Went for a nice walk up Filopappou Hill with its little-visited monuments (the Tomb of Filopappus, a little house cut into the rock that legend claims is where Socrates was imprisoned, the remains of the Pnyx, the amphitheatre where that democracy thing started) and fine views of the Acropolis and out to the sea. And, my, but it was windy. Definitely a good thing that I wear specs or I'd be blind in at least one eye from being whipped by my pony-tail. Took a few photos, some of which may eventually appear here. [2005-11-03. Done!]
Dave's discovery of the day: the loud-hailer announcements that I wasn't sure if I'd heard or dreamt last Sunday morning were from a guy who drives around the neighbourhood in a pick-up truck full of shrubberies (some of which are, in fact, ten-foot trees in pots), bags of compost and what have you.
New text message from Louise says that she's been receiving multiple copies of my texts, too... This one only took five days to get to me and I've only received three copies of it so far. At least this new message seems to have stopped the old one getting delivered. I lost count somewhere around twenty-five.
I seem to have settled into a habit of learning about chess endgames while having breakfast or cooking. Perhaps I'll be l33t by the time I get back to the UK. And I've got the hang of making Greek coffee in a briki.
First lecture. Lectures are two hours long, which is a bit scary until you realise that a 2pm lecture actually starts at 2:15 and it's expected that there'll be a five-minute break in the middle. Seemed to go reasonably well. Six students (out of a total of about fifteen second-years, at whom the course is aimed; one of them is a PhD student, though) showed up and all came back after the break.
Office? What's one of those?
Wildlife report: saw a lizardy-newty-thing in the park near the Metro station on my way home. The Metro's very civilized: no grafitti and they even have tasteful piped music in the stations. But I'm still not a fan of the zero-friction marble floors, even if they do look very nice.
Damn. The World got its ass kicked.
I now have an office, which I'll be sharing with Joan, Yiannis's wife. But, having unlocked the door, nobody can manage to lock it again. And there's a computer but no internet. Oh, and no nice view. So I'm staying in Yiannis's for the time being. I now have a local E-mail address, at least (davidr at math.uoa.gr)
Parcel of the various things I couldn't carry with me (some clothes, a radio, a chess set, a couple of books) has arrived. Yay! I now have my copy of Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food so I can use somebody else's imagination for cooking with, which is always easier.
Welcome meeting for the new students after work. Plus side: beer afterwards. Minus side: most of an hour of Yiannis and Costas explaining in Greek how the course works wasn't very interesting but, of course, it would have been ludicrous to do it in English just because I was there. Chatting to some of the students afterwards, it seems they liked my short proofs in Lecture 1. Hope they won't be too disappointed when I start to prove non-trivial theorems in non-trivial ways.
Dave's discovery of the day: there's a light switch above my bed so I don't need to blunder about in the dark trying to find the bed from the door. D'oh!
I now have a key that allegedly works for my office. No internet, though, so still staying in Yiannis's.
Second lecture. Lost three from last time but gained one which is reasonable. My writing on the board might actually be becoming legible.
Letter from the Royal Mail saying they've sorted out my mail redirection. I quote the envelope: ``Royal Mail, the Cruciform and the colour red are registered Trade Marks of Royal Mail Group plc.'' Yes, folks, you read it here first.
Damn. The World got its ass kicked.
Still no internet in the new office. Monday, apparently.
Nigel's chicken with orange and black olives is gorgeous. Must... save... some... for... to... morrow...
DDD: (actually, of a few days ago) Greece has a Radio 3 / Classic FM-alike. Similarities with Radio 3 include a lack of adverts, reasonably adventurous programming and being called The Third Programme (Trito Programma); similarities with Classic FM include a preference for movements over whole works, a tendency to announce only the work that's about to be played and not the work that was just played, and the occasional, blood-boilingly infuriating, habit of abandoning a piece half way through, as they did to the Prokofiev 'Cello Sonata a couple of days ago. On the whole, though, it's pretty good and it's been on for quite a bit of the time when I've been at home. We've just had Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht; yesterday, there was a program on the development of the fugue through history, starting with J.S. Bach and moving through Liszt, Bartok, Shostakovich and even Rodion Shchedrin; there've been snippets from Berg's Lulu, too. Thankfully, not speaking Greek isn't a huge impediment to understanding the announcements of what's being played as most of the musical terms and instruments are obvious and there's not much else to it apart from the names of composers and performers.
 Here's an idea, guys. Instead of having a programme featuring symphonic movements that are connected by mainly being in fourth symphonies (Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky among others; no Shostakovich, alas), why not have a programme featuring symphonic movements that are connected by being, well, you know, in the same symphony? Just a thought.
I might have become addicted to Nethack again... spent much of the afternoon getting a Barbarian through the mines when I should have been writing lecture notes on Gaifman's theorem. Things are looking reasonably good -- I have a pet Elvenking with almost as many hit-points as me (thank you, wand of polymorph on dl1) and a housecat, too. Never got too far with Barbarians -- they tend to die on the quest. I seem to remember I ascended tourist, elf, healer, priest, knight and maybe rogue the last time I got hooked on the game...
Ho hum... The Elvenking's started killing shopkeepers for me...
Woken at 7:30am by pneumatic drilling right below my bedroom window. Of course, by 8:15, they'd broken through all the tarmac and were using nice quiet pick-axes on the dirt beneath. Oh well.
Welcome to the 21st century: the middle-aged woman I saw through the window of a Metro train going the other way and who looked like she was knitting was actually untangling the headphones of her iPod...
Damn. The World got its ass kicked yesterday.
Finally sorted out the proof of Gaifman's theorem. It's not a lot of fun -- I don't recommend you try it at home.
Dave's Humanitarian of the Year award goes to the CNN crew who flew their helicopter into Balakot, a town of a quarter of a million people, about fifteen miles from the epicentre of the earthquake, to take pictures of the suffering and interview people about how pissed off they were that the Pakistani army hadn't sent any of its helicopters their way. Words to the effect of, ``It was chaos when we landed. People crowded round our helicopter, distraught when they realised we had nothing for them. They took our bags and it took us some time to get them back.'' What, really? You mean you didn't see that coming? How about you leave the TV crew at home and use the helicopter to do something useful? I realise it's no Chinook but even a carload of water purification tablets or high-energy biscuits is going to make a difference, isn't it?
CNN seem to have a rather over-inflated idea of the importance of their work... They had a congratulatory snippet celebrating their 25th anniversary with one of their reporters saying that he'd entered Tikrit before the US Army and came under machine gun fire as a direct result of this stupidity. ``But I had to keep doing my job and tell the story of what was happening as the bullets whizzed past.'' No you bloody didn't. Ask anyone who's doing a real job out there an they'll tell you that the first priority is to keep yourself alive because you can't help anyone once you're dead.
Ow, ow, ow. Stung by a wasp on the campus bus. It crawled inside the sleeve of my T-shirt and stung me on the left shoulder when I scratched it. Then it crawled across my back and stung me again on the right shoulder blade when I tried to evict it without stripping. Good job I'm not allergic to the things as ambulances in this country wait patiently behind busses as they stop to pick up passengers. The flashing lights are just a fashion accessory, I think and I've never heard one use a siren.
Yay! USB lead and sunglasses have arrived. Now it's just laziness that's keeping you from seeing the pictures I promised.
Went out for dinner with Yiannis, Joan and Sebastian and Rosalie who are visiting the department. Nice meal, lots of nattering and a lift most of the way home. The advantages of getting a lift most of the way home are that Yiannis doesn't have to go some distance out of his way (at least, as far as the roads are concerned) and that I get to walk about a quarter of way round the base of the Acropolis, which really is beautiful when it's lit up at night.
OK, so ambulances do use their sirens and go through red lights and all the usual ambulance things. I'm now a bit confused by all the other ambulances I've seen pottering around town with their blue flashing lights on.
Dave's interesting factoid of the day: ``When Germany invaded Denmark in World War II, the Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy dissolved dissolved the gold Nobel Prizes of Max von Laue [Physics, 1914] and James Franck [Physics, 1925] into aqua regia to prevent the Nazis from stealing them. He placed the resulting solution on a shelf in his laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute. After the war, he returned to find the solution undisturbed and precipitated the gold out of the acid. The Nobel Society then recast the Nobel Prizes using the original gold.'' (From Wikipedia. De Hevesy, himself, won the 1943 Chemistry prize)
From Monday to Wednesday, it was about a degree warmer in Cambridge than in Athens. Today, the normal order of things has returned and it's not quite ten degrees warmer here and it's lovely. Ha!
Sebastiaan Terwijn did an excellent job of making his seminar on links between recursion theory and intuitionistic logic comprehensible to people like me who know next to nothing about both subjects. Dinner afterwards in a little taverna of the old-fashioned kind with jolly waiters and no menu. Excellent food and a fine evening's natter.
Slightly concerning to hear that there was a bomb scare at my local (in the sense of `200m from my flat') Metro station on Thursday. Suspect package got blown up but turned out to be a hoax. Can't think why anyone would want to pretend to blow up Thissio -- it's not as if it's an important interchange or anything.
Spent most of the day analyzing my chess games. Tim, Joe, Mick, Will and Dan paid for a grandmaster to analyze some of my games as a leaving present from Cambridge but this is the sort of thing that you get more out of by analyzing yourself, first. I'm rather alarmed to see that I've only managed three wins and three draws out of my last twelve games with the black pieces. At least I feel I have a reasonable idea of what I did wrong in most of the losses.
Went for a stomp around Thissio and Monastiraki to see what's around the place. Added a wine merchant and a greengrocer to the list of local useful-looking shops that I've not visited.
Nearly beat Fritz (dumbed down to 1500 strength) with black, no less, before going to bed. One of those wonderful games where the computer thinks its ahead and you ask it, ``So, er, how are you going to defend against this, then?'' and it says, ``Oops, looks like you're winning after all.'' Alas, I couldn't see how to promote my pawn (obvious when Fritz showed me afterwards), declined an offer of a draw and went on to lose. Gaaaah.
Some more chess (beat Fritz with my Petrosian-inspired handling of the white side of the king's Indian; got beaten twice by Fritz's actually-being-good-inspired handling of everything else) and some more preparation for lectures.
Dinner at Yiannis's house. Very nice flat, excellent food, excellent company, gorgeous cats. All in all, a splendid evening.
Dave's brand of the day: Fantasy brand paper tissues, seen in somebody's car in the car park. Meanwhile, my coffee from the university cafeteria came in a disposable cup advertising cigarettes, which was quite a surprise.
Ho-hum. Trying to buy travel insurance online for my trip to the US next week. Can't get it from one company because I've not lived in my current country of residence for more than three months. They would also want me to declare that, ``During the past 12 months, I can confirm that neither myself or any of the people travelling have not suffered from any medical condition or received medication, advice or treatment (excluding contraceptive advice.)'' I don't think that's quite what they mean!
Mmmmmmm, bone-eating zombie-worms, a.k.a. bone-eating snot-flowers.
Yay! My books and things that I had shipped from Cambridge have arrived. Not unpacked them, yet, due to the on-going office situation. I'll now be moving into a different office to the one that was originally planned but Sebastian is using `my' desk while he's visiting so I'll move in there when he disappears at the end of the week.
Today's lecture was made much more exciting by having to hunt for a room twice. I've rescheduled my lectures because there's a mini-course on this week that clashes with my lectures and has a larger audience. This, of course, means that I have no room booked, which was fine on Tuesday as we quickly found a room and had no further problems. Today, it turned out that the room we settled in was going to be used by somebody else for the second half of my lecture. Of course, many more people tried to turn up early for that lecture than came to mine but I guess that's the sort of thing that happens if you're lecturing a second-year graduate course. Anyway, we found a room quickly enough for the second half and only one confused person tried to gate-crash that part.
Costas has just dropped off tomorrow's post-seminar beer. He's very trusting to leave it with me, even though it is only Heineken.
16:00. Dave's word of the day: anacoluthon, which Tim once defined as something like, ``What happens when, after starting a sentence with one grammatical construction, it finishes with another.'' In this case, I want a sentence that starts by saying, ``They define, for each k, a pair of graphs that cannot be distinguished in the logic with k variables'' and ends with, ``but there is a single Turing machine that distinguishes the members of every pair.'' And I'll be damned if I can put these together without an anacoluthon.
16:30. Dave's second word of the day: however. Replace ``but'' with ``; however'' and the anacoluthon goes away.
Dinner with Yiannis, Joan, Sebastiaan and Rosalie in a place that does excellent fish. We all had the soup and shared startery things. Got a lift the usual most of the way home and took some photos on the way round the Acropolis. A lot of them aren't very good (damnit, I need a tripod, a telephoto lens and a shutter-release cable) but I'll put some of them up here when I get back from the US next week. Shame they didn't come out so well because, as I neared home, the moon was rising next to Lykavittos Hill, which was incredibly beautiful. I tried to go back to take some more shots but the camera's batteries ran out as I was preparing for the first shot of round two.
The Trito Programma were playing an excerpt from Glass's Powaqqatsi when I got back, which earnt them enough points that they were still (just) in the black after playing a movement and a half of Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherezade with explanatory waffle in that started within a second of the end of the first movement.
The perfectly-timed journey from home to work (no wait at either Metro station, no wait for the campus bus) takes half an hour, door-to-door, which isn't bad for two trains, a 15-minute walk and a bus.
Sheesh, just downloaded Paint Shop Pro in the hope of fixing some of last night's photos. When Ah were a lad, it did everything you could possibly want, fit in a few megs and cost a few tens of dollars if you wanted to register. Now it's been bought by Corel and is a 104Mb download and costs $99 to register. I cannot imagine what improvements have been added in the extra hundred megs and I've not run it yet, since I'm at work.
I'll be off-line for a few days. No internet at home and I'm flying to the US on Monday for Chris and Mad's wedding. The hotel's supposed to have wireless so I'll probably make an update some time on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Dinner with the usual crew plus Stathis Zachos after the post-seminar beers and a fine time was had by all. We went to the same little taverna as last week and the food is still excellent. Turns out that Stathis studied at ETH Zurich so speaks wonderful Swiss-German.
A joke told by Stathis. The European Space Agency finally decides to have a manned mission to the moon. They're interviewing the three final candidates to be the first European on the moon and the question of pay comes up. ``I want a million Euro,'' says the English candidate. ``A million Euro? Why so much?'' asks the interviewer. ``Well, it's a very dangerous mission and I want my wife to be provided for if I die.'' The Frenchman asks for two million Euro so that his wife and mistress will be financially secure if he is killed. The Greek candidate asks for three million Euro. ``Three million?!? How can you possibly justify that?'' asks the interviewer. The Greek candidate leans over to the interviewer and whispers, ``Look, a million for me, a million for you and a million to pay that idiot Englishman to get himself killed going to the moon.''
Took some more photos of the Acropolis and Lykavittos Hill, though the moon was rather higher in the sky this time. I've not had a look at them, yet.
It seems the Trito Programma's waffling between movements strategy is limited to programmatic works: this morning, they played Strauss's Don Juan with interstitial waffle and Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements (yay!) without (yay!). In fact, today, they seem to be doing pretty well at the whole whole works thing -- Brahms's second piano concerto at the moment, though I'm pretty sure the announcer just claimed it was the Schumann...
Oh, no! One of my neighbours is having his Mini-Trelm `Green-Key' 800 stolen! That, or he forgot to turn off the burglar before using it. [25/10/2005. Ah. Somebody's already stolen the real Mini-Trelm and damaged it so the alarm you can here there now doesn't sound right. Bummer.]
17:30. Just spent happy couple of hours wandering round the Escher exhibition at the Herakleidon, a little gallery just round the corner from my flat. The exhibition itself had all the things you'd expect. It's always amazing to look at the detail in the original prints and I was especially fascinated by the stone block from which Flatworms was printed. I noted with a certain amount of glee that the chess position in Metamorphosis has Black about to lose to a smothered mate. Alas, the exhibition closes next Sunday so I think I might go back tomorrow!
On my return, the Trito Programma are playing a rather perky 20th-century string quartet. I'm guessing it's French, though I can't think who might have written it. Ho-hum. Couldn't discern the name of any composer in the announcement afterwards, though she did say ``Anglia'' which suggests it wasn't French!
Ha! Fritz's King's Indian has been slain once more. In an opposite-coloured bishops endgame, with both of my pawns' promotion squares on the same colour as his bishop. It doesn't play a very good endgame when it's dumbed down. I've only beaten it three times in the last ten games but it's lost both times it's tried the KID; the other one was when it opened 1.b3 and let me keep things closed.
Three wins, a draw and a loss against Fritz. Dumbed down, it doesn't seem to look ahead very far so quite often falls for three- or four-move tactics that exchange off all the defenders of some critical point.
Plane from Athens to New York (10.5 hours) to San Diego (another six). First plane was about half an hour late; second most of an hour. Was very amused to see that the old lady who'd been behind me in the check-in queue at Athens was pushed through security in a wheelchair. Disabled, my ass. She'd been pushing her three large suitcases repeatedly and vigorously into my ankles in the check-in queue and positively sprinted past me with them when the special extra security man asked to have a look in my bag.
Crosswords, chess and reading saved me from needing to gnaw my own legs off on the flight so that wasn't too bad. Didn't get to see any of the east coast apart from a couple of little islands off Canada and things close enough to New York that we were below about 800m as it was very cloudy.
Sat next to a cheerful South African on the plane to San Diego and nattered away in between him reading tedious reports for work and me nearly finishing a Times crossword. (I'm not sure why my mind can dredge up words like `Bacchante' and `parhelia' after being on planes for fourteen hours but it might come in handy at some point.) As we took off, I asked him why it was that we weren't allowed to have perfectly safe electronic equipment like iPods turned on but the ten or so CRT monitors hanging from the cabin roof were switched on, displaying a tasteful shade of the colour purple as their fly-back transformers whizzed around creating all the RF in the world. He shrugged and said, ``Ours is not to reason why,'' but I suggested that further quotation from that particular poem might would, perhaps, be inappropriate.
Mad and Chris met me at the airport and took me to the hotel. Went to bed at midnight local time, which is to say 10am Athens time but it didn't actually feel too bad.
The penny drops. Yesterday, the security guy at the carry-on luggage X-ray machine handed me my bag with a quizzical look and said that something seemed to be vibrating in there, perhaps a cell phone. (He seemed remarkably unconcerned by this, to be honest.) I knew my mobile was switched off (and non-functional in the US anyway) but couldn't feel anything so shrugged and continued. This morning, I tried to turn my shaver on and the switch wouldn't move. Already on, you see: must have got nudged in New York and shaved away inside my bag wondering why life was so easy. No, I didn't bring my charger with me -- I'd charged it fully on Sunday night and it lasts well over a week on a charge. Just not continuously, that's all.
Raining while I was having breakfast. Not sure why the rain seems to be following me into new countries at the moment but it's cleared up as I write this. Of course, you can't read it, yet, as the hotel's wireless isn't working.
12:00. Now at Mad's parents' place, where the wireless works. Huge, gorgeous place with fantastic views over the ocean. Also, a friendly dog.
Suits hired. Chris continues to be very tall and thin and have absurdly large feet. Chris: ``You probably wouldn't have any shoes in my size.'' Salesgirl: ``You'd be surprised.'' Chris: ``No, you'd be surprised. Size nineteen [US].'' Salesgirl: ``OK, I'm surprised. We go up to a sixteen, I think.''
Sunset watched. Mad has photos of a properly spectacular one but this one was still very pretty. Chris was cold. Sparky likes playing fetch with a lemon but, having fetched it, he doesn't like to give it back. I think he's realised that if we really wanted the lemon, we wouldn't keep throwing it away. Besides, there are plenty more on the lemon tree.
I still have a face after buying sharp pieces of metal and applying them to my beard. The television tells me that my choice of razor will cause hot chicks to gravitate to me.
To the county offices to get a marriage license for Chris and Mad. I have an opportunity to sit in the waiting room and pretend to be keen and do some work. I'm mildly amused that the city seal includes the fasces but I guess they got there before Mussolini and his crowd made them unfashionable.
To Mission Valley Mall to get wedding rings and bits and bats. The mall is brightly-coloured and futuristic in a 1950s,``In twenty-five years, we'll live in orbit and just take pills for food'' kind of way. Specifically, Ruby's Diner claims to be the ``World of tomorrow'' and is just a bit too Futurama. Didn't look inside for fear of ruining the effect. I got to play mall rat while Chris and Mad chose rings but the logic textbook might have spoilt the effect.
Chris asserts that the woman at the reception desk knows everything. OK, she was holding out a map for Mad, who was staring at a shelf of leaflets and asking, ``Do you have a map?'' and told us where we could find the shop we're looking for but I hold out that the sample size is too small. However, on the way out, we ask her if we can find bubble tea in the mall and she says that there isn't any there but directs us to a place ten minutes' drive away. I concede that she may, in fact, know everything.
Bubble tea is a strange liquid containing tea, cream, ice, the colour orange (except Mad's was violet) and a substantial quantity of black squidgy balls, about 1cm in diameter that are apparently made of some kind of tapioca-like substance. You drink it through a straw sufficiently wide to take the bubbles. It's strange but in a good way.
Some more photos of the view from Paul and Pam's (Mad's parents) house. They've been dropped to B/W and contrast-enhanced a little with Paint Shop Pro.
Chris's parents came round for dinner so we had a big gathering with excellent wine and pizza. The person or persons who came up with the idea of putting goat's cheese and roasted peppers on a pizza deserve a Nobel Pizza Prize, as do the inventors (discoverers?) of the pear, gorgonzola and walnut pizza.
No hot chicks so far. Perhaps it's because I missed a bit at the back of my jaw.
Went paddling in the ocean. We weren't going to but we got our shoes soaked by a surprise wave so there was no reason not to. Afterwards, Chris nearly killed himself slipping on the rocks. Thankfully, the sickening crump was just him winding himself and he somehow managed to avoid cracking his head off the ground, breaking his back or doing anything more serious than grazing his elbow. Was not looking forward to explaining to Mad that I'd killed the groom...
Brunch at a little café somewhere in downtown La Jolla. I'm not sure their oatmeal pancakes with blueberries are really `World Famous' but they're pretty damned good. I definitely approve of this whole sitting outside in jeans and T-shirt in nearly November thing.
Chris and Mad and the two families went out for dinner and I met up with Mad's friend Rob and Chris's friend Martin. Dinner at In-n-Out, who do burgers that are made from real beef and fries that are made from real potatoes. Yum.
Zoo!!! First chance to do some actual touristing. San Diego Zoo is absolutely amazing. It's huge and the animal enclosures are huge and everything between them is green and leafy. We spent about six hours wandering around, though Chris and Mad had to leave early to sort a few things out. I think we saw pretty-much everything, apart from the birds of prey and some of the big cats. They have a huge variety of cute things, especially monkeys and other furry things.
Go Karts!!! Chris took us karting by way of a not-quite-stag-do. Mad and her siblings (except Andrew, the youngest) came and we all had a great time. I managed the second-fastest lap in the first race and came fourth in the second race (only fifth-fastest lap, behind both Chris and Mad) after starting eighth. Woot! Really pleased with two of the overtaking manoeuvres: one out-breaking at the hairpin (no idea how I didn't hit them) and one where I flew round the inside of somebody round the fast corner immediately after the start-finish straight. Every lap in the second race was faster than my fastest in the first. We disappeared off for drinks afterwards and I'm glad I wasn't trying to drive again! Slightly sore neck after getting whacked from behind by the Maid of Honour.
Drinks were, er, interesting. We were trying to go to Rock Bottom, a micro-brew place but they wouldn't let us in. Apparently, they're supposed to check ID on anyone who looks under 30(!) and they wouldn't accept passports as ID. Yes, you read that right. Apparently, a little while ago, they let somebody in on somebody else's passport and the ATF people got pissed off with them so now they don't accept passports as ID. Of course, nobody has ever gone into a bar in the US using somebody else's driving license. Oh, no. I was carefully staying out of the discussion with the manager, feeling that I might get too sarcastic and deny us entry so it was disappointing that we got chucked out anyway and I didn't get a rant in. Apparently, Chris's dad had a good go, though, once it became clear that it didn't matter. Yes, they're probably breaking the law by discriminating against us by nationality.
Had a chat in the car-park with Chris's parents about any embarrassing Chris stories they might have. They couldn't think of much but promised to give the matter further consideration. Chris and Mad left without me. Bastards. They did a head-count but had acquired an extra person so didn't notice me. Thankfully, a quick call from Chris's dad sorted things out and I managed to catch them up at the traffic lights before anyone started honking.
So, anyway, we went to Karl Strauss, an alternative micro-brew place in downtown La Jolla. They didn't even ask for ID and served excellent beer. Their IPA was in no way an IPA (far too dark, far too fruity, far too fizzy) but was particularly tasty; the amber was very good and so was the other one we tried.
Wedding day!!! Spent most of the morning sorting out music for the ceremony and reception with some of Mad's friends. Would have loved to have used either the opening of Purcell's Funeral Music for Queen Mary or the organ solo from Janacek's Glagolitic Mass as a dramatically inappropriate recessional but the effect would have been wasted as I wouldn't have been able to see Chris or Mad's face as they walked away from me.
The wedding itself went very smoothly, apart from a brief pause for a helicopter and another because the wind was playing merry hell with Mad's veil. Mad spent the entire ceremony grinning from ear to ear (couldn't see Chris's face from where I was standing) and the two sets of parents looked appropriately proud and happy. Had a chance to socialize a bit while Chris and Mad and the two families were being photographed and then Ann (Maid of Honour) and I (Best Man) were swapped in. We also had some photos taken on the beach in our finery, which was good fun.
Food was excellent, speech seemed to go down well and the reception moved indoors after sunset. People left fairly sharply after Mad and Chris went off to their shiny hotel, though the bouquet wasn't thrown due to a lack of enthusiasm from the potential recipients... Mad's mum gave me and Martin a lift back to our hotel and most of a bottle of leftover Californian Chardonnay and some Aussie Shiraz, too. (Tim, is that a zeugma or a syllepsis? [2005-11-03. Tim says it's either as there's no grammatical error.]) I drank most of the Chardonnay (Martin had a plastic cup or two) and went to bed a happy and relieved man.
Woke a little hungover up at what seemed like a reasonable time and then realized the clocks had gone back. Bah. Breakfast at the Broken Yolk Café in Pacific Beach (the surfer-dude part of La Jolla) with a Martin and a couple of other wedding people from the hotel.
Mad and Chris picked us up at lunch time and we went to see the seals at the beach at La Jolla and then for a walk around Torrey Pines state reserve. The maps marked half-mile walks for lazy Americans but we had a good stomp for a few hours. Very beautiful. Lots of impressive cliffs leading down to the beach. Hope I didn't annoy everyone else by taking too many photos.[2005-11-21: Photos added. The black and white ones have a rather different atmosphere to the colour ones and I very much like some of them.]
Dinner at El Torito, near Rock Bottom (boooooo). Excellent Mexican food, in enormous quantities. I suspect none of us will need to eat again this month.
Had a really good time in the US. Thanks to Mad for chauffeuring and looking after us and being prepared to do some touristy things while preparing for her wedding and and to her parents for letting us run around their house for a week.
[2005-11-21: A couple of photos of the happy couple. It seems that at least one of them has misunderstood the word ``bridegroom''.]
Up at 5:15am to get to the airport for the 7:30 flight home. Turns out that, while we were being pushed away from the gate, part of the tractor thingy sheared off and there's the possibility that the undercarriage has been damaged. An inspection at the scene indicates that everything's OK but, by the time we've taxied half way to the runway, it turns out that the FAA requires that another inspection be carried out and forms signed. Sensible enough, I suppose, but we're back to the gate. Net result is an hour's delay but I finish a Times crossword while we wait.
Very impressive views out of the window in daylight, though I continue to boggle at the crazy water usage that is growing crops in the desert. The movie on the plane was March of the Penguins. To be honest, I don't think it was all that good: there were lots of cute bits but the photography as a whole wasn't very arresting and my attention kept drifting even when the view out the window wasn't anything special.
We don't manage to make up any time on the way to New York and it turns out that an hour isn't enough time to make the connection to Athens. Arse. There are three of us at the Olympic Airlines desk at JFK: me, a frankly hysterical mother and her twelvish-year-old daughter who has a near-permanent look of, ``Mom! You're embarrassing me.'' Mother clearly believes the world is about to end and is incapable of following simple instructions (there's no Olympic flight for two days so go back to American, talk to a supervisor and get them to sort out an alternative flight) so the clerk gives up and talks to me and asks if I wouldn't mind taking the others with me.
We go back to American, talk to a supervisor and get them to sort out an alternative flight. After a little hassle, we're booked onto an American flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle and thence by Olympic to Athens. Upshot is that we have an extra couple of hours to kill at JFK and will be about seven hours later than planned into Athens. Hysterical Mother is now primarily concerned that our bags will have disappeared into a black hole so we go to the American baggage office. They say that they've shunted them to Olympic so we go back there and the desk has closed. It should be noted that American are in Terminal 8/9 and Olympic in Terminal 1. Although these are adjacent (the airport's circular), the skytrain only runs in one direction between them so each transfer from 8/9 to 1 is a good fifteen minutes' walking and sitting on the train, with Hysterical Mother starting to jump up and down somewhere around Terminal 4 thinking that we must have missed our stop already.
Hysterical Mother is now on a mission to make a phone call. This seems to be extremely difficult, for reasons that I don't quite understand. I swear that, five years ago, I'd have killed her in cold blood, probably somewhere at the point where I was explaining what was going on to the American clerk and doing a reasonable job of convincing them that this was their fault so they were going to fix it even though I had a cheap-ass ticket that was only valid with Olympic and she butted in and started being hysterical about how she (who had an entirely different ticket costing several hundred dollars more than mine) couldn't possibly stay in New York for three (sic) days and who was going to pay for the hotel and baggage and... Thankfully, I am now older and calmer. To be honest, I was mainly operating on the ``convince them to get you home today or early tomorrow and, if it doesn't work, enjoy the free two-day holiday in New York'' plan. Daughter seems to concur that this can't be too bad; Hysterical Mother is unconvinced.
The upside is that it's Hallowe'en so half the check-in clerks and flight attendants are in at least some level of fancy dress. Our person at American only has the stripy purple and black tights but Wonderwoman now works for Delta and there are quite a few witches around. I'm doing Zombie but I don't need no steekin' costume.
Hysterical Mother keeps ranting at me about how the airlines have done nothing to help us. Obviously she hasn't noticed that American have just paid to fly me to Paris and have been extremely courteous and helpful. I try to explain to her that you can't hold up a plane of 300 people for three people are on a late connecting flight because this causes half of the 300 to miss their connecting flights and causes spiralling delays to the rest of the airport, too.
Hysterical Mother has a rant at the nice woman checking tickets and passports outside security. I put an arm round her shoulder and gently move her towards security, making sure she's in a different line from me in case she gets hysterical at them, too. She might well have done, too -- I got through much quicker than she did. Hysterical Mother finally manages to make her call at about the fifth attempt at the gate for the Paris plane. She seems less likely to die of a heart attack today; daughter is mainly being bored.
We get on the plane to Paris. It's completely full so I suspect three poor suckers got bumped for us. Thank you, whoever you are. Sleeeeeeeeeep.
Copyright © David Richerby, 2005.