2012 in review…even though my 2012 posts are not finished…yet

I’m working on my posts from the 8th of December…I have a few to update before I can launch into my 2013 blog posts. SO MUCH TO DO! In the meantime wordpress likes to validate my blogging efforts with pretty pictures and fanfare year in review type summaries.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

NEW YORK!! NEEEEEWWWWW YOOOOOORRRKKK!!!

Lost count of the number of times I’ve heard Frankie belting out this number both in New York and in Las Vegas oddly enough. Frank had a fondness for the Sin City though. But there I go on a tangent yet again. New YORK baby! I do love so much about this city and we were here for a week. And it was a veritable flurry of activity! Our first day there we checked into the Yotel. Very modern, very Japanese inspired, very furturistic feeling and although they referred to the hotel’s rooms as Cabins I do believe Pods were their ultimate aim.

The Yotel “cabins” all come with the following:
Beds with hand-made organic mattresses
Techno wall with flat screen has the ability to stream audio
Work desk with a flat screen TV with iPod/ MP3 connectivity and work desk with multi power point sockets
Free super strength WiFi and free calls within the North America
Monsoon shower, heated towel rack, and rejuvenating and relaxing body washes Complimentary tea, coffee and muffins on ‘FOUR’ every day from 7am-10am on weekdays and 7am-10.30am on weekends

That bed you see above forms your couch during the day and you press a button and it pushes out to a full size queen. Although it did feel more like just a big double to me!

So we checked in there after a flying visit to Morgan at the American Museum of Natural History where she was holding our precious Broadway tickets to see The Book of Mormon. This is a show that’s been going well over a year now, written by Trey Parker, Matt Stone (of South Park) and Robert Lopez. From Wikipedia:
“The Book of Mormon is a religious satire musical with a book, lyrics, and music by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone.[1] Best known for creating the animated comedy South Park, Parker and Stone co-created the music with Lopez, who co-wrote and co-composed Avenue Q. The show lampoons organized religion and traditional musical theatre, reflecting the creators’ lifelong fascination with Mormonism and musicals.

The Book of Mormon tells the story of two young Mormon missionaries sent to a remote village in northern Uganda, where a brutal warlord is threatening the local population. Naïve and optimistic, the two missionaries try to share the Book of Mormon, one of their scriptures—which only one of them knows very well—but have trouble connecting with the locals, who are more worried about war, famine, poverty, and AIDS than about religion”

It’s a show I’d seen spoken of on Twitter quite a lot, several people commented on enjoying it so I decided that should be the show we get to when we did NYC. I’m so glad we did. My face was aching when we walked out because I don’t think I stopped grinning or laughing the entire length of the performance. I knew we were in for much raucous hilarity when the first act ended with the beautifully sung line of “I have maggots in my scrotum”. What can I say? Occasionally my sense of humour runs to the more crass, though I’ll admit South Park has found my limits on that line.

Anyway it was resoundingly well received by the audience and the singing was top notch, the plot, the choreography, the individual performances all first rate. I’d recommend it to anyone and also say but not for children! Drop them off at The Lion King and then have at it!
So between driving into NYC from CT, picking up the tickets for this musical and also our Bulls tickets for the next night, checking into the Yotel, finally dropping our three month car rental off and getting to the right theatre on 49th street it was a huge first day for us!

The next day we got treated to a behind the scenes tour at the American Museum of Natural History thanks to my good friend Morgan. Morgan I met last year at our very first Supernatural con held in Toronto. We’ve been in touch ever since and we also caught up again at the Vancouver Con this year. Morgan has a great job in the imaging department at the Museum and gets to do all kinds of things, as well as meet all kinds of people. We got to check out a couple of the special exhibits which were great and then got an in depth look at the various departments’ and their work.
Outside…

Another outside shot…

amnhoutside

Inside we did the Bioluminescence Exhibit and also the Global Food Exhibit…

Anthropology Dept…

Fishes Department… 😉


This is a defleshed baby ray…

Reptiles!

The Lord of the Rings Department…wait a second. TIM!!! How’d the Lego shots get in??


I will say this, Lego Gollum much less menacing than Movie Gollum.

After those wonderful few hours we headed on over to Madison Square Gardens to watch the New York Knicks take on our favourites the Chicago Bulls! We were surrounded by very vocal Knicks fans but I still cheered for the Bulls!

Who from the get go never looked in danger…the difference being most of the shots the Bulls took on the net actually sunk. Lost count of the number of missed attempts on the Knicks side. It was a very entertaining game though – with three players and a coach getting ejected the crowd were on their feet on several occasions and the refs were very much despised!


Final score! And that was even with my main man Joakim Noah getting ejected…ahh such a fiery hothead he is, love his passion!

Ahh well….hope he keeps his temper enough to stay in the line up for the Bulls who look to be marching steadily towards the playoffs.

So that was an exciting end to another GREAT day in NYC!
The next day was Saturday 22nd and we decided to do a little shopping and then head to Serendipity 3 famous for it’s Frozen Hot Chocolate. Alas that place was full to the brim and with a three hour wait looming we decided to give it a miss. Instead we found this lovely little tearoom, cafe type place called Alice’s Tea Pot. Delicious tea her and some of the best scones but as Tim writes in his blog the rest of the food was just okay.

After that it was a pretty lazy day in terms of sightseeing, we headed back to our “pod” and made use of the very excellent speed wifi to get some things done online. The next morning ot was off to Bryant Park and my first experience ever ice skating on an outdoors rink!

Morgan joined us and we risked life and limb together dodging the small mobile missiles of children going sprawling in front of us on the ice, the masses of people, adapting to the lack of any kind of sharp edge on the hire skates blades and the pretty much completely chopped up ice! But it was definitely a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours! Tim spectated and took photos and minded bags.

We followed it up with lunch near Times Square at Dallas BBQ. Tim and I have this sense of impending withdrawal from the quality BBQ you can get over here in the States. In fact we’re going to look into getting a Smoker when we get back and I have high hopes that Tim’s culinary skills just might be able to replicate a little of the taste we’ve had over here.

After that it was off to Wall Street and to see where Morgan lives as she gave us a guided tour of where scenes from the latest Batman movie were filmed. We then tracked down a copy of The Dark Knight Rises and after securing drinks and snacks headed back to her apartment building where we commandeered the theatre room and watched the Dark Knight Rises and a couple of episodes of Supernatural of course! It was one of the best ways to spend a Sunday that I can imagine!

Monday the 24th! Christmas Eve! We slept in a little and then made our way to the 42nd street cinemas where Morgan treated us with our Christmas presents early and bought us all tickets to go see The Hobbit in 3d IMAX 48FPS! And what a difference it made! And I loved watching it again just as much as the first time. You can take the time to notice other things you may not have picked up on first viewing. The 48FPS took a little getting used to – as it seemed just like it had been sped up at first but soon the flow caught up and the clarity of the footage was just amazing. We then said goodbye to Morgan as she left for New Jersey to stay with her family for Christmas, we made a time to share one last meal together on Boxing day evening.

Tim and I headed out later that evening to find the giant Rockefeller Christmas tree all decked out and lit up! Everyone had the same idea it seemed. Pretty special thing to do on Christmas Eve I imagine.

So that was nice, Tim stopped at a food truck for his dinner and I grabbed a soup from a Bon Au Pain (Bakery/sandwich type chain) to warm up with. We then made our way back through the throngs of people to home, fortuitously coming across a rather excellent crepe shop on the way home that made one of the best Nutella crepes I’ve ever tried. And yes renewing my gym membership is number 2 on my list of things to do once I get home 😉

And so CHRISTMAS DAY! It dawned bright and chilly! We slept in quite late, arising mid morning to read all the posts and texts from around the world our friends had made. Australia being 12 hours ahead of course had much to say for itself and then all our American and European and Canadian friends were celebrating as well. Whilst I sense that the internet can be a purveyor of some of the most vile aspects of humanity I feel nothing but gratitude that I have been able to live in a time which has allowed me to use such technology to bring so many new and delightful people into my life. I simply want to hug it close to me. Tim had found (somewhat miraculously I felt) a Christmas day lunch buffet with all the trimmings for a measly 45 dollars each in downtown NYC at a pretty chic and happening place. The Rooftop at 230 5th Avenue. The food was excellent! The view even better!

Very impressed I was with Tim’s Christmas Day lunch sleuthing skills. I think if one could get a Masters in seeking out great food places Tim would have already jumped PhD. 😉

After lunch a fairly long stroll back to the 42nd street cinemas. Which was FULL of people. I don’t think people go to the movies Christmas Day back home. Well not many. I know Boxing Day is normally chocker block (Aussie slang there for my USian friends – meaning packed to the rafters ;)…) but I don’t think it’s really a done thing by many on Christmas Day itself. EVERYTHING was sold out nearly. We wanted to catch Django Unchained and Les Miserables. We eventually got into two evening screenings. We did a 6 hour mini movie marathon really. But they were both great films and I’m glad we got into them and also got great seats. After that it was about 1am on Boxing Day morning and by the time we got into bed nearly 2.

I still got up the next day around 9 as I wanted to hit the sales stores early and try and get all the runners I’d been intending on taking back home. Ridiculously cheap compared to Aussie prices so I just couldn’t resist. It was a very productive shopping day for gifts and shoes. The sales here, really are sales and whilst you have lots of people around there was generally no grumpiness at all from what I saw. We purchased our 4th piece of luggage as well. That evening Tim found us the Hourglass Tavern and we met up with Morgan there to have some very nicely cooked food and great service. The time flew by and then it was another goodbye as we were heading out early the next day for Las Vegas.
What a FANTASTIC 7 days it was. I really do think NYC would be on my list to have a holiday apartment in. There’s just something about a city that always has so much going on all the time. It never stops. And whether you want fine dining 4 michelin star style or just a tasty slice of pizza for 2$ it caters for every budget. I so hope we get back there one day.

Second last stop of our entire trip up next! LAS VEGAS!

Back to BOSTON! And HOBBITSES and then to an NFL Game!

We were heading back to Boston but not downtown Boston this time. This time we stayed outside of downtown in an area called Anderson/Woburn in order to make sure we got to a screening in IMAX 3D of The Hobbit. Tim purchased the tickets online and we made sure we were there nearly an hour and a half before the screening. Seating is important in these sorts of movies. It can have a significant effect on viewing experience. Yes we are the purist film going geeks you read about.

We saw the movie the day it came out and I personally enjoyed every minute of it. There wasn’t a second when I wasn’t engaged with this movie at all. In fact I was so engaged even though it had been going for well over two hours when it ended I was completely taken by surprise. WHAT DO YOU MEAN THIS IS A TRILOGY? 🙂 Damn you Peter Jackson and your long and drawn out yet inevitably highly rewarding filming process. Till next December then!!

We decided we would do another viewing in New York around Christmas and see it in the 48 frames per second format. Still 3D and IMAX. But for comparison purposes of course. We needed to research the formats carefully and ascertain our own informed opinion, wouldn’t do to just dismiss out of hand some possibly money grabbing gimmick employed by the entertainment industry without making sure it was dismissible.

We then moved onto Foxboro – still in Massachusetts and caught our first game of NFL at the New England Patriots Gillette Stadium. It was freezing cold and drizzling all night but I got to see the game first hand! They were playing the San Francisco 49ers and sadly they lost. It was not a good game for Tom Brady. Which is a shame because he really should be too pretty too lose.

Whether he’s in the great Patriot colour scheme of red, white and blue…

or not in it…

But I digress. Distracted for a moment…ahh Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots were losing from the get go, however they did rally and managed to bring the score back to tied not long into the 4th. Unfortunately less than 3 minutes later from one kickoff and one play they were down a touchdown again. Although I couldn’t feel my toes or my fingers I enjoyed a warming Patriots souvenir cup of hot chocolate and completely enjoyed my first NFL live experience. I wouldn’t mind seeing a game again in the future and I can only imagine what the Superbowl atmosphere is like. I have now carefully divided my loyalties between three NFL teams – Dallas Cowboys (their single star is very striking and I have a definite soft spot for Texas), Chicago Bears (their hoodies were too nice to resist and Soldier Stadium is impressive and I LOVE the city) and New England Patriots, the red, white and blue scheme is very striking and they have a very easy on the eyes QB, and they’re not doing too bad at winning 😉 Sadly – Cowboys and Bears are out of the Playoffs but I hope the Pats get up to win 🙂

We then drove on the next day to Milford Connecticut – which broke up the drive to New York. We had a great BBQ restaurant experience in this area at Joey C’s BBQ Smokehouse. Joey C himself, personally came out and asked how our meals were and we were nothing short of effusive in our praise. There was nothing that wasn’t above par in flavour and taste. Tim’s blog post here has pictures and details.

When the moral imperative is not so imperative.

Words seem trite, patronising and inconsequential. But walking down the road tonight on our way back from downtown Boston I was struck so hard by the immense feeling of sadness that came over me at the loss of life today.  A man walked into an Elementary school and shot up a room of 5 to 10 year olds, and the teachers who tried to save them. Twenty children are dead. The gunman’s mother, a kindergarten teacher at the school, found dead in her home.  Words seem so profoundly inadequate but I only have words. And I felt the need to write them down.

I wished in that moment that humans were hardwired/programmed/evolved to follow one immutable law, one irrevocable law only. Be kind to each other. Like Asimov’s Law of Robotics in i robot  the first one being: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. Let’s just swap the word robot out for human. Would that we could right?

Both sides of the gun control argument are so emotive and volatile and so vehement in their beliefs, there seem to be so many invested groups in the gun control issue. You have those who are passionate gun owners, NRA members, gun lobbyists and completely responsible gun owners, there are those who are stridently anti-gun, anti-NRA and passionately against the current gun laws, there are those who are for guns but even more for gun law reform.

Using highly emotive and incendiary words in your speeches and your articles and your editorials is not going to change the minds of those already made up. Referring to the gun lobby as the child killing lobby is only going to receive the applause of those who already despise the gun lobby (unproductive) and the vitriolic response from those who are pro-guns (also unproductive and some might say, inflammatory). Referring to the gun control lobby as unconstitutional, anti-American, knee jerk over reactionary, extreme civil libertarians who have no grasp on reality is not going to have any productive outcomes. Trotting out that worn out, tired and no longer relevant ‘Guns don’t kill people. People do’ does not hold the strength it did back when these shootings were rare and unheard of. None of these things will get a rational debate progressing. Perhaps I assume too much. I would like to imagine that those who are responsible gun owners/users would like to sit down and talk about how they can help lessen the number of shooting massacres in the US.  I would like to imagine that those who are anti-gun and passionately against the NRA would like to sit down and talk about what can be done in productive discussion with responsible gun-owners/users. I would like to think that money is not a part of this equation. I would like to think a lot of things as it turns out.

People can still own guns and not have multiple mass shootings happen in a year. Many countries have proven this is possible. America is not many countries. The United States will always look inwards for their solutions to their social issues. The rest of the world can only sit, watch and present the approaches they have implemented for US consideration. They can also hope, as I do, that productive, progressive gun law reform can take place. Americans should not have to wonder when they go to the movies, or to the mall, or when they send their kids off to school if this is going to be one of those days or moments that ends in tragedy. It’s reached the point now where the words ‘I never thought it could happen here, to me, my family, my friends’ are no longer heard in the stories of survivors, families of victims because it’s no longer true. For the sake of my many present and future American friends, I hope the Administration, congress and the lobbyists can work together to staunch this flow of devastating violence.

One last thing,

Be kind to each other. Why can’t we just be kind to each other?

Random little bit…The Pocono Inn

We were driving through from Pittsburgh to Boston and decided to break the drive into two. Tim picked a place of dubious nomenclature called Delaware Water Gap. This motel was called the Pocono Inn. There had been no gap in the water that had flooded through this place.

This was the kind of motel where the housekeeping was one heavily smoking life worn lady who was just outside the entrance when we took our bags in. She chased us down to hand us a couple of handkerchief sized bath towels that could have exfoliated a rhino’s behind. We couldn’t stay on the lower floor due to water damage. I couldn’t check in because the computer had frozen and the lass on the desk needed to call the manager who had left the premises. She then had to write all the details down by hand. The decor was equivalent to a bad early 80s movie. I was left with the impression even Sam and Dean would have kept driving to the next town. When we went to check out we had a hand scrawled note on the front desk saying – “Temporarily Out of Office – Call this Mobile Number should you need assistance.” I scrawled a note back saying – send us an email receipt, checking out now. Room 215.

It was all pretty shit and we were glad it was one night only. The one not-quite-saving grace was the fact that Tim found a real home made pie shop and they did indeed have good Apple Pie. Apple Pie in hand we were off to Boston!

Oh so you can make sure you skip it…this is what it looks like on the outside:

Heinz means more than just Beans! Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

After doing my agility seminar in Ohio and checking out Falling Water house we headed on into Pittsburgh for a couple of nights. We were now on route to get to New York for the 20th of December.

We stayed at a Red Roof Inn and spent the day checking out some of the Gothic architecture and the Heinz Memorial Chapel in downtown Pittsburgh in the University district. Built by the Senator John Heinz’ family. Yes that Heinz.
This was the Cathedral of Learning.

We walked past this Soldiers Memorial on the way to the Cathedral and Memorial Chapel.

The Heinz Memorial Chapel was built by the Heinz family as a nondenominational chapel for anyone to attend.

The custodian lady who showed us through the place was very informative, even allowing Tim to go and have a look up at the Pipes. She put on Christmas music which was played through the massive organ. The stained glass windows were what grabbed me the most. They took two years longer to finish than the chapel itself. All kinds of ceremonies can be held there and the chapel is open to all faiths and beliefs to celebrate.
After one more night at the Red Roof in Pittsburgh we drove on to Boston. With a little stop at a place called Pocono Inn.

Of horror novelist suspected sightings, lobster and H2O inspired architecture…

I’m glad we’re not quite doing this Jack Kerouac style.

Cape Cod, MAINE was a brief visit – a one night stay that let us go out to the coast and see the cape, drive along the ocean view road, have a sit down meal at a little specialty cafe and donut place called The Hole in One and discover that during the winter season quite a lot of places shut down for the season 😉

But still here it is:
THE CAPE

And here is:
THE CAPE PLUS BEANIED SIMONE

Cape Cod was pretty damn chilly but also just pretty and probably full of very good lobster. (We could neither confirm nor deny this due to the fact that at least 4 places we tried were shut for the season) And when we sat down for a meal (The New England Clam Chowder was particularly delicious) in the below restaurant/cafe/donut shop:

We spent a delightful half hour trying to decide if the man that walked in, sat down at the counter and ordered pancakes and eggs was actually Stephen King or Stephen King’s brother. We decided in the end that it wasn’t Stephen King but just a relative. But it was fun trying to get a comparison to the images we’d pulled up on our phones.

We were then back on the road, our trusty Ford Escape taking us off to Narragansett, Rhode Island. Which is only partially an Island.The state’s full name is Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. We stayed there at a friend’s place, another friend found through a shared love of my show again – see Supernatural actually has provided some pretty special opportunities despite the general “but it’s just a TV show” response from most I try to enlighten about it. Anyway Krista is indeed made of general awesomeness and generously gave up her room for a couple nights (she slept in her guest room) so that we could stay, hang out, share a meal with her friends and have a very enjoyable time in Rhode Island.

We spent a very pleasant Sunday evening sharing a meal consisting of clams casino and fresh steamed whole lobster. I cracked and pulled lobster meat like a pro if I do say so myself. I really enjoyed that tasty experience.

lobster1
We met Aaron, Nate and Alisson and all was good. There may have been White Russians. Okay there were White Russians. A suitable fresh steamed lobster complement I felt.
And they were enjoyed. Unlike the Hard Iced Tea I bought just for the hell of it. I like Iced Tea so I figured it had potential. But sadly no. Just no.

Nate gave me suitable instructions. I picked up the technique very quickly I might add 😉

lobster2

The following Monday we slept in (we’re on holidays it seems obligatory) and then around lunchtime heading back to Massachusetts to get into the nation’s largest battleship museum containing a submarine, a destroyer, PT boats and a battleship. This was a pretty cool attraction as I have never been on a submarine.

It was a very fascinating couple of hours to spend. The displays and the information kept us occupied for some time. We drove back and after Krista and Aaron got in from work we headed off to get dinner from their local, favourite watering hole The Mews.

Good food, nice ambience and a very comfortable place to hang out. We had a great meal there and bid Nate and Alisson goodbye, with the promise of a bed to crash on should they ever make it out to Perth, Western Australia. The next day, after saying goodbye to Krista the night before, since we’re apparently early rising phobic right now and 6am is not in our vocabulary right now, we started the drive off to Ohio via The Falling Water House in Pennsylvania. Smithsonian lists this house as one of the 28 must see places before you die. After being so impressed by the Smithsonian buildings in DC how could we not take up that opportunity.

Here’s the List (cos I know you were wondering)

Mesa Verde (Tick! DONE IT)
Pompeii (Tick done it!)
Tikal
Petra
Pyramids of Giza
Taj Mahal
Easter Island
The Great Wall
Aurora Borealis
Serengeti
Iguazu Falls
Machu Picchu
The Louvre (TICK! Done it!)
Zen Garden of Kyoto
Uffizi Gallery
Fallingwater (TICK! Done it!)
Yangtze River
Antarctica
Mount Kilimanjaro
Grand Canyon (TICK! Well it’ll be done by the 29th of Dec)
Pagan
Parthenon (TICK! Done it!)
Angkor Wat
Ephesus
Venice (TICK! Done it!)
Amazon Rain Forest
Great Barrier Reef (oops! It’s the only one in Australia and I haven’t done it!)
Galápagos Islands

So I’ve done 7 out of 28. Hmmm if it takes me 38 years to do 7 by that count I’ll need at least another 84 years to do the rest 😉

So we left on Tuesday and drove through to Easton to stay one night there, just a stop over really before heading into Somerset on Wednesday. Somerset is a quaint little town with tiny streets and a very cosy downtown. The Falling Water House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is about a half hour out of the little town.

 

It was a beautifully sunny day despite being very chilly but we were grateful for the good weather because the next day it was POURING down with rain. We pretty much had the place to ourselves and it was nice to stroll around the grounds, inhale the fresh woodsy air and clearly try and come up with way too many cliched phrases to describe the experience. But really the house was quite interesting with a surprising amount of open living space in what appears to be a house cut out of a side of a mountain. A bit of wikipedia info about the design:

Fallingwater stands as one of Wright’s greatest masterpieces both for its dynamism and for its integration with the striking natural surroundings. Wright’s passion for Japanese architecture was strongly reflected in the design of Fallingwater, particularly in the importance of interpenetrating exterior and interior spaces and the strong emphasis placed on harmony between man and nature.

I took notes because one should always be prepared if ever the opportunity arises when you can build your dream home over a waterfall.

We were heading onto Ohio next, Reynoldsburg to be specific, because finally after having read and watched and absorbed everything I possibly could regarding Linda Mecklenburg and her Awesome Paws approach to agility handling for the last 10 years I was finally presented with the opportunity to attend a weekend seminar being given by her on International Handling. I was looking forward to soaking up as much as I could and getting my puppy fix in as well.