August 2002 Archives

Railtrack weirdness

Cleodhna's coming back tonight, so I checked to see when her train was due in. Railtrack's web site gave me the times of the normal train she was on, plus another train that got from Euston to Glasgow Central via 4 (4!) changes. Curious, I had a look at how you could possibly make life so difficult for yourself.

This, it turns out, is how you do it:

  • You start at Euston, and immediately take the tube
  • You get off at Kings Cross, and take a train to Edinburgh
  • You then take a train from Edinburgh to Glasgow Queen Street
  • But wait! You're not finished yet. From Queen Street you take a train to Westerton...
  • ...and then take a train from Westerton back to Glasgow Central

It takes close to an hour to get from Central to Queen Street this way. Compared to the 5 minutes it takes to walk from one stations to the other.

The mind, she boggles.

Yuck, and I mean yuck

Here I am trying to get Amazon to explain to me how you do that Amazon donations thing, and I find Amazon wedding registry.


For a limited time, when you create a Wedding Registry at, you'll automatically be entered in our contest to win your choice of a Wüsthof Grand Prix 26-piece knife set with block or a Wüsthof Classic 26-piece knife set with block.
Are they somehow doing you a favour by throwing the block in for free? Does anyone sell sharp knives without some sort of mass-sheathing mechanism, like, say, an appropriately-carved bit of wood?

As it happens, the Amazon honour system is US-only at present. Fuckers.

Here we use postcodes

But, when finding the closest airport, asks you for either a city or a military base.

This makes more sense when it asks you whether your military base (or, possibly, city) is in the US or Canada. I imagine they're appealing to Army types who are based in a country they can't spell.

As it happens, is one of those dread airline sites that decides that the back button must die, and therefore refuses to countenance its existence. So I boycotted it, and found Airtran, which appears to be the low-budget airline I was looking for, and who I saw mentioned on an airline tariff aggregator a while ago, but ignored because the price was in fact artificially inflated (don't know if this is the fault of the aggregator site for being wrong, or for airtran for not wanting to give traffic to a competitor)

If I wasn't acutely aware that the airline industry must be full of shysters and bogus 30-year-old technology, and is already too full of websites, I'd be tempted to barge in and try and sort it out. That, and the fact that I don't have the money to set up a company...

Lateral thinking strikes again - maybe

Having discovered that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - which is responsible for the New York airports, it seems, as they run the websites for JFK and Newark - runs a decent website, my next port of call for finding decent air fares in the US - seemingly impossible as all the websites are shit - is tracking down all the companies that fly to JFK, and getting in touch with *them*. No idea whether it will work yet, as I haven't found out whether any of them are actual budget airlines, as opposed to the majors who all charge the same prices.

Random quizzes

Gareth pointed me towards this BBC survey of how middle class you are. According to them, I'm borderline working class, which is rich as I'm as middle class as you get. I just don't have "chattering classes" (God, I hate that phrase) attitudes.

Games, and two-player versus three-or-more-player

Cleodhna posts about board games, and I have my tuppence to add.

I agree that there's a difference between two-player games (object: beat the other person) and three-or-more-player games (object: deal with the other people so you win, or at least don't do that badly). In social games, you're mostly there to have a good time, observe how the game goes, and ideally win without shafting everyone.

Or at least, that's how I play games.

In two-player games, you're out to win. If there's any skill involved, you're out to beat the other guy. (I thought of correcting this, but I think it's true that confrontational two-player games are mostly male-male.) So it depends on what your attitude is.

I like to play Knightmare Chess; it's chess with cards. The cards mean that you can't think 4 moves ahead, because by that time you may have gained 3 queens (your opponent, the fool, only gained 2), because you rotated the board by 90 degrees; you also deliberately imprisoned your king because your opponent can't fight through the wall, only to discover that your opponent swapped the corners of the board to move your King out, and also bounced his bishop off the edge of the board to put it in a position to not only check your King, but also to check the second King that you brought into play a few moves ago. Your response may well be to move your piece next to his, and then make it explode, capturing all the pieces around it at the same time as it's removed from the board.

Rules-lawyering really kills this game.

There are so many standard rules, plus things that the cards say, that you can easily pick a stupid fight based on hidebound jesuitical reasoning based on an unreasonably pedantic understanding of what the card wording actually means.

I've played Knightmare Chess regularly with a couple of people, for sake of argument I'll call them Mark and Josh, and while Mark was an absolute pain to play against, because he thought it was fun to claim that he'd found a way where he was right and I wasn't (note that you can't resolve this in a sensible way, not even by dicing off), Josh played in the spirit of the rules - we know that, the nature of the card draws being as they are, that the underdog at some point of the game tends to bounce back and gain the upper hand later on, so it doesn't particularly matter what the cards actually say as opposed to what we agree that they mean.

Face it: we're playing a version of Chess that has nonsense bolted on; the last thing we want is over-serious debates on what the cards mean ("I don't care about the spirit of the cards; if they had properly thought about what I, me with my mind, could do with that card, they wouldn't have written it that way. I win, at least until they come out with an errata. Ah! They haven't! They suck. I win." I paraphrase.)

It's for this reason that I mistrust two-player games. Many-player games are inherently social; you can't go far wrong with them. Two-player games, well, you need to choose your opponent carefully.

Daring lousy guy, and Guardian wedding madness

First of all, "Daring lousy guy" ( - scroll down to "Daring lousy guy") is a song whose lyrics are composed entirely of bad translations of Hong Kong action movies. The guy who posted this on the Feng Shui mailing list promises an MP3... Secondly, I saw a table of estimated wedding costs in the Guardian, in their Consumer section. Now, as regular readers will be aware, we're getting married, so I was interested and read on - especially as I'd recently heard someone mention that the average cost of a wedding was £11,000 (gulp). (Earlier versions of this post had garbled figures. Sorry about that.) Well, compare and contrast what the Guardian says (their archived version doesn't include the actual table, which they got from, and what we expect to shell out.
Item Guardian Us Comments
Bride's wedding ring £200 £200 Pretty accurate so far. OTOH, this is stuff that will last, so we're prepared to spend money on this sort of thing.
Groom's wedding ring £150 £180
Wedding dress £700 Nowhere near that We're getting a friend (J.D.) to design the dress; she makes money on the side by going down to Sherwood Forest in the summer and doing medieval reenactment and archery, and in any case you can't get the sort of dress Cleodhna wants easily (her main requirements, I believe are a) it should be red, and b) she wants an open back to show off her tattoo - which many people, including most of her family, haven't seen).
Headdress and veil £150 - That's one of those "virginal bride" things, which we're not getting into. I mean, even if Cleodhna's father was going to be at the ceremony, we wouldn't be having the whole Father giving her away thing anyway. We've been living together for two years now, or thereabouts. Talk about bolting the stable doors.
Bridal bouquet £75 - No cut flowers, please.
Shoes and accessories £125 £15ish Cleodhna needs her existing shoes repaired, because Laszlo ate bits of them.
Bride's beauty treatments £75 Free Some visiting sister can do this.
Bridesmaids' dresses £500 - What bridesmaids?
Groom's outfit £150 Something like that Haven't budgeted this yet. I see it as: I need a better suit than the one I have now. So I'll go out and get one. Again, this is something I'll use again; I don't mind spending money on that sort of thing.
Flowers £200 - As above: no cut flowers. We both hate them. It seems such a profligate waste.
Printing £300 £10-£20ish God bless inkjets. Decent-quality card and maybe a replacement cartridge should be the limit. (Note also the hypocrisy of not counting Cleodhna's time in the cost estimate.)
Transportation £300 £20ish We'll need to hire taxis for people who can't walk very far. As for the rest, well, we live in the West End, the Registry Office is in Park Circus about 10 minutes away, we're planning on a restaurant half-way between there and the Research Club, our local, where the reception will be. We don't need to sit in traffic jams looking smug at the all-night garage because we're in a Roller and it's not.
Civil/church fees £200 £140 Helps that we don't have to hire a church
Photography £400 - Guests are invited to bring their own cameras and take better photographs than we'd get for a pro, because the pro isn't coming to the reception.
Videography £400 - Videos are evil. Camcorders are banned.
After all, if this is supposed to be a perfect day you'll remember for the rest of your life, do you really want someone recording a fly-on-the-wall documentary, complete with all the bits that weren't actually that good, the hesitations, and in general the things that, when you decided which photos to blow up from the reel of <lots>, you reckoned you were better off forgetting about?
Wedding cake £200 £400-£1,000 Fiona from the Research Club prides herself on being able to make any kind of cake you'd want. Which is good, as we want to cut the cake with an axe.
Reception venue/marquee hire £600 Marquee? Did I mention we're having an urban wedding?
Reception decorations £150 Is this more cut flowers? How can you spend this much money on jumped-up Christmas decorations?
Evening reception catering £750 As mentioned before, Fiona reckons she can seriously undercut these figures. I like the Research Club (sorry, the Postgraduates Club).
Wedding reception catering £2,000 £500-ish Now, this is where it gets slightly tricky. Our plan was always as follows: 1) If we're going to have a meal after the wedding, we want a damn good one; 2) We can't afford to invite everyone over to the Stravaigin; so 3) Let's have a damn good meal for close family and relatives, and after that have a reception for everyone, have the speeches and everything at that point, and have it in a far more relaxed environment. don't agree with that.
Drinks £750 £200 tops Not something we've budgeted as yet, but again I think they're talking about a full-blown "everyone gets fed sort-of OKish food" reception.
Entertainment £500 £100-£300 The Research Club has a house DJ that we can hire, and we also have a number of friends that take part in the regular Open Decks. Neither Cleodhna nor myself are that interested in a big dance night, and we don't need a huge band.
Bride's going away outfit £150 - What is this supposed to be? I certainly don't see how we'd need another dress (although I suspect this one, unlike the wedding dress, could be recycled later on).
Wedding night hotel £125 - Our flat is closer to the reception than any hotel.
Honeymoon £1,500 Deferred As above: we've been living together for 2 years; one of the reasons we planned this was because we realised that a) we were going to live together for the rest of our lives, and b) Cleodhna needs to be able to work in this country legally. This isn't one of these "now have some quality time together abroad" type of things. We know each other.
Wedding insurance £50 - If you're spending £,000, I can see why you'd want insurance. If you're not, I can see why you wouldn't.
Other expenses £300 ? Not sure what this is supposed to mean.
TOTAL £11,000 £2K - £4K Take away all the random fripperies, and it all starts looking far more reasonable.

I note that they didn't make any mention of stag night or hen night costs, which seems bizarre to me.

More generally: I think Cleodhna and I have decided that the important thing about a wedding is having a good time, having it be memorable, and having the people who you would want to witness an important stage in your life, be there. That's why our wedding list (soon to be live, honest - God, I'm appalling at this sort of thing) doesn't have stuff on it - you know, toasters, saucers, duvets, all the sorts of things that you need to set up a house. We've set up a house already - it's the flat we live in, and we have some of my stuff from when I was single, and some of her stuff from when she was single, and other stuff we've bought when we were together.

Instead, our wedding list is comprised uniquely of the airfare of Cleodhna's mother and most of her sisters (Stalszve is making her own way) - because they need to be there, and it wouldn't be proper for us to be married without them.

There's a month to go, and it's getting agitated (I still, for instance, haven't told my family officially that I'm getting married). But I think we're doing the right thing.

Important things people don't tell you

I read a fair few reviews of Tori Amos's second album "Under the Pink", and none of them told me the important thing: that she was, mostly, a solo pianist. Hell, that she was a pianist.

A number of people told me about Ultraviolet when it was out. Nobody told me that it was a UK cop/spy drama (mostly), but with vampires. All my (geek) friends told me it was a cool thing about vampires - and I assumed it was a US thing.

The UK thing means a lot. First of all, the actors look interesting, and different. Secondly, they talk, and act, differently. They're not cookie-cutter California actors. Oh, and the thing is very well shot because you're dealing with UK crews.

Watched two episodes so far, and they look great.

I refer the honourable gentleman... Cleodhna's rant about the fuckwit upstairs who let his boiler (or something) leak for 2 hours before Harvey (our landlord) came in and turned off the obvious tap. Grrr.