Ireland at Christmas

I worked some long hours Wednesday, then was up way too late Wednesday packing, but managed to get to work early on Thursday. Unfortunately there were some issues and I left an hour later than planned, but I still got home, took a shower, and we made it to the airport by 4:30. 3 hours early and we were glad for it, as the line for United’s international counter was long. Security was pretty easy, and we were at the gate with over an hour to spare, but we boarded early. The flight was long (8 hours), and we entertained ourselves. We both watched “Little Miss Sunshine”, then I watched “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” while Jill read, then I read Neil Gaiman’s “Fragile Things” and Robert Rankin’s “Armageddon the Musical” while she slept (I slept for a little over an hour towards the end). We had an hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany, but we were late getting in and they were already calling for our flight, so we went over to get in line for our gate (the gates were grouped in areas that all had their own security, unlike most airports which have one security screening per terminal). We got on the shuttle bus to our plane with time to spare, then traveled to the plane and got on, both sleeping some.

We landed in Dublin about 11:30 Friday morning, and went to the baggage area. An hour later, we were still there, with one of our four bags. Apparently our short layover was too short for our bags, and they were still in Frankfurt. So we left our information with the place that handled baggage and met up with Melissa, Jill’s sister. She took us to her car, and we drove to her home in County Cavan (with a brief stop at McDonald’s for some lunch for her and some soda and water for us). We got in around 2 and were greeted by Jill’s niece Madelyn and nephews Jake and Tiernan, as well as Melissa’s husband Dominic. We played with the kids for a bit, then Dominic went out to an Italian place and brought back fish and chips and pizza. As you might expect of a place that served both, it wasn’t that great (especially since I was in Ireland I was thinking of the best fish and chips I’ve had), but it was good enough. And I was glad we had malt vinegar available – it’s the only way I really enjoy fries these days. We all went to bed pretty early, as we were exhausted.

Saturday we got up somewhat early, around 9, to Melissa making pancakes and bacon for everyone. And she had maple syrup! After breakfast, we hopped in Melissa’s car and took the short drive up to Northern Ireland (my first time) to the town of Enniskillen. We had brought our passports if we needed them, but when we asked, she told us we’d crossed the border 20 minutes ago – you can’t tell by the land. One way you can – they only use British currency, so the euros I had sat in my pocket while I used my credit card. A lot. We mostly were buying things to replace what was in our still missing bags (and we were unable to get a straight answer out of Lufthansa as to when they might arrive). The one bag that had arrived was full of gifts for the kids, so we had what clothes we were wearing and no toiletries. We were also missing a My Little Pony toy for Madelyn that Santa had assured her would come, so we needed to get that too (yes, we had two bags full of gifts). Our first stop was a toy store and we didn’t find what we were looking for. Next we went to a Semi-Chem, a chemist (or drugstore), to restock our toiletries, then a toy store where we found the My Little Pony toy. I did most of my shopping at Heatons, a department store. I picked up all my clothes there, as well as the last two Snow Patrol CDs (both had UK only extra tracks). Next Jill and Melissa shopped for clothes at Evans (their version of Lane Bryant), while I wandered the streets and read rss feeds on my phone, then we ate lunch at a pub, Linen Hall. I had a chicken and bacon melt panini while Jill had a mashed potato, and we both had an Abbot Ale. We still had a bit more shopping as Jill wanted some accessories and shoes, then we helped Melissa with the grocery shopping at ASDA.

The one store I didn’t go in.

When we got back to the house the kids were happy to see us, and we played and watched TV for a while. On the way back, Melissa had called the house and it turned out they’d located our bags and they’d be delivered at 6, and they were, everything intact. Melissa had wanted to go out to dinner and had hired a babysitter, but Dominic had already eaten. So he went off to the pub, and after we got the kids settled down and the babysitter arrived, we went into Cavan Town to Little Sicily, an Italian restaurant. Jill had a half bottle of a red Tuscan wine and I had a a half bottle of the house white, then Melissa and I ordered side salads and Jill ordered the garlic bread. The appetizers were the unhappy part of the meal, as instead of two side salads we got one salad that had giant slices of mozzarella in it (and I’m a cheese hound), while Jill got a flat bread shaped like a pizza instead of the normal crusty loaf she was expecting. Melissa wasn’t interested in the salad, so I ate it. Not bad, but it wouldn’t been my first (or third) choice. When we got the entrees, we understood the (possible) confusion, as Jill’s chicken parmigiana and my lamb chops both came with a side salad on the plate (Melissa’s pizza had no extras), so we guessed that the waitress had not wanted to give me double the salad, and had assumed that Melissa had ordered the only salad on the appetizer list. Anyway, the rest of the meal was excellent, finished off with tiramisu for Melissa and profiteroles for Jill. After dinner, we swung by the Dunn Lane pub in Milltown to join Dominic for a couple of rounds of pints of Guinness before heading back.

Melissa at Little Sicily during a phone picture war

Sunday we slept in a bit, and awoke to Melissa making pancakes again. We ate our fill, then played with the kids for a while. The big outing today was to pick up the “Jesus birthday cake” (not an Irish tradition, Melissa’s father’s family’s, and she’s the American in the family). We packed all the kids in the car, and went to Cavan Town to pick it up from the bakery before it closed. As a treat for the kids, we went to a nearby park and played on the equipment there, then stopped for an early dinner at KFC (the last time I’d been to a KFC was with Jill’s other sister during our Rehoboth trip last summer). We stopped at the grocery store for some last minute items and I hit the liquor area and picked up McCormick’s Irish Cream (wanted to try something other than Bailey’s) and a bottle of Jameson’s. We went back to the car but Melissa had forgotten batteries, so she went back for them while we helped Jake look for Santa’s sleigh (we decided we were looking for a bright red light), but didn’t see it. Back at the house, the kids were allowed to open one gift and did, then asked to open the others – we politely refused. After they went to bed, Melissa made us a selection of appetizers, much like we do at our holiday party, while we watched “Love Actually“, Melissa’s favourite movie (and we enjoyed it too). We stayed up and watching TV and drinking irish cream concoctions before heading to bed (as oppoed to our last visit in 2003, they now had satellite tv with a way different channel line up then we get in the US). Jill started the day with a scratchy throat, and I ended it with one – sure signs of the colds we were about to get.

Monday was Christmas, and the kids tried to hold it in, finally coming down at 7. We were up by 7:30 to watch them tear into gifts, which included a Nintendo DS Lite for Madelyn (and her mom), a police Lego playset for Jake and a firefighter Lego playset for Tiernan. Most worriesome: the guitar and mike for Madelyn, drumset for Jake and a keyboard for Tiernan, coutresy of Melissa’s dad. I became the assembler, putting together all the toys, starting with Tiernan’s kitchen set. Much playing went on throuout the day, but eventually we settled down and had dinner. Melissa had prepared a delicious meal: beef roast with boiled, mashed, and roasted potatoes, broccoli and my favorite, yorkshire pudding (just like my mom makes). For dessert, Dominic’s mom and dad came over and we had the cake (along with singing “Happy Birthday”) and Melissa’s homemade apple pie – very tasty. After the kids were in bed, Dominic sacrificed watching his sports team, Arsenal, on the downstairs TV so I could watch Dr. Who on the Beeb with Jill (she’s not obsessed, just would rather watch that than soccer).

Tuesday we slept in ’til nearly 11. Jake tried to wake us up with a drum solo at 7:30 but we weren’t having it (it’s only a play set, but makes a heck of a lot of noise). It was still fun to play with the toys, including some new scooters for Madelyn and Jake we played with outside. In the afternoon, two of Dominic’s sisters came over with their kids, as well as his mom and dad and we had lasagna Melissa made. More gifts were exchanged, and the kids had a good time playing with each other. We hung out after the kids went to bed watching TV and playing the new version of Monopoly (but the Irish edition) while we finished off the irish cream (I think I liked it better than Bailey’s).

Wednesday was our big travel day – up at 6:30 to hit the road at 7. We didn’t hit the road until 7:20, and that was my fault. While trying to figure out why the Nintendo DS Lite wouldn’t recharge (because it had an US charger because Melissa bought it online in the US and had us bring it, and it needed an Irish one), I’d removed the Super Mario cartridge. The things are the size of an SD card, and in the normal chaos of the next couple days, had gotten misplaced. We’d borrowed a charger from Madelyn’s cousin, but now couldn’t find the game and spent a fruitless twenty minutes looking. We still made it to the airport by 9, which was our goal. What we didn’t know was Lufthansa’s ticket counter didn’t open until 9:30, so we cooled our heels in front of it. It still took a while to get our boarding passes as there was a printing error and the agent had to beg the IT gods for a reprint, which took about 10 minutes). We went through security fairly quickly and were in the terminal with an hour to spare, so we checked out the shops and Jill had a coffee and bagel while I had a smoothie (my stomach was queasy).

The flight got into Frankfurt on time, and we had a two hour layover, so we poked around the shops, and were looking for a table in the cafe area to have a beer and a snack when they called our flight over the PA. We wondered why, with an hour and a half left, they’d have us go to the gate, until we got to the security line. It took us over an hour to get through, mostly becauase they had no metal detectors and the guards had to wand by hand everyone in line. We still made the plane in time, and were soon in the air. This flight Jill watched more movies – we both watched “Talladega Nights” (funny – Molly Shannon needs her own movie) and “Lady In The Water” (Jill had never seen an M. Night Shyamalan film and quite liked, I always like his work), then she watched “The Night Listener” and “Scoop” (she liked it, but I’ve never seen a Woody Allen film all the way through, and would have a hard time because of my ick factor with him personally). I read Neil Peart’s “Roadshow”, about the last Rush tour, and slept a tiny bit. We got in a little after 8, and were home a little after 9, and in bed by 10:30. A very long day made worse by the colds that were well into the tissue phase, but a fun time overall.

Holiday weekend 3

And my favourite thing about Christmas in Ireland is watching the new Dr. Who Christmas special on the telly. Yes, I’m a geek (if only I’d been able to see the last two eps of Season 2 before leaving, but I knew Rose was leaving and it didn’t give away how).

Seriously, we’re having a good time, and Jill’s niece and nephews have gotten quite the stash of loot. We’ve eaten and drunken our fill, will give a full summary once we return in a couple days.

Merry Christmas!

Last shows of 2006?

We saw what will be the last shows of 2006 this week, unless we decide at the last minute to get tix for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra on the 30th. Sunday we went to see Paul and Storm and Jonathan Coulton at Jammin’ Java. 7:30 is usually plenty early for an 8PM show, but not that night. I’d bought tix in advance because I was worried it might sell out, and it did, and way more people were there when we came in then I expected. There were no seats left anywhere. I snagged us a place against the wall at stage right that we could just squeeze into and sit down in. Of course I had my camcorder so that was interesting to deal with.

There was another surprise when the show started: Paul and Storm were opening for Jonathan Coulton, rather than the other way around, as it was for the same bill in May. I knew Jonathan’s star was rising, but wasn’t expecting that. Paul and Storm were gracious and definitely won themselves more fans with their set, including an epic intro for “The Captain’s Wife’s Lament” where the audience took the pirate theme way too far (or farrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr), to great effect. We found a wide stool during the break, and that made the next set better. Jonathan Coulton was great, brought Paul and Storm up several times to help him sing, particularly on “Code Monkey”, “Creepy Doll” and an encore cover of “Hungry Like The Wolf”. A fun show, but he may be to big for Jammin’ Java in the future (which with the raised stage, big lights and curtains is a much better concert experience).

Monday Jill was out late at a book signing for Rachael Ray, and she had leftover lasagna (from the party) and I grilled some lamb when she got back. I was planning on going to bed early, but my email was down and I couldn’t figure out why (had to eventually get in a chat session until they figured out how to temporarily fix it) and I had to ship some packages out.

Last night we went to see Aimee Mann’s 1st annual Christmas show at the Birchmere. I’d never seen her before and wanted to. I’m also a fan of her husband, Michael Penn, and had wanted to catch them on their Acoustic Vaudeville shows several years ago which mixed music and stand-up comedy as neither were known for their stage patter. The Christmas show was billed as “with special guests”, so I hoped it might be a return to vaudeville. And it was, just not with Michael Penn.

We got to the Birchmere and parked there, then went across the street to eat at RT’s Restaurant. Their specialty is seafood, and that sounded great to us. We both started witht he she-crab soup, then Jill had the New Orleans steak frites, and I had a daily special of a half of a lobster stuffed with crawfish, shrimp, and scallops. They had a decent beer selection, I had a hefeweizen. After dinner, we walked back over to the Birchmere and got seats. Dinner hadn’t taken long and it was a little under an hour until showtime, so we got fairly nice seats, in my favorite spot (stage right). We got some drinks and chatted until the show began.

The band came out first and played a rock version of the “Nutcracker Suite”. They faded straight into “Whatever Happened To Christmas” (best known from the Sinatra version) and then Aimee’s original “Calling On Mary” (both from her new and excellent Christmas CD). Then she was joined by Grant-Lee Phillips (who used to be in Grant Lee Buffalo in the ’90s) for a romping take on “Winter Wonderland”. Much like the Acoustic Vaudeville shows, they did trade off songs now and Grant-Lee did his Grant Lee Buffalo hit “Honey Don’t Think”, then was joined by SNL’s Fred Armisen for a skit and a take on “Little Drummer Boy”. He did a couple new ones with Aimee on backing vocals, then they dueted on one of the highlights: “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”. Fred came out for a couple more bits, then Aimee did some of her secular songs, then some more Christmas ones. The part I liked the least was Morgan Murphy as an uninformed Hanukkah Fairy, though the changed lyrics to “Ring Of Fire” with a Hanukkah theme they did after that was really good.

The other original song on Aimee’s album is “Christmastime”, written by her hubby, and it was a bit odd hearing her sing it solo, since I’m used to hearing the version with the two of them together. Grant-Lee returned to sing backup on “You Do” and lead on his “Truly, Truly”, then Aimee did “Wise Up” (from the Magnolia soundtrack). The Hanukkah Fairy made another appearance, then Aimee played a couple more songs and finished with “Way Back When” off her first solo album. The encore was great, with just Aimee and Paul Bryan (her bass player) on “4th Of July”, then her hit “Save Me”, and finally one of my favorite Christmas songs, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (most people are familiar with the U2 cover), where Grant-Lee and Fred joined in. The show was supposed to be like one of those ’60s variety shows, and it was sometimes cheesy, but in a winking fashion. I really enjoyed it.

We were first out the door and got home pretty quick. Illa was certifiably crazy after spending the evening downstairs, and I had to play with him for over an hour to calm him down while Jill talked to her mom on the phone. I had a long day at work yesterday so I could leave early today and we can get out of here on time. Of course there were fires and I didn’t, but I’m trying.

Flaky email

If you’re trying to reach me by email, it’s gone wonky – thought it was fixed, but apparently it’s not.

And who knows if the web site will still be here shortly.

I think I need a new web host for the new year.

Holiday weekend 2

Jill made pasta for dinner while I cleaned the office Friday, then she straightened up downstairs while I worked on getting my CDs ready, and we watched the new Weird Al special. Jill went to bed while I kept watching TV and I finished my CDs.

Saturday Jill ran out for coffee and a bagel while I made scrambled eggs and bacon. She started on the bathrooms and I tackled the kitchen. We went out to the liquor store, Safeway, and Trader Joe’s to pick up food and drinks, then came back home. I took Illa for a walk, then we finished cleaning and got ready. I hadn’t finished putting my CDs away when the first couple people showed up early at 6 – they had a concert to go to. We chatted with them for a while, then they left and we started food prep. We were mostly done by the time the first group of people showed up a little after 7.

It was a good party, I think we had about 15-16 total. The usual mix of coworkers (and classmates now) and friends, and lots of food. We had lots of appetizers, but no desserts, which wasn’t a problem as four separate people brought desserts (including Jill’s classmate Donna bringing an elaborately decorated cake).

The group broke up around 1, but Stuart showed up around 2 as we were cleaning up and left at 3 – it was his 4th party of the night. Nice to see everyone, but we were worn out.

Meg came from Charlottesville and stayed the night with her friend Ahren. They enjoyed my breaking out my old Nintendo system for one of my coworker’s sons, as the sounds of Duck Hunt floated around the upstairs this morning (Jill thought someone was playing with staplers). They didn’t stay long in the morning, just long enough for Meg to try the cake she hadn’t been able to the night before. I was feeling nostalgic at the sight of the Nintendo, and I played Super Mario through a couple levels before I lost.

I made pancakes with veggie sausage for breakfast at Jill’s request, then I showered while she watched some Rachel Ray. Then I watched the Skins game (finally a win) and read the paper and Jill went to check out Rachel Ray’s appearance in Tysons Corner tomorrow, and also worked on a budget (her first). Tonight we’re going to see the mighty JoCo open for Paul and Storm at Jammin’ Java.

Holiday time means new mixes

My annual giveaway Christmas party mix of Artists To Watch for 2007:

Band Song Next appearance Why them
01. Ember Swift Some Fine Day I was alerted to her by my friend Meg. Catchy folk pop, this tune’s got a nice ska tinge.
02. Jonathan Coulton Code Monkey 12/17/06 Jammin’ Java One of my favorite discoveries of the year, via Funny songs, ala Weird Al’s songs that aren’t parodies, but good melodies too. This one just speaks to me (guess why).
03. Hem Not California Ok, I found out one of the members was a childhood friend, but that doesn’t take anything away from their charming chamber pop.
04. Gomez See The World 1/26/07 Patriot Center Opened for Dave Matthews Band this past summer, a nice poppy British band.
05. Heather Nova Mesmerized I just love, love, love her voice.
06. Winterpills Laughing Massachusetts based band I saw at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, gorgeous gloomy harmonies.
07. Catie Curtis It’s A Wonder 4/20/07 JMU I found her through a surprise show, but this song is no surprise – catchy folk.
08. Shane Hines And The Trance Slowly 1/12/07 Jammin’ Java Features Scott and Chuck from Quitter UK on backing vocals.
09. Red Molly Darlin’ Corey 2/3/07 Moore Music In The House 3 member harmonies, good folky tune also done by Crooked Still.
10. Porcupine Tree Lazarus Fast rising star in the progressive rock scene, a lovely ballad.
11. Neko Case Star Witness Member of the New Pornographers, she’s reached a new high with her solo work.
12. OK Go Here It Goes Again 3/23/07 Constitution Hall Sure, their video on YouTube was addicting, but it’s a great pop tune too.
13. Natalia Zukerman Anyway 4/27/07 Rams Head Acoustic folk from Jill’s new fave, we found her opening for Ember Swift.
14. Golden Smog Corvette Members of Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, and Wilco, great song featuring Gary Louris from the Jayhawks.
15. Lorraine a Malena It’s Just Me And Eve Lorraine Garland is Neil Gaiman’s personal assistant, and in each of the bands she’s been in, she’s done songs by Neil. This is the best one off her new album.
16. Brindley Brothers Up All Night 1/13/07 Iota A Jersey rocker from the local institution and coffeebar/rock club mavens.
17. The Veltz Family Come On Love Formerly known as Cecilia (the band), when their bass player left it was back to the original family. Smooth pop with harmonies.
18. My Chemical Romance Dead Formerly in the emo/punk scene, they’ve swung for the fences with an epic pop/rock concept album (with Green Day’s producer) and hit a grand slam.
19. Crooked Still Ain’t No Grave Rocking newgrass with the wickedest cello player ever.
20. Angie Aparo All Her Pretty Ways The man with the falsetto you can’t mistake for anyone else returns.
21. Nina Gordon Kiss Me ‘Til It Bleeds Remember Veruca Salt? Or “Tonight And The Rest Of My Life”? I do, and this is the catchy single off her new one.
22. Infidel, Inc Fix I’m glad I’m not the only one who remembers T-Ride. Their industrial funk deserves to survive, and I was glad two of the three members came back to play on this track.

Leftovers (in no particular order):
The Blackjacks – Malina
Paul and Storm – Hip-Shop
Great Big Sea – The River Driver
Leah Morgan – Square Plate Song
Jason Karaban – Perfect Falling Out
Mike Clem – I.S.O.
Gary Cherone – Need I Say More
David Gilmour – Take A Breath
Little Willies – Roly Poly
Robbie Schaefer – Professor Schnoodle
Eric Schwartz – Keep Your Jesus Off My Pen*s
Umphrey’s McGee – Believe The Lie
Lindsey Buckingham – To Try For The Sun
Ollabelle – Fall Back
Rhett Miller – Question
Barenaked Ladies – Bull In A China Shop
Shawn Mullins – Blue As You
Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs – She May Call You Up Tonight
The Magic Numbers – Forever Lost
Blue October – Into The Ocean
Gin Blossoms – Long Time Gone
Guster – Manifest Destiny
Railroad Earth – Elko
Blues Traveler – Amber Awaits
Keane – Maybe I Can Change
Live – The River
Pete Yorn – Alive
Chris Whitley – Last Million Miles
Robbie Williams – Spread Your Wings
John Popper Project – Everything
Thea Gilmore – Even Gods Do
Razorlight – In The Morning
Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell – Second Option
Dresden Dolls – Dirty Business
KT Tunstall – Suddenly I See
Queensryche – The Hands
Everclear – Hater
Ellis – How Would It Be
Sam Ashworth – Look Back
Lynn Carey Saylor – This Is Your Life
Nellie McKay – Swept Away
Carbon Leaf – Learn To Fly

And if listening to all that didn’t take enough time, I also made a second Christmas mix CD. I had enough songs left over after last year to make another, but ordered a bunch of CDs because there were some songs I didn’t have but needed (“Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You”, “Silent Night”, “Song For a Winter’s Night”, “What Child Is This”, “Wonderful Christmastime”, etc.).

  1. Silent Night – eddie from ohio
  2. O’ Come All Ye Faithful/O’ Holy Night – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  3. Carol Of The Bells – THEdeepEND
  4. Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You – Billy Squier
  5. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Hem
  6. Christmastime – Aimee Mann and Michael Penn
  7. I Believe In Father Chrismas – Emerson, Lake and Palmer
  8. River – Rachael Yamagata
  9. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear – Gary Hoey
  10. Last Christmas – Jimmy Eat World
  11. Silver Bells – Martina McBride
  12. Christmastime – Smashing Pumpkins
  13. Song For A Winter’s Night – Sarah McLachlan
  14. Father Christmas – Kinks
  15. What Child Is This – Dar Williams
  16. Rudolph – Jack Johnson
  17. Winter Wonderland – Liz Phair
  18. X-mas Time – Red Henry
  19. Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney
  20. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer – Less Than Jake
  21. Good King Wencelas – Loreena McKennit
  22. White Christmas – Goldfinger
  23. American Noel – Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer
  24. Christmas Time Again – Extreme
  25. Auld Lang Syne – Barenaked Ladies


As we get ready for our big annual shindig tomorrow. I’m getting ready my big post on the sampler I make every year of artists to watch, and cleaning up the office (if we get multiple people who need space to crash). Only light cleaning tonight, heavy duty and shopping tomorrow.

We would be celebrating more since Jill is done with classes (last final today), but she’s hopped up on Sudafed trying to kill the cold she’s had the last couple days in time for tomorrow night. Hope she gets hungry soon so we can eat the Cold Stone ice cream I bought on the way home to celebrate…

New receiver

I bought a new receiver, a Sony STR-DG800. It’s got 7.1 audio (as opposed to my old 5.1, not that much out there takes advantage of that, or even 6.1), and it’s XM capable (not sure I’d use that). I think the main problem with my old receiver is the senter channel on 5.1 is losing it (dropping in and out), and with the amount of TV I watch that broadcasts in 5.1, it was starting to really annoy me. I could have bought any number of receivers, but wanted a fairly cheap one with HDMI connectors – I had to buy a special HDMI connector since I’ve got two outs (cable and DVD) and only one in on my TV. The Sony was cheap, and had decent reviews. The last time I bought a receiver was 1998, and I went with a Sony because everything else I had was a Sony. That receiver was good to me for a long time.

Fuuny thing was reading on the forums about the DG800. Lots of people complaining that the HDMI connection was only a passthrough and you couldn’t get 5.1 sound from your DVD player through the HDMI. Turns out that’s only in the HDMI 1.2a specs, which is implemented only in very high end receivers. But people were bashing Sony nonstop until someone pointed this out. The workaround is using digital optical, which I’m fine with because that’s what I do now. I’m not sure if any receiver you could currently buy would be future-proofed, so I’m not even going to try. And I’m not convinced I want or need 7.1 speakers either, may try it with other speakers I have to get a feel for it sometime.

I went to set it up after I got home tonight. Went pretty painlessly, but as I got up, I was thinking “pretty quick – was that 30 minutes, maybe 40?” Nope, 90 minutes. Oops – made some shrimp scampi in a jiff as it was past 10. Looks like we’ll both be up late tonight.