Archive for April, 2007

on driving

Monday, April 16th, 2007

A week ago, I decided it was finally time to just get a driver’s license. So I went into the driving school near where I live, and hooked up a couple of lessons and a test. We might have called the DSA, but for the fact that we’re not in the UK and therefore didn’t feel like a utterly pointless 2 month wait on a test. Nah, instead, we booked a test last Tuesday, for Friday. I had a couple of lessons, then passed the road test.

Learning to drive on the other side of the road, in an automatic car, took 3 days. The Massachusetts driving test is laughably ridiculous since it lasts under ten minutes, is only conducted in a residential area, and essentially involves just making a handful of observable driving actions. However, at least I’ve learned elsewhere to use my mirrors correctly (watching for motorized/non-motorized bikes and other at-risk persons). Here in MA, they didn’t even bother to tell me about that. They didn’t bother with the rear view mirror…I could go on, but the point is obvious – there’s a lot of truth to the stereotypes of US drivers that those outside the US may or may not hold true. Oh, and the “correct” way to turn the wheel here is hand-over-hand…sigh.

Not that I care. Here, they’re way more pragmatic than those anally pedantic DSA folks. The UK “Driving Standards Agency” is a government quango that is paid to waste your time. They make vast amounts of money out of offering no customer service, make you wait months for a test, and generally are utterly useless. The testing here is inadequate, but at least it’s possible to book this side of July 4. In the States, they care more about getting you onto the road (to the detriment of public safety, in my opinion) than in whether you screw up on a minor technicality during a reverse parallel park. Did I mention that the UK DSA suck? Those folks just suck…so so much.

So, look out, I’m licensed to drive now.


What’s up?

Saturday, April 7th, 2007

It’s been a good week, in some respects, in others, not so much. On the plus side:

  • Decided to work harder on Red Hat stuff, because I really love that company. A lot. I don’t generally talk about RH on this blog, but I will say that they get it. These are some of the finest examples of human beings you’ve ever met in your life. And even if you don’t believe that, believe that this is not the kind of Microsoft-wannabe you might somehow think it is.
  • I have decided that I feel at home here, and working where I do. I love living in the US so much more than the UK. And the British government can go shove their stupid decline toward a totalitarian regime. I won’t live there again. If I ever leave the US, I’m going to end up someplace else – but not back in that place, not on a permanent basis. It’s a nice place to visit, but it’s otherwise long since gone to pot with utterly broken government. Sure, the US government is fucked up too – everyone’s is – but the UK has some uniquely British fuckedupisms, dating back centuries, never getting fixed.
  • Took up sailing again. Joined the local sailing club, been down a couple times and have membership that allows me to turn up and go most days. There’s a historical irony to being British and sailing on the Charles. More than that, it’s just damned good fun being on the water at times like this – relaxing and a way to take your mind off evil things, like sleeping any more than is absolutely necessary.
  • Restrung my violin and got a practice mute. I’m playing most days now and I’ve bought a finger grip to help strengthen my infamous 4th finger. I am seriously considering getting an electric violin – I’ll keep that under review before I go spending more than a grand, but I am liking the idea. A lot. I’m also liking the idea of taking up the piano, also a lot. And the Cello too. I love listening to the Cello, and a friend is selling one, maybe, but the problem is – again – playing such an instrument in an apartment building without really pissing off the (not particularly bad) neighbors. They make electric ones though, I’m sure. I love to join a local choir too, but I don’t know of any that appeal to my weird tastes really.
  • Bought more jeans. I’ve gone from a size 36 to almost a 32. I guess that’s where I’ll end up, but that’s not so bad. I can wear size medium now, without looking like I’ve shoe-horned myself somehow into my clothing. I’m far from a thin guy, but I’m so much better for being a bit less fat. Well, in some ways at least. I feel ok, physically, at any rate.
  • Bought more books. Got one on sailing techniques and another on music theory. Decided to brush up on my music theory, and read a bit more of these other books that I have – on math, electronics, fiction, whatever. I have more time to read in the evenings and on weekends and I might aswell use it. Certainly beats some of the alternatives. My TV goes on roughly twice a day – mostly for the news at the moment, I need my BBC News fix. I nearly saw a movie last night, nearly, but by the time I walked down to the movie theatre, I decided that I wasn’t really feeling in a “Blades of Glory” mood.
  • Went down to the RMV, determined that they give me a permit this time without any crap. I wasn’t in a mood to be trifled with, and it worked. I gave them no flexibility, was armed with all the relevant documentation, and was fully versed in the law. They tried to fuck me over, but were unable, and in the end had to give me a permit after I passed their trivially stupid test. I have no idea how big an ounce is, but it’s trivial to work out how many ounces of alcohol there are in a 12 ounce American beer (half as many as in a decent beer). They could ask useful, other, multiple choice questions, but whatever (yes, drink driving is wrong – now fucking more on, you weirdly broken broken people. Ask questions to do with driving, tell people drink driving is wrong. Move fucking on). Screw them, anyway. I’ve never seen such unprofessional people in my life than the RMV. I hope I only have to deal with them once more when I get my license.

There are a few negatives, too:

  • I’m in love with someone who’s not in love with me. I’ve never had my heart ripped out quite like this – being told she’s not in love with me, but that I’m great and she doesn’t understand why she’s not in love. At least we were honest and civil about it. And I can’t hate her – I never could. I am actually only capable of feeling love for her. I’m just so cut up about it because I would do anything on this Earth just to make her happy. And even more depressing than that, I found myself saying (and this is true, too) that I care more about her happiness than my own. I’d rather she were happy with someone who wasn’t me. Isn’t that fun? I would do anything to be with her, anything on this Earth, but it’s not enough. On the plus side, I’ve decided not to date again. It’s too painful. I want love, companionship, things like that – not one night stands or short term stuff. I’d rather be alone for the rest of my life than have to go through this again.
  • I bought a copy of The Crucifixion and listened to it. I’m not religious – I’m a hardcore atheist – but at times like this, I enjoy that kind of music. I’m looking for some concerts in the Boston metro area, but it’s tougher than getting tickets to a Genesis concert (yes, I have a ticket, too – is that a good or a bad thing?). I’ve got some super depressing music (no, not just the Roxette, it gets much more fun) here, it’s great. I enjoy taking long walks along the Charles, listening to this at full volume.
  • I went to the RMV. I actually got to a point where even they couldn’t annoy me any more, and decided to capitalize on it. They tried their best to annoy me, they tried to screw me over, but I just didn’t care. It was great. See, this is both a good and a bad thing – only thing that makes them better than the DVLA/DSA in the UK is that you don’t need to wait years for a test. You turn up, you take a test, you go. I felt sorry for the Asian dude in line next to me who just wanted an ID, but they fucked him over because he couldn’t express his intentions properly in English. Rather than helping, they simply did that stupid condescending thing with hand gestures and shouting. I had prepared for their terse, surly attitude with one of my own.

Other stuff happened too, I’m sure. I’m just mentioning a few things (who the fuck knows why I write this here?) because – oh, I don’t know – whatever. I’m ok, I’m just wondering where the fuck I went wrong. And not knowing what it is that I did wrong – apparently nothing – is so painful. Until later, have a good weekend (and day off, if you got/get Friday and/or Monday as a quasi-religious holiday).

No comments allowed on posts like this :-)


SV-200 vs. EV-204

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

Well, I’ve decided to buy an Electric Violin. I’d like something I can play all night long, wherever, whenever, however, without disturbing anyone. And the Yamaha violins look to be about what I want – I’ve had my eye on one of these puppies for a few years. The only question now would seem to be whether I want to buy the Acoustic-styled SV-200 or the post-modern psychedelic-colo[u]red EV-204.

Both seem to be very formidable violins with solid engineering behind them but beyond that, the SV-204 has two pickups and a conventional spruce/maple combination, whereas the EV-204 seems much more oriented toward the Vanessa Mae wannabe (though, importantly, it has a pickup under each string position on the bridge – all electric violins tend to use bridge vibration for pickup). I don’t look cute in a full length skimpy dress, so I’m not planning to try that any time soon (besides, I sound terrible too when I play in comparison to anyone – I’m under no illusions as to my playing abilities these days).

I need to decide. I’m also thinking about a keyboard/electric piano. If I do decide to get a piano, I’ll want one that can do MIDI and be used to notate via Rosegarden at the very least.


Violin upgrade: part I

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

I’ve been working on my violin technique some more and I feel as if I am improving over time, which is good, but I’m not up to standard yet (certainly not the standard I was as a younger man). In part, it’s physical – my 4th finger has a minor injury that has never quite gotten better but causes me discomfort during complex movements/passages and constantly wants to “click”. I could look at having it treated but the only option would be needless surgery and there would be just as much chance of making it worse – it only affects my playing, not typing or whatever, so I’m inclined to live with it.

Aside from the physical issues I have, I decided the violin itself needed an overhaul and a new set of strings. I’ve previously had a good experience with Cambridge Music, even if I can never seem to speak to someone who is directly versed in violins (they must have someone, they collate custom string sets, etc. and I know this person has been referred to, at least indirectly at any rate). I went there this evening and bought a $50 set – three Dominants and a Pirastro E string (I cunngingly avoided talking about my G…oh, never mind). I’ve installed and tuned them, but they are going to need some breaking in and are going out of tune every few minutes by a fraction of a semi-tone and requiring adjustment. But the instrument sounds so much better for it – more like a violin than a dying cat.

I’ve also bought what they call a “practice mute”, which is essentially an oversize mute designed to do more than a performance mute – it’s designed for volume reduction, and not a performance style – since I’ve been concerned that I might make too much noise in the apartment building, and, somewhat more importantly, I often want to play depressing music to myself in the early hours…it’s easier if you don’t wake others up and have them come talk to you about it. No, I’ve not actually done that, yet, since I don’t dislike my neighbours enough to justify that ;-)

I’m still thinking about a Yamaha silent violin, and also about lessons (know any good violin teachers in Cambridge? No, not that Cambridge, the other one) once I have worked on my positioning, bowing technique, and other style concerns that I have. I am considering taking up the piano, but that will be more of an investment in a week where I’m not also thinking about having sailing lessons and inventing free time I don’t have to do these things in.


Project: Brave New Jon

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

For a little while now, I’ve been on what one might term a “detox diet”. Largely based on fruit and veg, it generally takes this form:

  • Breakfast of fruit. Usually Apples/Bananas. Lots of fruit juice (with added Calcium). Complete multi-vitamin, an additional B/C supplement, an additional Zinc supplement. Various other supplements as needed.
  • Lunch of fruit, and more juice. I’m drinking more than a lit[er|re] per day. Carrots and other veg. often come in here, or in the evening.
  • Assorted berries and more fruit in the evening, a protein shake (19g of non-diary protein derived from soy, green tea and chai – other Protein sources bring the total to at least RDA every day, as required). Fruit is generally prioritized with a preference toward those low in sugar, and it’s always organic (to avoid pesticides).
  • Plenty of water. I drink way, way, more water than I used to. I keep a glass of water next to my desk during the day and at my bedside at night. If you’re going to consume caffeine, it’s important to rehydrate yourself and this is something that is easy to overlook in today’s modern world. Water is just better for you anyway.
  • Update: I’ve decided to add some organic peanuts for the moderate increase in fat, protein and other nutrients.

Obligatory Disclaimer: I did a lot of research into precisely what food groups I need to be eating, in what quantities and created this diet for myself. I’ve not included all details here. I don’t suggest blindly following this post as a recommendation for any diet you may wish to create for yourself – but I will document some of my results here. I don’t see myself becoming a permanent veggie (or even a vegan, if I cut out the milk) but it’s very useful as a short term detoxification diet.

I’ve also taken up running and a lot of other exercise/walking. I will get my bike fixed up shortly and then, as I consider re-introducing more complex carbs, I’ll increase my cycling to offset that. How do I feel? Aside from other personal stuff in my life, I feel great – I haven’t had this much energy in years. I get good restful sleep and feel fantastic in the mornings. I’ve lost 20lbs (of mostly fat) so far but that rate has now fallen – and I’m looking at losing another 15-20lbs. I still drink way too much coffee (read: I got invited to go drinking with the folks who work in my local Starbucks), but that’s just me. I drink tea, but it’s actually largely decaf. Earl Grey at the moment. I keep a bunch of varieties around though, and a range of fresh coffee beans too – 24 hour coffee coverage available here.

I’m not turning into a fruitarian (quite – I mean, I’m violating all their rules anyway) but I admit that I am enjoying the benefits that this diet has to offer over a defined period of time. I’ll probably give it a few more weeks before I evaluate the results. My goal is to be fitter than I have been in years, to climb a lot more often, and to be 165lbs or so by the time I’m done. The project name? Brave New Jon. And this is only Phase One.