Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Here come the freaks...

Big Brother starts tonight... almost exciting, but not really. At least it's timed well to start after Heroes, Lost and 24 have all finished.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Smoking ban... Labour's best achievement?

Just over a month to go now until the English smoking ban comes into force on July 1st, and I'm getting quite excited about it. It is quite possibly the only thing that our current government has done that will have a major impact on my life (and it's a positive one too!). This might sound odd, but I can't think of anything else that will affect me more. I can think of some other things they've done, but I don't reckon they're as significant.

I'll list Labour's five other things (that I can remember) to show that the smoking ban is clearly the most important thing. Compare and contrast:

1. 24hr Drinking. Ok, this technically exists now, but not in many places. And I'm normally either tired or drunk or both by 11pm anyway.

2. Tax Changes. They give with one hand and take with the other. Am I better or worse off? Haven't a clue. I can still afford beer and shiny entertainment facilities, so I'm pretty fine all's said and done.

3. John Prescott Hitting Voters. This still makes me laugh but not as much as that nude wrestling scene in Borat. I don't think Prescott has done such a thing (publicly) yet. If he does, maybe I'll reconsider.

4. War In Iraq. This is clearly a very bad thing (or a very good thing if you support it) but compared to me not smelling of stinky smoke anymore it's a nothing event. I might have thought differently about the importance of this if they'd introduced conscription, but they didn't.

5. Um, maybe I should have made this a list of six things. I'm all out. The Apprentice? The death of Diana? Global Warming? The freeing of Nelson Mandela? It's lucky nobody reads this for insights into current affairs. Or anything else. Wait - what about... Civil Partnerships. Unlikely to be of much benefit to me though ('cept maybe the odd extra party?) but it'll do for the purpose of this comprehensive list.


If anyone can think of a thing with a more significant impact on me than the smoking ban I'd love to hear it. But I bet you can't.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Business in China

Some strange scheduling of television tonight. On Channel 4, Brits Get Rich In China, On Channel 5, Paul Merton in China. Both at 9 o'clock meaning that anybody with an interest in Chinese matters would have a problem (I realise we live in a world of HD recorders now but you get the idea).

I watched the first of these programmes. It was about three (unrelated) English blokes who had set out to China to make their fortunes - a 70 year-old army type, a wide-boy from Rochdale and a man with an unsavoury interest in cushions. It was both entertaining and educational.

The most interesting thing I learnt was that China has cities pretty much dedicated to making single items. For example there is a Tap City. And a Condom City. I can't imagine living in such a place. Well, I can, but I suspect my imaginings aren't very realistic. I hope they're not. I'd maybe like to live in Teddy Bear City.

I wonder what I would have learnt from Paul Merton.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Don't Touch Your Eyes

I chopped some chillies for dinner yesterday:

Hindsight is a wonderful thing - this turned out to be slightly too many for two people. Ow! Hot! As normal I ended up with chilli juice all over my hands, and it just doesn't wash off, not even with neat Fairy Liquid. This meant that inevitably I got some in my eyes later and that stings like a big bee.

I realised today that I had a load of latex gloves in my kitchen drawer, designed for exactly that kind of procedure (though I think I'd bought them for painting). But again with the hindsight thing.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Walk Near Sheriff Hutton

I bought a couple of walking books yesterday in the AA series (North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire). Having used these books in the past I have found the walks are generally good but the instructions are occasionally on the ambiguous side.

Me and K drove out to Sheriff Hutton today to do one of these walks. Perhaps optimistically it was a six miler that didn't even come with a map. I think we managed about 2 miles before realising that we just couldn't work out where to go any more. It said go left but the only thing there was a locked gate which didn't even look like it had a path on the other side of it. But we were definitely in the right place as we had just gone through a field which narrowed in the top right, and then an unusual combination of stile-footbridge-stile. But then we were stuck. It vaguely looked like someone may have built an electric fence in the way of where the walk was supposed to go. Not helpful. So we turned around and retraced our steps.

It was a good walk apart from that.

Animals we saw included:
Black Sheep
White Sheep
Assorted Birds and Ducks
Brown Sheep



Thursday, May 24, 2007

Does tea go off? No.

We spent some time today arguing about whether tea goes off or not. I'm quite clear that it doesn't but others have an issue with use-by dates and think that you can't drink tea after that time. Quite clearly ridiculous.

Here's why tea doesn't go off:
1. Because it's dried f***ing tea! It doesn't go off!!!

Although I will admit it might lose a little flavour after five years or so. But not in a dangerous way. And even if there was danger I'm pretty sure the boiling hot water would sort that out.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Top Labels

Here are the top 10 labels I have used on blog posts since Blogger introduced them.

1 Wii (7)
2= Food (6)
2= Music (6)
2= Pubs (6)
5= Christmas (5)
5= Metroid Prime (5)
5= Prague (5)
8= Toilets (4)
8= Trains (4)
8= York (4)

I find that quite a depressing list.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Helping Neighbours With IT Problems

Someone had left a note on the noticeboard in our flats asking how to get broadband faster than 512kbs. I wasn't sure how to answer, other than "ask your ISP to give you a faster line". Seems kinda obvious to me but maybe it was a stupid person asking.

So I've left a note back saying effectively, just that. I couldn't resist adding that I easily get 4Mbps and often faster. But it felt like showing off.

Strange thing was, that the guy who used to live in that flat also used to complain to me that he could never get fast broadband either...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Dalek Invasion of York

I went for a little run this afternoon, round one of my usual routes, past the Royal York Hotel. I glanced into the car park on my way past and was somewhat surprised to see a Dalek standing there, bold as you like. It didn't seem to be obviously planning to take over the world, but you never can tell - if I wanted to take over the world I probably wouldn't put a sign up saying what I was going to do.

The only thing it did seem to be obviously doing was posing for photos with a small girl. Now, I'm all for integrating offenders back into society, but there should be some limits. I think I'd draw the line slightly before Daleks. I'd also probably try and keep my kids away from them. I mean, if a Dalek moved into my neighbourhood I'd want to know about it. They should have a register ("Dalek Sec?", "Yes Miss", "Dalek Caan?", "Yes, Miss" etc).

So there was this Dalek. I just kept on running (this probably made it feel at home) as I hadn't got my camera with me. Which was a shame, really. I'd have liked to have a photo.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


I went go-karting on Thursday night, over at Monks Cross. We had (what felt like!) a long session (a "Monza Grand Prix") - 5 heats each, 2 semi-finals and a final. Each of the heats probably only lasted for under three minutes though so I guess it can't have been as long as it felt.

As ever, the karts are pretty scary to start with. Once you get used to them and start to go see what they can do, it gets a bit easier. But still scary. Thirty miles an hour is pretty damn fast when you're only inches from the floor.

My driving was actually pretty decent. I didn't make any mistakes of note and people found it almost impossible to overtake me as I was sticking to the racing line. However, my actual lap times weren't too great so I wasn't catching people up and overtaking them much either (except when they crashed). Of the five heats, I maintained my position in all of them except for one where I gained a place (but only because somebody was penalised a lap!).

This put me into sixth place out of eleven. Bang in the middle. In the semi finals, the first two finishers from each race were automatically put through to the final, and the fastest of the two third place finishers joined them. I came third in my race and lost out on getting into the final by about 12 hundredths of a second. Annoying, but I was pretty tired by then so didn't mind too much.

Maybe it's because I'm getting old but it did seem a lot more hard work than I remembered. I'm still aching in various places now. And it was very sweaty. Lots of us had shaky hands and found it hard to lift things.

We went to Maxis afterwards for a Chinese. We almost all had cokes to drink and so combined with the shakes it must have made us look like an AA meeting.

I like Maxis. But whilst the food is good, it does make you feel like you're in a Saga holiday to China. My, those oldies can shake it on the dance floor when they get going.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Making Friends Is Easy

I joined Facebook earlier this week. It's quite fun but possibly serves no useful purpose at all apart from letting you pretend you're friends with loads of people and haven't completely lost touch with them at all, honestly.

I joined Friendster years ago which as far as I can tell is a very similar sort of thing. I asked lots of my friends to join too and most of them refused so it was a bit rubbish - I was clearly well ahead of the times. Now social networking is the zeitgeist and everyone's doing it.

Facebook lets you join Networks of people who
a) were at the same uni as you or
b) work at the same company as you
c) live in the same place as you

I haven't done this yet because
a) you need a valid uni email address - I can't remember mine (it was 10 years ago!)
b) might do this but it feels a bit tragic (it's not like I can't look up people at work already, when I'm at work!)
c) there isn't a network for York

so I remain unaffiliated for now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Actuarial Dinner

I went to the Yorkshire Actuarial Society annual dinner last night. It was alright, as those kinds of thing go. There was a speech from the President of the Institute (which, for some minutes this afternoon, I debated whether I could count as CPD) plenty of wine, some food (bizarrely lacking in potato) and lots of Actuaries. Who'da thunk it.

Today I had a headache, and the important work tasks I was supposed to have started on Monday have been pushed back again to Thursday (maybe).

Monday, May 14, 2007

My week

A busy week this week:

Monday: Dancing
Tuesday: Actuarial Dinner in Leeds
Wednesday: Running
Thursday: Go-Karting
Friday: Horse Racing

Plus I'm flat out at work. Better than being bored, I suppose!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Eurovision 2007

It was the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest last night. Normally I'd go to some kind of proper party (or organise one myself) but I'd not expected to be around this year - I was supposed to be going to an AGM in Leeds, and I didn't know what time I'd be back in York. The meeting ended up being cancelled at fairly late notice so in the end we just watched it at home.

It was possibly the first time in the last ten years that I've not watched it with a big group of people and excessive alcohol (obviously I had some wine, you need that to get through it) so it felt a little quiet. But the entertainment was of the usual standard :-)

There were some spectacularly silly songs, most noticeably the French and Ukranian ones. Camp doesn't even come close. The French had gone very, very pink whilst the Ukranians were oh so shiny. But words aren't really enough to describe the full visceral idiocy of their costumes, dancing and indeed song. You can probably find them on YouTube.

The voting seemed as predictable as ever, with all the usual countries voting for their neighbours (who they are probably at war with for the rest of the year). I think it might help the UK next year if we split up into England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and maybe Cornwall, purely for the purposes of voting. It might lead to a few extra countries that'd vote for us...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Cowboy Picture

The cowboys rode horseless through York on Thursday night for the Pub Treasure Hunt and drank cowboy drinks, sang cowboy songs and talked cowboy toot.


We started at the Varsity (where we sensibly had food before starting the proper drinking - scampi and chips, an authentic Western dish) then went to
The Cross Keys, The Punch Bowl, 1331, The Last Drop Inn, The Three Legged Mare, Ha Ha and Orgasmic. Not too bad a selection of pubs all things considered.

No idea of the results yet. I think we'll have done ok overall but probably not in the top 3.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Why are they not called cowmen?

Pub Treasure Hunt XIV tonight. My team (me and my work colleagues) are going as cowboys. I don't think I have ever dressed as a cowboy before, at least not since I was a small boy, so it should be fun. My hat is especially fine (since it costs a whopping thirteen pounds!).

Sadly we have no horses to ride. This might make it easier to gain admission to York's various saloons, but it does mean we lose a little on the authenticity stakes. Only this lunchtime did I realise that we could have alleviated this with the careful use of a few half-coconuts. I don't think there is chance of us making that happen this afternoon, so we will have to be unhorsed cowboys.

Photo tomorrow, maybe.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Banking at Night

I'm going go-karting one evening next week. It'll be fun. But first I had to pay for it, with money. Iasonas had paid for the group so I transferred the money to him at work yesterday morning. Then I dropped him an email to say that I had done that so that he'd know. I received an email back saying that he'd only read the email saying I transferred it the previous evening. This confused me somewhat.

Had I been sending emails back in time? Had my friend developed precognitive emails?


What I had forgotten was that after getting home a bit drunk from the housewarming party on Saturday night I seemed to have decided to play on the computer. And catch up with my internet banking tasks.

And then as normal, by the morning, it was all mist.

You see a lot of people warning people about internet security. They should warn you more about using it whilst inebriated.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Faded Seaside Glamour

Today was a bank holiday so me and the girlfriend did what all proper British people do on a bank holiday, head for the coast, Scarborough to be precise.

Scarborough Harbour

I think the last time I went there was about 5 years ago to see Belle & Sebastian playing at the Futurist Theatre on the seafront. Whilst it was an excellent show it was a pain that it was so far away and annoying to get to. And I was driving so I couldn't even have a beer.

Today, we took the train instead (though there was no fey pop to be had upon arrival). It's quickish and runs every hour from York. I figured that the A64 would likely be well busy, especially as the promised rain seemed absent. It's so much easier to get the train and avoid the queues and parking.

All seaside towns are strange places. They always seem to be in need of a lick of paint. Scarborough seafront has a mixture of really old nice buildings and garishly coloured modern monstrosities (in need of the aforementioned lick of paint). It feels like if they only had some kind of proper town planning going on (perhaps 50 years ago) they could make something really nice.

It was reasonably hard to find somewhere that looked half decent to have lunch in. In the end we went for one of those big chain bar things (Baracuda) where you know you won't have an awful meal but not a Michelin star either. We both had surf 'n' turf. Mine was rare and came medium, hers was well done and came very well done. As ever. But it tasted fine enough and was not too expensive. We found a much nicer looking (non-smoking) bar later in the afternoon, called Mist. Looks like it could be worth checking out if you ever find yourself in Scarborough without a clue where to go.

Other things you can do there:
- buy rock
- sit on the beach
- donkey rides (I thought these had been outlawed years ago)
- go and see G4 at the Futurist Theatre (but only if you're braindead)

Sunday, May 06, 2007


I played croquet for the first time yesterday. Despite spending three years at a university where some people would have you believe croquet is more popular than chips, I never played. I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe I was drunk.

So what trail of events led to this place? It's a long story... No it's not. It's a short story. I went to a housewarming party and they had a garden and a croquet set.

It seemed like quite a fun game. I don't see why the hoops have to be so small (or the balls so big) but it seems to have a nice vindictive streak running through it in that you can often to choose to either put your ball through a hoop, or instead to piss off another player by whacking their ball into the next garden.

I wasn't particularly good at it (predictably, since it's a game requiring physical coordination) but I did get better later on. Perhaps that was either from the beer kicking in and giving me good skills, or the lack of light beginning to hamper the other people as the night wore on. I don't think I'll be taking part in the international championships any time soon.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A Joke

My favourite joke this week:

Q: What have a cordless drill and The Championship got in common?
A: Neither of them have wires


Thursday, May 03, 2007

More Sauce

Burger, waffles and salad. I'm still nowhere near finished with the Reggae Reggae Sauce though. And I have to eat it all within the next couple of days!

Unrelatedly, if somoeone says "it's not funny" after relating something they've done, it almost certainly is.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bus Jumping

I was wondering whether Evil Knievel ever got confused (perhaps after a night out drinking Special Brew) and tried to jump over a motorbike whilst driving a bus? I had to catch a bus myself today but no such excitement happened. Due to my bus driver being boring.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Thoughts on Brussels

After a weekend in Brussels, I have some thoughts on the city. As ever, there are ten of them. Note that these only reflect the two days we spent there which may not be representative of the rest of the year as a whole. Here they are:

1. It seems like a relatively quiet city (notwithstanding items 4 and 7 below). There isn't much traffic given it's the capital of the EU and everywhere seems quite peaceful.

2. They have good beer. Some of it is quite strong, but like all beer drunk abroad in Europe, it doesn't seem to get you as drunk as if you drink it in England.

3. It's amazing that you can get there from England on the nice train. I know I mentioned this the other day, but it's still cool.

4. On Saturday afternoon, a lot of people were blowing their car horns for no good reason. Not occasionally, incessantly. It was odd. Like a couple of girl goats not invited to hang out with the cigar smoking boy goats, we had no horns and were unable to join in.

5. The city is of a size that you can walk pretty much anywhere you need to without having to resort to public transport. All cities should have this property. (And relatedly, I can't believe that it now costs four quid for a single trip on the London Underground. Four whole quid!)

6. Travel from the "Upper Town" to the "Lower Town" is via a hill. Perhaps a sensible person wouldn't be surprised by this due to the names, but it surprised me. I'd expected a flat city.

7. On Sunday, the city was overrun, packed to the rafters with Scouts. And others similar to scouts. And girl ones too. And when I say overrun, I mean nearly a hundred thousand of the buggers. That's a lot of scouts. It was a little disconcerting. They were quite noisy but seemed to be having fun.

8. If you get to Brussels and change your mind and decide you'd rather go to a different Belgian city, you can do that because the Eurostar tickets allow you to go onwards to any city of your choice! We didn't take advantage of this as it meant I would have bought a guidebook for no good reason.

9. There is a lot of sitting out on the street going on in bars and restaurants. I think that even if a restaurant is posh and/or expensive, it feels cheap if you're sitting out on the street. Until you get the bill.

10. There are less sprouts than you might imagine. Unless you have a limited imagination with regard to thinking about sprouts. I don't. I can imagine them with every meal.

And that's Brussels!