums or art galleries, so I just went for a walk around the neighborhood and looked at buildings. Found the Barbie Pond on Q Street, which is A Thing. And the Cairo Building, which is the great big tall apartment building that triggered all the height restrictions.

That evening, I joined JD and his buddies (roommate, SO, and coworker-of-SO) for dinner and board games, hooray! We played a round of Iota, which is a clever little game that's sort of like a cross between Set and dominoes, and after dinner a game of Lords of Waterdeep. They are good guys and it was fun hanging out with them. So that was nice.

Flew home uneventfully on Friday. A good trip overall, if rather dull on the work front.

Oh, and after two and a half days of being assaulted with CNN in the elevator lobby every time I left my hotel room, when I was waiting by myself and nobody was looking, I unplugged the TV. That much news is just unhealthy.
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Fortnightly catch-up post [Nov. 23rd, 2017|08:15 am]
Beemer
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Golly, long time no post. No particularly interesting reason why, just busy and/or tired.

Mom & Larry came into town for Grandma's funeral, which was last Thursday. It was quite nice, as funerals go. The service was mostly just a bunch loving remembrances, and we didn't get preached at. I got choked up and teary during a couple of the songs (which happens in other contexts - some chord progressions just make me weepy). It was nice to see all the relatives who were able to come. It wasn't terribly sad, because we'd all kind of pre-mourned; her passing wasn't sudden and unexpected, and as someone said at the service, for the last decade or so, every time you went to visit, you'd think when you were leaving "this might be the last time I get to see her."

Work has been busy. I got a new computer and lost several days to getting everything transferred over properly. And I put together a poster for the mandatory symposium in DC next week for one of our grants. And there have been a whole bunch of Important Reports that we had to write things up for. So nothing much fun in the way of coding or data analysis, but on the other hand I did end up transcribing what I'm going to say in my AGU talk for one of the reports, so now I just have to throw a bunch of figures onto slides and I'll be all set.

Jerry and I are both fighting off a cold (acquired, we suspect, from Gross Small Child at Kempo). I got a bunch of zinc lozenges in me early, so I haven't been too miserable, but it's been sucking my energy. I'm hoping it doesn't turn into a Lingering Cough, but I am not optimistic on that front.

After a long hiatus (since before the wedding!) I ran Star Wars twice, last Saturday and the previous. Rescuing Ithorian space-nuns from an Imperial extortion scheme! It was a good adventure, and satisfying to run because there were a number of things where I just set up the situation without any idea how the PCs would deal with it, and they came up with surprising solutions that I was able to pretty easily improvise responses to. So I hit the sweet spot in terms of preparation.

We went and saw Thor: Ragnarok a couple weeks ago, and it was absolutely delightful. This could be a much longer post at some point, but I think the main problem that superhero movies have to overcome is being boring. Because superheroes are iconic characters, not dramatic characters, and the audience already knows where the arc of the story is going to go before the movie even starts, so there's no dramatic tension along the basic plotline. Will the hero overcome the villain? Duh. Will Loki betray Thor? DUH. Will the hero's victory be tempered with loss? Have a look at the frickin' title! So the movie can't rely on the audience being invested in those questions to keep them engaged, it has to show the audience new and unexpected visions of the things they already know about and came to see. And Thor: Ragnarok did a fantastic job. The vast majority of the movie, I had no idea what was going to happen next. Also, the end credits were like distilled essence of the '80s and Jack Kirby mixed together and injected directly into a vein. It was amazing.

Kuma-gogo (Matt & Jason & Gene & Brandon & Jon) bought themselves a house and all moved in together, and on Sunday we went over to see it and hang out and play some games. Today we are headed over there again for Thanksgiving. Hooray! I expect it to be lovely. We have a great many things to be thankful for, but #1 on the list is all the wonderful people in our lives.
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Jewell Tedder McGinnis, Oct. 14, 1914 - Nov. 10, 2017 [Nov. 10th, 2017|09:43 pm]
Beemer
So my mom did come out on Wednesday of last week, and we met up at Grandma's that afternoon and had a good and long visit with her. We got there shortly after my aunt and uncle had left, and said goodbye shortly after my cousin showed up a couple hours later. The nurse said it was the most animated she'd seen Grandma in a couple weeks.

That was kind of her swan song; after that she spent most of each day sleeping. (My Aunt Barb kept me updated with reports to pass along to my siblings.) She would get agitated at night, though she wasn't in any pain and was able to stay in home hospice care rather than being moved to a hospital. She wasn't able to verbalize much and wasn't really aware enough to take much comfort from visitors.

She rallied a bit on Wednesday, and had a meaningful visit that evening with Bo & Barb, their daughter Tammy, and my uncle Dave. They read some scriptures and sang and she had a peaceful night that night.

Grandma passed away a bit before noon today.

Barb asked us to come join them at Grandma's house for dinner tonight, so Jerry and I went over there late this afternoon. I took lots of pictures of her house, inside and out, to preserve it in my mind. I'm also going to send them to family so people can make requests for any especially beloved items that they would like to have. They sent me home with a pile of photos and some pieces of art that came from my mom or my dad or Mom's grandma. I also took the flower clippers that Grandma always used to trim the stems on the flowers I would bring her, as well as a couple flower vases, since bringing her flowers is an important element of my memories of all our visits together.

I'm sad, of course, but she lived for more than 103 years and was well-loved, which is hard to beat. And she was able to spent the end of her life at home, like she wanted. My grandfather built their home in 1954, and she lived in it for 63 years. I expect that when the sell the property, it will probably be torn down, which is also sad. It's a very old-fashioned style of home, and even if there were a buyer who wanted to live in it as-is, it's pretty likely that it's not up to code in a number of ways. But he built that house for her, and she knew every bit of it, inside and out. It was hers, and if it does get demolished, that will mean that it was only ever hers, and never anyone else's, which is kind of beautiful.

I will miss her very much.
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Grandma, weather, work [Oct. 31st, 2017|09:53 pm]
Beemer
So my grandmother is fading and will probably pass soon. It's sad and I will miss her, but she turned 103 on the 14th, and that's a pretty good run. I went to visit her a week later, and she had definitely declined since the last time I saw her. She clearly doesn't have much energy left, although she perked up after I'd been there for a bit.

She was having trouble getting back and forth from the family room to her bedroom, so they put a hospital bed in the family room for her, and has nurses staying with her every night. My aunt called me today to let me know that she's declined a little further, and that if anyone wanted to come visit in the next few days, that would be good, so my mom is going to drive out tomorrow to pay her a visit. I'll join her if I can get away from work, and if not I'll go visit her the next day and bring her flowers one last time. (I've been bringing her flowers every time I visit for the last decade or so, and I'm very thankful to my stepdad for suggesting it, because it means a lot to her.)

So that's kind of a bummer, although it's hardly a surprise. I will always be grateful that she was able to come to our wedding.

The weather has been drastic lately. It was in the mid-70s on Sunday, and then yesterday the high was 37. All the plants outside work were coated in ice. Today it warmed back up to the mid-50s, and at first I wasn't sure that would be warm enough for us to get any trick-or-treaters, but they started coming in packs after it got dark and we got enough to clear us out of candy. There were a lot of princesses in sweaters. We had another short but strong cold front sweep through last week or the week before -- we notice them because the change in pressure makes Monkey creaky.

I finally got to see Bob & Jeff's new house at their housewarming on Saturday. The space is very interesting, because there are no hallways, it's just rooms that open onto one another. Bob's estimate is that it was originally a little bungalow that got added onto about 5 times. Douglas came over to our place on Sunday night for dinner and a visit.

Work has been pretty good. I finally got my analysis machinery all built and on Thursday, I met with Melissa and we looked at a bunch of the metrics I cranked out and she was able to see a bunch of patterns that suggested things to look into at a process level. Which is good! That's the first level of this fancy analysis cascade that we said we'd use in the great big grant we got, and it actually works! We did science and it worked! And it's also the thing that I said I'd talk about at AGU, which is coming up distressingly fast on the calendar, so at least I don't have to try to talk about nothing.
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Pretty Routine [Oct. 15th, 2017|10:43 pm]
Beemer
So I last posted a week and a half ago and didn't even mention that the evening before we has Cris & Steve and Brandon & Gene over. We played Wise & Otherwise, and a round of 7 Wonders, and a few of the Jackbox games, and a good time was had by all.

Then last Saturday we went to Mary's for food and socialization along with Kate, Sarah, and Mary's nephew. We played a round of Citadels and one of Ticket to Ride. Mary made a bunch of tasty dishes and Sarah cooked a turkey breast and it was all excellent.

On Sunday afternoon we went to Tim & Stacy's, but we couldn't stay too long because my parents came into town to drop off a car for Leslie. We had dinner with them and Dave & Michelle (et al) at Cheddar's. Mom & Larry spent the night in our guest room and took off early the next day. I was planning to work from home because a big snowstorm was forecast, but it didn't accumulate on the roads, so I ended up going in to the office after all. Oh, and I remembered that it would be a smart idea to sweep dead leaves off the patio and clean out the gutters before the first big snow! So I felt all adult about getting that done on Sunday afternoon.

I made up for it by staying home on Wednesday after my dentist appointment. I had the other half of my deep cleaning, plus got a cracked filling replaced, and the after-effects of the anesthetic just knocked me on my ass. I actually napped for a couple hours after I got home. Felt human enough to go to my Board meeting that evening, which featured a very long group discussion with the Chief of Police, which was heartening (especially given how unpleasant the news is all the time these days). There's always room for improvement, but the impression I got is that things are generally on the right track and if there are any changes wanting to be made, they're small matters of implementation, not big course changes. (I should mention that if I ever post about the Inclusivity Board online, I am of course just presenting my own personal opinion, not speaking on behalf of the board. So there's your obligatory disclaimer.)

Went to Games Night at Chris's on Thursday, and otherwise there's not much else been going on. We did nothing at all social this weekend, just grocery shopping and chores. Didn't get all the things on my list done, but dealt with a bunch of them, including a number of "oh I need to remember to do that" items. I made low-carb jambalaya (substituting grated cauliflower for rice), which turned out pretty tasty. I also opened up a can of tomato paste and portioned the whole thing out into little 1 tablespoon dollops that I froze, instead of using a couple tablespoons and having the rest of it go bad in the fridge! So that feels like an accomplishment. Oh, and last weekend Mom brought a shoebox of tomatoes. I sliced up a couple of them and at them raw, and then made shakshouka out of the rest of them to use them up before they spoiled.

I got all of my tedious chores at work done (typing up QC details to hand off to my student, quarterly report for one of the grants, answering emails that require long essays to respond to properly) and was able to get a good start on building out the last chunk of my analysis framework, so I ended both this week and last feeling pretty good about my progress. Which is good, since I suspect that before I know it it'll be time to start prepping for presentation at conferences, and I'll need to have some results to actually prepare...
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Turkish Walnut Chicken and Mustardy Coleslaw [Oct. 5th, 2017|11:01 pm]
Beemer
I'm annoyed with myself for having low productivity at work and yet also staying late. The problem is that I'm working on a project (tallying up formatting fixes to hand off to my student) that is tedious and chore-like, requires attention to detail, and involves a number of steps that take several minutes for the computer to crunch through. So once I get step five out of eleventy running I go off to do something else while I'm waiting, except it can't be anything that requires thought or I'll lose track of what I'm doing, so I dink around on Facebook or play a little game or something and then when it's time to switch back I've lost all my momentum and have to re-motivate myself. Oh, and half the time when I get one step further in the whole process, I find a new thing to fix and then I need to start all over again to make sure I'm not missing anything.

So I came home this evening feeling all antsy and decided to try cooking something new to see if that would help. I think it did.

I got a full set of TIME-LIFE "Foods of the World" books from my Mom, and now and again I pull one out to skim through at bedtime. The Middle Eastern Cooking book has a Turkish recipe for chicken with walnut sauce which looked intriguing, so I thought I'd give that a try. (I also threw together a batch of mustardy coleslaw while I was waiting for the stock to cook down using a recipe I improvised a few weeks ago and liked enough to write down.) The chicken turned out well, and I think I will make it again. It's tasty, different, pretty simple to make, and not overly carb-tastic. I think it'd make a good potluck dish.

Circassian ChickenCollapse )


Mustardy ColeslawCollapse )
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Dentistry, retreating, small-scale socialization [Oct. 2nd, 2017|11:01 pm]
Beemer
This morning I went to the dentist and got a deep cleaning on the left half of my mouth. Which is what I get for having skipped going to the dentist for about a decade. (Happily, before then I started flossing daily, because I discovered that the tape-style dental floss actually fits between my cramped teeth, so I don't have any cavities or anything.) It wasn't all that bad, honestly, except that one of the anesthetics they use has epinephrine in it as a vasodilator, and it gets into my system and makes me all anxious during the procedure and then I have a big come-down afterwards. Ugh.

It's honestly kind of a toss-up as to whether it was better or worse than the early start for the departmental retreat on Monday & Tuesday of last week. Because "show up at Chautauqua at 7:45 to start at 8" means leaving the house by 7 to ensure I'm there on time, which means getting up at 5 to be actually functional enough to drive by then, and 5 am is a very unpleasant time to be awake. (And my brain still wasn't fully booted up until about 10 both days.) But aside from that, I think it was a pretty good retreat and we got useful organizational things done. Certainly it was more useful than some such events I've been to. Along with fairly standard things like "proactively incubate opportunities" and "plan a tech adoption strategy", one interesting goal that emerged was "appreciate day-to-day accomplishments," which I think is a really healthy thing for an organization to want to do. As I pointed out when we were discussing it, Jerry and I have gotten into the habit of thanking one another for doing household chores, and I think that actively noticing and appreciating one another's contributions -- even (especially!) when they're the things each of us does all the time and is expected to deal with -- does a whole awful lot for building domestic harmony.

What else. Went to Trevor's on Saturday afternoon to play games. We played a co-ompetitive superhero game called "Heroes Wanted", which was a very weird combination of silly random character design with super-crunchy action-management gameplay. I managed to get a deeply sub-optimal character build and got trounced. Had a good time visiting and gaming, but I don't think I would recommend the game.

The weekend before that I had a nice visit with Grandma. Otherwise the last two weekends have been just a lot of downtime, which is a nice change of pace.

And we had Jonathan over for dinner (peanut-broccoli-tofu stirfry) and games (Mystery of the Abbey plus some trying out the VR system) on the Tuesday before that, which was lovely and delightful. Yay for small-scale socializing!
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Ratatouille [Oct. 1st, 2017|03:09 pm]
Beemer
At the (last of the season) farmer's market yesterday, I picked up a bag of red peppers and little yellow UFO squash and mini eggplants and big ripe tomatoes and thought, how convenient! I think I have the ingredients for ratatouille here and they're all in season at the same time-- oh right.

Because of course ratatouille is one of those dishes that was clearly born of somebody trying to deal with an overabundant garden. (Like making pesto to use up all the basil.) If you survey a bunch of different recipes, as I am wont to do, you can easily see the bones of the ur-recipe, which is just to chop up all the veggies you have too much of and saute them together with whatever herbs you typically use for everything, et voila, it's dinner.

So that's what I did, except I didn't feel like standing at the stove forever, so I roasted them instead. At 350, in two batches of two baking sheets each, since I had so much. (4-6 of each of the main veggies, plus three small onions.) All indications are that it is going to be excellent. (It's in the fridge waiting to be dinner later, but everyone agrees it's much better the next day anyway.)

I'm not sure exactly how long I cooked everything; I think a key technique is to open the oven every five minutes to check progress and, more importantly, let all the steam out. That way the veggies actually start to brown. So just do that until they start to look done.
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