Sunday, February 04, 2007

A bit of live music and some observations

Alan had to go and meet with a chap on Thursday, so rather than stay in on my lonesome, I went down to the Saxon Pub where our friends Peggy and Lloyd were going to see Carolyn Wonderland, who they have been raving about as being very good. It only took me 50 minutes to make the 3-mile journey down Lamar Boulevard (Austin traffic!) so I was there in time to see the previous lot, Forlini Cross & Holden, who were playing some LOUD blues/rock. It was not bad - the keyboard/bassist had a good voice - but none of us could hear ourselves think!

Here's the culprits:

After a half-hour break, Carolyn Wonderland came on. Here's Carolyn with her drummer behind. Her keyboard player was too far to the right to get into this shot.

These guys were very good (and a bit quieter). Ms Wonderland plays regular guitar, a very small guitar that seemed to be strung like a mandolin, a lap harp and the trumpet.

Peggy and Lloyd told me that a number of their friends have been reading this blog, so hello to y'all! Leave a comment, say hello, I don't bite :-)

Here's a couple of shots that Alan took yesterday from my Jeep's passenger seat as we drove up Congress Avenue. The first one here is just after we crossed the river:

Now we are at the top end of Congress, turning left onto 11th, while Alan captures these anti-Iraq-war protestors outside the Capitol building:

Now, I've been gearing up for a bit of observation for a while. Some little differences between the UK and US.

First up - Washing machines. The tradition in the US is for top-loading machines that gush loads of water in, jiggle the clothes about a bit and spin them. We notice a growing trend for front-loading European style machines. They use about a 1/3 of the water, get the clothes cleaner and damage them less. OK, they take longer to wash but it's worth it. We are looking forward to getting one of these again; right now we are stuck with a top-loader which will have to do.

Light switches. Wall switches toggle the opposite way to those in the UK. And lamps are not switched with a horizontal push-rod but with a rotary thing in-line on the cable. These are a pain, quite frankly, as it's hard to tell when the thing is switched far enough.

Cars. Yes, they are driven on the other side of the road. But did you know that cars in Texas can't be started unless you depress the clutch? Oil changes are more frequent, too, with most cars wanting one between 3000-5000 miles. In the UK it's more like 12,000 miles. I guess the heat has something to do with that one. Likewise, roads here are surfaced with really hard tarmac. It gets very slippery in the wet but does not melt in the heat. British tarmac would be a pool of molten muck in Texas summer temperatures.

Tomato puree. Really! In the UK it comes in squeezy tubes like toothpaste. It is convenient like that. In the US it is called tomato paste and comes in tiny cans, so you have to decant the stuff you're not using into a dish and fridge it with cling film on.

Talking of toothpaste, we are delighted that in the three years since our previous stay in Texas, Colgate have decided to sell Mint Fresh toothpaste. All toothpaste in the UK is mint-flavoured, but American stuff is mostly a wierd cinnamony flavour. It is nice to be able to get minty toothpaste.

The way Americans spell names. I suppose it's a combination of different accents and the way people hear things, but the default spelling of our names seems to be Allen or Joe. For the record, we are ALAN and JO! To be fair, in the UK Alan often gets 'Allan'. I wonder if Jo isn't such a common girl's name here that most people just know the male spelling.

I guess that will do for now on those until I think of some more.

I had a dose of Karma the other day. I took a one-night evening class the other day and afterwards gave a classmate a dollar the other day to be able to get out of the parking garage we were in - she'd got in two minutes too soon and was charged $8 instead of the $3 she was expecting and only had $7 on her. She told me good Karma would come my way. I was in Lowe's two days later and a plant dish that I picked up was 87 cents. Their computer did not recognise the item so the clerk gave it to me. The lady was right!

I bought a micro-cactus to sit on that plant dish. I miss my cacti :-( So now I have a new one. Hopefully the first of many :-)

Last photo for now. We walked back from the Draught House last night where we had spent a pleasant evening with Peggy and Lloyd, introducing them to the dlights of that establishment. The lake in front of the apartments was millpond smooth, so I took this:

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