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.