Legal Alien: A Scotsman in Montreal

Funky Foreign Flicks

My bro got me a DVD for Christmas, specially imported from Japan. It was a 3 DVD set in a shiny silver box and said on the front in big letters CASSHERN. It looked cool, so I turned to the back to find out what it was about, but was confronted with lines of Japanese. Ah. Still, my bro had seen it, said it was good, and I guess had picked up on the fact that I like stuff like this.

I watched it over the weekend and it was pretty immense. It revolves around a war and some weird experimenting that goes wrong and ends up creating a threat to humanity - then, along comes the 'hero' to save the day. That's bascially what happens, but isn't really what the film is about at all. Like many animes the central theme is all about humanity's historical desire for hatred and war and thus questions our existence.

It's set in the future - but is one of those 'old' futures where it looks like everything runs on steam and coal; everything is dark, lots of fires and smoke. Very reminiscent of Metropolis. Also, it's almost entirely CGI/green-screened but is done incredibly slickly so you can't tell the difference unless they want you to.

There are some really strange parts in the film - several things happen which have no explanation, none are sought and none are offered. It just has to be accepted (the main one being the deus ex machina that is the solid lightning which creates the neo-sapiens). Still, if you've watched enough Japanese stuff, this will be pretty much second nature by now.

The action scenes are really cool though - especially when Casshern takes on an entire army. It's a scene very similar to the start of the Samurai Jack cartoon series, especially when he karate chops a robot in half.

It's a bit of an epic at 2hrs 15mins, but is well worth it. I have no idea what is on the other 2 DVDs yet and oh yeah, it fulfills all the requirements of being a classic Japanese movie by having an ending which makes virtually no sense whatsoever.


What with the network being down at work and then my being sick yesterday, you'd think the gap may have resulted in sthg good to post. But all I've got is this joke:

A guy goes into a sandwich shop and says, "I'll have a turkey sandwich please."
The man behind the counter replies, "Sorry, we don't have any turkey."
"Ok," says the customer. "I'll have chicken then."
"Listen, mate. If we had chicken in the first place, you'd have got your turkey snadwich."

It's almost like a return to Friday Fun isn't it?

And I said, "Let there be light!"

It may not look like much to you, but the photo below is the culmination of about 13 months work. It's the image from the old engineering grade CCD using the new controller running with my software and my new prototype pre-amp board.

What you can see is the monitor viewed through the centre of a mounting port support. The sharp-eyed might notice that the image is actually rolling over; the first few columns on the left hand side should be on the right. I'm not sure why yet...

The answers

OK, the remaining two songs for the Challenge.

6) The revolution will not be right back after a message
about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.

This is "The Revolution will not be televised" by Gil Scott-Heron. An absolute classic, maybe more of a poem set to music, but damn, it's cool.

10) Whoa-oh, stop your train,
Let her, go for a ride
Why don't ya hear me cryin'?
Whoo-hooo, whoo-hooo

Smokestack Lightning - my version is by George Thorogood, though the original creditors may be hard to pin down. A blues-y number, and as I mentioned, the music to a Budweiser advert back in the 90s in the UK. And you wonder why no-one guessed it. :) Still, 8/10 is pretty good going.

Thoughts of the Day

A shout out to Gareth who seemed fine when I was out with him on Friday but who woke up on Saturday feeling nauseous with blurred vision and slurred speech. After no improvement, he went to hospital on Sunday and has his CAT scan today. Fingers crossed buddy.

The challenge is issued - UPDATED - AGAIN!!!

Update 2: Seems I spoke to soon, now all that's left is 6 and 10. Still surprised by no-one knowing 6 - 5 of the 6 words of the song title are in the lyrics, and it's a classic. 10 is virtually impossible, but some clues: it was in a Budweiser advert and my version is by George Thorogood.

Update: Not a bad start. Four Five guessed already although I am a little surprised (shocked even) that no-one has recognised number 6! At the same time I can't see anyone knowing 5 or 10. I think I may add a few more lines and or clues if there's no progress made.

Since I sucked so badly on the version on the Arrogant Fool's site, I thought it's only fair I do the same thing: take the first (next) 10 random songs on your playlist, pick your fave lines, and let people guess the song.

1) She had a dream about the King of Sweden
He gave her things that she was needin',
He gave her a home built of gold and steel,
A diamond car with the palladium wheels

(Cab Calloway: Minnie the Moocher - taken from The Blues Brothers soundtrack, guessed by buntz)

2) Buying bread from a man in Brussels
He was six foot four and full of muscles
I said, "Do you speak-a my language?"
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich

(Men at Work: Down Under, known by kowy)

3) Drove down the road for two-days-and-a-half
The sun had just risen on a dusty path
Just then a figure had caught my eye
A man with a sombrero who was four feet high

(A Tribe Called Quest: Left my Wallet in El Segundo, guessed by Jamster)

4) Sweet and sour like a tangerine
Fresh like a box of Krispy Kremes
Kenny Rogers' Gambler is my gambling theme
Mix Master Mike with the scratch routine

(Beastie Boys: Three MCs and One DJ, guessed by Jamster)

5) Twenty seconds on the bad time
I'm a feel you're on the run
Never live too long to make right
I see you're doing fine

(Texas: Say What you Want, guessed by Jamster)

6) The revolution will not be right back after a message
about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.

7) Time is never time at all
You can never ever leave without leaving a piece of youth
And our lives are forever changed
We will never be the same
The more you change the less you feel

(Smashing Pumpkins: Tonight, guessed by nerina)

8) The ocean is a desert with it's life underground
And a perfect disguise above
Under the cities lies a heart made of ground
But the humans will give no love

(America: Horse with no Name, guessed by lightspeedchick)

9) My mother says to get a job
But she don't like the one she's got
When masturbation's lost its fun
You're fucking lazy

(Green Day: Long View, known by the Arrogant Fool)

10) Whoa-oh, stop your train,
Let her, go for a ride
Why don't ya hear me cryin'?
Whoo-hooo, whoo-hooo

I confess I had to cheat slightly cos a few songs came up that had no lyrics or the only lyrics contained the name of the song... I'll strike them out as people guess.

Today is the first day of...

... the new bus route. Normally I get the X1 bus to work and it costs me 1.60 each way, but I often just buy a weekly pass for 18 quid to save the hassle of me needing money every morning and afternoon. The university runs a free bus service, the X11, out to another campus and it bypasses my new work site. At our request, the bus company (after having already diverted the X1) agreed to divert the X11 and allow university staff to use the service for free from my work.

So this morning, after waiting for the X11 which somehow in the space of 3 stops (from the bus station to my stop) had made itself 15 minutes late. I get on and wait until we approach the turn-off to my work. I ring the bell to remind the driver in case he's forgotten he needs to turn, but to no avail as he drives straight past. Bugger.

I tell him that he's supposed to turn at the previous junction because the route has been altered, but it's all news to him. Fair play, not his fault. However, he refused to let me off at any intermediate points and since it's an express service the closest stop was a 20 minute walk from my work. Marvellous. Needless to say I won't be waiting for the X11 bus for the trip home.

Slow Motion

Man, this has been a long week at work. Thankfully we have what is being dubbed a "jamboree" which according to means a "gay activity." Alas fun-seekers, it shall not be; instead every member in our group, of which there about 30, has to stand up and give a 90 second, one-viewgraph presentation as to who we are and what we do. Simply because we have lots of new staff and we tend to be split up in our various activities and don't really know who else is in the group.

But I digress; this week was long because I had to do a lot of thinking. And the thing with thinking is that it is draining, but doesn't take a lot of time. This is not to say that I normally have a no-brainer of a job, but more that I can work on auto-pilot more often. Things like taking test results, verifying designs, following up on orders and that sort of stuff whilst all equally valid, they do not tax the brain too much.

However, we have a problem and I've had to solve it which has meant I've been doing lots of detailed analysis and trying to puzzle out what is going wrong. I've had to refresh my memory on a lot of things and in a sense it felt like I was revising for an exam. Hence, on Tuesday I started work at 8:30 and after a while, thought I needed a bit of a break only to realise it wasn't even 10am!!! That is depressing: you feel like you've done a crapload of work, only to find out it's not even time for a coffee break.

Still, at the end of it all, I think I've worked out the problem... perhaps I should have picked it up earlier on in the design, but you can always chalk it up to experience. Luckily, although our circuit doesn't do what we originally wanted it to do, we don't need to do that to make the system work.

Imagine... a life before blogging

One of the best things about this blog - aside from the people I've met and friends I've made through it - is that it serves as a great diary. Not in terms of expressing my innermost feelings or emotions but more as a calendar; I can now jump back two years to almost any particular day and see what I was doing. And that is as good a reason as any to keep it going.

It is strange reading it though, cos it feels like my style has very def changed and I do cringe sometimes at the crap I wrote. But hell, there are times where the blog manages to make my life look stunningly exciting and interesting, since it's basically a condensed store of anecdotes and yet I don't recall it being that great at the time. I guess you never really do appreciate things at the time...

My Hogmanay

It was really good, for seemingly the first time in ages. I had no big plans, just heading over to a friend's place who was having a party. My old roommate Phil came over in the evening, we hung out, drank a few beers and decided to head off to the party at around 10pm! The party was quite chilled, I didn't know many people but it was friendly. It was soon midnight and after everyone had wished everyone else happy new year, I managed to get everyone singing Auld Lang Syne, though I was the only one who knew the words. I even managed to get everyone in a circle with everyone's arms crossed and holding arms, like you're supposed to!

After a while, Phil headed off to another party, and I stayed behind and got talking to Sam and a few of his friends who were heading off to another party in a loft in the Old Port. It sounded like fun, and I felt like going to a more lively venue so I decided to go with them.

So we jump in a taxi and when we get to the right place, there's people everywhere - this is a BIG party. In the end it was being held in some sort of studio - a massive place on the second floor of what looked like a warehouse or factory. It was 20 bucks in, and not alcohol allowed to be brought in. Inside there was graffiti everywhere - it looked pretty neat. There were two HUGE rooms, one playing hip-hop, one playing dance music. It was sweet. We stayed there until about 4:30 at which point the police showed up and shut it down! Always the best way to end a party. We then went back to
Sam's friends place and chilled out listening to some tunes.

I've got some good photos, so check them out.

I do wonder if the reason I had a good time is that I didn't end up completely hammered by midnight and thus don't end up passing out on my friend's doorstep (2001/2), ruining a good friendship by going too far (02/3) or crushing my hand in a door (03/4). Then again the two years before them I wasn't drunk enough - maybe it's all about getting the right balance.

One of the weirdest nights out ever

It was Wednesday and I'd be in Montreal for a few days and Dave and I decided we should do something. Dave invited his buddy Louis over and he turned up at around 4:30pm. We started smoking and drinking, playing a few games and pretty soon the case of beer was gone. We decided to go out and play some pool at Fats (where else?). So, at around 1am after a couple of hours of pool and some more beers we left the joint and tried to work out what to do.

Louis really wanted to go to a strip club (seemingly inspired by Octopussy upstairs from Fats), Dave and I weren't too keen, but being stoned and not being able to think of anything better to do we relented. It then took us a while to choose which club to go to - there's no shortage in Montreal - and we ended up choosing one close by, no idea what it was called, but it's next to "Downtown."

So we get in the door and it's 5 bucks entry fee or rather 'compulsory coat check'. I've noticed they do this a lot:
"is it free to get in?"
"yes, but it's a two-dollar coatcheck"
"it's ok, i'll keep my coat with me"
"no, you have to check it"
"ok, so then it's really two dollars entry"
"no it's free, but you have to check your coat"

Anyway, we pay and then the 'doorman' shows us to our table, which is all of 5 metres away and as we sit down he leans forward and says "at this point it is usually customary to tip the doorman a dollar or two." Huh, for doing what exactly? Ok, whatever, so we pay the guy and he goes away. Meanwhile there is some fat girl dancing on stage.

The barmaid comes across and we decide on the 'special': 2 beers for 9 bucks - wow, great value. So we sit there drinking our beer, the fat dancer goes off and is replaced by another chunky lass. woohoo. So I'm sitting there fairly bored when all of a sudden there's a camera flash off to the right. I don't think anything of it until I notice the bouncer walking over.

I'm sitting with my elbows on the table and he comes up and pushes them
off the table and says:
"Give me your camera and get out" WTF!?
"I don't have a camera."
"Yes you do, my friends over there saw you, now give it to me and get out"
"Listen guy, i don't have a camera"
"What's that in your pockets?"
"Nothing," as I pat down my pockets

So he goes back to talk to the supposed witnesses and then returns and is even more convinced than before. This time I stand up and say 'Look, search me, I don't have a camera'. So now he starts checking under the table to see if we've dropped it and makes Dave and Louis pat down their pockets as well. Eventually he gives up and mutters a pretty lame apology and leaves us alone.

We're pretty mystified by all this and decide to finish our beers and leave. By this point the standard of dancer has improved - but that wasn't very hard - except I then notice that the girl on stage is wearing a wedding ring. Such a classy place.

So we go to leave and get our jackets and the doorman is standing there, and you know he's been thinking all this time of a way to catch us out. Thus as we're getting out coats he springs his trap and says 'before you guys leave, take a photo of me and the coat-check girl.' At first I thought it was a joke - but he's being serious. He actually thought that we'd reach in to our pockets for a camera and not realising his cunning plan and we'd be caught red-handed after being tricked by a man of unequalled intellect. Idiot.

We just ignore him and leave and we walk down the stairs out on the street. As we get outside I say 'man, that was weird' and we start joking about the guy trying to trick us. We then hear a voice behind us saying "what's so funny guys?" We turn round and there's this big guy standing there in a red velour tracksuit who'd obviously followed us out the club. we said we were laughing at the situation and he says 'you're not laughing cos you just get away with it' and we said no and then he started rumbling on about it being a serious offence and all that.

I bit back from saying that I wouldn't want to take pictures of any of the girls in there cos I think they were spoiling for a fight - it was probably a good thing we were all stoned and very passive in our denials. They were just looking for an excuse to start with us. We just said sure and walked away.

It was really, really weird and confirms my suspicions that strip clubs are really, really lame.

I told this story to Doug and he suggested that it might be scam to try and nick drunken tourists' cameras. It's possible I guess, they figured they weren't gonna make any money out of private lapdances so maybe tried something else.

Not exactly the best trip home I've ever had

Firstly though, Happy New Year everyone.

Before I begin I should probably comment on the weather patterns of the previous few days in Montreal.
30th: cold, lots of frozen snow but sidewalks clear.
31st: warm, 5C, raining heavily, plus snow melt means lots of surface water and where this was on top of ice, quite slippy.
1st: cold again, all the surface water freezes to from sheet ice everywhere that wasn't heavily used (i.e. main roads).
2nd: frickin' freezing, -20, snow/ice showers, resulting in inch of snow everywhere hiding the ice beneath, absolutely lethal underfoot

So I had a flight booked to leave Montreal at 1940 which would arrive at London Gatwick and 7am. From there I would make my way to Kings Cross train station for my 10am train. Simple enough huh?

Luckily for me when I called her in the morning, a friend very graciously offered to do me the favour of giving me a lift to the airport. By this point it hadn't started snowing. By the time she shows up, driving conditions are to say the least, hazardous and because the house I was staying in is on a cul-de-sac AND at the bottom of a hill, it took us nearly 5 wheel-spinning minutes to turn around!!

There wasn't much of a rush though as I'd checked the airline website in advance and noticed that my flight was already an hour late. However, by the time we'd reached the airport my flight was delayed by 2 hours. By the time I reached the departure gate it was delayed by 3 hours.

When we finally got on the plane, we sat at the gate for another hour as the luggage handlers had forgotten a crate. THEN we had to sit there for another half hour to wait for de-icing. Even then we had to wait for 45 minutes in the line for de-icing. All of which meant that we took off around 5 hours late.

To add to this, my pre-assigned extra-leg-room seat for which I'd paid an upgrade was not available. They'd screwed up the booking - I think they changed planes as everyone in my row had paid the premium as well. Luckily it wasn't a full flight so they were able to relocate most of us, but I had to settle for two seats to my self, which was adequate, but not exactly what I'd paid for.

When we did finally land in London, only one of my bags made it out the other end. So I had to fill in a lost-luggage report. Then due to my tardy arrival I'd missed my booked train meaning my SuperSaver Ticket was no longer valid so I had to pay for an upgrade.

What a cafuffle!