Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday reflections

WP_20130811_015There’s definitely an autumn tang in the air: crisp cool mornings, leaf-damp fogs, combines chewing through fields of wheat along the road to Royston.  My brother says  that there’s fresh snow in Colorado, just above the highest runs.  It’s Silverstarreally been a short summer, late to start and not enough breaks to restore the mind and spirit.

The FT asked about whether a retreat is better than a vacation, separating to focus on mental peace and well-being instead of connected physical relaxation and exploration.  The authors suggest using the silence to confront what is most real in the world, rather than turning your back on it.  But, for me, stillness awakes demons, and I wouldn’t try it without a companion to talk me through the shadows.

WP_20130811_004A few Sunday reading recommendations for expats:

Pirate Bay browser avoids censorship: I pay my TV license; I subscribe to NetFlix.  But if I want to download the Newsroom or Amazing race, watch 3 Days of the Condor or The Notebook, I have to pull a torrent file.  ISPs gave gotten very aggressive about blocking index sites like Pirate Bay; this utility helps.

Is Europe Still Worth the Schlep:  Has enough European culture already crossed the Atlantic to make a vacation irrelevant?  Superficially, yes, but there are yawning cultural and social differences that have to be experienced.  And castles and wines still don’t transport well…

House Hunting…Amsterdam:  What does $3m buy in the capital?  I’ve reached the age where photos of aspirational architecture is the new porn, and the slide set is lovely (although the rooms are surprisingly tight).  Alternatively, House Hunt…St. Maartens or Cambridge.

Britain is slamming its doors:  The barriers being erected against working expats grow by the day, and this FT essay gets a lot of it right.  12 months short of converting my Tier 1 to a permanence, the changing social climate leaves me wondering if it’s desirable any more.

WP_20130811_005My camera comes back from the shop tomorrow; I’ve missed pulling it out for a quick shot whenever light and motion catch my eye. 

Meanwhile, my Lumia 720 phone surprised me: the quality of the pictures has really been good.  They are sharp and vivid, twilight performance has been excellent.  Light balance is poor, it stops down to the  brightest part of the scene, overexposing sky and deepening shadows.  The aspect ratio is panoramic and the lens fogs easily, but those are minor considering the convenience. 

I can see where a phone camera might replace my pocket cam within another year,  even without a macro focus.

WP_20130811_007I’m still  broadening into cooking and container gardening: Leeks and Thyme are my current explorations. 

I put leeks in heavy erwtensoep, Dutch pea soup, but little else.  They are a staple in Wales, creamed leek and leak-and-potato dishes elsewhere.  I’ve got a good basic version going, but need to find the right spices to bring it alive.

Herbs are individuals.  Water and trimming that makes chives, basil, or mint happy is fatal to thyme, dill, and rosemary, who each like a full head of hair.  Thyme, in particular, is tricky, it insults easily and forgives slowly. Hopefully, with a better approach, it flourishes.

And, if wash hangs on the line overnight, is wet with heavy dew in the morning, should I let it dry or rewash it?

FB MessengerFacebook Messenger and Skype are messaging services that support SMS text and voice calls. Each  is cross platform, so I have copies on my phone, tablet, and computers. And each relays an indicator to friends that I am online or off.

But these programs run in the background, so as long as any device is on, I am on.  If I shut down one device, I’m probably still logged in on another, so friends think I’m around when I’m not.  I log in to find ‘chat heads’ asking why I don’t answer; every device in the house and car rings when a Skype call comes in.

It’s becoming socially problematic and impossible to manage. We have to get better state synchronization or I’ll have to start restricting apps to just one device.

clare 3And, last but never least, CamStent’s CFO, Clare Twemlow, finished the Mongol Derby successfully tied for third place!  Amazing Race, indeed: ‘can’t wait to see her pictures.

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