Sunday, February 29, 2004

Hmm, films on too late are very bad. Especially when you end up watching them anyway. For instance, Apocalypse Now was on last night. I think it was good film, but it's one of those were you never really know. Basically war is odd, even for President Bartlett. Though at several points I found myself thinking about how something was made to happen, or watching how the smoke passes through the helicopter produced vortices. I think it was me not being too tired to cope with the continuous chaotic noise and light, losing track of the plot, and so distracting myself from the mindless violence. And as for the ending - would someone mind teaching Marlon Brando to enunciate. It's quite annoying when the plot obviously rests on what he says and the guy's mumbling.
The number of palm trees they must have got through though...

So anyway, film: good, war: bad, surfing under bombardment: different.

And did I see in the titles the name Larry Fishburne? That as in Laurence, as in the "I have sun glasses and a deep voice, and shall be all enigmatic" guy? Mr Morpheus? I suppose he had to be younger at some point in the past.

Which strangely reminds me (see if you can figure out why), those Alan Whicker adverts. Well now they've got them on the radio as well, and there's one that plays the backing music, and then asks you what you're thinking of. To which the advertisers hope the reply is Only it didn't work very well with me, as my brain got as far as going, travel agenty thing, on the internet, um, Eh-er. Adverts that make you think of the I wonder why those haven't caught on.

Now what link can I make between Mr Whicker and the Guardian's new mini-magazine celebrating good things [their website is dead at the mo, so I can't tell you where the article is]. Which consists of pretty architecture, odd architecture, organic farming, and renewable energy (them: tidal good - except then you wreck the estuary where it's built, which then reaps havoc on breeding and many food webs, and so various fish populations slump. But hey Cardiff doesn't get smelly mud, so it's all ok). And on the last page is an article about the link between gay people and creative geographical areas. Which the G argues as meaning as [paraphrased] "gay people are more creative" (despite the guy they're summarising trying to avoid saying this). Not necessarily. The presence of gay people may be indicative of inherent creativity within a community, but that's not the same as them being the creative ones (but neither does it preclude them though).

Somewhere in the archives (I think, though I may have merely intended to write about it, and not done so), is a paper illustrating that diversity breeds creativity. In communities where there are a variety of ideas, these combine more often and more unexpectedly than in more homogenous areas (that's homogenous as in uniform, and not necessarily in the stricter sense, although that might be inferred as well).

And now I've got to dig out this paper to back this up.

Continuing on this theme of the influence (or not) of gay people on society, Douwe Osinga links to this Economist article arguing the case for gay marriage. Which is a quite rare stance in most of the press.

Douwe Osinga also explores the phenomenon of Google becoming a verb, whilst Yahoo fails to become one despite the intentions of the company. He argues that: Google wants to be one thing and wants to be unique and therefore doesn't want to be a general term like a verb. But a verb isn't a general term. The verb "to Google" in this instance means to stick whatever into Google and see what comes up. Whether or not "G/google" as a verb might diversify to mean "to search", regardless of mechanism, isn't really the point. The reason the term "G/google" is popular is that it has a known meaning: to search the internet, probably with Google. The reason "to Yahoo" did not flourish is that the meaning is unclear. It probably means to use Yahoo, but beyond that the meaning is unknown. Does sending email via Yahoo count, does chatting, does searching the internet or searching its directories? Does looking up how many Tanzanian Shillings there currently are to the Pound count?

It's not to do with popularity of the roots, it's the fact that one is defined or definable and one is vague. Without being able to fix a meaning (for the time being) people won't use the word. What exactly do brillig, slithy and toves mean? Beyond being able to describe the latter as a noun, probably plural, and the other two as probably adjectives, and not very nice adjectives at that, I can't say. But what do webspeak, blogerati[1] or netiquette mean? And the answer is pretty obvious, mainly because the words are compounded from others or slight variations of pre-existing words.

[1] Feel free to add more g’s, r’s and t’s as needed. Though bloggerratti is overdoing it a bit.

It's the lack of definability that made Yahoo's attempted spread of Yahooing worthless, and conversely it is because "to Google" does exactly what it says on the tin, that the latter verb spread. Whether this will survive Google's attempts to diversify (see their labs for more info), Google's attempts to block Hooverisation, or Google's impending slump in popularity, I cannot say.

And somehow in attempting to correct DO's assertions I manage to repeat most of them. Oh well.

Anyhoo, enough of this meme, I'm going to viddy me some ludge [yes, I did just make up that last word].

PS. To the nice people at Google: Please don't sue me. For a start I have no money, and the Student Loan Company has called first dibs on all future earnings.
PPS. Why does it feel like DO has already done verbalising internet brands? Or more specifically that I've already made the same arguements?

It's not fair - I've run out fo stuff to read. So in an attempt to fill the void left by A Suitable Boy, I read Prey[1] by Michael Crichton. Which turns out to be as grap[2] as most as his other books (you'd think reading Congo might have countered the impression I got from Jurassic Park, but no, I remained optimistic).

[1] The first public review seems to have got the same impression of the book as I did. Even the site's reviewer has a hard job not being critical about something they are trying to flog.
[2] That's supposed to be crap, but somehow I mistyped or misspelt it. But grap sounds more apt for describing the book, so I'll leave it in there.

To write a Michael Crichton book, take one newish technology (for instance genetic engineering or nanotechnology) and find a couple of doom-mongering papers to quote from.
Now you have the "authentic" background, take one semi-knowledgeable outsider (who strangely is the only person alive who can do what they are about to be asked to do), and have them be informed that someone somewhere (preferably somewhere utterly isolated) has gone beyond the normal bounds of research. They've advanced to a stage they are not quite ready for yet.
Bring in the (male) hero, who happens to have some form of history with members of the research group (especially the females). By introducing the outsider, this allows every member of the group to have to explain what it is that they do, and so the reader learns the plot and background through the dialogue.
So far we have a group who advanced too far, and now have a problem, and we have an outsider come to solve the problem.
At this point at least one of the research group should be deceiving the outsider. There should also be some ancillary problems mentioned at this point.
The outsider sets about trying to fix the problem, but never seems to get enough information. The outsider should at some point realise they have been manipulated into doing what they thought was right at the time, but actually helps those in the group who are increasingly being seen as baddies.
There should be an assistant with whom the outsider can communicate in order to try and assess who is a goodie, who is a baddie and who is the fat, lazy, incompetent one. They should do this through long-winded conversations, and never rely on coded body-language, or shortened dialogues like "So, if he's...", "Yep", "That mean...?", "With the..." "Damn", that would result if two people were thinking of the same things.
There is a group effort to try and solve the problem, but the baddies still aren't helping, and may well be acting against the outsider's group. Some of the group should die, through cowardice and being picked off individually. There should be lots of tense waiting.
Eventually the baddies come out as baddies, the goodies get separated and nearly die (but both assume the other is dead or caught), and the baddies probably get killed in the process.
Above all there should be a sequence of handy coincidences that allow the outsider and accomplice to escape the peril (and live happily ever after). The peril get destroyed (through cunning use of the previously mentioned problems), but not quite enough to prevent a sequel.

Formulaic? Not at all. It doesn't help that in Prey the characters seem shallow caricatures. The apparently disillusioned family-man discussing pasta and nappies in between being called upon to save the world. The good-looking wonderkid who can't ever admit defeat. The quiet resourceful Chinese biologist. The ever-fighting brats, which come in two flavours: sarcastic and oafish. The career driven wife destroyed by work.

So there's a plot that one can see a mile off, a background topic haphazardly slung across a formula, and cast that one doesn't really care about. It's one of those books that makes me think "I could write something better than this, but if I did I wouldn't be happy with it. I'd know it was still junk".

So if you're a fan of "paint by numbers" fiction, where you can still see the numbers through the paint, read it. For the rest of the world, try writing your own, it'll be more fun, no matter how bad it is.

Other Stuff:
It has been drawn to my attention that the world remains curiously uniformed at the wonderful settlement of Carbondale in Illinois. It's got trees and everything (and it's got definitions and permits for them). It has a year 2000 population that is smaller then the 1990 one. It has a university with an enrolment that's nearly as big as the town itself. It has rising unemployment and lower than state average house prices. It is also is near various places that feature in The Simpsons. It is also upstaged by another town of the same name in the Rockies. The Illinois one also apparently has reports of which properties have weeds on their lands. It was the best small city in the state once upon a time. And you're not allowed open containers of alcohol outdoors. No retail licensee or employee or agent of such licensee shall: 1. Serve two (2) or more drinks of alcoholic liquor at one time to one person, except selling or delivering wine by the bottle or carafe; . So how exactly does one buy a round in this place? Oh and you're not allowed to attempt vehicle repair or maintenance on city property, or your own. That include washing your car? But checking the oil is out, as is topping up the wiper fluid? Why does this sound like the arse end of Illinois?
And I thought English councils were batty.

So for some little light relief: what do you get if there are two people swimming along the same line on the bottom of a swimming pool, heading towards each other? Pure utter comedy, especially when both are stubborn and refuse to yield. So they bash their way past each other, making outraged huffs and squawks, and continue on to the other end. Where they then turn round and carry on down the same line. And repeat the earlier scenes. Again and again. Far too funny. Whereas my response to meeting someone coming the other way is either to pass on side of them (usually doing much smaller narrower strokes), or to dive underneath them (this confuses quite a lot of them, especially when I don't come up again for 10 metres). But I gave up after a while on Friday, having attempted to copy someone else's professional turns at the end of the pool (the somersault and twist ones), and got it wrong, and met the floor of the pool very hard and very fast.

Google just wished me "happy leap year". Oh dear, did I miss this? Are we supposed to be sending each other leap year cards now?

Anyhoo, better be going now.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

What is it with Tuesdays? The stats always suddenly double, and then fall away again. And Keane must be reaching far and wide (that's when they're not getting stuck on a loop in my head). Strangely I'm not the only person who mishears that line, people as far away as Hungary and Lebanon do as well (and, yes, the .lb had me confused for a while too, not least because I couldn't figure out what pounds have to do with anything). See near the end of the January 10th posting for more details.

And who at University College, Dublin, thought Garfunkel was a good name for a computer?

Should I start worrying, as swimming both yesterday and the day before has made me have the same pain in my throat, as I got last week. But on the other hand I am getting quicker at doing my, by now, obligatory 1,000m. But that might just be because I've learnt to push of the sides harder. It's a bit disconcerting when you pass the 15m line (in 25m pool) before you've surfaced.

So what's the third thing? Driving back from swimming yesterday and my car decided to started accelerating entirely on it's own. Twice. Which isn't fun, when you realise you're not quite in control, and so have to try and stop with an engine that's revving frantically. My response consists of braking, taking it out of gear, sticking my hazard warning lights on, turning the engine off. And hoping that the guy behind isn't too close. And then realising that the car behind looks suspiciously like someone I know (but as she was hard on my tail when I was unintentionally speeding...). Oh well.

The first time I assumed it must be the pedal getting caught on something (it was always happening to the Fiesta I learnt to drive in. Not going to buy a Ford in hurry), as the choke was in completely. So I tried to pull the pedal up as far as it would go, but it didn't seem to be down anyway. So I waited for the traffic to clear, and restarted the engine. It seems fine, so I drive off slowly.

Going up the hill outside the house, and the car does it again, this time much higher revs. It screams as I take her out of gear. So having stopped I turn the engine off, wiggle the pedal and try again. The engine starts at the same revs it was doing before. Turn it off. It can't be the choke, as it doesn’t rev that high when it's out fully. The accelerator pedal won't move up, but moves down and back up fine. So restart the engine, and she chugs normally. I go and park her a space further up than the usual one, as I don't fancy trying to manoeuvre round cars if I can't control the acceleration.

I then do the traditional thing, and ask my parents what they think it could be (as it they used to own it, until it managed not to fail the MOT, at which point I got handed it). Apparently it's had the revs refusing to budge above a certain level before, and that was the carburettor sticking, but never had the revs refusing to fall, and increasing slightly on their own (But I'm not sure if the last bit was entirely independent of stuff I was doing).

So I've got to take it to the garage at some point (so they can prod and go "ah...", and wait for you to suggest a fault, which they point they'll say "you know, I think it could be", and go and amend whatever you suggested regardless of whether it's connected to the problem), but I haven't sorted it out yet.

And then yesterday evening I got rung up by my father to say that his clutch had gone, and he couldn't take his car out of gear. According to the AA-man (via my father) it's fault Skoda knew about, and there'd been a recall, which the local dealership should have mentioned when it was recalled quite a while ago. Except the last my parents heard from the dealership was an invoice for the annual service. So much for customer care.

Which leaves one more and thing to come (due to them coming in threes, even though I wouldn't say I'm superstitious, it's just that bad things do come in threes). Which given the other two were to do with the clutch and accelerator, leaves one obvious candidate. Which isn't a good system to have fail. So this may be a case of "touch wood". I'm not doing well on scientific scepticism today, I am?

So on to happy news. You just gotta love this government [cos it's the law]. Fancy a wee holiday in Tanzania?

Would you mind speaking up a bit, some of us didn't quite catch that. [Don't worry it's ok - the Americans told us to].

Hmm, think happy thoughts.

Except I can't because I'm still annoyed that "A suitable boy" did not finish how I'd would have expected or wanted. Actually having finished it yesterday, it still feels like there ought to be more to it, that it hasn't finished, that there are so many plots and sub-plots left trailing, that there must be another twist just around the corner, that there must be more.

And there bloody well isn't. This annoys me.

Random quote from it - not because it's relevant (I hope), but just because I laughed when I saw it, and tend to agree (and I'm sure other people have written it better before): ...there are always people willing to believe anything, however implausible, merely in order to be contrary.

Now if I followed this up with discussion of the emails passed betwixt MiF [see Monday's post] and myself, what might that unintentionally imply?


PS. Looking up links for "A suitable boy", I came across this profile. And went "oh, so that's why...". A lot. So much of the book is playing with themes in his own life. Well I did wonder at certain points, but I didn't know about his life, and so didn't make the connection.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

My God, no spying on people. Die Tracker ist kaput. What will I do? Although strangely depending which page of their site one tries to access one gets 4 different results: Action cancelled (no I didn't), page not found/404, access forbidden/403, or simply a blank page.

Other stuff: isn't it great when someone tells you that you can't have been told something, when they were the one who told me? Well unless there's two people in their office with the same awful accent, the same patterns of speech, the same utterly dismissive attitude.

I have buttock ache. Just the one though. Swimming rocks. Or in my case, like a rock.

Follow up to another thing: Divali's Hindu isn't it?

I have just been asked what I'm giving up for Lent. Er...? When’s that again? Oh, so this particular Tuesday is Shrove Tuesday? That mean Mothering Sunday's[1] sometime soon? Back to the Lent thing...does it have to be something I eat? Or can I give failure up for Lent? Except I'm unlikely to stick to that. Oh, I've also just discovered that you get to cheat on Sundays. Well that explains how 40 days manages to last 8 weeks. I never really thought about it before, as having numbers that don't make sense is a common theme anywhere near Christianity. You want a tin of sardines and some bread to feed how many? Since when have humans lived for a few hundred years? (back when begat was a common word).

[1] March 21st this year (9th of May for all the odd people who live on the wrong side of the Atlantic).

Can I give up chewing gum? As I don't really use it anyway (more a Polo guy), but I do have some, so it's not like I'm giving up something I'd never go near. Admittedly they are a few bits that I inherited with the car, and they've probably fused with the wrapper and anything else in that little cubby hole by now.

Speaking of which, I didn't have to bail it out this morning - because the carpet-pond had frozen.

Putin dismisses entire government. Such a nice man.

Only the Grauniad - in the G2 section of their website is:
Pass notes
No. 2433
Flight 233

Only in the article, they even go as far as to say BA flight 223...It's famous!. Obviously not famous enough for whoever set out the index page.

Yes, I know I'm being pedantic, but when the point of the story is BA changing the number of its flight 223, and the Guardian unintentionally do...


Monday, February 23, 2004

Sorry if the formatting and ordering is out, but I had a minor problem earlier. But I think I've got all the posts back to where they ought to be.


Oooh, cunning. A bilingual blog: Merde in France. Apparently by an American living in France, but with a bewildering array of views. I'm trying to work out who he's not anti (such as referring to Le Monde as Al Jazeera on the Seine). Très...différent [limited vocab? Moi?].

I hope it's tongue in cheek.

But reading random blogs can be helpful: did you know that Dude in French is Bonhomme, and that the the writing's on the wall becomes the beans are cooked [les haricots sont cuits].

But oddness seems to be on the increase - though I am intrigued by the theories behind Salam Pax's aural use of Kit-kat wrappers. Je pense qu'il plaisante avec nous. Strangely I try translating that back as "I think he is pleasuring us", which isn't quite the intended meaning.

Another and strangely - according to SP's blog I somehow managed to be reading a book that describes the events of the Islamic New Year (the Moharram, I think), during it. Admittedly I didn't know it at the time. But then my knowledge of Islam consists of knowing vaguely about Hajj, Ramadan, and Divali, and of those I know that Divali is somewhere near Christmas (generic, northern hemisphere, jollying the spirits, mid-winter festival anyone?).

Just what we need. Schwarzenegger wants presidency opened to foreign born citizens. Well, there's nothing wrong with that, as long as it's not someone who compares gay marriage to drugs and guns in terms of dangers to society (my god a republican in California thinks guns are dangerous? What is the world coming to?).

"You don't have to be a total degenerate to be hard core," Amanda said during the shopping trip with her mother as she sipped a hot chocolate at a Starbucks on Lexington Avenue and 87th Street.

Ah bless (is about the least derogatory thing I can say). Hardcore: Starbucks's hot chocolate. Indeed.

It doesn't help the NYT writer seems a little in awe of the young punk kids. It's a phase, including for the ones who claim that it's only a phase for other less punk people. Not that it matters either way (but what ever you do, do not say that in front of any teenager [including the baby sisters of friends]).

But then I never had quite enough gumption to be a Goth without sniggering, or feeling highly embarrassed.

Somewhat worryingly the article ends with:
Amanda has news for her mother. Upon graduating, she plans to defer college for a year and go abroad, not to study or even bum around Europe but to squat in an abandoned building in London, like a true punk. "I hear," she said, with all the verve of an excitable teenage girl, "that squatting in London is, like, the best."
Er...where exactly would that be? Near the Kings Road? Hip and trendy Carnaby Street? Oh but she's a punk, so it'll have to be Camden (Camden Market Woo-hoo). Are there all that many abandoned buildings left [unprotected]?
And the betting she ends up somewhere near Essex, and decides after two weeks of climbing through a window behind a "Crack Houses Out" sign, that this wasn't quite what she intended. How soon will she get mugged, or her stuff nicked?
And who exactly did she hear that "it's the best" from?

In other slightly non-event news, America is apparently getting round to getting taxi-shaped taxis. Admittedly the article reads like an advertorial for the company involved, and it could just be cheap filler.

An unnamed US-governmental commentator reacting to adverts for Halliburton: "I'm not sure there's any real benefit for anyone but them". Um, did I miss something here? Surely the point of adverts is to be self-serving? When was that last time McDonalds said "Burger King are pretty good too, although eating healthily will be more good for you in the long-run.....I'm lovin' it and the Bush Whitehouse"?

America is odd (ok, so maybe they're not alone).

And is every news site vaguely connected to the western world running a story on Sex and the City reaching a "climax"?

Anyhoo, rock on bonhomme.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Do I be cruel?

[Via Blogger's FP] ANESTHESIOLOGY. One brief look and I thought the inevitable: Well, you certainly put me to sleep.

It doesn't help there's only two posts, and they don't say a lot. There's also the slightly nagging sensation that there's something wrong with the page, but I think it's just down to the title missing the second "A" (the one before the first "E", that forms that awkward thing where they merge [Æ/æ], which is probably why the Americans dropped it). But what should one expect of country that doesn't believe in adrenaline.

By the way, yes, I am fully aware that I'm not really in a position to comment on the lack of interesting points in posts (but I have these special hollow rubber stones, and they just bounce straight off the glass), but as blogs go, the one above just doesn't offer much. Hopefully that'll change given time.

All that anyone can tell from this blog is that it's a guy [probably] called Christian, who wishes to become an anaesthesiologist in America. But it offers no insight as to why (beyond a Miss World-ish statement) he chose anaesthesiology, or why he chose to write about it. What background does he have that made him think of it as an option? What background does he have generally - who is he? Where does he live? He says he wants to study in the US, so is he not from the US originally? How old is he? What interests does he have, or if the blog is to be solely on anaesthesiology, why did choose to restrict it to that? Does he intend to cover news in the field or related fields? Or will the blog be more geared towards a personal diary of his time training? [and why did he have to pick a word that's so bloody hard to type?].

Oh, as I typed this he must have changed the template, as there's now a link to a university in Mexico, and another the links changed to an acronym.
So I'm guessing he's studying, or has studied in Mexico, and wants to gain US qualification or certification. So why not say so? Have a brief introduction, and then launch into the anaesthesiological debate.

So, anyway, I wish him luck, but also wish he'd start developing his content. Write about something, it doesn't matter what, and if you get it right (wish most people do eventually), there will be people around to read.

I think I may have got slightly distracted from my intention of writing about that annoying Volvo ad. Oh well, maybe later.

PS. And only MS Word would say I wish him luck should become I wish him lucked.

Song in head.
Song in head, going round and round.
Song in head, going round and round, worse than just song in head, as only one line of song.
Song in head, going round and round, worse than just song in head, as only one line of song, going round and round.

And I don't even know what song it is.

The words are "rebel, rebel" and there's a really prominent background riff (?), that sounds like the one in Supergrass's Pumping on your stereo. Hun, hung, hunga-ga-hunga-hunga. Over and over. For days. I am so not impressed.

I'm now trying really hard to think of another song.
And my brains selects Everything is wonderful now (by Everclear, I'm guessing). Or the only two indistinct lines that of it that I know. And strangely my recollection of it ends mid Wa-ho!

Something else, please. Ok, make that something other than the Beach Boys.

Can you see that I have needed, begging for salvation, where [something] used to live, I don't want you to adore me, don't want to ignore me, wahgy-oh-used-to-be, day in, and I wahna-wowse, wearily, oh [louder stuff I can't remember, other than it being louder].

So that'll be Muse then, with Muscle Museum. Which is the only song of the ones above that I knowingly have a copy of. And looking it up of course demonstrates quite how poor I am at remembering music. Though the lyrics site claims it's off the album Hullaballoo. My version's not called that - I think it's Showbiz.

I really must get round to getting buying their later CDs. But I always end up seeing bands and then waiting ages till the CDs get cheaper (and then missing the sales). Still very odd to think of the lead singer not being a nervous gawky guy with floppy hair.

And speaking of music, I've finally got round to unpacking all my CDs (well there's not that many, about two shoe boxes worth), after only [cough] months. And I'm now wondering if it would have been easier to leave them where they were.

Anyhoo, I've got to do stuff, back in a mo (ish).

Saturday, February 21, 2004

How stupid do I feel?

You know how I've been complaining that Blogger's been losing any attempt at a draft for months? Er, well it turns out I'd set the display to show Ordered by [Post date]. And what is the defining feature of drafts? That they haven't been posted yet, hence won't have a post-date. So no matter how much I click on show Drafts/Everything, the drop down below over rules it all. Which now means I have some serious sorting out to do.



PS. And what say you to the appearance of some commenting? Email me if you'd prefer it to emailing.

Is it supposed to hurt when you breathe?

Possibly going swimming thrice in three days isn't such a great idea when I'm not at all fit. And I'm also trying to work out why all the other aches are down my right, my right hand, my right shoulder, my right hip and my right calf. Who do I do? Swim in circles?

And my prediction came true. It's not a very good prediction though; I'd said that it always snows during the spring half-term (ie the week we've just had), and got dismissed as an idiot. And what should happen when I came out of swimming at lunch on Friday - lots of little white things falling. Didn't settle though (and they were very small flakes, almost grains), but despite the wind, it wasn't that cold.

But Friday was an odd day anyway: I had a really weird dream that woke me up about 5am, and then couldn't get back to sleep. I dreamt I was reading a book (a book that matched "A suitable boy", which I'm currently reading, in style and formatting. I could tell that something bad was about to happen, flicked a few pages ahead to see how much more of the mini-chapter there was, and how long the bad stuff would last. I go back to where I was, and carry on reading. But it's suddenly set in Australia, there's girl with shortish, curly black hair, called Lonewell (as typed on the page, but pronounced Low-el-lene, and don't ask me how I know this, I just do somehow from the book), who's running to jump on a running horse at point near where I'm standing, but the horse passes to soon, and she misses. She falls to the ground of to the side, beyond the dusty ring. And that's when the lion pounces and starts biting her hip. Then suddenly it's me being mauled, and it switches to trying to grip my throat. I struggle, trying to kick it, and then getting cigarette lighter out of my pocket, light it, and set fire to its mane, to scare it off. But then I remember it's mainly the lionesses that hunt, so there isn't a mane, so I trying burning anywhere I think will be sensitive, but that doesn't work, so then I start bashing it with the lighter, trying to damage its eyes, (I know that's supposedly what one does with sharks, but figuring any visual based hunter will value its eyes more than a potential meal. Which is quite reasonable logic for a dream). And then about this point I start thinking about snakes, and wake up.

All of which is very odd.

Especially as for most dreams (usually other people's) I can come up with fairly convincing analogies with the dreamer's life (not necessarily accurately, and occasionally just done to worry them). But this is just random slightly scary stuff. And it's also strange how the dream, whilst not in black and white, wasn't in colour, like it was a faded film, or was nearly dark.

Once again, most odd.

Anyhoo, I'm off to see if I can find anything less pointlessly introspective to talk about.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Ladies and gentlemen (and the unidentifiable), we have a winner. I was going to back a big hoo-ha about having my 500th (pretend there's a couple of extra noughts in there if you want) reader, but I forgot to check the stats, and so didn't notice that they had appeared on Saturday. So, in aping Casino Avenue's celebration of numbers [See, I have no original thoughts], I manage to make the entire thing a little bit pathetic and rather pointless. So not exactly marvellous stuff then.
And who should this special person happen to be?, who came here without referral. And who publicly advertises his use of Vispa? Yep, a certain aforementioned resident of Charlton.
Is synchronicity the right word?

In other blog news, may I introduce: the girl with the chocolate testicles. Well, a Glaswegian vet student with ingenious puddings. Strangely no archives, but it doesn't read like a new blog, so I can't say much more about it.

More stuff on Google and more new search engines, including another clusterer, Mooter. But Mooter failed the "apple" test (though "apples" worked to find fruit). Apparently it uses past experience with the user to amend results (which works fine until you get a shared computer).
It's not good on finding me though, and has the same problems as Google: ie. "anyhoo" alone works fine, but add blog or blogspot and it can't cope.

And speaking of anyhoo, I'll be off now.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Oh, how did that happen?

I've somehow managed to not post for a week.

And now I can't think of anything to say. I've been pretty busy trying sort out various things, and have kept meaning to write them up properly, but I just haven't. So doing a brief précis of them:
- Last weekend [7/8th Feb] was in London at a short notice dinner party. Basically a small group of uni friends, fun, but not great fun. Being dragged to church the following morning didn't help, especially as it's a very zealous church (people treating the bible like a scientific literature, but making basic mistakes in their arguments didn't help).

- Mucho odd phone calls, at least one of which was to tell me I should be getting a letter, if they should decide to send a letter.

- Getting distracted by a book, although there were some parts that didn't quite work as well as they should. Good, but not stunning (which appears to be the consensus of the assorted reviews on amazon.

- Continuing to get distracted by another book, but in the part I'm reading, it appears to be doing the equivalent to War and Peace's whole Masonic thing (ie. A sub-plot that isn't going anywhere and leaves you thinking "and the point of this is...?"). But there's still a lot of book to go, so I'm guessing it'll pick up again.

- Trying to find a suitable fabric for Victorian furniture (pressganged anyone?). And there really is nothing out there, other than the tatty, twee or downright hideous. It also involved discovering why one lift in Southampton car park was empty. Unfortunately I only discovered it after I got in. The buttons require pounding to make them work and then the doors close with a shudder and an ominous thud. The lift started moving very slowly, shaking hard, whilst squealing as it made a grinding noise. It felt like the bottom corner was having an long running argument with the reinforced concrete lift shaft. Eventually it got to floor we parked on, and as we got out we became aware that the lift and the building had differing interpretations of the concept of vertical and of right angles [did someone drop it?].

- On the other hand I did get to worry an elderly woman by exploring a Smart car parked as a display in the atrium of the shopping centre. I'm not sure the shop behind her was too keen either on me managing to put the headlights on full beam. What? I'd got into the car to see what it's like, and they were about the only thing that would move without the key. Though apparently they only come as automatics, so I'm less keen. And as for the roadster or whatever it is, any car that embarrasses me as I try to get into it [1/2 a foot off the ground is not a natural seating position], is not really a good idea. And for a little car it's quite big (but I suppose that's to do with having to put your legs straight out in front of you).

- Trying to go swimming, only to have the power fail, and discover the hall doesn't have very much by way of daylight. And then the power coming rapidly back on, but having to sit on the poolside waiting to the floodlights to warm up again, for 20 minutes.

- And then there was being rung up by someone to say "Hi, I'm back in the country, and I'm catching the [20 minutes away] train from X, and we're going to Clapham". My responses consisted of why Clapham, it being a graduate ghetto, and full of the same chains you get everywhere [and if I'm going to Clapham, then I'd go and see my brother, except he's technically nearer Brixton], and thus not a great deal more exciting the slightly more local places. I also object to having to pay more money than I'd spend on drinks to get there, and then having to worry about getting infrequent trains. Oh, and I'm in the middle of supper, and X station is about 20 minutes away, and I'm not ready to go anywhere. So, um, have fun, and what are you doing tomorrow?

- Cue going round to another friend's house after lunch yesterday (and discovering she's about to become an estate agent). So sit and chat, and then somehow end up trying to drive another friend to a different station to get the quarter to train, and it's now five and twenty to, and we're in the mould-mobile (yep the car still leaks), and the station's about quarter of an hour away. So that'll be get there, and then go and wait for hour. But it gave us a chance to chat without having to be diplomatic (proto-estate agent's parents were about at her house), which was nice [in a "it actually was nice, I'm not being facetious" way].

Anyhoo, due to a lack of dull politicking stories I can make cynical and snide comments about, that'll have to be it for now.

Monday, February 09, 2004

First off: completely random blog, on Blogger's FP. Apparently by an author (or should that be authoress? But that looks too clumsy), no idea what she's the author of mind, as I haven't explored that far. Main selling point seems to be the bizarre and enigmatic name. How exactly does one end up begin viciously marzipaned? Is it a solo activity, does it require a special friend, or is it fun for all the family [for groups of four and over]? Is it actually an enjoyable experience?

Belated apologies for not doing much at the weekend - but circumstances arose. Well, I got an email asking if I was interested in a potential dinner at a friend's in London on Saturday (the dinner not the email), and then had fun failing to communicate until about half an hour before the only train that would get me there on time.

Why is it, of all the people I know who use mobiles, it's those who use them in London that get the worst performance? If you ring someone who's standing in the middle of some field, miles from anywhere, there's no problem. Phone someone who can see the phone mast, and you're treated to a stunning array of crackles, dead air, weird pixelation effects (think that awful Cher thing from a couple of years ago), and eventually they fall out of the system.

Oh and apologies to some poor couple out there. I tried ringing said friend [Let's call her Lets for clarity's sake] on mobile in the middle of the afternoon - it rang, then after five rings it switched to voicemail. I later found out Lets was at a wedding during the afternoon. I hope she'd put it on silent, but I have a hunch she didn't. Oops.

I wonder what her ringtone's bound to be something really happy and chirpy, and therefore incredibly distracting and annoying. Oh well.

So, eventually off to London I scurry. By the way, when did trains start running, and more importantly, leaving early? I'd looked up the train times on both SWT [aka Sorry What Train/Timetable?] and the trainline, and each gave a different answer, mostly one claiming to be 3 minutes later than the other set.

Somehow I manage to do my panicked packing in record time, and thus get to the station a while before I need to. Well if you've started doing things rapidly you can't just stop and wait, can you? So go in, buy ticket (since when did Young Person's Railcard discounted prices start sounding like full-blown adult prices?), and go and loiter with intent on the opposite platform. And strangely start noticing lots of little details about the station - like the four grime-coated panes of glass beneath the facing platform, that are meant to let light into the tunnel beneath. They don't, of course, being opaque brown, except for where one has dropped out and now lies intact, at an angle against part of the frame. This creates the curious effect of providing fleeting head-shots of the occasion users of the tunnel, each apprehensive about the turn they are approaching at the base of the steps, each expecting someone coming the other way.

Then I get distracted by the houses one doesn't normally see, or something that looks different about the Catholic church. But I suppose the world always looks like that on a sunny day in early February. It's just that way parts of normal life will suddenly seem odd for no reason, things just stand out.

So I'm standing round in sun, and whilst deciding that I'm too cold to worry about hat hair, when I hear a train coming. That's odd it's ten minutes before it's due. It must be a fast one that doesn't stop - except it's a Saturday, and they don't normally run. And it's making the wrong noise to go straight through. The train appears, slows and stops. I get on. There's slight wait whilst there's the usual delayed slam of a door, and then the train leaves. The train leaves, and it's eight minutes before it's due to turn up. Hmm, it's not just the Catholic church that is being a little odd today. I think there could be some rather annoyed people, especially as the next direct train is in an hour.

So the train trundles up, taking 20 minutes longer than it used to (but all the timetabled trains seem to do), most of which is expended in going very slowly through parts of outer-London, including parking in Wimbledon, allowing us to contemplate why there is door a random point along the aide wall of a train shed, and why exactly it needs a lock, when the ends of the shed are open, and have no apparent means of ever being covered. It also leads us to ponder who designed Wimbledon Traincare Depot, and how they decided to place this solitary door here, as it has been punched straight through the corrugated side of the shed, including part of one of the sections of clear plastic. Presumably it has to be so many metres from one point, and that's where it went, regardless of anything else. Quite why it must be at that height and that exact position, I still haven't worked out.

The train pulls into Waterloo, having induced a third of the carriage to check their watches when they first spy Big Ben. I get off, and somehow remember where the walkway that punches through the middle of various buildings is (I haven't used it since my father took me to the office on in-service days, which was both a long time ago, and when I was quite little).

I remember the wind on the bridge across the road though - that's always been bitterly cold.

And does that mean there's two Shell centres in London? There's this courtyard thing by County Hall and the Eye, but I'm sure there's another courtyard with a tower surmounted by a Shell flag, further round the bend beyond the National and the IBM experiments in modernism. Or maybe my brain has gone haywire. Hmm, I don't know, I'll have to check this now, and I'm not sure I can.

Thinking about it, I've probably forgotten how far I'd walked, and thought the grass went further back. And that won't make any sense to you, but basically I think I'm wrong (and can I blame the fact that the last time I saw it was in mid-summer from by the Thames, and this time it was a wintry dusk, and I walked through the middle of it?).

Anyway, so come off the end of one bridge, walk through a car park, and up onto the end of another. London looks very pretty from upstream Hungerford footbridge (so much nicer than how I remember the old, walking beside a railway, one) on a damp wintry dusk. It's all lights and reflections (well except for the Houses of Parliament being bathed in lighting that matches normal streetlights). Then on up Northumberland Avenue (strangely this is that place that makes me think most of Monopoly, probably because it's the only one I've so far discovered that I'd only previously heard of through the game).

I skirt up the right of Trafalgar Square, finally figuring out where the national portrait gallery is. And here is where things start to go awry. I was going to do my traditional following the string of obvious points, so that's Trafalgar Sq, Leicester Sq, Piccadilly, Oxford Circ, and so on (in a very "I'm a pigeon" way [a few days ago much press coverage of the discovery that pigeons follow human-made land marks, like roads]). Except for continuing straight on instead of veering left, because the pavement was too crowded. And then thinking I ought to drop back to the left, and following another branch, crossing a junction, happening to catch a sign that says Charing Cross Road. Hmm, that's not right, I think that goes off north-east somewhere. So I take the next left, and follow that. Maybe this isn't right either, I should have hit Leicester Square by now. But being me, I won't stand on a busy pavement checking my A-Z, so I carry on down until I can find a suitably quiet place. What's that sign say? Dean Street, where is that...Right so I think I'm here, so all I need to do is carry on along [craning neck to read] Old Compton Street, and then bang a right up to the scabby end of Oxford Street along Wardour Street.

I carried on, trying to figure out why those names sound familiar. Wasn't there a bomb somewhere round here? Oh, yes, what was that all about? IRA? ... Oh. Ladies and gentlemen I think we just passed Soho. I think we just past Soho and didn't notice. Hmm, perhaps my father's suggestions that it is a horrendous vile place that one should avoid at all costs aren't completely accurate. Then again last year he was scandalised when he found out I was going to visit someone near Warren Street tube station. He apparently knew it as a seedy area full of prostitution, whereas I found a series of empty glossy corporate plazas, and a Starbucks. Which is the only Starbucks I've ever felt inclined to go into, and it was bloody well closed.

Getting back to Soho, and my impressions that you'd be lucky to get out alive, um, well it didn't seem much different to anywhere else. Ok so there were a couple of sex shops - but you get those in Exeter. But it was full of tourists, and distinctly normal looking people. Perhaps slightly above the norm for fashionable young people, but that's just the effect of the merest hint of urbanisation.

I think I'll have to conclude that my father is rather narrow-minded, naive, and paranoid. Ok so I know the last one to be true. It's just rather worrying the way what one's parents think can unintentionally become what one doesn't realise one is thinking.

So after the "is that it?" feeling of discovery, I continued on down Oxford Street. Which wasn't as hard work as it normally is. Although I could feel my brother would be shouting at me about it. He has this fascination with not following crowds, which extends to using the back streets wherever possible. Unfortunately most of the time I try this either I find a dead end, get pushed off course by inconsiderate buildings, or, of course, am trying to follow him, when he knows where he's going. So he shoots off at high speed, and I try to follow. But he's the one in front, he can see what's coming, and I can see the back of his head and his shoulders. So he can see situations developing, and judge things finely, so anywhere there might be a problem he can deftly just avoid. I however can't, so spend my time colliding with people, bouncing off vehicles, and barrelling round street furniture. Each of which delays me more, so I have go even faster to catch up, and so enter the next accident with more momentum.

Eventually after quite a lot of walking I get to flat of Lets. Ring the doorbell. A voice appears - my god people actually use entryphones to speak to people? Virtually all the ones I've ever come across are responded to with someone upstairs picking up the receiver, pressing the button that unlocks the door, and putting the phone down, all in silence (well occasionally a "Hi" to accompany to buzz-clunk). This one speaks, or rather says "er...".
Me: Hi it's [me].
Her: Oh Hi [me], come up. The door buzzes, I push on it and it doesn't move. I lean hard against it, it still doesn't move. I even try the my patented garage side door hip movement [it has seasonal affected disorder, it gets more stubborn when it rains]. Still nothing. The buzzing stops. Oh. I press the button for her flat again.
Me: Um, hi, I can't get the door open.
Her: it's not bolted is it?
Me: I'm not sure [how exactly am I supposed to see the other side of the door? Except obviously I didn't say this, as greeting your host with sarcasm isn't the greatest start to an evening].
Her: Well try it again, and if it's bolted I'll come down. The door starts buzzing, and she hangs up. Still won't move. Right, well I'll just sit and twiddle my thumbs until she figures out I've not come up then.

A while later she appears, and seems a little annoyed with me for daring to try and use a bolted door. Which given I'm 20 minutes late, and there's at least four more people due, and apparently I'm the first to arrive ... well it all seems a little odd.

We go up, she complains about the stairs - how long has she been living here now? We go in, as I shed assorted layers. There's a bit of brief chat, and then the doorbell rings again. I realise it's a videophone, and so the odd reaction I got was probably due to me wearing a hat and facing the wrong way.

The other guests arrive, and we mill a bit in the kitchen, attempting to help. Initial reactions are that there doesn't seem to be much food, considering it's a supposed dinner party, and it doesn't looks very cooked. Oh well. We convince Lets not to put the bread in the oven to warm up whilst the roast potatoes are still looking less than roasted.

I start remembering the last time I ate her cooking. I did the polite thing and ate it quietly without complaint, and then everyone else sitting at the table decided that putting theirs in the microwave to cook the chicken a bit more might be a good idea. I'm still not sure what the covering of crushed crisps was supposed to represent. Other than soggy pulp with the odd shard of pain.

People chat, mostly about jobs, and apparently (judging by what was said and what very obviously wasn't being said) no-one there was really all that happy. There was still a vague attempt at false optimism, almost like bravado, but it was too obvious none of us were convinced.

I'm dispatched to lay the table, glad to be out of the room. As people slip from one to another, the tension drops, and people switch to other topics of conversation. Mostly commenting on the worst aspects of their current housemates, but that's normal.

People start sitting down, knowing full well that food is still miles off. And then the preparations for the long awaited game began. The Game? Oh, just a very silly one. With a silly name. A silly name based on my being silly (but realising it). I was silly in writing down the silly name of a possibly silly town in Devon. The silly town in question? Budleigh Salterton.

See I told you it was a silly name. Anyway (cutting out a large amount of the back story, which would happen to prove that given the circumstances I wasn't that silly), basically each person present writes down a set amount of answers on slips of paper. The answers can be anything well-known, like New York, Travis or even beetroot (or possibly quirkily named places in Devon).

The slips are then folded, and placed in a bowl or basket, or pretty much anything you damn well feel like. The group splits into even size groups of two or more. The point of the game is to get the other members of one's team to guess the answer on the bit of the paper that's been unfolded. Fairly easy right? During the first round the picker has to describe the answer using any words but the ones on the paper (or related words, so it's London Bridge you can't say Londoner, bridges or bridging).
The next round: the picker is only allowed to say one word (and there's debate as to whether mime is allowed, to which I say: of course), so if the answer's Trafalgar Square one might say pigeons, lions or Nelson, all being vaguely related.
The final round: the picker must induce the other team members to get the answer without speech (obviously recognisable sound).

During each round one team plays for a certain fixed period [anywhere between 30 seconds-2 minutes], and in this period they have to try and guess as many as possible (whether or not the team rotates or varies the picker is also debatable [meaning debate was had, we played rotating it, and possibly further debate will occur the next time the game is played]). There is no option to pass. If you pick something you can't get your team mates to guess, you have to keep going with that answer until they get it or time runs out [hence the Budleigh Salterton thing]. At the end of this period the unanswered slip is returned to the bowl, and the next team have their go for the same length of time.
This continues until the bowl is emptied. The number of slips each time have completed is counted and recorded. The slips are folded and returned to the bowl. The team that starts the next round is the team that was playing last, or the team that was losing (again there is some contention on this point).
Repeat for each round, and obviously the team that gains most correct answers overall wins (prizes are discretionary).

It doesn't sound very fun, but it can be, often far too amusing. Especially when people have to mime aforesaid town in Devon. I don't know what all the fuss is about though, I wasn't the one who put "Leicester Tigers RUFC". Have you tried getting people to say that when they've never heard of it?

Though this time no-one dared put that seaside place (even though we all expected everyone else too). Strangely Ottery St Mary crept in (can't think how that happened). Cue people trying to mix carrying flaming barrels, fireworks and flooding (it's always the wrong guesses that are more revealing and funnier).

This time we seemed to have a Napoleonic theme going, with Waterloo (I think we can guess the mime that wasn't based on trains), Trafalgar Square, and wellingtons. And just to make it more confusing we also had Paddington - station or bear? Who just happens to be known for his wellies and his hat (well have you tried miming sawing bits of the legs of a table to stop it wobbling, even though you suspect that your audience wouldn't know the story). I think I resorted to pointing to an A-Z (bit dubious), and then pointing to the tube map on the back of an A-Z and happening to be very precise about where I was pointing (possibly outright cheating). And then I got cabbage to mime. Time ran out on that one.

So having run out of ways to cheat (that didn't involve actual bodily harm), we moved on to Pictionary.

Hmm, somehow I've jumped ahead of myself here. First we prepared for Budleigh Salterton, then came food, then playing both games.

The meal itself: Chicken warmed in a cornflour sauce, a selection of vegetables and the lightly crisped roast potatoes, with warmed and cooled again bread. Ok so I'm not being very flattering to Lets's cooking, but it wasn't exactly stunning. Not least because there wasn't very much of it. And one half of the meal could have done with another half hour in the oven, and the other half much less cooking (though it turned out the vegetables were left over spares from something she'd helped with earlier in the week).

And there was the bottle of wine. Between six people. I think most of the people there had checked whether they were meant to be bringing anything, and been told everything had been taken care of.

So that's one glass of wine, a bit of French bread, half a half-cooked chicken breast, three little mostly-boiled potatoes, and some rather dead carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, all served in a slightly chilly room, by a rabid Christian. Not your typical Saturday night then. If only she'd asked people to help out and bring things.

So people eat, talk, release they'd cleared there plates quite quickly, and are now setting about removing every piece of food from the serving dishes, eating that, and talking more. We then set about clearing the table, and discover that there is going to be a pudding (Hooray).

Somehow Lets, another friend (who we'll call Blinkboy), and I end up in the kitchen making it. It involves steaming pears in lemon, sugar and rosemary, then in another saucepan making caramel, and beating in cream and brown sugar [and more rosemary], to make a thick glossy sauce. The first attempt at making caramel was with a very small amount of sugar in the bottom of a saucepan, waiting until some of just start to melt, and then adding the cream. Er...the proto-caramel has set on the bottom of the saucepan. Oops (maybe you're not supposed to add a pint of chilled fluid all at once). Lets decides start again in a different saucepan. So this time quite a lot more sugar, and waits a bit longer for it to melt. it nearly all has but it hasn't started caramelising yet, and she repeats with the now slightly warmed cream mixture, whilst stirring frantically. She the returns it to the heat and cooks it more whilst stirring.

At this point I'm trying to get the set sugar of the bottom of the first pan, and Blinkboy is cutting up the pears. Our hostess then decides to go and see how everyone else is doing, leaving the saucepan of sauce on the stove. It's boiling over, and I rush over to sort it out, simultaneous covering the hob controls in sauce and washing up liquid foam. I manage to get some on my hand, and lick it off. It tastes a little odd, quite nice, but odd, but I'm not sure how well rosemary and lemon mix as flavours. And then I remember the sauce hasn't got any lemon in, as that's the pears. Oh. It doesn't taste like Fairy used to.

I continue standing guard, simultaneously cooking and cleaning the front of the stove. Lets returns to inspect the sauce. She want's to know if it's thick and glossy as per her verbally copied recipe. I take it off the heat so it stops boiling frantically (are you supposed to boil it?), and use the spatula to demonstrate a noticeable lack of thick or glossy. She takes over, and evidently losing patience, decides it's done. So going out with the pears, sauce and ice cream, dessert is served.

It actually tastes quite nice, if strange, and possibly not as intended. Though sometimes I get the impression that, for all the homeliness of Lets, she's not all that great at cooking.

After the food is finished and cleared away, it's on to the games, as largely described above. Pictionary - she's got an odd set, that has answers on both sides of the cards (yes during all-play the inevitable did happen), and it has a weird extra die (does one spell that in this context? The singular of dice). The die has symbols that indicate the drawer should either draw with their eyes shut, draw in one continuous line (like an etch-a-sketch), draw with their other hand (damned annoying if it's all-play and the other drawer is an ambidextrous girl), do two in the time allowed or merely draw normally. Strangely we decided that we'd only start using this once we got past the half-way point.

Is it cheating to guess an answer during an all-play from the opponent's drawings? Is it cheating to offer answers you know to be wrong during the opponents' go, in order to distract and confuse them, so they don't get it, so then it's your go?

Not that any of us would ever consider cheating (or maybe that should read "not that any of us would ever consider *that* cheating"), it's merely lateral thinking.

And then the game petered out (well started to, as we were both stuck at the end, doing all-play, and those whose go it wasn't kept winning, so it became stalemate, and then other side eventually won, but I don't count that as they hadn't been doing the bounce back thing).

About this point mention was made of the roof. Roof? You can get onto the roof? Apparently it's the flat's fire-exit. Group decision to go up.
Lets opens a cupboard door, taking out the ironing board, iron, bits of food processor, and other miscellaneous things. She emerges with a ladder, which she extends and props against the wall blocking the front door. Hmm, some fire-exit.

Up she goes through a hatch disappearing into the darkness. People follow, the sensible ones in coats. I go up last, out of politeness, and because then people won't notice when I get stuff wrong.

In the dark I find out there's an opened door about a foot up from the hatch, half a foot to the left. I scramble up placing my foot on where a joist ought to be, and go up through the door. Ah, someone has cunningly placed a skylight opposite the door, and I don't mean a modern sturdy Velux thing. I mean a sloping pane of glass, that doesn't look too securely held. So we are standing in the leaded lined base of a valley, which is about a foot and half wide, with slate roofs either side, penned in at the ends by the tops of the party walls and the chimneys. On the northern wall the fire-escape scrambles down a couple of stories onto the maze of roofs of the neighbouring building, but we don't know where it goes from there.

BlackBMW (well it's what he drives, and it sums him up) scrambles up the eastern side, as Lets walks up. The rest of us are hesitant to climb on the slates. BBMWGF tries to go up against the northern party wall. I go up by the southern one - but taking most of my weight on my arms which are hang onto the wall. It's fine until I hit an unsecured wire as it skirts round a piece of loose piping that comes out off the roof, and goes into the chimney. My foot slides, I feel rather worried, but fortunately I'm still taking my weight on my arms. I edge further up, and reach the top. A. Cold wind, B. Stunning view east towards the BT tower. C. There's a bay window on the northern side, but not the southern side. That means that if I slip here, I get three feet less parapet to stop me than anyone else. Maybe I'll just have one foot resting on the peak, and the other further back, and I'll just happen to hug this chimney pot. Oooh, photographs, being taken by the only person who hasn't tried getting up. Smile and wave, and ignore the fact there are people sitting on a roof doing the same, and they're leaning back.

Though it seems that BBMWGF and Blinkboy haven't had quite so much success using the other party wall. I hope they're not breaking the roof too much. It's very odd being so high but not enclosed. It's at least 6 stories up, and that's the flat, so add a bit on, and then quite a lot more as the first few are tall, and it's possibly best if I don't know precisely.

And then people begin to go back down. I clamber back using the same hand and foot-holds, and then through the hatches sticking arms and legs at random angles as necessary. I even get complimented on my clambering abilities. Er? But...well I suppose I've done quite a lot lugging stuff in scout hut and sail lofts, and quite studiously not falling off boats of many different sizes, and going round various shores, clambering over where they've had the cheek to erode one's regular route, and then round the inevitable fences that are put there to stop people trying to use that route (but I've used it all my life, so why stop now, and I know I'm not the only one. Plus they are only there to stop people walking unintentionally off the edge). And there was the doing proper climbing when I was younger including demonstrating what was described as "amazing stamina" whilst being on Portland Bill long enough to get sunburnt (I hit a layer of dry clay, that was just crumbling. The guy ahead of be bounded up, figuring he'd bounce, and so had enough momentum to get past, and the girls had the guy on the other end of the safety line leaning back to help. I didn't have either, and so couldn't get past. And there was no way I was letting go completely).

So back down we go and so on to more talking, and then the inevitable, the television came on. And the Playstation came out. Hmm, two player games amongst six.

And then people started leaving to catch trains and buses. We all go out, as one of the other guys (4X for simplicity's sake) and Lets want to go and find out about a pub that she's only just heard of, despite it being nearly in back garden. At which point I stay when the people who live two stops closer to London than me leave. But I'd already been told staying was ok (well it saves scurrying to catch the tube at chucking out time, and then hoping everything is fine with the last train home).

The pub: near empty, near closed, and with cheap beer, but expensive anything else.

We go back to the flat, have a brief blast of playstation, and chat to the flatmate that just appeared. And then bed. this it then? Oh well.

The next morning. It being a Sunday, and the hostess being a rabid Christian (and employed by a local church) is off to lead the prayer discussion session. On her weekend off. At 7:30 on Sunday morning. The two who stayed over [4X and Me] are "encouraged" to go with her. It's cold, I'm tired, and we get to the church, having been asked by the flatmate if we're Christians. 4X: no. And I don't reply, and then when asked reply: C of E agnostic. We are instructed that we don't have to take communion, and that we probably won't. Er? Surely that's supposed to be up to us? Even if we might only be going through the motions. Anyway it's just bread and wine, and I fed communion bread to the ducks in the park up the road the last time I was here (possibly this attitude could be why they wouldn't want to waste communion on someone like me).

I then get asked when was the last time I went to church. Me: Church parade ... in scouts. And I still remember the bruises just inside the right hip bone from misjudging the height of the flag staff and the doorway of the church. But from the number and shape of the marks in the wood, it wasn't just me, although it was mainly the scouts and guides (they have flat finials, most of the others have orbs, drops or square spikes). I also remember the noise the chandler in the aisle made when the flags didn't dip to the side (but I only did that once, and that's because I had to stop in the wrong place). Strangely that too has dents. How on earth pike-men coped I don't know.

So in we go, and off down to the side, where there is cluster of people, and the flatmate appears to be aiming straight for the front, but fortunately veers of to the back row of the end-most block. We are handed cards bearing the order of service. People go quite and a man speaks. He reminds of a maths teacher. Trying to be happy and enthusiastic,
but knows some of the audience aren't going to understand or agree.

He reads of various things printed on the card, complaining about some, and skipping others. Lets comes on. Lets starts speaking, and sounding like a primary school teacher (well she did train as one). She says "Let's", a lot. Because she's my friend I try to pay attention. She's talking about Isaiah, and burning away his lips as his sins or something, getting the audience to follow in their own bibles. She appears to be treating the bible like a scientific paper, and arguing points backed up with references. It's a bit odd. And then she says, of something in the old testament, "which reflects Christ's sacrifice for us". Er, chronologically speaking, does not the old testament precede Christ (hence it being nearly the same as the Jewish torah [sp?], which kind of by definition precedes Christ). So given A precedes B, do you really think A reflects B? You're arguing it as a science when you can't do simple logic?

About this point I switched off and tried to work out which tube line runs underneath the church.

Then she finishes, people clap, the maths teacher starts again, still reading from the same card.

There then follows what in any other church would be the news section, but it's done as a prayer ("And we pray for a successful XXX on the 23rd, for which tickets go on sale next Saturday, at £6.95 and can be purchased from any of the lay assistants. We pray that we will see many of the young people there. We pray also for XXX, who is in hospital undergoing an appendectomy ... Amen"). The ritualised stuff continues, including the Lord's Prayer, but it's without all the thy's and trespass's. And that's it (well there was communion in there somewhere, but there wasn't room, so the decision became void).

It's very odd. It's full of all the worst bits of church. Church is somewhere were there's proper choral singing and a chance to stare off into space thinking about whatever you like without being pestered. But instead they do devout and zealous, which I'm not really into, especially at 8am on a Sunday. There's nothing worse than enthusiasm, especially early in the morning (just as day is, possibly the Postman Pat reference isn't quite where I intended to go with this).

So it finishes, we go back to her flat (did I mention she pays £60 a week rent, in what would normally be a £500 per week flat? Bloody Christians). Have breakfast, and Lets looks surprised that I don't consider one Weetabix to be quite enough (three's normal, and that's only because four is greedy [and they don't taste very nice after a while]).

More talking, getting ever more stilted. We give up and turn the television on. It feels like we've been up for ages and then Pop World comes on. But that's early morning TV. 4X gets volunteered into fixing the flat's computer, and after he's done that looks up train times and realises he has to go soon, as the trains are still taking far longer than they should.

Both of us having packed, he leaves, leaving Lets and I. I give up on trying to convince anyone to do something like visiting one of the museums or galleries. So then it's that odd feeling of not wanting to go, and getting the impression your host doesn't want you to go, but neither of you can think of anything to do. And so once again we resort to Playstation. It's some hit-buttons-randomly beat-em-up. I duly get trounced. We keep playing. I eventually begin to learn to do better. I start beating Lets. She decrees "let's do something else".

We opt for a walk round Regents Park, but with me lugging kit as she's going straight to church afterwards. We wander around, and I remember how little knowledge she has in certain topics. Like calling all birds anywhere near water "duckies". that including the heron? Repeat after me: coot, moorhen, duck, goose, heron, grebe, swan, gull, tern, pigeon, magpie (and that's avoiding all the complications of further definitions, and carefully glossing over that I can't tell from here if that's a cormorant or shag). And yet she's trained to be a primary school teacher. I think even infant children can cope with more than "duckies".

Then she starts on the flowers. Which are "pretty" and flowers". I try explaining but end up yabbering on about saffron (is it any old crocus, or is it a specific species or variant?). Thank god there wasn't much out.

How do people end not learning these things?

And then just when I thought me trying not to be patronising, and her trying not to be ignorant was painful enough, she decides to bring religion into it. You already dragged me to church, what more do you want?

Cue talk on the meaning of life (with no self-awareness, and no Monty Python references). Is this going to happen every time I see her? And she seems a little put out when in answer to "why are we here?", I go for the selfish gene approach, of "we are merely carriers that enable better reproduction of the replicants we contain". And she doesn't take to kindly to the suggestion of anything else being incidental and futile. She seizes the word futile, and argues that anyone who believes that should kill themselves now. Which would slightly negate the replication issue, which she doesn't get. She's also a bit miffed that I don't seem to care that life does not necessarily have a point.

I'm not sure how many people have responded to her religious promotion with "does it matter? why does there have to be a point?". She seemed a bit stumped.

And so she went off to church, and I went of to shop. Except when I got to Oxford Street I found most of the places don't open till 12. So I idle up popping in and out off anywhere that's open. This includes Tie-rack - More dull than hideous but where are people supposed to buy ties nowadays? Eisenegger (not sure of the spelling) - the place where everything is always in a sale at 10% of it's "original" price, but where one never finds anything the "original" price. Nearly buy stuff, but there were too many little details that aren't right. Repeat this process of seriously considering stuff in various shops, but don't buy anything. Though looking to see if it's A. (mostly) cotton, B. machine washable on something reasonable, and C. can be tumble-dried (still have broken heating, therefore it's really hard to dry clothes normally), rules out virtually all the clothes out there [though personal taste rules out the most].

Eventually end up in Selfridges just after it opens. Go round: no, no, and god no. Find the sale clothes, Oooh, that's a nice jumper, bit of an odd finish, is that why it's in the sale? Hmm, not sure it would fit me, well I' I'l check it washes OK first, before I find I like it. Um, there appears to be a basin of water with a cross through it. And a circle with P in the middle. That's dry clean only isn't it? Damn, though actually that finish does look a bit dodgy (a bit like someone's got PVA on it). And that bit would irritate my neck. Oh well. Who's it by? Er...I don't know, I just got distracted by the fact that while it's £20 now, it was originally £195 or £295, but I can't read the writing. Ok, as a £20 jumper it's dodgy, as a £300 jumper it's crap. Hmm, and you can kinda see why everything else on these rack haven't sold.

I continue on, and find that eating in the in-store cafe probably wouldn't be a good idea. Their chefs don't wash their hands after they go to the loo (ok I hope there's a proper sink in the kitchen for it, but still, a pretence of washing would be nice).

Somehow end up in the basement, checking out the gadgets and things (no, no and what the...?). Happen to enter the in-store HMV. They happen to be doing 3 CDs or DVDs for £20. I happen to go "Oh", and happen to notice I kept meaning to buy such and such. So I go and inspect. Do I want music or films or both? Seen that and that, are they were both good, so which other, hmm, not sure, and do I want the films for all eternity? I never watch the ones I've already got. But they are good films. Well I'll see what music there is. Oh, I forgot I wanted that. And there's that too. So if I get those, and the films then I'd have to get two more to make six. Oh, oh, oh, is this the recent one? 2003, I think so. Hmm, and there's that. [It continues on for a while].

I end buying 6 CDs and no films (figuring I can get them later [but I won't], but £60 is a bit much to be spend). They are: Vehicles and animals by Athlete, the latest Radiohead one (Hail to the thief?), Coldplay's Rush of Blood one, The Flaming Lips' Yoshimi battles the pink robots, The Polyphonic Spree's recent one, and The Thrills with jangly Monkees derived stuff, and I decided to pass for the time being on the Manic's best of (seeing as I have the ones I know and like by them, and buying a CD solely for a complete copy of Suicide is Painless is going a bit too far [well maybe not, but only if you haven't just bought 6 other CDs]).
Of these, I probably didn't need to buy (need being relative) Coldplay and TFL. As the former it constantly being played by my next door neighbour (although I discovered he must always skip to the second track when he puts it on). The latter, well it's officially online in its entirety (but I don't yet have the competence to make a useful copy, and that would be bad seeing as they've been so trusting, and they seem a less than mainstream band[1], who are quite nice, so i don't mind spending money on their CD [as long as it's just under £7])

[1] If you can say that of a band who got Justin Timberlake to play bass in a furry blue rabbit suit.

So far I've listened to Athlete (me like, if only for the utterly cheesy, pre-chorus shout of "Chorus"), Coldplay (still kicking myself for not going to see them pre-widespread fame, still liking their stuff), Radiohead (it's Radiohead, continuing their OK Computer theme [spot who didn't like Kid A and the other one when they came out, didn't buy them, and is now wondering whether they were as awkward as I remember]). Listened to most of the The Thrills, who sound like they do on the radio (but I haven't had a chance to hear it all in one go, which I always try to do with albums). Had already heard TFL's Yoshimi, and know I like it. So that just leaves The Polyphonic Spree in the still hoping it's good category.

Back to the Sunday, having bought many CDs I start feeling guilty for spending money, and go back down Oxford Street treating it like a museum - look but don't touch. I go into John Lewis's because it's traditional (um, that's a recently created by me tradition), mainly in search of a postcard (they did a very good corkscrew one a while ago, but there's to much background to explain). They've got less than they used to. I meander round the rest of it (also in part so I can use up the remains of the film in my camera, by going as high as I can get and taking a picture of the view up Harley Street), and discover that it doesn't change much.

Still wracked by Post-Consumption Guilt, I pass up seeking out somewhere to eat, and go over the road to the Tesco Metro (Tesco food at Sainsbury's prices). I rediscover how useless I am at making decisions (I invariably take long enough to attract the attention of the security guard), whilst simultaneously discovering that according to Tesco milk is cheaper than water. Continuing on the miser theme, I grab some French bread and a bag of doughnuts over a sandwich which costs more than them combined.

I wander down towards Trafalgar Square, and finally get round to noticing where all the advertising hoardings are in Piccadilly. I think the reason I've never noticed before is I'm usually too busy trying to cross roads, or trying to think if I need anything in Boots.

I discover how immensely dim pigeons are in Leicester Square (whether they have special breed for the square, or whether the dimness is universal I don't know). Walking past a building that was funnelling the wind at street level, I narrowly avoided a slowly descending pigeon that shot past. It was being swept along by the wind, and was tumbling mostly along the ground as it frantically tried to gain control. Of course if it had just closed its wings, it wouldn't have anywhere near as much windage and would have simply be on the ground being blustered a bit, and so would have been able to regain control. But the silly thing kept trying to regain control while cartwheeling along, and the more it flapped that faster it went and the less control it had. I lost track of it when it passed down a street on the other side of the square, and few seconds after it passed me.

I go and sit in the square (having managed to find the only empty bench is right outside the men's toilets). I get out the French bread and the pigeons look interested. Well, tough they can stay looking interested but I'm more concerned with feeding me not them, and anyway I'd get fined. Which given I hate the bloody things, doesn't really seem worth it.

It's very odd there's men in fluorescent vests who keep blowing whistles, presumably whenever a tourist does something a bit too touristy. It makes it feel like one big school playground (albeit one where ball games are banned).

I sit, I eat, I get odd looks. Whether it's do to with me drinking milk straight from a carton or what, I have no idea.

And then I notice that one of the fluorescent jackets has big bird on his arm, which the pigeons are hesitatingly ignoring. He then moves his arm slightly so the bird wobbles, and flaps its wings to keep its balance. The pigeons vamoose. Cool, I want one. I'm not sure what bird it is exactly, it's definitely a raptor, and looks like a huge hawk. Quite a flat square head, and reddy-brown plumage that's quite dark. The human tree carries on round the square, as I decide another doughnut wouldn't hurt (well it is cold).

I pack up and wander down Whitehall, trying to use up film along the way. I buy an awful 10p postcard, showing a big red bus driving through Piccadilly Circus. Unfortunately Piccadilly Circ looks like it's had a particularly bad night, with battered and broken road signs, and several bulbs in the hoardings and shop signs being out. Just right to continue the tradition with the Alabamarite (I get The Keystone State and Kentucky Stills, she gets the Spanish Armada of the Dorset coast done in fetchingly crude oils. It's a long story, don't ask).

Down past the houses of parliament (complete with tourists checking their watches and waiting for the bongs [free with any £10 or more order of hash]).

Having been rude about people checking their watches, I check the time and decide to go further down and see if I can find the Tate from anywhere other than Pimlico Tube Station.

So there's a small park on one side (complete with a Victorian monument with an unfortunately colourful roof), and the building various news people use to get their Westminster background shot. Further down, and I finally get round to discovering why this bit never makes sense: it's because I forget Lambeth Bridge exists, and tend to try and place Vauxhall here instead.

The other side of the bridge is the MI5 building, looking studiously nondescript. A bit further down is Millbank Tower, which actually looks quite nice (provided one looks at light and shape, rather than how tatty the window frames are).

And then it's the big portico of the Tate, with modern gardens to the north. I cross over and go up. In search of somewhere to sit I discover that there's little alcoves either side of the portico, and sit down to write the Alambamarite's postcard. I look up to find I have stunning view right up the arse of some guy clutching the medusa's head. Possibly I'm meant to know who this is, but strangely I don't (and can't remember despite reading the caption). Whilst sorting out my possessions I realise that anyone who walks in via this entrance and does the supposedly innate thing of scanning to the right, would get the same view through a large window.

I also come to realise that both the M16 building and MI5 building are within an RPG range of each other. I begin to wonder how the US postal system would react to that thought should they happen to read the very random postcard. [I've also just noticed that according to Vauxhall House (aka the MI6 building) is merely a "Govt. Off.", which given they let James Bond been seen blasting out of the side of it ... well possibly it's a bit late to try and keep that secret].

I go in and in trying to find the cloakroom, to dump my stuff, I end up in a room of pictures of London. I get distracted by trying to work out where things are in one of them (oh, so that's the top of Whitehall, and Nelson should be there...and yep he is), and so decide that walking past national treasures clutching a Tesco's bag isn't so odd.

I continue going round, and find that I much prefer Victorian sculptures to Victorian paintings, and that some of them are laying it on with a trowel (both physically and metaphorically). And exactly did Victorian painters do when they wanted to paint the rich and sinful, before red velvet was invented? Evil plus money equals red velvet, equal plus no money equals sackcloth, good plus either equals floating white clothes. And drunkards must always appear in mustard and purple (though strangely some of the people paying for the pictures are depicted in mustard and purple). In some ways I think I prefer modern art. At least it tries to make you think, rather than telling what to think. Or maybe I found a section that drew inspiration from pantomime.

And then I realised I had to leave to get the train, so I scurry past the Lynn Chadwicks doing their pre-Star Wars Darth Vaders (well if you ignore the breasts). Across the road, across Lambeth Bridge (so that's where Lambeth Palace is, and I never realised how close the railway gets to the river). I get a bit worried when approached fast by a guy on a bike in a balaclava, except I think he was just cold (and trying to work out why everyone near him was cowering). And then I try running up beside the river, which with bulky clothing, rucksack and flailing carrier bag, is not entirely successful. I also make the mistake of following the pedestrian signs for Waterloo, and therefore end up trying to follow signs that aren't there.

I eventually find my way onto the footbridge, and run past all the people coming the other way. Why do they have to make the departure signs so far down the station (or rather, why do they have to make the station so damned long)? Out of breath, and wearing far too many clothes, I try to find my train on the screens. This is not good, there seems to be collection of trains whose time is labelled as 00:00, and which don't have platforms. I catch a fleeting glimpse of information on the train I want, just as it scrolls off the screens. I scurry to the right platform, but it's empty.

Damn. And I'm tired, and about to collapse. I go and sit down for all to dig out some drink, and figure out what to do now. The next train is in an hour.

So I mill for bit, get bored and wander off to look at the pretty sights. Or the not so pretty, but rather interesting, sights. Which means that once again I'll have to say, London looks good at dusk. Though terrorism is bloody annoying, as it means there's no bins around to leave your rubbish in.

So I loiter round Waterloo, then idle beneath and across Hungerford Bridge, up Northumberland Avenue, and into Trafalgar Square. Where I get accosted by people wanting me to take their photographs against the backdrops of the National Gallery, St Martins, or Big Ben. I give up trying to explain to them that they should not hand strangers their cameras, as someone might run off with it, as it takes longer than just taking the picture and handing it back to them.

But whilst looking round I find something I wasn't expecting. I know amongst certain groups that it's traditional to go to Trafalgar Square on New Year's Eve. I, like many others, have never seen the point of doing so, being under the belief that you can only see Big Ben from a small section of the square. Which makes counting down to midnight a bit pointless when you can't tell when midnight is. Except you can, as there's at least 3 illuminated clocks on buildings around the square. One on St Martin's in the Fields [what fields?], but it's a bit hard to read, and two on two buildings off to the south (I think one is on the Canadian Pacific building). Yes, it's not the same as Big Ben, but it's still a functioning publicly visible clock.

And while standing staring at clocks, I somehow manage not to notice the time, and have to run back down Northumberland Avenue, and across the bridge. I come down the steps to fast to turn round at the bottom, and assume I can take the path that runs the other side of the car park. But I then discover there isn't one, and so have to make do with traipsing across the lawn, jumping down a bank, and then dodgy through a car park. Who on earth designed this? Judging by the routes of people, I'd say most using Hungerford Bridge wanted to use the walkway into Waterloo, and yet to do that you have to turn 180o at the bottom of one set of stairs and then pick you way through a car park and round thoughtfully planned flower beds (which they've had to put temporary barriers across to stop people walking through them). Surely there could have been some way of continuing the bridge so it meets the walkway? Or at least making an obvious pedestrian route across the ground in between? It's as if whoever planned the new bridge didn't even know the walkway through the Shell Centre was there, and assumed it would only be used by people wanting walk along the bank. Very odd.

Anyway, so I go and find my train, run up the platform and get on as the whistle blows, grabbing the one remaining seat in crowded carriage. I then discover why it was remaining - the people in the three accompanying seats are all boarders at a local public school, and behaving like it.

And so I go home, and that's pretty much it for this little tale.

Did you know Word does not know the word "balaclava", but then neither does it know "hoardings".


Yet another map thing (and this time it's nothing to do with Douwe Osinga). This time showing where I've been in the UK. Except of course it gets a bit fuzzy round the Midlands and Wales, as I'm not all that sure what is in which county.

And this would be a very biased map if my parents hadn't taken me to the Lake district when I was 5. But then most of the rest divide into trips with scouts or school. I'm now slightly worried that my perception of the country is largely based on areas where the road numbers begin with a 3. Excluding the blips caused by being dragged to places when younger (ok so maybe not so much dragged...), my world appears to end at Birmingham.
Anyhoo, Stuff to be doing, I'll post again later.

County map
I've visited the counties in yellow.
Which counties have you visited?

made by marnanel
map reproduced from Ordnance Survey map data
by permission of the Ordnance Survey.
© Crown copyright 2001.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Blatantly nicked from Cas-Av - What on earth happened to this 2CV (well more like one and a bit horses)? What did they do - leave it parked on a railway or something? Somehow I have a hunch that the French peasants' eggs may have got broken, and that this car is no longer capable of taking on a ploughed field[1]. Hmm, I've also just noticed the back button on this page doesn't work - here be the main site.

I like this site. Except for when it makes me feel stupid because on seeing the last picture in the Graffitti section, I though "Wow, that's some skilled topiary". Click bigger picture. Ah (that be a building, somewhere under there). And kudos to Salma et al for cunningly using tip-ex for graffiti. But as the site also has the only bit of graffiti I knowingly took a picture of (and which isn't there anymore, the revolution one under the railway out of Cannon St, [by Vinopolis?]), I think I'll forgive the use of tip-ex.

Basically all manner of ephemerata, that adds the odd little quirks, the interesting and ignored, to any city. But idiosyncratic shabbiness has always been cool (except for if you're trying to sell a house next to it for a lot of money). Sooner or later the low-road[2] areas gain an increasing influx of those who enjoy an artistic temperament, seeking out cheap space and different environments, working in the creativity that meshed social groups create. Those with more money appear seeking out the cool and innovative, and gradually perception spreads, more money comes in, rents go up, coffee shops appear, any building which cannot be profitably converted is demolished and the land used for something which can be sold easily, the latest residents complain about the noise and the grime, and get them removed. And so the area is restored, rejuvenated and repopulated, and that which caused it to be so is no longer there.

Is this bad? How does one judge?

And so the area becomes conventional and convenient, and somewhere else holds ephemeral beauty. Neighbourhoods bubble up, and sink away again, as the city chunters on. Another X, the new Y, rising and subsiding, occasionally lingering, bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever.

Sorry I had to. I realised how presumptive I was being, and so I had to mock and deride it, and what better way than by lapsing into a silly camp song from a silly camp musical?

Anyhoo, so yes I like this site, I like the concept behind this site, the passing, fading, easily romanticised quality, that's half blight, which makes the other half unintentionally beautiful. And once again I go into the Fleurs du Mal theme (and I really ought to read it, but I tried once and found it both impenetrable and pretentious). But it is the fleetingness of these sights that makes them rare, the incongruous mix of grandiose Victorian architecture, with functionalist modernity showing an utter disregard, and the detritus of life scattering across the uneconomical surfaces.

But then I really liked these collection of Coal Bunkers (though I'm not sure bunkers is the right word).

And this time I really will stop talking about these buildings and landscapes - it's just another variant on theme of London, itself one diverse group's response to the concept of a city.

[1] Apparently Citroen's original design brief for the 2CV was for small cheap car that could carry four peasants in hats, across a ploughed field, whilst not breaking any of the eggs being carried in baskets on the peasants' laps.

[2] To nick Stewart Brand's term (he wrote a very good book on How Buildings Learn, as well as a television series on the same topic [sometime in the mid 90s] - Go and read it. I was given the book after talking incessantly about the series, and have kept reading it since then).

I've been getting distracted, so I think this ought to be it for today.

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