Friday, 21 September 2007

Fun with Roads

...or Jollity with the Highway Department.
...or More Amusing Ways Governments Can Vex People.

There is a reason that Atlanta has horrid traffic. Part of this has to do with a severe lack of signage (whether this has to do with literacy levels in the city, I dare not hazard a proposal. A riot might be instigated.). I have already mentioned the blind 175* left-hand turn that was successfully telepathically negotiated the other day.

Well, yesterday's entertainment involved one street actually being two streets. What is terrifically clever and cunning about this is that they have the same name mostly (i.e., North Ponce de Leon Avenue and South Ponce de Leon Avenue). This would lead one to assume that they are possibly connected in some way. There are also these little tags at the end of certain parts of said streets (and many others in this silly highway joke), such as NE, NW, SE, N, S, HellInHandBasket -- another bit of cunning comes into play as these tags actually have little to do with the cartographically approximate direction of this particular part of the street nor, as far as I can tell, much with the direction in which you seem to be travelling. But I digress.

Guffaws and choking giggles begin when one realises that going south (or NE, or SW, or to HiHB) on Ponce de Leon (at the point where it is non-tagged, either pre- or post-) is not getting one any closer to South Ponce de Leon. You have previously been on North Ponce de Leon and your mapping of your destination shows it to be really close by. You are apparently driving right past your destination (backwards and forwards) and it is either hidden under an invisibility cloak or perhaps exists in a parallel universe and you have forgotten your Subtle Knife to cut through.

After driving in circles for quite a while, you think (relative to the highway department's razor-sharp sense of humour) that perhaps those little parks off to your right, with semi-circular drives (and no damnable signs, of course) just might get you closer to your destination. Lo, and behold! Your guess is correct!

However, the first semi-circle ends about 100 numbers off from your goal. You curse and attempt to turn left onto the trompe de l'oeil Ponce de Leon. You find the next ridiculous semi-circle a block up but it appears to be only one way, and you begin to despair as you are obviously dimmer than the students who are able to find their own school and why would they want to talk to you anyway, when you spy a small and very naturalistic (and therefore mostly camoflauged) sign with the school's name on the one-way street. With fortitude, you venture further up looking for the optimal place to turn left, not letting the campus out of your sight just in case it goes back into hiding, and you finally reach the car pool lane 3 minutes late (but there is a lovely counselor who is fabulously okay with you being tardy, and there is even a doggie named Zoe who lives in the counselling office, so that was pleasant!).

As if all that weren't enough to force wetting of one's pants from uncontrollable laughter, there are other areas of town where it appears that the highway people were having a off-day creatively speaking. Every blinking street is a version of the same root! There are:

Paces Ferry Road SE (which is northeast of NW, below)
Paces Ferry Road NW (which is southeast of SE, above)
W Paces Ferry Road NW (which is east of both of the above)
Paces Mill Road SE (which is NE of the first listing)
Paces Ferry Drive SE
New Paces Ferry Road SE
Paces Forest Drive
Paces Forest Road
Paces W Drive NW (whatever THAT means)
Paces Valley Road NW
Paces Ferry Place NW (which is almost due north off West Paces Ferry Road NW)
East Paces Ferry Road NE (which is actually kind of southeast of the whole kerfuffle)
Paces Ferry Circle SE
Paces Park Circle SE
Paces Vinings Drive SE
Paces Place NW
Old Paces Place NW
W Paces Ferry Court NW

Some of these roads make abrupt right and left turns with absolutely no warning or signage. Sometimes, the same road becomes two roads of mostly the same name again. This is vexing. There are some other names of roads off this ridiculous network of incestuous road system, but these roads are also espoused to their first cousins and siblings on a regular basis, adding to an air of general confusion.

So, am now hot and tired and my eyes hurt and was forced into retail therapy while waiting until I can set up for tomorrow's college fair. I mean, the Highway Department made me do it!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Number Two

No. I am not being rude nor scatalogical.

This week, am in Ettlanta, Jaw-ja (translation: Atlanta, Georgia). Last week, arrived to DFW on Monday, rented car, and drove two hours to Lindale, Texas to the Hampton Inn (it is lovely and exceeds expectations. Unlike Northwest Airlines -- which should be shut down.). It was slightly mind-bending to get off a flight after 21 hours travel and then start driving on the right-hand side of the road on I-635, which is one of the major highways in Dallas. At points, there are six lanes in each direction.

However, Atlanta has Dallas way beat. On Tuesday, a study was released with Atlanta tying for second-worst traffic city in the US (along with D.C. and San Francisco). After being here for almost 24 hours now, it seems that a significant part of the problem could be the complete idiocy of signage. There are places with seven lanes in each direction and this is entirely possible to deal with were one able to spy signs with even the most mundane of information. Today, I even made it onto the interstate successfully after a completely blind and non-posted left-hand turn (however, this made me quite furious).

One of my journeys today took me completely past an entrance to the interstate, since the sign indicating the left turn is directly above the light at which you turn and with no advance warning. My alternative decision was to muddle my way through the back streets (which was successful in the end, but which leads me to a handy-dandy tip to non-native US persons if driving in the US: generally, and I am tempted to say uni-continentally, if one either intersects or finds one's self driving on Martin L. King Drive/Boulevard/Highway/Street or Avenue, one has reached and entered the Ghetto. If one suffers from a poor sense of direction, one should exit the area. You might even see shopping bags sitting at a bus stop with no person in sight, and as you drive past, you might see a man pulling his pants back together and re-buckling his belt as he walks from the side of the bus shelter.)

Last week, spent in Shreveport, suffering chronic back pain that appears to come with age (and probably lack of exercise) and eating. Also spent time talking in funny voices to Flee. And visiting with various and sundry lovely persons :)

Picture 1: Emily and Evangeline (who is 8 weeks old and belongs to Katie S)
Picture 2: Clairie (and Melanie's forehead)

Picture 3: Lisa and Madison

Picture 4: Katie S. and Harrisen
Picture 5: Katie B.Loom and moi

Things I have missed about the US:
* Tex-Mex food
* Southern men who open doors and help ladees with luggage
* customer service
* mocking people
Things I have not missed:
* incoming cell phone calls using your minutes
* tax not being on the price of things
* the insane number of commercial breaks on both radio and t.v.
Things I am horrified by in the US (and yet so tantalisingly tempted):
* the line, 'I'd like to check you for ticks' in a country song (titter)

Another thing I have missed is Southern hospitality. Today, I have visited two schools. I even got a hug at Spelman College from the Administrative Assistant! After my gift welcoming me to the Residence Inn yesterday, and two gifts from schools, I now have:
* 1 snack bag of Famous Amos cookies
* 6 peanut butter snack cracker sandwiches
* 1 snack bag Oreo thin crisps
* 1 snack bag Goldfish
* 1 snack bag Milano cookies (drool)
* 1 snack package of Skittles
* 1 snack bag of Welch's Fruit Snacks
* 1 small snack tub of Pringles
Now, if one ate all of this, one would consume:
220 g carbs
60 g fat
1520 calories
If we take the NHS general recommendation for a 2000-calorie per day intake for women, this leaves 500 non-crap calories for you to fill. The Univ of Maryland Medical System recommends 59g fat intake for a sedentary 34-year-old female (yup. got that.). Iowa State University Extension uses the recommendation of 130g carbohydrates daily for adults (Whoa, Nellie!). And this doesn't even include the chocolate minis that are scattered over my car after a rather sudden stop earlier today (also, it is really not too sensible to give people chocolate that is going to be sat in a 120*F parked car).
Just looking at this pile makes my clothes feel a bit snug.

Comma to the Top

Our grammatical lesson this week involves the use of the comma, but not in the sense to which we may be accustomed.

Brief background explanation: my cousine Sara is doing her residency at Louisiana State University Health Science Center. (My parental units also worked here back in da day. And they could speak Jive, too!) LSUHSC is a charity hospital. This means that lots of interesting people go there. Sara is working OB, so this means that she gets to work with fascinating people who are spawning or have spawned. Some of these people then generally name their spawn. And this means what? ... FUN WITH WORDS!!!!

Example 1: P-a-r-o-l-e (pronounced, pah-ro-lay)
Example 2: P-a-j-a-m-a (pronounced, pay-jemma)
Example 3: F-e-m-a-l-e (pronounced, fem-molly)

A new development in FWW naming systems involves the use of this symbol: '
Example 4: Ja'Darrius (pronounced funnettically)

In traditional English, we learnt that the symbol above is known as an apostrophe. However, it seems that there has developed an alternative term.

So, we will now spell the name above as if we are using FWW.

Isn't this exciting? Linguistic evolution in action!

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Balsamic Vinegar and Bruxism

Firstly, it seems a good moment to warn readers against the following mixture:
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 Tbsp sugar
balsamic vinegar until liquid mixture

This results in a foaming explosion of sticky and nasty-tastingness that is impossible to ingest, leaving one with icky fingers and a face like a cat that has just licked something extremely unpleasant. Like its bum.
Admittedly, the instructions called for white table vinegar, but since that is missing from my cabinet, I substituted. I am doubtful that a different species of vinegar would have made a whit of difference.

Why, one might ask, would anyone try this? Has someone too much information at one's fingertips via the internet? The answer to the second question is, 'Yes.' The answer to the first question involves the fact that my tummy is grumbly and (from the helpful t'internet again) this could be from one of the following:
*high dairy consumption
*high fibre consumption
*drinking from water fountains
*wearing tight clothing
*chewing gum

How very helpful. It is my opinion that one of the first two options might be the crux here.

And are readers aware that the following are remedies for hiccoughs?
* drinking catnip tea
* having someone pull on your tongue
* putting ice on the neck
* sneezing
* having someone massage your feet (I think I like this inane site)
* going on a 3-day complete fast (okay, maybe they are nutters)

These are listed under the ingenious symptom description of: 'Hiccups that you want to have stopped'.... Ummm. Okay. Nope, I have the hiccups that I want to stay forEVER! ...Oh my gosh -- Charles Osborne of Anthon, Iowa (I always knew those Iowans were a bit off), started hiccuping in 1922 and hiccuped for the next 65 years. After 430 million hiccups, he passed away. Wiki-proof.

Have also learnt that Bruxism is the formal term for 'grinding one's teeth.'
I wear a plastic mouth guard for that... I am not bitter at 'insurance' balking at preventing my having more expensive problems due to teeth wear.
How is it 00.27 am? I shall take my Grumpy McTummerton to bed now.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Boot Sale, Witsend, etc.

Since the mama was unfamiliar with the term 'boot sale', it seemed an important mission of cultural awareness to visit one this weekend in the interest of an educational and informative article. (This was my very FIRST! For some reason, Eamonn usually says, 'Oops! We just missed the entrance...' as we zoom by with me craning my neck wildly to see what sort of crap I am missing in my life.)

As Clem and Richard enjoy pootling, too, we met them at the auction house in Aylsham before going to the boot sale (The Late One -- which starts at 11am). It was all very exciting for me and Spoodle (Richard and Clem's dog) and most people in my acquaintance know that I like few things as much as digging through musty piles of old books, water-damaged furniture, broken spinning wheels and piles of remnant wool (the sad broken toys, still-packaged action figures, plates with painted cottages and screaming spawn running amok everywhere does detract from the atmosphere, but can be mostly overlooked.).
V. similar to Canton, TX in the good old days before they built those posh pavilions, these events are generally held in the middle of a field or a parking lot. People just pull up in their cars, open the boot (aka, trunk) and empty rubbish they want people to give them money to take away. This photo shows at the bottom left, the sewing box that E actually found, pointed out and walked on at high speed (as you can see), and which matches my decor quite nicely. (Right half has been polished to show how prettily the wood has come out with a little help)

From the car boot sale, we headed towards the North Norfolk Cats Lifeline Trust Open Day, which also had charitable sale. Stopped for some tea at Pretty Corner on the way, where our arrival lowered the average age by about 30 years. (Still need to get the Bear pictures up and chronologised as the number of places that Bear has visited is growing and will increase quite dramatically beginning next week.)
The Open Day was down a one lane track through the woods next to the sea outside of Sheringham (you could smell the sea air). On this drive, we went past this passel of signs. It shall be left to the reader to decide where he or she wants to go :)

From here, we went to a village fete (Kelling, I think). This is kind of like a jumble of things to raise money and for old people to go and have tea and biscuits and buy raffle tickets. (British people LOVE raffles, I find.) It was very tiny (and next to the funeral home), full of elderly men wearing white hats, and also had tents selling things.

Richard and Clem are like me in our love of 'such a deal!' and exposure apparently has affected Eamonn's general sanity as he (in this photo) has just purchased a box of classical LP records for the bargain price of £10 (Richard is about to purchase a 10-record set of bird song). E does not have a turntable as of yet. However, the collection is quite impressive and so we shall anticipate evenings of lovely record music. The 'sht-sht' sound behind record music is kind of comforting, I think.

Finally, went on to Holt (where Richard and Clem have a house) and to a fete at the local department store. Bear can be seen on the running board of the Model T. Woodfords Ales hosted the beer tent, but the hog roast closed its window just as we headed towards some carnivorous entertainment.

Holt is a really lovely little town and is apparently a desirable post code :) Hee hee. The whole concept of post code snobbery is taken to a new and amusing level in this country (although it does exist in the US, too. I suppose it is just so Hyacinth and that is what makes me laugh.).

Today, finally got my picture of hay. There are round bale fields, and then there are a variety of rectangular bales; some of the rectangles are massive. From the rectangle bales, they make ginormous constructions that look like aircraft hangers on the edges of fields. Quite impressive.

Took a very circuitous country drive through all sorts of back roads through The Broads and ended up the the Reedham Ferry from the South side (we found it from the North side when we were in the moving van and did not cross).

It is really funny to be driving through flat countryside and see sails moving through the middle of a field :)

Made it to beach for a tea and a burger. The dunes are pretty deep between the road and the beach and there is the most interesting vegetation there. My favourites are these tiny blue frilly flowers that kind of look like v. small Fiji Mums. There are grasses, and mosses, and lichens, and dandelions, and these cool thistles with green thistle flowers. And people who leave dog poo need to have their own noses rubbed in it.

Now, it is time to go to bed. Four days of work this week, and then off to the States... (well, after Heritage Open Days this weekend!)