Fact, Meet Fiction

The identity robber, meet the identity killer:

Also, why is the BBC so snotty about allowing me to embed their youchoob videos? If I try to go to the 'what do you reckon' video, I just get rebuffed for being in the wrong country. What does this achieve, exactly? Anyway, the sketch was better on the radio, even though it's pretty much word-for-word identical.


Doing The Do

To lighten the mood a little, I always like to come back from a foreign trip with a small example of popular culture there. So, from France, I give you "The Do" with "On My Shoulders", a cardigans-esque tune that seems to be very popular on french radio at the moment, possibly because it is not as clear to a non-native english speaker quite how clunky the rhyme-scheme is. Enjoy: [you choob embed]

28 Hours Later

By popular request of Simon, an update to my previous travel post.

Keeping up the tallies, plus a couple of points to Air France for Radiohead as background music and a dinky cup holder, but now minus several million for canceling my flight on Thursday morning from Nantes to Asterix DeGaul airport. No reason was given, so as far as I could work out, it was because it was a little rainy. Maybe it was some kind of extended knock on effect from Terminal 5, but it's hard to blame BA for everything, especially when I have Air France to blame.

The consequence was that I got to ADG about an hour after my transatlantic flight had departed, and since it was on a different carrier, I got no help whatsoever from Air France. They even had the gall (ha ha) to be completely indifferent to my plight. My only option was to wait 23 hours until the next days flight, and since I am allergic to camping out in airport terminals, I sought out an overpriced and nasty hotel which my employer will be surprised and not entirely delighted to foot the bill for (yay for corporate credit cards).

Also, while we are keeping score, a few thousand off for Air India, who the next day decided to delay their flight by four hours. Four hours doesn't seem too much in comparison to the 24 hours due to Air France, but it certainly seemed to drag. Also, note that if they had chosen to incur this delay on Thursday instead of Friday, I could have made it home a day earlier.

Half a point to the ground staff for giving me a voucher for lunch to make up for the delay, but minus several score for the fact that the only place that accepted these vouchers had no hot food, and I had to satisfy myself with a baguette. It was a very nice baguette, but after a week in France I was getting pretty fed up with baguettes, and had been looking forward to something hot and bad for me, like a beef burger or something. It also felt like something of a sneaky con trick, since this place was on the far side of security, making it seem almost impossible to get back to the main part of the airport where there might be a wider selection of meals. Isn't there some con where you pay a large amount for some supposed attraction, but when you go through the door you find that you are out on the street, and a fire door has just slammed shut behind you? If there is, then it felt like this.

At least the in-flight entertainment was working on the AI flight. I was hoping to be able to find Dhoom 2, which I still haven't seen, but it was not around, so instead I settled in for the gloriously mindless Transformers. This turned out to be somewhat irritating, in that the film attributed the Beagle 2 mission to NASA/JPL instead of ESA; and claimed that the invention of the laser and the transistor was due to the discovery of Megatron frozen in ice: presumably, they would also claim that this led to the invention of UNIX and C.

My progress back home was also hindered by a sequence of individuals irritants, including:

* Newark deciding to have on only 3 immigration officers to deal with the simultaneous arrival of three planeloads of visitors (so my usual technique of pegging it from the plan to the immigration hall, elbowing all and sundry out of the way, had only limited effect -- reducing my queuing time from about an hour to half an hour in my best estimation).

* My immigration officer being unusually nosey, asking not only who I worked for, but when I last entered the country, wanting to see my petition documentation (who is anal enough to carry that kind of thing with them every time they travel? Well, I am , apparently), and generally slowing the whole process down for everyone. It could have been worse, I suppose. I overheard him asking the person in front of me what his salary was, which seemed odd in the extreme.

* A customs officer, as I was trying to leave the customs hall with my backpack and small shoulder bag, querying whether this was all the luggage that I had. Yes, I like to travel light as possible. Isn't that a good thing?

* An overly chatty taxi driver, who chided me for a small tip. Maybe I'll just not give a tip at all in future.

All of which got me home at midnight on Friday, when I had been reasonably expecting to be home before 7 on Thursday. So thanks to everyone who made this possible. Air France probably bears the brunt of the responsibility, so I will add them to my list of officially unrecommended airlines based on them having screwed me over mightily without any appearance of apology or restitution, which currently reads:

Aerolineas Argentina
Air France

Avoid these dreadful companies at all cost.

To put a less negative angle on things, it wasn't a complete disaster. At least the reason I was originally scheduled to rush home has been rescheduled. And, thanks to the wonders of modern communications technology, I was able to spend Thursday night in the company of a university friend in central Paris celebrating his birthday in a faux British style pub (with continental prices), which made it almost seem worth it.


Local differences

The french for 118118 is 118218. But the french for 888 is 888 (and 889 is the original english version, when it works). Weird, huh?

Airline Reviews

Air India is actually more fun that I had been expected. Seating has nice legroom, but a little threadbare, and no pillow! I managed to enter a state of semiconsciousness for about six hours, despite an annoying man next to me continuously invading my airspace. Surprisingly modern (given the surrounding seventies style saffron decor) in flight entertainment system: movies on demand, and a touch screen. Didn't feel like using it much though, which is probably a good thing, since the touchscreen was misaligned by about half an inch, in particular making it impossible to use the navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen. Still, continental, why can't you manage something like this? It also had a mysterious USB port just below the screen -- I wonder why? For power? To allow you to bring your own MP3s? No one seemed to be using it, so I didn't find out. Also: a little mesh bottle holder, which would be really handy, if people didn't keep confiscating my liquids all the time.

Air France for a short but sweet flight (the kind where you start to descend as soon as you reach cruising altitude) had less of interest. A neat cup holder on the back of the tray deserves to be used elsewhere. Check in was bizarrely disorganized: had to wander around CDG for ages, then when I finally found the right place, was told I couldn't check in until 90 minutes before departure. Rest of the world, it's at least 90 minutes, not at most. But one big point in their favour: the music playing over the tannoy while boarding was 'nude' by Radiohead. Makes a big change from the tedious light jazz fare in the US.

All of france seems to be currently closed for easter (barring, of course, the possibility that it's always like this), so I'm in my usual jetlagged semi-comatose state. I can't follow any of the french language channels (including a weird version of countdown where the contestants get to choose which letters they get. So instead I'm watching a dubbed version of the buffy musical episode, which must have been incredibly difficult to accomplish, given the pun-ishing rhyme scheme. It only works for me because I know the tunes so well.



I received an email titled "Invitation to Okinawa". 'Oh great', I thought. This is going to be a tempting workshop in Japan on a subject close to me heart which would be ideal for me to attend -- but do I really want to travel all the way to Japan (again)? I'm traveling so much this year, can I really fit any more in?

Then I opened the message, and discovered that it was a transparent 419 attempt. What a relief that turned out to be.



I was somewhat excited when I saw this guide to getting through Airport security with the minimum of fuss, but also a little disappointed: this is more or less exactly what I do already.

Seven Sins

I know that the "new seven deadly sins" is just a tedious trolling attempt to get a reaction, and responding to how stupid it is, is just what is wanted. But really, they could have made a little more effort. "Bioethical violations" and "Morally dubious experiments": firstly, lay off the scientists! And secondly, aren't these more or less the same thing? Ditto for "Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor", "Excessive wealth" and "Creating poverty": isn't this three ways of saying about the same thing? Seven isn't that hard to come up with, surely?


Green Green Grass

Bush surprised the white-tie audience of more than 600, including Supreme Court justices, Cabinet members and lawmakers, by appearing as the final act of the club's annual revue. To the tune of ''Green Green Grass of Home,'' he sang about looking forward to his return to Texas.


The song is about a man who has been away from home for a while. He tells that he is returning to his small home town in the country. When he steps down from the train, he touches the green grass. His parents and "sweet Mary" (who obviously is an old Sweetheart) are there to welcome him. He observes tokens of his childhood, including "the old oak tree that [I] used to play on".

However, then comes a spoken section when he awakens in prison: "Then I awake and look around me, at four grey walls that surround me. And I realize that I was only dreaming." The man is, in reality, awaiting his execution, and he will only return home when he is dead and buried: "Yes, they'll all come to see me in the shade of that old oak tree, as they lay me 'neath the green, green grass of home."

Brown Noise

What are the chances... my experiment, which had been running happily for about two hours, was nearing the end of its run, when... a crash of drums, a flash of light... the lights flickered for a second, indicating the power had gone out for a moment. That was enough to reboot the machine, and require a restart. No great loss, since I just started the script running again, but enough to consider whether I should invest in some kind of cheap UPS device to smooth over these little gaps.


Reunion Pictures

Hey, remember that reunion that we were invited to? Well, the pictures from the night are here now!

Be sure to check out the pictures on Flickr and Kodak.
See how everyone's changed yet is just the same as you remember them! Even Czarina. Wait, what? Czarina? Really?


About to pay for my groceries, I noticed that my credit card was missing from my wallet. All the other cards were there. Most likely I had left it behind last time I used it to pay for something, dinner in the restaurant, most likely. I suppose I could have called the restaurant and asked if they had found it, but I was too lazy, and so I just called the company to cancel it. Fairly straightforward, but the pain in the backside is that after all these "Pay your monthly bills with your credit card" things, I'll now have to get in touch with the dozen or so people who regularly put fees on my card and get them to update the billing information. Shouldn't there be an easy way to cancel the card without cancelling the account number? More pitfalls of modern life, I suppose. Well, that'll keep me busy for one evening this week, I expect.


'It's 3am and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House and it’s ringing. Something's happening in the world.'

"Hello? What? Do you know what time it is? Yes, it is 3 in the morning. What the hell are you doing calling me in the middle of the night. Yes, this the White House, Cherry Lane, Chipping Sodbury. What do you want? What? Well of course something's happening in the world. It's the world. It's a big place. There's always bloody something happening in the world. What are you bothering me for? Can't it wait till the morning? Get a special advisor or a night watchman or something."