Saturday, January 31, 2004

Lots of shingles

As I drove out this morning, I noticed that there were people working on the roof of my new house. There were these strange brown strips at various intervals, halfway up the side of the roof. Odd. The shingles were supposed to be light gray and I didn't think they nailed them in strips like that. I was in a small bit of a hurry, so I kept on driving.

I met JJ, JA and several of their friends (and mine) at their new old house. It was quite exciting to see what they've gotten themselves into! It looks as if it's going to be pretty awesome, indeed, once the renovations are finished. We had burritos from the Cosmic Cantina. They are so good and so big. I hadn't had them in years. After the grand tour, we went to Blue Coffee on Ninth Street. I, as always, had my cafe mocha, decaf, with skim. Blue has a nice casual atmosphere and excellent coffee. They have a large blue striped canopy in front of the shop, which, as I recall, used to be a sporting goods store. JJ didn't know what the brown strips were, either.

When I drove home, there were shingles (grey) covering the whole side of the roof! I really like the way it looks, which is a Good Thing. It turns out that the funny strips were actually bales of shingles, wrapped in paper. I was truly shocked at how much they had accomplished, given that I was only gone about four and a half hours.

I watched most of a very good Duke basketball game, against Georgia Tech.

On Orkut, today, I was looking at the Indian Food forum and someone recommended the World Merchants spice company, based in Seattle. They have all kinds of neat spices and teas, which looks very intriguing.

Finally, I watched The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, on pay per view. It was certainly entertaining and enjoyable, but it wasn't earth shattering.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Cluttered Entertainment

I finally made it into work this morning! It was nice getting out of the house and into the quasi-real world. The most snow covered area was, by far, our driveway. Everything else was fine.

It seemed as if it were a productive day. I even made my desk look somewhat organized, by recycling old papers and straightening up the stacks of remaining ones. Of course, the pile of toys and my huge candy area will continue to contribute to the cluttered look, but that's ok. I collected many of the toys at the career fairs at Duke. It's amazing how popular they are, but I don't know what people would fiddle with, if they weren't available. At the very least, my co-workers would probably be a lot more stressed. Maybe they're just getting overly hyper from all the candy they're eating while talking to me.

I spent much of the evening using Orkut. It seems as if its growth might be getting somewhat less explosive, but it may just be getting harder to get a real sense of it. Even one of my old professors is on it now and I had no idea my brother was so popular. As I go on about how wonderful it is, I should say that if anyone would like an invitation, please let me know. It is wild how people are so easily entertained. Every time I see someone that says that they have been playing the ESP game for some ungodly number of hours, I have to wonder, despite the fact that it is oddly addictive.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

No mute?!

I was going to attempt to drive into work this morning, but the only thing that I couldn't do from home was go to a meeting. Someone set up a number for people to call into, so that got rid of my only reason for leaving. I didn't think the roads were that bad, beyond our driveway and the road to 70, but since I'd been spending a lot of time reading a book, I thought I might as well continue doing that.

Calling in was interesting, though. I looked all over and, to my dismay, not one of our phones had a mute button. Having been on the other end of conference calls with amusing background noise, I knew that I didn't want to cause any distractions. I was worried that FIFO would start barking and my mother would yell at him. I could have used my cell phone, but I didn't feel like using my anytime minutes. Next time, I will use them. Not five minutes into the call, a raccoon strolled onto the deck for an afternoon snack of bird seed. One of the few things that provokes FIFO to bark and ram his feet the sliding glass doors is raccoons. Other things include opossums, song birds and the odd feather. He restrained himself for a time, while my mom tried to calm him down. Finally, he both barked and rammed. Meanwhile, I was pressing my hand into the holes of the microphone until it felt like my palm was being extruded inside the phone. Fortunately, someone who was listening assured me that he didn't hear anything. A mute button, however, is obviously something I need to consider as a "must have" when I buy my next phone.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

At least it was sunny!

Orkut is back! That's really exciting.

This morning, my dad stubbornly wanted to go into work, because classes weren't cancelled at Duke today. Well, he got past the pond, slid into the pampas grass and got stuck. Not long after he got out of the car, he fell flat. Thank goodness he wasn't hurt, but he easily could have been. One of our neighbors got his tractor and pulled my dad's car all the way to the road. Our driveway is 1/5 of a mile from our house to the main road, so it was quite a distance. He had to pull the car because the ice was so hard that he couldn't plough it when he got to the pavement. Needless to say, after all this, I decided to work from home again, even though IBM's 1st shift was only delayed until 10am.
Tomorrow, the high is supposed to be 49 F, so maybe I can get out of here, eventually. It was clear and sunny all today, such that it even felt hot, sitting next to the windows during the afternoon.

Once my dad got to campus, he found that none of the streets or sidewalks had been ploughed. I wonder why they weren't able to clear some of the snow, since they were closed for two days? I remember during the big snow of 2000 when so many people got hurt, trying to get to class. I hope everyone was able to get to their classes safely today.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Let it melt...Please!

I'm still here, still snowed in. There was a little bit of melting today, although it was only around 32 or 33 F, at most. Very little melting. I am so ready for spring.

I actually got a reasonable amount of work done, which is good.

Tonight, we tried Lightlife Smart Bacon. It was actually pretty good. It smelled like bacon. It did not look like bacon, but more like dried slices of hot dog. Fortunately, it didn't taste like that, but kind of like bacon, if you really used your imagination and were inebriated. Regardless of what did or not resemble, it was pretty good. I think it could be great in an omelet or mixed up in scrambled egg.

Yesterday, we tried Yves Veggie Dogs. While it didn't make me feel like vomiting, unlike Smart Dogs, it didn't inspire me to actually eat the rest of it either. I am thinking that vegetarian hot dogs are best avoided. The good thing is that all of these things are reasonably healthy, compared to their animal based counterparts. Obviously, if you can't get it down, it can't be beat, but the bacon, for example, is low in fat. 2 strips of bacon have 1.5 grams of fat and 45 calories. Compared to real bacon, that's not bad at all. Boca burgers are very good and I'm eager to try the rest of their products. Of course, I've never been too fond of hamburgers, so I'm probably not the best judge of that category of meatless products.

FIFO looks out at the snow on 1/27. Posted by Hello

Monday, January 26, 2004

Ice and Election Stuff

Today has been a day for repeatedly checking the radar on the WRAL weather page and checking up on the National Weather Service. We were supposed to have freezing rain today, but it went south of us. We still may get more tonight, though. Since it didn't get above freezing, nothing melted today. All of the area schools are closed again, including Duke. My dad will be spared from our concern, once again. Last I heard, IBM will make its decision at 5am, tomorrow morning. I wonder how many people will get up that early just to find out. Hmm! Either way, I will be working from home tomorrow. Even today, I responded to some work related e-mail and IM queries and started reading a book that I need to read. Unfortunately, even if the facilities are closed, the need to work doesn't take a vacation. Deadlines rarely slip on ice.

On the news tonight, I saw that McCain is actually supporting Bush and going around in the Bush bus, campaigning for him. That's just sad. Also, RP pointed out to me that you can actually contribute $5 to $200 to the presidential campaigns on Amazon, which is pretty cool. Last time I checked, Kerry was in the lead, followed by Clark, Dean and Edwards.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Let it snow....and sleet quite a bit.

When I woke up this morning, I looked out the window and it looked as if it were snowing. When I actually put on my glasses, it saw that we already had quite a bit of snow on the ground. A fine powder fell all day long, which turned to sleet about 5pm or so. About an hour ago, it was sleeting extremely hard. The 1st shift at IBM is cancelled tomorrow, so I don't have to go into work, but I should definitely do some reading. Duke cancelled its classes for tomorrow, which is almost unheard of. We should get more precipitation tomorrow and have a full-fledged ice storm, so the weather conditions should only get worse. It's nice to have a another day at home, but it does mean that they can't do anything more on my house until it clears up.

I spent much of the day replying to e-mail and playing with Orkut. They've actually taken it down, temporarily, to implement a few bug fixes. It's amazing how quickly one can get addicted to something like that. I sent out several invitations and I hope this outage doesn't inconvenience anyone. I think the very fact that I sent out any invitations at all is a testament to my opinion of Orkut, because I've always felt uncomfortable with the idea of inviting people to Friendster or any similar website. Of course, I don't like forwarding jokes in e-mail either.

New house in the snow on 1/25. Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Clay Tickets and Orkut

I woke up this morning, all geared up for ordering tickets for the Clay Aiken concert at the RBC Center, in Raleigh. The tickets went on sale at 10 am. I cheerfully told my mother of my plans. She discouraged me, reminding me that there would be lots of screaming kids. Then she asked me who I was going to take with me. When I told her that I had been planning to take her, her opinion miraculously changed. It must have been a coincidence. At any rate, I'm all excited about going. Last year I went to see Billy Joel and Elton John, which was great. This will be even better, because the tickets were much much cheaper.

Not long after that, I got an invitation to join Orkut, from my brother. It's a new "online community" that was launched by Google on Thursday. Just a few days later and thousands of people are using it. I've enjoyed using Friendster since October, but, from what I've seen so far, Orkut is better. It's easier to find people, since they don't have to be 3-4 friends away from you in order to see their profiles. It does allow privacy, though, because you can set specific info fields to only be seen by friends or their friends. There are also little "communities", for things like colleges and hobbies that make it easier to find people with similar interests. Plus, each of those communities has a built-in forum for posting messages. Friendster sort of had a similar idea in that people created users for particular locations and colleges, but all of the colleges disappeared one day.

I went over to the house in the afternoon and it's looking great. All the windows are installed. They had to get a motorized lift in order to put in the huge trapezoid window in the master bedroom, since it weighed several hundred pounds. I'm still having trouble deciding if the chandelier is designated to go in the right place. It only really matters because it dictates where my dining room table will go. The weather was beautiful today, so that made the stay all the more enjoyable, particularly compared to freezing my fingers off on Friday. Unfortunately, a yellow breasted flicker got in the house and fatally flew into one of the windows. It's very sad. I hope that the doors arrive and everything gets sealed up soon, before birds start building nests in there.

Tonight, my parents and I went to Nikos. They had a special with shrimp in a creamy garlic sauce, over angel hair pasta. Very nice. For some reason they are completely tearing up the courtyard at Brightleaf Square. I wonder what on earth they are doing. For those of you who haven't been there, Brightleaf is a couple of old brick tobacco buildings that were remodeled and converted into a small shopping center.

Just in case anyone else searches to find out what cell phone Jack Nicholson was using in Something's Gotta Give, I believe it was a Sony Ericsson T68i.

Window in my bedroom that was so big and heavy. Posted by Hello

Friday, January 23, 2004

I've been really busy.

Last night I went to a concert with MP and my dad, which was part of the Duke Artists Series. It was the pianist, Piotr Anderzewski. I enjoyed it, although the selections were unusual in that he didn't play any "crowd pleasers". People generally prefer music with which they are familiar. While I enjoy hearing new pieces, the musicians shouldn't be surprised when they don't get a standing ovation. Anderzewski's program consisted primarily of Bach pieces, one Chopin selection and one by Szymanowski. It was interesting to me because, the Chopin piece was remarkably similar in some sort of quality to the Bach pieces. It's odd for a Romantic piece to be so similar to something from the Baroque period. Again, I enjoyed the concert, but I've enjoyed others a lot more and that's saying something, since I usually really enjoy hearing pianists. I think Vladimir Feltsman is my favorite pianist, of all the ones I've heard so far. He literally had a very powerful performance. Anderzewski's technique, of course, was exquisite and I am always more impressed with musicians who have the entire performance memorized, as he did, rather than relying on sheet music.

Tonight, I spent one final evening with RR. We went to Parizade, in Durham. We both had the Parizade salad, which has mixed greens, strawberries, apples, raspberry vinaigrette, bleu cheese, nuts and possibly something else. I also had a crab cake with what the menu said was a passion fruit remoulade. I'm not sure if that's actually what it was, but it was very good. For dessert, I had lemon sorbet, which also had two excellent strawberries, very nice red grapes and a thin sugar cookie. The sorbet was on the hard side, but it was pleasant, once it melted a bit.

I've definitely enjoyed the past week, while RR has been in town. I do hope she decides to move back to this area, because she's so much fun. I hope all my friends, who have left for graduate or medical school, will return. Central North Carolina, particularly the Triangle, is a very nice place to live. I really feel lucky to have been raised here and don't see any reason to move away. A few hundred feet is far enough.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

It's all about food.

Last night, I decided to introduce JJ and JA to RR. It's always interesting introducing friends to each other, but I certainly had a great time! Considering that we were there for two and a half hours, I think everyone else did, too. We enjoyed a lot of good food at Pao Lim's Asian Bistro, in Durham. It's a pan Asian restaurant, located in a remodeled McDonald's building. We shared a sampler appetizer platter and fresh mint rolls. I had the honey walnut shrimp, which I'd sampled before, when other people had ordered it, but I'm very glad that I ordered it this time. Before you start wondering, no, I have not approached people at neighboring tables and asked to try their honey walnut shrimp. I have considered doing that for other dishes, though.

Several of us finished it all off with a serving of coconut ice cream. Several times in the past, I've had their coconut sorbet, which was out of this world, but they've unfortunately taken it off the menu. If I can't have the sorbet, the ice cream is a good substitute, but I truly wish they would bring back the sorbet. I do think that coconut ice cream may be in 2nd place, under peppermint, in my list of favorite ice creams.

I'm still persevering in my goal to only eat seafood and veggies. It still feels awkward, though, especially when sharing a mixed batch of appetizers. Sharing, in general, seems more difficult. I don't want people to change what they order, just to accommodate my chosen eating habits. Fortunately, still eating seafood makes it a lot easier than it could be. RR also pointed out that animals used for kosher meat have strict specifications of what they can and cannot be fed, as well as how they are killed. One would think that the same would be true for halal meat, but this Islamic pro-vegetarian site(with a PETA slant), suggests it's not.

Monday, January 19, 2004

More Chocolate Bread Pudding

It's time for another season of American Idol. I think it will be hard to top Clay Aiken, but I have to be slightly biased. It's nice that decent guy who can really sing is representing the Triangle area. I have a feeling that I would be a big fan, even if he were from some other part of the country.

Last night RR, AV and I went to ACME Food & Beverage Company. I had wild bass over a New England lobster chowder and tomtato confit. I'm not positive that I've ever had bass before, but it was delicious. The "tomato confit" was basically 5 or 6 warmed whole grape tomatoes in the chowder. That was actually a nice touch. I've found that I really like warm tomtatoes, particularly in pasta. For dessert, I had the chocolate bourbon bread pudding again, which was just as good, if not better, than the previous time I ordered it.

The windows for my house were delivered today. The exterior of the house is 24% windows, so I figure they will have made a lot of progress once they are installed.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Correction and Food

I'll start out by making a correction for yesterday's post. Dual Supply did not burn down. Dual supply was actually open the next day. Even though it sounded really bad on the emergency services radio frequencies, it obviously wasn't that serious. Many thanks to helpful reader, who pointed out the erroneous information. As a (the only) representative here at EGTV, I regret any concern or mental anguish that the error may have caused.

Last night I did finally go out to dinner with RR and her friend AV. We went to Taverna Nikos, at Brightleaf Square in Durham. I have been going there since my mom and I discovered it in 1992. As I often do, I ordered the fried calamari, which, as usual, was exquisite and very tender. It's served with tzatzki, which is always wonderful, garlic spread, lettuce and diced tomatoes. Going out to dinner with RR is always a blast, so we had a great time.

This morning, RR and I went to Vin Rouge for brunch. Vin Rouge is one of Giorgios Bakistias's many restaurants. This one is nominally French. Like all Bakistias's locations, the decor is unusual and well planned. On the menu, they have many delectable selections from which to choose, but we both decided on the buttermilk pancakes with assorted berries. It was an excellent choice.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Another Fire

Another one of my neighbors' houses burned down this morning! While I do think this was an accident, since it started as a chimney fire, it does seem more than a little freaky. Two years ago, the house, next to the one that burned down today, burned down, after undergoing major renovations. A year ago, the house across from ours burned to the ground. About 6 months ago, the gas station on the corner of our street and 70 burned, caused by a truck running into the station's air conditioner. Two of the houses were yellow. The fire department even attended a Thanksgiving oven fire at a different house, the year before last.

It's hard to fathom what it must be like to lose all of one's possessions in a fire. Homes and their contents are things we often take for granted. Today our neighbors lost everything, possibly even their dog. It must be devastating. One just has to be thankful that no human lives have been lost in any of these fires.

Two other major fires in Hillsborough in the past year were the Dual Supply Hardware store in downtown Hillsborough and the Heartland Steakhouse, just a couple weeks ago. Dual Supply was a wonderful quaint little hardware store, jam packed with just about every part you could possibly want, so it was sad to see that go. I'm not sure whether they are or have been rebuilding or not.

Remember to check your smoke alarms and make sure they're working. Stop to think about how you would get out of your house or apartment given fires in different locations. As I'm writing this, I'm listening on radio to another heavily involved structure fire in a different part of the county. Thinking about what you would do in such a situation is never a waste of your time. Also remember to call 911 as soon as you think there's a fire, because just minutes can make a huge difference in how much of your home you have left.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Electrical, Erroneous and Election Plans

I wasn't able to contribute more text to my blog last night, because I was working on the electrical plan for my house. When I visited University Lights over Christmas vacation, I decided to change a few of the lights to recessed "cans" and I needed to indicate where those would go on the plans. I also needed to mark up the other changes, such as location of the ceiling fan in the great room, add the sconces on either side of the mirror in the master bathroom and mark where phone/television jacks should go. I met with my builder, Kent, and the electrician after work today to discuss all these things. Some of these decisions are difficult. For example, placing the chandelier is critical, because it determines where my dining room table will go. Going over everything with them was great, although it was very cold and I nearly turned blue. I also got to meet Kent's dog, Nash. He's an adorable 8 month old Jack Russell Terrier.

I thought I would be meeting my friend, RR, (decided to use two initials, since some of my friends didn't decide to distribute their first initials evenly over the alphabet) for dinner, but I was actually confused as to which day her flight would be arriving. Fortunately, I called her and got it straightened out, so I was able to eat at home. I was starving!

Michael Moore endorsed Wesley Clark on Wednesday. That is excellent news. Both Dean and Clark seem like excellent candidates, but I wonder if Clark might have a better chance, if he were to win the nomination.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Skywarn, Tandoor and Smart Dogs

Goodness, I'm going to have to get used to yet another laptop keyboard for this post. There's no telling what typos I'm going to have to fix in the morning. FIFO, my dog, has also decided to be helpful, by trying to lick my fingers and now my nose.

I actually wimped out on my faithful readers for the first time last night. I went to a meeting of the Durham FM Association and didn't get home until I was about ready to go to sleep. They meet at Fuddruckers on the second Tuesday of every month. Unlike my dad, I rarely go to the meetings, but last night, Jeff Orrock, from the local National Weather Service office, was the speaker and he was rumored to be particularly good. In fact, he was excellent and much more informative than the Skywarn training class that I took a couple of years ago. It sounds as if he will offer another such class at the Red Cross in the near future, so I will be looking forward to that. For anyone who doesn't know, Skywarn is an organization of amateur radio operators who report severe weather to the National Weather Service. Among other things, he explained why spotters are needed and that is because radar does not provide information about the conditions close to the ground.

Today I went to Tandoor Indian Restaurant, in Durham. This was the first time I'd ever been there for lunch, but I'd been there several times for dinner, although not in a long time. The News and Observer did not give them a very good recommendation, but I have enjoyed my meals there. For dinner, I particularly like the vegetarian sampler platter. They offer a buffet at lunch, with a nice selection and excellent kheer, of course.

I was in a three year long meeting at work this afternoon, so I'm rather exhausted. Ok, it was only three hours. Two and a half.

As I've mentioned earlier, I've been contemplating what it would be like to be a vegetarian and I've been eating very little meat in the process. This evening, I tried Smart Dogs. I could barely get one down, even after applying large amounts of mustard and ketchup. This was disappointing. I actually think "garden burgers" are an improvement over the real thing, but I've never really liked hamburgers. Maybe there are better veggie hotdogs out there somewhere. Yves Veggie Cuisine makes excellent fake "ground beef" that is great for spaghetti. More experimentation is needed.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Van, Faucets, etc.

I got my van back this evening! That's the most exciting news for the day. It cost a small fortune to have it fixed, but I would rather get it done than have it break down on me while I'm trying to get somewhere on the freeway.

In the past week, I have heard from two people that I haven't seen in 11-14 years and have only communicated with very sporadically. That's always wild.
Anytime you hear from someone and you were half your age when you last saw them, it's pretty remarkable. If those two people have the same birthday, that's remarkable, too.

It looks as if I may have my faucets picked out for the house. That was pretty easy, because the builder marked what he normally puts in a house and that was fine with me. I like clean and simple styles, so that helps.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Almost Forgot Today

While trying to watch Alias and label photos on Ofoto, I almost forgot that I hadn't posted anything here today. This morning, I added comments from Haloscan in case anyone has any anything to add to my posts.

Almost nothing eventful happened today. My van likely won't be ready until tomorrow (Monday) evening, so I spent another day at home. I finished uploading pictures, paid some bills, had a couple of good phone calls and watched a Duke basketball game on TV. One of the calls was with my builder and we started thinking about the possibilities for the tiles in the shower. It's nice to know that there's yet another spot to put a little creativity.

Excuse me, but my mother is getting a little too excited about correctly predicting something in Alias.

Saturday, January 10, 2004


I've added a link to my rss feed. Once I got it working, I was horrified at how the standard orange XML button looked with my color scheme, so I made my own button using an interface to Bill Zeller's button maker application.

Thanks to Karl, who sent me a link about plans to offer HD TiVo for Direct TV. It sounds as if it will be a little pricey, ranging from $699 to $899. Do I really need a clothes dryer? Now I just have to think about getting that view of the southern sky. I'll have plenty of time to contemplate that while I'm waiting for the price to come down.

My family has spent a lot of time recently worrying about the food supply and what we're going to eat, especially after reading this article. I think we're just going to continue to avoid eating beef and try to only eat free range meat, whenever we can. Well, that's what I'm going to try to do at least. One of the things argued by the article is that other meat, such as pork, isn't safe, because the animals are slaughtered when the pigs are young, years before the spongiform encephalopathy would be expected to show up. Hearing about high levels of pollutants in farmed salmon doesn't inspire confidence about the alternatives either. I'm just going to live on smoothies.

Friday, January 09, 2004


It snowed about one to two inches here today, so I slept late and worked from home. Now that we have DSL, thanks again to my brother, it's actually possible to be productive and stay home. Not being able to work well from home is something that has tormented me ever since I started working in 2000. It's still somewhat difficult, in that it's harder to work if you've got a dog's head in between you and the laptop's screen. There are a lot of other distractions here, but many aren't too much worse than conversations that normally emanate from neighboring offices, friendly co-workers or meetings.

I haven't heard anything about the van. I'll probably have to call the Chevy dealer tomorrow.

I found out tonight that this blog has another regular reader. This one is actually outside my immediate family! She made an excellent recommendation and that was to refer to people by their first initial. I will probably start doing that in the next post that mentions people, but I will use my old convention one more time. Thanks, Owner of NMI!

Everything was beautiful after the snow with white powder collecting on the tops of all the branches. The pond was nice and glassy today, reflecting the winter's elegance. It's supposed to get really cold this weekend, though, so we will continue to board Shadow at the vet's. He's recovering from having a fibroid tumor removed, so we didn't think he should be outside, even in his heated bed on the porch, when it goes down to 9F tomorrow night. Actually, I've just been watching Nova episodes on Antarctica and that's starting to sound pretty warm.

View of the pond at my parents' house on 1/9. Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 08, 2004

RSS Feed and No Van

I've been spending most of the evening trying to get an rss feed. I've looked into various things, but so far seems the most promising. I think I need to tweak my blogger template a little more before it's ready for prime time, though.

My van is in the shop, unfortunately. It has a leaking intake gasket, water pump and a failed egr valve. Hopefully it will be ready by tomorrow, but there aren't any guarantees. I'm so used to driving that I'll be suffering from separation anxiety before too long. When riding in the passenger seat of a sedan, I feel as if I'm about to go off into the ditch. I'm also not controlling the brakes. Eeek!

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Excitement and Earth Shattering Dilemmas

On the way home from work this evening, my van sounded as if it might stall while it was at a traffic light. The temperature gauge seemed high, although it wasn't in the red zone. My dad has wondered whether my radiator hoses might need replacing, since it has recently been possible to smell antifreeze after I've driven. We're going to take it to the shop in the morning. That, yes, that, was the excitement for the day.
I also wrapped a baby gift.

So, there are two earth shattering dilemmas that have come up in recent months. 1) Do I get cable or satellite? 2) Do I wire the great room for surround sound?

I have lots of trees around my new house, so it may take a effort to get satellite. I'd certainly have to put one on a pole and even then, it's not clear that I'd have a good view of the southern sky. One of the reasons that I was leaning away from satellite, even though I love the DirectTV service that I gave my parents last year, is that you can't use it to get high definition signals. I just read, however, on a link off of Gizmodo that RCA will be releasing a DirectTV receiver in February that receives high definition signals. That sounds interesting. If they would make a receiver that handles high definition AND TiVo, then that would be something.

I don't know what to do about the second issue. I'm going to have my TV flat against the wall in the corner of a square room, which I've been told is unacceptable. That's where it's going, regardless. The kitchen counter will be across from it. I'm just not sure it's worth it. I don't even have a stereo. If people want to hear great sound at my house, they're just going to have to bring their own headphones.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

One Can Never Have Enough Kheer

I'm starting to get back into the rhythm of being back at work again. Hopefully this blog won't be dull considering that I can't really write about most of what I do all day. I'm sure I can blather on, regardless.

For lunch, I went to the India Garden at Cary Towne Center. I think I've been there approximately six times and it's consistently good. They have a buffet at lunch, with a combination of meat (primarily chicken) and vegetarian selections. The food is mild, but very flavorful. I really like their kheer, which is on the thick side and redolent with cardamom. Given enough time, I could eat way too much there, but, fortunately, my friend (Owner of No Pets) and I are usually rushing back to work.

I'm using my mother's laptop to write tonight, because I left my laptop at work. It just feels wrong. I spent most of vacation using my laptop and I'm familiar not only with the feel of my keyboard and the location of the mouse buttons, but my bookmarks, the background, installed software and various other little things. I suppose I'll get used to this one, unless I want to lug the heavy one home on weeknights. It's too bad I don't want to spend the money right now on something nice and cute to leave at home. Building a new home really puts on a cramp on a gadget lover's style, but it's worth it!

Monday, January 05, 2004

First Day Back

Today was my first day back at work and I did survive. In fact, it wasn't quite as bad as I had imagined, despite getting up at 6:30am in the morning. It was fairly quiet, since some people will be back tomorrow, I guess.

I've decided that the best thing I can do to solve the anonymity problem is to simply add a level of abstraction. I can refer to people as the owner of their pets. For example, I enjoyed talking with the owner of Curious today and I had a nice chat with the owner of Sable and Sheba. The owner of FIFO is going to strangle him if he doesn't stop chewing on her chair. Oh wait, that's me. Maybe this would get a little tiresome if I kept it up.

Intel's announcement of chips that will make large flatscreen televisions more affordable should push off my purchase by about 6 months. I had planned on getting one shortly after I move into my house. I guess that's ok. Maybe I can get some new dining room furniture. More realistically, perhaps I can pay my electric, gas and water bills and even buy groceries. In fact, this is great news. I had my eyes on the 50" 16:9 Sony Grand WEGA LCD Rear Projection TV, model KF-50WE610. I read several consumer reviews on it and they don't sound good. You see all these reviews from people who say the picture is beautiful and they are so glad they didn't get some other brand and then you see posts saying that the same wonderful television has spontaneously completely quit working and that there are rumors of a recall. I'm thinking that I'd rather put my $3,000 in cattle futures right now.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

The Last Day of Freedom

Today was my last day of vacation. I'm not looking forward to going back to work, which is actually a good sign. I thought I would be sick of staying home this long, but I have found more than enough to do. There are many things I didn't get to!

This evening, we went to ACME Food & Beverage Company, my favorite restaurant. They consistently produce what I think is the best overall meal in the Triangle. It's about a 35 minute drive from Hillsborough, but it's worth it. This evening, I had a rare tuna steak over their French fries, with a wine butter sauce. For dessert, I had a chocolate bourbon bread pudding topped with a caramel sauce and whipped cream. Recently, they've been serving rolls before the meal that are just heavenly.

Some of you may think that I spend too much time talking about food and what I've eaten. While, as I've already mentioned, I've always wanted to be a restaurant critic, I am also thinking that I will want to look back on the blog archives in the future and revel in memories of food that I no longer eat. Already, I am eschewing beef, due to the mad cow scare. I just worry that I've already eaten contaminated beef, undetected due to the shockingly small percentage of animals that have been tested. Even if I limit myself to free range beef, there's no guarantee that the animals were not given contaminated feed before they went to the farm to be happy cows. As the Bush Administration continues to slacken food safety regulations, I will probably limit the types of food I consume even further. I am already mentally preparing myself for the eventuality of becoming a pesco-vegetarian, if necessary.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

IHOP to Sushi and Voldemort

This morning I got up early to meet friends at the IHOP at 12:30. Ok, so I only got up an hour earlier, but I did set my alarm. I have this feeling that I must have gone to an IHOP before, perhaps in another state, but I don't remember any of the details. I ate two pecan pancakes and four strips of bacon. They were all very good. I figured that since this was either the first or second trip to IHOP that I should at least order pancakes. My friends pointed out that all the meals come with pancakes, so you can't go wrong. Since I had focused on the pancake section of the menu, I hadn't noticed. Either way, what I ordered turned out to be the perfect amount of food for me.

Afterwards, my friends and I went back to their place and I helped out with their colored elevations of their future kitchen. I have a very large Berol Prismacolor set, so it was fun picking out pencils to match the tiles they had picked out. I also attempted to add in the old fashioned looking stove that they are planning for it. It's been a few years since I've really drawn anything, so I felt a bit rusty. I hope that I'll spend more time drawing and painting once I get my studio. During periods of sloth before, picking it back up was like riding a bike again. Hopefully it will be similar after five years of resting on my laurels. I never did paint any laurels...

Once I got back, we had takeout sushi for dinner, to make up for my abandoning my parents last night.

One thing that I've been struggling with or at least thinking about is anonymity of people mentioned in my blog. So far I've referred to people as friends and the many readers of this blog are probably envisioning the ever popular amorphous friend blobs. Seriously, everyone who reads this knows me and knows who I'm talking about or can guess. In case I have more than two readers, I think my policy will continue unless people say that they don't mind being mentioned by name. If it's confusing, it's confusing. It reminds me of teknonymy, practiced by many traditional cultures, such as the Yanomamo of Venezuela and Brazil.

Friday, January 02, 2004


I'm starting to feel tired. This is a very good sign. On Monday morning, I need to be able to cheerfully get up at 6:30am and think coherrent thoughts a couple hours later. For the past couple of weeks I've been getting up around 10am. Somehow I don't think the adjustment back to normal schedule is going to be graceful.

Late this afternoon, I was getting into my van with my dad, ready to head off to Circuit City to look at some gadgets (cell phones and TVs). We were then going to pick up some sushi takeout and bring it back. Suddenly, my phone beeped, indicating that I had voice mail. Friends of mine were calliing up to invite me to go to have sushi at the very same place, Kurama! That was difficult to pass up, so I didn't. I felt bad about ditching my parents completely, but I really enjoy my friends' company. I've spent a lot of time with my parents while I've been on vacation, too.

Sushi was great. We had a lobster salad roll, which I'd never had before. We also had wizard rolls (crab and eel wrapped with rice and avacado), a crunchy shrimp roll, mackerel, salmon and eel. I was extremely hungry, because I'd only had a 10 oz smoothie for lunch. Kurama is my favorite sushi place, so far.

Speaking of smoothies, I heartily recommend Stoneyfield yogurt smoothies. Warning, they are addictive. I am particularly fond of the Wild Berry flavor, but Peach and Raspberry are wonderful, too. It's a great way to eat something healthy and yogurtlike in an efficient way. They are high in fiber, too. They have about 250 calories, so you can go overboard, but if you want to replace a meal (like dessert or lunch) it's perfect.

So after sushi, we went to Francesca's. I had peppermint ice cream, my favorite flavor. All in all, it was a very good day, although not particularly productive. That's what vacation is all about!

Thursday, January 01, 2004

A New Year

I have discovered that the ultimate way to wake up in the morning on the first day of the year is to the sound of hammering. It can't be just any hammering, but hammering on a house that is destined to be one's very own home. Noting that it is hammering that is being done on New Year's Day, which by most people's accounts is a holiday produces an added dose of joy. Every day that they work is one day closer to the day that I will be able to move in.

New Year's Day means resolutions, right? Considering the profound success of last year's resolution (I can't remember what it was.), I have decided upon not one, but three, this year.

#1 Lift weights on a regular basis. (This might have been last year's.) If the frequency is once a month, I'm all set.

#2 Try to avoid overeating such that I burst. Or even feel like it.

#3 Do not succumb to impulse purchases. Do not buy a Handspring Treo 600.

Actually, I thought of a couple of other good ones, but I've forgotten what they were already.

Last night I went to a New Year's Eve party. That was great! For the first time in forever, I didn't glumly sit around thinking about how everyone in my time zone was having fun except for me and my immediate family. Before I was even sure that my brother was having more fun than I was. This year, however, I enjoyed scrumptious food, such as baked Brie and homemade creme brulee while being entertained by three toddlers running around like wild and crazy monkeys. I also narrowly escaped being forced to sing karaoke one more time. This was the first time I'd actually ever seen a karaoke machine, so the risk was higher than ever before.

I went over to the house this afternoon. It is really looking fantastic. The braces are in place in the vaulted ceiling in the great room, so I finally have a good idea of how high the ceiling will be. I've always known it would be 16', but seeing really is believing. Now that the windows are framed I know that the view will, indeed, be spectacular. Well, maybe it won't be spectacular, but at least very awesome.

View of the window wall on 1/1. Posted by Hello

Braces in the ceiling of the great room. Posted by Hello