Monday, April 30, 2007

Got some sauce going off

I had some Reggae Reggae Sauce with my dinner this evening (you know, the stuff off of Dragons' Den). It was alright - went well with both the burgers and the potato waffles. Quite spicy, but not overly so.

Stupidly, the bottle says that you should use it within 5 days of opening. This is clearly insane. To do that you'd have to have it with every meal including breakfasts. And possibly also put it in your Early Grey. And also drink a shot or two neat before bed. And in bed.

People ain't gonna do that.

I'm sure it'll actually be fine if I don't use it so quickly. Most stuff doesn't actually go off anywhere near as quickly as packs say they will. I have, however, found that frozen peas don't last for as long as I'd like them to (they dry up after three or four years). But the sauce should be alright for a month or so, minimum.

Incidentally, this proves how well blatant advertising seems to work on me.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Under The Sea

So I've been in Brussels for the weekend. One reason I chose that place was that I fancied going somewhere on the Eurostar. It's been in existence for a few years now and it's quite exciting since it's a train that goes underwater.

I was impressed with the whole experience. The trains are nice, run on time and go faster than normal English trains. However, coming back was a little disconcerting due to the Earthquake on Saturday. On Saturday morning, Kent experienced an earthquake (*) of magnitude 4 to 5 on the Richter Scale. Kent is quite close to the Channel Tunnel entrance hole.

Whilst there was no major damage caused, it meant that when travelling home I had to blank out the thoughts that went:
1. I'm two miles under the English Channel.
2. There was an EARTHQUAKE near here yesterday.
3. Oh Shit.
4. I'm going to die via the medium of drownage on train.
5. Oh Shit.

In retrospect, I need not have worried. There were no subsequent aftershocks and the journey did not end in my end.

(* there is a conspiracy theory that says it was actually the Kentish people conducting an underground nuclear weapon test, in preparation for the 2009 bid for indepedence. I don't subscribe to this theory)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Secret Weekend!

I'm taking the girlfriend away for the weekend to a Secret Location. So far I'm pretty sure she has no idea where we are going. She's going to be so thrilled when she finds out we're going to Belgium.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

One sheet is not enough

I can't let this week go by without mentioning Sheryl Crow's barmy toilet paper comments. She reckons that you can normally get by with just one piece of toilet paper per visit to the loo. This is quite clearly insane. I can't even imagine how that is supposed to work. Not even if you used both sides. And the corners.

Now, I'm for saving the world as much as the next man, but there are limits. And dirty bottoms are one of them.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Locked up

We had another office move at the weekend (and predictably, the stationery cabinet has moved again. It just won't stop).

The main lesson I learnt this time was that if you are anal enough to have a lockable cupboard that you keep the key for yourself, it really helps if you remember to unlock the cupboard before the removal men turn up at the weekend to move things. Because otherwise you have to spend a chunk of your Monday lugging boxes of files up and down stairs. And that's not a good look.

Don't do keys kids, they're not worth it.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

Bag Recycling

As I mentioned last week, I've joined my local recycling scheme. This morning was my first collection. My Special Box was more than full, so full in fact that I've had to throw away some stuff that should have been recycled. What was in there was put into separate plastic bags for paper, cans and glass, as they request. Plastic bags from supermarkets are quite good for that sort of thing. They also make good bin liners.

I read in the newspaper the other day though that one of the big supermarkets (Sainsburys, I think) was planning to have a series of days when they don't give out free plastic bags and will instead give out more durable reusable bags (normal cost: 10p!). The idea of this would be to get people reusing the reusable bags rather than getting new ones each time. I have no issue with this except that it could mean an end to my free bin liners / recycling separators. That would be annoying. I think reusing a supermarket bag as a rubbish bag is a decent enough way of recycling - it also saves me having to buy actual rubbish bags (except for my kitchen Brabantia which has special ones).

But it might not be so bad, as I found today when I went to get my emptied Special Box that they had left the empty plastic bags for me to reuse next time. So that works ok.

I remember going to Dublin a couple of years ago. The strangest thing, stranger even than it like being in a Britain where they use the Euro, was that the vast majority of the shops give you paper bags rather than plastic ones. This had come about after the Irish Government introduced a tax on plastic bags. It would be good to maybe do the same thing here. Some shops seem to have moved to paper already - Virgin for example. I'm not convinced it works for larger items - paper bags can be very scratchy against your legs. And they may not be so good in the rain.

Generally when shopping (even at the supermarket) I try and put as much as I can into my rucksack, and hence avoid the need for bags paper or plastic. This is definitely the most environmentally friendly method (though I think my rucksack may have been produced in a sweatshop staffed by four year old chinese kids).

So to summarise:
1. Paper bags and plastic bags exist
2. Paper bags are probably better for the world but are a bit rubbish sometimes
3. I'm not sure what sort I prefer...
4. I'd quite like to maintain my suppy of free rubbish bags

And my point is? No idea.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Save a font point, save the world

It often amazes me that if you take an A4 document, you can print it on A5 instead and only have to reduce the text size to 70% or so of its original size. In the vast majority of cases this makes it still perfectly readable. A simple 30% size reduction reduces paper usage by a half. Issa magic.

Now a lot of people would shirk at this, especially old people who don't understand the need. And also company Executives who would be confused (and possibly assume the saved half pages had all been stolen). But I think the principle can still be employed to save the planet. A bit.

Here's the plan. Every time you make a document, finish it and read it and check it and all that jazz. Then just reduce the font size by 1 pt across the board. This could actually give a reasonable paper reduction on longer documents. Do it. Save money and an oak tree.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Enron Solution

I didn't string my mandolin today (not a euphemism) but I did go through my filing mountain. There has been a large pile of bills, bank statements and other random papers on my table for a long time and it needed putting away / binning (delete as appropriate).

When I got into this I found items going back to the start of 2005. Is it really that long since I've been arsed to properly file anything? Clearly it is. A bit worrying. I guess I just got so used to the pile being there that it became the place for filing to live rather than the place for items to wait until they are filed.

It had been so long that a lot of the crap could just be thrown straight away without an intermediate step of being put in a box for several years. I'm never really sure how long you are supposed to keep financial records for. In the end I made quite a big new pile of things that could be binned, not filed. And then I filed the things that could be filed and not yet binned. I put the binned, not filed pile in a plastic bag (a kind of filing in itself) and then put this to one side rather than binning it.

Because I decided I needed to get a shredder.

Generally I wouldn't bother shredding. It seems a bit over-cautious. I reckon you're fine just throwing things out with the kitchen waste so that if some ne'er-do-well goes through your rubbish they'll get old wet tea bags and bits of meat along with the bank details. That'd teach them.

But since today it was rather a lot of paper to be thrown, a higher level of security could be sensible.

And besides: shredding's fun!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Final (Fantasy) Countdown

I finally finished Final Fantasy XII yesterday, after clocking up around 65 hours of gameplay (plus all the times when I died before saving). That feels like quite a lot of hours to have constructively used playing a single game. It was good though and long. Sometimes the story was a bit hard to follow because a few of the characters look the same and a lot of them are heavily into that shades of grey thing. But maybe that's just me being stupid.

I think the first FF game I played was on the old black and white gameboy many years ago. It was called Final Fantasy Adventure or Legend (it was a long time ago!) and I later learnt it wasn't even strictly a FF game - it was a completely different Japanese game that had its name changed for an English language release. There were a lot of confusing name changes that went on back then, but they're all well documented now and I suspect anyone who cares would have spent many hours reading up about them on the internet.

The first proper FF game I played, like I suspect was the case for a few million other people, was FF VII on the old original Playstation. It was fantastic. Great story, long, lots to do and apart from the odd particularly irritating boss, was always fun. I especially liked the way it had FMV that seamlessly merged into the game's pre-rendered backgrounds. It's an effect that still looks bizarrely impressive today. I never saw it happen on any games outside of the series. Also, the main character had fantastically inspirational hair.

Then for some reason I missed the next two games (imaginitively titled XIII and IX) completely and don't even particularly remember them coming out. I think it must have been after my Playstation kicked the proverbial bucket. I also missed the first two PS2 games, X and X2, because I refused to buy a PS2 until they brought out the little cute slimline tonic version.

But just in the last few weeks, I have managed to find all four of these games! I was especially excited to see the two for PS1 (in the same shop at the same time!) as they're much harder to track down.

And FF III has been reworked on the DS. And I've ordered FF IV for the GBA from Amazon. And I think FF V is also coming out on the GBA. I also have Final Fantasy Tactics Advance knocking around somewhere which I'd like to finish at some point.

So if you don't see me until Christmas... you know why.

If you've never played a FF game before, I'll summarise what happens.1

1. Introduction
2. Fight something (by choosing "attack" or occasionally "magic" off a menu)
3. Level up
4. Fight something
5. Level up
6. Fight something
7. Level up
8. Sometimes fight something three or four times because it's a hard bastard and you haven't repeated steps 3, 5 or 7 enough.
9. Repeat steps 2 to 8 for approximately the time it would take you to have a full and rewarding real life.
10. Finish it.

But it's all good clean fun and the stories do tend to be good. And what better way to use my shiny new PS3 than by sticking mostly old PS1 games in it :-)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Express Yourself

It was my birthday on Saturday. 31. We went for a birthday curry on Saturday night, to the York Spice Club. It was a fine meal. The menu is probably the funniest curry menu in the area but the food is very good despite that.

Some of my friends had made me a special birthday present. Technically they started making it for my 30th birthday but it got a bit delayed and so I have had to wait. What they have made is: Pork Scratching Vodka. It was made by soaking some pork scratchings in vodka for a year or so and then straining out the bits. It looks kinda like breast milk. Except less pleasant. I tried a little bit and that little bit was more than enough.

I don't think it's as good as the Tea Vodka that I made a couple of years ago.

Then yesterday the parents came to visit. We went out for lunch and then had some beer as it was a nice sunny day. I bought some mandolin strings too so I have the potential for a fun afternoon of restringing at some point this week.

I have another week off work! Oh the joy.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Rabbit Tangarams

I have a Tangram calendar at work this year. Each Thursday you have to make not one, but four or five different shapes. This week it was rabbits.

The one pictured here is fine.

Rabbit Tangrams

But the second one down on the right hand side doesn't look entirely appropriate for work.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Keep on movin'

Sometimes furniture refuses to behave as it should.

The stationery cabinet at work has moved, again.

And it's still only me finding it funny.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Not To Be Confused With Katie Holmes

Dame Kelly Holmes came to visit us at work today. She is the second most famous Dame in the UK, after Dame Judi Dench. She should also not be confused with (Not Dame) Kelly Jones off the Stereophonics. Dame Kelly is a retired runner and won two gold medals at the last Olympics. Whilst this is a running achievement to be proud of, it barely compares to my own achievements in this ballpark. But enough boasting.

She was doing a Q&A session (about running and stuff). I found out that she used to be a sergeant in the army for nine years. When I found this out I wanted to ask her if she'd ever killed a man. I'm glad I didn't, as it turned out she'd mainly been a PT instructor and that rarely results in deaths outside of Hollywood films.

I could have got her autograph, but I didn't. I've got several Richard Herring autographs and that's enough of a collection for me.

Monday, April 09, 2007

What day is it?

Over a long weekend like this one it's sometimes hard to keep track of what day it is. I'm fairly sure today was Monday, and a bank holiday at that. But strangely, the postman came this morning and so did the binmen. This could be explained by either

a) Today was Monday but not a bank holiday and I should have been at work
b) Today was Tuesday and I should have been at work
c) Bank holidays ain't what they used to be (as per yesterday's post)

I'm going for c).

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Closing

It's Easter Sunday which means that the supermarkets aren't open. As ever, I only realised this today, Easter Sunday, the day I had planned to go to the supermarket. So that scuppered my plans for food.

a) I checked opening times on the interweb before leaving the house
b) I have a chocolate egg
c) The local corner shop is open
d) We have some frozen chilli-c-c in the freezer

So it could be a lot worse really. It's definitely better than in the olden days when I was young when nothing would open, ever, or at least that's what it seemed like. The slightest excuse and all the banks, shops and buses would just stop. Easter, Spring, Christmas, the Queen's birthday, my birthday, a hot day, they'd all just close and stop. I think.

Now it's much better because it's pretty much just the three days, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Easter Sunday, where most things are closed. And on Christmas Day I get fed, on New Year's Day I aim to be too hungover to eat and at Easter there's Chocolate (and the corner shop).

Saturday, April 07, 2007


I finally got around to joining my local (council-sponsored rather than council-run) doorstep recycling scheme this week and so have a nice shiny new plastic container to put my paper, cans and bottles in. Only problem is that it's nowhere near big enough to fit all the stuff I have got lying around now, never mind the bits I'll accumulate over the next few weeks. I think daily collections would suit me better than fortnightly ones.

Now, at last, I have an excuse for washing bottles and cans - I always used to do that when I was in an old scheme in my old house, as it stops them smelling and making the container dirty. It's a little bit pointless if you are just going to through them away after washing them though.

But once you're in a habit...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Shortest Straw

I called a senior (in both senses of the word) colleague (in only one sense of the word) at work yesterday about an unrelated matter. After saying hello, he said that he'd heard that I "seemed to have drawn the short straw". I didn't know what he meant by this, and he may then have realised my confusion as he added "... a straw so short you may not even be able to see it". Hmmm. Sounds like I may have been volunteered for something... Or something is being done to me... Or something... Should I be scared?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Riddle

The beauty and the curse of iTunes is demonstrated thus:

Me: I wonder if I've got a copy of Nik Kershaws's The Riddle?
Me: Hmmm... I'll just have a look in my library...
Me: No, I haven't.
Me: Darn.
Me: I wonder if they have it in the internet-shop-thing?
Me: ... Yep...
(30 seconds later)
Me: Cool. Now I have Nik Kershaws's The Riddle!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

More Notworking Problems

I managed to waste another hour of my life today trying to network some computers together - this time it was my Mac and my friend's Windows laptop. It should be easy, but there always seem to settings that aren't quite right, things not turned on or security software that's too tight. I'm pretty sure we managed to wirelessly network the two machines, but it was proving too hard to see one machine's files on the other, whichever way we tried it.

In the end we gave up and resorted to burning a CD.

But then, after he'd gone, I noticed that now I could see his machine in Finder... it was too late then though. His laptop was turned off, he was not in the flat, we had achieved our goals through other means.

Accursed machines.

Monday, April 02, 2007

I'm Sure I've Seen Him Somewhere Before...

I started watching My Name Is Earl on DVD tonight. Very funny. But it started me thinking...

More and more these days it feels like there are only about eight actors working in American TV. I keep recognising him out of whatsit, or that guy out of whatchacallit. For example, in ep 2 of MNIE, Haywire out of Prison Break turns up. Still with the same mad starey eyes. Cy out of Deadwood is now in 24 as the Vice President (and the actor's name is Powers Boothe! Idiot!) and I'm sure I spotted Calamity Jame from the same show somewhere recently too.

Then there's the ubiquitous Alan Dale turning up in pretty much everything - 24, Neighbours, Lost, Ugly Betty and Robin Hood. And the little weaselly one out of Ally McBeal and Porkies also turning up in the current season of 24.

Then The Fonz makes regular appearances in Arrested Development. And Delenn from Babylon 5 hides in the jungle in Lost.

And I think I'm just scratching the surface...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I get silver!

Since it's now officially summertime I went for a run out in the fields by the river this afternoon. Out there, in a tree, I saw 5 magpies. This means that I am guaranteed silver of some kind very soon (because the rhyme says so). I hope it's good silver, not bad silver. Stupid rhyme is a bit ambiguous though. Off the top of my head, these are the ten most likely silver things I might get:

1. A horde of silver coins
2. A silver spoon (perhaps for the coronation)
3. Silver medal in a running race (of two people, most likely)
4. A silver lining on a cloud
5. A silver knife in my back
6. A Bilko DVD
7. Some Silver Spoon sugar in my tea (that would be bad - I take it without sugar)
8. A silverback gorilla following me for the day (if the bears didn't chase it away first...)
9. The Sharon Stone movie, Sliver, bought for me by a dyslexic
10. Some gold because there was a sixth magpie that I missed

Eeeny, meeny, miney, mo...