Saturday, December 31, 2005

Hmm, this audience participation thing is going well.

How many of you found the Christmas surprise on Flickr?
How many of you looked?
The complete lack of interest nearly negates my guilt at there not being one (as you'd know if you'd tried looking, but no, none of you can be arsed to do that). That's the last time I try to trick people into looking at my pictures on Flickr*.

So just how many people correctly guessed the undisclosed location on Flickr? How many people gave wrong guesses? I think we're entering into the realm of the pathetic here, as the major clue in the picture is pretty damn recognisable and I know one of you will know exactly where it is.

From the complete lack of participation, anyone would think you've all had better stuff to do over the past week. What have you all been doing then? Watching the snow melt? (It's like paint drying, but in reverse, and a bit less colourful).

Ok, so I know it's Christmas and everyone was doing the traditional returning to their families (and wasn't it something like that which started this whole thing in the first place? There are huge swathes of humanity celebrating the fact that long ago there was a census). As my brother commented as we drove out on Christmas Eve through a deserted Clapham, where every street was lined with empty parking spaces, "'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the town, not a creature was stirring, as they'd all scarpered off back to the home counties".

Oh, I've got to go, I'm supposed to be getting a train, and I haven't wrapped or packed yet.

Go and look at my stuff on Flickr; there's a lot more up there, but I haven't gone through them all sorting things out yet.



* This statement may be wilfully ignored at a later date.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

GF3 600 - 17 OverlookedHands up if you've finishing shopping yet.

Hands up if you've started it.

Christmas hasn't quite been going to plan so far, as somehow I've managed to almost forget about it, to the extent of expecting people to be working at 3 o'clock on the Friday before Christmas. Which given that various people I know didn't get in to work at all on Friday, was possibly being a bit optimistic. But I'm not one to let the presence of onion bhajis and strange bunches of asparagus wrapped something miscellaneous distract me from my task (bizarrely I was so goal-orientated I forgot to liberate any the food). Of course all that happened was that most of the office walked out before I could corner them, so I was left waiting for the last remaining person in the office to finish guiding someone through the inner workings of a server by phone before I could find out that nothing would happen until January.

After which I hit the sod-it stage, and went Christmas shopping instead, which consisted of going over the road to the shop I can see into from my normal base. A few chunks of glass and wax later I give up, having bought presents for those most buyable, and not really got anywhere on the rest. I'm quite annoyed though, as I've reverted; lumps of coloured glass and candles used to be my default when I couldn't think of anything more useful to give people (and what should one give friends who tend to have already bought what they want, and each year gives me cheap chocolate of one form or another. Her usual excuse is that she bought me something good, but forgot to pack it, so the replacement was grabbed from the village shop, which is basically the equivalent of the petrol station in areas to sparse to support a petrol station). But on the other hand, they were half price.

Anyway, one friend will lose it on the way home (from the amount of presents, both coming and going, that disappear, anyone would think her luggage goes via Bermuda, much like Inact's [or possibly Dan's parcels]) and the other will either take it back or give it to her mother. I'm hoping she goes for the maternal route, so she doesn't discover that her present cost all of £2.45.

But while I'm on the subject, I did notice Habitat's cunning idea of combining the candle and the candlestick. They now make wax candlesticks, so instead of some hefty chunk of excessively ornate silver, one can now get a hefty chunk of excessively ornate (moulding permitting) red wax, complete with a little niche to fit normal candles into it.

Is anyone else seeing potential problems with this idea? Like having a candlestick made from a material which becomes structurally unstable and flammable at relatively low temperatures. I know technically any candle placed within the candlestick will only be a minute nub by the stage the candlestick starts to get heated, so it's not as if the candle is going to melt the foundations and topple over, but still it just sounds innately like a bad idea (for a start, if wax candlesticks are such a good idea, why haven't they been done before?).

Before anyone asks, the candlestick had no apparent wick and so wasn't intended as some ironic candle.

All of which fascinating (or possibly scintillating) waxiness brings me to... well, it doesn't bring me anywhere useful, but I've had enough of talking about candles.

Anyway, I've got a really annoying song stuck in my head.
My life is pure, my life is great, my mother said, I was a great mistake.

Yep, I have managed to mentally segue from James Blunt to The Eels while not quite getting either right. It's also quite embarrassing that of "modern" music, I know James Blunt better than various other things. A total lack of anything on television last night led to The Hits being watched. It was going through the best 50 rock songs of 2005. I spent quite a long time not recognising anyone or anything. I eventually realised I knew of Scandirockers Him (complete with their British Standards Institute Kitemark logo) from their long ago songs which feature heavy Tellytubbyage. Hadn't heard the recent thing, or rather hadn't memorably heard it (still haven't).

Once we got to the derivative bad-hairness of the Kings of Leon (see Slade or Wizzard) I gave up concluding that I hadn't missed much.

I'm sure there was other stuff I intended to add, but I can't remember it now.

Merry Christmas.

I'd better go and pack.


PS. For the Christmas card, a la Dan and Az, go and delve on Flickr. You might also find various stuff which I've finally got round to explaining, having uploaded on en masse a while ago.

PPS. No Christmas is complete with some form of quiz (I used to include annual crosswords with the cards. I gave up after I discovered slightly too late that it isn't "intresting". People still finished though). So tell me (ignoring the fact it's been unanswered since November), where is this?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Purbeck - Barcode cliff, coloured by Liberty'sThat last post wasn't really very good, was it?


In a bid to make amends (well, bump it down the screen a bit), here's some other stuff.

Via docman on Flickr I found this family name site. It tells you where the Jones's live, and shows clustering of names. Of course, it does only apply in Holland, and my knowledge of Netherlandese geography doesn't quite extend to being able to place Amsterdam (but I know Rotterdam is nearly at the border), so I can't get much information from it, other than the joy of discovering that there are 219 people or households (I don't know, I can't read Dutch) call with the surname Jones.

Bizarrely there are 3 households with the surname French (just think about it for a while). There are six Yorks, 15 Cornwalls and 39 Londons. There are 77 Bakers but no Butchers.

And it's quite odd, picking surnames at random from either side of the family brings up 900-ish each time.

Anyone else see that Story of God thing on Sunday? As my brother and I err on the side of science, we both watched it (having earlier managed to watch Songs of Praise. General lethargy, you understand, mixed with Christmas carols. But who on earth [or indeed in heaven above] decided that having Diane Louise Jordan reading out a scripted "Wow" was a suitable introduction to the programme?). It was quite good other than my brother's flatmate sticking an oar in to tell us to read "Angels and Demons" if we want to know more.

I know enough of what the bored and boring people on the Tube read to know that that is a Dan Brown book. As in the creator of highly formulaic, near sci-fi, badly written dross? I haven't read the book, but I've read the back cover and a small section of the Da Vinci Code, which was enough to realise that reading Benelyn ads on the Tube is likely to be more interesting, more stimulating and more informative.

Which reminds me of a couple of other things. Two firsts: one I nearly considered changing carriage last night due to a voracious mutterer. Imagine Father Jack as portrayed by a biochemistry researcher (you know, the same otherworldliness as botanists and geologists, but who literally don't get out as much), ranting about tax and with frequent use of the "cumth". I think he was intending something stronger but couldn't quite remember how to say it. But I didn't in the end, and he disappeared off to pound the side of the train as it pulled out.

The second was reading Metro. Having so far failed to notice were this are distributed (I only seem to be handed free copies of the Guardian). I can't remember what the cover story was about, but it was done so virulently that not even the Times would stoop so low. Further in, and it's ranting about various things, as well as managing to have two items on the same page saying the same thing (a technique I noticed the Guardian doing recently). By the time Victoria came, I was glad of the crowds denying me the space to read it. I put it down, and the guy opposite asks for it, reads it, and gets off the train further down the line still avidly reading it. he obviously found the soduku, as there's nothing else in there which could possibly have held his attention for so long.

Anyway, back to God (and I don't mean the town). The BBC's favourite moustache, Robert Winston, was interviewing creationists, and these dappy people have made a museum to educate people about it, using displays which seem like a pastiche of 1930s stuff (which I suspect was outdated at the time), so showing small children riding a stegosaurus. Ok, so riding is a minor exaggeration, and maybe it wasn't a stegosaurus, but the general theme was people crowbarring the fossil record into Genesis, because Genesis says it happened this way, so even the stuff Genesis didn't quite cover has to fit in somewhere, and obviously Texans are the best placed people to work that sort of stuff out (remind me again, on which day did He create mitochondria?). Once again, they might not have been Texans, as any thick, misguided Southern Americans will do.

Anyway, they had RW and random bible-abuser (well, they are called bible-bashers) being interviewed on one-oh-six-point-two aitch-aye-cee-kay radio, by someone who could well have been the creationist's brother in law (he hadn't quite understood the concept of bias, but then he didn't appear to understand much). The two interviewees are exchanging views, but it's obvious the creationist is losing; he resorts to ranting about being denigrated, accusing RW of all manner of ills. RW noticeably hasn't thus far, which makes it all the funnier. Except, I know, that somewhere listening to the exchange will be people nodding and saying things like "Amen to that brother" (who says clichés are dead?).

All they're doing is hearing the accusations of some heinous crime, and agreeing with it. It also surprises me when I hear American debates that debating consists largely of accusing the opposition of doing anything which sounds bad, whether it's true or not. They work on the principle that mud sticks. They make the improbable into a mantra, and so it must be true, otherwise people wouldn't keep saying it would they?

It's so childish, and regrettably, so apparently effective.

Anyway, after all this, and a mutual bout of "remind me never to move to America, or at least the non-coastal bits", we both did other things (him Foo Fightersing, me Flickring. I know more FF songs than he does. I own more FF cds than he does, and I've only got one).

And then he forwarded me this.



Tuesday, December 20, 2005

GF5 600 - London Eye - 05Sleep really is a good idea isn't it? As is food.

Ought to remember that a bit more. Apol's for the lack of blogging. Been a bit busy and bit tired. First came the immense joy of impending deadlines. This was made all the better for the following three reasons:

- Discovering that what I'd been doing was quite what was now wanted. Always great when that happens.

- Agreeing to check over another member of the team's work. Unfortunately I couldn't safely refuse. When checking it, I discovered she's even more fond than I am of filling words and phrases. She also has a non-native speaker's approach to grammar. And I know she's Japanese, but managing to misspell "correct" as "collect" really is a bit too much of a cliché. Some examples of the un-edited work: Most of countries, including United Kingdom... It is because of... In UK... And it is also... Therefore, it can be said that... It is because that it... regards to...point of view.

All this in the introductory paragraph, before she really gets into the flow. I am aware that not all of this is incorrect per se, merely that the combined effect is somewhat sub-optimal. I'm ignoring the myriad preposition and article confusions.

Having said all that, I struggled to escape the traditional scientific style of an unrelentingly passive voice (and why does Word always seem so surprised by this? It's had enough experience to learn that the "it was done" syntax is not a mistake).

It's odd; I've just realised in proper writing "I" is banned and everything has happened. When I write informally, i.e. blogging, and even when describing past events and actions, I tend towards the current and continuing sense.

- The computer I was working on getting a little unhappy. It shuddered, all too literally, went to a blue screen, different from the usual BSOD, requested my permission to dump the memory (er, do I have an option?), dumped that then restarted. Well, tried to. It went through a few cycles of abortive restarts without any external interference. Then I think it got back to Windows, although everything spewed error messages. Trying to edit work killed the computer everytime autosave kicked in, thereby corrupting the autosave files. Eventually I managed to get anything automatic turned off, and still the computer keeled over, each time wiping any edits. The next restart brought pre-OS warnings of BIOS errors with caching and shadowing. A couple cycles more and this had degenerated into a warning declaring that the harddisk contained an imminent fault. I was told to use f10 to scan it. f10 made the computer hang. f10 hit very early on in the start-up sequence got into the right programme. I did exactly what the error message had told me too. The test took a long time to tell me exactly the same thing as the error message, without saying what I can do about it. All of which was happening at 2am when I had to present it the next day. Not fun.

Eventually the computer gave me the option of using safe mode, so a heck of lot of work was done in the big fonted, low-res, blocky coloured confusion of maligned settings.

Anyway, I got to rediscover that the trains never really restart, as they never really finish, and that the planes do start fairly early. And that it's still worryingly dark disconcertingly late.

Staying up all night is only fun if one is going somewhere interesting, or talking to interesting people.

And then after the deadline came the presentation, which had slipped somewhat from my priorities over the night, so I ended up inventing it a hour beforehand when I had long sicne lost the ability to think, and was having great trouble focussing, and remembering to focus on the screen.

It didn't go that badly, considering. Which meant there were many others which would have been soporific even if much of the audience hadn't been awake a painfully long time. But I explored areas others feared to tread (maybe simply didn't think of), although in a slightly too ad-lib way, which given I had earlier accused of winging my way through a recap session to get other people up to speed on something else, probably isn't good. In the truth, I intended to revise the bit I would be explaining, only my organisational prowess got in the way. I'd set everything I need to check aside weeks ago, which meant I couldn't find it.

So basically I'm atrocious at organisation, prioritising, planning, time management, presentation and so on. But my ability to make stuff up on the spot has improved drastically (and sometimes I'm right).

After this came the salt, fat and sugar fest that is the group Christmas party. No photocopiers were damaged in the making of this gathering. I ended up being quizzed on English Christmas customs; have you tried explaining bread sauce to someone from China (who famously ate near-raw spaghetti, because that's what she thought it was meant to be like), and then tried to think of a tolerable for the lactose intolerant version?

I ended up trapping people in a corner, chatting merrily away, having discovered that the white was infinitely better than the red, as it had been bought in from outside rather than being the usual branded Vin de l'Institution, Lac de vin europien.

Then back home carrying liberated juices of many fruits, none fermented unfortunately. One of the joys of lingering to help clear up is that one gets to clear the plates of food (although I didn't attempt eat my own body weight in heavily salted peanuts), and can therefore confirm that Mexican flavour crisps go quite well with mince pies. Another is that I get handed about 3 weeks worth of vitamin C in assorted cartons. I had be hoping that some of the spare wine (yep, you can tell the high-ups were there) might be going a bit too spare, but I didn't have a chance to discreet such notably discrete units about my body (well, carry them over to my bag). Which is quite annoying, because no sooner had they been packed into boxes than someone walked off with as much wine as he could carry without using the box. Damn me and inability to break into petty theft.

Should it be worrying that my training as a teacher's son shows so easily on such occasions? I'm always around to move tables and deal with the leftovers (usually because A requires B, in much the same way I always used to make the breadsauce at Christmas; it's amazing how much food is eaten before the meal proper).

Then back home, having not really eaten any proper food all day (lunch, consisting as it had the day before, of just slices of bread taken straight from the packet, but because I didn't have time I only had one), so trying to work out if the lightheadness combined with slight coordination and balance issues was the result of the wine, the lack of food surmounted by an full-scale electrolytic assault or the lack of sleep (I did try working out how long I'd been awake, but I was so consumed by the calculation that I nearly fell down an escalator so I gave up).

The next day involved lots of Machiavellian moves (if I mentioned the person who sent me on safari round London, it was her), complete chaos, wasted effort, a stunningly bright basement (so bright that for the first time in half a week I could everything first go), aimless chatting while things beyond our control happen, then re-emerging into the cruelly dark world. This was followed by a confirmation of the assumption that I cannot go across London, eat, sort things out and then come more than back in under an hour. I could have been quicker if I'd skipped eating but lunch had been a repeat of yesterday, breakfast and been a thoroughly inventive Weetabix and apple juice (and I don't mean separately. A curse on curdled milk. I could have tried cranberry juice, but apple was already open, and I know from previous experience that orange juice is not the best taste to combine with Weetabix).

And so up to Camden to gatecrash (well, have my name on a guestlist, for the first time in my life) my brother's work Christmas do as he had a strategic lack of girlfriend. Which basically meant I travelled light, leaving my ubiquitous bag behind, which of course had my A-Z in it. And as I hadn't printed out the map, due its cunning use of white on white, meant I wandered round bits of Camden for a while. I started off well by only following the signs for a while (ah yes, easily rotate-able signs are such an inspired idea) before turning back and taking the next street round. I walk up that for a while, find things I didn't know where there, turn back, walk round a bit lost for a while, and then ring my brother and tell him I'm outside Sainsbury's (I could have said the British Transport Police, but he seemed to be having difficulty with why I was ringing in the first place). He gave me some stunningly unhelpful answers, so eventually I just said bye and hung up (well, it was on my phone bill, he can't hear what I'm saying, isn't being helpful and is getting very easily distracted).

Walking on I find the place down some unprepossessing lane (I know I shouldn't judge a street by its tyre shop, but it really did seem like it was only houses from there onwards). I say my name, feeling slightly foolish, and go in.

I survey the crowd, and realising just how many people there are, abandon any pretence of nonchalantly walking towards someone I know, and go straight into full blown hunt mode. He's not there. I try upstairs, nearly killing myself in the process, as the stairs have an interesting texture to them. They're cast iron, but where they have broken chunks of MDF have been cut to fit. Except the MDF is twice as thick as the original, so the stairs effectively end up sloping with different heights between them. Add the spiral and it turns out that the curving course is the only thing stopping people falling all the way down.

He's not upstairs either. I desperately pretended I was not about to do what I did next, and rang him. He tried giving me directions to the building and got very confused by my upstairsness. Only I would expect clear rational answers from someone who's been at his work's Christmas do for a couple of hours.

I go down, meet him, get nervous, have lemonade, because the options were wine or beer, but I'm not keen on beer, everyone else is drinking beer, which leaves me with wine, which either means vile taste with visibly manky teeth or the only glass of white wine in the room. So I pick lemonade, thus becoming the only person drinking that.

He introduces me to people, but it's a little awkward. Then comes the thatch I spent the day before staring into the back of. Yep, it's one of the guys who were part of the intended audience for the presentation (yeah, the one I made up in an hour of very tired work).

Fortunately I couldn't hear all of what he said, but my presentation "wasn't the greatest". Really? I wonder why that could be? Might it perhaps have something to do with the fact I hate and dread presentations and am usually so stymied by nerves that I forget to even hit "enter" to bring up the next power point slide? Although the latest one was a rare exception where I was far too knackered to even care, and so ad libbed frantically. I didn't even have the usual um leads to er leads to er... leads to ... in which I make a mistake and am so acutely aware of it that I start making more mistakes and everything snowballs.

But on the other hand he did say our group had done one of the best projects, so it's not all horrendously bad. Anyway, I heard my brother's description of him. It wasn't rude, merely lacking in certain key features.

So then standing round listening to other people chatting. Then upstairs tailing my brother so he can do the traditional baby pictures competition. Baby in this case being defined as between 3 and 14 years old (and still some of them didn't get it). Looking at comedically sweet pictures of children isn't all that fun when one doesn't know the adults they became. I kept an eye out for my brother's picture, having been shown the selection of possible images. In most he just looks like him. There's one were he didn't, and that's the one they used. But there are also some which have both of us.

One picture shows both of us sledging on surprisingly little snow (and my [older] brother's wearing what I remember being my coat. I must have been very easy to please). Somehow I've managed to fall through the front of the sledge, so I'm wedged in hole with my knees against my chest and very possibly sitting on the ground (it being a proper wooden sledge, ideal for ramming antique sledges and breaking bits off them [but that's a whole separate batch of memories, so I'll skip it for now]. And what am I doing in this obviously uncomfortable position?

Grinning inanely. Full on "chubby cheeks". Which prompted my brother to do what he always used to do, and so discover that I still have chubby cheeks, despite being noticeably lean and bony.

This bewildering grin prompts my brother to ask "What happened to the smile?", and as he opens the next image, I reply "That".

The image shows my brother perfectly haring down the hill on his bike (which I've only just discovered came from the tip. How's that for carbon neutral from the start?), with the background blurred out as the camera panned. And towards the edge of the frame, and downhill of the bike, is a small me jumping with both arms raised so the forearms form vertical bars.

There's nothing quite sibling brutality.

Except it's obvious to both of us that my brother's about to veer off up the drive, which was the standard technique for dumping speed and not flying off at the corner and out into the junction (which admittedly was nowhere near as busy as it is now). Of course you could only do it if the car wasn't there (well, you could do if the car was there, you just had to get it right). But as comedy images go, it's up there with my sodden brother lying in the bath, fully clothed. I was having a bath, he came to annoy me, he tried towering over me, he fell in, I got out; and the many, many pictures of him wearing shorts which are so short that his socks cover more flesh. Oddly, he didn't send either of those into the work competition.

So he tries to judge pictures and I turn my attention to the food, having not been very successful with the whole eating thing recently. Whoever organised hadn't quite grasped the concept of fingerfood. I ended up eating many chunks of pork pie, discovering that prawn crackers are the most durable of dippable items, thanking god for pretzels (although wondering how anyone can choke on something which is mostly hole), shuttling between the bread and the pate (cunning idea that, putting spread and spread upon on opposite sides of a crowded room), and trying to work out the level of dementia required to decide that a mince-pie Bakewell-tart combo is a good idea (Layer of pastry: check. Layer of mincemeat: check. Layer of thick icing: check. Warning! This item contains sugar level error. Please redefine L_minm or L_icng variables). That's nearly on a par with Sainsbury's managing to sprinkle caster sugar over the top of an iced bun-round (hmm, so what's the icing made from then if they add the sugar separately?).

I've forgotten to mention the chicken. Have you ever seen anyone gnaw elegantly at sticky chicken bones? Neither have I. Plus there was the small issue of what to do with the bones afterwards. Try to remember the food is on tables in front of the staff photographs. For a company who basically devise ways of making stuff move, they hadn't quite thought that one through.

Then my brother managed to abandon me with his competition sheet, while he disappeared. Which gave me an excuse to be vaguely antisocial and not have to stand by his elbow irritating him. A couple of people talked to me, but as both of those were new to the firm, and so thought I worked with them, they probably don't count.

I tried to finish the competition, but got annoyed by the whole thing and gave up, for once in my life leaving answers blank. The fact I had about four extra girls leftover probably means things had gone a bit wrong earlier. But as my brother pointed out, he does have an advantage because we were the only people in the room who knew who the small boy in the hayfield was (which wasn't true of the rest of them. I didn't know some of people, but the pictures were still obvious).

The downstairs, and dancing, which I tried to avoid. My brother cajoles me into it, then tells me off for moving so jerkily, with the line "it's not the late eighties anymore".

Which given the song playing was Vanilla Ice's "Ice, Ice, Baby", I thought was a little unfair.

But my god, they all dance, and they do it properly, with real individual limb movements, in time and everytime. Whereas my dancing usually consists of the same thing regardless of the song, as little foot movement as possible, and some occasion jumping, song permitting.

Maybe my problem was insufficient alcohol, as many of the moves might have been generated by intoxicated instability. But one Black Sambuca to the good [it's black, it's sticky, it tastes of aniseed, except it's so sweet it's more like liquorice (which oddly I never used to like. I've even discovered peanut-butter isn't ground devil's scrotum. So it only took an extra decade for those tastebuds to die out), perhaps, er..., it's already liquorice], and I find my life jumping up and won in a ring with other people. Except either side are both shorter, and not doing much in the way of jumps, so I end up trying to jump, realising it would be more efficient not to, but also being aware that it would be socially unacceptable not to.

And that's about it, except I try hinting to my brother about the last tube home, which he overrules on the grounds that it's already left (so why did those signs I saw when leaving the tube station say 00:20 Southbound then?). The whole thing tails off at about halfpast midnight, and we get shepherded out into the rain, only to have the bouncer telling us to leave as the drinks-pusher (who turns out to be a pressganged regular) tries to get us to finish off a gargantuan (bah ver, ver nife) drink.

Eventually we leave, and my brother's so drunk he's trying to do the opening titles to The Monkees as he walks along. He's incredulous that I don't remember it (I could have been mean and said it was before my time, but that's not technically true, at least for the repeats). So if you heard two, slightly more tuneful than either of us were expecting to be, voices singing "Hey, hey, we're the Monkees" at some ungodly hour, then sorry.

And then to a bus stop. Where we wait while my brother hopes to hail a taxi. I point that the bus arriving in X minutes goes exactly where we're going. He's rude about my naivety for believing in bus timetables. I point out that it is the middle of the night, and so it is in fact the only time buses become a viable form of transport, due to a complete dearth of anything else on the roads.

He hails a taxi, and after having yet another decide that London ends at the Thames, reverts to trying to chat up the miscellaneous European girl at the bus stop. I pretend I'm not with them, as does what I suspect might be her mother.

My brother's still hoping for a cab, to which I counter that the bus is due in 3 minutes. He hails the next orange light, then gets in.

I follow, safe in the knowledge that he's paying, and although he's drunk it's his own silly fault, and he'd probably have got one even if I wasn't here. He tries to convince me that cabs are better than buses (well, they do have more legroom), before lapsing into some conversation about institute stuff.

I stare out of the window, not quite knowing where I am until we suddenly emerge at the river. Then the south bank swallows us up, so I get deeply disconcerted when there appears a large lake off to the right. I ought to recognise it, as I've seen near enough the same view from the train often enough, but it's dark and I'm peering round my brother. I forget the Thames has corners.

Then south a bit more, not recognising places, until we're nearly home. Spring out, thankful for decent sized doors, while my brother pays and tips the driver (his logic was that two pounds more proportionally isn't much. Which is true, it's just the base rate I object to).

Back in the flat we chat about nothing and then go to bed. Hurrah. 3 am on weeknight. That's really helping the lack of sleep.

The next day I've still more stuff to do, but a general lack of energy with which to do it. I end up sitting in front of a computer late on Friday getting frustrated by printing, and then the server packs up. Which I spend quarter of an hour getting cross about and trying to fix method I remember the "routine maintenance" email that appeared ages ago. I can't check when it's supposed to be happening as the email account the information was sent to is suspended as part of the maintenance.

So I give up and walk down through London. It's nice at night, other than the exhaust fumes. Eventually I get on at Vauxhall, having wandered alone for a while making little discoveries. I ought to go back with a camera (damn, broken lens; another item which is bulking out my depressingly long to do list).

Then back home to find fish and chips waiting for me. As they have been for the past 4 hours. What? But I did. See... oh. Oh. Well, it's not my fault if my phone's battery runs out, is it? That was a rhetorical question.

So reheated fish and chips at 11 (remembering to first remove the lemon. Yes, I know, but this post is already massively long, so I'll avoid that topic until I need more displacement activity). Then chat for a while, while half-watching Jonathan Ross who bemused my post-Friday-night drinks brother by having Kubb on (I can't find their site as they've cunningly chosen the same name as popular Scandinavian game and a country music station in America). I explain that, yes, he is the one from Rootjoose, and that the drummer is from Reef.

And then both of us wonder why, given the pedigree, the song just doesn't. It's a "wake me up when the tune starts". I thought was being harsh the last time I mentioned them, but I'm just not getting it.

Anyway, then to bed.

Saturday consists of being driven to buy cards. Being driven across London on clear sunny winter's day, so the city is bathed redeeming light. Being driven in convertible with the roof down. Yes, we had many layers, hats, gloves and scarves on. Yes, speed bumps were not our friend. But still, so, so nice.

The speed bumps thing. The car is not very far off the road (this might meant it needs new suspension) so grounding tended to happen even at the slowest speeds. But being so low, and sitting over an ailing exhaust (which may correspond to the speed bumps), does mean it feels like the car's going very fast, even when it isn't.

Anyway, we emerged out over Vauxhall Bridge, both agreeing that bridges are brilliant things. Then up Millbank, while I tried to connect the lights of the night before with the buildings on the far bank. I had the best view of Westminster I've ever had, as the car combines the universal view of walking with the irresponsibility of being driven. Then up Whitehall, which feels very different from the middle of it. Past Trafalgar Square, not quite sure how to react to camera toting tourists turning away from the depressed lions to watch two people in a car.

Charing Cross Road rammed home just how tall taxis are, let alone buses. Tottenham Court Road even managed to appear pleasant for once, as there was less traffic and more sky than I'm used to (normally pedestrians are crushed against the buildings, so it always feels overwhelming).

The road beyond, up to Mornington Crescent is still as hateful as ever, although we both noticed a new building (well, really rather old building, but new to either psyche). Then veering off to use Mornington Crescent to get to somewhere (how novel), and over the accursed speedbumps, pulling over to let the held up traffic pass. On a bit more and up a road with speed bumps I fully approve off. They are those little square ones, placed in the middle of each lane. So if the road's empty and one is in a small car, one can go any speed one likes down the middle of the road without encountering any graunching noise.

Then into a private car park (office car parks at weekends at the best thing ever), out leaving the car open, down the road and the backstreets of Camden, then to the card shop. It's daft that one has to drive across the capital simply to find a mediocre selection of cards. Exeter has three decent cards shops clustered together. My proper home town has 3 (although each sells other stuff) plus the museum. London... London has Waterstone's and Paperchase. It's the same with anything else. If I go out to buy fruit, the best option, and the only one which doesn't involve a commute, is Sainsbury's. No wonder people talk of it being a city of villages; the entire place consists of urbanised out-of-town supermarkets and densely packed hamlets with less amenities than even the most miserable town in Devon.

So when I found a street market I was overjoyed, until I discovered all the stalls sell virtually the same thing, so you can buy bananas, the same variety of apple (bitter, bruises easily, skin peels off like a banana's), tomatoes, aubergines and peppers. Can you buy potatoes? No. Onions? No. Broccoli? Only Purple Wilting if they have any left. Mushrooms? No. Oranges? No, but they have got pomegranates. Eventually I gave up and headed for the nuts and snacks stall. While waiting to buy my finest Turkish dried apricots, and listen to people bemoaning the impossibility of sourcing unsweetened dried cranberries, I sample a wasabi coated peanut, simply because I can't remember what wasabi is (I can now, and could for the next 8 weeks). I buy them, but put off stocking up on cashews (I used my mother's logic, as "I'd only eat them"*).

Go home, eat apricots. Go shopping in Sainsbury's. Discover that the not-even-own-brand apricots are cheaper. Get quite disappointed with the whole wholesome market thing, especially when you consider the long walks next to busy roads it takes to get there.

* Yes, I know, when applied to food this doesn't make much sense. Except that in some way it does.

Anyway, back to Camden. Buy cards. Spend too much. Damn this having taste thing. Damn this aesthetic eye. Damn caring about the cards I send, even when it's blatantly apparent many other people don't.

Back to car. Drive home via Regent Street, were we bale after being asphyxiated for ten minutes of little movement by a Heritage Route. By some odd fluke we pass between Green Park and Hyde Park just as Blur's greatest hits gets to Park Life.

Through Victoria, taking the wrong road, so I tell my brother to use the road on the right to turn round. The road turns out to be the yard of Westminster Cathedral. I'm sure they wouldn't mind, assuming we could get past the parked cars. Then a bewildering set of brick chasms, and out onto a Vauxhall Bridge Road (ignoring my brother's remarks over a mistimed "where are we?").

Then past the big shiny building which has no name (other than the one used in the A-Z), which is looking distinctly less shiny, with windows looking like they're about to need replacing. It's not helped that the other side of the road now has an even bigger shinier building in the form of St George Wharf (no confusion over apostrophes there).

But I was far too amused by this multitude of expensively sleek apartments glowing discreetly in the twilight, except for the balcony which has many sets of Christmas lights, all flickering to different rhythms. Result.

I suspect the only thing which stops them having an illuminated, inflatable, Homer Simpson Father Christmas is the wind howling off the river.

Then back home, noting just how close everything all is, and beginning to wonder how long it would take just to walk in to town.

After that came the joy of escaping car with the camber against me, and taking my gloves off to put the hood up (so from warm to no longer registering in 3 seconds flat).

Then in to write Christmas cards, followed by panic and mistakes. I run to catch to the post, nearly spinning off backwards when I misjudged the steps on a bridge. I find a pillar box and discover through the graffiti that the post went at noon. I run to the post office, drop them into the right slot. Then as I slump over with that horribly warm feeling in my throat, I read the times of the last post. Saturday 12 noon.

What kind of post office has its last collection before lunch time on a Saturday? I think the one where my parents live has its last collection at 12.30, on a Sunday. Saturday is all of quarter of an hour earlier than a weekday. I storm off in exhausted disgust, without even checking whether there's a collection on a Sunday. I suspect there isn't, but there's not much I can do about it now.

Then home, then food, then watching Saturday Night Fever, which I'd never seen, and which went on far too late, and was just a bit predictable. Good, fun, slightly dangerous if one has rugs, but still predictable.

And that's about it. The past few days have been fairly non-descript. Just too tired to do much, and without any excuse, and many reasons for not doing anything interesting.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

IMGP0167Just heard in the entertainment news section on Radio 1 (I'm doing work, it doesn't make me think, QED). Somebody is going to play in Manchester before "flying to the UK".

And they complain the real news is Londoncentric.

Oh well.

And obviously Radio 1 doesn't like me commenting on it, as now the signal keeps going. Except I'm playing it over the internet, and I think it's the wireless router dropping packets.

Oooh, funky in-a-tunnel effect, but now it's like he's singing through a slinky. And now nothing.


CF7 600 - Ultracolour - 19 SummerhouseI'm a real blogger now.

This morning I had my first blogger-spot. Ok, so it's more Flickrite-spot, although he does blog and I have read his [many] blogs occasionally. But still recognising somebody from the internet does seem so odd.

Anyway, at about 10.45 this morning as I was going from A to B I saw Mr Drift Words. It took me a while figure out why he was familiar. He was walking north on TCR just by the Cafe Nero (ok, so that's about as helpful as saying he was by the double-yellow lines, but I know where I mean). He was carrying a paper Cafe Nero cup of potentially coffee. He had clothes on this time, I think.

And that was about it, as it took me a while to recognise him, a while longer to start deciding what to do, by which time we'd passed and it would have been a bit odd to turn round and chase him up the pavement while crying out "Hey, wait a minute, I know you, well, I don't, but you're that bloke from the internet; I've read your blog, well, parts of one of them a while ago, and I've looked at your pictures, ok, some of them, because they're a bit hit and miss, I mean sometimes you get it right, but anyway I'm not really in a position to judge, but, um, I've seen your profile, and, er, I can't remember much except you've got an odd name that you changed, and I sort of know what you do, but I do know where you live. Er, why are you running? You'll spill your coffee." Besides, I was supposed to have been at B at half-past, and anyway, I can't go meeting people for the first time when I haven't shaved sufficiently, I've had about one day's sleep over the past 3 days and I'm wearing what can only be described as an innovative combination of clothes.

So, yeah, that's about it for mildly entertaining, but still not quite entertaining enough, diversions.


Monday, December 12, 2005

CF10 600 - Infrared 21 Millmead LockAnnoyances of a different type this time.

The media are doom-mongers aren't they? Walking home, there's the usual boards out for the Evening Standard: "Toxic cloud hits London tonight". Wow, not only do they have on the scene reporting, but they're also managing to report events before they happen (so when did they get bought out by Murdoch then?).

Oh, and toxic cloud? That's about as informative as BBC News's in depth feature on the contents of the smoke plume from the fuel depot fire. We were told that it contained pollutants such as carbon dioxide (gosh). We were told that it might contain carbon monoxide, which of course is toxic [mumbled] in high concentrations [/mumbled] (and C02 of course isn't. Hang on, isn't there some nasty stuff which causes hallucinations and death if it's in high enough concentrations? What's the word, I had it a moment ago, it'll come to me, oh, oxy-erm, oxy-something).

Heck, it's not that bad. They could have said the smoke plume "may contain" carbon dioxide, just like it may contain traces of peanut. BBC London doesn't really far much better, but at least they restrict their stupid comments to asking why people have built houses, roads, industrial estates or indeed fuel depots. Sorry, I'm taking it out of context, so I should in fairness add "in Hertfordshire" to all those questions. Although perhaps asking "why were houses built in Hertfordshire" is a fair question, I mean, they'll never sell as no-one sane would ever want to live there.

No doubt we'll now see calls for all fuel refinery and storage to happen hundreds of miles beyond where anyone lives. That and people lobbying the government to lower fuel taxation to avoid the economic consequences of shortage induced price rises (you’re not asking for subsidies are you? Does that go with Mercedes-driving capitalism? My God, next you’ll be demanding an end to taxation on aviation fuel so we can all enjoy cheaper flights to Bulgaria).

Oh, and as people in Holland apparently heard the blast, hands up if you did. Well, on Sunday the house shook I was woken by a loud rumbling. Admittedly this happens on most days, and when Eurostar goes past we have an added whooshing sound. So I think we can conclude I probably spelt through it. But then I've stuck myself to a blanket before with my own clotted blood as I managed to sleep through a nosebleed, so maybe I'm not the best sample.

And what's it say about my life that I first heard the news on Flickr, while looking at pictures taken from a tower in the City. I saw someone suggested it ought to be added to a group about the explosion, and wondered what explosion that was.

It probably says I was wasting time on Flickr instead of instead of slogging my guts out (hmm, slight cliché there; do they actually fall out if one slogs enough?). Whereas now I've discovered doom is fractionally less imminent than I thought it was, so I'm wasting time on Blogger.

Speaking of which, I ought to go and check if anyone's added any new comments to my photographs on Flickr (oh, and I'm still waiting for the really obvious one which no-one seems to have noticed yet).


Sunday, December 11, 2005

2005-11-05 Greenwich 018The annoyances continue.

First came discovering the text I thought was sent at 10.17 this morning was sent at 10.17 pm on Saturday (hmm, and why's my phone stopped making noises when it gets texts?). Which of course meant the tomorrow it was referring to was today, so I was already late.

Then came trying to work on the Victoria Line as the train shudders up the line. I have poor handwriting at the best of times (actually I've been told my writing looks gorgeous - from a distance). At one station the train stops, lets people off and then moves on. Except before it's gone a metre the brakes slam on and the doors spring open. Uh-oh.

We sit. We wait. We wait for a bit more. There's an announcement. The train is being held at the platform. We wait a bit more. Some people bail. I wait to find out why, and then I'll decide if I should find a District Line train.

More waiting. Another announcement. There's some request from the British Transport Police at Kings Cross to keep all the Victoria Line trains in stations. Hmm, not good, but not the-end-is-nigh-ish. I'll finish this bit of work and then leave if we still haven't moved.

There's an announcement on the platform, but it's just a routine service update and it doesn't seem to have noticed the Victoria Line isn't moving.

I finish the work. As I pack up, there's another announcement. It's the same as the driver's last message. I get off, and promptly get back on to check the tube map. It would have helped if I'd started my alternative route from the right station. Turns out this is Green Park, not Victoria.

I get off again, and as I'm walking the entire length of the platform, the train starts making that ready-to-leave shuddering noise, which I think is the compressors priming to release the brakes. I jump into the nearest carriage, then feel foolish for reacting to the compressors rather than the door-closing beeps.

But there's another announcement. Another service update. Another untrue "A good service is operating on all other lines". I get off again, as I realise the compressors were simply maintaining the pressure as the train had been stationary for a while.

Then into the tunnel which links to the Piccadilly Line. It's long, with a barrier down the middle, and a family out for a stroll walking three-abreast and hand in hand. Eventually I lose patience and use one of the breaks in the barrier to be terribly subversive and walk on the wrong side of the tunnel. I drop back in at the next break, then down the stairs at the end.

I have a moment's indecisiveness as I try to remember which is east and which west when I want to go north. I turn towards the right platform and see a stationary train with closed doors. It moves off. Drat.

If I'd know where I was going I would have caught it. If I hadn't got stuck behind the Sunday walkers I would have got it even if I hadn't know immediately which platform I wanted. If I'd been a bit more decisive earlier I would have been on it or the one before.

The next train is 4 minutes away. Sit, stew. Two more announcements. One is a service update which now mentions the immobile Victoria Line. The next then declares that it's all back to normal. Which means the train I was on has left, and I can't remember the spacing of the trains on a Sunday (not that I can remember it at any other time). So unless I can get to the Victoria Line, have time to wait for a train, and get back in case there isn't one, all in less than 3 minutes, means I'd probably better stick with the Piccadilly Line.

It comes, I get on the crowded train and get off at some unfamiliar station. It's about this time I realise I took the A-Z out of my bag because it was heavy. Such naivety.

But fortunately I catch a glimpse of something familiar and follow that. I get where I was supposed to be, an hour after I was meant to be there. Half an hour for me being inept, and another for getting on the train at the wrong time.

So then into a building to do work. An hour a half later I leave, wondering why it was necessary for me to be there at all, as I could have just emailed things.

Then back home to do more work. Except the barriers won't let me through (but neither can the two other people beside me get through). The woman manning them tells me my ticket is not valid and she tells me to use a machine to upgrade it. I try pointing that it worked two hours ago. She ignores me. I storm off in a huff, furious at being ignored, and also annoyed because I know the ticket machines only do full price tickets. Just like the website only does full price stuff (which is why if you ever see a "Why stand in line when you can buy online" poster burst spontaneously into flames, look out for the guy with excessively narrowed eyes. I want to buy online, but I can't).

I walk down the road to the next station. The staff there tell me need to renew my travelcard. I wait for age until someone appears in the ticket office. I buy a new travelcard (realising that somehow I've forgotten to factor in Christmas. Sod it. I'll just have to scurry round madly to make sure I get my money's worth).

I walk up to the barriers and it still won't let me through. A guy saunters over and tells me that it must be starting on the wrong date. I turn back to the ticket office, which is magically empty again. Turning round I discover the guy I just spoke to has disappeared as well.

Once again I leave a tube station immensely pissed off. I walk down to the next. Here I'm told that I've gone outside my zone. He doesn't seem to get that it's a brand new travelcard and so far I haven't been able to travel on it.

I walk to the next one. My account has been stopped. No explanation and no mention of what I can do about it. Now I'm really livid.

Once again I storm, beginning to wonder how long it would take me to walk the whole way. Heck, given the propensity of the system to stop when and wherever it feels like it, it might actually be quicker to walk the whole way everyday. In my mind the letter to the complaints department is already forming, along with the demand for refund and welling pride in my own potential self-sufficiency.

As I walk on, I relax a bit, even going so far as to apologise to a woman whose husband swung her into me. Which given I'd earlier sent a Korean tourist spiralling out into Charing Cross Road, as well as made contact with several pigeons who were playing chicken, and won a psychological war with a bus while walking up a bus lane (it was the utter TfL-ness of the thing that did it; it was like a red bus to a bore), probably means I was calming down a bit. While walking across the river, wondering how best to capture the misty towers of the Houses of Parliament (if you can get Big Ben between the two lines of trees lining the road, they all bunch as they progressively fade out), thereby wishing I had a camera which worked, and trying decide if the music from the merry-go-round is Gershwin (I know it, but I'm not sure who it is. Not traditional merry-go-round music anyway. There's a very staccato bit that's quite high, a bit sharp, and rather frantic, then it drops down a rapid double swoop).

So I calm down a bit, only to get annoyed once again by the horrendous design between the southern Golden Jubilee Bridge (Hungerford Footbridge) and the Shell Centre/Waterloo. Even better, it's currently a building site.

Then through the wannabe parkouristes (trying not react to their pathetic attempts at jumping over a railing. Oh, to be coordinated enough that I could be less pathetic and so deftly vault over their heads, then carry on walking as normal) and into the York Road end of Waterloo. I ask what the problem is at the ticket office. I'm still a liitle annoyed, but by now resignation is the overwhelming feeling.

Apparently I have -90p on my pre-pay. I'm about to protest, but then realise that if my travelcard ran out a few days ago, then it would eat away the pre-pay until that runs out too. Except I'm still a bit bemused, because if I enter a tube station without enough money on my card for a single, then surely it ought to say something? Like "you have insufficient funds; you cannot travel". Except it probably can't tell the difference between a tube station and any other type of station (why the hell not?), so maybe it decides that theoretically I have enough money for a single bus ticket, despite the fact that I can't get a bus underground.

So not only am I annoyed about the sheer incompetence of 80% of the stations sampled (and a far higher proportion of staff), but I'm also annoyed that I've been wasting money through using pre-pay instead of, um, pre-paid. I want to know why none of the machines I've used recently have flashed up the normal expires-soon message.

Basically I should go and back a fuss, but I suspect it'll take far too long just to make anyone understand what I'm taking about. I could write a letter to complain, assuming I can find TfL's complaints department, but once again it would take too long to be understood, and anyway, I've got to produce an obscene about of words on something else fairly soon (and I haven't started writing).

So basically I hate TfL. I hate the obscurity and ineffectiveness of the Oystercard system. I hate the station staff in Warren Street, Goodge Street, Tottenham Court Road and Charing Cross stations. I quite like the guy Waterloo's York Road ticket office, but that's only comparatively.

And another reason I haven't written to TfL is that I'd want to ask questions of their pricing policy which I suspect no-one there would ever be able to answer.

Why does London have to be such a trade off? You come and think there are so many people. You come and are so lonely, never even knowing the people living downstairs except by the smell of their cooking). You come and are delighted by the density of intelligent people. You come and are aghast at the apparent stupidity of so of the rest.

But I've put far too many words into this, and not enough into the thing I should be doing, so I'd better stop (and I’ve just discovered that eighteen hundred words is less than I think it is, which is quite worryingly, because now I think “Oh, it’s not that bad”, when of course it still is).

Oh hell, it's dark outside.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Who or what is Google Analytics?

When I posted the other bit from today, the status bar flickered between and Blogger I'd understand, what with the whole using Blogger thing, but what does Google Analytics have to do with anything? Is my post being fed direct into Google's database so that it can keep its results completely up to date (and happen to give prominence sites run with the assistance of Google-owned

Or is it going off to feed the Google ads and make sure those on my blog are the best possible? Except I don't have adverts on my blog (unless I'm making reference to things like M&S food porn. This is not just bondage, this is S&M bondage, made with Venezuelan latex masks, covered with real hemp rope burns, genuine lethally spiked dog collars, and louche seduction drooled from Ballykissangel lips).

Or is it all going into the database that complies which ISP I was using, the registration number of the version Windows I'm using, the programmes running on this computer, the make and age of computer, the current CPU temperature? And would Google Analytics have a sister company called Universal Exports, and would Google Analytics [Northern Europe] Inc. just so happen to have an office in Vauxhall?

The URL returns a Google branded 404.

Any ideas?


London - I like the viewThis post is simply here to shunt the previous one down a bit. I shouldn't post when intoxication by tiredness.

But can one actually be intoxicated by tiredness? On the basic level it sounds impossible, yet is it? Various forms of psychological stress manifest themselves as physiological stresses. One result of physiological stress is the reduced functioning of organs such as the liver and general degradation of homeostatic systems. Such reduced capacity would result in an inability to cope effectively with physiological challenges, and so levels of toxins within the blood and body tissues would rise.

So if tiredness is taken to be a psychological stress, or have an aspect which is such stress, then comparative intoxication may occur. But tiredness also is not only a symptom of stress, but is a direct form of physiological stress, and so would have a direct impact on somatic toxin levels.

I think the fact I just became completely distracted probably proves that I'm still not getting enough sleep. Either that or yesterday's sudden willingness to kick small boys does.

In mitigation, I didn't. And he was a little shit. Having popped out on a brief errand (more on that story later), I'd really had enough and was tired, dehydrated, hungry, and enjoying the full body temperature regulatory buggery of running up the broken escalalors in the heat of the Underground, to emerge into the enforced go-slow of a damp London in December. So walking back stuck in a line of pedestrian traffic, a mother is holding her son's hand was she walks the other way.

The stream in my direction narrows a bit to let them pass. The child seems to be playing up a bit. It's only as I pass him that I realise that he's trying his best to trip up people the going the other way (or maybe just kick them). The mother is either oblivious or beyond caring. But by this time I've dodged out of his way and am past them.

I'm bloody livid, but slightly to exhausted to turn back against the flow and chastise the woman. And in the mood I was in, chastising would consist of screaming at the woman and her son, probably teaching the child a few novel swearwords in the process, shortly followed by dropping my voice and speaking very clearly and slowly (which is verbal shorthand for "Run. Run screaming to the hills. Except screaming right now is probably not a good idea as it might draw to much attention to just how annoying you really are. Just know that I've been through my loud warning stage, and this is my self-imposed calm before the dangerously violent storm, and I'm not all that good at self control, so admit defeat now. Understand?"). Except the stupid woman probably would have argued back, which normally would cow me into silence, but in that mood that mood I'm as stubborn as water (and before you try suggesting water isn't stubborn, go and have a chat with any rock).

If I'd realised what the kid was doing earlier, I very likely would have mirrored his action, except I'm a bit bigger than he was, and if my knee meets his face then that's his own bloody silly fault for having one in the first place. Worryingly, I'm still getting positive emotions being generated by the imaginary image of his flailing body soaring above the pollution.

Maybe it's just I'm owed something kickable having damn nearly broken my wrist on BHS's doors. They have many doors. They choose to look them at random, so the world is treated to the sight of shoppers slamming into panels of unmoving glass as if there was a giant bird-feeder left on an internal window sill. Way to go BHS. Piss off every customer and injure about half of them before they get into the shop then do it again as they leave. How to create a perfect Pavlovian response by which every shopper associates your brand with annoyance, embarassment and pain. Perhaps behind some discreet door in Kings Cross this might be the desired effect, but for a dull shop with sells C&A clothes at M&S prices, it's not the greatest plan on Earth. Even if they sold stuff I wanted to buy, after those doors there's no way they'd be getting my money.

Having just been injured by the door, I was very tempted to retaliate by taking a good kick at it, just to see how much force it would take to open the bloody thing (and if the glass happens to convert into a spider's web, well, these things happen. But I didn't, because I had the wrong trousers on. So BHS, you have until I get a decent pair of boots, and a pair of trousers I can Can-Can in, to sort it out, otherwise I will come and create openings where your none opening doors are.

Of course, some you might have noticed that I'm not BHS's biggest fan (no, that's the triple screw, 3 bladed, 8 speed Electrolux Supercool 9000i), and would therefore be wondering why, if I despise the shop so much, I was trying to go through its doors in the first place. Well... because I wanted to go to shop next door, and it's quicker to take the side road off the northern part of Regent Street, continue the same line through BHS, and then into the side of John Lewis's. And it's probably because of the through traffic that BHS lock most of their doors. They don't seem to have connected the impact it has on the people trying to use those doors to get into the shop to spend money there, nor why people use it as a short cut. It's because BHS is always much less crowded than Oxford Street. It's quicker to dodge the three people in there (two of which are staff) than it is to brave the glacial crowds passing in front of the shop. If they really wanted to get rid of the through traffic, either they need to close the side doors completely, which would have the brilliant effect of further alienating their customers (and why tolerate customers messing up the displays? Think of the savings to be made by closing the shop completely), or they need to take the truly innovative step of trying to get some of the crowds passing their door into their shop.

And perhaps my perpetual loathing of the place stems from this semiconcious feeling that it's just not a nice place (much like all M&S's. Have you ever wondered why children burst into tears within seconds of going in? It's because the staff all wear thin uniform shirts and blouses, and the customers are all wrapped up in thick layers of clothes with hats, gloves and scarves. The shop is heated for the [usually somewhat aged] staff (including the gargantuan hairdryer above the door). So the customers are always too hot. The adults take off some of their clothes, and carry them, feeling the weight add to their general exhaustion. The children have spent their lives being told not to pull off clothes their parents have just put on them (just think how much fun putting on shoes and socks can be when the child decides to play). They're constantly told not to lose things (and do anyway). Children are also fairly good at picking up on their parent's mood. So a child who lives in mortal fear of dropping a mitten, and can tell that Mummy's cross (because they've only got the one nice top in the shop in a 26, and they're not restocking it), is not going to start undressing in middle of some shop full of people when they're constantly having to keep up with their parents. So the child rapidly overheats, and, much like a pressure cooker, starts to let off steam. End result: the shop is seen as hell. You think I'm exaggerating? Find a suitable M&S. Now walk fairly fast up the hill to it in February. Go in. Now tell me that the place couldn't do with freezing over. If you disagree, then go and stand outside waiting for the park and ride bus for half an hour, and let me know if you freeze over. It is physically impossible to wear the right clothes for outside and M&S's standard temperature at the same time. So either the outside temperature needs to change (and if it can't then M&S should work to the tourist season) or M&S's corporate standard temperature needs to. And if that means the staff have to wear thicker uniforms, so be it).

Getting back to hellish shops, the last time I braved a BHS with the intention of buying something, or least buying something if I could find anything I liked (which given the last article of BHS clothing I had was a jumper I was given, which was too small for me, wasn't very nice, and I was probably 7 at the time...), I went in and immediately the security guard, who was standing in full view, started speaking into his radio. I walk towards the men's section. He follows me. I can hear his radio repeating back his description of me (which wasn't all that flattering). I try to browse. He stands a few feet away, watching. I move towards a different stand I can hear him relaying my movements. I camera nearby whirs round towards me. I move on again, and the crackling voice and whirring are repeated. I try to pretend I'm interested in something in the vain hope that he'll get bored and go away. It doesn't apparently work. Realising the futility of the attempt, and that it has made me look far more suspicous, as not even I can convincingly feign interest in a round-necked black, grey and beige Argyll pattern acryllic jumper with too-short sleves*, I give up and leave, with the guard following me to the door. It's only once I get outside that I realise that I hadn't seen anyone who was a member of staff in the shop. Can't think why.

Haven't been in one since (oh, except for the purposes of getting from A to B, but that doesn't count).

Maybe they were trialling a personal shopper scheme, but hadn't got the budget to get more staff.

* And it was the most wearable thing in the shop. Come back C&A, all is forgiven (well, not quite all, but at least they made some clothes that didn't look like they were made by them).

Anyway, the reason I passed through BHS in the first place was because I wanted to by some glue. I'd be sent out earlier with the words:
"What are you doing? Oh, you're not doing much. You're not really doing anything. You're doing nothing. We need some glue. Go and get it. Get this one. Make sure it's this. Only get this type. It needs to be the same. Get this. Get from [place down the road]. If they do not have it get it from somewhere else. Make sure you get this one. Only this one."
To which I agreed, simply because I wanted to see how long it would take her to realise I was doing something she needed done soon, and because she was really annoying me, and that I'd had enough beating myself against her false notion that she is my boss.

So I went down the road, cursing inability of London drivers cope with the fact that they are part of the traffic and that the waves of hooting aren't going to make the traffic in front of you move, and anyway, the light's red so you can't go anywhere (oh what naivety. Traffic lights mean nothing in London. Pedestrians soon develop standardised swearing for people who ignore red lights. Cyclists are worse, as they assumed the fluidity of pedestrians but haven't figured out that they have a 5 foot metal barrier between their legs, so trying to sneak over a pedestrian crossing when moving perpendicular to the crowd is not the way to make friends, but it is quite good for losing spokes. And as for one way streets, there must be an aging process for pedestrians in London. At first when they cross they look both ways because they don't know the road. Then the begin to know which are one way streets, and so only look in the direction of the traffic. Then they nearly get killed by someone with rather selective vision and after which they revert to looking both ways). I'm also cursing air so thick with fumes that you could bounce off it, or at least, if you breathe it long enough, think you've bounced off it. As well as remembering someone else's rant about glue-woman (I would call her glue-girl, as she is young enough, but girl implies something too likeable), which I wasn't really listening to at the time, but have now realised was worryingly similar to my own thoughts.

I get to the shop. I go up to the right floor, find the glues, have a bit of an M&S feeling, which was more the shop than the glues, search in vain, search the rest of the shop, search a bit more, and leave. So now what? I can't get the proscribed glue at the proscribed shop as they don't even have shelf space for it. So I'll try to find next nearest source of it.

Another non-stocker.

Walk on a bit more. I'll try Superdrug, as the one at home sells glue. Again no luck (but a magically unyeilding door; this one was permenantly thirty degrees ajar in warning though).

What I need is a Smith's, but I can't see one.

There's a Boot's, and it's quite big, so it might stock glue (what? the alternatives were a couple of hundred electronics shops, so the comparitive chances were high).

On further still. Past the glue sniffers (really should have asked them). Then on a bit more.

Into another branch of Ryman's and still no luck.

Realising I should have turned back ages ago, I carry on, drawn only by my faith in John Lewis's. After the debacle with BHS, I get there. I'm a little disorientated for a while, having ignored the "I need water" and "I need food" signals when I left as I was only popping out for a bit.

But I find their glue selection. There's not very many. But they do have the one I've been ordered to get. Only one packet left, unpriced. I wait for a while to ask the price, then buy it, strongly suspecting that at least 50p of the £1.50 price is because the bag has the same stripes as Waitrose. I try not to think about how much of the money is going to the utterly miserable and supercilious cashier (it's quite fun seeing a short Asian woman try to sneer down her nose at a guy who out does her in terms of both height and size of nose to sneer down).

Taking the glue, I head out to Cavendish Square to get high among the handbags being clasped in expensively manicured hands (and have you noticed how the entire traffic system of the square revolves round cars coming to pick up people and shopping?). Ok, so what I actually do is wander in a small circular trying to remember the way out of the shop (ah, two central ailses, of course), then realise that it'll be quicker to get the tube back. So much for just popping out.

This is were small boy rubgy comes in (still having images of Kick the Baby in South Park, superimposed on the gridlocked building sites of London).

I get back, hand over the glue. Glue-woman takes in the JL bag, the way the grey from under my eyes has bled into the whites themselves, the perpetually twitching muscle near my left eye, and that I'm swaying slightly, and decides not to get cross with me for taking so long.

She does say "You are back. I should not send you get glue. I will not send you again."

I've still no idea if she meant that she should not because she should not command supposedly equal partners and generally be rather rude, or if she meant that I am incompetent and not to be trusted. I suspect the latter. I think she thinks that I did the typical male thing of not wanting to do something, therefore doing it so badly that I'll never be asked to do it again. Whereas I did the very female thing of persistently not making the most rational decision (i.e. not saying, when instructed, that she ought to go fuck herself, or possibly "We need glue? Ok then. Could you get me a muffin while you're out? Oh, and post this"). What can I say? When I'm tired, I lose my ability to think, and sometimes that means I act like a female.

Ok, so I don't quite beleive that, but given the readership of this blog, if the females present stormed off, I'd only loose 20% of the regular readership (and isn't it strange how that figure can so easily be displayed as a simple fraction? It's almost as if I've only got 5 readers, rather than the many thousands the tracker informs me I have (what do you mean "total"?)).

But a gained Twix soon had me back to normal (ish. From my normal base level, a whole adult Twix sends me a bit hyper, then I slump back down). That was until glue-woman decried that she had a new idea for what I was doing. Her idea was [drumroll please]... the one I'd suggested about 8 hours earlier, which she had ensured sank into obscurity, so we could all work to her idea. And what had I been doing all day? Working on making her idea real. So now she decides that the new idea must happen, and all previous work must be abandoned. Not a good thing to say to someone who has spent a long time working on something he disagrees with, while generally being arsed around by someone he increasingly can't stand, and happens at that precise moment to be holding a knife.

So I did the logical, adult thing and ignored her. I know the new idea is my idea, but we've made the decision and don't have time to restart the entire thing. But then I suspect other people's time (or even just other people) doesn't ever enter her calculations.

Once she left I had time to discover that she'd spent her day being so pedantic about irelevant details (which happen to be hugely inaccurate) that she hadn't quite done what she was meant to. So the rest of us coped with her efforts while she wasn't there.

I overhead her earlier in the day discussing housing with people. She doesn't like where she lives. She doesn't like London full stop. I have a sneaking suspiciousion that if she's treated other people the way she treats people I know, then it's probably fairly likely that London doesn't like her, which might explain why she doesn't like it.

And that's quite a lot of rants all rolled into one. Maybe I still do need sleep. Or maybe just food or water. Or at least an end to the headache which I've had since time immemorial (ok, Wednesday).


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

2005-11-05 Greenwich 035Sorry for not posting in a while; a mixture of work and not quite being sure what to write about. Work has stymied anything beyond work happening (heck, I even passed up the chance of booing George Galloway on the Climate Change march, because I was to busy to go in the first place) and writing about work would send you to sleep, much like the way doing the work actually has (but then I had been doing work in the place of sleeping the past couple of nights before).

Anyway, there's not much to say about it even if I wanted to. So moving on. The signs for the London Evening Standard* were busy proclaiming "Robbie Williams 'I'm not gay'". Obviously one for the "I think I've missed something" pile. A bit like reading the rear page of the man opposite's newspaper to discover that "George Best played for the Jews". Is that more or less newsworthy than playing for the other side?

To explain, it was from Jews of the World, by which I mean I can't remember the name of the paper, but it looked like a tabloid, but had "Jew" in every headline. That paper must really love pregnant people and surface condensation of atmospheric water vapour.

One thing about being in London, and especially using public transport here, is that one does get many opportunities to guess the niche of the paper or pamphlet being read from the headlines (or the unrecognisable symbols - sometimes it's hard to get even the continent). See if you can guess:
"O'Hanrahanrahan hits the big time"
"JEWel comeback tour"
"There still is to be no news whatsoever yah"
"Poppadom preach"
"Congo can go"
"In June the snow lies deep in Helsinki"
"Cerise chiffon passé?"
"Nazarbayev suing Kazaa"
"Diminuendo fading out?"
"Murdoch bestest boss in the whole wide world"
"Backlash against the backslash"
"Sun uses pun"

And the answers are: Dyslexia Weekly or Thereabouts - for those who had problems with "banana"; Still Going - lest we forget; Norvegan Mockery; Cooking Madonna; Basement Jaxx Tour News; Junior Espionage; Fabric - not just a nightclub; Over their heads - the Chronicle of Missed Jokes; Be Sharp Magazine; The Times; Mud Prints for Luddites; The Journal of Headline Writing.

Ok, so maybe some of those are made up, but one does see the daftest things in the most completely obscure papers. And they are more interesting that trying to guess what newspaper the ill-looking guy in glasses with trendy glasses is reading (Always the Gruaniad, which today was being given away. First line in G2 "The Royal Welch Guards...". If they're healthier looking, and usually annoyingly good looking, but rude, then it'll be the Telegraph).

Azuric, if you were having problems getting Googlisms to work because it couldn’t think of anything for "London Dan is", then try "Allah is". Woman beside me earlier spent the entire journey reading these outloud very slowly. It's probably highly offensive to think this, but I was left with curious memories of playing "the Parson's cat", and wondered when we were going to get onto the next book in the learn-to-read scheme, "Bill does".

* For just £5 a month you can be an accredited member of the Institute of Self Servicing Meritless Certifications. For a one off payment of £59.99 you can get your London Evening Standard today. The ISSMC are also proud to offer instant Batchelor's degrees from the University of Harvenix (requires hot water. Buy four and get a free Cup-a-soup mug**+***). Call today for a quote on +234 419 710 77345.

* Alternative punchline: low. Why do think people leave it behind when they get off the train?
** This doesn't work if you don't know the brand. Such is life.
*** Which reminds me. Those slightly creepy "hug in a mug" adverts for the aforementioned soup. That the Darkness video with the bizarre Hawkins being dried by a large furry monster which is all arms. Chicken, egg, plagiarism?

And how long did it take them to come up with that slogan? Do they have a pile of prepared taglines for which they're just waiting for the right company? Want to open a sauna in a rugby club? How about "Thug in a fug"? Does your company treat canine incontinence? We've got just the thing for you - "Plug in a pug". Make pickled molluscs? "Slug in a jug". Treat aural infections? "Bug in a lug". Carpet testing facilities? "Tug in a rug".

Of course, I don't think I've ever actually used lug or lughole to mean ear, but it's just one of those thing that come on useful occasionally for still not quite completely a crossword. And I couldn't think of a use for lug, other than the verb (which I use far more frequently than the noun), and that would only really go with tug as "lug in a tug", but tug the verb is a synonym for lug, so it would be a bit odd to say "lug [to carry or move] in a tug [boat which moves ships, but which can also mean to pull]". Which also leave me with flea-ridden soft furnishings, or a wig in an American VW Beetle.

I would have put another asterisk, but I'm wondering whether I need to start using a Roman numeral based system, and if so, whether I can validly use a tilde as five.

Ok, I've completely forgotten where I was going with this, and the post has far to many individual elements to make any sense (BTW, never correct someone when they say the atomic weight of oxygen is 8. It's easier to leave them confusing people).

So, as a recent Ghit said I shall bid you "adie".


PS. The question the search asked was "how to bid French people adie?". I'm sure there's some joke to be made out of this, but Kate Adie does seem to have enough comic potential at the moment. Anyway, the word is "adieu", originally meaning something like "to God", but now "Goodbye". Oh, and cunningly it's a French word, so you might just be able to use it to bid adieu to real, actual French people, although direct translations such as "bon achat" may also used.

Friday, December 02, 2005

CF2 600 - Distortion - 29 MugI feel like crying.

First came Port Meirion. That left my camera embedded in the mud.
Then came the clean up, which left less mud, but a sickening grinding noise and lumpy resistance in the zoom.
Then came the great solidifying. Trying to rinse it out didn't help, but did allow water to creep between the lenses.
Then came getting home and trying to fix it.
Then came more trying to fix it.
And more.
But each time I had to stop as I was blistering my hands.
Eventually, after WD40ing, unscrewing the screws which I could unscrew (which wasn't all of the them), a few rolls of loo paper used to soak up the oiled clay, I got the zoom and focussing moving again. But the aperture no longer worked.
Then came a month of cycling through various methods of trying to extract the lens, with occasional successful attempts at unscrewing parts of the lens.
Then came the last week of trying to dry out the front block of lenses which remaining infuriatingly sealed.
Then last night I managed to unscrew the ring round the very front element. Realising I was tired, I left it until today to dry and clean out.
I cleaned. I dried. I even got the aperture working again. I put everything back how it was.
Except, when mounting the penultimate lens, it jammed, and as I took it back out the lens slipped.
It fell.
It bounced.
It landed intact.
The final lens, the widest, narrowest one, the one it landed on, was split down right across the middle into two perfectly equal halves.

You can see why I wanted to cry.

I don't know where I can get a new one. I suspect I can't; the company who made it seem to have disappeared into thin air. I suspect any replacement will have hand machined. I suspect this probably costs more than the whole camera cost in the first place. I suspect repairing the lens is uneconomical. I suspect buying a new lens for an old camera is as well. But I can't really afford a new camera.

So unless anyone knows where I can affordably get a replacement bit of glass for a Nikon-adapted Kiron 62 mm dia., 28-70 mm zoom + macro lens, I suspect it's goodbye photography for at least a year.

I know I'm not very good at it, but I quite like it and I don't want to stop.

So what have I learnt from this?

Never go to Port Meirion.

Heck, why not make it the whole of Wales?

And the bloody neighbours have been doing karaoke since Wednesday. They are either a collection of supremely camp men with musical taste of eight-year-old girls, or a group of actual eight-year-old girls. From the voices I'm guessing the latter. And they've discovered the reverb setting. I think they must be working through the listing in alphabetic order as we've just had a quivered version of "I will survive" and now the pixelated chipmunk interpretation of "I'm a survivor". And either she doesn't know the words, despite the scrolling or bouncing ball, or she's following the part of the backing singers.

I know I've often said someone should strangle Britney Spears, but judging by this rendition of "Oops, I did it again", I'm not sure I could stand the soundtrack to her death.

How the hell do 8-year olds even hear Dolly Parton in the first place?


PS. How dispiriting. I was going to pick my best picture on Flickr to add as the image of this site, but of all the most popular images none are perfect. Some are massively flawed. Sometimes I just don't get people.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

GF5 600 - London Eye - 32Isn't it nice when your blog gets commentspam? Well Miss (yep, that'll be Pembroke College, part of the glorious University of Oxford), you can take your free iPods back from whence you came (and shame on you for using your the nice people at Britblog to aid your nefarious deeds).

But oddly for comment spam, she has a Blogger account which has an active blog on it (Google "Doreanology". No direct links for obvious reasons). Except it starts of with who she is (female, from London, studied at LSE [is that the same as graduated from?]), then moves onto what she likes (gadgets), then on to how free-space-monkey systems work, and then how wonderful a certain freebie company is. And she seems to manage to only post once per month.

Naturally enough, her blog has identikit "insert production name and link here" comment spam, from "single female forename" (just like Dorean...).

I think it was just the [not a direct quote because I've already deleted the original copy] first line which ran "I can't help with the topic, but I can help with Christmas. [start sales pitch here]".

But can I be bothered to complain to people? Blogger will probably shrug, and point out commercial blog are perfectly acceptable, and spam blogs (what's the proper word for that - splogs?) earn them just as much money as every single other blog. And Oxford will probably say "not us" and then complain I haven't given them enough details to warrant any further action. Either that or they'll commend her for her entrepreneurship.

And while checking the stats to find the spammer (one advantage of not having a popular blog is that I can still find out who was here at a certain time several hours ago), I found this entertaining search "what animal does peperami come from?#".

Hands up if you can answer that question without having to walk to the nearest supermarket to read the back of a packet you have no intention of buying (and you know I will, just because I'm curious, the next time I go to Sainsbury's, assuming I remember). I'd guess pig, but it could easily be the Himalayan Tofu or the Brown Floor Sweepings.

Anyway, I'm not sure I've much else to add - life recently hasn't been all that exciting. The highlight of the week was realising that the entire underground system is based on a Madonna video (The Hits has started working again now the aerial's thawed out. In this household it's rarely watched, and when it is, it's always the same Madonna video, hence noticing). Every rushhour, everybody on the Tube is busy Vogueing, although mostly using other people's arms and hands for the framing.

Spot who has never ever attempted that dance, due to a combination of never having been anywhere where it was playing (but that's hardly surprising), and also because the idea of doing something with limbs that are in close proximity to my face doesn't really seem like a good idea given previous attempts at dancing have led to me elbowing myself quite hard in the solar plexus (try it. It ought to be impossible, and it is at slow speeds).

What else? I've discovered that I've forgotten the second verse of Hark, the Herald Angels Sing. I'm also no longer able to full gloria Ding Dong Merrily on High*, but I haven't sung it since I got that cold my voice never recovered from (colds in puberty have odd effects).

* I always wondered where Marillis High was. I could tell other people in the choir weren't singing "merrily" but it took me a very long time before I figured out that it was "Mary is", and even longer to realise what that meant.

Guess who went to the burning of the Norwegian Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square. Well, plugging in thereof. I didn't know it was on, and was asked if I wanted to come, so I agreed, and then managed to miss everyone meeting up, so I made my own way there, and managed to miss them there (despite several circumnavigations of the place).

So ended up standing alone in a crowd, feeling a bit cold and wishing that St Martin’s ITF would turn their tape of bells ringing off. And why couldn't they run to real bells with actual bell ringers? The sound always started the same and never varied. No bell ringer I know (I realised I typed that being slightly indignant, and that I don't know any, and shortly after realised that actually do know several. Heck I've even done it once upon a time. I nearly broke the thing though. Apparently they don't need all that much of a tug to start them moving. But it was quite fun, in an odd way, but I think my slight lack of enthusiasm for being deafened, getting up early and for God generally might have impinged somewhat on my campanology career. And only I [and maybe a few million other people] could type "campanology" and think that it must be the study of heathers). So, no bell ringer I know would ever do something so boring. Even if they start of doing a free for all, they'd find they where doing peals fairly quickly. And once a peal starts, it's so innate, so logical, that to break out of it is a struggle.

Anyway, I stood in a square alone, surrounded by people, wishing the guy who was reading out the event guide he'd just loaded on his phone would shut up long enough to realise he was talking over the bit he just complained they weren't doing. Oh, and has anyone else ever heard of "A great and mighty wonder"? The Lord Mayor of Westminster decried "we shall now sing together", at which point it became obvious that even those lucky few with hymn sheets (which they couldn't read in the dark - phones with cameras which have a negative option are very useful) had no idea what it was supposed to sound like. I think it was the same Lord Mayor who messed up reading "Ladies and Gentlemen". Gentles I'd understand, just about, but "Ladies and Gentle. Men"?

But even with recognisable hymns, most of the crowd wasn't singing (even the drunken people were attempting, although I think there was a strong degree of taking the piss). Which makes it very hard to carry on singing if you're in a sparse enough soundscape that you can clearly hear every mistake you make and know other people can to (I could hear other people singing, but at a much reduced volume). And I'm used to choirs, where everyone manages to stagger their mistakes so the whole sounds fine.

It's odd. Well not really, because it's the same effect I have every time I make any mistake in any form. I hear myself just miss a note, and I tense up, so my voice gets tauter, so it starts to get hoarser, starts to tremble, starts to croak, then falls apart and I shut up until the next verse, chorus or song. But I'm still under the influence of the last mistake, so the mistakes come sooner, and in the end I simply stop. It just snowballs.

Hmm, I start off on Christmas and end up on neuroses. What a happy little bunny I must be. Although Christmas and neuroses do seem inextricably linked.

Speaking of, er, Christmas - no, rabbits - no, happiness - bit too abstract, so, um, er. Anyway, il y a encore de mes photographes a chez Flickr. Not sure why that was in French, considering most of them are of Greece, may say luvvie. Although I think my lack of Greek but explain it a bit, I can't even do Granglais (which of course should be gr+ whatever the Greek for English is). Alors, clickez-ici.

Et maintenant je pense j'ai fini.


PS. Something on Flickr has just reminded. SWT are purest evil. I went away for the weekend, and instead of being able to buy a leave-now-come-back-in-a-few-days ticket, I was told they'd stopped doing all returns to my destination and I'd have to get two single tickets. Except of course both tickets are under £10 each, so exempt from the Young Person's discount despite the total being more then £10, whereas the return ticket used to be more than £10 and so the discount used to apply. To quote someone else discovering the same thing, Southwest Trains are "Utter shits".

Oh, and was the last proper-doored train running at the weekend? Because there were a heck of a lot of lonely males standing a couple of platforms over at Clapham Junction. It's quite interesting watching people avidly watching something else (yep, I was train-spotter-spotting). Although I did feel sorry for the people who were obviously the social outcasts of the train-spotter community.

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