Archive for October, 2006

Well, the cardiologist seems happy enough…

Monday, October 30th, 2006

…to say that I’m doing OK and I should come back in a year. If I’m still ambulatory in a year, they’ll discharge me. So that’s OK.

I was looking at CVs for my employer last week, and I came across some real stinkers. One gentleman said that he was involved in testing “bug fixations”. Uh-oh. Another one said that he was performing “system test executions”, making me wonder whether he’d been working in the United States recently. A third one said that he had a “Degree in Honest Computer Software”.

I always get a bit antsy when I read a CV (resum

The day started off unfortunately…

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Got up, everything was fine. Left the house at 7:30, that was fine. Got on the Underground and got to Embankment, where I normally change for the District or Circle Line. Oops! Someone jumped in front of a westbound train at Temple Station, so no westbound trains. I walked up to Charing Cross and took a cab to work from there (GBP 8).

Now, two things irk me about this. First, why oh why do people use trains as suicide enablers? The poor train driver is traumatised, the entire network is affected, and it’s a messy death (which sometimes does not work!) And, of course, people invariably do it in rush hour–perhaps to spite the world.

Second, why oh why didn’t the Underground say something about it before I got on the train at Elephant and Castle? I could have taken the Northern Line southbound to Stockwell and changed for the Victoria Line there, thus avoiding the problem and saving

This week in London

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

Well, I’ve had an odd week. Work is still work, even though there doesn’t seem to be much to do at the moment. I have been tasked with about 6 different things, none of which have as yet come about. I’ve discovered that they want me to visit Pune in India late in November to meet the testing team there who deal with the (insert name of big investment bank) account. I may also catch up with the gentleman from Quexst who made such a cock-up of my previous visit there. It looks like I shall have to spend two days a week in Brussels starting in January for a few months. I expect they will try to get me five days a week, but I have put my foot down on that, as the original commitment was 2 days a week in Nottingham. The customer, after we got the account, told us, “Oh, incidentally, the work is going to go on in Belgium.” Rats. The Test Factory in Peterborough is still holding fire: I am to spearhead it and don’t really mind that as it’s relatively commutable (the journey is 50 minutes and there is a bus from the train station). The quarters are quite palatial as well. Even a Starbucks in the lobby! How great is that? (And you Starbucks haters: please don’t write and tell me how bad Starbucks is; in a country where coffee as recently as 1994 meant instant granules in a cup Starbucks was and is a Godsend.)

I discovered this week that I have been voted membership in Philanthropic Lodge F&AM in Marblehead, where my brother is a Brother. I shall be returning to Marblehead in December to sign the bye-laws and take up the membership. I won’t be able to attend regularly, of course, but it’s a link with my hometown and my brother that will be valuable in years to come.

I have bought about 5 new bow ties this week and thus am prepared to wear them almost exclusively. I may get some more, but will stay away from Tie Rack bow ties as the one I bought is already starting to fray at the top where it sometimes rubs against my neck. More Rats!

Our toaster gave up the ghost on Wednesday: after about 7 or so years of daily service I put the bagels in it and it turned on for a moment, then silently died and popped the bagels up, untoasted. That afternoon I got a new one at Argos with seemingly as many controls as in a car. It shows an LCD reading of the doneness you want (we’ve experimented and settled on “2” as optimal). It’s silver and, most important, works.

Yesterday a workman came (quite late in the afternoon) and fixed the trellis on the wall in our back garden. I bought another USB PCI card and will be installing it in the Sun, moving the combined USB/Firewire card to the Dell.

Last night we went out to dinner with my friend Watty, who is visiting from New York. He is a member of the Ben Franklin society, and is on a tour with them of his haunts in London and Paris. Apparently the house he lived in here still exists and has been restored. Will have to take a look. They went to Freemasons’ Hall but were not shown the Franklin memorabilia they have there, just given the normal tour. Very dusty of the Brothers. Watty is a member of St. Clement’s, the church on 46th Street in Hell’s Kitchen that I attended from 1990-1991 before I moved to Chicago.

Today we’re going to the Velasquez exhibition at the National Gallery, courtesy of my former roommate Mark, who is a warder there. Very nice perk for us both.

So ends another week in London.

Today’s Diabetic Coma URL

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

Thanks (I think!) to comes today’s recipe, which would be guaranteed to kill me almost instantly were I to eat even a little piece of it.

If I wanted to off myself pleasurably, I would go to the Krispy Kreme on High Holborn, buy some of their product, make this recipe, and eat the entire thing. I guarantee that I would be walking up to St. Peter within a few hours.

Even better than dying in the saddle, I’d say.

Soup of the eeeevening, beeeeautiful soup…

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

Thanks to for this look into the sex life of the turtle (or maybe they’re tortoises, I don’t know…) The sound at the end is worth the price of admission.

Today’s Canine Culinary URL

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

I’ve heard some sad stories, but this one is about as sad as it gets. As it’s the Daily Mail, it’s surprising that all the grisly detail is in it (I believe the Mail is Lady Thatcher’s favourite newspaper, but it’s possible she can no longer understand what she reads). Safe for work, unless you’re having lunch.

Today’s Pest Control URL

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

I think that we need a big flock of these, stationed in Trafalgar Square.

Those Nigerian 419ers are very resourceful…

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Today’s spam haul included the following. Please note the paragraphs bolded and italicised:


Dear Friend,

I am Mr.Graham R.Layton, credit officer of Bank of America (Asia) Ltd, Hong Kong. I am an Australian by nationality working with the Bank of America Asian Branch.

I have an urgent and very confidential business proposition for you.

On october 6, 2002, an American Engineer/Consultant with the Chinese Solid Minerals Corporation, Mr. Steinmetz Horst made a (Fixed) Deposit for twelve calendar months, valued at US$40,500,000.00 (Forty Million Five Hundred thousand United State Dollars only) in my branch.

Upon maturity,I sent a routine notification to his forwarding address but got no reply. After a month, we sent a reminder and finally we discovered from his contract employers, the Hong Kong Solid Minerals Corporation that Mr. Steinmetz Horst died from a recurrent heart disease.

On further investigation,I found out that he died without making a will, and all attempts to trace his next of kin was fruitless.

I therefore made further investigation and discovered that Mr. Steinmetz Horst did not declare any next of kin or relations in all his official documents, including his Bank Deposit paperwork in my Bank. This sum of US$40,500,000.00 is still lingering in my Bank and the interest is being rolled over with the principal sum at the end of each year. No one will ever come forward to claim it.

According to the Hong Kong Law, under china’s foreign and defense affairs, at the expiration of 5 (five) years, such funds will revert to the ownership of the chinese Government for financing military operations, such as purchasing of arms and ammunitions for the military.

In order to avert this negative development, i will like to seek for your permission as a foreigner to stand as the next of kin to Mr. Steinmetz Horst so that the fruits of this old man’s labor will not be use for financing weapons which will further enhance the courses of war in the world in general.

The money will be paid into your account for us to share in the ratio of 60% for me and 30% for you and 10% for expenses incurred in the course of the transaction. There is no risk at all as all the paperwork for this project will be done by my attorney and with my position as the credit officer guarantees the successful execution of this project. If you are interested, please reply immediately.

Upon your response, I shall then provide you with more details that will help you understand the transaction.

You should observe utmost confidentiality,and rest assured that this project would be most profitable for both parties because I shall require your assistance to invest my share in your country.

Awaiting your urgent reply.

Thanks and regards.
Mr.Graham R.Layton


So we should be scammed in order to prevent this “money” being used to fund Chinese military operations! What a world, what a world!

Today’s Transport URL

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Chicago has a Brown line; it now seems that southeast England has its own Brown Line as well

Saturday note: They seem to have captured the miscreant, who is “of no fixed address”. I suppose he may have have difficulty finding a public convenience…

Well, the computer reconfig went fairly well

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

Decided that rather than go to the gym today (it was raining most of the afternoon anyway), I would buckle down and get the computer reconfigured. So I disconnected everything, took it into the living room, vacuumed it out (so much dust…) and then took a good look. Pulled out the DVD and the CD-writer, discovered to my surprise that there are SATA controllers on the motherboard, put in a DVD-writer and a memory card reader, then put some cable tidies around what was up to that time a veritable worm convention.

In addition, I got the Sun keyboard/mouse adapter installed and connected up to the KVM so I can control the Sun or the PC with the same mouse. However, there is one problem: the Microsoft Optical Wireless IntelliMouse has only a USB plug, and the KVM is PS/2 mini-DIN only. So I plugged in one of those USB to mini-DIN converters. It works OK except for one thing: every once in a while, for no reason, the pointer jumps to the bottom of the screen. Anyone out there have any ideas? It’s only while moving the pointer somewhere else on the screen (I think). I shall try some of the fora to see whether anyone else has seen this.

Maybe I have to buy a new mouse.

Now to try the Sun SPARC Ultra 10 to ensure that it works with the MB and mouse. Then I’m in business!!

Later note: It does! The mouse will need some tweaking, but the keyboard and monitor switch seamlessly from one to the other!

Today’s Sermon slot

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

Well, it seemed to go OK today; the substitute substitute priest showed up and made Jesus, and I preached. Here’s the sermon in case anyone’s interested.

22 October 2006 Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity Sermon delivered at St. Matthew’s at the Elephant, 10 am. Readings: Isa 53:4-12; Heb 5:1-109; Mk. 10:35-45

In the name of God, the one, the Undivided Trinity. AMEN.

A little boy was saying his bedtime prayers with his mother: “Lord, bless Mum and Dad, and God, (stage direction: shouting) GIVE ME A NEW BICYCLE!!!” The mother said: “God’s not deaf, son.” To which he replied “I know, Mum, but Gran’s in the next room, and she’s deaf as a post!

Prayer is something that we do a lot of in the church. We pray for the Church (because it’s in a mess these days, as always), we pray for civil society (it’s in a mess too), we pray for our own parish and our friends and relatives; we pray for the sick and the dead.

We pray a Collect at the beginning of the Eucharist, we have a Eucharistic Prayer in the middle, and prayers of thanksgiving at the end.

I’m not even counting our private prayers, or even the “Oh Lord!” we might say as the Underground train stops for the third time between the Elephant and Kennington.

What are we doing when we pray? Usually, we’re asking for something from God. Health, a new job, money to pay off our creditors, something, anything.

Sometimes, if we’re thinking about it, we pray for others: the health of a much loved friend or relative, peace in the world, or any number of things.

We’re asking for something.

James and John ask to be sitting one on each side when Jesus comes into his glory. And they don’t just ask for it, they demand it in tones that imply that he’d better actually come through with the goods. “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” How bold is that?

We need to think very seriously about this. You see what Jesus tells them after they ask for this: “You don’t know what you’re asking for.” It’s not just the glory of being the closest to Jesus in heaven. It’s the glory attached to being the servant of all, and dying in the service of all.

It’s been said that “Prayer doesn’t work on God, it works on us.” That may sound rather agnostic, but it conceals a real truth. What did such a question do to the disciples? The rest of them got very angry with James and John, who I am sure didn’t like it one little bit. This prayer separated James and John from their fellow disciples. I imagine they themselves were ashamed that they’d asked such a question (in another Gospel, they are so scared of asking the question that they delegated their mother, also Jesus’s aunt, to ask it for them).

Prayer works on us in many ways. A prayer about something scary can have the effect of helping us to get through that scary bit. A prayer for something good sets the stage for prayers of thanksgiving if the good thing happens and prayers asking for courage if it doesn’t.

So what did James and John’s prayer do to Jesus? It seems a little bit like that old joke: “Why do you always answer a question with a question?” “Do I?” Jesus asked them an innocuous question in response: whether they can drink the cup that he drinks or be baptised with the baptism he was baptised. In retrospect, we know he was talking about his death but James and John don’t. Perhaps they imagined that they’d be drinking fine wine and be baptised in water as John the Baptiser did.

Instead of this Jesus tells them all, not just James and John, that the only way they will be great will be as servants of all. Not what they expected at all.

Presumably, as tradition tells us that James and John bore witness to Christ throughout their lives, Jesus’s answer had a profound effect on them, while not directly producing the result they wanted. So they asked for the wrong thing. And they weren’t rebuked for this pretty enormous request; putting themselves in the favoured position next to their Lord would be a high spot indeed and something that ordinary people could not hope for.

Should there then be any limits on what we can request in prayer? Keeping in mind that prayer works on us, not on God, I don’t think there can or should be limits on our requests in prayer. Does your situation seem hopeless? Take it to God in prayer. Have you a sick friend? Lift your friend up to God in prayer. Are you anxious about your finances or the direction your life is taking? Pray about it. Does the lack of peace in the world upset you? Say a prayer for peace.

On the other hand, will all these requests be answered? God is not in some heavenly Answer Shop, constantly providing answers and solutions to the problems that people pray about. God doesn’t stay on the other end of a celestial telephone line, writing down your requests on a memo pad for future reference and then fulfilling them as soon as possible.

Your requests are very important to you and, as you are uniquely loved by God, to God as well. But if every request were fulfilled exactly as we wish, would be necessarily be any better off? Fantasy stories have been written about the man who gets to make three wishes. The first wish lands him in trouble, the second wish gets him deeper in trouble, and only when he uses the third wish to set everything back to what it was before does his life get back on track.

This is also not a uniquely Christian theme. Does everyone remember the Greek myth about King Midas of Lydia? He was the ruler who asked for and received the favour that everything he touched turned to gold. He turned masses of items in his palace to gold and gloated on how rich he now was. Sitting down to dinner, every morsel of food set before him turned to gold as soon as he lifted it to his mouth. And finally his daughter, seeing him, ran to him and embraced him, and was turned to gold herself. Be careful what you wish for.

So James and John wished for something that would ultimately consume their lives: the opportunity of serving others from a position of strength rather than weakness, and having their lives ended by martyrdom. (A side note: according to tradition, while James was martyred by Herod Agrippa, John died a natural death on the island of Patmos-we account John an honourary martyr in part because of this passage.)

Jesus has given us a different definition here of what it is to be a slave or a servant. In Roman and Greek times, slaves were often people who were taken captive during a war. They were treated as things, not as people. They had no rights, and unless they were freed, they could be killed without penalty by their owners.

Thus saying that the person who wishes to be first among the Christian community must be the slave of all resonated very deeply within people in the early Christian community. That person would be available to the entire community, for whatever purpose they wished, even death. And yet that person would be the greatest of all.

I hesitate to apply this lesson to the modern Christian community, where bishops and archbishops (and even some Rectors and Vicars) have domestic help to cook and clean, secretaries to look after their correspondence and keep their diaries, and chaplains to ensure that their religious obligations are kept up to date. We live in different times, and being a servant does not necessarily mean being servile-as I say of my employer when the work gets tough and they make what I see as excessive demands on me and my time: “Lincoln freed the slaves!”

Being a servant in the Church means being available to your Christian sisters and brothers in whatever way you can be: cooking at the Christmas Fair, assisting at the altar, bringing someone to and from church when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get here. All these are ways of serving the community. And we need to put those people doing this first, because they are the most important members of the community.

I would end with that old joke about the man who kept praying to win the lottery, but it has been told from this very pulpit (not, I hasten to add, by me) so many times that you would all finish it for me before I started. Let’s pray for the courage to ask God for what we need in our prayers, and for the peace that comes with accepting what we get. Amen.

What a drag…

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

Last night we went to bed around 11, but the noise from the guy in flat 5 was just horrible. He is a paranoid schizophrenic, and keeps the TV on all day and all night at a relatively high volume. The poor lady in 6 and the people in 3 suffer worse than we do, but even two floors away one can discern the voices on the TV (if not what they’re saying). That kind of noise at night is the worst kind of noise, as your brain wants to understand the words but cannot.

I’ve complained to the housing association, and they are going to send him a stern letter and get his caseworker to get after him. I have told him (the last time I saw him) that I can hear his TV in the middle of the night, but he doesn’t seem to have believed me. Next step is to tip off Sky that he’s using an illegal box, I suppose…

My first task today was to take the morning service at St. John’s. The Vicar called me last week and said that there was no one to take the Mass of the Presanctified Saturday morning and could I do it. It involves a service of the Word and then distribution of communion from the reserved sacrament. No sermon, thank goodness. So I did that; it was very nice really that he thought I could do it for him.

When I got back I was looking at my email and planning to dismantle my computer area, clean it up, install a new DVD writer in the computer and take out the two older drives in it, get the KVM working so that I can control my Sun Ultra 10 and my PC from the same keyboard, mouse, and monitor. A satisfying day, one thinks.

The phone rang.

The Rector of St. Matthew’s is away this week for a “study and reading week”. Not that it will do much good, but one lives in hope. A priest with Permission to Officiate lives in the parish and comes to St. Matthew’s, so he was going to take the Eucharist for the Rector.

This priest was on the phone. He said, “I’m stuck in Armenia.” He’s a professor of Law at South Bank and is advising the Armenian justice ministry on reforming the judiciary. Yerevan Airport is fogged in and no planes were going in or out. He might make it for tomorrow’s service (at 10 am) but probably won’t.

I called the Area Dean and got another priest to take the service, but it was unfair to expect him to preach too, so I had to write a sermon.

All my plans for hardware revamping were put on hold. In the afternoon I took a nap (after finishing half the sermon) and then we went to see the exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. Very interesting: HWMBO gives it 6.5 out of 10. Then we walked to New Oxford Street from the South Bank and had dinner, then bused ourselves home. I finished my sermon while HWMBO made himself beautiful.

Now I’m trying to rest and relax.

Someone’s a year older today…

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

…Zhu ni sheng ri kuai le, !!!

I have promised two pictures…

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

…so here they are. The first one is our stuffed animal collection, on the bed waiting for us to put the pillows back on. Aren’t they cute? The one to the extreme right is the Columbia Lion, and there’s a Winnie the Pooh, a Paddington Bear, a duck, several dogs, a lobster, and a panda bear who is HWMBO’s special favourite. HWMBO doesn’t like the lobster very much, and once managed to get the lobster entangled in our sheets in the washer, leaving it a bit…um…bedraggled. The lobster is the red blob just to the left of centre. Click on this link to see a larger photo.

The second one is me. You’ll note I’ve changed my userpic, as I think the self-tied bow tie is probably worth memorialising.

I hope these have now discharged my picture obligations.

Wireless success and KVM

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

I realise I haven’t been updating as often as I really should. The new job has taken up much of my time, of course. I’m posting from work in an experiment.

I installed a Netgear wireless card in our living room laptop last night. The one we had (not Netgear, but another model which shall remain nameless) only gathered a Low or Poor signal from the router in the study. The Netgear immediately got a “Very Good” signal and continued in that vein. Success!!

The only trouble with these wireless cards in general seems to be that the native software controllers that come with them do not generally work very well on this laptop. They can’t control the card even with the correct keys and the like entered in. When I change them to be controlled by the Windows software, everything falls into place and it works.

Now I might find this to be a conspiracy from Redmond to make its own software triumphant over all. However, I’m wondering whether other people have had the same problem with their laptops and wireless cards (if any). Anecdotal evidence supporting (or to the contrary) would be welcome. If it’s the laptop, we can ditch it for a better one, I think. If it’s just a general problem with wireless network cards and their idiot software packages, then we just live with it.

I’m well on the way to getting my Sun Ultra 10 working on the same monitor, keyboard, and mouse as the Windows desktop in the study. Leg room is severely limited under the desk as the Sun is to the left and the Dell is to the right. Will try to work on that over the weekend. I’ve got a patch box on order that will take the Sun KB/mouse plug (one 8-pin mini-DIN) and split it into two 6-pin mini-DINs that are the same as a PC. This will let me ditch the Sun keyboard (which is pretty much a pain) and the mouse (which looks like a bar of soap on a steel plate, as it needs a dedicated mouse pad to work), and not have to change the kb/mouse combo when switching boxes.

One final thought: I was complaining that my online time had shrunk compared to my jobless bliss before 18 September (I’ve been employed one whole month now). I have successfully contracted my online life so that I can barely keep up with it. I need to contract it a bit more (but probably not livejournal) and I’ll then have time to have a real life.

Thoughts on the Pope and world peace

Sunday, October 15th, 2006 has some interesting thoughts on the power of prayer. Unfortunately, they weren’t syndicated until today but were written in April. No matter, though–I think she’s on to something.

How many people with my name in the US?

Sunday, October 15th, 2006
Logo There are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Of course, there would be 54 except I emigrated.

Today’s Usability URL

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Ever wondered how Microsoft came up with the talking paperclip? Imagine trying to find an alternative.

Another accomplishment…

Saturday, October 7th, 2006

I decided a few days ago that it might be interesting to buy a bow tie and learn how to tie it. This is one of those urges, like the urge to throw a snowball at someone with a tall hat, that really can’t be resisted very well (at least by me). So I bought one.

Then I looked on the Internet for instructions (not knowing that there were instructions in the box, but heigh ho!). I found lots of instructions. There were diagram instructions, video instructions, picture instructions, even a mirror-image picture instruction so you can look in the mirror and see how to do it without having to move your eyes down to the paper.

I looked at the instructions and started to tie, and failed miserably.

However, all was not lost. Several of the instructions said that some men say: “Tying a bow tie is just like tying your shoes.” but went on to rubbish the statement in favour of their own methods. I thought, “Well, I’ve got nothing to lose.” So I tried to tie it as if I were tying my shoes.

And it worked.

I thought to myself, “Well, you’ve done something new yet again! Another triumph. Have a plum as a reward.”

So I did.

Pictures sometime soon when I actually tie one on a shirt and venture out the door.

I think I’ll be buying more of them in the future.

Adjusting to full-time work, and lunch today

Friday, October 6th, 2006

I’m still finding it difficult to adjust to 5-days-a-week 9-to-5 working. I have cut down my online presence to the bone, even to the extent of removing Overheard in New York from my friends list. Very sad, as I always get a laugh out of it.

Last night I started looking at my friends list, not having done so since Tuesday evening because of my Lodge meeting Wednesday night. I had four pages (about 200 entries) to plow through. So, I have to figure out what to do. I fear that some friends may have to be temporarily sidelined. But, I cannot continue to spend all my non-work time on the computer, then watch the 10:00 news and fall into bed. I will continue to adjust until I get the balance right.

Farewell to those whom I’ve friended but will have to un-friend–you’ll mostly be those who are syndicated from other blog sites or whom I haven’t encountered in a while. No hard feelings, I hope.

On another note, I decided to walk to Subway for lunch this noon. I was going to get my favourite, a BMT, and decided impulsively while on line to get a foot-long as I was hungry.

The person taking orders gabbled something at me out of which I got “free drink”. “Gabbled” is the only word I can use. He was not a native English speaker, I believe, and his accent was quite heavy. So I said “OK”. Who wouldn’t? I just wanted my sandwich.

As they put the meat on it, I realised what I’d agreed to. Double meat. OH. MY. GOD. When you get double meat it makes a pleasant, filling sandwich into a cholesterol bomb that is, really, so unpleasant to eat it makes you ill. But I didn’t realise it until it was too late to stop them.

(PS Double meat, even though it gets you a free drink, also costs you nearly double the regular price:

Today’s great quote

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

From a CNN news story about the breakup of an iceberg in the Antarctic due to a storm days earlier in Alaska (really!) “We think that B15A was in the right position where these waves would be fatal to it,” MacAyeal said. “The iceberg shattered like a gracile wine glass being sung to by a heavy soprano.”


Monday, October 2nd, 2006

Eighteen years ago this evening I stood before the Rt. Rev’d. Stuart Wetmore and was received into the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Better late than never!

Korean Queer As Folk

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

I’ve never tried to embed a video in my lj, so this may not work. However, if it does, you’ll see an amazing clip from the Koren “Queer as Folk”. This from a country which is heavily Presbyterian or Confucian with a history of being gay-intolerant.