Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Wicker takes it all

I was listening to Pulp's last album yesterday, We Love Life. There's a song on there called Wickerman about a road called The Wicker in Sheffield, and possibly also a man who hangs about on it. I forget the details.

Part way through the song I noticed for the first time that there's a sample (or at least a cover) of part of a song I recognised. It was part of Willow's Song, a song which formed a memorable part of the film The Wicker Man. Do you see what they did there? They wrote a song about a man from The Wicker and put part of a song from a film about a man made of Wicker in the song about the man from the Wicker.

I'd never noticed this before, despite having had the album for five years or so. I like it when I find things I've never noticed before. It's like people have hidden special surprises in my life. Like the coins in Christmas Pudding, but all year round.

I'm sure I've said this before, but Willow's Song is great for two reasons:
1. It's a hauntingly beautiful song
2. Britt Ekland dances naked whilst singing it

But strangely, reason number 1 is the more compelling one.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Bump!

It's always funny to watch other people injure themselves non-fatally. One of the funniest ways in which someone can do this is by walking at speed into a lamp-post whilst looking in a different direction. If you don't find this funny then it can only be because you have just walked into a lamp-post yourself. And you haven't started to find it funny yet. You'll be laughing in ten minutes though, despite the pain. Guaranteed.

I was lucky enough to witness a colleague do this on Friday night. We were between pubs, later on in the evening. He was talking to a girl off to his left. He failed to notice the large metal object directly in his path and...

Bump!

How we laughed.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Feels Like Heaven

I've never been to Newcastle before, except when I've passed through on the train on the way to Scotland. Yesterday was therefore my first time in the city centre. I thought it was a lot like Leeds, with better bridges.

Although we had gone up there for the Belle and Sebastian gig, we went up a little early in order to have a look around and to have dinner. One thing we wanted to do was to check out the route of The Great North Run that we are planning to run in the Autumn. It has a reputation for being a little hilly, as half marathons go. It didn't seem too bad to me though. It did seem a little boring in parts though... there's a good bridge at the start, the sea at the end and mostly motorways and big main roads in between. At least they will take the cars away on the day (or so I'm told).

The way we checked out the route was to drive along it in a car. This took longer than expected because the traffic was quite busy at times. Whilst I won't suggest it would have been quicker for us to actually just run it yesterday, it might have been (but it wouldn't). So now we've checked out the land, it's time to get back to training. I'm up to doing around 7 miles at a time at the moment, so I think I should be fine for a half marathon by October. Unless I break my legs whilst skiing. Or whilst drunk. Or whilst skiing, drunk.

Later on we arrived at the Carling Academy, Newcastle. Seemed like a reasonable enough venue apart from the rather slow bar service upstairs. B&S came on and started with The State I Am In, still one of my favourite of their songs after all these years. It gave me the little shivers (a good thing).

Belle and Sebastian (1)

The set was pretty broad and had songs from most of the old albums as well as the new one (which is excellent btw).

Belle and Sebastian (2)

A great night :-)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

B&S: Soon!

I'm going to see Belle and Sebastian tonight, in Newcastle. Quite excited by this since they are the best band in the world, ever. Maybe. We leave soon. Bye!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Communion Kit-Kats

When I arrived at work this morning I was a little hungry so went to the coffee shop to get a snack (and a coffee). My snack of choice was a Kit-Kat Chunky. Now, when my friend saw what I was doing, she commented that she thought it was a bit early for chocolate. This was slightly hypocritical because she herself was eating a pain-au-chocolat (or chocolate croissant as the lady in the canteen insists on calling them).

A pain-au-chocolate is essentially a form of bread with some chocolate inside it. Whereas a Kit-Kat chunky is essentially a form of chocolate with some wafer inside it. Now, as any good catholic will tell you, wafer is a good (symbolic) substitute for bread. Hence I conclude that a Kit-Kat is basically an inside out pain-au-chocolat and hence a valid and fine thing to eat for breakfast. QED, I win.

Whilst thinking about the whole bread/wafer thing, I then got to wondering whether there were churches where they gave you Kit-Kats rather than the standard communion wafers? They'd be pretty cool. I reckon church attendance would rise considerably, though they might have to reinforce the pews if people had too much choccy. But then if they had Kit-Kats, would the whole transubstantiation thing still work? Does chocolate block that process in the same way that lead blocks the harmful effects of Kryptonite on Superman? Can any Catholic scientists enlighten me on this? (*)

(* I am assuming here that there are some Catholic scientists out there who actually do proper science with experiments and evidence. As opposed to the sort who argue against evolution and think man used to hang out with dinosaurs...)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Stupid pizza label

There's a label on the front of my frozen pizza box that says:

"Each half pizza provides:
- 479 cal
- total sugars 7.6g
- salt 1.8g
- sat fat 9.5g
- fat 17.0g"

It doesn't look like that - it's presented as a pie chart (pizza chart?) but a very badly done one because all five slices are the same size. That's just dumb because clearly 1.8g of salt should have a considerably smaller slice than 17.0g of fat. And there must be some overlap between the calorific content and the other listed ingredients.

But that's not my main problem with this label.

My main problem is: Who the f**k would eat half a pizza? What possible use is there in knowing how much content half your meal has? Is it a bold bid to increase the mathematical ability of dieting fatties? It's not like you can easily cut a frozen pizza in half and have it on two separate nights. It's far too hard. You'd have to use a chainsaw. And I honestly don't believe that frozen pizza is the sort of food you'd ever share with a loved one. I'm pretty sure it's eaten solely by lonely singles.

Having half a pizza would be like having half a cat or half a hat or half of a haircut ie it's wrong. Idiots.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

iPod Grammar

iPod
youPoddle
hePods
shePiddles
wePodulate
theyPodtooearly
itPodsallnight
pigstailsaretwirly

And it started so well...

Monday, January 23, 2006

A big bridge

I'm watching a programme about the Millau Bridge in southern France - the world's tallest vehicular bridge (probably). It's one of those programmes with an ominous sounding voiceover making everything sound much harder and more thrilling than it really is. "Nothing had even been attempted on this scale before", "One small error could cost the lives of billions of people" - lots of that sort of thing. Since it's a French bridge, many of the people involved in making it were also French. This means that when they are dubbed into English, they sound like the people off of Eurotrash. Hah. Foreigners are funny.

It's a truly impressive structure though. Tall, like me. Slender, like me. Able to carry the weight of hundreds of cars and lorries, like me.

The best line in the whole programme came near the start. Whilst referring to the limestone nature of the surrounding countryside, it said something like (and I can't remember the exact words, but this is near enough): "What's great for the manufacture of cheese is terrible for a Megastructure". Wise words.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

On the extortionate price of things these days

I went out for a friend's birthday last night, and we ended up going to The Gallery. It seems like ages since I last went to a club, possibly because it is. They are still pretty rubbish, but never mind.

We'd aimed to get there before eleven in order to get in cheap but sadly this didn't happen and when we got there the queue was humongous. Right back to the York Dungeon. We had to wait. I half-heartedly suggested abandoning the whole thing and going home for a bottle of wine, but this suggestion was not taken up. Eventually the queue shrank to the extent that we were at the front of it. This was really exciting.

Yes, the anticipation was quite something.

Really somewhat thrilling.

And before we knew it (and about half an hour after we arrived in the queue) we were in. But not completely in, because first they have the gall to take money off you! They call it an entry fee. I call it Robbery! Eight pounds! Each! Do they know what I could buy for eight pounds? Four pizzas, that's what. Four! Eight pounds? Ouch!

I thought this price was a little on the high side.

But it gets worse. We put our cloaks in the cloak room, and despite them putting two on the same hangar, they charged an additional three pounds for this service. Just in case you have lost track, the bastards have now got eleven of my pounds and I haven't even got to the bar yet. Don't get me started on bar prices...

Now, maybe it's because I haven't been to a club for a while and this pricing is standard but it seems high. I remember when it was all fields...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Boom Boom

I used to notice a silence every time I walked past any big field, full of yellow-flowered crops. It turns out it was just that my rape-alarm was broken.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

New Road! New Road!

There's a new road outside my flat. Brand spanking new, they installed it today - I even saw them do it.

Well, maybe it's not technically a new road as such but it is a new road surface where the old road surface used to be. I don't know what was wrong with the old road surface - perhaps it was scratched or dirty. Or maybe scratched and dirty! Imagine that - a scratched and dirty road! It would definitely need replacing.

So the men come with their machines and their diggers and their steam rollers and they work their tarmac-gic and new road appears.

This brings an important question to mind. Do steam rollers still use steam in any way? The workings of large mechanical vehicles is not one of my specialist subjects (*) so I'm unable to say whether steam rollers got their name because they used to run on a steam engine in the old days or for some other reason. One I saw today looked like it was pouring water onto the hot tarmac and then rolling over it as the water turned to steam. Perhaps therefore a steam roller is more akin to a steam iron. After all, they do essentially the same job, just on a different scale (And on a different material. I don't recommend the old tar jacket routine).

Anyway. The cycle of road renewal continues.

(* Note: my specialist subjects are: 1. The role of Rasputin in 20th century conspiracy theories; 2. How to pleasure a lady using only bees and; 3. The noises an air hockey table makes in the flat above.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Road Siign

I found this near where I live.

Road Siign

Presumably the reason for the lack of marks on the road is that all the spare paint has been used to add extra letters to the signs...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Why I feel ill

I don't feel that good this evening. However I can't work out how much of this might be due to the following three things:

1. having a very mild cold
2. being quite tired
3. consuming a large bag of Haribo and a large bottle of coke before leaving work

The smart money's on no 3.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Tale Of Two Cities

I'm feeling quite pleased with myself this evening, since I've just done my first ever five mile run. And it didn't kill me - I could maybe have done at least another mile. I didn't want to push things too far today though - I was wearing inappropriate sockwear since my running socks were all in the wash.

I saw way more other runners than normal too. Maybe people are finally getting in to those new year fitness regimes, the ones that normally last for a week or so before being confined to the sports-locker of history for another year.

My own running regime is about on target, whilst my fund-raising is well above my most optimistic expectations. I've raised £405 already and we're barely two weeks in to the year. Now, this amount does include a few ridiculously generous amounts but even so it's a great incentive for me to get on and actually do this silly task I've set myself (only 479 miles to go!).

I have also discovered that the distance from the centre of Paris to the centre of York is almost exactly 500 miles (going via the Calais to Dover ferry). Hence we can pretend that on January 1st I was dropped, unwillingly, into the French capital and have ever since been finding my way home. Currently I'm on the A1 just outside (North?) of Paris. There are lots of French people around and they keep offering me baguettes.

But at least they're not all on strike and blocking the motorways. I should get to Calais at some point in early May.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Some Stones

Today I've been out on one of those walk things. Masham is a place that is known best for its Brewery (Theakstons) but we didn't go there. Instead we went to see some stones:

Stones Near Masham

These were allegedly put togther by druids, and I think were mainly used for sacrificing goats and virgins (but never virgin goats). Nowadays, with druidism being a profession in terminal decline and sacrificing being out of fashion I don't think they are used for anything much at all apart from the occasional impromptu fire by teenage tearaways.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Tunch

I went out for lunch today - I call it lunch but since it was getting on for three o'clock by the time we reached the pub, lunch is maybe the wrong word. Afternoon tea might be a better description.

We went to The Judges' Lodgings and I had a mixed grill:

Judges' Mixed Grill

Unfortunately, the food took a long, long time to arrive. So long that:

a) The staff came over to apologise for the delay on three separate occasions
b) They gave us free drinks

This second point is certainly not to be coughed at.

The music was of an exceptionally high quality for a Saturday afternoon. If it had been an indie disco rather than a cellar bar, I'd have been dancing all night. We had Ed Harcourt, The Killers, Maximo Park, Willy Mason and (maybe literally) hundreds of others I won't recount here. On the other hand, I'm glad it wasn't a disco because the celing is very low and I'd have banged myself.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Can you spare 10p, Guv?

Bloomin' Guardian newspaper has gone up 10p. 10p! Where do they expect me to find that kind of money from? Am I supposed to sell my oil fields or something?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Stay Classy

So the nominations for the Brit Awards are out today. Is anyone else suprised by the massive coincidence that the two biggest selling album artists of 2005 (James C**t and the Kaiser Chiefs) both just happen to have also got the most nominations?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Slow West

I bought a Pet Shop Boys greatest hits music book in the sale at a music shop. There's something curiously satisfying about playing Go West in a slow, sad manner on the old acoustic guitar. Actually, most songs should be played that way. Except for slow, sad ones. They should only be played by punk bands.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Dismantling the mental barricades

Have you ever been doing a puzzle and been completely stuck? And then put on Through the Barricades by Spandau Ballet and found that it gave the necessary mental jolt to get you through the stuck point and ultimately solve the puzzle?

Or is that just me?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

An Unnecessary Climb

I had a very pleasant meal in Plunketts last night. But I think the staff were toying with us on arrival. When we asked if they had a table they told us there would be approximately a 45 minute wait, but we could go and wait in the upstairs bar and put our name in the queue. Having no other significant plans, and not being in any rush, waiting was not a problem. It's quite a nice bar, lots of sofas and things.

We went upstairs to the bar. It's up quite high, about three flights of stairs. Lots of stairs. But it's ok because we were going to have a drink at the top and recover from the climb. But imagine our *dismay* when we got to the bar in the upstairs bar and the lady there told us that there was a table ready... now! No waiting would be needed and we wouldn't get a drink! Bastards. Back down we went and there was indeed a table ready (at which we sat and ate and drank and talked and etc).

Although the waiter did apologise for making us take an unnecessary climb, I still suspect them of doing it on purpose. For two reasons:

1. The extra exercise makes people hungrier and hence more likely to order more food. This makes more profits for the evil-capitalist-restauranteers.

2. They find it funny.

Gits.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Run-a-thon 500 - The Rules

The run-a-thon 500 is underway. Nobody has sponsored me yet, but that is surely just a matter of time. I hope.

Anyway, here, as promised, are the rules I will be working to:

1. Since there is no way I can be followed and monitored by a third party for the duration of the run-a-thon 500, I cannot give any real proof that I will be doing what I say I am. For this I apologise. I am sorry. This is not so much a rule, more a thing. Should anybody want to come and monitor any particular part of my running then I would be only too happy for you to come along.

2. The 500 miles will be made of several smaller segments. These segments will vary in length. Smallest ones are likely to be three miles. Longer ones could be half-maraton length. Lets see how things go.

3. All runs will be measured using internet mapping services. So far I have used www.uk.map24.com. It can be a bit clunky but it seems to work.

4. Distances from all runs will be rounded DOWN to the nearest mile. If I do a 3.9 mile run it will add only 3 miles to my total.

5. Only unbroken distances will be counted. If for example I ran 6 miles which was made of 2.4 miles, 5 mins break, 1.8 miles, 3 mins break, 1.8 miles, each section would count as a separate run and only contribute 4 miles in total.

6. However, I might sometimes have to briefly stop in order to cross a road. This is ok and will not count as a break. Running in front of moving cars is bad.

That seems like not many rules. If anyone wants clarification on any point then please let me know.

Sponsor me at www.justgiving.com/rich500. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Darn

I was back to work today after the Christmas break. Darn.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

All new for 2006: The Run-a-thon 500

Back at the arse end of November last year, I started going out running. You're probably aware of this, I've mentioned it a few times.

Here I am, running on Christmas Day:

Xmas Run 2

You can see that I'm actually running - both feet have left the ground.

Last year I set myself 12 challenges, and like the Great Hero Hercules, I completed 10 of them (albeit his were different challenges mostly involving the harassment of wild animals). I could set another 12 this year, but I won't. I've built and demolished that particular sugar mountain. Instead, this year I will have just one challenge: The 2006 Run-a-thon 500.

The legendary Scottish Band The Proclaimers once boasted that they would walk 500 miles, just so that they could "fall down at your door". Idiots. Any fool can walk 500 miles. I'm going to surpass that. I'm going to run 500 miles. I will beat The Proclaimers. Not all at once though, that would be daft. I have the whole of 2006 to run this distance.

[Message to the smart-arsed out there. I am well aware that the Reed brothers then additionally said they "would walk 500 more" miles. Let's just pretend they didn't]

Now a whole year sounds like a long time. A year has 52 weeks. After allowing for at least a couple of weeks where I'll be out of the country on holidays, I will have to average around 10 miles a week for the year. Again this might not sound much but I reckon it will be quite challenging, especially given all the other crap I have on. (eg work). I'm going to have to get out there at least twice a week for the year, probably at least three times for the first few months. Even if its cold. Maybe even if its raining. Not if its icy and slippy though. I am not suicidal.

So 500 miles is a good target. Hopefully I'll beat it.

Now there is a secondary point to this. If I'm going to run a long way, I might as well do it for a good reason. Hence I have set up a page where you can sponsor me! All funds raised will go to Cancer Research (they'll probably just use them to make stupid armbands, but that's their choice). I've set a target for this of £500 - that's £1 for every mile I run. All major credit and debit cards accepted. You should be able to donate immediately or pledge an amount that will only be payable should I reach the target.

I'll even give a prize to whoever makes the biggest donation. Maybe a signed photo of me running or something like that. And as one final incentive, I'll match pound for pound the first donation that gets made (but only up to around £20 max - I don't want to get shafted by some rich dude).

So, the sponsor page is here - please help if you are able! I'll keep the sidebar and sponsor page updated with progress on miles run and money raised. I'll also post up some technical rules that I'll be following in the Run-a-thon 500 at some point the next few days.

The run starts here!

Monday, January 02, 2006

I am as good as Hercules

Now here's an interesting thing. Like me, the Great Hero Hercules was once set 12 challenges. For reference, I'll list them here (thanks to Mr R Herring for doing the research here - I've just nicked this info from his 2004 Edinburgh programme):

1. To kill The Nemean Lion
2. To kill the Lernean Hydra
3. To capture the Hind of Ceryneia
4. To catch the Erymanthian Boar
5. To clean the Aegean Stables
6. To get rid of some birds near Stymphalos
7. To capture the Cretan Bull
8. To capture King Diomedes' mares
9. To steal the Girdle of Hippolyte
10. To rustle the Cattle of Geryon
11. To scrump the Apples of Hesperides
12. To kidnap Cerberus of Hades

Unfortunately for Hercules, he was deemed to have failed task 2 (because he had help from someone else) and task 5 (because he asked for payment). Hence even the Great Hero Hercules only scored 10 challenges out of 12. I am as good as a Greek Legend at doing challenges. I'll reiterate what I said yesterday: I rock.

Books read in 2005

A quick post to tidy up some of the detritus left over from 2005. All the way from the sidebar, here are the books I read last year. Only 20 in total which is a bit below the 2 per month I'd normally aim at.

Going Postal - Terry Pratchett
Eats, Shoots & Leaves - Lynne Truss
Join Me - Danny Wallace
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
Time's Eye - Arthur C. Clarke & Stephen Baxter
Dead Lines - Greg Bear
Foucault's Pendulum - Umberto Eco
Lost in a Good Book - Jasper Fforde
Evolution - Stephen Baxter
The 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear - Walter Moers
The Scar - China Meiville
The Oxford Murders - Guillermo Martinez
Over The Edge: Death in Grand Canyon - Ghiglieri & Myers
The Algebraist - Iain M Banks
Singularity Sky - Charles Stross
Slant - Greg Bear
To Hold Infinity - John Meaney
Knees Up Mother Earth - Robert Rankin
Century Rain - Alastair Reynolds
The Light Ages - Ian R MacLeod

Of these, I think I will claim Century Rain as my favourite. But there is no cash prize for this. Sorry, Mr Reynolds.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

2005 Challenge Summary

Happy New Year everybody. It's 2006, day 1.

This post will be a wrap up of the 12 challenges that I set myself for 2005. Sadly I didn't manage all 12. Excuses are below!

1: LIGHT
At the start of the year, I had no lightshades in the flat. None at all. How on Earth could I resolve this nightmarish situation? It was truly intractable... until I went to the British Home Stores lighting department and purchased six lightshades. Job done. I have four uplighters and two downlighters - one of these is mounted slightly strangely to avoid it being smacked every time I use the front door.

2: BED
My second bedroom had no bed. It was not useful for sleeping guests in. It didn't even provide me with a place to kip should I have had a fight with myself and made me go and sleep in a separate bed for a night. As bedrooms go, it was not pulling its weight. So I bought a bed from the internet. As of now, nobody has actually used the bed for sleeping (or anything else for that matter) but one day I could have some friends stay over. It could happen!

3: DATE
I wanted to go on a date. Well, thanks to a friend putting me in touch with somebody, this happened back in early February. A very pleasant dinner in a York-based restaurant, and we subsequently saw each other several times afterwards. Didn't really work out as a long term thing, but I'd like to think we've remained friends (though I probably should call or write more often that I do!). And also she's probably reading this so I should be nice - though I would be nice anyway. So, thanks for a great time, you, I enjoyed the whisky :-)

4: COUNTRY
Next up was to visit a previously unvisited country. Sadly my main holiday for the year was to the USA which I'd already been to a few years earlier. Instead I went for a weekend in Denmark. Partly this was to annoy Bert since he'd failed to go to Denmark a few months earlier. Whilst I enjoyed myself, I'm not sure I really like the travelling completely alone aspect. Dinnertimes especially were a bit lonely.

5: PROMOTE
In order to get a promotion at work I went for the radical option of applying for a job at a higher grade. I got it. Because I poisoned all the other applicants with DeadRat.

6: SKILL
I wanted to learn to do something new. So I took up ballroom/latin dancing. We've been going most Monday nights since early in the year and have now learnt many many dances. I won't list them here, but I could summarise which ones by saying "All of them". Yes, I can now do every dance ever invented Really Really Well. I am the Lord Of The Dance. I also have a tendency to exaggerate. As well as the dancing, later in the year I started to do running, but I'm not sure that this counts as a skill as such. I suppose there is a degree of skill in being able to move faster than walking pace without falling over.

7: RADIO
And here we come to my first failure. All I had to do was get my name on national radio. Should have been relatively easy, but the thing I fell down on was laziness. During the year, my efforts comprised of one email to Mark Radcliffe, one email to Scott Mills and a couple of text messages. Poor attempt, I know. You could think I wasn't taking these things seriously.

8: PUB
York has many pubs within its city walls. I decided to visit all of them and get photos. I finished this a couple of days ago. Particular thanks here to the guys and gals from my team at work for helping with the last few. You're all stars.

9: COOK
This was my second failure. I was to cook for someone I hadn't met at the start 2005. I made some progress towards this goal - I bought dining chairs so that we could sit and eat the cooked food. I also met some people that I hadn't met before that I could potentially cook for. But the actual arranging and cooking part never happened. There is a possibility that I might have made some toast for someone once but if I did I clearly didn't think it counted at the time and so can't change that decision now. Darn. Stupid food.

10: SOBER
Drinking is fun, but sometimes it's good to have a break from it. So break I did. I went for 8 whole days without a drink, beating my target of a week by a whopping whole day. I don't think it was a very exciting 8 days though.

11: EBAY
eBay is fun. You can sell shit on it. I arbitrarily chose £200 as a target and then tried to make this amount by selling stuff lying around the flat - old CDs and computer games etc. I beat the target by five english pounds. I could have got higher, as I still have tons of stuff to get rid off. The best bit about this challenge was that I actually made a decent amount of cash out of it - more than enough to pay for all the dancing lessons. Though not for the dancing lessons plus the trip to Denmark's Copenhagen.

12: SONGS
And the final challenge was to write ten new songs. I finished and wrote about this yesterday so won't go into further details here.

So overall, did I pass or fail? 10/12 would be a pretty good score in most tests. I say... PASS PASS PASSSSSSSSS! I rock.

And finally, here's a picture of yesterday's lunch:

Harkers Mixed Grill