Sunday, September 25, 2005
Heino and I relaxed down at Philip Island. This is a small island somewhat to the southeast of Melbourne. Hard then to explain why it has such British placenames as Cowes, Rhyll and Ventnor. We even do the old gag
What's brown and comes steaming out of Cowes?
The Philip Island Ferry!
I ran that gag past Andrew a couple of weeks ago; his response before he heard the punchline indicated a distaste for the natural byproduct of steak and milk manufacture. His response after the punchline tells me I need a new gag writer!
Three days of lazing around. Well, Heino lazed around; I went for walks. Wore myself out yesterday doing a 12 Km walk on the beach. 12 Km's are nothing but this was on the beach; walking on sand doubles the effort I reckon. I returned just in time for some meat pies with tomato sauce and the AFL Grand Final.
The pies were fine but my heart just wasn't in the footbal match; when, just after the start of the second quarter, Heino hinted that some Aero bars[^] would be a good idea I was more than willing to make the trek to the supermarket to pick some up. (The fact that I wanted to buy some wine was merely incidental to my willingness to accomodate a best mates desires).
When I returned the second quarter was over and they were doing the usual filler material. By the start of the third quarter my interest in the game had dropped to an alltime low and I went for a nap, thus missing the 'thrilling' climax of the game.
I record here that the Sydney Swans won the match. Not the South Melbourne Swans; when the team moved north in 1982 they stopped being a Victorian team. But everyone here's so desperate to put one over on the West Coast that they're claiming it as a South Melbourne victory.
Lester, an Englishman in Australia, who has long since returned to the land of the pom. Nice guy; killer sense of humour and responsible for introducing me to Viz (possibly not a worksafe link - it wouldn't be where I work)[^]. Thanks to Lester I've read much about Johnny Fartpants, Buster Gonad, The Fat Slags, Sid the Sexist, Roger Melly, the man on the Telly and, my favourite, Spoilt Bastard.
Yep, childish humour. One of these decades I might finally understand what's so wrong with enjoying a bit of childish humour :-)
As for how he tracked me down, I have no idea. I have to assume that in a moment of all-consuming ennui he googled on my name. He must have been mightily bored! :-)
Every so often someone would approach sysadmin with some random request or other; usually on the level of 'my computer doesn't work, what's wrong with it?'. Just the approach calculated to get an instant and correct answer! Most of the time they'd become aware of the soundtrack and ask 'what's that?'. And the sysadmin guys would answer 'we're monitoring the internet.' 'Really?'. And the supplicant would wander off with a bemused expression on the face.
4GL programmers aren't the brightest pennies in the purse.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
When I booked this trip nearly 4 months ago I took care to book myself a window seat for the last leg; I wanted to see Melbourne from above. As we approached I first picked out Mt Dandenong. You can't mistake it; the TV towers are a dead giveaway. Then Rosanna, revealed by the radio broadcast towers. As the plane made its turn toward Tullamarine the City itself comes into view and for a short moment I wondered if I were really looking at Melbourne. There was a building that looked for all the world like the Seattle Needle complete with revolving restaurant and I knew that Melbourne didn't have one of those! Yet everything else looked right.
Seeing Albert Park followed by the Newport Power station reassured me that I was in the right airspace. Landed and yep, this was Melbourne alright! The building that looked like the Seattle Needle when seen up close doesn't really look like the needle at all; it was a trick of the light.
Wandering at leisure through the City yesterday was a voyage of discovery. Buildings that weren't there last time I did that walk. More subtly, buildings that have changed ownership. The building that I remember as an average office building with the astronomical telescope dealership on the top floor is now a Ramada hotel.
Though I knew from reading the Melbourne Newspapers online that the Flinders Street overpass was gone it still came as a bit of a surprise, as I travelled from Flinders Street Station to Spencer Street via train, to see that it's no longer there.
But my old house in Footscray looks just the same as when I lived there 3 years ago. Just one change; they moved the front gate from the left hand end of the fence to the middle of the fence. Otherwise it's unchanged.
Quite an emotional moment as it happens, that first turn into the street and there was the familiar suburbscape. I've put up a small gallery of shots[^]; sufficient to make you scratch your heads and wonder why I feel so nostalgic about it all. *shrug* I lived there for almost 10 years and it is, after all, less than a kilometre from that house to most of the scenes of my childhood.
I have 3 continents left to visit. Africa, South America and Antarctica. The first two should be relatively easy to manage but I'm not sure how I'm going to swing Antarctica. Lemme think about it a while.
Finneas Phogg eat your heart out!! :-)
Monday, September 19, 2005
If you'd told me a year ago, or five years ago, or twenty years ago that one day I'd watch the Brownlow I'd have told you, peremptorily, that you had rocks in your head.
The same reply will be your reward if you suggest I'll ever watch it again!
On the other hand, when I'm on my deathbed I'll be able to say that I did indeed once watch it. I imagine I'll also regret the misuse of 3 hours of my life!
But one humours ones mates. Especially when you're enjoying a good dinner with people you really like. And even more so when they've welcomed you into the bosom of their home. Well, you know what I mean! Only a churl would refuse to particpate in the fun. I hope I'm not a churl!
It's part of the territory if you're in Melbourne in September to
And now it's time for a confession. It's been my guilty secret for some years now that I watch the Grand Final. Heck, I even watched it last year when I was in The Philipinnes (it was broadcast live on ABC Asia Pacific). When Heino and I are being 'the lads' down at Philip Island this weekend I'll play the game of being uninterested but I'll watch with considerable interest. Shhhh, don't tell him! (And he'll NEVER read this) :-)
Sunday, September 18, 2005
It's been cold blustery rainy sunshiny weather, exactly what one would expect in Melbourne in September! Why is it, I wonder, that I always forget that most of the rest of the world is colder than Phoenix? Just about every time I've flown from Phoenix to LA or to San Francisco I forget to take a warm top and I spend the wait for the next flight shivering as I smoke.
It was, of course, worse when I arrived in Melbourne a mere two weeks into the southern Spring though I lasted longer than I thought I would before diving into the suitcase for my Manny's Beach Club windcheater, bought one cold evening at Puerto Penasca, Mexico!
I'd long planned that when I emerged through the doors into the waiting area at Tullamarine, to find Heino waiting, I'd grab a pair of underpants from my pocket and put em on my head. Which I did! Got quite a few amused smiles from the others waiting for friends and relatives. Got a laugh from Heino too.
Out of the terminal and the first thing we did was light up! One of those moments.
My wife wants a count of how many times I, as passenger, go to the wrong side of the car. So far my count is zero and I'm not really thinking about it; it just seems to happen that I'm going to the correct side.
Of course my first meal here was Fish and Chips and mighty good they were too! It's not really fish though. What I had was shark and chips but we call it Flake. I understand that name originated many years ago to overcome the prejudice against eating sharks. Silly prejudice; shark is magnificent!
My second meal was roast lamb with all the trimmings. Roast potatoes, roast pumpkin (squash to the North Americans), minted peas, gravy and mint sauce. Followed by apple pie without cinammon!
There's the easy way to do this and there's the hard way. I'm sure you can guess which way we ended up doing it! Uh huh.
Of course we thought we were doing it the easy way. Did the router to cable modem setup first. That went pretty easily though they do seem to have a rather convoluted way of configuring things. But we got the modem and the router talking and were able to get into the configuration pages from the main system wired to the standard ethernet port.
Then we enabled the wireless side of things and used my laptop to verify it was working. Enabled WPA-PSK, gave it a keyphrase to generate the encryption keys, entered the same keyphrase into my laptop configuration, reconnected and all worked well.
We're on a roll. All that's left is to install the PCI cards into the other PC's, let XP Plug'n'Play do it's thing and we're done. Should take about 2 minutes per PC.
We did the right things. Disconnected and disabled the existing ethernet controller. Plugged the card in, rebooted and followed the 'New Hardware' wizard, straight into a blue screen!
Ok, back away. Up in safe mode, uninstall the drivers, reboot again into normal mode and follow a different route to installed drivers (manual select, have disk). Blue screen!
Safe mode yada yada and go to the Netgear website. Mention made of a new release to get around some XP SP2 problems. So we download that version (16 Megabytes! How can a simple network card driver be THAT big?). Create a CD copy and try that. Blue screen!
Uh huh. So we stop and think it through. This is XP, the cards are supposed to be XP compatible and they're not some random cheapo brand you've never heard of. We must be doing something wrong. And then Heino looks at the antistatic bag the card came wrapped in. When opening the bag we had to break a seal and that seal said, quite clearly, install the drivers first!
Ok, we'll do that. First we did the device manager uninstall followed by the uninstall on the Netgear shortcut under Start/Programs. Following some hints on the Netgear web page we also deleted some .inf files and some files under %SystemRoot%\System32\Drivers.
Rebooted without the card installed and reinstalled the software. Shutdown and installed the card and it still blue screened! Then Heino had a bright idea. Without changing anything else we put the card into a different PCI slot and suddenly all is working!
We moved on to the second PC and this time we did it exactly as that seal on the bag directed. Installed the software first and then installed the card. And the second PC (same motherboard - they were bought at the same time) came up first time and everything worked!
Moral of the story? Follow the bloody instructions!!!
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
At this time 24 hours from now I shall be somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. I've flown over the Pacific more than a dozen times this past year but this time I'm on leave, and I'll be on my way to Australia for an all too short 16 days in Melbourne. I'm flying out via San Francisco and the layover there is so short that I doubt I'll get to do more than eat a sanga (sandwich) in the United Airlines Frequent Flyer lounge. Indeed, the longest layover is on the way back; at San Francisco again. At least it'll give enough time to be sure my greencard is valid without missing the flight to Phoenix. Alas, by then, I won't have an international ticket so I won't get to spend time in the frequent flyer lounge. I will get to smoke!
I'm due in to Sydney Airport at 6 AM (the earliest they'll allow due to noise) and due in to Melbourne at 9:40 AM. This will be Friday morning Melbourne time, late afternoon Thursday Phoenix.
To say I've been looking forward to this trip is rather like saying that the sky is blue; I need a break from the step-daughter from hell and I really need to be in a place where there are 20 million people who speak my accent, rather than in a place where there are 300 million people who don't.
Today at the office was somewhat interesting. Given that management have a habit of comitting me to travel at a moments notice I had made sure that they knew that I was on leave from September 14 onwards. I may have overdone it a trifle; when I was in the Philipinnes last month it seems the joke doing the rounds was that the boss had persuaded me to stay there until September 30th and the jaws of everyone who heard that fell.
Thus it was that I was often asked, today, how many hours? Not that I was keeping a countdown you understand; but I did know that now it was 52 hours until I emerged into Godzone; now it was 50 hours. You get the gist.
Now it's somewhat less than 40 hours.
Monday, September 12, 2005
I've been joking about it with her for the last half hour. Then I leaned back in my chair, which is badly in need of lubrication and said 'while we're over there we need to get some of that squeaky stopper stuff for my chair'.
They now treat us to Keeping up Appearances[^] (which exasperates me enough that I no longer watch it. Yes, Onslow is an interesting character but I just can't abide Hyacinth), As time goes by[^] which I really enjoy but which causes my wife some confusion. She keeps asking where's the punchline at the end. I can't explain that there is no punchline. *shrug*
Then there's Waiting for God[^] which I first saw back in Oz about 1992. I was more than somewhat surprised, checking IMDB[^], to see that both the principal actors are still alive.
Then comes My Family[^]. This runs on the LA to Singapore flight; I was disappointed to see that they ran the same episode for all of July and August. Followed by Hardware[^]. For a 2003 production it reminds me mightily of On the buses[^]. Some parts of British Comedy don't change; there's still the feel of Donald Magill's postcards sold in Brighton in the 1930's about Hardware.
The only series I haven't already seen is Hardware but if this keeps up I'll be phoning in on pledge night to give em some cash. Yes, I miss British Comedy that much! Half a year ago when I was spending significant time in Dallas one of the things that kept me going was the sheer amount of British Comedy they ran on PBS over there. No more URLs. Things like 'Goodnight Sweetheart', 'Are you being served', 'My Hero' (that also crops up on the flight from LA to Singapore.
One of the bummers of my job is that I spend a lot of time away from home; usually in foreign countries. What little British Comedy makes it's way to Phoenix is lessened by my absences. (On the other hand, they run The Kumars at No 42[^] in the Philippines; that makes up for a lot of travel!) Thus, of late, I've been thinking of a Tivo. Cheap enough to buy one but there's an ongoing cost in subscription fees to their internet service. We're running close enough to the bone as it is without adding another monthly subscription.
So it was that I returned to an ATI All in Wonder 7500 card that I'd discarded almost two years ago because of a hardware fault. It worked well enough as a TV card but it developed some pink hatched lines when run at my preferred resolution of 1600 by 1200. Running at 1200 by 780 (or whatever the numbers were) it didn't have the hatched lines. Obviously a hardware fault!
I put it back in the computer tonight and confirmed that it still had the hardware fault at 1600 by 1200. At 1200 by 768 it didn't show the lines and I was willing to live with the reduced screen real estate while I searched for the CD that came with the card, containing all the software required to run it as a TV card and hook into the TV schedules through the internet. Much searching through CD's I haven't looked at in nearly 3 years and there it was. Installed the driver and the rest of the software and suddenly the old card is willing to work at 1600 by 1200 without those pink lines.
It's nearly 2 years since I first saw the problem and I no longer remember if it was, maybe, caused by a Windows Update. All I know is that it's now working and I have a substitute Tivo. Good enough that I will be able to record, on that 360 gigs[^] of storage I now have, all the British Comedies that PBS will run while I'm away in Australia,
Meanwhile, we have the inescapable conclusion that I no longer score well on hardware diagnosis. Yikes, I used to make my living by doing that. It's probably a good thing I've moved to writing software for a living.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
I must be one of the very few people in the Western World who hasn't seen those images in moving picture form. Yep, I've seen the odd still and I've seen a few seconds of footage of the collapse but I really haven't seen anywhere near all of it.
8:46 AM New York time is, on September 11th, 10:46 PM September 11th Melbourne time. And by sheerest coincidence that was one of the very few times in the last 30 years that I've gone to bed before 2 AM. I slept through the whole thing.
The next morning, Sept 12 my time but mid afternoon Sept 11 in the US, I was in the car driving to work at about 8:32 AM. In those days I listened to ABC Radio Melbourne, the Jon Faine Show. That morning it was maddening; they kept talking about what had happened in the US but would they say exactly what? Nope! Tense reports of missile activity over Kabul which seemed somehow connected with the mystery event that had happened in the US. The way it was portrayed was much the same as those couple of tense days in September 1983 just after KAL 007 was shot down by a Soviet Fighter plane. Back then I remember waking up expecting to see the nukes flying overhead; it almost came as a surprise each morning to awaken.
Eventually, maybe 20 minutes into my drive to work they got around to repeating what must have been old news to almost every Melbourne resident.
When I got into the office everyone was agog and very tired; they'd spent the entire night awake watching the broadcasts. I recall that sometime about noon or maybe 1 PM our time President Bush did a live news broadcast; everyone crowded into a small office to watch a portable TV.
We held our breath, almost certain that America would do the boots and all routine. Sighs of relief as the nukes weren't launched.
The news coverage from the US was wall to wall in Australia at the time; or so I believe. I saw very little of it. Why? Well, I was going through my own personal crisis at the time (it involved a woman) and I wasn't really in the mood to follow TV. So I missed seeing the coverage and, within a fortnight, all of that footage had dropped off the radar, soon to be replaced by embedded journalists in the invasion of Afghanistan. Tora Bora et al.
A year later it was arranged that we would all turn our lights on as we drove to work at 8:46 AM. Not the exact time of the anniversary but everyone who's driving has their lights on at 10:46 PM. I was driving to work again, just emerged from the tunnel under the Yarra River. The radio station I was listening to was doing the countdown; I assume the others were also because suddenly everyone turned their lighs on. A moving moment. More moving later that evening as we listened to the names of the dead recited at ground zero.
We even understood the why of the invasion of Afghanistan; our media had made almost as much of the dynamiting of the Buddha Statues as the US media had. And those bastards had also harboured the most wanted man in the world. Go on, give em curry!
By March 19th 2003 I was living in the US. Just in time to see the US coverage, embedded journalists and all, of the invasion of Iraq. In time to see the squabbling over the renaming of Squaw Peak to Piestawa Peak (local mountain renamed after an Arizona Native American killed in Iraq).
And to what end? Billions of bucks wasted; thousands and thousands of lives lost. Almost the only comfort I can take from events of the past four years is that there hasn't been a single hijacking since then. Pennsylvania changed the rules; we no longer assume a hijacker expects to be alive at the end of the exercise. And if we, the cattle, can no longer assume that, the hijacker can no longer assume our cooperation.
The something was this[^].
In later reflection (and given that I'd written the bulk of that post two weeks ago when I was in The Philippines I really ought to have realised this earlier) it seems to me that maybe what I wrote implied the existence of censorship on Wdevs, or, at the very least, the need to run posts by them before posting.
Hence this post. Wdevs management has never ever expressed concern at the stuff I post. The post I asked about was one over which I spent about ten days dithering; not sure if it would fit within the guidelines posted here[^]. It was my decision to run it by them and they were unanimous in both expressing surprise that I'd felt the need and approving it's posting.
I just wanted to make it clear that I was the one who felt the need to get it approved.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Doubtless, in your nonage, you looked at a toilet with a toilet roll holder conveniently placed on the wall at exactly the correct place for the paper to feed smoothly into the bowl, and wondered, if I wad enough paper and flush, will it unwind the roll? I did wonder, and I tried it, at the Footscray Public Library in 1965.
I'm sorry to relate that it doesn't. No matter how often you flush there just isn't enough flow to completely unwind a 400 sheet roll! By dint of much flushing I did manage to wind down to the cardboard roll inside but I reckon it would have taken 20 flush cycles in total. I'd reached the final flush when there came a stern rap on the door and the librarian inquiring 'are you ok?'. It seems that she'd noticed many flushes with no emergences. Of course I didn't want to admit to vandalism of even such a minor thing as a dunny roll. Some quick thinking got me off the hook; I confessed to diarrhea. Sympathetic glances as I beat a hasty retreat outside.
I'm reminded of an enquiry on usenet during the Win95 beta trials. Someone wanted to know if visual C++ 1.5 worked on it. Fool! Why not give it a try was my reply. Although I didn't use the word 'fool' in my response.
Friday, September 09, 2005
This isn't my first attempt at a blog; I had one over on LiveJournal that petered out after a couple of months. Shouldn't be too hard to locate it if you're really interested but be warned; I have recycled one or two posts from there.
I've enjoyed writing my blog. More than 160,000 words and counting; that's about the average non bloated novel. Of course it helps that I've been travelling a lot; I wrote the first entry in The Philippines and the travel has given me much to write about.
I've also enjoyed writing about my early life and the quirks of being an Australian living in a foreign (very foreign :-) ) country.
Without the blog I wouldn't have met Vern and Lamont; I'm glad I met them. Two crazy yanks, both Arizona natives so you'd think they'd know better than to remain in Phoenix :-) Indeed, Vern returned to Arizona from California; go figure!
But I think the thing I've enjoyed the most is the feedback. I really do like it when one of you comments on something I've written. I've never met Dan or Mort or Johann or Nish or Marc or David or David or Philip or Larry or Chris R or Anders or Colin Mac or Taka or Colin D or Michael but in a way that's hard to describe I consider each of those people a friend. I can easily imagine sitting down in a pub and shariang a beer with any of you.
I did meet Chris A in Dallas and we shared a beer and some hours of frenetic conversation. It was a good evening!
I've written three or four posts that, after reflection, I wish I hadn't posted but I'm certainly not going to identify them!
I've never deleted a post, no matter how I feel about it the next day. I do edit posts to the extent of correcting a glaring spelling error I should have picked up before posting; and occasionally to correct a grammatical error. I never edit a post in such a way as to change the meaning.
I wrote one post that I thought it wise to run by Wdevs management before posting; to their credit they had not the slightest reservation in seeing me post it.
I've had fun writing and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon.
Last night I missed because I was driving to Flagstaff. Morgan had, for reasons best known to her, done a runner, skipped school and ended up there. We can be glad that she couldn't think of anywhere else to 'escape' to; her elder sister lives there.
We took off about 5 PM. It's about 2 hours if you drive like a suicidal maniac; I prefer to take 3 hours. It's also a fiction that it's 2 hours even for suicidal maniacs if you start out from Scottsdale at 5 PM. You have to allow for peak hour commuter traffic. By 6:30 we'd reached Black Canyon City, which I'm guessing is about 40 miles out. My wife was on the phone almost all of the time we'd been driving and by the time we reached there she had been convinced we should turn around; Morgan would be home tomorrow no worries!
So we drove off Interstate 17 into Black Canyon City. We were feeling a trifle hungry and we'd seen the sign to 'Bylers Amish Restaurant'. We were both curious about the cuisine so there we went. Nothing all that special. I didn't see a single dish that I hadn't seen elsewhere but I have to say, the portions were enormous, the prices were low, and it was good food. If you're ever driving through Black Canyon City on I-17 and you're hungry drop by, you won't be disappointed. The staff are also friendly and I could see she was dying to ask about my accent but she was too polite. I told her I was an Australian and she gave me a free slice of apple pie. Can't say no to that even if it did have cinammon in it! :-)
After dinner we moseyed back to Phoenix via the cemetery. Still an hour to sunset and we're both cemetery fans so it was a no-brainer. Lots of jack rabbits and quail. I kept making jokes about herding our dinner into a corner of the cemetery and then the buggers flew off. We learn something new every day; I've seen quail running but I never knew they could fly! I wasn't quite sure if this was rattlesnake territory and believe me, Australians learn very early in life if they're walking through the countryside to be careful of snakes. My wife laughed at my exaggerated caution when stepping over logs. I'm 51 years old. I reckon caution with regard to snakes got me this far!
So we got back to Phoenix about 8 PM and I busied myself adding a new RAID array to the computer. About 9 PM the phone rang. Morgan and Shelby had had a blazing row and Morgan was doing her usual kicking screaming swearing routine. She knows more swear words than I do and she's certainly less reticent about using them than I am! It's always cowed adults in the past so why shouldn't she continue using that technique? It even worked on me once! Once!
I put my shoes back on, put the suitcase we'd packed 4 hours previously back in the car, started the engine and waited. Out comes my wife, mobile phone stuck to her ear and off we set! The mobile phone was just about out of charge when we reached Anthem; we detoured to the local Walmart to buy a car charger.
We got to Flagstaff at midnight. Oh, did I mention that Morgan had two homeless 17 year old boys with her? Once at Flagstaff we quickly found her holed up in a cheap motel. The room didn't smell of drugs or booze and the fact that Morgan was screaming obscenities didn't mean much; that's her normal modus operandi. So we checked ourselves in to a room at the same motel, after getting her car keys, her debit card and her spare cash. As an aside, since when do 17 year old girls still in high school get debit cards?
We got to bed about 2 AM. Not all that late for me but then again, I usually nap in the early evening.
I'm going to gloss over some of what followed. Too many opinions; too much bile, too much anger. We ended up, much against my best judgement, letting Morgan drive back to Phoenix with the two boys while my wife and I were leading the way. I refused to be a passenger. I told my wife that if she insisted on driving I'd take a bus back to Phoenix. If Morgan did another runner I sure as hell wasn't going to put my life at risk chasing her. I would drive as fast as I felt I could given the conditions. If my wife was driving who knew what she'd do? My wife, after a moment, admitted the wisdom of what I'd said!
Thus we started the drive back. I'll be the first to admit that I drive somewhat timidly. 33 years behind the wheel will do that to you. We're driving a ton of metal that can kill. Morgan, at first, wanted to push the envelope. Smartarse kid tried to overtake me a couple of times. A couple of mobile to mobile phone calls put a stop to that. Morgan was now in mitigation mode. She was ready to lie and act contrite to reduce her punishment.
And it worked! Dad (not me) is a pushover. All Morgan has to do is shout at the top of her lungs and dig her heels in and that's it... game and match. We got back to Phoenix about 3:15 PM and I went in to the office (I have a boatload of stuff to finalise before I go to Australia next week). I already knew, before I drove to the office, that they'd cave in. When I came home about 8 PM it was all over including the shouting. Morgan, having done a runner, is not grounded.
Next month she'll do it again. And her parents will wonder what they've done wrong, wring their hands and be stumped for answers.
And next month, when I return from Australia, I'll stand impotently at the side not at all surprised by the outcome and unable to persuade anyone that caving in to shouting, tantrums and swear words doesn't work.
Well, she's her mum's psycopath, not mine!
My first marriage came to an end on Sunday, August 16th 1987. Since I wasn't the one who brought it to an end it took a little while after that date to accept the end. I wore the wedding ring as a desperate talisman against the truth.
My second marriage came to an end on Tuesday, March 7th 1995. Again I wasn't the one who took the steps to actively terminate the relationship but in contrast to that first separation the second came as a blessed relief. I didn't wear the wedding ring from that day forward.
Sometime in December 1987 I went to a party. Nope, the story doesn't have that kind of an ending (more's the pity :-) ). In those days I wasn't much of a drinker; three beers and I was unsteady, four and I was, for all practical purposes, out of it. I had at least five beers that night! My friends decided it was time I was sequestered away from further temptation and preferably horizontal to sleep it off. Which I did. When I awoke the next morning feeling somewhat sick and sorry for myself the wedding ring was gone. To this day I have no memory of losing the ring and no idea where it ended up.
The second wedding ring, a rather nice white gold affair with minimal decoration, went to charity. I can't remember which charity but I hope they got a few bucks out of it. It wasn't doing me any good!
The third wedding ring? Ah, there's the rub. Those few of you who've met me might have noticed that I not only don't wear a wedding ring; I don't even have the mark of having worn one. I did have a wedding ring though. About a year and a half ago I was watching late night TV and idly playing with the ring. It was perhaps a trifle too large so it slipped off my finger easily and I'd gotten into the habit of taking it off and playing with it. If you've ever worn a ring you know that they can sometimes get a little uncomfortable; a feeling of something stuck to your finger; just moving it around can make it feel better.
So there I was, watching TV, and playing with my wedding ring. And suddenly it went flying out of my fingers, up in the air, and came down nearby. We were remodelling the apartment at the time and I couldn't find it. We searched the apartment high and low and to this day we've never found that wedding ring. It was here; now it's not. As we carted out the rubbish from the remodel we sifted it carefully; we checked all the furniture but it's never been found.
But we're still married. That's the important thing!
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
As I've written in the past, he wasn't a particularly child friendly man but blood is somewhat thicker than water and he was my father.
Rest in Peace dad.
I have to admit that it seemed like I was seeing an unnaturally high failure rate which I at first ascribed to the fact that we never switch our computers off (I run seti@home)[^]. But my wife's computer is also never switched off and she has the same hard drive we bought nearly 3 years ago. The kids computer runs 24/7 and it also has a hard drive that's almost 3 years old. So to believe that I could lose 4 drives in less than a year was stretching my credulity.
My credulity was stretched to breaking point when I got home tonight. My computer had blue screened but, since it had blue screened some hours previously, the monitor energy saving had kicked in and the screen was blank. Windows XP, when blue screened, isn't watching mouse or keyboard activity so there's no way to bring the monitor back on line. Indeed, when I first saw that blank screen that refused to spring back to life I assumed someone had switched the monitor off; switching it back on didn't work. Then I noticed that the hard disk activity light was full on.
Ok, switch the monitor back on and hit reset. And up comes the BIOS with all the correct details; two processors, the right amount of memory and so on. Followed by the dreaded message to the effect that the system volume is dead. Say what???
So I do another reset and go into BIOS setup. No hard disk!
Given that this is a 4 or 5 day old hard disk (from my perspective) this seemed somewhat hard to believe. So I ponder my options. BIOS is reporting the right CPU count, right memory size etc. The motherboard is probably ok but what about the IDE controller on the motherboard? BIOS still shows my DVD writer so I swap the DVD and hard disk channels. Can still see the DVD writer but not the disk. That seems to eliminate the IDE controllers. I don't have many options left short of swapping the motherboard. But I do have another power supply. So I swapped that and suddenly the new drive is working again.
And then the penny drops. I changed computer cases back in December of last year, before the very first hard disk failed and, due to laziness, I used the power supply that came with that case. The new power supply connectors just didn't have that 'tightness' they should have had. You know what I mean; it should take a modicum of effort to plug em in; but these ones didn't.
Each of the four 'failing' drives now works. So I've reverted to last weeks configuration on the two most recently 'failed' drives, as a mirror set. I now have 360 gigs of storage! Gawd only knows what I'm going to put on that much space. Famous last words of course; it's not all that long ago 1 gig was unimaginably large.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Possibly a difficult question but not really. I'm glad I've had the chance to visit The Philippines. To be honest, it was never a country on my 'must visit' list. Partly through ignorance; partly through reading reports of Westerners being beheaded there in 1999 - 2000.
Letting a thing like that stop you visiting is much like noticing the crime stats in the US and saying 'I'll never visit the US'. Indeed, ten years ago I used to say 'the US is a great place to visit but I never want to live there!'. Guess where I now live and of which country I shall soon become a citizen?
I've been to The Philippines seven times now I really hope that it's showing in the way that I write about it that I do enjoy being there. Manila itself is still a bit daunting; I don't think you could pay me enough money to live there but once I'm on the North Luzon Expressway I'm having an experience I don't want to miss. When I get to Baguio I almost feel as though I'm home.
I've never met a Filipino that I didn't like. Some are annoying in one sense; they pick that I'm an Australian and want all the details of how to become an immigrant. How should I know? If there's one thing I'm guaranteed it is that I'm an Australian Citizen and I'll never need to go through the Australian Immigration experience.
When they discover that I'm an immigrant to the US there's surprise and then a need for details of that process. How can I tell them that neither country is particularly welcoming of Filipinos? How do I reconcile a 3 month process for myself with a 20 year process for a Filipino? I have no words to explain it.
So what do I think of The Philippines? Wonderful country full of warm people. I'm impressed that I've never met a Filipino who couldn't speak some English. Perhaps not as well as I speak English but how much Tagalog can I speak? One word. Salamat, and even of that word I'm not sure of the correct pronunciation. Contrast that with my driver who is paid US$1 per hour to drive me to Manila. He can speak some English, some Mandarin, a little Russian, and Tagalog.
Awesome scenery and the worst airport I've ever been in. Australian Eucalyptus trees lining the MacArthur highway. The friendliest hotel staff in the world. They don't just simulate interest; it's real. The head waiter at the Baguio Country Club and I talked at some length last week about Australian Rules Football. I think it was a greater strain on me than on him given that I have less interest in Aussie Rules than I do in the local politics of the seventh district of Ulan Bator! He even knew that the Western Bulldogs were once known as the Footscray Football club.
I'm hoping for an eighth visit. I don't think I can give a more positive response to The Philippines than that!
On Friday that milk bottle made it's way upstairs again while he was playing poker with his friends. Poker has become a regular fixture and I always make a joke about beer and pizza. They're perhaps a trifle young to light up at the prospect of beer but Morgan, who usually can't hear a word I say, managed to hear my comment about beer. I've got her number!
Saturday passed without comment and the milk bottle was unmoved. So on Sunday I waited until he was in the shower again and moved it to his bed. This morning (Monday) when I awoke it had moved to the top of my monitor.
Of course he knows it's me moving it around. I tried, a couple of times when I was in The Philippines last week to persuade my wife to put the bottle in his room but she refused! We had quite the adult conversation tonight about it. Well perhaps 'quite the adult conversation' isn't the right description but I think you know what I mean. I ascribed it's continued reappearance to it's proximty to my mental powers (with appropriate holding of fingertips to my head). Perhaps, I hinted, if it were to be removed from the proximity of my mind it might cease to return.
Let's see if it moves out of the range of my intellect :-)
Of course, if he does actually march it out to the rubbish bin I'll buy another! He'll appreciate the joke!
Monday, September 05, 2005
A lot of fun actually. We mainly drank beer and talked about Piglets fascination with blue trousers. As evidence of how such things can continue into later life I well remember laughing myself sick at the age of 46 with my then girlfriend Ruth over Piglets trousers. A A Milne's Pooh books are still among my favourite books of all time; up there with Kenneth Grahame's 'The Wind in the Willows'. Toad is my all time favourite dramatically comic character but Piglet isn't far behind!
My approach to Sue was something less than subtle. I and a red haird youth I barely remember clocked her and approached. Some witty banter was required to engage her attention. I came up with the idea of making her the priestess of our new religion. Sue, no one's fool, agreed provided that she could be our virgin priestess. Stymied! :-)
I must have exuded some kind of charm because she became first my girlfriend and eventually my wife.
About a month after we met we went camping with the Pooh Club at Daylesford, a small town 60 K's or so from Melbourne. The Pooh Club were still focussed on Pooh Bear and they did the most childish things. One of those things was a pass the parcel game where the parcel was passed to whomever most closely fitted the clue. They hadn't done their homework.
At the end of the game the parcel was supposed to have been passed to Sue who would open it to find shampoo and conditioner and such like. But the clue was who had the longest hair. I had the longest hair so I won. Much embarassment all round. Not that it mattered much; by that time Sue and I were sharing shampoo.
Sunday, September 04, 2005
I've made enough of my own history with a stepfather. How and why should I expect my step kids to regard me as anything more than I did mine? Some old fart who happens to be married to their mother and who does such unreasonable things as expect them to clean up after themselves and to take some responsiblity for their actions!
Shelby did the usual teenage thing a few years ago and went off the rails but in the 4 years I've known her she's been doing her best to make up for lost time. She's a student at NAU (Northern Arizona University) and, whilst she enjoys the odd tequila, she seems to me to be very focussed indeed on getting back on track. I wish her younger sister were half as focussed!
Shelby's a good kid and I like her a lot. I also happen to like her fiance a lot. Nearly four years ago when I met him I was in a minority of one in liking Matt. He seemed to me, who had no emotional investment in Shelby, to be a smart likeable guy who worked hard, had a great sense of humour and enjoyed a drink. Indeed, when I was about to meet him my now wife (we weren't married then) took me aside to warn me about the facial jewellery. If she hadn't warned me I probably wouldn't even have noticed it! Such are the prejudices a mother has to overcome.
Matt is now in good odour and I do take part of the credit for that change to myself. But it's hard, I'd imagine, for even a real parent to watch the two of them together and not feel that they work together as a team.
So back in April when I was in Frankfurt Airport waiting for the flight back to the US I saw Shelby walk by. Amazement! I never knew Shelby could speak fluent German.
In June whilst I was in Singapore Airport waiting for a flight to Manila I saw her again. This time she sounded Australian. She's good but she's not THAT good.
In August whilst I killed an hour or two in Chicago waiting for the flight to France I saw her and Matt walk by. This time it was so real I walked up to them and the only thing that saved me from embarassing myself was the total lack of recognition as their gaze flicked over me.
So we now know that there's at least one person in the world who looks exactly like the Shelby that I know. That's not a bad thing; she's a pretty girl. It's the implications of that fact that worry me. If there's a duplicate of Shelby there's probably one of me! Double the ugliness? Say it's not so!!!!
I do remember being bedded down in a tiny room close to Half Moon Bay in 1958 but for the most part we were day visitors. It was a long (for a 4 year old) journey from West Footscray Station to Flinders Street, change to the Sandringham train and catch a bus to Black Rock. I remember on one occasion watching a woman eating chocolate wafers on the bus. She saw my hungry gaze and offered me a wafer. Embarassed I refused and hid my hands behind my back. She shrugged and continued eating and I remember masticating in sympathy. I really wanted one of those wafers but it was too late to accept a kind offer.
It felt to me at the time that there was something going on between Mum and her mother. Some kind of tension that I couldn't, at the time, understand. Those polite words hid something. Yeah, I know it's the accumulation of years since then that makes me think that but even at the time I knew that Mum and her Mum shouldn't be speaking to each other quite in that way. Impotent anger.
In later life I discovered the reasons for this; it seems that my mother had comitted the unforgivable sin of becoming pregnant out of wedlock in 1952. Hmmm. If I had a dollar...
My mothers mothers response was to ship Mum off to a convent to hide it. We weren't catholics. My elder half brother was born in early 1953 and adopted. In a strange coincidence my best friend in 1967 St Albans (a then outer suburb of Melbourne) was the son of the father of my half brother. I can barely remember that kid and I don't remember his name.
My mother had never, through all she'd endured, forgotten her first born and when the laws on adoption in my home state of Victoria changed she took her chance to be reunited with him. He was seeking his birth mother too and they were reunited.
Thus I vividly recall the day, in November of 1982, when I discovered I had an older brother. Until that day I'd been the oldest. And suddenly David was sprung onto me. I and my sisters coped well I think. We took him to our heart and did all the stuff you'd imagine you'd do if you were in that position.
But 1982 is a long time ago and I've long since lost contact with David. It wasn't deliberate; perhaps it was more to do with the fact that we'd had such vastly different childhoods that there was not much in common.
In 1972 I was taking out a girl. She was the first girl I was taking out in that sense. Mum stopped me by the front door and embarassed me at the time; she handed me a condom with the suggestion that it might become necessary. At the time I had no inkling of Mum's history but now, a third of a century later I can only applaud my mothers good sense and be glad that I'm my mothers son. She's had a hard life and I hope she has nothing but happiness between now and when she passes away.
I'm looking forward to giving her a long hug when I'm back in Australia, 11 days from now. Three and a bit years ago she and my wife met. Not a lot of conversation but a few minutes later Mum and I went for a walk together. Mum said she liked Sonya!
That condom went unused. Much regretted at the time. Now? Still regretted! :-)
Saturday, September 03, 2005
That was about half a year ago and I thought I was good to go for a couple of years at least.
No such luck. A fortnight ago, during that incredibly brief stay I had at home between France and The Philippines one of the new drives died. I had better things to do with my time then than to worry about it; that was a problem that could wait until I was back from Baguio. So I shut the machine down, took yet another flight and forgot about it.
Got home last night and fired the machine up. The RAID BIOS warned me that there was a critical error so I followed the standard steps to establish which drive was at fault. Like all good RAID BIOSes this one let me break the mirror and boot using the good drive. Which I did. And immediately proceeded to burn all the stuff I wanted to keep to a DVD (including my blog as text files).
Boy am I glad I did. Maybe 15 minutes after the DVD burn and verify had finished the machine blue screened, accompanied by the sound of the 'click of death' from the surviving hard disk drive. I spent most of today rebuilding the machine with a new 120 Gig drive. And, given my experience of RAID and cheap hard disk drives, I decided not to buy two drives. Yep, I'm back to plain vanilla single drive operation.
Maybe your experience of RAID has been better than mine; I've been running on RAID for about 6 years and mostly it's been ok but whenever it's failed I've been in the position where replacing a drive hasn't helped. Yep, that time when I bought a drive a trifle too small was probably my fault but the most recent experience, of two drives failing within a fortnight of each other has just about killed the idea for me. I know there were extraordinary circumstances surrounding it; my travel interrupting the repair process for a couple of weeks. But the surviving drive had been idle for those two weeks. If a consumer drive is so susceptible to stiction and to prolonged operation then I'm no longer going to rely on redundancy in the hardware; I'll just do more frequent saves to more permanent media and have done with it.
Friday, September 02, 2005
It's about 50 km's more if you take the Marcos Highway but it's said to be much safer. Safer must be a relative term; I found it white knuckle all the way. Much of the road is winding, narrow and with a steep precipice to one side. It doesn't increase your confidence when you see a semi-trailer hit the anchors and slide off the road into a ditch right in front of you.
Just after that semi-trailer the road would have been 2 centimetres deep in water. Not much, less than an inch, but a continuous flow. It wasn't raining at the time, that was runoff from the hillside to our left. The precipice was on our right and that's the direction the water was flowing. Gravel and mud strewn across the highway. Did I mention that this was at midnight and there's no street lighting? They also have precious few botts dotts to mark where the road goes.
Fifteen minutes later we were staring down a bus approaching on our side of the road. He wasn't moving to his side and the driver was considering his options. Suddenly the bus swerved out of our way and we saw why he'd been so uncompromising. A large tree had fallen halfway across the road!
I've said it before and I'll probably say it again; there are times when you have to trust your driver. He knew the route; for the rest I had to trust in the providence I don't believe in. Quite the dilemma!
Once we hit Rosario we were in familiar territory. That's the MacArthur Highway where Kennon Road joins it. By the time we reach there we've descended a mile and we're pretty much at sea level. When it's just me and the driver we light up when we feel like it; but this time we had a non smoking colleage of mine along so we stopped in Rosario at the Shell Service station for a smoke.
Up in Baguio it doesn't feel like you're in the tropics; it's cool and the humidity isn't oppressive. In Rosario you know you're in the tropics. Even after midnight it was warm enough and humid enough to be perspiring profusely!
Thus we continued; through Carmen which is a town with about a mile of brightly lit stalls on the side of the road. The thing is that every single stall seems to sell the same things. Melons, jars of honey, roasted pig and charred corn. It's hard to know the criteria by which one would choose one stall over another. I've seen those stalls at two times of the day; at 7 PM on my way to Baguio and at 1AM on my way to Manila. No difference so far as I can see! Maybe they're open 24 hours a day?
When we reached Urdaneta I was ready for another smoke. And so it went all the way to the North Luzon Expressway. It usually takes us four hours to get that far and by that time I'm concerned about the drivers wakefulness. Thus it is that I usually suggest we stop for a coffee at the Shell Service station just south of the Mexico exit. I always buy; to me it's trivial, to him it's 10% of his pay for the drive down and back.
I hope that doesn't come off as being condescending; believe me, it's not meant to be. It seems ridiculous to me that my driver gets paid a mere US$1 an hour for ten hours driving. They tell me that's good money but I know I wouldn't do it. I've talked a little about this in the past; I usually tip him 500 pesos each way telling him it's in gratitude for getting me there in one piece. Money well invested I reckon.
Perhaps not this time :-) As we proceeded down the North Luzon Expressway after the coffee I became aware of the usual indications that he was falling asleep; we started to slow down and drift to the right. I tapped him once or twice and suggested that if he were feeling sleepy it might be an idea to pull over for a nap; I had plenty of time (in the order of 4 hours) up my sleeve. No, he said, he was ok.
Ok. We continued. And then, suddenly, I realised that we were awfully close to that bus in the next lane over. Fortunately we and the bus were travelling in the same direction at pretty much the same speed because we were scraping paint off both our vehicle and the bus. My colleague jogged the driver, he awoke and we veered away. Pulled to a stop and we all got out, shaking a little. The driver and I lit up and we persuaded him to nap for half an hour.
We arrived at the airport about 5 AM, just the right time for me to go to the airline office and request a pass to the airport so I could check in with outdated tickets.
As for the driver? I don't know whether I should mention it to Ohmee or not. He's normally reliable and I don't want to see him lose his job but on the other hand I do want to continue surviving these drives. Maybe the fact that he didn't get his tip this time will send the requisite message. *shrug*
Be that as it may; I was sitting in the gate lounge waiting for the flight when a rather attractive 20 something young lady collected her iced whatever it was at Starbucks right in front of me. She proceeded to the counter where they have the sugar, stirrers and such like. I might well be married but I'm still allowed to look!
As one does when scanning an attractive backside one lets ones gaze wander somewhat; there's not much worse than watching a 50 something fixated on a backside no matter how cute it is! And my gaze shifted to a young guy about her age standing close by. Gaze matched gaze and he smiled much as if to say 'oh, so you noticed her too!'. A raised eyebrow to indicate I had.
A little off to one side was another bloke; he'd have been in his 40's and, you guessed it, he'd also clocked her. Another grin and attention shifted back to the cute backside. Except that as time passed we all three of us started watching something about her with even more attention.
She was putting sugar into her drink. You know how it works. You pick up a sugar satchel, grab it on one corner, give it a shake to get all the sugar to the other end and rip the end off. She was doing three bags at a time. Not once, not twice, not even thrice! I counted 18 bags of sugar and when she'd finished she had about 2 centimetres of sugar sitting at the bottom of that cup!
20 year old, being closer to her both in age and linear measurement made some comment; she laughed, shook her curls out of her eyes and sauntered off toward gate 14.
We three exchanged glances and rolled our eyes; I did some hand motions indicative of someone bouncing off the ceiling.
Later, when I boarded the plane I had to pass by Mr 20. He grinned again and chanted, almost in a whisper, 'sugar, sugar'. We laughed!
Thursday, September 01, 2005
But that's not why I'm posting.
Liz Hurley is apparently in Melbourne this week to launch a range of swimwear. The photo on the Melbourne Herald Sun website really caught my eye. But the caption is what made me laugh[^] (Here's hoping the link is valid by the time you read this).
[Edit] - Converted the link into a CP style link.