Friday, April 22, 2005

Our biggest conference of the year was in Philadelphia this year and as most years, I was teaching a class the week before the conference for people who come in early and just can't get enough of the software I teach This year we had more than the usual number of pre-conference classes and most of my colleagues (most of whom I like a lot) were there. It is always fun to go to these things because, as I've mentioned before, I usually travel alone.

Well, Philadelphia was kind of lame, but we certainly squeezed it for everything it was worth. It was made more fun (and more accessible) by virtue of the fact that my bike went to the conference, too. We have these huge 18-wheelers that take all of our crap to conferences every year-- stuff like booths for the demo room, books, computers, servers, cables, furniture... it's like taking a large regional office on the road for a week. There are six oversized 18-wheeler trailers in all. That's a lot of crap. Anyway, I asked, mostly joking, whether I could throw my bike on one of the conference trucks and sure enough, they said YES! Woohoo! So I had my bike the entire week (8 days, actually) and my friend kiltman had his bike, too (his went on the airplane, though). We rode ALL OVER philly. It was lots of fun, except we did manage to ride through some of the scariest parts of town. Which for Philadelphia is saying something! We got there by following the bike routes on a map we had, which took us on a nice 15-mile ghetto tour. I found out later that there was only one murder that day and we didn't happen to see it. Apparently it was a slow day for the gangs...

Other than the project-biking, we rode to the museum and carried our bikes up the museum stairs all Rocky-style (but with a bike) and people-watched. Then we rode several really pretty bike routes up the Skuylkyulikill river (sorry, folks, that's a crazy word and I can't spell it. Unlike Atchafalaya, which is a perfectly reasonable word) and up the Wissahicken Creek (TPPPPPH) toward Valley Forge. And we rode some street they call The Wall in Manayunk. If you know what that is, you might be impressed. If not, whatever. What's funny is that kiltman described this ride as "one of the highlights of the conference" which I find to be an interesting way to describe it.

When we weren't riding, we were eating. There were some really good restaurants that had very few people in them and some "legendary" places that were overpriced and not as good. Name names, you ask? OK. If you're ever in Philadelphia, go to Bistro St Tropez or Patou. They are moderately-priced French restaurants owned by the same chef. BST was hopping, but surprisingly, Patou was empty when we ate there. Apparently when they opened in January, they got a bad review for slooooooow service. It is not as slow now, although it isn't a quick meal. But it is dead-empty. I doubt it will stay in business much longer. Bistro St Tropez has a better chance, as it was a little faster service and probably better known. Both restaurants were, without question, the best meals we had in Philadelphia. As far as overpriced places that weren't as good, we went to a place called Bookbinder's that came really highly recommended. We were disappointed. Food was pretty good, but not worth the money, and the goony waiter could not figure out how to split a check 8-ways. Um, take the number at the bottom, divide it by 8, .... Apparently this was a step below quantum physics for the poor guy. Their menu's highlight was the snapper soup. It was de-lish. But be warned-- snapper means Snapping Turtle, not Red Snapper! If you're from the deep south, this will be neither surprising nor terribly revolting (although still a little creepy), but feint-of-heart midwesterners might take issue with turtle soup...

So there's not much more to tell about that trip, yeah there was work blablabla.

At this point I'm excited about too many things coming up and I don't which one to focus my "yippee!" energy on:
1. My cousins PartnerInCrime is getting married in 3 weeks, and we're going to fly out to Seattle for the wedding, and lots of other family will be there, too. She's marrying a guy everyone likes, and she's really happy, and he's really happy, and so everyone else is really happy, too. Right now she's a little frazzled with the wedding planning and stuff, but I've got to say, she's remarkably cool all things considered.
2. My first triathlon is in 2 weeks and I think I'm ready for it!
3. Our Quebec biking vacation is in 2 months and we haven't made any hotel reservations yet!...
4. ...except for the one in Pittsburgh, where mom and dad are BOTH competing in the Senior Olympics national championships!
5. I registered for another triathlon in August. If the first one is Mickey-Mouse, this one is its big, red, hairy-and-scary opposite. It's olympic distance, in the mountains, and supposedly one of the hardest ones in the series. No, I do not actually expect to finish within the 4-hour time limit. But I will go down fighting!
6. I got a bonus at work, part of which I just blew on a fancy new wetsuit! By the way, if you've ever try putting on a triathlon wetsuit, prepare for a truly claustrophobia-inspiring experience. Really. This, coming from someone who is *not* claustrophobic.

This weekend we're heading down to New Bern to visit the 'rents-in-law and get in some good flat-land riding. WHEN oh WHEN will strawberry-picking season start??? New Bern has a lot of berry farms.

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