Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

almost american

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Last Friday I had a rather strange but fun experience – the US Citizenship test. Emma and I had been thinking about doing this for some time – now we’ve had our green cards for about 6 years we’re eligible but it’s not something to be taken lightly. We have found that it’s OK to have dual citizenship with our British passports, and I know that if we have to give that up it would be a different story, but gaining dual citizenship feels like a good thing to do.

There are a number of reasons why I’ve been thinking of doing this: firstly this is home in many ways, and being able to be a full member of the society, especially being able to vote, feels like the right thing (especially as I’ve been paying tax since I got here). Also it gives us much more flexibility – if we left the US for over two years we’d lose our green cards. Furthermore I have heard that it makes a difference with inheritance taxes I might have to pay to the kids when the inevitable happens. A little strange to say that you would serve in the army if called upon, but as we said if they’re going to call up mothers of two in their thirties (like Emma) then the world is pretty much falling apart and it’s not going to make much difference what countries you might belong to.

Anyway, there was a fair amount of paperwork to do, but on the whole it seems to be a much easier process than the whole work visa and green card process. The interview was close to the final stage – now my application has been approved and I just need to wait to hear when the ceremony is, which is the final step. I was quite nervous – apart from the momentousness about it, I was worried that despite my studying I might flunk the US Citizenship test questions. As it turned out the interview was very relaxed. I was asked some pretty simple questions, and seemed to do pretty well in the tests of written and spoken English. It was all over in about 15 minutes or so. I guess I missed the opportunity to change my name (keep meaning to add an extra F to Mogendorff) but all in all it was a good thing to do. Now I just have to wait for the ceremony!

Also last night my friend Michael came over with a patriotic apple pie for us. I was too grateful to point out that although the phrase is “As American as apple pie” there are plenty other countries where people make apple pie. However, not many where someone would carve USA into the crust (the other thing carved in at the top of the crust is apparently an eagle):

USA Apple Pie

USA Apple Pie

feet

Monday, September 15th, 2008

There are a number of subtle differences between American and British supermarkets, one of them being the kinds of meat you can encounter in each. Despite the new/old food “movement” in the U.K., I’m sure that in most supermarkets here there is more offal available – chicken gizzards, pig trotters etc, than I ever saw in Britain.

On James Lileks’ Bleat today he had a picture of something he saw at one of our local markets:

Chicken feet

Chicken feet

Urgh. As he says, “I’m sure they’re quality chicken feet, but the thing about modern supermarkets is this: generally, not a lot of feet.” Well, you do get pig trotters, as I noted, but there’s quite a difference between trotters and actual feet. With scales. And claws. Holding onto each other.

And per the wording on the price label, I’m not sure what the store thinks my life is like, but a handful of feet is not something that would be living up to any life I would like, thanks.

PS if anyone has any chicken feet recipes, leave a note in the comments, if you must.

quick update

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Sorry, not ignoring you – just busy busy and busy and I keep forgetting to post updates.

So here, very quickly, is how things are standing. Busy at work – all excellent, but just a lot to do. Really enjoying it though.

Toby and Dara are doing great. Dara is now 11 months, and doing loads. She loves playing with her big brother and he’s great with her. She’s doing a lot of standing, not quite ready for walking yet although she’s taken a couple of steps a few times. She seems to be pretty happy zooming around crawling, so who knows how long it’ll take. She’s still very chatty – all sounding very meaningful and important but mostly incomprehensible, in a very charming way. She’s starting to be able to do a few words though – ball and bear are quite definite, and last night she said her name very clearly a few times when she saw herself in the mirror. Toby is still “babaa”.

Toby himself is doing very well too. He’s just started his last week of daycare, in preparation for starting kindergarten next week. He’s extremely excited, we’ll see how he handles the anticipation and a bit of nervousness. He’s still zooming around – swimming really well and also a master of Wii tennis. He has lots of plans and schemes floating around in his head, and now that he’s getting older he doesn’t have so many amusing verbal mistakes, although yesterday he was telling us how to get somewhere and he said “first you need to find a case of stairs”.

not manly, parts 1 and 2

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Part 1: While I was driving Toby home from daycare a couple of days ago, a cyclist went past us, causing the following conversation:

Toby: That man on the bike looks like one of your brothers
Me: Which one?
Toby: One of the London brothers
Me: You mean Uncle Richard?
Toby: Yes. But a little bit different. That man’s bag isn’t like Uncle Richard’s. His was brown and big, Uncle Richard’s is more like a green manbag.

Part 2: We got a Nintendo Wii last weekend, and it’s a ton of fun. Because the controllers work by motion you end up moving a lot – pitching in the baseball game, for example, you do a faster pitch if you swipe the controller faster. On Wednesday night I was playing for a while and doing really hard pitches, and as a result my shoulder, sides and leg muscles are still hurting two days later.

night out

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Yesterday was the annual National Night Out, and for the third year running our neighbors organized a street party for our block. We closed off the street and set up tables and barbecues, and a whole load of us basically hung out, got to meet new neighbors and ate good food. The weather was perfect, and we got to meet some really nice folks. One of the guys who I hadn’t met before is Brazilian, and he somewhat lived up to national stereotype (in the best way) by having the biggest barbecue, and grilling huge hunks of meat which he had skewered on swords. He also did some little things – smoked sausages and marinated chicken hearts, which were surprisingly delicious. But the rib-eye was completely phenomenal. There were quite a few kids there too, as well as friendly dogs, so Toby and Dara had plenty to do and see.

how to lose a sale

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

We’ve had a fantastic Denon home theater box for a few years now – the sound quality and everything else is just great, and it has a nice interface to the iPod. The problem with an all-in-one system is that if/when one component breaks down, the whole thing could be rendered useless. So last week the DVD drive seemed to stop working – it wouldn’t read anything, and even the cleaning disc wouldn’t work. Fortunately new DVD players are really cheap these days, and because the Denon has so many spare inputs I shopped around for a cheap but good player. The bonus is that newer DVD models are upconverting, meaning that while standard DVD quality is not high-definition, the player alters the signal to make it appear to be almost high-def.

I got a good deal on a Phillips player from Circuit City – bought online and went to the store to pickup. A nice service so far. At the store they said that I would get 10% off accessories, and seeing as I need an extra HDMI cable I thought I’d take a look. Unfortunately that’s where their customer service started to fall down.

I asked a sales guy where their cables were, and he immediately started to say “So is your TV 720 or 1080?” – basically trying to get me with somewhat technical jargon. If you follow the link above you’ll see the whole picture about HDMI – it’s a standard to carry a digital signal from one device to another – and because it’s digital the signal is all or nothing. If you’re buying analog cables, the cable quality is important – interference can cause distortion of signal – but for digital it makes no difference whatsoever. Circuit City had a variety of HDMI cables, including the Monster brand, whose cables were well over $100. The cable I got to hook up our HD TiVo to the TV was about $7 online, and it works fine – as I said a digital signal is either going to work or it is not.

I told the sales guy I just wanted the cheapest cable they had. He said “they’re over there, but they are only $5 less, so these ones here, it’s going to be better quality”. Not so, I said – it’s a digital signal, so I just need cheap. He kept on about signal quality – he either had no idea himself or he thought he could patronize me into paying loads more than I need to, so end result: poor customer service, and no sale.

folkestone photos

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

We got back from vacation on Thursday night and I got the pictures together here. A whopping 4 pages – hope you like them. I’m continuing to be very pleased with my new camera!

back

Friday, July 11th, 2008

Back in town after vacation and hiatus and time off all together. We got back to Minneapolis yesterday early evening and were wowed by how beautiful our front garden looked – lilies and everything in bloom – and how many weeds we have to wrastle to the ground this weekend. The kids were fantastically well behaved on the plane (several people told us, so it’s unbiased reporting) and apart from us being woken up by a massive thunderstorm last night, they did pretty well getting home and going to sleep. Dara being almost 10 months is physically compelled to sit or stand up at every single opportunity – we had several rounds of putting her in her bed, only to turn away and find that she had popped up and was sleepily holding on to the bars of her crib, even though she could hardly keep her eyes open.

how it happened

Friday, June 13th, 2008

I’m getting over a Friday the 13th-type disappointment – Holland played France in Euro 2008 and by all accounts it was an amazing match. But! I unwittingly found the outcome (not the score though) based on the Facebook statuses of each of my brothers. And! Even worse – our TiVo only recorded the first 10 minutes of the match. Grrr!! It’s being repeated next week so I’ve set it up to record that – looking forward to it.

Aaaanyway, for those paying attention to some of my blog you’ll remember that I was (probably somewhat over-)obsessed with the recent Democratic primary election. Now I see that the whole thing can be summarized (by Slate.com) in just over 8 minutes. Enjoy:

chosen one the hero rat

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Emma got me a totally great present for my birthday yesterday – an adopted HeroRat from Tanzania. It’s a kind of odd concept initially – it’s through an organization which uses trained rats to detect landmines.

From the adoption letter:

Dear Andrew,

Thank you very much for adopting me. Let me introduce myself: My name is Chosen One and I am an African giant pouched rat. I am no standard rat however because I save lives! I am a herorat, trained to sniff out unexploded landmines in Africa.

Every 20 minutes someone is killed or injured by a landmine. Often they are children. My job is to find the mines before the kids do. Luckily, I have two great advantages over the Children. The first is my nose: I can smell explosives even when they are underground. The second is my size: I am too light to set off the mines.

As a mine detector, I have other advantages too. I am cheap – I work for peanuts. I am easy to train and I don’t mind repetitive tasks. Now that I am trained, I can clear 100 square metres in 30 minutes.

I am now in the final stages of my training and am being prepared to go work in the real mine field. My trainer abdulla, is one of the top trainers here- all his rats pass their tests without a miss!

I promise to do my best to make you proud of me. With your support, I am sure I will soon be out there finding mines and, most important of all, saving kids and innocent adults from hurting themselves. Together we will save lives and limbs.