My Philly-Atlantic City-New York-Poconos Experience

My webernets presence has been pretty sparse lately, as I’ve been away from home and on the road for almost a week and a half.  And I had a blast! So much so that I’m having trouble readjusting to being home.  So here’s the recap for those who care. (If you don’t give a darn, here’s an adorable tiger kitty, via Pharyngula!)

Way back on a Friday afternoon a week and a half ago, I trucked up to Philly via I-81 while listening in on a PAPER telecon, and later my iPod. There is something wonderful about singing at the top of your lungs in the car, especially when you are alone because your singing leaves much to be desired.  East Coasters know that Google Maps or car GPS will try to take you to Philly via I-95, but summer weekend traffic on that road is awful, hence I took the longer route.  I finally got to crash at my boyfriend’s house for the whole week, which was wonderful, and if you aren’t following our obnoxiously sickening banter on Twitter already, why aren’t you?  I immediately started playing with his cat, Jinx, and promptly got into an itchy-eyed sneezing fit.  The Target-brand Claritin knock-off I use is good, but not good enough for completely rolling around in cat hair.  *sigh* Sorry Jinx, I had to take it easy with you the rest of the week.  Thank goodness for laser pointers.

Saturday, we headed out to a skeptic meetup organized over on Skepchick, where I got to meet the lovely Rebecca Watson.  I reiterate my statement that I wish all the Skepchicks went to high school with me, so we could have taken over the school with our nerdy awesomeness, and it wouldn’t have taken me so long to come out of my shell.  I spent a good part of brunch conversing with Martha Knox, who told me all about the various skeptic/atheist/humanist groups in Philly, and how they have different events with different focus groups and they all keep in touch as a sort of coalition. Wow! I was impressed and heartened by the level of community among non-believers in Philly.  I hope to see something similar come out of our smaller town of CVille, and when I get a free second, ever, like to think of ways to help make that happen.  (Martha, if you are reading this, I hope you got the pictures I emailed you!) I also spent some time chatting with Box Brown, who writes a funny, adorable, and thoughtful comic called Bellen.

After a sufficiently sangria-infused brunch, we went off to the Continental where they actually serve a drink called the Buzz Aldrin!  I think it’s some kind of peach vodka in a Tang-encrusted glass, and it was quite delicious, though uber-girly.

This bar also boasted these fantastic chairs shaped like undefinable animals, and I so want one.

After drinks, the group headed off to the Mutter Museum, which was already on my to-do list as it was recommended by Seth.  This museum is not for the weak of stomach, since it displays various human specimens, many of which were used to educate medical students in the 19th century.  You can find plaster casts depicting all kinds of diseases, a huge collection of human skulls, human-leather bound medical books, a collection of 2,000 objects removed from throats, fetuses in various stages of growth, the skeleton of a giant, and so much more.  It’s like the freak show meets medical education and shouldn’t be missed.

Finally, Tim and I had to hit to road to go to Atlantic City, for we had tickets to see Penn and Teller in a rare East Coast appearance! Tim’s brother had alerted us to the show a few months ago, and we started making plans immediately. Tim has been a big fan of P&T’s magic and their show Bullsh*t for many years, and I’ve been a fan for a few years now, and neither of us had ever seen a live show.  We met up at Harrah’s with a number of very cool skeptics, and we didn’t do one bit of gambling. This must be what happens at TAM in Vegas, right?

The show was wonderful.  It was everything I could have hoped for: illusions, surprise, showmanship, humor, and skepticism.  Both men are talented performers, with Penn having a flair for the dramatic and Teller performing some beautifully, elegant tricks.  What makes them stand out from other magicians is their reiteration of magic as a trick and an illusion, not some supernatural power.  They use their show as a soapbox against psychics who con innocent people out of their money with tricks like cold and hot reading.  They even show how our own perceptions can be misused to fool us. I won’t give away of the show, just go see them if you ever have a chance.

Being that we were in Atlantic City, we took advantage and went out on the town! Since my mother reads this blog every once in a while, I’ll just say that what happens in Atlantic City, stays in Atlantic City. (And gets referenced in tweets for the next week…)  We stayed overnight in a lovely beach house and, after discovering that IHOP no longer existed where Google Maps said it did, had a really fun and thoughtful conversation over brunch.  I also realized that I need an iPhone. We’ll see how that turns out…

Tim and I headed back to Philly where we got a short rest (aka passed out for the rest of the day) and went to a family picnic for Memorial Day. I got to meet the whole bunch! The geeks clustered together at one point and talked about video games, Mythbusters, Penn & Teller, and more, thus driving non-geeks far away from our conversation.

I spent most of the actual work week at the University of Pennsylvania, working with some PAPER collaborators. For being out of my familiar office, I actually got quite a bit done.  There is something special about actually being able to communicate with collaborators face-to-face, and having a change of scenery to motivate you.  I also spent half a day at Temple, and they have a fabulous crepe lunch truck!  Both urban campuses (and the train commute) brought out the city girl in me, but for some reason, the urban campus also comes along with some seriously locked down wireless internet.  I came short of selling my firstborn child for access to the internet. Mid-week, we shipped of to Staten Island for an evening so Tim could meet my family and friends, and that was also a blast.  You know that your mom likes your boyfriend when they team up to pick on you. Tim and I got to play house all week, and he enjoyed my cooking even though it included veggies! I am also slowly getter better at Rock Band. Okay, by “better” I mean less amateurishly horrible.

On Friday, we got a chance to check out the Galileo exhibit at the Franklin, which showcases many examples of the scientific tools and books of his time.  The tools themselves are works of art as well as of precision, and we got a mini-lesson from a museum worker about how they have to keep the temperature, light levels, and humidity at a certain level to preserve the paper for hundreds of years, even though the paper made from cloth at the time is sturdier that what we make from pulp now.  I was totally in awe at Galileo’s telescope, to think that something so simple started it all.  Again, go see this exhibit yourself, for the short time that it is on loan from Italy!

Next, we were joined by the AstroKids of UVa for the wedding of one of our beloved grad students to her doctor fiancee.  Congrats to those two crazy kids!  Not content to have that be the only entertainment of the weekend, Tim and I also went up to the Poconos with his cousin and parents on Sunday to summer-ize his cousin’s boat on Lake Wallenpaupack. It was chilly, but really fun, and I’m looking forward to my weeklong visit up there in July!

Sadly, finally, I had to head back to CVille on Monday, and get used to it just being me again. I was very grateful to find that not only had my plants survived in my absence, but my plant sitter must have a magical green touch because my herbs and flowers had doubled in size and greenery since I had left!  She says it was all the rain. I suspend my skepticism in this case and insist that it’s magic.

So that’s it! A great week to kick off what looks to be an eventful and productive summer.

(More on Flickr.)

7 thoughts on “My Philly-Atlantic City-New York-Poconos Experience

    1. I may have to back off, Tim is starting to seem like he was feeling threatened. Lately he’s been speaking Russian and wearing my glasses…

  1. Здравствуйте! Как поживаете?
    (Hello! How are you?)

  2. I’m sure you both had cookies and milk and went to bed early in Atlantic City.

    That’s my vision of the story and I’m stickin’ to it!

    And let me tell you … Nicole is being kind about the boat ride. It was chilly, wet, and cloudy most of the time. She was a great sport, though. I promise a MUCH more enjoyable time (most likely something involving strapping two boards to your feet and being dragged behind said boat) when you’re up for the week!

    1. You underestimate my joy at riding in machines that go fast… weather is of no concern to me! Plus I got to hang out with an adorable Jakey.

      Something tells me I’m going to get my ass handed to me trying to learn to water ski. You better get it on video!!

  3. Oh man I loved seeing Penn And Teller in Vegas, they are truely amazing. I had my picture taken with them as well..Penn is one of the very few people I know taller than me..and he didn’t have me by too much..he seems like a big teddy bear lol.

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