Renew now. Renew now. Renew now.

Dec 29, 2010 | | 0 comments |

We subscribe to Consumer Reports - a magazine geared at independent consumer advice, and our subscription runs out in April every year. For the six months leading up to the renewal date, we get spammed weekly with snailmail and email desperate to get me to renew. Last offer. Last chance. Lock in your price now! American magazines always print your renewal date in the address box both on the magazine and in the reminders. So every week, we get an envelope urging us to act right now before it's too late, with "Apr 2011" printed next to it.
I'll renew in April, just like I've done every year. I bet CR could save a boatload of their money if they just stopped sending renewal reminder out to everyone. Since October this year, I've torn up and thrown away 12 of them so far and it's not even 2011 yet.

Merry Christmas

Dec 25, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Merry Christmas everyone.
I had an interesting conversation with a Mormon friend of mine a couple of weeks ago. He asked why I celebrated Christmas if I was an atheist. I told him that it was a Pagan festival and it wasn't my fault that Christianity and all its derivatives arbitrarily chose to move the birth date of their saviour to December 25th. He got quite upset about that.

Remember the Bible disclaimer, folks, and have a fun holiday :-)

Grown women and underage boys

Dec 20, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Specifically Justin bloody Bieber and "Edward" from the Twilight movies. I'm curious to know why society thinks it's OK, funny and endearing when grown women go crazy for these two despite them being 15 or 16 - news programs have light-hearted, joking discussions about Twilight Moms and how hot Bieber is.
Yet if a grown man expresses so much as a passing nod to a 16 year old girl, they're instantly classified as perverts and a danger to society - the news programs discuss child rape, sex offender registrys and the downfall of society.

"A 35 year old man was jailed today after passing a comment about how hot Emma Watson looked in the fifth Harry Potter movie. He's been jailed for being a menace to society. A police spokesman said it was in everyone's best interests to put these types away before they kidnap children and rape dogs. In other news, the second annual panty-less moms for Edward party kicks off at 6 tonight and we'll have exclusive coverage with our team Edward reporter. Katie - everyone hot to trot for Edward tonight?....."

Snowy UK = closed

Dec 19, 2010 | | 0 comments |

After last year's problems with the snow in England, you'd think they would have made some sort of contingency plan in case they had another hard winter. Apparently not. Heathrow invested £6m in snow-clearing equipment, yet this morning, with a fat 2 inches of snow on the ground, they've given up ploughing the runways and many of the planes are frozen into their gate parking areas. The airport director talked about giving up because there came a point where it didn't matter how much they ploughed, the snow kept piling up. I'm sorry but 2 inches isn't "piling up" - it's light snow.
Well that's why you keep ploughing. Clear the runway, land a few aircraft whilst clearing the other runway, then swap. Any American airport that experiences snow could teach you that. Here in Salt Lake City, last year, we had a foot of snow on the ground in the valley at one point and the airport was working as normal, albeit with some delays. It certainly wasn't shut. Similarly, our tram and train systems were all working normally - in the UK today it seems all the train services are shut down.
It boggles the mind how they can be constantly so un-prepared for situations like this. Yes, it's rare, but that's the nature of preparedness. Plan for the worst. Especially if you're part of critical infrastructure.

I'm reminded of Life In A Northern Town by Dream Academy:

"He said in winter 1963
We felt like the world would freeze"

Hope you're not a nervous flyer.

Dec 18, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Merry Christmas, from the TSA. Still think they're at the airport for security?

Story: TSA miss loaded gun in passenger's carry on. Detection failure rate is great than 70%

Crapware

Dec 15, 2010 | | 3 comments |

In the last couple of weeks I've bought a couple of new games for my PS3, both of which have been a massive letdown. Gran Turismo 5 - hailed as the saviour of the PS3, the pinnacle of driving games, turns out to be a prettier-looking Gran Turismo 2. Like 3 and 4 before it, the AI is box-of-rocks stupid and there's no crash damage. Well - there sort of is but it's so slight that it's useless. You can just ram other cars off the road and ride the crash barrier around long corners and always win - with no penalty. No damage to your car either visibly or mechanically. So I put that up for re-sale on Amazon a couple of days ago and it sold within 45 minutes of me listing it.
The other game is the latest Call Of Duty title - Black Ops. Or Boll-Ocks as it's rapidly becoming known. This is a complete joke. The single player game is 5 hours long at best, and the multiplayer is plagued with so many crashes, bugs and connection errors that it's essentially useless. I've just listed that on Amazon and fully expect it to be gone within the hour too.
This year seems to have been the year of crapware in terms of big game titles, with the pointlessly stupid Xbox Kinect being the cherry on the crapware cake.
If you're interested in my reviews of GT5 and Call Of Duty : Boll-Ocks, they're here:
Black Ops
Gran Turismo 5

Deer in hole in wall

Dec 14, 2010 | | 1 comments |

Regarding my previous blog post

Accentuate the positive

| | 0 comments |

Back in the summer, there was an accident on one of the roads I drive along on my commute. A car had gone through a brick wall at the side of a house, leaving a big hole in it. The wall is a tall one - 3m or so - so it was a true hole - the top didn't collapse. It's been like that for ages and I noticed today that the homeowners have decided to accentuate the positive nature of their new hole : there are two illuminated Christmas Deer in it now, and the hole itself is lined with Christmas lights. If I can get a photo, I will - it made me laugh so hard when I saw it I nearly crashed my own car this morning.

Xbox Kinect

Dec 12, 2010 | | 0 comments |

I'll say this for Microsoft - they're wiley about building products that will make a lot of money for no good reason. I had a chance to play with a Kinect at BestBuy this morning and frankly I can't see the point in it. I mean it's clever - sure - but what is the point? It will be useless for playing anything other than yoga or dance games and you look (and feel) like a total retard when you're trying to play a racing game. You have to stand there with your hands out in front of you as if you're holding a steering wheel. The rotational tracking for steering is terrible, and there's awful lag and latency between you doing something and the Kinect cameras picking it up. I can't imagine trying to play something like Call Of Duty with a Kinect.
But - and this I suspect is the point - Microsoft have created something here that has a massive x-factor. Kids and parents are going to want it, and want it now. It will be huge for Christmas, but by February, once everyone figures out that it's a pointless piece of hardware, it'll be too late. Microsoft will have made their money, and families all over the world with have another piece of useless electronic junk littering their garage.
Clever. Very clever.

Student riots

Dec 11, 2010 | | 0 comments |

I'm glad that Prince Charles and his horse got caught up on the
student riots in London yesterday. The royal family are so isolated
from the real world that I wonder if they even know how much a loaf of
bread costs now. I suspect Charles was horrified to be mixing with the
commoners. The government can't make the correlation between tripling
the cost of a university education, and students rioting in the
streets of the capital. So much so that Cameron said that it wasn't
the special forces or police's fault that Charles' car was attacked,
but the students. Umm. No. The students attacked the car - yes. It was
the police and special forces fault that they allowed that to happen.
I suspect that two things will ultimately come of this. Those who are
rich will still go to university. Those that are not will either not
go at all, or move oversees to find a country that still values
education. This will accelerate the brain drain from the UK leading to
an even dumber society. Still - they can drown their sorrows with the
24 hour pubs.

These people need to get out more

Dec 8, 2010 | | 3 comments |

The annual complaining has started in Provo today. Victoria's Secret
put their Christmas display up and of course all the local parents are
having an outcry. They're complaining that they don't want their kids
to see the ads, and in some cases the parents are saying that the
sight of photos of women in underwear and swimwear makes them
'uncomfortable'. It's Victoria's Secret - how else are they supposed
to advertise? If these people don't want their kids to see the ads,
they don't have to walk past the store. I hate to think what the
Provo-ites would think if they ever left their little town, or heaven
forbid, their state or country. They'd be horrified with the real
world. And I have to wonder - if these parents are 'uncomfortable' at
the sight of underwear - what are they wearing under their own
clothes? Are they going commando, or wearing cut up potato sacks or
something?

From the department of Duh!

Dec 1, 2010 | | 1 comments |

This made me chuckle, from an article about Murdoch trying to understand how to make money from online newspapers:
 "In July, his Times newspaper began to charge customers to access its site, resulting in a 87% drop in readership online."


Doing the trade show grind

Nov 30, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Try as I might, I can't ever seem to be excluded from the biggest annual trade show our company attends. I'm doing so badly at trying to get out of it that this year I've been promoted to lead presenter! So I got to do set-up (at the expense of a day's holiday after thanksgiving), and now 4 days of presentations, followed by the teardown.
I'm knackered.
Just like last year.
And the year before.
And the year before...

I guess it's a good thing that I'm thought of highly enough to be the front-man at our biggest trade show of the year though. Although I am blogging this with my feet in a bowl of warm water :-D

Blogging from 35000ft part 2

Nov 26, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Holyfriggincrap. I love google, I love my iPhone and I love Netflix.
Google give us free wifi on Delta, Netflix allows me to stream my
queue to my iPhone, so I'm watching Netflix streaming, at 0.85mach at
35000ft.

Blogging from 35,000ft

| | 0 comments |

A couple of weeks ago I was blogging at 300kmh on a Korean bullet
train. Today, thanks to free inflight wifi on Delta, I'm blogging from
35,000ft :-)

Top Gear USA

Nov 21, 2010 | | 7 comments |

Well. Top Gear US sucks in a way I thought was previously impossible. Three blocks of wood who can't read a script and aren't funny. They have zero chemistry together, and all they're doing is copying TG UK almost segment for segment, stunt for stunt. They did a Viper vs. a Cobra helicopter tonight which was a direct copy of when Clarkson went up against an Apache. Only on Top Gear USA it was neither funny nor exciting.
They previewed a segment showing one of them in a car sealed up, filled with water, being driven on their track (copy) and they even showed a preview of one of the presenters hopping out of a car with a lousy handbrake on a hill - a direct copy of Hammond doing it. I think they even choreographed the way he got out of the car to try to be identical.
Their main driver, Tanner Foust, is 8 kinds of gay and the fat bearded presenter is just objectionable in every way possible. (Rutledge Wood? WTF is that?)
None of the three of them have any excitement in their presentation and the third guy was so forgetful I can't even remember his name. And I'm watching the show right now!
Even the interview for star in a reasonably priced car was appallingly artificial and wooden - I think even Buzz Aldrin was reading from a script.
Top Gear USA sucks so badly I can't even find a metaphor for it.

Little darlings

Nov 20, 2010 | | 0 comments |

So I'm sitting here eating lunch and there's a family here with seven
kids. For the last fifteen minutes, everyone in this Burger King has
been subjected to "Jake put that down. Miley don't do that. Carson
stop! Eric don't break that. Terry come here. Jake PUT THAT DOWN!
Robbie don't climb on that. Suzy get out of the trash. Carson I said
NO. Terry - here! Miley - no - I know but you can't do that here. Jake
pick that up." Etc. Etc. Etc. 'Carson' just keeps whining "I wanna get
down" over and over again and on top of that, the seventh child, a
mere baby, is switching back and forth between eating mashed up French
fries (great diet for a baby) and screaming it's head off.
In short the parents have no control over their kids, and apparently
it didn't occur to them to stop after they'd had one or two.

National Opt-out day

Nov 19, 2010 | | 0 comments |

If you're traveling for Thanksgiving, force the TSA to invasively frisk you rather than giving you cancer.

Link: National Opt Out Day
Link: Why you should not use the full body scanners.

Korea

Nov 15, 2010 | | 1 comments |

I'm on my way home from Korea now, but rather than simply getting the
express bus back to the airport I am going into Seoul first to meet
someone I've done contract CGI work for in the past. I'm on a Korail
bullet train right now, nipping across the countryside at 300kmh using
their free wifi! If all goes according to plan, I will meet up with my
work colleagues for the flight from Incheon tonight. If not .... Well
best not worry about that :-)

Chris (from my NerdPhone)

www.carbibles.com
www.chris-longhurst.com

I've discovered two things here in Korea

Nov 11, 2010 | | 0 comments |

I'm in Korea on business at the moment, and so far I've discovered two things.
1. Korean GPS is impossible to program.
2. All food here is essentially one or other variant of fermented pickled cabbage.

The hotel we're in has a distinctly Liberace feel to the lobby, but the rooms are a bit tired. The flight here was good - the plane can't have been more than half full and up front where we were, there were 5 people in a cabin that seats 20. Which was nice.

Last ride of the season.

Nov 7, 2010 | | 1 comments |

Well thats it for the year. Our little motorcycling group managed one
last hurrah on Saturday. We had an awesome ride up in the mountains,
snow on the side of the roads but the roads themselves were nice and
clean and dry. This week? Snow. Actually starting tonight. We are
expecting 3ft of snow in the mountains and they just mentioned on the
news that Monte Cristo pass is going to get it tonight. The ride was
good, but snow means it's time to start looking forward to skiing.

If you still don't doubt the TSA, read this.

Nov 4, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Because harassing passengers with fake bags of cocaine really keeps everything "safe" : Story

Make the TSA uncomfortable and they'll have to change their policy

Nov 2, 2010 | | 0 comments |

This is a great piece about the TSA, written by Geoffrey Goldberg. He echoes the general sentiment that the new pat-down checks are designed more to embarrass you into stepping into the back-scatter machine than to provide any form of security. If enough people actually opt out, the TSA won't have the balls or the staff to feel up everybody because there will inevitably be lawsuits.
So make them feel you up - the more people who do it, the worse it will get for the TSA. Make them uncomfortable. Take up their time. Be an inconvenience to them. Treat them like they treat us.
Meeting 'resistance'.

Coincidence

Oct 30, 2010 | | 2 comments |

Am I the only one who thinks it's an amazing coincidence that as the
TSA are bringing their new hyper invasive "security" pat downs into
effect, suddenly explosive devices are found on cargo planes? Nothing
like a little positive reinforcement to keep the sheeple in line.

It's like working in a hospital

Oct 29, 2010 | | 0 comments |

The mornings are nice and dark now - the best time of year is fast approaching and it brings out a certain oddity in one or two of my work colleagues. I don't know who they are because I never see them do it but it's this : they like working in full-intensity bright light. Our office has strip lighting in ceiling fixtures where one strip is controlled by one circuit, and the other two are controlled by a second circuit. On dark mornings, it's lovely to come in and have subdued lighting - just the one strip per box. But every morning, about 10 minutes after I get in, someone turns them all on and it's blinding white. Makes you squint. It's like working in the glow of a nuclear bomb. So every morning I go and turn the two-bar off again and eventually someone comes in and turns off the one-bar but turns the two-bar back on. It's so bad that I've taken all the lights out of the fixture above my desk and put a sticky note in the fixture telling maintenance not to replace them.
I don't get it - why do people want to work under harsh, direct lighting? Have these people never heard of Ikea? (actually, here in Mormonia, they probably haven't. I'm sure Ikea is the work of the devil or something).

Even more TSA bullshit

Oct 28, 2010 | | 2 comments |

In the continuing theme of why I hate flying, today the TSA decided that the new 11 inch Macbook air is OK to leave in a bag for the Xray machine, but the 13 inch version - identical in every way other than size - is not.

Because that makes complete sense.

TRA deems new Macbook Air bag friendly - or not

First snow of the season!

Oct 27, 2010 | | 1 comments |

Well this is pleasingly early. We had a couple of feet of snow in the
mountains last night and a couple of inches in the valley. It'll be
gone down here by tomorrow but it's cold enough up top that it will
likely stick around. Nice.

Support in high places

Oct 26, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Seems the CEO of British Airways agrees with my sentiments about airport security theatre : BA Chief questions redundant security checks.

More TSA bullshit.

Oct 25, 2010 | | 5 comments |

"I cannot consent to nor accept unwelcome physical contact any more than having images of my naked body being viewed by government personnel as a routine part of my daily commute to work. If I'm not under arrest or a suspect in some known threat to air transportation security, the feds have no grounds to invade my privacy and personal space in this way. It is an outrage beyond any measure of reason, an assault on liberty, a gross overreaching of the state, and a very significant step on the road back to the sort of tyranny many of our forbears and the founders of this society fought and often died to escape and abolish." - ExpressJet pilot Michael Roberts who was barred from entering Memphis airport for refusing a full body scan.

Let me just say "Thank you George W Bush" for the Patriot Act. Without which we might still have some semblance of freedom and liberty in this country.

The TSA - Security Theatre. There to employ people to make the sheeple feel safe.

Everything comes with a disclaimer

Oct 21, 2010 | | 1 comments |

We used to have a cafeteria in our company, back before our old CEO nearly ruined us and laid off 85% of the employees. At that point the cafeteria couldn't make money so it closed. When we were taken over by a company with some money and vision, we got a sort-of-cafeteria back, with some fresh stuff but mostly pre-packed salads and sandwiches, and very stale pretzels. That's gone too now but in its place we're getting something genuinely useful : a fitness centre. Cool.
The official opening announcement email arrived this morning, and in my view was rendered instantly ruined by the inclusion of a release form that we have to sign if we want to use the facilities. This was then backed up by another email with the same release form in it again. In fact the release form is bigger news to our company than the actual gym itself.

Why does nothing in America come "as is" any more? Why is it all backed up with lawyers and threats of legal action? Why does nobody understand what the term "accident" means?

It's a sodding gym - just let people use it. We're all grown adults.

Best. Swimsuit. Ever.

Oct 20, 2010 | | 0 comments |

The girl's not half bad either.

US cop displays every stereotype.

Oct 19, 2010 | | 1 comments |

State troopers - making people feel welcome wherever they drive.
So this cock is displaying every stereotype you could imagine, from poor speech, to rampant unjustified anger, to a clear lack of understanding of even the most basic concept, like "who's in front". For example, when asked why he was driving at 98mph, the tourist says he was following the car in front. The cop replies "you weren't following anyone. I was in front of you. You were leading the pack".

Total.
Cock.

And cops wonder why so many people hate them.

Busy few days

Oct 17, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Its been a busy few days for my alter-ego as IT person for the store where my wife works. They've been setting up both the new point-of-sale system for testing, and a remote site to the old point-of-sale system for a big event. The new stuff has gone relatively easily, but the old stuff - well - the server is running DOS3 and the terminals are WYSE50's. Try to get that to talk to a remote site over the internet - I dare you. Anyway, it's all up and running now and I've finally got the rest of the weekend to myself. ie. sunday afternoon.
Time to spend some quality time with the Playstation.

This page isn't really blank.

Oct 16, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Whilst browsing a document I'm re-writing, I found a couple of pages today with the words 'This page intentionally left blank' on them.
And the thought occurred to me that the pages aren't blank at all. They have the words 'This page intentionally left blank' on them.

Product placement of the year

Oct 13, 2010 | | 0 comments |

The buried Chilean miners continue to be rescued today - an amazing feat of engineering - but it gave me pause for thought on seeing the first guy to come out last night. He was wearing Oakley sunglasses. Apparently Oakley supplied the sunglasses to protect the miner's eyes from sunlight, given that they've been underground for so long. Canny advertising exec, or callous marketing move? I don't know but it seems you can't go anywhere without advertising now.

Undo. Redo.

Oct 8, 2010 | | 0 comments |

There's something deeply satisfying about removing an old network with a box cutter and a pair of scissors. Slicing the old cables and pulling them through walls and cable clips without any regard for their use is quite fun, especially after the meticulous work involved in installing the new wires beforehand. The book store where my wife works is finally jumping head-first into the 21st century, updating their VT200-based stock keeping and point of sale system to a PC-based system. Out with the telephone-cable-based 'network', in with the new. Shiny new Cat-5e cables, gigabit switches and routers, WiFi - it's been an interesting but fun task so far. And we're barely 25% done. I have to look forward to installing 4 more PCs, data migration off the old system, setting up a rigorous backup facility, antivirus, password management - the lot.
Which is curious and odd because way back at school, in my computer science class (realise I'm talking about 1985 or 1986 here) were given a project to theorise how we'd bring a shop into the computer age. My choice at the time? Computerising the stock-keeping and point of sale system in a book shop.
Go figure.

1010 - what the hell?

Oct 7, 2010 | | 1 comments |

"No pressure, but if you don't comply, we're going to kill you." That's largely the message some organisation called 1010Global is putting out. I suppose you've already seen it - it went viral a couple of days ago - but if not, their current advertising campaign involves exploding children in a classroom because the kids didn't want to be part of their campaign, followed with the message "no pressure". I don't know what they're trying to promote but their message (whatever it is) has been rendered completely moot by a TV advert where they blow up children. Graphically. Full-screen. In front of a class full of other children.

If you're curious, the three ads are below. Watch them and then realise how ill-conceived this idea was. I suppose someone thought this was funny, in the same way people think 'The Office' is funny. People are often wrong.

10 days in Asia

Oct 3, 2010 | | 2 comments |

Well here we go then - the longest blog entry ever. This is our trip diary from our recent 10th anniversary trip to Singapore and Hong Kong. The trip was a surprise for Paula, centred around going to the Singapore Formula 1 race - a street circuit, raced at night. A micro selection of pictures are here: Singapore & Hong Kong 2010

Thursday.
Arrived in the afternoon (with all luggage checked all the way through from SLC) and took a taxi to the hotel. The Orchid arrangement I'd asked for was in the room waiting for Paula. She cried :-)
Walked up Orchard road. Had a snack at Spanish cafe in Ngee Ann City mall. Took the MRT to Raffles City to collect our F1 tickets. Had dinner at Malaysian vendor in the L4 Food Republic in Wisma Atria mall. Walked Orchard road again, but at night to see the Digital@Orchard displays of light and art. 

Friday.
Tested our MRT route to the track and got there a tad early; decided on Gate 2. Picked up 3-day MRT tourist passes that allow unlimited travel on the underground and bus system. Went to the new Marina Bay Sands casino / hotel, and up to the Singapore Skypark on top. Impressive engineering! Got in to the track at 3pm and rode the Singapore Flyer (think London Eye on steroids) twice while the support practice sessions were going on (Formula BMW and Porsche Carrera Cup). Met up with Paula's acquaintances Christy & Regan in the evening, and ate at Lagnaa in Little India. Sit-on-the-floor, barefoot restaurant with awesome food. Went back to the track later for the Friday F1 practice session. Watched from various walkabout positions around the track and took one more trip on the Flyer. The MRT had a power failure when we were trying to leave so we ended up getting a taxi back to the hotel. 

Saturday.
Went to the Singapore visitors centre. Picked up some leaflets and decided to go to the Science Centre at Jurong East. Interesting place out in the boonies, with a great live Tesla coil demonstration. The Jurong East MRT interchange was totally Bladerunner. Back to the city centre and went clothes shopping in Ion mall. I found shorts and shirts that I liked at a store called Net Fashion. More importantly, I've lost so much weight I now fit Asian sizes! Paula also found tops at the same place. Ended up eating a Chinese dinner at Ion mall Food Opera. Went back to the track for saturday qualifying, starting at 10pm. Bumped into Sir Jackie Stewart and had a picture taken. Met Dave & Anne from Australia who were sitting next to us supporting Mark Webber. Getting out of the track was a crush but it turned out to only be 50 minutes from grandstand seat to hotel room. The entire event was really well organised, staffed and signposted and the MRT is blindingly efficient at getting people away. For where we were, discovered that every train goes through Dhoby Ghaut interchange, and the Orchard Road MRT station is so huge underground that you can walk to almost anywhere around the Orchard Road crossroads without ever going above ground.

Sunday.
Browsed the shops in Lucky Plaza and Sim Lim Square for the heck of it. Both are tourist traps known for bait-and-switch electronics resellers. Didn't buy anything, obviously. Met up with a motorcycling friend and his wife who now live in Singapore - Walter and Ilke. They took us for a long lunch at Lau Pa Sat Festival Market (hawker food). Had nasi goreng and murtabak. Paula had Ton Ga soup, carrotcake and octopus. We all had vietnamese spring rolls. Made a quick pit stop at the hotel before going to the track at 5pm. Race started at 8pm. Ended about 10pm with Heikki Kovaleinen's car on fire after Hamilton spun off after contact with Webber. The pre-race show, the crowds, the whole experience was something not to be missed. It was amazing. We had a relatively easy trip back to the hotel again using the MRT.

Monday.
Took a taxi to Mount Faber then rode the cablecar to Sentosa Island. Went to the Underwater world, Butterfly house and motion simulator log ride. Rode the Skyride - like a ski lift - as the wind picked up ahead of a whole afternoon of rain. Took the MRT back to Orchard road. More clothes shopping in Ion Mall. Quick pit stop at the hotel then took the MRT to Clark Quay. Had dinner at Octapas - a Spanish Tapas bar. Desert of delicious mini doughnuts from TinyBites (run by a little old lady) in the food plaza of The Central (another mall). Saw a very talented didgeridoo player on Read Bridge. Grabbed the MRT back to the hotel.

Tuesday. 
Up early and took the MRT to Ang Mo Kio interchange to get the bus to Singapore Zoo. The bus station was just as well organized as the MRT. Found the right stand easily and the bus was rigidly on time. The Zoo was great. The "Fragile Forest" enclosed area was amazing - we got to mingle with the wildlife up very close. The humidity all around the zoo was close to 100% - a true rainforest. Bailed out after lunch to splash and dash at the hotel. Missed the afternoon rainstorm as we were in transit while it happened. Gave back the MRT cards for a return of our deposit, and cruised Paragon (mall). Ate at L4 Food Republic in Wisma Atria again.

Wednesday. 
Up early for the flight to HKG. Checked out no problem and took a taxi to the airport. Flight was about 50% full and on time. Arrived in HKG, grabbed bags and took a red taxi to Tsim Sha Tsui (pronounced sim-sha-tjoy). Our room on 19th floor had a great a harbour view. Tentatively took to the Hong Kong underground, confusingly called the MTR (as oppose to the MRT in Singapore). Got rechargeable Octopus travel cards which can be used just about everywhere. Used the MTR to get under the harbour. Took the Peak Tram to Victoria Peak for dinner and sunset. Ate western for the first time on our trip - Bubba Gump's - but the view from the restaurant was to die for. Went to the observation deck after sunset for some photo opportunities. Huge queue to get down on the peak tram but we waited. The taxis from the peak were trying to run off the meter which is illegal - they wanted HK$200 for an HK$18 journey. 

Thursday. 
Took a star ferry over to Central. Cost the equivalent of 32cents. Took a number 6 bus over to Stanley on the south side of Hong Kong island - the scenic route. Walked around Stanley market and got some lunch on the sea front. Bus 260 back - the express route. Pit stop at the hotel then went to iSQUARE mall - a 31-floor shopping mall - very narrow but very tall. Started figuring out that Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui East MTR stations (TST and TST-E) were interlinked and you could walk to anywhere via all the tunnels without ever going above ground. Sort of like Orchard Road in Singapore. There are so many exits that you end up with a mental map that's like a chess game. For example, N2 exit was opposite our hotel. N3 was in B2 of the K11 mall under the hotel. L5 was opposite Ocean City, L6 was next to the art museum. D2 was near the camera shop (don't ask) and F was the exit that linked the two stations together.
So we walked to Harbour City shops to put us close to the Star Ferries terminal. Elevator to lobby, lobby elevator to '3'. K11 mall elevator from '3' to 'B2'. Into the subway at exit N3. Walked probably half a mile and emerged at exit L5. See the image in this blog post for the complexity of the TST interchange.
Paula blitzed M&S. We ate at Suzuki Cafe Company. Oddly one of, if not the best French onion soups I've ever had. Service wasn't up to much though. Took the Symphony Of Lights star ferry harbour tour to see the 8pm light show from on the water. Walked the MTR subways back to the hotel.

Friday. 
Leisurely breakfast in the room, then took the MTR to the Ngong Ping 360 cable car. Long queue for tickets. Long queue to get on. Rode in a glass-bottom car ('crystal cabin') which gave a wonderful view of the surroundings. The trip on the cable car took about 20 minutes. Spent time in Ngong Ping village which is a vast tourist trap, then walked up 176 steps to the Tian Tan Buddha - the largest seated Buddha statue in the world. Back to the village for a lunch of kebabs and bhajis, then rode the cablecar back to the bottom station. Took the MTR back to Kowloon to the sprawling TST subway station and walked to Hong Kong art museum. Refunded Octopus cards. Made sure we were back to the hotel by 5pm to avoid dealing with the MTR for People's Republic Of China day. The evening fireworks show in HKG harbour attracted about half a million people. Room service dinner so we could watch the fireworks from our hotel window. Holy crap! I think they blew the entire Sugarhouse Park July 4th fireworks budget in the first 10 second barrage! Still - chinese fireworks in China - what do you expect?

Saturday. 
Up at the normal time. Did most of the packing then had breakfast in the hotel cafe. Went to HKG space museum which was quirky and only took an hour to go around. Back to the hotel via Ocean City mall. Taxi to airport. Spent a couple of hours in The Wing business lounge. Flight delayed by an hour for transfer passengers and landing on LAX delayed by 20 minutes for weather. Unbelievably made the connection via immigration, customs and a terminal change with 15 minutes to spare. Thank you Global Entry and the green cards. I did fall twice though during the sprint to make the flight and now have cuts, burns and bruises all up my right side. Whatever - we made the flight home.

The TST map:

It's quiet

Sep 19, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Almost too quiet... It's been a very slow day on email today. And by
slow I mean just one email. Which is unusual.

BP - the epitome of evil.

Sep 8, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Well this is good to know:
http://gizmodo.com/5632673/bps-oil-spill-report-lays-blame-on-multiple-companies-and-work-teams
So despite BP ignoring warnings a year ago and turning off the failsafe and alarms, they're clearly not to be held accountable for the wholesale destruction they wreaked in the Gulf.
Fuckers.

eBay is bent

Sep 6, 2010 | | 2 comments |

At the time of writing, my eBay reputation has just been decimated
from an 11 year 100% rating to about 85% because of the bent way the
eBay feedback system works. I had an item for sale that clearly stated
no international shipping. The winning bidder was from Spain. He spent
6 days arguing about the cost of shipping, refusing to pay, and
cancelling payment requests through Paypal. In the end I cancelled the
auction. eBay in their infinite wisdom then allowed him to leave me
negative feedback, whilst only giving me the option to leave positive
feedback. I couldn't give him negative feedback. He broke the contract
of sale which is against the eBay terms and conditions, and when I
complained, eBay sided with the buyer. They refuse to remove his
negative feedback on the grounds that the feedback itself doesn't
break their T's and C's. So its okay to ruin someones eBay reputation
as long as you don't swear in the feedback form. That is totally
corrupt. eBay is well and truly broken for allowing this sort of crap
to happen and then defending the person at fault.

Why do we have to suffer voice-control systems?

Aug 30, 2010 | | 1 comments |

I hate technology for the sake of it and voice control systems are the worst offenders. They never work - you end up sounding like an idiot continually repeating yourself and they take more time than it would to just do it normally - ie. using a keyboard or talking to an actual human being. The dictation / typing software available nowadays is a great way to double the time it takes to write a document. You spend half an hour doubling up and repeating yourself to get a page of incomprehensible jibberish, then you spend another half an hour typing it in. Voice-controlled phone dialling is the same - it never gets it right. I actually found myself arguing with my car's computer last week because the bitch couldn't understand the word "home". And best not to get started on automated flight information systems. No, I don't want to fly to Guadalcanal, I said "Salt Lake City"!!!!

Still, if I'd dictated this blog post, what you'd be reading now would be "I rate heck chronology for the brakes are shit and choice and roll sisters are the burst of enders."

Pandora radio is costing me a lot!

Aug 27, 2010 | | 0 comments |

I discovered Pandora radio last week. Those who already know it will be rolling their eyes by now, but it's new to me so stick with me here. Basically, you seed it with a couple of pieces of music or artists, DJs etc and it creates a customised "radio" station that starts to spew out tracks similar to the seeds. You can rate each one as thumbs up or thumbs down to refine the algorithm. I'd say 75% of the tracks it has chosen so far are ones I already own, which is good; it means it's figured out quickly what my taste is. The other 25% have ended up as iTunes or Beatport purchases. Or acquired from, ahem, other sources if legal outlets refuse to carry them.
Must go, just heard another track I need.

Freedom of religion. Yes. Your President said it.

Aug 24, 2010 | | 0 comments |

People complaining about the proposed Muslim temple in New York being too close to 'ground zero' need to think for a moment. They complain that Muslims could use the new temple to plot another attack, and that it's too close to a site that has a lot of bad memories.
Let's flip the table for a minute. How would you feel if you wanted to build a Catholic church a block from the Oklahoma city building, but were prevented from doing so in case another Timothy McVeigh were to use that religious site to plot another attack?
Door swings both ways my friends.

Rare isn't the word

Aug 21, 2010 | | 0 comments |

We were out having lunch yesterday and this turned up in the parking
lot. Sadly, no Mr Fusion :-(

Justin Bieber is irrelevant

Aug 17, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Seriously, people. A 16-year old writing his "memoirs" ? What's he going to put in there? How he filled his poopy nappy until just a few years ago, then discovered his weenus and how he really loves eating at Chuckie Cheese?

Move along people. Nobody to see here.

No sense of self preservation

Aug 14, 2010 | | 1 comments |

It never ceases to amaze me how many motorcyclists around here have no
concept of protecting themselves. I'm sure the t-shirt and shorts will
work just fine when he comes off. The baseball cap will surely save
his head too....

Mint.com - I don't get it.

Aug 9, 2010 | | 2 comments |

If I asked you, as a reader, to post your online banking user name and password in the comments below this post, you wouldn't do it would you? Yet tens of thousands, if not millions of people now use mint.com and their mobile app and I can't decide whether or not to try it myself. It's a finance aggregator service - gives you access to all your accounts in one place, can post alerts via email or SMS etc. Very handy, but the single biggest red flag (and it is a huge, flapping, Texas-sized flag) is that you have to give mint.com all your personal details used to log into banking websites, including secret questions and answers, login user names, passwords - everything.
Mint goes to great lengths to try to explain how this is all safe and secure and how the connection they make with your bank is one-way, meaning it's a read-only service and that no transactions can be made with their software. That's fine, but they're still storing ALL my login information and if/when THAT gets stolen, anyone has full access to all my money. Not just one account, like a single bank being hacked, but EVERY account. So what about the likelihood of that happening? I'd say hackers are far more likely to try to break the mint.com database than they are to remote to my machine at home, if it's on, then try to find my details that way. What about rogue employees with access to the database. Sure it's encrypted but copy a chunk to a thumb drive and take it home to work on it and I'm sure it's not unbreakable. Even their security FAQ points out that "some" of their employees have unrestricted access to all your account details!

For mint.com to be properly secure, it needs to maintain 100% watertight security 24/7 which is impossible. One of the biggest flaws is no password lockout. Meaning you can brute-force attack an account until it lets you in. And you can determine who has an account by brute-forcing email addresses into their login page (again without a lockout). Mint.com's terms of service specifically preclude you from any protection in the event that they are hacked or if there is a security breach or data theft. So if that happens, mint.com don't cover you, and your bank doesn't cover you because you willingly gave away all your login details.

Then there's the legal aspect. Most online banks have something like this in their legalese: should I knowingly release the password to any other party (other than power of attorney transfer or when under duress) I absolve the bank of limiting my liability for larcenous activities. Meaning if I give all the details that mint.com wants about my account to them, then my bank is no longer responsible for any problems arising as a result.

Google "is mint.com safe?" and watch the results flood in. Hundreds of articles asking the same question I am.

I just don't get it - are millions of people really that stupid or have I missed something here?

Is mint.com safe in 2010?
How I would hack into your mint.com account

Prop 8

Aug 7, 2010 | | 0 comments |

This week a federal judge overturned proposition 8 in California
meaning gay people can now be married there. This has brought out a
lot of hatred and conservative whack jobs. Fox news is going with the
'against the will of the people' approach, which is what most
republicans and conservatives are doing too. What amazes me is that
they'll quote the constitution all the time but they've missed how it
relates to prop 8. You see federal judges are here to protect the
rights and liberties that Americans hold so dear. Proposition 8 was
voted in by California (with added pressure from the LDS here in Utah,
despite them claiming not to have interfered) but it took away a
fundamental right and freedom. The federal judge has rectified that.
Why are so many conservatives so homophobic and how is it they can't
understand that prop 8 was, essentially, diametrically the exact
opposite of everything the constitution stands for. It restricted,
dictated and took away.

A skill-filled riding day.

Aug 6, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Mike and I went for a ride over Mount Nebo today, then on to Fairview, over Huntington canyon and back, then down past Scofield Reservoir and home. It's a great route and it covers my favourite stretch of motorcycling road - Huntington canyon.
But it was an interesting ride to say the least. We had to contend with, in no particular order:
- tons of cow shit on the road
- cracks with grass growing in them
- a logging truck spewing twigs and splinters off the back of it
- two thunderstorms with rain so heavy we couldn't see much further than the bike windscreens
- half of one of our favourite roads being covered in chip-seal and grit
- sheep
- deer
- cows
- Utah drivers

The weather was awesome for mid-August - it was very autumnal which made the ride that much nicer. I hate boiling in the blast-furnace-like summers here.

Some pics for the curious.



Lovely time of year

Aug 4, 2010 | | 0 comments |

I love this time of year. The dog days of summer are gone.
Thunderstorms in the evening and the days are getting noticeably
shorter. Yes my readers, autumn is on the way which means that most
excellent of seasons - winter - is not far behind.

Pink!

Jul 30, 2010 | | 0 comments |

I'm all for hybrids but at least get one in a decent colour. I didn't
even know pepto bismol pink was a Toyota option.

Religous zealots on billboards

Jul 26, 2010 | | 0 comments |

On my way back down I-15 yesterday, I saw an interesting billboard from the local religious zealots. It had a ghostbusters type logo but with Darwin instead of the ghost. Underneath it read "There is no evolution. We were created. For the truth, call" and then a number.
I'm not sure which religious group it was but it was quite funny to see that opinion stuck up on a 60ft freeway billboard. They won't believe in evolution but they'll believe in a book of fiction, translated so many times that even today's translation is in disagreement with the oldest surviving text. The Bible has been amended, changed, translated, rethought, edited and rewritten so many times that anybody who says that it contains anything near the original message is fooling themselves. The original was simply a collection of stories that has been changed by every group with an axe to grind through the ages. Heck - I believe the Catholics even re-wrote a huge section of it just because they could.
It would be like humans in 2000 years time going to church to pray to Optimus Prime. It sounds ridiculous now but I'm sure 2000 years ago, the idea of people worshiping a carpenter sounded equally as foolish.

3D is dead.

Jul 22, 2010 | | 2 comments |

Well that didn't take long. Looks like Hollywood has finally come to
it's senses with regards to 3D film making. It seems the fad is over
and they have decided to revert most movies currently in production
back to 2D. The next Batman movie is the one that's turning the tide
in favour of common sense. Tron Legacy is another one, going from 3D
everywhere to just in IMAX screens. I reckon it's partly because the
fad has died down, partly because nobody is going to be stupid enough
to sit at home wearing goggles just to watch TV, and partly because of
the cost of changing all the projection systems in cinemas to 3D.
There is hope, after all.

Got the car back.

Jul 19, 2010 | | 1 comments |

Well I finally got the car back today. For all the work they've not
been able to figure out the source of the noise so it must be behind
the dash. I'll live with it and do my own investigation in the next
few weeks. Either way I'm much less upset now I have it back.

The joy of owning a new car ?

Jul 16, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Well it's been a week now and my lovely new tiguan is still at the
dealer, with the front right hand side in pieces. I've been robbed of
the joy of owning a new car, instead having angst and worry about
whether I'll ever see it again :-(

Chris. (from my phone)

The elusive rattle pt.4

Jul 14, 2010 | | 2 comments |

Day 5: The dealer now has the wheel liners out, the door panels out on the passenger side, they've checked and/or replaced the steering links and the suspension bushings and I'm not sure but I think they said they now have bodywork off the car too. The noise is still there and they've admitted its taking far longer than they expected to track down the problem. There is definitely something loose that's shaking and rattling around.
I asked when I could have my car back and they said they didn't know.
My 7-week old car is in pieces, and from my experience that means the chances of it ever being the same again are zero now.
I asked them at what point they give up and what happens next and they told me that if it gets to that stage, a tech is involved from VW Of America - (presumably flown out to the dealer?) and VW corporate take charge.
I feel sick. This is going to be a repeat of what happened with my motorbike. I'm never going to see my Tiguan again :-(

The elusive rattle pt.3

Jul 13, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Well this is upsetting. The garage called today - they've replaced the right front suspension and taken my car out for a test drive and the noise is still there. Now they think it might be something behind the wheel arch liner so they're going to take that apart and investigate. I'm wondering if it the right engine mount - I've read about issues with that on the forums but it's always described as a creaking sound, not a loose rattle. Either way I fear we're heading into 'clutching at straws' territory here and that doesn't fill me with confidence :(

The elusive rattle pt.2

Jul 12, 2010 | | 0 comments |

I had a phonecall from the VW garage this morning. They narrowed the noise down to something in the suspension strut (which is good - it ties up with what I thought). They don't know what the issue is but they're just going to replace the whole thing with a new unit under warranty.
Nice.
Shouldn't have happened on a new car but if they replace it properly and the noise is gone (and the wheels track straight), I'm happy.

Locating the elusive rattle

Jul 10, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Since the day I bought my Tiguan, it's had what sounds like a suspension strut rattle from the front right-hand side of the car when going over bumps and potholes. Given that I get free servicing and a free courtesy check, I figured I'd tell the garage about it when I took the car in yesterday. Fortunately I was able to find a road where I could reproduce the sound for one of their mechanics but unfortunately he had no idea what it was. As a result they wanted to keep my lovely new Tiguan for a couple of days to try to diagnose it. I've got a Jetta as a loaner but I miss my Tiguan. I'm bothered by the thought that they might not be able to locate the source of the noise and will just tell me to live with it, which isn't acceptable. But that's based on my experience of other dealerships in this area (notably Accolade/BMW Of Salt Lake who fucked up so badly that Triumph corporate had to buy me a new bike).
I'm trying to stay optimistic but the realistic side of me is winning.

Fussing with my iPhone.

Jul 6, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Just a quick blog entry to see if I can do it easily from my iPhone.
Pity there isn't a proper blogger app yet. Looks like I have to do it
via email or SMS.

Strawberry Shortcake returns

Jun 28, 2010 | | 0 comments |

I walked around the park for the first time in a few weeks last night and two things happened. First, I bumped into a friend which is always nice because it makes you feel more like you live somewhere (rather than visiting) when you meet your friends off-the-cuff. And second, Strawberry Shortcake jogged past me - first time I've seen her in a long time. She still smells of strawberries and still isn't smiling at anyone.

Dutch brewery pisses off Budweiser. Again.

Jun 23, 2010 | | 1 comments |

Budweiser, the self-proclaimed 'King Of Beers' (king of overpriced cat piss more likely) once again got all uppity at a sporting event. They're the main beer sponsor of the World Cup this year. Bud have a history with being pissy. At the 2006 World Cup, Bavaria beer got one over on them with the orange lederhosen dished out to supporters (remember - they were all forced to take them off, so they all turned up in their underwear to protest?).
Well they've done it again. Same company - Bavaria beer - dressed 36 leggy blondes in Norway supporters gear and got them into the Norway fans area during the Holland v Norway game. Midway through the match, they stripped down to bright orange minidresses mid-game. Orange is of course the Dutch national colour, and the sudden appearance of a swatch of orange in the Norway fans area obviously grabbed the attention of the TV cameras. Free advertising for Bavaria beer, and 2-0 in the Bavaria v Budweiser war. So Budweiser once again got pissed off and threw a temper tantrum. They cried foul and had FIFA arrest the girls and cart them off for prosecution. The girls were let off today when someone official decided that in the grand scheme of things, it really didn't matter, they hadn't committed a crime, it had been blown out of all proportion, and that yes, Budweiser is a pissy, whiny company that manufacturers shit beer.

2006 stunt with orange lederhosen
2010 Bavaria babes



The sound of quietly heating water

Jun 22, 2010 | | 0 comments |

The plumbers came back yesterday and fitted a new, non-fan-assisted water heater. It's so lovely and quiet again. We like it and the cat isn't freaking out any more.

Jet engine water heater

Jun 17, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Our old water heater died a couple of days ago and the plumber came out to fit a new one today. They advised us to go for a powerflow heater which has a force-flow exhaust fan on it. The guy told me it would be quiet enough that it wouldn't be a problem but when they finally turned it on today - well - it's like an X-box, or jet engine. Take your pick. It is LOUD - you can hear it resonating through the whole house. I told them I wasn't happy at all with it and they went back to base and got their manager to give me a call. He was ready to put it right and has ordered a direct-vent heater - same style as the one we replaced but a different brand. They're going to come on monday and swap them over at no extra charge.
But to add insult to injury, looks like our pressure regulator on the main water line has also gone pop and the whole house is at 120psi now. So I need to get a new one of those too :-(

Let the vuvuzela blow

Jun 16, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Even if you're not interested in the World Cup - like me - you can't have escaped the number of news stories where people are complaining about the vuvuzelas. Plastic duotone trumpets that South African fans use to make noise, cheer, and support football games. Sounds like a beehive and drowns out a lot of other noise.
My guess? These are the same people who complain about the Swiss ringing cowbells when supporting the winter Olympics, or the same people who buy a house under the flightpath to a major airport then complain about the noise.
Football is a noisy sport - suck it up and deal with it.

Servers on fire everywhere

Jun 15, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Today was interesting, frustrating, and joyful all at the same time. Starting at 6:30 I began attempting to pre-order my iPhone 4. Apple's servers were already dead and AT&Ts were on the verge of collapse. Nothing was working - visions of campuses and server farms on fire with IT blokes jumping out of windows. About 9:30, a backdoor link appeared on Engadget and holy crap it worked. I got a pre-order in online and received a confirmation email. Being the curious type, I then went back and tried the backdoor link again and lo and behold - the servers were toast. The two other guys in my office trying to order managed to get their orders in after lunch - about 14:00 I reckon and the question now is - when will any of us see the phone? Theoretically, I ought to be OK - AT&T sold out of pre-orders about 12:00 our time so I ought to be on the "gonna get one" list.
We'll see.
Either way, the busiest online sales day in AT&T's history did nothing to help their image with server crashes, network outages, and in-store orders ending up being made with paper and pen.
My guess? On the 24th, the same thing will happen when everyone who did manage to order one, plugs them all in at the same time and starts hammering the AT&T accounts system for verification and setup completion.
Methinks I'll wait a bit if I get mine on that day.

Don't let your PC banking software talk to your bank

Jun 9, 2010 | | 0 comments |

That was traumatic. For years I've manually entered banking transactions into Quicken, and manually reconciled statements. Thinking I might catch up with the times, I set up Quicken to connect directly to my bank tonight and boy was that a mistake. It royally fucked up my accounts in Quicken. It took off downloading stuff from March last year - stuff which has long since been reconciled - and started entering over a year's worth of transactions as "new". It couldn't match any of the stuff I'd entered by hand and at the end of it, I was several tens of thousands in overdraft according to Quicken.
Fortunately, I had the foresight to create a backup before I started so I'm back to normal now, but if that's the face of PC banking instead of web banking, I think they can keep it.
Not least of which, when the bank cocks up (which they do), if I blindly accepted everything it told me to into Quicken, I'd never find the mistake. As it is, doing it by hand, then checking it once a month against the statement helps find big errors (like the $1900 lunch last year which should have been $19).

Waterproof : do not expose to water.

Jun 7, 2010 | | 0 comments |

I'm looking at a wind-up radio / flashlight at the moment because - you know - it's a geeky emergency tool. Reading the spec of the one I'm interested in, I saw this:
IPX-4 splash proof from all angles: Protected against spraying water from all angles at 10 liters/minute at a pressure of 80-100kN/m2 for 5 minutes.
Nice spec, I thought. Given that this is a tool for emergency preparedness, seems like the ideal thing to have in the event of a hurricane (unlikely in a land-locked state) or capsizing at sea (again, unlikely in a land-locked state).
It was even more interesting then to read the various warnings, where they tell you not once, but four times to never get the device wet:
# Do not expose this appliance to rain or moisture.
# Do not submerge or expose to water for extended period.
# Protect from high humidity and rain.
# Unplug immediately if liquid has been spilled or any object has fallen into the apparatus.

So I did a little sleuthing. Thanks to random-facts-and-conjecture.com - (or wikipedia as you might know it), I found out that IPX-4 is NEMA's equivalent to a protection rating of IP65. Apparently the '6' means dust tight and the '5' means "Water projected by a nozzle against enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects." The '5' also means dripping water, vertically dripping water, water falling as a stream or spray and splashing. ie. rain.

So they go to great lengths to specifically tell you about the IPX-4 rating, then tell you to never get it wet.

Confused.
In case you're curious, this is the radio: Eton Scorpion radio

Giving the kid a good start to life.

Jun 3, 2010 | | 0 comments |

We were in Burger King for lunch today and the couple in front of us ordered a triple whopper with bacon and cheese (supersized, of course) for her, and a kids chicken nuggets meal for him. She was a half-ton woman-mountain and he was stick-thin so it sort of made sense.

Until we realised that the kids meal wasn't for him - it was for the baby in the stroller that they had with them. By the estimates of the four of us at lunch, the baby was somewhere between 10 and 14 months old. Unable to sit up on its own, it was strapped into a high chair, and the behemoth of a mother was stuffing it full of chicken nuggets (shredded into mush) and mashed up fries, washing it all down with regular coke that she decanted into a sippy cup. Believe it or not, the baby actually went through a small order of fries and 5 chicken nuggets and the mother then started mashing up parts of her triple whopper for it.

Holy. Crap.

I was going to take a photo but my cellphone camera makes a 'click' that I can't turn off so it would have invited a punching, I'm sure.

I'll leave you to imagine at what young age that kid is going to die from coronary failure.

Why are supermarket baggers so incapable?

Jun 1, 2010 | | 0 comments |

It's not that difficult. The blue, insulated bag with the silver lining is for cold and frozen products. Or food. Or both. Everything else goes in the green bags. Why is there soap powder, an onion, two marker pens and a box of cornflakes in my blue bag?

Rediscovering old memories

May 22, 2010 | | 0 comments |

So here I am ripping old CDs into iTunes and what pops out of my collection? Two CDs by Propaganda. More important to me, one of them has 'Abuse' on it - the into music used in Some Kind Of Wonderful.
Ahhhhhhhh. Must watch that now - I've got it on DVD ....

It's wrong to laugh but this is actually funny.

May 21, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Wait now what was I supposed to remember... ?

How many shoes?

May 18, 2010 | | 1 comments |

I just watched a little online ad for Souls4Souls - an outfit that provide shoes for children in poorer countries - and at the end of it there was a three-question survey. The last question was "how many pairs of shoes do you own?". The available answers were (1-2), (2-4), (4-10), (10-40), (40-100) and (100 or more).

100 or more? Apart from Imelda Marcos, who owns more than 100 pairs of shoes? I'm in the 2-4 category - 3 pairs of trainers (1 of which are my junk pair for gardening) and one pair of more presentable shoes.

The two sides of customer service.

May 13, 2010 | | 0 comments |

My wife today tried to get some help from a couple of stores to find a product that has been out of stock for a while. At Rite-Aid, the response was largely "go screw yourself" whilst at Albertsons (Fresh Market), the response was "certainly, we'll see if we can special order that for you". The two stores in question are right across the street from each other. Guess which one we won't be going back to?

Sleuth, hunt, dig, search - bingo!

May 12, 2010 | | 2 comments |

I'll be damned. A Piece of music I've been looking for for nearly two years finally popped up today. I hit the right search terms and headed off into dicey .ru domains. I ended up on filestube.com - I'm sure a totally legit site (!) and there it was - John 00 Fleming vs The Digital Blonde - Nine Inch Nails Dub mix.
Bugger me sideways with a splintered bargepole. Not only did it link to a working download but the resulting file was free of malware and viruses (a direct MP3 download) and it was encoded at 320kbps.
So why is this amazing? Well I've been hunting for this particular bootleg since late 2008 - it was never officially released by JOOF (John 00 Fleming's) label because it was a bootleg. Every couple of months I hit google for a couple of hours trying to track down a copy and tonight I hit paydirt. I'd quite happily pay for this but it's not on iTunes, DJDownload, Beatport or any of the other regular outlets. Tick that box - another gap in my collection has been filled.
For the sake of completeness, in case this blog entry turns up whilst anyone else is looking for the same thing, here's where I found it in the end:
John 00 Fleming vs The Digital Blonde - Nine Inch Nails Dub mix. That links ultimately to this: link and you can pick up the file from either place. Hate to be a music pirate but sometimes you have no other option.

Holiday-b-done

May 10, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Well I got back from my holiday on Saturday and very nice it was too. A Couple of weeks pootling around the canals Oop 't North was quite relaxing. The flight back was interesting though. Because of the continuing volcanic ash, they swapped the scheduled Boeing 757 for a Boeing 767 and ran it half empty so they had the range needed to fly around the ash cloud. And what a detour it was. You know things aren't going well in aviation when planes take off from the UK heading for America and go east. Yes - we went over the north sea, then up to the east of Iceland, over the northern-most area of Greenland and then directly south over the great lakes to Chicago. It added nearly 3 hours to the trip but American Airlines' logic was impeccable - better to run the service and miss your connection than cancel the flight completely.
As it happened I was scheduled to have a 6 hour layover in Chicago. By the time we got there, with the ground delay in Manchester and the longer flight, my wait time in Chicago was a mere 2½ hours. Nice.

Holiday-b-gon-be-on-again

Apr 22, 2010 | | 0 comments |

In a bizarre turn of events, seats opened up on the American Airlines flights to Manchester this weekend. A quick mouse-o later and my vacation is back on again. Until the volcano goes off again and then my vacation will no doubt be off again. Essentially, if the blog goes quiet for two weeks, it means I went away :-)

Holiday-b-gon

Apr 20, 2010 | | 0 comments |

FUCK IT.
Having not had a 'proper' vacation for a couple of years now, I was sort of looking forward to - you know - some time off. I had a narrowboat holiday planned with my dad and one his friends to do the Four Counties Ring in England. I'd sorted out time off work and booked the flights back in December last year. Everyone rearranged their schedules to accommodate my trip and I was ready to go. Until last week when Eyjafjallajofullofshitbaggoddamnfuckbastardwank volcano blew its top and they closed all the airspace in Europe.

So now - no holiday for me.

Fucking wonderful.

Earthquake!

Apr 16, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Last night, about 17:55, I was between games whilst playing Modern Warfare 2 when I started to sway gently back and forth on the sofa for about 5 seconds. I figured it wasn't me getting dizzy but before I could figure out what it was, it stopped. Fast forward to the news last night and we had a 4.9 earthquake - that's what I felt. Very weird. The ground is something you can generally count on to be pretty stable. To have it move and shake is very disconcerting.
Suddenly that extra premium I'm paying for earthquake cover on my house insurance doesn't seem so much.
No damage reported around the city - it was fairly mild, but it was the largest quake we've had here since 1992. I guess the Wasatch fault was letting off some steam.

Of colds and Tiguans

Apr 12, 2010 | | 2 comments |

My sore throat from last week finally took my voice on saturday night and now can't decide if it's just a sore throat or a proper cold. Ho hum.
Paula and I took a VW Tiguan for a test drive on Saturday. I spotted one on thursday whilst out and about and didn't even realise they sold them here in America. It's nice - very nice. Great ride, nice handling that belies how tall the car is, and the engine is great. I'm going to go down to the dealer tonight and see if we can come to some sort of deal on a price.

Loansharking to the extreme

Apr 7, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Whilst in England we noticed there'd been a huge increase in the number of cheque-cashing and payday loan places. Talk about legalised robbery. This one, photographed off TV, is offering a very reasonable APR of 2356%.
Or to put it another way, if you borrowed £200 off them for a week, you'd be paying them back £290.61 after 7 days.

Spirit Airlines is taking the piss

Apr 6, 2010 | | 1 comments |

Starting in August, Spirit Airlines are going to take the piss if you try flying with them. Not only do they charge for checked luggage, but they're going to charge $45 each way for carryon bags too. That really is the beginning of the end - if they get away with that, all the airlines will do it. Because flying is already such a luxurious, relaxing experience.
It really is taking the piss too, because unlike a couple of years ago when aviation fuel was at an all time high because of the price of oil, this year it's about average - or more specifically - half of what it was two years ago.

Taxing broadband

Mar 26, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Well I suppose it was inevitable. The government in England found a new source of income to persecute its populous - taxing broadband home internet connections. They say it's "only" 50p / month or 6 quid a year, but you can be guaranteed that will only go up.

And nobody could have predicted this.

Mar 25, 2010 | | 0 comments |

An airport worker at Heathrow has a police complaint against him now for taking a photo of a female co-worker using one of the new full-body scanners.
So apparently it's perfectly OK to look at complete strangers totally naked, but it's a near sackable offence to look at other workers using the same technology?
In a more interesting note, in this case he managed to grab a photo as she walked through the machine without her knowing. In other words, she didn't need to stop for the image to be taken, which leads to the obvious question - why do we have to stop?

Airport worker warned for using body scanner.

Lightweight me.

Mar 20, 2010 | | 1 comments |

I weighed in this morning at 202lbs - that's down exactly 70lbs since I started my weight loss thing. 2 more to go to my target, but really 3 because I want to see the first digit on the scales be a "1" instead of a "2".

Tiger Woods return - how convenient

Mar 19, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Is it just me or does anyone else thing the whole Tiger Woods thing was incredibly convenient. I mean the story broke right at the end of golf season last year, and now, just in time for the start of the new season, he's apologising, returning to the game and his sponsors are coming back.
A cynic would say the whole thing was a giant publicity stunt. Although having seen his side of the text messaging that published yesterday, it strikes me that he thinks he's a porn star rather than a golf star. In fact some of the stuff he texted would be construed as sexual assault in some places which would make him a full on sex offender.
I don't know why anyone thought he was worth any of the money he was paid - he's a frickin' golfer! He hits a ball with a stick and gets paid how much?
His sponsors are weak if they're coming back because of his apology. And sponsors typically aren't weak, which is another reason to suspect the whole thing was a setup to drive publicity. He retired in the off-season? How convenient.
What a douche.

District 9

Mar 18, 2010 | | 0 comments |

I Netflix'd District 9 on bluray last night and it was actually a much better film than I'd hoped. I like off-the-wall sci-fi, especially stuff that's not mainstream so having seen the trailer for this last year, it looked hopeful. Finally watching it I was amazed at what a great job they'd done. Good story, reasonable acting, excellent but underplayed effects work. I thought it was an entirely believable scenario.
Now off to Amazon to buy a copy.

More on credit cards

Mar 9, 2010 | | 0 comments |

My last post on credit cards got me thinking about the recent change I made to one of my cards.
At the end of last year, Citi jacked my interest rate up from 11.9% to 24.9%. I've never missed a payment with them, and have never had any fees incurred. I called them to find out why and the excuse they gave me was "it's to maintain the level of service you're accustomed to". In other words "we're jacking the rates up before the credit card reform bill prevents us from doing it". So I decided to cancel the card and got put through to one of their customer retention people. After some wrangling, they offered to drop the rate by 1%. I pointed out that I could cancel the card and sign up again on their website and get a 4.9% introductory rate but it didn't make any difference. Then they offered me 50,000 miles for my American Airlines account. Time to play them at their own game. I took the dropped interest rate and the 50,000 miles and let it lie for a month or so. Once the miles had shown up in my AA account, I then signed up for a Delta Amex card. They had an introductory rate of 4.9% but it only went up to 11.9% after a year. And for signing up I got 10,000 Delta Skymiles. Sweet. Next I did a balance transfer of everything left on my Citi card to the new Amex card, for which I earned another 10,000 Delta miles, and zero percent on balance transfers. Finally I used all my American miles to buy a ticket to England in business class, and used my new Amex card to pay the taxes and fees, for which I earned another 10,000 Delta miles - because it was the first purchase on the new card. Once that was done, I cancelled the Citi card.
So to recap - Citi screwed me, so I screwed them for 50,000 miles then closed the account. By changing to Amex I earned 30,000 miles on Delta, and got a massively reduced interest rate. Win-win for me. Lose for Citi, win for Amex.

Speed Vegas

Mar 5, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Well that was one of the quickest visits I've ever made to Vegas. I had to travel down here this morning for the interview for my Global Entry traveller program registration. With the snow delay at home, I arrived in Vegas at 10am, interviewed at 10:20, and I'm now sitting on my return flight at 11:30. The airport slots did take 20 bucks off me though so I paid the Vegas tax :-)

Credit card reform

Mar 4, 2010 | | 0 comments |

I for one am pleased that Obama signed in the credit card reform bill over here. I know the Republicans are horrified that they failed to block one of Obama's bills but it should only lead to better habits for people with credit cards. The problem is that I suspect the people who have the most trouble are those who don't ever open their statements, let alone make any payments. So having the credit card companies print info on the statements like how long it will take you to pay off the card only using the minimum balance will have no effect. The credit card companies themselves are already waffling and backpedalling claiming they need more time to prepare. How can that be? The bill was signed in June last year and came into effect at the end of February this year. Do they really need more than 8 months to change a couple of lines of software to print out more stuff on the statements and change all the due dates to the same day of the month each billing period? At least one of the credit card companies has already laid the groundwork for higher interest rates, by pulling the "poor" card. Now it's going to be more difficult for them to extort money from their customers using shady practices, they're not going to make as much profit. The only way they'll be able to rectify that situation, no doubt, is to jack everyone's rates up.

John Barrowman : irritating

Feb 23, 2010 | | 0 comments |

The BBC1 breakfast show had John Barrowman on it this morning and I have to say he's the most irritating guest they've ever had on. He's full of an inflated sense of self-importance and he seems to think he's the Best Thing Ever. He's not funny, he can't decide whether he's American, Irish or Scottish with his drifting accent, and his constant advertising of the fact that he's gay was beyond a joke. What a total asshole.

Our power consumption is visible now.

Feb 21, 2010 | | 0 comments |

I installed a TED5000 energy monitor in the house today - hooks up partly to the electrical panel and partly to the home network. We now have a realtime display of just how much power we're using, either by logging in to the device via a computer, checking google powermeter (it's connected to that), or looking at the little remote display that it came with. In the same way that having your car's mpg staring you in the face will help you drive more efficiently, I'm sure having the house's power consumption readily visible will make us more frugal with our power demands.
Of course we're already frugal compared to our American neighbours, but that's beside the point ....

Avatar 3D. Take 2.

Feb 19, 2010 | | 1 comments |

So in an effort to give 3D a fair shake of the stick, I went to see Avatar again today, this time in RealD instead of Dolby3D.
Well what can I say? Firstly, Dolby3D sucks donkey balls so badly they should just give up. Compared to the dull, dim, dreary, nausea-inducing vomit-fest that I tried to watch on Sunday, Avatar in RealD is stunning. It's bright, over-colourful, punchy and the 3D effect is a good 100 times better than the Dolby attempt. What a difference. I couldn't believe it. I was able to make out detail like the rainbow heat sheen on the spaceship exhausts, and the veins in the feathers in the Navi headdresses. On Sunday I could barely tell they were wearing anything it was so bad.

The cinema experience? So-so. There can't have been more than 20 people in the cinema, and there were no kids which was excellent. The projection system - not so much. This one took a dump twice. Actually 5 times if you include the 3 short blackouts. But the two long ones totally probably 10 minutes. Seriously guys - if you want to show 3D, you have got to sort out your bloody projector problems!
The silver lining to that was that as we left the cinema, a member of staff was handing out free tickets for another showing of our choice, and apologising for the projection failure. At the Larry Miller place (Megaplex 12) they didn't even offer up an explanation, much less any free tickets.

Two projection failures - big ones at that - in two shows at different cinemas using different technologies? It's obviously not the exception but the norm for these things to go out mid-show. I gave my raincheck to the guy I went with. I'll not be going back to the cinema any time soon. Clearly 3D projection technology is still too much in its infancy to be put in front of an actual audience.

Avatar 3D - a followup post

Feb 15, 2010 | | 0 comments |

So after talking to a bunch of colleagues this morning, it turns out there's a reason Avatar looked so appalling last night. The cinema we went to uses Dolby 3D, not Real-D. Dolby's version is the cheapskate "retrofit your old projector" version of 3D that uses wavelength interference (read: colour reduction) instead of circular polarisation. In short - we got royally screwed. Larry Miller cheaped out and is probably using 4 year old projectors with 4 year old bulbs. It explains the crushing eye strain, the differences in reflections on metal surfaces between the left and right eyes, and the abysmal lack of colour in the film. It explains why people describe Pandora as vibrant and colourful, and why we saw a dull, lifeless, almost grey world. It explains why the picture we saw was not bright - the Dolby 3D glasses cut down so much light that it's like wearing sunglasses indoors. The Real-D versions are almost transparent in comparison.
That's pissed me off.

Avatar - worst movie experience ever.

| | 4 comments |

For 6 years now we've not been to the cinema, mostly because I'd prefer to have my gonads sawed off with a blunt, rusty knife than put up with the abomination that is the "cinema experience" now. But the clamour over Avatar has been huge. Every one of our friends - even the non science-fiction types - has been to see it and kept going on at us about how it was the best thing ever. My wife wanted to see it in 3D too, so I finally caved and picked up a pair of tickets to go and see it last night at the Megaplex 12 at the Gateway.
Where to start?
Well the 3D I suppose. The end result was that I felt like I'd been punched in the eyes by Mike Tyson - although I seem to be a lone voice in the wilderness on this one. It was dark and murky and drained of colour - like the projectors had 40W bulbs in them - probably because we were looking through mirrored, polarised sunglasses to watch the film. You could see what a lush, bright, colourful world Pandora was supposed to be by taking the glasses off, but of course that took away the 3D effect. I know the Navi are supposed to be blue but honestly, through the special Dolby 3D glasses, everything was different shades of grey. The only thing that had any colour or brightness to it at all was the nighttime bio-luminescence of the plant life. So I'm not quite sure what people are referring to when they say they've seen the movie and described Pandora as this vibrant, colourful world. I can only assume they were watching the 2D version. Either that or the place we went last night didn't know how to run a 3D projection system and had the brightness turned down.

Figuring I was the only person on the planet who absolutely hated the 3D thing, I had to know why, so after a lot of analysis in my head, I think I know what the problem was. Because it was 3D, I was expecting to be able to focus on anything in the scene. But that's not how it works - the film making technique still pulls focus to whatever they want you to look at, meaning if you try to look at anything else - the detail in the foreground or background, you end up with colossal eye strain. A great example was right at the beginning when Sully floats out of his hypersleep chamber and goes to his locker. I'm trying to take in the whole effect of a miles-deep spaceship in the background and the director has changed focus to the lockers in the foreground. Every time this happened I had to close my eyes. If you ask me, that sort of negates the entire point of trying to make a film in 3D. On top of that there were some really odd rendering artifacts in the film itself. Whenever a reflective surface was on-screen - a flat piece of metal or a window for example - if you looked through the left eye, the reflections appeared one way, and through the right eye they either weren't there at all, or had a completely different contrast to them. The result through both eyes was a disturbing sense of looking at two completely different images. The overall 3D effect looked like a layered Viewmaster - each layer looked flat, stacked in front of or behind some other layer. So all the people for example looked like cardboard cutouts rather than rounded figures. Given that this was an entirely CGI film, that ought not to have been the case - simply render the scene from two different viewpoints, but that's apparently not what they did.
Googling for this very problem I turned up this page which explains the issue very nicely - Look at this, not this. Particularly this section:

Examining unfocused areas of the frame in Avatar is literally quite a headache, and counterintuitive to our enjoyment of the 'baked and locked' 3D planes that we are being presented with. Knowing that depth-of-field is all he has to play with if he's not going to shoot rocks directly at us, Cameron doesn't hold back - he relentlessly racks focus in scene after scene.

So the trick to avoiding a headache when watching this movie is to be obedient, and concentrate on the parts of the shot that the focus tells you are 'important'. Once I understood this at the preview screenings last week, my headache began to clear up, but I was conscious too of the effort of having to 'zip over' to the next point of rapid-focus in order to keep up and preserve the 3D illusion.

I since discovered that 'Avatar h3dache' is one of the most googled and complained-about problems.

So the 3D was definitely a gimmick - lots of spears, guns, animals and skeleton parts pointing out of the screen at you in long, lingering "oooh look - 3D!" moments. If this is the future of cinema, they can keep it. I'm just not interested in having to hunt around the screen for the particular 3D item the director wants me to look at. For this to work, they need to film everything in maximum depth-of-field and show it with ultra-bright projectors. Sadly, because Avatar has become the biggest grossing movie ever, I suspect 3D is going to be rammed down our throats whether we like (or want) it or not.

But perhaps the shining star of last night was the whole cinema experience itself. It started off OK - I was able to book specific seats - proving that at least one cinema around here has caught up with the 1990s. The seats were comfy recliners which was nice and the 3D glasses were clean. That's pretty much where it ended though. To the rear, the woman behind me kicked the back of my reclining seat probably once every 5 minutes, catapulting my head forwards in the process. The two people to my left chatted through the whole film about how they didn't like what his sister was doing in relation to the care of their dog whilst they were away on vacation. He spent the whole film texting on his phone - with the key tones on - and she spent the whole movie flicking her phone open to check the time. Nice. To the right of my wife, another conversation was going on but I couldn't quite hear what that was about. Way up back was the obligatory "family with screaming baby". I know Utah and specifically the LDS are supposed to be a family-friendly but for fuck's sake - who brings a baby in a carry basket to a 2.5hr film? I wasn't the only one who had a problem with this - at least one other person in the audience did shout out at one point "for Christ's sake take your fucking baby outside!".
I'd sorted out seats in the middle 'alley' of the cinema (a cross passage between the front and rear sections) so we had some leg room. I'd forgotten to take into account the latent stupidity of the viewing public though as this meant that not once, not twice, but three times, some goon tripped over my feet or kicked me on the way past. When the lights were up!! Do people not look where they're going any more?
I know what you're thinking now - you're thinking "it can't have been that bad". Trust me - it was appalling. We used to go to Century 16 and I figured that maybe their catchment area was full of people who enjoyed paying to go to a cinema so they could sit and text and talk - so as well as being able to book seats, that was one of the reasons I tried a different cinema last night. But no. It's not cinema-dependent and it's not time-dependent. People evidently just don't know how to watch a movie any more. Unless they start putting RF cages around the cinemas to block cellphone reception, and enforcing a no-talking policy, it does seem to me to be a pointless waste of time and money now. 6 years ago we tried everything - matinees, different times of day, different days of the week and cinemas all over town but it's the same everywhere. Today it's worse by an order of magnitude than it ever was.

What completely ruined the evening for me though was after about 50 minutes when the entire projection system took a dump. First the left-eye image turned off. Then half the screen went pink, then everything stopped. This took them about 15 minutes to rectify (without so much as an explanation as to what was going on) and completely destroyed any sense of continuity in the film. By that point my eye-strain-induced headache was so overwhelming I actually felt nauseous (not helped by the constant kicking of the back of my seat). So when they finally did get the thing fixed, I spent the last hour and half sitting with my eyes closed listening to what was going on.

It sounded very spectacular, but it's safe to say I haven't actually "seen" Avatar yet. I was so disappointed. I really wanted to see what the visual effects were that people have been talking about but the nauseating mis-use of 3D coupled with the intolerable cinema experience meant I was sitting the dark - quite literally.

The important thing is that my wife enjoyed - nay loved it. She's able to tune out the chatting, crying and cellphones, and the person sitting behind her actually had some consideration.

Congratulations to Larry Miller's Megaplex 12 for confirming to me at least why I've not been to the cinema for 6 years. I would have expected that sort of experience if I was at a dollar-theatre. But for $11? I don't think so.

The Best Buy Corollary

Feb 12, 2010 | | 0 comments |

When Best Buy moved into town, nerds and geeks all over the valley praised their chosen deities, for all our dreams had come true. A shop we'd actually want to browse in. It quickly put Circuit City and Ultimate Electronics out of business, and slowly dragged Inkleys under. Now they're pretty much the only game in town. And that's a problem.
I'm in the market for an HD camcorder at the moment and I've narrowed my choice down to three. Best Buy only has one of them - and only at one store. The other two are not to be found anywhere in this city, or even close by. Obviously I'm going to buy the chosen device off the interwebs when the time comes, but I'd like to at least handle all three of them before making my decision. Reviews alone do not maketh the decision.
But it looks like I'm going to be "forced" to buy the only one I can find locally. Which as it turns out isn't so bad - it was number 2 on the list.

An ongoing rant.

Feb 10, 2010 | | 5 comments |

Why is Windows so bloody slow at doing everything? And why does it insist on stealing focus every time a dialogue window appears? OMFG I'm just going to have to kill my operating system.

Time travelling in my mind

Feb 9, 2010 | | 0 comments |

Oh wow. iTunes just popped one out of the archives at me. Not heard this probably for 15 years now - since it first came out in fact. That's enough to make a man feel old. Fluke - Slid. Very few lyrics - in fact they only appear in one or two of the many mixes of this track.

Into the deep from on dizzy heights
What a sight as the world flies by
Into the deep from on dizzy heights
What a sight as the world flies by
Nowhere to sliiide....


I've got to say, Fluke were way ahead of their time. Just about everyone has ripped them off since. The entire backbeat to this track forms most of the Chemical Brother's albums alone.

Ski Brighton

Feb 7, 2010 | | 0 comments |

In a break from the norm, I went skiing up at Brighton today at the behest of one of my friends. Normally I ski Solitude so this was new terrain for me. I really enjoyed it - their terrain is w-i-d-e open but with enough variety of slopes that an intermediate skier like me had plenty to choose from. We blitzed the mountain with a morning pass, without a break. 9:00 to 12:30 - I'm exhausted. We skied past an on-mountain photographer at one point, so I did the tourist thing and bought a couple of pics off his website.

A crappy winter

Feb 6, 2010 | | 4 comments |

We've had about the crappiest winter here since we moved here. There's really only been two days since the end of November where we've needed to use the snowblower. The winter tyres on the car are wearing out because of so much dry road, and when it does get vaguely wintery down in the valley, it's rain. Sure we've had a ton of snow in the mountains, but down here it's been a piss-poor excuse for winter. And now the days are growing longer, it signals the inexorable march towards the dog days of summer, where we have to endure weeks of 40 degree (C) weather.

Eugh.

Still - there's some hope we might have a long, cool spring like we did last year. I'm a winter person. Spring and autumn are just fine, and as far as I'm concerned, summer is that awful three months we have to put up with in the middle of every year where it's hotter than the surface of the sun, the A/C bills are gigantic, and all the gardens are dead from drought.

Hey Obama - WTF?

Feb 2, 2010 | | 3 comments |

Ok I like Obama. I think he's doing a reasonable job given the scorched earth he was left with when Bush left. But today he did something I find bizarre and irritating at the same time - he's axed NASA's Constellation rocket program which was going to take us back to the moon. No more Ares, no more Orion. Instead he wants to get more commercial spaceflight enterprises involved. Which means private investment - which is good - but it also means fleets of highly overpaid lawyers. In other words, we're never going into space again.
I'm not quite sure how this is supposed to be regarded as progress :-(

Awww. *sniff*

Jan 29, 2010 | | 0 comments |

A tragic retelling of the Mars Rovers trip to the red planet.

Phone abuse.

Jan 28, 2010 | | 1 comments |

I can sit at my desk for hours on end without a single phonecall, and the instant I'm away for 30 seconds, I get two voicemails. Why is that?

Worse is the persistent abuse of the phone when I am at my desk. First I get a call, which I'll send to voicemail. Then another call which I send to voicemail. Then my cellphone rings, so I direct that to voicemail. Then I get a text message, which I don't reply to, then the desk phone rings again.

Walk over and talk to me - we work in the same office!

Here's a clue : if I'm not picking up any of my phones, it means I don't want to talk to you, or I'm talking to someone else. The more times you call, the less likely I am to return any of them.

The iPad

Jan 27, 2010 | | 1 comments |

As much as Apple's new tablet sounds like a female sanitary product, I want one. I'm watching the live press conference now. It's like an iPhone on steroids.