Thursday, November 30, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

*Boom boom*

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


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

*boom boom*

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Heard on the radio today

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

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

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

And now there are three

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

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

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

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

I'll miss him. Rest in Peace Ginger.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Intelligence test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Die Spamming Bastards, Die!

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

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

Monday, November 13, 2006

Well, they got that wrong!

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I voted today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sonya's Europe trip

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

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

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

Monday, November 06, 2006

What I wanted for Christmas

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

*boom boom*

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

Kicking the tyres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bloggers block

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

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