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The most realistic story ever told.

Category: Blog 1.0 (page 1 of 58)

2008-01-01 : Swiss New Year Greetings

This will be quick because there is a queue behind me in the net cafe and also I have no idea where the apostrophe is found on this crazy keyboard.

Happy New Year to all – thanks for all the calls… I was not able to answer all of them as I have spent much of today sliding down various perilous inclines. But thankyou thankyou thankyou.

Oh, no exclamation mark either.

Happy trails (exclamation mark)

2007-12-27 : Oh and incidentally…

FROHE WEIHNACHTEN!

At this juncture I'm counting on that being an accurate translation of “Merry Christmas” – Google Language Tools doesn't often lark about with that kind of thing, so I'm reasonably certain they haven't given me the phrase for “I can tell you're into amateur animal husbandry”. To tell you the truth the only chance I had to use the phrase I couldn't remember the German, and presumably if I had then I should have also known the German for “Aaaaaaargh! Get out of the way!” (The circumstances being a particularly spectacular chairlift dismount, where I got cut off by some out of control n00b snowboarders, and when I veered off to the left a skier cut me off as well resulting in me crossing the back of her left ski, falling over whilst pivoting inwards and my snowboard going between her skis whilst I lay on my back across both of her skis and my snowboard – as she turned and glared at me I gave her a big cheerful smile and settled for “Merry Christmas!”).

They say “no pain, no gain”. Based on what I'm currently experiencing when I return to London I should be the CEO of a multimillion dollar company, own 18 BMWs, have a 5 storey house in Notting Hill, and have pectorals like Arnold Schwarzenegger's arse cheeks.

At least I didn't sprain my wrist like Rachel did…

2007-12-26 : At vast expense to management…

This blog written on my phone and absolutely not on Richie's laptop, because he doesn't hold with all that sort of thing.

Here we are in sunny Austria – snow in every direction and us with the distinct will to slide down it. We think we've been followed by a church bell from Cologne which seems intent on ringing loudly about every 12 minutes, as well as a small angry dog who doesn't like me and the memory of a cranky German man who shouted “SHATTAP!” at Mark the other morning while he was standing in the hotel corridor hammering on Richie & Hilary's door demanding to get his jacket back, whilst in fact wearing his jacket. If you can follow that sentence, then good luck to you.

My new snowboard's stacks-o-fun & Marty, Kat, Rachel, Nick, and Mark seem to be getting the hang of the whole snowboarding thing as well. Or at least the falling down on one's arse component of it, anyway.

Must dash, there's mountains out there to be sliding down!

2007-12-21 : Oh dear. It appears to be late December already.

Yes well as you'd expect my blogging performance of late has been nothing short of woeful – this has been the most spartan year yet, and I put it down to a combination of old fashioned laziness and having loads of other things I'm supposed to be doing. It's not that I don't intend to blog – good lord, you should see it! I've got posts queued up as far as the eye can see to put the finishing touches on. By which I mean, insert the words that make up the content.

Given though that it's almost 3am and we leave for snowboarding in the morning, it seems a safe bet that I'm not going to catch these up any time soon, so I figured it was time to bite the bullet and say once again thanks everyone for reading this year, and hope you have a top end-of-year celebration, in whatever form that takes for you.

You can tell I'm preoccupied – not even a cynical Christmas remark…

Have fun, don't forget to write, etc.

2007-12-11 : No LZ

Grr. This sucks. Led Zeppelin are playing at the O2 Dome Centre Tent Thing, and I'm not going.

As a form of protest for having not been awarded a ticket in the ballot, I've not listened to a Led Zeppelin song since 11 o'clock this morning.

2007-12-06 : Audience participation: revisiting heights of daftness.

For reasons which I'm not 100% clear on, the other day I found myself wondering what the dumbest thing I've ever done was. There's definitely got to be SOMETHING which stands out head & shoulders above all the other fairly routine silly things, but my subconscious is obviously trying to shield me from the indignity of remembering because I can't really think of anything.

I suspect it's “option paralysis”, and not knowing where to start – there's some obvious ones that leap to mind, such as the time I fell asleep in the Flinders Uni Library on my birthday and woke up about 7:30pm when I was having friends around at 6:30pm for dinner. Or the time I went to Perth for the weekend and not only did I leave my suit behind in the office & had to buy another one, but also missed my return flight by 24 hours because I'd overzealously booked it for the Sunday morning rather than Monday morning – result being that a “cheap” $100 Perth trip cost me about $600 more than I was anticipating.

However I've found that nobody has quite as accurate a recollection of your faults as your friends do… so come on, tell me what they are. Chocks away!

2007-12-06 : Aaaaaaaaaargh! Making a list, checking it twice, then ripping your face off with evil tentacles.

From BoingBoing.

Although come on… the Christmas Octopus? Everybody knows it doesn't exist. That's just a story told to kids so they don't learn the truth, about the Christmas Snail and the Easter Moose.

2007-12-05 : My skill with maps strikes again. I am definitely no spatial entrepreneur!

Hmm, seems there's some things I need to know about this Google Maps malarkey before I embrace it as a full feature of my website. Please, if you happen to know anything about the minutiae of this, pipe up!

To add a point to a google map you need to feed it latitude and longitude coordinates, and in order to get those you need to geocode the location you're looking for. The trouble, as I saw it, was that all of the examples I looked at were for UK or US street addresses, and my map covers Australia, Europe, and everywhere else I go as well.

I figured that if I manually searched for each city name on the google maps website, then copied the linking URL of each that the lat & long must be stored somewhere in there. My guess ended up being the “ll” part of the querystring (“ll” being a fairly obvious abbreviation for “Latitude/Longitude”, right?).

As it turns out, near enough was good enough and looking at the map from a long zoom everything's approximate enough and fine. However if you zoom in to any useful level of detail, it becomes quite apparent that the markers aren't where they should be. For example, if you click on Leeds and then click the + zoom button 4 times, you'll see that the pint icon appears about 5 miles north of Leeds city centre. Eastbourne is about 3 miles out, Birmingham's about 5 or 6 miles out, and poor old Great Yarmouth is apparently floating in the ocean!

It's not a massive problem, except that I was thinking of putting together a map showing all the pubs I've been to in London, and it's not exactly practical to have the markers all 5 or 6 miles north.

So… anyone got any clues as to how I do this better?

2007-12-03 : Cue the music, crank up the animatronic octopus in the top hat…

The mood here at Humpy Towers has been very much one of celebration of late, for 2.5 reasons:

1) Last Thursday I had my “interview” with the Home Office to extend my UK visa, and as Paul correctly forecasted it was tedious but straightforward. After arriving at 9:40 for a 10:40 appointment, “organisational difficulties” meant that I didn't get to have my interview (held through 2 inches of bulletproof glass – I gather that these things don't *always* go well…) until 11:30. The interview (if you can call it that – the questions were mainly “Do you have {name of piece of paperwork}?”, and me answering “Yes”) lasted til 11:45, at which point I was told to go and wait in the waiting area for an hour and a half while they processed it all. I said “You haven't asked to see my birth certificates yet – will you be needing those?”, and the lady said, “No, that's fine”. At 12:21 I was called back over to the little window and asked if I had the relevant birth certificates with me. They really have taken the artform to a new level.

Anyway they gave me a visa to stay here til 2012, so that's the big piece of Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt removed from the radar. I can go snowboarding at Christmas and not have to spend the entire time worrying about how to slip past Border Control on the way back.

Quite what the significance of 2012 is I'm not sure – I didn't mention anything about morris dancing at the interview, so it can't be because they want to be sure I'm available to perform in the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

2) (somewhat less important, but am still happy I've gotten around to it) I finally extracted a digit and got on with making some mods to my blog software. Most of it's internal stuff that you won't get to see, although one addition I'm quite chuffed with is the overhaul of my mapping tool (incidentally yes, the domain name has shifted from glenosmondscouts.asn.au to ghostsoftsolutions.com – it's the same dodgy bit of hardware on the end of an ADSL connection that it always was, it's just been called something else now). So whereas before my “Where's Jason NOW?” thingamy was produced using a fairly crude system of map dots placed by me closing one eye and guessing at x and y coordinates, now it utilises state-of-the-art Google Maps technology to draw little pint glasses on places in the world I've been. I've chosen to limit it to city level – I'm not about to start putting in peoples' houses, after all.

3) I had been getting slightly put out at the absence of website feedback recently, because usually I get a fairly steady stream of the stuff, but lately bugger all. To my delight last night though I stumbled on about 15 emails which I hadn't realised were there – turns out I'd been a trifle overzealous with my GMail filters – so that gives me more email to procrastinate about answering. But it's nice to know people care.

Yes, that is an octopus wearing a party hat. Totally awesome, isn't it?

2007-11-29 : Nothing more lonesome, morbid, or drear, than to stand in the bar of the pubs around here.

It's good to see that shite service knows no class boundaries around here – you try to get on with life without causing too much of a fuss, but things just keep happening which cause you to scratch your head and say “What? WHY?!”.

Part I – the paupers: Steve from work & I happened by a local hostelry the other night for some post-work cleansing ales, as we'd both worked til about 8:30 and decided it was the right time for beer. We went to the Bag O' Nails, an chain alehouse within walking distance from the office. I'd been in there before and it wasn't too bad, although for a long time all the ale taps were out of order, which seems silly because there's about 7 of them and yet this meant you would be forced to drink lager. Anyway as it had been a while I thought we'd give it a try, and I'm happy to report that now, 12-18 months later, they have indeed got the taps working. Sadly that was about the only thing that was working… Firstly when I ordered dinner there was a sign on the bar that said “Fish & Chips – £8.50”, so I thought that would do me! When I said to the guy “Fish & Chips”, his response was “6.99”. I looked curiously at the sign, substracted the two coins from the handful of money I had prepared, and handed it over with an apprehensive look in my eye. It turns out that the 8.50 one is a large F&C, run as a special, however it seemed odd that somebody working in a not-at-all-busy pub might not be aware of the special, or indeed try to upsell me.

About half an hour later it was my turn for a round, so I went up to the bar and found that there was nobody there. I wandered up & down, peeped through the relevant windows, and confirmed in fact that there was not an employee to be seen. I think one had gone to the cellar, but no idea where the other was. I waited about 6 or 7 minutes before the cellar guy came back up, where I stood at the bar while he busied himself stocking crisps for about another 2 minutes without checking to see if anyone might be waiting. Muppet number 1 came back in, and asked for my order – a Guinness and a 6X. Ineptitude leapt into the driver's seat as he poured the 6X, then asked me twice what the 2nd order was, and then started pouring the Guinness. Now as anyone who's ever ordered a Guinness can tell you, it's a thick viscous fluid which takes a while to pour and takes a while to settle, so for economy's sake it's best to get on with something else while you're waiting for it – ideally, pour the other drinks in the order. However this guy thought it better to give the Guinness his full, undivided attention and only when it was almost settled did he proceed to the payment gambit. Now I appreciate the visual poetry of a settling pint of Guinness as much as the next man, but muppet-boy had already made it clear he wasn't interested in my company by way of ignoring me for 10 minutes in the first place, so my hypothesis was that he was just a bit of a thickie. My suspicions were confirmed when he handed me the PIN pad for payment – a wireless unit (as is now commonplace), but he handed it over mounted on the base-station, feeding the power cord over the counter to me.

It's not like he spat in our drinks or anything… it just has me flummoxed as to how landlords hire these goons. Surely it can't cost that much extra to run a pub well, can it?

Part II – the princes: K & I went out for dinner at The Park restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park just for a special treat, and had one of the most sumptuous meals ever. My beef carpaccio rivalled the one I had in Marseille, K's crabcakes were made of genuine pink crab meat (not the mysterious white flesh you become resigned to round here), the Nasi Goreng was spot-on, my teriyaki duck maigret was tender, succulent & flavoursome, and the desserts were perfect – a final burst of flavour but not so big as to make you feel stuffed at the end. The waiting staff were attentive and genial, and the whole experience was nearly faultless – certainly a welcome contrast from the pub adventure.

Following dinner we elected to treat ourselves to a cocktail in the bar before ambling home: K ordered a Manhattan, and I ordered a Martini with a twist (I was keen to see how a place of this stature & opulence went about a martini – a great leveller of mixologists). The waitress returned to confirm with me how I wanted it: “Dry martini with a twist, no olive.” / “Ice?” / “No”. Should have gotten suspicious right there.

K's drink looked great, and my martini came out in a weird round-bottomed tumbler, which I put down to quirkiness. I was a bit disappointed as they'd really gone heavy on the vermouth: martini are essentially a really really cold gin which has been shown to a bottle fo vermouth, but not bathed in the stuff. A few sips later I thought “This can't be right, I'll check the receipt”. There it was though – Manhattan, £14, Martini, £7. What the hell? Why's my martini cost half as much… Oh. My. God.

She's poured me Martini. A whole glass of the stuff. And charged me 7 squid for it.

Again, it's not the most heinous crime ever committed, but it does make you ponder what the hell's going on in some peoples' minds. Surely in a cocktail bar it would seem obvious that if someone orders a drink that's the name of a cocktail, that's what they would be referring to. And if there was any ambiguity, wouldn't you check?

Then again, I don't work in the service industry, so I suppose I've no right to point fingers.

Although I can feel a sternly worded letter coming on.

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