Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dicking around

As you know, I still read the Melbourne Newspapers online every day, even now, six years after moving to Phoenix.

On the front page of The Age[^], at the bottom of the page, they have a set of links from related newspapers in four other states, supposedly representing the five most viewed stories from each online newspaper.

What's been fascinating me for the past month is the remarkable persistence of the story of the bloke caught with his penis in a jar of pasta. I suppose it takes all sorts. However, as if that wasn't wierd enough, he was apparently caught near Nobbys Beach!

I can appreciate a good nob joke as much as the next bloke but I have to wonder at how long that story has persisted. The dateline is November 20th and it's *still* listed as number 1 at the time of writing. Is it really that popular a story? Or is someone fiddling the stats to keep it around?

Childish minds wonder!

[edit] Catch it while it lasts[^]. I bet the link goes stale pretty quickly. (Which is why I didn't link it in the first place but Guy *did* ask).

Friday, December 26, 2008


What year would be complete without my, having spent the entirety of December complaining about Christmas, filling you in with what the fictional fat bastard brought me? Well last year I didn't and that year certainly seemed complete without it.

As you might remember I'm rather fond of bacon and egg breakfasts on the weekend. I've finally perfected the art of poaching an egg, which is the only civilised way to eat one. I've also, as part of showing by example, perfected the art of cleaning up the frying pans used *before* I sit down to eat. With a modern teflon frying pan, a modicum of hot water and a paper towel the entire job can be done in a few seconds.

That blinding speed presumes that the teflon aforesaid hasn't been scratched and generally abused. And, you guessed it, in this household the abuse has been plentiful. We seem to go through a new set of pans about once a year!

This absolutely flabbergasts me! How is it possible that a frying pan can suffer so much abuse? Easy if, given the choice between a plastic spatula and a metal one, that the metal one is always chosen.

The other way is to cook something in em, let the remains congeal and then attack with steel wool. The latter approach seems to be Andrews preferred method. Hence the 'show by example' aforementioned.

A few weeks ago Sonya asked me if I had any desire for Christmas. Apart, of course, from the obvious one of cancelling it. That particular choice denied me I asked for a couple of teflon frying pans, one small for the eggs, one large for the bacon.

Wish granted in the shape of not one, not two but three brand spanking new teflon frying pans. As I opened them, knowing full well what lay within the wrapping, I told em all (Sonya included) that these were *my* frying pans and death be the portion of anyone unwise enough to touch! The family know I mean it!

This mornings bacon and eggs were a pleasure. And the ease of the cleanup almost as pleasant.

How sad!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It's not really my wifes fault I have white knuckles

when I'm the passenger and she's the driver.

I hardly ever use my own car except to drive to and from the office. That and the odd drive over to Frys Electronics. Apart from that, almost everywhere I go is in my wifes company and we use her car. Which means that most of the time she's the driver and I'm the passenger.

Many's the white knuckle experience and, more than once she's yelled at me to stop back seat driving. This usually happens when she swings out into traffic with a gap that I'd never essay. Of course her car's more powerful than mine; I've learned, with my cars lack of acceleration, to wait for large gaps. Causes the odd fit of apoplexy in the impatient bastard sitting behind me in his F250 but I maintain that if I were to be urged out into traffic the way they'd prefer the ensuing accident would cost them more time than my native caution does.

On the other hand, the most I've ever had to pay to fill the tank was $25 and that was half a year ago at the oil peak. These days a tankful runs to about $13. I sure don't waste the petrol!

Sonya also seems to wander around in the lane rather more than I like. Somehow I seem to be able to drive my car smack dab between the lane markings; she seems to drive as though she's keeping her options open regarding lane choice.

The other day my car was playing up. In the light of earlier comment regarding the lack of power it might seem paradoxical that I noticed it was even more gutless than usual but indubitably it was so. It felt like one cylinder wasn't firing, so we took it to the local garage.

Time was when I'd have had the bonnet up and be tracking down a problem like that myself, but that was thirty or more years ago. I used to do my own car repairs back in the days when, if one were to drop a spanner at the top of the engine, there was a better than even chance it would fall all the way to the ground. Not so these days; have you looked in the average engine compartment lately?

So my wife drove me to work on Monday morning.

They found nothing wrong and it's been running fine since then. They did suggest that perhaps we should swap cars for a couple of days; she drives nowhere farther than a couple of miles during the week and she'd be able to take it back if the problem manifested itself.

So I drove my wifes car on Tuesday. And thus I discovered that her car doesn't drive anything like as straight a line as mine does. It seemed that every second I had to do a steering correction to stay within the lane markers.

Perhaps it's not her fault at all. Well, except for one thing. When I dare to mention it she's not even aware that she's weaving from left to right. At least I noticed it!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I don't often lose the will to live

but it certainly happened this week!

You already know I hate Christmas with a passion; methinks I've flogged that particular horse to death and beyond.

I think I've already written about Heino and his opposite obsession with this time of the year though I couldn't find it in the scant few minutes I allotted to the search. Whatever. Heino and I are polar opposites where Christmas is concerned. Indeed, a couple of years ago, when expatiating at length with my wife on the subject of my hatred of Christmas aforesaid she suggested 'next year why don't you go spend it at Heino's'. She, of course, didn't know about Heino's obsession. He and his wife still chuckle over that suggestion.

Thus, each year around this time I confidently expect a package from Australia, containing seasonal fripperies and I was not disappointed. It arrived yesterday, containing a kangaroo decked out in a festive hat, now hanging on the tree my family *will* insist on installing inside the house. Thousands of years of human history trying to get *out* of the trees and into a house and now we have to bring the damn trees in with us?? What's up with that?

There was also a tie with that fat bastard Santa's face and LED's for eyes that light up when one squeezes the correct location on the tie. It plays a sickeningly tinny rendition of 'silent bloody night' and I'd sooner be hanged with a real rope than wear it!

Then the crowning glory. A Santa hat with 'I love Christmas' embroidered on the white band. A letter included requests a photo of me wearing it. Perhaps mate, perhaps, if I drink enough on Thursday! But I don't think there's enough alcohol in the world for that to happen.

So far so sickening but not nearly enough to sap my will to live. Nope, that had to wait until after dark and Sonya donning the Santa hat. Somehow or other she managed to trigger it and that's when she discovered that the 'I love Christmas' is picked out in tiny little LED's that twinkle. She came racing down the stairs to show me and that's when the thought of shucking off this mortal coil seemed mightily attractive.

But only momentarily. I don't think Heino'd take kindly to the thought that he'd pushed me over the edge!

Merry Christmas mate. And merry Christmas all you poor celebrants. I still say 'Bah Humbug'!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The morons were out in force today

at the office that is.

I'm not quite at the four months in the new job. That anniversary happens to be on Christmas day. How apposite I don't think considering the hatred I have for that one day of the year (and for the entire rigamarole leading up to it).

Robbie the quiet for the first couple of months; one has to learn who's dangerous and who's not. Then the dropping of the guard, the inevitable misjudgement and then the lapsing into a kind of comfortable feeling with the people one shares ones working life with.

By now they're well aware of the distaste I have for Christmas. They don't understand it any more than you do but they surely know about it.

Of course, with the festive season rapidly approaching and with internet access it didn't take em long to find a website of incredibly vapidity. I honestly don't know the URl but a google search for 'Elf yourself' might find it. For myself, I would rather dip my hand in molten sulphur than search for it let alone provide the link here!

The idea is that one takes a photo or three of people one knows, uploads it and superimposes the face on an elf. Then one gets the incredible pleasure of watching these familiar faces doing a line dance or a disco dance.

Incredible pleasure it certainly seemed to be today; I thought the woman I share my office with (or who shares hers with me - I came later) was going to wet herself as she shrieked with laughter at the sight of a few of our colleagues thus superimposed on the elves aforesaid.

Another week and it's all over for another year. Roll on boxing day!

Overdoing the politeness

Now I want it clearly understood that I have no problem with politeness. I've even been known to be polite myself. It's an essential lubricant to society and without it we'd see a lot more anarchy than we do. After all, if no one is polite then we see road rage, queue rage and worse.

Indeed, I've often ascribed the sometimes excessive politeness I see here in the US to fear; in the land where even I can own a gun if I wanted (I don't), and in a state that permits open carry and has concealed weapon permits, politeness is well advised; you don't know if the guy you snub might pop a cap in your arse! Oh, would that such politeness extended to driving!

Nonetheless, I can't help feeling it's taken a trifle too far.

These days one has to smoke outside of course, which means that I'm negotiating the doors into and out of the building fairly frequently. Me and all the other smokers! Obviously I'm talking at work - since I'm paying the mortgage at home I get to smoke inside if I choose. I choose.

Thus to walking back in after stubbing out. I've learned to check if there are others approaching the door and modulate my approach such that I'm at least twenty feet from the door as they pass through. Otherwise they feel obliged to wait and hold the door open for me.

Now I ask you, do I look like I can't open the door for myself?

Worse, one feels the pressure to do the same. Gut feel tells me that some clown ten feet away won't be terribly offended if I don't pause to hold that damn door open; closer and he might.

You can imagine how difficult it can be to modulate ones approach to be twenty feet behind the person who enters the building before one and more than ten feet ahead of the person behind one. I really should chuck it up, grow a beard and become the curmudgeon who doesn't give a damn. I've already achieved it all save for the beard!

The other day I saw someone who took it to extremes. Youngish bloke on his way out for a smoke. I kid you not, I saw this poor bastard make six false starts away from the door before noticing yet another person approach. At each fresh approach he'd dart back so he could hold the door open. It didn't seem to matter which side of the door they came from, he'd rush back and open it for someone leaving the building, or for someone entering the building.

I swear I almost longed for a weapon so's I could pop a cap in his sorry arse and put him out of his misery!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


When I was in Australia a couple of months ago I took the opportunity of buying, at the computer market, an Intel Quad core processor; the price was somewhat less than I'd have paid here for it and it was, after all, bragging rights.

Perhaps I overdid the bragging - I can certainly see how Heino, hearing me chanting 'Quad Core, Quad Core' might get a trifle tired of life. But I *do* think his antidote was both misguided and over the top. For what did he do almost as soon as I had returned to Phoenix but order a Mac Dual Quad Core Xeon machine with 16 gigs of memory. My quarrel with that decision is of course that it's a Mac.

Methinks I've raised the level of competition a trifle though. You might recall that when he was here in the US a year and a bit ago we went to Las Vegas and saw The Fab Four show. Excellent show, particularly if you're an old fart like Heino is.

Thus to a few minutes ago when Heino sent me an email including a screen shot of the Mac About box showing 8 cores and a bunch of memory. What could I do but reply that Sonya and I have decided to go to Las Vegas on New Years day, for three nights *and* we're going to catch LOVE[^].

Let's see how Heino beats that!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Stupid people

I'm sure you've worked out that I have little patience for the stupid people of this world. Such a pity there are so many of them. Fortunately my wife has learned to tune out when I'm ranting about em else she'd go deaf methinks.

You know how, at the deli in the supermarket, they have this little red plastic machine that dispenses tickets? There must be just the one manufacturer in the entire world for I can testify that the machines look exactly the same in Australia, here in the US, over there in France and I even saw one in The Philippines!

Anyway, the idea is that one walks up to the deli and grabs a ticket. Then one waits patiently while the guy in front agonises over the choice of cheese and that other guy complains that the roast beef is *still* too thick even though you can see through it!

Since changing jobs I find I drink rather less and eat rather more. I'm sure the two are related; less alcohol probably means less sugar in the system. Whatever the reason I find that come 11 AM I'm ravenous. Thus to taking lunch to work each day. Which, inevitably, means that I have to face the deli at the local supermarket each week.

I gave up on the one at the closest supermarket; it didn't seem to matter what time or day I fronted up I always copped a particularly deaf woman who could not understand that when I ask for 'roast beef cut thick' that I really meant what I said. Yeah, I know, I'm sounding like that bloke mentioned before who obsesses over the thickness of his beef. But I'd have imagined that suggesting a thickness of a sixteenth of an inch might indicate that perhaps I wanted it thick! On the other hand, perhaps the thickness of my accent was the problem!

She also has a bad cold, and has had it for a couple of months now. Lots of sniffles and sneezes. Call me squeamish but I really don't want week old germs on my sangers.

So I go to a different supermarket for the deli. Not that it helped a lot; there are still stupid people who take a ticket, stand there for ten minutes while the preceding moron is served and then, when it's their turn, have no idea what they want. Hence dicking around and, in one case, a guy so clueless he waited until the question was popped, admitted he didn't know and pulled out his mobile phone to call his wife! Followed by a three or four minute wait while she ambulated ever so slowly from the other end of the supermarket to the deli counter! Idiots the pair of them!

But the ones I like the best are the ones who can't read. At least every second week I'll walk up to the ticket dispenser, take the ticket, check the number and I'm next! This despite the throng milling around waiting to be served. And when the attendant has finished with the last customer they press expectantly forward, waiting for the gaze that indicates 'you're next'. How disappointed they must be when the attendant calls out '71' and I say 'yes', hold out the ticket and get served next. More than once I've been the recipient of a glance meant to kill. I've even had people say 'I was here first', which I can't gainsay; they *were* there first.

But it's not my fault I can read and they can't. It's pretty well sign posted.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Windows L

If you have an extremely good memory you might remember this post[^] about hosting a chat room or two on IRC.

It can get pretty boring watching a steady stream of lols and roflmaos and even roflmaopimps flying by and we used to take advantage of the naivety (or ignorance) of the less computer literate. Sometimes they'd be complaining about slow internet connections or drop outs (we used to call it moofing and I can't, for the life of me, remember what the acronym stood for). And so, sometimes, we'd advise the complainant to 'press the Alt F4 key'. Which, as you'll remember, closes the window! The trick worked more often than not and we'd all get a good laugh out of it.

A few weeks ago I called to Andrew. 'Hey Andrew? See the key with the Windows symbol on it?'. He peered and admitted he could. 'Well, hold it down and press the L key' I said. He's learning to be suspicious where I'm concerned so he demurred. 'Oh, go on, don't be a wuss' I responded and he entered that key combination. Which, as you all know, locks your computer and you have to enter your password to unlock it. I'd certainly picked my time, for he was in the middle of a World of Warcraft session (then again, when isn't he?) and loud were the wails as he realised he'd been 'had'.

A couple of weeks later I tried the same trick on him and it worked. He's a slow learner at times.

It didn't work the third time!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Doing a Melba

Well, my older Australian readers will understand the title. For the rest of you, Dame Nellie Melba [^], the Australian Opera singer, did a lot of farewell tours. We also sometimes twist the meaning to cover someone who returns some time afterward.

Which is what I did the other day at the place where I used to work. Actually it was my second return; the first was the day after Thankgiving. You have to understand that at the place where I used to work they don't take such things as public holidays into account when committing to deliveries. I suppose they could hide behind the excuse that Thanksgiving isn't actually a committed holiday; it's proclaimed each year by The President. Of course, failure to proclaim it would be political suicide and it's now become so associated with late November that I reckon a great many Americans would be surprised to learn it was originally held in September!

Anyway, the point is that everyone here expects the last weekend of November to be Thanksgiving. You'd imagine then that planning would make allowance for it. But not at The Place Where I Used To Work (hereinafter TPWIUTW). Indeed, they scheduled an oven delivery at Thanksgiving in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 as well as this one.

Thus to a phone call from an apologetic Randy on the friday. Again, most places except retail allocate the day after Thanksgiving as a public holiday and he was pretty sure I was not at work that day. But he'd run into a problem with the Software I Used To Work On (SIUTWO - you get the idea) and hoped I'd help out. Well, I've worked with Randy for a few years and I *know* he wouldn't call if he hadn't reached the end of his knowledge in that particular area, so I was happy to help out. What little advice I could give over the phone didn't help so I drove down to Tempe. Not as magnanimous a gesture as it seems; Morgan was being more difficult than usual that afternoon. Besides, I miss the old bastard and it was good to catch up with a friendly face.

The problem was simple enough; a cable inside the PC was reversed and red faced indeed was Randy. But no matter, I enjoyed the afternoon. Great chance to catch up on the gossip.

They got that one as a freebie.

The other day they emailed me asking for some advice about multi-threaded access to the device driver. Again, I was happy enough to give some basic advice; it takes all of five minutes if it's a familiar subject to give some pointers. Alas, the pointers weren't quite enough and they agreed to my hourly rate for me to go in and look at the code. Thus to my going in again.

How depressing it was to sit at my old desk again, even if I was on four times the old hourly rate! If ever I needed confirmation I'd made the right decision to change jobs that was it.

As for whether I've fixed their multi-threading problem? Time will tell; when I left late Friday afternoon the software was in the third hour of testing without a failure and we left it to run over the weekend. I'm almost afraid to check email Monday. But only almost!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

An unpleasant surprise

I was on the phone today with someone who reminded me of an occurrence that took place quite some time ago. After laughing I remarked that I really must blog about it whereupon the someone said 'oh no mate, don't identify me'. So I won't identify you, mate!

Unfortunately I wasn't present when this story took place so you'll have to take the word of someone else, related many times over the past three and a half decades. On the other hand, once you've read the story, you might agree with me that it was fortunate indeed that I wasn't present.

Our anonymous actor lived, at that time, in a small house in Williamstown with his folks. Over the back fence was a small theatre occupied by a smaller amateur theatre company. I'm sure you'll remember your nonage, when such things as fences and locked doors presented no moral impediment to exploration. When one is a dozen years old who cares about such things?

So it was that our anonymous actor and his friends of similar age were wont, during the holidays, to scale the back fence and explore the old theatre. I'd have done the same had there been an old theatre nearby to explore. Alas, all I had was the old salmon canning factory, the lemonade factory, the glass works - you know, come to think of it, I wasn't all that badly off!

One afternoon they either broke into, or found unlocked, the costume room. I prefer to think someone had forgotten to lock it. And so our anonymous actor and his friends found an old fur coat. I imagine they strutted around in it for a few minutes, tried on silly hats and bandannas and generally made complete dags of themselves. And it might have been just as well had it stopped there. But no, not for our anonymous actor. He conceived the evil idea of leaving a small calling card in the pocket.

We really don't want to think of a future pillar of society dropping his trousers and taking a crap in the pocket of this coat but, alas, that is apparently what happened.

One can only imagine the feelings of the poor real actor, member of that amateur theatre company, upon trying on the costume for their next production and placing his hand in that pocket.

But if it were a comedy production his wildest dreams will have come true, for that simple act thirty five years ago has provided me, the anonymous actor and all our friends with countless hours of amusement.

And there ain't nothing wrong with a bit of innocent laughter!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Architectural Pursuits

Back in 1975 Robin and I were going through an architecture phase, by which I mean that we were admiring buildings old and new and taking the opportunity, when it offered, of sneaking in and taking a gander at those parts not really open to the public.

As an aside I'll note that it *still* pisses me off when, having paid a few bucks for entrance to some grand old mansion or other, that all the interesting bits are off limits. Perhaps the example, par excellence, of this is at Chirnside House, at Werribee a few miles out of Melbourne. One can gawk all one wants at a drawing room filled with period furniture and old woodcuts but can one ascend into the tower? Of course not!

One afternoon in 1975, as aforesaid, Robin and I ventured into an old building on Queens Street. I'd guess it was built around 1920 and it had a staircase that wrapped around the lift well. This was back in the days when buildings still, occasionally, had lift attendants and this building, you guessed it, had such an employee. He was pretty old by our standards; I fancy he might have been as old as I am now. And he was adamant that we were not permitted to be in the building, given that we had no appointment with anyone and, indeed, hadn't even had the foresight to memorise a name or two on the upper floors from the building directory.

Well, just because some old bastard in a lift attendants uniform had said we should leave was not enough reason to leave. We faked a departure, waited until the lift ascended and took to the stairs.

The old bastard was ahead of us and, as we took the final turn in the staircase from the ground floor to the first, he was waiting for us. So down we went again. And down came the lift. A glare in our direction as we retreated out the front door and into the street.

Uh huh - not quite the end of it. This time we waited a couple of minutes and stuck our heads in. No sign of the lift and we made a dash for the stairs. This time we got to the third floor when suddenly the lift door opened and our adversary glared out. Thus up and down the stairs, followed by this pantomime demon and his glares. This went on for quite a quarter of an hour before we realised all he was doing was glaring and, thus emboldened, we made it to the top floor.

Which was quite disappointing. Just a row of office doors and no access to the roof so far as we could determine.

A few weeks ago Sonya and I were bored. So we went for a trip downtown. If you've ever seen Phoenix downtown you'll know we were bored indeed. Particularly when it was Sunday afternoon and I reckon you could fire a cannon down Central Ave and not a soul would notice.

We wandered over to the new convention centre, right next to Symphony Hall. To our surprise it was open (though it certainly didn't look it from the street) and we walked inside. No one around save for a few 'security' types and one young lady at the coffee shop who looked so bored that death might have seemed an attractive alternative.

The interior was much like any such conference centre anywhere in the world; acres of carpet, lots of large rooms, multiple floors and a bunch of escalators. We took one down, to what turned out to be the car park.

We came back up to the ground floor and then took another escalator up. And up. It does go up a fair way.

And on the down and ups we were followed, at a discreet yet obvious distance, by one of the 'security' types. Was she bored? Or did she really think we represented a threat?

I couldn't resist. As she followed us back down to the ground floor I stepped off the escalator at a landing and ducked into an alcove. Sure enough, a few moments later she came rushing past, frantically trying to find this middle aged terrorist obviously bent on bringing down the fabric of Phoenix society.

It was cruel of me, I know. As soon as she disappeared I took the escalator down, rejoined Sonya and we exited to the street. At least I gave the 'security' type something to while away the rest of the afternoon with; the task of finding the nonexistent intruder on the first floor!

What can I say?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The 2009 White House Christmas tree

As you well know I detest Christmas[^]. Since moving to the US it's become worse of course; they *do* overdo it here. Actually, the rot sets in with Thanksgiving (which holiday I have little quarrel with) but that marks the real commencement of the insanity. It becomes well nigh impossible to enter a supermarket without being importuned for contributions to this charity or that. Indeed, one can't even enter without the incessant ding-bloody-ding of bells from Santas little helpers, strategically set up right in the supermarket entrance.

Heck, they even ding about in front of the Wal-Mart up the road from the office!

I note that nowadays they'll accept credit and debit cards. Bang goes another excuse, one that's served me well over the years, of not carrying any cash. Patently one can't be entering a supermarket without the wherewithal to pay and they consider themselves entitled to siphon off more cash. I suppose I'm just going to have to brazen it out with the truth now; I don't give to organised charity and there's an end of it.

And then we have the morons who attach a couple of fake antlers to their cars, one on either side of the front doors. Doubtless they think it looks cute. Frankly I reckon it'd look cuter if they attached a couple of dessicated dog turds but that's just me!

This evening, driving home from work and listening to the news on the radio, I heard an item that took my breath away. Apparently there's rivalry as to which state shall provide the Christmas tree that stands in the grounds of the White House. And apparently New Mexico has provided the tree twice whilst Arizona hasn't yet supplied a one. And apparently this has upset more than a few of my fellow Zonies. But fear not, for it seems that the 2009 tree will come from this state.

Phew! I'm glad they got that settled.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


is the name of the latest addition to our home network. He's a fat bastard too, but that name was already taken[^].

You might remember I've been planning to set up a Windows Home Server machine here to handle data backups. Those plans came to fruition a month or six weeks ago, using the old PC Sonya used to have. A couple of 500 Gig drives for data, a 160 Gig drive to boot from and that old (four years old - yikes, how time flies) computer now sits headless under the desk. Sonya seems to think it's there to put her shoes on when she's not wearing em!

Naturally the price of the server software dropped a week or so after I bought it; it's now on egghead for a hundred bucks or so after I paid $140 for it. That's life.

As for the software itself, it just works, which is how I like it. I'm still wrestling with the IIS security model, to say nothing of getting SQL Server 2008 accessible across the network! I know why they're making it more secure (slammer anyone?) but do they have to make it so damned hard to configure? It's not like Joe Blow is about to run out and purchase SQL Server 2008 (or even download the free express edition).

Windows Home Server is, by contrast, a no-brainer to install and configure. Well that fits the target market, the aforesaid Joe Blow but it's fine by me. It does help my peace of mind that we're sitting behind a router. I've chosen not to use the remote access functionality built into the product, preferring to stick with my existing arrangements of non-standard ports assigned to each remotely accessible machine, forwarded by the router to each machine and using Windows Remote Desktop. If I ever *did* need remote access to GreedyBastard I can always remote to this machine and then use the WHS console.

For the rest, well they make it very easy indeed. Bring up the server and connect to the network. Download the 5 and a half million security updates. Once that's done enable remote admin on it so it can truly go headless and then, on each client machine, navigate to the shared software folder on the new machine. Install the WHSConnector software and you're almost done. By default the entire client machine is backed up save for a few places that really don't need backup, such as the internet cache, the swapfile and so on. If you're feeling brave you can add one or more exclusions - directories you don't want backed up.

Then just let it run and overnight it backs up each client. It spends a lot of time determining what's changed since the last backup. Interestingly, it seems to be doing some kind of checksumming of files. I added yet another new machine to the network yesterday; this one's a web server/development box with Visual Studio 2008 - total disk usage about 25 gigs when you factor in a complete install with SQL Server 2008 (ah, so *that's* why I've been struggling with network database access) and a bunch of other stuff. Extra disk usage on GreedyBastard? About 3 gigs. I attribute this to the fact that the new machine is essentially a clone of this machine (same development environment) and thus the new machine's backup can consist of a bunch of links to files already backed up.

The other nice thing about WHS is the way it handles file sharing. It sets up a bunch of 'known' directories for music, photos etc. You copy your files to there and anyone in the workgroup can read em. Yeah yeah, big deal. No really, it supports folder duplication for those folder - two copies spread across your storage space (and across different spindles if you have multiple drives). Sounds like RAID but a damn sight easier to set up. You just add a new drive, reboot the machine, it notices the new drive and asks what you want to do with it. Add it to the storage pool? Yup. A couple of hours and a *lot* of hard disk activity later, and it's redistributed your files so that they'll survive a hard disk failure. Well, that's the theory though I haven't yet put it to the test.

It's intelligent about external backup. We have a 250 Gig USB drive. The first time I backed the public folders up it took about 60 Gigs (mostly my music files). The second backup took about 250 Meg (the extra music I'd added in the intervening week). Viewing the backup sets I can see 60 Gigs or so in each set but I know the second set is linking to the files that *didn't* change, in the first set.

Do you reckon I can convince either Sonya or Andrew to use the public folders? Not on your life. 'It's backing up my machine' they say 'that's all I need'. Well, yes, but those backups are *not* part of the external backup set. I reckon they are, without even realising it, playing a numbers game. The system is resilient enough if only one machine fails at a time - but if one of theirs dies *and* GreedyBastard dies at the same time they'll be out of luck. I won't be - I'll have the external backup of *my* files. Of course, the house could burn down but if it does I reckon losing a bunch of symphonies will be the least of my worries.

A bowl of chicken soup

For some obscure reason (read, I don't know why) it was a tradition in my family that we, the kids, were given money to buy lunch on Mondays. The rest of the week we took jam sandwiches, or sardine sandwiches, or salami sandwiches to school, but on Mondays we trooped off, the proud possessors of two or three shillings, ready to make up our own minds about what we'd eat for lunch.

I can only imagine what a sacrifice those few shillings were. I seem to remember that money was always short (when isn't it?). I recall my mother making sacrifices to raise the half a guinea needed to make me a member of the local YMCA in 1960 so it's not much of a jump to connect 3 bob (shillings) in the same year with a major sacrifice. Yet she made it. There's a mothers love for you! I'm seeing much the same thing here in 2008 in the way my wife will make all kinds of excuses for Morgan when any dispassionate outsider (myself for example) would pronounce a sentence of 'let her stew her in her own juices'!

But I digress. Back then, in 1960, I'd take my precious three shillings up the road from school and around the corner into Barkly Street, to a pie shop, and buy a pie. The pies weren't quite as good as the ones my grandmother (with whom we lived) made, but that hardly mattered. The pleasure was in fronting up at the counter, all of 6 years old, asking for a pie and plunking down a bob or two.

For the benefit of my American readers I'm talking of a meat pie. I'm not quite sure how it is that my new homeland has missed the pleasure of the meat pie but miss it they surely have! Mystery meat and gravy locked in a savory pastry, food fit for the gods! Alas, I had far too few pies in Australia a couple of months ago, but I *did* have lots of fish and chips!

Pie in hand, hot enough to burn through the waxed paper, I'd emerge into Barkly Street and blow frantically on it to cool it enough to eat. I honestly don't remember tomato sauce involved but I'm quite sure it was. I also don't remember having to choose between a dozen varieties of pie; there was just the one. Meat!

A few years later, 1963 or thereabouts, somewhat more sophisticated, my friends and I used to patronise a small shop right next to the railway line in Yarraville. The building is still there and I walked past it a couple of months ago. These days it now looks like someone lives in what was once a low end diner. I imagine the space where we once played the posh gent, nine or ten years old and with all of three bob in our pockets, is now their lounge room. Could they even imagine the pretensiousness of it all?

I remember one lunchtime we, my friends and I, Peter, Bill, Carl and possibly Cliff, graced that restaurant with our custom. I ordered the chicken soup and it was marvellous! Soup and whatever they ordered consumed we paid our bill and exited, to have a smoke in the backlane a street or so away from school. Time had gotten away from us and the hour, which usually seemed more than adequate to wolf down a few sandwiches, exchange the odd joke and have a smoke, was up before we knew it.

We came perilously close to 'the cuts'[^] that day. Old Mr Powell (he had the same name as the street the school was in and I've always suspected his name wasn't Powell at all), wasn't all that vigorous at ringing the bell, though rather more vigorous at dropping us in it when he had the opportunity. Thus, dimly, I heard the bell ringing a street or so over, and alerted my pals. Some doubt at first; had I really heard it? This, incidentally, is how I know it was 1963; it had to be before my first wristwatch and I received that on the day that JFK was shot[^]. We ran like hell and got back to class with barely a moment to spare. That half a cigarette stubbed out in blind panic was forgotten for the nonce!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's been a while

since I've written. (Cue the standard blog apologia). The truth is that there hasn't been that much I've wanted to write about. Morgan in jail for the third time? And getting off again? Methinks you've suffered enough being expected to read about her trials and tribulations.

My hours have changed considerably. Time was when, had you suggested I'd be rising at 6 AM and arriving at the office at 7:15 AM I'd have diagnosed a bad case of rocks in the head. But alas, that's exactly what's happened. I can't believe I'm actually driving to work with my lights on. The first few times I'd get to 8 AM (and the third cup of coffee) and be unable to convince myself that I'd turned em off; nope, I had to go to the car park and check. The fact that it might have been a convenient excuse for a smoke will go unmentioned.

I have the option to start at any half hour between 7:30 and 9 but I reckon I've spent enough of my life sitting in cars waiting for traffic to move. If I hit the office by 7:15 I'm ahead of the rush both ways. How very sad.

It's the other end of the day that's the real problem though. One might imagine that if one is rising at 6 that one might be ready to retire somewhere in the 11 PM region. Not a bit of it! Come midnight and I know that I have less than 6 hours till rising and I still can't get to sleep! There's the power of 35 or so years of habit for you. Well, I can blame those years but the truth is that I also enjoy the hour or two I get to myself at the end of the day, when Sonya has gone to bed and I can listen to a symphony knowing that I won't be half way through when politeness requires a pause to listen to an interruption.

Except, of course, when the phone rings to announce that Morgan's been arrested yet again!

You wouldn't be dead for quids, would you!

Monday, November 10, 2008

That could have been worded a bit better

Our ISP is Cox Communications here in Phoenix. Truth to tell, we don't have a lot of choices - it seems to be QWest or Cox or satellite. Satellite sucks for internet usage and QWest are DSL. There are probably dozens of dial up choices but who wants dial up if you can have better?

For the most part Cox have been ok as an ISP - relatively little down time and reasonably reliable though for some reason we seem to go through a cable modem a year. I could understand that if we were replacing them in mid-summer or during the lightning season but we're not. It seems to be a mid October to late November thing.

Thus to a few weeks ago when we started experiencing the usual (for this time of year) random slowdowns and outages. After three or so days we decided it was time for the annual cable modem purchase. Off to Frys, returning with yet another piece of disposable technology.

If you've ever been through this you know the drill; you can't just replace the modem and expect everything to work. Nope, you have to call em, recite a bunch of details such as modem serial number and MAC address and wait while they 'provision' the modem. Just why they call it provisioning is beyond me - I provided it, all they're doing is adding the MAC address to the 'allow' database so the system will function. Not a terribly painful process but it does take time. Presumably they deactivate the MAC address that used to be recorded against ones account so the old modem can't be used somewhere else on their network.

Which, of course, leaves a bit of a quandary when troubleshooting ones network. Once one has concluded that the problem lies either with the modem or the infrastructure at the other end of the cable one has to get them involved. Can't simply swap out the new modem and try the old one again. Worse, the people one has to deal with have 'scripts' to follow.

Obviously the cable modem replacement, this time around, didn't resolve the issue. Our connection can be great one moment and maddeningly slow the next. When investigating this I usually disconnect the modem from the router and run it direct to just one computer. If everything springs into life on that one computer I know it's us; if not it's them. If them then comes a long drawn out process of doing what they ask, no matter how inane. Little use to protest that I've already cycled power on the modem and rebooted the PC.

This time the problem looks for all the world like someone else on our cable segment has a DHCP server running on the WAN side; sometimes we cop a 192.168.x.x address when renewing the IP lease. My guess is someone has recently added a second computer and a router to their home network and they've plugged the cable modem into one of the downlink ports on the router instead of the uplink port. That would certainly explain why our lease renewals sometimes get a private network address. I'm pretty sure we can't solve this one without Cox assistance.

Today Sonya was getting toward the end of her tether with the internet connection. We'd already been on the phone with Cox yet again; this time I must have sounded knowledgeable because they forwarded us to their operations centre and they agreed that my theory sounded sound. They 'provisioned' the modem yet again and told us to call back if the problem continued. Which it did.

Sonya, fed up with slow connections, asked, 'How about Vern and Guy' (friends). 'Do they both have Cox?'

Out of the corner of my eye I could see Andrew slyly smiling, wondering if I was going to go for it. Was I? Does the pope wear a funny hat and expect not to be laughed at?

'Of course they do, my dear' I replied. 'That's why they're called blokes!'

Maybe you had to be there.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voting for change

Today was my first Presidential election and my fourth since moving to the US. It would have been my fifth had I registered as a Democrat or a Republican but I didn't so I didn't get to vote in the primaries.

Going by the blather emanating from both sides in the long drawn out campaign you might be forgiven for wondering, given the title of this post, whether I voted for the winner or the loser. Both held themselves out as agents of change though I fear my home-state Senators claim seemed more wishful thinking than anything else. I couldn't help but think of a McCain victory as Bush's third term. Given that my one regret was that George Bush was constitutionally unable to run again so I could have the pleasure of voting against him I think you can probably take a reasonable stab at my choice.

Methinks most of my readers had already pegged me on that side of the fence!

Today was quite the contrast to the previous three elections I've attended. Instead of providing a welcome relief from ennui for the volunteers by being the first voter they'd seen in an hour, I had the pleasure of standing in line for nearly two! Fortunaly Sonya and I went together; this meant we could take it in turns to step away for a smoke and not lose our place.

Of course it was badly organised. For whatever reason two voting districts were assigned the same polling place. But did they think to put up a sign or two indicating that fact? Well, they did an hour after the vote opened. Problem was we'd been in line forty minutes by that time and, as luck had it, we chose the wrong line. Not that there was anything to indicate which line to choose. We get to the end of the line, whip out our ID and discover that we're in Clearview sub division, not Desert Springs sub division. Naturally the line we stood in was the Desert Springs line.

And of course the Clearview line is a hundred feet long, occupied by people who are not going to let us convince them we've already been there an hour or so. Back to the end of the line. Being honest though, had the positions been reversed would I have believed? I think not.

So we end up in line next to a talkative woman who left me convinced that there really needs to be an intelligence test to determine fitness for the vote.

Of course I proudly wore my I voted today[^] sticker at the office. Bummer that no one noticed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ancient History

Whilst flipping through the fortnights movie lineup on TCM the other night I couldn't help noticing they're running Help![^] (and have a few times recently). Not really my cup of tea; it was made before the Beatles became an interesting group. Nonetheless, toying with the idea of recording it if only so I could say I gave it a try, I checked the 'Guide' synopsis. Quite a shock! For it read thusly 'John, Paul, George and Ringo (The Beatles)...' and so on.

I suppose it's true there's at least one generation for whom the recitation of those four names does not instantly conjure up the word 'Beatles'. Possibly two.

A couple of years ago Sonya and I were on our way to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving weekend. We happened to catch up with Morgan and Andrew, with their father, at a MacDonalds on the way. Yes, I hang my head in shame, I ordered Maccas. I do about once a year; it serves to remind me how bad food substitutes can really be. Anyway, a Beatles song was being piped into the 'restaurant' and I asked Andrew if he knew it. 'Sure' he replied, 'it's that song from Ferris Buellers day off.'.

Uh huh. I really am getting old!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Light Internet usage

On Sunday I caught up with one of my sisters. After the inevitable exchange of news one of the hazards of being a computer nerd raised it's ugly head; would I look at her computer and maybe fix whatever it was that prevented her connecting to the internet?

So we proceeded to the study and waited while it booted. Given the age of the machine it booted surprisingly fast - no more than maybe 5 minutes! Then she clicked on the DUN (Dial Up Networking) icon and I listened for the familiar modem sounds. Not a sausage. Aha, thought I, either she hasn't turned the modem on or it's dead. But she swore black and blue she has no modem. I very much doubt my sister has perfected the art of using DUN without a modem and I was about to start tracing cables when we saw some messages logged in the progress window; it had connected and was validating. Ok, so the modem has no speaker or it's turned off; either way it's not worth the argument whether she has a modem or not. Sufficient unto the day that I know she has and she doesn't need to care.

Lo and behold, mystery solved, the validation failed with the usual message about user name or password not valid.

'I can't fix this; you need to contact your ISP and find out what's going on' said I.

She whipped out a piece of paper containing her username and password; the original paperwork from the ISP when she set the account up. She retyped the username and password and tried again. Nope, same error message and, from me, the same response.

Then I spied some interesting details on the sheet. At the time of writing it's just past midnight, Australian Eastern Standard Time, on October 2 2008. This receipt was dated November 1, 2003. And next to the date was the purchased number of hours; 200 hours. No, she hadn't bought any more hours. Indeed she was adamant that she couldn't have used up anywhere near 200 hours in the all but five years since initial purchase.

Now that's what I call light Internet usage!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mullum Mullum

I'll admit I've been slack about writing now that I'm here in Melbourne. It's not that nothing's been happening, more that I've become a temporarily lazy bastard.

I arrived at Tullamarine at the usual time after a flight twice delayed by missing passengers. The first delay was at San Francisco, where they boarded us and then discovered that there was a no-show. Thus to the inevitable delay while they fished the baggage out of the hold. Of course, considering how long it takes to board a 747 and settle everyone down, there was no way they were going to let us off the plane during the delay. Fortunately, there's ample opportunity to make up lost time on the flight and we arrived at Sydney only 20 minutes later than scheduled.

I sadly report that there is no longer a smoking lounge[^] at Sydney Airport. I had a sneaking suspicion the anti-smoking nazis would have made it so but nonetheless it was a bitter disappointment to be denied that pleasure with three hours to go until arrival at Melbourne.

The second delay was on the ground at Melbourne, waiting for the gate to be available. You guessed it, the flight occupying the gate which was supposed to have departed was delayed while they removed luggage belonging to a no show. It beats me how someone can check their bags in and so completely disappear. Why else did they check in if not to take the damn flight?

From Tullamarine at my request straight to the fish shop in Williamstown. After three years without fish and chips I didn't want to wait any longer than necessary. We did, however, stop off at the Coles supermarket to buy a bottle of Rosella Tomato Sauce to go with the chips. Pure unadulterated bloody heaven!

Then Heino and I dagged around Williamstown for a while, reliving scenes from the distant past (well, thirty years ago which is near enough). But eventually it was time to take the trek across Melbourne to Heino's house which is not terribly close to Williamstown. In fact, he lives right by the northern end of the newly opened Eastlink Tollway. Which meant that, having taken the Eastern Freeway through Doncaster, we ended up at the Mullum Mullum Tunnel.

They've been planning to build that tunnel for almost as long as I can remember; it opened this year. Heino assures me it's a Melbourne tradition to chant Mullum Mullum as one drives through it. So I obliged him, feeling a trifle silly as I did so. 'No mate' he assured me, 'just watch the other drivers. They're chanting it too'. I looked and, sure enough, it looked just like they were.

The following morning we headed back the other way through the tunnels to pick up my hire car. I learn fast so I was ready to chant Mullum Mullum as we went through the tunnel. I even pointed out that it was pretty obvious one had to chant it backwards as we were going in the opposite direction. I was warming up as we approached the tunnel when Heino broke the sad news to me; the northbound tunnel is called the Melba tunnel and one does not chant at all.

So much for inspired guesswork!

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Greek Philosophers

There's a story I'm rather fond of about Greek Philosophers. It goes thus:

Three Greek Philosophers are dining at a roadside inn and arguing about how many teeth a horse has. The first one opines that it's 32, the second 34 and the third 36. They argue and argue as the wine is consumed, each coming forth with mathematical proof of why his and only his answer is the correct one.

Eventually, tiring of the argument, they beckon to an Arab sitting at the next table and ask that he hear each argument in turn and judge who is correct. The Arab listens patiently to each argument then says 'wait a moment gentlemen' and disappears. He returns a few minutes later and points to the third greek. 'You, sir, are correct'.

Although satisfied that the argument is finally over they want to know what abstruse reasoning the Arab used to determine the correct argument.

'Simple, sirs' he replies. 'I went out to the stables and counted them'.

You probably don't remember that I wondered what MET CUST WOM[^] meant, in the context of UPS parcel deliveries. Today I finally remembered to apply the Arabs method as I found myself sharing the lift at the office with a UPS guy who had nothing better to do as we descended 8 floors. So I asked him.

It turns out that, just as 'Anonymous' responded on the earlier post linked above, it means it was delivered to a woman at the target address.

How disappointing that it's such a prosaic meaning!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Infectious snobbery

My new job involves VB.Net code and some ASP.Net. It's going to involve a lot more ASP.Net in the future so it behooves me to learn it.

Uh huh, that's right, I was hired for the position without having the exact skills required. It's an exercise in optimism from my new employer, who is working on the idea that if I already have the necessary breadth of software development experience in Windows and c++ it shouldn't be too difficult to learn a new environment.

I have to say that's a very refreshing change from the usual attitude and one that I certainly appreciate.

Indeed, at the interview I wasn't even asked all that many technical questions. I can understand that; I always hate having to try and gauge a candidates real knowledge and experience in a mere hour.

My resume had included a link to my articles over on Codeproject[^] and my new boss remembered reading an article I'd written about using lex and yacc[^] (actually he mainly remembered it because I mention being a Kentucky Colonel[^] in my bio at the bottom of the page) so they had some real code I'd written available to read. I always knew those articles would pay off someday and they have; so far this job is great.

But back to VB.Net and ASP.Net. As hinted above, I don't have a lot of experience with either. Indeed, I wrote my first ever ASP.Net/VB.Net app last week, in half a day. Not much of an app but it fills a need and it's deployed for the one person in the world who needs it (not me). As for the VB.Net stuff, well, it's pretty easy to pick up. Some wierdness in the way one connects events and event handlers but for the most part it's a programming language. *shrug*

Last weekend I brought home a thick volume from the office library, something about business objects in VB.Net. I can't remember the full title but if it's about business objects you already know it's pretty dry stuff.

Sonya took one look at the VB.Net part of the title and said, in a tone of incredulity, 'VB????'

All those years of being a c++ snob have come back to haunt me. And it's not even entirely true; when one wants a quick proof of concept or, even better example, a COM testing host, it's hard to go past VB.

As for the future? We're going to be making a start on rev 2 of the app once I get back from Australia. I'm going to have to try very hard not to let years of c++ get in the way. After all, the ad I answered when applying for the job did express a preference for people who knew that languages other than those with .Net in the name existed.

I think the bottom line is that performance matters but so too do development cycles and maintainability/extensibility. Now there's a motherhood and apple pie statement for you!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

This is getting ridiculous

As an exercise in further trying your patience, long suffering readers, I draw your attention to the large change that United Airlines[^] made to my forthcoming itinerary a month or six weeks ago. After emailing me to advise of a two minute change they made rather larger changes and didn't notify me.

Today not one but two pieces of real honest-to-goodness paper mail arrived, in United Airlines envelopes and marked 'Urgent'.

Uh huh. Anxious moments as I tore the envelopes apart. Had the fuel increases caught up with me? Were these demands for more money? (The total cash outlay for the return ticket is a paltry $85 - frequent flyer points covered the rest). Not a bit of it. The first letter contained page 1 of my revised itinerary, the one I noticed back in July. The second letter contained page 2 of my...

Isn't this the same airline that's nickel and diming everyone with first bag charges?

Of course it's obvious how they can afford double postage. I can't remember the last time I saw a business communication printed on a dot-matrix printer with a worn ribbon and a bent pin or two...

Sunday, August 31, 2008


So I'm reading the Melbourne newspapers online and this ad appears. Finally, evidence that ads really are targetted via ones IP address.


I mentioned the other night that I was suffering from a violation of the golden rule[^].

I haven't entirely fallen though; we went out today and bought ourselves a pair of 22 inch widescreen LCD monitors. One for me and one for Sonya. It was always going to be an easier sell on buying a decent new monitor if Sonya also got one.

It feels like there's an acre of screen sitting in front of me now but I'm loving it. Sonya's having more difficulty getting used to it; she surfs the web more than I do and she notices just how much of the screen is wasted by most websites. I hadn't realised, until we got the new laptop, also widescreen, just how many websites don't take account of the target resolution. That's why I've changed the look of my blog, so it'll resize to account for your screen.

I swear that never again will I fail to test my own apps on odd screen resolutions. I used to limit the testing to 800 * 600 and assume it'd look ok on anything larger but I now know better.

I told Sonya that if she really didn't like the new screen she was welcome to choose another and I'd take the first one off her hands. I fear she's not falling for that one! But you have to try don't you.

Andrew's showing signs of envy; his CRT monitor looks distinctly old fashioned now. It probably didn't help when I said 'wow Andrew, look how small it is!'. But I'll end up paying for that sly dig; already Sonya's talking about giving him a new monitor for his birthday, which just happens to be 19 days away. Coincidentally, that's the same day that I fly to Australia. Not that I'm counting.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I can't see the computer

I mentioned the other night[^] that Sonya has a new computer and that her old one will eventually become our home server. She was convinced, at the time, that she'd copied or archived everything she could possible want from it; I was equally convinced that she hadn't. Hence my caution about reformatting it.

It should not surprise you that I was right in this instance; I'm sure we've all made that mistake before. Thus I set the machine up with remote desktop enabled and all the drives fileshared. We're behind a NAT router so that's probably pretty safe (but remember, I'm not a system administrator[^]).

A couple of days later I took the machine down and moved it to the other side of the room while we worked out a better location for it. It's getting difficult to fit all the computers in! If we ever manage to move from this damn apartment to a real house I have a use for some of the extra closet space.

When I got home from the office that evening Sonya mentioned that she 'couldn't see' the old machine. Apparently another set of forgotten files needing copying.

'Strange' I said, 'I can see it perfectly well'. She looked puzzled, because I wasn't sitting at my computer. I pointed. She looked.

'Do you see any cables?'

Sheepish look.


Now I know where Andrew inherited *his* sheepish looks from.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Golden Rule

I've had a fair amount of success at sticking to the software developers golden rule; *never* ever have a better computer at the office than at home. I've even been known to knock back the offer of a faster machine at work because I didn't want to have to deal with having a lesser home system.

Of course, and I knew this beforehand, the new job has upped the ante. The computer hardware itself is nothing special; just a bog standard dual core with a couple of gigs of memory. Three of my four computers here have 4 gigs each; the fourth, Fatbastard, has a mere gig because he doesn't need more than that, all he does is record and playback TV.

Nope, the ante is that at the new job we all have dual monitors. Even the receptionist has dual monitors. I've never had that before and I fear some expenditure lies ahead. How fortunate that the prices of high resolution flat panel monitors have dropped as much as they have.

Bastards, bastards, everywhere

If you thought we'd gone overboard with six[^] cats you don't know the excesses we can rise to when it comes to computers.

When I left the last job (was it a mere two days ago?) I had to surrender the laptop. Not much of a loss; it was about four years old and weighed a lot more than I want to lug around airports. But we've become accustomed to having internet access when in hotels and it wasn't a hard sell to buy ourselves one. Indeed, my wife had to expend almost no effort at all to get me to agree!

So we're now the proud owners of a low end 17 inch widescreen laptop with dual core Athlon mobile and a bunch of memory and hard disk. Plus the inevitable DVD burner we'll never use as a burner. It weighs half what the old one did and I no longer find myself swearing sotto voce as I switch from notepad to web browser, waiting for the damn thing to catch up. Who knows, I might even start liking Vista! Even with Vista it feels plenty fast. Gotta admit, DVDs look damn good on it too!

Well one thing led to another over at Frys Electronics and we decided that as Sonya had not had a single upgrade on her main computer in four and a half years that maybe it was time to bring her into the modern world. Another dual core Athlon plus motherboard for the princely sum of $89 (plus tax) total. For a low end upgrade it certainly moves fast and the sad thing is her computer is now faster than my primary computer. My audio workstation is considerably faster though.

Now of course we're not going to scrap the old machine (we had a spare case and power supply sitting around so Sonya effectively has an entire new machine) so it's going to become our WHS (Windows Home Server) machine in a few weeks, once she's sure she's copied everything off that she could conceivably want.

So lemme see, counting the laptop we now have eight computers. Given that there are only three of us living here that seems a trifle excessive even to me.

Oh, the title of this post? I admit I may have gotten carried away with a wholesale renaming of my computers. We now have Fatbastard, the HTPC, Bigbastard, my audio workstation, Littlebastard my VS2008 development box, Robbastard, this machine and Bastardtogo. I'll let you guess which one that is.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I think we all know what it's like to be restless. You know it, you can't sit still, you just have to be up and doing something even if it's as simple as taking a walk to the mailbox or around the block.

My grandmother would have characterised it as 'ants in the pants', which description struck me as irresistibly funny the first time I heard it. I may be getting toward old but it still happens that I get restless and just have to go for a wander around the neighbourhood.

When I'm watching a movie Andrew has the misfortune to be in my field of view, which is one reason I know just how much time he spends on World of Warcraft. The other night I noticed that his avatar (is that what they call em in WoW?), mounted on a horse, was galloping round and around the same scene time after time. He was also mumbling in the fashion teenagers do. We've stopped worrying that he's talking to himself because he's usually wearing a headset and chatting away with various other WoW players. I refrain here and in real life from comment on the content of the mumbling; it seems harmless enough.

So there he is mumbling away and galloping around and around in circles. And ten minutes later he's still galloping around and around in circles and mumbling. And yet again, ten minutes later. You get the idea.

I had to ask. 'Andrew, what on earth are you doing? I've watched you racing around...' etc.

'Oh', he explained, 'I'm talking to (name forgotten) and I'm restless. I can't stay in one place'.

Uh huh. 'Andrew, they're just pixels.' Sheepish grin, the grin he always indulges in when he knows he's been caught out.

Now I've seen everything. Virtual restlessness!

I'm pretty sure some of the things I do would be equally incomprehensible to my long dead grandmother.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Final Day

So that's my first US job behind me. Today I had the mixed pleasure of leaving my job. I start the new job on Monday. Ordinarily I'd have wanted a few days or perhaps a weeks gap before donning the new harness but in this case I made an exception given that I'm taking time off 28 days hence (not that I'm counting) to go to Australia for a fortnight.

A mixed pleasure because whilst, on the one hand, it was good to leave a woefully underpaid job that had become unchallenging, I'll miss most of the people I worked with. Especially my smoking buddies.

I'll also miss the customer people I had to deal with; we were able to forge a good working relationship. I won't miss the weekly conference call Tuesday evening to the Philippines though.

I spent most of the final day doing one final software release. And burning CD's containing copies of the source code. And burning CD's containing installation instructions for a number of products I've written over the past 4 years. And burning CD's containing... well you get the idea.

Not that any of this stuff needed to be burned to CD; it's just that when ones former boss hasn't the dook of an idea about source code control it's difficult to convince him that everything is safely preserved in Subversion (along with a scheduled task run once a week that dumps the entire repository into a zip file and copies it to multiple locations on different servers).

Full points for knowing that it needs to be preserved; none for the plan. And of course, if he's not a developer and hasn't a developer currently on staff, what use are these CD's? I could have burned a couple of dozen novels from Project Gutenberg[^] and he wouldn't have known the difference! Believe me, I was tempted!

Then 'depersonalising' my laptop and desktop machines. Delete all IE favourites, kill history, cookies, forms data and passwords.

A final smoke with the guys; a final lesson in the finer points of Australian slang for Randy, a round of hand shakes and insincere promises to keep in touch (we all know we won't) and I left the premises for the last time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A job ad

that appeared, briefly, on craigslist today.

They were offering work to C/C++ developers on the following terms: $1600 - $2400 a month, for 200 hours work per month. Alternatively, if that didn't appeal, one could earn between $8 and $12 an hour.

Strangely enough, the ad disappeared a couple of hours later. What a surprise!

Now that I have a new job about to commence I'm not looking for another; I was checking to see if the job I'm about to leave had appeared; I'll be most interested in what they ask and what they offer!


It's early days yet and it's hard to know if a new found enthusiasm for heavy metal music will last. Nonetheless, I've found myself alternating between symphonies and metal the last few days.

It all began when Christian Graus, over on Codeproject[^], mentioned 'The Glorious Burden' by Iced Earth. I can't remember, even though it was only a few days ago, what it was about his post that piqued interest but I checked and found it available on Rhapsody. Gave it a listen and it's now on my music player. Ditto for another recommendation; 'Nostradamus', by Judas Priest.

It feels like that last band has been around for nearly as long as the Stones; I certainly remember hearing the name in the very early 70's though I have no memory whatsoever of what they did at that time.

As for why I like it? I think it's the layered complexity. Certainly much of the thematic material is pretty banal but one could say that of most music; the power is in the treatment. And whilst the words might seem silly (indeed I thought so at first hearing) it's not much of a leap from there to the commonplace silliness of such lines from Bergs 'Wozzeck'[^] as 'Langsam, Wozzeck, Langsam'. Sounds very profound in a foreign language but in english it means 'Slower, Wozzeck, Slower', sung by the captain as Wozzeck gives him a shave! Now there's profound soap opera for you!

In other words, I've learned not to go to music for profundity in poesy.

Enough armchair amateur analysis! I'm enjoying it as much as I enjoy Bruckner.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I wouldn't expect it to be!

I'm inordinately fond of bacon and eggs for brekky of a weekend; during the week there's never enough time between awakening and the trek to the office.

I've finally perfected the technique for poaching the eggs, and I mean proper poaching, in hot water with a dash of malt vinegar, not that cheating method in the microwave oven. In truth I have no use for a microwave oven; nothing cooked in the microwave tastes worth the savings in effort.

I've become used to the idea that one must salt ones bacon these days. Sigh.

We've been trying out various sources of bacon, mainly because I find they cut the bacon too thin here in the US. I suppose they do that because most people seem to prefer their bacon cooked to a crisp and, whilst there's nothing wrong with crispy bacon in moderation, I much prefer the bacon to bend. Yeah, I know I'm a picky bastard but after all, I'm the one eating it!

On top of that, the trend seems to be toward low fat bacon. Uh huh. Why not also offer low oxygen air or low moisture water? The whole point of bacon is the flavour and you get that from the fat! Indeed, one of my criteria for choosing which bacon to buy is the appearance of the fat. I prefer steak on the same principle; give me a nice marbling any day.

We did find one cut of bacon that I really liked but there was a downside to it. Ain't it always the way? Never in life is anything perfect. The imperfection in this case is that it's only available in a 2 pound pack and that's way more bacon than I can eat in a single weekend. Actually, it's more bacon than I can eat in two weekends and by the third weekend what's left over is looking pretty sorry for itself. The result of undersalting.

A few weeks ago the local supermarket finally branched out into selling bacon at the deli. It came as quite the surprise the first time I checked out the deli locally, almost six years ago, and discovered that they didn't sell bacon. From which you can surmise that it's a common commodity back in Melbourne supermarket delis.

An oversight they've since corrected. They have a few different cuts including one that's just perfect and on top of that one can walk up and order ten rashers if that's what one wants.

Of course, Friday night, there was no one in attendance at the deli and after pressing that damn buzzer until my ears were ringing I gave up and went to the prepackaged bacon. The two pound pack was tempting but below it was another pack with less bacon and quite a smaller price tag but the right thickness and marvellous looking fat. So I gave it a try.

Quite tasty!

Emblazoned on the pack are the words 'This is not a low calorie food'. I should bloody well hope not!

Friday, August 15, 2008

How annoying!

Morgan's not living here anymore. Oh sure, she comes for a single night, makes a lot of noise and disappears again. She's been playing games, promising at the start of the week that she'll go into drug rehab at the end of the week and, of course, not going into drug rehab at the end of the week. To my amazement Mom has finally got it; she's doing her daughter no favours by putting up with this level of bullshit.

Thus to Morgan only staying sporadically, when she can't persuade some other schmuck to put her up. Yes, it's a delicate balance here; how far can one rub her face in it without pushing her over the edge. This is where my social darwinism comes in; I can't help feeling that if she does go over the edge it can only improve the gene pool. Not that I actually want her to go over the edge but I'm damned if I'll go on providing a roof if all she can do is drug herself.

However, just because Morgan is persona non grata with the family right now is no reason why Ryan, her infant, should have to pursue a nomadic lifestyle along with her. He gets to stay here. Thus to this morning. As I sipped the wake up coffee Sonya plonked him down in front of the TV and tuned to some kids program.

I looked up and said 'what the?'. For there, rendered in what sounded for all the world like a Yamaha DX7 synthesiser, was Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Not a bad rendition as it happened although totally electronic.

'It's an educational program' said my wife. Uh huh, so, in order to get the little bastards to listen, they feel they have to 'modernise' the sound? Perhaps the fees for an orchestral performance recording were too high? If so, given the number of low end recordings around, I pity the poor bastard they did hire to 'modernise' the sound. He must have been paid less than minimum wage.

Well, that's my snobbishness in regard to classical music exposed for all the world to see. Like I needed to say that! Methinks you already guessed it was there. But if you really and truly want to educate em perhaps the original orchestration might be a place to start from?

But what really annoyed me was how they'd let the music run for four seconds, approach an interesting chord transition and then just drop it. I really wanted to hear how the 'modernised' performance would treat it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Water Trick

I watched this[^] last night. Not a particularly good movie though it did have some fascinating moments, such as the automated garage parking system shown in Reno Nevada in 1955! But then I get fascinated by such things. My equivalent of Bright Shiny Things[^] methinks.

There was one scene that made me laugh. One of the minor characters is tricked into a bet; he sits on the floor and someone pours a glass of water onto the floor between his legs. The bet is that the character who pours the water can wipe it up before the person sitting on the floor can stab him with a knife. Bet accepted, the victim sits and the water is poured. Then, on the count of three they go, one to wipe the water up, the second to stab the wiper. And, on the count of three, the wiper grabs the stabbers legs and drags him through the puddle!

Like I say, it made me laugh and as I chuckled I bethought of a victim upon whom I could play the same trick. Andrew of course. Thus at dinner I offered him a bet of two hundred bucks. Scenting a trick he demurred and admitted that he hadn't the two hundred bucks on his side. No problem I told him, if he lost the bet no money need change hands but if I lost he'd get two hundred smackeroos.

Greed took over as I demonstrated how he'd be sitting and soon he was in place on the kitchen floor. Just in case, we substituted a wooden spoon for the knife. Heh, I'm not that silly. I even let him choose how much water would go into the glass and he, being a greedy bastard, filled it to the brim.

The anti-climax is that it worked a treat and he's no richer now than he was before dinner. But I honestly thought Sonya would choke to death, she was laughing so hard.

And he took it well; methinks he's planning to try it on his friends.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

We've been married how long???

My wife rang me at the office today and said 'I know you'll laugh, but is your birthday the 24th or the 23rd?'

I certainly did laugh. 'Neither my dear. It's the 21st'.

'Oh', sheepishly.

We've only been married 6 years!

Monday, August 11, 2008

A new job

I start a new job in two weeks. Had the interview on Friday morning and by noon they'd sent me an email offer. Then two hours waiting for the boss to return from lunch so I could give my notice.

Substantially more money, half the distance to drive each day and, icing on the cake, they do flextime; I can, if I want, arrange my hours to have every second Friday off. I want!

On top of that they didn't bat an eyelid when I told them, during the initial phone screening, that I needed time off (39 days hence) to go to Australia. They won't pay me during the two weeks I'm gone but I'd hardly expect them to given that I'll be disappearing a month into the new job. The upside of that is that I'll still have 3 weeks leave at the end of the first year.

I'm pretty chuffed at landing a new job on only the second interview. Which isn't the same as saying on only the second application. It's amazing how one can send ones resume off and hear nothing. I was pretty choosy about when I sent my resume; in the job I'm leaving I had often to go through resumes for software developers and it was amazing the mismatches. We'd be looking for a c++ developer with 2 years experience; we'd get applicants who knew unix scripting or SQL server admin but no c++. Don't get me wrong, those are both useful skills, if you're a unix shop or a heavy database user; we weren't.

Back in 1988 I was also looking for a job and listed C as my primary language skill. I recall being sent to an interview and doing well until it came time for the practical test; they sat me down in front of a Pascal compiler, a language I knew very little about. Failed of course. You'll have noticed above that I said 'sent to an interview'. Meaning it was a recruitment agency that had set the interview up. When I followed up the guy said 'well, Pascal has a C in it!'. I wish that were a joke but alas it's not.

Given that I was looking for a senior position there was no way I was going to apply for a job requiring skills I don't have. Not only does one run the risk of coming off at the interview as a clueless dill, it's a waste of my time and theirs.

So one sends off ones resume and... nothing. I talked about this with Guy[^] a few weeks ago and he was also surprised that US companies don't seem to respond with a polite 'thanks but you don't appear to be a good match at this time'. It's been a lot of years since I last applied for a job in Australia and things may have changed but I seem to recall at least the courtesy of a reply. Methinks perhaps they're afraid of lawsuits; perhaps it's easier to pretend they never saw the resumes they winnowed out. *shrug*

As for the resumes *I* winnowed out; well that's personnel's job isn't it!

So I'm looking forward to a new job, working on .Net apps in C# and VB. It's all good ain't it!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Van Goghurt

Yes, you read that title right. Van Goghurt.

That's my best stab at how it's spelled. There I was the other day innocently driving to work and enduring what passes for drive time radio here when on comes an advertisement for Van Goghurt, followed by mention of Sugar Plum cookies. These are, apparently, products targetted at thoughtful parents who want their children to grow up with an appreciation of the arts. There's even mention of Tchaikovsky! Want to guess the ratio of sugar to plums in those cookies?

Doubtless an ad campaign thought up by someone who still believes that the way to a mans heart is through his stomach! And if that's true then lets feed the next generation on yoghurt artfully disguised as Van Goghurt - who knows, they might make the mental connection!

I can't help feeling that if you really really really wanted your kids to grow up with an appreciation of 'the arts' perhaps a better way might be to actually live it yourself and show by example. But that's just me.

I can see it now; one of the little bastards actually develops an interest in Van Gogh and discovers the depths of his parents ignorance of the subject; what a shock!

No, what we have here is a prime example of snobbery. 'I don't want to listen to Beethoven but you should' is what it boils down to. That's exactly what the advertisers are trying to tap into. 'Everyone knows' that 'Art is good' and if I feed my kids Van Goghurt I can subscribe to the notion without actually having to put in the effort to learn how to understand something that runs longer than three minutes.

Having said all that, have I made any effort to 'educate' Andrew or Morgan in classical music? Heck no! Enough that they know I enjoy it. They can see me spending hours, headphones on, listening, following scores, writing my own. If they want to know more they can ask.

One thing I've always stuck to; when either of them plays their own music I *never* criticise even if I find rap tedious. Their music is their music[^] whatever I might think of it.

Monday, August 04, 2008

A minor detail

Last night I watched Billion Dollar Brain[^]. Not a great movie but not a bad one either. I have to admit I'm a sucker for a Michael Caine movie, particularly his earlier work and, having noticed in 'the guide' that this movie was directed by Ken Russell that was it; decision made.

Ken Russell is well known for his musical films, starting in the 60's with biographies of composers of the Romantic and Post Romantic era, people such as Elgar, Bax and Delius. I haven't managed to catch most of those earlier works; they just don't seem to be shown any more and perhaps no longer exist. The BBC, for whom most of these earlier films were made, seemed to make a practice of destroying material in the early 70's.

Just as well, then, that Ken made his transition to 'real' film at the end of the 60's; thus his 'versions' of the life of Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Liszt; not forgetting Tommy! I'll be the first to admit that The Music Lovers[^] is probably far more fantasy than fact but I don't let that minor detail get in the way of enjoying a visual and musical feast. Such a pity it's not available on DVD and I haven't managed to see it in 20 years!

In Mahler[^] he really went all out; images of Nazis goosestepping on Gustavs coffin anyone? Brunhilde feeding Gustav pork after he slays the dragon and following it with a glass of milk! Bad taste from the decade of bad taste. I do have that one on DVD.

I may not recognise the music of some minor artist of the 1980s when it crops up but the moment they play three bars of a major composers symphony I know it! Thus to the scene in Billion Dollar Brain where Harry Palmer (Caine) is being cleaned up before being led into the concert. Masterful piece of misdirection there; the scene has all the indicators that he's about to be tortured. Come to think of it, many folk might consider being dragged into a Symphony Concert as torture!

Colonel Stok comes into view, a tear running down his cheek as the symphony crashes to a close. He imparts the information that Shostakovich wrote the symphony in Leningrad in 1941 during the siege. In other words, it's supposed to be the 7th Symphony.

Uh huh. The music we actually hear at this point is the end of the 11th Symphony, written in 1957.

Just a minor detail but one that surprised me given Ken Russell's pedigree.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Remember the Alamo

Many years ago my grandmother told me that there was some family connection to The Alamo[^]. I would have been about 6 or 7 at the time and I suspect the only reason I have even the vaguest memory of her mentioning it was through having probably heard the word Alamo in the context of cowboy films.

Thirty years later my aunt retold the story. I can't remember if I asked her about it or if she volunteered the information and, given that she's been dead thirteen years, I can't go back and ask. She, as it happened, had almost nothing to add beyond there being 'some family connection'.

I have to admit I thought it unlikely unless you also consider the possibility that I'm related to the last Tsar of All the Russias! Sure, I thought, there may have been a Manderson at the battle. (howmanyofme.com[^], at the time of writing, estimate there are a thousand Mandersons in the US) but a common ancestor had to have been some centuries ago.

I fear we sometimes forget in the age of the internet how much more difficult and expensive it was to keep in contact with people on other continents. According to the AT&T history page at att.com[^] the first phone service between London and the US (they don't say where in the US but I'll lay money it was New York City) was established in 1927, capacity a single call at a time, at $75 for the first 3 minutes!

At prices like that I doubt many people were discussing family minutiae.

So this 'family connection' with the Alamo always puzzled me. I had heard of no US relatives. Of course, I'd heard of precious few English or Scottish relatives either so that didn't count for much but if you know much of Australian Colonial History and attitudes you'd realise that it was far more likely we'd know about (and have) British relatives than American ones.

A couple of weeks ago, whilst indulging in ego-surfing, I found what I suspect is the answer to the mystery.

There's a tiny town in Wyoming called Manderson. I know it's tiny because Wikipedia says it has a population of 104. I'd suspect it was small even without Wikipedia if it's in Wyoming, the US state with the smallest population of them all.

And guess what? Uh huh, you guessed it. Before it was renamed Manderson that little town was called Alamo!

Of course, I now have to figure out how my grandmother heard of Charles Manderson, former chief counsel for Burlington Railroad. We've still got the immense unlikelihood of an American Manderson (myself excluded since naturalisation) being related!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Interesting headline

in todays Herald Sun[^] online newspaper.

Fire breaks out in crematorium

You don't say!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

That's quite a change

You'll remember I tried your patience as a loyal reader a week or so ago when I reported[^] that United Airlines had emailed me to advise of a two minute change in departure time from Phoenix on my way to Australia. 54 days and counting!

As part of the anticipation heightening process I re-checked my itinerary a few days ago and discovered that they'd moved my departure back another 45 minutes. I don't leave Phoenix until 7:33 now, assuming they're on time. That leaves me with about 80 minutes to walk the couple of hundred metres from the domestic to the international terminals, grab a quick smoke and run the gauntlet of security again.

That ought to be enough time though I note that the last time I went to Australia I had to go through a second level of vetting. One fronts up to a counter (on the sterile side of security) and hands over ones passport. They go through the pretence of checking ones passport on the computer and, if all is well, they stick a red dot on the outside of your passport.

Do I really believe they have a live line to some Australian computer system in DFAT? More importantly, given that if they do it'll be an internet link, do I really want to accept that my passport details were just sent over a public system? Sometimes it's better to be a cynical old bastard.

I'm telling you, you aint getting on that plane without the red dot! It's almost as though we (Australians) are trying to outdo the US government in the paranoia stakes. Remember Richard Reid[^], the shoe bomber? He was apprehended mid air over the Atlantic on December 22 2001. That was December 23 Australian time. On December 25 I flew to the US and had the pleasure of being on the first flight where one was required to remove ones shoes and have them checked for explosives! I reckon that had to have been *before* the first US checks!

Not only that; they've changed my return flight. I'm going out via San Francisco but I thought I was coming back through Los Angeles. Good thing I checked the flight again because now I'm returning through San Franciso. If I remember rightly, the SFO flight departs Sydney half an hour before the LAX flight and I've had LAX on the return so fixed in my head that I'm sure I'd have missed the plane if I hadn't checked.

I haven't received a peep out of United via email regarding these latest changes. Do you reckon someone there read my previous post and put a block on my email address? Nah, that'd be too paranoid even for me!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I call maledictions down upon the heads

of all vile website designers who will *insist* upon having sound files automatically begin playing when one is foolish enough to navigate to their sites. When I'm listening to the music of *my* choice the last thing I want is some fools idea of what constitutes music thrust upon my unexpecting ears. Especially when it's some vilely tuneless 'popular' travesty. You'd be amazed how fast I can hit the 'back' button on such websites. A pox upon them unto the seventh generation!

Go on, tell me I'm wrong! :-)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I love the way United Airlines works.

Right on schedule I received an email from United Airlines regarding my flight to Australia 65 days from now (not that I'm counting!). The email advised me that my flight time had been changed. From 6:42 PM to 6:44 PM.

I'm pretty sure they sent a similar email about a year ago to Heino to advise him that his flight time had also been shifted a miniscule amount. I certainly remember, the last time I was counting down the days to a trip back to Australia, receiving email from United with much the same advice; a two or three minute schedule change.

Hmmm. Maybe I err on the side of caution when flying, for I'm always at the airport at least an hour ahead of time, but it seems to me that if you're cutting it so fine that a two minute difference in flight time might mean the difference between catching or missing a flight then you need to readjust your expectations.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


My stepfather kept pigeons from 1967 onward. I'm sure he'd have loved to keep them before then but the house in which we lived at the time, in Seddon, had hardly enough room for us let alone a pigeon coop. But once we moved to St Albans he had all the space he could desire and so the pigeon coop was born. I recall helping him build it, little knowing the misery that damn coop held in store for me.

His interest in pigeons didn't come as much of a surprise; as the youngest of a large family he had ample example in his older brothers. At least three of them, as far as I can remember, kept pigeons and we'd always end up standing beside the cages when we visited, gravely discussing the merits of that 'blue' or this pink one.

And of course they raced the pigeons. Small sums wagered each week and form gravely argued over. The locals in Yarraville and Footscray even had a 'pigeon fanciers' club house; a strange brick building down by the Maribyrnong Wharves that looked, for all the world, like a council toilet block from the twenties. It may have been exactly that at one time. (I just checked on Google Earth and it seems to have gone; I will, of course, double check in 68 days when I'm there again). But heck no, I'm not counting down the days.

It fell to my lot to clean the cages out every fortnight or so. I think he had 25 or 30 pigeons in total at any one time and you wouldn't believe how much shit they could produce in a week! A nasty smelly job at the best of times but particularly bad in summer. The thing being that it dries out fairly quickly and forms hard lumps all over the inside of the cage. We're talking a cage plenty large enough to climb into and an inch depth of dried shit. The technique was to take a plasterers trowel and hack away at the lumps. Then scrape it all up into bags. After fifteen minutes the air would be thick with dust which of course one breathed in. It got into my hair, stuck to my face; I swear it got into my underpants! And the smell was indescribable.

What I wouldn't give to go back and have to do it all over again!

Our two youngest cats, not kittens anymore yet not fully grown, haven't entirely outgrown the catbox. I don't know what Tiny's eating but when he leaves his calling card the odour is quite pungent. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, the catbox is close to where I sit when watching movies. Not much farther from there to where Andrew sits playing World of Warcraft. Strangely enough my smokers nostrils, 37 years older than his, seem much more sensitive.

I took it upon myself, much to Sonyas amusement, to teach Andrew the finer points of cleaning up a catbox. It seems only fair that he should make *some* contribution to the household but he doesn't see it quite that way.

Now there's the wasteful approach and there's the thrifty approach. I use the thrifty one; that's the approach where one doesn't toss out the entire contents of the catbox every day. It's perfectly possible to reuse most of the cat litter at least once by judicious removal of the lumps.

And if one is taking that approach there's the hard way and the easy way. The hard way is to pick em out with the bare hand. But I've been doing this for years and I'm an observant bastard. Taking a leaf out of the anti-doggie poo brigades book I use plastic bags. We haven't yet got the point of supermarkets imposing a surcharge on the bags so there are always too many of em around the joint. Would you believe it's next to impossible to get the checkout person to NOT put a gallon of milk in it's own plastic bag???

So you take a plastic bag in each hand, one open to receive the nuggets, the other around the nugget removing hand. It takes less than a minute to snag em all out of the kitty litter and at the end of the process one has a nice tidy bag of cat crap ready to be disposed of and a relatively odour free catbox. Sprinkle some fresh litter on top and the cats will be milling around waiting for you to get out of the damn way so they can have a crap!

The other night, on our return from dining out, we stopped by the supermarket to pick up a fresh bag of litter. Then followed the argument with Andrew about just *why* he should be the one to do it. I've given up with the persuasion; I tell him straight out that it's because he's the youngest and I don't care that it's not fair. Calling him Morgan also works!

Arrived home he rushed in through the door and made straight for the computer, doubtless in hopes that we'd have forgotten, in the space of three minutes, all about such unpleasant subjects. No such hope.

Reminded of the task that lay ahead he grabbed a bag and started picking out the nuggets aforesaid. I couldn't help laughing. 'Ok, what are you going to do now?' I asked, as he realised he had only the one bag and that wrapped around the busy hand.

Poor bastard had the grace to look sheepish.