Sunday, February 27, 2005

Wanderer sail markingSunday morning, so it must be stats time. But first I went off to Technorati, to see what I could see (from the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea? Just me then?). Lo and behold, there is a new site linking to me, with the words: Let's see how long it takes him to see that this page links to his. Wonder what the German word for the day should be?

Oh, could it be that the wanderer returns? But clicking onto the linked site,, takes me straight to the FP (after a "Seite nicht gefunden"). So it looks as though that was possibly a mirage, and the wanderer is still a boat a bit like a wayfarer, but smaller.

And in answer to whoever it is on the German site, it apparently took me 13 days, but I know I've checked Technorati since then and nothing new has come forward.

Googling for the distinctive part of the name only brings up North Fulton Regional Hospital.

Yuri, wo sind sie?


Oscar - Academy AwardEarlier in the week I had a row about whether "Without prejudice" works as a legal opt-out. It appears my opposing force was not the only one hoping to find a way out of anything. Read the small print in this post by Ryan [you may need to copy and paste it].

One has to admire the sheer effort it took to put all that together. Although he forgot all important "This item may contain nuts", the all American "This knife may be sharp in places" and the all oppressive "This is not a toy".

The row wasn't really about whether correspondence could be quoted in court, but whether the phrase gave the writer carte blanche. It was much more to do with the tone of the letter than the initial phrase. I think the row only cropped out because I was asked to check over the letter, and sent it back so it plotted the movements of a crack team of sheepdogs herding up the stray punctuation. Odd commas in some parts of an address but not in others is annoying. But using an ellipsis is worse, especially when the poor typing breaks the punctuation's back, and spreads it over two lines, so there's an abandoned full stop on a line of its own, and colon drunkenly sprawled at the feet of the last word.

As for the rest of Ryan's post, I've only heard of the Pet Shop Boys, so can't really comment (although I have to agree wetsuits can be flattering, just not on me).


Saturday, February 26, 2005

Developing spoolReasons not to enter the diplomatic service, number 23: When discovering where someone lives, one responds: "Oh, the ones that flood?"

But I almost compensated for it by loading her two films, which she couldn't do. I have also finally learnt to open the spirals the films are loaded onto. And on the third film, remembered in time to put it back together properly.

It's very odd working in the dark: my eyes stay open in the hope of light, except when I have to think about spatial things, when I shut them, which I do when there is light. Due to a lack of tutor time (she was tending to a paperjam in light-tight printer) we developed the films largely on our own, guided mostly by the instructions on the bottles and my memory.

Oddly enough, it worked (I even remember the Fairy at the end). It wasn't helped by asking how much concentrated developer we needed, and being told it's one in nine, when the labelled reads 1+9. Fortunately we made that mistake with the fixer in our first development, so I check this time round.

Although I do wonder about people who know full well that I am me, I did a science degree, and I can be fairly competent at most things, and yet persist in asking, when I volunteer to make up the necessary solutions, including getting them to the right temperature, and get a string of comments such as "are you sure?" and "will you be alright with that?"

Come on, there's lack of confidence, and there's incompetence; these are not the same.

Strangely the two of us developing films were the only people who had done the homework, which now means the homework has been extended for week. People complained they had 72 shots to get through, but they also had two weeks to do it in. So it's not at a great rate than before. One of the films was even easier to get through than normal, as we had to take two images of each item of interest. After all what is the point of paying to do a course, and then not bothering to do an integral part of it?

And as I've just been far too distracted by the photography I borrowed the picture from [click the picture for the source], I'd better give up now.

I've just heard on a television programme on in the background, that confidentially rules mean that a patient's HIV status is not recorded on their medical notes. Which means doctors only know if a patient has been pre-diagnosed with HIV or AIDS if the patient tells them. I find this shockingly incomprehensible. How can the people responsible for treating a patient's health not be allowed to know about the health, or factors capable of radically influencing the health of a patient?

I knew South Africa's government has an odd attitude to HIV and AIDS (they claimed for a long time that HIV and AIDS were unrelated), but I hadn't realised just how ridiculously damaging this was on a local level.

So I'm going to stop now to watch this programme.


Friday, February 25, 2005

Legoland 6382 Fire StationGoogle is fallable.

Shock horror, I know, but there are actually some things it can't do. We all know it is ever so handy when it comes to converting X into Y, for example 24oC into Fahrenheit. So you'd think 180C to Gas Mark wouldn't be a problem, would it? Despite the close proximity in the following pages of Gas Mark 4 to 180 degrees C, Google just treats it the same as if I'd searched for "lopnostrilled BBC presenters in London". Ay well.

And at this point I discover Blogger has mislaid the rest of the draft. The contents were of course of such vital importance that I can no longer remember them.

Moving on. People who ring up, and before I've reached the second sentence, whisper out "Goodbye then", and hang up. My first sentence was only "Right, okay". Very not impressed, especially as it wasn't good news, but I still need to get information out of them (which the letters say they will do). Considering this woman apparently has the best interpersonal skills in that place, I still think she's damn rude, but am now really wonder about the rest of them. Perhaps my initial instincts that they were an odd bunch, and for the most part verge on the incompetent, weren't far out.

And another which has really annoyed me recently: that McDonald's advert. The one where the boyfriend is seen taking bagels back to his girlfriend who's still in bed. The girlfriend refuses to believe McDonalds do bagels. They argue, in a light-hearted way. She says, unthinkingly "Oh, I love you". Big awkward silence.

Now is it me...
But the implication is that they spent the night together. The relationship is far enough advanced that either he has keys to her place, or is willing to leave her alone in his. It's also supposed to be serious enough that breakfast in bed is an option, rather than either slinking off, or being told to bugger off.

So a coupling with a heavy dose of relationship. And yet to McDonalds, love is lethal. Nice sentiment that, to go with the nice food.

Blog link type things: Jon-boy of WS ends a list of him stuff by mentioning that he's been awake for 28 hours. The next day he classes as the worst day ever. Blame the Bentos.

And what is it about scars, siblings and thrown objects [#14]? Eyebrow, brother, and Lego fire engine in my case. You can't really see it though. And I had just sat on the fire station - which oddly I remember, although I don't remember the low flying fire engine, or the injury. I remember watching my brother playing, and because he's brother it was interesting. But my legs were tired, so I started half-sitting on the fire station, as it was about the right height, and would take some weight. I carried on watching my brother, and was so interested in what he was doing, I forgot that I supposed to be holding myself up, so I relaxed, and the fire station collapsed. This possibly is my earliest memory. And I thought only remembering my mistakes was a recent trait.

Hmm, and isn't it nice when websites decide one no longer exists. Village Photos is currently denying all knowledge in this case. So Flickr is about break out of photos and into scans (and don't ask how I got it).


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Farnborough HospitalQuick, look, while it lasts...

Casino Avenue has managed to post without ripping anyone to shreds too much.

Oh and there's some snow around in some places. But not here. This morning there was snowing lying in what I believe is technically known as "dregs". And it was snowing great guns at about 8, but some how the snow landing seemed to remove the lying snow. It's been snowing on and off all day (and typing about bad weather has once again brought the sun out). Oddly, it doesn't feel that cold, until the wind blows, and drives snow into your ears.

Having to go elsewhere today, I met with a group of people, who all sat and discussed the dreadful weather and their awful drives [instant ostracism = "I walked"]. Apparently maps are still having problems with the concept of one-way systems. It's quite amusing listening to people discussing the horrendous roads (and I don't mean weather induced problems), all whilst not pointing out that that's the nicest road round here.

It's also fairly interesting studying these people, all of whom are supposed to know the area, as they have to sell things to people round here, make comments which physically crunch as they come out of the mouth. Best quote from one of them (and they were an odd bunch) was, when everyone else was discussing football, and I was aiming for the tuna sandwiches, was someone, when encountering criticism of his support of Chelsea[1], hoping to secure his position by saying it's because he's local: his parents live there. Doesn't quite mesh with him trying to out-pleb other people in the room.

[1] It's a football club, owned by a very rich Russian. Football is the one with round black and white ball, not that American thing where they all look like Kryton on steroids.

Anyway, given we were all supposed to be experts on the area, or at least have attempted some research, about half the people there only seem to have looked up where the place was simply for the purposes of finding their way there.

One of them even asked "so what is an average X resident?", only to be surprised by the result (hint: if one asks a question, wait for the reply before jumping in with one's insight. It occasionally stops one getting it spectacularly wrong).

Although for a "for the people" place, there were a heck of a lot of snide comments. People discussing key workers, or the lack of thereof, induced by a lack of housing, and one of the comments was "Yes, we've had several letters to complain that people simply can't get a gardener or housekeeper". It's all very well making jokes, but check who your audience is first.

As for what the typical resident is, the prevailing view is that they are opinionated, nimbyistic and hypocritical, and they don't like anything from on high. But as this area has a town which claims to be a village, but has more shops than the next town over, and has other towns which declare that A, they are not in X (despite being in X), and B, they are small rural community (despite being the biggest settlement in X, and at the end of a huge section of sprawl), what can one expect? One group even got very huffy, and apparently refused to answer questions about the existence of other groups in the area, on the grounds that they were Y, and they were the voice of Y, and there is only Y (Y being a place, although God fits just as well).

The people I was meeting with seem to have got the knack of controlling things (and are coincidentally a bit of an odd bunch, and very insular). When setting up XXY policy, they got various groups to write a relevant section each. It gets collated and edited a bit, and goes back out for consultation. Most of the groups are near apoplectic, but can't really say anything, as they helped write it. These people traditionally do not believe in consensus (there is no Z but our Z).

Another person apparently had great fun setting up a consultation exercise consisting of three sections. The first was what do you like about X? The next was what are the problems with X? The third was how would you solve the problems of X?

The responses came back. If it was on paper, section three would normally be left blank. If it had been done in person, then there would be a reasonable level of [predicable] responses for the first section. The second would have copious notes. The third would either produce dropped jaws, blank faces, or the single word "Do?"

Bloody odd place really.

Speaking of which, someone Googled the related sites to somewhere I've never heard of (and haven't the foggiest idea why Google thinks we are connected. I can only guess Southern Cross) called Aquila Online. However he then manages to remind me about and article on New [sub]Urbanism.

I have to admit I find the idea of copyright existing on a work in the public domain (and paid for by public funds) a little daft. Are there machines by the windows of the neighbouring buildings, into which money can be feed whenever someone happens to look out? I understand that the city involved hold the sole license to make derived commercial materials. But that's what courts are for. If someone breaks copyright, you sue them (or threaten to do so). You don't stop people using a public space. Which is what they are doing. The people involved may be taking photographs of an artwork, but until they make money from it (or possibly spread the image, depending on the legal angle one uses), and thereby infringe the copyright, leave them to it. What if the artwork is incidental to the shot? Maybe the photographer wanted a picture of those crocuses, and to get the sunlight on the right part has to have the artwork in the background? What if the artwork is reflected in someone's sunglasses? Is it the point of the image, or is the girl in sunglasses the point of the image? But that's getting tangential. Public art in a public space. Yep that's definitely admission by appointment only.

Even the Tate aren't that up tight about photographs, although to be fair it was the building I was more interested in, and I don't have a flash, which I think is their main objection to photography. I remember going to see the weather project (big orange misty sun thing), and being amazed by the number of pale blue and green glows lighting faces in the crowd, as everyone took pictures on their phones, or sent messages saying "Guess where I am".

Anyway, reverting back to the point N[s]U cites elsewhere an article on Chicagoist, and somewhere else I've seen mentions Bostonist.

Given I've only been exposed to the London branch, and that's only when Inspector Sands feels grumpy, I had no idea the other city versions were out there, nor how they have been received elsewhere.
Other than pronunciations which either need a run up or sound like an entire sentence in French (SFist, LAist, Torontoist, Chicagoist, not forgetting cease and DCist), it's an odd mix.

From what I can tell, current news is that it's raining in Los Angeles; you can now get Gothamist t-shirts; Boston have some hoo-ha about some classy rings; Chicago has cinemas; London has cock-er-ney rhyming slang; New York has a skate fetish; San Francisco has something impenetrable about some giants; Seattle breaks the mould, and drops the i, all whilst jumping the shark; Toronto has $3 lentil soup, Washington has problems over people choosing to differentiate blogs from MSM [Main Stream Media, but I'm not sure European media organisations count as mainstream in this argument. I'm not even sure Canadian ones do either].

Ok so taking their current top story might not be the kindest sampling technique, but so far, Seattlest seem the most fun (but oddly they call the inhabitants Seattleites. To i, or not to i?).

And if you are wondering, like me, what the hell TOist is on about, perogies are apparently Slavicised ravioli, or possibly gnocchi, or just dumplings, depending on which source one reads.

Now, having somehow ended up at Clubwhirled, and been confused as hell, I think it's time to give up. (CW's like a soap, only I was reading it backwards. Oddly for a site whose name is based on a BA brand, there's no mention of London in their list of frequented places).

Very briefly, having managed to be looking out of the window as 5,000 trundle past, I thought I ought at least mark the passing of my five thousand five hundred and fifty fifth visitor (if only because it wasn't a Google Images search).

He, she or it, came here on Monday the 21st of February, at nineteen minutes and thirty nine seconds past six in the evening, using Internet Explorer version 6 Boo-Hiss (TM), and searched, using AltaVista (is that still going?), for to kill a mocking bird quiz.

And to prove just how giddily exotic the internet can be, they were using an ISP registered on the Southern Pacific island of Farnborough.

I've also just realised yesterday was the anniversary of the only people of my group at university to be married.


Monday, February 21, 2005

OHP diagramAnd another thing - people who put fax numbers at the top of letterheads, and then bury the phone number way, way down. One office round here must have a curiously high incidence of faxless calls to the fax-line, followed a minute and half later by a phone call. All this isn't helped by me having to phone someone who regularly leaves their phone on the fax-only setting, so if you wait long enough, they pick it up.

And the "and another thing" is an in-joke in our family. It comes from a neighbour many years ago. The neighbour was having a row with her husband, and one of the advantages of dodgy 60's semi-detached houses is that the people next door can hear every word of any row (and quite a few of most conversations, and would you please move your bed about half a foot into the room). Anyway, the neighbour was somewhat annoyed at her puritanical husband. However during the argument, she cited my parents as a source for one of her arguments. Both my parents had to try very hard not to shout out that actually that's not what they said. The row continues next door. It abates. But comes the renewal, starting off with "And another thing". Stifled giggles for our side of the party wall.

Ah, childhood memories.

Speaking of faded youth (faded? But I'm not that old, am I? How old am I by the way? Which year is it? Right so I must one, two, three...[quite a few more dots as well]. It's not that old. But it's older than I'd like to be). Anyway, when did snow stop being an excuse to rush to the window crying "It's snowing", and instead become a bloody nuisance? And it's not even like it's proper settling snow, it's just extra clingy rain. Yes, I have just had to pop out, only to come back with snow on my eyelashes and furrowed eyebrows. It's not romantic, it's cold and wet.

The weather of course knows precisely what I'm typing, and is now doing its best to look innocent by being gloriously sunny.

The popping out thing was for the purposes of getting OHP photocopies. My bright idea of using photographs to illustrate my point manages to suitably ignore the problems of low-resolution scanning, newspaper style printing, and then photocopying as well. Some of them would work remarkably well in those psychological tests where one is not allowed to reply "I see an inkblot."

The shop where I got this done was one of the those curious places, where one turns up, helps oneself, does whatever one wants, and then queues up to pay, but only if you feel like it. I know for the most part the sums are not huge, but they could at least put some effort into knowing what is going on. They always seem so surprised when people who have already packed whatever they want walk up and say "X sheets of Y, a couple of Z, and A colour printing on B, half a pound of semtex, oh and three lever arch files: the 3 for 2 ones."

Ok, so they might be surprised by the semtex, but then again they might say they only do 500g packs, and will you be needing a detonator with that?

Hmm, this is quite long this time on a weekday. Oh well.

Coincidentally the room is filled with golden light as they've just opened a new McDonald's next door as a host of heavenly angels appears as the sun is bouncing off a cloud in a very isn't-it-nice-out way.

Picking up the old theme, is it a good sign if, by accident, one manages to open in tabs every page in the Blog subdirectory of my Bookmarks, and having done so (and nearly killed the computer in process), one discovers just how many are erratically updated at best? Defunctdom appears to be contagious, as all the best blogs from way back seem to have petered out (with a few exceptions).

Which vaguely reminds me: did anyone see that painful Saatchi and Saatchi programme which was on a while ago? It was informative, interesting and amusing, but mostly that latter when various advertising people complain that their contagions weren't working. Er, could that be because you stuck an obvious plug for the product on the end? The best virals (the ones that still persist on my computer) are the Honda coxless [office] fours one, because other than the slightly odd sounding URL at the end, nothing suggests any product. Oh and pretty much any other Honda ad ever (the cogs, the lights, the better than Disney), and that Citroen dancing Transformer one, although these aren't virals in this country, but somehow get emailed to people in other countries, and then get emailed back here.

Hmm, I've cleaned up my computer haven't I? As somehow the only other ad I can find is one for Ralph Nader for President, from pre-Bush: The Second Coming. Which given I hadn't a clue who Mr Nader was when I got it (but then I got it from an Australian)...

But as run of the mill forwards round here tend to be either Portuguese builders cementing lampposts into buildings, stuff with boats going badly wrong, or this most recently. And I'll spare you the one from my brother's office, entitled "mass hilarity ensued". He was at least aware that someone managing to print a fax onto A1 wasn't that funny. But then he gets sent all sorts of stuff by actuaries, so he must filter out quite a bit (the actuaries spent far too long being amused by the dwarf-with-dyslexia joke, which admittedly is funny, just not 3 weeks funny).

Actually it was learning difficulties wasn't it? Wouldn't want to put dyslexics down, as that might be rather too self-deprecating.

It's snowing again, and the pretty pink light has turned brown, and now gone.

Television continued. That Adam Hart Davis thing - What Islam did for us, or similar was also quite good. As was getting bored enough to watch part of a film on BBC4. The film, Noi the Albino, didn't quite hold my attention, but it did teach me that in Iceland, egg yolks are red. The egg yolk in question was distinctly egg yolk colour, in a slightly orange yellow way, but apparently Icelandic people call them red, and odd French people call them yellow.

It's really snowing now: proper pillowfight-gone-too-far, overwhelming-by-sheer-numbers, snowing.

And by the time I finish spell checking, it's stopped.


Saturday, February 19, 2005

SaffronLast week I had to become the resident expert in Cyrillic, and now I have to take a crash course in planning (of the Town and Country type). But the only person who might help is in Australia, and is swamped (helpfully I've been told it's mostly common sense. Yes, but which bits?). So, what do you lot about know planning? It doesn't help that the people I have to talk to about it are (after some not very extensive research) apparently pretty damn incompetent. Unfortunately, of the many articles which mention them, most are so varied it's impossible to know which lines I should be reading between.

So I know there is odd stuff going on, but I'm not sure what, by whom, and on what scale. Only somehow I've now got to treat them as if they aren't dodgy, yet make sure they act as if they aren't. I also need stuff out of them.

And as for people who expect a presentation, and send out a letter revelling in TLAs [that's Three Letter Acronyms, and I thought only geneticists had this disease], several of which are meaningless, or worse, they mean something, but not what is intended. Eventually I discover that the "LCD" may or may not be a CRT (it's catching) television, and that if one wants to use it, one has to bring a laptop with appropriate cables, and no, they don't know what the fittings are.

Ah, now the only laptop I can lay my hands on is the doorstop (being a couple of tons heavier than the door), and the screen has an erratic vertical hold, yet manages to crumple several versions of the horizontal image together. So I ask if I can bring it in on a floppy and use one of their computers. Oooh, as she's not the person I was told to contact (who sent the letter out on a Friday, and promptly went on holiday for a week), she'll have to check.
She rings back, and yes I can borrow one of their computers, zip-disk okay?
Um, no. Ich habe keine zip-disk. J'ai une disquette de trois point cinq pouces seulement.
She: I might be able to get one with a CD drive.
I'm terribly sorry (though I not sure why, as a floppy isn't that archaic is it? It's hardly one of those big old really floppy disks with the bar that clicks down over the end of the BBC diskdrive, is it?), but I only have a three and half floppy. Perhaps I could email it?
Oh, I see, you're not allowed to get attachments (what kind of muppet factory do you work in?), and you can't access most of the internet, including any webmail site. God, they must trust you a heck of a lot.

She then manages to sound really pissed off when I start inquiring about OHPs. Which now means I have to find a way to print or photocopy Powerpoint slides onto acetate. I've done it before, but not round here. But as I haven't actually written the presentation proper yet (LMS, and I don't mean the railway or the teacher's pay thing).

Isn't procrastination great? It means all the odd little things which have been bugging one for months might actually get done, if only to distract from the sheer loomingness of the big bad whatever.

And switching to another topic...
Dappy girls. Who try to be officious yet nice, and can be heard turning the pages of "Manipulation for Dummies" whilst on the phone. For some reason I had to give out a private email address. Figuring that most of the stuff that goes to Hotmail remains unread, and I really must do something about that, I gave her my gmail one. "Oooh, I've not heard that before. Is it new?"
"Really? It's Google's."
"Oooh, thanks for the tip."
And then she ends on: "Stay well."

Other than the utterly irritating Oo-give-me-time-to-think-even-though-I-never-think-oooh, but, what tip was she talking about? I offered virtually no opinion on it, other than to imply I used it, which given how thick she thinks I am (when she remembers who I am, our conversations being dotted with a great many "did you?"s and "really?"s), can hardly be taken as a recommendation. As for "stay well", please do not let it be another fashionable term. Hearing that umpteen times a day is sure to either induce mental instability, or some not-quite-funny comment about ordering around about holes in the ground (I mean, have you tried playing fetch with a sewer?).

Needless to say, she didn't email me the information, and 3 days later it came in the post.

As this is the same place which spent several months asking for a copy of my passport (what the hell for? You've already got name, address, a couple of phone numbers, DOB, NI number, photograph, bank account details and enough information on me generally to completely bugger my life). They didn't seem to think that faxed copies, or posted photocopies would count, except they only said that after they asked for them. Eventually I take it in, only to have them look blankly at me. No, they don't need it. I convince them to make a copy just to be safe. I go home. I get rung up and asked to bring my passport. I say I did. They claim they haven't got anything vaguely like what they need. A while later, and eventually they admit they have a photocopy of it. But that's not good enough, as they apparently cannot accept photocopies, and need to see it in person. I say they did. Yet another "Really?" Eventually I get them to admit both I and it were physically present in their offices (and it's not my fault half the staff had adjourned to the pub were in a team meeting), and that was when one of their members of staff made the copy.

Sometimes I want to swear before I put the phone down. Which someone I know actually does. He doesn't seem to think that when calling prospective clients (and incidentally using a name which isn't the company's name), and trying to persuade them to buy stuff from him, that swearing loudly as he slams the phone down might reduce his future chances of success with that potential client. I know the chances of the repeat cold-calling working are low, but I think having a conversation like the following probably lowers it:
"Hi, this is X calling from Y. I'm calling for Z...Hi Z, this is X calling from Y. As you will remember, I rang you A months ago. You said were unable to offer Y any work then, but that we should call back in A months. It is now A months later...Ah, right, I see, so when Hell freezes over just before Christmas then? I'll call you in B months then. Goodbye now. Fucking tight whore [crash]"

And what's the one thing Z will remember in B month's time?

Speaking of odd little phrases, I found myself, whilst admittedly rather het up, typing in an email "You cannot let them uh-Houston on you."

I only noticed after I sent it. I'm worried because I hadn't been aware of using it then or ever before. And oddly, I expect the person on the other end will probably understand it without thinking it odd.

Moving, and you can tell how old some bits of this post are by the following:
Newsnight really shouldn't allow poor defenceless [middle-eastern, in this case Syrian] diplomats to be exposed to full Paxmaning. Paxman hardly had to look at the man before the contradictions rolled out. It's like nailing a mouse to the doorstep and then putting the cat out: it's just not sporting.

And am I the only person who, went presented with sushi (for some reason it's everywhere now, despite only first eating it less than a month ago), eats it all, being fairly unimpressed for the most part (I have to admit to not being a fan of fish eggs which pop in the mouth with a searing saltiness), but tends to keep the pickled ginger till last because it's so ridiculously gorgeous. I know it's meant to be a condiment, but it's the nicest taste on the plate.

Returning to a long-ignored [ir]regular feature: Banana news. The tallest leaf is now over my shoulder, but the entire thing is being perpetually invaded by greenfly. One tip for banana growers: do not place it next to one's bed. As not only will it weep onto the bed, but also one can find one wakes up, scratches one's head, and is bemused by the curiously rubbery feeling of said head. One then wakes up a bit more, and finds one very crumpled banana leaf. Oops. But apparently it's still alive.

Anyway, I'm off to wonder how many more pictures of crocuses one man can do without getting uncomfortably numb (and breaking through to insanity). Yes, I still have photographs to take, and having used for this course two previous films around the house and the town, and another last weekend of every available landscape (my fallback is Silchester, but I'm not sure there's all that much to take pictures of, beyond simply the wall), I'm running out of topics I actually want slides of (for some reason this film is a slide film. I think the tutor meant to explain why we were using it, but ran out of time).


Monday, February 14, 2005

Stay out of my way...

Well it's Valentine's Day, so what better to quote than a song of the same name? It's by Ruth (no, not the girl I fancied by proxy at school. I was too scared of her to fancy her directly, so I pretended to like her friends instead). Who some of you may remember later became the 45s, and then broke up creating Aqualung along the way. The only source I can find for the lyrics is another blog, so I'll cheat and post them below (I'm not sure about the brick line. I might have to dig out the tape to check).

So what did you get through you letterboxes today children? I got something today. It came in a suspiciously blank envelope. Feigning indifference, I tear it open. The first thing I see is a signature. Um, I thought the whole point of Valentine cards was the anonymity? This is not good. The signature says Jerry. This is really not good. Maybe it might read Jenny, but no, that's definitely an r.

Yep, it must be St Valentine's Day: all I get is some blurb for the local Conservative candidate. Sorry, you're called Jeremy, and um, you're a Tory, and there's that whole right-wing thing going on, and well, Howard scares me, and anyway, it's nicer to vote Lib Dem (even if I haven't got a clue who the candidate is - Democracy at work peeps).

Oooh, and isn't half-term great? Go into work, and all the roads are eerily empty. Have lunch outside (I know it's cold, but it's less depressing than pondering the ceiling tiles), and there's added entertainment. Children playing football in the park. Actually in the rough grass bit of the park. Watching, thinking about them, mostly with a sense of foreboding. And soon enough they discover why no-one ever uses that bit of grass, not even errant dogs. Because if you run after that ball, just over...yep, there, you suddenly discover you've lost a shoe, and have mud up to about the knee. Who the hell wears white after Labor Day anyway (and when the hell is Labo[u]r Day anyway)?

The next entertainment comes from a mother and her son on bikes. The mother is riding slightly behind the son. As they approach a t-junction the boy veers left. The mother goes right, and calls her son after her. The son turns back towards the right. The son disappears from sight behind a wall, and the bush sticking above the wall lurches and shudders. The mother stops fifty yards down the way and wonders where her son has gone. The muddy son reappears wheeling his bike and trailing foliage. The mother tells him to hurry up. Such compassion.

And speaking of mud and bushes and stuff, photography is fun huh? As it's half-term there's no class this week. Instead we get double the homework. Yes, that's 72 pictures to take by the 23rd. The first film has to be on landscape, or failing that architecture, and each time we take a shot, we have to take a second which makes whatever it is that originally drew us to take the shot more prominent. Except our tutor tries to avoid constricting us, and therefore tried very hard not answer questions on what she meant by that.

Two problems with this:
So far virtually all my shots have been of landscapes or architecture. I'm running out of easy subjects.
I tend to have already found the best place to take the photograph from before I take the photograph. So having to adjust where I am, and the zoom or aperture or focus or whatever, tends to make the picture worse. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be learning. I think it's meant to make us think about the options we have, but I already tend to be aware of them (even if I do forget to use all of them).

As I was stuck for subjects, I decided to go off and seek out new ones. Fortunately the National Trust has just sent me this year's handbook, so I went gallivanting about Sussex. For gallivanting read discovering Uppark's park only opens from March onwards, and hence doing Petworth instead. A long walk round most of the parkland belonging to Petworth House later and I've learnt several things.
- Firstly, deer can look like cows, when far off and en masse: they were a muddled mix of brown, black and white, and deer are brown, with occasional bits of red and white, aren't they?
- Secondly, no matter how far round the park one moves, the views of the hills breaking the horizon do not shift much.
- Thirdly, one can see a long way from a big hill.
- Fourthly, snowcones exist. They really do. We got caught in a shower of what we thought was hail, only it was far too white; bounced and blew around too much; and looked generally like balls of polystyrene. On closer inspection, the balls were too light for hail, and could be compressed to from ice. The balls also were not balls: they were conical, with a slightly rounded base opposite a definite point. Sort of space probe lander shape. Very odd, as I've never seen anything like it. Some of them were also pretty big, with a diameter of about a centimetre.
- Fifthly, nice houses can belong to nasty men. Well ok so we don't know whose house it was. But somewhere off to nor-northeast (ish), a house was catching the sun. We couldn't think where it was, nor whose it was. We decided it must belong to "that nasty man". Otherwise known as Nicholas van Hoogstraten. Although, I've just realised it wasn't ugly enough, and Google informs me that his house is about a county away from where we were looking. So if anyone knows what the house is between the hill beneath the tower in Petworth park, and what we assumed to be Hindhead, could you tell me please?
- Sixthly, wind can be strong.
- Seventhly, wind can be cold.
- Eighthly, wind can be noisy.
- Ninthly, kestrels won't come out from that distance on black and white film. Neither will woodpeckers.
- Tenthly, odd men make stupid comments about Hello! magazine. My camera lens isn't that big.
- Eleventhly, Petworth is very pretty, but very confusing to drive round (well not that confusing, just tortuous).
- Twelfthly, on the road south from Petworth is a great sign. There is a triangular warning sign (the type which is just a big exclamation mark). Below it is a single word: Badgers. You can't miss it, as it's just before the village of Mushroom-Mushroom. God, I'm far too easily amused when both hot and cold, and with only a Kitkat staving off the low blood sugar. Had me sniggering till within sight of Chichester cathedral.

I'll stop the nthly's now. And then we went to Bosham, because it's pretty damn photogenic, and I like the sea (I know it's a fair way from the sea proper, but it's more interesting to have Itchenor in the far distance). Most of my Bosham set were from round the other side of the inlet, so I had the town across the water (and because I'm not paying for parking). Gorgeous sun, but I was still on the black and white film. I'm not sure how good the pictures will be, as I was tired, but knew I still had another film to go. We try going along south along Shore Road, having decided the tide was going out, but it appears to be coming back in, and is blocking the road ahead. Crossing water when it's passable but rising, and we've no idea of where the road goes, and at what level it runs, does not seem a good idea.

Does Chichester Harbour also suffer from a double tide, or high-tide hiccup, like the areas around Poole? I thought that was caused by a theoretical amphidrome in the middle of Salisbury Plain, so Chichester seems too far away. It could have just been the wind forcing water up the channel. Speaking of faraway, the grandstand at Goodwood must have a stunning view, as it was glowing frantically from the top of the downs.

After some dubious navigation, and trying to reach the next inlet over, we end up driving up the road we couldn't drive down earlier, all the while discussing which houses we would like to live in. For some reason none of us were too keen on the bungalows on low ground behind a bank which the road hops over and back again. And I don't think it was because they were small either.

Having switched to colour film, and been all Bosham'd out, we head back, via the Midhurst road this time. The sunset becomes ridiculously colourful, despite being fairly high in the sky still. I finally get round to connecting Cowdray of the yellow window frames with Cowdray of polo fame (unless there really is another on in Gloucestershire).

And once again I'm describing things I tried to get pictures of, without having the pictures to hand. I think I'd better stop.

And it's nice to know I'm forgetable.


Valentines Day by RUTH

Time for a surprise
Thought you ought to know
So you can be ready
When I shock and scare you
And then pretend to be asleep
Thought of a surprise
I think I shall grow a moustache
And surprise you in public
In the name of the Lord
And then pretend it was somebody else

Stay out of my way
On Valentine's Day
Stay out of my way
And you'll be OK
On Valentine's Day

I think I'll make a film
About our life together
I'll send you to the cinema
Put a brick in the microwave
And pretend to be dead
Time for a surprise
I shan't tell you what it is
But it won't upset you
It won't even surprise you
But I'll pretend it did

You mustn't think that I don't love you
(I don't love you)
You mustn't think that I don't love you

Thursday, February 10, 2005

CashpointKarma bemoans abysmal female driving. Apparently she was enraged by the inept actions of the person ahead of her at the drive-in ATM. Yes, at the drive-in cash machine [known in this country as a High Street]. And yet this girl claims she lives in a third world country?

Should that be drive-through ATM? As drive-in implies one has to find another means of transport to get out. But I suppose traffic black holes must exist. How else could my mother talk about the problems of parking in a "one-way dead-end" road? I know it's unfair (and unwise) to laugh at the post-menopausal, but still... the sheer nightmarish impossibility of the situation as she describes it is quite impressive. Being fairer, what she actually meant was a cul-de-sac, which due to the on street parking, was functioning as a single-track road, and hence blocks very easily.

Him, over there, in all his TAFKAPing glory, is busy fantasising about various members of boybands. So I wonder what he would say about a picture of Tom McFly looking hot and sweaty, with a very interesting look on his face? [go to number 7].

Ryan continues in his quest to be all-singing, all-dancing, and still has time for fights at poker games. (Have I done Ryan on here before? Probably not, because FOF-nabbing him from Neil's blog seems a bit pointless, although as Neil is currently permanently elsewhere, I shouldn't feel so guilty for raiding his sidebar. Anyway, he's definitely worthwhile).

Which reminds me. If anyone has the Neil's not-Neil address, could you please enlighten me? As my cunning plan of picking up when Neil comes here, and using the tracker to find out the referral address, didn't take into account him still using the sidebar. Oh and I would just like to reassure anyone who does let me in, that I will be remarkably discreet if required (or possibly unremarkably would be better).

Scavenging from Strang, and I manage to break the world. Either that or Google takes the CNN view of the world.

He also mentions (as it has just been the Chinese New Year, closely followed by the Islamic one. To really help multiculturalism, the CNY fell on the first day of Lent) Chinese astrology, and it's uncanny accuracy. Being bored I check out the site and rediscover that I am a Monkey. The description fits with me being a Leo, and Friday's child. But, like the rest of such things, it doesn't actually fit with me.

Other goings on, and I missed the 5,000th visitor to this site (by a hundred and forty or so). I know it's pitiful in comparison to other sites, but some of them do have other things going for them (mentioning no names). I have at least got the excuse that the 30-odd a day I get from Google image search have only recently started happening.

Which brings me to the traditional blog-fodder of the bored: stupid search terms.
- chicken licken terrorism conspiracy. Of course, it was Bin Laden's acorns of mass destruction.
- quarter Me neither.
- a guide to announce a wedding already taken place. Don't tell. See how long it takes them to guess.
- Woohoo! I lead the results for Ferrero Rocher+pronunciation. Is that really something Woohooable?
- I also lead them for a certain (possibly lop-nostrilled) local television presenter. They're never going to let me live this down are they?


Photography (sans actual pictures).

You know it's going to end badly when the talk starts off with the words "mini-crit". Yep, that's right, anyone foolish enough to been able to make a print last week (5 of us), and then bring it in this week (3 of us), has to put it before all of us for assessment. My weak cherry blossom is up against a dramatic boathouse, and someone's girlfriend in a field (I assume it's his girlfriend, as she's in nearly everyone of his pictures). The boathouse is fine as far as I'm concerned, but other people think it's too dark, or too stark, or there's too much contrast, or the houses on the hill behind annoy them (Er?). The tutor thinks there might be a bit too much contrast, and too much shadow. But if the shadow was reduced then we would all see the windows under the overhang badly boarded up with tatty and crumbled bits of chipboard and plywood (spot who took independently a very similar picture). Anyway, I like dark and dramatic.

Next up is mine. Fortunately she holds it up from the other side of the room, so none of us can see how out of focus it is. It's obviously underexposed (the print that is, so it's too pale). But as someone points out, that if it had been darker then the shadows would have been unrelentingly black. General consensus is that my image is annoyingly vague.

Then comes girl in field. The grass is very pale grey, and pretty monotonous. The darkest point of the image is the girl's top. The trees and horizon are just mid to pale grey. There are no shadows. The brightest parts of the image are one side of her face, and her white trousers (do we think she chose that outfit because she knew the film was black and white?). Too pale, but good. But being me I say nothing. It takes the others a while to come out with anything.

Next it's on to looking at the prints that some of us have from this week's homework. Again black and white, but this time using colour process (C-41) film, so we could develop it externally.

An aside here. External development. I hate this. Because I have to tour all sorts of places trying to find somewhere that does it cheaply. And the cheapest is never cheap. Ignoring the place which I know to be expensive and reliable (and by expensive I mean the price difference between films from there and a shop in the next town over is about enough to buy a first class railway ticket for each film and send them on the train between the two) I troll round the other shops. I ignore three of them as previous attempts at developing films have taught me that: A is also a dry-cleaners, and with a girl who only breaks away from her sub-Heat magazine long enough mutter "dunno" (and I also wonder about the commonality of the chemicals in both processes); B has assistants who tell one to go elsewhere "cos it's crap"; and C give everyone a free film, which is useless (having complained about the developing once in here, I was told it was a fault with the film. I pointed out the film was the in-house brand. Long pause, then "Yes", and nothing more).

I try Snappy Snaps, as apparently they offer a 10% discount to people on our course. I get an ever so sweet boy being very apologetic, as he hasn't the foggiest idea of what I'm talking about. Serves me right for actually planning what I have to say. Turns out it was his first day of work experience. The boss comes out from the back. Picks up the price list slotted beside the till. Waves it a bit. Reels numbers at me. Tries to blind me with science (um, excuse me, A levels in 3 different sciences, then degree with Sciences in the title, fairly bright as well, has some understanding of the processes involved developing. All in all, pretty unlikely to go "ooh" in wonder and hand over money). Eventually, reading past her I find out it will be £7.49. No mention of discount. I think I'll just check elsewhere first.

Boots is empty. I can read the price list in peace. No mention of BW C-41. But they sell the stuff, so presumably it's the same as normal colour film. Eventually one of the other people hovering wanders off to find an assistant. She comes back, and after she's sorted him out I go forward. I check the price, and that they can do it, and they know it is black and white. Yes, yes, it's all fine. I take a receipt and leave. £5.99 still seems a lot.

Popping back the next day, I pick up the film and pay. I go home. I open the prints. I discover that they've seen the moss picture, and turned it green, along with the rest of them. So Boots' developing is obviously has a subliminal sponsorship tie-in with nice, but expensive, chocolate. Although it is more Green and White than Green and Black.

It's nice to know that with developing by Boots, it's only the faults that change. At least they seem to have got the focussing fault sorted out. Although when I protested about the white, hazy splodge in the same part of every frame, I was told it was the film, then the camera, and then the user. And when I pointed there had been more than one variable in each, and multiple combinations of them, the guy took one look at picture with a palm tree in it, and told me it was X-ray damage. Ah yes, of course, because as we all know, one has to go through customs to enter a National Trust property. Or maybe there's a radioactive tree in Winkworth. Except I wouldn't have carried all the films with me anywhere. Perhaps my television is spewing large amounts of radiation (other than the expected forms). But if that was the case, I think my body might have noticed first. And how exactly would x-rays have penetrated each case in the same place, and so managed to produce the same fault in an identical part of the frame? (Bear in mind the film is spiralled within the canister. Would the frames all line up? How? And how come the x-ray didn't leave an exit mark on the other side of the spiral? Or working from a different direction, do the perforations in loo paper line up, or do they stay the same distance apart? What would happen to size of the sheets of paper if the perforations were all in straight lines radiating out from the core?). Coincidentally, two people I know also had had their films exposed to this mysterious radiation source.

Deciding to take them back, I try ringing, but no one answers. I go back to shop, but they've shut early, and the workers chatting inside ignore the people bumping into the doors.

Not being able to take them back the next morning, and deciding that taking them back at lunchtime to collect in the late afternoon for use that night, pretty much guarantees something going wrong, no matter how much I thunder at them.

Reverting to last night, and the four of us with externally produced prints are asked to lay them out in turn. HKA lays hers out. Somewhat infuriatingly she's taken a picture of somewhere I've only just discovered, and thought would make a good picture, and gets congratulated for it. All her pictures are of near enough the same place (just down the road from where the course is held), except for two of the Brighton Pavilion. None of them conform to the theme of our homework, which was distortion. She says she didn't have time, and couldn't think of anything to take. So what was she doing in Brighton, that she had time to take two pictures of it, but no more?

Then comes he of the girlfriend, who obviously went round Windsor together. Castle, castle, park, castle. A couple of car windows, and playing with some odd lens in the street in Windsor. He at least made some nod to the theme of the homework, even if he also had a camera in front of somewhere that expects to photographed. Another development by Boots, and his are green too. The tutor likes the effect on some of them, and says it's not worth quibbling as normally when they turn them a certain colour, they really turn them that colour.

Then comes a girl whom I think it would unkind to describe as "nice but dim". But I can't seem to find more to her. There's something new-born deer about her: a bit wobbly, and unresponsive. Many pictures of the university campus. Some good, if confusing, with twigs and reflections. A couple of an odd looking cat, of which I prefer the one which everyone else doesn't.

And so to me. The tutor likes one of the "can you tell what it is yet?" pictures of the reeded glass door. Everyone seems to ignore the ones I like. She also likes one of reflections in a leaded window, whilst everyone else prefers a similar one with the church instead of a chimney. They all seem to like the one of "the pond". I have no idea where they see a pond. I see a hawthorn hedge, in confusing macro-dom, with water drops hanging from it. They like the broken mug as well, although they all admit it took them a while to figure it out. She likes the matches bowl, but I think that's because she likes the bowl not the pictures. She really likes moss as well, and starts talking about someone I haven't heard of. The twig which really bugged me, and which I tried to minimise by lining up with the edge of the frame, does not annoy her, and she thinks it works better because of it. People seem to like the phone boxes. The tutor also likes the reflection of a building in a mirror-glass-clad building, in which only one pane distorts (and has probably pissed off the architect from the day it was installed).

She says I'm much too hard on myself (well I'm me; I want to be good, and I expect to be better).

It is very odd seeing who likes what. And what they don't like. During the talk afterwards, the tutor repeatedly looks at me during the following topics.
- People liking dark prints. Some northern person beginning with B (I can never remember names, but if it helped she described him slightly mockingly as "grim, dirty, northern, industrial, working class, gritty realism". She does a stunning line in such descriptions of famous photographers, as only someone who has had to write one too many essays on the person can).
- Needlessly keeping back opinions, and not criticising other people.
- Excessive self-criticism.
So she noticed then?

Oh well. Then we are handed more films, at the cost of one pound. Admittedly this ignores the fact we paid £14 the week before to cover all the films, she was having problems getting. I suppose £15 for 5 films is £3 each, and as that's what the cheapest source of the BW films charges, it isn't bad considering some of them are probably worth much more (not that I have much clue about the price of films, beyond thinking they shouldn't cost so much, and ooh, Superdrug has Kodak Gold for £2 each. I know they've moved onto Ultra and beyond now, but Gold is what I used in Tanzania in a really cheap camera and it's very forgiving).

And there was £6 early on for paper. And another £6 to develop the latest film (although someone found somewhere that does negatives only for £3). And £3 for the first film (or more if one pays local prices).

So much for the initial £8.50 on top of course fees to cover sundries.

But I suppose there are more expensive uses of time, said he working out that official photography course time is running at just over £5 an hour, which gets diluted by the days spent taking the photographs, and it is unlikely to rise much further. Actually the wrong combination of film time and Odeon prices would be higher than that (but the Odeon hideously overcharges).

It's just not a comfort to know I don't earn too much more. But hey I got a phone call today informing that I had been short-listed, and have an interview on X at Y. I asked who the Zs would be. It is slightly odd that I wasn't actually asked if that was ok, and simply told about the timing (and having had 9.30 slots before, I wonder if there is any significance to them). I'm not even sure I had a chance to agree to it. A bit odd. But as I think she had just been trying to ring a phone which had been functioning as a fax machine, she was probably a bit thrown by it all.

Back to photography, and once again I cheat and work outside the realm of the proscribed settings. We're supposed to do test strips at 5 second intervals up to 20 seconds, at f8. Last week I tried doing this, but it only worked on f2.8 for 40 s, and even then could have been darker. So this week, on my contacts sheet I try the test strip for 5 to 30 seconds at f2.8 (as it was a different paper which I didn't want to overpower). Oddly, it is quite hard to distinguish between the timings. Being impatient, and realising I am running out of time, I expose the full sheet for 30 seconds at f2.8 (figuring the wide aperture won't effect focusing, as the negatives are in contact with the paper, or they were once I reconstructed the contact printer, which was lacking various parts).

Developing, and it becomes obvious that I hadn't got the paper lined up under the frame, so the first six are missing a third of the frame. I'm also concerned that it's lacking some of the darker tones (it turns out the image I had problems with last week was one of the palest in the set). But I'm assured that it's all fine.

So everything is going far better than last week, including not having to scramble to get things together because I'm supposed to be out of the building.

So I leave, and walk down to the car park. And discover I cannot the ticket. And of course this car park is one of those annoying ones in which one can only leave once one has paid off the ticket, and feed it into the machine at the exit barrier. Except what's really frustrating is that when I parked it was free.

So I need a ticket to get out. I try pressing the button by the entrance, but it doesn't work. I think it needs a car to trigger it. Drat. I try picking up some the spare tickets dotted around, but they are all invalid. I try convincing a couple of girls driving in to back out and go back in again, but they are too dim to understand. Once they parked, they then had to walk out past me, whilst desperately pretending they didn't recognise me. A couple of expensive cars go through, but I take one look at the sneer in a Hermes scarf and don't even ask.

Someone from photography walks past, and it's obvious he wants to help, but doesn't know how. It's always odd talking to him, because he doesn't really talk, and I'm not good at medium talking: either I talk, endlessly, or I don't at all. So whenever we try talking we're either like two magnets slinking closer, and then pinging away from each other, or like an engine revving out of gear. He leaves in possibly mutual discomfort (which is slightly vexing, as he's nice, he's bright, and yet talking to him is so awkward).

Eventually I convince a man waiting to pick someone up to drive in, and back out (see, there are kind people out there). But he ignores my hand signals and so has problems backing out without hitting a car which flashes at both cars coming down the hill, and forcing both to stop (see, there are rude people out there). I drive down and try to leave, but the ticket is invalid.

Very, very annoyed. Trying to think of how to get out. The signs say the charge for lost tickets is £16.10 Mon-Sat, and £1 on Sunday. I really don't feel like paying that. Especially as all the help buttons have masking tape over the top and are out of order. Hoping the barrier will be connected to a sensor to stop it landing on a car or person, I decide to try sneaking out by sticking hard on the tail of the car in front. But no is coming.

Eventually a black Golf comes down, and goes up to the barrier. I stick close behind. A Scots voice says "It's not valid. It says it's invalid."

They go into reverse, as I try pulling away, having realised just in time that I was still in first gear. I back into the corner whilst the woman ahead goes to stick her ticket in a different machine. Another Golf comes down, and I let her go first. Sticking close behind the first Golf leaves, and the next rolls forward. She leaves and I hug in behind her. There's not awful sound of barrier meeting car. And I'm out. And happy, and relieved. And then I remember to turn my lights on. Oops.

So remember kids, losing the key to the big box which contains one's car is not big or clever.

And now all I have to do is use a black and white film to take landscapes, or architectural shots (and, um, what have I been doing up till now?). Whenever I take a picture, I have to take a second image of whatever it was which originally attracted me to the shot, but adapt the shot somehow to show it better. After that I have to use a slide film for whatever I see fit. So that's 72 images in a fortnight. But I think I have photoed out large chunks of here and the next town over.

But at the moment the films are sitting in Tupperware in the fridge (to prevent damage, although I'm not sure the tutor factored in the presence of fridge juice).


Cycling for the first time in years. I suddenly remembered I haven't swam in a while, and the most exercise I've had recently is cursing speed bumps vehemently. I discovered this while trying to remember how the gears work. On a sandy hill. With bricks in (they have been used for centuries to fill the potholes in, except they have most come out, and embedded themselves elsewhere).

I finally realise why I can never get to grips with gears on a bike. Because the only time I experiment with them is when I've got stuck on some sandy and lumpy hill. Which given I can never restart, once I've stopped on one of these hills, means I end up not being able to find any difference between any of the gears. Managing to confuse the laws of physics, I try to start off in - I can never remember which is high or low - big cog, little cog (front and back respectively). I jerk forward half a crank's worth, and fall sideways. I try middle-middle. The same. I try small-big. I get slightly further, but don't have enough momentum not to fall over. I keep trying, and after many attempts in which I lurch between flanking brambles, I get off and walk up to a shallower bit of hill.

Eventually, after walking through a hole in the fence, round the padlocked, but much run-over, gate which blocks the bridleway, I get to proper road. And it's downhill. As I approach the junction at the end, I start slowing (which given I'm not very keen on going very fast on a bike). On the finally bit of road, it starts sloping much more, as it's effectively the inside of a hairpin. My rear wheel starts making gravelly noises. This is not good. I pulse both brakes on and off, hoping I am emanating ABS. I stop just before the junction, largely thanks to using a foot as well. The bike is still trying to slide out sideways from underneath me.

I pull off, slightly sedately, and am pleasantly surprised by the cars overtaking me. Last time I cycled it was in Exeter, where drivers often try to save cyclists energy, by hooking cyclists on their wingmirrors, and giving them a tow for the next 50 yards.

I'm not sure if this is in any way connected, but this bike is much taller than my last one. Admittedly I've probably grown as well. It is very odd suddenly being so high. Perhaps because of this, mothers ferrying their precious beings round in Range Rovers tend to give me an unexpectedly wide berth. Maybe they don't like me being able to peer down on their ugly children (who look shocked to be seen).

Other than chickening out round the cluster of schools, and so walking past, and overtaking, all the Volvos-at-dawn, coming back down the hill was fine, and I even had people being nice and waiting for me.

Two problems cropped up on the way home though. The first was that I thought I had just ridden over some broken glass, as small shiny things skittered away from the wheels. Only when that was followed by a purring and a clatter, despite their having been nothing in the road, I realised something was wrong. Dismount. Check bike, especially the lights I have only just put on. Walk back up to the scene of the clatter, and find front reflector with adjacent nut and washer. Walk back up to where the broken glass apparently was. Find nut and washer. Unable to see how this fits on the bike. The mount for the reflector is curved at the back, suggesting it is held against the front post. Still cannot see any way of connecting it. Hunt up and down the road for the black plastic ring, like the ones that hold everything else onto the bike. Fail to find it. Head home, a bit annoyed.

The other unfortunate thing was getting ready to turn right into the road where I live. I'm nearly on the white line, and slowly slightly. The red van which roared up behind me changes down a gear and revs. Looking over my shoulder I see he's trying to overtake me. I mouth something along the lines of "where the hell do you think you're going?" with great gusto. I repeat my signal, and am very tempted to rotate my hand and make a further signal, but decide that such move is not a good idea when cycling with a badly driven van close behind me. He drops back a bit. I pull into the road, and the van follows me. He is already overtaking me on the blind bend at the bottom, and hares up the hill in a mess of revs.

And that's when I remember who drives that van. Oh yes. Mr X. Fairly thick and usually drunk. And not the type to let mere arrest get in the way.

Getting home, I try to work out how the reflector fitted, and finally notice a pointless plastic loop connecting the two sides of the fork, with a hole in the middle. Ah, now I see. The reflector is a standard fitting on the front pillar of the bike, hence the curved mount. This bike, what with the front fork and all, does not have enough pillar to fit the reflector on. So they bolt it onto an arch of plastic just above the wheel. The curving of the mount means that only the very edges make contact. So there's minimal friction to keep it in place. It twists slightly with each jolt, and so undoes the bolt. Bolt falls apart, reflector catches on the wheel, hence the purring, and then falls off. It all makes sense now.

So now we know that Raleigh's, whilst being good bikes, tend not to do so well on the details (the bell was so loose it swung round to hang underneath the handlebars).

But anyway, that was cycling, and the inaugural ride of my thanks-to-Weetabix-Raleigh-not-what-it-was-supposed-to-be-but-I-think-it-is-probably-better-Firefly. It only took me two months.

Oh, and did I mention how great it is (in one sense at least) to have absolutely no work to do, and be sent home early, safe in the knowledge that I'm still getting paid. I think it might have been devising a game with the Canadian temp that did it. Or more precisely me having hysterics because his attempts at making the game fairer meant he ended up with a plastic cup of water poured into his crotch.

That last sentence only makes sense if one knows the game. Basically, on a table, and in front of the opposing players, are two plastic cups which serve as goals. The ball in this game isn't a ball, it is one of those rubber thimble things people use when seperating paper. Stood hollow-side down on the table, and pressed lightly, it can be made to jump. With practice the range and direction can be controlled. The aim of the game was to get it in the opposing cup. Getting into the cup, and it staying there, scores 5 points. Hitting the cup scores 2. Getting it to land upright on the table scores 3. Other rules are invented whenever someone scores a goal. The cup I was aiming for had water in it. The cup he was aiming for had the dregs of machine hot chocolate in it. After a while he noticed that his cup skittered away when hit, but mine didn't move, and therefore he would get near misses where I would get goals. So he balanced out the levels by splitting the liquid between the two cups, so now both contain dilute hot chocolate. He still isn't managing to get goals. But realising the risk if he does nearly get one, I move back. By fluke I get the thimble into the cup. But because he's taken half the liquid out, it falls over backwards, spilling gunky water and thimble into his groin.

I laugh inappropriately. But he's laughing too. It is after all largely of his own causing. I struggle to stifle the laughter, and he stops laughing when he realises he has now got an embarrassingly positioned, large, damp patch, which, due to the mixed in dregs with probably leave a mark when it dries.

I know I shouldn't have laughed, but it was the funniest thing to have happened in that office in a long time. Annoyingly, because the thimble fell out, I only scored 2 points from that shot.

Shortly after this and the office began being emptied by those on high. Which meant I got to drive home in surprisingly warm milky sun. I later realised I had left the heater on in car after trying to keep the windscreen clear in the morning. But it was sunny, and that's all that matters.


Sunday, February 06, 2005

Huon PineSauf Dimanche.

Why do I never remember? Camera shops are not open. Barbers are not open. Even the Park and Ride for the nearest town that might have some shops open, is not open. Not even if I try turning into it and find the gates in the way.

I think I work to the rule that if Sainsbury's is open, then so must be everywhere else. You'd think the absence of early closing in the supermarket's opening times might have suggested to me that such a theory is not true, but somehow it never quite sinks in. Bloody Market-Town-dom.

So I've spent a fun day trying to use my black-and-white-colour-process film for my photography course. This week we've progressed to having themes, and this weeks is distortion.

There's nothing like searching out every bit of curved metal or glass in the house to make one realise that there's an awful lot of housework which needs doing. So two towns, and umpteen Georgian windows, later and I have finished off the film. So now all I need to do is get it developed by Wednesday. Which guarantees work will overrun on the first 3 days of the week, thus blocking any chance I have of developing it. I've also got to find somewhere where the employees' brains aren't going to pop at the idea of a black and white colour film.

Dans d'autres nouvelles:
Someone's been translating me into French. I'm not sure how well I translate. Most amusingly, he of Casino Avenue comes out as L'inspecteur ponce. Oddly, the system does not translate the entire page (but it does translate links, hence I got Blogger's FP en francais).

Sorry, getting distracted by Sentiment sinistre, and trying to work out what that was originally.

Reverting to the trip into Notacity to finish off the film, having exhausted every curving surface in Tweeton. Somehow I managed to use up the rest of the film taking pictures of the river. My justification is that the reflections each contain multiple, repetitive distortions. In other words, lookee ma, theys thar is ripples. I know it's cheating, but most of the film was more reflections that distortions.

So having rapidly finished off the film, what did I do? Mill round. People watch. Decide people aren't all that interesting. Get bored. End up in HMV. Spend money. Buy DVDs I don't need. Feel guilty. Decide to go home. End up in Debenhams instead. Browse. Think pink has hit. New spring lines not very nice. Old reduced stuff about as bad. Be tempted up to the top floor by the promise of a free knife. Loiter, with intent to ignore spiel. Admire crockery, whilst waiting for the Scandinavian girl demonstrating to finish. Snigger at her attempt to make New Jersey sound exotic. Marvel at her not quite cutting through a hammer. Strangely she didn't try to cut through either of the tempered or strengthened bits. Begin to wonder about the excellent value for money the cluster of knives for only £23 represents. Realise that flexible blades might be a unique selling point, but it also not a very useful feature for a knife. Wonder if the McCloud brand is anything to do with Mr Grand Designs. Bollocksy sign says yes. Wait for her to try and get anyone listening to buy something. See her give up, as the Notacity crowd are all only here for the free stuff. Be informed to keep the knives in the box until we get home, otherwise it will saw through our bags (or we might notice it's not all that great). Wait turn to be handed a small, light box. Woohoo. I am now the owner of a brand new knife. A brand new stainless steel knife. A brand new "surgical" stainless steel knife. A brand new "surgical" stainless steel paring knife.

Isn't a paring knife the type of thing one uses for doing vegetables? So a glorified peeler then? Woohoo indeed. She lied: the company might be American, and based in the "Great American State of New Jersey", but the back of the box says Made in China. The front of the box shows a kiwi fruit, and is labelled $5. So that's just over £2.50 then.

Debenhams must love having this lot in. They drain the store of about 2/3s of the people (but it was Sunday afternoon), and stick them all in one place, blocking the aisle. The demonstration then bores everyone. We take our free knives and walk out of the shop en masse. Which means it's quite effective at sweeping people out of the shop without spending anything.

Overheard on the way out: I got given one of those free knives yesterday. They're crap.

Oooh, they have a website (which has a feel of Innovations cum JML). They company is apparently Twin Towers Trading. Unfortunate name that, as they can't even pretend it's after the twin towers of Wembley anymore. And they're based in the wonderfully named New Jersey town of Freehold.

Getting the knife out of the box. Well it's shiny. The picture on the box is bigger. The handle has a lumpy seam sticking out. The bevelled edge to the blade is not very even. The very edge of the blade has a couple of small nicks in it. Testing the cutting potential, and it just crumples the HMV receipt. Using it as a saw works a bit better, but it appears the faults in the blade help here. Generally needs sharpening, which given the blade proclaims it to be Forever Sharp(TM)...

In one sense you can see why they were giving them away. Yet one can also see a good reason not give them away.

Other stuff:
Come here/go there advertising. Isn't it fun guessing which country, travel company or airline it is this time round? Is it Ireland? Is it Canada? Is it New Zealand? No, it's Yorkshire. What's with that? And when, in the interests of fairness and equality, are we going to see a Visit Hertfordshire campaign?
Most annoying ad so far: Canada. If only for the annoying singing, and not featuring anything recognisable. Actually what is Canada? A leaf? According to all the Canadians I've ever met, not America. But what does it have that other places do not (other than the hybrid Scots-American accent)? Being cold isn't unique. Mountains aren't unique. Trees aren't unique. American lifestyles aren't unique. French buildings aren't unique. Even the jokes about Newfies aren't unique, if one replaces Newfoundland with Norfolk, Shetland, Kerry, Tasmania or Arkansas.

But the singing. Whoever sung the theme music is one of those annoying people who do professional singing, and therefore sing "Hugh" instead of "you". So the ad sounds like it's plugging a defunct bakers in Swanage [Huon Pine, who made the nicest bread I've ever tasted. When they got to nearly the end of several sacks, they used to bung in all the remaining flour, regardless of type. So the results would be very oaty and malty, or anything else they felt like].

Running with misheard lyrics. The Canadian at work often sings along to the radio. Recently Jamiroquai's Canned Heat was on. He sang part of the chorus as "Like candy in my hands tonight, baby". And here was I being all conventional and assuming that the line is connected to the title, and so runs "I've canned heat in my heels tonight, baby". But now I think of it, both of them are equally as nonsensical. But at least none of this is as bad as the Tambourine/Trampoline incident from a few years ago (the real line is "strong beliefs", but my brother heard me make a mistake, and then somehow managed to convince half of Warwick Uni to sing the wrong thing. Long story short: my brother is mean).

[And this is one of those posts which I never quite finished off, and so did not post. Now I can't remember where else it was going so I'll stop now]


Saturday, February 05, 2005

Another first.

I am no longer a hooting virgin. Admittedly past attempts have only failed through not knowing where the horn was on my car, not from lack of motivation. But yesterday was special. Having left work a bit late (it's amazing how stuff invariably appears on my desk four minutes before I am supposed to leave), I managed to hit Notacity's one-way system whilst the gridlock spiralled out from it. Having navigated the double u-turn bit fine, and got fairly easily down the road that must originally have been two unconnected roads; I then had to try joining the one-way system, doing the usual rush across three lanes. Only the furthest lane wasn't clearing. At all.

Eventually I got lucky as the clutter of traffic trying to drive round the jam blocked the lights further up, and accelerate hard, steer hard, brake hard (and try not to drive over the pavement and into the building opposite). And it's gone solid again. The car which was behind me is still stuck at the junction, looking hopelessly at the logjam and torrents. The ripple of space moving back as the lights ahead change isn't as big as it should be. Slowly I get up to the lights, then across them, and the traffic is clearing, as the town centre road peels off, then the next road. And so to the next set of lights, which are red, all the while undertaking people who are going further round.

Oh joy of joys, the traffic for the turnoff after mine is near solid, and people joining the road from the left are edging across the junction, either driving at right angles through a hole to the spare lanes beyond, or sitting in the yellow hatched box and signalling forlornly. The traffic sets, with a small blue car blocking the far end of the yellow box, and so my lane. My lights change to green, but I don't move, as I have nowhere to go. Ahead there's movement far off, I get ready to move, and a silver car drives out from the left and sits in the box. Cue one long blast (although five short blasts might have been more appropriate, even though I was not unclear of her intentions).

The woman in the silver car looks shocked. I glare at her, as she has just managed to drive across a red light, and then stop on yellow hatching. She then tries to back out of it, and nearly hits the van that had followed her over (had both red light bulbs gone?). The traffic moves enough for the blue car beside her to creep out of the way, but she sits there still, letting the traffic to my left through. I resignedly wave her across as she's still watching me. The berk in the Merc beside me hoots, as she pulls in front of him. I drive off, and judging by the sudden cluster of horns behind me, I think the van on the left had also tried to pull out, ignoring the lights.

Which reminds me, I really need to expand my driving vocabulary beyond "oh go on then" and "come on", as well as learn to use more hand gestures than "thank you", "hi", "come on/out" or flashing my lights to indicate the same. So far I only know the language of what is known as "Christian driving". I need to pick up some movements of joint-popping intensity.

But I'm not sure how. I have once been part of a group, and don't ask how this started, who spent one afternoon attempting to make up Italian insults, with suitable gestures. But there were too many syllables, and not enough harshness to the words. I think in the end we managed to convert "ciao bella" into our most savage insult, but that was more to do with the movements and the intonation (just as a querying tone and a raised eyebrow, if you can do just the one [I can't], can make anything lewd, so too can suitable application of staccato, and powerful, whip-like movement transform mundane words into insults).

[Yes, I know "ciao bella" implies the girl is a cabbage or piano or something, as it uses the wrong ending (is the right one isimo? I can't remember, being more distracted by the photos of Mafia men trying to look subtle, and the notion of people treating cleaning up volcanic dust as a daily chore)].

The movement was incidentally cocking the wrist back so the palm faces the forearm, and then flicking it out so the fingers, palm, and forearm are all in line. For added complexity, start out under your chin, but this hurts if you get it wrong.

Anyway, the movement is very like a shortened version of the nail whip which one of my flatmates used to do. In case you have never come across this, it involves flicking out the full arm, and catching the victim (usually on a buttock) with just the ends of the fingers, so only the nails make contact. Small area, large mass, great speed, equals stings like many things which I have never experienced.

This is also the charming boy who left bruises and bitemarks over much of my body (and unfortunately he is charming). Which, other than the ache, I then tended to forget about, only to pull my sleeve up somewhere, and reveal purple Morse curving round my forearm. It's amazing the questions people won't ask.

Speaking of questions, isn't it great when one's boss walks up and asks "What did you do with the pile of paper I left on your desk?"
To which one can reply "You mean the letters I asked you about?"

Yes, I did the wrong thing with them, but I didn't know it was wrong, and well, I was only following orders. His very precise orders, which he'd spat out because he was annoyed I asked.

And permaradio is still as crap as ever. This time they managed to segue from Disco Inferno to Gold by Spandau Ballet. Only the latter song started with the famous chorus. Now I know, from bitter experience of umpteen balls and student union events, that there is a big long, couple of verses at least, introduction to Gold, which I never recognise. So that's another castrated song, with the leftovers presumably kept for future use in some intros game. Their current game was find the theme, and another of the songs was Burning down the house. I never found out what the link was, but I do hope that it wasn't the day before's lead news story of firemen dying in blaze in a tower block, or that fire in a Buenos Aires nightclub, news which of which became overwhelmed by the tsunami [and it's quite hard picking tasteful verbs: drowned out and swamped having rather too much meaning in this context].

In other news:
I have very dark negatives. How do I know? Photography course, and trying to make prints. We go through it all beforehand, but it isn't the most well organised course (and the tutor needs more confidence, said he thoroughly lacking in confidence). Trying a test strip, under f8 for 5, 10, 15, and 20 seconds. I suddenly realise I forgot to check which way up the paper was (rookie mistake, but hey I am). I go and develop it. Nothing.

Go back, repeat, but this time making sure the paper is shiny (and stickier) side up. I cheat and have 10 seconds as the baseline. Develop. Ominous feeling. Completely blank. I need help.

I do the helpless act in front of the tutor, and ask idiot questions about it being the right paper (well I wasn't sure I'd remembered). She comes in, checks. Plays with timer and light settings. Thick paper, the resin coated one, and the right way up. She suggests trying in 10 second pulses, so the maximum exposure would be forty. She does that.

I develop it, and there is darkness growing. Hurrah. Then to decide the timing for the print I pick twenty, as that brings the full range of greys. She overrules me with forty. I go and make the print, and then realise that the enlarger is still on f2.8, which we used to see the focussing. Damn, but there's not much I can do now.

I develop it, and remember that the bit I was looking at when I said 20 was the shadows under a roof. Everyone, except for one person, asked what it was. The one person knew what it was only because he knew that I'd overdosed on churches when using the film. Oddly he didn't mention the cherry blossom down the middle of the shot, and which is the bit supposedly in focus.

The print isn't great (well it's ok, and you can see what it is), but I'm not sure how much is the printing and how much is the negative. It's not quite in focus, but then there's obvious blurring round the frame, which I guess comes from the small aperture (and not focussing it exactly enough). The blossom also probably lacks detail because the print is underexposed. I'll stick it on Flickr when I get some scanner time. Like all my art (is photography art? Mine has it to be, as it pays scant regard to the laws of physics) it looks best from a distance.

The paper of the print is also curled, no matter how long I leave it under a great many textbooks (see there is a use for big books on biochemistry after all). This is due to a wonderful woman, who I've already dubbed HKA, managing to move the tray her print was on down a few slots, and thereby grind mine on the shelf below into a curled scrap against the back of the drying oven. Then just as it was dry, I took it out, and grabbed my stuff to leave. Someone else in a hurry took their print out of a bath and shook off the excess water. I felt it hit me. I didn't realise it was on the print up the fluff was sticking to it. Damn.

There were several other things, but this is long, and I'm putting off doing other stuff. A few final words about Casino Avenue. Inspector Sands mentions the ageing effect of Britpop, and then goes on in the comments to being rude about the Dum-Dums, whom he describes as proto-Busted. Which has the fortunate effect of reminding me that he is very much older then I am, simply because I saw them at the end of my first term of my second year at uni. A very good they were too, even if the place was half deserted, as everyone had already left for their holidays. Which is why I had a friend along, who decided Exeter on the post-term weekend would be fun, and I think was bit disappointed to discover all the student activities finished the weekend before.

We ended up going to a party in a flat, having hurriedly eaten undercooked potato, onion and sausage (which is gorgeous when slightly overcooked, but the damn thing refused to cook). Only we get there fashionably late, which wasn't that late, and it turns out our hosts are still waiting for the pizza their entire flat was going to eat, as it hadn't turned up (takeaway and delivered foods in Exeter are like that. Our flat once ordered chinese, only to discover, three hours later, that the shop's driver didn't feel like coming all the way over to us, and now had no food left). The pizza turned up, and I think the visiting friend and I went to hide in someone's room, having sat awkwardly watching other people eat. When we came back out, the party was in full swing. Unfortunately we didn't realise that that was about as interesting as it was going to get, otherwise we would have cut our losses. Several hours, and a half drunk glass of filter-through-the-teeth egg-nog later, we eventually get out from behind the table, where we have been pinned by a large bore on the end of the bench. Once the Californian girl broke the ice, by trying to dance on a table (or possibly she was just trying to hit the flickering fluorescent tube that had be annoying us all evening), I went under the table, and my friend over it. Adjourning to a room, myself and my host and hostess chatted, and my friend sat looking tired and bored (I did tell her nothing would be happening after the end of term). At the sound of someone vomiting copiously in one of the bathrooms, we left (the vomit remained untouched for about a month as cleaners and students alike all thought it wasn't their duty to scrub it out of bare brick walls). Sometimes Lafrowda parties don't quite live up to the reputation.

The next is a mention of Anchor and Hope Lane. Other than being named after a pub with a name which confused me for far too long, there doesn't seem much in it. Except somewhere way back when (the when in this case being when the branches of this family had sniggerable, unspellable, or unpronounceable surnames) some part of this family used to own it, and the other side of the family used to be the ones both anchoring and presumably hoping. That said I've never (knowingly) seen it, and only know of Charlton as somewhere probably near those four white tower blocks.

The final Cas-Av thing is in a post bashing yet another London England site. This time the hapless site carries a banner ad mentioning somewhere called MSG. The Inspector claims not to know of it. I'm now worried, because I read it as Madison Square Gardens, despite never having been there, or been aware of people referring to it as MSG. I suppose the word Knicks is a clue (even if the only thought that provoked was "is that how it's spelt?"). But still, it threw me to realise I hadn't even questioned the meaning (not that it could be monosodium glutamate from the context).

Which reminds me. Is it possible to taste 0.05 g difference in sodium content (per 100 grams)? Even when dealing with very small quantities of butter? One brand with 0.40 g Na per 100 g, tastes much saltier than one with 0.35 g. It surprised me to realise how minimal the difference can be. But then I suppose that there are quite a few more sodium ions swilling round. Worryingly, when I read the back of both packs, and discovered the difference, I realised I was automatically working out how many more sodium ions there would be. Fortunately I came unstuck on my 6.022 x 1023 times table, and so carried on eating the slightly saltier half of my teacake before it got cold.

Anyway, I'd better go, as...oh damn, it's too dark to do my homework. Oh, well, I have a very pressing, um, game of this (ooh, I didn't know they had Deluxe).

Actually, I'd really better go as the lights have just flickered again. The CD player in the lounge keeps having fits each time the power goes. I've no idea why the electricity is cutting out, nor why some things are susceptible whilst others are not. But I'd better finish this before the computer decides it is prone.

[MS Word Lunatic Grammar (TM) insists the electricity is not cutting out]


[No pic today, as I can't find any of Lafrowda which doesn't try to hide it. Which means I can't put as the title "You ain't got no alibi", and you can't wince at the reference].

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