Saturday, December 4, 2010

Productivity can mean several things.

My maternal grandmother could draw very well. My maternal grandfather was a good woodworker. Most of my family has some creative talent, in fact. For a while, I felt like I was an exception, as though I was the sole non-creative person in my family.

But now that I look at it... I build worlds. I also do a fair amount of work with my hands, such as the installation of the front wing turn signals on my car which should have been there from the day it was built (US lighting regulations are a long way behind Europe when it comes to cars), or the add-on tabletop I made with felt covering for gaming. I knit.

And in the past week, I've finally made a breakthrough in sketching. I've wanted to draw for many years, but always found it frustrating. The best output I came up with was the doodles I made while on the phone, with most of my brain otherwise occupied. I finally realised that, and stopped thinking about drawing while drawing. Simply letting the sketch flow has led to me producing works I'm happy to sign and date.

I'm a perfectionist. I readily admit that, and in some areas of my life it's a benefit, but I've finally learned to accept "good enough", and it has finally become good enough. Next time I go anywhere scenic, I'm going to take with me a board, some paper, and some of the 2B pencils the LA managed to find for my birthday. She knows I prefer a slightly softer pencil for writing, but I usually go for a B. A 2B is a touch softer than that, and I've found it's very good for the sketches I draw. Currently, those are drawings from memory of Cornish landscapes, but I shall be drawing Californian lanscapes from life soon enough...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Washing up, and the whys and wherefores of certain aspects thereof.

You've no doubt noticed that I like to cook, and naturally such an activity leads to pans and utensils which need to be washed. Some of these, depending on durability of item and qualities of what's attached, can simply be placed into the dishwasher, but others require a little specialised treatment.

Naturally, the best approach is to wash up as soon as possible, but inevitably one becomes uncreatively lazy and fails to do so. Some items benefit from soaking, but others do not. Particularly soak-needing items are ice cream, oatmeal, meats in sauces, and raw eggs. These all have one thing in common: protein. That stuff loves to denature, and tends to stick when it does so. If you don't soak, they'll become caked on, and it's more than a dishwasher can do to get them off. You'll tend to need to scrub, which is why you need to make sure not to make oatmeal in a non-stick pan; it sticks enough to need scrubbing sufficient to remove the non-stick. Cereals and milk, in fact, often tended to be the basis for wood glues in years past. This makes oatmeal a truly horrible thing for sticking.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What I've been up to of late

It's taken me a while, but I've finally found a gaming group. In addition to the Tuesday evenings at the store, when I play board games, we have a small meetup of five people (we're auditioning a sixth at our next meeting, despite awkward timing due to the LA having a singing engagement that day) on most Sundays. We meet at somebody's house or apartment, warm up by talking for a while or playing a boardgame, and then launch into a full-blown roleplaying game. It's rather nice to be able to relax and throw dice for a while. I'm not currently running a game, but I shall get my chance soon enough. Astoundingly, I'm currently the eldest of the group at thirty; we've one in his early twenties, two in their late twenties, and one I can't quite pin down but would guess at about 25. Be that as it may, the possibly-youngest is currently shouldering the GM's burden as we rampage through the Star Wars universe, cutting a cauterised swath with our everpresent lightsabres, having a grand old time. I've even gotten to the point of making a semi-automated spreadsheet of my character's stats, and making it accessible from my smartphone.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Well, that's just dandy.

I am a migraneur (yes, that's a real word), and have recently been actually formally diagnosed as same; I've been suffering migraine headaches for the past five years, having (I now realise, since reading Oliver Sacks on the subject) been in a constant state of aura from roughly the age of five right up through my early twenties, but in the UK, I never troubled my doctor with them. About three or four times a year, I would simply find myself needing to take a dose of paracetamol and codeine, and go lie down in a darkened room for a day, whilst it hurt to breathe. In recent months, however, the frequency increased to the point of suffering a headache every couple of weeks, and I began to suffer multi-day attacks. This was clearly unacceptable, and so it was off to the doctor. He ordered an MRI scan of my brain, which glory of glories, was approved by my medical insurance (and more on such subjects I shall not say), and the results returned as "normal", which is to say there are no gross physical abnormalities of my brain which could explain migraine-like symptoms. That means it's all down to strange wiring, which I already knew was present, as I'm also a synaesthete. For the technical types, think of it as crosstalk between senses; for the druggies, think of it as a permanent low-grade hallucinogenic experience. I hear colours and see sounds, which does lead to some truly astounding consequences of migraine aura; the visual disturbances feed into auditory hallucinations, which feed into visual disturbances, and before very long I have the neurological equivalent of shoving a microphone into the PA speaker cone.

Anyway. I was officially diagnosed as a migraineur, and provided with a supply of Imitrex, or at least a generic version of same, which is a rather mysterious chemical. I'm unclear as to how exactly it works, but it does generally reduce the pain of migraines significantly. Accessory symptoms remain, though. I've been taking that as needed, but the followup appointment revealed that I was still suffering migraines frequently, and so I'm now also taking Amitripyline, which it turns out is a tricyclic antidepressant, but which is used off-label at a low dose as a migraine preventer. It seems to be working; I'm about three weeks in, and so far it's kept the headaches at bay.

Although, this morning, I woke up, insofar as I did wake up, feeling distinctly odd. It's taken me until now to realise what I felt like.

Today is feeling like the aftermath of a migraine headache. It's distinctly odd to have the postdrome without the aura, the headache, and so on, and I'm not sure I like it. On the other hand, I did at least not suffer the headache.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm not the only Cousin Jack around here.

It's currently election season, and so there are truly stupendous numbers of political signs around. Many of them, I'm ignoring; not having a vote makes the whole election merely a source of annoyance, although I'd be ignoring the signs even if I did have a vote here.

However, one sign caught my eye as I drove this morning. I kept looking for the next one, and confirmed it: one candidate in one race is named Jan Trezise. You won't find a name that's much more Cornish than that!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mark it in red.

Today's turning out to be quite a big day for me.It started when I picked out trousers - I'd bought them at my peak weight, and they fit quite well then. Now, though, they're rather loose. In fact, they'd fall off if not for the belt. The smaller numbers on the face of the bathroom scale are one thing, but this really brings home just how much weight (and flab) I lost when I started trying.

Also, I just flipped the thermostat over to the "heat" setting. It's not that it's that cold (although I have dug out my ancient and much-beloved grey sweater), but it's hovering around the point to which we ask it to heat in the cooler months, and that's not happened for some time. At this point, I'm rather looking forward to some cooler weather...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Using the right tool for the job

As you probably know, our landlord is nominally responsible for fixtures and fittings in the house the LA and I rent. That said, it's usually quicker, easier, and gets better results, if we just take care of things ourselves. For instance, the curtains provided by our landlord are three for three on "breaking", since they were never properly done in the first place. If you're screwing into sheetrock, you need to drill a pilot hole and use a proper anchor, because otherwise you're asking plaster to hold against screw threads. That's not something plaster does well, to say the least. As a result, today I bought a box of Drive Wall Anchors, which are ever so clever, and ever so cheap at $10 for 50 of the blighters. For your 20 cents, you get a screw-headed bolt (fine pitch engineered thread, to mate with a matching thread, driven by a screwdriver), with a sharpened tip, and a clever metal contraption designed to slip through behind the sharp tip (and a plastic insert provided to bridge the gap) until its final plate reaches the surface, at which point it bites in and prevents the metal thing from turning. You then tighten the screw, which causes this clever metal wossname to expand outwards, ensuring it'll never come back through the hole. Then you loosen the screw (or remove it, if necessary; the anchor being an integral part of the wall by this point) and put the thing you needed screwed to the wall on, then tighten up again. Simple, easy, and it actually works. Of course, it does cost about 20 cents per hole more than "that'll hold until I've left the building", which just goes to show that the most important tool is the one between your ears!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Of mushrooms, mail, and memory foam

For most of my life, I've disliked mushrooms. Recently, I've learned to tolerate them, and then a couple of weeks ago, I began actually wanting them. The LA has been a somewhat enthusiastic fungivore for many years, so really, this brings my tastes into closer alignment with hers more than anything else. I've begun adding mushrooms to my pasta sauce, and may well continue to use them in cooking. It just goes to show, one should always be willing to give a food another chance. That said, neither of us feels that enthused about curry. The LA dislikes spicy food, and I still can't get past the years of school curries which smelled of vomit.

As for memory foam, I've finally realised that I need a good pillow to keep my neck from becoming completely ruined by my sleeping habits, and succumbed to the lure of the high-density polyurethane foam. It's too early to tell if it's a massive improvement, but this morning my neck felt better than it has for some time. All this bought me was more of a chance to feel the effects of my recently discovered allergies; I'd forgotten, but it seems that I suffer an overreaction to some varieties of tree pollen, and there are such trees around here.

And so we come to mail handling. E-mail is a useful tool, but poorly defined and generally poorly implemented. The standards are contradictory, and frankly it's a nightmare. Even determining the syntactic validity of an e-mail address is nigh-impossible. That said, some aspects can be managed; one such aspect is message threading, which is to say keeping a message grouped together with its replies. Some clients don't do this; it's a tricky thing to handle. The most computationally cheap method is to compare subject lines; this works reasonably well. Google's mail service uses this, and adds a few wrinkles such as parsing the message and hiding the quoted text under the assumption that you've already read it. However, this approach breaks down if someone changes the subject line; I've seen Gmail fragment a useful conversation into unreadability because of this. My in-laws gave me a used iPod Touch last week, as a very early birthday gift; among its features is an e-mail client. This client handles message threading very well. I believe that how it does this is by means of the message-id (a header not usually exposed to the user, automatically generated to have a reasonable likelihood of being unique) and the in-reply-to (another header, rather obvious in what it refers to). The upshot is that messages remain threaded even with multiple subject line changes. I rather like this. The iPod has many other useful features, but this was the one which leapt out at me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Planning ahead

I've decided that it's only fair to the LA for me to inform her well ahead of my spending any money. After all, she's the one that earns it.

With that in mind, this morning I pitched next year's con schedule to her. It's mostly unambitious:
Dundracon (Feb. 18-21, 2011)
Fear the Con (March 17-19, 2011)
Kublacon (end of May, 2011; date not yet confirmed)
Big Bad Con (Oct. 7-9, 2011)

The unusual one in that list is Fear the Con. It's not in the Bay Area like the others. It's the second newest of them (Big Bad Con is a new con for 2011; the organiser is someone I know by sight, and I'm looking to go there and help him make a success of it), in that 2011 is the 4th, but being out of state is the big thing. It would involve a trip to St Louis, almost certainly without the LA. On the other hand, Fear the Con is tiny, very friendly, and the con itself is astoundingly cheap even before one factors in the free beer.

I've been given agreement to do budgetary studies for these. Frankly, I'll drop Kublacon from the schedule before I drop Fear the Con...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Knit Dice

When I started to knit, I was short of ideas after my first garter stitch scarf, but rapidly realised that with increases and decreases, I could knit shapes. Then I decided, well, I'm a gamer, and I like dice. Why not work out how to knit the faces of dice?

The results turned out well:
d8 Mark 2

All sewn up

And now, I've released the pattern, so you can work out how to do it yourself. Have fun, and feel free to share pictures!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

She said it.

The LA has a blog. Its title is "Productivity through Procrastination", and that state, I have today achieved. You see... well, it's a somewhat involved story. It starts with my discovery of Lego, in the mists before I was properly forming memories (and before Lego was ventilated to prevent choking; I remember the introduction, without fanfare, of the swallow-safe Lego cylinders!), and the love of making things that protean toy introduced. I've always loved making things, be they useless or merely decorative, and very recently, a friend I made through making things (one of the theatre folk) made me aware of a place by the name of TechShop.

TechShop costs money, of course, but frankly, for what they offer, they are EXTREMELY inexpensive. $1200 per annum is peanuts for practically unfettered access to a very well-equipped workshop; I have ideas for things I wish to make there, but at present, the LA and I simply cannot shake loose the necessary budget. To that end, I'm looking for a job.

Which would be why the bookshelves and table in the game room are the best-organised they've been in six months.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A blast from the past.

When I first began knitting, I had trouble deciding what to knit. I finished up making dice, which at least introduced me to the basic techniques. I documented them on Ravelry, before I pretty much stopped remembering to document projects.

Now, someone has found them, and begged me to write up the patterns.

Fortunately, I did make good enough notes at the time to extract the formulae needed to let people work out how to do it, and so I spent this morning writing up the patterns and providing worked examples. There's a little more work to be done, but fairly soon, I should have my first pattern available for download.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Harping on

By now, I doubt I have any readers who don't know of my bursitis. To summarise its progress, though, it arose around the 5th or 6th inst., having been heralded by something resembling a large and exceedingly angry zit. I popped that, and the next day, my elbow was swollen, red, hot and tender to the touch, and felt like a highly pressurised bag of water. All in all, a classic presentation of bursitis caused by an infection. My hypothesis is that I was bitten by an insect, providing a vector for some nasty bacterium to invade, but really, the cause is not entirely important.

On the Friday of the first week, I took it to my doctor, who prescribed antibiotics and ice. The ice helped, but the initial antibiotics didn't; I turned out to be allergic to them. The second attempt worked out better; I finished taking those on Sunday, and by then the pressure was much reduced.

As of today, I'm declaring the trouble officially over. I can find no trace of the inflammation, there's no pain, and the elbow doesn't look significantly different from its pre-bursitis appearance, with one exception.

The skin has much improved. For as long as I can remember caring, that elbow has had exceedingly dry skin, and nothing has been willing to help much. While the bursitis was stretching the skin, the horrible dry layers were abraded gently off by my shirtsleeves, and now that it's gone down, I find that the skin beneath is smooth and in good condition. I shall have to take care to keep it that way.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A little housekeeping.

You may have noticed that the theme changed recently. I've also added the "sharing" buttons, should anyone care to use them, and the tickyboxes to say things. The "more please" and "less please" ones will be used to judge what you fine folks enjoy reading about, so that I (hopefully) don't bore you too much.

The bathtub curve

Anyone in engineering or technical professions will be familiar with this concept. In brief, it states that the likelihood of failure for a given thingummy will be high when it is new, will see a fairly rapid drop as it's sorted out (because, after all, you cannot test for everything, and the real world has a habit of finding things you didn't test for), and then will stay pretty low until the end of its life. Basically, your stuff will fail when it's brand spanking new, or will fail when it's "old" (and we must bear in mind that for many things, "old" is defined as "one day after the expiration of the manufacturer's warranty"), but in between that, is highly likely to work right without bothering you. If it survives the initial period, it's good to go for a long time.

This applies to humans as well. There are many ways to become broken in childhood, and many diseases and infirmities to which the elderly are prey, but in between, provided one makes reasonable efforts, the first world is a remarkably non-fatal place. I was reminded of this by realising that I'm actually considered a very good risk in health insurance terms; I'm "too young" for such things as prostate trouble, while being old enough to know better than to do things like jumping off buildings, and as long as I keep my weight reasonable (which I have been doing; I did gain a chunk after moving, but have now lost it again and so far am keeping it off, although I could stand to lose more) I'm quite alright regarding many potential issues. My teeth are in maintenance mode; with my paucity of fillings, there's little to go wrong as long as I clean them daily, which I do (in fact, I can't sleep these days without the hint of mint...). My eye exams happen every two years; in between, my vision doesn't change significantly (although at my level of myopia, a quarter dioptre is insignificant; must ask, next time, for a list of places which offer laser surgery).

Sadly, these salad days will inevitably come to an end, and the time will come when I can no longer maintain rude health by means of telling my doctor to eff off. Until that happens, though, I have my health, and intend to enjoy it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Do it fast enough and it doesn't hurt.

The weather, here in our little corner of Nova Albion, continues hot. Not, admittedly, as hot as Arizona, in which I'm informed by a resident that it is indeed physically possible to fry an egg on the road, but certainly hotter than it normally becomes in, for example, the UK. The current temperature outside, as reported by a local weather station within optimistic stone-throwing distance, is 88.1 °F / 31.2 °C; this is fairly typical for an inland area of this state, at this time of year.

Naturally, both the LA's car and mine are getting a goodly amount of use out of their respective air conditioners. While mine is operating nowhere near its achievable maximum (I'm informed, by someone who has done it, that that system can be induced to produce duct temperatures below freezing; it ices up over the course of an hour, at which point one deactivates the compressor and allows the melting of the ice to cool air until such time as the coils are clear and cooling can begin again), it operates satisfactorily enough.

However, that's not the point of this narrative. No, my point is that despite the heat (and the inadequacy of the house's air conditioner; while its duct temperatures would be adequate for a properly ducted house, this house is by no means properly ducted; half of the house becomes much cooler than the other half, in which reside the Wii, the television, the DVD player which of late we've been using to observe goings-on aboard a vessel by the name of Battlestar Galactica, and sundry other entertaining devices), cooking a good meal is still possible, provided only that one does so as rapidly as can be managed. Tonight, the protein came in the form of sausages (precooked, so only requiring to be heated through), and they were accompanied with corn on the cob (prepared by my usual method, which uses a microwave; it handily beats any stovetop method for convenience and flavour), potato wedges (somewhat of a specialty of mine), and baked carrots. The baked carrots were rather experimental; they'll be a regular part of my repertoire from now on.

The reason they were experimental is that I had stolen the recipe from a friend. Or rather, I'd stolen the fact that such a pleasant result was possible; not only was I attempting to replicate it using a fundamentally different oven (gas vs electric, a contest which inevitably falls to the favour of gas in my opinion), I'd had no guidance. Thankfully, my instinct for cooking saw me through; the period of guessing was mercifully short. That is what the title refers to; not the act of cooking itself!

Friday, July 16, 2010

At times, I become confused.

Right now, my shirts are confusing me. Allow me to explain...

This began with the initial attempt at antibiotic treatment for the bursitis I've been harping on about ad nauseam (which is, should you desire to know, going down, thankfully), which medication came with a warning to remain out of direct sunlight. Not a problem, said I; I shall simply wear linen trousers and long sleeves. That, however, was before I consulted my stocks of clothing, to find that I was near-devoid of long-sleeved shirts. Cue a trip to the clearance racks of a local department store, from which the LA and I extracted a selection of light long-sleeved shirts at considerable discount.

Two of them, so far, have had features which mystify me to some extent. The first is a well-known brand, although not as much known for shirts - people associate Levi Strauss with jeans, and rightly so. However, they do make quite decent shirts; one of my favourite short-sleeved shirts is one of their products. This long-sleeved shirt, though, had two odd features. First, it's largely devoid of buttons; the front is closed by snap fasteners, with a pearl-like finish upon the exposed surface. Second, it has a front yoke; the upper shoulders are oversewn with a bias-cut version of the main fabric, which is very obviously on the bias due to the chequered pattern. I'm starting to think that these odd features are part of an attempt to appear old-fashioned; the snaps as an imitation of studs, and the front yoke because in years gone by, a front yoke was common. Not that it particularly matters; the shirt is comfortable and looks good on me, and that is after all what matters.

The second shirt is the one I happen to be wearing today. It's fairly unremarkable in most ways; the strangest thing is the presence of a moulded autograph on all the buttons. It appears to be that of one Tony Hawk, whoever he may be. However, it has one feature whose presence is an annoyance to me; the mystery is why it's considered necessary.

When wearing a long-sleeved shirt, it may become necessary at some point to roll the sleeves up. This is easy to accomplish, and when done correctly (folding the cuff back, and then folding back the folded-back cuff, and so on, such that you always have a wide folded-back section as opposed to a mere sausage of fabric) is perfectly secure. However, it appears Americans aren't expected to understand the concept of rolling up one's sleeves properly; this shirt has buttons approximately halfway up the bicep, and internal straps to retain wadded-up sleeves. I'm rather disappointed that such measures are considered necessary.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I owe my family a deal of thanks.

As you probably know, my original move to the US was not intended as a move. It became a move following advice from an immigration attorney that we had one chance to make it work out as it has; we seized that chance.

As a result of the unplanned nature of the move, I found that many things I would otherwise have brought with me are still in the UK. My parents are storing most of them, and eventually I have no doubt that I shall return to claim my own. In the meanwhile, many of my favourite books have been inaccessible to me.

However, in recent weeks, a trickle has begun. My mother sent me a copy of China Mieville's The Scar, which is greatly appreciated if only for the better cover and spellings; I had already resigned myself, and shortly beforehand, bought a US edition. In fact, I have the three China Mievilles that I love here, and so don't need any more sent over. Today, I received from my older sister a parcel containing my copies (and they are my copies; I recognise the handwriting of the price...) of Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and The Diamond Age. That completes to my satisfaction my collection of Neal Stephenson. At this point, the collection I miss most is my K J Parkers; particularly the Scavenger and Fencer trilogies, since I've re-bought the first two of the Engineer trilogy (in part because I prefer the US covers of these).

I'm having difficulty thinking of anything else by way of books I'm actively missing that's neither game rules nor a comic. I can, for as long as it's required, live with the film tie-in edition of Lord of the Rings, if I want to read it again, for example.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Well that was fun.

For certain values of fun, anyway. Remember the bursitis? I took it to my doctor last Friday, and he looked at it, agreed it was a problem, and to go with rest and ice, prescribed a course of a generic for Bactrim DS, which is a nicely effective (at the moment) cocktail of two antibiotics, both from the same general family.

Well, over the succeeding days, I took my pills like a good little patient, and found that I was getting more and more wooly-headed, irritable, and suffering a very annoying muscle weakness. This morning, I got up fine, but after having breakfast (which included the morning dose) I was colliding with doorways, and could barely stand up.

Turns out, I have an allergy to the family of antibiotics I was taking. So, we're trying a different one (or will be, as soon as the pharmacy receives the script), and hopefully those will have rather less effectiveness on me than on the bacteria. It also doesn't list any interactions with ethanol, but I'll be staying off the beer anyway.

Meanwhile, the bursitis is apparently clearing up somewhat. I honestly can't tell, since I see it every day.

Friday, July 9, 2010

It never fails.

Recently, the LA and I have established a regular routine on the first or occasionally second weekend of every month: we meet up with friends (mostly "my" friends, although we both spend time with them) and go bowling.

The June session was interesting; I'd injured my thumb a few weeks before, and so the bowling produced a lovely blood blister. That thumb's healed now.

However, I've developed a lovely bursitis in my left elbow, just in time for the July trip (which was delayed by it being a holiday weekend and everyone having other plans).

Anyone care to make book on what I'll have wrong with me for August?

Edited to add: I'm guaranteed to bowl poorly. The antibiotics I've been prescribed are a no-beer-with-these type.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Now comes the tricky part.

Last time, I told you of the LA and I getting our friends around to help clear our yard. Now, though... now, it's clear, and we have to decide what to do with it. We'd appreciate some help with that... and so, here's a distinctly cropped screenshot from Google Earth. I made sure it was properly North-aligned, so you can judge sun angles.

The projection at the Northerly end is a two-car garage, to give you some sense of scale, although the pickups next door ought to help with that too. They're about the size of a Toyota Tacoma/Hilux.

Currently, I'm considering gravel along both side paths, with a small shed at the front end of the southerly one (currently, there's a fence blocking it; the gate is at the North side); the awkward, sharper rear corner becoming a vegetable garden of raised beds, with perhaps a compost clamp or two; hardstanding for a table and some chairs under the lemon tree, and scattered paving slabs with some invasive, drought-tolerant stuff like mint for ground cover filling in most of the remainder. Perhaps even a barbecue grill (heavens, me advocating outdoor cooking?) somewhere near the Northerly limit of the back fence.

As for the front, frankly I'd cheerfully gravel the whole lot bar the rosebushes that regularly get crowded out by weeds. The obstacle is of course the price of gravel.

One of my objectives is to minimise water usage and maintenance. I don't want a lawn that I'd have to water, mow and so on; something that can stand the natural climate of the Bay Area is far more preferable. I don't mind in the slightest watering the vegetables; those, I get to eat.

Of course, this assumes staying here on the order of years. If our plans don't include that, then I'm inclined to simply weedwhack the yards on a regular basis and not bother with anything resembling improvements.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The power of the crowd...

The LA and I have been unsatisfied with the state of our backyard for some time, but, well, clearing out the jungle of weeds it had grown was beyond our abilities. We have roughly 600 square yards in this property, and even removing the roughly 1500 square feet of the house (roughly 167 square yards), that's a lot of area, and the weeds were big. We had almost given up... but we decided to ask for help, and our friends most definitely delivered.

Yesterday was a serious Work day; Ric, a very dear friend, came over with tools and knowledge, and absolutely boundless energy. How such a thin man maintains such huge reserves of energy is beyond me; with his help, we improved our lemon tree (which, incidentally, produces the sweeter Meyer lemon, edible in its own right and as easy to peel as a mandarin orange) by pruning, trimmed back a willow hanging over (and in fact leaning upon) our back fence, and got a significant amount of the backyard trimmed down to almost bare soil. In the process, we discovered that much of the yard was previously paved. We also managed to kill our cheap weed whacker (for the Brits: strimmer) by losing the spring of the line feeder. Considering just how much use we got from a $25 machine, we're not complaining; we just bought a better one this morning (more cut width, more powerful motor, easier reloading, better cord management) for a little more.

Today was more of a party. We had multiple people over, and some of their children who helped us by harvesting some lemons, and then learning to make lemonade, which kept them out from underfoot as we trimmed and strimmed more of the yard, and discovered a yellowjacket nest; the property managers will be getting a call regarding same!

The job, of course, is not done. It's never finished. It is, however, well started; I can now continue the good work, and as the place improves, invite friends here more. I'll be waiting for the blisters to heal a bit before getting too into continuing, though; this weekend has left me with multiple popped blisters and a strong thirst. Time, I think, to open the bottle of India Pale Ale I've been saving!

Thursday, June 3, 2010


It seems that in the nearly two years I've been a temporary permanent resident of the US, the rules have changed. Two years ago, an immigration attorney told me that I could apply for citizenship when I applied for permanent permanent resident status (the earliest I can do that, incidentally, is 90 days prior to the expiration of my temporary permanent residency; the start of next week), but now I need three years of permanent residency (since I'm a spouse of a US citizen; otherwise, it would be even longer, and I'd have had a harder time gaining permanent residency) and I don't know if the two years I've had will count. Be that as it may, I can still apply before my British passport expires, even if the 2 years don't count.

Meanwhile, I'm currently working on my second sock. The first one went reasonably well, but there were some niggles. Things I didn't get right. First, the cast-on (figure-8; I do socks toe-up, to avoid a need to graft and so I can cope with running out of yarn) was horribly loose. This was partly because it's not a great cast-on, and partly because doing it with DPNs has a tendency to mess things up and loosen it to the point of its degeneration into holes. For this sock, I switched to a circular (but still square; I much prefer squares at this needle size for their controllability and even tension) and to Judy's Magic Cast-On, and the combination has eased things tremendously. The short-row heel works well for me, but on the first sock I started it a little early. Easily fixed. The final problem is that the 2x2 ribbing I used for the cuff of the first sock is too loose and floppy. I'll still be using it for the second sock, but for future pairs, since I'm using the nice simple sewn bind-off, I can just switch to a 1x1 rib that'll fix that easily.

And eventually, I'll start doing fancy cabled socks and the like. Not yet, though.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Note: the following post contains thoughts regarding the series finale of Lost. You may not want to read it, whether because you didn't watch Lost, haven't seen the finale yet, or whatever. I'll try to avoid spoiling.

I didn't get into Lost immediately. It was just finishing up its first season when I first visited the LA (in fact, I distinctly remember predicting one notable event based on information given onscreen), and I never really had the opportunity to catch up until I moved here. By then, season 4 was on, and I had to scramble to catch up, which I did not long before the start of season 5. By then, the huge plot had grabbed me, and I was looking forward eagerly to see how they finished up season 6, the final season.

As it turns out, neither the LA nor I were impressed. Season 6 had some very good points, but the last "half-hour" of the final episode... pretty much killed it. Frankly... it was glurge. They could, and should, have cut it, run two hours, and left the question that it answered open.

In other news, Kublacon is this weekend, and I was going to be there. As it turned out... not so much. My crash space fell through, and after driving home last night, I was scared to find that I had no memory of the drive. I didn't crash, so clearly I was doing OK, and I've checked my car for tickets and found none, but I do NOT want that to happen again - so it's off for this year. For next year, I'll find a cheap place to stay, rather than counting on a friend's couch.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Lately, I've been reorganising bookshelves. The game room looks rather better than it did before. Today, the decluttering spread to the garage; I'd made arrangements to sell one of the old steel wheels my Volvo was no longer using to a chap on the mailing list. He came by this afternoon, picked up his wheel (for use as a full-size spare; I've actually put one of them into the back of my car for that use, not without a little extra fun getting the floor of the boot to lay flat on the distinctly wider wheel) and decided, since he's using the car to teach his daughter to drive, having some extra hubcaps might not be a bad idea either.

That's saved me some craigslist advertising and the associated annoyance, and netted me some useful cash.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The sweet and spicy smell of success

Yesterday (by my time, at least; time zones make it more complex internationally) my older sister posted a recipe for Ginger Fairings. Today, I procured the necessary ingredients, and made baking happen. Reproduced is her recipe, with my annotations.

8 oz plain flour (yes, by weight. You Americans only use volume because way back when, accurate scales were hard to come by)
4 oz margarine (really margarine. 99.9% of the time, butter is better for baking. This is the exception)
4 oz granulated sugar
4 oz golden syrup (2 tablespoons or thereabouts) (Americans and expats in America can substitute with a roughly 2:1 mix of light corn syrup and mild molasses - it's not right, but it's close enough as long as you don't mind them being crunchy instead of chewy. And you really should weigh this - two tablespoons was nowhere near enough, I had to add more as the mixer went. When weighing, I suggest using a small bowl that you've greased. Cooking spray works well for this.)
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon mixed spice (doesn't seem to be sold by Safeway; I used a quarter-teaspoon each of nutmeg and cloves, and a half-teaspoon of allspice, and I'm happy with that)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6/395 degrees F

EITHER sift together dry ingredients, rub in margarine, add syrup and mix together to form a smooth pliable paste

OR (what I do) bung everything into food processor and whizz until it forms a ball

By hand, roll into a long sausage. Cut off small sections and shape into balls (makes 32). Place on greased baking tray, leaving plenty of room for spreading. Bake on top shelf until golden (about 7 minutes), then on a lower shelf to drop and spread for 4 - 5 minutes. When you take them out of the oven, slap the baking sheet down onto a heat-resistant surface (the top of your stove is generally ideal, being solid and heatproof) to get rid of the domed appearance. If you ever had an Apple III, this will likely be familiar to you. Cool on a wire rack (best left on baking sheet for a few minutes if possible - they're very fragile at first). Do attempt not to burn your mouth eating them - this is the tricky part, as they smell absolutely gorgeous.

And this is what they look like:

Yes, I know the recipe says that it makes 32, and there are only 31 there. You don't think I'd post this without making sure they were right, now do you?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Definitely not.

So... how does one end up at the urgent care facility having one's thumb glued together, from installing path lighting? Allow me to 'splain...

So, the path lights we bought a dozen of came, as such things do, in pieces. First, you turn them on (or rather to "auto"), then you place in the inner diffuser, then the outer light cover (this to defocus the blue-white LED that is the rather pretty light source), and then you do the stake. This consists of a plastic ground stake, and a length of rather crappy quality pipe. The ends of the pipe are rather rough and sharp. You place the spike on the end of the pipe, and you push this into the ground.

Or rather, you attempt to. We're on a heavy clay, and so on several attempts, the spike merely telescoped into the pipe. Naturally, I had to fix this; I did so using the handle of the two-part lug wrench (wheelbrace, for the British audience) which came with my car (newly furnished with a locking filler cap, thanks to the flap's untimely departure; I keep at least $70 worth of petrol in there, I'd like a little security if the cap's sitting out fully exposed), pushing the substantial length of metal into the pipe and forcing the spike back out.

Until one, where I was a little too vigorous, and succeeded in slamming the end of my thumb into the mouth of the pipe.

We initially attempted a fix with a knuckle band-aid; I bled right through depressingly fast, and so it was off to urgent care we went, to wait a long while (I had a book, the LA her puzzles; we coped), where I was the demonstration model as the medical assistant was shown the use of Dermabond. Dermabond, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is simply very pure, hypoallergenic cyanoacrylate. Superglue.

And so my thumb is glued together, and should heal with little scarring, although if it does scar, it won't be alone. I do wonder, though, if it scars, do I have to notify the INS? And will their scanner error out like it did on several of my other fingerprints?

Not the best of weeks.

So far, at any rate. The LA has had trouble remembering to keep herself supplied with soda at the office, and as for me... well, I've been forgetting to get stuff when grocery shopping, and yesterday was a really un-fun day.

It started with a cold shower. The water heater's pilot light had gone out. I relit it, and got on with the day... making an emergency soda run to the LA's office, where I arrived just while she was out of the office, of course. Then I had to fill up my car... and the hinge of the flap covering the actual petrol cap broke, causing the flap to fly about four feet forward as it detached itself by means of the spring which keeps it closed. The resulting lack of flap is ugly and unaerodynamic (insofar as my brick is at all aerodynamic) and so I've ordered a replacement hinge (which should, per the Post Office's FAQ, arrive on Monday) and wil be enjoying the process of installing that when it gets here. By mid-afternoon yesterday, I was triggery and unhappy, and finished up having to call short the knitting evening I regularly go to on Wednesdays, forcing the LA to drive me home (and normally, I drive; yesterday, I was in no fit state to).

And this morning... the water heater was out again. Burst, in fact, and pouring water into the crawlspace. The owner of this house is notoriously difficult to contact, and today has been no exception; fortunately, the property management company is willing to take what heat there may be and has said "This needs to be fixed now. Do it." The plumbers are, as I type, finding a suitable replacement water heater for the 1994-vintage one we had been using.

I'm at a loss as to why the intake pipe was lagged while the output one wasn't. Ah well.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A nation of shoppers.

I'm rather lucky where I live; ignoring the abusive employer, I have three different supermarkets (US English: grocery stores) within a reasonable distance of my home. I shop at all three; one is good for basics, but doesn't do produce well, one does produce exceptionally well but can be tricky to find basics in, and one has more esoteric stuff (such things as cheese with flavour, beer with flavour, steel-cut oats for my breakfasts, and so on) that the other two don't carry.

Unfortunately, until today, all three of them lacked something I wish was more common: peeled shrimp/prawns. Shell-on, sure. Tail-on, sure, but you know what? Like everyone else on the planet, I don't eat the tail. It has no place in my food.

Fortunately, today I found such shrimp. They'll be a regular item as long as I can get 'em.

Now, if only I had any idea how to cook swordfish...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Take care with your advertising.

There's a discount grocery store chain that has branches in this area. There's one very near me, in fact. They advertise heavily on the annoying radio station the LA and I use to get ourselves out of bed in the morning, and so I hear their advert on a regular basis.

It's convinced me regarding my custom there; I'm never going to set foot in that benighted place.

You see their one advert is presented as an "interview" with their "whistleblower", otherwise known as a mystery shopper, who price-checks other places. They proudly proclaim that "he" works sixty hours a week making sure their prices are the lowest. Let me reiterate: sixty hours a week.

No company that considers 60 hours an acceptable work week deserves my money. Whether it's six ten-hour shifts or five twelve-hour shifts, that's too much work. I have this crazy idea that everyone deserves to have a life outside of work.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Linguistic diffusion

Those of you who've spoken with me will know of my affinity for wordplay, silly turns of phrase, and general tomfoolery with language. I enjoy producing intelligible sentences which express my meaning in unexpected ways.

One turn of phrase I particularly like is noting that "his budgie's fallen off" when seeing a particularly pronounced spoiler on a car. It expresses the disdain I feel for someone who actually thinks such a thing does anything but cause drag on a road car.

Tonight, the LA made me rather happy, as we were circulating looking for a parking space at the knitting group; she commented upon "the car with the missing budgie". It took me a moment to realise she was using the wordplay I'd picked up from my father; she was commenting upon the Subaru with the huge spoiler which was badly parked right where I'd have liked to park.

I do believe I'm rubbing off on her.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An interesting diversion

Last Monday, my younger sister arrived on a plane. She'd decided to come and play tourist, since last time she was over here (almost two years ago; I really have been married for that long!) she was only here for three days, and didn't get to do much. She certainly fixed that this time!

We started off with a jaunt to Muir Woods, via the Golden Gate. That was a full day, and very enjoyable; quite apart from the attractions, I got to drive some very nice roads! We also went up Mount Diablo, and then she started going into the City, without me or the LA with her. She's a big girl, and can handle it; and besides, I was coming down with lurgi.

Of course, as you no doubt know, while she was over here, Iceland got a zit. It's a young landmass, one must expect these things; but it closed British airspace. We're accounting her very lucky to have been minimally disrupted; she's at the airport now, and her flight is scheduled to leave today as planned.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Reading the instructions

I'm rather atypical for a male. Reading the instructions is something I do as a first resort, not the last resort. I'll cheerfully leap into a job and work out how to do it as I go, but if there are instructions, I'll read them, and despite my ancestry, I'll generally make the effort to use the correct tools.

In the case of Silas vs. the Alloy Wheels, that meant a torque wrench for setting the wheel nuts correctly. The spider I keep with the spare is excellent for taking off the nuts, since it's got rather more leverage than the included two-part wrench, but since today I was performing a long-term swap from the steel wheels the previous owners had on the car to alloys, I wanted a better metric for how to set the torque than simply noting how much I had to grunt to break the nuts free.

This is rendered important by the spec for this car. Most cars specify wheel nut torque in the region of 85-100 foot pounds, while applying that much torque to the nuts on this car would be Bad. It's specced at 85Nm, which translates to roughly 65 foot pounds. This little detail is stamped into the front hubs, visible while torquing the nuts, and so one would hope that even places which don't know this already would notice. Sadly, when I removed the front wheels, I found that they'd been set to typical torque specs - the 85-100 foot pounds that flirts with stripping the studs on this car.

Still, I now have Volvo alloy wheels fitted, and they do look nice. Quite an improvement in looks over the steel wheels it did have, especially considering it was using the original, much-abused hubcaps. The alloys are also lighter, which will translate to improved ride and handling due to the lower unsprung weight. This may also improve fuel economy, although this will probably not be significant. And finally, I'm feeling a nice sense of satisfaction in having achieved the swap without help (and, usefully, without a peanut gallery) and not broken a single thing, or found anything bojangled. The latter part is somewhat rare; it can be unwelcome to begin a repair, as one will almost always uncover another problem in the course of reaching the first...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New hobbies

I've acquired more hobbies than simply knitting, playing boardgames, and fixing my car. Now, I'm painting miniatures, and I've begun jogging. Yes, I've long disparaged joggers, but it's more interesting than running on the spot, and I do need to get more exercise.

The miniatures painting is connected with the boardgaming; one of the regulars of my group is running a role-playing game campaign starting in August, and I decided I would paint a miniature to represent myself. Since the painting supplies run into money, it's worth painting more minis, once the investment is made; I have enough paint for literally hundreds of minis, so it's going to continue cheaply. Besides, I have a boardgame which has plastic figures for players; they came unpainted, but they'll look great painted.

As for the jogging, last time I saw my doctor, he was concerned about my cholesterol levels, so I'm working on diet and exercise to avoid statins. I've also decided to train to run a 5k at the start of June. That gives me a target to aim for, and I can measure my progress towards it; when I can run twelve laps of the block I live on, that's three miles; just short of 5000 metres. I have a way to go before I can manage that, but I will do it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An update on the car...

I've been doing quite a lot of work on my car of late. Just last week, things came to a point where the LA authorised the purchase of new parts, and so I ordered (from a well-recommended parts supplier in Connecticut) a pair of struts for the boot lid, a door switch, and several bulbs. The bulbs are a special type, used only by Volvo, and cost $9 apiece from the dealership... from this place, $7, which (with the failure rate) was about what I'd been paying from the junkyard.

And now, my car is in better shape than when I bought it. The messed-up starboard bow is no longer so; I've replaced pretty much everything that was on that corner now, and I know my work is good. The tired trunk lid is no more; it positively leaps open now. All the switches light up (the gear shift quadrant still doesn't, but I've come to the conclusion that they built the entire car around that bulb, much like 240s were infamously built around the blower motor) and all the interior trim is solidly attached. All the doors now trigger the interior lights and their marker lights correctly.

I'm proud of just how much of the improvement is stuff I have done myself. There's a little of my soul in that car now. I'm also amused by the fact that my car now has a front that is roughly 50% from the previous model - and yet it looks as it should!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Free is always good, right?

Certainly in this case. Sometimes, other offices in the same building as the LA's office will be throwing out furniture. Usually, it's desks and suchlike, and not that great, but yesterday, while I was sitting quietly in the corner of her office (upside of a family firm) because my car was in the shop, we realised that the table which was being thrown out was actually a good size for gaming upon - and 6' x 3' is a better form factor than 42" x 42" for gaming, so... we realised that even after my car was out of the shop, we couldn't get it home. Too large for either car. Had we been lucky enough to have a Volvo wagon, it wouldn't have been an issue, but when buying used, one's options are restricted.

Fortunately, one of our regular Wednesday night knitting group drives a compact pickup (for Europeans: a pickup truck. Full-sized trucks are never seen in Europe) and was willing to help us get it home. It was once we'd done that that we discovered it was too large to fit through the door of the gaming room, a trait shared with its predecessor... so, today, out came the tools and it was knocked down to size. Now, my game room contains a table which can seat six comfortably, eight if they're friendly.

It'll be fun to move, though. In the sense of "not fun at all".

Monday, March 15, 2010

US Census 2010

The LA and I received the form today. For all the usual ballyhoo about how invasive it is, it doesn't want anything like as much as the UK government wanted in 2001. Heck, the LA informs me that it's less invasive than the 2000 census was over here. What it wants is: how many people live at the address the form was sent to, whether they own, rent, or squat, and for each person it wants name, relationship to person #1, age, Hispanic origin if applicable (which, incidentally, is officially Not A Race Thing; I don't quite understand), race, and whether that person occasionally lives elsewhere (to avoid double-counting).

The LA and I were unsatisfied with the options presented for the race question.

We both checked "other" and wrote in: HUMAN.

Please, do likewise. Let's get enough people writing in HUMAN to make them give it its own statistical bucket!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Growing up

Not something I ever intended to do, but lately I've had great fun playing a board game in which one manipulates the stock market, and today the LA and I were spring-cleaning. Yes, really.

We've decided our 5-foot dresser (for UK family: low chest of drawers, not what you'd call a dresser) really, honestly, had to go. It's been broken since LA, it's been a pig to move the last two times we've moved, and it's far too heavy for what it does. It's likely to meet the business end of a sledgehammer, once we can procure an assisstant to move the blasted thing out of the house. I've also been reorganising my game room, which now has much more space (despite almost no changes; not sure what happened there) and we're going to be reorganising the garage as well.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about all of this maturity, but I think I can live with having a house in which we can find things. We've already found some things which have been lost since... well, since before I arrived in one case, and that's been a while now!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Home is the gamer, and he's pitching...

So, this weekend was DunDraCon, an annual event. Last year was my first year, and thanks to some annoying factors (not having a driver's license, my own car, or a hotel room), I didn't get a really wonderful experience. I also didn't really meet people much. This year, things were different; I'd persuaded friends to attend (by taking care of the upfront cost of the hotel room, and having them pay me back at the con), and I managed to actually talk to people and get into pickup games. The net result is a new enthusiasm for con attendance, and a determination that this year is the last year of not running a game. Next year, look out for a game entitled Strike the Earth.

I'll be using my favourite fantasy system, Burning Wheel, and the setting will be lifted wholesale from the excellent (in many ways...) Dwarf Fortress. That should make for a very comic game, and the frankly obscene starting power level (it's a con game; there won't be any character advancement, so I can safely do crazy things in creation) will help that along. It may help to read the Let's Plays to gain a feeling for the setting.

Towards the summer, I'm going to need playtesters. It'll be a six-person game, and I'm shooting for hopefully around six hours of content.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Big Game

So apparently there was some kind of sporting event yesterday. There were also a number of exceptionally expensive adverts.

Frankly, I'd rather the Six Nations. Pretty much the same game, but there's far more action in Union.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I would like there to be a new car available.

It would look something like a Volvo 240 - utilitarian, maybe even boxy. It would have a basic, powerful-enough 4-cylinder engine, installed longitudinally, mated to either a five-ratio manual gearbox or a mechanically-controlled automatic gearbox with a locking torque converter, driving the rear wheels (with all-wheel-drive as an option). It would have a slew of airbags, crumple zones, and all the necessary safety features. Four-wheel disc brakes, ABS, all that good stuff that helps you avoid crashing in the first place. It would have all the usual OBD-II diagnostics, as necessary these days for legal reasons. The throttle would be controlled by a cable pulling on a spring-loaded butterfly valve.

It would not be the average car, though. It would, as standard, not have power accessories. No power windows, no power locks, no power seats... optionally, yes, but not on the base model. Power steering and power brakes, yes. It would also have a feature not commonly found on OBD-II cars: no reader would be required to get codes. There would be a readout under the bonnet to get the codes, and an explanation of the codes in the owner's manual. This would be a utilitarian car, designed to get the user from one place to another with a reasonable amount of stuff, and to be easy to fix. Tool-less replacement of bulbs, a basic toolkit included, and the aforementioned code readout would make it more appealing to the hobbyist.

Of course, it would never sell. People, in general, don't want a car that assumes they're competent at wrench-turning. Those who do are an exception, and not a unified market; while there are plenty of Volvo-enthusiast hobbyists, there are just as many people who tune hot rods, classic American iron, and so on, and there's less crossover than I would like. Just try to sell a reborn Volvo 240 to a Corvette fanatic!

But if I ever win the lottery, inherit Bill Gates's millions, or somehow come into possession of that sort of money, I'm definitely going to attempt to license the designs for the Volvo 240 and its red block engine, and bankroll this.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Why the world will not end in 2012.

Lately, there's been a lot of hoo-ha about "The Mayan calendar ends in 2012, they knew something!", and as always with apocalyptic predictions, plenty of films, TV shows, and other rubbish talking it up. Unfortunately for the doomsayers, it's all a load of hooey.

You see, the Mayan Long Count which is running out of numbers in 2012 is actually extensible. It merely needs another digit to continue on for far longer than it has done already. There aren't any predictions we've found in Mayan sources regarding the end of the calendar. All that's happening is a problem like the year 2000 bug: they thought they had plenty of headroom, but now people are still paying attention when they're running into a technical limit. A very similar issue is in store for 32-bit Unix-based systems (for those who don't know exactly what that is, it's not too important) in 2038, when their time storage system runs out of numbers; the time storage system used is very simple, being a count of nominal seconds (86400 per day, ignoring leap seconds) since 1/1/1970, but in 2038, it runs out of numbers.

So, please, don't worry about 2012. The worst problem that's likely to occur is possible riots because so many idiots believe the predictions of doom.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Looking back

This has been the first decade I've been an adult (legally, at any rate) all the way through. It's seen a fair bit of change in me, too.

At the start of 2000, I was in university, failing a chemistry degree. I changed to a geology degree, but eventually failed at that too, and dropped out in 2004. Along the way, I discovered computers and the internet, became a computer gamer (I even bought games at release), and didn't really make much progress figuring out who I really was. Once I was on my own, I did get a job, I started a long-distance relationship over the internet, and I lost interest in the latest and greatest games. For one thing, I couldn't afford to keep up with the power curve.

Between trouble staying in work (jobs on short-term contracts are less than ideal) and difficulty resisting the temptation to spend money, I spent a couple of years stuck in limbo, from 2005 to 2007. Eventually, I got myself out of debt and could allow myself to come over to the US. This was originally going to be a brief visit, but after advice from an immigration attorney, the LA and I tied the knot on February 29th 2008 at the LAX courthouse. We started the paperwork to get me a green card, and also started planning a reception. That took place in August 2008, and the paperwork was done a month later. Since then, I've become a volunteer for a theatre group in Berkeley, I've learned to drive, I've become the half-owner of an aging Volvo, I've switched my gaming interests from computers to tabletop (on the grounds that even if the table was bought in the 70s to eat dinner from, it doesn't need an upgrade to play the latest and greatest game of 2009), and I've not had a haircut in five years.

I'm happy with where I am right now. I know myself a lot better than I did ten years or even five years ago, and I've a lot more friends now than I did then. Naturally, there are areas I'd like to improve on, but the general picture is good.

Here's to a successful 2010 for everyone!