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It's an Exciting World

The life and times of David Geisert

London, Week 17

I was able to take Monday and Friday this week in lieu, since the last week I’d worked a lot.

Monday we went to the Tate Brittain and saw a lot of great old artworks. I really enjoyed the bronzes by Henry Moore. Steph especially enjoyed the paintings by JMW Turner. There were a ton of paintings by Turner across 5 or so rooms. He had a lot of periods and styles he used that were drastically different.

Work was still crazy, but I was able to get things together well for it.

Friday we had a call with Irene (Hi Irene!), then went off to the Museum of Egyptology. It had some amazing artifacts including shirts that were over 4000 years old. I also especially liked the cat objects, and there were quite a few.

That evening we went to see John Wick 4 at Everyman.

I also had some great experiments with Stable Diffusion + CharTurnerV2 + ControlNet for consistent characters in different poses. I was amazed at how well it worked, with these results being about a 1 minute generation for each image. I need to see if I can get the same character to show up in a subsequent generation with Image to Image. I also want to get the same character in different outfits.

I went climbing wiht Punit and Roel at City Climb in Aldgate, which was a pretty nice gym. I had a good climb, and did some great routes with Punit. Roel was able to do some of the routes with better handholds.

We had a great conversation about AI and I played with AI for most of the rest of the day.

London, Week 15, 16

We got back from Madeira late on Monday and had to wait a bit for a train up to King’s Cross as there were some transit issues. We got back to the kitties who were so happy to see us.

Tuesday was a lot of work, and I played one commander game of MTG.

Wednesday it snowed in the morning, but by mid-morning it was a slushy mix coming down. Steph was kind enough to meet me at Hiden, the Japanese curry place in Coal Drop Yards. It was pretty good, but Andrew’s mom does it better. I worked late again, and got a good bit done.

Thursday was a crazy day. The landlord had a guy come by to look at a leaking window, and then the sea shipment with most of our stuff finally arrived. As you can see in the title of the post, it was 15 weeks for it to get to us. The sea shipment was mostly unboxed and we just had a ton of stuff on all the tables and couches and bed. Steph and I got to work putting things away. I took breaks of work meetings, and then we also got deliveries of our gifts to ourselves for my yearly bonus payout. I gave us a budget of £500 each to spend on high quality things that would make our day to day life better. Steph chose a nice bedside lamp / phone charger as well as a really nice set of dishes. I chose a cat tree and planters for plants along the windows. She went over by a bit, and I went under by a lot, but maybe I’ll think of something else that would improve our daily lives.

Friday Steph finished unpacking as I went back to the office. I was able to get my work done earlier than expected, and I came back to work more on my AI Storytelling app.

Saturday we went to the Yonder climbing gym to watch climbing videos about women for international women’s day. We also got a good bit of climbing in. It was a really cool space that was climbing gym with coworking space above it. Saturday we got some more of the way through The Crew.

The next week was a lot of work, and hanging out with people from work. We had some great food at Dishoom and Little Georgia, but I worked a lot and didn’t do much outside of that group.

We finished The Crew on Sunday with Michelle and Michael, so we now need to find another game to play with them. I might be able to use my work computer to play on Steam, but it would have to be pretty late.

Madeira

Friday morning we headed to the train to then head to the airport for a flight to Madeira. We went the long way around King’s Cross as we still haven’t figured out all the trains that leave from there, and we got on the wrong train. Luckily the train we actually wanted stopped at the same next stop, and we did a quick swap. At the airport we also went to the wrong terminal first, but then we made it to the correct terminal and waited in a lovely lounge area before the flight. Gatwick airport is our favorite airport so far, as we get direct trains and the waits there are decent. The flight was one hour delayed as well, but we made it just fine.

We got to Madeira, and were met at the airport with a ride into Funchal. The ride was gorgeous and the roads in Madeira are windy and have lots of bridges and tunnels due to the deep valleys all over the island. We got a great Airbnb in the middle of Funchal, and were able to walk all across the city. We had a great time of it. The first night we met Jeff, Patty, Elizabeth and Patty’s uncle Bobby and Aunt Katrina. Dinner was great, and it was great to talk with Jeff and Patty to hear their thoughts for the future and how it has been not working for a few months.

The next day Steph and I went to our dive excursion. The resort area was very pretty up on some cliffs overlooking the ocean. We went out on a small boat with one other buddy pair and did a quick dive along the marine preserve. Steph got to scratch the chin of a big grouper that was just chilling on the bottom. The guides know the two groupers in the area are very docile and they showed us what to do with them. I really enjoyed the large schools of tropical and subtropical fish. We were surprised that there were parrot fish on the island as it wasn’t a coral reef, but more of a rocky bottom.

We walked all along the ocean front of Funchal that day, as well. It was a great walk and a lovely town. Funchal is amazingly lush, and the streets are pretty. They have mixed cobblestones of white and black and make amazing designs in the streets. They also have footpaths made of oval pebbles that they lay in patters based on the longways of the pebbles. It shows an amazing attention to detail with something simple, and I really appreciated how lovely it made the island.

The island is a great mix of the things we like about Portugal, Vigo, and Hawaii. I’m not sure we could live on a small island, but Funchal has a lot of what we are looking for in a place to live.

Dinner was with Jeff, Patty, and Elizabeth in one of the random squares, and it was great food. The portions here are much larger than expected, and the food has been great.

We got through pretty much all of our food list:

  1. Pastel de nata, a staple of Portugues food.
  2. Honey cakes (we found tortoises but no honey cakes on their backs)
  3. Passion fruit pudding, a specialty of Madeira
  4. Scabardfish, a fish that is supposed to be the standard Madeira fare
  5. Tomato egg soup, a common food item
  6. Galic bread, a special Madeira bread specialty that is like a thick english muffin

The third day we headed up the gondolas to near the top of the mountain and got great views. We took a second cablecar to the botanical gardens, and spent most of the day walking around the expansive set of different styled gardens. I really liked the walls with flowering vines, and the ponds scattered around the gardens. The turtle pond was the most naturalistic, but I liked the frog pond the most, with its paths over the water. The more standard topiary and gridded European style gardens were also nice. They had a large arrangement of cacti as well, which was surprising. The gardens was halfway up the mountain, so it had some amazing viewpoints overlooking Funchal.

We took the gondolas back down and walked along the ocean some more before heading back to the Airbnb for some rest while it rained.

I had a great book club discussion of Man’s Search for Meaning. I really appreciate the people who are reading and discussing books with me. I appreciate the diverse opinions that each person brings and the thought they put behind their preparation for the discussions.

I was just in time to join Jeff, Patty, Elizabeth, and Steph for dinner. We had a great discussion and I hope to see them again soon.

The morning flight back was uneventful except for the most amazing rainbow over one of the deep valleys as we drove by on a high bridge. The rainbow persisted to the airport, but that view over the valley with the rainbow was phenomenal. I decided to get Steph’s attention to it instead of taking a picture, as she was looking out to sea at the time.

I would certainly go back to Madeira, although I’m not sure I would do that strictly for a dive trip. I would want to do some hiking around the mountains and coastlines, as well as spending more time in Funchal. Possibly go out on their old style galleon. It obviously has a propeller, but still looks cool.

London, Week 14

Sunday we had a fun day with Nancy, Punit, and Roel jamming on some AI projects. Punit was getting his puzzle game to use AI instead of specific intents on AWS. Nancy was making a short stylized video. Roel was doing 3D scans of the environment and trying to get it in an unlit state for importing into a virtual scene. Steph was finishing her manuscript for The Blue Fairy Book. I worked on a story telling AI that had a choose your own adventure style. I was able to get it mostly working, but the web version won’t load the images, and the stories aren’t always coherent. I’m still working on it and it is a lot of fun. Nancy and Punit also made lots of amazing food.

Tuesday Steph and I tried to go to the comedy night in the evening, but the bar was rented out for filming something. Instead we went to a mini golf course in the nearby shopping center, which was pretty nice. Steph was leading by 4 going into the final hole, but it had a -4 to +2 swing based on pure chance, as it was just a funnel with 4 entry points. I had a good time, and some of the holes were pretty visually stunning with their lighting.

Wednesday morning we went to the Wellcome Collection in Euston. It was two main exhibits. The first was a loosely tied set of pieces based on the theme Human, but it was a really loose theme. The ones that had some interesting science or direct political commentary were very interesting. There were also some that were harder to interpret, but still visually interesting. The other exhibit was on binocular photography. They had special viewers to look at images taken from slightly different angles to give the illusion of a 3D object. It was very well done, but had fewer images than I was hoping for. They also had a selection of some of the earliest binocular viewing devices, which were very interesting to see. We then went for a lunch in Coal Drop Yards. Steph got grilled cheese and I got the everything bagel at Morty & Bobs.

Thursday I stayed at work for a MTG draft, and had a good time playing. I had a loss, a draw, and a win. Friday morning we got ready and headed to Madeira.

London, Week 13

Steph and I had a chill Sunday. We went to the Tate Modern and saw a lot of strange exhibits. Steph got some poses in front of the ones that looked a little silly.

Some of my favorites include:

  • The mudlarking exhibit of the areas in front of the Tate Modern and Tate Britain. They had lots of interesting things they pulled out of the river. None of them were particularly significant, but each had a little story to it. They made a really nice arrangement in one of the old wood and glass display cases. The most interesting thing was the drawer of pipes. They had a lot of bottle caps arranged in a rainbow color display. They also had lots of glass bottles and vials.
  • The large display of window blinds was strange and interesting. I really, really wanted a giant cord that I could pull and raise all the blinds.
  • The side by side video of a Filipino drama show, with a recreation using genderswapped actors and a very different acting style. They had such a different feel and effect, but were spot on scene by scene.

We didn’t stop by any of the paid exhibits, since Steph didn’t have the Arts Card with her, and we also had spent nearly 2 hours inside on just the free portions. We might go back for a second round and prebook the paid exhibits on a weekday morning. We could see the entrance and it looked absolutely packed inside those exhibits.

On Wednesday we went to see Magic Mike Live. It was way better than I was expecting. They had the fake MC start out, and the acts they were doing at the start was about what I’d expect, minus the ridiculous banter from the fake MC. The show was like a burlesque, but not themed, and with a lot more physical performance similar to a cirque show. I had a good time, and Steph really enjoyed it.

On Thursday I stayed late at work to play MTG Commander with everyone. I used the Grenzo deck, which is really fun and random. I didn’t really get it going too strongly, but I had a good time playing.

Friday morning we went to the Better gym and did some max weight lifting. We were still figuring out what our max lifts were, and we were both pretty sore afterwards.

Friday evening we had Nancy, Punit, Roel, and Marlien over to watch the finale of Physical 100. It was a well done set of challenges, although some of them were deceptively simple. We hung out for a good time afterwards. They saw the Alice book, and they saw my itch.io games. I think they liked it, and I’m really looking forward to the AI day on Sunday.

Saturday Steph and I had a nice walk to a pottery showroom that had some gorgeous pieces. We also stopped by Russel Square. They had a lot of blooming flowers, as it is starting to get into March. We headed back and played some Crew with Michelle and Michael. It was much harder this time, as we were playing the later, harder missions.

London Week 12

We planned a trip to Hever Castle for an overnight on Sunday. I took Monday off from work to make the most of it as well. The castle is famous for being the home of Anne Boleyn. It was also fully refurbished in the late 1800’s and looks good compared to many other castles of the time. There is also a snowdrop walk and great castle gardens. To get there it was a combination of three different rail routes, but overall a smooth experience. The only issue came up when contactless payment didn’t work on the rail out of London at one point, and the announcement said we’d have to pay a penalty fare if we didn’t get off. Luckily we just had to pay a small upgrade fare.

The walk from the train station to the castle wasn’t too bad, but it did have some very muddy parts. We got to the castle and dropped off our bags before walking the grounds. We started off with the snowdrop walk, which was nice and took us through most of the open sections of the garden, then we walked around the lake and took a relaxing sit at the Japanese Tea pavilion. There wasn’t any tea, but there was a great view of the lake. Then we continued around the lake and went to the walled and hedged parts of the garden, stopping off for two rounds of coffee.

We also went into the castle proper, which was pretty impressive, if small. There were a lot of interesting paintings and furniture. The hard part of it was telling what was the reconstruction in the early 1900’s and what was the original furnishing, walls, or windows. I think most of it was from the reconstruction. There were callouts to parts of the castle that were from the times of Henry VIII, including the sleeping chambers he was expected to have used.

We chilled in the room for a bit, as well as around the Victorian styled castle village that was actually built in the early 1900’s. We sat in the adorable sitting room and tried out hand at some Snooker, which we were terrible at. We ended the game at 13-8, which is pretty bad all around. Then we went for a lovely dinner in the castle dining room.

The dining room wasn’t in the castle, but in the victorian styled village. It was nonetheless a gorgeous and intricately carved set of rooms. There was a huge fireplace that we had breakfast next to the following morning.

We made our way through the gorgeous countryside the next morning with some fog and sun mixed together for a lovely walk. We got to London via London Bridge rail station and decided to walk the south bank. Since last time we went by the Golden Hind they weren’t open, we went back and into the ship.

The rest of the walk along the south ban was really nice, and we went down onto the river bank and I looked around for any artifacts like in the the lost alchemist. It couldn’t have taken anything, but the tide seemed to be really low so it was worth taking a look. We then went into Westminster Abbey and it was a lot more impressive than I was expecting, especially on the historical front. Unlike most churches, the people who are buried there are major historical figures. It was also a lot more expansive than most churches we’ve been inside. They had some garden sections as well.

We then walked to the Victoria Bus Station and got on one of the older double decker busses that had been converted to serve afternoon tea while driving around London. I really enjoyed it, even though we’d already seen most of the places they wanted to show us.

We then headed back to the apartment and cuddled the kitties for the rest of the evening.

Not much happened for the rest of the week, as I was working long days.

We continued watching Physical 100, and the draft is currently favoring us. It is fun to draft participants in shows like this. We have two drafts going with different people and are winning both.

Saturday I went climbing with Alexander from work. We did well on up to V2, but I couldn’t quite get a V3. Alexander was able to as the last route he did.

Steph and I then ran errands for most of the rest of the day. We got some new plants, and some things around the house that we’d been missing.

London, Week 10 + 11

I was sick over the weekend, and Steph got sick from me during the week. We still were able to make it out a bit between me getting better and her getting sick. We did go on a nice walk to some art that is spread around King’s Cross. There was the Lethaby Gallery for student art on Granary Square and there is a corporate art gallery in King’s Place.

We went to Allegiance, the George Takei musical about Japanese internment camps in WWII. It was an interesting take on them, as some parts they glossed over, like the start of the internment camps and how they were created. They also embellished parts of it with more physical violence and military like camps than was actually reported in the histories Steph looked up. It is possible that happened, but the histories left it out. The ending was strange and rough, as the fight the characters had in their 20’s resolved by one dying of old age supposedly in their 60’s or 70’s. Steph waited after the show and got Takei’s autograph.

I got some bronchitis, but we had the extra antibiotics so I took a course of those and it helped a ton. I got better pretty quickly.

Saturday we went to Brixton and did some more climbing. We joined Nancy, Punit, and Roel at a small climbing gym there. We then went out to lunch and had some pretty good okonomiyaki.

Saturday and Sunday I got inspired to illustrate Alice in Wonderland using Lexica.art. I made over 3000 images with them and used 76 in the text. Here is one of my favorites.

Sunday Steph and I also went on a nice walk to and around Regents Park. We took a small detour out of the park to a cheese shop that had three of 2022’s cheese competition winners. They were good, but my tastes aren’t refined enough to appreciate the difference between those and the decent ones from Waitrose. I also decided to get all the tea biscuits, and they are all tasty.

Sunday evening we had a great bookclub discussion with Candice and Michelle on Cloud Cuckoo Land. It is such an interesting book with lots of great story. In addition to the story there is great narrative complexity with six main characters over four epochs. The parallels and differences made for great conversation, as did the ethical concepts.

We went climbing again this Monday with some people from work at the Castle Climb. I had a great time and we found out that we hadn’t even made it to the largest bouldering room. The other 5 bouldering rooms were small in comparison, but they weren’t small by any means. We joined Carla, Vytautas, and a friend of Carla, Diana. I found a few V3’s that were fun, but I wasn’t able to complete any of those. I did manage to get a good number of the V1-2 and one or two of the V2’s.

Tuesday I stayed at work and played a round of Commander MTG. I ended up playing one of David S’s powerful decks and won at the power table after a 2 hour game. It was fun, but challenging playing a deck where I hadn’t even read through all the cards (some of which were in Spanish and Japanese).

We had an issue with our house in CA later in the week, where a pipe connection broke for the guest toilet and flooded most of the house. It happened after the carpets had been removed and before the new floor was put in, so perfect timing on a bad situation. Steph has handled it all well with the property manager and contractors that were already working on the house. We don’t expect it to delay the construction almost at all.

Saturday we had a nice social day. A friend from work invited us to a mini golf outing, at a place called Swingers [insert inappropriate remark yourself]. The place was tucked away in the financial district and we were the first on the course in the morning. Steph did well, and won. She had the only hole in one, and also didn’t have as many holes where she had to pick up the ball on stroke limit. William and Mimi have been in London for a while (with a break in the middle back to the US). They had great pointers on interesting places to go. For lunch we went to one of the 10 oldest pubs in London, the Hoop and Grapes. It was a pub, and had lots of markings on the wall saying that the Great Fire of London stopped just before it reached the location where the pub now stands.

In the evening we got online for some games with Michelle and Michael. We played a game called The Crew: Mission Deep Sea. It was pretty good, and we had a few fails, but mostly we were able to win. We made it through the first 17 missions.

London, Week 9

Steph and I started this week well with going to a castle. This castle also happened to be a climbing gym, and we went with Nancy and Punit. It was an amazing place with so many bouldering walls. They had the towers as the top roping and lead climbing, and maybe if we get good enough we’ll make it to the top of one of them. It looked amazing. I stayed on the bouldering and was able to do some V2’s, which is good for as long as I’ve been away from climbing. My forearms are sore and I tore some skin off a finger, but nothing too bad. We went out with them afterwards to a restaurant called Bean, which is a chain in London.

We walked around the parks in the area, since we didn’t know when we would next be there on a nice sunny day. It was sunny but cold, as the lake was almost entirely frozen over. The park was mostly a big field, but was still nice to walk through.

Monday we went to a neon live drawing event at the Old Queen’s Head. The bar was amazing, being both incredibly intricate, fancy, and cozy. We had a drink downstairs before heading up to draw the model. They had a series of art styles they walked us through for the event, and then we had time to do freeform drawing. I had a few that turned out ok. Steph had a few that turned out great.

After the drawing event we were just in time to go to the comedy night at Camden Head. We saw eight acts, but my favorite part was the MC playing the audience. We were in the front row so she picked us out to make jokes about. She had a really hard time making jokes about me, but she was able to play Steph off some of the other audience members.

On Wednesday we went to the Canary Wharf lights installations. It was an interesting time, and we got to have some delicious ramen at Ippudo. The lights were mixed in quality and didn’t have too much of a unifying theme. I especially liked the giant globe, the hanging fiber optics, and the misty fountains with colored lights.

Thursday evening I participated in a MTG draft at work. I did pretty well, winning two of my three matches. We have been making the apartment more homey with some pictures hanging, and the kitties have been so cuddly.

London, Week 8

We got back to the kitties after Florence and they were glad to see us. We got a lot of cuddles.

We tried to go out to a comedy club on Wednesday, but they ran out of spots. We got there before the hosts, and didn’t go to sign up until it was too late. I still had a great time chatting with Jon while out drinking. We also got to go to the King Charles 1st, which is the closest pub to our flat. The pub was fine, but not a place we would likely go back to.

Thursday we tried our first Waitrose cooking class. It was pretty fun, and they had a good mix of things to do. We made ramen, including making the pasta from scratch. It wasn’t very hard, we would just have to buy the right ingredients and mix it in the right proportions again.

Saturday we had a full day in South London. We started out heading to the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which had great works, and I liked the way they laid out the art and information. They had a special gallery dedicated to an artist that was studying a specific Reuben’s in the adjacent gallery and it was interesting to see the way the artist interpreted it.

Second we grabbed lunch at a place that served Turkish fondu and shakshuka. We got the spicy version of fondu and it was delicious.

Third we went to the Horniman Museum and gardens. The exhibits were well done, but it was a little depressing to see taxidermy so old. Most of the colors had faded and some of the taxidermy was not well done. It was also full of screaming children, and the big stone building amplified the screams. I don’t know why, but children there screamed a lot more than at other museums we’d been to; maybe it was the taxidermy. We had a nice walk through the gardens, even though not much was showing signs of life.

Finally we headed to Ninth Life, which was an amazing bar. They had little scenes that you could peep into through spyholes, including one that was full of rubber duckies. They had lots of cat themed art, and the building facade was painted like a cat had clawed it, but with bright colors. There is a giant cat statue on a sign across the street, and they had pop art takes on the sign.

We were there for the Smoking Caterpillar game, which was fun, but not exactly our kind of experience. It had lots of immersive theater and escape room aspects, but the direct interactions with the characters wasn’t something we were as interested in. I wanted to figure out each puzzle, but since the room was full of people going at the puzzles, it wasn’t even close to possible. The ones we did work on were done decently well. I had a good time, and the bar itself was amazing. If the bar were near us I’d probably want to go back.

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