Friday, January 30, 2009

On scenery

I'm still learning to drive, although it would perhaps be more accurate to say I'm still not fully licensed to drive, and so I'm still taking lessons. Today's lesson took me out into an area I've not been before, and I'm rather pleased that I was calm and comfortable enough to not only drive easily and safely, but also enjoy the rather starkly beautiful scenery. As previously, we needed to refuel the little Focus, and then we headed off toward Martinez. However, just before crossing route 4, we swung off and out into the rural area.After a bit of driving, we found ourselves out on a small, winding country road that led, eventually, down to Port Costa, a community I'd never heard of. We then swung further West, and after easing down to Eckley Pier, and back up (getting me plenty of chances to figure out speed control on hills), we wound up heading into Crockett. There's a section of that town which gives a feel of what it's like to drive "in the city" (which in this area always means San Francisco) without the necessity of crossing the bay, and so I had to drive up the hill (which felt near-vertical), then make a right turn and continue up... and then come back down. Thankfully, there is a "low" stop on the Focus's gear selector, and so I could get some engine braking. At a guess, I'd say the actual incline was around 30°, but from the driver's seat, it felt far steeper. At one point, I needed to turn on the way down, which is normally (for most student drivers) a chance to ground the nose (which fortunately is plastic, and so doesn't get rusty from the scrapes it acquires), but I kept the nose off the road and managed to keep it together all the way back to the stoplight, and then out of town. We then headed back towards "civilisation", via a road with a 55 limit; I was perfectly happy cruising at that speed.

Most of this route was on roads which wound through the hills, which are largely bare and grassy. There were some wooded valleys, though, and there are places along there which I would love to visit with a camera.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

On completion

I have now completed a cat plaything.

From Ravelry photos
Sheba has yet to actually play with it, but she does accept it. It doesn't roll very well, but it does roll.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On irony

This is, in fact, truly ironic.

You may recall that I have begun working out. I have, today, had to notch my belt in an inch compared to yesterday (same belt, same trousers); this is shocking, but gratifying, since shifting the belly was an objective of the workouts. I simply didn't expect results this soon.

You may also recall that one of my objectives was to allow me to get into certain trousers which I brought with me and had expanded out of. This, it turns out, will not be possible. Because the gym I have available to me has very little by way of machines which work out the upper body (there are weights, but I've tried them and decided they're not for me), the vast majority of the workouts are going to my thigh muscles. While I have no real objections to this, it will inevitably result in muscle development on my thighs. The trousers into which I wished to fit were not as baggy as other trousers I own in the thigh, and so any significant muscle addition to my thighs will preclude wearing them as surely as the waist expansion has done...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On the Inauguration

The LA and I are watching on PBS. We've snarked a bit...

[Jim Lehrer explains that Obama will take the oath moments before noon, to avoid a moment when There Is No President]
[I turn to the LA] "And you claim the US doesn't have a monarchy?"
"Well, what we don't have is power passed by the bloodline"
"Well, it's been tried now. Didn't work so well, did it?"
"It worked OK when it was the Adams family..."
"... Morticia would make a kickass First Lady!"

Noting the heralding horns, the LA complains that having valves is "cheating". My response: "It's the US Marines. Of course they cheat."

Shortly thereafter: "Today is not a day I'd want to play brass, outside, in DC."

Edits will be made below this line as more snarks are made.

Someone making a big deal about Obama's race provoked: "What does it matter what colour he is outside? We're all purple inside!"
Shortly thereafter: "We're running behind! Cut him off!"
The LA and I are not fans of shoving prayer into people's faces, ESPECIALLY in *government* where it *should not be*.

[Kitty demands entry to the bathroom]"We're not going in there! We're watching Obama!" "Actually, we're watching some fat git pray at us."

"That [Aretha Franklin's headwear] is a hat and a half!"

Monday, January 19, 2009

On a self-generated high

As promised, here's a post regarding working out. I started this morning off with 12 minutes on the treadmill, followed by a similar amount of time on the weight machines to work the upper body (I'd have preferred a rower, but we don't have one; boo, management, very boo), then a stretch on the stationary bike (why, when I have a mobile one? Because I can't listen to Finntroll while dodging SUVs, that's why, and besides, the real one is upright. The stationary job is recumbent) and topped off with another 20 minutes on the treadmill. This left me sweaty, having elevated my heartrate nicely, but not tired out. It also left me (on the treadmill's "forest walk" programme, peaking at 4mph and 2 degrees of incline; next week I'll bump the incline a bit, then when that gets easy, the speed) with a lovely floaty endorphin high that has finally gotten through to me what's so appealing about a 17th century punishment device.

And the good part is, the fitness centre is open from 6am. When I get a job, I can still go work out before work.

Sticking with weekly workouts for the moment. In time, I'll move to twice a week, then three times, but for now, weekly is good.

Friday, January 16, 2009

On progress

I've just had another driving lesson. I had some fun, this time. Heck, I'm getting to quite like driving, although this time I didn't get anything so esoteric as an unprotected left turn. Still, I'm starting to remember my left from my right again, which is good (stress seems to drive the most immediately relevant instincts out of my head; I was having to check rings and remember that silver is left, copper is right at some points) and I'm getting better at judging how hard to brake.

The other thing that really helped is soft-soled shoes. Note to self: if driving, don't wear hard soles...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On self-examination

I've realised that I've become rather too passive of late. I'm working on improving that, which should even out my mood at a nice happy level, and also make it easier for me to get things done.

Among my fun troubles are the fact that I've allowed myself to get out of shape. I've become injury-prone, my endurance is pathetic, and I'm starting to bulge at the waist. Heck, some of the trousers I arrived with are now too small. To fix this, I intend, starting on Monday the 19th, to begin an exercise regime. If you don't see a post on that date stating that I've exercised, you should bug me. Seriously. I need to get my endurance back, I need to cut down this flab, and I need to get honestly tired. As my fitness improves, I'll be increasing my workouts, but they start Monday.

I have also allowed myself to stop being musical. That also needs fixing; the LA owns a bass guitar, so I'm intending to teach myself to play it. That will let me feel creative and happy about myself, which will shine through in my jobseeking.

And I'm continuing with the driving lessons. Next one is this Friday, and I shall be continuing with one or two per week until I'm ready to take the test. As my confidence and skills improve, I will also be driving the LA around, assuming she gets the insurance for such sorted out.

Friday, January 9, 2009

On the road again, just can't wait to get on the road again...

So, I now have had an actual driving lesson. After getting rather nervous beforehand, the instructor was very helpful in getting me started with the basics. Two hours of driving followed. I topped out at about 45mph(!), didn't hit anything, and even managed to do half-decently at the unprotected left turn.

I need to work on my multitasking, on braking finesse, and on not being quite so nervous about speed. I also need to improve my lane changes. Overall, though, I've made a good start, and will not need too much instruction before being ready to take my test.

Immediately after the test was when I got my first craving for a cigarette in some time. I guess addiction never really leaves one, but I simply dismissed it and headed in to reassure the kitties that Daddy was home.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

On courtesy

This morning, when I wandered into what the LA and I generally refer to as the back bedroom (while it could contain a bed, it's rather less than ideal for the purpose and instead contains our puzzles, stashed yarn, musical instruments, board games, and a table), I saw rather a lot of truck through the window. Said truck was sitting and being loaded with soil by a backhoe (JCB, for the British readers, although it's actually made by John Deere rather than JCB). They were digging up the road.

Interestingly, there had been no indication whatsoever that this was to occur. The far less inconvenient gutter cleaning I hear going on this very moment, we had been warned about a good week in advance, but the road work was a total surprise, and not just to us; there was a chap across the way who had to ask the workers to knock off and move their JCB so that he could extract his car from his garage.

I don't even know if it's safe to shower.

My local water board take many, many demerits for this.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

On inertia

Fun with Yarn! from Silas Humphreys on Vimeo.

This is what happens when you get the ball winder going really fast and the swift is spinning freely.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

On cooking

I've just made a very pleasant beef dish, having worked out the recipe from first principles. My mother would know it as Swedish Sailor's.

The recipe is very simple: a suitable amount of joined-up beef (skirt is ideal), a suitable amount of onion (somewhat more than you expect to want), and some potatoes, sliced into roughly centimetre-thick discs. Some swede is good but optional. Roughly chop and soften the onions, then add the cubed beef, with salt, lots of pepper, and appropriate herbs and spices (I use garlic, paprika and a little mustard). Brown the beef, then transfer it into a suitably sized ovenproof dish, and add the cubed swede if you want it. Lay the potatoes out in a layer on top, and deglaze the pan in which you browned the beef. Pour the resulting delicious stock over the potatoes, and cover the dish with foil. Bake in the middle of a 450°F oven for about 40 minutes, then remove the foil, move to the top shelf, and bake for another half hour or so, until the potatoes are browned and crispy. This goes very well with brassicas of any kind, and is also exceedingly good with a British-style beer.