Archive for April, 2006

Sunday night roundup

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

Well, I had an interesting week: tried to recover from jetlag on Monday and Tuesday, but Tuesday was really busy. I went to the foot quacks, and they pronounced my toe cured. Of course, it’s still swollen but not as badly as it was. I don’t suppose anyone will want to see me in sandals or flip-flops this summer, but TUFF. I’m very grateful, as it could have threatened not only my foot but also my life, according to the head quack. I missed being hospitalised again by the skin of my teeth.

My friend Bobby from HK was in town for two days with his former bf. Must be difficult: they booked a trip to Europe when they were still together, and then they broke up, but the trip was too expensive to cancel. So, they’re traveling together. Wednesday they went to Italy, then they’ll be back in London for a day before returning to Hong Kong. I really must get to Hong Kong this year or next: I’ve been away for 8 years and that’s far too long. I love Hong Kong: the sights, the islands, the hiking are all wonderful. I’ve missed it. HWMBO doesn’t like HK, though, so I suppose I might have to go alone…

Wednesday through Friday I taught a class in software testing. The last time I taught it, it was called the ISEB Foundation Course in Software Testing. Now it’s the ISTQB Certified Tester Course. There has been a change and update in the curriculum and it’s been standardised with the international curriculum. So it was new to me. Of course, lots of it is the same. However, there are still lots of typos (“affect” for “effect”, twice!) and some slides with which I disagree.

The delegates were all from a large consultancy which shall remain nameless. One was much older than I am; a few were about the same age and most were much younger. One Asian Muslim man who was quite cute. Always good to find eye candy in the course. There were twelve, and ten passed the mock exam.

I really need help in cabling our TV/VCR/Satellite box/DVD Player. I have all the power cords OK, but the other cabling defeats me. The DVD and the VCR have RCA plugs, the Satellite box has SCARTs, the switch has SCARTs and RCA, but the difficulty is getting the signal from the satbox to the VCR through the switch. I gave up and used the coaxial plug to go directly to the TV. What a pain! It looks worse behind the TV than it does behind the computer.

My US trip (long post)

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

I haven’t updated much for a while because I just didn’t feel like doing it while I was in the US. I’m also going to lock this to friends-only as there will be some stuff about my brother’s divorce that probably should remain private.

The trip over was uneventful in a relatively uncrowded plane; there was a seat next to me and I had an aisle seat, just as I wanted. I wish that the trip back had been as good. Upon arrival my sister and her friend picked me up at the airport and I got back to Marblehead in quick-time. My brother looks about the same, as does my sister; we just don’t change very much, I guess. I finally got to see our old house on Elm Street; the contractor turned a three-flat building into a four-flat building, and added two porches to make four in total. They repaired the outside and painted it grey. I was impressed. Here’s what it looked like several years ago. It hadn’t had any work done on it for more than 50 years, I think.

and what it looked like last week (after many hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on conversion from a firetrap into 4 condo units):

Tuesday I arranged dinner on Thursday with my friends and , and went on my first shopping trip, to BJ’s Warehouse (no snickering in the back). My sister, bless her heart, works until 1 pm so is free after that as long as she can go to see and feed her horses. So I bought the usual Hansen stuff:

  • Peanut butter (two large jars of Skippy Super Chunk). This is for HWMBO, as English peanut butter tastes like they cut it with sand;
  • Irish Spring Icy Blue soap (16 bars, I think). I now have enough Irish Spring to last me until next spring. That does not mean that visitors should not offer to bring more;
  • 12 V-neck undershirts;
  • A large bottle of Tabasco Sauce (can only get small ones here);
  • Razor blades (they’re much cheaper over there);
  • Et alia…

I forgot toothpaste. Oh, well…

Since my brother doesn’t drink coffee, I had to get some coffee and filters for the coffeemaker that my soon-to-be ex-sister-in-law left in the house. I did so, and looked for the mugs. My sister-in-law left her dog and left her parakeet, but took all her coffee mugs. Go figure. My sister’s wonderful coffee-cake provided breakfast for a few days, along with coffee lightened with half-and-half (another guilty pleasure I can only indulge in in the U.S.)

Tuesday morning I went downstairs to the granny flat at my brother’s to greet my Uncle Dick. He is my mother’s younger brother but is now about 77 years old. I wanted to make sure he was happy, content, and thriving living at my brother’s house. He assured me that he was, and had bought a new computer! He was using a DOS-based computer until last year, when he discovered a new music-notation program, name starts with an “E”, I think, and found that he’d have to upgrade. He’s doing some fantastic stuff with it (he took a BA in music from Boston University) and showed some of it off to me. I’m thrilled that he’s thriving and keeping himself occupied. My other objective was to pick his brains about the Child side of the family. I managed to get copies of my grandfather’s birth certificate and my great-grandparents marriage certificate, as well as some names I had not yet nailed down. If you’re at all interested in geneology, make sure you talk to the elderly members of your family while they’re still around to answer questions.

Tuesday night my brother and I attended Philanthropic Lodge, AF and AM, in Marblehead. I was only raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason in February, while my brother was initiated, passed, and raised two or three years ago at a one-day class in Andover. I’d checked that the Lodge was in Masonic “communion” with the United Grand Lodge of England, and then arranged to attend, bringing a letter to identify myself. I found it really interesting; something like the difference between American English and British English: mutually intelligible but subtly different. Three candidates were passed to the Fellowcraft Degree, then we had dinner (steak, natch; see Wednesday night). Back to the Lodge for the business meeting and explanation for the new Fellowcraft brethren. I was recognised in Lodge and given a Masonic token from Philanthropic. I was really impressed and will probably affiliate with the Lodge (=become a member of Philanthropic as well as my own lodge, Goliath Lodge, #5595 UGLE).

Here’s the present they gave me: it’s their Lodge Token (token of their appreciation and welcome, I guess!)

Wednesday afternoon we went to see the lawyer who handled my father’s estate. It turns out that my sister-in-law had dealt with the estate by forging my brother’s name to cheques and generally using the money for items like massages and paying off credit cards. However, in addition to forgery and embezzlement she has now added perjury: she found some money in stocks and an old bank account that she had to probate on a “simple probate” form, in which she swore that those were the only assets and that the total value of the estate had been less than US$15,000. This of course was not true (it was probably closer to US$50,000) and thus she perjured herself when she filed that form. I don’t think we’ll ever see any of it again, but it was good to have all this confirmed.

That night we went to Outback Steakhouse: my sister, brother, my sister’s friend Linda who was so gracious to ferry me back and forth to Logan and to Wonderland MBTA station, Dick, and myself. I feel that beef in the US is so much better than it is here (I know, it’s treason. Sue me.). I had a prime rib, Prime Minister’s Cut, along with a blooming onion (for the table, not all for me). No dessert. I took a doggie bag back for my brother’s dog, Mickey, who is quite cute.

Thursday night went out to dinner as previously arranged with Robert and John ( and ) at Rendezvous restaurant on Mass Ave in Cambridge. While a bit pricey, the food was good (I had roast chicken) and the talk, as usual with Robert and John, scintillating. Robert took great delight in telling me of this entry in ‘s livejournal. I was suitably horrified and hoped that HWMBO’s admonition not to light the oven when alone was heeded. Daytimes I saw Uncle Dick and generally just walked around. Thursday I took a 2 hour walk from one end of town to the other; about 6 miles I reckon. My feet didn’t suffer, my heart was exercised, and I got a chance to just commune with nature and admire all the changes that happened in town.

Friday night I made Mother Hansen’s Spaghetti and Meatballs for the same group that ate at the Outback. Aside from burning the end of my right middle finger on the frying pan, it worked out very well and a good time was had by all.

Saturday night I had dinner with my friend Margaret from Boston, who co-owns the Luti email list with me. We solved all the problems of the world over…steaks at Outback.

Sunday, it was laze around, pack, and thank Linda for ferrying me to Logan. The flight back to London was not as good as the flight to Boston: there were no aisle seats available and I ended up with a lunkhead on the aisle who fell asleep and wasn’t about to move for a trip to the loo by me. These people also always have iron bladders that can hold 5 gallons of liquid. When he finally got up for the loo, I followed him (not for that, Blanche!) so that I only needed to disturb him once when returning. The food was…forgettable. I managed to get back to London by Heathrow Express and taxicab, even though there was about a 20-minute wait at Paddington amid people who had nothing better to do than smoke in the taxi queue.

Home again, jiggety-jog. I’m still jetlagged on Wesnesday night but am now conducting a software testing course. Hope I can stay awake for it.

Today’s LiveJournal Commentary URL

Monday, April 24th, 2006

I’ve met so many people who reacted the same way Dagwood and Blondie’s daughter (whose name escapes me) reacted here.

Yes, I’m back, but too jetlagged to blog much. Maybe tomorrow.

Just about ready to pack

Sunday, April 16th, 2006

I thought I would be all packed by now. Instead I’ve been resting and reading all afternoon. Drat. Anyway, will be incognito until the 23rd or so as far as internet access is concerned, so especially Robert and John, I will get in touch on your mobile phone when I get in on Monday so that we can try to set up dinner. To everyone else, cheers for Easter Week and see you the day after Low Sunday.

Especially for <lj user=”trawnapanda”>…

Saturday, April 15th, 2006

…a seasonal URL for your delectation, here.

Today’s Nigerian 419 letter of which I only read the first line…

Saturday, April 15th, 2006

Compliment Of The Season. On a very good day. I am Amos Zongo Esq,The Manager of file / Debt recovery Department in African developent bank (ADB).

I wonder who or what he is on a less-good day, or even a bad day: we all have them.

Today’s Paschal URL

Friday, April 14th, 2006

It seems that some heathen or other may be sabotaging the Paschal candles used in most Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. See the evidence here.

I have seen a candle simply dribble out as the candle-follower gets close to the cup of the candle-holder. On one such occasion the candle-follower fell the the floor with a “clunk” during a silent moment in the service.

I am torn between enjoying the use of candles in services and dreading the mess and annoyance they cause for the sacristan (me).

Today’s interesting headline

Thursday, April 13th, 2006

From spacedaily comes this startling headline:

Venus Guides Stargazers To Uranus In April

I really and truly think that perhaps there’s one planet that needs renaming.

Maundy Thursday work

Thursday, April 13th, 2006

I decided to move my computer desk 90 degrees counterclockwise this morning. This was not a trivial task. The ostensible reason is that under the desk I felt that I was hosting a worm convention, which makes it difficult to plug/unplug things and move things around in general. Second, I had two rather unfortunate power strips that were three sockets short, thus necessitating outlet blocks, like this one:

The other problem was the dust. It gets everywhere. So the order I did things is:

  • Removed everything from the computer area except the table itself.
  • Vacuumed around and under the table, and in the well behind it.
  • Removed the two old power strips, deftly unplugging the router and plugging it into the wall so that Derek wouldn’t be too inconvenienced.
  • Drilled holes in the wall and installed the two new power strips (16 outlets in all), and tacked the leads to the wall so that they would be out of the way.
  • Had lunch.
  • Washed the window but discovered that the top pane is painted shut so I can’t wash the outside or open the window from the top. Wotta pain (pane?).
  • Washed the inner curtain.
  • Moved the table.
  • Put everything back, while attaching the speakers to the wall rather than putting them on the desk. Instantly, more desk space! The sound is better too.
  • Turned on the computer and, mirabile dictu, everything worked.

I can now look out of the window while I’m working, and feed the squirrel when he drops by. I have to make sure he doesn’t try to come in if I leave the window open. I can see who’s coming in or going out the front door without turning around. I’m certain that I looked very rude for saying “hello” or “goodbye” without actually turning around.

I don’t suppose I’ll do any more spring cleaning before I get back from Massachusetts, but I now feel very accomplished.

Watch out!

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006

Remember…the Easter Bunny is just around the corner…

Today’s Help the Aged URL

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006

I missed this one in the Register somehow last month. However, they’re very helpful in pointing out previously-run stories that have new relevance. One hears about granny porn, but a 75-year-old Romanian man seems to be getting into the swing of things too, details here. Do note, however, that vampires probably need not apply as co-stars (see last paragraph).

A French personal ad

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006

I get a list which occasionally has personal ads posted to it. Although the usual language of the list is Spanish, occasionally there are posts in other languages. Thus today I saw an ad in French and, curious, turned Babelfish loose on it. This is what Babelfish translated:

“me 36/172/67 sportsman bogoss muscular dryness (old gymnaste teacher) currently roller, swimming pool, vtt my friend 37/174/68 sportsman bogoss, swimming pool, muscu peaks of him and me if interress

For <lj user=”digipacopr”>

Sunday, April 9th, 2006

Bodega music conversation.

A new phrase…

Saturday, April 8th, 2006

…to me is “anthropodermic bibliopagy”. Find out what it means here. You might be surprised.

Speaking Frog

Saturday, April 8th, 2006

I won a prize in French in high school–surprising at the time because I was more proficient in Latin, I believed. Some other snotnosed kid won the Latin prize, and I hated him for it.

Well, the first time I found myself on my own in Paris for a week in 1998, I discovered that almost all my school French had utterly disappeared. The only way I could order a baguette in a patisserie was to point at it and mumble something that sounded like “bag it”. I was devastated.

Well, there’s now a website for those of us who feel that, while French may not be the language of love, it certainly could be the language of obnoxiousness. Oddly enough, it’s not written by any of us rosbifs, but by someone in Australia. Good on him, I say.

Of course, the best page of the site is here. I’m trying to find a situation in which I would use the phrase “Le r

The octothorpe

Friday, April 7th, 2006

In the United States, the “#” character is usually called the “pound sign” or “number sign”, or for the musically inclined, the “sharp” sign, or nowadays, the “hash” key. Of course, here in the United Kingdom, the pound sign is “

Opera vs. Firefox

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

We’ve been using Opera for a few years now. It was a real revelation (real tabbed windows, intelligent browsing, etc. etc. and so on) but had some deficiencies. For example, HWMBO and I read a variety of websites in varied encodings (including Chinese for him and Classical Greek for me) and Opera never seemed to be able to reliably auto-detect the encoding for a website. This may have been due to deficiencies in websites, but it resulted in a lot of gibberish, lost pound signs (I mean real pounds sterling, not octothorpes), and assorted weirdnesses around quotation marks. Our online banking website also didn’t work with Opera, nor did my BT webmail site. It was a pain having to revert to IE all the time.

So, I decided to try Firefox for a while. It imported all my Opera bookmarks (an important point), and it seems to reliably auto-detect everything. My banking website works well in it, and it seems to be a bit easier to use than Opera. HWMBO reports that his Chinese websites also render correctly.

I think that unless someone tells me how to fix Opera (and I don’t imagine anyone will) we’ll be uninstalling it and using Firefox as our default browser.

See ya, Opera. Nice knowing ya (most of the time).

Another health update

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

I have been down with what I think was the flu since Monday night. While at first I thought it was connected to the antibiotics, these were the same dosages I tolerated pretty well the last time. I was useless Tuesday and Wednesday, but have rallied today.

There is nothing worse than having a flu that demands that you just sit in a chair watching daytime TV. This is possibly the worst fate ever. I even watched “Wine TV” for 1/2 an hour. I’m doomed.

On a brighter note, I’ve just confirmed a tutoring gig for the end of the month; my first paid work since January. I’m hoping it will be the first of many. After all, I want to live in the style to which I wish to become accustomed. And it’s not fair to HWMBO to continue to support me unaided.

Today’s Advertising URL

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

If you are at work, don’t click on this link, unless you’re working at home. Thanks to towleroad for this one.

Short update: footnote

Monday, April 3rd, 2006

Went back to Kings College Hospital for a toe check-up. The doctor looked at it, said how much he thought it had improved, cut off a little bit of dead skin, and promptly said that I should go back on the antibiotics for another two weeks just to make sure that we’d “gotten all the bugs”. Luckily, this time I’ll only be on amoxicillin and flucoxicillin, and not on either the shot-in-the-bot or the tablet-with-which-you-must-not-drink-any-alcohol. I’ll just have to ensure that I take the flucoxicillin on an empty stomach.

I’ll be taking my last dose at breakfast on the day I leave for the US.

Short update

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

I went to the gym yesterday, nitroglycerine spray in tow. I did 1/2 hour on the stationary bicycle at about 1/2 the maximum resistance. I worked up a sweat, but the beta-blocker ensured that my heart rate never went above 110 bpm. No shortness of breath, no chest pains, no need for the nitro.

So, I’m feeling much bolder about it and will start going regularly again. That will make the GBP 42 I pay for it each month worthwhile.