I'm writing this update from Lyssa's parents' house once again - the holiday is here once again (however you happen to celebrate it), and this year we've gone back to visit our families. We left around 1200 EST5EDT yesterday in an attempt to beat the traffic rush headed to points north, west, east, and everywhere but the southern half of the compass rose. Traffic, weather, and being worn out from staying up far too late the night before being what they are, we pulled in around 1730 EST5EDT, a respectable timetable for leaving at noon.
The fairest thing you can say is that we didn't get into trouble on the way up, unlike last year (when we got rear-ended on 270 north). After getting the TARDIS unpacked Lyssa, her mother, and I headed to the local Bob Evans restaurant to have dinner and talk for a while before we retired for the evening.
Our usual shortcut through West Virginia to get to southwestern PA was more of an adventure than usual yesterday due to the dense fog cover. Once we hit the mountains of West Virginia, it was like we'd driven out of Time and had gone adrift in the clouds of possibility between Here and There. Visibility was cut to little more then thirty feet in front of us, the only landmarks the solid yellow line to our let and the broken white line flashing by on the pavement to our right. You couldn't see the trees or the other cars. You couldn't see the guard rail. You couldn't even see the dropoffs on the left or right. It felt for all the worlds like we were picking our way across a precipice spanning a puffy white abyss, with no sense of time or distance. We got somewhere when we got somewhere, not before and not after. It was an unusual feeling, to be sure - being in one of the soft places, the in between places. By the time we got within spitting distance of our destination, we'd made it through the cloud cover and were treated to a vision of something rarely seen in the DC metroplex: A beautiful Pennsylvania sunset.
Say what you will about Pennsylvania (gods know, I do) but they have wonderful sunsets there.
A solid sky of blue. Thick greyish-blue clouds breaking up toward the horizon. Bright pink and orange clouds reflecting the sun's light. Streaks of charcoal creeping like tendrils of shadow upward from the opposite horizon. I wish we'd had time to stop and take some proper photographs of this spectacle, doubly so because I couldn't admire the view for very long as I was driving this time.
Thursday night wound up being something of a screwup - I left work on time but got caught in traffic as everyone and their backup left work and charged for the on-ramps to the Beltway. A thirty-minute trip wound up taking over one and one-half hours, which put me well behind schedule. Laurelinde was late, also - she got on the Metro late and didn't arrive until well after 1800 EST5EDT, which pushed dinner back.
Ordinarily this isn't terribly problematic, but I was running late for the giving of a gift at the Mad Scientist Coffee Klatsch that night: Everyone had chipped in finds to purchase a Dyna Med BLS Kit for Orthaevelve, who'd gotten her EMT certification a couple of months ago and needed a field kit to do her job properly. As it was, I didn't arrive until well after 2000 hours, and had missed the giving of the gift. I'd also brought the card that everyone was supposed to sign late.
I feel bad about that. For some of us, the Yule holiday was celebrated on 21 December, the Winter solstice, or the longest night of the year as we've taken to calling it. I unfortunately got out of work late on Friday but got home earlier than the night before, probably because everyone that was going to take off early had already done so, so it was only as bad as it usually is on a Friday night.
Yes, how simultaneously obscure and descriptive of me. Here's the thing about weekend traffic in northern Virginia: Just before a holiday, it really sucks. Your major artery of choice becomes a parking lot, and you may as well pack dinner, a couple of books, and a bedpan. On a Friday afternoon, however, traffic just sucks, meaning that your average speed will be between 20 and 30 miles per hour, and the shortest jaunt you can think of will take roughly a half-hour. Scale upward appropriately from there.
Lyssa was wonderful on Friday night - she had dinner waiting for me when I got home (chicken and garlic stir-fry with pasta) and we exchanged gifts afterward, partially because we were going to be spending the Christmas holiday with our families, and partially because we wouldn't have room to bring everything with us. It seems that we'd given each other a steampunk solstice this year given the nature of many of the gifts. I got for Lyssa a couple of books from her wish list, a replica of the Elven brooch from The Lord of the Rings, a quill pen and ink, a wax sealing stamp, some stationary, and a Himalayan salt crystal lamp. On the other hand, she got for me a couple of books from my Amazon wishlist, a collapsible brass spyglass, a couple of DVDs (disinfo.con, Maybe Logic, The Dresden Files boxed set, and the collector's edition of Serenity). I've also fallen in love with the desktop chronolabe, brass fob watch (with da Vinci's Vitruvian Man across the cover).
She even got me a magnifying monocle.
Have I ever mentioned how much I love Lyssa?
When you factor in the huge gift basket I got from the guys at work (easily thirty pounds worth of chocolate, munchies, and wine), we made out like bandits this year. In fact, our grocery bill for our yearly post-Yule dinner is going to be a fraction of what it usually is.
After we finished unwrapping gifts and cleaning up the aftermath, we decided to drive out to our local cinema megaplex to catch the 2000 showing of Sweeney Todd, the Hollywood adaptation of the Sondheim musical (though some would call it an opera) that was somehow nominated for a number of awards before it even opened in theatres.. just goes to show what makes and breaks movies these days.
If you're not familiar with the story of Sweeney Todd, it's about a barber who is unjustly imprisoned for fifteen years by a crooked judge who wants to get his hands on his daughter (who at the time is an infant, but grows up fast, as children always seem to do). The barber returns to Victorian England, takes the name Sweeney Todd, and sets about getting his revenge on everyone that helped put him behind bars with his six best friends, a set of silver straight razors that seem to get more screen time than everyone else put together. But then we come to the problem of disposing of the bodies.... I'll not say any more than that to avoid spoiling major plot points for you.
Johnny Depp plays a battered, broken, and thoroughly homicidal Sweeney Todd; Helena Bonham Carter plays Mrs. Lovett, the demented piemaker. Rounding out the cast are Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin and Timothy Spall as the so-sleazy-he's-dripping Beadle Bamford. The sets are visually stunning, the costumes to die for (Lyssa and I are already figuring out patterns), and the singing... well, it's good for the silver screen. Lyssa, a fan of the stage production with Angela Lansbury says that it's not up to scratch. I think that Depp and Carter did a fairly good job given that they're not actually vocally trained. Some research has shown that they did a hell of a lot of rehearsing before auditioning for the parts, and I think they did decently well as a result. They're not ready for Broadway, but they put a lot of music acts these days to shame (and I'm not talking about just black metal musicians). If gore isn't your thing you'd best pass on this movie because you'll see a lot of slit throats and a few things near the end of the movie that'll probably turn your stomach. I have to be honest, around the halfway mark Depp's ten-foot-stare-in-an-eight-foot-room started to get on my nerves; during the scene in question it was genuinely funny in context but then it looks as if he forgot to stop doing it.
I'll give it three stars out of four; with the caveats above, I recommend this movie (which really isn't a holiday movie, and would probably have worked better around Halloween). I'll be picking up the soundtracks soon.
As if that weren't enough, my new laptop, a custom-built Dell Inspiron 1520 arrived at the rental office of the apartment complex while I was at work on Friday. As one would expect, there was no way in hell that I'd be going anywhere without picking up my new laptop to work on during holiday vacation, so Lyssa and I swung past the rental office on our way out of state on Saturday morning. It's a little bit larger than Windbringer's current chassis, but the up-side of that is that it has a much larger screen (15.4", as opposed to 12.1") and has a much larger keyboard, which will be much better for my wrists given how much I work from a laptop as opposed to a desktop machine these days. For work-related reasons I'm following the Linux-after-Windows installation instructions over at the Gentoo Wiki, and they seem to be working quite well. Last night I unstalled a load of stuff that I have no use for from the Windows partition, defragged the drive a few times, and used a Gparted liveCD to shrink the Windows XP partition down to a mere 100 GB, which leaves me 260 GB on the hard drive (even more than Windbringer's current installation) to install Gentoo Linux on. So far I'm having a grand old time setting things up, and I expect that I'll be able to transplant Windbringer by this upcoming Wednesday at the very latest. We're all laying around the homestead of Lyssa's parents letting dinner digest, so I'm spending some quality time with my new equipment. My only wish is that I regret not having brought a 25 foot ethernet cable with me so that I could work on both systems side by side, rather than running into the other room periodically.
Okay. Back to working on Windbringer's new chassis. A belated yet heartfelt joyous Yule, everyone.