Tuesday 27 January 2015


One of the skills that you develop as a computer programmer is to read meaning into terse and complicated one-word names. If we saw something called "lastinlist" we'd know that it was the last something in some list. More usually we'd write the name as "lastInList" to make the words easier to separate.

There used to be a bowling alley in Plympton called the "Superbowl". Unfortunately their signage had an outsized "O" and with finger holes. This meant that I could never read the name or think of the place as anything other than the "Superb Owl". I passed a building in Portsmouth called the "Bowlplex". I suppose it could have been a place containing multiple bowling lanes, but it seems much more likely that the "b" tells us it's a Boolean variable indicating the truth or falsity of the proposition "owlplex". I assume that an owl-plex is distinguished from a simple owl in that it can represent multiple owls. The UK owl-plex probably aggregates little, long-eared, short-eared, tawny and screech.

Since I have been going out with a woman in Seattle I have adopted the Seattle Seahawks as "my" American Throwball team. They are going to the Superb Owl, and this weekend is Superb Owl Sunday!

Richard "camelCase" B

Tuesday 20 January 2015


I've been in Seattle for the last week and a half, and I've been somewhat drawn into the fever surrounding their American Throwball team. We settled on "Throwball" because "football" is such a loaded and ambiguous term when talking to an Englishman.

I watched one of the games on the TV In a bar with my friends. Other than the number of advert breaks, the experience seemed perfectly familiar. Americans watch the game at the stadium – obviously, but they also make a completely foreign arrangement. They call it "tailgating" but that's really just a fancy word for getting drunk in the car park. They will arrive at a large nearby parking lot (car park) before the game and set up grills (barbeques), music and beer.

I watched the game that put the Seattle Seahawks into the Superbowl in a very odd way. I watched two quarters (the first half) on a TV in an airport terminal. During the second half the score was occasionally relayed to the passengers on a British Airways flight by the captain over the intercom. It was a nail biting game, but robbed of some of its dramatic impact.

Richard "Go Hawks" B

Saturday 17 January 2015

When in Rome

Both "The Last Samurai" and "Dances with Wolves" tell the story of a white boy, transplanted into an ethnographically foreign culture, and becoming more skilled and more integrated than the locals.

I'm on holiday in America at the moment and the same thing hasn't happened to me.

I think I've got the skill of eating an American breakfast down to a tee. I can leave a low denomination note for someone who has poured me a drink, and I used the phrase "Costco gas station" successfully in conversation, but there are many skills that I don't think I'll ever master:

  • Not flinching at the price of basic groceries like bread and fruit.
  • Adding up the price of items you wish to buy and then multiplying by 1.095 to get the final price.
  • Handling money. All the notes are the same size and colour, the 5c is silver and BIGGER than the 10c FFS.
  • The bizarre and arbitrary "waste some clean water" phase of washing up that occurs between washing and drying
When in Rome, if the Romans are doing it all wrong, then educate them.

Richard "Objectionable Foreigner" B

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Did you have a nice relaxed Sunday morning? Good. I didn't. On Saturday night I broke a loud speaker stand. On Sunday morning when I should have been sleeping in late and putting a suit on for my mum's birthday lunch, I was heavily involved with a light engineering project that didn't interest me.

One of my loud speaker stands:

We've broken this:


Hot hot hot:

I give the braise 6 out of 10 plus a bonus point for not destroying the threads inside the nut:

What's the tapping size for M6? This looks close enough:

Tap tap tap:

This is what I made:

This is where I'm going to stick it:

Richard "most boring episode of MacGyver ever" B

Thursday 1 January 2015

Happy New Year

I wish you all the best for 2015.

2014 has been excellent for me. I've been abroad twice, I met a woman, and my acoustic guitar playing has improved noticeably.

The last few days of the year, however, have been dominated by anger at ovenware.

This happens all too often, I ordered pie and chips in a pub, and was instead served a shallow casserole wearing a pastry hat. That's not a pie, a pie has a top crust and a bottom crust, and the gravy is rich and thick from the pastry it has dissolved.

As well as the great pie fraud, I'm furious that cookware is regressing to ironage and stoneage technology

I'm not a great fan of Le Creuset ovenware, it's too heavy and too expensive for practical use, but it is very sturdy. The sheer price of it has lead the pretentious and the fashion concious to associate it with fine dining, and they will happily put a bright orange stove-enamelled cast-iron pot on their otherwise luxurious table. The garish iron peddlers have smelled the money and now sell little items intended for the table. The least practical and most offensive is a heart shaped ramekin. A cast iron, non-circular ramekin FFS.

Worse still: I'm indifferent to a lamb casserole, but if you want to make one, that's fine with me. If you want to use Moroccan spices, be my guest. You can't seriously convince me that it tastes better, or is somehow enhanced for having been cooked in an earthenware dish with a conical chimney stack. Or that bringing its giant scalding chimney to the table is a good idea.

Richard "Rage Against the Tagine" B