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Although it's only 4:00 in the morning, I did actually get a good night's sleep last night.  I dozed off watching Friday night television and awoke on the sofa a little after 9:00.  I then went to bed in my bedroom, waking up about an hour ago.  A short while ago, I walked over to check my mail (a couple of utility bills), marveling at how "nice" it was outside (probably mid-40's with a slight breeze — nothing like the "major winter storm" the weather forecasters were predicting).

I also opened my one remaining gift (I'd opened Dad's earlier in the day and Marilyn is mailing mine to arrive after I return from the London trip).  This one was from my friend Stian who lives in the Lofoten Islands west of Norway; he sent a copy of Michel Faber's highly regarded novel The Crimson Petal And The White (the U.S. first edition, as a matter of fact).  Stian translates books from English into Norwegian and this is one he worked on; I've moved it to the top of my reading pile and look forward to beginning it when I return home next week.

Dad's gift ranks up there with my "best ever" — it's a short sword (or, perhaps a large dagger) that he purchased in Thailand about 10 miles outside of Bangkok.  It features a very intricately-carved wooden (teak?) sheath and handle and is extremely sharp.  I don't know how he got it past Customs, but it's really cool.  When I return, I'll have to seek out a single-sword display stand to hold the sword — it'll look great sitting next to my set of three samurai swords with their robin-egg habbards.

And, for the first time ever, I received an actual gift from Bryan (I've received cards before but never an actual object — another change his recent marriage has brought about, no doubt).  He sent a copy of the (very heavy) coffee-table book published a couple of years ago by The Rolling Stones called According To....  It's a fine book (I came VERY close to purchasing it myself several months ago but I held off, waiting for the price to drop) and I already read the chapter written by Sheryl Crow (she's in my top five list of favorite female performers).  Well done, Bryan!

I'm very intriqued by what Marilyn has planned.  When I talked to her on the phone yesterday she said she was "preparing" the gifts and that I can't open the box until I call her when it arrives.  She will then "tell me a story" about the various items.  She's very clever with such things so I'm really looking forward to this!

I have about seven hours to go before I plan to head for the airport.  I think I'll finish watching the new Peter Gabriel live DVD (it arrived a couple of days ago and I watched disc one yesterday — it's awesome, but I still like Secret World Live and Growing Up Live better).

Maybe I'll try to read a bit, too.  (I packed my copy of Michael McGarrity's Slow Kill for the London trip; I've only been reading that one on my flights since September — it's never taken me so long to read one of his books before!)  I have a small stack sitting on my coffee table that have my primary focus right now:  a guide to Teaching English as a Second Language, the new Lonely Planet book on travel photography, and a novel set in Thailand called Skytrain To Murder (I wanted to take it on this trip but the book is too big and I didn't want it to get torn up).  There's also several phrase books in the language of my late-December destination that I've been perusing over the past couple of weeks.  I'll probably dip a bit into each book this morning just for the variety.

Thursday night, the weather forecasters on the local news stations were all talking about a "major winter storm" descending onto northern New Mexico this weekend.  Heavy winds and snow was supposed to start Friday afternoon and continue through Saturday night with predicted accumulations of 4-6 inches of snow in the higher elevations.  Well, based on my walk to the mailboxes a short while ago, the front hasn't come through yet.  The most recent prediction for Albuquerque I've seen mentions high temperatures in the upper 50's and a chance of rain in the afternoon.  By contrast, the forecast for Cincinatti-Northern Kentucky International Airport calls for a high in the upper 30's and a 60% chance of snow and London looks to be in the lower 50's/upper 40's with scattered clouds (Tuesday is supposed to be "clear").

One final note;  if email capabilities on my Blackberry work in London (I'm not convinced I got the correct international plan), I'll be posting only to this blog on this week's trip.  I have another travel-dedicated blog on a specialty site (with all sorts of cool features) but I can't send posts to that one via e-mail.  I don't plan to spend time (and money) at an Internet cafe in London if the Blackberry doesn't work.  In that case, I'll just cross-post between the two blogs when I return.  (Subscribers to the travel blog receive e-mail notification when I make a new entry there — I wish 'Burque Blog had that feature — I'll sign up the last of my family members AFTER I call them on Christmas with my location because I've already given away the secret over there!)

Well, time to get some cold fried chicken (which I need to finish before I leave, or throw out the leftovers) and settle in to watch some Peter Gabriel.  Hopefully, I'll be writing again this time tomorrow from London.  Cheers!