Indecisive Ramblings

2010/09/28

Belief-o-matic two years later

Filed under: Uncategorized — indecisiveramblings @ 11:53 am

I posted my results a couple years ago. I’m sure my answers just fluctuate over time, largely because no particular answer suits my exact thoughts on the matter. Still, I find it fun. This attempt was sparked because of a search after reading an article about the knowledge of Americans about various world religions. I found it not at all surprising, though slightly amusing, that the atheists scored the highest. I’d wager anyone who fits in an atypical category or who has changed their beliefs from what they grew up with would probably do better on the quiz. Really, I wish I could answer the full quiz myself and see how I’d do. I got 10/10 on their sample quiz, but I suspect the 32 question version would be more difficult. For example, I would have missed a question asking about Maimonides.

Anyway, here are my ranked religions today based on the belief-o-matic:
1. Neo-Pagan (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (98%)
3. New Age (90%)
4. Liberal Quakers (84%)
5. Secular Humanism (76%)
6. Reform Judaism (71%)
7. Mahayana Buddhism (70%)
8. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (66%)
9. Theravada Buddhism (65%)
10. Baha’i Faith (60%)
11. New Thought (54%)
12. Scientology (54%)
13. Sikhism (54%)
14. Nontheist (52%)
15. Taoism (51%)
16. Jainism (49%)
17. Hinduism (43%)
18. Orthodox Judaism (43%)
19. Orthodox Quaker (40%)
20. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (39%)
21. Islam (37%)
22. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (21%)
23. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (21%)
24. Seventh Day Adventist (13%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (12%)
26. Roman Catholic (12%)
27. Jehovah’s Witness (4%)

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2010/06/30

New geocaching stats

Filed under: geocaching — indecisiveramblings @ 8:17 pm

I have been “forced” to find a new stats option for keeping track of random things about my geocaching finds. The old site has called it quits, so I just went searching for another one. I know there are other options out there, but for the moment, I just wanted another one that was plug and go with no need to install anything.
Since you’d have to be a (free) member to view it on my profile, I thought I’d throw it up here for non-members who are stats-curious to take a look. Note: I realize this looks bad on the page as it doesn’t match the layout. I’ll look to see if there’s an easy fix after I post it. This is the lazy way out. 🙂 (Edit: fixed to different layout.)

So, without further ado, behold, Stats!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

Profile created using MyGeocachingProfile.com

2010/01/16

LASIK

Filed under: Uncategorized — indecisiveramblings @ 1:35 pm

After years of intending to get LASIK, I finally managed to align everything to fall into place. My prescription was in the realm of -6 diopters, which is the point that is considered “high myopia”. Without glasses on, in order to read a computer screen, I had to be within 5 inches. The only real reason I didn’t do it sooner is that I never managed to align an evaluation, cost estimate, and the timing to turn in my flexible spending account amount in time. Finally last November, I thought about it in time to go get evaluated at Clearly Lasik, which does the most Lasik procedures in the area. Unfortunately, the day I was there for my free evaluation, one of the two potential surgeons was getting arrested for putting a hit out on the other. (This didn’t happen on-site, but the actual arrest took place at about the same time as my evaluation.) I thought about taking that as a sign. I finally managed to get the cost estimates in time only to have something that crazy happen… Still, I had enough time to look elsewhere, and the only personal recommendation I had was for Bellevue Lasik. They definitely had a different style than Clearly Lasik and were more expensive as well. I wasn’t particularly concerned about the expense though. I mean, we’re talking about my permanent eyesight here, not the place to skimp and try to get a bargain.

So, with the place worked out and the estimates set aside, I had my surgery scheduled for 1:20 PM on 1/14/2010. Pre-op was scheduled 1/8/2010 and post-op was set for 8 AM on 1/15/2010. At the pre-op, it was determined I have a mild case of blepharitis, which is a dry eye condition. It often goes hand in hand with rosacea, which I also have. This meant I had a week of treatment for that before the procedure to try to alleviate issues for that before the lasik induced dry-eye issues began. So, I had a week of taking eight capsules total per day of fish oil and flaxseed oil (which I would have started day of procedure anyway), evening warm compresses for 10 minutes, lid scrubs twice a day, and an ophthalmic gel (Azasite) each evening at bedtime.

I was getting increasingly nervous as the surgery day approached. I intentionally avoided knowing the specifics of things like how they’d keep my eyes open. Somehow when I was far too young I managed to see this scene from A Clockwork Orange and it has scarred me for life. I have huge issues with the concept of sharp things near eyes and really anyone other than me doing anything close to my eyes. As a result, I didn’t really ask about what I’d see, feel, and be aware of for the procedure until about 10 minutes before it started. Also, filling out the consent forms were no comforting matter either. You have to copy sentences about knowing it is an entirely elective procedure and that some unlikely complications could mean irreparable harm… Lovely.

Anyway, the day of surgery arrived. I tried to push back my fears, knowing that the fears were pretty much unfounded. My friend Jeannie drove me in, using my car because I suspected the smoke residue would not be a good match for my post-op eyes. I went in shortly after arriving. They went over the post-op care, provided me with some medications beyond what I had already picked up, and included a couple nifty bags. Next the other doctor came in, gave me some Ativan to put under my tongue and wash down shortly thereafter and put a number of drops in my eyes. A little after that, the surgeon came in and explained step by step exactly what would happen, what I would see, and what I would feel. It was conceptually still creepy to me.

I think one of the things I was most surprised about is that I had to go through two ORs. I had assumed it would all be in one place. In the first OR, they made the flap, in the second, they did the correction. The first step took about 30 seconds per eye. There was some kind of ring they used to keep my lids open, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. My eyeballs were also completely numb so I felt nothing. I guess they had some kind of vacuum thing come down over my eye, so there was a little pressure feeling. Everything went dark. I really just felt like both eyes were closed. (One was closed as they did them one at a time.) When they had me sit up to go to the next OR, I guess I looked a little pale. I was a little light headed too, I guess. (Might have been related to the Ativan and breathing exercises they had me do.) They had me lie back down for another minute and put a cold pack on my forehead for about 10 seconds. I was fine. I got up and they guided me to the next room. I was just as nearsighted as always at this point, but there was an added fog factor because the cornea now had a layer of bubbles underneath it, which had been created by that first laser. I sat on the next bed, leaned back again. The lid rings returned one at a time again. I was supposed to keep my eyes on a green flashing light at this point. The surgeon apparently lifted up the flap and that pinpoint green light turned into a giant green blob. Still, I kept my eye on it. Thankfully current technology doesn’t require that you stay perfectly still. The computers track your eye movement and correct along with your movement. If you move too far, it simply stops. Then I was aware of it getting clear again as he replaced the flap and then did something to smooth it down. Couldn’t feel a thing. That part with the laser took about 20 seconds per eye.

I sat up and though I still had some serious “fog” in my view, I could already tell I could see better than I had before. It was by no means perfect, but it was better. They had me walk over to some equipment right outside the door so the surgeon could then get a close-up view of my eyes. He said everything was good. They had me carefully put on the sunglasses they provided and walked me out to see Jeannie. They were a little over protective because of my earlier lightheadedness. She guided me back to the car. I was to keep my eyes closed the whole way home which was rather disconcerting.

I got home, ate some dinner and looked around. My near vision wasn’t so hot (making it a little tricky to re-read my instructions), but I could see at a distance pretty clearly other than it basically appearing like looking through a slightly foggy window (exactly as the surgeon had described). I put the drops in as ordered and went down for my required two hour nap while wearing eye shields. I woke up to blurriness, but it turns out that was mostly from those eye shields. I put in three more types of drops over the next half hour. At that point, my vision was miraculously better. Over the next hour or so the fog had dissipated and I could see so clearly. I very much felt like I was just wearing my contacts. There were still a few side effects in the vision, but now two days later, I couldn’t tell you what they were.

By the next morning it was even better. It was more than I’d hoped for. I could see as clearly as I could with my recent fantastic contacts. (Those contacts were the best I’ve seen in my 21 year history with contacts. Everything was so crisp. When I first got them, I couldn’t stop looking at how beautiful the world is.) I had some halos around lights which is perfectly normal for the first few days. (It can also be permanent, but that’s much less likely than it used to be with the current technology.) I went to the way-too-early post-op appointment (Thanks Holly!) and was asked to read the lowest line I could with each eye. My right eye went straight to 20/15. Left to 20/20. It was such a miraculous feeling realizing I was doing that with no corrective lenses. The surgeon looked at the eyes again and said my only “issue” was a little dryness at the bottom of my eyes, but that that is common. Next appointment in a month.

At this point I’ve got to put approximately 51,450,523 more drops in my eye during my post-op time frame. (That might be a slight exaggeration.) I despise eye drops, but it’s so worth it.

Overall, I’d describe the procedure as just seeming awkward, not scary. I wouldn’t want to see what it looks like from the outside and then have it done, I don’t think. I don’t actually know what it looks like, just what I experienced. There really wasn’t much to it. I suspect even my descriptions have an ooky factor, but just from my perspective, just not that bad. It was so ridiculously fast. Even the things that were weird were over before I could really think about it. I’d have to recommend it for anyone considering it.

2009/06/25

Staying in Edinburgh

Filed under: europe, travel — indecisiveramblings @ 12:45 pm

Yeah, really far behind now, but want to chronical.

Edinburgh was fantastic. It is another city, like Plymouth, that far exceeded my expectations. The setting with the castle high above with the craig and tail, volcano landscape was amazing. I’m a castle junkie, and that was awesome to see.

I got in, checked into my not so great hotel room across the street from the rail station. It was very old, but not in a good way. I’m sure the bedspreads were very nice 40 years ago, and the carpets 60.

But, hotel rooms aren’t what I’m visiting, so out I went to the city. I went east toward Carolton hill. There are many monuments and such, and, of course, a geocache. It is called “Athens of the North” for good reason. Easy cache find. Also the only one I got in Scotland.

The next day I got up bright and early to catch a train to Stirling and a bus from there to Doune. I really wanted to make it to Doune castle where they did most of the Monty Python and the Holy Grail filming. I walked through the charming little town toward the castle. As I arrived at the entrance, I went to pull out some cash and found only change. All my notes were gone. Stupid shallow pockets. I estimate I dropped £30-50 on the bus. Guess I made someone’s day. It wasn’t mine though. Luckily they took cards for the small admission fee. The woman working there was very friendly and sympathetic. We actually spoke quite a bit. She asked if I wanted a free audio guide. Of course! It was well worth it, even if it wasn’t free. 😉

I started it up and heard Terry Jones’s voice. Yay! It started something like “In 1974, some friends and I made a very silly movie here… 600 years previously…” it was a fantastic mix of real castle history and some Python mixed in. Mostly that was optional. “If you want to know why this room seems familiar to Python fans, press play now.”

It was fun because they included some retrospectives as well as playing film audio in relevant places. Nothing like hearing the Camelot song in the room they danced, or hearing how the prince just wants… to Sing! while looking out the window of “Swamp Castle”. Or the castle Anthrax scenes. 😉 that building was a lot of places!

I have to point out that visiting all these media inspired places, I am genuinely interested in the places apart from that. Those things are just the impetus for going there in the first place. And there’s also nothing like having Terry Jones describe toilet logistics of 600 years ago.

A brief failed attempt at finding another geocache was still worthwhile. Neat rural area north of the main part of Doune. I’m pretty sure that marks the furthest north I’ve ever been. On land at least.

2009/06/20

Staying in Bristol

Filed under: europe, travel — indecisiveramblings @ 6:59 am

Well I’m actually on my way back from the Isle of Avalon right now, but more on that later.

I arrived in Bristol still relatively early in the day. I found my way in what I later discovered was the long way to the hotel. The City Inn Bristol. I highly recommend! It’s really close to the Temple Meads train station, so very convenient from that perspective. The woman checking me in was actually from vancouver, BC, so that was mildly amusing. It was funny when she told me where I could find the lifts and then “corrected” herself to say, “elevators.” Now, all the hotels I booked were roughly the same price. I tried to find the cheapest non-scary hotel, located close to rail transport that had wifi. Kind of amazing what that means in Bristol. The room is about four times the size of the tiny London hotel. It’s very clean. The have free iMacs in the room to use for free, connected to the Internet, skype set up, Mini bar, bathrobes, free DVDs to check out from reception, free real breakfast, etc.

Anyway I was there about 20 minutes max before I was on my way back to the rail station, the shorter pedestrian route through Temple Quay (pronounced “key” I’ve learned in recent years). I then took the train to Gloucester. (pronounced “Glaw’ster”) Next stop on the Harry Potter tour I seem to be on. They filmed some scenes in the cloisters there.

On the walk there, I noticed among the signs for various attractions around town was a sign for the Beatrix Potter attraction. I managed to walk right past it on the way to the cathedral without noticing. I think I even took a picture. Beatrix Potter was a very big part of my childhood. My godmother every year would give me a new book and the corresponding stuffed animal. Jemima Puddleduck and Tom Kitten were my favorites. I still have them, I believe. So, I had to go there!

I was unaware that one of her books was “The Tailor of Gloucester”. The illustration was actually of this shop. When the proprietors heard my American accent, they asked if I was with some kind of tour. I didn’t understand what she said. I told her I was travelling all by myself and wasn’t even staying in town. She was shocked and fascinated that I could do such a thing! So, apparently it’s not just Americans who are stuck in tiny bubbles. Still she enjoyed hearing all about the general game plan of my trip. I bought the book that inspired the shop/museum.

Then, back to Bristol! After three train trips that day, and staying in a real hotel for a change, and going on day 6 of travel, I decided to stay in for the evening and figure out how to do my laundry. 🙂

Got in one geocache too.

After about six hours sleep, I went downstairs, grabbed a quick breakfast, and rushed off to catch the first bus of the day to Glastonbury. (376@0800) There were two reasons to go early: one, the annual pilgrimage to the abbey was to start at noon and two, I’m still trying to leave open the possibility of stonehenge tonight for the solstice.

I arrived in town around 9:10. The bus drop off is right in town just outside of Glastonbury Abbey. I went straight in. They made sure I knew about the pilgrimage and said it shouldn’t interfere with my sightseeing too much. It made photography tricky. I rushed around through the ruins to get as much done as I could through the bound-to-be-crowded later spots. I then took my time and was able to actually spend well over two hours there. It was filling with pilgrims before I left.

From there, through a complicated series of events, I took a back way to climb up Glastonbury Tor. It involved crossing private lands. It was allowed though as they’d all provided right of way. Still felt weird though. There were a lot of cows and sheep along the way. The gates were designed to only allow non ranch animals through, such as humans. It was a fairly steep but short walk to the top. As I approached the very top of the Tor and St Michael’s tower, I burst out laughing. The top was full of cows! Watch your step!

I stayed there for awhile then made my way down a different path heading more towards town. Somehow I never passed by the direction of the geocache up there. There must have been a third path, but I was not aware of it.

I got to the bottom just outside the Chalice Well and Gardens. The well is supposedly where Joseph of Arimathea washed the Holy Grail when he was dropping it off up there. There were many areas withing the place which were geared for “quiet reflection”. It was a very lovely place. One spot in the middle is the lions head fountain. This is the designated place where people come from all around to drink from the waters. The sell empty bottles so you can fill up and have a couple glasses standing by as well. I didn’t intend to drink, but I figured, hey, I’m here, it’s a thing. I had a small sip. It was not tasty.

Not too far from there was the rural life museum. There was a geocache hidden outside. I found it. It was the first cache of the trip so far that I’d seen with any travel items. In this case, it had one travel bug (TB) from Germany with a goal of getting to Stonehenge then back home.

OK, OK, I get the point. Apparently I now *had* to go to Stonehenge for the solstice that night. I was about 90% until that point. I took it with me. Went very quickly through the museum while I was there then headed for the bus stop. I had about 45 minutes until the next bus so I got my second bacon and cheese pasty. It’s becoming a habit now. Also looked around all the new age shops that have flocked to Glastonbury over the years.

Waiting to catch the bus I was chatting with a woman originally from the Caribbean. We had an interesting time discussing language differences. We found out between the three countries we have three different words for eggplant/aubergine/something egg. And she was confused when she asked for a pear and got a fruit when she wanted what we call an avocado. It was sparked by me explaining I tell people here I’m a scientist, while back home, I tell them I’m a chemist. If I said that here, they’d think I was a pharmacist. I’ve yet to figure out a good way to convey not-a-pharmacist-chemist.

Back in Bristol for only an hour before taking the train to Salisbury. It was full and standing. I hadn’t known that was allowed. Got to Salisbury around 6:30 which is when they began the bus service towards Stonehenge. £9 for a return ticket. (return = round trip). I asked as I bought the ticket from the driver if I’d be able to come back tonight. “Sure, if you get bored that quickly.” Relieved, I made my way to sit down with knowledge that the last train was to leave for Bristol at 10.

It took over a half hour to get to the drop off, then a mile to walk (or run/walk in my case). I was so unbelievably excited to get up amongst the stones. Bag check upon entering. Huge police presence. Not too overcrowded yet as they’d just opened up recently.

I walked up and cautiously touched the closest stone.

I took a picture of the TB resting on one of the horizontal stones then asked for someone to take my picture standing in the middle of some stones, with and without the TB.

I wandered around, photographed like crazy. Tried some special effects shot. In retrospect, I fear I took a *lot* of highly overexposed pictures by accident because I forget to change settings back. I’m afraid to look! I finished up my first 12GB memory card during the Stonehenge trip.

Before I left, I made the rounds and carefully touched each upright stone as well as some that weren’t upright. I know I had an enormous grin on my face.

I made my way back to the bus drop off point and waited for the next coach. After everyone exited, I stepped on, “return to the rail station?”

“Sorry there’s no return services on these buses tonight. You’ll have to walk in to town.” I think my jaw dropped wide open. I mentioned that the previous driver there said I could. The guy directing traffic talked him into it though. “She’s got a nice smile.” OK… So he let me on. I rode back upstairs to the station. Not sure why they wouldn’t allow it, seeing as they’re going there anyway on their loop.

Arrived at the station, went in, saw the next bus leaving was for Bristol Temple Meads. It was one minute from departure. Ran out to the far platform, boarded 5 seconds before it left. Nice.

Eek. I’m falling way behind. I’ve actually finished my three night stay in Edinburgh and am back in London but I haven’t even finished the stay in Bristol yet!

The next day I was essentially out of my planned activities for staying in Bristol. This is mostly because I worked efficiently to finish the stuff I really wanted to do in case I wound up at Stonehenge all night and needed a day to recover. Since I got back to the hotel before midnight, this wasn’t much of a problem. I let myself sleep in, investigated a few things and decided that I didn’t include Wales in the trip and I should rectify that. After all, Bristol is practically right by the border. Without too much time for research, I decided on Cardiff. It is the capital, a large city, and a very short trip over from Bristol. I loaded a few geocaches and off I went.

I walked out of Cardiff central a ways and initially wasn’t very impressed. It took awhile to find the more user friendly parts. Once I did it was quite nice. Still not as fond of it compared to other cities on the trip.

I found a couple geocaches, ate some lunch outside. It turns out Cardiff Castle was having their annual “Joust!” event. This made it a less exciting day to visit and it was much more expensive. I decided to at least go in at the time of the main event to see some of the jousting.

Somehow having this medieval stuff going on around it made the castle seem fake somehow. I guess they have done a lot of renovation on it too, so it doesn’t have the “old” feel of the other castles around here.

I do love seeing the dragons everywhere. I wanted to try to find one last geocache which was going to also be an excuse to see a big park in town. I started out along the castle and began taking pictures of all the various animals along the wall. At this point a local, Kevin, decided to chat me up. He was a tad annoying. Just a tad though. My usual response to “where are you from?” is to say, “Seattle.” This is usually enough. They can usually already tell I’m American if they’ve heard me speak, so that’s not what they’re looking for. Kevin didn’t seem to get it, so I said America. “You’ve come all this way just to take pictures of these animal statues?” Um, yeah. That’s all I came for… Anyway, eventually Seattle rang a bell and he said “Ah, Nirvana!” heh. I got bored with all the photos, but felt obligated to continue. He left when I entered the park thankfully.

The park was nice. I crossed the bouncy bridge, found the spot where the geocache was hidden, and decided I didn’t need to find it that much. There were about 100 different metal fence posts I would have had to run my fingers behind. Plus spiders.

With that I walked back to the rail station through a possibly questionable neighborhood and returned to Bristol.

(in reality I’m now leaving Brussels for Amsterdam, so the lag time gets worse…)

The following morning I headed for the station and the longest train trip of the trip, to Edinburgh. About 6 hours. I had planned to hop off the train in Derby and then York, but the crowdedness of the train and fear of getting a seat on the next train dissuaded me. Also Derby seemed to be in a full industrial area, so not particularly engaging.

2009/06/18

Staying in Plymouth

Filed under: europe, genealogy, travel — indecisiveramblings @ 6:44 am

OK. I admit I was wrong about Plymouth. I thought it was a mistake to stay here at all. That I’d only want to pop in and see the Mayflower Steps and be done. It is absolutely amazing here. I write this as I’m dining outside on a cliff overlooking the sea. Fish and chips and Pinot Grigio.

The whole center of town is a long stretch which is pedestrian only. There are shops on either side and the middle is a large section of parkland. There are gardens, benches, streams, rockeries, monuments, etc. As you head south toward the water you get to the hoe, which is a very large grassy/forest area. There’s a light house and more monuments. This goes all the way to the cliffs looking out over the water. It is a brilliant view from all along here. Simply far surpassed my expectations.

The mayflower steps are not all that remarkable. I expected ad much, so I wasn’t particularly disappointed. What was strange is that as I approached, the place was packed with teenagers. There were a few taking turns climbing up to the roof of the monument and jumping off into the water. This despite the copious no swimming/ no diving signs. Not all that odd for teenage behavior, but then I overheard grey haired adults who were clearly in charge of them asking if anyone else wanted to jump off. I didn’t recognize the language the group predominantly spoke. I think I frightened them off with my picture taking. I don’t feel bad about that.

I turned around and saw a tourist info building. It was called the Plymouth Mayflower. They had £2 admission to a museum upstairs. I was barely there in time. Last admission 3:30, I was there at 3:15. I took copious pics in lieu of spending copious time. They were, as usual, perpetuating some inacurate info. Nothing major though that I could see.

After all this I went back to the hotel to drop off my excess belongings to go geocache in, no kidding, Central Park. I found three all told, plus one on the way there. It was a nice park to wander in. I’ve noticed most people have a very cavalier attitude about their dog handling. Most keep them off lead. I saw one guy with 5 all wandering freely. I often see dogs without being able to pick out which is their owner because they are running everywhere. And I’ve yet to see a single person pick up after their dog, despite stations for that. That part is not cool.

I spent so much time in all this that nearly all food options were closed. Even the tavern I checked out stopped serving food at 8. I was in the wrong part of town for trying to eat late, I was informed. Never the less, I was directed to a place called the Steak and Omelette around the corner. Got some spaghetti. It was comfort food and tasted good.

Used the rather interesting shower this morning at the B&B. Then had a quick B and headed to the train station. On to stay in Bristol for three nights now. I don’t anticipate doing much actually in Bristol, but we’ll see.

2009/06/15

Staying in London

Filed under: europe, travel, Uncategorized — indecisiveramblings @ 3:15 am

Day one in London is more or less an extension of the day before. I basically missed a night. Got to Heathrow, brushed my teeth, put in my contacts, went through Passport Control, found Heathrow Express, which unexpectedly validated my flex rail pass for day one. Got to Paddington station. Took tube to Earl’s Court and found hotel from memory. Checked in early. Super tiny room, tinier toilet, ground floor. Decided since it’s already a rail day to go to Oxford. On the train right now.

Me on the train toward Oxford

OK. I’ve now been in oxford about 2.5 hrs. I ended up giving in to the lazy and sleep deprivation by way of buying a hop on hop off tour ticket. Pretty sure I was the only one under 50. But, it meant I saw more than I would have otherwise and with more background info. I hopped off and was about to go down to Christ Church college on my own to try to pick out Harry Potter filming locations when I saw a sign for guided walking tours of places from HP, Morse, and Lewis. There was quite a wait as I’d just missed the last one. Hopefully I’m not making a mistake in doing it. Also had an allergy fit and then it started raining a bit after being crazy sunny and warm. Now I’m glad I dressed for cool weather. Oh, and I found my first geocache in the country here as well.

I think I can now safely declare that the weather in Oxford is bipolar.

The tour almost didn’t happen. The guy needs five participants minimum. He was a rotten salesman. We eventually had enough and headed out. (By the end of the tour we had 11.) Went to Jesus college, and several others I can’t remember  before heading to Christ Church college. That’s where the Harry Potter filming locations were. I realize I was an annoying tourist for that being my primary interest. I could tell the tour guide was masking his annoyance about showing people this fantastic college and having people just interested in the HP parts. To be clear, I greatly enjoyed the rest of it too, but I probably wouldn’t have been in the town at all if not for that.

Filming locations were the dining room/great hall. As we entered the building I saw a “no indoor photography” sign. My heart sank. There hadn’t been any such signs all day. I went up to the guide and quietly said, “really no photos?” He said to go ahead. It was really just a policy to avoid people using a flash. I’ve noticed far too many people don’t know how to turn theirs off. So, I took a bunch of pics. Some other visitors not in the tour saw me, looked shocked, and tried to silently tell me it wasn’t allowed. I stopped to appease them, but really because I had enough pics. Then the cloisters which are another filming site I recognized. He pointed out the tree under which Malfoy was turned into a ferret.

Christ Church college at Oxford - Great Hall Christ Church college at Oxford - cloisters

That done, I walked back to the train station a severe storm broke out. Lots of hail. Thunder, lightning. Rain started collecting in the overhead lights and pouring down. It was fascinating.

I was nodding off about twice a minute for the trip back to London. End result was I went to bed before 8pm. Not that I stayed asleep I woke up around midnight and it took hours to get back to sleep.

Day two. I couldn’t help it. I recreated day one of last trip and took the tube to Westminster station and took exit 3, literally right next to Big Ben’s tower. It’s so freaky. Since it was sunny, I went to do the London Eye first thing. (geocaching on the way) They were loading it up for the first time when I got on. It is pretty neat. It goes around once every half hour and there is ample opportunity for picture taking.
Big Ben/Parliament from London Eye
After that I was drawn in by the movieum folks. It was alright. The props were neat to see. They could have done a better job of indicating what was authentic and what was a reproduction.
Hermione's Time Turner Superman newspapers
Next up was Tate Britain. I first planned to do both Tates that day and take the Thames boat trip between them. I was quite art museumed out by the end though. Instead, I walked back up to Westminster, along the south bank, and caught the tube at Embankment. Went over to Hyde Park. Wandered toward Kensington Gardens. There was a fair amount of geocaching in all this. It was neat to finally see all this. I hadn’t gone there last time.

Serpentine Bridge

I went out for Indian food at Masala Zone. I normally don’t like to do sit down restaurants while solo travelling. It was ok though. Food was good, but nothing super spectacular.

Then night pictures around Big Ben, London Eye, and Westminster Abbey.
Big Ben, London Eye at night Big Ben's tower at night London Eye at night

Day three. Return to Westminster Abbey. It was so amazing last time. It just kills me to not be able to take any photos in there. It would be a zoo if it was allowed. I’m starting to think it’s my favorite London attraction. This time I took some notes so I could better remember everything. I took my time going through to make sure I saw everything. I think I was there for nearly three hours.

Next up, tube to Mansion House, cross millenium bridge, take pics of Globe Theatre (because I was there), and visiting Tate Modern. This Tate is generally more interesting. It’s a little out there in some respects.

Next, a return visit to The British Museum. Admittedly, I mostly just hit the highlights and my favorites. I didn’t even use a map this time. The Rosetta Stone was the first stop. Always a big crowd and tricky to get good pics. I waited my turn to move up and took both SLR and iPhone pics.
The British Museum The Rosetta stone The Portland Vase The Portland Vase Parthenon sculptures at the British Museum Parthenon sculptures at the British Museum
Quick diversion about doing the mobile uploads. I really like sharing what I’m doing on the trip in nearly real time. However, I know these weak iPhone pics are probably all most people will see of the trip. It makes it hard to decide if/what to upload, when I’d really rather people look at the good pictures if I had to choose only one.

After the British Museum, I hit a wifi spot and searched “longest escalator London” the result was Angel station. Apparently the longest escalator in Western Europe. So exciting! 😛 That involved a change at King’s Cross. I’d heard they’d relocated Platform 9 3/4 due to construction, but I wasn’t sure where. I headed toward where it used to be and recognized it surprisingly easily. I wandered around the area, not sure where to go. There was nothing obvious. Oh, except for the giant sign saying, “Looking for Platform 9 3/4?” on bright orange. Oh. Heh. More Americans hit the old area as I was heading to the new. I troubled them to take an iPhone pic for me when they got there as it seemed worth sharing. They seemed too lost for me to worry about handing over the phone to them.

Followed along to Angel to take exciting video footage of the longest escalator ride. Both ways.

Got on the tube headed the wrong way for the first time ever. Easily corrected at the next stop. It was the height of rush hour though. I packed in like a sardine and barely fit. I thought to myself, “It’s amazing how much I love the tube even when it’s crowded.” famous last words (thoughts). Even more people piled in back at Angel. I was squished to the middle, holding the very high ceiling bar. As we approached King’s Cross, we stopped before the station. If I were prone to panic attacks or claustrophobia, it would have absolutely kicked in. I felt I couldn’t breathe. I started to think I was going to pass out. I carefully kept my knees bent and tried to breathe slowly and carefully. It took way too long! Even if it hadn’t been my stop I would have bailed there. I was nervous to get on the Piccadilly line, but it was largely uncrowded.

Went to Piccadilly circus, which was a refreshing openness. Loitered there for a bit. Used wifi to send mini-updates.

Then back to the hotel and sleep! I was in bed by 8pm, which is noon back at home. I woke up at 11. Was up until 3am. I have no time zone now.

I’m now on the train to Plymouth as I’ve typed out most of this. Passed Exeter St Davids. Water! Cliffs! Neato.

2009/06/14

Leaving Seattle

Filed under: europe, travel, Uncategorized — indecisiveramblings @ 7:13 am

For the most part, I wrote these blogs on the road using the wordpress app on my iPhone. I’ve been back for three weeks now, so I should probably start doing something about uploading them… Apologies in advance that they get absurdly detailed on rather boring details. I was passing the time, alone, and wanting to document everything so I’d remember later. I’ll probably be editing to add in various details and hope to add photos to later entries. I’ll also roll them out over time a bit so as not to overwhelm anyone who will actually take the time to read these.

FYI, my flight left Seattle at 6:35AM, was set to arrive in NY at 3:00PM. The second leg departed from NY at 6:00PM to arrive at about 7:00AM in London.

On the flight to New York. Won the first round of trivia on the plane. Now watching Mythbusters on satellite about yawning contagion. Yeah, can’t stop yawning. The 3.5 hours sleep last night probably isn’t helping. Ideally I would stay awake for this flight then sleep on the flight to London arriving at 7AM. In reality, if sleep wants to happen, I should probably let it.

I just paid $6 for a movie on a tiny screen. Milk. Must pay attention.

Movie is still on, but I just wanted to point out I can see Chicago from here, over Lake Michigan right now.

There certainly are a lot of peanuts and peanut products on this plane. Seems so strange now.

Finished the movie just under the wire. Starting descent. Have to turn off phone momentarily.

This is so weird. I’m at JFK. I got an automated phone call telling me the flight is one hour delayed. The internet tells me it’s one hour delayed. Nothing at the airport indicates any kind of delay. Charging phone and the reserve charge thing.

That was a very enjoyable if not productive second flight. The plane departed late because it was going to be a shorter than planned flight. Apparently they can’t land at heathrow before a certain time. They left an hour late and arrived early. The plane was a 2-3-2 configuration. I had a window in the back. An 18 year old guy sat next to me. I assumed he’d be annoyed by anyone not in his age group and assumed I’d be left alone to try to sleep or to play with the games or watch the free on demand movies. He looked oddly familiar to me. I’m not sure how we started up the conversation, but we ended up chatting for hours. And not in the “will you please stop talking to me” way. You see, he’s a shockingly well travelled, educated, and knowledgable teenager. Turns out he’s been to over 60 countries and has grand plans for more. It took a lot of encouragement for him to believe I really wanted to hear his travel stories. It was neat to see someone else able to rattle off names of African nations while pointing to a blank map of the continent. Anyway, it was fun to hear the srories. He did enjoy the conversation too, BTW. He was so pleased by all of his travel so far that day including meeting rapper Ludacris at the airport in Miami and loaning him a dime. Heh. He still had another long flight to Helsinki to go.

But it meant little time for sleep. I played a couple movies/tv shows and curled up in uncomfortable to my neck positions. I wasn’t aware so much of the sleep, but apparently I got some. I woke up to find that they had served breakfast. My seat mate had grabbed one for me, thankfully. Large dinner, breakfast, free games, and movies. I love international flights.

So with still little sleep under my belt for the equivalent of two nights I finally arrived in London at about 7am.

2009/04/20

Crazy

Filed under: Uncategorized — indecisiveramblings @ 11:27 am

Turns out I can blog on my phone from the plane. Obviously I can’t post it, but I can write on the wordpress app while in airplane mode. Airplane mode rocks.

This is my seventh flight in the last month. The fifth that is of the five/six+ hour variety. You’d think I’d be burnt out by this, and you’d pretty much be right. I’m more worried about ending it though and going back to the mundane day to day routine. It’s hard to go back.

I’m good at travelling. Honestly I wouldn’t mind this so much if there wasn’t a kitty at home. Luckily I have bitterkat’s brood to thank for keeping him a very happy kitty. In fact I have reason to believe he likes their visits more than me being there. I don’t blame him. He probably gets more focused attention from them than me and he is an attention whore.

It’s kind of weird, but all this travelling just makes me want to travel more. During my most recent stint at home I found myself looking up prices. I’ll soon have enough miles to go to Europe during peak season for free. Well, assuming there are any openings. All I found during a brief search were first class seats through September. I don’t have that many miles…

It’s hard to make a decision on where to go next. One of my two longest running Europe interests are to wander around the island of Great Britain. Mostly around England and Scotland though. Train trips to get around. I’d like to visit some areas where my anscestors came from. (That’s almost entirely England. Scotland is for other reasons) The other is to wander around Italy. I’m also open to visiting other places. Really I’d be happy to wander the trains all over Europe. Those are just the longest running. New Zealand is another, but obviously it’s not in Europe. Newer goals in other regions are Southeast Asia and Tanzania. Those will certainly be more outside my comfort zone, so it’ll take some more psyching up from my end.

For now I’ll just stick to one of my favorite pastimes. Doing Internet research. Hotels, transportation, destinations…

My two past Europe trips were only six months apart. The travel bug hits, it stays. And it’s a big bug.

2009/03/04

What? Read on that tiny thing?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — indecisiveramblings @ 9:18 pm

It’s still new to me so I still enjoy reading on my iPhone. It will probably get old and start to bug me, but it’s not as bad as I expected. (Kind of like writing blog entries isn’t nearly as bad as expected.) I have been tempted by Amazon’s Kindle. Obviously the technology is far superior to a backlit screen. However, aside from economic concerns, I just don’t read enough to justify it. Having just made a rather questionable economic decision in my new phone, I have decided to exploit it as much as possible.

Stanza is a neat little app that I have been using to read free public domain books. Still with Kindle drool regularly, when I got word this morning of the Kindle for iPhone app, I rushed right out to download. I set it up tonight.

Overall right now, I think Stanza is better, at least for what I am looking for. There are so many classics I haven’t read. The catalogs are huge. Having direct access within the app is a big plus here. For the Kindle app you have to go to Amazon’s site in a separate browser to purchase. The syncing process is automatic and I can see the benefit if you also have a Kindle.

I “purchased” three books from Amazon so I could compare. One was Pride and Prejudice for direct comparison to Stanza. I do think I like the text layout a bit more in the Kindle app. There is some white space around the text which is nice. The entire book is scannable on the screen via scrollbar. That’s actually a little cumbersome when there are over 4000 pages. Stanza is scannable within the current chapter only.

Strangely the navigation on the Stanza app is more like Kindle navigation than the Kindle app. For either you can swipe like other iPhone apps, but Stanza allows tapping the left or right edge of the screen to navigate between pages.

Other features the Kindle app doesn’t have are ability to change the background and viewing in landscape mode. Both of these could easily be added in a later version. The lack of background change is a definite negative for me, so I hope they change that.

What the Kindle app does have going for it is an enormous library for purchase. Since I’m mostly in it for the free stuff so far (read: bad customer) this is less important for me.

I’ll spend some more time with both and cross my fingers that the Kindle app has some updates to make up for my concerns.

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