Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

June 2007

TravelThursday, June 28th, 2007, (3:13 pm)

So I am in America and once again I am luggageless, and pretty soon I’ll be homeless too! After canceling my Boston connection from New York yesterday, Continental Airlines then put me on stand-by for later flights, but due to storms many of them were cancelled. In the end though I was lucky enough to get to Boston while many people were left stranded and sleeping in the terminal at Newark.

Once in Boston I didn’t bother waiting to see if my luggage was on the carousel. Instead I went straight to the lost-luggage office and made a report, then upon returning to the carousel I learned what I knew would be the case, my luggage was “delayed.” With my hand luggage and a complimentary bag of toiletries I left the airport.

The airline tell me that the luggage will be delivered to my friend Anne’s house this afternoon, hopefully in time for me to change and have a shave in time for the wedding dinner after the wedding rehearsal. Otherwise I’ll be going to that looking like an escaped convict.

However, what looks set to make life that much more interesting is that I appear to be marooned in Houston when I arrive there on Monday. I was under the impression that I was staying at Shae’s for a couple of so nights from the 2nd, but I just spoke to Shae and he’s in Virginia and won’t be back in Houston until the 4th! So not only do I look homeless at the moment, I might very well soon actually be homeless! I’m thinking of getting a shopping cart when I arrive in Houston and making that the ‘hobo’ part of my trip. All I have to do is develop a tweak and perfect my paranoid mumblings.

Lost luggage found in Houston dumpter
Can I have my luggage now please

Found on the web and GeneralWednesday, June 27th, 2007, (7:00 am)

In just a few hours I will be on a plane flying across the Atlantic ocean to Boston, Massachusetts, some 3,991 miles away according to Google maps.

As ever I’ll feel a pang of guilt as I step aboard the plane that will dump a huge amount of carbon right into the upper atmosphere. But really, if you want to get to the United States from the UK how else would you practically do that? You could take a boat I suppose, but not only would that be insanely expensive and enormously time consuming, it might very well make little difference in pollution terms.

However, those clever people at Google have come up with another suggestion. Using Google maps I requested directions from my home here in England, to my first destination within the US. Microseconds later the familiar Google maps screen appeared complete with a line from point A to point B. The map appears to take me first to france and Google calculates that the entire 3991 mile journey will make me “about 29 days and 10 hours.”

So how come the Google has sent me first to france? And how come the journey which really shouldn’t take more than about 12 hours in total is going to take me nearly a month? For the answer to that question scroll down the Google directions (below) paying particular attention to point number 31.

Google maps

GeneralTuesday, June 26th, 2007, (4:06 pm)

Mobile phones are as much of a curse as they are a blessing. They’re a modern drug that millions of us are addicted to, and if asked whether we could live without our mobile phones, just like any addict we would tell you in all sincerity that we could give it up in a heartbeat if we wanted to. But like other drugs, there is a consequence of widespread mobile phone use that society is finding more and more annoying… the ringtone.

The general rule of thumb that I have come to notice is that someone with an obnoxiously loud and intrusive ringtone is likely to pay little attention to their social surroundings when they get a call. They will take all calls then proceed to talk loudly and completely uninhibited broadcasting details about who is doing what with whom to anyone within earshot.

Using a mobile phone in a confined public space is fast becoming as frowned upon as smoking which at one time was an entirely acceptable habit to indulge in public. People would light up on planes, trains, buses, and subways, puffing away to their heart’s content while those around them who had chosen not to take up the habit breathed in their fumes. The smoke that drifted through the shared air of public spaces years ago has today been replaced by the one-dimensional chatter of mobile phone conversations, and while the ‘he said, she said’ exchange might not shorten your life or lace your clothes with an unpleasant odor, too many it is no less annoying.

In an effort to be as unintrusive as possible I went in search of a simple ringtone for my mobile phone as those that came with the phone all sounded like some cheesy breakfast TV theme tune. I wanted a simple ‘standard’ ring. I didn’t feel the need to have the latest chart-topper crackle over my phone’s little speaker, and anything like the annoying (and “so last year”) ‘crazy frog’ ringtone would simply never cross my mind. It sounds simple enough, but after wading through a number of heavily ad-laden websites that flashed and flickered at me like cheap disco lights at someone’s fourth time around wedding party, I decided to create something myself from my iTunes library.

In the end, I looped the beginning of a track called ‘Cutup piano and xylophone’ by Fridge. The resulting ringtone is, in my opinion, neither obnoxious nor intrusive. I do have a couple of other ringtones for specific people, one is the ringtone from the TV show 24, and the other is the comical (and yes, obnoxious) ringtone that Orlando Bloom’s character had in the movie ‘Elizabethtown.’ But regardless of my ringtone, I do try where possible to be a considerate mobile phone addict, and yes I can admit it, no matter how much I wish I could kick the habit, when it comes to the mobile phone I am indeed an addict.

My ringtone
Extremely obnoxious ringtone
24 ringtone
Fridge : Cutup piano and xylophone (complete track)

Found on the web and GeneralMonday, June 25th, 2007, (7:53 pm)

This blog is apparently NC-17 rated according to the Mingle2 blog rating service. But the rating wasn’t given for my use of the ‘F bomb’, or the post I wrote about the ‘n word.’ Instead the rating was given on account of ten instances of the word “hell”, eight instances of the word “gay”, three instances of the word “shit”, and two instances of the word “dick.”

The rating was given as part of a clever gimmick by online dating service Mingle2. In inviting bloggers to show their blog rating the Mingle2 site vastly increases it’s search engine ranking due to the fact that bloggers around the globe are linking back to the online dating site.

I found the gimmick through my friend Anthony who saw his blog given an R rating for the use of the words “hell”, “death”, “dead”, “drugs”, and “fucking”. Obviously the rating isn’t serious, but I wondered if there might actually be people out there who would be offended by the use of some of those words.

Learning that “hell” was considered a dirty word reminded me of an incident that happened a couple of years back while I visiting friends in California. I was playing with their kids in the living room while it seemed that every dog within a 3 block radius was barking as loud as it could. I have no idea what could make every neighborhood dog bark, but they barked constantly for quite some time, so much so I eventually said “Wow, it’s like dog hell here.” The comment drew a quick disapproving “Hey” from my friend. Puzzled I wondered what the kids had done to deserve the warning shot, but very quickly I realized the shot was directed at me.

“We don’t use that word.” She explained. I was somewhat perplexed and believing that she must have misheard me I asked her what word she was referring to. “Hell.” She whispered back to me so as the children wouldn’t hear. I glanced over to the kids who were clearly wrapped up in their own little game, then leant in and quietly asked my friend “Is hell a dirty word?”

She made it clear that this was not the time or place to discuss such a dirty word as “hell.” But yes, in her opinion, where children were concerned, hell was indeed a dirty word.

Far be it for me to question the parenting methods of my friends, so I chose not to pursue the dirty word discussion any further. Instead I just sat back in my chair and though to myself “What the fuck?”

So when is a word a dirty word? If “hell” is a dirty word to some people then I suppose it’s entirely plausible that some folk might be upset at hearing the word “gay”. Indeed a 21 year old student was arrested in Oxford in 2005 for calling a police horse gay, though interestingly enough the British government have ceased using the term “homosexual” in all government documentation and instead use either “gay” or “lesbian” due to the fact they deem “homosexual” to be an offensive term.

Whatever happens I suppose that my continued use of the newly offensive words like “hell” and “gay” along with some “dick” and “bush”, mixed with the occasional appearance of the classics like “fuck” and “shit”, will ensure that my blog remains suitable only for the most hardcore liberal adult capable of surviving the trauma of encountering a little grammatical bump in the road now and then.

[Video] Woman debates her ‘Bollocks to Blair” banner with police
[Video] BBC documentary about free speech in the UK
Girl arrested over Bollocks to Blair shirt
‘Gay’ police horse case dropped
Should the N word be banned?
Anthony’s blog
What’s your blog rating?

GeneralSaturday, June 23rd, 2007, (2:27 pm)

My friend Philly is getting married in seven weeks, and I am his ‘best man’ (groomsman). On Friday we had his ‘stag party’ (bachelor party). It was an all day thing with a few of us going out in the day to do cool ‘guy stuff’ then in the evening we went out to a Teppanyaki restaurant for a meal before heading into Liverpool for a few (a lot of) drinks.

We started the day early heading out to a centre where we had a number of activities lined up that included driving argocats, hovercrafts, archery, and paint-balling.

The first event was driving argocats which are 8 wheeled off road vehicles operated by levers. We had a brief familiarization session in which I utterly sucked, managing to drive the thing into the bushes twice! After that we had to drive the argocat around a course that after a couple of weeks was now extremely muddy. The course also included a relatively steep drop into a body of water.

I was somewhat concerned that having sucked so badly in the familiarization session the ‘instructor’ was showing a little too much faith in setting me free on the larger more challenging course. But he assured me that it was entirely safe and that argocats are impossible to roll.

With Philly’s brother, David, as my passenger I set off on my first lap of the course, all seemed to go well and it was actually a lot of fun. As I began my second lap I once more approached the steep drop with into a muddy swamp. With a laps worth of confidence I headed toward the swamp. As I did David yelled “Slow down!”

Realizing I was perhaps going a little too fast, and that I needed to be able to make the right hand corner in the swamp I pulled hard on the right hand brakes. This put the argocat into a perilous sideways motion forcing it to lift the entire right of the vehicle off the ground.

Seeing this moment of excitement the guys all cheered from the spectator positions, however within the milliseconds it takes for such moments of excitement to go horribly wrong I was thinking to myself “Oh shit!” Then David and I were in the water, upside-down with the vehicle on top of us.

It’s quite amazing the clarity of though one has in situations like that. While I was under the muddy water with my hands trapped and no way to breath, I thought to myself “Damn, I didn’t bring a change of clothes.” I hadn’t wanted to get muddy or wet, and here I was completely submerged in muddy water within the first few minutes of our days worth of activities.

Fortunately the guys were quickly on scene and lifting the stricken vehicle so that David and I could get out. After a few tense moments everyone was laughing with the possible exception of the instructor who exclaimed that he had never seen or heard of anyone who had managed to roll an argocat before.

The rest of the day proceeded, albeit somewhat soggily for me, without any further drama. We drove hovercrafts, found out that we would have never been in Robin Hood’s gang after archery, and shot the crap out of Philly while paint-balling in the afternoon.

Such is the tradition of stag parties, we all headed out in the evening for a meal before hitting the bars. I have no idea what the traditions are in other countries and cultures, but in the UK it would seem that the traditional thing to do is get the ‘stag’ more drunk than they have ever been in their entire life. To me this seems like an entirely pointless and almost cruel thing to do, but Philly’s mates from his football team weren’t going to forgo that particular tradition, despite the fact that Philly himself is not a person you will often find drunk. Eventually though, Philly had drunk enough to render himself unable to speak, focus, walk, or function in any way whatsoever.

Thanks to one of the group, Ian, we were able to get Philly home safely, but not before the nights funniest moment. At his house we went through Philly’s pockets to get his key to the front door. However the key, despite looking right, didn’t seem to fit the door. Together Ian and myself tried to force the key into what we assumed must simply be a very stiff lock. Philly was sat on a wall beside the door dribbling and mumbling to himself. Eventually though, even Philly joined the struggle to gain access.

Then Ian said “Is this even the right house?” We shifted our focus from the unagreeable lock to the house number only to see that we were indeed at the wrong house!

In the end Philly sobered up quite quickly. We sat with him for a while chatting and laughing and plying him with plenty of water. Then as the sun began to rise we left. All things considered I think it was a pretty good ‘stag do’, I only hope that Philly can remember enough to have the same opinion.

[Video] Driving argocats
Pictures from the day and night
Sapporo Teppanyaki restaurant

GeneralMonday, June 18th, 2007, (5:54 pm)

Some years ago, while I was out in my car exploring the roads that lead away from my hometown of Chelmsford in Essex, I happened upon the famous and historic University town of Cambridge. I had just recently past my driving test and hadn’t yet grasped the geography of my rapidly expanding world, it’s territories made more accessible by the very fact I now had 4 wheels on which to explore them.

My discovery of Cambridge was liberating. Despite not being far from home I felt like I had travelled a great distance. The narrow streets and the grandiose colleges engulfed me, and as inane as it might seem the discovery of Cambridge marked an important milestone in my life as I realized for the first time my own freedom.

Since then I’ve always held Cambridge in special regard. My frequent visits have led to the city often becoming the backdrop for a tale repeated, and a story retold. From the heady dashes there with my old friend Anne-marie O’Conner, to the quintessential relaxing ride along the river in a punt on a beautiful sunny day last year with Posh and Jerry.

I was once more in Cambridge this last weekend, meeting up with a blogging buddy from Texas who is over here on vacation. Heather and I know each other from the Xanga blogging community and I met her at last years Xangbang in Texas. She’s over here staying with her friend Mark who has just graduated from Cambridge University.

The weather was doing its best to dampen the high spirits of ‘May week’ (a University thing), but the rain held off as a group of us wandered into town to watch The Bumps, a rowing race where different colleges chase one another along the river and try to bump into one another. (See the movie at the bottom of this post.)

Standing beside the river cheering the boats as they passed felt wonderfully English. Mark did his best to explain exactly what was going on, but really it didn’t matter. With a drink in hand we bellowed at the tops of our voices as ‘our boat’ from Downing College went by. Just having the opportunity to be a part of such an event was fun enough, and standing with Mark’s friends from Downing College made me feel a part of it.

In the evening we all headed out for dinner then on to Downing College Boat Club for a few drinks. Those who were involved in the boat race were wearing the traditional blazers and some were clearly already well on their way to a Sunday morning hangover.

The second part of my weekend was spent in Essex celebrating my parents ruby wedding anniversary (40 years).

Loads of people were already there when I arrived. As I scanned around the faces of the guest gathered in the garden I recognized a few, but had no idea who a great many of them were.

Dad made a speech as he and Mom cut their cake together. As he spoke a formation of military planes flew past. Dad joked that no expense had been spared which raised a laugh. In truth the flypast was for a celebration in London of Britain’s victory in the Falklands war 25 years ago.

It was also Fathers day and so I had a gift for Dad, a good one too I thought. Dad is a keen gardener so I bought two small banana plants and a Datura Variegata then asked Dad to choose one of each. After he had made his choice I told him that the gift was also going to be a competition between us to see which one of us could grow the most impressive plants.

All in all what with the visit to Cambridge then the garden party at my folks house it felt like a very English weekend indeed.

[Video] Mark on why big cox are bad
[Video] Another good video of The Bumps
Cambridge University Combined Boat Clubs
Downing College Boat Club
Downing College, Cambridge University

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