Monthly Archives: October 2008

Privatisation, Politics, Phillies and AC/DC

For the non-Americans:
The “World” Series involves two North American Baseball teams playing against each other, with the best out of seven games winning. For the first time in 25 years, the Phillies [Philadelphia’s team] are playing and are 3 games to 1 up. In other words, the current game dictates whether they win the “World” Series.

The game started two nights ago and was suspended because of the rain (it’s very much like Cricket in that respect) and so we’re really near to a result this evening. Normally, as anyone who knows me would affirm, I wouldn’t give a flying fuck about such bollocks, but Philly is in such need of an uplift that I’m really hoping they win.

The other reason I hope they win is that Obama managed to pay for a half-hour campaign ad just before the game on three major networks including FOX, who are showing the game. He only managed this because he managed to raise a record-breaking amount of cash from the general public. Call me a blinkered optimist, but I really think that Obama getting elected could change the entire world for the better. Every time I hear him speak, I want to give him a hug. Every time I hear McCain and his simple side-kick speak, I wish that the healthcare system in this country wasn’t as broken so that they could be taken in to a safe environment where they couldn’t hurt anyone.

Even though the most Socialism this country has seen for over a hundred years was produced by George W Bush, the right are still accusing Obama of being a “Socialist”. He’s not. I wish he were, but he’s not. privatisation does not work. I’m not saying that private companies don’t work, I’m saying that privitisation of formally public organisations doesn’t work.

Here’s a case study involving British Gas [formerly “The Gas Board”] and PGW [Philadelphia Gas Works]. Obviously this isn’t scientific, but it’s what the deluded simpletons in social science call “qualitative”. Pity them.

A few years ago, in London, Michele became worried that our combi-boiler was leaking carbon monoxide and so, despite my protestations, called British Gas. Within two hours a guy arrived wearing a nicely pressed British Gas suit and carrying no equipment whatsoever. He turned off the gas supply, placed a “Do No Use” sticker on the boiler, and told us to call a CORGI registered gas engineer to fix the problem. When we asked what the fucking fuck he thought he was doing, he explained he had “made our gas supply safe” and from now on it was up to us. I could have done that! When we did actually get a proper engineer around, he told us everything was fine and turned it back on. Thanks British Gas.

So, when we arrived home the other evening and smelled gas, I was worried. Michele called PGW. Meanwhile, I traced the smell to a pilot light on the cooker that had snuffed out. After lighting it we were cool, and so Michele called PGW to cancel the call-out. We were told that the call-out couldn’t be cancelled and so we would have to explain it to the guy when he arrived, which he did within ten minutes!
He arrived with a big bag of tools and an obviously deep knowledge of gas equipment, which he then used to check every gas appliance in the joint. He declared it all ok.

Now, when I call the gas company, that’s what I expect: a guy turning up in 20 minutes with a bag of tools. Nice one PGW! I told our man how happy we were with his service and described the British Gas equivalent. He told us that they have been trying to outsource the work in PGW for a while and that the unions were fighting it. I hope the unions win; the British privatisation model is a long, expensive, painful, death of a decent service.
Night night.

AC/DC – the new album is pure AC/DC. You already know what it sounds like. Love it.

iPhone, G1 and other geeksmithery

G1 picIn the past couple of months my job has included writing an iPhone app, and it’s fun! All of those flashy mac-style frameworks on something that fits in your pocket. And Objective-C really is an excellent way to spend time if you’re in the geek zone. But today I received my new “HTC Dream” AKA the G1 AKA the Googlephone AKA the first ever implementation of Android and it really feels nice. Full of teething troubles (of course) but a beautiful, beautiful piece of hardware that smells of new car and feels like proper 21st century equipment. The love affair will surely collapse, but until then I’m going to cherish the beautiful little thing.

Gland and Freedom

The past week has been bewilderingly emotional. We celebrated the start of a wonderful new life, and the ignoble death of a close family member. My boss at work was very understanding and let me go early, and work from home the next day. Whenever someone you love dies, it triggers a load of existential angst (amongst other emotions). But combined with the sense of confusion and astonishment we both feel daily when we listen to the radio, it’s been hard. The USA is a big country, and so it can be very jarring when you hear people, from the same country, talk absolute bollocks. How, now that we have such excellent access to news, journals, books and thoughts, can anyone be so badly…wrong ? The only sensible answer can possibly be brain damage.
The biggest giveaway is the frequency that a well known word is used over here: Freedom.
I work in a building in the “Freedom Business Park”. The building next to ours houses an eatery known as “The Freedom Cafe”. A common soundbyte heard on any news program involves some baseball-cap wearing moron explaining their resons for voting for McCain: “Obama wants to take away our freedom because he’s a Socialist.”
I wish he was a socialist.
Weirdly, the same people who complain about the prospect of losing their freedom, are only too happy to bend over and let the big corporations fuck them up the arse in the name of free market economics.
Anyone from Europe (even from the UK) would be horrified to find out how much Americans pay for gas, leccy, mobile phones, and healthcare. But the stupids here seem to think that because the prices they pay aren’t “tax” means they are free. This is the most subservient, gullible and suggestive nation on earth.
$700bn is enough to sort out all of the health problems of everyone in the world several thousands of times over. So why are we giving it to a bunch of greedy bankers ?


365 days ago, we got on a plane from London to Philadelphia, leaving my family and ten years of our lives behind. Last night we organized a low-key soiree with some nice people at our local Mexican joint. It turned out to be a very enjoyable evening, that ended up with us sitting around our next-door neighbours fire-pit. And then today, to help us celebrate, Michele’s brother generously sired a lovely new baby boy today which makes us aunt and uncle! Oh yes, his wife helped out too 😉
It’s all very exciting, and probably not a good point to start talking about the impending election or what we have learned about the colonies in our first year.
More soon.

Family, and Comrade Bush

A work colleague and I were having a chat this afternoon when her eye was caught by the picture on the screen of one of my PCs.
“Ooh! Is that your family ?” she asked, earnestly. This was the picture. Thanks. Which one is supposed to be my mum ?

Moving that aside, my Venezuelan connection alerted me to news that the leftist governments of Latin America are currently referring to W as “Comrade”.

My favourite quote from this, and possibly the most excellent paragraph ever written, is:

“One of our economists was telling us that Bush has just implemented communism for the rich,” Castro said.

Not Avocado

As new members of the middle classes we had to undergo the traditional initiation rites of removing most of our carpets. Our 100 year old floors would clearly be too knackered for sanding and varnishing I thought. But it turns out that everyone I know in the UK who claims to know about such things is a fucking idiot…judging by the reaction I received when speaking to “experts” over here anyway. The ideas I had about taking up the floors, replacing the fucked floorboards and moving the existing ones closer together are apparently the work of drug-induced madness. Nah, said our expert, these will come up lovely (ok he didn’t use those exact words, but I wasn’t there at the time and so am paraphrasing for other Londoners). So, we booked him and his mates, moved all of our stuff out of the affected rooms, and moved our parrots and ourselves back into Michele’s mum’s place. I managed to negotiate for my “office” and the stairs to remain carpeted. I like carpet, and believe that un-carpeted stairs are plain dangerous.
Now, in fairness, the guys worked super quickly, and the end result looks very beautiful (compared to our previous wine and parrot-shit stained beige carpets anyway). I can’t complain, and it looks way better than I imagined but still:

  • There are gaps in the floor that allow us to see into the basement.
  • The application of varnish caused great globs to pour through these gaps and onto the “precious things” in the basement.
  • The birds are still pissed off about the whole thing, and we can only hope they aren’t being slowly gassed by the fumes.
  • We have wood-dust all over the inside of our double glazing.

Michele stitched me up quite nicely too. She’s been wanting to paint a wall since we moved in. So, rather than talk to me about the idea, she skipped to asking me for advice on a colour for the wall she was going to paint, and generously provided me with a bunch of colour swatches that ranged from avocado green, to a slightly darker avocado green.
“I was thinking some sort of green” I responded.
So we now have a very beautiful, parrot-scaring, green wall. I call it “Avocado” but Michele calls it “Jalapeno”, and apparently they’re not the same thing at all; one was a very popular colour for bathrooms in the 1970’s and is now a hideous anachronism, the other is a great colour for the living room wall. Other than that they’re identical as far as I can tell.

This weekend has consisted of moving furniture back to their carpet positions, working on installing Debian to a high-spec HP server in London, playing with Michele and the birds, and wandering around South Philly with Kevin and a Burrito.