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Thanksgiving in Philadelphia

The week I returned from Cuba was a difficult one. I visited an urgent care clinic on Saturday morning to address the ongoing stomach problems I was having. They prescribed the pretty standard round of Ciprofloxacin for travel-related stomach woes, but were careful to mention that it can have nasty side-effects and I should go to the ER if any of them arose. Unfortunately for me, they did. I woke up on Sunday morning with an unusual smattering of hives and went straight to the hospital. That’s where we spent the day, they kept me under observation as we tried a new treatment plan and I was finally able to go home in the late afternoon. Unfortunately I was still sick from the original condition, and that characterized my week. I suffered through work on Monday because I had a lot of work to catch up on, but Tuesday was a straight up sick day. I got better as the week progressed, which was good, since Friday we took a red eye flight to Philadelphia to spend Thanksgiving back east.

That first Saturday in town we caught a nap in the morning, but first I got to see a deer! The contrast between our place in downtown San Francisco and the townhouse is exemplified by moments like that. The rest of the day was taken up with a bunch of shopping before meeting a friend for dinner.

Sunday we went to a wedding! Advertised as an engagement party, my friend Crissi decided to celebrate the engagement to Henry by having a surprise wedding. It was held at a lovely nearby country club where we had enjoyable food and company surrounding the surprise ceremony.

We spent Monday through Wednesday in town working, with a jaunt to downtown Philadelphia on Tuesday to eat at Buddakan, which we’d never been to but I now highly recommend if you’re looking for a nice meal out on the town. The service was great, the food was delicious, with dim sum and small plates able to be ordered as you went. I’d go back again just for the lobster egg rolls.

Wednesday would have been Simcoe’s 11th birthday. We lost her in April but it hit me hard and her birthday remained tough for me. That evening we ended up at Pizzeria Uno near the townhouse where they were having an incredibly appropriate Weyerbacher tap takeover. Why appropriate? Simcoe is a type of hop, one used by many breweries, but Weyerbacher has really made it their own. They had a wonderful Double Simcoe IPA for a few years, and their IPA #2 this year “uses large amounts of Simcoe and Denali hops” in the batch. It was a lovely way to round out the evening. Plus, they gave me a pint glass at the end of the evening!

And then it was Thanksgiving! The daytime was spent watching the MST3K Turkey Day Marathon while MJ slept in, as is my usual tradition. The marathon kicked off with The Day the Earth Froze, followed by Night of the Blood Beast. I also was able to catch up on some volunteer open source work throughout the day, mostly with my European colleagues who were still working on what was a regular Thursday for them. This is also when I discovered how far behind I had fallen with most of the mailing lists I’m on. I have been forced to confront the fact that I burned out a bit last year when my team was laid off and I stepped away from OpenStack. I poured myself in my new role come January, but never did quite pick back up checking email that I had let slide. I haven’t gotten back to where I was productivity-wise since then since most of my work these days is focused on my day job, but I am happy to report that I’m doing a lot better. Catching up on mailing lists and staying on top of them now has made me feel a lot better too.

Thanksgiving dinner was spent at my sister-in-law’s place, as we’ve been doing for the past couple years. We had a really nice time catching up with family, having delicious food, enjoying some good wine and getting to meet their friendly new kitty.

I made plans to meet up with some friends on Friday, and we accidentally ended up at a mall in New Jersey where the restaurant we picked was located. It was Black Friday. Parking was a bit crazy, but it turns out malls are built to absorb holiday crowds and it actually wasn’t a terrible experience. We did some appliance browsing since we have to do some replacements here in the condo in San Francisco. The shopping evening wrapped up with a stop at L.L. Bean where they had a great sale on duck boots, which I’d been meaning to get a pair of, as well as a pile of flannel clothes. I also ordered some stuff to be shipped to San Francisco, my stock of flannel shirts is now complete. The actual visit to New Jersey concluded with a nice dinner with MJ’s great aunt and her daughter.

This trip was also highlighted by getting the O-Lionel scale train set I picked up at a toy fair last year running. I quickly learned upon extracting the train from the crate I had it in that the tracks were rusted. I put the track together on the kitchen island and the tracks were intermittently powered, but I really couldn’t get good conduction. Fortunately I had been advised when I bought it that the tracks would probably have to be replaced, so this wasn’t a huge shock for me.

While we were in New Jersey on Friday we stopped by Toy Train Emporium in Cherry Hill to pick up new track. Their staff was helpful with my need to replace the O-gauge Lionel Tubular Track, and suggested I switch away from the O-27 that came with my original set and go with one that had more forgiving turns. They gave me advice on track cleaning (not letting these get rusty!) and helped me find some smoke liquid to fill the reservoir for generated smoke in my engine, they had several different scents, I went with the root beer. Upon returning home, I quickly learned how tricky the tubular track is to assemble the first time. It requires a bit of patience since it doesn’t simply snap together, you have to re-shape the tubes a bit to get the parts to connect, a fact documented in the train manual. The working of the rails with your hands is a bit tiring, I spent one morning over the weekend taking breaks between fitting track and reading. Thankfully, once assembled, it turns out the island in the kitchen was perfectly sized for my new track, so I got to play around with it there, and even got the smoke going! Though I learned that it has to be going pretty fast for the smoke to start, causing a spectacular derailment while I was testing it out, oops. The train won’t always live in the kitchen, I have plans to set it up in my office area once we move some of our furniture and other items out west.

I spent a nice chunk of time reading during this trip, which was mostly taken up with The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine, by Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris. I pre-ordered it several months ago, and quickly discovered that it was a fascinating page-turner, easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. I also learned that the cover art is from a painting by Thomas Eakins which now resides in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I’ve been looking for an excuse to go visit, maybe during our trip back east over the holidays.

MJ flew back a couple days early to get back into the office, I stayed through Tuesday continuing to work remotely, so my trip concluded with an introduction to kung fu movies over at a friend’s place. He appealed to my love for MST3K to introduce and explain the ridiculous aspects of so many of the films. I’m still not sure I “get” it, but it was fun anyway.