Monday, December 31, 2007

A Scotch New Year

For the first time in my life I'm spending New Year's Eve in Scotland (with my girlfriend and her family). The Scotch always claim that New Year is much better there than anywhere else in the world so I'm looking forward to seeing if I agree with them or not. I have a vague feeling that I won't and that New Year is crap wherever in the world you are.

But I do have a cider-box (like a wine-box, but with cider) so the evening can surely not be that bad :-)

Main differences I can discern so far from an English New Year:

1. It's colder.
2. TV is differently rubbish here. The main highlight appears to be a comedy show called Still Game which is the Scotch equivalent of Last of the Summer Wine. It features a lot of people dressed as old men, wearing ridiculous wigs and speaking in absurd accents.
3. It's quarter past seven and I'm sober.
4. They don't call it "Midnight". They call it "The Bells". Like out of Quasimodo.
5. They also do some weirdo stuff with coal. Apparently.

But that's all before the event. I shall go into it open-minded and try and enjoy myself. Or at least I will once I get the cider open :-)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Who to blame...

This was my favourite headline from the Christmas period. It was in The Times.



So it's David Tennant that should shoulder the blame for Gordon's lust for power. Can't wait to see the episode!

Friday, December 28, 2007

This one must have slipped under the news raider

I took this photo today. It contains something that is VERY, VERY wrong and I don't understand why there hasn't been Maddy levels of outrage in the British media about it.



It's not that these are an impending sign of alien invasion.

Regular crisp fans will have spotted straight away that the price has gone up a whopping 50%! Everyone who's anyone knows that Space Raiders cost 10p. Not 15p, 10p. You can buy ten packets for a pound if you want because they are only 10p. And they are also very nice. Space raiders are 10p because they've always been 10p and always will be 10p. They are the crisp that is immune from inflation.

Now I'm reasonably sure that you don't get as many crisps in a packet as you used to (which is how they probably got down to less than 100 calories per pack) but that's not the point. Price is the thing and 10p is the price.

I showed my immense displeasure in the shop by buying the two packets I was going to buy anyway but without smiling. That'll show 'em.

15p? Splitters.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Chekhov's Fuzz

Last night I watched Hot Fuzz for the second time and found it to be a film that really rewards a repeat viewing. It's almost a textbook demonstration of the Chekhov's gun principle (named after the playwright, not the guy out of Star Trek - that's Chekhov's phaser) which makes it really satisfying the second time around.

The principle basically says that you shouldn't introduce anything into a story that won't serve a purpose. For example, don't put a loaded gun on a stage unless it's going to be fired in the next act.

Hot Fuzz does this brilliantly - pretty much every single thing that happens in the first two thirds of the film has some element that foreshadows something in the final (violent!) act. For example, Danny's drunken trick with the ketchup and fork in a pub is later used to save another character's life; Danny's questions to Nick about whether he's done all the stupid things that cops do in films are all things that Nick will do later on; the sea mine (almost the classic example!); and many, many more examples.

Now I know that many (maybe even all?) films do this to some extent but I'm not sure I've seen it to the same level. And it manages to stay funny throughout.

If you don't believe me, go and watch it. And then watch it again.

And then watch Shaun of the Dead again because it's even funnier.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

What happened to me in the Kiddies Dept of The Other M&S in York centre

I finished my Christmas shopping today. In M&S I found a shop assistant with a sense of humour. I was buying some clothes that were clearly aimed at small children - the size of them should have made this clear but if this had left some doubt the labels would have cleared it up. They indicated that both items were for children under four years old. Since I am 31 years old and six foot two there could have been no doubt that these items were not for me.

I went to pay for them and the shopping lady took me through the chip and pin motions. She then made as if to give me a bag for them. I said that I was fine for a bag - and I was fine since I'd done a lot of shopping already and had acquired several bags in addition to the rucksack I'd brought with me. I didn't need to add to the world's woes by putting an extra plastic bag in it.

And this is where the lady was funny, so pay attention.

She asked me (because I'd said I didn't need a bag) if I was going to put the items on now. Clearly I wasn't planning to do this as I am old and tall as I mentioned earlier. I can hence deduce that she was making a joke. She was pretending that me, a large man, was going to wear some children's clothing in the cold December cold. Funny! She didn't smile like you'd expect her to though. I wouldn't expect full on laughing (like I do when I make a joke), but a little smile to show she meant the remark in jest would have been all I needed. There was no smile.

I replied back, "yeah, I'm going to wear them now". Because there is no higher humour than sarcasm. And she still didn't really smile. I liked her since she was so deadpan.

Then I bent to put the items in my bag, left the clothes shop and went on my merry (because it's Christmas and everything is merry at Christmas) way.

Later it occurred to me that because she was behind a counter and I was in front of the counter, she might just have assumed I had a small child with me who was not tall enough to be seen over the counter. Therefore when she asked if I wanted to put the clothes on, she meant onto a small child now not onto me now. She would then have been puzzled by my sarcasm and the way I put the items into a bag rather than onto a child.

But if that had been her intended meaning then she could have offered to remove the tags for me. And she didn't.

So I am left a little confused. One of the following things happened.

1. I found a funny, deadpan shop assistant
2. I found a well-meaning but confused and ultimately wrong shop assistant
3. I completely misheard a shop assistant who asked me if I'd like to look at their range of futons.

I'm going to stick with the first option because it reinforces how nice everyone is at Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Late(ish) Night Pizza

I seem to have just about survived the Christmas party period and am now more than ready for two weeks off work. It's been quite hectic/alcoholic and I couldn't actually face staying out past about half seven last night.

Instead, I came home and cooked myself a pizza. K had got me some prawns out and defrosted and she'd intended for me to make them noodly. I, however, had a different plan and I wanted them on pizza. Unfortunately I didn't have baking powder like the recipe said I should have. I went out to the local shop but it was shut. Darn. So I made the thing anyway and it was absolutely fine (which proves that Delia Smith knows absolutely nothing).

I also didn't bother with any cheese.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Food

At work we've been having a thing where everyone in the team brings in a Christmas item of food and then we eat it. No repetitions allowed.

My turn was on Monday and I went for Cheese and Port:

Cheese and Port

Other than that we've had
1. A yule roll
2. Mince pies
3. Christmas Cake
4. (can't remember)
5. (can't remember)
6. Stollen Cake
7. Cheese and Port
8. Game Pie and Chutney
9. Mithais and toblerone

I reckon I win

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

We're All Going To Die

Like most right-minded individuals I'd quite like Malcolm Middleton's new single, We're All Going To Die to be Christmas number one this year. It's a jolly little number and just right for those post-turkey moments.

I bought it off iTunes this morning and quite enjoyed the receipt I got later:



"We're All Going To Die"
"Report a Problem"

Like people might think that everyone going to die could be a problem (If I haven't laboured the point enough...).

Anyway, buy the single.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I'm not in Harrogate, despite what Channel 4 say

I'm watching a programme on Channel 4 about a group of people from Harrogate and its environs who become Muslims for three weeks. One of them is a Glamour model from York who lives just down the road from me. In one shot of her house you could actually see my place in the background. This is fine by me and it certainly makes the programme more interesting.

The bad thing is that it implied that we live not in York but in Harrogate (or at least "just on the other side of town"). Darned television. I thought they had all been forced to stop lying since the Queen/Blue Peter episodes. I blame Richard Bacon.

So just for the record, I live in York. Not Harrogate.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.

Well, all I can say is that today's X-Factor decision is a travesty. I am actually shocked again at the idiocy of the British people. A f**king disgrace. Angry, I am. Cider, I'm drinking.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Temp Time Off

I can't begin to say how brilliant Super Mario Galaxy is. I'm playing it, not writing here. Bye!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Curry News

We went to the new (as in I've not been there even though it's been open for ages) York curry house, Ackbars, for tea last night. It's a bit of a chain, but it does have a fairly good rep. It was quite busy for a Tuesday night but I blame that on Christmas.

The food was very nice. I had a Lamb and Ginger Balti, and K had a Lamb and Spinach Balti. Both were tasty and I actually finished mine off which is rare for me with a curry. Personally I put this down to a lack of prior fizzy lager rather than anything inherent in the food. The Naans are those super-large ones that hang from a hook, but unlike a certain other York place, they don't drip with grease.

However, I do slightly regret not going to the Akash because they'd probably have given us a calendar.

Relatedly the now legendary annual Christmas black-tie curry at the Ujala is now in my diary (and may enter other people's once an email gets sent out). Hopefully I'll get a calendar when we go there.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Kitchen Light Trauma

Bloody kitchen lights. I've spent £11 on them in the last week and I still have two spotlights that need replacing. Grrrr.

A tip to anyone looking to buy a kitchen: just put normal bulbs in. Don't bother with under-cupboard lighting, above-cupboard lighting or inside-cupboard lighting. Just a single 100W (low energy equivalent obviously) in the centre of the room will do you fine.

Trust me on this. Your wallet will thank me.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Metroid Prime Completion (1 of 3).

I'm quite happy this evening as I finally finished a Metroid Prime game - #3: Corruption on the Wii. I never finished 1 or 2 (and I had two attempts at the first one) as I would always get stuck on some well hard baddy near the end. This time, I've had barely any problems at all. This could be because:

a) I am older, better and more experienced
b) The Wii controls make things easier
c) It's an easier game.

I'm going to go with a).

I'm really tempted to go and have a final stab now at the first two...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Plug Identification

The area about the television has about ten things that potentially need plugging in on a regular basis and a few things that need plugging in from time to time. Unfortunately I only have eight plug holes there and so there is an amount of plug swapping that is unavoidable.

Tonight I was trying to free up a couple of them to plug some Christmas lights into. So to make it easier, I spent some useful time doing something I should have done years ago: I've stuck little labels on all the plugs to say what exactly it is that they connect to.

It's going to make my future life so much easier! Although thinking about it, it would be much easier to just cancel Christmas and avoid the lights altogether...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Bishop Wrapping

This was the wrongest thing I found in York today:



I'm tempted to take along something that's a really hard to wrap shape. Maybe a football. Or Madge.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Too Many Dinners...

Second Christmas dinner of the year tonight. After this Four more work ones to go, plus one at home with me and K and one at my parents on Christmas day. Plus possibly the annual Christmas curry at some point...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Stuck in Starbucks

We had a small team meeting in Starbucks this morning. Why do all their sizes of coffee sound like they mean "large"? We were there for about three hours so inevitably I needed to visit the Gentlemens' facilities.

There is only a single cubicle in there, and no urinals so I had little choice over which one to use. The mistake I made was deciding to lock the door. When I tried to unlock it, I failed. I turned and turned and turned the lock in both directions but it had no effect.

This was annoying because not only was I locked in a toilet, but I hadn't brought my phone with me. I was unable to phone for help but more importantly unable to update my Facebook status to say I was locked in a toilet.

Luckily it wasn't long before someone else entered the toilet and I was able to tell them that I was stuck. He went to get help from the staff and a few minutes later a bloke turned up and managed to get the door open.

And hence I am now able to be at home writing this rather than being lonely in a dark toilet.

The moral of this story is: Hold it in until you get back to work.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Three Signs of Xmas

The three ways in which I can tell Christmas has arrived:

1. First Christmas dinner was last night at York Racecourse. The food was alright, not great but edible. No major interesting stories to relate from it, at least not ones that I remember. I have two more Christmas dinners this week. By Friday I will be ready to drop.

2. The Killers have their Christmas single out, Don't Shoot Me Santa. I've heard it a couple of times now and whilst it is quite fun, I don't think it stands up next to last year's Great Big Sled. But I'll give it time and it's certainly going to make a fine ringtone for the next month.

3. We bought a Christmas tree today. Only a little one, it's about three feet tall, but it's the first time there'll have been one in the flat. It needs decorating and also moving out of the bathroom where it's living for the time being.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Me New Favourite Urinal

Here's a picture of my new favourite urinal. It's a bit dark, but it's not like I had time to set up a tripod.

Gargoyle Urinal

It looks like it should be in a church toilet, but it's not - it's in one of York's newest bars, Pivo.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Darn

So this is me admitting I got something wrong. Darn. Let's leave it there.

And then drink.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sports on the Wii... and a Dalek Incident

After a drought for the best part of a year in terms of Wii games, there are finally some good ones around. Super Mario Galaxy looks like it'll be amazing (once I get chance to play it) Metroid Prime 3 is fantastic (though I suspect, just like 1 and 2 I'll get near the end and be unable to defeat the final boss) and my new favourite party game is Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.

It's very much a Ronseal game. It features Mario and Sonic, and they have indeed gone to the Olympics. You can't complain under the trade descriptions act. It also sounds like it should be shit - it has cheap tie-in written all over it. Not literally, that would dint sales (or maybe not).

But in fact it's great. I've purchased an extra Nunchuck to have proper two player on it. There are loads of events, in a variety of styles. It's structured in a Mario Kart style and you can play sets of three mixed events in a tournament style. Or play single events. Or play the (slightly random) Olympics quiz. I haven't played (or unlocked) them all yet but they seem easy to pick up and no doubt hard to master.

100m is straightforward and mainly involves waggling both your arms upside down as fast as possible. Quite tiring if you play it a few times in a row. Tabletennis plays like a slightly more advanced version of Wii Tennis. I haven't got the hang of swimming yet. Fencing seemed bizarrely easy against the computer. And etc. Most importantly, the events all seem to have more to them than just pressing a couple of buttons over and over again, Speccy sports style. Time will tell how these all go after a few weeks, but I suspect my arms will hurt.

The most amusing thing is the way it lets you use your Miis in events if you don't fancy a character from Mario or Sonic. It dresses them up in athletic gear and finally lets you prove that you (yes, you!) are faster than that darned hedgehog. Which I always knew I was.

So in short, get it.

In other unrelated news, I was in Tesco earlier and pointed over to a shelf containing a load of Dalek bubble baths. I said out loud to K, "look, Dalek!". Unfortunately I hadn't spotted there was a lady in one of those electric shopping cart things right in my line of pointing. I think I got away with it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Burgers You Can't Pick Up

We went to York's new(ish) Gourmet Burger Kitchen for lunch today. It does mainly burgers, but has a very wide choice of toppings and sauces. My lamb burger was excellent but it suffered from one main problem: due to it's size and height it was impossible to pick up without modification (removing two super large pieces of tomato).

I don't see the point of burgers that you can't pick up. The whole point of a burger is that it's meat in a bun, and it's in a bun so you can pick it up and put it in your mouth, preferably without having the whole contents slide onto your plate.

If I wanted a meal that I needed a knife and fork to eat, I wouldn't order a burger. I'd have a salad or a steak or a curry or a bowl of dry muesli. Burgers are finger food. Fact.

At least give me a wet towel if I'm going to get messy fingers.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I Rock!

Thursday hosted another Pub Treasure Hunt. My team were rock stars. Not specific ones, more generic ones. My costume was made largely of hair.

I rock!

A colleague commented that it looked like I'd made lots of effort. He was wrong. What I'd actually done was spend lots of money, which isn't quite the same thing.

Friday, November 23, 2007

New Fun Games!

I bought two news exciting games today. Instant reviews:

1. Guitar Hero 3: I've gone for the PS3 version. It was quite hard to set up (hold down the button on the dongle). Game is very like 1 & 2, except so far with less songs I know. It also now has boss battles with that bloke out of Rage Against The Machine. Haven't defeated him yet,

2. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: (Wii) This should be shit. There is nothing about this game that should work. But I love it. My first impressions are that it may be a work of genius. And that Mario swims in his clothes.

So those are my multiplayer mayhem until Xmas. Do you wanna come round and challenge?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Subway Ranking

For no good reason, here is my ranking of York's for Subways, best to last.

1. The one near The Gallery
2. The one near The Hansom Cab
3. The one near The Golden Fleece
4. The one near The Golden Lion

Although I was in Number 4 today and the lady gave me eight slices of the purple meat rather than the regulation six, and also seven rather than six slices of pepperoni. So I couldn't complain.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Holy Bad Acting!

I mentioned last week that I'd agreed to be Batman in a video for our work conference. We filmed it today.

I was hoping the costume would be a cool Batman Begins style one. Something that I could wonder around in and pretend to be a crime fighting creature of the night. Instead it was a 60s style one. But not even sixties TV series - it was more 60s comic book style (or at least how I imagine that to look). All primary colours - bright blue cape and boots, yellow belt etc.

We were doing the scenes against a green screen. The script (such as it was) was straightforward (since they'd stupidly let me write it myself in a spare five minutes I had last week). I put in lots of swearing because I liked the idea of a sweary Batman, but they made me take that out and so I replaced the swearwords with "Bats". It's actually a good word - you can replace f**k with it in pretty any situation.

We also had to lose my first image which was of Batman and Robin, fully costumed up, lying in bed together. Like Morecombe and Wise or the cast of Rainbow. I thought it would have been funny but getting hold of a duvet and a bed (or even a green screen bed) defeated us. I just liked the image and it's a shame we couldn't do it. The replacement shot was of us sitting around in costume reading books instead.

I think I played the part well. I could generally remember up to three of the lines I had at a time and I only cracked up laughing once. I've no idea what the finished thing will be like - I suspect it will have been extensively edited. I can guarantee it will be embarrassing to watch. I'll try and get hold of it and post it somewhere.

Just don't tell anyone that I'm not in Equity. Or that I wrote the script last week during the writers' strike.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Trains and Pains

We spent five hours on a Virgin train today travelling from Oxford to York. It wasn't delayed, it was just slow. Technically we could have switched to a faster train at Birmingham or at Doncaster but we were being a little lazy and I tend to be of the opinion that it's better to stay on a train that is definitely running than to switch to a faster train that may not be there.

Virgin have taken recently to running most of their trains as two trains joined together. This is fine, it means more seats, except that they have one of the trains as all reserved and the one one as all unreserved. Hence if you get on the train and it then leaves the station, it's easy to have trouble getting a seat at busy times. I don't really understand why they don't have a mixture of reserved and unreserved seats in each half.

This problem resulted in us having to change train-halves at Birmingham. Which was a little annoying but better than standing for a few hours which we might have had to do if we hadn't been able to find a seat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fake Statues of Liberty

The strange thing about going near the Statue of Liberty (ie Battery Park type area) is that there are lots of people who dress up as the Statue of Liberty and try and make tourists have their photos taken with them (for a dollar or two).

One guy had gone quite far to get accuracy with his costume. Most of the impersonators were standing on chairs or stools to get the requisite height. This one guy though had had his own plinth carved out of actual stone, and was only posing with tiny tiny people to get the proportions right:

Statue of Liberty (1)

It'll never catch on.

This was proved elsewhere in New York where we didn't see people posing as the following things for money:
- The Empire State Building
- King King
- Tramps
- Donald Trump
- Donald Duck
- Hamburg

Almost completely unrelatedly, there did seem to be a tramp in Montreal who had a laptop computer. I have no idea where he plugged it in. I would have taken a photo but I figured that any tramp who had a computer would also have a gun, knife or access to my bank records. Hello if you're reading, Mr Smelly-but-computerised!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I'm not Batman either

In a fit of what now I can only describe as idiocy, I seem to have agreed to dress as Batman for a video to be played at our work Christmas conference. I will also have to act as Batman. It's going to make Batman and Robin look like Citizen Kane.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I'm not Paul

I turned on my old phone yesterday afternoon to see if there were any messages for me from people who hadn't managed to switch to the new number. I had three voicemail messages all from earlier that day.

Unfortunately (not for me) the messages were all for someone called Paul. It seemed like he was supposed to be meeting his friend (the caller) at some sporting event or other. The caller was trying to arrange to meet Paul and give him the tickets, giving him information about where to park, which seats they were in, which gate to use and so on.

I suspect that since I am not Paul, I don't know Paul and I made no attempt to contact Paul, that this meeting may not have gone as well as planned for them.

The moral of this story is: Don't rely on voicemail, make sure you have written phone numbers down correctly and don't go to sporting events.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

New Litter Bins

I spotted something in York city centre a couple of days ago that was new. It was something that is so simple and obvious it should have been done everywhere years ago. What that thing was was recycling litter bins ie litter bins with separate holes for paper, cans, plastic etc.

OK, so far I've only seen one of these (in St Helen's Square) but I'm sure there are others either already, or on their way.

As long as the Great British Public can manage to use this system in a sensible way, it'll be fantastic. What I suspect will happen is that all holes will be full of half-eaten kebabs by the end of the first week.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Beer on Trains

There are some daft laws about. This was demonstrated (if needed) by an article on the BBC website this week. Interestingly the article has now been amended to take out some urban-myth type ones such as the one about it being legal to Scotchmen in York if you use a bow and arrow. That one annoyingly crops up from time to time in various places. People should check their facts before repeating any old crap.

It's annoying because it's not true :-)

But enough of the preamble.

We accidentally broke a law in Canada. The law was this: "It is illegal to drink your own beer on trains in Canada" - and this includes beer you have purchased from shops as well as beer you have brewed yourself.

Often on UK trains I like to have a can or two of warm lager to while away the time. Like a sensible person I buy it from the shops in the station as they are half the price of the shop on the train. We figured Foreign would be the same and so we bought a few cans of Grolsch (my fave Canadian beer) from Montreal train station.

Incidentally, this is the bit where we were travelling from Montreal to Quebec by train.

Once the journey was under way, we started happily drinking them but then the beer-selling man came along and told us we weren't supposed to drink beer we'd not bought on board. How were we supposed to know this? There were no signs. He didn't say "illegal" though. He said he'd let us off this time but don't do it again. I suspect he meant we should finish the cans we'd already opened rather than the whole six pack but never mind.

Towards Quebec the conductor (a different man) came by and said the same thing but also specifically said it was against the law. Darn. I wouldn't have been surprised if there had been armed machine gun mounties waiting for us on the platform. There weren't though. That would have been an over-reaction. We were in Canada not the USA.

But anyway, I said sorry to the man (even though I wasn't sorry at all) and tried to look a bit sheepish. Then I finished the beer.

And that's how I became a criminal in Canada.

It's quite likely that he was exaggerating and that what we did wasn't actually against the law. I can't be arsed to check the Canadian statue books to check and so I'm just blindly repeating unchecked facts here on the internet.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

FF Update and Dead Pigeon

I'm sure most people in the world are eagerly following my quest to finish all the Final Fantasy games. Last night I finished FF VI (on the GBA), leaving only I, II, X, X2 and maybe XI. I feel like I'm making progress. VI was excellent - easily the best of the 2D games but (though probably not as good as any of the 3D ones). I'm taking a short break from them now to work through Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Metroid Prime 3, Super Mario Galaxies and probably a few others that'll be around in the next few months. And all the Christmas drinking too.

I'm sure I never used to see many dead pigeons but since I got back from America I've seen at least three. I'm suspecting there may be some kind of pigeon turf war going on as the one I saw today looked like it had been shot through the head.

It was on the corner near the Moat House and was lying on the floor clearly dead (but not squashed or anything). Under it's head was a pool of pigeon blood. If it had been shot with a gun by a pigeon rival, this is what I imagined it would have looked like.

The conversation probably went:

Pigeon 1: Cooo!
Pigeon 2: Cooo!
Pigeon 1: Cooo!
Pigeon 2: Cooo!
Pigeon 2: *Bang*
Pigeon 1: Coooooooooo! *bleeeeeed*

So a warning to all Yorkians - if you see a pigeon flying towards you, take cover. It might be armed and angry.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A New York Comedy of Errors

It should be common sense - don't buy tickets off random blokes in the street.

Passing through Times Square a random bloke approaches us and starts talking about comedy and comedians. We should ignore him and walk on. Instead we chat a little. He tells us how he's learnt the word "bladdered" recently as a euphemism for being drunk. I point out to where it says the same word on my rucksack. It's a nice coincidence.

He tells us his name is Jason and he's promoting the New York Comedy Club. We can go if we want. He has some VIP tickets that will get us in for $20 between us, $14 off the normal price. It'll be a 2 drink minimum but they'll only be $5 each. And 2 for 1 after the gig.

Now this is the strange part.

It's our first night in New York, we have no plans. Rather than saying no thanks, we give the chap $20 in exchange for a VIP ticket. We move on.

Back at the hotel I pretty much manage to convince myself the whole thing is a scam. I've seen this sort of thing on The Real Hustle. I then do the second stupid thing. There's instructions on the "ticket" which say that rather than just turning up you should phone ahead to make a reservation. Jason had never mentioned this.

So I phone the number from my mobile. It seems to be the right place but I have to go through one of those automated menu systems before I get an option to go through to make a reservation. But I just get a recorded message. I try again a few more times with no luck. Later I find that this has cost me a further £10 due to the high cost of making mobile calls from the USA. Grrrr.

We decide to go to the club regardless. In for a penny, in for a pound. We get there it looks very closed and shut. We figure we're too early (it's about nine o'clock) and so we find a nearby bar. An Irish bar, with authentic sawdust on the floor. Later we go back to the club and then bizarrely, it's open! And even more bizarrely we get let in with our "ticket" (though the door price does seem to be $10 per head rather than the $17 we'd been led to expect).

We go in, and are led to a table. An act is on. She's not great, but it's early in the night and so who cares. The waitress comes to take our drink orders (making us order our second drink at the same time). Drinks arrive.

The act is rubbish. So is the next one. And the next one. Etc. There are probably about 15 on through the evening and none are great. Three made us laugh quite a lot but the rest were awful. Several died on stage. One of them was a random girl singing songs (not even ones that were supposed to be funny). I can honestly say it's the worst night of comedy I've ever seen. Bobby Davro is preferable.

On the way out we pay for our drinks. These came to $40 - twice what we were expecting. Maybe we ordered the wrong kind of beer.

The plus side is that we have a fantastic laugh for days afterwards about how unbelievably crap and a rip-off the whole thing was.

So maybe it worked out fine in the end.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Axe Falls

We had a restructure at work today (it's that time of the month). I still have a job, but I was worried when I came in and found that my tangram calendar today was a picture of an axe.



Was it trying to tell me something?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I didn't do the NY Marathon.

I didn't run in the New York Marathon today but I did watch the elite races on telly. Paula did very well. Well done.

Whilst the majority of runners were still going I went out for my own 5k run. Running at the same time, I almost felt like I was taking part in the main event. Except that it was darker and probably colder. And less busy.

I have a friend who's gone over to do the race and when I checked his split times on the internet just now each of his 5ks was quicker than the one I did this afternoon - and I was knackered after my one and only. My own fault for taking a month off, I suppose.

I'm going to have to keep the training back up now :-(

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Amazing Hand-Dryer

Before jetting off to New York we had to spend a night in a Heathrow airport - The Thistle. The hotel was nice enough apart from the very very odd spinach curry I had for dinner.

In the gents toilet was the best hand-dryer I've ever seen - a Dyson Airblade.



It's like a metal box that you put your hands into the top off. It then blows a very strong blade of air across them and as you pull your hands out, through the blade, they get very dry very quickly. It's absolutely amazing.

It has far surpassed my old favourite hand-dryer, the Xcellerator. Mr Dyson is a very clever man.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Expensive Wine Auction

I went to a MCW (Music, Cheese, Wine) thing in the Board Room at work last night which involved drinking a load of wine. Just what I needed :-) Afterwards there was a wine auction. Normally I can get a bottle for about £20 (rrp £4.99) but this time the attendance was considerably bigger than normal and the wine was getting bid up a load. I don't like to lose so I ended up paying £45.

Expensive, but the point is to get wine to drink there and then rather than to take home. Anyone who buys it at that kind of price to take home is a complete eejot.

Anyway, I felt a bit of an eejot for paying that much but only until the next two lots which both went for more - the final one for £85! That is insane if you ask me, which you didn't.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Flying Virgin

I'm back from America. Did you miss me? I managed to go pretty much internet free the whole time (2+ weeks!) and clocked up only 9 mins in a hotel internet room (and only because K had some minutes that needed using up).

I'll post some pictures and stories over the next few days.

The itinerary was
1 night at Heathrow (wahay!)
4 nights in New York
4 nights in Montreal
3 nights in Quebec City
3 nights in New York (so good they went there twice)

We took the train from Montreal to Quebec rather than flying and it was by far the nicest, comfiest, journey of the whole trip. A lesson learnt there: planes are shit. Especially flying cattle class across the Atlantic. We went with Virgin Atlantic. Here's my review of them (Economy Class):

Food: Actually quite good. Especially the meatballs on the outwards leg.
Booze: Decent amounts available as long as you can easily wander over to the galley to ask for it. Only a real problem if you have a sleeping person on the end of your row.
Check-in: No problems here other than on the way back we didn't get the seats we thought we'd booked online (we wanted a 2 but got a 3)
Entertainment: Excellent - a wide choice of recent films and tv, also plenty of music to listen to. Take your own headphones though - the ones they give you are crap.
Comfort: Crappy. Except for a couple of seats there's minimal legroom, especially when the arseholes in front put their seat into recline. I swear the only purpose the reclining seats have is to get a bit more space when someone has reclined into you. Sleeping was almost impossible on our overnight flight back home as I just couldn't get comfy at all.

Overall: I'm not too experienced but I suspect that VA are better than average. I reckon the trick is to get slaughtered on free booze so you don't notice that you can't move your legs.

I still don't know what possessed us to fly from Heathrow though.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Operator Dumping

I phoned up T-Mobile this morning to end my contract. The guy I spoke to was very helpful, but I felt bad doing it all the same. After all, they'd done nothing wrong. It wasn't them, it was me. And all that.

But I made the hard call and our relationship is over. I won't rule out getting back together at some point though.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Nearly time to go...

Holiday to the US and Canada starts tomorrow so today has been a lot of packing and whatnot. I think I have everything we'll need but I figure even if not, they'll have shops there.

From memory, the most important thing to take to America is ID because without that you ain't drinking. I guess you need it to get in the country too, but that feels less important as it only happens occasionally.

I've been saving GBA Final Fantasy VI for this trip as a treat. I wonder if I'll have time to finish it? I think it's quite, quite probable...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

No, it's not an iPhone

I've had my phone contract with T-Mobile (or One2One when they were called that) since I've had a phone and never had any problems. I didn't particularly have any intention of moving to a different provider. Too much hassle.

So I was a little surprised to find myself coming out of Phones 4 U this afternoon signed to Vodafone with a new phone number. My only excuses are that
a) my T-Mobile contract is up
b) the phone I wanted isn't out on T-Mobile yet
c) I was a bit hungover.

Mostly c) if I'm honest.

It's a nice phone though. A Sony Ericsson W910i. Lovely big screen and whatnot. It doesn't have a light like my old W810, and the sound quality off the internal speaker isn't quite as good but it's still a great package.

I just need now to cancel my old contract. If I'm good I'll do this within the next few days. If I'm bad, I'll leave it for months and waste a pile of money.

I'll get the new number out to everyone soon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Radiohead's Interesting Experiment

You may (or may not) have seen that Radiohead have released their latest album, In Rainbows in a somewhat unorthodox way. Rather than sell it in shops (so 1980s) or put through iTunes or whatnot, it's available for download from a special site. Not a particularly nice looking one though. Punters can decide what price to pay for the download - from nothing right through to a billion pounds. Possibly.

Now clearly the rational thing to do from a customer's point of view is to pay the lowest price possible - after all this is what most people do when shopping. Why pay five pounds when you can pay four? One might therefore expect most people to go for the lowest price possible for the album, ie zero. I think it will therefore be interesting to see how much people do pay, if anything. My guess is that it will average two or three quid.

Personally, I have taken the following things into account when deciding what to pay.
1. Radiohead's last few albums have been a bit rubbish.
2. I'm saving for my holiday.
3. On eMusic, I pay about three pounds for an album.
4. I wouldn't buy it if it was on CD in a shop.

and most importantly,

5. I can't get the website to work.

And so I've decided to forget the whole thing for now at least.

The answer would have been £2.55 though, if you're interested.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Contractual Upgrade

After eighteen very happy months, my phone contract is up and I can upgrade. I'm definitely (well, almost certainly) going to stick with SE and my best looking option so far is the w910i.

My w810i has been amazing and to be honest, I could stick with it for some while longer but I'm never one to not upgrade to something newer and shinier if I get the chance.

And no, I don't want an iPhone.

I'll probably have to wait until after I get back from holiday, since the new thing doesn't seem to be actually available quite yet...

There's no T in Tesco

Tesco was rubbish tonight. All the wine that was on special offer was sold out. Every last bottle as far as I could tell. Also they had no Earl Grey Redbush tea. What sort of self-respecting supermarket doesn't stock Early Grey Redbush?

Gah.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Blueprints of Buildings

In The Guardian this weekend was the first in a series of new wallcharts. These ones are of buildings and show a detailed blueprint of each one. Saturday's blueprint was of the Empire State Building in New York.

It occurred to me that had I bought that edition of the newspaper in a couple of weeks when I'll be flying to New York, I might have had a hard job of explaining to the customs people why I had a blueprint of one of the largest buildings in the country in my bag. It was given away with a newspaper? A likely story.

I think it could have led to the rubber glove treatment...

Friday, October 05, 2007

Turin Brakes at Leadmill

Last night I journeyed to Sheffield to see Turin Brakes at The Leadmill. It's a while since I've been, but it didn't seem to have changed much. The two main changes were the lack of smoking (offset by a ridiculous smoke machine) and a convenient multi-storey car park right outside.

DSC00840.JPG

The band played an excellent set from across all the albums. I drank some cider. What more could anyone need.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

An Englishman In New York

I'm quite excited tonight as I discovered that... Morrissey!... is playing in New York when we're over there later this month. I've booked tickets. Wah Hooo!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Single servings

I ordered a BMT in Subway at lunchtime and the serving man asked me if I wanted double meat. I asked him whether he meant to ask whether I wanted double cheese. He said he meant double meat. They've never asked me that before.

I didn't want double meat as the sandwich had enough meat in already (some B, some M and some T!) so I said no thanks. He then asked me if I wanted single or double cheese, but I didn't want any cheese so I said so.

I reckon the guy accidentally said "meat" when he meant "cheese" and then tried to cover his tracks.

Or maybe I don't normally look like someone who'd appreciate double meat but today I looked extra hungry - possible as it was getting on half two before I left the office to go for lunch...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Cross-eyed from too much telly...

Tonight I saw John Nettles playing Jim Bergerac in an episode of The Detectives. Marvel do crossovers all the time in comics - there should be more of it in telly!

Here are five I'd like to see:

- Jack Bauer turning up in Spooks and not taking any shit at all.

- The episode of Porridge featuring Michael Schofield.

- Alan Dale playing a Cylon in Battlestar Galactica, who turned out to be also a Cylon when he was in Neighbours, 24, Ugly Betty, Lost etc.

- Everyone from Hollyoaks going on a plane holiday and being brought down by the thing that makes planes crash in Lost. And none of them survive.

- Matthew Corbett from Sooty in All Creatures Great And Small, putting his hand up cows and pretending they can talk.

They'd all be good. Is that job as Controller of the BBC still available?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

New Record!

Great North Run today and it was an early 5am start for me. Out of bed, quick shower, couple of Weetabix and then realised I had half an hour to kill until I needed to leave for the coach. So I read a book for a bit. Might have been better off having an extra half hour in bed - I'll never know.

We got to the start of the race in Newcastle at just before 9am. This was quite early too since the main race doesn't start until twenty to eleven. I spent the time going to the toilet, waiting and then going to the toilet again. There was a Lucozade stall giving out free stuff - I got some gel stuff. They asked me if I'd ever used it before. I said yes, just like I always do in a pharmacy. In reality I don't think I have used it before but I wasn't sure and I thought "No" would save time. My friends behind me got asked the same question. They said "No" and the lady said that they probably shouldn't try it for the first time in a big race as it might give them stomach cramps. I therefore left mine in my pocket and ignored it for the rest of the day. I'll try it on a non-important long run at some point.

I started in Zone F which was about half-way back, and reflected a 15 minute delay after the start of the race before I'd pass the start line. Since I was running alone I figured I might as well go in the furthest forward entry zone that my number allowed - if nothing else it'd mean that the whole thing would be over quicker!

I wasn't particularly nervous until the race actually started. At that point a lot of anticipation builds up as you first wait, then wait a bit more, eventually start shuffling forward before finally running. Pretty much as soon as I passed the starting line I decided I needed another wee.

I was aiming to for as long as possible do ten minute miles and then whatever I could to beat last year's time of 2:22:17. About 200m from the start are the first portaloos - I decided to miss them even though I could have used them, as I didn't want to be several minutes behind schedule before I'd finished the first half mile. But after about three miles I gave in and used a secluded(ish) wall to relieve myself. I reckon I lost about 30s but it was worth it as I was then running much more comfortably.

Up until the eighth mile I was actually enjoying myself and maintaining my desired speed (actually ever so slightly faster). I'd had to abandon my plan to listen to Batman: Knightfall as it was too hard to hear dialogue with all the various noise going on. Instead I soundtracked the first hour and a half or so of the race with Biffy Clyro and Cherry Ghost.

After that point I started to slow and by about ten miles I was a minute down. The final three miles were pretty hard going but I kept at it. It was good to get down onto the seafront where the finish is at least in sight, even if it's still a mile away. A long, long mile away.

And then it's over and I came in at 2:15:25, a decent improvement on last time.

Traffic home was way better than last year. I was safely home by quarter to six - at least three hours earlier than last year. I can't explain why. Sometimes roads are just like that.

Now I have achy legs and a pleasant break from running.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Race Time

Just one more sleep to go until the Great North Run (two if I have one on the coach in the morning). It's going to be an early start as the coach leaves at half six tomorrow am.

I wouldn't say I was feeling confident but I'm definitely less nervous than last year. I reckon that's due to familiarity and knowing exactly what I've let myself in for.

Sleep soon then. See you on the other side!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Fish

It's a rare Friday night when I'm not in the pub and an even rarer one when I'm not even having a drink. But since I have a half-marathon in two days time I'm not drinking until then. Which is annoying.

It has at least meant that I've been able to cook a proper Friday tea. I popped in to M&S at lunchtime and bought some tasty monkfish. It was good. Very expensive though - £11.99 for two people's worth. That could make it possibly the most expensive single item of food I've ever bought, excluding restaurants. I must have been having a moment of madness else it could have been the last remnants of last night's booze playing a final trick on me.

Speaking of last night, last night I discovered a new drink: Guinness Red. Apparently it's been around for a while but I've only just spotted it. If you don't know it, it can be described very easily: Guinness for girls.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ignore...

I would write, but alcohol amd morning forbids. :-)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In-Race Entertainment

Since I'm running alone in the Great North Run this year (apart from 50,000 others), I have planned some in-race entertainment. I'm loading it onto my iPod now.

It's the 1994 radio-drama, Batman: Knightfall. Based on the comic of the same name. It was originally on Mark Goodier's Radio 1 show in daily three minute chunks and I used to have it on cassette tape (remember them?). A friend borrowed (stole) my tape years ago so I haven't heard the thing for years, but I remember it being great - much better than the Batman movies of yesteryear, despite the lack of visuals.

I recently bought it again on CD (remember them?) and have been saving it for the race. I hope it's still good. If not, I'll have to make do with tunes or race-noises instead.

On the case it says "Running Time: 3 hours". I hope that's not a prediction. That'd be rubbish.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

David Ford Music News

Janice Long played a new David Ford song on the radio last night. This was quite exciting - Easyworld were one of the best bands ever and so anything new from David is going to be a good thing. His debut solo album was good but mostly quite downbeat. The new song was a lot poppier and so I was looking forward to getting my hands on it and the rest of the new album.

So I got the new album off iTunes. But whilst looking for it I found something even better - another Christmas album! This one's called "It's Not Like Christmas" and it's got tracks by various people on it including The Electric Soft Parade and Minuteman. And David Ford! And The Duke Special (featuring David Ford)! So I'm obviously looking forward to listening to all that even though it's not Christmas for a while yet and even though half the songs are likely rubbish as they inevitably are with this kind of collection. At least they're Christmassy rubbish.

And finally on this tack, The Duke Special are clearly in the mood for collaborations at the moment as they have a new single out which features Neil Hannon and Romeo from The Magic Numbers (it's called "Our Love Goes Deeper Than This). It's great, immensely catchy and feels like the start of the summer. Which is just what I need now that winter's encroaching.

And that ends the music news.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I Like Self Assessment (But They Won't Let Me Do It)

I phoned the Inland Revenue this evening. Sorry, HM Customs & Revenue as they are now called. Having just got back from a five mile run (it felt good) I wasn't in the best state for talking to a tax officer on the phone but the office was going to close in 15 minutes so I didn't have much choice if I wanted to get my task done this evening.

Essentially (and to cut a long and dull tax story short) I used to do self-assessment (which I liked doing!) but then as part of some kind of scheme to make things easier for people they moved me to the "short-form". It's like a tax return with only four boxes. And then they stopped sending me even that - they just changed my tax code and left me alone.

Now PAYE tax codes are a bit mysterious but broadly they are actually quite simple. The number is equal to your tax-free allowance divided by 10. And that's it. If you have some regular tax deductible expenses (eg my Institute of Actuaries fees), they can be used to increase your allowance. And if you have regular untaxed taxable income (interest, dividends, earnings on the side etc) it decreases your allowance. This should all mean that everything ends up with you paying about the right amount of tax, regularly, through your payroll.

This would be fine if you never changed your circumstances.

I used to get some money from marking exam scripts which I no longer get since I stopped marking. I wouldn't have complained too much if they wanted to continue to pay me for not marking, but they didn't. Hence my tax code gives me an allowance which is significantly too low.

Which is where we get round go me phoning up the Revenue.

I wanted them to just send me a full tax return self assessment form like I used to get. I liked them, they were fun (and you could do them online in about ten minutes). But it seems quite hard to persuade them to do this. I'm guessing there's some significant manual work they have to do even for the online submissions. But even a short-form would have been ok.

Instead she made me look up all the numbers there and then on the phone - ie last year's dividends, my interest, current Institute rates etc. All in a friendly way, mind, but given I was a bit hot and sweaty it wasn't really what I wanted to be doing. And the dividends turned out to be hard to find even in my "sophisticated filing system". But I did find everything and I'm hoping it should result in a nice increase in my tax code and maybe even a rebate if I'm really lucky.

I bet if I said I'd earned a million pounds of untaxed income last year they'd send me a form like a shot.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pork Pie Festival 2007 (now with added cider!)

Yesterday was York's annual pork pie festival, held as ever at The Tap And Spile on Monkgate. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to make it as I had a meeting in Leeds in the afternoon. Luckily I was able to get out a little early and rush back to York for my pies.

It should have been ten pies to taste, but number 1 didn't turn up meaning their was a little less pie than expected. Still a lot of pie though.

Pork Pies 2007

I was supposed to be sharing my plate but due to a couple of people not turning up and one person turning up but not liking pork pie, I had a whole one to myself. Four and a half whole pork pies is quite a lot for a small person like me but I like a challenge so thought I'd try and eat the lot regardless. I managed five half pies before having to stop due to feeling a bit full. I nibbled the remaining four but only a little.

To be honest, of the ones I had, none were outstanding. None were awful either but one did seem to have a slight citrus zestiness which didn't work for me in the context of a pork pie.

I don't want to see another pork pie for some weeks now.

Also in the pub yesterday they were having a cider festival! Whooh! I like cider. And it washed the pies down nicely.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Farewell Simon!

I expect Simon was very happy that his friends decided to hold his leaving do in the gents.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Noises in the Night

I was woken last night about 2am by a strange tapping. It went on (intermittently) for what seemed like a long time. Most things seem like they go on for a long time when all you're trying to do is sleep. It was hard to tell where it was coming from. Possibly next door, possibly outside. To me it sounded like the sort of sound that would be made if someone was chipping the outside wall with a chisel. But I had a look out the window and there didn't seem to be anyone there. And there was no damage this morning.

Maybe it was the people next door assembling late night flat pack furniture. Some people do odd things like that.

Or maybe (and this is what I hope) it was a ghost. That would be way cool.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My Dead Plants

I don't have many houseplants. Three at the last count. Well, two actually since one is well and truly dead, ain't coming back and has now just entered the bin. Here it was:

My Dead Plants (1)

Until very recently it looked like that but with green leaves just on top. It had been that way for a year, two years or so. But now no green at all so I think it has shuffled off this mortal coil. Etc. Baby Bio didn't seem to help. Maybe it was past that stage.

My other plants are doing a little better. My bigger plant is doing fine. I forget what it's called but it's in a pot and and it has green leaves.

My bonsai however is in a bad state. It has also in fact died. But I'm not going to throw it away yet because just before it died for good, two random mysterious plants began to grow in its pot:

My Dead Plants (2)

The bonsai is on the right and is pretty deaded. But front right there's a big tall sprouty green thing. And back right there's a smaller ferney green thing. Neither seem to be related to the tree, and neither were there originally. I'm thinking perhaps they are alien life forms that arrived from the cosmos one time I'd left my window open. They landed in the fertile soil found in my living room and grew to become full fledged alien plants.

I should tell Fred Hoyle - he'd be most excited.

Except that he's also dead.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Final Fantasy and some Historical Maths

And tonight I finished off Final Fantasy V. Now just I, II, VI, X, X2 and maybe XI to go. It's quite a good one, but seemed relatively easy. Maybe I'm just getting good.

On the subject of Roman numerals, apparently DIVIDIVI is the only proper Roman numeral number that is also an English word (it's some kind of tree - pushing it a bit, if you ask me). I thing ID should count but for some reason 499 is actually CDXCIX.

Idiot Romans.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Two Weeks and Counting...

With just two weeks left until the Great North Run (30 Sep), my training is going ok. I did my last planned long run this morning - a 10 miler.

I'd originally assumed I'd be doing it in late afternoon/early evening like normal, but as it came closer I realised I'd rather get it out of the way. So I got up relatively early this morning and was out of the house by twenty past ten. Now, I know that that's not right and any sensible person would still be tucked up tight in bed at that time, but I don't think I'm a sensible person.

The run went well - I went at a fairly steady pace all the way around, and finished in 1 hour 47 mins. Not going to worry any professional runners but good enough for me. I did feel like I could have carried on a bit further if I'd had to. My foot was still hurting but as I'd hoped, it didn't hold me back at all.

When I got home I had a nice long hot bath in which I read New Scientist.

So I plan to take things relatively easy for the next couple of weeks to ensure I don't hurt myself prior to race day. Probably just a three miler, a five miler and then another three miler. Then a whole lot of fingers crossed. I'm looking forward to
October...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pointless Toilet Communication

I don't like bumping into people I used to know whilst mildly drunk in pubs. Firstly, I rarely have anything useful to say - if I did they'd be in the category of people I still know rather than people I used to know. Secondly any conversation as is tends to be stupid.

For example, tonight in Brigantes I met an old work colleague in the toilet corridor. Let's call him Simon.

Si: Hello!
Me: Err, hi! Hello! How are you?
Si: Good thanks, how are you?
Me: I'm fine, thanks. How are you. Oh, I've done that already, haven't I? Bye!

Nobody gained anything from this brief exchange except that I realised he'd been sitting on an adjacent table all night.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Great North Run Update

1. My right foot hurts, on the top. Not enough to make me run funny (or not at all) but enough to annoy me a lot. I don't know why this is.

2. Work have finally got around to arranging a coach to get us there. This is annoying as lack of transport could potentially have been my last excuse to get out of it.

3. I hope it's not hot.

4. I thought I was starting in the back section. I'm not, they just seem to have changed the colours round this year. I'm right in the middle (section F, white).

5. I really, really hope it's not hot.

6. It's definitely going to hurt. Bugger.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Frisbee - Actuaries v Accountants

I took part in a game of Ultimate Frisbee yesterday afternoon - actuaries versus accountants. I was on the side of good (actuaries) and we thrashed the bean-counting buggers 5 points to 3. But that was all we could be bothered to play to as it was very hot and we'd neglected to take any beers to the field with us.

Although I had not played before, the rules were very easy to pick up - much simpler than something like football. I shan't write them here as they can be easily looked up on the net (eg here). The game was surprising energetic and it's probably good for me to get some different forms of exercise (other than just running) from time to time. By the end we were all very sweaty and we must have stank in the pub later. Apologies to any other patrons of the Yorkshire Hussar last night.

I'm feeling that a rematch will be on the cards at some point, but hopefully on a slightly cooler day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Six Steps

I was wondering yesterday about how far I was from Kevin Bacon. I'd said that "my friend's friend's girlfriend's ex-boyfriend used to go out with Kiera Knightley". So let's add some detail here... I actually know my friend's friend's girlfriend, so that saves some steps.

Keira Knightley was in Love Actually with Hugh Grant.

Hugh was in Notting Hill with Julia Roberts.

Julia was in Flatliners with Kevin Bacon.

And I think that is six links! Wahey!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Does she know Kevin?

I found out today that my friend's friend's girlfriend's ex-boyfriend used to go out with Kiera Knightley! How cool is that? It's like I'm part of Hollywood.

I wonder if Kiera knows Kevin Bacons? Cos that would prove the whole six degrees thing...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Constructive Feedback

It's always nice to get feedback on posts, however belated. Back in 2004, back when I was funny, I was discussing Leonard Cohen's song, First We Take Manhatten. I was pondering the meaning of some of the lyrics, particularly the ones relating to monkeys and plywood violins.

If you're interested, I stand my by theory. It's watertight.

But not everyone agrees. Daniel2024 just left the following nugget for me:

"This Song is about how the Son of God will travel across the wporld and bring his children home. He is awakening from a time of 20 years in exile, and he is returning. The beauty of OUR weopons is Love. Also the woman of God who will serve the risen Lord Jesus Christ. He is also the man of energy cohen speaks of and he is now safe again in heaven. Greetings from the other side. Though you all may want to know. Also in The Future he states it is over and it is not going any further. He will some day very soon begin his ministry by traveling on the ship spoken of in Democracy.

Daniel"

Now, whilst this is quite polite and all, I think it's actually more barking than anything I came up with. Based on my search stats I think he found me by searching for "plywood violin" in Google, which is a pretty weird thing to search for.

It goes without saying that his typing is not of a good level.

And that he's an utter nutter.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I Am (Guitar) Legend

Two generally know facts about computer games:

1. Guitar Hero is fantastic
2. Games on mobile phones are not fantastic

So what happens if you combine these two things and put Guitar Hero on a mobile? It should be shit, surely. No plastic guitar for a start. Therefore when I spotted a game called Guitar Legend in the downloads section of my phone I was somewhat skeptical. The screenshots looked like the proper game, but surely it would be crap in real life motion.

But then out of curiosity I did an in'net search and found a vid on YouTube of the thing in motion, and it actually looked really good. So I bought it. And it is really good!

Ok, so it's only got about eight songs (good ones though, inc The Bravery, Bloc Party, Iron Maiden and David Bowie) and they're not exactly DVD quality, but the game plays just like you'd expect with you having to press buttons as the blobs pass the bottom of the screen. Up to five of them in the hardest mode. Which is actually f**k hard.

Probably the best mobile game I've played. Apparently there's an official GH game coming out at some point which I'm now looking quite forward to!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

No, I haven't ordered one (yet)

I'm a little disappointed by the new iPods announced earlier today. The new touch-screen one is cool but only has 16Gb storage - way too small. Whereas the iPod Classic has a massive 160Gb but not the cool controls of the touch-screen one. Why not just combine the two together? A touchscreen 160Gb iPod would sell faster than magic pizzas. I'd have ordered one hours ago.

In fact, it's like if Dominos only did two pizzas - one with the best toppings in the world (pepperoni, tandoori chocobo, jalapenos etc) but on a shit thick soggy base, and one with the best crispiest base you can imagine with cheese and tomato only.

As it is, I'm mildly indifferent (but still tempted anyway, just not sure by which one).

The new Nano design is more interesting. It looks odd in the photos but I suspect in real life it's a lot cooler. It just seems to be a lot fatter (wideness rather than thickness) compared to the old Nanos.

I think I might wait until the next upgrades before upgrading...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sailing Weekend

I went sailing for the first time at the weekend. A friend from work has some contacts in a marina near Southampton (his ma and pa) and so we took a couple of boats out to the Isle of Wight and back.

Having never sailed before, I knew not what to expect. I have experience of canal boats and of cross channel ferries but that's about it. Neither of these experiences proved useful apart from the relative crampedness of narrowboats.

Antara

On Saturday we were sailing into a relatively strong wind (force 5) this involved a lot of tacking which involved the boat leaning at unfeasibly unsafe angles. I was assured that it was all fine and that the boat would have to exceed 110 degrees for it to capsize (ie the mast 20 degrees underwater) which helped a bit until I realised I'd have fallen off long before that point. But once you get used to it it's less scary, and probably not as bad as being upstairs on a double decker bus when they go round a corner too fast.

I didn't help with much of the technical sailing bits, but I did wind a few ropes, tie a few knots and generally do as I was told by the Skipper (whilst on deck at least). I also tried to do the washing up when it needed doing so that I wasn't a complete spare leg.

It took about three or four hours to do the sail, and when we got to the Isle of Wight (Yarmouth marina) it was good because then we could start on the beer.

Boat and Beers

I like beer.

Later we had a barbecue on the nearby beach (because fire and boats don't go). This was also good apart from the bits of sand that inevitably get everywhere, the lack of toilet facilities and the chicken that I'm pretty sure was unsafe. Later still, it was on into Yarmouth town centre for a few ciders. It was a nicer town centre than I was expecting - much better than it's "great" cousin on the mainland.

Next day's sailing was much smoother as we had the wind behind us to just push us back over the Solent. I was a bit hungover and slept for a bit in the afternoon. This would have been fine except I kept nearly falling off the bench I was lying on due to the (sometimes large) rocking.

But it was all good. Many thanks to everyone involved.

On the way home on Sunday we had a tasty random curry in Loughborough. Nice.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A Decade Under The Influence

As of 5pm last Friday, I completed 10 years of work for the same company. That's quite a long time. It's so far encompassed three cities, six bosses and (almost) countless desks. And I'm still happy which is pretty remarkable really.

Other things that have happened in the world during that 10 years:

1. Princess Diana was on the cover of the Daily Express every day, despite not being alive for one of them.
2. Big Brother.
3. The internet and mobile phones.
4. Big Brother 2-8.
5. Four Day Hombre.
6. All of Buffy and Angel.
7. Tony Blairs.
8. Can't think.
9. Of anything else.
10. Because I was drunk.

Now I'm just waiting for my carriage clock to turn up. I'm sure it's on the way...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Subway Recognition

I went to Subway for another 12" manwich today. All four people working there said "Hello" to me like they knew me. This worried me a bit. I've clearly been going too much when all of them say hi to me. Or maybe I have a distinctive face. Then after I paid, the money man gave me not one, but two thick, decent books of vouchers. Quite good ones too - the sort that give you free drinks when you buy a sandwich or things like that. I've never been given those before. He must have really recognised me!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Heavy Pockets

If I go out drinking, I tend to pay with notes. Drinks rounds rarely cost a multiple of five pounds and so inevitably notes and drinks beget change. And over a night, lots of notes and lots of drinks beget lots of change. It's not uncommon for me to leave the house of a Monday morning with upwards of fifteen pounds worth of coins in my wallet. Bulging in my wallet. To the extent it won't close properly.

But this has an advantage - spending coins doesn't feel like spending money. My notage hasn't decreased ergo neither has my wealth. In a good week I can get to Thursday or even Friday without having spent any real money.

I can walk into a sandwich shop and rather than spending money to buy a sandwich, I just do some weird voodoo thing with my hands that make them think I've paid for it. But I'm smiling inside because I haven't spent money! It's great.

It's even better when I can make pounds out of twenty pence pieces. Because then I can convince myself that I'm not spending money in cases when I'd normally have to spend a whole pound (eg a collection for someone's wedding or something).

Coins are great.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Whose the daddy?

A colleague (#1) had a baby last night (well done) - it came out of his wife. One of his staff (#2) sent an email round to let us know that it had arrived and that they were all doing well. Title of the email was "Whose the daddy?". This was bad in two ways. Firstly, it was clearly bad grammar. Or possibly bad spelling. She may have well sent round an email saying "I can't use the English language correctly. Please sack me now."

I personally would happily sack anyone from work who persistently abused the language in that way. But then we'd have no marketing department. Or finance department. Or directors. It'd just be me and the cleaners (and them only because they rarely have need to write anything). We'd all be very busy and I wouldn't like it. I'd have no time for Final Fantasy.

The second part of the badness was the implication that colleague #1 wasn't the daddy. For if he was, why ask the question? It was clearly being implied that there was some funny business going on. When challenged on this, #2 claimed to have no such intention but I didn't believe her.

Never trust anyone who goes by a number rather than a name.

In very related baby news (no it wasn't me. It was #1. I thought we'd established that) I'm disturbed these days that I have a vague feel for what, in pounds, constitutes a "big baby" and what constitutes a "wee baby". There's no need for me to know that. It's never going to help me win a pub quiz.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Eight or nine...

With just over a month to go until the Great North Run, I've been becoming a little concerned that I haven't done any long runs recently (and nothing over 7 miles this year - and that was months ago). So this weekend I'd "promised" myself a long run. 8 miles was the plan. It had to be today as the rest of the weekend I'd have had too much alcohol in the system to give any hope of doing anything good.

I planned my route - would have been just over eight but I figured I'd walk the final bit. The route took in the following York Landmarks:
1. The Tunnel
2. The Train Station
3. Micklegate Bar
4. Tescos
5. The new York College (opening September 2007)
6. The Sun
7. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter
8. Not sure about Saturn
9. Bishopthorpe Palace
10. The long riverside path, featuring nettles
11. The Millennium Bridge
12. T&G running in a different direction
13. The Bondage Warehouse
14. My work.

Due to number 10 above actually being a late insert, planned on the fly, The final distance run totalled 9.2 miles. Which means that I only need to do one more long run before the day, say 10-11 miles. Two weeks time will be a good time for that.

Currently the legs feel ok, but I'm expecting some aches tomorrow.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hot Jerkey!

I've had a couple of friends up visiting this weekend. Last night I took them out to amongst other places, the Evil Eye. I think they liked it, and that was without trying the (very spicy) food.

On the way out I bought some beef jerkey. I asked the barman for "a packet of your spiciest beef jerkey" and that is indeed what he gave me. It was good. Beef and spice all in the mouth at once. Is there a better food?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Another one bites the dust

I finished Final Fantasy IX this afternoon, wahey! Just I, II, V, VI, X, X2 and maybe XI to go. Halfway through the end sequence I had to pause it to pick up a friend from the train station. When we got back I watched the rest.

I think she was impressed. Ahem.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Endless Console Updates

One of the more annoying things with the current generation of consoles is that they all think they're PCs and hence constantly try to update themselves with new system software of the internet. At least most of it is actually adding stuff rather than just correcting security flaws (that's what they tell us, anyway).

Last night I spent the best part of two hours updating the Wii, the PS3 and the 360. Partly this was my fault for not having played on any of them for a while, due to mainly (still) playing old PS1 Final Fantasy games on the PS2. And some of the rest was because I couldn't work out all the cabling to make the 360 work (you have to turn off the DVD player).

It makes me pine for me old Speccy. It was all fields then.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Norwich, A Fine City

At the weekend I went down to Norwich for Matt's (actuarial) qualifiers' Party. He qualified about five years ago but isn't very organised. It was the first time I've been down there and been able to have a proper look round for some years - normally when I visit it's a case of arriving at the train station and then taking a taxi straight to some out of town hotel, staying there overnight, assessing some graduates the next day and then heading straight back home to York again.

I don't think it had changed too much since I lived there. Most of the big changes happened about the same time I left. There was a big new glass thing in the city centre, The Forum, that I didn't recognise. Until I remembered I did recognise it because I'd been in and had a coffee before.

We had Sunday lunch in a nice bar near Tomblands called Indulge. It used to be a Hogshead, but I'm not sure if they have Hogshead's anywhere any more. I had a nice sausage platter and K had a big burger. Came with very nice potato wedges. Great French waitress who'd occasionally forget to speak in English and say things like "Sel" instead of Salt. I suspect it's the sort of place that could be horrid at night time, but in the day it was relatively quiet.

After that we went on through the Cathedral Close to the Adam & Eve. I'd planned to sit outside but it was just about to start pissing it down so we sat inside instead. I vaguely remember the serving staff there as being quite unfriendly and that, at least, hadn't changed. Predictably I banged my head on the low lintel as I left. I always used to do that.

I had then thought we could walk back to the station along the river but the rain changed that into a taxi.

Overall it was an enjoyable day and I enjoyed seeing things I used to see all the time. Ah, Nostalgia.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Secret Birthday

How the internet can get you in trouble:

Me: Hello!
Chris Colleague: Hello!
Me: Happy Birthday!
CC: How did you know it's my birthday?
Me: It was on the internet, on Facebook.
CC: Oh, bugger.
Me: Were you not telling anyone?
CC: Yeah, I didn't want to have to buy cakes.
Me: Is it the big one?
CC: Yeah, 30.
Me: Hey everyone, Chris is 30! Cake time!
CC: You get.

And that's why they warn you not to put personal information on the internet.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Trains to Norwich

I've been down in Norwich this weekend (more of that tomorrow, if I remember). I reckon it is physically impossible to travel from York to there on trains that are on time. And you can never make the connection at Peterborough.

This time, the train from York was running half an hour late. We then transferred to a train in Peterborough that was also half an hour late. And then on to one from Ely that was also running late. No idea what was happening on the way back as I hadn't looked up train times in advance, but we had to wait for an hour in Ely station so I figure it can't have been working all that well.

So I had some cider.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Best Coffee In The World?

I think I've found the best kitchen gadget ever invented in the new Argos catalogue. It's on page 699. It's a machine that turns instant coffee into "authentic cappuccino"!

Amazing! It even does Americanos!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dreams!

I had some good dreams last night. As in slightly interesting rather than good. They may have been two parts of the same dream or they may have been separate. It’s hard to tell now.

In the first I was in a train station with some heavy bags. It was a station in some crappy town like Swindon or Carlisle. The train started to approach the station but rather than slowing to a stop it slowed to a running pace only allowing a few people to jump on or off. Me with my bags had no chance. The train left the station without me.

The guard then realised what had happened and he did some clever gesture to the train to make it come back. It looped around and came back through the station and again failed to slow down enough for me to get on! I couldn’t believe it! I’d missed my train.

I was less gutted when I realised that I actually had an open return rather than a specific train ticket so I could just wait for a later one without having to pay more.

In the other dream I was round at a friend’s flat, next to the Yorkshire Wheel. No such flats exist in real life but this was a dream so it was fine. A breeze blew up outside. Then a gale. Then a stronger wind still. Eventually the wind reached such a strength that it blew The Wheel right over and it crashed down into the National Railway Museum. Amusingly we watched this being covered, live, on the television news.

What a disaster!

Shortly after (probably within the hour in dream time) the toppled wheel was split into two halves and each was towed away by a man on a bike. This struck me as strange even at the time – surely they wouldn’t have been able to split it into two that quickly?

And then I went home (the long way round as the road was shut).

So those were my dreams/dream extracts. Just thought I’d share.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Not So Sick Day

I took the morning off work today, sick. I figured that I may as well make sure I wasn't going to be ill again. I don't really like taking sick days - I feel guilty about sitting around at home watching telly when I should be doing something useful. Even when I'd not be physically or mentally capable of doing anything useful.

By lunchtime I still didn't feel too bad. I still had a headache but felt like I'd be able to manage. And I'd had a good amount of entertainment so far (The Wire and FF again).

Therefore I headed off into town to earn my crusts. It wasn't too bad. I wasn't 100%, still probably a bit slow, but I got some stuff done. I delayed my long run for another day though. It's really got to happen tomorrow...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sick Day

I felt a bit crap yesterday, I put this down to a hangover. To be fair, I think 95% of it was.

This morning I still felt a bit crap, which was less blamable om the booze. I went to work and just about got through the day, but I was feeling worse by the hour. I figured I'd cut my losses and head home at four. Get some lie down, watch some telly. Chill. Abandon all pretence of the seven mile run I was supposed to be doing tonight.

Then just as I was logging off, I started to feel a bit sick. Luckily I made it to the toilets in time, and luckily there was a spare one (they've been unusually busy today!). Then I was ill. Not fun.

Then I went home with at least the justification that I really was ill, not just thinking I might be. I think it could well be mild food poisoning, possibly from the seafood risotto I had on Saturday night. Tasted good at the time but... ?

So the remainder of my day has been spent on the sofa, under duvet with some lucozade and peppermint tea. Watching The Wire, Big Brother and the new Richard Dawkins' doc. I'm feeling a bit better now and hope to be back to normal tomorrow.

Fingers crossed.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Flight Plans

We have finally got around to booking some holiday this evening. The full details aren't yet worked out but we'll definitely be flying to New York and back in October. The plan is then to visit a few other places too, possibly in Canada. Maybe Montreal, Quebec and/or Toronto. It'll likely depend on the availability (and cost!) of internal flights.

The flights ended up about £300 each, return. We initially thought we'd found some dead cheap ones - Zoom were offering flights for about £25 each way (or double that for Premium Economy). Pretty good. But then we found that that didn't include taxes, fuel surcharges and suchforth. They acted to push the price up to £300 each in total. So we decided to fly Virgin Atlantic instead. Same price but probably better in-flight entertainment (though no doubt I'll be playing Final Fantasy the whole time).

Incidentally, is "Premium Economy" the daftest name for a class of flight ever?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Buffy Is Still Best

K and her sister were round tonight and we, for no good reason, watched the Buffy episode Once More With Feeling. It was still great. It made me remember why I fell in love with that show in the first place. And then it mad me remember what happened to everyone before and after and inevitably, I cried a bit.

The only consequence is that we're now going to have to watch the whole bloody series from the start. Angel too. Darn. Worse things hapen at sea I guess.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Lies, Damn Lies and More Lies

There were various fiascoes earlier in the year involving things being not quite as they seem on the BBC and other channels. I didn't see quite what the fuss was about - it's television! It's not supposed to be real! Why are people surprised that some things are staged, edited or just going wrong?

So it was very pleasing to see today the tabloids, the same ones who'd been so outraged about the telly, having to 'fess up that there hadn't really been a Great White Shark off the coast of Cornwall. It was just made up.

This again though shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Anyone who believes everything (anything?) they read in the papers, especially those ones is an idiot. Of course there isn't a big man eating shark off Cornwall. That's why nobody has been eaten.

My prediction for next week's news: "Incorrect Information On Internet Disgrace". Watch out for it. It's coming.

The best thing I saw today (which may or may not be made up) was on the way home from work. Up opposite the Railway Museum there was a drain in the road with lots of smoke coming out of it. Somehow, somebody had set a drain on fire. Quite good going. I'm assuming it can't have had much water in it. This would have been cool on its own but then a couple of Museum workers ran over with mini fire extinguishers and started squirting them into it. This seemed to do the job. The smoke stopped.

God, it's rubbish that that was the best thing I saw today.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Turning The Duvert Down

I'm surprised it's taken me so long to take the duvet down to four togs. I've been dead hot at night time for weeks now and nothing in my head seems to have linked this to the fact I still had the 10.5er on. Bit dumb. I changed it yesterday to the thinner one and slept much better last night.

It's quite hard to manage things like that though.

Maybe I should turn the heating off too (*).

(* joke).

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

More Facebook

Since I last wrote about Facebook, I have used it quite a lot. But it is mainly a complete waste of time albeit a fun one.

There are a lot of applications you can add to your profile that seem to effectively do nothing except give a way for you to prove to the world how much spare time you have. For example you can identify endless music clips on iLike and nothing happens except you get a bigger score than all your friends. Or possibly your "friends". Or in Pirates you can pretend to be a pirate (Arrrrr!) and click a button that says "sail" a lot. And that's about it. Or a million other things, all equally pointless, except for the way they say to the world how little you have to do in it.

I might as well sit here (on my spinny chair) and write successive posts that contain nothing more than numbers that are one higher than in the previous one.

Or similarly, I could write this.

But sod it. It's great.

In other news... shiny iMacs!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Weekend

I went down to visit a couple of friends in Birmingham at the weekend. I'm not totally sure, but I think I may have had a couple of beers. The kind of beers that leave you incredibly achy for a couple of days afterwards.

Other than that I had a good time.

When I got back here though my internet connection was down, and it stayed that way until about 11 at night. Hugely annoying. Not sure what the problem was, I'm pretty sure it had nothing to do with the Sky this time.

It's back and working now, hence me here now, writing this.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sailing the Seven Seas Plus One

The Actuarial Profession has today published a draft of the new principles by which actuaries should conduct themselves at all times. It's called (and I kid you not) The Actuaries' Code. Sounds like something the Girl Guides would have.

It contains eight principles collectively named "the eight Cs" which all begin with... C. I've never been comfortable with these kind of mnemonics. Roygbiv is fine. Each letter being different helps you remember the colours. I've come across many others through my various periods of studying, some better than others. But just knowing that all eight principles of actuarial behaviour begin with C isn't too helpful to me. I'll probably remember six or seven but there'll always be an elusive one that just won't come back into memory. Is it "Commiseration"? Is it "Cheesiness"? Is it "Courduroy"?

So what are the true eight Cs? Conduct, Common Good, Competence, Compliance, Conflicts, Confidentiality, Commencing Apointments and Communication. Sounds more like six Cs, one CG and a CA to me. But that's quibbling.

I would put money that the wording that goes with the Code has been written by a member of the (Scotch) Faculty of Actuaries rather than the (English) Institute of Actuaries. My reason for this is because it says "members who disregard the principles or operate outwith their reasonable interpretation...". "Outwith": a word I'd never come across until I met people at work from Scotland. It's only used up there. They write it in documents all the time, not realising it's weird. The number of times we've had to correct bits of writing so that English people won't be confused, I've lost count.

So for it to crop up in the A-Code (as the cool actuaries will soon be calling it) clearly shows a Scotch, and hence probable Faculty, origin.

Does anybody want to take my bet?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Review Time!

It's the biennial time (I think that's the right one, not biannual. Or bicentennial. Or bicycle) of year (ie every two years in case I had got it wrong) when my mortgage is up for review. My two year fixed rate has run out and probably turned out to have been a good choice given that rates have been rising steadily since I took it out.

I booked a meeting at my local bank branch with a mortgage adviser. They sent me a reminder about the meeting time via text which I thought was quite cool. I turned up on time and for once had done some preparation so that I wouldn't be going in cold. I'd spent some time in the morning looking at the rates I was likely to be offered on the internet. I then used my green electronic yes/no decision maker to take a call on the tracker v fixed rate question. It chose tracker. Sounded fine to me. I also used mathematics to compare the rates that had an initial fee to the ones that didn't. For the size of my outstanding mortgage they were pretty much equal. Nice. Or possibly annoying

So when I was in the meeting, I had a good idea what I wanted and didn't change my mind. The mortgage lady did her bit, I did my bit, she keyed it into the system and that's it now for another two years.

Oooh, tracking, exciting. I can guarantee that this is bad news for the rest of you and interest rates are now going to go up and up and up!

Going to see the bank seems so adult...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Shy and Retiring

I watched a man retire today. It was a little odd. I'm used to people leaving, but I've never seen somebody retire. 40 years of service. Long time.

But I'll be up to 10 years myself in a month's time. I think I need to leave the Argos catalogue on my boss's desk with a bookmark in the carriage clock section (not sure if Argos do carriage clocks, but they should do). It's the only way I'm likely to get one.

And I don't think I will :-(

Monday, July 30, 2007

Humbug

I'm finding that one of the worst things about getting old is that it's no longer possible to eat unlimited quantities of sweets without feeling ill.

So unfair.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Saturday Afternoon at the Races

I went to the races again yesterday. It was a more successful trip than Thursday's one, despite us missing the first three races. The first one I bet on though, I had a really good feeling about Stage Gift (ridden by Jamie Spencer) and I doubled my normal bet to ten pounds. I was able to justify this to myself as I hadn't spent anything on the first few races.

It came in at fifteen to two and so I was seventy five pounds up straight away. I was tempted to then do the sensible thing and stop betting. Only tempted though. I ended up about sixty quid up on the day, and thirty quid up if I included my disastrous time earlier in the week.

Afterwards, Killer Queen played. They were good, but not as good as Bjorn Again had been. Maybe because I prefer Abba to Queen.

After the afterwards, it was on to Spice Club for a very drunken curry and then on to Reflex where I think I was mostly asleep. Awful place.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Thursday Evening at the Races

I went to the races yesterday evening, for an evening meeting. As normal, we missed the first race but this time it really wasn't our fault. We were having a pint in the pub and just as we were finishing it started chucking it down outside. So we were forced to have another one. And then there was a queue at the cash machine too.

The racing was fun (especially when I found where they sell the cans of cider) but my betting wasn't too good. I got a lot of second and thirds, but no winners. A horse called Red Wine nearly did very well for me, but couldn't quite come through in the end. The first time red wine has ever let me down.

Despite the stewards having to walk the course at one point to check it was still safe for racing, we got a full racecard of races and the rain pretty much held off. We felt a little blessed because there were some particularly dark clouds overhead for most of the evening.

After the races, there was music.

Bjorn Again

The music was from the fabulous Bjorn Again. And it wasn't one of those Bjorn Again tribute acts that you see all over the place - it was the real thing!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

And all that I knew...

It was raining again this morning. Fairly heavily. I remembered to take my umbrella which helped somewhat, but after walking for a short while I was reminded of a problem in my shoes, specifically a hole the size of a 50 pence piece in the underside of the right sole.

It was letting in water, big time.

By my arrival at work I had a very soggy right sock. I removed my shoe and allowed the sock to dry.

Since the rain showed no sign of stopping, I resolved to take a trip to the shoe shop to purchase new, holeless shoes. Marks and Spencers is my favourite shoe shop because you don't have to talk to an assistant. It's all self service.

The shoes I self-served myself turned out to be identical to the old ones, just newer. I liked the old ones, they were comfy. Apart from the obvious there was no reason to change. I bought the replacements and then wore them for the rest of the day. Now I have dry feet and am happier.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Interesting Cordials

I've bought some rather nice cordials from Sainsburys.

The first is the one that sounds most normal to me: Raspberry and Mint. It tastes like a jug of summer fruit juice that someone has put too much mint in. Or like a fruity mojito.

The second sounds a bit stranger, to me at least. It's Rhubarb and Ginger. Rhubarb would never be my first choice for a "fruit" to have in a drink. I think it tastes nice, but a bit odd. In cordial form it's transformed into something quite delightful and the ginger gives it a bit of a kick to detract from the sweetness elsewhere.

I recommend them! There's a third one too, but it looked mingin' so I didn't buy it.