A lovely Christmas, and a timely reminder why we left England.

Dec 31, 2009 | | 2 comments |

We had a nice Christmas break in England, visiting my parents, but at the same time it served as a timely reminder as to the many reasons we emigrated.
Amongst the many things I learned new this time around, these few stuck out in particular:
1. If your car is clamped, the clamping company are now free to march you to a cashpoint and demand money under duress. That's nothing more than legalised robbery.
2. Local councils have dozens of "enforcement officers" (read: spies) who are now allowed to enter your house without a warrant and check up on items such as whether or not you have an EnergyStar rated refridgerator.
3. You specifically do not have a right to defend your property any more (it's been written in to law). A couple of high-profile cases were in the new whilst we were there of robbery victims who'd defended themselves, and managed to get themselves sent to jail in the process because the burglars claimed human rights violations.
4. You no longer have the right to privacy in telephone or email conversations. Whilst the government has unofficially snooped on those for years, it's been properly cemented in law now.

Apart from the above, the price of utilities continues to go up despite the underlying price of commodities coming down. The government is corrupt almost to an Italian level. The number of speed cameras has petrified all drivers into driving at 30mph everywhere, even on dual carriageways (and in one instance - motorways). Petrol prices are at an all time high despite crude oil prices being near decade lows. There seems to more people living off welfare than actually working. The sales tax is going up. A seventh tax on new cars is being introduced (in addition to sales, delivery, luxury, petrol, road, and dealer taxes). Health and safety reigns supreme above everything else including common sense. To the extreme that kids aren't allowed to play contact games in the playgrounds (that's if the schools are even allowed to have playgrounds now), and more comically/tragically window washers aren't allowed to climb ladders.
Bureacracy and the "I couldn't care less" work ethic seem all-pervading now too. For example when we arrived at the airport, we had to wait (as always) for a gate to become clear. When we got to the gate, the jet bridge was stuck. Everyone on board could see that instantly, but the airport operators took 25 minutes to decide to get a set of steps instead, by which time they'd broken the jetbridge so comprehensively that they'd blocked access to the aircraft for the step truck.

The list goes on, and we came home. Because as backwards and oddball as America is in some situations, it's nothing like the appalling conditions that people now have to endure in England.

We love visiting friends and relatives in England, but we both hate the country itself and I personally can't understand how people are able to tolerate it any more.

England is broken. Happy New Year.
(except health and safety in England have banned New Year fireworks)

The airline lunacy continues....

Dec 28, 2009 | | 1 comments |

The latest high tech plan by the airlines to thwart underpants-bombers? Turn off the moving map display an hour before landing.
Yes, that'll do it, because people can't feel the aircraft beginning to descend 30 minutes before landing. And they sure as hell can't look out of the windows to see where they are.
Once again, the alleged "terrorists" have won this round. By failing, they've again created typical panic and disruption and draconian (but ultimately useless) rules that we must all abide by.
I'd say Terrorist: 10. Rest of world: 0 so far. Why? Well if we'd maintained a level head, we wouldn't need to take our shoes off to get on a plane. Or give up all our liquids. Or suffer the TSA rummaging through our luggage and stealing whatever they fancied. Or have the Patriot act. Or concrete barricades near big buildings. Or any number of other enforced but useless rules and regulations that we have to suffer through. All you have to do is look at "modern" society now to realise that we've lost this particular battle well and truly.

Once more we must panic for no reason

Dec 27, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Ah yes. Trust the Americans and the TSA especially to overreact to everything. In an "alleged" "plot" to ignite and underpants bomb (seriously), some idiot failed a couple of days ago so now, according to twitter reports, passengers on international flights are not being allows to take any electronic items on board, must be restrained in their seats for the last hour of the flight, and are not allowed pillows or blankets or anything else that might obscure their laps.
Yes - because air travel is such an incredibly pleasant luxury as it is.
I want to see them enforce the no electronics one - I don't know anyone who would risk putting cellphones, cameras, laptops or anything that valuable in hold baggage;- the TSA would just steal it. Families with kids with gameboys and PSPs - really?
Of course security has been stepped up at airports again because again airport security failed - just as it always does. This time, as predicted, it was passenger intervention that brought the shenanigans to a halt.

You know what this is? This is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt by the TSA to "prove" that full-body scanners should become mandatory. You can already see the pitch: "But if this passenger had been through a full body scanner, it would have detected the explosives". Yes - just like the full-body explosive sniffers detected the "alleged" shoe bomber.

Idiots.

England: closed because of snow.

Dec 23, 2009 | | 0 comments |

It's amazing to me that a simple 2 inches of snow can bring an entire country to its knees. I'm in England right now, which is gripped in the midst of what the media are laughably calling "blizzard" conditions, meaning the entire transport infrastructure has failed. Trains have stopped running because of "the wrong sort of snow". Roads have iced up and frozen over because, despite thousands of tons of sand and grit being available in the transport depots, none of it has been used to grit or sand the roads. Bus services have stopped running, the channel tunnel is closed, ferries are running up to a day late and the four main airports are basically closed. Motorways are closed because chunks of ice are falling off bridges, and motorists are abandoning their cars everywhere. This of course has brought out the best of British. In one case, motorists abandoned their vehicles in a pub car park (rather than leaving them blocking the roads) and when they returned, found a clamping / booting company had clamped all the cars. Everyone was forced to pay a £150 release fee.
Because of 2 inches of snow? Seriously? Okay I realise that it doesn't snow like this in the UK that often but when this little snow can stop an entire country it's a pretty tragic enditement of the place.

14,500 vertical feet.

Dec 18, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Finally I was able to go skiing today for the first time since losing all that weight. Sounds obvious but holy crap! I thought skiing was fun when I was heavy. Now it's amazing! I could have skied all day - I just wasn't getting tired - but my knees started to say "enough is enough" so I called it a day after an amazing 14,500 vertical feet. Just to put that in to perspective, the most I've managed in a single day to this point was 13,500 vertical feet on the last day last year. Today was the first day of the season for me and I broke my old record without breaking a sweat.
Can't wait to go again !

Oh dear

Dec 17, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I learned on the radio this morning that 38 countries around the world have their own versions of So You Think You Can Dance With An X-Idol or whatever that dancing show it. 38! That's a lot of people with nothing better to do in the evening than watch has-been stars dancing with untalented members of the public. Or watch untalented members of the public dance with untalented singers? I don't know....
Either way it's a tragic indictment of the human condition that so many people are so lonely that there's a market for that show in so many places :-(

Boeing 787 webcast : yet another big bucket of fail.

Dec 15, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I don't know why I thought this would be any different to every other webcast, but as expected, the Boeing 787 first flight webcast is another giant helping of Fail. Just like the Presidential inauguration, just like shuttle flights, just like every important even that is broadcast on the internet: billions of people tune in to see failed internet connections, failed servers, and video and audio that (when it comes on) updates once every minute.
So from the constant black screen I have here, I can't tell whether the thing has taken off or crashed on the end of the runway in a smoking pile of burning composite material.

I want to find the person who invented "webcasts" - the person who thought they were a good idea and who was deranged enough to think they could ever work, and punish them.

They categorically don't work. They never have, and never will. They're a complete and utter waste of everyone's time and money.

Tony Blair finally admits to being a warmonger

Dec 12, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Well it took long enough but Blair has finally come clean about being a warmonger. Talking about Saddam and his WMD program that Blair and Bush made up, this is what he said to the BBC, verbatim: "I would still have thought it right to remove him. Obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat."
In other words he would have made up just about any bullshit story to support his desire for war.
Now if only Bush would come clean and admit the same, the world might be able to get on with prosecuting the pair of them as war criminals.

Ultra chilly

Dec 10, 2009 | | 2 comments |

We bested the previous lowest temperature recorded at our house last night - actually this morning. When I left for work, it was -18°C outside. That's just below zero Fahrenheit for those reading in old money. Yes, it's cold outside. Still - it's going to warm up towards the weekend - we're expecting temperatures much closer to -5°C by sunday which is when I'm hoping to go skiing for the first time since losing so much weight.

-15C again tonight.

Dec 8, 2009 | | 0 comments |

We're in the grip of a monster cold spell tonight. The outdoor thermometer hit -15°C again tonight. The roads are sheet ice and the local power company just put out a plea for people to reduce their consumption because of massive demand due to the cold weather.

Why do companies use voice recognition on their phone lines?

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I'll never understand why companies feel the need to use automated voice recognition on their phone lines. It doesn't work and all it does is piss off the caller. And with sites like gethuman.com, it's easier than ever to find the instant way around these stupid systems and speak to an actual human being. The airline ones are the worst - seconded only by bank ones.

computer : "State the city of departure"
me : "Dallas"
computer : "I heard Amsterdam - is that correct?"
me : "no"
computer : "Would you like flights arriving or departing from Amsterdam?"
me (stabbing 0 repeatedly) : "operator operator OPERATOR!!!!!!"
computer : "Okay. Now tell me the flight number that is arriving at Amsterdam"
me : " ? "

The only thing that would improve gethuman.com is getenglishhuman.com that would tell you how to speak to someone in the same country as you instead of a robot with a script in a call center in Bombay.

I hate Microsoft.

Dec 6, 2009 | | 2 comments |

Oh you knew that already? So why this morning? Well bloody microsoft bloody word bloody 2007. I've only just started using it and this bloody ribbon interface must have been designed by a blind idiot. Nothing is where you want it to be - nothing makes any sense, and trying to find anything takes forever. All I wanted to do this morning was add a bullet list - that's all. In old Word it was simple - click the bullet list icon. In the new Word? Well - just try finding the bullet list icon to start with. It's not in "insert" or "page layout" - the two logical places it would be. There's no drop down menus so I mistakenly tried the help option. It told me everything I already knew about bullet lists except the one critical thing - where the fucking icon is !!!!! For anyone in the same boat - here's a clue. There's two "paragraph" ribbons, or interfaces, or boxes, or whatever the hell they call them. One is on the "page layout" bar, or menu, or thingy. The other is intuitively on the "home" thingy - ribbon - menu - box thing at the top of the screen.
I call bullshit on every review that likes this ribbon interface - it's yet another dismal failure in the long line of dismal failures of Microsoft.

Stick a fork in me - I'm done

Dec 3, 2009 | | 0 comments |

4 gruelling days later, I'm done. That's the trade show out the way for another year. Now I'm sitting in the airport hotel nursing my feet, ready to fly home in the morning.

On the upside...

Nov 28, 2009 | | 1 comments |

There's a gymnastics cheerleading convention in the hotel today too. Who knew gymnastics teams had cheerleaders. I'll leave you to imagine what they look like ....

On the downside, drum 'n bass until 8am and the family in the room next to me bouncing off the walls and screaming until 4am means I got - ooh - 2 hours sleep last night ?

Oh joy.

Nov 27, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Imagine my delight. Having checked into the hotel here in Orlando tonight, I discover the room next to me has hotel virgins in it. Either that or the most inconsiderate people in Orlando right now. Either way, screaming up and down the hallway at midnight, screaming in the room, slamming the door and shouting at the top of their southern voices in the hallway doesn't strike me as the actions of anyone with any common decency or courtesy. That's not bad enough - there is also apparently another convention in town at the moment. I believe it's called Inconsiderate Indians and Pakistanis 2009. These goons have no courtesy either. When we took the elevator down to the lobby earlier, rather than wait for us to get out, the 400 of them waiting RIGHT outside the door just pushed their way in as we were exiting. We couldn't even get one step out of the elevator door before they just started shoving and pushing to get in. The old woman who's foot I ran over with my rolling suitcase got quite upset.
Then they all started arguing because the elevator 'overweight' sensor went off and prevented the doors from closing. When I got back a couple of minutes later, the same group were still arguing in a still-open elevator.
So either very inconsiderate, or unbelievably stupid.
Yes - this is going to be a wonderful week. :-(

Dropbox

Nov 23, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I had a colleague recommend an app to me today which is so amazingly useful I just know it's going to solve some of the irksome problems I have trying to keep files on two laptops and three PCs in sync. It's called DropBox and basically you sign up for a free account (or a paid one if you need more than 2Gb) and then install a small app on each machine (PC or Mac) that you own. It creates a folder which is then synchronised across all the machines. Drop a file on it on my PC, it's now available on my laptop, and vice versa. It has one-click link sharing too which is awesome. So if I have a picture on my PC I want someone to see, I drop it in my dropbox folder, right-click and select "copy public link" then email the link. Simple.
So simple that it's just the sort of thing I'd become a huge fan of only to see it taken over and ruined by Microsoft. Lets hope that doesn't happen.
Ok so it's cloud storage - ie. don't trust anything valuable to it - but even so. If you're reading this and thinking - "hey - I could use that" - drop me a line and I'll give you a referral code. You'll get a little extra space on the free account by signing up with it.

kaBOOM

Nov 20, 2009 | | 0 comments |

A couple of weekends ago, a friend of a friend and I went out shooting on saturday. We hadn't planned it but he mentioned he had a novelty gun - one so ridiculous that it could never be used for anything other than having fun. A 50 action express Desert Eagle. 50 caliber. As in the same caliber used in a sniper rifle. But in a handgun. Holy crap it was amazing to shoot. The recoil was, as you might expect, extraordinary. It got easier to fire once I got used to the tightness of grip required but what an amazing piece of weaponry. In a true emergency you'd never be able to shoot it straight - you'd be better off throwing it at your attacker. The weight of the gun alone would be enough to kill anyone it hit if thrown properly. A lot of fun, needless to say.



Buzzed by a meteor

Nov 19, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Two nights ago (after we'd gone to bed, sadly) Utah was buzzed by a disintegrating meteor. For a couple of seconds, the entire state was essentially in broad daylight. It was caught on security cameras all over the place. This photo is from one of the security cameras on the building next to us up here at research park. Note the time stamp and how bloody bright everything is....

Let it snow....

Nov 15, 2009 | | 0 comments |

The first "proper" winter weather arrived this weekend. A couple of inches of snow in the valley and we awoke to -9°C temps this morning. Chilly. I'm glad I managed to get the final mow of the season done on the lawn on friday. One more big leaf drop from the trees and we'll be done with yard maintenance until April.

Waste for the sake of it

Nov 10, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Nearly 9 years after moving to America, the continual wasteful nature of Americans still amazes me. A couple of weeks ago I watched a guy at a soda fountain fill his cup with ice, then empty 90% of it into the drain. Next he brimmed the cup with Coke, then he emptied about 50% of that down the drain, and topped it off with Diet Coke. Why not just put a few ice cubes in, then some diet coke, then some coke? Why waste?
Then today I watched someone put two heaped scoops of sweetener into their mug, only to walk to the dustbin and empty most of it out. To which the obvious questions are
(1) why not just put a little in in the first place?
(2) if they wanted to empty it out, why not empty it back into the tin?

This continually blinkered attitude explains why people over here can't grasp the concept of fuel-efficient cars or compact fluorescent lightbulbs. Or turning off lights when they're not in a room. Etc. ad nauseum.

There's something wrong with human nature

Nov 8, 2009 | | 1 comments |

What is it in the nature of man
That makes us hate and cheat and steal and kill?
Why do people get off on bigotry, intolerance and racial intolerance?

There’s something wrong with human nature

What is it that makes a man gaze down from his penthouse suite
Watching those young children sleeping rough on the street?
Sometimes people do the strangest things.

Parted by the restaurant windows
Watching how the other half lives
All over the world
They keep their hand in their pockets
It relieves their conscience

There’s something wrong with human nature

Today is a day to celebrate.

Oct 31, 2009 | | 0 comments |

My ongoing weight loss program (eat less, exercise more - duh!) produced a day to celebrate today. Since the end of May I have now dropped 52lbs. Or 24kg or 3.7 stone for those following along in old money. That means that this morning, I am now the same weight that I was when I left University in 1989. Essentially I've undone 20 years of weight gain in 6 months. THAT is reason to celebrate. I'm not that far away from my unofficial target weight now which is a flat 200lbs. I reckon, barring a complete disaster at Christmas, I can be down to that weight by spring next year.

Epic Fail

Oct 30, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Dirty magazines have their place - I'm all for that. But perhaps not used dirty magazines. Like this place down on state street:

An early winter blast

Oct 27, 2009 | | 0 comments |

It's snowing. And not just a little bit - a lot. The mountains are getting dumped on and we're seeing accumulation in the valley too. It'll all be gone in a couple of days but it's a reassuring sign that we still live in a ski state :)

Winblows 7 - not THAT great

Oct 22, 2009 | | 0 comments |

So the time is upon us - Winblows 7 is here. Well - tomorrow anyway. I was pretty excited with the beta release last year - it was relatively clean and fast and compared to Vista it was nothing short of a revelation. But then the release candidate came out and as is the way with everything Microsoft, the bloat and slowdown had been introduced. Gone was the 20 second boot up. Gone was the slick, quick-responding interface. Gone was the speed. I skipped Vista and it now looks like there would need to be a pretty compelling reason to go to Windows 7. For the time being, because I don't want or need to rebuild and re-install my PC again, I'm sticking with XP. Until there's a "killer app" or actual reason to move to 7, everyone else can fawn and dote over it.

Nooooo - not the enchanted bunny !

Oct 21, 2009 | | 0 comments |

The Big Bang Theory on CBS is getting better by the episode - it's one of the one of the only shows I try to watch on the night of transmission rather than just picking it up off the DVR later. This week they had Wil Wheaton make an appearance - he of Star Trek TNG fame. Sheldon is becoming more irritating by the episode - as they said about him last series, he's only one lab accident away from being a supervillain.

Best quote of last night's episode came from some role-playing card game. Not sure what they were spoofing but this made me laugh loud:

Warlord beats troll. Troll beats elf. Elf beats Water Sprite. And basically everything beats Enchanted Bunny - unless it has the carrot of power.

Chilling out nearly into a coma

Oct 19, 2009 | | 0 comments |

If you're ever in need of some - "out there" music to totally chill out to - to the point of almost falling into a coma - I can totally recommend Jean-Michel Jarre's "Waiting For Cousteau" album. Well not the first three tracks, but the last, 46-minute epic. I used to use it to wipe away stress when I lived on my own in the flat back in Reading. I'd forgotten all about it until it turned up in my stack of CDs that I'm now (finally) importing into iTunes. I started playing track 4 and pretty much just zoned out staring at the screen.
What didn't help was my Electric Sheep screensaver came on too.

Like, trippy, man.

Full English Breakfast

Oct 17, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Mmmmm. Two rashers of English bacon, an english sausage, two eggs, white toast, a fried tomato and Heinz baked beans. Yes - Elizabeth's tea shop here in Salt Lake City has finally started doing English breakfast. And they're doing it very well too.

Why cat, why?

Oct 14, 2009 | | 1 comments |

I love our cat - she's a cutie. But I'd like to know why, after three years of having no problem being locked in all night - she now wants to get out at 4am every morning.

You've got to love the big airlines.

Oct 9, 2009 | | 2 comments |

We've got a trip to the UK planned shortly, and I don't know why but I decided to check the trip details today. Both the schedules had changed going to and from England, but the outbound trip was the most interesting. When I originally booked the flights, we had a 2 hour layover in Atlanta. With the changed schedule, the flight from Atlanta now leaves 28 minutes before the flight from Salt Lake gets in. And Delta, bless their hearts, hadn't re-booked us on an earlier flight. In other words if I hadn't checked, we'd only have found this out when we went to check in at the airport.
All fixed now :)

14 years and they owe me nothing

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I finally laid to rest my old motorcycling boots last night. They'd given me 14 years of service and have ridden on two continents (and one island). Sadly the "vigorous" riding last weekend didn't do them any good and the sole of the right boot had parted company with the upper so I had air-conditioned toes. Not ideal for something that is supposed to be protective. So I invested in a shiny new pair of Oxtar/TCX X-Five boots and will be breaking them in this weekend.
I wonder what motorcycle boots will look like in 2023?

Following the speedy German

Oct 4, 2009 | | 1 comments |

I just got back from our annual autumn mini tour of southern Utah on the motorbikes with my friends. This year was a good one - it was cut short by the weather today but the ride yesterday was one I'll remember for a good long time. There were six of us altogether - there should have been seven but due to a brake system fault that threw one of our riders off a 20mph less than 100m from her hotel, we were down one person. The bike can be fixed - the important thing is that she was OK. One of the riders was Walter - a new guy to the group who trailered his bikes in from California to meet us in Torrey. We'd all been told that he was the sort of rider who didn't slow down for anyone and by golly that's putting it mildly. He wrung the neck of his Kawsaki Versys like no rider I've ever seen. Litre-bikes and Ducatis were having trouble keeping up with him, but keep up we did. I was ultra pleased with my own performance. The new, lighter me plus a heavy sprinkling of over confidence meant I kept up with the fastest of them for the first time in all these group rides. My Tiger performed flawlessly and the new exhaust note from the Remus Powercone was lovely. The 80 minute ride from Hite overlook to the Lake Powell ferry was one of the fastest, most proficient rides I've ever taken part in. We were so in-sync with each other, so well grouped and so in the groove that it looked like a made-for-Hollywood motorbike scene. It was bloody fantastic. Even our youngest member - Geoff - who was returning to riding after two years was getting his confidence back and enjoying it.
A good time was had by all - lots of joking and telling tall tales, good food and quality time spent with friends made for an awesome autumn weekend away.

How backwards is this?

Oct 1, 2009 | | 0 comments |

In England you still need a TV licence if you want to own a TV and watch it (read - annual tax for owning a TV). That's bad enough but listening to Radio 1 on satellite this morning, there was an ad for students with laptops, basically saying that if you watch streaming video (YouTube, iPlayer, Hulu etc) using a laptop, even if you don't own a TV, you still need to pay for a TV licence.
W.
T.
F?
Good luck enforcing that.

Winter's here - well a taster at least :-)

Sep 30, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Yesterday - 35°C. Today - 8°C and pissing it down with rain and snow, with 2ft of snow in the mountains. I bloody love Utah - it's brilliant.

A long weekend in Vegas

Sep 28, 2009 | | 0 comments |

We got back today from a three day weekend in Vegas. We left early on friday morning and were at the Red Rock hotel by just gone 1pm. By 1:20pm we were in the pool and we stayed there until early evening. Saturday was the designated tourist day - visited both ends of the strip and got to see the Dolphin sanctuary at the Mirage for the first time, and the new CSI exhibit at the MGM Grand. We topped the day off with the Blue Man Group who were excellent as always. Their show has changed enough since we saw them last time that it didn't feel like the same old stuff. Sunday was spent entirely around the pool being waited on by unbelievably hot women whilst unbelievably hot male lifeguards strutted around. A little something for everybody then. We rented a large cabana-style bed and lounged around all day.
Back to work for three days then it's the Autumn ride out to Torrey with the lads. Sweet.

Another nice side effect of losing weight

Sep 22, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Well not so much of a side effect as yet another thing to take account of. I had to get another link taken out of my watch strap this weekend. The damned thing was spinning round my wrist like a hula hoop. It's much better now :)

Not quite getting it - it's the American way.

Sep 12, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I missed out on my walk last night so I went around the park this morning instead. This morning is the annual HeartWalk at our local park - where people walk a mile or two miles for charity to raise money for heart disease awareness. However, in true American fashion, the organisers didn't quite get it. All the parking for the event is at the local high school which is in one corner of the park. It's a quarter mile walk from the parking lot to the HeartWalk staging area. In the parking lot there are no signs on how to get there even though it's just around the corner. Instead there are fleets of shuttle buses that bus people to the walk. Just to put into perspective how idiotic that is, because of the kerbs in the middle of the road that prevent left turns, and the one-way system around the park, for the shuttle buses to get to the staging area, they have to DRIVE 3 miles -- to get people to the WALK -- which is only a quarter of a mile away. Even worse, the shuttles are then ferrying people back the quarter of a mile to the parking lot.
Sort of explains a lot about why people are the size they are in this country.
The map below shows the walking route from the parking lot (in green) and the route the buses have to drive (in red). Genius.
Oh - and as an added bonus, Strawberry Shortcake was there this morning, although she was wearing dark sunglasses so I couldn't see if she looked at me or not.

Bloody Republicans - they practice the very things they claim to stand against.

Sep 10, 2009 | | 3 comments |

There's a huge problem in America at the moment with some of the Republicans - they're effectively practicing the very things they claim to stand against. The conservatives are all about freedom of speech and freedom of this and freedom of that, yet when Obama wanted to speak to kids in schools this week, to encourage them to do well and succeed, it caused an enormously blown-out-of-proportion debate that resulted in tens of thousands of Republican families and schools across the country deciding that they didn't want their children to listen to the president. They were, in effect, filtering and censoring.
Isn't that exactly what North Korea, Iran and China do? And all those other countries we're told are "bad"? Cutting off the internet, blocking western transmissions? Now we've got parents who are making those exact same decisions on behalf of their kids - blocking them from being able to listen to what their President has to day? Censoring him? Some families have lost the plot so completely that it's farcical. Our local news channel was interviewing a woman outside a school about this and she was in floods of tears, and said "I'm sorry - I'm just thinking of my children being forced to listen to that in their school - it's horrible."

W - T - F ?

Seriously - you don't want the PRESIDENT OF YOUR COUNTRY to instill basic school values and work ethics in your children?

Those Republicans who were involved in this farce need to try supporting America in general instead of trying to look after themselves.

Fzzzt-click. Fzzzzt-click. Fzzzzt-click.

Sep 7, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Anyone who's worked with a computer will know that noise - it's the sound of a dead hard drive. In this case my PS3 choked yesterday and the hard drive failed. I managed to get it to come up one more time and was able to do a full backup of the system on to a USB drive. Then it was dead to the world. I replaced the drive with a 250Gb version a few minutes ago and it looks like it's quietly restoring all the data from the USB drive now. I guess we'll see within the hour whether I've got my system back or not.

More preparation for the ski season.

Sep 5, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Sports Authority are having their annual Sniagrab today ("bargains" spelled backwards). This is where they sell off all the remains of last season's products at a huge discount at the end of summer. Spendy full-price types who absolutely must have new kit every season are nowhere to be found at these events - they're strictly for those who want decent kit and bugger the year and style.
I went looking for ski pants because with my weight loss being the way it is, my old ski pants were like clown trousers on me. I came out with new Salomon ski pants ($79 instead of $149), a new Alpine Design ski jacket ($59 instead of $199) and a new pair of Scott ski gloved ($29 instead of $49). All decent brands. The best part was that because I was there before noon, I got an additional 25% off at the checkout.
Cost to the spendy full-price types: $397 plus tax.
Cost to me, today, before noon: $125 plus tax plus a lot of smug emissions.
Nice.

Shortening the loan

Sep 3, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I just shortened by car loan by 5 months by paying a chunk off the principal. The odd thing was that there were two options available to me on the finance site - "regular payment" or "principal payment". With the "regular payment" option, some of the money would go to the principal and some would disappear in interest. I'm not sure why that's even an option - if you're paying extra money into a loan you always want to pay it off the principal.
Weird.

Strawberry shortcake

Aug 30, 2009 | | 1 comments |

As part of my weight loss plan, I walk around the park most evenings. Whilst most people walk anticlockwise, I walk the opposite way so I can see everyone coming towards me. I smile at everyone and everyone smiles back. Except for one. Since May, one cute girl has never smiled back. She jobs past me three times every evening, and the perfume she wears leaves and odour of Strawberry Shortcake behind her - the girls toy doll (don't ask how I know this). So I've nicknamed her that, and now the challenge is on to get her to smile back one evening. Why blog about this now? Tonight I made progress - Strawberry Shortcake looked at me. No smile, but that's definite progress. :-)

Looks like cooler weather is on the way.

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It's about bloody time. I picked up my season pass for Solitude ski resort this weekend - roll on the cooler weather and the snow. Begone stupid 40 degree days.

Mmm. Toasty.

Aug 28, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Well we hope so. The various utility companies and the Fed are having a splurge on energy rebate programs at the moment. I've decided to participate and get some new insulation blown in to the attic. Cost to me - about $1000. Rebates to me - $800.
I believe that's what's called a "no-brainer".

R.I.P Andy Bishop. Died 1993.

Aug 27, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Today is the anniversary of the death of my best friend from my university days. For reasons we never understood, he took his own life on this day in 1993. I still remember him to this day.

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Aug 22, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Today I made good on my 40th birthday present from Paula - a session of indoor skydiving at iFly Utah. It started out with a 15 minute classroom session followed by suiting-up in jump suits, earplugs, goggles and helmets, and then we were in to the tube. If you've never seen one before, it's giant, vertical wind tunnel that simulates freefall. However good, bad or goofy I look in this video, it was a hell of a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, and it blow-dries your brain like you wouldn't believe. Your mouth goes completely dry, as does your nose, and once you finally come out, you spend 30 minutes blowing your nose as your body attempts to compensate for the sudden and extreme dryness. That aside, it was amazing. I've always said I'd never skydive for real but this has piqued my interest now.....
Excuse the music - it's what they put on the DVD automatically.

This is, basically, my friend Bill and how he shoots.

Aug 20, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Heathrow rolls out soon-to-be-broken driverless taxis.

Aug 19, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Oh dear. The BAA - that English organisation who took away all the UK airports and replaced them with badly-functioning shopping malls, has put the finishing touches on it's driverless taxi system at Heathrow Terminal 5 today. The initial rollout sees the system whisking people from the Terminal 5 shopping mall to one of the mind-numbingly-expensive parking lots.

I predict that system will have failed and fallen into disrepair by the end of the year and here's why.

1. It's the BAA and they can't even keep the bloody moving walkways working which is 1970s technology

2. Without supervision, trust me - vandalism will be rife in these new little pods. Four lads, beered-up on their way to Ibiza, unsupervised, in a driverless taxi pod? It will be pushed off the track or be filled with piss and vomit.

3. The public are, for the most part, stupid - to expect a population of people who still have VHS recorders blinking "12:00" under their TVs to be able to use a touch screen interface in a driverless taxi is just asking too much. These are the same people who, when presented with a line of doors in to a building, will queue up to walk through the one that is open instead of going to the front and opening another door.

Nice idea, but it won't ever work. Not in England. Now in Japan - maybe.

Driverless taxi pods.

Pimp my helmet.

Aug 17, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I picked up my new Shoei helmet on saturday and took it out for a test ride on sunday. A short little 170 mile loop around the Oquirrh mountains to Tooele and back. It's a lot quieter than my old lid - well - it is once I don't have my ears trapped in the lining. For the first part of the ride it was noisy as hell and I couldn't understand why. Plus both my ears ached which is unusual - with a new helmet, I'm used to pressure on the ridge of my forehead, but aching ears? WTF?
At my lunch stop I figured out why - I had both my ears pinned back in the lining which was causing a lot of wind noise where the lining was compressed, and was causing the pain where my ears were all screwed up. The lining and ear cutouts in the new helmet are slightly different to the old one. For the last part of the ride, I adjusted everything properly and the pain and noise went away. Much better.

Putting nightclubs in residential areas - why don't people see this is A Bad Thing?

Aug 13, 2009 | | 0 comments |

With Utah having just joined the 20th century in terms of it's drinking laws, people are getting a bit too keen now. Now they want to allow a full service bar and nightclub in a residential neighbourhood. Hmm. What to look forward to the most? People using your front yard as a toilet on their way home from a club? The drug deals going down outside your front door? Or the loud drunken fights at 3am?
It's hard to understand why they're even considering this. Crime will go up, property prices will go down - that's a given - nobody can argue that. What about the noise? The crowds? The constant police presence? You people really want that in a residential neighbourhood? The same place your kids play? The same place you sit in your back yard having a quiet barbecue?
I guess this is another part of the freakishly crazy side of Utahns that I just don't understand.

Shopping for clothes, only different.

Aug 10, 2009 | | 4 comments |

Having now dropped 14kg (30lbs in old money), I had to go clothes shopping this weekend. I've come down one size in trousers and one size in shirts. Although I didn't want to buy too much because if I keep going, I'll basically need to replace my entire wardrobe by the end of the year. Even my motorcycling gear is remarkably tent-like on me now.

Nanny Britain : Reaching Orwelling Nirvana

Aug 3, 2009 | | 1 comments |

As if you needed yet another excuse not to live in England, how's this: if your kids are judged to be doing sufficiently badly at school, you will live in a house equipped with CCTV to ensure they do their homework and go to bed on time, as well as eat properly. Oh, and you'll get government security guards to force this on you if you fail to comply.

Seriously.

Britain putting CCTV cameras in homes to make sure kids do their homework.

All Hail the mighty Schumacher.

Jul 30, 2009 | | 3 comments |

The bizarre accident in qualifying last weekend that put Felipe Massa in hospital has thrown a bit of a spanner into this year's Formula 1 championship. Faced with an empty seat, Ferrari have done the unthinkable and appeased Schumacher fans the world over : Michael Schumacher is going to race Massa's seat for the remainder of the season. I'm giddy like an excited schoolgirl at the prospect of this, because for the first time it means Alonso and Button are going to get to drive on track, in racing conditions, with the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time. Presuming of course that he's still got it - and I hope he has.
So while the racing world waits for better news from the Massa camp, we're hopefully going to be treated to the spectacle that is Schumacher one more time.

I'll have the penne al arreviata.

Jul 27, 2009 | | 2 comments |

Wizard turns into hottie

Jul 24, 2009 | | 0 comments |

No, seriously ....

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Why do people with ugly feet insist on wearing flip flops or open toed sandals ?

Name the band

Jul 22, 2009 | | 2 comments |

Name the 80's band who used derivatives of this logo on all their albums.....

Greatest adventure ever. Period.

Jul 20, 2009 | | 0 comments |

40 years ago today, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon whilst Michael Collins orbited overhead. 5 missions later, apparently we humans got all frightened and scared and just "ran out of money" and spent the next 40 years having ridiculous conversations about how the government faked it all. We can't return to the moon soon enough - we're already 38 years behind.



Upgrading the OS on my phone

Jul 18, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Last time I upgraded the OS on a cellphone it was when I had a Winblows Mobile device. What a bloody nightmare. None of the apps were restored. None of the settings were restored. I spent the better part of a day sorting it all out afterwards, from ring tones, to clock preferences. It was awful, and it was the reason I never did it again.
Cut to today, when I plug my Crackberry in and there's an OS update ready for it. I've not had the phone for long so apart from two customs apps and some ring tones, it's largely stock. So away we went, and I was heartened to see it backup all the data right off the bat. Anyway - long story short - the whole process took about 20 minutes and returned to me a fully working, fully customised Crackberry in exactly the same condition it was in using the old OS. I didn't need to re-customise anything - not the wallpaper, not the apps, not even the SMS alert or ring tone.
Another black eye for Microsoft as far as I'm concerned. And a huge +1 to Blackberry. If they can do it, and Palm can do it, why the hell can't Microsoft figure it out?

Microsofts fucks me up again.

Jul 17, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Following on from the previous post where Microsoft discontinued Microsoft Money, I've just discovered that they're about to ruin yet another product. For years I used iView Media Pro to organise my photos. Of course they got bought out by Microsoft and the product was turned into Expression Media. Away went the free updates and in came the Microsoft extortion - to the tune of $199 for me. We had v1.0 which had all the same functionality as the old iView product but had somehow undergone a 79Mb bloat in installer size and a nearly 100% increase in memory requirements - probably all the bugs they added. Then we had v2.0 which was a mild improvement - it went back down in size to the original and most of the bugs were fixed. And now with the announcement of v3.0 - WTF? - Expression Media has been discontinued?

Once again Microsoft buys out a perfectly workable piece of software, fucks it up then discontinues it. After raping everyone for $199 a piece.

The solution I guess is just to mercilessly steal and pirate Microsoft software. There's no point in buying any of it because it will all end up on the scrap pile just as soon as you get used to it. So by stealing it, you're not out of pocket.

Better yet - just don't use any of their software products at all, then you won't fall into the same pitfalls I have. Of course that's difficult, because if you choose something that actually works, Microsoft will inevitable buy out that company too, fuck up all their software and then discontinue it.

Wankers, the lot of them.

Why can't Utahns park properly?

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There's a sad joke here in Utah - it's called "Utah Drivers". The irony is that they don't realise they're the joke. Of the many peculiar, dangerous and lazy driving practices the people in this state adopt, the inability to park is a pet favourite of mine. Generally speaking, if there's any possible way to completely mess up the parking process, Utahns will be right there. Can't reverse park? Check. Can't park forwards? Check. Can't judge the length or width of their own car? Check. Don't understand which way to leave the front wheels when parked on a hill? Check. The picture here was taken yesterday in a local parking lot, and is typical of the problem. This rocket scientist isn't straight, has no idea of the length or width of their car and doesn't understand what the markings in the parking lot are for. As a result they've inconvenienced everyone else most likely because they just couldn't be bothered to do it properly. So here's to you 281PEB. You're now famous for being a complete tool.

Getting back in to cycling.

Jul 14, 2009 | | 0 comments |

My chosen route for an evening's cycling now is about 2.5 miles up a long gradual hill, followed by a long and undulating road along the threshold of the city and the mountain foothills, followed by a nice long downhill run back to the house. It's about 7 miles and takes me about 35 minutes. Nice.

TV star? Moi?

Jul 10, 2009 | | 0 comments |

A couple of weeks ago I was called by the PR people at CarMD.com because of a review I posted of their product on my website : CarMD review. They wanted to know if I'd do some time on camera giving a testimonial about their product. I've done TV before and I liked their product when I reviewed it so I said "sure thing".
Today was the day and it was a lot of fun. I've been on TV before for various things, from the original Boycott The Pumps protest back in England in 2000, to motoring shows on TV, to the odd news spot where they've wanted a talking head that knew something about cars. Today was no different. We spent about 40 minutes filming, of which I expect to see between 8 and 12 seconds used in one of their ads.
I don't know if I'm going to feature in regular TV ads, short or long infomercials, but if you see a CarMD commercial come on, don't skip it this time - watch closely and you might see me. I'm the English bloke wearing the blue and grey shirt ....

I love the park.

Jul 7, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I love the park. As part of my attempt to lose weight, I'm walking around Sugarhouse Park each evening now and it's a great place to people-watch. There are the regular walkers, joggers and cyclists, but there's always something else going on. I wished I'd had my camera tonight - there was a picture-perfect photo of a couple practicing tai chi in the last rays of the sun. Groups of frisbee and football players - families at the barbecue pits - dog walkers - people just lounging around on the grass watching the world go by. I don't think either of us had really considered the park as a selling point when we bought our house, but now we live here, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Free online personal financial software.

Jul 4, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I hate Microsoft, but when they bought out the company that wrote the home finance software I used, I really had no choice other than to start using MS Money. I've become used to it over the years and now in their infinite wisdom they've decided that no, I can't use Money any more - they've killed the product.
That leaves me with Quicken, or any number of online services like mint.com or Quicken's online service.

I'm staggered that anyone uses these though. I've been through their FAQs and they go to great lengths to explain that they need your online banking information to ALL your accounts so you can see them all in one place. Then they go on to tell you that if someone breaks their encryption, your online accounts are still safe.
How exactly does that work?

If someone hacks mint.com, they've now got the logins and usernames of millions of bank accounts all over the world. Mint.com goes to huge lengths to exhaustively explain that their system is read-only, that no accounts can be tampered with as a result of their system. Sure - OK - that's fine. But once someone has hacked your mint.com account, they now have usernames and passwords that IT uses for all YOUR accounts. ie. the hacker can now wander off to all the other websites individually and drain your accounts.

Apart from that, both these products synchronise with your bank accounts, rather than letting you do it manually, which means it's all but impossible to find banking mistakes.
For example, when I enter all my receipts manually, I then have to manually reconcile the transactions when a statement comes out. Yes, yes I know it's old fashioned, but it means I can find mistakes. For example when I have a receipt for $12.80 but the store actually charged me $128, the difference is immediately obvious when going through what I recorded vs. what the bank thinks happened. Using these self-synchronising online services, you'd simply see the $128 charge, and because you don't have to reconcile the transactions, you'd never notice it was even there.

So thanks Microsoft for fucking up yet another facet of my computing lifestyle. You've just earned Quicken another $39. For their offline product, naturally, because only a total moron would willingly give an online site ALL their banking login details.

We can't keep playing if you don't let go of the pickle.

Jul 1, 2009 | | 0 comments |

SNL have resurrected Celebrity Jeopardy. Tom Hanks is brilliant and they brought back Sean Connery too. Bloody brilliant ...

Thank you Richard Branson

Jun 29, 2009 | | 2 comments |

The Virgin Atlantic 25th Anniversary TV commercial is genius, not only because it features one of the best 80's tracks ever, but because of the stunning girls and the repertoir of 1980's memorabilia. Count them:

The miner's strike.
The Austin Princess and Ford Cortina cars, and the old single-decker green London bus.
The brick for a cellphone.
The polka-dot tie and suspenders.
The guy talking about a telex, not a fax.
Our Price record shop, Flock Of Seagulls hair do and Big Country vinyl album.
Asteroids and PacMan standup video games.
Beat bobbies with their original ultra-tall police hats.
Wimpy's hamburgers.
Pencil thin ties.
Rubic's Cube and very briefly a handheld Vectrex video game.
Flipover-type airport departure board.
Madonna-style and Blues Brothers Rayban sunglasses.
The model with white high heels, short leggings and giant hair.
And last but not least, Relax, by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, who are reported to be considering a one-off comeback tour and CD on the back of the massive popularity of this advert alone.

In all it's glory, complete with carefully synchcronised jiggling of all the girls boobies:

Holy crap - Michael Jackson is dead!

Jun 26, 2009 | | 1 comments |

When Elvis died, a lot of people said they could remember exactly where they were when they heard the news. I was a little young, but I do remember I was on the front at Porto Cristo in Mallorca when I heard the news.
Today Michael Jackson is dead - I'll likely remember this day too - when my father-in-law walked in and flopped the daily paper on the kitchen table with the three-word-headline "Jacko Is Dead".

:-(

There will be a Formula 1 championship after all.

Jun 24, 2009 | | 0 comments |

The story Max Mosley is giving today is that he's not going to stand for re-election to the FIA now that a deal has been reached with the FOTA about the technical regulations and budget restrictions for Formula 1 next year.
In other words - he's agreed to step down which is why the FOTA have come back in to the fold.
Looks like everyone got what they wanted then (for the time being at least): that dickhead Mosley is going to leave.

A miracle of modern technology

Jun 23, 2009 | | 0 comments |

There's an interesting story in London today - they're test-running the first air-conditioned tube trains - due for regular service next summer. For sure it's going to make a difference - if you've ever been on one of those noisy sweatboxes in the summer, you'll know just how miserable they area. But the funny part of the story was that Boris Johnson (London's Mayor) claimed that this was a "miracle of modern technology".

?

Air conditioning has been around for decades - it's not modern. It's not a miracle either.
And then the story went on to explain how the deeper tube lines would have to wait for their air conditioned trains because it was more of a challenge.
Surely if the air conditioning is on the trains, then it's no more challenge to drive them through the subsurface tunnels as it is to drive them through the deep tunnels?

The entire story makes no sense at all: air conditioned tube trains.

Fuck Max Mosley.

Jun 19, 2009 | | 1 comments |

It seems that Max Mosley and the FIA are absolutely determined to destroy Formula 1 motor racing as we know it. For years they've been adding regulation on top of regulation trying to hobble the cars and drivers. Frankly I'm surprised the Grand Prix events don't just have drivers pushing their cars around the circuits now. And so, of course, with the 2010 season, Mosley wanted to introduce yet another ridiculous restriction - this time a cap on the R&D budgets of the teams. Apparently he doesn't understand that cutting-edge motorsports development costs quite a bit of money. Only this time the teams have fought back and today they announced a breakaway series - FOTA - backed by Ferrai, Brawn GP, McLaren, Renault, Toyota, BMW Sauber, Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso.

So where does this leave us - the fans? Well the TV rights will go to hell - all the existing contracts are very long term, and are with F1 and FIA. The same goes for the circuit contracts. So if the FOTA goes ahead with this, we'll be left with scant TV coverage of their events next year, and they'll likely be racing at backwater circuits nobody has ever heard of. In place, we'll have a neutered F1 series with no-name teams, no-name drivers and no-name sponsors racing at empty circuits with no spectators. Genius decision guys - thanks for that.

Why can't the FIA just fire Mosely? That idiot has been nothing but trouble for motor sports with his meddling.

My biggest concern with all of this is that the breakaway FOTA will probably be no better off without the FIA. I doubt they have the stones to re-introduce small wings, V8 and V10 engines, turbochargers and driver aids - in fact all the stuff Mosley has removed over the past decade. Mosley and the FIA keep insisting that their changes make the sport better, when in fact it becomes duller and duller to watch because you essentially have a sport which has been dumbed down to the level of Indy Car - a sport where a procession of cars turn left for 200 miles and then they all finish in the exact same order they started.

Speaking of Indy - Mosley, the FIA and for that matter the breakway FOTA could do well to open the history books and look what happened when the IRL split from CART back in the day. As in nature, when two competing species try to occupy the same niche, one will always die out. In that case it was CART that vanished, and the resulting IRL was weak in comparison, and has never regained the popularity, sponsorship or attendance that CART did. If the same happens in Formula 1, it will become just another motorsports event that nobody cares about.

Fanboys

Jun 16, 2009 | | 0 comments |

We watched a niche movie this weekend called Fanboys (so niche I think it went straight to DVD). If you're even vaguely in to Star Wars, this film is a complete must-watch. It's set in 1998 and is about a group of friends who decide to road-trip across country to steal the rough cut of Star Wars Episode 1. It's got a ton of cameos from big-name actors in it and the anti Star Trek sentiment is bloody funny. As a bonus, Kristen Bell is in it, and manages to pull off the Leia Gold Bikini very well. What did surprise me is just how short she is. Look at the promo poster - none of the guys in this film are particularly tall but they all tower over her. You'd never know from watching Heroes, Veronica Mars or Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I guess they normally do the Tom Cruise treatment with her - on a crate, or low camera angles.

WTF does iTunes have to do with Outlook?

Jun 14, 2009 | | 0 comments |

As the latest iTunes was polluting my PC just now, it was extremely insistent that I stop using Outlook. When I refused, it crashed outlook for me and rebooted my PC.
So here's the thing - WTF does iTunes have to do with Outlook? One is music software, the other is contacts and calendars. Why on earth would iTunes even care about Outlook.
And whilst I'm on the subject, what the hell is this bloody Bonjour thing that gets installed every time iTunes updates?

AAaaaaarrrrggghhh. Winblows is bad enough - now I have to babysit Apple software too?

Taking out the trash

Jun 13, 2009 | | 2 comments |

Our local white trash house - the ones in the neighbourhood who have one family living upstairs, one downstairs, and one in the camper in the driveway - are clearly desperate for money. Not satisfied with three yard sales for three weeks in a row (you are only allowed two a year around here), today they have a garage sale but in their basement. It's the same junk week after week, and nobody is buying it because it's worthless. Most of it isn't even worth donating to a charity shop, yet here they are again today trying to flog white trash crap. This morning however, they've added a new twist because they weren't bringing down the neighbourhood enough already. Now they've got someone dressing a Spiderman suit sitting in their drive with a sign that entices people to have their photo taken with him for only a $1. And he's a miserably depressed Spiderman too.
It's tragic.

That was exhausting.

Jun 9, 2009 | | 1 comments |

This morning, two of my Dutch friends left for Vegas having spent three days with us. And what a three days it was. On saturday we did shopping for shopping for Levis, Nikes and anything American, followed by a half day at Bountiful's gun range. We did that because I wanted them to be able to do something so out of context for a European but so typical for America.
On sunday we spent the morning flying an aircraft simulator followed by a wet afternoon shopping for even more Americana including Raybans and iPods. When the weather cleared up, we did the Kennecott copper mine.
On monday we did The Big Road Trip which included Jordanelle reservoir, Wolf Creek, Deer Creek reservoir, Sundance resort and the Alpine Loop, and concluded with a trip up the tram at Snowbird.

Photos will follow once they get back to Holland and send me a DVD. But first they have to survive Vegas and then Chicago.

I'd have gotten away with it too if if wasn't for...

Jun 5, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Well I'm not sure quite what was responsible, but T-mobile finally caught up with me and my, ahem, dodgy internet access from my phone. For the longest time I've had a double proxy hack running on my phones which allowed total, unlimited web access on their $5.99 monthly t-zones plan. That plan should only allow me to get to t-mobile's own sites, but with the double proxy hack, it circumvented that.
Sadly, no more. I looked at my phone last night and the 'edge' signal had disappeared and been replaced with 'GSM'. Very quickly afterwards there was a text message telling me the t-zones plan I had was no longer valid.
Buggeritallanddamnandblast.
Oh well - two years with extremely cut-rate web access isn't bad I suppose.

Things not to do when you have hayfever.

May 31, 2009 | | 2 comments |

Tip #18.
Don't put your crash helmet on a grassy field, then put it on to ride home without checking inside it first. As your eyes swell up from all the pollen and grass seed blowing around inside, it gets difficult to see.

I met up with a friend today at Miller Motorsports Park for the US round of World Superbikes. Racing was fun. Weather was great. Grassy knoll where I was sitting was - well - grassy.

All the action, from CrappyCellPhoneCam (tm). That's Ben Spies, the American racer, way out in front:



About 1% of the bikes parked up in the parking lot:

Not being able to pay

May 27, 2009 | | 3 comments |

It's interesting how the same financial companies can come up with three incompatible and different methods of paying using credit / debit cards. In America we still have magnetic swipe cards which are awful when it comes to security. Visa have introduced (slowly) Paywave which is a contactless RFID-based system. Mastercard have a similar system. In Europe they have Chip+Pin which uses a surface-mount contact-read smart chip, and now V-Pay - also from Visa.
All of the above systems are incompatible with each other, which in short, means that if you travel to Europe with an American bank card, good luck trying to pay for anything. Whilst places in the UK will still read magnetic swipe cards if you insist, for the most part everything is done with contact smartcards now. On mainland Europe, to combat card skimming, they're phasing out magnetic stripe completely. This means that by the end of this year, not only will you not be able to pay for anything unless you have a smart chip in your bank card, you won't even be able to get cash from an ATM because all those are being converted to chip-only machines. Additionally, most automated ticket vending machines (trains, buses etc) are already chip-only. I can envisage hordes of US tourists stranded at the airports because they have no way to pay to get anywhere.....

Why can't the banking system settle on one technology that we can all use everywhere? It used to be so easy to travel and pay for stuff when the whole world used magnetic stripe readers. But those days should be long gone (and are, in Europe) and we should have a more secure system in place. Well - we do, but there are three competing technologies, none of which US banks have put in place.
My advice : open a bank account in the country you're travelling to and move cash into it before you go. It's the most chance you'll have of being able to actually pay for products and services.

Robbing the delivery drivers

May 25, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Eesh. Dominos have increased their delivery charge from $1 to $1.50. As far as I'm concerned they've just taken another 50¢ away from their delivery driver's tips. It's a bloody pizza delivery company - it would be better if they just added to the price of the food instead of taking on a delivery charge. Sadly of course, they've done that too. They all have. Apparently the pizza people haven't realised we're in a recession :-(

The whirlwind tour or Europe. Well - sort of.

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We're back from a two week spin around England and Holland. We'd planned a spring break to go over and see friends and relatives, and rather than the usual day and a half in Holland, we spent 5 days there this time. It was great - we got to see a lot of friends and spent some decent time with them instead of it all being rushed. We also managed to get in a lot of touristy type things. We visited the Keukenhof, went up the Euromast in Rotterdam and did one of the Spido boat harbour tours. We got to spend some good time on the beachfront at Scheveningen and we managed to meet up with a friend I've not seen since an accidental meeting at Schiphol airport a few years ago. In England we managed the same thing - lots of friends and relatives as well as some touristy items - the Bluebell railway and Arundel Castle. The Bluebell railway came as a complete surprise. Due to their hideous advertising, I'd thought it was going to be a couple of miles of restored line, a single steam engine and one carriage. Instead, it's 19 miles of line, full rakes of passenger coaches (both Pullman and Southern) and 10 or so working steam engines - big ones too.
The flights there and back were so-so and due to some bungling at Gatwick (which delayed the flight) and incompetence in Vegas (stuck jetway and broken immigration computers) we missed our connecting flight home last night and had to buy one-way tickets on the last flight of the day. $400 I didn't need to spend, but oh well. We're home and now wading through bills and emails.

Nag nag nag

May 14, 2009 | | 0 comments |

iTunes does have a bit of a nanny mode about it. I've got three DJ Mix CDs here that I'm importing, and for each one I get a popup telling me "iTunes can't find any CD information for this CD online - are you sure you want to import it?"
The tone of the message is "I can't find any information so this CD doesn't exist".
I think the Apple engineers could have done a better job with that notification - perhaps "Would you like to fill in the CD information yourself" ?

Chilly on top

May 9, 2009 | | 0 comments |

We went for our first "proper" motorcycle ride this morning, up and over Wolf Creek. Mid-may and there's still plenty of snow about. T'was a bit chilly going over the top but then it is 10,000ft....

The first 'true' 787 rolls out of the paint shop.

May 4, 2009 | | 2 comments |

ie. not the fake one they used at the press day over a year ago.
Oooooooh. Shiny.....

Dreamliner Rollout Full from Liz Matzelle on Vimeo.

Hybrid makes me happy

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For the longest time, I've had a couple of DJ sets kicking around in my collection, by a group called Hybrid. I love their sound - breakbeat vs. dance. I don't know why but this weekend I hit the right search terms in google and turned up this : Hybridized.org where, amongst a great many other DJ sets, they have tons (and I mean tons) of Hybrid sets.

Bandwidth up. Disk free space down. I'm currently bopping to their 2001 ID&T radio set.

Apr 30, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I hate windows. I hate it I hate it I hate it. It's the most stupid, user-hostile piece of shit operating system on the face of the planet.
This morning, I'm working on a bunch of open documents when windows, in its infinite wisdom, decides to delete all my desktop icons and file icons. I'm left with text, but no icons. Then it shovels them all over to one side of the screen and the text all starts blinking. I guess it was trying to refresh or something. In the end, it apparently gave up and just turned the power off to my PC. No shutdown. No "would you like to save your documents". No. Just power off, and fuck the user.

So they can put idiot boxes in to ask you stupid questions like "are you sure?" but when it comes to something critical, nope - nothing. Just screw the user and corrupt all their open documents.

Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck!

Swine flu - we're all going to die.

Apr 29, 2009 | | 1 comments |

Oh my god we're all going to die. Swine flu is going to kill us all! Just like SARS did, and avian flu, and the hole in the ozone layer......

Pff.
Whatever.
Get a grip people. Sure it's something to be concerned about, but the way the press are reporting it makes it sound like End Of Days.

I hate companies making decisions for me.

Apr 26, 2009 | | 0 comments |

No Chris, you can't have a PS3 SixAxis controller. You must buy the new rumble-enabled Dualshock 3 controller instead.
Why?
Why can I not buy a replacement PS3 controller anywhere? Why do I have to buy one which is too heavy and has lousy battery life now?

I hate it when companies do this, and Sony, it has to be said, are one of the worst. The original PS3 controller was lovely and light - nimble and easy on the hands. The Dualshock one is 40% heavier. Wonderful. So gone are the lightweight next-gen aesthetics, and back are the 1990's nasty plasticky housebrick. :-(

C'est le weekend!

Apr 24, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Phew! The neck is much better now. And after an odd episode with my right knee this week (stop laughing, Dariush) I'm mostly OK again now. Hectic, nasty, busy week but at least I'm not doing the trade show circuit next week. First time I've managed to skip this particular show in a while. Not quite sure how it happened but oh well. So I'm looking forward to a weekend of Call Of Duty 4, interspersed with some lawn work, chocolate shopping, a movie night with the wife and more junk food than you can imagine.

Why do I need a doctor exactly?

Apr 20, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I twisted my neck yesterday and this morning it's reduced me to walking around like a geriatric. Paula went out to get me a foam neck support and was told by the pharmacists that I'd have to go to a doctor to get one. Not sure either of us understand that - I can buy one for $6 off amazon, but in-person I need to go to a doc because RiteAid and WalGreens aren't allowed to sell them?
WTF?

Susan Boyle : biggest surprise ever.

Apr 17, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I'm no fan of TV talent shows, but there's a shocker doing the rounds at the moment. Susan Boyle, an unemployed 47 year old, went on Britain's Got Talent a couple of nights ago, and right up to the point where she started to sing, looked like a total joke. What happened next is nothing short of amazing. YouTube won't allow this video to be embedded, but follow the link and watch the performance : Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent

Best. Music. Video. Ever

Apr 16, 2009 | | 0 comments |

If you've never seen the banned, then un-banned, then banned-again, then award-winning music video for the Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up", then here it is. It came up in a mix I was listening to, and I thought it had been a while since I saw the whole thing.
If you're a prude, even faintly religious, or can be offended by sex, drugs and alcohol, then it's probably best you don't watch this. Or if you do, don't complain to me.

Vegas Minitrip 2

Apr 12, 2009 | | 0 comments |

We just got back from another Vegas minitrip - this time to meet up with my mum and dad who'd flown over for a long weekend. It was nice to see them again.
Vegas is getting less and less family friendly - which I don't mind - especially when that means near naked babes dancing on platforms on the casino floor. Even the Luxor has them now. So there's sin everywhere now, from the casino floors out on to the strip and all the advertising. I'm sure our local mormon friends can see the fires of hell burning on the horizon as I type this :-)

How am I supposed to rent movies now then?

Apr 10, 2009 | | 2 comments |

Oh wonderful.
Looks like Blockbuster are about to vanish : http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30076153/

So let's see.

I won't go the cinema because of the persistent cellphone / talking / kids problem.

My rental store looks like it's going away.

The Netflix subscription is a ripoff - you have to pay even in the months when you don't rent anything, and then you have to pay extra for Blu Ray. They want $13.99 a month for 2 DVDs at a time plus a $3 Blu Ray premium. That's $8 more than Blockbuster for two movies. (And when are there ever more than two a month worth watching?). Or is that extra $8 the "Fast, FREE" delivery they advertise?

Downloading isn't an option because of the spiraling cost of internet access and the total lack of availability of HD movies.

RedBox needs a credit card even for the "free" codes and they don't do BluRay. And any film you want will either be out of stock or the disc will be scratched so much it won't play, and with nothing but a machine to complain to, good luck in getting a replacement.

How am I supposed to rent movies then? Do I now have to buy them and re-sell them at a loss or return them for a refund each time?

This is ridiculous. How can Blockbuster be going out of business?

Priceless

Apr 8, 2009 | | 0 comments |

A first grade girl handed in the drawing below for a homework assignment.



After it was graded and the child brought it home, she returned to school the next day with the following note:

Dear Ms. Davis,

I want to be very clear on my child's illustration. It is NOT of me on a dance pole on a stage in a strip joint. I work at Home Depot and had commented to my daughter how much money we made in the recent snowstorm. This photo is of me selling a shovel.

Mrs. Harrington

Why you shouldn't ever give a video store a valid credit card.

Apr 7, 2009 | | 0 comments |

And by followon, why you should never use RedBox.
For the first time in a long time, I've got a credit card which is still valid at my local Blockbusters. Normally, when signing up to a video store, I'll do it at the end of my card's life, then cancel it the next day and get a new one issued from the bank. I've always been wary of video stores having credit card information - they have no valid reason to require it. Anyway - my fears have been confirmed. I noticed an odd charge on my bank statement this week - a $1 ding from Blockbusters. I've not been late on a return, nor underpaid for a rental, so I did some sleuthing. Blockbuster ding your card on file with them for $1 hold every time you rent from them, then release it when you return the movie. It's a small enough amount that most people would never notice, but it's not mentioned in their terms and conditions and it's a highly dodgy practice. The only reason I noticed it was because my statement was issued whilst I had a rental so before the charge had been released. ie it still showed as a $1 debit. What's even more dodgy about this is that I didn't give them my card for that rental - I paid cash.

For the same reason, I'd never use that RedBox thing. There's nothing to stop them issuing charges to your card for no reason once they have the info, and you can't go cancelling your card and getting a new one each time you rent a DVD from a red box. The bigger problem with RedBox (and NetFlicks and all those other "convenience" places) is that there is no physical person you can go and complain to when they stiff you for money for no reason. I mean you can talk to someone who can't speak english in a call centre on the other side of the world, but at least with a store you can go in and speak to an actual human being.

Anyway - I just thought it worth posting.

Why is everything designed to be user hostile nowadays?

Apr 6, 2009 | | 0 comments |

You'd think that making a photocopy would be a relatively simple task. Put the original on the glass, close the lid, press "go". Well - that took 5 minutes. First I was in the wrong "application path". Then the document scanner, which can tell what size document is on the glass and even if it's text or pictures, couldn't FIND the document when it was put in the wrong place. (Every copier in the world has it's origin in the top-left corner of the glass - apparently ours are the top-right). Finally it copied. A victory. Then I went looking for a fax machine. Oh - that's right - we apparently got rid of those and the copiers are now the fax machines. So now I have to deal with my nemesis again. This time I have to put in a username and password, then a phone number which might or might not need '9' for the outside line. Then I need to tell it how many pages, what the document is in response to, which template I want, what resolution I want and dozens of other, completely irrelevant questions. After which it eats my 2 page document and then tells me to logout. No dialling, no confirmation, and after a phonecall to the supposed recipient, I discovered no actual fax sent.
So our multifunction fax, copier, printer and scanner apparently can't fax, won't copy without being hand-led through the whole process, can't print on anything other than letter sized paper, and scans documents into oblivion.
Apparently this is progress.
I've given up - I'm going to drive to the place I was trying to fax the document to because it will be quicker.

It's summer 1987, and I'm in Malta

Apr 2, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I love how certain bits of music take you back. iTunes just whipped out Hot Chocolate's You Sexy Thing on me. Whenever I hear that track, I think of the bar on the corner on the way to the Styx II club in Malta where we stopped for drinks one night. It had a red London phonebox in the corner and a black and white checkered floor. It was the meeting-up place for all the kids that were on holiday at that time. From there we either went on the Styx II or broke into the Hilton hotel's swimming pool and used it "illegally".
Good times.

I like Amazon marketplace.

Apr 1, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I'm a big convert to Amazon marketplace. I had a bunch of old DVDs and stuff to get rid of a couple of months ago, so I put them all on there and sold most of them. Last night I put all three Fast & The Furious DVDs online, and sold two of them today. It's not much - two or three bucks here and there, but it's better than giving them away and Amazon's seller tools are really intuitive.
If you've got old stuff to get rid of, list it on Amazon. Someone, somewhere is looking for it.

We're having a great water year.

Mar 30, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Spring is sprung, and here in Utah, you'd never know it. We've had 6 inches of snow in the valley this weekend, with 3 feet in the mountains. We're due for snow and rain continually for at least the next week. This is all excellent news because it gives us the potential for a very good water year. A lot of the reservoirs were quite low at the end of last year. That might not be a problem this year. In fact, Deer Creek was so full when we went past on saturday, they could end up with flooding downstream. It has no meltwater in it yet and is full to the brim.
Saturday was the typical warm before the storm, so I went out and flagged the sprinklers in our garden ready for the planned aeration on friday. The flags are all now buried in the snow, so I might have to reschedule the garden people.
Oh well. I'd rather the hassle now than a drought year later.

The Fedex MD11 Tokyo crash

Mar 23, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Sadly one of the most spectacular videos ever of a plane crash comes from Tokyo yesterday. The three bounces seem to imply the pilot caught a microburst off the end of the runway. I know they train for this and it's alarming that on the second bounce when he was nose up that he couldn't recover it. I suspect by that point all the cargo had broken loose and totally screwed up the aircraft weight distribution. Both the pilot and copilot died in the crash. Hopefully it was quick and they didn't have to suffer being burned or trapped.

Tipping well vs. not tipping at all

Mar 22, 2009 | | 0 comments |

We ate out at PF Chang's last night and the waiter who served us was really great. He interacted with us a lot instead of just taking the order and bringing the food. He was amiable and efficient at his job - drinks were topped up without asking and in a timely manner, and the food was brought out well spaced out rather than all at once. We tipped him well because he did a great job, and that's my tipping philosophy. I don't just give 15% "because everyone always does". I tip from zero for appalling service up to 25% for really good service. Last night was really good service and he made us feel welcome at the restaurant. A lot of servers could learn a lot and increase their tip-earning potential by watching that guy.

Of course. I mean why else would it happen.

Mar 21, 2009 | | 0 comments |

For the last 6 weeks my PC mouse has had a fault with the right mouse button where it double-registered, or didn't register at all, giving some interesting results when working with software that needs the RMB. So I finally caved yesterday and ordered a new mouse from Amazon. Come to use my PC today - not a hint or a trace of the problem with the mouse.
Soddingtypical.

I know I shouldn't be amazed

Mar 19, 2009 | | 2 comments |

I've been shopping on the internet for years. I shouldn't be amazed but every now and then something makes me sit back for a moment and think "wow". Thanks to the internet, I've been able to order a sports screen for my motorbike from a company in New Zealand. They sent me a tracking number, and I checked today and it had all the info in it, including when it left their warehouse, and when it was put on a plane headed for America. When it lands, the tracking system will update and I'll be able to follow it across the country until it arrives on my doorstep. Think about that for a moment - I was able to buy something from a small fabrication shop on the south island of New Zealand - quite literally the other side of the planet - and it'll be with me in about a week.

How cool is that?

(Yawn) ... But it's worth it.

Mar 18, 2009 | | 0 comments |

In these troubling financial times, on-the-side income is always welcome, but it can be like London buses. Nothing for ages then they all come at once. So a week ago, I had no extracurricular work. Now I have two need-it-now projects that came in at the same time. The work is good and easy for me to do, and it's bringing in some cash to push in to the savings account, but it means a month of late nights ahead.

Frankly I'd sooner do that than rest on my laurels though. It helps build my portfolio and helps our savings, mortgage principal and car loan principal. It would seem then that I'm doing what 90% of Americans can't or won't do - making extra cash and saving it for whatever the next 12 months might bring.

Brilliant

Mar 15, 2009 | | 0 comments |

A friend of Paula's just texted me this picture on my phone. Bloody brilliant. A touchless willy wash. Just what men the world over have been screaming for.

Mmmm. Dodge Challenger.

Mar 13, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Somebody in the building next to us at work has a new Dodge Challenger. Mmm. Nice looking car.

Pimp my ride - yeah baby.

Mar 12, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I just picked up the new car.
Wow.
I can't believe it - Honda fixed everything I had to gripe about in my original Element.
There's an external temperature gauge on the dash. The cruise control button isn't next to my knee any more. The intermittent wipe has variable delay. It's quieter. The seatbelt isn't in the door.The 10hp and 5 speed AT transforms the driveability of it and at freeway speeds it's a good 800rpm lower than the old one. Ok so the new styling isn't to everyone's taste but hey - I own an Element - I can't really pass judgment on car style.

From the "There's something you don't see every day file".

Mar 11, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I'm sure we've no idea how it got there.

Obama : dragging America into the 21st century.

| | 1 comments |

Like him or not, you can't argue with Obama's policies so far. Well - apart from the bailout package which I still believe is a mistake.
But this time he's taking on the education system. In a bid to do what just about every other civilised country does, he's trying to introduce performance-based pay for school teachers. The better they teach, the better the kids learn, the more money the teachers earn. That's the idea. It's a shame that school teachers need to be given incentives to teach properly like this, but that appears to be the way it is.
Of course the republicans immediately started bleating on about how it was a bad idea and the teachers unions chimed in too. I guess they're afraid that the bad teachers will be laid off. I don't think that's a bad thing. Unionised teachers are paid a guaranteed rate with guaranteed raises every year irrespective of the prevailing economy or their ability to teach. That's not the way to educate the next generation. In fact, it seems that all Obama's ideas to punish poor behaviour and practice are being opposed by the unions and the party that spent the last 8 years taking us down the toilet for the exact opposite reason : they rewarded that behaviour.

That's how you do business in a down economy.

Mar 9, 2009 | | 0 comments |

I settled the paperwork on a new car this weekend. Far from the high-pressure no-haggle screw-the-customer dealers that we have here in the valley (are you listening Larry H Miller, Ken Garff and Stockton-To-Malone?), Willey Honda up in Bountiful did me proud on the price of the new car. I'm a repeat customer for them - I got the original Element from them in 2006. I went back there because they are a pleasant car dealer, with pleasant staff and a no bullshit pricing approach. For example they didn't lowball me on the trade-in value. In fact they were higher than I'd budgeted for. On the new car they came in at an out-the-door price which was $200 less than the MSRP. Bear in mind the MSRP doesn't include tax, title, license and paperwork etc etc. In short : they came down $2,200 on the price. The best part? It reduces my monthly car payment by $40. Ok so the loan is extended another two years, but in terms of how much cash we have to live on each month, things are a touch better now.

Thriller.

Mar 6, 2009 | | 0 comments |

Remember the T-mobile dance at Liverpool Street Station ?

How about "Thriller" in full zombie garb at the Westlake Centre in Seattle...

Screw GM.

Mar 5, 2009 | | 0 comments |

So GM is now no longer a viable going concern according to its' auditors; GM posted a $30.9bn loss for 2008. To put that into perspective, that equates to a loss of $352,739 an hour, or $97 a second.

Earlier this week, GM's top executive warned the European divisions of GM could collapse within weeks without European governments' help - costing up to 300,000 jobs. Chief operating officer Fritz Henderson said governments should step in immediately to ensure GM Europe did not run out of money by April or May.

I think that's called "throwing good money after bad" isn't it? The governments can't keep stepping in to help - GM have just proved that. They took a huge handout from the US government not once but twice, and are still on the brink of collapse. Let's just think about the impact of GM ceasing to exist for a moment - highly unlikely even if they declare bankruptcy. Hypothetically, GM would close its doors and all 266,000 US workers would be unemployed, never to find work again, or so GM would have the public believe. GM maintains that it is really in the best interest of the country and economy to continue to support their failing business model. In truth, it's because they want to keep paying out massive bonuses for abject failure but they claim that the basis of their claim is essentially that they are too big or too important to fail due to their massive labour force.

Hmm.

Well the following companies employ a larger number of workers than GM: Target, AT&T, GE, IBM, McDonalds, Citigroup, Kroger, Sears, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, United Technologies, and Verizon. And those are just American companies. Abercrombie & Fitch employ a full 7000 people more than GM. By comparison to other companies globally, GM is actually pretty small. If we bail them out for a third time, that suggests we should also bail out those other 14 companies too based on the "we're too big to fail" argument? That's clearly a bollocks argument. Lets face it - would the loss of hideously overpriced Abercrombie sweaters as modelled by impossibly beautiful models negatively impact the economy?

It's unethical to force taxpayers to pay billions of dollars in order to bail out a company with a failing business model. After all, they can't even claim (like the banks did) that it is an industry-wide problem. You don't see Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, Volkswagen or any of the other car makers going cap-in-hand to the Capitol do you? No - only the big three US ones and that's because they build products that are shit.

Well that shit has finally hit the fan. Let them fail, and when they do, jail all the execs and top brass who steered the company into oblivion. Chapter 11 will force them to restructure and force them to come up with a viable business plan. Chapter 11 is far better for GM and the economy as a whole than simply giving them more and more cash for no return.

And what of the 266,000 unemployed? Here's an idea - forcibly seize the payouts given to the top brass and distribute them amongst the workers to help them out whilst they're seeking new employment. Those workers are no "unemployable" as GM would have us all believe. Quite the contrary - in hard times, skilled manual labour is exactly what the country needs.