Monthly Archives: October 2006

No flesh shall be spared

Any description of the slaughter that continues in our house would sound like some sort of Stephen King bloodfest. On the morning that we left for America, a little bastard mouse got up early and paraded around the front room in front of us to let us know he would be running shit while we were away.
On the night we got back, we saw him on top of the hoover and a couple of nights later we chased him up the tube – at which point we turned it on. Clunk – captured mouse. We chucked the bag out that night.

However, tonight, after several nights of failing to catch other mice, and failing to suck them up the hoover, I got a call from Michele asking me to find out what model hoover we have so she could buy some more bags. As I opened the top of the chassis, to my horror, there was a dead rotting mouse in there, generating a really nasty smell. There was also a tail hanging down…belonging to a very alive, but not very awake, mouse. Those bastards have been nesting in our hoover! That was a step too far.

Now, anyone that knows me will know that I hate any harm being done to any animals. I’ve even been known to cry over accidentally murdered spiders and snails…but this time was different. I gloved my hand in a plastic bag, grabbed the poor, beautiful, little mouse, and repeatedly smashed the bag with a wine bottle. The whole experience really freaked me out but it seems that it does get easier to kill things with experience. Not a good thing really. He had to die, and I suspect he was injured as a result of the hoover and also mourning the loss of his mum…

War is heck…

Tips for the modern terrorist

Traveling back from the US has, once again, broken our internal clocks. I know how to stop it happening – you just stay up all day when you get back, but that’s easier said than done; must be age. But I did manage to force myself to get up at 6pm and meet the others down the pub. Good night that was, despite Dan’s mullet.

The trip back was great once we’d undergone the “theatre for stupid people” that is US security.
“Hey – your bag’s covering your laptop. I’m going to have to put it through the scanner again” screamed the “security official”.
“What ? I took it out of the bag – like you asked me to.”
“You put your bag on top of it so it looks like you’re trying to hide it.”
WTF ? I was standing there in bare feet, holding my trousers up by hand, since my belt was in yet another grey plastic tray; I’m being told that I’ve breached security in some way and as if this whole charade wasn’t ridiculous enough the guy is telling me the x-ray machine can’t see through some cheap nylon laptop bag. So, here is my list of top tips for terrorists wishing to blow up planes in the US:

  • Hide your C4 in a free CompUSA laptop bag as the airport security scanners can’t see through them.
  • Whilst the vigilant US security staff insist on passengers removing their shoes, the UK ones don’t. Simply blow-up planes going to the US (like on 9/11)!
  • Another glaring loophole is within the airside shopping and dining facilities at the airport. The US security people have wisely insisted that only plastic knives be available for passenger use, but they give you metal forks! So, steal a TGI Friday fork and then use that to force your way into the cockpit.
  • Despite the rigorous security, I have never been asked to take off my underpants, or had a full cavity search! I know! The fools! So use exploding underpants, or a ceramic rectal grenade.

Look, I understand the need for security, and I even understand the need to put on an OTT display for the benefit of the stupid people. But couldn’t we have two queues, one for the “patriots”, that includes all of this bizarre pissing about to make them feel better, and one for everyone else ?

The U.S. and Nazi Germany

Ted Rall has written a short and compelling piece that compares the rise of the Nazis in Germany in 1935 with recent events in the US. I’d never even heard of of the Military Commisions Act before and that’s hardly surprising. I wonder how many US citizens have ?
And while we British smuggards look on pitifully, we are missing similar changes going on in our own country.

Tomtom voices and US weddings

You can never tell whether a wedding is going to be any good before you go, but we were lucky enough to get a great one. A short, joyful, ceremony (with no God, fire or brimstone); spectacular food; lots to drink and enjoyable company. In the UK there’s a saying I would normally have endorsed: “a good funeral is better than a bad wedding.” But I think this derives from the fact that British weddings suck quite badly: too long, dull, loads of hanging about, cash bar etc etc. The weddings I’ve been to over here have all been better, mainly because they’re shorter and more coherent. You turn up and get whisked from ceremony, to “cocktails”, to dinner, to dance and then home-time, full of good memories. And the drinks are free! UK weddings are very different. You arrive at midday and hang around at the church and then sit through a dull, long ceremony. Then you go outside and hang around a load more while they take pictures. After a couple of hours you drive to the reception and hang around while you buy drinks. Then you all sit down for lunch and eat some poorly catered food while you try to stay awake through the speeches. If you don’t like the crap wine supplied you are free to go and buy some other drink from the poorly-stocked bar. After dinner you go and hang around for another couple of hours and wait for the reception to start, and drink even more. From there on in it’s pretty similar to the US equivalent only you’re more drunk, tired and poor.

Michele’s mum has a new tomtom satnav box and we’ve been playing with it. Michele and I recorded our own voice sets for it and so her mum can have either of us guiding her from place to place. It’s quite ironic to hear Michele explaining how to get from place to place considering she would normally have difficulty finding her arse with a torch… But we think there may be money to be made in creating voice sets for people. Everyone seems to love the idea of having a family member reading their tomtom directions. If Mike can get Franklin (his parrot) trained up, I’d buy a tomtom even though we don’t have a car.

Green Card

Well it took several years, a ton of repetitive paperwork, and a few thousand dollars, but I now have a Green Card and am officially a permanent resident of the United States of America (despite still living in the UK). Actually I have a “temporary I-551” until the real Green Card turns up in the post but it’s effectively the same thing.

Before we left London I was nervous about whether we should try to activate the Visa on this trip to Philadelphia as we’re only supposed to be here for a week; I’d heard several stories about people having to stay in the country for months or years in order not to invalidate their visa. Thankfully there is, of course, a website for people going through the US visa process and so I threw myself on their mercy and was reassured that it would be fine with my type of über-visa (IR-1). They sent me a link to a page called “Entering the US” which described what would happen to me on arrival. This guide was so accurate that it felt like deja-vu when it happened. We got to the airport, sailed through the US residents immigration channel, collected our bags and then handed over my exciting looking brown envelope. Sadly it was taken away for inspection so we never got to see what was in it. They called me back to take a good old-fashioned ink fingerprint and my crap signature. The next time he called me back it was to return my passport which had been stamped with a very ordinary looking stamp. The guy told me that it was effectively a green card and that the real green card would turn up in the post…and that was it.
“Is that it ?” I asked ?
“Yes.” he replied.
“So I can come and go and work and everything ?”
In the back of my mind perhaps I’d been expecting some sort of welcome speech, or a handshake, or a tattoo, or to be given a secret passphrase or something. But it’s a nice feeling knowing my options have widened massively in one sudden ink-based stamp.

The journey involved a lovely plane ride and two of the crappest cab journeys ever. We called a cab to the airport at 8am, assuming that even in rush-hour we would be able to get to Heathrow in 3 hours, and Michele carefully pointed out how to get to our house because in the past other, less reputable, cap companies, had regularly ballsed it up. However the reputable company we called had evidently run out of reputable cab drivers and sent us the store defective. At 8:15 we called back to enquire after our cab and were told by a confused sounding operator that he appeared to be waiting in a totally different road. Another 15 minutes passed and we went upstairs to wait by the entrance. Eventually we spotted to dozy looking bugger pathetically looking at house numbers in the street and confirmed he was our driver. He apologies and told us that the operator had given him the wrong information. As we climbed in, Michele noticed the little computer display was showing a precise rendering of her original instructions to the operator. But we set off, and the shitboy enabled his satnav.

Two and a half hours and three crossings of the Thames later, Michele was on the phone to BA explaining that we’d almost certainly be late and the driver hopelessly commented that the traffic usually isn’t this bad on the tiny, one-lane bicycle track he’d selected to get us there…in the rush hour… I was furious by this time and doing my mean face.

By some miracle we got to Terminal 4 with 2 minutes to go before the end of check-in. We had already checked-in using BA’s new on-line check-in service and so we only had to drop off our bags at the fast track bag drop. It turns out that this is just another name for a really bloody long queue with a person at the end who checks your passport and everything. Luckily, Michele is American and not afraid to ask if we can push in to the front and we got onto the plane. Her Americanness also came in handy there and she managed to:

  • Move us to much better seats with loads of legroom and fold away TVs
  • Get us a newspaper (albeit the Daily Mail)
  • Sit us near a really friendly and chatty air hostess who looked after us.

So we had some yummy food, watched “the Devil wears Prada”, had a few drinks, had a kip, and woke up in time for afternoon tea and Philadelphia.

At the airport we took a cab a from a company called “Lying, Thieving, Bastard Cars” or something and were treated to a nice long tour of a large area very near to, but not quite, our destination as the clocked ticked up. All the time the driver pretended not to understand where we wanted to go and deliberately took wrong turnings just as we were nearly there.

Anyway we’re here now and there’s a nice ham in the fridge again so we’re happy.

Kazakhstan Foreign Minister on Borat

After the contretemps between Borat and the Kazahkstan ambassador to the UK it is refreshing to hear about the real Kazakhstan. Here is an interview between “Kazakhstan Today” and the First Vice Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan on the subject of Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat).

Cohen himself has never visited Kazakhstan and I would like to invite him into our country. He could make a lot of discoveries here: that our women are not only riding buses, but they are also driving their own cars, that we produce wine from grape, that local Jews can freely go to Synagogues, and so on.

said the minister.
In other news, a Kazakh bank has misspelt its own name on newly released banknotes.


The first maths lesson I ever had at secondary school was with a teacher who would eventually be my favourite of all time. He was also the only teacher to issue me with a an “order mark” (naughty point).
In that first lesson he berated a kid for something or other and got the classic protestation of
“Sir! That’s not fair!”
His answer stayed with me until this day. In a loud, scary, voice he replied:
Argument over. He was right, and every day I see that simple point demonstrated several times.
Here’s a superb cartoon about what Liberals say, versus what Conservatives hear.

Tip of the day

Despite there being no mention of this topic in the manual, it would seem that dropping an M600 smartphone into the toilet will adversely affect its performance; particularly with respect to its ability to be switched on.
I therefore strongly advocate not dropping your phone into the toilet. Unless you need a small doorstop.


screenshotTor now has a hidden-service search engine that’s actually quite good: Nnqtnsoohprzqcke. Obviously you need Tor to get that link to work.

There’s some cold doing the rounds that has knocked out me and just about everyone I know. But a relaxing weekend watching all sorts of good TV has helped the immune system no end.

One minor stress was teapot, our dear old server. Firefox binaries were refusing to run because of the ancient glibc that I was running. So, in a moment of self-destructive madness, I decided to try and install a new glibc…from an ssh login. It can be done…but I fucked it up. If I was running something like debian it wouldn’t have been a problem, but slackware is only partially serious when it uses the word “package” and so it all went bollocks-up. Fixed now of course after I cleaned up the mess. Now we have a half upgraded system running a bizarre collection of library/app versions. But he’s still my little teapot. Bless him.

Humph is still beautiful.