Saturday, December 29

Mortality vs Futility

I read Mortality by Christopher Hitchens yesterday.

His powerful last book, written as he died of cancer.

Anne and I last night discussed how sorry we felt for his wife. Not just that she had lost her husband, but that she had to write the afterword in the book.

Who wants to follow the genius writing of their husband with their own pedestrian prose?

For the opposite reason I hope Anne never has to write an epilog to my own writings. She's a way better writer than me.

No doubt my book would be called Futility - the 100 ways I get angry waiting in line at Starbucks.

Thursday, December 27

Oh, No! It's the Pathetic Sharks

I was reminded of one of my favorite Viz cartoon strips this week. The Pathetic Sharks always get themselves into sinister situations before squealing like little girls with ringlets.

The reason for the reminder was that Anne sent me this awesome video from Mashable. Who the fuck builds a shark tank in a shopping mall?

The Chinese.

Thursday, December 20

Gatwick Airport

This headline in the Guardian grabbed my attention today.

For the life of me I could not understand why the US president would be warning the Central African State of Rwanda about the M23.

If you've ever been stuck on the A23 you'll surely agree that the M23 provides quick and excellent access to Gatwick Airport south of London.

Mystery solved.

Thursday, December 13

More than one wish.

Growing up in the Euro-zone often meant watching poorly dubbed ads for suspicious non-British chocolate.

This one from Kinder Surprise has stayed with me my whole adult life. Whenever someone says they want more than one thing, my brain automatically switches to the picky little fucker in this ad.

I think Kinder is banned in the US because the toy will choke the kid.

I'm undecided if that is a good or bad thing.

The past few days I've been trawling through on-line gift guides. I've actually done all my Christmas shopping, but I like the curated guides like Cool Hunting who provide great ideas for gifts all year round.

During one such search I stumbled on this one.

It's a combination glass* dildo and marijuana pipe.

Reasonably priced at just $38 it's that perfect stocking filler for the 'guy/gal who has everything.'

Unlike the Kinder surprise it does not come covered in chocolate.

You have to do that on your own.

* Always the best material to shove inside yourself.

Tuesday, December 11

Vile Images!

I try to avoid telling people what I do for a living. It usually takes a few sentences, after which I get the "that wasn't worth it" look.

And any time I go simple, there is a list of mis-conceptions that pop up.

If I say, "I'm a graphic designer", there's a common assumption that I can draw.

I cannot draw, although I am quite good at tracing.

But it seems to me that drawing is an inherited talent, and unless you have a good teacher you will never improve.

Which brings me to my art teacher who was featured in the local paper this week.

A retired school teacher was found to have over 2,500 vile images of children and animals being sexually abused on computers at his West Yorkshire home.
Police made the discovery after executing a search warrant at 65-year-old Stuart Hodgson’s home on Ashton Court, Newmillerdam, Wakefield, in March last year.
Hodgson, a former art teacher at Kettlethorpe High School, Wakefield, was arrested after officers analysed a computer and a computer tower seized in the raid.
A total of 62 images of child abuse were at levels four and five - the two most serious categories of offending. The images featured children between the ages of three and 16-years-old.
Officers also discovered images and videos of animals being sexually abused. It was also discovered Hodgson had made internet searches for ‘dog sex’.
Alistair Campbell, prosecuting, said Hodgson told police he was a retired teacher and had a drink problem. Hodgson said he had been accessing illegal material since 2007.
Mr Campbell said: “He said he had become interested in pornography and he is the sort of person who, when he gets interested in a subject, he likes to find out all about it.”
Hodgson pleaded guilty to 21 offences of making indecent images of a child and one of possession of extreme pornography.

Saturday, December 8

Time to buy a Lamborghini

Last year I boldly sent two $100 checks to the Mass State Lottery to enter their Mega Millions and MegaBucks lottos.

Today I received checks for my combined annual winnings.

I managed to turn my $200 into $15.

My investment lost 92.5% of it's value.

In business we call this a loss.

Like any sensible investor I've sent them 2 more $100 checks, because I'm sure I'll win that money back in 2013.

4 times a week my morning ritual is to grab an over-sized cup of coffee and go to the lottery website to check my numbers.

I'm certain that at some point my Mega Millions numbers are going to come in on MegaBucks and frenzied excitement will shrink to what could have been.

But as Jimmy Savile once said to Dave Lee Travis, "you've got to be in it to win it."

Wednesday, December 5

Take your shirt off and lay on the couch

I had a medical today for life insurance. The nurse came to our house bright and early. Her name was Luba and she was in her seventies and spoke with a thick Russian accent.

She ran through the usual stuff of weight, blood pressure and pulse. Around this time Anne left the house for her first cat-sit.

Coincidentally, as Anne left, Luba announced I needed to take off my shirt for an EKG.

I lay down on the sofa and she pulled out the sticky circular tabs.

"Relax", she said, sensing my discomfort at an elderly Russian lady attaching electrodes to my torso.

Attempting another track she asked if I liked 'Masterpiece Theatre' on PBS.

"Sure, I like Downton Abbey", I replied.

She then went on an elaborate monologue detailing how she illegally downloads Russian copies of the show. Turns out she likes Lord Grantham and his mother, but finds Matthews a 'cold, wet fish'.

Inevitably, conversation moved to 'Upstairs, Downstairs', the 1970s version of Downton Abbey.

All the while the EKG machine is scribbling away like a Dollar Store lie detector.

I was about to mention Gosford Park when she began to pull up the sticky circles, so instead I cried as clumps of chest and leg hair were removed.

After that bout of awkwardness pissing into a cup was a breeze. But to help me along we discussed the architectural beauty of Leningrad and the environmental worries of China.

Wednesday, November 28

While the cat's away

Anne's been in Ohio the past few days.

I took full advantage of my temporary bachelor status by watching Dancing With the Stars two nights running.

Monday, November 26

Fucktard Friday, Simpleton Saturday ...

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving Day (eg. a US-only holiday), appears to be gaining global traction. And Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday continue our nation's obsession with 'stupid days of the year'.

To the rest of the world I say, "Don't claim Black Friday unless you can compete with the galactic stupidity that invades the U.S., and in particular, WalMart."

I spent most of Friday clicking refresh on the Google News feed waiting for retail-rage stories.

WalMart had shootings in Tallahassee and San Leandro, pepper spray attacks in another part of California, but the winner is the security guard who choked to death a suspected shoplifter in Georgia.

In other choking news, the autopsy of a Florida man who died last month, showed that he choked to death after eating dozens of live cockroaches.

In a contest to win a python.

You cannot make this shit up.

Sunday, November 25

Simple Economics

There is literally a shopping list of items I like that Shaw's Supermarket do not sell.

And yet they sell 'You are 100' birthday cards.

How many do they expect to sell?

Even if they were the only place in the city to sell greetings cards it still wouldn't make commercial sense to sell this card.

Of course other stores do sell greetings cards, but Shaw's are probably the only store to sell them while simultaneously fisting you with (no-talent ass-clown) Michael Bolton's greatest Christmas hits.

I equate Michael Bolton with polonium, both take years off your life expectancy. Shaw's should sell 'You're going to die early' cards.

Thursday, November 15

The Border Incident

So Dave had agreed to accompany me to Shenzhen from where I would cross the border to Hong Kong.

Our driver picked us up, and we sat back for an hour and carried on chatting like we've known each other for life, rather than just 4 days.

As we pulled into the drop zone by the border crossing a lot of things happened very quickly.

I got out and noticed lots of people including officials hovering around. This is not uncommon in China. Meanwhile Dave jumped out the other side and the driver got out to help me with my heavy suitcase.

Suddenly there were guys in uniforms talking to the driver, and Dave was speaking to a guy who was flashing a leather wallet containing an official looking badge.

I stood there bewildered for 10 seconds during which I noticed that we were being video-taped by 2 other guys in uniforms.

I already knew this was not candid camera.

An official asked me to bring my bags off the road, and someone drove the car away.

Dave was explaining who we were and what we were doing. There were complications, including that Dave didn't have his passport, so we were ushered to a porta-kabin where they took my passport.

An animated conversation with lots of hypotheticals took place in English and Chinese, during which time we were filmed. There was also a guy writing down a statement.

The upshot was that we had used an unlicensed driver. But we argued, reasoned that you could pay a friend to drop you off.

Also Dongguan taxis cannot drive the whole way down to the border, so what can you do?

We were told that we were not in trouble. We asked if the driver was. Silence!

Finally they put a written statement in front of us and were 'requested' to sign it. Yes. An actual confession!

The whole thing took about 30 minutes and was more surprising than shocking. I guess I'm slightly disappointed that we folded and signed the confession. Jack Bauer in 24 was tortured (and for 20 seconds) killed and he still didn't sign a piece of paper blaming his driver.

Unsurprisingly I have no photos from this event. However, the Shenzhen police do.

Xie Xie

I had a little time for shopping today. First up I visited a tailor who is going to make me a few shirts. When I told my Dad he reminded me of the trousers his friend bought in London in the 60s. They were folded and bagged up when he bought them. Only when he got home did he realize they only had one leg.

Then I met this guy. So much stuff going on here ...

The guy on TV is the new Chinese premier. His inauguration was playing live as I taste-tested some tea.

The ebony carved board is the place where the intricate procedure of making the tea is performed. Lots of sniffs, pours, stirs, and crushes lead to a thimbleful of tea to taste. The most expensive tea I tasted was US$400 a bag. I didn't choose that one.

But I did choose an Oolong and a Pu-erh which came in a solid disc that looked like a discus.

After 12 small cups of tea, I had zero toxins inside me, so it was time for lunch again!

This time northern Chinese cuisine. More tofu, boiled peanuts, some lamb, cabbage, smaller but equally tasty dumplings all washed down with soy-milk.

For dessert, molasses-coated deep-fried banana. I joked that they had finally chosen something I didn't like. I hate banana!

And then it was back to the office to say my 'thank you's.

My Chinese co-workers have proven to be hard-working, polite and thoroughly welcoming.

Not quite the end of story ...

Wednesday, November 14

Let's do business!

A number of milestones today.

I interviewed a potential new hire, who knew very little English, but understood brand guidelines, variable elements, common die lines and crazy vendor timing.

We got along famously.

This is a shot from the bathroom, where thankfully they keep the window open, and burn incense. 

Today they installed a western style toilet on our floor instead of the hole everyone else uses. 

They've yet to install toilet paper. Or soap.

On the brighter side, also on our floor is a model agency, so there's a ton of awkward, giggling, cute girls (you so tall sir!!) and hipster-in-the-making boys with intentionally uncool eyewear.

Another great lunch. Excellent sushi, the eel being the highlight. I was told that during the recent territory dispute between Japan and China the restaurant posted a sign saying they were Korean.

This afternoon Dave and I had a meeting with a company with contacts in the local government.

Despite not speaking much Chinese, I understood most of the meeting. You just watch their hands, maintain eye contact ... and then turn to Dave for a translation.

We even exchanged business cards.

Afterwards I walked around the new part of Dongguan. They are building a brand new city of glass and steel buildings with wide boulevards. There is some serious retail here, and even better infrastructure. Dongguan will be a major city within 5 years.

At dinner I heard a terrible story about a dog being poisoned and sold for meat. After I ate. Good thing, bad thing?

Tuesday, November 13

Get it on

Dave met me at the hotel today and we walked to work.

I'm in China half a world away (and 13 hours) from Boston, but I'm seriously enjoying myself. It already feels like home, and after our new office party in La Jolla last week I'm beginning to enjoy the idea of multiple locations.

I have a desk, a powerful computer, and a stack of work to do.

Dave is from Vancouver, but the rest of my co-workers all come from different parts of China, and have spouses/family/kids back home who they only see a few times a year.

For lunch the whole team take me for some incredible local cuisine, plus a couple of dishes from other parts of China. Bobo is from Sichuan province and he orders a spicy fish-head dish while Shanghaiese Enson picks the biggest dumplings I ever saw. 

I get complimented on my chopsticks skills and also a nod of acknowledgement for my approval of the Pu-erh tea.

On the elevator ride back to the 6th floor I notice the manufacturer is Schindler. Yep, Schindler's Lifts. OK, so I made the same joke in New Zealand a few years ago, but it's worthy of a recycle.

Speaking of recycling, the local supermarket charges for carrier bags. I love this. It's just like Whole Foods, only cheaper. Way cheaper.

I announce to everyone that I'll be walking back to the hotel on my own tonight. It's only a 15 minute walk.

Well 15 minutes if you go the right way. Instead I head off on a different street with flashing billboards, crazy traffic and cyclists carrying 2 passengers.

It takes some time and a few short cuts down some darkly lit streets, along the way I see a wine shop called Simply Red.

After an hour of humid walking I get back to the hotel.

Shower. Sleep.

Monday, November 12


Well after calling 852-22161026 a bunch of times, the airline delivered my bag just before midnight, and then after a short nap, a FaceTime with Anne, and a round of ironing! I checked out and waited for my colleague Dave to arrive.

We'd only seen each other's passport photos so we did a good job of picking each other out in the lobby, and after a quick car ride and train journey it was time to cross the border.

Like a bad spy movie you go through Hong Kong passport and customs and then walk through no-man's land towards the Chinese officials.

Oddly, the Chinese immigration officials have a "How did I do" electronic voting box on each counter with a grade of 1 to 5. As if you'd give them a one.

And then you hit the chaos of Shenzhen. The air smells different and the humidity seems worse.

Stood in line for a taxi I encountered possibly the worst ever beggar. He walked towards us, and then knelt before me and starting doing an amateur dramatics boo-boo style of crying as he jangled his cup in front of me. When I didn't comply to his wishes, he stood up, walked to the next line and began his routine again.

The taxi was only going a few miles, because we have ourselves 'a man' to drive us to Dongguan.

Shamefully, but only out of practicality, the first thing I ate in China was a wrap from Starbucks, washed down with a latte. Don't worry I'll be eating crazy shit later.

The hotel is awesome, and then it's off to work. We bought ourselves a photo studio a few months back, and it was time to meet my new colleagues, Terence, Carol, Enson and Bobo.

Their English is sooooo much better than my Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese).

To finish off my day Dave takes me to an English themed bar. To be authentic, and remind myself of when I worked in London, I order a pint of London Pride.

Luckily it's off, so I grab a Guinness.

Back at the hotel, it's time to check-out the good stuff. Next to a yoga mat in the closet is a gas mask. And in the mini-bar, M&Ms and a questionable jerky.

Sunday, November 11

Speed tourism

I had 5 hours to see Hong Kong.

Here's a selection of what I saw, learned, heard and sometimes smelled.

This is the building that Batman jumps from in Dark Knight.

Obviously I did some Photoshop work here ... the sky was not as blue as that.

Being a Sunday, all of the domestic help women (mostly Filipino) sit out on the pavement and catch up on their week. It's like a convention of cute homeless people enjoying a picnic.

I saw a wedding party having their wedding photos shot by the harbor.

The pro photographer was super angry that tourists kept walking in front of the bridal party.

The old British governor's house with a replica Cenotaph outside. Being 11/11 I was reminded that my grandfather who fought in WWII was stationed in Hong Kong.

The Lippo Building looks like a bunch of koala bears hugging a eucalyptus branch.

If koalas were blue and made of glass.

4 and death sound alike in Chinese. So most buildings do not have a 4th floor.

The ATV Mr Asia tour was in town. All looked like twinks.

You catch the boat from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island from Stanley Ferry. Stanley Ferry is also a small part of Wakefield close to where my parents live.

Many businesses have the word fook and ho in them. I am a child.

There is a 45° funicular ride up to Hong Kong's highest point. Once you get out there are 8 floors of retail connected by escalators. That's when you remember you are in the capitalist part of China.

Once you get up there the view is incredible. I wished Anne was there with me, but in a strange way ... she was.

Afterwards I made my way back through the retail maze for the train. There was a 45 minute wait in line. It appears OK to burp loudly in China with no hand on mouth or excuse me. Although farting appears to be frowned upon.

5 days earlier while reading the news, Anne had said to me, "I'd avoid any public ferry between islands in Asia - they always seem to sink".

I thought of this as 700 (admittedly light in weight) Asians headed for one side of the boat as it docked.

After which I headed back to the hotel and walked through the attached mall that had Prada, Gucci and Versace stores. My overriding thought ... I hope my bag arrives soon because if I have to buy new clothes I can neither fit, nor afford these clothes.

You're staying here?

Disheveled and bagless I arrived at the swanky W Hotel.

The bellhop looked surprised I was staying here.

It appeared everyone was involved in an Armani fashion shoot as chill-zone cocktail house-music filled the air-conditioned lobby.

"No bags sir?".

Need I go on?

The room was like the future, everything was automated or vacuum packed.

Here's the reveal.

Yes. I know how fortunate I am.

Hong to the Kong

So to be honest I had planned to take the train to Hong Kong, but feeling sorry for my bag less self I hopped into a taxi.

As the ride began I sat back waiting for that moment you go round the hill and see the skyscrapers.

But it never came, so instead I became obsessed with the fare clock that appeared to be going up at an alarming rate. I did a quick calculation of the fare, and then did that glance in the wallet, and thumbing of the notes, when you already know that you only have a bit more cash than the clock reads.

We went past my wallet amount, and now I'm thinking, "Fucking hell - $200 for a cab?". It was another 5 hyperventilating moments before I noticed a thin line on the fare clock separating the last digit. Relieved that I had been multiplying the fare by 10, I relaxed, sat back and just then I saw the island of skyscrapers for the first time.

Saturday, November 10

Goddam Guam

After 12 hours in the air, the plane found it's way to the tropical island of Guam. At least I presume it did, because when we took off they announced there would be no in-flight TV working, and when we landed it was dark outside.

So for now we had 10 minutes of leg-stretch in an airport lounge of a tropical island.

There's a Home Depot close by.

Back on board, and with the doors shut, they announced there was electrical problems and we would be delayed ... for 3 hours. During which time we had to stay on the plane.

As the sun rose I can tell you that Guam looks lovely ... from a plane.

As The Smiths once sang, "Sheila take a bow", and our flight attendant Sheila was lovely. Plying us with drinks and snacks the whole time we sat at the gate. I even had a chance to chat, something I usually hate, but Sheila was an interesting diversion in an otherwise back-aching delay.

A full 17 hours into flight, we took off again for Manila. The fella in the seat across from me had an iPhone, iPad Mini, and iPad, and on both take-offs he ignored the requests to switch off electronics. Every 3 seconds he would swipe his finger on his iPad to play a shot, then pull his glasses down from his forehead to look out of the window, only to push them back a few seconds later. He repeated this move for a good 20 minutes. He also looked like the little naked chap who jumped out of the trunk in The Hangover.

In front of me, an American guy who looked like a model from a middle-aged clothing catalog (rugged middle-aged with salt and pepper hair) decided he needed to switch shirts, so he just stood up in the middle of the aisle and changed. As he stood there with no shirt on he even had time to ask Sheila for a second cup of coffee.

And so into Manila. By now I had missed my connection to Hong Kong, but Sheila let me know I would take the next flight ... as would my bag.

After landing I was walked to the departure lounge, by-passing passport control. With me was a woman who looked like a cross between Dolly Parton and Barbara Windsor. In other words, 4ft 10" in height with comedy sized tits.

She was not happy. But she'd be even unhappier in about 3 hours time.

On-board to HK, I was sat next to a guy who looked a lot Dick Cheney.

As you fly from Manila to HK you can see the sea below and hundreds of huge ships ferrying about freight.

Once in HK, passport was a breeze, but when the bags hit the carousel 3 of us were left waiting. Cheney, Tits McGee and me.

I'm somewhat of an expert at losing my bags in China, so with a Zen-like calm I hit the rost ruggage counter. "Dude you're calm", I imagined them saying as I described my bag.

Meanwhile tits was going full pelt at the kid behind the counter with the Chinese comedy villain beard.

Behind us Dick Cheney just glared.

"How long you in Hong Kong for Mr Taylor?"
"One night - tonight. Then I head for mainland."
"Oh. Difficult"

I headed for the taxicabs full of confidence I would be wearing the same clothes for the next 4 days.

So I set the date of this post at November 10, but because I crossed the dateline I never encountered this day, jumping straight from the 9th to the 11th.

Friday, November 9

San Diego Serenade

Today we dined for lunch at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Pacific.

I had the fish tacos, which always makes me laugh. Firstly because of I Love You Man, but secondly because when asked to cook 'the meal of her life', a soon to be eliminated Top Chef contestant chose fish tacos. And speaking of Top Chef, I had a perfectly prepared ceviche to start with. I've never seen a badly done ceviche on that show, or a badly cooked scallop for that matter.

Enough fish talk, it was time to pump up the tunes and drive up to LA. With GnR and The Doors blasting from the stereo, and the sun shining, life seemed pretty perfect. Four hours of LA drive time traffic later, plus an altercation with a homeless guy at a gas station I rolled into the Budget Car Rental listening to Edith Piaf whose depressing vocals matched my mood.

The  shuttle bus driver asked me three times if I was really flying Philippine Airlines. He was probably surprised that I only had one bag. At check-in I've never seen to many suitcases, taped up boxes, hampers and ottomans.

The guy behind the counter was shocked that I was only 'passing through' Manila. Sorry guy behind the counter.

I was traveling Business Class so I was invited to the Lounge on the 4th floor. Very specific. 4th floor, not 5th.

Turns out the 5th is for the classy airlines, and the 4th for the airlines you never knew existed until you added '4 stops' into Travelocity.

Even as I headed back down to the terminal the elevator by-passed the 4th floor 3 times, such was the importance of the 5th Floor business class passengers. To pass the time I ate a bag of complimentary almonds. Might as well spend their money.

The gate was a cacophony of noise, and across from me sat this lady, playing some stupid slot-machine game replete with chink-chink noises. (Last time I can use chink in a sentence for a week).

I heard, "At your convenience Business Class passengers may board", so I walked behind a lady in a wheel chair, but when I handed the attendant my ticket she shouted, "You not disabled sir, use other line". Convenience my arse.

The best part of business class is the quiet humming of perfumed air conditioning. You're not rushed to put your hand luggage in the overhead while some passive aggressive douche behind you nudges into you. And after a nice chat with the Filipino guy next to me, I put on the Top Cat eye mask and headed off to sleep for 7 hours.

Next stop Guam.

Chicken Tonight

So tonight I fly from LA to Manila via Guam. Not sure if we even get off the plane in Guam.

I looked up why we stop in Guam and this is what I found.

Category II is an FAA way of categorizing an airline in terms of reliability and safety. Unfortunately, PAL and other Filipino airlines get this rating. One of the restrictions for being Category II is that you cannot change your aircraft while you are given this distinction. So while PAL did buy the Boeing 777, capable of making it non stop with a full load, they can't fly it to the USA, just yet.

So there you have it, I fly in to the Philippines on a dodgy plane. The airport itself is one of the worst in the world. Here's the best photo I could find.

My hope for this flight is to avoid 2 things. Sitting next to a caged chicken, or an angry Filipino lady with an over-sized sun-visor.

Everything else will be a bonus.


I'm lucky enough to be staying in a beautiful boutique hotel overlooking the ocean in La Jolla today.

My delicious breakfast of eggs, coffee and freshly squeezed juice was enhanced by the incredible view ... and three angry Jews discussing the nuclear obliteration of Iran.

"The Jews and the Persians go way back", stated one of the guys in his incredibly loud baritone. So although I learned that the native people of Israel and Iran have a common bond stretching back 3,000 years, I was left in no uncertain terms that this breakfast cabal wanted nothing less than the total destruction of "those fucking pricks".

Slightly scared, I went back to staring out to the Pacific and enjoying my first cup of the day.

Thursday, November 8

Downton Abbey Marathon

I don't know what the draw is for a show featuring a dithering but nice Englishman and his smart American wife.

We powered through Season 3 in the past week, for which I thank Anne.

She would have much preferred to watch an episode a week during the cold winter, but I was impatient to finish the show before my trip to China.

It means we've watched the series before it hits the US in January. If only we knew someone who watches the show here, we could tease them with plot lines!

Wednesday, November 7

Observations from an election

It's possible to ignore the whole thing
Until Monday Night Football I went the whole election season without listening to either candidate. What they were doing on Monday Night Football is still a puzzle to me, although either of them could replace the bumbling Chris Berman.

Compliments are free
Last Saturday a kid with a clipboard rang our doorbell. Because of Hurricane Sandy our doorbell is once again on the fritz, and it currently plays America the Beautiful. When I hear this tune I instinctively look up to see if 5 fighter jets are flying over a SuperBowl stadium.

The kid wanted to know if "we could count on your vote for Obama". After a few other easy questions he complimented me on my garden.

2 days later an old dear caught Anne at home and pulled the same compliment. We figure they have a list of compliments on the clipboard.

"You have nice teeth", "Those jeans are flattering", and "Nice garden". It didn't go unnoticed that Anne and I got the garden comment.

It's Cambridge for Atheists' sake
Jimmy Savile and Gary Glitter could run on the Democrat ticket and Cambridge would still vote Blue.

Get yourself in the sticker business
We all got "I voted" stickers at our polling station. Someone has to design and print those suckers.

Repetitive Strain Injury
The ballot is Tabloid/A3 size. We didn't just vote for PotUS, we had a long list of governmental positions to vote for, from Senator, through City Official, down to the guy you cleans the office (obviously a Democrat because you cannot get an Old White Guy to do this job).

Then you flip the ballot over and vote on Assisted Suicide, Medical Marijuana and 7 other brain-teasers.

MIT not Mitt
Apparently a kid in a MIT T-Shirt was turned away from a polling booth because they thought he was politically supporting Mitt Romney. Stupid on two counts. Nobody from MIT has ever voted Republican.

Karl Rove is a c*nt
As CNN announced that Obama was projected as the winner, I flicked over to see how Fox News was handling the disgrace.

Fox News had announced that Obama was the winner, but then about 5 minutes later Karl Rove argued they were wrong.

For the next 30 minutes the Fox anchors were sent on a merry dance to talk to the Fox statistical experts to explain how their bank of experts with the computing power of NASA could announce such a thing, when it was obvious that Karl with a $1.99 calculator knew better. He didn't know better.

Monday, October 29

Oh Sandy

Just like the massive John Travolta hit, I sat and wondered why-y-y oh why.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts decided to close schools today, because it was raining.

Hurricane Sandy looked like a miserable windy-rainy day until about 3pm when Anne called to say most of our fence had blown down.

The wind has bent the rods that go into the concrete posts through 90°. This means the fence is still attached, but it is also laying on the ground. 

Our house is by a 25-storey building, so it's a natural wind-tunnel. Throw in the outer part of a hurricane and you get a night of peering out into the yard to see if the trees are still there.


I was reminded of an uncommon difference between the UK and the US today.

Let's say a passenger ferry goes down off the coast of Manila. The BBC won't show Titanic out of respect.

Let's say there's a house fire in Wales. After we've all inwardly laughed, the BBC will pull a showing of Towering Inferno.

When the first Gulf War kicked off, Massive Attack had to temporarily change their name to just 'Massive'.

The US don't go for this shit. 

They'll show Affleck in Pearl Harbor on Pearl Harbor Day, and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on 9-11.

To prove my point, this week's, free song of the week on iTunes is a song called "Hurricane".

Next week be sure to grab the free download by Taylor Swift, feat. Usher, "Ya basement's flooded you sorry fuckers".

Sunday, October 28

46, 47

I flew to Salt Lake City yesterday. Everyone said it was beautiful and they had a point. Built by the mountains it's a picturesque town ... full of people with big hair-dos.

My flight was memorable because I sat next to a kitten. Me-ow.

Upon landing I ambled over to the car rental place where I got an Asian with attitude, blowing and popping her gum as she went through the list of things I should upgrade.

After a couple hours of work I jumped into my Utah plated car, and I headed for Wyoming.

In my quest to visit all 50 states, New Mexico is the only one of the 48 contiguous left.

The drive to Wyoming was perfect, through Park City (home of the Sundance Film Festival), past huge geologic wonders, running along side freight box cars, and tons of animals you don't see out East.

When I finally crossed the border I found myself in Evanston. There were no restaurants open, and it was dinner time. The only thing open was the Walmart, so I ran in for some bread and cheese. I should have worn an alien costume, I would have blended in better.

Who would have thought a pair of well-cut jeans, a dress shirt and a V-Neck sweater could be so obtrusive?

I headed back to SLC, and a hotel full of hollering wedding guests.

Sunday morning I was back in the airport stuck behind cowboys chewing tobacco glad to be flying home before the big storm (to be continued!)

Friday, October 26

Polygamy Town!

Watch out Utah, I'm spending 24 hours in your Salt Lake City of multiple partner love this weekend.

And I'm going to be judging you!

What do you think the under/over should be on Obama car stickers?

Thursday, October 25

12 Angry people of ethnic diversity

I had jury duty earlier this week.

The county we live in has two courthouses, one literally next door to me, and the other one 15 miles away. I was sent to the further of the two.

Checking in the guy said, "Oh, you live next door to the courthouse in Cambridge." In an attempt to look and sound like a wise old juror I nodded and smiled in a concurring fashion.

What follows is a few hours of sitting on uncomfortable chairs with strangers and a video that reminds everyone what a wonderful idea it was by the English in 1215 to decide that the accused should be judged by 12 'people of the community'.

Looking around the room I saw about 5 people out of 130 that I would want to consider. I should be a judge.

Finally 94 of us were called for jury selection, or voir dire as I learned from watching Legally Blonde.

I was in the twenties and by the time I was called to the sidebar they had only chosen three jurors. Two angry disheveled men in their late 50's, and a young Minnie Riperton look-a-like – the ONLY person of color in the room of 94 possible jurors.

The judge asked me a few easy questions while the Prosecuting DA and Defense Attorney stared at me.

After a 30 second discussion out of ear shot I was called back to be told that one of the legal team had voted to not accept me (each side has 6 nixes).

With that, you exit the court, and in my case you go grab a burrito.

And for the rest of the day week you wonder if you look too right/left-wing, angry/passive, rich/poor, smart/dumb.

Yes. I hated being judged without explanation. Thanks legal system.

Saturday, October 20

Anyone for Tennis?

The old-pro exhibition tour hit town last night. McEnroe v Lendl and Sampras v Courier (aka I've never heard of him - Anne Taylor)

Only as we walked to our courtside seats we realized there was no court. Apparently the truck driver had gone MIA and the court had just arrived.

Also at least one of our courtside seats did not exist. As there was no court our missing folding chair had a lower priority.

To pass time the guy from the Tennis Channel (me too, who knew?) did a Q&A with Courier which made Anne none the wiser. Her only addition was that Courier looked like first-class prick Phil Simms. I made a joke about the shitty font Courier but it fell on deaf ears. Boston's premier typographic comedian fails again.

Then Sampras and Johnny Mac were wheeled out. No Lendl. Commie bastard!

Some kids asked questions and were kind of dick-ish to Sampras asking him about his inability to win the French Open. 

Putting a court together takes about an hour, but because this was a union gig they took two hours. If I wanted to hang out with overweight people in dungarees I'd buy a Subaru.

When the tennis finally began a confused and muttering McEnroe beat a middle-aged bigger-bellied Lendl. Mac is great on TV but up close he resembles an old man in robe and slippers mumbling to the help about his liquid only diet.

Pistol Pete shot down the other guy with noticeably faster strokes and then finished off Mac in the final.

We walked home and were tucked up in bed just after midnight. Another Friday night of rock n roll.

Tuesday, October 16


We were hit by a laughably small earthquake tonight, but it still managed to rattle the house.

Weather Channel and local news treated it like Armageddon.

I guess when your usual script is, "Mattress in fast lane, watch out for brake-lights, then an East-Coast quake is about as exciting as it gets.

I'd have led with "The Biggest shake since Louise Woodward babysat your kids."

For the second year running Anne missed the quake. Last year she was swimming in the ocean, tonight she was driving in her sturdy German car.

As for me, I'm like Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch.

I feel the vibration.


I'm the one in the middle.

Monday, October 15

Work gift exchange idea #1

I was on Caf├ęPress tonight creating some merch for Anne's business.

It's been a few years since I browsed Caf├ęPress and as I randomly flicked through their selections I came across this one.

The blurb at the base of the photo says, "The women's dark t-shirt is comfortable, casual, but at the same time classy."


Thursday, October 11

Supercomputer Challenge

Supercomputer stories started in the 50s when machines the size of a small county attempted to process the square root of 81.

In the 70 and 80s we built computers that could beat a Chess Grand Master, or pointlessly work out Pi to the millionth decimal.

About 5 years ago Sprint ran awful commercials featuring their CEO, who said, "These handheld devices .." and instantly sounded like a silly old man.

In our marvelous world today, your toaster has a bigger processor chip than the Apollo 13 mooncraft. Which explains why Hollywood has not yet green-lit a movie about fixing a toaster.

But yesterday, as I browsed the news (on my quad-processor ... zzzzzzzzz) I found the next big challenge for the computing world.

I challenge the white-coats of Silicon Valley to come up with a computer program that generates ANYTHING more random than this news story.

10 October 2012 Last updated at 14:19 ET 
British singer Sarah Brightman is to travel as a space tourist to the International Space Station.

The classical recording artist, once married to Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, will be part of a three-person crew flying to the ISS.

Once there, she says she intends to become the first professional musician to sing from space.

Wednesday, October 10


I'm planning a trip to my office in China, and was sent a link to a nearby hotel with a spa where you can get a massage.

I was hoping the Chinese woman in the photo would have a shitty, poorly spelled tattoo in English, thus providing balance to all of the people I see with implausible Chinese character tattoos over here.

Maybe her tattoo reads "Balance over-sized checkers here".

Monday, October 8


At last count I've been to 7 different countries with a statue of this guy. The definitive free-lancer.

Today is his special day which means half my co-workers get the day off while the other half of us do twice the work.

Thanks Columbus.

He looks like a young Quaker Oats guy.

Monday, October 1

I fingered the nurse

This unintentional catchphrase was used at dinner, with a client tonight.

The story centered around a haunted house exhibit at Knott's Berry Farm.

When I went there in the 90s I don't remember a whole lot of finger-banging. Just a log-flume and over-priced jams.

What my learned colleague meant to say was, "I gave the nurse the finger".

English is his 2nd language. And it appears Love is his 3rd.

Sunday, September 30

Ten past Three

The answer to every question I've been asked this weekend.

Anne and I went to see Jack White Friday night, and he turns it up to 11.

I'm sure the tinnitus will eventually leave.

We had weed smokers behind us, and a speed user in front of us.

Being rock n roll Anne and I split a beer, mainly because Anne forgot to bring her ID. I'm at the age where I don't want my wife to look 20.

Saturday, September 29

Monk Spa

Anne and I went to a spa in Boston today.

As is common at all spas you have to fill in the waiver that stipulates it's not their fault if you die during one of their soothing procedures.

Only at this one they have you undress and put on a brown knee-length robe BEFORE you fill in the form.

Imagine a room of people dressed like this (without the cross), asking how you spell reiki.

As a bonus for fans of 80s UK TV, the monk photo looks like Alan Bradley, who tried to kill Rita Fairclough in Coronation Street, before being comedically killed by a tram on Blackpool sea-front.

And while on the subject of shitty TV from England, I feel vaguely vindicated that my long-running 'Jimmy Savile is a paedo' campaign is finally being shown to be true.

Freddie Starr, Gary Glitter, Michael Barrymore, Frank Bough. Is there any 80s Entertainer who wasn't a deviant?

Jim Bowen. Lovely, smashin', super.

Friday, September 28

Dead to me

For years the burrito-chain Chipotle was of no consequence to me.

I knew there was one in the mall close to where my in-laws live, and that my mom-in-law pronounced it wrong, but even that was tempered with the thought that a spry and feisty woman in her 80s had a certain amount of disdain for  the place.

Then a few years ago, some dreadful network TV show tried to find an entrepreneur who would create the next national fast-food joint. One of the show's judges was the fucktard who found Chipotle, and what he called 'a casual dining experience'.

I've had a burrito from there a few times since, and although I'm never transported to some delicious street stand in Mexico City, I've also never being sick afterwards either.

Today I decided to buy lunch for my fellow 4th floorers. And logging into you can send out an invite to each co-worker who in turn plug in their order. 40 minutes later you swing by Chipotle to pick up 10 burritos and a lifetime supply of chips and salsa.

Only it didn't work out like that.

"Did you fax us?", said the guy behind both, the counter, and the times.

"No, we e-mailed it in", said this casual diner.

"Erm, we don't have e-mail", said the 4 Non-Blondes fan from 1993 when the fax machine ruled.

"I used your on-line ordering system that generates an e-mail to you", I said, already knowing where this was going.

20 minutes later, after a phone call to work and a collective re-ordering in the office I received an e-mail from my co-worker that was titled, "Stupid Chipotle fucked up our order".

I chose to copy and paste the order without the headline onto a new page so that I could hand my phone over to the lady behind the counter with the plastic gloves.

5 minutes, and 10 burritos later I handed back their sharpie pen ... because why would Chipotle keep a track of what's inside the aluminum covered sacks of meat and veggies?

As I paid, the guy who receives the faxes said, "You should work here".

It'll take a while to close down my businesses, but once I've laid off all 75 of my employees it's good to know there's a job working the e-mail machine at Chipotle.


Thursday, September 27

Middle Aged

I was playing Yahtzee on my iPad last night. I looked up to see Anne playing Yahtzee on her iPad too. On TV we were watching Dancing with the Stars ... on DVR ... yes we record it.

It's gotten chilly the last few nights so we were both in sweatpants.

Also, we bought a shed.

Friday, September 21


I had my first experience of Peapod tonight.

Peapod is our supermarket's on-line shopping offering. You pick your groceries, a time for delivery and boom they show up with bags of your stuff.

I picked between 7 and 9pm on Friday night, because what else would I be doing other than waiting for my groceries?

When the doorbell rang I opened the door and screen and the kid just walked straight in with 6 bags and headed for our kitchen counter.

If I'd known he would be so familiar with the layout I wouldn't have paused the movie we were watching (Cast Away ... Anne is contractually bound to watch a Tom Hanks movie each week).

I tipped the kid and returned to watching one of Hanks' many tour de forces only for the bell to ring again. He'd found a potato in the back of his van, and presumed it was mine.

That's why you tip them folks.

Wednesday, September 19

But Man

I got stuck behind this diamond geezer on my commute home last night.

Sunday, September 16


I took my parents to visit the Mt Auburn Cemetery last night.

Naturally I made fun of the dead.

Friday, September 14

United fuckwitery

Scene: Chicago O'Hare Airport, at United Gate Boston bound.

United Airlines Gate Agent (UAGA): "Boarding Groups 3, 4 & 5"

6 people including me get up and walk towards the Gate

UAGA: I didn't call Boarding Group 5

3 people in unison: Yes you did.

UAGA: No, I didn't

Me: What are the chances that 6 people misheard you?

UAGA: I will call you in a minute or 2.

6 people take 3 steps back

UAGA: Boarding Group 5

6 people sigh and internally mumble, "What a fucking kooz", and walk the 3 steps back to where we were.

UAGA: Left side of the rope please.

6 people go to the left of the 3' long rope.


Wednesday, September 12

Any chance you could fuck off?

Tonight we dined at the excellent Topolobampo. The upscale Rick Bayless joint in the heart of Chicago.

7 of us were dining, and combined we could use the following titles; mum, dad, son, daughter-in-law, husband, wife, nephew, niece, cousin, aunt and uncle.

After a great dinner of elevated Mexican food, we continued to chat at our table.

To get us off the table, the maitre d pulled this move.

"Would you like a VIP visit of Rick's office space where he dreams up his Mexican recipes?".

An elevator ride, a couple of photos, and 5 minutes later we were outside on the sidewalk saying our goodnights and smiling at the ruthless efficiency of the restaurant's ability to free up our table.

Vete a la verga, as they might say in Mexico (according to the internet).

Monday, September 10

Do I get Reward Points at the Hotel California?

Close your eyes and think of the stereotypical guy who would play The Eagles at full volume in his beat up Toyota Corolla.

That's right, our African-American Boston taxi driver was a massive fan. Even after we jumped in the cab for the airport, he continued to play Hotel California turned up to 11.

Every time I get annoyed with Glenn Frey for rhyming wine, with 1969 ... wine's not a spirit you douchetard ... I try to distract myself with something amusing.

Today it was this pink haired goth on a bicycle. You don't usually pair shoe-gazing suicide-girls with healthy outdoor pursuits, but this chick was rocking her two wheels.

Maybe she was about to bike off the road into the Charles River.

If the radio was playing an Eagles "three-for", I might have joined her.

Wednesday, September 5

And we're off!

Football kicked off tonight, and I'm in 4 leagues this year.

My 3 head-to-head teams all made good starts.

And my league team - The Golden Helmets, are already top of the table!

Tuesday, September 4

Who is she meeting?

Anne and I hit the airport tonight to pick up my parents from Terminal E.

As we waited I scanned the area for the usual suspects.

• Man with bunch of flowers from gas station.
• Kids with home-made sign displaying a poor use of typography
• Indian man pacing back and forth with phone clipped to Chinos
• Bitch with clipboard containing tour details and list of names

But suddenly an emaciated chick walked in front of me and stood gazing at the board.

She wore a synthetic-chiffon leopard-skin dress with a gusset. I'm sure there's a name for that, but that's my description and I'm sticking with it.

The usual oversized designer bag was slung over the shoulder sitting next to hair extensions which un-seamlessly mixed with her chemical damaged hair.

The heavy on the eye-liner look perfected the heroin chic, and at the bottom end she wore high heel ankle boots with a fluffy top!

And the fake tits on her 100 lb frame looked like someone had duct taped 2 candlepin balls to her chest.

For perfume she went with passionfruit-whorehouse.

We never got to see who she met. I was hoping for an over-weight middle-aged Middle Eastern gentleman.

Friday, August 31

Misleading headline of the day

Isaac drove Mississippi backwards

I presumed this was a highlight from a new Isaac Hayes biography, turns out it was a boring story about Hurricane Isaac and the Mississippi River.

I was also distracted last week with Neil Armstrong's death around the same time that his blood-swapping pill-popping cheating namesake, Lance was giving up his innocence claims.

"Armstrong is a douche" vs "Armstrong a noble pioneer" etc.

Very confusing headlines for someone who only gets his news from the 7 word preview in Google News.

Wednesday, August 29

Homeward Bound sometime in the future

We're heading to the UK next April to attend a wedding anniversary party. And if you think that's organized, the couple who are celebrating sent out invites 18 months ago.

While there we're going to visit the South Coast. We just booked a fancy-schmancy hotel near St. Ives, and also a few nights in Padstow which appears to be wholly owned by Rick Stein.

We're also staying in a hotel run by the RNLI ... the guys who rescue idiots in dinghies off the British coast. Kind of cool that a hotel stay is also a charitable donation.

Tuesday, August 28

Cord Cutters ... season 3

Another summer has gone by in which we've not watched cable.

In fact barring the Olympic opening ceremony that NBC butchered I cannot remember a single time we watched an episode of any broadcast TV in the last 6 months.

Of course that all changes as the leaves turn brown. Football of both varieties will once again make my ass square-shaped as I settle into my favorite chair.

But that's not to say we haven't watched the big ol' TV in the corner of the room this summer.

We got seriously into Downton Abbey and a bunch of other British shows, and to balance out the transatlantic bias we are currently balls-deep into a marathon of Homeland.

Anne instinctively dislikes 98% of all well-known actresses, and Claire Danes is on that list, but well done darling for battling through.

I had no qualms about Homeland until my mum revealed the male lead is actually British, and now I'm distracted every time he is on screen to hear undertones of his impressive American accent. It's like a reverse Bridget Jones's Diary with added terrorism ... and jazz.

We've also got into the habit of watching old episodes of Whose Line is it Anyway? It's about 15 years ago but I remember Anne uncontrollably laughing at two skits from the show. One involved the phrase "It's a rickety pier", delivered in a comedy Scottish accent, and the other used a sailor's hat and the line, "All hands on Dick".

Alas neither have popped up yet. The search continues!

Tuesday, August 21

Anne to the rescue

My darling wife rescued a cat tonight!

OK, she's a professional cat-sitter, so she has mad cat skills, but this had little to do with her day to day job.

A guy knocked on our door earlier this evening. He explained his cat had gone missing and wondered if we'd seen her. We hadn't.

As night drew in, the security light in our yard came on. This happens every night, I sometimes think a moth can flick the damn thing on.

But from our kitchen, Anne thought she saw a pair of cat's eyes.

I kept watch while Anne went into the basement and out into our yard. Sure enough it was Hayley the missing cat. Anne got down on her hands and knees and Hayley came on over.

Of course we are the only house in the neighborhood without a cat but with a cat carrier and a supply of wet food.

With the cat rescued we now had to track down the owner. We knew he lived in the 'hood, and a walk around the block led to a flyer posted with the guy's name and number.

10 minutes later the owner and his 2 college buddies arrived to find Hayley purring away on our expensive, but now slightly scratched up rug, with a belly full of wet food.

I'm not sure she totally wanted to leave, but after a few minutes the MIT guys put her in her carrier, and away they went.

Leaving Anne and I with a memory of the 15 minutes we had a cat in our house. We cannot stop smiling about the whole thing, especially the happy way the story ended.

Tuesday, August 14

One of everything!

It's my mum's birthday today.

When I phoned this morning she said she'd got the card I sent.

I haven't bought her a present yet. I figure next month when she visits we can take our usual walk down to the Apple Store, and she can add to her collection of Cupertino electronics.

Apparently she needs a Nano for the gym.

Happy birthday mum!

Monday, August 13


Eric Gill was an early 20th Century English typographer.

He was responsible for a number of well constructed typefaces including Perpetua, Joanna, and of course his most famous font, Gill Sans which originally began life as a bookshop sign in Bristol.

Chances are you've used Gill Sans, I think it is one of the packaged fonts with Apple's operating system, or maybe the Microsoft Office suite.

It's a classic font, with a nice selection of weights, although I've always had kerning issues with the Monotype version.

I'm currently reading a book of typographic history, which along with my love of jigsaws, marks me out as a man of danger and excitement.

So I was surprised to read that Gill sexually abused his own children, had an incestuous relationship with his sister and performed sexual acts on his dog.

Remember that factoid the next time you want to add a simplistic look of elegance to a church-hall newsletter.

If you're looking for a like for like replacement you can do worse than to choose NewJohnston, which is of course the typeface used on the London Underground map.

Also, it should be noted that Johnny Gill, American R&B singer and proponent of New Jack Swing, is not related to Eric.