Hiya LJ!

Oct. 3rd, 2016 04:29 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

I dunno, I don't really want to bore you with my photos from NYC, mainly because I'm not especially happy with them. I can't even really say why, but they feel more like snapshots than usual. Out of practice, perhaps. But it was a nice day in the city. The above is from the Empire State Building's observation deck, which I visited a little before sunset, which was nice. It was packed up there, though. Like whoa. Central Park was pretty similar, which isn't surprising since it was such a gorgeous day. I think the high temperature was right around 70F, which was a very refreshing change after a summer in the mid-90s down here.

Anyway, the quick recap: Flew into LaGuardia on a smooth red-eye flight, and caught a Lyft (my first!) to Penn Station in Manhattan. Stowed my luggage there and set off on foot. Visited Herald Square, Bryant Park, the library (closed, unfortunately), Times Square, popped in for a quick peek at St. Patrick's (it was Sunday so a service was underway). Then to Central Park (did I mention it was packed?), where I walked for a bit. Caught a cab over to the west side for the Intrepid Museum, which was pretty decent. Then another Lyft to the ESB before walking back over to Penn Station to catch my train to Connecticut.

Actually, one more photo:

Exciting, right? It's a hunk of iron stuck in a rock! But I was thrilled to find it. You see, in the early days of New York City, the now well-known notion of the (mostly) orthogonal and evenly-spaced grid of streets and avenues in Manhattan was a new idea. And urban parks were rare, so Central Park had no place in the original plan. Starting in 1811, a man named John Randel (the same man who designed the grid layout in the first place) began the process of marking where each intersection would be, by means of iron rods or marble monuments. Most of those markers were of course removed as the streets were built, and others disappeared to the ravages of time and humanity. But a few remain, especially in places where streets were planned but never built. And this one is there in Central Park, marking the never-built intersection of 6th Avenue and 65th Street. It's actually pretty much right out in the open, surely passed within feet by many thousands of people every year. But I'd wager hardly any of them ever notice it, let alone have any idea what it is. So I thought that was pretty special, to seek out and find this little piece of history, a simple iron rod set in its place two centuries ago and left to watch as one of the world's greatest cities sprang up all around it.

The visit to Stamford was pretty okay. It was nice to actually meet the people I've been working with by phone and e-mail for the past couple months. And we covered a lot of stuff, but not the most top-of-mind thing, which is how our organization will actually look when all is said and done. I think my Presumptive New Boss (PNB) really thought it would be settled by the time we got together, but no such luck. Maybe within the next few weeks. It's certainly 99.9% obvious that I'm destined for his team, but exactly what form that will take seems a little less clear. And some of it may depend on whether I'm willing to relocate to CT, which frankly I'm not. Even if finances didn't constrain us to our house here, it's not an area we'd really choose to move to, and it's not like this is my dream job that I'd chase anywhere. So I'm planning to stick around here, and if that means the job and I eventually part ways, I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

In other news, we got the information on the pension payout, and... underwhelming is putting it mildly. I don't know what math they used to calculate it, but it was a lot less than I was minimally expecting, and FAR less than I was hoping. So refinancing the house is basically a non-starter. We can at least pay off the cars and some other small things, which will put some money back in the budget each month. And there will be some left over, which can go to trips and whatnot. Bottom line, it still beats a kick in the nuts, that's for sure. But I can't help but be disappointed that it wasn't the game-changer I was hoping for.

Speaking of whatnot, I did get permission to use some to get myself a new camera. My venerable 7D has exhibited a couple of concerning symptoms recently, which made me realize the thing is very nearly 5 years old. And as much as I use it, that's gotta put the shutter at or over its expected lifespan. So I found a great deal* on a 7D Mark II--I figure I may as well stick with the crop sensor since for most of the work I do it's a benefit, and the shooting speed is crucial for my HDR predilections. Hopefully the high-ISO performance is improved, and I think it adds some other nice upgrades as well. That should arrive in a couple days, something to look forward to. And good timing, as I have a photoshoot this weekend with a family I work with every year. I'll bring the old camera as backup, just in case. :)

There's probably more, but that's plenty for now. I hope your week is off to a fine start!

* Photographer friends, let me throw out a tentative plug here for Canon Price Watch. I was planning to just snag a 7D2 body at Best Buy since I have their credit card and they do no-interest financing, plus it was on Canon instant rebate for $1499 ($300 off the usual price). But none of the stores nearest to me had it in stock, so I Googled and came across CPW, which mentioned a deal on the body PLUS the genuine Canon battery grip for $1349 total. The battery grip alone retails for $200, so yeah, that's a great deal. CPW seemed a bit shady, somehow, at first--on the CPW site you submit your name and e-mail address, then they e-mail you with a few potential deals on the product you're after. You reply with which deal you want, along with your name and address, and only then do they actually e-mail you the info on which store you're dealing with, and a link to the deal you selected. In my case, it turned out to be a camera dealer out of Ontario. But hey, no sales tax, free shipping, and I figured if it was a scam I'd just reverse the charge, right? So I bit, and got the shipping notice from Canada Post within just a few hours. That was Friday afternoon, and the camera should arrive Wednesday, which was actually the best Amazon Prime said they could do anyway. If it's truly new-in-box product with a valid Canon warranty and all that, I will be a CPW customer from now on, no question. I still want a Canon 100-400mm, after all. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Okay, I'm just gonna power through the rest of the New York photos and recap, cool? So this will be a whole mess of photos, be warned. :)

So where was I? Okay, Sunday, last full day of the trip. The weather looked to be a lot better and we wanted to explore more of Central Park, and I figured we'd start out at the Central Park Zoo. But we were up early, and the zoo didn't open until 10am, so I thought first we'd check out the 9/11 Memorial Plaza since it was so close to the hotel.

Clicky! )
Okay, that's it! Thanks for looking, as always. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Saturday dawned grey and rainy and windy--pretty ugly on the whole. I expected it to start clearing up later in the day, but to start out it made sense to head to something indoors. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was high on my list of must-do attractions, so we hopped a subway and off we went.

Clicky! )
Thanks for looking, still more to come!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Okay, got the first couple days of NYC photos done, and the rest sorted. So since I'll probably break it up into a few posts anyway, here's part one! You know the drill, lots of photos under the cut. :)

Clicky! )
And that was Thursday and Friday! I'll probably get through the rest this weekend, so look for more next week! And thanks for looking. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
A proper recap will of course have to wait until I get the photos edited--we just got home last night and I'm back at work today, so I haven't even unpacked, let alone gotten to photos. But I thought I'd jot down a few notes while they're fresh in my mind.

-General Impression of New York: Mostly what I expected, I suppose, though I was pleasantly surprised in some ways. I guess I had the impression that the city is busy everywhere, all the time. But really most of it is like any urban center as far as crowd density goes (Times Square excepted, of course), and there were plenty of times when we were the only people on the street. But the tourist attractions were pretty crowded, of course.
-The view from our hotel was awesome, at least to one side. It was a corner room so we had a view in two directions--one was towards the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, the other was just buildings, mostly under construction. But we were high enough (44th floor) that we weren't just looking at the sides of other buildings, so that was cool.
-Central Park is a wonderful place. And I oughta know, having now walked it from one corner to the other and quite a bit in between as well. We loved the terrain, as the girls always have a blast climbing on big rock formations, of which there were scads. And the iconic spots were really cool to see.
-The weather could have been better. The first 2-3 days were generally miserable: chilly and windy and rainy/drizzly. But Saturday things started improving, Sunday was cool and windy but otherwise beautiful, and yesterday was downright glorious. I'm glad the hurricane gave the region a miss, that would have been pretty awful.
-The subway was actually quite nice. I expected it to be on the grungy side for sure, but it really wasn't. I'd almost put it right up there with the DC system, which I prefer mainly due to the general architectural style of the DC stations, and the cool lights along the tracks that flash when a train is coming. :) But the NY system seemed plenty clean, and efficient--we had no issues there at all. The price seemed steep--for the 3 of us it was $8.25 every ride, and that adds up fast!
-Finding and taking taxis was quite convenient, especially with their app (Arro), which was pretty awesome. But it's a pricey way to go, for all but the shortest rides. And the one and only time I felt ripped off on the trip was a cab ride. The guy gave me a shady vibe from jump, acting like our run wasn't worth his time--until he figured out a roundabout path to turn what should have been a short and cheap run into the most expensive ride of the trip. Jerk. The other taxis we took were fine, though. And only one guy drove like he was on the run from the cops, though I thought it was pretty cool. :)
-Speaking of apps, shortly before the trip I found one called CityMapper, which was extremely handy for navigating the subways. Put in a destination, and it gives you options for which trains and stations will get you there and when, plus estimated time and cost for a taxi to compare. Very nice, took a lot of the worry and time out of getting around. For walking around I mainly used Google Maps, which worked well enough, though the GPS fix was often pretty spotty down amongst the tall buildings.
-One of my fears was aggressive panhandlers and street vendors, and I'm happy to say neither was an issue. There were a few panhandlers here and there, but not bad. And the only street vendors I'd call aggressive were the people selling books down by the WTC site, and the carriage-ride hawkers by Central Park. But they all took no for an answer well enough.
-Another fear I had going in was crime and safety, of course. Big city, anything can happen, and I'd read a bit here and there about the NYPD slacking off because they haven't been happy with some of Mayor de Blasio's decisions. But I never once felt unsafe, in the subways or on the streets, and I never felt at all awkward or unsafe for carrying my camera or bag. Indeed, I saw plenty of tourists carrying nice camera gear most everywhere we went. I also saw NYPD presence around most of the tourist-y areas, and quite often pedestrian safety officers helping direct foot traffic. So that was all a big relief.
-Food was expensive, as I expected, but not as bad as I feared. We mostly had lunch at whatever attraction we were at when we got hungry, which was mainly crappy theme-park-style food but convenient. Dinners were pretty good, though. We did a couple Italian places, a cool Mexican place, and the Times Square Hard Rock Cafe (kitschy, I know, but it was there and I knew what to expect from it). Oh, we did do lunch in Chinatown yesterday, which was very yummy.
-The hotel was very nice--my main gripe was that the tv in the room didn't have a USB port, and that's a pretty minor gripe indeed. I'm glad breakfast was included in the rate I got, as it would have been $24 per person otherwise! They did try to tack on some bogus charges, but luckily I spotted and disputed those before we left. And now the pending charge that was on the credit card (which was the wrong price due to the bogus charges) has disappeared. Maybe it won't reappear! Doubtful, I know. But hey, I can dream.
-New Yorkers seemed pretty cool on the whole. I didn't see much rudeness, really. On the subways most people just kept to themselves, but seemed cordial enough. The only bad interaction I had personally was with a guy who decided it was his place to lecture me for not dressing the girls warmly enough for the weather. And okay, look, he was actually right and I already felt bad about it--we were going to a show and they wanted to wear their dresses, and the weather turned out worse than we'd hoped. But you can be right and still be an asshole, and that was that dude.
-So. Much. Walking. To save money and see more stuff, I tried to avoid taxis and subways except for getting between areas of town, so we did a LOT of walking. And that's in addition to the things where the walk was the idea, like Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge. After the first day or two my feet were sore pretty much all the time, and I can see where I actually wore the rubber of my shoes down a bit. On one hand I'm curious as to how much distance we actually covered. On the other hand, I don't even want to know. :)
-I'll save the rundown on what we did and my thoughts on all that for the photo recap. Suffice to say we did a lot, saw some amazing stuff, and had a fine time. That said, I don't know if I'd go back. It's a very impressive city, for sure, and there's no shortage of things to see and do. But it's kind of a hassle too, you know? Our favorite thing by far was Central Park, probably because it felt the least like being in the middle of a big grey city. And there are plenty of places like that which aren't indeed in the middle of a big grey city. :)

So, more to come, sooner or later. But we made it to New York, and we made it back home, and that's good.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Recently returned to the office--I was home watching the older girls while Heather took Amy to the orthopedist to get a cast on her arm. Yep, almost 11 years into the adventure of parenthood, and it's the youngest who finally broke the first bone. Hell, I've never even had a broken bone myself!

She was rollerskating in the house yesterday evening and took a fall. It wasn't a bad fall per se, but her left arm took pretty much the whole impact. She didn't cry all that much, surprisingly, but it clearly hurt her, and Heather was convinced that her arm looked a little.. bent or something. So we all loaded up and went to the urgent care clinic, where they determined she had indeed gotten herself a small fracture. And the doc today said the other bone in her forearm, while not broken, did appear a bit bent, which I guess isn't too unusual for smaller children whose bones are still growing and haven't fully hardened. So he put on pretty much a full-arm cast, to make sure it stays good and immobile. She went with the bright pink, of course. The good news is that she only has to keep it on for 3 weeks, and then she goes to a splint of some sort instead. Fun times. Poor little girl. She's been quite the trooper, though. Her only concern about going to the doctor was that she didn't want any shots, and we assured her that shouldn't be necessary. :) The doctors and nurses were all pretty amazed at how well she bore the pain and followed directions. She can be a terror sometimes, but really all our kids are pretty darn good.

So anyway, that's the big news lately. The weekend up to that point was okay. The girls have suddenly developed an interest in superheroes: we watched the first Avengers movie recently, and they all liked it quite a bit. So I signed them up for a little SHIELD agent training thing Saturday at a big comic shop in the area, and they enjoyed that. Sunday we really didn't do much, worked around the house a bit, cleaned, relaxed, went swimming, broke an arm, that was about it. :)

I am closely watching the government funding nonsense underway in DC. Reading an analysis now that puts the chance of shutdown at 75%. Goddammit. It would be just my luck if the f--king Republicans cause another shutdown, since it would take effect October 1 and we're booked to visit the Statue of Liberty (with crown access!) and Ellis Island--national parks, of course--on the 2nd. Seriously, how do these people keep getting elected when they so regularly prove how completely unfit to govern they are? And several of the shut-er-down! ringleaders are in the running for the GOP Presidential nomination! The mind truly boggles. Can we at least get a continuing resolution for just a few days? Please, you freaking assholes?

Okay, back to work. Hope everyone's week is off to a good start!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Sorry, I keep hearing the countdown as a Beastie Boys song. So the calendar stands at fifteen days until the two older girls and I leave for our New York City adventure. I would have to say I am equal parts excited and terrified.

The excited part is obvious: it's New York City! There's so much to see and do, and so many iconic and historic places--in that respect I will be in heaven. When I had to delay the trip back in the spring, I pretty much dropped my itinerary and all the research I'd done to that point, so I've been getting back into it and just hammered out what I think is a pretty decent agenda. We have 3 full days and two partial days, and I managed to include all the big stuff I want to hit, plus some smaller hit-and-run sights. It will mean rushing through the museums, because I know several of them could easily be multi-day affairs if we really sunk our teeth in. But a few hours is usually enough for us to get the gist of a museum, and the key for this visit is to see as much as we can in the time we have. I think it's a busy itinerary, but not insanely so. I just hope I'm not horribly underestimating the time it will take to get between locations. I have these next two weeks to make sure about that, and to tweak the details.

On the other hand, I'm terrified because.. I dunno, NYC has just always terrified me, which is really why I never even particularly wanted to go there. I love to travel, as my journal has made clear, and while I have a preference for slightly more natural and off-the-beaten-path destinations, I don't mind exploring in an urban environment. But somewhere with SO MANY people in a relatively small area.. yeah, that just frightens me. I'd say the largest city I've explored so far is Los Angeles, but that's a sprawling city that doesn't feel so crowded. Plus I've always had a rental car when I've visited there, which provides some peace of mind to know I could hit the road if I want to. In NYC we'll be trapped, essentially, and at the mercy of public transportation (or walking, or cabs). I guess that's not so bad per se. But the people! I'm not an agoraphobic or anything, but I do like my personal space, and I don't at all like being accosted by people--vendors, panhandlers, etc. I'm also a little concerned since photography is such a big part of the travel experience for me, and I doubt I'd feel comfortable hauling around my usual load of gear. My go-to camera bag for travel and gigs is a messenger-style bag, which I feel pretty secure with. Usually I have my camera on a neckstrap with one lens attached, and the bag holds 3 additional lenses and/or a strobe. I think I'll have to pare down to 2 lenses (or maybe 3, if one is my 24mm pancake lens) so I can fit the camera body in the bag as well. At least that way it won't be quite so obvious that I'm hauling around a bunch of pricey camera gear. And for some days I might take just the camera with the 24mm pancake, since that combo is relatively small and light, and doesn't look so much like a high-end dSLR rig. We'll see, I guess.

The weather is looking nice so far--too early to tell about rain chances, of course, but as long as the temperatures are near-average it should be lovely. I did change our return flight this week. We're limited to Southwest because that's where I had points and airfare vouchers, and at some point they tweaked their schedule so our layover on the way home became 3 hours. Eww. So rather than leave from LaGuardia at 4:30pm and get to Orlando at 11:30pm, I decided it would be better to grab a nonstop from Islip/Long Island that leaves there later and gets here earlier. Plus by that point I'm sure we'll be ready to get home, so a nonstop sounds perfect. I am aware that it will take us a couple hours to make our way on the train out to ISP, but that still sounds like more fun than twiddling our thumbs in ATL for 3 hours instead, so what the hell. Plus the train fare will actually be cheaper than getting a car or cab to LGA anyway!

So yeah, excited, scared, kinda want to throw up a little for both reasons. :) But I think it should be a pretty awesome trip, as long as all goes well. Or as long as nothing major goes wrong, anyway!

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