Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Launch Day Take 5

So ANITA has been fully assembled for a while now, we declared flight ready almost 10 days ago and since then we've been waiting for the weather. It's not all that much fun to wait for the weather. It's particularly not fun on the days where the weather is almost good enough and we get out of bed early to catch the bus to Williams Field (it started with the bus leaving at 6:30am for the first launch attempt, then we went to 5:30 and then a couple of tries at 4:30, and now tomorrow's attempt will start with the bus leaving at 3:00am) only for the launch to be scrubbed 6 or 10 hours later. But you have to be the ready and get the payload out to the launch pad, just in case the weather (wind in particular) calms down enough for a launch. With luck tomorrow will be the day we get the thing in the air, but I thought that we were going to launch yesterday before the winds picked up, so who knows.

Still at least the food out at the LDB (Long Duration Balloon) galley is good. Matt the chef's cooking is generally the highlight of each day.

3am, I'm not looking forward to it.

Unless we launch.

Friday, December 01, 2006

End of a hectic month, start of a hectic day

So, it's been pretty busy down here on the Ice. In the last month ANITA has gone from a collection of of wooden crates recently off-loaded from a cargo ship, to a fully constructed balloon payload ready for it's hang test tomorrow (for those who aren't balloonatics — Jim's word, not mine — the hang test is the test we do before flight to ensure that our instrument plays nice with the NASA equipment that controls the balloon and through which all our communication during flight goes. If we pass the test then we can declare flight ready and it should just be a matter of waiting for the wind pattern to settle around the South Pole so that we can launch the balloon.

Hopefully what this means is that most of my work should now be more or less done, and I'll get a chance to relax (some more). So far the only day off I've had so far was for the Ohio State - Michigan football game (which Ohio State won), for which we had to start drinking at 9 am so that we could get into the spirit of the game.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election 2006

It's kind of amusing that at home I don't really have a political affiliation any more (growing up I was told that Labour was evil, the Lib Dems was a wasted vote and the Conservatives were the least bad option, but nowadays I'm not sure that any of them are better or worse than any others), but in America I discover I'm a Democrat — or to be more technically true, I discover I'm definitely not a Republican. So, Hurrah for the house and who knows maybe miracles will happen with the Senate.

The sun never sets...

Yeah, I know it's a cliche but it's still strange to walk out of the bar at 9:30 in the evening (we get up at 6, so we try and keep it early) and it is still dazzling bright outside. In fact, it is always dazzling bright here in Antarctica and the wearing of sunglasses is apparently mandatory — not that I think there are penalties, beyond snow-blindness, for those who don't wear them.

Working here has been pretty fun so far, we work out at one of the airfields — Williams, or Willy, field — and it is out on the Ross Ice Shelf, where on clear days there are breathtaking views of the smoking Mt. Erebus (I'll post a picture when I get round to downloading one from the camera). The 30-45 minute bus ride each way is a little annoying, particularly as the airfield is only 6 miles outside of McMurdo (the town), but I imagine I'll have a similar commute when I'm back in London next year, and it probably won't be as pretty.

So far the weather has held up, and we haven't had much in the way of snow. I'm assured that this is guaranteed to change before the end of the month, and I hope so — it would seem a terrible shame to come to Antarctica and not have at least one decent storm. Having said that I'm sure after one I'd be really bored of them, but still...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The seagull and the sausage, and other tall tales

Like all good stories this one starts with a football match. Unlike most football matches this one started at 8am on a Sunday. Unlike most football matches that I've played in, our team actually won. I know it sounds unbelievable, but it is true. (For reference: The Clawless Marauders, our outdoor seven aside team, managed to concede 70 goals in 6 games — one of which the opposing team didn't turn up for.)

Well okay, so I just lied a little. No it wasn't about winning the football match, it was about the start. The first sentence should have read, "Like all good stories this one starts with a drinking and backgammon gambling session that went until 4am (or 5, if you consider the fact that we put the clocks back an hour at 10:50 when we were feeling sleepy). Of course, if I'd started my first post in months with that it would merely add to my Mother's conviction that I am an alcoholic, gambling addict — and yes, that would be a bad thing. (For the record I ended the backgammon session up a stunning $7)

All things considered I can't think of a better way to start the day you head of towards Antarctica (well New Zealand, really) than an 8am football match after you've had three hours of sleep. Particularly when you win the game; at this point I should probably state that I only played about seven minutes of the game and probably contributed minimally to the result, but this isn't Roy of the Rovers.

Following the football, I had just enough time to have a shower before it was time to head off to work to finishing packing the boxes of scientific stuff that I'm taking down to the ice. Then it was off to the airport, where I'd hoped to be delayed long enough to watch the Atlanta Falcons beat the Cincinnati Bengals (in fact my flight was delayed but only long enough for we to watch Cincy lead the Falcons 17-13 at halftime). In the future I must remember to look up which sporting events are happening on my proposed travel dates, for now I'll just have to be satisfied that the Falcons won (I'm sure that, deep down, they did it for me).

The flight to New Zealand was not as unpleasant as I was expecting, largely due to the fact that I was absolutely knackered and managed to sleep for a while. The leg from Chicago to L.A. was enlivened by the man next to me telling how much he hated all the hypocritical homosexuals in the Republican party, and how China were going to take out Kim Jong-Il before the Olympics in Beijing (remember, you heard it here first if it happens). The only downside of the flight to Auckland is that my personal luggage wasn't on it, in fact it went to Brisbane, collecting all these pretty tags on it's way.

One of the first things I saw when I was a walking down the street in Christchurch, was a seagull swoop down from the rooftops and take a battered sausage out of the hands of a guy as he was eating it. It was very impressive, in fact I had to take a photo of said sausage to immortalise the moment. And just for good measure here is a shot of the strange vase thing next to the cathedral (can you tell I just bought a new camera?)

Friday, July 21, 2006

The day Ryan accidentally purchased clothing

Due to popular demand...

Now I should probably describe my situation and mindset at the time of the shirt buying incident. That morning, it was a Saturday, I'd woken up on a bed that was a little too small for me in Las Vegas. That evening I had a flight to catch from LA to London so that I could be around for UCL's Rolling Grant review. Now I had no real idea what a Rolling Grant review consisted — and to be honest I'm still not much the wiser — and I had no idea if I was supposed to present anything, or dress up, or anything. Suffice to say I was I was in a state of some uncertainty.

The one thing that I was certain of was that I probably shouldn't turn up at the UCL wearing the same jeans that I had slept in on the flight over from LA. This was the reason I decided to go shopping. Now for those of you who know me, and for those who don't but have seen the photo on my work web site, it is probably evident that I am not a dedicated follow of fashion. I make this point to provide an explanation for why I thought it would be a good idea to go to the shops with Kim and her friend Mali, as between the two of the I might have been able to garner some semi useful advice on the clothing front. It turns out that this was my great mistake.

In retrospect, at the point in the shopping trip where we had been to two stores and had yet to find a pair of trousers that fit me I should have just given up. Further, when Kim resorted to calling her sister to proffer advice I should of stopped listening to her (her sister's advice was wear a tie and a green shirt, in case you were curious). I did neither of these. Instead we drove across LA and went to the Macy Men's store in the Beverly Center or Hollywood Mall or some other similarly named awful place. Again, this can probably be viewed as a mistake.

Still I persevered on my quest to obtain a clean pair of trousers (although by now I was weary and hated the world for making my a clothing pariah) to wear in London. I searched the store high and low (well just low really as it was all on the ground floor), but couldn't find any trousers that fit me (Bastards!), so instead I decided to turn my attention to getting a shirt instead, figuring I would just buy some clean trousers when I got to London. After two more laps of the store we (well Kim really) managed to locate a couple of shirts that were not too hideous. So, sensing at least a partial victory, I went up to the counter and handed the man the shirts and my credit card. He handed me back a little slip of paper asking me for my signature, as I signed I vaguely noticed that the total for my two shirts was $300. It took a little while to sink in. I think I was back in the car and driving to the airport that I realised I'd just bought a $200 shirt.

I still feel somewhat cheated, although when I was wearing the shirt I received more compliments about my clothing than at any other time I remember (being as I remember exactly zero beforehand, well zero that weren't about my offensive t-shirts).

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Not dead, just feel like it

Yeah, I know long time no post. I bet you thought I'd gone crazy from too many night shifts and killed all my colleagues with a some fishing line, or something. I didn't though. Honest. They are all as alive and well as they ever are.

So, I'm back in Columbus after what seems like nine and half weeks — largely because it was nine and half weeks — and it is good to be back. Who'd think you could miss Central Ohio (miss as in long, not miss as in omit, that is)? Well apparently you can, but I'm sure I'll get over it.

Anyhow is my quick nine and half week recap of myself and Kim's cross-country (and cross-continents in my case) trip in shortened form.

Day 1: leave Columbus... yawn... drive through Indiana... yawn... drive through Illinois... more yawn... spend the night in Iowa... yawn, Zzzz.
Day 2: try to find something interesting in Iowa — see Amana colonies, covered bridges, Des Moines and generally fail — dine in Lincoln, Nebraska (think Nebraska much better than Iowa as drive at night to Grand Island).
Day 3: hate Nebraska, drive fast to make up for lost time, have plane to catch on Saturday in LA, still hate Nebraska, stop in Ogallala — it's very scary — eat lunch in Sterling, Colorado, the restaurant is called T J Bummers, no that really is the name, see (notice the heart as an apostrophe), drive through Colorado, the mountain part is very pretty, drive into Utah, stop at Green River, the restaurant has no alcohol, but the hotel did have wireless.
Day 4, national parks day, drive through Capitol Reef National Park, across Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, visit Bryce Canyon National Park, try to see waterfalls in Zion National Park (see some water falling but not really a waterfall), drive to Las Vegas thinking Utah's very, very pretty.
Day 5, drive to Los Angeles, buy a $200 shirt by accident, drive to airport, discover I've been offered a Royal Society University Research Fellowship, fly to London.
Day 6, arrive in London, go to Grandmothers (no wolves), read mail, go to sleep, finally.
Day 7, go in to UCL, eat a tuna sandwich, send email to friends about beer, get drunk, get more drunk, sleep in Finsbury Park (in a flat near Finsbury Park that is)
Day 8, go in to UCL, walk to Paddington, fly to Los Angeles, drive to Tustin, eat at Outback, sleep in our three bedroom town house in Tustin (it's very nice but somewhat lacking in furniture).
Weeks 2-5: go to work at UCI, eat food, drink alcohol, go to bed.
In between Day 1: drive to LA have Thai food, see Josh Ritter concert go to sleep around 1:30am.
In between Day 2: wake up at 5am, watch England beat Paraguay in Hollywood Billiards, the English fans are almost as annoying as the American commentators they are complaining about, drive up the PCH to San Luis Obispo, drive inland to Sequoia National Park, see the worlds largest tree (peh, it's a tree), see a bear (wahoo, it's a bear!), drive to Fresno, Fresno is shit.
In between Day 3: drive across nowhere California to Monterrey, go to Cannery Row and Aquarium, drive to Stanford Linear Accelerator, sleep, sleep, sleep.
Weeks 6-7: Work all day getting ready for beam
Week 8: Work all night on the bloody grave shift.
Week 9: Work all day on hang test and then packing.
Homeward Day 1: Get up early watch England lose to Portugal, on penalties, again. Drive to touristy trashy part of San Francisco, visit Muir Woods with the rest of the world, drive up PCH some more, 'tis very pretty, spend the night in Utica.
Homeward Day 2: Get up late, don't drive through the drive through tree, drive to Oregon, sleep.
Homeward Day 3: Get up early for phone conference, go to Crater Lake (pretty), go to Bend (hippy town), almost run out of gas in high Oregon desert (had to turn off the air conditioning, drive less than 80, and put 13.2 gallons into a 12 gallon tank), drive to Idaho, bit falls off car, unimportant bit, so we drive to Boise.
Homeward Day 4 (Fourth of July): Get up late, still tired, drive to Jackson Hole, some prettiness in Idaho, watch fireworks, stay in scary touristy town.
Homeward Day 5: Go to Grand Teton National Park, finally see a proper waterfall (Hidden Falls), go to Yellowstone National Park, see Old Faithful and other bubbling hot pits, see enormous herd of Buffalo, drive East out of park, don't realise there is a mountain between Cody and Sheridan, know I do.
Homeward Day 6: Drive past Devils Tower, visit Deadwood (the town that the best show on television is set in), pay $20 unintentional to see Crazy Horse monument, also drive by Mount Rushmore, stop at Wall Drug (well you have to, don't you), visit The Badlands National Park, spend the night in South Dakota.
Homeward Day 7: Drive east, through South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, stop for dinner in Chicago, get stuck in Chicago traffic, who's stupid idea was this, oh that's right it was mine, drive in to Indiana, give up and stop for the night. We'd have made it all the way home if it wasn't for that stupid dinner idea.
Homeward Day 8: Drive to Columbus, watch Germany beat Portugal, go camping (cause I'm stupid), sleep, sleep, sleep.

It was fun a couple all in all, but I'm still pretty tired. I think the only excitement I've had since getting back were the two messages from a TV producer and what the hygienist said at the dentists. They went something like this:
Hello Dr Ryan, I'm so-and-so and I read about you in Golf Digest, I'm starting a golf TV reality show and wanted to know if you'd be interested in taking part, please call me on ***-***-****.
Hello, it's so-and-so again, I had the wrong doctor, please disregard my last message, sorry about that.
(mid way through the cleaning the hygienist picked up a dental tool and said)
I have no idea what this tool is for.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Five o'clock in the morning

So tonight marks the fourth (I think) night for which I've been in charge of the night shift here at SLAC — where the ANITA payload is currently dangling from a crane and recording pulse after pulse of Askaryan radio Cherenkov radiation emanating from a ten ton block of ice in the beam line. For some reason, even though I am getting something close to my normal (recent) quantity of sleep, when I'm working nights I find it much harder to maintain a coherent thought. Probably because must of the time all I can think about is curling up in a ball and going to sleep. Ah, sleep how much I miss you.

Despite the early kickoffs here in California, I have at least managed to watch two of the three England games so far this World Cup, having missed the Trinidad and Tobago game due to East coast West coast confusion. They don't look terribly impressive, do they. But having said that they did win their group, and you have to fancy them against Ecuador on Monday.

Only two and half more hours to go until the shift ends. Two and a half achingly long hours. Did I mention how much I hate the night shift? More than a little.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

In which the author misses a wedding in Bismarck, a bachelor party in Vegas and much sleep

Yes, it's that time of year again... it's ANITA integration time! Wherein a large number of physicists, engineers and technicians group together in a large room and try to figure out how we put all our toys together and make them work. What fun!

So, here I am at nine O'Clock on Tuesday evening bravely battling against the evil forces of malignant disks and misanthropic IDE buses (trust me you don't want to know).

This weekend I had two invitations that I ended up being unable to attend due to work commitments. I could have been celebrating the nuptials of Andy and Amy in Bismarck, North Dakota, or commiserating the emasculation of Jason in Las Vegas. I could have been, but I wasn't, instead I was stuck in tooth and nail fight between firmware and software. And neither was fighting particularly clean. Still, at least I got to eat genuine Puerto Rican at Jason's (from Hawaii) leaving party after work on Saturday.

Anyhow between the work and drinking and the driving across America and the flying to London for a tuna sandwich and the work, I have not been getting my usual allotment of beauty sleep recently. Which as you can probably imagine is devastating. Still who knows maybe Rooney's foot will miraculously heal and all will be well with the world. Maybe.

Oh, in other news I found out I had a job at the LA airport (I was at the airport when I found out I had the job, not that the job is at the airport) and I found out we're definitely going to Antarctica this year (assuming that everything starts working sometime soon). So it's not all doom and gloom and insomnia.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Tales from Utah

Yeah, that's right I'm in Utah. I know it's hard to believe but it's the truth. Of all the States I thought I'd be spending a night in, Utah wasn't very high on the list. Can you believe I even suffered the indignity of eating a steak dinner without alcohol at the restaurant this evening.

Actually, to be honest with the exception of the no alcohol thing Utah isn't all that bad. For a start there is the 75 MPH speed limit which is a whole lot nicer than Ohio's measly 65, then there is the gorgeous vistas, again way better than Ohio. Tomorrow should even bring two national parks and hopefully a lot more prettiness. With luck I'll be able to avoid the crazy religious aspects of the state and escape to the relative normality of Las Vegas unscathed and unconverted.

On the way to Utah we've been through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado. Obviously, Colorado is clearly the prettiest of those states, what with the great big mountains and cliffs and rivers and everything. But, I am surprised to say that my second favourite state on the list would probably have to be Iowa. Now don't get me wrong I'm not going to move there, but it wasn't as awful as I thought it was going to be. I even bought a bottle of rhubarb wine (it seemed like a good idea at the time) and walked across one of the bridges of Madison county (ditto). But Iowa had lots of pretty rolling hills whereas all the other states were pretty much flat as the proverbial pancake. On the downside Des Moines is just about the last place on Earth I'd ever want to live, even Lincoln Nebraska was a whole lot better.

Only Las Vegas tomorrow, Los Angeles on Saturday and London on Sunday to go. Should be fun.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Featuring a chest of drawers and a pineapple

On Saturday night I went to a leaving party, to be exact I went to Matthias and Sabine's leaving party. They are leaving lovely Columbus, Ohio, and returning to Germany. All of which means that my office is busier than ever, my arms have hurt all week and I have a pineapple. None of which I were expecting.

The office came as particularly surprising as I was expecting things to become quieter after Matthias, my former office-mate, went back to the mother country. However, I somewhat underestimated the enthusiasm for other members of the group to be in the office. Not that it is a bad thing necessarily, just a little surprising. My best guess is that when there were two of us working in here people assumed that one of us might be working hard and tried not to come by too often. Now that it is just poor, little old me I guess the assume I'm never working and come by at will.

The arms and the pineapple were the result of a raffle, some stupidity (mine, of course) and a hilarious hour and half's struggle in the rain. In the raffle, which was a raffling of the departing couples remaining possessions (all for charity, of course), I won a chest of drawers. Because by the time I left their house a fair bit of alcohol had been consumed, it seemed like a good idea for myself and Brit to attempt to carry the chest of drawers home. Now just to make it more of a challenge we loaded the drawers with a case of beer, a bottle of whiskey, a pair of prescription sunglasses, a bag of tortilla chips, an old IBM laptop and the aforementioned pineapple. A mile is actually a fairly long way to carry a chest of drawers in the rain. It takes a lot longer when every hundred yards you (meaning me) start laughing and almost drop the chest of drawers — on one occasion almost became actually and the IBM laptop met its maker, along with the back left foot of the drawers. Still eventually despite the wind and the rain and the laughter, we made it home. And now I have a chest of drawers, so it all turned out nice again.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Work, work, work and travel and a bit of house hunting and some other stuff

Regular readers (both of you) will probably have noticed the scarcity of posts in the recent couple of weeks. As you may be able to guess, this is largely due to the fact that for ANITA (the experiment I work on) it is getting perilously to the time when the brown smelly stuff gets up close and personal with rotary air mover. But I guess that's why the pay me the small, to medium sized, bucks.

At the moment the focus of our efforts is about to shift from Columbus (home, sweet home) and Hawaii (home to flesh eating diseases) to California. In particular to UC Irvine and the to Stanford (the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, SLAC, to be precise). Now being as we have to be out in California for an ill determined length of time, of order 6-8 weeks, myself and Kim decided it would be best to drive out there, in her car. That way we have access to a car when we are out in California and I get to see a bit more of the countryside (hopefully avoiding Kansas, this time — which reminds me I never got round to telling that story did I?). To be honest the drive to California is one of things I'm most looking forward to at the moment, as it will be a few days of relative peace and quiet.

One of things that I'm less looking forward to is the fact that the first thing I'm going to do when I arrive the Los Angeles, and in fact the reason we'll be arriving in LA and not Irvine, will be to jump on a plane and fly to London. Yep that's right I'm going to drive two thousand odd miles west on to fly five thousand odd miles east. I'm sure it will be fantastic. What's even better is that a mere 48 hours after I arrive in London, I'm going to be getting on a plane at Heathrow and flying back out to LA. I think I may have taken leave of my senses (or possibly that should be sense in the singular, as the others have probably already departed). Still I'll get a chance to pick up my birthday, and maybe Christmas, presents from Mumsie so I'm sure it's all worth it.

Too much of today was spent trying to figure out exactly where we, Kim and I, are going to stay when we are out in California. The base option is to spend five weeks in the Travelodge. Now it's not that I have anything against the Travelodge, it's just that I think spending five weeks there would destroy what little soul I have left. To try and find something better, maybe even something with a cooker, we've been looking at Craig's List and it's Google powered associate Housing Maps. The site is very nice showing you where all the housing adds are located, it's just a shame that most places want you to stay longer or be female or pay ridiculous amounts of money.

On the subject of ridiculous amounts of money, I've just noticed that Housing Maps, or should that be Craig's List, has a London. Amusingly the number breakdown on the price filter doesn't change, only the currency sign changes. What makes this more amusing is that in London all the rental prices are per week instead of per month. And by amusing I do mean terrifying. It's also somewhat amusing that on the London site instead of actual addresses places are listed as Mayfair or Kennington Station or, best of all, London.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The back in Ohio post

So, I'm back. And the Ohio bar owners association is rejoicing once more. Within a mere few hours of my arrival back in Columbus I was in a licensed premise and doing my bit for the oft beleagured alcohol industry. In fact I was in a bar filled with girls in costumes on roller skates, which I have to confess was not where I thought I would be as I sat looking out of the window of the plane a few hours earlier. The reason for the roller skating girls was, of course, beacuse it was the team debut of the Ohio Roller Girls. I am kind of tempted to attend the opening match on St. Georges day. But I think most of them could probably beat me up, so I'm a little hesitant.

The roller girls were just the starter though, the main course was a healthy helping of Tree of Snakes at St. James Tavern. And ever since Saturday night the chorus of Serious Knife Fight has been bouncing around my head. Well I should probably say every since Monday, as most of Sunday I was lying in bed with my brain bouncing around my head. And they said jetlag and excessive drinking don't mix, the fools.

I know I'm deep in long time no post land, but I'm afraid that's it for this post.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Why I need a wife and other musings from an island paradise

Well to be honest I don't really need wife, what I need is someone to save me from myself and I'm just not sure who would be willing to other than a wife. Now if I had bucket loads of cash, I could probably hire a personal assistant to do the job, but I don't have bucket loads of cash — although I do have a poster roll (you know one of those cardboard tubes that poster's come in) that is almost full of pennies, nickels and dimes — so I'm left with the wife theory. I say theory because I imagine what I think a wife does and what a wife actually does are probably very different, and I wasn't even thinking sexually.

I'm in Hawaii at the moment, and I realise I won't get any sympathy from you when I say it is not nearly as much fun as it sounds. And when I say that I'm not talking about the fact that they've just had 40-odd straight days of rain, or the fact that a pipe burst and several million tonnes (or maybe tons, what difference does it make when we're talking about millions of them) of raw sewage was dumped in the ocean near Waikiki beach. No, instead I'm talking about the fact that I'm here for work, case in point it is seven o'clock on Sunday evening and I'm in the lab — admittedly I'm in the lab typing this and not actually working at the moment, but I was ten minutes ago. I feel it is going to be something of a long week.

Although work isn't all bad, and I don't want to give the impression that it is. For instance, yesterday I got to see a truly great comedy moment. One of my colleagues plugged a cable between our battery box (can you guess what's inside) and one of our other boxes. When he did this great plumes of smoke were emitted from each connection. It was very impressive! It's not very often that you get to see great plumes of unintentional smoke in the physics lab. The truly funny thing about the story is if you had asked around the collaboration who would be the guy most likely to cause plumes from our experiment, most people would have picked the gentleman involved yesterday. The even funnier thing is though who would have been the popular choice, yesterday's smoke was not entirely his fault. It made me laugh anyway, it might lose something in translation.

Okay, so I appear to have got distracted away from my initial point, which is basically that I shouldn't really be left in charge of myself. I think this trip illustrates the point very well.

Exhibit A: my plane tickets. Now I spent a long time trying to decide which days to fly and which airlines and all that. In the end I flew out last Wednesday on American West (now US Airways), there was nothing particularly unpleasant (beyond the usual 10 hours on a plane amount of unpleasantness) about the flights themselves it was more the timing of them. You see, I picked the cheapest ticket I could find, a ticket which had me arriving at half past midnight. What I didn't realise when I booked the ticket was that arriving so late the car rental places would be shut and I'd have to spend the money I saved on a cheaper ticket on an expensive airport hotel room. Not very well thought through, although I did at least realise I would have a problem before I flew and wasn't taken by surprise upon landing.

Exhibit B: my hotels. Now I say hotels because last night I stayed in my third different hotel this trip. All the more impressive as I've only been here four nights. The first change was somewhat understandable as it was the change from the airport hotel to one nearer the UH campus. The second change was somewhat less understandable as it was to save $7 a night for the remaining 6 nights of my stay here. It is particularly un-understanable as it's not even my money and $42 dollars extra on trip that's costing over $1000 is probably not worth the struggle. Which brings me to...

Exhibit C: car parking. On Thursday night it rained. Now I don't just mean a-little-bit-of-moisture-was-falling-from-the-sky rain. No, I mean the-world-was-ending-and-God-was-punishing-until-the-last-second rain. In this weather I had to check in to hotel number two. A sensible man would have pulled up in front of the hotel, checked in and then paid to use the hotels parking, thus never having to venture out in the inclement weather, after all parking is only about $10 a night and at the end of the day it isn't his money. I chose a slight course of action. I drove around Waikiki looking for on-street parking. This didn't go to well, in part because I could barely see the street and in part because there just wasn't any parking. So I ventured a little further afield, got lost parked in a spot near a big building (on the grounds that I thought I might be back near Waikiki) and then wandered around in the rain for ten or fifteen minutes trying to work out where in the blazes I was. Eventually I did manage to find some on-street parking that was only seven or eight, rain soaked, blocks from my hotel.

Exhibit D: the morning after. On Friday morning I woke up at around 6:30 in the morning. Feeling a little bit tired, and a little bit hungover. It was then that I began to realise I had parked by a parking meter that would become active (I now have an image of a parking meter running up and down the side of the street, but maybe that's just in my head) at 7:00. Did I: a) say fuck it go back to sleep; b) get up and go check whether there was a meter and either move the car or put money in it; or c) lie in bed wondering what to do until ten past seven then get up have a hasty shower, before hurrying to move the car and go to work, only to discover that there wasn't a bloody parking meter (or maybe it was running up and down the street).

Exhibit E: last night's dinner. Last night it was getting late and I was a little hungry. I wasn't very hungry as I'd had both breakfast and lunch, so I just wanted something light. I decided to go and have some sushi. Apparently (in my head) the cute little I Love Sushi restaurant two blocks from my hotel wasn't up to scratch so I walked a few more blocks to a 'antique Japanese' restaurant I'd been to before. When I sat down at the bar area, there were only a couple of other customers in the restaurant. For some reason this put me off ordering sushi, I think my logic was they might have put it away or it might be going 'stale' or I have no fucking idea it was late and I was stupid. Anyhow, I ended up ordering something could neither pronounce or spell and was basically a big greasy Japanese omelet with pork and cabbage and cheese topped with mayonnaise. So not entirely the light sushi meal I was aiming for. At least they had beer.

Now my theory is if I was with someone, and I just mean if somebody was physically present with me, I wouldn't have quite so many of these strange ideas that result in me wandering around lost in the rain or eating mayonnaise covered omelets. Of course, I'm probably wrong on that count.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

In retrospect clicking on this link at work was probably a mistake

From the popbitch issue that informed me of what a polecat is (it's a nocturnal weasel not a cat, and a prairie dog's a rodent) I came across the following.
Find out what happens to breasts when girls run:

An unusual Saturday post

Unusual in the sense of there aren't very many Saturday posts, as opposed to this a particularly unusual post of itself.

Now I must admit that I have on occasions walked down the train tracks. I've never really considered this to be a dangerous occupation. Of course I've never been trying to write a text message as I walked down the tracks, but still if I did I would still feel fairly safe. Of course I'm not deaf, and by that I mean I'm not the (no longer) reigning Miss Deaf Texas. (This only got as far as a chortle, although I did laugh when a friend asked so who is Miss Deaf Texas now — a question that needs answering, I think you'll agree.)

This is not bias it's very simple: protesting a war that started three years ago and is now incredibly unpopular is just not very interesting so that's why the BBC didn't report it. It's not like the war is still going on, what is happening now is that we've stirred up all sorts of shit in Iraq and have to hang around until at least some of it dies down. Of course, whether the troops continuing presence is increasing the friction or calming the nerves is a whole 'nother matter. One which deserves serious thought as opposed to knee jerk reactions, so not much hope on that front then.

Maybe I'll leave the office and go and watch Inside Man this afternoon.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Reason number 713 why the author is going to hell

This story made me laugh. And not just smile or chortle but actually laugh out loud a couple of times. I found it particularly amusing that the TV show was called A Challenge to the Heart.

Like I said I'm a bad person and I'm going to be toasty for eternity.

In other news, I saw V for Vendetta this weekend. On the plus side Natalie Portman's attempt at an English accent was marginally less irritating than I thought it was going to be. Actually I thought the film had a lot of plus sides, of course I haven't read Alan Moore's version yet so maybe after I do I'll think less of the film. It was kind of fun though, as long as one didn't go in expecting a really frantic action packed film or something terribly deep and meaningful I think they'd generally enjoy it. Of course anybody who goes to see Hollywood films expecting them to be terribly deep and meaningful is going to come away disappointed a lot of times.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The "Are you married?" post

In the morning I wake up, have a shower, drink some orange juice — or grapefruit, sometimes — and then start my stroll to work. There are days however when for one reason, or another, there is no juice in the house and I have to start the walk un-juiced. Yesterday was one such day.

On such occasions I usually stop in at the United Dairy Farmers on High Street (the one at 12th, not the one at 1st — that one is my PBR UDF, not my juice UDF) and pick up a juice based drink. Yesterday I managed to select my juice beverage from the refrigerator and was at the counter, or till if you prefer, trying to purchase the item. Before I continue, I should probably point out that at this point in the day I'm generally about 70-80% asleep. Anyhow, the girl behind the counter noticed I had an accent and asked me where I was from, the conversation went something like this:
"Where in England?"
"London! I have some friends Essex..."
"London? Are you married?", shouts a girl on the other side of store restocking some shelves.
"Yeah, if I was still pretending I liked boys and not girls I'd hit on you too" says the counter girl.
"Right" says Ryan, and walks, read shambles, out of shop more than a little confused and befuddled.

As was pointed out to me last night, the correct response would have been to say "No" to the marriage girl and then turn back and say "Well we can try change that" to the counter girl.

Maybe next time. But somehow I doubt it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

With a smattering of sex, smut and innuendo

Actually this post doesn't really contain any of that, I just thought it would be amusing to write it and then have people's hopes and dreams crushed, under a giant stone. Well okay, I didn't really think that I just thought it would be amusing to write it and ...

You remember that Brit went to drunk camp last weekend, well this week he got to go and meet with his probation officer. What fun! Because he had high alcohol content in his breath test he now has to go for 'Alcohol Assessment', which entails going and speaking to some sort of analyst who decides whether you need to come back for a 14-16 week once a week course of therapy. This is therapy that if recommended is mandatory if you're not to violate the conditions of your probation and spend 57 days in jail. It is something of a scary system when you go and speak to someone for a couple of hours and then that person decides whether or not you need to come back for the full 16 week course, which is payable by you to them. What's more interesting is that you have the option to either pay $75 for the 2-hour assessment or pay nothing (depending on which of the state approved places you choose). So is it better to pay the money because the free place is more likely to recommend you so that they make some money off you? Or is it better to not pay the $75 as if you do they'll think you're willing to pay 16 more times? Umm.. I honestly don't know.

Ryan's quick film fill in (in the order which I saw them).
Firewall = Pile of old tosh. Didn't choose it and didn't pay for the tickets so can't really complain though.
Good Night, and Good Luck = Surprisingly good. I was initially put off by the Clooney factor, but it turns out to be a smart, compact little film about the McCarthy era and the power of the press. I do feel a little dirty liking a movie that George Clooney co-wrote and directed though.
Cache = Odd. Good. But odd. But good.
Night Watch = Not quite Russian enough, but quite enjoyable. And by not quite Russian enough I mean it looked a little too much like a Hollywood movie. The subtitles were fantastic though, eg. when someone was swimming in the pool with a nose bleed the red subtitles washed away as though they were written in blood in a pool.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Drinking and God
This weekend was Brit's three day getaway to the drunk class (yes, this was for his bicycle DUI). As I'd borrowed his car for the weekend I thought it only appropriate that when I picked up I brought him something. So I decided on a bottle of beer (naturally) and a copy of this book, Al-Anons Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions — which I found quite by accident whilst browsing through a used book store in Yellow Springs. I was very pleased with myself.

It was only when we read the twelve steps last night that I realised that Alcoholics Anonymous (and their strange offshoot Al-Anon) were a bunch of crazy religious folks. Yeah, I know sometimes I'm pretty unobservant. I thought they were just trying to help people who had drinking problems. Now I'd heard of the 12 Steps, but I had no idea what they were. That is until yesterday. (AA Lousiana has them up on this site.)

They start of pedestrian enough by getting you to admit you are powerless over alcohol, but from step 2, Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity., I started getting scared. Step 3 had me terrified with, Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him., I'm really not sure what the as we understood him part is about. After that it peters off into religiosity before steps 8 and 9: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. and Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.. Which sounds like one part rational and one part Isaac Asimov.

Ho hum, you learn a new thing every day I suppose.

Walking down the train tracks
Which is always fun. At least it's always fun if you've been properly indulging in activities that would make the AA people frown.

Jewish Propaganda
I had the misfortune to see On Wings of Eagles last night. It is one of those horribly pervasive (although thankfully not persuasive) infomercials that American TV (and increasingly British TV I imagine) is rife with. This one was paid for by an organisation called "International Fellowship of Christians and Jews" and was encouraging the audience to donate $350 to return a Jew to Israel (their words not mine). You can even donate on-line. The show itself was a mixture of old decrepit people looking miserable in the former Soviet Union, essentially racist comments about the Arabs (in particular how they are breeding too much), happy faces of contented Jewish folks in Israel and, of course, a liberal splash of biblical quotes interpreted as proof that God wanted Israel for the Jewish people and them alone. Suffice to say at one point in the show it featured Pat Robertson, a man for whom my contempt knows no bounds, waffling on about something or other. I don't know what he actually said as I was screaming abuse at the TV by that point. To cut a long story short the TV show part baffled and part terrified me, reminding me that that whole freedom of speech thing is, as always, a two-edged sword.

Ashley Cole
So there you are, one of those multi-millionaire footballers that the papers are so obsessed about and the News of the World suggests that maybe you like other boys, do you a) Sue them or b) Have a laugh at the story and light another Cuban cigar using a fifty pound note, just cause you can. Obviously if you're Ashley Cole the answer is a) and you're a twat. In fact you're so much of a twat that you get upset and think that Google, the company who said no to the American government when it wanted records, need to tell you why they link the word gay to Ashley Cole. Like I said Ashley Cole you're a twat and what's more with all this fuss I reckon you're probably gay as well. Which would all be kind of amusing if it weren't for the fact that Britain's only openly gay footballer (I think), Justin Fashanu, ended up committing suicide. Poor bastard. You're still a twat though Ashley.

Me not posting
Well, at least up until now it was.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

On second thoughts give me a £80 fine any day if you let me get away from people like this

Columbus culture?

I have no comment. Really I don't.

I'd better start saving today

Did you hear the one about Kurt? Apparently Kurt was walking through a park in Kent and stopped to talk to some of his friends. The conversation goes something like this (words courtesy of The Friday Thing)
"Hello mate." said Kurt.
"Hello mate. What have you been up to, mate?"
"Fuck all, mate."
At which point a police officer who overheard the conversation gave him an £80 on the spot fine.

This is clearly insane behaviour on the part of the police. I mean really, they should have better things to do with their time than issue fines for people talking in the park. Now if he'd have said, "Fuck you fucking cunt I'm going to fucking kill you", then I could see that as anti-social behaviour. But "Fuck all, mate." that's what passes for pleasant conversation in my world.

Apparently I live in a different world to councillor Julie Rook of Dover who said, "Swearing and abusive behaviour certainly is not normal behaviour and I feel it should never be used in a public place." Well, my advice is to get the fuck over it Julie and try living in my world for a change.

Fuck is a word. No more, no less. Like Tuesday or orthogonal or testicle. If it is in the dictionary, and hell even if it isn't, I should be allowed to say it. Swearing is not anti-social behaviour. Swearing at somebody possibly is anti-social behaviour, but then it sort of depends on context doesn't it. Many times I tell my friends that they are cunts, this isn't me being anti-social it's me being amusing (to me and my friends at least) and, in fact, social. Yes that's right social, as in Marked or characterised by mutual intercourse, friendliness, or geniality; enjoyed, taken, spent, etc., in company with others, esp. with those of a similar class or kindred interests. or Inclined or disposed to friendly intercourse or converse; sociable..

Simple really. Much like Julie Rook and the stupid politicians who pushed through the current Asbo legislation without stopping to think. It's amazing what happens when brain is engaged before writing a new law. And, sadly, it's amazing how rarely that seems to happen these days.

Fuck 'em all I say. When I'm Prime Minister... (well we can all dream can't we?)

On the subject of stupidity, why has Ken Livingstone been suspended for insulting an Evening Standard journalist? I'm not much of fan of Red Ken, as I generally think that he's a slimy, shameless self-promoter, but come on we're talking about an Evening Standard journalist. They're the kind of people, along with their insane colleagues from the Daily Mail, who should be mocked on a daily basis. After all they are just hate-peddlers who are piece by piece destroying the fabric of society, etc, etc.

Even ignoring the fact that Oliver Finegold was such a deserving target, how is likening somebody to a concentration camp guard anti-Semitic? It's not anti-Semitic it's anti-Olivier, which seems entirely reasonable to me. Now London doesn't have it's Mayor for a month, I imagine it'll survive though.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Not dead yet...

...just in case you were worried I thought I'd get that out the way to start with.

Today I'm even feeling a little better. Which is good. I could actually open both of my eyes this morning, not generally an achievement which I think deserves mention, but it was the first time since Friday morning that I could do it upon waking. Yesterday I made the mistake of trying to look up my symptoms on-line, and that is never a good thing to do. Trust me, you only end up feeling worse and vaguely scared.

Looking beyond my eyes (if that is ever possible or in fact ever not possible, I haven't quite decided which one) and back to the cartoon comedy (in both the humorous and of errors senses), I found this story somewhat pathetic. On the plus side it was the Iranian confectioners' union who ordered the change of name and not actual politicians (who should have better things to do with their time), as was the case with freedom fries.

In case you're wondering I do kind of want this t-shirt, but I don't think I'll be adding it to my collection.

Completely away from cartoon protests, although still with cartoons, I saw this on the BBC website this week. I'd completely forgotten about Charley and what he said. Still, somehow I am un-amazed that he has (almost) his own DVD.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Featuring my eye an ear bud

So, I'm sick. And to be perfectly frank I don't like that. In fact if I'm honest about the situation I'm one of those typical males who when they're ill get all miserable and make the world generally an unpleasant place to be. In my defence though, this has been the first time in my life that I have been so ill that snot has started coming out through my eyes. Yes, through my eyes. And yes I'm not happy about it. Any time that you have to take an ear bud to remove mucus from for eyeball it is a bad thing. A very bad thing. It is certainly not something that I want to be repeating any time in the near future.

Grrrgh. 'Tis not fun to have snot dripping from your eye when you are trying to go to sleep. Really it isn't. Honest. I'm not lying.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The day I didn't know it was

I was walking back from lunch today when a colleague said something about a sign being cute. I didn't see the sign until she pointed out the, 8 foot by 6 foot, happy Valentines chalk sign on the wall (apparently somebody hearts somebody else). I was like, "Oh yeah, isn't it Valentines tomorrow?"
"No, it's today", came the reply and the laughter.

Just a small reason why Ryan didn't get any cards this year. Just a small one, but one of many.


Sometimes Columbus surprises me. Every now and again the surprises are pleasant ones. One such time was last Tuesday when I did my laundry. Generally speaking laundry day is not a day of surprises, and when it is, they're not as rule pleasant surprises. However last week was different. Last week I went Dirty Dungarees. Dirty Dungarees is either a laundrette with a dive bar inside, or it's a dive bar with a laundrette inside. Either way it's a marvellous invention. What else is there for me to do whilst my clothes are in the washing machine? Not a whole hell of a lot. At Dirty Dungarees I got to have a few beers, play a few games of pool and generally enjoy laundry time. It is the first time that I'v ever been pleased my new house doesn't have a washing machine. Fantastic.

You'd think that maybe the people who get to go to the G8 summit in Russia are smart people. You'd think that maybe when the eight most powerful countries in the world get together around a table that they'd have something worthwhile to say. You'd think it, and you'd be wrong. This article is the definitive proof that the world needs me to be Prime Minister. If the current leaders aren't stupid they certainly think that we are, here are a few select quotes from the New York Times article:
Oil-importing countries, including the United States, would like to see producing nations increase supplies on world markets, easing prices...
...Aleksei L. Kudrin, Russia's finance minister, said he pushed Moscow's approach to global energy policy, which calls for consuming countries to diversify supply away from the Middle East, in part by leaning more heavily on Russia's reserves...
The solution for a world parched for oil, he [the United States treasury secretary] said, would come in market mechanisms to open oil producing regions to investment and more transparent energy deals, and improving ties between producing and consuming countries.

So what did we learn? Oil importing countries want cheaper oil, well they would wouldn't they. It's a bit like saying beer drinkers would like cheaper beer, hardly a revelation. Then the Russian finance minister says we should buy his oil not someone else's, well he would say that wouldn't he. And finally the solution for a world parched of oil — a limited commodity that will one day run out — is not to develop other energy forms, no the solution is more transparent energy deals. If I'm running out of money in my account, printing balance slips 20 times a day (thus increasing my account's transparency) might help a little, however putting more money in the account is generally the preferred long term solution.

I went to see a film yesterday. To be precise, I saw the new Woody Allen movie Match Point and I'm not really sure what I thought about it. Nobody was likable (not strictly speaking a problem), nobody was believable (ditto), the dialogue sounded wrong (more of a problem), Scarlett Johansson was pretty (much less of a problem), there wer far too many arias (a growing problem after the umpteenth one), London was almost as pretty as Scarlett (less of a problem), but I thought the end was kind of well done so I left the cinema feeling pretty good about the film. Ho hum, only a year and a bit till I get to remind myself daily that London doesn't always look pretty.

As much as I respect anybody who shoots a lawyer in the face, I kind of wish the shootee and shooter were reversed.

Oh and just so you know, apparently I have a dreamy accent. At least according to the girl working at the sandwich stall in the North Market I do.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

This is fucking insane

Now I'll admit it when I read the headline, Is Ritual Circumcision Religious Expression? in the New York Times Magazine this morning, my immediate answer was, No, of course it isn't. It is genital mutilation. That was just when I read the headline. Then I went ahead and read the article, availble here (registration or BugMeNot maybe required), and I genuinely didn't believe what I was reading.

It was the bit about oral suction, or metzitzah b'peh, that got me going. Now for those of you who, like me, were unaware of this practice and haven't read the article, I suggest you stop reading now and try and block it from your mind, forever.

Still here?

We'll continue then. Oral suction is, and you could not make this shit up, the practice of cleaning the wound made by the circumcision by sucking the blood from it. Now I'll repeat that cause frankly I don't believe what my fingers are typing, it is the practice of cleaning the wound by sucking the blood from it. Or to put another way, it is the practice of chopping a bit off the end of a babies dick and then sticking the dick in your mouth.

Now this is not religious expression, this is insanity. And apparently it happens 2000-4000 times a year. So by the time I leave America next year, something like 3000 baby boys will have had their bleeding cocks sucked by mohels (I have no idea what a mohel is, and now never want to know).

The article lost me somewhat when it started waffling on about whether this practice could spread disease — apparently there have been only seven recorded cases of babies developing herpes following the operation — because they missed the point. The point is not whether this practice is dangerous, the point is this practice is fucking insane. Really, there is no other way to describe it. Any practice that involves grown men sucking the dicks of little boys is wrong. And them doing it because the dick is bleeding from a wound they created, doesn't make it any more right. Does anybody out there disagree with those statements? Well, yeah, apparently they do.

The real debate should not be about whether this crazy dick sucking process should be allowed to take place. It shouldn't! The real debate should be about whether infant circumcision should be allowed to take place at all. If you can sufficiently indoctrinate your child such that when he grows up he voluntarily has a piece of his dick chopped off, that's fine by me. Hell at that point I'm all for him getting someone to suck the blood off it if he wants. But doing it to a baby who has no choice in the matter, it's not really cricket.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Why come and cocks?

One time you were my baby chicken
Now you've grown into a fox
And once upon a time I was your little rooster
Am I just one of your c****

Did the NFL really need to censor the word cocks? Apparently.

Living in a nanny state and lovin' it! Or something.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Superbowl Snark

So, yesterday was the Superbowl, and continuing my fine NFL gambling form I backed the Seahawks. Sadly, Pittsburgh picked this game to prove the old adage that it is better to be lucky than good. And my were they lucky. The bastards. Still you can't have everything, unless you're the Pittsburgh Steelers that is. I mean, one Seatle TD nullified for something and nothing, one Pittsburgh TD given for not getting in the endzone, a questionable holding call that moved the ball from the Pittsburgh 1-yard line to the 30-yard line and a crazy fake play that worked for a touchdown (it was pretty though).

Now it might have just been that I was a wee bit angry after the game and not in a generous spirit, but the trophy ceremony at the end of the game really irritated. Is there any other sport in the world where the trophy is given to the old rich white man who owns the team, instead of to the players who just won (luckily in this case... the bastards) the game? I believe the answer is no. Even in Formula One where the manufacturers really do play an enormous part in the on track success, they give the trophy to the driver first. But I guess that's what you get when the sport is run by the owners for the benefit of the owners. Anyone else fancy a nice yacht in Miami in four years time?

On a happy note, the season is now over so it will probably be 8 months until I can start losing money hand over first on teams with a feathery name. Yay!

Muslim cartoon fury claims lives -- Five die in Afghan cartoon furore -- Protests Over Cartoons Turn Deadly -- No 10 criticises cartoon protesters

How do I live in a world where No 10 criticises cartoon protesters is not a joke headline? Losing your life over these cartoons, it beggars belief. (Or more accurately it takes belief out behind the bike-shed and kicks the shit out of it for a couple of hours. Poor belief, all these crazy things happening because too many people take it far too seriously.)

Still, there's always the Fed Ex caveman ad to make you smile.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Opportunistic and an opportunity

On Monday night I was involved in a discussion over whether or not Google Cache was in violation of copyright law. I was of the opinion that it wasn't, whereas a friend was of the opinion it was and should more correctly be called Google Republisher. The friend who was against Google was, un-incidentally, a friend of Blake Field — the Blake Field who tried to sue Google (as far as I can tell just because he thought he might be able to make a bit of money) over copyright infringement. Last week a district court in Nevada ruled against Blake Field and ruled that Google Cache was "fair use". The ruling makes pretty interesting reading, and makes you wonder what issues it will bring up down the road.

So Blake Field: a) Opportunistic leech out to make a quick buck of Google; b) Defender of an author's right to distribute his creations; c) bit of both. I've never met him, so I'm going for a) if I had maybe I'd be tempted by c). Maybe.

Now that it looks like I'll be going back to London (although probably not for another year), every now and again I have a little play around and look at how much it's going to cost me to live there when I go back. Today I found something that I could actually afford, it is advertised as, "£50 pw unfurnished, Parking Space". I have a couple of points: i) unfurnished parking space? ii) it would be a 40% increase over what I'm currently paying for rent. Nice location though.

Oh and finally, I had the misfortune to see some of the State of the Union address last night. After about three minutes I wanted to cut the hands of the people applauding every fifteen seconds. I know Bush isn't much of an orator, but do they have to applaud him every time he finishes a sentence?

Friday, January 27, 2006

More Lib-Dem bashing I'm afraid

How did I manage to miss this story last week? Apparently, I was too busy reading all about Sven and how he's staying and then going.

I have a plea to make to all politicians or future politicians: if you are going to be the home affairs spokesman for the party try not to have affairs. Are all politicians explicitly instructed to add the absurdity and irony in the world? eally it can't be that hard to keep your trousers on, can it? And if you really must have affairs, do you have do go for three-in-a-bed-romps with a couple of rent boys? And even that is better than this bit from News of the World (scum I know), The naked MP then got the rent boys to humiliate him with a bizarre sex act too revolting to describe. (I'm so touched that those arbiters of all that is right and just in the world, the News of the World, are protecting me from knowledge of this indescribable act. Oh I'm sorry, I wrote "arbiters of all that is right and just" when what I meant was "harbingers of all that is wrong and evil*" — simple mistake, anyone could have made it.)

In the light of Mark Oaten's rent boy antics, I can see why Simon Hughes admitting that he used to be a bit gay could, in comparison, be seen as a positive thing for a potential political leader.

For reasons that it is probably best not to go into the Mark Oaten story reminded me of a film that I saw recently called, Me and You and Everyone We Know. Now, before I start I just want to emphasise there are no rent boys in this movie. The only reason that I noticed the film, as I walked through Blockbuster, was that it stars John Hawkes, better known as the whore-loving Jew (how often do you get to write that and feel good about yourself?) from HBO's Deadwood (I can't wait until June rolls around and the new season starts). The story is just about a guy meeting a girl and about him, her and everyone they know — it's almost as if they named the film for a reason. But Miranda July, who wrote, directed and starred, did a good job of keep me entertained and, to coin an over used phrase, off-beat. If you've seen the film, and you know what the indescribable act Oaten is alleged of indulging in, then you'll know why one made me think of the other. ))<>((

*Except Jeff Powell and his ilk — this one, not this one although the second one does look a little strange.

More laughing at disabled people

This is Yesterday's post, that I couldn't post because Blogger was broken.

I went to the bar last night, not a stunning admission I realise. To be precise I went to the St. James Tavern, which has become my local (even though the Sunset Lounge, which I do like a lot, is a block or two closer) since I moved into the house on Summit Street. The reason that I mention it is not just to try and liberally daub alcohol related shenanigans across the post — although that is always enjoyable — but instead to mention St. James's Wednesday night open mic comedy night.

My quick capsule review would be, not quite as a horrific as I thought it was going to be. It was surprisingly busy upstairs (in the hideaway lounge where they have all their live music and comedy) and some parts of some of the acts even made me laugh. As ever with an open mic night there was a significant amount of utter nonsense that was, well uttered. But on the plus side I got to laugh at a one-handed guy. The second time I laughed at him was when he was on the stage going through his routine, which was veered from amusing to awkward before petering out. The first time I laughed at him was when we were downstairs playing pool and I overheard him telling the person he was about to play against that he didn't know the rules, or what the eight-ball meant. Now, I realise that admitting I was laughing at one-handed guy, who didn't even know what the eight-ball was, playing pool puts me somewhere in the lower echelons of society. But what can I do? I blame my upbringing.

In other news (literally). This is a little scary but not really unexpected. This is also scary and also not particularly unexpected. This is just plain strange, I find a little hard to believe that having the courage to admit that you used to be a bit gay but now you're not is really a positive thing for a potential leader of a, supposedly major, political party.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Things and stuff... oh and a job offer

So, surprisingly enough, nobody has bought one of my painstakingly created, artistic t-shirts. Not even me. I do think that the commenter was right and I may well have to add a "It doesn't fuck me" shirt to the lineup. But that'll have to wait until the muse strikes me.

I've spent a lot of time over the weekend defending the whale rescue attempt to people who were second guessing it. Despite my defence, it is hard to believe though that in this day and age we can't get a whale to swim down a river. Of course, I've never tried.

I've been offered, and have in principal accepted, a lectureship position at UCL, which is somewhere between interesting, exciting and scary. To clarify, I mean me accepting the job is interesting, exciting and scary and not UCL is somewhere between interesting, exciting and scary (although if interesting is the British Museum, exciting is Sunday roast at the Yorkshire Grey and scary is King's Cross on a Friday night, then UCL is between them). Fortunately, it looks like I can put off taking up the position until after the next Antarctica balloon campaign, which is a bonus.

In other news I discovered today that I'm a smidge over 6' 4", my cholesterol is okay, my blood glucose is a tiny bit high (but then again for the first 3 hours of my 12 hour pre-test fast I was drinking beer, so I'm not too worried), my blood pressure is a tiny bit high (but then again, I'd just walked a couple of miles in to work), I'm no longer mildly obese, but am overweight (according to the Body Mass Index) and I'm going to get a $50 Amazon voucher for my troubles. The Amazon voucher is because I completed my Personal Health Assessment as part of Ohio State's "Your Plan for Health". I was particularly pleased that the I only had to tick the greater than 15 alcoholic drinks a week box, and I didn't have to work out the actual number, which could be a little higher than 15.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The moment we've all been waiting for...

I was reading that nice Mr Gaiman's journal today and discovered that some friends of his are going to open an online store selling Gaiman merchandise. Well, I thought, if an internationally famous, best-selling author can have his own online shop why not an internationally barely known*, never sold a thing in his life, physicist**? I have to say the obvious reasons did spring to mind. Fortunately for all of us, my pre-gym procrastination won out over my capitalist realism and a shop was created.

So Nannicock Artwork was born. It is a little sparse at the moment, containing only one item for sale, and frankly it is somewhat unlikely that other items will ever be added. And at $1 profit per t-shirt it is also somewhat unlikely that I will ever see a, $25 minimum, royalty check. Especially, as I'm not even sure that I need a "The Opposite of 'Yay!'" t-shirt (at $19.99 with shipping and handling). And if I won't waste my money (something I'm remarkably good at) on the t-shirt, who else will? (Again the obvious answer springs to mind — starts with 'n' and almost rhymes with come-on.)

* Well I have a mother a England, a brother in Australia, another brother in New Zealand, a father in Zimbabwe*** and probably some friends in Europe and America, so I could hardly say I was internationally unknown.
** For now at least, until they sack me or Hollywood comes knocking with that big money offer.
*** Who possibly qualifies as knowing of me, if not actually knowing me.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Nonsense or possibly gibberish

For some reason this New York Times article on the British drinking culture (registration or BugMeNot required) irritated me. (As an aside: a colleague sent me this article, I think largely because most of my co-workers think that I'm something of an alcoholic. Silly Americans.) Of course this recent interest in us loveable (well I'm loveable, theoretically at least) Brits and our drinking culture was sparked by Charles Kennedy's slip in to the politcal backwaters. I have to say on the Kennedy front I'm with The Friday Thing, For a pisshead, Kennedy was remarkably dull.

I'm not sure if it is the quotes from social anthropologist Kate Fox (and no I have no idea what one of those is — a social anthropologist that is, not a fox), By blaming the booze, we sidestep the uncomfortable question of why the English, so widely admired for their courtesy, reserve and restraint, should also be renowned for their oafishness, crudeness and violence.. Which seems, to me at least, to be a crock of shit. My guess is that the Britons who are "widely admired for the courtesy, reserve and restraint" are probably not the chavs (does anyone still use chav these days?) who are "reknowned for their oafishness, crudeness and violence".

Or if it was the strange linking of the England cricket team's drunken Ashes celebration to their subsequent losses in Pakistan? Or if it was the fact that a seemingly respectable broadsheet like the New York Times would feel the need to include quotes from the Sun, Star and Daily Mail — frankly you're going to get a pretty dim view of our little island if we're only judged on the nonsense that goes in to those papers. But basically, I think it just came down to the article's holier than thou (well holier than me, at least) attitude. Prudish paper.

George Galloway is on Celebrity Big Brother. Work shy bastard should probably go back to the House and do the job his being paid for, so somebody set up a website to encourage him to do just that. Although I'm not sure I agree with the whole, "...the place is going down the pan since Oona left." Tower Hamlets went down the pan a long, long time ago. True Gorgeous George ain't helping matters, but it was a shit hole long before the people were stupid enough to elect him to represent them last year.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

1189, 1066 and other things that are beyond my memory

You'll be pleased to hear, or not give a toss I suppose, that my friend only had to spend a couple of nights in the hospital before the doctors said, "Yeah, you hit your head and it will hurt for a while... but there shouldn't be any lasting damage". Which was good news, and can hopefully draw a line under this New Year's. (Although I did receive my first free coffee of the year after telling the nice people at A Touch of Earth in the North Market about our trouble getting home. Which was very nice, but probably wasn't worth two days in hospital — although it was someone else's two days in hospital, so maybe.)

I was looking up Aachen on the web today (my office-mate will be moving there in a couple of months and I had no idea where it was) and I came across Wikipedia's definition of time immemorial. I was sad to discover that we (the English) abandoned the policy of time immemorial being defined as 1189 for legal purposes. And now I'm somewhat curious to know whether in 1832 the law really changed the start of legal memory from 1189 to 1812. But obviously not curious enough to actually do anything about finding out.

And yes I do want one of these, but then again I'm something of an Apple tart (so to speak).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

How not to start your New Year, or the incident on High Street

The ball has dropped (peculiar practice), the fireworks have fired, the kisses have been exchanged (though none by me — aw, poor Ryan I know) and 2006 has arrived. I trust that everyone had a wonderful time and did just enough naughty things to make the night exciting, but not quite enough to make the evening too exciting.

As for me, I managed to do just enough naughty things to make the evening mildly interesting and then had it turn, inexplicably, far too exciting, to rather mar my start to MMVI. Myself and a friend had been to a party, where some mirth and merriment were partaken of, and had begun to walk home down High Street. The way was long and, needless to say, one or two pit stops were necessary along the route to, um, fortify ourselves against the winter weather and sobriety. Eventually, we had passed the last of the (open) drinking establishments on our route and started the walk home in earnest.

As we were walking down the pavement (sidewalk, for you Americans) some people in a car shouted at us as they were trying to get in to the drive through lane of Wendy's. I don't fully remember, but I imagine we shouted back that we were just walking down the sidewalk. Anyhow, we walked on and in a hundred yards or so had forgotten about it and were continuing our way down the street. It was at about this point that it all went a bit pear shaped. Somebody shouted something and I turned around just in time to get punched in the face — which wasn't terribly fun. At this point in the story I would love to expound upon the great fight that I put up and how you should see the other guy and all that, but that would all be bollocks. The truth of the matter is by the time I realised some complete stranger was attacking me, he'd already hit me once or twice more and then he'd run away down the street. I'd like to put my lack of resistance purely down to intoxication, but I imagine a large part was just due to the fact that I'm pretty shit at fighting — a quality I've obtained from years of not being in fights, I hasten to add.

Whereas I only ended up with slightly bruised pride and a mascara-esque looking shading above my left eye, my friend fared rather worse. A combination of the sucker punch and his head's ensuing collision with the ground left him unconscious for a short time. And although he got up and walked home okay (well okay-ish) his head hurt so much that yesterday he went to the hospital, where they detained him overnight due to some internal bleeding. Hopefully the folks at the hospital are just being over-cautious, as you'd like them to be in the case of head injuries, and maybe tomorrow he'll be able to be released back in to the world (or should that be wild?).

All in all it is a pretty shitty, and now somewhat serious and sombre way to start the New Year. I trust you all had more fun and less excitement.

(Oh and by the way, I did get to Trader Joe's, but only on New Year's Eve, after I'd cleaned all the broken glass from the back of the car. The highlight of the trip was a severely disabled man with a Stephen Hawking-like electronic speech device repeatedly saying, "You're the one with the pissy face". I have no idea of the context, but it made me smile. All of which is somewhat incongruous with head injuries and hospitals)