Thursday, June 29, 2006

It's 102 and...

After my fingerprinting appointment I'd arranged to go drinking with Vern and Guy again. There was no particular drama associated with the fingerprinting, it just seemed to take forever.

Interesting process actually. As hoped, it involved no ink. The guy sprayed my hands with something or other with instructions to rub it in well (indeed the instructions sounded like something out of a barbecue cookbook). Then, scrubbing each finger with a rag, he took a four finger print of my left hand followed by a four finger print of the right. Followed by thumb prints and I thought that was it. Nope. The four finger print is a reference set; after the reference set they do each finger in turn, comparing the image with the four finger set looking for matches and derive a quality level. All done in software! Poor guy had to do three or four of my eight fingers more than once to get an acceptable quality level.

The foreverness of the process came from the initial wait to get to the head of the queue followed by the QA review of the results. I wasn't about to leave halfway through. It all finished late enough that I took an executive decision not to return to the office. Yeah, Ed would have a cow if he knew but we're not going to tell him are we?

At the end they hit me up with a survey of the process. What was I going to tick? Shitty service? Not this little black duck! Honestly though, the service, whilst slow, wasn't bad. I couldn't fault any of the folk who face the public; they were courteous and polite and I never felt the reality that my future was in their hands. So I gave them an honest assessment of excellent. I reckon they did better than I'd have done given the length of the lines of waiting supplicants!

Vern and Guy were already ensconced at the bar when I arrived. This particular bar claims to have the worlds largest selection of draft beers and, whilst I don't believe that hyperbole, they do have an amazing selection. Something in the order of 130 different draft beers. I didn't recognise most of the names (I'm a wino not a beero) so I went for the one name I did recognise, Grolsch.

As much as I like alcohol I was driving so one beer was my limit. Vern and Guy were in the same situation so we adjourned, after my first beer, to the outside tables at Fatburgers.

I note that even though we were supposedly there to consume beer I'm the only one who did; Guy had something that looked like a Bloody Mary and as for Vern? The only thing his drink lacked was one of those little umbrellas!

I have to admit that Fatburger chips are, so far, the closest I've seen to a real chip in the US. Fie on French Fries! Flavour was a trifle bland but the US hasn't cottoned onto the idea of malt vinegar and chips. I reckon given the right amount of salt, an addition of malt vinegar and catching the buggers straight out of the fryer and they'd be a tolerable substitute for the chips I miss from any Australian Fish Shop.

We'd adjourned about 8 PM and it was pretty warm outside even as dusk fell.

My wife keeps on at me about eschewing the long dacks (trousers) and switching to shorts this time of year. I don't reckon the world's ready for the sight of my knees and no amount of assurance from Sonya that I have good legs will convince me. The fact of the matter is that I'm just not comfortable in shorts and I'll happily endure the heat in long dacks.

Nonetheless it was warm and it was Vern who pointed out that the roaring log fire in the middle of the mall in which we sat seemed a trifle superfluous if the temperature was over 100 F!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Well, it's not WMP11

Last night[^] I mentioned a problem downloading some purchased music on MSN Music.

I now have 382 copies of the first movement of Raff's Fifth Symphony and no license to listen to any of them!

Now I tried all the obvious stuff. Turned off Windows Firewall (My computer is behind a router so that's safe enough). I tried going back to WMP10; no luck. I tried uninstalling a whole bunch of WMP related stuff (MsnMusic download agent etc). Reinstalled it and it tells me it'll generate a new unique ID for my computer. That was a bit of a worry; would MSN Music 'forget' that I still had outstanding downloads? Nope, it's still stalled and still downloading over and over again the same 13.5 megs of music.

Rolled forward again to WMP11, no change!

I can't explain the optimism that led me to purchase the music a second time. It's only a buck and I'll smoke that much in a blogging session but that of course made no difference except that it now has two sets of 6 tracks in the download queue.

Is there any obvious way to clear the download queue and start again? Not that I can find. Maybe there's some obscure registry key or XML file somewhere in my system but more likely, methinks, the list is held on their system, matched to me by my login details and it'll never clear. It's not like they provide a 1800 number to call to resolve the problem.

So I'm buggered if I know what to do from here. Any ideas?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I'm becoming more American

Just for the hell of it I was reading the stuff I was posting a year or so ago. Like this[^]. I scored 23% American a year ago.

Now I score 27%.

You Are 27% American

America: You don't love it or want to leave it.

But you wouldn't mind giving it an extreme make over.

On the 4th of July, you'll fly a freak flag instead...

And give Uncle Sam a sucker punch!

I have no idea what I answered differently a year later but at a rate of a mere 4% per year and assuming a minimum of 50% to qualify I suspect my citizenship applicating may be a few years premature! :-)

World Cup Soccer

It seems the Australian team were knocked out of the competition today, or was it yesterday?

You'd have thought my total lack of interest in sports would be well known by now wouldn't you? I don't just write about it here, I live it!!! :-)

No such luck. A couple of folk at the office sidled up to offer their condolences. Well, of course I knew; I read the Melbourne dailies on the internet every day and plan to until the day I die.

They seemed to take it hard when I said 'so what? It's just sport.'


The anti smoking nazis push it too far

So there I was around lunchtime enjoying a short walk around the block and equally enjoying a quiet cigarette. My route took me past some joint that rents bouncy castles and suchlike frippery. It's not unusual to see two or three kids being ferried by an anxious Mom into or out of the business.

Paying one particular family group no attention whatsoever I suddenly became aware that they'd pulled up on the road just ahead of me and the kids were leaning out the window of the family SUV yelling at me to stop smoking!

Say what?????

I try not to be too quick to anger but that really was pushing it too far. Never mind that it's a bunch of ignorant little turds regurgitating barely understood propoganda shoved at em in school. What can I possibly make of a parent who thinks it appropriate to aid and abet them in their rudeness by positioning the vehicle just in front of me?

There was only one sane course I could adopt and that was to walk by as though I hadn't noticed. What end, save possibly a citation, would have been served by telling them exactly what I thought of them?

Fun with downloads

One of the composers I used to listen to a lot about 30 years ago is Joachim Raff[^]. Truth be told I only had one or two of his symphonies and I never got around to buying them on CD when I made that change.

But I never forgot his music, especially the 5th Symphony 'Lenore' and I have, of late, been regretting the lack of Raff in my collection.

You can imagine then, my delight at discovering that the entire 5th Symphony is available for download from MSN music for a mere 99 cents (plus tax). As proof that the business people behind MSN Music are just as much sticklers for 'business rules' as anyone else I note that the download consists of 6 tracks. One can purchase individual tracks for 99 cents each or one can purchase the entire album, for 99 cents! I wonder how many individual tracks from that particular album they've managed to sell?

So I shelled out the shekels last night at about 9:15 PM. The last time I bought an album as a download, three months ago, I was listening to it within about 2 minutes (gotta love unlimited broadband).

27 hours later I have 184 copies of the first movement of the symphony and it's stalled. Can I listen to any of those 184 copies? No sir I cannot. The license hasn't yet been downloaded; when I try I get sent to a screen that offers me the purchase of the track for the aforementioned 99 cents or gives me the option of saying I own the track. Since I've paid for it I reckon that options the one to choose. It then tries to download the license and stalls.

I suspect it may be WMP11 - that previous successful purchase was done through WMP10. However I don't feel, right now, like uninstalling WPM11, rebooting, installing WMP10, rebooting and trying again.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Fire watch

This really didn't fit in the wedding post so you get it standalone.

Coming as I do from a country where bushfire is an annual thing you'd imagine, correctly, that I'm very well aware of the hazards. We are taught fire safety and hazards from an early age. Of course it doesn't always work; you have to believe your house is going to burn down if you let dead leaves pile up against it; if you don't then no amount of public education is going to prevent the shock of an insurance company refusing a claim due to policy holder negligence!

It's quite the surprise to me to see the signs on the I-17 heading north into pine tree country that request we use our ash-tray for the butt of a cigarette rather than throwing it out the window. I'd no more imagine I could throw a lighted ciggy out the window than I'd imagine I could drop it onto Bettsy Ross's original 13 star US flag.

There's a fire burning in Oak Creek Canyon[^] as I write; has been for a week or more and it's very much in the news here in Arizona.

Driving Friday last along Highway 180 toward the lodge I couldn't help but notice that all the roads leading up the mountain were closed.

On the Saturday morning I took a very bored and impatient Andrew for a walk through a very small canyon right next to the Museum of Northern Arizona[^]. A very nice walk and if you're ever in the vicinity I highly recommend it. I've been there three times and I think it's going to become a 'must do' walk whenever I'm in Flagstaff. Got a couple of photos of him there as proof that it IS possible to drag him away from the TV!

As we drove back to the lodge he observed that I hadn't lit a ciggy. A golden opportunity! 'Of course not!' I said. 'Why not?' he asked puzzled. He's long since given up on trying to stop me smoking. (his right to even try that is the subject of another discussion we may never have). 'It's a fire hazard' I said. That puzzled him. Thus a lecture on idiots who casually throw away cigarette butts with no assurance that they're colder than the grave!

We had to pass one of those roadblocks on the way up to the lodge where the wedding was going to take place. Pretty easy. Drive on the wrong (right :-) ) side of the road past the trestles and encounter, a couple of hundred metres up the road, a forest ranger. Utter the magic phrase (in our case from my wife 'I'm the mother of the bride') and we were allowed to proceed after recieving a piece of paper outlining the rules. One of which was; NO smoking on the road, neither in the car nor out of it. That's my wording and that was certainly the gist. We were explicitly asked if either of us was a smoker.

I'm glad they get it. The countryside up there is way too beautiful to let the thoughtless destroy it by fire. I note that the Brins fire (the one linked to earlier) is attributed to a bunch of idiots leaving a campfire. Find the bastards and nail em to a wall!

The wedding

So the wedding went off well enough.

As pretty much the outsider (though I'm footing part of the bill :-) ) it was easy enough to take the detached view. My wife was totally unable to distance herself and see it in anything like the proper perspective. *shrug*

The wedding itself took place at Hart Prarie Lodge, Snowbowl, Arizona[^] and when I say it took place there I mean the whole kit and caboodle. Wedding out on the decking looking toward sunset and the reception a mere 25 metres away inside the lodge. That's the civilised way to do it! My wife and I did pretty much the same thing when we got married in Melbourne; ceremony at the registry office and lunch with friends across the road.

Don't you just hate it when the wedding ceremony takes place somewhere and the reception is elsewhere? You have to find the reception location while the bridal party are whisked off to somewhere photogenic. Then you get to stand around like a bunch of spare parts waiting for the bridal party to arrive.

We'd booked accomodations at The Ski Lift Lodge[^], 25 or so cabins arranged in a semi-circle at the foot of the mountain. It worked pretty well for socialising between the brides folks and the grooms and I think a good time was had by all.

By the time I got to Flagstaff the rehearsal had been done and everyone was down at the lodge relaxing over a beer. Given that I'd either never met most of them or had met them just once at a family reunion at Lake Tahoe two years ago I think I, and they, did a good job at recognising each other. My hair probably helped though I note that my wife's older brother Ed has hair just as long as mine, but I don't have the grey beard!

We had guests flying in from all over the country; cousins living in Tennessee, Texas, Massachussets, Illinois and California. Shelby's biological father lives in Alaska and was born in New Zealand. His family from Australia and New Zealand had come for the wedding.

This was the first time I'd met Kevin (biological father aforementioned). We hit it off right away when he called me Skippy! 'Yeah, ya Kiwi bastard!' I replied. Laughs from we two and puzzled looks from the yanks. So we explained[^].

My wife was extremely nervous an hour or two before the ceremony. Somehow it didn't help when I pointed out that if we had Bride, Groom, Marriage license and Celebrant we were ok. All the rest is icing on the cake. Well, I really didn't imagine it would help but one has to try!

I had no role as such in the ceremony though I was to be seated in the front row next to my wife and Bill, Shelby's adopted father. Yep, it's complicated. Just go with the flow. They were just disappearing to their places when I suddenly realised I had no idea when I was supposed to be seated. With the other guests who had no role other than audience? Or was I supposed to strut down the aisle? *shrug* I've never been involved in such a complex logistical exercise before. A quick yell to attract my wifes attention revealed that I just follow the other guests.

Seated we waited expectantly. Sun sitting on the tops of the pine trees to the west and the insects rising into the twilight. Matt and his best man standing nonchalantly. Matt looked so calm I was sure he was on valium :-)

I've never seen bridesmaids walk so fast or look quite so nervous. I understand. The pitch of nerves changes the perception of time and they (as revealed in later questions) thought they were walking at about the right speed.

My wife looked incredibly happy and not at all nervous as Andrew escorted her down the aisle.

Shelby, when she appeared, looked gorgeous. She's a pretty girl at the best of times you understand so we're merely talking about gilding a lily. Wedding dress of slightly off-white cream over an underlay of crimson. It looked great! She was extremely nervous, as well she might be with 150 people watching. I could see her gasping for breath (and at 9,000 feet above sea level a lungful isn't quite as satisfying as it might have been down in Phoenix) but she retained her composure.

My wife and Denise, Matts mother, were to light a couple of candles and of course there was just enough breeze that the lighters supplied weren't up to the task. My wife came over and took my ciggy lighter. Candles finally lit she came back to sit beside me, leaving the lighter behind!

When it came time for the marriage vows themselves (following the sermon) I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. I know I had to choke back a tear or two as Matt almost lost his composure. Well, it's a pretty emotional time and I know no one feels any shame at a bit of honest crying at a time like that.

Then came the reception. Not a lot to say about that. We had the usual angry flareups between people who've gone through an extremely chaotic time, fuelled by perhaps a drop too much alcohol; anger that is probably already forgotten.

Andrew! Cheeky bastard had the privilege of escorting two bridesmaids away from the ceremony and again, a little later during the entrance of the bridal group to the reception. I record that he had a grin that stretched from ear to ear all the way! An hour later we discovered him chatting up not one but two young ladies and half an hour after that he was dancing with them. He has much to learn; one has to separate one young lady from the others! :-)

I got my cigarette lighter back!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Roses are red, violets are blue

One of my secret, until now, vices, is listening to Aqua[^]. For a bloke who listens to Bruckner, Mahler, Philip Glass etc that might seem quite a jump. But I can't help it; I just like listening to their disco mixes.

I think it's because they sound so happy. No angst there.

I will confess though that I always check to see who's around when I select their music. I have a mystique to maintain and who knows how it might crumble if it got around that I listen to Aqua!

A creature of habit

Back in 1970 when I got my first full time job I was too young to have a drivers license and too poor to own a car anyway :-) Driving age in my home state, Victoria, is 18 and has been for as long as I can remember. I doubt it's going to change anytime soon.

For the first couple of weeks I tried travelling from home in St Albans to Seddon with Mum and Misery Guts and thence via bus to Kensington where I worked.

I'd been doing exactly that, travelling to Seddon with the olds, throughout 1967, 1968 and 1969 to go to school. Maybe that's when I learned to enjoy a good walk; Misery's workplace was a mile or so from school and it would never have entered his head to offer to drive me to school; nor would it have entered mine to ask. Kids in those days walked and so I walked. I note that nearly 40 years later that particular walk is on my 'must do' list each time I return to Melbourne.

I tried, as I say, for the first couple of weeks, to continue a three year old habit but timing was against me. Misery started work at 7:45 AM and he was in the habit of arriving at the workshop within a minute or two of that time. That left me exactly 45 minutes to walk from Station Road Seddon to the bus stop on Hopkins Street Footscray, a distance of maybe three quarters of a mile, catch the bus to Kensington, alighting at McCaulay Road and 5 minutes to walk from there to the workshop. Cutting it fine indeed for an 8:30 start.

Two weeks into the new job and it was clear this wasn't going to work. So I started taking the train to work. That meant a run from home to St Albans station at 6:30 AM to catch the 7:05.

St Albans was, in those days, the end of the line for suburban trains which meant that I usually had my pick of the seating. We also had smoking carriages back then (smoking on Melbourne public transport was legal until October 1 1978) so I picked a window seat in the smoking compartment right behind the driver.

Two stations up the line we stopped at Sunshine and without fail this crusty old bastard, not unlike Old Jock[^] got in. It seems I had usurped his seat. The first couple of days he contented himself with the glare routine and, whilst I certainly noticed I had no idea just why this old fart was glaring at me.

About the third or fourth day he tried ordering me to vacate his seat. Uh huh. That was certainly going to work!

I reckon he'd been doing the same trip from Sunshine to Flinders Street for probably 40 years. The irony of writing this 36 years later hasn't escaped me.

Over the next few weeks he tried any number of things to persuade me to cede the seat to him. Complaining that I was smoking (in a smoking compartment). Trying to enlist peer support from his travelling companions, most of them closer to his age than mine. But I wasn't going to give in and it became a point of honour that I sat in that seat and no other.

One morning he bested me! Imagine my surprise when the 7:05 pulled in to the end of the line and I entered the carriage only to find him sitting smugly in the seat he so coveted. Sneaky bastard had caught the train at Sunshine on it's way to St Albans!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The little guy discovers TV

A few weeks ago I mentioned that we had a new kitten[^]. He's doing just fine; he had his shots last week and he's a chipper little bugger.

You might notice that in the first mention I said she and now I say he. We got the sex wrong. Dunno about you but I'm not really into examining the groins of kittens. I just accept that a kitten is a kitten and take the delight from there.

In a moment of optimism we tried to agree that if the new kitten is ostensibly Morgans she'd take care of the shots etc. I think you know just how cynical a bastard I am by now; I didn't believe a word of it and so it proved to be. The shots were not taken care of as they should have been and when Ryan came along the little guy was totally forgotten.

Not really. Morgan may have forgotten him but neither Sonya or I did. Poor little bugger had his shots allright; paid for by us. I'm told he reacted much as most kittens do, badly, to having some giant creature stick a thermometer up his bum and then hold him down and jab a sharp piece of metal into his arm. I reckon if some 90 foot giant jabbed a thermometer up my bum I'd take it just as badly!!!!

The vet also corrected us on the gender; she's a he. No risk of more kittens then.

Tonight, enjoying the first of my two nights home alone I was watching T-Men[^]. Not a great movie nor yet a bad one. Little guy (as the new kitten is now known by Sonya and I, Tiger to the unwashed) sat on the edge of the couch about 24 inches away from a 57 inch screen.

I swear that kittens head was about to fall off from the swivelling. He was absolutely fascinated. Wore the poor little bugger out and he's now fast asleep under the stairs.

I like kittens :-)

Din dins and underwear

I said last night[^] that I'd let you know what was planned for my birthday.

Do you hear that? Listen carefully. Hear it? The sound of silence! Yep, I have the house to myself tonight and tomorrow night. The family, Sonya, Morgan and Andrew are in Flagstaff in the run up to Shelby's wedding and I have the place to myself! Wooobloodyhoo! :-)

Now this might sound a little selfish and if it does I'll live with it but after more than three and a half years of not living alone I really did need a night or two to myself. Nope, all those nights spent in hotels don't count; that's not being at home.

Nope, being at home means I have my computer to hand, my TV with all those movies (75 hours or so of them) recorded and waiting to be watched, my cats demanding attention, and the freedom to eat dinner sitting in front of the TV watching one of the movies aforesaid wearing only my underpants! :-)

If the price of this is being 52 I'll happily pay it! :-)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Getting older (again)

It's June 21 even here in the US and we all know what that means. It means that I've reached yet another birthday. Number 52 this time and I have to say that, given how much I drink and smoke, each fresh anniversary amazes me.

I won't yet say what's planned as this years birthday gift for two reasons; firstly it hasn't happened and secondly, it may not happen. But cross your fingers for me and I'll let you know if it comes to pass.

Let's not forget who[^] got here 18 days earlier than I did :-)

Forgoing an opportunity

Gotta hand it to my boss; he knows I like accumulating frequent flyer points and so, when it became apparent that someone was needed to travel from here to Singapore to pick up a couple of circuit boards and bring them back he sounded me out; was I willing to spend something in the region of 50 hours travelling back and forth half way across the planet?

Damn straight I was. Do that three times and I've got another free return flight to Australia! And how do you think I got my MP3 player? I also have my 1K elite member status to think about.

Now there's an exercise in snobbery. Having accumulated more than 100,000 miles of travel last year I get to check in at the business class counter even on an economy ticket. I also get to board the plane at any time instead of waiting for my row to be called. Wow! (I hope the sarcasm is shining through!).

Actually that little perk does work well for domestic travel on America West; it means I can get on the plane early enough that my laptop is stowed in the overhead lockers instead of having to go under the seat in front. If you haven't travelled US domestic lately let me tell you; the overhead locker space is scarcer than hens teeth! I like the leg room too much to want to share it with the laptop.

Incidentally, I never tried the 'elite' boarding thing until I had the card to prove that I was entitled by their rules. But they never challenge and nothing extra is printed on the boarding pass. Draw your own conclusions from those observations! :-)

The only other worthwile thing I've seen from the status so far is access to the airline lounge when travelling international. Yeah, it can be nice to grab a few free sangers and a beer but it's really not that big a deal.

But alas, I was unable to take the risk. If they could have guaranteed I'd be back in the US on Friday I'd have jumped at it but there's a small chance that the return might slip to Saturday. Given that the flight I'd be on lands in Los Angeles at 5 PM and I have to be in Flagstaff at 5:30 Saturday for Shelby's wedding vows you can see the problem.

As for why someone would travel like that? Neither Fedex nor UPS will guarantee delivery in such a tight time frame and a specialist courier would charge three times or more the price of the return ticket. Why do we need such a fast delivery? I have no idea. *shrug*

States of the USA that I've visited

Yeah yeah so I didn't see the link last night when I checked the world map. My vision is broader than just the USA. Yeah, that's right, that's the ticket. I'll stick to that story! :-)

Here then are those states of the US that I've visited.

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

Ohio and Indiana will be added to the list in the next couple of months!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Where in the world?

Piggybacking on Megans[^] post I present the map of where I've been.

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands



I think I've seen it all and there is nothing new to be seen the world just comes along and smacks me down for arrogance! :-)

As well it should. The hubris of imagining that I've seen even a billion trillionth of it all!

Nonetheless it came as quite a shock the other day to learn that the cradle in which Ryan, Morgan's son, rocks, is battery operated!

Say what???

Well at least I now know why she's buying quite so many C cells; and there I was with a rather more sinister explanation.

I'm beginning to believe I'm not as modern and up to date as I'd imagined. First the digital music thang and now this? I expect any day now to find myself investing in a buggy whip manufacturer!

Approaching something with low expectations

or perhaps more accurately, approaching something having already judged it. Or perhaps even more accurately, approaching with a closed mind?

Uh huh. I watched about a third of the Hollywood version of The Singing Detective[^] tonight.

I wouldn't dignify it with the term 'remake'; that would imply at least a half hearted reverence for the source material[^].

I'm sure the people who were responsible for this mess of a movie thought they were doing something worthwhile. The movie even stuck, for the length that I could endure, reasonably close to the original story though there were gratuitous changes to dialog.

As an example; in the original the 'hero' hallucinates. At a bedside medical conference the next morning the head nurse relates that 'yesterday he thought there was a cat in the bed nibbling at his toes'. The Hollywood version changes the line to 'yesterday he thought there was a dog on the bed chewing his ankle'. He weakly protests that it was chewing his toes.

Why on earth would anyone have thought it necessary to change the imaginary animal from a cat into a dog? Perhaps because the British are reputed to be cat lovers whilst everyone knows that all red-blooded American males love their dogs?

To be honest, I have a real problem with the whole 'remake' thing. It bespeaks a lack of imagination and respect for the work of others. Would anyone set out to rewrite Hemingway or Dickens or Austen with any expectation of critical acceptance? To be sure, they may rework the same material in a different way but almost any attempt to reproduce any well known authors work would be dismissed as plagiarism. Why should a movie maker think s/he could get away with the film equivalent?


I endured about 25 minutes of the movie before hitting the delete button. Married with Children seemed quite refreshingly original as a follow on...

Monday, June 19, 2006

The sins of ones youth

I first started collecting records back in 1968, and by records I mean real honest to goodness 7 inch singles. I'd been listening to the radio for years by then of course, first via Mum's old Astor Mickey[^] radio then via my own crystal set and, later, a transistor radio. I've written about those times before.

The kind of music I listened to then was whatever the radio played. Early Beatles (I hated them), Elvis Presley (not much impressed) and a whole range of bands from 1964 to 1967 or thereabouts that I no longer much remember. Certainly they weren't all that memorable for me save perhaps The Small Faces[^] and The Turtles. In an age before the internet and when a tape recorder or a record player cost a small fortune to say nothing of the cost of content one pretty much went with what was broadcast 'for free' over the air.

Not a lot has changed since then :-)

My very first record player was aquired in early 1967 from the local tip (rubbish dump). An old Garrard[^] turntable (the link doesn't show the one I had but I can't find one that does so live with it).

The speed governor had failed which I assume is why it was scrapped; I spent hours adjusting the tension on the spring that held a rubber wheel betwixt the motor and the turntable to get it to play at approximately the right speed. And when I say hours I don't mean a one off; every few minutes the tension would change and the speed would rise or fall. Squeeze or stretch the spring to get the speed back to somewhat normal. I don't say that I needed chewing gum to keep it together but it sure feels like it when I remember back to those times.

That turntable was so old that it only had the one speed; 78. Perhaps that also had something to do with its being scrapped!

And what did I listen to on this temperamental turntable? I had no singles or albums but the lady next door came to my rescue, giving me an old 78 she had. I have no recollection of who the artist was; all I remember is that it was something genteel from the 1930's involving a celeste.

Some thieving and swapping and I acquired another Garrard turntable; this one could do 16, 33, 45 and 78 and the swap, at the time, seemed to be just slightly less expensive than an arm and a leg. But I was the envy of Richard and Peter, friends who hadn't managed to cut any such deal. Peer envy made it all worthwhile!

So now I had a turntable that consistently span at the right speed, a 5 Watt mono amplifier, a speaker that made up in size for it's other shortcomings and nothing to play on the damn thing!

Bubblegum[^] came to the rescue. I can't help thinking that the second link below the title on that page 'Your guide to Oldies Music' is pushing it a bit! :-)

I note that, having researched it a bit this week past, it was quite the surprise to learn that it was totally manufactured. At the time and ever since I've always believed that there really were bands such as 'The Archies'.

Perhaps I'm more gullible than I ever believed!

Whatever. The Lemon Pipers[^] came along and struck a chord! (Pun intended). Green Tambourine seemed, back then, the height of musical sophistication.

So you'd imagine, wouldn't you, that the first single I ever bought was something by the Lemon Pipers. Not so! Nope, my first ever single was 'White Room' by Cream[^].

Green Tambourine was my second single but it wasn't the Lemon Pipers version; nope, it was a cover. (Uh huh, go figure). Purchasing that first single in 1968 had strained my finances somewhat so when Mum noted that Allans[^] had a sale of singles I had to be there! And there were recently familiar titles; Lemon Piper songs by a band called the Cincinati Underground[^]. I note that that link says they never recorded any of their music so it may well be the wrong link; I'm sure I bought singles in 1968 of a band with that name doing covers of Lemon Pipers songs.

A year later, new paper round secured, I had the wherewithal to purchase their first album, Green Tambourine. Fortunate indeed, for me, that they were released on the Astor budget label at $1.99. The mainstream albums of the time, such as The Beatles, were $5.95 each. Half a year later out came their second album, Jungle Marmalade which contained one track, all of 12 minutes in length, that so impressed me that I reckon I must have played it a hundred times that first week. Drove my parents mad!

In 1969 there were rumours of a third album that never came to fruition. I remember an evening toward the end of 1969 when my parents were arguing about me; Mum was defending my enthusiasm for music that didn't appeal to Misery Guts. She said 'he's swiped and stolen and sweated to get that record player.' She probably said more that I no longer remember but I recall understanding her point. Everytime I feel like protesting rap I just have to remind myself that I was once 15.

I bought a CD in 2000 that combined the two albums The Lemon Pipers released back in 1968. Well worth the ten bucks for the music alone let alone the ramble down memory lane!


Yeah yeah, I know. I shouldn't but I'm only human.

When the shriek came tonight from upstairs that the newborn infant, all of three weeks old, had pissed when he shouldn't (by Morgans reckoning) have, was it wrong of me to think of roosters coming home to roost?

I think not!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The dog lady

She lived in a house on Essex Street in West Footscray during the 1970's. She was old enough then that I doubt being that specific now will cause her any harm.

Dog and cat ladies seemed much more prevalent in the 1960's and 1970's than they do now though I suspect that has as much to do with the amount of time I spent as a kid rambling through the suburb sticking my nose into any and everything as with any supposed decline in numbers during my adulthood. The simple fact is that if I jump into my car and drive 40 KM's to work I'm not going to see as much detail as I did when tramping my way on foot to school.

I also suspect that my own household sometimes skates perilously close to a state resembling cat ladyhood. At one point Sue and I had 6 cats; we've had 5 cats living here with us in Phoenix plus an uncounted number of strays who regularly help themselves to a meal. It'd be in the region of a dozen.

In the very same condo block, 15 or so flats away we have a genuine cat lady; she must have a dozen or more cats living inside and when one approaches the olfactory evidence can become overwhelming, especially in this heat.

And there lies the rub. As a confirmed cat lover for more years than I care to admit to I can only applaud those who offer the stray a meal or a home. Yes, I know that Malthus applies but I can only do so much. If the stray becomes a part of our household a visit to the vet is in order; if not *shrug*. Arguments along the lines of 'feed em and you only encourage em to breed' seem, to me, to inhabit the same moral sphere as arguments about 'if you could travel back in time, would you kill Hitler?'.

On the other hand, if you're going to feed the strays and have multiple pets yourself that carries with it some responsibilities regarding public hygiene. Cat crap needs to be picked up.

In 1977 I worked for Trident TV rentals as a travelling repairman. Pretty cushy job most of the time. Yes, one had to put up with the person who insisted I had to be there by 2 and the set repaired by 3 so they could catch their favourite soap opera. One made a good faith promise to try ones best but things could and did delay me and then I'd have an angry customer upset because she'd missed the details of Bonnie's pregnancy. Never mind that the next week of episodes would rehash the subject.

But the great thing about working for a rental firm was that the maintenance was part of the contract; no need to do the billing and make sure I picked up the cash. If you've never had to extract the service fee plus a labour fee plus parts from an impatient customer OD'ing on soap opera or sitcoms count yourself lucky; you get to see the dark side of humanity!

One of my regular customers was the dog lady aforesaid. Regular in the sense that back in 1977 consumer electronics was rather more fragile than it is now. Back then it was nothing unusual to require two service calls a year to keep a set going; these days I'd guess that better than 99% of electronics works without missing a beat until it's time to scrap it.

The dog lady had about 20 dogs in her household and you knew it whenever you approached closer than 10 feet to her front door. I knew nothing of this on the first call; I walked in and almost choked from the smell of urine and faeces. Fortunately it was a very easy repair and I was out of there within about 10 minutes.

A few months later, in the middle of summer, I had to go back. Made a crucial mistake; that of imagining I could hold my breath long enough to get in, do the repair, and escape. 90 seconds into the call, well, you guessed it, filled my lungs to capacity with that odour. Yuck.

Around her lounge room were a few dozen empty paint tins. I really ought to have realised[^] their function but I didn't until she suddenly raced across the room, shrieking, to grab a dog and hoist the poor bugger over one of the cans, so he could pee, if not in peace, at least without scolding after the event.

Risky business

When I created my new 'Things best not said to ones wife' category I fear I was exhibiting a lack of imagination. But I'll let the name stand for now.

As you know, we've got a family wedding coming up. Indeed, you're going to have to go without posts from me for at least two days as I head north to Flagstaff next Friday. I'm sure you'll bear up well under the strain :-)

My wife has been preparing for the great event; it's not every day (one hopes) that a daughter marries.

Preparation has included a fake tan. We live in Phoenix with 330 days per year, on average, of bright sunlight. I have 'farmers arms' without even trying! (How fascinating that a google search for a link defining what I mean by farmers arms returns as the first choice a pub in Daylesford, Victoria, Australia). Nope, what I mean is that my arms are tanned where exposed by the shirts I usually wear and extremely white where normally covered.

In the 1990's when I worked for Unisys Australia on the Australia Post project we had a weekly status meeting[^] with the customer. On one occasion they were complaining that we weren't solving a problem as fast as they'd have liked. Dave pontificated 'when we have an issue we expect you to roll up your sleeves and get down to work!'. So I stood up, took off my jacket and rolled up my sleeve. They fell about laughing with the observation that it was difficult to tell where the shirt stopped and the arm started. It wouldn't work that way today after 3 and a half years in Phoenix!

I'm assuming that my wife intends to show only those parts of her body that would normally assume a tan given legal dress in public so I'm at a loss to understand why she feels the need to improve on nature.

But where I almost fell foul of her today was when she came home with a new hairstyle. I'll give her her due and say right now that she took it very well indeed. It was quite difficult to keep a straight face when she appeared with a hairdo that would have put Carnaby Street to shame and I fear I failed. We have a tradition of me showing my tongue stuck between my teeth, indicating I'm biting my tongue. Damn near had to bite it through for real! :-)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Worrying about all the wrong things

Back in 2001 I was working for a company which is, as far as I know, no longer in existence. I think it was bought out by a larger company. The companies initials were C F and I won't identify what kind of software we did except to say that it was mostly server software with an emphasis on high throughput data transformation.

Almost by definition, if we were doing data transformation, we needed a modular architecture if only because customer A wants his data transformed this way whilst customer B wants it transformed that way and as for customer Z? Of him the less said the better :-)

This led to the inevitable fingerpointing when trouble shooting. Was the bug in module 1 or module 2? It could become difficult to trace the flow of data from one module to another thence to a third and then via a callback to the first again so we could isolate the source of an error.

I took it upon myself to write a logging service[^] that, if used correctly, would give us an audit trail for tracing the flow of execution through a complex system.

The logging service didn't have much to offer in terms of product features that one could put onto a datasheet and earn the coveted check in the box. If you've got a boss who is datasheet driven that can be a problem. Fortunately, my current boss understands that sometimes one has to perform work that seems to offer little benefit to the end user but that can save much time for the development team down the track.

So much is prologue.

Working for a company who's initials were C F and writing a service that performed logging what more natural than to call the resulting program CFLogger? Incidentally, I'm leaning more and more to the idea of prepending the companies initials on each executable and DLL; it does tend to disambiguate when viewing a directory listing.

It worked well and I was able to get most of my fellow developers (all 4 of them) to buy into it and soon we had accurate audit trails showing us exactly how and why our code took *that* path instead of *this* path. Made it a lot easier to debug.

If you've spent any time at all in software development you know perfectly well that what works in the development environment doesn't work once you get it into a customers hands. So CFLogger became part of the install that went onto each server. Gave us easy to follow audit trails and made debugging things on the customers servers much easier.

But one afternoon a manager noticed CFLogger in the services applet.

He went ballistic! 'You can't have a service called CFLogger. Sounds too much like C Flogger!'

As far as I can work out his concern was that it sounded like

a: A reference to masturbation.
b: A reference to bondage.
c: A reference to the selling of goods cheap.
d: A reference to the beating of a dead horse.

Take your pick of what was really bothering him.

Friday, June 16, 2006

A night out with the boys

Last night Vern and I had planned to get together, drink a beer or two and rag each other mercilessly. We try and do that every couple of months though I fear my travel schedule (always random) has interfered. Fortunately my travel has been considerably reduced this year (I've only done 5 business trips so far this year) and it was looking good for tonight.

Of course things couldn't be that simple could they? Our customer over in the Philippines scheduled a teleconference (without consulting me) for this evening. I sent an email advising that I couldn't make their time due to prior committments. My friends also count in my life.

We were joined by a new guy, Guy[^] whose been commenting a bit on my posts of late. Somehow I thought he was in South Africa and was quite surprised to discover he now lives a couple of miles up the road from me.

With that knowledge it was easy to post an invite to join us.

I think tonight was the first time I ever saw someone outtalk Vern. That takes quite some doing let me tell you. It's not a feat I've ever managed, though I've tried!

The conversation ranged widely; Vern was surprised to discover that compulsory military service exists in many more than the three or four countries he'd imagined it did. From there to a discussion of the early history of Ghandi (both Guy and Vern flatly refused to believe that Ghandi was politically active in South Africa in 1902, both arguing that it had to have been during World War 2). But then again, neither of them had known that Ghandi was born in 1869.

That discussion led to the mention of an opera, Satyagraha[^] by Philip Glass which in turn led to Vern saying something like 'Oh no, not Philip Glass again!'. Hmm, that makes four of my friends who contemptuously dismiss Philip Glass. Maybe they're trying to tell me something but if so I'm being stubborn in refusing to hear!

Thence to some of the more obscure requirements of naturalisation as a US citizen with a digression into the bartending habits of Australians in London.

Quite the evening. I record that it was a pleasure to meet Guy and spend a few hours with him. I hope we'll do it again.

What blokey bonding post would be complete without the observation that the barmaid had the largest breasts I've *ever* seen!?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

An interesting view of history

Andrew spent the last day or two with his father spelunking somewhere near Flagstaff Arizona.

Arrived home for dinner tonight after that postponed teleconference with the folk over in the Philippines we asked him how his trip had been. He considered for a moment and answered.


And that was it! We waited for the expansion but it wasn't forthcoming. Hmmm, I reckon if that boy had written the Bible it would have fit onto a postcard!

Well I wasn't going to let it go at that was I? A little questioning and he produced the 'fact' that the cave he'd explored was so dry that President Kennedy had, in the 1970's, prepared to use it to store food during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I glanced at my wife; she returned the glance.

'Hmmm Andrew', I said. 'When was this?'

'In the 1970's' he replied.

'You're sure of that'?

He nodded confidently.

'Ok' I continued, 'when was President Kennedy assassinated?'.

He wasn't quite sure so I supplied the date, along with the date of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

'Oh' he said, 'I knew that!'

'So', I asked, 'when was the cave approved for use as a missile shelter?'

'In the 1970's!' came the confident reply.

'Well then', I asked, going for the kill. 'How could JFK have planned to use this cave in the 1970's'?

A puzzled look and my wife and I burst out laughing. Then the penny dropped and he smiled sheepishly.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sucking on a fag!

You can blame Guy[^] for this post! :-) For the why see here[^]

You have to understand that where I come from a fag is a cigarette. I understand the word has the same meaning in Britain. It certainly doesn't mean that here in the US!

As you've probably gathered if you've read my blog for any length of time I'm a bit of a stirrer. Show me a sore spot and I'm sure to pick at it! Knowing quite well the difference in meanings of the word in Australia and the US I was quite happy to announce, on my way out the back door of the office with the intention of smoking, that I was going out to 'suck on a fag'.

Steve (not the same Steve I've written about in the past) overheard me say that one morning a year and a half or so ago. As he related it a bit later, when we'd got to know each other a bit better, he thought 'damn but he's upfront about it!'.

Of course, the fact that I don't wear a wedding ring[^] might have misled him :-)

Bathroom reading

Though why it is that Americans insist on calling the toilet the bathroom is beyond me. I'm rather fond, when I hear someone here say they're going to the bathroom to ask 'oh, are you intending to take a bath?'. The first couple of times the new victim looks puzzled and then it sinks in.

I suspect the euphemism springs from the same roots that led Victorian England to put trousers on piano legs but habit keeps it going in an age where most people are somewhat more laid back about such things.

This may be far more detail than you'll ever want to know but I usually don't need to spend a lot of time there. Walk in, do the needful, walk out and away I go. Nonetheless, it's comforting to have reading material to hand. For the last three years it's been a large volume of George Orwell's essays and journalism.

Nope, that volume wasn't chosen as a way of assisting the process at hand :-) But as an all but card carrying commie pinko leftie tree hugging liberal long-haired hippy bastard what else would you expect to find sitting on the top of my cistern? Michael Savage's 'Liberalism is a mental disorder?'

A week or so ago a magazine appeared beside the Orwell aforesaid. I hasten to add that it wasn't my doing! It's a copy of People Magazine, the Brangelina edition 'celebrating' the birth of an infant to Brad Pitt and Angelian Jolie. See? I do keep up with even the least important of current events!

The thing I noticed on the cover was the purported publication date. June 19 2006! I'm writing this at 2 AM on June 14 2006 and the magazine's been there at least a week.

Back in the very late 1970's I used to go to McGills newsagency[^] (magazine store) in Melbourne and buy the latest issue of Dr Dobbs Journal of Computer Calisthenics and Orthodontia[^]. How's that for a magazine name? What used to amuse me was that even allowing for shipping at economy rates I was able to buy the June 1979 issue in May! Obviously it was available on newsstands in the US in April. Why then call it the June issue?


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Feeling the urge

but URGE[^] doesn't quite cut it, yet.

As I wrote a few weeks ago[^] the idea of an online music service for a nominal monthly fee is very appealing. In theory they can maintain a much larger music library than I ever could.

Your idea of nominal might differ from mine but 15 bucks a month for unlimited access to 2 million tracks sounds good. So I signed up for their 14 day free trial. Unlike a lot of other services they do the trial well; they don't require a credit card with the all but inevitable 'forgot to cancel on the 14th day' jeopardy.

They also allow usage of the service during the trial period to be exactly what you'd experience once signed up. That means 3 PC's can access the service on the trial account and you can download to your portable device.

This is the way a trial ought to be!

So why does it not quite cut it yet? Well, to be fair, it's still billed as a beta but there are two major shortcomings for me. The first is breadth of coverage. Yes, I was delighted to discover they had The Execution of Stepan Razin[^], a cantata by Shostakovich that I first heard about 33 years ago and last heard over 20 years ago! For a text in Russian so long unheard it was quite the pleasure to hear it again and still know quite half the words.

I have no more than a vague idea of what the words mean but I remembered them well enough to have to restrain myself from singing along :-) God knows what the family would have thought at the sight and sound of me, headphones on, singing 'si byoronyay bazhit boyarchonochik!'. (Which is probably a gross mis-transcription).

Nonetheless, there's a dearth of the composers I'd love to listen to. Nothing by Gustav Holst. One lousy album of Delius that I already have on CD. Only 11 Mike Oldfield albums? I have 27 and I don't have all of the albums he's released. The only Gilbert and Sullivan are 'best ofs'. They do have Bruckner's Symphony 0! Busoni? You'd have to have read an encyclopedia to even know he wrote a piano concerto with choral accompaniement going by what they have.

This may, however, be a temporary thing. An hour ago I went searching for a composer whose work I heard once, briefly, in 1990 and was unable to obtain on CD. One Geirr Tviett[^]. Strange music. An hour ago I found an album that just might have been the one I'd heard way back then but do you think I can find it now using exactly the same search term?

Likewise the aforementioned Execution of Stepan Razin. I downloaded that yesterday and it's in WMP on this computer and on the Gigabeat player. But any number of searches on Shostakovich fail to find it. Searching on Razin does find it today but that's not how I found it yesterday. Go figure. Maybe a server is down? At the time of writing the entire web page as shown in WMP11 is unavailable yet a stream of Max Bruch's Violin Concerto at well nigh perfect quality is unaffected.

Then I did a search by genre. Classical and drill down into the sub genres. It almost hurt laughing at the results of the drill into the romantic sub-genre. Two, count em, two albums! Hmmm. That'll be news to a couple of thousand dead composers to say nothing of encylopedia contributors, musicologists, recording executives, producers and reviewers!

Ah what the hell. Maybe I'll give em the 15 bucks a month for a few months! I've certainly enjoyed what I've streamed and downloaded so far.

Buying a shirt

With the first of two family weddings coming up a couple of weeks from now we, meaning my wife, decided I need a dress shirt, a tie and a sports jacket. I used to wear those all the time in the early 1980's but fifteen years of having to wear a suit and tie to the office every day killed it for me.

But one does what one must, especially where a wedding is concerned, so off we went to Kohl's. We, meaning my wife :-) , found a shirt we liked and she asked me 'what's your neck?'. I couldn't resist. 'It's this thing between here' (pointing at my chin) 'and here' (pointing at my shoulder).

Maybe you had to be there!

Monday, June 12, 2006

The day of the shoot

which title implies we shot the movie[^] in one day. We wished!

The original producers of the movie were Heino, Robin and myself. But as the first shoot approached Robin got cold feet. To this day neither Heino or I really know why and, though we've speculated, I don't think this is the appropriate place to retail those speculations. Robin is, after all, still a friend.

So we asked Garry if he was interested in expanding his role from mere actor to producer. He jumped at the offer. This was a good thing because he brought fresh enthusiasm to a project already six months into the planning.

Six months might not sound like a long time but if you consider that this was a labour of love done in spare time whilst maintaining family committments we might not be blamed for feeling a trifle tired at times.

Indeed, when Robin pulled out we might have abandoned it entirely but for the fact that we'd lined up the entire cast and crew and there was a lot of enthusiasm out there amongst our friends. It seemed hardly the right thing to just walk away and leave all that enthusiasm without an outlet.

So on Saturday, September 8 1990 we arrived at the Williamstown Railway Museum[^] for day one.

The casting call was for 8AM which meant we had to be there at 7AM after loading the equipment from the bank[^] into the car at 6AM.

Even though Robin had pulled out as producer he was still around as an actor and general factotum. He found his niche on that first morning, arriving with us at the museum at 7AM and offering to go fetch doughnuts. We were quite agreeable to that suggestion; we had no budget to feed cast and crew and they were expected to pay for their own grub; if he was offering we'd quite happily eat his doughnuts!

I really don't remember the first scene we shot. It may have been a running shot using a steadicam[^]; I know we did a couple of scenes that day using it. If I remember rightly we borrowed that particular equipment, via a friend who worked there, from Channel Nine.

A little later we had a scene with me and Dave, as Scarless and Festering Wound. We ran into shot, paused, looked into the distance and Dave said 'what's that Scarless?'. I was supposed to reply that it was our quarry. We rehearsed it a couple of times to be sure we hit our marks and to be sure the cameraman (Heino) and the soundman were coordinated. The soundman had a large mic in a windsleeve which he laid almost on the ground, pointed up at us to catch our immortal words.

Heino was happy after the second or third rehearsal and it came time for a take. He called action, Dave and I ran into shot and Dave said, 'what's that Scarless?'. 'Looks like a dick to me' I replied, pointing at the mike. The amateur half of the cast and crew, those who didn't work in the industry laughed. The professional half of the cast and crew rolled their eyes with a look of exasperated disgust and suddenly, for me, this stopped being a game and became a serious attempt at making a real movie.

Fingercrossing works!

Thanks :-)[^].

Our mail yesterday (not collected until today, go figure) contained a letter from the Department of Homeland Security. My fingerprinting session has been rescheduled for June 28th.

I reckon the 16 bucks we paid for 'priority guaranteed has to be there tomorrow or heads will roll with a receipt proving it was delivered' was worth it.

Can I bum a light?

As I've written a few times one of my friends concerns was that I'd start sounding like an American once I'd lived here for a while. I didn't think it likely that even 20 years here would override 48 years of prior art and subsequent visits to Australia have proven it; even though Heino would dearly like to detect a change of accent (bastard! :-) ) he admits he can't.

Maybe the accent won't change but some of the phrases I use have. The TSA got my cigarette lighter last week at Phoenix and I had no matches in my laptop case. You can't, so far as I've seen, buy either at an airport so the importunate traveller is reduced to patrolling the entrances looking for the individual fortunate enough to have one or the other.

At Dallas it was this old bloke puffing away with every semblance of not enjoying it but doing it anyway! I walked up and said 'can I bum a light?'. Oh the horror. Four years ago I'd never have said something like that. It would have been more like 'hey mate, got a light?'.

I'm in two minds about this. On the one hand I skate perilously close to the mindset that used to annoy Australians forty years ago when immigrants seemed not to want to learn 'the Australian way'. On the other hand, I do have an attachment to the culture I grew up in and a, quite natural I think, desire to retain it.

One could also, quite reasonably, argue that if I want to retain my culture 100% then I should 'damn well git my sorry ass outta here and git back there!'. A viewpoint I can't really disagree with!

So I guess I'll go with 'bumming a light'.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Be careful, my dear

I've added a new category for some of my posts though I don't imagine I'll be overpopulating it; not if I know what's good for me! :-) Think of it as my informal list of things best not said to ones spouse :-)

I mentioned last night that we had dinner on our way home from the airport. I was full of excitement at the prospect of getting my hot little hands on my MP3 player but I've learned a thing or two over the years; foremost of which is that my obsession isn't my wifes and spouses have a tendency not to show infinite patience. It helps that I like dining out with my wife! :-)

I know you'll read that better than the bare words would indicate!

Why I call it an MP3 player when all my music is encoded as WMA is another question.

While we were waiting for our order to arrive my wife picked up a bunch of drink coasters and started laying em out on the table rather in the fashion of someone playing solitaire. Having laid em out she started playing a game of solitaire lacking both rhyme and reason. I watched her do this for a few seconds and then said;

'What the heck are you doing???'

She laughed.

'I was wondering how long it'd take you to notice.'

Hmmm, how long am I supposed to wait before questioning apparently abberant behaviour?

A few seconds later she was running her hands through her hair in a manner that looked rather like she was trying to lift a toupee off her head. So I said 'Be careful my dear, the wig may come off!'.

I'd be exagerrating if I said that I'm only able to write this because looks can't kill but that has to rank up there with the more dangerous things to say!


Part of the shipment with my MP3 player was a set of Jensen noise cancelling[^] headphones. Last night, flushed with the excitement of the player I just used the standard earbuds (horrible name) shipped with it and set the Jensen headphones aside.

It all sounded good.

Being a curious descendant of curious monkeys I opened up the Jensen package today, plugged em in, unfolded em (they fold down into a very small space indeed) and gave em a try. They sounded good so I moved the switch to the 'on' position. No difference.

Uh huh. The back of the bubble package (there's no user manual) indicated that a LED should light up. A quick check and there's no battery. Did I have a single AAA cell in the house? Of course not! So I went to the local Basha's supermarket, endured the 'stamps or ice' query and returned with 4 AAA cells. Slotted one in and hit the switch!

I reckon I need to get out more. I just tried it now with the headphones on but no music playing. Off and I can hear the fan noise from the many computers in our house. Switch the bugger on and it goes to silence!

With music playing I get a slight reduction in volume but, more importantly, in the quieter passages, all I hear with it on is the quiet; off and I hear the fan noise.

They include an adapter for use on airline audio systems. I've never been happy with airline headphones; one can never really hear what's happening above the 'rushing through air at 600 Km/h' background noise. Raising the volume doesn't make it any easier. But if this works as well on aircraft noise as it does with the fans here it'll be wonderful indeed.

Interestingly enough, it seems to work best on the 'continuous' background noise. It doesn't cancel out the sound of Morgan stomping her way downstairs!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Reading the manual

So I got home tonight from Dallas. We had dinner along the way, my wife and I; I was frugal with the dinners in Dallas (and my boss shouted one dinner) so I had enough of the per diem left over that we could dine out together without dipping into our own money. Don't tell the boss! :-)

When we got home you can guess the first thing I did. Yep, tore my new MP3 player packaging open and plugged it in. It was on the charger within the minute and, having made sure syncing the bugger wouldn't invoke a format change, I was downloading all my music onto it.

My wife glanced over and said 'you know, you just proved you're male'. Hmmm, I thought I'd proved that to her already but I was ready to bite. 'Whatever do you mean my dear?'. She replied 'you didn't read the manual'.

Which was true enough so far as she knew. But the manual, in PDF, has been available for over a week on the Toshiba website and I'd already read it.

'Ah' she said sheepishly, 'I didn't think of that!'

The download took about an hour in total but I didn't do it in one hit; too impatient to hear it for that. Nope, I let a dozen albums download and then stopped the sync to give it a listen. Sounds good.

First impressions? Wonderful piece of miniature technology. I can't believe how small it is. I had Andrew whip his iPod out so we could compare. Slightly shorter, about the same width but mine's a bit thicker. As I said to Andrew, 'I never thought the day would come when I was proud I had something shorter than Andrew!'. He smirked!

Thursday, June 08, 2006


The MP3 player[^] on which I've waited for a period of time that feels like forever but is, in reality, a mere three months, has finally been delivered.

Not that I've managed to see touch or hear it yet. It's in Phoenix and I'm in Dallas. It was quite exciting to track the package's progress via the UPS tracking website especially today when it was scanned out 'for delivery' at 8 AM Dallas time. I reckon by noon I was checking that damn webpage every five minutes! Hey, this is a big moment for me; my first ever portable MP3 player, with storage beyond the dreams of avarice. Let me enjoy it! :-)

At 3:58 PM Dallas time it was noted as having been delivered! Maybe a minute later my wife emailed me to say it'd just been delivered. How do they do that? Surely they don't have a satellite link back to home base to record each delivery in something passably close to real time?

I got quite a laugh from the tracking page after it had been delivered. Here's an extract.

Status:  Delivered    

Delivered on: 06/07/2006 1:58 P.M.
Location: MET CUST WOM
Delivered to: SCOTTSDALE, AZ, US
Shipped or Billed on: 06/01/2006

Location is MET CUST WOM? What on earth does that mean? I reckon it means the delivery guy cussed my WOM(an) out. If I'm right the only thing I have to say is that he's one cheeky bastard! :-)

Learning to type

I'll admit that this particular post is an outgrowth of a response I made to this post[^] over on the Sarsparilla blog[^]. By the way, if any of you need confirmation that I'm male I'll provide it by noting that the young lady in the photo is one sexy babe! The fact that she'd be about as old as my grandmother in no way invalidates that observation! :-)

I remember with pleasure my first ever typewriter purchased at a flea market in Flemington Road Melbourne for 20 bucks in 1971. An ancient Royal with all the idiosyncracies that go with age. That typewriter had at least as much personality as any 50 year old! It dropped it's aitches with a regularity that would have shamed a cockney stereotype. It also had a problem with apostrophes as I recall; that key was a trifle bent and one got only the right hand half of the character.

But I reckon it was one of the best expenditures of 20 bucks I ever made if you consider that these days I'm a software developer. It amazes me to this day that so few developers can touch type. The keyboard is our most fundamental tool after the brain; why does no one think it a reasonable skill to aquire?

I sat down with my Royal and my sisters typing textbook in October of 1971 and spent a couple of months doing the exercises. I think I've already blogged about that but what the hey.

I'm only an average typist; I don't aspire to the hundreds of words a minute sphere but I certainly don't need to look at the keyboard even if I'm stabbing at ~ which is way over there <-----

I can certainly type as fast as I think :-)

Later I graduated to an IBM selectric; easily the best keyboard I've ever used. I spent an obscene (for 1976) sum of money on a secondhand model including an italic font typeball. It would sit there humming happily away (obviously it knew the tune but not the words boom boom) waiting for someone to type. It had a way of kicking back on the key when the typeball hit that's hard to describe but very satisfying. You 'knew' that you'd typed a word from the physical feedback.

I was so happy with the selectric that I even purchased a repair manual for the machine just so I could understand how it worked. The mechanics (long since forgotten) were as impressive as the machine itself was. One of 1957's best products in my not so humble opinion.

The move to the PC keyboard happened in gradual stages and, given that it happened in the very early 1980's when one was more concerned with the 'new' technology than the ergonomics of a keyboard it was an easy seduction. But I've never ever had a computer keyboard that could compare to that selectric!

I have no memory whatsoever of what happened to either typewriter. Did I give them away? Did I sell them? I honestly don't remember.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The icing on the cake

I've had a love hate relationship with Dallas Texas.

A trifle over ten years ago I spent two months living here and whilst I'm not prepared to go into the detail it was not, shall we say, a good experience. When I left Dallas on that occasion I was quite sure I'd never see the place again!

Uh huh. In the last year and a half I've been here what, nine times? Ten? I've lost count and I'm too bloody lazy to go back through the blog to get the count.

I'm quite warming to the place. I won't go quite so far as to say I want to live here but I'm finding the place much more congenial than I expected. When my wife came over for a weekend last February I quite enjoyed playing the role of the local as I drove her around the Plano area in search of dinner.

The young lady at the hotel checkin desk yesterday made a brave and almost successful attempt at remembering my name. Certainly she knows the face by now. What nightmares she must endure!

On that February weekend we discovered that cigarettes are quite a bit cheaper here than in Phoenix. Why? *shrug*. Sales tax can't account for a 25% difference.

Well whatever, I'd forgotten about the price difference when I ran out of smokes tonight and went to the local Albertsons supermarket. Ordered a carton (and I note that the guy went to the individual packet[^] and then corrected himself and said 'carton, right?'). When he rang it up and it came to only 28 bucks I said, 'well if that's the price I'll have 2 cartons of those and 2 cartons of Marlboro Ultra Lights' (my wife smokes those). He asked, 'is that a good price for you?' Damn straight it is; it's 38 bucks where I live.

Am I now a cigarette smuggler? No idea. There's probably some obscure law somewhere not enforced since the 1930's covering the carriage of cigarettes across state lines. Hmm, that'd make it an FBI matter and I'm about to undergo an FBI background and security check. Nah, posting here won't matter. There must be dozens of Rob Mandersons from Australia living in Phoenix and commuting to Dallas. :-)

But for right now the 25% price difference is just the icing on the cake!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The mans prayer

Many years ago, when I was married to Sue, I was rather unwilling to go shopping with her. I'm consciously trying to stop generalising so I'll resist the temptation to add 'like most men'.

It wasn't shopping with Sue per se; it was what seemed at the time a monumental waste of time. To be honest, even today, whilst I rather enjoy shopping with my wife (Sue, stop spluttering!* :-) ) it can be quite the trial of patience to wander through the Womenswear section. It has, for me, much the same fascination that I imagine my wife would feel in a CD shop watching me listen to three different performances of Bruckners Second Symphony in order to find just the right one!

In other words, the sight of rack upon rack of skirts, frocks and fru frus just doesn't excite my interest and it can be difficult to tell just exactly what it is that my wife notices in this skirt that wasn't in that one!

You understand that I'm the bloke who walks into a shoe shop when my old shoes are so far gone that they'll disintegrate if worn for one day more and buys the first pair he sees. Heinos wife made me buy a replacement pair when I was staying with them on my second visit back to Australia in September 2003! I'm in my third pair since then!

I used to piss Sue off by taking a book with me when she dragged me, kicking and screaming, on yet another shopping expedition. She'd be inside shopping to her hearts content and I'd be standing ostentatiously outside reading. The ostentation came from making sure she knew how bored I was. What a bastard I was!

Peta, my second wife, had it a little easier; we learn with time and repeated stimuli. But it did annoy her when I'd see a sign that said Menswear and I'd say 'yeah, they sure do!'. Well, she laughed the first time but by the 500th repetition it must have grated on her nerves. Just ask Heino how often I can repeat a joke!

* The mans prayer, courtesy of Red Green[^]!

I am a man,
and I can change,
if I have to,
I guess.

One thing about travel

You get to drive an amazing array of rental cars.

As always I'd booked ahead for an economy car, nominating an expected pick up time between 7 and 8 PM.

I don't use this rental car company by choice; we have a corporate deal with them. And why with this particular company? Because they're cheap!

I fronted up at the desk right in the middle of the nominated pick up range only to be told that they don't have an economy car available, I have to settle for something bigger but at the same price. I should think so!

I ended up with some Dodge model (I'm pretty sure the badge artwork is Dodge) but fortunately NOT a Durango[^]. If I sound a trifle vague it's because I really have no idea what brand or model it is. It's just big and cumbersome with seating for about 8 people. *shrug*

Monday, June 05, 2006

Album Art

I'm way old enough to remember the days when a new album came out on 12 inches of vinyl and the sleeve was almost as important as the record it enclosed. When Sgt Peppers came out in 1967 we were almost as interested in the sleeve as the record itself.

Later, in 1970 and 1971, the sleeve held another importance for me; there it was that I read a scholarly screed, continued on disc 2, of the social context into which Mahler's 9th symphony fit. Well, at least according to that particular sleeve note writer!

As a historical note; that first copy of the ninth I ever owned fit onto three sides; the fourth side didn't have a filler. It had a groove to be sure but it recorded a 440 Hz sinewave. Yes, of course I played it even if the label on that side was defiantly blank. Should I admit I played it more than once? I think not! :-)

The change to the CD form factor was not kind to those of us who are advancing in years. Back in 1982 I could read em but I can't these days without a magnifying glass. Of course I have no LP's to hand so I'm not sure I could read those either!

As you well know I've been converting my ancient CD collection into WMA's living on multiple hard disks and soon to be on a portable media player! The one crawling its way to me even as I write has enough storage space for 1600 CD's at the encoding level that I find works for me, which is, when you think about it, a heck of a lot of music. It's also a major logistical nightmare in sorting.

Ah, but the buggers inventing this stuff are way ahead of us :-) It's been a learning process for me as I prepare for the prospect of carrying my entire music collection on a device smaller than the pack of smokes I'm used to carrying. Get the tags right and you can find anything you want.

Part of getting the tags right is to get the album art right. As word oriented as I am I cannot see the cover to Sgt Peppers and not instantly know that 'Being for the benefit of Mr Kite' is there. It's burned into my neurons!

I use that example as one that anyone my age would instantly know. I'd be surprised if anyone else recognised a description of the album art for the Chandos recording of Bax's 1st symphony. I would though. Which is why I've spent a lot of time recently downloading and associating album art with the album.

Initially I used the support built into Windows Media Player. Mostly it works well but there were one or two albums where, even though it showed the correct covers, it stubbornly refused to actually download them to the hard disk. Copyright issues? If that's the case then at least they should display a message to that effect.

So I went searching and found a freeware app that does a good job of automating the process. Along the way I discovered that one can use Google to search for images! Hey, I have my areas of interest and you have yours. I learned something today! :-)

First app I tried only works with iTunes. The fastest uninstall in the Southwest! The second app Art Fixer for WMP and MCE[^] did the trick very nicely. I am now down to less than five albums of 400 with no album art.

To get to that level with my collection required a bit of fudging. If no art exists out there on the net for Bertholdt Goldsmiths 'Early and Late' string quartets (a birthday present from Sue about a decade after we divorced) then maybe album art for something else I don't have but that does contain the composers name would work.

Of course this doesn't work for Sgt Peppers; for that album only the correct art will work, but then again, Sgt Peppers album art is available everywhere. Even on Microsoft.

Cutting it fine

As you know I've lodged an application for naturalisation as a US Citizen. If I can't bring myself to spell the word 'naturalisation' with a Z I'm not sure I'm the ideal candidate but I'm hoping they'll let that little eccentricity slide!

Today we checked the mailbox and found a couple of missives from The Department of Homeland Security. Yup, US immigration is now a sub-department of DHS.

The first missive was an acknowledgement of receipt of my case (and more importantly, my fee!) and the advice that I should expect to hear from them within a year. Oh, they also noted that I had failed to include a required piece of evidence; said evidence being a completed fingerprint card.

That particular failing for an application lodged in 2006 isn't fatal; indeed it's impossible to include it in the initial application. They even note that completed fingerprint cards dating after some day in 1997 would not be accepted. *shrug*

Then I opened the second missive. This was a scheduled appointment to have my fingerprints taken. I had a fingerprint taken in March 2005 at my greencard renewal but that was only my right forefinger.

Becoming a citizen requires much more than a single digit. According to what I've read on the 'net (backed by my experience of being fingerprinted for the Australia wide criminal background check required of Australian intending immigrants) this particular fingerprinting session will involve all ten digits, my palms and that part of the hand from wrist to little pinkie!

I'm told it's done electronically these days; I sure hope so. After that Australian fingerprinting session back in April 2002 it took me a couple of days to get all the ink off my hands!

Once I'm fingerprinted it all goes off to the FBI and they do a background criminal check. I'd never have imagined I'd be the subject of an FBI investigation.

Well I knew I'd be fingerprinted to within inches of my life but I really had expected that my naturalisation application would take a year to bubble to the top of the pile and only then would they do the fingerprinting thang! So it was quite the shock, accompanyied by that sinking feeling in the stomach, to see that I was required to attend, in Phoenix, on Thursday next. I'll be in Dallas that day and they note that failure to attend constitutes abandonment of the application and the forfeit of the fee.

Of course there's an out. Check a box or two on the notice and mail it back to them. So I'm hoping that sending it registered mail with a prominent 'Reschedule request' on the envelope does the trick! Pointless to take it there in person; if you haven't tried to deal with USCIS you have no idea how difficult it is to even enter the building! They won't let you in unless you have a letter from them bearing todays date as the appointment date and even when you have that you have to pass through airport style security. I can see why but it does render it difficult to be certain that my request for a rescheduled appointment reaches them in time.

Cross the fingers time methinks! Care to cross yours on my behalf? :-)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Hotfooting it

Most nights I go for a four mile or so walk. I'm not going to identify my route; the last thing I want is for Harold to be waiting for the long haired middle aged commy pinko bastard so he can descend with a right wing tract :-) Just kidding Harold.

I have it timed almost to the second by now and I carry my mobile phone so I can be sure I'm on schedule. 3 minutes to walk from the apartment to point A. 12 minutes from there to point B. And so on. It takes exactly 46 minutes.

I also have it timed to light up a smoke at defined points. I seem to have made a habit of this[^] over the years!

Yesterday (Friday) we broke the record for the highest temperature for June 2, a record set in 1977. Yep, we hit 110 F. Today was pretty much the same though, given it's a Saturday and I was at home where I can smoke indoors, I noticed it rather less. The anti-smoking Nazis can try all they want but the truly dedicated smoker will endure even direct sunlight at an ambient temperature of 110 F rather than give in!

Truth be told, even if it's 110 F I quite enjoy strolling back and forth as I smoke; always have and probably always will.

It's still early summer (indeed the yanks don't yet consider it to be summer; for some reason midsummer day is the *start* of summer here) so it cools down a little after sunset. Last night I checked the midnight temperature; it was only 92 F!

So off I set for tonights walk. Nice balmy weather, a little breeze. Almost the perfect conditions to sit outside with a glass of red wine to hand and shoot the breeze.

I didn't allow for the concrete footpaths! A quarter of the walk done and whilst the rest of me was doing fine my feet felt more than somewhat warm! That concrete really wanted to share the energy it'd stored during the day!

I can be a stubborn bastard when I choose and tonight I chose. Half way through the walk it felt like I was walking over hot coals. Of course, by that point there was no point in turning back.

I'll finish with the observation that I've seen socks in the washing machine that were drier than mine when I got home and took off my shoes. I fear I'm going to have to eschew long walks during the summer months!

Saturday, June 03, 2006


is a word that's always appealed to me.

Go to google and type in 'define mellifluous'; choose the first link[^].

That defines it perfectly; 'pleasing to the ear'.

A pity the word's not better known. I drop the word into general conversation maybe once a month when it's most apposite and it never fails to elicit a puzzled response. *shrug*

Maybe I should do a word a month kinda thing. Then again, perhaps it'd be better if I didn't :-)

That'd be right!

You'll remember back in March when I wrote about ordering[^] an MP3 player using frequent flyer points. You'll further recall that I've written more than once about it taking much longer to arrive than was hinted at when I ordered it.

I finally got the email I've been waiting for from United Airlines; it shipped today! About bloody time though it's not UA's fault; Toshiba took forever to release the model.

When I first wrote about it I predicted that it'd arrive when I was travelling and yes, you guessed it, I'll be travelling. According to UPS it should be delivered on Wednesday. On Monday I'm going to Dallas for a week.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Wallace and Gromit

I saw the first Wallace and Gromit[^] short 'Claymation' movie at the Valhalla Cinema, Northcote, Melbourne, sometime around 1991 at a festival of short movies. The other movies tried valiantly but 'A Grand Day out' beat em all by more than a fair margin! Who could resist the idea of an oven on the moon skiing down one hill and up the next?

When 'The Wrong Trousers' came out in 1993 and appeared on the Valhalla calender in early 1994 I had to be there! We took along a few friends, Peta and I. I'm not sure what they expected but I remember Keith laughing himself silly at the scene where Gromit is inside the cardboard box, cuts a couple of eyeholes so he can see what's going on and, when the camera pulls back to reveal the box, there's a picture of a dog on the side of the carton and the eyeholes are in exactly the right places.

Maybe you have to see a Wallace and Gromit movie to truly appreciate it.

Tonight I treated myself to a rental of Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit[^].

It's a five day rental and this is day one; I'll be watching it at least once more and probably more than that. I say that in order to reinforce that this is a first impression.

How many movies can you parody and expect to get away with it?

The soundtrack reminded me greatly of 'The Lord of the Rings' though they managed to weave Holst's 'The Planets' and Elgars First Symphony into it. King Kong throughout the climax and a bunch of references to 'A Close Shave'. Remember those scenes from the original 'The Italian Job' with the minis driving through the sewer system in Milan? Yep, that's there too :-) There were one or two other movies I picked at the time that escape my recollection; I'm getting old :-)

I love the attention to detail in these movies. There's a scene where one of the characters is drinking a cup of tea; she pours the tea into a translucent bone china cup. Then a cut to an 'over the shoulder' shot of the same character drinking from the cup. You can see the darkness where the tea would be if it were a real actor. Given that this is frame by frame animation of real objects it's really amazing to see.

A lesser director might have opted for a non-translucent tea cup and no one would have been any the wiser. That Nick Park went for bone china and the need for that telltale darkness says volumes. But then again, a lesser director could not have created such a wonderful set of movies in the first place!

On the dangers of telling your boss you have a blog

and giving him the URL.

My office desktop computer is a Dell. Slow as a wet week despite having a Pentium 4 HT at 2.8 GHz. It has 512 Megs of memory and when I'm trying to debug interprocess communication problems (our software does a lot of that) I can see the hard disk light on continuously as it pages memory in and out. One copy of VC6 and two copies of VS2003 with all symbols loaded pushes memory usage! Once the commit charge exceeds physical memory it behaves like it had a SC/MP[^] as the CPU!

Sometime in January I requested an upgrade to a gig of memory. Cheap enough even at Dell prices but it's taken nearly 5 months so far and the memory still hasn't happened. Of course the request has to go to Singapore, be approved and return but even so; I think the last slow boat to China sailed decades ago!

So today I was deep in the bowels of some mailslot code[^], tracing the creation of a message in one process through a second process to the third and the machine was running like a dog that died last week.

So I hit up Dave. 'Dave, even if it's 108 F outside my machine runs like frozen honey!'. He was puzzled; apparently the memory upgrade had been approved some time ago and he promised to look into it.

An hour or two later he called across the partitions. 'I know where your memory went!'. 'Where?' I replied. 'The wine has destroyed it!'.

Bastard! :-) I just know he read my post sometime ago about being an alcoholic!