I nearly met up with the_maenad, who was free to meet, but we concluded that I could not get up to see her and then back to where I would be staying in sensible time. She did have me stumbling around London for a wireless connection so I could talk to a Canadian puzzler (not the canadianpuzzler!) on a role-playing MUSH about puzzles. I managed to bootleg some wireless outside a London pub in a slight shower, but the connection was very intermittent and I kept getting disconnected. (All the same, O mysterious Canadian puzzler, I would be happy to hook you up with information if I can.) I return to London on the morning of Friday 15th and will be available to see nice folk before heading up to Birmingham for Manorcon.
(Incidentally, if anyone in London wants to use a my-cloud wireless hotspot, there may or may not be a little credit that I can no longer use left on username cyejqiff and password B9wM9 for a few more days. Have fun.)
And so to East Croydon to intersect with radinden, who has an extremely pleasant, clean and tidy bachelor pad in a leafy London suburb. It also has a very fine Indian restaurant at the end of the road. We watched the day's tribute to Richard Whiteley - surprisingly good - and called it a night before rising at 4:50am in order to forced-march it up to the nearest Tramlink stop and catch the X26 bus to Heathrow. (Thanks for everything, Rob, especially for making sure I got to where I needed to be on time!) I have written a trip report about my flight from Heathrow to JFK for a fan site devoted to the Virgin Atlantic airline; along the way, I watched two pretty decent Asian game shows on the in-flight entertainment, which you can also read about.
Touchdown in JFK was a few minutes ahead of schedule; immigration, baggage claim and customs were easy and amuzulo was very kindly waiting for me on the other side. I was asked five questions at immigration; I think the past six US trips have netted 3, 2, 1, 10, 1 and 5 questions respectively, so who knows how many I'll get next time. Chuck took me to the AirTrain - a very neat little automated driverless people-mover linking JFK's terminals; nothing terribly revolutionary, but a pleasant example of the genre - and from there we took the A train to our agreed meeting point, the 42nd Street Port Authority terminal. Chuck and I concluded that the NY underground system has better trains than that of London, but London has rather better stations.
Meg and I had been counting the hours until meeting again for many days beforehand so I hope Chuck can forgive me for rather sprinting through Port Authority in order to try to get to Meg as quickly as possible, and then to visit a restroom with all possible haste. (We met at the perpetual motion machine on the upper level. The balls that kept going up and around the structure had fallen off it, but the machine kept working, which was poetic.) All told, there were six of us in the party: dezzikitty, me, amuzulo, his friend Stacy, dr4b and nickjong. I had found dr4b long ago through the fondly-remembered but dearly departed magic index list of similar users and it was fine fun to meet at long last. We walked a couple of blocks to West Bryant Park and escaped from the summer heat by crowding under a shade to play card games (Fluxx and Hattrick - an interesting but sadly out-of-print trick-taking game whose main gimmick is that two tricks take place at once every round). It was great fun and extremely civilised.
After a couple of hours, we decamped to our favourite NY restaurant, Old Devil Moon. The menu had changed for the summer and my favourite dish of steak, pasta and salad was no longer there, but the summer menu offered enough options that I think all six of us enjoyed our meal. (Hat tip to Cassie for taking Meg and others there months back.) A truly lovely day in very pleasant company indeed. After the meal, we rushed off to catch the 7pm Greyhound back to Boston and napped most of the way home before getting lucky with public transportation within town. Long distance relationships can be terrible, but the first few hours after re-encounter are fantastic - a little like falling in love for the first time all over again. (The hours that have followed those first few haven't been at all bad, either!)
Lots of sleep later, we went out for Sunday brunch, then hit Old Navy for clothes shopping. They had a deal of two polo shirts for $20, so I got that three times. Am not sure that I am not overinvested in polo shirts - which are, at least, classic, apparently - but at least my wardrobe is now colourful and comfortable. I also had mango lassi from a food court (unusually strong mango, which is good, but no glorious aftertaste) and enjoyed looking at the official rules of a (past?) Burger King star wars promotion. Apparently 1/3 of the prizes are small drinks, 1/4 of the prizes are small fries, 1/7 of the prizes are very small burgers, 1/7 of the prizes are small burgers and 1/7 of the prizes are bigger burgers. I added up these fractions to see what proportion was left for the bigger prizes, which I was expecting to be about 1 in 5,000 or so, and my arithmetic has those five fractions adding to 85/84, which is worrying. Unfortunately I can't find a rule sheet online to check this but I guess the claimed 1/3, 1/4 and 1/7 must be highly rounded figures.
Yesterday saw a whole lot of packing, plus a trip to our favourite taqueria. Damn, but Boston has a lot of good places to eat - and fairly inexpensively too, thanks to the exchange rate. This lunchtime we went out for a sandwich, but this planned sandwich turned into gazpacho soup (like a soup version of salsa except with more cucumber - summery and pleasant!) followed by steak tips, pilau rice and a salad, with an ice-cream sundae to follow. Er, yes. At some point I may have to cut back a little - perhaps in the work weeks between holidays, I suspect. Anyway, returning to yesterday, we went out to watch Boston's annual Independence Day fireworks among a crowd of thousands tightly packed on a bridge; particular favourite fireworks among an impressive delay were ones which formed distinct smiley faces (orange circles around red eyes and a green mouth!), red hearts (which attracted big female-voiced "ahh!"s from the crowd) and planet Saturns.
This evening we have been out to see gwendolyngrace and etakyma for dinner and games. Four games were on the agenda. The first was the relatively famous Fluxx rule-changing card game and the second was a Harry Potter Quidditch toy (I forget the actual name!) that is the first officially-licensed game that I might consider buying. It consists of a Hungry Hungry Hippos-style mechanism whereby Draco and Harry fire little red Quaffles through rotating hoops. These rotating hoops contain flicky switches that count the number of goals scored. Every now and again a Golden Snitch pops out of the top of the mechanism, fired with random velocity, that players must try to physically catch before the bounce - sounds easy, but is satisfyingly disconnected enough to make it at least a little of a feat. Additionally the 150 points for the Snitch is not too high a factor, unlike in "real" Quidditch, when you can score hundreds of points per minute with the Quaffles. I'm not quite sure what the exact name of the toy is, or even if it's still in print, but it was satisfyingly silly, endearingly dangerous-looking-but-not-so-in-practice and far niftier than most.
We then played the Lord of the Rings trilogy edition of Monopoly; this has an elegant twist whereby the One Ring visits each of the 22 properties on the board in turn, advancing from one to the next on one roll in six and ending the game after completing the circuit. This keeps the game satisfyingly short to the point where it's unlikely players will get knocked out before the game ends. It also makes the stations ("steeds") particularly powerful - taking 200 in rent from a monopoly of steeds is quite a swing because it's unlikely the hotel monopolies will be developed enough to the point where you'll be getting the big rents. I got a monopoly of the red properties (the cheaper monopoly on third street) and built 3, 2 and 2 houses ("strongholds"); I only managed to get two people to hit to the tune of 90 along the way but it was just enough to win by a margin of about 2,500 to 2,300 to 2,100 to (slightly less). Definitely a fun and quick way to play Monopoly.
Lastly, we played a Vampire Hunter game of the roll-dice-move-pawns-resolve-tiles-fight-m