Thursday, February 14, 2008

Winter Break

So why has it taken me so long to catch up here? Because it's been taking me this long to start catching up with my life again. I'm not sure I'm quite ready to start the semester, and it started five weeks ago. Why don't I feel fully caught up yet? Let me tell you about my winter break, which is mostly good, but way too busy.

Once finals and grades were done (along with all the other stuff I had to do, like visit the dentist), I set off for a week to visit my folks back in Texas, which is always good. I got back on December 28, and was leaving again on January 1 to go to San Diego for the Joint Meetings of the AMS/MAA, where I was actually accepted to present. (Don't get too excited; it was just a ten minute talk.)

I left on the first as a snow storm was blowing into Erie, and feel glad that my flight got out. I actually had the miraculous good fortune on the flight from Detroit to San Diego to be sitting in an aisle seat with no one in the middle seat. And when I arrived in San Diego at close to ten at night, it was 75 degrees. (Hallelujah!) Picked up my rental car (they gave me a Prius, which I had thought about buying this summer), found my hotel and crashed. Of course, I was in San Diego about five days early, because what's the point of flying to a conference on the other side of the country if you're not going to take some time to enjoy it?

So on the next morning I took a couple hours to drive north and visit a little known tourist attraction for a couple of days:
(Yes! Score...) I had a hotel about a ten minute walk from the parks, which was great. My hotel was beautiful (and a bargain), and it even had an Indian restaurant with a buffet for lunch.

To my delight, all of the holiday decorations, events, and attractions were still running when I got there. The decorations were magnificent, and ubiquitous. (I must admit 'though that it's slightly weird to be walking into the park on a warm sunny day in January with "Sleigh Ride" welling up around you from the hidden speakers.)
Sleeping Beauty Castle

I've always wanted to see some of the holiday attractions, like the overlay for "it's a small world" (one of my favorite rides anyway), seen below at night. (Occasionally, the whole thing would light up with projected images and play holiday themed music along with a light show. It was really cool.) It was good timing in another way, too; the ride is now shut down for about nine months of refurbishment.

Small World, Holiday Edition
I also got to see the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay at the Haunted Mansion.
Haunted Mansion Overlay(Which is amazing by the way. The Haunted Mansion was practically worth the price of admission itself.)

On my second night, I made a reservation for the Napa Rose, which is an amazing restaurant at the Grand Californian resort hotel at Disneyland. (This restaurant is even well respected by the Los Angeles food critics.) I had an extraordinary meal, which was essentially a four course chef's special, with each course paired with its own wine.
Napa Rose meal
(Yes, I take pictures of exquisite meals. One of my colleagues found this amusing later in San Diego. On the other hand, I also realized that I was willing to spend more on this meal than I was willing to spend on a hotel room for the night, so you can see that food is a high priority for me.) I should also mention after four or five glasses of wine, all the lights and decorations in the parks are even more amazing. I highly recommend seeing Disneyland decorated for the holidays at night while slightly sloshed.

So I was a little sad to come to the third day, and after a morning at the parks, headed out to go back down to San Diego for the conference. On the way down, it started to rain. When I checked in at my hotel, they sprang an extra 20 dollar per day charge for having a car, and the hotel room was not as nice as the one I'd checked out of in Anaheim (but cost more). I was an unhappy camper. Why did I leave Disneyland anyway? (It probably didn't help that my feet were hurting from this point from walking so much the last few days, and I had to do a lot of walking to get around in San Diego too.) The rain sort of interrupted touring plans a colleague and I were talking about on the day before the conference started, too.

But by the end of the week, the sun came out and San Diego was at least pretty, as this shot of the convention center attests:
San Diego Convention Center
And with the aid of a Frommers, I found more exquisite food for myself and a colleague to enjoy:
San Diego Food(Actually, I had to sneak out for the sushi on my own. So few people seem to go for this.)

Oh, and the conference? It went fine. Saw some reasonable talks (and some not so reasonable), gave my talk without any real problems, went to my colleagues talk, and ran into several people I wasn't expecting to. (Most were from grad school, but I ran into one math major from college I hadn't seen in ages.) Then I finally flew back to Erie, got home around 11 pm on Thursday night, and realized: Oh crud. Classes start Monday.

So this is why, although I had a pretty great break for the most part, I'm still a little dazed and confused and not sure I'm ready to start the semester.

I also learned an important lesson from all of this: Disneyland is more fun than a math conference.