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January 14, 2009

Holidays Recap

Had a really nice Holiday break, which ended up being a long 18 days. Spent Christmas and the few days after it quietly in Boston, having a really nice but quiet Christmas day with my Mom and setting up/configuring a new laptop and desktop machine which were gifts.

Then flew out to the Bay Area on New Year's Eve to have a quick lunch visit with my Uncle and Aunt in Berkeley and then a long gaming weekend at David's (thanks!). Was asleep for actual New Year having gotten up at what was 1AM CA time but then had lots of fun playing games for four days. Although we are originally connected through Titan, I unfortunately only got in one game (and was knocked out pretty quick although in a fun battle after amusing trash talk by Andrew) of it but tons of games of Dominion and Tichu and some of Race for the Galaxy and various other things. In addition to the Titan regulars, also got to play a bunch of games with Tom and Wei-Hwa and other locals which was fun.

I then headed directly to Las Vegas to meet my brother, sister-in-law and nephew. We had a really nice time hanging out and doing Vegasy things (although no gambling or poker for any of us while I was there) including me taking everyone to Love, the Beatles-themed Cirque du Soleil show, which was absolutely amazing but for me probably not quite as good as the unbelievably sublime O. We also went to see Penn & Teller which was also a really fun show. Other highlights were the Dolphins and incredibly active and playful young Tigers at the Mirage's Secret Garden and hanging out at the Venetian pools playing nerf football with my nephew, who is adorable and wonderful.

Posted by aarondf at 12:26 PM | Travels | Comments (0)

December 03, 2007

Got my Luggage Back

Well, I don't know how it happened but I got my luggage back.

American Airlines (which I did fly and which also has its hub in Dallas) baggage service at Logan called my work number on Saturday and left a message (which had so much static to it I had to listen to it like 5 times and call like 7 different variations on the number) saying they had my bag and had had it for a long time and I had better come get it. Well, I listed to the message this morning and on the seventh number I called managed to reach them and yes, they did have my bag so I just went to Logan and got it and seems fine.

Still, I have no real idea how it got to them - I certainly didn't check it on any plane. I think the most likely thing is the hotel found it and someone sent it to me in this strange way. However, the hotel never contacted me to let me know this. I'll try calling them later and see if I can figure out the real story but am happy to get the bag back regardless. Only other possibility is the bag did have a card in a little pocket for such things with my old address, phone number and email address but they called my work number and don't think it had that on it although could be wrong. Anyway, bizarre situation all around but with a happy ending.

On the games front, Race for the Galaxy is being a very addictive game for some people, not really for me although I am very happy to play. I shouldn't be surprised at this given the tales of number of games played by some people of the prototype but somehow I am. We'll see if it keeps up. Could it actually contend with Tichu's perennial status? I really enjoy the game but feel too much of my fate is in the draws.

Posted by aarondf at 03:40 PM | Travels | Comments (1)

May 11, 2006

Visiting my father and Washington, DC

Went to visit my father for his 70th birthday (and coincidentally his last day of teaching at the Univ of MD). Amazingly, he is also selling the house I grew up in quite suddenly and the closing is in less than a month. Was a nice visit and good to see the place and area one last time (although no particular attachment to the house or most of the area really).

I also went into DC for the day while Dad was teaching and had a really nice time. I lived just outside of DC for many years and of course had been to almost all of the museums before but was very different for me 20 years later. Somehow, I had also never before made it to the Vietnam Memorial (built in 1982 in the middle of my time there [particularly interesting after having watched and really enjoyed the Maya Lin documentary a few years back]) or the Jefferson (liked less than the other memorials) or FDR (beautiful space and water features and very different which was nice) memorials which are a bit out of the way. The Lincoln memorial was as powerful as ever - setting, approach, design, engraved words all incredibly done. There were two things I really noticed and appreciated about the Washington center as a whole. First, I don't know of ANY other city in the world that devotes so much of its prime space to the past and memory in the form of museums and memorials. Making this feeling even stronger is that there are basically NO commercial attractions of ANY sort (shops or restaurants beyond the museum ones) in the mall/memorial area. There was also, nicely, very little security anywhere - was actually even hard to find anyone around the memorials to even ask a question of. Both of these factors for me really strengthed my immersion in the place for the day and introspective and retrospective mood. This day made me appreciate Washington much more than I had as a kid.

Was also so nice that the museums were (taxpayer financed of course) free so that I could briefly go in them for 10-15 minutes, more for reasons of memory than really seeing exhibits. The only museum I spent any real time in was the Sackler which had an exhibit on the Japanese artist Hokusai whose work I love. The headline piece was titled Thunder God and is a scroll (so unique as opposed to his wood block prints) which I had never seen before and absolutely adored, even more than his famous "Great Wave". The web version (and a modern reproduction scroll version the museum shop was selling for $375) unfortunately just doesn't do it justice as the vibrancy of colors and contrast just don't come through nearly as powerfully.

Posted by aarondf at 03:36 PM | Travels | Comments (0)

March 18, 2004

Back from Berlin

Went to Berlin last week for a conference for work but extended the trip several days to see the sites. The weather was cold and snowy and gloomy and gardens thus weren't that interesting and fountains (which I love) weren't running but othewise Berlin was a nice city and we got around to lots of it other than very short shrift on the museums.

Our first day in (after sleeping most of the prior day after arriving around noon) we went to Checkpoint Charlie and the associated museum which was quite incredible and we spent a number of hours at. The next day we went around to find the street in Friedenau where my parents lived when my brother was born and around Berlin to see the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag and other sites. Other major locations we went to were the Berliner Ensemble, Bertolt Brecht's grave, Alexanderplatz and sites including the great view from the Fehlturm (2nd tallest building in Europe), KaDeWe (amazing largest department store in Europe), apple streudel at Cafe Kranzler that my mother recommended, and various other sites including Schloss Soucci in Potsdam.

Cool trip although the flights on Air France were an extreme pain with middle seats on both long flights and a broken video monitor on the second one. I am going to be writing them and Delta who I booked my ticket through complaints over the poor service. 5 days later I am still not fully adjusted to the time change which is unusual for me and a bit disconcerting.

Posted by aarondf at 03:51 PM | Travels | Comments (0)

October 02, 2003

Trip Report: Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Finally finding a few minutes to write a quick report. I learned of this festival from my friends David and Melissa who, particularly David, have been going for many years and really enjoying it. The festival is in Ashland, Oregon (near the California border) and runs for 8 months of the year putting on 11 plays (about half of them Shakespeare) in 3 theatres.

We decided to combine the trip with a visit to Portland and K. and to visit my Unlce and his family near San Francisco. We thus flew to Portland and rented a car there on Saturday. On Sunday, we drove around the area and visited the beautiful Heirloom Rose Garden (with a very friendly resident cat) and store and then a wonderful crafts/art gallery at lunch (one of the nicest galleries I have ever been to). After lunch, we went into town and went to Powell's, one of the largest bookstores in the world.

On Monday, we all drove down the coast in two cars, stopping to see sights and for lunch and galleries on the way, arriving in Ashland in the evening and getting a nice dinner at a pub there, nearby the theatres. Tuesday our plays started and we would see two plays a day for three days. The plays on Tuesday were Ibsen's very heavy Hedda Gabler and Noel Coward's very light comedy Present Laughter. Both were excellent in their very different ways. On Wednesday, we went to Lorca in a Green Dress as the matinee, a new play on the life of the Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. The play was quite well done but the subject was not one I was familiar with or really to my taste so I enjoyed this one the least of all the performances we saw. The evening show was our first Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream and our first at the outdoor Elizabethan theatre. Outdoors in the wonderful Ashland weather and setting made for a wonderful stage for this play and I probably enjoyed it the most of all the performances, despite only basic effects which can be sometimes extravagant for this play. Finally, on Thursday we say Romeo and Juliet (in an interesting modern dress version) and finished off with Richard II (which I had never read or seen). The acting and productions were uniformly excellent and I really enjoyed all of the plays except for Lorca.

On Friday, we had a big breakfast and started to head down towards the San Francisco area to visit my Uncle and his family. Unfortunately, it turned out that I had caught a horrible stomach flu (which I thought was food poisoning from breakfast) and ended up getting sick in the car and making a total mess. We were forced to stop and find a motel where I continued to be horribly sick for 6 hours and had a hard night. I felt well enough in the morning, though, to continue down to the beach house where we had a nice time with my Uncle, Aunt, Cousin and her two very fun and cute young children (the younger of whom I had not met) at the wonderfully situated house and on the beach. Unfortunately, our time was very short and we had to leave after dinner to get back to the San Francisco airport and a hotel nearby (but a pain to find) to be ready for our 6AM flight.

I woke up at just after 3AM to find my mom, though, had caught my stomach flu and was in the middle of the worst of it. We decided I would go ahead and fly back anyway, extending her hotel stay, returning the car and switching her flight back a day as I left. I thus raced to get up and get all this done and make my flight. My flights were easy although baggage in Boston and traffic for the cab were really slow. I ended up not eating any real meals after Friday morning (which I completely threw up) till Monday lunch.

Posted by aarondf at 01:02 PM | Travels | Comments (0)

August 25, 2003

Cape Cod Weekend

Went down to Cape Cod for the weekend. I ended up taking Friday off for other reasons but decided I might as well go down early since I could. However, even leaving at 2PM, traffic was still quite bad and it took nearly 3 hours to get down there. Had a really nice time and went to beaches on both the ocean (freezing) and bay side (bathtub warm but ridiculously shallow - I walked out more than half a mile at a depth of less than 3 feet so actual swimming was basically impossible and of course no surf). We also had a couple of quite nice dinners. I ended up driving back late Saturday night (leaving around 10PM) to avoid traffic and this worked out beautifully - it took only about 1:35 and I was at one point in cruise control for more than 20 miles.

While down there, however, I was being heavily distracted by the absolutely wonderful book I am currently reading. More on this in a few days after I finish it.

Posted by aarondf at 03:51 PM | Travels | Comments (1)

June 30, 2003


As I've flown four times in the past few weeks, a few quick comments. All of these flights have been extremely smooth and no more unreasonable security hassles. They are even apparently doing away with showing ID at the gate.

I want to particularly recommend Orbitz for buying tickets and the self-service checkin kiosks at the airports. Orbitz has always had great prices but now they have a vastly improved interface (the carriers/stops/prices table thing in particuarly is great!) and email reminders about your trip at various points. The self-service checkins have so far made check-in delays a thing of the past, even with checked luggage which I never seem able to avoid. Returning from Seattle, this took me probably 7-10 minutes and this was the longest I have yet spent! The kiosks also let me change my seat myself to grab the best available, including emergency exit row seats.

Posted by aarondf at 03:54 PM | Travels | Comments (0)