Monthly Archives: January 2011

Spanky and the Small Black Hole

When it comes to electronics, our countries are of an accord, for the most part, yes? No. Because, now mine have arrived, I have entered The Era of the Useless Plug.

It’s not that my things won’t run here, because they will. Just that one must have the patience of all the saints, the voltage know-how of an electrician and the cash resources of Vatican City to make them do so. I was aware of the problem before I left, but did not fully appreciate the aggravation it would cause.

Exhibit 1: The Xbox
I brought my Xbox with me on the plane, because, frankly, I wasn’t prepared to go longer than a week without it. I figured I would, with the help of the spare power pack from Hubby’s old Xbox, which has a broken hard drive, be able to use it. But no, apparently Microsoft foresaw such flagrant misuse of the immigration system and made power cords so very slightly different in shape that they could not be plugged into one another. Foiled the bastards, though, by attaching my Xbox’s hard drive to Hubby’s spare rest-of-machine. Differing Voltage System: 0; Me: 1.

Exhibit 2: The Coffee Machine
My manager at Amazon, in an effort to cement in my mind that I had the all-time greatest job, rewarded my departure with the gift of a De’Longhi Icona coffee machine. By way of background: my role in the team was as a sort of ambassador for De’Longhi and Kenwood, which meant creating content for those brands. I fell wildly in love with the Icona range because they are, quite frankly, the most stylish pieces of kitchen equipment ever devised. Kitchen porn, if you will.

Knowing this, and knowing that spending nine hours a day thinking about coffee had made me an addict, my wonderful manager gave me her Icona. Best gift ever, but one with a workload attached: those things hoover up 1.1 Watts, which meant I would need an industrial voltage converter to make it work. Did that put me off? Did it fuck: straight into the pack-down it went, and a loving hug it received when it reached the other end. Because, you see, I figured I was going to need a converter the size of my backside anyway, because of…

Exhibit 3: The PC
I have an XPS, a power-hungry beast of a computer that’s been serving my needs since my birthday in 2007. I named it Spanky the Beautiful Computer, because it was speedy enough to make me do that goggle-eyed thing small children do when they watch Toy Story. It’s still my faithful companion and greatest inanimate love because, though no longer capable of standing on top of the range, it remains as trustworthy as it always was. I can say this with particular faith now it has, like the cast of The Incredible Journey, made its long and tricky way back to me across the miles.

Small Black Hole

I in no way begrudge it the huge, unwieldy, expensive device I was required to buy just to wake it up. It might look like something from the original series of Star Trek, and it might weigh enough to earn it the title “Small Black Hole”, but it makes my Spanky happy, and can be whisked off into the kitchen when the urge for a cappuccino hits. Another win for the voltage challenged.

Exhibit 4: The Wireless Adaptor
I thought it was over, but was merely a hopeful pup mistaking a copse for the end of the woods. Spanky was up and running, but refused point blank to recognise the presence of an intermaweb. When he did, he would forget he’d seen it about 10 minutes later and pretend he’d no idea what one was. So we were forced to shell out obscene numbers of dollar bills on a brand new wireless sticky-doo-dah, which promptly claimed ALL THE IP ADDRESSES and refused to allow anything else on the intermanet. We’ve sort of fixed that, but every so often Spanky makes a grab for the bandwidth and has to be put down for a nap.

Exhibit 4: The DVD Player (Plus! Xbox Part 2)
Still not over. I brought my DVD player with me, so I could partake of my movie collection despite the region code. I was punch-pleased to discover it worked without the need for the Small Black Hole, less pleased to find out that it will only play in black and white. As will my original Xbox, which I booted up, using the Small Black Hole, in the hope I could finally finish off my region-specific version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Apparently I am still in need of a PAL-to-NTSC converter before my electronic journey is complete.Moral of the story: It is almost certainly cheaper and/or less annoying to buy new electronic items when switching between parallel worlds.

Better moral of the story: With a little time, effort and investment, you can please your faithful electronic companions and indulge in coffee-based treats at your leisure.


5000 Miles Without a Break

I’m not sure how many of you have attempted a 5000-mile house move before. In general, it doesn’t seem to matter whether one moves half a mile down the road or to the other end of the country, the same amount of crockery will spontaneously crack, no matter how many layers of bubble wrap you apply, and you always manage to lose something vital, even though the house was absolutely, definitely empty as you left.

My Worldly Belongings recently arrived from the UK, having undergone a perilously navigated journey with myself and my dad, from London to Poole, a truck journey from there to Southampton, an endless ocean voyage across the Atlantic to NYC and a road trip from thence to Denver, Colorado.

In all honesty, I was expecting to unwrap the ruins of my years of hoarding. What I did not expect was to trawl through the 1500lb crate and discover the only casualties to be two glasses stacked together in what, in hindsight, was a particularly stupid way and the handle of a mug. I’ve ruined more than that carrying boxes out the front door. Actually, I’ve ruined about that much in a single batch of washing up.

I have no idea how they did it, but I’m jawdroppingly impressed. Even my pc, after several bats at the snooze button, decided to wake up full of beans. And not only were there so few broken items, there was absolutely no damage from the elements – and in a winter like this, that’s amazing.

I didn’t even need to re-wash all my fabrics, which very much pleased the dog. Hubby christened a particular throw of mine “the bear blanket”, because it’s brown and furry and ridiculously snuggly (and, unsurprisingly, was a gift from my mum). He fell in love with it. I was reluctant to unpack it, wary of the pending ownership struggle, but I needn’t have worried. A certain canine princess claimed it within seconds, and has no intention of giving it back.

I have very little left to unpack. My clothes are in the wardrobe, my jewellery is hanging over my dressing table, my workstation is up and running. All that’s left are my books, which took up a significant portion of the 1500lbs, even after bravely ridding myself of over half of them. There are approximately six large boxes of them; we are awaiting rescue from Dad-in-Law, who is building us a bookshelf capable of holding them all.

All that remains to be said is that, should any of you be in need of haulage help, whether across the oceans or cross-country, I highly recommend Econocaribe and Forward Air, and John Pipe Ltd. to help organise the whole shebang. If they can transport a full set of one-of-a-kind wine glasses 5000 miles without a single crack, while going out of their way to be helpful to the ignorant first-time emigrant, they can do anything.

Medicinal Moments

I have a scratchy throat and one of those coughs that turns up just when you’re trying to sneak quietly out of the bedroom without waking the husband. I am also running from the nose and feel like a horse kicked me in the face.

I was bravely soldiering through, medicine-free, until last night. The main motivator for this bravery was Hubby’s warning that, if I was going to take anything, it ought to be Robitussin, and that should only be done as a last resort. This is apparently because it “tastes like the Devil’s backside” and is “a horrid, nasty, nasty thing”.

I was, understandably, unwilling to risk it, until I realised that my own constant wheezing and spluttering was going to drive me batty as I tried to get to sleep. So I swallowed my fear and swallowed the Robitussin.

It was quite nice. I can only conclude that English tastebuds are more accepting of cough syrup. Either that or I’ve married a sissy.

I Wear a Stetson Now. Stetsons are Cool.

What a wonderful example of serendipity: Doctor Who, one of my favourite televisual delights, will be following me to the prairies for the next season. He wears a stetson now. Stetsons are cool.

Hubby is jealous of our Doctor Who tradition, as he can’t think of an equivalent this side of the ocean. For those of you who have never heard of the show: it’s one of our longest running series, having first aired the day after JFK was shot. You might be wondering whether the title character is now in his dotage, but actually he’s in his late twenties. The Doctor, you see, is a Timelord, which means he can regenerate when badly hurt. Every so often the series receives a reboot in the shape of a new actor, with new quirks and traits, and new companions to travel all of time and space by his side.

Matt Smith: new Doctor, best Doctor

Every time this happens, the nation mourns. Until last Christmas, the Doctor was played by David Tennant. He was much-loved and, on hearing of his imminent sort-of-death, we all swore we’d hate the new Doctor. Most of England scowled at footage of his successor, Matt Smith, muttering that he would never be a proper Doctor and that we’d probably have to boycott the show.

David Tennant (left): used to be the best Doctor

We do this every time. Five minutes into Matt Smith’s first episode, we adored him and had forgotten all about our beloved David Tennant, except to declare that he can’t have been as good as we remembered because Matt Smith is the best Doctor there has ever been.

All of us have our own Doctor: the one we watched first, the one we mourned first, the one we quickly forgot all about first. For me, it’s Sylvester McCoy, who, in hindsight, was barking bloody mad. My granddad actually managed to despise him for his entire run, thus entering the history books as the only recorded case of Doctor Hatred that lasted past the first episode.

Sylvester McCoy: weird bleeder

Hubby now has his own Doctor, of course, but it’s not the same. Particularly as he managed to go backwards before he went forwards, replacing David Tennant with Christopher Eccleston before coming back to David Tennant in time for the Matt Smith regeneration. David Tennant is doubly his Doctor, you might say.

I hadn’t really thought about it until he explained his envy, but the US doesn’t work quite the same way when it comes to long-running shows. In England, we appear to have mastered the art of refusing to let things die: Blue Peter, Coronation Street, Eastenders, Emmerdale, Antiques Roadshow and many others have been gracing our screens since before I was born. In the US, a ten-year run seems to be the maximum, according to Hubby (whose knowledge I trust, as he does love his tellybox).

Matt Smith: definitely the best Doctor

Perhaps this is a product of the BBC being our first broadcasting company. They can pretty much do whatever they like (as long as the licence payers are happy about it) and what they seem to like is 50-ish years of hokey science fiction that made our parents hide behind the sofa in terror when they were wee.

Whatever the reason, the upshot is that England has several shows that have gone on for long enough to have been absorbed into our culture in general. No matter our age, we all have our own Doctor, and, for a high percentage of Brits, we discovered him in childhood. It’s a similar story with other shows: we all have our own specific Blue Peter presenters (and dog), we all think of the Queen Vic in Eastenders as belonging to someone in particular.

Lots of Doctors: none of these are the best Doctor

But Doctor Who is the best example of all. You can watch it on BBC America, which will happily be running only a week behind the UK when the new season begins in the spring, and I strongly recommend it, but you might need a bit of a primer first, as it’s got terribly complicated over the years:

1) Matt Smith is the best Doctor ever, as previously affirmed. He is a Timelord, hundreds of years old, and each iteration has his own personality. Matt’s is the best. Yes. We know him only as the Doctor, we have never been told his real name.

2) The Doctor is not only a Timelord, he is the last of the Timelords. His arch enemy, the Master, keeps popping back up, but he’s a crap Timelord because he’s naughty and just wants to take over things willy nilly. The rest of the Doctor’s race was destroyed in the Time Wars, fought against the Daleks.

3) Talking of Daleks, you’re not allowed to laugh when you first see one. We are all aware they look like bollards with a plunger and a whisk taped to them, yes, but wait till one comes at you shrieking “EXTERMINATE”. You won’t be giggling then. You’ll be behind the sofa with my mum.

Amy Pond: best companion to the best Doctor

4) The Doctor travels with a companion at almost all times. Currently, his companion is Amy Pond, the first one not to drive me up the wall since I forgave Billie Piper for her “singing career” and allowed her to charm me as Rose. Some companions end up as loved as the Doctor they travel with; Sarah-Jane, for example, now has her own spin-off. I doubt any companions will ever be as loveable as Matt Smith though. He’s the best Doctor ever.

5) The Doctor travels in a Tardis, which looks like a 50s police box, which in turn looks a lot like a telephone box and/or portapotty, depending on your reference point. It’s bigger on the inside. There’s a swimming pool and a library in there somewhere (at one point they were in the same place, but that wasn’t on purpose).

Inside the Tardis. See? Bigger.

6) The Doctor does not kill people. He’s never armed, unless you count his Sonic Screwdriver and his rather brilliant brain. He commands a healthy respect out there in the universe: several invading alien armies have recently fled in terror when they spotted him on the Earth. He sees himself as our protector, as he has a soft spot for the human race.

It’s sometimes cheesy, was made on a shoestring until recently and the humour is very, very English, but it’s meant to be that way, the stories are always amazing and Matt Smith is the best Doctor ever. Seriously. So, if you’ve yet to spot it on your tellybox schedules and you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you could do a whole lot worse than making Matt Smith YOUR doctor.