Archive for April, 2007

Spellcheck, Round II

Monday, April 30th, 2007

For “HWMBO”, I get this:


I do wonder whether someone’s asleep at the switch…

Later edit: Like me, who doesn’t proofread his entries very well…

Our weekend (and welcome to it)

Monday, April 30th, 2007

I usually don’t blog about what HWMBO and I are doing unless something odd or interesting happens. Well, perhaps what happens on a normal Hansen/HWMBO weekend might be interesting to somebody.

Friday night we had dinner at The Well, but I didn’t bother to take pictures of the food, I fear. As usual, it was very good. Other than that, we didn’t do anything at all except start to get used to our new TV set.

Saturday was shopping day: I needed new shoes. The old ones, besides being elderly, were also acquiring paper-thin soles. So after a bit of bickering (as only a married couple can bicker) we went to lunch at Belgo’s on Kingsway, whose website has far too much Flash but whose beer and food is very good: they should stick to the culinary and brewing arts. I had a Swissburger with a Hoegaarten and HWMBO had roast chicken with an apple beer (they don’t carry cider, oddly enough). I tried it and was pleasantly surprised. I’m sure my diabetes didn’t appreciate it, as it was quite sweet, but my palate did. Then to the Natural Shoe Company at Covent Garden for shoes. I ended up with a pair of Rockports and black hi-top trainers, while HWMBO ended up with a pair of natural or greenish coloured lo-top trainers. We walked to Trafalgar Square, where some sort of food festival was going on. On the way we stopped in the Photographer’s Gallery, where an exhibition consisting entirely of pictures found by the artist on the streets and suchlike. Crumpled, torn, scratched out, they were all there. Very odd, but strangely compelling. I was hoping against hope that no pictures of me were in it, and luckily there weren’t. We would have investigated the Trafalgar Square Food Festival except that (1) we were still full, and (2) the place was absolutely mobbed. You couldn’t have swung a cat in there. Lots of eye-candy, but we decided to skip it. A bit further, in St. James Park, we lay on the grass (on a sheet which HWMBO had thoughtfully brought) and listened to our iPods for a couple of hours, then home.

We thought that would be all for Saturday and had our putative dinner in mind: roasted duck legs. However, our friend Ethel (she who was one of our witnesses at our Civil Partnership) called and said, “Would you and HWMBO and “Steven” [another friend of ours who is recovering from an operation and whose name isn’t “Steven”, exactly] like to come over for dinner? It’s just family and friends.” We agreed, and duly all three turned up at Ethel’s flat at 7 pm. She said, “Don’t come up; I’m coming down.”

It turns out that she’d actually invited us to a birthday party of a nephew of hers. It was difficult for “Steven” as the surgeons had to leave a stent inside him to keep his ureter from sticking to his bladder. They’ll take it out in a few weeks, but sitting on a hard chair is uncomfortable for him. We hadn’t realised that it was a birthday party, of course, and “Steven” was looking forward to a nice dinner sitting on a soft sofa. So he had to leave.

It was a true Souf Lunnon party, in the community room of the housing estate where Ethel lives. A DJ spun records that the birfday boy (who was 50) would remember and cherish, however they were played at a decibel level more suitable to the hearing of an 80 year old without his hearing aid. The cuisine was interesting: salads, sangwiches, pohk pies (I’m being phonetic here), sossidge rolls, cheese and pineapple stuck on toothpicks which were themselves stuck into a foil-covered ball of florist’s foam, two birthday cakes, a chocolate fountain, fried rice, and pizza. There were plates of Twiglets (‘s favourite!) and crisps on each table, and as much liquor or beer as you liked. The amount of love, friendship, and hospitality was endless, however, as it can only be endless in Souf Lunnon.

I had two weak G&Ts, and then one glass of T only (as much as I was being urged to drink away). At 10:15 pm, the cake not yet having been cut, we had to take our leave, as I had a washer-full of altar linens, some of whom I had to iron.

Sunday was interesting. We had the Rector’s Report in lieu of a sermon, which was fortunate as he’d preached for 25 minutes the week before and delivered what was probably one of the 3 or 4 worst sermons I’d ever heard. The parish is in rosy health, according to Neil, and we just need to try a bit harder. After Mass was that excruciatingly painful yearly event: the Annual General Meeting. We failed to elect any Churchwardens as the current pair are not speaking to one another and do not wish to stand again, and no one else wished to stand. We haggled for about 20 minutes on who could be “forced” to stand for the PCC, and got a Treasurer’s report that was quite alarming: not only do we not have audited accounts again this year, but we spent most of the year in overdraft. I believe that it is against the canons of the C of E for a parish to be in overdraft. No concrete proposals to increase income were proposed. The treasurer accepted re-election to the PCC and the treasurer’s post for one final year, but we’ll need to find another next year, I fear. As usual, the Rector tried to re-elect me and my colleague on the Deanery Synod, except that our term doesn’t end until the AGM of 2008. I had to get a ruling from the Deputy Diocesan Secretary on that before I averted the election.

What could we do after this? We went to lunch at the Well with , who will be returning for a while as our flatmate until he gets his Italian citizenship, at which point he’ll go back to the US and then return here as an EU citizen. This whole weekend seemed to be one long restaurant sojourn. Back home again to endure the excruciatingly awful singing from Christ Apostolic Church, who meet at St. Matthew’s. Dinner was (finally) those duck legs. Remember the duck legs?? I roasted them and had them with runner beans; HWMBO had some rice as well. We then watched Zhang Yimou’s Curse of the Golden Flower (official website here) on DVD. DVDs show up the best features of the new TV set: sharp, clear pictures with reasonable subtitles that don’t intrude at the bottom of the picture. However, the movie itself was only fair. There were a lot of crowd scenes that were painfully obviously done with whatever the movies do that is analogous to Photoshopping a still photo. There were hordes of soldiers, fields of flowers, and the like. all of which were pretty much identical. Swooping over the square in front of the palace looked a bit like movement in a video game. The plot was a bit lame and HWMBO delighted in telling me exactly what the plot twist was before I detected it. The costumes were lavish (but according to the Wikipedia entry, a bit un-historical) and the best part of it was Gong Li’s acting.

And before bed I called my brother. In addition to high blood pressure, he also (like me) has discovered that he is diabetic. As a child, I was always the fat one, and he was always painfully skinny. So now the only difference between us is that my diabetes was discovered long before his was. I expect that his case is not as bad as mine, nor as long-standing, but it demonstrates (at least to me) that our family’s health difficulties are mostly genetic. He had so many visitors in hospital that they gave him a private room so that the visitors wouldn’t disturb the other patients. He hasn’t gotten the bill yet: I’ll be interested to see what it might be at the end of the day. As he’s covered by medical insurance he won’t have to pay much, if at all. But they will tell him how much he would have had to pay had he not been insured. I’ll bet it’s in the mid-5-figures US$.

He’s going to take up cycling as, along with everything else, his knee’s shot. He says that when he walks too fast it feels like someone’s hit him in the knee with a hammer. He needs to get that looked at too, I think. In common with many Americans my age, he drives everywhere (although he could walk to work if he had a car available at work and one available at home). But he’s changed his diet (much more than I have; he was heating up low fat low salt meatloaf and struggling with carrots when I called) and since his marital separation he’s lost 50 pounds. An unintended benefit, I suppose.

And so to bed. Now I endure another long week at work.

Today’s silly and inaccurate meme

Monday, April 30th, 2007

What Famous Leader Are You?
personality tests by

Today’s Spellcheck

Monday, April 30th, 2007

I was replying to a post and decided to spellcheck it (something I don’t normally do but as I’m not fully caffeined up I thought I might benefit). The spellchecker didn’t catch one error because the error was itself a word (“supple” for “supply”), but it threw up this list for “backplate”:

backplate back plate, back-plate, bookplate, bookplates, Bakelite, backslide, backpacked, copulate, backpedaled, backpedal, bookplate’s

How quaint.

Today’s “Physician, Heal Thyself” URL

Monday, April 30th, 2007

You would think that a company that specialised in handling other companies’ payroll would be pretty good at the task, wouldn’t you? But nooooooo……!

Today’s New Product URL

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Ever come across pictures of yourself unexpectedly on the Internet when googling for your own name? Well, this product might help to cut down the shock, Thanks to cartoonchurch for the tip-off.

I am crushed…

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

I have deleted the ovine poodle entry, as it is an urban legend. I am really annoyed that I didn’t check before I posted it. I often refer people who send such stuff to email lists I read to–why I didn’t refer myself to it is maddening.

Today’s “Chemistry is Great!” URL

Friday, April 27th, 2007

I am a regular receiver of emails from the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), and have now discovered their blog. A recent entry seems to imply that I missed a trick in high school when I declined to take any science after I struggled (and nearly failed) physics.

Today’s Jesuit related reference

Friday, April 27th, 2007

In a correction dated March 29th, the New York Times apologises:

Correction: March 29, 2007

An essay in Science Times on Tuesday about the role eunuchs have played in history

Father Jake talks about his vocation

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

I guarantee, this story will move you, even if you’re not religious.

Today’s Political Figures URL

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

…comes from MadPriest, and is wickedly funny, even if you see the punch line a mile off.

It’s a gift

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

You need a laugh? Watch this video. But beware. Have tissues ready, because you’ll laugh so hard you’ll cry. It’s a gift, making people laugh. Especially when you hardly say a word.

Today’s Veterinary URL, Japanese department

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

If you are of the faint of heart, do not follow this link. More importantly, do not go to Babelfish, enter that URL into the translate box, choose “Japanese to English”, and oh, goodness gracious, do not press “Translate”, if you value your lunch. There are several absolutely delicious lines in the translation, though.

Today’s potty training URL

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Normally you train your kids to sit on the seat, but someone had other ideas…

Midnight calls are always the pits…

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

We were asleep just now when the phone rang. It was my sister calling from Marblehead. She started out, “I’m OK, Uncle Dick’s OK, Harold (my brother) had a heart attack.” I would have liked the bad news first, I think.

He was working and he felt a tightness in his chest. He ignored it for a while, until he couldn’t ignore it any more, so he went home, changed his clothes (can’t go to the hospital unless your underwear’s clean, can you?), and called 911. They did an angioplasty and put in a stent, and he’s now “resting comfortably”, as they say.

I just gave him a call at the hospital, and he answered the phone with “Miller Auto Service”. When they asked him whether he’d ever been in the hospital, he answered, “Once, when I was born. I wanted to be close to my mother.” (he’s a Three Stooges fan…) At least he could still crack a joke.

So there you go. I told him “I guess you’ve joined the club.” but I hope he recovers as well as I’ve seemed to. My sister said, “I suppose I ought to make an appointment at the hospital for an angioplasty now, rather than waiting.” I think it would be better if all of us lost more weight and took more exercise.

Oh well, back to bed, and maybe to sleep.

Later note: He seems to be resting comfortably. However, upon reflection, I realised that I had my heart attack aged 53 years 3 months. He had his aged 53 years 2 months. I should tell my sister to book the angioplasty lab at the hospital in August 2011.

Today’s birthday, and a farewell…

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

Today is Her Majesty the Queen’s 81st birthday. This is her real birthday, not the public holiday celebrated as her birthday in some Commonwealth countries. If she goes on as long as her ma did, she’s got about 20 years left in her. Prince Charles would thus ascend the throne 77 years young. And if Charles then sticks around for, say, 10 years, William would be almost as old as his father is now (57) when he ascended the throne. I will, I fear, be only a memory when William becomes King William V.

As is its wont, we were awakened this morning by the BBC stating ponderously: “Today is the birthday of Her Majesty the Queen” followed by the National Anthem. They do not wish her many happy returns of the day, as they used to for the Queen Mother and other senior royals whose birthdays they announced. We knew the Queen Mum was nearing her end when they changed from wishing her “many happy returns of the day” to “a very happy day”.

And we bid a fond farewell to Terry Major-Ball, the brother of Sir John Major, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and First Lord of the Treasury (to give him his full title). Mr. Major-Ball was a truly interesting character, always ready with a smile and a quotable quote about his brother. He failed in the garden gnome business (I’ll bet you didn’t know there was such a thing as a garden gnome business) and pottered around in various professions until retirement. But when it came to his brother, he was loyal and discreet. He knew of John Major’s affair with Edwina Currie but kept his trap shut about it. He wrote an autobiography that wittily said almost nothing controversial, thus rivaling Diary of a Nobody. Terry Major-Ball died of prostate cancer in Somerset last month. He’ll be missed.

Well, we went to Curry’s to buy a TV

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

…and we came out with this one, which seems to be well-thought of in reviews and is bigger than HWMBO wanted (he’d probably be satisfied with something the size of his Ipod screen) but smaller than I wanted (40″: I’m no size queen!). It’s HDTV ready and should work also with everything we’ve got at the moment.

They will install it and take the old one away (which will save me the trouble of calling the borough to take it away). We won’t get it until Thursday, which means that HWMBO will miss Doctor Who this evening…but I’ll be able to watch Have I Got News For You next Friday–that’s the program on which the old set finally fizzled out.

The whole thing, including a stand and installation, was GBP 804.93. And yes, I am aware it might have been slightly cheaper elsewhere. Comparison shopping is so boring, and when you’re TV-less, the quicker you get one, the better.

Now I have to unhook the old TV and clean the living room. In every silver lining, there is a cloud.

Our TV has finally gone on the fritz…

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

As we pay more than GBP 110 (US $220 and SG$ 330) a year for a TV license, when the TV dies it is a major problem. Technically we do not have to pay the license if we don’t have a working TV, but we really need a new one. So, we’re off to Curry’s this morning to look at TVs.

This TV is one that I think we could live with. HWMBO, of course, feels it’s too expensive and perhaps too big for the living room. I think it’s more likely that it will fit (as there’s nothing much at that end of the room anyway) and it will be enough TV for all the innovations that we will be needing in the future. High definition, digital, with all the connectors one needs. The Samsung (RIP) only had a SCART lead and an antenna lead, as life was simpler then. HDTV was only a gleam in someone’s eye, if that, as was the DVD player. VCRs were about as sophisticated as it gets.

This TV is also attractive, but with the GBP 50 surcharge for a large product it is pricier than the previous one.

As we don’t watch much TV, we don’t want to spend TOO much on this one, but I think it’s important not to spend too little and have a dinky TV that doesn’t do everything that we will want it to do and, worse, will have to be replaced later on when new things come out that we might want. So, it’s off to Curry’s we go. More later when we’ve finally agreed on something.

Oh dear, I’ll have to clean up the living room, too…

Live wires

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Thanks to ronslog, we now have a better picture of how high-tension lines are inspected and repaired. I was petrified just watching it.

Another American accent meme…

Friday, April 20th, 2007

…thanks to . This one actually accords with what people tell me I sound like. The other one told me where I came from. Go figure.

What American accent do you have?
Created by Xavier on

Midland. The Midland (please don’t confuse with "Midwest") itself is the neutral zone between the North and South. But just because you have a Midland accent doesn’t mean you’re from there. Since it is considered a neutral, default, "non-regional" accent you could easily be from someplace without its own accent, like Florida, or a big city in the South like Dallas, Houston, or Atlanta.

Take this quiz now – it’s easy!
We’re going to start with "cot" and "caught." When you say those words do they sound the same or different?

Today’s upsetting items

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

I realise that in the general scheme of things our little domestic problems aren’t very important, but in our world they are very important indeed.

First, I did not get the job I was interviewing for a few weeks ago. Got a letter today from the CEO saying that the contract they were counting on to provide the extra work had fallen through, so there was no job for which to hire. Foo. I was really hopeful about that one. So, it’s back to interviewing: I had a call today from a recruiter and the job he was describing sounded pretty good, so we’ll see…

Second, the TV has just gone on the fritz, and I think it’s permanent. This is a much more serious problem, and although it will allow us to get a much better TV, we won’t be watching for a few days and will have to waste our weekend looking for the new one and then waiting for it to be delivered.

Oh well, I’ll just get my hat and coat now…

Today’s Cinematic URL

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

Ever wanted to see a movie just because of the poster? Well, here are some posters for movies that were never made, but perhaps ought to have been.

Today’s BBC online news headline

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

Man with shoe fetish walks free

Today’s Running URL

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

As in every race or competition, there are people who finish first, and of course there is always a person who finishes last. The guy who came last in the Boston Marathon is a blogger, and his story of the race is here. He may surprise you, but for all the angst I expend over my own health problems I wish I had even the tiniest bit of the moxie Jacob has.

Today’s Grooming URL

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

I can’t say that I really need this, but I certainly qualify.

Dream last night

Monday, April 16th, 2007

I dreamt last night that HWMBO and I were in Vermont, and we wanted to get away. We were at the Burlington train station (I haven’t been in Vermont to stay since 1964) and a train came with the header sign “MICE”. I told him that meant “Massachusetts Institute of Chemical Engineering” and it was thus going our way. We got on, but there was quite a crowd, so HWMBO and his luggage wer standing on the step, which had no doors. The train lurched and his bag fell off, and HWMBO got off to get it back. I was frantic, but I couldn’t stop the train. However, it did slow down so he managed to get back on. Then I woke up.

There is a building across the street from St. John’s Waterloo that has “MICE…..” in big letters on it, so perhaps that’s where I got the “MICE” from. However, where I got “Massachusetts Institute of Chemical Engineering” from I do not know. Perhaps best not delved into.

A horrible day

Monday, April 16th, 2007

So guns don’t kill people, people kill people. … I’m just heartsick about the killings in Virginia.

We watched “Meet the Foxes” on Channel 4 tonight–it was a program about urban foxes. A family of four foxes and their mother was followed; only the mother survived the year. One was run over, one had terminal mange, two were shot (I think that was the scorecard…) HWMBO is the kindest heart around, and he just couldn’t bear to watch some of it. Very graphic, especially of the shootings. The mother was run over but survived.

We have seen an urban fox in the garden, and I’ve seen another on Swan Street. So we do have wildlife other than squirrels.

Today’s Next-to-Godliness URL

Monday, April 16th, 2007

It seems that loo-users in Japan have something more to be concerned about than cleanliness.

Today’s Animal Husbandry URL

Monday, April 16th, 2007

In Sudan, homosexual activity is severely punished. However, this story shows that the Sudanese are kind to their animals, at any rate.

How to get from New York to London

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

Six simple steps to find the way from New York to London:

1. Go to Google
2. Click on “maps”
3. Click on “get directions”
4. Type “New York” in the first box (the “from” box)
5. Type “London” in the second box (the “to” box)
6. Click on “get directions”
7. Scroll down to step #23

Good luck.

Oh, and down toward the bottom you’ll pass right by Chez Hansen-HWMBO. Please wave just before Step 59.

1970’s novels and

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

I was poking around in James Lileks’ site while waiting for something else to finish, and found this reference to a 1970’s paperback novel–I immediately thought of, which I mentioned a few entries back. Very spooky, isn’t it?

I continue to be fascinated by Justin. That site will be a real time- and byte-waster in the Hansen-HWMBO household for a while.

Today’s Art and Design URL

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

Some of you may have seen this before, and I think that some of it might even have been lifted from James Lileks, but this brings me back to my misspent childhood looking at Life and Look magazines along with the Sears catalog. I think that will especially enjoy this website (there are no discoverable P**ps in it).

Finished that yearly chore which I hate…

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

…and that is filling out my US tax return. The United States, in common with only one other country in the world (the Philippines, if you must know), taxes its expats.

I don’t owe anything, and haven’t owed anything for the past 14 years. There is an exclusion of foreign earned income (which is really the only kind of income I have) and this year it was $82,400. I made less than half that (being fully employed only three months last year) so I was free and clear. However, I still have to file the silly return.

I think this is the year in which I need to make my decision on whether to renounce my US citizenship. I am getting more and more fed up each year filling out this stupid return when I have no intention of returning to live in the US ever (my health issues would make that impossible anyway: I’d have no way to pay for health insurance or health care until I was 65) and when the only benefits I get from being an American citizen are that I can vote in Federal elections and get into the citizens line at airports.

This has nothing to do with patriotism: I’m as patriotic as the next guy. But being a British citizen now claims most of my allegiance, as I spend most of my time here and I feel fully British. If I could only get rid of the damned American accent then the transformation would be complete.

The rules have changed regarding renouncing citizenship. However, as I have no assets in the United States, no tangible assets here in the United Kingdom except a savings account, and my total net worth is probably under $100,000 US, I think I would escape any lingering rules on these matters.

So why do I hesitate? I suppose it is like when I became an Episcopalian in 1988. I had wanted to change for many years, but only got up the nerve after years of dithering about it. I need to talk to a lawyer and settle this once and for all.

Today’s mindless URL

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

You’ve all heard of the Truman Show movie, of course, Well, now there’s This is a Web 2.0 venture where a group of four guys, including Justin, a very good-looking Asian-American, have taken a flat in San Francisco, got sponsorship, and attached a webcam and microphone to Justin. It goes with him everywhere–yes, even to the loo (although he turns the sound off to spare our delicate ears). He has it on 24 hours a day. When in bed, a webcam on a tripod is trained on him. When he showers, he leaves the cam outside the bathroom trained on the door. Otherwise, he’s wearing it.

Now you might think this could be hot: he goes on dates (but hasn’t scored yet), cleans his house for a party (yesterday), and is at this very moment (10:08 am PDT Easter Day) asleep, scratching himself occasionally, and generally being comatose as only 24 (or so) year old Yale graduates can do on a Sunday morning.

Watch it, but watch out! It’s addictive but with no calories and no nutritive value. There are lots of posters around the house advertising his various sponsors. There’s also a whole industry of weblogs, MySpace pages, and the like. has more than 1 million hits on Google after just 1 month.

This guy will be going places.

Today’s Transit URL

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

A guy puts lots of initiatives to fund light rail onto Kansas City, Missouri’s ballot. They all fail. In disgust, he moves to Virginia, but leaves one last initiative behind. The City Fathers are asleep at the switch, and surprisingly, it passes. But, according to this article, it threatens to “derail” an innovative bus service.

Thanks to Ronslog for this peaceful URL

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

You might expect a warning on a ride called the Screamer. However, you wouldn’t expect this warning, I don’t think:

As passengers are strapped in, the operator recites a warning that begins:

Today’s Local Election URL

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

A local council in England has apologised for mistakenly banning a few types of people from standing for local office. They now say that they were quoting from a law passed in the mid 18th century and that idiots and imbeciles are no longer banned from standing for local councils.

I could have assured them that the law was no longer in effect–just look at local government throughout the United Kingdom if you need proof.

Thanks to MadPriest, a cutting from the New York Times

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

MadPriest also draws our attention to the first sentence in the fourth paragraph…saying that it’s probably a very good idea to discuss this subject with one’s members.

New York City Plans to Promote Circumcision

Published: April 5, 2007

New York City