Wow… keep meaning to write in this thing, but I’m not yet in the habit. I seem to have reached the maximum number of things I can think about at any one time. Anyway, here’s the short recap of what has been going on with me lately. Having bought a house in Chapel Hill, NC, I was legally obligated to either get pets and buy a hybrid car, or become a vegan. Now, I’m a vegetarian, but I’m not crazy enough to go vegan, so we got a couple of cats named Prettyboy and Floyd from an animal rescue group and picked up a “seaside pearl” (that means “blue”) Prius.

We got the cats about 4 days ago, and they had a bit of a trial adjusting (we faced a challenge convincing them to use the litter box for a couple of days, which is lovely on the hardwood floors and the erstwhile chair cushion), but seem to have decided to indulge us.

We bought the Prius almost accidentally… our old ’93 Toyota Corolla (dubbed the “Casserolla” when a cheese casserole was lingeringly spilled in the backseat) has been dying a shuddering death for months, so having put off getting a new car until we found (and financed) a house, we went out a couple of weekends ago to test drive a Toyota Yaris or a Scion xA. We did drive a Scion, but the Prius was just so much nicer (and with a better resale value) that we ordered one on the spot. It was delivered yesterday, on my birthday, October 24th. It’s pretty 21st century. We got the simplest option package, but even still that came with keyless entry and startup (as long as I have the “key” on me, I can open and start the car, without touching the key), and a rear-view backing-up camera. This is as close to a luxury car as I ever intend to buy. We saw a lecture last week by Dr. Wallace Broecker, the gentleman responsible for the groundbreaking theory of the Great Ocean Conveyor that was key in the understanding of global warming, on the need to develop an efficient way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. We chatted with him after the lecture, and among other things, I asked if the Prius would really help the environment… he praised it not only for those qualities, but also just for the engineering and comfort of it (his wife has one). I’m not fooling myself that I will save enough money in gas to make up for the price, but I felt like it was my civic responsibility to do what I could for the environment (and it really is a nice ride).

So, speaking of my birthday, we went out to visit some friends last night, then had a great time at Fuse, a local nightspot, where we had a good dinner and bumped into a different crowd of friends for a fun conversation. The night before, we went to the Cat’s Cradle to see Bettie Serveert (an old favorite band from the Netherlands, 15 years old now!), and really enjoyed the local opening act as well, Alina Simone. A few days before, we saw some friends’ bands… The Strugglers opening for The Prayers & Tears Of Arthur Digby Sellars at Local 506, and it was a great show as well. I used to see at least 2 or 3 shows a month (sometimes that many in a week!) just a few years ago, but I’m not as in the know about bands and shows these days. Still, we want to make it a point to get out to live shows more. My girlfriend’s younger, so her knowledge is a little more up to date than mine.

Man, what else? Work-work (we have revamped our database to be a lot faster and more powerful, and I’m renovating the charting package to match), and standards work (mostly SVG), and secret project work, and domestic stuff, and reading, and hanging out with friends, and seeing The Prestige (we don’t go out to movies that often, but I loved this book), and all that normal stuff that one does when one isn’t in a foreign land. I promise I’ll talk more about Morocco, by request, in some upcoming post. And more about technology. And less about quotidiana.

Prague, Land of Meat and Beer

…which is not really optimal for a vegetarian who hates beer. In the words of Uncle Tupelo, “Beautiful, as far as I can tell, but your Heaven looks just like my Hell.” There’s only so much fried cheese a man can take, I tell you! But tonight we ate at Lemon Leaf, an asian-fusion place outside the tourist district, and got a great meal for a good price. Inside the touristized zone, you can only get overpriced meatplates (or the aforementioned cheese… I mean, I love cheese, but I think I’ve gained 10 pounds this trip). Oh, and water is more expensive than beer, by far. My theory is that all water in Prague is allocated for the production of beer, and that they have to distill the beer out to extract water; this extra step accounts for the price of plain “gasless” water.

No doubt, though, Prague is a beautiful city, even though it’s clearly been “cleaned up”. Prices are no longer the legendary bargain, for the most part, probably due to the lousy exchange rate of the lowly dollar. But the buildings really are gorgeous, and Mucha, the father of Art Nouveau, is well represented here in his home country (my girlfriend and I love that style).

She wandered around the city while I met with the SVG Working Group in the local Sun offices (though we all went out at night, of course). She scoped out a lot of great sights, and after the meeting ended, we went around the town. She’s been a good sport about seeing some of the places again (in fact, she’s been to Prague before). Today we went to the Bone Church of Kutná Hora (a small town outside Prague), and then wandered the streets when we got back, seeing the tower of the famous First Defenestration of Prague.

We generally did the tourist thing here, seeing the Prgaue Castle (and the nearby erstwhile home of Kafka), the Charles Bridge, the Jewish Quarter, the cool astronomological clock (with it’s monkish glockenspiel), a couple museums, took a nighttime boat tour on the Vlatava, and watched one of the many Black Light Theater shows (Ta Fantasticka’s Aspects of Alice show, which took a strangely soft-pornographic twist in the second act). Oh, and just generally wandered around.

I must say that after seeing the chaotic and quirky Morocco, Prague seemed familiar by contrast. Two weeks in Casablanca, Marrakech, Fes, and Rabat, and the conversations there, really was eye-opening (I’ll write more about Morocco later). I’m glad we went to both places. It’s been a long trip, though, and it will be good to get home and get back to work.  Tomorrow, we are going to try to get up early and visit the city one last time before catching our afternoon flight home.