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Apr. 20th, 2009

hand on head - b&w

Posting from the road....

Posting from the road. My dad Hall of Fame induction ceremony was great, could it gone better. And I'm now driving back to Nashville and it's pouring rain but I'm trying out posting via Jott. So, here goes.

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(edited to say: Not quite, but close.)
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Mar. 21st, 2009

hand on head - b&w

But it’s so much nicer to come home

We’re back! And so far it doesn’t look like jet lag should be too much of an issue: I’ve been up since 8 AM this morning, which is a little later than usual for me, but only by an hour or so. Karsten is still sleeping, but this is fairly normal for a Saturday morning. He’ll probably be up soon, if my schedule was any indication.

Here’s the details of the sleep schedule, for those who are interested in jet lag avoidance:

We were up late on Thursday night at a bar called Velvet Lounge (kind of a gay bar, apparently, though a very mixed crowd), and didn’t get to sleep until 3 AM. Then Friday, as is my habit no matter how little sleep I get, I woke up sometime between 6 and 7 AM. Our flight out was at 6 PM (mind you: that’s 5 AM Central Standard Time). Around 10 PM China time, I started getting really sleepy, so I gave in and slept for about 4 hours, and then was awake until we got home around 10 PM Central time (which is 11 AM China time).

So I got to bed around 11 PM last night and was up at 8 AM this morning. Seems not bad for having been 13 hours off schedule for the past week.

ANYway, enough of that. I’ve missed the last few days’ worth of updates here, but it was a wonderful trip. I felt like we did just enough sightseeing to get a feel for the place and the culture without wearing ourselves out. That was balanced with getting a taste of living like locals (or at least like ex-pats) by doing things like going grocery shopping, etc. And that was balanced by getting out to lots of great restaurants and eating some of the best food of our lives. And all that was balanced by a comfortable amount of time in our friends’ modestly luxurious home, which gave us a very relaxed feeling of being on a sort of staycation.

Or perhaps more meaningfully, it also felt quite a bit like being on a cruise, where there are comfortable periods of time spent relaxing and enjoying the amenities of the ship, interrupted by excursions and sightseeing, all highlighted by wonderful food.

I think that’s a pattern that works really well for me, so maybe I’m a cruise-type vacationer after all. Only I think I prefer big city ‘cruises’ over tropical islands. I suppose that makes me weird, but hey. I’m just not that crazy about hot sun and sand, whereas exploring urban areas never gets old.

I guess, like anything, it takes experimentation to learn your ideal vacation style. I think we got pretty darned close to perfect on this trip. (Sure, it would have been better if I hadn’t been sick for the first third of the trip, but even that wasn’t as bad as it could have been had we not been staying in such a wonderful home.) And we both loved Shanghai enough to go back, which is saying a lot considering 1, how many other interesting destinations there are in the world, and 2, how long it takes to get there and back. But it’s an endlessly fascinating place and we only spent a little bit of time exploring its neighborhoods. We could easily do another two weeks there and not get bored.

So maybe we’ll try to squeeze in one more trip before our friends come back to Nashville or move on to wherever they’re going next. Or maybe we’ll put it on the list for some future year and just look for an apartment to rent or something. It’d be a totally different experience without a Chinese-speaking friend to guide us (so I should probably improve my own Chinese skills beyond numbers and simple greetings and ‘bu yao’ or ‘don’t want’ which is immensely useful in the shopping areas) and without a driver. But it would almost certainly shed more light on what it’s like to live in Shanghai.

At any rate, I would love to publicly thank Paris and Charles for their warm and wonderful hospitality and for not only putting up with our vegan pickiness but for making sure we were well taken care of. Because Paris spent all week with us, we enjoyed the luxury of having a trusted and knowledgeable guide as well as the wonderful company of a friend. Thank you so much, Paris and Charles!

And now: back to our normal lives, with taxes to file and deadlines to meet. But also kitties to pet and friends to see and favorite places to go. Vacation life is good, but our home life is pretty darned nice too.

Originally published at Sticky, Sweet, & A Little Overdressed. You can comment here or there.

Mar. 15th, 2009

hand on head - b&w

Shanghai while sick, days 2 and 3

This has been an odd vacation: I’ve been struggling with still being sick (I came down with a virus infection less than a week before we left) and with having no energy due to weirdness with the timing of taking my Synthroid.

The Synthroid thing really threw me — hard. Here’s the thing: this is a medication you’re supposed to take at the same time every day. And for me, I’ve found that I need to wait at least an hour and a half after taking it before eating, and then wait at least four hours before taking my calcium supplements, which interfere with the effectiveness of Synthroid. But I have also found that to go back to sleep after taking Synthroid seems to concentrate it in some weird, intense way, so that I wake up jittery like I’m on speed or something. So trying to juggle all those restrictions and requirements while 13 hours off my normal schedule? Not easy. I initially tried just taking it at the same actual time (about 6 AM CST), which meant evening here, but that meant I was trying to fall asleep when I was just starting to feel energized. Yesterday morning that meant that I woke up (well, I never really slept) all shaky and with my heart racing. So I waited through the time difference and switched to taking it first thing this morning, and am just now starting to feel more normal, but I’m still a bit weak and woozy.

So I have truly been in the apartment almost the whole time we’ve been here. The only exceptions were on Saturday morning when we went out for a walk around the block (which wore me out) and for lunch when the driver took us to a Thai place for lunch, and we briefly walked around the Xantiandi area (which also wore me out). Yesterday I just resolved to stay in all day and let myself recover so I don’t ruin my whole week with this half-assed weak crap, but yesterday was also the day I was hardest hit by the Synthroid timing discrepancy, so while I was off my feet almost all day, it wasn’t exactly restful.

Nonetheless, I think the virus infection is almost gone (I still have slight sinus congestion and a trace of a cough, but it’s very minor) and I expect I’ll have my strength fully back within a day or two. Of course, we’re only here three and a half more days. So I’m going to try getting outside today, and see how it goes.

Shanghai skyline

In the meantime, I have to say, if you’re going to be stuck indoors, our friends have an awesome place to be stuck. I’ve taken a few pictures from their panoramic picture windows and have played with ColorSplash on the iPhone with the one shown above. More pics are here, and more will be added in the coming days, I’m sure.

Originally published at Sticky, Sweet, & A Little Overdressed. You can comment here or there.

Nov. 11th, 2008

hand on head - b&w




Originally uploaded by Kate O’

Even the bathroom icon people are pretty sophisticated.

Originally published at Sticky, Sweet, & A Little Overdressed. You can comment here or there.

Oct. 2nd, 2007

hand on head - b&amp;w

Are zee French rude? Mais non!

Originally published at The Bee Hive. Please leave any comments there.

Jae got me thinking (in a way totally unrelated to what she was talking about) about how I found myself thinking fondly of the U.S. a few times while we were in Paris and Amsterdam. Not of the government, mind you, and certainly not of this current administration’s policies or whathaveyou.

But just thinking fondly of some of the little cultural niceties that I take for granted and which were notably absent from many of my dealings with folks over there. Maybe some of it is my having grown accustomed to the U.S. South and the culture of extreme gentility that underlies everything else around here, but I can easily understand why Americans who visit Paris, especially, would walk away thinking the French rude. I don’t think it’s really a matter of being rude, but I think there are a few characteristics that are typical of parts of U.S. culture that are either missing or very transformed in some of Europe’s cultures.

I’m thinking, for example, of the kind of you-first-no-you-first awkward politeness, or the face-saving that goes with conversations with strangers, or the extreme emphasis on customer service and the “customer is king” mentality and expectation within retail and food service. Certainly each of these has their analogous counterpart in other cultures, but I imagine it can be jarring for Americans visiting, say, Paris for the first time to be condescended to by a waiter, to be reprimanded by a stranger, to be bluntly addressed, and so on.

Know what I mean? And yeah, I’m sure this has been studied and documented and all, but when has that ever stopped a blogger from making dull observations about anything? So feel free to add your insightful thoughts in the comments and help me class this joint up, would ya?

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Aug. 23rd, 2007

barbra, embarassed, peeking out, hiding

Although come to think of it, Paris might not get my mind off of rats...

OK, right off the bat, here's the sucky thought du jour: I can't decide if we should go through with the trip we were planning to Europe. Though I'm in luck if I need to travel, because I've got bags under my eyes that could hold my entire wardrobe. Why? Because we spent the night in a hotel room with all six cats while we fogged the house for fleas.

I cannot properly do justice to the level of annoying this whole flea thing is. And it's not just fleas annoying me. Allow me to whine for a moment.

  • I'm pretty sure I saw somewhere that it's the hottest August ever on record in Nashville. Even if it's not, it should be. So let's just get that out of the way right now, 'cause the extreme heat sure isn't making anything (or anyone) easier to deal with. 

  • Remember the rats? Well, they've apparently nested underneath and in the walls in the back of our house. (One of my coworkers suspects that this is where the fleas are coming from, but I don't know if there's any way to be sure.)

    OK, and side note -- this is a bad story. Feel free to skip to the next bullet -- Karsten went out weeks ago and got rid of the junk pile, busted up the old deck, and started digging out the weeds around the house. He hit a nest with tiny wriggling ratlings (it's easier to call them ratlings than "kittens" when your aim is to get rid of them). It was an awful scene and he was devastated at having hurt them but the aim is, after all, to eliminate the population from our property. So as a compromise, whichever babies weren't already killed from the impact of the shovel got carried off to an empty lot a few hundred yards away.

    But anyway, even after all that there are still rats in the walls, and we're not sure how we're going to win this one.

  • Baby Clyde is doing better, we think. He apparently had a blockage in his digestive tract so when they x-rayed him, his stomach looked totally full even after a day of intense vomiting. Not sure how or why, but the next day's x-rays showed his stomach clear and his lower digestive tract filling up, so the vet was satisfied that things looked to be on the right track. But I'm still nervous because we don't know why he was having trouble in the first place. Which in my mind means it could happen again anytime. But considering I thought he might be dying on Sunday night, I'll be relieved if all we're dealing with is a bad case of indigestion.

  • And the fleas! The fleas are driving me nuts. I mean, it's just exactly the kind of thing that really gets to me. I can't take any kind of insect in large quantities. I won't even release ladybugs in the garden 'cause they freak me out en masse, but individually I'll let them crawl all over my hands and arms. A whole mess of bugs I don't like under any circumstances invading my living space? Definitely gonna mess with my mind.

  • One of the other cats, Blackberry, has had a long-standing problem with urinating where he shouldn't. We've fought it for a while, but it had been getting worse recently. Took him to the vet and found out he has a pretty serious bladder infection. Uh, OK. Now I feel like a terrible cat person. So we've been giving him pills twice a day for weeks, and if you've never had to give a pill to a skittish cat, well, you just haven't experienced life.

  • Between the overages in the house renovation and the flea/rat/vet/hotel expenses, we've depleted our checking account to levels we haven't seen in years. It really sucks and it makes me feel anxious. I think having had the experience of losing nearly everything we owned and getting as close as you can get to bankruptcy without actually filing, I'm having traumatic flashbacks to my anxiety level at that time. Our situation right now in no way resembles our situation then, but it's hard to shake an experience like that.

  • Oh, and I'm trying to accomplish about a million things simultaneously in the next few months at work. So there's that, too.

I'm really trying to keep everything in perspective by remembering that we have a house, we have our health, and we're not broke (yet). But the amount of stuff we're having to deal with is enough to make me whimper.

So yeah, I can't decide if we've now spent enough unbudgeted money on all these various problems to mean that we should hold off on our long-awaited vacation. The vacation that coincides with our 10 year anniversary. The vacation we've been trying to take since 1999. The vacation we could really freakin' use right about now.

You see what I'm saying? We've been really looking forward to this. So to put it off, while it certainly wouldn't be the end of the world, would hurt and would suck and and and. Yes, we'd get over it. But it would be a big disappointment.

Anyway, it's not time to decide yet. For one thing, I don't think we're out of the woods with the whole pest control issue, so there may actually be even more money to spend. But also because we still have a little time before we have to make the decision, and I may yet come up with some genius plan to make everything work. Hey, it could happen.

Mais il y a peu de chances. Le sigh.

Jul. 21st, 2007

with karsten

Unexpected efficiency: the government edition

Karsten and I both just went through the rigamarole to get our passports processed, and although we have several months before we're planning to take our European vacation, we've heard enough horror stories about delayed applications that we decided to pay the premium for express processing. It was definitely pricey (I think it added something like $100 between the two of us) but it was worth not taking the risk that we would have had to skip the trip.

Anyway, long story short: Karsten's passport arrived two days ago, just a week and a half after he sent in the application. I'm seriously impressed.

(Of course, mine has yet to show up. Watch it take, like, 10 weeks.)

Jul. 16th, 2007

bananas, monkey, searchmonkey

Now if I can find what I was actually looking for, I'd be happy

Normally my Google-fu is strong, but even when my search terms are imprecise there's always the chance to discover something cool. I was looking for something else entirely but just stumbled across this Google Maps mashup called WalkJogRun that tracks running routes all over the place. Perfect for when you're out of town on business or whatever and want to get out and explore but looking for suggestions on what the locals would advise. I don't know about you, but it's been my experience that the concierge doesn't always have the best running route suggestions.

Mar. 17th, 2007

hand on head - b&amp;w

In the Bay Area next week

I’ve been forgetting to mention that I’m headed for the Bay Area next week. I’m traveling without Karsten this time – he’s staying behind to work on the front porch – so I’m especially interested in catching up with friends in the evenings to keep me company! I’ll be arriving Tuesday afternoon and leaving Friday mid-day, and I’m staying in Redwood City. Getting together with friends in the evening Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday would be excellent.

So friends in the Bay Area, if you’re interested in getting together, I’d love to hear from you!

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Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

too wordy

In the Bay Area next week

I've been forgetting to mention that I'm headed for the Bay Area next week. I'm traveling without Karsten this time – he's staying behind to work on the front porch – so I'm especially interested in catching up with friends in the evenings to keep me company! I'll be arriving Tuesday afternoon and leaving Friday mid-day, and I'm staying in Redwood City. Getting together with friends in the evening Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday would be excellent.

So friends in the Bay Area, if you're interested in getting together, I'd love to hear from you!

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