Monday, March 19, 2012

5:15pm 2/29/12 in flight

Tuesday we had to set out alarms for the first time to get a cab over to the Conrad. Of course the night before we had massive drama. Dad couldn’t get the pilot lit and we had to call in an emergency furnace tech.

We got on a bus tour to go visit El Yunque National Forest. It was really a four seat van and it was jam packed. We drove to the park and stopped in four locations. The first was the visitor’s center, which Mr. b and I skipped and did the short walking trail instead. We saw giant snails on the path. Then we stopped at the Yokahú lookout tower. It’s a recreation of the old Spanish tower. Mr. b loved the breeze at the top. You could see the coast and Calebra island. Next we went to a big picnic area that used to also be a swimming hole. They closed the baño grande in the 70s because of accidents. There was a cool series of small falls as one of the many creeks flowed through the area. Finally we stopped for a photo op at the waterfall pictures on all the travel ads: La Coca. It was a sheer drop and it was lovely.

We got back to the Condado about 1pm and decided to stay on that side. We walked down to the driver-recommended place for lunch, Casa Lola. It was far fancier than we were in the mood for but we stayed and it turned out to be exactly perfect.
Then we walked back to La Concha to change into our swimsuits and scam use of their beach and pool. The surf was really high so I didn’t even bother going into the water. Mr. b body surfed and got beaten by the waves for a while. Once we had enough we tried out the infinity pool. I had never been in one before. It was cool. Mr. b went to get us some drinks but they were too expensive, even for tourist hotel standards, so we packed up and moved down the beach. We ended up at the Atlantic Beach Club, which looked totally sketchy but ended up being exactly where we needed to be. We had some drinks and stared at the ocean.

When we got back to the apartment we did some packing and worked on finishing our bottle of Don Q. We went back to Patio de Sam and got dinner. Plantain and sweet potato chips and the best mofongo ever. Plus delicious mojitos. We hung out in the Plaza de Ponce for a while before heading back home.

After some TV Mr. b wanted to go back out and try the upstairs bar that was projecting a light show onto the plaza. I love the place. It felt like a St. Paul dive, with pool tables and everything. We got to chatting with the bartender, Eduardo, and his lady friend, Marie. He was supposed to make her dinner but had to work so she was hanging out. Eduardo is originally from Cuba and is an archaeologist, working in Ponce on the south of the island. We all got along great and then a couple of Argentine navy men came in. The quiet one had to get up and be on duty in the morning but Ignacio was ready to have fun. I left at 1:30 to go to bed, right as Mr. b was buying him a shot for his birthday the day before. I woke up about 3 and went back down there in my jammies to fetch him. Ignacio came home with us to exchange names to keep in touch on facebook. I want to try to locate Eduardo, too.

We got up early this morning and picked at our leftovers for breakfast. Security at the San Juan airport was ridiculous. They were clearly on island time and didn’t care. We spent over an hour on the taxiway at JFK but are in the air now. The drink cart is two rows away.

9:15pm 2/27/12 San Juan

I did end up joining Mr. b across the street once he got back from the casino. He won $100 on blackjack and was double hammered. We went to bed shortly after. I slept in the loft.

We both couldn’t get moving this morning. Mr. b went out for some rellenos de papas for breakfast and then we just sat around for a while. We decided to walk the whole way to the locals’ beach, which is closer than the tourist one but still about 2 miles away. We took our time strolling and it was actually a lovely walk. The beach had tons of teenagers and some families. There was a lot of rocks as a breakwater so it was calm instead of wavy.

After we were done with the beach we walked over the bridge to the tourist side. We stopped for lunch at a Mexican place that had windows opened up right on the surf. There was a tide pool below with crabs walking around. The waitress climbed out and threw hunks of bread. The water churned where the fish swarmed to eat it.

We didn’t do much this evening. Naps back at the apartment. Then some souvenir shopping for the kids. We got a small bite for dinner but I couldn’t finish my soup. I burned the tops of my feet today. They’re definitely going to peel.

9:30pm 2/26/12 San Juan

We did go out again last night after 8 or 8:30. We walked down to the harbor and through the crowds of tourists. We hung out for a while at the plaza closest to us and bought some snacks. Then we ended up just hanging out and watching a marathon of American Chopper.

This morning we walked to the corner and got breakfast at La Tortuga. As is apparently typical around here, it was slow but delicious. Then we walked to the harbor and waited for the ferry.

The ferry took us across to Cataño where we boarded a van to the Bacardi distillery. The tour wasn’t really that special but it was free and we found a nice couple to hang out with. They also provide drink tickets for 2 drinks, which were of course delicious but weak.

We took a minivan cab back to the ferry but wanted to stay on that side of the harbor for a while. The driver said the hamburger place right where he dropped us off was great. The owner looked Jamaican but was Puertorriqueño. We hung out there for hours, drinking Cuba Libres, eating hamburgers, and talking to locals. It was a great spot.

We had to wait forever to get the next ferry. We checked out the huge cruise ships and the pirate ship (used in the Brando version of Mutiny on the Bounty) and stopped in for another drink near the tourist harbor. Then we found ourselves at the foot of San Cristobal so decided to check out the fort. We went through it quite fast; it was closing in less than an hour. The dungeon was the coolest part. There were some amazing views into the old city.

We made our way home and have been relaxing, drinking rum and watching TV. Right now Mr. b is out on a supply run. The SuperMax is closed. I’m watching the Oscars. There’s a music video shoot down the block.

5:00pm 2/25/12 San Juan

A little over 24 hours ago, Mr. b got a job offer.

We left the apartment after breakfast yesterday and headed to the right out our door. We headed through a plaza and found ourselves at the edge of a great swath of green grass next to an old fort wall. Everywhere we looked were school kids, wearing field trip t-shirts, flying kites. We passed through the school groups and entered the first for on the island, El Morro.

The fort was huge and super cool. Kirk would love it. We took lots of pictures of the most piratey spots for him. After we were forted out, we started back through the grassy area, this time making towards the channel instead of the ocean. We followed along the inner wall and came upon the San Juan Gate. We rested in the shade of an awesome old tree with roots hanging down from its branches.

Mr. b wanted to get over to where the cruise ships come in. It took a few tries but we eventually found ourselves in an area that looked very much like Navy Pier. I was exhausted so we went into the first place for lunch: Señor Frogs.

After we ate we headed back home for naps. That’s when Mr. b got the call with the offer. We were obviously very excited and got ready to splurge on dinner. We dressed up and went across the street to Barú. It was delicious and expensive.
We were so full and tired we contemplated calling it a night. But we rallied about 10pm and headed down the block to Patio de Sam and had a few rounds, listening to the local guitar player.

This morning we had appointments for pedicures at 10am. We took a cab to the spa and discovered it as the wrong one. But they could get us in and when they called their sister location to cancel us, found out they only had on scheduled!

Mr. b won $25 at the hotel casino while my toenail polish was drying so we got fancy drinks at the hotel bar. Another cab ride took us to a pizza chain that was supposed to have great gluten free. They had none. So we started wandering. We found the beach but not the exact perfect patio bar Mr. b was hoping for. My feet were killing me. Finally we went into a local place called Café del Angel. Service was TERRIBLE. We didn’t get served for nearly an hour. They were very apologetic, gave us a free round of drinks, and when the food finally came, it was totally worth it.

We hung out in the La Concha hotel lobby for a while before heading out to the beach. Mr. b played in the water longer than I did of course. We just layed in the beach chairs and relaxed. We tried to find another beach but my feet couldn’t take it anymore. We ducked into another hotel bar for a break and then took a cab home.
We’re probably just going to cook at home tonight rather than going out for dinner again.

10:30am 2/24/12 San Juan

We had 3 flights yesterday; Mpls to Chicago, Chicago to Miami, Miami to San Juan. We finally got into a taxi about 11pm. There was a medical emergency on the third flight. They even asked for a doctor over the PA!

We’re staying in an apartment on Calle San Sebastien in the Old City. The streets are cobble stone and narrow. It reminds me of the old cities of Antibes or Monaco.

Last night we walked to the SuperMax for groceries. Mr. b made a pitcher of rum punch by chopping up some mango, grapefruit, papaya, and limes and pouring in rum. I haven’t tried it yet. He kept going out last night and it was creeping me out to be here alone. The door locks by key on both sides so I had no way out.

This morning it’s raining lightly. I made some eggs with chorizo and queso blanco and had them with tortillas.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Books Read in 2011

I used to keep my book list in a Word doc. Earlier last year I transferred the whole thing to Excel. I guess it finally hit me that this many years’ of books needed to be in a better format. It’s been fun to be able to filter the list and I’ve even created a couple of flags for myself. But how did 2011 stack up? Actually not too shabby! I’m down a few from 2010’s record high but I’m surprised I still hit such a big number. I started a new job in September, requiring me to drive to work instead of take the bus, and that’s seriously depleted my reading time. I guess it helps when I’m rarely tackling such dense tomes that require a month to slog through…

I killed some time last week with an end of year meme over on my LiveJournal. One of the questions was “What was the best book you read?” I can never just pick one. I reread Celestial Matters by Richard Garfinkle, which is a personal favorite and something I think any ancient history nerd should read. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi was recommended for fans of the Hunger Games and was a fun and exciting young adult story, set in a ruined near future, an original story not requiring vampires or sequels. Matched by Ally Condie was a chilling young adult story that I found to be extremely prescient and could easily see that world happening if we keep on our current path. I recommended that one frequently. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – finally! A supernatural tale written for adults that don’t want stupid love triangles *or* explicit sex! And I fell in love with three new serieses: the Trylle trilogy by Amanda Hocking, the Alpha and Omega spin-off series by Patricia Briggs, and the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire.

I also read a lot of non-fiction. I’m not sure if it was intentional but I definitely fell into the habit of checking out odd memoirs that caught my eye when I read reviews of them. These ranged from celebrities with interesting lives to regular people with interesting lives. Stuntman! by Hal Needham is a must for any fan of Burt Reynolds and American on Purpose is perfect for fans of comedy, Anglophiles, and punk rockers. I think Concierge Confidential by Michael Fazio was probably the best of the non-famous people memoirs, and I didn’t even know most of the subjects he dished about while discussing how he essentially invented the modern concierge industry.

Book club had mostly good to excellent selections this year (in italics below), although I did give up on the November pick, Assassination Vacation, despite liking the subject matter because I was completely put off by the author’s voice. My favorites were the Steinbeck, the Gaiman, and the Greene titles. I can’t count the most excellent Down and Out in Paris and London because that was actually for 2009 and it just took me that long to get around to buying a copy and finishing it! I also read my usual dozen and a half or so graphic novels. The standouts there were Batwoman: Elegy, truly an amazing tale and incredible artwork, and The Griff, a unique riff on the apocalypse, told by Christopher Moore.

I don’t think I have any book related resolutions again. Last year I said I was going to sew more. That did not happen. At all. This year I’m going to try to bake something every week. I’m still getting a handle on gluten free eating and baking is definitely the area I’ve been most scared of. I’ve had some successes and some failures and mostly just middle of the road good-enough results. So even if it’s just a mix of gf Brownies from a box, I’m going to bake. And I’m going to get back my confidence. And buy xanthum gum and figure out what the hell it does.

1 Celestial Matters Richard Garfinkle
2 Palo Alto James Franco
3 Down and Out in Paris and London George Orwell
4 The Hound of the Baskervilles Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
5 Batwoman: Elegy Greg Rucka & J. H. Williams III
6 I Am Number Four Pittacus Lore
7 Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 3 Hiro Arikawa & Kiiro Yumi
8 Ship Breaker Paolo Bacigalupi
9 Star Island Carl Hiassen
10 About a Boy Nick Hornby
11 Children of God Go Bowling Shannon Olson
12 Magic Bites Ilona Andrews
13 Bloody Valentine Melissa de la Cruz
14 Matched Ally Condie
15 The Help Kathryn Stockett
16 Something From the Nightside Simon R. Green
17 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Volume 7 Twilight Brad Meltzer & Georges Jeanty
18 Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files Storm Front Vol. 2 Maelstrom Mark Powers & Ardian Syaf
19 Agents of Light and Darkness Simon R. Green
20 Nightingale's Lament Simon R. Green
21 Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 4 Hiro Arikawa & Kiiro Yumi
22 East of Eden John Steinbeck
23 Angel: After the Fall Vol. 1 Brian Lynch & Franco Urru
24 Hex and the City Simon R. Green
25 Huntress Christine Warren, Marjorie M. Liu, Caitlin Kittredge, Jenna Maclaine
26 Concierge Confidential Michael Fazio
27 Farscape: Scorpius Vol 1 Let Sleeping Dogs Lie David Alan Mack & Mike Ruiz
28 The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists Gideon Defoe
29 Street Magic Caitlin Kittredge
30 Battle Royale Vol. 1 Koushun Takami & Masayuki Taguchi
31 Demon Bound Caitlin Kittredge
32 Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story Harvey Pekar
33 Paths Not Taken Simon R. Green
34 Mister Wonderful Daniel Clowes
35 Dead Reckoning Charlaine Harris
36 Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth Simon R. Green
37 On the Edge Richard Hammond
38 The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie Alan Bradley
39 Bone Gods Caitlin Kittredge
40 The Girls are Coming Peggie Carlson
41 Hit List Laurell K. Hamilton
42 Switched Amanda Hocking
43 The Wreck of the Waleship Essex Owen Chase
44 Torn Amanda Hocking
45 A Discovery of Witches Deborah Harkness
46 Ascend Amanda Hocking
47 Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 5 Hiro Arikawa & Kiiro Yumi
48 Stuntman! My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life Hal Needham
49 Hell to Pay Simon R. Green
50 The Graveyard Book Neil Gaiman
51 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Volume 8 Last Gleaming Joss Whedon & Georges Jeanty
52 Ghost Story Jim Butcher
53 Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale Joss and Zack Whedon & Chris Samnee
54 Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy Edited by Ellen Datlow
55 Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil Deborah Rodriguez
56 The Witches of East End Melissa de la Cruz
57 The City of Ember Jeannne DePrau
58 The Member of the Wedding Carson McCullers
59 The People of Sparks Jeannne DePrau
60 Home Improvement: Undead Edition Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner
61 American on Purpose Craig Ferguson
62 The Prophet of Yonwood Jeannne DePrau
63 On the Prowl Patricia Briggs, Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance, Sunny
64 Cry Wolf Patricia Briggs
65 The Diamond of Darkhold Jeannne DePrau
66 Hunting Ground Patricia Briggs
67 The Florist's Daughter Patricia Hampl
68 Cowboys & Aliens Fred Van Lente
69 Hexed Ilona Andrews, Yasmine Galenorn, Allyson James, Jeanne C. Stein
70 Nerd Do Well Simon Pegg
71 The Sookie Stackhouse Companion Charlaine Harris
72 Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 6 Hiro Arikawa & Kiiro Yumi
73 Travels with My Aunt Graham Greene
74 Devil's Business Caitlin Kittredge
75 Rosemary and Rue Seanan McGuire
76 Farscape: Tangled Roots Keith R.A. DeCandido
77 A Local Habitation Seanan McGuire
78 Farscape: Red Sky at Morning Keith R.A. DeCandido
79 The Grace of Silence Michele Norris
80 An Artificial Night Seanan McGuire
81 The Griff Christopher Moore & Ian Corson
82 Late Eclipses Seanan McGuire