Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rocket City!

Work has been busy lately, with much traveling.  Cordelia Cat isn't too happy about it either, which means petulant little meows for me all night long.  At the beginning of the month I was in Maryland for multiple days.  Last week I was in Huntsville, Alabama.

During my layover, in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Unsurprisingly, there are no direct flights from Philadelphia to Huntsville.
View from my hotel window.  The large building to the right is yet another hotel.  The shorter building on the left is a Hooters.
So I arrived in Huntsville, got the rental car, made it to the hotel without problem, and went up to my room.  It was kind of weird, really wide, and everything was low.  Whatever, I'll just clean up and head out into Huntsville.  I open the bathroom door - surprise!  It is now clear that the hotel gave me a handicapped room.  (Have you ever seen a handicap hotel bathroom?  Terrifying.  Big enough to wash a car in, and equipped with what appeared to be multiple hoses.)

I'm not sure you can assign handicapped rooms to clearly non-physically handicapped people, who, during the reservation, requested no such special facilities.  What if somebody in a wheelchair showed up and needed a room?  Do they turn them away?  (Sorry folks, no room at the inn.)  Or does the handicapped person have to bumble around a non-handicapped room?  Or do they kick me out?

Whatever their hotel policy was, the only think I knew for certain was that I was not getting anywhere near that shower/car-wash.  So I called down to the desk to get a new room.  If they didn't have one, there was another hotel on the other side of the parking lot...

All was resolved without difficulty, and I hopped into the rental car and sped off to the Space and Rocket Center!

 The entrance to Space Camp!
Huntsville is nicknamed Rocket City for a reason.  Some chunk of NASA is there, Boeing (sponsored some lovely escalators in the airport - then covered the whole area with photos of the night sky and the word "Boeing"), and there is some sort of arsenal/testing range outside the city.  I was amused by the advertisements all over the waiting area of the Huntsville airport: uniformly defense contractors.  The graphic design was poorly executed but delightfully propaganda-laden: eagles carrying missiles in their talons, men in camouflage, tanks, explosions, American flags.

I arrived too late in the day to see the interior exhibits at the Space and Rocket Center - there is a big temporary one about Werner Von Braun up right now.  But that didn't even matter, because guess what the museum grounds are covered in?  That's right.  Rockets!
 Moon lander!  In a faux moon landscape!  I was a little disappointed that it wasn't shiny like the actual moon lander, but I suppose that you can't just go around wrapping things in copper foil (or whatever they use) because kids will get it all fingerprinty and gross, and unhappy Huntsvillians might try to steal it for scrap metal, and our environment would make it all green and patina-covered.
I appreciate that it's a polite request.
This was a chunk of the Skylab satellite, which I assume was used for the astronauts to practice Skylab things.  It had a pretend astronaut outside, upside-down, tending to a dish of some sort.
I'm not sure why they had the Yellow Submarine parked on a wagon next to a bunch of rockets and weapons.  Maybe the British left it here, during their Invasion?
More Skylab.
You'll need to know where this is.
The best subtitle ever.  I bet everyone on the creative team for this had kids under 8 year old.
Space Shuttle!
This was the test rocket booster.  Apparently they fired this one off five or six times, in some sort of giant fireproof test hangar.  I'm guessing the firery-end pointed down into the earth, not out into the open.

Monday, November 14, 2011


I had two Halloween parties to attend this year (more than usual) and for once, I was ready.  This is the best, most epic, Halloween costume that I will ever have.

Princess Beatrice, at the Royal Wedding.

I made the legendary hat myself, and yes, it attached to the front of my head and stuck right up into the air.  Excesses of black eyeliner, everything beige, and nude nylons (the Royal Ladies always have nylons on - always).

Here's my one picture.  Marion took a full-costume photo for me, but since the wall behind me is beige too, it's like I'm wearing camouflage.  But trust me, the hat was epic.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Dear Marion has started a new position, as the paper conservation fellow for the Harvard Art Museums.  We're sad, of course, but the Harvard position is very competitive and because she's here on a visa, she can only spend two years working here and then has to return to France (or get other different visas).  So she's trying to get the biggest American bang for her Euro that she can, working in different places.  Which is understandable.

But it also means that I have a reason to return to Boston!  Which I did in early October.  Marion had been working for about two weeks, and Val had a big book-arts conference in Boston, so we made a long weekend of it.

Marion in from of the big Widener Library, on Harvard Yard.
Marion and I spent a lazy Saturday morning with her roomies (also internationals!), eating crepes, and then checked out a great print show at the Harvard Art Museum, and wandered around Harvard Yard for a bit.

Heading to Harvard Square to catch the Red Line into Boston, to meet up with Val for the Freedom Trail!
In the Boston Commons.

State House?  Maybe?
Somewhere in downtown Boston, along the Freedom Trail.
Ben Franklin was born in Boston, but was all, "I'm out of this crazy Puritant-friendly place.  I'm headed to Philly!" as a young man.  But Boston is still very proud...
Val is psyched because Ben's plinth had scenes from his life, and one was of a printing press (she's a bookbinder/printmaker, and avid Franklin-Fan).  That tube in her hand is full of fancy paper, bought at her big book arts conference.
For some reason there was a donkey in the same courtyard as Franklin.  A Democratic Donkey.
No elephant, but you could cleverly 'Stand in Opposition' to the donkey, in little Republican-elephant emblazoned footprints.
Old South Meeting House, which poet Phillis Wheatley attended in the late 1700s.

Honest Abe looks on, as we search the North End (Italian neighborhood) for a restaurant that isn't a 2 hour wait.  Val is about to chew off her own arm, and consulting her iphone to recommendations.
The best pizza we could have imagined.  It had a 30" diameter, and we ate the entire thing.  As fast as possible.
The next day, it was Val's birthday!  So we went to the cupcake shop in Harvard Square!
Marion and I had also picked up some little Val surprises the day before.  Including some lovely Luna Lovegood style SpectreSpecs.  After stopping at the tea shop (Tealuxe - we're still friends, even after all these years!) we headed into Boston again to check out the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  Which is one of my favorite museum.  
After museuming, it was time for Val and I to catch the bus back to Philly.  (Fyi, riding the bus on the way up through New Jersey - ugh, Jersey is not a generally pretty state.)  Val and I decided to eat some sort of sandwich in South Station, so we wouldn't have to get off the bus at Trenton (NJ) for some sort of nasty Jersey sammie.  And how clever we were, because Boston's South Station has the best sammie-stand ever - a grilled cheese stand!  Where you pick your bread, your cheese, and you can get a cup of soup too!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Farewell Marion!

Dear Marion has since left Philadelphia for Boston (specifically Cambridge, where she will be spending a year as the paper conservation fellow at the Harvard Art Museums) and we are all heart-broken.  Before she left, co-worker Keith threw a huge fete for her.  Pictured below is Marion, with her new haircut and the Jello mold.
 Keith and Marion.
 Me and the Jello.  Translucent layer with trapped fruits, creepy opaque layer.  Actually delicious.  Everyone was totally into it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Jello Molds

So I have a Jello cookbook and my grandma's lovely Jello molds.  I was also invited to a Labour Day picnic at Val's house.  And since "no holiday meal is complete without a shimmering Jell-O mold," I made the red, white, and blue fruit-in-suspension star.

 This was my first ever Jello mold, and I kind of screwed up the unmolding, letting things melt too much, but I popped it in the fridge and all was fine.  This is later in the evening.
 Americana.  These last photos are all creepy because I had to use the flash (which I normally avoid like the plague).
Decimated: everyone loved it.