• [Extremes]

    S&M Files, Episode 6: December 23, 1999
    Extreme Sports

    What a cute notion to fly a kite next to the crashing surf.
    But these were not ordinary kites. The kites themselves were
    little parachutes, and their masters were decked out in extreme
    kite wear. The huge contraptions seemed to take great joy in
    launching their captors high into the air and then dragging them
    across the beach. As I recall, sandpaper is made from sand.

    Fortunately, Brighton does not have sand.

    Brighton has pebbles.

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  • [Terrible Taste and Britain's Best]

    S&M Files, Episode 4: December 6, 1999
    Food and Being English

    Indian Pizza. Not surprisingly, and more to my delight than
    Michelle’s, Indian cuisine is prevalent here. The local Safeway
    has a complete Indian dinner for two next to the frozen pizzas.
    I’m curious to discover what lies in the “ethnic” foods

    Fish and Chips. Still waiting for decent fish and chips. The
    local shop downstairs seems to believe in a long soak in grease
    followed by a gentle warming.

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  • [Housing, Heating, & Happiness]

    S&M Files, Episode 3: December 2, 1999
    English Life: Housing, Heating, and Happiness

    Now that I’ve been in England more than one week, intending on
    being a permanent resident, I feel I have the right to make
    cryptic, cynical pronouncements about life in England. Enjoy this
    humorous and somewhat barbed rebuttal to Stephen’s earlier

    We were fortunate that Stephen’s cousin Julian offered to
    put us up for the first two weeks after our arrival here in
    Brighton. Of course, if one is to believe Stephen’s account of
    Julian’s apartment, perhaps the offer wasn’t all that fortunate
    after all. :-P Myself, however, being made of far sterner stuff than
    Stephen, I found Julian’s apartment to be perfectly fine for a
    cheap place to live. Now, you might not think that a £600/month
    place is a “cheap” place to live but, given the housing situation
    here in Brighton at the moment, and the fact that Julian has a
    3-bedroom, 3-storey house, £600/month is almost reasonable. Cheap is
    what enables us (and Julian!) to save so splendidly on heating.
    After all, if the heating doesn’t actually function, then you can’t
    spend a fortune on electricity attempting to use it, right? Cheap
    is also what enables us to almost never have to vacuum. When the
    carpet throughout the house is the colour of dirty sand, you just
    don’t easily notice the dirt on it. Ahhhh! The luxuries of
    the bachelor apartment!

    For a cheap place, though, it has large windows everywhere,
    single-paned to be sure, but large windows nonetheless. The walls
    and ceiling even bear evidence of recent painting too. What more could a
    bachelor ask for? Cable, mobile phones, PlayStations, VCRs,
    stereo equipment, and sound editing equipment apparently. The
    sandy floor in the living room (or lounge, as the locals
    refer to it) is festooned with high-tech music equipment, two
    televisions, a PlayStation, and a digital equipment cordless
    telephone (DECT phone). This is very amusing when you consider
    that the actual inhabitants of this flat spend far less time
    here than we do. Maybe they’ve figured out how to use this
    stuff remotely?

    I hope that the picture I paint of Julian’s flat is neither too
    contemptuous nor unflattering. I rather like it except for the heating and
    the carpet. I had secret plans to sell all of Julian’s stuff and just take
    over the place in order to solve our housing problem. I figure that any
    place that is not home to more than 20 species of bugs (unlike some other
    places in which I lived) is a fine place to stay. Any place where the roof
    doesn’t leak into the walls is also a fine place to stay. Any place where
    turning on the microwave doesn’t interfere with television reception
    because of ‘noisy power’ is a fine place to stay. If you manage to not
    have all these problems in one place then you’ve found a fantastic place to
    stay, even if it doesn’t back onto a ravine!

    For some reason, completely unfathomable to me, Stephen decided that
    finding a place of our own in which to live wasn’t that high of a
    priority. After all, what can you do with your own personal place:
    open a bank account, have proof of address to get cell phones, have a
    place to forward your business calls to, have a place to put all
    of your stuff coming by container from Canada, have a place to
    sleep after your relatives boot you out on the street? Those don’t
    sound all that important, right? Well, apparently they weren’t
    to Stephen but luckily I convinced him that we absolutely needed to
    find our own place to stay as we could only stay with Julian for
    two weeks and then with Anna, a friend from Sussex University, for
    the month of December.

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  • [Trees in the Toilet]

    Last night I dreamt of toilets, toilets and toilets and it’s all Eingang’s fault.

    Some time back, bemoaning the lack of trees in our neighborhood, we adopted a couple of stray Christmas trees and lured them back to the flat. (They were lost on the street and it was either that or take them to a shelter or, well, firewood.) Luckily they came with their own pots full of dirt.

    These Christmas trees relate to toilets in a way you just don’t want to know. Hang in there.

    One of the trees blossomed under our loving care but the other sadly was losing its lust for life. We thought perhaps it had been affected by salty ocean spray. You see, when I found it, it was taking a not-so-thoughtful sojourn to the sea-side.

    The Ein had a cunning plan. We would wash the tree. Not only would we wash the needles, but we’d, um, wash the dirt and rocks in the pot. And to make the poor distressed tree even happier, we’d kick his brother out of his nice pot where he was happily thriving and trade pots.

    “You’ll kill both trees and plug up our septic system,” I pointed out. I had my doubts about the ‘cunning’ in the cunning plan.

    “Maybe everything will be OK, ” she beamed, “and we’ll have lovely, lush trees!”


    Well, we washed the tree, the pot, the roots. Despite our best intentions most of the dirt and crap seemed to disappear out of the tub. And now the toilet makes funny noises every time we flush.
    You see, our toilet, being a late installation doesn’t flush down. It flushes up. A little pump valiantly lifts all the water and stuff over the wall. Normally it goes “whirrr whirrr whirrrr” combined with a satisfying “grump grump grump” of stuff being pushed up and over.
    Recently it started going “whirrr whirrr whirrr” with not so satisfying addition of more “whirrr whirrr whirrr” followed usually by “whirrr whirrr whirrr”

    Whirrr Whirrr
    Whirrr Whirrr Whirrr
    Whirrr Whirrr Whirrr Whirrr
    Whirrr Whirr
    Whirrr Whirrr Whirrr
    Whirrr Whirr Whirrr Whirrr Whirrr Whirrr
    Whirrr Whirr Whirrr Whirr
    Whirrr Whirrr
    Whirrr Whirrr Whirrr Whirr Whirr Whirr Whirr Whirr

    “Perhaps we could suggest to the landlord that the pump isn’t working so well anymore”, Michelle suggested last night.

    The last tenants who did this had the pump taken apart and it was found to be clogged with several hundred condoms! We’re not quite certain how he explained this. “Condoms? I have no idea how all those condoms got there! What kind of guy would flush a condom?”

    I have visions of the pump being opened up and us having to explain how it came to be covered in pine needles.

    “Maybe it wouldn’t be covered in pine needles,” Michelle suggested optimistically, “Maybe it’s covered in rocks!”

    “Pine needles and rocks?, ” we would say, “in our pump? No we haven’t been flushing dirt and rocks down our toilet. Of course not. What kind of idiot puts dirt and rocks in the toilet. And we, of course, haven’t been washing Christmas trees or anything like that in the toilet. That’s just silly. They would go round and around when you flushed.”

    Of course, if they asked us if we were dumping rocks and needles down our bathtub we’d have to ‘fess up and it would be the end for the adventuring S&M.

    The dream? Oh, of course. After a conversation about this right before bed I proceeded to spend the night dreaming about an airplane flight where each window seat had its own toilet conveniently placed at about elbow height into the wall. The toilets were used as a kind of messaging and transportation system. You shoved an object into the back of the toilet next to your seat (at convenient elbow height) and it would be magically transported to one of the other toilets for retrieval. A very classy airline.

    I was debugging Michelle’s toilet and was having trouble getting the Hot Wheels car suitably in the back of the toilet. It was clogged with thick mud, rocks and shit. So to speak. As I was up to my elbow into the muck, trying to place my Hot Wheels car, it occurred to me this transportation system may not be too popular with the ladies. Just another crappy airline.


  • [Doped Out Doper]

    Yesterday, the sunlight called to us through the open window. Putting aside our duties for part of an early afternoon, we went promenading in St. Ann’s Well Garden, a local planned garden spot, occupying a few city blocks. On our way back, we stopped to stroll through Brunswick Square. Brunswick Square is the slightly more upscale and definitely more beautiful residential square in our area. Unfortunately, the less savoury elements who inhabit the closer Norfolk Square have migrated the few blocks down the seafront to this beautiful Regency square. On this particular day, we had walked through almost to the seafront entrance when we passed a person lying passed out along the path. Passed out drunks are a relatively common fixture around this part of Brighton, even in early afternoon, so we did walk past initially, our eyes flickering over the sight as we continued our banal conversation on a bright day. Something wasn’t quite right. The image passed again quickly through my mind and I doubled back to be sure. This wasn’t a passed out drunk. A capped needle lay nestled in the crook of his neck and a small serum-sized bottle on top of the bench nearby. He was out completely, hardly moving. I couldn’t tell by looking if he was breathing and his eyes were mere whites, rolled up into his head.
    Caught without our cellular phones, I ran towards a man yabbering away on his and begged him to call 911. He instead pointed me to a telephone booth on the other side of the hedge. While I was on the telephone with emergency services, my conversational partner was dispatched to check on the poor man’s breathing and try to rouse him. Within a short time, we were attended by an ambulance. The man had just returned to the mundane world, but he was confused and seemed concerned with the fact that another man had perhaps run off with his money. He denied to the ambulance crew that he took drugs, but the needle so carefully crooked capped next to his neck had been used. The bottle on the bench had been painkillers. He’d knocked himself out or been knocked out by his accomplice on a combination of painkillers and cooked smack. He stumbled away, refusing assistance from the ambulance crew, and headed in his shambling, confused way down the street. I, choked up with emotion, watched silently, wishing him well. Had I helped him? Perhaps not. But at least I hadn’t blindly walked on by.

  • [Lock Those Libraries]

    [Blue book with an open door in the cover]I visited the library at the University of Sussex yesterday for the first time in ages. I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that the library is now locked up tighter than a drum. In order to enter the library at all, you need to have a valid library card which is scanned by a card reader attached to the turnstyles. This just seems so… odd. I can understand preventing unauthorized people from removing items from the building, but why prevent anyone from entering and using the contents in a polite way? I’ve been to university libraries in several European countries, across three Canadian provinces, and in a few American states, and I’ve never seen a locked down library before. The war on terrorism has spread to libraries: our knowledge might be contaminated. Lock those libraries!

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