vacationing with two kids!

It’s been a while, but we went on a short vacation that required a plane trip. But this time with two kids! I’m too tired to come up with a clever way to say these things, so bullet points it is:

  • We went to Virginia Beach, which means flying into Norfolk, to which direct flights do not exist from Austin 😦 So layovers it was!
  • On the way there we went through Houston with an 1:10 layover. That is too short, but luckily our inbound flight was a bit early so we had enough time to grab some lunch to eat on the plane. For some reason we thought Nick would take his morning nap on the 45 minute flight to Houston; this did not happen, but both kids took decent naps on the second leg, so hooray!
  • We bought seats for the kids and so weren’t sure how to carry two carseats + all the other stuff through the airport. Luckily my sister recommended this carseat backpack which worked like a charm – I’m really not sure what we would have done without them! They are huge so you have a huge turning radius while wearing one, but they’re light and easy to open. (I was hoping we could somehow fit two carseats in one backpack, but sadly that wasn’t possible)
  • But I was proud of us for getting by with only two suitcases and two carryons (one of which was a diaper bag) for the four of us!
  • Perhaps because of the backpacks (or maybe just because we had two young kids in tow) we got several random compliments on having our act together. Yay, I think?
  • When we were driving from the airport to the beach house, everyone was a bit tired from the travel day. But Vanessa and Nick were closer together than they are in our car, and for a while they were sort of playing together and passing toys back and forth! It was so cute!
  • The beach was a big hit with Vanessa and Nick! Vanessa enjoyed playing in the sand but also went in the waves a little bit, which I was kinda surprised about. Nick enjoyed the sand (and didn’t eat too much…) but we did dip his toes in the water 🙂
  • Vanessa and Nick also had a good time playing with their cousins. (cute pictures coming soon!)
  • The first day I wore my shorts to the beach instead of my swimsuit, thinking I wasn’t going to get too wet. The waves had other ideas! I also brought my phone and was not too careful with it, and I got enough sand in its charging port to make it not charge. I was getting increasingly frantic until David reminded me that he had a similar (non-sand-related) problem and cleaning it out with a toothbrush had helped a lot. One toothbrush later and it would charge again!
  • The sand was pretty hot, so Vanessa wanted to be carried for most of the walk from the beachhouse to the ocean. Every time I would do this, she’d say “It’s hard to walk in the sand!” which I guess made me feel better 🙂 (it was hard!)
  • Vanessa got some kind of nasty bites on her feet that didn’t show up until the night before we left. This meant she basically didn’t want to walk the whole day we traveled back home, which made it kind of a rough day. Word to the wise: don’t leave shoes outside!
  • We had an 1:45 layover in Chicago (and we even arrived a bit early) so it seemed like plenty of time to eat lunch in the airport. It was not! We grabbed food quickly and ate, but Nick basically takes one person’s full attention to help him eat, and he’s a slow eater. We were one of the last people to board the plane, which was unfortunate because it takes a while to install both car seats while balancing kids :-/
  • The last flight was a bit of a debacle. Vanessa took a medium-length nap, but Nick refused to nap and instead screamed because he was tired. At home he almost always screams for 5 minutes before he falls asleep, but that’s in his crib in a dark room, alone. After a while a woman (who was a grandma) came by to help/check that Nick was OK (she told him that “people were worried about him”), which was kind of helpful and only a little insulting. I walked with him in the aisle for a few minutes which at least made him not scream, and a flight attendant gave me a free snack pack in case he was hungry. (we still had snacks in our bag but I accepted the gift) Eventually he calmed down enough to take a nap. I’m honestly not sure what we could have done differently. But I guess having a screaming kid on an airplane is a parental rite of passage?
  • We literally bought a “family iPad” with this trip in mind, and used it for a total of like 15 minutes on the last flight. Vanessa was surprisingly good about napping, but was also very into a book of 5 minute Peppa Pig stories, so we read a loooot of those 🙂 She also liked looking out the window (kid in a car seat = window seat!) for a little while on each flight. We had a ton of stuff for her to do that we never pulled out!

Disney World with Vanessa! A Q&A session

Thanks for conjuring me out of thin air for this weak premise of a trip recap!
Hey, no problem!

So…y’all went to Disney World?
Yup! After the trip to Virginia Beach with my family, we took a vacation with David’s parents and almost all of David’s siblings.

How were the plane flights? Last time they seemed to go pretty well!
They went…pretty OK! These flights were objectively better because they were nonstop to Orlando and back. She was still somewhat fussy on the way there and fairly fussy on the way back, for reasons that will become clear later.

Did Vanessa have a good time?
Seems like it! She’s pretty young for a lot of the activities at Disney World, but she likes looking around at people and things, and she had fun with her cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents.

What were her favorite rides?
Her favorite was It’s a Small World – the whole ride she just looked around wide-eyed. Hopefully the pictures of her on the ride turned out! Her second favorite seemed to be, oddly enough, the Jungle Cruise, but I think that’s because she got to stand on David’s lap and hold/pat the guardrails on the boat. (she’s very into patting things like that 🙂 )

Was she easier to take care of now that she’s over a year old? (as opposed to the last trip)
Sort of! Food was definitely easier – we brought some stuff for snacks, but for lunch and dinner we just went to restaurants and found something for her there. The biggest problem was that now that she can walk she tolerated sitting in the stroller much less well. But she’s not very good at walking (and she would get run over by people), so the only alternative was carrying her. Which is getting harder!

How’d she deal with schedule changes?
Surprisingly well! We tried to keep her on roughly the same schedule as usual (while staying on Central time), but of course we were often off by an hour either direction, and it didn’t seem to bother her too much.

How was the hotel?
We stayed at the Contemporary, which was very nice. The main reason we picked it was because it’s on the monorail (the monorail actually goes through the hotel!), so that made it a lot easier to get to the Magic Kingdom. (where we spent two of our three park-going days) Since we went back to the hotel every day after lunch for Vanessa’s nap, minimizing transit time for four trips each day seemed like a big deal.

Ooh, monorail!
Yes, many references to the Simpsons’ song were made.

Anyway, how’d that work out?
Pretty well. Honestly, between going through security and walking from the monorail exit to inside the park and then meeting people, transit time was kind of annoying anyway. But then we went to the Animal Kingdom, which we took a bus to, and it was a lot worse! So…yeah.

This was Vanessa’s first time in a hotel room, right? How’d she like it?
Wow, I’m impressed you remembered! She had a grand old time. Of course it wasn’t babyproofed, so we had to watch her like a hawk, which made getting ready in the mornings take a long time. Another downside was that it was just a standard room, so during naps/bedtime we would turn out almost all the lights and then try to make as little noise as possible.

Funny story: at 6 AM one morning David got up to pee, and I was only half-awake. The next thing I remember is David diving back into bed! He later explained that Vanessa was awake and just staring at him. (she did go back to sleep, thank goodness!)

Did Vanessa get any toys she liked?
We brought along some new toys and books, which she liked well enough. At dinner at Restaurantosaurus (located in DinoLand U.S.A. which is a section of the park just like, say, Asia or Africa…) her meal came in a plastic bucket with a shovel. (I guess because the restaurant is paleontology themed) Anyway, we were done and cleaning up and trying to decide whether to keep the bucket and shovel. I was leaning towards no because it was clearly very cheap and didn’t even say Disney World on it or anything, but settled on “whatever”, so David kept it. And now she loves that bucket and shovel!

I know you haven’t been to Disney World in a while – how were the Magic Bands?
Cool! They’re a band you wear on your arm that act as your hotel room key, park admission ticket, FastPass+es, and it makes it really easy to buy things!

Except I lost Vanessa’s on the first day and had to get a replacement. And I wasn’t the only person to lose a band.

So, overall, was it worth it?
Yeah! I mean, traveling is really stressful with Vanessa right now. But she had a good time and we survived.

Would you recommend Disney World with a 14 month old?
Not unless you’re going for some other reason. We spent *checks credit card receipts* *faints* *is revived with smelling salts* a lot of money and went to a lot of trouble for something Vanessa’s not going to remember, although she did enjoy it. I can see her having a great time in a few years, though, just like her cousins seemed to!

Anything interesting happen at the end of the trip?
Funny you should ask! We got back to our house, started feeding her some dinner, and she threw up.

Oh.
Yup.

our first vacation with Vanessa!

We’ve been on car trips with her before, but nothing over 3 hours. This time we flew to Virginia Beach to meet my parents and sisters at a beach house we rented! Some thoughts/lessons:

– Having a stroller in the airport is amazing. My back muscles are not up to carrying her around everywhere, but with a stroller we can go on walks, etc. We were able to gate check it on all 4 flights so we’d pick it up right when the plane landed. (although one time one of the wheels was out of alignment :-/)

– Vanessa was a real trooper. She even slept on two flights that were around her nap time.

– We bought her a seat, and on the recommendation of Baby Bargains we bought a Cosco Scenera Next for the flights (and rental car). It’s very cheap, lightweight, and pretty easy to install. Kind of annoying to have to carry it around the airport, though…

– Feeding her in a carseat in the car/on the plane worked pretty well.

– We tried to keep her on Central time throughout the trip – goes to bed later, sleeps later, what’s not to like? This kinda worked until it didn’t.

– She had her first trip to the beach! She was pretty hesitant the first day, but the second day she liked it, although more because she wanted to eat sand. (she ate a lot of sand; I am a terrible father!) But she did like sitting with me in the waves…and playing with mud…and trying to eat it.

– Family bathrooms in the airport are the best thing ever for changing diapers.

– Unfortunately, on the way back I booked us a 3 hour layover in Dallas. I’m not sure what I was thinking – more time in the airport is nice to not be rushed, but that is toooooooo long! Vanessa wouldn’t go to sleep because there were too many exciting things happening. (i.e. people walking around)

– But airports are a great place to have people comment on how cute your baby is!

– Sorry to people on that last flight – she cries a lot when she’s going to sleep, and there wasn’t much I could do about it.

– Relatedly, is 11 months too early to start the whole “inside voice” concept? Because it does not seem to be working.

– We had three carryons (backpacks for us, diaper bag for her), three suitcases, and a stroller (with her in it) and carseat to carry. So David and I carried four things a piece, which was doable but not pleasant. (once we checked the suitcases things got a bit better)

– TSA PreCheck was so helpful – it meant we didn’t have to take the formula out of our bags. Although the bags then had to be swabbed, which took a few minutes. (again, having a cute baby reduces friction here!) Oddly enough, on the way there one of us had to be patted down, but they let us choose which one. (it was a very thorough patdown…)

Universal Studios/Disneyland trip recap and pictures

For our babymoon, David and I went to Universal Studios Hollywood (mostly to see the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter) and Disneyland!

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<- Me in front of the Universal Studios globe!

<- The entrance to the Harry Potter ride goes through Hogwarts Castle, where the fat lady showed up! She wishes she could come along…

<- After Harry Potter, we went to the Simpsons side of the park. Here I am outside of Duff Gardens, next to Tipsy and Surly!

<- This meet-and-greet with a Transformer was baffling. He was moving around deftly but also talking in a way that it was clear the speech was live. Is there someone in that suit? Or is it remote-controlled? We may never know…

<- Me under a dinosaur at the Jurassic Park ride.

<- We ate lunch at Cletus's Chicken Shack, and David found Spider-Pig! The TV in the background is playing all sorts of restaurant-related Simpsons clips.

<- David in front of Hogwarts Castle!

<- I don't mean to brag, but…

<- David met Scooby-Doo and Shaggy, who were very big fans of his shirt!

<- Next up was Disneyland. Here's David on the Finding Nemo submarine ride!

<- David enjoys a Darth by Chocolate, which was a delicious dessert! (OK, I enjoyed it too…)

<- David and I attempted to open the Disney vault! Then we just went in the store.

<- While we waited for the parade, the tea cups were lit up very nicely.

<- Parade time! Here's the Little Mermaid float.

<- We went to an animation class and learned how to draw Olaf! Here's David's version…

<- …and here's my version! Yeah, David's is better.

<- David showing off a very nice matte. Everything past the rope is a painting!

<- We got into position to watch the World of Color show early. The lit-up ferris wheel (which we had ridden early in the day) was especially pretty!

<- Since it was July 4th, the show opened with a tribute to America. There was a sheet of mist or water or something that they projected things on to. It looked way better in person than it does in this picture!

<- Frozen! Yes, they played "Let It Go"…

<- Finally, Star Wars!

Random observations from the trip:

  • LAX is a crazy airport. Our luggage came out really quickly, but then we waited for our rental car shuttle for over half an hour. The traffic outside the terminal looked like regular rush hour traffic!
  • We rented from MCar, and instead of us having to inspect the car for damage the guy just walked around with it with us and took a video. Clever!
  • Dinner on Friday was Del Taco. I could tell we were in California because a lot of menu items had avocado!
  • My phone took us on a kind of crazy route to our hotel near Universal Studios. It sent us through a lot of residential neighborhoods, which was neat at first but got tiring pretty quickly. Finally we just started ignoring it and heading in the direction of the hotel, figuring it would take a hint. (which it did!)
  • On the freeway, there was a motorcycle in the lane next to us, and as we watched the rider did a wheelie, which he maintained for over a mile. It was neat for a few seconds but then kinda scary. I did not want to be anywhere near him if he fell!
  • At Universal Studios, the main Harry Potter ride goes through Hogwarts Castle, which is pretty well-done. One room you go through is the Defense against the Dark Arts classroom, where Harry, Ron, and Hermione show up to offer to sneak you out of class. Unfortunately, it was in this room that we heard the ride was having problems, so we got to hear them offer this over, and over, and over. They fixed the ride in around 20 minutes, thank goodness!
  • My stomach was a bit iffy at Universal Studios but I did manage to have butterbeer, Buzz Cola (brewed specially!), and pumpkin juice.
  • At Universal Studios, you can buy a “Front of Line Ticket” that lets you skip to the front of all the rides. This ticket is less than 2x the price of a regular ticket, so a lot of people had it. (you get a special lanyard so they’re easy to spot) This bothers me from an egalitarian perspective…this seems to be one of the things that money shouldn’t be able to buy. Even worse, at the Special Effects show we went to (which was good!) there was some pretty neat audience participation parts, but everyone had been pre-chosen from the people who had a Front of Line ticket. Booo!
  • At Disneyland on the Star Tours ride, right at the beginning we get stopped by Darth Vader who says there’s a rebel spy onboard, and it was me! A light above me went off, and I sheepishly apologized 🙂
  • Now that Disney owns the rights to Star Wars, they’re starting to add more shows, etc. One of the cutest was where a bunch of kids get to train to be Jedi. They all get Jedi robes and are generally adorable. I wish I had taken a picture, but see here for some samples.
  • I had heard that the music on It’s a Small World wasn’t the same on the whole ride. This is technically true, but the music is similar enough in the different sections to still be a bit tiring…
  • On July 4th, we went to Disney California Adventure. It was much less crowded than we expected (maybe everyone was planning on seeing the fireworks at Disneyland!), so we got to ride a bunch of rides we didn’t plan on. Good times!
  • To plan our trip we used touringplans.com (and the accompanying book), which I would generally recommend. It means you get a schedule with everything planned down to the minute, but just having an order of rides to visit is helpful.
  • I’m not the biggest fan of the movie Cars (it’s fine enough), but Cars Land at Disney California Adventure is really well done. It looked like it was right out of the movie!
  • Drawing Olaf at the Animation Studio was a lot of fun! It just goes to show – with a good enough set of instructions you can draw anything!
  • The World of Color show was really cool – lots of really neat projections and such, even if we did get wetter than I like. (the optimal amount of wetness is none)

India-Bangladesh cricket match: recap and pictures

A friend at work got me a ticket to the India-Bangaldesh cricket match, and I was excited to go!
– Outside the stadium India fans were singing a song which I swear was vaguely to the tune of Achy Breaky Heart. I didn’t catch the words except for one which was very clear: “Pakistan” 🙂
– In true stadium tradition, prices for food and drink were outrageously high. Of course, what with the exchange rate, this meant that a glass of Pepsi was 75 cents…
– India batted first, and after a little while the crowd started chanting “We want 6!” (a 6 is the equivalent of a home run). And lo and behold, the batter hit a 6 on the very next ball!
– Asking the crowd to yell as loud as they can is a pretty standard practice. But the announcer at this game kept telling people to _whistle_ as loud as they can, which was downright annoying.
– One thing I didn’t get a good sense for on TV is how much positioning of the fielders matters. The “power play” lasts for the first 6 overs, and there can only be two fielders in the outfield, while usually there are 5 or so. The fielders also often got repositioned, especially when the batsmen switched.
– Our ticket came with a snack box, which was basically a boxed dinner.
– I didn’t 100% understand what was going on, but every time a particular Indian fielder looked in our general direction people cheered.
– The way T20 cricket works is one team bats until they’re done (either because they’re out of overs or everyone is out), and then the other team gets to bat. This means that it can be tough to tell who’s ahead. Handily, the scoreboard shows the Duckworth-Lewis method of the batting team’s target, so you can always have an idea of how they’re doing.
– Whenever the wicket gets hit, it blinks bright red. This is helpful for the umpire determining whether the wicket got hit before the batsman ran back behind the line, but it also makes for a striking visual contrast when an out happens.
– The game was crazy exciting! India scored 146 runs, which is OK but not great. The Indian bowlers did a good job of not letting the Bangladesh hitters run away with things, but for most of the game they were ahead of the D/L score, or right on track. By the last over, they only needed 11 runs from 6 balls. India had already taken 6 wickets, so Bangladesh was down to their less-good hitters, but 11 runs from 6 balls is not that hard to do. (case in point: today the West Indies got 24 runs from 4 balls to finish the game) It’s a higher run rate than usual, but in the last over you can throw caution to the wind and swing for the fences. It also means that all they needed was one 6 and the rest singles, which seemed very possible.
For the full effect, watch this video of the last over!
On the first ball, Bangladesh got a single, so they now needed 10 runs from 5 balls.
Next ball they hit a 4, so they needed 6 runs from 4 balls.
Next ball they hit _another_ 4, so they only needed 2 runs from 3 balls. At this point, we got up to leave, because 2 runs from 3 balls is ridiculously easy. The stadium was quiet except for the Bangladeshi fans cheering.
Next ball the batter hit it in the air, but not far enough and it was caught! But Bangladesh still only needed 2 runs from 2 balls. But we did stop on our way out to watch the end.
Next ball the batter hit it in the air again, and an Indian fielder made a running catch! It was a nice defensive play, and now Bangladesh needed 2 runs from 1 ball. (if they scored only one run then it would go to an extra over)
So now the stadium was rocking waiting for the last ball. The Indian bowler threw a nice pitch and the batter missed the ball, but the runner was already running from the other wicket. The Indian catcher got the ball and raced toward the wicket and hit it as the runner crossed the line. So there was an instant replay and the stadium was extremely loud!
It looked to me like the runner was safe, but the whole Indian team crowded around the umpire as the instant replay happened. Then they all started cheering and celebrating, so we did too! The “Out” decision followed shortly on the scoreboard. What a game!
<- Brightly-colored India fans 🙂
<- India batting. The Bangladesh bowler is about to release the ball!
<- My ticket. The punchline is that seats on row M only go up to number 195. So…yeah.
<- The crowd celebrates an India 6!
<- At the innings break, out comes what I dubbed the "cricket Zamboni"! It has two steamrollers on it for double awesomeness!
<- India celebrates a catch! I like how everyone comes over to participate – they have time because a new batsman has to come out.
<- During an instant replay, the fields mill around and the screen says "Decision Pending" and makes heartbeat sounds. It's intense!
<- We celebrate India's nail-biting win!

India trip: pictures and notes

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Since this was my third trip to India, I decided to more of the “write down random notes” instead of the “exhaustively recap my days” approach.

– I started to feel pretty nauseous on the ride back from the airport to my hotel. (which takes almost an hour despite there being very little traffic at 5:30 AM on a Sunday – the airport is way north of the city) I was worried, and then something jogged my memory – this happens every time! I think the reason is the 20 hours on airplanes (the smell of the food they heat up gets to me after a while) plus the bumpiness of the roads. Once I got to the hotel I felt better quickly. Something to remember for next time…
– That day I took a nap and then went out with Dev from the office and Lincoln from Shanghai. We stayed in Bangalore but we saw a lot of cool stuff:
<- A tribute to Kalpana Chawla, who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. This was at the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum
<- We walked down the oldest street in Bangalore, which was full of street vendors. (and people!)
<- Dev is very popular at this orphanage-type place that he volunteers at 🙂
– I took melatonin again this time to help me sleep, and it helped a ton. I was still tired on and off for the first week, but I never had a problem sleeping at night. I took it for a week after I got there and a week after I got back. It’s great stuff!
<- For lunch one day we went to Absolute Barbecue. It was crazy! The kitchen looked pretty exciting. Also a fire blanket sounds warm and cozy!
<- A selection of crazy meats you could order.
<- I had emu (on the left) and shark (on the right). They were both pretty good, although the emu was a bit tough.
– The office was under construction while I was there – they were preparing to open the second half of one of the floors we occupy. There was a tarp separating us, but I’m pretty sure the dust in the air bothered my allergies. (also, it got pretty warm in the office…)
– Just like last year, there was a big cricket tournament going on while I was there! This time it was T20 cricket, which takes around 3 hours to play. (Bizarrely, “T20” itself stands for “Twenty20”. I’m not sure what the second “twenty” is for?) Anyway, I had a lot of fun watching games in the evening in my hotel room. I’m pretty sure I saw some coworkers with some kind of fantasy cricket setup, too 🙂
– It actually rained a day I was there, which was new for me! (Bangalore has pretty distinct wet and dry seasons) I was worried that the rain would make the ride from work back to the hotel worse than usual, but it actually seemed a bit better, probably because most of the motorcycles were off the road.
<- We had a chai at the Ranga Shankara! Here's me and Mahesh.
– I like to watch cricket on TV, but ohhhh man the commercials. Each team gets 20 overs in T20 cricket, and there’s a commercial break between each one. There’s also a commercial break whenever any batsman gets out. So that’s 40something breaks in 3 hours, or one every 5 minutes. The breaks are short, but they also play the same damn commercials over and over and over again. (If I hear that OPPO “Bright and Beautiful” song one more time I am going to lose it!) It’s annoying to have to mute something that often but 100% worth it.
– Another guy from Austin and I went to MG road to do some shopping. A guy with an autorickshaw told us the shops here were expensive, he could take us to cheaper shops a few streets away for 20 rupees (around 30 cents). We said no, and he followed us around for like 15 minutes before we finally gave in. (honestly the shops where we were weren’t exactly what we were looking for anyhow) So he took us to a few shops. At the first one I bought a few nice things, then I found those things for less than half price at the second store. Oh well :-/
<- Just a reminder – it's still legal in India to have a job only men can apply for. Also worth noting: that age limit!
<- A very nice model of the Taj Mahal. I ended up buying a tiny version of this at a different shop.
<- The mosque down the street from NI. It is big! You can hear the calls to prayer from where I sit.
– Monday I got a ticket to a cricket T20 world cup match that was being played in Bangalore! The ticket was given to me by Rakesh, a friend who wasn’t feeling well and was unable to go. There was another ticket with it, but no one else at the office wanted it (there may have been some confusion about this), and I briefly toyed with going by myself, but it seemed a lot for me to handle alone. (later a few locals agreed with me, which made me feel better 🙂 )
– Some days are tough. I sat in on a Bangalore-Austin meeting, so we had the cab pick us up at 8 PM afterwards. For some reason I thought traffic would be better then, but no! It took 45 minutes to get home. We went directly to the restaurant by the pool at the hotel, where we sat next to a table with two guys smoking, which didn’t do wonders for my allergies. There was also a loud party on the second floor, and they kept singing and cheering and such – I assume they were drunk, although who knows. Usually the kind of thing I smile at, but I was in no mood, especially since our food took a solid 45 minutes to arrive. I didn’t get back to my room until 10 PM!
– Another friend from work very generously got me a ticket to the India-Bangladesh cricket match on Wednesday! This deserves a post of its own.
– Thursday was Holi, the festival of colors! It involves putting colored powder on people’s faces. Word to the wise: clean it off with a dry paper towel, using a wet one makes it much stickier.
<- People at work celebrate Holi, the festival of colors.
<- I was also included 🙂 Later that morning I got yellow'd and purple'd.
– On the way back I spent a 23 hour layover in London. When I got there I took the Heathrow Express into town – it was a bit pricey but the ride was quick and pleasant. I was hoping to have more time but I did manage to hit up the London Eye and have a beer and shepherd’s pie in a pub while watching soccer. So, not bad!
– I managed to have a time change on the way there (Daylight Savings Time happened the day I arrived) and on the way back (British Summer Time hit the day I left London). It was confusing.
<- On the way back, I spent a day in London. First stop – these cool pods at Heathrow Airport! At the console on the left you select your destination, then the doors open and you get inside…
<- The pod is arriving at the station. I'm not sure what the pods on the right are – maybe they're charging or something?
<- Next I went to the London Eye! It is tall.
<- The people in my capsule. It was a little crowded but not too bad.
<- Me on the London Eye with the Millennium Bridge in the background. (why didn't I take a selfie when the capsule was higher? Oh well…)
<- As we got higher you could see more of the Thames.
<- Nice artwork at the Baker Street tube station! (note that the Sherlock Holmes is made up of tiny Sherlock Holmes's!)
<- This…slot machine? looks hilariously complicated. There are reels at the bottom, some kind of Deal or No Deal game, and more stuff I don't understand. (as seen at a pub near my hotel)

Vegas trip pictures and observations

David and I went on a quick trip to Las Vegas over Labor Day!

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<- We stayed at the Mirage, which had a nice glass dome with trees and such.

<- The shops near the Bellagio had neat umbrella-like things hanging from the roof.

<- The Motown tribute section of the Boyz II Men show.

<- We went to the Mob Museum, where they had these old comic book covers about G-men!

<- The Mob Museum even had a small exhibit about FIFA corruption, which is just so fitting! (forgive the weird bands, my camera is getting old…)

<- David at KISS mini-golf, which had a lot of cool obstacles.

<- David and I in front of the final hole (you had to hit it up the tongue!)

Some observations:
– We ended up around $100 for the trip, but there were some wild swings in there. I won $10 betting on the Astros, and David hit a slots jackpot and turned $20 into $150!
– Most of the shows we went to started at 7:00. We thought this would be great since we wouldn’t be up late, but it turns out squeezing in dinner before a 7:00 show can be tricky, especially when you have to travel to a different casino.
– O (by Cirque du Soleil) was at the Bellagio, so we ate at the Bellagio buffet beforehand, which was almost $50 a person! (more expensive because it was a holiday weekend, I think) I was pretty hungry, so it tasted delicious, but I’m not sure any buffet is worth $50. (Fogo de Chao notwithstanding)
– Speaking of which, O was a really great show. The stage is partially submerged and moves up and down during the show, which leads to some really cool effects. Highly recommended!
– At the Boyz II Men concert, there was a woman in front of us who was texting/taking pictures during the first hour of the show. She seemed to be breaking up with someone by text message during the concert, then setting up a hookup (she was asking a guy to send name and pic, which he did). Please: don’t text during a concert at eye level!
– A lot of our success came at craps. One of the interesting bets we saw were repeater bets, which pay off if you roll two 2’s before a 7, or three 3’s, etc. We were at the Gold Coast casino, and as we were trying to figure out how these worked, a guy won $120 on them, so we decided to give it a shot. It was my turn to roll, and I proceeded to go on a crazy run, avoiding 7’s like the plague until we also won $120 on our repeater bets! The guy who had bet on them last time bet on them again, so I had won him $120 too, so he tossed me a $25 chip as a “tip”. It was great, but I stopped after that because it got pretty stressful near the end!
– At the New York New York casino we did CSI: The Experience, which ended up being neat even though neither of us watch the show. You get to solve a crime using lots of forensic evidence!
– We saw Penn and Teller at the Rio, which has the distinction of selling the most expensive drinks we saw. David’s Sierra Mist (no ice) was $9 and my Tequila Sunrise was $17! (although at least the cups were big, but still…)
– Penn and Teller put on a great show. They’re great showmen and even when they kinda explain how they do a trick it’s still impressive. Teller did a trick with a ball and a thread that really just showed off his incredible dexterity.

We had a good time. If we go again I’d consider staying at Mandalay Bay because of the wave pool and lazy river!