Saturday, January 31, 2004

I've been lax, and have only just found that Southern Cross has been churning out a lot of good stuff of late. Including: Democrats are to boardroom, as Republicans are to bedroom. How so? you'll have to go and read to find out (I think it's from the 26th).

And from the "also in the news" section[1] of the BBC News's website: LaShawn Pettus-Brown found on Google. Now if you were on the run having magicked away a large about of money, would you still use the same name? The same very distinctive name?

[1] Otherwise known as "lazy blog writer's corner".

Douwe Osinga's mapping quests continue: this time it's to show who's going to win America. I know I ought to know more about this and care more about this, but the election is in November, and somehow it doesn't feel like there's going to be any change (other than less fuss about chads).
Random thought - how exactly does one pronounce Mr Osinga's name? I've always assumed it's do-we, or possibly dow-e, but then the only other instance of it that I've come across is the coffee: Douwe Egbert's. Which in this country, at least, is pronounced dow (as in the boat, or possibly the Dow Jones).

Following on from yesterday's comments: The M25
- Highways Agency: incident map, traffic flow (use the controls on the right, though it would make more sense if the default was the latest). Strangely their nation-wide travel map is nowhere near as comprehensive (and all it currently says on the M25, is that there are signs saying "end" between J10-11 anticlockwise, but it doesn't tell you where the roadworks start. It also doesn't mention the crash the other map shows in Surrey).
- The AA. which tells me about the roadworks, about the fact it's just rained (well "surface water hazard"), and areas where there is disrupted traffic flow. Also on the same map it tells me about burst water mains in Richmond, roadworks in Brixton, and traffic lights not working in Putney.
- The RAC, don't even run to a map. And they helpfully file news items by severity and county. Which is great if you want to find whether there's a really bad accident in Gwent. Not so great if you want to see what's happening on the M3, M25 and M40 (so that's Hampshire, Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, how far out does Middlesex come? and do they still count it? Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands and I'm sure I've missed one out).
- The BBC unfortunately farm it all out to their regional people, so once again it's pick a county, any county (but they do run to more detail than any of the others on the local stuff).

So why do the private companies trounce the governmental organisation? (ok, so it's only one company, but still...).

Yet another interesting thing, this time from Signal + Noise. It's a piece summarising psychological experiments that demonstrate externalisation as a coping strategy. It's one of those things were it's just nice to have a succinct initiator or reminder. In other words if you have a psychological background, you'll be ranting about the simplicity of it, and how it's all age-old, widely known work (and thereby forgetting that some of us haven't had that training, and weren't alive when it would have been making the newspapers[2]). So read it.

[2] Can you tell that this is a pet peeve of mine? People who make assumptions just annoy me, whether it's assuming the audience knows everything, or assuming the audience knows nothing. It always surprises me how, when all students are instructed to aim their work at a "bright, yet uninformed, student", much science writing, that is not itself the primary literature, buries itself in either acronyms, statistics and references[3], or is simplistic beyond the verge of patronising (which the average bright, yet uninformed, student is not going to take too kindly to). And yes I am aware that to most people[4] writing like this is like an old shower, always jumping from one extreme or the other, and never in the optimum range.

[3] None of which are bad per se, but it's just some authors suddenly spring you with sentences like "The ETA of 9.645x10^6 closely reflects that which would be expected from the NOVAG in Reed et al's 2002 paper, confirming the veracity of ECMP". Which is fine if they've already stated what Reed suggested, and that ETA, NOVAG and ECMP are common acronyms or statistical methods (such as DNA or SE/Standard Error). But often they are not, which poses some problems.
[4] Ok, so I'm usually included in this. But what do you expect from stuff written at 3:28am on what's still Thursday night? Anyway it's not like anyone actually bothers to read the entire thing. You read the abstract, the first half of the introduction, and the beginning and end of the conclusion, and make a couple of red marks[5] in the margin on each the rest of the pages, usually at either a third of the way down the page, or two thirds, just to make it look like you're trying. Oh and find something to correct or comment on in the references. If for any reason you should come across something that sounds like something you've said, you should write a big "NO!" and contradict it (though strangely markers often take this back when approached).
[5] Try to avoid direct ticks and crosses, and opt for dashes, question marks, illegible curly squiggles, and the deservedly ubiquitous solitary dot (which says you saw something arresting, but maybe you misread it, or decided it was not worth commenting on, and so carried on. Also due to its supreme lack of meaning it allows the marker to argue anything they want in any discussion of the marking).

Hmm, and on this cynical note (or am I merely externalising?), I shall leave you.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Well that was worthwhile. We still have pavements coated with white, except there isn't any snow left, and it's about 3 inches of solid salt (and strangely they coated the pavements in this road, but not on the road that this branches off).

And do I like? Um, well as the only site that I gave it that prompted it to do anything was the author's own blog, er...not yet. Or those of you who haven't yet discovered it, I like is a system that matches your recommendations to those who have had similar recommendations (I think). But it's never heard of the stuff I was putting in (like PLoS Biology). But maybe my stuff will act like a node. Or maybe I'll stay cut off forever. But then I tend to glaze over at the mention of syndication and RSS (I know what CSS stands for, and vaguely what it does, if not how it does it, but RSS?), so that's hardly surprising.

And the Hutton hoo-ha rumbles on. Although apparently I'm not alone in trusting the BBC a damn sight[1] more than I do the government. BBC: one guy got it wrong, but he's near the bottom of the heap. Government: More than one guy got it wrong, and they're pretty much as high up the heap as you can get, (as Casino Avenue says, rather better than I can).

[1] or is that meant to be "site"? I have no idea of the derivation. And while apondering: where does "I've seen neither hind nor hare of him" come from?...according to the great god Google (who's in a "I'm not speaking to you" huff again), it's hide nor hair, as in seeing no part of him. So nothing to do with deer or hares then (or any another small furry woodland things). But wait...there's also a theory that it is to do with hunting game, and if you'd seen nothing you'd have seen neither hind nor hare, although there's a variant for "hide nor hair" meaning neither smooth-skinned nor shaggy beasts.

Random link of the day: Before setting out to drive round San Francisco, why not check the traffic? It'll come in handy the next time I'm passing ('s just off the M25 isn't it? By the DFS in New Malden).
I was about to ask why there isn't one for the M25, and then remembered that there is.

And what's the speed limit supposed to be in the US? as half the little green squares say 73 MPH, and according to my Texan aunt's mother[2], every English person who drives in the US gets a speeding ticket, because their limits apparently are the limit, not the recommended average speed. And US policemen don't like the old UK driving licences due to the distinct lack of a picture.

[2] So what's that make her? Great Aunt? Nope because that's a grandparent's sibling. Great mother in law? Nope because I'm not the one who's married. And saying my uncle's mother-in-law is about as cumbersome.


Thursday, January 29, 2004

Do banana plants like snow? [answers on the back of a post card to...].

Or more to the point do they like living in houses with non-functioning central heating? Especially when it's on a cold damp window sill next to condensation-covered, single-glazed window. And it keeps developing brown speckles about an inch away from the edge of the leaves, which then spread outwards as the fringes of the leaf die. And for the size of the plant it's in very small pot (well it wasn't that small when I put the plant in, it just grew quite rapidly). Also I'm worried about over-watering it, as the soil is constantly sodden, yet bits of the leaves keep drying up (and it's given up on the whole weeping thing[1]). Maybe having tropical plants in a less than tropical house isn't such a great idea (it was rarely the recommended temp, even when the heating was working). Having said all that, it is continuing to grow and churn out huge leaves. Which is just as well as I just managed to annihilate one whilst drawing the curtains[2]. Oops.

[1] I never did find out if what that's called, but I did find out that it's meant to happen (which given it won't do it now...).
[2] As in pulling them together[3], for the deliberately obtuse of you. And they're not really worth sketching anyway.
[3] Or pulling them apart for that matter. None of your weird uni-directional usage here. Though I've never figured out what those who use "draw" for one of the options use when they want the other option. Except for open/close, but if you're going to use one specific verb, where's the mirroring counterpart?

Although in reading other people's blogs (Cas-Av, and MM in this case), I noticed a couple of other divergent bits of language. So is it "couldn't care less" or "could care less", for when you really don't care. Me: the former. The latter is some odd US variant, but it implies that if you could care less, then you do care a certain amount, which isn't what you mean[4].
What about "never/neither a borrower nor lender be". The version I'm used to is Neither...which fits with "nor", although never could also fit (but it doesn't necessarily). Cheatingly using Google: both are common, but neither is the one with all the domains beginning "quote...", and mentioning Shakespeare.

[4] Except that when people get upset enough to say "I couldn't care less", it usually means they do a bit anyway, otherwise why are they getting involved? But that is just me doing my usual "illustrating the rule by showing the exceptions".

Hmm, there was something of significance that I wanted to post, but I'm not sure what it is anymore. Oh well.

Damn, no merry car-street furniture incidents yet[1] (and it's beginning to thaw, again). So it'll just have to be this for the time being: Minor oops.

[1] Possibly the loud cracking sounds coming from under people's wheels are giving them a hint not to try going fast. Although I think (judging by the noise) someone just sledged their car into the front of their garage.

Not sure I've got much else to say: all the news seems to about the Hutton hoo-ha[2], or about weather induced chaos. So which do you want: whitewash or white-out?
[2] Which is about as enlightening as one would expect a report by a lawyer to be. He sticks to the question asked, and chooses his words carefully (in a cutting around the holes way?).

From SMH: A dead, 50-tonne sperm whale exploded in a busy street in Taiwan, showering passers-by in blubber, blood and innards. And what exactly was a 50 tonne whale doing in busy street in Taiwan? Just popped out for the paper and some milk? (Yes, I know if you read the story it tells you, but that spoils the comic effect of the summary alone).

Anyhoo, I've got stuff to do.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Ok so it has now (see yesterday's post).

This morning: vague suggestion of snow, but you'd think if the weather going for "bleak midwinter" it would put more effort in to it. About a 4.5 for artistic interpretation, and 3.0 for performance (mostly because it had settled). And then it got sunny, and so everything promptly thawed. And I thought they said it was going to be awful weather? Must just be the Met Office hyping it all up, so they can't get blamed for not warning people.

So they day continued like every other day. Then it gets to 5:30pm. Big flash, filling room. Er...was that what I thought that was? Loud crashing rumble. Apparently so. It is January right? That month renowned for its thunderstorms? Another pulse fills the sky (well it was dark). More shuddering noise. And then someone turns the vicious hail machine on, sending it slamming into the windows. More arcs and flashes, the hail on the window providing the cymbal and the snare to the thunder's rhythmic tympani and bass.

The hail, caught by the streetlight, is verging on the horizontal. Another flash, with closely following wall of sound, as the wind flips direction. The particles streaming across suddenly turn to snow, in flurry that blocks most of the closer lights. Ok, so maybe this was what the weathermen were talking about.

I try being childish, to go outside in the snow. Open door, change mind. Discover I don't need to cross the threshold to experience snow settling on me. I decide that even most children would think that going out in that is somewhat beyond the call of duty. So I retreat inside. Is it rather callous to start placing bets on which lampost[1] will be driven into first? Bagsy the one on the outside of a corner at the end of a straight bit of road that people speed on (well people have driven into it in broad daylight on a clear summer's day). Although one of the ones on the hill could be a good bet if the current slush freezes (even I know that approaching it revving madly in 1st is not the greatest idea).

[1] Word insists that’s got two p's, but that doesn’t look right. Oh well.

So, yeah, winter appears to have remembered that it's had it's cue (it's just all the plants have gone "sod it, it's spring").

Hmm, not doing so well on the web part of this web log.
So to remedy this, here's a wondrous list of UK weathery type things.
Met Office
Metcheck (who have helpfully blocked part of their site due to snow induced traffic levels).
XCWeather (apparently hourly data, including that from buoys, and it does France too). Currently showing very blustery and chaotic wind pattern.
And how come every time I go near weather information I always get distracted by the shipping forecast? How can you not love the mantra of curious phrases? Especially when they are as helpful as moderate or good, occasionally poor (that's visibility by the way). And does anyone else feel sorry for the poor lows that go round "losing its identity"?
But it'll always be Finnisterre to me. Ok, so I rarely venture out of the range of Wight-Portland...Hmm, that car was making odd sounds as it went down, I think it was doing a very slow skid.

Anyway I'm going to go I'm not as it's an hour earlier than I thought it was. And which cunning people put both Rob Brydon's new thing (The Director's Commentary) and the new series of Frazier on at the same time? And both are on a bit late anyway. According to the Guardian Guide, he of Marion and Geoff fame's production company is called Jones The Film. Well I though it was funny (it might help if you knew that often in villages, especially welsh ones, people are referred to as their surname and occupation, such as Jones The Taxi [or Taksi if you will]. Or it might not), but then I also though Dafydd The Gay in Little Britain was funny (he being the only gay in the village, and virtually regarding it as a job, not a pastime).
There was something else in the Guide, but I can't remember what it was. Some comment buried amongst the summaries, that assumes no-one will read them (least of all editors).

Anyhoo, I'm sure Frazier will get repeated.

PS. What exactly does one make of a very strictly Christian girl (the one who tired to convert me over pizza) recommending a book in which one of the scenes is about a man trying to hide his erection? This from a girl who acts like she wouldn't...suddenly realising that saying "she wouldn't recognise one if it hit her in the face", is possibly not the best phrasing for this context. I'm just going to give up now.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Oh why won't it snow? Like they said it would. Damn, even the most innocent thought gets trapped in lyrics[1], JJ72 in this case (that's a guy singing? yeah right, don't be da-ft [note the compulsory Northern "a"]). Whatever became of them?

So, yes, it is supposed to have been snowing, except the ETA[2] keeps getting adjusted, and I think it is expected about 5am now.

[1] Have you tried asking someone called Annie if they are ok recently? Especially when she's too distracted to listen, and I end up repeating myself, but trying not to repeat the same sentence. [think Michael Jackson, or possibly Alien Ant Farm].

[2] Estimated Time of Arrival, not the other meaning, so sorry, there'll be no poor puns on "Basque" today.

And are nosebleeds supposed to linger all day? Don't worry it hasn't been bleeding all day, but neither has it formed a stable clot either[3]. Isn't it great though when you get in the shower, get halfway through washing and see that you have red toes. Oh, oh right, ok, oh well, carry on washing whilst sniffing a bit.

[3] That last word is completely superfluous, isn't it? But I won't go further, as then I'll get into the great ither-ether debate. Which I usually have with myself, and inevitably resolve that it's ither this or that, and it's ether of those. About this point I remember those. Which confuses me, and then I begin to wonder if I got them the wrong way round earlier. All of this is irrelevant as I know it's always meant to be ither (it's just ether sometimes sounds better), as ether is either an organic chemical or part of the ephemeral mix. Except ether as either isn't pronounced the same.

So much for not getting into that debate.

So what else?
Odd letter in the Guardian - The not-suicide of Dr Kelly. Reasonable belief, or conspiracy theorists? Will their ever be an answer? Probably not.

Still not snowing, and it's dark. Very pretty sunset earlier, as all the hills managed to turn pink. Possibly this fits in the "you had to be there" category.

"Let's get bombed" - I do hope that in German that's a pun. It's the title of the Deutsche version of Salam Pax's book. Although the US title is a little odd as well, as Salam ably illustrates. Have to say, I never quite figured out the point of the book. Having flicked through a copy in Smiths, it appears to be the text of his blog. Except surely that's available on-line...and those without an internet connection aren't likely to know about his blog (except if they read the Guardian, but they're likely to be pretty computer literate anyway[3]). Maybe it's just me, but I'm not sure I see the point of the book. Not that I wish it to do badly. Although I suppose it's got better content that half the other stuff on the shelves.

[3] Oooh, look at me with my sweeping judgements. What? It's Guardian, I think most people who read it are reasonably bright (well how often does it go for "popular" anti-whichever group stories[4], a la most of the traditionally little papers), except for the dappy art teachers, but they're dappy art teachers. Anyway it's not like I'm going round describing it as "the UK's far left paper" - that'll be from an American site then [and I can't find the link]. Far left? No wonder the US media doesn't like Europe. And if that's the far left, what do they make of communism and it's ilk, (other than "the enemy [No. 2.7a]")?
[4] Well except the whole anti-hunting thing (you want to ban fishing as well? No[5], well I guess we all know fish don't have any feelings).

Oh how's that for themeing, start on a lyric, and finish on one.

[5] Not enough mileage/votes in it. How many people hunt, how many fish, and to which social groups do they belong (or are perceived to belong)?

Anyhoo, that's it for now.

Monday, January 26, 2004


Bill Gates to be knighted.

Er...I really have no idea what to say about this.

And is that last paragraph [Gates setting up Cambridge bursary for foreign students] supposed to be relevant, or is it just CNN dredging their archives to find anything linking Mr Gates to the UK?

Most odd.

And that's probably it for now, as most news seems to revolve around the US Democrats nominations[1], the problems for Blair in the week ahead, the ongoing "they were never there in the first place" WMD saga, and birds getting ill. So all apart from the last one are just people filling space with speculation.

[1] It doesn't help the only one I'd heard of was Dean, and that's only because of the comic strip [Doonesbury?] in the back of G2.


Sunday, January 25, 2004

Oh the joys of a small town mentality...

Local paper currently leads with a story about someone buying a big house[1]. Beneath it is the huge headline "Vanishing pigs hurt farmer". And that's not physically hurt, in a being trampled or gored way, for instance, but emotionally. Apparently someone nicked some of his pigs. And then they came back for more. And then they cleared out the rest. The farmer was a bit miffed because it was 'high-welfare' meat as well (the inverted commas are the paper's).

What no invisible pigs? Not even some that managed to fly away? Not even one poor pun about the swine that would do such as thing?

[1] Yes, it is a very big house, a very big house in the cun-trai. It's also currently owned by famous people (whose chief activity seems to be propping up various bars, and standing bemusedly in the wine section of Waitrose), and they just sold it to a very rich Russian.

Speaking of rich Russians - since when have the UK granted asylum to people from Russia? I thought the country was supposed to be carrying on the polite pretence that Russia was a civilised place, and there really is nothing to be worried about. Chechnya? Nothing to see here, move along now.

Opps. Managing to read about a programme I could have watched, had I not been typing this. What is it with Americans and sex, and why the recent surge in programmes on this (Channel 4 had a load recently as well)?

Having just checked what else is on, and decided nothing, I have one comment. Why is the name "Dateline London" (on at 10:30 GMT on BBC News 24 in the UK) so annoying? Dateline? That's just CNN for "we can't be arsed to improve our grammar, and it saves space (usually all of 3 character's worth)".

Idling through the multitude of digital channels I found one précis that started "Drama series about a successful female lawyer who has a drastic change of career and opens up a male strip club after she is deserted by her husband...". Oooh, bad plot, with varying degrees of porn. Somehow BBC Parliament's repeats look like a better option.

Or maybe I'll just give up and go to bed with a suitable boy (oi, it's the name of a book[2]). Yes, that means I have finally finished Middlemarch. It went a bit Wuthering Heights at the end though (all lashing rain and released passion). It wasn't a particularly great book, but now I'm wondering if that Withering book is really as bad as I remember it. Thinking about it, GCSEs didn't kill To kill a mocking bird, so it must be something about the tale of incestuous mad people on moors.

[2] A very heavy book. It's 960g. And yes I am anal enough to have weighed it (well the scales were out, it was there, and it was heavy). That's nearly a kilogram of book. Most books that heavy come with diagrams, footnotes and references, and usually require a desk to read.

And why does this computer wreck reception of most decent radio stations, and then stubbornly mangle any attempt at streaming radio off the internet. It means that if I want radio I have to put up with local commercial radio. Which is very, very commercial (well it's got enough of them, although to be fair they are the same every ad break), and still retains (other than crap taste in music) that WI local radio for local people feeling.

And I'm stopping now as their scattergun playlist has just flung up someone whose mother I used to watch on Blue Peter. Strangely crap reception makes Sophie Ellis-Bextor sound better. Probably because one assumes the strident fuzziness is from the static.

While I remember - what does one do about a bird that insists on starting to sing about midnight? In mid-winter? It's pretty dark, it's bloody cold, there's thick ice that hasn't melted despite being in the sun all day, and this bird decides to try to attract a mate. Bet the thing will still be trying when it starts snowing during the week.

Anyhoo, I've had enough of this, I probably ought to go bed, and go to sleep.

Saturday, January 24, 2004


Due to not having proper heating at the moment (boiler kaput, I've moaned about this before, do your homework and look below), I was trying to wash clothes that I could stick in the tumble drier. So, having sorted through a massive mound, I discovered that most of them say "do not tumble dry", which is helpful. Most of the rest are so old that the printing's come off the label. Which leaves me with about one washing machine load of clothes that I can wash and get dried. So I bung them in, and go off and do other stuff.

Come back 2 hours later (grr, energy efficient thing, so it's really inefficient in terms of time). Drag clothes out and dump in basket. Fight my way into the garage to the drier (aren't doors that change shape with the seasons fun?), and, in the twilight, bung in half the load.

And then I notice an odd colour t-shirt. That's funny, I didn't think I washed that one. Er...oh, I didn't. Um, that was that cream one. Only it's not now. It's just off SAS blue[1]. What happened? Oh yes, the new jeans. That I hadn't washed yet. Damn. I guess that's what happens when you sort stuff by whether it tumble dries or not, and not by colour.

[1] Except that doesn't work, as they've changed the colours they supply. It's a mix of their slate and combat. Um, which isn't all that helpful.

Except nothing else I've had for years has run, so I pretty much got used to chucking any old combination in, and had almost forgotten it happens.

And to think I was worried about stuff shrinking. Although the clothes aren't dry yet, so I don't know if they've shrunk.

Strange that it's the trousers from Gap that dyed the t-shirt from Gap, and most other things look ok. Everything in there was some variation on cotton with a bit of polyester, so it shouldn't be because of fibre dependant dye.

Oh well.

Other stuff:

It appears a certain search engine likes me again (well it admits I exist, which is a start).

I'm still trying to figure out how, having heard of Maroon 5, I manage to forget "Harder to breathe" is by them. And I then decided it sounds like (to quote someone, but I've forgotten who) Sarf London's favourite Ritalin-deprived God-botherer, Mr Daniel Bedingfield. And because it's by him, I can't like it (enough though I do), just on the principle of the thing.

And am I the only person in the country to have only just figured out what "to fight tooth and nail" is derived from. As in to fight vehemently, having come from fighting with tooth and nail. As in biting, scratching and gouging, in a sibling-like way. I know it's pretty obvious, but given there's stuff about "fighting hammer and tongs", and that this is the language that brought you "raining cats and dogs", I assumed it came from something obscure. Like shoeing horses, or something, or possibly some Roman form of orthodontistry. What? this is English, Occam need not apply.

Which links cunningly in with the feudal system (well according to the conversation the phrase was in). No relation of the verb to feud? Thought not.

So, I'd better be off to see if A. stuff is dry yet, B. stuff is the original colour, C. stuff is the size it is meant to be.
So how I doubt it's going to be all of the these.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Dear Blogger,
Why is the draft option still broken? (ok so maybe I haven't actually told anyone yet, but I'm not sure there's an anyone to tell). I request you kindly do something about it.
Yours sincerely,
He who is very glad that Windows has an invisible clipboard, and so text copied to spell check in Word (as the inbuilt one uses American spelling, and can't do many words, and it's slow), is still lingering in the ether when Blogger loses a draft again.

Continuing the Google theme - they in their infinite wisdom have decided to fill the ad space at the top with two ads: one for road sign makers, and one for road sign cleaners (never really occurred to me that there were such people). What did they find in here that made them think that those were relevant?
At least the "relevant searches" has stuff mentioned in this blog, such as the Flaming Lips and Blogger (admittedly the latter is rarely in a positive light).
Just thought - You'd be a bit miffed if you had website, supported by ads for Google, set up to protest about some company's actions or policies. And what would Google do? Oooh, a site about Pink Elephant makers, and they mention Spawn of Satan Pachyderm Construction, and guess who happens to have paid us to advertise their site? My, how lucky. Right, one box filling ad for

I think I've got the Google problem figured out now. According to their help section (please don't point how long it took me to remember there was such a thing), sites falling off the index happens[1]. It's either a glitch at their end or at Blogger's. And the great news is there's absolutely nowt I can do about it. Oh well, guess I'll just have to wait till their next visit.

[1] But I'm not completely off the index, as if you type in the address of this site, then this site appears [odd that] - but without any of the accompanying blurb. And if you try adding any keyword to the site:xxx option then there are no results.

Ooh, isn't Google useful?

Except it is, and I've just discovered it does all sorts of quirky stuff like telling you where planes are and things [also check out the stuff in their labs]. Unfortunately much of it is restricted to the US.


Oh, just discovered that the guy that does Casino Avenue got mugged (see the Jan 18th entry). Oh dear, hope everything works out ok.

And now I'm feeling guilty for having an argument (well I still say it was a discussion) with someone, based on whether the threat of mugging matches the actual incidence. My stance on this being that most people don't know someone who's been mugged (it's always a friend of a friend at least[2]). And then someone I know (even though I don't know him, I just get to read his thoughts) gets mugged.

[2] Except for anyone who's ever been near Liverpool, but that doesn't count (seeing as the world ends at Birmingham, and that's only on a good day).

Hmm, and I've just noticed the emergency exit at the top of his page. Dare I click on it?
But then you've still got to find something to stick in it.

Continuing round his page, and spying the Co-op bank slip. Used to work with someone who's log-on screen name got changed to Stuart The Camp[3]. It took him quite a long time to notice. And why are they always called Stuart (with that spelling)?

[3] The system required the user to type in a 4 number identifier, and then the computer matched that with a file listing more details, such as the user's name. And naturally enough someone found a way of editing these, so half the staff became So-and-so The Whatever. Cue: Mike The Merciless, Phil The Fool, Fred The Unready [isn't it odd how, given the numbers of people who have the same names as royalty, that there aren't more Aethelred's?]. I still haven't figured out who did it.

Anyhoo, getting distracted, and ought to be doing other stuff.

PS. Salam Pax...Muse...Salam Pax...nope still can't see it. And were Space big enough to make it to Iraq? Shock shock horror horror, shock shock horror, indeed.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Now I'm confused - looking at the site stats (I know...but it's so tempting to be nosy), and seeing that someone found me with what appears an interesting topic. So I click to go and find out what else is out there. And I discover that of the 7 results, there is not one that looks anything like this site. I check there isn't another page of results - but nope there's just seven, and no me.

This is a little odd. So I then search for what I know to be a selection of words that only brings up this site. Google informs that there are no results.

What have I done wrong?

Or is it that Google's broken? Except it's still there, it's still churning out results, and you'd think it'd be big enough to have to stuff to stop it breaking.

So there's something about this site that made Google wipe it from the records. But what? Was it the vanity of writing about self-referencing searches? Or did it object to me using naughty words in the last post? Except it can't be that, as I choose the unfiltered option. Hmm, this is odd.

It's just disconcerting to be at the whim of an unseen force. And have no way of counteracting it, not even tiller-waggling[1]. I don't like this.

And of course because Google's gone most of the aggregating ones produce odd results. Even the ones that claim they don't scavenge results.

I've also managed to find yet another search engine, it's called Munky, and it's a bit cheeky, as I found it by mistyping Vivisimo (see, I said the name was too long). But I'll merrily plug it as it's got me at two. It's says I'm a sponsored link, when I've never paid anyone to plug anything[2], and I'm not sure it's a vastly different, and so distinctly useful search engine, but, well, I've got to stick it in, otherwise I'd have no links and that wouldn't do at all.

[1] It being the [illegal in racing, except if you do it in time with the waves] process of sculling using the rudder on a boat, to achieve forward movement, in lieu of any force from the sails (because there's no wind).
[2] Because: A. it never occurred to me. B. I'm a miser. C. It's not really getting my money’s-worth[3] for this site is it?
[3] That looks wrong. Oh well.

Anyhoo, that's it for this little bundle of self-obsessedness (look, I was trying to avoid ranting about stuff and generally sounding miserable).

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Radio 2: Tabloid. Discuss.

Isn't it nice when you get stuck listening to someone else's choice of radio station. Especially when said choice: A. Plays some mediocre and some abysmal old stuff, and then adds the worst of modern music. B. Is trying to save on fees, and so has huge gaps between the music filled with mindless wittering (talk IS cheap). C. The talk begins to make the Daily Mail sound like the moderate voice of reason. D. Dim co-workers then add to the happy atmosphere by muttering half sentences in agreement.

Not impressed. Though it's quite funny when the people phoning in don't agree with the presenter and he starts sounding a little bit put out (how dare they be rational, liberal or tolerant?).

And why do Home Secretaries think they have a god given right to adapt the concept of justice to their own means? If you want to change something, write a bill, stick it through parliament, and then see how the various courts accept or amend it. Do not attempt to surf a wave of unthinking opinions, and pander to what you feel to be popular to gain support. Ok, so it's politics, so that'll always happen, but picking individual cases is a bit too unseemly. If you want to change part of sentencing or the law, use the appropriate methods, do not just override everything. And if the target of your campaign escapes, because laws do not apply retrospectively, tough. You cannot (or should not) change the rules because you feel like it.

Blunkett: a curious mixture of blunder and fuckwit.

Sorry, there's just various stories doing the rounds about the effects of this guy becoming ever more right-wing and rabid (is he lining himself up to become the next pope?).

It doesn't help that he's being to make some of his predecessors look comparatively sane. Which given the previous incumbents, of the role of Home Secretary, isn't really a good thing.

And now on with the woohooing.
The government sanctioned woohooing.
Except you can tell their hearts aren't really in it.
London launches Olympic bid.
They've got a pretty logo and everything. And it's really cunning cos they've taken the river Thames, right, and made it out of the 5 Olympic colours[1], and woven it through the word London. It's dead cool.

[1] In a sub-Bridget Riley way.

Looking at their website - oh dear. Isn't that a wonderful picture of Our Dear Leader? My cheeks hurt just looking at it. He can't even keep his eyes open as he does it. Nice to know he can fake sincerity so well. And then you have ODL's new best friend - he of the "oh god, not again, does no-one ever listen to me? I don't know why I bother sometimes, I really don't" face, Mr Ken Livingston.

Jan 16: London today unveiled its a star-studded event.
Prime Minister Tony Blair was among 300 Olympians, politicians, business leaders and Londoners...

Star studded? Under which section are they filing the stars? Olympians, politicians, business leaders or Londoners?

And what am I supposed to make of the Leap for London images - in particular the woman doing the high jump over the London Eye. London - The highest breasts in Europe? London - Firm uplifting support? It doesn't help that without any other reference point the London Eye looks suspiciously like a bicycle wheel, and so the image seems to suggest what will happen to anyone trying to do a triathlon in London traffic.

Actually on their front-page, it could be that Eros in the picture on the left (why?) was trying to assassinate Tony Blair on the right (it's where he feels comfortable), but this poor athlete got in the way, and now lies slain having tumbled down the page.

It gets worse. They cite Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kylie Minogue, combined with the force that is Sainsbury's as reasons to be chosen to host a sports event. I have a hunch not all that many people have heard of Sainsbury's.

London is alive with the sound of music. Is that not still under copyright? And isn't it a little too cliched?

The first truly great English artist, William Hogarth, provided a savage commentary on a gin-soaked London scene which balanced violence with elegance to bequeath posterity Kew Gardens, the British Museum and the ritual of the Changing of the Guard. Er...what was that again?
They are assuming that no-one will actually read this, aren't they? And anyone scanning it will pick up: ...great English...Hogarth...blah,blah,blah...Kew...British Museum...Changing of the Guard.

Going through more of the site, and it becomes apparent that they really need a good editor. They have actual blurb, the sort of stuff that the summarise option in MS Word churns out, but with worse grammar. Are they relying on the IOC judges to assume it's their own poor English that renders some sentences meaningless, and large amounts of the rest as meandering waffle?
Even most of the graphics are meaningless.

So, what does the rest of the world make of this?
The BBC has [slightly bitchy] reports about the launches of the various hopefuls. They also do a better job of explaining the London bid than the London bid's website.

CNN's stunning scientific poll puts New York ahead (strange that for an American news company), with London and Paris equal second.

[Hmm, it might have helped if I'd stuck then links in as I wrote it, rather than deciding to do them later, later being a day later and so I can't get to any of them].

So who will win?

How am I supposed to know? Depends how political the Olympics are.

There's the whole Iraq thing for starters. Which lowers London's and New York's chances with much of the world. And America has had one recently (that got bombed) But then France mightily pissed off other parts of the world, so that's Paris in trouble. And there are the effects of its actions with and within the EU. Moscow, maybe assuming they can get round the bribery and extortion, and the fact it's Russia. Istanbul: Kaboom? (or is that in poor taste?). Madrid: but you just had one (Barcelona, what a beautiful horizon). Leipzig: I didn't know they'd entered. Somewhere near Poland isn't it? Havana: Somehow I can't imagine the Olympics in place of Saga and Glenfiddich adverts. Which leaves Rio.

Well at least the much publicised Beach Volleyball would be on a beach (as opposed to a desolate parade ground, or under a big broadcasting aerial). Ok so yeah, maybe the athletes might get murdered or mugged, and the gold medals would probably be nicked and melted down before the marathon runners had even finished, but that just makes it more

The two leaders are rumoured to be Paris and London, but Paris has better transport, and well it's Paris. It's never going to get null points (damn, the French and English for points are written the same). And London doesn't have the transport, it perpetually seems to irk the rest of the country by being London-centric (well, it is the biggest city and the capital and all), and maybe tainted by association with current politics.

Working back (to the ones I remember) we have Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, next is Athens, then it's Beijing. My guess is Paris next, then on to some South American or Africa city. When was the last time South Africa got one? Which would mean it's the northern hemisphere's dibs for the next go, which would be London versus some American or Canadian city.

Going through the IOC's website on all the contestants (largely to try and find out who the rest are), I discover that the Havana bid doesn't even have website. Good omen.

And that for some reason websites written in English use words to indicate that other language versions are available (eg. Francais, but I can't do the under-c squiggle), whereas most of the foreign language ones use flags. Which is a little strange when one considers what portion of English speakers actually live in the country denoted by that little collection of superimposed crosses.

There was other stuff, only I've forgotten what it was. Why does trying to write a blog require more reading than writing?.

And that'll teach me not to click on the recently published list on Blogger's FP. Some deluded person has managed to set her blog up so that it blasts out Girls Aloud at all who venture too near. Not nice. Not nice at all.

Speaking of music (of sorts). Am I old? As I keep hearing songs by various groups and thinking that I like them (not that this would make me old, it's just my poor writing that implies it, so bear with me here). For example Snow Patrol (how long have they been around now?), Jet, Delays, Keane, Obi (Confused me for quite a while when I originally heard Moby), the Von Bondies, to name the ones whose names I can remember. Only when I hear them I think "I like that, it sounds like Ash, or Embrace, or Cast (or someone of that ilk)". Which probably means I am quite old, to think it sounds like a band a couple of cycles ago (but not old enough to think that those bands were derivative anyway).

But then there always was the bands being the new whoever (even if it didn't fit), such as Muse the new Coldplay[2], Coldplay the new Travis, Travis the new whoever.

[2] Well once upon a time they were described thus, back when the lead singer had floppy hair and gawky nervousness.

Oh, and in searching for the answer to Gridlock level 38 (well someone else found my blog by searching for that, so I just carried on his search), I found this, which is even crueller, as I can't even do the first one.

[Edit: done it. Oh, they're all easy once you find the formula. Except the last one where you have to avoid squares].

But I did figure out the card trick that's been confusing Casino Avenue. Unfortunately the first time I twigged was when I professional magician was doing it (strangely saying loudly "but that card wasn't there", doesn't go down too well with magicians entertaining crowds).

Hmm, and the great god Google must be annoyed by me mentioning my ranking, as it just slumped. Oh well, at least MSN still likes me.

And technorati's broken. What is going on today?

I've just realised how long this post is - blame Blogger's kaput draft function, it means I can't do it a little at a time - so I'd better stop now.


PS. Isn't it strange how quotes from films diverge from the original? Guess who watched the incredibly rubbishy Robin Hood Prince of Thieves[3] yesterday. Cue: I'll cut his heart out with a spoon! Why? Because it's duller you fool. So what if the film only featured the words spoon and dull? It's the interpretation that makes it what it is. And it's a bad film anyway, so misquoting it isn't going to malign it much. Although I noticed yesterday that there is a worrying number of the lyrics to the theme song that turn up in the film. I feel I ought to point out that I only know the lyrics as I had to learn to play something on guitar for school, and Everything I Do is pretty easy (DAGA DAG DA).

[3] Insert comments about people landing at Dover, going to Nottingham via Hadrian's wall all before nightfall. Add further comments on the curiously frequent placement of haystacks. Not to mention the Ewok village. And this is glossing over the historical accuracy, the script, the plot, the acting, the obvious poster shots. Oh and Alan Rickman's blue rinse. So many faults, it's near pedantic nirvana.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

How strange:

For some reason I've had rash (well, mini rash) of people coming here having stuck Anyhoo in MSN search. Is it just that, for reasons as yet unknown, I've suddenly become the highest Anyhoo on MSN? Or has someone in America (as the hits range from Texas to Maine) done or said something?

Or it might just be coincidence that there is a chain of people searching for Anyhoo. But as usually there is a steady drizzle of random search results, for example: worst song for british tourists opps outside your head, this seems unlikely (and I have no idea what the example search was really looking for).

Most odd.

Though I think the search that displays most lateral thinking is: INTJ - "Mastermind". Introverted intellectual with a preference for finding certainty. A builder of systems and the applier of theoretical models. 2.1% of total population. Well that's one way of finding people like yourself.

Hmm, doing the self-obsessed thing of sticking anyhoo into search engines and I discovered that Yahoo rates me 4th, but Yahoo UK+IE rates me 3rd, but doesn't rate me at all for UK only. I assumed they all used the same databases, but apparently not.
About: 1
Altavista: Er, I don't appear to be here (well not on the first 10 pages of results).
Ask Jeeves: Jeeves, you're fired. And you expect me to pay to submit a site?
Dogpile: 2
Excite: 2 (but it does look suspiciously like Dogpile, even though it's supposedly in the same group as Ask Jeeves).
Google: 4
Looksmart: No. And their submission requires jumping through the hoops of Zeal.
Lycos: 3 1 (and now I feel guilty for having never heard of it).
Metacrawler: 2
MSN: 1
Overture: Nope (not in the top 100), and no submit a site option. 2
Vivisimo: 2 (but strangely not in the blog section).
Yahoo: 4

Aol/netscape, both go through Google.

I guess it pays to have one's blogging service owned by the biggest search engine.

And now I'm trying to work out how many distinct search engines there still are, as most I used to know have been swallowed by larger ones or have becoming solely advertising sources for people like AOL.
So there's:
- Google
- Yahoo: Overture, Alltheweb, Altavista,
- Ask Jeeves
- Infospace: Metacrawler, Dogpile, Webcrawler.
- Lycos: Hotbot, many freebie websites, and portals.
- Cnet:, various portals.

Ok, I'm bored of this now.

And anyway the chain has been broken by someone looking for "autopenotomy buffy". Obviously I missed that story. Oh, I just discovered that I am a Googlewhack for autopenotomy. Woohoo! Not sure it's really a word I want to be associated with, but ay well, such is life. It means to remove one's own penis, by the way (so that would be autopenectomy or self-phallotomy, depending which root one uses, though penectomy can be removal a section, and phallotomy could just be an incision). Hmm, nice topic. And what are the government bugs going to make of someone searching for this?

Hurrah! (mainly because I can't figure out how to spell Horray/Hooray/Hurray). The European Commission (them be the civil servant ones) has decided that the Council's decision, not to challenge France and Germany over breaking the economic stability pact, was unlawful (especially in relation to them challenging Portugal over the same thing). BBC factual, BBC interpretation.

And I've just noticed CNN's story on this is writing about the future, saying the decision will be reached on Tuesday (well being CNN they don't bother with "on"). Er...I think we've already had Tuesday. I think even America is on Wednesday by now (well the East Coast at least).
CNN also appears to still be hawking stuff they wrote in 2000 (click on stuff in the grey box on the left). Does their take on Euromyths really need to be saved for all eternity?

Huzzah! It looks like Berlusconi is going to lose his
immunity from prosecution whilst in office (strange that no-one shouted too loudly about it when he became the temporary head of the EU).

Cardinal's condom move praised. Cue: raised eyebrow (well if I could do one at a time).

Random SMH thing - How on earth did that happen - the city that hosts the American Parliament doesn't get representation in it.

Er...who, why, what, how? This the result of some personal vendetta, or did somebody just get bored? Although I have to agree white socks are not good, having been to a school that thought they were. Which is what happens when PTAs try to be fashionable. It didn't help that this rule had existed since the early sixties, when presumably white socks had been fashionable long enough to reach the perception of parents, and so were probably out of fashion by the time they drew these rules up. And being an institution they can never change anything, so there's probably still some people being forced to wear them.

It was strange how, as one went up the years, people's socks became gradually darker, so by year 11 black was the norm. I should point out that the darkening was because of people buying darker socks, and not (probably) because the originally white pairs darkened (I hope). Which had the strange effect of making the tone of people's socks match their academic year, in a very Brave New World way.

And I've just discovered, in the Guardian, Steve Lamacq writing about The Archers. Which is not really a combination one would expect. What is the world coming too when someone who works for Radio 1 listens to Radio 4?

Anyhoo, that's enough of sounding narrow-mindedly judgmental for now.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Ooooh, nous sommes digitise (howdya do them acute accents things?).

So now we digital radio. Um ok.
And what do you mean E4's only on [boo-hiss] Sky?

But we get assorted BBC stuff, that we've not had time to watch (BBC Parliament: it's a bit dull, no wonder most MPs try not to spend much time there, BBC News 24: Can't get CNN, but still have enough sense to not bother watching ITN or Sky [from the company that brought the world Fox News] news channels? BBC3/4: all the good stuff will be on BBC2 in a couple of weeks anyway, and there's usually something better on the original channels, CBBC/CBeebies: Sorry my blood sugar levels are too low to be interested in bright colour stuff moving in time with happy music).
And we can now get Channel 5. Have yet to find a reason for wanting to get it...

Did I mention the pure joy that is QVC and it's lower market [is that possible? that would be like sub-Argos] rivals bid-up TV and price-drop TV. Imagine Just a Minute, but done by dim people, about bits of crap that they are trying to flog ("Look at the logo. You don't see a logo like that everyday. Unless you buy this. You would see it everyday. It's a very special logo. Unlike other logos it means a brand. There's a lot of logo-ness about it, don't you agree? There's another logo on the back. It's the same logo, but it's good to know it's there. It's a reassuring logo. You're good people, you're going to leave the price like that are you? Think of the value of this. The logo is worth that much at least. It's a very strong logo...").

And then of course there's the same but with bits of sand and sun, instead of bits of shiny stuff and plastic. Jet off for £299 for 5 days plus 2 days free (terms and conditions apply. Subject to taxes and fees. Subject to limited availability. Subject to booking between 12:00pm 9/1/04 and 12:01pm 9/1/04. Outward travel must be after 20/1/04, and the return journey must be made before 21/1/04, travel beyond these dates may incur surcharges. There may be a surcharge for alternative airports. There may be a surcharge for accommodation change. The product may differ from the product
offered. The company reserves the right to change any details of the offered holiday, there may be a charge for such services).

It makes even the channels left blank look good.

And then we get to the music channels. All 2 of them. The Hits (think anagram) and TMF. Pure pop (not even any snap or crackle), although the TMF (how many bitchy acronyms can we think of?) is marginally less so.

It's enough to make people watch UK History.

Although I think the thing on Watergate was a series, and I've still no idea of what actually happened, other then some people lied about stuff, and then some people stopped, but others carried on.

Though strangely I haven't yet investigated UK BrightIdeas (turn off the television - that a good idea?).

Hmm, can I do a whole post on the topic of television. Hey, it's my blog I'll [some word that rhymes with cry: answers on the back of a postcard please] if I want to.

Anyone else see Prodi vs Paxman. I'm not sure how many times interviewees have called Jeremy Paxman "my dear". And of course the BBC's website has two whole lines on it.

Hmm, distinctly unimpressed - I was also going to discuss one story, but for some reason no news website seems to have it, even though it was all over BBC LDN's television news. Basically woman makes and sells fakes London travelcards. She does this by scanning real ones, and then editing the date, and printing them off - so when they are shown (rather than scanned) they appear normal. So fairly standard story. Except that the forger did this at the University of Westminster. But she wasn't a student there, and had faked her ID for there as well.

Continuing the news theme: CNN really shouldn't put stories about Beagle (2), next to one's about Beatle lawsuits (once again actually being able to post as it gets written would be helpful here).

And from idle curiosity (somehow I managed to write "ideal curiosity" - is there such a thing?): why are net based whois sites so bad and finding stuff? Most only do common 3-letter extensions, such as .com .net .org occasionally getting as far as .edu or .gov

Which is great until you want one that ends or .de

Even, which claims to (unlike others) search all the registrars records, um well, as long as they are .com .net or .org

Fortunately gives great results for most of them (but it
has problems with .uk). - wider range, but provides less information.

So which is it Prime Ministers' Office or Prime Minister's Office? Someone at doesn't know their apostrophes.
Actually if there were more than one it might make Brown cheer up a bit.

Which reminds me - watching PMQs on Wednesday - and managing to confuse one shot of the Labour benches with a shot of the Tory benches. Well I just don't expect Labour people to be exquisitely groomed, with big sweeping hair, dark tans, clothes that fit and being slightly overweight. They just all looked like rich lawyers.
But then most of the MPs looked like lawyers or doctors.

And what do we make of a certain Mr Bradshaw clutching his Express and Echo. Yes it maybe the local paper for his constituency (Exeter), but it puts the Daily Mail to shame with it's mix of vitriol and nostalgia[1] (and dubious interpretation of facts). And it's one of those papers that has a price, next to which reads "where sold".

[1] It has been suggested that it uses this style as a method of distracting the editorial staff from the reality of reporting Devon news. There's only so many ways you can say that there is yet another WI cake sale this Sunday, and a marine was involved in a fight last Saturday (with another marine).

But local media down there always makes me think of Smuggler FM in Blue Juice (good film). I swear BBC radio Devon has discussed the movements of cows when giving the weather forecast (well probably, but if it hasn't then it damn well ought to).

What else?
Yet another technorati or any of the others (see what other people think) - but it had me at one point so I'll stick it in regardless - Blogpulse.

Apparently the band I mentioned a while ago (search for Keen), are actually called Keen, not Kinetic as I assumed they must be called (don't ask, although it's somewhere on here), and just to make matters easier it's spelt Keane. And all and sundry are plugging them as the next new Whicheverband, when they're not doing the same for Snow Patrol.

And going round their site (needs updating), I discover why my searches for their lyrics (from somewhere only we know) didn't work - my version of the line: "oh sympathy, where have you gone, I'm getting old and need something to rely on" The band's version: "Oh simple thing where have you gone...".
Which is actually quite good compared to how badly I normally mishear things.

Continuing the Xfm theme:
Am I alone in thinking that the new Ryan Adams thing sounds like it should be by JJ72 (whatever happened to?). But then that Scissor Sisters thing sounds like the Bee-gees, so maybe it's just me. And I still can't figure out who Maroon 5 sound like. But it's someone. It's definitely someone.

Moving on to Evanescence - My Immortal (can't get the videos working). A nice solitary voice over piano, singing a pretty nice tune (well it's a bit Celine Dion), and then about three quarters of the way through you can tell someone thought "Oh bugger. We've forgotten the rest of the band. Bung them in quick". Cue: big loud cheesy rock ending.

Anyhoo, I think that's it, as this post has been so bitty, I've forgotten most of what was meant to be in here.

PS. And isn't not having a boiler great? Especially when the man who came to fix it took one look, said it was older than him and it's dangerous, so he cut off the supply for the gas fire as well. I have a hunch ovens aren't designed to try and heat entire houses (well we've got assorted old fan heaters as well, but they make a lot of noise and make the cold air move faster). And then you go outside and find that somehow it's warmer than indoors. Oh well.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Ooooh, the new Google (via CNN): Vivisimo - except it's not, as it's gone kaput, so I've no idea what it's like.
Seems like a good idea, but I'm not sure how it works, and I think most people have already adapted to overcome faults with Google (such as the oft quoted "apple" search, stick in fruit/tree/Cox's Orange Pippin/whatever, and suddenly it works better).
And they could have gone with a better name - why is a search engine lively? And as for becoming common, the name is too long, and too complicated (have I put enough "i"s in?).
2 syllables versus 4 ish (keep wanting to pronounce it "viv-vi-vis-sim-mo", but that might just be the dyslexic in me).
Just wondering - how many people type a search engine address, how many have it stored in favourites, and how many just type the search in the Address bar of IE, and let MSN sort it out?
I just type and use auto-complete, as it's quicker, and works better than trying to use menus (and has the added advantage that it doesn't really matter which computer one uses).
Sorry I just don't like the name - too long (a whole 2 letters more than Google) and it's got a repeated sequence in it (which invariably trips me when typing).

Hmm, it's pants - apple - takes ages to find a non-computing apple, and then the first [non-sponsored] result in the category of "apple tree" is a bed and breakfast place called "apple tree inn". And this category only has 3 results (but that might be because of high usage problems).
And who is Fiona Apple?

Somehow I think Google is safe being omnipotent for the time being.

Other links:
AdAge: Some random thing on ads that won't reach the US. The Mr Kipling ad was cancelled? Really? God, some people must take this whole God malarkey a bit too seriously. Click on the Honda one if you haven't seen it (there's more comment somewhere in this blog - use Google's site search to find it, if you are so inclined).
UK Unis (ish) Now why didn't I think of that?
The annual baby names thing. How utterly middle class is this country? Except of course one's not supposed to be able to tell such things from names. Though Jack? Surely that's a variant on John, in a nickname[1] way. But then they have Ellie as a name as well, which usually is Eleanor (or however one spells it), unless it's one of the many meaning "she" (as in the cat's mother?).
[1] Apparently that's derived from "an eek name", eek meaning also (see Chaucer), and the n's liaison with the vowel becoming permanent (it's amazing what you find from reading books left in people's loos).

And that'll do for now, as I'll only start talking about the Turner Prize, or night-swimming if I carry on (continuing on from the earlier post).

And my spelling must be improving (either that or Word has run out of red ink).
Anyhoo, I flit, I flee, I fly (not literally, in pretty much all cases - and what? you'd prefer the bad adieu/you rhyme? [think yer]).

Firstly sorry - I've just noticed that the googlewhack link in the last post is a bit whack, and of course I can't remember what it's meant to be (except that it came via the Mexican version of Google).

Anyhoo, I'm back from the assorted jaunts. Possibly more on that story later.

And what is it about January that induces boilers to decide to become even more eccentric? At the moment we have no heating as, having had various sections of the systems conk out for ages, the flames at the base of the boiler are now spilling out from underneath, in extremely pungent (for pungent read nauseating) sooty yellow wafts. So, not being too keen on eternal sleep, we turned it off. Huzzah or what? Fortunately the shower is electric, and we have an independent gas fire. Unfortunately neither is currently making any great impression in this room (and for those misinterpreting, no we're not trying to heat a building with a shower).

Makes even the combi-boiler in my brother's house seem good. And his has the added advantage of doing freestyle jazz whilst you do the washing up. Well, it makes semi-rhythmic clunking sounds, as it doesn't do gradual increase in burning, and so when the tank temperature is near the set point it does many brief spurts of gas. In a donk---donk---donk---a-donk-a-donk-a---donk---donk---dunkadunka-dunka-donk---donk way. It's not often you get appliances that can do scat.

Still doesn't stop the thing doing cold-cold-cold-mild-boiling-boiling-pressure drop-surge of cold-repeat as desired. Which is great when you're in the shower. And then someone starts doing the washing up as well.

This a good point to say that I went to stay with my brother for a few days? Hence the intimate knowledge of his plumbing[1]. Actually water seems to a recurring theme (but when isn't it?).

[1] Another possible misinterpretation[2]. No, and how the hell did you even think of that? Vile fiend.

[2] I blame watching the sound of music with a roomful of tired, sobering-up people, who were making inappropriate suggestions about the characters in the film[3]. I blame BBCi - because it had cunning interactive stuff including sing-along subtitles[4] (that we then couldn't turn off), which made it all feel more ridiculous. And then we watched Grease, and discovered that making double entendres and other unsuitable comments isn't as fun when the film sticks with fully intended entendres, and verges on the downright lewd in parts.

[3] Such as Liesl (she of 16 going on 17 fame) being pregnant with Rolf's child, whilst Rolf was actually engaging in unusual acts with her father, the captain, in the summerhouse [cue stereotypical comments about seamen, cabin boys etc.].

[4] No I wasn't (much). And how many songs do they reprise? It's got more reprisals than the West Bank (that was bad, wasn't it?).

And how on earth does one recover from somehow managing to quote what I think is the Wizard of Oz, during the Sound of Music? That's just uber-camp (and I don't think I'm "camp"[5], I'm probably not even "flysheet with a couple of pegs"). The quote by the way was "ding dong the witch is dead"[6], said upon Baroness Von Baddie's departure.

[5] And which US Pres's nephew was Camp David named after? And you can bet he really loved his uncle for introducing that name into the public consciousness.

[6] Is that from the Wizard of Oz? It's from something I shouldn't know about. And it's not like I've ever seen all of the film (well it's scary, especially those flying monkey things).

So um yeah...When did I last write? Pre-Christmas? (I know the last post says 27th, but it was many before Christmas). So what have I done?
Been to see one friend at her parent's pub (and I had to drive, damn), which consisted of trying not make the same comments to her younger sister in response to a story she was writing, as I'd made to my friend when she was that age (well they do write really bad, really similar stories). And isn't it great to get invited somewhere, to arrive (after much rescheduling), and then to get ignored because said friend was deep in accountancy based discussion. Actually thinking about it we didn't talk much all night, due to assorted siblings, pub quizzes (I answered one question correctly, and that was only because I'd read The Road to McCarthy[7]), watching the second Lord of the Rings (still not seen the last), a repeat of Jump London, and various satellite television rubbish. And one person drinking a lot whilst the other isn't,
does not help the atmosphere, especially when both are cold. Quite funny when the tradition pillow/tickle fight started, and she kept calling her dog to rescue her, and after the first time the dog glared and growled at her owner (who was the aggressor), instead of the intended target (well if you will cry wolf, or Labrador-can't figure out the other half cross).

[7] Read the first, and that one, both very funny, well written and well observed. Helped me to discover that people give you odd looks if you, whilst dressed in many layers of warm and waterproof clothing, with associated safety gear, are wedged at haphazard in the cabin of a 30ft yacht that is behaving like a twig in a mill race, and laughing at things in the book you are reading.

What else? Think most of Christmas is covered. Post-Christmas, idling for a bit, then this part of the family went to visit the other part on Sunday. I go up with my brother, my parents go in a different car. They leave before us. We do not see them on the road up to the motorway, we get to the M25, discover it's got an optimistic speed limit of 40 operating. Ring them to find out what it's like ahead, and find they haven't hit the motorway yet. So describe the situation (how bad is my father at communication?), and they decide to not try and use an alternative route, and choose to join a traffic jam. Sometimes you have to wonder.

Chug round the M25 for a bit, decide to go for the M3 over the M4, as it's only going to get worse by Heathrow, and do frantic navigation the rest of the way (including get thrown by crossing the Thames twice, and finding that maps of the area around both Chiswick and Putney bridges look quite similar, especially when the road you want is going diagonally across the top corner of the page. And on being asked if "Is this Twickenham" decided to look up a passed street name in the A-Z, rather than notice that beyond the inter-war housing is a sodding great stadium looming).

Get to uncle and co's house, have meal (quite good for them, but having olive oil on everything rather ruins the point of it), usual present swapping (I got something I actually like and which have some use, rather than the usual "er...thank you. What is it?"[8]. Who said HMV vouchers are soulless?).

[8] In the past this has included assorted presents they've been given, such as matching half tube-half scarf things from New Zealand for my brother and I (my aunt and uncle have never been near New Zealand, but she has a widely travelled relative who always gives her gifts she complains about), made of wonderfully 80's pattern fleece. Except we haven't yet palmed them off on someone else, so I think we've broken the chain of disappointment. So if you've given someone odd head and neck wear made of thin black fleece, with day-glow geometric shapes in it, be sure to ask about it next time you see them.
I still don't know quite how you're supposed to wear one.
But what does one do with people like this? Especially when they got a bit miffed when last year I asked for the DVD of Amelie (although they did give it to me, so they obviously aren't quite as insufferable as my parents suggest they are).

Anyway, so house, food, presents, then the traditional walk (ok, loiter in a freezing park, waiting for one cousin to tire of misusing a swing [it's supposed to go the other way]). Then back to warm up a bit, and amaze my American aunt by using a lit candle to light another candle, rather than seek out a new canister for their gas lighter. Bit worried about them being apparently unaware of scorching the wallpaper with candle on the mantelpiece, ignoring candles flaring manicly and molten wax getting everywhere (I'm a pyromaniac, and even I'm not that blasé about fire). And am I an utter anal rententive[9], or do other people out there find it annoying when one of the angels on the candle chimes thing is going round backwards?

[9] Must get round to reading Freud. So then I can discover that that doesn't mean what I think it means.

So then we depart, and I go with my brother to his house. Which has different odd smells in each room. Have some food, discover his cooking is identical to mine, except his tomato puree comes from a jar, whereas mine is usually a tube (obviously independent reactions to my mother's insistence on only buying tins of it), and I'm not quite naive enough to imagine that a single thin slice of salami counts as the protein section (not that you need it most of the time).
And I met house-mate number one, who confuses me by being a figure in the shadows sorting washing, who I assumed to be my brother (I didn't hear anyone come in). Admittedly I did think that the washing he was sorting didn't look like the clothes my brother would buy, but maybe he was making up a full load with someone else's (and the fact he was in black and my brother had had beige on all day...well maybe he was washing that too). So then there was a startled conversation with him when he went past. Unfortunately I'm not great at communicating whilst brushing my teeth, so it wasn't the most enlightening.

Monday - shopping for shoes. Getting up late, rediscovering the joys of lemon curd, going to Camden. Cue trudging through the rain as my brother goes to get stuff from his office. Cue shoes taking on water as they are extremely knackered (hence shopping for more). Cue the snow. In big, big flakes. But this being London, all it made was colder puddles. Then on to a brief tour of shoe shops. Then down to Covent Garden to seek out more shops. Much trying on reaffirmed my feet are oddly shaped. Factor in confusion over exactly which shop assorted pairs of shoes had been in (well pretty
much every shop on this street sells shoes). Eventually find a pair, buy them. Then walk to Leicester Square to seek out the Wagamama's (somehow I knew where it was and he didn't) to use up my brother's vouchers (which aren't valid till next Monday). Enter, wait, sit, get told what to order by my brother, get annoyed with him as he decides to overrule me asking for tap water (grr, I had I headache, and they're legally obliged to supply it, and anyway the couples either side appear to have managed to get large glasses of water). Eat (better with chopsticks[10] than I used to be, but the
little bits left at the end always annoy me).

[10] Well no-one died from low flying shrimp this time. And I finished before my brother.

Go to nearby art shop so my brother can buy cheap frames, then back to his house to dump load, then on to the Tate (Tate proper, not Modern, think it's called Tate Britain). Go round the Turner Prize exhibition. Me like. Me like lot.

Wasn't too sure of the first bit [Gallaccio] - the bronze trees, rotting apples, and trapped Gerberas. Bit worried about the stains on the floor (how suburban can you get?), and it's a bit odd to be looking at art that smells of honey. Though both of us wanted to know how she got the flowers trapped behind the glass (removable frame, adhesive of some sort?), and how she cast an entire tree. Strangely of 4 large sections of glass holding mould and bacteria coated flowers, it was the ones escaping round the edges that caught my attention. Not sure why - maybe it was just the variations upon
uniformity of the panels that prompt the viewer to seek out the oddities. Also wonder how the little bits of detritus beneath escaped, and whether the floor gets swept every day.

Doherty's video installation of the man running across a bridge, supposedly representing Northern Ireland. Initial response: And your point is? It's just two opposing screens set up to show video loops of a man running along an apparently never ending bridge, with the screens showing the man's actions from either side. So NI is just infinitely repetitive, always going through the same actions? But at least the two sides agree on the movement - until you move out of the middle of the room, and view one of the screens from the back (the projected image coming through the nearer screen), at which point the man running past you splits, and becomes either two figures running towards one another or away from one another. So obviously the interpretation of the action depends on where one stands. Cue the obvious NI analogy. Amazing what you notice when one skulks in corners.

But being me I kept being distracted by the fringe of the projected image that missed the screen, and flicked on the floor, wall or people. And I had to resist the strong urge to wait in the dark behind a screen, and then shoot a hand out through the floor height gap under the suspended screen, at some unwitting dawdler (well it was too small to make jumping out and saying boo easy).

Next came the Chapman brother's works. So that's a set of prints of Goya, with amendments, a tree of death, with various comedic bits, and a painted bronze cast of a male and female inflatable dolls, in a mutually beneficial position, upon a lilo.

So going straight for the bit everyone was studiously ignoring (well in one way or another everyone in there has paid to look, so why not look?). Not quite sure what to make of it (recurring theme?), except wondering if it really is metal, but thinking it's probably not the done thing to tap it with a knuckle, so settled for moving the air round it to see if it stirs. It didn't and the paint makes it seem quite solid, so I guess it probably is. Must have been fiddly to make. Appears to be about all there is to say - until you notice that the female (on top) is not quite as centred as one would expect, and the male is pleasuring her hip (which must be intentional, as metal casts that size must be too hefty to be moved by accident).

Now on to the other part of the sex and death theme (apparently the act of sex mimics death and vice versa, although I'm not experienced to enough to know quite how). The prints of the Goya etchings. Not sure why there was such a brouhaha about the brothers adapting the prints for their own needs - they were made in 1937, and the blurb suggests the plates still exist.

So imagine a large number (4 walls of a large room worth) of black and white prints of scenes of Napoleonic massacre in Spain (or anti-French propaganda, depending on what you care to deny). Now imagine that each is subverted by covering some parts the print with pink/purple/green but mainly grey additions - usually distorted half-clown, half-goblin heads and faces where once martyred Catholic priests's heads were, in scenes original filled with death disease and cruelty. You start off thinking it's just schoolboy humour, the equivalent of amending images of people asking for "this hat in red" in French textbooks, and anatomically correcting those in biology text books[11]. But then as you go round you begin to wonder how much was Goya over-egging it, or whether the depictions are all accurate. And then you find one that isn't altered, or at least in a way I could find. And you wonder why - what is it about a veiled woman, and a covered dead body that stopped it being adapted? Something about the meaning and veracity of the image, or was it just because the brothers could not find any easy way of subverting it? Or perhaps they felt leaving one would force the observant to think about their work more (having watched some of those scanning the pictures, occasionally one would obviously stop and try to discern whether the image was unaltered and why it was so, but most people just didn't look).

[11] I feel I should point out that I never did such things. Usually because I haven't the imagination[12], and someone's beaten me to it[13]. And being me, I'd have do it in pencil anyway.

[12] Which got corrected by sharing a flat in which it became a fashionable past-time to do colouring in children's colouring-in books (we were students ok), which proved a fertile ground for creating subverted images (think of the most disgusting and depraved situation you can. Now imagine this situation with big rounded elephants [in hats, natch] with birds flying round them, and the sun smiling on). Strangely most of us weren't on that many drugs.

[13] Which doesn't stop you being quizzed for ages by a furious French French teacher on why your copy of the book has a Hitler moustache and haircut draw on the face of some old guy, whilst the French flag on the opposing page is adorned with a swastika. Turns out the old guy was de Gaulle, and the teacher didn't think that such treatment was suitable for a great statesman (but as I didn't do it...). And then there's the whole discovering later in life that in some ways the depiction wasn't far off.

Returning to the point: Elsewhere in the ring of Goya based work one comes across a scene of Catholic priests being put to death - about 7 or eight of them, lashed to chairs - each with a different mocking Chapman face masking the original - except one. But why, why leave just one? Why leave any?

And why only leave the one in the middle?

I don't know, so the only option is to continue - until you find the image of men and limbs appended to a tree. Which given a little while would match the sculpture right behind you at this point.

The tree of death (or whatever it's really called) is the battered stumpy remains of a tree (moulded in a cartoon-like way) strewn with the remains of the humanoids depicted. Upon much of the surface of the ground and bodies are various organisms associated with death and decay, and general damp fetid nastiness - swarms of mice, flies, maggots, frogs, toads, miscellaneous stuff. And then you notice a mouse and frog apparently mating, yet nearby some mice appear to be eating a frog. Looking back at the image you realise that it's not an exact extrapolation, as besides the abundant fauna,
including the rook[14] surmounting it all, the ears of one form are pointy, yet not in the corresponding image, but the teeth don't match either. So is this vague mock up intentionally vague, hidden quirks for the patient, or the artist merely idle and unaware?

[14] Well rook type thing - crow, raven - I've never been very good at distinguishing them. Basically black birds that scavenge on carrion (and so often join their meals as roadkill).

And so onto Grayson Perry.
Enter into a room filled with vases upon pedestals. Turn left to read the blurb, and working clockwise come across a dress. A very childish girly dress, in bright colours and shiny material, covered with embodied teddy-bears and cars and bunches on flowers. Hang on, those aren't flowers. Oh, neither is that. Hmm. So what's that car supposed to be then? Is it just a car? Very intricate though (how come everyone else is still refusing to be seen examining such images?).

So now the vases. They look gorgeous, as if they were some V&A exhibition comparing the pottery of the varied Chinese dynasties and that of ancient Greece, with Victorian reproductions and modern Poole stuff bunged in for good measured.

And then one looks closer. Again the playground humour, but this time with a harsh wit. There's definitely vitriol mixed in with the vitreous glazes. Attacking the machismo of suburban youth, and the lifestyle based in a modern executive homes. On one vase there's a car with the advertising slogan on the side "cunt power" (shame it wasn't a Fiat - then it could have been "spirito di cunto"). Others attack the viewer: "Fuck off you middle-class tourist" (Am I a tourist?), or life in the industrial North. Perry repeatedly makes a strong association between sex and childhood, from covering various forms of child abuse to depicting hermaphrodite fairy (which gets skewered with a pin, as a butterfly in a collection, on one vase). Quite what the suggested implication is I'm not quite sure. Perhaps it's to shock by connecting two concepts that are fiercely separated by modern culture.
Maybe it's to attack nostalgia, or optimism. Or is just out to annoy the Daily Mail and retired military personnel residing in Tunbridge Wells.

But the level of effort it must have taken to make these pots and urns is incredible - of all the entrants these demonstrate knowledge and achievement most. He must have learnt to do this, he must have great skill (well ok so casting trees would as well, but Perry's work seems to use so much more).
And yet to make seems puzzling, and then one remembers that being judgmental is bad, and "why not" is good.

I suppose if someone can answer "because it's there" when speaking of scaling mountains, then "because I can" is equally valid.

Am I being cruel in wondering if the use of a young female alter-ego is merely that "a use". A method of creating a distinction, notoriety, recognition, an artistic brand. But then it's just getting back to the "because I can".

And the middle-class tourist part of me thinks "but if one is going to have transvestite tendencies, one could at least show good taste doing it".

But one of the best bits is a blue and white pot showing stylised modern youth being stylish. And then one walks round searching for the joke, the subversion, and finds none. So one repeats one's steps - nope still nothing, What haven't I seen? What am I missing?
And then you notice the title: "Boring Cool People". Now that's cruel, especially when you've been going round with someone who used to read Wallpaper (insert * as appropriate).

And then on to the comments.
They must get changed everyday right? As there's quite a lot of empty ones, and I refuse to believe that so few people would write something. And there's rings of lead lines round the holes where many people have missed when reinserting the pencils.

Some of the comments are odd though: like the very neat handwriting worrying about the stains on the floor under the apples, and other such stuff. Except this being an art gallery one wonders (well I did) if it was actually some ageing woman worrying, or if it was someone younger and infinitely hipper (not that they're trying, it's just irony), mocking the twee and the tweedy's comments.

And my brother is cruel - he writes what I've said.

And then writes something else I can't figure out, but then realise is a reference to the NI bridge work.

Cue me: Stop being enigmatic - it doesn't suit you.

Except it was in one of those hissed whispers that carry remarkably well, so various people turn round and try to work out what's going on.

Shame we were ushered out before we had a chance to investigate everything in that end room.

More on the Turner Prize. Or bung it in Google.

My God, writing about an art exhibition that's actually still on.

So then home, and discover my new shoes hurt.

And then getting dragged out to meet my brother's proto-girlfriend.
And friends, which is different.
Especially when the one who doesn't have the same name as my brother's near-girlfriend, his ex-girlfriend and the other girl at the table[15], looks suspicious like the younger version of one of my friends (same face, same voice, same mannerisms).

[15] Apparently my brother's got 10 different numbers on his mobile for people with this name. And it doesn't help that my brother and I refer to them as Good X, Bad X, Canadian X, and Younger-than-me X (some of these names are for the same person). Especially not when in the presence of Bad X's new best friend (and Bad X has demanded that none of my brother's friends are allowed to invite him to anything she may be at. Nice, huh?).

And then they notice that he and I have the same jumper on (me: pale beiges, him: tired black, and mine's older), and having both just bought new shoes, in shoes that are made to the same pattern (but mine are a different colour and material).

Take shoes back to the shop. Which my brother claims I cannot do. The guy in the shop asks me if they've been worn inside or outside. Me: "Mainly inside" (well the Tate is mainly inside - except the walk to the Tube. And then pub was inside, except the walk to and from it). He examines them for a while, frowns, and then decides that he can sell them on (wise decision, as I was preparing a good tirade), but knows they've been worn outside. So I ask if I could have the next size up. He disappears for ages. No can do - so end being told they'll be in Next Tuesday (but I won't be here...).
Agree, get brother to sort it all.

And only once I've left London do I realise that it's a chain, and there's one in a nearby town, except now my brother has got all the paperwork.
Then we go to do more shopping, and so through the top of Soho[16] to Oxford Street.

[16] Strangely on a cold, wet, grey day in late December the area didn't exactly live to it's reputation.

What is it about chaotic shopping that makes me completely forget what I wanted?
Or maybe it was just my brother getting tired and stroppy, and managing to drag me through 4 neighbouring department stores, two of which I think are actually the same shop just using different names. And each was accessed by it's side entrance which was opposite the neighbouring shop's side entrance.
So my grasp of geography once again slipped.

And he expects to spend too much on things.
Whereas I am a miser, even when spending someone else's money.
Eventually up in Gap (look, I was trying to avoid buying them from Burton's as I always do).
Oh dear.
Have you tried finding the commonest size in a sale?
32-32: sorry no can do.

And why are jeans trying so hard not to be just jeans right now?
There's ones with rust marks, inbuilt dirt, immense fading, pre-stressed, even one with buttock groping handprints.

Eventually I found a pair - what I thought were dark blue, plain, and according to the label, slightly flared. But they were £20 (from £44), they didn't castrate me, they couldn't be removed easily whilst done up, they didn't need me to stand on tip-toe and they didn't try to cleave between my buttocks. Which given the day I'd had was good.

Except I'm wearing them now, and they are quite flappy round my ankles, and they might be supposed to be black, I just assumed they were very dark blue. And they're wash at 30 dash. So of course they'll run and shrink. Oh well. At least they don't expose parts of me like my pair I like the most do (one of those "I must get round to...patching that" things).

And then we go have a very late lunch at Tate Modern. So we go up to the members room near the top (stairs are fun). And they have about 3 meals left, so we both have beef noodles. Which it then turns out are intentionally cold. Then I hang round for ages trying to get some water (wow, diddy glasses), and we go and sit by window overlooking the river (on a sofa facing the wrong way). And then I find that most of ingredients in the noodles have never heard of heat, including the slices of chilli (complete with seeds). I decide to stop chewing quite so efficiently. So we stare out of the
window whilst we eat - and watch the daylight fade to be replaced with the miniaturised universe on the opposite bank.

And people are predictable - there is a lingering storm round the top of St Paul's, replacing the real looming rain that was there earlier, as people take pictures of the view. And another over the furthest support of the Millennium bridge, cameras towards the Tate. And either there's a lot of automatic flashes out there, that cannot be easily turned off, or there are a lot of people who don't know how flashes are supposed to work (little light, big building, long way away).

Strangely despite the view of the masses, and of some wonderful buildings, there are people who never bother looking. Next to us is a woman reading a book, huddled up, occasionally reaching for her glass of wine (in which the level scarcely changes all the time we are there). And never looking up.
There's another women further along staring at near blank wall, and ignoring all that is about her (except for a similar perpetual glass of wine). They both even ignore people in the restaurant.

Maybe I'm just much too curious, forever distracted by what else there might be.

Speaking of being distracted, once we finish I decide I have to go out on the balcony, despite my brother's protestations that it will be cold, wet and much too childish for adults such as our selves to do. But being me I'm aware that being childish is ill becoming to me, but it's fun, so I don't care.

What I do care about is suddenly finding myself looking very stupid next to the door. Because it won't open. And I'm standing there trying to get it open and failing. But there are people on the balcony, and people have been using this door. Unless I'm wrong and there's another one I missed weaving past all the people. Which would mean going back past them trying to check. And now my brother is mouthing angrily at me from the other end of this narrow crowded space. He's coming up, I try the door again, this time using all my weight plus the hip bashing technique honed over the years by trying to open the garage door at my parent's house. It opens, slowly. I think it's quite a heavy door, with an over zealous automatic closer on it.

We go out, not quite shutting the door properly. As we do we notice that on the outside is only a solid pull handle, rather than the normal door handle that's on the other side. Which means that if it closes you can't open it from the outside, which is different.

So we're outside, and I instantly go and peer over the edge. Oooh pretty trees, which are quite a long way down.
What else is there? A river that's quite high, though I've no idea of when the high tide is. Many buildings, all with the contrast turned up by the recent rain glistening madly or washing the shadows into a new darkness.

I don't know I've always liked dark stormy nights. It's just something about the mild damp wind. The power and the uncertainty.

And then we go to worship the great sun god, down in the Turbine Hall. Coming out on the lower level, and having my view blocked by the deck over the kiosk bits. Being me, I walk under the stairs as soon as I can to be able to approach straight down the middle, to be able to have the upside down dawn symmetrical. A disc of diffuse sodium glare. Reminiscent of the setting sun. But it's not. Yes you can feel some warmth for it, but that is only when you pass the disc and are in line with the raw bulbs, and even then it's warmth not heat (it's art I'm allowed to drop the scientific exactitude for awhile). And maybe it's the effect off having a street light outside my bedroom, but I don't associate that wavelength with happy warmth, as I do the real sun. Or maybe it was the effect of the "cloud-like forms", otherwise known as mist that makes all around it cold and damp.

But up is a very long way, as we look for our reflections the mirrors, two little bundles in the log jam of bodies. But who are all these people, lying on cold damp concrete? Have they not noticed the mottled darkness of the floor, product of weak sugar solution and mass popularity?
And why do they all lie feet towards the sun? Staring up towards their dumpy distorted bodies? Haven't they noticed that the image comes back thinner if they lie parallel to the face to then sun disc, not perpendicular.

We go down to end to see the workings, and watch the masses in the orange light, with different colour lights spilling out from the main gallery.

And then going up towards the other end, this time noticing the traditional accompanying explanatory blurb. We read what's on the wall, disagreed with part of it - that part that says that the light is monochromatic, and so only yellow shows - but for some reason some reds glow frantically as well, although that may be the effect of fluorescent washing powders, lengthening the wavelength. I take a leaflet, scan it and stick it in my bag.

We carry on towards the other end, and turn round to see the full effect. The curving of the mirrors creates the impression of heat haze, worsening nearer the top of the sun. The mist diffuses the light and prevents people easily discerning the faults of the system. Quite impressive, but then the hall on it's own is impressive. The effect of the orange light seems more pervasive here, except the bluey-greeny glow of the screens of videos, cameras and mobile phones. The world is is saying "guess where I am".

As we walk past the entrance I glance outside and glimpse the metal shutter on the building opposite reflecting the glare. I then wonder if the light is in the western end, blocking out the real sun (if it were visible).

We then go up and go and see the Sigmar Polke exhibition. Mostly plays upon newspaper printing in an unenthusiastic pop-art way. A recurring theme based on the American hunt for Osama bin Laden, men on horseback beneath an omnipresent (possibly omnipotent as well) satellite. A series that just seem random and chaotic, which I later discover were the results of the artist haphazardly mixing the chemicals he has used in making his art. Most of the works in this section make use of honeycombed resin, so each image has assorted layers, that occasionally combine.

Also there is a frequent use of some method that renders the canvas transparent, and so I found myself looking at a picture trying to make sense of it, and then discovering the backing supports suddenly override everything.

One I liked, which was in the section (presumably) attacking the American gun culture, a blown up newspaper image of a man pointing at a series of holes in body shaped target, with the title "I Don’t Really Think About Anything Too Much" (on the Tate's website). And then getting distracted by the patterns within, and the apparently random switches in the printing.

But for the most part I just didn't get the work. Either it seemed incomprehensible or simple. The thing of the newspaper cutting of soldiers playing Risk, yes he's fragmented the figures of the soldiers, but the joke (invading Iraq, playing a game of world domination) was on the part of the editors of the paper, not his. remove the borrowed wit, and the imagery is just imagery. There's too little personal input for most art (the image distortion could have been done with most computer imaging programmes), too much to copy the manufactured sterility of people like Bridget Riley. There just didn't seem to be much to it. There was no complexity, no thread to unravel, just flat ink.

In part of his exhibition I actually started thinking about the design of the Tate benches. Perhaps I was tired, perhaps I hadn't had enough water, but after trying to examine his work I just felt all arted out. They're quite nice benches though.

But you can't tell if I'm right, as apparently the exhibition finished on the 4th.

Then we go home and eat, and hang round (brother went to pub with other friends), discover the blurb from the big sun thing (technical name) is printed on yellow paper, that I had assumed to be white in the orange light. Read the Polke blurb, it makes a bit more sense, but still seems lacking something. And then to bed.

Had enough of trudging round, so brother goes off on his own to buy more shoes for him (which he then doesn't buy).

I sit round and shout at the Playstation, aka try to play games, be crap at most of them, try harder, still be crap, try doing the tutorial things, still be crap - I circled! it says that arrow and circle, I was pressing that arrow and I circled. And still it does nothing except insult me.
And they say videogames cause violence? Does throwing stuff in a toddler-like strop count?

It's worse than the driving bit in Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing - where the screen disappears under a mass of flies, as I'm not very good at typing but I'm quite quick on using backspace - but Little Miss Beacon counts keystrokes, not the correct series of characters (with gaps in the middle), so if you make a mistake and correct it you end up monumentally out of sync. And then it comes up with the message that "You are making lots of mistakes, perhaps you are tired or angry. You should take a rest". No I'm not. I was trying my hardest to do well, and all I get is this?

And then my brother come back, and I discover he has never even played the game I can't do. And he owns it. Bloody London salary.

Oh and I've still got to think of a costume for the New Year's Eve party we were going to that night (odd that, what with it being New Year's Eve and all).

A costume based on London Underground stations. Strangely every girl was planning to go as Angel (heck, why can't guys go as Angels? or put on their best Thick-can't-act-brooding face and go as Angel from the spin-off), unless she happens to be called Victoria.
But for blokes?

My brother was going as Street, Bond Street (cheating is it not?).
My ideas:
- Find much black fabric and go as Blackfriars (and ignore the s).
- Oval. A trifle dull, and how much effort was I supposed to be putting in?
- Waterloo doesn't bear thinking about (and does anyone have a handy toilet costume).
- Elephant & Castle. Is the elephant on top of the castle or vice versa?
- Many "I want to be a tree" ones (various oaks, poplar, Cyprus [wrong spelling?]).
- Go as Masonry - Monument, Temple, Embankment.
- Assorted bridges, gates and arches.
- Bank: Some money thing, or go leaning over all evening.
- Hammersmith - provided you don't mind lugging an anvil round all evening.
- Don't know how to do Lane (possibly lain?), but get one coat-hanger and go as Hangar Lane.
- Pinner, but it might take too long to explain, and you'd be bound to prick something.
- Paddington, the yellow wellies might be hard (or is that hat yellow, and the wellies red?).
- Holland Park, anything Dutch, but you have to stay still.
- Baker Street, again street=?
- There was a dubious one about Brent Cross (but you would have had to have seen The Office).
- Arsenal, or one of the Can[n]on ones.
- Barking - it isn't exactly a costume...
- Or go as a miscellaneous royal (Prince Regent, Royal Albert).
- Maybe Pick a colour and run with it - Limehouse, Blackwall, Whitechapel, Greenwich.
- Not sure how one does "court", but there's at least 2 of them.
- And remembering that there's a real Grange Hill always makes me giggle.
- Any ideas for Mornington Crescent?
- And we won't go into Shepherd's Bush.
- What the heck's a Goodge anyway?
- And if you've got 4 (ish) girls [and it's DLR, is that cheating?] All Saints.

So we spend a while doing this, and then we discover that the friend of friend (of my brother), whose friend's party it is isn't too keen on the friend coming. And then another party disintegrates, so it's back to the small party that's potentially got my brother's ex going to it. Hmm. Whatever happened to people saying something 2 weeks in advance, and everyone just turning up regardless of any later decisions (well it works, it usually involves foggy fields, but it works).

So Chislehurst it is (was) then. Except of course the girl whose house it is, is still in Salzburg.

Grab sleeping bag, stick stuff in bag, get handed my brother's old [air of swimming trunks with towel [?]. Wait a bit, stick stuff in car, discover the joys of my brother's driving on the South Circular. It's all just sharp junctions, big curves and hills. And it feels like it ought to be a rally course.

And how come I've never heard of the empire plunder museum (the Horniman Museum)?

There's some "interesting" bits of planning and architecture round there too - like the huge possibly Edwardian, probably Georgian or early Victorian houses - one of which has petrol station crammed in it's front garden.

And then there's Dulwich College (I think) which is a huge great building of the usual moderate Victorian style (meaning I've never been able to place that style, other than institutional), and nestling in one of the recessed bits by a corner is a solitary portaloo - but there's no sign of building work (and wouldn't they trust the builders to use an indoor loo?).

And so we approach Chislehurst, only to get rung up as we are nearly there to be told "H. can only get to Orpington station, we've arrived at her house and have gone to the pub, so we can't drive. She'll want picking up. Bye" (most of this conversation is going on as my brother circles a roundabout).

Er...that sign says Orpington - follow that, while I find where we are, and where we need to be. Um, it's not in the A-Z. Oh there's a map...of south-east England. It's got a big brown lump for Orpington, and there's 3 stations in the lump. And the roads don't have names or numbers.

Phone rings.

I answer (why do they all get so confused by this? It being my brother's phone and him driving and all). It's the girl from Salzburg (H). Yep we're picking her up. Where is the station in Orpington? Find the High Street, and there's a roundabout and it's near there? Um, ok...Where? Um, I don't know where we's quite a big road, it's quite straight...we're still on it....Can I ring you back when we find anywhere?

[Brother asking directions] I don't know, keep going straight, follow the signs to the town centre (I'm not sure which town we're in, but hey).

Eventually we approach a roundabout near somewhere with Christmas lights. No sign of the station, the signs just say "town centre, right", so go down expecting to turn right, and then my brother sees a sign for the cycle path with a BR symbol saying straight over. So we go straight over...not sure this is the right way, as we go we decide to go a bit further then turn round - and then we see something that looks suspiciously like a railway bridge. Go up turn right into a weird semi-rubble gravel taxi rank. Stop, try to see if we can find H. Um...then we phone her - she's still on
the train. another five minutes.

So my brother being him decides we have to move, so turn right onto the road, then a sharp right back in again this time following the track down to what we hope is the car park (praying there isn't a barrier at either end). Go round, and park in one of the drop of places.

Hmm, new year's eve - so the tired, the drunk and the cold wander past - including a man who had his keys out and for moment nearly tried getting into my brother's car, he didn't get that near though, but watching the confusion on his face as it dawned that his was the next car, was quite fun.

H then appears, gets in the back before I can move, and then we leave. The reason I wanted to swap was I realised that H. is the only one who knew where we were and where we were going. So she is now doing the back-seat driver thing, saying things like "when you go out turn left, and take the next left". So my brother does, and as we turn into what is obviously a cul-de-sac, H. announces "you did know I didn't mean this one". We turn round and many speed bumps in driving lesson roads[17] later get to H's house.

[17] The type of road that's wide and empty, usually in 1930s housing estates, in which it is impossible to remember where you've just been (it all looks the same in a leafy way).

We can see the car of the people who were at the pub, but no sign of them. So we ring them up, and so my brother is despatched to pick them up, but he doesn't know the way, so H. goes with him.

Which leaves me. In a big house. I discover that being abandoned in the aforementioned huge house is worrying, especially as I managed to break the light switch when I tried turning on the lights in the kitchen (I could see a small plastic knob and a sliding track, so pushed down. It didn't move. Try again and bit harder [having not been able to open the door onto the balcony of Tate Modern as I didn't push hard enough, and so determining not to feel foolish again]. Ping. Small plastic bit descends into the darkness. Fortunately I can see where it went, so pick it up, and try to clip it back in again. One set of lights comes on. Oh so you have to push them as well (opps).

I then spent ages searching round the huge kitchen looking for glasses, whilst managing to not look in the glass fronted cupboard filled with glasses. Go and put kettle on, find it is cunning designed to make one's life easier, and thus spills water everywhere. Find kitchen towel, mop up spill, and actually manage to find the bin on my first go (it being one of those hidden in some cupboard or drawer ones).

The phone rings - it's bound to be H (she whose house it is). But it might not be. Begin to wonder if it's one of the neighbours who's seen some strange man searching through the house, and turning all the lights on and off. I'll let the machine get it, as it'll be easier than trying to explain or find stuff to write with. Machine answers, it is H (rung to say the two people, whom she and my brother have gone to collect, have just bought a couple of "big pints", and they might be a while). I them try in vain to answer to the phone, and can't figure out how. She hangs up.

Right so now what?

About this time I get ambushed by the clocks. This house has a great many clocks. Most of which chime. Unfortunately they don't all keep the same time, so for about ten minutes you think it's over and then another one starts. It doesn't help the first one doesn't sound very healthy when it chimes, and actually sounds like something has just gone badly wrong (Me: Oh god what now. I didn't touch it!).

And then the doorbell rings...I suppose I better answer that (this is just not going to get better is it?). So go and hesitatingly open the door. There's a rather worried looking young man on the doorstep.
"Er...does H live here?".
"Hi, I'm D, I wasn't sure, I've been driving round for ages, but I couldn't see T's car".
"They've gone to...".
"The others are at the pub? You're T's brother aren't you? Um, where do you want me to park?".
I look out of the door to see 3 cars to the left, his car in the middle, and just dark space to the right.
"Probably somewhere over there, but pretty much anywhere, I don't think it matters".
I retreat to the kitchen leaving the door ajar. Hmm. This is...different.

Then he comes in, we have brief conversation which is a study in awkwardness, and then he goes to the loo (after I give up trying to give him directions, and suggest he just opens doors at random as it'll be quicker).

And then we stand round, not quite having the nerve to run round exploring (it's rumoured to have a swimming pool), until the others get back.
Cue mass chatty chaos.
Then of we go to find the dining room, and lay the table.
And then food, which consists of poached egg, bacon and asparagus (which stank of fish when it was cooking, except to the girl who hates fish, who claimed it smelt of beef [?]) on toast (now what's it say when the person who supposedly resides there needs help in hunting for the bread board?
Although she was probably thinking of one of her other houses). And then steak in tomato, basil and other stuff sauce, with parmesan polenta, and mushroom, onion and red wine stuffed mushrooms. So the meal had more preparation in part of a dish than most of my meals (but its tasted nice though, except I'm not too keen on parmesan, and polenta is just cous-cous without the bittiness, in a concentrated semolina way).

And it is very hard to eat when one is laughing so hard that breathing has become near impossible.

And then on to making dessert. Which consisted of a drink. And us trying to find suitable methods for breaking up kiwis. And me being scared by a fridge that produces any sort of ice you want.

And somehow the drinks managed to be served at 10 to midnight (though pulpy fruit and crushed ice does not make using straws easy. And we ended 2003 arguing about making vodka martinis, and the effects of "shaken, not stirred" or vice versa.

Post dongy bits: I am proclaimed the god of the mighty flame (it's called being patient pyromaniac, and having been a scout. Oh and cheating by using some of the candle wax that fell off with regular thumps during dinner).

We play Pictionary. Of the 3 pairs playing the couple who were actually a couple (and had been for a long while), were the least good at working together, and my brother and I did too well to make it seem fair. Except of course for thing my brother was drawing that managed to make me cry "oh placenta!". When it is in fact "cowpat". I'm never going to live that down. But in my defence my brother did keep emphasising the udders (to a biologist that's either plugging the fact it's a mammal or suggesting stuff related to reproduction), and then he drew something that looked like it had legs, but was sticking arrows at the mess around it. Except the mess was supposed to be showing movement, and the things with legs was meant to be a hand...patting.

And then we went swimming. It is somewhat odd doing so at 2:30am. It is even more odd having music playing whilst you are doing so (this being the same music that is playing throughout the house, via some cunning gadgetry - makes it very disorientating though). And my brother is a cheat (diving to collect plastic fish [don't ask], and he stole some from my hand).

And then some decided using the sauna was a good idea (and I opt out of the machismo by sitting on the floor).

Then more swimming.

Then standing round chatting.

Two people go outside to smoke cigars (the girl[18] having been trying to teach the guy to light them properly, until they found out it was a non-smoking house).

[18] This girl saying so then one wouldn't offend the people in an old gentleman's club. She declined to explain what she had been doing in said club. But she's of that type that knows and thinks of such things (hence overhearing conversations about the bits of Swan Lake where the prima gets a good rest. Very different lives methinks).

Go swimming again.

Get out, get changed, and then find I can't find anyone.
Anywhere - including having stuck my head through the doors of most of the bedrooms (but I'm still not sure how far the house extends in one direction).

Go downstairs again, and hear voices beyond the front door - maybe everyone's joined the two on the doorstep. Open door, nope, there's only two people there. They do look relieved to see me. Clever people had locked themselves out, though strangely didn't think to ring the doorbell, or try and get anyone's attention, even though one of them is only in wet swimming trunks, in what is now very early January. Mad people.

Discover that the rest of the people were trying to sort out stuff in the pool's pump room - the dehumidifier which is contained in the same casing as the main pump (and so is inaccessible, and says many warnings about electric shocks), is leaking water across the floor.

Cue my brother being the building services engineer - and refusing to believe that anyone could run their swimming pool at 29oC, whilst trying to sort it out. Having failed to make any difference we opt for the traditional leak stopping route, and go and fetch an oven dish to catch the drips.

About this point I go and hang my towel and swimming trunks up to dry in the swimming pool room - and only I would worry about making the air more humid with wet washing, when there's a large uncovered expanse of water beside me (I may not have been completely sober at this point, at it was somewhere beyond the middle of the night).

And then I think we started playing that "sticking names to people's foreheads" game.

Which I hate.

Especially when other people have easy things to guess (well I gave my brother Darwin, because I didn't want to be cruel, and I couldn't think of anything else).

It didn't help that one of my early questions got answered wrongly, so there was quite a while where I was going in circles that didn't work.

I eventually got bored of guessing and went to get a drink of water, just so happening to look at a picture in the hallway, which just happened to be glazed to protect it (what? the girl next to me had already studied her wine intently, and the guessed correctly on the next go).

So having deciphered all I had to do was figure out who Brian was.

And then someone quoted more Monty Python (strangely I hadn't guessed it after someone trying to help me said "think of my[her] degree - I did Classics and Ancient History", so I though Jane Austen, but Classics is older, so that's something by Homer then?).

Then a couple more goes, carefully not guessing straight away (though I did get round to asking if it's a fictional character, which I probably should have done earlier).

And then it was onto mopping up a split drink (Kiwitini apparently, squidgy green gack), which somehow left a much whiter patch on the cream carpet.

And so to bed, at about quarter to seven.

Which was actually a bed (which is a bonus of houses with infinite bedrooms).

Next morning, go and chat to my brother, then get up, then massive on-going breakfast, then somehow it ends up that I'm meant to be staying whilst my brother goes to various stuff with his proto-girlfriend, and getting a lift back with the couple who cooked.

And thus I stay and end up watching the Sound of Music (with sing along subtitles we can't get rid of [isn't technology great?], and additional comments reinterpreting the film). And then on to Grease, which isn't as fun to subvert, as it's pretty lewd anyway.

And then home, in the dark (so I never got chance to see how big the house really is).

So back to brother's flat, dump stuff, change, decide to go home as I don't know where he is, and the only person in is the miserable girlfriend of one of the flatmates.

Get tube to Waterloo (£2? Should have gone to Clapham junction, except that would mean buses or walking and I don't know how to get there, and it's raining, and my shoes have become tidal), arrive to see train on signs saying it leaves soon, check platform - no train there, go and buy ticket, try ringing home, discover phonecards expire (I had £3 on that still!), and BT payphones are good at taking money, but not at doing anything beyond that (yes I was bored enough to ring up and complain), sit and wait for an hour [still plodding through Middlemarch[19]], get on train - it's amazing how London trains you to instantly say a firm "no" everytime anyone speaks to you. So train home, walk home, somehow manage not to collapse asleep instantly (well I had had 3 hours sleep).

[19] Though I did get "a suitable boy"[20] for Christmas.

[20] Strangely some people misinterpret that phrase.

Could I be rambling? Possibly.
Anyway I'm going to leave the rest of my travels till some later date.

Note to self: using planes coming out of airports is not an precise navigation tool (especially when they are not all going in the same direction).

Note to Blogger: your draft option is still not working.


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