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September 3rd, 2006

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05:50 am - This (toot) is sudokus, S-U-D-O-K-U-S
1. Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?
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-airlines-have-caught-up V:Port entertainment system on most flights, even though I slept through the snack they served at teatime, I was able to beg a really good fruity flapjack from the gallery. It's also a good sign that I was able to get enough sleep to be able to miss a meal. Virgin may sadly not give you little yellow ducks on their amenity kits any more but they have Chinese and Japanese game shows on their entertainment systems and, well, that's not too bad a substitute as they go. (There was one weird Chinese game show with a number-guessing round where the unlucky loser rolled a giant foam dice and suffered that many pies in the face, followed by a round where losing contestants strapped into chairs struggled to catch umbrellas fired in their general direction, unwrap and erect them before the chairs were dragged backwards underneath showers. Wackily, most of the umbrellas had huge holes in the canvas. Chortle!)

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!
Current Location: Athens, GA
Current Mood: happyhappy

(17 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:September 3rd, 2006 05:14 am (UTC)
1&2 - YAY again!! I'm glad after the worries that it all went so easily.

3 - They have one of those cart escalators at the IKEA just down the road - such a bizarre thing, but it does make sense, doesn't it?

My news you and Meg already know - off to LA a week from Tuesday. I have acquired a suit! Also, a mysterious package has arrived from Athens, GA! I suspect you know something of it. *raises eyebrow* Someone needs to tell me to whom and how I'm sending money...
[User Picture]
Date:September 3rd, 2006 06:31 am (UTC)
See icon? A box of those yummy things arrived this weekend, any my kidlings thank you! (Er, send me a paypal invoice?)

We have a cool slanted escalator in miami at a publix, to get you to parking. I'll take a camphone pic next time I'm there...
Date:September 3rd, 2006 12:04 pm (UTC)
1. HEE! I love that song. At first I thought you were referencing Grease, then I realised that the film score incorporated "Who Put the Bomp" into it.

2. Hurrah and congrats and yay! **takes copious notes for the near future**

3. I have never had occasion to go to Target while downstate, but that may very well be my inspiration to do so.

6. Mmmmm, Finale. One of the very few things I do miss about life in Eastern Massachusetts. Unfortunately, while key lime pie is one of my favourites, I find that Key West rather spoiled any other makes for me. Glad you enjoyed all!

9. Ooh, Cambridge!

the pragmatic thing to do would be to request pointers to items of special interest
  • lovers_letters, a community for the posting of love letters, created and maintained by me.
  • Years ago you were interested in all of my ramlings about how to determine what's important to me in terms of career and life and health; I posted my annual review of such things here about a week ago.
  • Yet another publicly controversial study about weight and size and what it means for health, and my professional thoughts on the matter. As always when discussing size on livejournal, I seem to be very much in the minority with my opinion, but as I'm backing it with science I'm not at all inclined to change it.
  • And, not yet posted but discussed at great length, Cher and I considering settling in or around Oxford, rather than in London. This will, of course, depend a great deal on my job and where my office will be and how much travelling I'll be required to do, but Oxford is a) significantly cheaper in terms of the rental properties we've been looking at, b) the headquarters of OxFam (where she will be working), and c) far less urban. When you and Meg have some time to chat/get settled/etc, we would love to settle down and have some conversations about the whole moving process thing, if you don't mind.

    Happy packing!

  • [User Picture]
    Date:September 3rd, 2006 12:32 pm (UTC)
    Yet another publicly controversial study about weight and size and what it means for health, and my professional thoughts on the matter.

    f-locked :-(
    Date:September 3rd, 2006 12:34 pm (UTC)
    Opened, but only briefly as I discuss my company in the post.
    [User Picture]
    Date:September 3rd, 2006 12:38 pm (UTC)
    Thanks, copied and pasted - will read it shortly
    Date:September 3rd, 2006 12:41 pm (UTC)
    No problem; I've locked it again, but feel free to comment here (if Chris doesn't mind!) if you want to respond.
    [User Picture]
    Date:September 3rd, 2006 01:34 pm (UTC)

    Response to your post

    Weight is a very serious matter, and the view of a great many seems to be that it can't be a big deal because almost everyone is overweight these days, though of course it is a big deal.
    What people eat is important, of course! One of my great concerns is that it's so expensive to buy healthy food. When water and milk cost more than Coke, when an apple costs more than a bag of chips, (etc) then it's hard to find an incentive to eat healthy.
    There are other education issues too: eating fats is not the ultimate bogey, and my understanding is that a diet with no fat is not good either, though I have also heard of fat teens who can't understand what's wrong with drinking several pints of Coke every day (what's the problem? it's fat-free)
    Add to this the perception of danger, and adults and children are less likely to walk or jog because of the perceived danger and instead will drive or be driven everywhere.
    I'm also very pleased to see that the study finds that being underweight is a risk too: in our thin-is-beautiful society, we are at risk of seeing anorexia as the ideal to which we should aspire.
    I could write at more length, but probably wouldn't be saying anything new to you.
    [User Picture]
    Date:September 4th, 2006 11:24 am (UTC)
    Sorry to spam Chris's journal again...the British newspaper Metro (large circulation, free, tabloid) has a front-page story about male fertility being related to obesity - couldn't find it online but a similar article is here: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0904infertility0904.html - once again the media suggestion seems to be that sex is the only thing that will get men to take notice of their health.
    Date:September 3rd, 2006 12:21 pm (UTC)
    A few of our local Targets have those cart escalator thingies, although I rarely use them because I often have a kid sitting in the cart and it's just simpler and less irritating to take the elevator than to keep hauling the child in and out of the cart. But the first time I saw one was almost 10 years ago in a rather large supermarket in Paris, so they must have been around for a little bit, at least!

    And I don't even need to tell you that I am simply thrilled for you and Meg. ♥ It's all coming together so beautifully and eeeee!
    [User Picture]
    Date:September 3rd, 2006 12:40 pm (UTC)
    I think I've reached a point where the pragmatic thing to do would be to request pointers to items of special interest.
    They are not quite in your situation, but 617, Bryan, a New Zealand male and mrs617, Holly, an American female will be married around the time you read this. As another cross-cultural couple, who have also had visa issues (now largely resolved), you might like to say hello. Don't know if I've mentioned them to you previously.
    [User Picture]
    Date:September 3rd, 2006 04:01 pm (UTC)

    Hurrah for getting a visa !

    (Icon due to mention of Creme Brulee. Mmm... Creme Brulee !)

    [User Picture]
    Date:September 3rd, 2006 06:47 pm (UTC)
    Oh - sorry for the double post but I just clicked the escalator link to Wikipedia and discovered those things are not what I thought...

    ...Which leads me to ask: have you seen the magnetic flat escalator things which allow you to move between levels of a supermarket with your trolley ? Our local Tesco has one and the kids love it ! Basically it works by locking the trolley down with electromagnets to prevent all the obvious accidents.
    Date:September 3rd, 2006 05:38 pm (UTC)
    Teesside and Meg - together at last! Glad it went so smoothly in the end too, after all the doubts and concerns.

    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.

    I haven't even done anything that's merited an entry in weeks, let alone one of special interest. A slightly sub-par pre-tourney over the Bank Holiday weekend lost me one rating point, a slightly above par main tourney gained me it back; the latter contained a comprehensive trouncing of an in-form Allan Simmons which was nice to add to my record, I suppose. Have been throwing lots and lots at my word-knowing-thingy lately, hencelyforth not doing anything very blogworthy.
    [User Picture]
    Date:September 3rd, 2006 06:32 pm (UTC)
    "so will keep making enough to fund Meg and her bacon habit"

    You makin' fun of our southern eatin' habits there boy? LOL Of course, it seems you'll need a few pounds to fund your dessert habit as well. :-)

    "NYC subway"

    Yes, just like our older cousins across the pond, the NYC subway system is a bit behind. I can only use every third station, or so. While, I can't use the tube in the central part of London at all and, I believe, it is only accessible at the fringes. *Lotta good that does me*

    "guests have to be signed in"

    This was a thought I had when I lived in San Franciso. To get into my apartment I had to: 1) Use a 'key' to get into the parking garage, 2) Use the same key to get into the elevator area that took me up to the main building, 3) I would then exit that enclosure and move to a second set of
    doors and use the same key a third time (almost home now...), and 4) After riding the elevator up to the 15th floor, I would use my apartment key to get into my apartment and shut off my burgular alarm. I was thinking: Why am I in prison and all the criminals are walking freely down the street? :)

    I really couldn't have slept if you hadn't cleared up the greek thing. ;)
    [User Picture]
    Date:September 3rd, 2006 06:33 pm (UTC)
    Target has been a pioneer in the States with those escalators. The first one I saw was in San Diego, at the Mission Valley Center (or Centre, take your pick). When I was going to the San Francisco Bay Area regularly. I would stop at the one in Mountain View, which has one.

    I think they're cool.

    I believe they come from Japan.

    But a Safeway in Kings Road, Chelsea, has "travelators" (I think that's a registered trade mark here in the States) and I remember taking carts up and down.

    Glad to read all is going well with you!
    Date:April 12th, 2007 12:07 pm (UTC)
    “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. :-)”
    GREAT! Seems that luck is always on your side…everything is going on smoothly for you and Meg. More power!


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