Saturday, December 01, 2007

Another Parade

It's fantastic living between Monument Ave and Broad St, because you never miss a parade. I've no idea where they announce these these things. Usually the only warning I see is that the 'No Parking' signs go up. But apparently everyone else knew about it because they've turned up in droves to watch Scooby-Doo and Odie go past. I guess most of the on-lookers have kids in a High School band. Not sure what's Christmas-y about a guy with a Devil mask on!

Christmas Tree

Yay for Christmas Trees. Here's ours.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Judgement Day

I finally got around to watching the Nova documentary Judgement Day, investigating the attempt to introduce Intelligent Design to the classroom. There was a lot of hype about the program. While Intelligent Design advocates claimed that the show contained errors and was biased, the anti-ID camp reveled in how stupid it made the creationists look.

In fact, I thought it was a refreshingly balanced piece of journalism. Several members from each side of the case, including individuals from the Dover School District, members of each council, expert witnesses and the judge himself were given opportunities to express their point of view. The narration never ridiculed or belittled any contributor, expect perhaps towards the end when it was clear that the ID proponents had lied, held misguided opinions of science and were motivated by religious zeal, despite continuing to claim that their aim was the improved scientific education of American children.

Really this whole debate highlights the scientific community's failure to educate the general public about our understanding of genetics. Unfortunately, some of the best explanations for the lay person were penned by Richard Dawkins, who has unhelpfully assumed the role of self-proclaimed anti-Christ.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

I'm still working on how best to link from this blog to one of my albums on Flickr.

[edit]I've added a link to my Flickr photos to my sidebar. Enjoy! [/edit]

Keeping up with information technology

There are many options for managing digital information, and I am resolving to find the best solutions and use them properly. I have several criteria.

I know this sounds shallow, but in my experience, if I don't like how it looks, I'll never be happy with it. Things seem to work as good as they look; if the designers couldn't get it to look good, they probably couldn't get to to work either. I recently had some soft saddle bags stolen off my bike, but I'm not in the least bit bothered because they looked a bit crap, and thus didn't work very well. I hope the new owner enjoys them. I'm going to buy hundreds of dollars of Givi hard luggage instead because the Italians design things that look sexy.
I don't mind spending a lot of time on IT, since it's an important aspect of my life. But I'm not going to waste any time. I want to be able to designate shortcuts. If I have to perform a task repetitively (like renaming photos) I want to be able to do it easily.
I don't mind spending some money on IT, and I'll willing part with cash to do what I want to do, but hate having to spend moolah to have something I didn't want in the first place. In fact, I'll even pay money to not have things I don't want. Which brings me on to the final point.
I'm a messy person, but when I decide to clean up I demand the right tools for the job. I want to be able to turn off the things I don't like. I want to organise items by dragging them to my desired location.

The good:

  • Flickr
  • Panasonic DMC-FX01

The bad:

  • Photobox, Snapfish etc - too many special offers, not enough organisation
  • LG Chocolate - bought it cos it looks good. Hate the menus, broke the touch-buttons and the sliding mech, camera quality, music and in-call sound quality all poor.

Certain things are on my brown-list. Blogger, because I think there are probably more suitable platforms out there for my style of posting. Hotmail, because it has become over protective. iTunes seems to have a lot of the same annoyances as Windows Media Player did (I thought it'd be a lot better), but since I despise Media Player 11, I think iTunes will survive.

Flickr Account

I have decided to invest in a Flickr Pro Account so that I can try to keep my photographs more organised. Windows XP explorer isn't really designed to allow tagging or long descriptions of pictures, and won't easily organise by time taken. Plus a hard disk isn't sufficiently permanent for me. No, I don't back-up my files.

So far, I'm enjoying Flickr. It's a pretty interface, which I think is important for displaying photographs. I'm finding it easy to use so far, but there are obviously a lot of features still to investigate. I noticed Blogger will let me create slideshows from a Flickr account, so I'm going to try to set that up. WTS

Friday, November 23, 2007

Science Post - Stem Cell Research

My Uncle was asking me about the recent breakthrough in transforming adult skin cells into embryonic stem cells. Specifically, what is the role of retroviruses in performing the transformation.

To answer the query, I'm going to first direct you to pharyngula for a comprehensive summary of the latest article.

If you don't have time to wade through that posting, here's the short version:

The researchers have discovered the 'reset switch' for cells. This switch consists of four genes. To activate the switch, the researchers used retroviral transfection to insert multiple copies of these genes into a cell, along with 'promotors', which ensure that the genes are activated. As pharyngula explains, is not a particuraly elegant solution, but allows the researchers to demonstrate the effect of the genes. A better solution will involve a technique to activate the natural copies of the 'reset switch' genes already in the cell.

Retroviral transfection has been the foundation of gene therapy and other gentic research since the early 1990's. The technique itself is not new, just it's application.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Asheville, NC

Kristal and I took a long weekend vacation to Asheville to check out her old college and generally enjoy the mountains. For some reason, Blogger isn't letting me upload photos right now. On one hand, this is a shame, because I took some stunning photos of awe-inspiring mountain landscapes (the leaves were beautiful), but on the other hand, I have so many photos it's almost impossible to choose which to post!

We stayed at the Inn on Mill Creek. We got a free upgrade to a room with a jacuzzi tub, which was the most relaxing experience I can remember. The innkeepers are a young couple who have owned the property less than a year. They have fostered an atmosphere that is less stuffy than many B&Bs. We really enjoyed staying with them. The place is about two miles down an gravel track in the woods - great for star gazing. They have a dammed lake which runs a fountain a mile down the hill. Cool place.

We crammed a ridiculous amount into a two night stay. On Friday night we hung out in Black Mountain, having dinner at the Cellar Door (Kristal had fresh mountain trout - I had Ostrich!), then moving on the the Town Pump for a few local beers and music by a ridiculous Heavy Metal/Blugrass band.

On Saturday (after Belgian Waffles for Brekky), we went to check out Warren Wilson Collge. It's a crazy place. This small campus is nestled in small valley with acres of fields for crops and livestock, and fantastic views of the mountains. The students help on the farm, plus run recycling schemes, bike shops, blacksmiths - you name it: they do it themselves. Kristal took a look around the science building (nostalgia alert -- university science labs!), and we even broke into her Tardigrade lab to see what was up.

After that we hit up Chimney Rock and Mt Mitchell. Chimney Rock was crawling with school parties, so we did the main event and peaced out. The observation tower at Mt Mitchell was closed for refurbishment, so we didn't get the best view, but it was cool to be up that high (6,578 ft) where it got icy.

In the evening we headed into Asheville town centre. Everyone was pretty laid back, which I thought I would find refreshing, but instead I was annoyed at the lack of efficiency in the restaurant! What have I become!! In the end I chilled out (a Metropolitan helped), and we went to see Darjeeling Limited (funny Wes Anderson flick) at the local two screen theatre.

Finally on Sunday we caught Linville Falls and Grandfather Mountain on the way out. We didn't really know anything about Grandfather Mountain, and even asked the Assistant and the gate why we should pay $14 to get in! But it turned out to be a highlight. Halfway up they have a nature exhibit with Black Bears, Cougars, Deer and Eagles and a good museum showcasing the flora, fauna and geology of the area. Then at the top there is the 'Mile High' Swinging bridge, which was built at almost exactly one mile above mean sea level. Once over the bridge the 360 degree view is breathtaking. So, it was totally worth it.

Overall, it would've been nice to do some more hiking at the places we stopped at, but in the end, time didn't allow. Hopefully I'll get my photos online at some point. Western NC is definitely worth seeing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


We finally got some rain. It's been on and off since lunchtime today, and is forecast to continue through until Friday. The Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service sets river levels at more than 8 feet by then. It's certainly a welcome change in the weather, and a chance for me to try out my rain gear. Here is proof that I put my personal safety before image. I can only imagine how the yellow jacket and my red bike compliment each other. I have a cover for the bike now too, from E-bay. Saddle bags are on order from Chase Harper. Now all I need is some boots, a windscreen, and GPS. PS, my birthday is in a month. Christmas is just around the corner.

Folk Festival

The National Folk Festival was held in Richmond this year for the last time before it makes it's tri-annual move to another city. So, we thought we should check it out. It's a mixture of music and crafts, and one of our friends was volunteering with a group that fairly trades ethnic craft goods, called ten thousand villages. To be honest, I didn't find the event terribly interesting, and it was hot and packed full of people. This dude with an autoharp was cool. And I met a horse, which afforded the opportunity for this shot of me looking like a country boy. That in itself makes it worth me posting.

Anniversary Antics

Kristal and I recently celebrate one happy year together. She impressively constructed me the quilt picture above in complete secret. It's beautiful, double sided and very cosy! In return I helped her buy a new sewing machine. Actually, it is my sewing machine and she's just borrowing it until I learn how to sew. I has around 70 different stitch settings, and features one-touch thread routing and needle threading. Basically, I though sewing machines were kinda dull - I was wrong. They're dead cool and I own one.
We spent the day putting together a scrap book using photographs from the past year. For the first time I actually printed a decent quantity of my digital pictures. I have a HP Deskjet and was printing on Office Max photo paper, and they came out looking relatively professional. Some hues seemed to take longer to dry than others, so we ended up with a few smudges but nothing serious. The book will be a nice memory.
For dinner we had another attempt at making Sushi, but over-confidence got the best of us, and it didn't work out as well as our first effort on Valentine's Day. Still, you can't beat fish. And rice. Cucumber. Avocado. Soy Sauce.Wasabi.Ginger.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The motorcycle diary

It's about time I published the full story behind my return to two wheels. Here it comes...
On Friday 9/14 John's car had a bit of a sideways adventure courtesy of a flat tire, wet weather, poor American road design, lack of roadway maintenance and many other factors other than driver error. Unfortunately, the adventure was cut brutally short by a crash barrier. I emerged unscathed and surprisingly exhilarated. Mostly I was happy to have not collected any other vehicles, having traversed two traffic lanes. The other good news is that no friendly state troopers stopped by to decide I deserved a trip to court.

I called Kristal, and she and her housemate Sara came out to pick me up and call a tow truck. This 21 year old comes out, reversing 200 yards up a on-ramp shoulder to reach us, and jumps out of the truck wearing flip-flops. It turns out her ripped a toenail off while riding a quad-bike barefoot, and shoes are too painful. Despite all this, he does a good job of getting my car back to Kristal's place, whereupon Sara (who is a paediatric nurse) jumps into action to re-bandage his toe so he doesn't have to work in flip-flops in the rain. Kristal gets some hot cocoa on th go, and soon the drama of the night is behind us.

I had to go into work on Saturday, so didn't get a chance to take care of my car. In any case, I've had my eyes out for a bike ever since I got my license (well, really since I arrived in the USA!). I took a ride on a BMW F650 but it wasn't really what I was looking for, and had too many problems. On Saturday at work, I found a Honda Nighthawk posted on the Norfolk Craigslist. Having already missed out on some good deals, I immediately fired off an email to register my interest. That interest was piqued when I saw a picture of the bike. I arranged to view the bike straight away. On Sunday, we drove down to a place just outside Williamsburg. The owners of the bike were selling everything to go travel in their RV for a year, so I got a great deal. The bike has only seen 6000 miles in 12 years on the road. It rides exactly how I want: not too sporty, but with enough power to be comfortable on the highway, and unlike American cruisers, it has been designed with some attention to handling.

I'll want to find a windscreen and some luggage for it, then I'll be off on some adventures (in a strictly forwards direction) while the weather is still fine. Kristal has a helmet so she can ride on the back. Pan Am anyone?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Motorcycle License

Over the weekend I took the Basic Rider Course offered by the MSF. Involving one evening of classroom tuition and two afternoons of practical training, it provides the participant with a waiver for the DMV written and skills tests. Basically, you take the course and they hand you your license at the end. You gotta love motorist education in the USA.

This morning I took the waiver into the DMV so they could reissue my license complete with the 'M'-class. Now I am able to go test ride some bikes. I've been agonising over what bike to get for a long time. My dream bike right now is a Suzuki Bandit 1200. Fitted with some luggage, it is apparently a good two-up sports-tourer, plus I think they look great. There was one for sale in Fredericksburg, very affordable, but it sold this morning. I was totally gutted. Hopefully another will come my way soon.

The bike of my wildest dreams right now is a Triumph Tiger. However, these are almost impossible to find second hand. Um, which would mean buying a brand new bike, and I'm not to sure about spending that much money. But watch this space!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

OBX - Part the third

For our Labor Day holiday we went camping in (you guessed it) the Outer Banks. This time we stayed at the National Parks campsite in Frisco, returning to the NPS after a terrible experience with KOA last time. When we arrived, they had just three sites left, and when we went back to the office a short while later, they were full, so we were lucky to get a spot. Rather disappointingly, the beach near the campground is open to offroad vehicles. This has become common on the East Coast under the present Administration, and is a bit of a shame. Although there are regulations these are not adhered to by a small minority who are too stupid or too selfish to respect common courtesy. Ultimately, I'm disappointed by anyone who is too lazy to leave their vehicle in the parking lot and make a short walk to the beach. If all they want to do is tailgate, stay in the parking lot!

But what did we expect, having chosen to visit on Labor Day weekend! We enjoyed ourselves all the same, playing travel Scrabble at the campsite, and enjoying a nearby beach that didn't allow ORVs. We ate surf and turf on the first night (I grilled steak and shrimp on one of those one-use barbeques), and ate at the Froggy Dog the second night. We also bought some beach chairs and a body-board, which we come in handy on future trips.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Highland County

My Aunt and Uncle invited me up to the house they are renovating in Highland county. In fact, they invited a bunch of friends and relatives and put us to work tearing out fireplaces and rotting floors in return of food and a place to pitch our tents. I think we managed to work for one afternoon. The rest of the time was spent swimming in the creek, or fooling around on this Honda Trail 70.

It took Kristal and I just over three and a half hours to drive out there, including a couple of stops. She kindly let me drive her PT Cruiser over the mountains. I loved it. Manual transmissions are few and far between in the States, but it really does the job on the twisties! Also, it has arm rests, so on the Interstate you really feel like you're cruisin'. The only problem was getting down the rocky driveway to the house.

The place is a bit of a dump. I don't think the owners would take offense to me saying that. But the location is great, and it has a lot of nice features. From the outside it almost looks like it just need a new coat of paint. On the inside, they are basically stripping most of it down the the original walls or the frame. There have been so many alterations on the place, not all of which were performed by professionals, but I'd say that adds character! We did what we could, and all foolishly volunteered to do another weekend of work soon.

It was also great to catch up with the friends and family in the county who I haven't seen in a good seven years or so... I'd forgotten what characters George and Peggy were - it was so fun to see them again. David is running to a position in local government, so it was interesting to chat to him about the challenges and opportunities facing the county. Julia scolded me for not visiting sooner and insisted that I could arrive without invitation! To other people who were there: you are also all very nice!

blog layout changes

Hopefully regular readers will have noticed a few changes in the appearance of my blog. It's been a while since I 'studied' HTML programming, but making changes to existing code is fairly simple, especially with a bit of trial and error. I was finding it hard to write much, knowing that the blog displays in such a narrow column. I've widened the width of the main section. Please let me know if is isn't displaying correctly, due to low resolutions, for example. Also please tell me if the text is too wide to read comfortably - if so I may get really adventurous and try to format posts on two columns! A few colour changes here and there also help make my page a little more individualized.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Nickel Creek

Nickel Creek are the definitive 'Newgrass' band, and one of K's favourite performers. Their farewell (for now) tour came to Innsbrook After-Hours on Friday so a few of us grabbed an early sushi dinner and went to check it out. Four some reason they are touring with Fiona Apple, doing bluegrass renditions of her hits as well as a few other covers and a bunch of their own material. It's kind of a new genre to me, but it's a lot of fun to listen to. I'm considering getting myself a mandolin...

A trip to Mathews

You can take the girl outta Mathews, but you can't take Mathews outta the girl. With that in mind I thought it would be nice for my family to get a glimpse of where K was from, so we took them out to Mathews for a day. Plus I think it's a cool place with fun things to do and great people to visit, so I'll take any excuse to get myself invited out there. We got together a couple of canoes and paddled out into the bay to work up an appetite. On our return, the crabs were boiled to perfection, along with corn, tomatoes, potato salad, apple pie and cookies - fabulous country fare! The meeting of respective parents seemed to go well - birds formed the common interest through which new friendships could be forged. Good Times.

At the Beach

On Wednesday Kristal, myself and the family took a trip to Sandbridge beach. We got great weather for it - you might say a little too good as everyone came away with at least one spot of sunburn. We did all the things you have to do when you go to the beach: build a sandcastle, jump waves, take a walk down the beach, throw a frisbee and eat an ice-cream. Yup, I'd say we about covered it!

At the River

One of the best things about Richmond is the river, and no visit would be complete with spending some time horsing around in the rapids. I took Dad and Martha down to Belle Isle to take a dip in the refreshing waters of the James. Somehow, they'd never been off the southside of Belle Isle, so I took them across the police access bridge then we jumped rocks back to the old powerstation dam. Despite low water levels, the hollywood rapids are still fierce, so once we found ourselves getting complacent of the strength of the current we knew it was time to move on.
We went for lunch at Padow's deli and Dairy Queen then headed over to pony pasture. Unfortuantely the weather started to turn and by the time we arrived a good storm was brewing. We walked out on the rocks a little ways but as the lightning strikes drew closer it seemed unwise to enter the water, so we called it a day.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

My Family Arrives

Mom and Dad flew in Yesterday, and Martha arrived today. All had smooth flights. Tonight everyone converged at Sulgrave Road to greet the weary travelers. I counted seventeen including Smoky the dog! It's great to see my family, and I can't wait to finish the work week and begin to show them around the life that I have carved out for myself in Richmond.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Finals

The Sharks have made it through to the finals, finishing top of our group (Click here for standings). We expected our last game to be our toughest opposition, and played hard with no substitutes to get the win. Now it's on to the knockout stages next week. Hopefully I'll be able to play, but with my family in town I'll have to see how my schedule works out. Click here and scroll down to see the fixtures.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Punk Rock Warlord

I just picked up the Soundtrack to the upcoming film, "the future is unwritten", about the life of Joe Strummer. Joe was with the Clash, later formed the Mescaleros, and DJ'ed a radio show on the BBC world Service from 1999-2002. The album showcases some of the music Joe would play on his show.

I've always enjoyed Joe's musical endevours. He writes songs about stuff that really happened to him; other people write songs about cool stuff they wish would happen to them. Genre isn't really important. Honesty is.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Soccer Schedule

We played the Costa Ricans tonight @ Indoor and were defeated 8-1. A bit disappointing, but as usual no one stayed in position and we didn't talk to one another...

We only have one indoor game left now, on Wednesday at 10pm.

My Outdoor games are as follows:

Jul 116:007A
Jul 127:108A
Jul 197:103A
Jul 246:003B

The 'A' and 'B' are just used because we play on half of the field. So if the location is '3A', just find field 3 at Striker park and we'll be there.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Night Fishing

Eileen and Anders took Kristal and I night fishing on Friday. In the photo we are setting out on the Pamunkey River just before sunset. It was a really beautiful evening. Later, the stars and the lightning bugs came out. Anders talked to the owls a lot (they been reading too much Harry Potter).

As for the fishing, we we not so lucky. No fish we caught, and we lost one line in the trees, one when the line touched the lantern and burnt off, and another snagged on a branch at the bottom of the river! Still, had a great time, and as long as Anders doesn't think we're cursed, we'll try again another day.

Indepedence Day

This year I decided not to kick up any fuss about the fourth of July. I barely heard anyone call it 'Independence Day', which just goes to show that nobody remembers why they're getting the day off work. Ray invited a few of us from work around to his new house for a cook-out. His dog, a beagle by the name of muddy, ate my potato salad. I feel like the balance of the universe was restored when one of our fireworks almost killed Ray and Muddy! To pass the time 'til it got dark, we played 'Would you rather...', which involved me getting in rather heated arguments with Amanda about how much saliva there is on a cows tongue (among other, more intellectual topics).

I was home in time to watch the fireworks at the Diamond (the baseball stadium is just a few blocks away, so I had a good view from the top of my fire-escape). They didn't start until around 11pm. Apparently the neighbours were complaining about the noise. Again, I think it's rather sad that on such a significant national holiday, some people can only grumble that the fireworks were too loud! It's the kind of thing you expect to happen in England!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Indy Car

My uncle Ben got Kristal and I some tickets for the Indy Car race at RIR last night. The video posted above is not my original footage, but pretty much captures how the race proceeds for 250 laps. However, it was better than NASCAR for the following reasons.
1. It features a smaller field of cars, so it's easier to keep track of what's going on.
2. It's faster - if you're just going to drive around in circles, at least do it at 170mph.
3. Diversity - the current leader is a Scot of Italian descent, and there are four women drivers.
4. They run on Ethanol!
The evening starts off with the usual military posturing - a jet fighter flyby and three paragliders, one with a huge Stars & Stripes tied to his leg! It was pretty cool. We ate the worst cheeseburgers I've ever tasted, washed down with crisp, refreshing Miller Lite. I bought a T-shirt, which I will wear with Pride to work tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Soccer Update

I played my first game with the 'Sharks', in the Richmond Strikers' Under 40's League. The game was a bit of a pushover, since the other team were unbearably slow. Hopefully more worthy opposition awaits us. The League is set up in two groups of six teams, with the top teams in each group entering playoffs towards the end of the season. It's a seven-a-side game format with rolling subs. The field is a bit larger than the indoor arena I've been playing in, and of course there are no walls, so you have to play a bit more intelligently!

Talking of Indoor, 'Old School' is in its second session. We definitely started to improve at the end of last season, and this session it looks like the other teams in our league are closer to our level. Hopefully the days of Nine - Nothing defeats are behind us.

Last week my Grandpa and friend James came to watch us play. It turned out to be one of the scrappier games we've played. For some reason everyone was on edge, so our rather easy victory was marred by a couple of outbreaks of unsportsmanlike behaviour. This week was a bye week for us, so maybe by next week everyone will have calmed down!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Kyle's Lake House

This weekend was spent down at Lake Gaston. We did a bit of fishing (I caught a crappy), messed around on the jetski (my bum is sorely bruised after being towed in a poorly designed inflatable), and generally lounged around in the sunshine. Above Kristal, Anders and Eileen are preparing some canned corn bait. Fifty pound carp were the quarry, but sadly none were caught.

Groovin' in the Garden

On Thursday I spent a relaxing few hours taking in some live music at Ginter Botanical Gardens. A mere $15, the show was opened by Chuch with Son Volt headlining. The genre was described to me as 'Country Rock', but really the styles leaned more in the direction of contemporary American rock, in my opinion. Despite Son Volt being the main attraction, I thought Chuch did a nicer job of putting on a show and interacting with the crowd. Maybe I'll pick up their record. It's about time I stopped listening to British rock bands from the seventies and got myself up to date!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

An Englishman in America

Kristal kindly indulged me in all things British yesterday, cooking Shepherds Pie (made with lamb!) and apple crumble. It was delicious - dibs to M for providing the recipes. Also provided were Boddingtons, Hobgoblin, Guinness and some kind of Irish Raspberry Cider. Yummy! And as a present, K gave me a Union Jack, which already proudly flies on our balcony.

Friday, June 01, 2007

One Year in the USA.

Today officially marks the end of my first year abroad. I don't recall the exact moment that the airplane tires touched down on American soil, but I do remember pulling up to the back of my grandparent's house at around 3AM on the morning of the 2nd of June 2006 and realising that my adventure had begun.

Looking back through my blog archives brings warm memories of new experiences enjoyed with new friends in new places. It's been a fun year, and perhaps it's time for me to talk in a more conversational tone about my journey so far.

For some reason I feel a weight of expectation as I begin to type. Since I imagine that the audience of this blog is composed primarily of friends and family back home, I sure everyone is hoping for me to announce my imminent return to the Isles. Well, you'll just have to wait and see. Those of you who prescribe more strongly to the xenophobic tendencies of the British are no doubt waiting for a lengthy tirade focusing on the stupidity, narrow-mindedness and unchecked consumerism which I may have witnessed over the past twelve months.

Really all I want to say, though, is that I'm having a really good time! I'm so happy that my attempts to run away from real life have been so blissfully successful! My existence is unblemished my the proximity of anything resembling an authority figure. Money comes, and money goes. I have no immediate plans to make anything of myself.

Thank you for reading. I really miss every one of you terribly, and hope dearly that you can come and visit soon ;-).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Terrarium Update

It's been a little over a week since I installed my terrarium, and there have been many exciting additions to the environment which I'd like to share with you, gentle readers...

First of all, I felt like my tree frog was having a boring time at ground level, so I purchased a fake vine and some fake leaves. He (or she) seems to enjoy them, and he loves to sleep at the top of the tank amongst the leaves. The other day when I fed him some crickets, he was perched about halfway up the vine - them he leapt down to the ground, landing with his mouth squarely on top of the unsuspecting morsel. It was awesome.

I also bought a light, for warming the space, as although the weather is hot during the day, it still gets a little chilly once the sun goes down.

This weekend I worked on supplementing my frog's diet. He eats only crickets at the moment, so I have to dust them with a calcium- and vitamin-containing powder to ensure he doesn't suffer from any nutritional deficiencies.

The carnivorous plants also need feeding I think. Apparently I can sustain them with dead crickets, but I'm having trouble with the transformation of a live cricket into a dead one. In other words, I too much of a sissy to kill an insect. Currently I'm attempting to asphyxiate one in a sandwich bag. It's been half an hour and it seems to be getting nervous at least.

So far, a couple of my Venus fly trap heads have died, but there is one new one growing. There are also signs of new growth in my pitcher plants.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Kristal had a spare terrarium after the gecko that Jim gave her died. It now proudly houses my new Venus fly trap and pitcher plants. Oh, and a Cuban Tree Frog!

Gosport Art Show

On Saturday Kristal and I looked after Pottery by Tasha McKelvey's booth at the Gosport Art Show. It was held on Portsmouth High Street by the quay, so I was more interested in the huge Navy ships docked nearby than the art. However, I did buy some carnivorous plants from the Fly Trap Farm stall.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Monument Avenue...<*dispair*>

This is the "Sons of Confederate Veterans" Parade - a mile long cavalcade of small squads of old men in gray uniforms, pickups pulling period artillery pieces, horses and another course of slightly arrogant wallowing in immoral defeat like only Richmond VA knows how to serve up. I shouldn't be so negative - I love Richmond's history, it never ceases to amaze!


Confession time. My current facial hair arrangement is old enough to be considered at least semi-permanent, which warrants posting the evidence on the internet for posterity and the amusement of the general public. I've always wanted to look a bit like Morgan Spurlock, and be like him too...thus I have embarked on my own incarnation of 30 days by immersing myself "in a mode of life markedly different from their norm" -- ie, wearing a handlebar moustache. After overcoming the three day hump of being labeled a Redneck, and eventually addressing issues of asymmetry, I think the new look has come together well. Now I just need to wait thirty years for it to develop into the sophisticated whiskers showcased by the likes of Terrence "Terry" Gene Bollea and Paul John Teutul.

North Caorlina

Kristal and I took another weekend vacation to the beautifully photogenic Outer Banks, NC, and this was the only picture I took...what can I say, I was on holiday! It was out six month anniversary, so there were more pressing concerns than filling the photo album. Recommendations from this trip include, but are not limited to: Ocracoke Island, the North Carolina Aquarium, and trying to cook shrimp and tuna kebabs over an open fire without burning one's fingers.

We stayed at the KOA campground, which sadly gets no recommendations on account of employing staff possessing no common sense, of closing 90% of the facilities at any time vaguely off season, of being full of RVs and overpriced. Its a shame because I have fond memories of KOA sites in NY state during our family trip to Niagara.

MobileMate SD+

My ability to post photographs has been temporarily interrupted because I've lost the USB cable. I'm assigning blame to my housemates (but haven't told them yet). Someone did some 'cleaning up', and transferred all my belongings from the living room to my bed. I say "all", but in reality one item has always and forever departed from this world.

Now I have a new card reader - apparently it is impossible to replace camera cables... The SD reader has a green light, though, so I'm happy. OK, so here are some posts.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Chilli Cook-Off

Yo. Check it. Chili Cook-Off 2007. Local radio station 102.6 The X organize an annual chili competition /slash/ heavy metal concert and the Raceway Complex.

An inch of snow fell in the morning, setting a new record for April, and making for a cold day hanging out on a windswept lot drinking beers and imbibing shots of chili, caring little for how they taste, only that they are warm.

The bands were pretty terrible, even after taking into account the genre. We kinda wanted to see Buckcherry, since they were the only band on the lineup that we'd heard of, but left early on account of extreme coldness and boredom.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I'm sorry, I'm terrible at Introductions. These are my new housemates, the poor people who have to put up with my strumming and singing, the hair in the bathroom, the smug way I cruise through life, never seeming to try very hard...

(l-r) Whitney - 2nd Grade teacher, Liz - in Advertising and fastest member of the house, Uh ME, and Rob - Bank Analyst works 80 hours a week. Aren't we beautiful?

Yamaha FG 700S

Since moving out of Chris' Apartment at Honey Tree I have been deprived many things. Regular grill-outs (that's a BBQ to the Brits), sports on huge, hi-def flatscreen, and guitars, to name but three. Well, rumours abound of a gas grill being on the way, there's a sports bar round the corner and I've just purchased a sweet new baby, so order in the world is beginning to be restored.

I did my shopping at Guitar Center which is full of friendly staff. On my first visit, Joseph help me pick out something cheap and cheerful. I went home with a second hand Epiphone in good nick, at a bargain price. However, after attempting to launch into the Intro from 'Sweet Child O' Mine' I discover a bump in the fretboard where the neck joins the body. Apparently this is common in cheaper models. Thus I returned to GC, whereupon Seth helped me dig around for something more suiting my expectations of quality. I noodled around on five or six, gradually sneaking out of my envisioned price range. This Yamaha really caught my fancy, and trusty Seth went to chat to the manager about approving a discount... Behold and Lo, a deal was struck, and I am now the proud owner of the beautiful example of craftmanship pictured above.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K

I finished in a time of 48:45. It really was a lot of fun. One thing you can say about the Americans is they know how to be a good crowd, and there was great support all the way along the course, and some good bands playing too. I was treated to a rendition of 'Hard Day's Night' as I reached the halfway point, and sprinted home to Outkast's 'Hey-ya'! Tonight the housemates of 2236 are going out to party together for the first time, but since we all ran this morning our endurance may be, uh, pathetic, frankly.


KRIS and I spent a relaxing weekend visiting the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

WE stayed for one night at Miss Molly's Inn, a cute B&B run by an English lady and her American husband. At breakfast we were the youngest guests by a factor of about 2.5.

MY WalMart bike rack performed admirably after a few minor alterations, allowing us to cycle around the wildlife refuge on Assateague Island, catching a glimpse of the wild ponies, taking in view from the lighthouse and gazing across the Atlantic on a windy beach.

Virginia's Eastern Shore is the only remaining undeveloped barrier island system ( I learned from a book on the B&B coffee table). It's abundant supply of fish and game birds has attracted hunters for centuries. The local huntsmen used wooden decoys which have developed into an art form. There is a decoy shop on the island selling items by distinguished artists, which are exquisite examples of brushmanship. I must have looked like a man of good taste and a large wallet, as the sales-woman instructed mt to snap up a beautiful $3000 duck before the artist went commission only and prices soared to prohibitive heights. I chose to ignore her advice.

We dined handsomely in several local seafood establishments, and were lucky enough to catch Snackbar Jones performing at the Chincoteague Inn. On our trip back we hit the jackpot, stopping for lunch at a Wachapregue restaurant with an awesome view.

Throughout our trip, and all my travels so far in the Eastern United State, I have been impressed by the quality of the visitor centers at Historic and Natural sites of interest. Somehow they manage to commission some really original artwork, as seen in the example above from Kiptopeke.

Monday, March 19, 2007

New House

I have recently moved house, since my previous house mate decided to move back home to NC. My new pad is on Monument Avenue close to the 'fan' district of Richmond. The Fan is know for its small bars and cafes and is inhabited mostly by students of VCU. I'm living with three young professionals who were looking for a similar person to move in a short notice. They seem like a lot of fun, and it's nice to meet some new friends outside of work!

Sadly my days of completely freeloading are over, but I think I did well to live in the USA for over 9 months without really owning anything. To make up for it, I bought a gigantic bed.

I have the uncomfortable feeling that I beginning to put down roots in this country. But to quote Martin Blank, "I've always been a very temporary person" - I doubt that signing a 12 month lease and buying a bed will do much to change the certain aspect of my personality colloquially termed "commitment-o-phobia".

After initial wireless network troubles, I am now 100Mbps Hardwired to a cable modem, which leaves me no excuses for not posting more often....

Hope to see you here again soon


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentines Sushi

For Valentine's day Kristal and I made each other Sushi. We were surprised how well it turned out! Tuna, salmon, avocado, cucumber, rice, seaweed paper....and our mad rolling skillz.

One of our local Sushi places serves 'Sake-tinis' so we made our own - they're basically cocktails made with Sake, rum and fruit juice. A much cheaper way to eat sushi, and we avoided the crush at the restaurants.

Monday, February 05, 2007

My holiday in West Virginia

This weekend Kristal and I spent a romantic weekend in the snowy West Virginian mountains. We stayed in a 'Cozy Cabin' at the ACE adventure centre complete with hot tub... Friday afternoon we took a horse ride in the snow. Our guide, Jeff, was a real character and provided a commentary on the local history, mostly coal mining and railroads. We rode to a viewpoint overlooking the smallest incorporated town in America (6 inhabitants), which also hosted the longest poker game in history (13 years). People were dealt in and out continuously, although many players left the game on account of being found floating face down in the river in the morning.

On Saturday we traveled to Winterplace Ski Resort and took a snowboarding lesson. We sucked at snowboarding, but at least we looked rad. Desperately needing coffee we stopped at a small booth at a desolate intersection near the town of Minden. The occupant had apparently set up similar booths in Texas serving espresso, but sold them to move back to WV. Made the nicest damn vanilla latte I've ever tasted.

On Sunday we stopped at a few of the other attractions of the area: New River Gorge Bridge (the largest single span arch bridge in the hemisphere), Hawk's Nest lookout and an old grist mill.

See my photos here:

Sunday, January 21, 2007


I've signed myself up for the Monument Avenue 1oK on 31st March. The course is about as flat as possible, so shouldn't be too much trouble. Hopefully can get a sub-hour time. Training will be tough as it's just turned cold (finally), but I can always do some stuff on the treadmills too. Wish me luck!

Monday, January 08, 2007


Hey dudes and dudettes. I went to a class at the gym this afternoon called 'BodyCombat' with Kyle. Me, him and 30 girls punching and kicking thin air for an hour. We looked ridiculous, but I'll tell you it was a good work out. I hurt. A lot. Although admittedly I was pumping iron yesterday... There are no pictures, which is a good thing, from my point of view.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

We had a party at our house with silly hats, beads and banners.
We drank Champagne once Kristal got it open - and I discovered that the Champagne they drink over here is nasty as all hell.Jennifer and Brian were there.
So were Chris and Kaitlin - here seen limbering up for Twister.
And Laura and her friend Kaitlin totally kicked our asses at '90s Edition Trivial Pursuit.

Pat McGee Band

Chris, Kaitlin, Kristal and I went to see the Pat McGee Band at the Canal Club downtown on Saturday night. It was a tribute gig for their drummer who recently passed away. The guy gave drumming lessons, so several of his pupils were invited to play the drums during the set. Great music. And I got lots of compliments on my hair from various punks, who all complained that their girlfriends wouldn't let them do it!!

After we went to Sheetz, which is a gas station that serves food as well. This country is weird. I had a burger. It was tasty. Yum. Weird can be good I guess/