Monday, December 22, 2003

So, here I am again. And I wonder what I have been wondering about this week. To be perfectly honest at the moment I can barely remember what my name is. I'm suffering from that pre-Christmas, post weekend of shifts starting at 6am, still haven't got a bed so I'm sleeping on the floor, Monday afternoon fatigue. I don't quite know why I keep on yawning... the all you can eat Indian buffet for lunch probably didn't help.

Despite these feelings of melancholy (not sure if that's spelled corectly... but frankly who cares)... or not really melancholy.. not sure what the correct phrase is. But despite whatever it is I'm feeling, there are some things that have made me smile over the last few weeks.

Firstly, "Where is the love?" by the Black Eyed Peas... due to a year spent living in three countries and the small distraction of writing a thesis, I did not hear this song until Saturday morning (while I was on shift, and watching the VH1 top 40 videos of the year). And I thought that it was bloody good. And then this morning I was listening to the Christmas UK singles chart (the number one of which is the marvellous Mad World from Donnie Darko (which is also bloody marvellous)) it came on at the end of the show, as it is (or it might be) the top selling single of the year. Anyway, bringing a long divergence to an end... heard it, liked it, bought it.

Above my office is a half height floor as in Being John Malkovich.... no idea why... but I think you'll agree it's simply brilliant.

Firefly... being a typical young male of my generation, I quite like science fiction (double feature....). And Joss Whedon, made Buffy which is quite possibly the best thing to come out of America. So, I'd been hearing little bits and pieces about his show.. and then it came out on dvd and for only $30 or so I got myself a copy. And it is very good. I was somewhat dubious about a space/western but you've got to love it (unless you are a Fox executive), the characters are good, the one liners are occasionally witty.. and it livened up my (bedless) apartment for some of the last week. If you haven't seen get down to your local dvd establishment and purchase yourself a copy.

Probably the best thing that I have discovered in the last few weeks... is the music of one Rob Dougan. He has an album out called Furious Angels.... and it is (to use a phrase popularised by one of my friends) tres be-bleeding-bien. The only reason that I ever heard this Album, is that whilst (you've got to love a whilst) I was in Switzerland a friend of mine bought the Album.. and kept on telling me how good it was. So I ripped the cd into mp3's, and then didn't really listen to the songs for a good couple of months. It was only when I arrived in sunny (it was the day I arrived) Pennsylvania that I got round to listening to the mp3s. And after a few listens (or whatever the correct word is) I thought this is really rather good, so I went up to my local Best Buy and searched around for a while before purchasing the cd. And why, you ask, am I telling you this tale.... because I would never have bought this cd if it wasn't for the fact that I (possibly) illegally copied it. My little push in the direction that draconian copyright and digital media laws are not necessarily in the best interests of the artists and record companies.

The main thing that has been annoying me recently is my hair. Desperately in need of a hair cut. It has got to the stage where my hair is just in the periphirary of my vision... how I long for the £5 haircut place on Tottenham Court Road (except it's now £6).

There was something else.... but I have forgotten. What bloody use is a mind if it can not contain information, for any length of time.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Okay long time no blog.... this is in fact the third time that I have attempted to write this blog. Not quite sure how I managed to fail twice. A mixture of utter stupidity (on my part) and in fact more utter stupidity on my part). And no having got this far I'm not really sure what it is that I want to say. Screaming the word testicle at the top of my voice is one of the things going through my mind at the moment.

I started writing this post about 3 hours ago... sadly work distracted me from completing it. Some things that have made me really rather annoyed over the last week:

The fact that despite paying my (entirely non-exorbitant... sadly) wage , the university I work for still feels the need to charge me $10 for a key to my office. How come I can trusted to work for them, carry out scientific research, etc, etc... but I am not trusted to look after a bloody key. These people pay me x grand (where x is a single digit number) a month.... and yet they feel the need for me to go down to their office and hand over $10 in cash.... it's crazy.

On the subject of things that are stupid. Take for instance the stance of my employer with regards to it's rental car fleet. Now understandably they require any renting one of their vehicles to have a valid drivers license.... a perfectly reasonably request. However that driving license must be from the state of Pennsylvania (which is where my employer is based).... this is where my problems arise from. You see, I am not an American. In fact I'm British.... and so unsurprisingly I have a British driving license. Now this would be fine if I were renting a car from AVIS or HERTZ or practically any other car rental company.... but is sadly not good enough for my employer. The true genius (and I use that word with great caution) of my situation is that despite the fact that I currently reside and work in Pennsylvania... I am not eligible for a Pennsylvanian drivers license. The reason? Is because I only have a one year contract. So I am allowed for one year to drive in Pennsylvania with my dirty foreign license.... now let's suppose that a year goes by and my employer thinks that I'm wonderful and gives me an extension. And seeing as this is make believe why don't I get a 100% pay rise. So there I would be one year older, having been in Pennsylvania for just about a year... in the wonderful situation of being unable to drive using my British license cause I'd been here too long.. and unable to apply for a Pennsylvanian drivers license because I'd have less than a year left on my contract/visa...... Whoopee do.... I can't wait for those happy days.

Which brings me nicely to my main bug bear (what is a bug bear.... did I just make it up?? If I didn't who did?), and that is with those lovely people at INS. Now I realize it is probably a deportable (lovely word probably doesn't exist... but still lovely) offense to criticize in any way shape or form the actions (or inactions) of any part of the department of homeland security (or whatever it is called)... but here goes anyway. So I only recently got my job and came over here to work on an 'exciting' experiment (I'll talk about later sometime) and I had my visa and my passport and my certificate of eligibility and I flew into America. And surprisingly enough (you hear so many horror stories) I arrive and go through immigration without a problem. Then I have a couple of weeks where I am just in form filling hell. And the one thing they ask you on every bloody form you ever fill out is for your social security number. So obviously this is one of the first things I do when I get here. So a few weeks go by and I've managed to convince tout le monde that I am who I say I am despite my lack of SS number... and I have a flat, and cable tv and elastic trickery and I get paid (which felt really good considering that it had been bloody months since my last pay check. And somewhere in the middle of all this excitement I get a letter from the SS office saying.... can't give you a number INS have you on their records as Mr 'Vichol' instead of Mr 'Nichol', fill out this form and send it off to them to get it fixed. So I look at the form and it says form must be accompanied by a cheque to cover $100 application fee... unless the mistake was through no fault of your own. And I'm like... surely they determine if it's my fault or not... and if this application does not come with a cheque it is going straight in the bin. So I write them a cheque and send it off. A few weeks go by and I'm getting a little impatient... I start trying to check up on the application online and discover before I can do anything I need a receipt number... which I don't have. And then finally after about three and half weeks I get a letter from INS. The letter says, and I'm paraphrasing here: Jolly good Mr Nichol... we've taken your cheque and cashed it down the bank.. and now it's just going to be 30-45 days for us to process your application. And I'm like... 45 days and $100 to change a 'V' to and 'N'... they have got to be taking the mickey (insert your own expletive filled sentence to read my actual reaction). But apparently not... that's what it takes. I jsut don't understand how it happens... when I come through immigration the gentleman scans the bar code like part of my passport. Surely from then on in my details are in the machine, there should be no need to ever actually type my name in and therefore have the possibility of a mistake..... so I don't know what's going on. But the one thing I know for sure is that the chance of me ever seeing that $100 again (at least if it's anything like bureaucracy back home) is pretty fucking small.

There some things that made me smile this week.... but my poor little fingers are tired after all this moaning.... I know some people in Minnesota who described me as 'salty'... still don't really know what it means... but it may well be true.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Another uneventful weekend has passed... and lo and behold I'm still here and moving around. The highlight of my weekend was probably visiting the British aisle of the local Wegman's (or is it Wegmans?) supermarket. It was a thrilling experience... they had Bird's Eye custard (which I didn't buy) and Colman's mustard (which I did) and lots of other stuff I can no longer remember despite the fact that it was only yesterday that I went there.

The highlight of my week has to be the fact that I found on dvd to films that I have been looking for on and off for the last...long time. They are "The Sure Thing", which is I guess just a silly romantic comedy (and here is big manly me looking like something of a big girl's blouse for saying I like the film) but it's done very well and it's hard not to like it, and "A Boy and His Dog" which is a great old sci-fi film featuring a telepathic dog and sex crazy boy. (And I'm pleased to see that I have now elevated myself from soppy fool to geek... and desperate geek by the sound of it.) Anyway, they are both very good films. And I was particularly pleased that I had forgotten how "A Boy...." ends.

To try and recover some manliness (is that a word? yes... aparently it used to mean human kindness. But now it means strength, fortitude, etc.... which is closer to what I meant, and also virility.... which is not.), I'd like to say that the highlight of last week was watching England win the Rugby World Cup. Admittedly I'd have preferred to be watching it in the pub on a big screen... as oppossed to sat at home at 4 in the morning (I am currently living in the good ol' US of A), naked apart from my England shirt crouched in front of my laptop (my TV didn't arrive until monday) watching a shitty picture (because the coaxial connector on my tv tuner box takes a european style cable, and unsurprisingly the cable box comes with a US style cable... so I had to actually force the cables together) that I had paid over $25 to watch. But it was still worth it to get one over the bloody Australians, it happens so rarely..... but hopefully this will mark a turning point (you might call it a `watershed' if you were Gerrard Houllier) for English... nay British sport. More than likely though it's just a blip and we will be back to our normally role of good loser before the too much longer (Sri Lanka anyone?).

And I was somewhat annoyed that Chelsea beat United (and yes I know other teams are called United) at the weekend (and no I've never been to Old Trafford..... and yes I can justify this... but I'll save that for later). Still it's a long season. At least I got to see them beat Liverpool last week..... it was even on the tele.

Friday, November 28, 2003

So hard to know how to start these things. Having grown bored of talking to myself... I will now endeavour to do just that, but now I have the illusion of talking to the masses. Anyhow, if you fancy taking a sneak peak at the author of this illustrious journal have a look at this page. Where you can see a grinning buffoon with a misspelled t-shirt.