Saturday, 28 March 2009


Friday 27 March 2009

My alarm goes off. Usually at this point I reset it and go back to sleep, but today is a special day, so I leap out of bed singing "Oh What a Beautiful Morning!" at the top of my voice (if I have to get up I don't see why the neighbours should be allowed to keep snoozing).

All right, I don't. I crawl out of bed bleary-eyed and go to make a coffee. I probably still wake the neighbours up since I keep bumping into walls and things until the coffee starts to take effect.

I'm ready. I never like to be late for anything. While I'm waiting, I log onto the computer to read the news.

The waiting really starts now, since they said any time between 7 and 12. Maybe they won't come. After all, I arranged it all online, and I haven't had any confirmation.

Every time I hear traffic outside that could be a lorry, I look out of the window. They say that they usually phone before hand, but they probably wouldn't if they're arriving this early. And anyway, I could have typed in the wrong phone number. I have done that before - I give the STD code for a town I used to live in with my correct number.

I'm no good at waiting. I can never stop thinking about whatever it is I'm waiting for, even if it's something relatively unspectacular, or something that might not actually happen.

I'm getting hungry, so I make myself some lunch. I'm getting low on supplies, so I cook two jumbo hot dogs and microwavable Mexican rice. While I'm waiting I play "The Harmonious Blacksmith" on the piano (or try to).

I've got absorbed into trying to work out the fingering for the 4th Variation, when the phone rings. The phone hardly ever rings, so my reaction as usual is to jump in surprise as if I've just seen a small spider.

It's the delivery people. They say they'll be here in about half an hour.

I've just finished my hot dogs with mustard and rice when the big blue Argos lorry pulls up. Minutes later my new washer/drier is sitting in the kitchen waiting to be unpacked.

The washing machine really is a wonderful invention. A simple but magical device that by a combination of turning a drum in different directions, doing nothing and pumping water in and out manages somehow to wash your clothes. If it wasn't for this machine, a single man like me would need a live-in maid to do all his laundry. Now I come to think about it, perhaps I should have looked into the different options before buying another washer/drier...

The shop provide an installation service for washing machines. Obviously I wasn't stupid enough to go for this. £37 to connect up a couple of pipes? I'm not exactly Mr DIY, but I'm not that incapable.

Before I can install the machine, I've got to remove the restraining bolts that they use when transporting it. There are four of these green harmless-looking things. I look through my tools for a spanner. Sadly, it's the wrong size.

I go to B&Q (a DIY store). Luckily it's only a short drive. Of the two major domestic DIY chains (B&Q and Homebase), B&Q is the slightly scarier one. It's not as bad as Wickes, which is for real hard-core enthusiasts. That's the sort of place that won't sell you a door, but instead the right kind of wood to make it with.

I pick up a small adjustable spanner, since I've no idea what fraction of an inch or centimetre these particular bolts are. Whilst I'm there, I remember that I need a better screwdriver, and a new bedside lamp. Whilst getting a light bulb for this lamp, I remember that I've been meaning to get an 8-way extension cable with surge protection for the computer...

Arrive back at the flat with armfulls of stuff. The lounge floor is already covered with little bits of polystyrene from unpacking the washing machine, and now there's loads on my bed from unpacking the bedside lamp.

Bugger! The plastic green "filler pug" around the bolt has got sticky-out-bits (I'm sure they have a technical name) that prevents the use of an adjustable spanner.

11:36 - 11:38
Spend a bit longer cursing.

I take a trip to Homebase (which Helena and I call "Gnomebase" for hysterical reasons). This is about the same distance away as B&Q which I don't want to go back to, since I don't want to look like an idiot when I buy a different type of spanner.

Gnomebase is slightly less scary than B&Q. It sells more home furnishings and stuff. It occurs to me that FADKOG's Tool Man would know exactly which of the millions of implements to pick out. I go for a T something or other with several different attachments (I learn that these are technically known as "bits" - aren't they used for saddling horses?). I also buy a pack of regular spanners, since I don't want to have to make another trip out, especially since the only place left to go would be WIckes, and I'm not dressed for the occasion - I shaved this morning and don't have any paint/oil/blood-stained overalls.

Back to the flat. The T-thing does the job. The bolts come out easily, but the green filler plug things are a bugger to remove, mainly because I don't know whether it's safe to use brute force, or whether I'll break something inside the machine. Finally I get it sorted.

Top Tip: Don't stop partway through unscrewing a bolt to take photos, especially when (due to lack of space) you're standing at the front and unscrewing the bolt at the back right handed (I normally use a screwdriver left-handed), since you'll forget which direction you have to turn it.

Voila! I put the washing machine onto a 90-degrees cycle with no load, as per the instructions. The flat below me doesn't get flooded and there's no blue flash, so I think I've plumbed it correctly.

With one eye on the machine (checking for leaks), write a blog post. I've not made it into work today, but I will be able to wear clean socks tomorrow.

Hungry. I shouldn't have had such an early "lunch". I couldn't face the supermarket today. Dinner: two jumbo hot dogs with mustard and microwaveable egg fried rice.

Perhaps I should just have paid the £37, since I spent more than that in tools. However, I will never need to worry about not having the correct spanner ever again:

At least, not until the next time I need to unbolt something, which will hopefully not be for a while...

Friday, 27 March 2009

No Joke

What ever happened to Mother in Law jokes? Did they get banned by the political correctness gestapo, or did they just fall out of fashion? I must admit that I never really understood what all the fuss was about, and especially why people thought they were funny, until I got married. Sadly, my MIL did not approve of such humour.

Laughing when the joke is at someone else's expense might seem cruel, but the alternatives are far worse. As a Bosnian MIL found out recently. Her son-in-law was blaming her for his failing marriage, and instead of going out and getting a book of MIL jokes, or letting off steam on the MIL Stories Site he came home with an anti-tank missile. Unfortunately, the news item didn't say how he happened to get his hands on such a thing.

I suspect that he was overreacting just a bit. Anyway, he fired this at his MIL's house and succeeded in injuring her, which doesn't sound too difficult. Obviously disappointed at not managing to kill her, he tried again, this time with a Kalashnikov.

Fortunately for his intended victim he missed, and she survived her ordeal with the son-in-law from hell, who is now languishing in jail as one of the most incompetent would-be murderers ever.

Why couldn't he just have got a divorce???

The website I saw this story on quoted a French news agency, but I've been unable to find an English version to link to, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Wordy Wednesday

Ten Days

This week seems to be going past too quickly, and it's Wednesday again already. This is another argument for my ten day week. I've been thinking about this some more, and I've realised that the year should always start on a Sunday, or whatever day comes before Monday. If you do that, New Year's Day is always a day off, and Christmas Day and Boxing Day also both fall at the weekend. Which is handy, since a crucial part of my plan involves abolishing public holidays. You only ever need two calendars - one for a leap year, and one for the rest.

The French apparently had a ten day week as part of the Metric obsession that came with the Revolution. No-one liked it because they only got one day off in ten, instead of one day in seven. My plan of the longer weekend gets round this, of course.

There's only one problem with my plan to become the modern day Julius Caesar, the last person who did any major calendar reform (he gave us our leap years). He was dictator of most of the civilised world at the time. And like a lot of dictators he was removed from power in a rather brutal way. I'm not really that keen to follow his example too closely...

Harmonious and Less Harmonious

I've had a piece of music running through my head almost continuously for the last three or four days. Helena was messing around on the piano at the weekend, and she played a couple of notes that reminded me of something. I found the music online (the benefit of concentrating on centuries old stuff is that there are loads of out-of-copyright scores available to download), and set about playing it.

The music running through my head sounds great. Unfortunately the reality of my playing isn't yet at that level. And probably never will be. This is where You Tube comes in - type the name of any piece of music, and you'll find someone who's videoed themselves playing it. They're not always great, of course, but they're generally a lot of fun to listen to, and it's a good way of hearing different interpretations of the same piece.

The following is played by a guy who calls himself "thelastmusician". I hope he's wrong about that, but I really enjoyed this. It's Handel's movement of variations, known as "The Harmonious Blacksmith", from his fifth keyboard suite, and it's justly famous because it's a lot of fun:

Monday, 23 March 2009

What to do about Mondays?

I've mentioned my boring but strange dreams before. I had a seriously epic one last night. It involved riding on buses, and noting that the same numbered bus route was the one I wanted at home, in Manchester, and ... somewhere else. I'm afraid I'm not sure where else my unconscious spirit got to. However, as you can imagine all of that travelling takes a lot of time, probably mainly spent waiting at cold bus stops, and consequently I got up far too late this morning.

Next time, I'll drive, and I bet I'll be awake an hour or two earlier. And they wonder why no-one likes public transport?

On the other hand, if those buses had been a bit later I wouldn't have had to get up at all. This thought occurred to me right after I remembered that I hadn't done any ironing at the weekend. And after an unbroken run of two weeks where I had my whole week's clothes ready. And because my washer drier has stopped washing/drying and started making disconcerting metallic banging noises instead, my laundry situation isn't what I'd like it to be, either. And my extensive journey had made me exhausted, so I'm still not properly awake yet. No, it might have been better for me to have skipped today.

Does anyone like Mondays? I think there are too many of them. Perhaps it would be better to have a ten day week. That way there would be a 30% reduction in Mondays. You'd work for 7 days, and then have a 3-day weekend. If you abolish public holidays, you end up with about the same number of working days in the year.

The metric week. After all, there's nothing special about 7 days. It's almost a quarter of a lunar cycle, but everyone knows that the numbers don't quite work out, so who cares?

Of course, there'd also be a 30% reduction in Bee's Friday meetings with the Great Oz, and I'd have to write 30% fewer Wordy Wednesdays. I'm struggling to find any disadvantages. Religious people would probably want to have Church days every seven, but they could do that and work some weekend days instead.

We would have to find names for 5 days (since the religious types would want to keep Sabbath and Sundays for their calendars). We could name them after continents: Ameriday, Antday, Afriday, Euraday and Ozday. Other schemes, including the French 10-day week, seem to want to number them firstday, secondday, etc, but that seems a little clunky to me.

Maybe I should start a campaign. As long as we called it the Metric Week, there would be loads of saddo-standardisers and Europhiles who'd love it. But we'd know the real reason behind it was a hatred of Mondays...

Friday, 20 March 2009

What's the fsck?

The other day, whilst running the Unix command to check a filesystem, I wondered whether or not you could get a T-shirt with it on:

And it turned out that you certainly can. Obviously it's inspired by the French Connection UK line of clothing. I would really like to get one of these, but the obvious place to wear it would be to work, where people are actually likely to appreciate it, However, in the last couple of years I've got into the habit of wearing shirts to work (as I had to replace my increasingly worn and holey wardrobe) and any variation in this format would not only mean I'd have to go out and buy a whole load of new clothes, I'd also not get my money's worth for all the shirts I've bought.

However, when my current batch of clothes start to wear out, I might well switch to T-shirts. It turns out that there are loads to choose from - certainly enough for a week or two's worth. ThinkGeek has some good ones - I particularly like "There's no place like", and "cd /pub; more beer".

I don't know why all the sites that sell this kind of thing market it "for geeks", as I'm not one of those. Excuse me whilst I go and re-configure an X-server...

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Wordy Wednesday Sees the Future

The Female Form

We were talking about ideal husbands and wives and coincidentally, on the Aimilia Show the other day there was a report that scientists had developed a female that does what she's told, doesn't speak unless she's spoken to, and even has an "off" switch. Aren't scientists clever?

Apparently people have got so sick of fashion models with their attitude problems, that they've designed a robotic equivalent. Considering that this robot is supposed to be looked at, it's a pity they haven't given more thought to its appearance:

It looks like we'll need to keep real women around for some time yet. Even on catwalks.

I Saw the Light...

The light bulb in one of my lounge lamps went at the weekend. Yesterday, I finally bought a replacement. Amazing news, I hear you say. And you heard it here first. A world exclusive.

The point is that I was forced to buy one of these new-fangled "green" light bulbs. Not green colour-wise - in fact it produces a whiter light than the old kind of bulb, which I quite like, but green in the sense that it costs a lot of money and allegedly helps the environment.

Having pretty much banned mercury in products like thermometers, it's rather puzzling that Father Al and his faithful followers are advocating bulbs which contain this harmful ingredient. I'm sure that these Green people know what they're doing.

The bulbs are supposed to be good because they use a lot less energy. Conventional bulbs give out loads of heat. In places like Texas this means that Jean Knee turns up her air conditioning, so wasting even more energy. In this country, the opposite is true. With these bulbs not helping to warm our houses, we'll need to make up for it by turning on our central heating.

Anyway, I was rather annoyed that I had to buy this product (they're phasing out the bad bulbs), until I realised that the light it gives out is better - less yellow. I'm looking forwards to buying more of these as other bulbs go in my flat. I only hope that claims about them lasting longer is true, otherwise I'll be bankrupt.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Dream Marriages

We all have dreams. I don't mean the ones you experience whilst asleep, as they can be horrible, or in my case just plain uninteresting. Last night I dreamt that someone was knocking on the front door. I woke up and went to see, but whoever it was had gone, or not been there. This is probably the most exciting dream I've had for several weeks.

No, I'm thinking more about fantasy. We all have dreams of being rich, or famous, or powerful, or completing a Greek crossword. And I'm sure that even the most unimaginitive people find their imaginations taking them to all sorts of places when it comes to members of the opposite sex (and/or the same, if that's your thing).

It seems that lots of women have fantasy husbands. For example, Bee has gone for Brad Pitt, whilst Tracy is more of a Johnny Depp girl. I'm not quite sure why anyone fantasizes about being married to an actor - they make a living out of being other people, their marriages rarely last, and they're hardly ever seen as they really are without all that war paint:

Heavy night last night, Johnny? Mr Depp on his way to Makeup first thing in the morning.

Actress Myrna Loy was known as the "Perfect Wife", a kind of role that she played many times in films. In the real world things were very different. As she said: "Some perfect wife I am. I've been married four times, divorced four times, have no children, and can't boil an egg." Though with someone like her to wake up next to, I'm sure most men would have happily done without omelettes.

The Perfect Wife

Incidentally, fantasizing about stars isn't always as harmless as it sounds. Chicago Gangster John Dillinger was a huge fan of Myrna Loy, to the extent that despite being on the run from the authorites in 1934 he risked going to see her latest film ("Manhattan Melodrama"). The FBI shot him dead as he left the cinema.

Another option for fantasy husband appears to be a failed politician. Presumably they've failed because they weren't as good at lying and backstabbing as their more successful colleagues. Several bloggers, including Jean Knee, are taking fantasy turns being married to Al Gore. This kind of fantasy husband recycling is particularly popular with the environmentally aware.

Personally, I have difficult imagining being one half of a fantasy marriage. You probably need to have experienced a good marriage to be able to fantasize about them. I'm also hopelessly uninformed about celebrity lifestyle issues, so I'm not sure what being married to a famous filmstar or TV journalist would actually involve.

For a woman, the first part of any dream marriage is probably the fairytale wedding, and one recent bizarre idea is to go to Verona and get married on the balcony where Juliet stood whilst being wooed by Romeo. How romantic. Of course shortly after this they both killed themselves. Apparently there are a lot of American tourists who don't let this worry them. People who decided to splash out and go to Europe to get married instead of Vegas, perhaps.

Someone's idea of a dream wedding

Anyway, I suspect that dream marriages and weddings are for women. And people with extra large thumbs, judging from the picture above...

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Blogging Dangerously

I realised today that this blogging lark is potentially very dangerous. Things that other bloggers post and the comments that they leave here have a real influence on my life.

Luckily this isn't much of a worry for me, as all of my readers write sober and thoughtful comments. They wouldn't dream of typing the first thing that comes into their head, regardless of the consequences they might have for me.

An example of this was Dan's "28 days" post about Lent. Dan's desperately looking for a way to welch on his decision to give up intoxicating liquor for Lent without incurring the wrath of God, the Church or the Wife.

It's amazing what some people will put up on YouTube. I mean, why???

In this post, he mentioned McDonald's Filet-o-Fish, perhaps one of the most ridiculously named fast food meals ever. It doesn't help that Americans can't say or spell "fillet". As a direct result of this post, I've been thinking about fish burgers for the last two days, until by this lunchtime I just had to have one.

Sometimes your comments don't influence me enough. The last time I complained about busy shops on a Saturday, Tracy recommended that I go at 7am like she does. Alas, for the first time ever I forgot her wise words. I was too busy thinking about fish.

So I ended up going shopping at midday. The crowds, my tiredness and my hunger all conspired to make this a less than enjoyable experience. It took me even longer to get round because I was looking for the ingredients to make a fish burger.

I knew where the cheese was, the bread, and the tartar sauce (that heavenly condiment is the reason that fish were invented in the first place). Unfortunately, I couldn't find any burgers. There were various breaded fish fillets, but none of the packets had serving suggestions that involved putting them into buns. Even some measurements would have helped - I didn't want to get them home to find that the packet contained whole fish suppers or something.

They do sell fish cakes, which look like burger-sized hunks of fish. Only they're burger sized hunks of potato with traces of fish droppings. At least that's roughly what they taste like. Even Helena, who loves most kinds of fish, won't touch those.

In the end I found some chunky fish fingers. These had a picture of the product between two slices of bread. Result! I put two of these in each sandwich, and I think you'd agree that they look the business, except for the rubbish photo. Making them at home meant that I could wash them down with some Irn Bru, which they don't sell in McDonalds, at least not south of the border.

Of course, I did have to cook them first, which involved heating up the oven and then waiting 22 minutes. Then I had to waste precious time taking photos of them for this blog (though sadly I didn't wait to check whether they were okay before I ate my meal). I could have keeled over and died of starvation in the process. And my relatives would be suing Dan.

I wonder how many blogging-related deaths and injuries there are each year?

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Wordy Wednesday: Time

I gather that North America put its clocks forward last weekend for Summer Time. This seems a little optimistic given the weather they've been having, and I'm sure that it is impacting on my ability to be first on people's blogs. Our clocks change in a few weeks, but in the meantime please bear the time difference in mind when you're posting, so that you don't all post when I'm asleep. After all, that's hardly fair, is it?

Talking of time, I've been wondering about "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe", having recently rewatched "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (the TV series, not the film). I'm also wondering why I used to think it was good. Maybe my tastes have matured or something.

Anyway, in THHGTTG, they end up going to Milliways, the Restaurant and the End of the Universe. The idea is that you can sit and stuff your face with the finest grub and watch the Universe go bang or whatever it does, before returning back to your own time.

This restaurant ostensibly has two things going for it. Firstly, you pay for it by investing a ridiculously small amount of money in your own time and then withdrawing the money once you've travelled forwards in time. Leaving aside the fact that we can't go more than 80 years without a financial collapse of some kind, surely the bank people would have realised that the End was Nigh, and spent it before you could withdraw it?

The other advantage is that the chefs have got a hard deadline to produce your food in. Though I suspect this just increases your chances of going hungry.

This made me wonder what time period I'd put a restaurant in, if I had the technology. Major events such as wars would be rather tasteless, and the best thing I could come up with is the historic Moon Landing. I think this would be great for two reasons. Firstly, I'm too young to have been around then, and secondly, imagine the look on Neil Arstrong's face as he emerged from his space ship to come face to face with McDonald's on the Moon. There really would be no escape.

"That's one small portion of nuggets for Buzz,
One giant Big Mac Meal for Me."

I'd welcome other suggestions for great eating venues, timewise.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Weekend Drinking Guide

I've never really played many drinking games. Most of the people I've found myself socialising with are far too serious about drinking. And what's the point of games where the winner drinks less? When I was at college in Lancaster, one of the other would-be maths teachers liked to play "Cardinal Puff". This involved performing a series of actions and words, and you had to down your drink if you made a single mistake. I don't remember anyone actually managing to get through the whole thing - after all, trying to recite something about Cardinal Puff whilst moving your arms and legs in a coordinated fashion isn't easy - I find it difficult enough to coordinate any two of my limbs when I'm sober.

The other day I was reading about the alcohol gun. This apparently fires shots of 1 oz (a weird American fluid measure equivalent to one twentieth of an extra large latte). At first sight, this appears to be a waste of a good drink, but I'm guessing that the sort of people who would think this was a fun way to spend PDT (Prime Drinking Time) are the sorts of idiots you get in American bars who make a show of downing shots that are less alcoholic than mineral water. After all, how stupid do these people look? If I was going to turn up to an alcohol gun party I'd bring something more like this:

Or ideally, this, except that I never drink and drive:

This year's Beer Festival was a little rowdy

And I'm sure that whoever makes this product (if it really exists) aren't the first people to come up with the idea of putting something other than water in a water pistol. Though there are better (and less pleasant) things to use than good drink.

Safety Warning
(as required by relevant European Legislation)

As you know, I'm very concerned about the health and welfare of my readers, and I would like to stress that this blog promotes sensible drinking. While alcohol guns are likely to result in less of the harmful alcohol actually being consumed, we must point out that in the hands of a trained marksman this might not be the case. The size of the target area (your mouth) is also an important factor. In addition, health experts recommend that you combine alcohol with food consumption.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Wordy Wednesday


I've just returned from an enforced day out. My car needed its annual service and MOT, and the garage is about 20 minutes away by car, but an hour and a half by bus, since you have to change twice and the hourly timetables don't match up well. So rather than spend 3 hours getting to and from what would end up being a half day at work, I spent the day in the nearby town.

There were a couple of things I needed to do - pay a cheque into the bank (more about that later), buy a belt, some ear-drops and some ink, and the shops weren't open when I got there, so I spent an hour or so in Starbucks. I'd brought some books with me.

Half an hour later, I'd done my shopping. Half an hour after that I'd done the local museum and art gallery - a meagre collection of bits and pieces dug out of people's gardens and a handful of paintings, many of which were so dark you couldn't really make much out.

I lunched at McDonald's, and even got so bored that I went round the bookshops. I used to like shopping for books, but for some strange reason the shops round here don't stock any in Greek.

I was lucky with the weather - it had rained all day yesterday, but today was dry, and I did finish my book ("The Tenth Photograph", by Giorgos Pavlidis, which had a nail biting climax) but I think I'd rather have spent the day at work.

Monopoly Moment

The other week I had a "Monopoly moment". My ex handed me a letter that had arrived at her house for me, and it was from a bank. You know the Monopoly card that says "Bank error in your favour"? Well, it was like that. They'd discovered that they made a mistake about 10 years ago, and enclosed a cheque for the amount plus interest. It was only a small amount, but I was very pleased as I didn't realise that these things happened in real life. I suppose the next audit they do they'll find I owe them a few million...

Nasal Sex

I was checking my spam the other day - I hardly ever do this, and I was surprised that I had so little. Perhaps the spammers are being credit-crunched. Anyway, one of the mails had the title "Make it as hard as Pinocchio's nose".

I suppose I'm naive and innocent, but it had never occurred to me that the story of the loveable wooden puppet and his expanding organ had hidden sexual overtones. My female readers are probably going to tell me that they've all fantasised about this (actually if you have, please don't tell me), and no doubt a shrink on hearing that a patient had been exposed to this perversity as a child would prescribe an expensive course of pyschiatry and suggest that they sue the parents.

I've never seen the film, which is probably why I'm so normal. And innocent.