Monday, October 09, 2006

Is this sexy CD?

Sometime ago I lost my Strange Little Girls CD by Tori Amos. This morning on my way to work I decided to go into the local used CD store to see if they had a replacement. All they had were Little Earthquakes and Boys for Pele, which I obviously have. As I was randomly flipping through other CDs, a middle aged Indian man says, "Excuse me, excuse me, is this sexy CD?" as he pointed to this CD. Now, remember, I'm shopping for Tori Amos. If from that you conclude that I am not a huge connoisseur of rap music, you would be right. From the cover, I immediately conclude that it probably is someone's idea of 'sexy'. But this conclusion is a rather obvious one that any grown man should be capable of reaching without my assistance. Does he simply want to know my opinion on the sexiness of this particular CD? Or is this a come-on? Perhaps, unbeknownst to me, this CD shop is actually the local hangout for johns. Maybe his question is actually the secret phrase passed between johns and prostitutes looking to earn a quick £ behind the record shop at 10:30 on Monday morning. And I fit this profile? No, I must have misunderstood him. I am very confused and not a little suspicious. I say, "I'm sorry?" (By the way, why do we say I'm sorry when we mean, "What the f***? I'm SURE I didn't hear you right!") "Is this sexy CD?!" he again demanded of me as he impatiently tapped the Shaggy CD that he held out in front of me. Although I am still not sure I have correctly understood him, I decide his intentions are not good and said, "I'm sorry, but I don't work here, so I wouldn't know if that is sexy CD. Perhaps you should address your question to the clerk at the counter" as I quickly exited the store. That'll teach me to shop on company time.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Zidane, Why?

Why did Zidane do what he did? And let me ask two provocative questions: 1) Despite the fact that a football player can probably hit people pretty hard with his head, don't y'all think that Italian player hammed it up a little bit? Wasn't that fall a bit too acrobatic? 2) Don't you think the Italian player must have said something really, really inappropriate to to elicit such a reaction? Wouldn't a fair reaction from the referees have been to investigate what was said? Surely a verbal attack can, in theory, deserve a yellow card if a physical attack can deserve a red one? I'm not excusing Zidane -- I think it would have been far better if he'd turned around and headbutted a ball into the goal rather than headbutting the Italian guy. I think Zidane played right into his hands -- I think this was the Italian strategy: to get Zidane ejected. And Zidane gave him what he wanted.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Megabus: Don't!

I got back home for good this morning at 3am. I left The Professor late on the Fourth of July -- but just barely, as it seemed the entire Dutch train system had collapsed. My train to the airport was cancelled and I had to take a detour on a train through Utrecht that was delayed 40 minutes. After a last-minute platform change at Utrecht caused a panicked race down one flight of stairs and up another, dragging my awkward and heavy wheelie bag behind me, I managed to get to the airport and get on my flight. I retrieved my luggage and caught the shuttle bus to the train station where I then caught the last train to Crocodileville with time to spare. This time was not a time to relax, however, because even though it was the Fourth of July, it was cold. Cold on the Fourth of July. This is not my climate. In addition, it seems the Last Train to Crocodilleville is a favorite with many drunken and chatty young men.

I arrived in Crocodileville at about 1am, with just enough time to take a short nap, water the plant, pack my backpack, and turn around to catch the 9:00 Megabus to attend a conference in the hometown of the Bee Gees (HBG). For those of you who don't know, Megabus is the Ryan Air of the road, with fares one way beginning at £1.00 if you book early enough. Except travel on Megabus makes memories of travel by Ryan Air reflect a feeling of First Class luxury.

The Megabus was a packed double decker, so I sat on the upper deck, where there were 88 other bodies, no circulation, no ventilation, no air condition, and the temperature outside was reported to be around 30C or more. Our bus made only three stops between Crocodilleville and the Home of the Bee Gees, but we didn't arrive until 17:45.

The conference was over yesterday and I reluctantly queued up to take the return Megabus journey back to Crocodilleville. The bus route began in Major Metropolitan World City (MMWC), in the southern region of the country. It was supposed to stop in HBG at 17:00 and arrive in Crocodilleville at 00:45. Remember that Megabus has NO rented space in the bus station: They have no gate, they have no ticket office, they have no employees posted there. Further, they often do not have any signs indicating where passengers are picked up and dropped off. Shortly before 17:00, the 17:15 Megabus, travelling to MMWC arrived early. But by 17:45, there was still no sign of my Megabus. What do you do when your Megabus doesn't show up? First, I and the other 20 or so people in the sprawling queue, most of whom had been there since 16:30 or so, stood around like mules. It is amazing how little action people take in times like these.

No phone number was included in the hard copy of my reservation confirmation and terms of service, although there was evidence of a link to a phone number to "contact us". So I called the Professor and had him look up the number on the website. Miracle of all miracles, a human being named Emma answered the phone. She wasn't aware of any bus problems or delays, but would investigate and call me back. Which she actually did. When she did, she had no news or help other than to say that the driver must be stuck in traffic because he hadn't reported any problems and he wasn't answering the phone. And she was right. The bus showed up almost exactly one hour late.

I entered the packed bus and again had to sit on the upper deck. Remember, this bus had been on the road for three hours already, travelling northbound. Upon entering the bus I was hit by a wall of stink. The piss smell coming from the toilet was the first assault. The second began immediately after, at the stairs leading to the upper deck: bodies and feet and old food. No air circulation, ventilation, or air condition. We get on the road, travel for no more than two hours, then stop to the side of the road. Out tumbles a young man who has thrown up all over his purple shirt, shorts and laptop case, followed by two young women, one of whom is apparently his partner or sister, who strips his shirt off him (fortunately he is wearing a t-shirt underneath), tries to clean up the vomit, and otherwise care for him. The view behind him is a strange combination of the pastoral (sheared sheep grazing near the highway) and the industrial (in the distance a gigantic factory vomited its own waste into the air from three of its four smokestacks). We sat there, I think, for about an hour. One of my upstairs mates, a woman travelling with husband, adolescent son and pre-adolescent daughter, goes downstairs and offers assistance (she is apparently a nurse or some other health professional. Surely she is not a doctor. Surely doctors do NOT travel on Megabus). Eventually an ambulance and traffic safety officials arrive, the young man is attended and taken away, statements are taken from those who were directly involved, and the bus departs (but not without stalling three times before we finally get on the road). I do not know why this young man became ill. The nurse did not offer her fellow passengers any information upon her return. I don't think he had appendicitis or anything like that. I am sure the Megabus made him sick. What surprises me is that more people don't get sick on the Megabus.

We advanced a few more miles and then pulled into a rest stop. I don't know if this was for the driver's benefit, but I doubt anything Megabus does is for passengers' benefit. Everyone but me exited the Megabus and returned with stinky fast food. I had brought snacks for the ride so I didn't need or want anything except clean air. But my desire for clean air was overridden by my absolute dread of piercing the wall of stink only to return and have to reacclimate to the smell all over again. So I stayed put. This time.

We finally resumed our travel and, after what in retrospect seems like only 30 or 45 minutes (at this point I have no idea as my coping strategy was to attempt to disconnect myself from any awareness of the passage of time), we pulled into another rest stop. As usual, no announcement was made as to why we stopped. I remained up top until I could stand it no more went downstairs to cool off outside. It was raining and a little cold. It felt very good. I overheard other passengers talking. We were about 40 minutes from the first major stop north of the border. Apparently the driver could not drive anymore (because of legal restrictions on length of time? had he lost his mind? had a mental breakdown?) and so we must wait at this rest stop until another Megabus arrived with another driver who would drive us the rest of the way. I went back upstairs and sat in the hot and the stink. I gazed into the open restaurant and in my daze formulated a plan. I exited the bus again and entered the restaurant where I purchased a cup of ice for £2 ($4) and took it back onto the bus to employ as my personal temperature control device.

Interestingly, when the new bus driver arrived (at midnight), he turned on the bus and the air conditioner worked. There was circulation, ventilation, and temperature reduction. Immediately. I got so cool -- cold -- I had to eventually put on my sweater. And my jean jacket. This is even though both previous bus drivers (the outbound bus driver and the first inbound bus driver) said they were "doing all they could do" to cool down the bus. I swear I think Megabus encourages drivers to leave the air conditioning off on the upper deck in order to economize. I have decided that Megabus has installed some kind of surveillance measure that tracks the energy consumption on its buses. Drivers who use too much energy by running the air conditioner are punished. Or, drivers who can withstand assaults from passengers are rewarded with bonuses for keeping down energy costs. Is this crazy thinking? I don't think so.

We pulled into the station at Crocodileville around 2:45, without any further incidents. Fortunately, I immediately got a taxi and was finally home a few minutes before 3:00.

Will I never take the Megabus again? I don't know. I won't say NEVER because I'm afraid to have to eat those putrid words some day in the future. But my inclination is to say that my days of long distance bus travel are over.

Anyone who has similar Megabus experiences, please comment and tell me about them.

Monday, July 03, 2006

World Cup 2006

Yes, I've become a bit preoccupied with the World Cup. Unfortunately, my pick (T&T) didn't make it past the preliminaries. But they held off England until the 82nd minute and I am proud of them for that. Then Portugal answered Scotland's prayer,"Please god, anyone but England". Who do we have left? Our host country (Germany) & Italy; France & Portugual. It's gotten very interesting.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Fluffy Mackerel Pudding

Planning your next dinner party?

May I suggest Cabbage Casserole Czarina followed by 'Caucasian Shashlik'?


Friday, June 02, 2006

R. I. P. 25 Dec 03 - 01 June 06

I cannot believe you have left me so soon. Our time together was too short. But in that time you became family to me. We were inseparable. And so intimate. You always snuggled close, in my ears, in my pocket; I often kept you cradled in my hand and gave you frequent caresses. And you knew me, better than almost anyone else. You had an uncanny perception of my mood and through your shuffle you provided the perfect soundtrack to my life. You worked and played with me. You comforted me in sad times, shouted with me in angry times, laughed with me in happy times. You made life bearable when I've been in places I didn't want to be. You protected me from hearing things I did not want to hear; you were a powerful and impenetrable barrier between me and unwanted others. Even in crowds, you could make it feel like you and I were the only two things that existed in the world.

We were a team. But somehow I let you down. It's true, I was not always as gentle with you as I should have been. Sometimes we were clumsy. I cannot say there were no accidents that might have contributed to your early demise. You had some ups and downs -- you had those little creaks and aches and pains that come along with age -- a little skip here, a little freeze here, your stamina was waning, you had to rest more often than you used to. But I didn't mind all that. Yes, I did worry about you, but I thought I took good enough care that, well, while I didn't think you would live forever, I thought we still had years together. Until yesterday, when you froze that final time. Like always, I energized you as soon as I could. But then the dreaded, fatal sign appeared on your sweet square face: the folder/exclamation point. I consulted experts. I attempted to follow their advice to the letter. But when I plugged you into your home base, Toshi couldn't even recognize you -- you "failed to mount". I know you struggled to survive: I could hear the agonized churns coming from your center. And in sympathy, my insides churned. Despite heroic efforts, I could not save you. I am sorry. You will be missed.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Mrs. Jesus

I'm no different from perhaps a billion people on this planet -- I've read The DaVinci Code -- and Angels and Demons. I have to admit I was enthralled by the former, but then felt a little bit duped when reading Angels and Demons made it obvious how much the two are the cookie-cutter image of one another. I swore that two Dan Brown novels were enough for me and refuse to even look at the cover of a third. Dan, you are writing novels, not episodes for a TV series like Gilligan's Island. Stop trying to get off the island!

With all the critical writing and discussion going on about the new movie, however, I hope that this critical analysis of Brown's treatment of Mary, her transformation from one female stereotype (prostitute) to another (the wife and mother), is not overlooked.

Cast in this light, it reminds me of a dear friend of mine, who is an extraordinary political theorist. In her award-winning dissertation, she presented a very insightful and complicated analysis of the use of virtue and vice both within and outwith feminist circles -- of how both sides of this binary are used against women as well as how difficult it is for feminists to theorize outside and beyond virtue and vice.


Beyond this, and on a personal note, this May has been the second crappiest May of all time for me. The last May that was this crappy happened in 1987. Which actually may be a source of hope. Both of these crappy Mays were, in part, due to serious malfunctions in judgment on my part. That doesn't mean that I did not have judgment malfunctions between these Mays. It just means that, given the fact that the first May really has had no negative impact on my life, maybe this May, in time, will not either. But I doubt it.

I thought we were supposed to become wiser as we become older. Sometimes I think I just get older and none the wiser. How long does it take to develop good judgment and caution? How long does it take to tame impulsiveness so that it occurs only in harmless contexts? I don't want to become such a cautious mouse that I never act spontaneously, but I am tired of creating unnecessarily painful situations for myself.

Monday, May 15, 2006

shower update

Did I tell you the lovely Scottish electrician installed a completely new and updated fuse box for me? Do you know what that means? That means I take comfortably warm -- even hot -- showers for as long as I want to. I no longer have to place the anticipatory chair underneath the fuse box so that when the circuit breaks I can hop out of the shower, run down the hall, hop up on the chair, reach up and flip the switch, hop down from the chair, run back down the hall, hop back into my shower, and rinse my hair and body before the circuit breaks again.

Blessed goddess of wiring.

However, one of the ground floor flats was burgled and a roll of al-u-min-ium foil was found on the stairs. Al-u-min-ium foil is a sure sign of heroin smoking, so they tell me. I don't mind if people smoke heroin, I just don't want them doing it in my stairwell and burgling my flat. It could be that that al-u-min-ium and the burglary are unrelated. I'd hate to blame the heroin smokers for something they didn't do. They get a bad enough rap as it is.

I need renter's insurance.

Friday, May 12, 2006


I like where I work and I liked the people with whom I work.

Until today.

Today I feel betrayed.

But I also see what was obfuscated before.

I thought life might get easier. Instead, it just got harder.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


the Cutting Edge

(76% dark, 46% spontaneous, 15% vulgar)

your humor style:

Your humor's mostly innocent and off-the-cuff, but somehow there's something slightly menacing about you. Part of your humor is making people a little uncomfortable, even if the things you say aren't themselves confrontational. You probably have a very dry delivery, or are seriously over-the-top.

Your type is the most likely to appreciate a good insult and/or broken bone and/or very very fat person dancing.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: David Letterman - John Belushi

The 3-Variable Funny Test!
- it rules -

If you're interested, try my best friend's best test: The Genghis Khan Genetic Fitness Masterpiece

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 97% on darkness

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 42% on spontaneity

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 4% on vulgarity
Link: The 3 Variable Funny Test written by jason_bateman on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Foreign languages + flight materials = terrorist?

Shame on Americans, again. Shame especially on passengers on American Airlines Flight 1874 , which departed from DFW on May 6, 2006. Shame on them for their reaction to hearing fellow passengers speak "foreign languages" and seeing them carry information on flying airplanes.

From the Associated Press, as reported on Yahoo! news:

Sat May 6, 10:18 PM ET
NEWARK, N.J. - Five airline passengers speaking in foreign languages and carrying "aircraft flight materials" were briefly detained Saturday until authorities determined they were simply returning to their home countries after attending a U.S. helicopter training school.

Fellow passengers on American Airlines Flight 1874, which had departed from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, became suspicious of the men, said Steven Siegel, a spokesman for the
FBI's Newark office. A federal marshal on the plane notified authorities at Newark Liberty International Airport about the men's behavior.

. . .

He 'notified authorities...about the men's behavior'. What 'behavior'? Since when is speaking a foreign language a crime? And, despite September 11, I do not think that carrying aircraft flight materials is a crime, either. I guess it's the particular combination of foreign languages, aircraft flight materials, and probably the men's skin colours, that threatened these stupid Americans.

I want to know the name of the federal marshall who orchestrated this. He should be penalized for such a costly mistake, for humiliating those men. And so should the idiot American passengers who started this whole debacle in the first place. They should be publicly named and then put in the town stocks. Their own embarrasment should meet and exceed that which they caused for these innocent visitors to our country.

When is enough going to be enough? When is this fearmongering going to end? Where will this racism cloaked in the guise of 'national security' stop?

. . .

The men — identified only as four Angolan military personnel and an Israeli — had attended helicopter training school in Texas, Siegel said. Police officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, took the men into custody soon after the plane landed around 3:20 p.m., said a Port Authority spokesman.
After being questioned by authorities, the men were released around 6 p.m., Siegel said.
The plane was carrying 121 passengers and five crew members. All other passengers had been released.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

cultural difference: Part II

So it's not cultural difference. It's mere incompetence. Here's the reply I received yesterday from F*** (nice that her name has the same number of letters as another, very favored and often used, word in my vocabulary) at the PPA. Note that in the previous entry, Cultural Difference: Part I, I never used any title in any self-reference. And also note that the first reply that I received from F*** did not contain any salutation and that her tone was rather curt. But look at this new email. See how her tone has changed. Once she checked the facts in her files and found a) that she was wrong and b) those two pretty little letters that now introduce my name: the 'D' and the 'r', well, there's no way around it -- once F*** realized that, she changed. She grew... polite. How powerful is the team of the 'D' and the 'r'! Of what alchemy it is capable! It can change sour apples into apple pie!

But seriously, aren't I the same person who -- just last Friday -- didn't even deserve a salutation from her? There's a lesson here somewhere, but it's not about treating people with special letters like they're extra-special. It's about treating people, in general, with kindness. (It's a lesson I could stand to review every now again, myself. I know. You don't have to remind me.)

Here's F***'s email from yesterday (I will not comment on grammar, style, or punctuation. I will leave that to you):

Dear Dr DumbOkie
Further to your email sent at the end of last week, I have looked into your comments further and have discovered that there was a typo on the database and your flat is in fact 2/1, which links with Royal Mail.

We apologise for the confusion caused and we will be in contact with your utility suppliers to rectify the situation. If convenient we would like to ask you to come into our office to resign a corrected lease at any time. Our offices are open between 9-5 Monday-Friday.

Unfortunately as we do not have any connection with the flat next to yours we are unable to assist you in retrieving your mail.

Kind regards F***


This morning I visited F*** at her office and we signed a new lease together. She's promised to identify the appropriate government office and make enquiries about the names of the owners next door so that we can retrieve my mail. That's a sweet girl, that F***.

showering in the UK

Seems to me the biggest battle I've had in the UK is over the shower. No matter where I live or where I visit, I have shower drama.

Today the the electrician came to the flat to have a look and see what he could fix. He was so competent and friendly! i really like the Scots. I especially like the way the roll their 'R'. And it's becoming somewhat easier to understand them. Despite warnings to the contrary, I haven't met a dour Scot yet (Except for F***, but maybe she's just the exception that proves the rule). He gave me lots of information about my electricity and my shower. here's the good, the bad, and the ugly:

THE GOOD: The Professor and I aren't dead. When the shower quit the first time, The Professor and I stood in the hall and stared at the electricity box for about 10 minutes with our thumbs up our noses. Turns out, that was the best place for our thumbs. If one of us had opened that box and messed around, it's possible we would have gotten the shock of our lives. It's a good thing we acted like the ignorant academics with no common sense that we are. The electrician said under no conditions should i open that box -- even to replace a blown fuse -- because the box is dangerous inside. While up on a step stool or ladder, I might lose my balance and reach out to steady myself -- and instead of getting steadied, I might steady my heart forever. He didn't have to tell me twice. You and I both know exactly how graceful I am.

THE BAD: the circuit that flips is an ancient model from around the time of Robert the Bruce and the warehouse doesn't seem to have any replacements. The temporary solution would be to replace this switch, but he doesn't think he'll be able to obtain one. if he could find one, he says it would probably last up to, max, a year before it needed to be replaced again. So, a stop-gap measure is only a stop-gap if you've got a stop.

THE UGLY: the small box that contains the malfunctioning circuit is no longer allowable. it's connection to the larger box is not quite illegal, but under today's regulations they are not allowed to simply replace that box when it has a fault. Rather, my ancient bigger box (the dangerous live box that I'm forbidden to open on threat of death), which powers the smaller box that powers the shower, will have to be overhauled and that will take a couple hundred pounds worth of parts. so, this is a big expense for the owners of my flat, which they probably didn't anticipate when they added this property to their empire. (or at least hoped they'd be able to indefinitely delay.)

the electrician will file a hazard report with [putative property management agency], PPA will will alert the owners, and the owners will decide whether i deserve an investment of 200 pounds so that i (and The Professor, and the Parentel, when they visit) can have a comfortable shower.
So, we'll see. Technically, they don't have to replace it, I guess. Ethically, they should.

Monday, January 30, 2006

cultural difference: part I

Here is a recent exchange with my letting agent. Would anyone in the U.S. ever expect to have a "debatable" apartment number? Would it ever cross your mind that you needed to confirm the apartment number on your lease corresponds with the number that your postal carrier calls your apartment? Remember this exchange, dear friend, if you ever happen to find yourself living abroad. Like Gavin says, it's the little things that kill.

Dear _______,

I haven't been receiving my mail, so I put my name and flat number, 2/2, which is on my lease, on the door. The postal worker left a note saying that I'm actually 2/1. So, there are two things here: 1) I think important mail has been going in the mail slot next door, and 2) my lease is technically not valid. To me, this latter is rather trivial, but the former is quite important. There's been construction going on next door, so my hope is the same people who own my flat also own it, and, I hope, [your property management company] is managing it. We need to arrange entry into that flat so I can retrieve my mail. The less-urgent but nonetheless important issue is about the shower. The new shower was installed by the workers in a very efficient and professional manner. However, it became clear that the problem doesn't lie with the shower; it lies with the electrical circuit, which is not strong enough to operate the shower at a comfortable temperature. I therefore either take an uncomfortably cool shower or I take a warm shower punctuated by trips (two within 10 minutes) to the breaker box to hop upon a chair and re-set the broken circuit. I'm not an electrician, so I don't know what needs to be done, but I hope someone can come inspectthe wiring and see if it will be possible to improve the situation. In advance, thank you for your attention to these two matters--Kind regards, DumbOkie

The reply:

The official address for your flat is 2/2 although sometimes it can be debated if your flat is on the right when looking out from the flat to thefront or looking at it from the street. Putting your name on the door shouldsolve the mail problem. Unfortunately we do not have any details of the flat next door. I have contacted [putative electrician] to get in touch with you about your shower.
F--- Putative Property Management

My response:

Thank you for the quick reply and thank you for contacting someone about the shower. I do look forward to having that matter resolved.

Regarding the matter of the mail, I do wish for a more satisfactory solution and I hope you can help me generate one. Although I have noticed workers going in and out of there, I haven't observed any activity there for the last 10 days or so. It is therefore unclear when anyone will return and how I will obtain my mail.

It may be the case that the house numbers are ambiguous, but I'm sure you can see from a tenant's point of view that the matter is not trivial and such unresolved ambiguities can be the source of substantial problems, including financial ones, for example, if bills are misdelivered and cannot be retrieved. I would think it is a fundamental of property management that the number assigned to a property corresponds to the number recorded with the Royal Mail, don't you? One usually does not expect to have to obtain verification of her own flat number upon moving into a new property. Usually, one can take it at face value that the flat number documented in a legally binding lease is accurate.

Fortunately, today I am working from home and had the opportunity to talk with the postal carrier. Unfortunately, he told me that he has put a lot of my mail into the other slot. I'm sure you agree with me that this matter is of serious concern, since the flat next door is empty, as I mentioned earlier, and therefore, I can only speculate about when and how I am going to be able to retrieve my mail.
Kind regards,

So far, I've received no reply. And I don't expect to.