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Coming home


I have all sorts of things to write about, but for now I'll just provide an update on recent days:

Had a really good time on the beach vacation. (For those who missed it, I was at Nags Head, in North Carolina, this past week, with about 30 other folks, mostly affiliated with SWIL (my college science fiction group); we drove down there after Alumni Weekend at Swarthmore.) Many many thanks to the organizers.

It was the first vacation I've had in quite some time that involved a lot of relaxing and not a lot of running around to Do Things and See People. My major activities involved (a) hiding in my room (overlooking the beach) and (b) hanging out on the beach and (c) talking with friends. It was really nice.

Kam flew out to NC on Wednesday, and stayed for the second half of the week; that was nice too, both to see her and to introduce her to some of my Swarthmore friends. (She'd met four or five of them before.)

And several other people (Chris C, Jim D, F&E and B) also showed up for one or more days toward the end of the week; was great to see them.

There was more Vacation Activity (for me) in the last couple days of the week than in the first half. For example:

Kam and I went to the Wright Brothers Memorial on Friday; we had been forewarned about the two different visitors' centers and about the hilltop not actually being the site of the historic flight and so on, so our expectations weren't too high. I was struck by the explanation card in one of the visitors' centers that commented that the brothers were primarily scientists; I hadn't known about (for example) the hundreds of different wing shapes they tested in a wind tunnel. I had somehow always thought of them as plucky bicycle mechanics who happened across a good design through sheer hands-on mechanical know-how or something; I hadn't realized that they were serious engineers. And I got a little choked up here and there about the whole thing—among other things, from thinking about what it must have been like, after all those gliders and kites and failed attempts, and then the three 12- to 15-second flights, to have a glorious 59 seconds in the air on the fourth flight. (At, btw, about 15 feet per second, which is to say about 10mph; a good runner could've kept up with the plane.) And the telegram they sent home, saying they'd successfully achieved powered flight, and adding an understated "ALERT PRESS." And the fact that it took years for anyone to recognize their achievement (partly due to their own secrecy); I gather the public was fed up with allegedly flying machines, and Langley had just had a spectacular public failure with the Aerodrome "A". Wikipedia's Wright Brothers article has more on the controversy over who was first to powered controlled heavier-than-air flight.

That paragraph really got away from me, didn't it?

Saturday some of us wandered down to the Brodie Island lighthouse; the lighthouse itself wasn't open to the public, but we wandered in the marsh and walked along the trail and visited the visitors' center.

Later that day there was roundsinging, and then a game of Once Upon a Time, which I hadn't played in years. I found the latter mildly frustrating—in the first 20 minutes or so, I refrained from playing three cards I could easily have played, because I wanted to give others a chance to participate, in the service of the MFQ; but after most of the others had had a chance to participate, everyone stopped saying the three relevant words. And later in the game, each time I did get control of the story, someone else would jump in within two sentences, and usually halfway through my first sentence. Eventually I stopped trying to play and just listened to the story. I'm inclined to try to put together a house rule to the effect that each person (on taking control of the story) gets n free sentences, where n is the number of cards in their hand, but I don't know how well that would work in practice. And I suppose there's no need for a house rule for a game I only play once every few years.

One of the nicest things on Saturday was folkdancing. I was expecting it to be fifteen or twenty people dancing, and I figured I would sit and watch and listen and maybe participate in one or two of the easiest dances if I were feeling especially brave and ept. But it turned out only five people (besides me) showed up. They were a lot of fun to watch, and they did several dances that were simple enough for me to join in. For the Scottish dances, Kendra said I would be fine if I ignored what people were doing with their feet and if I were willing to be pushed around from place to place occasionally, and lo, she was correct. I didn't quite get up the nerve to ask someone to try to teach me how to set, but some day I will. And I learned a very useful learning technique from Jen: instead of trying to learn foot movements by standing in front of or next to someone, stand behind them so you can see and copy exactly what they do. I didn't put that into practice, but it seems obvious that it's a much better approach than what I've tried in the past. (The movie Footloose laid the groundwork for this, for me, when I saw it a few months ago; iIrc, it had a couple of bits where the camera showed the dancers' feet from behind, which made it a lot easier to try to copy what they were doing. But I didn't generalize to using that approach in person.)

Sunday morning we spent a couple hours in a whirlwind of cleaning activity, then hit the road. Kam had attempted to rent a compact car, but they had given her a Mustang convertible, so we spent two hours driving through North Carolina and southern Virginia with the top down; the convertible felt a little decadent to me, but it was fun anyway. Fortunately, we picked up some sunscreen along the way, and my arms seem to have escaped without serious sunburn. (I got a little burned on the backs of my legs while napping on the beach on Thursday or so, but not too bad.)

Spent most of the day in transit. Arrived SFO around 8 p.m.; Lola (follow link to see her shiny new journal, courtesy of JournalScape) picked me up and brought me home.

And thus concludes my two and a half weeks of travel. It was really lovely to see everyone, and to have some time away from my daily life, but it's also really nice to be back.

Though I ended up waking up after about three hours of sleep last night, so I may not be feeling so great about being back by halfway through the workday today.

Think I'll walk to work this morning, and drive my new Prius home afterward.


So glad you had a good vacation!

Reading about your dancing experience, I had a "Well, yeah!" moment re standing behind the person whose movements you're trying to imitate. And then it occurred to me that you probably didn't take dance classes as a child. I did a tiny amount of ballet (a few classes; I liked the tutu, but hated ballet) at the tender age of five, and started tap dancing at seven. And especially in tap, where the FEET are where it's at, you do a lot of standing behind the teacher as s/he faces forward. So to me it would be second nature to position myself thusly when trying to learn someone's footwork, but I can see how it wouldn't necessarily be intuitive if you weren't familiar with the process. I'm glad Jen pointed it out to you -- it really is key. And especially, I'm glad you had fun. :)

You want to learn how to set? Just say the word... Or let me point you to the excellent and very friendly class in Mountain View.