Monthly Archives: July 2008

A Philadelphia Story

The oppressively hot and muggy atmosphere is finally beginning to ease off. On Saturday we even left the house for a few minutes…to drive to the offy [wine store]. On the way we noticed that someone on a nearby street was having a yard sale with an apparently massive collection of DVDs for sale. So, on the way back, we stopped off to peruse the wares. Stopping at a yard sale can be a very depressing experience; apart from the pedestrian collection of worthless crap for sale you also have to deal with the knowledge that the people selling them are probably really desperate for any money at all. But this one was different! Not only was he selling a collection of excellent films, but he also had a mini-USB to USB-type-A cable – and at that particular moment I needed one of those quite urgently.
We got talking to the guy and it turns out he is a stand up comedian who not only does a lot of TV but is managed by some very famous Hollywood people. What is a well known TV comedian doing selling dodgy DVDs and mobile phone adapters in Philadelphia you are probably wondering, with a cynical sneer. I still wonder about that, but I know he was telling the truth – not only have we seen photos that back this up, but we have done enough net research to discover that he is legit. Apart from being managed by a Hollywood starlet, he’s also done “The National Lottery” (UK) and met Dale Winton! So I’m sure you’ll agree he’s clearly made it. He even met Al Fayed. Where do you o after that ?

He was an utterly excellent bloke too, and we enjoyed watching his DVDs. Funny old world.

I’ll spare you from the inevitable rant about the evils of DVD “copy protection” – you don’t deserve that cobblers.

What is it like to be a geek?

Geeky blog – look away now if you are straight.

One of the reasons why my current job is less sucky than usual is that I’m surrounded by a wide range of people, and within that set are a variety of geeks. We have non-tech people, but they are nearly all music/radio geeks, so they don’t count. The work is pretty fun too because I’m given the luxury of working solidly on only a couple of technical development jobs. Object Orientated Programming, even the mention of which still makes me feel icky, is slowly getting into my soul. There’s no doubt that C++ is bollocks, but “C with objects” is a peculiarly sexy idea. Bits, bytes, buffer overflows, and inheritance…it turns me on. Of course there are better ways of doing that stuff: Objective C, or even Java do objects better…
Have you ever had a really decent Grilled Reuben ? It’s outrageously oily, fatty, meaty, cheesy and absolutely fucking delicious. “Bugger the calories and years of disabilities ahead”, we say to ourselves, “this feels good!”. I sip my wine.
Well, abusing oneself with C++ sometimes makes the programmer feel excited. We know it will cause bloatware, crashes and all kinds of other shit, but by god that API deserved a bloody good encapsulating and sub-classing; it doesn’t half make the programmers feel better.
Sorry – that’s off my chest.

Tonight, my line manager invited our team to do some pissing about with the new office phone system; all based on Asterisk. Of course, being the die-hard phone geek that I am, I leapt at the chance to get my beloved Asterisk box talking to a friend. To cut a long story short: after a short period of time while Michele and I were both chatting to her family on AIM, our home phone system is now connected to my work system. This means I can call home free, and Michele can call me at work using only four digits and without it costing us anything.

Living in the future is fun.

Quick message to McCain supporters

How would you like to earn $237,083 a minute ? That wouldn’t be bad would it ? That’s over $340 million a day! Well, that is currently how much of your money the U.S. government is spending on the war in Iraq. Money well spent I’m sure you agree.

Some would say that this money may have been better spent on providing world-class healthcare, housing, transport and education which it would have been able to do several times over. You obviously don’t, because you’re planning on electing that pillar of self-interested spiteful conservatism and at the same time you should be looking forward to not being able afford to travel to work, feed your family, or ever get ill.

One thing you really really need to understand is that the oil IS going to run out. It’s not going to get any cheaper, regardless of how many new wells you dig – you’re just slowing down the decay. Spend the money on doing what you’ll have to do one day anyway: finding better methods of moving around and heating your house.

So, don’t follow the herd of ovine, myopic, provincial, crackers – vote for Obama. You never know, it may stop America from falling further into the deep shit into which is has been dropped by the neo-cons.

If you voted for George W Bush in the second term then ignore the above advice. Instead, tear up your voting card and check yourself into the local nuthouse. You really shouldn’t be out, let alone be allowed to vote.


hoagiefestWawa is having Hoagiefest!
There’s a sentence that that majority of the people who can be arsed to read this post won’t understand. You see, it’s a bit of Philadelphia cowchahhh, and I’m wondering if my assimilation into the US is approaching completion now that I not only understand what it means, but am quite excited by it.

Punishing the law-abiding

Here’s a piece of fiction for you.
A guy spends a few years of his life illegally downloading music and films because he thinks the copyright restrictions are wrong, and that money spent is wasted on bullshit rather than given to the artist.
Despite the illegality, he does ok. In fact, the only legal DVD’s and CD’s he owns do quite badly in his new home: on a different continent to that on which he purchased the material. Meanwhile, all of the illegal DVD copies and music rips work perfectly. What is this person supposed to think about this predicament ?

Imagine that one day, in a spot of consumer frenzy, he decided to buy a DVD movie because, despite the fact it was massively over-priced at 20 bucks, he wanted to watch it that day and fancied trying legality for a while. This guy must surely have enjoyed the experience of 100% legit media and the high quality that he was entitled to by buying the genuine(tm) media(tm). Especially compared to the poor quality cinema caps and dodgy xvid media he was used to!
Well, then stretch your imagination further and try to picture how the guy felt when his new DVD would not play on any of his legitimate DVD playing equipment. Image how he felt when he discovered that the legitimately purchased DVD would only play using open-source software on one of his computers – not entirely convenient for a saturday night movie.
Let me tell you, this fictional guy was going to take the DVD back to the shop (after ripping it), to get his money back. But it turned out that he enjoyed it so much he decided to keep it. This is probably the last time this guy will ever try to stay legal: he has now realised that anyone trying to stay legal gets abused by the law because the law realises he must be irredeemably gullible.

Rekids, domesticity and the King of the Hill

I’ve got a room full of records, and thought I kept them in alphabetical order so I can find the one I want, but apparently it means I’ve got a problem with my arse. — Mark Steel

For the last 10 years I have been separated from my record collection, which has been lying dormant in my parents’ house, awaiting some love. We had neither the room to house them nor the means to play them until now, but today everything came together. I spent the afternoon in “my office” (a little room next to the upstairs bathroom) with an air conditioner, my records in random order, and a knackered SL1200 turntable. By the early evening I had all my records in the cupboard, sorted in fuzzy-strict alphabetical order, and a fully working, beautiful, turntable. A few little adjustments to the tonearm was all it took to get the turntable working perfectly. It’s plugged into “teapot”; our main file-server, telephone exchange, music streamer, and generic upstairs computer. Having all of the old music that formed such a significant part of my youth to hand, and easily playable, is quite a lovely feeling. It’s like being reunited with a long-lost part of the family.

This all sounds objectionably cosy and irritating I’m sure…but that’s the way life is at the moment…and I can’t say I mind. Every piece of shit news we hear on the radio that underlines what a bunch of pig-ignorant morons our fellow countrymen are is trumped by news from the UK: 42 days without charge ? You’re all mental! Makes the Patriot Act look almost sane. Almost. OK, no it doesn’t, but you should all be ashamed of yourselves for letting Brown get away with that.

Yesterday my neighbour, Tim, called round mid-afternoon because he was bored stripping the wallpaper from his walls. Michele had gone out shopping and I was watching Videodrome. Of course, he arrived just as Debbie Harry and James Woods were having their first sex scene and naturally assumed I was taking advantage of the “baywatch window”… despite having all three parrots out in the room. Using his devious powers of persuasion he convinced me into coming outside for a beer and a tea-cigar [sorry – I know. But the odd cigar is surprisingly life affirming]. The fact that Michele hates cigars and the fact that he knew that, and the fact he knew she had gone out, combined, would give entirely the wrong impression. We spent a very pleasant hour on the front step talking bollocks and it dawned on me that I was slowly turning into Hank from King of the Hill. But, that’s not so bad is it ? Hmm.

The curse is come upon me

We knew it would happen; it was only a matter of time.
Our drives to work have started turning me into a traffic-obsessed fool.
The main problem from my point of view is that traffic provides a very limited universe of possibilities yet appears to allow for a huge number of outcomes. It’s like the ultimate video game ever and with the best, most realistic, graphics. However, even though Michele and I are crap at video games we have cracked this one. We sussed the rules a long time ago and are constantly amazed by how difficult the other players find it and how they are consequently punished. So, for the benefit of the other players, here is the winning strategy:

  • You can’t beat the traffic! If you try, you will always lose. You can only do well by comparison. By comparison to all the impatient morons who think they can beat it.
  • Stay in the slow lane for the entire journey, unless the person in front of you is so slow they have stopped. Changing lanes in heavy traffic doesn’t help! The traffic is heavy, so both lanes are still. You may think that no-one else has thought about switching lanes, and that it might be the key to a fast journey. But it’s not, because they have. And it does nothing but use up your oh-so-expensive gas.
  • Stay at as constant a speed as possible. Don’t rapidly accelerate or decelerate because that will simply burn your gas. Every day we watch a bunch of drivers cutting in and out of each lane in a pathetic attempt to get ahead. In every case we are always amazed to see them coming up from behind us time and time again after they have gained half a car-length in front of us a few minutes before. They always lose.
  • Get off the phone you fucking idiot!
  • Don’t tailgate unless you are proud of being the most stupid cock on the road. If the person in front has to stop suddenly, you will damage their car and they will damage your wallet. If they aren’t going fast enough then pass on the “fast lane”. The clue is in the name. If they are in the fast lane and doing over 50, then deal with it. Why are you in such a hurry ?

Who’d a thunk I’d ever written a blog about bad driving. All driving is bad.