Archive for May, 2006


Monday, May 29th, 2006

I have been doing some more geneological explorations, using as a guide a family tree given to me by my uncle, and a book on about the Child family (my mother’s father’s family). Using the book, I’ve now gotten back to Benjamin Child in the 17th century and Roxbury, Massachusetts.

This stuff is addictive. HWMBO wanted me to stop, so I will. However, it gets very interesting back there. The book mentions my great-grandfather (born 1871).

Today’s FatFighter’s URL

Monday, May 29th, 2006

…is here; beware and do not watch while you are drinking coffee or tea.

Today’s Candid Camera URL

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

If you think you know the woman in the picture…you may be wrong! Click here for some hilarity.

Today’s White Trash Wedding URL

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

…is here; read if you dare!


Sunday, May 28th, 2006

HWMBO and I have been living in this maisonette for more than 7 years now. It’s got a nice little garden in back, thoughtfully provided with bushes and grass by the previous tenant.

Having grass, I’ve had to mow it regularly. Sometimes I haven’t bothered, and it’s gotten quite high. But, eventually, I mow it, and collect the clippings and toss them in the compost heap that the previous tenant also thoughtfully provided. I then promptly forget them.

Today I did quite a bit of mowing and pruning and cutting bindweed away from the begonias. I threw the clippings and cuttings on the compost heap, and in doing so I happened to pull up a weed that was growing out of the heap.

To my surprise I discovered that, indeed, all the grass I’ve been throwing on it in the past few years has turned to compost. I have never actually had any before anywhere.

Thus, I suppose I shall have to find something to do with the compost.

The trials of being brown-thumbed…

Today’s Creepy URL

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

If you like creepy movies, this video will duly give you the creeps.

“I’m happy, I’m the best…”

A short post…

Friday, May 26th, 2006

…as HWMBO has commanded me to come up to bed, but the two further two-day gigs I had in Lancashire have now been cancelled. I know it wasn’t my teaching, as the evaluations were uniformly positive. I believe that the customer decided that they really didn’t want the training that we were providing. This means GBP 1600 has now flown out the window. I had to cancel two additional sets of train tickets, and will have to cancel two hotel rooms as well. What a pain. I just hope that the customer doesn’t try to pin the blame on me.

Lytham St Annes

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

I am now in Lytham St Annes, having travelled up last night to do the first of three software testing courses for developers. It has been interesting, to say the least.

I got here on Virgin Trains and then a two car diesel from Preston, which would bring me to Blackpool South if I stayed on it. I may do so next week when I get here. This week I’ve been getting used to the place, finding restaurants, and generally relaxing. The course itself is now a doddle…just get into the room and turn on the autopilot. The delegates are a weird mix of developers, analysts, one mole (a software tester who has already gotten the certificate but who is there to present the tester’s point of view) and a couple of testers who are there because they missed the last course. As this is a truncated curriculum, I said that they’d better not try the exam without either further study or a full course.

Most of the delegates have been working at the customer’s site for more than 10 years, some as many as 35. And they say that “jobs for life” is no longer an option! One of the developers is one of those “Negative Nellies” who always says either that “We already tried that and it didn’t work” or “We’ve never tried that so it won’t work”. The class discussions have been sometimes quite heated. There is a general notion that quality is the job of the testers, rather than everyone’s job. I expect that as a result of these courses there will be some changes made to stress that quality is everyone’s job and the testers aren’t the ones who add it at the end.

The hotel (Blue Sands Hotel) is quite good, relatively modern inside WITH broadband access (which I didn’t know about last night). The breakfast was ample and they have a very cute dog whose picture I will try to post when I get back to London. I may cancel my other hotel reservations here and stay here again the next two weeks. It suits me.

The restaurant I ate at last night was an Italian restaurant downtown (if this tiny town can be said to have a downtown). The food was passable, as was the wine and the price. But nothing special. It was quite crowded.

Tonight, OTOH, I ate at a fabulous restaurant called Bistro Gerry (I give the name so that anyone who reads this and is in the area will go). I started out with a glass of house red. I tasted it, and thought “There’s something funny about this…” It was corked, and I got a glass of uncorked wine, no questions asked, which was much better. The owner/waitress was first-rate. Very chatty, and yet not obtrusive. The people up here are very nice, which is a change from metropolitan people, who often aren’t very nice (lots of exceptions to that rule). I ordered a steak, medium, and got a steak, medium. I also ordered a soup, Broccoli and Stilton, which was delectable. The steak was tender and flavourful (sorry to the vegetarians who read this journal…). Dessert was raspberry Pavlova, with caffe americano and something called “tablet” which seems to be Scottish fudge. I couldn’t eat more than one as it was so sweet. However, everything was cooked to perfection, the service was great, and even the background music made my toes tap (lots of 1960’s and 1970’s pop and rock songs, which brought me back to when I was young and needed no Viagra). I was still humming when I left. They got a 20% tip too, because the experience was so great.

Now I’m waiting to watch the second episode of “A Line of Beauty” on BBC2. I read the novel when in the hospital, but I have been commanded by HSMBO to watch tonight, so I’ll be dutiful and do so. Tomorrow back to the customer site for the second day of training and then back to the Elephant and my honey. I miss him.

A sad day for old Columbians

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

I get my alumni newsletters mostly online now. A sad tale in the latest one:

A beloved Morningside Heights bar, The West End, has closed its doors and will reopen in July as a Cuban restaurant, Havana Central. Renovations will increase the restaurant

Famed Berkeley “Naked Guy” dies

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

I was sad to hear of the death of Andrew Martinez, the student at UC Berkeley who fought for the right to attend university in the nude back in the early 1990’s. He apparently had had mental health problems and was at the time in jail on assault and battery charges. He committed suicide by putting a bag over his head. The story is here. I kind of secretly admired him for his dogged insistence that public nudity was not only his right, but was non-prurient. There were many demonstrations at Berkeley up until the time he was expelled for refusing to don some clothing.

Got an assignment for the next two weeks!

Saturday, May 20th, 2006

Forgot to tell everyone: got an assignment for 6 days of work in the next two weeks. It’s in a town called Lytham St Annes in Lancashire, and it’s very near Blackpool. Three 2-day courses, introducing software testing to developers for a company up there. It’s the same course I taught a few weeks ago, but abridged to delete the quizzes, exercises, and exam, plus a couple of other extraneous items. I’ve never been to Blackpool before, so I’m looking forward to that.

If I could get six days’ assignment a month, we’d be doing OK on the money front, and I’d still have lots of time to spare to do all the things I should be doing but aren’t at the moment.

On the iMac now

Saturday, May 20th, 2006

As you may remember, I bought and updated an iMac a while back. While I got a bit of flack from HWMBO when I did it, I think it was the right move.

First, I’m learning how to use a Mac. Always a good thing to know how to use different operating systems. Our former flatmate strangemanstanding is going to post a better machine to us sometime shortly from Australia. I am starting to think it might be a good idea to have my own webserver here at home, and that would be a perfect machine for it.

Second, it’s good to have a computer in every room, and this one is in the kitchen. It’s great for checking my LJ friends page or listening to Hearts of Space while HWMBO is on the main computer.

Third, it was great to be able to successfully upgrade such a beast as this. The instructions are fearsome, and rooting around in the iMac’s interior is difficult.

However, if you can keep a secret, there is a shop on the Walworth Road that has a load of slot-loading iMacs on display. I don’t know how much they want for them, but perhaps a la and his pink Hello Kitty laptops I might be able to refurbish some and sell ’em off to people who long for those heady days when the iMac was king of the Appleverse.

Many happy returns of the day to…

Saturday, May 20th, 2006

…Cher, who is today officially a sexagenarian.

Immigration to the UK

Saturday, May 20th, 2006

There’s been a fearsome row lately over immigration, not to the US, but to the UK. This one hots up every few years or so when the Little Englanders think it’s time to throw out all the illegals yet again. The fact that foreign criminals who had served their sentences were not routinely being deported made lots of news and cost former Home Secretary Charles Clarke his job. But his replacement. John Reid, hasn’t been very lucky either. One of his civil servants, asked by a Parliamentary committee how many illegal immigrants were in the country, responded that he didn’t have the faintest idea. It’s a true statement, but it gives the impression that not only doesn’t he know, but he doesn’t really care either. It infuriated Parliament and the newspapers. Yesterday five illegal immigrants were caught as they were preparing to go to their jobs–cleaning the offices of the Immigration and Nationalisation Directorate in London. The IND says that it was their first day on the job. The employer (who holds the contract to clean the IND’s offices) begs to differ: two had worked there for more than two years, one for 1 year, and one for 6 months. I guess the other one was the neophyte.

I expect that Reid will order raids on all contract cleaning establishment to try to detect illegal immigrants. This has worked (partially) in catering establishments and restaurants. I expect that most of the cleaners who are non-white will be detained and forced to prove their nationality and status in the UK. Families will be deported, or split up.

The days when we could reasonably secure our borders have ended. The volume of traffic is just too great. Forgery of papers is too easy and too good a quality now. As a (legal) immigrant married to a (legal) immigrant, maybe it’s time the government rethought its attitude toward immigration. In large measure, the illegal immigrants perform jobs that we as a rule are not interested in doing. They pay their own way, and contribute to the society we are currently building here (with cheap labour making inexpensive products for sale to well-off people).

But the government, scared witless of the tabloids, the British National Party, and the booboisie, cannot do that. So poor Nigerian and Zimbabwean cleaners will be deported and be replaced by poor Poles and Lithuanians.

From towleroad comes…

Friday, May 19th, 2006

this article, which is worth reading for the headline alone.

Thanks to <lj user=”ronslog”> for this…

Friday, May 19th, 2006

It’s NSFW, even with headphones, but remember: it’s only an ad.

Today’s Retro URL

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

I accidentally stumbled on this site, a James-Lileks-like site with tons of advertising illustrations from the middle of the last century. If you like the Gallery of Regrettable Food, you’ll lurve this one too.

Dining with old friends

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

My former workmate Louise is an informal social secretary for refugees from the market research software company I worked for in the late 80’s until 1998 (with a 2-1/2 year hiatus). What a wonderful ministry! It keeps us connected in ways that the other companies for which I have worked just do not. So I got an email from her a few weeks ago suggesting a visit to the Americans in Paris exhibit at the National Gallery. I was up for that, but HWMBO doesn’t like “old pictures” (his words). So I wrote back and said that we’d love to go out to dinner with the group afterwards, but would skip the exhibit.

So we met up with the crew outside the NG. For those who are unfamiliar with London, the National Gallery is the imposing building at the north end of Trafalgar Square. Admiral Nelson sits on his column (totally enshrouded by scaffolding at the moment while decades of pigeon guano are scraped off the statue and column) and two water fountains blissfully hiss away defying the impending drought order. Alison is still on her plinth at the northwest corner of the square, and the verdict is that she is weathering gracefully, even if the pigeons seem to have taken a shine to perching on her head.

So, once the assembled throng got together, we had to decide where to go for dinner. A Spaghetti House is around the corner on St. Martin’s Lane, but for years I’ve wondered what the Texas Embassy was like. It’s a Tex-Mex restaurant (an oddity in London) just at the bottom of Haymarket across the street from the National Gallery. So, I suggested that and we walking over there and, oddly enough, got seats right away.

Now I like Tex-Mex (and Mexican) food, but the prices in this restaurant were a bit high, except for certain dishes. Of course, it’s in a very imposing building (I don’t know what it had been, but it could have been an embassy of a middle-sized Commonwealth country such as New Zealand. The Raspberry Margarita appealled, and was tasty, but it’s the kind of drink that makes you want to order another, and another, and then get up and fall on the floor. I only had one. They had a blooming onion (which some at the table had never tasted) on the menu, so we ordered one of those. The difficulty was that it wasn’t sliced quite right so the spears of deep-fried onion were difficult to detach from the stem-end. Of course, being greasy, the batter-outside slipped off the onion inside. We were forced to tackle it with knife and fork. Demerits for that.

I had beef fajitas. Only problem was, the spice seemed to be all in the refried beans served on the “toppings plate”. Eran muy grasientos (they were very greasy, according to Babelfish).

We had a lovely time and didn’t all talk about absent people (catching up), as people at such evenings often end up doing. But, we all refused desserts when they were offered. AND, they don’t have decaf coffee! I switched to Diet Coke after the raspberry margarita. It ended up being

What type of American English do I speak?

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006
Your Linguistic Profile::
45% Yankee
25% General American English
20% Dixie
5% Upper Midwestern
0% Midwestern

The test was deficient. They asked a question about what I called a sweetened carbonated beverage. The choices were “soda”, “pop”, “Coke”. They did not allow the word “tonic” as an answer, which is what I called it as a young stripling. When asked what I called the appliance that you drink water from, the choices were “drinking fountain” and “water fountain”, not “bubbler”, which is what we called it in my misspent yoof.

So I demand a recount!

Happy birthday to <lj user=”silver_eagle”>

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

…and many happy returns of the day!

Don’t try this at home…

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

…and tell me that this is satire.

And of course, happy birthday also to <lj user=”chrissstopher”>

Monday, May 15th, 2006

…and the same happy returns of the day that got. I hope you all live as long as the Queen Mother did.

Happy birthday <lj user=”rsc”>

Monday, May 15th, 2006

…and many happy returns of the day. The BBC sends birthday wishes to some members of the Royal Family, and one knew when the Queen Mother was about to croak when the BBC changed from wishing her “many happy returns of the day” to “a very happy day”.

State of London Debate

Saturday, May 13th, 2006

No one can say that Ken Livingstone doesn’t care what people think. A convocation of Londoners descended on the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster for a day-long set of talks and Q&A sessions around many of the issues that excite Londoners these days.

After coffee, it was time for Red Ken. In his younger days, Ken was a radical, let’s-ban-the-bomb-and-smite-the-capitalists kind of politician. In recent years he seemed to have mellowed. Our Red Ken has now become Our Green Ken. Much of his speech to the assembled multitudes (and there must have been 1000 or more people in the hall we were in, with another lot in the overflow hall downstairs) dealt with climate issues. He was witty about it, of course, and very un-self-conscious. He referred to his comments about the Evening Standard reporter (comparing him to a Nazi concentration camp guard even though the reporter was Jewish) and also referred again to the American ambassador as a “chiseling little crook” who doesn’t pay the congestion charge. Most of his speech was taken up with telling us about the coming ecological crisis and how we as Londoners can and must assist in lowering our use of water and the amount of carbon we release into the atmosphere.

“We all know that when you defecate you must flush; however, if you’ve only urinated, there’s no need to flush. After all, it’s well known that gardeners pee into a bucket, dilute the urine with water and use it to water their plants. Urine is rich in nitrogen and nitrogen is fertiliser.” Green Ken has spoken! He did admonish one questioner who asked if Ken’s advice extended to the yobs who pee in his (the questioner’s) garden. Ken replied that dilution is essential and that undiluted urine harms plants. Who knew that Ken had a green thumb?

Ken also discussed the need to turn away from large nuclear and coal/oil/gas-fired power plants toward localisation of power generation to cut down on the amount of power lost from transmission lines. He disagrees with the government’s tendency toward looking for more nuclear power plants to supply our electricity.

He blames our housing mess on Thatcher refusing to let councils build more council flats, and on Blair’s continuation of that policy. He himself is overseeing the building of up to 25,000 houses in London this year and is looking for 50,000 by a few years’ time.

The people in the room were a mixture of the curious and the neighbourhood activist or one-issue-Charlie. So some of the questions were political polemics disguised as questions. One or two questions were actually sensible, though. Ken referred most of the substantive questions to his staff, who were on hand to ensure that no question was left unanswered. This is a good thing.

After another cup of coffee we were off to the transport section, which had Peter Hendy, the Commissioner of Transport for London as the chief whipping boy. The questions here were very local, down to the bus number. For example, one lady said that she had been unable to board the number 11 bus to get downtown today because the driver had not stopped close enough to the kerb. One gentleman complained about people who put their feet on the seats. In fact, in the last year he had taken over 200 pictures of people with their feet on bus seats. He was disgusted by this. I think he has the makings of a kitsch website there, if he has enough bandwidth for it.

Mr Hendy answered every question and seemed to have most of the facts at his fingertips. One question, about the closure of the loos at Vauxhall Transportation Centre (that structure across from MI6 that looks like an airport runway in the sky), he knew straight off what the situation was (without consulting his minions) and answered the question robustly (something on the order of: “They’re closed because they were destroyed by the users.” His solution was closer police observation. I don’t suppose they need a lavatory attendant in the gents who could help the gents ensure that their clothing was arranged… Hendy is a hands-on manager who takes his policy cues from Ken and the Assembly and robustly carries them into action.

He had a few unkind words for Metronet…look for some fireworks there in the next few years. I think they’ll be looking for damages due to the over-run of repossessions of the tracks for repair work. Hendy has summoned not the bosses of Metronet, but the bosses of the companies (many foreign-owned) who own Metronet for a dressing-down.

There were a lot of gripes at this session, and not many specific actual sincere questions. Transport advocates can be wankers at times, I fear.

The feed at lunch was pretty good if simple (orange juice, sandwiches, and fruit).

On the other hand, the last session I went to, on the Olympics, with Lord Sebastian Coe as the front person, was very soporific. I fell asleep during his talk, and the questions again ranged from the sycophantic to the hostile (“What are the Olympics going to do to help revive Barking and Dagenham in East London?” was a typical question. There is nothing you can say to that except “Loads, we think.” and that’s basically what Coe said).

It’ll take me a while to go through all the bumpf I got from the various tables and displays. There is at least one CD-ROM business card, as well as lots of stuff from TfL. It’ll also take me a while to process everything I heard today. But I enjoyed it, and hope to be invited again next year.

Oh, and Ken as much as said he’d run for re-election in 2008, so watch out for that! Someone suggested that he go back to Parliament and run for Prime Minister. There was quite a bit of applause at that. But Ken has found his niche in London, and if this group is anything to go by, he’ll be around for years to come keeping us amused.

Top Eleven Old West Phrases That Will Never Sound The Same After <i>Brokeback Mountain</i>

Friday, May 12th, 2006

1. “I’m gonna pump you fulla lead!”
2. “Give me a stiff one, barkeep!”
3. “Don’t fret—I’ve been in tight spots before.”
4. “Howdy, pardner.”
5. You stay here while I sneak around from behind.”
6. Two words: “Saddle Sore.”
7. “Hold it right there! Now, move your hand, reeeal slow-like.”
8. “Let’s mount up!”
9. “Nice spread ya got there!”
10. “Ride’em cowboy!”
11. “I reckon this might hurt a little”

Today’s political joke

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Unfortunately, only funny to Brits or those who follow British politics.

Q. How are John Prescott and an IKEA wardrobe alike?

A. One careless screw and the cabinet falls apart.

Did you like comics as a kid?

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Well, you may find these covers appealing.

Or, of course, appalling.

Ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes…

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

…but make sure that they each stay where they belong. Toeprints are no substitute for fingerprints, as this Jamaican man found out.

Today’s Spiritual URL: The “Popener”

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

If you go here, you can find a wealth of gift items from the Eternal City and environs, including this, to open your Polish pilsner, perhaps:

Today’s diabetic coma URL

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

Well, ya see, I occasionally find websites that are like train wrecks to me. I see them happening, I know that if I go to it I’ll be fatally hooked, but I do it anyway. Ever thought you might want a large enough Oreo cookie so that you could say you only ate one but were satisfied with it? Well, this is the site for you. Amateur confectioners on the loose!

Why Labour lost my ward…

Saturday, May 6th, 2006

For non-Brits, local elections in part of England were held on Thursday. Labour took a drubbing and Blair, to show that he wasn’t worried, reshuffled his Cabinet so hard it screamed for mercy. In Southwark, the council has no party in overall majority: 28 seats each for Labour and the LibDems, 6 Tories (from Dulwich and that doesn’t count much) and 1 Green. Labour lost all three seats in my ward (which is fine with me as I’m a LibDem). However, I got a hint of why that was this morning.

I got stuff from the LibDems in my mailbox (I’m on their mailing list natch), I got a leaflet from an independent candidate. But nothing from Labour. I thought they’d decided (from the frosty reception I gave them when they called me a few years ago) that I was a lost cause to them.

So the elections were Thursday; I emptied my mailbox on Friday. Saturday I opened the mailbox and what did I find? The leaflet from Labour urging me to vote Labour in Thursday’s election!

Better late than never? I think not!

Food labelling

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

Two recent labels out of which I got a kick:

  • Bought a pack of avocados recently. On the front, in bold letters: Wash before eating. I’ve never eaten an avocado peel; have you?
  • Bought two duck legs this morning for dinner tonight. As I was opening the pack, I saw the ingredients list: Ingredients: Duck (100%). GLUTEN FREE. I’m glad to know that there is no bread filler in my duck legs.

Today’s journalistic faux pas

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006

From this story, in and of itself somewhat out-of-the ordinary (about a 104-year-old woman marrying a 33-year-old man [his first marriage, her 21st]), comes this paragraph:

Malaysian Muslim men are allowed by their religion to take up to four wives at a time, but reports of women who marry more than once are rare. Muslim women do not practice polygamy.

I was not living with the illusion that any Muslim women married more than one woman at a time. Obviously the reporter knows something the rest of us do not.