Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Travel tales: In praise of tea

One thing that's surprisingly hard to come by in the US is a decent cup of tea. (Dedicated coffee drinkers tell me the same thing about the coffee...) When I was in LA earlier this year, I clearly hit on the hipster part of town, because tea options were reasonably plentiful.

But, in general, the attitude when you ask for a cup of tea veers from mild confusion to outright disdain from your waiting staff ("Do you realise you're making my life difficult?").

In Artie's Diner (see my story about that over on Louise Reynold's blog) asking for a cup of tea had the waitress frowning, and finally appearing with a crumpled tea bag -- I hate to think where she found it.

Of course my problem is compounded by the fact that I no longer drink black tea. (For some reason it makes me nauseous these days, which is a shame, because I still like the taste!) Asking "What kind of tea do you have?" is akin to asking "Where is your first-born and your sharpest knife?"

My saviour in New York was the artfully named Sanctuary T. They not only had a THREE PAGE MENU OF TEA, but it came with a helpful "mood wheel" so you could pick your tea ACCORDING TO YOUR STATE OF MIND.
Consider my mind BLOWN.

If it needs stating, I fell a little bit in love with Sanctuary T. I went there so often the staff began to recognise me. I had breakfast tea there. I had afternoon I've-walked-a-lot-and-need-a-rest tea there. I had it's-too-early-for-cocktails-but-I-need-a-drink tea there.
This is my breakfast -- did I mention the delicious granola with berries (and yoghurt on the side, without a problem)?

Tea was served in these tall, double-walled glasses. You got a little wooden plate to sit the tea leaves on when it reached your desired strength (a decision they let YOU make, as befits decent tea drinking protocol) and offered free refills of hot water (very useful when you're just up to a crisis point in whichever Kindle book you're reading at the time).

If you wanted sugar (ugh) it was provided in crystal form on a little stick to stir into your glass. Classy.

I think, if Sanctuary T existed in my neighborhood, I'd likely be forced to live there. Just as well then, it's on the other side of the world. Sort of.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Travel tales: Natural History Museum and thinking deep thoughts

One of my "must do's" on this trip to New York was a visit to the Natural History Museum. Yes I've seen the movie, but what actually prompted me was the fact that I recently read the indecently good Aussie novel, "The Rosie Project" by Graeme Simsion. I won't say exactly what happens, because it's kind of spoiler material, but it left me with a keen desire to go explore the museum.

I especially loved all the space and pop-physics stuff. To be clear, I was pretty crap at physics in school. But there's nothing I love more than one of those "what is the universe really made of?" documentaries that pops up on SBS all the time. All that chaos theory, and butterfly wings beating, and dark matter, and quantum mechanics, and string theory, makes me wish my brain would work well enough to be able to really understand it all.

To make you feel either, a) part of an awesomely grand universe, or b) totally insignificant to the point of being completely irrelevant, the Natural History Museum has a "13 billion year journey" walk. It's a gently descending spiral where every metre you walk spans 147 million years in the universe's history, from the big bang to today.
As you walk along the path, major events in the universe's history are pointed out. There are even, in some spots, some meteor rocks and images from telescopes to illustrate the stars' activities at that time.

And then, when you get to the end, the present day, you see this:
Human beings? When did they emerge in this long walk through history? Not a metre. Not a step. Not even the length of my foot. No, in this scale, 30,000 years of human history is the width of a single human hair.

I did this walk first, before exploring the rest of the museum and it's diorama displays, and precious gems, and stuffed animals, and explanations of how volcanoes work. And you know what? The whole time, I was thinking -- "width of a human hair".

And I was also getting kind of angry. Because the more you find out about the universe (both the unimaginably huge universe out there and the unimaginably huge universe inside a single atom) the more you discover how little we really know. How we're on this little planet, around a middling sun, in a non-remarkable solar system in a galaxy that's just one of millions (billions) out there.

Why don't we know more?? I want to know more!

Scientists and astronomers and physicists really need to pull their collective fingers out. There's some important stuff we need to work out!

I can see only one solution. I must become the next companion to the new Doctor. I'm a visual/experiential learner, so clearly the best way for me to learn about the universe is to go there in the Tardis. Excellent.

Now that we've got that sorted, I'll go back to sorting out my photos from the trip. Hopefully the next blog post will make a little more sense and possibly include mention of food and drink...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway Winners

Thank you to the hundreds of people who entered my Goodreads giveaway for Just For Today...!

There were four winners:

Ambereen Khan
Melinda Rabenstine
Heather Allan
Emily Hutti

Congratulations! Your books are on their way to you now!