Previous EntryMonth IndexNext Entry Thursday, 06 December 2001  
Gazing into the Abyss: Michael Rawdon's Journal


Links du jour:

News flash: Justice Department to break up Apple for turning Microsoft into Monopoly.
XPlay is planned Windows interface software for Apple's iPod.
The Skeptic's Dictionary is a neat-looking resource for people who prefer to be more grounded in reality. (via Lucy)
  View all 2001 links


Recently finished: Currently reading: Next up:
  1. Analog, January 2002 issue
  2. Sean McMullen, Eyes of the Calculor
  3. Vernor Vinge, The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge
  4. Robert Charles Wilson, The Chronoliths
  5. Julian May, Jack the Bodiless
  6. George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
  7. A. K. Dewdney, The Planiverse
  8. Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers
  9. Sean McMullen, The Centurion's Empire
  10. Guy Gavriel Kay, Tigana


Okay, I'm back.

"Back?" you ask? Well, I've spent most of the past week visiting our nation's first capital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Debbi came with me, and we had a great time.

Our flights out and back went almost flawlessly. We got in on time or early on three of our four flights, and were only 15 minutes late on the final one. Which is a good thing since cross-country travel is a real drag; we were on the road for about 12 hours on the way back. Fortunately, Debbi's friend Lisa was able to watch my cats for me, and checking in and getting through security was a breeze: hardly any waiting for the former, and none at all for the latter! Of course, we did fly American and left in the late morning and early afternoon, respectively. Even buying tickets through American's Web site went well!

The reason for the trip was that my sister got married on Saturday, so my whole immediate family was there. My Mom and Dad each arrived earlier then us last Thursday, but we all stayed at the same hotel (the Latham Hotel) and had rooms on the same floor! Convenient! Especially since my Dad is dealing with a back problem lately and had some trouble getting around, so we could easily go back and forth to visit each other.

Debbi and I spent a lot of time walking around Philly seeing all the historic sites. Fortunately, downtown Philadelphia is only about two square miles in size, so it's pretty easy - if you're staying there - to get around by walking or taking the bus (or even a cab). So we walked down to Independence Hall and Congress Hall and saw where the Declaration of Independence and later the US Constitution were framed, and where the US government sat for its first ten years, until Washington DC was ready for it. They're well worth the trip.

The Liberty Bell is really just a big bell with a crack in it, and isn't really as historic as I suspect everyone thinks. Its myth grew up in the 50 or so years following the Revolution, so its significance seems rather artificial. The building housing it is really godawful ugly, too.

The Betsy Ross House, on the other hand, is a fairly impressive structure - mainly for its small size. It's restored to look like it did when Ross lived there, and is a good piece of history. Ross' grave is also there; to our surprise, she lived into her 80s and was married three times.

There are other historic sites as well, such as the navy's first metal warship, and Benjamin Franklin's grave. Truthfully, we did an awful lot in just a couple of days of walking around, which explains why our feet hurt so much afterwards. You might want to spread it out over another day, if you go to sightsee, but you can do it all pretty quickly if you want.

Here are a handful of photos I took. Click on them to view the full-sized image:

The statue in Washington Square, which apparently was full of anonymous graves during the Revolutionary War.
A view of Independence Hall. The area around it is cordoned off due to worries of potential terrorism, and tourists have to join a tour group on one side of the cordon to go in.
A statue of George Washington outside the Hall.
The room in Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and I think also where the Constitution was formulated. Most of the furniture are recreations, although the "sun chair" presiding over the assembly is authentic.


My sister Katy's wedding was Saturday, and she got some fantastic weather for it, the best day of the weekend, although overall the weather for our trip was great. (It was warmer and drier in Philly than it was in the Bay Area, believe it or not!)

I wore my suit for the first time in over three years and Debbi wore a nice dress (photo of her at left), and we all cabbed over to the church for the 2 pm ceremony. My sister wore - as she put it - a "big, fluffy white dress", although it wasn't really all that fluffy. She looked good in it, though! It even had a long train. I also met her fiance (now husband) Bill for the first time, as well as his family (parents, younger brother, and nephew), who all seemed like nice folks. Katy got married in a Unitarian church, although truthfully I'm not clear what faith she has these days. (I'm sure she could say the same for me except that I don't have any faith.) But I guess unless you're gonna get married by a judge, you're gonna get married in a church.

I think we all had a zillion photos taken of ourselves that day, but Katy perhaps more than anyone else.

She was especially lucky to have the warm weather because she'd resolved to wear the dress all day to get the most for her money (it's not like she'll ever wear it again, after all). She wore it to dinner that evening, which was in the penthouse suite of a nice restaurant a block from our hotel, and cocktails and appetizers were available next to a nice patio outside, overlooking the city. It was great to stand and sit and chat outside, and admire the city from that vantage point.

Dinner was a four-course meal, which was quite tasty (except for the crabcakes, since I don't eat seafood; I gave mine to my Dad), and we came away with little porcelain swans with chocolate in them and the names and date of the wedding on them. Katy's new, 4-year-old nephew was the life of the party, I daresay.

Oh, I forgot to mention: After the ceremony, Katy hugged me and said, "You're next." I think Debbi gave her a dirty look for that!

Anyway, I now have a married sister - not to mention a brother-in-law. I told Katy that we have a definite front-runner for which of us will provide the grandkids, and she said I'm wrong. We'll see!


My Mom left on Sunday and my Dad left on Monday, but Debbi and I stuck around 'til Tuesday. I figured if I'm going to fly 3000 miles to a city I've never been to, I ought to spend a little more time seeing the sights. As a result, we had some extra time which we spent meeting up with friends.

Monday morning and afternoon we met Debbi's close friend Andrew, whom she's known since college, and who drove down from northern New Jersey with his 2-year-old daughter to meet us. I think Debbi was really nervous about my meeting him, partly because I guess Andrew can be a lot of work to keep up with (though I think I did fine in this respect) and partly because she was afraid she'd get ganged up on (probably a valid fear, as it turned out). We went to the Franklin Institute of Technology, which is much like San Francisco's Exploratorium only geared a little more towards kids, and had a good time overall.

But the real fun was Sunday night, when we met up with Dan Aharon, who was a student of mine when I TAed for a semester my junior year of college, and with whom I roomed for the summer after graduation when I stuck around New Orleans to do research. Dan and his girlfriend Ann picked us up and we headed off to really good Italian food in south Philly, and then a good dessert cafe closer to downtown. In fact, we had so much fun that we got together again the next night for Japanese food!

(And, I might add, it seems Ann spent a chunk of time at work on Monday checking out my journal... she asked me if I'd brought my cleats so we could play some ultimate!)

I've always remembered that summer rooming with Dan fondly, despite the fact that I was about to leave town and my relationship with my then-girlfriend Kathleen was quickly disintegrating (even though we'd seen it coming for months). Dan's a big Macintosh nut, and we roomed with two other theatre guys (Dan made three) and had a great time: Three thespians and a geek. Or something like that. We've kept loosely in touch ever since, but not very closely, other than Dan reading my journal.

Dan is essentially the same person he was back then (at least as I remember him), but he's more mature and sophisticated (well, except for the big pun-fest we got into on Monday, when I thought he'd laugh so hard he'd crash the car). We spent time swapping stories about "back in the day", though I think I had better dirt on him to amuse Ann than he had on me to amuse Debbi. He asked me how I ended up TAing a class when I was an undergrad, and I asked him if he ever grew his long hair or his goatee back (both of which got a hairy eyeball from Ann).

Dan also reminded me that it was he who turned me on (albeit briefly) to the talk.bizarre newsgroup back then, which was where I first encountered Ceej. So blame him, CJ!

Dan also begged and pleaded with me to be mentioned in my journal, so here you go, Dan. Don't let it be said I never did anything for the little people.


So that's what I've been up to. How have you been lately?

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