Sunday, April 27, 2008

It's the small victories

You know how manufacturers will package some foodstuffs in cardboard and print a 'tear here' notice, complete with perforations and tongue and tab for resealing? Presumably to give the thrifty shopper the illusion that the package really is resealable and the contents will retain their freshness.

Today I managed, I think for the first time ever, to pull the tab along the perforations and it actually tore as it was designed to. Now there's a first! Nearly fifty four years on the planet and I've finally pulled it off! Let's see if the bacon contained within maintains its freshness. I doubt it. Fortunately, I also doubt I'll leave the bacon long enough anyway.

It's the small victories!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Finally made an offer

So much for optimism. I mentioned[^], two weeks ago, that we might be making an offer on a house the following day.

Naturally it wasn't that easy, was it? Never is. I'll spare you the details but the refinance we signed three weeks ago has been refinanced again! Fortunately we were able to claw back most of the original closing costs and there are other costs not required this close to a re-refinance (property appraisal for one).

So, after doing our sums yet again, we finally made an offer on the house today. We're still waiting for a response beyond the acknowledgement that an offer has been made but I quite understand the need to think it over. While we're waiting, here are a couple of shots of the backyard.


If you imagine those photos are accurate regarding size and scale I have a plastic model of a Rolls Royce you might want to drive away in! They're from the vendor website and shot in that style peculiar to Real Estate photographers.

Contrary to expectation I'm not feeling in the least nervous about the whole thing. I suppose it's the fact that I no longer believe that Real Estate money is 'real' money. Think about it; I'm not far short of my 54th birthday and we're talking a 30 year mortgage. I know, about as surely as I know anything, that I won't be here when the mortgage reaches its end and, frankly, I'd be amazed if my wife was. Yet we all, we two, the mortgage broker, the lender and the seller, all solemnly pretend that sometime in 2038 we'll make the final payment and the house will be ours and ours alone. It all has such an air of unreality about it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Say what???

I haven't mentioned it but since the last time I wrote about cats we've added two (count em, two!) to the family. That makes a total of five cats and, as much as I love cats, I think that's at least two too many. And this isn't even counting the neighbourhood strays who take advantage of the cat door to snatch a free feed.

The first to join us was Casper (I call her the Little White Bastard) or LWB for short. She came to live with us a week or so before Heino came over for his visit. The typical story 'if you don't take her we'll have to put her down'. Sonya bought it.

It's always hard to tell if the story is true or not; certainly there are enough people out there who'd think nothing of bunging half a dozen kittens in a sack with a rock and dropping em in the nearest canal. But are those the kind of people who would even bother trying to farm em out? I suspect not.

Casper took to Heino but how could she not? To know Heino is to, well, to know him!

The most recent arrival is Tiny Guy. This is his 36th day with us. You might wonder about my naming of cats; I've mentioned it before methinks but I don't go for the tame names 'Tiger', 'Casper', 'Tom' and so forth. I'd much rather give a cat a robust name like Voskoboinikov or Kafka or Katzen. But lots of luck trying that with this lot; their idea of originality is to take a pale tabby and call him Tiger! Or take a black cat and call her Shadow.

Hence the disparity of names. If they persist in having the imagination of a square of toilet paper I'll dumb it down for em; hence, Shadow is Kitten and I always call her that, Kitten and never Shadow. Tiger is 'The little guy' and since I can hardly change his name now when he knows he's 'The little guy' he remains that even though he's a big cat now. I'm sure you can now see why the latest addition is called Tiny Guy.

Tiny Guy was not house trained when he arrived. Not a big deal. How much can a kitten of six weeks pee at a time anyway? Not a lot I can tell you! He's almost house trained now but occasionally forgets himself. Hence, the other night, I espied him squatting on a cushion. Now I'm sure you know the drill here. Grab the little bastard immediately and spirit him away to the cat box. The power of association is amazing and they do quickly learn the appropriate location.

Which left a peed upon cushion. I showed it to my wife and she said 'oh, is that peepee?'. After spluttering in amazement I replied. 'Peepee? Bloody peepee? Who are you talking to? It's cat piss and don't you forget it!'. She laughed.

Perhaps you had to be there!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Is it over yet??

where 'it' is, of course, the US presidential election.

This is the second such election I've lived through whilst residing in the US. To be honest, I didn't notice the first one (2004) all that much. For one, I wasn't entitled to vote in it; for another, being unemployed for the first half of the campaign, I wasn't listening to the radio. Since I never watch TV news that left very few ways for the campaign to get at me.

Not so this time around! At first I thought it was interesting but as time wore on it becomes tiring; Obama this, McCain that, Hilary the other. And that's after the field has thinned down. When Huckabee and Romney and Edwards were still in it the cacophony from the Republicans had to be heard to be believed.

Now it's the Democrats vying for maximum attention, as though the ability to shriek the loudest will win the nomination.

Uh huh; six months or so of this and they're still deciding the nominees! How I pine for the relative sanity of a system where the party chooses its candidates out of the public eye.

Already I've offended those few US readers who still read me; how dare I criticise the system? But you know what? If you want to have a say in who stands for your party then join the damn party! Let me have none of this voter registration where I have to tick a box saying whether I want to vote in the Republican Primary, or the Democrat Primary, or am independent! Particulary not when it's an exclusive choice, as it is in Arizona. If I plump for the Dems I can't cast a vote in the Republican primaries and vice versa! And don't ask the taxpayer to foot the bills for the primaries!

But this is the way it's always been here; therefore it's the only way it can ever be. I'm just as guilty of this thought as those I criticise. The Australian system seems completely natural to me, because that's the system I grew up in. And preselection battles in Australian politics can get nasty at times. Nevertheless, an Australian election campaign is short and sharp, mercifully so. After it's done we get on with life and can forget the entire dirty business for another three years!

I still haven't decided who to vote for though it should come as no surprise that I lean toward the left. The problem is that what counts as the left in US politics is still pretty right to me! Of course, even in Australian politics, the left is pretty right these days. And yet I feel I must vote for someone; to take the easy way out and not bother to vote at all is to make no choice at all! And if that be the case, then why become a citizen?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

When the lazy meets the implacable

I've hinted a few times that Morgan is living with us again. Sadly, it's true. She's been back here 6 months today. I suppose I should be glad she waited until Heino had gone back to Australia. Had I known, I'd have gone on bended knees and begged him to stay.

Of course, Mom solemnly assured me that she was 'only going to stay for a week' while she made other arrangements. And, of course, I solemnly pretended to believe.

At the time of her pregnancy, a couple of years ago, it was decided (I wasn't consulted) to move her to another school to finish her high schooling. She didn't do her homework and I was given to understand that she scraped through by the skin of her teeth, having delivered her final assignment within half an hour of the third and final deadline.

She went into the workforce for a few days but found the kinds of jobs for which her education qualified her not quite to taste. It is apparently beneath her dignity to stand behind the counter at Blockbuster. I can't say she's had a lot of jobs.

As a parenthetical note, I applied for a job at Hollywood Video a few years ago; at least I can talk intelligently about movies though I fear most customers wouldn't be particularly interested in a dissertation about the merits of Edmond O'Brien[^] as an actor!

I don't have a lot of sympathy with Morgan. Did you really need me making that clear?

Half a year after moving back here Morgan has played the role of the earnest student to the extent of getting ten grand from the state to cover her living expenses. She's even, once, and with much fanfare, bestowed a hundred bucks on us. Once. Where the rest went I cannot say though I have my suspicions. As for her success as a student? Let's just say that, having been advised by her tutor that she's unlikely to pass, she's chucked school up. One might have expected a concerted effort in the two months of the academic year remaining; expected it if one did not know Morgan! Especially since she has to return the money!

So now we have a 20 year old with no job and no qualifications to speak of on our hands.

Now it's quite likely that my previous history with Morgan coloured later events. Likely? Bloody inevitable! I don't really mind if she's occupying the room above ours if she could only bring herself to be inobtrusive. Minor things like, perhaps, cleaning her plate after eating. Or even moving the damn plate from the table to the sink. Not hosting the dance of the hippotami at midnight when we're trying to sleep. Or how about cleaning up her kids toys if he's too young to do it himself? But no, not a bit of it. Nope, she eats half a meal and leaves the plate there on the table. I've been there before[^] but the previous time it was with a wife and one sometimes has to give in. This time around I feel no need to give in, particularly when she seems to have time on her hands.

As for the toys, I've gotten into the habit of kicking them out of the way, so long as Ryan isn't actually playing with them or nearby. What care I if Morgan feels outrage? If she's that outraged then she can damn well tidy up after her offspring!

Sonya, mother of the monster, is in a bind. At one level she knows Morgan is a lazy bitch, on another level she's her daughter. Thus, I've gotten into the habit, having observed in the morning as I leave for work that last nights plate is still on the table and observed when I get home in the evening that it's gone (I promise this sentence will soon end), of saying 'look me in the eye and tell me Morgan cleaned up the plate'.

Sometimes she *can* look me in the eye!

Meanwhile, I reckon my wife has done her stretch and she shouldn't have to be cleaning up after a 20 year old. As for me? Damned if I will!


A month or so ago Cox Cable (may they rot in hell) moved Turner Classic Movies[^] out of the Analog Channel range into the Digital Tier. No warning; it just wasn't there on channel 42 one evening, replaced with a placard advising that if we wanted to continue receiving TCM we had to get a digital reciever.

Apparently they *did* advertise the change in advance, in the print media. Who do you know takes the paper on a daily basis anymore? I sure don't. Even back in the pre internet days I didn't take the paper on a daily basis (Saturday Age[^] yes, other days as the fancy took me). I still read the Age online every day but it doesn't quite compare to the pleasure of relaxing over the pages on a Saturday morning with a plate of bacon and eggs and a couple of coffees!

After a bout of swearing it was time to take stock of the options. You understand that with the kinds of films I most enjoy the loss of TCM was a major loss indeed! Long story short I ended up subscribing to the Cox Digital service, including two set top boxes, to feed Bigboy, our HTPC. We stuck with Cox because any other option meant we lost analog cable, watched by Morgan and Andrew. They want digital they can earn it!

Also, based on a mistaken assumption, I subscribed to the five bucks a month movie tier. The mistaken assumption was the result of Cox's choice of channel number for TCM; it's now on 199 and channels 190 to 198 are part of the movie tier; I assumed that not only had the bastards moved it out of analog but had added it to the extra fee subscription service. Wrong assumption but, in the event, not a bad outcome. The extra channels include Sundance and Independent Film Channel and so far it's been worth the extra five bucks.

Incidentally, when I still lived in Australia I was a subscriber to Optus Cable. They also ran (may still do for all I know) TCM. Good times.

Anyways, an unexpected pleasure from the change is the discovery of Shameless[^]. The first episode I caught was the second episode. Alas, they don't seem to have the nous to run the episodes in the original order!

I have to admit it was a bit of bastardry to suggest to my wife that she might enjoy watching with me; she can't understand a word they say though I did assure her they were speaking English. I fear I have rather more experience watching British TV than she does but some of the accents are a bit extreme even for me.

This is rather different British comedy than I'm used to. None of the gentility of the sixties and seventies, no sir, this is robust language at its best. I'm pretty sure I don't want to see it broadcast on PBS - the sound would be half bleeps! I'm being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. But it's all good stuff! You really wouldn't be dead for quids would you?

Monday, April 07, 2008

I'm not a geek, honest!

Give or take a week I've now spent one tenth of my life living in the US. I've resisted the temptation to calculate it down to the exact day; I think it's bad enough that I've narrowed it down this closely. And this isn't even counting the time (almost six months) I spent in the US when I was still really living in Australia.

I probably shouldn't admit this but I fear Melbourne will seem even more alien, next time I'm there, in September, than it did last time[^]. I'm definitely not admitting that hearing the Australian accent on Australian films and TV shows *does* sound odd in my own ears!

To say nothing of the slight puzzlement I feel watching the aforesaid visual entertainment and seeing someone drive a car whilst sitting on the right hand side of the vehicle. I suppose it's overlaying five or so years of recent experience onto older experiences; when one sees drivers on the left all the time it becomes the 'natural' way.

I still cannot cross the road without looking the 'wrong'[^] way.

Of course, I still tell people around here that *I* don't have an accent; they do! Most are polite enough to laugh. I still enjoy the shock when I open my mouth and speak; I look 'normal' enough to pass for a local, if one discounts the unfashionably long hair. I'd reckon about one in ten times I say something and the listener, if s/he has never heard me speak before, will register shock and awe.

But they ain't completely got me yet! I still find the American Hamburger a disgusting thing; likewise ketchup!

Of course, one tenth of my life is *still* only one tenth of percent[^] of the age of the pyramids.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


I've just discovered the pleasures of BBC 7, which is remarkable considering where I live. Gotta love the internet.

Actually, I'm surprised I can get it; I thought I remembered reading somewhere on The Register[^] that it's supposed to be limited, via IP filtering, to residents of the UK. Perhaps they haven't worked out that the IP block I share is based in Phoenix and I'm not about to tell em.

Whatever. I've been enjoying listening to 'The Goon Show', 'I'm Sorry, I'll read that Again', 'Beyond our Ken', 'Hancocks Half Hour' and others. I could have done Wikipedia links for each of those programs but I already know most of you have navigated to a more interesting page!