Friday, July 31, 2009

tell no one

tell no one
Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

I was feeling wiped out from a more than usually difficult work week, so I decided to completely kick back this evening and enjoy a movie. In fact, I wound up renting three. This felt incredibly indulgent, which was just what I needed, psychologically speaking.

I watched the first movie, "Tell No One", this evening, while enjoying a chocolate biscotti, some hot cocoa, and a big bag of popcorn. It's a good suspense/thriller. There are scary goons, thick-witted French cops, a dodgy criminal with a heart of gold, and, of course, Paris. There are some weird plot twists that I didn't always quite get. And there are some very large plot holes, but I didn't mind since I found the movie absorbing. Very entertaining!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

30K miles

I've got about 30K miles on my car now, so I took it to the dealer for a 30K mile service. The base price was a jaw-dropping $425 (with coupon). According to an undated article at Edmunds, the price is more likely to be $300, or something like that. I live in one of the costlier areas of the country, so the higher price is unsurprising. In any case, I had no idea what to expect and hadn't bothered to do the research, so I just took it on the chin.

The bill is remarkably difficult to deciper. Here's what they did:
  • oil change plus new drain plug gasket and air filter
  • "replace non-platinum and non-iridium spark plugs" - not sure if they actually did anything there
  • test: battery, hoses and belts
  • drain and refill cooling system
  • "clean throttle body" - what is that?
  • drain transmission assembly (hopefully they refilled it too)
  • service differential assembly (hm)
  • inspect: exhaust system, suspension, steering, brakes
  • lube as needed (so did they do anything)?
  • top off fluids as needed (did they...?)
  • rotate and balance tires
  • clean and adjust brake system
  • new wiper blades
I notice I was charged $18 for "BK-44 cleaner" and $25 for something called "super long life c" (apparently the printout only allows 17 characters, to help keep you in the dark).

The parts cost about $150, with $275 going to labor. I wonder how much of that goes to the guy doing the actual work.

Despite the cost I'm happy. The dealer gave me a loaner car for the day, making the experience pretty painless. In addition, I had a slow leak in one tire, which was patched for about $20, nice to get that done at the same time.

My loaner car was a Camry. It was actually a rental, and it had a kind of stinky smell like someone had smoked in it, but other than that it was fine. After driving around in a Prius for a couple of years, I found the Camry engine annoyingly noisy. I notice it humming all the time, and I kept thinking about how much gas it was wasting when at stop lights. It made me appreciate the Prius more. I was also very happy when I got back into my own car and could immediately make use of the backup camera. I love that backup camera!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

attack of the monster whitefly

I recently picked up a new houseplant. It's a jasmine or false jasmine - I can't recall what the lady told me at the store anymore. I picked it up from a greenhouse, somewhere I'd expect to get a very healthy plant. However, I noticed that it began to do poorly about two weeks after I brought it home.

At first I thought it just couldn't stand the heat in the apartment, or that it was getting too much sun. I didn't realize it was diseased! A few days ago, I noticed some small white fuzzy areas at the leaf nodes, and recoiled in horror. It's infected with greenhouse whitefly!

If anyone wants to make a really scary movie monster, they should think about basing it on the whitefly nymph. Those things give me the shivers.

I spent part of this evening attempting to eradicate the critters. It kind of looks like they've invaded my other plants, too.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

skyline trail

skyline trail
Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

I did 2.5 hours at Blue Hills Reservation today. It wasn't bad to start, but got increasingly hot and humid as noon approached and the sun came out.

The mosquitoes are still being fairly laid back, which was nice.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

July 2009 - Dreamers of the Day: A Novel

I just finished Mary Doria Russell's Dreamers of the Day: A Novel. This is a sort of timely travelogue and historical fiction piece about the middle east and western imperialism in the early 1900's.

It starts out pretty slow going. We follow the narrator through a rather dull, dreary childhood. In that sense, it brought to mind Of Human Bondage. The plot picks up when the heroine inherits a fortune and kicks up her heels. Unfortunately, the story does not wander off into Somerset Maugham's transcendentalism, but instead follows the narrator through some rather more mundane experiences.

The book is marginally worth reading. Mary Doria Russell is an accomplished author, no doubt about that, so anything she writes is probably worth reading. But I've never been keen on historical fiction because I'm never sure what's supposed to be real and what's made up (even though this book has a short appendix going into some of that). I didn't like the way the book ended, with some pseudo-mysticism or magical realism, whatever that was. And like I said, the beginning was a bit of a yawner. I found the narrator only mildly interesting - i.e. sympathetic, but kind of boring. I suspect this book was much more fun to research and write than it was to read. Perhaps fans of historical fiction would differ with me.

I see the author has a new book planned which is based on the life of Doc Holliday. I'll definitely take a look at that when it comes out; sounds more interesting to me.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

boston skyline

boston skyline
Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

This is a view of Boston as seen from Wampatuck Hill, this afternoon.

I meandered all over the eastern section of Blue Hills Reservation for 4 solid hours today. I was carrying my backpack for practice. To start, the pack weighed about 20 lbs, and I drank about 2 liters of water along the way. I don't know what sort of pace I was making, since I didn't track my mileage.

I mostly stuck to the flat bits, but I did a few short climbs, like the one up Wampatuck to get to this view. It was a great day for hiking, breezy and dry. The mosquitoes are still being very restrained.

I should sleep well tonight!

Sunday, July 12, 2009


This evening, I was feeling enjoyably fatigued after my afternoon hike. Tired enough to feel like kicking back and relaxing in a non-productive way. So I'm settling in to watch a French movie, Qui a tué Bambi?. I've made myself a nice cup of hot cocoa, topped with some delicious tiny marshmallows. I found the marshmallows at Whole Foods. They are branded "Bread and Circus Bakery", and they are soft, fluffy, and far superior to any other marshmallows I've eaten in my lifetime.

Watching a French movie is in keeping with my goal to learn French, so the evening won't be completely unproductive.


Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

I went hiking for about 3 hours at Blue Hills Reservation today. I carried a pack weighing about 12 lbs, to do a litle training for a backpacking trip later in the season. I didn't follow any specific route, so I don't know how far I walked. I meandered quite a bit.

At about 2 hours in, I decided I should make my way back to the car, so I stopped to take a look at the map. And then I realized I'd left it in the car. Doh! Fortunately, I'm fairly familiar with the trails, and I had a compass, so I made it back without trouble. Silly me!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Tank eighty-five

Total miles: 30490. Trip miles: 465.1. Gallons: 8.333. Price per gallon: $2.679.

Screen mileage: 57.3 mpg. Tank mileage: 55.8 mpg.

A couple of longer, 3.5 hour drives, plus some short commutes.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

Today's hike: 2 h 15 min | 4.25 mi | 1.9 mph

Nice day for a hike! I did another hike along the Skyline Trail at Blue Hills Reservation today. It was pretty crowded. I guess everyone is happy to get out in the sun after the last couple of rainy weeks.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Tank eighty-four

Total miles: 30025. Trip miles: 273.7. Gallons: 5.290. Price per gallon: $2.679.

Screen mileage: 55.9 mpg. Tank mileage: 51.7 mpg.

Mix of short and long drives.