Sunday, June 28, 2009

Home again?

Saturday morning we sadly left the wonderful Blades Hotel in London. Our room was tiny, but the central location and superb staff make this hotel a fantastic base for London adventuring. Here's Josie as we're leaving our room...Our travels on Saturday took us via London Underground to Paddington Station where we caught the train to Heathrow, then by plane to Reykjavik and on to Boston where we rented a car and drove out to Concord, MA (on the wrong side of the road!!). We had a couple of hours in Iceland...enough time to have some seafood, Icelandic beer and skyr and to buy Dot a pair of socks (angora will be the new possum).

Now, we're back in the Concord, MA. We're staying at my friend Elizabeth's mom's house. Elizabeth and I met in grad school at CU eons ago. She still lives in Boulder, but is here visiting her mom. Today we're going to visit the Lexington-Concord battle sites and see the Orchard House where Louisa May Alcott lived.

Tomorrow we fly to Denver. We're both sad that our trip is nearing its end....sniff.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Captain Picard and Gandalf!

Last night we saw Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan in Waiting for Godot. What a thrill. They were amazing. We had VIP tickets, so we had the Oscar Wilde room nearly to ourselves with free drinks, sandwiches and a hostess...and our own ladies room. There was only one other couple in the room with us. Our seats were excellent.

The hostess told us how to get to the stage door so we could meet the cast afterwards. We waited along with about 30 other people but we were right in the front. So, for three weeks travelling I have always had a pen with me. Patrick Stewart walks out...I say "Mr. Stewart, can we have your autograph please?". He says, "Sure, do you have a pen?". Alas! I have no pen! When I answer "no", he say, "oh well, no pen...". Thank heavens some other frantic fan saved the day with her pen. He refused it at first because it still had the cap on. Then when he finally got one with no cap, he kept it! I asked if I could take his picture he said, "yes, but I don't pose" here's the best photo of Captain Picard...

Sir Ian McKellan was different...not only did he have his own pen, he posed.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

On the train back to London

Free WiFi on the train and power points to plug into.

It's been a frenzied rush to leave Scotland...mostly because we're both dragging our feet so badly. We just barely made it to Edinburgh in time to return the car and then caught the train, but we hadn't made reservations so had to scrounge for seats. We asked if we could keep the car longer so we could stay another day, but they'd already booked it to someone else.

We'll be back at the Blades Hotel tonight and tomorrow nights. Tomorrow night we're going to see Waiting for Godot with Patrick Stewart and Ian McLellan. We're both happy that we have something that we're really excited about for our last night here otherwise we'd be so sad.

We stayed in the village of Killin on Loch Tay last night. A very quaint beautiful spot. We stayed in a wonderful guesthouse in an old stone house. After dinner (I tried haggis!!) we went for a walk down the river past the falls of Dochart toward the Loch. We found a wee trail that led to a rope swing out over the river, so we passed some time swinging before the midges came out to eat us. We got a little lost finding our way back to the guesthouse, but no worries. The guesthouse had two flagpoles out front with the Scottish flag (blue with white cross) and the other with the yellow lion scottish king's standard (I can't remember what it was called). So, we could see the guesthouse from the foot bridge across the river. The next morning the host told us that during the night someone stole the flags!! A massive crime in the wee village of Killin. Truly it was quite shocking and our host was put out because the thieves cut the lines and stole all of the clips and hardware as well as the flags. I asked if he had ideas about who did it and he replied "I'm sure young men and beer were involved".
After our walk we drove to the Loch, then up another wee (I like this word) single-track road that lead up into the mountains and over the ridge into the next valley. We saw lots more sheep and the wee lambs, a massive hyropower dam, then one of the most secluded beautiful valleys we'd seen yet. For my Outlander fan friends out there, I could picture Lallybroch to be in this valley. And, did I mention how green everything is??? And, amazingly it was another spectacular sunny warm day. We were out touring around until after 10pm and it was still light.

On our drive from Skye to Killin we passed through Fort William, past Ben Nevis and through Glen Coe. We stopped at Glenfinnan of Harry Potter and Bonnie Prince Charlie fame. The Hogwarts express famously travels over the beautiful Glenfinnan viaduct in the HP movies. And, Prince Charles raised his standard at Glenfinnan to rally the clans for the '45 Jacobite rebellion in August of 1745. Ben Nevis is the highest peak in Scotland, and Glencoe is yet another spectacular valley, but made famous by the massacre of MacDonalds by Camerons in the late 1600s.
I will post more pictures as soon as I can....but I'm certain that they won't do the scenery justice. If New Zealand was beautiful, then Scotland is absolutely stunning. Adding to the amazing mountains next to rugged seascape and even sandy beaches you have castle ruins and quaint villages with red british phone booths....surprisingly delicious food, great beer, a wee dram and did I mention the scones with clotted cream?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Our favorite things...

Josie...jumping at Borlum Farm and chips with a scottish ale on the water in the sunshine surrounded by blue sky, green hills and sea green water

single lane roads in the Highlands
greeen greeen greeen greeen
rain and clouds and water
the wildlife boat ride in Gairloch
the Ceilidh Place in Ullapool...the best dinner...amazing salad with roasted pears, walnuts and blue brie...also a bookstore...heaven
the Assynt House in Ullapool...our favorite B&B...the breakfast was fantastic...locally smoked salmon
walking on the beach outside Arisaig in the foamy sand
walking on the beach on the Sleat Peninsula near the castle ruins called...Durmistaig (?)...climbing on the rocks
the horse races in Windsor
Mama Mia

Internet again! Arisaig, Scotland

We finally have internet. We''re on the road back toward Edinburgh from the Isle of Skye and we stopped along the coast at a little cafe for tea and scones and they have Wifi! My cell phone didn't even work on Skye. The day is glorious!! The best weather we've had all trip. This morning we took the ferry across from Armadale to Mallaig.

Oh, by the way, we're not coming home. We like it here and have decided to stay. You'll all just have to come visit us. Of course come January when there are only 6 hours of daylight, we might change our minds....but this is pretty nice... maybe we'll come home. I just added a few new posts below from last week. They're long and no photos yet.

Here's a summary of what we've done since we left Borlum Farm in Drumnadrochit at Loch Ness...

Sunday 21 June - Carbisdale Castle to Lochinver and Ullapool on the coast of the northwest Highlands. Lots of driving on really fun and absolutely spectacular little narrow windy roads. The landscape is stunning and the sea! We stayed at a wonderful little B&B in Ullapool...the Assynt House.

Monday 22 June - Ullapool to the Isle of Skye. More driving. More stunning scenery. Rain. Wonderful wildlife cruise with Ian the marine biologist in Gairlog. We saw harbor porpoises (mom with calf), gannet fishing, then being attacked by a skua, grey seals and common seals, oyster catchers, cormorants, shags, but no otter and no dolphins. Very late drive into Portree on Skye and trouble finding lodging and dinner because it was so late, but it was still light out! Finally found a room at one of the local hotels and dinner at the indian restaurant.

Tuesday 23 June - Isle of Skye - More fun driving. visited Uig and the Talisker distillery, Armadale castle and stayed in another wonderful B&B. We had dinner on picnic tables on the water in the sunshine at the hotel/bar/restaurant near our B&B (see pic above from the walk to the hotel). Oh, our hostess was Flora McDonald...only scottish history buffs will appreciate that. We visited the original's grave that morning north of Uig. The Sleat peninsula where we stayed is clan Donald's terrain.

Wed 24 June - that's today...onward south and east toward Edinburgh...via Fort William, Glencoe and Sterling.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday 20 June 2009 – Highlands, Scotland

Drive from Drumnadrochit to Carbisdale Castle YHA, Culdain

Josie had her last jumping lesson at Borlum Farm this morning. She rode Mungo again and had Pauline for her teacher. She said it was a great lesson. She's jumping more complex patterns now and looking good!

Getting packed up and having a last cup of tea in our beautiful cottage. Josie laid down on the couch with a pillow over her head. When it was finally time to leave, she said she had a headache, which progressed into a full-blown migraine complete with numb hand and face and nausea. So, we stopped a bit on our drive north for her to lie down with something over her eyes. Why today had to be the first sunny day in 5 days I'll never know!

We stopped at Borders to get the second Twilight book on CD and to go to a big grocery store to find a chilly bin (ice chest or cool bag). The grocery store was overwhelming!! Unbelievably busy. And the shopping carts drive sideways. It was kind of like a Walmart but not quite as big... called Tesco. And, this one was a Tesco Extra...I think that's like a Walmart Supercenter...groceries and stuff made in China.

On the road north we took the scenic route up the Black Isle north of Iverness. Hoping to catch a glimpse of the dolphins of the Moray Firth, but we caught the tides wrong. We drove up to Cromarty where we caught Scotland's smallest ferry. It holds two cars. And, we totally lucked out and only had to wait about 15 minutes. Just one car in front of us in the Q. So, the ferry pulls up to a boat ramp. Josie said it looked like a bull dozer boat. The blade of the bull dozer dropped onto the boat ramp and there's just enough room on the boat for two small cars. The crossing took about 20 minutes. Once you get to the other side, the operator starts dropping the ramp then all of sudden the car starts turning! The two cars just barely fit on a circular turntable that spins them around so you drive straight out rather than back out. It was so cool!!

We got to the Glenmorangie Distillery in Tain just after they closed. Bummer.

On to the castle. We headed up the Dornoch Firth which turns into the Kyle of Sutherland. We drove up on the north side, but discovered that the castle was across the river fro us, so we had to backtrack to cross the river to the proper side. Once over we drove along this single lane little beautiful road to the castle. The last bit is lined by rhododendrons on either side which are in bloom. Then you pull up to a real castle! It was so exciting to realize that we'd be staying in it. What a cool youth hostel. We go up at least three sets of stairs and through many doors to find our room, which we are sharing with two other women. The view from our window down onto the neighboring farmland and the kyle and firth is beautiful.

we cooked dinner in the busy communal kitchen. Had delicious pasta and broccoli and I had a new scottish ale...St Andrews from the home of golf. It was good, not spectacular, but good.

There's a school band staying here also. We could hear them practicing earlier, and tonight they have a small group playing reels so the rest of the kids can contra dancing. They look like they're having so much fun!! And the music is fun to...flute, keyboard, fiddle, drums and some other kind of pipe. It's very loud, but upbeat and makes you want to dance.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday 19 June 2009 – Drumnadrochit, Scotland

Josie and I both had riding lessons at 9:30am. My lesson was with Becky and Josie was with Pauline. Josie was jumping and I had a flat lesson in the indoor school. they have mirrors on the walls so you can watch yourself. Becky said to not worry, it's not being vain to look at yourself. It was a great lesson. We worked on being one with the horse and suppling the horse...getting him to bend his neck, spiralling in and out, and then shallow loops. Becky's dog Piglet knocked at the door and came to visit toward the end. She's a adorable little short hair jack russell...Tinker's daughter.

Josie had a lot of fun with her jumping lesson. She's doing more complicated patterns and road Mungo again. I rode Rufus, the same white horse I rode yesterday on the ride out.

After our lessons we went back to the cottage for showers, tea and lunch (or elevensies). We walked down to Urqhart castle for the official tour. A flotilla of boats was stopped in as part of the Caledonian Crossing. There was a band playing also. The castle is impressive....surprisingly large and really gives you an idea of what a medieval castle would've been like. The introductory movie that tells you the history of the castle was well done, and at the end the screen rises into the ceiling and the curtains open so that you have a view out of the widows onto the castle...just like Mt. St. Helens. Part of the castle was blown up in the late 1600s to keep the Jacobites from getting it.

We walked back to our cottage and had lunch, the drove down the loch to catch the boat ride. I popped into Abriachan gardens and really wish I had more time. They have four acres of gardens and the little bit I saw looked spectacular. Little winding walkways through flowers and green mossy paths. I hoped to go back later, but didn't get to.

The boat ride was quite a disappointment, but we did meet a family from Wisconsin who've been living in Scotland for 6 weeks so far. The dad is a pastor who's on sabbatical. Their oldest child was a boy josie's age. It was great to talk to them about where to go in Scotland. They recommended the Carbisdale Castle.

After the cruise we went to the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre, but they were closed. So we drove up to Fort Augustus where we saw the locks of the Caledonian Canal, which allows boats to pass from one coast of Scotland to another. It was built in 1822.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sat 13 June 2009 - The Queen!

Trooping the Color 2009
In honour of the Queen's birthday (which was in April) the British troops are presented for her inspection.

We got to Buckingham Palace at about 9:45 am and got the best spot we could...about 3 people back from the barrier. So, this photo was the best view we got of the Queen and Prince Phillip. Later we got to stand right at the front, but the carriages took a different route than the police said they would on the way back so we only saw the back of her head.

We did get glimpses of Prince Harry and William. The troops and bands were spectacular, in particular the Highland Regiment with their bagpipes. We had a great time talking with the people next to us and to the policeman stationed in front of us. We have some great photos, which we'll post once we have a faster internet connection. Also, I've discovered that my lovely linux laptop doesn't have software for photo editing, which will be necessary with a lot of these photos. Oh, and I got a great little video clip of the Highland Regiment playing their bagpipes...just for you mom! :)

We didn't stay to see the whole royal family on the balcony and the RAF flyover. The crush of people got a little overwhelming and we were not so bright in our planning and we hadn't brought any water or food with us. So, by 1pm Josie was done with the crowd and demanding food. It took quite a while to work our way out of the masses and find a spot for lunch....too late to head off the melt down. After an authentic (and expensive) Italian lunch and a trip back to the hotel to recuperate we headed out for our afternoon of shopping.

We made it to Oxford Street after we discovered that the entire Victoria underground line is shut down on weekends and the replacement bus was held up by the Naked Bike Ride taking place near Hyde Park (at least I think that's where it was). Too bad we weren't early enough to see that too!!

So, shopping in London...we thought the crowds were intense at Trooping the Color!! Double-decker buses lined the street in both lanes for blocks. The sidewalks on both sides of the street were packed with shoppers...speaking all different languages, pushing baby strollers (push chairs), carrying shopping bags...then the shops! Oh my. One of the more trendy young people's kind of stores looked like it had been ransacked. Clothes and shoes were in piles on the floor where people had discarded items they decided not to buy. A couple of stores we gave up on going into because you could barely move much less look at clothes. Josie wasn't impressed with London high fashion, but she did get a pair of funky jean capris.

I thought 'Boobtube' was a TV!?!?

We ate dinner at a delicious vegetarian restaurant in Covent Garden called Food for Thought. Josie proclaimed that it was the best food she'd had since we left home. I think I agree with her. The restaurant was amazingly popular and we ended up eating in this little nook sitting on the floor on pillows. Fabulous whole of th best quiches I've ever had with three salads on the side including a baby potato salad, a black bean and corn salad and a fresh green salad with mint. Josie ate brown rice with the salads (yes, she ate BROWN rice) and a fresh fruit bowl with creamy yogurt. What fun!

Friday 12 June 2009 - London

Tower of London, boat tour on the Thames, Horse Guard Museum...double-decker buses

Thurs 11 June 2009 - Oxford to London

Mama Mia!!

Wed 10 June 2009 - Oxford

Harry Potter! Bodleian Library! Ooooh what fun! Tolkein, CS Lewis...

We took the train into Oxford from hanborough arriving in the rain. Then found a taxi to take us to the Tourist Information center where we bought tickets for the Walking Tour. Then we had to buy another umbrella because it was raining enough that it was awkward to share...especially when Josie tried to carry the umbrella. I had to do a dance to stay under it.

Walking tour of Oxford – our tour guide was a lovely older woman who was a wealth of historical and pop information about the city. She joked that her children said that their mum “walked the streets” for a living.

We visited Exeter College and Orien (??) College. It was exam time so the colleges were all closed. But we did get to see students in their official robes, or really more like a stoll. I can't remember what they are called. They have to wear them to sit their exams. They also were black trousers or skirts and white shirts and the men wear ties. Every student also wears a carnation and the color of the carnation signifies which year exam they are sitting. The colors go white, pink, then red for their final year.

There are 38 colleges. The colleges were created by benefactors to give students a place to live and study whilst at the University. At their college the students have a tutor in their subject area. The tutors are also university lecturers in their subject area. Tutors give students additional work and work with them during their course of study. Some of the colleges were originally associated with different regions, like Exeter was for students from Exeter.

Different colleges offer tutors in different subject areas. Some colleges are older and more traditional than others. I think they all have a dining hall, residence halls and library and many also have chapels. They also own land and buildings, so they let our the ground floor spaces to shops and the students live above the shops.

The university was started in the 1400s, but I never did catch the original date. Then there was something about Henry VIII and of course the shift to the church of England and the change of one of the college chapels into a cathedral. But now I don't remember the details. At some point they began requiring that all students live at a college. And of course it was all men and boys until the 1800s.

We did get so see some Harry Potter sites on the tour, like the outside of the hall where the dance lessons were filmed in HP4 and the restricted section of the library from HP1 (later we went inside). Our tourguide was up on HP trivia and showed us pics of Emma Watson from the local paper playing field hockey. She lives in Oxford, They are filming HP7 right now, so there was a chance that they'd be filming in Oxford, but no luck. The Golden Compass also took place in Oxford and she showed us interesting sites related to it, like the roof line of the chapel which was actually filmed in a studio. But Philip Pulman was a student in Exeter College, so Jordan College is actually Exeter College.

After the walking tour we had a quick bite to eat and walked around a bit before our tour of the Bodleian library. On our way to the library, the heavens opened and the drizzle turned to a downpour. Even with our umbrellas we got soaked from the knees down. Lightning crashed and the streets filled with deep puddles.

The tour of Bodleian Library included the Divinity School, which is where the dancing lessons (HP4) and the hospital scene (HP2) were filmed. And, the original reading room of the library which was used as the restricted section of the library in HP1. Visiting Bodleian was a religious experience for me. Just breathing the air in a building housing millions of books (okay, so some are stored in former salt mines in the English countryside) that have been visited and studied by some of the world's greatest minds. Miles of underground tunnels full of books. Millions of books. We didn't get to go underground. Very old books...very very old books.

Next stop was Christ College, another Harry Potter extravaganza. The dining hall in this college was used as the Great Hall in the HP films. And, the marble staircase. Very exciting! The grounds and gardens were beautiful. And, you couldn't help being struck by the age of the buildings.

Across from the college entrance we had tea and scones again. It was still raining. Eventually we made it to the train station, but missed our train by literally a split second and had to wait an hour for the next provoking another travel melt down.

Back to Hanborough for dinner at the Bell pub and another delicious IPA. More delicious homemade bread. Yummy hummus ad guacamole. Josie ordered a Shirley Temple to the entertainment of the bartender. They have bubbly lemonade instead of sprite and their grenadine isn't red, but she said it was good.

We caught the end of Star Trek TNG in our room...a little foreshadowing of what's to come in London later this month for these two trekkies! :)

The Old Farmhouse B&B was a lovely place to stay. Beautiful garden, easy access to the train, very comfortable bed, warm down comforter, large shared bath (new and very nice with a skylight), and a delicious breakfast. Her homemade bread is scrumptious. The house is full of antiques and interesting knick knacks. Loads of tourist info and a lovely hostess, Vanessa.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Computers and travelling and bloody Linux

I have to vent a little bit. One of the reasons I haven't been blogging regularly is because of the bloody stupid little laptop I purchased in a moment of nerdly insanity. Josie and I are taking this book-long quiz entitled "Are you a geek?". I receive extra bonus points for thinking a Linux laptop was a good idea just because it's not microsoft and no one else in their right mind uses it.

Nothing works with Linux!!! I can't upload photos to our smugmug account because the only uploader that works will only load one photo at a time, which is bloody time-consuming when you take loads of pictures. It's made worse because in Linux, you don't see a preview of your photos when you're browsing to select which one you want to upload, so you have to run the photo manager software and write down the numbers of the photos you want to upload. And, the photo manager and file manager are soooo slow.

Josie plugged her Ipod into her Linux laptop and now she has no music on her Ipod, except when she plugs it back into the laptop. I assume the Linux music manager software did something funny with the formatting on her Ipod so that the Ipod operating system doesn't think it has music on it even though the space on the drive is taken up by the music. Okay...imagine travelling with a 14-year old without an Ipod. You get the picture.

My laptop can't read my MP3 player at all.

Let's see...what else...I put Harry Potter onto a flash drive for us to listen to on the plane. My Linux laptop cannot read that flash drive at all. Windows computers can read it. Go figure. Oh, and that flash drive was also the one with my address book and itinerary on it. I've also discovered that most public internet computers don't let you plug USB drives into them for fear of viruses.

Okay...enough grumping. When we get home, I'm loading windows on both laptops. I'm done with my little Linux experiment and I'm giving in to Bill Gates evil empire. Of course windows has its own issues but I've become familiar and comfortable with its issues. But I'll probably discover that windows needs more than the 2G that we have available. Ha hah hahaha.

Tuesday 9 June 2009 - Windsor Castle

English breakfast at Park Farm Bed and Breakfast in Windsor...eggs, bacon (more like thick ham), fruit, toast, yogurt, coffee, tomatoes...yum.

Tour of Windsor Castle. Changing of the guard (I have a video). Big castle.

Lunch (actually afternoon tea) at the Crooked House, which is a very old house that was built of green oak which shrank and shifted so that the house is quite lopsided. Excellent tea and scones with jam and clotted cream and tasty little sandwiches.

The Crooked House

Shopping in Windsor.

Train to Long Hanborough, just north of Oxford in the Cotswolds.

The Old Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast. Beautiful garden overflowing with brilliant, spectacular flowers. A small rock wall borders the back garden and rolling green hills dotted with sheep spread beyond.
The garden at the B&B.

Dinner at the George and Dragon in Long Hanborough just up the road from our B&B. Stilton with mushrooms over tagliatelle with hunky garlic bread. Yum. And, outrageous portions that could feed a family of five. The hunk 'o bread was obviously homemade. Yum. Oh, and for starters they gave us an olive salad with garlic and cilantro. More yum. And, an IPA. even more yum.

Monday 8 June - Iceland to England

We finally got to sleep about 1am...well...josie fell asleep...I laid was still light! Then I woke up before the alarm wet off at 5am. So...about 3 hours sleep.

icelandic breakfast...yum! Skyr. not yogurt. supposedly very healthy. Lots of protein and <1% fat. But I have to question how something that unbelievably creamy could be so healthy. And, what exactly is it?? It tasted like the creamy layer on top of good whole milk yogurt. You add a little brown sugar and pour some cream on was like dessert! We also had some kind of spread on toast that had peas and boiled eggs in it. It was yummy too.

Flight to London, Heathrow...uneventful except my movie screen didn't work again.

We called a taxi from Windsor to pick us up and we nearly missed him because we didn't expect our taxi to be a Mercedes!

After naps we were off to the horse races at the Royal Windsor Racecourse! We took the river taxi up the River Thames from Windsor to the racecourse. The racetrack is beautiful! You view the horses before the race on the Pre-Parade Grounds before they get saddles, then after they're saddles on the Parade Grounds. Then after the race in the winners circle. We got a 2 pound betting voucher with the package we purchased. I let Josie choose the horse to bet on and she won!!! So, she got about 8.50 back! Pretty exciting.

The horses were beautiful...big and glossy and muscular. Overall, it was very exciting and very fun.

The weather was quite cold and we were exhausted, so we decided to leave after about the 3rd race. Unfortunately, the river taxi didn't leave until after the 5th race. Brrr and zzzzzz.

Sunday 7 June 09 - Travel to iceland

I know I'm totally behind in posting blogs. Its now Friday 12 June as i'm writing this...sorry!

Okay, on Sunday 7 June we packed up and left MIT's campus to go to the airport to catch our flight to Reykjavik. We still didn't know what we were going to do during our 8-hour layover and decided to just wait until we arrived and see what happened.

Our flight was uneventful and pleasant. Each seat has a TV screen and I worked on learning Icelandic with the foreign language program while Josie watched movies. Eventually my screen froze, which turned out to be my curse for that flight and the next...a defunct screen...yes, both flights I had the only one of the flight that didn't work. pretty funny. BUT, fortunately I had bought and earphone splitter at the airport, so Josie and I watched "There's something about mary" on her screen. Kept us giggling.

So we arrived in Iceland, and yes it was still light out at midnight. The woman at the tourist info office advised us against renting a car because nothing would be open and since the economic downturn there are a lot unemployed people and the crime rate has skyrocketed. So, after several phone calls we finally found a guesthouse with vacancy. It was located on the former US military base at the airport. It was a great guesthouse, but located in the former military barracks. Weird. But very nice room, very comfy beds, soft linens and delicious breakfast...oh but that's tomorrow's blog. too bad we only got to sleep in these wonderful beds for about 4 hours!!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Saturday 6 June 2009 - Nerd Day

Bagel breakfast again at La Verde's, the green grocer in the MIT student center. We missed the tech breakfast that I'd paid for because we're still on Colorado time and getting up in the morning is not something Josie or I do well.

Then on to the morning session of Technology Days presentation by an MIT professor of neural science about how the brain controls the mind. Excellent talk! The research looks at the area of the brain that controls how we think about what other people think. The research was stimulated by wanted to understand autistic brains. She clearly demonstrated that there is a certain region of the brain that is active as we think about how other people are behaving and that region of the brain develops between ages 3 and 5.

Next was a nap and a melt down in our dorm room followed by an expedition on the T into Boston to find an open post office to ship some things to friends and family.

We made it back to MIT just in time for the Tech Challenge games where the different reunion classes compete against each other for...well nothing, but it's great fun. The first challenge is to have as many people there as possible at 3pm. Then the paper airplane contest started. We had 5 minutes to make as many paper airplanes as possible. Each team was seated in the stands at the football stadium and there was a kids plastic swimming pool for each team on the ground in front of the stands. You got points for each plane that made it into the swimming pool and teams got points for furthest flying distance also.

The next challenge was a modified 2.70 contest (the 2.007 contest). For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the 2.70 contest is an undergrad class for Mechanical Engineering students. They are given some materials and a task to accomplish and they have to build a device to accomplish the task. The device can also be defensive by attacking its opponent, and it might need to defend against attacks from an opponent. Our task was to build a windmill to wind a kite string and raise a weight from the ground to table-height. Given it was our 20th reunion, we had a pretty big group of people. So I opted out of helping with the building and instead attempted to organize and participate in the 3-legged race. Oh dear. Someone had told me it was organized chaos. I think just plain chaos is a better description. We sadly came in last place in the race because we didn't follow directions, but our windmill design team pulled through being the only team to accomplish the task and doing it in only 8 seconds!! Teams were allowed to provide “wind” in any way they could, so you can imagine amount of hot air that was flying around along with some serious hyperventilation.

The rest of the challenges included a haiku and limerick contest, a water balloon toss, hexagonal close packing and finally the quiz bowl. We won everything except came in last for the water balloon toss (we had lots of little kids and they had a blast). The little kids were great for the close packing contest...we won with 46 people in the 6 ft. diameter circle!

In the end we tied with the class of 1984 for first place!!

Josie and I compromised for dinner with a bagel and other food from our favorite La Verde's for her and Mary Chung take out for me. Ooooh...I ate a whole order of peking ravs. Oh my.

While doing laundry we took a walk across the Harvard bridge so Josie could see the Smoots. Why aren't they painting them anymore???

Then we had a fun night-time tour around the 'tute. Visiting Strobe Alley and the sculptures in Killian Court and other deserted hallways. We found the wheelchairs left over from graduation and were sorely tempted to have races, but there were to many families around taking pictures of graduates in front of the Great Dome. And, we didn't go back later. Oh well....back in the old days...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Friday 5 June 2009

Visit to the orthodontist in Porter Square (and the amazingly long escalator), design workshop at the MIT Museum, tour of Harvard and evening reception for the MIT Class of 1989...
The unofficial Hahvahd tour. We learned a lot. Josie's still impressed with Harvard.

Here's what she still thinks of MIT...Of course that's because every MIT alum she meets tells her she's doomed to be a soon as she starts talking about Star Trek they shake their heads knowingly.

The MIT Museum is very cool. We participated in a workshop to help them design the exhibit for MIT's 150th birthday in 2011. Our group decided to focus on Food at MIT....hmmm...we were all class of '89 and their kids. curious we were all so interested in food. Anyway it was a great trip down memory lane and touring the exhibits was most interesting. Check out their website...

Here's a bit of MIT trivia...the woman who invented the roving vacuum robot the Rhoomba graduated in my class!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Thursday 4 June 2009 - Cambridge, MA

(I added more photos below...and more at
Touring MIT campus, delicious Italian food in the North End of Boston, and a lovely evening at the Boston Pops.

We found Prof. Herbert Einstein, my undergrad research advisor. I so wish I had taken a picture with him in his office, which is even more full of piles of papers than it was 20 years ago. We had a great time reminiscing about the old days at MIT when we stored our data in a Lotus 123 spreadsheet and his students were closeted in this tiny office to do our work. Josie was thoroughly impressed by his office because it made mine look positively tidy.
We also found the student dental clinic in an attempt to get them to fix an errant bracket in Josie's bottom braces. Alas, they don't do orthodontics, so we'll have to visit a real orthodontist in Porter Sq. on Friday morning. It's always fun tracking down medical care in a different city!

Shopping for fun nerd stuff at the MIT coop, walking through the infinite corridor, visiting my old dorm....a great trip down memory lane.
Oh, we got moved to a new dorm, so we're on the 3rd floor of McCormick, which is the all women's dorm and is very nice. We have a spectacular view of the Charles River and the Boston skyline.

Off to the North End for Italian food. Delicious! And Josie had her favorite dessert...teramisu. Visited the Old North Church...
Tech Night at the Boston was the 112th annual tech night at the pops. and the pops has only been around 124 years!

An MIT student played piano with the symphony for Rhapsody in Blue...very impressive. Then they dropped balloons on the audience during the finale. Very fun! Very MIT...lots of old nerds in red coats. The logarhythm alum group wandered around singing before the concert started.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More of our first evening in Cambridge

Dinner at Mary Chung's. Suan la chau shau. Mmmmm. She moved across the street. And, while the suan was good, and the scallion pancake yummy...Josie's fried rice left a little to be desired. And, we were the only ones in the restaurant. A wee bit odd at 6pm.

Then we headed up to Harvard Square where graduation festivities were in full force. Loads of parents and alums wandering around. Josie loved Harvard. Her first glance into Harvard Yard and she was hooked...the yard was all set up for graduation....

We had tea and found Click and Clack's office in our fair city...

Cambridge Mass,,,,0...21...39...

We made it to Boston! After a very pleasant cool and rainy day in Fort Collins yesterday Gary kindly rose at an ungodly hour this morning to drive us to the Denver airport. Uneventful flights and taxi cab ride to New House on the MIT's what Josie thinks of all this...I think it's time to wake her up so we can go to Mary Chung's for dinner! Oh, I am so happy!

So, Louie is back in Fort Collins with grandma and grandpa. Here's what Louie's probably doing right now...although he's probably not wearing his booties anymore.

Monday, June 1, 2009

We made it over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house!

The new $200 tire made it over the mountains!!

On the Road??

The first day of our big summer adventure and we're held up by a flat tire!!! Once the Honda dealership opens and we get our tire fixed, we'll be on the road to Fort Collins to visit mom and Gary. They are excited to have their grand-dog, Louie, visit for a month!!