Thursday 27 September 2007

What the 'Merlan' drug and alcohol awareness test taught me

- LSD isn't as addictive as other drugs, and you get interesting hallucinations
- The chemical name for PCP is Phencyclidine: we were actually tested on this, so it must make us safer drivers knowing this information
- Cheating is OK: we saw a girl with the answers on her phone blatantly copying them onto the answer sheet
- Wearing a "Praha Drinking Team" shirt to a drug and alcohol awareness exam is not a problem: this is lucky for me because I didn't realise what I was wearing until we were about to walk in the door...

Our GPS is awesome

Our GPS is awesome (Tomtom 720). You can chuck an SD card in it and play MP3s via FM transmitter to the stereo. When the GPS needs to give a direction it fades down the music, says its bit, and fades the music back up. Super cool.

2005? really?

So our car is a 2005 model. However, it has all the modern features of the 1970s like an AM/FM radio (not even a cassette deck) and manual locking doors. It also includes a boot that doesn't have an electric release or automatic locking - you have to use the key every time you shut it.

They couldn't have saved much money on the stereo because we went to Best Buy and got a AM/FM CD player with USB jack and stereo in (for ipods etc.) for $70. I don't think you could get this at home for less than about $500 - we're going to get another one to take home :)

Baseball = peanuts, $6 beers, and trying not to get smacked in the head with a ball

We went and saw the Orioles play the Blue Jays last night - we walked past Babe Ruth's house(!) to the Camden Yards stadium. Poor old Orioles are doing pretty badly this season, so the stadium wasn't exactly full. Was still heaps of fun, as this was our first taste of major league baseball.

I ate my bodyweight in peanuts that I shelled myself. This would have been fine except we were sitting in the wrong seats for the first 45 minutes and when the right people turned up they had to sit in a gigantic pile of peanut shells distributed all around my seat - whoops!

There is quite an incentive to pay close attention to the game. The net behind the batter is pretty small and foul balls flew into the crowd at great speeds, making meaty smacking sounds when they hit spectators....

Quiznos, Thames

Very literal pronunciation, I'm not sure if that makes it easier or harder! Surely Quiznos is a spanish word that shouldn't be pronounced "Quiz-nose"? My first guess was "Kiss-nos". And yes, Thames is "Thaimes" rhymes with flames.

Oh, and we are moving to Bawlmer, Merlan :)

We have a doorman

We have a doorman. That is so freakin cool.

Monday 24 September 2007

Damn, my wallet is not manly enough

Today I found out my wallet is "gay", purely because it has a change purse! Turns out Americans don't ever use coins. This makes a lot of sense because I've been carrying around a fairly uncomfortable half a kilo of silver and copper for the past couple of weeks.

This is how it works: you get coins in change (in the rare event you actually use cash) which you just throw in your pocket and then into a piggybank when you get home - hence no change purse in your wallet. When that gets full there are counting machines in the supermarkets that you can chuck massive amounts of coins into and get paper money back. Man, someone should put that in lonely planet or something because I have cursed the use of pennies on every trip to the US.

So effectively the population has eliminated all practical use of coins, except perhaps parking meters. I wonder how much money the US government would save in minting/metals costs if they eliminated all coins under 25c.....Apparently with the current cost of copper pennies are worth more as copper metal than as currency.

Sunday 9 September 2007

If you need help with learning languages, I know a guy

At the supermarket checkout

guy: You guys aren't from around here?
me: That's right
guy: Are you Australian?
me: yup
guy: Yeah, I have this thing for languages. I'm not a language savant or anything, but I just know languages.
me: right
guy: Yeah, I'm not a language savant, but if you put me in a room with a Russian guy, I could learn Russian in like three weeks.
me: *sigh*

He then proceeded to hold us up in the checkout because he thought he had been charged 10 cents extra (he hadn't). Lucky I didn't get a gun when I opened my bank account.

GPS - Where would I be without you?

We have a GPS with our hire car and it is awesome. It even has a receiver for a traffic monitoring service, that warns you if there is traffic ahead and can also route you around the problem. Unfortunately this sounds better than it is - it didn't tell us about slow traffic in Baltimore when it was there, and warned us when things were fine...

We will definitely be getting a GPS for our new car.

I'm trying decide between the Garmin Streetpilot c550 we have in the hire car and the Tomtom 720 which has the FM transmitter (plays MP3s from SD card) and Map Share community map functionality that allows the community to correct map errors and holes.

A small american car - oxymoron?

The most pressing thing for us was to get a car. On Friday we bought a Chevy Aveo, which is the smallest car we looked at. We had a number of people (including Americans) advise us against American cars, but in our price range that was pretty much all that was available.

Cars are generally cheaper over here, but to get something we wouldn't have to spend all year fixing meant we had to spend at least $US 8-9k. We went through Enterprise Car Sales because they are haggle free and give you a 1 year warranty, which is perfect for us (although it doesn't cover absolutely everything). They sell ex-rental cars, which sounds scary but has benefits too like regular servicing, low miles etc. We went to one regular dealer, which was just as slimy an experience as at home.

The haggle-free thing is really cool, wish we had that at home, we spent a lot of time looking at carmax as well.

Here is the Kelly Blue Book for the Aveo. Photos to follow soon!

One of your finest ales please wench!

We went to the renaissance festival today. It was cool. Lots of beer, smoked turkey legs, jousting, crazy costumes: The facilities are massive and housed in permanent buildings in the forest.

We spent Saturday with Angus in Baltimore which was fun - he showed us around the neighbourhood, we're still trying to decide where to live.

Sunday 2 September 2007

Mobile phones

Phones are actually pretty expensive here, despite everyone being totally addicted to them (or perhaps because of it..) The worst thing is you pay to RECEIVE calls, as well as to make them. Not only that, on the T-mobile prepaid plans it is 15c to send a text, and 15c to RECEIVE one! Gaah! If we send a text between us that is effectively 30c :(

AT&T prepaid has a deal where you get unlimited free calls to other AT&T phones, which sounds really good until you find out that each day you use the phone (including to receive a call or check voicemail) you are charged a $1 access fee. So a call between us would cost $2 plus the call cost :(

Annapolis and Columbia

So we ventured a bit further afield in the last couple of days. On Saturday we drove to Annapolis:

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and watched all the rich people parade their boats around the harbour. It was crazy crowded because it is the Labor day long weekend here (and summer).

We visited the Annapolis Naval Academy, which was really cool. Kinda like ADFA but on a giant scale. We are going to get a card reader tomorrow so we can upload photos, but here is a photo from flickr of the huge dining hall - we counted seats for about 2500.

Tried to order a flat white today, and ended up getting a short black - oh well. Guess it is cappuccino or latte from now on!

Today we drove around Columbia:

View Larger Map

where we are thinking of living. It is kind of Canberra-esque, planned with lots of parks, small man-made lakes, and greenery. The houses look very....American. Lots of white and flagpoles, very different to home.

PS. The blog is "G in the US" not some sort of roman god "Gintheus" :)