Sunday, 31 May 2009

Important World Events

After my lazy bank holiday last week, I was toying with the idea of actually doing something this weekend. So I went onto google to find out if there was anything going on. Sadly, google wasn't able to help very much.

Amongst all of the adverts for restaurants, there was only one thing that stood out. Today they're holding the 15th Annual "Back to Back" wool challenge in New South Wales, Australia. You need a team of eight people - one to shear sheep, and the other seven to spin the wool and knit a jumper. All in under eight hours.

I decided not to go. Mainly because I'm not much of an outdoor person, and I didn't like the idea of spending up to eight hours around animals whose lives are duller than mine - they simply bleat and shit, and I bet they don't even have internet access.

Other minor reasons included not being able to shear, spin or knit, as well as not being able to find another seven people to go with. And Australia's a bit too far away for a convenient day trip.

This is the second biggest cultural event of the weekend, though. I bet that everyone who cares about renewable sources of clothing will be there. Father Al Gore is expected to jet in specially, like he did last year. As you probably know, he's an expert in this field, having attended Harvard on a knitting scholarship.

The former knitting pro showing
that he hasn't lost his touch

Last year some naysayers asked how come his wool was red, as it turned out that there were no red sheep there that day, and they even went as far as to suggest that he might have cheated and brought a half-finished jumper with him, but no-one took them seriously. If he does well this year, it is widely expected that he may be awarded the Nobel Fleece Prize.

Did I mention that this was the second biggest event of the weekend? The biggest is of course the Annual Celebration of Jean Knee's Birthday. I hope you have a good day, Jean Knee. You never know, Father Al might even send you a jumper.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Wordy Wednesday: Blue Thoughts

We all know how much women (and Dan) worry about their weight. They spend vast sums of money on various types of diet, and even if these work, they just put it back on again once they're done. The only realistic option is to buy bigger clothes.

Until now.

Now they've come up with a much better way to diet, which doesn't involve having to give any thought to meals, exercise, whether the stripes on your skirt are horizontal or vertical, or any of the other failed methods. No, what you have to do is to wear shades at meal times. Blue shades, to be precise.

The theory is that food doesn't look so great when tinted blue, and they may have a point.

More mashed potato, anyone?

However, I don't think it'll work. After a while, you'll get used to the blue tinge and be back to eating again. There are also other drawbacks. For instance, caterers use blue plasters when they cut themselves, so that if they fall into the food they can easily be spotted. Not by the blue shade wearer, though. The plaster will look like another piece of linguine. Though you might realise when it seems a bit chewier than normal.

The other problem is that not only will your food look blue, but so will everything else, and this will be a little disorientating, so you may want to remain seated whilst wearing the shades.

But, what if you need to turn a light on, or find the TV remote? As usual the boffins have thought of (nearly) everything. They're busy working on an intelligent house that will respond to your thoughts. No more having to strain a ligament getting up to turn on the heating.

Try as he may, he couldn't get the new TV to work.

Whilst I can see that this could be useful to people who are disabled, I'm not massively impressed by the idea of a computer being able to read my mind. And I wonder what'll happen when families argue over what channel to watch?

A few years ago they were telling us that we'd be controlling our household devices remotely when we weren't at home using mobile phones or the internet. This didn't catch on. After all, the humble light switch is a lot easier to use, doesn't go wrong, and who wants to switch TV channels when they're out?

The TV remote control is bad enough. When I was a lad, we actually had to get out of our seats (shock!) to turn down the volume when Barry Manilow or Des O Connor started crooning. And it didn't do us any harm. The exercise did us good.

In fact, any weight loss you achieve by wearing diet shades will be more than cancelled out by what must surely be every couch potato's dream. Don't worry, though. You'll be able to telepathically control the crane needed to lift you in and out of bed.

Monday, 25 May 2009


I thought that, since I haven't posted since Wednesday, I should give you an update about the exciting and important things that have been going on in my life.

But that wouldn't make for a very long post. In fact, it would look something like this:

The Exciting and Important Things That Have Been Going on in my Life

Αναρτήθηκε από Brian o vretanos στις 22:15

So instead, I'm going to tell you about my weekend. It began on Friday afternoon at around 2pm, when I finished work early. On Saturday Helena and I went shopping, had lunch at Burger King (not the one in town, since Helena doesn't like going to town, and they've probably still got the roads closed). She went home on Sunday.

Since then I've been chilling out. Not like this:

And unlike a lot of people on a Bank Holiday not like this:
(though chlling might be a good word to describe that kind of experience)

More like this:

I wandered down to the pub for a bit last night, picked up a donner kebab on the way home, and today breakfasted on coffee and croissant. Later I might have a look at yesterday's crossword from To Vima. I've only had one other attempt at a Greek crossword, and I've got a long way to go before I get anywhere near completing one.

There's nothing better than doing nothing. Or rather, having nothing to do. It'll be a shame to go back to work, but sadly professional layabouts don't earn enough to make it worth my while changing careers.

I hope you've all had a good weekend.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Wordy Wednesday - Come Back, Arnie!

One of the rare times I've been to the cinema was when Terminator II came out. A bunch of us went to see it, though I hadn't at that point seen the original film. Years later Terminator III was made, and was surprisingly enjoyable for a second sequel. However, the good citizens of California were so intent on stopping Arnie making any more that they elected him Governor.

This might not have been a very wise decision, as it seems that we may need him to dust off his Uzi 9mm. You no doubt remember that the Terminator series revolves around the battle between men and the machines which have decided to take over the world. Well, we rapidly seem to be hurrying in that direction.

The machines are not deploying homicidal robots, at least not yet. Instead they boss us and nag us to do their bidding. Take my DVD player, for example. It's lasted me for years, is very reliable and I like the layout of the remote control. However, if you leave the DVD drawer open for a certain amount of time it closes it and switches itself off. The TV then switches to showing a TV channel, usually at a deafening volume, prompting me to leap manically for the remote and the mute button.

Consequently the machine makes me nervous. if I'm taking one disc out and putting another in, I make sure I do it quickly. Before it decides it's waited long enough. If it had fingers it would drum them impatiently. This is not right. It's a machine, after all. It should wait forever if need be until its master deigns to give it further instructions.

And what about MS Windows? Every so often it decides to nag you. "There are unused icons on your desktop." So? I like them there. What's it to you, anyway? Click. "You can install Updates." FUCK OFF! I DON'T WANT TO RIGHT NOW! I'M TRYING TO OPEN A FILE! STOP NAGGING ME AND GET ON WITH IT! Who owns this computer, Bill Gates? Luckily, I only have this problem at work.

Cars are getting worse, too. Many now tut impatiently when you sit in them until you've put your seatbelt on. Car makers are looking at making them so that they won't let you exceed the speed limit. If they're not careful they'll soon get worse than the average mother in law. This is all part of a conspiracy by Al Gore and his followers to make people stop using them.

Now it's the turn of the humble alarm clock. Mine already switches to a faster, louder, more impatient beep if I don't turn it off quickly enough. Since I often get up before it does, I'm often in the shower at this point. Apparently, though, this isn't enough. Now they've made an alarm clock that runs away from you to force you to get up and chase it round the house.

It's just crying out to be dealt with by Arnie and his Uzi.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Meat Sandwich

Continuing the food theme, I couldn't resist passing on the story about the Italian sandwich. If you're feeling hungry and don't enjoy exotic South American cuisine, feel free to come back after you've eaten.

A visitor to an Italian hospital bought a cheese and tomato sandwich in the canteen, only to find that the cheese seemed to be a bit chewier than he had expected. On closer examination he found that the sandwich contained a dead lizard. He was rather shocked by this, so presumably he's a vegetarian or something.

I'm also guessing he's not Mexican. The only recipes I could find for lizards are for Iguanas, which are apparently eaten in certain parts of Mexico, and taste like chicken.

The man was examined by doctors, who were able to reassure him that he wasn't likely to be following the lizard to the grave as a result of the incident. No doubt the powers that be will be more interested to see whether or not the sarnie packet had suitable labelling, such as "May contain reptiles" in a microscopically small font. If they did, then they shouldn't get prosecuted.

The canteen did say that it must have got into the sandwich making machinery. Rather than into the hospital stew, presumably. I've always thought there was something dodgy about buying food in institutions where they regularly remove organs and amputate things from people. Just in case there's a mix up with the meat delivery.

Saturday, 16 May 2009


I had my day all planned. It was going to be a repeat of last weekend. I was going to go into town, get some bits for my computer (another game controller, though also a USB hub this time), brunch in Burger King, and go to the supermarket on my way back.

Sadly, when I got to town, it was shut. Well, that's possibly not completely accurate. They've blocked off a vital part of the one way system. I'm not sure how much, because I couldn't get anywhere. I attempted to get to the car park another way, but I've only been driving in this town since I was 17, so I've still not learned my way around yet.

It's going to be closed for weeks. There's some lame excuse about them doing vital work on a gas main. Why do they never learn? They keep insisting on putting gas and water mains underneath roads. Why can't they put them somewhere more convenient? Such as above ground?

I didn't have any change which meant I couldn't park in one of the many "Pay and Display" places, and so I gave up and went to the supermarket. Now in a state of near starvation, having been daydreaming about burgers for the previous couple of hours.

Consequently, I ended up with a whole load of nice food. Brunch is nachos with "Monterray Jack" cheese, salsa dip and sour cream, washed down with orange juice and lemonade. I don't know if these nachos are very genuine - they look like Doritos to me. And the salsa isn't spicy enough, and as usual with fancily-named American cheeses, the Monterray Jack is very bland.

But it makes a nice change, and the whole thing only took a minute in the microwave (when it comes to cooking Bee is my role model).

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

You Can Breathe Again


I know you've all been on tenterhooks worrying about the result of the Eurovision Song Contest Semi-Finals. So let me put you out of your misery. Sakis Rouvas made it into the Final for Greece, but Christina Metaxa failed to do the same for Cyprus. I must admit, I really didn't like her song...

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Wordy Wednesday

5 Reasons Not to use Linux

I'm always tempted, as you probably know, to go on about how great Linux is, and I generally resist because there are more interesting things to write about, like cans of shit, but inspired by Bee's post today, here is a list of reasons not to use it. Well, actually, there's one reason.

You may prefer to skip all of this, and go straight to the bacon at the bottom of the post. I won't be very offended if you do this.

1. Linux isn't on 95% of desktop systems

This is the main good reason people don't use it. There aren't many home systems that come with Linux, and hardware manufacturers don't always write Linux drivers. So you have to check before you buy, say, a printer. The latest greatest game is probably not available either. I can't argue with this - I know a lot of people who won't switch because specific software is only available for Windows.

Since I could only come up with one real reason, here are some possibly less serious ones:

2. Your computer is unlikely to get a virus.

Because of that 95% thing, the evil virus writers usually concentrate on Windows machines, leaving us poor neglected Linux users with systems that tend to work reliably.

3. Ubuntu is brown

I've actually seen people quote this one online. When you install Ubuntu, by default it's colour scheme is orange and brown. That's not difficult to fix. I prefer red and blue myself.

4. You don't have to spend money on software

What's the point of using a system that comes with a free office suite (compatible with the leading brand), and a good alternative to Photoshop? It's clearly irresponsible during these times of economic downturn for people to use free software instead of helping out the poorer members of society, such as Bill Gates.

5. They've made it too easy to use

In the good old days, Linux was only for people who were serious computer geeks. Like the classic car enthusiasts, their system spent most of it's time (metaphorically) in bits whilst they rewrote parts of the kernel. Sadly nowadays distributions like Ubuntu are easier to set up than Windows and usually just work. Which means that the user community now includes (shudder) normal people.


In these days of plague and pestilence, there has been a suggestion that perhaps people should be careful about eating pork products, in case they somehow manage to contract Mad Pigs Disease from a dodgy hot dog. Of course you're far more likely to get food poisoning or whatever. So by way of showing some support for the much-maligned pig, here is Chris Pirillo eating some bacon. With chocolate. I couldn't get the link that he quotes to work, but I did find this one: Mo's Bacon Bar. Enjoy!

Monday, 11 May 2009


One topic that is constantly in the news (at least in Cyprus) is that of European expansion - in particular the possibility of Turkey becoming the first Muslim country to join the European Union.

A lot of countries support this, but Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkosy, the leaders of Germany and France, aren't so keen. They feel that Turkey lies geographically outside of Europe.

Now, this isn't a political blog, so I'll make no comment about this particular issue. There are however other, wider, definitions of Europe. I'm thinking in particular about the European Broadcasting Union.

The EBU is an organisation that includes countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, that are of course part of North Africa. It's associate members even include Canada and the USA. In the old days, the EBU organised live events broadcast around the globe by new-fangled satellite technology. These satellites didn't do anything other than reflect the TV signals, a bit like having a large mirror in space, and so the quality was somewhat ropy, but the resulting blurry images were high tech in the 50s.

Sadly, associate members don't appear to be included in the annual Eurovision Song Contest. This is the most famous of the EBU's activities. EBU countries can each submit an entry, and each country shows the competition live on TV. Each country also votes for what it thinks is the best song, and the country that wins gets to host the next year's event.

Sweden's Entry in 1962:

A few years ago, that well known European country Israel won with a transvestite singer. Last year, the Russians won, and so this year's competition (the 54th) is being held in Moscow.

Traditionally the competition serves two purposes. First, it is used to showcase each country's worst singing talent - a bit like an international karaoke evening. Secondly, it promotes hostility and disunity through Europe, with countries giving more points to their friends, and "null points" to their enemies. Some people claim that Russia won last year because of all the former Soviet Union countries.

Sometimes, though, people don't play by the rules. In 1974 ABBA won the contest for Sweden and became internationally famous. This year Andrew Lloyd Webber has written the British entry. I can't comment on it, since I've not heard it.

What's really disappointing that the USA and Canada don't get to take part, and so the majority of readers of this blog won't be able to go through the same pain as the rest of us. I mean, you won't be able to enjoy the marvellous annual event that is the Eurovision Song Contest.

This contest starts tomorrow. It used to be only one night, but now it's three because there are so many countries involved that they have to have two nights of semi-finals. So that you don't feel completely left out, here are the entries for Cyprus and Greece. I think it's a bit sad that both entries are in English last year - at least the Cypriots had a Greek song in 2008.




Saturday, 9 May 2009


I think my body clock's finally got back to normal. I woke up early this morning, and had a read through the paper. You now have to pay for a subscription to read the online version of To Vima. This is good, because paying around €1 a day is a real incentive for me to read it and get my money's worth.

Then I went into town. I had a few things to do. I had to get my hair (that's "hairs" to you, Dan) cut, and get a couple of other things dealt with. I ended up having a burger in Burger King at around 9.30am, and I picked up a games controller (for playing the racing game) for £5.

However, I'm starting to worry about my health. Not in relation to Pig Flu, since it's now 7 days since I was in Canada and I've not started walking on all fours oinking, but I think I might be going senile. This is especially worrying given how young I still am.

The car park I use in town is one of those where you get a ticket on the way in, then pay for it before you leave. For the second time in the last few weeks, I got to the exit ready to put my ticket in and realised I'd forgotten to pay. So I had to go back round the car park to get a space (somone had already nabbed my old one), before paying.

I've been using this car park since it was built around 20 years ago, and I've never forgotten to pay before. Once could be just one of those things, but twice? I think my brain cells are finally wasting away. Maybe I've got a slow form of mad cow's disease from all those burgers.

I finally left town and went to the supermarket. Needless to say I'd forgotten my green plastic bags. For the second time in a row. I was also feeling rather bloated after the Double Whopper Meal, so I didn't end up buying a great deal of food. I also couldn't remember what I'd run out of.

Then I got home, but instead of being good and writing a blog post, I had to make sure that the game controller thing worked. Which meant spending several hours playing, er, I mean testing it. Like crosswords and learning foreign languages, computer games are supposed to help keep your brain from rotting.

I just hope it's not too late...

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Wordy Wednesday


One of the Greek linux bloggers mentioned the Unix Hater's Handbook the other day, and that it's available to download online, so of course I had to have a look. So far I've read the first few chapters. It is written in a humourous style, and some of it is rather dated. But the chapters do have titles such as "Unix. The World's First Computer Virus" and "Welcome, New User! Like Russian Roulette with Six Bullets Loaded". These guys really hate Unix.

They make the usual complaints - for example the fact that the delete command (rm) actually deletes files, even if you ask it to delete all of your files. Em, guys? this command is supposed to, em, delete things. Instead they think it should be far more complicated, so that it can try and second guess the user and protect you from yourself.

Sounds familiar? Yep, one of the authors worked for Microsoft. The people who brought us Windows, one of the least user friendly and most annoying systems ever. What's really funny is that a lot of this computer stuff is really quite simple, but Windows makes it really complicated, then designs an interface with 20 million menu options, 100 million annoying messages that pop up when you actually try and do anything, and then markets this as simple and easy to use.

Nowadays on Unix and linux people who don't want to risk destroying their entire filesystem with 8 keystrokes* have got graphical tools that are almost annoying as the Windows ones, so problem solved.

Naturally I was wondering about a Windows Hater's Handbook. But aside from the fact that the author of such a book might get sued to Kingdom Come, it'd have more volumes than the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It's also too easy a target.

Still, they reckon the Windows Tax is about £100 per computer - I'd be willing to pay Bill Gates £150 a machine NOT to put Windows on it...

*It's not that easy anyway - you have to be running as the Super User to really mess things up, and people won't usually be doing that.

Body Clock

You may (or may not) have noticed that I wasn't around last week. I was on the other side of the Atlantic. The highlight of my week was trying out some Canadian cuisine.

I hadn't realised that there was such a thing as Canadian cuisine, but they do have a national dish, and amazingly it doesn't seem to contain Maple Syrup. It's called Poutine. The locals rave about this, so I had to go and try it at an establishment that is apparently famous for it's poutine. It was a fast food trailer. I started to wonder why, if it was so great, none of the nice restaurants had it on the menu. I didn't have to wonder for very long. Poutine is made with fries, lumps of cheese curd, and gravy. Like the donner kebab and the deep fried Mars Bar, the idea isn't to provide a balanced, nourishing meal, but it's rather a competition to make unhealthy and revolting menus that don't actually taste that bad. In the case of poutine, I really can't see what the fuss is about - it tasted pretty bland to me. Experts can tell how fresh the curds are by listening to the squeaking noise they make when you chew them.

I had it a couple of hours before getting onto a plane. Perhaps I should have warned the pilot about the extra weight, but we did still make it across the Atlantic.

Since I've been back, I've not been getting hungry at dinner time. Either my body is still in the wrong timezone, it's still digesting that poutine...

Sunday, 3 May 2009

The Story of Tracy, Louise and Bob - A modern fairytale

Once upon a time, in a far away land called West Virginia on a magic farm known as Rambling Acres lived Tracy. Mother of three, blogger, agony aunt. She watched bizarre adverts on TV at four in the morning so that no-one else had to.

Now, I know what you're thinking. She sounds just like your average fairy tale princess. However, she's not. She's special. No regular fairy tale character ever went around saying "gosh Dern".

Tracy had long flowing locks, ideal for allowing princes to climb to the top of high towers and rescue her. However, being a married princess (now you know where the three children fit in to the story), she decided to get her hair cut. (Feel free to gasp at this point in the narrative).

Meanwhile, in the 1920s, there lived a young woman much known in the land for her "raw sexuality". This fairy tale is PG rated, by the way, which means that parents may bring their children but might get asked embarrassing questions afterwards. Anyway, the young woman was called Louise.

Louise made a few films in the days before they had sound. The most famous of these is "Pandora's Box", in which she plays a high-class prostitute whose life goes steadily down-hill until she ends up as a dead low-class prostitute.

Louise also had short hair. It was in a style known as "Bob". I'm not sure if that's named after a gay hair stylist who first invented it, but let's say that it is, to give the children another embarrassing question to ask.

When people saw Louise's Bob, they were stunned by her good looks. And that "raw sexuality" thing. One blogger and Bob fan was even inspired to produce the Bob World Film Database, devoted to films of actresses with bobs.

When people saw Tracy's Bob they were also stunned by her good looks. And the butterfly. The land was filled with crys of "Great Bob!", and everyone said how hot Tracy looked (at least a 19-year old shop assistant did). However one blogger, called Brian, was a little uneasy. He was obviously bowled over by Tracy's amazing hairstyle, but he didn't really want to say that she reminded him of that nymphomaniac prostitute in Pandora's Box. Or that she looked like someone who was born in 1906. She might take it the wrong way and send her prince round.

Louise lived well into her 70s, though she didn't make many more films. Tracy contiues to delight her fans, and Bob is apparently alive and well, and turned 100 earlier this year. Which brings us, as in all good hairy tales, to a neat (rather than split) end.