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!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Another anachronism

Actually I'm not sure 'anachronism' is the right word but I can't think what the correct word is. For this isn't about something appearing in the wrong time but rather about something appearing in the wrong location.

I've just been watching Winchester 73[^]. Great film and the first time I've seen it. I've always liked James Stewart[^] in movies made from about 1947 onward; his earlier stuff with Frank Capra[^] leaves me cold but from about Call Northside 777[^] onwards he was good. In Rear Window[^] and Vertigo[^] he was great.

Truth to tell I've tended over the past 30 years to avoid Westerns. I had the usual childhood fascination with Westerns to be sure and I always hated it when I was chosen to be an 'injun' in the playground. Much more fun to be a cowboy and get to win (as the cowboys invariably did). Not much glory in having a tyke point his finger at you, shout 'bang bang, you're dead' and feeling obliged to fall to the ground!

With a background like that the Western started to feel like a thing of one's childhood, to be put away in adulthood and perhaps remembered indulgently.

Absolute bullshit of course! The first cracks in that theory came from seeing The Ox-Bow Incident[^].

Even so, it took me a long time to come around to the genre. I still avoid John Wayne[^] like the plague though that probably has more to do with his politics than anything else.

Moving to the Southwest USA helped rekindle my interest in Westerns. It's amazing how many Westerns have been shot here in Arizona. The second full weekend here after I moved we, Sonya and I, set off for a short tour of Southern Arizona, through Tucson to Tombstone[^], thence to Bisbee and a drive along the US Mexico Border. I don't think there's anyone in the English speaking world who hasn't heard of Tombstone Arizona (and many in the non English speaking world will also have heard of it).

Having been to Tombstone I always get a chuckle when I see the 'classics' supposedly shot there but showing Monument Valley[^].

So to tonights movie. The action commences in Dodge City, Kansas[^] on the centenary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4 1876. The action moves (in a matter of days) to Texas which, even in 1876, would have been possible. Some more action and a couple more days pass and suddenly we're into Saguaro[^] country! Somehow or other the characters have managed, on horseback, to cross the entirety of New Mexico and found themselves in Maricopa County!

It sure looked like this movie was shot in The Valley of the Sun[^]!

I've become a Phoenix boy! Not sure if that's a good thing or not :-)

Monday, August 28, 2006


I've been in the habit, of late when Andrew goes to bed, of saying things like 'goodnight sweetheart'. He always protests 'I'm not sweetheart'. Ok, I can go with that; 'goodnight honey cheeks'. 'I'm not honey cheeks'. And so on...

All in good fun and he takes it so.

Last night (Saturday night) he was at Austins place to play poker. I have to admit that when I first learned that they play for money I was a trifle concerned. They were playing for 50 cent stakes on my kitchen table! He's only fourteen; did we really want him and his mates playing poker for money? But Sonya made a good point; if they're playing poker we know where they are and what they're doing. At least they're not hiding booze under bushes.

Of course she said the same thing about Morgan a few years ago but let's be charitable.

Poor Andrew. He's under much closer surveillance. He's protested more than once that neither Shelby nor Morgan had to put up with what he has to put up with. I'll give the kid his due; when we tell him that we don't want him to become Morgan he understands. I think he's got a good head on his shoulders.

Last night was British Comedy night. A rare and all too precious oasis. In the gap PBS inflicts between programs I had an evil idea. I asked Sonya to hand up the phone. As she said later, she wondered who the heck I was going to call!

When Andrew answered the phone I said:

'In case I forget later, goodnight apple dumpling!'

He spluttered. But I could hear the laughter. He's going to turn out just fine!

Not, perhaps, the answer they were expecting

I've mentioned a few times in the blog that I left school at 15. True enough; 1969 was my last year in full time education.

My move from school to full time work was mostly at the behest of Misery Guts though I can't deny that the thought of having money was attractive. If I'd known just how badly paid a radio apprentice was in 1970 perhaps I'd have put up more resistance to the idea of leaving school. By the time I'd deducted the cost of my weekly railway ticket and the board I was now expected, as a wage earner, to pay, I had about the same amount of money that I'd been receiving from collecting coke bottles and old newspapers!

But it was done and one has to live with the consequences of ones decisions. Thus began a series of attempts to catch up. Ultimately unsuccessful let me state up front. My official education high point is still merely the Australian Intermediate Certificate which is about equivalent to finishing American High School at the end of ones sophomore year. Um yeah, I did finish my trades certificate.

As for why? Entirely my own fault. The world has always been so damn interesting and I never really learned the art of concentrating on the one thing. When one is immersing oneself in German Romantic Music whilst discovering the fascination of cemeteries, writing ones novel (however bad it might be) and learning, belatedly, about the opposite sex, it's hard to concentrate on the specifics of passing an exam.

I've written a bit about Turtle Video in 1975 and how I was involved in planning and talking about making films. Quite a bit more talk than making though we certainly did enough of that.

At the same time I was enrolled in night school trying to get my HSC (Higher School Certificate). I did English and Music appreciation among other subjects. I can't even remember the other subjects! Our novel that year was L P Hartleys 'The Go Between'. I still have my copy from that course. Our Music Appreciation subject was Elgars Cello Concerto.

Oh, and at the same time, I had a full time job to pay the rent. And don't forget that novel I keep harping on about. Someday I may post a chapter or two but only if you promise not to laugh too uproariously!

As I read that back it feels, even to me, like a litany of excuses but I really can't think of a better way of expressing it. Life was 'busy'! So many things to do, to experience, to enjoy!

In the middle of 1978 I became aware that there was the possibility of entering university as a mature age student. Given that I was only 24 at the time methinks the definition of mature was rather loose!

You need to understand that at the time university education in Australia was free except for a student fee of a couple of hundred dollars per year. The rest of the fees were picked up by the taxpayer. Entry was thus totally based on academic potential with little regard to daddy's pocketbook. The student still had to support him or herself; the state wasn't *that* generous.

I applied and sat the entrance exam. Easy! One question presented a set of photographs of the San Andreas fault in California and asked for some educated guesses about what would happen if a catastrophic shift occurred.

Another question presented a passage from an essay by George Orwell. Given that I'd read that very essay in its entirety the week before and knew the entire context I had no problem. I wish I could remember which passage and which essay it was!

Having passed that exam it was time for the interviews. Thus I fronted up, sometime in October or November of 1978, at Monash University, Melbourne, to be questioned. I can picture it to this day; academics who I initially mistook for professors (fat chance). Methinks it much more likely they were post graduate students and tutors.

But they'd done their homework and knew my application at least as well as I did. I'd applied for arts/law and they went down that track. A lot of talk about this and that (again I don't remember the details). And at one point one earnest young woman maybe a decade older than I was asked the killer question.

'What novel have you read in the last year that most impressed you?'.

She was ill prepared for my answer.

'Portnoys Complaint[^]' was my reply (what, you thought I could go a post this long without a link???).

Some embarassed laughter.

I was accepted as a student!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Blogs as Art


Here's[^] the site that generated this diagram using my blog as the source data.

Idea stolen from Vern[^] who got it from someone else who got it from someone else...

Um, yeah, the different dot colours mean different things but frankly I don't much care how many [div] tags my blog contains. It's not like most of those are under my control anyway. So let's just sit back and enjoy the image without trying to impose too much meaning on it, eh.

Alban Berg as filler???

I'd never have thought of Berg's Violin Concerto[^] as filler material.

Yet it seems that it has become so.

I'm *still* tweaking the tags in my music collection and I noticed that I have no fewer than 7 different recordings of the Berg. Yikes! I like the concerto but that's going way over the top.

In my heyday I once had, on LP, three recordings of each of Gustav Mahlers[^] 9 Symphonies, plus the only recording available of the incomplete 10th. But that was then and this is now and I've contented myself with just the one recording of each on CD save for my favourite, the 6th, which I do have in three different recordings.

But seven recordings of the Berg??? It came about like this.

First recording bought specifically to get the Berg. Second recording (actually I don't remember the order) paired it with Stravinsky's Violin Concerto. Third recording paired with Benjamin Brittens Violin Concerto. Fourth recording paired with Richard Strauss's Violin Concerto. And so on.

It's almost as though a 'difficult' concerto has become a badge of honour; every soloist 'must' have his recording. Not that I'm complaining; it's a damn fine piece of music and I do enjoy hearing the differences between performances!

Stupid Drivers

laws are on the books here in Arizona. Yeah, I know the sentence is awkward but I wanted to use 'Stupid Drivers' as the title.

I reckon the laws ought to target drivers stupid enough to be doing 70MPH down the freeway in the innermost lane who notice that the exit they wanted is 50 yards away and do a sudden right veer across three lanes of traffic! Scares the crap out of me when they do stunts like that. I'm sure it's no coincidence that the daily traffic reports contain so many freeway rollover accidents. It's definitely no coincidence that I avoid the freeways here as much as possible!

But no, the Stupid Drivers laws refer to situations where a driver ignores a sign warning not to enter low lying areas during a flood, gets into trouble and needs to be rescued from the flood. Said driver can be made to pay the cost of the rescue.

The first time I saw the sign 'Do not enter when flooded' in the dip just after Tatum Blvd crosses Lincoln I scoffed. This is Arizona; how could it possibly flood? That was my first year; I hadn't seen what a sudden downpour can do here.

The weather today was amazing! Thunderstorms at 7:30 AM moving North. At 8, having a smoke outside just before the first teleconference of the day, it felt positively wintry at a mere 80 degrees F! Lightning, rain, wind, half the sky dark!

I managed to miss most of it due to the aforementioned teleconference but news radio was full of stories of Stupid Drivers[^].

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I knew they'd call em biscuits somewhere

You know about biscuits versus cookies right?

I understand we have the Dutch immigrants on the US east coast to thank for the word 'cookies' being used to refer to sweetened baked thingies that are harder than bread but not quite hard enough to break your teeth.

If Americans use the word cookies for that comestible it leaves the word biscuit free for other uses. Thus the thing that elsewhere might be called a scone is a biscuit here. Most confusing first time around.

Let's not even consider crackers!

Being a bit of a stirrer (who me?? Never!) I make much of the nomenclature difference. I'll never use the word biscuit in the correct context. If Andrew wants to eat Oreos fine but I insist on calling them Oreo 'Biscuits'. And when Sonya serves beef stew accompanied by 'biscuits' I insist on calling them scones (especially when they're delicious with honey). My long suffering American family are used to me being 'difficult' about certain words and I'm sure that even Andrew has finally learned how to apply context to what I say.

Of course my stubbornness is matched by theirs. If I, an Australian, insist on calling a cookie a biscuit they, as Americans, insist on calling it a cookie. Which is as it should be. I'm hanging onto my culture; they're hanging onto theirs!

Tonight I watched Cause for Alarm[^]. Certainly not a great film but not all that bad either. It wouldn't rate much of a mention were it not for the scene where the little boy from up the street appears and asks for cookies. Loretta Young obliges him and we're treated to a close up of the packaging as he reaches in. And there, in glorious black and white is the label 'Assorted Biscuits!'.

Ah ha!! Gotcha!!!

Nothing would do but that I call Sonya up to see the scene. 'See? I knew that someone somewhere on this continent would call em biscuits!'.

It's the small victories! :-)

The Deaf Man

Sometime in the mid 1990's a new set of telephone services were launched in Australia. Along with the usual suspects such as phone sex, dating and sports scores there was a number you could call to 'The Deaf Man'. 'The Deaf Man' was not a number you'd ever call yourself!

These new services were initially launched as 0055 numbers and, as such, they didn't look a lot different to an interstate phone number. I think they've become 1-800 numbers these days but I'm not sure; if so that's a good thing because it's instantly apparent that it's 'special'.

We used the initial similarity of the number to a 'real' number to good advantage. We'd pick a suitable victim at the office and leave a 'while you were out' note on his desk requesting that he call the number.

Such a conversation would typically go something like this:

Victim: 'Hello, this is so and so returning your call.'

Deaf Man: 'Can you speak up?'

Victim: (A little louder) 'Hello, this is so and so returning your call.'

Deaf Man: 'I'm sorry, I can't hear you'.

And so on. The longer the call went the more The Deaf Man implored the victim to speak up or more clearly or repeat that or... And the longer the call went on the louder and more frustrated the victim became!

Yeah, I was 'got'! How else would I even know about it? Most people in our office were 'got' at one point or another. One woman, not the brightest penny in the purse, was 'got' about 5 times before she understood the joke!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Much ado about nothing

You'll remember that a few weeks ago we spent some time in Niagara Falls[^].

We started on the US side of the river which is, surprisingly, much the downmarket side of the resort. I think that's because you really can't see the falls in all their glory from the US side; you need to be on the Canadian side of the river to see Horseshoe falls properly.

We didn't know that when we planned the trip but it seemed natural to allocate some time on either side of the border. Andrew in particular was excited at the prospect of visiting a foreign country. He's apparently been to Rocky Point (Puerta Penasca) in Mexico but he doesn't count that since he was two years old at the time and has no recollection of it.

However, in the light of various problems I've had reentering the US since my greencard renewal[^] I was reluctant to simply try and criss cross the border in the way that an American can. Yeah, the law changes at the end of this year and soon even yanks will need a passport but at the moment if they 'sound' right and have a drivers license (in Andrews case a birth certificate) that's all the documentation they need.

I could probably manage it if I kept my mouth shut and just flashed my Arizona drivers license but of course that's hoping no one asks me a direct question. There's also the little matter of it being a fraudulent entry, not a minor matter when dealing with US immigration and citizenship. Indeed, falsely claiming to be a US citizen at any time is probably fatal to any future attempt to become a citizen.

Nope, my only option, legally and morally, was to present my passport and greencard when attempting to reenter the US. Hence the decision that we'd cross the border just once in each direction. Actually I was ok with the idea that Sonya and Andrew could criss cross to their hearts content but in the event that didn't happen.

Crossing into Canada was almost too easy. Country of citizenship? Show em my greencard and they were happy. Not their problem. You understand that if attempting an entry into Canada without Canadian citizenship they naturally want some kind of assurance that you can leave again. A greencard that appears to be valid is 'good enough'. By the time I get to US immigration to validate myself using that greencard I'm on US territory and the US's problem. I reckon showing a Commonwealth passport didn't hurt a bit! :-)

Thus a day or two spent in Canada enjoying Leek and Salmon pie[^]. What a pleasure to be in a place where distances are measured in Kilometres and where freeway exit signs use 'Sortie' as well as 'Exit'. :-) Fascinatingly enough I note that the emergency services number, at least in Toronto, is 911.

Coming back I was getting a trifle nervous. I had Sonya drive the last few kilometres; that way if I was hauled off to secondary inspection we wouldn't have to do the quick driver swap.

I had my reading glasses and a thick novel ready! No music player; when in secondary they work their way down the list of inspectees and call out your name; fail to answer and they quickly pass on to the next name and you can triple your time there. Believe me, you ain't walking out of there without someone escorting you past security!

Oh, and some instructions to Sonya. When we stop and the guy asks for country of citizenship identify Sonya and Andrew in that order and then point to me and say Australian. No point in confusing the guy by blurting out Australian first!

So we get to the inspection point and it all goes as hoped if not expected. American, American, Australian. I hand over my passport and greencard. A quick visual scan of both and he handed em back and we were cleared through! Phew!!!

All that worry for nothing!!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

And on a lighter note

Joe couldn't take much more of his blind date. Luckily, he had arranged for a friend to ring the restaurant at nine with an excuse for him to leave.

Sure enough, he was called to the phone on the hour and returned to tell his date, " I've got to go. My father's died."

"Thank god for that," the date replied. "If yours hadn't, mine would have had to."

A leg pull

So Guy[^] decides he's going to take the piss[^]. He posts this[^] to which I responded with a simple question 'Que??'.

Yeah I could have used BabelFish[^] to translate but it was more fun to play Manuel[^]!

I could cut and paste more links but it's easier if you go read the comments on his post. It'll give Guy a few more hits and believe me, his blog needs all the hits it can get! :-) I still think this post will come close to a personal record for the number of links!

Verns final comment ends with this pithy observation...

Oh, and Rob; Guy is full of excrement... But we knew that already!

I don't need no steenking BabelFish to translate mierda :-)

Enough is enough

and I'm sure you're as tired of the subject of Morgan as I am.

Reading over what I've written on the subject over the last couple of days I conclude that it's becoming an unhealthy obsession. If I must have unhealthy obsessions so be it but methinks it's probably better for all of us if they involve obscure early 20th century composers and the number of stars[^] on the US flag.

So if I start writing about Morgan at that level of vituperation again someone please come and kick my arse! We all have better things to do with our time!

Monday, August 21, 2006

$1800 bail

They caught the bastard[^] last night!

The bastard is of course the man who may or may not be Ryans father. TBFH (Morgan) has no idea if he is or not though a non legally binding DNA test was run a month or so ago that indicates he probably is. How curious that neither side wanted to do a legally binding test!

My sympathies to Ryan. Of course, my sympathies with Ryan extend to the identity of his mother. I reckon I'd cry if Morgan was my mother too!

Anyway, last night (Saturday night), a motorcycle was stolen by the bastard. Through whatever magic the Phoenix Police effected an arrest and he found himself in gaol.

It's at about this point that you'll start to understand just how ill-equipped I am to cope with TBFH. You see, I reckon that if I was involved, romantically or not, with a woman who was a known drug dealer and small time fence and who had just stolen a motorcycle I'd think it was time to cut my losses and walk away. I'm just not mentally prepared for life in prison and being Bubbas bitch.

But it seems I'm out of tune; when Morgan found out early this afternoon it was all tears and flapdoodle[^] and nothing would do but she had to have the car. She lied of course; the car was needed so she could go buy some textbooks for the post-high school course she'll never complete and Mom bought the story hook line and sinker. Ryan was left with us.

Half an hour passes during which Mom preens herself, secure in the knowledge (remember we didn't know he'd been arrested) that the little princess is 'doing the right thing!'.

Then the phone rang. 'Mom, I have no idea where I am'. A little questioning and it seems she was trying to find the gaol on (I'm a little vague here because I really don't know the exact address of the gaol) Jefferson. Mom lets this go. I, hearing the word Jail (and spelling it in my head and here as gaol) don't let it go. 'She's looking for what????'. It's about this time that the sordid story of a stolen motorcycle comes out...

A little later the phone rings again. This time TBFH is down at I10 and Elliot. This is maybe 5 miles from the gaol on the other side from here (and damn close to the office I work in). I drive through there everyday. So she's lost. She's lived here three times longer than I have but she's lost? So Mom tells her to get onto I10 West and take the I17 North exit. Go to loop 101 East and she'll be back here. Uh huh.

The phone rings *again*. This time she's at the junction of I10 and loop 101 which is about as far to the west as you can get and still be on that part of the world map that is dotted as Phoenix. Oh and she ran out of petrol. And she's locked the car but the keys are inside!!!

It was at about this time that I exploded. Mom is no longer in any doubt whatsoever about how I feel about TBFH. Not that she was before!

What happened in the next hour is something I can't accurately relate; something about the bastards mother picking up a spare set of keys from here though I certainly didn't see her, so she could drive to the other side of the valley and release the car.

Then followed another hour or two punctuated by phone calls as TBFH got more and more lost in a city that is laid out on a grid and has freeways that are logically laid out. Somehow or other she found herself back at I10 and Elliot.

It was about this time that Sonya tried to hand the phone to me since I know the route from there back to here much better than Sonya does. I wouldn't touch that phone for less than a million dollars! I relayed the directions; I10 West to the SR143, go to MacDowell, left to 44th street and follow it north. Eventually you'll hit Tatum and get back here!

So eventually TBFH got back to here. I'd have been much happier if she'd got back to 2 miles east of here; where Dad lives but I'm stuck with Mom's insane belief that TBFH can be saved by praising the rare moments when she shows commonsense.

Thus to dinner. I did the underpants on the head thing given that it's Sunday. Dinner over it was sanity time; I stuck my headphones on, selected a symphony (Bruckners 2nd) and went for my nightly walk.

Returned just in time to find Sonya preparing to drive TBFH and Ryan to the courthouse! TBFH just *had* to be there when the bastard was arraigned! He was granted bail in the amount of $1800.

The last I heard the bastards mother was rallying for the bail money. I made it very clear that we will not donate one cent!

Flight 93

the film[^] cropped up on A&E last night. Arts and Entertainment? You have to understand that even after 52 years on this planet I still expect descriptions to match reality. I wouldn't think a film about September 11 2001 would fit either the Arts or the Entertainment description.

You'll note that the link calls the film United 93 but it was called Flight 93 on the TV broadcast.

As a movie it wasn't as hard to watch as I'd expected. I think I've become inured to fictional depictions of swarthy hijackers attacking All American boys.

I think I react to this movie in a different way than an American would. The imminence of my becoming a US citizen notwithstanding there are some gaps that are unbridgeable and I fear I will never react to some things in quite the same way that a native born citizen would. Perhaps that's another way of saying that citizenship or not I'll never be a true American. There'll always be those 48 years living in Australia to remind me that I'm still a Stranger in a Strange Land.

I have to agree with Laura[^] (Laura, you really have to change your setting for comments - it's bloody hard to isolate the page link :-) ) that, as a movie, it was somewhat pointless. It's not as though we don't already know the official story.

Indeed, when I mentioned to Sonya that I had the movie on the HTPC and asked if she wanted to see it before I erased it she made the comment 'I don't like watching movies when I know the end; and especially not when it's such a bummer of an ending'. Well, that's one view from an American though I note that she thinks The Lion King[^] is a great movie so I reckon we've got her number! :-)

What we got was the usual bad guys and heroics. I did find it interesting that the hijackers were portrayed tying red ribbons around their heads in a manner reminiscent of the way Ken Ogata[^] did in the lead up to his Hari Kari scene in Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters[^]. Pure fantasy of course; I've seen no reference to red headbands in the popular media and we really don't know what took place on that plane that day.

In what I take to be a repudiation of the current US administrations invasion of Iraq the most famous line is understated. If you believe the Bush administrations portrayal Todd Beamer[^] ran toward the cockpit shouting 'Let's roll!!!!'. In the movie it's almost whispered by a man who finds himself in a situation from which he cannot escape.

I can relate to the movie portrayal much more easily than I can to the administrations portrayal.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A truer word was never spoken

Tonight we had the 'pleasure' of a visit from TBFH (The bitch from Hell aka Morgan, my 18 year old step-daughter).

You'll remember that a month ago[^] I was beside myself with joy at the thought of her moving out however short the pleasure might have been. The pleasure has been prolonged almost beyond belief.

I have no idea how Dad, who has, to date, ducked his responsibilities completely, has been coping nor do I much care. As long as TBFH is not living here I'm happy!

You understand that a month ago she didn't move out to live with Dad; she moved out to live with some friends who found her somewhat less attractive in the reality of 24 hours a day than she'd been up to then. In short, she was evicted, baby and all. Disbelief! How could the centre of the universe be evicted??? Thus has reality hit the 'little princess'.

Some pointed words by yours truly convinced her to try Dad before returning, tail between her legs.

Cruel? Probably. Careless? Probably. But she aint the progeny of my loins and I owe her the loyalty I'd owe a stranger. Most strangers would come higher on my list.

I'd think it's pretty clear I don't like her. She returns the sentiment.

So tonight she was at dinner. It took a bit of convincing to get Sonya to agree that if TBFH wanted to eat at our expense she should have the decency to sit at the dinner table. In short, I'm not going to put up with her dropping in at her convenience, take food and run. She wants support from us she pays the price and the price is that she treats us like family.

It costs me too! I have to sit at the same table as the spawn of the devil. Believe me, it's not easy listening to someone who acts as though her shit doesn't stink on a hot summer day and keep my mouth shut! But I love my wife and if that's what it takes to keep them both happy I'll bite my tongue and not tell the little princess what I really think of her!

So there we were tonight showing the barest vestiges of being a family. Andrew, Sonya and I do very well at being a family. Add in Shelby and her new husband Matt and we've got the makings of a very happy family group indeed. Throw in TBFH and you can hear everyone's teeth grinding with a sound reminiscent of chalk on a blackboard!

Andrew was talking about his first week at high school; complaining about having to learn spanish. TBFH rattled off a few phrases in that language; I reckon I understood maybe half of them. Which was maybe twice as much as Andrew understood. He excused himself by pointing out that it was Saturday and he'd 'learned nothing' today.

That'd be right!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Apparently I'm evil

How evil are you?

Though I suspect it doesn't matter how you answer!

Getting sidetracked

Well, I had planned to write something tonight. Quite what wasn't yet set in concrete. That's the great thing about blogging; it's license to write the most atrocious rubbish!

For reasons I no longer remember I did a Wikipedia[^] search on Flinders Street Station[^].

Nearly three hours, two symphonies and some David Bowie later, I surface. My god! I'd totally forgotten about long since closed railway stations called Paisley[^] and Galvin. I did remember White City[^]. Quite the walk down memory lane!

I think I've already confessed to travelling the entirety of the Melbourne Suburban Railway Network as it was was in 1970. Sunday afternoons in the winter months with a Science Fiction novel in my pocket and a weekly ticket to Flinders Street. Once there (we didn't have the zone system in those days) I'd buy a return ticket to whatever compass branch took my fancy and ride to the end.

I think I've even confessed to the occasional furtive peek up a young ladies dress, in the days of the miniskirt as a fashion statement.

But I never told you about the peanut clusters! Uh huh. There used to be vendors who'd sell peanut clusters by weight at Flinders Street. That seems to be a concept long since lost except at Myers[^], and it may even be lost there; I haven't had the chance to check for a couple of years. I'd buy half a pound of em, served in a paper bag.

So one afternoon in the winter of 1970 I boarded a train at Flinders Street Station. Safely ensconsed in my seat in the smoking section, waiting for departure, without the possibility, of a Sunday, of being glared at by a creature of habit[^] I settled in, mouth filled with peanut clusters! How embarassing then to have a railway employee about my age open the door and tell me that this train 'wasn't going'! Now that might not sound like much unless you know that when I say mouth filled I mean mouth filled. Not capable of speech. Drool running down my chin. Probably a froth of chocolate!

To make it worse, I recognised him. He'd been a schoolmate the year before.

Friday, August 18, 2006

No news is good news

I was supposed to be spending this evening in Dallas. Dammit, I was looking forward to a plate of Texas Barbecue!

I checked in at the airport way too much ahead of time; I've never seen the security line as short as it was today. No more than a dozen people ahead of me. I'd allowed two hours from arrival at the carpark to commencement of boarding but I reckon I could have done it in 30 minutes.

Of course, the next time, if I think that, I'll miss the flight. Nope, as far as I'm concerned flying is something you just have to devote a couple of hours of time to before even boarding the plane. Having my music player makes it a much more bearable experience. It's amazing how soothing Mendelssohns Third Symphony can be!

The aforementioned symphony finished just as they announced pre-boarding. So I switched the player off and waited for the announcement of first class boarding. Not that I was travelling first class of course but, being a Star Alliance 1K flyer, I get the privilege of boarding at that time. No standing impatiently in the aisle for ten minutes as part of group 6 (the last group) for this little black duck!

I heard my name being paged for an urgent message. It was the boss telling me the meeting had been postponed and not to board the plane. Talk about cutting it close; another 3 minutes and I'd have been onboard!

Ok, so now I go to the desk and tell them I've been told not to board the plane. Perhaps I could have worded it a little better; the expression on her face was indicative of someone suspecting foul play. Or perhaps, with the current level of airborne paranoia I was reading things that weren't there. Whatever. I explained and the first question was 'did you check a bag?'. I confirmed that I had indeed checked a bag.

About this time you're probably thinking the story is going to go to the same place I thought it would at that moment; a flight delayed for half an hour or more while they search the hold for my bag.

Not a bit of it! The next question was 'would you mind leaving your bag on the flight; we'll fly it back and you can collect it later. We'll lose an hour if we try and get it off now'.

So I shrugged and said that was fine. They did the various things needed to take my name off the passenger manifest and ensure my bag would be diverted back to Phoenix.

It wasn't until a few minutes later that I realised the position I was in; or is this another manifestation of airborne paranoia? As I drove home from the office, a little after the flight would have arrived in Dallas, I was listening to the news hoping that I wouldn't hear it had gone down. Because of course, if it had, I'd have the FBI swarming all over me! Think about it, a long haired foreigner with a funny accent checks a bag onto a flight then cancels at the very last minute!

No news was definitely good news!!!

I want my Krispy Kreme

Actually I don't care one way or the other. What is called a donut (sic) here isn't to my taste; I much prefer the jam filled variety served hot from the fryer and rolled in sugar as sold by the roadside on many a country road in Victoria. There's a lesson in care! You have to be careful how you eat one of those; a misplaced bite either squirts the jam down your shirt or straight into your mouth. Of the two outcomes the first is preferable; that jam is HOT!

I noted with interest when I spent a month driving around the North Island of New Zealand that the place to go if you wanted a doughnut was the fish shop! It sounded all wrong, going for a doughnut cooked in the same oil used for fish and chips but man they tasted good!

The Krispy Kreme donut (sic) franchise went titsup here in Arizona last week. When, last Sunday, I mentioned the fact within Andrews hearing he expressed considerable dismay. Given that the last time we actually had a Krispy Kreme would be more than two years ago I expressed considerable surprise.

I suspect my wording might have been more pointed than that but I can't recall exactly what I said. Put on the spot he prevaricated; 'well, I might want one'.

I foresee a lot of junk accumulated in that boys life; I might need that sometime! Been there, done that, threw out a skipful or four... :-)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I aint doing that again anytime soon

unless someone holds a gun to my head! :-)

I hadn't realised quite how many internal links I had from posts to previous posts; all of them needing to be updated to point to the correct post on the mirror. Some smartarse will probably tell me that if I had used 'XYZeds super blog mover' it would have been automatic (I'm looking at you, Vern! :-) ) but I'm not sure anyone could have easily translated into

A most apposite choice of example as that turns out to be the post I've most referenced in later posts; I must have a fetish about Dallas! How appropriate then that I'm going to Dallas again this week for a one dayer; flying out Thursday and returning Friday. I get to experience for the first time the brave new world of liquidless travel!

The only edits I made to posts on the mirror were to change early links to use the CodeProject style[^] that I started using a year or more ago. You reckon I've memorised the html syntax for that? Heck no, I created a dummy post over on CP, inserted a link, copied it to a text file that lives on my desktop.

I resisted the temptation to post edit; as I think I've said before, once I post it I don't go back and change the meaning though I may occasionally correct the more glaring grammatical or spelling errors. Once posted it stands even if I change my mind about something afterward.

One post didn't make it to the mirror; this one[^]. Two reasons; the first is that it makes no sense outside the context of Wdevs[^] (and not much more sense within that context :-) ). The second reason is that I couldn't make the table look right. I'm no html expert.

I'm still deciding whether to hand post all responses; it'll be another week of work and, unlike primary postings, blogger doesn't seem to allow adjusting of the time and date of comments. It'd look very strange for a post from 2004 to have a comment dated 2006 and then a reply from me made, via primary postings, dated in 2004.

I may have mirrored but, as long as Wdevs is alive and kicking and as long as I'm welcome to post there I'll always think of Wdevs as my primary blogging home!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Yep, I've brought the mirror[^] up to date. You know me well enough to know that I won't leave it at just that but at 3 AM I'll content myself with the crow dance of joy and do the obligatory commentary tomorrow! :-)

It's a hard life

if you go by Andrews reckoning.

Today was his first day at high school and one might have imagined, going by the wailing and gnashing of teeth we've endured over the past week, that he was going to his own execution!

Now I get to play curmugeonly old fart. I've waited long enough to get this old and I ain't missing out on the chance of playing the 'kids have it easy these days' game :-)

A few questions yesterday elicited the information that he, over the next year, attends school for 180 days where each day contains precisely 5 hours of classroom time. Geeze, I wish my life could be so easy!

But perhaps I'm being unfair; we did 6 hours a day for something like 260 days of the year but we didn't have homework. Factor that in and it probably evens out.

Of course I couldn't resist asking if they still do 'duckings' these days. I remember being filled with terror toward the end of 1965 as my own entrance to Footscray Tech, a 'tough' school, approached. All kinds of tales abounded about the harsh initiation rituals meted out to the new fish. One tale in particular; it seemed that they maintained a 44 (55 US) gallon drum three quarters filled with urine and each new boy was tossed in head first!

Adult perspective makes it hard to imagine that I ever believed such a tale but I surely did! At ten or eleven we didn't have enough experience to be able to apply plausibility tests; if our elders by two years could describe, with relish, what lay ahead of us we believed!

And of course, a year or two later, when we were in the same position, we retailed the same stories to our younger brothers. I didn't have a younger brother but I didn't let that stop me embellishing my friends descriptions to their younger brothers!

Things don't change[^]. Forty years pass and I can look back on it and see it for what it was and yet I still play the game.

The drum of piss turned out to be a myth but that didn't reduce my fear of a ducking! I reckon I spent most of the first three or four months of school year 1966 in a state of permanent thirst as the only way to avoid having to go to the toilet; only in that way could I avoid the indignity of being tipped, head first, into a toilet bowl and having the flush lever pulled!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Petty revenge

Yesterday I was returning some CD's to the local library. By an accident of timing I happened to drive in just as a woman sauntered down the carpark. The carpark is fairly small and there's not quite enough room for the roadway to be two way; as a consequence arrows are marked quite clearly.

The woman was, of course, sauntering down the middle! Not enough room on either side to safely pass her and she didn't give a damn about anyone else on the planet but herself! When she got to her car she condescended to clear the roadway and I could find my own spot!

A little observation and some timing and I was positioned to saunter, carelessly, down the middle of the roadway as she was trying to drive out!

Petty? Of course! Satisfying? You betcha!!!

Friday, August 11, 2006


I was brought up to eat whatever was on my plate.

I reckon my folks did a pretty good job of gauging what I could consume though; Mum was the one who ladled out the portions and it was mandatory that the plate be completely empty before we were allowed to leave the table. Not a difficult goal to achieve since the portions always seemed smaller than I wanted. The perils of bringing up a family on a very restricted budget.

These days of course I load my own plate and I do a pretty good job of judging ahead of time how much I'm going to want. Maybe once a month I misjudge and find myself full with two mouthfuls of mashed spud left.

Andrew has the luxury of loading his own plate but he *never* gets it right. Little bastard loads up with vegetables he knows he's not going to eat. No amount of browbeating changes him either. Pointing out that he can always go back for seconds if he's still hungry goes in one ear and out the other. Mom doesn't help of course; she cooks way more than any of us could eat whilst maintaining our svelte forms. Thus I'm constantly appalled at the wastage.

Uh huh; I've run into a cultural difference that I doubt I'll ever overcome. Andrew 'knows' that food can be wasted whereas I don't 'know' any such thing.

Here the restaurant portions are almost always at least twice as large as I can comfortably consume and it took quite some time to overcome that feeling of guilt when I'd reached capacity and quite half the food was still left! I never got into the habit of asking for a 'doggie bag' though the rest of the family have no problem whatsoever with the idea of taking half a steak, four ribs, a pile of mashed spuds and some cauliflower home.

And when they get it home what do they do with it? Stick it in the fridge of course! And then, a month later, it gets thrown out because no one ate it! Indeed, I reckon I could count on the thumbs of one foot the number of leftover portions that actually fulfill their destiny in this house! Doesn't stop em bringing them home though! Maybe they feel less guilty by playing the polite fiction. *shrug*

I suppose it could be worse. A friend, years ago, was prowling through his fridge and found some pineapple chunks in a container. When he opened it he was puzzled at the 'mayonnaise' on the pineapple but, with a shrug, he consumed the lot. When his wife got home he commented on the 'mayonnaise' only to be told that it was mold!


I've been putting off doing this for some time now because I reckon it's churlish of me to complain about outages on a service someone else is paying for that I'm using for free.

However, late last month I started the process of mirroring my blog at Blogspot/[^]. I'm a little under half done posting everything I've written and I reckon I won't be finished for another week or more so expect a largish chunk of missing material that will eventually appear.

I don't plan to stop posting at WDevs[^] unless Michael asks me to :-) but I will be posting the same random rubbish on both sites.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A doubly defining question

Ginger or Mary-Ann?

Even knowing what the question means dates you. In the country where they're *still* doing reruns of The Andy Griffith Show on cable TV I'm relieved to note that Gilligans Island seems to have disappeared!


And of course my answer is Mary-Ann! She was double-plus cute!

The oddest things bring it home

I've pretty much become used to living in the US instead of Australia. I still, occasionally, awaken in a cold panic with a 'what the hell have I done?' feeling and, on a more practical note, I still occasionally have to force myself to remember that I really do drive on the right hand side of the road now.

Melbourne doesn't quite feel like home anymore and Phoenix does feel like home.

In short, it's pretty much as I imagine most immigrants feel; friends and familiarity pulling in one direction; friends and family pulling in the other.

Yesterday Australia conducted another census. We (they) do it every 5 years and I've always enjoyed filling out the forms. Last census (2001) there was a box to check which enabled the release of all personal information in the year 2101. If I'm not dead by then I'll want to know the reason why! I was perfectly happy to check that box; any poor bastard who wants to know about me 100 years hence is welcome to the information!

But of course, in the 2006 census I won't be counted. You can fill the form out online[^] this time around but I can't because I don't have the paper forms delivered to an address in Australia and you need two unique numbers printed on those forms to proceed!

There's an unoffical census[^] for the million of us living outside Australia; I've filled that out but it has no official standing.

22 days away from my naturalisation interview to become a US citizen and it takes not being included in the Australian Census to really bring it home that I'm neither micklin nor mucklin right now!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Mickey Mouse!
(Donald Duck!)
Mickey Mouse!
(and so on...)

Even though I loathe and detest Disney and all he stands for I can't help having that song burned into my brain. All those afternoons way back in the dim dark past (circa 1960) watching the Mousketeers sing and prance their way around the stage. Gotta admit I fell for Annette Funicello[^]! :-)

Yesterday we arrived at Chicago O'Hare airport perhaps a trifle too early. Frankly none of us felt like driving around to kill a couple of hours so, after checking out of the hotel, up we fronted ready to check our bags in and while away the time people watching. Of course our flight was delayed an hour! In total we spent five hours in the airport waiting.

Neither my wife nor I were prepared to pass through security straight away; you can't smoke on that side and if you're killing four hours (we didn't yet know the flight was running late) it doesn't really matter which side of security you do it on.

Andrew of course had other ideas. He wanted to be on the other side of security. Fine. He's nearly 15. If he wants to pass through security and sit over there go for it baby!

But nope, he didn't want to be separated from us and yet he didn't want to sit out on the freedom side of security.

Outvoted he pouted. Pouting isn't all that attractive on even the cutest female face; it certainly isn't attractive on a teenage boy! (That's my sexist comment for the year!). So Mom felt she had to do something to cheer him up. Three letters into the chant and I joined in!

Did it cheer him up? Of course not! :-) Extreme embarassment would be closer to the mark! But it sure cheered us up!


You Are 44% Brutally Honest

Honesty is important to you, but generally, you try not to be brutal about it.

You'll sugar coat the truth when you need to... and tell a white lie when necessary.

Hmmm, and here I was thinking I was more brutal than that. Of course it depends on ones audience; I'm much more brutal with Morgan than I would be with a human being...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Friday, August 04, 2006

When I was 18

or thereabouts it used to annoy me that I looked 15. Indeed, as late as 21 I was still being carded in pubs in a state where the drinking age was 18!

I used to console myself with the reflection that I'd be glad I looked younger than I was by the time I was 40.

I reckon, on the basis of the photo of myself I posted[^] yesterday that I've not only caught up with myself; I've overshot!!!!

Ask a stupid question

and get a stupid answer.

Yesterday we toured the Greenfields park at the Henry Ford museum area. Interesting tour provided you're willing to accept that not everything is authentic; they have many scaled down replicas of such things as Thomas Edison's first power station and his laboratory at Menlo Park New Jersey. Scale is relative and if the Menlo Park laboratory is scaled down then thank god; the replica is large enough for any megalomaniac!

Now, being an innocent in this world, I'd have thought that if one was curious about what lay around that corner or up those stairs that perhaps the best way to discover the answer would be to actually stick ones head around that corner, or perhaps mount those stairs. It seems that I'm too conscientious, for yesterday we heard someone walk up to one of the park keepers and ask 'what's up the stairs?'. I loved the answer. 'Up there is the second floor!'.

I reckon it took me a couple of minutes to stop laughing and I'm afraid that perhaps the poor park keeper thought I was laughing at him. I wasn't.

How can one be curious enough to visit a historical park and yet not be curious enough to climb a set of stairs? Beats me!

Adams Ribs

I don't know how other people approach a new city; I can only speak for myself. When the prospect of visiting New York City approached three and a bit years ago I had a thousand places I wanted to go see, most of them preconceived before the tragedy of September 11th. Indeed, had that particular event not occurred the twin towers would probably not have even been on my list; what can one say about a couple of hundred storey towers with little personality? Nope, I wanted to see The Battery, The Dakota, Central Park, The UN building, Greenwich Village, Soho, need I go on?

Of course, visiting New York City after September 11th changed all of that; ground zero was a must visit; and a sobering visit it was to be sure. By the time I got there, nearly two years afterward, it had been cleaned up and yet, as thousands have commented before, it was hard to look up into that empty bit of sky. For a particularly poignant and unexpected take on just one of the thousands of stories, try this[^] episode of Becker. That's TV dramatic/comedy writing at its best!

Well, that's a city I've read about and heard about and the whole nine yards. If I ever get to London there are thousands of places I want to see; Karl Marx's tomb in Highgate Cemetery (and, not so far away, Mrs Henry Woods[^] tomb). She's a mostly forgotten Victorian era writer who never wrote well enough to achieve critical acclaim or even scholarship but I enjoy her works. One day soon I may waste your bandwidth writing more about her!

If I get to Vienna the Ringstrasse and the Vienna Opera House are must visits. Likewise Moskva; Red Square, The Kremlin, Lenin's tomb and so on.

Of Chicago I had rather less knowledge. City of Al Capone and the lower eastside; the St Valentines Day Massacre and Carl Sandburg. I no longer have that volume of Sandburg I picked up cheap in a Williamstown, Melbourne, second hand book shop and I don't remember any specific words from his ode to an Illinois farmer but I can still remember seeing in my mind through his words the wind sighing over a field of wheat that stretched up to the sky!

Well there was one thing I remembered about Chicago and that was the Adams Ribs[^] episode of M*A*S*H. Given that we'd planned this trip half a year ago, about the time I got my HTPC, I decided to record that specific episode so I could go find Adams Ribs, if it existed. Spent a few minutes each night going through the updated 'guide' listings until the right episode appeared. Recorded it and watched it the night before we left (Tuesday last week).

This arvo I walked down Dearborn Street Chicago to the Dearborn Street Station. I record with regret that if Adams Ribs ever existed it doesn't anymore. I never really believed it did exist but I did imagine that perhaps someone would have made it happen. Of course I had the same disappointment 20 years ago this month when I drove into Moscow, Montana and found they didn't have a pub called 'The Kremlin'. Surely someone in the capitalist capital of the world could overcome their ideological scruples enough to cash in on the obvious? It seems not!

One of my regrets[^] on that New York City visit is that I walked right past the New York Public Library and didn't go in. I will have no such regrets this time; I walked past the Chicago Public Library and took the opportunity to enter. Impressive building. On the basis of half an hour walking through it I can't possibly comment on the quality of their collection but until someone proves otherwise I'll assume it's on par!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I had it all planned

Today we drove from Detroit back to Chicago. We're there (here) for the next 4 days what with a family wedding coming up.

Observing on the map that we were going to drive through Kalamazoo I had it all planned. Photo of yours truly before a Kalamazoo sign, a very bad pun on 'I've got a gal in Kalamazoo', the works.

So much for plans, for as we approached Battle Creek Michigan we saw a sign pointing the way to 'Kellogs Cereal City, USA'. How could we resist an attraction like this?


Tasteful no? Sonya tells me that everyone knows the name Battle Creek and associates it with Kellogs. When I pointed out that I'd never heard the name she narrowed it down a trifle; every American knows the name. When I'm feeling in the mood I'll conduct an informal survey and see if that's true.

So we fronted up at the building about 4 PM. The entrance fee of 8 bucks a head seemed a trifle steep for cornflakes but they had an offer we couldn't refuse; last shift gets in half price. 4 bucks seemed much more in order so we signed up for the last tour of the day. It was almost worth it!


We had to endure a video presentation (why is it that every damn tourist site in the entire universe feels compelled to present video?) that was pitched to the intelligence level of a very dull four year old. Toward the end I was about ready to gnaw my arm off at the shoulder and beat someone over the head with the wet end. This is a feeling normally only present at the Tuesday evening phone conference from hell!

As we were herded into the presentation area there was really very little in the way of visual cues to tell us which way we were to face. Backless benches and a couple of small TV screens were it. Sonya sat facing the wrong way! She explained, as the rest of the cattle seated themselves facing the same way, that she was running an experiment in suggestibility; she was quite sure we were facing the wrong way. Uh huh. But she was right and silly the rest of the herd felt when requested to turn the other way!

We got a silly hat each to wear. Andrew refused to wear his. Perhaps this is why!


Mum and I both wore ours and Andrew protested at the humiliation! Poor bastard! Sonya promised to wear hers when we checked in to the hotel but when it came time I had to hold her to the promise. I wore the hat until dinner time :-) and I've decided that henceforth Wednesday dinner time is Cereal City USA on the head time, to match underpants on the head Sunday!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Henry Ford

Today we went to The Henry Ford Museum[^]. We only had enough time to do the factory tour and see most of the museum. Tomorrow we go back to see the Greenfield Village.

I remember reading a history of of the Ford empire half a dozen years ago; fascinating stuff though I fear it was mostly forgotten by the time we arrived here in Detroit. (I note with satisfaction that I *did* remember to return the volume to Heino - if I had a dollar for every book I've ever loaned and never seen again...). It was a history rather than a biography of Henry himself; it covered more than the one generation.

So we did the Ford Rouge Factory tour[^] first.

They ushered us into two theatres, one after the other. In the first we were treated to a potted history of the Ford Motor Company as written by the Ford Motor Company. Sonya said, afterwards, that she could hear me cringe! She wasn't wrong. I was particularly interested in the way they glossed over the transition from the Battle of the Overpass[^] to the grudging acceptance of the Union Movement[^]. Of course I saw that glossing from a leftist viewpoint; you thought I'd see it from a right wing perspective?

The second theatre is billed as a 'multimedia experience'. Maybe 9 screens surrounded us and the seating swivels through 360 degrees. They run the movie, shake the floor and at appropriate times blow various metallic smells into the room or spray the audience with water! Interestingly I noticed that whatever image appeared on the screen to my right was sure to appear right in front of me a few seconds later. When we entered all the seats faced thataway; when we left they mostly still did. I reckon it'd be an interesting experiment to swivel all the seats to point at any abitrary point and see how many of them still pointed that way at the end of a showing!

Personally I found the tour somewhat disappointing. I think the problem is that I know there's *much* more to car production than what we were shown, which is the final assembly. You get to walk about on catwalks suspended 20 or 30 feet above the production floor and what you see is a bunch of people installing speakers into doors. Maybe the fact that I've done that for a living took some of the shine off it but frankly I'd have been much more interested in seeing a block of steel being turned into a cylinder block. That'd be something worth seeing!

I imagine most of the visitors leave imagining they've seen car production in action, with nary a thought toward the incredible logistics involved in the machinery to make it all happen; they focus on the output and don't see the need to have the parts arrive at the correct places at the correct time.

Sonya was amazed at how clean the production floor was. I wasn't :-)

After the tour, which was, don't mistake me, worth seeing, we repaired to lunch and thence to the Museum itself. Now there's a monument to all the piston builders and flywheel spinners that ever lived! Quite brought out the geek in me; especially the nineteenth century steam engines retrieved from nineteenth century British fabric mills. One in particular sticks in my mind; built in 1821 and retired from service in 1929! One can't but think of generations of badly paid workers slaving away to make the mill owners rich! Dammit, there I go again, being a lefty pinko commie bastard! :-)

They shooed us out at 5! 4 hours of sunshine left and the place closes! So we went for a drive in to downtown Detroit. Not the most inspiring downtown I've ever seen and I'm a city boy.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Niagara Falls

I don't have much to say about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I shouldn't think that'd be expected if my first love is classical music. Sufficient that I found the building itself interesting but three hours spent traipsing past costumes used on so and so's tour of outer woop woop in 1972 was probably about two hours more than I wanted to spend.

Sonya enjoyed it immensely though! When we got to the hall of fame itself (a very dimly lit tunnel with signatures etched in backlit glass) she couldn't resist pointing at this signature or that and telling us she has their autograph. (Brian Jones, George Harrison, Sonny and Cher to name a few. She better hope I die first; otherwise I'll flog the lot and retire on the proceeds!)

We took off about noon and drove through the remainder of Ohio, across a teensy piece of Pennsylvania and thence into New York State. I have to show off my knowledge of the geography of that part of the US; my naturalisation interview is 30 days away! :-) More damn tolls! By the look of some of the roads as we approached Buffalo I'd reckon they were built about the time Busby Berkeley[^] was filming Shuffle off to Buffalo[^] which means the poor bastards have been paying tolls forever!

So we checked into our hotel on the US side of the Niagara River, a couple of blocks from the falls. No sooner checked in than we were off to see the American Falls. Pretty impressive. I sure couldn't swim against that current! I doubt you could either.

I got a good shot of sunset from the US side.


We were on the US side. Yeah, we could have walked over the footbridge to the Canadian side; the problem was that what with my greencard snafu last year I wasn't prepared to take the chance of being refused a return that evening. We were going to cross the border just twice. Once at Niagara Falls and again, two days later, at Sarnia.

So we contented ourselves with looking at the bright lights on the other side of the river that night (Friday night).


Next morning we did the touristy things; the Cave of the Winds[^] on the American side first. It's a bit of a misnomer; there ain't no cave. Wind there surely is and lots of water. They make you wear special shoes and a raincover. Naturally Andrew was too cool to wear the raincover. One watersoaked teenager and two relatively dry adults later we jumped into the car and drove to the Canadian side. I reckon we drove 3 kilometres that day!

Then came the Maid of the Mist[^] boat ride. As with the Cave tour they make much of the raincover; Andrew had learned by this time. Wiser lad! We happened to be on the side of the boat that passes closest to the falls and I've never experienced such driving rain! The thing it reminded me of the most is those nineteenth century descriptions of being tied to the mast during a driving storm in the mid-atlantic. No way to keep the water out of your eyes and damn hard to open em against the driving rain.

Of course, afterward when we were on top of the riverbank looking down at the Horseshoe Falls we could see that the boat doesn't get all that close to the falls. It felt a damn sight closer at the time! Well worth the few bucks for the ride!

An exhausting day but do you think the family were content to just experience the falls? Not on your life. Nothing would do but that we had to go walk through the Canadian side nightlife which reminded me of Hollywood Boulevard on steroids and finish up the evening by playing a game of miniature golf under ultraviolet light after dinner! I suppose it takes all sorts.

The saga of the iPod

iPods need recharging, or at least the 30 gig models do. I can't comment on the shuffles and minis; I've never seen one of those.

So we thought to ourselves, given that Andrew would bring his iPod along on this trip, that it might make sense to buy some method of recharging it other than connecting it to this laptop. I don't know if connecting it to an innocent laptop with neither iTunes or an iTunes library might cause the iPod to lose it's collection but it was cheap enough insurance against the possibility of a wailing boy to purchase a car charger.

We've (meaning I've) long since established the principle that we *may* buy him something once but we sure as hell won't buy it twice. In other words, lose it and tough, baby! Thus the handing over of a charger a week or so ago along with the necessary admonishment to take care of it.

Does it come as any surprise that it seems not to have even left the apartment? We were just on the point of leaving Waukegan[^] when he, belatedly, remembered that his charger was in his suitcase. We had a whole day of driving ahead of us so it seemed reasonable to take the opportunity to recharge it. But it was nowhere to be found! Uh huh.

Somewhere during the drive through Indiana we stopped for coffee and there for sale were iPod chargers suited to the purpose. Some calculation took place balancing the twelve or so bucks a replacement would cost against the absolute certainty of 11 days with a flat iPod. I'd have thought it a no-brainer but it seemed as though he were going through the most incredible angst. Need I say that the major source of the angst was that the twelve bucks was coming out of his pocket?? I thought not! :-)

Charger eventually bought we set off and he plugged it in. Somewhat later we stopped again for a coffee, a leg stretch and various other necessities. Locked the car and walked away. When we came back there was the iPod in all its glory, clearly visible to anyone who happened to walk by. Time for a lesson in opportunity cost! So we carefully explained the unwisdom of leaving valuables clearly visible in locked cars. He seemed somewhat unconvinced.

So unconvinced that a couple of hours later he left it in full view again! Another lecture fell upon stubbornly deaf ears. It probably didn't help when I told him that I couldn't care less if they nicked his iPod but I certainly didn't want to have to pony up the excess (deductible) for the insurance cover on the car.

The third time he did it he had the misfortune for me to have noticed it before we left the car. His further misfortune was that he didn't see me noticing! So I pocketed the thing. When we returned to the car loud was the wailing and deep the grinding of teeth. Poor bastard didn't even put two and two together and realise that if the car was locked, unbroken into and both the headphones and the charger were still there it was most likely an inside job!

An hour or so later, just as we arrived at the hotel in Cleveland, I handed it back with the warning that in future I'll confiscate it for a week if he doesn't take better care of it.

Hard hearted of me? Of course. But at nearly 15 I can think of no other way to impress on him that it's time he took responsibility for his own stuff. And a 30 gig iPod ain't a cheap toy by any means!

The other other Melbourne

As a Melbourne boy from way way back it wasn't possible that I could be driving along Highway 401 from London to Sarnia, Canada, see the sign pointing to Melbourne and *not* take a detour.


This makes a total of three Melbournes I've seen so far; the one you all know about, the one in Florida and now the one in Canada. I didn't even know Canada had one!

Nice little town though. Maybe 40 houses, the obligatory petrol station, farming supply house and, quite the surprise, a branch of the county public library[^], occupying one half of a shopfront which, according to the moulding above the doorway, was constructed in 1934. In the shop window they have a bulletin board announcing the latest changes; one is the addition of a drop box so that books can be returned outside of hours! Hours? Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 3 PM to 5 PM.

Ok, that's a trifle sarcastic and such sarcasm is not really warranted; I was very impressed that the county maintains a permanent presence in such a small townlet. I'd be hard pressed to name a Victorian country town of similar size which had a permanent building dedicated to the library.

The pink band on my left arm is the armband they give you at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's been there three days so far and I'm determined to wear it in to the office next Monday! :-)