28 February, 2007

McDonalds Fries and Ranch Dressing - Taste test

McDonalds Fries and Ranch Dressing
Well, I bought back a bottle of Ranch dressing (specifically - "Hidden Valley - The Original Ranch Dressing") from a little supermarket lurking in the Financial district in New York on the recommendation of Renemy, yesterday I finally managed to remember to put it in my bag so we could all taste what the fuss was about...I took a quick trip to the nearest McDonalds (just down York Way) to score some freshly cooked French fries and we were all set...

Renemy chopped up some disposable cups to hold the dipping sauce, and I made sure they gave me some BBQ sauce tubs to counterpoint the Ranch (if needs be, as it looked like it might be sour), and it certainly did seem to benefit from it - Ranch is a little on the creamy side with a hint of onion and a gentle hit of garlic, making it very reminiscent of Ceaser salad dressing, it even almost manages to trick your taste buds into thinking there is cheese present, which there isn't...an interesting dip, but not sufficiently different to have developed itself as a unique dressing when facing up against the similarly styled Aioli-like options that have been omnipresent in the UK thanks to our proximity to France...

Still, if you can find some it's great for dipping fries/chips, and would be just outstanding for dipping pizza crusts (if you didn't want to smell too much of garlic in the morning)...and with the addition of some crumbled blue cheese we have the beginnings of an excellent dip for BBQ chicken wings...it's good stuff..! ;)

27 February, 2007

Xbox 360 - Oblivion - Easy way to max out Stealth

Okay, this is how to max out your stealth, the easy way... ;)

Go and find the location that your girlfriend/sister/mother/hippy friend keep their hair bands (you'll want a thin one, the kind used to hold a simple pony-tail in place), here is where I knew to find one (tut)...

Speed travel to the Imperial City Merchant's quarter and find the stunningly imaginatively named "Merchants Inn" (walk up the stairs ahead of you, turn left and it's the first tavern on the right), then simply push in the left thumb stick to start sneaking, loop the hair band around the left thumb stick and pull it towards the bottom left controller handle, again looping it around (like so) -
Xbox 360 sneak 100
- your character will sneak into the corner and onto a box, but you will notice that instead of movement stopping, the camera will continue to bob (indicating motion), but all the time staying stuck in the corner of the bar...this is perfect, make sure the sneak eye indicator in the centre of the screen is pale (indicating you are hidden, if not, take your characters shoes off and try again)...then just watch for a minute or two, just to make sure your character stays in the corner of the bar (bobbing up and down and hidden), then turn off the TV (gasp!), and go out and enjoy the *real* world for a few hours (take your PSP in case of withdrawal symptoms ;) and when you return (might need to do this a couple of times as the "Journeyman", "Expert" and "Master" announce screens will pause the game, but depending on your skill when you start) - 100 sneak will be yours... ;)

One small caveat here though, if you are playing any class with Sneak as a major skill, don't do this, seriously consider making a custom character class (with all the other skills you fancy, but omitting Sneak), when I got around to sleeping on my initial character I shot up about 10 levels in one go, but still armed with terrible weapons and armour and got my arse kicked (prompting me to have to start all over again)...

26 February, 2007

Scarlet Fever, Kings Cross

Had a rather unusual email circulated around the London office today, thought I would share edited highlights with you-

"We have been told that a member of staff has been diagnosed with Scarlet Fever". Woah! That woke me up! "Although it used to be considered a dangerous disease, nowadays it is easily treated with antibiotics and should not be a cause for concern"...Hmmm, alright then...(still don't want it though)..."The symptoms of the illness include sore throat and a pinkish red rash"...not scarlet then...? "If you develop these symptoms you should consult your GP. You will also find further details of diagnosis and treatment on the NHS Direct website"...or actually I found Wikipedia quite useful, even having some pictures to help you identify said symptoms, which the NHS doesn't have (and no, the rash isn't scarlet, but easy to treat or not, I really don't fancy 6 weeks of peeling skin after the other symptoms go away, a slight omission there, I feel)..."Although Scarlet Fever is a notifiable disease"...this means it's infectious enough for the local health authority to be required to track it's spread(!)..."we are advised that treatment is simple and patients normally"...normally?..."make a full recovery after a few days. It does not appear to pose any threat to unborn children"...well, that's a relief at least! ;)

Whoever was unlucky enough to catch a dose already though, I call on the power of the interweb to help you get well soon...it really doesn't sound/look very fun at all... :(

Be about right if it did get me though...already today in my small area we have one person off with "Flu"-like symptoms (uh oh, it's got a 3-4 day incubation period!), and two people with sore throats/coughing, causing me to glare suspiciously around my desk, shielding myself with my collar... >;P

So, Polonium 210, a broken finger, soft tissue damage and a group A streptococcal infection all in the space of 6 months..? Could be! Watch this space... ;)


Oh and I wanted to add that I'm not *really* worried about it, but on reflection perhaps that would just foolishly jinx things in the diseases favour (and one shouldn't tempt fate)...

Shit...typed it now... ;)

Number 17 bus, Cannon Street

Number 47 Bus
Well, never had this happen before, well apart from when Cannon Street was completely closed for road works - the number 17 bus this morning, after only waiting about five minutes (staring at the admittedly unmoving traffic jam), just gave up and carried on up King William Street...! What's that all about!?

So, sorry to anyone that was queuing for the number 17 bus down there, that's why you had an extra long wait this morning...! Not that I should be complaining, I got in super early...! ;)

24 February, 2007

VW T25 - Bargain carpet replacement

Colin Carpet upgrade #1
So, the rubber flooring at the front of Colin the Camper was looking a little on the tatty side, lacking funds (it being that time of year) but having plenty of enthusiasm, the obvious solution was to try and be creative on a shoe-string, Flyingpops found these "Tesco Value" range doormats last time we were out food shopping that closely resembled the tough carpet material used for the headlining and so wouldn't look out of place at all, so we picked them up...
Colin Carpet upgrade #2
...after finishing the shed I picked up the same pair of kitchen scissors I used for the roofing felt, pulled up the rubbers around the gear stick and the hand break and cut around the actual bits of metal underneath (you don't have to be too careful as the rubbers will hide a multitude of sins), that shot is work in progress as I was snipping small sections off until it fitted neatly-
Colin Carpet upgrade #3
- then tuck everything into place. pull the rubbers down to the carpet level et viola! A brand new, clean look, hard wearing central corridor carpet section, all for five minutes (incautious) cutting and two value doormats that cost us a grand total of £1.98...

Can't complain about that! ;)

DIY - New felt on the shed roof

So after the storms ripped the felt off the shed roof (I *know* it's been ages) all my little repairs finally failed, and at some point a large sheet of felt (about 3 meters long) has managed to totally vanish from the far side of the shed (must have just blown away)! So this morning I got out with my tape measure, a brand new roll of felt, a hammer, my steps and a lot of felt tacks, measured the roof, measured the felt into sections, cut it with some kitchen scissors (which worked best in the end) and (following the instructions) started at the bottom, tacking in at even intervals, overlapping a bit on the ends and folding in neatly (like a Christmas present)...
Fixing Shed Roof #1
...then the same on the other side, finishing off with a final section over the top (more tacks - nails wouldn't do the trick as the felt would just rip off at the next hint of a gust of wind)...
Fixing Shed Roof #2
...and there we go, the jobs a goodun... ;)

23 February, 2007

Funny safety notice

Funny sign at work
Well, office administration where I work, in a move almost worthy of Metro's "No sh*t Sherlock" section, have taped up the above pictured sign at the foot of a flight of stairs on the ground floor of the building. Admittedly it's a quite strangely angled flight of stairs (on one side anyway), but not *hugely* out of the ordinary or anything, just a little abstract...The sign (with a header and footer of striped yellow and black warning tape) advises those that may consider an attempt at the treacherous climb (if in need of a handrail) should preferably use the side that actually has one (it's on the left btw)...

I can't help but wonder what on earth happened to necessitate this...We'll be putting stickers on things saying the likes of "Power cable, may contain dangerous levels of electricity, do not suck" if we aren't careful... ;)

See some previous funny office signs I have spotted here and here... ;)

Last few pics from the Big Apple...

So, last few pics from New York (plus I slept really well last night, so hopefully this is the end of the stupidly long recovery period I have needed this time, picked up a bug too earlier in the week, was quite ill on Tuesday, so I don't think that helped much either), anyway -
New York in the snow #30
This was the chaotic scene when I returned to my floor (11) to pick up my luggage just before I checked out, all the furnature, beds, tables -
New York in the snow #31
- even all the TVs were in the coridoor! Never seen anything like it! Anyway, struggled downstairs, did the quick check out, and then went to wait for my Limo downstairs -
New York in the snow #33
- found the guy after about 5 minutes of asking people who probably had nothing to do with the hotel at all (judging by the confused looks I got) and began the treacherous drive off the island -
New York in the snow #36
- (took a few pics out the window as we went) -
New York in the snow #34
New York in the snow #32
New York in the snow #35
- reached the airport (didn't take too many shots around the place, as I didn't know if not being American would mean I didn't have photographers rights, but did sneak a few) -
New York in the snow #37
- you can see why we were delayed, the whole place was snow-bound -
New York in the snow #38
New York in the snow #40
- and it's funny, of all the arcade machines they had in the airport, the most popular by far was the Galaga/Ms Pacman machine, Need for speed etc. being largely ignored, even by the kids -
New York in the snow #39
- wouldn't have predicted that!

So that's the end of my trip (sorry it's taken so long to actually document it all, been having a bit of a tough time of it lately with one thing and another)... ;P

22 February, 2007

Bhut Jolokia - new "world’s hottest chilli pepper"...

...and I thought my habanero oil was hot *phew*...for the story behind this new discovery click over here...and pass the nachos, would you... ;)

20 February, 2007

Painful transatlantic journey

So, kind of catching up with my sleep now, and kind of sleeping a bit better, well, did last night anyway...

So, my journey back from the States...it didn't go entirely to plan, went to get dressed on Friday morning and realised I hadn't left myself out any underwear (idiot), so I had to unpack my main suitcase and re-pack it (not quite as neatly as I had managed the evening before (in-between tissue changes)), so I had to just stuff everything that wouldn't fit into my hand-luggage (more of which later) -
New York in the snow #29
- popped into the office for an "any other questions" session with my trainee and then back to the hotel only to find total bedlam (I do have pictures, just not had a chance to flickr them yet), my bag was the only thing left in my room, the chairs, bed, desk, TV etc. (not just from my room) were all stacked up in the hall (the cheek, I hadn't even checked out yet)! So, down to meet my limo (which the hotel had kindly booked for me), sat in traffic/skidded our way out of town (took about 40 minutes!), then back across the Williamsburg bridge and along the highway, very much slower this time, arriving in the airport at about half three (so I could have probably left it a little later, but not much, Friday PM roads out of Manhattan aren't very funny)...

Fought my way past the hundreds of people sleeping on the floor (because of the delays and cancellations of the last few days) to the Virgin Atlantic check in area, where I couldn't locate a single member of staff (all hiding, no doubt) which began to worry me a little, so I went and found a departures screen, which was showing about 80% of flights today were cancelled (uh oh)...waited (impatiently) until my flight flicked up, and there it was, on time and not cancelled...(phew!)...however, that did leave me with time to burn, so, dragging my luggage with me I wandered around duty free (not that I could buy anything because I didn't have a boarding pass) then sat down with a drink and played Splinter Cell Essentials on my PSP, when I got bored I went back to the check in area where a few members of staff were starting to assemble, so I joined a 30 minute queue at the ticket desk (to pay for my leg room) full of desperate people just trying to get anywhere near Europe (the guy behind me in the queue had been stuck in the airport for 2 days (and he looked like it), he had his flights cancelled by his carrier three times and just wanted to get home, poor chap...) anyway, I paid my money, checked in my bag, went through the security check, got called back and had to watch the nice lady empty my wash kit (which I had stupidly stuffed into my hand luggage) into the bin (what an idiot!), oh, all apart from my razor (eh???) and a coke can sized bottle of clear liquid that smelt of propellant (hair treatment, but she wasn't to know)...anyway, I shrugged at the logic, and then went back to Splinter Cell until the time of the flight...

When I got on board, there was a large gentleman in the seat I had paid for (not again!), a nice member of the cabin crew explained that he couldn't fit in the window seat as that one had an airbag attached to the seat belt (blah blah)...so, I shrugged, and gave it a go, and actually, the leg room was fine...still a bit annoying though...more annoying still was that the flight was delayed by 30 minutes (adverse weather), the 140-odd kids from the way out were flying back with me, and the cherry on the top was that the entertainment system was broken, so instead of all playing tetris they were running around the plane throwing things and yelling (so I didn't get much sleep)...

Flyingpops picked me up at the airport right on time (in fact she was there rather early), I tried to get some sleep on Saturday, but it was a bit sporadic, Sunday I slept until midday (still working on US time), and Sunday night I didn't get to sleep until 3am, and (as I mentioned already) thankfully last night I made it all the way through...still feel like a total zombie though...Let's see how today goes...zzz...

Normal service should be resumed soon... ;)

Update - posted the pics that should have been in this entry, see here...

19 February, 2007

16 February, 2007

Nose Bleed - Not a very pleasant evening...

Some woman almost slipped over next to me on a patch of ice about half way back to the hotel from the office, and accidentally whacked me in the nose with her handbag, it was *cold*, so it hurt, but I just rubbed the water out of me eyes, muttered my "nono, ids fine" holding my hose and carried on through the snow...It wasn't until I got back to the warmth of my hotel room (capiliaries relaxing) that the nose bleed began...It lasted for about the length of "King Kong" (the most recent remake) that was on TV on HBO...drip drip drip...made the bathroom look like a mass murder had taken place when it first started because I didn't have tissues to hand, ended up with a bit of toilet paper folded over and over, then rolled into a tight spiral, stuck into my nasal canal to totally block it off, removing and replacing it each time it became saturated and started to drip again...couldn't leave the room like that, so just sat and watched more TV, finally falling asleep with my head on a towel in case it started dripping again in the night (was fine though)...

So much for my last night in the city...

Not going to leave it too late to get to the airport either, still reports on the news of blocked roads (people sat in cars/trucks for 24 hours), 10 hour delays (sat in planes on the runway at JFK!) etc, so not going to leave anything to chance, already arranged my limo...if I end up having to wait around in the airport, then I have to wait around in the airport (I'll live)...

More later perhaps, but most likely nothing until I get back to Blighty (for which I must admit, I am starting to feel a little homesick)...

So, so long New York, and thanks for all the grub... ;)

15 February, 2007

New York Hot Pastrami sandwich with Swiss cheese on rye

Just had a bit of an odd experience, finding out that Flyingpops isn't very well by getting an "out of office reply" from her work email...Hrm...
New York in the snow #26
Anyway, the thaw has now started with a vengeance (phew) -
New York in the snow #25
- one thing that this experience has done for me is to give me a new found respect for these grilled bits of the sidewalk (that I normally avoid, as they occasionally wobble, and rest over the top of huge holes that seem to lead right down to the subway below), reason is that in the snow and ice, they seem to -

a) Remain largely ice free
b) provide good grip for wet shoes (even if they do wobble at bit)

- went back to the Broome Street place for lunch, this time I knew what I wanted to try - Hot New York Pastrami and Swiss cheese on Rye...and it was *fantastic*, really going to miss that sandwich...bought Pastrami in Tesco once in the UK and it was *nothing* like this stuff, zinging with black pepper and garlic, excellent... :(
Pastrami with Swiss cheese on Rye
The only problem, was, I thought the guy serving me was being kind and acting in translation between American English and British English when he asked me if I wanted "Chips or Salad", I was actually expecting "Fries"...so mucked up a little bit, my bad, but I won't make that mistake again...
New York in the snow #27

New York - aftermath of the storm

New York Rib Steak
So for supper last night I went for the New York Rib Steak (16 oz. USDA choice, hand cut and char grilled, which was not mucked about with in any way, and was quite delicious (brocolli again though, New York seems to have something about brocolli), woke up this morning quite late and was in a bit of a rush to get into the office on time (getting ice into my trainers as I was doing so, yuk)...but grabbed a few snaps of the aftermath of the storm yesterday -
New York in the snow #18
- (someone in the office had confidently told me it would all be gone by this morning, but it hasn't -
New York in the snow #21
- admittedly it's moved into large piles around the place, but it certainly isn't gone...
New York in the snow #23
News reports are of road and airline disruption and delays, hopefully it's all sorted out by tomorrow!
New York in the snow #24

American Vending Machines

Holiday Inn Vending machine #1
It's funny, but in the US, coins are so rarely used, in fact, mostly frowned upon, it's fairly odd to find a vendor who doesn't just round everything (usually up) to the nearest dollar (and if they don't, they are simply expecting you to tip the balance to the *next* dollar), "five twenny five" for nearly a pint of beer was a particularly cheeky example...which almost had to end on a seven... >:(

It was with some amusement then, that I found the "bill" point on the vending machine down the hall from my room, being in a stimulant rather than depressant kind of mood this evening, having been largely fobbed off with Canadian quarters (probably because of my English accent) in SoHo of late...I was rather only armed with a massive number of 50p notes (again!)...I mean, can you imagine that in England? We abandoned all that virtually worthless paper many years ago in favour of our little gold coins...doesn't make sense financially, for the mint, I guess, but it's a whole lot easier to tell how much money is in your wallet...just pick it up... ;)
Holiday Inn Vending machine #2
Anyway, here is something you won't see outside of the US, a vending machine for Pepsi that is happy to eat dollar bills (with added scary/happy yumming noise)...Video here...

Later when Youtube manages to sort it's shit out...Ah, finally... ;) Now I'm off for to find some dinner... ;)

14 February, 2007

New York Blizzard update

New York in the snow #14
It's getting worse, stepping outside it feels like you are being sprayed at 100 miles an hour with coarse sand, the snow, in places is now piled almost a foot and a half deep, so you have to be *extremely* careful where you tread -
New York in the snow #13
New York in the snow #15
New York in the snow #16
- all manner of machinery is being employed in the futile attempt to keep the sidewalks, streets and avenues clear, and oddly, the traffic is still moving (although only just, lots and lots of skidding and wheel spins involved, plus plenty of people having to stop to clear their windscreen wipers of snow, where they have become overwhelmed or got frozen up) -
New York in the snow #17
- anyway, I walked east as far as I could stand (about 2 blocks!) and found a poetry themed restaurant called the "Broome Street Bar" -
New York in the snow #12
New York in the snow #10
- everyone else having gone for Sushi, which I had been warned to avoid (thanks DJMathu!), I studied the menu for a while, and then ordered the "Knockwurst Chilli Dog" -
New York in the snow #11
- it was *better* than it sounded (and it sounded pretty good!), it's the unexpected combination of flavours that make it work so well, the chilli is normal (mince/kidney beans/spices/onion), the Knockwurst tastes just like a normal hot dog, and the cheese and onion, are, well, cheese and onion, but combine this little lot together (upon a drowned piece of toast) and out of the blue you have something quite extraordinary (and easily recreatable at home)!

I told the guy serving me "This is wonderful, my first time, I'm ashamed to say I'm an American Chilli Dog Virgin"...his reply "Welcome to the real world, man"... ;)

Classic, almost makes up for the appalling weather! ;)

Update - just found out the Americans call this weather "Ice Pellets"...Now I know why everyone has been giving me slightly blank looks when I have been referring to "Hail"...or maybe they do use "Hail" and it's for some meteor-sized super American version...both are a distinct possibility... ;)

New York - Interesting walk to work!

Well, lets just say, the snow today (or here, not sure which) isn't like the snow we have been having back in England, it's like hail (feels like being shot with BB pellets when they hit your ears) -
New York in the snow #3
- and when they land on the slush from last night, it's like walking on jelly covered with ball bearings -
New York in the snow #5
- (i.e. rather slippery) -
New York in the snow #8
- so it's been an interesting walk to work, oh and I did decide to wear my coat today ;)
New York in the snow #9
Treated myself to a bagel in the little place opposite the office too, opted for "Butter roast turkey", it took a little while with the guy behind the counter to establish what I actually was after -
"Butter Turkey Bagel please"
(he says, as he holds up a white American roll)
"No, in a Bagel please"
(he holds up a bagel)
"Yes please"
"You want Mayo? Mustard?"
"Yes please"
"Yes please"
"Yes please"
"Yes please"
(now looking a little exasperated)
"So youse wants everything on that!"
(Ah, epiphany!)
"Yes please"
(under his breath)
"Why didn't ya just say so!"
(I'm learning, I'm learning!)
Butter Turkey Bagel with everything on it
Couple more videos too, here and here...

New York, blizzard continues...

New York in the snow
Wow, what a sight to wake up to... ;)

It's still coming down with a vengeance...! Think I *might* need my coat today... ;)

More pics later...

Update - Quick video from the hotel window here...

Snow in New York

Not as much as upstate New York (now reports say up to 12 feet of snow has fallen in the areas around the Great Lakes!!), nor actually as much as back home (a pathetic 2 inches), but a little light frosting for the city is nice, up to another foot is predicted for today too, oo-er!
New York #106
New York #107
New York #108
New York #109
Last night I stayed in the Sanremo restaurante in the hotel, and had Gamberi Italiana (Colossal shrimp in wine, lemon and garlic sauce), which turned out to be normal king prawns, with tail on (wow), and again, were just about standard, will try and get out and about again today, Lombardi's re-opens but it's Valentines day (which New York seems to take more seriously than anywhere else on the planet, from what I hear, closing time at Tiffany's is almost a RIOT every year), so every place in the city is bound to be both -

a) Double the price (-and-)
b) Full to capacity

Just one last thing to say - Happy Valentines day to you Flyingpops! Missing you! x