Friday, December 05, 2014

No more numbers for health

Content warning: discussion of body weight, weight loss, fat loss, and use of scales.

In June of 2013, I decided to stop weighing myself. At that time, I was not particularly looking to lose weight. I think I wanted to drop a couple of pounds, maybe, to get closer to what seemed to me like a respectable number. Looking back, it was a pretty arbitrary number. It was higher than my average weight in college, but being a bit older and done growing at that point, I was able to accept that my body was probably ready to support some more body fat. I was still uncomfortable with the fact that it was "higher than ever before."

As someone who has always been relatively slim, seeking a particular weight goal is a bit stupid. If I wanted to trim a little fat, working out would probably be very effective for me. In fact, that's what happened when I started bicycling to work a few times a week. My thighs got bigger and stronger from muscle growth, but the rest of me slimmed down. I was pretty happy with those changes, but it took an entire six months of not weighing myself and not knowing how much I weighed to be able to embrace other concepts of measurable health and fitness. Throughout those six months, if I had to be weighed at the doctor's office, I would step on the scale backwards and ask that they not read the number aloud. A few nurses even commented that my project was one they might try themselves. I think it's a worthy experiment for a lot of people who find their moods tied to the scale results, but obviously if you do try and find it too distressing, it might be a good idea to reassess the project and change the goal (maybe weigh less or hey, keep weighing if that works for you). I personally just needed to detach my health from a number.

Measuring weight can be a very useful tracking tool for some people, but it is not definitive and it is not the only option. I think it is more useful to take those numbers for tracking change than it is to strive for a particular numeric goal. Doctors may disagree. They may tell you, specifically, to "lose X pounds". You are always free to tell them to shove it. While they are educated for years in many forms of health and medicine, they do not make your decisions for you and it is ultimately your choice what you decide is healthy for yourself.

If weight/fat loss is your goal, I wish you luck. I will not ask you about it, I will not comment on it, but I am happy to listen if you want to share your journey with me. If you are happy the way you are, then I am happy for you too. If you are unhappy, then I hope you can find a way to be happy, regardless of your resolution.

Over the past year, since I ended my no-scales experiment, I've weighed myself only a handful of times. My weight doesn't change much these days as far as I can tell and I don't really care to know what it is. I don't want to invite an obsession into my life because I know it's easy for my brain to latch onto something like that. I know my clothes are larger than they have been in the past and that's probably due to muscle, mostly. Since fitness is a goal of mine, I'm definitely happy about that change! These days, the only numbers I'm using to measure are weights on the barbell.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Starting CrossFit

I started CrossFit last week and I am amazed at how much I love it. The dynamic exercises in each class are fun and rewarding. I feel accomplished after every class and find myself smiling in the midst of brutal workouts. It barely bothers me that I'm the weakest person in the class because everyone, trainers and other people in the class, is so encouraging and supportive. The trainers are great at what they do. The owner of the CrossFit box, Rob, is passionate, but values form and safety first. I was afraid I'd be too weak to do it, but everything is scaled or modified to your abilities so you can learn safely and progress when you're able.

The stupidest thing that I love about it is I'm apparently flexible. I had no idea that I could be considered flexible. I'm used to flexible meaning yogis who can touch their head to their knees with legs straight. My whole life I've felt like everyone around me is naturally good at something, at least one thing, and I had nothing. I'm sure most people feel this way, but I've finally found something that's innate to my person that I get to be proud of. Like I said, it's stupid. What I work hardest at is what I should be most proud.

Funnily enough, the ~7 years of ballet training I have done throughout my life (from age ~5-10 and then 14-15) seems to have ingrained some default foot positions for me. Turning my feet out wide is actually not so good for some of the lifting movements :D. There are a lot of little reminders I make to myself during a class, to keep all the parts of my body going in the right ways, but a lot of it is "just doing it". As intimidating as it is to be shown a move, told about the important parts, and then told to do it, it's really the most effective way to learn something physical. You just have to do it (safely) and keep adjusting until you get it right. Every little adjustment that sticks feels like a reward, like learning that I should throw my left leg back for a Split Jerk (my right foot turns out too easily).

CrossFit pushes me outside of my safety zone, physically and mentally. I push my body to be better, to be stronger, to be faster. The soreness that sticks with me for days afterwards makes me feel happy. I fight anxiety on a daily basis, but when I'm in the middle of a workout, most of it fades away and I just invest myself in what my body can do. I worry about learning quickly enough, but every time I get something right and I can feel that it's right, I get such a thrill. It's still a struggle to get myself to each class and ride down the anxiety, but as soon as I start rolling out on a foam roller before class, I know I am there to stay for the hour. I even went to a morning class yesterday, at 6:30 AM. It was just 5 of us in the class, plus the trainer, and I felt so accomplished for the rest of the day.

I never thought I'd like this as much as I am so far. I have shied away from regular exercise my whole life. I never felt like my dance classes or soccer in middle school was a real work-out, I never felt like I got better at those. I think the problems were: not enough individualized attention from the instructor, not enough self-confidence, not enough praise or even critique/instruction in some cases (mostly soccer). I am still not very self-confident, but I feel like I get thorough instruction from the trainers at this box and I always feel comfortable asking for clarification. This is not the kind of box that will push you until you injure yourself, which is what scared me about CrossFit in the first place. I've read horror stories about people working so hard that they puke, and then keep going. Rob told me the first time that I met him that CrossFit Watch City is not that kind of place. Going to CrossFit makes me feel like I can learn to do anything. Fearing being bad at something is the biggest obstacle I've had in sticking with some form of exercise.

Will my enthusiasm falter? Maybe. I've promised myself a month of this, at least. I want to stay active over the winter. I would love to stick with this beyond the winter, as the idea of being fast and strong has been appealing to me for a long time. I think this might be a really great community with which to work towards those goals.

If you want to learn more about CrossFit, please check out the official CrossFit website.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Getting tattooed at a convention

As a treat for myself, for all my hard work being me basically, I went to the Boston Tattoo Convention last Saturday. I had hoped to meet an online friend there, but it didn't work out so I was flying solo.

I knew ahead of time that I was going to get a tattoo from Elize. She's done two other pieces for me and I like knowing there's an artist I can always go back to for quality work. She's also very easy to talk to and I need that kind of comfort from such a big commitment! A week before the convention, she uploaded a few pictures of sketches she had drawn just for the convention. It was mostly flowers and a tulip in particular caught my eye. I decided that my initial attraction to the drawing was enough: I was going to get that tulip. In purple, of course (my favorite color).

When I arrived at the convention, I bought my ticket with cash and headed in. I was immediately overwhelmed by the noise and people. I suffer from sensory overload in busy environments, even just out shopping, so it was a bit difficult for me to think. I decided to just walk around. I felt so nervous and didn't like feeling so clueless. The convention was occupying several conjoined meeting rooms in the Boston Back Bay Sheraton hotel, lined with many booths of tattooists, piercers, and tattoo/piercing supply companies, not to mention clothing and jewelry as well. I found a stage and stopped to watch a side show performance. Someone was in a box, contorting themself around knives and swords being inserted into it. Stopping there gave me a moment to recuperate and realize that I had to "fake it till I made it," pretending like I knew what I was doing.

Of course, just down an aisle from the stage, I found Elize's tattoo shop booth. I spoke to Elize about the tattoo I wanted and she started prepping her equipment. I scanned her other available convention flash (tattoo "flash" is a pre-drawn piece of art that you pick out to have done with minimal modification, rather than a custom drawing) and the other artists' books while I was waiting. A nice person gave me their map, which I hadn't seen when I'd entered the convention after getting my ticket. Brilliance Tattoo had a box of Dum Dums (small lollipops) on the table so I grabbed one to suck on while I was getting tattooed. This ended up being a nice though short-lived distraction.

I laid out on a folding massage table while Elize tattooed the side of my calf. To pass the time, I ate the lollipop, played a Bubble Shooter game on my smartphone, listened to the sideshow/burlesque performances on the stage behind me, and watched people walk by. I got the sense that people-watching and ogling was totally acceptable and expected at the convention. There were a lot of scantily clad women there, perhaps just to show off their tattoos, but maybe also for some of the beauty/tattoo contests going on. The time passed pretty quickly like that. This was my second tattoo where I had the outline and color completed in one session (about one hour) and I definitely prefer that to outline and color separately. By the time she got around to doing the color, my skin was working hard to dull the pain so it hardly hurt anymore. She took a picture (though I'll visit her at the shop once it's healed so she can get a better one), wrapped it up in plastic wrap (for temporary protection, until I could get home and wash it), I paid, and that was it!

Terribly and not color-accurate smartphone picture. The tulip is a light purple, but my skin is still very red from the process!
Getting tattooed first thing really calmed my nerves. Having something fairly intense to focus on gave my brain a chance to process everything around me. I think some of that tendency to get overwhelmed comes from the Executive Functioning Disorder, or maybe Generalized Anxiety Disorder (or both). When I left Elize's booth, I used the map to navigate towards an artist's booth whose work I have been wanting to check out. I flipped through her book of finished tattoo pictures and grabbed a business card and sticker. I hope to get in touch with her by January about a piece I have in mind. Just across from Holly's booth was Precision Body Arts, who are based in Nashua. The piercing apprentice knows my sister and her fiancé, so I said hi and asked some questions about jewelry and piercings to the main piercer there, Ryan. They were both very nice and obviously well-educated in their work. I'm not a fan of the fancy Anatometal jewelry that seems very popular these days, with all the extra stones and gems, so I didn't get any new jewelry for my existing piercings. I will definitely visit that shop in person sometime though.

I had to wait a while at Precision's booth, so once I was done there, I felt ready to head out. My leg was pretty sore from the tattoo anyway and my phone was about to die from playing a game on it for so long. I bought a poster on my way out and headed home.

Overall, 10/10, would do again. I would love to get tattooed at next year's convention (or another convention). Next time, I might scan the booths more to see if there's a different artist I'd want to get something from, if something Elize has doesn't strike my fancy immediately. It was awesome having so much distracting me during the tattooing and I think I would recommend it for anyone who already has at least one tattoo. Dare I say it was even fun?

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Adventures at a car dealership

After some belated car maintenance, we came to the decision that it was time to get a new car. Hulky's 2009 Honda Civic (EX? not sure) coupe was still driving pretty well at just over 90k miles, but it was time for a change.

Autotrader.com was my search site. Our needs were pretty specific: 2011-2013, Honda, Civic, sedan, under 50k miles, with a manual transmission. I got 5 results in our area. Several were eliminated immediately due to price. We started to follow-up on some and managed to arrange an after-work appointment at Honda Village. We met with Dave there to see a black 2011 Honda Civic sedan, with around 30k miles, manual transmission, and a nice price. The first things we learned upon arrival: they valet park your car (we didn't know and parked in the Walgreens' parking lot next door) and they offer you coffee, water, hot cocoa, and/or popcorn when you get inside. I enjoyed the special treatment :).

First things first, we went to the parking lot out back to check out the car. Immediately, we noticed car-length scratch marks on both sides of the car. As we inspected further, we found From this, we deduced: the last owner must have been bad at parking and someone else had some bad anger management issues. Dave immediately texted the used car manager to make sure the scratches would be fixed. It turns out that the car was scheduled to go to the body shop the next day anyway, so nothing to worry about there. We inspected for anything else that we'd want touched up and I found a tiny rust spot by a door handle (best to fix those before they grow) and it looks like the last owner wasn't a good driver either, based on some scrapes on the corners of the bumper. After that, it was time for the test drive!

Anyone that drives with me learns quickly that I am nervous driving with people I don't know. Probably because I tell them immediately. I drove pretty well, though I did stall the car twice. On the second time, Dave said he could tell I was experienced because I didn't panic when I stalled, I just turned the car off and then started it again to continue going. I got to drive on some 35 mph roads and then we hopped on the Mass Pike quickly so I got up to about 65 mph. The car felt great and the road noise is so much less than in the '05 Civic. When we got off the Pike, Hulky drove us the rest of the way back to the dealership.

Back inside, we gave information on our car, which we were interested in trading in. The service folks checked it out fairly quickly and Dave came back to us with an estimated value and what they'd give us. We told them how much we hoped to get, plus our down-payment, indicating that if we got that, we'd buy the car. Dave brought the offer back to the manager, who wrote a counter-offer without even looking. Maybe we could've negotiated something more, but it was within our previously discussed range of a good offer for the old Civic, so we went for it. Queue more paperwork for finances!

There's a lot of waiting when you buy a car. I didn't realize we'd have to entertain ourselves for a while. Anytime there was paperwork, we'd fill it out, talk to the salesperson or finance guy, and then wait a bit. There were several new car models in the showroom so we climbed around in those whenever we had to wait. They have some really cool features! All of the new cars have push buttons to start, which is weirdly exciting. The automatics have an economy mode button, so the car will regulate things like heat and how the car shifts gears in order to improve gas consumption. It's basically a way to get the gas mileage you'd have if you drove smartly in a manual transmission car. No lie, if we could have gotten a car with that option, I think we'd get an automatic and use the economy mode a lot. Hulky and I made a pact that the next time we travel, if we get a rental car, we'd get a tricked out mini-van if it's not too expensive to upgrade. They have so many cool features! Not that we'd need all the folding seats and everything, but they're so comfy! Everyone working at the dealership got a kick out of our enthusiasm. Dave said a mini-van is like, "driving around in your living room."

We met with a finance person after that. He showed us some extra options we could use for the car (we passed on all of them), told us what he expected our loan rate would be (better than any pre-approvals I'd been getting online beforehand), and had me sign and initial in a million places. Since the car is certified pre-owned, that means we get comprehensive coverage for a year from purchase date (I think). That covers anything that's not disposable basically, so if something in the car malfunctions and it wasn't on us, they fix it on their dime. Yay! I am sure we won't have any issues.



Timeline:

  • Wednesday - saw the car, liked the car, signed paperwork and gave them the down-payment
  • Thursday - waited excitedly while car was in body shop, was told via phone that we need to bring in proof of income (copy of a recent pay stub) when we pick up the car, no news yet on when we get to pick it up, Hulky gets our insurance squared away with USAA (sets a date to start coverage on new car and end coverage on old car)
  • Friday - Do we get to pick it up yet????
  • Fast forward to the next Wednesday - car is finally clean, scratches buffed out, ready to go, but oh wait, a light is on where it shouldn't be. We don't get the inspection sticker yet, but the car comes home!
It's been a bit of a learning curve for me since the clutch pedal is so springy, but the car is fun to drive and I look forward to many years with it.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Unit #3

To say I have mixed feelings about moving into my parents' house with my husband and two cats would be an understatement.

Mostly cleaned up and almost ready for moving in.
At first, I didn't feel any shame about it, but now I kind of do. It's not my age that's a factor (twenty-six years old), it's that I'm married and have my own family unit now. When I moved out three years ago to our first apartment together, my parents' house was feeling too cramped for me. I felt too grown up to be in my old bedroom anymore, as much-loved and beautifully purple as it was. I never completely unpacked after college and more than a year after I graduated, I finally shoved some boxes into the attic crawl space and took the rest of my junk with me.

Last year, I moved us all on my own. That's not true though, I had a lot of help from both of my families. Even with three weeks to orchestrate the whole thing and move some things over bit by bit (just one block away made it SO much easier), it was incredibly stressful. It took me a few months to unpack and put away everything just because I couldn't stand to deal with boxes anymore.

Now, I don't have to do it alone, but it's so daunting. There's some relief in knowing the space that we're moving into so well. I was there when my dad finished the attic and made it a livable space out of storage land. I remember the skylights being put in. I remember having sleepovers up there before the carpet was put down. I remember the stairs when they were less deep and more creaky. I don't have a hard time envisioning our things in that room, but I do have a hard time seeing us living there.

How will the cats manage? Fae doesn't move around much, she could probably stay in the attic 24/7 and that might be best for her (not sure her arthritic hind-quarters can handle stairs now). Pumpkin, on the other hand, does laps around our apartment a few times a day. She's still pretty skittish, even after four months with us. Maybe she always will be. What happens if she gets outside? What if she doesn't get along with my parents' cat, Gallifrey, or the easy-going ancient-looking dog, Sasha? I know a lot of this worry is me latching onto something I can try to control, but this is a stupid choice. The cats will manage, they have to. We're moving either way.

It is weird to think that most of our kitchen will be packed in boxes and put in a still to be determined storage unit. My favorite chair might be in there too, staying safely away from wet basements. There's not enough room for it where we're going.

It was not until we'd come home after doing some cleaning & tidying in my parents' attic that I realized how much I'll miss this apartment. I am ready to move, but my heart is not ready yet for a new home to take its place.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What happened to Nameless?

I'm thinking of retiring my alias.

Nameless Wonder, and variations thereof, has been my primary internet alias for probably about eight years now.

I am an active internet persona. I don't know how else to describe it. I sign up on a lot of websites and post in a lot of places. It's easiest for me to use the same username over and over so I don't have to remember them. Not the most secure method, I suppose, but these are not major sites. To lose those accounts would not mean much to me personally.

But, like a lot of people, I post some fairly personal information, if not particularly identifying. Imagine my surprise when I got an email this morning from someone who had followed some links, Googled an old username of mine, and found a reference on a current journal that I maintain on another website. I submitted a request to have the cached result removed from Google, since I've edited the entry to remove the referenced name & URL that probably lead this person to me. They seemed pretty harmless, just verbose. It was still kind of freaky. At first I thought they were someone I interacted with online ten years ago, who in a way became a bit of an internet stalker, but no, just another person who identified with my teenage-self.

I wonder what kind of steps popular bloggers take to protect their identity. It was off-putting enough just having someone find another snippet of me on the internet, from a username that I retired so long ago. I can't imagine what it would be like to receive mail to my home or have my relatives contacted because of something I wrote online.

Though there was that time I received some brochures about Texas not long after talking about how it might be nice to live there (before they passed some absurd anti-abortion laws).

I'm not nameless anymore. I share my first name, at the very least, with internet friends pretty regularly now. Since getting married last year, I feel more secure in my name than ever. My last name was never part of the issue of me feeling like I didn't have a concrete identity, but changing it helped me realize how I am becoming who I want to be. It was an act of reclamation in some ways.

I have no idea what will happen to this blog. I barely post nowadays anyway. I am finally more interested in my own life than sharing with others what's going on with it. I seek validation from others, but it's not going to help me attain my goals unless this became some kind of source of income. That's unlikely, I'm fairly boring and not good at networking.

Anyway, all I know right now is I'm going to start being more careful about the information I put online. I also need to come up with some easy to remember throw-away usernames for the odd sites I sign up on. The LastPass application will probably help with that, so I don't even have to remember my password!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Silkscreen stenciling, the lazy way

For our one-year wedding anniversary, I decided to decorate a t-shirt for my husband with the logo of our most recent favorite band, Twenty One Pilots.

My source image
I did some Googling on silkscreen printing and found a process that I felt would work for me. Since this was my first time, it's kind of messy, but my husband and I are both very happy with the results.

(Sorry in advance about the poor lighting in the photos)

What you need

  • Silkscreen paint (Speedball is the brand I bought)
  • Foam brush or a sponge would probably work too
  • Freezer paper or preferred stenciling paper
  • Pen or pencil for stencil tracing
  • Sharp implement like an Exacto knife (or the blade from a multi-tool if you're me)
  • Source image, printed out at the size you want it on the t-shirt
  • (Optional) Ruler for any straight lines in your stencil
  • T-shirt, clean & dry
  • Piece of cardboard to put in the t-shirt
  • Masking tape
  • Iron

After you've gathered all that, you realize that you stuck at tutorials and you've already done half of the t-shirt design!


So scroll ahead to see how to do all of this. If you have separated colors like my image does, you can make a couple of stencils and apply in separate sessions. Just remember that any paint you are going to apply another stencil over has to be completely dried. I waited a full day before continuing. In this method (and this particular image), you could probably do all of the colors at once, but I didn't want to have to worry about painting in the wrong spots.


So, trace your image onto your freezer paper and then cut it out. Toss the cut out parts.


Voila. The knife on this multi-tool was pretty sharp, but really an Exacto knife is the only way to go.


Here, the inner part of my stencil has been lined up as close as I could manage onto the t-shirt and then ironed on. That's why I use freezer paper for fabric stencils: the shiny side can be temporarily adhered by ironing. It peels off really easily. This means it's not reusable, but that works for me. For the red & blue parts, I actually measured the image & the t-shirt to try and center it as much as possible.


Here, I attempted to line up the outer stencil as best as I could with the pre-painted parts & measurements I put down with pencil and then ironed it down. Getting circles placed is really obnoxious. Time to paint!


This paint is pretty thick. I tried to apply only with dabs to reduce the risk of bleeding underneath the stencil edges, but it wasn't perfect. I think the application probably takes some practice.


After applying the paint, I removed the stencil right away so the paint doesn't dry the stencil onto the shirt. I didn't know if that would happen, but wasn't taking any chances! I realized at this point that I needed a way to remove the inner stencil without smudging anything. I took a sewing pin to lift up an edge and then used a gloved hand to pull off the inner stencil.


Nearly done! With silkscreen paint, it has to be heat set. I let this dry for 24 hours and then ironed over it, using a sheet of brown paper to protect the t-shirt & paint. I also flipped it inside out to iron the inside so it could be set as possible.

The last step is DON'T WASH THE SHIRT FOR 5-7 DAYS. I guess there are ways to set the paint in other silkscreen methods that don't require all this waiting, but really this is great for a lazy crafter like me. I'll probably make the same shirt for myself! I haven't washed this one yet (t-minus 3-5 more days), so hopefully I won't be updating this post next week crying about how the image washed off.

Also pictured, the tungsten ring I bought him for our anniversary.
Have fun!

(This post includes an affiliate link. To get to Amazon normally, click here.)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Godzilla - a scattered review

Massive spoiler alert for anything below this text because there's really no other way to review this thing.

Characters: Most, if not all, of the characters in this film were really one-dimensional. Pretty much all of the characters are defined by their professions. The main soldier guy is just a good-guy soldier. The admiral is just a trying-to-do-right-by-my-country-and-citizens admiral. The wife/nurse/doctor woman is all of those things, but she has no quirks. The relationship depicted between her and soldier-guy was so empty. I wanted to see him do something really in-joke between them, something that made them real, if they were going to exploit people's emotions by introducing some kind of romantic thing into the movie. I was annoyed that it was yet another Hollywood standard issue movie that they like to give the contrast of the hero & his support at home. And then it's all set up for a happy reunion at the end! It was under-played and pretty useless. More effort on the impact of the MUTO presence on the military structure would have been more interesting than the romance angle.

My favorite character was probably the scientist guy (the Japanese one, not the American, I don't know any of their names) because of how horrified he was about the whole business. It seemed like nobody really took him seriously, which was stupid, but he also wasn't making the most compelling arguments. Mostly, I enjoyed when everybody in the theater giggled every time a character said "Godzilla".

Hulky pointed out, "How would an EOD Naval lieutenant know how to do a paradrop that is strictly a special forces thing?"

Plot: Throughout the movie, I kept making guesses about what would happen. I was wrong most of the time, by the way. Godzilla did not eat the bomb at the end and disappear into the depths, but he did disappear into the depths after taking a dirt nap in ruined San Francisco. Okay, so the movie had a lot of unintentionally hilarious moments filled with dramatic music. This would be a good movie to watch while intoxicated, I think. I also guessed

The movie could have focused on the problem of nuclear energy. Hell, it could have been some been some epic drawn-out thing that resulted in nations trying to rid their nuclear waste or bombs in order to avoid drawing the MUTOs to them. The whole "let's lure them with this bomb" thing was beyond idiotic. Yeah, really, Armed Forces? You could not think of anything else? I mean, I realize these things are massive, but c'mon. The whole secret organization thing was stupid too. They just kind of toss it in there, but the ramifications of that organization coming to light could have been a WHOLE huge part of the movie. Instead, they were just like, "Thanks for being here, we're going to ignore you now."

Really, what the movie needed, was less people and more monsters, or at least more focus on the monsters. We got plenty of shots of male- & female-Mothra moving around, but not many of Godzilla. What does it look like when he swims? Does he paddle his feet? What does he eat? There are so, so many problems with the monsters in these movies, it's hard to tackle them all.

I loved at the end when the news thing said, "King of Monsters: Savior of our city?" and everybody cheered as Godzilla got up from his nap and swam away. Yeah, I'd probably cheer if I was well away and it looked like he was leaving, but if it's only been one or two days? I'd probably still scream in terror first. More about how the media handles the whole thing would have been really interesting. The only snippet we get is that one line, really. Keeping the public perspective positive about the PTSD-causing experience would probably sell more than the truth: no idea if this monster will come back to eat our power plants, no idea if there are more monsters that might ruin our cities. Godzilla will save us!

Monster design: Most of the people who encountered Godzilla or Mothra (they don't name the two other "MUTOs" in the film, but that's what they are) in the film would have been deafened, or worse. The force of male-Mothra's cry would have blown people away. They show female-Mothra blasting these lanterns in Chinatown and it is definitely hurricane-force winds. I am also pretty sure that the force of these creatures walking around would have ruined a lot more than was depicted in the film. Godzilla's steps are not going to leave the streets uncracked. A lot more people would have been killed.

This isn't even beginning to cover how it's physically impossible for a creature of that size to exist on this planet. Scientists know that the one of the reasons why giant dragonflies and dinosaurs existed is that the oxygen content of the atmosphere was much richer back then. The largest creatures on our planet now are blue whales and elephants. Godzilla is a hell of a lot bigger than an elephant. How could a creature like that exist and presumably not change very much over millions of years (since that's how old they're saying his species is, not saying he's that old) and be able to breathe in and out of water, be able to swim down 2 miles AND walk around on land, and then they didn't even cover the biology of WTF is that breath attack?

#discussionsthathappenwhenyourpartnerisabiologymajor

Godzilla's roar was great. So many tones & parts of it. I love the after-rumble. That is what gave me anxiety, just watching the trailer! The movie didn't make me anxious at all, fortunately. Unfortunately, Godzilla's body design was not as impressive. He looked like a guy in a suit to me, especially with those arms. They were too big to be T-Rex-like, but too small to seem really useful. The stocky legs made sense for his upright posture, but I feel like he should have been more dino-saur like. I did like the whole stegosaurus tail-smash move, but there should have been more like that, things that made me seem completely foreign and ancient.

In conclusion: Pacific Rim did all of that stuff better, in my opinion. Plenty of giant robots and giant monsters. Even the people were more interesting. I still enjoyed Godzilla and would totally see another if they make a second (aw hell yeah, just found that while writing this up).

Totally unrelated, watch this video if you are a fan of Hugh Jackman and/or Les Miserables and/or X-Men/Wolverine.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Introducing: Snuggle Pumpkin

4 weeks ago, Hulky and I headed to the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, MA to pick up a little gray cat.

When we first met this little fluff-ball, she was shy and terrified of everything. The shelter people put her on Hulky's lap and as he scritched her neck, she started to stretch out and roll around. He fell in love and I saw potential, so with some back and forth, we got our landlord to approve another cat with the shelter, and we brought her home. She spent a lot of time hiding in the bedroom we designated for her.

Aggressively ignoring me.

Lucky us, this furball came with friends: fleas and tapeworms (we found out a few days after taking her home when the shelter called with stool test results). A trip to a local vet office (fortunately with a coupon for a free exam) got us a pill for the worms and Advantage for the fleas. She has the STINKIEST poop I have ever smelled from a cat. I've started adding the contents of a probiotic powder to her food, thinking maybe the medicine did something weird to her gut. It seems to be helping. Right now, she gets a mix of dry food and canned food, because she ate the dry food too quickly and was vomiting, and she needs to put on weight. She was 5 lbs 12 oz at the vet. Eventually, I'd like to get her on an all raw diet, like Fae.

To get Pumpkin to warm up to us, we started off just spending time in the same room as her. We didn't hold eye contact with her much, or try to approach her. Over time, she'd let us approach her when she was curled up in the cat cave or in her box with the faux-sheepskin. When she's cornered, she welcomes pets and scritches and will start to roll around. It's become easier to approach her when she's exposed, but she still sets her own boundaries. We make soft noises ("pss pss" and kissy noises) when we approach her and she seems to associate those noises with getting pet now, which is exactly what we had hoped would happen.

Rolling around during scritches

The first time we allowed Pumpkin out of her room into another part of the apartment (with Fae secluded to the back), we lost her. After a while, we brought Fae in, but she turned out to be a pretty useless bloodhound. I found Pumpkin hiding inside a closed door for the entertainment center below the television. With the door open, she dashed back to her room and hid. After another week, she was getting more friendly in her room, so we let her do more exploring and made sure all hiding spots were opened up so we could always find her. She's still nervous about interacting with us out in the open, but she's improving.

Fae and Pumpkin will hopefully tolerate each other over time. We've seen progress already. At first, Fae was hissing at the closed door to Pumpkin's room all the time. We've let them interact face to face a few times and they are now mostly sharing the apartment (as of the last two days). They hiss and Fae chases, but Pumpkin is lithe and just jumps up to a high point (like the top of a five-drawer dresser) and gets away. aFae is fairly old, at eleven-years-old, so it's not that surprising that she'd be somewhat unhappy about an interloper. She lived with another cat for eight years at my parents' house, so I had hoped she was be a little calmer.
Look, they're close to each other!
I think the most frustrating part of this whole acclimation experience with Snuggle Pumpkin (Hulky named her, okay?) is that the shelter did give us some information about her background (was on a farm to be bred for $$, so not much human interaction), but they didn't use the term "feral". The vet's office did. I think that there's a big stigma with the concept of feral cats and feral cats CAN become very loving and sweet companions. For that reason, I understand why the shelter didn't use the term, but I still kind of feel like they should have.

Our biggest concern at this point is how we're going to clip this cat's claws. She doesn't let us her her or stay still when we pet her. Her claws are like needles right now and the scratching post isn't cutting it!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

One year later - Boston Marathon Bombing



I am trying to limit my consumption of media today, but it's hard to tear myself away. It's the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. One year ago today, a little before 3 PM, I saw some odd notes online from friends and started searching the news. The tweets came in fastest. Not 5 minutes after the bombings occurred, the story started: some kinds of explosions had occurred by the finish line at the Boston Marathon. A couple of people texted me about it, but there wasn't much information yet. Maybe 15 minutes later, a co-worker started walking around telling everyone there had been bombs in Boston! I was angry. No one knew yet if they were bombs or not. There was a very brief period of time when people thought it might have been gas line explosions, but now I think back on that a laugh a little. That's the kind of explanation that authorities use to cover up some other kind of explosion, at least in the movies. I think my anger was apparent when I told him, "We don't know yet." I'm sad that I was wrong, but glad that I said something. It would have been stupid to freak everyone in the office out. I'm not sure anyone got much work done for the last few hours of the day anyway.

On Wednesday of that week last year, I left work early. I realized that I had not spoken to anyone much about the bombings and was feeling a lot of strong emotions. My fiancé, now husband, and I went out for lunch in Harvard Square. He had avoided going to class the day before, not wanting to be on the crowded subway just yet, and I was more than okay with that. To go on the train with him was okay, at least we were together if something happened. I saw the armed forces that were in all of the subway stations, searching bags and occasionally patting people down. Seeing guns in my subway was more than a little unsettling. It's something that other parts of the world deal with everyday, something that may seem commonplace to them. To me, it felt like someone had ripped away my security blanket and torched it. I didn't want them to have to be there. I limited how much I was reading of the news that week. There was only so much tragedy I could expose myself to.

Thursday night, we met up with friends at the Cheesecake Factory in Boston for a birthday celebration. I don't think we talked about the Marathon much, but it was certainly on all of our minds. We saw police cars racing out of Boston, sirens and lights blaring, late into our dinner. Later that night, some of them discovered that the manhunt had begun. I found out in the morning, when my supervisor called to tell me that the office was closed. Waltham was within the large circle of the shutdown. I worked from home, watching my Facebook news feed for responses. Some of my friends were only blocks from where the chase had occurred. No cars were allowed out on main streets in my town, thought it only neighbored the shutdown towns. In the afternoon, I followed the posts of a friend listening to a police blotter as they narrowed in on the one surviving suspect, getting a nearly instant play-by-play of the capture. I don't think I felt relieved until some weeks after the arrest.

This morning, I flipped to a radio station that was interviewing people and focusing on memorials. I felt immobilized as I listened to the raw emotion in the voices. As the DJ mentioned their upcoming interview with a bombing survivor from the Marathon, a voice in the background at their station said that the interviewee was on the line now. It was an odd reminder that those are real people, (nearly) live-streaming their thoughts and reflections. It's still amazing to me that something that did not affect me directly has still had such a profound impact on my sense of safety. I feel unsafe in public, but I also feel resigned. There's nothing I can do about terrorists and wannabe-terrorists if they choose to take action around me. I can only try not to waste every day.

Boston Strong. I hope for a safe and joyous event on Monday.

I wrote previously of my thoughts on the bombings here and here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

London Honeymoon: Last Day

Our last day in London (March 14) was pretty uneventful. We headed to Hyde Park and walked down towards Buckingham Palace. We would have caught the tail end of the changing of the guards, but the crowd was pretty massive so we left.



We headed over to the Natural History museum in Kensington, which we'd passed on our way out of the city for the day trip. Apparently, the building was made to be a natural history museum, but it looks a bit like a retired cathedral. Each window (and there were many) had a little sculpture of some kind of animal below or above it. I was too tired to take pictures. The museum inside was nice, pretty friendly in terms of educational access, but some information was outdated (some depictions of the posture of dinosaurs, no mention of feathered dinosaurs at all). The layout was less confusing than other buildings we'd been to so far (cough cough the science museum), but you were mostly forced to follow paths instead of being able to wander freely in larger rooms. I was disappointed to note that a lot of the fossils and skeletons were reproductions and not the real deal, including the stuffed Dodo bird. It was a very kid-friendly place, I think.

This might have been the day that we went back to Harrods to buy treats, but I can't remember now. I got two macarons, which I've been wanting to try for a while. They were DELICIOUS. The cookie part is made with almond flour so it has a natural sweetness to it. The outside of the cookie is a little crispy, the inside is very soft. The filling between the "cookies" is made from ganache and I don't even need to explain how delicious ganache is. I mean, it's basically fudge. I got to eat the second one at the airport when we flew out. I need to find more now that we're home, they're so good.

Later in the day, probably after more reading & resting, we finally went on our trip on the London Eye. It's a massive ferris wheel right on the Thames and just a few minutes walk from our hotel in the County Hall area. We splurged for "fast track" tickets so we didn't have to wait in line to board. Definitely worth the extra cost.

We timed it a little early for sunset, unfortunately. The smog and low sunlight made for pretty terrible views! It was still fun. They had some cool interactive screens in each capsule so you could identify landmarks, but it was hard to make much out.



After, Hulky grabbed an ice cream from a vendor on the street. A friend had told us to try the street vendor ice cream cones w/ the chocolate sticks in them. It had a very rich creamy flavor and I wish we'd tried it sooner because we would have had one every day! Maybe it's best we didn't.


That night, we went to an Italian restaurant in the County Hall area. I had beef cheeks, which made me giggle when I ordered it, but it's actually the facial cheek muscles. It. was. so. tender. The tiramisu was great as well, no too rum-y and not too bland. Overall, we saw a lot more French places than Italian, especially when it came to pastries. Hulky was disappointed, but I guess we're spoiled by the Italian-laden North End of Boston. I enjoyed more than a few croissants on the trip, but could tell they weren't made with real butter. The flavor just isn't right without butter.

And so concludes our trip. On Saturday the 15th, we took the Underground back to Heathrow. We returned our Oyster cards at the end of the trip and got our deposits for the cards back, as well as some of the cash we'd put on them. The 7-day passes for zone 1 and 2 were definitely worth it, even if they were pretty pricey, since we used the Underground every day we were there, sometimes several times in one day. We checked my bag on the way home so we wouldn't have to lug it around and were able to get our seats moved together for both flights before boarding. We had lunch at the airport (had some delicious elder flower soda) and had uneventful flights home. Customs at home took an hour to get through and the desks were woefully understaffed, but at last, we were home, and the cat was happy to see us.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

London Honeymoon: Day 6

Thursday was our bus trip to Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Bath.

We got picked up at our hotel by Evan Evans Tours before 8 AM. I think the earlier pick-up time helped me finally adjust to the timezone. Of course, we leave tomorrow (this entry being written Friday), so a fat lot of good that did me. After some confusion & waiting at the bus terminal in Victoria Cross station, we got on the bus and were off to Stonehenge.

The countryside was beautifully misty, exactly the kind of weather I'd expected to have in London, but most days were blessed with mid-50s to low-60s (fahrenheit) temps. Except for evenings, we were pretty comfortable with a sweater or sweatshirt, and I carried a scarf with me most days.

Stonehenge was neat and I'm glad to be able to say I've been there, but it was a waste of money. We didn't buy tickets to enter beforehand, having been lead to believe by others who have visited in previous years that you can see everything well enough from behind some roped area. They've changed the layout since others have gone, so we paid quite a bit to walk around the stones. We needn't have bothered, as no one checked for our tickets the entire time we were there. We were a bit pissed about that, but the mile walk back from the stones to the visitor center did us both some good. The ride to the stones was slow and boring in a small vehicle pulling enclosed carts.



Hulky enjoyed some trespassing.


Next up was Salisbury, but by the time we got there, I had a raging sinus headache that could probably be classified as a migraine. I kept my head covered on the bus during the approach and eyes lowered as we walked around to find a pharmacy. With a little lunch and Ibuprofen in me (interestingly, Ibuprofen is a controlled substance here and someone had to unlock a case for us to get some), I felt better and was able to look around a little before we headed back to the bus. We didn't buy tickets for the cathedral or even go near it while we were there. The city was interesting enough on its own. We both agreed it seemed like the kind of place you might like to retire to.

Shops from the bus, so I could take at least one picture there.

Passing by more beautiful countryside and a lot of sheep (and lambs! so cute), we headed to the city of Bath. With me feeling better and a bit more time to spend in that city, we wandered the streets. Hulky bought some cookies at a place called Ben's Cookies & I had a hot chocolate. The dark chocolate chunk cookie I got was not very good, Hulky makes better at home, but he says the other cookies are very good (he also thought mine wasn't good). I got a shotglass for my grandmother, who lives near Bath, Maine, and has an extensive shotglass collection from friends & family who travel or have gone to college. I thought she might like something from her city's namesake.




The ride back to London was three hours, as we got stuck in traffic. I had expected heading into London would not be as bad in the evening, as it seemed heading out was very easy in the morning, but it was pretty awful. When we got back to the hotel, we asked concierge where to get some good Indian food. We were recommended to a place close by, but it was closed for business. Just down the street was another, that was very busy, and our service was awful. I enjoyed the food though. We shuffled "home" to read & sleep after a quick stop to a small food market or convenience-type store. I got hazelnut milk, which has been delicious in my teas at the hotel (electric kettles are AMAZING, the water boils so quickly), and Hulky got banana milk which tasted remarkably like banana milk.

Some cultural observations

There are a lot more smokers here than I'm used to. I remember that from my 10-day trip to Italy in senior year of high school. There are lots of little cans on posts & containers on the edges of buildings for people to put their cigarette butts and gum, but there's still plenty of that sort of litter on the ground. Speaking of which, there are so few public trash cans in London, but we saw lots of people hired to pick up waste. It seemed very backwards to us. We usually held on to trash for a while before we were able to get rid of it, or we'd ask someone in a shop if they could dispose of things for us. Maybe that's standard?

Some pubs & restaurants, you walk in and seat yourselves. You go up to the bar to order food or drink. Others, they seat you. There's no clear indication when you walk in either way, but I look for one of those little podiums where they check available seating and if there isn't one, we go sit down. Usually, we're right, but it's still odd. We're very used to everywhere being "wait to be seated", and if it isn't, there's a clear sign near the entry indicating that we should seat ourselves.

There seems to be no consistency for whether people walk on the right or left side of the sidewalk. That was maddening.

This is a hard one to explain, but I noticed that the masculine type folks are more effeminate than those in the United States. Let's generalize and refer to those people as "men". Women seem very into fashion here, maybe it's just because we've been focusing our journeys around central London. Men are as well, with skinny jeans/pants/leggings being in style for any gendered person, and boots with any outfit (a style of which I thoroughly approve). We saw very few people dressed as casually as we would find at home, like jeans & t-shirts. Even those seemed kind of "designer". I liked a lot of the more masculine & feminine styles though, like dark tights with short skirts & boots, and skinny jeans (men's cut, which are not as ankle-strangling as women's) rolled at the cuff with suede shoes/boots.

Friday, April 04, 2014

London Honeymoon: Day 5

Written March 14, about the events of March 12, 2014.

Ahhh, this is the problem with writing my entries a couple of days later: I struggle to remember any kind of detail. Fortunately, this is why I take tons of pictures! This day was fairly uneventful, but I think we did a lot more walking than I'm remembering.

After another nice, late, sleeping-in, we headed out to buy sweatshirts! My favorite black zip-up hoodie has developed too many holes for me to feel comfortable wearing it anywhere except at home. I am probably going to throw it out before we leave London. Hulky was in need of a lighter sweatshirt anyway, and something lighter than his pea-coat to wear here. We went to a Primark, which is some British chain department store, I think. I loved a lot of the styles I saw there, but Hulky is not one for browsing/shopping. We found our sweatshirts, got a souvenir t-shirt for my brother, and left. Overall, the prices were good, maybe comparable or better than a Target back at home. I'm not a fan of the contrast zipper on my sweatshirt, but it's very soft, fits well enough, and does its job.

After a pitstop at the hotel (more reading & putting our feet up for a bit), we headed over to the Tower of London. It was a nice easy day, we didn't press ourselves to walk too much or go anywhere that we didn't want to. As it should be on a vacation/honeymoon!

So smoggy!




The crown jewels are probably the most sparkly things I will ever see in my life. It was beautiful, but I always think of how silly it is to place such value on a kind of stone.

Dragon sculpture inside the Tower

Hulky can probably attest that I thought the ravens, which are the traditional guardians of the Tower, were the coolest thing within the grounds. I didn't get a good picture, but they are so much bigger than I ever realized! The Tower fulfilled Hulky's desire to see weaponry and armor. It was a very cool collection.

After the Tower, we did some wandering to kill time before our evening at Medieval Banquet London. It was fun, the food was good, and the entertainers were entertaining, but we were really tired and vanished after dessert, before the show was over. We took our first and only cab ride in London and Hulky was very entertained by sitting in the backwards' facing seat.

Medieval Banquet

Riding in the backwards seat in the cab.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

London Honeymoon: Day 4

Written March 12, 2014, in London.

Yesterday was the double-decker tour day. We bought our tickets through Viator and went on the Original London Sightseeing Tour. We were still pretty tired, so we only did part of one bus route, after getting English Breakfast at a place called Garfunkel's in Trafalgar Square. I skipped the toast, but the rest of the meal was pretty good. Not sure I understand the infatuation with roasted tomatoes at breakfast. And what's with the waffle thing? Seems like it's a popular dessert, whereas we fatty Americans like it for breakfast, and I've seen carts on the street dedicated to only waffle treats. We even passed by some little cafe with a waffle theme today.

The tour was fun. Had we more energy, I definitely would have wanted to go on another bus route. It took us past places in London that we probably otherwise would not have visited or seen. I didn't get pictures of a lot of what we passed, like the most well-kept 17th or 18th century storefront in London (cigars, maybe?), just down the street from a famous hatters. We drove past many sculptures, as close to Buckingham palace as double-deckers are allowed to go (not allowed to pass right in front for some reason), and saw many fancy hotels. It was interesting to hear about the redevelopment of a lot of those areas over the centuries.

Trafalgar Square

I'm so disappointed that I didn't get a picture of the giant blue rooster statue in Trafalgar Square. What was that about?!

We hopped off the bus close to our hotel, by Westminster Abbey, and read in our hotel room for a bit. Later, we headed back out and got lost in Westminster. We eventually found our way over to Harrod's and did a quick walkthrough of the second floor. The first floor, especially the food areas, was much more entertaining for us. We found the ice cream parlour and split something called a Bacio, which had Nutella ice cream in it, among other things. It was amazing.

Parliament is so cool up close.
Areas like this reminded me of Boston
Harrods Ice Cream Parlor

After, we headed back to the hotel to use the laptop. It's been interesting doing all our exploring without smartphones. I like travelling this way. It works well since we need rest periods for our feet & legs anyway. If we need directions, we write them down before we head out, or Hulky memorizes the map area & train stops. There are also a lot of area maps in London, right outside of every Underground station. Back at home base, we looked up pizza places in the area. Why not try London pizza? We went to a place called Pizza Express, which was nicer than the name lead us to believe. The American pizza, with tiny pepperonis and a thin crust, was very good. Still hungry, we both got dessert. Hulky had some Banoffee (banana & toffee) pie w/ ice cream & I had some ice cream sundae with toffee. The toffee was soft, like caramel, whereas I had been expecting something more like a Heath bar.

Another late night of reading, restless sleep (at least for me), and a late start this morning. Tonight is our medieval banquet dinner theater!

More photos here

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

London Honeymoon: Day 3

My jet-lagged brain is struggling back through memories of yesterday to see where we began. Neither of us have been sleeping well. The four hour (day light savings happened, right?) difference is too small to make the adjustment easy!

The nice thing about vacation is that you get to start whenever you want! Yesterday, I tried a hot breakfast at the hotel. It was good, and I even had a croissant. First one in ages and it was worth it. We spent some time researching and then headed off for haircuts & a wet shave for Hulky. Yes, with a straight razor! We went to a place called Groovy in Chinatown. Chinatown seems to be the same in every city, though I'm not sure why anyone would expect differently. I got my hair cut, we had lunch at a pub nearby, Hulky tried something called a Skittle Bomb, which was , and then we went back for Hulky's hair and face. I have some pictures, but I'm too lazy to upload them right now.

After that, we were both feeling pretty sore & tired from all the walking we've been doing. Back at the hotel, we read for a few hours and then went out to dinner. Hulky's mom's co-worker is from London and recommended a place called Duke of Clarence. Great ambience, not overly expensive, very friendly & helpful in understanding how pubs work here. The food was excellent. I was only good for one beer, Hulky only for two. My tolerance is pretty low post-college (hah, it's been almost 4 years since graduating so I would kind of hope so) and Hulky's is definitely affected by having been sick lately. We did some drunken wandering to another train station after that and headed back to the hotel to read more. I felt tired for a while, but not enough to sleep. Alcohol does that to me, unfortunately.

Cultural adjustments

Seeing everyone drive on the left is a trip. We're mostly used to it by now, but at turns, I still look the wrong way for on-coming cars. I'm sure that would take a while to really ingrain. I'm glad we're not driving! We haven't taken a taxi anywhere yet. My stomach still turns sometimes when I see a car on the left side of the road.

There are people from all over Europe here. I've heard plenty of French, a little Russian, and all kinds of accents speaking English. It feels a little like being in a movie. Both of us are having some brain-lag when we hear people though. I think I'm mostly adjusted to the British accents we've been encountering, but other European accents are still confusing me. It takes me more than a few moments to sort out what people are saying. They're probably used to that from tourists though.

London IS a lot like Boston. The crazy subway arrangement. The buildings, especially the townhouses. The random streets and LACK OF STREET SIGNS. I think people who live near Boston and like Boston would have a lot of fun here. I don't go into the city that often at home, but it's home so it is familiar & dear to my heart anyway. It is cool to see so much "old" stuff though. American history is so relatively new and we don't have a lot that has lasted the ages. Even just buildings that started off in the mid-1800s are so much older than a lot of what you'll find in the States. And there are so, so many of them!

Today is our double-decker tour day. Seems like another late start :). I'm ready for breakfast!

Monday, March 10, 2014

London Honeymoon: Days 1 & 2

Saturday, Day 1

From Heathrow, we realized we hadn't done a lot of research on how to get around. It's not that we thought we'd have our smartphones with us, it's just that we didn't think about how much we rely on them to get around on the fly! We found the Underground without too much trouble and spoke to someone at a booth about what Oyster card (like the Charlie Cards for the MBTA) to get. Two 7-day passes for zones 1 & 2 were bought and we got directions for what lines to use for our hotel. We had some fun giggling at the station name of Cockfosters, which was announced repeatedly as the end-of-line station.

Navigating the "tube" stations hasn't been very difficult. Either they're not that hard to navigate with all the signs, or we're just very used to the arrangement since it seems a lot like the train system back home. The major difference is that you have to tap your card out at each station so you get charged appropriately. Due to our 7-day passes, I don't think we have to worry about those charges. We also get refunded for the £5 deposit on each card when we go back to the station at the end of our trip.

The Eye of London, right by our hotel.
By the time we got to our hotel, it was somewhere around or after check-in time at 2 PM local. The hotel is not very far from Waterloo station in the Bakerloo line. The front desk let us know that they gave us a free room upgrade to a studio suite, which has a nice little sitting area. No complaints from us! It's nice to have a bit of extra space and not just a little bedroom. Sadly, our view is entirely of the hotel next door, which has a bright blue light topping it at night. Our curtains are very efficient at blocking light, however I couldn't get them all the way closed for the first few hours of sleep.

Where I wrote this blog post.
After we settled in and figured out how to activate the lights (insert room card in a slot by the door), we did a few things in an order I can no longer remember: read for a bit, struggled to find somewhere to eat using yelp.co.uk, and went down the street to look for some kind of deli. We hadn't visited an ATM yet, so there were a few places close by that we couldn't go to. We both got fish & chips at a little hole in the wall. It seemed very delicious, but we were also very hungry by that point. We went back to the hotel in a food coma, read some more, and then slept. We fell asleep sometime around or after 7 PM and stayed in bed till 11 AM on Sunday, though we woke up several times in the night.

Sunday, Day 2

After a late start, we did some more searching online for where to go today. Markets seem pretty popular, but we weren't in the mood for that kind of wandering. We decided to pick a destination and then wander in that area. Harrod's was it, so we noted down the directions and headed off. We found a much closer entrance into the crazy Waterloo station this time, by the national rail. It cut our trek from the hotel to station by about half. On the train, I noted that the subway trains are a bit narrower here than in Boston, much cleaner, much comfier, and it's a much smoother ride. They're not kidding about "minding the gap" at some of the stations: there as as much as a one foot gap between the train and platform edge in some stations, plus sometimes a bit of a step down (as you exit).

One of many pastry cases at Harrod's.
Harrod's is huge and expensive. You can find several room of the same kinds of things (like purses and jewelry). The food areas were neat, it's basically just a huge store of many different rooms. It's not all open like department stores tend to be in the USA. The booze collection on the lowest floor (one floor below street level) was pretty neat. We found some bottles of scotch that were £30k!

We headed back out into the lovely weather (a high of 17ºC, we wished we had brought shorts) and down the road into Victoria & Albert's Museum. To be honest, the British history stuff was a bit boring to us, being mostly religious artifacts (British Google wants me to spell this as "artefacts") & bits of architecture. The Chinese & Japanese collections were more interesting. There was no weaponry in that museum. We grabbed lunch at a place called "Eat." which was pretty good. Hulky had a hot meat pie, with beef & bacon I think, and a side of very tasty mashed potatoes. I grabbed a sandwich (gasp! I know, not gluten-free like I usually do) and a very refreshing berry juice. I wouldn't mind eating there again. It reminded me of a Panera in terms of relative price & options, but possibly better quality food. After that, we went to the Science Museum, which had a very good ground floor collection with Industrial era items, but the layout was atrocious. The map didn't make anything clear. We couldn't find stairs to use between floors as it seemed like every staircase we encountered ended with fire exit doors. They were not well signed.

It was around mid-afternoon by then, so we headed back to the hotel to rest our feet and legs. Hulky had a bath and fell asleep afterwards. I am messing with photos and preparing to rouse him so we can find food. We're thinking of catching a movie tonight, as I don't think we have enough energy to hunt down a club. I had a mocha at the Science Museum, which I hope won't interfere too much with a reasonable bedtime. We're planning on calling the front desk to wake us around 7 AM so we can get started earlier tomorrow.

Later: We went and saw the new 300 movie, which was fun. It was bloody & violent just like the last one, but this sex scene was pretty bad in our opinion. Maybe we're just not into fight-sex?

More photos can be found in my London Honeymoon set on Flickr.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

London Honeymoon: Travel Day

I can't promise that I'll do recaps of our travels for every day on our trip, but there's been so much going on in the past 24 hrs alone that I felt it was worth recording. Plus, I didn't bring my personal handwritten journal, typing is so much faster/easier, and I always like to share!

Travel day

We spent Friday in a mad rush. I had a last minute doctor's appointment, we did laundry, printed out our itinerary (and troubleshot the obnoxious printer at my parents' house), and we squeezed in a nice lunch at a local burger joint (Retro Burger). We also saved our packing for that day, but that took less than 30 minutes once the laundry was done. Fortunately, we only do one or two loads per week, and Friday was only one. By the time we got back to our apartment, we had some time to watch some Mythbusters on Netflix, do a walk-through of the apartment, cuddle with Fae, and then it was time to go! Hulky's mom drove us to the airport.

No wait at the IcelandAir check-in desk!
We were so early that IcelandAir's check-in desk was not even open yet. It took more than a few minutes to get through the line to security, not helped by a group of confused looking students who didn't understand how to leave a gap so other people could pass through to the TSA agents. They always like a laugh, so we made some jokes as we passed through. We spent a couple of hours drinking at restaurant Our server was very sweet, not wanting to give Hulky a drink he wouldn't like, no matter how much we insisted on giving him a drink of the bartender's choice. The iced coffee drink was very good, a nice amount of bitterness to go with the sweet. Getting drunk at an airport when you're excited for a flight, with someone you really like, is a lot of fun.

Sadly, somewhere in the past five or so months since we booked our plane tickets, our seats got screwed up and we both ended up with window seats in different aisles. Fortunately, the flight attendants were very helpful in getting us seated together on both the flight to Reykjavik and from there to London. I slept very little on either flight, but Hulky dozed for an hour or two. Let us tell you now: a waking hangover, when you don't get to sleep any of it off or not enough anyway, is pretty unpleasant. Our excitement is all that pulled us through, I'm sure!

The Reykjavik airport looks like an IKEA. We both went into the bathrooms and came out with expressions like, "That is fucking AWESOME." I took a picture of my "stall". It was seriously about the size of a small bedroom (maybe in a Boston apartment).

Bathroom "stall" at Reykjavik airport.
The cafe in the wing of the Reykjavik airport that we were waiting in had booze everywhere, as though they were soft drinks. It was very surprising. I failed to get a picture of all the nips by the checkout. I had some very good Icelandic Greek-style (I'm sure they don't call it that, but I couldn't read the label so I can't be sure) yogurt there, as well as airport sushi. I didn't die, so you know, it wasn't that bad. The rice never tastes right when sushi isn't freshly made, it has an odd texture. Anyway, the next flight, we had a nice chat with the guy in the aisle seat, who was from western Canada and on his way to a booze cruise in Ireland & Scotland. Badass.



All of our flights were on time and we got to London around 11:30 AM on Saturday (local time). Next post, a bit about Saturday, cultural observations, and what we've done so far today!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Eat, sleep, story time, repeat.

The longer I look at and hear the word "story", the weirder it sounds.

Last week in therapy, my therapist reminded me that sometimes people will repeat the same stories over and over in their lives for an actual reason. This was something I used to warn my friends about, that I might tell them the same stories several times over the course of our friendship. There's the story of my lip getting bit by my cousins' dog when I was five years old, which garnered me five stitches and the scar I sport today. There's the background information of my grandparents' dogs, especially Blacky & Princess, the black labs, but also Dolly, the giant mutt. There are specific memories, there are general histories, and there are concepts that I share with the same people time and time again. I've come to realize that these are tales that I consider to be essential to my identity.

There are also stories & conversations that I have over and over because I forget. A lot of my background stories are repeated because I just don't remember telling them before. The conversations that I repeat, however, are still a mystery to me. They are still things I am puzzling through. I might tell you over and over because I do not feel like I am being heard. It might also/actually be because I do not understand the issue myself and I am hoping that the millionth time will result in a fresh perspective. Most of the time, it's fair to say that the listener should not take offense to my repetition, it is probably nothing to do with them all to do with my own perceptions. I'll work it through eventually.

I remember deciding to be in recovery from self-injury. It took the same conversations in my head and in my journals, over and over, for years, before I could really accept that I was doing it. I had to figure out what kind of thoughts were acceptable to me. Is it okay for the topic to flit through my mind, but not actually consider doing anything "bad"? Within the past two years or maybe less, I decided that I was recovered. It was one of those miraculous moments that just came to me without any effort. I thought of it, I knew it was true, and I felt relieved. This is not to say that I don't still struggle with negative thoughts about myself or my situations from time to time! For whatever reason, my brain was ready to accept that certain coping mechanisms are just not an option anymore, and no longer fight about it.

Sometimes, I worry about writing the same stories over and over on my blog. There are a couple of reasons why this is silly: 1. This is my blog and I can do whatever I want with it. 2. It's okay to be sorting things out, even for years, and I know that writing and re-writing helps.