EDIT: FIXED - I took to the skies once again, and found myself in a strange, wonderous land.

Oct 22, 2007

A land in which traffic in the heart of the city is sparse at high noon, there are restaurants on nearly every corner (woe to my waistline and coronary arteries), and the temperature plummeted from 85 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday to a chilly 55 degrees Fahrenheit by the time C- (cow-orker and metalhead extrodinaire) and I left the site and headed for the hotel.

Yes, this is the Doctor again, writing to you from the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. The company I work for has sent me abroad once again on assignment, this time for two weeks straight in the field.

A few links have piled up over the past few days, so I'd best get those out of the way before I try writing anything else. It's a little bit like kicking the junk mail out of the way before you can walk into your apartment after being on vacation for some period of time.

Okay, the BBC has announced that this year's Children In Need special episode of Doctor Who will be a long-awaited crossover: Peter Davison will reprise his role as the fifth Doctor and join David Tennant's portrayal of the tenth Doctor in an episode called Time Crash (what a change from titles like The foo Doctors). If you've seen the final episode of season 29/3 of Doctor Who, you have an idea of what this means, though no one yet knows what's to come. As with all of the Children In Need episodes to date, it's going to be a doozy. The episode will air across the pond on Friday, 16 November 2007. Expect it to hit BitTorrent trackers across the Net within an hour after airing.

Next, if you've ever read the web comic XKCD, you might have seen a certain strip about a ninja raid upon the domicile of one Richard M. Stallman. The last time Stallman spoke at Yale University (last Wednesday, if memory serves), a couple of people in the audiene decided to re-enact the attack. No one was injured and RMS, from all accounts, enjoyed the joke immensely.

There. Now that those are out of the way, how about what happened this weekend? The weekend just passed was to be the last chance that Lyssa and I would have to spend time together because I'd be flying out of Dulles on Sunday afternoon, so we decided to truck out to the Maryland Renaissance Festival because this was the last weekend of the season that it'd be running. There would be music. There would be entertainment. There would be Scotch eggs. There would be costumry and fancy dress. There would be friends meeting us to hang out. I would have a chance to reprise my steampunk time traveler outfit because the renaissance isn't my cup of tea, but I do enjoy a good jump through history from time to time.

There was no Laurelinde because she caught whatever it was that I had which expertly emulated a sinus infection, and put her on the shelf for a couple of days. The rest of her family was there, however and we wound up having lunch with them... after we figured out how in the hell to get there.

Those of you who've known me for any length of time are aware of my infamous and utter lack of a sense of direction. Getting to Laurelinde's place wasn't difficult, even though by the time we arrived, my car had approximately one eighth of a tank of gas remaining. By the time we got to the DC Beltway, the "low gas" light was on, and remained on for the next half hour, during which Lyssa and I got utterly lost while looking for a gas station. The entire time during the search I was on tenterhooks because, frankly, I've never run out of gas before, and I had no desire to try it that day, especially in a part of Maryland that I was utterly unfamiliar with. We eventually found a gas station, but then this brought another question: How to get from there to the rennfaire?

Google Maps was no help at all. Blasphemy, I know, but also the truth: The zip code of where we were is listed in their GIS databases as being just outside of Phoenix, Arizona.

I know that my sense of direction is bad, but for the love of all that is decent on this world, it's not that bad.

I wound up getting directions from some people in another nearby gas station who'd been there the weekend before. They told Lyssa and I how to find our destination. Amusingly enough, we knew that we were on the right path when we ran dead into a traffic jam. On a backwoods road headed into No Man's Land, Maryland.

Stop for a minute and think about how many cars that could be. It'll be important later.

Shortly after arriving, I ran into Tyrus (photographer from Saloncon) and not a few other attendees while at the rennfaire who picked me out of the crowd with little difficulty. I even heard a few calls of "Hey! The Victorian time travellers are here!" as I walked through the crowd, goggles slung around my neck.

One thing about the rennfaire is that it changes slowly from year to year. The booths are more or less the same, the food's the same (by the way, don't get the turkey legs, they're really not very good), and the shinies are more or less the same. Go for the people; go to see and be seen. Definitely go to hang out with your friends, and possibly make a few new ones if you're a reasonably outgoing individual.

What with all the stress I'd been under, I wasn't much in a mood for running around with a crowd, so I struck out on my own to nose around the shops. I didn't find much that appealed to me until I started looking for clothing, and made fast friends with the proprietors because I was dressed in a Victorian manner. They helped me pick out a few things to put another outfit together (namely, another pair of trousers and a nifty cassock-vest that reaches my knees). While at that particular booth (I don't remember which one because their business card is at home; when I get back I'll post a link to their website) I ran into something that I hadn't expected that weekend: A fourth Doctor cosplayer in full garb. I had to take a couple of pictures of him (of which I've posted the best) and geek out a bit about his toy sonic screwdriver, one of the original garage models that he'd assembled and painted himself.

Now, about that trying to leave at the end of the day... Lyssa and I tried to depart around1815 EST5EDT for home because I had a few errands to take care of, but the problem came when we tried to find the car.

It's one thing to navigate by landmarks. It's quite another when the landmarks are all trying to head for the gate to head for the highway, most of them all at once. Sure, I can find my car when it's parked next to a white sedan with the license plate 'S3R3N1TY", but when that car left sometime before I did, and was replaced by another car with an entirely different license plate, and that car is headed for the highway... it stops making sense of any kind.

Lyssa and I, assisted by Kit (who'd driven down from Connecticut) and a friend of hers, spent the next three hours and change searching for my car. None of us had the slightest inkling of where we'd parked, and I had visions of having to call the police and file a stolen vehicle report that night. I kept getting separated from everyone because I was walking in a search pattern on the hillside (ten foot squares, horizontal and then vertical paths) in my search. It was bad enough that Kit's friend went offroading with Kit and I in the back of the truck (she's a cadet at the Maryland Police Academy so this was combat driving practice for her) searching for the car, and we also had faire security combing the hillside. As it turned out, Lyssa and I had parked much, much farther away than we'd originally thought, and we had badly misjudged how far we had walked earlier that day. It seems safe to say that we parked twice as far away as originally thought, and simply weren't going far enough from the front gate in our quest.

We finally got home around 2100 local time, and I finished my errands around 2215 that night.

Now, to skip some of the boring stuff: Jarin was nice enough to drive me to Dulles the next afternoon so that I could meet up with C- and catch my flight to Missouri for work. The drive wasn't bad, going through security wasn't bad (even with well over 200 pounds of equipment), and the flight quite enjoyable (it's good to have either a window or an aisle seat). C- and I arrived around 2100 CST5CDT on Sunday night, and after a quick dinner at a Chinese restaurant called Wong's (review to come), we retired to our rooms for the night.

That about catches me up for the past couple of days. To come: More pictures I haven't posted yet and a couple of restaurant reviews.