Monday, August 30, 2004

Happy Blogday to me!

Um, wasn't it yesterday? was, and I meant to post, only I got rung up and asked "You're tall, how do feel about kitchen ceilings?". And it's a bit hard to blog when you're an hour away from home and the computer, standing on a worksuface, trying not to touch the aged grease coating the top of the cupboards, and straining to get an even coat on the corner of the coving. By the time I got home, I was tired, and it was tomorrow already.

Yesterday was generally an odd day - especially getting a text message to tell me that A. The date of the Australian election has been announced, and B. It's 9th October. That's what you get for knowing staffers somewhere in the Australian political complex.

And it's not fair - playing Hearts with assorted family members (it was one of my cousins' kitchen that was being buried in white paint), and having an abysmal first round. The next round starts badly for me. So I decide to try and do that thing whereby, if one player collects all the scoring cards, then all the others collect maximum points. Somehow I manage this, to much hilarity from the rest of the players. Then I discover, that of the 5 people playing, only one other knows this rule. And she's the youngest out of the 4 others. Hence the rest of my kind relatives state "well, we don't play those rules". And hence I get an even worse score, and get annoyed.

It's quite interesting watching play, and realising that there are standing waves of those who score and those who don't (don't point out that there should have been an equal number of counter-clockwise rounds, as this too is not a rule that the 3 eldest were aware of). Some people consistently try to get short suited, and so give away everything in one suit - apparently regardless of the value. So the person downstream benefits from having three middling cards appear, rather than the 3 highest.

I've never really liked the game, as it's too dependent on the actions of someone upstream. Having said that, by the end of it, despite getting a ridiculous amount of points in the first two rounds, I didn't come last.

I still prefer Sevens though. But that might be because my evil cousin had all the early stops, and therefore I ended up not being able to go for the first 6 goes. And then won. Well, if someone will be stupid enough to not put down the 6 when they're holding the ace. And I can't help it if, by some quirk of dealing [dodgy shuffling of a new pack of cards], I happen to end up with the eight, ten, jack, queen and king of one suit, as will as still having the nine, four and five of another. Oh, I'm sorry, am I stopping you going? Such a pity.

Hmm, can you tell my family are ever-so-slightly competitive? I usually pretend I'm not, and then, once I think I've actually got a chance of winning it, the nonchalance vanishes, and apparently I start to worry people who've never seen this side of me before (Pictionary is a bloodsport).

So, anyway, card games - don't do them kids [unless you can win].

In other news,
Driving along the A3 out of London, at about half past eleven on the Sunday of a bank holiday weekend, is not fun, especially the nice bits round Clapham. It didn't help I was trying to get used to driving a different car (being the only Rioja-less one), which is pig to drive, especially in slow moving stop-start traffic. It didn't help that at the first set of traffic lights I put it into reverse (the gear change is so busy being resistance free, it's a nightmare to know what it's doing when out of gear). And then stalled it [just as well really].

For the record, I hate cars in which one can't hear the engine (how do you know how fast you're going? Looking at the dials is such a quaint notion), and in which the pedals flop idly, and produced minimal effect, and that's only after a while, if it feels like it (ok so the ones in my car can take the phrase "standing on the brake" a bit too literal mindedly). It's very odd driving a car which, from 70mph drifts down to about 40, if you let it get away with it (again, mine seems happiest at 80mph).

And I have to commend whoever is in change of the variable messageboards lining the A3 - which all read "27th-30th August. Notting Hill Carnival. Delays expected". It doesn't specify where the delays are expected, merely they are to be expected. Which given the signs were on the southbound side as well, makes one wonder if a traffic jam in Bournemouth can really be attributable to the Notting Hill Carnival. Roads blocked by flooding in Ottery St Mary? Oooh, that'll be the Notting Hill Carnival. Broken down car blocking the St Peter Port one way system? It's because of the Notting Hill Carnival. Nasty incident involving a horse and a bicycle on Sark? Notting Hill Carnival's fault.

And speaking of "delays expected", they've bloody changed the last remaining section of the road between Tweeton and Notacity to a forty limit. Which means that there isn't a single road left out of Tweeton where one can go above 40 mph. It's really annoying as it's only started happening since I've been driving. I could use the bypass, but it's miles out of the way, and the road to it is even more meandery (cluttered chocolate-box villages are a bloody nuisance if you want to get beyond the village).

It just annoys me to have to drive round behind someone pottering along at 35, who the sees "SLOW" written across the road, and does, when it's on bends that I know you can get round at somewhere over 55mph. That and all the mushrooming coach-sized roundabouts, and I'm really beginning to hate what use to be a nice road. I have however discovered that on the roundabout that has a dropped curb [to let artic-lorries get round], with a central curbed island, it's actually smoother to drive straight over the thing, than it is to hug the symbolic curb, which is full of badly made gutters and random lumps of ironwork. I'm not sure how legal it is, but I have started seeing more and more people doing it. It is after all tarmac-ed, and with tiremarks on it.

Coming back a different way yesterday, and I nearly drove into the traffic island on the entrance to a roundabout. That's what you get for switching into autopilot based on one's relative position to the lampposts. It might have worked fine in driving lessons, but now they've made the entrance a single lane from double (thus wreaking havoc on the incoming traffic congestion), and so widened the middle island.

I also discovered on the way back that one of the main roads appears to have fallen into a ditch sometime last week. As distinctly unmentioned by the local newspaper. But hey, what do they care, they've already run their traditional "man grows sunflower" story (ideally accompanied by picture of said sunflower, showing man and child on his shoulders next to said sunflower. The article should also hint at a worrying obsessiveness about sunflower growth). This is then coupled with articles about why living in X is so great [in the X edition of the paper], which seems to have been written by someone who has never been to X. Local news for local people, and it generally feels like it's been sub-contracted out to somewhere in India.

And then of course was the piece about a local doctor who died. He died from a heart attack whilst in a triathlon. He was doing it to raise money for assorted medical charities [including a heart disease research one]. Maybe it's just me, and my utter lack of sentimentalism, but there's something slightly amusing about this.

Anyway, I'd better stop bashing here. Especially as I'm going to be here for a while.

[And I must not be quite awake. I've just been asked if there's much difference between lactic acid and lactose. I used Google image search to find out. And then it dawned on me. Lactic-acid - the one you make that causes a stitch? The little 3C one? And you want you know if that's like lactose, the disaccharide? Why did I not treat this question the disdain it deserves? Because I was being pretty dim. And I'm now trying to figure out why a pasta sauce might contain lactic acid].

And it's not fair - The Ben Anderson thing [Holidays in the danger zone: America was here, on BBC4 tonight and tomorrow at 9pm] apparently goes on until half past ten, which is a bit late (bear in mind my whole up before 5 thing). And I've yet to figure out how to record from digital (I might not have got round to plugging the right bits in).

Anyway, I'd better finish off here, as I want to watch Breakfast at Tiffany's, as, well, I've never seen it, and may as well (and I can't sit and read Kate Adie's [very good, very funny] autobiography all day).


PS. So much for the retrospective on the past year. It'll have to wait until there's a convenient event to hang it on.

PPS. Is distain really not a word? Everything suggests it is meant to be disdain.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Very briefly.

Salam Pax is back. Now at

Huzzah indeed.

And of course I'm not the type of person to sit on this news until I've bought up all the available blogshares, am I? [said he noticing is listed seperately. Damn].


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Obviously when I linked Language Log yesterday, I hadn't noticed the post about the dual use of old and new Francs, or more precisely, this line: I haven't been there in a while and don't know to what extent this is sitll [sic] the practice. Quite a while by the sounds of it. Isn't there some little thing called the Euro that superseded all that?

It almost balances out him publicising that English people think of Heinz as English [in fairness, it's what we do with them that makes them ours - hence sending one American friend into apoplexy, and another into hysterics, by making baked beans on toast]. Though deep down I know they're American, it's just that some others forget this sometimes - like the woman I was acquainted with [couldn't stand], who was moving to Florida, and was talking about what she'd miss. "...and of course, we won't be able to get baked beans there". Because as we all know, Orlando is a third world country.

LL also mentions the Perfors study on vowel sound attractiveness in names (which I thought had only been mentioned on weekday afternoon Radio 4). Another factor that seems to be completely ignored is the frequency with which people use names, especially their own. If the attractiveness is the reverse of the expected pattern, and so broad masculine sounds are more attractive in female names, could it be because usually the female subject does not usually say their own name? And so names which flatter the sayer work better? So if a girl's name demonstrates the masculinity of her male suitor's voice, could this have an impact on attractiveness?

Though looking at the stuff about the study, it's an interesting idea, but there's so many uncontrollable factors that I'm not sure there can be a definite linguistic basis for the link. For a start, working solely on my prejudices, names like "Brittany" are just bloody stupid (unless one's surname happens to be "Ferries"). And names that end in confused mangled of "ee" don't do well (e.g. Ashly, Ashley, Ashlea, Ashlee, Ashlie, Ashli, Ashleigh, Ashlé [ignore the fact that that accent usually makes the vowel sound "ay"]). Yeah, I know I'm being snobby about council-estate chic (but having spent a large part of the day working through lists of names, there are an awful lot the trigger the "that's just cruelty" response).

And as for calling names like Jamie and Lee androgynous: well, Lee is the male spelling, and the only female Jamie I've heard of is Jamie Lee Curtis [and I'm not sure if I can mention her and the word "androgynous" in the same sentence without being sued (oh hang on, I'm thinking of the wrong word, but I never understood those rumours anyway. Actually, what would it matter if it were true?)]. And as a girl's name, what's it a variant on?

Basically, the test is biased towards a US audience, but that doesn't matter because as we all know, the internet is a solely American affair. For example, .com means a company (based in America) right?

Coincidentally, check out the description of the Webster's Dictionary listed on Google (bottom of the page): ... photo, hermaphrodite stories, hermaphrodite sex, hermaphrodite porn, free hermaphrodite pictures, real hermaphrodite, jamie lee curtis hermaphrodite, photos of ... Now you'd never get the OED saying that.

Which brings me neat on to my other topic for the day: search engine hits.

[By the way, someone over at LL appears to have coined the word "ghits" to describe the number of results listed on Google per search term. I like, except for the phononymic qualities. Admittedly, some of the other neologisms swilling round there don't seem quite as obvious. Can the use of igry be classed as an igrifying (or possibly igrious) act? And what's glemphy all about? Other than a man wanting his name in dictionaries - the original interview is gone, and the post doesn't help explain where it came from].

Confusing hit of the day: combi,boiler,heat system in taiwan. Yes, that's right, in Taiwan, yet they were using the Turkish version of Google (and from a server).

CHotD2: Quotation dog lampost De Gaulle. No idea, and neither do the other two results. Could someone enlighten me please?

Googlewhackage. A. trundles hullaballoo [even the "did you mean hullabaloo" version only gets 11 ghits]. B. dappy derivation - I don't know, but probably from daft [+ happy?].

This just in from Hong Kong: Euro Lotila Porn. Disappointed? Methinks so.

Curiously I lead the results for hamspter dance song free download. Go to the 29th June posting, and then on to the site. Helpful huh?

Portsmouth UK jazz combos, 1960s. Drawn a blank here, I'm afraid.

And what is an AVS? palace slave avs

It's quite odd how the incoming searches have changed, as they used to be dominated by odd, obscure, little things that I could understand, and which I could answer. But now they're just getting stranger and stranger (should that be "more and more strange"?).

Anyway, I've run out of energy again, and so must bid you a temporary adieu [please don't point out that the suitable French phrase is au revoir. I'm not if sure one can bid au revoir, or merely say it. And why is it bid?].


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Sorry about the lightened blogging of late - but this whole working at insanely early times is starting to have an impact, i.e. I'm knackered most of the time, and get to sit in front of a computer without work to do far less often. Ok, so the office plan doesn't help - where once the sound of merry typing could imply work [blogging's work of a sort, right?], I'm now in prime shoulder-watched territory.

Admittedly it's odd working somewhere, where, for hours of the day, they apparently don't have anything for anyone in the office to do - and yet I'm still not brave enough to start blogging from work (merely read a few of the more erudite blogs). But as we're not supposed to use the internet to access anything other than the corporate website, there's still a certain furtiveness to everyone sitting reading emails [Working on the principle that "they said the internet was off limits because of the potential for viruses, so if I don't go round gaining viruses, then I'm not doing what they don't want me to do". Yes it's slightly shaky logic, but I figure that as everyone else is doing it, I may as well, as long as I'm not the worst offender].

I would start a Call Centre Confidential type diary, but there really isn't much to use. Mostly people don't talk. And Temporary Data Processing Area, with Other Functions, Confessions doens't sound as good.

About as interesting as it gets is trying to figure out if one of the sub-bosses wears coloured contact lenses. Don't know, but she probably does, as her eyes are a bizarre mix of bright colours. That and taking bets [mentally] on whether the person who disappeared after less than a week of work will reappear at any point. Possibly having to be there by 6am might be a deciding factor in it.

The world is very, very strange at 4:45 am. Radio 1 plays stuff that's not on any playlist. The presenters sound like the work-experience people, in voices that could be from next door (which when one's neighbour is fond of late night discussion, one tends to get used to sleeping through. Which is useless for waking one up).

Radio 4 doesn't exist until five-and-twenty to five. Before then it's a streaming version of the world service (hmm, I'm sure I've mentioned this, yet I can't find any relevant post).

When it does start, it does so with its theme tune. I didn't even know it had one. Basically it's most of the Last Night of the Proms (it'll be that soon), with a quick romp round the regions in the middle. Except my knowledge of classic music isn't good enough to know what most of them are.

Of the things I recognise, I wonder how many of them are musical in-jokes. There's "Rule Britannia" - Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the [air]waves, a bit of "What shall we do with a drunken sailor?" - Hoo-ray/hey ho and up she rises...rpt...early in the morning [5:35am probably counts as earl-i, 1], and another tune which I vaguely recognise, despite avoiding all things folk, as being "Early one morning".

[1] Why is it sung "earl-lie" in that song? Is it just part of the silly accent which is traditional to use on this song - all rolled "r"s and broad vowels? Admittedly the version I know is hugely corrupted, as the patent block line [see link] has gone completely, and about the only verse I know of is number 12 by the linked list (and, er, 15).

About the only other tunes I recognise are Danny Boy, Men of Harlech, and that one from the Italian Job (no, not that one, the other fanfare-type one).

[Apparently the Italian Job one is regimental march of the British Grenadiers, but all the versions I can find are dismal MIDIs, which play it much too slow, and of course, do the entire thing, rather than the good bit in the middle].

And what's really freaky is that it's early enough that the normal FM/digital version carries the shipping forecast. And the tag-along bits that contain wonderfully named football teams, such as "Channel Light Vessel Automatic".

However, due to a non-functioning car radio, and invariably leaving only just in time (well slightly late, but the advantages of being up at this time is that there aren't that many other cars around), I've yet to experience the joys of Farming Today. And to think I used to consider Thought for the Day early...

Thought for the Day: Is Rabbi Lionel Blue still alive?

[Not sure about the spelling, but he's booked to appear in November, so I'm guessing so]

Radio 4 Schedule ici. Makes no mention of the theme tune. And of course trying to search using the words "radio" and "theme" is not exactly enlightening (I believe "hiding to nothing" is the technical terminology).

Other oddness about rising so early, and working such strange hours:
- There are invariably huge puddles everywhere. Ok, so this probably because it's rained bucketloads recently, but any rain that falls during the night just sits there, waiting for the sun to turn up.
- Rabbits sit in the middle of the main road.
- A normal office scene is illuminated by horizontal dawn light.
- Our lunch break starts at 10am.
- Work finishes at 2pm, but I've worked all day, so I come out and get really confused by it still being mid-afternoon.
- We pity the people who have the 2-10pm shift. Especially now, as due to strange goings on, it has been decided that they are no longer needed. So it's just the morning shift. Which stays as the morning shift, rather than sliding into normal office hours.

Hmm, some of that list doesn't make sense.

Oh, oh, oh, while I remember, another blog for you to see - and this one's already one of my bookmarks(Obviously I admire true pedanticism). Presenting the Language Log, a remarkably (hence the remarking) good blog on anything vaguely linguistic.

Admittedly, I'm only linking because I'm hoping they won't Technorati their way back here. Why? Because this blog has never fulfilled the well-planned, grammatically sound, and yet informative and interesting intent. That, and they're American [possibly Canadian], I'm not, and never the twain shall meet - at least in terms of which side of quote marks the punctuation goes.

Though should they happen to happen upon here, where do the following come from:
"surely to goodness" and "[on a] hiding to nothing". I've always assumed that the latter was from tanners, who could wreak the leather they were preparing by scrapping [hiding] it too much [to take off all the hair and gorgeous attached tissues], presumably wearing right through. So if you're on a hiding to nothing, it means no good [thing] can come of your work. Is this right, or merely a convenient match to the phrase (probably unintentionally made up by me).

But as someone who has a history of adapting the world around him, I'm worried it might be the latter option. Previous instances include creating different meanings for different pronunciations of words [harassed - ha-ruest: hot and bothered, ha-rasst: as in sexually-... either - i-ther: either this or that. e-ther: either of those], and mishearing phrases, such as "to all intensive purposes".

There's more, but I can remember them now. But somehow I don't match words up with other similar ones, and so have a succession of "how did I not realise that" moments. For example: Pontificate to the Pontiff [and Pontiff to pont/bridge], hermetically-sealed to hermit.

Anyway, I'd better go, as I'm falling asleep, and I've got solve the riddle of who I know in Manchester [One missed call, one new number starting 01616. Not that many people know my number, as the phone is still new-ish. And about as afar a field as they get is Cirencester (or other places equally hard to spell using predictive text)].


Saturday, August 21, 2004

Can anyone explain why, under the Archives menu, "Current Posts" will display on in the monthly archive pages? Having discovered that RO'D had added a link to an individual post, I then found out that anyone who followed it got marooned on that page (well they could have clicked the GfB link, and then come back, but that assumes they know where I'm listed, which I think is a bit ambitious).

So, in correcting that, I now have the oddity of having a "Current Posts" link, and a "Recent Posts" link appear on some of the archive pages. Looks dead professional.

That, and the intermittent Blogwise button.

Oh, and my general "really ought to sort out the template" messiness. I'm coming to realise thet HTML is a very limited language. Ok, so I don't know enough of it to state that concretely, but it's just the way there only seem to be two options for how something can be down, and one of those is completely nonsensical. Hence the almost arbitrary application of font sizing and spacing round here.

Whilst tweaking, I finally got round to sticking a permanent Fistful of Euros plug up there. Go and read (after you've finished here of course).

And thinking that I must read more blogs than those I've listed, I was hunting round for ones to add. During my foraging I came across a site I've previously ignored: IDF Pizza. I don't know what it is about this site, but something feels very wrong. Partly it's the latent bias - is there a sister organisation that gives out fast-food to Palestinians? [Is ice-cream halal?]. It's premise seems to be: Israelis are the good guys, and deserve rewards [beyond getting to live in the promised land].

And partly it seems to be trying to make the entire thing into a children's picnic. So there'd be hyperactive IDF soldiers, pepped up on sugar and colourings, running round screaming, and sticking out their blue food-colouring stained tongues. I dread to think what they use for a pinyatta.

All that, and it features some of the most expensive ice cream known to mankind.

[Second thoughts: the whole hoo-ha over that Supersize Me film, which McDonalds helpfully plugged in the national press (do they even have PR people anymore?) has emphasised the damaging effects of eating fast-food continually. Presumably if this website is successful enough, then it'll have a near continual supply of fast-food to send out to a limited amount of troops. More food, but no change in troops, equals more food per troop. Equals more fast-food effects per troop. Ah, now I see the point of the website. It's obviously Arafat's idea to make the troops to fat to fit in tanks].

Another site that I've come across before, yet never yet remember to keep reading. Maybe if I stick it in here I might (or might not given the number of blogs that pop up here but never migrate to the left). Beirut-Beyrouth.

A site I've only just found, and which might be a sidebar contender: Ostracised from Österreich.

Another possibility: The European Weblog Review.

And hurrah, the bagpipes have stopped - there was man standing outside the Borough Hall playing them at full-kilt for hours today. God knows why. And of course, one of the pleasures of this town is way sound travels so easily across it, be it bell-ringing practice on a Tuesday evening, or the sound of the PA at the various fairs. Or the sound of something reversing in Sainsbury's "A-tain-tune. This ve-cal is re-ve-hearsing", trains shooing the magpies off the line, the workmen beating sheet steel on a building site, the people getting kicked out of Wetherspoons, or the impatient friend picking up someone up the road. Or indeed a very lost Scotsman with his traditional paraphernalia. Which for much of the afternoon I wished would meet with some paraffin-alia.

One to other stuff, and this post is interesting simply for it's "did you know" appeal.


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Blantantly cribbed from RO'D's KMB (hmm, maybe frantically trying to shortened names isn't the best idea in every case): Call Centre Confidential. Maybe I haven't actually read the blog yet, but judging by the cast list, and by the number of referrers to it, it might be worth your time (in an internet sangfroid stylee [or do I mean schadenfreude? Possibly having just checked. Though the French one might apply as well]).

Oh, I've just noticed the Guardian is included in the referrers. So everyone one else was there before me then? Oh well.

And while I'm getting confused about languages - Blogger's FP plugs this article, which links to this New Yorker [1] piece - a critical review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Which mentions: ...some conventions of British usage employed in “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” are taboo in the United States—for example, the placement of commas and periods outside quotation marks, “like this”. Ha, I knew I was right. Sorry, but a while ago I had a lengthy row with an Australian about it. Ok, so". still looks a little odd, but according to my logic it has to be right (it's the quoted person asking the question, not the writer).

[1] Why is there no London equivalent? Is it simply that "The Londoner" doesn't sound as good?

Ok so the rest of the article isn't too kind to the book, although some of it is probably excessive pedantry (like picking up on "printers' marks", without mentioning the context, so one has no idea if they meant the marks of many printers). And given the article degenerates into making blanket statements about nationalities, it possibly is not on the higher ground it claims.

Also on the language front is this Fistful of Euros piece on changing German [yes it's from a while ago, but I was on holiday]. As an English English-speaker, I find the notion of languages being controllable [especially by committee] rather amusing. The comments section has some interesting thoughts - including people who moot changing English spelling to reflect the phonetics or phonemics.

Is anyone else laughing? Given I'm working with a set of people freshly imported from somewhere up north, this idea seems ludicrous. They don't even use language in the same way, let alone pronounce it in the same way. It is slightly bewildering when, in the midst of the hideously mangled vowels [would you prefer I called them "comically mangled"?], they consistently contract "to" and "the" beyond the traditional Yorkshire "t'" (as in "t'mill"), to not bothering with them at all. For example "He's took box London".

They seem to have retained an Anglo-Saxon notion of plurals, in that all words function like fish and sheep, to mean either one or many. The "s" is non-existent. And I've yet to figure out how until, till, or to can become "while", as in "from 2 while 4".

And at the moment it's Boscastling outside. Hurrah. Obviously it knew I'd decided to try watering stuff earlier.

Boo-hiss BBC. Trying to find out when the sailing's on, and I find it's on from 4:30 til 6:30, on "Stream 4". Freeview only goes up to 3. So what do I have to do if I want to watch Olympic sailing on the BBC? Get Sky.

Or try to watch one of their live stream repeats, which don't do sailing, or try getting their on-demand stuff to work - when all it gives me is a message asking me to check the address for spelling errors.

The power of modern technology – it lets you know what you're missing.


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Hmm, I've been playing on Blograffiti, and discovering that A. There's not a hope in hell of finding my entry that predates me having a blog. B. That my newer entries don't work because it can only cope with so many marks. C. That there's someone called Dave who likes writing his name a lot. D. There's someone else who is trying to do the same, but hasn't figured that you need to be quick and put the last letter first. Either that or they've got a very odd name.

A picture, that needs to be seen not describedThe B is the important one, as one of them was of the picture on the right. Which doesn't work as well when half the dots are missing. Admittedly I got the black and white sections mixed up, but it still worked in the preview image.

But enough of this headache inducing image (which I originally saw when one of my friends forwarded it the morning after the night before, describing it as a "hangover cure". Fortunately I was about the only person who wasn't hungover. The others were less happy).

And there must be something wrong with my eyes, as half the illusions on that site don't seem to work (the ones that use colour seem less effective). Though rediscovering my blindspot is always fun (Under Various. Trying to use the diagram the wrong way round, so the vanishing bit is in the middle of the cross, can get confusing).

Whilst playing round with all this, I happened upon this site, which is quite useful for explaining various scanner related topics. I say that, if only because it's finally made me twig how all the FF, 255, and 8 and 24 bit stuff is related. Spot who never quite got the hang of hex.

BTW, in case you too have never figured it out:
A bit is a single character in binary. Binary is a counting system that uses 1 and 0. So 11 in binary is 3 in decimal (see this great site for how binary works - it took me long enough to figure out the scale is logarithmic, so that 111 in binary is 1 x 2^2 + 1 x 2^1 + 1 x 2^0 = 4 + 2 + 1 = 7). To write 3 in binary takes 2 bits or two characters. But as each new bit added corresponds to 2 to the power of n - 1, where need is the number over from the right (so the first figure in 111 in binary is the third from the right, n = 3, so n-1 = 2, so 100 must represent 2 to the power of 2, or 2 squared, which is 4, so one adds 4 on to the total), then each new bit exponentially increases the possible value of the figure.

So if there are 8 bits, then the maximum number they can represent is the sum of 2^n-1 where n is every integer from 0 to 7. Which is 255. So a sequence of 8 bits can represent any number in a 256 number range (they can also represent zero, by having 8 zeros. I'm not sure if computers write 00000000 for zero, or 00000001 for one, or if they simply use no entry for zero and 1 for one. But I think designing a programme to cope with such an erratic series would be too hard [how would it know when to spilt the values in a chain of data?], and it would be easier to use more memory to enter 8 digits for every figure up to 255).

Anyway, I'm digressing. A bit is a binary unit. You've got that? And 8 bits can encode 256 values.

When applied to a scanner, line art and halftone scanning produces back and white images where the options for each unit are on or off, which is black or white. Line art makes a dividing line through the range of input shades, and anything darker is black, and anything lighter is white. Which renders most images dismally. Halftone uses the inaccuracies of our eye to create regions of blurring which create the impression of shades in-between black and white. Like newspaper printing, or old versions of graphics programmes where everything descends into a mess of dots and crosses. Sometimes using Safe Mode in Windows can achieve the same effect (unintentionally). Dropping down the number of colours displayed by your computer might do the same, but it might also make this page unreadable (I haven't checked if it's luddite safe).

Like the illusions featured on that Wyrm place above, it uses patterns around and object to adapt how we see an object. It is not a faithful representation of the input data, but mere impressionism. Line art and halftone only take 1 bit to encode each display unit.

The next level of clarity is grayscale, where each part of the image is assigned a value between 0 and 255 (black and white). As the name suggests, it's a range of greys. Greyscale images require 8 bits of code for each display unit.

Colour images apply this same scale to red, green and blue (the primary colours light can be divided into, and the colours a colour monitor displays. Monitors and televisions rely on our inability to discern detail at the pixel level. If you look closely you'll see lines containing red, green and blue dots). So each display unit in an image contains a value for red, a value for green, and one for blue. Each of these values is between 0 and 255. As there are 3 sets of values, each encoded in 8 bits, the total number of bits for each display unit is 24.

And just to confuse me more, this monitor claims it's on 32 bits. So it's got an extra 8 bits encoding something. It might be greyscale, but I thought that could be achieved through using the 24 bit system, by making the values of red, green and blue equal.

Handily for people who wish to encode their own values, 24 bit data can be encoded in 6 characters, thanks to hexadecimal. Hexadecimal [or hexidemical as 72 other people think it is] is another system that runs from 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F.
So 10 in hex is 1 x 16 in decimal. Each digit added on to the right represents 16^n-1 (and so is 16 times as big as the next column to the left), so 100 in hexadecimal is 1x16^2 + 0x16^1 + 0x16^0 = 256 + 0 + 0. Therefore using just two digits in hexadecimal can encode the maximum value of 8 bits. So 3 sets of 2 digits can equal 24 bits of data. So ff,a1,00 represents 11111111,10100001,00000000.

HTML has been set up to use this feature, allowing 2 hexadecimal digits per primary colour. So the normal code works on a pattern of RRGGBB, where R is red, G green, and B is blue. So ffa100 comes out as this lovely colour.

And Blogger seems to prefer [span] to [font] as a command, but then this preview page has always acted oddly. And I really should have picked a colour that doesn’t blend so well with the rest of this page. But as I made it up on the spot...

So yes, I've finally got all that figured out, even if you're all confused as hell now.

Still don't know why there's 32 bits on this monitor (I tried the 24 bit setting, and it didn't seem any different).


Monday, August 16, 2004

Oh dear, I seem to have rather over done it in that last post - snobbery for beginners. Maybe I should start giving lessons in it, except I don't have the handy house in Kensington to work out of.

Anyway, the point of it is to know better than others, and then do whatever you want regardless.

So, in order to counterbalance the bias in this blog, I shall now launch into the topic of "Dido".

What the hell is that latest thing about? This is Dido - she who creates music for those who don't like music. And now there's a song about her coming back from holiday. Woo! I mean, seriously, it's just dire. The lyrics are laughable, and manage to create that eerie feeling when one know exactly what's coming next. Some people might describe that as well-honed natural flow, whereas I think of it being cliche-ridden, paint-by-numbers rubbish.

How surprising it is that this song appears in mid-August, in peak coming-back-from-holiday season? Sorry, it just annoyed me with its pathetic comments, along the lines of "I should get on, and forget you, but why would I want to?".

That and it's a cynical attempt to foster familiarity by referencing common actions - such as not unpacking the moment you get home (although jetlag and dehydration are usually to blame - even monkeys will procrastinate until just before a deadline), or wanting to have a lingering bath, but thinking you ought to tidy the chaos you left as you packed. But these are all true of any time one leaves home in a hurry. If you're late for work, the post ends up scattered, milk gets spilt. You come home, knackered from work and the commute, and would like nothing better than to sag in a warm bath. But you can't, you've got other things to do, things to think about, and worry about.

Ok, so it's my fault for attempting to listen to Radio 1. So I've switched to the Storm now. The Storm being a "rock" radio station, whose audience will consist of white males between 14-24 (hence the strangely high repeat rate of The Androids "Do it with Madonna"). And strangely it has the only DJ I remember from SBN.

[In response to the radio] Fuck off Morrissey. Oh, hurrah, it's worked - the Storm's internet streaming appears to have packed up - except as I type it's come back.

And now for Consumption Corner.

- The Doves: The Last Broadcast [£3.99 in Smiths! Their other album was also £3.99]. Excellent music for packing on a hot, humid, sultry, summer's night.

- Black Hawk Down [Cheapish in HMV's sale. Studio, IMDB, Amazon]. I bought it on the recommendation of a friend. I'm now trying to work out what the friend was trying to say. A worrying film. Sumptuously epic in parts, but the subject...well it isn't quite what one expects from a modern American war film. The compounded errors are quite harrowing, and surprising. It's actually quite a good film, just not what I thought it might be. Confusing and slightly unsettling. Basically I was expecting more of a Speilberg "We're the good guys" theme, and the usual show of spectacularly overwhelming power. Instead it's a portrayal of misguided actions, stupidity, naivety and chaos. And wondering if it's worth it, and if there's a better way.

It's also quite fun playing "which classic novel adaptation did they appear in?". That's because there's a surprising number of British actors in it, and as any fool knows, British actors have to have been in at least one Austen-a-like. For example the Doctor was previously Daniel Deronda and ITV's David Copperfield.

I still want to know which compassionate parents choose to call their son Thomas, when their surname is Hardy?

Comfortingly, as I type this, I can feel the whump of a helicopter circling overhead.

- Monsoon Wedding [Um, on Channel 4 on Saturday. Studio, IMDB, Amazon, 1]. Was this made for foreign audiences? Most of the characters prefer to speak in English (though the funding came from a variety of European soruces). It was a great film, and didn't seem to get the balance of subtlety and speed right - it made hints at something, and then carried on making hints, and kept doing it for ages. They could have got away with making subtler hints for less time, and still people would have got it. If making sure people got the message was important, then why merely hint it?

It was interesting, but started to drag in places, but I'm not sure it could have been edited to reduce that without radically altering the feel of the film. It was quite slow moving, and pretty predictable.

I'm just not sure what it was the makers wanted it to be. It's a film, it's a cluster of love stories, it's a bit of social farce, yet there's nothing that hooks the audience. Which means one ends up studying the set (and trying not to get annoyed with the lazy characterisation of some of the bit parts). That and wondering why it flips between feeling like a docusoap, and an epic. It felt aimed more at television than cinema, if that makes any sense.

Not great, but not bad either. Almost indifferent.

As an aside, does anyone know if the shots of movie billboards in Delhi are for films that the studio made? A none-too-subtle plug perhaps? Or were they just whatever was there?

[1] About the Amazon page - I second whoever it was who recommended A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth instead of watching this film. Much more enjoyable and indulgent.

Once again this is tatty and distracted post - largely because I'm finding things to worry about, and think I ought to be doing.


Recent whonawhatnow search engine hits:
- history of barons court tube station. Er, does anyone actually know the history of the station? I'm guessing not as the searcher had reached result 459 [Answers to the comments section please].
- "pellet mills" tractor. Me neither. And why is Indian Google in English?
- origin of mispelt misspelled. See the 24/5/04 post.
- non sequitur archive feeding pigeons. I'm obviously not drunk enough to even understand what it is they want. Anyway, who wants to feed pigeons? They're miserable, mobbing, and generally quite nasty birds. Go and find some well trained ducks instead.
- "male strip club" athens, greece. Obviously is too impatient to wait for the wrestling. It's strange that most of the results are assorted, largely gay, male "escort" services, and yet there's one result which includes none of the search terms. Can you figure out what it is that google thinks makes it relevant?
[PDF] Ground broken for new Welland YMCA on campus
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
Page 1. N Niia ag ga ar ra a N Ne ew ws s Volume 33 Issue 2 www.niagara- Oct. 11, 2002 Free Ground broken for new Welland ... niagaranews/pdfs/0203/Oct11.pdf - Similar pages
Surely it can't be because of the presence of "YMCA"? Can it? Can even search engines work on stereotypes? [Hmm, I've just realised I've included the words gay, male, escort, strip, wrestling, YMCA, and a couple of posts ago I mentioned Village Photos, and I'm bound to have used the word "people" recently. I think my search engine stats are about to get skewed.
Now all I need to do is talk about road laying, with suitable references to [aggregate] hardcore and bondage [of the tar to the aggregate].

[And this is where I discover that Barons Court tube station is a notorious cottaging hotspot (well aren't they all? Though just for the name alone, "Mudchute" on the DLR ought to be. Though technically that wouldn't be cottaging - assuming it means what I think it does)].

Ah, 'tis Monday morn, it must be gay sex [which is just north of Middlesex].

Hmm, considering I was only posting to bump down the rah-rah-rah-ness of yesterday's post (yachts and royal anecdotes, and yet I'm not a Sloane [1]. How can this be?), I'm not doing to well on this "making a better impression" thing, am I?

[1] An Exeter word for a countrywide phenomenon. The type of person who has big, probably blonde, slightly windswept hair, held up with Oakleys, a penchant for padded bodywarmers and Barbours, upturned collars on Fatface/White Stuff rugby shirts (which bear slogans with puns about Cowes, Val d'Isere, Salcombe and occasionally Antigua or Barbados), shorts or trashed chinos, deckshoes or flip-flops all year round. They invariably carry anything held in one hand between their arm and body (and thus tend to choose degrees where carrying large amounts photocopied references and text books is never required), this pose being most frequently seen with copies of the Telegraph.

The type of person who uses the phrase "non-U", meaning "not one of us". Although there is a train of thought which runs that anyone who uses said phrase is distinctly non-U (we'll ignore the fact that to work that out one uses "non-U", and thus becomes "non-U") [2]. Their vocabulary is liable to be full of public school eccentricities, such as using "gash" for rubbish (and I can't currently think of another example).

[2] Apparently it was created by one of the Mitford sisters (although first published by Alan Ross). Google. Though there's part of me that wonders about the Betjeman poem included here. What should one say instead of "fork"? [I'm just trying to think of the alternatives, and failing]. Unless the point is the ridiculousness of eating pastries with a fork.

It's all very odd. The article I link to above debates whether upper class English people would prefer "mahoganized" or "imitation mahogany". A. "-ised" vs "-ized". B. They wouldn't bother. Mahogany is mahogany, anything less is IKEA. Sorry, I'm just riled by Americans decreeing what English people should say - especially as they're mostly terms that don't exist here.

It is odd (well not really) that "employé" has become "employee", and presumably the pronunciation has changed with the spelling. Does this mean blasé and cliché should become blasee and clichee? Um, well, as they're pronounced so they end in "-ay", I doubt it. By the way, what is the official stance on "clichéd"? I know the original French structure suggests it's already in the past-tense, but this is English, and there has to be some means of differentiating between the noun and the adjective.

Oh hang on, the whole point of the U-ness argument is that being non-U requires caring about being non-U. So sod it all, and I'm going to do what I damn well like (and be as clichéd as I like. And do I even have to spell that with an accent?).

Update: to the person requesting an explanation of the poem, here's what I think the alternative version should be:
How To Get On In Society One shouldn't worry about such things.

Phone for the fish knives, Norman Ring or call. One doesn't use fish knives (don't know why just not the done thing, though follow your wont). Norman, pretty much a QEDer.
As cook is a little unnerved; Upset [I'm not sure this is preferable. Maybe it should be "cross"].
You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes Children. Napkins. Serviettes are those paper things, which one wouldn't use.
And I must have things daintily served. A bit twee.

Are the requisites all in the toilet? Paper. Loo or lavatory.
The frills round the cutlets can wait Cutlets are not good, decorating them like Christmas trees is worse.
Till the girl has replenished the cruets Probably "servant", or by name. Filled. Salt and pepper, sauces, condiments (nearly as bad), whatever, as long as it's called by the name.
And switched on the logs in the grate. Lit. "Switched on" suggests an electric fire pretending to be a log fire - definitely not done.

It's ever so close in the lounge dear, Clammy, muggy, stuffy, humid, hot. Sitting room. Only call someone "dear" if you're being patronising (which no-one would ever intend to be).
But the vestibule's comfy for tea Hall (only churches have vestibules). Anything but comfy (perhaps comfortable). I can't see what's wrong with tea, in the right context (ie, being tea the drink, with accompanying cakes or light sandwiches, served at teatime - about 4 ish).
And Howard is riding on horseback Riding means on horseback, unless applied to couples.
So do come and take some with me Sounds generally a bit twee, and slightly too "oh yes, let's do".

Now here is a fork for your pastries Use suitable implements when eating. This can include your hands for certain foods.
And do use the couch for your feet; Settee or sofa. And don't put you feet up.
I know that I wanted to ask you- Just ask the question.
Is trifle sufficient for sweet? Dessert. And probably "enough" or "suitable" instead of "sufficient". Trifle's a bit dodgy in some company, but do whatever you want.

Milk and then just as it comes dear? I'm not sure if this is a reference to age-old war over whether one puts milk in first or after pouring out the tea. If it is, then the milk goes in second (because teabags that get coated in cold milk don't work so well, although possibly this rule wasn't designed for people making it in mugs). Also this avoids pouring milk into too many cups and then wondering what to do with it. There's also probably some argument based on the cooling of the first bit of tea effecting the taste, but I don't know it, and don't really care (not really a great fan of tea). I've come to realise that the reason people serve tea on trays which contain massive amounts of matching porcelain, including a milk jug and sugar bowl, is not to flaunt their ability to buy matching crockery - it's because it's much easier to let people help themselves than to remember who has milk, who has sugar, and how much of each they have. And if they ask for low calorie sweetener, just glare down your nose at them, and say you don't have any.
I'm afraid the preserve's full of stones; Don't apologise for what you serve. Jam - preserves include tomato ketchup, and when applied to fruit based concoctions, it usually means "I tried to make jam, but it didn't come out too well". I'm not sure if pits or pips is preferable to calling them stones, or if one shouldn't serve jam with bits in. But I like the bits in raspberry jam, so again do whatever you prefer.
Beg pardon, I'm soiling the doileys A. It's "I beg your pardon", which is sub-par to "excuse me" (some people prefer "I say" as an attention seeker, although they do sound at bit too 1930s). B. Don't use "pardon" - pardoning is usually reserved for death warrants. C. Unless it's actually soil, or possibly nightsoil, it's not soiling. D. What is the point of a doiley?
With afternoon tea-cakes and scones. I always thought scone was pronounced to rhyme with gone, not stone. Or your could confuse both sides and call them a "scoons".

But then what would I know, being irredeemably middle class (and from the Home Counties too, shock horror), from a family that specialises in gradual social descent.


PS. MS Word does not know "twee", and thinks there is no "e" in doiley. In the latter case, I don’t really care.

So much for getting away from class based issues...

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Isn't it amazing how a person can be asleep whilst still murmuring "I'm still listening"?

My brother dropped in as he was passing by - post Cowes, he won quite a lot of races, and won in two classes (and somehow gained a huge flag to prove it). Typical him. Though the yacht apparently contained a ridiculous amount of experienced sailors - including someone who was "politely" asked to move away from the entrance to a royal sailing club, as the Duke of Edinburgh would be passing through. The be-blazered great and the good line up to greet him, and as the Duke ambles along, shaking hands and muttering his hellos, he fleetingly looks up, and sees this shabby looking man at the back. The DoE then cries out "Oh X, hello, how are you?". The commodore of the club looks mortified. The commodore and his underlings didn't know X (whom they had shooed away) had sailed on the DoE's yacht for 5 years - and the only mention he makes of it runs thus:

In a race, approaching a buoy with which the Duke had made contact the previous year, his tactician gives the following advice to the Duke. "We're coming up to the Blackdown [1] buoy, sir, which, as you may recall, you hit last year, sir"..."Sir, now I'd like you to steer two ticks to starboard, sir"..."Sir, 5 ticks to starboard, if you will, sir"..."Sir, ten ticks to starboard please, sir"..."Sir, hard a-starboard sir"...[The DoE] "Well bugger me, I've done it again".

[1] This name has been conveyed by 2 dyslexics, one of whom was probably drunk when he heard it, and the other has no idea what it should be, and as such shouldn't be taken as the actual name of the relevant buoy, merely indicative of a certain buoy.

The DoE also apparently, whilst sailing with a camera crew on board, messed something up and went down the companionway to vent his anger beyond the reach of the cameras. Except he was wearing a radio-microphone. His outburst included a string of variations on obscenities, such as "fucking fucketty fuck fucked" followed by something utterly mundane like "beachballs" [the grapevine breaks down on the precise wording].

And here was I thinking that being on the same island Prince Harry was reputedly on, and being near enough to get annoyed with the paparazzi helicopters [2], was doing quite well. That and going to uni with Princess Anne's son [did Sports Science (euphemism, euphemism), and according to the dinner queue gossip, the least objectionable thing about him is that "he's a bit short"].

[2] Well apparently he was on a boat fishing off the coast, according to staff in restaurants on different sides of the island (I wasn't sure if it was just one waitress winding up the tourists, but getting other people to corroborate stories would be too much effort for something so minor). Ok so a quick news search reveals nothing, except that he's supposed to be in Scotland at some point, and given Alderney isn't all that handy for Scotland, perhaps it was just a well planned hoax. But there was something interesting the helicopters.

Anyway, so yes, my brother was here, yes, he asked about my sailing, yes, I talked at him for ages, and yes, he very nearly fell asleep. But then he had probably worked harder on his sailing trip.

And while playing round on sailing websites (actually looking up bus routes, when the images are stored on a printing specialist's website, and said specialist happens to sponsor sailing stuff, and we sailed past their main boat in Gosport, and also saw her sailing by Cowes), I happened to discover that one of the people I went to uni with has won a scholarship with them. Bloody BMCs. Oh, sorry, hurrah, well done that girl.

And why am I being ambiguous about it? If you know any of the relevant bits (which are, to a certain extent, common knowledge), you can figure out who I'm talking about. Ok so this assumes you know what it is boat sponsors do, which given Skandia [Cowes Week], for example, isn't that likely. At least Aberdeen Asset Management [the Boat Race, so not actually sailing] make it obvious.

Scan of part of the A-Z coverAnd speaking of printing (well I was two paragraphs ago, albeit briefly), I've been playing with the new scanner. So far I've managed to create a copy of the front cover of an A-Z, which is about 200kb. 1200dpi is quite detailed. The bit to right is a section of the cover about 2 millimetres wide. I hadn't even noticed the dirt on it, and can only just make out the dottiness.

Hang on, it's not as a gif or a jpg, so you might have to wait to see the results of it.

JPGed it now. It's not as clear, but you should get the point. Except the filehost's compression system has fudged it a bit more.

Prizes for telling me where it is. Ok, so prizes might consist of immortality in the comments section, but still it's better than nothing. Immortality in this context means until a computer somewhere crashes, gets reset, gets a virus, or someone presses the wrong button. Or I cack up the code.

Ok so it's not that hard as it's on the front cover of 3 different A-Z's, and how many green bits are there anyway?

I'm off to play with the scanner.

Oh dear, I've now got 95kbs worth of "this revolution is for display purposes only" (it was graffiti on the boarding over an arch under the bridge out of Cannon Street, by Vinopolis). My brother and I happened to see it, having hurried past it the other way. We both laughed, and then wondered how many other people just don't see it. Judging by the crowd, most people. I took a picture, thinking it was a bit silly to do so. But it's gone now, so maybe it wasn't that silly.


Saturday, August 14, 2004

Golly, I was a little bundle of happy happy joy joy yesterday, wasn't I?

It's just me, not liking change, but also realising I'd prefer a much bigger change.

I've just been to recce the new office (and see if my car still works). The office is helpfully inside another company's building, and there's a list of inhabitants in the foyer [Hello to whoever watches the security videos, and so will have several minutes of pure comedy genius as I try to peer through the glass doors]. The list does not include the people I'm supposed to be working for. This is not good. I wander round the rest of the estate (accompanied by whirring cameras) to see if they're in a different building. They're not (though the competition are just the other side of that fence).

Going back to the car, I realise I've left all the paperwork back in the house (in a neat bundle sitting somewhere obvious so I wouldn't forget it). Hmm, Oh well. Now to figure out how to get home. Option 1 is nasty roundabout followed by a dual carriageway that is two sides of a triangle. Option two is the nasty roundabout, followed by doing a traffic light controlled u-turn, then on to a meandery road through umpteen industrial estates, which ends in a savage attempt to join the one way system [you join on the left and need the far right lane. Thank god for congestion]. And then out of town via a road that is currently breeding bus-sized roundabouts [does anyone still attempt to stay in lane? Nope. Do some people get so pissed of that they drive over the lowered curb in the middle that's there to let lorries turn? Yes. Do people think "it used to be a nice road"? Yes]. Option three is the same roundabout, followed by dual carriageway, then a right turn on lights that take forever. And then driving along a long straight road with masses of parked cars, and then into the one way system.

The one way system in options 2 and 3 is currently subject to roadworks and massive delays (they've finally decided that after years of having two lanes marked and three lanes of traffic, that perhaps altering that bit of road so there's 3 proper lanes [each corresponding to a main road out of town] might be a good idea).

Back at home I check the paperwork. The building was the right one. The address even says "C/O...". Ok, so the building did have a sign outside saying "fully furnished offices. From £X per person" [where X is on a lump of board that's been stuck on top of the original price. I've no idea if it's bigger or smaller than the old price]. There's nothing quite like one's employers renting anonymous offices virtually by the hour to make you think it's all a bit fly-by-night.

One upside to all though - at least having to get there insanely early will mean the one-way system's unlikely to be solid.

In other news: Does anyone know why there was a stats spike on Monday? I can't see anything new or different, but it's a bit too big to be just fluke.

While playing round with stats and referrers, I pop back to RO'D's blog. In response to this post: I got a shock from turning off a gluegun at the mains when the plug had been sprayed with water, when I was 9-ish [who thought putting an electrical socket next to a sink was a good idea? Especially in a primary school classroom]. It hurt, my arm went all limp and spasmy (like when one brushed the electric fence round the back of the school, whilst feeding the horses in the field behind. I think the electric fence was supposed to stop us feeding them. It worked, as you can tell). I went to tell the teacher. He'd been having a bad day, and so when this slightly shaken, and therefore a bit timid, child came up to him muttering something, he announced "I don't want to know" and walked out of the room. That's all-singing, all-dancing deputy heads for you.

It hurt a bit and my arm felt strange, but otherwise I was fine [despite having about half the class asking me about it, and them splitting into two camps, of those who were trying to tend to me, and those who were looking a bit ill, having figured out how serious it might have been]. It was nearly the end of the day, and so when school finished I walked home.

When my mother got home (she taught at the same school, but I didn't like waiting for her), I told her. She rang the doctor, who seemed a bit stumped as to what to say [there may have been a "take a couple of paracets and go to bed" in there somewhere. Though being under 12 it probably should have been 1/2 an aspirin].

The next morning when I came in, I got yelled at by my teacher. Which was nice. Apparently I should have told him. He didn't seem to want to remember that I had tried and he walked out. I gathered later that a couple of friends from the same class had marched straight into the head's office as soon as we finished, and told him what happened, including his deputy buggering off (possibly they wouldn't have used that phrase, but the two involved can be pretty forthright).

The teacher involved lasted another year, before leaving to pursue "other interests". Meaning he was newish, pretty crap at his job, hyped up his CV too much, full of management strategy rubbish, wasn't very nice, was a bit dim, wasn't all he claimed to be, kept cocking things up, in some cases being frankly dire, and really wasn't right for the school [I think he was teetering from my shock onwards]. Oh and by the way, this is obviously confidential, being picked up from staff-room gossip (being a teacher's son has it's advantages).

So, yes, it's sort of happened (and there wasn't very much water, just a few scattered drops). Never had someone's eye out though.

Oh, and while I'm astatsing - hello to whoever it was from the Ukraine, and the person from Saudi Arabia.

Anyway, I'm off to A. Play with the scanner, and start internetising my pics of various travels. B. Watch DVDs I've bought but not had time to watch. C. Listened to new CDs which are equally unused. D. Arse about on the internet. E. Go and do something healthy in the sunshine. F. Read more Moby Dick (it's perked up a bit). G. Do washing and general tidying. H. Catch up on all the blog posts that are less than half written. I. Start catching up on emails, and then look up and notice it's dark. J. Watch the Olympics. K. Watch the Olympics, but get bored and start flipping round, ending up either watching some aged film, BBC News 24 (until I know the scripts off by heart), or watch TFM or The Hits in vain, hoping there'll be some decent music along soon [1]. L. Write lists endlessly.

[1] Who am I kidding? Somehow I semi-like that scandirock thing "Funeral of hearts". Yes, it's dire, yes, it's goth by numbers (just use the words: funeral, death, heart, love, flame, cruelty. Anything fleurs du mal really. Preferably sung by a deepish voice that can't quite hit the high notes), and yes, it's liked by a freind's little sister. The signs aren't good are they?. Well, at least I'm not a Busted [2] fan, unlike the friend of my older brother. But then he is an actuary.

[2] Who deserve to be Satan's charcoal, simply for doing the theme song to a crap[3], live action, film version of Thunderbirds. And then to make the song itself abysmal...

[3] That's "crap" as in: I haven't actually seen it, but it looks it, and by rights it ought to be, and so it is and will be forever more, regardless of its actual merit. Which is a good an argument as society has ever needed.


Friday, August 13, 2004

Picture of Peter RabbitOh huzzah.

Not only have I spent the day with any nearby wall pulsating, whilst being very tired and absolutely clueless as to what time it is (getting up at 3:30am to catch the tide yesterday - don't do it kids), but now I've been offered a slight adjustment to work, which entails me starting work at 6am for the next few months (it was either that or starting at 2pm and running late into the night). I'm not sure I actually even want this newer job, but it's money I suppose.

And of course all people starting the new system have to do so on Wednesday. Which is right in the middle of my cunningly extended holiday.

And I just phoned to confirm it.

Bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger.

It's for the best really.

I'm sure I won't be saying that when I'm running late at 5:30am, and it's bloody well dark.

And of course it does sound mind-numbingly boring.

Anyone got a life they wouldn't mind swapping? I've got one going: socially inept male, who doesn't get out enough, and worries people when he does. Has a history of making a mess of things, but pretending it isn't happening until it's too late. Disorganised dyslexic, who doesn't like asking for help (and gets very annoyed when he finally does and then doesn't get any). Probably prone to bouts of depression, but see the ignoring problems thing above.

Sorry for not being happy, but I'm tired, and realising that I don't want to do this, but the moment I don't have a choice. Maybe it might make me annoyed enough that I get round to pissing off to Australia for a year or something. Or maybe I'll still see that option as running away, with the added advantage of being back where you started in a year's time, with nothing to show for it [not that I'm gathering "show for it" points at the moment, but that might change, said he kidding himself for the 3rd year running].

And it just bloody well rained heavily, and my washing's out.

And how's this for an omen. Next week I start having to be up insanely early. I haven't been able to find my watch all day, and my body clock is screwed.

The only bright spot of my day was shopping in Sainsbury's and being flirted with by the checkout cashier (who was literally checking me out). Shame he was male. [Note to self. Do not be seen buying quiche, especially not when loose-limbed with tiredness].

The quiche was both reduced and on multibuy, so they worked at a pound each, because the offer-reduction is already preset into the computers, so buying reduced stuff on offer can be very cheap - there was one occasion when they paid me to buy two pizzas. (Someone reputedly used the same technique to make £50 on bananas in Tesco's. Tesco's were less than pleased by this, especially as he cleared there entire stock, and then dumped it outside the front door, with a big label saying "Free").

And speaking of people who know a good deal when they see one: an article in the Daily Telegraph about the RAF's new guns [free registration might be required].

Also from the Telegraph [I was looking up my brother's Cowes Week results, ok? And yes I do know what that sentence sounds like] - Presenting Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit. Starring Mr McGregor, the gardener; Peter Rabbit, the mischievous bunny; Flopsy, his sister; Mopsy, another sister; and Cottontail, the twisted firestarter.

Though checking the spelling of McGregor lead me to this. And now I'm back in a happy state of child-like innocence (though I always thought Peter got away lightly).

Completely unrelated (well I didn't see any rabbits): Cas-Av published (while I was away) a set of pictures of the Millennium Dome, which look remarkably like the ones I took when I wandered around there at the end of July (well they would, wouldn't they?). Go and check them out, and see what you make of them [meaning I still haven't done the write up].

[Remembering there's still washing sitting in the machine, thus disappearing]


Thursday, August 12, 2004

Picture of my handJe suis retourné.

Et je suis knackeré, un peut brulé par le soliel, et needé une haircuterai [embarassing tan lines looming]. Aussi j'ai découvert les endroits que je n'ai jamais connus existé. Comme les "surprisingly easy to lose people on" Ilses Chausey.

But the full write up can wait (er, just like the Edward Hopper, and the Tapas weekends are still waiting. What difference does a month make?).

And it's all a bit bewildering. I come back to remember there's bugger all food [not counting the yellow, dripping thing in the fridge], the garden is looking a bit droughted, yet strangely battered, I can't find various things, and somehow there's now a scanner attached to this computer. I have no idea how to use it, so I'm off to experiment.

You might hear from me in about 27 scans of my left hand's time.

Adding to the bewilderment (I was seeking out something to replace the alternating loop of David Gray and the Marriage of Figaro that's stuck in my head) is Triple J [Aussie Yoof Radio] playing a song that references Leonard Cohen [he of the "just kill yourselves now" voice] and Cities of Gold [possibly not the cartoon]. It's Iodine by Dallas Crane. Oh and that's sung "ay-eye-oh-dye-n".

It didn't help the Australian disk jockey had me thinking the name was "Dollars Crying". Bloody whiney nasal accents.

I'm off to forget what it was that I was doing.


Sunday, August 01, 2004

I am Spartacus!

Er, actually, I think you'll find he's the guy over there, in the tights.

Yesterday evening was definitely a break from the norm. As a birthday treat for my brother and I, our parents took us to see the ballet. Yes, that sentence does say what you think it says.

I think it started as a whim of my mother's and having two recent birthdays was just a convenient justification.

Once I got past the joy of being in the back of my parents' car, whilst they discover the A3 is closed at the A244 [cue: Where is the 244? Much shouting over maps, and out of date street atlases, we find it's just before Esher. Which means finding an alternative route. My parents turn off, and seek out the old A3. And then argue about whether they're going the right way.

Ok, so they think they've found the right road [Me: but the A3's the A3, so I'm lost without the endless bypasses], now all they need to figure out is where to go on it. How far is the A3 closed beyond Esher? I suggest finding local radio, and get duly ignored. More shouting. My parents are expert at having pointless rows. Knowing my mother spoke to him earlier, I ask what my brother's doing. He's at home. Right, so couldn't you ring him and get him to look up on the AA website to see what's going on? Oh. Cue mobile action.

For some reason I get handed to phone to speak to him [after my mother's squawked about not being able to hear him. Try not pressing the Volume Down button], and have to navigate him through the website [worryingly, I can picture it]. It's closed from the A244 turning. Yes, we know that. Something about Hinchley slip road. I don't know where that is, but it's a slip road, it's not important. And it's closed till the Tolworth Junction? Is that including it or not? Until? Ok.

More shouting. Apparently we're going to the Hinchley place. My father, in an effort to prove he knows where's he's going, picks the name of a road we pass, and says, "we're going to Claygate". Mother claims it's in the wrong direction. My father carries on this bluster, rather than admit he made it up [Hint for next time: pick the name of the road you're on, as you leave a town. Not the name of a side road that leads behind you, as you enter the town]. I suggest turning round back to the main road we were on, so my parents drive on, arguing.

We pass Sandown race course, with my mother and I discussing if it's the one you can see form the train. Cue long thing in Stagecoach livery slipping between the far trees. That'll be a yes then. A couple of miles on, my father sees a viaduct, and seems surprised to know the railway's there. Er, it has been since...oh never mind.

My father predicts we need to turn left up ahead, where that Volvo just came out. We get to it. Oh, not this left. Nor the next one, nor the one after that. And so on until we get into the town centre. We go right.

I'm hopelessly lost in a sprawl of endless towns (there could at least be one token feild to let you know that one has finished, and now it's onto the next one). My parents are in full "Oh it's here. So-and-so used to live....there" mode.

And then suddenly it's out past the incongruous 60s lump (good cracking), and out onto an empty A3. Accelerate. Remember the speed limit and the fact they bother having cameras on this bit. Drive on for a while, and turn off at Morden. And then onto the Park and Ride for London. And because we're late, we don't have to pay for parking.

An endless Northern Line later, complete with drunk people, and having to explain to my mother why changing at Kennington would be good, and we hit Leicester Square. Slight confusion as I try to remember which way is west (for our purposes, the wrong way). And once again my father lapses into his shepherd mode. He's not a particularly good shepherd, he just shouts, and treats people like an errant sheepdog. It has always annoyed me - usually because I know damn well where he and everyone else I need to know about is [and I suspect i have far more of an idea of what's going on than he does: which is probably why he insists on bellowing at me across a crowded hall, when I'm fairly tall, there aren't that many people, and I'm all of 6-feet away].

Following the signs for Covent Garden (where's that name from?), we surface, and being us, go into our streamlined walking-on-a-crowded-path-pavement [streamlined in that my brother, my mother or I lead, the others follow close behind, and my father ambles along in the turbulence]. The key is to give every sign of not having noticed the people ahead [staring over their shoulders at somewhere way off helps], and of having too much momentum to stop in time if they don't move out of the way. Only German tourists seem immune from reacting [until my mother guided one out of the way, using the elbow he stuck in her face. He didn't say anything]. You can see how pickpockets get away with it, as so many people look surprised and confused as everyone else seems to flit past.

So a series of Red Sea moments, and occasional kerb-balancing diversions between street furniture and parked taxis, and once again my father hits the panicked foghorn. Slamming to a halt, he insists we must cross the road. My mother goes over and complains there isn't a sign to Covent Garden on the sign post. My father insists it's this way - we're at a junction with about five or six exits. Continuing further on, he's maintaining it's right, my mother doesn't know, and I'm walking straight on. My father gives in, and comes to catch us up. Only once he's in the middle of the junction does he notice the cycle-lane sign that shows it as straight on. The sign that I'd seen before he started shouting.

We get there, coming out by the underground station. I start to seriously wish the performers would pick one side of the street for them all to perform on, so then the passing traffic doesn't have to go round their respective circles of crowds. My charge at the crowd, and it will part plan doesn't work where I can't go in a straight in, and can't build up sufficient headway.

And then it's play "hunt the brother". Which we start to do. I start to do it the old fashioned way, and my father rings my brother. As he does so he says "I'm at X". When X is a hundred metres back thataway, and he's still walking away. Once again I'm back to being the sheepdog [I hadn't lost them. I've had enough experience of them wandering off because they're talking to someone or seen something, in supermarkets, sailing clubs, fetes and boat shows to know how to keep track of them; or failing that, how to find them], and we go up to where my brother is waiting. Which is right outside the Royal Opera House, which is where we're going.

We go in to collect tickets, and then back out to eat our picnic. Our picnic not being much, but still being more than is ideal given the circumstances. My mother's plan of finding a lawn for a leisurely meal collapsed about the time we learnt about the A244 [and it was dubious before then, as timing has never been this family's strong point]. So after an attempt at perching on gate (with wheels on, hence just the attempt), we stand in a huddle, with my brother clutching things. And then of course, there's the lorry battling through the constantly tinging rickshaws, and stopping by the gate. Half-eaten sandwich in one hand, bags and clothing in the other, we shuffle out of the way.

The lorry driver unlocks the gate, and comes through. It must be a nightmare to deliver to places round here. The driver left the keys for the gate sitting there whilst he moves the lorry, and left the lorry with the engine running (and thus the keys in it) whilst he unlocked and locked the gate. How many times has someone tried to get away with one or the other? Ok, so stealing the lorry would be hard, as there's too many people who would go under the wheels (unless that's your intent), and for sheer nuisance factor, some drunken person would find nicking the lorry's keys funny. And having keys to the gate could come in handy.

Finishing our food, we go in. First through the checking tickets and bags section (they don't really seem to care I have two illicit bottles of water, and pair of binoculars packed with explosives. Maybe it's the M&S Food bag that did it). Either that or they know our seats are so far out that any explosion would only just be heard on stage.

Searching out where we need to go is slightly confusing - there's a myriad of steps, lifts, and kinks in the corridor. This isn't helped by my mother saying it's Auditorium Right we want, when in fact it's Amphitheatre Right. Despite this she still gets a lift that doesn't go to the auditorium, and only when she doesn't see the right button does she check the tickets. To be helpful, the floors in the ROH aren't labelled in any normal way, for example the B is for Bar, or possibly Balcony, neither of which are in the basement. I can't remember what G was, but it wasn't on the level of the ground floor. And I have absolutely no idea what the "Crush Room" is.

We go up, and find our seats, my brother and I deciding that stepping between rows is easier that forcing your way past old women who can't get up. We're right at the back of the amplitheatre, in what one thinks of as the Gods. Because we're so far back, the row behind us finishes midway along, and so there's a handy shelf to dump stuff behind our heads.

And then we realise we didn't get a programme. My brother is duly dispatched to get some (or just the one depending on the price). He reappears with two, there's much clucking about them being £7 each, but for that you do get the first ad being for Rolls-Royce.

Scanning through it, we hit the synopsis bit. Oh, we must in a theatre, there's revision involved. So those who don't know the plot, watch the film. Failing that: Thrace[1] invaded. Spartacus and Phrygia captured. But Spartacus won't go easily into slavery [what a surprise]. The slaves are seperated in the market place into male and female. S and P aren't too keen on this. P mopes. The Orgy - Crassus, leader of the Roman Army, is making merry with Aegina, his mistress. One of the slave performers catches his eye - guess what, it's Phrygia. Mid-orgy, two gladiators are sent for to fight blindfolded [death is such a turn-on]. The victor is revealed to be Spartacus. Spartacus doesn't like having killed someone. He persuades the other gladiators to revolt. Breaking off their chains, they flee.

[1] No, I don't know where. And no jokes based on thrice, splice, mace, thrash, etc.

The band of revolters grows. Spartacus wants freedom and Phrygia. S fins P, never to be separated. They hide from a procession on its way to Crassus's feast. Aegina wants power over Crassus, so she can be a successful social climber. Crassus's feast celebrates him. Spartacus surrounds the palace, Crassus flees. Spartacus happy, victory will soon be his. Crassus taken prisoner, Spartacus duels with him, and wins, but shows mercy and lets him flee.

Aegina needs Crassus to win, so stokes him up. Aegina has a cunning plan. S and P's happiness crumbles when they learn of Crassus's army approaching - much of gladiator army flees. Spartacus foresees his own death, but chooses death in battle over captivity. Aegina brings Spartacus's army "wine and whores". They succumb, and are captured. Crassus needs revenge. Spartacus's army are surrounded and killed, Spartacus dies beleiving in the cause [because it matters once you're dead]. Phrygia finds his body, but knows his bravery has given him immortality.

Yes, that was cribbed out of the programme, and yes, the plot's a bit dodgy, and a bit dappy in places.

Damn, I'm running out of time. Basically it was pretty good. Some of the corps de ballet [bit part-ers], were less good, and couldn't move as well, but that's why they're not the leads. I wondered if they practised it on a bigger stage, as there were several near misses, and occasional actual contact between dancers and set, and sometimes each other. There was also a net used as a curtain, before the black backdrop fell, which may or may not have been going wrong - it was a loop supported at both ends, but it crumpled on the ground, and the hoops holding it onto the ropes were showing, in staggered line across the back.

Comical bits: the goosestepping Romans, who obviously are unaware of the work of John Cleese; The Orgy - the women get lain on the ground, and recline gracefully, whilst the men go into a frenzy of thudding around palm-punching the air and generally looking like they're about to play for the All Blacks, in a Cossacky way - very "you just lie there, and I'll bounce up and down a bit" (of course this was intercourse from a distance of 6 feet); Some of the slave traders had a little problem with their wips (and some were never in time. Once again the Bollywood effect: all action must be from the other side of the stage); the slaves could move awfully well considering they were shackled; one of the Roman standards kept getting tangled as it was twirled; people come on in red sashes - ah 'tis the international symbol for wine and whores; Aegina going literally weak at the knees whilst playing with a man's big pole between her legs during the W&W scene (she also kept raising her leg up to about 45o, and then bending it at the knee slightly, and then straightening it back out. Symbolism anyone?); The bows at the end, and one of the ballerinas dumping her bouquet on the floor, which then caused problems for the tides of people coming back and forth to bow (she still hadn't picked it up by the end); the Irish woman next to me who shook her head every so often (either she saw lots of mistakes, or she was just overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. I don't know which); Me jumping between seating levels, to avoid clambering past immobile old women. I didn't realise it the floor was quite there; the attendant leaving a bit of paper on our stuff, which was behind us, saying "Please do not cause alarm by leaving bags unattended at any time. A free cloakroom is provided". Result: We now know the cloakroom is free, that the woman behind us is going to be confused when the attendants accosted her, and the Royal Opera House very kindly put little paper messages on top of one's bomb thus ensuring no-one moves it.

I generally didn't get the meaning of the monologues (other than mournful), but that's because I haven't studied ballet, and so don't know the language of movement, and pick up the clues [hence when it was one of the girls just milling, I started watching the flautists chatting in the orchestra). I also have an amazing ability to be looking at the wrong person as something special happens.

Wow moments: Spartacus doing huge spinning jumps, which given how far away we were, and how high up we were, must have been pretty impressive [reactions - someone Bravo'd, my mother says she ought to have said that instead of muttering "Blimey", and I think I Woah'd]; A sword being used in a fight is let fall from Crassus's hand - it jams upright in the stage with a wobble, and the man who has to to remove it has difficulty. That's one heavy and sharp sword, to be dancing round with; Spartacus' death, when he is flung up upon a raft of spears (yes we know two of them were carefully crossed, and that at the back there were a couple of guys holding his feet)

Clapping frenzy: increased after the first interval (presumably the effects of the drinks). I tend to be of the opinion there'll be clapping at the end, so can't we just wait? No, is the answer, though I don't think I was the only person who was annoyed by the guy who started clapping mid-difficult bit, and then people carried on for ages whilst the sequence finished. You wait till the break, and the conductor knows how the crowd is reacting and whether a slight pause is needed. One heck of a lot of clapping - during the performance, at every interval (repeatedly), and then at the end (endlessly). Numb digits.

The end result being that I now know ballet isn't as bad as I thought it was (though little girls swanning round in Swan Lake might still be going too far), and is quite fun in a slightly awe-struck, slightly jealous, and slightly pantomimey way. I also know that feet can make a lot of different noises. And that people en point still looks painful.

The way back, via a very hot Charing Cross, was pretty uneventful.

And I suppose if one must go and see the ballet, it may as well be the Bolshoi.

Links: ROH, Bolshoi. And just because: the film (apparently the ballet's from a book).

Sorry, if the part of this that should have been the detailed part is too brief, but I've run out of time, and need to be doing other stuff. I'm also about to disappear for a while, so anything new on here is unlikely till about the 16th (and possibly not then, depending how stuff works out).


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