Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cockroaches And Swine Flu In London

Times are tough. No real success with our advert for the room in our place. The market seems inundated with places and we've had 5 cancellations in a row. So as a household we decided to rewrite the advert, give it a little twist. After much chin wagging, I put finger to keyboard and with a little touch from the Viking, came up with this...

"We have a double room available in our semi-detached Victorian house in a quiet area of _________.

The room is currently immediately available due to recent redecoration and certain events beyond our control. Our previous housemate was viciously attacked by our house mouse and then spontaneously exploded, leaving behind a faint smell of tequila and smoking Nike trainers. We all thought the mouse had some kind of rabies, but after we caught the little blighter and sent it off to a swish London lab it turns out that it was actually swine flu.

Consequently we've had to have the place fumigated. Now that the dust has settled we've purchased a new house mouse but have been assured that it is entirely flu free and had not landed in Mexico in 1986 contrary to the recent background check we had done. Although he has been spotted talking, rather fluently, to the cockroaches whilst wearing an over sized sombrero.

He may be dealing with bugs okay, but he doesn't pay bills so we have to pay that on top of rent. Still, they are quite low since we tapped into the lamp post. The furniture in the room (bed, wardrobe, drawers) all cleaned up nicely so that stayed. The carpet is new. We just couldn't get the stains out of the old one.

We figured that the last one had a small but energetic aversion to men and would like to avoid any future potential mishaps by getting a female to move in. Although, if you're male and willing to take a chance, by all means give it a go.

Viewings available any evening, but please do not cancel at the last minute unless you are hanging by your ears from the hair of an elephants bottom whilst singing "God save the Queen" to Prince Philip."

Wonder if this brings any success?

Monday, April 27, 2009

All Mod Cons In New York

I was supposed to be seeing Paul Weller play at the Nokia Theater in New Yorks Times Square last Friday. Unfortunately Paul's father became very ill and the gig was cancelled. The day before my flight John Weller passed away, my thoughts are with the Weller family during this awful time.

As a sign of respect I'll be keeping this post to mainly photos with a few notes here and there.

All Mod Cons in Central Park. On a rock. The wonders of modern technology (a timer on my phone camera) and a handily place rock, means photos of yourself are easily achieved.

I'd never been on a 747 before. As a boy I'd always dreamt of flying in one. It's probably quite an experience, although due to British Airways being one of the worst airlines in the world it turned out to be distinctly average. More on this another time.

The weather wasn't like British Airways, because it was absolutely fantastic. Hardly a cloud anywhere and a scorching 26 degrees.

The Empire State Building. No gorillas were present this time round.

Central Park.

John Lennon was shot here.

Down In The Tube Station At...err...midday.

The Statue Of Liberty from a long way away.

Brooklyn Bridge.

A proper Mustang. Absolutely stunning.


Times Square.

All Mod Cons with a New York Copper.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Place For Paedophiles

Occasionally there's a programme on television that I find incredibly fascinating. Such programmes, unfortunately, are seemingly rare on British TV. The teaser prior to airing had me hooked, invoking an air of morbid fascination that would cause me to have an overwhelming torrent of conflicting thoughts throughout, and after, the 45 minutes of airtime.

A Place For Paedophiles was a documentary about the hospital, and I use the term loosely, in Coalinga State in California which houses convicted sex offenders after they have served their prison time and that are deemed unsuitable for release into society. The inmates have to volunteer for a rehabilitation programme in the hope that one day they will be cured of their sexual deviancy issues and eventually released. Those that didn't volunteer are basically kept inside the hospital, seemingly until the day they die. The hospital has over 500 "patients", 70% of which have refused to participate in the rehabilitation programme, saying that the facility and the offer of treatment is just an excuse to keep them locked up indefinitely. Given that in the last 10 years only 13 people have been seen as fit for release it's not hard to see their point.

Presented by the articulate Louis Theroux, of whom I have great admiration for, especially the way in which he has previously tackled issues in other documentaries (most notably Louis And The Nazi's in which he interviewed the Gaede twins, known as Prussian Blue). It was plain to see how difficult he found maintaining an impartial journalistic view, given that he was privy to their files containing details of their offences.

This well constructed documentary, fronted by Louis, raised several questions and issues to me. Firstly, even though the crimes committed by these people are utterly abominable, they have in fact served their time in prison. They were tried and convicted by their peers, and given sentences, which they all served. After this they have been put into further incarceration, and given little hope of release. Which, to me, makes a bit of a mockery of the justice system. Especially as prison is supposed to rehabilitate offenders. Are we saying that there is no hope of getting these people integrated back into society? In which case, why bother with prison in the first place. Why not just put them straight into Coalinga? Not that I think you can cure sexual offenders anyway. If someones sexual orientation is towards children, then it's part of their make up. It's not something that can just be turned off after a series of counselling sessions. We've stopped trying to cure homosexuality. Well, most of the civilised societies have anyway. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that paedophilia is right in anyway whatsoever. I'm just not sure what the right approach is.

One patient seemed fairly genuine when it came to his treatment. He'd volunteered for chemical, then proper castration. I don't know how much of an effect this has on a man and his sexual desires, but most people I've spoken to seem fairly convinced as to it being one step towards a successful solution. This patient had been ordered by a judge for release. However, that was a year ago and he's still in Coalinga because the authorities can't find him somewhere to live. As far as I'm aware, communities within a certain radius of the specific house have to be informed prior to a sexual offender moving in. If there are objections, then they can't live there. Apparently, finding accommodation is one of the hardest things to do. Hardly surprising really.

Although this particular patient appeared genuine, I couldn't help but feel wary. So often you hear of paedophiles grooming their victims, often sexual offenders are incredibly charming, intelligent and above all persuasive individuals. Who is to say that they aren't using their techniques on adults, trying to bend the system for their own needs. I guess that's just down to a natural state of suspicion when it comes to dealing with people that have committed such crimes. But that in turn brings up another issue. Do we, as a society, have it in us to give these people a second chance? After prison, after being in a place like Coalinga for year upon year and receiving treatment, will the rest of us ever be able to trust them if they are released? I'm very doubtful.

So what's the solution? I think it depends on what angle you use to look at the problem. Starting at the top, the death penalty. If you've ever suffered at the hands of sexual predator, or if your son or daughter has, or if the victim has been someone very close to you, then the need for justice or vengeance can be so great that all you can think of is to have the offender removed from the very surface of the planet. How can anyone that has raped and abused over 50 children from the ages of 7 to 12 be allowed to have any place on Gods earth? After such atrocities against human beings that are too young to defend themselves, either physically or mentally, what possible reason is there for letting them live? And why should tax payers fork out to keep them at a cost of over $200,000 a year? Surely the death penalty would resolve this. It's cheap, quick and leaves no opportunity afterwards for them reoffend. But who are we, either as individuals or as a society, to decide who lives and who dies. Is killing another human being the answer?

Somewhere like Coalinga has been created because the powers that be have decided that there is no place for these people in society after serving a prison sentence. So can we conclude that prison itself doesn't work as either a deterrent or as a form of rehabilitation? Judging by the number of people that are released from prison that reoffend, not just when it comes to crimes of a sexual nature but otherwise, then I would have to say no. Prison doesn't work. So why not bypass the political bullshit that surrounds a place like Coalinga and just come out and say "Look, we have no answers so we're just going to lock these people up for their entire lives"? Do we have a right to do that to other human beings?

Do they have a right to permanently destroy a childs innocence?

2 wrongs do not make a right. Right? Or maybe it's the lesser of 2 evils we should be leaning towards.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

And That's Blogwang!

And here's the 9th round, I'll start first right after your turn because that's Blogwang!

Here's the bonus Wangerblog, let's flip the font and change countries!

Scantily clad! Let's play with Giraffes because that's Blogwang!

(If you haven't seen this before, you've been living in a shoe. Shame on you! Aren't you glad I'm here to bring such vital information to your attention?)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

D.I.Y. In Pictures

We've had a few changes going on in the house recently. The German that moved in had to leave after only a month because he was made redundant (unfortunately like so many people at the moment) and as the rental market has gone nuts I've been given permission to make a few changes to the place to generate some interest. The downstairs bedroom was a bit of a mess with damp patches, blistered and peeling wallpaper and the chimney breast was just plain awful. The wallpaper had been wrapped around the corners really badly which left a twisted and deformed edge on both sides and there were bumps and lumps everywhere. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of that before I started weaving some All Mod Cons Magic about the place.

Anyway, I started trying to do the minimum amount of work possible because it is, after all, just a rental property and as I don't own it I'm not too fussed about doing an A grade job (and I don't exactly get a "commercial" rate of pay from my landlord to justify spending ages on anything). Out came the Stanley knife and I set about removing as many of the blisters as possible, including the edges of the chimney breast and the inside corners of the alcoves.

The rawl plugs got pulled out, but as the plaster was blown, I was left with rather nice deep holes in the walls. All the lose wallpaper was cut off (there wasn't a decent enough wall to stick it back to) and all the damp paper was removed.

The twisted paper in the corners got cut out, only for the plaster to fall out too leaving thin but bottomless cracks.

I then got a little carried away with the cutting and scraping...after a while I ended up totally removing all the paper on the chimney breast and down its sides leaving me with a significantly increased workload. But sometimes I just can't resist picking at just one more bit of lose wallpaper.

After much use of PVA, about 2kg of filler, a Bosh sander, 10kg of elbow grease, dust, sneezes and occasional swearing, I ended up with this (see below). A significantly harder and flatter surface. Then I gave it a couple of base coats with a light colour which showed up a few more smaller holes that I'd missed, so a little more filling and sanding...

It then got painted once in the wall colour top coat at the same time as the rest of the room was done.

And finally I painted it twice in a slightly different colour, from the same palette of Farrow & Ball colours.

All the woodwork was filled and sanded (before the final top coat on the walls) then painted in a white oil based eggshell (smells a bit, but when it dries properly is much more durable than a water based paint).

New carpet was also put in. Previously it was black. Not through dirt, but actually black. I've no idea who puts black carpet anywhere in a house but it's bloody awful and up until recently was in 4 rooms (3 of them bedrooms). Only my room and the living room are left. The carpet was purchased from Carpet Right, for a very reasonable price, and fitted (by fitters who were shite...another long story...although the carpet does look good down).

Then the furniture was put back in, although we really do need to change those drawers. That'll be done this week sometime I should imagine. I think it's turned out alright. I considered moving into it from my current room because it's a lot bigger than mine. But it's also more expensive, and times being what they are, I can't afford a rent increase. I'll just have to wait until I get around to doing my room again. Although there's not much you can do to what effectively rates as a shoebox.

Hmm...and that orange lampshades needs to go too. And I need to take a little off the bottom of the door now that there's carpet with underlay. Never ends this home improvement lark!

So, who wants to move in?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I Am Dumberer

Yesterday I had 2 wisdom teeth removed. One was growing at almost 45 degrees to my jaw line and, whilst it hadn't ever hurt or been an issue, the dentist said that there was a wee gap between that one and the next and it could become a much bigger issue quite quickly.

I'd already had one wisdom tooth out before, with just a local anaesthetic and that went with no hitches at all. Apart from me seeing the rather intricate and shiny tool of Tooth Death before the dentisht shoved it into my gaping gob. A mistake I'll never repeat. Even though I couldn't feel anything, the sound of tearing gums was enough to ensure that I never wanted to go through it again. It was worse than when I had 4 teeth taken out before my brace was put in, many many years ago.

I wanted to be right out of it this time, figuring that I wouldn't have to hear anything or be given the chance of seeing any medieval tools of nastiness. Instead I was given this IV drip thingy. I was told I would be in a "happy place" throughout the procedure. In fact I was in such a happy place that I have very little recollection of any events from yesterday.

Today, however, is completely different. I know exactly what is going on. And I am rather painfully aware of the fact that I look like I've got a small child hidden in my right cheek. The small child also appears to be using a 60lb sledge hammer on my face to get my attention. And my stomach is constantly telling me that no matter what soup I have, it's still soup and that I should in fact be eating solids. Chance would be a fine thing. I sit here dreaming of all kinds of wonderful food that I want. Like really crusty bread with lots of butter, or sumptuous meat pie with crunchy vegetables and gravy, or even a bar of milk chocolate.

I'm lucky if I can open my mouth enough to get a spoon in there, let alone have anything on it. Chewing? Yeah, right.

What irks me most is that I went to the dentisht with nothing wrong with me, and I've come away feeling pigging awful. Surely it's supposed to be the other way round right?

On a different note...anyone a member of Lastfm? If not, join it. Bloody brilliant it is. I was introduced to it a while ago but after serious computer issues, I stopped using it. Never again. It's excellent. There's another similar site...can't remember the name of it now, but my housemate uses it.

It's really simple to use, easy to get started, and really opens your eyes to a whole host of new music. And you're able to get to know other people that have similar tastes in tunes too. AND there's a widget wotsit that you can put on your blog...which I've done. Those eagle eyed of you will notice it just to the right. Press play on it and you get to listen to some of the tracks that are being built up in my library. If you're a part of it, look me up!