The Exile Files

Raging Against the Outrageous. Laughter and Insanity Abound.

Archive for May, 2007

Grey Day for a White Wedding

Posted by Exile on May 28, 2007

An old friend got married at the weekend. He’s been there before, so has she. So have I for that matter. I’m on “wife” number three and had a couple of long stays in there too so I daresay I have had more relationships than marriages.

These two look as if they might make it. She laughs a lot, is a bright woman, great sense of humour and not afraid of getting cracking on what will be their new home. He is the go-getter type that will probably be able to sort out the most of the house repair jobs. Put his kids and her kids in the mix and you have one big family.

Both come from big families. He has three brothers and a sister. Parents are dead. She has at least two sisters and a couple of brothers. Parents still alive and well. I get the impression that her family sticks together. Perhaps too much so and I hope my buddy will be able to cope with the constant “I just popped in to say hello…”. We’ll see.

Anyhow, they made a pretty picture in the half dark church. The weather was not encouraging and with a really dark sky at midday, they gave each other the promise of eternal partnership, till death do them part, that I have heard so many times before. I think the wedding vows should be changed. Death is rarely the reason for the end of any relationship these days. It’s money, or the kids, or the carreer or the promise of something better than we have now that does it. I think the vows should be amended to “until we grow tired of each other and agree to part, unless death steps in first”. Sorry if that sounds awful, but experience speaks volumes. My grandmother used to say “Promises are like pie-crusts. Easily made, easily broken.” Wise woman.

Not that I am unhappy. I married the most fantastic woman I ever met. It took me a long time to find her, and a lot of heartache, but we are happy together and we laugh a lot, mostly at me. I hope these two do the same. I mean laugh. With each other. Someone asked my wife once, “Why do you love him?” I overheard the reply. “He makes me laugh”.

It rained on our wedding day. Poured it down on us. All day. We laughed about that too.

I wish these two well. I hope they have finally found the one they have been looking for. Only time will tell. But if I see ’em laughing at the world together, if I see them still smiling at lifes trials and tribulations in a years time, then I’ll be a bit more confident.

Until then, good luck and fair weather to them. I hope this is a keeper.

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Back to Nature Day.

Posted by Exile on May 20, 2007

A brilliant sunshiny Sunday again. After the rain and grey skies of the past few days it makes a pleasant change. I went out onto the terrace at the front of our living room and surveyed the planked deck that stretches out over the eastern side of our garden. My good lady wife, in her infinite wisdom has decided to plant clematis along the wall which seperates us from the neighbours. The wall isn’t long, about ten feet, and then the hedge takes over. The area it encloses between the house and the rest of the garden provides us with a sun trap to be reckoned with. Unfortunately the small amount of earth in front of the wall isn’t really earth at all. It’s a pile of clay. The house is built on clay.

I explained to my darling wife that plants don’t do very well in clay. Roots can’t penetrate it and water doesn’t drain through it very well. The clematis is doomed.  I know this, not because I am a gardener, but my father was. A great gardener. Just show him a patch of earth and he would be digging it up and planting stuff before you could say “horticulture”. As a kid, I was occasionally drafted to helping out in the garden. Which was huge. And when the garden round the house that I grew up in got to be too small for my father’s ambitions, he rented a patch of ground nearby and dug that up and planted all kinds of vegetables. Actually, he managed to feed a whole family of seven from his garden. My mother never had to buy vegetables. All year. There was always fresh home grown stuff to be had.

Now back to the clematis. My wife was upset at the thought of these plants not thriving. You have to plant them in something more earthy than clay, I told her. Replace the clay with loam, or mulch or something like that. “Do we have that?”, she asked. Thinking hard, I answered positively. “Yes, behind the shed is an old composter. There has to be compost in it now. I haven’t visited it in the past five years.” I can’t actually get to it now, the hedge is so overgrown with ivy and brambles. The birds love it.  “Then get it”,  she said,  leaving me to ponder the amount of activity and sweat required to get to the old composter.

So, armed to the teeth with a hand operated hedge clipper and gardening shears I went to work. It took me about fifteen minutes of hacking and swearing to get through the brambles and ivy and find the composter. It was half full of the finest composted earth one could imagine. Rich smelling earth, worms in the hundreds and a lovely black colour that all virgin earth has.

So, to work. First thing to do, remove the clay deposit from the terrace. Heavy stuff is clay. Sticky and sludgy and not really easily moved. I toiled at it for all I was worth and finally I had a trench dug along the wall. Removing the clay from the scene in a wheelbarrow, I was now prepared for the transfer of soil from the composter to the trench.

My wheelbarrow can’t go behind the shed to the composter. There isn’t room. So I had to use a box to move the soil from the composter to the terrace and then fill the trench as best I could. This took countless trips backward and forward, and compost actually is heavy.  After a solid hours work in the hot sunshine I was done in. But I was finished too, so all had not been in vain. Sweating and sunburned, I annonced to the good lady that she could plant her clematis now.

Not possessing a trowel, she made me dig suitable holes for the young plants with my bare hands. Easy really, in the new soil. Then we planted the four little plants in the respective holes and watered them in with rainwater from the barrel beside the shed. Having done the best we could, it is now up to nature to let them grow or wither. As I said, I am no gardener.

All I have left to do now, is mow the lawn. Again. Which will probably be childsplay compared to the amount of work necessary to plant four clematis! Still, the wife is happy and looking forward to seeing the little plants stretch up the wall. I hope they will be successful. I’m sort of attached to them now.

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What the Hell was That?

Posted by Exile on May 16, 2007

You must have asked yourself that question. Everybody has. Whenever something makes us jump, or takes us by complete surprise, it’s probably the first thing that goes through our heads. I had one of those experiences today.

Sitting at the computer, idling the day away, I decided to play one of the few computer games I have laying about in the drawer. Open the CD thingy, throw in the disc, close and play. Well, that’s what ‘s supposed to happen.

The machine started OK, and it began to rev up like it normally does. Then it did something extremely unusual. It made this horrible crunch-bang noise like a pistol shot when it’s been fired a few feet from your head. “What the Hell…?”

Fearing the death of my beloved computer I cancelled all the running programmes and opened the CD tray. Bits of glass came tumbling out. The once perfect CD disc had been reduced to powder!

Consoling myself with the fact that the computer was still running, I decided to shut it down and open the casing to investigate. Only one thing for it, remove the CD thingy and see if I couldn’t open it. Tools at the ready, I nervously began unscrewing the various bits that need unscrewing to get the CD thingy out of the frame. Leads and cables, screws and a good deal of dust all followed smartly out of the casing. You will have noticed by now that I am technically minded. I know the right names for all the bits of a computer.

Having freed the CD thingy from the frame thingy, I grabbed at a smaller screwdriver and proceeded to open the little grey box that I now had out on my desk. Not easy. The screws that hold the thing together are really tiny. And my hands are like shovels. Still, after a few moments of fiddling about, the back plate finally came free and shards of glass tumbled out of the circuitry. I shook the thing several times and stopped only when the last pieces fell out and the rattling stopped.

Convinced that all was now well, I reassembled the whole pile of parts and finally it looked kind of OK. So, having done my best, I returned the CD thingy to the frame thingy and screwed it all back in place. Reconnecting all the leads as I thought they should be, I closed the casing again and delicately started my beloved computer up once more.

It still worked. Jubilation. Logged on and tried everything. No problems. And so we come to the exciting bit. Finding a CD that I don’t have any great affection for, I gingerly loaded it into the machine. The drawer closed and things began to rotate. I waited with baited breath….

Music! It is alive. It works.

Who said computers were hard to repair? I’m rather pleased with myself right now.

Time for a celebratory scotch I think. And some music. On my computer.

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I’ve Had a Busy Week..

Posted by Exile on May 10, 2007

.. and it’s not over yet. I’ll have to work the weekend too. To make matters worse, the grass is growing back with a vengance so I’m going to have to go through that awful charade again.

I do have a couple of hours to call my own now, but the long-haired one is determined to see the heats of the bloody Eurovision Song Contest, which is way above my level of tolerance, so I’m sitting here at the computer instead. Oh well. At least I can catch up on all my e-mail and all the other stuff I haven’t been able to do much with over the past six or seven days.

To my suprise, I have won about fifteen different e-mail lotteries over the last week. I am now a multi-multi-millionaire. A couple of million euros, several million dollars and a heap of pounds sterling. I didn’t do anything to earn this, it’s just that I was lucky enough to have my e-mail drawn as the winning adress. Damn, I’m lucky! All I have to do is give my name, address, telephone number, social security number, bank account number and a whole lot of other private information and the cash is mine. I’d better get on with it then, because they all say I have to respond within a very short time frame. Why can’t they just send me the cheque? Strange how all these huge muti-million international concerns all seem to have e-mail adresses at yahoo.com. One would have thought that they were at concern.org or concern.com or at least had their own domain somewhere. Oh well, never mind. I’m sure it’s all above board and perfectly legitimate.

And there’s two nice chaps here from somewhere in Africa that are asking me for help in moving a few more million dollars that their now dead fathers had managed to squirrel away to forgotten bank accounts in Zaire and Namibia. They’re offering me 40% of the total just to help them with my bank account number and so on, so that they can transfer the money to me. I can’t believe my luck. This is truly wonderful. I must reply at once.

Finally, I can retire and hire someone else to do all the work.

(Honey, book the hotel you like the best. We’re off to Barbados for the year. Yes, of course we can afford it. Look at how much money we won.)

This really all sounds almost too good to be true!

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Straight from the Horse’s Ass

Posted by Exile on May 3, 2007

Subject: Interesting Engineering Story.

The U.S. standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet 8.5 inches. That is an exceedingly odd number.

Why was that gauge used?
Because that’s the way they built them in England, and the U.S. railroads were built by English expatriates. Or the Irish. Either way, the measurements came from England.

Why did the English build them that way?
Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.

Why did “they” use that gauge?
Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

So why did the wagons have that particular odd spacing?
Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that was the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads?
The first long distance roads in Europe (and England) were built by Imperial Rome for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads, which everyone had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels, were first formed by Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were made for (or by) Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

The U.S. standard railroad gauge of 4 feet 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Specifications and bureaucracies live forever. So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse’s ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back end of two war horses.

Thus we have the answer to the original question.

Now for the twist to the story. When we see a space shuttle sitting on its launching pad, there are two booster rockets attached to the side of the main fuel tank. These are solid fuel rocket boosters, or SRB’s. The SRB’s are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRB’s might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRB’s had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track is about as wide as two horses’ rumps. So, a major design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass!

Don’t you just love the logic?

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Something is Very Wrong with WordPress.

Posted by Exile on May 2, 2007

For some strange reason, WordPress now tells me that this blog doesn’t exist. How can that be? I am blogging on it now. I have a profile. I am on the blog. I can administer the site.

What’s up with these people?

Can’t help but wonder….

So this is a test. Just to see if it appears on the blog. Please disregard this if it does!

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The Service Counter.

Posted by Exile on May 1, 2007

I had the great misfortune to have to pay a visit to the local Post Office today. It is nothing more than a pre-fabricated type building mounted on pallets, but it is all that we have in this suburb of Copenhagen. We had a huge red brick Post Office once but I daresay that net-banking killed it. That and e-mail.

Our Post Office is not big. Staff of two. One male, one female. Niether one is too bright. The State decrees, equality in the workplace.  If one is, shall we say, slow, then so is the other. The thing is, that on entering the P.O. you have to go to a little machine and press a button. The button is clearly labelled, “Service Counter”. The little machine then squirts out a ticket with a number on it. Above the service counter is a small digital display.  When the number on the display matches your ticket, it’s your turn to use the service counter.

How very quaint. Organised. Civilised, you may say. No cheating or jumping the queue. One has been given ones place. All are equal in the eyes of the machine.

My ticket number was 567. The display was showing 534. That puts me at number 33 in the damn queue. 33. Yep, 32 people in front of me. And within five minutes there were 20 behind me.

I am a fairly busy guy. I have things to do. Places to be. Errands to run. This is done in what I, and other normal people, call their “free time”. You know, when they aren’t at work, or minding the kids or whatever.

Let’s do a bit of math here. Let us assume that the amount of  time one neeeds at the service counter is two minutes, on the average. More, if you have a lot of those bloody annoying giro bill things to pay and parcels to send and a thousand and one stupid questions for the not so bright P.O. person, who doesn’t know the answer and can’t help you anyway.  Less, if you really are switched on and only need a minimum of help. Two minutes is adequate. Multiply by 32 and you will see, that I had to stand and wait for 1 hour and four minutes to pay one lousy bloody bill with my credit card.

Which took me 30 seconds.

That just ain’t fair. I had to give up over one hour of my free time to use 30 seconds of the P.O. persons time. Actually, it was one hour and ten minutes. One of the P.O. persons went for coffee in the middle of everything.

I demand a recount! They should have to pay me for all that free time I wasted standing in line. Life is too short for this crap. I will never get that hour back. It is gone forever. Wasted at the bloody Post Office.

This is SERVICE?

I think I should write to the Postmaster General. By e-mail!

Thank the good Lord for my Netbank connection.

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