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Concert Countdown: Five Days

Posted by Sumiki , in AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, Life, Music Jun 28 2014 · 121 views

I've practiced a ton and I'm really well prepared and really excited. July 3rd is less than a week away, almost everyone I know in real life who could realistically make it has been invited, and three string instrument players have been added to the program, meaning a larger audience because there are about a zillion chamber music players this summer.

Would have gotten more practice but I met this girl who is in the film program but is pretty handy with a piano despite a lack of formal lessons, and ended up spending a majority of the of the day showing her around the music building, finding grand pianos and an old out-of-tune double bass before going up an old staircase to the back of a concert hall. We struggled to find the lights at first, but once doing so we found all of these random percussion instruments and ended up doing an impromptu duet on a glockenspiel.

I'm really excited.


How to Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Posted by Sumiki , in Music, Life, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Jun 26 2014 · 135 views

So the composition workshop is going astoundingly well, all things considered - and by all things I mean that there are eight of us this year so not everyone can get everything they need done given that there's only one music technology lab. That's fine by me, because I'm not as interested in writing for the abstract little films, and my time in said lab has basically been to assist the others in the operation of various bits of technology because, having attended for three consecutive years, I know more of the ins and outs of the software.

So, within the next week, I should be:

- Playing the piano part of a fellow composers' song, which she'll be singing at open mic night next Wednesday
- Playing and singing Tom Lehrer's brilliant song "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" at aforementioned open mic night
- Continuing to practice the recital pieces I'll play on July 3rd - next week aaaaaaaaaaa
- Finish writing, practice the piano part of, organize the rehearsals for, and present a piece for viola, piano, and percussion on the 11th

- Possibly a performance of a piano trio that was recorded last December but is still the only trio that has not had a public performance - if this happens, I'll be at the piano with aforementioned fellow composer on the violin and one of her friends on the cello

Which is insane.

At some level I feel as if I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but, to quote Leonard Bernstein: "To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time."


No Rest for the Weary

Posted by Sumiki , in AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, Life, Music Jun 19 2014 · 166 views

Having only returned twenty-four hours ago, I get just a few days off to unwind and rest from the trip ...
... except not.
I'm finally starting on the BIG THING that Pablo and I have been talking about for a while, but - and this is SUPER EXCITING NEWS that I literally only had confirmed earlier this week - I must practice and prepare all of the pieces that I've ever written for solo piano because I'm having a RECITAL DEDICATED TO THEM.
It'll be part of a composition workshop that I've attended and had great fun at for the past two years, but this is a much bigger deal, for in the concerts that have capped them off I've played the piano part of various trio ensembles. I'll do that again this year (piano, viola, and percussion), but I get THIS AS WELL.
In terms of number of pieces played this will be the most and longest I've ever performed at one sitting.


Dawn of the Final Day

Posted by Sumiki , in The Great American Road Trip, Life Jun 18 2014 · 105 views

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We began the day by looking at the route home when I discovered a place that we'd unexpectedly pass: Montpelier, the home of President James Madison. It was a detour of just a few miles from our initial route, so we decided to take the detour and tour his home.
Having visited Monticello many years ago, I kind of knew what to expect, but that was a while back and a completely different house. Montpelier was similar - starting in the visitor's center, we watched an introductory film and learned about how the house was undergoing extensive research to return it to what it would have looked like at the end of the Madison tenure, as it had been extensively modified by subsequent owners after the widowed Dolley Madison had to sell it to pay her debts.
The tour started off slow but picked up interest as it went along, and was given by a nice older man whose general facial features, unfortunately, resembled Dracula. They've pretty much finished stripping back the additions and restoring the structure to what it would have looked like during the residence of the Madisons, but there were very few original pieces of furniture. While everything was a period piece, tracking the original furniture and knick-knacks from the house is a difficult and time-consuming process.
Among the interesting information was the importance of Dolley Madison in the fledgling nation's affairs. She was the longest-serving First Lady, as the socialite and trend-setter had served as the de facto First Lady under widower Thomas Jefferson. In addition to her popularization of ice cream (her favorite flavor: oyster), she popularized the turban and made her husband so popular that his presidential opponent said that he could have beaten Mr. Madison, but not Mr. and Mrs. Madison.
We exited Montpelier and endured the blistering heat back to the air-conditioned sanctuary of the visitor center, where we added an ornament to Mom's Collection and rolled on out, continuing down the road to our original first stop of the day at Appomattox Court House. Though long hailed as the end of the Civil War, as Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had long posed the biggest threat to Union forces, and Lee himself had just earlier in 1865 been appointed commander of all Confederate forces, it was not the last action of the Civil War. Other armies surrendered later, and the last battle - in Brownsville, literally as far south as you can go and still be in the United States - was won by the Confederates.
The sweltering heat had not diminished in the least as we sweated around Appomattox Court House. While it's only just a few houses situated at a crossroads, it served as the administrative district for Appomattox County, which is confusing because the town of Appomattox is just a few miles from the Court House.
Easily the most interesting thing on the grounds was the famous McLean House, site of Lee's surrender to Grant. The magnanimous Grant made sure that Lee's depleted army - starving and tired to the point that some would just fall over asleep while marching and captured by the Union forces coming up behind them - was properly supplied and sent back home in an orderly manner.
Amazingly, Lee didn't want to give up the cause, saying that he wanted to keep fighting to the death than give Grant the unconditional surrender he demanded. Though the war was lost, a short battle was waged the night before, with the Confederates unsuccessfully trying to break through the lines of the Union army that finally had them surrounded. Cut off from their only way out - south to General Johnston's army, which surrendered not long after the events of Appomattox - Lee realized that attacking was suicidal.
The McLeans were forced to sell their house after the war, as their fortune, which was entirely in Confederate money, was worthless. The new owner was an enterprising fellow, and took extensive notes on the interior of the house before meticulously taking it apart, with the intention of taking it to the Chicago World's Fair, like the building at Harpers Ferry that housed John Brown. But with the travel cost from Appomattox to Chicago prohibitively expensive, he decided to re-build it in the much closer Washington, D.C. ... but he went bankrupt shortly after, leaving the McLean House not much more than a pile of stones and slowly rotting wood.
It was re-built on the spot years later and restored to what it would have looked like when it hosted the generals of both sides. With a mix of originals and replicas, it really wasn't all that big.
Though still immensely hot, we made the trek to the gift shop, where - in addition to the obligatory ornament - my dad got a few books for himself. I have no shortage of assurance that he will have completed these tomes within the week.
Back in the car, we continued down the road a little ways. Hungry, and with nothing to eat on Route 29 itself, we exited and found an Applebee's, where we all got what we'd had yesterday, purely in the interest of time, as our main priority at that point was to get back home during the daylight hours. I'm glad to report that there was no atrocious karaoke at this establishment, only a waitress who called all of us "sweetheart" and "honey" in alternating order.
Two hours of driving later, we made it back home, just as the sun was setting.
This trip clocked in at 4625 miles on the dot, about 55% of the mileage that we covered on the first two trips. Strangely, it feels like we've done more, as the things to do in the Northeast are generally more tightly packed. The wilderness of northern Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and parts of Québec and Vermont was more like what we've been accustomed to out west. Though there are more baseball teams in the northeast, the number of pennants we collected was significantly lower, which I can only attribute to the fact that, in terms of mileage, this is only half a trip.
Our beloved car has finally seen its last road trip. With over 120,000 miles and many road trips in its rearview mirror, it's broken down six times on these road trips, and we were on track for five if this third trek had gone a full 8,000. She's a retired greyhound now - still a great car, but we're not going to put her through any unnecessary stress.
Tomorrow: we sleep in our own beds for the first time in roughly a month - and tonight, I don't have to pile pillows on my head to protect my ears from the wood-chipping quality of my parents' patented Tandem Snoring™.


Tales of Colonel Nit-Wit

Posted by Sumiki , in The Great American Road Trip, Sumiki's Dad, Life Jun 17 2014 · 88 views

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We left the New Jersey hotel before noon and almost immediately got turned around due to the fact that there were two possible routes out of New Jersey towards Valley Forge. We ended up paying a toll and crossing over into Pennsylvania - and, like New Jersey, Pennsylvania has no welcome sign.
The roads to Valley Forge were long and tedious. Somewhere along the line we ran into a section that was just plain awful - the four lanes of the road literally slanted into each other, so much so that, if there had been two eighteen-wheelers in the middle two lanes, the inwards slant of the road would have made the tops of their trailers collide. We did not see very many trucks on this particular stretch, which was practically the only good thing one could say about it, as it featured every highway atrocity from lane-wide potholes to lanes that were cut off for road construction completely without warning.
Yet we were as determined as ever to get to Valley Forge, and get to Valley Forge we did, but not after seeing two of the most bizarre road signs on the continent within a half-hour of each other: "Beware of Aggressive Drivers" and "No Shoulder Next 1540 Feet."
The visitor center (and film) at Valley Forge didn't include any historical information we didn't already know, but it felt good to walk around and stretch our legs for a bit. But with the temperature outside at over 90 degrees, most of our walking was confined to air-conditioned establishments.
We took the driving tour around Valley Forge, which, again, wasn't much - nothing original of the encampment remains and attempts at determining the precise location of various huts and bases is nearly impossible. Nevertheless, the driving tour took us through some gorgeous countryside, passing ornate monuments to the generals who wintered there and faithful reconstructions of the log cabins the various regiments built for winter quarters.
After Valley Forge, we got onto US 202, which was atrocious. The stop-and-go traffic in the right lane - awful on brakes even in the best of conditions - was augmented by traffic going well over the speed limit in the left - and in a work zone, no less! The good news was that we didn't have to spend but two miles on this road before reaching our exit onto US 30, upon which we made good time.
We rolled through small town after small town, looking for something to eat ... and literally everything was on the other side of the road - an impossibility, even when a middle lane was available, due to the veritable horde of drivers coming in the opposite direction.
Eventually - finally - we see a Chick-Fil-A on that side of the road. With rumbling stomachs and no guarantee that there'd be any palatable food options for miles ahead, we got three chicken sandwiches and soon were continuing on our merry way - but not before we got a report from my mom, who said that the women's restroom contained, in addition to its hand-sensing squirt-contraptions that produce soap and hand sanitizer upon appropriate requests, a third hand-sensing squirt-contraption that produced mouthwash.
I see this as one of those things that would likely work only in theory.
We crossed over the wide Susquehanna River, saw a number of diners, and crossed through a number of traffic circles, which have been the bane of our existence on this particular trip.
We took US 30 to the outskirts of Gettysburg, where we took US 15 down to Maryland. We spent less than an hour in Maryland before we crossed into Virginia, which is where things really got hilarious, for my dad spun a tale of Colonel Nit-Wit, played by himself, and Major Half-Wit, played by myself, as well as a cavalcade of stars, including:
• Corporal Gilbert, whose lips were attached to his earlobe
• Miss Left Foot, who didn't have a right foot
• Sergeant Stumpy, who didn't have a left foot (although his right foot was later removed and put onto Miss Left Foot, and Stumpy ended up attached to the back of Corporal Gilbert)
• Sergeant Hamster, who looks like a hamster
• Lieutenant Claude, a possum in disguise
The interactions and voices of these characters had us in stitches from the state line all the way through to our eventual stop, to the point that my dad had a little bit of trouble snapping out of the aristocratic southern accent that he used to portray Colonel Nit-Wit.
We stopped in Leesburg at a hotel that didn't have any rooms, but, as according to one of the patrons, who came from a room while we were walking out, also didn't have hot water. With enough light to get farther down the road, we did so, and ended up pulling into Warrenton a short while later, procuring one of the last rooms at the hotel we're in now.
After we checked in, we needed something to eat, so we went down the road a little ways and pulled into the first thing that looked decent - an Applebee's. Like earlier, not our first choice for a road-trip meal, but it had to do.
It would have been quite pleasant had the not had the worse karaoke in world history been going on in one corner, including a Conway Twitty song.
I would have preferred listening to the original Conway Twitty.
I would have preferred listening to rap.
I would have preferring listening to the complete works of Anton von Webern.
I was under the impression that my dad was one of the worst singers until I experienced the horror of that karaoke. Compared to them, he sounds like an American Idol winner.
My mom wolfed down her salad, my dad consumed his steak, and I inhaled my interesting quesadilla burger, all in an attempt to get out of the pure and unavoidable torture that was being inflicted on both us and all of the other patrons, coming from other side of the building.
Thankfully, we escaped, unpacking and settling down in our room, my dad talking in his Colonel Nit-Wit voice to himself even while in the shower. (I know the folks in the other rooms can hear him when he does this, but after 26 days on the road, I've stopped caring.)
Tomorrow: we get back home.


Pennant Chase

Posted by Sumiki , in The Great American Road Trip, Life Jun 16 2014 · 98 views

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After rolling through nearby Bard College and looking at some of their freaky architecture, we headed up to the FDR Presidential Library at Hyde Park - but first, we needed some lunch. We stopped at 2:00 at Eveready Diner, a fairly new construction made to look like the ultimate '50s diner.
We later found out that they were on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives - one of the few places to have been featured multiple times. The menu was massive and included some very non-diner-like fair, such as a gyro, which my mom had. My reuben was beyond excellent, and my dad's roast was, to quote him, "succulent."
You know it's good when he talks about it coherently.
Having eaten, we got to the Library. We walked through the visitor's center to the library, where we poked around for a few moments to get a feel for the layout before doubling back to the visitor center, where a tour of the house at Hyde Park began.
The knowledgeable ranger gave a thorough rundown of the house, which has been preserved, and told a few stories that ranged from hilarious to spooky. The funniest was the account of King George on his visit to the house and his encounter with a collection of Revolutionary- and War of 1812-era cartoons that adorned a section of the wall. The King looked at it for about ten minutes, then turned to Roosevelt and said "your collection has some pieces that mine doesn't have."
Another funny story surrounded one of the few pictures that depicts Joseph Stalin smiling. While at the Yalta Conference, ready to pose for pictures, FDR was flanked by Stalin and Churchill. But to FDR, getting the Soviet agelast to break his façade was tantamount to a personal challenge. So the President whispered to Churchill that he was about to make Stalin smile. Leaning over to the mustachioed dictator, FDR whispered "I don't trust Churchill," leading to a rare grin from Stalin.
The spooky story was regarding a sculpture of Roosevelt, portraying him from the waist up only, and in a chair. While both of these could be explained fairly logically, given Roosevelt's handicapped status, the artist sculpted it a full decade before FDR contracted polio, saying then that he saw the future President as "someone who just didn't really have any use for legs."
The furniture in the house is all original, and includes artifacts such as the bed FDR was born in, the cloak he wore in the famous picture from the Yalta Conference, the chair he always sat in to await the results of elections, and one of his original wheelchairs, cobbled together from an old chair and bicycle parts. As a dabbler in architecture, Roosevelt designed parts of the house and its many eventual additions.
Back at the library, we were able to walk through at a rather brisk pace, as we're already all familiar with the history of FDR during the WWII years. However, all the information on his early life was new, as was some of the information regarding his prewar presidency.
The best part of the library was FDR's desk - fully preserved, with all of the artifacts arranged as they'd appeared when he died, and including his collection of ceramic pigs, which only the people close to him knew much about.
We exited the library as it was closing, and then exited through the visitor's center before it closed. With no reservations and a willingness to get as far down the road as we felt was safe, we went a little farther south to the village of Wappingers Falls, home of the Hudson Valley Renegades of the short-season New York-Penn League. Their opening day was last Monday, and we had to park on quite literally the very edge of the parking lot, as the game had started a little earlier and was currently in the fourth inning.
This was after we cobbled together five dollars in quarters to pay for parking, for we had used up our last dollar bills. With the promise that everything in the ballpark took credit, we got some tickets and entered the park.
Of course, our first stop was to acquire a pennant, only to be told that you could not purchase a pennant within the bare-bones confines of the team store, but could find one being sold on one of the carts that were rolling periodically around the concourse.
We looked, but with no description of what the thing looked like, we didn't know what we were looking for in the crowd, so we went up to a young lady also selling a few bits of merchandise behind a long table. While she had pennants, they weren't for sale (for some reason), and then again mentioned the carts ... only this time she pointed and said "there's one over there now."
I wasn't around to hear the last of the conversation, as I bolted through a gap in the crowd, came to a stop in front of the shocked guy that was pushing the cart, and asked, with great urgency, if he sold pennants.
He pulled out one and said that it was five dollars.
We weren't even sure if we had five whole dollars in the car, much less on our person. As we explained the situation, he gave us the pennant and said that we could pay for it inside the team store.
But the story doesn't end there, for the only person who could operate the machine to check out a non-team store item had gone outside. I worked against the grain and quickly explained what was going on, and she came inside. Triumphantly, we thanked them for their time and headed to our seats.
The score was 0-0 when we entered and was 0-0 when we left, mostly due to the idiotic baserunning of one player, who was responsible for two of the three outs in the inning. We left during the seventh-inning stretch in order to get away from the crowd, but not before seeing some of the most sadistic and bizarre between-innings games.
We've experienced games around the country and seen many a crazy promotion, from fans racing to put on a frozen t-shirt in St. Paul to fans rushing to build themselves into a gigantic hamburger ... also in St. Paul. These were for certain the weirdest games, which featured a spiteful host berating a woman for not knowing the lines from famous female movie characters, the same spiteful host moderating a bizarrely morphed game of blackjack where the loser ended up getting a pie tossed in his face, and a race wherein three teams of teenagers put disks between their legs, waddled over to a bucket, sat down, and tried to work the disks up and into the bucket without the use of their hands.
It was exactly as bizarre at it sounds like.
With all of that out of the way, we rolled on up the road and pulled into a gas station to call the hotline to find out where rooms were available. Once we had one, we hit the road ... but the road we were on was a toll road. Without an accurate way of assessing the coins we've lugged four thousand miles, we could only estimate what we could see, which was about six dollars. With no way of knowing what the cost would be at our eventual exit, we hoped for the best ... although a line from C.W. McCall's "Convoy" undoubtedly rang through our heads: "We crashed the gate doing ninety-eight/Sayin 'Let them truckers roll'."
Fortunately there was no need to do ninety-eight or crash any gates, as we were able to pay the toll using the change we had, with plenty to spare. We approached New York City but peeled off about twenty miles out, getting into New Jersey ... somewhere. Unlike most states, they don't put up "welcome to New Jersey" signs. We knew we were in New Jersey nonetheless, and we got to our hotel a little after 9:00.
While none of us were particularly hungry, we also knew that we'd done a lot of walking around and we hadn't eaten since 2:00, so we ate at the hotel. It was average food, and the real fun was with the waitress, who brought out a pitcher of lemonade after we'd all been through a refill or two. Faced with this challenge, we all pitched in. I, for one, was more thirsty than hungry, and I preferred the lemonade over the quasi-calamari, which was about 86% breading when all was said and done.
Our key lime pie dessert was augmented by a second, on-the-house slice - a surprise from our bubbly waitress. This marks the third time on this trip that we've gotten a free dessert augmentation.
Tomorrow: we try to get as far south as possible. It's too long of a drive to get home, but our plan is to make our final day as short as possible.


Nickeled and Dimed

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 15 2014 · 104 views

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We checked out of the hotel and passed the Saratoga Raceways on the way out of the always-packed Saratoga Springs downtown. We saw a few horses being groomed and ridden, but no races were slated, so we just looked around to see what we could see from the streets.
Our first stop of the day was a little ways from Saratoga Springs at the Saratoga Battlefield. Despite being one of the most influential battles in the history of the world, the Saratoga Battlefield is not as well-traveled or built-up as, say, Gettysburg is. Nevertheless, the visitor center is well done, despite the clear lack of funding. It was also fairly well-traveled, which is surprising considering that the only access is on secondary roads with utterly frivolous hairpin turns.
The two battles in September and October of 1777 marked the turning point of the Revolution and thus of world history. British forces occupied New York City and Québec, and were preparing to come down Lake Champlain and the Hudson River to cut off the revolutionaries, who were mostly confined to New England.
The beginning of this strategy worked, as the British captured a series of small forts, including Ticonderoga. In order to stop the advance, the American forces rallied near Saratoga, at a natural choke point along the Hudson called Bemis Heights. Sitting on the choice of going down the river and getting slaughtered by American forces or trying to beat the Americans on Bemis Heights, British General John "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne chose to attack.
The September battle was somewhat of a stalemate, with the Americans still on Bemis Heights. The British dug in, and the second battle on October 7th ended with the Americans routing the British. This got France on board with the revolutionary cause, declaring war on Britain.
We drove around the battlefield and got a sense of the terrain, which is remarkably well-preserved. The visitor center even had one of the original cannon used at the battle.
The most interesting thing about the battle - and, in fact, Fort Ticonderoga as well - is that Benedict Arnold, commonly known only as a traitor, was incredibly influential. Had he not married a Loyalist half his age and attempted to surrender West Point to the British, he'd be considered one of the greatest American heroes. As it is, without Arnold's heroism at influential points, the Revolution could just as easily have been a failure. As one of the volunteers put it, "we'd be looking at Arnold's face on the one-dollar bill."
It took us nearly three hours to complete the driving tour, including our many stops to walk around and see things. We pulled onto the road and found ourselves to be incredibly low on gas - which made sense, considering that we hadn't gotten any since we stopped in rural Québec.
My mom took much longer than expected getting snacks and drinks inside, so I went in to find her at the counter, 75 cents short. I procured three quarters from the car and gave them to the man behind the counter.
This was not to be the last fun we'd have with loose change.
We got onto I-87 and rolled on through Albany, where we lost a considerable amount of traffic and entered the toll road, where we spotted a few deer along the side of the road. I'd forgotten this about New York toll roads - you pick up a ticket on the way in, and then turn in the ticket wherever you exit, with the exit number corresponding to a particular toll amount. Thus, the state can tax individuals who use more of the road.
With the toll for our exit at $2.70, my mom and I rummaged for change, and we ended up paying the $2.70 almost exclusively in nickels, which took the lady at the toll booth nearly a full minute to count out. Her parting words to us were "hey, next time - use pennies!" - although her words were nearly incomprehensible through her laughter.
Now driving a slightly lighter car, we arrived at our hotel at 4:30 and checked in, getting to our room and immediately looking up local places to eat in Kingston. We couldn't find the place that we originally wanted to go - the girl at the front desk confused the place we'd looked at with a different place on the other side of town, and our stupid little GPS is now officially on its last legs, getting all turned around, spinning in circles even when we were at a complete stop. We eventually saw a sign for a grill up in a mall, which we pulled into.
It was a bit of a sports-bar kind of place, but it wasn't all that loud. The server was entertained by my order of extra blue cheese on my blue cheese burger and the fact that a lemon seed had perched itself right on the end of my straw after a particularly difficult sip. If I hadn't taken as long of a sip, it would have slipped back down the straw, but if I'd gone just a millisecond longer, it would have gone into my mouth.
Tomorrow: the FDR Presidential Library at Hyde Park, with the aim of getting as far south as Pennsylvania.



Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 14 2014 · 80 views

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We meandered through Burlington at 11:00 and worked our way south along US 7, eventually getting out of the city and through countryside. We paralleled Lake Champlain as it narrowed, crossing over it into New York at noon. We continued south to Ticonderoga and traversed a surprisingly long unpaved road up to Fort Ticonderoga itself.
The fort is exceptionally tiny, especially after seeing the monstrous forts in Halifax and Québec. It was built by the French during the Seven Years' War (or the French and Indian War, as the theater in North America is usually referred to), captured by the British at the end of that war, then was taken without a shot by Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys at the beginning of the Revolution. It was eventually re-taken by the British, only to be re-taken by the Americans.
Fort Ticonderoga had degenerated into ruins by the mid-1800s, but was later refurbished and restored with help from funding from an affluent tycoon. Nowadays it's run by a nonprofit organization - not the National Park Service, strangely enough.
We wandered in and around the fort - it's not that big - leaving ample time for ambling around museums and exhibits that weren't always air conditioned. It took us two hours to get around when all was said and done, but most of our time was spent indoors, marveling at their impressive collection of muskets, powder horns, and other artifacts - including a trundle bed once owned by Benedict Arnold.
We climbed up into the Adirondack Mountains, cutting across scenic landscapes and paralleling Paradox Lake, eventually intersecting with a deserted I-87 heading south to Saratoga Springs. Traffic picked up considerably as we continued on the road.
It was somewhat backed up getting into Saratoga Springs, but it did not delay us much, and we checked into the hotel at 3:30. As we unloaded our bags, my dad got us a reservation at the Wheatfields Restaurant, the local restaurant institution in Saratoga Springs. We cleaned up (well, as much as we could, as my dad and I are sporting some exceptionally ragged facial hair) and headed out, navigating the absurdly cramped streets of downtown Saratoga and eventually paying ten dollars for parking because there was literally no other parking spot in the entire downtown area.
Wheatfields was larger and different to my dad vivid descriptions, although his last visit was 23 years ago. The menu and décor were significantly different, but their main attraction - pasta made in-house - was still there. Having had little to eat all day, we thoroughly enjoyed the fresh bread, with butter that had just enough of a hint of garlic to make it interesting. We all split two appetizers - calamari, lightly breaded and glazed with a spicy Thai sauce, and crab cakes. I ate the majority of the calamari, including the delicious tentacles. It was easily the best calamari I've ever had.
The squid, however, ended up being the highlight of the meal, as our respective pastas were much more mediocre than we'd come to anticipate from the bread and the appetizers.
Tomorrow: the Battle of Saratoga en route to Kingston, New York.



Posted by Sumiki , in The Great American Road Trip, Life Jun 13 2014 · 109 views

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We left the hotel at 11:14 after amusing the valet staff with our rudimentary French, heading for Stade Municipal, looking forward to what we were sure would be a strange pennant collection from the stadium of the independent-league Québec Capitales. After circling around the hotel and working through downtown Québec, we pulled into the parking lot. Armed with a cheat-sheet for the sentences we'd need in order to purchase a pennant exclusively in French, we headed in.
Fortunately for us, the lady at the front desk knew a little more English than we know of French, and so we were able to purchase a pennant and hat.
We left the stadium around noon and exited the city as we'd entered it, then headed southwest across the St. Lawrence Seaway and headed out more into the countryside. The rain was constant, and got worse the longer we stayed in Québec. The Québécois drivers never had their rear lights on, passed at incredible speeds on wet pavement, and generally just drove like crazy people.
Around 1:00 we got drinks, snacks, and gas at a service station, using up the last of our Canadian cash. We were well into Québec farmland at this point, and we got even further into it as we meandered our way southeast along provincial routes, including the infernally infested paved drainage ditch that was QC-235, a busy two-lane road through the middle of nowhere where more than one Québec driver passed farm equipment on blind hills.
The rain increased. Standing water was visible in the fields next to us, and every truck that was going north left behind a great plume of mist. We still got across Québec, and the rains eventually abated as we passed through the small communities of Bedford and Pike River.
The strangest thing about the region of southern Québec we traversed was the random two mountains that rose up out of the flat farmland, visible for miles around even through the mist.
It took fifteen minutes to get across the border. We accessed the trip odometer when we were stopped, switching away from the Metric system and writing down our current mileage: 3590 miles, or 5777.7 kilometers.
We then entered Vermont, completing my personal collection of the contiguous 48 states. The sun broke through the clouds and we could catch more glimpses of Lake Champlain. The rain turned to mist and finally stopped altogether as we reached the town of St. Albans, which has an interesting bit of history behind it - a raid on the town in 1864 by Confederates who came down from Montreal to rob banks and send supplies back south. Despite meticulous planning, their raid wasn't as much of a success as they'd originally thought, and the men who carried it out were eventually acquitted under the logic that the raid was an act of war.
There's not much now when it comes to the raid, but we still stopped in St. Albans. The adorable downtown was scouted for historical markers and food, and we found both - right across the street from each other. We ate at a little Italian restaurant called Mimmo's, where the service was slowed due to a change in shift and some sort of refrigerator problem in the kitchen, but was delicious. We later found out that they'd won some local awards for excellence, and we could see why - my baked ziti was excellent, and I got similar reports about the pizza and meatball spaghetti.
Afterwards, we walked around across the street, where we saw the second Sherman tank in two days as well as a series of monuments dedicated to veterans of conflicts scattered around a picturesque little park.
At 5:00 we got back on the Interstate and at 5:20 we got to our hotel, where, once we settled down, loads of laundry were put into the washer.
Around 6:30 we left for the stadium of the Vermont Lake Monsters, a single-A team who shares their historic ballpark with the University of Vermont. We went down the road five minutes to the stadium. Their season won't start until next Monday, but three or four guys were there, preparing for Opening Day. A fellow let us in to purchase a pennant and hat, as well as point out some bits of their quaint little ballpark.
We then drove out of there, saw the grave of Ethan Allen, then continued into downtown Winooski, where we parked and walked around towards the Winooski River, where, to our surprise, a boardwalk overlooked the rapids below. We followed this boardwalk up the river, where it petered out into a dirt trail paralleling the river, narrowing considerably the farther we got. We saw interesting plant life and about a dozen slugs on a downed tree - all of them burnt orange, very small, and squiggling around.
The trail continued on, but we turned back - there was nothing else to see under the bridge, and deep in the woods we wanted to have plenty of light to get out, which we did. We walked around a few blocks of Winooski and then headed back to the hotel, which is full of screaming kids. Thankfully it has died down, but it was a full-on racket there for a while.
Tomorrow: continuing southbound to Fort Ticonderoga and Saratoga Springs.


Room of 10,000 Towels

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 12 2014 · 105 views

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We ate breakfast on the top floor. I modified my coffee with six or seven sugar packets, and it was still quite bitter. My dad drank it nearly straight, though I'm not entirely sure how. After this, we headed out into Old Québec again, just as we'd done yesterday.
But before we headed into the heart of Old Québec, we headed slightly south towards the Québec Citadel, a nearly impenetrable fortification that, like the Halifax Citadel, had served many different purposes over the years, and various structures on the site - the highest point in Québec City on this side of the St. Lawrence Seaway - have kept out invading forces for centuries. Today, it's still a military base, but serves more as a living history museum.
The Royal 22nd Regiment is still stationed there, continuing its long and gloried tradition as the only French-speaking regiment in Canada, and for its bravery in battle - specifically at Vimy Ridge during World War I.
We got a tour around the Citadel, seeing museums, the old jail, and general bits of historical interest. They had a full Sherman on display outside the old munitions building, and a large collection of bayonets in the jail - including a serrated one that looked to be a cross between a machete and a bread knife. Our guide had a thick accent but was understandable.
After exiting the Citadel (and avoiding the loud school groups that infest the historical areas) we walked down into Old Québec, where the European streets were not nearly as crowded as yesterday due to the rain that came down steadily throughout the day. We walked towards the St. Lawrence Seaway and took the funicular down.
The funicular is basically a box that's put on a inclined railway. While the box stays level, it descends on an exceptionally steep angle. The stairs are an option, but the nominal fee we paid to descend in the funicular was well worth it.
Our previous excursions had taken us around the upper city, but we were now down in the lower city, the oldest part of Old Québec. It was filled with tourists - mostly Asian - and featured shops. The architecture was not all that different from the upper city. We stopped in at a chocolate shop, where we each got two delectable morsels - I had a fairly large praline shaped like a large seashell and a much smaller bite of orange-flavored caramel, which I later found out was made from Grand Marnier - albeit without the alcohol.
Dad and I got some delicious, sweet gelato, then we went around the lower city, seeing the old town square and looking inside a very old church, which was not quite as grand as the one we saw in Chéticamp (or even the Old North Church in Boston, for that matter), but it was still serene and grand.
We walked around a little more of the old city, but the rain was getting progressively worse, the fog was rolling in, and our feet were getting sore from the  sheer amount of walking that we'd done. We took the funicular back up - after some concern over maximum capacity after a bunch of Japanese tourists crammed into an already sardine-can-like environment - and walked back through Old Québec and out to our hotel.
From the topmost floors, we saw the fog get even worse. Despite the constant rain, we saw everything we really wanted to see in Québec City. In fact, the rain kept most of the large school groups off the streets, making getting around much easier on the whole. With no more towels and another night to spend in Québec City, my dad called the front desk to get six towels. Two people showed up no more than five minutes apart, each bringing six towels ... and then later, even more folks showed up with three more towels. As I write this, we have no less than fifteen sets of towels stacked around our room.
I've never seen this many towels.
With sore legs and continuously miserable weather, we nibbled upstairs, but our previous lack of food caught up to us and thus we headed downstairs for food. My dad had a flank steak with vegetables and a salad, I had a flat-iron steak, juicy and tender, with potato skins adorned with delicious and über-pungent blue cheese bits, and my mom got a small pizza, of which she ate two-thirds. Everything was flavorful and delicious. We all split a chocolate dessert and then went back up to the top floor. As I printed out directions in the business center, we entertained ourselves by trying to remember every trip meal we've eaten in the past three years.
Tomorrow: we get back to the United States, beginning the last leg of the trip.


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He's the lord of all strangeness. - Ignika: Nerd of Life

How awesome is Sumiki on a scale of 1 to 10? - Waffles
42. - Black Six

[He's] the king of wierd, the prince of practicality, the duke of durr! - Daiker

Sumiki is magic. - Cholie

Sumiki says, "Do I creeeeeeep you out?" Yes, he does. - Waffles

Sumiki is a nub. He's cool, but he's still a nub. - Ran Yakumo

"What is a Sumiki?" You may ask. But the answer to that is still unknown, even to the Sumiki itself. - Daiker


Sumiki is best snickerdoodle. - Takuma Nuva

BZPower = Sumiki + McSmeag + B6. And Hahli Husky. - Vorex

What's a Sumi? Does it taste good? - Janus

I would have thought Sumiki wanted to reincarnate as a farm animal. - Kraggh


Sumiki: the horse_ebooks of bzp - VampireBohrok

Everything relates to Sumiki. No really, everything. - Daiker

Sumiki - hat-wearing ladies man. - Black Six

He's in worse mental condition than I thought. - Obsessionist

I'm just wondering why I'm looking at some cat dancing ... I suppose the answer would simply be "Sumiki." - Brickeens

I was like a beast, screaming through the mind of Sumiki at the speed of sound. I.. I wasn't strong enough to stop myself. What I saw was the end of infinity, through which one can see the beginning of time, and I will never be the same. - Portalfig

I imagine the 13th Doctor will be rather like Sumiki, at the rate we're going. - rahkshi guurahk

I was quite sure Sumiki had another set of arms stashed somewhere. - Bfahome

Note to future self: don’t try to predict Sumiki, he’s unpredictable. - Voltex

Let's be honest, I would totally have picked my main man Sumiki to lead my goose-stepping night killers anyway. We tight like that, yo. - Xaeraz

10/10, would Sumiki again. - Bfahome

I’m just sitting here with the most concerned expression - VampireBohrok


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Every week, I post a new "Tuesday Tablescrap", a small MOC not worthy of a topic, but something to post and inspire me to build more.

10/25/11 - Duplo Flower
11/1/11 - Slender Man and Masky
11/8/11 - Bizarre Black Spaceship
11/15/11 - 2001 Monolith

11/22/11 - My Little Slizer 50
11/29/11 - Punching Bag
12/6/11 - Thunder and Escorts
12/13/11 - Three Concepts
12/20/11 - Kaxium Alternate
12/27/11 - None (Christmas Break)


1/3/12 - Daiker
1/10/12 - None
1/17/12 - Volant
1/24/12 - Nidman's Chute Shoop Shop
1/31/12 - None (Brickshelf down)
2/7/12 - None
2/14/12 - Atomic Lime
2/21/12 - Spearhead
2/28/12 - Glatorian Kahi
3/6/12 - Seeker
3/13/12 - Skyscraper
3/20/12 - Microphone
3/27/12 - Toa Vultraz
4/3/12 - Flammenwerferjüngeres
4/10/12 - Umbrella
4/17/12 - Lime Beetle
4/24/12 - Special - Flame Sculpture
5/1/12 - None (BZPower down)
5/8/12 - Purple Ninja
5/15/12 - The Original Sumiki
5/22/12 - 7/24/12 - None
7/31/12 - Tahu
8/7/12 - None (BrickFair)
8/14/12 - Special - Chess Set
8/21/12 - Heavily Armored Wasp
8/28/12 - Spaceship Drill
9/4/12 - Scuba Vehicle
9/11/12 - Orange Guy
9/18/12 - Strange Flying Thing
9/25/12 - Goblet
10/2/12 - None
10/9/12 - Aim .............................. Down
10/16/12 - Gold Bot
10/23/12 - Teal Mech
10/30/12 - Special - Teal Mech (#2)
11/6/12 - Bits and Pieces
11/13/12 - Two Spaceships
11/20/12 - TARDIS Interior
11/27/12 - Christmas Creep
12/4/12 - Toaraga
12/11/12 - Fireplace
12/18/12 - Abstract Duckling
12/25/12 - None (Christmas)
1/1/13 - Black Bot
1/8/13 - 1/22/13 - None
1/29/13 - Handheld Rhotuka Launcher
2/5/13 - 8/6/13 - None
8/13/13 - The Hinklebot
8/20/13 - Special - Post-Apocalyptic Piyufi
8/27/13 - 8/5/14 - None
8/12/14 - Another Chro Original
8/19/14 - Kanohi Zatth
8/26/14 - Miniland Hatpile
9/2/14 - S. S. Starfish
9/9/14 - Special - Claude Hairgel
9/16/14 - Green Flame
9/23/14 - Avohkah Tamer
9/30/14 - Special - The Havoc Wreaker
10/7/14 - Fire Snake


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Formerly known as the Bring Back Teal Club, the Unused Colors Society is a club that serves to promote colors that are little-used or discontinued, such as teal, old purple, or metallic blue.




ToM Dracone
-Toa Lhikevikk-
Dirk Strider
Toa Flappy
Lime Paradox
Toa Robert
The X
Dave Strider
Akuna Toa of Sonics
Commander Helios
Popup2: The Camel
~Shadow Kurahk~
~System Of A Down~
Kohrak Kal17
Jackson Lake
Thunder on the Mountain
Ackar's Follower
Bitter Cold
Doc Scratch
Mendicant Bias
Darth Eryzeth
Toa of Vahi
Makuta GigaDon
~Toa Drokonas~
Progenitus Worldsoul
Toa Kuhrii Avohkii
Bohrok Kal
Toa Neya 2011 Edition
~prisma son of dawn~
.: WoLVeRINe :.
Alternate Velika
Schnee 1
Brickeens (again!?)
The Great Forgetter
Thomas the Tank Engine
Jonah Falcon
Oh my miru
Element lord Of Milk.
Lexuk Toa Of Insanity
Michael J. Caboose
knuckles chaotix
The Bean
Lord Kaitan de Storms
Toa of Dancing
Toa Arzaki
The Oncoming Storm
Lego Obsessionist
Toa of Pumpkin
Teal Armada
Toa Zehvor Blackout
Mr. M
Mylo Xyloto
Lord of Ice
Gamzee Makara
Zarayna: The Quiet Light



Vorex: Keeper of Time


Toa of Smooth Jazz



Dual Matrix

rahkshi guurahk
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If you learn one thing in life, learn this:

You should never, ever question why demons would possess a soda.

just a heads up - Cthulhu would probably eradicate mankind before bringing back Bionicle

so yeah, all I'm saying is, please think twice about this okay

nothing gets democracy flowing like erratic capitalizatION

[the NSA] couldn't say no when I offered them an ostrich farm in exchange

Sumiki -- nice try but we all know Toa Mata Nui stuffs its bra

You have a great understanding of history, but don't forget, war, murder and other poor decisions are also huge characteristics.

Also a long line of really great hats.

Shhh, I'm trying to focus on the negative to justify my dislike of history.

have we mentioned hats

To be fair, I am the one responsible for the invention of Mafia in the 1320s by seventeen bored italians locked in a mine shaft.

It's a long story.


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