A day of melancholy
Posted Mar 9, 2016
Not just because George Martin popped his clogs yesterday, but also because, for the first time in my adult life, I've bought a pair of trousers where the waist size exceeds the inside leg
Oh, it's that time of the year
Posted Feb 29, 2016
The time of the year when the oak tree outside Castle Gosho, the oak tree that TFSIGTD (that squirrel is going to die) lives in, the oak tree that makes the pollen that makes me sneeze, drops its leaves all over my balcony and everything on it.
That means I'm going to have to get cracking with repotting my cacti soon. I remember learning when I first started collecting them, all those years ago (), that the best time to do it is just before growing season gets getting underway after their winter dormancy (not that we've had much of a winter this year), and in the UK that would mean around March/April time. Here, in Texas, it almost always catches me out because it's so much earlier ("Final Freeze... Gardeners, are you ready for the growing season? Looking at the past 65 years of weather records, the average final freeze takes place on February 23rd in metro Austin, which was Tuesday. At the Airport, those records show an average final freeze of March 4th. The latest ever? April 9th (1914) in the metro and April 17th (1999) at the Airport"), and one of my cacti already has several flower buds on it (pictures to follow).
A tip to the garden centre is on the cards.
What a poxy day
Posted Feb 24, 2016
Firstly, it's another no-water day. The first of the two scheduled for this week and the third of those scheduled for this fortnight. After this, hopefully there won't be any more. For a while.
Around 1pm my interwebs went out. Again. That's the fourth or fifth time in the past month, usually sometime in the afternoon. Who knows how many other times it's gone out while I've been at work. On a couple of occasions I've called the ISP, worked my way through the phone menu to get to tech support, and been given an automated message saying (to the effect of) we know there's an outage in your area and our support staff can't tell you anything about it so don't waste their time by whining about it.
It came back on about three hours later, but during that time my electricity went off for about five minutes as well!
Honestly, I don't think there was anything else that could have failed at that point. There wasn't anything else left to fail!
So around 3.30pm I decided to sit down with some Peter O'Toole and get drunk. I could have gone with Lawrence of Arabia or The Ruling Class. Given that Lawrence is nearly four hours long while The Ruling Class is a mere two hours, I went with the latter.
What a bloody good film that is. Peter O'Toole at his best, but Alastair Sim and Arthur Lowe steal the show. Hard to believe in a film with O'Toole, but they manage it.
But despite drinking some high-octane beers (and a few others that are less potent) I have yet to get more than slightly elevated.
Now I'm watching a film I haven't seen for many a year - That Sinking Feeling http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080012/
Despite being made in 1979, two or three years before the advent of Channel 4 it bears all the hallmarks of those early Channel 4 and Film on 4 years. Sadly though, this is a dubbed version, with Scottish accents somewhat modified from the original to make them easier to understand.
Like Rab C Nesbitt ever needed that.
And I'm still not drunk. Time to get onto the hard stuff
That doesn't sound so bad, actually
Posted Feb 18, 2016
As long as you don't take it to the extreme, like he has, and eat *nothing* but spuds.
I like spuds. I like them a lot. Boiled, mashed, fried, roast, baked, on top of a shepherds pie. And according to that article you wouldn't have to eat much else to get your full quota of daily vitamins, minerals, protein etc. A few eggs here, a bit of cheese there, some fruit, the odd , and an occasional or Not to mention wholewheat flour for making tattie scones with. And maybe you could work some oats in somewhere.
But if you were to add other things to the diet, would you still end up losing weight as he has because of 'sensory-specific satiety', I wonder. The Gosho waistline could stand to lose an inch or two
As much as I've come to enjoy cooking in recent years, there are times (like this week for instance) where I wish I didn't have to but don't want to go out to eat. Doing nothing more than boiling up some spuds and mashing them for dinner seems quite appealing sometimes.
Let me tell you about my weekend
Posted Feb 16, 2016
That's the generally accepted idea of the weekend - Saturday and Sunday - rather than *my* weekend, which is just starting. And there's no too-long-didn't-read version of this - you either read it or you don't, although the first bit (Saturday morning) is well worth it.
I picked up my bus at the usual time, and as usual, the first thing that happened was that we pulled in at the next stop along the road, where there was no-one getting on or off, and waited. And waited. And waited, for nearly four minutes, because the people who write the Cap Metro schedules seem to be on a completely different timescale to the rest of humanity, and along each route there are timepoints where the bus is supposed to wait if it's running early, until the time it's scheduled to be there. This stop isn't a timepoint but it's a safer place to do than the actual timepoint, one stop further along.
So we get going again. Four stops later we reach another timepoint, where we have to wait for about three minutes because that's how long the CM schedule writers think it takes for a bus to travel less than a mile at 7.30am on a Saturday with no traffic around, so we're ahead of schedule again. So, by the time we get going again I've been on the bus for nine minutes, and seven of those have been spent going nowhere, for no good reason. And it was at this stop that the fun really started because a woman with what looked like a plastic kitchen bin got on. The bin had an extendible handle and wheels, rather like those suitcases you people who fly a lot putting in the overhead lockers on aeroplanes. It looked like she was on her way to the laundrette. She sat on one of the two longitudinal seats at the front of the bus.
At the next stop she had to move because there was a wheelchair user getting on, and those longitudinal seats are the ones that are lifted to make space for wheelchairs. She sits in front of me and puts her bin down by the middle (exit) doors of the bus. Off we go again. Two stops later an old lady with a walker (like a Zimmer frame with wheels) gets on. She gets on this bus most Saturdays but she seems to have a problem telling the time, because on more weeks than not we have to wait for her as she does her best to run for the bus. And she can't run. She sits down opposite the wheelchair.
At the next stop the wheelchair gets off. Walker lady has to move towards the back of the bus to make room for the wheelchair to manoeuvre out of his space and down the ramp, but as soon as the driver has put the seat back down she takes it, with the walker in front of her. As this is the seat closest to the front of the bus she's blocked off about half the aisle.
This is the stop where I frequently (at least twice a week) see a woman with a square shopping trolley (a bit like a Sholley http://www.procterhealthcare.co.uk/image/cache/data/product-images/Mobility/Shopping%20Trolley/Sholley%20Deluxe%20Chocolate%20Brown-500x500.jpg) get on. I don't know exactly what the deal is, but it also looks like she's off to the laundrette, although what's in her (mesh-sided) trolley often looks to be heavy blankets and bedding. On this occasion there's also a homeless bloke who also has one of these.
Can either of them get past the walker lady? Is she budging a millimetre? No and no, and in that order. So we have this farce of watching them both trying to get their trolleys past her walker for several minutes. Eventually walker lady capitulates and moves her walker aside. Blanket trolley lady sits where she usually does - in the seat opposite walker lady, meaning the whole front of the bus is now blocked. Homeless trolley man sits further towards the back, but he places his trolley in the back doors, next to bin lady's, er, bin. So now the exit doors are blocked too. The driver doesn't like this and tells them both to move their respective item, so homeless man puts his trolley in front of himself and bin lady puts hers on her lap. Not an easy feat.
We're not running any later than would otherwise have been, by the way, because this stop is also a timepoint and we never wait less than four minutes here.
At the next stop walker lady gets off. Yes, it would have been far quicker for her, even given the fact that she's infirm, to get off at the last stop and walk it.
A few stops later, homeless trolley man gets off. The driver almost goes past the stop, like she's either forgotten there's a stop there or she forgot that someone had rung the bell. This is not an infrequent occurrence on Austin buses.
The next stop is mine. I ring the bell, we stop, the driver opens the front doors to let someone on... and I'm standing there like a spare prick at a wedding with a closed exit door in front of me. I have to yell "Back door" down the length of the bus to get her attention. This also not an infrequent occurrence on Austin buses.
Apart from the usual number of where-did-I-put-my-pass-last-time-I-used-it pocket-fumbling numpties, the second half of my journey to work went relatively smoothly, as did my work day.
Now it's time to go home. I finish my shift, officially, at 6.30pm on Saturdays and there's a (300) bus at 6.50. That works quite well because it gives me time to get changed and put my work clothes in my bag, then take a leisurely walk to the bus stop, without having to rush. It also gives me a 20-minute wait for my transfer, which is a bit longer than I prefer, but I get nervous if the time between my two buses is less than 15 minutes, given that the first of my two buses is pretty much the most unreliable one on the whole damn network. And so it proved to be on Saturday, once again.
I checked the Cap Metro website to find out when the next departure was - 25 minutes. That means it's running ten minutes late. Okay, I don't mind that too much because it means I'll only have a ten-minute wait for my transfer. Ten minutes later, when I should be thinking about heading out of the door (it takes me about five minutes to get to the stop), next departure is telling me 15 minutes. Meaning that now it's running 15 minutes late (for a bus that's scheduled every 20 minutes). Now I'm getting nervous because the second bus of my journey home only runs every half an hour.
At one point, I swear I saw the next departure time actually increase... meaning, presumably, the bus was going backwards!
I walk to the bus stop with next departure saying ten minutes. It's getting very tight now. I wait, and I wait, and I wait. The bus eventually shows up exactly 20 minutes late. I'm fully expecting to see two arrive together, but there's no sign of the bus that's actually scheduled for this time (more on that later).
We get going. The driver seems to be making no attempt to make up for being late. This is also not unusual on Austin buses. This bus passes the Cap Metro depot. This is often where there's a driver changeover. There's a driver changeover. Now we're 25 minutes behind schedule. So yes, instead of having a 20-minute wait for my transfer, I missed it by five and had to wait 25 for the next one. I'm going to get home at 8.30pm instead of 8.00. After leaving home at 7.30 that morning.
Twenty minutes into my wait, at the appropriately scheduled time, the next 300 comes along, except it's not stopping. It says 'DROP OFF ONLY' on the front. a minute or two later another one comes along. *This* one is the bus that should be there at that time. In other words, two 300s - my one and the one that wasn't stopping - are both running 20 minutes late.
Perhaps Sunday will be better.
It so happens that Sunday was the day of the Austin Marathon. It mostly happens in south and central Austin. I live in south Austin. My first bus was on detour. Bearing in mind that, since they tweaked the Sunday morning schedules last month, I now have only a two-minute wait for my transfer, and having looked at the detoured route for my first bus, I knew I was going to miss it and be half an hour late for work. Okay, I guess I can live with that.
I checked the next departure for my first bus - running on time. Oh good. Picked up mp3 player, switched it on, put the earbuds in; nothing's coming out of the one on the right side. I remember that when I got home the previous night I caught the lead as I was taking off my backpack and pulled that one out of my ear. It must have also pulled the wire out of the bud itself. Bugger, now I'm going to have to buy *another* pair.
Went outside, sat down at the bus stop and waited. And waited. About five minutes after it was due I checked next departure again - 38 minutes. Wait, what? Well, where the hell was my bus? It never arrived. Well, I guess I'd better go back in and wait for the next one. Now I guess I'll be an hour late for work.
I went back out to the bus stop. And waited. And waited. Five minutes after the bus was due I checked next departure again - 35 minutes.
Right. Time for some action. It's five to eight. I should already be clocked in by now and starting work. If I walk two stops further south I can catch a rapid bus downtown, which I happen to know leaves at three minutes and thirty three minutes past the hour, and then catch one of two other buses that will get me to work. I make it just in time. I have to pay a little extra because my monthly pass doesn't work on these buses.
We get going. At one of the stops I see someone who usually gets on my Sunday bus, or the one after it, waiting there, obviously having the same difficulties as me.
A bit further on, after the point where my usual bus turns off and heads east, I get my phone out. It's still checking the departure times for my original stop. It says DUE.
No. No no no no. That's not 35 minutes. That's only 15 minutes. Do you mean to say that I could have waited there and caught it? Instead of going on this now convoluted and difficult journey (because this rapid bus is also on detour because of the marathon, or it will be once we get downtown)? And does that mean that my original bus, the one I tried to catch at 7.05am, an hour ago, might also have arrived 15 minutes late, even though next departure said 38 minutes?
I'm more than a little bothered now.
It turns out that rapid bus is on more than just a downtown detour - the marathon has pretty much cut central and south Austin in half, and the bus is going to be travelling even further south than where I just caught it in order to get to the other side of the race and continue on its route. The driver lets me off and I start walking to a bus stop I think is still going to be open, to catch a second bus which on a normal Sunday would be due at 8.38.
Except *I'm* also on the wrong side of the race. And the river.
I walk across the same bridge as the race and manage to find a spot where I can run across the road, in front of the runners. And do you think I care by now if I 'accidentally' get in their way?
It's a bloody long walk from where the rapid driver let me off to this stop where I'm heading. It's outside of the downtown cordoned-off area. I get there and look around to see if there's anything taped to it in the way of a message saying the stop is closed. There isn't. I check next departure - six minutes. Okay, I'm taking that with a pinch of salt because this bus is also on a massive detour thanks to the marathon and is also no doubt running late.
As far as I can make out, this should be the first stop on the buses normal route that comes after the detour because the next side street to the east is one-way, and in the wrong direction for it to come out of, so it must be coming from the west, which is west of where I am.
I wait. And I wait. No bus. Next departure says 20 minutes. I just happen to look to my right and see a bus (not my one) coming out of the street to the east that I thought was one-way. Oh hell, is this bus stop not live? Dammit. Right. I'm going to start walking to the next stop which I know for sure will be open.
I couldn't have been walking more than 30 seconds when my bus goes flying past.
At that point I was angrier than I think I've been in my entire life. I was actually shaking with rage. And very nearly crying with rage. I wanted to break something, I wanted to hurt someone. Especially I wanted to hurt someone who had anything to do with the marathon.
I walk to the next stop, I check next departure - 25 minutes. By now I'm pretty certain it's not going be 25 minutes. By now I've come to the conclusion that the Cap Metro app has had a nervous breakdown and is utterly unable to cope with the disruption. And I was right. The next bus came along after about ten minutes. Finally, I'm on my way to work. It's now more than two hours after I left home on what would normally be a 50-minute journey. I get to work and I clock in almost two hours late after an almost three-hour journey from hell.
This means I have to work two hours later because I'm the only one there on a Sunday and I have a full ten-hour shift of work to do. Thankfully it's also a relatively easy ten hour's worth of work, and since I'm there on my own it's quiet and peaceful. Exactly what I need.
Now it's time to go home. After the experiences of yesterday and today I'm on the cusp of a panic attack as I check next departure for the 300 I'm about to try and catch home. It's on time! A good thing because there's barely a 15-minute gap between this bus and my transfer, and this being Sunday night I'd have to wait 45 minutes if I missed that one. Finally, some good fortune. After all the tribulations of the weekend it really couldn't get any worse. Could it.
It very nearly did. This particular stop is on the downstream side of a set of traffic lights. The bus invariably gets held up at these lights so it's usually travelling pretty slowly as it approaches this stop. This stop is also really badly lit. On this occasion the bus came to the lights just as they turned green so it was motoring a bit as it approached me, in plain view of the driver. And it kept motoring. He ain't stopping, is he. I had to practically jump out in front of the damn bus before he noticed me. He slams on the breaks and stops two bus lengths past the stop. I get on. "Sorry about that" he says, "I always forget there's a stop there".
Cap Metro drivers who don't know where the stops are. This is also not uncommon on Austin buses.
I catch my transfer in good time. We're on the home (no pun intended) stretch now, what could possibly go wrong? Well, two stops before my stop the driver decides to pull in between stops and visit a 7-11 for five minutes.
Eventually I get home. Two hours later than I usually do, but on time for this journey. What I would normally have done at this point, had I not been two hours late, was to luxuriate in a large or perhaps a , while my dinner was warming up, because Sunday is my Friday. What I would normally have done at this point, being two hours late, was to get absolutely and obliviously while my dinner was warming up to try and erase the memory of the past two days. But I couldn't, because one of my co-workers had asked me on Friday if I could work for her on Monday as her mother's in town from Michigan, and I said yes, obviously having no idea what a 'mare of a weekend I was about to have. So instead of having Monday off, I had to be up at 5.30 again (and I woke up at 4.30am anyway).
Not much fancying the idea of eating after 9pm I decided to go to the restaurant across the road, order a takeaway burger and have a pint while I'm waiting. Which means that, including the extra bus fare I had to pay on the rapid bus, Sunday's shenanigans cost me almost $25. I'm thinking of hiring a lawyer to get it back.
And just to put the absolute final and complete lid on it all: while I was in bed on Saturday night I started sensing that scratchy feeling at the back of your palate that tells you a cold is on its way.
Thankfully it seems to have turned out to be only a 48-hour virus.
Actually, that turned out not to be the final lid because, as you may have already read elsewhere, the water is being shut off here at Castle Gosho both today and on Thursday - two of my three days off this week.
I give up. And if you think I'm going to go back and proofread this...