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.