November 30, 2008

Feeling Superior In Harvard Yard

As is my wont, these days, I wandered down to Harvard Square this afternoon for coffee and the discussion of writing. On my way there, a furrenner accosted me:

HIM: Excuse me, 'ow do I get to zee university?

ME: Um... Which university? [Because, you know, there are a couple in Boston, even in the relatively compact environs of lower Cambridge: Harvard, Lesley, Radcliffe...]

HIM: You know, 'Arvard University. Zee main building.

ME: Well... Harvard has about thirty different buildings. Is there one in particular you're trying to get to?

HIM: I don't know. Maybe zee law school?

ME: That's on the other side of the river.

HIM: Ah. Where is zee subway, then?

I mean, it seemed like he was just a tourist looking to "see" Harvard, so I directed him to the main yard — but on a Sunday afternoon, what was he even expecting at "the main building" anyway? A guided tour? Tea and scones? Bloody Europeans.


Now, just so you don't think I'm an insufferable snob who makes fun only of clueless tourists:

On my way home, I stopped in at the Harvard Coop to look for a book I needed by an Egyptian author named Nawal el Saadawi.

Pop quiz, part one: how does one correctly alphabetize Arabic names with particles like "el" and "al"?

(Answer: you ignore them; they're the equivalent of "the".)

Pop quiz, part two: where did the bookstore of the *cough* most prestigious university in the world file the work of Nawal el Saadawi?

(Answer: under "E". And not even, for God's sake, between "El A___" and "El Z___", but between "Ellis" and "Elterman". Oh dear.)

November 28, 2008

November 26, 2008

Pings To Do On A Rainy Day...

I've recently been having some real kooky problems with my MacBook's wireless connection, and though I have nothing really very constructive or interesting to say on the matter, I have just spent close to three hours dicking around trying to fix it and feel like a rant. And if blogs aren't good for esoteric, ill-conceived rants, well then what the hell do I have a blog for in the first place?

It all started maybe a week or so ago — my MacBook suddenly just stopped connecting to my Airport router while in the living room. This was mighty perplexing, as my Airport router is in the living room, and my iMac next door connects just fine.

Then, on Monday, I came down with what I think was food poisoning, and spent the entire day prostrate on the couch. During this time I realised that my MacBook will connect while in the living room, but only if it's at a ninety-degree angle to the router. My technical side found this extremely frustrating because, well, it's COMPLETELY FUCKING IRRATIONAL, and I resolved that, as soon as I had my strength back, I'd get to the bottom of the issue.

Well, the bottom of the issue seems to be that some combination of MacBook/Leopard just has inherent Airport problems that Apple is unwilling to address officially (Google it if you don't believe me — the New York school board recently put a moratorium on all new MacBook purchases until unidentified wireless issues are sorted out). Allow me to illustrate with a ping summary that probably only Vinny and Dustin will appreciate:

Average ping time, iMac to Airport (via wireless): 0.900 ms
Average ping time, MacBook to Airport (via ethernet): 0.600 ms
Average ping time, MacBook to Airport (via wireless): anywhere from 1.400 ms to 1300.000 ms

The weirdest thing is that it's not a problem with the MacBook's wireless per se, as it connects just fine to the network at Emerson. That means it's a proprietary problem affecting communication between flagship Apple product #1 (MacBook) and flagship Apple product #2 (Airport) — not really what you expect from the Justin Long guys. But then, they're beginning to get a bit feckless with their newfound popularity, so I suppose we should all get used to it. Sigh...

November 21, 2008

November 20, 2008


From BBC NEWS | Scotland and Times Online: Beavers arrive for spring release

Please now enjoy a series of amusing double entendres:
Iain Valentine, from the Royal Zoological Society, said the captures had been a "complicated process". . . .

"[One] complication was that beavers are primarily active at night."
Simon Jones, from the Scottish Beaver Trial, said: . . . "Beavers hold the potential to create new wetland habitats which in turn increases the appeal to other native species."
[He continued:]"We are excited to get the trial underway and really see what benefits beavers can bring to Scotland."
Simon Jones, the project manager of the Scottish Beaver Trial, said that evidence from mainland Europe showed that the animals had not damaged farming, forestry or fishing interests. “If you held a straw poll of European farmers they would look at you in bemusement if you held up beavers as some kind of economic threat,” he said.
The young salmon are not at risk from the beavers, which are herbivores, but once they were trapped in the shallows, they could fall prey to sawbilled birds such as mergansers cormorants . . . .
. . . and? . . .
. . . and shags

November 16, 2008

Okay, Okay, Okay!

From AOL News: Teen Wins Lawsuit Against KKK Members
[Plaintiff Jordan] Gruver, backed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, filed the personal injury lawsuit last year seeking up to $6 million in damages from the Imperial Klans of America and two of its leaders — Edwards and "Grant Titan" Jarred R. Hensley. . . .

The suit alleged that Edwards, Hensley, and the Imperial Klans of America as a whole incited its members to use violence against minorities.
Gruver also filed a related suit against bears, alleging that they shit in the woods.

Now, let me be clear, I fully support any and all attempts to put an end to the Klan in all its forms — I'm just a little flabbergasted by the content of this lawsuit:
[Gruver] was severely beaten by members of a Ku Klux Klan group because they mistakenly thought he was an illegal Latino immigrant . . .

The jury found that the Imperial Klans of America and its founder wrongfully targeted 16-year-old [Gruver], an American citizen of Panamanian and Native-American descent.
So what the complaint boils down to is not that the Klan targets minorities, but that they mistakenly targeted Gruver? WTF?!
According to testimony, three members of the Klan group confronted Gruver in July 2006 during a recruiting mission at the Meade County Fair in Brandenberg, Kentucky. They taunted him with ethnic slurs — inaccurate ones — spat on him and doused him with alcohol.
Whoa, whoa, whoa: inaccurate slurs?! You have gone too far this time, white supremacists!

The sad thing is, even though several of Gruver's assailants have also been through criminal proceedings, they weren't charged with hate crimes. Because they were hating on him inaccurately, I guess.

Okay, AOL News, round things off with something hilarious:
At an earlier court deposition, Edwards demonstrated his contempt for [the lawsuit] by tattooing a profane reference to it on his freshly shaved head.

November 14, 2008

November 11, 2008

Barack Fact Attack

From The Telegraph: Barack Obama: The 50 facts you might not know

I'm not quite sure why the Telegraph is reporting these now, but their fifty surreal Obama minutiae give Chuck Norris facts a run for their money.

For instance, perhaps all we starry-eyed liberals dismissed the whole Marxist accusation a little too quickly:
He wears $1,500 (£952) Hart Schaffner MARX suits (emphasis mine)
He's also left-handed, says the Telegraph, much like the German troublemaker — to say nothing about what left-handedness suggests about a person's (ahem) political leanings.

And the terrorist thing might not have been so far off, either; in college, Obama's nickname was "The O'Bomber", allegedly because of his skill on the basketball court. And speaking of basketball courts, did you know Obama plans to install one in the White House grounds? I'm pretty sure that's not what the founding fathers intended — as I'm sure you all know, Clinton is the only other president who has ever dribbled in the White House.

For those of you worried about Obama's manliness, rest assured:
He can bench press an impressive 200lbs
He visited Wokingham, Berkshire, in 1996 for the stag party of his half-sister's fiancé, but left when a stripper arrived
He applied to appear in a black pin-up calendar while at Harvard but was rejected by the all-female committee.
Those with Oriental superstitions might be alarmed at the preponderance of the number four in Obama's life:
He repaid his student loan only four years ago after signing his book deal

His house in Chicago has four fire places . . .

He owns four identical pairs of black size 11 shoes
He and Michelle made $4.2 million (£2.7 million) last year
I think, though, my favourite Obama fact is that he is a two-time Grammy winner — no WONDER he snatched the election!

November 10, 2008

It's the Way He Would Have Wanted It

From Netscape and BBC News: Monks Brawl at Jerusalem Holy Site

See, I'm glad the election is finally over, because it means that stories like this can finally start getting the attention they deserve again.
JERUSALEM (Nov. 9) -Israeli police rushed into one of Christianity's holiest churches Sunday and arrested two clergyman after an argument between monks erupted into a brawl next to the site of Jesus' tomb.

The clash between Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks broke out in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, revered as the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection.
Seriously, this is fantastic! Christian brothers pummelling each other at the tomb of Christianity's most vocal proponent of brotherly love! Hipsters can't even hope to be that ironic!

An Armenian clergyman blamed the conflagration on the Greeks:
"The Greeks have tried so many times to put their monk inside the tomb but they don't have the right to when the Armenians are celebrating the feast," he said.
The reporter replied, "Yes, the crow casts a shadow on the Sepulcher at dawn," and was then handed a locked briefcase by the Armenian.

The Greeks, on the other hand, maintain that they were protesting peacefully, and merely blocking access to the Edicule for the Armenians — who then started the brawl. Eventually, the Israeli riot police were forced to intervene, according to spokesperson (this just gets better and better) Micky Rosenfeld, who I imagine said:
"Hey, you guys: take it easy, already. Capiche? Fugghedaboudit!"
Best story ever.

November 09, 2008

Goodbye, Waistline!

Something I've lamented about North America ever since I first moved here is the impossibility of finding good, real fish and chips. By "real" fish and chips I mean: fish that is cooked in batter that stays slightly slimy on the inside (sounds delicious, I know), and chips that are hand-cut and softer than they are crunchy. Anyone who has ever eaten fish and chips in Britain will know exactly what I mean, and they'll also agree, I'm sure, that North American attempts are usually a big disappointment: the chips are just big french fries, and the fish may as well have come from the freezer section of the supermarket.

I've actually always found it surprising, especially given that I've tended to live in places in North America with significant populations of Anglo immigrants (however many generations removed), that the market for real fish and chips has not been able to sustain at least one or two good chip shops when the alternative is so poor. But there you go: I've never come across the real thing on this continent.


Two weeks ago, The Battery opened in Brighton Centre, just a hop, skip, and a jump from Boston's public transportation. It purports to be an "authentic Irish chipper" and, I can very happily say after going there for lunch today, it lives up to the title. They have fish suppers (with real fish and real chips!), battered sausages, a variety of British beverages (Lucozade, Ribena, Lilt, etc.), and even, if the tattle on Yelp is to be believed, deep-fried Mars bars — though I didn't see the latter on the menu. They even have curry sauce for your chips, a culinary invention so ludicrous that only true Brits and Irish folk can appreciate or even really understand it.

Now, of course, "real" fish and chips is kind of a ideological construct rather than an accurate reflection of reality, because there's a lot of regional variation even within Great Britain: Edinburgh fish and chips are different from Glasgow fish and chips are different from London fish and chips — and Irish fish and chips are a different creature altogether. But while my lunch at the Battery was not exactly what I retain fond memories of from home, it is without a doubt the closest thing I've had to Edinburgh fish and chips in the years that I've been searching for them on this side of the Atlantic. And it was freakin' delicious.

So I encourage all my readers, in the interest of developing the market enough to sustain this fantastic new addition to Boston dining, to make their way to Brighton Centre and dig in. Just don't forget your heart medication.


In other news, CWG is now the first hit when you Google "Conversations With Greatness"! This is quite a coup after years of languishing in second place behind some half-baked motivational radio show, which has now, it seems, gone under. So my condolences to them, but hurrah for me!

This blog, on the other hand, continues to attract such august search terms as "sodomy in concert" and "artificial vagina" — but I think that's par for the course.

November 07, 2008

November 05, 2008

Barack The Vote

So, there we have it: Obama wins. As many of you know, I went into last night feeling hopefully pessimistic about his chances (kind of like cautiously optimistic, but less so), and I'm glad to have been pleasantly surprised by the results.

Not as pleased, mind you, as the town of Obama, Japan, who went a little wild. ("Obama" means "little beach" in Japanese, which is actually kind of ironic, because when Obama the man is getting kinky in the bedroom he likes to be called a little beach.)

Let's be clear, though. I thought the Obama/Biden ticket was a lot better than the McCain/Palin ticket, but that was mostly down to the Palin part. In fact, I think McCain would have made just as good a president as Obama (notwithstanding my disagreement with his position on a few key issues) — and before you pounce on me for being some sort of closet conservative, please remember that it was only five or six years ago that even King of the Liberals Jon Stewart was begging McCain to run as a Democrat. He's not a bad guy, even if he ran a bad campaign, and he's repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to doing what he thinks is best for the country. That's a pretty valuable presidential quality, if you ask me.

Now, in a broader context, Obama was probably the better choice in this particular election for his international cachet, if nothing else. The reaction around the world to Obama's win can best be described, I think, as a giant sigh of relief, and these days that's not insignificant. (The only exception to the positive international reaction has been in Britain, where people have been setting fires up and down the country all day, I can only assume in protest.)

And there's also, of course, the symbolic value of finally having an African-American in the Oval Office, which is also an important victory. The BBC certainly thinks so, even if their choice of accompanying advert was a little unfortunate:

In the end, then, yeah, I'm glad Obama clinched it. But it will not have escaped my dedicated readers that I've always been a little skeptical of him, and I am by no means relinquishing that skepticism, at least not yet. He still seems to me more style than substance, more idealistic than pragmatic, and overall lacking — yes, I'll say it — in experience, and these are all things that worry me. I'd still much rather it was Hillary going to Washington in January.

I'm willing to give the O-man a chance, though — I just think we should all reserve a little bit of our elation and jubilance until we see how well he actually does the job.

November 04, 2008

Election Fever

With the polls just now closing in the first east coast states, Fox News is grabbing the coverage bull by the horns:

'Three Stooges' Headed To Big Screen
Larry, Moe and Curly have gotten the greenlight from MGM Studios, and the Farrelly Brothers, the comedy team behind "There's Something About Mary" and "Dumb and Dumber," are now casting their slapstick dream.
Somehow, I don't think this was what Wolf Blitzer had in mind when he told me I should have my laptop out as I watched his show tonight.

So far, CNN has told me that Obama has had trouble capturing the white evangelical vote, and that Republicans seem to have favoured McCain. I guess I may have to rethink my predictions.

Incidentally, my title tonight is "Election Fever" because I seem to be coming down with the flu. But that's not going to stop me going to bar later on to watch the results because, frankly, whatever happens I think I might need a drink.

So, I'm off to bite my nails, stay hypnotised by Anderson Cooper's silvery hair, and await the inevitable hangover of democracy.