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2004

Return-to-US shopping list

It started on the flight back, looking through the Skymall (or whatever it's called) magazine for duty free sales. This time I'm going to do it right. I'm going to make a list of the things I really miss living in the US and be sure to bring back a wholesome stash to ration until my next resupply.

  • Chocolate. Obviously. Chocolate is made with lots of cocoa and not high fructose corn syrup. If you do it right, you end up with a piece of food that is milky, soft and tasty. If you do it wrong, you get candle wax.
    • Smarties. Always liked them, especially because you get�a letter on the inside of the cap.
    • Dairy milk. Pretending it's Cadbury's while making it with Hershey's chocolate is inexcusable.
    • Mars bars. Useful as currency, among other things.
    • Curly wurly, twirl, double decker, time out, finger of fudge and all of the other�great chocolate bars that have yet to penetrate the world market.
    • Big tin of Roses. I just saw an advert on TV.
  • HP Brown Sauce. How can a country that, in every restaurant,�has 5 salad dressings as standard neglect to include brown sauce in its cuisine.
  • Kingsmill. Probably difficult to take back effectively. I include it here in protest.
  • Twiglets. Very tasty.
  • IRN-BRU. Made from girders in Scotland. What more do I need to say?
  • Dandelion and burdock. I quite like the taste but�I think more that it's a miracle they ever managed to market a drink with this name. To be fair, this is hard to find in Britain as well.
  • Bacon. Low grade, fatty, streaky bacon shouldn't qualify for the 'bacon' moniker on any continent. Bacon should be salty, possibly smoked and comprise significantly more meat than fat.
  • Bangers. Sausages are just for breakfast you know.
  • Cherry bakewells, economy swiss rolls. Included for sentimental attachment.

This list has been longer in the past. I have been fortunate to discover:

  • Baked beans. QFC, Larrys and a handful of other places sell these for $1.99 a can. Extorsion, yes, but sometimes the toast just isn't the same without.
  • Marmite. Love it or�hate it.
  • Tea. I've found a handful of places that import Twinings and life has improved with the discovery.

I've a feeling this entry will be subject to a few edits and additions.

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Like a whirlwind

I'm not exactly sure where the month of December has gone. Between arriving back from Stehekin after Thanksgiving and boarding my flight to O'Hare this morning, many things have happened but I've not had a chance to keep up to date here. We had a big push up to code complete at work, which turned out well as we hit the 12/15 date (you have to love the date selection�- slip by a day and you slip by a whole month with the holidays). Add to that a week-long visit from Lauren (among other things, we took the Concorde tour, which was great), a holiday party, a whistlestop tour for Bob on his way to Whistler and plenty of other things I've since forgotten.

Anyway, I finally find myself in my home bedroom, in (not) my old bed, with things so very similar to how I remember them. My brother picked me up from Manchester Airport early this morning and we had breakfast at a Little Chef with real bacon (yes!) and brown sauce (even better) and chatted over non-latte coffee. There are some experiences you can miss without even noticing.�A quick nap over lunch and we spent the evening catching up with the family; it's been thirteen months since I've been back to the UK and it certainly feels like it.

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We're being saved

Seen on a bumper sticker in Bellevue Square: George W Bush is saving your ass whether you like it or not. Indeed.

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Great weekend

Back in Seattle after a great weekend. I'd fully�recommend the Stehekin Lodge as a great escape from the world.

Weather was fantastic (even if rather cold) and the town was practically deserted. A spot of hiking, bike riding and general lazing was time well spent.

Photos.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a great American holiday. It remains�probably the last�uncommercialized occassion for sharing with friends and family and time to reflect on many things, among them how lucky we are. And there are very few things with that premise that one could disagree with.

Today, however, was slightly different as we're putting of the gorging until tomorrow. Instead, today was a trip to Washington Park near Anacortes, one of the undiscovered gems of the northwest. Despite the rain in Seattle the shadow of the�Olympics made for�sunshine�on top of the bitterly cold wind and perfect conditions for a bike ride. Fun.

Meanwhile, as the hoards descend on the shopping malls tomorrow morning at the ridiculous hour of five for the start the sales that mark the start of the Christmas shopping season, Katie and I will be heading�up to Lake Chelan for a couple of days at the Stehekin Lodge. The only way in is by boat and there are no phones, TV or radio. We've a housekeeping unit that should provide everything we need for eating the massive quanitites of food we'll prepare tonight. It's going to be a good weekend.

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The Da Vinci Code

I'm a bit behind the times on this one but I just finished reading The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Absolutely fantastic book; thoroughly recommended. Despite not reading all that much fiction, I've hardly been able to put this one down. I love a good thriller/thinker.

The whole idea of carrying forward a story for hundreds of years really makes one question what we're doing in the here and now is all that significant. Policy demands work e-mail gets purged every few months and phone calls and web chats have replaced traditional hold-in-your-hand letters (aside from the much appreciated ones from my mother :)). The proliferation of digital photos (and the as many as you can take option that comes with) offsets this a little, but still, it's a little scary.

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Fisticuffs at the top

Maybe it's the time of year. First the NBA falls into disrepute when a handful of players decide to take a mid-game�excursion into the stands�for a quick bout with some fans. Not wanting to feel left out, now it seems the President�decides he wants in on some action too, 'saving' on his Secret Service agents from a scuffle. All politics aside, I find the latter story rather amusing. The media is looking for a scandal here but this sounds like fair game to me. Memories of�the entertaining Prescott Punch in 2001 come to mind (as well as all of the infuriating follow-up) but I think this one will just fade away.

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Thought du jour

Borrowed from The Globe and Mail of Canada:

"We can never be quite sure whether we are competing for something that doesn't exist, or winning a competition in which no one else is competing"
--Adam Phillips
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More newspaper clippings

A little bit late, but from the front page of The Stranger, Nov 11:

Do not despair.
You don't have to leave.
You don't have to move to Canada.
You may feel out of place in the United States today.
You may feel like you're surrounded by fundamentalist-church-going, gun-hugging, gay-bashing, anti-choice Bush voters.
But you're not. George W. Bush only got 51% of the national vote.
And you don't really live out there somewhere in "the Nation," do you?
You live in the city.
A big city. And John Kerry got 61% of the urban vote.
The bigger the city, the higher Kerry's percentage.
John Kerry got 80% of the vote in Seattle.
Cities vote democratic. Cities are the economic engines that power this country.
Cities are diverse, dynamic, and progressive.
Don't think of youself as a citizen of the United States. You are a citizen of the urban archipelago.
The United Cities of America.
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Monday morning

It's a cold, cold morning in Seattle. Should be a quiet week though as so many people take the whole lot off for Thanksgiving. With luck, a chance to get some work done.