Who put the visa in lovely Meggie's passport?
Who put the sticker over page fifteen?
Who made my heart go dip da dip da dip?
Who was that man? I'd like to shake his hand!
He let my baby come and live with me!
(The original, in case you don't get the reference. That page has no pop-ups, but it does have a particularly buzzy MIDI.)
2. dezzikitty and I are happy and well in Athens, GA! It has been about a week since I have had a chance to read my Friends list, and even then I have been building up a list of LiveJournal articles to respond to when I have more time. As we are spending most of our time packing, I'm currently treating LiveJournal as a write-only medium. While I may make a valiant effort to catch back up, I think I've reached a point where the pragmatic thing to do would be to request pointers to items of special interest.
The visa application process was pleasantly surprisingly easy. We filled in an application form online and over-prepared a neatly-organised folder of supporting material. In the end, because we applied together in person, they only looked at our passports, the proof we supplied that we were seriously investigating marriage, the proof I provided that Meg could come and live with me, the proof I provided that I already have funds to fund Meg's stay in the UK without recourse to public benefits and the proof I provided that I'm employed and so will keep making enough to fund Meg and her bacon habit. :-) Then they went off to photocopy and things, then Meg and I amused each other hysterically by riffing on the thought that the concept that you can get a "Sole Representative" visa meant that certain types of fish might have their own diplomatic representation that might agitate not to be caught or eaten. Amused us, anyhow.
A few jokes about the delights or otherwise of living in Middlesbrough and five minutes of photocopying later, we were told that there would be no problems with the application and to come and reclaim Meg's newly visa-laden passport in about an hour. As the weather was lousy, we stayed in and waited the whopping total of, ooh, fifteen minutes before the passport was returned, accompanied by visa. Sadly there was no handshaking involved - otherwise, you know, far easier than expected; A++, would apply again. A huge round of applause to the lovely people at UK-Yankee, an invaluable source of information, source and help.
3. Other than that, New York was expensive but fun. Most of our time was spent helping Meg's sister parkingmeters settle in for her remarkable graduate school course at NYU. The most interesting piece of engineering I encountered in New York was at Target, where they had two floors and a separate escalator to transport shopping carts from floor to floor alongside the cart's owner. This cunning piece of design was facilitated by extra sets of wheels on the shopping carts and a very neat set of ramps to keep the carts horizontal at all times while toothed belts dragged the carts up the hill. (Predictably, a Wikipedia article explains it better.) I may be (strike that; I definitely am) easily impressed, but I hadn't seen these before and they impressed me. Surely state of the art?
It was interesting to see these first in the US, though; I might have expected they would be of most use in small-footprint shopping-crazy Singapore, where shopping centres regularly are three, four, five or more storeys tall and department stores can be similarly high. It's also interesting to note the unwelcome lack of travelators and moving walkways on the NYC subway, in contrast to the famous, nay, titular high-speed walkway at Montparnasse. I guess this illustrates the difference between the emphases on public-sector investment in France and private-sector investment in the US, but it occurs to me that there is a definite vacancy for the MTA to put out to tender the rights to install moving walkways (which would charge their users, of course) in some of the longer underground connections.
4. parkingmeters lives in a dorm where guests have to be signed in - and even once signed in, must deposit an acceptable picture-bearing identity card with security at the door. Fair enough, except that the passport that got me into the US was not considered suitable ID to get into a NYU dorm. What did do the trick, however, was my old University of Oxford Bodleian Library access card, issued almost twelve years ago and having expired in 1997, that I still store in my wallet for occasions such as exactly this. I wonder whether an old Bod card would trump a passport elsewhere in the US? Perhaps I'll try it at the British Consulate in New York next time...
5. The trip to New York included a third visit to Old Devil Moon, which I am convinced is my single favourite restaurant in the United States. (Down, Alex.) In each of our three visits, the Southern cooking has never been less than consistently very good and on at least two visits there has been something outstanding: my first visit had a wonderful dish with steak, pasta and salad (three of my favourites!) all on the same plate; this time, one of the starters on the specials menu was gazpacho soup featuring chunks of both mango and avocado. It worked surprisingly, radically well. I may have to attempt to make this soup myself and hope my efforts are more authentic than my disappointing attempts to recreate Charleston's cauliflower-and-cheese soup without the cheese.
6. On another evening, little-seen relatives of Meg took us to City Crab so Meg could get her seafood fix. After some very fine savouries - not least some more gazpacho soup accompanied by excellent sun-dried tomato bread rolls - our party of seven were shown the dessert menu. There were eight options on the menu, they all looked rather tempting, some people had been drinking and it wasn't too tricky to get the almost inevitable suggestion aired: eight different desserts among seven people. Indulgence has its place; if desserts are your vice, I strongly recommend adding DIY dessert tasting menus to your to-indulge list. :-) (I've thoroughly enjoyed the two dessert tasting menus I had before. One was at a touristy French chain on the Champs-Élysées and the other was at Finale in Cambridge, MA.)
The eight dishes included key lime pie, vanilla crème brûlée, strawberry cheesecake, peach and blueberry cobbler, chocolate brownie with caramel sauce, Oreo-cookie-ice-cream chocolate pie and samplers of both ice-creams and sorbet. We were all slightly too polite to actually polish off any of the desserts, though if you add up the various seven-eighths and three-fifths of dishes that were eaten, I think the seven of us combined to eat between 5½ and 6 portions of mixed dessert, which I think counts as being marginally on the right side of the indulgence/gluttony divide, though I had slightly more than my fair share. The crème brûlée came closest to being finished, though my personal favourites were, unexpectedly. the blackcurrant and mango sorbets.
7. Continuing to talk about food but heading waaaayyyy downmarket, it's always fun to be amused by the "crazy" things served at McDonalds stores overseas. This time the joke is on me, as the list of things I would expect never to be served at the Golden Arches has two members forcibly crossed off. It turns out that their new Asian salads feature mangetout (or snow peas in the native lingo) and edamame (again, if we're being boring, soy beans). A step above traditional Mickey D's fare and other reviewers agree. It's fun to order salads at UK McDonalds because my experience suggests there's an appreciable chance that the server won't know that McDonalds actually have them on the menu, but I hope this makes the hop across the pond to liven the salad selection up.
8. Changing from food to travel, those of you who have a trip through Heathrow's Terminal 3 in their near future may find it useful to know that a security line that stretches from the scanners past passport control to the Internet Café takes 66 minutes to pass through. Blarg. More than half of this is spent on the last sixty metres as the line between passport control and the single scanner winds its way up and back and up and back. Between this, Heathrow's restriction on hand luggage and the increased complexity of checking in, airports are really much less fun than they used to be. It doesn't help that you can't take liquids onto the 'plane - and if you're among the 10%-ish selected for secondary security, then they'll confiscate any sweets that they think weren't bought at the airport.
At least once you're off the ground, Virgin is as much fun as it ever was; along with their industry-leading-though-some-other-airli
9. Ever since wednesdayschild and uqx had their wedding at Trinity College, Cambridge, I've been interested to learn more about it. For instance, I found it interesting to look at the questions they might have asked you to solve and discuss at a Mathematics entrance interview. The first combinatorics question looked interesting but I couldn't quite see how to solve it, except that I worked out the logical steps that I had been missing in one of my dreams last night. A handy and pleasing trick, but not one on which to rely for current students; I reckon that that answer took about a week to dream up.
10. Turns out that the Greek word I was looking for is actually φιλια, so I was closer first time. Huh!