Monday, December 24, 2007

Chickens coming home to roost

It gets pretty dusty here in the desert. One is well advised not to wear white gloves in these here parts! It's pretty fine dust too; pulverised rock that seems to get in everywhere.

One place it gets into is the heatsinks and fan systems in our computers. Indeed, it's essential maintenance as we get into the warmer months to take them down one at a time, remove the fans and brush the dust out. It helps to use a vacuum cleaner and, as a job, it sucks!

Okay, that was a cheap joke.

It's pretty easy to clean up the CPU fan and heatsink, not so easy to get all the dust out of the Northbridge fans and, as a consequence, we don't seem to get more than a couple or three years out of a motherboard. It's no big deal though; it's the perfect excuse to upgrade to bigger/better/faster.

Well that is if it's my computer or my wife's. If it's Andrews, well, he doesn't seem to care as long as it can run World of Warcraft. I don't think he'd know a FPS measurement if it hit him on the head. This is fine with us; it means we can get away with lower end equipment for his computer.

Thus, came the disaster, from his point of view, back at the end of June. His computer started randomly hanging. Now you'll remember that I used, thirty or more years ago, to repair TV sets for a living. But let me tell you, isolating a fault in a modern computer motherboard is a few orders of magnitude more complex. Frankly, it's not worth the trouble, so we bit the bullet and bought him a new motherboard and processor.

Of course, it wasn't quite that simple. Though we only spent $140 it seemed reasonable to me that there should be some strings attached. He's 16 years old and it's surely time he learned that money doesn't just drop out of the sky. In short, he had to do something to earn the repairs. We agreed that he'd wash my car and my wife's once a month until January, for a total of 14 car washes. I thought pricing it at about $10 a car wash wasn't unreasonable.

All went well the first month, if you discount my inspecting my car after the wash and pointing out all the places he'd missed!

Second month it went okay. By the fourth month it was like pulling teeth to get him to uphold his side of the bargain. Finally, when it was down to a mere 5 car washes remaining, I threw in the towel, telling him not to bother. But I also warned him that I would reciprocate the lack of bother the next time his computer failed.

On Friday the computer shutdown with an 'overheating' warning. Unfortunately I was at the office and unable to enjoy the general consternation. But, acting under Mom's instructions, he, apparently gingerly, opened it up and brushed some of the dust out. Understand, we're talking a 16 year old boy who is apparently afraid of wielding a screwdriver! I fear I'm just not mentally equipped to understand that!

So I got home from the office to hear all about it. Of course I reminded him that he owed us 5 car washes and I wouldn't lift a finger for his computer until they were completed. And no, Andrew, 5 car washes in one day doesn't count. It's 2 a month plus the odd one.

I wasn't really surprised when he let the entire weekend go without raising a finger toward the cars; his computer seems to be running fine right now. But of course, without the regular maintenance, it will fail again soon.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rudolph, the red nosed schmuck!

I reckon they got the last line of that revolting Christmas song wrong. Instead of going 'you'll go down in history' it should be 'the biggest schmuck in history'.

Long time readers won't be surprised to hear me repeat that I hate Christmas with a passion. Newer readers can go read what I wrote about it in Decembers 2004 and 2005.

It just amazes me how people I would consider reasonably sane at any other time of the year can so lose all sense of dignity at *this* time of year.

It reminds me of the similarly disgusting spectacle one beholds when someone fronts with their new baby. By any reasonable standard you'd have to totally disagree with the parents and assert that the newborn looks like it was beaten with the ugly stick. But not a bit of it. Instead of politely agreeing (whilst privately disagreeing) that said newborn is the most beautiful thing on the planet most people, in my experience, lose any sense of aesthetics and strive to outdo the doting parents.

The parents can be forgiven, especially the mother. She's carried this thing around for the best part of a year and faces the uphill task of cleaning up after it for at least the next two decades; can anyone blame her for striving to find some redeeming feature that will justify the effort? As for the proud fathers, they're just embarassing the way they strut about as though they'd just done something no one else in the world could ever do!

Like *that* was ever a difficult task!

And then, faced with the newborn aforesaid, most people forget that they once spoke the proud language of their forefathers (whatever that language may be) and descend to the most disgustingly silly noises imaginable. And not, sad to say, only when faced with a newborn. My wife, when dealing with her grandson of eighteen months, resorts to such subterfuges as throwing a blanket over him (good sense there!) and then exclaiming 'where's Ryan?' in a tone of voice suggesting that she really doesn't know where the poor bastard is!

Hmmmmm I sometimes have grave doubts about my wife!

But back to Rudolph. Think about it. Here we have this poor innocent (so far as we can tell from the song) red nosed reindeer being put upon in a most shameful fashion by the other reindeer on the grounds that he has a red nose! Kind of like being the red haired kid at school. Or, as I was, the kid who isn't interested in sport!

And then one foggy winters eve these exclusionist reindeer, realising that they're up the proverbial creek without a paddle, turn around and schmooze up to Rudolph. For the entire year he's been the outcast because of that damn nose but *now* they need him. Hypocrites! And Rudolph, schmuck that he is, goes along with it! I bet come the end of Boxing Day it's back to the status quo and that red nose is once again a target of ill natured abuse!

What a schmuck! I bet you can guess what I'd have said to them if I'd been Rudolph. But I don't use that kind of language in my blog!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Now that's exactly what I'd expect to see there

We were driving, my wife and I, out through the desert country around Pinnacle Peak Road and Tatum Boulevard. I'm told the country there looks much as it would have looked before about 1880 though I fear the road and power lines tend to destroy the illusion.

And there, off to the right, maybe 20 metres from the roadside, was a bloke in his thirties riding a unicycle through the brush!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I wish I'd thought of that

I flew back from Dallas today. The customer presentation went more smoothly, and more quickly, than expected and I got back to DFW a couple of hours earlier than I'd expected. Just in time to miss an earlier flight to Phoenix that I wouldn't have taken anyway; it's not worth the hundred bucks to me to get back two hours earlier and the office sure won't pony up the extra.

The gate was crowded and there were no empty seats in the immediate vicinity. But there was one woman with her suitcase proudly occupying the seat by her side. This with people standing around. So this guy walks up and, as cool as you please, said:

'So you've got two asses!'

She got the point. And I had an uncomfortable couple of minutes trying to stifle the laughter. I wish I'd thought of it! (and had the courage to say it).

Monday, November 12, 2007

There's precision for you

Last week I received a mailout from the Maricopa County Recorders office, the people who run elections here. The trend is, it seems, to try and get as many people as possible to vote by mail, doubtless with the goal, ultimately, of not having walk in voting at all. Over this little black ducks dead body; I like the process of attending at the polling place and sticking my ballot in the box.

Hence the mailout; an application for permanent early voting registration. Obviously I don't intend to avail myself of the opportunity; methinks the travel has calmed down to a predictable level. That said, I'm off to Dallas tomorrow (Tuesday) on a mere weeks notice, to present at a customer internal users group meeting. And even if they *did* require me to travel the day before the next Presidential Election, I can always use the walk-in early voting system.

All of which is my typically long winded introduction to what caught my eye on the permanent early voting registration form; they had a section which lists the potential dates of elections. Obviously they don't print exact dates nor do they predict the next five or ten years dates, nope, they list the formulae by which the election dates are set.

This differs markedly from the system I'm used to where the incumbent government gets to choose a date, within certain limits, that it believes is most conducive to winning. Thus you can never quite predict an exact date. Not so here in the US it seems.

There's one we all know; the first Tuesday following the First Monday in November. Two more, the details of which I don't remember, and then this one, which cracked me up.

The Ninth Tuesday before the First Tuesday after the First Monday in November! Got that?

At least it explains this[^].

Sunday, November 11, 2007

An accurate description

The other day I bought some Imation rewritable DVD's. The box proudly proclaims that they have a 100% shatterproof case. Upon opening them I could see why. The case is made of cardboard! I can't remember the last time I managed to shatter cardboard.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

TV Dinners

I thought I'd seen it all but boy was I proved wrong!

I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw my wife take a miniature TV dinner out of the microwave oven. For reasons we won't go into Morgan has eaten with us two nights running, complete with infant in tow.

And sure enough, the miniature TV dinner was for said infant! Poor bastard is less than a year and a half old and already the big bad world is feeding him fast food!

'nuff said!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The flag

Not far from Hooters[^] in Phoenix there's a flag shop. They sell all kinds of flags; not just US and US State flags but flags of the world.

Heino was on the prowl for gifts to take back to his family and his biggest problem was finding something you couldn't already buy in any shopping centre in Melbourne. I kid you not. When my wife Sonya was in Melbourne back in 2002 I took her through Myers; she was surprised to see all the teenwear bearing US flags. *shrug*

I thought it might be unusual to take back an Australian flag purchased in Phoenix but he felt that idea was insufficiently original. What he did buy, for me, was a car number plate bearing the Australian flag. Back in Australia you have to have number plates back and front so there's nowhere to attach a third plate. Not so here in Arizona; we only have the rear plate.

The curious thing about the plate is that it has the word Australia printed on the lower edge. It seems strange to me that someone felt the need to print the name of the country adjacent to the flag; surely anyone in the market for an Australian flag car number plate would already know what the flag looks like!

Sunday, October 07, 2007


over Northern Arizona.


Currently my desktop wallpaper.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

It's all over

Yep, Heino's gone home. Lucky bastard!

As you might have guessed, considering how I rattle on about food, the subject of cuisine was never far away. He did indeed enjoy ribs and some excellent steaks during his stay though I fear we were unable to convince him to give Mexican a try. No amount of protesting that what he knows as Mexican food back in Australia is as Mexican as I am was capable of turning the scales.

He did try a burger at Hooters[^]. Uh huh. Hooters. Knowing my aversion to American burgers I played it safe with the chicken wings but Heino was not deterred. He pronounced it pretty good.

But who goes to Hooters for the food?

A positive experience at Hooters lead to the inevitable disappointment, at Big Nose Kate's Saloon[^] in Tombstone. Truly vile food. Heino's face was a study as he ploughed his way through the burger. My shredded beef with BBQ sauce was a lot worse than it sounded and it sounded bad enough. He got his comeuppance twice over when, thinking to moisten the burger a trifle, he dabbed some Heinz ketchup over the top. I don't think he believed, until that moment, that I had not exaggerated the extreme sweetness of the stuff!

But if our burgers and beef were not quite up to scratch we were more than amply compensated with a large serving of ham, courtesy of the re-enactment of the Gunfight at the OK Corral[^]. Ok, I got carried away with the opportunity to continue the food theme. I quite enjoyed it.

Driving back to Phoenix from Tombstone, via The Thing[^] Heino promised he'd have a couple of Aussie meat pies for lunch when he got back, followed by fish and chips for dinner that evening. He also promised to send photographic proof, purely to underline the fact that it's been over two years now since I've had decent fast food.

I'm still waiting for the photo of the fish and chips!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Geelong vs Port Adelaide

This is going to be one of the rarest of posts from me; an account of my actually watching a sporting event. I can't quite say *enjoying* a sporting event though, in the end, it wasn't all that bad.

It was, of course, the Australian Football League Grand Final[^]. You may remember my account of an attempt to watch the 2005[^] Grand Final. That's been my usual feeling toward the game but this time around, with Heino here, it was a trifle different. Indeed, I wondered how he was going to survive being unable to catch the game live and almost his first question was whether one of the US sporting networks would carry the game. I feared not and a check of those channels included in the Cox Cable basic package proved I was right.

Google to the rescue; we found a pub in Scottsdale where the game would be shown live. I suppose I should have guessed Arizona would have an Australian Rules Football club, the Arizona Hawks[^] (they even have the same colours as the original Hawks, Hawthorn in Melbourne). We duly signed up and then fronted tonight to find an Australian woman outside checking names off a list and handing out complimentary drink tickets. Love that accent! She picked me as an Aussie even though I was wearing an aloha shirt (that may be the subject of a future post). I think the necktie with the Australian flag might have tipped her off!

Now I wouldn't want you to imagine this was an Australian style pub in Scottsdale; no sirree no, not that lucky. Nope, this was a British Pub and our hopes of Four'n'Twenty[^] meat pies were dashed. I even took along a new bottle of Rosella Tomato Sauce just in case they had managed pies (hoping for both pies *and* tomato sauce would be akin to hoping for world peace). They did have some very nice sausage rolls though and that almost made up for the paucity of pies.

The beer list was interesting and I had some 'Old Peculiar'[^] for no better reason than that the name appealed! Of course, I'd have gone for 'Old Bastard' if they'd had a beer by that name! Nice drop though, as I was driving, I had to limit myself to a mere two.

Thus to the game. A walkover. Geelong beat Port Adelaide 163 to 44 and Port never looked like winning. Me? I couldn't have cared less who won but Heino was on the Geelong side on the grounds that it was a Victorian team. Peculiar reasoning but there you have it. Perhaps he should have been drinking the beer instead of me!

Our entrance fee also included an entry each in the half time raffle. I half hoped it'd be a chook raffle[^] but alas, it was not to be. We won anyway; a dozen Coopers Original Pale Ale[^]. They're chilling nicely in the fridge as I write. That's better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Back in Phoenix

We've returned to Phoenix. It might have taken us a mere seven hours to get from Phoenix to Las Vegas, via the Hoover Dam[^], but it took us a lot longer to return.

We took the 'Dam Tour', as the guides will insist on calling it. The joke wears a trifle thin after a while but you can't help but admire their persistence with it. Methinks they enjoy the freedom to use a 'forbidden' word.

Boy, they do like their statistics. If I'd been fifteen I might have found the stats more interesting but as one grows older it's harder to be impressed by a long recitation of millions of tons of concrete. Hey, I have the evidence of my eyes and even I can see there's a lot of concrete there!

I was disappointed when comparing the tour as she is given in 2007 with the tour one sees in 711 Ocean Drive[^]; if the movie is any evidence (I'm not sure it is but those were less paranoid times) tourists in 1950 saw a lot more of the insides of the dam than we do now. Highly recommended nonetheless, if you're ever in the area.

When Heino and I planned this trip he was most careful to say 'you don't need to entertain me'. I even believe him. Nonetheless, when I go to Melbourne it really is true that he doesn't need to entertain me; having lived there for 48 years I know (or knew) the joint pretty well and have hundreds of places I want to go visit again.

Well, I know the theory but it ain't so easy to put it into practice. There also happen to be many well known landmarks and national parks and just plain amazing things to see here in Arizona. And a few not so well known but just as amazing things to see, both here and in Utah. Thus a side visit to Zion National Park[^]. My first time through there too.

From there to Flagstaff[^] for the night. We hadn't planned to spend the night in Flagstaff but for some reason the motels at Tuba City[^] (all two of em) were full up and we had to keep on going. Sometimes it helps to book ahead.

From Flagstaff we doubled back to the Grand Canyon. Now there's a hole in the ground! I don't care how many photos or travelogues you've seen of The Canyon, nothing can prepare you for the reality. I wanted to do the blindfold trick and guide Heino to the edge but neither Heino nor Sonya seemed inclined to play along. Spoilsports!

I record here that I had the best salad of my life at the El Tovar Hotel[^]. Blackened Pork and Spinach salad, with mandarins and toasted sesame seeds. Simply magnificent. I fear both Heino and Sonya are sick of hearing how good it was!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


So here we are, day two and a bit in Las Vegas. My second time here; Heino's first.

I can't tell if he stole the phrase from me or I stole it from him but he keeps referring to himself as 'this little black duck'! Thus last night, late, at the bar, over beer and wine, when the hooker managed eye contact and he had to wave her away, with the aforementioned phrase.

I haven't been anywhere near the Blackjack tables; having managed to actually come out ahead at a casino in Reno a couple of years ago I haven't dared go back. We have managed to lose a few dozen bucks on the slot machines though Sonya did win a hundred on our first night. Alas, that hundred has since disappeared back into the maw of the money making machinery!

Nonetheless, it's been a good time here. All you have to do is suspend any notions of good taste and you're in! We're at the Tropicana, the cheap seats, and let me tell you, it's so cheap they charge for the internet connection! This must be the last place left in North America where the hotels charge for internet access. Indeed, I'd become so used to the idea of tapping into the hotel-named unsecured wireless access point that it came as quite a shock when the only page I could get to required a credit card!

We're off to the show later this arvo; you can't come to Vegas and *not* go to a show. The one we chose (and don't tell Heino this, it's a surprise) is The Fab Four at Planet Hollywood. More his speed than mine I fear but he's been a Beatles fan for yonks and I'm sure he'll love it.

For the rest, it's been long rounds of tramping from one fantasycasino to the next. But once you get onto the gaming floor itself it's damn near impossible to tell one from another. They even sound exactly the same, with that low volume minor third chord they pump into the room to put you ever so slightly on edge. Very subtle. Even Crown Casino in Melbourne sounds exactly the same.

Friday, September 21, 2007

In transit

You'd have to be very new to reading my blog to be wondering at the title of this post. Yep, Heino is, as I write, somewhere over the South Pacific Ocean, speeding toward North America.

Fourteen or so hours until I greet him at Phoenix Airport with our immortal greeting of 'how's it hanging?'. Which one of us gets the greeting in first is always random. The one who has to respond replies 'all the way to the ground mate, and making furrows!'.

Ok, so that's a bit blokey!

It was really quite pathetic today at work. I'm about to take two weeks off, at long last, and I have no enthusiasm for starting the next project this week. Time enough for that a couple of weeks hence. I spent the time alternating between reading reviews of Sonic Home Studio 6 XL[^], reviews of the second movement of my first symphony (posted on another website but you'll get the URL of that website only by killing me; though they weren't bad reviews) and checking the airline website for Heino's flight status.

They were 26 minutes late out of Melbourne but made the time up at the Sydney stopover and so far seem to be on time.

We plan to keep the poor bastard awake tomorrow evening until a reasonable hour; gotta get him into the US time zone. Saturday we have nothing planned though methinks a lot of talk will ensue. Sunday we're off to Las Vegas. I may or may not write about Vegas; what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?

After that who knows? I'm still toying with the idea of a day trip to Tombstone.

Hmmm, can you tell I'm looking forward to this?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Do we really need to pass this new law???

The City of Phoenix passed a new law today, making it illegal to send text messages by phone whilst driving[^].

Are people really so stupid that a law needs to be passed forbidding an activity so obviously at odds with safe driving???

Apparently so, for earlier this evening, whilst driving home from the supermarket, I heard, on Gaydos at 7, none other than Gaydos* himself positing various instances in which the new law would be terribly unfair. For instance, what if he were driving along and decided to check his messages? Or call someone? To a cop it would appear that he was texting when in fact he wasn't. And then he suggested that he'd probably be speeding to make up the time wasted while he proved to the cop that he hadn't been texting! Ergo, his speeding fine was all the fault of the Phoenix City Council for passing such a law.

A little later and we're getting the whole 'erosion of rights' message followed by 'damn liberals and lefties' propoganda. At least I now know exactly where to classify Gaydos.

Nonetheless, it's an 'erosion of his rights' to require him to pay attention to the road when he's driving???

Sometimes I just don't get the logic of some people!

* that's his name according to the KTAR website.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Over there ---->

Second and third movements - still not complete. Lest you think the second is going to finish there, it ain't. It's going to wander back toward the opening ideas and then lead into the third movement.

Or another alternative I'm toying with - swap second and third movements. Lemme think about it!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Word, dude

Let's see how well I can convey this in words.

Andrew has been showing signs of a 'gothic' outlook on life of late. You know the deal; 'woe is me and life sucks'. I've been there, done that, not a lot of fun. Much better to assume action on the surface of the planet is preferable to inaction a few feet below the surface.

So I thought I'd push him a little. 'life sucks just how?'. 'Well, you know, it's like, you have to do things'. I fear I didn't manage to keep a straight face at that. Then he crowned it by saying he was being a 'realist'.

He also informed me that they're not 'goths' anymore. It seems they're 'emos' which I assume means emotionals.

Now I'll admit I have not a lot of knowledge of child raising. Nonetheless, I could see it was time for drastic action. So I stood up, held my hands in the 'gangsta' pose (thumbs up, index and middle fingers together and straight out, remaining fingers tucked into the palm. Then you hike your elbows up and out so that the index and middle fingers point at each other). Then, apparently, you say 'word, dude'. Some kind of magical incantation that youth understands and we old farts do not. We had em in our day too. Anyone remember 'groovy' or 'make love, not war'?

It got half a smile and we talked about the transience of life and pain.

At the office the next day, over a smoke, I mentioned it and Darren pointed out that I'd left out the most important part of the whole thing. After saying 'word, dude' I should cross my arms across my chest, lean backward and to one side and nod knowingly. I practised it, much to his amusement!

That night at dinner, when Andrew was indulging in his doom and gloom, I stood up and did the entire performance. I thought Sonya would never stop laughing! Andrew merely dignified it with a raised eyebrow but I could see a smile, fiercely resisted, hovering on his lips.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Magpies milk

I've mentioned home delivery of milk[^] before.

When we moved to St. Albans, a Melbourne suburb, at the end of 1966, we lived in one of three houses huddled together in a little group; the next nearest house a mile or so away. At the time St. Albans was a 'new' suburb, though I note that parts of central St. Albans date back to at least the 1930s.

Isolated as we were we still got the daily milk delivery and it didn't take long to notice that the miserable bastard living next door had a thing about his milk. If a magpie had happened to peck out the tinfoil cap and helped itself to the cream he'd pour the milk away in a fit of anger. Never failed!

I'm sure you can guess what came next. Uh huh. In those days I was usually awake at dawn (the legacy of parental notions that 13 year olds ought to be in bed by 9:00). I can just imagine what would happen if we tried to enforce any such rule on Andrew. It's hard enough to endure the wailing and gnashing of teeth when we enforce a 10:30 room curfew on school nights!

Thus I was usually awake at about the time the milko came by. I'm not sure, at this distant remove, whether it might not have been the rattling of bottles in their crates that awoke me. Then a stealthy operation, sneaking out of the house, penknife in hand, to stab a hole or two in the tinfoil cap and, an hour or two later, the joy of driving my neighbour into a frenzy as he poured away yet another bottle of milk.

What a bastard I was.

It seemed to take him forever to notice the forensic evidence though I suspect that's because we're talking forty years ago and a kids sense of time. I certainly remember it as being months though I suspect it was no more than a couple of weeks, before he realised that those holes in his milk bottle caps looked like they'd been made by a knife.

He had no kids, the neighbours on our other side (we were the middle house) had no kids, so it probably took nanoseconds for him to realise who the culprit was. Thus the trap was set. Out I crept, one cold dark morning, penknife in hand. I still remember the horror I felt as the dark shape rose from behind the fence and a bony hand grabbed my ear. Cunning bastard waited until I had that damn milk bottle in my hand before pouncing! No chance of a denial of ill intent!

Let's not go into more detail of that frozen minute than is necessary to say that sitting on a hard chair at school that day was a trial!

And did my folks feel the need to run to the cops about him? To the best of my knowledge they still don't know about the incident. I certainly wasn't going to drop myself into it by complaining that our neighbour had kicked my backside! Experience told me they'd want a reason and would probably consider I'd got my just desserts.

I had, too!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Strangely enough

I've never thought of myself as the schoolgirl type but obviously Kathy at work sees me that way. How else explain her comment at the end of an email she sent today 'only 9 sleeps to go until your mate gets here!'. Well yeah, I've been counting down the days until Heino gets here, and yes, it is only 9 days away, but really! I think the last time I got so obsessed with something that I was thinking of it in terms of numbers of sleeps was the occasion of my last visit to Australia.

Come to think of it, maybe Kathy has a point. After all, I was staying at Heinos!

Heino works as a teacher and consequently gets far more days off work than I do (I've only just reached the point where I get three lousy weeks a year annual leave). However, in his situation he can't just arbitrarily pick a date for his leave; he has to fit in with the teaching schedule. Hence our picking late September as coinciding with his break schedule and being a cooler time of the year. I can't say I blame him for not wanting to come here in early July when the temperature soars to 115 every day, especially as he'd be coming from winter.

How then do I break it to him that it's hotter than usual this close to his arrival? We're still hitting 106 or 108 every day and I can't see it cooling off all that fast. At the time of writing, 11:15 PM, it's still 95! Nah, bugger it, I'll just brazen it out and tell him he's imagining it. He'll believe me too! (Not bloody likely).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

So much for being a model citizen

We had local elections in Phoenix today. We're located within the City of Phoenix though we have the Scottsdale postcode and never miss the opportunity to say we're in Scottsdale. But I can't lie to you lot!

September 11th seemed like a strange date for the election, though not for the obvious reason. It's just that we outside the US get so used to the idea that the yanks have elections on the first Tuesday in November. And not just those outside the US. My wife, she of half a century or so of living in the US asked me, he of less than half a decade of living in the US, why the election was today rather than in November. I had no idea.

A couple of weeks ago I told Sonya I'd vote on the way to the office and promptly forgot all about it. I'm blaming the date. Sonya rang me at the office to remind me, having gained a great deal of satisfaction, as she signed the register, at seeing that I had obviously not yet voted! It's the small things methinks.

How shameful that I could forget an election!

I suspect I would have remembered though, on the way home, as the radio blared countless repeats of the Steve Lory for Mayor ad. How curious it all was to hear radio ads for the election on the day of the election itself. Back in Australia it used to be the case that there was an electronic media blackout two days before the election; it probably still is the case though I'm not sure. I have to tell you, I always thought of the blackout as a blessed relief. One can only stomach so many political ads, especially when one has already decided which way to vote.

Thus I stopped at the polling place on the way home. They close the polls at 7 PM here else I wouldn't have made it. Being that it was just past 6 PM and this is an election I expected a queue. You can imagine my shock when I walked in and beheld twelve cardboard booths, four election volunteers sitting along a table against one wall, one election volunteer guarding the ballot box, and no one else! Not one single voter!

I couldn't resist. 'So this is democracy at work, huh?' I said.

At least they laughed.

I now have two I voted today[^] stickers on my computer monitor!


My wife and I did something we rarely do together and after tonight I can see why. Our tastes in films are wildly different but sometimes one gives.

Thus tonights movie, Flyboys[^]. Quite possibly one of the worst movies I've ever seen and I don't say that lightly, not when one considers Steven Spielbergs ouvre! By the time we reached the fourth or fifth false climax (the one where the zeppelin is flying toward Paris) I was beginning to believe the movie would *never* end.

But, as I said when it was finally over, 'you know, I need to see a movie like that every so often; it makes me realise just how good the movies were fifty years ago'.

And on that note I finished the evening with this[^]. Really, it surprises me we're still married!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

On the dangers of smoking

The last 24 hours haven't really been kind to me.

It all started yesterday evening outside the hotel in Houston. As I noted earlier in the week, it's a non-smoking hotel and they have a sign prominently displayed in the room advising of a $250 charge for 'room renewal' if they catch us smoking. Dunno about you but I've got better things to spend $250 on, so I wore out their lift (elevator) going outside for a smoke.

Coming back in from one of those excursions I managed to slip on the grass and fell rather heavily on my side. Took the full force right where the ribs end and the abdomen commences. It knocked all the breath out of me and hurt like hell. At first I thought, going by the level of pain, that I must have fractured a rib; now I don't think so. I'm a stubborn bastard; I have to be at deaths door before I'll go see a quack. The thought did go through my head that yesterday was a most apposite day for my death if it had to happen so soon; being the 47th anniversary of my fathers death.

A day later and it only twinges now and then.

Today at the customers site I took the opportunity to slip outside for a smoke. They have a structure reminiscent of a car port off to one side of the grounds, with some wooden benches and lots of ashtrays. Parenthetically I'll note that the politically correct attempt to make us feel like pariahs isn't working; I get a nice walk in the sun and a smoke out of it.

So down I sit, stretch out, hand on the back of the bench and enjoy that smoke! A minute or two later my hand feels like it's on fire and it's not from the ciggy. Nope, a fire ant got me! Little bastard! Fortunately it didn't last long and it was a curious sensation though not one I care to repeat.

After that it's been almost an anti-climax to get through the rest of the day without any further mishaps.

So you see, smoking can be dangerous to your health!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Giving as good as they get

It's taken my wife almost five years but she's finally caught on!

All last weekend I never let pass the opportunity to remind Andrew that I'd be eating ribs and suchlike here in Houston whilst he'd be subsisting on the normal pedestrian fare we eat at home. Which isn't to say that my wife is a slouch at cooking; she does quite well on our budget. Unfortunately for her and Andrew I'm a picky bastard; I can't handle 'sloppy joes' or Lasagne. The first because they're just... vile! The second because as a general rule I'm not on for anything containing cooked tomatoes. Like I said, I'm a picky bastard.

Sonya has gotten into the habit, when I'm away, of dishing up all the kinds of meals I turn my nose up at. It's not quite as bad as it sounds but we have a well established rule; I won't lie and say something was good if it wasn't. That way lies a year of having it served up, with the secret dread as I drive home that tonight will be 'the night' followed by the shamefaced confession that I find it dreadful. Followed by the inevitable question 'well, why didn't you say??'. I'm sure you can see where that goes...

So there I was last weekend, smugly imagining that I'd be eating high on the hog, on the company dollar what's more, while they consumed Lasagne.

My side was fulfilled; ribs Tuesday night, excellent seafood last night, brisket tonight. But they got me good and proper! When I rang home Tuesday night the call happened to be during dinner. And they were having ribs! I could see the silly grin on Andrews face as Sonya told me. And they assured me they were excellent ribs!

Methinks she's finally figured out how I tick. Now I have to change to keep one step ahead. You really wouldn't be dead for quids would you?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I really need to pay more attention

to what I read. Or, failing that, to how I repeat it. I happened to notice a large sticker pasted over the back of someones truck. 'Sucking gas, hauling ass'.

That's what I saw. What I said, when repeating it, amused, was 'Sucking ass, hauling grass'.

Fortunately the owner of said truck took the spoonerism in his stride; I fear I have achieved a dubious celebrity.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

So this is Houston

Yeah, I know, it would have been kewler to use some smartarse title like 'Houston, we have a problem' and then go on to invent one just so's I'd have something to write about. But as I don't have a problem that'd be just plain silly wouldn't it?

From all of which you'll have worked out that I'm in Houston tonight. Actually I'll be here until Friday. Though I've now been to Texas many times this is the first time I've made it this far south in the state.

They warned me it'd be humid but I swear I wasn't prepared for the reality. This is the first time I've ever seen car windows fog up on the outside. Came as quite the shock when I went to wipe the mist off and it wasn't on my side!

I'm in a non-smoking hotel (not that I can blame that on Houston, it's the entire North American Marriot chain, may they rot in hell!) so whenever I nip out for a smoke my spectacles fog up! Five years of Phoenix and I'd completely forgotten ones spectacles could do such a thing!

The drive from the airport was interesting. I quite surprised myself by successfully navigating to the hotel without once looking at a map. Well, that's not *quite* true; I did check out the route last Friday at the office but, that done, I managed on the ground without any further jogs to the memory. Granted, it was an easy route to remember. JFK Expressway to Beltway 8 West, just keep driving down there to the 59 freeway exit and there I am! I was too! But that simple route hides a myriad of lane changes to make sure I stayed on Beltway 8. US freeway/tollway designers sure do like adding and subtracting lanes!

Dinner was ribs of course!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Hammurabi's apprentice

I've noted a few times over the three or so years I've been writing this blog that those teenagers unfortunate enough to have me 'in loco parentis' reckon I give em a hard time. Which I do, almost upon principle.

If one were to go by the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth heard here one might assume we had a torture palace on an unprecedented scale. Not that I blame them; I'd hate to have me as step-father too! I'm full of unreasonable demands such as cleaning ones plates after eating; putting ones stuff in ones own room rather than leaving it where it falls and, the big killer, doing ones homework.

Andrew, thinking to be a smartarse, wrote the following and printed it, complete with pretty border, leaving it where I could not fail to find it. There's hope for the boy yet!

Hammurabi Laws

I. If the dishes are not cleaned then must be immediately cleaned or be put to death.

II. Every month cars must be washed if not washed then must have good reason and can be done another day. If not done another day will pay by not being able to play online games-.-

III. Room will be clean by every weekend if not clean can not hang out with friends under any reason including weekdays..

IV. Homework will be done right after school to stop failing classes if not done after school then right after dinner no buts…..

V. Music will not be played loud when someone is home, ok when not home, but not when someone is here or be put to death by Music of true death opera.

VI. After dinner I will do dishes to be fair (eye for eye) because they work I don’t have too Hahahah.

VII. I will do Extra credit for a better grade and not be flipping burgers or be put to death by summer school~.~

VIII. I will feed the Cats in the house or not be allowed to eat food or have to eat from cat bowl unless not home or have awesome reason why couldn’t (never is though).

IX. I will Clean my computer every 6months so doesn’t go bad by Lag or no longer working or pay by not being able to use computer tell I clean it.

X. Will try my best in school and at life so can do the best I can in life and have good life or be constantly reminded why my sisters do not do well and do you want to be like them..Ugh bummer.

All grammatical errors, mispellings, malaproprisms and sundry other errors are his!

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Stealing an idea from Colins Blog[^] I logged onto my Google Analytics account for the first time in probably a year.

I can't help feeling, with a personal blog such as mine, that one is a bit egotistical having an analytics account at all. I can see where they fit into the scheme of things if it's a money making concern; otherwise it's sheer hubris. On the other hand, show me someone who blogs without an ego and I'll show you a liar!

Of course Colin had a different motivation to mine; he actually wants to see what people are searching for so he can write stuff other people might want to read! What a concept!

Over the last month I've averaged 18 visits a day. I reckon, to be severely honest with myself, that I have to drop that to 16 a day because two a day are me, here at home and there at the office.

I got all of 30 visits on August 2, which I reckon is click through traffic from Codeproject[^] on account of this[^] post which I also posted over on CodeProject.

August 22nd was also a bumper day, with 29 visits, but I'm buggered if I can see any reason why!

The mix of countries of origin is quite interesting. The US shouldn't surprise with a grand total of 434 visits. They also average the longest time per visit. Perhaps they're slow readers? :-) Joke, Joyce!

The UK and Australia are neck and neck second though the Aussies visit more pages per visit.

For the rest, well, there's a total of 46 countries, many with a single visit. Perhaps I ought not to be surprised that the lone Peruvian, Russian and Morrocan didn't hang around! The lone Bulgarian was a fast reader though; s/he visited 3 pages in a mere 1 minute and 37 seconds!

Well all of that's just so much bumfluff.

What fascinated me was the search page results. The single highest search term that brought people to my blog was MET CUST WOM[^]. I reckon that must be a common idiom with UPS delivery people and it must have puzzled many others. I'm pretty sure my comment on it didn't enlighten em one little bit!

And the second highest search term? Adams Ribs[^]. Guess I'm not the only M*A*S*H fan out there!

I'm still puzzling over this one 'voskoboinikov melbourne'. To be sure I did once have a cat I called Voskoboinikov[^] which explains the hit but why on earth was anyone searching for a Voskoboinikov in Melbourne (different link)[^]? That'll be one of lifes little mysteries methinks!

Thursday, August 30, 2007


With a mere 22 days before Heino arrives I had the pleasure of finding a package waiting from him when I got home. He'd hinted it was on the way and, knowing that it was a DVD, I'd already asked my wife to check the mail daily; I suspect that this run of warm days would not do a DVD any good whatsoever.

Now you might wonder why I asked my wife to check the mail. Why can't I check it myself? Well, I can, but we have only one key to the mailbox and, since we live in a condo block and the mailbox is a quarter of a mile away, it can be inconvenient. And why do we have only one key to the mailbox? The key is stamped 'do not duplicate' and when I suggested to Sonya that it might be an idea for me to have a copy she said 'but we can't copy it!'. This from the woman who has no problem whatsoever ripping the labels off mattresses[^]!

I hope any Australian readers have already twigged as to what the DVD was; the title of the post should have given it away. It was a copy of the promotional DVD for the new series of Kath & Kim[^] given away with (I presume) the Saturday Age a couple of weeks ago.

I've just had an evening of pigging out on K&K - started with the new DVD and, those bones picked clean, I watched the entire third series again. Alas, I'll have to wait until the DVD release to see the fourth series, currently running in Australia.

And, quelle horreur (hope I spelled that right), check this[^] out. With all due respect to my new country, what are they thinking??? How will they translate, if they even try, my favourite line from the first episode 'up at the crack of sparrows'! That line perfectly captures the essence of the show. Mrs Malaprope couldn't have put it better!

The impending cultural massacre aside (and yes, I will check it out if only to enjoy a good cringe, should it actually make it out of planning and into reality) I had an immensely enjoyable evening. Thanks mate!

Do me a favour

and go visit this[^] link. (It's perfectly safe - have I ever directed you to a nasty site?)

Last night it was marked for deletion on the grounds that it was of limited interest; I edited it to the extent of adding the final paragraph, the one commencing with This subject may not, in 2007, be considered notable and it looks like it's now out of danger but let's be sure shall we?

We think we're tough in Phoenix

This morning, driving to work, they were blathering on the radio about how today stood a good chance of being the 30th day of temperatures above 110°F.

Driving home they were blathering on about how today had been the ditto...

I'd have been much more impressed if it had been the 30th consecutive day; but no, it's only the 30th day, in total, for this year where the temperature has exceeded the magic 110.

Everyone has been talking about how hot this summer has been but, to be honest, either I've become totally acclimated or this year has felt somewhat cooler than previous years. Admittedly this is only my fifth Phoenix summer but there were some days a month or so ago that felt decidedly chilly; barely rising above 95°F.

And to be further honest, once it gets much above 105°F it all starts to feel the same.

I note with disappointment that so far I haven't seen 100°F at midnight. Been close with about 98°F but close isn't the same as getting the cigar. However, a colleague assures me we *did* hit the magic number; if so it must have been during our El Paso/Santa Fe trip over the Fourth of July week because I've been watching the temperature like a hawk waiting for the magic 100.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


A phenomenon I've noticed of late is the oblivious teenager. I most often see it at the local petrol station, where teenagers and slow moving cars seem to intersect. Fortunately for the teenager that's a figurative intersection.

They all sport the familiar white 'ear buds' (what a horrid term!) and wander across the traffic flow without bothering to look. Such touching confidence that we drivers will hit the anchors on no notice whatsoever. Myself, I have no such confidence in the watchful powers of drivers.

Now it's perfectly possible that this phenomenon isn't unique to Phoenix. It's perfectly possible that Australian teenagers are equally oblivious to their responsibilities as pedestrians. Where I lived in Melbourne was fairly close to the docks area and the place I usually filled up the tank was quite some distance from the nearest residences. Not really a location thronging with teenagers.

Even here, it's a phenomenon I only really see at the weekend; weekdays I usually fill up on the way to the office at a time after the high school day has started.

The other day as I pulled in to the petrol station to get a carton of smokes I was greeted by the sight of yet another oblivious teenager who sauntered nonchalantly right across my path, much as though I wasn't there. Americans are so attached to their damn kids that I wouldn't dream of running one down, much as I was tempted; they'd probably lynch me!

He did see me; of that I'm quite sure. What he didn't see was the driver coming the other way, into whose path he also sauntered. But this guy didn't have my angelic patience. He stopped about a foot away and hit the horn!

I don't think I've seen anyone jump as high as that kid did! Ah hah! I have it. This is a cunning plan to develop athletic skillz and earn mad props at the next Olympics! Tres sneaky!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Over my dead body

Found at my desk the other day!

(Later edit: The Elephant is the symbol of the Republican Party. You think that's silly? The symbol of the Democrats is the Donkey!)

Monday, August 27, 2007

The software 'expert'

It's bad enough being the family software 'expert'. I'm sure you know the deal, those of you in the software field. You're known to dabble in computers and suddenly you're the fount of all wisdom, whether it's your field or not. It's almost impossible to explain that software development is quite a different skill to system administration. As a result, you get lumbered with ridding someone's machine of whichever nasty malware or virus they contracted because they didn't follow your sage advice about internet safety.

It's worse when the solution actually turns out to be quite simple. I was tasked with just such a responsibility this weekend; Matt (Shelby's almost new husband) needed assistance with his laptop - it couldn't burn CD's anymore, nor could he reinstall iTunes software because the installer insisted, repeatedly, that the uninistallation of Gear software required a reboot. Reboot, try again and it still insisted.

The Gear problem was simple; there had to be a flag somewhere and my guess was the registry. A quick search on the product name and there it was, the DeleteOnReboot flag was set. A search of the hard disk (not quite so quick) failed to turn up anything in the way of Gear software, which hardly surprised me. Delete the offending registry key and suddenly iTunes was clogging up his system again!

The CD burner problem was almost as simple; somehow or other he'd managed to install software for a DVD-RAM disk whilst his burner was simple DVD-RW. He swears he never installed that software but we all know what the memory of a user is like. Uninstall that driver and voila, away we go! A pity it was so easy; I can't rely on the difficulty factor to ward off the next request. On the other hand, he's a builder and it's always good to have a builder in the family. Even better if one can trade skills and expertise!

Back in the 1970's, when I repaired TV sets for a living, I used, at parties, to tell anyone who asked that my occupation was interstate truck-driver. At least it got me out of having to try and diagnose ill described symptoms manifested by a brand of TV set my interlocutor couldn't remember. It always amazed me (still does) that someone can sit in the same room as the idiot box for years on end and have no idea what brand it is. Though perhaps that's merely professional overkill on my part.

At least the poor bewildered soul who views a computer as a tool has the right idea. My own computer (the one I'm writing this on at home) died a horrible death about four months ago. I'm pretty sure it was the motherboard. But whatever, it was a splendid excuse to upgrade to an Athlon Dual Core machine.

Two days later I was finally back to where I wanted to be but with one large change. I still haven't installed either Microsoft Office or any kind of development environment. I finally decided it was time to stop using a computer as an end in itself and start using it as a tool for the other things I'm interested in.

Is that my first wife I hear shouting in the distance 'about bloody time'???

Thursday, August 23, 2007

You coulda flawed me!

An old friend (Hi Terri) sent me a link to a real estate agents web page, featuring a house in the street I used to live in back in Footscray. She knows perfectly well that even if I'm living on the other side of the world, where the seasons are backasswards, I still take a keen interest in all that happens in Melbourne and Footscray.

This paragraph (no link, the page'll be gone in a month) fairly leaped out of the web browser at me.

The sheer size of this property will flaw you it keeps going & going & going. With two of everything your guaranteed to suffer from a case of de-ja-vu, this home offers buyers enormous potential with a small amount of elbow grease....'

Lemme see, two malapropisms and at least one punctuation error.

Yeah, I know, everyone uses word processors these days but this copywriter doesn't even have the homonym excuse to fall back upon. Floor and flaw do *not* sound the same.

Picky bastard aren't I!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A slight improvement

Third time around with about a year between each attempt.

Previous scores were 23% and 27% - at this rate I'll be 100% American about the time I die.

But the change is very subtle. I'm pretty sure I chose Carter in previous attempts; and 100% sure I chose gun control and wine over beer on all three tries. Surely knowing this time around that there are four states whose names start with W wouldn't *increase* my Americanism?


You Are 32% American

America: You don't love it or want to leave it.
But you wouldn't mind giving it an extreme make over.
On the 4th of July, you'll fly a freak flag instead...
And give Uncle Sam a sucker punch!

One month to go

Until Heino gets here.

This is a community service announcement for the benefit of Kathy.

Well, at least it was less disruptive than the 'emergency cable tests' they insist on doing here. There you are, 1:30 AM, (or watching something recorded at that time) and an announcement scrolls in at the top of the screen, right to left, informing us that the monthly test of the emergency communications system is in progress. Always accompanied by a sinking of the spirits as the sound is overridden by something that sounds like a cross between a modem and a duck being strangled. You wouldn't believe how much dialogue I've missed that way.

Mutually Assured Destruction[^] and the 1950's have much to answer for!

Selectively deaf

And we all know exactly what I mean by that title. Andrew is especially good at it and I do believe most of the time his mother really thinks he hasn't heard. Apparently he had a hearing problem in his infancy, long before I came onto the scene, since resolved. But perhaps, being charitable, that explains why Mom believes he doesn't hear.

Of course I know better. It doesn't take much in the way of observational power to notice that whenever something good's in the offing he can hear; whenever something's not so good from his perspective suddenly he's hard of hearing.

I, of course, was such a perfect kid that I never suffered from it; neither did you! That might, however, have had more to do with the fact that somehow my parents never fell for it!

I've mentioned a few times lately that Andrew's deep into World of Warcraft. It's become quite the obsession. He surprised me last week by going out, of his own volition, and purchasing a headset, with microphone, so he could join in the chat. I have to tell you, it's very comical listening to the one sided conversations of someone in his own world.

'Dude, look behind you, behind you!'

It all reminded me of British Christmas Pantomime[^], which is remarkable in itself given that I've never seen one. But I've seen and heard the odd reference over the years and it sounds like a lot of fun! Curiously, the Wikipedia page linked above claims it's very popular in Australia; perhaps I just didn't notice.

I couldn't resist the first time I heard him say it.

'Oh no he isn't!' I responded.

Puzzled look from Andrew. You'd reckon by now he'd be used to it.

Tonight after dinner he was, of course, back at World of Warcraft, headphones on, mumbling teenspeak. I heard him ask 'Dude, what did he use?'. Without even thinking I whispered, to myself or so I thought, 'his dick of course!'. Sonya chuckled and Andrew laughed.

You see! Even with headphones on and me whispering he heard! Hard of hearing my foot!

Monday, August 20, 2007


A couple of nights ago.


A bigger mystery

So yesterday I mentioned[^] a minor mystery being solved. Not that big of a mystery but, having learned that 'Ring a Ring a Rosy' was apparently an allegorical reference to the Black Plague in London[^] one was naturally curious about other nursery rhymes. My curiousity on the subject was also piqued when I read a copy of Martin Greens 'The Annotated Alice', where he delved in great detail and wonderfully written footnotes into some of the more outré references Lewis Carroll used.

In short, grist to the mill of curiousity.

Filled with the trivia of Mary Sawyer I held it to myself until dinner time.

'Hey Andrew' I said, 'you know about Mary, the one with the lamb?'

A couple of grunts and he replied 'I think I've heard of it'.

That answer staggered me! I mean, okay, I know his interests are somewhat narrow, currently revolving around World of Warcraft but geeze, how could even he have forgotten the nursery rhymes of a mere decade or so ago?

Dinner yesterday was to be one mystery piled upon another; for Sonya piped up and informed me that they don't teach kids nursery rhymes any more. Apparently they use 'poetry' instead. Strangely enough I'd always thought that nursery rhymes qualified for that description. Shows what I know.

As for why? She didn't know. I don't know either but methinks some well meaning idiot decided that nursery rhymes were unsuitable for developing minds. Looking at some of the less admirable achievements of my generation and that of my parents they may have a point. But really! No wonder I'm having such trouble understanding Andrew; we don't have any common frame of reference to work within.

So I took it upon myself to teach him at least one or two nursery rhymes. The one about Mary and her lamb and the other about Old MacDonald. Let's see how it goes...

When Mary had a little lamb,
the doctors were surprised.
But when old MacDonald had a farm,
they couldn't believe their eyes!

It got a laugh!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Another mystery solved

Though I wouldn't want you to imagine I've lain awake nights worrying about it.

Yet how surprising to discover that the old childrens rhyme learned in pre-school years was based on a real event[^]?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Learning to cook

No, not my experience of that process; Maybe I'll write about that some other time. Nope, this is another Andrew tale...

A year or so ago Andrew got the bug to bake a cake. I've long held it as a great truth that every boy should know how to cook. This isn't really a manifestation of pro-feminist sympathies so much as the practical realisation that at some time or another everyone is going to be called upon to prepare a meal. How much better if Andrews abilities extend beyond the tossing of a steak onto a grill?

I note, with interest, that Morgans cooking ability is nil. Admittedly she was fourteen and full of teenage apathy when I joined this family but I can't recall her ever preparing a meal or even making suggestions. Now, a year out of home and a mother she *still* can't cook any further than reading the instructions on a microwave meal. Sign of the times?

So when Andrew got the bug to learn something about cooking I was all for it. Cakes are a pretty easy start, with the added bonus of a sugar buzz as reward! I didn't even mind when he wanted to start with packet brownies; baby steps. At least he'd learn to read the instructions. I also suspected it might be better for him to have success with his first essay into the culinary arts; my own first attempt was met with both failure and corporal punishment. But what the heck, I was six years old and it was possibly unwise of me to start an hour before the rest of the house arose, only to be discovered in a mess of butter and flour, shredded coconut and milk on the kitchen floor!

So he read the instructions, carefully, or so he thought. The recipe includes all the dry ingredients already measured and blended in a bag. All you have to do is add water and some vegetable oil, stir it all up, pour it into a pan and bake for whatever number of minutes at temperature (I don't remember those details).

I think this was the first time Andrew realised that cakes can contain vegetable oil; he seemed to think that was only for frying. But we assured him it wasn't a misprint; you really do put vegetable oil into the mix! Somewhat doubtfully he returned to the kitchen.

Oven preheated, he was ready. Poured the mix into the pan and slipped it into the oven. The instructions indicated something in the order of 25 minutes baking time, which I'm sure were the longest 25 minutes of his life as he anxiously watched the clock!

When the time was up he eagerly removed the pan, anticipating hot, fresh, brownies. What he found was a panful of sludge! Hmmm, time for a postmortem. The recipe had called for two tablespoons of vegetable oil; by some odd mental process he'd turned that into two cups! I reckon you could have fried chips in the result.

I swear I didn't laugh! I swear I was as supportive as it's in my nature to be. But somehow he hasn't felt the desire to try his hand at cooking since then. Heck, it was only a couple of bucks wasted; I smoke more than that in an afternoon.

Some people are so easily discouraged.

As if you needed proof

that I'm an egotistical bastard. I've just added some links over there ----> where you can listen to the symphony I'm still working on. So far only the first movement is anywhere near complete and even it's subject to change as I get better at using the software. Already, if you compare the first movement linked to with the original posting I did back in May[^] you'll notice differences. (The original is still there). I wasn't really happy with the cymbal clash but I was damned if I could find a way to make it longer (MIDI treats percussion tracks differently). Would you believe I had to adjust the number of clocks?

How strange to speak of software in relation to a symphony but, considering that I'm a talentless git, it's the only way I'm going to get to hear my music. I was extremely lucky in 1974 to hear a real orchestra play a little something[^] I wrote; it was execrable music but a magic moment for me.

You might notice that in the linked blog entry I talk of Symphonies 1, 2 and 3, written all those years ago. So is the music linked to over there the same music? No, it isn't, but the scores from 33 years ago are, I fear, lost forever. I certainly don't know where they are. So I'm starting the numbering over again. If the unthinkable should happen and I end up being remembered as a composer a hundred years hence and I *didn't* make this comment just imagine how confused music historians might become! Or perhaps not; I doubt anyone other than myself remembers the 1974 performance.

I want to emphasise that this is incomplete, which is why both the second and fourth movments end so abruptly. It's also possible that good taste may, belatedly, interfere with progress and wreak great changes. Where's the third movement? Not started yet!

And yes, I do plan more music after this foray.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

One hell of a commute

Today was my one day[^] trip to Dallas. Up at 4:45 AM (how uncivilised!) for a 6:50 AM flight. I can report that at that time in Phoenix in mid August it's definitely dark!

Dallas is two hours ahead of Phoenix at this time of year; they do daylight saving and we don't. A pity, I like daylight saving. Thus, arriving at Dallas at 11:05 AM it occurred to me that this was just about the time I'd have been arriving at the office on a normal day. I couldn't help thinking that was one hell of a commute!

For various reasons I won't bore you with, my flight over to Dallas was in First Class. Well, if that's first class then I'm perfectly happy with economy. Perhaps if I was a fat bastard the extra seat width would have impressed me more. And perhaps, if I was a tall bastard, the extra leg room would have ditto. But as I'm neither it just seems like a couple of hundred bucks wasted. Heck, it's only a two hour flight; if I can do US to Asia or US to Australia in economy I can certainly do Phoenix to Dallas that way!

Thence to car rental where I was unfortunate enough to score a PT Cruiser. Horrible car! If I never drive one again it'll be too bloody soon! And this was a convertible, to make it worse. I just don't get convertibles. Maybe it's my hair length; I find having one's hair blowing around in the breeze uncomfortable rather than exhilarating.

Of course it was a non-smoking rental but fortunately, arriving at that hour, it was a very easy and quick drive from Dallas/Fort Worth airport east on I635 to my destination.

And so to the business of the day. In the end I didn't host a lunch; I put the time to better use by training one of our end-users in our testplan language. Since I now own the testplan editor that was useful for me as well; nothing beats seeing a real end user actually using your software to reveal all the hidden assumptions. I've got at least half a dozen bugs to fix and as many improvements in mind.

That done I treated myself to a late lunch/early dinner of Texas Barbecue! Beef'n'Ribs. Magnificent! I already regret the two ribs I had to leave; my capacity for food is less than the serving size.

Then back to the airport. This time it was peak hour and, even though I had nearly three hours until the return flight I wasn't prepared to risk the I635; I've seen it at peak hour before. Nope, it was up to The President George Bush Turnpike for this little black duck! But this time around I knew to keep going past the I635 exit and go to the *south* entrance of the airport. As I know from bitter experience, if one takes the I635 exit to the *north* entrance one has an incredible job of lane hopping to avoid various forced exits prior to the airport, particularly if one wants to avoid the tollway that runs through the airport itself.

Of course I got there too early. An hour and a half to kill before the flight but I always prefer to be early. I just don't like the stress of running to the gate!

To be honest, when I arrived at the terminal at 6:30 PM I really expected to have to kill two or more hours but it was not to be. Never has my flabber been so gasted as when they boarded us at the advertised time. If you've ever done US domestic travel I'm sure you know exactly what I mean. I think this is the first late afternoon/early evening flight I've ever done here that was actually on time!

So that was my commute. The miles from this one will push me just over the requirement for a flight to Australia. Heino, you have been warned! :-)

Monday, August 13, 2007

My feline alterego

Your Score: Longcat

71% Affectionate, 40% Excitable, 35% Hungry

Protector of truth.

Slayer of darkness.


Longcat may seem like just a regular lengthy cat, but he is, in fact, looong. For proof, observe the longpic.

It is prophesized that Longcat and his archnemesis Tacgnol will battle for supremacy on Caturday. The outcome will change the face of the world, and indeed the very fabric of lolcatdom, forever.

Be grateful that the test has chosen you, and only you, to have this title.

shamelessly nicked from Laura's blog[^]

Melbourne's dry

It should come as no surprise that occasionally I use Google Earth to indulge in nostalgia. Melbourne may be some thousands of miles away but a refresh of the memory is good for the soul. Thus I can see the house I used to live in and I can also see that my neighbour has finally been able to finish his extension. That extension seemed to take forever; I recall him talking about it in 1999 when it seemed likely that I would die in that house in Footscray. In late 2002 when I left it was still not started because of council planning permission problems.

It may not yet be finished but viewed from a satellite some hundreds of miles above it certainly looks well on the way!

I can see no evidence that the carport my other neighbour, other side of the street and four houses up, wanted to build. I recall my surprise when a letter arrived from the local council asking if I had any objections to him building a single story carport at the back of his house. Given that it would be utterly impossible for me to see it from where I lived I had no objection whatsoever and I wrote as much.

From there to a view of Yarraville. The house I almost bought. The school I attended. And then down toward Newport and Williamstown and finally the beach. A sudden shock. It's so brown! The last time I saw Willy beach, September 2005, it was raining and the ground between the road and the bay, next to the Williamstown Football Ground, was green, green and green. Now, according to Google Earth, it's brown. Finally I believe all the reports I've been reading in the Melbourne online newspapers about how severe the drought has been!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Tom Browns Schooldays

I finally read it a few weeks ago. Not the first time I'd tried by any means; there was a copy in our school library and I borrowed it twice. I think I got further into the volume on the first try (20 pages) than I did the second. I'd have been maybe twelve at the time.

I've been watching As time goes by[^] on PBS almost since first coming to the US to live. Not even the first time I'd seen the series; it ran (and may still do for all I know) on ABC Australia throughout the 90's. We're on about the fifth repeat and I do sometimes wish PBS could bring themselves to be adventurous and maybe program some other British comedy in its place. Heck, they've been running Keeping up appearances[^] just as long and I find that a tiresome series. British comedy or not I just can't watch it.

Anyway, back to Tom Brown. It so happened that Lionel was reading the book in a couple of episodes of 'As time goes by'. My childhood aversion to the book notwithstanding I thought I'd give it another try.

The first problem was tracking down a copy. Half price books didn't have it; nor did Borders or the other chain whose name escapes me. It may be that there are dozens of other book shops lurking around but if so they're well hidden. Of the three that I know of, all are chains and Half Price is the best of the three. At least they don't have a coffee shop!

So I turned to the Phoenix Public Library. Yes, they had a copy. You know, it just occurred to me to check if it's online at Project Gutenberg and yes, it is[^]! So I reserved the copy they had, from the childrens section.

Hmmm. This may once have been a childs book (the copy the library has is a 1947 edition) but I think it's in serious need of reclassification. I can't see any child of 1947 let alone a child of today reading it. Definitely of limited adult interest. To be honest, I can't imagine any child of any time reading it. Doubtless there were children who did but it strikes me as the kind of book one receives from a well meaning but somewhat idiotic relative at Christmas time; the kind of book that makes the heart sink whilst ones parents force one to the insincerity of a 'thank you'.

Nonetheless, there must be a reason why it's still around.

Rather like the curate's egg it's good in parts. I enjoyed the 'jingling match' (chapter 2 if you're interested). Not, however, a game I'd be prepared to indulge in; methinks my head is insufficiently hard for such boisterous sport!

I found it interesting the way that schoolboys of tender years are described as having a daily allowance of beer! Though never explicitly stated it's implied that we're talking real beer; none of this ginger stuff!

Overall I enjoyed the book though I can certainly see why I didn't at the age of twelve; it's incredibly preachy. That's not too suprising considering the year of publication, 1857. One of my favourite 19th century novelists, Mrs Henry Wood (link over there ---->) got her start by writing a prize winning novel for a temperance society. Though, based on that novel, Danesbury House, she'd hardly have approved of beer for boys, the preaching is on a par. The villains, Flashman et al, are clearly villains, the hero, Dr Arnold, just as clearly the hero. Interesting then to compare the Tom Browns Schooldays account of Dr Arnold with that of Lytton Strachey[^], written in 1918.

The 'education' described is almost incomprehensible in this age. Latin for gods sake! Latin, more Latin and when that palls, Ancient Greek. Don't misunderstand me; there's a place for such things and I, for one, would be sorry to see Latin and Greek disappear from our language. Indeed, when, some years ago, I read in the paper that Mel Gibson was working on a film which would be entirely in Latin and Aramaic I vowed that I for one would be there to see it. I was disappointed somewhat later to discover that the movie was subtitled in English but you can turn those off on the DVD!

You can get the flavour from this quote (chapter three).

To condense the Squire's meditation, it was somewhat as follows: "I won't tell him to read his Bible, and love and serve God; if he don't do that for his mother's sake and teaching, he won't for mine. Shall I go into the sort of temptations he'll meet with? No, I can't do that. Never do for an old fellow to go into such things with a boy. He won't understand me. Do him more harm than good, ten to one. Shall I tell him to mind his work, and say he's sent to school to make himself a good scholar? Well, but he isn't sent to school for that—at any rate, not for that mainly. I don't care a straw for Greek particles, or the digamma; no more does his mother. What is he sent to school for? Well, partly because he wanted so to go. If he'll only turn out a brave, helpful, truth-telling Englishman, and a gentleman, and a Christian, that's all I want," thought the Squire; and upon this view of the case he framed his last words of advice to Tom, which were well enough suited to his purpose.

A curious mixture of good sense and nonsense! Going to school and not be a good scholar? But I can't help admiring the rest of the sentiment.

I'm probably making too much of it but I've found far worse ways to spend time than curling up, in the summer heat, with this book.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Murphy is alive and well

and living in Phoenix. Funny, I thought the bastard was living in Melbourne but it seems he followed me. I wonder if USCIS (formerly INS) know about him? There's one illegal immigrant I'd gladly see deported!

You'll remember the other night I said we had enrolled in a ballroom dancing class? You might also remember last week that I said I'd be going to Houston at the start of September. I haven't travelled for business for almost ten months so it was only natural that our first class falls in the week I'll be away. Of course!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


I read an article the other day about the effects of coffee on older womens memory. Apparently if a woman treats herself to three or more cups a day her memory will not be as subject to the effects of age. Equally apparently, the same effect doesn't work with men. That'd be right! Of course, that does explain why I can't remember which website I read it on!

So I had a bit of a chuckle over dinner last night, pointing out that it obviously wasn't correct; my wife is dreadfully forgetful. That's a bit of a dangerous game to play but what the heck, I can live dangerously if I choose! Indeed, it's become so well established that I'll say something and stick my hand out so she can slap it. Which she does. Frequently!

I think it's all in fun but, after two divorces, do you think I'm really qualified to judge?

So Sonya defended herself by saying that I don't always remember things either.

'Well my dear' I replied, 'that might be true but I really can't remember the last time it happened!'.

Andrew almost choked but managed to suppress it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Putting my foot in it

A few weeks ago I was thumbing through the Scottsdale Community College advertising when I noticed they had ballroom dancing lessons. You might not believe this but I used to do just that, back in 1974 and great fun it was too. As I said at the time, and my opinion hasn't changed, it has the great advantage that you get to hold your partner!

So I suggested that Sonya and I might consider it. I think I surprised her but she was nothing loath to go for it. We tried the online booking thang but for some reason it wasn't working so I suggested she give them a call on the Monday (I pulled the foreign accent routine again). That was a week and a half ago; she kept forgetting until today when I sent her an email during the day to remind her.

Fifteen minutes after sending the email my mobile rang; it seemed that, whilst she could be enrolled there and then, I couldn't until I rang their office. Why, you ask? Silly question, as though you didn't know I was going to tell you!

At last years elections there were also a dozen or so propositions to be voted on. They're a bit like a mini referendum. One of them, Prop 300, was aimed at preventing illegal immigrants getting a subsidised education. This proposition was passed. It seems that the college won't enrol any student until after they've read the text of Prop 300 at them and ascertained eligibility for 'in state' tuition fees. Yeah, it seemed just as silly to me as it does to you reading about it. Nonethless I complied and rang the number Sonya kindly emailed to me.

The woman at the other end of the line started laughing when I told her why I was ringing. 'Do you really want me to read prop 300 to you?' she asked. 'Of course' I replied, adding 'but I've already read it.' She seemed surprised. When I told her that I didn't think it all that wise to vote for or agin something if one doesn't understand what it's about she seemed more surprised. But I've been bitten by the vote for something when you don't what that something is[^] bug before!

So she read the text to me and then asked if I was a citizen. I admitted I was. I puzzled a little over the fact that she'd asked that question; hadn't I just said I'd voted on the proposition? It took a few moments for the penny to drop; little point in going through the whole rigamarole without putting the onus on me to explicitly claim that I was eligible for in state tuition.

But the strangest thing of all? Not once did she ask for my name. I could have been Adam for all she knew. It'll be interesting to see if they go through the whole performance again at the first lesson.

Deceased lizards

You read the title right! We have a dead lizard in the bathroom (and I use the word in the American sense). That's one of the few downsides to having cats; the buggers *will* insist on being atavistic and bringing the spoils of the hunt into the house.

It's hard not to be touched at their obvious pride in their hunting skills. A couple of months after Kitten came to live with us she proudly brought in her latest victim and laid it at my feet; about a metre of dried vegetation she'd dragged all the way along the back lane and skillfully navigated through the back window! How could I not pat the heck out of her?

The dead lizard has been there a couple of weeks. It's so small there's no danger of an overpowering smell of putrefaction. I find myself fascinated by the question of how long it will take my wife to notice. Her lack of observation probably has much to do with the fact that I stand, she sits!

Quite some years ago when I was living with Peta we had what seemed an eminently sensible agreement regarding the dishes. We'd take it in turns to wash em. This was a long time before we had a dishwasher. The only problem was that she'd never wash them. Always with the excuses! I don't say that I was perfect but I had learned some years earlier that it's easiest to wash them right now, before the crust forms!

One summer she'd let them go about three days and the pile was growing (to say nothing of the fungus). It became a battle of the wills; who would give in first? Me out of turn or her? At day eleven I gave in.

How very childish!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Curious and strange

are the ways of management. You might remember how, just under a year ago[^], I got to within three minutes of boarding the plane to Dallas only to have the trip cancelled.

Non transferable, non refundable ticket good for a year. At the time I certainly imagined I'd be using the ticket in the near future; you'll remember how much travel I was doing in 2005/2006. As it turns out, it's been nearly ten months since I last did any business travel and that trip was to Austin, not to Dallas.

Truth to tell I'd all but forgotten about that ticket; I hadn't paid for it. But do you think the boss has forgotten? Not bloody likely! It so happens that I will be going to Houston at the start of September for a few days; he asked if I could use the Dallas ticket. No I can't. Wrong city, that trip will be after the Dallas ticket expires and the reason I need to go to Houston is to test some software I'll be writing between then and now - it certainly won't be ready before this ticket expires.

Then he asked if there was any other reason I might have to go to Dallas, but only for the day - no overnight stay. That way they don't incur the cost of a hotel room! Well yes, I suppose I could ask the people I deal with on a weekly basis on teleconferences to lunch. Actually that's not a bad idea; I haven't met Karl yet and he sounds like a nice guy. Assuming he's available.

Of course, to get to Dallas in time for lunch I'm probably looking at an 8 AM flight which means arriving at the airport at 6:30 AM, which means getting up at 5:30 AM. I'm sure you've noticed, from my posting times, that I'm a late person. Rare indeed is the time when I'm not still up at 2:00 AM. Well, at least I'll find out if the sun's up that early.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tonight I joined a very exclusive club

and, stealing shtick from no less a character than Groucho Marx, normally I'd refuse to join any club prepared to have me as a member. But this was a club I was happy to join. The club being, of course, those who've met Roger Wright. For the benefit of non-CodeProject[^] members, Roger Wright is a piece of the furniture around the joint. I'm not sure that he didn't join CP before there *was* a CP!

He lives up in Northern Arizona in a place, if you believe him, that's even hotter than Phoenix! We've been planning to catch up for at least the last four and a half years; two previous attempts failed. The first when he and Shog (another CP reprobate) planned to meet at The Grand Canyon and I was invited, on too short a notice, to join them. As it turned out I was probably saved a wasted trip (though no trip to The Canyon is truly wasted) because neither Roger nor Shog could find the other!

The second failed attempt was when he was driving from Tucson through Phoenix to home. It was a while ago so I'm not entirely sure of the details anymore but it seems he was driving along Loop 101, missed noticing any one of the 15 exits prominently labelled 'Scottsdale' and got lost. Mind you, I reckon he was lost anyways; going through Phoenix from Tucson to parts north of there really shouldn't involve the Scottsdale part of Loop 101!

I'm sensing a pattern here; don't trust Roger for directions.

This time he was in Phoenix proper, staying at a hotel a few hundred yards off my beaten track from office to home. Four hours, one beer (mine) and an uncounted number of drinks later it was time to finish the drive home. We started in the bar of course but the insanity of smoking laws here (not that it's unique to here alas) drove us out onto the patio.

He weakened for a moment as a spattering of rain came down but I rallied him to the cause; this was warm rain and I could see little reason to scurry indoors. I seem to have disappointed him by not flinching as we listened to a running gun battle on the adjacent freeway. But we all know you don't hear the bullet that kills you (though how we know that beats me - one can hardly ask the dead).

A thoroughly enjoyable evening!

Monday, July 30, 2007


I hope there's no one out there holding their breath waiting for the day, this summer, that Phoenix reaches 100F at midnight, because it doesn't seem like happening anytime soon. I just checked (11:52 PM) and it's only 92.

You understand that with a mere four Phoenix summers under my belt (technically this is my fifth but I was travelling for most of summer 2005) I don't pretend to fully understand all the nuances of the weather here but it's been mighty cool the last couple of weeks. Contrast that with the end of June when we were hitting 116 without even trying!

Of course they complain about the humidity being up, apparently the reason the temperature's down. Just can't please some people! In vain do I tell them that this is nothing compared to a decent Melbourne February day. Or any day of the year in Singapore. There's nothing to quite prepare you for the shock, after 17 hours in an overconditioned plane, of that first emergence, at 5 AM, into the Sunflower Garden at Singapore Airport for that long anticipated smoke! There's humidity for you! I'm getting nostalgic just thinking of it! :-)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

And the answer is

The other night I wrote about The Heart Attack grill and hinted at something unusual about the cover of the book they're pushing on their website. Both of my readers commented though only Guy[^] admitted he couldn't see what was unusual.

Many books have forewords, though not all. This book is unique however in having a 'forward'. Did no one proofread the cover artwork???

Thursday, July 26, 2007


not Mmmmmmmmm!

Each day I drive past this[^]. (Warning: turn your speakers down before clicking on the link - I was listening to a string quartet and let me tell you, it was a heartstopping shock to have this sites soundtrack blast in at about ten times the volume!)

For all I know, the business could have been there half a year; it's an unfortunate truth that if you drive the same route long enough you do it on auto-pilot. Certainly I'm aware of the traffic I have to share the road with; likewise the traffic lights but as for the rest... well I'm sure you know the deal!

I was sitting at the lights last week, on the way home, when I happened to glance to the left and saw the building. It looks like a pensioned off Pizza Hut building in the last stages of decrepitude. They fly a US flag large enough to not be a disgrace to a used car[^] dealer. So far not so impressive. What caught my eye though was the large banner wrapped around the building with the website address and the hot pink lettering on the windows advising that they were hiring hot nurses!

Look at that quadruple bypass burger! I couldn't imagine even attempting to eat one of those, and not just because I don't like the American[^] version of the hamburger.

How on earth would you get your mouth around one of those? Somehow I can't imagine it being served with eating irons. Maybe one of these nights I'll drop in and take a look, purely in the interests of research you understand, though I very much doubt I'm their target demographic.

Notice anything unusual on the cover of the book they're advertising?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A chip off the old block!

I mentioned the other night that my wife had queued over at Frys to get her copy of the (hopefully) last Harry Potter installment.

I didn't know she could read that fast! I think she had it finished by Sunday evening and now she's going through it a second time. Myself, I'd have taken it a little more slowly and perhaps have had it in one go.

On Monday I saw the DVD of the third movie sitting on the kitchen table. Thinking back, I recalled seeing the first two movies sitting on the kitchen table late last week. I didn't think much of it at the time but yesterday I noticed the sticker from Hollywood Video.

'Uh, dear' I said. 'You do realise we actually own all four movies on DVD don't you?'

'We do?' she replied.

It was about this time that I discovered the DVD of the fourth movie sitting on top of the DVD player, awaiting viewing.

Uh huh. The four DVD's we own are sitting on the shelf three feet away from Sonyas computer and she went out and hired all four of em!

I called her Andrew when I came home from the office!