Travel, Work

Savannah 2019

April 27, 2019

I had the fortune to be able to travel to Savannah earlier this month for work — the same PersoniFest that brought me to Austin last year — and ye Gods, what a gorgeous city.

Sights along the way.

Savannah is a very walkable city, but here’s a tip from Old Lady Russell: WEAR WALKING SHOES. Seriously. There are ankle-wrenching cobblestones and stairs-of-irregular-height all over River Street. Like so:

Historic Steps – Use at Own Risk. Also dig my giant frizzy ponytail.

The food was so good. So good! Places we ate (not all are pictured, and most breakfasts/lunches were amazing buffets served at the conference itself):

  • Belford’s Seafood and Steaks for dinner. I had fried chicken.
  • Little Duck Diner for breakfast. I had biscuit sandwiches.
  • The Sunday Funday networking event this year was the Savannah Taste Experience tour. Six food stops and MILES of warm-weather walking.
  • The opening party was at Service Brewing Company. I ate everything.
  • Aqua Star at the Westin for dinner with our account manager. I had shrimp and grits, pictured below. I had shrimp and grits on multiple days. I have never had such creamy grits. Is the phrase “it gave me life” overused? Because the shrimp and grits gave me life.
  • The Pirate’s House for dinner, which is just as touristy as you can imagine and I loved every second of it. I had that pecan fried chicken pictured below, and a drink in the souvenir skull mug.
  • Goose Feathers Cafe for breakfast. I had the egg croissant AND bought a coffee mug to bring home.
Food adventures. Yes, that is water in the Little Duck diner glass but I loved the logo!

Coworker D and I left the morning after the conference ended (many people left during the last day of the conference, which … okay) so we had time to explore a bit more. On my list was the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low.

As a one-time girl scout, I couldn’t NOT see this place.

There are a lot of monuments to white-people history in Savannah. The Savannah Taste Experience tour guide did a good job in bringing in the less pleasant stories of the slave trade – I didn’t know that the largest slave auction in the US was in Savannah.


There were also quite a few places named for the (slave-powered) cotton trade and a lot of souvenirs featuring cotton, like cotton boll wreaths. And on a trip that showcased such friendly people and gorgeous weather and beautiful sights and amazing food, seeing those things were like hearing the clank of a defective handbell in a handbell choir. You can change the names of things without deleting their history. I’ve had a few different names now and I’m the same person.

Here are the selfies. Shout out to “Dave” who photobombed Coworker D and my photo in the one dive bar we visited. He had me text him the photo so he could send it to his wife. Hope you enjoyed, Mrs. Dave. There was a 90s party, which I dressed appropriately for. Starfox was headed to Savannah Comic Con, which happened at the same time. And I was asked to record a testimonial about the Personify software for next year’s conference. So if you’re headed to Colorado Springs next year, you’ll see my unprepared sweaty face and severe bun on the big screen. Sorry.

My giant face goobing around Savannah.

And it wouldn’t be a trip without OllieBear.

Here we are on the Savannah Belles ferry. In the background is the Talmadge Memorial Bridge (I am older than that bridge) and the Westin where we stayed.

I definitely want to go back to Savannah on my own time and dime. If you go, remember:

  • comfortable shoes
  • gnat repellent (article has annoying auto-play video and won’t let you see if you have an adblocker on). The gnats are where I’m wearing jeans and pants the whole time instead of the pretty summer dresses I packed.
  • anti-itch cream if you forget the repellent
  • product to tame your hair if it gets frizzy in humidity
  • an umbrella, because it’s the South and you’ll get killed with rain for an hour and then it goes away as quickly as it came

Next year’s conference is in Colorado Springs, which I am less than enthused about because I will always prefer warm weather over mountains.

Life, Travel

Home sick

April 16, 2019

I went to Savannah and came home with what turned into an ear infection and bronchitis!

“shoo, sick woman! leave my fair city! – Savannah’s Waving Girl Statue

I have pictures to share and stories to tell but for now I’m sleeping, watching You’ve Got Mail (my sick day tradition), and spending quality time with Halls cough drops.

It’s Nephew A’s FIFTH birthday (whaaaaaaaaaat?) and my plan is to sleep hard today so I can be human for some cake later. Definitely a shower first.

Life, Reading

Show us your Books – April 2019

April 13, 2019

Oh hey, I’m late to the books party. I was in warm, gorgeous (and gnat-filled) Savannah for a work conference and WHOOSH. Gone went the blog. Thank heavens I actually smartened up and wrote a lot of this as I reviewed each book, like so many on the linkup do. I am a SHINING example of a kid who was Talented and Gifted and ended up a completely average adult.
On to the books! I use the Goodreads reviewing system, which is:

  • One star: did not like it
  • Two stars: it was ok
  • Three stars: liked it
  • Four stars: really liked it
  • Five stars: it was amazing
The library stack plus Becoming, on loan from Mom.

Over the last few years, I’ve been striving to read more works by women and women of color. I’m not trying to exclude books by men, but some months it just works out that way.

Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting over — Nell Irvin Painter

Celebrated Princeton History professor Nell Painter retires in her 60s and decides to go to art school! It’s about as difficult as you can imagine, with professors who kept trying to tear her down and say she’d never be a ‘real artist,’ poor treatment because of her race, and classmates who practically shun her because they’re not comfortable with her age. The age thing is something I experience now at 46 — I can’t imagine how much worse it will be in 20 more years.

Nell, like all of us, is far from perfect. She’s willing to enter the art school world on the ground floor but expects the art school world to respect her past career. She disparages her classmates’ artwork, ages, body sizes, and fashion. Everything that’s slung at her, she slings at other people. Either she can’t see what she’s doing, or she gives no craps about it.

Complicating matters is the decline of her parents. As an only surviving child, it was 100% Nell’s burden to make sure her parents were taken care of. And as we all know, there is never a good time for a medical issue to crop up in the family.

Three stars! I enjoyed the memoir parts, but I really became bogged down by the art history parts, because I’ve never been interested in art history. She also LOVES New Jersey, and I’m proud to share a state with her.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant — Beatriz Williams

A lovely book with 2 stories told in parallel: Vivian Schuyler trying to become a magazine writer in 1964 and her great-aunt Violet Schuyler Grant trying to become a physicist in 1911. Hold on, let me get this out of the way…

The Schulyer Sisters

Had to.

This is a story of love and independence and passion and murder and whoa hey, war and espionage? That came right out of nowhere, but I loved it all. I had to reread the final few chapters just to make sure I got the espionage part down.

Four stars, with a trigger warning for sexual assholiness and what today we call rape but back in the 19-teens would be called men being men and women being loose. Consider Walter Grant canceled.

Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World — Kirsten Gillibrand

Saw this on display at the library, and thought maybe it won’t be a bad idea to read up on some of the candidates that aren’t getting attention because the media is in love with men-who-lost-their-Senate-races-yet-think-they-were-born-to-run-for-president.

This book was written long before she entered the 2020 fray, but is probably a part of her long-range plan to enter the race. Gillibrand comes from a strong local-politics matriarchy back in New York. She’s part of the private-school-and-Dartmouth part swath of middle class. She was raised Catholic which informs her desire to help and give back, but she’s very pro-choice. She used to have an A-rating with the NRA, but has shifted her views on gun control. (Being friends with Gabby Giffords helps.)

I enjoyed this book because she often touches on the human side of the campaign and political grind. She talks candidly about how hard it is to have young children and hold her Senate job. (Some of those senators are assholes.) She has a chapter about fluctuating weight. She touches on her difficult relationship with her father without flogging us with it.

Three stars. I wish her well and wouldn’t mind if she won.

Dear Mrs. Bird — A.J. Pearce

In WWII era London, Emmy Lake applies for a job at a publisher, thinking it will put her on the path to her dream job as a Lady War Correspondent. After an interview where Emmy fails to ask what, exactly, the job is, she takes the job and finds herself instead a typist for Henrietta Bird, an “agony aunt” at Woman’s Friend magazine. Mrs. Bird has VERY outdated and strict standards for what kind of questions she answers, and insists that Emmy throw out letters that don’t reach those standards. But the letterwriters are women Emmy’s age who are in very modern circumstances. What is Emmy to do but answer them herself, but as Mrs. Bird?

At the same time, she is trying to navigate a very sad and sticky situation with her best friend Bunty. I love that nickname.

I think what struck me the most is how regular life continued on as best it could while London was being bombed. People brought gas masks to work, couples still went to dinner, young people still went to shows. Four stars.

The Library Book — Susan Orlean

This is the kind of non-fiction book that I EAT UP. I know the phrase “this book is a love letter to…” is vastly overused. HOWEVER, this book is a love letter to libraries and the people who love them.

The main topic is the fire that burned the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986. It completely destroyed over 400,000 books and the smoke and water damaged 700,000 more I was a teen in 1986, but had never heard of the fire because the Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened at the same time which stole most of the news coverage. Not knowing if nuclear winds were going to destroy Europe makes for a big story.

Orlean is an amazing writer, and weaves into her book the history of the Los Angeles Public library and its librarians (including the amazing Mary Jones), the services that libraries provide, her warm memories of the library visits of her childhood, the AIDS crisis, and how libraries are adapting to the future.

Five stars, it’s a must-read if you love libraries and I know many of you do.

Currently reading: Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez.

All of my book lists and reviews are on Goodreads.

This a part of the Show us Your Books linkup from Jana Says and Life According to Steph. If you want to read more bloggers gush about the books they’ve read this month, click the button below and have fun!

Life According to Steph

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