We rented a van and drove a bunch of friends to a house out in the country in New York state for the weekend to celebrate a milestone birthday. Highlights included rental van problems (van no. 1 made a horrible clunking noise at speeds higher than 20mph, so we very carefully drove back and got another, which was also much cleaner), breakfast and campfire with friends, hiking to a waterfall, and Mario Kart. Good times had by all, would do again. Maybe with a different rental van company.
We went out to LA this summer for Zack’s sister’s wedding, and got there a few days early and made a vacation of it. We went to the beach, of course, got to see Zack’s cousins’ new baby, and my parents came down too so we took them to Santa Monica, the Huntington Gardens, and the Warner Brothers studio tour.
There were several large earthquakes while we were there, fortunately far from any big population centers. The bigger one actually interrupted the rehearsal dinner, but fortunately everyone was done eating and just chatting at that point. I think the groom’s family, east-coasters, were surprised how casual the Californians were about it.
The wedding, was lovely, of course. I’d never been to a proper Jewish wedding before, with the chuppah and circling around each other and everything. The rabbi was very good at connecting to the symbolism and making it personal.
Zack was officially done a few months ago, but he got to walk in the summer graduation ceremonies. His parents were unable to join us, but his sister made the trip, and it was great to have her there!
There were two days of ceremonies, first the doctoral hooding ceremony in the theater attached to the Carnegie museums (which is very pretty, btw, I’d never been there before), and the second for the whole ECE depart to receive their diplomas. Lots of sitting and listening to people’s names, but it’s good to have a ceremonial marker for the occasion.
There were several deaths in my family last year and amongst family friends. One of them was my dad’s brother, Uncle Ron. It was a shock, partly because it followed so closely on the death of my great aunt, and partially because he seemed like the picture of health and he’s only a few years younger than my Dad.
We had a family gathering last year shortly after he died, but the official funeral was about 6 months later in Arlington. We got there a few days in advance hoping to see some of Washington D.C., but the government was shut down so that didn’t work out very well. We did get to tour the Capitol and the Newseum with my parents, and otherwise hung out with my siblings and their kids in the hotel.
Uncle Ron lives down the road from Arlington, so he used to joke that when he died the hearse could pick him up at the house and drop him off down the road. It didn’t work quite like that what with the wait time, but they did make a stop in front of the house before going to the chapel at Arlington.
If you have the opportunity to see a military funeral for someone high-ranking, it is a thing to see. The family walked behind the military procession, consisting of a marching band, a bunch of soldiers, a caisson with the casket, and a riderless horse, then at the grave site there was a gun salute and a cannon firing. It’s not something I would want for myself, but it was perfect for him.
Usually we split Christmas time between my family and Zack’s in both San Jose and LA, but we only made it to LA in December this year because we’d be seeing my family very soon in Washington D.C.
We hung out with Zack’s parents at their house a bunch, and Zack’s sister showed us some of her favorite hangouts around LA, and we also got to drive up to Bakersfield to visit Zack’s great uncle.
We flew out to San Jose for an old friend’s wedding (we’ve known each other since first grade!) The flight was delayed so I didn’t get to go to the rehearsal dinner, but the wedding ceremony and receptions were lovely.
We stayed on a few days to visit with family, who I don’t get to see nearly often enough, and we went hiking on the peninsula with another old friend on a trail neither of us had been on before.
An old friend who is getting married this year had her bachelorette party in Philadelphia. I was planning to drive there and back from Pittsburgh, but a wrench was thrown in that plan when my great aunt died and the funeral was the day before (thankfully not the same day).
I flew down to Chattanooga from Pittsburgh after work, where Zack was supposed to pick me up, having arrived earlier from Amherst. There was a bit of a glitch, though. The runway was under construction at night, and I guess they forgot they had any more flights arriving because they turned off the runway lights and the plane had to turn around and go back to Atlanta. At this point I was kicking myself, since an earlier plan had involved me renting a car and driving from Atlanta instead of flying to Chattanooga. They did manage to reach someone at the Chattanooga airport eventually, though, and got us back to Chattanooga where all of our rides were very confused. The kicker is that the same thing had happened the night before.
Funerals are strange things. It was weird to be in La Fayette, and even in my great aunt’s own house, and not see her, but in my mind it’s like she’s just in the other room. Every now and then I’d find myself thinking I should tell her something (I bet she’d think the flight mishap was pretty funny), and remembering I can’t. And it’s strange to think that I’ll probably be spending a lot less time there. She’s in the cemetery next to my grandma and my uncle now, but really what makes her herself is nowhere I can ever find. I brought home the rummikub set and a quilt made by my great-grandmother as a memento, but it’s a pale substitute for the person, and I know which I’d rather have.
I did get to look through some of the old photo albums, and that was a lot of fun. I took photos of some of my favorites, but I’d love it if we got the whole thing digitized properly.
The flight to Philadelphia was a lot less eventful. I rented a car from the Philly airport for my return home, drove to M’s house where we’d be spending the night, then together we went to join the party! We are a super wild and crazy bunch so the festivities included a fancy high tea (I neglected to get a picture of the food, but rest assured it was pretty), a walk around Philadelphia, an escape room, board games, then brunch and more walking around the next morning.
Then I drove home from Philadelphia back to Pittsburgh, randomly encountered a coworker at one of the rest stops on the turnpike, dropped the rental car at the airport and picked up my car to go home.
We got a call from my cousin that my 95-year-old Great Aunt wasn’t doing very well, so we flew down to visit while we still could. Some of my cousins came by too so we got to see them, too.
We had one good day with her, but the other day she didn’t really know who we were. It hurt to see her like that, she’s been doing so well until just the last few months. She told us that she hoped we wouldn’t live to 95, it was awful.
She was really only awake and alert for part of the afternoon, so we spent the rest of the time touring around Chickamauga, which is a cute little town nearby with a nice central park, and Rock City, which I haven’t been to since I was a little kid.
Rock City is a park with trails winding around a bunch of large rock formations. It’s mostly known for its advertising, which appears on barn roofs for hundreds of miles around with the uninformative slogan “See ROCK CITY”. The rocks are nice, but not really exciting enough for the type of roadside tourism they want to attract, so they’ve spruced it up with a bunch of odd gnome statuary throughout the park. The whole place is unabashedly kitschy and self-aggrandizing, which I think is part of the charm.
Work sent me and several other coworkers to the annual HIMSS conference, which was in Las Vegas this year. It’s an enormous conference, and it took up the whole convention center.
My team spent most of our time on the showroom floor looking at what other software companies are doing to solve similar problems. I did also go to a few talks, but for the most part they were disappointing, too high-level and vague to be useful. The perspective of UX design in health software seemed to be almost entirely absent.
I’ve never been to Vegas before, so it was fun walking around seeing the casinos. My coworkers and I hung out a bit on Freemont Street, where some of the older casinos are, and a few of us went to see Absinthe, which is a burlesque acrobatic show in the round. There were several incredible acts, but my favorite was the one with two roller skates spinning around on a teeny-tiny stage.