Monthly Archives: July 2011

Getting the hang of Thursdays

In the olden days when the human lifespan was estimated as around 70 years, it was a common metaphor to map each decade to a day of the week. Using that analogy, last Thursday I entered the Thursday of my life. Birthdays get increasingly less exciting after around 35, and this particular milestone was filling me with dread. Rationally there’s nothing special about the number 40. If humans had 8 fingers instead of 10, I’d have been worrying about turning 40, 8 years ago. But that 4 at the front is going to take some getting used to. So in preparation I took Thursday and Friday off work thus giving myself a 4 day weekend in which to hide away at home and pretend it wasn’t happening. It turned out to be an excellent plan. Michele had ordered some British (well, Irish in fact) bacon, beans and other delicacies which meant I got a couple of proper bacon rolls for my birthday breakfast. I spent the day lounging around, watching some films, writing stupid code and hanging out with the parrots. In the evening we ordered a curry. If I had to design the perfect birthday it would have been something like that. Friday evening ended up being a pretty packed and enjoyable time. It started at a
Royal Wedding party
held in the beautiful home of Michele’s British friend Helen in a really lovely part of Center City Philadelphia. As we were leaving and heading back to the bus stop, I got a call from T. T is a friend of a friend from England who had flown into the U.S. with her dad that day – we had intended to meet up for a drink on her one night in Philly and she had made it to 30th st station. After negotiating with them and the Station Information lady who was helping them call me, I jogged over to meet them. I would have walked over, but the formidable lady at Station Information had made it quite clear that I should get there NOW! It’s good to know that they were acting as such firm advocates for the travelers under their purview – but she was quite scary. They only had an hour or so before they had to get back to the hotel so I took them over to Rum Bar, where Michele was waiting for us along with Tom who had come along to help us out with ordering the right drinks. It turned out to be a really good couple of hours in which we sampled a variety of exotic beverages including a pepper-coriander cocktail which tastes like it sounds – only in a good way. Wow. While this was going on, unbeknownst to me, our friends from across the road had decided that I hadn’t celebrated my birthday enough and so were inflating balloons by the ton and getting lubricated with Carlo Rossi. By the time we had battled with Septa and made it home I was being enticed to go over the road where they were all “making merry”. There were a bunch of balloons tied to our front door, together with a big jug of Paisano! So, taking the jug firmly under my arm, I went over to see how they were all doing. Several hours later later I staggered back home – feeling very “refreshed”. And after all that, the weekend has only just started. Other stuff:

  • My dad scanned in a 1925 pamphlet on
    Strike Breaking Organisations
    . I OCR’d the text and my colleague Mr Fritz proof read it – the
    result is here
  • After getting bored with Android 2.1 on my phone I decided to switch to
    . So far so good – although beyond a flashier interface I haven’t noticed much difference so far. But it’s nice to have a rom that is designed to be messed around with – and feels more firmly supported than the original one. We’ll see.
  • er…that’s it

Cheaper than free

Last night a friend on Facebook (whom I’ve never met) announced his appreciation of the
new Amon Tobin album
. As a fan, I thought I should give it a listen. A few seconds of ceaseless searching later, I’d abandoned all hope and bought it on Amazon. A few more seconds later I was listening to it on their “Cloud Player”. Congratulations Amazon, you have beaten the pirates by making it so easy to get music that people will pay for the privilege! The DRM advocates and “Copy Protected CD” monkeys have finally lost to the people who understand what it’s all about. That can’t be a bad thing can it?

Lucky Stars

Right – this is a soppy post. Look away now if you have a weak stomach. (The TL;DR version is
Reasons to be Cheerful
.) As I’ve learned, sometimes it’s a good idea to spend time appreciating a pleasant moment, and reminding oneself of how lucky and comfortable things are. This is a note to myself of how nice things are at this point in my life. It’s 2011 and we’ve made it this far. As a kid I used to try and work out how old I would be in the year 2000 and the calculated age of 29 seemed tragic; I’d be too old to enjoy it! We don’t have jet-packs, colonies on the moon or hover-cars, but we do have some pretty impressive stuff.
There have been times
when I have been subjected to what my friend Alex called “a worry track”: a perpetual set of worries that pervade all other thoughts, all of the time, like a kind of existential tinnitus. It’s not nice. Not as bad as hunger maybe, but not good. And it goes on for years. But at this moment in time, I’m not suffering. Sitting on a comfy sofa, in a warm house, with a powerful laptop, on which I can summon up just about anything I can think of, is a nice feeling. On my right moob is a small beautiful bird who is preening my beard. In front of me is a
that is currently playing music from a collection of stuff that a computer somewhere on the planet thinks I will like. The collection could be titled “music to love Leo by”. With a few clicks of a little remote control I can watch any of thousands of TV programmes, films or music videos. That’s a pretty cool thing. In the next room, my wife is pottering around. She has found her true calling in life: dealing with wild animals. Now she is sitting next to me on the sofa, typing on her laptop. Tomorrow I have to go to work; but apart from the commute it’s a stimulating and entertaining job. I sit down in an Aeron chair and write code all day – hardly
The Jungle
is it? And frankly the commute provides a perfect opportunity for reading. Perhaps it’s because I’ve just finished reading a book about life in
the year 1000
that I’m not only appreciating life as it is now, but also glad to observe the improvements in the lives of many people since then. All of this is better summed up by an article a friend sent me today:
Reasons to be Cheerful
. There are too many people currently being blown up, irradiated, tortured, starved and drowned in the world for us not to start appreciating how luxurious our lives really are.

Dandy Fucking Lion

Right. Now I’m pissed off. I just composed a post that is probably the most eloquent and heartfelt outpouring of enthusiasm I’ve ever been able to produce – and then I hit CTRL-W. GRRRRRRRR! So here is the compressed version in yet another list:

  • The Dandy Lion
    provided a boozy brunch for me and a couple of friends on Sunday. Full English including Black Pudding and an egg/stout/rum/nutmeg-based drink called a “Beer Flip”. Nuff said.
  • After that we popped over the road to
    and had South African Mead and cheese. I cannot begin to describe how wonderful this experience was. As someone who has never had a religious experience I would guess it would feel a bit like that.
  • After a little kip, Michele and I went over to see Helen, Ralph and Dot; we not only devoured a delicious home-made Chicken Pie, but followed it up with an astonishing lemon-meringue pie.

In one day!

Cornish Pastische

Attention English people: a “pot-luck” is evidently an event where participants cook a meal and share it with the the other participants. Today our workplace hosted a pot-luck and it was, from my point-of-view anyway, a spectacularly enjoyable event. There were 10 participants, but we managed to supply enough food to feed the rest of the company as well. We ate
The menu today included:

  • Yellow rice with chick peas, better known as Arroz con Gandures
  • Venison chili
  • Enchilada pies (1 vegetarian, 2 non)
  • Roast pork with broccoli rabe
  • Goat Vindaloo with Mutter Paneer
  • Pulao with Raita
  • Spanish Lasagna with plantain
  • Fancy cheese with unsmoked, cured salmon
  • “A sinful dessert”

M and I made a bunch of pretend Cornish Pasties which, whilst not exactly being the real deal, tasted quite the part. In case you doubt that I was actually involved, photographic evidence exists. We made enough to have a couple for our tea last night, and they were pretty close to the mark. Overall it was probably my favourite experience at work since I started there; we all ate, chatted, laughed, and appreciated each others’ food – quite a bonding experience really. I won’t describe the exact form of the “sinful dessert” because that sort of information could cause global unrest. Just believe me when I say it was shameful and yet spectacular.

Egg day

Despite weakening the git, the sickness lingers on. Fortunately today was a Work From Home (WFH) day, which means I didn’t have to get up at 10 past sparrow-fart. Working from the sofa has many advantages over commuting and sitting in the office:

  1. You get to hang out with the parrots – and they get to hang out with you.
  2. You don’t spend three hours on public transport.
  3. You don’t subject your workmates, and your workmates don’t subject you, to the latest fashionable virus from abroad.
  4. Interruptions are negligible.
  5. You get to control the temperature.
  6. The tea, water and food supplies are fully stocked.
  7. There’s only one person in the bog at a time.

A couple of weeks ago I received a text message from a thoughtful friend who wanted to know if I would like a ride home. “I’m already home, it’s wfh day!” I responded. “Cool!” he replied. It was a few days before I noticed, in my text message log, that the spell checker had “corrected” my text to: “I’m already home, it’s egg day!” When I asked my friend about this misunderstanding, it turns out he’d assumed it was some sort of alien colloquialism (“sitting still like an egg or staying home and having eggs or something”). So from that point forth, “Working From Home Day” has been officially renamed “Egg Day” in our household. Please help to adopt this globally. Finally, here is the obligatory link to
The Oatmeal on this topic


Been ill for a while so NYEH! Just for the record, here is a random list of stuff that has been stuck in my brain over the past couple of weeks.

  • A brilliant micro-documentary about London’s traffic that actually manages to be funny, and interesting, and stars Beardyman’s brother.
  • David Mitchell using his slot on Channel 4 to defend the BBC. Accurate, biting and necessary.
  • I’ve been craving bacon sandwiches. British bacon sandwiches. Nothing gourmet either – the sort you get from any one of the thousands of greasy-spoon caffs that you are within walking distance of right now (if you live in the UK). Crusty white bread, a smidge of butter, brown sauce (preferably HP), and two to three rashers of thick bacon cooked on one of those hotplate things in some cheap oil. The other morning I was craving it so badly that I started Googling pictures of bacon sandwiches at work.
  • It’s my niece Lily’s 1st birthday today! Happy birthday little girl!
  • $4.30 each, with free shipping. I bought three of these amazing little things.
  • Libya too? What excuse are we going to need for the next invasion.
  • Noam Chomsky thinks Obama is possibly worse than Blair/W – and tragically he may be right.