Warm weather, Olympics, and Errands…

To be short, the title of this post summarizes my yesterday (well that and continuing to read the book Sex at Dawn, which I'm finding a rather good read). It was VERY warm yesterday and there were weather alerts across the province because the weather conditions were perfect for well funnel clouds and storms and whatnot. But I didn't even get rained on (which is good since I had purchased and exchanged graphic novels).

I ran a couple errands: buying underwear with saved up gift cards (yay!), and visiting Wizards (Comics and Collectables) to pick up a new copy (without a printing error this time) of Daytripper, and the new The Guild graphic novel. Both errands were accomplished easily with convenient transit timing, and then I was at Pub Monday which was one of the most fun in ages because, come on Olympics! We watched diving, mens artistic gymnastics, some horse jumping, some rowing, and a bit of other things and provided our own interesting commentary. It was great fun and an interesting change from the usual (not that we didn't converse about the usual as well, but still!).

I'm just glad that it isn't quite so hot anymore… so I can eat soup for lunch! And I made some of my leftover veggies into a great ramen soup (missing the egg this time, but that's just an indication that I ought to go grocery shopping).

Slowly getting back on track *this transmission interrupted by strange technical errors*…

So it feels good getting back into the groove of things with my daily life in Edmonton. I've been board gaming (went to an excellent Christmas in July party on the weekend) and slowly getting used to a routine of sorts… or at least trying to…

Today (and lately) especially has been a bit weird. My landline base handset rang strangely this morning (no one was calling so I have no idea why) and that woke me up long before I wanted to be awake (though I think I slept okay — I dreamed some pretty vivid dreams though I have no idea what they were of, and well… I'm just happy to be getting some rest what with ridiculous ghost phone calls waking me up. This isn't the first time only one handset has made noise when a call has come in (though I tested them this morning and nothing seems wrong?) but there was no call at all.

And then my computer was being stubborn this morning (but fixed itself on its own?). It seemingly froze, the music which I was playing cut out… then the screens went blank and the music turned back on. Moving the mouse typing on the keyboard and hitting the power button did NOTHING and then as mysteriously as anything else, the computer came back with the windows login screen and things are working splendidly now. I really really don't understand.

Anyway, my goals for the day involve a few errands and some internet catchup so hopefully I accomplish this much at least!

Photos from Hamburg! :)

So if you want to see the photos I have from Hamburg, here's the set. I still haven't tagged everyone (partially because it takes time and partially because I keep missing people when I go through the album, or because while I may have friended someone I can't find them when it comes to tagging them… but I do find it interesting the number of likes I get for different images depending on who's in them! Goes to show that the International Student Assistants have some pretty awesome Facebook friends among other things! I was pretty pleased with some of the nature photography I managed to take, among other things, though certainly no photo is going to do the Planten en Blomen justice!

This year's trip to Capital Ex… and my troubles sleeping properly…

So this morning I awoke to a spam-like phone call. This is unfortunate as I did not sleep well (out of the past 6 nights, I've slept well only 2 out of them, those being Saturday night and Wednesday night — probably partially due to pure exhaustion). I'm imagining that jet lag has a lot to do with why I haven't been sleeping well this week, but I'm also concerned that I'm getting physically rundown again… which partially makes sense what with my love of overdoing things. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that being physically rundown does impede my abilities to be productive (particularly when I attempt a nap in the middle of the afternoon as I did today, having it rudely interrupted by a phone call asking for donations *sighs* I honestly don't get that many phone calls, so the fact that they're happening at inopportune times like these is pretty frustrating!).

Anyway, I did have a good day yesterday though by the end of it I was feeling pretty tired/sore. I made it to Capital Ex in plenty of time to begin my shift — we were closed for all of 10 minutes the whole time, and I spent the majority of my shift taking tickets (my favorite part!). The weather really did cooperate well!

After that, I went and checked out numerous shows (favorite show this year is The Aluminum show, even if my head did get bonked a few times by those huge aluminum air pillows! I felt such child-like glee to be able to play as part of the audience!), ate a ton of food (the cream puff was yummy as was rib fest!), and enjoyed the exhibitors in the Expo Centre. I ended up spending exactly as much money as I expected on my trip, coming home with a Zoku frozen pop maker (which I've used twice today to make frozen yogurt raspberry pops, which have been delicious, easy and quick!). I only got the individual pop maker (but I'm one person and would hate to use up the freezer space). This is much better for my freezer space than the ice cream maker I once owned was, so I'm super pleased with that too! 🙂 I also saw the fireworks from Northlands Park for the first time ever! This was AWESOMETASTIC! 🙂 My neck was super sore afterward, but I ran into Carla and Slepp and we walked through the grounds together before departing for the evening.

What with the sleep issues today it's been the opposite of productive, but I did read a great book I was gifted with for my birthday: Chico and Rita, so that was great! 🙂

A great birthday! :)

So I had a pretty awesome birthday. Sure there were aspects that were less than ideal (mostly in the morning when I didn't sleep well or when I felt kind of jet lagged… or when I attempted to use a coupon for a restaurant but found it was closed for renovations though the website claimed it was open), but generally the great things well outweighed any negative factors. I had a lunch at Boston Pizza thanks to a coupon and then a tea from Starbucks thanks to another birthday coupon before doing some dishes and tidying the apartment for board game happiness! 🙂

In total I had 11 other folks attend my birthday gathering, some of which I hadn't seen in FAR too long! We played two games: Kingdom Builder and Cards Against Humanity (we actually used ALL the CAH cards!). It was great fun though! Kingdom Builder (Thanks to my AWESOME Redditgifts secret santa) was a great game, really easy to learn though the dynamic is potentially very different every time — good replayability that way I think! People brought a good selection of things to the potluck and I rather enjoyed the food (pizza, sushi, awesome quinoa salad, veggies, spinach dip etc.!)!

And I got a few awesome cards and gifts (some books and a luggage scale! Thanks!) and the cards were awesome (one was originally for a 3-year-old and was artfully altered to be for a thirty-year-old! 🙂 ). I didn't expect any of that, guys! It was great! 🙂 I especially liked seeing my friends, introducing some friends to the others, and the awesomeness that is board gaming.

Now if only I could sleep properly at night and get back into a good routine! 🙂

Hamburg: volunteering at DH2012 and other adventures

So I got home from my most recent trip on Saturday evening. And it was quite the trip, in more ways than I previously expected:

All was fine of course until I left Edmonton (slightly delayed) and discovered that my in flight entertainment system had a defective headphone jack, resulting in my not being able to listen to any of the in flight entertainment (on a more positive note, this resulted in a free snack [I was hungry] and a discount code for 5% off a flight booked in the next year). I ran across the Toronto airport (okay maybe I just walked really quickly) making it just in time for my flight to Dusseldorf. In Dusseldorf I made it through customs and waited by my gate while charging electronics, and flew without issues to Hamburg. This would have been fine, but my luggage did not arrive with me (note that it was 9amish when I landed in Hamburg, and that I would not receive luggage until the late evening of the next day, which was not HORRIBLE, but it was rather inconvenient).

After that, I took the S-bahn to Landugsbruken station (excuse the poor spelling) and walked to my hotel (Google maps directions were silly — they wanted me to go in a circle for NO reason), noticing a nice (MASSIVELY huge concrete) statue of Bismark along the way. I dropped some of my carry on and walked down to the water (stopping at the train station for some baked goods… I ate SO MUCH wonderful baked goods at train stations (and at the conference) this trip!) watching the buskers and noticing the ships. I then walked to the University of Hamburg (discovering that Google maps directions were not as efficient as walking through Planten un Blomen, the botanical garden that features all sorts of awesomeness including great plants, paths made of all sorts of paving stones, playground equipment that is sized for ADULTS (and kids but that's less awesome), lots of water features, art, and much much more!) and attended a LONG session explaining logistics for volunteering at the conference (plus I got my bursary! Today at home I deposited it in the bank: the exchange rate sucked for that, but it still meant that all in all I spent around $800 on my whole trip including flight, accomodations, food, the conference etc. which is MUCH less than I would have without the bursary — plus I had so much fun!). After that I went walking with the North American contingent (Jose from Mexico, and Alex from the USA) of International Student Assistant volunteers, and we made it back to the water and ate some yummy fish after a few fun detours into interesting areas. I then checked back into my hotel, finding my room ready and struggling with the very bizarre RFIDesque key system for my room door (I would later master this on the first try by the end of the next day, but I felt really dumb not being able to figure it out until then!).

The next day, the conference started (for me) with facilitating at a workshop on developing a curriculum for DH (in Europe). It was very interesting, though jet lag hit me pretty hard by mid afternoon, resulting in a nap during my coffee break. Regardless I had a good time, used my English proficiency to great ends by proofreading a blog post and otherwise translating for the German student assistant I was working with, and tweeting. In the evening I met a fellow Edmontonian, Joel, who was there for the conference and we had pizza nearby before walking through the park and playing on the playground equipment (among other things). He found the jail's presence in the middle of the park pretty noteworthy (yes it is a jail — a result of not having city planning really involved).

Day two of the conference consisted of my volunteering at registration for pretty much most of the day. It was fun to meet people from everywhere and hear so many accents! The reception in the evening was pretty awesome as well — generally this conference had a lot of snacks and drinks throughout it all.

Day three began with technical issues, but we work hard at ironing those out such that the second panel of the day gets properly recorded (complicated recording software!) and the rest of the day goes rather well, in my estimation. I have a great time and rather enjoy the reception at the end of the day, including a talk by a person from Google Europe who sponsored the reception. He seemed really interested in DH which was nice! The food and drink was also appreciated! And afterward I went on a very educational tour of campus learning about the former center of Jewish life in Hamburg. It was really eye-opening to learn how recently the victims of the holocaust were finally properly recognized and remembered with monuments and whatnot. The other history of the university (including philanthropy etc.) was also really fascinating and I was glad to go on this tour before a nice long walk back to my hotel.

The fourth day is a day I spent mostly at the information counter but ended with some pretty remarkable happenings! I went to the Senate reception at City Hall (beautiful building!!) before the banquet at the Rickmer Rickmers (a historic museum ship in the water by Landungsbruken). The banquet was especially delicious (I rather liked the fish stew type appetizer for example). Beverages were free until midnight — so people had quite a bit to drink and it was a buffet so people ate quite a bit before the band began to play and we danced the night away to some surfer rock from the '60s and '70s. It was great fun though some people had strange ideas of what was good to do on the dance floor (like climbing the ropes and acting like monkeys). I didn't leave the party until around 1am when I walked back to my hotel.

Friday (the 5th day of the conference) I tried my hardest to sleep in before heading out to do some shopping and sightseeing (and purchase a few souvenirs). Following that, I headed back to the conference and went for a walk with a couple of the other student assistant volunteers (Rosa and Biljana) before making it for the closing (where I handed out stressball dice and had to close several windows that were banging in the wind and causing people to complain). The closing was pretty awesome… and was followed by a trip to our Beatles themed tour (complete with music!) of the red light district (by the Reeperbahn and included a lot of history of the area as well as us stopping at a bar for drinks and cheese afterward. Following that I, along with Syd and others went for pizza (SO DELICIOUS!! St. Pauli Pizza I believe was the name of the place, and I ate pineapple artichoke pizza and drank a lemonade pop that was made by a Hamburg company)… which was interesting as the nightlife was getting pretty crazy in the area including a fight across the street (the restaurant staff mentioned that it was pretty commonplace to have such tensions erupt into violence between the Serbian population and the Turkish one, which made me feel a bit sad about that… though it was quite frightening and crazy to see the men run after each other yelling and fists flying and also wielding a chair…!). We walked the whole of the Reeperbahn on the way back to my hotel.

The trip home was not uneventful. I took the s-bahn to the airport, checked in and found that my flight was delayed so I had some great Movenpick ice cream (it was only 1.50 Euros!!!) while I waited for my delayed flight. In Munich, I found free internet computers and later found out how to get some free wifi for a bit before catching my flight to Heathrow. At Heathrow I took the shuttle between Terminal 1 and 3, and unfortunately the driver SLAMMED on the breaks really suddenly resulting in my sliding across the seats and slamming my head into another passenger. This caused some mild whiplash according to London Ambulance (the EMT that saw me at the airport) as well as a period of time where I had to report what had happened to the airport (as I really don't want this a) happening again to another person or b) that the bus driver doesn't acknowledge this again, because it would have been nice if he had at least asked if we were all okay!). I made it to the gate just in time for my flight and after standing in line for a while I was less than a meter from the plane door when an airport official asked me if I was traveling alone before taking my boarding pass saying the flight was overbooked. After a wait he returned with a new boarding pass, putting me in Executive First Class! This was awesome as the food was great (I had lamb with au jus and potatoes and veggies and and and!!), the seats are infinitely adjustable (so comfy!), there were socks, earplugs, eye masks, and even a toothbrush complimentary (plus awesome pillow and blanket etc.), and the seat does massage my back with a push of a button! While the flight was turbulent, I think that the awesome seat really helped prevent my neck pain from being any worse.

When I finally landed in Edmonton, I was happy to be back though our luggage took a long long time (apparently someone had hit the emergency stop button accidentally on the luggage return system). My luggage did arrive this time, but it was VERY damaged (the pocket was ripped to shreds a zipper completely gone and so on)… so I had to put in a claim and later I'll have to return the bag to the airport for repair or if they cannot repair it (which I would be surprised if they would be able to do) some compensation.

That said, I'm happy to be home, to be enjoying board games again and slowly catching up on Edmonton life.

Just a few last things…

… working on my to-do list before I go. I still need to pack, send off at least one more email… and well… hopefully see my friend Ian who's coming in from out of town today. I am not a fan of the fact that I can't actually check in until just after midnight tonight, but whatever… the airline's rule re: online check in sort of makes sense.

Last night I played Civilization (the Board game) with Laury for the first time ever. It was great! I lost (which made sense given that it was my first time playing!), but I do rather like the game dynamic even if there are SO MANY little fiddly pieces. Perhaps someday I'll be able to play with Dan and Eric (perhaps before Dan moves to Victoria, eh?) rather than just focusing on playing the video game. Regardless, Eric's in England for one conference and Dan and I will be in Europe for DH2012.

Speaking of which DH2012 includes my blogging and tweeting about the conference (likely mainly from the conference accounts), so it's not like I'll lack Internet access on this trip (unlike the last one). And thanks to Google maps I've printed out directions to get me from point A to point B once I arrive in Hamburg.

So here's hoping this trip goes nice and smoothly!

It's kind of sinking in…

… this weekend I'll visit a new country for the first time! I don't speak German so I'm a bit anxious about that, but regardless, I look forward to it muchly! I'm going to have to put in a bit of effort tomorrow in printing directions to get from point A to point B (no way am I relying on Google maps or something when there's no guarantee of free wifi or of not being charged through the nose on data until I get where I need to go)… but tomorrow will be all about packing, getting last minute work/thesis things done (and yes emailed off to supervisor), and maybe seeing a friend who's coming in from out of town.

I'm not yet sure how I'm getting to the airport on Saturday morning at this stage, but I think that my flight is late enough this time that I'll be able to use bus 747!

I'm only gone for a week, but the volunteer schedule does look promising for my actually doing a bit of sightseeing while I'm there.

Speaking of Hamburg, does anyone absolutely need souvenirs from the area (or have recommendations as to what's worth getting from Hamburg)? I'm sure to take photos, of course, too but…!

Didn't sleep well last night…

… and not just because of heat. My brain was whirring too much. One of those problems I tend to have when I'm thinking too much about the future or about the past and its relation to the future. I'm not in a bad place: I've been having a great time lately when I've been able. I'm just not in a great headspace: too stressed, longing for what I don't have nor am able to materialize instantaneously. *shrugs* Maybe it has something to do with turning 30 this month. Maybe not. I worry that my temptations to rebuild masks and retreat into myself will be followed at some point, when I've spent years tearing that ridiculousness down and learning to live life more viscerally — with of course the downside that I'm much more emotional and feel things much more acutely — even if they happen to just be related to a YouTube video or to a movie or graphic novel. I think that's a downside I prefer, even if it does mean that loneliness and restlessness hits me perhaps harder than it should.

I never seem to strike the right balance of busy-ness and free time, nor do I seem to do a good job with balancing my needs for social interaction with alone time in a way that satisfies me. I know quite well that I don't do well with being all alone for entire days without leaving the house, yet I still do this. I do much better interacting with friends (and I mean in person though text messages and emails and social media do serve to fulfill a certain need as well) at least once a day even if only for a few minutes. Perhaps this is why living on my own is less than satisfying at times (though I do like the freedom). I love to be busy (travel is awesome for that) and to be trying and doing new things. I love to be accomplishing stuff (and not just procrastinating though I'm damn good at that too), but I need my goof-off time to read, play games, interact with folks and catch up on Internet happenings. I wish I could find that necessary balance.

And I wish I could sleep more effectively. I know that I've been sleeping better when I've been away from my apt lately (whether on someone's couch etc. or in a hotel) and I think that has a lot less to do with the sleeping arrangements (or comfort of bed or couch etc.) than it does that when I'm doing so I'm beholden to different scheduling requirements. Which likely means that I need to start keeping a better personal schedule. Which I intend to do but keep running into the problem of not sleeping well and not feeling up to getting out of bed at a reasonable hour… which only perpetuates my issues…

And last night once I WAS finally asleep the storm woke me up. It was a nice storm and all but I was totally confused and used the occasion to simply close a window, climb back onto bed, open the crawl space for some cooler air, and attempt a return to my bizarre dreams.