Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tinfoil hat

So my passport is up for renewal, and I've managed to get a work trip to JavaOne in May so I got it renewed last week and it arrived today - which is pretty quick service, although you do pay for it (£73!).

I wasn't sure what to expect, but when I looked at the passport it did indeed have the new biometric nonsense and an RFID chip in it. Having seen some of the scare stories about security problems with these passports I jokingly thought I'd have to get a tin-foil hat for it to shield it. Turns out the US passports actually have the tin-foil shield built into the cover, but I don't know about the UK ones, so I think I'm going to go into paranoia overdrive and get a shield/cover to protect my identity.

Maybe I'm flattering myself that someone would want to steal my identity - perhaps I should let them and see what they do with it - but from what I've read there seem to be enough doubts and easy hacks for RFID enabled security documents to warrant a bit of caution and paranoia on my part.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

New wedgie

I invented a new wedgie today: the Duct Wedgie. This involves the wedger (?) performing a wedgie on the wedgee (?) in the usual manner, but then securing the boxers to their new higher location with a small strip of duct tape, for a continual wedgie effect.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Three Week Rule

It's my girlfriend's birthday in about 2 weeks time - she came home last night with her unusually cold hand problem: these aren't just a bit chilly, they look like bits of Arctic explorers' bodies that they then proceed to chop off because they're dead from frostbite.

So, knowing she gets cold hands, I'd got her some of those cool hand warmer packs for her birthday, and so I gave them to her last night as an early birthday present, and she was quite pleased with them.

However, this morning she claims that they don't count as part of her birthday present(s), they were just a surprise gift that is part of the normal boyfriend-girlfriend course of things. I countered with the "Three Week Rule", which is that any present given within 3 weeks of a birthday counts as part of the birthday "package". She argued enthusiastically against this proposal, but I think it's just common sense, and her opinion is motivated by greed on her part.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Thoughts after 4000 miles

So, last Halloween I picked up my new bike, a Buell Ulysses XB12X - after 1 year of riding a 125cc on L plates and 2 years on a Suzuki Savage LS650 on a restricted licence, this is my first proper bike. Bottom line: it's a blast. It's big, fast and fun, but after 4000 miles in 4 months I've had some more coherent thoughts about the bike, which I originally posted on a UK Buell forum and I thought I'd copy and paste here for an easy blog entry.

Good points:

  • Engine: It's my first V-Twin, and I love it. It sounds as rough as hell, which I like, and it goes like stink too, which I also like.
  • Economy: I'm averaging 50mpg commuting into London, which I'm impressed with
  • Good for pillions: The few people I've taken on the back say it's incredibly comfortable
  • Handling: Took me a while to get used to the height, but it's actually very nimble and maneuverable, unless you're trying to use full lock to get inbetween stationary traffic, and then you may as well be in a van.
  • Good brakes: And I've needed them a few times.....
  • It's generally quite cool
Bad points:

  • This is the only *bad* point - the rest are minor niggles really: the bloody exhaust is already rotting away after a fairly mild winter with not that much salt about. I've cleaned it, used the HD anti-rust spray and generally done all that I could, but the rearmost part of the exhaust near the rear tyre is suffering quite badly - that's really crap.

  • Every other Buell I meet sounds better than mine...how come? Smile
  • Rubbish steering lock means it's tricky to turn at low speeds - e.g. getting in and out of my drive and in and out of the car park near work.
  • Ridiculous noisy fan: Completely undoes the general coolness of the bike by it sounding like a hair dryer as soon as you turn it off.
  • The engine and exhaust run very hot, which could be a plus in winter, and is likely to be bloody hard work in summer, so I've put it in the "niggles" section to balance it out.
  • Ongoing "trip counter reset" problem. Other people have this too - apparently it's caused by the cable cluster getting squashed when you turn the bars, but it's intermittent and very hard to convince my dealer of.

Overall I'm very happy with the Uly - still makes me grin when I ride it, and I make excuses to ride it when I don't have to. Apart from the exhaust issue it's a great bike for me, with plenty of "character".

Monday, March 05, 2007

I feel no knead

I feel no knead
Originally uploaded by raindog.
This is the second attempt at a "no kneading" loaf, which is from a recipe originally featured in the NY Times, which also has a great video of how to make it, and has also been reproduced on many, many blogs.

My adventurous food friend Monica originally pointed me at the recipe via her blog, and the video of how to make this looked so easy I had to try it. This is potentially even easier than using our bread machine - it's just the amount of time required that is the only downside, but that can be worked around with a bit of forward planning.

Anyway, the loaf turned out really well - nice and fluffy on the inside and a great chewy crust on the outside: one of my favourite meals in the world is fresh bread with butter, and this is excellent for just that meal.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Originally uploaded by raindog.
Went to Madrid last week and had a great couple of days. It's a really cool city - I think Barcelona has the edge because of the Gaudi buildings and its location, but Madrid had some fantastic buildings, great Plazas and lots of good restaurants and bars.

The map on the right was drawn by a friend of a friend who lived in Madrid for 6 months - it was fun trying to find the places on it, even though we weren't that successful.

We went there on the Elipsos "trainhotel", which runs overnight from Paris to Madrid and was really good. You get a nice evening meal, with wine, a private compartment with its own shower and bathroom, and breakfast in the morning. All you have to do is roll up to the train in Paris around 7pm, get on, and then you get off again at 8am in Madrid.

Considering I loathe train travel in the UK, I seem to do a lot of it everywhere else in the world. The Elipsos wasn't quite as plush as the Canadian train I took a couple of years ago - the compartments were probably better, but the dining car and service wasn't up to the Canadian's exceptional standards, and there was no "lounge car" to go and sit instead of in your cabin. Either of them beat getting crammed into a bloody aeroplane though.

So, next trip we're thinking ferry to Bilbao, train over to Barcelona, and return in some equally time consuming and interesting manner....hot air balloon or on the back of a camel or something.

Saturday, February 03, 2007



So, what did people used to do when they were bored before they could play with their mobile phones?

I'm not a mad phone user, but I was on a fairly tedious training course this week (well, the course was OK, it was some of the other people on it who couldn't follow simple instructions that slowed it down and made it tedious) and I started texting people when I got bored - I think everyone in my address book got a text from me this week, probably much to their surprise and amusement.

I'm sure people who were bored before mobile phones did something more constructive with their bored time...or maybe not, maybe they just picked their noses and wrote shopping lists.