Friday, December 31, 2004

The calm after the storm

I just spent the last twenty minutes reading about the unprecedented wave disaster in the Indian Ocean and the international aid effort. In particular, I came across these two articles, one on the BBC News site and one on the Telegraph site, both of which left me feeling somewhat appalled, a bit proud and then ashamed.

I'm appalled because of things like the death table, and why I'm so fascinated by it. It's like some macabre version of the Olympics medal table. (And I can't help but wonder what the two people in Bangladesh or the one in Kenya, were doing that they were the only casualties in those countries.)

The hint of pride comes from the fact that Britain currently leads the donations table. Yippee, for all those Commonwealth ties I guess. Thirty million quid in four days is not bad going for Joe Public either. Then I start feeling ashamed that these sites publish, and I read, such things as donations tables. But they did publish them and I did read them, so I guess they've got me (and lots of others) pretty much figured out.

Good News (and hatred, and goats)

Dear Ryan,

We are trying to reach you with Good News! It is real important that you Call Toll free 1-888-279-9221


Call 12 noon to 8 pm EST Monday thru Friday

This was the message on a postcard in my mailbox this morning. For some reason I didn't call Maggie and find out what the Good News was. Why do these people keep on hounding me, trying to force Jesus's love for me down my throat? (Unless, of course I'm terribly wrong and somebody other than crazy evangelicals would capitalize the 'N' of Good News. Whoever wrote this was awfully fond of putting Capital Letters in odd places, so maybe they're just plain old fashioned crazy.)

And incidentally if you are going to send me a little note trying to get me to do something, it is really important that you know how to spell really. 'Cause that kind of thing gets my goat when I see it written and addressed to me by some complete strangers. But then again my goat is a bit of a floozie, because a lot of things get her.

ETA: Actually it is possible that these people were part of a scam. The kind of scam in which they try to make you pay some small fee before you can claim a big prize. Either way, if they are crooks or crazy religious people, I wouldn't recommend wasting one's time by calling the number.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Trousering the loot and other stuff.

For no apparent reason I find myself remembering a quote by, at least this is who I think it's by, Stephen Pound — the Labour Member of Parliament for Ealing North — in which the phrase trouser the loot was used (it was used in regards to the allowance that MP's get for central London housing, and how an unscrupulous fellow could turn it into profit). I'm in love with trouser the loot, as should everyone be.

Christmas this year for me is probably best summed up with the word dull, although cold and fucking cold are probably also appropriate. In fact, it was almost Minnesota cold when I woke up on Christmas morning. Father Christmas brought me (well actually the postman brought them to me, from my mother) a book (Going Postal, by the unadjectivable Terry Pratchett) and a couple of t-shirts. The highlight of my day was probably making bread pudding, albeit without the cloves. All the shops in Columbus were closed on Christmas day and I had to go to a convenience store to get the cheap white bread and milk I needed for the recipe. I ended up eating a baked chicken breast with a selection of vegetables, thanks to the freezer gods. All in all it wasn't a bad day.

In other news I got my Blunkett t-shirt today, and proudly wore it in Columbus. I can't imagine that many, if any, people who saw it got the tasteless joke. I also bought myself a kitchen table (even if it is more of a card table really, it's in my kitchen now so by default it's a kitchen table) and a couple of chairs. Praise be to Target, for cheap shitty furniture.

After only six hours sleep in the last two nights combined, I am really knackered. (Hopefully) I'm going to sleep now.

Friday, December 24, 2004

I'm leaving Minnesota and I'm sad...

... of course these two things are almost entirely disconnected. The reason that I'm sad is that I've lost one of my gloves. Well maybe not lost, lost implies that I don't know where it is. I know exactly where it is. It is sat on the number 16 bus that took me from campus to downtown. Just after I got off the bus I put my hand in my coat pocket and thought, "Bollocks!".

I liked my gloves. They got me through my winter in northern Minnesota. They got me through my winter in State College. Looks like they won't be getting me through my winter in Columbus. Bastard.

Still, two years is probably close to a record for me in the not losing a pair of gloves stakes. I think I need a piece of string that goes through the arms of my coat and keeps the gloves in place, like I had when I was six.

He who knows most says the least, that was my fortune from a Chinese restaurant the other night. I thought it was very apt as I've been working with a guy who can't shut up this week. But the weeks over now, and in a few short hours (I've never quite worked out what makes a short hour) I will be winging my way back to Columbus — that is the Columbus, which is apparently also bloody cold today (Incidentally, Columbus is hotter (in the summer), colder (in the winter) and wetter (all year round) than London. But still everyone says it always rains in London).

Oh well that's all from Marysburg Books.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

3 am from a basement in Minnesota

So here I am at 3 am (okay it's actually 3:30 am now, but I was here at 3 am), in the basement of the physics department of the University of Minnesota. Not only am I here at 3 am, but I'll probably be here until 10 or 11 am. It's moments like these that I love my job. (Note to others: that was sarcasm).

So far this week I've both bled and froze for this bloody, no pun intended, experiment. On the plus side the bleeding, or sacrificing part of my finger to the science gods, helped us go from a non-working flight computer to a working one. I'm not sure what the freezing part has helped, except maybe my character. But, I've always been quite fond of my character...

Has anything else happened of interest whilst I've been up here in Minnesota? I can't really remember. I finished reading the Sandman series of comics — or graphic novels, if you so prefer. They really are bloody good. Not that I'm the first person to note such. I picked up the last of the editions, Endless Nights, along with the two Death stories, The High Cost of Living and The Time of Your Life, from DreamHaven on Sunday. DreamHaven is a very pleasant book and comic store, they even had a pack of Nicholas was... cards, which I wish I'd bought earlier and been able to send to people.

Tonight, if I'm not too tired to read, I'll start reading Red Son, the 'what if Superman's spacecraft had crashed into the USSR instead of America' story. On the subject of Superman, whilst at DreamHaven I stumbled upon True Brit, which is the 'what if Superman's spacecraft had crashed into Weston-super-Mare' story, co-written by John Cleese. Which naturally, I had to buy. I wonder why it is I never have any money.

Oh well, I'm off to temperature watch.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Falling on my feet

I'm in Minneapolis now. In fact I'm writing this (both last night in my yellow notepad and this afternoon on my computer) in a little coffee shop at the corner of N orth Washington Avenue and North Third Avenue, called Marysburg Books. Last night I stumbled into this place due to three main reasons; my great stupidity, the crazy naming system they have for roads in Minneapolis and the freezing Minnesota weather.

You see I thought it would be a good idea to use public transport to get from the airport to the hotel, rather than paying for an expensive taxi. It is quite possible that if I'd had full control of my faculties, as opposed to the drastically reduced state I seem to be running in these days, this would have been fine and dandy — although, I suspect if I'd had full control of my faculties I'd have just thought, "Sod it. I'm not paying" and I'd have got a taxi.

Anyhow, I managed to get on the Airport-Downtown light rail link, the Hiawatha Line, which in fact is the only line, as far as I can tell. I even managed to get off at the appropriate station, Downtown East/Metrodome, after that it all went to shit. I knew my hotel was in the campus area on Washington Avenue, and I saw on the little map at the station, that I was just a couple of blocks away from Washington Avenue. So, I decided to walk. Silly bugger!

Not only did I decide to walk, but I decided to walk in completely the wrong direction. In my defence, at the time I started to walk I didn't realise that I was going completely the wrong way (not even I am that foolish); the case for the prosecution would probably point out that I started walking in the opposite direction to which I saw the campus bound bus was going, and they'd be right. Some fourteen or fifteen blocks later, in the freezing Minnesota weather, I arrived at 701 S Washington Avenue. Sadly, my hotel was at 615 Washington Avenue SE (the SE didn't manage to make it into my notebook), which is about three miles away on the other side of the river.

On the plus side, due to the fact that I was both bloody freezing and lost, I stumbled into this nice little coffee, book and wine place. I like this place. After consuming an okayish double espresso, I was given a complimentary glass of wine, as it was an open bottle coming to the end of it's shelf life, and a free scone. All of which, made my fifteen block detour rather worthwhile. Falling on my feet, you might say. Even if the owner did ask me if I was from Australia or New Zealand — at least they didn't ask me if my Australian accent was real or fake, which inhabitants of this state have been known to ask.

In case you are curious the United-Palace game finished 5-2, which meant that I won the princely sum of £2.50 (less 5% commission). Yea for me.

Last night I sat in a couple of shitty bars near campus watching Atlanta squeak past Carolina. It was a pretty interesting game. But I didn't do very well at trying not to drink beer, which was one of the things that I was going to try and do this week.

Today, I'm off to DreamHaven, and maybe if I feel like sullying myself to Mall of America. But first I'm off to the toilet.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Sitting in the airport, wondering what I'm doing

Here I am, in Port Columbus International Airport, waiting to board my flight to Minneapolis, wondering what exactly I am doing with my life. In a break with tradition I had the foresight to write down the name, address and telephone number of the hotel I'll be staying at. Normally, I forget to do these simple things and just try and blag it when I arrive. (Probably the highlight of my lack of preparation came a couple of years ago when I was attending a conference in Pasadena. I realised, as I was on my second long flight of the day (from Newark to L.A.), that I had no idea of the name or address of the hotel I was staying in. I was meant to be met by someone at the airport but I neither had her number nor she mine. Fortunately she was standing there waiting for me as I came down the escalator into the baggage claim area, there are few people who I've been so pleased to see.)

I'm not really sure what I'm going to do in Minneapolis until Monday morning (it was several hundred dollars cheaper to fly out today than tomorrow). If I had a brain I would have tried to contact some of the people I know in Minnesota and see if they are still around, and haven't gone home for Christmas yet. But apparently I don't have a brain, because I didn't do that.

On the subject of a lack of brain. Which mental midget devised the US banking system, or at least which mental midget devised the legislature that keeps the US system several decades behind the UK or European system (particularly the Swiss). On Wednesday I tried to send some money to the UK to pay off this months student loans (lord knows what happened to my £100 Carey-Foster prize) and after I stopped weeping at the current exchange rate, my hatred of the US wire transfer system increased. I think I mentioned before how stupid the system is, in which I print out my UK bank details at work, walk to the bank on high street, watch them type my details into their computer, before printing out my details, phoning up the wire transfer people and telling them my details, where I can only imagine my details are entered into another computer. On Wednesday this smooth oiled machine went awry, because the forgot to do the call the wire transfer people part of the process. Fortunately, I noticed that the money hadn't been taken out of my account on Friday and went and checked up on them. Otherwise I'd be up in Minnesota and the UK student loans company, or whoever currently owns my debt, would get very annoyed when I couldn't give them this months dues.

Here I am sitting in the airport with approximately $25,000 worth of computers in my little rucksack. Listening to Man. Utd. repeatedly fuck up against Crystal Palace. Crystal Palace! If United don't manage to beat Palace then things have definitely gone to the dogs. It's 3-2 to United now, will they remember how to defend?

In better news it's good to see England doing so well against South Africa in the cricket. Particularly as everyone was a doom and gloom merchant about England's chances. (4-2 now, hat-trick for Scholes and 3 goals in the first five minutes of the second half).

Oh well, I should probably stop rambling now. (Maybe Scholes's second goal was actually an own goal... we'll have to wait and see).

Friday, December 17, 2004

Knicker wettingly exciting

I have to say that I am incredibly excited about today's Champions League draw. Real Madrid playing Juventus, Barcelona versus Chelsea, Bayern Munich against Arsenal, and, of course, Man. Utd. facing off against AC Milan, for the first time in 25 years. There isn't a dud in the other four games either. I can not wait until the 22nd of February. And with odds between 10/1 and 14/1 on United winning it, I might be forced into having a little flutter.

On the subject of knicker wetting excitement, yesterday evening I had a very pleasant surprise. (To give you some context, a couple of weeks ago, one of my favourite — okay, my favourite — barmaid from the cafe quit working there, for various reasons that aren't my business to go into. Every time I've entered the place since then I've wondered if she'll be there, and up till now she hasn't been.) After a particularly greasy meal (a tomatoey chorizo dish served with roast potatoes and parsnips and fried courgette), I went for a walk to give the food a chance to slip some way through my system before I tried dousing it with beer. (The walk also gave me the chance to listen to Kanye West's album, which I still think is very good.) As I neared home, and therefore the bar, I wondered if I would see said lady. Lo and behold she was stood outside the cafe as I rounded the corner. Not only was she there but she was also pleased to see me (I know it's somewhat hard to believe). Seeing her probably rated as the most exciting moment of my week — which is almost certainly a comment on the kind of week I've been having, amongst other things.

Apropos of nothing (well actually, because somebody started a sentence with, "Happiness is..." and I finished, "... a cigar called Hamlet."), here are a couple of links that made me smile. The photobooth advert and the John West bear advert (the quality is a little poor for both of these). And, of course, these made me think of the fake/spoof/real Mastercard blowjob advert.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The squirrel and the Snickers wrapper

Yesterday afternoon while I was having coffee, I saw a very polite squirrel. At the time I was sat in the Brenen's at the library, listening to a colleague's history of their, recently extinguished, relationship with some guy. Anyhow, I was sat staring out the window — my other colleague was offering sage advice, so I didn't feel compelled to — when I noticed Mr Squirrel (actually it could have been Mrs Squirrel, not being a squirrel sex expert) sat on the rim of a litter bin. He'd picked up a Snickers wrapper, well actually it was a Snickers Almond wrapper, from the bin and was busy licking it. For a couple of minutes he sat there licking his wrapper, then when he finished he dropped the wrapper back in to the bin. I thought, if a bloody squirrel can put his litter in the bin why can't the rest of us?

I think I'm probably going to hell for wanting one of these. Or am I going because I want nearly all of these.

ETA: I ordered myself one of the Blunkett t-shirts. I hope my room in hell has a nice view of the bubbling oil pits.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The first snowy post of the winter

Winter has finally arrived in Columbus. Yesterday was a little chilly, but not too cold, at least not until the evening. In the evening it got really very cold, and it started snowing. It's kept snowing, on and off, ever since. Now it's not Minnesota snow or State College snow, but still it's more snow then we get back home in London most years (more on my London love affair later). To conserve money, well actually to conserve body heat (mine) as I'm too tight to turn the heating on, I'm writing this post fully clothed wearing my dressing gown over the top of my clothes and my duvet is wrapped around me. I'm not much of a winter person. On the subject of not being much of a winter person, next week I get to go to lovely warm Minneapolis for a week.

Another thing that came to Columbus this weekend was the film Closer. As has been mentioned more than once in this blog, I will watch pretty much anything with Natalie Portman in it. Once more this proved to be a very reasonable way of a selecting a film. Particularly as she plays a stripper in the film, although, sadly, there were no gratuitous naked shots — we do get to see one side of one breast, sans nipple, which will do. It was a very good film, about four people and their very messed up relationships with each other. My top five reasons for liking this film are: the aforementioned Natalie Portman, who was very good; gratuitous use of the word 'cunt'; gratuitous (my third in this paragraph, is that grat... no I can't be so cheap) use of the word 'fuck'; the excellent Clive Owen (when will Chancer come out on DVD?); the ubiquitous Jude Law (when does he sleep?);

Actually, I think I probably just lied. My favourite thing in the film was probably London. There's one scene early on in the film, in which Jude Law is showing a freshly arrived Natalie Portman a few pieces of his London, that resonated strongly with me. It's always been something of a fantasy of mine to show a pretty girlie around London, and I'm not talking about the standard touristica thingies but those parts of London that I like, and now miss. While we're talking candidly I have a small confession to make, in these fantasies the girl is usually American. I'm not quite sure why but I find some American girls, c.f. Miss Portman and my obsession post, irresistibly something. Maybe it's just that wide eyed amazement that some American girls get when they hear a British accent.

This weekend was something of a shopping spree for me. I tend to spend more money when I'm feeling slightly sorry for myself, which seems faintly ridiculous. Distressingly, most of the spending spree was on comic books, or graphic novels for those tarts in the audience. Now I'm not sure if I'm more distressed at spending so much on (geeky) comic books, or at the fact that I'm distressed about spending money on this legitimate media form. The rest of the spending spree was spent on Chris Rock, which I haven't watched yet so can't comment on, and the multiple Grammy nominated Kanye West, which I have listened to and is excellent (one chorus in which kiddies sing about entrepreneurial drug dealers counting their money, is very good).

In other news, a beggar reprimanded me for having my music on too loud so he had to ask twice for money (he didn't get any either time), and I found out what CBT is in some circles. At this point I'd like to mention that I only found out what CBT stood for and not what it felt like, as it is Cock and Ball Torture.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Come on you Supreme Court justices

I just read this happy little tale of prohibition hangover laws, that are going to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. I don't really have much to say about it except, I find the idea of a teenager mail-ordering a nice bottle of wine fairly amusing. The fact that this idea is the crux of the authorities argument against being able to mail-order out of state wine is somewhere between ridiculous and scary.

So come on you Supreme Court justices (justii?), anything that chips away at the US's draconian alcohol laws has got to be a good thing.

ETA: What the BBC article neglects to mention is that one of the attorneys arguing for the little wineries (and wine drinkers) is the excellent named Clint Bolick (you probably need to be registered or use Thanks, once again, to Mediawatch for providing me with this childish giggle.

Obsession and its consequences (and a Happy Birthday)

Like all good posts this one is about a girl. Well it's almost about a girl, it's really about my increasingly disturbed mind. This girl is a girl that I find rather attractive, not that that narrows it down too much. But of all the flesh and blood girls that I actually talk to she ranks pretty near the top.

Anyhow, a few days ago I was told something, about said girl, that has sent my (fevered) mind into overdrive. (At this point I should probably note, that the rationale 3% of my mind realises that what the rest of mind is doing is utterly ridiculous, but still that doesn't change anything). Apparently, this, girl said something to a friend of mine which could be interpreted as not entirely unflattering about myself. The comment was entirely hypothetical, ambiguous and open to interpretation, so the fevered part (approximately 97%) of my mind chose to interpret the comment in the most overtly pro-Ryan way possible.

The net result of my liking this girl and her, alleged, comments, was to send my mind into a fit of impressive gymnastic contortions, involving elaborate future meeting scenarios and the re-analysis of every encounter we've had. After spending the last few days with a mind performing such feats of irrationality, as will not be mentioned here, today I heard some potentially disastrous news. Apparently (remember this apparently has to be mixed with the earlier allegedly), due to reasons entirely unconnected to me (as, indeed, most reasons are), I might not be seeing this girl very much from now on. If this (the apparently part, not the allegedly part) turns out to be true, I will be sad. It should be pointed out that regardless of if I had heard about the girl's, alleged, comments, I would be sad if I didn't see her much from now on. But, now that I do know about her, alleged, comments (and have experienced the subsequent mind gymnastics), I'll be much sadder.

On a happier note, and I'm sad to say I really do need a happier note right now, I had a beer with a cute little owl on it's beer cap. I'm thinking about sending a six-pack of these beers to my, teetotaller, Mum as a Christmas present. She collects owls you see. The beer cap is very cute, if a little Hooter-esque.

On the subject of Mumsie dearest, yesterday was her birthday. So Happy Birthday Mum (not that I tell her about this blog). Disappointingly, I didn't manage to call her and say 'Happy Birthday'. In my defence, I did try and call on three separate occasions, but each time she was either out or talking to someone else on the phone. To compound my birthday related uselessness, I only got round to posting her a card on Monday. I did at least send her a present this year, thanks to those nice folks over at, which is more than I managed last year. (I sent her the DVDs of Cold Mountain and Love Actually, in case you're interested).

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Containing illness, Indian food, nudity, Guzzlefest and other nonsense

I sometimes take a little yellow notepad down to the bar with me of an evening. This last week I've probably started three or four posts in that little notebook that didn't ever make it out in to the big wide world of the internet, well the small piece of the big wide world that is my blog at least. So here are some of the high, or low, lights. It's one of those start one day, add a few bits and pieces the next day and finally finish it another day kind of posts, so probably not entirely coherent.

On Thursday I did something that I very rarely do, I took a day off work because I wasn't feeling well. Admittedly, there are several days during which I don't do any work, but I do normally try and be physically present in my office. Yesterday I just couldn't. Try as I might it was impossible to get out of bed. My head hurt (which could probably be attributed to a hangover), my stomach hurt (debatable whether it was alcohol related), my throat hurt, eyes itched and nose was blocked (which were all probably unconnected to Wednesday night's excesses). So I snuggled up under the covers and stayed in bed most of the day. I thought isn't it nice that I have the kind of job where I can take a day of work with nobody complaining. I also thought isn't it a shame that when I do take a day off work nobody inquires as to why I'm not at work. It is probably indicative of how unimportant the work I am currently doing is, and therefore I am.

After spending all day in bed I ventured out into the world Thursday evening so that I could find sustenance. The place I chose was on a little street a couple of blocks away from my lovely abode. Apparently it used to be an establishment by the name of Champs Diner, bedecked in Buckeye scarlet and grey of course. Now it is an Indian restaurant by the name of Food of India. It is still bedecked in Buckeye colours, but now has a pink curtain and a few little Indian nick-nacks on the wall. The food was okay, nothing amazing, but edible, if a little sweet. The whole thing was very strange though, you had your stereotypical Indian restaurant owners, terribly nice and poorly spoken, in this really odd location.

Thursday night the world was a very strange place. Firstly, I saw a girl flash her bits and pieces (both those upstairs and downstairs, if you know what I mean... and I'm sure you do) out the window of the bar. Well actually I saw the back of the girl while she flashed her front bits out the window. (The same girl was crying on the owner's shoulder on Saturday and, incidentally on Thursday night she had a parrot on her shoulder, not during the exposure but before and afterwards). Apparently, although I did not see it myself (fortunately), on the outside there was a gentleman (probably not one fit to be called so) reciprocating by flashing his member at her. It's not everyday that you see people flashing their private parts at each other in public, at least not at the establishments I regularly frequent. I also saw two grown men acting like school children; verbally poking each other for two hours before one of them physically removed the other from the premises. There were lots of drunk Russians, which is not particularly odd for Russians, but was moderately interesting for Ohio. I was left dumbfounded as to why someone would piss in the toilet without closing the door (to the bar). I'm pretty sure nobody wants to see a man pissing when all the wanted was a drink, I'm definitely sure that I don't want to see it. Oh and then somebody explained they're landmine removal theory to me. Sadly, it involves having surveyed the area beforehand, so not entirely ideal for the all the mines blowing people up in places like Angola. Between the nudity, the pissing, the Russians and the mine-man, I felt terribly normal by comparison at the end of the night.

After briefly returning to something akin to normality on Friday, Saturday was filled with work (unfortunately), art and beer. Lots of beer. You know it's going to be something of a heavy night when you start drinking at 3pm. If for some reason you have four pints (okay four girlie American sized pints) in less than an hour, you know it has the potential to be an enormously heavy evening. If you have the sense to stop drinking at George Best's best session rate, then you start to believe that maybe by the end of the evening you will not be offensively drunk. I even sobered up enough to wander down to the Short North and take in the sights of Gallery Hop, and feel, if only for a little while, that Columbus is actually a real city that has real people in it. The reason I went down to Gallery Hop was so that I could see the Civil Disobedience themed show that a friend was organising at a futon shop. Inevitably though I was drawn back to the bar for the Bacchanalian festival that is Guzzlefest Extravaganza. It all started mildly enough with a sipped beer and some food, but soon enough it, and I, descended into a state of drunken disorder. There were two bands playing at the bar, the first an Irish-drinking-folk band, The Bogtrodders, the second were the cowboy hillbilly hippy folk music group, Gruver-Deeluxe. Both were very good. Although I was a good deal more sober during the Bogtrodders than I was during Gruver. By the time the end of the evening came around I was on something like beer number 13 (of the evening session) and was pretty much the last person to leave the bar. Upon leaving the bar I stood outside my apartment for a few minutes in such a manner that the last barmaid to leave wondered if I'd locked myself out. I think I was just enjoying the cool air, well that and psyching myself up for climbing the stairs.

Needless to say, much of Sunday was clouded by a fuzzy head. In fact all of Sunday was. When I went down to the bar, for my free Sunday beer, there wasn't even a barmaid there to converse with. I had to make do with conversing to the other patrons, and, of course, the owner. Which wasn't too bad, but it's always nice talking to a pretty girl. At least I had an early night last night, not that that helped me to get in to work any earlier this morning.

Now I think I might go off to the gym, and try and work some of the residual laziness out of my bones.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


You may have noticed that those nice folks over at Merriam-Webster have published a list of the top ten words that people looked up in 2004 (not entirely sure why they didn't wait until the end of the year, but there we go).

I can understand why blog was a popular word and I can see how all the confusing presidential words would be popular, and I guess people were just looking for how you spell hurricane, but what is defenestration doing on the list? Where has this word been used that has made it such a popular search term?

Also I wanted to draw attention to, "Its list of most looked-up words is drawn up every year and it discounts terms such as swear words, that everyone likes to look up...". Why? Because I really do like to look up rude words.

Monday, November 29, 2004

A tale of stupidity, blind luck, Thanksgiving, music, superheroes, further Zimbabwean madness and stomach remedies

On Thursday I went to Thanksgiving dinner at the house of an Indian friend (this is the Indian feminist that I was mildly criticizing a few weeks ago) of mine. The food was very nice, albeit just about as far away from traditional Thanksgiving fare as it is possible to get, substitute vegetarian curry for turkey and Bombay potatoes for mashed potato and you're getting close. My contribution to the meal was the supply of two bottles of wine, most of which I consumed myself. Anyhow, between the wine and the beer we had after the meal, by the time I walked home, at nearly three o'clock in the morning, I was moderately well sauced. Thursday night was probably the coldest night of the year so far, which meant that for the first time this year I was wearing a wooly hat. For some reason, the alcohol played a large part I imagine, I thought that it would be good idea to pull the hat down over my eyes and walk the last couple of blocks as though I was blind. (I can't explain why I thought this was a good idea, but at the time I did, I have done many things more stupid after an evening of drinking.) After a few lamppost collisions I managed to get to my apartment safely.

This morning while I was eating breakfast down at the cafe I discovered that one of my friends, a guy who works at the cafe, was robbed at gunpoint last night. He was robbed on the same street, at a similar time, that I was walking down 48 hours earlier. It did make me think what a lucky boy I was, and made me wonder what kind of a neighbourhood I'm living in. Although, I'm pretty certain that this is a very safe neighbourhood. Still, it's hard to believe that someone I knew got held up at gunpoint a hundred yards or so from my apartment. Lucky me, unlucky him I guess. Or lucky him as well, as he walked away unscathed and got his wallet back a few minutes later as the police caught the guys. Makes you think.

On Friday night I came over all cultural and went to see Women of Solofest, which is part of Myke Rock's MultiFestival. I went at the behest of one of the bartenders from Vic's, who was drunkenly approaching people on Wednesday and insisting that go see her play on Friday. It was a pretty interesting mix of music from solo piano (played by my assailant, although I must confess I was fairly willingly assailed) to rock to folksy-blues. For those keeping records, that made it two consecutive days which I went out somewhere which wasn't downstairs.

The remainder of my Thanksgiving weekend has been spent in the company of superheroes. Firstly, I have been watching the third (and first half of the fourth, after down-cough-cough-ing the episodes using bit torrent) season of Smallville (for those who haven't seen it, Smallville is like a poor man's Angel — which in turn was like a poor man's Buffy — but with a young Clark Kent, so it is littered with man of steel and fast than a speeding bullet lines). For what it's worth the third season is a bit shit, but the fourth season is much better. Then I've been reading (you know who's) 1602, in which the Marvel superheroes are imagined as they would have been if they had been incarnate in the 17th century. It's all very clever, but being as I'm not a true comic book aficionado I imagine I'm missing at least half the references. They've both been a pleasant escape from mundane reality.

On the off chance that anyone needs a reason for escaping reality, here's a happy tale about the decline of the Zimbabwean education system, coupled with the increasing media insanity that the Zimababwean government suffers from (banning cricket journalists?) . This happy tale coupled with the 'fact' I learned from Harper's Index that the , "Projected lifespan in years of a Zimbabwean born in 1989 and one born in 2002, respectively : 60, 34", highlight what life is now like in the worst country to live in.

Finally, a short treatise on stomach health. My stomach has been pretty much unhappy for the last three weeks. In that time I've been trying to use the judicious, or excessive, application of beer to fix the problem. Needless to say, this method has not been entirely successful. So last night I adopted a different strategy, this strategy was based upon the twin pillars of pharmaceuticals and advertising. I selected a product, "Pink, does more you than you think", that was purported to fix various stomach ailments, and tried it. Of course, my version of trying the product involved using it two minutes before going downstairs and drinking, but still little steps and all that. I'm not sure that my method of fixing stomach ailments is working, tonight I might try the reverse application of products. If it is not deadly, I might let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Amusements and oddities

The Office is bloody brilliant! I realise this is not news to anybody (with taste) who's seen it, but still it is bloody brilliant. The reason for my exclamation is that I've just watched last year's Christmas finale, some 11 months after the lucky inhabitants of Blighty got to see them. It somehow managed to keep faith with the two series and still draw everything to a satisfying conclusion.

One thing I realised whilst watching the two episodes was that I might be something of a soppy romantic under my hard cynical shell. (Well, I'm not sure I really have a hard cynical shell, but sometimes I like to pretend I know what kind of a shell I have.) The reason for the soppiness questioning is that even before I watched it I was hoping Tim and Dawn would get together and then when while I was watching I was hoping for the same. And then... well I won't say.

In other comedy news, Spaced is also very amusing. The only reason I bought Spaced was because it was from one of the creators of, the really very excellent, Shaun of the Dead. In fact I like Spaced so much that Jessica Stevenson has now been added to my wish list. 'Cause funny girls — very attractive.

Turning attentions to more serious matters, the situation in Ukraine is very interesting. I thought the change in Viktor Yushchenko's appearance (you have to scroll about half way down the page) was fascinating and now we have mass protest in the street it's all very interesting. What I find particularly interesting is how some people (something I read on, the frankly strange, Planet SuSE) equate what's happening in Ukraine to the recent American election, which I find to be an astonishing leap. I'll agree both countries have recently had an election, but that's probably where the similarity ends. For instance, despite what the Republican's may say I don't think there was overwhelming media favouritism for one particular candidate. Being here, as a (somewhat) impartial observer, I didn't notice any large scale intimidation or widespread voting irregularities. Sure there were a few isolated instances and some things which were not as well done as the could have been. But the fact of the matter is that a clear majority of Americans who voted preferred Bush. Now whilst I don't fully understand why, I'm pretty confident that that is what happened. Of course, maybe I'm just unenlightened.

Oh, it was nice to see that red-faced Mr Ferguson winning his 1000 game in charge of Man. Utd.. Although if the bastards would have scored one more I'd have won a couple of quid. Still, never mind though.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

An unnecessary observation?

As I mentioned before, I use the (insert positive adjective here) Mozilla browser, Firefox. It has a nice new feature called Live Bookmarks, these take RSS feeds and provide easy access to headlines and news stories (well to anything that someone has made an RSS feed for, like this blog for instance). Anyhow, to cut a dull story short, I just read this headline from my Guardian live bookmark, Prince Charles's household 'elitist'. I found this very amusing (the headline not the story, I couldn't be bothered to actually read the story). A prince's household elitist, whatever next?

In case anyone is interested, and to try and proved I'm not just a Guardian reader, my other live bookmarks are: BBC News, Slashdot, Neil Gaiman, Telegraph (News, Sport, Football, Expat, Art and Books), Guardian (News, UK News, World News, Sport, Football, Books and Film), BBC Sport (Front Page, Football, Cricket, Rugby, Motorsport, Cycling and US Sport) and The Register. The BBC ones are very strange the news feed has some huge number of headlines, whilst all the sport ones only have three headlines.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

It's spam... or is it?

I just got an email with the subject Prize Winners Session 2003/04, I thought yet more spam, I wonder why the filter didn't pick it up. For some reason rather than deleting the email I had a look at it, you know how you do with some spam to see what the crafty buggers are trying these days. I was shocked by what I discovered in the email. It turns out I had actually won a prize, in particular I'd won (or maybe I co-won, I'm not really sure) the Carey Foster Prize for research in physics. It was all somewhat surprising. I didn't know the award existed, I don't know what the criteria are (standard pick a name out a hat, would be my guess), and I didn't even know who Carey Foster was.

[Some minutes of Googling].

It turns out that G. Carey Foster was, at one stage at least, an old bearded guy who was a Professor at UCL and he invented a bridge — of the type that measures resistances, not crosses rivers — and apparently back in 1869 he even lectured to ladies.

I'm still none the wiser about the award though. But anytime somebody wants to give me an award I'll be happy, particularly if the award comes with a cheque (yea, I might have enough English pounds to pay next months student loan payment).

I guess it pays to read spam sometimes.


This weekend marked the end of the short life of my second American chair. I know it's sad but try to hold back the tears. This post (and the last one, which I wrote a draft of last night, but typed this evening) were made sitting cross-legged on the floor, with my laptop sitting on the coffee table.

For the record, the furniture remaining in my apartment is: one futon, one coffee table, one TV stand and two shelving units. A little sparse you might say. Still it does give me an excuse to go downstairs to the bar, when I want to sit on something which isn't the floor.

Pornography, alcohol and boyfriends

Last night I watched an episode of (the BBC comedy) Coupling on BBC America (if you haven't seen it imagine six people drinking and talking about sex, but imagine they do it in an amusing way). I was quite surprised to discover that it is really quite funny. I even laughed out loud (alone in my empty flat, mind you) a few times, which is quite rare when I'm watching a sitcom — normally they just make me smile, or maybe chuckle if they're good.

Anyhow the main thing that came out of me watching the show was that I realized that I was failing the men of the world. You see, I have a dangerous lack of pornography. There are all those guys out there who a trapped in an enforced pornography free, or pornography rationed, world, due to the wishes of their womenfolk. I'm talking about those men who can not have pornography openly displayed in their abode, those poor men who have to go to convoluted lengths to hide their paltry porn stash. And here I am, living the porn lover's dream, a single guy living alone in my own apartment. It should really be part of my duties, to my fellow man, to have an excessive quantity of pornography, out of sympathy for those who are pornography deprived. Every room in my apartment should be a shrine dedicated to an unhealthy obsession with the unclothed female form. There should be pictures adorning every wall in the flat, wherever one's eyes linger they should linger on a barely clad lady. Instead, I am sad to report, I only possess one solitary pornographic magazine. And what is worse I didn't even purchase the one magazine I own (it was a Christmas present, in case you're interested). So, if you are a man suffering from pornography rationing, I apologize for my lack of due diligence in the pursuit of pornography.

At what point does one start to think that they are drinking too much? Or does one just start to think that they are spending too much money on drink? And which is worse?

I can't remember the last day when I didn't have at least one beer downstairs, and a few people have suggested to me that maybe I am drinking too much. Of course, these are often the same people who chastise me when they go to the cafe and don't find me in it. For example, there is one customer (she's a girl, for what it's worth... and I probably should have described her as a friend and not just a customer of the cafe, but never mind for now) who in the last seven days has, complained I drink too much, complained when I didn't get a beer when she did, told me not to drink when I was ill this weekend and then told me not to listen to her telling me not to drink when I was ill... is it any wonder that I don't comprehend the human (read female) mind.

On the subject of the inherent incomprehensibility of the female mind, why do nearly all the women I know complain about their boyfriends to/at me? And when they do, what exactly am I supposed to say/do/think about it? I mean are they telling me, a male, because they want to see if I'll defend their boyfriend's actions. Or am I supposed to play the sympathetic to their plight "Oh girlfriend that is terrible" (drag queen impersonation optional). Or am I just meant to 'listen', where 'listen' is defined as paying attention to what they say, nodding in the right places, hmming, huhhing, and the occasional, well placed, "really" or similar. Or is it just intended as the ultimate slap in the face to my manliness — my boyfriend cheats on me, beats on me, sacrifices children and kittens to the devil, mugs grandmothers, rapes great-grandmothers after he mugs them... and he's still better than you.

Friday, November 12, 2004

The Power of Nightmares

You might have heard about the BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares, tonight I watched it. Well actually, I watched the three-hour series with an interval of The O.C., which made for an interesting switch of pace and context. Anyhow, if we can drag ourselves away from the tawdry world of teenage romance and high school drama and concentrate on the tawdry world of international terrorism for a while, it was a very interesting few hours. (I should probably mention that my watching this show was the result of some actions of dubious legality, DMCA anyone? Not that I would recommend such actions. For some reason, while I would never download a film, I don't have any problems downloading TV shows that aren't available on DVD. I think of it in the same way I would think of my Mother videoing said show and sending me the tape. Similarly, while I don't think one should download songs from one of the mass file sharing networks, I see no problem in borrowing a friends CD and making a mp3, or m4a, copy of it. I'm not sure that the relevant authorities have quite the same flexible interpretation of what's right and wrong.)

The documentary contrasted the rise of the neo-conservatives and islamists over the last 50 years. The filmmakers traced a very interesting path, starting with a high school dance in America and ending with dirty bombs (which are apparently a crock of shit). I was particularly interested in the portion of the film that concentrated on the Soviet Union. It started by explaining how the neo-conservatives lied about the power and influence of the Soviet Union, and ended by explaining how the Soviet Union crumbled under its own corruption, with very little effect of outside influence. Which reminded me of the conversation I was in at Hallow-e'en, strange little circles the world forms.

Anyhow, to cut a long story short the documentary was very well done. But being as its main point was one that I believed in already, the threat of terrorism is grossly exaggerated, I'm probably a biased observer. The documentary went in to a lot of detail discussing particular, well publicized 'arrests' of terrorist cells in the UK and US and pointed out how the cases fell apart under closer examination. In one such case a home video of a trip to Disneyland was used as evidence that a group of young Arabs were planning a terrorist attack there, and the fact that it looked so much like a home video of a holiday was used as proof that it was something more sinister. Lack of evidence being used as a proof evidence existed was a recurring theme throughout the documentary, with the neo-conservatives applying it successively to the Soviet Union, Bill Clinton and now the terrorists. Also despite all the hoop-la surrounding the Tube attacks in London, the only terrorists who have been prosecuted in Britain since September 11th 2001, under the anti-terror laws, were members of (Northern) Irish groups.

I wrote some of this post in the bar this evening (and some of it I tidied up on Friday morning). This prompted several conversations about nightmares. I recanted my childhood nightmare in which the world changes from it's normal form into one in which everything has the consistency of cooked pasta, this was somehow terrifying. And I was told, by one of the barmaids, about two of her nightmares, a fist fight in which you can not hurt your opponent and trying to run away but being unable to move. If I wanted to psychobabble I'd probably say that her nightmares focused on inadequacy, or helplessness, as they each involve not being able to do something, but I'm not quite sure what my pasta nightmare is supposed to symbolize.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Assorted bits and pieces

You know how it is, there are lots of little things that don't quite merit a post on their own and then they sort of fall through the cracks. So here are some of the results of my Autumn cleaning:

Firstly, my favourite piece of spam from the past couple of weeks, it was sent to me by if any of you English ladies, between 16 and 35, are interested in getting in touch with Tony.

This might seem like an unusual Email.

My name is Tony and I live in Clearwater, FL in the United States.

I am very interested in being introduced to a girl from England for travel experience and possible marriage.

I hope you might know several girls affiliated with University College London who might be interested in meeting an American guy.

I am 36 years old and sell advertising. I make a very good living.

I am open-minded and age is not the most important factor. I am open to talking to ladies between 16 and 35 years of age.

I am 100% serious about this. I would prefer to meet a girl that can come here, possibly on a tourist visa. For the right girl, under the right circumstances I might be willing to go to England.

If you help can me with this I will forever be indebted and ryan james nichol will always have a friend in me.



Sadly, I can't think of any girls affiliated with University College London who might be interested in meeting Tony. I'm sure he's just a poor mis-understood man, or a psychopath, or one of the more convoluted con schemes I've heard about.

Two reasons why, the Football365 feature, Mediawatch is excellent? Firstly it speaks ill of the dead, by reporting the following quote from Tommy Smith about the recently deceased Emlyn Hughes, "We used to call him thrush. Why? Because he was an irritating cunt." (ETA: I discovered today that American's don't call thrush 'thrush', or more specifically they only call it thrush when the infected area is the mouth, typically the mouth of somebody with HIV, when the infected part is a vagina — or a woman's vagina, as the OED likes to put it — it's just called a yeast infection.)

Mediawatch also keeps me up to date with the latest, good and bad, headlines from the papers. As in today's effort from the Sun, 23-Ton Truck Rams Rooney (And Miraculously The Truck Survives), and from earlier this week an animal related pair, Police dog wanted slash but found stash and Cat Shot For Second Time. (Of course none of these come close to the legendary Knicker Nicker Nicked.)

Today I received an email from the Office of International Education, here at Ohio State. They were waffling on about some student run international film festival, the mail included the following paragraph:
Films from the following countries will be shown: 11/13 India; 11/14 Iran; 11/15 Turkey; 11/16 Central Africa; 11/17 Argentina; 11/18 Iran; 11/19 China; 11/21 India. (No film on Saturday, November 20.)

At the time I read it I was going to make some snide remark about how the Office of International Education should really be able to distinguish a region from a country. But then I discovered the Central African Republic, which I had somehow managed to forget, or never know, about. A little further digging and I uncovered a plethora of (well three) other African countries of which I was unaware: Comoros, Guinea-Bissau and, Sao Tome and Principe.

Finally, I'll end with a couple of adverts. Firstly, everyone should really be using the new Firefox browser. It does everything a browser should, and it does it all well. My new favourite thing is the extension, which is a frankly genius idea. For those of you who don't know, and why don't you, is a website which maintains a library of logins for those annoying web pages that require mandatory logins (e.g. newspaper sites, speciality sites, etc.). The extension adds an entry to the right-click menu, which automatically selects a username and password from the BugMeNot website and fills it in. Thus speeding me through the annoying logins and maintaining my privacy.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Friday evening from a bloody cold flat

This week I discovered what the initials 'WWJD?' stand for. On Wednesday I was sat at one of the tables downstairs, as opposed to being sat at the bar itself, and there was a sign on the table. It was a homemade, handwritten sign that said something like, "?MORALS? WAR VIOLENCE GREED REVENGE INTOLERANCE HATRED ?WWJD?" (there were a few other words, but I don't remember what they were). My first thought when I saw the sign was why didn't they use an inverted question mark, like they do in Spanish. My second thought was what the bugger does 'WWJD?' mean. I was thinking along the lines of WMD, and couldn't quite work out what the middle letters could stand for.

Anyhow, being as someone had gone to the time and effort to cut out a piece of card and scrawl upon it, I felt compelled to keep the sign propped up on display. This was the cause of several conversations throughout the evening. During the first, or second, of these I was informed that 'WWJD?' stands for "What Would Jesus Do?". Now, I'm not sure that I have the time, patience or vocabulary to fully discuss the utter inanity of this statement. If pressed, I would say my best guess would be that he would get thoroughly confused by the magic of television, automobiles and automatic rifles and that he wouldn't add much to his 30-odd years. But apparently some people believe that we should stop and think about what the 2000 year old, kitchen table inventor (according to that crazy man, Mr Gibson) would do when we make decisions. Fair enough, if it gets you to stop and think that is probably a bonus. But can't you stop and think: is it a good idea? Will it make the world a better place? How many peoples lives is this going to fuck up? Or anything? By all means follow the man's teachings, if you wish, but do try and make decisions on your own.

In other news, I printed out a copy of the Daily Mirror's front page from Thursday, and taped it in the window of my front door. This is the front door I share with my Bush supporting neighbours. It's now sitting where their Bush/Cheney 04 sticker was, prior to the election (no, I didn't take it down). Hopefully when they see the poster they will take it in the good humour in which it was placed, I did think it was a rather amusing front page. I particularly liked the (soon to be trademarked) vacant look on Bush's face and the "U.S. Election Disaster Pages 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 11" caption.

For the record, I usually dislike the Daily Mirror. There's the usual criticism of all of the UK tabloids: sensationalism, over-simplification and dubious journalistic habits. Then there is also some more specific criticism, former editor Piers Morgan is a fairly noxious individual and of course there were their fake Iraq abuse photos. But I still find Thursday's front page amusing.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Last political post, probably

At noon today I made a small wager. I bet the princely sum of £3.72 on the Democrats to win the US presidential election, if he does I stand to make a profit of £5.06. So the odds at the time were favouring a Republican victory, now six hours later the odds are favouring a Democrat victory. In fact as I type this at 17:51 you can get 2.5 pounds for each pound you wager on a Bush victory. I find this rather encouraging, although twenty minutes ago the odds of a Bush victory were even longer, so who knows.

In case you're interested the betting site I'm referring to is Betfair, although all the major UK bookmakers are favouring a Kerry win at the moment. It's kind of hard to tell what to make of it as the odds are just determined by what people are willing to gamble on. But they probably represent a pretty good guess of what's going to happen, after all there's been close to 8 million pounds traded on this market so far.

Oscar Wilde election (mis-)quotes

To horribly mis-quote Oscar Wilde:
"To lose once, America, may be regarded as misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."

No paraphrasing this time:
"The basis of optimism is sheer terror."

Monday, November 01, 2004

Ryan's first American Halloween

This weekend marked my first Halloween in America — incidentally tomorrow is the first anniversary of my incarceration/freedom/sentence/job/arrival in America (delete as applicable, note applicability changes frequently).

Fortunately, I missed the little kiddies dressing up and knocking on my door asking for stuff part of Halloween, as I was at a John Kerry rally on Thursday evening. The rally was quite an interesting experience. They could have done without their generator breaking down and plunging the 30,000-50,000 strong crowd into an hour long silence before we got to the main event. The main event of the evening was, obviously, Bruce Springsteen playing a couple of songs and introducing The Next President of United States of America. At this point confetti rained down upon the stage and some people in the audience started to leave, well a few people also left during the unplanned intermission. Kerry didn't have anything particularly interesting to say, or at least didn't have anything much to say that I haven't heard a few times before. He, or his scriptwriters, tried to illustrate a few of his points by using local examples, job losses in Ohio and that sort of thing, which gave it a slightly more personal feel. But most of the time it was like watching a repeat of the Kerry half of the debates. Springsteen on the other hand was quite an eloquent speaker, but maybe that was just because he came after the very old sounding John Glenn (but hell he's 80 and has been to space so we can probably forgive him for sounding a little strained and frail). In case you were wondering I didn't have to sign a loyalty oath, I just wasn't allowed to bring any banners or signs in with me, not that I wanted to.

Most of my entertainment for the evening came from a small troupe of banner waving Bush supporters, who congregated just outside the rally enclosure, and their interactions with the Kerry supporters. I was particularly amused by the guy who was dressed up like a character from Aladdin, big red turban and princely robes, holding a sign saying "Make me safer. Vote for Kerry". Now I guess he was trying to be a terrorist, and suggesting that terrorists would be safer under Kerry, but instead he looked like a pantomime character (I used to go to the pantomime every year when I was growing up, my mother still goes every year. For those of you haven't had the, dubious, pleasure, you get men dressed up as old women, women dressed as young men, two men dressed as a donkey or cow, and lots of singing, dancing and bad jokes. Oh and he's behind you.), so I was trying to work out why pantomime characters/actors would be endangered under Bush. It really was quite a ridiculous costume to wear if you were trying to make a serious political statement.

Since Thursday night, every night has been taken up with some amount of Halloween partying and staying up late, although the closest I got to fancy dress was putting on a Hawaiian shirt. The highlights of the parties included: the large number of women who came as angels, or leather clad cops; repeatedly talking about gay marriage (For the record I just don't understand it, and can't conceive of how two guys getting married could possibly effect me or my marriage, if I was married. For that matter I can't understand why they'd want to get married, but telling them they can't seems entirely unfair. But surely there are other issues that people should be paying attention to and not wasting so much time with this smokescreen?); being told that the reason for September 11th, the attack not the date, was McDonalds and rap music (I have no witty comment to make, just "Huh?"); listening to a former resident of communist East Germany arguing with a former marine about how much influence Reagan had on the fall of communism in the Eastern-block (none and all, were the initial positions); listening to the HooDoo Soul Band, they were very very good and 12 hours later my ears are still ringing; being taken for one half of a gay marriage; pretending to be an Alabaman pastor pretending to be an Englishman (long story, the guy I was talking to was both drunk and annoying so I decided to start lying to him, okay not that long a story); not getting home before three o'clock all weekend and just generally enjoying myself.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Political thoughts

Recently I've been unhealthily fascinated by this website, it groups together the latest poll results from across the States into one nice clickable map. It is strangely addictive, to see how things are changing day to day. I'm particularly interested by the way that they take these poll results and try and predict the final result. The latest of these is predicting a victory for John Kerry. Which is odd because the latest poll results, on the main page, indicate that Bush is slightly ahead. In the latest poll Bush is a couple of percentage points ahead in Ohio, whilst on the predicted final result page they have Kerry just winning Ohio, which is the difference between him and Bush winning the whole thing. The difference comes from the fact that undecided voters, as in those who told the pollsters they were undecided, are split two to one in favour of Kerry (not sure why, I guess some poll told them that's the way undecided voters are going to vote). Amazingly some 10% of Ohioans are currently undecided. You've got to wonder what they are waiting for. If they haven't made up their mind yet when will they? Or will they just wake up next Tuesday, drive down to their polling station and flip a coin to decide whether to vote. Then, if the coin so decrees, flip the coin again to choose between the candidates.

They also have a crazy map where they try and do a least squares fit to the poll results to predict what the final result will be based on the trends. Which cannot possibly work (they freely admit that the map shouldn't be taken too seriously), and is predicting a win for Bush. Sitting here watching all the election nonsense as an, interested, observer it's all strangely fascinating. It's a bit like watching an entire country go through a car wreck, in so much as you don't really want to look, but you can't look away. I will be glad when it's all over, I may also be terrified and dismayed, but still I'll be glad.

In related news, it seems that those nice folks over at have blocked anyone outside of the US from visiting the site. Now even if we ignore all those Americans who happen to be overseas, and now can't look at their President's re-election website (they're "Building a safer world, and a more hopeful America" in case you are currently in the disenfranchised portion of the world... now I'm not sure about the world being safer, but certainly most of the Americans I know are terribly hopeful that something is going to happen on November 2nd), surely this is sending some sort of a message to the Rest Of The World. And maybe it's not the sort of message that the leader of the world's only superpower and, lets not forget, of the coalition of the willing, should be sending. But hell I'm just some dirty foreigner, what would I know about international relations.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Melancholy, free beer and freer thoughts

I'm sure that you'll be pleased to hear that I was only moderately drunk last night. In so much as I remember walking home, all 5 or 6 yards, and talking to people, and getting in to bed and all that jazz. One out of two ain't bad, right?

Today started with me finishing Good Omens. It was a very good read. A lot of it was really rather clever, and I like that in a book. However, I can't decide if I see more of myself in Aziraphale or Crowley, and, more to the point, I can't decide if it's a good or bad thing that I can't decide. Actually, there were a lot of characters that I sympathized with, Shadwell and Newt from the male perspective, Wensleydale and Greasy Johnson as well, come to think of it. I think if I had more courage, and was a different age, I'd fall in love with Pepper or Scarlett (War), but I don't, so I won't. The other thing that this book was great for is that reminded me of the sense of wonder in which I used to hold America, "it's got 39 ice cream flavours, at least". I wonder where that sense of wonder has gone? When I was younger, I used to imagine having a big map of America and sticking pins in all the places I wanted to go to. Now I'm not sure if I want to go anywhere. Familiarity breeds contempt, as they say.

I spent most of today walking around, on a truly beautiful autumn day, listening to the blues and feeling melancholic. I'm not sure if the feeling was the result of the music, or the reason for the choice of the music. It may well have just been post-birthday what am I doing with my life sensation. (In case you're wondering I don't know the answer to that question.)

Probably the highlight of today came when Man. Utd. beat Arsenal. As Ruud was preparing to take his penalty (while the score was still nil-nil), I kept having flashbacks to last year, and myself and my brother driving past Stonehenge when Ruud blasted his stoppage time penalty against the crossbar. I was really quite relieved when he scored today. Plus I won twenty or thirty quid from the match. In fact, my weekend gambling would have been much better if I'd only placed a bet on Juan Pablo Montoya when I saw him at 40/1 to win the Brazilian Grand Prix... but I didn't.

In other news, I hope that the Americans have learned their lesson and never name a place Camp Victory again. I mean don't tempt fate, bad things will happen if you do. As the teachers used to say, "It isn't big, it isn't clever and the other children aren't laughing"... except of course they normally were.

In yet more other news I graduated from the beer club this evening. So from this night forth, I get a free beer on Sunday nights. Tonight's free beer tasted particularly nice. I'm told you never forget your first.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Birthday Thoughts

On this day (well looking at the clock, actually on yesterday) twenty seven years ago, in Que Que hospital, I came screaming into the world (at least I assume I was screaming, I have no recollection of the incident, as you can probably imagine). On this anniversary of me putting her through the pain of labour (and once again, I'm guessing here having never been, and never will be, in labour), my mother gave me a book about English Rugby (yea we're world champions) and a little globe jigsaw (it's all magnetic, spherical, silver and cute). These are the two presents that Mumsie gave me back in April, yes April. I opened them whilst I was sat at the bar downstairs, shortly after I had finished struggling to eat an egg and bacon sandwich. Yes I was somewhat (read very) hungover.

The hangover was the result of Liquorfest, a Harrison West revolving party. I woke up this morning in my bed with no idea of how I got there... I suppose the main thing is that I did get there. The party was hosted by some friends of mine from the bar, and they have a quite delightful house, complete with a hidden liquor cabinet and beer tap. As far as I can tell I didn't break anything or make too much mess, so I guess you could say it all turned out nice again. (Incidentally it's not only me who doesn't remember all of the events of Friday night, neither the owner of the bar nor the barmaid, who were both guests at the party, remember how they got home. It's quite impressive that we all did manage to get home, seemingly unscathed.)

Today I went to Cleveland. Cleveland is like Sheffield. (Sorry to all of you who live in Sheffield... or Cleveland). It's not a bad town, but it doesn't really have much going for it. It does have the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame but I only got to see the painted guitar exhibit in front of the museum. I got to see Lake Erie, which was big and wet. However, I didn't get to see the Oldest Stone House. I'm not sure what the qualification for the Oldest Stone House is, it might be in Cleveland or in Ohio or in America or in the World. Despite looking for it I couldn't find it in the fading light of this evening. Never mind though, I'm sure it wasn't a life changing experience.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The mouse in the house... well in the bathroom of the flat

Last night I very nearly urinated all over the floor of my bathroom. No it wasn't anything to do with alcohol, surprisingly enough. Instead it was the result of a furry little house guest, who appears to have taken up residence in my building. There I was standing there in my underwear, in front of the toilet, doing my thing — it's not a pretty sight, don't spend to long thinking about it — when something scurried out from behind the toilet. The little mouse, for it was a mouse doing the scurrying, made a bee-line straight for my right foot. To my enormous credit I did not yelp like a girl (c.f. my mother) at this point, instead I lifted my right leg and performed an elegant pirouette to my left, with only minimal spillage, as the mouse sprinted for the safety of the kitchen.

When the mouse made it to the door and tried to turn left into the kitchen it performed the cutest little cartoon dance. The kitchen has a wooden floor and as the mouse moved from the linoleum of the bathroom to the wood of the kitchen it lost all of its grip. Thus causing its back legs to swing round, much further than its front legs, and its little legs to move into overdrive as it searched for grip. It really looked like the cartoon way that Tom (or Jerry, for that matter) would run around corners. 'Twas very cute.

I suppose I'll have to go and get myself some mousetraps, humane or not humane that is the question. Ho hum.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A tale of two films, one marathon, a big fried breakfast and some other stuff

This weekend showcased the two sides of autumn. On Saturday it was miserable. The rain came down, the wind blew, my ears got cold and my gloves came out for the first time this season (just to clarify, I didn't use the gloves to warm up my ears). On Sunday it was gorgeous. The sun shone, a light breeze fluttered the turning leaves and the world looked like a beautiful, colourful place.

Fortunately, for the runners, the Columbus marathon fell on Sunday rather Saturday. So whilst some people got up bright and early on Sunday morning and started running at 8 am, I woke up around 10:30 and rolled downstairs for an artery clogging, fat ladened, fried breakfast. I must confess I felt slightly guilty sitting at the bar scoffing my food when not more than twenty metres from me people were rounding mile 24 of their marathons.

But enough of me being a lazy, fat bastard. On Saturday I came over all intellectual and reactionary and went to see a documentary, The Corporation. It was very interesting. Obviously it was something of a one-sided film, as most documentaries seem to be, but they did make some token efforts to mention the positive side of corporations. However, most of the time the film concentrated on the litany of offences that corporations have committed, and it is quite some litany. I'd try and list some here, but it'd be easier if you just went and watched the film. Suffice to say that a lot of corporations are doing a lot of naughty things.

There were a few things which I didn't like about/didn't quite agree with the film. One of these things was their history of Fanta (the Coca-Cola drink). They claimed that Fanta was created so that Coke could still turn a profit in Nazi Germany after Coca-Cola had been banned due to it's American/Jewish connections (I read somewhere that it was banned after somebody showed Hitler a Kosher bottle top). The story I'd heard previously, and still believe, was that once Coca-Cola was banned in Germany, the Coke bottlers (who are all independent companies, they buy the syrup from Coke and then make the drink and bottle it) tried to work what the could do to keep making money. The solution they came up with was to make a fruit based fizzy drink, which they called Fanta. After the war Coke went back to its old bottlers and bought the Fanta brand from them to grab a foothold in the German/European market. So not quite a nasty subterfuge to ensure that Nazi money flowed to Coca-Cola, as the documentary implied. Of course I may be wrong and they may be right.

Another problem I had with the film was Michael Moore. He was in the film far too much, for my liking (and I like Michael Moore). I think the reason he featured was to try and give the film the "star power" necessary to get a wide release, so maybe he was a necessary evil. My problem with Mr Moore is that I think that he has been so vilified, as an extremist and self-publicist, that he doesn't add credibility to the film, but instead takes it away. However, he certainly does help generate media interest. I was particularly annoyed that he got the last word in the film, but it's only a small gripe.

To try and recover from Saturday's intellectual endeavours on Sunday I went to see Team America: World Police. In places it was very funny, I'm sorry but puppet sex scenes are just hilarious. In other places it was teeth grindingly telegraphed, and not in a good way. All in all, there were enough funny or clever moments in the film to make it a mostly enjoyable couple of hours. (However, by far and away the best part of watching the film was that I was doing it maybe 100m away from the finish line of the Columbus marathon, while people were still finishing. This in itself was not particularly impressive, and was probably somewhat reprobate-able. What made it an excellent experience was that two of the customers in the movie theater — I only use that phrase to emphasis the American-ness of the upcoming contrast — were Big Fat Americans, you know the type I mean. I'm not joking when I say that these people were more out of breath getting up out of their seats and walking 50 yards out of the cinema, than some of the marathon runners were upon finishing their 26 miles, 385 yards. It was really quite amazing to see the two sides of American fitness in such proximity and sharp contrast... and yes I know which side I'm closer to, after all I was in the cinema with them.)

Friday, October 15, 2004

A post for the sake of making an uninteresting drunken post

My bad! Today they are repeating the "feathered felchers" Daily Show episode, and the quote was actually "flightless felchers". Never let it be said that I am not willing to stand corrected.

Somewhat unsurprisingly I was in the bar this evening. It was the landlord's birthday today (by the way, I use landlord to refer to the owner of the bar... 'cause that's what we call the owners of pubs back in Blighty. It probably stems from some dim dark moment in the past, when the man owning your house also owned the local public house, but I don't really know), nothing particularly interesting happened with regards to this, except my friend Cathy insists that last year he celebrated his birthday on the 13th.

I want to rant about John Kerry and George Bush discussing their faith last night in the debate, but I just can't get excited enough. Instead I'm watching Tough Crowd on Comedy Central, which is hosted by one of the most openly pro-Bush TV personalities (a guy named Colin Quinn).

I really wanted to mention the pretty girl who was knitting in the bar this evening, but being as I am, in certain internet message board parlance, NGA I can't really be bothered to elaborate.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Thursday's post, about Tuesday's debate, finished on the Sunday after Friday's debate, posted early Monday morning

The bulk of this post was written on Thursday evening (its conclusion was postponed due to a political debate I got into with my German colleague, in which I was cast in the role of George Bush's defender — just call me mister D.A.), although this bit and probably a couple of other bits were written on Sunday night.

I should probably point out that I only saw the last 10 minutes of the Cheney/Edwards debate, but have no fear I won't let a lack of first-hand information stop me from commenting on it. The 10 minutes I saw were terribly dull, John Edwards waffled on about his father learning to read and Dick Cheney tried to convince us all that we could die any second from a terrorist attack. (Incidentally the fear-mongering that's going on really does work. A few weeks back my Republican artist neighbour told me that we are currently engaged in the Third World War. Which I thought was a little bit excessive... but what do I know?) Apparently I missed all the fun stuff about Cheney's gay daughter.

One of the things that caused all manner of media fuss in the aftermath of the debate was Cheney's assertion that he'd never met Edwards before that night. Unsurprisingly this turned out to be not entirely true, surely every politician in Washington has run into everyone other one at some point in time, and they'd met a few times before, including at a prayer breakfast (footage of which was liberally splashed across front pages and television screens). Personally I don't care if Cheney lied, or whether it was deliberate. He's a politician. Politicians lie. But I do have a couple of questions. Firstly, what the hell is a prayer breakfast? And secondly, and more importantly, why is nobody but me scared that both of the vice presidential candidates were at a bloody prayer breakfast? I realize they both weren't V.P. candidates at the time, but still a prayer breakfast. Sometimes I feel like the only non-religious crazy (as in the only person who is not a religious crazy, and not the only crazy who is not religious) left in America.

On the subject of religious crazies, I had a chat with Big Greg the other night. It was, um... interesting. (I should point out that he's a lovely guy, maybe not the sharpest tack in the box, but seems like the wouldn't hurt a fly kind of bloke.) A few (paraphrased) highlights of the conversation were:
"the only good thing a Democrat could do, would be shoot himself"; "Democrats are the baby murderers"; "a woman should be at home pleasing her man (in reference to Hillary Clinton)"; "9/11 was all Bill Clinton's fault"; "... (with regards to Muslims) if they were all Christian we wouldn't have these problems with them"; It was all very interesting/scary (delete as applicable).

Since I started writing this on Thursday, we have also had the second presidential debate, which I watched in a packed Victorian's Midnight Cafe on Friday night. Truth be told, I don't remember much about the debate, this might have something (which I saw today can be spelled summat, in certain English dialects — including my own, possibly) to do with the fact I consumed a not insignificant quantity of alcoholic beverages. The only thing I truly remember about the debate was that somebody asked a question about abortion. Now I don't remember what the question was, but I just never cease to be amazed that abortion is an issue in America. Such an important an issue that it is considered one of the twenty, or so, questions that the two men vying to be president are asked to answer.

The most memorable thing about Friday night was chatting to a vehement Bush supporter. She was a friend of a friend, and was, shall we say, a lady whose years were somewhat more advanced than my own. One of the reasons that she preferred Bush was, of course, abortion. She mentioned something about there being an extra 60 million people who could have been contributing to my social security (I didn't want to mention that I would almost certainly never be claiming social, due to my non-American, probably going to fuck off home to Blighty, nature) if it wasn't for abortion. Then she said asked how many of those people could have been geniuses, naturally I countered by enquiring how many of them would have been serial killers (a pointless discussion on both sides, I think you'll agree).

At an earlier stage in the evening, the lady recounted a couple of stories which, she felt, went to the heart of Bush's character and why he was a good man to be President. The first was about some blokey, exactly who the man in question was has been lost in the mists of my mind, who visited our beloved Mr. Bush in the Oval Office. This visit occurred shortly after the man in question's wife had died. Apparently Mr Bush asked what was wrong and then prayed with the man, and let the man cry on his shoulder, dishevelling his suit (this in particular she was terribly impressed with). The second story involved a woman from Columbus (I wanted to write a Columbus woman, but didn't for some reason... well, obviously, after that I did) who's dying of cancer, or some other nasty terminal disease. Apparently, this woman was too sickly to go and see President Bush, when he visited Columbus, so her husband went in her stead. After Bush had given his speech to the collected assembly, wherever and whoever they may have been, the husband approached Mr Bush and asked for his signature, such that he could take it home to his dying wife. Later that evening when the husband returned home, he told his wife that he had the signature of the President of the United States of America for her, and she promptly burst in to tears. When she had recovered her composure she told her husband that the President of the United States of America had just phoned her. During her conversation with Bush, he offered her his condolences, regarding her illness, and said she would be in his prayers.

Even I, something of Kerry supporter, have to admit these are nice stories (although a little heavy on the prayer side), particularly the second one. But taking the time to speak to a dying lady is, to my mind at least, neither a prerequisite nor a particularly useful quality for a president. Sure, I'd like a world leader to be compassionate to individuals, but I'd prefer a leader who looked at the global picture and made the best decisions... for everyone. The former we have presently, I'd like to think, if John Kerry is elected, we'll have the latter. I may be wrong. (Before any crazy Kerry supporters complain that Mr Kerry is also the former, I'm not claiming the Bush is more compassionate than Kerry, I'm just relaying stories that have been told to me. Bush supporters tend to look for a more personal sort of justification, in their dealings with me at least.)

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

On the bus, with John Kerry

I had a cunning plan to not go down to the bar this evening. (To avoid any unnecessary tension, I can reveal that this plan was not successful.) The plan was to go to the cinema instead of the bar. The film of choice was Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry.

The major obstacle to the plan's success was that, for the first time since my move to Columbus, I would have to negotiate the COTA bus system. (Incidentally if you are looking for an object lesson in how not to design a website for a public transport system have a look at COTA's website. They do not even have an overview map of the bus service.) In any normal, civilized city, one's first trip on the bus would not be too daunting. Columbus is not, at least as far as public transportation goes, a normal, civilized city. Whereas in a proper city, each individual bus stop would have a timetable, and possibly a map, in Columbus they do not bother with such niceties (necessities). Instead if you stand at a Columbus bus stop, you are meant to intuit — from the shape of the clouds, or the length of the shadows, or the number of maroon cars, or a watch and a (scoffs) timetable — when, and if, the next bus is coming.

To improve my chances of successful intuition, I forearmed myself with a set of timetables (printed out at work, of course). Despite leaving work a good hour an half before the film's start time, I still managed to turn up twenty minutes late, and with a burnt mouth to boot. The oral injury was the result of trying to eat a, piping hot, pizza in two minutes before I had to leave the house and catch a bus. For the record, I missed the bus anyhow, due to the fact that the number five bus was masquerading as a number ninety-six. After missing this bus, instead of walking 5 minutes and catching the number two bus, I decided to wait 10 minutes and catch the, round-about routed, number seven bus, that wouldn't get me downtown quickly enough to make my connection. Eventually, after an interminable ride on the number seven bus, an unnecessary mile and an half hike across downtown (and one of its slightly shady neighbours) and a short trip on the number two bus, I arrived at the Drexel East. Although I didn't see much of it, it seems like a cool little cinema.

The reason that I wanted to see this film is that I wanted to feel something positive towards Mr. Kerry (and no I don't mean 'feel something' like that). Up till last week, I'd felt a lot of bad feelings towards Mr. Bush (whom, a prior incarnation of myself, would have voted for four years ago, if he'd of had a vote), but no positive feelings towards Mr. Kerry. However, last week, during the debate, I saw a few glimmers of the underlying John Kerry, as opposed to Mr Not-Bush. These few glimmers of John Kerry, the individual, intrigued me. Well they intrigued me enough to spend $5 and go and see the film about his Vietnam days. The film was certainly very interesting. I think you have to admire a guy who comes back from a war, in which close friends of his died, and then openly, in a senate hearing no less, calls the war 'a mistake'. All of this he does by the time he's 27, or in other words my age. Hopefully these budding warm feelings about Kerry will increase in the next month, and maybe they'll spread amongst the rest of the populace.

The return journey was both less dramatic and more traumatic. The lack of drama was due to the bus arriving 5 minutes after I did at the bus stop and dropping me off 5 minutes and one beggar woman — who claimed that her husband had just died of cancer — away from home. The trauma stemmed from the window behind my seat making loud cracking noises every 100 metres. This in itself was not particularly traumatic, but it evoked memories of the Blind Bus Driver of Haverhill. This was a gentleman who drove one of the little "Hill-hoper" buses from Haverhill to Cambridge, and he was blind, or at least drove like it. We are talking about a guy who was wearing sunglasses — in England, for goodness sake — and on no occasion turned his head to the left or right, but kept staring blankly forward. Seemingly the driver made turns based on how many bumps since the last turn. He took great pleasure in brushing the bus passed every bush or tree beside the road, so much so that he broke the indicators and scraped most of the paint off the left-hand side of the bus. It was a white knuckle ride through hickville Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

One quick childish giggle before I leave. On the window behind me was the message: "Please keep all body parts away from the window opening.". And I thought, normally the sign tells you to keep your arms inside, what other body parts have people been sticking out of the window. Well, I don't think I need to elaborate further.

Monday, October 04, 2004

A start at breakfast, finish at tea-time, sort of post

I started this post sat on one of the sofas in the corner of Vic's, listening to Middlesbrough drawing with United, waiting for my breakfast. I finished it sat at home watching NFL highlights and drinking tea (Earl Grey — I had to look up how you spell Grey) from my England Rugby mug.

First the good. Shaun of the Dead is a very funny film. Plus, before all the zombies start running amuck, it made me feel all nostalgic and homesick (it's now been over 11 months since I was in Angleterre, and then it was only for a couple of weeks). Very funny film though. I think I might have to buy the Spaced DVD's, as it's made by the same folks who made the film. Who'd have thought to make the romantic comedy zombie film? Well these guys, obviously.

Lost is a very good TV show, or at least it was a very good pilot. Evangeline Lilly is a very attractive lady, and looked especially good standing in the surf wearing only her underwear. Besides the pretty girls in their underwear factor, it's also a well written, intriguing show filled with interesting characters. I'm really looking forward to Wednesday (8pm Eastern on ABC, in case you're in America and curious).

The Book Loft is a very good bookshop. I spent a good half hour today, sitting down in one of their many little nooks, reading the Lonely Planet guide to London. I know I shouldn't torment myself, but it just called out to me and I had to have a look. I love the fact that a chapter of the book was reserved purely for discussing the merits of different drinking establishments... I miss my Sunday roast lunches (the Yorkshire Grey was my most recent favourite, in case you're interested). Enough of this day dreaming though, back in the Book Loft I bought a couple of books, America (The Book) and Good Omens. I bought the America book because The Daily Show is just that bloody good. Good Omens I bought because it was written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and the real question is why has it taken me this long to get it? When I was trying to pay for these books — well actually the books and a cute little fairy card that I'm going to send to my Grandmother for her 84th birthday — the assistant asked me if I wanted to change my $13 Good Omens copy for a $5 remainder copy, which had a black mark on it's bottom. I did, and was very surprised that the assistant went out of his way to get me to spend less money, I suppose that's the whole service thing they've got going on over here.

In other news (it's getting late and I have to finish this post before I can eat, and drink). I watched Ohio State shoot themselves in the foot last night, it wasn't very impressive. I wonder if there'll be a lot of glum faces around the campus tomorrow. Sticking with American Football, the Falcons are 4-0 if they win the Superbowl (it's quite some way off, and highly unlikely, I know) I win some money, can't quite remember how much. Oh well food calls.