Beyonce for President

Dear All the Single Ladies (all the single ladies),

YouTube VideoThe effect that your – and Beyonce’s – anthem has on you is mesmerizing.

With just the merest first few bars you become united in solidarity with your sisters everywhere. If you could harness just a little of the song’s awesome potency you would become the greatest political power the world has ever seen.

If you learned the dance moves too, you would rule the world.

Yours in admiration,

The Ragged Clown


On Monday I will be visiting the town of my childhood for the first time in over 20 years.

I wonder if it has changed at all?

I wonder if I have?


The name is thought to be derived from Cetecopp meaning ‘seat shaped or flat topped hill’; it has its earliest recorded use in 1254. Sidcup originated as a tiny hamlet on the road from London to Maidstone.

But Sidcup is a relative newcomer. I actually lived in Footscray.

Foots Cray is a place in the London Borough of Bexley, near the town of Sidcup, in southeast London, England, United Kingdom.

It took its name from Godwin Fot, a local Saxon landowner recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, and from the River Cray that passes through the village. It lay on the old Maidstone Road (now bypassed by the A20 road) leading from London to north Kent. Until the 20th century, Foots Cray dominated the nearby, less ancient hill-top hamlet of Sidcup.

Thor’s Apocalypse

Just over Grant’s Pass at 7:15pm and the sky turned black. Every mountain top was lit up with electricity and the rumbling of thunder was continuous. It’s not normal for it to be pitch dark so early. There are usually pauses between lightning strikes and the crash that announces their passage.Thundercloud (thanks NASA) I thought the apocalypse had arrived or, at the very least, I was under attack by Sauron’s minions or the Horde of Azeroth.

It was an apocalypse but it was Thor’s Apocalypse which is even worse than the other kind. I wanted to pray but I didn’t know any Norse prayers except the one you shout, sword in hand, before you give your life in battle.

There were no gaps between the lightning strikes now and finally the rains came. Just three big, lazy drops on my windscreen. Not enough for the wipers, but that was just a feint; cover for the ice storm which Thor cast down upon the citizens of Grants Pass and the weary travellers on I5.

The first one hit my windscreen so hard I thought it was a rock but I soon realized the real threat as the gods hit me with all the ice in Valhalla. I didn’t think my vessel would survive the attack so I pulled off the highway peering dimly through the hail to see the side of the road. My fellow travellers did the same and we cowered under the meagre shelter of a tree. I couldn’t bear to think of the damage that was happening to my car as the mini golf balls beat us into submission.

As quickly as it started, the deluge subsided and I u-turned back onto the now deserted highway. The on-ramp was already a torrent threatening to wash me away.

As I reached the highway, Odin pulled back Valhalla’s veil of darkness and showed me the bright, clear evening sky. A mirage of Shasta shone warmly in the dying sun, a beacon of hope after the madness and California whispered my name. Welcoming me home.

The Lost Continent

S’funny how your perspective changes with a new piece of information.

While I was briefly under the impression that Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent was written by the cuddly old curmudgeon pictured on the back cover I rated it LOL for very funny. But once I found out that it was actually his first book, written when he was 33, his lovable vitriolic ways sounded a lot more spiteful.

The old people were noisy and excited, like schoolchildren, and pushed in front of me at the ticket booth, little realizing that I wouldn’t hesitate to give an old person a shove, especially a Baptist. Why is it, I wondered, that old people are always so self-centered and excitable? But I just smiled benignly and stood back, comforted by the thought that they would soon be dead.

I still enjoyed it though.

The book is a standard Bill Bryson travelogue with scathing, spur of the moment honesty uncensored by any regard for the recipient’s tender feelings. It’s funny to read the reviews at Amazon by all the people who’s town he trashed. They are all like, “No wonder he found BFE dead on a Thursday night. If he had come the night before, he could’ve have played bingo”.

Bill has an unnerving ability to say what you are thinking but in half the words and with twice the bile.

About casinos…

I wandered through room after room trying to find my way out, but the place was clearly designed to leave you disoriented. There were no windows, no exit signs, just endless rooms, all with subdued lighting and with carpet that looked as if some executive had barked into a telephone, “Gimme twenty thousand yards of the ugliest carpet you got.” It was like woven vomit.

That’s like every casino I have ever been in. When we lived in New York, G and I took the bus to Atlantic City – not to go to a casino, just for a day out.

As we got off the bus, they gave us $10 in quarters and a big plastic pot to keep them in so we felt obliged to go spend them. We managed to spend about $1.25 each and then wandered around for hours trying to find the way out. When we got back on the bus we still had about $18 in quarters.

…and who hasn’t done this?

And the toilet seat did not have a sanitized for your protection wrapper on it, denying me the daily ritual of cutting it with my scissors saying “I now declare this toilet open”.

The Lost Continent is very funny but not quite Bill Bryson funny. If you’ve read all the others, read this one too – unless you are a waitress or you live in BFE – but if you haven’t, read In a sunburnt country first.

This side of Nagasaki (day 4.5)

I finally made it back to my room, giftless and tired, with two hours remaining before our next installment of eating and drinking. I was looking forward to just relaxing in the bath but, when I checked my email… bling-o! blong-o! … American Jeff IM’d me to see how I was getting on.

yamanoteI told him about my giftlessness and he told me I should go to Akihabara, a mecca for people in search of dolls or miniatures of their favourite anime characters. It’s only four train stops away on the Yamanote line, he said. I can easily make it there and back in two hours, he said. I can do that, I thought.

I walked down to Shinbashi Station and encountered my first problem. The map was all in Kanji:-(

There was a red you-are-here marker and I knew that Akihabara was 4 stops away. But which direction?!

I had a map in my pocket which had both Kanji and Romanji, and, once I found Akihabara on my map, I matched the symbol to the one on the wall. It was like playing an Alternate Reality Game in actual reality!

inuyashaWhen I arrived at Akihabara, I had the same problem x10 because all the shops were in tall buildings and the building directories were all in kanji. The first shop I went into had every anime character ever made – except Inuyasha, and the second one had one pathetic little Kagome.

The third store had a single, tiny Inuyasha for Â¥1500 – and many , more grown up characters in rather interesting poses. Those characters will probably never make it to America and, even in Japan, modesty required little bits of sticky plastic to cover up the naughty bits.

I searched the remaining seven thousands stores – which is an adventure when you can’t read the signs on the doors – you never know what you are going to find! – but no-one had any Inuyasha.

By now, I was almost late for my dinner meeting so I resolved to go back to the first shop, get the little Kagome and call it a day. But, while I was buying that, I decided to ask about Naruto too.

They had hundreds of Naruto. They even had a big bag containing a variety of characters. The bag didn’t have my favourite character – the rather attractive, well-endowed lady ninja – or Dylan’s favourite, but my Japanese wouldn’t stretch to “Do you have the woman with the blond hair and the big bosoms? Or the dude with the dog called Akamaru”. I thought about making the international symbol for woman with large breasts but I was worried that he’d send me back to one of those other shops and, besides, I was already late for dinner. I decided to quit while I was ahead and set off back to the hotel for my next culinary adventure.
I won’t tell you all the gory details. Suffice it today that it was, once again, marvellous and had some relation to my need for a bucket the next day. The only extraordinary detail – if you consider outstanding Italian food, wine, grappa and being crammed in a little tiny bar that only accepts one coin as ordinary – was the fact that we ended up having more noodles at 3am.

noodles at 3am

This side of Nagasaki (day 3)

[story is a little out of sequence due to international dateline]

Woke up this morning feeling only slightly fragile and, with my three dinners of the night before fully digested, I was ready to make an attempt on the World Breakfast Record. I had miso, nearly raw egg – just the yolk – in a cup of soy sauce, mandarin slices in yoghurt, bacon, sausages, penne w/ white sauce, smoked salmon, pieces of fruit, coffee and my special patented hangover-repelling blend of orange and tomato juice. All while being watched over by Mount Fuji.

JeffAfter breakfast, we headed off to the Developer Summit for the main feature of the week – my presentation on Continuous Integration.

The room was packed – hundreds of people – and I broke the rule about not making jokes to international audiences. I told them how the presentation was s’posed to be given by Jeff (see picture) and that he always gives the presentation dressed in his super-hero costume. I had asked to borrow his costume but he wouldn’t let me have so I had to wear ordinary clothes. He let me give his presentation but he wouldn’t let me wear his super-hero costume. It’s not fair.

It’s a good way to figure out how many people in the audience speak English. After I told the joke about 10 people laughed and then the rest laughed after the translation. Helped me relax a bit anyway.

Something that didn’t help me relax was the official photographer who was totally in my face with her camera while I was speaking. Close up of my nose and ears. Both sides. Up high. Down low. I just hope I can find a copy to show Tom that I am not making all this up and I really did go to Japan.

The translator was excellent. I enjoyed listening to her more than I enjoyed speaking. I wanted to ask her what the Japanese word for bubbling was but she disappeared before I got a chance. It sounded something like bibbety-bobbety-boo.

It’s kinda nice speaking with a translator actually. You get a handy pause while she translates, to think a little bit about what you are going to say next, instead just rambling inanely like I usually do.sushi

You know without me telling you that we ate well in the evening. Tempura, at a tiny place with room for about 10 people sitting at the bar while Master, as Mirek called him, cooked up the tempura one piece at a time.

tempuraYou could make a fantastic food movie just by following Jeff and Mirek around for a week. Subtle, traditional decor and lots of significant moments and motions like carefully presenting the cooked tempura just so or applying just the right amount of sauce.

tempuraMaster looked like an international man of mystery. If James Bond had come and sat down next to us – and he wouldn’t have been out of place – Master would have known how to make his Martini shaken not stirred, and would have saved 007 from a ninja attack using skills he picked up in World War II.

The hostess too – Master’s wife – was straight from central casting. No English. Beautiful kimono. Exquisitely polite.

Early night after the tempura and no hangover the next day! Hooray!