Am I Grown-Up Now?

The story of being old, part 1: I got phished this week. The first time in over twenty years on the Internet. I have lots of excuses: it came through on my company account, pretending to be my boss; whilst the ask to go buy a bunch of iTunes gift cards for clients was weird, it was not out of the realm of things I’ve had to do in the past. The PA of the company also didn’t seem suspicious when I told her I was going off to buy them, and in general, I have spent the last couple of months being bounced hither and thither every day to the point where my cognitive reasoning has failed somewhat.

Which is all a bunch of excuses lined to to somehow skip past how I spent Tuesday afternoon bouncing around Cincinnati trying to find $1900 worth of iTunes cards. Even as shops would tell me that they’d only let me buy five due to recent phishing attempts, I’d laugh and say ‘I know, it sounds suspicious! But it’s what my boss wants!’

Eventually, at Best Buy (and after going $500 down and searching through three other shops where they didn’t have $100 cards), they kept on repeating ‘are you sure you’re not being scammed?’ enough that I thought I’d double-check. And lo…the email address after the display name was not quite right.

I was very embarrassed, and very thankful to the Best Buy staff for repeatedly saying ‘No, really, I think you’re being scammed. Honest.’ But, I was only $500 down instead of $1900. So that was…something.

The story of being old, part 2: I replaced a thermostat. Due to it being a fancy(ish) ecobee4, it involved locating the control board on the furnace, turning off power, unscrewing a series of metal panels, connecting wires, and attaching something to a wall. And yes, admittedly, my first attempt on Friday ended up with me sleeping with no air-conditioning. But! The Saturday attempt fixed the connection to the AC unit and I can now use Siri to set my temperature. The future is here! More Nazis than expected, but the future is here!

The story of being old, part 3: ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED — YOU’VE BEEN ACQUIRED

Anyhow! Weekend! Escape Room set in the 1920s! Local Indian food! A literal hole-in-the-wall Venezuelan restaurant where we ordered about three times more food than could actually fit inside our stomachs! SECRET CHRISTMAS PRESENT BUYING AT TARGET! Findlay Market! Football! Bourbon-soaked hazelnuts! Korean-fried chicken with waffles! All things, it turned out, that I really needed…

Redemption Arc

1998 Ian: You’re kidding. Just completely joking.

2018 Ian: I’m serious! In 2018, Gareth Southgate is essentially a national hero.

1998 Ian: Completely crazy. Okay, tell me another one — who’s President?

2018 Ian: long, hard stare into the distance

I’ll admit, I spent the entire duration of the penalties just laughing at the situation. But then, for once, we actually won? And then won again? Bizarre. This is Britain 2018:

(meanwhile, the Government continues to set itself on fire, but never quite enough to actually consider turning the 100-car train around before it crashes into the Wall of Brexit. Farewell, Boris and David, we’ll miss—actually, no, we’ll be sodding glad to see the back of the pair of you and the damage you’ve caused)

I have a closet! With shelves! And things to hang clothes from! After two months of living here! I’m settling in slowly, okay? The trap is that the house is entirely fine. There are certain things that would drive anybody else up the wall, but I’m already used to the situation and thus never feel all that inclined to…well, finish things. An example: none of the drawers in my house have handles. This irritates everybody. Except me, because I’m already totally used to just pulling them open by the side and so everything is fine!

Ahem. Anyway, with Tammy’s help, I now have a closet, so that’s one thing off the list! Only about 37 more things to go…I must really make a decision about handles…sometime…maybe…

Oh, and apparently I have an occasional raccoon visitor. That’s a slightly less fun thing to learn about the house…

A Week of Two Halves

Xaio Long Bao!

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A weekend of football, baking, excursions to track down food from multiple continents, and planning for July 4th.

On the other side of things: something possibly living in the gap between the basement and the ground floor, issues with water bills, and the continuing adventures of Ian, the Data Science Eeyore.

Also, everything seems to hurt, but I’m given to understand that’s just a result of being almost 40…

Gone To Texas. And Back Again

This week, I have mostly discovered that the subtitles for Great British Menu on Netflix indulge in a “There are FOUR lights!” attempt to rewrite reality. Every time somebody says ‘aubergine’, the subtitles say ‘eggplant’. They don’t attempt calling coriander ‘cilantro’ though. It is odd.

(and deeply wrong, of course)

Anyway, another week spent in a conference room and a hotel room in Richardson, Texas. Which is not my favourite place on Earth, but is at least better than an industrial park on the outskirts of St. Louis. So not a lot to report this week, though it has been nice to have a weekend where I have not worked, needed to run anywhere, or do anything at all.

And look, this site now has a shiny SSL certificate and everything. It’ll take me a while to track down all the non-SSL hardcoded links that the site has built up over the years, so please bear with me on that…

Going To Texas, Part 2

Perhaps the anecdote that sums up the week: after a weekend that saw me working until 4am coding for work, I spent thirty minutes trying to track down the cause of my garbage disposal not working. I messed around with the mechanism, used boiling water in an attempt to dislodge any trapped masses of food, and even flipped trip switches.

After half-an hour, I realised that the cutting board was covering over the switch I was supposed to be using.

Yes, it has been one of those death march weeks where everything gets into a handbasket and merrily descends to Hell. However, despite giving the appearance of ‘you look like you got run over by a truck’, I did have an enjoyable Saturday wherein roast dinner was made, discussions were had on various software calamities, and we watched Myles and Mercer putting together the Labo Robot. And then, obviously, trashing everything in virtual sight. Which was nice. It’s also nice to be living close by where Tammy, Robert, and the family can just come over on short notice and distract me from yelling obscenities at the computer1.

Other things this week: yelling “OH, COME ON, JASON” at Jason Atherton in 2012’s Great British Menu when he was flabbergasted by methocel meringues. If I had been making them for four years by that point, I really can’t buy his astonishment at the technique. But I may be getting a slight jaded at this point, seeing as how every chef also seems to break out gellan gum every other day as if it’s a new element descended from the heavens.

Other, other things: last week, I uttered the fateful words “you know, I haven’t travelled recently. It’s rather good!” So, of course I’m going to Texas tomorrow, on a fun three day excursion which is interrupting my planned schedule of working in the bar with the World Cup on in the background. Bah.

  1. Having said that, over the course of the week, those obscenities have added up to a ten-fold increase in some popular queries, so they were at least useful for something [return]

Parts Unknown

I’ll admit; I had a long-standing prejudice against Anthony Bourdain for a few years. I perhaps relied too much on a friend’s construction of him as just another arrogant chef. It wasn’t until many years later, when another friend suggested watching an episode of No Reservations[^] that I discovered I was completely wrong. Kitchen Confidential may have been full of cocky swagger, but here was somebody intensely curious about the world and the people that inhabit it; and whether it was a Waffle House or somewhere in Eastern Europe or whereever, he was always respectful and never condescending.

A grown-up’s version of Brian Cant. And you can’t say better than that, in my little opinion.

And every day the darkness grows darker and the way out smaller and smaller. But hey, how has your week been?

[1]: (or was it Parts Unknown? I don’t suppose it matters for the story, though another sign that my memory is slowly failing me)

Where Was Everybody?

BARTENDER: Hey, I like your tattoo!

ME (confused): Tattoo?

BARTENDER: Yeah! On your arm! The Celtic knots!

ME (still confused, but at least armed with a little knowledge): Oh, that’s not a tattoo. That’s psoriasis.


BARTENDER: So…er, what are you having?

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The weekend saw visits to five distilleries, the same amount of bars, inordinate quantities of bourbon (I am not actually going to give a unit calculation here, but let’s just say that I’m not planning on drinking again until the end of June), odd little conversations like the one above, and a recurring question: just where was everybody in Louisville last weekend?

We went to some of the highest-rated bars in the city (Meta and Haymarket). And they were good! But…on a Saturday night, they were both almost deserted. Even the most tourist-friendly street that’s done up in best ersatz-Vegas fashion had very few people sampling the donkey sauce in Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse. It was quite odd.

Anyway, some observations, in handy list form!

  • A little bit of planning goes a long way
  • Angel’s Envy Rye is very nice, but you will have great difficulty tracking down a bottle
  • O.K.I. is even nicer, but at this point, you’ll have to knock off a bar to get hold of even half a bottle (but New Riff will be bottling their new bourbon in the Autumn)
  • Americans have a very loose definition of Britpop
  • A great way of confusing somebody is to turn up to their gin tasting station one day, and then at their distillery one hundred miles away for a tour the next
  • Perhaps surprisingly, the rooftop bar on top of the Hilton Garden Inn is really quite nice, with great views of Tyvek. Oh, and some historical picturesque views if you must look in the other direction
  • Despite also being very very empty on a Sunday night, I can also wholeheartedly recommend Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar in Covington. Lots of flights! Lots of fancy things!

However, the most notable discovery of the weekend is probably Heaven Hill Green Label. This was introduced to us by a bartender in downtown Louisville as an alternative that we might not have come across before. It’s a great mixer and holds its own against bourbons that cost $40 or more. And you can buy it for $12.

The only slight drawback is that it tends not to escape the borders of Kentucky. Of course, that’s not much of a drawback for me anymore, as Kentucky is simply a bridge away. Expect my first liquid bourbon caramels using this to roll off the production line next weekend.

Goodbye Durham, Once Again

This page was going though my mind as I saw that the wire transfer from the sale of my house had gone through late Friday afternoon. A considerable sum of money, and all I did for it was to have the luck of buying a house in an area of Durham that hadn’t gentrified completely yet. It’s not quite “selling a house in San Francisco after owning it for 30 years” windfall, but it’s a lot for doing almost nothing.

In a sign of how crazy the Durham market has become, my house never actually even made it to market. My estate agent came by to have a look, and but a few days later contacted me to say that she’d found a private buyer. That meant I could just pack up and leave; no need to do the house up at all.

They’re not going to be pulling it down, which is something; they’ll likely do up the kitchen to make it much fancier, sort out the dropped ceilings and a few more bits here and there. What they will do is build on the separate plot of land to add a new house and sell that. That’ll increase the density of housing on the street…by one. And it’s not like that house will be anything approaching affordable. So, like Mister Six, I’ve become a turncoat. But he did come back to help save the day later on…

In other news, the Ballad of Ian and Bob (the mouse that moved in last week) finally came to an end this Saturday. After a week of Bob eating his way through the bait traps, looking up at me as he did so, and then scampering off downstairs, Tammy decided that the solution was Captain America.

This involved waiting for Bob to go into a trap, blocking off the entrance, placing the whole lot in a sealed jar…and then putting the jar in the freezer for several hours. But probably no Iron Mouse to save him. Or at least I hope not, or I’m in bigger trouble.

Right, as it’s a Bank Holiday Weekend, I’m watching Octopussy. And next week? Well, next week, it’s off to Louisville and all sorts of distilleries…

Morning update: Okay, I lasted about 1 hour and 10 minutes into Octopussy before going to bed. My goodness, it’s dull. And terminally unfunny with a large dash of colonial racism thrown in to boot…

Everything English Is The Enemy, Part 2

One gets more right-wing as you get older, they say. I don’t really agree1, but I have found myself mellowing a little in recent years towards institutions I previously railed against. The House of Lords, for example, is a towering anachronism at the heart of Britain, something that in the 90s I believed should have been liquidated.

These days, I haven’t so much changed my mind as come to terms with the idea that yes, it is a laughable mockery of democracy, but strangely often manages to check the actual democratically-elected arm of Parliament better than the official Opposition. And while it’s a cynical view, it seems good to have the Lords there as a reminder for all the battles of 1911 onwards, they’re still there, still with their power after all these years.

As for the Royal Wedding, well, it’s not my thing, but who am I to rail so hard against somebody who lost his mother at an early age thanks to a group of people that hounded him for all the years following? It’s not a life he chose, after all. And obviously, seeing Harry excoriate the royal tabloid press for being the racist, classist scum that they are was incredibly entertaining.

(but the idea that ‘the Royal Family will pay for the wedding’ is a complete fiction. Aside from them not paying security costs, which dwarfed all other expenses, where does their money come from? The state, of course, or land that essentially is owned by the state through the family.

Given my ambivalence towards the wedding, I am therefore turning my ire onto the real enemy: Americans. Reactions here to the wedding seemed to fall into two types:

  • ‘OH MY GOD, YOU’RE ENGLISH DID YOU WATCH THE WEDDING?’ - this said to me in the middle of an American supermarket where all the cashiers were wearing tiaras. I mean, you fought a war to get rid of us; have a bit of self-respect. Even if the country is a dumpster fire at the moment.

  • ‘Flint still doesn’t have water! #royalfamily’ - if you’re going to do performative woke statements, you could at bloody least tailor it to the country in question. What about Windrush? Grenfell? The on-going disaster of Universal Credit and the humiliation of ESA check-ups for disabled people? It’s not always about you, you know…

Aside from the wedding, been a tough and long week that I’m glad to see consigned to history. But the blackcurrants in the back garden are flowering, I’m meeting one of my favourite pastry chefs today, and my friends are on their way.

Next week: if I finally get the documents signed and sent off tomorrow, I will no longer own my house in Durham by the end of the week…

  1. And for anybody questioning my credentials, I’ll have you know I joined the DSA at the start of the year, so there [return]

Everything English Is The Enemy

I get angry sometimes.

It might be getting worse, perhaps because I have spent so much time by myself for the past few years that my filter no longer works as well as it used to. And yes, not managing to get past the BBC’s new geolocation defenses and thus missing Eurovision was an annoyance. But I don’t really think it should have got me so worked up that I disappeared into the garage and tore cardboard boxes apart until I calmed down by virtue of being exhausted.

(the good news is that now I’m living in Cincinnati instead of Durham, I was soon joined by a friend and explored some more of the city. So that is an improvement!)

It has been a week. I’d say I’m done with it, but tomorrow is already attempting to bash through before midnight.

Is there any time where Mr. Punch isn’t terrifying?