Saturday, December 23, 2006

I love it when...

a plan works!

Andrew has no idea how to sustain a conversation. Whenever he feels the pressure of silence he'll ask something like 'so, how's everybody?' or 'how's the weather.'. Hmmm, we live in Phoenix - how does he expect the weather to be anyway???

I'll give him points for trying even though over the past year or more I've been encouraging him to break out. How is it going to look when he's having dinner with his girlfriends parents for the seventh time and he can still only ask about the weather?

So a couple of months ago we, that is Mom and I, decided that he should talk for two minutes at dinner each evening about any subject that enters his head so long as it doesn't relate to our health or the state of the weather. Seemed like a good plan.

After a few false starts he got onto the subject of his favourite band. I'll claim credit for the suggestion. With the smile of someone who is certain that his interests won't be shared he imparted the knowledge that one of his favourite bands is Slipknot[^] and dwellt at considerable length on some of their song titles. 'Pulse of the Maggots' for one! Uh huh, just what you want to be talking about over dinner!

I've been a subscriber to Rhapsody for some months now - great service for the kind of music I like - beats Urge and Napster and Yahoo!music hands down. So a little later that evening I checked if they had StinkbuttSlipknot. Yep, and the album he enthusiastically endorsed.

Five minutes later the album is on my music player and I gave it a listen at the office the next day. I made sure to memorise some of the lyrics (and the tune) and, at dinner the next evening I was sitting there chanting 'I won't let it build up inside of me'!. Took him a few moments to catch on and when he did he asked where I got that tune from. 'Oh', I said, 'from that band you talked about last night, what was their name? Stinkbutt?'. Grin from Andrew. 'You know, Andrew', I said, 'they're quite good.'

You should have seen the amazed look on his face. 'You liked it??? Wow!'.

I didn't have the heart to tell him that anyone who grew up listening to rock in the late 60's wouldn't feel all that lost with Slipknot. About all that's changed is that nowadays rock bands have license to slip in a few four letter words. *shrug*

And nope, I very much doubt Slipknot will ever make it to my 'must listen' list. But I did enjoy it for a few listens.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

So what do I know about Rock anyways?

Nicked fromInspired by Vern[^].

The Seeker
You scored 60%!
I don't know if you've been searching low and high, but you do know your bare-bones classic rock basics. With this kind of score, you probably nailed the signature song questions and most of the albums. You probably don't have much of a classic rock collection yourself, but when your friends play theirs, you recognize the songs. This is a respectable score: you're neither know-nothing nor nerd.

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on notes
Link: The BASIC classic rock Test written by allmydays on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Testing a thermometer

How things change. Time was when a thermometer, the type one might use to take ones temperature, contained a drop of mercury in a thin tube and you had to squint just right to read the damn thing. I'm not sure I could even read one these days; the years are taking their toll on my eyesight.

Nowadays there's a thermocouple and an LCD display supposedly calibrated to tenths of a degree. One of these days I might do a couple of checks to see how accurate they are.

The thing that amazes me the most though is that they give the things away at the local pharmacy! Cue the old codger music. I remember when the glass and mercury thermometer was expensive enough that most households in our neighbourhood didn't have one!

Whilst picking up a prescription the other day Sonya grabbed a couple of thermometers and left one sitting on the dinner table. We're a bit like that; almost the only time the dinner table is cleared is at Christmas. (There! I knew there'd be another use for Christmas!) Sat down to dinner Andrew picked it up and stuck it in his gob to test it. I couldn't resist.

'Ummm, my dear?' I asked Sonya. 'Do you think we should tell Andrew how we tested that thermometer?'

'Nah' she said. 'It'd only put him off his dinner'.

It did too!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The cheap bastards pile

My US passport finally arrived last week. As you know I wasn't in that much of a hurry for it to arrive; I was quite content to be unable to do international travel and now that we're getting close to *that* time of the year (the only use I have for Christmas) it's unlikely I'll have to travel for at least another month. That said, it was in December 2004 that I was sent on less than a days notice to France. France I wouldn't mind - I'm just not in any hurry to go back to The Philippines.

The passport arrived on November 27th but curiously it was dated October 30th. Hmmm, so they made it and then took nearly a month to ship it out? Seems so.

Of course I have my theory. I didn't pay the expedite fee so, having made it, they tossed it into the cheap bastards pile, in the bin marked, do not ship until November 24th!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Importance of Research

With *that* time of the year fast approaching I was indulging in my usual rant about Christmas and all it stands for. My wife asked, 'how is that I ended up married to such a Bah Humbug'.

'Simple' I replied, 'you didn't do your research!'.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


I've made no secret in the past of my distaste for the American manifestation of the humble hamburger. It may, once upon a time, have been edible, but I fear the relentless spur of competition to put more and more into or onto it has gone way past the point where wisdom should have prevailed. In short, I can't stand the bugrgers!

Americans of course don't understand just why it is that I find the things so unpalatable; within minutes of discovering how much I did *not* want to eat one nothing would do but that my wife had to take me to In-N-Out[^]. I can imagine her disappointment when their burgers turned out to be just as unpalatable. She hasn't said it in so many words but I'm sure she thinks I'm impossible to please when it comes to fast food. She's right! :-)

It seems that when the local In-N-Out opened the police were required for traffic duty in the surrounding streets for some days. I take this as evidence of appalling burger taste in the populace! :-)

Anyway, the fact is that I find the American burger has way too much meat, the meat is barelyundercooked and their idea of a burger with onions is to bung raw onions on the side! Toss in the inevitable pallid mustard, barbecue sauce, ketchup or, heaven forbid, ranch sauce, and you've got a mess!

The other night at dinner the subject of burgers came up again and, again, I said something about how much I didn't like the local version. Andrew piped up with an enthusiastic endorsement of In-N-Out, concluding with the statement 'I like In-N-Out'. Now what could I do? It was there, like low hanging fruit, demanding to be said! So I said it. 'Yeah, I'm rather fond of In-N-Out myself - but I ain't talking burgers!'.

*Boom boom*

Andrew blushed and choked back laughter. Mom? She reached over the table and clocked me one! Can't blame her. :-)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


As you might remember[^] my wife has been researching her ancestors for some time. Lately she's discovered that some great grandfather or other once ran a pie shop in an English town by the name of Nuneaton[^]. Me being me it was, of course, impossible to resist remarking that they couldn't have been very good pies. 'Why do you say that?' she asked. 'Well they were Nuneaton of course!' was my reply.

*boom boom*

A little later in the conversation Sonya dropped the fact that the pie shop was next door to the residence of one Mary Anne Evans. I shrugged. 'Who, pray tell, is Mary Anne Evans when she's at home?' I asked. I do sometimes talk pretentiously like that! 'Aha' she said, going for the jugular. 'So you don't know that Mary Anne Evans was George Eliot?'

Uh huh. A gotcha indeed! It was indeed feeble of me to riposte by asking if she knew who Ellen Price[^] was. But geeze, am I supposed to remember the real name of every 19th century English novelist? Don't answer that! :-)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Heard on the radio today

There's some golf tournament or another about to take place down in Tucson. Personally I've always thought that if you really really wanted so badly to get that ball into the little hole surely bashing it with a funny shaped stick is going about it the hard way. Why not just pick the ball up and put it in the hole? But that's me. *shrug*

As I was driving home tonight an ad came on for the golf tournament aforementioned. The usual extolling of virtues followed by the breathless announcement that they were restricting ticket sales to a (and I quote) relatively intimate 15,000 per day.

Yikes! Relatively intimate? Imagine being invited to the copy writers for a dinner party!

And now there are three

cats as comfortable, recognised members of our household. Ginger died this evening, very suddenly, of what the vet described as a heart attack. Doubtless he (the vet) was trotting out a formula of explanation easy to grasp when old age wouldn't fit the bill.

If this were written about a human person we'd launch into a description of early years, achievements, spice (is that the plural of spouse? If not it ought to be!) and so on. But as I'm writing about a cat those things don't apply.

Nope, he walked in late one evening about three years ago, liked what he saw and decided he wanted to stay. We took him back to his owners and he was back the next night. The night after that his owners had moved away so here he lived. The most placid cat I've ever known. Nothing except cars seemed to worry him; whilst he'd happily climb onto or into one he'd run for cover if the engine started.

He was very good with the new-comers. Where the other established members of the household (Cleo and Roo and, latterly, Kitten) would ignore the new-comer or snarl and spit he was more than happy to play and, I presume, helped them feel more at home.

I'll miss him. Rest in Peace Ginger.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Intelligence test

I was standing in the self checkout line at the local supermarket, chocolate cake in one hand, paper towels in the other. The two purchases aren't necessarily related!

Before me the usual rag tag assortment of people who can't cope with the self checkout process. Why they subject themselves and, more importantly, me, to the experience is something I couldn't say but I *have* seen some of the same folk struggling with the concept before.

But heck, this ain't rocket science. What's so hard about reading a three word instruction then pushing the correct button? Followed by swiping things through one at a time and putting them on the scales?

I will admit that the supermarket checkout *does* throw a spanner in the works by expecting some kind of personal identifier, either a loyalty card or a phone number. I refuse to play that game except to the extent of getting the 'discounted' price attached to the identifier. I find that punching in a random phone number works just fine and doubtless there are people who will, next week, sit down to their thanksgiving turkey with not the faintest inkling that my purchases helped them accumulate the loyalty points required to snag a free one!

So anyway, I was standing in the line half an hour ago watching yet another assortment of people trying to cope with a process simple enough that I reckon a particularly dull chimp could master it within seconds when it occurred to me that they really need an intelligence test to gain access to the shorter line. And then it occurred to me that in fact the entire process itself *was* the intelligence test; all that is lacking is the reward or revenge at the end of the process.

What I think is needed is a system reminiscent of the system at customs and immigration; the machine weighs the subject by a variety of criteria; how many times did they have to request a restart because they pushed the wrong button? How many seconds elapsed between scanning one item and the next? At the end they get a tag to follow the green arrow or the red one.

Green leads to the car park. And red leads to a small padded room with an automatic lead dispenser! Some people are just *too* stupid to live!!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Die Spamming Bastards, Die!

As if it isn't bad enough copping 160 spam emails now they've spammed my Wdevs[^] blog. 160 spams in an email inbox are relatively easy to delete; not so when it's on .text.

Nope, I'm not complaining about Wdevs - they put up with my posting, which is more than I would! Nonetheless, this ain't doing my RSI any good :-( *cue soppy music on violins* :-)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Well, they got that wrong!

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Northeast
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I voted today

Well actually it was yesterday but who's counting? Apart, that is, from a thousand harried election officials being hounded by anxious almost made its?

Australia is the only other country where I've voted and attendance there at a polling booth on the day is mandatory on pain of a 50 buck fine. That being the case there's nothing all that remarkable about having actually voted in Australia; one assumes that everyone has.

Not so here in the US. With a voter turnout of only 40% it's a toss up whether someone has bothered or not. So, at least here in Arizona (I can't speak for anywhere else in the country) they hand you a little sticker saying 'I voted today'. It nonplussed me for a moment but then I stuck it on my forehead and wore it all day at the office.

Laughs all round! Well, what did they expect when I became a citizen? That I'd not bother voting?

An interesting exercise. A combination of the familiar with an interleaving of the utterly strange! No surprise seeing candidates for House and Senate. Not even much of a surprise seeing candidates for Governor (a rather different office here than in Australia). But further down candidates for School Board? Approval for the continuation of judgeships? What a disappointment there was no candidate for The Office of Dog Catcher!

Ok, I'm being a little facetious. I'm just not used to the voting process being quite so granular. I'm sure familiarity will breed complacence.

Fortunately the ballots here are real paper and you mark your choice using a pen. No risk of illegitimate chads a few months hence. No touch screen computers either. I still have my suspicions about the machine one feeds ones ballot into which apparently counts it on the spot. Call me old fashioned but I really don't like the idea of computerising something as important as voting. I'd be a whole lot happier if they were counted by hand with a bunch of rival scrutineers agreeing that this ballot really was for so and so.

But I reserve the real shocker for last. It came as quite the surprise a couple of weeks ago when my wife received her sample ballot to see that it had a map printed on the front pointing the way to the polling place. 'Yes, that's right', she said, when I asked, 'you can only vote there.' I was incredulous. 'You mean that I can only vote there and nowhere else? That's the only place on the whole planet where I can vote?' Apparently it's so.

Hmmm. Much to get used to! I'm sure I'll cope.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sonya's Europe trip

Like, I imagine, a lot of people, we have a change jar. Few things are worse than clanking around the house like some rusty old ghost so we've both got into the habit of emptying the loose shrapnel out of our pockets as soon as we get home.

On the other hand I've become quite fond of snacking on Cheetos at the office so I'm putting change in the jar with one hand and taking it out with the other. It's become quite the ritual when I get home to peer into the jar and say 'oooh' if I spy silver. Sonya's said more than twice that she'll never get to Europe at this rate; as often as she piles the odd dollar of silver into the jar I nick it for snacking.

I can't help noticing this week that the jar is stubbornly bereft of silver. I think she's taking that Europe trip to heart!

Monday, November 06, 2006

What I wanted for Christmas

Many years ago my parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I thought for a moment and replied 'I wanna watch'. So they let me!

*boom boom*

Yeah, an old joke. I must have been telling it at (in)appropriate moments for at least thirty years so it should come as no surprise whatsoever that when, the other night, we were talking about Christmas over dinner, I trotted it out. Andrew mulled it a moment and then let out a half embarassed laugh along with a sheepish grin. Sonya, however, looked at me and said, in a voice of incredulity, 'Really???'.

Kicking the tyres

We went house hunting today. To be honest, we're not sure we can afford to be in the housing market just yet but you've got to at least throw some numbers around. It seems that it's rather easier to do it here in the US than it was back in Australia; the last time I refinanced my house there they did the arithmetic, concluded that as I had a mere 19 years until legal retirement age that they couldn't manage a mortgage (in blocks of 5 years) longer than 15 years. Seems it's against some law or other here to discriminate on the basis of age. Score one for the US!

And we're both sick of living in a two up, two down and two in the middle condo. I can't fart without everyone in the place knowing about it! I swore black and blue about twenty years ago (when I last lived in a flat, apartment, condo, call it what you will) that I'd never live in one again. Houses only for this little black duck. And now look at me!

Toss in the fact that until a couple of months ago I was required to mail an AR11 change of address form to an obscure address in London, Kentucky, if my permanent address changed, which requirement has now gone away and we have no good reasons not to go looking! Not, I hasten to add, that the US is crawling with secret police checking on the whereabouts of every alien, legal or not. Nonetheless, there's always the nagging doubt that some important piece of immigrant related mail will fail to arrive if I dare to move residence and suddenly I'll find myself out of status. No such doubt any more. Being a citizen has its advantages!

So we set off house hunting. Pretty easy to do - the buggers just sit there on their blocks of land! *boom boom*. Sonya wants to stay within the Horizon High School district though I have to say that given the quality of output that I've seen they don't overmuch impress me. But what do I know?

Thus to a funnish afternoon of driving aimlessly around looking for little signs stuck on street corners pointing toward an 'open house'.

It's all done very differently to the way I was used to in Melbourne. There every house for sale is open each weekend until sold but you only have a half hour window when it's open. Thus the need for planning. Grab the Weekend Age property guide, turn to the suburb of interest and map out four hours of driving. Gotta get to that address by 1:15 because the agent moves on to the next house at 1:30.

Not so here. The agent arrives, opens, and sits for four hours. And then, apparently, that house won't be available for casual inspection for another month! *shrug* That's the way they do things here so one goes with the flow.

We went through this exercise just after I arrived here four years ago and I got into the habit of pointing out that the master bathroom was larger than my bedroom back in Melbourne. Not much of an exaggeration. Of course, first house we went into I *just* had to say that! Laugh from Sonya. I can still make her laugh! :-)

But there was one house we looked at (way out of our price range) where the master bedroom really was larger than our entire condo. The bed looked like an afterthought in that sea of carpet!

We did find a couple of houses we liked so I imagine it's time to talk to the lenders. Of course, the way Sonya said that word I thought she said 'time to talk to the Linda's' and I found myself wondering why on earth we had to talk to a Linda I hadn't met and just exactly what she had to do with what we could or could not afford!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bloggers block

I haven't died. I'm just going through one of those periods where one hasn't all that much to say. Well, I could write about some of the antics Andrew's been up to lately but that way lies the possibility of my blog turning into a 'Chronicles of Andrew' and really, he's the one who should be writing that blog.

I'm told that posting about a blog hiatus is one of the better ways of ensuring a hundred blogworthy things will happen; let's see shall we?

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Found at my desk yesterday morning. It's easy to see the high esteem and respect with which my fellow workers (Kathy in this case) regard me! :-)


Monday, October 23, 2006

White Menudo

My wife finally managed to find a canned foodstuff I didn't recognise. When I got home this arvo I found a rather large can labelled 'White Menudo'. I took a look at it and called for enlightenment. With a shrug she admitted she didn't know what it was either but was planning to use it for tonights dinner. Hmmm... there's brave for you!

It seems, according to the ingredients list, that it contains beef tripe and Mexican style hominy. Sounds mouthwatering doesn't it? I gloated a little, within Andrews hearing, about the beef tripe and discovered that, even though he has no idea what beef tripe *is*, he doesn't want to try it. If I said that announcement came as a surprise I'd be lying! I wonder what hoops they had to jump through to get him to try his first burger!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Four Hours

They've been running an ad on The History Channel for the last hour or so. Normally I mentally tune out as soon as the ad breaks start but after a while I started noticing this one. It begins as a discussion of erectile dysfunction; just the subject matter one wants to hear at my age!

Then it goes on to extol the virtues of a particular drug and, as is the fashion these days, ends on a breathless list of all the possible side-effects. There's one that particularly impressed me. 'Seek immediate medical attention if an erection lasts for more than four hours!'. Four hours?? Wow! I should be so lucky!!! :-)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Austin, TX

I'm in Austin, Texas, for the next few days. I could say why but if I did I'd have to kill you! j/k. No, the truth is that story is so uninteresting I reckon I'd fall asleep writing it and I'm *sure* you'd fall asleep reading it. Sufficient to say that it's work related.

The flight over was ok and would hardly merit mention were it not that I found myself stuck in the middle seat, row 15. The guy on my right was ok at first but the bloke on the left was built such that he really needed two seats. Instead he spilled over on both sides!

I could have coped with that. After all, it's only a 2 hour flight but nope, half an hour into the air the bastard opened a pack of Teriyaki flavoured beef jerky! Aromatic stuff to say the least! Not only that but he didn't even have the decency to offer any to all those within nostril-shot of it. Mind you, had he done so he'd have found himself offering to the entire planeload methinks. And then, as though encouraged by the thought that the aroma of a salami sandwich couldn't make things worse, the bloke on my right whips out said sandwich!

It's hard to say which was worse; the beef jerky or the salami sanger!

Austin might be a nice city; I haven't seen enough of it to comment though I do note that, seen from the air, it seems to have a much bigger downtown area than Phoenix. I may have enough time to check it out; if so I'll probably write about it.

On the other hand, I've just returned from a trip to the supermarket for various things I forgot (such as razors). You'd reckon I've done enough travel to not forget such obvious things but apparently not. I also took the chance to get some beef jerky and salami to go with my saltine crackers! :-)

But if the trip to the supermarket is anything to go by I'm going to give downtown Austin a big miss; four years of Phoenix traffic has made me incapable of the sort of driving patience one evidently needs to navigate Austin. In short, driving around sucks. It'd probably be a little different if I knew the place well enough not to miss turns but only marginally better. It feels as though the entire layout of intersections and the traffic light patterns are designed to make driving as slow and annoying as possible.

So I reckon the next time someone complains to me about 'what a bitch it was driving to work today' in Phoenix I'm going to laugh the bitter laugh of one who remembers driving to work in Melbourne and has survived peak hour in Austin and Chicago. We forget just how good the road system is in Phoenix!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Life is good

For 25 years or so I've been thinking I'd heard all of Anton Bruckners[^] symphonies, or at least all those I could obtain. I never did seem able to find a recording of Symphony 0 (Die Nullte) back in those days.

More recently even that curiously numbered symphony has been readily obtainable and I've been bopping to it the last few days courtesy of a Napster download.

Imagine my delight then, upon discovering that there's yet *another* symphony now available, the even more curiously numbered Symphony 00 (The Study Symphony). I foresee more bopping ahead. Life is good!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

In which Andrew learns two things

The first being that I can't sing. The second? That phrases to which his friends may not pay overmuch attention will only serve to attract ridicule if uttered within my hearing! :-)

One of our cats went AWOL a year or so ago; methinks she was fed up with the constant stream of newcomers. We weren't particularly concerned about it; she was still around and she'd schmooze up every so often. The last couple of days though she's been coming in almost hourly. She never stays very long; just long enough that we know she's around and certainly long enough to be sure we all make a big thing about it.

So there she was this afternoon, sitting in Andrews lap as he sat at the computer. Andrew said 'She wants some Andrew loving'. Ye gods! Andrew loving??? Pretty big statement from a 15 year old. I couldn't resist; I started singing 'I can't get no, Andrew loving...' (sung to the Rolling Stones tune).

I have no idea if I embarassed the poor bastard or not but I do note that he had an enormous grin!

It takes a bit of getting used to...

this being an American thing!

My friend Vern[^], after a gap of more than a week, finally made a new post and I tried to make a witty reply. (Along the lines of, we waited a week for this??? :-) ).

But his blog software steadfastly refuses to accept my reply, branding it, quite incorrectly, as spam! Like I'd be guilty of such a thing?

So I dashed off an email to his direct email address. In it I said something to the effect that 'this was a fine way to treat a fellow citizen'.

See? I'm still not thinking right! What I should have said was 'this is a fine way to treat a fellow 'muuurrrican!'. :-)

The cat's throwing up!

So I've had a low level sniffle for at least the past 6 months. It seems to date from the last time I returned from The Philippines though I note that I didn't have it until *after* I returned to Phoenix and yet had it the same day I got back. *shrug* I don't think it's SARS; it's just bloody annoying.

Well, if it's annoying to me you can imagine that it's downright infuriating to others; no one wants to hear some other bastard going sniff sniff sniff all the bloody time.

This morning I was sitting at the computer doing the daily email thang and sniffing. After half a year unfortunately I'm probably not even aware of how often it happens. Andrew was sitting up at his computer doing whatever it is that the boy who won't read does on a computer when he suddenly commented that 'Ginger is throwing up again!'. Ginger is, of course, one of our cats and one of the things you learn early on in a career of cat person is that cats will sometimes throw up for no apparent reason whilst in seeming perfect health!

Momentary panic by Andrew; he hates it when that happens even though he never has to clean it up. Sonya chimed in; 'no, that's Rob sniffing'.

Moments pass and I sniff again. Andrew looks up. 'Is that you breathing?' I murmur assent. 'But I'll stop breathing if it'll make you happy!'.

Little bastard was completely prepared to take me up on that offer! Cheeky sod!

Saturday, October 14, 2006


I've had this nagging feeling for the last few days, ever since applying for my passport. Naturally enough, in order to actually get a passport, one must prove eligibility to hold one! In my case, the eligibility is tied to my newly aquired US citizenship and, more specifically, to my naturalisation certificate.

You'd think, wouldn't you (well at least I would but then I'm a simple soul at times), that if the passport application centre has an accredited representative checking applications, that her sighting the certificate and attesting to the same would be sufficient. But no, that's not how it works. Instead, my certificate has to accompany the paperwork to whereever it is that they process the applications. I'm advised that it will come back with the passport, 6 to 8 weeks from now.

Meantime I'm walking about with not a skerrick of proof that I'm here legally. There's a rubber stamped warning at the bottom of the naturalisation certificate advising that it's a federal offence to make a copy. No more greencard; that was taken from me at the oath ceremony. The admission stamps in my Australian passport are long since expired. And I couldn't fake the accent to save my life! Yikes! I'm undocumented!

It's probably a moot point however; in the four years I've been here the *only* people who've shown the slightest interest in any proof of legality were my employer and the USCIS (INS) folks at the various interviews I've had to attend. Oh, and the immigration folk at border crossings. I reckon if I stay within the borders I should be just fine!

Yeah yeah, I know. I worry too much!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

It's just a minor detail

but the devil is, as they say, in the detail.

After some delays I finally got around to applying for my shiny new US passport yesterday. I've only been a yankee for a dozen days; what do you want? Same day application? I'd be interested in visiting the passport office near the district court where they do the swearing-in half an hour after the ceremony is over; one of the things they include in the 'new citizen' package is a map showing how to get there. I wonder how many new citizens march straight from the courthouse to the passport office?

Truth is I'm not in any great hurry to get my new passport; it's a convenient reason to be unable to travel to The Philippines. But I can only stall so long before the boss begins to smell a rat.

On the other hand, they do advise us to get a passport even if we don't plan to travel; it's a convenient way of carrying around our proof of citizenship and a damn sight easier to replace than a lost naturalisation certificate! Apparently that takes more than a year!

Thus off to the local post office on Tuesday morning to lodge the paperwork. No, you can't go to just any post office; it has to be one accredited for the purpose. Nor can you front up at any old time during business hours; no sirree bob, nope, that'd be too easy. They have, at the post office I went to, a 2 hour window 4 days a week when you can apply.

So I walk in and survey the scene. The usual long queues to the main counter. Over on the right is another counter with a cash register and a sign announcing that passport applications are only processed at that particular counter. But the counter is closed and lower down on the sign is the advice that for further detail 'see main counter'.

Sigh. Thirty people ahead of me in the queue for the main counter; two staff; the queue is moving like honey in the freezer. The bloke in front turns and, in the manner of everyone I've ever seen that far back in a queue (I've also done it and I'm sure you have too), remarks 'You'd think they'd open another counter'. Uh huh. I won't swear to it but I suspect an unwritten rule that the extra counter will be opened after the delivery of scientific proof that pigs are capable of flight.

Half an hour or so later I get to the counter! She points in the general direction of the aforementioned, closed, counter. I counter that that counter is closed! 'No', she says, 'no, you need to put your name at the end of the list on that clipboard. They'll call your name when it's your turn'.

Muttering unprintables under my breath I walk over and add my name to the bottom of the list. 5 names ahead of me so I apparently have time for a smoke. Out I go and, out of pure spite, have 2 smokes :-)

I went back in and stood around like a spare part waiting. Now there only 4 names ahead of mine and it's about this time that I notice the sign telling we passport aspirants that we should bypass the main queue and add our names to the clipboard. This is the minor detail of the title. You might imagine that the sign would be prominently displayed in a vertical position facing you as you enter the post office. Not a bit of it. The bloody sign was lying flat in a corner.


Eventually my name was called and up I front at the counter. Anti-climax; I'd filled out the form entirely to her satisfaction and indeed I was complimented on the completeness of the form. Not the first time that's happened; you might recall that when I had my naturalisation[^] interview the officer said much the same thing. I don't understand. I don't think I do anything special unless the specialness is to actually read the form and follow instructions! I note that, of the 4 people ahead of me, 2 were sent away to gather some missing document.

If all goes according to their schedule I should have my new passport sometime between November 21 and December 5. December 5 will suit me just fine! :-)

Knucklehead Productions

delivered their latest DVD today, all the way from Australia. 'Hank' Heino (if he can call me Chip then I can call him Hank!) directed but I notice the stars, his youngest daughter and a friend, got the Executive Producer credits.

Great art it ain't but it was certainly fun to watch. I laughed at the friend playing the part of local fireman and hiding behind a moustache that looked large enough to serve dual duty as a toilet brush! The cop trying to keep a straight face was also fun.

But the biggest laugh was at the pretentious Knucklehead Productions logo at the end! :-)

The goofs were fun too; Hank always does those well and he has the ability not to get over-indulgent with them.

Hank, was that the missus in the dark jacket waving her arms and facing the camera during the earthquake scene you shot outside the house? :-)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A chip on the shoulder

I knew, when I became a US citizen, that I'd have to endure some obloquy from my fellow Australians about it. Not that I blame them; I'd have done the same a decade ago and I'm sure any American would face the same if he took the reciprocal step.

Nonetheless, I do think that this email from Heino, reproduced with his kind consent, does display gratutious cruelty of the kind that I'd expect the Supreme Court to strike down.

Dear Chip,

Ok . . . the latest DVD has been sent . . u might already have it :)

Holiday dates as follows:

Could depart on or after Friday March 30th 2007
would need to return April 13th or 14th . . .

Your slowing on the Blogs . . .

Writers cramp? too much wanking? . . . or just thinking at an Americans pace these days lol

Chip? Bloody chip??? I'll give him bloody chip when he gets here!


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Now here's a tombstone I can respect

Again, shamelessly stolen from The Genealogue[^].

Mommie Dearest[^]. You've almost got to admire the vitriol sitting behind this tombstone; indicative of decades of simmering resentments.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Offered as proof

of two propositions. The first is that I can be very childish when I wish. Like that's news to you lot! The second is that sometimes my wife can be very gullible :-)

Over dinner I was trying to get a raise out of Andrew. So I concocted a rambling story about walking past a golf course when I looked down and beheld a dickfor! Andrew let it go in one ear and out the other. But not Sonya; with a puzzled look she enquired 'what's a dickfor?'. To which there's only one answer if Andrew's around; 'if you don't know by now you'll never know!'

*boom boom*

PP has no guts

where PP is, of course, Personnel Person at the office.

They decided that today they'd do the cake thing to celebrate my citizenship. Originally they'd planned to do it Friday after I returned to the office following the ceremony. I don't know what they were thinking! As though I was going to spoil the day by returning to the salt mines! I have much to teach these Americans! :-)

Once I'd made it clear that I wasn't going to be there late Friday arvo they tried for Monday, but that was Yom Kippur and PP, being Jewish, wasn't going to be there. So it got moved to today (Tuesday).

Thus a rather large rectangular cake was produced, tastefully decked out as a US flag and with 'Congratulations Rob' replacing the bottom two or three stripes.

They gave me the choice; either I sang 'The Star Spangled Banner' or I recited the pledge of allegiance. I'm sure even the Americans would agree that their national anthem is almost impossible to sing well. Many try, most fail.

But you know something? I *still* haven't fully memorised the pledge. It's easy for those folk; it was burned into their neurons over a decade or so of daily flag ceremonies at school. Somewhat harder for the rest of us. So one of our resident Republicans led the way. She seemed somewhat confused when, having got to the end of 'one Nation' I went silent. I won't say 'under God'. PP jumped in and affirmed that I was, indeed, unwilling to say 'under God' and we continued to the end.

Then they demanded a speech! Uh huh. So I said; 'My fellow Americans '. Laughter and Dave chimed in 'usually that's followed by something more'. I had to agree whilst admitting that I had nothing to follow it with.

Well nothing would do but that I cut the cake and have the first slice. I reckon it was about 90% sugar; had I finished the piece I'd have been bouncing around the ceiling for an hour or more!

Fortunately PP took over the rest of the cake cutting, accumulating a large pile of icing as she scraped the residue off the spatula before cutting the next slice. I reckon we had half a pound of excess icing at the end. It'd take too long to relate just how it happened that I stuck my face out, glasses off, to allow PP to rub that pile of icing into my face but I surely did. PP seemed unsure whether I meant it or not so she backed down! Bugger! There I was, a million dollar lawsuit within my grasp and she backs down! Just kidding! It really wouldn't have bothered me in the least; icing washes off really easily and it would have been quite a laugh.

So there we have it. PP has no guts! :-)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Not the brightest pennies...

After more than half a year of managing to avoid being sent back to The Philippines it seems that my luck is about to run out. Not that I dislike the Philippines as such but being sent there for work is a major pain in the bum. It'd be less of a pain if the company showed a little gratitude but that'd be asking way too much in this corporate age.

So the hints were dropped today. I suspect I brought it on myself however; I told the boss I'd be applying for my shiny new US passport this week but I wasn't going to pay the expedite fee, with the obvious implication that if they wanted me to travel anywhere outside the US for the next six or seven weeks I expected them to pay it.

Puzzled look. 'How did you travel before?'

'On my Australian passport' I replied.

'Why can't you do that now?'.

'Well', I said, 'I can certainly *leave* the US on my Australian passport. But I can't return using it'.

They *still* didn't get it. I'd have thought it was obvious that one is required to use the passport of ones country of citizenship in order to enter that country. Thus, for me, now, US passport to leave and return to the US; Australian passport to leave and return to Australia. Other countries? Whichever, I'd imagine.

They're not the brightest pennies in the purse at the office!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The big day

So yes, today was my big day. The day on which I became a US Citizen.

The process was much like air travel; hurry up and go slow. And that's just talking about todays proceedings at the US District Courthouse down on Washington Street, Central Phoenix. The route from foreigner to the courthouse is much slower. And I had it easy; about as easy as it's possible for anyone not an active member of the military.

The public ceremony was scheduled for 1:30 PM but we candidates were instructed to arrive no later than 11:45 AM. Arrived, we went through the usual security gauntlet though it's rather less restrictive than that required to board an aircraft.

Then some milling about waiting; Sonya and I played the 'pick the candidate' game. We guessed it was about one quarter to one third candidates and the remainder friends and relatives.

A few minutes late and they opened the doors for candidates only. Now we come to a curious oversight with a process that's usually highly efficient. You have to understand that we're inside a large modern court building architected on the 'awe the hell out of em' principle. Ie, the building is about ten times larger than it needs to be and nine tenths of the space is taken up with a huge hall with terrible acoustics. The poor bugger trying to instruct us has no electronic augmentation and I'd reckon most of us couldn't hear what she was trying to announce! Certainly I was having problems, and remember I'm the guy who can tell, at dinner, that Andrew's left his TV on when he shouldn't have!

So in we marched, candidates only, taking seats at the back of the courtroom. Then followed a long process of checking each of us in. Hand over our appointment letter, answer the litany of questions. I touched briefly on what questions here[^] but they surely did quiz every one of us. From there to another line where we handed over the letter and our green card (farewell old friend!) and thence to a third line where we were shown our naturalisation certificate, to verify that all the details were correct. Only then were we allowed to take our seats in the front of the courtroom, in the same order that our certificates were stacked.

That last part was amazing. Understand that we were processed in random order and yet there was no fumbling through a pile of certificates when it came time to examine them. They just had the right certificate waiting. I still can't imagine how they were able to pull that trick off!

Given that there were 99 of us (one candidate was a no show) you can imagine this all took some time. Fortunately we were provided with reading material to fill in the time; a rubber stamped welcome letter from President George W Bush, a map of the route from the court house to the US passport office over on West Jackson Street, an Arizona voter registration form and the words to The Star Spangled Banner.

Check in finished with about 20 minutes to spare and we were allowed a break after being enjoined to be certain we returned to the same seat; they really wanted us in the same order as our naturalisation certificates. Why will become clear later!

Of course I took the opportunity for a smoke! Two if the truth be told!

Back in the courtroom we were shown a patriotic video replete with images from Ellis Island fading in and out against a background of the flag flying proudly in the breeze and finishing on a long shot of Liberty in New York Harbour. Then an awkward gap. According to the programme (yes, they distribute a programme) the judge was supposed to start proceedings but she was a trifle late. *shrug*

The usual palaver when she did arrive. Respect for the court and all that. Then the USCIS (INS) officer made a motion that we candidates for citizenship be accepted. Which motion was graciously accepted by the court. Uh huh. As though, having got this far, the court is going to say no?? Yeah, I know it's ceremony but it did feel a trifle silly.

Then we're on our feet taking the Oath of Allegiance. Quite the emotional experience. Can't speak for anyone else but what starts out as an almost whispered response builds in volume as confidence increases.

Oath taken and suddenly we're citizens! We were told to sit and almost immediately we're on our feet again, to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance. This blindsided me. The Oath of Allegiance, as the form of words which confers citizenship, is read out, piece by piece and we repeat it piece by piece. The Pledge wasn't read out; we were assumed to have learned it. Uh huh, I haven't memorised it yet.

Then came some welcoming comments and applause, followed by another video, this one featuring the President welcoming us. I have to admit, not being a fan of the current incumbent of the office, that I thought the speech was well done. Lots of inclusive commentary and many reiterations that we are now, officially, Americans.

Three or four of our number gave short speeches. We all had the opportunity to volunteer but I'm not much of a one for public speaking so I gave it a miss. Besides, how could my story compare with that of the young lady from Kosovo who had passed through a refugee camp before being rescued by Lutheran volunteers? How compare with the Sudani escaping that conflict? Or the Tongan guy who'd been here 30 years and was finally, on his fourth try, successful at gaining citizenship?

Then it was time for the judge to give her speech. She started out by asking what countries were represented. In some ways it was like pulling teeth; most people seemed reluctant to volunteer any information. I was about the third to stand and announce my country of origin. She, the judge, seemed nonplussed when I said Australia and I (and Sonya) had the distinct impression that she really didn't know where Australia was!

And what countries were represented? Australia of course! Great Britain, Italy, Somalia, Sudan, Korea, The Philippines, Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, Peru, Kosovo, Bosnia, Norway and Congo.

Our judge, being from immigrant parents, was justly proud of how far she'd come and boy did she give a speech about it. Sonya, afterwards, said she wasn't sure of the relevance of the speech but I thought it was just right.

And now you're going to discover why it was important that we be seated in the correct order, for the conclusion was the judge coming down to the floor and handing us each our naturalisation certificate and shaking us by the hand. Actually the Sudanese guy wasn't content with a handshake; he wanted a full on hug. Good luck to him! And who knows, I may be the only Australian our judge has ever met. *shrug*

Naturalisation certificate safely in my possession we retired outside for a smoke. My friend Vern[^] had taken the trouble to attend the ceremony, something I greatly appreciated. We disappeared across the road for a coffee and some shyacking. I fear I'll never manage the American accent (which accent would that be anyway? California? Mississippi? New Jersey?) but Vern was forced to admit that I can say 'screw you!' with the best of them. He acknowledges that I also have a smooth technique with the middle finger 'bird'.

So now I'm a yank! Yeeehaaawwwwwwwww! :-)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The other Australian

Having worked here for a bit over two years my colleagues are proud of their ability to recognise an Australian accent when they hear one.

For months I've been hearing about the 'Australian Fedex driver' who makes deliveries early in the morning (way before I normally start). Everyone was adamant that he was an Aussie, peppering his conversation with 'mate' as he reputedly did. I had my doubts when he was also reported as saying 'shite' which is a word no self respecting Australian would ever use.

My doubts were confirmed this morning when I finally met him. As broad a Yorkshire accent as one could hope to find!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

13 days never spent in the US

You may remember, on the occasion of my 51st birthday[^] that I, rather optimistically, tried to set a personal tradition of never being in the US on the occasion of Andrews birthday. Alas, it hasn't happened that way and with my naturalisation ceremony a mere 4 days away I fear the entire block of 13 days in the aforementioned post are lost to the US.

Sonya and I did, briefly, consider the idea of doing a quick trip to Mexico so that I could count at least a few hours of the year never spent in the US but I suspect it's a losing game and, even with a freshly minted naturalisation certificate in hand I'm still wary of crossing the US Mexico border without a genuine US passport in my hot little hand.

Oh, Andrew *still* has no idea when my birthday is. He hasn't even committed it's Juneness to memory! When the subject came up a day or two before his birthday he was hazarding guesses in May, June, July and August!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Do not pass go!

Last week Andrew had his 15th birthday.

Little bastard's looking forward to learning to drive seven or so months from now but just between us I have grave doubts about the wisdom of putting him behind the controls of a ton of metal driven at speed.

The problem is that he's so vague about everything. I have to admit that sometimes I envy him his ability to ignore everything around him but that ability has its own dangers. All well and good now, when failing to notice something has, at worst, a stubbed toe or a banged elbow as the pay off.

I'm sure I need not elaborate on the possible consequences save to note that I think it extremely unlikely a judge would accept 'I didn't notice' as an adequate excuse to a charge of manslaughter.

As for how we get him out of this mode and into one in which he can survive in our world? I have no idea though I often play the bastard and grille him about what he has (and hasn't) noticed.

Andrews birthday was Tuesday last week but for one reason and another, the celebration was postponed until Thursday. We dined at Benihana[^], a not so good Japanese Tepanyaki restaurant and not my choice; for much the same money we could have dined at Sapporo[^], which is much the superior restaurant. Sonya however had promised Sapporo for his 16th birthday and one sometimes has to go with the flow.

So there we were, the three of us plus Morgan and Bill, his dad. Even without thinking about it (or perhaps Mom and Bill choreographed it so subtly we didn't notice) it ended up with Morgan and I as far apart as possible consistent with sitting at the same table. Suited us both!

Appetisers consumed it was time for some pressie giving. Various iPod accessories and iTunes gift cards plus $200 from Grandmother. The $200 was handed over as cash and, after an initial drool from the recipient, it was left on top of a pile of gift wrapping as Andrew tried to tear open the packaging on the iPod case we'd given him. Poor lad has much to learn about packaging; it was the hard plastic bubble type that needs heavy duty garden shears to cut open.

Not that he was about to let a little thing like that get in his way! Dad's pocket knife was pressed into inadequate service and a frantic sawing away at the plastic ensued. I saw my chance and in a moment the $200 had been snaffled and pocketed!

A couple of minutes later the floor show, in the form of the tepanyaki chef, started. So Andrew scooped up all the gifts and shoved em into one of those gift bags popular nowadays.

So we watched volcanos made out of onion rings and the spinning of an egg at high speed on a spatula. Big deal! :-) Followed by the consumption of steak and shrimp and fried rice and the whole nine yards. And Andrew didn't notice that he was $200 down!

Food consumed and the ritual singing of embarassing songs over the bill arrived. About $180 for the five of us. I reached into my pocket and said 'Andrew'll cover this' as I plunked his $200 down. With a panic stricken look he checked his gift bag; no cash to be seen! Bill clapped him on the shoulder and thanked him for buying dinner!

Yeah, we let him off :-) But maybe next time he won't take his eye off the cash!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Arse about

(shamelessly stolen from The Genealogue[^].)

The LaGrange Reporter desires to call the attention of the press of Georgia to the following matter: Within the last three months two or three well-known men in Georgia have been announced dead, and the newspapers have written eloquent obituaries over them. But these men, with a perversity as provoking as it is inexplicable, still live. Now, when a newspaper in good standing makes the solemn assertion that any man is dead, that man should die. For him to live, is a dangerous infringement on the liberty of the press. We hope the Press Association will petition the Legislature to pass a law that a man announced dead by the press must die.[The Stevens Point (Wis.) Journal of Jan. 17, 1874]

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Here I am patiently counting down the days until USCIS (INS) are out of my life forever (barring the possibility of losing my naturalisation certificate).

It was inevitable, then, that a summons for Jury Duty should arrive in todays mail, complete with instructions, in bold red type, to fill out the questionnaire and return it immediately!

Easy enough you'd reckon? Ah, but the gotcha is that as of today I'm not eligible to sit on a jury, but I will be on the day for which I'm summoned.

So do I fill out the form now, claiming ineligibility on the grounds that I'm not a US Citizen? Or do I delay returning the form until I've taken the oath?

Decisions decisions!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Who says Americans have no sense of humour?

I have the proof at the office in the form of my new nickname. Captain America!

I kinda like it though of course etiquette requires that I act as though I don't. :-)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Doesn't time fly

when you're having fun.

Even 52 years into this life I find it hard, sometimes, to believe just how fast time passes. It seems incredible that it is, at the time of writing, exactly a year since I was last flying over the Pacific Ocean toward Sydney. That makes it 50 weeks or so since I last had fish and chips!

It's the little details that bring it home; remembrance of a very pleasant weekday morning spent in Fawkner Park.

Taking a photograph of the Flagstaff signage at the railway station of that name quite without knowing that it is now, and was then, illegal to take photographs in the Melbourne Underground Railway. Geeze the Bush legacy reaches far!

The early afternoon when I walked past the house I last lived in in Melbourne and, seeing my former neighbours car parked out the front, how I knocked on the door, got no answer and sat to enjoy a smoke. Emerging from the neighbours property I was confronted by the neighbour on the other side wondering whether I was casing the joint. Had to show the bastard my Victorian drivers license with my old address on it to calm him down.

The memory of standing on the inbound platform of Yarraville Station and seeing the slogan moulded into the facade of a circa 1880 building; 'Suum Quique'. My first thought, on seeing the slogan nearly four decades ago, was that it read just as 'sue em quick' and a Google search on the term, whilst not providing a definitive definition of the term does seem to confirm that first impressions were on the right track! The building houses a lawyers office!

Ah nostalgia, where would we be without you, sweet goddess!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Leave the dust!

This morning I received an email from someone I met at Unisys Australia on my first day there. Bob, the office manager, took me on the whirlwind three hour tour. Deliberate sarcasm; I wasn't going to remember every face and name, nor would they remember mine.

After the first five or six stops I was introduced to Terri. Given that I included a link to the blog in my reply I expect her to read this which is half the reason I'm writing about it. She always chides me when I relate this story.

Bob did the usual 'Terri, this is Rob the new guy. Rob, this is Terri'. Then he added that she was the single most important person in the office. Get on her right side and all will go well.

Terri always blusters about what arrant nonsense that is but I think it's pretty close to the truth. Terri had and has her finger on the pulse; she knows what's going on and who to watch out for.

Along the way Bob also introduced me to the young lady at the reception desk and as we moved on to the next intro he took the opportunity of putting me on warning that she was his daughter! Warning heeded!

Over the course of a couple of years Terri and I became friends. I suspect it was my purchase of chips at the fast food joint out the back of the building that started it. It became quite the ritual during the second half of 1989 to swing by Terri's desk and offer her some chips. She was always gracious in accepting. Good times.

Whatever the process we became friends and the propinquity of my ending up living a ten minute walk away cemented things. I met her husband Greg and I reckon it took no more than a year for us (Greg and I) to become comfortable with each other. :-)

Whenever I return to Australia Terri and Greg are on my 'must' visit list.

In September 1994 we, my then wife Peta and I, and a few others including Terri and Greg went on a wine tour of the Coonawarra[^] region in South Australia. Unisys were paying accomodation and meals but we were expected to pay for whatever wine we carried home. Seemed fair enough; we still had a good weekend together.

The email that sparked this trip down nostalgia lane asked me what year that was. Like I'd forget! Though, truth be told, hit with the question 3 minutes after waking up I got it wrong; I thought it was 1993 but later reflection tells me it was 1994. Two years to the day after my attending the Melbourne premiere of Einstein on the Beach[^].

I took the opportunity of buying a couple of bottles of St George 1987 (but alas I can't remember if it was Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot) on that trip. Wonderful drop. If I'm remembering rightly 1987 was one of 'the' years for Australian red wine. It seems that Terri and Greg drank a bottle of the St George '87 last night and Greg pronounced it 'bloody fantastic'. I heartily agree with that assessment.

Sometime in 1995 I found a couple of bottles of the St George '87 for sale at Yarraville Cellars[^]. They were marked down as 'old' stock! I think I paid about ten bucks a bottle when the cellar door price was about 20 bucks.

After I set the bottles down on the counter the saleslady whipped out a rag and wiped the dust off! I was mortified! I wanted that 8 year dust on the bottle; it increased the enjoyment of an already great drink!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Corned Beef

As far back as I can remember I've been a fan of corned beef. Easily prepared, tasty, as good cold as it is hot. What more could one ask of a meal?

Sonya likes a bit of mustard on the side and I swear one of these days I'm going to convince her that mustard can be more than that insipid stuff that comes in a yellow plastic bottle and is squeezed onto the plate like so much toothpaste.

I prefer my corned beef with real Aussie Tomato sauce. Rosella[^] no less!

Alas, my carefully guarded stash of Tomato Sauce ran out a couple of weeks ago and when Sonya asked what I wanted for dinner one Sunday I first suggested corned beef and then remembered a lack of sauce. We deferred the corned beef until the order arrived.

We order the sauce from a small company located in San Antonio, Texas. Go figure! They also sell Cherry Ripes[^] and as much as I miss the odd Cherry Ripe I'm not really prepared to spend 80 bucks on a box of the buggers. Some pleasures are most economically remembered!

Sauce arrived it was time for some corned beef but what is it with the modern world and its obsession with salt? Time was you had to boil the buggery out of the beef, drain the water, start over again and it'd still be too salty! Indeed, I remember one Sunday evening in 1968 when a friends mother had roasted a piece of corned beef (don't ask me how she could have made *that* mistake) and it turned out so salty as to be inedible.

These days the 'corning' process seems not to involve salt at all. I'm sorry but it just seems unnatural to be obliged to resort to the salt cellar when sitting down to a plate of corned beef!

It's not just corned beef though. Bacon, at least here in the US, needs to be salted after cooking! What's up with that? (As Andrew would say). Take a vacuum sealed pack of bacon, open it, stick it in the fridge and how long does it last before putrefaction sets in? Maybe a month max. Time was when bacon would last years unsealed if chilled.

Introduce wonderful digital technology to make it possible to carry a thousand CD's worth of music around in a device smaller than a pack of cigarettes by all means but don't mess with corned beef and bacon. If God had meant them to lack salt He wouldn't have created bacteria!

Monday, September 11, 2006

You can blame Heino for this one! *

This guy walks into a bar. The bartender sees that he has a big bulge in his pants. So the bartender says, 'Hey, it looks like you have a steering wheel in your pants.' And the guy says, 'Yeah, and it's driving me nuts.'

*of course, I *did* choose to post it... :-)

They've got this law in America

Toward the end of my time with Unisys Australia I shared an office with five or six others; we were all part of the Enterprise NT group.

Roy was our resident American and a helluva nice guy. He'd been in Australia a decade or so by then; by sheerest coincidence he returned to the US a few years ago and lives in Phoenix! What are the odds?

Another of the guys was Peter. Peter could be 'strange' at times. He'd get an idea in his head and nothing could dislodge it, no matter how outré it might be.

One afternoon the subject of Harry S. Truman[^] came up and Peter volunteered the information that he'd been born Harry Truman and had added the S. due to a law that had been passed in the US when he (Truman) was a boy.

Never one to miss a chance I chimed in. 'Yeah, and Roy has Y. as his middle name for the same reason!'. Roy concurred and I fear that to this day Peter believes there's this law in America mandating middle initials!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Two years

For the last three months or so I've really been hoping Michael didn't change the WDevs[^] home page.

A year ago these words appeared there and they've been there ever since.

A year of blogging
Congratulations to Rob Manderson on reaching the one-year blogging milestone. Thanks for a year of entertaining stories and other interesting blog entries. We look forward to reading more in the future.

Well I'm now at two years and I've written an amazing amount of rubbish in the two years. According to my word counter program (not counting this post) I've written 327,577 words. Guy seems to think[^] I'm writing about the right amount per day! Phew, what would constitute overdoing it?

I don't mind admitting that there have been a few times of late when I think that I'm overdoing it; I've deliberately scaled back on writing about Morgan. Indeed, last December at dinner with Chris A[^] we talked about what should and should not be blog material and, at the time, I felt that what was going on with Morgan was off-limits. We've all suffered since then!

I'm not entirely convinced that all my posts about music are worthwhile either but you can convince me otherwise! :-)

But for the rest I still enjoy getting an idea and writing it up. And I still enjoy the feedback. The rate of posts may vary according to mood but I don't plan to stop anytime soon. Third anniversary here I come!

So much for pessimism

Back in April[^] I rather pessimistically concluded that I was more than a year away from even being interviewed for my suitability as a candidate for US Citizenship.

As you already know, that pessimism turned out to be unfounded; I had the interview at the end of August and was waiting for the oath ceremony. I was checking the mailbox daily.

Sonya felt I was being a trifle optimistic but, as I pointed out to her, it's in their interest to minimise the gap between interview and oath; the longer the gap the greater the chance of a circumstance changing that would increase their workload.

And I was right to be optimistic! The appointment letter arrived today and I am summonned to the US District Courthouse for the District of Arizona, 401 W Washington Street on September 29th for the oath.

Some USCIS district offices offer same day oath ceremonies but apparently the bulk of district offices don't. Certainly Phoenix doesn't.

As you'd expect, if the interview digs into one's past with particular reference to criminal history and offences of moral turpitude that would render one ineligible for citizenship it then follows that there's a requirement that the candidate not have become unsuitable in the gap between interview and oath! (Phew, I thought that sentence would never end!).

Thus my appointment letter has a list of questions on the back; have I committed a crime since the interview for which I have not been arrested? Have I been convicted of an offence? Have I had a speeding ticket? Yes, you read that right. Even a speeding ticket can have an effect. I imagine they're looking for a pattern in that particular instance rather than a single offence.

And the two I love. Have I become a member of the communist party? They're really really paranoid about that spent force! The other? Have I engaged in polygamy or been a prostitute? I reckon that if I relied on prostitution as my source of income I'd have starved to death years ago!

Oh, I also have to indicate if I've been outside the US - there are physical presence requirements.

I hope that my writing here about the process can help to convince just one American that it's not as easy as it sounds! There's quite an onus of proof on any candidate; that 'free' route to citizenship that gets bandied about is anything but trivial.

And if you think not then go back three or four paragraphs and reread the question list. Have I committed a crime since the interview for which I have not been arrested? That's the out; the method by which any naturalised person can lose citizenship.

But there I go being pessimistic again. Let's be optimistic instead. 19 and a bit days at the time of writing until I become a US Citizen. And, as Iain Clarke pointed out in response to my Approved![^] post, I'll lose half my blogging material. Bummer! :-)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Keep your dirty hands off my music!

You mightn't have thought I'd be candidate material to be a Lovin' Spoonful[^] fan but I am. Man, the confessions are coming out lately[^]!

Even though they were a late 60's band I didn't discover them until about 1970; I was definitely working when I bought my first Spoonful Album.

Courtesy of Napster I downloaded one of their classic (I thought) albums from 1968, Everything Playing. I remember buying my first copy of the album at Big W, corner of Swanston Street and Bourke Street, mid 1970, back when it was still Woolworths. This was during my transition from bubblegum to classical and whilst I wouldn't swear to it I reckon I probably bought a 'Best of Beethoven' album at the same time!

The Napster download tracks are labelled with the original song title followed by (2003 remaster). That usually means they digitised the original analog audio.

I wish! Nope, some smarmy young bastard record company executive, having heard the music of his parents and decided it won't go over these days, has decided that it has to be updated! Hence an overlay of extra bass throbs, high pitched tings, a horn part that wasn't there in the original and so on.

Unfortunately for the smarmy young bastard I have a CD of the spoonful I bought in the early 90's; so I *know* that 'She is still a mystery' didn't have all that extra crap.

I want to hear it as it was way back then; not a modern update. It's not as though I listen to the spoonful these days for their musical merit; nope, I listen to them for the time machine.

Keep your dirty hands off my music!!!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Point and shoot

Personnel Person (PP) sent out an email to all a few weeks ago. Not the typical corporate email however; this was to threaten dismissal to the miserable individual who was pissing on the dunny floor instead of into the urinal!

Uh huh. So they want me to believe someone is deliberately doing that? Yeah right; like I'd believe that. All the people I work with are 'professionals'.

As of yesterday I'm a believer. When it was my turn to use the facilities I couldn't believe quite how much urine was on the floor. It reminded me of that scene in Repo Man[^] where the Emilio Estevez character pours his beer onto the floor and a few seconds later one of the repomen walks in and says, 'Oh man, did someone piss on the floor *again*'.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


The scene: An office Christmas party quite some years ago.

This was in the days before frivolous lawsuits holding employers responsible for the irresponsibility of employees drinking at a company sponsored function and, as a result, the alcohol had flowed freely.

Half a dozen or so of us were lurking in the basement car park smoking. Smoking done we waited for the lift so we could get back to the booze.

The lift arrived, the doors opened and there was one of the bosses, back to the wall, and one of the secretaries on her knees! It didn't take a genius to work out what was going on and I fear a certain amount of nervous laughter was heard!

But the boss was equal to it; with perfect composure he leaned over and hit the door close button!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Impressing em

Writing in my last post about Ralph Vaughan Williams[^] reminded me of an afternoon in 1979. I'd just met Sue, who later became my first wife (Hi Sue!) and she'd taken me around to meet her best friend, who later became Robins wife.

As part of meeting Rosemary it was obligatory to meet her mother. Gwen was a well meaning woman but perhaps a trifle strait laced. She certainly didn't seem to appreciate meeting a long haired lower class geek.

As luck would have it her kitchen radio was tuned to 3AR, which in those days was still pumping out classical music on AM. ABC FM has long since taken over that responsibility and, as far as I can remember, being nearly four years removed from Australia, 3AR (Radio National) does religious programs and critical analysis. I miss 3AR!

But on that wintry day in 1979 they were playing classical music. A piece I didn't know but it had all the fingerprints of early 20th century British music.

So if Rosemary's mum notices that I'm listening to the kind of music she would never have thought I'd listen to it's time to play it up. As for why it's time to play it up I have no idea. It really wasn't important that I impress Gwen. Let's chalk it up to ego and a chance to take an example of smug middle class down a peg or two! Whatever.

A few educated guesses and some wankerspeak and I'd decided, out loud, that it was most probably Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis[^].

You could have knocked me down with a feather when the music ended and the announcer confirmed my educated guess!

Gwen struggled mightily with her middle class prejudices after that; somehow she could never get over the fact that I 'knew' classical music!

I don't think I'm their target demographic

I finally gave in and subscribed to Napster. To be honest, the reason I chose them is that I got a free months Napster-to-go coupon in the box with my music player. Pricewise they're not too bad at $14.95 a month unlimited including download to my player.

And, as I've noted before, the idea of all you can eat music for a fairly low monthly sum is quite attractive; they can maintain a much larger library than I ever could. That assumes they have the music I want to listen to of course.

All the usual suspects are there; Beethoven, Mahler, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky. If you want the complete symphonies of any of the first three you're catered for; they only have the final three Tchaikovsky symphonies but that's an oversight shared by MSN Music and URGE. Interestingly enough, none of the music services I've checked have Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony either. Or if they do I can't find it! Makes no matter; I have my own copy on CD. And who knows, maybe Yahoo or Rhapsody have Tchaikovsky's 2nd symphony. *shrug*

The Napster search interface sucks! Someone there got the fixed idea that the Artist name is the only search term worth having. That's true enough if you're talking Rock or Pop; if I'm searching for 'While my Guitar Gently Weeps' it's highly likely I want the Beatles performance rather than some obscure cover by a Peruvian band. Hence the focus on artist name.

Unfortunately that doesn't work when you cross genre boundaries. If I'm searching for Elgars Second Symphony I'm going to search on Elgar, not on the name of any of a hundred conductors who may or may not have recorded that symphony in the past fifty years.

I solved that little problem in my own music collection by deciding that, for the most part, Album Artist, Artist and Composer are synonymous terms. Yep, I've skewed the tags in my personal collection in terms of how I think of music but it works for me.

And of course, for the Rock and Pop section of my collection I do differentiate the meanings of Artist, Album Artist and Composer.

Both MSN Music and URGE, whilst not doing it exactly the way I'd do it, seem to be much closer to my ideas of classification.

But that's just the finding of music through their WMP (Windows Media Player) interface!

I have a little over 400 albums (many of them multi-cd). Mixing my permanent rips with downloads that have expiry dates after which they won't play meant I needed a way to separate the two whilst maintaining a single library (because that's the way WMP and my music player want to do it). Easy enough; create a subdirectory called DRM and set that as the download location.

Then select an album and download. What could be easier? What could go wrong? Certainly it downloaded. There it was in WMP but do you imagine Elgars Symphonies were classified under Elgar? Not a bit of it. Nope, they were under Sir Colin Davies. Both in WMP and on the hard disk. It probably doesn't matter what the hard disk classification is; I care about how WMP and my music player find things; not how the filesystem organises em.

A few seconds with MP3Tag[^] (thanks Stuart) and that problem was solved.

All went well and I added maybe 30 albums to my collection and then I discovered 'Sir Adrian Boults Complete Symphonies and Orchestral Works of Ralph Vaughan Williams'. Not, hitherto, a composer I've extensively collected though I've certainly heard of him and had one or two works.

It looked good. 9 new Symphonies and quite a considerable body of other music; I'd be in pig heaven for the rest of the months trial. I downloaded the lot!

In WMP, before doing any editing, it was obvious I had a problem. 6 (count em, 6) tracks all numbered 1. 6 tracks numbered 2. And 6 tracks numbered 3. Yep, you guessed it, someone at Napster imported a 6 CD set and didn't number the tracks sequentially. Perhaps not the end of the world; I could manually renumber them. Well I could, if the track titles identified which symphony each belonged to. They don't! 72 tracks of unfamiliar music that needs to be listened to in particular sets and particular orders and the tags don't help! Nor, unfortunately, does a search of the internet help since not all track titles, containing such time honoured musical terms as 'Sostenuto', 'Allegro' match, unambiguously, with the listings I could find for Vaughan Williams!

In the end I deleted the lot. That way madness lay! I really don't think I'm Napster material and I shall, in all likelihood, cancel at the end of the free trial period!

Monday, September 04, 2006


Nope, not a discussion of SOAP (Service Oriented whatever). I'm a software developer but, for the most part, I don't write about it because it doesn't interest me much these days.

A few nights ago I had occasion to visit the upstairs bathroom. I use the word bathroom in the Australian sense; it really does contain a bath and a shower. If, incidentally, it also contains a 'throne' that's serendipity.

This was Morgan and Andrews bathroom and pretty much their own territory. Because it contains the only bath in the house Sonya might occasionally visit but I usually never do save to turn off the light. What is it about teenagers and a congenital inability to turn off the damn light???

It's now solely Andrews bathroom due to the most fortunate circumstance of Morgan not living here anymore.

So I was up there the other night as aforesaid and I couldn't help but notice that there was nary a sign of soap. Not even soap residue. Hmmm, this needed investigation.

Andrew admitted, under deep interrogation, that he's been showering for the past three weeks without soap. Why? It seems that he can't be bothered coming downstairs and asking for some. *shrug* I didn't think I was quite *that* unapproachable!

Of course this does explain why his showers take 20 minutes! And there I was thinking of other explanations! :-)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Not quite there, yet

When I posted the other night about being approved[^] as a suitable candidate for US Citizenship I may have left the impression that I am now a US Citizen.

Not so! I very much doubt that USCIS[^] is reading my blog but nonetheless they take a very dim view of anyone claiming to be a USC who isn't one.

No, I am now waiting (impatiently) for another notice from USCIS requesting that I attend an oath ceremony. At the end of the interview this week the guy who interviewed me intimated that if I hadn't heard from them within 3 months I should request an InfoPass[^] appointment to follow up. Methinks, given the speed with which everything else has happened, I'll get the notice in a couple of weeks. I'm already checking the mailbox on a daily basis!

At which point I'll be requested to attend at such and such a place on such and such a date with other immigrants to take the oath and only then do I cease to be an alien and become a US Citizen.

If'n you think I won't blog about that day you have rocks in your head! :-)

The DVD burner

We have four DVD burners in this house. Two of em are in my computer, the one I'm writing on right now. I don't actually need two DVD burners any more than I need two heads but that's how it fell out.

The third DVD burner is in my Home Theatre PC (HTPC) and it's never actually been used to burn a DVD. It was used as a CD reader when I built that computer and installed Windows XP MCE.

One of the burners in this computer, and the one in the HTPC, are dual layer burners. Sounds like a great technology until you try and actually use it but I've found dual layer so unreliable that I stick to single layer media and will for the foreseeable future. I'd rather stick twice as many blanks in during a backup if I want a reasonable hope of them being readable a year from now.

On the other hand, have you tried buying a DVD burner recently? They're all dual layer whether you like it or not. Come to that, tried buying a CD burner recently? They're still available if you're willing to pay twice the price of a DVD burner. Given that a DVD burner can burn a CD why would you spend twice the bucks?

We're talking about 60 US bucks for a DVD burner these days though my first DVD burner, bought the same week I arrived in the US to live, cost about 400 bucks.

By contrast, back in 1995 Heino and I investigated the purchase of a CD burner. It was going to set us back about $6000 Australian. We built the cost of the burner into the business plan but little did we know that the people we were presenting the business plan to were underfunded and a bunch of charlatans to boot! A story for another day...

A couple of weeks before our Chicago trip Andrew intimated a desire for a CD burner in his computer. Well, at first he thought he already had one. Andrew's not very technologically inclined; he sees me sticking a blank into my computer, burning a backup and thinks that any device that can accomodate a blank will record. Thus a request for a blank. I was content to pass one up knowing that nothing he could do on his computer would damage the blank!

A few minutes later a question about why it wasn't burning a copy of his iTracks tracks. 'Well Andrew', I said, 'maybe it's because your computer doesn't have a burner!'. Sheepish grin...

So he asked for a burner. Ok, he can have one on certain conditions. The main (indeed only) one was that he damn well earn it! Mom and I came up with a schedule for him to earn it. If he cleans up around the house (not just his own stuff but everyone's) for 28 days we will buy him one. He agreed to this about six weeks ago.

Yeah, we got the usual teenage wail; 'that's not fair'. I asked him to show me the contract he was given when he was born, the one that promised life would be fair. Sheepish grin; I've asked to see that contract before!

The next day I went out and bought his burner and showed it to him. A DVD dual layer burner as it happens; it's the least expensive option and the hitherto unnaccounted for fourth burner. It's still in the unopened original packaging. I bought it the next day because I think it's important that we keep our promises to him if we expect him to keep his to us.

In the 45 or so days since the bargain was struck his 28 days has dropped to 7 days. He got 14 today for washing and cleaning my car inside and out. I was a harsh taskmaster! 'Missed a bit'. Protests. 'I can see dirt there' I said. He scrubbed a bit more and rinsed a bit more. 'Missed another bit!'. More scrubbing and rinsing!

He can now feel the burner is within his grasp. Only 7 days to go. But I'm betting it'll take another 3 weeks in total to get to zero. I'm in two minds whether to make my installing it another day!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Who would you do?

Another night out with the lads; Vern, Monty and Guy. This one was planned to either celebrate or commiserate depending on the outcome of my naturalisation interview. I suspect that for the US Citizens present (Vern and Monty) it was both!

I note that Randy at the office, upon hearing I'd been approved, said 'proof they'll take anyone'. I riposted with 'well, they saw the home grown product and realised they needed to lift their game!'. :-)

I enjoyed the evening immensely. I wasn't the designated driver this time around! That honour fell to Guy who's on the wagon.

In the past I've dined at home with Sonya and Andrew before setting out but this evening I decided I'd eat at the pub. So we called for menus. I decided I wanted ribs but was unable to decide between the full rack and the half rack. So, when the waitress returned to take our order I asked, in all innocence 'How big is the rack?'. Of course I realised what I'd said about the time I hit that final 'k'. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Vern struggling mightily to suppress a mighty laugh! I think he did well!

Of course she, the waitress, didn't miss the double entendre; she flirted with us for the rest of the evening! It's most flattering to a 50 something bloke to have a waitress in her early 20's flirting! I think the 40 somethings enjoyed it too!!!

Fuelled by the third (or was it the fourth?) beer, conversation turned to a contest; who could come up with the biggest dilemma? With whom would we rather have sex? Sandra Bullock or Kirsten Dunst? And so on. Many many names, most of which I didn't recognise. And when I suggested names I got the analogous blank stares. Who on earth is Ruby Keeler[^]?

It went downhill from there!

An evening out with the lads that I thoroughly enjoyed! :-)


Yup, I passed the naturalisation interview.

I started out nervous. I reckon just finding the correct room at the supplied address, Room 1, 3110 North Central Avenue, is the first part of the test! That address just happens to be a collection of low buildings surrounded by an enormous car park and it's not at all obvious where Room 1 might be. Eventually I found, around the side and a *long* way from the front of the building, a doorway marked 'United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Interview Center (sic)' and through that door an elevator. The elevator led to room 250. Could have been worse; it might have been room 101!

Through security; they checked that my cigarette pack contained cigarettes! Then a not so long wait for the time to come. I'd arrived about 20 minutes ahead of time and it started 5 minutes past time.

First thing he did after introducing himself was swear me in. I'd been wondering if that was done on a bible because if so I'd have to ask for an affirmation[^] and I wasn't really sure how well that'd go down. Thinking about it later it was of course obvious that they really can't do a bible oath. What if the applicant is a Hindu? A Zoroastrian?

Then came the confirmation, out of my mouth, on oath, of everything I'd put in the application. The application is about fourteen pages long so it's a lot of questions. The answer to most of those questions should be no. No, I have not been a member of the communist party. No, I have not been arrested for drunk driving. You have no idea how silly it feels to repeat no 40 times...

And then, suddenly, the expected answer changes to yes. Do you support the constitution and form of government of the United States. Don't let the 40 nos before that trip you up!

So we get to the end of that and it's time for the English and civics tests. This is going to sound sarcastic and, to a certain extent, I think the sarcasm is deserved. On the other hand, at least the US does make an effort, no matter how token, to test that it's prospective citizens have a grasp of English.

First came the English reading test. You have to understand that he's running some kind of software on a screen out of my view; hints he dropped indicate that the tests are randomised. So he hits a button and the printer whirrs and out comes a sheet of paper with a sentence, in English, on it. He hands me the paper and asks me to read it out loud.

'He wanted to talk with his boss.'

So I read it out and he (the interviewer) then asks me what it means. *shrug* how much critical analysis can one apply to such a sentence?

'He wanted to talk to his boss' I said.

Tick! Passed the English reading test. Time for the English writing test. The printer whirrs again and out comes another page. This time he folds it in half so I can't see or copy the sentence. He dictates it to me and I write it down.

'He had a very big dog!'

Yeah, I stuck the exclamation point on the sentence when I wrote it down. Methinks the original ending was a full stop (period). He looks at what I wrote and comments that I've spelled it correctly. Tick! Passed the English writing test.

Now it's time for the civics test. Here, in the order, as best I remember it, are the 10 randomly generated questions.

What is Congress?
What colour are the stars on the flag?
What colour are the stripes on the flag?
What colours are used on the flag?
Name three rights guaranteed by the bill of rights?
Why did the Pilgrims come to America?
What do the stars on the flag represent?
What is the highest court in the land?
Who was President during the civil war?

Dammit, I can't remember the tenth question but it was equally easy. Got 10 out of 10!

I commented ruefully that I hadn't been asked what the first 13 colonies were. He admitted that he hated it when that question came up; he could never remember if Maine was one. I told him it wasn't :-)

After that was a wait of a couple of minutes while he went through my case file (a file that's about 2 inches thick, I kid you not!). When he got to the list of my marriages he commented 'You've been married three times?' with a tone of voice that seemed to imply that he felt three was quite enough. I couldn't resist; 'Check my wifes marriages!'. He did. 'Wow, four?'. lol

All was satisfactory and he approved me. We shook hands and he complimented me on the completeness of my application. Apparently most applicants don't follow instructions and supply everything they want; tax records from IRS, proof of joint finances, marriage and divorce certificates. WTF? The forms are very clear on those points.

I went outside and enjoyed the most wonderful cigarette!