52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah..."

I am in so much trouble.

You know how I was saying how I have just shifted my Ipod onto ITunes? Well this morning I went over to the music store and downloaded me my first tune.... inevitably this was Vertigo by U2 and cost me the princely sum of 79p.

It was extremely easy.

My bank balance is doomed.


UPDATE: 1/11

For reference, the tracks I bought over the weekend in full were:
U2 - Vertigo
Green Day - Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)
Green Day - Basket Case
Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
The Bees - Wash in the Rain
Black - Wonderful Life
The Charlatans - Weirdo
The Charlatans - The Only One I Know
Offspring - Self Esteem
Graham Coxon - Freakin' Out

Also some french stuff I bought for C., but as that hasn't synced on yet, I'm not counting it yet. Less than a tenner all in all.

So far.

Friday, October 29, 2004

"Say the right things when electioneering...."

I have been completely mesmerised by the US Election.

I’d be the first to admit that I don’t understand the intricacies of the American political system, with all its checks and balances, senators, governors (or indeed governators), congressmen, District Attorneys, Mayors etc. etc…. but there is something beguilingly simple about the concept of the nation choosing between two people to decide who gets to be president for the next four years.

This time of course, there is extra spice brought about by the fact that we all know that last time this all came down to a few hundred votes in a single state. You could scarcely have a more potent illustration of the power and importance of every single vote. As a result millions of people are flocking to register themselves on the electoral roll – the polls already show it to be close, but these new voters could make all the difference one way or another.

The coverage that we get in the UK tends to have something of a liberal bias – George Bush is widely and routinely portrayed as some kind of incompetent half-wit. I think it’s fair to say that the majority of people over here have no understanding of how this man got elected in the first place, never mind that fact that he is standing again and has a very real chance of a second term (see the Guardian’s recent emails to the undecided voters of Clark County, and the angry response of the rather patronised and insulted residents and subsequent backtracking)

John Kerry is generally portrayed more sympathetically, but it dawned on me the other day that I actually know very little about any of his actual policies (other than that he is thought to be more pro-Europe than Bush, and that his stance on the war is different, but that he wouldn’t be pulling the troops out any time soon).

In fact, the UK coverage of the US election is rooted firmly in the electoral process and the candidates themselves rather than on the issues. We see discussions about the debates, and who came out on top, but we don’t hear about any of the issues. Usually we get to see footage of a lot of political rallies, with one candidate or another appearing with some celebrity or another… yesterday it was Kerry and Springsteen, and today it is Dubbya and Arnold…. Basically we just marvel at the amount of money being spent.

I have also been spending a good deal of time surfing around other blogs (using Blog Explosion) and there are a hell of a lot of political bloggers out there at the moment. This election is certainly raising a lot of passion, both inside and outside of the USA.

One thing I can say for sure, is that I don’t envy you the choice. There is no way on this wide world that I would vote for George W. Bush – so I guess that would make me a Kerry voter. Isn’t he just a lump of wood though? It’s all very impressive that he served in Vietnam AND can show a picture of himself campaigning for peace with John Lennon, but I just can’t escape from the fact that he married into money not just once, but twice… and can man from this background really claim to be representing the whole nation (although that can probably be said about any political candidate ever)/

I know that Britain has a strange and fairly incomprehensible electoral process, and that we don’t exactly have MUCH choice, but for the election of the “leader of the free world” this is all a bit depressing.

… and I’ll watch it all with bated breath.

Bartlett for America!

I will stop, I will stop at nothing.
Say the right things when electioneering
I trust I can rely on your vote.

When I go forwards you go backwards
and somewhere we will meet.
When I go forwards you go backwards
and somewhere we will meet.
Ha ha ha

Riot shields, voodoo economics,
it's just business, cattle prods and the I.M.F.
I trust I can rely on your vote.

When I go forwards you go backwards
and somewhere we will meet.
When I go forwards you go backwards
and somewhere we will meet.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Is it any wonder you are too cool to fool...?

I've been using Blog Explosion recently:

It certainly drives traffic to your site, but I have to say I'm sceptical about the **quality** of that traffic (no offence if that's what brought you here)

I'm philosophical about this for a couple of reasons:

1) I don't write this blog especially for an audience - I write it primarily for myself. I HOPE other people like it, but that's not why I do it.

2) I have found some really interesting blogs whilst surfing for credits (and a lot of other ones too...)

It's bloody addictive too.

I rode a tank / held a general's rank....

I converted my Ipod tonight from Media Centre v10 to ITunes. Yes I gave in.

When I bought my Ipod (over a year ago now), there wasn't an ITunes Windows, so the discerning user had to hunt around for an effective piece of software to use. I settled on MC, and it has done a really good job. Sadly the lure of downloads from the ITunes website has forced the change.

Took me all bloody night as well.

And it will no doubt be horribly confused when C. tries to dock her mini.

[deep sighs]

This site is certified 27% EVIL by the Gematriculator

I have to tell you that I'm a little disappointed with that result - I was hoping for more. Still, it is **absolutely** correct:

I quote:

"Basically, Gematria is searching for different patterns through the text, such as the amount of words beginning with a vowel. If the amount of these matches is divisible by a certain number, such as 7 (which is said to be God's number), there is an incontestable argument that the Spirit of God is ever present in the text. Another important aspect in gematria are the numerical values of letters: A=1, B=2 ... I=9, J=10, K=20 and so on. The Gematriculator uses Finnish alphabet, in which Y is a vowel.

Experts consider the mathematical patterns in the text of the Holy Bible as God's watermark of authenticity. Thus, the Gematriculator provides only results that are absolutely correct."

So there!

On the plus side, I suppose that this means that the Spirit of God is present in 73% of what I write... which is nice.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

"Teenage Dreams So Hard to Beat"

John Peel has died. As a music fan, I'm pretty upset about that. Not only was he an absolutely legendary DJ, but anyone who has every heard him speak on Radio 4s "Home Truths" will know that he was also a thoroughly decent man. I loved the story he told about how his son William drove him absolutely potty with his untidiness, which he seemed to take extremely personally, as though it was done specifically to annoy him (which, to be fair, it may have been). It was the way that the sentimental old fool got more and more agitated as he told the story, and ended up nearly in tears. Great radio.

Plus anyone who has to have their whole house reinforced to carry the weight of all their records has got to be all right, haven't they?

One of my favourite albums of all time contains several Peel Sessions recordings - all of which are the definitive versions in my books.

The radio won't feel the same without him (and nor will Glastonbury)

John Peel 1939 - 2004. R.I.P. For what they're worth, this blog passes its condolences on to Sheila and the rest of the Peel family.

Confound their politics / Frustrate their knavish tricks

If you are a blogger and you are British, get yourselves over to BritBlog and sign up.

We Brits should stick together you know.

BritBlog Needs You!

Monday, October 25, 2004

...they say jump / you say "how high?"

I've been listening to my ipod on shuffle this afternoon:

The Streets - let's push things forwards
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
Tom Petty - Runnin' Down a Dream
James - laid
R.E.M. - Daysleeper
Embrace - ashes
White Stripes - I just don't know what to do with myself
The Beatles - Because
Johnny Cash - Spiritual
Rage Against The Machine - Take the Power Back
Belle & Sebastian - Judy & the Dream of Horses
Beastie Boys - Body Movin'
Sheryl Crowe - Hard to Make a Stand (hmm)
The Who - Let's See Action
Daft Punk - Something About Us
Billy Joel - Miami 2017 (See the Lights Go Out on Broadway)
Billy Bragg - The Man In the Iron Mask
Hurricane #1 - Only The Strongest Will Survive
Inspiral Carpets - Find Out Why
Ian Dury & The Blockheads - There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards
Pet Shop Boys - What Have I Done to Deserve This?

Not bad - in fact downright inspiring. Out of 3455 tracks, that's not bad.

I quite like the musical roulette of knowing that a duff album track or one of the CDs that C. ripped could only be minutes away (livin' the vida loca would put a downer on my day and no mistake). On the other hand, I could be only one song away from a Neil Young classic.


Speaking of Rage Against The Machine, I read something really funny the other day saying how Rage were...er... raging in the mid-90s when US politics was especially bland. Now we have some real issues to chew over, RATM are no more (I can just see then getting stuck into Dubbya, can't you?)

Rage Against the Machine - where are you in our darkest hour?

"What did I see? Can I believe?"

So the British Navy is recognising the church of Satan (see here and here for details, but don't miss their own website - it's a corker!). Chris Cramner is the first officially recognised Satanist in the armed forces, and will now be allowed to practice satanic rites on board his ship. Apparently he stumbled across a copy of the Satanic Bible and realised it was just what he was looking for

"I then read more and more and came to realise I'd always been a Satanist, just simply never knew."

The Navy as an equal opportunities employer basically had no choice once the request was made...

Anne Widdecombe, that bastion of moral rectititude has commented:

"Satanism is wrong. Obviously, the private beliefs of individuals anywhere - including the armed forces - are their own affair, but I hope it doesn't spread"

Frankly I don't know where to begin.... I think my favourite bit is the classical Tory line that the individual is entitled to their own opinion, just as long as they have the right to determine if that view is RIGHT or WRONG.

Doesn't it make more sense to have satanists in the armed forces than Christians, with all that "thou shalt not kill" nonsense?? Presumably Satanists have fewer scruples about dropping the odd bomb on a school...?

I have to say though that I am a little disappointed to discover that Satanists "don't kill children or do things to virgins".

What's the point then?

Would a Satanist prime minister have taken us into a war with Iraq? Perhaps not.... Their FAQs helpfully point out that:

"In recent years, we've wasted far too much time explaining that Satanism has nothing to do with kidnapping, drug abuse, child molestation, animal or child sacrifice, or any number of other acts which idiots, hysterics or opportunists would like to blame on us. Satanism is a life-loving, rational philosophy that millions of people adhere to."

We could use some rational philosophy about the place... (although it must be said that the welcome image on their homepage rather undermines how seriously I am prepared to take them - it's the red devil jumpsuit thing that I find the most off-putting)

Sunday, October 24, 2004

"Watching afternoon repeats & the food he eats.."

Here are some of the good things I discovered in Northumberland (not in any particular order):

1) Black Faced Lamb (the pub we stayed in only served British meat - this was great, even if it came hand-in-hand with a distinct "countryside alliance" slant on everything. Is it me or is there a contradiction between banging on about how well your meat is looked after and what lovely conditions it lives in, free from distress etc. and a general policy of killing everything else that moves in cruel and unusual ways?)
2) The Jolly Fisherman in Craster's crab sandwiches (just over the road from the smokery... mmmm... kippers)
3) The cycle trails around Kielder Water
4) The brilliant bloke who runs the bike shop at Kielder Castle (and Cyril the Squirrel too)
5) The tranquility of the Holy Island
6) The breathtaking scenery all around the Northumberland National Park
7) Farm Shops
8) Local smoked Kippers for breakfast (actually, pretty much food generally!)
9) The frankly amazing condition of the Roman remains - Hadrian's Wall, Housesteads Fort etc.
10) Not being at work

And here are some of the other things I discovered in Northumberland (again, not in any particular order:)

1) What happened to quality, hand-pulled real ale? What's with all this gassy shite?
2) Old people driving erratically (and very slowly) on small, windy country roads
3) People loudly talking about hunting in the bar whilst wearing "Freedom for the Countryside" rugby shirts from the Countryside Alliance (although their pro-hunting literature in the bar was often hilarious - did you know that the fox has no natural predators? If we didn't chase after them with slavering packs of hounds, they would be driving cars, living in our houses and doing our jobs?)
4) People coming to breakfast uniformly dressed in Plus Fours (never do a google image search for them, by the way), shirt and tie before a day's shooting of some poor innocent creature
5) The apparent absence of a customer service culture - pubs shut until about 8pm, shops shutting up at 5pm (1pm on Saturday and closed all day on sunday), not to mention the odd bit of surly service in shops and pubs
6) Ordering a cheese sandwich and being served a processed cheese slice between two thin pieces of white bread (although to be fair, this actually tasted pretty nice with a bit of red onion)
7) Prehistoric Plumbing
8) Falling asleep during Match of the Day (in the interests of balance, I should probably tell you that I do this every week at home as well)
9) Whilst zooming through some of the photos we took, I noticed I am developing quite a grey flash. I'm not decided yet if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I'm erring on good thing at the moment, as long as all mentions are accompanied with either the word 'distinguished', or comparisons with someone like Sean Connery...
10) Having to go to work again tomorrow... boo!

A pretty decent break.

Misheard on holiday #1: "You can't poach a turd" - it was only after I had the disturbing mental image of a saucepan of boiling water with a dash of vinegar, that I realised the word was "polish"

Misheard on holiday #2: "You wouldn't skin a burnt shit" - I have no idea what this means or what the guy was trying to say. Possibly he said "chip"?? Any ideas?

Hero of the day - Carl Weathers. As if Apollo Creed wasn't enough, he gave the world this line in Predator, on the failure of attempts to reveal who was killing off our heroes:
"What are you going to try next Dutch, cheese?"

Thursday, October 21, 2004

"music & blasters and old jedi masters..."

"I was lost, I was lost. Crossed lines I shouldn't have crossed"

When was the last time you nearly wet yourself?

For me it was about a year ago. How? C's mother was very kindly giving me a lift down to London, where I was going to meet up with a couple of friends and then head on to Twickenham to watch some rugby. We had a very pleasant journey, chatting about this and that (I'm pleased to say that we get on pretty well) and after a couple of hours I was dropped off outside Wembley tube station.

At this stage I was beginning to feel my morning coffee making its presence felt. Nothing too serious, but a quick check of the timetable showed me I had a couple of minutes to try and find the station facilities. They were shut. Never mind. Had a quick look up and down the high street for a Burger King or something, but there didn't appear to be anything. No worries. The need is not too great, so I make my way back to the station and get on the tube.

I'm not sure how familiar you are with the London Underground, but Wembley is one of the outlying stations (oh, I know this all now) and the tube is actually excruciatingly slow and takes an hour or so to wander its way casually into London.

Can you see where this story is going?

After a while I begin to tap my foot. Then I begin to jiggle my legs. We're getting a bit closer. We reach a point where I have to stand up and start pacing up and down the carriage. I'm starting to sweat and I think people are starting to look at me now. Only a few stops to go.

I'm not going to make it.

I jump off the train 2 stops before Oxford Circus (where I was planning to get off) and desperately start to look for the loo. Now, if you think about it, how many toilets have you ever seen in an Underground station?? You see my problem? You know how some of these stations are actually really deep underground and you have to go through what seems like miles of corridors and dozens of really steep escalators before you see daylight?

I was beginning to panic. I crouched down for a second to assess my options and to ease the pressure, and I swear to God I am thinking of looking for a quiet corridor.

Lucky for me this station is near to the surface, and I race up the stairs and into the street. There's a pub. Thank God. The toilets are downstairs.... crap.... run run run, push open the door and horribly my bladder starts to relax as I sprint towards the urinal...not yet! not yet!


I have rarely felt so relaxed in my life.

I was really, really close to doing something that I haven't done for well over 20 years, which frankly would have been pretty embarrassing.

When was the last time you were this close? Please tell me it isn't just me?

(I'm not even mentioning that the same thing nearly happened to me again, a couple of months later... in the car...stuck in traffic...looking for a carpark... but you don't need to hear that story.)

It's common, right?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

"If it looks like it works, and it feels like it works, then it works"

"Final Straw" by Snow Patrol is a really excellent album. This has been on my stereo far more times than any other album released this year and is rarely out of my car. At one point I thought I had over-listened to it (don't you hate it when that happens?) If I heard 'spitting games' one more time I thought I would scream. After something that a friend said on his blog, it started whirring around my head, so I put it on in the car on the way to work this morning. It's bloody brilliant!

Just as well really - I'm seeing them live for the fourth time this year (!) at the Birmingham Academy in November (other 3 times were backing Athlete at Rock City in February, at Oxford Brookes in March and at Glastonbury in June - so not as superfan as it sounds really).

They're good live, but Gary Lightbody really needs to do something with his hair.

Caught a little bit of Countdown when I was at the gym this afternoon (once I had finally escaped the office for my half day anyway). I'm still rubbish at it (I'm usually good with words, but I maintain that anagrams appeal to the mathematical side of your brain), but Richard Whiteley was actually pretty funny.

I must be getting old.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

And it makes me feel so fine / I can't control my brain (hip hip)

This is only supposed to be half a week for me. I've got a half-day tomorrow, and then on Thursday C. and I are off up to Northumberland for a long weekend away. For those wondering what could possibly be up there that would interest someone, here's a list:
  1. Hadrian's Wall
  2. The Northumberland National Park
  3. Kielder Water
  4. The Holy Island of Lindisfarne
  5. Some of the best seafood in the UK
  6. We'll take the bikes and try and get out and do some healthy stuff
  7. I'm staying in a pub (just look at that sample menu)
  8. It's not work

I could probably go on. The last bit is the most important by miles. The weather may well be shite, but the pub has an open fire... and I'll have a chance to catch up on my reading.

As I was saying, this is supposed to be a short week for me, but as is always the way with these things, all this has meant is that my whole week has been shoved into 2 days. I left work today at nearly 8pm, got home and booted up my laptop to finish off a document (making merchandising information available on a RF handheld device, if you're curious. No? Very wise.). Still - it wasn't all bad, as C. made a lovely stirfry, and I was able to catch the first episode of the new series of Little Britain (Lou and Andy are my favourites) and then some dreadful rubbish starring Kris Marshall as the character he always plays, and then onto Sky One for Deadwood - which is still very good.

I'm knackered and the mini-break can't come soon enough.

Toodle pip.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

"Two lumps please...."

Went down to Oxford this weekend to see The Bees at the Zodiac in Oxford. I'm not too familiar with their stuff (although they were one of the nominations for this year's Mercury Music Prize), and what I heard round at J & J's house was trying very hard to sound like White Album era Beatles. Hm. I have to say that I'm not a terribly big fan of bands whose whole 'thing' is to faithfully recreate the "vibe" of the 60s. All too often this means that the search for an authentic 1960 valve amplifier takes precedence over actually putting a bit of thought into making the songs interesting for the listener. Prime offenders here are (of course) Ocean Colour Scene (new live album out now folks!), but I'm also including The Coral in here, and I was mentally ready to file The Bees here as well.

Ok. Good news - they're not being filed with that lot. They *are* undeniably something of a throwback band, and I'm not sure I'll be rushing out to buy "Free the Bees" tomorrow, but they were pretty good fun live. They look pretty shambolic - hairy, a bit tubby, a little bit dirty looking (one of the guys at the back looks like Badly Drawn Boy with his stubbly beard, woolly hat... not a look to be copying) BUT they are a tight live act. They all seem to be decent musicians - the keyboardist variously plays the trumpet, the bass and various bit of persussion, the singer plays the guitar, the keyboards and the drums, the drummer plays the guitar and does some singing & the bassist plays the guitar and the keyboards. I don't know why this should be so, but that makes for a more interesting live experience (in classic Ringo style, I think the singer is a better drummer than the drummer...). I also recognised a couple of songs, notable "Wash in the Rain", which is a great song.

Anyway - they were pretty good.

On the other hand, Little Barrie, the support, were awful... and I proudly base that opinion entirely on the stupid hat the singer was wearing throughout (although amusingly I've just seen that the guitarist - and silly hat wearer - was actually filling in for Alain Whyte in Morrissey's band both time I saw them this year... ah well.... he wasn't wearing the hat then, so how was I supposed to know?)

Thanks for the tickets Scat - good call.

Watched a bit of ESB whilst I was in Oxford - Lucas has changed Boba Fett's voice so that now he has a distinct kiwi accent. Part of the Stalinist revisionism of history to bring the old films into line with the new film orthodoxy. I fear that rumours of the insertion of Hayden Christiansen into the end of ROTJ may be true.

On the other hand... who really cares?

Am I fooling anyone?

Friday, October 15, 2004

It's got a CD player (player, player, player...)

I happened to switch on the tv this evening and caught 30 minutes or so of the remake of Battlestar Galactica. You may have some questions at this point, so here are some quick answers.

- Yes they did.
- Yes. They really, really did.
- No, I don't know why.

Ok. We're all up to speed.

Anyway. My memories of this rather crap 80s series are mainly focused on a couple of key things:

1. Dirk Benedict was in it.
2. The weird robot dog thing
3. They travelled for a long time & never seemed to arrive
4. The scary guy who helped the cylons
5. Dirk Benedict was in it

Well. The key thing I learned about the remake was that Starbuck has changed sex. Is nothing sacred?

Apollo & Starbuck & "Apollo" and "Starbuck"

I guess no homoerotic undertones in the new one then, huh?

(And open question - was "Battlestar" (original) better than "Buck Rogers"?? Think carefully of Col. Wilma Deering before answering) Posted by Hello

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

'And it's not about you joggers....'

Mac's 'Ultimate Olympian' blog has been featured in the Guardian's daily linklog.... that's very exciting news! Yay!

"It don’t look much but I’ve been far"

You know it's nearly winter when the nights begin to draw in. I've already talked about how this has been driving me indoors into the gym instead of being able to take a run along the river. Another example of the changing weather cropped up tonight when I went over to see my friend Nick in the deepest, darkest Leicestershire countryside to enter his local pub quiz. Naturally this meant I had to get into my car and wind my way along the A606 towards Melton. It had gone 7pm, so I did my first proper bit of night driving since the seasons turned - you know, when you have to have the headlights on and concentrate really hard (and it was raining too).

People can be such morons, can't they? Which bit of headlight dipping is difficult to understand? It's not as though the dipper is kept in an incovenient place is it? Ah yes - RIGHT BY YOUR HAND!

(and I hate those really bright spotlights they put on posh cars as well, whilst we're on the subject).

For reference, and on the off chance you are interested, we didn't win the quiz, but we didn't come home empty-handed ... oh no... we won:

  1. A packet of cheese & onion crisps (for knowing that nougat was made in Montélimar)
  2. A packet of mini cheddars (for the best team name - '"Rebecca Loos is fondling my pig".... said Posh'. See here for an explanation - it's got to be better reading about it in The Sun than hearing one of the team of grannies in the pub explaining to the others what it meant. Frankly, if I hear another group of women over the age of 70 discussing semen again, it will be too soon.)
  3. A bottle of faux-champagne for getting a "row" of correct answers (don't ask - the quiz sheet was in some sort of bingo layout). Result! (I left all of the prizes with Nick, obviously)
Clocks go back this weekend. I suppose that means that I have to spend all week listening to people moronically chatting about the nights really drawing in, and ooooh isn't it dark for 4pm, etc. etc. Gah!

Monday, October 11, 2004

"Libraries gave us power, then work came and made us free"

OK - perhaps the world hasn't been exactly crying out for it, but here's a picture of my desk at work (at about 19:45 this evening).

Things to note:

- 2 laptops
- Ipod (today listening to "meltdown" by Ash)
- Ipod postcard
- postcard from Kata Tjuta (January feels like a long, long time ago)
- A postcard of Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji (Ranji)
- Nice pink mechanical pencil
- baseball (on strange metal tube)
- Little beanie Darth Maul
- Moleskine notebook (squared)
- Gold & Silver medal mouse-mats from Fantasyleague.com (2002/3 and 2003/4 respectively)
- Untidy and disorganised piles of paper
- Existentially empty office space

What does this say about me that I spend 10-odd hours a day here?Posted by Hello

Sunday, October 10, 2004

'Doggy Paddle (woof woof!) You Can Do Them All...'

As usual on a Sunday, I went to the gym this evening. My exercise routine is pretty fixed:

Tuesday - run after work
Thursday - football at PowerLeague
Saturday - run before lunch
Sunday - swim

During the summer months, I try to do as much exercise as possible outside, and it's only in the last week or so that I have been driven indoors into the gym on a Tuesday night as it's been getting dark whilst I'm still at work.

The gym is a funny place. Well - actually the gym is fine, it's the people who go there that are funny. You certainly get all sorts:

- the poseurs: people who are dressed in the most immaculate sportswear, have lovely tans and ridiculous mullets. Look as though actually taking exercise is the last possible thing on their minds. Often seen swigging a smoothie in the bar.

- the tubby hopefuls: the rather overweight people labouring on the machines and looking as though they may drop dead at any moment (at least they're making an effort, right?). Often seen gasping for air.

- the muscle boys: buffed up men who waddle about with funny little vests on showing off their enormous pectorals and biceps, apparently oblivious to the fat rippling around the rest of their bodies. Often seen swigging some sort of "engineered protein" shake.

- the body fascists: extremely tanned women with tattoos on the small of their backs and tops that expose their terrifyingly muscular midriffs. Usually seen in spin or body pump classes, or scaring the hell out of everyone else at their domination of the machines.

ah - I could go on, but I won't. You know what I'm talking about.

Anyway. I wasn't in the main gym this evening - I went to the pool. There is a whole etiquette in the swimming pool that reminds me a little of the rules in a men's toilet.
1) On first arrival at the pool, you must look for the empty lane (even if this means getting into the fast/slow lanes)
2) if no lane is empty, you should assess the other lanes and pick the emptiest (under no circumstances should you make a 3 in a lane if there is another lane with only one person in).
3) if 2 lanes look about the same, pick the lane you think is going about the speed you want to swim (at this point you should not be swayed by the presence of anyone in a bikini - if they're swimming slowly, you should pick the other lane..)
4) once in the pool you should pay attention at all times to the distance of the person behind you - it is your responsibility to let them past if they are catching you up
5) No pissing


Not hard, you would think, but apparently the majority of people are ignorant of these rules. The one that annoys me the most are when someone in your lane is having a breather, and as you approach the end of the pool, they kick off just before you touch. Arrrgggghhh!!

I watched "Star Wars" this afternoon. I'm determined not to go all fanboy again, but suffice it to say that I think the film would have been better if Lucas had left it how it was. The Greedo scene wasn't as bad as I remembered, but the Jabba scene was worse.

The assault on the Death Star made me think of a scene in "Clerks"

Randal: So they build another Death Star, right?
Dante: Yeah.
Randal: Now the first one they built was completed and fully operational before the Rebels destroyed it.
Dante: Luke blew it up. Give credit where it's due.
Randal:And the second one was still being built when they blew it up.
Dante: Compliments of Lando Calrissian.
Randal: Something just never sat right with me the second time they destroyed it. I could never put my finger on it-something just wasn't right.
Dante: And you figured it out?
Randal: Well, the thing is, the first Death Star was manned by the Imperial army-storm troopers, dignitaries- the only people onboard were Imperials.
Dante: Basically.
Randal: So when they blew it up, no prob. Evil is punished.
Dante: And the second time around...?
Randal: The second time around, it wasn't even finished yet. They were still under construction.
Dante: So?
Randal: A construction job of that magnitude would require a helluva lot more manpower than the Imperial army had to offer. I'll bet there were independent contractors working on that thing: plumbers, aluminum siders, roofers.
Dante: Not just Imperials, is what you're getting at.
Randal: Exactly. In order to get it built quickly and quietly they'd hire anybody who could do the job. Do you think the average stormtrooper knows how to install a toilet main? All they know is killing and white uniforms.
Dante: All right, so even if independent contractors are working on the Death Star, why are you uneasy with its destruction?
Randal: All those innocent contractors hired to do a job were killed- casualties of a war they had nothing to do with. (notices Dante's confusion) All right, look-you're a roofer, and some juicy government contract comes your way; you got the wife and kids and the two-story in suburbia-this is a government contract, which means all sorts of benefits. All of a sudden these left-wing militants blast you with lasers and wipe out everyone within a three-mile radius. You didn't ask for that. You have no personal politics. You're just trying to scrape out a living.
(The Blue-Collar Man (Thomas Burke) joins them.)
Blue-Collar Man: Excuse me. I don't mean to interrupt, but what were you talking about?
Randal: The ending of Return of the Jedi.
Dante: My friend is trying to convince me that any contractors working on the uncompleted Death Star were innocent victims when the space station was destroyed by the rebels.
Blue-Collar Man: Well, I'm a contractor myself. I'm a roofer... (digs into pocket and produces business card) Dunn and Reddy Home Improvements. And speaking as a roofer, I can say that a roofer's personal politics come heavily into play when choosing jobs.
Randal: Like when?
Blue-Collar Man: Three months ago I was offered a job up in the hills. A beautiful house with tons of property. It was a simple reshingling job, but I was told that if it was finished within a day, my price would be doubled. Then I realized whose house it was.
Dante: Whose house was it?
Blue-Collar Man: Dominick Bambino's.
Randal: "Babyface" Bambino? The gangster?
Blue-Collar Man: The same. The money was right, but the risk was too big. I knew who he was, and based on that, I passed the job on to a friend of mine.
Dante: Based on personal politics.
Blue-Collar Man: Right. And that week, the Foresci family put a hit on Babyface's house. My friend was shot and killed. He wasn't even finished shingling.
Randal: No way!
Blue-Collar Man: (paying for coffee) I'm alive because I knew there were risks involved taking on that particular client. My friend wasn't so lucky. (pauses to reflect) You know, any contractor willing to work on that Death Star knew the risks. If they were killed, it was their own fault. A roofer listens to this... (taps his heart) not his wallet.

(now I think of it, that scene is more than a little apt in the current situation in the Middle East)
I'm listening to the Spinal Tap soundtrack thanks to Soaring. It rocks.

'Feel the sun shining for your eyes...'

A quick word here for my friend Ian. I've know Ian for about 6 years, and shared a house with him for much of that time. He's a lovely quiet guy, and he's just turned 31 (it's something of a bone of contention between the two of us that he is a few months older than me - for some reason, Ian finds it totally unbelievable and refuses to believe that he can be older than me.; Well - for the record he is. 5 months may not be much, but it's as good as a mile). For the last 3 or 4 months, Ian has been going out with a lovely girl called Lisa (she's a bit younger than him actually - and you're only as young as the woman you feel, or something). I started going out with C. about 5 years ago now, and great though our relationship is, I have to say that it's really nice to see a couple in the early stages... they can barely keep their hands off each other, and it's really sweet. I know that sounds a bit patronising, but she seems nice and it's fantastic to see Ian so happy.

Good on you mate.
C. set off for China at about 16:45 this afternoon, shortly after David Beckham's goal against the Welsh. A chauffeur driven car turned up to take her to Heathrow - as befits someone in her position (I'd probably have to get the bus). Even though I almost immediately went out to for bowling/curry with Ian for his birthday, I have to say that I'm missing her a little bit already. Bed's too big without you.
Man - I must sound like a terrible romantic this evening. Sorry about that.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

"Come dowsed in mud, soaked in bleach, as I want you to be..."

Nottingham is really gaining something of a reputation for gun crime. This story is horrible... a 14 year old girl walking home from the Goose Fair is shot in the stomach by someone in a passing car in St Annes. I've lived here for 7 years now, and I have to say that I have seen none of this kind of underbelly in my time here. Granted, I now live south of the river... but it really doesn't seem that bad to me.

Certainly, the town centre is quite an unpleasant place to be on a friday or saturday night. I'm not proud about that, but is it any different from any other town centre in Britain? People go out, they get pissed and rowdy, and at a little after 11 they all pile onto the streets to eat fast food, piss in alleyways and generally make a nuisance of themselves. I don't like it, and I try and stay away from the town centre at these times for exactly this reason, but is it really so different from anywhere else in the UK?

I don't feel any less safe in Nottingham than I have in any other major British city. That may be a sad reflection on the state of British cities, but it always seems to be Nottingham that hits the headlines.

Sorry if the last couple of posts have been a bit sombre, but that seems to be the way of the world at the moment.

Friday, October 08, 2004

What's happening to the world?

There are no words that can justify this.

'I missed the good part then I realised...'

C. is away on business in China for a week from Saturday, and I've been trying to work out what to do with the gaping hole that this will leave in my downtime at home. It's amazing how much time (in a good way) being in a relationship sucks up - when C. is away I always seem to be almost entirely at a loose end.

I'm not very good at sitting still when I'm on my own - no sooner do I sit down to do something, than I start getting restless and thinking about what I'm going to do next, and then before I know it, I've got up to start to do it. Watching a football match is out of the question - I won't be able to concentrate on it as my brain will be racing (and generally what I will do instead is stick the radio on, so I can do something else whilst listening to the game at the same time.

Ok - sure it'll give me a load of time to Play Tiger Woods 2005, pootle about the internet, read my book, go and see my friends etc. etc. - but I'll miss her for sure.
One of the things that I will definitely do is try and catch up on my DVD watching and CD listening. It's been a little while since I've rambled on here about what's flicking my switch musically at the minute (yeah - okay, so I know I've rambled *elsewhere* about it, but that doesn't count, ok?)

Bonus discs are generally a waste of time, but one that I can happily endorse is the one that came with the most recent Greatest Hits by the Cure - it contains acoustic versions of all 18 tracks, recorded specially for the album, and it's brilliant. Actually, it's probably worth buying the album for. I had it on last night when I was cooking the sausages, and it reminded me what a fantastic band The Cure are.

Other CDs/songs that have floated across my stereo/IPod this week are:
- The Futureheads - The Futureheads
- Interpol - Antics
- The Smiths - Meat is Murder (it's all to do with Rusholme Ruffians and the Goose Fair)
- The Hives - Tyrannosaurus Hives (in the gym - it ROCKS!)
- Led Zeppelin - 'The Immigrant Song' (my favourite Zep song by absolutely miles - and I still love this link!)
- Snow Patrol - 'Wow' (which I heard in the background on "Six Feet Under" unless I am very much mistaken)
- The Vines - 'Get Free' (again, because it ROCKS)
- Johnny Cash - 'One' (yes the U2 one - because of something Serena Wombat said on her blog)

I also plan to make the time to sit and watch:
- The Star Wars Trilogy
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Shaun of the Dead
- Donnie Darko
- Black Books series 3

It'll be weird to be in an empty house for a whole week though.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Danger! Danger!

Whilst tootling about the interweb last night, I had something of a throwback experience - I got a series of warnings from my Norton virus scanner that I had picked up some sort of virus that couldn't be repaired.  As you might expect, I found this quite alarming.  About a year ago, I had a run-in with a nasty little worm that triggered my PC to reboot (usually when I was trying to download a fix).  This galvanised me into adding some proper protection onto my PC, and I soon had Norton Internet Security firmly installed.   Since then I have had pretty much a trouble-free existence on the web.  Certainly it is alarming the number of times that I get a little message saying that such-and-such a virus had been repelled, or this-and-that trojan had been thwarted, but I keep it all up to date, and basically they don't trouble me as I huddle beneath my firewall.

Until last night.

The message from Symantec was something like "These two files have installed themselves with your temporary internet files, and we couldn't repair them.  Sorry about that."  

Hm.   I immediately deleted all my temporary internet files and then did a bit of Googling to see what I could see.  From what I found, I **THINK** that I did everything that I needed to do, and a subsequent scan on my PC came up clean (although by now it was nearly 2am).  It's acted as something of a wake up call though.  Somewhat against my better judgement, I have left my PC at home this morning working its way through the installation of Win XP SP2.  We have actually been barred from installing this at work, as apparently it interferes with some of our applications, but after a bit of research, I am told that this is a sensible step to take at home to lock up a few more of those gaping holes in the Windows code.  Fingers crossed, eh?

It's dangerous out here.  Be careful kids.  

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

But where were the Spiders...

Right - in this is my entry into the "I've seen a massive spider and survived" competiton..... this was in Northern Territories Australia in January this year, and I believe it is called a Wolf Spider. Sadly no metre ruler to give you the scale, but it could have taken my hand off (and given that this species, and indeed this particular specimen, rear up on their hind legs and look you in the eye, for a moment I thought it was going to).

Apparently this has a venom that acts as an anaesthetic, so it can eat parts of you in your sleep without you knowing. Nice.

Somehow it's apt that this is my 100th post here. So let's hear the fanfare as I raise my bat to the pavilion....

Parp! Posted by Hello

And I got better things on the other side of town...

Nottingham has currently got a big programme of works happening on the transport network - called The Big Wheel. To date this has included things like building the tram network, sticking in some new roundabaouts and getting rid of all the subways in the town centre (now where will everyone go for a piss on a Friday and Saturday night?).

My reason for mentioning this today is that they now appear to have embarked on some road resurfacing on my route into work . That's fine, except that:

1) They have put up a load of signs indicating that lanes ahead are closing, but when you change lane and drive on (always fun in rush hour), the lanes then don't close at all(this happens in both directions)

2) By the Embankment there is a set of traffic lights up where they are working on a section of road and it is cut down to a single lane - except that the traffic lights are stuck on red on one side, and on green on the other. Guess which side I was stuck on?


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

'So...scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen...'

At the risk of being political (again), I see that the Tory party have conclusively lurched to the right. Michael Howard has said that a date would be set for a referendum on Europe on his first day in government, should the Conservatives win the next election. They also want out of the European Social Chapter and the Common Fisheries policy.

All this on the same day that Paul Sykes, a major donor to the UKIP stands up and says that he will be voting Conservative at the next election because he sees them as this country's best chance of pulling out of Europe. That must have made Kilroy-Silk choke on his breakfast, but will presumably make lots of potential UKIP voters seriously consider a vote for the Tories (and let's not forget that they beat the Conservatives into 4th in the Hartlepool byelection)

I can't help but wonder if this is a sensible move by Howard. Certainly it will secure all ground on the right, but will it be a net vote winner, I wonder? If the Conservatives are to win the next election, won't they be needing voters to defect from the Liberal Democrats and Labour? Are they likely to be persuaded to move to the right on that kind of a platform? I'm not sure.

I have to say, I also think that the Great British public isn't given much credit when it comes to Europe. It's generally assumed that in any referendum, we will all vote overwhelmingly against Europe and the Euro. I think that we hear a lot of noise from the "no" end of the spectrum, and nothing from a lot of quieter "on balance, yes" voters.

Don't forget that in the 1975 referendum, Britain voted to stay in the Common Market with a substantial majority of 67%. Mind you - I was shocked to find out that my mum voted "no" in that referendum, and is still quietly anti-European.

Oh, and am I alone in thinking that Michael Howard's reference to his family's escape from the Nazis was a touch cynical? I haven't seen the speech myself, and I hear it was done with great dignity, but why did he feel the need to bring that up at all?


To completely change the subject - the famous Nottingham Goose Fair opens its gates tomorrow. I imagine that the Chav population of the rest of the nation will be seriously depleted as they make their Burberry attired way to the East Midlands. I am proud to say that in 7 years of living in Nottingham, I have never managed to make my way over to check this out. I bet they don't even have any geese.

England's dreaming....

So a key donor of the UKIP has pulled the plug and returned to the breast of the Conservative Party. Apparently he was dismayed to hear UKIP announce that they would put up a candidate in every constituency at the next election, even if they would be standing against tories of stature. It seems that it dawned on him that the only credible way of getting Britain out of Europe would be to get the Tories elected.

Good Grief.

I know the Americans don't have much choice in their election (Bush or Kerry - hmmmm. Should you really elect someone as president on the grounds that he ISN'T the other candidate? Or perhaps that's always how it has been done?), but with the General Election possibly only 6 months away, I'm feeling my own choices being constricted:

Labour - took us into an unpopular and unjustified war with Iraq on false pretences
Conservative - you can spin him as much as you like, but I remember Michael Howard for the worm he was as Home Secretary. As for the party themselves, they are a nest of vipers.
Liberal Democrat - sensible policies on the war and on Electoral reform, but I'm afraid I.m not convinced that they are heavyweight enough for government and Charles Kennedy is looking increasingly like a cadaver
Green - much though I approve of the idea, I can't vote for a party when I barely know their policies on key issues like education
UKIP - behave! Robert Kilroy-Silk is my MEP and is a dreadful man. Labour MP turned TV presenter, turned racist and campaigner against Europe.

Bring back the Natural Law Party - Yogic Flying for peace. Can't hurt, can it?

Seriously though - I feel strongly that I should use my mandate and make my voice heard, but who the hell out of this motley band should I be voting for. I know that the whole thing about democracy is that if no-one represents me, I should get off my arse and form my own party, but frankly that's just not practical.


Monday, October 04, 2004

Set Your Spirit Free (It's the only way to be)

I don't know whether this is just a Nottingham thing, but we seem to have loads of roads where you come across a roundabout/some traffic lights with 2 lanes, and then within about 10m this merges into 1 lane. I would dearly love to know what the thinking is behind this road layout, because it seems to me that it does very little but cause trouble. In an ideal world I imagine that there would be no problem, and traffic would just slot into the one lane in a neat and orderly fashion. No worries. Unfortunately, human nature doesn't work like that. There are people who will take the outside lane at every opportunity because they see it as an opportunity to get ahead. In queues of traffic, this just leads to everyone in the left-hand lane waiting even longer as people push up the outside lane and then pushing in (this happens when they shut a lane on a motorway as well).

You might be wondering why I'm feeling the need to rant about this. Well, yesterday afternoon on the way home, I was amused / appalled by one particular instance of this. Amused because it was some sort of Winnebago affair with a trailer attached that was doing all the overtaking (a Winnebago, for heaven's sake!). Appalled because he was driving so badly in such a ridiculous vehicle - swerving out wildly past cars, but making no particular progress on a busy-ish road. At one point this guy had zoomed past a car, then as the lane narrowed into one, had pulled back in so sharply that the driver of the car behind will have had the awful sight of the Winnebago directly in front of him and the trailer the Winnebago was towing sitting alongside him.... not what you want to see on a quiet Sunday afternoon drive. I imagine it blacked out the light.

Anyway - the driver of the Winnebago is a member of the British Windsurfing team and has his web address plastered all over his vehicle. If you've ever been cut up by one of these idiots, If you have a spare moment feel free to send him some abuse.

Rich Potter - windsurfer and terrible driver

ST [via email]

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Tonight - you sleep with the fishes

The Sopranos is one of those programmes that I missed, and by the time I thought it was worth watching, I didn't want to start, because I thought I would already have missed too much. To remedy this, C gave me a sampler DVD of the first 2 episodes about 2 years ago on my birthday. My DVD collection being what it is (i.e. full of DVDs I haven't made time to watch), it just sat there...until tonight.

I have just finished watching the pilot episode.

I think I am going to be watching more of this... there must be some boxsets I can buy to sit in my collection with the West Wing episodes I have missed and never got round to catching up on, right?

What is it about guys and their need to hoard stuff? I also collect piles of Wisdens - that's a 1000 page book of cricket statistics that barely changes from year to year, and yet I have 19 of them, plus 4 anthologies. And I barely read them - having them seems to be enough.

Go figure.

CDs are basically the same thing, although my Ipod has at least made this more accessible to me wherever I am.

"And I Won't Look Down..."

OK. CDs finally arrived from Play (Embrace & Interpol on Friday and Devendra Banhart & The Futureheads on Saturday morning). "Gravity" by Embrace is such a fantastic song. I like to say that Danny MacNamara honks like a sealion, but that song (written by Chris Martin) is touched by genius and no mistake. C. wasn't at all surprised when I said I really liked it, and remarked that this was exactly the kind of thing that I always go for- meaning, I think, sappy guitar bands. Maybe, but this is a great song anyway.

I'm currently tapping my foot to 'The Futureheads' though - an album which probably could have been recorded in 1978, but doesn't sound any the worse for that.

ST [via email]

Friday, October 01, 2004

I really have to get out more

Further to a couple of posts below (here and here), I found a link to this (I swear, I was not looking for it...)

"One of the unnecessary changes to the Star Wars is the Greedo shoots first change. Aside from who shoots first and what does that to the character, the main problem to the scene is that it looks lame. Unfortunately the 2004 Edition of the movie doesn’t resolve this and the best looking solution is how it already was in the original version. It simply didn’t need any changes. Here is an excellent short story about this that I have recently found. This is an excellent comic. Make sure you buy Star Wars Tales Volume 4 TPB from Dark Horse."

the comic strip is here.

Frankly this scares me. I think I need to re-examine my life.
On a related topic, and speaking of people who ought to get out more - check out Star Wars chick (again, I swear to God I wasn't looking for this - I innocently followed a link on a blog)

Slave Leia mk 3 anyone?

What about yesterday (what about us)?

So Tony Blair has a heart condition and needs to have some surgery to correct it. This procedure is called a 'catheter ablation' and involves the application of electric shocks to correct an irregular heartbeat. I have to admit that this led me to picture a scene with Blair on an NHS hospital bed grinning nervously as a white-coated person approaches:

TB: "Do we have to do this again?"
Dr: "We have to be sure, Prime Minister"
TB: "That really does look an awful lot like a cattle prod..."

You can kick the health service as often as you like - one day they will have the chance to kick back. Of course, I expect Blair is having this little procedure done privately.
I'm not a fan of the UKIP, but it is funny to see the Tories get a shoeing in the Hartlepool byelection just before their conference.
Song going around my head this morning? "Just Like Heaven" by the Cure.... courtesy of an advert for 6Music. It's a good tune. Usually earworms like this are something terrible that you get caught humming in a meeting and everyone has a good chuckle (my own personal nadir was catching myself actually *singing* 'Earth Song' by Michael Jackson)

"You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought"

Great link brought to my attention by Mac today.

You might be familiar with my views on the way that George Lucas has been raping my childhood by tinkering with the Holy Trilogy in insidious ways.... (and if not, see here)

Turns out other people think this way:

"I am very concerned about our national heritage, and I am very concerned that the films that I watched when I was young and that the films I watched throughout my life are preserved, so that my children can see them" George Lucas, speaking against the colourisation of black and white film. (oh, the irony!)

Sign the petition to ask Lucas to release the original theatrical versions of the star wars trilogy at originaltrilogy.com

And if there are any kids reading this.... Greedo didn't draw first - Han shot him under the table!

OK. I'm sounding like a fanboy again.