It’s a record! 8 days–a new personal best on lateness.
Last week (technically the week before at this point) we had a little family reunion at my brother’s place in Wisconsin for the 4th of July. My place was on my sister’s way there, so she stayed overnight before we drove the rest of the way together. Our parents drove up from Texas.
I took the afternoon off to finish getting ready for my sister’s visit. She was arriving that evening.
On the way to the store to pick up some things for her stay, I got rear ended by a car that got rear ended by someone else. No one was hurt, but our cars were all damaged. For me the main damage was my rear bumper, which popped out of the wheel well on each side. I need to get it fixed before it falls off and causes another accident. The problem is my car is old and stays outside, so the bottom is really rusty and hard to fix. So I might be buying another car a year or two early. But I couldn’t take care of any of that until I got back the next week.
Abbie arrived safely. After she got settled, we ate a dinner of frozen lasagna while watching Big Hero 6. More on that in the Movies section.
Before this month’s life maintenance project, my overnight guests had to use my sleeping bag or my huge comforter for a bed. Happily, I now had a sofa bed. I also got all my boxes moved out of the living room, added a towel bar to my bathroom, and did some way overdue cleaning. So now my apartment is much more presentable.
We weren’t leaving till mid-afternoon, so I spent the morning on more chores to spruce up the apartment. For one thing, I had to wash the sheets I’d bought for the sofa bed because they smelled weird.
Since Abbie had very long drives on this trip already, I offered to drive between Illinois and Wisconsin. Our trip was uneventful, except that we meant to avoid tolls, and then I made a wrong turn and didn’t avoid them. So later I had to go to the Illinois toll website and reconstruct our route so I could pay them. Thankfully Google Maps creepily tracks your location so you can do things like that.
Dinner was at a local bar and grill near my brother’s place. It was good but greasier than I was ready for. Lunch had been at a local Mexican place near my place, so it was a day of local dining.
Thursday morning I did a little research to clear up some questions I had about the holiday. How did the colonists win the Revolution against such odds? Why did the allies help? Why did the colonies want independence in the first place? Why is independence day July 4? Why do we celebrate with fireworks? Very enlightening.
After a late breakfast, we rented a paddleboat and circled a few times around the bay near Michael’s home. It was midday, which would’ve been a mistake except that there were lots of clouds and a nice breeze. The boat place has more than just paddleboats, and we passed by kayaks, groups of paddleboards, and a swimmer with a bright pink float tied on. Some of the paddleboarders had their dogs with them standing or lying on the board.
At night we drove to a country club for fireworks. It was a mixed experience. The golf course was nice but a little too hilly for comfort. While we waited for darkness, we were snacked on by Wisconsin’s aggressive mosquitos, which seemed to think bug spray was an appetizer. But I did enjoy hearing the chatter of the other visitors around us.
Finally the warning firework was fired, and after a trickle of intro bursts, the show got started. It was a lot like the shows I was used to at home. We were close enough to feel the booms. But after what I took to be the mid-show climax, the pace trickled off again, as if they were having technical problems. People started leaving, and we joined them.
Friday we stopped by Michael’s office at his new job, and then it was off to rural Wisconsin for lunch and a museum.
The museum was The House on the Rock, the massive curiosities collection of the late Alex Jordan, who I had never heard of. But my brother’s description sold me on it immediately, and I felt a kinship with this collector before we even arrived. By the end my opinion hadn’t changed, as overwhelmed and tired as I felt. There’s a corner of my mind that, if you blew it up into a person and a half, would be an Alex Jordan. I even bought both the books at the gift shop–a biography and a museum guide–for inspiration in my home (and life) design.
Being there reminded me of a quote I vaguely remembered from Neil Gaiman’s American Gods about roadside attractions as places of power. Only after we’d finished our tour did I remember that the scene in the book was about the very place we were visiting. I was so shocked by the mental connection that I let out a sudden “Oh!” and startled my sister. Later I found out the American Gods TV series filmed those scenes on location, which makes me more interested in watching it.
Saturday we had lunch with a family friend in the area, Abbie’s math teacher from high school. It was good to catch up and hear about her current work teaching computer science.
In the afternoon we hung out downtown drinking bubble tea and looking at stationery and books. The area had the kind of hipster vibe I can kind of distantly appreciate online, but I found that actually being there made me uneasy. I felt a little too out of place. I think this just means I need to spend a bunch of time in Wicker Park.
That night I drove Abbie back to my place. We managed to avoid the tolls this time. It’s kind of fun driving down country roads. I should do it more often.
Big Hero 6 was part of my AI movie project. I was half asleep for the final boss fight (because of tiredness, not boredom), but when I was alert, the movie was entertaining, though maybe formulaic. The main AI-related insight I took from it was the reminder that a lot of what we value about a person comes from our awareness of their memories and from the traits shaped by their experiences. So if you wipe an AI’s memories and restart it from its original state, it’s like the old AI has died. It’s a loss. Unless, of course, the AI was evil.