Sunday, December 31, 2006

Christmas Colds

I'm back from my travels now and can relax a little bit before I go back to work on the 4th. Or at least I would be able to relax if I hadn't picked up a stinking cold. I couldn't sleep at all last night - I had a headache, sometimes I was too hot, sometimes too cold and a nasty cough to boot. Grrrr...

Friday, December 29, 2006

Spin the Gameboy, not yourself...

I finally got hold of a copy of Warioware: Twisted today for the Gameboy. I've been wanting it for ages but it was never officially released in the UK. Like the other Warioware games it's a daft collection of very short minigames (normally less than 5 seconds each) that are thrown at you one after t'other without any real time for thought about what you're going to be doing next.

Twisted's USP is that the cart has a motion sensor in it that reacts to twisty motions of the Gameboy. ie if you spin the thing left or right it reacts to this and moves things on the screen accordingly. Amusingly there are several warnings that you should spin the console in your hands rather than leaving it stationary and spinning yourself around it. I suspect that the people who need these warnings are the same ones that are breaking their televisions with the Wii remotes.

The motion sensor is however (I believe) the reason why it was never released. I read that it contains some mercury (or maybe polonium) and because of that it can't get through the import/kite-marks/safety rules and hence can't be sold in the UK. The shop I bought it from must have imported it somehow - I am assuming it is legal for them to then sell it on, despite the whatever. If not then I must apologise for helping to make a criminal act happen. Please don't lock me up.

Or alternatively, maybe that's all bollocks and it will be released properly soon - it deserves to be, because (like all the Warioware games) it's great. It'll certainly keep me dosed up until Smooth Moves comes out!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sheffield Station

After four nights at my parents' house in Sheffield I find myself back here in York. That makes it sound like I've just appeared here with no knowledge of how or when I travelled, but that isn't really true. I had a lift to Sheffield Station with my Dad and then I caught the 0954 Virgin Transatlantic train to Newcastle. It left Sheffield punctually but arrived in York a couple of minutes late by my reckoning.

They (the men) have been doing up Sheffield Station for what seems like forever now. This has involved improving and enlarging the main concourse, rerouting the traffic routes and the erection of some quite pretty water features outside the main entrance. Fountains and waterfall-walls, that kind of thing. Apparently it was all officially opened last week. I missed the opening but have seen it now once in the day and once at night and I can certainly testify that it's a vast improvement on how it used to look.

Apparently the traffic still gets very snarled up though when it's busy.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bad Guys Who Care

There used to be a time, not so many years ago, when the most exciting thing about Christmas TV was the Only Fools and Horses Christmas special. It was always funny and if you disagree, you're wrong. Those days are sadly now seemingly behind us. OF&H has run its course and left the arena clear for new challengers to the Christmas TV throne.

Nowadays, the most exciting thing about Christmas TV (and possibly Christmas full stop) is the Doctor Who Christmas special. Whilst being in pretty much every way, daft, it is nevertheless damn good fun and the perfect thing to watch whilst very slightly sozzled after a hard day building a ridiculous jigsaw.

We were discussing Doctor Who (old and new) in the pub on Christmas Eve. For a slightly longer time than would considered healthy by most people. Talk turned to The Doctor's old enemy, The Rani (as played (twice?) by Kate O'Mara (off Dynasty?)). I got topically thinking then about whether she was the only baddy in Doctor Who that could be considered carbon neutral. Or the closest thing to it.

Why would I have that thought, I can hear you cry? Why, because in The Mark of the Rani she had these cool mines that turned you into a tree if you stepped on them. She may be an evil Timelord but at least she's planting trees.

I had a quick think through some of the other main baddies to check whether they had similar credentials, but came up blanks. The Cybermen build big Cyberman producing factories (and probably don't pay pollution taxes cos they are evil). The Daleks are only interested in taking over worlds not saving them (and I seem to remember they f***ed up their own planet with nuclear weapons). The Master was interested only in conserving his facial hair. The Sontarans, the Yeti, the Autons, the whatever other obscure baddies I could think of, none had any green credentials (apart from the ones that were coloured green but that doesn't count). It was only The Rani who was close.

But then I started thinking further about what it means to be carbon neutral. Here on Earth, we broadly mean that if you do things that absorb/use at least as much CO2 as you produce by driving, consuming and watching Doctor Who on telly then you are carbon neutral. ie you have not increased the amount of free CO2 in the planet. That's how I understand it anyway.

But for a larger, non-closed system like say The Universe, is the question relevant? Is it ok for The Rani to create trees on one planet but then also conduct nefarious carbon dioxide producing activities on other planets? What happens if on some planets, carbon dioxide is good and (say) cheese is the equivalent bad substance?

And how does the time travel element affect things? If an evil Timelord travels back into the past and evilly creates a lot of CO2, and then plants a whole forest 2000 years later, is that ok? What if it was the other way round?

And is it ethically ok to kill someone if you make them into a nice green tree rather than just a corpse?

There are clearly a lot of questions that I don't have answers for, but I'm hoping that these will be maybe tackled by the writers of the next series. In the meantime, I'd be interested to hear any of your views on which Doctor Who baddy is the most environmentally friendly.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Multiple 'rithms

At breakfast this morning I was discussing abucuses (abaci?) with my mother and father. We weren't really sure how they worked or how you did hard sums on them, but I was fairly sure that I had known this when I was younger and that there were various algorithms that could be used to do different kinds of sums (ie hard ones like long division). This confused my parents at first as they didn't know what algorithms were and had confused them with logarithms.

Whilst the two words do seem to be anagrams of one another, they do not mean the same thing and after I'd explained what an algorithm was we talked about logarithms instead (isn't breakfast exciting in my family?).

I told mother that we don't really use log tables any more because of the calculators and computers that we now have. She got a bit worried about the implications of this reliance on technology should Islamic terrorists wipe out all our computers or the internet or something - how would we do logarithms then if we'd all thrown our tables away?

I pointed out that should that happen, doing logarithms would be the least of our problems as society would likely start to fall apart and we'd all have to run to the hills with our guns and our cans of beans. She thought that should such an attack happen then she would go to work as normal and just try and carry on. This was a little odd since she is retired and I'm almost certainly sure her work never once required her to use a logarithm, but I suppose she was speaking hypothetically. Maybe if she did go to work as normal we could all phone her up from the hills every time we needed a logarithm doing. I guesss it would keep her out of trouble.

I used to know a joke about log tables.

After this excitement I went to do my final pre-Christmas Christmas Shopping. This was also exicting as I was not in Kansas (York) anymore.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Nearly there now...

I finished off most of my Christmas shopping today - still a few bits to do, but I plan on going out again tomorrow for that. York seemed quite empty of people - certainly much less busy than the previous couple of Saturdays which have been fairly horrid.

Now all I have to do is wrap everything - think I'll leave that until I get to my parents' house though. Unwrapped presents should weigh less than wrapped presents and so they'll be easier to carry on the train!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Posh Curry

Just two more days left at work before I break for Christmas and it's all quite busy.

Last night we went for our annual (non-work) Christmas curry at The Ujala. For the first time we made it a black tie event - my fourth of the month but the first in a place that does not typically feature that kind of atire. I don't think I've ever eaten a curry whilst wearing a bow-tie before. It felt a little odd but the waiters didn't seem to bat an eyelid. I expect they get smartly dressed people in there all the time.

I managed to avoid getting any curry on my shirt (or indeed on my dinner jacket) and also managed to actually eat all of it for once - a rare event in my land.

I like the Ujala. They normally give you free Sambuca after the meal. I'm not sure that that is a traditional curry accompaniment but it's nice. As long as you're careful with the fire and you like aniseed flavoured liquer. Which I am and I do.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wii-ther Forecast

When I woke this morning the disc slot of the Wii was all of a blue glow. This meant it had something to tell me. When I turned it on there was a message waiting saying that (wait for it...)... that the weather forecast facility was now live. How exciting.

I loaded it up and it told me that it was zero degrees and foggy. Whilst I can't vouch for the exact temperature being correct, it was definitely foggy. And cold. I could judge the fogginess by looking out the window. And the cold from when I went outside later.

So that was useful.

It has been really cold and foggy all day. I'm glad I have got all the running out of the way - I wouldn't have wanted to go out this evening even if I had time (which I don't due to being going for a Christmas curry).

In other news, my Christmas shopping is going really, really badly and it depresses me to even write about it. Still five shopping days to go though.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Card-bargains

I had to buy a few more Christmas cards today, after posting all the ones that needed posting. I popped down to WH Smiths at lunchtime and found that all boxed Christmas cards were in a 3 for 2 offer. This is fairly common there, I've found. I needed about 15 to 20 cards, but most of them were in boxes of 10 so I figured I might as well buy three boxes and to get the most of the 3 for 2 I got three boxes that were all the same price: £2.99.

I chose the cards, mostly sparkly ones. I took the cards to the counter and readied my monies (a Visa card as I only had four pounds in cash). When the man started to scan the goods, he spotted something that I hadn't - one of the boxes had a "half-price" sticker on it. Apparently this was a leftover from the weekend when cards had been half-price, and it should have been removed. He asked whether there were any other boxes with the same sticker on them, but I hadn't noticed any - I hadn't even noticed the one I'd picked up!

Now, I was a bit annoyed here as it meant that although I'd still be paying the same price (as the free item is always the cheapest) my free item wasn't as much of a bargain as it should have been - I would only be saving £1.49 not £2.99. But on the other hand I'd still be getting what I'd originally thought I'd be getting for the price I thought I'd be paying.

But then the man did an odd thing.

He decided that since the sticker was on one of the packs, they would have to stand by that price and then he bizarrely assumed the same sticker would apply to the other two, properly labelled, packs as well. So rather than paying the expected total of £5.98, I'd only be paying £4.47 - I was now saving £4.50 rather than my expected £2.99 - bargain!

But then the man did another odd thing.

Not content with giving me the cards for half price he decided to also apply the three for two to the half price boxes. This removed a further £1.49 meaning I only had to pay £2.98 for the three boxes - actually slightly less than the price of a single box in isolation.

How bloody brilliant is that?

I quickly paid (using cash, as I had enough now) and ran out of the shop before he changed his mind. I don't think I can recall a shopkeeper ever being so keen to reduce the price I had to pay. I hadn't even complained about the half price sticker and the fact that it meant I wasn't saving as much as I'd expected. Or that they were forcing me to buy more cards than I actually needed.

Oh well, shouldn't complain!

Surely it's about time...

Toothpaste used to be just plain white and then the scientists did some magic and found a way to make stripey toothpaste come out of tubes. Whilst this was a bit surprising for people initially, requiring a demonstration and explanation on Tomorrow's World, we are all now in 2006 and familiar with the concept.

So tell me this: Why is there no sign of tartan paint yet? Surely the same principles could be applied? And is it really right to laugh at the people who you sometimes get to believe in tartan paint, when striped toothpaste is staring at them smack in the mouth each morning?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Card-agains

I finally got around to writing some Christmas cards this evening. Always a tedious job, and I can never be bothered to write anything particularly interesting in them. It's effectively just a way of reiterating to people that I'm not dead.

Now all I have to do is buy stamps and post the darn things. There is a chance that I will manage to do this before the deadline, which I believe is later this week. I might forget though.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Slug & Late-uce

We went to the new Slug & Lettuce for lunch yesterday. We tried to go to the Yorkshire Hussar but it was fully booked for Christmas lunches and so could not accommodate us.

I ordered a steak (rare, obviously) and chips. Then we waited for a long time. And then a long time more. And then some more. One of our group had to leave (unfed) to go back to the office for a meeting. He'd not had a good day - earlier his bacon sandwich had gone cold due to him being in other meetings.

The main waiter guy eventually came to speak to us and apologised profusely for the delay (though he didn't seem to know why it had happened!) and he said that we wouldn't have to pay anything (not even for the drinks!) so in the end that is quite hard to complain about.

When the food eventually came it was good too. And all the better for being free! And who wants to work on a Friday afternoon anyway :-)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Lost Posts

I've been away for the last day or so, in Norwich. I did however email in a couple of brief posts. They seem to have been eaten in the ether. Oh well, they weren't that good anyway. I won't repeat them here - they might turn up eventually...

Monday, December 11, 2006

And I would run 500 more?

Wahey! My year-long Run-A-Thon 500 challenge is finally over! I've just done the final 5 mile stint and feel really happy now. It's over!

When I set this thing for myself I don't think I really realised how much effort it would be. Not so much any single run, more the continuous need to go out several times a week, week after week, month after month. When most of the time I'd frankly rather have been down the pub having a foamy pint.

And I never really intended that it would go as far as me doing an actual half-marathon. A year ago I'd have said you were a crazy fool if you'd even suggested I'd do such a thing. If you'd have said I'd even want to do such a thing! Not to mention the other two shorter races (which I won't).

Wooooooh!!!

So now I've reached my goal... what am I going to do now? No idea. Maybe a couple more runs this year, but really I feel like a break. I've had various minor injuries over the year, all of which are better now, but I just want to rest. It'll be really nice though to go out running like a normal person, just being able to stop for a short while when I feel like it. And it'll be good trying to build up my speed too.

And not having to go out in January at all if I don't want to... that'll be most lovely.

So it just remains for me to thank a few people without whom I might never have had the will to finish:

- Chip for suggesting the running in the first place. I don't think this is what you intended to initiate!
- F&E for running with me on many an occasion and giving me a break from myself. And for encouraging me to enter the races.
- Everyone who sponsored me, you're all fantastic people.
- My running shoes - couldn't have done it otherwise.
- And last but not least, K for all your support and encouragement through the year.

If you haven't sponsored me already and want to, the webpage is open until the end of the year.

I think I deserve a pizza.

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Running: 0 miles to go!!!!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My second Nunchuck of the week

I had to buy a Secret Santa present today for my team's Christmas lunch tomorrow. Our price limit is five pounds and I was finding this quite limiting as many things cost a larger amount (eg most books or animals). Eventually though, I found this in Borders:

Nunchuck

It's a Nunchuck and it does exactly what it says on the packet - it chucks Nuns.

Well, ok it's just a piece of plastic tat, but it might be fun for a few minutes. As long as the nuns don't get chucked, land in someone's dinner, accidentally be eaten, lodge in someone's throat and finally kill them in a nasty choking kind of way. As long as that doesn't happen it might be fun.

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Running: 5 miles to go.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Now we are one

Wow. Today marks the one year anniversary of me and the girlfriend being such. We've been out for dinner at The Olive Tree and it was most tasty. Here's to the next year :-)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Wii! Wii! Wii!

Happily my Wii arrived at 10am this morning, pretty much the perfect time. Late enough to not have had to get up too early, but early enough to give me plenty of time to play! Thank you Mr Argos!

Wii!

First impressions are very positive. It looks good, ports for things like Gamecube controllers and memory cards are all inside little doors to keep it nice. The slot loading cd player has a very nice action. It's ready to connect wirelessly to the internet straight out of the box (which is mouch more than the 360 does!) and there is already a good variety of old games to be downloaded into the Virtual Console. I haven't tried these yet but they include the original Megadrive Sonic, Golden Axe, Altered Beast, Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario 64! All seem to cost around a fiver which isn't too bad!

I played Wii Sports for a bit - it seems fun enough but I think it would be better with a few more players - but most of my day has been on the new Zelda game. It starts fairly slowly and it's taken me this long to get to the first dungeon, but it seems to do everything I'd want it to. It's a bit strange using the new controller(s) but they are actually quite comfortable once you get the hang.

The thing that really made me smile was not so much the motion sensing in the controller, but the way that you can use it to point at things on the screen and it actually works! I think it must use magic.

So now I'm going to get back to it for half an hour before heading out to the public house for some Friday drinks. I like days off like this.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Waiting for the Wii-kend

I'm hoping my Wii will arrive tomorrow. I may or may not have received an automated message on my mobile yesterday saying it was on its way but because I was in the pub at the time all I could hear was nothing. It could just have been a random missed call.

I called the lady at Argos earlier and she thought I was probably ok, but she couldn't check on her computer because it was out of office hours. Not sure how that works as she was clearly available to answer phone calls. Other than that she was very friendly and helpful though!

I guess I'll find out tomorrow whether I'm getting it or not!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Deep and Crisp and Stevens

I went to HMV at lunchtime to try and find the new Sufjan Stevens Christmas album. I like Christmas albums.

I made my way to the S section, specifically the Stevens section. I found the Sufjan section of the Stevens section within the wider S section, and they had one of those little plastic dividers saying "Sufjan Stevens - Songs for Christmas". Excellent, I thought. And even better, the CDs in front of the divider were priced at just five pounds.

A veritable bargain.

But then... disaster! When I picked the CD up and looked more closely, it was not Songs for Christmas by Sufjan Stevens. No, the CD I was holding and the others of its ilk had been put in the wrong section! The CD I was holding was Merry Christmas Everyone by... Shakin Stevens! So near yet really so very, very far.

And they didn't have the other one, the one I wanted.

I put the CD back in the rack and left the shop, feeling disappointed and a little dirty.

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Running: 10 miles to go.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Together in Welsh dreams

For reasons not worth going into here, I was recently wondering whether Welsh androids dream of slightly more "exotic" electric sheep than normal androids would do. Then I realised that the Welsh would never have made an android due to electricity being the Devil's work. So the question is likely to be irrelevant. I'm sorry I have wasted your time.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas Gambling

I enjoyed the Christmas Dinner on Friday (ie drank lots of wine). Certainly much more fun than last year when I was far too sober and managed to make myself a bit miserable. The food was actually pretty good too - always surprising when a place is catering for 500 people.

As always, there was a casino downstairs and I stuck to my usual game of Blackjack. I like Blackjack, it's fast moving and easy to play. I started with a few free chips and then played relatively conservatively until I had built up a tidy stack.

I was helped to this point by a slight lenience in the rules that were being used, namely that if the dealer got the same total as the player, he would return your bet rather than keeping it himself. Although this confused me a little at first, I didn't worry about it too much! It would have been daft to complain.

Eventually I got a bit bored and decided to go all in with my big pile. I then got dealt two face cards, whilst the dealer was showing a four. I was reasonably confident that I'd do well. Unfortunately the dealer then gave himself four more smallish cards and ended up smack bang on 21. Darnit. I lost.

It was a stylish and exciting way to go out of the game though.

The moral here is: You will always lose.

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Running: 13 miles to go.

Friday, December 01, 2006

First Xmas Dinner 2006

Today is, if not technically the first day of Christmas, the first day of the Christmas Season. This is because I will be having my first Christmas dinner of the year in just a few short hours time.

I know it's only the first of December.

After this it's one a week (every Thursday, I think) until the proper day itself. This possibly means my Fridays won't be very productive during December. I do, however, have next Friday booked off work so I can play with my Wii. Assuming it has arrived by then.

So in the meantime, Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Was he eating fission chips? (Boom boom)

This whole thing with the Russian spy and the Polonium 90210 seems very strange to me, on a number of counts.

Firstly, if it was a deliberate assassination, then
a) why do it in a way that leaves so many traces?
b) why not just shoot him?
c) why let him have several days to lie in a hospital bed accusing anybody he wants?
d) what's wrong with cyanide

which all effectively boil down to Polonium being a very strange murder weapon (I wonder if it will make it into future editions of Cluedo?).

Secondly... nah can't think of anything. And I don't want to be killed. I love Russia and its Government (best to be on the safe side!).

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Running: 16 miles to go.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

How I know there's no hope for me...

I had a a meeting at lunchtime with a chap from our tax department to discuss the VAT treatment of life insurance product charges. I found it actually quite interesting.

I know that this is wrong.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

An Alarming Story

I was staying round at my girlfriend's on Sunday night and before bedtime I developed a nagging worry... I became slowly convinced that I had left my alarm clock on at home. Whilst this might not be the worst thing I could have done (it's not up there with leaving the gas on or forgetting to feed your children) it was still bugging me as when it goes off it's very loud, it annoys my neighbours and it goes on and on and on. Nothing will stop it except for possibly an EMP from a nuclear explosion. Or someone pressing the button (not the big red one). Since there was no attack on the horizon that I knew of and nobody in my flat to press the button there could only be one outcome come 7am the next morning: beep. beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEEP. BEEEEEEEP. All day.

The problem with my alarm is that you can set it to only go off on weekdays, which is quite useful come getting home drunk on Friday night and not being able to remember to turn it off to avoid being woken early on Saturday. The problem is though that this makes it very easy to leave the thing set to go off on Monday morning if you end up not being around then.

Somehow I managed to get to sleep despite this worry, but I set my phone alarm for early so that I would be able to get up and head back to mine to stop the alarm before the neighbours got too pissed off with me.

To be honest, I would have preferred an extra half hour or so in bed, but worriers can't be privy to luxuries such as that!

When I arrived back at the flat, it was to the sound of silence. I then turned off my iPod and found that there was also no noise emanating from the flat. I had not left my alarm on at all! Darnit!

I had left my living room light on though so I turned that off instead.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Where You Put Something You're Proud Of

I managed to set myself off laughing slightly too much earlier - it would definitely have been a prime example of a Giggle Loop had I been somewhere serious rather than just wandering about at work.

One of the teams downstairs had decided to set up a wall for them to display their awards/prizes/certificates etc. Rather than calling this a "Wall of Success", "Celebration Wall" or something equally shit, they had gone instead for "Glory Wall". I saw this and found it highly amusing because it had certain connotations that I suspect did not occur to the creators (ie that it was a wall containing a hole that some men might put something other than Polyfilla in)

Once I'd started laughing it just got worse and worse. I was laughing because I was finding it funny that I was laughing at something so childish. And then laughing more at that. By the time I got back to my desk I had to sit and cry into my hands for a short while until I had let my amusement dissolve.

The only vague silver lining was that when I was able to speak again, and was forced to explain my state of mirth, the guys in my team understood why I had found it funny without me having to explain.

Strangely they didn't find it as funny as I had though.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ready to Rock

I got my broken Guitar Hero guitar exchanged today, and so now am fully ready for some two player action. First impressions of the new game are that
a) It's quite similar to the first one
b) I don't know many of the tunes

Neither of these are criticisms as such - there wasn't much wrong with the first game that needed fixing, and I'm sure I'll get to know the tunes I don't know so well, over time.

The main problem is that having a large plastic guitar controller propped up by the side of the telly has always looked a little silly. Now there are two of them and it looks like a Fisher Price band has been rehearsing in my lounge.

But anyhow. Let's Rock!

Running: 26 miles to go.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Take That Back

Just two things today:

1. The new Take That single, Patience is great. Full stop.

2. Guitar Hero 2 is out. I bought it with a guitar so that I'd have two in total and so would be able to play the multiplayer game. Sadly however, the new guitar seems to be a bit broken (the strum bar doesn't work properly) so I will have to cart the thing back to the shop tomorrow for a replacement :-(

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Back where I finished

Metroid Prime has gone well this evening, and I am now up to the point where three years ago I either gave up, got bored, got distracted or temporarily lost the use of my fingers. None of these things have happened to me this time around, and I think I have a very real chance of finishing it at the weekend.

Which will be nice, as then I can get back to doing normal stuff and maybe writing something interesting here. Well, obviously that latter won't happen.

Running: 31 miles to go.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Race Through Dark Places

There seemed to be some sort of local power failure near the station the other evening. A lot of the street lighting was out, including all the lighting in the Leeman Road tunnel that goes under the railway. This meant that the tunnel was very dark. There was a literal light at the end of the tunnel, but all this did was serve to make it seem darker in the tunnel itself. You could quite literally see nothing. Because it was dark.

I had to be careful to not walk into the old lady who was walking in front of me. I could just see a vague thing, with roughly the shape of an old lady, but absolutely no detail. I expect she was quite scared. I think old ladies must get scared in dark places.

Or perhaps they are used to it due to the blackouts in The Blitz. Maybe the darkness brought back happy memories for her.

Anyway because this happened a few days ago, before I started replaying Metroid Prime, I didn't think the following thought at the time: "I wish I had my thermal visor". I'd have thunk it now though.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Metroid Prime Revisited Again

And there goes a second evening in a row devoted almost entirely to replaying Metroid Prime. I made more good progress, but have not yet reached the point I had got to three years ago.

I hope there's not something useful that I'm supposed to be doing instead though...

Running: 34 miles to go.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Metroid Prime Revisited

I have a bad habit of buying computer games (that's not the bad part) and then never playing them properly. Not cos they're crap, just because I never seem to have enough time, and I'll often get distracted by other things - sometimes a new game will do it! Or sometimes I just go for weeks without touching a game at all. This means that of the many games I've bought over the years, I haven't finished as many of them as I should have done.

I was tempted to buy Gears of War at the weekend, but in a fit of sensibleness, I stopped myself. Instead, I decided I would play an old game instead and try and finish it. I chose Metroid Prime - a true classic, but one which I never got all the way through the first time I played. I think I maybe did about two thirds of it.

I was surprised on loading it up this evening that the last time I had played was March 2003 - three and a half years ago. It really didn't seem that long...

But it still plays brilliantly. I've just had three straight hours on it, and have pretty much cleared the Chozo Ruins. Now onto the Hot Bit (can't remember it's real name!) and after that... no idea. Things seem familiar as I get to them, but it's been too long since I last played for me to remember what's around every corner.

I can't see me finishing it before Wii is released here, but attempting to do so will be a fun challenge. And if I don't manage it, I can just play the game on the new console instead :-)

Right, back to Tallon IV I go!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I believe that children are the future

I'm not keen on the current trend in TV where shows aren't having proper opening title sequences anymore. Lost was the first one I really noticed - just a rubbish noise with the word "Lost" turning on the screen a bit. But it seems to be becoming more widespread, even on UK programmes. Torchwood for example, has an opening title sequence that's about three seconds long. And the otherwise fantastic Heroes has one that's very much in the Lost vein.

Thinking about it, even 24 doesn't really have a proper title sequence. I guess that's more excusable though, since it all takes place in real-time, which doesn't normally have a two minute break for a song every hour or so.

I don't want shows to start this way. I want tunes. I want songs. I want the main cast members doing things (with optional cheesy smile shots) one by one, with their names and actor names on screen - how else will I ever know anyone's name. Without this, type of thing, Tom Cruise would never have learnt Katie Holmes' name, and he'd still be calling her "that pixie-like girl off of Dawson's Creek". That may have stymied their relationship.

But most importantly, I'm thinking of the kids. I spend approximately 95% of my time singing old tv theme tunes. I'm particularly keen on Mysterious Cities of Gold and The Littlest Hobo. If we are to leave a similar legacy for our own children, we need to act now to restore songs to opening titles. This is actually important.

Someone should start a petition that could be given to Tony Blairs. He could try and sort it out.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Broken Reception

I used to have really good radio reception in my flat - never any major problems. Then earlier this year, it started to get quite bad and much harder to pick up a clear signal. Radio 1 is particularly patchy. Until last night I didn't have any idea why this had changed. I didn't worry about it too much.

Then, last night at a meeting of our Management Company, someone suggested a reason that sounded very plausible:

It's the bloody Yorkshire Wheel. The large 54 metre high metal wheel is probably acting as some kind of waveguide (no idea what that means) or something to mess up all those radio waves. Other people said they were having trouble with TV too. It seems to vary quite a lot within short distances, but the reception of all these devices is definitely much crapper than before the Wheel came.

I'm not an expert at physics (well, ok, I probably am compared to most of the public, but the finer points of electromagnetism are beyond me. I remember there being a lot of upside down triangles in the equations...) but this theory sounds more than plausible to me. Can anyone give an actual expert opinion here?

And can I sue?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Blind Ignorance

I passed a friend in town today. He appeared not to notice me and hence ignore my proffered smile. This could be considered rude. However, since he held in his hand a SpecSavers leaflet, I made the correct assumption that he was merely blind not rude.

Speccy get.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

No "Early Month" in 2006

After my awful sleep two nights ago, last night was much better. I was in bed, drifting off, well before ten. I did then wake up just before midnight 'cos I needed a wee, but it was actually quite nice to wake up in the night at that time and think "Fantastic! I've had two hours sleep already!". After that the night flew by. Still ended up being late for work though due to not getting out of bed quite early enough. Oh well.

Two years ago, in November, I decided to make a special effort to get into work before nine o'clock each morning. And I managed it. Last November I tried to get in before eight o'clock each morning (or possibly earlier - I forget) and I managed that too. Even after nights out drinking.

This year I haven't bothered to even try going in early. A slight shame as I quite liked the idea of having one particular month each year that would regularly be my "early month". But I think I like more the idea of not getting out of bed.

It was always good to be in at that quiet time though, when not many others are in yet. You can get so much more done when there are less distractions. Maybe this time, the others who get in before me (ie most of them) can get more things done when I'm not in to distract them!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Jelly Belly

I had such a f**king stomach ache last night it was untrue. Mainly my own fault, I think. Substituting a proper tea for some crisps and a big bag of Jelly Babies is not a recommended action. I think the babies formed a big jelly lump in me and didn't react well to the two and a half pints of Guinness that joined them soon after.

It was about four in the morning before I was finally able to sleep. Hence I have been a little tired today. I'm having an early night today. Goodnight world!

Moral of the story: Jelly Babies do not a good meal make, whatever Tom Baker says.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

And in today's FT

It's not like the Financial Times to resort to name-calling, but it seems they don't like Mr George Bush. Today, they actually refer to him as "Butt-Crack" on the front page! A bit harsh? No.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Museum of Madness

There's an article in today's Guardian about a Creationist museum that's going to open in Cincinnati. It's very funny. Or at least it would be if the people involved weren't serious. Actually, it's still funny, just in a different way.

These people are just bonkers. No two ways about it. They look at things with perfectly sensible explanations and seem to try and find the most ludicrous explanation they can think of, to ensure they fits in with the daft idea that the world is just six thousand years old and that everything in the Bible is actually true.

The bizarre thing about this museum is that they've got dinosaurs in there and are claiming that they were actually around within that short period but from before the fall of Man. Man and dinosaurs living together in perfect harmony. Isn't that sweet?

I'd actually quite like to go there once it opens, but I suspect I might get thrown out for ridiculing the exhibits.

Apparently, although the museum has a planetarium, it doesn't explain "what God thought he was doing when he made Pluto, or why". And did he mean it to be a planet or not? And if he did, what went wrong?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The final countdown

I've now passed the final (non-literal) milestone in the Run-a-Thon 500, and have obliterated the 90% complete point. Just 49 miles more to go. Still 49 miles more to go. I'm not sure which of those sentences is most appropriate. Sentence does seem an appropriate word though.

Unlike when I went out last Sunday, the skies were quiet and not filled with bangs and explosions. There were a number of times then when I was quite alarmed by the loud noises (this won't surprise anyone who has ever sat beside be during a fire alarm). I'd be a bad person in a war zone. Not bad in a war-criminal kind of way, just kind of generally not best. Please don't send me to war. I'd probably drop the gun on someone's foot.

Fireworks are really annoying. I'm pretty sure most people feel the same way - that they should be allowed to be used on the 5th November (or whatever date in your country you let the lunatics out) and at no other time, no exceptions. Clearly though there are plenty of people who don't agree and they have been out making noise every day this week. It's a shame more fireworks don't accidentally blow up when they're lit, or when you touch them. That would be something of a disincentive to use them.

I'm sure they were more dangerous when I was a kid. I remember all the public information films they had. You had to always, always keep them in a metal tin (preferably a biscuit tin, sans biscuits) and never go near them after they were lit. Now it's all films about the dangers of heavy drinking and having sex with bears. Kids today, huh?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wii, wii, wii, all the way home

I've ordered myself a Nintendo Wii which is quite exciting. It won't be out for a few weeks yet though, so I will have to just wait.

I'm still not really sure exactly what it will feel like to play with. The controller is like a motion sensitive remote control that you can wave about and point at things. A bit mad. I'm sure it won't be long before I accidentally hit somebody with it. Or maybe even hit myself. I hope the edges aren't too sharp.

One thing I hadn't realised until today is that it will also play Gamecube discs, so I won't have to increase the number of boxes under my telly. I hope it's better at being backwards compatible than the Xbox 360 is with old Xbox games, where half of them don't actually work (yet?).

Friday, November 10, 2006

American Stuff

Twas good to see the Dem's do well in the elections yesterday. I think it was because the Repulicans spent too much time on hanging Sad rather than on hanging chads like last time. Ahem. I'm sure there's a good joke in there somewhere.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tigger gets told off

This is possibly the best photo of me ever taken.



It's from Matt & Jen's wedding that I went to at the weekend and was taken by my brother in law. We have no idea what poor Tigger had done to deserve such a seeing to.

Perhaps he had been too bouncy again.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

5 Things

1. Yesterday I had my first mince pie of the festive season. Yum.

2. This Life is currently being repeated on TV. I never watched it much the first time round, but now it's mostly entertaining because of Jack Davenport's hair.

3. I'm enjoying series 2 of Prison Break, but surely this has to be the last one?

4. Lost is still going good guns, and the last one I saw was great - Monster! But do the flashbacks really generally add much? I like the way though that they have now introduced two survivors from the original crash who so far have never done anything at all, but are now able to look at things afresh and point out obvious things the regular characters have been too stupid to spot.

5. Speed Quizzing is cancelled on Tuesdays until after Christmas. This is just for information to avoid anybody reading turning up at Kennedy's expecting to put their fingers on some buzzers.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Am I Running Out?

I got the following automatic email today from Lotus Notes. I think it was having a bad day (paths in the following email have been changed for probably no good reason):

"** Directory Space Warning ***

This warning relates to your Personal Data Area \\DATA01\Lint\stuff

This message has been generated because -2.00% of the total allocation of
295.639 MB has been used. Once 100% is reached you will be unable to save any
more data to this directory.

You must now remove any unwanted files resident on your Personal Data Area
\\DATA01\Lint\stuff.

If you need help with any of the above please contact your relevant IT
Service Desk.

************* "

I wasn't sure what it means to have exceeded -2% of my allocation. I'm wasn't even sure whether it means I'm using more or less than -2%. I'm just confused. Again. I didn't bother to contact the service desk though.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Sign In A Coffee Shop

Some signs in toilets are wronger than other signs in toilets. Here's one I found this morning in Costa Coffee in Ely:

Emergency sign in toilet

Here is a list of all the things that are wrong with this sign:

1. (Fundamental!) Since the alarm is disabled, it is unlikely that pulling the cord will have any effect.

2. In the unlikely event that the alarm did work, I find it unlikely that staff will immediately enter the toilet. Assuming they had some way to actually open the door (that I had locked) it would take some time for them to notice the alarm, move from their current location and give aid where it was required. We could be talking up to 30 seconds here, maybe. That is not in any way immediate.

3. The sign is punctuated as two sentences, when in fact it should be just one. The first full stop should be a comma. No excuse for that.

4. It's very red. Too red.

5. It has begun to peel from the wall. This makes the whole toilet appear scruffy and dilapidated.

6. Why would staff enter the toilet? It would be constricted, wet and smelly. I suspect they might enter the toilet room (subject to the constraints mentioned in 2 above), but not the toilet itself.

So overall it was a rubbish sign. It should have said "Here is a cord. Pull it if you like, but nothing is likely to happen if you do. Maybe the light will go off.".

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Late!

I'm off down to Ely for a wedding later. Technically when I say later, I mean about half an hour ago. Darn. Is it far?

Friday, November 03, 2006

PTH XIII

Yesterday was the thirteenth Pub Treasure Hunt, and for the second time I was helping to organise it. Should have learnt my lesson the first time possibly. I think it went well. Certainly most people seemed to find their way to the end, which is a good thing.

I may well write more about it later. When I've started to remember...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I Smell Winter

Since the clocks went back at the weekend, winter seems to have come on apace. Suddenly there are drifts of leaves everywhere, like the trees were just waiting for a signal from Greenwich for them to drop their leafy loads.

But this is unlikely, because trees do not operate according to an arbitrary external system of time labelling, unlike say trains or video recorders. From the perspective of a tree, nothing would have changed at the weeekend, except that maybe people started passing it at a later time on Sunday morning. Perhaps a tree can actually pick up on this small signal and then start shedding.

Or maybe it was the weather getting cold that gave the trees the signal to lose their leaves. That sounds more likely.

But that begs the question... how did the weather know that the clocks had gone back???

I'm confused.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick or Treat?

It may be Halloween, but I'm not going trick or treating tonight. This is because
a) I'm 30 years old
b) I have no children
c) It's fricking cold.

Instead, here's a treat for you: A ghost story!

Once upon a time there was a scary ghost called Goat. Goat had not been a goat when he had been alive, he had been a man just like you. Unfortunately, due to his little beard and unsteady gait, he had been nick-named Goat at an early age and it had stuck. His real name was Henry

Goat didn't like being called Goat. He found it insulting and degrading. But nothing he did would ever stop people calling him it.

So he died and became a ghost.

Scary!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Train Ticket Blues

I was supposed to be taking the train down to Norwich tomorrow, but at the last minute we've had to postpone until later in the year. Because I'd already booked my rail-tickets, I needed to get a refund for them, and to do this I needed to collect the tickets. Therefore at lunchtime I took a trip to the train station to collect them from the FastTicket machine.

When I got there, the first machine I tried wouldn't recognise my credit card. This was annoying, but not terminal. I tried the next machine and it recognised it and then asked me for my reference number. Darn, I thought, I was hoping since I only had one ticket on order, it wouldn't need the ref number. It doesn't normally. Oh well, I remembered I had written it down somewhere and put it in my wallet. Probably. I might just have left it on my desk. I had a look through, and amongst all the old train tickets, money notes, receipts and random detritus, I found a small folded in half post-it note with a likely looking reference on it.

I went to enter the number, but by this point the machine had timed out so I had to start all over again. When I finally entered the number, it then told me that it was unrecognised or that the tickets had already been collected. Darn. It must have been a ref number from an old journey. I called work to see if anyone could see the reference number on my desk. Nobody picked up the phone.

This wasn't going well.

I gave up and started to walk back to the office. I could come back in the evening with my number and sort it then. I had one last look in my wallet and spotted that the "old" tickets that were in there weren't as old as I thought. In fact they were for my journey tomorrow. This was good but also irritating. I had gone to the station to collect some tickets that I had had all along.

My first thought was that they must have really improved the FastTicket system to the point where it now teleports tickets direct into your wallet. That would be really cool.
My second thought was that I must have collected them on my way home from the pub on Friday night and then forgotten about them because I was a little tipsy. Applying Occam's razor, I settled that the second thought is probably what happened.

I think that a good type of drunk to be, is the sort who does dull jobs that need doing, when they get drunk (like collecting tickets, or tidying up). As opposed to the sort who starts fights or wees in the street. I like it that I am in the first category.

So it ended up alright. I can now apply for my refund. I have to do this by snail mail addressed to "thetrainline.com". That feels wrong.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Other People in the Terrier

In the Yorkshire Terrier tonight were a number of what can only be called "Star Trek Geeks" (2m, 1f). They discussed Photon Torpedoes, ST: The Slow Motion Picture and other stuff. Often I had to actually not laugh whilst they were talking to avoid showing I'd been earwigging on their stuff.

Hypocrittical b**tard you might say.

Fair enough, but I know the limits.

Anyway, after they left, the table next to us errupted in laughter which caused us to some extent follow suit. We had all been aware that the Trekkies were in the building. The table next to us turned out to comprise a) a magician; b) a birthday boy with a spud gun and a potato; c) the long-suffering (I imagine) girlfriend of spud-gun boy.

Much amusement ensued by us watching in regards of i) how spud guns can lead to fights; ii) how big potatoes don't fit well into either pint glasses or coat pockets; iii) how you shouldn't attempt to dispose of your girlfriend through a "Bosman Transfer".

I hope they didn't all end up in Casualty. Or The Bill.

Or Bagpuss.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sing Your Heart Out...

New Singstar game... Singstar Legends... Best yet?

I think it might he...

In the meantime, I saw a rat today... It was well cute but still a potential rabies/scabies magnet. I smiled at it/him and he walked away.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Payments In Kind

I was running a session of a business game today and got not one, but two bottles of Champagne as a thank you:

Champagnex2

Not bad really, for two hours of entertaining "work", for which I was arguably being paid anyway.

However, every silver lining does have a cloud, and my big fat cloud is that I have to go to Norwich next week and do it all again.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Where did all the sediment go? Where? Where?

In New Scientist's "The Last Word" section this week, a reader has asked the following, quite brilliant, question:

"How long would it take an average cow to fill the Grand Canyon with milk?"

Hopefully another reader will write in with an answer. I won't attempt to myself, as since I don't drink milk, I know little about cow milking. However, my gut feeling is that it would be a very long time since, even for the most profligate cow, the milk would tend to run out of the bottom end of the Canyon some time before it actually filled up.

I wonder why she wants to know? Perhaps she fancies a really big milky bath, like Cleopatra but more so.

I suspect that even if she gets an answer, she won't be able to try it out. The American National Parks Service are very strict on not leaving things in the canyon that shouldn't be there and I think several gallons of milk would certainly fall in this category.

Anyway, on a related note, this is very funny.

It gets worse...

Oh balls. Yesterday was embarassing, but today I bought a Rod Stewart album.

Shoot me now.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A slight guilty pleasure

Have you done anything today that you feel guilty about? Even a little bit? I have.

Today, I intentionally went into a music shop and bought the new Meat Loaf album, Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster is Loose. I'm listening to it now and it's great. Big, daft and ridiculous, like the man himself.

The original Bat Out Of Hell is one of the best albums of all time ever and if you don't agree you're clearly in your own personal hell. I've possibly been listening to it all my life (since it came out 30 years ago!).

I even saw Meat Loaf live once, at the Sheffield arena. I think it must've been around the time of the second Bat album, so some years ago. It was back when I originally liked him, before I had a teenage phase of being too cool for The Loaf. When I got even older I realised that you can never be too cool for The Loaf and so here I am now.

Though I still feel a little guilty.

I'm also quite partial to meatloaf as a food.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Thundercats... Go!

I went to Clifford's Tower today. I hadn't planned to go, it just sort of happened. You know how it is - one minute you're sitting in a pub eating steak with some friends and the next you're paying three english pounds to enter a burnt-out 14th century castle. Happens all the time.

I blame Chip this time. He's leaving York soon and after lunch he said he wanted to visit the tower before he left, because he hadn't been before. I hadn't been in either so I went along today for the ride. Not that there's a ride in there, mind. It's not like the Yorvik Centre.

There's not actually a lot in the tower, since it is a burnt out ruin but if you go up on the battlements you can get a good view of York. Not as good as you get from the top of the Minster, or from the Yorkshire Wheel, but still pretty good.

And it's cheaper than those other places.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Human Traffic

Sometimes things juxtapose themselves in a nice fashion. In today's Guardian there were a couple of leaflets that went well together:

Human Traffic

The first was from Amnesty International and concerned people trafficking, particularly of young women sold into lives of prostitution in the UK. The second appeared to be encouraging it somewhat.

Although I think it was actually selling sofas.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hi BiL!

Much as I love my Brother in Law, sometimes he's a bit pushy.

There: done.

xxx

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

End of the road

I've got hold of a picture of me finishing The Great North Run a couple of weeks ago. Proof that I wasn't dreaming the whole thing, though it feels a little like that now.

The End of the GNR

Still haven't really decided whether or not I want to do it next year though...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Prague (3) - Terrorist Alert!

I read today that whilst we were in Prague, apparently the city was at HIGH RISK of a major terrorist attack. Is that not something they could have mentioned somewhere? Shouldn't there be signs at the airport: "Welcome to The Czech Repulic! And btw, we currently have a major risk of terror! Have a nice stay!"? Prewarned is prearmed, after all.

We're lucky to have got out alive.

It does explain why there seemed to be a lot of policemen about. This is one we found by a synagogue:

Kafka

See how alert he is? Makes you feel much safer!

Monday, October 16, 2006

The State of my Pension

When I was a kid, I would often be told tales of a man called Father Christmas who would bring me presents each year if I was good. I never saw any real evidence that he existed, but as a child that doesn't really matter. You get the presents and the actual mechanism of delivery is much less important.

The fabled State Pension has always felt similar. I've been told it exists but I've never seen any real evidence of it and I have had to assume that its actualisation will be my dad in a silly suit pushing bundles of fivers through my door. Hoping I'm too old to realise the truth. On his deathbed, perhaps he'd tell me the secret and it would then be up to me to continue this charade with my own offspring.

In this way the myth of the welfare state is perpetuated.

Today I have to recant. I have received evidence from "The Pension Service" that this most legendary of state benefits is real and accruing to me even as I write. I got a letter in the snail post.

It gives me a forecast of my estimated state pension upon retirement. In total, including both the basic pension and my additional state pension, I can look forward to getting around £180 per week at today's prices. This actually sounds quite good to me. If I think about what old people spend money on, it probably breaks down as follows.

I have assumed that
a) My mortgage is paid off, so costs of housing are minimal.
b) I will be fit and well and will not need nursing.
c) Should I need nursing, euthanasia pills will be cheap (say £10 or less)
d) The government never lie or renege on promises
e) Global warming does not lead to the removal of rainy days that people need to save for

On this basis, I would spend money per week as follows

£30.00 on food
£12.99 on Domino's pizza
£3.00 on the local paper
£50.00 on sherry
£10.00 on clothes and bedsheets from charity shops
£1.00 on 20p pieces given to small children (grandchildren, nephs etc) in a pretence that I like them
£10.00 on miscellaneous items (pipes, slippers, extra sherry)
£50.00 on utility bills

This would leave me with a few quid left over to secrete away for a rainy day.

I have therefore bought everything I could possibly need and would have no need of extra money. There is no point in me saving any extra money now into my company pension scheme - I may as well spend it now on dresses and calamities.

They say old age is a time of depression, sadness and anxiety. I disagree. It's going to be one long party!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Prague (2) - Sights of Prague

There are many things to see in Prague - the so-called "Sights". Here are my thoughts on some of the ones I saw.

Charles Bridge
This is a stone pedestrian bridge at the bottom of the hill that leads up to the castle. It has statues on both sides along its length and is quite busy. But when all's said and done, it's just a bridge though. Whoopee doo.

Prague Castle/Charles Bridge

Prague Castle
Perched on top of one of the hills to the west of Prague is Prague Castle, which also contains a cathedral within it. The best thing here is the guards who stand and guard the doors in some smart blue uniforms. They're not supposed to smile or laugh so people have a lot of fun trying to make them do so. Some of the guards are better than others at staying staid, but they all do much better than I could do. I'm quite smiley. I think you can go on various tours around the castle area if you like that sort of thing. Or you can just wonder around aimlessly and look at things like we did.

Wenceslas Square
Wenceslas Square is badly named as it isn't in any way square. It's a long wide road with shops on each side. More like the Champs-Elysees than Trafalgar Square. There is a statue of St Wenceslas at the top end. He is on a horse which has one leg in the air. Since St Wenceslas was murdered outside a church and didn't die as a result of battle wounds, this statue nicely disproves that old thing about being able to tell how a statue subject died from the positioning of the horse's legs.

Lots of historic things have happened in Wenceslas Squaare over the years, such as the declaration of the end of Communism in 1989. Last week however, nothing notably historic seemed to be happening. This was a little disappointing so we had an overpriced coffee.

Old Town Square
This is actually a proper square. It's got one of those bloody clocks in it that has little people that come out and move around on the hour. ie jumped up cuckoo clocks. Many big cities have them and they are always, always crap, underwhelming and anti-climactic. This one, the Astronomical Clock, was no exception.

The Astronomical Clock

The skeleton on the right hand side does a little jig which was almost cool. But only almost.

And those are the sights of Prague.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Reading Glasses

I'm sure it's supposed to be people wearing glasses to read books rather than books wearing glasses to be read by people...

Transcendent Glasses

But then what do I know...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Prague (1)

So I've just had seven nights in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. It was my first time there, indeed my first time in Eastern Europe, and so everything was new. A week is quite a long time to spend in a city so it's important to pace yourself and take things at a leisurely pace. Don't eat all the sweets at once.

In Prague

We were staying in a hotel, La Boutique, to the south of the city in an area called Smichov. The hotel itself was right next to the Staropramen brewery, and from our room we could actually see into it and see bottles coming off the production lines. It would have been good to have beer piped straight into the room but this wasn't happening. Oh well. There were plenty of bars nearby.

Whilst the brewery didn't seem to do tours, it did have a bar/restaurant attached which served a variety of typical Czech dishes. Most of these involve cabbage and dumplings. Bread dumplings, potato dumplings, stuffing dumplings and dumpling dumplings. They like their dumplings. With cabbage. We ate there on the first night, and I had a huge piece of duck (with bread dumplings and red cabbage, natch). It was nice enough and was washed down well by the several pints of beer.

Generally, I ate quite well over the week. Since we were out for lunch and dinner every day, it was hard to ever feel hungry especially after allowing for breakfast in the hotel. I tried to eat a mixture of Czech and non-Czech food (ie Italian, Mexican, random) to save on dumpling over-exposure.

If you stayed there long enough it would be easy to turn into a giant dumpling. With cabbage hair. And beer wee.

Tomorrow: Some Thoughts On The Sights of Prague.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Expectations of Applause

A question: If you are doing a presentation, what's the minimum size of audience so that you have a (say) 95% chance of being clapped at the end?

If you did one to two people, I think clapping would be unusual. Whereas to 1000 people, it would be pretty certain (if only out of politeness). Where's the middle ground? Where's the turning point?

I'd guess around 12 people, but I have no evidence of this.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Back from Prague

Well, I'm back from the Czech Republic. Hello! I'll write about the holiday over the next few days but in the meantime here's a photo of Prague Castle to prove I've been there.

Prague Castle at Night

Based on my experiences, here are the top ten things to do in Prague:
1. Drink czeap Czech beer
2. Visit stuff
3. Look at stuff
4. Go to the shops (inc Tesco)
5. Eat Czech food (mostly with dumplings)
6. Eat non-Czech food
7. Visit places on the train that aren't in Prague (eg Germany)
8. Sleep in your hotel
9. Sit in the park and read a book whilst eating salami
10. Drink more czeap Czech beer.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

An Haitus (2)

So farewell for a bit. See you next week. Don't touch my stuff whilst I'm away.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Off up and away...

I'm off to Prague for a week tomorrow. I've never been before and if I'm honest, I don't know much about the place. Since I'm there for a week though I figure I'll have plenty of time to work out what it's about once I'm there and there's not too much point in me reading the guide book beforehand.

So far I've only managed to learn the Czech for "Good day" (Dobry den) but I'm working on also learning "Farewell", "Yes", "No", "Please", "Thank you" and "Please don't use the leather one this time".

I'm not fully packed yet, but I'm not far off. I'll do most of it in the morning - we don't need to get the train until half past ten. I think I'm allowed to take most things except liquids on to planes now (do I have to do a big wee before I get on? Or is wee allowed?) so that should make life easier. I have passports, insurance, foreign money and electrical adaptors.

My holiday reading will be Richard Dawkins' new book, The God Delusion. And some more Stephen Baxter for after I've finished that.

I will not be running in the Czech Republic. Unless I find myself chased.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Great North Run, My Time At The

First thoughts on the Great North Run when I got there... it's quite busy. If you imagine the entire population of a day at the Reading Festival, lose a sixth of them because they're too drunk on cider to stand, then line all those people up along a motorway... that's your start line. 50,000 people standing around waiting for someone to fire a gun half a mile away so they can start stumbling towards the South Shields.

The starting arrangements actually made it quite hard to do any kind of decent warm up or stretching. Everyone was just too close together. I had a go at doing the best I could but it was a bit half-hearted. And it was hot and sunny too. As a plus point, I didn't feel like I was going to need the toilet anytime soon.

The race started at about ten to eleven (a little late) and 25 minutes later I crossed the line and actually began to run. At this point I felt ok. But it was early days yet.

The first few miles were fine - I stuck to ten minute miles and was enjoying the novelty of running with thousands of other people along motorways. It was annoying to find people dressed as (for example) Spongebob Squarepants that it seemed hard to overtake (they should have a special lane for fancy dress people) and even more annoying when they overtook me... but what can you do?

There were a lot of people (mostly girls from what I remember) who had started walking after less than two miles. They were really pissing me off a bit since they just get in the way and make it quite hard for people to progress. I don't see the point of entering a half marathon if you can't even run a couple of miles. Why would you do that? Why? They should instigate a system like in that Stephen King story The Long Walk where if you drop below a certain pace you get shot. Dead. That would give 'em a kick up the ass. Maybe they'll bring that in next year - I know the organisers are always keen to make the event go more smoothly.

Up to about six miles, everything was going fairly smoothly. I was sticking to the 10 minute miles and not feeling too dead. However, shortly after this, disaster!

My shoelace had come undone.

I had to stop at the side of the road and tie it before I could carry on. Annoyingly this was also about the time my left leg started to hurt. Not in a can't-carry-on way, just in a hi-I'm-your-left-leg-what-are-you-doing-to-me kind of way. This then carried on to be a problem for the rest of the race. However, I don't think it actually slowed me down significantly. It did make me not push things too much though. Maybe this was a good thing.

I kept up the pace to ten miles - at this point I'd been going for 1 hour 45. Ten is the longest I'd ever run prior to the race. But then I just started to feel very bad and the next two miles took me about 25 minutes. Even the spectators by the road who were offering biscuits to runners didn't help. I was tired and I was miserable and I wanted a beer. Somehow I kept on going.

Just before the final mile along the sea-front in South Shields, there's a very steep downhill. It was tempting to go fast down this but I knew that to do so would quite possibly cause me further injury or worse so instead I went dead slow. It seemed to work and then I passed the twelve mile mark and knew the end was in sight. Not quite as close as I hoped, but I was able to speed up a bit whilst heading for the line.

It's a lovely feeling to know that something you want to finish is going to finish soon. It helps you put in that last little bit of effort. With about half a mile to go I spotted one of my friends that I'd started the race with going very slowly. Rather than slowing to encourage them on, I crossed to the other side of the road and tried to secretly overtake so that I'd finish in front. Sadly, she spotted me and started to speed up so that she overtook me just before the end and finished a few seconds ahead. Darn. Serves me right for not being nice, I suppose.

It felt very good to cross that finish line (after 2 hours and 22 minutes). A definite sense that I'd done something that I never thought I would. After all, a year ago I'd never even considered doing any running, let alone a long one.

I haven't yet decided whether I'll enter next year or not.

But for now I need a rest. Which is fine, as I'm off to Prague for a week shortly. Running will resume mid-October.

As a bit of an aside, it was good to see that the main purpose of St John's Ambulance seemed to be to hand out Vaseline to any runners who wanted it. The jury's still out on whether this is to put above your eyes to stop sweat running into them or whether it's to rub on your bits to stop them chaffing...

It's not too late to sponsor me, if you want to and haven't already done so, either for the GNR or for the Run-a-Thon 500. Both are combined on my Justgiving page. Cheers!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Seven seconds short of a complete set of 2s

Today, after literally many months of anticipation, waiting and some trepidation, it was the Great North Run. I was hoping to beat two and a half hours, and actually got 2 hours 22 minutes and 15 seconds, so was fairly happy really.

Now, I am home (after a five hour car journey - don't ask!), tired, bathed and ready to go to bed for a good long sleep. So that's what I'll do.

I'll try and write something about the race tomorrow. Until then, adios!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Booking a sleep

One more sleep to go until the Big Run.

We're off down to Ely for a wedding in November. Ely is a small village in Cambridgeshire which has aspirations to be more than it is due to it having a big old gothic cathedral there. I went there once, ten years or so ago and remember there being not much there other than a few second hand bookshops. And the cathedral.

It also has a train station that can be a very cold and empty place when you're stuck there in winter.

Because Ely is small, it doesn't really have proper hotels (ie the sort where you have to queue for four hours to check out in the morning) and so most accommodation is in the form of B&Bs and little family run hotels. I got round to trying to book somewhere this afternoon and quickly found that all the half-decent looking places seemed to be full on the night of the wedding, even the Travelodge - the only chain hotel anywhere near by.

Luckily, I found somewhere in the end - a smallish B&B but it looks nice enough and is well situated for the wedding. I had to actually use the phone to book - no nice interweb booking was possible - which was irritating but seemed to work. Except that I have to post (snail!) a cheque down to them as a deposit.

I'm always faintly amazed when I see people still using cheques. Primitives. It's worst when people use them in supermarkets but I'll get annoyed if I think too much about that, so I won't.

Anyway, I wrote the cheque and put it in an envelope with a handwritten (!) covering letter. And I'll post it soon.

I'm hoping that this archaic chain of events will result in me actually finding a room there for us when we arrive. If not, I'll be knocking on the door of the blasted cathedral begging for sanctuary.

Now I need to go and eat pasta.

Friday, September 29, 2006

A good Friday afternoon game...

I invented a new game this afternoon at work. We use Lotus Notes for email, and it always tells you exactly how many bytes each email message is. My game involves two people both racing to send an email to the other person that is exactly 1,000,000 bytes. This includes attachments. First person to send an email that shows as this size wins the game.

This isn't as easy as it sounds and an element of trial and error is needed to get to the magic total.

Unfortunately, my friend wouldn't play with me because he thought it was a stupid game. I had to resort to sending emails to myself instead.

It took a while but eventually I achieved the million byte goal. I was very proud of myself at this point and gloated a little bit. Then I went back to doing some work.

It was a very enjoyable game and quite addictive. I'd recommend it to you if you also are on Lotus Notes or a similar system.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Apple aren't couriering my favour...

Much as I love Apple, they can be bloody annoying sometimes. I ordered a wire from them to connect my spare flatpanel monitor to the mini-DVI port in my iMac. Now, it's annoying that they've invented mini-DVI in the first place - if they'd stuck to normal DVI, I already have a wire - the one I used to plug into my Powerbook. But that is not why I am annoyed today.

The new wire cost £15 which although quite expensive for a short wire, isn't going to break the bank. Despite this low cost, Apple insist on sending it via courier in such a way that I am unable to receive the blooming thing unless I'm in. And the courier company doesn't do weekends. Grrrr.

Luckily, I'm off work next week so have arranged for it to be redelivered then. But for such a small, cheap thing, it seems mad to use a courier service rather than just sticking it in the post. Maybe it's just that the wire comes in a ridiculous amount of packaging.

It'll be good to be set back up with two screens though. However large your main screen it's always useful to have a little one next to it. It just feels... better.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

That moment... in a toilet...

It's always a slightly disconcerting feeling to enter a mens' toilet for the first time in an unfamiliar building. You never know what you'll find. Will they be clean? Will there be a hand dryer or paper towels? How many cubicles? So many questions.

It's especially annoying to go in one and find that it's all cubicles, no urinals. You have to look around and do a double take... where are the urinals? Have you entered the wrong sex of toilet? Is there a hidden section of the room round the corner? Are there ladies present?

This happened to me yesterday. But it was ok. It was just an odd mens' toilet that was only made of cubicals and not urinals.

Monday, September 25, 2006

If you run quick, you might see a wild animal!

A proper athlete came to work today to give us motivational tips and help for the Great North Run on Sunday. I think his name was Nick McCormick. I hadn't heard of him, but this didn't surprise me as I can name only about three sportsmen in general and one of those is Pele. Because they used to be a band.

The session also featured free sandwiches, free Lucozade Sport and free Lucozade Energy Bars. It didn't, sadly, end up featuring the aforementioned athlete since he was stuck in traffic somewhere in York. Although there was a second session scheduled for later in the afternoon, I had to be over the other side of town by then and so had to give him a miss.

Shame really, as I'm sure I could use all the help I can get. At least I got some free food though.

After work I went out for my final training run - just three miles. I hadn't intended to try and go particularly fast but somehow I did anyway (it must have been the motivation) and beat my previous best time by a couple of minutes. Down to a miniscule 27 minutes. OK, Nick M ain't going to be quaking in his running shoes (yet) but I was happy enough.

Especially when I got back to the flat and saw a fox outside! How cool is that? Obviously not cool if it's eating your rubbish bags or your chickens, but since it wasn't doing either (and in any case I own no chickens)... how cool?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Weasel Bulemia

Some time ago, a friend bought me some Weasel Coffee for my birthday. Weasel coffee is a speciality that comes (apparently) from Vietnam and differs from normal coffee in that it has been eaten and then regurgitated by weasels.



The little weasels wander around Vietnamese coffee plantations, find coffee beans lying around, eat them, find that they don't like them and then vomit them up. Locals then find the small pools of weasel sick, remove the beans and then make them into coffee as normal. And this is considered a normal thing to do. This coffee is then sold on to people who like the "finer" things in life.

This is yet another example of how it's generally best not to ask too many questions about where food described as a "speciality" comes from. Think also, "Monkey Brains", "Sheep Balls" and "Big Macs".

It's hard to imagine how this practice got started. Often whilst walking around the streets of York I will come across a pool of regurgitation on the floor - particularly on a Friday or Saturday night. I generally take great pains to walk around such pools. Should I be able to make out the remains of a kebab, I don't pick them up, put them in a fresh pitta bread and sell the new creation on to drunks as a "speciality kebab". Not even Efe's do that (I hope).

The right response to finding a pool of weasel sick should be to ignore it. Even allowing for cultural differences between myself and the average Vietnamese peasant... c'mon! No!

But anyway, they don't ignore it, they make it into roasted coffee beans and sell it worldwide.

(nb I'm assuming throughout here that this is a genuine product and not just a joke. I think it's real...)

I finally got around to having some today. I would have tried it sooner, but my girlfriend has point-blank refused to try it (wuss!) and since I normally only make proper coffee when she's around, it has just sat unloved in my cupboard. But no longer. Since she's away for the weekend, I made myself a pot this afternoon.

It tasted alright. A bit different to the stuff I normally drink but that could just be because it's a different type of coffee, or a different roast rather than because it's been in contact with a weasel's gastric tract.

It doesn't seem to have harmed me yet.

I'm still going to avoid the pools of sick I see in York though.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Oh, the disappointment

Today was York's Fourth Annual Pork Pie Festival. Last year I went along and had a jolly good time, eating all the pork pies and drinking some beers. Sadly this year, despite having planned to go for several months, I only got round to trying to get tickets on Thursday and it was sold out. So no pies for me today.

Shame, really, as it's been a lovely sunny day. It would have been nice to sit out in the beer garden with some pie and lager.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Event Looms...

Just over a week to go now until the Great North Run and my training is pretty much finished. I did a 10 miler this evening, my first since the 9th July. It was quite hard work but I think I'll get through the 13 next week. Just.

But for now, I need to rest.

I'm up to 410 miles in the Run-a-thon 500 - nicely ahead of schedule but I'll be really happy when the bloody thing's over and done with.

This evening in Acomb I saw a house with an open upstairs window and a large 12 foot trampoline on the ground below. Surely the best invitation to thieves that can be imagined. In a slightly cartoonish way. I'd have liked to have a go but it would have been illegal and I'd likely have hurt myself.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Where'd the cheap times go...

We went to Silvano's tonight. The food was good, but I felt like we'd been given a menu denominated in Euros. Did I miss a period of high inflation or something?

And more to the point, where has the lovely seafood rissotto gone? Is it the wrong time of year for seafood?

Eh?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bring back the balls or the human race dies...

Do you have an optical mouse? Pick it up and turn it over. See that big red light shining back at you? Scary isn't it. Does it remind you of anything? Of anyone?...

Does it perhaps look a bit like a... Cylon?

Could Cylons evolve from our current generation of wireless mice? I'm not saying that they definitely will but there are some good reasons why I could be right:

1. Scientists are always experimenting on mice. Witness Pinky & The Brain, and the infamous Mouse With Ear Mounted On Back. It's only a matter of time before they start engineering experiments with their electronic brethren.

2. Lots of things in so called "Science-Fiction" end up coming true, or at least potentially plausible. Witness Virtual Reality or the Space Elevator.

3. A lot of weird shit happens. Who'd have thought twenty years ago that Arnie would actually become president of California?

4. The red light is clearly an embryonic Cylon eye.

5. I'm right.

6. I'm so right.

The only way to stop this threat to the human race's very existence is to stop using optical mice and revert to bally ones. They're not as nice, they need cleaning and work colleagues will regularly steal the ball as a joke, but they may be our only hope for salvation.

Ball mice may save us all. Bring back balls.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Adult Entertainment

I went to Certificate 18 last night for an Acoustic Night, cos Drew was playing there. Along with about nine other bands.



The overall quality of the turns was variable - ranging the full gamut from rubbish to very good. I saw at least one harmonica being abused beyond forgiveness. Dylan has a lot to answer for.

On the other hand, I saw an acoustic version of Monster for the first time. It worked remarkably well.

Drew's set featured a few new songs and seemed to go down very well with the audience. Possibly because he played damn well, possibly because the crowd was getting a bit drunk. The mad dancing girl especially. I don't think he's used to people dancing to his tunes. They ain't exactly Bee Gees.

Monkey!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Normally I'd have a lie-in

This morning I ran in my second and middlest race of the year - the 10km Harrogate Theatre Race. In Harrogate. Although it was by no means the longest distance I've ever done (that's still 10 miles) it was twice as long as the previous race I did, and on a much more demanding course.

The race blurb describes the route as "pleasant" and "undulating". What it should have said was "bloody" and "hilly". Quite hard work in places, but I seemed to have less problems with the uphill parts compared to many people and did my best overtaking at those points.

The final kilometre was all downhill which meant I could do a nice fast final section. Several spectators mistook me for a speeding missile and hid behind trees to avoid the explosion. There was no explosion and I crossed the finishing line without accident and then collected my goody bag.

Because that's what it's all about. It's not the taking part. It's not the winning (which I didn't technically do). It's about the free stuff you get at the end.

This time I got a free pair of running socks (worth £7), a bottle of Harrogate Spa Water, an apple and a ginger cereal bar. Given that entry to the race was £8, I don't feel I did too badly. I probably won't use the apple though.

My time ended up being about 1 hour, 0 minutes and 20 seconds. Not spectacularly fast, but I beat the girls this time at least. It would obviously have been nice to break the hour, but there's always another time. And it's nice to have a target.

Afterwards we went into town for lunch and drink. We had to sit outside because we were a bit smelly.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Bargain Spam

The Yorkshire Hussar does some pretty decent food. Last night they had a special on: Spam Fritters and Chips. For just two pounds.



I couldn't resist having it. It must be many many years since I last had Spam fritters, but they still tasted as good as ever. Deep fried Spam is a hugely underrated dish - simple yet tasty. I could eat it all day. And yet, you hardly ever see it on restaurant menus, even in the better ones.

The perfect condiment to compliment Spam Fritters is English Mustard. I mention this purely for informational purposes should you find yourself in a place where you need to compliment some spam.

And can I just repeat that they were only two pounds?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Just ridin' the storm

I spent lunchtime in a local pub playing Mario Kart DS wirelessly with some friends. I've played the console versions with real people, in the comfort of my own home on many a happy occasion. I don't normally do very well at the business of actually winning, but I have a good time nevertheless. However, I've never played it in a pub at lunchtime before. I guess until recently it just wouldn't have been possible. Now that it is, I'm surprised more people aren't doing it!

Like normal, I wasn't very good, but I was managing to just about stay in fourth place (last human, ahead of the CPU players). I won one race (out of 25!), Baby Park, so it was not a total write off.

Of the four of us, three including myself were using white DS Lites. The other had a black one. He was clearly an evil person! He said that black was the only colour they had in the shop when he bought it but I find that story unlikely.

I think I'm going to have to do some practice on my own to improve my karting skills.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

York Beans

My favourite hotel in York for meetings is still the Royal York. For one reason only. They give you individually wrapped Jelly Belly jelly beans. The wrapping is pointless, but I love the beans.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday's TV

I'm not going to be watching any television tonight myself, not even Battlestar Galactica on DVD (currently h'way through S2). The Actual TV on telly looks pretty boring. But that's only if you believe the descriptions in my TV guide. If you take the descriptions and re-attach them to different programmes, it gets more interesting (albeit only slightly). Here's, then, what you could be watching on the five main terrestial channels later tonight:

BBC1
Celebrity Masterchef
Nutritional experts Dr Wendy Denning and Vicki Edgson explore how to improve the 10 parts of the body people most dislike. 1745096

BBC2
Extreme Dreams with Ben Fogle
Musicians David Grant, Paul Young and model Marie Helvin are in the kitchen. 9893

ITV
Emmerdale
Howard begins to struggle as the group climb a mountain pass. 473

Channel 4
Ballet Hoo! Backstage
Viv and Bob attend their first scan. 4589

Five
The Diet Doctors: Top to toe
Birmingham Royal Ballet's Shoe Master Michael Clifford reveals cobbler's secrets. 815638

See - only slightly more interesting.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Name that tune

I reckon I could sit here for hours and still not think of anything worth saying. One of those evenings where the old brain just gets too tired to do or say anything useful. I should just sleep.

I've just searched my iTunes library for all instances of "lint". It got five results:

Flint (For The Unemployed And Underpaid) - Sufjan Stevens
Clint Eastwood - Gorillaz
Splinter - Seafood
Meet The Flintstones (theme from the TV show)
Meet The Flintstones (version off'a The Simpsons)

Why not try this fun game with your own fake name?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Magnetism and Magic

I know that in principle, magnetism isn't the same as magic. This is what my head tells me.

But c'mon. It is magic really, isn't it? It has to be!

Magnets are so cool!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Big Insects

Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's the place. Maybe it's the time of year. But I've seen a lot of Daddy Long-Legs in Sheffield today. One just landed on my face whilst I was writing this! I'm in bed, with the lights off. It scared me!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Pamphlets

In the old days, people used to write pamphlets.

Then they'd get into trouble and be tortured.

Or executed.

Nobody writes pamphlets anymore.

Where have all the good pamphlets gone?

I don't even know what makes a pamphlet a pamphlet and not a leaflet, a booklet, a flyer, a magazine, a waste of my time.

But where have they gone...?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bustedstar Galactica

Busted were created by man
They evolved
They rebelled
There are many copies
And they have a plan

Now that's a concept for a show! Or it's possibly real life...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Fat Boy on a Chopper

On my way home today I saw a sight that I thought was a long time gone from these shores: A fat boy on a Chopper.

He was cycling, slowly along the pavement, swaying slightly from side to side. His tyres looked to be quite flat but that may just have been because he was fat. Despite the fact that he was on a bike, he didn't really make any faster progress than myself. This was again probably because he was very fat.

I found him funny. This might be cruel, but then I'm sure that you would find a fat boy on a Chopper to be funny if you'd seen one too.

Monday, September 04, 2006

It got into my hand and it went bad, so I lopped it off at the wrist

For the first time in over nine years, I am now actually registered with a doctor in the town where I live (as opposed to where I went to university many years ago). *Gasp*

Why has this happened, I hear you ask? Let me tell you a story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

I woke up on Saturday morning and found that not entirely unusually I had a bit of the old pins and needles in my hand. I attributed this to having perhaps slept in a funny position or something like that and paid it no heed initially. But after a while, I found that it wasn't going away. I had a tingling and numb sensation on the right side of my left hand (little and fourth fingers, plus the bit of hand below them down to the wrist). It felt strange.

There was no pain or major impairment to motor functions, just the constant tingling and slight numbness. I figured that I'd leave it for a bit to see if it cleared up on its own accord, but by the end of Saturday morning there was no sign of this happening. Bugger, I thought.

On Sunday, with still no improvement, I popped down to the Walk-in Clinic to see if they could help. They don't have doctors there, just nurses, but I figured that it was worth a try - especially as it was next to Sainsburys that I was going to be going to anyway. I had to wait over an hour and then the nurse wasn't really sure what the problem might be - she recommended I go and see my GP as soon as I could in the week.

When I got up this morning, the hand was starting to feel a little more normal. Still numb and tingly, just not as much. Since I didn't have a GP, I had to register first but this was straightforward and I was actually able to get an appointment to see a doctor less than two hours later. They clearly respected me and wanted to give me the best possible service because I'm great.

The doctor had a quick look at me and then decided that it was probably nothing serious, just some kind of damage/inflammation to my wrist that was causing one of the nerves to malfunction a little. But since it seemed to be getting better, she wasn't too worried and told me to take a few Ibuprofen and come back if things started to get worse.

She wasn't sure what might have caused it in the first place, but thought that it was likely to have been either some kind of computer-related injury or possibly a sleeping in a ridiculous position injury. Both seem entirely likely.

As of now, I reckon it's about 50% to 75% back to normal so it looks like there's no major problem other than that I now have to take a sample of my wee back to them next week (which is always not much fun).

And at least they're not going to have to amputate my hand.

Not yet, anyway.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

B5 actors: Where are they now?

I'm currently working my way through re-watching all of Babylon 5 on DVD. 10 years and on and for the most part it is still fantastic viewing. Best ever (long running) sci-fi series? Quite possibly.

But watching it today, I was struck by how most of the main actors seem to have disppeared into nowhere subsequently. The only person I've noticed anywhere was Delenn (Mira Furlan) turning up in Lost as "the mad french woman". So using IMDB I've done a bit of research to see whether anyone else has done anything of note (ie proper roles, not just one-off appearances in American shows I've never heard of) since B5 ended in '98. Here are my results:

Bruce Boxleitner: Nothing I've heard of.
Bill Mumy: Ditto
Claudia Christian: Nothing much, though she did turn up in Broken News. Which was rubbish.
Jerry Doyle: Nothing much.
Andreas Katsulas: A few episodes of Star Trek.
Peter Jurasik: A couple of episodes of Dawson's Creek. But they must have been after I stopped watching.
Richard Biggs: Died a few years ago. Quite a good excuse.
Jeff Conaway: Nothing much, but since he was Kenickie in Grease, he can be forgiven.
Jason Carter: Played Aragorn in Lord of The Rings. Nearly.

So overall, not a great showing. But I'm sure there's room for plenty more of them to turn up on that bloomin' island...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Jump!

We have a weekly fire alarm test at work, every Thursday morning at 11am. The alarm goes off for about twenty to thirty seconds and then stops. Despite this being a regular event, and despite signs being put up in the entrance to warn of the impending test, I get scared by it every single time. If I'm sitting at my desk, it makes me jump quite visibly. People around me are now quite used to my reaction and find the whole thing fairly amusing, but it annoys me. It's like I have no self control. Even if I remember a few minutes before the test, I still jump come eleven of the clock. This has happened pretty much every week for the last four years or so.

So I was very surprised when we had a proper fire drill yesterday (Friday) morning and I barely was scared at all by the noise. I was in a meeting at the time, but when the alarm went off it didn't cause any significantly amusing reaction in me. It was very strange. Am I only scared by noises that I'm expecting? I don't think this is the case because often other people's phones will scare me when they go off, particularly if the ring volume has been set overly loud.

At least I don't get a fright when my phone starts vibrating in my pocket any more. I used to, but I think I did eventually get used to it.