Monday, August 25, 2008

Fringe Bingo

After last year's storming success, Pirate and I decided to go back to the Fringe this year. It's not a cheap 3 days, but is seriously good fun. There is loads to see, but inevitably there are dead spots during the evening when you are between shows, have already eaten dinner, and need to kill an hour when the museums and galleries are closed. This is where the real Fringe entertainment happens.

The Edinburgh Fringe is, no doubt, one of the best places for people-watching on the planet outside of NYC. There is some serious variety, and some proper weirdos.

But Pirate and I, being competitive by nature, found a way to make people-watching a contest. Enter Fringe Bingo, stage left. Plonk yourselves outside a pub or cafe' on the Royal Mile, pull out your FB cards, and go to town. I have provided a sample card below. (Obviously if you are going to play you need to print out 2 copies, but cut one up and rearrange the squares to make the second copy.)

From the Fringe veterans I would love to hear your suggestions for adding to the card for next year.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Out with a fizzle

Today was my last regatta. I am officially retired from rowing. If I find myself in a position (read: location) to take it up again, i probably will, but for the time being that's it.

And i got spanked. NOT how I wanted it to end.

The race in the quad was OK. It was a decent row, but we lost by 1/2 a length. They got up on us in the first 200, and there just wasn't room to come back. But we rowed pretty well, they were just better. It happens.

The double, on the other hand, was entirely my fault. I was just shit. There's no other way to put it. I was rowing as though we were fighting horrendous conditions like gale force crosswinds and whitecaps on the water, except we weren't. There was a steady tail wind and a few ripples on the canal, but I was tense and smacking the water (my blade work was shocking), and by the time I got myself together and began rowing properly it was too late. They had 3 lenghts on us by 200m, and the whole race was only 600m.

So there it was.

At least it was fast. The day, that is. I arrived, rigged the boats, launched the quad, paddled up, lost, got out, racked the quad, launched the double, paddled up, lost, got out, de-rigged, and left. All within the space of a couple hours. Today had all the joy and efficiency of a well-ordered execution.

And now I'm done.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Oh sweet Jesus. Whatever we do, we must not, under any circumstances, elect John McCain. He has supported every one of Bush's proposals, and will carry out any legislative or governmental changes enacted by Bush, including this new catastrophe. We cannot allow this to happen.

On a more cheerful note, I am leaving today to visit Pirate and the in-laws for a week, then Pirate and I are going up to the Fringe for a few days. I will still be available on Blogger and email, so I will be in touch with Edinburgh bloggers. Whee! (I don't have time for a vacation, but holy fuck do I need one.)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Well so much for that

The driving instructor from BSM never showed up today.

When he was 15 minutes late I phoned the BSM office and asked "where is he?" Give him more time, they said.
When he was 30 minutes late I phoned again. They apologized profusely and tried to contact the driver on his mobile. They rang me back to say they couldn't reach him, but they left him a message to call me. He did not.
When he was an hour late I rang back and said "tell him not to bother. I want my money back." They said I'd have to ring my local office to arrange a refund or a re-schedule.
When he was an hour and 15 minutes late HE rang ME to say "I'm running late. I won't be able to make it." NOW he tells me! Jerk.

I will reschedule on condition they give me
a) a different instructor
b) a free lesson
Otherwise I'm demanding a full refund (they require you pay for 10 hours of instruction up front, a total of 222.50 pound).

Also, where the hell were these guys when I was in Manchester, being kept away EVERY SINGLE NIGHT BY ASSHOLES PLAYING LOUD MUSIC???

If only they responded to seagull complaints. Oy vey.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Blogger Hook-up in the Burgh of Edin

Pirate and I are going to spend a few days in Edinburgh at the Fringe this month. We'll be arriving in Edinburgh on Sunday 17th and staying for 3 nights, leaving on Wednesay 20th.

If anyone fancies a get-together for a meal or coffee or whatever, do let me know. (GSE??? Hendrix-cat?) Pirate and I would love to see you.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Stay off the roads

for I am having my first driving lesson on Saturday.

Now, I can drive perfectly well. I've had a valid driving license for 13 years, with a near perfect record (1 speeding ticket, which was so long ago it's now off my record).

The trouble is that I've only ever driven an automatic transmission. Well, that's not completely true. I drove a manual (an old Chevy S-10 pickmeup truck) for one month my senior year of high school. I hated that truck and begged my parents to sell it, which they finally did to shut me up. (The replacement was a gas-guzzling 1987 Buick LeSabre which promptly received the nickname "Manatee Mobile" for it's flat grey color and gentle, lumbering, boat-like ride.)

But now that I'm in England I have to learn to drive a manual properly, for the simple reason that Pirate's car is a manual and he, quite understandably, does not want me to be dependent on him for lifts. Nor do I wish to be dependent. I can cope quite nicely with a bicycle, thank you.

But there will be times when I will simply need to be able to drive his car, and to do that I need to be able to drive a manual well and safely.

The problem is that I fundamentally resent the need to learn. As far as I can tell there is no need whatsoever for manuals transmissions to exist anywhere outside of professional racing vehicles. I grant you it's probably very helpful for Louis Hamilton. I'm sure he's better at shifting than any automatic, and in his profession fractions of a second matter.

But for the average idiot going to work and the shops there is no need for it whatsoever. It is a dangerous, archaic technology that could and should be completely replaced by newer advances. There are a myriad of alternatives, every single one of which is preferable to a standard stick shift, but which are perplexingly slow to catch on. They are:

  1. (the obvious) automatic transmission (A surprising number of people don't know that every car with an automatic can be put manually into a low gear for when you need it, such as descending steep inclines or getting out of snow banks. You've got more control than you think.)
  2. clutchless manual (This is an option on both the Smart Car and the Toyota Yaris. You still change gear when you want to, but there is no clutch to operate. The car does the clutching for you. Much easier to drive, and still affords all the control of a stick. WHY OH WHY HASN"T THIS CAUGHT ON YET???)
  3. spiral transmission, such as are found on the Toyota Prius and several Lexus models. This is not an automatic transmission because there are no gears to transmit. Instead of gears of different sizes, the transmission is one, great, conical gear with a spiral arrangement of teeth. When you accelerate from a stop it is completely smooth. This freaked the hell out of the Pirate when he rode in my parents' Prius 2 years ago at christmas. I think ultimately this will be the winner in the transmission war (that I'm attempting to start).

But instead of any of these sensible alternatives, I am forced by the nature of circumstances to exert time, money, and mental energy (none of which I have in excess) to learn to use a dangerous and outmoted technology.

I repeat: Stay off the roads (of Bristol this Saturday from noon to 2).

Monday, August 04, 2008

I officially declare

blackberry season to be... OPEN!

At Pirate's cricket match on Saturday I went down the lane while the guys were warming up and picked a kilo of early blackberries to put out with the tea. Yummers!

Amongst the brambles and nettles were several big buddleja bushes in full bloom

And on one of the bushes was the most beautiful butterfly I have ever seen in England. It was lovely, and so distinctive I knew I had would have no trouble identifying it after I got back and consulted Prof. Google.

And do you know what butterfly it was, sucking happily away at the buddleja bush? It was this one!:
This is a peacock butterfly. (I didn't take these photos, btw. I didn't have my camera, so I borrowed these from t'interwebs.) You can read about it here.

Oh, and the match went well. Pirate didn't take any wickets, but he batted 46 (not out) off 22 balls! Aw yeeeah. Das my man, hunnachile.