Thursday, March 30, 2006

Gilbert and Sullivan

It was inevitable that I'd admit that I'm a big fan.

Clever clever words and just as clever music. As I write I'm listening to 'The Gondoliers' which isn't my favourite but the only one I have on CD (and by extension the only one I have ripped on the laptop). I have another CD of highlights but it's not the same as a complete performance.

There was a time when I could sing along with 'The Sorcerer'. I still remember 'Number seventy simmery axe'. ("My name is John Wellington Wells, I'm a dealer in magic and spells') though it's thirty years since those times.

My introduction to G&S was HMS Pinafore in 1976. I was, at the time, a subscriber to 'The World Music Club'. So many LP's per month. My orders were extensive. Rachmaninoff, Mahler, Bruckner, Shostakovich, Nielsen, Beethoven, Scriabin, Khatchaturian. Most of it unheard before ordering. They mailed out a glossy booklet each month listing what was coming in the next year; I'd read and order and, as regularly as clockwork, a new package of LP's would arrive and I'd listen to another new composer. Yep, I'd order as much as a year ahead.

The ABC[^] produced and ran a program during the second half of the 1970's called Certain Women[^] of which I was a fan. One of their stories covered a school production of The Mikado. I particularly remember how they did 'Three Little Maids from School are we.'. Enough to pique my interest!

And so it was that I ordered and received HMS Pinafore. You'd imagine that I'd order The Mikado, which I did. But WRC had their schedule and Pinafore came before Mikado and so that was the order in which I received em. Love at first hearing! I was living in a bungalow behind a house shared with my sister. Given that some of my readers live in Britain I think it only fair that I explain. In Australia one has a house on a block of land. On some of those blocks of land there might be a separate, much smaller and usually single roomed structure, in the backyard and in which people live. That structure is called a bungalow. My sister had the house; I had the bungalow. Worked for both of us :-)

One afternoon not long after I'd recieved my copy of HMS Pinafore I was playing it, loudly. 22 year olds don't think of the neighbours! Dave, a Turtle Video friend and my sisters then boyfriend came by, heard it and, after laughing, danced outside my door. I laughed too.

My girlfriend at the time took me, on my 23rd birthday, to see a performance whose name eludes me at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne. It was one of those modernish works where they relate the life of someone and illustrate it in music. The someones in this case were Gilbert and Sullivan and it was a wonderful performance. I particularly enjoyed their version of the 'carpet quarrel'.

In 1984, Sue and I went to the Princess Theatre to enjoy a performance of Princess Ida. I haven't been to live theatre as much as I'd like (if Sue reads that line she'll laugh bitterly) but I did enjoy that performance! Our seats were first row right. Very much to the right. Much further right than my politics!

In first row right we were directly above the orchestra. Imagine my surprise to see that one of the cellists was the brother of a childhood friend.

Twenty two years later I still remember the fat sweaty bastard on the right of the chorus singing his heart out. Don't know why his face sticks in my mind but it does.

My favourite G&S is Utopia Limited but I'd place The Mikado second. Wonderful music. Just listening again to 'The Gondoliers' reminds me of how much I like G&S.

Even a bad performance of G&S is fun, which no doubt explains how suburban theatre groups get away with it.

I really must repurchase the entire collection!

Beep beep beep

Personnel rang me at my desk today. Lest that sound like I work for a multi-thousand person organisation I do; it's just that the piece of the company I work for has maybe 30 people in the office. The vast majority of the employees are in Malaysia and Singapore.

'Rob' said our personnel person (PP from now on). 'Is there a problem with your swipe card? You seem to be entering the building a lot'

'Ah' I said, 'let me come to your office and explain'.

About 3 seconds later I'm in the PP's office explaining! 'You remember when we moved to the new building and Ed made a song and dance routine out of swiping our cards? How we should never tailgate?' PP nodded. 'Well, it seems to me that if swiping the card once is good then swiping it twice must be better. And if twice is better then 25 times has to be bloody fantastic!'.

PP made a brave try but I fear she couldn't resist a smirk. Once the dike had been breached the flood turned into laughter just as my boss walked by. He stuck his head into the office in inquiry and shared the laughter once he knew what it was about.

You see, a week or so before Christmas last year we were busy crating ovens outside the building.

The oven I refer to is a big big box; I'd guess, never having actually measured it, about 12 feet wide, 8 feet deep and 12 feet tall. Weighs a couple of tons. It's big enough that it comes with anchor points so it can be tied to the floor in case of earthquake. A naked oven will just barely fit through the door of the new building. Unfortunately Ed didn't allow for crating; the crate with all the required padding etc adds just enough height that a crated oven won't fit through the door; it's 2 inches too high. So we crate em outside the building. Fortunate indeed that it doesn't rain often in Phoenix.

Remember that I'm talking 2 tons of metal inside a wooden crate robust enough to survive travel halfway around the world. How strange then that it was felt necessary to inveigle one of the employees to nursemaid the crates overnight armed? Yeah, I can see it now; an opportunistic thief with all the equipment necessary to hoist 2 plus tons onto a flat bed truck and drive away with it. And there's quite the black market for our product! How many times have you lain awake yearning for a semiconductor burn-in oven? Sometimes paranoia can go too far.

Anyway, there we were crating the buggers. I wasn't helping; not my area of expertise by any stretch of the imagination. I was smoking and swiping my entry card again and again and again. And again! My boss was overseeing when he became aware of the steady beep. One glance at the source and he cracked up laughing. Suddenly I was the focus of attention as I continued swiping the card. Then my bosses boss, the head honcho, strolled over and handed me his entry card. I swapped cards and continued swiping! :-)

Another employee once stuck his card onto a cordless drill, set it to the lowest speed possible and held it over the card reader. It registered maybe once every four revolutions but it ran the numbers up amazingly!

Treat me like a child and I just might make a childish response!

Fortunately it seems that the Ed era is over. I wrote a few months[^] ago that I'd met Eds before and outlived em; Methinks I've outlived another one. We have now returned to a reasonable state of affairs regarding time-keeping. I can, if I have no prearranged early morning appointments, start work pretty much when I want. As long as I get the work done that's all my boss asks.

Of course I still don't think I'm paid nearly enough for this job but it's getting better.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

They got me!

I wrote a few weeks ago about Andrews iPod[^] little imagining at the time that I was soon to join the ranks of those who pay for music downloads.

It happened as a result of ripping a Delius CD to the PC. If you're familiar with Windows Media Player (hereinafter to be referred to as WMP) version 10 you know that when you rip a CD the next step is to hit the 'Find Album Info' button, which downloads the track listings (if the CD is known to MSN) and the album cover art. Nice freebie and I'm much impressed, not so much at the technology, which is trivial, but at the realisation that someone actually thought to do it :-) I'm easily pleased sometimes.

Once you've done the 'Find Album Info' thang it's tempting to click on the 'View Album Info' button which is a misleading name. That button leads you to a web page hosted within WMP which attempts to seduce you into buying music downloads!

Bloody thing worked didn't it! For what did I see listed as available for download for a mere US$1.98? Nothing less than Havergal Brian's[^] First Symphony 'The Gothic' which just happens to be a work I read about in The Gramophone Magazine[^] about 34 years ago. That was way before the CD era and all I could do was read about a piece of music. I searched record shops for a couple of years before giving up.

I'd completely forgotten about the symphony when I clicked on 'View Album Info' but I reckon it took rather less than a second for the memories to come flooding back once I saw the name.

It's a 2 CD set, just 8 minutes shy of 2 hours of wonderful music and an absolute bargain for $1.98 even if it is DRM'ed. It's been a while since I've enjoyed a new symphony as much as I enjoyed this one!

So I've become a music junkie again. I can think of worse things to become!

People believe what they want to believe

which is as true as it's trite.

Case in point; In my more realistic moments (which is most of the time) I'm happy to admit I'm an alcoholic. Rare indeed is the evening when I go to bed with less than half a dozen glasses of wine inside me. I'm not talking wine-bar sized moieties either; I'm talking glasses I filled myself.

This should not come as a surprise; there have been enough hints in my blog over the past year and a half!

I've even done the AA thing; 'My name is Rob and I'm an alcoholic'. That was about 5 years ago when I was still living in Melbourne. In 2001 I went without a drink for 25 nights in a row in April/May and 58 nights in a row from early August until late September. In 2005 I once went all of 4 nights in a row without a drink! I think I've done it once this year so far.

I can't describe how good that first sip of wine tasted and felt on the 59th night!

Over a drink in Baguio a couple of weeks ago we were talking about drinking and I said I was an alcoholic; the reply from one who doubtless wants to think of himself as an alcoholic about as much as I do was 'well, your drinking doesn't interfere with your work so you can't be'. Nice thought I suppose.

I even felt virtuous on my final night in Baguio, last visit, and the one before that and the one before that..., stopping after two glasses because I needed to have a shower, check out and travel down to Manila. 'Oh no', I thought, 'I'm obviously not an alcoholic; I can say no when I need to'. And most nights I don't need to?

My wife tolerates my drinking; she knew about it before we were married; it's exclusively, when I'm at home, late night when the rest of the house has gone to bed. Out of sight out of mind? If I'm out with the boys it's strictly social level drinking or less; I know I need to drive home and that's a powerful incentive to wait until I'm home. And if I'm in Baguio or elsewhere on company travel I drink in the hotel; walking distance to the room. *shrug*

My wife tells me she's an alcoholic. Based on the evidence of my eyes I have to say not; I think the most I've ever seen her drink is a single beer but remembrance of those AA meetings tells me that perhaps she is but has better control of it than I do. Given that she was 49 when we met there's much scope for earlier drinking since controlled :-)

My wife told me about Morgan's comments regarding my drinking early last week. I'd just got home from the nth trip and was relaxing over a glass of wine and some classical music. Cheese and crackers were probably also involved along with an importunate cat demanding her share of the cheese! Anyway, apparently Morgan said that she didn't think I was a drinker at all; all I did was sip at the wine. Well, most nights she goes to bed a lot earlier than I do; she doesn't see the quantity; nor does she see the travel from this seat to the up stairs light switch followed by the grope in the dark for the down stairs to the bedroom!

Nicely put; but perhaps, being a teenager, Morgans experience of drinkers is limited? I went through what I imagine as the usual 'of age' drinking experience; you have no idea how powerful this stuff is so you drink it like it was milk only to have the mother of all hangovers the next day! I had one hangover in 1973 that lasted three days! Enough to put me off the idea of drinking entirely for about 15 years!

So perhaps, if Morgan's only experience of drinkers is of 'one pot screamers' she might see the way I drink as not 'real' drinking at all; merely because 18 years or so of drinking teaches you a thing or two about controlling the outward manifestations.

When I returned to drinking, at age 33, I was somewhat more careful. Not careful enough perhaps, as witness the sight of me at 51 unwilling to consider the idea of a drink free evening. Nonetheless, by 33 I'd seen the legal system tighten up on drink driving to the extent that I don't drive if I've had just one sip of wine. I know there's a bottle waiting at home! And believe me, I do know there's a bottle waiting at home; I make sure of that. Almost the first thought when I fly into Phoenix is to wonder if there's a bottle waiting; the second is to call by the bottle shop (liquor store) on the way home just in case I've misremembered.

Classic alcholic wouldn't you agree?

Of course, Morgan wants to believe that I'm not an alcoholic almost as much as my wife wants to believe it and almost as much as I want to believe it. I justify it by remembering how I don't drink and drive; how I drink little on the evening I leave Baguio.

My wife justifies it by contrasting me with previous husbands; how I don't get angry when I drink; how I just write blog entries and listen to opera and watch ancient movies and just generally do harmless (and silent) things.

Morgan? She has the example of her father before her. The example of various boyfriends. I've seen her father so drunk at the local petrol station that he can barely stand up to operate the pump; and then get in the car and drive away. They don't seem to do booze buses and random breath tests here in Arizona!

Why didn't AA work? Two reasons. The first, and most important, is that I really don't want to stop drinking anymore than I want to stop smoking. For reasons that I may blog about sometime in the far distant future I felt pushed into AA. If you choose to believe that those reasons involved a woman long since gone you wouldn't be far wrong! If you imagine that the woman was a wife you'd be very wrong! :-)

The second? It's a Christian organisation. Since I don't believe in the God of the Christians nor in Yahweh or Allah that was a barrier. Given that I don't believe in ANY god no matter what her name the insistence of AA on the powers of God was somewhat hard to stomach.

I don't often find myself

wishing I had some lipstick handy. Never had much use for it.

When I checked into the Baguio Country Club three or four weeks ago the person doing my booking didn't book me for a smoking room. Normally I do my own bookings; certainly I do when travelling to Dallas. But this is a Country Club and you can't do your own bookings unless you're a member of the club. Nope, one must be 'sponsored' by a member. It's a long and tortuous route from me to the sponsoring member. Hardly surprising then that the vital need for a smoking room is lost in the chain.

At the office they expect that we will let the receptionist book our flights and hotel rooms. Time was when I let the receptionist and the travel agent do that but stopovers in LA of 12 hours got to be too much. My experience is that even though Noël knows quite well that I smoke she forgets when booking my hotel. So I don't let her. I do it myself.

I got, for the first night of that trip, a room on the fourth floor valleyside, non smoking. By the time I arrived they had no smoking room available, or so they said, so one does the best one can. In this case it wasn't too bad; every single room in the hotel has a balcony. It's quite a spectacular view from the valleyside rooms, and if we have a balcony we have an outside area in which one can smoke. Disposal of the butt is problematic but the toilets flush quite vigorously! I can't bring myself to just flick the butt over the balcony onto the ground below.

Up there, fourth floor valleyside, the minibar is stocked with a range of goods; no such luxury down there golfside second floor. A prominent sign advises that if we ring such and such a number they'll stock the minibar but I didn't bother. The bar is enough for me. Well, it is most of the time, but sometimes, nearing midnight, one hungers for a snack but it's too late to ring.

Valleyside might sound like Utopia but it has its drawbacks. Roosters who seem unaware of the hour crow throughout the day. It's quite a cacophony. Didn't bother me much but it annoyed the heck out of Frank.

Up there, valleyside, the taps controlling the shower are prominently marked. Hot on the left, cold on the right and it's easy to tune the water temperature. Golfside the taps aren't marked and I can never seem to remember which one is hot. Given that I can remember such trivial details as the dates of the birth and death of Gustav Mahler this seems, even to me, a strange defect of memory. I note that if I live until May 3rd of this year I will have lived longer than he did. Won't have achieved a hundredth as much as he did but that's a different story!

Hence the lipstick. I wanted to mark the tile on the left hand side with a prominent H as a reminder, for the remainder of this week, that hot is on the left. Perhaps then I would be able to emerge from the shower bearing less of a resemblance to a lobster than I managed for most of the preceding week.

Even blokes sometimes have a use for lipstick!

Hello Garci

I don't pretend to understand American Politics let alone Filipino Politics. It's all I can do these days to keep up with Australian Politics. Somehow it seems to have happened, behind my back, that Kim Beazley is yet again the leader of the Labour Party. How and when did that happen??? Or have I merely misread the Australian newspaper websites?

Thus I learned, from the newspapers, that there was a foiled coup attempt in the Philippines in late February. It seemed to be all over bar the shouting by the time I travelled there for my ninth visit in early March and, with the prospect of yet another trip to that destination I certainly wasn't going to mention the fact to my wife. She, bless her, finally caught up with the news, about a week after I'd arrived, and sent me a panic email or two. I have to say that I saw nothing much out of the ordinary travelling from Manila to Baguio and I reassured her.

I want to be careful how I word this. I have no opinion on the politics of the Philippines. I don't know enough to have one!

It seems that part of the reason for the discontent is a widespread dissatisfaction with the incumbent Filipina president. Like I said, I don't pretend to understand the local politics but it seems that one of the reasons is that apparently there was a phone call, taped, between Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the president, or, as she is styled in every newspaper I've read here, either GMA or PGMA and some election official nicknamed Garci. Allegations of cheating etc.

Almost every mobile phone I heard in my most recent trip to the Philippines rang thus;

'Hello, Garci!' in the presidents voice!

It seems to me that the mechanisms for dissent have been helped by technology. Try to convince the Finns that their product ought not to allow the user to set their own ringtone!

I was reading a Filipino newspaper a week or so ago; an op ed page. Writing this a week after reading I can't remember the term used for the underground newspapers published in the Philippines during the Marcos years but it struck me that the writer was really talking about 'samizdat'[^], the term used for underground newspapers in Soviet controlled territory. As an English speaker I translate that term as 'same as that' which, if I remember rightly, isn't all that far from the truth!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The fear of lint

I googled a bit to find the official word, if such exists, but I couldn't find it.

Tonight my wife and I went to see a performance of Oscar Wilde's 'The Importance of being Earnest'. She emailed me a fortnight or so ago when I was in the Philippines, wondering if I'd be back in time. Given that it's almost impossible to accurately predict whether the work will be done to the customers satisfaction or not I had to make the unsatisfactory reply that it was best to delay a little.

A few days later and it seemed likely; a few more and it became a lever. 'Sorry boss, I have to be back in the US; my wife and I have theatre tickets'.

So off we set tonight, to the Herberger Theatre[^] just up the road from Symphony Hall.

I have to record that it was both good and disappointing. The disappointment was that it was performed by a mostly British cast so the accents sounded right. I'd been almost looking forward to a second layer of comedy; listening to American actors trying to do the accents.

Ok, that's the flippant view. It was an immensely enjoyable performance that had us laughing most of the way. It did prove that I don't yet know enough of American politics to be trusted with the vote; in the scene where Lady Bracknell inquires into Jack's politics and he answers 'I'm a liberal' the audience laughed in a way that I don't quite understand.

Good stuff and quite the best live performance I've ever seen (I've seen the play performed more than thrice).

I'm going to resist the temptation to compare it to this film[^] though I do note that the bloke who played Jack in the movie was the father of tonights Lady Bracknell. 'Nuff said...

Whilst standing in the foyer just before the doors were flung open to an eager audience we were people watching. There were two thirty something guys, perhaps a trifle overweight, dressed up in dinner jackets, standing by the wall. Every few seconds one or the other would flick at his lapel and examine it minutely in the manner of a man removing lint. It was quite the performance especially as every so often one would turn and let the other inspect the back of his dinner jacket!

I don't often do this

and I certainly don't plan to make it a regular thing but I've been reading Lucy's blog for the last few months. She lives in Melbourne which is reason enough :-)

She's been doing a semi-regular 'Friday Statuary' series and this week it's one of my favourite statues in Melbourne. She does it better than I could so without further ado, Queen Victoria[^].

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Yes men

On a recent trip to The Philippines (I won't identify which one) I was dining alone. No big deal; I was happy with a glass of wine, a peppered pork chop and some Charles Dickens.

I prefer, when in The Philippines, to stay at the Baguio Country Club. It goes without saying that whenever I'm there I'm working on just the one site so I'm always, when in The Philippines, in Baguio.

I need my sanity time; it can become quite wearying to be on site and so I'm not always in the mood for company. You might have guessed from my writings that I'm perfectly happy to be on my own.

I also prefer to dine at the Par 7 bar rather than the Cotterman Verandah. It's cold out there on the verandah! And the wine is closer at Par 7 :-)

So on this occasion I walked into the bar only to discover a very noisy collection of blokes from the customer site, occupying a very long table. 16 of the bastards in fact; every one of the 15 determined to impress, it seemed, the 16th with how loudly he could laugh at the jokes of the 16th.

You understand that, no matter how loud they were, they were, for the most part, speaking in Tagalog and so I had not much of an idea about what they were saying. There were a few key words in english; Dallas, American etc. Didn't much matter; it wasn't hard to see that the guy at the head of the table was the number one man and all the rest were yes men.

Lest this seeem overcritical; once I'd realised that these people were from our customer site I started wondering if Bing was going to appear. I should have known instantly that he wasn't; if he'd been invited the head of the table would have been left vacant for him. The guy occuping that spot is only number 3 in the Filipino organisation.

The thing is that the day before Bing had put his arm around my shoulder and said in friendly yet unmistakable terms that if my software wasn't ready the next day there would be hell to pay. Where I come from you don't put your arm around the shoulder of another man unless you've drunk beer together!

Now I can be as pissed off as I want but that doesn't change the situation any. If the head honcho of the production site makes threats I have to take them seriously. Or at least I have to behave as though I take them seriously. It so happened that I was within a bees dick of finishing so I had no hesitation in telling him it would in fact be ready tomorrow. I tend to be very conservative in estimating software; most programmers aren't but I'm not a programmer anymore; I'm a developer :-)

Yes, it was ready the next day. Of course they still have to run a few production lots through. Hmmm, and I said I wasn't going to identify which trip! :-)

This is getting ridiculous

You know how I feel about meetings[^]. It was bad enough when it was just the one meeting a week. But now I discover, having finally fronted at the office today (Friday) after a three day break, that I've been nominated as a 'core' member of a trouble shooting team.

I won't go into the detail of what we're trouble shooting; that would be both longwinded and telling tales out of school. It doesn't really matter, for the purpose of this post, what the problem is anyway.

What galled me is the way things are expressed. We 'core' team members are required to attend daily crisis meetings held at 5PM and which may run as long as 3 hours. This team has been going for a couple of weeks now so it was fairly easy to establish that the 3 hours is a baseline. I think I got off lightly today; the meeting only ran for 2 and a half hours! The email I received announcing my nomination to the 'core' team started out with the statement that attendance was mandatory and went downhill from there.

I think you know me well enough to know that, having established with my boss that this meeting was a daily occurrence at 5PM, I told em not to expect me in the office before 11 AM. Gotta set some rules and stick to em!

The really interesting thing, though, about the problem we're trying to isolate is that the hardware guys think it's the hardware whilst I have a sneaking suspicion it's the software. There's a switch for you! Usually we point the finger at each other.

Talking of Beethoven

yeah yeah, I know we weren't but you'll see why I chose that title.

I had a girlfriend in late 1978 who insisted on referring to Beethoven's 3rd symphony as the 'Erotica'. She must have seen it in my collection! I didn't much mind; Erotica is so much more delightful to a 24 year old than 'Eroica'. :-)

A decade later and I was living in a street in Brunswick. The couple a few doors up the street must have been living an interesting fantasy life; they had his and hers number plates on their cars; 'Erotica' and 'Exotica'. I never did manage to discover whether it was she who was 'Exotica'. For all I know they may have been a gay couple. Good luck to them!

You can see, having read the post, why I didn't call it 'Erotica'. That would have invited some of the stranger people to my blog through the magic of search engines.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Well, that was easy enough

Over the beer with Vern that I enjoyed last night we shot a lot of bull. Blokes do that when not in the company of their wives and when lubricated with the amber fluid. Which is not to say that we drank a lot; far from it; we were both driving and whether law enforcement in Phoenix is vigilant or not on that particular subject (they aren't by the standards of my home state) I am. I may be an alcoholic but I want to be enjoying a glass or three of wine a decade or two from now. One pitcher (jug) of beer stretched over two hours intermixed with a lot of iced water does not a drunk make!

Amongst the many species of bull we shot last night was a question from me, the newcomer to Windows XP Media Centre Edition to the self proclaimed expert, Vern. Can it support two tuners? He assured me it could support more tuners than my motherboard will let me plug in! And so it proved.

Adding the second Hauppauge PVR150 tuner was an exercise in no brains whatsoever on my side whilst showing just how good Microsoft are at plug'n'play. Plug the bastard in, fire it up and it was just there! It probably helped that my first tuner card was also a PVR150; MCE shares the drivers and away it went. I spent more time buying a four way splitter and the extra cable!

You might wonder just why I need two tuners. I'd have asked the same question a month ago, living as I do in the land of 108 channels of TV and nothing to watch!

But it's amazing how often a movie will appear in the 'guide' and I select to record it only to be told it conflicts with the recording of 'Married with Children' or 'Becker'. Though I enjoy both series I regard them as sacrificable; if upwards of 20 hours a week runs here on cable in Phoenix each week I'm pretty sure that missing an episode this month will be compensated for by catching it two months from now. On the other hand, will I be alive in two months?

I've been playing with this technology for about 40 years by now and I'm STILL amazed at the things they come up with. It just gets better and better. It can remember that I recorded episode 232 of series X a month ago and won't rerecord that episode unless I tell it to. It even tells me that it's skipped recording an episode because I've seen it recently. No wonder the advertising people are moving into product placement!

I want to live

I've just been watching I want to live![^]. Harrowing movie and I don't mind admitting that I sobbed at the end and the tears were streaming down my cheeks.

I don't think I've made any secret of my opposition to the death penalty. I couldn't carry it out personally; and if I can't do it I certainly won't ask anyone else to do it on my behalf.

Don't bother to make comments about bleeding heart liberals. I've heard most of the arguments but my opposition to capital punishment is absolute. If we as a society decide that murder is something to be punished then we cannot be consistent in demanding state sanctioned murder as a punishment. If I hold that position then can I possibly hold the position that other crimes than the deprivation of life deserve the deprivation of life? I don't think so!

My country of origin last held an execution in 1967 and my home state, Victoria, was the last to legally eschew the death penalty in 1974.

As you may or may not remember, on December 2nd 2005 an Australian was hanged at Changi Prison, Singapore. I posted about it[^] a few days before the execution. What I said then still stands; I cannot even begin to imagine how I'd feel if I were in the same position.

The hanging took place at 6 AM Singapore time. That's 3 PM the previous day Phoenix time. I made sure I was outside at 3 PM that day; I remember seeing striated clouds and the odd jetplane flying high overhead; whilst knowing, having been in Singapore Airport at that time, that it was still dark there. I remember picturing, never having seen it, his last walk.

I wasn't fit company for an hour or more afterwards.

Flying out of Singapore Airport early this week, knowing that Changi Prison is close by, I looked to see if I could see it. Not sure. A collection of buildings over there that might have been the prison but could as easily have been a customs depot.

I don't care that Nguyen was caught carrying 394 grams of heroin. No crime is so great that the only appropriate punishment is the theft, by the state, of the only thing that cannot be replaced; life!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Music is where you find it

You haven't been reading my blog very long if you don't know that I like music; and you haven't been reading at all if you imagine the music I like is mainstream. Though that does beg the question of what constitutes mainstream. I still get a laugh out of M*A*S*H when Hawkeye and BJ take offence at Charles' music on the grounds that it's 'longhair' music. M*A*S*H is set in the very early 1950's when it might have been true that 'longhair' music was classical. Indeed, I remember people in the early 1960's using the same term to mean the same thing. Then along came the Beatles!

What constitutes 'longhair' music these days? I have no idea.

What I do believe is that whilst the music you like might strike me as trivial in the extreme it's equally likely that the music that moves me might strike you as trivia in extremis. Thus we learn as we get older to live and let live. I cannot deny that I got and get immense pleasure out of listening to Aqua's 'I'm a Barbie Doll'. I don't even feel the need to defend that enjoyment; it's still very real. The fact that I also enjoy Mahler's 10th symphony in no way boxes me into only enjoying po-faced orchestral music. The pleasures are of differing kinds but pleasures nonetheless.

On a recent trip to The Philippines (it was in January) I was sitting in my hotel room slaving over a hot keyboard. It was just before sunset and I'd managed to escape the site whilst still having a shitload of work to do.

A former colleague who lives in Dallas was delighted, one day, to hear me describe something as a 'shitload'. His delight was at learning that there is at least one other place on the planet where a large number is described, in slang, as being a 'shitload'. Australia and Texas! Well, we both of us have big egos :-)

On that occasion, last January, I had a room on the car park side of the Baguio Country Club. Nowhere as salubrious as Valleyside or even Golfside but one goes where they put one when a guest :-) Fortunate I was to have a Carparkside room that afternoon; a group of Filipinos were on the road clanging their bells. Very melodious. It went on for at least half an hour and I opened the window to hear it better. I couldn't see them but it made no matter. Quite enjoyed it as dusk fell.

At dinner later that evening in the Par 7 bar Steve was complaining about the noise. I couldn't convince him that I'd enjoyed it. Well maybe I convinced him that I'd enjoyed it but it was a conviction of wierdness as much as anything else! Since I won't vote Republican when I become a yank that's enough reason for him to think askance of me :-)


I have no idea why or what they were celebrating; I don't think it was a day of religious significance.

In 1996 when I was working for Unisys Australia I was based in the City, Collins Street to be precise. If you're going to have a City address in Melbourne Collins Street is the one to have. It's nearest competitor, St Kilda Road, hasn't half the snob value! All the rest aren't even on the same spectrometer. And if you're going to have a Collins Street address the lower the number the better. We were at 459 Collins Street. To my American readers that sounds low.

When I first became aware of American street addresses, a third of a century or so ago, they sounded unlikely. 2900 Semiconductor Way (the address of National Semiconductor). Or 16287 Mockingbird Lane. I made that one up though the number is well within possibility. If I drive north from where I live along Tatum Boulevard it's nothing unusual to see houses with addresses in the 30 thousands. Puzzled me mightily, given that I was used to the Australian system. The last house I lived in in Australia was 142 Something Street. A street about a kilometre long and I was at the extreme end of it. Under the American system I'd have been in the first block if you went by the street number!

I didn't live in Something street, nor have I forgotten it's name; I just choose not to name it :-)

Indeed, I remember asking my American friend Bob, an exchange teacher, if the streets in the USA were long! Silly question but I couldn't think of a better way of putting the question. This was before I'd been to the US the first time. His explanation made sense; so did seeing it with my own eyes!

I find the American system very logical; if someone lives at 142 Something Street you know exactly which block to go for. Under the Australian system you have to make a guess at which cross street to start from and then work either up or down depending on the street numbers.

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying that, even though we had a Collins Street address it was at the less salubrious end of town. Hmmm how else was I going to work in a discussion of American street numbering versus Australian street numbering. You couldn't (according to Collin Mac you wouldn't) pay to get such variety :-)

In, I think, early 1996, there was a blockade by truck drivers of the Victorian Parliament. Parliament house is at the low numbered end of town but the blockade extended across the entire city area. I don't remember the reason for the blockade; what I remember is how the city was gridlocked with stationary trucks, each blaring their horn.

Surrounded as we were by 30 and 40 storey buildings on all sides the horns raised a most amazing cacaphony. I first heard it through plate glass windows on the 6th flooor as a very faint braying. Intrigued I looked out but saw no particular reason for the sound. A little later it was smoke time; we, Heino, Chris, Joe and myself, made for the elevator. On the ground floor this strangely musical sound was louder; when we emerged into the city air it was wonderful to hear many horns echoing off the buildings in a long, slow melody. Some horns playing a long resonating blast, others doing short toots; each at its own pitch!

I can picture it to this day; each driver, angry or resigned as his personality took him, randomly or deliberately hitting the horn. I don't think a one of them thought of what they were doing as a piece of music; it fell to me as the outsider to percieve it that way.

That was one of the few times, as we lit up, that I didn't encourage the joking; I wanted to hear that sound. I wish I could find a way to notate it.

Music is where you find it!

Good evening, Sir Robert

is the way that Victor, the other waiter/bartender at the Baguio Country Club greets me.

I'm not a knight of the realm and, as a prospective US citizen, I doubt I ever will be. But even without that prospective new citizenship I doubt I'd ever be knighted. Benighted maybe!

I do have an honour[^] I value much more highly :-)

I know it's just a form of address from hotel employee to hotel guest but it still makes me feel uncomfortable. The first time I was ever addressed as 'sir' was sometime in 1971 when, all of age 17, I was searching the bookshelves of Collins Booksellers, Swanston Street Melbourne, the site of Melbourne Central Railway station these days, in search of the novels of Lyndsay Norman.

The guy who addressed me as 'sir' would have been pretty much my own age and I'm sure he had been instructed to call all customers sir. I'm just as sure he was as uncomfortable with following instructions as I was that he had!

I had the name wrong, I was really looking for Norman Lindsay but my stepfathers first and middle name are Lyndsay Norman. An understandable mistake. Some smarmy bastard maybe my own age came up and asked if he could help me 'sir'. I made the same reply then that I do now when addressed as 'sir'. 'I didn't realise I'd been made a knight of the realm'. That makes em stop and wonder and gives me enough time to escape!

Diffidence and disdain borne of experience. Even today I imagine that any Australian who put on airs and graces would be invited to 'come out from under yer hat!'. God only knows how I'd fare as a member of the military; a fellow employee who is a military 'brat' calls everyone 'sir', even the women! I know Brad means well and he's one heck of a nice guy but man I wish he wouldn't call me sir!

Ok, maybe I exaggerated on the women! :-)

I couldn't very well put Victor on the spot and ask that he not address me as 'Sir Robert'. Everyone here at the hotel does. They do at the Manor Hotel (the hotel I stayed in until I discovered the Baguio Country Club) too.

So I tried a different tack. Walking into the Par 7 bar a night or three ago Victor addressed me again as 'Sir Robert'. 'Good evening Sir Victor' I replied. A momentary expression of puzzlement and then the smile.

Sir Victor seems to enjoy his title. Good luck to him!

I found the novels of Norman Lindsay (1879-1969). Redheap, A Curate in Bohemia, Dust and Polish, The Cousin from Fiji, Saturdee, Halfway to Anywhere and so on. Wonderful novels and my copies accompanied me in my baggage from Australia to the USA when I made the flight to my new home. The very few things I owned that did. I think I've said this before but for me Saturdee is the best ever boyhood novel. It out Tom Sawyers Tom Sawyer and I say that as a kid who read Mark Twain from cover to cover more than several times!

Of course I had a problem in that first reading of Tom Sawyer. On the very first page Aunt Polly threatens Tom with a switch! I, as an urban Australian lad in 1964, knew only one meaning for the word switch. How, I wondered, was it possible to threaten anyone with a light switch? I also puzzled mightily over Mark Twains description of young men pushing their toes against a wall to get the right turn-up. A puzzlement long since solved at the sight of a step-daughter starving herself to maintain a most unladylike resemblance to a pipecleaner. It's long since past the day but I remember asking Morgan if she had to dance under the shower in order to get wet!

In early 1975 there was a bookshop in Nicholson Street Footscray that had the entire set of Norman Lindsay novels, paperback, in the window. The problem was that the owner had recently died and the shop was shut. There they were, every novel of his in a row and no way, short of breaking the glass in the small hours, of obtaining them.

Of course I didn't break the glass; it was plate and who knew how many bollards I'd have had to throw! :-) Patience and by June of 1975 I'd found all of them in remainder shops. I remember laughing myself sick over the trials and tribulations of the curate as I lived in a caravan behind the local ministers house in Williamstown.

Good days!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Making progress

My friend Vern[^] with whom I plan to drink beer tonight ran a joke on his blog the other day. You'll have to scroll down a bit to find it.

Not a great joke nor yet a bad one; it played on the difference in perceptions between President George W Bush and a horses arse. Naturally, the horses arse is seen as the better of the two alternatives. For the record, I'd vote for the horses arse before I'd vote for the current incumbent of the office!

Reminded me of the old Australian joke about a bloke who wants to change his name. The judge asks him what his original name is. 'It's John Winston Howard Shit, your honour'. The judge smiles indulgently and says he quite understands. What do you want to change it to? 'John Shit, your honour' he replies! Replace 'John Winston Howard' with that of any politician in the world and you have the joke in essence.

Armed with Verns joke and an American audience could I wish for more as I sat down to dinner tonight? The first time we've dined as a family in a few weeks? So I ran it by them. My wife, who has voted Republican laughed. Andrew scratched his head a few moments until it dawned and then he laughed.

'Mom.' said Andrew, 'I told you he'd have some new jokes when he got back.' Far be it from me to disillusion the lad and admit I nicked it from Verns blog :-) That's another way of saying I'll take the credit and run!

A little later Andrew smiled to himself as I took him to task over leaving his poker table out in the living room. A little defiance, just enough to establish his place in the household but no truculence that I could detect.

It's really starting to feel like he's glad when I'm around. He said as much last night, just after I'd gotten home and taken him to task for leaving the phone lying on the desk next to his computer. Hangdog look with a faint smile and the agreement that he'd stuffed up again. 'Don't apologise' I said, 'just don't do it again.'.

Morgan said the same thing this afternoon but, to be frank, her saying it doesn't make me feel the same way. There was no accompanying sheepish grin; no sign of contrition; just the feeling that she was saying the words. I may be judging the girl harshly and, if I am, I'll be sorry, but going by history I don't think I'm wrong. *shrug*

Make it twenty

My wife spent most of the afternoon planning an excursion to the Chicago area to be undertaken at the end of July. It'll be just the three of us, Andrew, my wife and myself; Morgan will be busy looking after her new baby about then and she's not coming.

Part way through the planning she said 'I hope you don't mind; I've assumed the three of us will be staying in the same hotel room.'

Andrew was there earwigging; I couldn't resist saying 'but you know that means we won't be able to have sex!' Andrew smirked. Then I had a happy idea. 'But, you know, we could always slip him 5 bucks to go to the local McDonalds!'

Quick as a flash he piped up. 'Make it twenty!'

Cheeky bastard! :-)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

It seems that the vice president is staying here tonight

Not, I'm glad to say, the Vice-President of the US, Richard Cheney. Nope, it's Nole De Castro, Vice-President of the Philippines.

I have to say I'm glad it's not the current holders of those positions in the US. Whenever President Bush visits Phoenix the result is a major traffic jam. Detour Dan, the KTAR 620 traffic guy makes fun of it; it seems that whenever President Bush is in town the airspace above Phoenix becomes so holy that the Alamo Rent-a-car traffic plane is grounded. I've seen the black helicopters flying above Mummy Mountain and over where Lincoln and 32nd meet.

Whenever President Bush is in town my drive home from the office becomes a nightmare. My drive takes me north along 44th street across Camelback Road. To the left is the Biltmore district which, as far as I can make out, is THE part of Phoenix to be in. I think of it as South Yarra. To the right is the Phoenician resort, apparently THE part of Phoenix to stay in. I think of it as Toorak. (My Melbourne readers will understand).

Whenever President Bush is in town they cordon off the Phoenician to the right and impose road blocks around the Biltmore to the left. 44th Street goes through the middle and whenever I have to drive it during those times I see motorcycle police at every corner from about Thomas Road up to Lincoln Drive.

Given that there are only 4 viable routes from the office to home and two of those are freeways and the third has traffic lights every half mile for about 20 miles, I'm sure you can see the problem. I don't drive Arizona freeways. Strangely enough, I will drive Texas freeways. That should give you an idea of how bad an Arizona freeway is :-)

My room here at the Baguio Country Club is on the second floor. Today, when the room staff came to make up my room I went, as is my wont, to an open air plaza on the same level, overlooking the entrance. I don't want to stand around like a spare part while they make my bed and I'm quite sure they reciprocate the feeling! It takes them about as long to make up my room as it takes me to smoke a ciggy so I smoke two, just to be sure they have a decent getaway!

So there I was, about 11 this morning, smoking a ciggy and, having gazed my fill on the lower village, I turned my gaze to the entrance. Just in time to see a convoy of vehicles rolling up, sirens blaring from the leader. Uh huh I thought, the mayor's come for lunch. Nope. This was the advance guard for the Vice President. I knew this because of the large banner over the entrance that I read backwards, welcoming the Vice President.

Then came the security sweep. Armed men with the kind of face that tells you not to mess with them! As you might have guessed from previous writings, I'm from a place where guns are not terribly evident; there is no state in Australia where you have the unambiguous right to carry a weapon. On the other hand, this is my ninth visit to the Philippines; I'm certainly used to seeing armed men patrolling the hotel, the customer site and Shell Petrol stations! They even have the Shell Logo on the stock of the guns there!

Have I actually clapped eyes on this protected dignitary? I doubt it though I wouldn't recognise him if he shook me by the hand. But dinner tonight at the Par 7 bar was so ordinary that, had I not seen the motorcade and the banner, I would not have known that we have a dignitary in residence.

I wish President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would or could make so little impact when they visit!

I'm going to be playing catch up for the next few days

which means I'll be posting a few items I wrote whilst I was in The Philippines but hadn't the chance to post at the time. Being both a lazy bastard and an honest one and given that one or two items won't work in the past tense (or at least not as well as I'd like) I'll be posting them as written. This may lead to cognitive dissonance as you know perfectly well that I'm back in the US for now. Hence this post! :-)

Just a tip

to all schmucks, scumbags, idiots, fools, lazy bastards and general wastes of space.

If you're standing at the baggage carousel in an airport waiting for your bag to appear and if you happen to see one that looks like yours and you happen to pull it off the carousel and it turns out that it's not yours then please please please put THE BLOODY BAG BACK on the carousel.

It's simple courtesy, or so I'd have thought.

Today, having managed to get from Baguio to Los Angeles unscathed I was standing at the baggage carousel on the wrong side of customs, waiting for my bag to appear. Like all travellers I try and be as close to the place where they emerge onto the carousel as possible but yet another hold up with immigration (not an extensive one this time) meant I was 20 or so metres downstream.

My bag is like a million others; a nondescript black wheelie bag. The only thing that really distinguishes it from the crowd are the green and gold ribbons tied around the handle so I can tell at at a glance that it's a candidate bag; that and the Southwest Airlines tag.

I saw it round the curve and watched in disbelief as this guy picked it out, examined it, concluded, correctly, that it wasn't his and then just dumped it on the floor by his side and continued the search for his own.

He seemed somewhat taken aback when I expressed indignation and then he tried to fake that it was a mistake.

Idiot! Sometimes I despair for the human race, really I do!

Hey, big spender

I wrote, last night, about the most expensive meal I'd ever paid for in 1982. All of 82 bucks.

A couple of years later Sue and I decided, once again, to host Robin and his now wife Rosemary to a meal at a posh restaurant. The restaurant was 'Petty Sessions' at the Yarra River end of William Street. If you know your Melbourne you know that's at the bottom of the street that houses the County and Supreme courts to say nothing of Barristers Chambers. Hence the name.

Nice restaurant. After this many years I don't remember the cuisine but I fancy it was French/Australian.

I've noticed over the years that what passes as country X cuisine really isn't country X so much as country X/Host country cuisine. What I know as Chinese is based on eating in many Chinese restaurants in Australia. Not at all the same as the Chinese cuisine one gets in American Chinese restaurants and completely different from what passes as Chinese cuisine in the Philippines. Close to the Baguio Country Club is a restaurant that proudly proclaims that it does Australian and International Cuisine. I've never been brave enough to actually try the Australian cuisine there!

Petty Sessions, long since gone, was a nice enough restaurant. The exact opposite of the McDonalds bums on seats approach. Once ensconced for a meal you were there for the duration! I wasn't, alas, a drinker in those days. Had I been I'm sure I'd have been tempted by the wine selection and rather poorer after the event.

It was the kind of place where you can't stick a ciggy in your mouth without some waiter thrusting a lighter at you in the mistaken belief that such constitutes service!

But I did enjoy the food.

After the dinner and coffee and much relaxing it was time to front at the till. They had some cutesy term for it that I no longer remember; some pun on sentencing. The bill was placed into my hands; $159.60.

With all the bravado of (relative) youth and (very real) ignorance I signed with a flourish and rounded it up to an even $160! I still remember the venomous look the waiter gave me.

We live and learn.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A budget beyond the dreams of avarice

In 1982, through no especial efforts of my own, I was named Hewlett Packard Melbourne Technician of the Year. Not much of a honour but you take em where you can find em. I'd been invited to a company dinner but, not being much of a company man (as if you couldn't guess) I didn't go to the dinner. Thus it was that their nominee wasn't present to receive his award.

The next morning they gathered we workshop denizens around and embarassed the hell out of me by announcing the award. And, since I'd missed the company dinner the evening before, the boss took me aside after the event and told me I could take my girlfriend out for dinner on company expense, up to 90 bucks.

In 1982 that was an enormous sum; especially considering that this was before I'd learned the delights of fine dining. Even today my wife and I can dine out in style on that much money, tip included.

I don't know what my girlfriend, Sue, thought about the sum but I remember that we decided to invite Robin and his girlfriend to The Pancake Parlour. Not the one in Doncaster, we wanted the one in Market Lane at the eastern end of the city. It's not there anymore though there is still one (well there was last September) at Centrepoint.

So we settled in for lunch. Pancakes and coffee and much talk. Later in the afternoon we had tiffin. Pancakes and coffee and much talk. Then it was time for dinner. Pancakes and coffee and much talk. Followed by a supper to fill up any nooks and crannies not already filled with pancakes and coffee, not to mention the talk.

The bill ran to 82 bucks! At the time the largest sum of money I'd ever spent on a meal.

Of course it wasn't possible that HP had given me 90 bucks; no sirree bob, no way no how. I had to submit a receipt and seek reimbursement of out of pocket expenses. They paid it without demur though my boss did wonder mightily at how I'd managed to spend 82 bucks at The Pancake Parlour!

I finally got around to changing the subtitle

Like, I imagine, most people who start a blog I had no clear idea of what I was going to write about and, faced with the momentous choice of not only giving it a name but a subtitle I puzzled mightily for all of 3 seconds before deciding on 'A meaningless title laden with meaning' which is as lacking in meaning as it was meaningless.

But over time the blog evolved and became quite possibly the most shameless exercise in talking about oneself ever perpetrated by someone not paid to do it!

So I finally decided to change the subtitle!

Monday, March 13, 2006

I do believe Rusty's taking the

piss out of me. Which is an Australian term meaning that he's making fun of me. This is not to confused with the other Australian meaning of the word 'pissed' which is to be drunk. Nor should it be confused with the American meaning of 'pissed' which is to be angry. I'm the Australian term often enough; the American term not often, and I'm almost never pissed when I'm pissed and vice versa!

With me so far? :-)

Rusty is the waiter here at the Baguio Country Club. A nice enough guy but then again, he's paid to be nice. A few nights ago I'd finished my 6th glass of wine whilst dining and reading a book. The way it works is that when ones glass is empty one looks at the waiter and when one catches his gaze one raises ones forefinger. A cue to refill the glass. I've been here long and often enough that they know to refill my glass when it gets empty. Indeed, I have merely to appear and it's a race whether I get to the table before the glass of wine does! When I've had enough I ask for the bill, sign and that's the end of it.

I'd finished my 6th glass and I noticed that Rusty had opened yet another bottle. There might have been three of us in the bar/restaurant that night and I was the only wino. Over he came, wine bottle in hand, to refill my glass. I fixed him with my gaze and said 'you know Rusty? It's a good thing I'm an alcoholic'. We laughed.

Every night since then, whenever Rusty observes my empty glass and brings the wine bottle over he says 'It's a good thing you're an alcoholic sir!'.

Cheeky bastard! :-)

Sunday, March 12, 2006


For some reason my friends and I, in 1972, started prefixing the word 'pseudo' to almost everything we said.

So we had 'pseudosteak' and 'pseudomusic' and so on. Seemed cute at the time. Until the night that I was at home and addressed Misery Guts as 'pseudodad'. Well he really isn't my father; he's my stepfather. But I remember to this day the look on his face when I called him Pseudodad.

Now that I'm playing the same role that he did I understand.

I never again called him pseudodad.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Wrong place, wrong time

Toward the end of 1974, on a warm Friday night, a couple of mates and I decided to drive to Geelong for some hamburgers. We'd just been dancing, ballroom style, and needed to work off excess energy. A 45 mile drive from Melbourne to Geelong was just the ticket.

An hour later we were there, hungry for burgers. There was only one problem. The place was occupied by skinheads.

I dined tonight with Frank, who grew up in the US; when I asked him if that term had ever been in usage in the states he responded that they were known there as 'White Supremacists'. I don't particularly remember skinheads being White Supremacists in Australia but then again, I didn't associate with em. Not at all my kind of people! However, the Australian headquarters of the Nazi Party was located less than a mile from where I lived in St Albans. *shrug*

Now it might not have mattered walking into a burger joint filled with skinheads had we been dressed differently. But remember, I'm talking 1974. I had on my purple suit, apricot shirt and canary yellow tie that was about 6 inches wide at it's widest. Oh, and let's not forget the shoes. Purple leather and enough heel to add about 5 inches to my height. Only time I've ever felt more than 6 feet tall!

Uh huh. You don't need to say it; I can hear it from here! :-) My mates were just as badly dressed.

I bought that suit in 1973 at Myers. There's a generation gap for you! People my age call the major department store in Melbourne 'Myers'. The younger generation, brought up on an ad campaign that desperately tried to drop that trailing s know it as Myer. One of Heino's daughters once corrected me when I called it Myers.

On the plane from Los Angeles to Singapore last week I did a quick check of what movies and TV they had scheduled for this month. Not a lot that interested me but they had a documentary from the Australian ABC about Sidney Myer, the founder of Myers. Fascinating stuff. Footage of traffic in Bourke Street and a panning shot of trams making the turn from Alexander Parade into St Kilda road just south of Flinders Street Station. Judging by the cars the footage dated from the 1930's. Made no matter; this was my hometown and I enjoyed it immensely.

So into the hamburger bar we walked. The skinheads took one look at us and that was enough for us. We retreated very hastily. Only time I've ever been thankful the car was left unlocked. As I started the engine they were hammering on the windows with their fists.

In 1994 my second wife, Peta, threw the suit out. You understand I was never ever going to wear it again but I was still mightily annoyed that she threw it out. There went a piece of my history!

We went burgerless.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Advertising does sometimes work

not that I'd admit that I was ever susceptible. No sirree bob, not this little black duck.

A couple of years ago when we had just the three computers in the house (one for me, one for my wife and one shared between Morgan and Andrew) I'd be watching late night TV when Morgan was chatting online with her friends. Every so often she noticed that I'd take off the headphones; this made her very paranoid. Was I watching her chat? In the light of subsequent events perhaps I should have been; but I wasn't. It's just that the ads were on and I don't watch ads.

I used, when I didn't need reading glasses, to have a book beside me when watching TV. Whenever the ads came on I'd pick up the book and read a page or three. The way that US TV abuses ad time I reckon I'd get through an entire chapter per ad break! My new Home Theatre PC is a godsend in that regard; when I'm home I never watch live TV; I let it record and watch it, maybe 2 minutes after the show ended; maybe 2 weeks after. Doesn't matter; on comes the ad and I hit the fast forward button.

It's interesting to notice the differing patterns. I record Becker on Channel 6 and Channel 18. Channel 6 runs exactly 5 minutes and then we get precisely 1 minute of ads. Channel 18 runs about 8 minutes and then abuses the privilege by running 4 and a half minutes of ads.

Yeah, I understand the rationale but since I've never ever been invited to be one of those surveyed to provide the basis of ad pricing I don't feel bound to live by the results. Invite me and maybe it'll be different. I doubt it.

That said, I do find ads in the US fascinatingly different. I've started listening to Paul Harvey. His 'goodday Americans' is suspiciously close to the Australian g'day. Paul Harvey usually does an interesting foray into the non obvious. A couple of weeks ago he talked about a medical malpractice suit intertwined with a murder case. The argument was that the bullet didn't kill the victim; it was the medical practioners treatment of the resulting wound that killed the patient. When it turned out that the case he was talking about was Charles Guiteau's shooting of US President Garfield in 1889 it was quite the surprise.

Then, without a change in voice, Paul Harvey is advertising sleep number beds. He does have the good grace to say 'page 2' before launching into the ad. Most of the announcers I've heard in Phoenix don't have such grace. It took a while to realise that the line between editorial matter and advertising is so ill defined! Whenever Paul says 'Page 2' I turn off my ears.

Again, I understand the rationale. I'd just be happier if the voices changed so I could tell where the editorial ended and the ad began. I'm getting better at distinguishing! If my American readers are wondering; I've almost never listened to commercial radio for the last 30 years; I preferred the non-profit stations paid for by government grant. In the US I have no such choice. And no, NPR (National Public Radio) isn't to my taste either. It's been a learning experience.

Nonetheless, advertising does sometimes work. I was already susceptible though. I wrote a few days ago[^] about ripping my entire CD collection to the computer. The CD, whilst an admirable invention, is a pain in the bum if you've moved to a new country and were so cheap a bastard as to ship em on spindles. I also wrote about Andrews iPod[^].

Combine the two ideas and you have it in one; I wanted something similar to an iPod. Not necessarily an iPod; I'm not over much enamoured of the Apple marketing machine. Incidentally, I recall reading, years ago, about a licensing agreement between the Beatles estate and Apple computer that restricted Apple from marketing music and related products. I read the industry news on a regular basis; how is it I've managed to miss the news of a change in that agreement?

This week I recieved yet another email from United Airlines. They are one of two airlines granted permission by the Australian Government to fly directly between the US and Australia. The other is Qantas. I fly United (shame on me an Australian for that) because they are part of Star Alliance. So is Singapore Airlines and I fly them much more frequently to The Philippines than I go to Australia. Not by choice you understand! Nope, it's sheer naked greed; three trips to The Philippines paid for by someone else equals one free trip back to Australia.

All well and good, I have lots of frequent flyer points. Hundreds of thousands of the buggers. But do I have the time to use them to go to Australia or anywhere else for that matter? Nope. I get a measly two weeks annual leave in the US, which is hardly enough time for a long haul flight.

So United Airlines are offering another use for frequent flyer points. When I use that term in the US I get puzzled looks; there they are called frequent flyer miles. But Australia doesn't, anymore, measure distance in miles. So we call em points. Same thing, different name. I now, as a 1K member (the highest level), have the option to purchase other goods with my miles points.

An idle exploration turned up the fact that for 50000 miles I can have a Toshiba Gigabeat 60 Gig MP3 player. That's about 3 times the space I need for my entire music collection (and that includes the entire 'Der Ring des Nibelungen' - 15 cd's). A quick calculation. For 60000 miles I can get a return ticket to Australia, worth about US$1500. For 50000 miles I can get an MP3 player with space beyond the dreams of avarice, about US$350. In cold hard economic terms not much of a bargain but, on the other hand, to get the player I want I have to spend real bucks. I don't pay for my travel so it's essentially a free player. I searched for reviews; mostly good and it does have the Windows MCE interface I'm familiar with; so I ordered one yesterday.

They have another tempting offer; a 6.1 Megapixel Digital SLR camera with a gig of memory, zoom lens and all the other goodies for 99500 points. I'll see whether the MP3 player pans out before giving in to that temptation. Heino? That doesn't mean I've given up on the idea of having you come to Phoenix; I have enough points for both!

Of course, it's on three to four weeks delivery. Anyone wanna bet that I'll be out of town when it arrives? You have to bet that I will be at home! I certainly won't! :-)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The shoe nazi

this week it seems it's my turn. Last month it was Steve's turn. Next month? Who knows?

The customer facility I'm working in this week is a 'clean' facility. Dust really can be a problem in semiconductor manufacture so they take steps to combat it. Most of the manufacturing floor is under positive air pressure; open a door from the corridor and a blast of wind blows out of the room into the corridor. Hopefully the dust gets blown away.

There's an elaborate protocol surrounding entering the building. It's understood that one can't wear ones street shoes inside the building. You enter the building and stop this side of that line taped down on the floor. Take off your shoes and walk, in socks, through no-shoes land to another line taped on the floor. That marks the boundary where you put on the 'special' shoes. Woe betide if you stick a toe over either line whilst not correctly shod.

That's just the building! Fortunately I never have to enter bunny suit territory!

Just getting the authority to enter the building entails passing an examination of your knowledge of anti-static and electrostatic theory. Not a terribly onerous exam as it turns out; I passed it first time after ten minutes of reading a backgrounder. I had been exposed to such theory before though; in the early 1980's Hewlett Packard trained us all in the 'new' handling of sensitive electronics. The change from TTL to CMOS involved a host of new handling techniques; the static electricity generated by walking across an office carpet can destroy much electronics.

As an aside, when I'm on the customer site I never ever touch anything I have no business touching. The last thing I need is for them to be able to blame me for the loss of half a days production.

That's the theory. Now for the reality. Once you've entered no-shoes land you're passing lockers provided for the workers. When they're on the premises their street shoes are in the locker; when they're not their 'special shoes' and smock are in the locker.

I, as a visitor, don't have a locker. I have an antistatic plastic bag to put my street shoes in. I do have access to a locker but I have to chase someone for the key; it's easier to not use one and just carry a bag.

As you well know, I'm a smoker. Going out for a smoke involves crossing 'no-shoes' land, changing shoes, taking off my smock, walking down a steep hill and lighting up in the car park. It's enough work that one doesn't just have the one smoke; going out for a smoke involves half an hour and at least three smokes!

So this week it's my turn to be the target of the Shoe Nazi. If Seinfeld could do the Soup Nazi I can certainly do the shoe one!

She first tackled me on Monday. My antistatic plastic bag aforesaid contains my 'special shoes' and my smock. Not good enough. I can't put them both in the same bag. But where do I get a second bag for the smock? Not her problem. I get to stand there waiting while my sponsor comes to rescue me. Since I'm only a small part of his problems I get to wait an hour or so. But he comes, okays me through and forgets about it. No antistatic plastic bag.

This may seem like a minor point but you really can't go to the local corner shop and buy one. Nor, it seems, are they easy to come by at the facility. By dint of much begging I secured a second one, large enough for my smock. So now I've got two bags. A big one and a smaller one.

Tuesday. The shoe nazi notices that I take my street shoes out of the big bag and put my 'special shoes' in. Not good enough! I now need a bag for my street shoes, and a bag for my smock. More begging.

Wednesday. The shoe nazi notices that even though my smock goes into it's own bag and my street shoes go into their own bag, my 'special shoes' just go into the large bag that holds the other two bags. Not good enough!

Thursday. I now have a big bag that holds three other bags. One of them holds my smock, the second my street shoes, the third my 'special shoes'.

As a vendor representative I have to just suck it up but it's galling to see how she revels in that tiny bit of power she has. More than once I've felt like dragging her to see how the lockers work. A colleague of mine pointed out once that we shove 'special shoes' that have trodden in urine into the locker beside the smocks we wear. Add to that the fact that we interchange our street shoes and 'special shoes' in the same locker and the whole isolation thing becomes somewhat moot.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Mum's birthday

was yesterday. She's 74! Yikes, my mother is 74 and she was 22 when I was born! A sobering thought.

Last year I got confused about the international dateline; I rang her to wish a happy birthday a day late. Well it was March 8 my time but March 9 her time. A poor excuse as it happens, given that I know very well, and have known for quite some years, about time zones. I still enjoy telling Americans that they are the last people in the world to enter a new day!

I rang Mum today on the right day, courtesy of being in The Philippines and a mere three hours behind Melbourne. In Melbourne Summertime Phoenix is 18 hours behind Melbourne!

We were never a particularly demonstrative family. I don't think Mum and I have ever said we loved each other. It still jars on my nerves to hear Morgan say to her mother 'I love you.', particularly when I don't believe a word that comes out of her mouth. But even if I did believe what she says I have to admit that it would still jar to hear those words; we never said them.

Which isn't to say that we don't love each other. We just don't say the words. Since I never grew up with the words it follows that I'm not comfortable with hearing them. Even my wife and I don't use the words though I'm sure she would given half a chance.

I don't think of my mother as being a septuagenerian. She's Mum. That cheery woman who wiped my bum when it needed wiping and who taught me self sufficiency. I remember when I was six years old and bored. 'Mum, what can I do?' A question asked in 1960 just after my father had died and she was doing the ironing. She endured patiently enough for a while but the fiftieth time was once too many; she took the glass of water she'd been dabbing onto the ironing and threw it in my face. Only the water.

Stated that way it sounds terrible; child abuse anyone? But remembering the incident I can only think of it affectionately. Even at the time I can remember first surprise and then laughing. An adult throwing a glass of water at someone? Risible. I'm not imposing adult judgements on a childhood memory; I really did find it funny. That's my Mum!

Another time, in the chill of a Melbourne Winter, I'd just got out of a warm bath. 'Mum, what do I do now?'. Mum answered 'go stand outside the backdoor.'. So I did. My grandmother was shocked. I shivered a bit but I'm here to relate the story.

My mum's a cool elderly lady who had a hard life and who hopes to live another two decades. I hope she does too. I had the ill grace, during tonights phone call, to order her to live another 3 months minimum. If she does that she'll have outlived my grandmother. We talked a bit about that; Mum was surprised that Gran had died as young as 74. As she described it, she'd always thought of Gran (my fathers mother) as a very old woman. Well, she was for a 22 year old in the early 1950's. A forty year age difference at that age is a lot.

A few years ago Mum survived stomach cancer. A surgical procedure that took more than half her stomach worked and to this day she eats very small meals about six times a day!

It's been a standing joke in the family for at least 20 years that Mum will bury Misery Guts (my stepfather) and then blow the entire family inheritance enjoying life. We'd sit around the dinner table at Christmas and joke about it and my second wife thought it the height of bad manners. I really hope Mum does do it. She deserves it.

Mum? I love you. Keep on kicking and enjoying life!


Robin has always been drawn to the blockbuster. Give him a choice between a movie with a plane crash or one with characters and he'll go for the plane crash every time. So it follows as naturally as night follows day that as a movie writer/director he'd be planning movies with big scenes.

A laudable goal if you can pull it off. To pull it off you need lots of dollars, an experienced crew, brave actors and some luck. Mostly you need dollars; if you have those the rest can be purchased!

Of course it helps to have a story. Peter Jackson got lucky; he had the budget and a great story to tell in 'The Lord of the Rings'.

Robin didn't have either. I have no recollection of the production for which he needed a helicopter but I do remember him describing how he was going to make one out of papier mache in his backyard. I think it was Dave who asked the killer question; 'what if it rains?'.

Cut to Robins face; puzzlement intermixed with frustration.

Another production bit the dust!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Turtle Video

After being an observer at a shoot[^] the next step was to become involved. I didn't think of it in those terms in those days but it seems obvious to me now that if you're working with amateurs and you want to produce your own video you have to play the game. That meant toting gear, holding lights and microphones and pointing the camera. Even playing a walk on role where you spoke three words whilst keeping a straight face. Never underestimate the value of not smirking!

I said amateurs there and I meant it. We were none of us being paid for being behind the camera or before it. And we none of us really knew what we were doing. I learned as I went, helping Robin turn his vision into reality.

But some of us learned better.

Heino and his friends made fake news programs under the Channel Four Logo. I'm not sure but I think this was before the British Channel Four (I'm talking 1975). I wasn't involved with those productions but I remember watching them and thinking 'what a bunch of wankers' :-) In 1976 they forged an alliance with the Sydney video centres and did 'Twin City' news programs. The alliance was a forgery in more ways than one; I don't think they ever shared any footage but it probably looked good on the reports when it came time to request an extension of funding.

As a sample of their wit, one segment was called 'A Raisin Affair', hosted by a kid who I fancy was 14 years old at the time. His voice was uncertain about his age; it changed pitch from one word to the next. I reckon all of my male readers will remember that stage of life and all my female readers will laugh.

Another segment reported on the escape of a horse from a local paddock. Given that the horse was retired I think it unlikely that it was more than a feeble run but the commentary would have led you to believe that death and destruction was wrought on all sides.

Not a lot different to the current paid TV media!

Heino did a news segment reporting on the new scoreboard at the Williamstown Football Ground. It was a glowing and terribly padded description that included such gems as the fact that it had a section for the home team and another section for the away team! The new scoreboard is still there but after 30 years it's looking sadly in need of replacement.

One of the Channel Four anchormen went on to become the chief pilot at Qantas Airlines. The news segement he did that sticks in my mind showed the new traffic lights at the corner of Napier Street and Whitehall Street, Footscray, accompanied by the breathless news that it had taken 18 months from the allocation of money to the installation. Turtle Video was extinct by the time the first holdup of a Melbourne all night Petrol station had occurred just across the road from there but I'm sure that if they'd been still going they'd have done a news report on it.

Many years later he played a cameo role on a movie we made.

Another of the gang, Dave, became a cameraman at Channel Nine. He stuttered and was immortalised on Hey Hey It's Saturday[^] as Dddddave...

Well he stuttered most of the time but, as we found out much later, point a camera at him and he could enunciate with the best of us. Better than most of us as it happens. He stole more scenes than Ronnie Biggs stole English banknotes!

Fingers crossed

but so far it works. The software I'm working on that is.

I made the deadline but only just; I was still running the installer builder and testing the installs at midnight Monday night my time. Well I was trying to test the installs but that's nearly impossible without virgin hardware. Unfortunately I have neither Virtual PC (or VMWare) here let alone the resources to run it so I had to resort to blowing away my product directory and registry key and then run the installer and see what happens. Fortunately we have a very limited audience for the software and better than 99% of the time the installer is really doing an upgrade.

It all looked good so I did a final build and went to bed. Today, Tuesday, it was crunch time. Front up with the new installer on a memory stick, install it on an oven and see what happens.

One of the things I wrote in January whilst here in the Philippines was a 'version switcher'. A utility that knows how to create a zipped backup of all the vital settings and files and can switch between version X and version Y. It would have been much easier to write if the filesystem was transacted but it isn't so we do it the hard way. The whole point being that if something goes wrong it will undo filesystem and registry changes and you end up with a consistent and workable installation. I may write a CodeProject article about it.

The version switcher (officially it's the Version Manager) has been an invaluable tool. In just a month it's saved my bum more than once. Strange then that some parts of management puzzled over whether the time I spent writing it would have been better spent on other things. My direct manager didn't puzzle; he understood instantly so I let him argue the point with the luddites. He's worth his weight in gold!

It turns out that so far I haven't needed to switch back to a previous version. But it's early days yet. There's an oven full of devices going through test as I write; tomorrow I get to deal with the backend folks who will find at least one thing to complain about.

Almost all the work I've done for the past month has been writing code to record things we never before needed to record. Major database revision and lots of new code to update records. Most galling to have someone in your face demanding to know why we didn't record that piece of data. 'Because we never needed to.' You're about as convinced as I am about how good that answer was. Yet it's true. We really didn't (and from our point of view still don't) need to know who started a session and who ended it. The backend folk do. So I had to add new code to capture and store that information. And much more information than that.

But the backend folk only care about the Philippines facility. They don't care about the facilities in Houston or Dallas or Hiji or Nice. I do. The new stuff that the Philippines are demanding is meaningless to the other locations. In my more mischevious moments I've thought of writing only to the Philippines demands and when the other locations complain about more steps blaming it on the Philippines.

But I really can't do that, tempting though the thought is. So we now have a new concept; production ovens and engineering ovens.

Did that satisfy the Philippines? If you reckon it did I have a great deal on bridges that you might be interested in!

'You mean that we have to run the configuration utility to set production for every oven?'

Uh huh. No matter that it's a one off setting that never needs to be revisited. I reckon these folk would complain if you hanged them with a new rope!

I'm definitely not being paid enough to do this job!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

I'd really like to help you

but you have to help me help you.

Somewhat platitudinous but that was approximately my thought the other night when trying to drive Andrew to a poker night with his buddies.

On my first Friday night living in the US, as opposed to visiting the place, I was roped into driving Morgan to her friend Joy's house. I had an approximate idea of the location because we'd already taken Morgan there once but you'll understand that thrust into a new city of 4 million people and driving on the wrong side of the road it was only an approximate idea.

So we jumped into the car and set off in the right direction. Got to within a couple of hundred metres of the right place and that was the limit of my knowledge. So I, I thought quite reasonably, asked Morgan where exactly it was we were going.

She had no idea. I probed deeper. What street? She had no idea. 'Um' I said, 'so what made you think we'd be able to find the house?'. It seemed a reasonable question.

'Oh', she said, 'Mom knows'. At which point I started laughing. 'Do I look even remotely like Mum??'. Well we were in the area so we drove around aimlessly for a few minutes. I had, at the time, much to learn about Morgan. Eventually I saw a street that looked familiar and there we were.

So we (meaning I) invented a rule. If Morgan expected me to drive her to a friends house I needed an exact street address. I wanted both the street number and the street name and that's where I'd drive her. If it proved to be wrong (as it did the first couple of times as she tried to bluff me) I'd drive back home and she was out of luck. It worked a treat; she stopped asking me to drive her anywhere! :-)

Last Saturday Andrew came downstairs and asked where Mom was. I told him Mum was taking a nap. He seemed somewhat crestfallen so I asked why. Seems he wanted a ride. Now before you conclude that I'm a bastard about rides let me prove it. Most of the places Andrew (and Morgan for that matter) want a ride to are less than a mile away. I'd be ashamed of myself if I asked someone for a lift of less than a mile. Nothing wrong with my legs! So I tend to give Andrew a hard time about being a lazy sod. I used to give Morgan the same hard time but as we're no longer on speaking terms the subject never arises.

'Well Andrew, I'll give you a lift. Do you know the address?' He didn't. Sigh and stalemate. But he offered to ring his buddy and find out. The address he gave was (names and numbers changed) 39th and Monte Cristo. Which is of course a corner and not a street address in the terms I think. But he was adamant that he knew where from there so off we went.

Arrived and there was that familiar air of puzzlement. Uh huh. He had no idea where he was. Did he ring his buddy? I have no idea. Does his buddy know his own address? Again, no idea but going on the track record I've seen I doubt it.

But I reckon Andrew now believes that if he ever again wants me to drive him to some place I don't know he'd better know the exact address!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

I like eggs and I like chicken

To be precise I like eggs boiled, poached and scrambled. I'm not particularly enamoured of em fried which, of course, puts me out of step with the mob in the US. But I'll live with that.

I can quite easily break a raw egg into a glass of flavoured milk, swirl it around and drink it with pleasure. The first time I did that in front of Morgan I thought she was going to lose her dinner in a most unpleasant manner. Being somewhat of a bastard I drank egg flips for a week afterward.

I also like chicken; be it poached gently in a mustard sauce, stir fried, fajitaed (is that a word?) or roasted the way my wife does em. I was never much of a fan of roasted chook until it tried it 'Sonya style'. Usually it's much too greasy. But the way my wife cooks it is pure heaven. The skin is done to a crisp; the flesh is moist without being greasy. As the wierd foreigner in the household I get the parsons nose all to myself; all three of em turn up their noses at it. Their loss.

But I really can't stomach the thought of combining the two ideas; that of egg and roast chook[^] in the one mouthful.

My ride from Manila to Baguio today took rather longer than it should have considering it's a Saturday and the weather is good. I rendezvoused (is that how one spells that word?) with the driver at 2 PM and we should, if past precedent is to be relied upon, have arrived in Baguio about 7. In the event we didn't get here until 9.

Our tardiness might have had something to do with Ohmee breaking in a new driver. Usually I'm quite happy to be the guinea pig or the prized specimen; if a doctor is showing an intern the ropes and asks if I mind the new chum being present during my testicular examination I say 'go for it'. We all have to learn somewhere.

But this new driver is even more timid than I am. Perhaps it's that, after doing the trip 9 times, even I know where the road is going to bend suddenly. Whatever, it seemed to me that many many opportunities were lost to overtake trikes and jeepnies where it would have been perfectly safe to overtake. And all the time the minutes were piling up.

In the normal way I wouldn't worry overmuch; I'm perfectly happy to play it safe most of the time. Twenty or thirty seconds either way seems to me a wonderful bargain in exchange for my life. But I'd been travelling somewhat more than 30 hours at the time and the hotel restaurant closes at 10. The way things were going I was looking like missing my dinner!

Impatience at my age forsooth! I made the mistake of expressing my misgivings. Ohmee can be a bit of a bastard at times; a man after my own heart :-) A couple of minutes later we pulled over at a roadside food stand and he ordered food. Burned (to my eyes) corn on the cob and some eggs. I was happy enough to risk the corn and it was quite good; much better than I expected and so far it hasn't caused any unpleasantness of a bathroom nature.

I had deep misgivings about the eggs. Misgivings which proved to be well founded.

It's a cultural thing of course. I imagine if I'd grown up with balut I'd be perfectly happy with it but I didn't and there's an end of it. Ohmee and the new driver laughed at my expression when they broke open their eggs and they happily wolfed down my share.


I got here in time for dinner :-)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Texas Barbecue

isn't for me this weekend after all, alas. (I'm sorry but I can't bring myself to spell it BBQ). And after spending a couple of days looking forward to a nice plate of ribs. You'll remember that only a couple of nights ago I posted[^] about returning to Dallas to 'nurse' our new release through the customer. Whilst Dallas isn't 'home' I've come to like the place even if it's flatter than a pancake and somewhat colder in winter than I'd like.

Nope, I found out today, via an email exchange between customer person A and customer person B, on which I was a CC, that I have been negotiated into travelling to The Philippines again, with the expectation that I'll be there bright and early Monday morning. Ninth time. To achieve that goal I need to leave Phoenix Friday afternoon. Nice way to find out! No inquiry regarding any plans I might have had for the weekend! A good thing, methinks, that I decided against dragging my wife along to that Rachmaninoff Concert!

As it happens I didn't have great plans for the weekend. I was due to fly to Dallas on Sunday with the expectation of working on Saturday to meet a deadline. The deadline hasn't moved but travelling to Baguio takes out a large chunk of the time I'd scheduled to be working on the software. Paradoxically, sending me to The Philippines to meet a deadline may well cause me to miss the deadline. Arguments along those lines fell upon deaf ears; when we're in crisis mode the old guard management resort to 'body shipping'. Funny thing is, we're always in crisis mode! *shrug*

So, after emitting a few choice expletives, I rang the travel agent. Nope, he can't get me a seat via Singapore on Friday. The only one available is tomorrow, Thursday. Yes, I could probably get a seat on NorthWest Airlines via Tokyo or even Philippine Airlines direct from Los Angeles to Manila but if I have to travel I want the frequent flyer points. Three trips to the Philippines equals one free trip back to Australia!

The boss wanted me to stay for four weeks. There are two problems with that. The first is that I don't want to be there for four weeks :-) The second is that when you enter The Philippines they stamp your passport for three weeks. To get the extra time you entrust your passport to someone who sends it back to Manila along with 50 or so bucks. If you're lucky you get the passport back ten days later. Dunno about you but I don't like being in a foreign country for that length of time without my passport.

The boss has a tendency to pick figures out of thin air. So I asked him why four weeks? Oh, he said, 'so and so is there and you can work on project X with him while you're there'. 'Ah' I said, 'it just so happens that I know that so and so is returning March 18th, I'll come back the same day'. The boss agreed. But do you reckon there's a return seat available March 18th? Nope. Nor on the 19th. There's one on the 20th

Reasons not to travel

Writing the preceding post reminded me of my trip to Dallas in May 2005. I'd decided to travel Thursday afternoon, do what was needed on Friday and return to Phoenix that evening.

On Tuesday we were having yet another meeting and the boss asked me why Thursday? Why not travel Wednesday instead? As quick as a flash I replied,

'My wife and I are having sex on Wednesday evening'.

I don't think I've ever seen anyone quite so surprised before :-)

The story spread through the company; Kevin, our sales guy, who's based in Dallas heard it. A fortnight or so later I was about to travel to The Philippines. Similar deal to the trip I'm about to undertake; gotta be there yesterday. Kevin was also due to go to The Philippines but whereas I was leaving on Friday he wasn't leaving until Sunday. I asked him how it was that I had to give up my entire weekend but he only had to lose half his. As quick as a flash he replied...

'My wife and I are having sex on Saturday evening'.

Yeah ok, you saw that coming.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Riders on the storm

I'm almost done with the rip of my CD's to the hard disk. I knew I had a few hundred CD's but I didn't realise it was quite this many. There are a few missing that I can't seem to find; the Beatles White Album, Szymanowski's Violin Concertos, Michael Nymans String Quartets and some Roger Waters aren't to be found yet I know I listened to em half a year ago. They'll turn up; I can't imagine anyone pinching them!

One of the discs I rediscovered was 'The best of the Doors'. To be honest they were never one of my favourite groups but then again, the Beatles weren't either. Y'know, I typed band there and then reconsidered; back then they were called groups.

But there are one or two good tracks in there. 'The End' with it's maniacal, 'Mother? I'm going to kill you.' 'Father? I'm going to kill you'. And there's 'Riders on the Storm'. A big hit in 1970 when I was a first year apprentice at AWA. I've already written a little about that time. My main duties were to install car radios but when there were none to be installed I was allowed, nay, expected, to repair dead radios.

For some reason 'Riders on the Storm' was popular with all of us in that workshop; whenever it cropped up on the radio we'd all tune to the station (I remember people shouting 'Storm - 3KZ' to tell us which station). We'd all turn the volume up loud and sing along. Only we didn't quite sing the words the Doors had written. Our version went something like 'Shagging on the shore'...

It seemed funny at the time :-)