Tuesday, February 26, 2008

They don't break plates here...

In Cape Town I used to enjoy going to some of the great Greek restaurants, and was always amused at the custom of smashing plates. (You can image how cool this seemed to me as a kid). Most of the restaurants would charge a small fee per plate you broke, and it was not too common to see people doing it, but rowdier parties and group celebrations would often end with ouzo, music, dancing and plate-smashing.

So, it is fairly interesting to note that in Seattle, not only are Greek restaurants less common than in SA, but plate-throwing is unheard of. It looks like the custom is on the way out everywhere. For example, in the UK restaurants have switched to less dangerous activities like tossing flowers, mainly to avoid the risk of injuries to customers and law-suits.

PS: You know you're in a Seattle Greek restaurant when you see salmon on the menu :-)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Ag Pleez Deddy

This song by Jeremy Taylor became a part of South African culture to the extent that even though I was born a decade or mroe after it was released, I still grew up hearing and singing it.

Here's a YouTube video of the older Jeremy Taylor singing a shortened version, so even the readers from the UK and US and A can appreciate its glory!

In telling {A} about this song, I realized my memory of the lyrics was a bit fuzzy, so I was happy to find them online. Have a look at the full lyrics here (be warned, some of the words would be percieved as racist/non-PC now). That website also has some nice details on the song.

The joys of wedding registry shopping at JCPenny's

Warning: Shameless whining and venting ahead.

This past weekend {A} and I went to the local shopping mall to get our wedding registry kick-started. We had some some research and planning in advance and knew which dinner set we wanted, and the prices that Macy's and JCPenny's charged for said set. (Let's refer to JCPenny's JCP from now on - they seem to like that abbreviation too...)

Needless to say, JCP was cheaper than Macy's. (For my SAfrican readers, JCP is kind-of equivalent to Mr.Price, whereas Macy's is more like Stuttafords or Woolies). So, off to JCP we went... To do a wedding (or general gift) registry, JCP has gone the totally automated, inpersonal route. (The first warning sign). A PC kiosk asks you for your pertinent info and then plays a "training video" with the audio so low you practically need to plaster your ear to the case to hear anything. Lovely... Part of the training video related to dinnerware, and instructed us to use the "Dinnerware Selection Book" at the kiosk to find the set we wanted ("choose from our extensive collection" yadda yadda), and then use a bar-code scanner gun to read the bar-code of the set we wanted. All well and good, but the afore-mentioned book was no-where to be found.

Thinking "outside the kiosk", we searched around the actualy dinnerware display area, but came up empty-handed. A helpful cachier redirected us to the customer-support / catalogue counter (which was next to another gift registry kiosk - a good sign I though). The person behind the counter looked at us blankly as we explained what we were looking for, and we very quickly realized she had never heard of this book. So, I resorted to Plan C (or perhaps Plan D, I lost track...) We used the telephone on the side of the registry kiosk to talk to - gasp! - a real person!

The helpful chap on the other end of the line informed us that the book should be under the keyboard at the kiosk, or very close to it. I informed it was not there. He then suggested I speak to the store manager... So, back to the person at the catalog counter to chase down the manager. For some reason the manager was only available over a walkie-talkie. (I guess phones are passe?) Luckily the counter-person cranked up the volume so that we (and everyon in a 1-mile radius) could hear the manager: Evidently the book had been discontinued in January 2008, and we were SOL (sweet outta luck). No apologies. No mention of an alternative. No humble admittance that the kiosk video is out-dated and misleading...

So, {A} and I were left feeling incredibly frustrated and disappointed. We decided to not register for anything at JCP and instead went to Macy's and were almost ready to not register for any dinnerware at all (since Macy's didn't have the color we wanted available online and their price was almost double JCP's ). A real person took our personal details and walked us through using the bar-code scanner (uh, thanks) and we then started browsing. Most of the linen and bed stuff was not our style, so we had difficulty getting started, but the kitchen department fixed that, and we soon had a lot on our list.

We had also asked the store assistant whether the dinnerware we wanted was available in the color we liked, and yes, he was able to find it! Despite the price being higher, we added it to our registry, and got a nice surprise when we got home and checked our list online: the dishes were the exact same price as JCP had been offering! So, after all that mental anguish, we were able to get what we wanted, with great service, and without paying more!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Poetic booze advice from around the world

There are a few verses in different languages that all purport to give advice about what to drink when (i.e. which order to drink things in). The sad thing is that they can't quite agree amongst themselves:
  • English: Beer after wine and you'll feel fine; wine after beer and you'll feel queer
  • German: Bier auf Wein das lass sein; Wein auf Bier das rat' ich Dir. (Roughly: Don't touch beer after wine; but wine after beer is fine)

The French notably ignore beer and instead focus on red versus white wine:

  • Blanc sur rouge, rien ne bouge; rouge sur blanc, tout fout le camp. (Roughly: White on red won't go to your head; red on white and you're out for the night.)

This page on the Gaurdian website goes into more detail on these and other sayings.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Perry Bible Fellowship

{A} and I went to Portland this past weekend for a little post-Valentine's-day break. This of course meant we visited Powell's, and one of the fun things I discovered there was the Perry Bible Fellowship - wickedly funny cartoons for fans of The Far Side. ("The Trial of Colonel Sweeto" is the book.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

1947 Chateau Cheval Blanc

No, sadly this is not a personal tasting note of the '47 Cheval Blanc. (I should be so lucky!)

Slate has an interesting article by Mike Steinberger on how a "defective wine from an aberrant year" became (by all accounts) a great wine. It's a nicely written piece...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dual-booting Vista and Ubuntu / Linux

I recently decided to fresh-install my laptop, and decided this time I'd like to have it dual-boot Vista and a Linux distro (I chose Ubuntu 7.10 after playing with it for a while, but what I write about below should work with almost any current *nix distro).

The tricky thing was that I wanted to keep using Vista Bitlocker Drive Encryption (BDE), since my laptop has a TPM and having the drive encrypted means I don't need to worry as much about having my laptop stolen and all my data being up for grabs. BDE is a bit tricky to set up at the best of times, but luckily at work we have a Remote Installation Services (RIS) server that makes it a lot easier.

So, I booted my laptop, selected a network boot, and selected the Vista Bitlocker setup from the RIS menu. This re-paritions your drive and creates two partitions for Windows to use (one small one for the Bitlocker boot stuff, and the main one for your Vista install). I selected the manual setup option so I could create two more partitions for Linux to use (one for extfs3 and one for swap). Then The Vista setup trundled along and within an hour I had a nice Vista setup (with Office 2007 installed already - how sweet it that!?)

At this stage, BDE is not yet enabled on your Vista drive - you need to go into the control panel and enable it. But I knew I wanted to hold off until my Ubuntu install was done, otherwise when the Ubuntu install changed the Master Boot Record (MBR) on the hard drive, Bitlocker would "throw a wobbly". (Yes, that's the technical term)

The next step was to insert the Ubuntu 7.10 CD and reboot the machine from it. The Ubuntu install is very slick and went without any hitches. Now when my laptop rebooted, I was presented with the GRUB boot loader, which let me choose between Ubuntu or Vista.

Now at this point I should mention that I subsequently found out that this is not the best order to do things. This blog has incredible information, but sadly I only found out about it after I had installed Vista and Ubuntu. The preferred order is to install Ubuntu first, then install Vista... (That way the Vista boot loader is one sitting in the MBR) However, using the information from the afore-mentioned blog, you can quite easily get the system working even if you've installed things in the "wrong" order like I did.

The key pages to read for instructions are this one and this one. The modified steps I used, based on the info in these pages, is then:
  • Step 1 – Install GRUB on the Linux partition (outside of MBR) (See step 1 here)
  • Step 2 – Get a copy of Linux boot sector (See step 2 here)
  • Step 3 - Boot into the Vista Recovery Environment (RE) using the Vista DVD / RIS server. You'll need to run bootrec.exe and tell it to fix the MBR record. (See this page for info)
  • Step 4 - You should be able to reboot from the hard-drive and Vista will load automatically (there will be no option to boot Ubuntu since Vista doesn't know about it yet...) Log in to Vista, and...
  • Step 4 - Set up Windows Vista Boot Manager to boot Linux. (See step 4 here)
  • Step 5 - Enable BitLocker on Windows Vista (See step 7 here)

(I also removed Vista from the GRUB boot menu, since we're now using the Vista loader to boot into Vista. This is pretty easy to do, just edit /boot/grub/menu.lst and remove the Vista entries form the end of the file).

Step 4 will take a few hours as it needs to encrypt the hard-drive contents, but once that is done you should be set...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Slate video blog

I don't normally go for the viral-video thing and don't subscribe to many video blogs (WineLibraryTV is the only one). Slate have managed to get me hooked, though. Their Slate V video blog is a great way to see the best videos doing the rounds, without having to dig through the dreck on Youtube.

Some recent highlights:
  • Drunk History 2 and 2.5
  • Tom Cruise / Hilary Clinton mashup
  • "Ch-ch-changes" US Presidential mashup

Some ones that haven't made it to Slate, but that {A} introduced me to: