Category Archives: Uncategorized

Don’t Do It Yourself

A friend, and a friend of my wife, managed to persuade me to have a crack at fixing our broken washing machine rather than just fork-out the stupid amount of money required for a new one.

This all happened on Facebook of course.

This all happened when I’d had a few drinks of course.

This was my debrief:

Right, you bastards, the dishwasher is fixed. I have you to thank for encouraging me to try and fix it myself. I fixed the fucker…but it bloody nearly killed me in the process. I said I’d keep you appraised of the progress and so this is your punishment.

The $130 pump arrived and, in a fit of optimistic excitement, I rushed home whist watching the clear and concise video that explains how to fit the part. I watched it enough times that I had every detail memorized and so with excitement I assembled tools and attacked the machine (power off at the circuit breaker).

There were several things they omitted to describe in the video. The main ones were:

1> The state of the floor under the dishwasher.

2> The state of the cupboard containing the water feed and the waste pipe.

3> The fact that the person who made the holes for the water pipe and waste pipe could well have been a lunatic.

4> You would have to lie on the floor to detach the water pipe and disconnect the electricity through a two inch gap at the base of the machine.

5> Water, water everywhere. Where does it all come from?

So, I spent a while lying on the floor of the kitchen, in a bizarrely large pool of water, trying to undo things though a tiny gap that the spanner and screwdriver were unable to work with no matter what angles I managed to force them into.

Meanwhile, the piles and piles of mouse shit that had built up underneath the dishwasher were liberated by the extraordinary amount of water that was mysteriously present, and turned the puddle I was lying in, into shit soup. But I persisted.

Oh yes, it was in the 90’s that day, and the A/C unit in the front room was not helping.

After an exhausting and humiliating amount of time lying in the soup-du-merde with sweat pouring down my face, I eventually got the machine out, replaced the pump, hoovered up as much mouse shit as I could, replaced the machine, replaced the water supply, replaced the waste pipe, and reconnected the juice – every action taking 3 times as long as it should have done because of fucking dishwasher/foor topology. I was soaked in a variety of unpleasant fluids, exhausted, in pain, but at least I’d replaced the part. I turned the juice back on, turned on the stop cock and started the machine… water ran in but the noise was different.

I settled back into the shit soup and shone a flashlight underneath my nemesis. Water was leaking out from the back of the machine.

There was a lot of screaming and swearing. After pumping out the machine and disabling it, I took a shower/hairwash, replaced my clothes and sat in the front room shivering with horror, rage and humiliation.At that point I decided that for the rest of my life, I wanted nothing but enough money to make sure I NEVER have to deal with a broken dishwasher ever again. It was trauma.

To cut an already long story short, a week later I decided to have another crack at it, with the idea that a failure would give me the opportunity to destroy the beast in an unnecessarily vicious and humiliating way. But this time it worked. I think I’d put the pump in the wrong way round or something last time. It all seems to be working now.

Despite the aggro, I spent less on the spare part that I would have done on the installation of a new machine alone, so it ain’t all bad.


The ‘B’ and ‘P’ words

"Are there any classes you're struggling with?" - "The bourgeoisie"It’s a word I hadn’t used, or considered using, before a few years ago. It usually only turned up on TV when people were taking the piss out of lefties, or when actual lefties talked to me about politics. Frankly, being ill-read, I didn’t really know what people meant by it. This seemed problematic for a word that is generally used as an insult, but now it all makes sense. The people being insulted can’t possibly understand what it means, nor are they meant to; they’re almost certainly not part of the conversation. Anyone who understands it will know what it means, why it is insulting, and why they are using it to describe Adam, Toby, or whoever is being discussed.
Coincidentally it was another ‘B’ word that led me to this enlightenment: Brexit.

The Brexit vote happened during my time in the U.S. of Arse, far away for the raw heat of the societal tear which caused the eruption of red hot fury to launch forth from beneath. It was bizarre to observe. There were three main factions:

  1. Ignorant racists.
  2. Anti capitalists.
  3. Bourgeois people who were concerned about the effect of the price of Camembert, retirement opportunities in Spain and the availability of cheap plumbers.

It turns out that the majority of my friends are number 3. I used to think they were lefties. No. What they are is the archetype of bourgeois.

As the UK was being carefully separated into rich and poor by the ancient ruling elites, all anyone I knew was complaining about was fucking Brexit. The NHS had been whittled away for the last 30 years, and the welfare state was unusably fucked, leading to the mass homelessness, suicides, dependence on foodbanks, and deaths as a result.
Meanwhile, the neoliberal bourgeois masses were protesting: about the UK not being part of the European trading gang-bang. They whined about how difficult it would be to import and export goods from the Europe, as if they had ever had first hand experience of doing it before or since the existence of the EU.
They sought solace in speeches from knights of the center right like Michael Heseltine, Kenneth Clarke and John Twatting Major.

Then the election came.

Pressure from the bourgeois activists led the only left-wing party, Labour, to shift its policy to supporting a second referendum

Boom. Overnight they lost factions 1 and 2 (see above) Obviously faction 1 can fuck off (despite consisting of a large and misguided section of the population)… but faction 2 was underestimated. Labour got more votes than ever before. But not enough to win.

In the smoking remains of the aftermath, things look clearer to everyone who lost.

The bourgeoisie see that the fault is with me and my selfish desire to fix the NHS and public spending. Why was I so “hard left”? Why couldn’t I be more…

PRAGMATIC

The word “pragmatic” is a shibboleth among the bourgeoisie and is code for shifting further right. They believe there is a large body of ignorant right-wing people who need to be appeased. And they’re right: themselves!

The opposite of “pragmatism” is “ideology” which has now become associated with lunacy: at least the current leaders are using lubricant!  If we don’t keep voting for them we’ll get people who want to go in raw.

The canonical example of “pragmatism” is a quote from Mr Tony Blair which sums up the problem precisely in one of his famous soundbites:

“Power without principle is barren, but principle without power is futile.”

The bourgeoisie see this as not only reasonable, but obviously reasonable. If they were reading this blog post they genuinely wouldn’t understand why anyone would disagree.

Douglas Adams perfectly summed up this paradox in the fourth book of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy.

The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”
“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”

The bourgeoisie regard ideologues as the enemies of liberal democracy… which they bloody well should be even if they aren’t. If, even when confronted by all of the evidence, you still believe in liberal democracy, then you are lost.

Don’t tense up, just try to enjoy it.


The 2019 Night at the Boozer

The “Night down the pub” has been a very important part of my life since the age of about 2. So here is a random sample from 2019:

Head down the Union Tap House with a fully charged phone and a brand new copy of Private Eye so that I can enjoy a quality beer [yes, singular] whilst reading.

On arrival, I see that the only person at the bar is Irish Paul and a voice in the back of my head suggests that I may end up having an extra half-pint on top of my target pint.

Paul and I chat with each other and Claudia behind the bar. It is the traditional sort of chat involving calling each other “cunts” and giggling.
We were joined by Lindsey (who was kind enough to reunite me with my long lost umbrella), Steve (who forgot to call me “your Lordship”) and Quizmaster Justin. The evening progressed in typical pub “bullshit and giggles” style. Sal and Bill joined Claudia behind the bar, forming the service dream-team. Paul and Lindsey introduced us to Mike and Lindsey before departing for home. I followed on shortly afterwards, which allowed me to only inflict my personality on Over-the-Road-Alex for a few minutes. It’s not fair that he should have to deal with that much Englishness before a pub-quiz.

One of the best parts about going to the Union is that I have to walk up a bastard of a hill to get home…unless I insult the planet by ordering a Lyft. But I didn’t do that. The walk cancels out any negative health effects accrued by spending several hours drinking and eating deep-fried pretzel bites and that is why I’m a picture of slender health.

Finally, as if things could get any better, I get to hang out at home with M and the birds while eating a superb pasta-chicken dish and watching comical British telly.

Note to future self: see – it was good!


Wrong is Right

Tonight I ended up watching a film (“movie” for my Merkin friends) starring Sean Connery, from 1982, that predicted the whole “War on Terror” including the World Trade Center bombing. You’d have thought that such a significant film, starring a huge movie star like Connery, would be well known by everyone. But if you’ve even heard of it you’re in the minority and if you’ve actually seen it then…well we’ve never met at least.
It’s called “Wrong is Right” – or for us that grew up outside of the US it was rebranded as “The Man with the Deadly Lens” (they thought Bondifying it would make it popular). Currently on Huflix Prime or whatever. Satire. Worth the whole 2 hours for the final, final scene.

 


The Science of Astrology

Sometimes people you like can surprise you by veering off the path so much you start to wonder why you’re even talking to them. A pleasant friendship can be immediately soured for me by my friend explaining why they believe all Indian people are rude, or why Enoch Powell was actually a very clever man who was simply misunderstood, or why Donald Chump is actually a great president…

On a totally different topic, today at work during our traditional lunch discussion, everyone at the table outed themselves as keen enthusiasts of astrology. One minute we were all chatting enjoyably about some bullshit or other, the next it was all “sun signs”, “moon signs” and “rising signs”. I learned that if you don’t take into account the exact time you were born then the signs won’t be right! Imagine! You could all be discussing things that aren’t true! Without the correct birth date and time the whole thing would simply be a meaningless load of old wank.

After biting my tongue for as long as I could, it all became too much of a burden to hold in and so I exploded in angry sarcasm.

After my rant had petered out there was only one comment: “you’re only saying that because you’re an Aries.”

How did he know? Oh bloody hell, it’s all true after all.


Funny old world

Thirty years ago or so there was a very dramatic evening involving a bunch of teenagers who decided to explain to the victim of a Lothario that he wasn’t going to be her Mr Right. This is the kind of thing that happens when teenagers get drunk together. To us, and especially to the victim, this was a very fucking dramatic night. There were tears. There was screaming. There were feelings of distrust with the universe. There was a long walk through a local park after all the booze was gone to help cool off. Most of all there was a message scrawled on the bathroom mirror in toothpaste that read “funny old night”. This summed up the situation in more ways than the author knew…perhaps.

Since this, in my early youth, there have been countless examples of dramatic and disturbing events that range from domestic arguments to the election of a mentally disabled fascist. Whenever something like this happens, all I can think of is that toothpaste graffiti on the mirror: “funny old night”. Nowadays my brain changes it to “funny old world” because that is more accurate.


Ten Word Film Reviews: Part One

For those occasions that I actually sit and watch films: some reviews as memory joggers.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Visually stunning, entirely appropriate sequel. A bit pretentious in places.

Lady Bird (2017)

Great acting; fun if you like catholic school stuff. Yawn.

The IPCRESS file (1965)

Essential fodder for spy movie buffs. Brilliant, gripping. Still cool.

8½ (1963)

Worth it for the opening scene alone. Weird and beautiful.

The Trial (1962)

Fantastic and accurate rendition of the book, without the tedium.


The Smug Train

Sometimes – rarely – the unreliability of the public transport operator can work in your favour. This morning provided me with a great working example of the phenomenon. After a particularly good night’s sleep, I prized myself out of bed at an unusually early hour and consequently arrived at the station with ample time to wait for the “early-train”. To my surprise the station was packed to capacity, which made very little sense as the even-eariler-train was much earlier – really quite a lot earlier – and by dint of the hour, none of the early early trains are ever that crowded.
The SEPTA app (so much better than it was btw) revealed the solution to this paradox: not only was the even-earlier-train severely delayed, but the unfeasibly-early-train was even more delayed!
Now that we all have supercomputers in our pockets we can find this stuff out on the platform, and then look at a map to show us where the actual trains are in real time!
A crowded train arrived, and the crowds of people all forcefully piled-in, delaying the train further, and will have spent a miserable 25 minutes standing up as the train slowly joggled its way into Center City.
Obviously I did not join the throng, aware as I was that literally around the bend was another train – presumably empty.
An older lady at the station approached me as the crowded train was departing, seeking support for two conjectures:

  1. There was another empty train on the way.
  2. These younger people are so regimented that they can’t handle the idea of not following their daily routines as closely as possible.

It was an instant bond formed from an overwhelming feeling of smugness that we had outwitted the youth. She apologised for including me in the non-youth side of the scenario but suggested that, despite my obviously youthful aspect, the others may have been younger. She also asked me how I got real-time train info on my phone; outlining that here and referring to her as an “older lady” as I did above more than cancels the debt as far as I’m concerned.
Less than a minute later, a completely empty train arrived and took me to work. As it progressed through the inner cities, it became evident that the same scenario had occurred all the way down the line: the few passengers that did get on were also overflowing with smugness and we all got to appreciate what I can only describe as a luxurious commute.


What makes a really good day?

Today was a really good day, but the reasons for saying so should make a lot of normal people, including me, cringe. Nonetheless bedtime this evening fills me with a smug, warm, feeling of retrospective joy.
Today was the the day that the local sportsball team was celebrating victory in a sports ball competition. For reasons I genuinely don’t understand this resulted in the largest public turn-out in history for Center City Philadelphia. Obviously this alone would be, at best, a source of misery for me – a sports-hating depressive who despairs at the lack of concern shown by the general public for the far-right direction the world seems to have taken – but as a result of the brokenness of society this resulted in all employees at my company being given a paid day off! Those of us with any knowledge of the labor movement in this country may find this amusing; that is another blog.

An unexpected day off really means a lot to we proles. In particular it meant that my wife and I could spend an extra day together with absolutely no pressure to be doing something productive; planned days off usually come with the burden of feeling like you have to make the most of them by “achieving” something. Peculiarly, the freebie nature of today’s liberation did not seem to invoke this dark guilty feeling; we therefore did whatever we wanted and ended up achieving more than we would normally manage on any weekend. Here’s a list (because I like lists):

  • We went out to brunch at a local diner. In this endeavor we achieved both the consumption of delicious food and plenty of laughter.
  • When we got back home I achieved an hour long nap!
  • We decided to have a crack at tidying one of the darker regions of our house and by some miracle we worked together, got it done, and both enjoyed it!
  • By all means call me a scab, but I had arranged to have a tutorial with someone in Gigacorp about a brand new company wide Kubernetes-as-a-service [ignore this bit if you don’t understand it – it’ll soon be over] project. Working on a day off is a no-no I understand, but this is not only a topic that interests me, the guy seemed like he may be nice… he had a TARDIS as his Slack status icon. (It’s probably worth mentioning that my status icon is K9. Nerds will understand.) His personal tutorial was brilliant and inspiring. He also seemed to be every bit the lovely bloke I’d imagined.[There. Over.]
  • I got to spend a lot of time hanging out with the parrots and the chickens… yeah we have a bunch of chickens living in our garden temporarily.
  • After becoming inspired by my chat, I revisited a problem I’d had at work with my own experimental Kubernetes cluster [ok, it came back. see above for advice]. This time I fixed it by trying something that was more intuition than a result of information on the Internet. This made me feel very happy.
  • We watched Kingpin for the umpteenth time and had a really good dinner!

So work and industry, on a day off, cheered me up. This is not what I, or anyone that knows me, would expect, but there you have it.

Quote of the day:

“What’s a Cabernetti? It sounds like an Italian pastry”

— my wife after overhearing my Kubernetes tutorial.


Scotch Eggs

Around seven or eight years ago a Venezuelan friend of mine asked me if I’d ever heard of a “Scotch Egg”. Obviously I explained how common they were in the UK, and asked how he could have possibly encountered them.
Anyone not from the UK needs to understand Scotch Eggs and the part they play, or rather the part they used to play, in British culture; we tend not to think about them unless we’re actually eating one. If you ended up eating one during the course of your day it would be forgotten about almost immediately, and only brought to mind with an accompanying thought along the lines of “oh dear, I shouldn’t have eaten that scotch egg!”
Consequently very few Brits ever spend time wondering where Scotch eggs come from. I suppose there are places where people do actually make them by hand and serve them to their families, but I’ve never seen anything like that. Generally Scotch Eggs are just there in your mouth at some point. You don’t deliberately go out and buy them, and you certainly couldn’t order them in a restaurant. Also, never in my entire life had I imagined they were possibly edible while hot!
scotch eggIf you’d asked me where to get one I’d have probably suggested a service station or maybe the remaindered section of a low end supermarket like Iceland. Actually the front seat of a car parked in a motorway service station is probably the most appropriate place to eat one. It’ll be cold, stuffed down to suppress hunger, and immediately forgotten.
At this point it’s important to know that I have always liked them despite my general indifference. They were useful guilty pleasures made more enjoyable by the rarity of their appearance in my life.
But things have changed. The idea of a deep-fried egg wrapped in sausage meat and breadcrumbs seems to have triggered a level of excitement in those unfamiliar with the general concept and as a result they have been adopted by poncy restaurants in the US! You can frequently spend the best part of 10 bucks on a hot Scotch Egg in a posh eatery, and it will arrive with some gourmet dipping sauce, a rocket (arugula?) garnish, on a piece of distressed roofing material.
I used to chuckle in an inexcusably patronising way when I saw this happen in high end restaurants here: these Americans think Scotch Eggs are proper food!
Earlier this year I visited London and was shocked to discover that high-end Gastropubs were now serving gourmet hot Scotch Eggs (dip/leaves/slate etc) for the best part of 10 quid! How did this happen?
I had to try one. It was bloody gorgeous.