Thursday, June 30, 2005

It's strange what you miss

Later tonight, the final results of the most recent actuarial exams are released into the world. Since I am no longer taking the exams, this isn't the big worry that it used to be. I have no chance of failing anything. But also no chance of passing anything either.

It's actually three years now since I qualified. I hadn't realised that until just then. The time has gone both quickly and slowly, and a lot of things have happened since, both good and bad, but I think it's fair to say that life is on the whole more enjoyable without the continual threat of exams hanging over my head.

But tonight is also a first for me. Every results night since I qualified, I've still been out drinking with my friends who were still taking the exams, helping them build up the Dutch courage needed to face the internet at 10pm to check the results page. I have tended to find that I would still get really nervous as the time approached, even though I wasn't getting any results myself. It was a strange feeling. Empathatic nerves.

Tonight for the first time, I'm alone at home with no firm plans to go out. All my friends who were also taking the exams have now either qualified, left York or just don't fancy going out in the same way we used to. It feels like I've finally had to grow up and leave that exam-results part of my life behind, no longer even able to live it second hand. And it's made me a little sad.

Sure, tomorrow no doubt there'll be drinks bought by those who have passed and/or qualified, and we'll all have a good time and fall over, that's cool. But I miss the tonight - the feeling the future is uncertain and you don't know which way the tree is going to fall. A combination of fear and excitement that makes you feel alive.

If you'd asked me three years ago, on the night I qualified, whether or not I'd miss that feeling, my answer would have been no. I'd have said that I felt sick and just wanted the whole thing to be over with. But we change. I'm not the same person I was then. In another three years I'll probably be someone else again.

So good luck to anyone expecting results tonight. You have my sympathy. But maybe a little bit of envy too because for you, the best times are still to come.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

You'll catch your death, dressed like that

I'd be surprised if anyone reading this was naked at the moment. I'm certainly not naked whilst writing this post (though just occasionally it feels that way). I'm wearing trousers (pants, to Americans and Chip) and a Tindersticks t-shirt. These are the sorts of things I often wear whilst writing. Sometimes I may wear a jumper if it's cold. Or a dressing gown if it's first thing in the morning and I've yet to shower.

But reading blogs naked? No, that's not right. And to be naked when all you're doing is reading, well that's just foolhardy. Imagine what could happen if you read something so good that you got all excited and stood up and shut your laptop's lid and trapped something. Or maybe you might snag something on a CD tray that you'd stupidly left open. It's just not safe. Not to mention all the hazards of the accidentally spilt hot drink.

So I guess all I'm saying here is that if you're naked right now, reading this, then go away and put some clothes on. You won't regret it.

Actually hang on. If you're naked right now, reading this and you're a sexy girl, then stay a while. Maybe take a photo and send it to me. Preferably a photo of you, but if you want to go out and take a photo of some beautiful countryside then that's fine too. If you're naked right now and you're a fat hairy man, then you probably should head back to the previous paragraph.

A confession: I am naked at the moment - I lied earlier.

Another one: Nah I'm not. But I had you going, eh?!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

What I did at the weekend

I was up in Edinburgh at the weekend for a party. It was cowboys and indians fancy dress - I changed my mind about my costume at the last minute and arranged for me and a friend to dress as cool wild west cats:

Clever Cats

It was a complete bastard to get inside the costumes though - so tight! I think some people that were there may have thought that instead I was the person dressed as me wearing a cowboy hat - but they were wrong! I fooled everyone. I was inside the cat costume all the time! Mind you, the chap dressed as me looked like he'd possibly had a couple too many tequilas (ie about half of one). I, as a cat, was fine though. Cheers for the party Jaq!

It was a lovely warm sunny day on the Sunday, and so perfect for a walk along the beach. You may not think of Edinburgh as a typical seaside town, and you'd be right not to. That doesn't mean you can't walk along the beach though!

So here I am doing just that. You can't tell what I'm thinking in this photo and neither can I, but I imagine it's something like "Ow, I'm going to have a stinking headache later" or possibly just "Where am I?". Or maybe it was more upbeat: "What a lovely day!" or even simply "Fantastic!". Photos just don't give you that level of mental detail. You can think of it as a caption competition if you want, but since it's not actually a very funny photo that might not be a brilliant idea.

The Firth of Forth

Later on, I went home.

How to be a better person

I'm going to make a claim. And you may not agree with me. I don't have a problem with that as long as you are happy to live in acceptance of your wrongness. But here's the claim:

Forever Autumn by Justin Hayward is one one of the best songs ever recorded.

No, really it is! It's perfect in every way. For casual listening I'd recommend the version of it from the War Of The Worlds highlights CD rather than the full length version (and I'm talking Jeff Wayne, not Tom Cruise here) since it doesn't have any talky Richard Burton bits on it, or other bits of narrative.

Put it in your life.

Monday, June 27, 2005

They glue horses, don't they?

We all know that glue is made from horses. So in the same way that you can take some oranges and make orange juice because oranges are orangey, there must be something inherently gluey about horses. But what is that glueiness? Why do we use horses to make glue, but not cows? And how come if you boil a horse you get glue whilst if you boil a pig you get boiled ham?

It all seems a bit wrong to me. Though probably not as wrong as it appears to the horses. Poor little blighters. One minute they're galloping through fields thinking happy horse thoughts and the next minute they're a prit-stick. I don't even like horses much, but it does seem unfair.

I wonder what made early man first convert all his horses into glue? Perhaps it was just boredom. Or maybe he was hungry and wanted to make cooked horse and when inserting said cooked horse into his mouth he found that his jaws became inexplicably stuck together and he put two and two together? Not a mistake that one would make over and over I expect.

It's actually quite lucky that horses aren't overly sticky in their natural pre-cooked state. Horse racing would never have evolved into its current form - the horses would just stick to the floor. I suppose as a plus point it would be much harder for the little jockies to fall off.

Now I'm wondering whether you can get high by sniffing horses?

If we put our heads together...

I've been done a bit of that old thinking thing over the weekend and decided that it was about time I did something I'd been talking about for a while, namely attempt to patch the holes in a friendship that I might have let go a bit stale (though with bloomin' good reason!). But, I think it's fair to say that both of us are open to at least attempting to start again, and it was maybe just down to me to make the first move when I was ready.

Which I am.

So that's good, isn't it? Don't really know if it'll all work out or not, but at least I won't have to look back and regret not making an attempt.

It's entirely coincidental that this happened on the same day that Countdown host Richard Whiteley died. There is not a hint of suggestion that it was his continuing life that was holding me back. And that now he's gone I can feel able to sort stuff out. No. That's not how things went.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Edinburgh Programmes

I'm going up to Edinburgh later to see some friends. They don't know each other but they do live conveniently in flats that are about five minutes walk apart. Makes my life easy. Tonight is a cowboys and indians party - I have a fantastic costume. It's a cowboy hat. And nothing else unless I have time and inspiration within the next hour.

In a fit of coincidence, I received some post this morning. I've managed to get my name printed in a programme for one of the shows at this year's Edinburgh Festival. The yoghurty comedian, Richard Herring, had asked for people to donote money to produce his programme which sounded like a good idea to me at the time. I think somehow this ultimately enabled some money to go to the charity, Scope, but I'm not quite sure how that works if the money was used to produce the progammes.

As part of this deal, I was to be sent a numbered signed, copy of said programme, and this is what arrived today. And as a special bonus, he's also sent me signed copies of the programmes from his previous two shows. I am so lucky!

Try not to be too jealous of me and my brush with celebrity.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Not getting any...

I've had no caffeine for over a week. No tea, no coffee, no coke, no pro-plus. Is this wrong?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Wow! I didn't expect That!

I bought some new trousers earlier in the week - sort of halfway between normal trousers and combat trousers ish. I'm wearing them now and I just opened one of the side pockets. There'e a bloomin' compass attached inside on a little cord. How cool??

I wonder if it's washable? What is the impact of water and soap on magnetism?

This has led to me having a good evening today, even if nothing else good happens later on.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Challenge #6: SKILL - Complete!

So I think it's time to declare another one of my 2005 challenges complete. Challenge #6 was to "learn a new skill to a minimum level of competence". The skill was not specified, but I was on the lookout for potential ones.

So what did I do? I have learnt to dance!

For the last five (ish) months I have been going to dancing lessons on a Monday night at a local country club - that makes the place sound a little grander than it is. Maybe "odd little bar and dance floor next to a driving range" would be a better description... But anyway. The dancing I have been learning has been a mixture of ballroom and Latin-American style dances. We normally do a dance for between 1 and 3 weeks. So far I have tackled, in alphabetical order:

Cha-Cha-Cha
Foxtrot
Mamba
Quickstep
Samba
Salsa
Argentine Tango
Waltz

And possibly another one that I've forgotten. So far I've had a whonking 16 lessons - that's equivalent to one a minute for just over a quarter of an hour. But that equivalence doesn't give you the true level of my new skill, since the lessons actually last for an hour and a half.

The strange thing is that I've been really enjoying it. Despite dancing of this type having been popularised recently through various celebrity and non-celebrity dancing programmes on the television, I think it's fair to say that Dancing isn't really cool. Well, sod that. Babylon 5 isn't cool, but it's still great!

I'm quite looking forward to attending some kind of social occasion where I might be able to use the new-found foot-moving ability. Something like a wedding. The last wedding I went to was last year and I was dancing with a girl there but neither of us I think really knew what we were doing. Moving our feet without tripping each other up was the order of the day, with the odd twirl thrown in. But no longer. Next time I'll say: "Girl, would you like to dance?". She'll say "yes!". I'll dance my half of a Cha-Cha-Cha opposite her and she'll get all confused and fall over. So that might not be considered much of a progression.

Is it better to be two people where one is ignorant and the other has knowledge and hence is aware of the ignorance of the other, or to be both together in the blissful ignorance?

So what, you might ask, makes today the time to declare this challenge complete? Why do 16 lessons give me a "minimal level of competence"? What did I lack after 15 lessons? What might I have found after 17? Good questions all.

The reason I declare this complete is that today I attended a Social Dance (organised by the Monday night people and at the same location). An event whose main purpose was for people to turn up and dance a variety of dances to a variety of songs. I was able to dance the Quickstep, the Waltz, the Tango and the Cha-Cha-Cha not-too-badly. And the Samba very badly. So best to ignore that one.

As ever with something like this, it can take a while for people to pluck up the courage to start dancing, especially if the dance floor is quite empty. Today I wasn't quite allowed this "while". The dancing teacher lady came over to our corner and made me dance with her. Which was quite embarassing to be honest. But after that, it was easy! I'm just a little worried now that she might start picking on me at the actual dancing lessons to demonstrate things. And she now knows our names...

One of the best things about tonight is that there was plenty of room on the dancefloor, and so we were able to move about without being bumped into by amateurs. That really makes it much easier to get a good practice in. On a less good side, due to the current weather it was bloody hot!

But it's all good!

So the challenge is done! And the lessons will continue. Who knows where this one will end up.

Three things to finish up:

1. Many thanks to my dancing partner of these last few months for putting up with my occasional lapses of memory, balance and pure style. You've been great.

2. Whilst waiting outside for our taxi home this evening, the dancing teacher lady came out and said hello to us and then said that I "had fantastic alignment in my waltz". There were three witnesses to this. I was actually complimented on my dancing. She said that she'd been watching me on Monday and it was also the Waltz I did with her at the start of the evening. It's possible that this may have been faint praise of the style "Your alignment was great, but your feet were all over the place and you smell of chips", but I'm going to take it as a compliment. Actually, the second set of kind words in as many days!

3. Don't tell my mum about any of this. I'll never live it down.

As the band Hal said: "What a lovely dance..."

Posting direct to your mind

Close your eyes. Imagine this is a really intelligent, witty and informative post. Exactly the sort of post you wanted to see here today. Imagine the words on the screen against the pink background. Imagine the fantastic pun in the title of the post. Imagine scrolling down for page after page being amazed at how one guy has written so many great words in one day. It's a good post. Perhaps the best you've seen this month, perhaps this year. Perhaps it's the best thing you've seen on the internet ever. Have you got the image of the post fixed in your mind? Have you absorbed the super content?

Good. Because I haven't got time to write what you're imagining today. But I don't need to because you've imagined it good and proper. Well done.

I wonder what I wrote about?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

My new friend

I've not had chance to set the giraffe free today. This has been because:
(a) I have a job that doesn't give me regular access to woodland
(b) I kinda like having him around the flat
(c) I forgot

But because he's still here I figured I should let him have something to eat. I only have two plants and one of them doesn't have huge amounts of leaves so I let him loose on plant #2:

Giraffe Finds Some Dinner

I think he's happy now. I'll set him free another day. Maybe.

What a strange place for an animal to live!

Sometimes after I've been on holiday it can take me a few days to fully unpack and empty my rucksack. Often when I do a final search round the bottom of the rucksack I'll find an odd lost sock that's been there since the previous time I was away. This is irritating, but not life threatening.

Today, whilst finishing emptying my camping rucksack, I found something else:

Finger Giraffe

Yes, a small, yet quite cute giraffe had been living in there - probably since Christmas. Or maybe even Christmas 2003, since I think I may have used my suitcase when I went home last year. It must be one of the Christmases though - Yule is the only sensible time that I could have obtained a giraffe.

I wonder what he's been eating all that time? There certainly wasn't a lot of normal giraffe food in the rucksack ie leaves from tall trees. Perhaps he was hibernating like a hedgehog. And because it's always dark at the bottom of a rucksack, he simply hadn't realised that summer had arrived - possibly more than once. So whilst there was ongoing continual darkness, the giraffe continued to sleep.

But now he's awake. Maybe I should set him free back into the wild. Then Bill Oddie could study him and make more television programmes. I'd love to see the confusion on his face as a giraffe cantered past him through a British oak forest.

Monday, June 20, 2005

I have stomach ache

I was reading New Scientist earlier and there was an article about Quantum Physics. It raised a question in my mind. So I was going to ask the question here to see if anyone could help me. But then I just decided to Google it instead. I answered my question and saved you all lots of boredom. I'm great!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

If I could talk to the animals, I'd say "Shush"

I've been out camping for a couple of nights this weekend at Glaisdale, North Yorkshire. My tent is the blue one, on the right.

Camping in Glaisdale

It has been very very hot all weekend, and completely dry too. This is good for camping but there seemed to be inordinate amounts of midges and flies about, especially as night falls. It made sitting out at that time fairly unpleasant unless you covered exposed parts with some kind of cloth. Sitting inside in a pub on the second night, however, eliminated this problem entirely. Nice pub actually. Decent food at lunchtime and then in the evening they seemed happy to let us stay as long as we liked after closing time to finish up our drinks.

Shortly after I got home this evening there was a massive thunderstorm with some really loud thunder. I'm glad the weather held out this long. Camping in the rain is never much fun.

I haven't been camping for maybe ten years or so. I think the last time was in Spain after my A-levels. Four of us went out for a month and had planned to do half camping and half staying in a friend's villa. It ended up being more like just 2 nights camping due to a combination of laziness and us missing the swimming pool back at the house. Even if it was full of cockroaches (the house, not the pool. Imagine swimming in cockroaches!).

Thankfully, my tent seemed to have suffered no significant deterioration apart from feeling more cramped than I remember. This might be sign of me being older, or might just reflect that I'm not used to sharing it with other people.

Glaisdale is a funny village in several respects. The first thing that struck me was that along the side of the roads, and outside many of the houses (and in some cases up telegraph poles) are scarecrows. Loads of them. They are dressed in all sorts of costumes and some of the more memorable ones were, in no particular order:

1. Dorothy and her three companions from The Wizard of Oz (Dorothy looked very scary)
2. Little Miss Muffet and her Spider
3. A steeplejack up a pole
4. Various gardeners and tool users
5. And this one. Obviously it's my favourite

Countryside Dalek

Not a great photo, but we were driving past in a car at the time of taking. The reason for these scarecrows appears to be related to their Open Gardens weekend when many of the villagers allow the world and his wife to wonder around their expansive, well maintained and very attractive gardens. The scarecrow thing appears to be a concurrent thing. It all appears to be quite good natured but due to the level of effort that had obviously gone into many of the creations, there must be a lot of local rivalry. Like when you have old women with cake-baking compeitions.

Anyway, it's nice to be back home again with all amenities and a proper bed.

And blimey, sheep in fields make a hell of a lot of noise at night. They're up loudly baaaaing until almost dawn. And then the bloody birds start!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Answer me, if you will!

Some questions:

1. If I accidentally took some very funny photos of a friend asleep on my sofa, is it wrong to post them on the internet?

2. What is the maximum sensible time to believe in an illusion?

3. Should I be in bed?

4. Sleep. Is? Is? Is? Is? Is? Is? Is? Is? Is? Is? Is? Is?

That's all.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

I'm an ac-tor, I am

Yesterday I took part in a production of The Taming Of The Shrew, based on William Shakespeare's play 10 Things I Hate About You. The version we were using had taken some liberties with the original work and had set all the action in Verona, Italy. Or somewhere similar. It was hard to tell because it looked more like a friend's living room to me. I guess this is a danger of home-based shakespeare.

My main role was to play Hortensio, a tall handsome Italian in his late twenties who's looking for a wife. Part of his wife finding tactics is to disguise himself as a music tutor and then try teach the flute to the girl he likes:

Hortentio

Sadly this ploy doesn't work, and some other people get together and do things and it all ends happily I think, the shrew is tamed and we all do a little dance. It was hard to tell what was going on - the standard of acting was low. The other actors couldn't emote if they'd lost a leg. I, on the other had was so convincing that I had a second part: Lusty Widow:

Lusty Widow

Now potentially this could have been confusing because Lusty Widow ends up marrying Hortensio. Although I do have the talent to pull that off, it would have been hard without preparation and rehersal, two words which I lacked. Luckily we had an abridged script which, although it did require me to appear in the same scene as myself, did not need me to to ever actually speak to myself.

We'll be touring the country soon. Look out for us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Things I've seen and not seen

Today marks the start of Royal Ascot here in York.

So far I have seen:

2 top hats
3 ladies in dresses
0 horses

The town centre didn't seem as busy in the early evening as I expected.

Also:

0 Rabbits in waistcoats
0 Tornadoes
0 Naked ladies without dresses
0 Cornish pasties
0 Monster trucks driven by dwarf clowns
0 Danny DeVito lookalikes
0 Chinese balloons
0 Dead dogs rotting by the roadside, flowers at their side
0 Spoons bent by the actual Uri Gellar
0 Queens of England
0 Drunks lying in gutters singing the songs of The Spice Girls

Or perhaps in fact I saw all of the above and mistook them for a sunbeam. Who can tell?

Monday, June 13, 2005

An Old Man and his Money

At lunchtime today I approached an old man in the street. I use the word
"approach" here to solely indicate that I was walking towards him, rather than to indicate I had some intention of talking or interacting with him. I am very used to the idea that one should never talk to strangers and for me to have started a social interaction with this gentleman (or possibly paedophile, you can't tell by looking!) would have therefore been a wrong thing.

The man was stood still, doddering slightly, and he had his hand open. He was looking at the contents of this hand which was full of loose coinage. Perhaps he was trying to identify some suitable coins to place into the parking meter that he was standing beside. Perhaps he had merely placed his old man's hand into his pocket and been surprised by the burnished pieces of metal within. What were these odd demonic coins? How had they got there? And where were all the sixpences?

I was about three metres away at this point.

Whether what happened next was a result of his surprise at the contents of his pockets or whether it was merely a result of his advance age and dementia, I will never know. But the man's hand shook slightly causing one of the coins to fall to the floor (in slow motion, like an old man's bad dream), and roll away from him. It rolled towards where I was standing, and then curved off to come to rest in front of a parked car.

The old man hadn't seen how far the coin had rolled. The only person who knew where it had ended up was me. So like a flash, I knelt in front of the car to inspect the prize. It was a 20p! Fresh and shiny. I picked it up and stood up and then... he hadn't noticed I'd got it! His addled old man brain had been incapable of seeing as far as me and he was still gazing forlornly around his own feet.

I had an opportunity to keep the 20p! Greed dazzled my thought, dollar signs span around my eyeballs like slot machine wheels - this was slightly odd since my greed was entirely sterling denominated, but bear with me - and I decided what I must do. I'd steal the money and walk past like nothing had happened. I'd whistle innocently and stride away into the sunset. I would be a winner! For once in my life, I'd have got one up on The Man (even if it was just an old one). I'd finally, finally be happy.

And the thoughts of what I could buy with the money, the cars I could drive, the cigars I could smoke, the girls I could impress, they were all good thoughts. I was made. I was money.

But then my veneer cracked. I realised that to me, this 20p was a passport to wealth and bounty. But to the old man, it was more than that. It was enough to buy part of a cup of tea. Or a pipe cleaner to clean his old man's pipe and later bend into amusing shapes. For me it was a lot, but to him... it was everything.

So I didn't steal the money in the end. As I walked past him I handed the coin across. He said "I didn't realise it had rolled that far". I said, "It did" and then continued on my way.

And what did I get for my amazing act of kindness and generosity? Nothing, that's what. Stingy old git didn't give me any kind of reward at all. Not even one of the Werther's Originals that he must have had in one of his old pockets.

Bah. Old people today...

Sunday, June 12, 2005

You're a mess. Yes, you.

I think most people are messed up in one way or another. This is not in itself a bad thing - a world where everyone was happy would be so horrifying. Like in those Jehova's Witnesses' pamphlets that show smiley humans living in peace and harmony with lions and tigers and the bad wolf. It would be vomit inducing. Thankfully, that isn't our world and isn't ever likely to be.

So we all have issues. We all have problems. But luckily we have ways to deal with them. We can bitch in pubs, we can write blogs, we can write songs, we can hold things inside until they burst, we can write letters to newspapers, we can keep a private diary, we can phone helplines or we can turn to a sinister mentor and embrace the dark-side. If things get really bad, we can even write poetry.

That's all nice then, there are outlets.

Anyway, what got me thinking about this was that I was at an open-mic night at a local bar, in a purely observational capacity. I had no intentions of playing anything despite one of my compositions having earlier in the day been compared to Coldplay - a comparison that was wrong in pretty much every way. If my life was a sitcom, then shortly after me saying "I had no intentions of playing anything" the screen would have faded out then in again to me on a stage with a guitar singing a song about how shit life is. Since my life is not a sitcom (honestly) then this did not happen.

I could go on for a while here, but instead I've thought of a quick summary that will allow me to take an early bed: Most songwriters are quite fucked up. Same as most people then, just more obviously so.

Succinct! Bye!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Extermi-cake!

There's a shop in town that sells cakes. They've made a fantastic cake:

Dalek Cake

It's a dalek!

Were I to get married, this is the cake I'd like.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Cheese on Friday

It's Friday: Smile everybody! Say Cheese!

Actually, cheese reminds me. I finally remembered the name of the cheese that had left my head the other day. This is good because it means that I wasn't losing my mind after all. Or at least I wasn't losing my mind at any faster rate than normal.

For your reference, the cheese in question was Port Salut.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Whisky and near-loss

Some days I really like my job.

I got in this morning to find on my desk: 1 bottle of Glenmorangie! Yum! It was a present for the help I'd given to a project over the last few weeks.

So I thought for a couple of seconds about whether I could accept it or not, then realised that since it was an internal gift there were no professional conflicts of interest or anything like that and so it was all fine. And also, I like whisky.

I did feel slightly guilty since I hadn't really been doing anything other than my actual job, but clearly the work had been appreciated by the project manager.

I like whisky.

Later on I lost my ID card (not because I was drunk on the whisky - it just fell off. Honest). But it got handed in so I got it back.

And even later on, I went home. With my whisky.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Bad Me

There is a very strong possibility that if you have changed your phone number in the last eighteen months then I have lost it. All I can say is... whoops. So if I don't phone you, it's not that I don't like you, it's more that I'm confused.

Actually, I probably don't phone you much in any case.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Debt

There’s a story on the BBC website about the upcoming G8 summit. I’ll quote a few paragraphs from it:

“… Mr Blair recognises that he will not get support (from the US) for crucial parts of his three-pronged attack on poverty in Africa - a package of debt relief, increased aid and fairer trade.

“In an interview for the Financial Times newspaper on Tuesday, Mr Blair acknowledged: "There are certain things we know they are not going to do, that we are not asking them to do."

“Mr Bush has already opposed UK treasury chief Gordon Brown's plan to use an international finance facility (IFF) to fund vaccinations, funded by borrowing on the bond market, saying he cannot commit the US to future debt repayments.”


Yes, the US don’t want to commit to debt repayments. Does anyone else find this darkly amusing?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Public Service Announcement

Next month sees the G8 summit up at Gleneagles (North of Edinburgh). Timed to correspond with this is yer man Geldof's Live 8 concert in Hyde Park. They're expecting this to be quite popular and tickets are being allocated on a lottery basis, via ansewering a tricky question with a text message. Now I know that everyone reading this is stupid** and so I will provide you with a little help.

Here's the question:

Which of the following cities is nearest to the G8 summit in July?
a) Berlin
b) Moscow
c) Edinburgh

As normal with these sorts of things, the questions is actually quite straightforward. The answer is a) Berlin. So to win, just text A to 84599. And you might win tickets to this fantastic concert. There are too many bands playing at Live 8 for me to list them all here but the highlights are undoubtedly:

- Del Amitri
- A Flock of Seagulls
- Jesus Jones
- Samantha Fox
- One of New Kids on the Block (I forget which).

There have also been rumours that Hootie and the Blowfish may be making a guest appearance, but I think this is unlikely. They'll probably stick to doing just the American show.

Oh, I probably should add that each text costs £20, plus your normal network cost, plus 10p for a confirmation text, plus the life of your next-born child. The children won't be killed, but will instead be taken from you and used to form the beginnings of a slave race that will be used to benefit mankind as a whole. Though I haven't as yet seen details of exactly how this will work. They're probably on the Live 8 website somewhere.

Good luck!

**Apart from you

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Upgrade time

Here is a list of all the mobile phones I have ever owned:

1. Ericsson T18
2. Sony Z5
3. Sony Ericsson T68i
4. Sony Ericsson Z600

You may spot a theme in the phone makers - I'm not a Nokia fan. I've really liked the Z600 - it had a nice clamshell design (with a satisfying snap-shut action) and I've delayed upgrading from it because there wasn't anything around that seemed to have sufficient extra goodness to make it worthwhile. It wasn't perfect, mind - the address book was always very cumbersome, the camera only had a resolution of 250x150 (ish) and the memory was pretty small (only 1Mb).

Today I have upgraded once more. I've stuck with Sony Ericsson and now have a rather nice D750i. Essentially the same phone as the K750, but slightly redesigned for T-Mobile. I reckon it does have sufficient extra goodness. Specifically:

- a 2 megapixel camera. That's decent enough resolution to mean I don't have to carry my actual camera around with me as much.
- It comes with about 100Mb of memory, but that's expandable up to 2Gb - it uses Sony memory sticks (annoyingly though it uses the physically smaller Duo kind rather than the normal ones that I already have some of).
- Radio and MP3 player. Not sure how much I'll actually bother to use these - but the radio may come in handy. The MP3 player also plays AACs which is handy given that that's how most of my music is encoded. Good to see Sony thinking a bit more sensibly about compression formats - there was a time when Sony digital music players would only work with Sony's ATRAC format.
- All the music files can be set as ringtones. See if you can guess what I'm using at the moment. Clue: It's not that fucking frog. Now I know that's a hard guessing game since I'm basically saying "Guess, out of all the songs in the world, which particular one I have chosen to use for now". Tough.
- It's got a torch! Really!
- All the address book problems of the Z600 have been fixed - it works much more simply and easily now.
- It transforms into a robot.
- You can phone people on it. Apparently.
- Other misc features.

Nicest thing was that the little man in the shop didn't make any attempt whatsoever to sell me insurance!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Yes, I'm back!

The haircutter says to me: "So are you back on Monday?". Back where? Back here in the haircutters? Is he going to do such a bad job that I have to return in 2 days time? What's he on about? I'm confused so I answer with a generic "Yes". He must have noticed my slight confusion since he then says "You are a teacher aren't you?". Now I see what's gone wrong. I look like a frickin' teacher!?!

This doesn't normally happen.

I tell him that I'm not a teacher, but don't then elaborate on what I actually am. Explaining actuaries to haircutters is not my idea of fun on a Saturday morning.

Neither is having a headache, which is really annoying given that I only had three pints and a couple of glasses of wine last night (over a period of about 5 hours!).

And I'm really tense and on edge today. Poke me and I'll jump.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Surprise! And squirrels too

I know I should be ready for this, but I looked outside just now and it was still daylight. It's half past nine in the evening and it's still light. So it happens every year in June? No shit. It still took me by surprise.

Ideally I'd be making the most of this by sitting out in some nice warm beer garden drinking some nice cool lager (Or more realistically, some not-so-nice warm lager, but hey, beer's beer, right?) but I'm not. I'm inside working on some work and having a hurting lower lip because I burnt it with some very hot pizza cheese earlier tonight.

Pizza cheese. What a pathetic thing to burn oneself with. I expect it'll scar. If I get arrested they'll write in my report under Distinguishing Marks: "Big ears and a pizza cheese shaped scar on lower lip". I'll be the laughing stock of the Lower Poppleton police department - in my head, it's Lower Poppleton that I've been arrested in, possibly for Cheating At Games or even Treason**. I'll never be able to show my face there again.

I think I've lost my thread.

So to move on to other utterly unrelated things, it was very pleasing to hear that the Nut Room scene in the new Willy Wonka film will feature many many actual, real squirrels. Trained squirrels! I had been uncertain about the necessity of this film - I like the first version and didn't feel it needed a remake. But if they have gone to the trouble to train 96 squirrels from birth to act in a relatively short scene in a movie, then I for one will go and see it.

Just in case you missed that last paragraph, they have trained real squirrels to work a nut-cracking production line! How cool??

And it's then a small step to think: If they can train squirrels to crack nuts on a production line in a film, then why not train squirrels to crack nuts on a production line in a real chocolate factory in real life? Squirrels have to be cheaper to employ than people, cheaper even than immigrants. As long as you have a ready supply of acorns to feed them with and are happy to let them take all their holiday in the coldest darkest months of winter, you're away.

Perhaps this could be the answer to York's chocolate problems. York used to have several big chocolate factories but over the last few years costs have become too great and production has slowed leading to several of them shutting down. But if they reopened them with a staff entirely comprised of squirrels, all their problems would be solved!

The squirrels would be a ready source of cheap labour, easily able to compete with the cheap panda-staffed factories of China. And in addition, you could gain valuable extra revenue by letting visitors in to see the squirrels at work. After all, people pay a load of pounds to go round Cadbury World in Birmingham and they don't have a single squirrel! Not one!

There are totally no problems with this plan at all. Chocolate lords - I hope you're reading and taking this in. I don't ask for royalties, just a free ticket to come and see the squirrels once a year. Thank you.

This has felt like two posts in one. You lucky people, you.

** Note to the police (especially the fine members of the Lower Poppleton Constabulary) - these crimes are only in my head. I have not Cheated At Games and Treason is like a foreign country to me. Really. Let me go. Ow, that hurts. Oh hang on, that's just my lower lip.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

It's not over until it's over

Sometimes if I'm playing a song on my guitar I'll get near the end without having made a single mistake, without having strummed a single wrong chord. And then I tend to get all excited and in my excitement I miss the guitar entirely or drop it or go "blaaannnnnggggg". This rather spoils things.

So I start again. Maybe on the same song, maybe on a different song.

Well cut off my feet and call me Footloose

I watched the film Saw last night. A fantastic film, reminiscent of Seven in many ways, but by no means just a cheap copy.

Two strangers wake up in a big old abandoned bathroom, each chained to the walls by one foot with some rather heavy duty chains. It quickly becomes apparent that they won't be able to get their legs out of the manacle around their ankles. They find two hack saws along with messages saying that they have until six o'clock to either kill the other person or they'll both die. Unfortunately the saws aren't sharp or strong enough to cut the chains. They are however sharp enough to cut through their legs...

It sounds like the set up to some bizarre lateral thinking puzzle. But in fact they're just the victims of a Serial Killer who puts his victims in strange and deadly situations that always contain a way to survive. And it's a great film. Lots of tension, some twists and turns and a healthy dose of sicko.

But the point of this post was to point out a remarkable coincidence. The film I had seen prior to Saw was The Princess Bride. The theme of TPB is slightly different - it's more concerned with True Love and High Adventure. But the two films do have one thing in common. Both star... Cary Elwes!

Inconceivable!