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Monday February 25th, 2008
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CD shopping
We had Newbury Comics gift cards for Christmas, so yesterday we got round to trying to spend them. Unfortunately I only found one CD out of the list of things I was looking for. I started wondering if this is because I'm looking for CDs that are too obscure, or if the store didn't have a good selection. (It was the store near us, not one of the city centre ones, if that makes a difference.)

I bought Serenity, "Words Untold and Dreams Unlived", solely on the basis of reviews and recommendations. I just had my first listen and it has some 'feel-good' vocal harmonies and melodies, and piano trading off with guitar parts, which I enjoy. Comparing to other bands, a lot of it reminded me of Nightwish (it's a male singer though), and a few parts reminded me of Symphony X. It was recorded at Dreamscape Studios and produced by Jan Vacik of Dreamscape, so unsurprisingly there were a few Dreamscape sounding parts as well, though more in the tone of the instruments than in the compositions.

theora got Blind Guardian, "A Twist in the Myth", which I'm still taking in, but which sounds like... Blind Guardian.

Update: perhaps I should clarify that sounding like Blind Guardian is a good thing.

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Friday February 22nd, 2008
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still snowing
I don't mind the snow in general, but when it is snowing when I wake up in the morning and it carries on all day with no apparent change and it's still snowing when it's starting to get dark, it feels a bit bleak.

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Tuesday February 19th, 2008
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shoe polish
Does anyone know where I can get some black shoe polish in this fine city?

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open house
House selling is done a bit differently here. Instead of making an appointment to view a house, they hold an 'Open House', where they have the house open for anyone to show up and look around, and an agent there to take details and answer questions.

We went to look around a few houses on Sunday. It was a bit weird to start with, wandering into these properties, but they did have obvious signs outside, and plenty of people looking around. I guess if you're bored on a Sunday afternoon you can go driving round looking for the signs and have a peek.

house ramblings and notesCollapse )

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right and left
You wouldn't think moving to a different country would affect your knowledge of directions.

However, if you are used to driving on the left side of the road, then a right turn is the 'difficult' one (where you cross traffic), and a left turn is the 'easy' one. And then you go somewhere where you drive on the right side of the road, and you think 'the next turn is an easy one', and then you get confused when you translate it back to 'right' or 'left'.

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Friday February 15th, 2008
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valentine's menu
Starter: a brie-like cheese from Champlain Valley Creamery, with freshly baked bread, lettuce with lemon juice dressing.
Main: sirloin tip steaks from Austin's farm, marinated and grilled, mange-tout and roasted golden beets (vegetables from our Boston Organics box)
Dessert: ice cream (from Crescent Ridge) with chocolate sauce and cherries which theora jarred a while back.

Some fizzy pink wine, and Night Harvest Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by a hangover in the morning. Sigh.
Current Mood: https://l-stat.livejournal.net/img/mood/nolegs/happy.gif loved

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Tuesday February 12th, 2008
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buzzing
I have established that if I move my chair back so I'm about 2m or more from my desk, taking the phone with me, the buzzing on the line seems to go away. This is somewhat worrying.

On and around my desk are:
speakers
printer
fileserver
computer
lamp
monitor
camera charger
ethernet switch
wireless router
cable modem
2 surge protector/power strips

(There's also the cat water fountain on the other side of the room).

The struck out ones I have eliminated because I've used the phone while they were turned off and it still buzzed. I guess I have some more testing to do.

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Sunday February 10th, 2008
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curtailed
Our visit to Maine was rather short - we came home yesterday afternoon because we were worried about forecasts of storms today. So my birthday outing has been postponed, but theora made me a nice birthday dinner when we got home along with one of my favorite beverages.

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Thursday February 7th, 2008
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thank you
Thank you lines for the birthday card and pressie :-) It was a nice surprise.

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Wednesday February 6th, 2008
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Ayreon fan quotient
In which I calculate my fannishness score for the latest multi-artist Ayreon release, "01011001". I shall assign scores out of 5 to each artist.

Anneke van Giersbergen - Not really, though I did see The Gathering live once. 1.
Jonas P Renske - several Katatonia CDs, and I saw them headlining once, and a t-shirt. 4.
Floor Jansen - not a lot, though we saw her at ProgPower. 1.
Bob Catley - never heard of him. 0.
Magali Luyten - never heard of her. 0.
Jorn Lande - could be more fannish, but a couple of Masterplan CDs and both Ark CDs. 3.
Tom Englund - a couple of Evergrey CDs, saw them headline, and got a shirt. 3.
Hansi Kursch - only a couple of Blind Guardian CDs. 2.
Daniel Gildenlow - it's theora's fault really, but every Pain of Salvation CD, seen them live a couple of times, plus a Flower Kings CD he sings on. 5.
Steve Lee - er. 0.
Arjen Lucassen - the boss. Several previous Ayreon CDs, though not all of them, plus Stream of Passion. 4.
Wudstik - nope. 0.
Marjan Welman - neither. 0.
Simone Simons - nothing. 0.
Liselotte Hegt - dunno. 0.
Phideaux Xavier - nope. 0.
Ty Tabor - I think I have almost, but not quite, everything he's ever recorded. Plus several King's X clothing items, and seen King's X live several times. 6.
Ed Warby - dunno. 0.
Lori Linstruth - the Stream of Passion CD. 2.
Derek Sherinian - seen with Dream Theater, and possibly with Alice Cooper and/or Yngwie Malmsteen - not sure of the dates. Plus Dream Theater, Platypus, Jughead and some of his solo/Planet X CDs. 5.
Tomas Bodin - we have Flower Kings CDs, but I haven't listened to them much. 2.
Michael Romeo - mucho Symphony X CDs, clothing and performances, though I avoided his solo CD. 5.
Joost van den Broek - seen at ProgPower. 1.

So that gives me a total of 44. Hooray for meaningless stats!

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Tuesday February 5th, 2008
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listening
Jorn Lande FTW!
Current Music: Ayreon, "01011001"

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Monday February 4th, 2008
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Prius - 3. around town
I need to preface my remarks by re-iterating that I had never driven an automatic vehicle before coming to the US1, so my impression of driving the Prius includes an amount of getting used to that still. The Prius transmission isn't really anything like a traditional automatic, but they have designed it to behave like one so that people have something familiar to deal with2.

Driving the Prius starts like this - you sit down, put your foot on the brake and press the Power button3. Then choose a mode - the 'shift lever' is just a little joystick in the dashboard, because it's all electronic. There are five modes: P - Park, R - Reverse, N - Neutral4, D - Drive, B - Engine Braking (which is roughly equivalent to choosing a low gear)5. After choosing, the lever springs back to a central position, but the dashboard display shows which mode you are in.

Reversing out, on come some beepers, since reverse only uses the electric motors and is virtually silent. We have the 'backup camera' option, so we get a fisheye view from the rear of the car come up on the screen when we engage reverse. It seems like an overly technical solution for the problem of poor visibility out of the rear of the vehicle, but I find it helps a bit.

The sounds are the main indicator you are driving something a bit different: the eeriest being the silence when the engine shuts itself off after you stop in traffic or at a light. There's also a distinctive whirring when you brake and the motors regenerate power. When you start from a standstill there's a worrying moment when you are pulling away with no sound because it uses the electric motors at low speeds, but when you put your foot down you soon get a satisfying roar from the gas engine. There's a temptation to try and be efficient by not pushing the thing too hard, but we've tested that the car can accelerate pretty well when necessary.

Something else to get used to is the digital speed readout instead of a dial. I was skeptical at first, but having used it a bit, it seems to work fine. It's one of those which is set back so you don't have to refocus on something close.

Once you reach your destination, you press the 'P' button to engage Park mode - I'm not sure why it is not on the shift lever. The emergency brake is one that you push down with your left foot. Then press the Power button to switch off.

Next weekend we're planning a longer trip, so we'll see how it feels on the highway.


1In the UK, manual cars are the norm, and automatics are less common, but it's the other way around here.
2Like, there is no good reason that the thing should 'creep' when you don't have a foot on either pedal, but that's what a normal automatic does, so they made it do it.
3Remember the Smart key.
4Why does it have a 'neutral' position? The manual pretty much tells you not to use it. I think it's another of those automatic vehicle hangovers.
5And is only for use when you need it, i.e. going down steep hills, because it wastes energy that might otherwise be recovered.

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Playlist problems
  1. I've realised I really don't like Therion.
  2. I'm fairly sure Linkin Park never played at ProgPower, which means something is b0rken with my playlist.


Update: oops, I see the playlist problem:
Artist includes "ark" ||
That would also explain why Mark Knopfler is in the list. I think I started using Artist includes because there was some other problem with Artist == though, so I'm trying to remember.

More update:
terms that translate to "like" querys (startswith, endswith, includes) are all case insensitive. "=" is not.

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that game
Argh, what a frustrating Superbowl. Still, it seems like there is a "nearly, but not quite" mythos to Boston sports teams, and someone has to make up for the Red Sox winning.

What I hadn't experienced before were the special Superbowl ads. (They're all on Myspace now if you want to see). Far too many Bud Light ones (if it was any good, maybe they wouldn't have to advertise it all the f*ing time). The Bridgestone ones were funny though, and the pigeons for FedEx.

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Sunday February 3rd, 2008
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skype linux video ,
I found out today that there is a beta version of Skype for Linux with video, so I used it to talk to my parents. (These helpful instructions helped me get it working, since it's a 32-bit binary package, and I run a 64-bit OS.)

So that's one less reason to boot into Windows. Which leaves me with only one.

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Saturday February 2nd, 2008
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airflow
The 'forced air' heating system in this house seems to do a really good job of spreading smells to every room. Particularly as the main intake is by the kitchen.

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Friday February 1st, 2008
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precipitation
I'm trying to decide whether that is hail or sleet or snow. Whatever it is, I have to go out in it soon.

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Wednesday January 30th, 2008
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Prius features - 2. secret compartments
Ok, perhaps they're not that big of a secret! There are lots of storage compartments in this car that are not obvious to a casual viewer though. When we picked up the car the dealer pointed out a second glove box that we hadn't noticed before, and I've noticed a couple of cubbies underneath the carpet in the trunk. There's also the big box in the front armrest, complete with second cigarette lighter socket and auxiliary audio input inside it. Oh, and a special padded compartment for sunglasses in the ceiling.

And a compartment under the radio, plus a pull-out drawer under the front cup holders. But that's all.

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Prius features - 1. Smart key
The basic premise of the 'Smart Key System' is that you never have to take the key out of your pocket. With the key on your person, you can walk up, unlock and open the door, get into the car and start it, get out and lock the doors again.

To achieve this it has an RFID tag in the key and a set of antennas in the car, plus touch sensors on the door handles. The antenna range is fairly short, about 1m/3ft around each of the front doors and the rear hatch, plus all of the inside of the car. You start the car by pressing a big 'power' button. (The key also functions like a typical wireless remote, but why would you want to bother?)

The thing that surprised me the other evening was when I walked up to the car with the key in my pocket and the inside light came on without me touching anything.

This is going to take some getting used to.

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Edwards out?
If John Edwards is quitting the race, I guess there is no candidate left who I like. This is why 'democracy' sucks.

(Is Mike Gravel still running? Hehe)

(Of course the soonest I could possibly be able to vote for a President is 2012, but it doesn't stop me paying attention)

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Friday January 25th, 2008
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updates
I like ice cream (but not nuts in ice cream).
I like cats (though I'm wondering if the allergies will come back when it stops being winter).
I like live albums if there is something that makes them substantially different to the original recording.

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translation overhead
So I read or hear and think things like:
"1st floor", ok so I need to go up... no, wait, that's the ground floor here.
"Date of birth", that would be 5/2, no 2/5, no sod it February 5th.
"nine ninety-nine", that's pretty cheap for a TV. Oh, they mean $999, not $9.99.

It makes me feel slower somehow.

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Wednesday January 16th, 2008
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phone calls
Last night:
Ring!
Me: Hello.
...
Me: Hello?
Distant voice: Hello?
Me: Hello? Who is this?
Distant voice: Hello?
Me: click

Just now:
Ring!
Me: Hello.
Some guy: Hello?
Me: Hello?
Some guy: Who are you?
Me: Who are you!?
Some guy: click

Something funny is going on.

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Tuesday January 15th, 2008
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car insurance
Anyone have recommendations for car insurance what is available in Massachusetts?

(I've just looked up a couple that I have been brainwashed about on TV, and they don't operate in Mass. Geico and Farmers. theora used to have State Farm, and they don't either.)

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Monday January 14th, 2008
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sofa
(I was going to try and make a pun on 'sofa', but I will restrain myself).

Yesterday's main event involved us renting a U-Haul van to go and pick up an old sofa that one of theora's colleagues was throwing out. theora was not very happy driving this large vehicle with poor visibility, but did a fine job. It worked out fairly reasonable as U-Haul make most of their charges based on the number of miles you do, and we didn't have far to go.

The sofa is a bit well-worn, but we have ordered a slip-cover to revitalise it. Now we have seating for more than two people in our living room! And the cats have a better chance of not being pushed off chairs when we want to sit down.

In other news, there is heavy snow again today. I guess I will have to go out with the blower later.

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Saturday January 12th, 2008
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cars
Today we went to test drive a few cars. Thanks to queue for driving us to the dealers.

First up was the Honda Fit (called the 'Jazz' elsewhere). It was the most similar to my last car, being small, and I liked the steering feel which seemed quite firm and immediate. (All the cars I've driven here seem a bit less immediate on acceleration, but I guess that is the difference between manual and automatic.) The Fit has some innovative rear seats, which can fold down to make a flat cargo area, or fold up to give a tall load space. It still seemed a bit small compared to the other cars we tried, so I think it is too small for our needs, and theora didn't like the 'cheap' finish.

Next we tried a Honda Civic. I'm not so keen on the sedan style (we call it 'saloon' where I come from), and the controls in this I thought were 'sloppy', so I was ready to remove it from the shortlist.

We moved on to a Toyota dealer, where we first tried a Matrix. I liked the control feel of this, and it also has a pretty big load space. It seemed like we would have to choose the upgraded model to get some of the features we'd like though.

Our last test was the Toyota Prius. This car is getting quite a reputation. I was pleased to find it the most comfortable to drive of any of these tests (given that I'm still quite nervous about driving over here). It was not quite as big as I thought, but still had a reasonable amount of cargo space, and the best legroom for passengers. It also has the best fuel economy of any car on the market, and high reliability and satisfaction ratings in Consumer Reports. We weren't sure how it would compare to the other cars in power, but it seemed to have plenty of go and stop when needed.

I guess we're pretty keen on the Prius. Shame it is the most expensive of our list, but it is a unique vehicle, so we can deal with it.

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Friday January 4th, 2008
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super
I'm pleased to see They've decided to give my birthday the recognition it deserves.

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Thursday January 3rd, 2008
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layers
I am glad I got some warm underwear for Christmas. It's about -12°C out (11°F). I'm not used to it getting that cold. On the way to my appointment I counted that I was wearing 17 items of clothing. None of them covered my nose though, and it stung.

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entertainment thoughts

For our quiet New Year's Eve in, we ended up moving my computer downstairs so we could watch videos while in the comfy chairs. A lot of what we like to watch now are (dodgy?) downloaded British TV shows, and the computer is also set up to play any region DVDs.

So this led to us thinking about an improved entertainment system for our living room. There are a few main things we like to watch/listen to at the moment:

Downloaded video
It's probably technically illegal, but the only way we can get current British TV shows that we miss. Obviously these need to be played off a computer somehow. They're stored on my fileserver, and we've noticed that trying to play them on theora's computer, the wireless network connection isn't really fast enough.
DVD
We have a mixture of Region 1 and Region 2 discs. We have a hand-me-down DVD player that plays Region 1, but use the computer to watch Region 2. We could get a multi-region player. I have reservations about next-gen DVDs so I'm unlikely to be looking at those any time soon.
Sports
About the only actual TV we have been watching was the Red Sox and Patriots games. The football has been on broadcast channels, but a lot of the baseball games can only be seen on cable - but it doesn't really seem worth getting cable just for that. I guess it depends how much we end up spending on drinks when we go to the pub to see games!
Music
Our CD collection is mostly ripped and shared on my fileserver, so it would be nice to have a player for that downstairs. We planned to use theora's old iMac for this, but we didn't find a suitable place to put it.
Radio
We listen to NPR sometimes, on theora's old stereo, and podcasts of a few BBC Radio 4 shows on either computer.

At the moment we have two TVs in the living room - a hand-me-down one that we watch DVDs on, but that seems to have trouble picking up broadcast channels so we use theora's old set for those. We also have the old stereo, which works fine for radio, but recently has made a lot of buzzing when we switched to the aux input for listening to CDs.

My rough thoughts at the moment are:

  • It would be nice to get a bigger, more modern TV, but probably not worth the expense at the moment, since we can use what we have.
  • We will want a digital TV tuner of some sort before the analog switchoff next year. We can get some sort of coupon for it, apparently. It might be a separate box, or in a new TV if we got one, or a computer part if we got one.
  • To play downloaded videos on the TV would require either another PC of some sort, which I would probably run MythTV on, or one of the new breed of media streaming boxes. The PC would double as a multi-region DVD player, otherwise we might want a separate one. (Some PC thoughts below, though I haven't tried adding up all the prices).
  • The other problem with streaming video is that some reading and experimenting with theora's laptop suggests that the wireless network connection does not provide enough bandwidth. So we would have to run a cable downstairs somehow, which is unlikely to look nice.

Thoughts anyone?

PC speccingCollapse )

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Monday December 31st, 2007
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cocktails
I was thinking I could try making a hatter-style cocktail... but looking at our drink selection, I don't think it would come very close.

Happy New Year soon, Britons sooner than us.

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Friday December 28th, 2007
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album of the year
Around this time of year I usually pick the CD that was the best of the year for me. We haven't bought so many CDs this year, but there were a few.

Probably my most listened to album is Wolverine 'Still'. It's funny because while they have been labelled as a 'progressive metal' band, there seems to me to be very little 'metal' about this album. Some parts of it reminded me quite strongly of some of the more recent A-Ha releases. What really gets me is Stefan's voice, which is used to much better effect in this album than previous ones.

I'm not sure whether 'Still' should count, because it actually came out in 2006 - I just didn't get it until 2007.

A favorite that did actually come out this year was Thought Chamber 'Angular Perceptions'. This really is the proggiest of prog metal, with weird timings, discordant riffs and widdly guitar solos. It is nicely topped off with vocals from Ted Leonard of Enchant. The only band I think that sounds quite like this is Ark. Good fun.

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some thoughts on language
Astute readers of my journal may by now have noticed I've taken to writing a perverse mixture of British and Americanized English. I haven't been brainwashed; I am usually conscious of what I'm writing. So I thought I'd share a few of my thoughts about it.

The first problem is how to refer to the dialects. As someone who was born and grew up in England I resent Americans claiming their language as 'English'. (Yes, theora does like to wind me up). So for the purposes of this discussion, 'English' is the language I grew up with, and 'American' is the variant used over here.

Context is quite important. For example I have no problem with referring to theora's mother as 'mom' and my mother as 'mum' within the same post, because it makes sense for the people involved. As I am now resident in the USA, much more of my context is American, so as a result I am using more American words.

A separate constraint is avoiding ambiguity. For example, Britons may not like the American 'sidewalk', but will probably understand what is meant, whereas the English 'pavement' has a different meaning in American (it's the surface material of a road), and could lead to confusion. (Me, deliberately use ambiguous words? Ahem.)

A similarly ambiguous word that also illustrates another problem is 'pants'. I still tend to say 'trousers', I guess I'm slightly embarrassed by the word 'pants'. (I have been saying 'holiday pants' a lot recently though. I'm rather taken with them). And then I think the Americans are being unnecessarily prudish by saying 'underwear'. Silly me.

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lumière
theora was keen to visit lumière, so we went there last night for a Christmas treat. There were a few menus to choose from, but after some thought we went a la carte. (The 'Chef's tasting menu' had too much shellfish for me).

To start, theora had a duck terrine, served with toast, whole grain mustard and some cornichons. A paté-like starter is a common fixture in British restaurants, but less so here I think. This one was robust and chunky.

For my starter I had one of the day's specials - a bass tartare. It was molded in a little cylinder with sprouts* on top, and served with a simple sesame and soy sauce and long thin croutons. The fish was nicely set off by the salty sauce, and the crunch of the croutons made a contrast in texture with the softer fish.

For her main course** theora had scallops from Maine. They were served on a bed of creamy celeriac mash with a sauce of cider*** and chestnuts. I had a duck breast with more chestnuts, baby onions, and what was described on the menu as 'purée jaune', which seemed to be a mash of swede/rutabaga and potato. The duck was pink in the middle with crispy brown skin, which was good.

For desserts, theora had a little pear tart with a crunchy top, while I had some blue cheese which came with apple butter and more of the long thin croutons. (I didn't eat the peppered walnuts).

All in all a tasty dinner. (And as usual it cost a similar number in dollars as one might expect in pounds in London).



* I'm having trouble with this word. Where I come from it generally refers to Brussels Sprouts, but those aren't so 'popular' here. Here it means alfalfa sprouts or mustard sprouts or whatever, like in this picture, but they all look pretty much the same so it's hard to qualify the word.

** Americans call the main course the 'entrée', which seems wrong to me, since we've already entréed with the starter/appetizer by than.

*** 'Cider' here usually means unfiltered apple juice, to my constant disappointment.

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Wednesday December 26th, 2007
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christmas visit
For Christmas we went to visit theora's parents for a few days. To reduce worrying about the cats we decided to take them with us, so we rented a car.

Vega clawed at his box a bit on the way, but otherwise just lay down during the journey. Mira howled pitifully most of the way there and back, and threw up in her box on the way, but seems to have survived the travelling. They seemed happy to explore the new house while we were there. Vega found he could sit on the windowsill and watch birds come to the feeder, which he seemed to enjoy.

We had a relaxed few days - we played some games, and watched some TV, and made a snowman :-) theora and her mom did the cooking and made us some nice meals.

It was the first time I've celebrated Christmas away from my family home, so it was all a bit different. We didn't go to church, and the present-opening was all in the morning, and the lunch was a nice steak. We did get to see the Queen's Christmas message on Youtube though, and theora made a Christmas pudding from my mum's recipe, which went down well.

It was also a bit strange having to travel home on Christmas Day, since we are working today.

We got me set up as an authorized driver on the car rental, so I had a bit more practice driving too, including taking it back to the rental place this morning. I was glad Theora did the main journeys though.

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Monday December 24th, 2007
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hard work

Snowman

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Thursday December 20th, 2007
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Happy Christmas

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Tuesday December 18th, 2007
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meetup
Last night I went into town for the Boston Java Meetup. I was a bit early, so I walked up and down. Then I went and looked in the bar, and saw nobody I recognised, and figured the groups of women with christmas shopping bags were unlikely to be Java geeks.

Being a bit scared off, I walked round the block, but then went in and ordered a beer. After about 20 minutes, when I was just wondering if I should drink up and go, a guy showed up and started asking the barman about the meetup, so I introduced myself.

So we chatted for a while, but nobody else showed up, including the organiser. Quite disappointing.

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Monday December 17th, 2007
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Vega eating
Anyone want to suggest why Vega has been eating by scooping the food out of his plate and eating it from the floor?


We wash the cats' plates every few days, and the plate is likely to be cleaner than the floor :-/

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Friday December 14th, 2007
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snowblowing
theora and I had a 'happy' early morning clearing snow off the driveway. I'm afraid to say this is the deepest snow I've ever been in - about 8-9" I guess.

I felt like I was getting the hang of the snowblower after a while. It's kind of like a lawnmower. What I have been learning is that you have to plan ahead a bit as to where you're going to direct the snow. It isn't going to just melt and run away soon like it usually does in England, so it has to be put somewhere.

I also thought the snowblower was a bit like driving a narrowboat, in that it has its own slow and steady pace and you have to go with it. I find that kind of thing relaxing, since I stop thinking about anything other than the task at hand.

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Thursday December 13th, 2007
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snow blow
The landlord came by yesterday to show me how to operate the snow blower, since our neighbour who usually deals with it is going away for a couple of weeks. Just in time, since there is a forecast of a few inches of snow this afternoon.

I am learning.

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Monday December 10th, 2007
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<11:23 am
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weekend
Saturday was a rather busy day. We had booked a Zipcar to take the cats to the vet, so wanted to try and get as much shopping as we could while we had it. At theora's urging on Friday I made a timetabled plan for the day.

The plan proved to be a pretty good idea - it made us be realistic about how much we could fit in, so we had to postpone a couple of visits, but didn't have to worry about what we were doing next. We mostly managed to stick to the times, too. I guess this means driving and shopping are easier to estimate than software development.

On Sunday I was worn out, so didn't do that much. We assembled the cats' Christmas present though, which is a tower for them to climb and sit on. In the afternoon we watched the football - the New England Patriots have still won all their games this season, so I'm getting drawn in to want them to win the rest.

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Friday December 7th, 2007
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mince pies
I had an email around work saying there were mince pies in the office. I started composing a reply about how they don't have them here, but then I realised I don't particularly like them anyway, so never mind.

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Wednesday December 5th, 2007
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therapy
I had my first visit to my physical therapist today. He was a nice young man who proceeded to pull and push my legs in all different directions and ask if it hurt yet. He has given me a sheet of exercises to do each day, and I have some more appointments.

He finished up by asking if I was from England or Australia. I was amused.

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Monday December 3rd, 2007
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snow
And it snowed last night and there is white everywhere, though judging by the drips I can see it must be melting to some extent now. I spotted one of our neighbours shoveling a path in the front yard so I went and asked him about it, having never had to wield a snow-shovel in my life. I am a bit apprehensive about what the winter will be like. My christmas/shopping list is including long underwear and flannel-lined jeans, and I should probably be looking at a better coat.

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weekend
theora was busy trying to finish school work for the end of term, so I had much of the weekend to entertain myself.

queue helped by taking me out for some driving lessons in his car. I was quite nervous about it to start with, but after some practice I started to calm down. Quite apart from driving on the other side of the road:
  • the road layout and conventions of driving are a bit different here
  • I've never driven an automatic vehicle before (though as queue said, that's better than the other way around)
  • and in any case I haven't driven very much at all since I moved to my parents at the start of the year, and sold my car in March


I did a few chores, and divided my spare time between a little miniature painting, playing EU3 (which I haven't done for a while), and finishing off watching season 1 of Heroes. (I don't want to comment much on that because I'm hoping to persuade theora to watch it, but I enjoyed seeing the threads of plot come together).

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Friday November 30th, 2007
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podcasts
I'm getting with the twenty-first century by trying the podcasts tool in my music player. So far I have subscribed to:
"BBC Radio 4 Friday Night Comedy" (alternates News Quiz or Now Show),
"BBC 6Music Russell Howard and Jon Richardson",
"NPR: Car Talk"
and "NPR: Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me" (kind of an American "News Quiz")

Do you have any favourites you would recommend?

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sausages
It seems that a lot of sausages here come pre-cooked.

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Wednesday November 28th, 2007
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<10:25 am
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orthopedic beer
As some of you know, I've had problems with my knees for a long time. A couple of NHS doctors I have seen about them in the past had not reached any conclusions. But now I am here with (theora's) health insurance and a new medical system we decided to get them looked at again.

So yesterday I had an appointment with an orthopedics doctor, having been referred. They asked lots of questions and felt up my knees and took x-rays from every angle. Then they gave it a name, which is reassuring - they think it is 'Patellofemoral Syndrome'. Meh. It means my kneecaps don't line up properly in the groove on the femur they are supposed to run in.

Unfortunately it sounds like there is a limit to how much can be done to improve it. I have to find a physical therapist, who will teach me exercises to strengthen the relevant muscles. I've also been recommended some arch support shoe inserts because I'm flat footed, and to put ice on my knees before going to bed.

After seeing the doctor, I went to the nearby Cambridge Brewing Company, where theora met me. They open a cask of cask-conditioned ale each Tuesday evening, and I miss 'proper beer' so I wanted to try it. This week's brew was 'Big Man Ale', which they described as a 'Winter IPA'. It was very strong for a bitter/IPA style, and had a correspondingly powerful burst of hops. It went down quite nicely, but the cask ran out after I'd had two pints, so I guess other people were appreciating it too.

I have a growing impression that American craft brewers are more inclined to make 'extreme' versions of known beer styles, or to try mixing up their influences to produce different styles, whereas British brewers seem to be more interested in making the best they can of their traditional varieties. And American brewers draw from German and Belgian as well as British backgrounds. So it is interesting to see what is going on here, even if sometimes I miss my very boring 'warm, flat' pint of bitter.

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Monday November 26th, 2007
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<11:12 am
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thanksgiving holiday
Thanksgiving is an American holiday which is carefully arranged so that many people have to use a day off to turn it into a long weekend. (Since it is on a Thursday).

Some people just take the whole week off, like sarbah77 and errindel - so we got to go out for dinner with them while they were visiting Boston. Unfortunately my original choice of restaurant was packed full of students watching their hockey team, but theora suggested the Cactus Club instead, which was good.

On Wednesday evening we met up at North Station to take the train to visit theora's family in Maine. The train was completely sold out, and apparently they'd added an extra carriage, so I hope that's a good sign. theora's dad met us in Saco, and on the way home we spotted a deer in the road, and some more in their 'orchard'.

We had the traditional big Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, with turkey, stuffing, cranberry relish, mashed potato, gravy, succotash, and later apple pie and pumpkin pie. We also played a variety of games including Boggle and Bonkers and card games which I didn't join in, and we had the football games on the TV.

The day after Thanksgiving is known as 'Black Friday', and this is when retail staff who didn't get the day off have to start work ridiculously early. It is traditionally the start of Christmas shopping, and many stores open early and have big bargains to tempt in shoppers. (For example, the Maine Mall apparently opened at 1am this year). theora and I decided we'd rather laze in the house than interact with crowds, but her brothers went out in the afternoon and survived.

We played some more games on Saturday morning, but in the afternoon we came home. Unfortunately the train got stuck behind a stopped freight, so we were delayed a while. We heard later that the freight engine had run out of fuel!

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Thursday November 22nd, 2007
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<09:49 am
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macy's day
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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