noideadog: (natural dancer)
We had our childbirth class today. The nurse got us to practice Lamaze breathing exercises and made sure we understood that everything we'd learned from tv was wrong. "If you breathe like they do on soap operas, you'll just be dizzy. We're going to do long slow breaths, with short breaths for the peaks. Do they work? No, of course they don't work! They're just to distract you." I appreciated the honesty.

We talked through all of the ways things could progress and watched as a (largish) plastic doll made its way through a (smallish) plastic pelvis in several unlikely ways. Nobody fainted, but we were all a bit quiet and thoughtful by the end of the day. I mean, I guess I already knew most of this stuff, but I knew it in the interesting theoretical way that you can know things that are on the internet. It's different when the things are supposed to apply to you in some way. And in the next six to eight weeks, most likely. Surely not.

The hospital instructions form doesn't have a checkbox for "all of the drugs please, and also a martini and whatever you're having yourself", but I think they've left room to write it in.

The other thing that's going on right now is that we're insulating the icebox that is our living room. Last months' bathroom renovation was my first ever big house project, and this is my second, and I'm noticeably more comfortable with the process this time around. I'd hire these contractors again. Well, I should wait until it's all done before I pat myself too firmly on the back, but so far I have high hopes... and, of course, much less money than I started with.

Painting is the next thing. I had no good ideas, but people on gplus made good suggestions and we have five kinds of light grey paint to start splodging on walls tomorrow.

So, childbirth, insulation and light grey walls. Are these the riveting topics I expected to be talking about at age thirty four and three quarters? Would you like to hear about how we're changing health insurance providers at work too? Aw, I might be feeling a bit wistful for what I was doing this time last year, because I ended up spending hours on art.com looking at pictures of train stations. Don't you just want to go whereever this lady is going?

I got a print of her, and one of this, and they'll keep me going until it's time to travel again.
noideadog: (travel)
If you like maps or railroads or maps of railroads, you need a copy of the Historical Atlas of World Railroads. Dudes. My copy arrived today, and I've been stuck to it. The pictures! The maps! The world we live in! I'm pretty happy is what I'm saying here. But one of my coworkers couldn't understand why anyone would want this thing. "I don't get it.", he said, "Why would railroads be any more interesting than roads?" It was like Feynman and the journalist and the magnets. I couldn't make a path from where he was to where he'd need to be. "Because they just obviously are", I explained.

(Not that roads can't be extraordinary too! Do you ever look off down a road in the dark and think about trade routes and epic journeys and distant lands? It's a bit harder when you have to imagine out the billboards and signs for Jersey, but it's still a beautiful thing. If you can't get excited about roads, I put it to you that you need more romance in your soul.)
noideadog: (california)
"This train is going to San Fracisco, making _every_ _single_ _stop_ all the way to the city of San Francisco!". Thus announces the driver, then the train makes a strange kuh-klang kuh-klang and we are off, beginning our journey to the great city of San Francisco. I get a familiar rush of "And we were on the road again!", though technically we're on the rail.

The Caltrain is the California commuter train, running from SF to San Jose a few times an hour. It's a diesel train with a top speed of 127km/h (79mph), but it makes the 48 mile journey in a slow hour and a half, stopping twenty nine times along the way to pick up old people and students, visitors to the Bay Area's many tech companies, lots of bikes. I like it because it has two storeys, because it makes weird noises, and because it properly looks like a train: it's got a big blunt noise and a huge engine, and it makes occasional steam engine whoo whoo! noises for no obvious reason. And whether you sit upstairs or downstairs, you get to look out the window at orangey California, all flat roofs and warm colours and scrubby trees. It's a pleasant way to travel. Kuh-klang. Whoo whoo!

I've been in San Jose since Tuesday at the Large Installation Systems Administration conference, better known (as you can probably guess) as LISA. The LISA conference switches coasts every year, and this is my third year: San Diego, Baltimore, San Jose. Next year is Boston, then (I think) Seattle, Washington DC, San Diego. I hope to be at all of them. It's a fantastic conference with lots of thought provoking talks and a great hallway track. It's the sort of place where you realise mid-conversation that the person you're talking to wrote a book you loved, or a piece of software you can't live without. Smart people and interesting ideas abound. I love it.

After three years, I'm starting to know people, and embarrassingly (since I have an appalling memory for faces) failing to know people who I've met twice before. Far too many conversations started with "Hi Tanya!" "Uh... hello.. you..!", including (and this is special even for me) a coworker from Mountain View whose code I have been learning from for several years, who I've met a bunch of times, and who I've even hung out with. "Hello, so what do you do?" "Tanya, I've been in your house". "...". Since this is America, I guarantee you that a medical condition has been defined that is basically "isn't sure whether she's met you before", and, irritating as the syndromification of everything is, I'd quite like a disability card that explains that this isn't my fault. I'm not maliciously forgetting you, I just have a problem. In my brain.

Back to now. I'm in the bike car so that I can look out the front window of the train. The bikes make it a bit rattlier, but there are only eight seats so it's an ok trade off: you're much less likely to get phone conversations, hackers of phleghm or people who find each other hilarious. I had the car to myself for the first while, just me and the bikes, watching the track stretching off forever in front of us and writing a livejournal post that I won't be able to send until I get off the train. (That was self-referential just there! Did you see?)

At Mountain View three people bought in their bikes, and we got into conversation. Mountain View is The Company's headquarters, so it's unexpected but not surprising that two of the three are Googlers, and that
one is someone I work with in New York. We talked about cars that drive themselves, cycling in cities, how metro cards work and whether they've already been hacked, tea, science museums, trains. The Googler I don't know has recently taken a train from Boston to Emeryville. It's about three days and about $250, and he loved it, though Nevada was boring so he mostly slept through that part. I resolve to take the same trip the next time I have a reason to go to California. I'd always assumed that the fastest train route from New York to California was via Canada, and it's good to find out that this isn't the case.

Kuh-klang. Kuh-klang.

[...]

And now I'm in a cafe and I'm IMing Cliff who's also in SF and we're going to walk around and have a look at things and a lovely day. Hurray!
noideadog: (travel)
We have booked our honeymoon! We have a flight to Paris and a posh first class compartment on the Elipsos Trenhotel to Barcelona and everything after that gets made up as we go along. (I still get to cross "plan honeymoon" off the todo list, so it's a win.)

I'm really excited about the trenhotel. First class tickets! When I take overnight trains, I always get the cheapest possible bunk in a six-person room where you squeeze in around a carpet of backpacks and flipflops and sandwiches and hoist yourself up onto a little narrow bunk and do a seventeen point turn as you figure out how to get a sheet under your arse without dropping your book, your boots or your entire self onto the old Chinese woman in the bunk below you. I've never had a private compartment before.

Imagine, none of the weird social interactions: no awkward introductions between people who aren't sure of the etiquette of getting to know the person who'll be snoring fifteen inches away from for the next thousand miles; no deciding whether you care enough to confront the big beardy man who has totally stolen your pillow and he knows he has and you know that he knows that he has; no gap year kids from Pennsylvania who are talking loudly and earnestly for half the night about how quaint Europe is and how they really identify with this slower pace of life; no weighing the satisfaction you'd get from beating one of them with their own Lonely Planet guide against the realisation that they'd probably find it a Cultural Experience (and who wants to be one of those).

But it is the same? Do you still lie on your belly listening to the train noises and feeling good about everything, staring out the window for hours at the landscape that it's too dark to see and thinking about things you don't normally think about and making odd connections and starting to think that wow, now you understand everything and now it all makes sense and once it's bright again you'll remember it so clearly and you'll write it all down and then you'll always remember, but you never do and you never do and you never do (and it's probably just as well). If you have a compartment, do you just turn on the light and read your book instead? I hope not.

I think nighttime trains are probably my favourite thing in the world. I love them, mad strangers and dusty seats and profound 3am thoughts and all. It's magical. Even if I'm tired, I love staying up late being on a train, and even if I'm not I love falling asleep in the rumbling of the carriage. Even when it's mundane, it's exciting. You know?

I've never done a swanky overnight train before though. Is it like in old movies with the Orient Express? Will there be a murder? Someone will at least hand me a martini and make a cryptic remark, right? (Note to self: buy a hat.)

Here's a silly flash tour of the trenhotel: http://www.elipsos.com/flash/paseo/popup.htm?lang=3
noideadog: (Default)
Yay, Paris. But, aw, leaving Paris after just one day. But yay, Dublin soon!

I'm up early for my first ever Eurostar to London. Joels, lucky boy, gets another couple of hours sleep, and then the TGV (vroom!)to Zurich, and all going well, I'll be on the direct 9am train to Holyhead from Euston station, and the 14:10 ferry.

All's certainly going well so far. Because eurostar prices use a random number generator, I'm in a comfortable first class seat, and people are bringing me cheese. Not only is it much cheaper to buy a return than a single, but I took another 30% off the price by agreeing to travel first class and accept a free breakfast. Well, if I have to.

Parisian buildings are pretty fab, aren't they? Everything is enormous and grand, and the whole city seems to have been designed to turn beautifully orange in the sunset (apart from Gare du Nord which seems to have been designed to turn tourists into angry mobs. Actually, I have to take a minute here to properly insult Gare du Nord, which is plenty enormous and grand but grubby and hostile and which has the crappiest UI design I've ever seen in a public building. Random signage, massive queues, epic treks through the wilderness to find the 2 metro, no ATMs, ticket machines which only take coins, no change machines anywhere, foreign credit cards rejected, shops and bureau de change people refusing to change money, general surliness.. come on, Gare du Nord. This is not how it has to be!). But otherwise, our most-of-a-day here has been very cool. Thank you [livejournal.com profile] olive42 for being a great tour guide.

7:15am. I watched the sun rise from the train. You know, I asked the hotel owner this morning if it was safe to walk the couple of miles to Gare du Nord while it was still dark, and he gave me a hug. Fair enough really.
noideadog: (travel)
At my desk at 2am with the Thomas Cooke European Timetable and a bunch of webpages working out the best overland route from Athens to Dublin. We can't leave Athens before midnight on the morning of the 19th, and we have to be in Dublin by the morning of the 25th. In between, we'd like to eat cheese, drink interesting liquers, sleep in couchettes and not go anywhere near Frankfurt. It's scheduling chaos and I'm enjoying every second of it.

According to this great site I found, Athens to Dublin can be done in 55.5 hours (including a 50 minute walk across Paris) but I suspect we wouldn't like life (or each other) much by the end of that trip.
noideadog: (travel)
Trains are so great. This one goes all the way to Seattle and I wish hard that I was going with it. I'm going to have to find time to see more of this continent by train.

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