Monday, October 27, 2008

Handbag Pushers

Like many people, I'm watching The Wire on DVD. This makes me aware that Baltimore is very like many European cities (eg Athens). I will explain:

In The Wire, gangs of black fellas hang out on street corners and sell drugs to passers by. In Europe it's exactly the same except that for some reason the drugs are replaced by handbags. I don't really understand why this is. My best guess is that each handbag contains a dose of heroin. The bags are the equivalent of the little glass phials used by the tv dealers. The European guys are cleverer though and have worked out that the police can see the drugs through the glass and so a handbag is a much better thing to hide the heroin in.

An alternative theory (not mine) is that they are selling handbags to finance organized crime. I think this is unlikely unless the crime they are organising is to steal more handbags (which is how the drugs trade works).

I don't think that The Wire would have been as successful if it been about handbags instead of drugs.

Although, and this has only just occurred to me, maybe it is an allegory about the european handbag trade! Yes, I think that's it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Learning To Read

We are in Athens at the moment. It's been my first time in Greece and I must confess I've been a little surprised at how foreign it is. Or at least how foreign it seems... It's the writing, you see. They still actually use ancient Greek letters out of maths lessons. They use them for writing though, not just for algebra. On signs, menus, books, newspapers, everywhere.

I've had to learn to read all over again!

It's really rather like when I learnt to read English as a tiny child. I have to spell out each word letter by letter and then try and see what kind of word it forms. If I'm lucky it makes a Greek sounding word. Translating this to English is then a separate problem!

(quite a big problem as I can't seem to remember more than "hello" and "yes")

I'm definitely getting better at it though. And it makes a fun competitive game to see which of me or K can work out a given word the quickest.

Incidentally, we've been on a cruise for the last week. An actual cruise on an actual cruise ship! More on that when I return to England.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Photo Recursion

So I'm in this restaurant in Bruges and the cameras come out and people take photos of people and sometimes you take photos of yourself and sometimes you take photos of yourself taking photos of yourself taking photos of yourself taking photos of yourself taking photos of yourself taking photos of yourself taking photos of yourself taking photos of yourself taking photos of yourself taking photos of yourself taking photos of yourself taking photos of yourself...

Me, Me, Me, Me

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Further running

My third Great North Run passed safely and I got my time down to 2 hours 13 minutes, 2 minutes faster than the last year. One of those was because I didn't need to stop for a wee. Afterwards I seem to have gone a little insane as I have now entered myself into the 2009 Edinburgh Marathon, in May. Not sure how well I'll do, but I figure that I'm probably fitter now than I have ever been before and so if I was ever to do a marathon now is the time to go for it.

But it might kill me.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

GNR No 3

Great North Run tomorrow. I've kept to my training schedule and my third ten miler last Sunday went pretty well so I'm confident that I shouldn't have too many problems tomorrow. Famous last words... My main worry is that it might be a bit cold and rainy before the race but I've got a plastic sheet thing for emergencies so hopefully it'll be alright. I'm not sure I'll beat last year's time but hopefully it won't be much slower.

See you on the other side!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Poor Excuse for Laziness

If you're wondering why my posts have become somewhat sporadic... it's the credit crunch / world financial meltdown / toxic debts / etc. Or maybe laziness. Or X-Factor. But it's probably the crunch. Everything's the crunch.

Monday, September 22, 2008

100 Kazoos

Hope&Social's Blues Bar gig ended somewhat inspiredly/erratically (delete according to personal preference) yesterday afternoon when they handed out 100 kazoos to the audience to replace the brass on the final song (whose title I have temporarily misplaced). This might have worked well except that the kazoos were quite cheap and not too easy to play until you got the hang of it. I was brilliant at kazooing but the rest of the audience seemed to have some problems. The band said they were going to record the song but if they did I'm not sure it will go down as one of the best live audience performances ever made. Not even the best one they've made.

It was fun though.

I was in the little boys room when I heard them announce in the main room that they were handing out the kazoos. I therefore had to finish my business very quickly in order to head back and grab an instrument. It was worth the rush.

And I made sure to wash my hands first, in case you were worried.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

H&S Weekend

York has a brand spanking new music venue, The Duchess. It's in the building that used to be The Stonebow Snooker Club. Now it's a venue. We went on Friday night for the first time, to see the essential Hope&Social. It felt like being in another city! It's big, looks good, sounds good and has decent beer. I'll certainly be going back regularly.

And in the meantime we're off to the teeny tiny Harrogate Blues Bar this afternoon for a second bout of H&S.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Serious Merger Implications

In the news today, it looks like HBOS and Lloyds could be merging. This would create a big bank but I've realised that it could have quite serious repercussions in York. Outside M&S at the top of Stonebow, a merger of the two branches would actually block the road, impeding access to The Duchess and Fibbers. Here's an artists impression of what the merged bank might look like:



I'm glad I've had the opportunity to get this problem out in the open. The BBC seem to not be mentioning it. Censoring, fascist scum.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It starts...

Well, it's about bloomin' time. But good news nonetheless. Harmonix have finally put out the long-awaited patch for (PS3) Rock Band that lets it use the Guitar Hero 3 guitar. And it works perfectly! Finally we can have two-guitar Rock Band (or even full 4 player if I had any friends!). Haven't actually tried it properly yet mind other than a quick test to see if it worked.

Now all I need is a GH3 patch to use the RB guitar. I'm sure it's on the way. Maybe.

And one thing's for sure, I'm not buying a second drum kit so they'd better bloody make sure the RB drums work with GHWT.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A music book I won't be buying

Looking in the window of Banks's Music Shop today I spotted a book of guitar tab. It wasn't Travis or the Foo Fighters. It was something else, something wronger. It was a book of music from Guitar Hero. It lets you play all the songs you've learnt to play on your fake plastic guitar on a real guitar instead of a fake plastic guitar.

Now, maybe I'm missing the point, but isn't the whole f***ing point of guitar hero that you do it on a fake plastic guitar rather than a real guitar? It helps you avoid the world of broken strings and lost plectri. Computer games are not an introduction to the real world. When I was a kid I spent hours (minutes) playing Advanced Lawnmower Simulator on my Spectrum. It was great because it let me have all the excitement of mowing an actual lawn with an actual petrol lawnmower but without having to leave my bedroom. It didn't in any way inspire me to go out and get my own petrol lawnmower. And I never saw garden centers selling ALS branded lawnmower instruction books in them. And believe me, I visited a lot of garden centers when I was a kid. Apologies if it's garden centre by the way.

So my point broadly is that the Guitar Hero tab book is daft and stupid and you should boycott it lest this stupidity escalate.

And I'm not planning to buy "The Yie Ar Kung Fu Guide to Martial Arts" or "Leisure Suit Larry Teaches Humping" either.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Chocolate Post

Do you ever post chocolate bars to yourself in your work's internal post because it's nice to receive chocolate bars in the internal post? I don't. But I considered it.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Portal Music

I'm as normal playing catch-up in the world of computer games, still pretty much being caused by my semi-obsession with finishing all the Final Fantasy games. But at the weekend I found the time to play through the wonderful Portal. Everything I'd read about it was true - it was funny, clever, fun and completely innovative. It was also refreshingly short. Hard to say much about the best bits of it without spoiling the game for those who haven't played it. But I will say that the end-credits have provided me with an amazing ringtone.

Possibly even a geekier ringtone than the Blakes 7 theme I was using before.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bad Detectives Boys

We watched Bad Boys last night. I haven't seen it since VHS and so it was pretty much like watching a brand new film since I didn't remember the story at all. It's good, not a classic, but fun. It got a lot funnier once I started to do the following thing. You can do this too if you want! Every time Will Smith is on screen, prettend he's Robert Powell. And every time Martin Lawrence is on screen pretend he's Jasper Carrot. It makes it hilarious.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Let's shampoo the dogs of York...

York must have very clean dogs. I say this not as a complement to the lesser girls of York but instead because of two things I have seen today.

The first thing I saw was a van driving round the ring road that contained a mobile dog cleaning service. If you phone them up they will come around to your house and clean your dog for you. I found this quite an odd idea but not as odd as the next thing.

The next thing was a shop on Tadcaster Road called Metro Dogs. They offer self service, coin-operated dog-washing machines. Yes, I did just say "self service, coin-operated dog-washing machines". You read it right the first time, you are not drunk or dyslexic. Well, maybe you are and if so, good for you. Well done on being able to read the vodka label.

I really can't believe there's a big market for coin-operated dog-washing machines. Dogs are supposed to be smelly and dirty. That's the whole point of dogs. If people wanted a clean pet they'd have a cat or a fish.

So if this was being dragondenned to me (it is a verb!) I'd be saying, "sorry, but I'm out" at this stage. There do seem to be franchise opportunities available for any readers outside of York though. Details are on their website if you're interested!

I don't see why people don't just throw their dogs in a canal to clean them like they did in the old days. Much easier.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Similar/Dissimilar Films

We were thinking tonight about two things. In both cases, you have to think of two films where one is a sequel to the other.
1. Which film and its sequel are most similar?
2. Which film and its sequel are most dissimilar?

I have answers but I don't want to influence you so I'll post them in the comments.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

BMX shame?

I think I am actually going to be quite ashamed if Team GB wins gold in the BMXing. That's like claiming credit for being best at hopscotch or kiss-catch.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

If I had GPS in my legs

On the TV at the moment is a combine harvester that doesn't need a human to drive it - it is all automatic based on GPS readings. Quite clever. I actually start to wonder how people could ever navigate before GPS came along. I guess they did it in the same way that people kept crappy diaries before blogs came along.

I was wondering though whether I could have the same technology (the combine harvester not the blog) installed in my actual legs, to help me when I go running. I'd just input a route and then sit back and let the legs do all the work. My brain would be kept free allowing me to spend time composing poetry or admiring wildlife. What fruits might emerge from such an endeavour!

I figure I could also even simplify the route planning process. Rather than having to trace one out on the internet (and again, I ask, how did people know how far they were running before the web?) I could just type in a target distance and the GPS magic machine would plan a route for me, hopefully avoiding the car GPS pitfalls of being told to drive through rivers or fall into pits.

I might even be able to harvest crops along the way.

So if any scientists are reading, you can have this idea for free, dragonden it if you want (and that is a verb, I won't hear anyone say it isn't), just make it happen. Technologise my legs. I'm willing to spend up to 100 English pounds buying it when it's ready so I could become the $200 dollar man! And who says inflation is ever upwards. Just witness the price of series 4 of Buffy on DVD. When it came out several years ago it was about Seventy Quid. Now it's available for around fifteen. Inflation? Pah. Stick Buffy in your basket.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

1997 Comedy = 2008 Reality

It's slightly surreal to watch Brass Eye on DVD and then when it finishes turn straight to Newsnight on actual TV. It's hard to see the join.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2008 Running Update

Up until July this year my running had been a little sporadic and certainly not the regular two or three times a week of the previous two years. Reasons for this included but were not limited to: the shit weather; an injury that may not have existed; laziness; lack of GNR fear.

At the start of July, with three months to go until the big race I had to get my act in gear and become more disciplined. I put a running plan together. I turned down weeknight invitations to the pub if it clashed with my running plan. I entered a state of mental toughness. And slowly, but surely I was able to get going again. I also entered myself into the York Millennium Bridge 5k race, which was today. I did this race for the first time in 2006 during the Run-A-Thon 500 and got a time of 29 mins and 29 seconds.

I've generally felt that I've been slower this year than I was for the last two years so I wasn't sure how much I'd beat the time by. My best practice run for that distance so far had been about 29 mins. But the day before the 2006 race I'd had a fever so may not have been on top form. Race conditions are always different to normal runs. Adrenaline and crowds. I didn't know what would happen.

Come the race, I was a bit nervous, like before an exam. Once we got going I started at a steady pace and soon decided I'd maybe started too fast. But I kept going anyway because I couldn't see my watch to see how long I was taking. And in any case the mile/km markers were confusing me. The rest of the race happened. I nearly fell in a huge puddle in the last 50m but managed to only stumble.

And I clocked my time at 26 mins 26 secs. I was well happy with this. It meant I'd managed not only my best ever 5k time, but also done probably my three fastest ever miles, all at once.

Now I realise it's not Olympic standard (actually, I'm guessing as I have little interest in the Olympics). But it was good for me. So happy I am and I bloomin' deserved the huge takeaway pizzas we had for tea :-)

Next race is the Great North run on 5th October. Longest distance I've done this year is six miles, less than half the full distance. But I'm sticking to my plan and my plan will get me through. Oh yes it will.

Raaaaaaaaa! (That was supposed to be a shout of encouragement/meaning/pain)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Remote Fantasies

It's not exactly a secret that the PSP has struggled a little since launch, in the face of some stiff competition from the DS. It's lacked killer games and has seemed a little unsure exactly what it's for. Is it just a games machine or a full portable multimedia device? I've held off buying one until last week, and the thing that finally pushed me over the edge was the release of Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. Being something off an FF nut, it was the final little bit of temptation needed.

First impressions of the machine are very good. It looks good and feels nice. UMD is a bit strange, and it currently lacks internal storage (will be remedied when my 8Gb memory stick arrives in the mail) but overall it's a nice little machine. Even K liked it. It's certainly no iPhone (or iPod Touch even) but it is a nice little bit of kit.

But one thing on it has really, really impressed me because it's really, really cool. It has a feature called Remote Play that lets you link via wi-fi to your PS3. You can then use the PSP to remotely control the PSP. You even see what you'd normally see on the TV screen on the PSP's screen. But the really cool thing is that you can play PS1 games on the PSP over wi-fi. They can be either ones that have been downloaded from the PS store onto the PS3's hard drive or even ones that are actual PS1 games inserted in the PS3's drive.

I tested this today. I stuck the original FFVII in the machine and turned it off. I then got the PSP and used it to remotely turn on the PS3, and then selected the game. I was then able to play FFVII directly on the PSP! It was amazing. I think I'll be able to use this as an excuse to play through the game again! All the streaming video works fine. The game works fine. It's all magic!

And the most amazing part (untested) is that you can also do exactly the same thing over the actual internet!

I haven't worked out a way to change discs over the internet yet though.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Man Baggage

I've succumbed to meterosexual life today and purchased a manbag. Not that I totally need one, but I often don't have enough or big enough pockets. Especially in summer when it's too hot to wear a jacket with its attendant pocketage.

I like my bag. It has lots of pockets, inside and out. It has one that's ideal for my iPod. And one inside for my phone (though I suspect if it went off I wouldn't be able to answer it before it stopped ringing). I could put papers in it if I ever took work home. Or maybe a newspaper.

Actually, I'm not sure what I'm going to use it for. I think I might have bought an expensive, overly large iPod case...

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Watching The Bill, Live

It's been all go here this evening, outside at least. I believe that all new property developments in the UK (or possibly some parts of it) are now obliged to designate some of it for Social Housing. This is a relatively sensible policy designed to prevent the formation of sink estates. The majority of people living in such housing are nice enough but it is hard to deny that they include a much higher proportion of drunks, druggies and dreadfuls than would be found elsewhere.

I live quite close to the Social Housing in my development and it's not unusual for the police to be called for one reason or another. I like to think that we just have friendly police round here who like to drop in for a cup of tea every now and then. Or maybe it's where they get their drugs.

Today there's been a lot of noise throughout the day. Mostly shouting and whatnot. Then around seven o'clock three lads were out in the car park shouting and swearing at each other. It was actually getting to the point where I was considering calling the cops myself. But I didn't need to because one of my neighbours had clearly got there first and a police car pulled in. The police got up and had heated discussions with the lads (we were watching through the curtains). The discussions got very heated and ended up with the police using a stun-gun on one of them, at which point the shot man fell to the ground (and was at least a bit quieter). The police then called for back-up.

Within a few minutes, two more cars and three vans had arrived. This made the car park very full and I was glad that I hadn't left the supermarket shopping until then (also it's Sunday so they'd be shut but you get the idea). I couldn't tell how many actual police there were but it must have been at least 12, probably more.

Sadly, I don't think anyone else got shot. I couldn't really tell what was going on as there was a lot of shouting, swearing and overlapping noise. Also I was trying to watch The 4400 on DVD and it was a good one.

After a while everyone left. Some in the front seats of the vans, some probably in the locked up sections of the backs of the vans. Some in cars.

So not a great anecdote, in that I don't have any detail or understanding of what was going on. But I did see a c**k get shot with a stun-gun and that was entertaining.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wave the children!

It looks like Google's Street View service is going to go ahead in the UK.. Fun!

Whilst visiting my parents last week we spied one of the special cars, the ones with a tree on top, driving around Sheffield. Later on, whilst in the house, it actually came down our street and went in and out of all the little dead ends. I found this quite exciting and made a special effort to wave at it from the living room window, with the hope that I could be immortalised forever (probably with a blurred out face). I also held up one of my nephs (I forget which) to the window so they could be on it too. It's important to give kids new experiences.

Privacy be damned!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Pop-Singer Fear of FFX2

I finished Final Fantasy X. Good story as always, buy not one of my favourite games in the series. Both levelling up and progressing in general seemed extremely linear, and there often seemed to be far too many uniteruptable cut-scenes.

None of this has stopped me going straight into it's sequel, Final Fantasy X2 though. Not even simple things like how the sun is out, orPortal is unopened on my shelf. First impressions are... er?? Yuna's now not a summoner but a... pop-singer? That's odd. I'm going to need a little more time here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Luck of the Oirish

I don't normally do well with tips I've had off people but yesterday at the races I had a good feeling. I'd been given tips by a fellow from Ireland and both his first two won their races, netting me close to a hundred squid. After that I pretty much stopped betting.

I was sodding hot though. Same as the day before. Same as today. I think I may have some burn. And running at midday on Friday was total lunacy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Where's Radovan?

I found out today that The Southern Alps are in New Zealand. I'd initially assumed Italy due to that being where the south end of The Alps is but I was wrong. It's New Zealand. I told a colleague that they were called The Southern Alps because The Alps start in France, go down through Switzerland into Italy and then go straight through the Centre Of The Earth before poking out of New Zealand. It was only when he checked on Wikipedia that he realised I was taking the piss somewhat. I will spare him a name and shame.

We also had an entertaining game of "Where's Radovan Karadzic been hiding". Here he is as now on the BBC. So... Has he been at

1. The Ernest Hemingway convention?
2. In Only Fools & Horses?
3. A Santa Parade?
4. Recording Heavy Metal music?

Or has he been elsewhere? You decide.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Why I Got The Mail

I bought the Mail on Sunday today. Not because I want the paper, it's rubbish. I haven't even opened it. I bought it because they were giving the new McFly album away.

I'm not sure which part of this is wrongest.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Zimbabwian Hyper Inflation

I know that the current situation in Zimbabwe isn't particularly funny but I did find a very funny article in The Guardian on inflation rates there. They are somewhat large. The official rate is currently 2.2m%. It's not often that you get an "m" and a "%" together but they've managed it there. That's pretty bad but the true figure is thought to be as high as 15m%.

My favourite bit is about the limits people can withdraw from banks each day. Normal people are only allowed to withdraw $100 billion a day. One hundred billion. My little finger is at the side of my mouth as I write that.

But normal people are paupers compared to the armed forces. They can withdraw a gob-stopping, mind-mangling $1.5 trillion dollars a day.

And it's worth about five English Pounds.

Please note that all figures quoted here are now out of date.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How to traverse the Scotch Border

So... Edinburgh to York via car. What's the quickest way? A1 is easiest but it seems to take an age. I'm pretty sure that going back towards Glasgow and via the motorways from there could be better. I think today we were over four hours from E to Y on the A1 and that was with pretty clear roads. Can this be improved on?

Plus side is that you get to see some cool sceneries that you don't see off of the train.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Meat! Loaf! Live!

We went to see the mighty Meat Loaf last night at Castle Howard. It was a tortorous route that had been set up to get people there from the A64. Mental. Coming home was a little easier but also darker and wetter.

It rained a lot all evening.

Meat Loaf at Howard Castle

It was fun though. He's perhaps not in his prime form but can still belt them out. And he is a legend after all.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Exterminaten!

We went on my parents' boat at the weekend. They were off on it for two weeks but they wanted some help for the first full day which contained a flight of sixteen locks. They (correctly) figured this could be a bit much for the two of them alone and a couple of extra pairs of hands would speed things up and reduce effort. I didn't mind too much going along to help, but it would have been nice if they'd thought to mention the fact that the second day had a flight of eighteen locks. That just seemed to have slipped their minds. Must be the age.

So on Saturday night I find myself in a canal boat moored in the middle of nowhere, with no TV reception. And the last episode of Dr Who starting soon. Darnit!

We decided to go and find a local pub instead. It wasn't too far but it did involve climbing a fairly long hill. The pub was nice and had a big telly. There were a few people in the room it was in but we chanced our luck and asked if they'd mind putting Doctor Who on it. They said ok!

It started well but soon became apparent that the pub was going to be too noisy or the TV too quiet or both, even when we moved to sit up close. I was able to watch the whole thing easily, on possibly the biggest screen I've ever seen Dr Who on. But I only caught about a quarter of the dialogue. This wasn't ideal and by the end I was quite angry.

My ire was especially aimed at two middle aged fat bald blokes sitting just under the telly who talked through the whole thing, and a family with small children who talked and ran around constantly. C**ts, the lot of them. It's not like it wasn't a big pub with lots of other space they could have gone and sat in for an hour. I'd have happily moved if they'd wanted to watch football or something.

Once home in York on Monday, we watched the episode again off of the recorder and I really enjoyed it, though I'd be lying if I said it was full of surprises at that point. I particularly liked the German Daleks shouting "Exterminaten!". Not sure if that's genuine German but it was genuinely funny.

After that I watched "Remembrance of the Daleks" out of Sylvester McCoy's tenure in the 80s. It was much as I remembered except that in my head it was set in the 80s, not the 60s and I'd forgotten some (most) of the twists. It's actually a pretty decent piece of TV but it was certainly of a much smaller scale than the episode I'd seen prior to it! There's a particularly nice bit when someone who's been only seen from reverse in the first three episodes turns out to not be who you assume it is (ie Davros).

I also remember that seeing a Dalek glide up some stairs was big news and a big twist when initially shown. It doesn't look as impressive now I've seen the buggers fly through space.

And for the record, I don't think Davros is dead. He'll have slipped into an escape pod or something at the last second. Again.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Me and a Dame

I touched Dame Kelly Holmes off of the running yesterday:

Me and Kelly Holmes

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Toilet Trouble

We've been having problems at work with someone intentionally blocking the toilets in the evening. I suggested (innocently) that in order to find out who the culprit was we should start monitoring people's movements...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

IT Crowd Menus

I've been watching the excellent The IT Crowd (season 1) on DVD and I think it might be a contender for best DVD menus ever. Not because they do anything particularly new but because of the animation on them.

Anyone who grew up in a world of 8-bit home computers will feel instantly at home, from the "loading screen" onwards. There are loveingly crafted pastiches of Head Over Heels and Jet Set Willy that last for ages. You can just sit there watching for ages. I could anyway. And did.

They're probably worth buying the DVD for alone. Think of it as some great animation with six bonus episodes of a geek sitcom thrown in.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

FF Film

In a continuation of my bid to work my way through the entire Final Fantasy Canon, I watched Final Fantasy: The Spirits within this afternoon. I quite enjoyed it. Storywise it's a bit odd and doesn't really have anything much in common with the FF games apart from there being a character called Cid. There's always a Cid. But there aren't any chocobos and I didn't spot a single crystal. It did feel like they'd tried to cram too much story into the running time - I'm not sure that what's there actually makes a lot of sense.

In a nutshell, ghosts from a destroyed planet come to Earth and kill everyone. And they can only be defeated with either a) a really big space gun (that the bad man wants to use) or b) eight "spirits" that need to be collected (that the nice girl wants to use).

But where it really excels is the quality of the computer animation. Given that it's already seven years old (the film came out in 2001) I thought it looked astonishing. There are times when you really forget that it's not real people and locations there. I'd love to see what they could to with today's technology.

It's so good that it's quite easy to watch and not worry too much about the story. Just enjoy the geek factor.

And I'm really looking forward to FF XIII on the PS3...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Penultimate Who

I've just watched this week's penultimate Doctor Who... Wow. Cool. I won't give anything away here but the end was great. Hmm, hard to write about it without spoilers... so I won't.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Romantic Fiction

I was astounded to see today that the York branch of WH Smith has a section in its book department labelled "Paranormal Romance". Who on earth (or beyond) let that become a genre? They also have a section for historical romances (called something like "Romance & Saga"!?). As well as the normal plain "Romance" section.

I wonder whether readers of romantic novels are really so single minded that they will only read certain types of romantic novel. "I like to read romantic novels involving dwarves from circus freak-shows" is not a comment I can remember reading on anybody's CV. So why separate the books? Will the historic romancers beat up the present-day romancers? These people should be the prime movers in the Make Love Not War camp. They should be embracing each other not erecting barriers.

Anyway, I just thought it was a little odd.

Incidentally, I was just walking past. Not browsing. Honestly. I only read science fiction novels involving sentient spaceships, sub-lightspeed space travel and robots called Dave.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Best Sweet Ever

I think I may have found the best sweet in the world, ever. It was found in the city centre branch of Budgens, York:

Best Sweet Ever (1)

It may look like just a blue plastic hand but in reality it is so much more. Near the "wrist" are two buttons that transform this mere hand into something else. Something better. Something magnificent.

They turn it into a Scissors, Paper, Stone machine!

Press the button on the right to do scissors. Press the one on the left to do rock. And here's the clever bit, press neither button to do paper!

Best Sweet Ever (2) Best Sweet Ever (3) Best Sweet Ever (4)

Can you imagine how much fun we had in the pub on Friday night with five of these babies?!

I think there's some kind of candy in there too but I'm not quite sure where or how to get to it.

Also makes a handy back-scratcher.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ujala Update

Ujala fans of York... You've probably all been a little bit worried recently about the fate of The Ujala after its recent rebranding as Delhi Spice.

We checked it out this evening and the good news is that it's exactly the same (apart from the name). Same food, same decor, same Sambuca. All is good.

Thank the curry lord.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bad Reviews

I never really got on with the Mac version of Firefox 2. Feature and usability wise it was great but for some reason it would crash frequently (once a day or so) and it was just too darned annoying. I've therefore been using Flock instead, as I quite like it, even though I don't use most of its specialist web 2.0 capabilities.

Firefox 3 came out yesterday so I thought I'd give it another go and see if it was more stable than the last version. So far I can't tell as I've only used it for ten minutes (and I'm writing this at work in IE). The main thing I've noticed is the way that the "back" button is now bigger than the "forward" button. That'll be a great help.

And that's the end of my comprehensive review.

But wait, you cry. That's a rubbish review! You've barely used it or seen the new things!

Well, I say "Pah"! I saw a review of Rock Band in Scotland on Sunday at the weekend and the girl who reviewed it hadn't even had a go on the drums (as she couldn't afford them or something). Now what, what, what is the point of that!? Would she review a restaurant without trying the food? Would she review a hotel based purely on the valet parking? Maybe she would. But the upshot is that she's lowered the bar for me in terms of what a review needs to cover (she gave RB 4/5 by the way).

So there.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Brief Who Post

I rewatched the Doctor Who episode Blink tonight. Genius it is. I'm quite excited about the prospect of Steven Moffat helming the whole thing. This deserves a longer post.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Silent Coach

Quiet coaches on trains are a lot better than they used to be. Mainly because they have now twigged that walkmans etc can be quiet if you use headphones. And why wouldn't you.

But there is still a big problem - other people and specifically, other people's children. They don't shut up.

There should be a simple rule for admission to the QC: If you make noise, you're out. This would include:
- shouting
- crying
- talking to the person next to you
- talking on the phone
- talking quietly
- singing
- and so on

This would automatically exclude children, idiots and people who just yap, yap, yap. I'd also exclude people who rattle food wrappers too loudly.

It would be a nice place to make a train journey in.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

CD Shredding: Example

I thought I'd try out the CD shredder. I found an old CD off of The Observer, featuring tunes by Radiohead, Nick Cave and some other people I now can't remember because I also shredded the case. Here's the video:



It seems to work, though I was expecting smaller pieces. I guess it still makes the CD quite hard to use afterwards should you be of a mind to.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Canteen Error Talk

Tall Girl In Canteen: Hello!
Me: Hello!
TGIC: How was cricket last night?
Me: Cricket?
TGIC: I thought you were playing cricket last night?
Me: Don't think so...
TGIC: Oh, sorry I'm confusing you with someone else.
Me: Ok!
TGIC: I'm tired. Sorry.

I think I'd have remembered playing cricket if I'd played cricket so this does seem to definitely be her mistake, not my memory.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Hot Meat

Red Chilli for tea tonight. I thought I was hungry but it turned out I could eat little. The soup was hot but filling and the main course was huge and featured a selection of meats and fish that were mostly off uncertain origin. Tasty though and very spicy. I think I ate a quarter of it. If I'm optimistic.

K did slightly better. But not much.

Afterwards I felt hugely bloated but am not too bad now. I think it must be great food for dieters.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Don't Sleep On My Sofa

Certain (short, ginger & welsh) people really should learn not to fall asleep on my sofa. There are now some more great photos and for the first time ever... a video. I may post them online. Unless I'm paid enough...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Origins of Oasis Titles

I was reading a little about Krakatoa earlier and I discovered that the tsunami it created when it went off in the 1880s destroyed a coastal town in Java called "Anger". And it occured to me that this might be where the phrase "Don't look back in anger" comes from. Because if you looked back you'd have lost valuable running time and might have ended up dead. It sounds plausible to me. I've so far failed to find any evidence one way or another though.

Tomorrow: What is a Shakermaker?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Death of Shredder (not the one out of TMNT)

Although I mentioned that Tescos have a fine range of spices and sauces, I forgot to mention that they have a shite range of shredders. Just the one, and a "value" one at that. And even if you wanted it, it's on top of some shelves so you couldn't reach it if you tried.

This is relevant because we wanted to buy a new shredder. The old one (a relatively cheap one from Sainsbury's, who do at least stock a choice) died recently. Not sure what caused it but I think it may just have been left turned on for too long and irrevocably overheated. I figured this time we could get a sturdier one. So since Tescos failed me I had a look around town this lunchtime. In the end I got one from Rymans (or whatever it's called now). It does 8 sheets at once and also does credit cards. And it also has a special slot for shredding CDs. I've never felt the need to shred a CD before, but I reckon you could make good Christmas decorations out of the bits.

But most importantly it claims to have an overheating cut-off so that it will last longer than the old one.

I'm going to have a lot of shredding to do tonight - a large stack has built up since the death of Shredder #1. Paper only though.

The main problem I had with the old one (apart from it being rubbish) was that I always used to make a mess when emptying it. When I tipped the basket into a plastic bag I'd always miss a bit. One time I missed completely. But it did occur to me this morning when I gave some though to this matter that you could just put a bin liner or plastic bag in the basket before doing the shredding. It might work. Emptying it would then be as simple as emptying a bin. Anyone got any experience of this?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Good Sauce

The big Tesco in York has a fine range of spices and sauces. A fine range. Better than Sainsburys and smaller Tescos. And I haven't inspected Budgens too closely but I'm guessing it's not as good. If you like spices, sauces and spicy sauces then check it out.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Year Off Big Brother?

I've watched every (UK) series of Big Brother and have mostly enjoyed it. It has the odd boring patch but I can typically manage to watch it every night. And also watch BBLB and BBBM from time to time too. Series 9 starts later this week.

And at the moment I am intending to not watch it. Not even the first one where we meet the freaks. I'd enjoy it if I did watch, but I'm just figuring how nice it will be to have an extra spare hour each day. I could do useful things in that time like sleep or play Final Fantasy or drink.

I'm not sure how long I'll manage though - it's normally quite unavoidable and I am weak willed.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Late to the G&S Party

I've come late to the Gavin & Stacey party but I'm glad I'm there. Funniest thing I've seen in ages. And dead sweet too. Just watched the first two episodes on dvd and could have quite happily watched the remaining four if it wasn't late at night.

So thanks be to Tim who bought it for me for my birthday. You are a small Welsh work of genius.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It should end with... a BOOOM!

I started wondering today (always a worry) about what would happen if you drop a battery in a glass of water. Would it explode? Would it boil the water? Would it make the water electric like what happens when you put an electric heater in a bath?

But apparently nothing much happens which I think is a bit disappointing and clearly shows a fundamental flaw in the design of batteries.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rerouting

I spent more time than I expected installing a new router (or router as I normally pronounce it). I'd expected a quick plug and play but forgot I'd have to add ISP and internet settings. And it's always the little one that you'd expect to make no difference that makes the difference. In this case it seemed to be the setting dictating time before disconnecting. Strange.

Anyway, it's working now.

Next thing is to work out whether the old one was actually broken or not. It was definitely a bit intermittent and would often just stop working for a few seconds. And so far (touchwood) the new one isn't doing that. I think it was probably on its last legs. And worse case is that I now have a spare emergency router. For emegencies.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Eurovision Post - Amended

I started writing about Eurovision just now. But then I deleted it all because it was rubbish. So here's a haiku about Eurovision instead:

Foreigners are daft:
Look at their silly outfits;
Hark at their odd sound.

That's much better than the original post. It was just moaning about block-voting.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Rock Band - The Verdict

I've had quite a lot of play on Rock Band now. It's great. But first the downsides. I'm playing an import PS3 version so I'm not sure what the situation is with downloadable content. At the moment I can connect to the internet and see songs to buy but I can't actually download them. I don't know whether this is because I'm connecting to the American store or because I'm connecting to the UK store but it's not properly enabled yet, due to the game not being out until the Autumn. Either way, it's not the end of the world.

More annoyingly there is the known problem about the incompatibility of the PS3 GH3 controller with Rock Band. Maybe there'll be a patch at some point or maybe there won't. In the meantime I've ordered an adaptor which should make the old PS2 guitars work. Better than nothing if it works.

So onto the game. The guitar element is pretty much the same as Guitar Hero. So it's all about the drums and the singing. Singing is fun enough but nothing new for Singstar Veterans like myself. Something is gained by having it at the same time as someone playing an instrument but it feels more like an add-on than a vital component of the game.

Drums are a different kettle of fish. The drum-kit is well made and has actual real wooden drumsticks. Playing it feels like playing real drums, because you essentially are playing real drums. The difficulty level on it seems a lot higher than the other instruments but this is likely just because it's new. It might look on screen like it works the same way as the guitar but playing it is much more about rhythm patterns. At times it's like trying to pat your head whilst rubbing your tummy. But when it clicks it's good fun.

Where the game really seems like it will excel is multi-player. So far I've not been able to play with more than two people but I think with four it will be fantastic. As long as we can all fit in the room!

Final great thing to mention is the character building. We've made a couple of little people who look just like us... here's a pic:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Game Excitement!

I'm quite excited today. Rock Band should be delivered in the next hour or so and I have the morning off work.

Also, Wii Ware has launched. Haven't tried any of the games yet but there is a Final Fantasy, albeit an odd one. Also a quiz game which looks like it could be (limited) fun with others around...

Oooooooohhhh!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Memory Upgrade

I got an extra gigabyte of memory installed in my PC at work which increased the capacity by 400% at a single stroke. The effect was noticeable and very pleasing. I can now switch between applications without having to wait several seconds for the change to happen. This will help me because previously I used to get impatient and try and switch to something else whilst waiting for the first switch. I'd normally end up then getting distracted and forgetting what it was I had wanted to do in the first place. Often whole hours could pass in this way. Switch. Switch. Switch....

But it should be better now. Oh frabjous day.

I wish I could have extra memory put in my actual head. That would be cool.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Summary Of Today

Put things on shelves.
Eat burger.
Drink cider.
Read newspaper.
Play Trivial Pursuit.
Eat Chinese.
And then from here to....

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rock Band (post 1 of x)

I clearly can't wait until Autumn for PS3 Rock Band so I've bought an import one. I'm excited. It will be great. When it arrives.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mad Metal

I don't normally buy CDs because of a song I've heard in a videogame but I made an exception the other day. The final song in Guitar Hero 3 is Through The Fire And The Flames by Dragonforce. It's almost impossible to play but that doesn't matter as you encounter it over the end credits and don't actually have to play along unless you want to.

And it's excellent. Fast, mad, stupid metal. Like Meatloaf on speed. And acid. So I bought the album.

I haven't listened to it yet. I expect it'll be great. Better than the Robbie one, anyway.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Something Smelly in York...

There's something very wrong with Lendal at the moment. It smells bad. Maybe it's the heat but it smells like a thousand people have all vomited at once into a big smelly pile in the middle of the road. No such pile exists but maybe it's there in a parallel world smelling bad enough to make its presence felt in this world.

Maybe the smell is actually so bad that it's punched a hole in the very fabric of our reality, creating a gateway that one could pass through. Into a smelly world.

Or maybe it's just The Varsity.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Awful Shopping Trauma

I was forced into doing something today that I really didn't want to do. It was quite an unpleasant experience. I was traumatized.

I was made to buy Rudebox by Robbie Williams.

Here's what happened:

I was on Amazon and my shopping basket contained three books costing about £14.40 in total. I needed to spend another 60p to qualify for SuperSaver delivery. I wanted to do that because I'm tight and didn't need the books urgently. I've already got loads of books.

I looked around for something else to buy and in the Deals Of The Week section I found the second Magic Numbers album for just 46p. I repeat, it was only 46p.

That is clearly a bargain of unmissable proportions (just like The Magic Numbers.... Ahem. Sorry, I think I was channeling Richard Bacon there). I added it straight away. But unfortunately it still left me about 14p short of free delivery. So I looked to see if there was anything else. The only other album at that price was the Robbie one and that gave me a dilemma. Either buy Robbie and get free delivery or don't buy Robbie and retain my dignity.

Not much of a choice really.

I'm thinking I might be able to sell it on eBay and make a profit, or alternatively it would make a wonderful present for a fried I didn't like much (or possibly for a friend who liked Robbie Williams but didn't actually bother to buy his albums). That's something of a silver lining.

Not enough to prevent my trauma though. I may never be able to use the internet again after an experience like that.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Wrong Jacket

I went to a wedding yesterday and nearly wore the wrong jacket. My Wee Jimmy Krankie blazer was on the back of a chair in the living room and it looked quite like my suit jacket. I put it on and it felt like my suit jacket. It was only when leaving the flat for the taxi that I had a moment of epiphany and twigged that I was partly in fancy dress. It was enough time to switch to the proper jacket.

But if I'm honest, I really don't think anyone would have noticed. The WJK blazer is actually quite good.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Shower Fixing(s): Part III

So since January the shower in the main bathroom has been non-existent. On Tuesday, I finally arranged for the replacement to be fitted, next Monday morning. This was A Good Thing.

Tuesday night, 4am. We're asleep in bed. I'm woken by the sound of a shower. A loud shower. Which is strange because there shouldn't be anyone using the shower. When I investigate the en-suite, I find that the on/off knob has dropped off the side of the shower meaning it's effectively "on" but that it also has a tonne of water streaming from where the knob used to be. This isn't good. I try to put it back but there's no way that's going to work whilst the water's on so I turn it off at the mains.

Eventually I'm able to get the knob back on but not to stay on. Something seems to have gone wrong that means it just won't stay together any more. This is bad as it means we have to leave the water off.

It's obviously at about this point that we start needing the lavatory...

At first I don't think I'll be able to sleep but eventually I do. And I have bad dreams about showers.

I call the plumber first thing in the morning and he comes straight out to look at it. He deems it irrevocably f**ked and removes the shower and seals the pipes. This is bad because it means we now have no showers. But at least we can turn the water back on and wash and wee and drink tea.

Not happy!

Only silver lining is that I should be able to bring forward the shower they were going to fit on Monday and hopefully have it put in this week. Fingers crossed...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Wee Lint Krankie

It's another Pub Treasure Hunt tomorrow. The theme is TV and against my better judgement (and vote) my team are all going as Wee Jimmy Krankie. Here's a sneak preview of my costume.

Wee Jimmy Krankie?

Looks more like Lee Evans if you ask me. Or possibly Norman Wisdom.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Old Rome

I was watching the first Episode of I, Claudius tonight, or as I like to call it, Rome Season 3. It was quite enjoyable but also quite dated. The actors all seem to think they're on stage rather than on telly so there's a lot of overacting going on.

But it's hard to be angry with Brian Blessed for long.

Gordon's Alive!

I'm looking forward to seeing the episodes with Jean Luc Picard in.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Painting and Decorating

The back bedroom has been a bit of an untidy mess since I moved in five years ago. It's got a bed and a few random shelves but mostly it's just boxes and piles of rubbish and things that could be given away/thrown out. It's been worse since K moved in as it now has two people's stuff. So we're re-doing it. New coat of paint followed by some big new shelves and a desk. At the same time we're going to try and sort through all the items and get rid of as much as possible.

Being something of a hoarder, this is a little painful. But do I really need to keep all those all VHS videos? I don't even have a VHS player any more. Ok, I do but it's in a cupboard. So the videos are all going to charity. Assuming they'll take them, I'm not sure whether there's even a second hand market for them in these days of Blu-Ray.

And once the videos are gone... I can get rid of the VHS player! No point in having one if I don't have any videos to play on it.

And so it goes.

Also on the way out will be old books, CD singles, some (but not all of my) cassette tapes. And I've already binned a tonne (literally) of magazines. Boy, do those things build up and take up space.

But it is a bit painful - a lot of these things have been with me for so long that they're part of me. Albeit a crap part, like an appendix.

The sorting and tidying is underway but we've had to move most of the bits into other rooms to make room for us to paint. This gives an incentive to finish the job as quickly as possible as I used to quite like it when I could walk through the living room in a straight line.

Yesterday we did some (four) testers on the wall. Today we chose the best... and both agreed! Which makes life much easier. Willow Green it's going to be. And so today we went to B&Q to buy the actual paint (and brushes, rollers etc). But before the main job, there's the prep - sanding, cleaning and all that boring jazz. And also the ceiling needed painting.

In fact, most of the ceiling didn't need painting but the edges did a bit. I hadn't been particularly careful when I painted it years ago and so there were several messy blue splodges on the ceiling where I'd missed the wall a little.

Division of labour - I did the ceiling as I'm much taller. K sanded and cleaned the door frame and skirting boards. I was happy with that as I can never be arsed to sand things off properly.

The paint was a bit odd. It was pure white but the actual paint is pink when wet. It dries to white but the pink is supposed to help you see where you've already painted - potentially useful when you're painting white onto a white surface. I'm not sure it actually works that well in practice - it dries pretty quickly and so it's still hard to see where you've been or if you missed a bit earlier. I expect I have missed several bits but it looks fine so I'm not going to look too closely.

Didn't actually take too long, I'd say we were working for no more than a couple of hours. But tomorrow will be harder work.

Oh well.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

That's What I Went To School For

It's a long time since I needed to do any trigonometry, but the other night we were ordering some bookshelves off the internet and I had to use my old skills. The idea was to get some along each wall by a corner and then another one in the corner at 45 degrees. I had to use a picture and some maths to determine whether the whole arrangement would fit in the room or not.

It would.

Or at least it would on paper. The proof will be in the putting (up).

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Five Random Thoughts: Wednesday 30th April

1. I'm not sure I like Amazon's new look.

2. I love Guitar Hero. But it's a shame lots of the tunes are rubbish. The DS version looks like it should be better in that respect... but will it actually work ok?

3. There's a man who regrew a finger?. That's odd.

4. At the moment I enjoy the jogging on Wii Fit more than any other event even though it doesn't use the balance board. It's pretty and you see your friends running around too.

5. I can't decide whether to watch the final series of Battlestar Galactica now or wait for the DVD release and watch all at once.

Poo Time

It's occurred to me that Wii Fit is the first game to (if not reward) make you feel better for having done a big poo before playing it.

If you don't understand, have a go and then play. I'm right.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Fish A Day...

I don't think I've ever had sardines before. I may have played sardines when I was a kid but I don't recall trying the fish. Tonight I had sardines.

I found them crunchier than I expected. And then K told me I didn't have to eat the bones, especially the spines. That helped.

A pleasant taste. Just not what I expected.

I also have herring to try later in the week. It's new fish week.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Excellent 1000 Whisky Challenge! - Update

An update on the 1000 Whisky Challenge is in order. I got up to about 8 and then bought a new, nicer, notebook and decided to start again. So now I'm back to 2. Slightly less than when I wrote about it for the first time. But there's still plenty of time.

More encouragingly I've bought a book and it has details of over 3,500 different drinks in it so I now feel it is actually an achievable challenger and not just a flight of fancy.

Just 998 to go!

Friday, April 25, 2008

A New Way To Be An Idiot

I did a particularly stupid thing today. It's my dad's 60th birthday tomorrow and I decided to buy a present off of Amazon. Last minute a bit, but still in time. I went for the Express Delivery (£8) and all would have been fine if I'd remembered to change the delivery address. I noticed the error as soon as I clicked the final button. But sadly because of the expressness it got processed straight away. No changes allowed. It's coming to my house. Not Dad's house.

Doh!

So now I have to hope it arrives before we have to leave for the train tomorrow at ten.

I am an idiot.

--------------------------------------

Postscript: It arrived at 0815 this morning. Yay!

Postscript2: It's a Wii! But don't tell Dad!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Been Caught Stealing

I saw a particularly inept shoplifter in HMV yesterday.

First I knew was the beeps. Then, very shortly after, the security man running outside also. The beeps were the cause of the security running.

It turned out (about 5 seconds later) that a man had been stealing! Because the security man caught the beepy man just outside the front door with between ten and twenty Xbox games under his coat. Too many to even hide subtlely. Idiot.

Not sure what he was doing as I reckon they keep the game discs behind the counter and I don't think he'd checked them out library style.

One game you might get away with under your coat. They are small and easy to hide. But ten to twenty? No way! They slip and slide against one another. He was a slim guy when he entered the shop and a fat guy when he left.

Idiot. Should be shot. I'm pretty sure they keep the actual games behind the counter.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dreams Do Come True

I was just saying to K this morning about how I wanted to do my short-form tax return but couldn't because I hadn't received my interest statement from my bank. I was really saying that. I have a witness.

And then, that same morning, the dream comes true and the figures I need arrive in the post.

Amazing!

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Load of Plastic Tat

I'm rapidly acquiring too much plastic stuff under the telly. It's not been this bad since the old Dreamcast days (I don't think I'll ever need to get another fishing rod though). A quick audit finds the following controllers:

2 x Wii Remotes
2 x Wii Nunchucks
1 x Wii Classic Controller
1 x Mario Kart Wheel
1 x Wii Zapper
1 x Fake Wii Zapper
1 x Xbox 360 controller
2 x PS3 controller
2 x Guitar Hero wired guitars
1 x Guitar Hero wireless guitar
2 x Singstar Microphones
1 x Gcon3
1 x silly headphones thing for Xbox Live

And then there's Wii Fit out later in the week, so that will add a Balance Board. And then... soon... Rock Band!

I think I need help.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Leeds Parking Warning

We went to see Supergrass at Leeds Met last night. As always they were great. I had intended for us to park in the big car park just outside the venue. It’s free in the evenings and easy enough to get a space in if you get there early enough. Unfortunately, it was worse than full. I was shocked to find that… it no longer existed! They’ve built a ruddy great building over the top of it! Grrr! So it meant some emergency route rethinking and we ended up in The Light. Just like so many other times.

Consider this a warning if you’re planning to park outside The Met anytime soon!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Secret Visit to Nottingham

It was my birthday yesterday and so K had layed on a surprise overnight trip for me in the evening. Although I knew it was some kind of event (ie something where tickets are needed) I didn't know anything more. It could have been music, comedy, theatre, vaudeville or an execution. I'd deliberately avoided looking at listings as I thought it would be nice to have an actual surprise for once.

So on Monday morning I packed an overnight bag and headed into work. At four o'clock it was time to go to the station (leaving work early is always a good start to an evening!) and because it's quite hard to hide a destination when you board a train, I was told we were heading to... Nottingham! This in itself was quite surprising as I'd more or less forgotten Nottingham existed. I was pretty much at a loss to work out what would be on there but as long as one of us knew then everything would work.

After an uneventful journey we checked into the hotel (Jury's Inn, conveniently close to the rail station) and headed straight out to get some pre-event dinner. The taxi driver didn't really understand K's accent and this led to a bit of a mix-up where he started heading in completely the wrong direction. I was able to spot this (I knew which road we were going to) by judicious use of my watch-mounted compass and Google Maps on the phone. You all mock but these are life-saving things. Especially the compass! So I showed him the map on the phone and the journey was corrected.

We had a thai meal (a bit too hot for me!) near the venue and it was at this point I found out why I'd been taken to Nottingham... It was to see Ben's Brother!

Now Ben's Brother are a mighty fine band and produced some of the best singles of last year. They made number five in my top twenty but it could have been higher as the ordering is a little arbitrary at times. I have never seen them live and so I was quite excited when I saw the tickets. Not jumping up in the air or anything, I'm not really that dramatic, but very happy. I definitely have an excellent girlfriend!

The gig itself was fantastic (apart from the absence of draft cider). Small venue (The Bodega Club, I think) but great views and great sound. And I would say it was worth making the trek to Nottingham for!

The only drawback was that because we stayed up late and then had to get up early to get the train back, and because I'm a little run down at the moment due to a stinky case of man-flu, I'm now extra tired. I'm planning for a very early night tonight!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Drew + Cellist

I've been next door to see Drew playing at The Junction tonight. He's still obsessed with monkeys and death, but mainly monkeys. Great gig and the first time I've seen him non-alone for a while - he has acquired a cellist. With a comedy name :-)

But the best thing was the sheer convenience. Leaving a gig and then being home approximately 60s later. Can't be beaten.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Theory On The Odour Of Asparagus

I've been wondering about asparagus. Everyone knows that when you eat asparagus it makes your wee smell. Specifically it makes your wee smell like drains. But is that the way it really is?

Perhaps (and by "perhaps" I mean "almost certainly") there are a lot more people eating asparagus than is commonly realised. And when all those people do wees at the end of the night all the wee goes into the sewers and makes the drains smell like asparagus wee. The smell that some people think of as "The Smell Of Drains".

Asparagus wee doesn't smell of drains. Drains smell of asparagus wee.

You know it's true.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

eBay Update

I mentioned a few weeks back that I'd been bidding for an EP & BD CD on eBay. I didn't win it.

I didn't get the one that came up the following week either.

Yesterday I had success. In my third attempt to win an auction I got it, for the princely sum of five English pounds.

I was so happy.

Although I don't know what I'll do with my free time now.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

How to mess up my bookshelf

I've been a big fan of Alistair Reynolds since Revelation Space came out several years back. Great Big stories full of Great Big spaceships. And only sometimes slightly marred by tiny little endings.

But the main problem for me initially was the size of the books. They were roughly normal paperback size but slightly wider and slightly squatter. It meant that when you put them on your shelf they didn't sit there neatly like a nice book. No, they stuck out aways and shouted "Look at me! I'm annoying". A bit like me in the pub which is maybe why I initially put up with it. After a while though you get more and more of the books and when you have five or six, they all sit, oddly-sized but oddly-sized together, on your bookshelf. And the oddness becomes normality.

Today I visited the bookshop and became highly irritated. His new paperback (The Prefect) has changed shape a little. It's taller than the other books. By about a centimetre.

What were his publishers thinking? Are they deliberately trying to deter his existing readers? Or are they simply trying to attract a new audience? An audience who only reads books that are slightly taller than an author's previous books? Insanity!

I for one shan't be buying any more. I'm going to only read Ladybird books instead. You know where you are with Ladybird books. They've been the same size since I was a lad and they'll be same size when I'm a wizened old man.

Sod Reynolds. Book-size-changing-bastard.

Monday, April 07, 2008

More Donkeys

The Grand National went badly for me again this year. I had three horses in two separate office sweepstakes. One of them came third ("Snowy Morning" - prescient but too slow), no good for me since both sweeps were winner takes all. The other two were complete donkeys. One wasn't even running.

We also went to the pub after work on Friday and they were running a sweep in there too. That was my fourth donkey.

Moral of the story is to only spend money on beer in pubs.

Still, at least none of my horses got shot this year. Not that I know of, anyhows.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

April Showers

Nasty weather today. Snow, Hail, Rain etc. Not good considering that it's the sixth of April. That nonsenses supposed to be over months ago. It should be sun and jollity at this point in the year.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

I Am The News

My last two post seems to have been strangely topical and they have both been picked up by today's The Press:



Main headline is yesterday's Jumper (turns out from a ruined tower rather than the from the bridge. Didn't do it) and on the bottom left is the fire place.

It feels like my finger is on the pulse. And it's beating.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wet Jumpers

I went out for a couple of pints of cider after work tonight and decided to get a taxi home since I was running slightly late compared to when I said I'd be home by. I went to the taxi rank near the Minster and it was clear that there was some kind of kerfuffle going on down towards Lendal Bridge. The road was closed off from the crossroads near the theatre, right down to the one on the other side of the Bridge. There were police cars and a few milling people.

The closed off road was right on my way home. When I got in the taxi, the driver said he'd heard that there was someone trying to do some jumping, presumably off of the bridge. Now that's a pretty daft place to jump from. It's not particularly high and at the moment is less high than normal because the river's up. If you want to jump it would be better to go up the Minster Tower or the Yorkshire Wheel or similar. From Lendal Bridge the worst you're likely to get is wet.

But the main problem was that the taxi had to go the long way round. This cost me at least an extra pound. I was quite upset. The blame here is obviously on the Jumper rather than the taxi driver so I'm considering going through the small claims court. I just need to identify the right person... maybe I'll get the local paper tomorrow and see if anyone is named. Even if they're dead rather than just slightly wet, presumably I can still sue their estate...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

When you play with fire...

There's a shop opposite me that sells fireplaces, the things you have in your house designed to keep fire in one place. Slightly ironically it seems to be on fire at the moment... or at the very least it's full of smoke and has two big fire engines outside it. I'm hoping that they can keep it in control as I'd rather not get evacuated tonight. It's far too wet and windy.

I suppose I should be grateful it's not an earthquakeplace shop - that would be a much harder thing to keep localised than a fire.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Excellent 1000 Whisky Challenge!

I've decided to set myself a new challenge. It's one I've been thinking of for a while. Here's the challenge:

"I have to drink 1000 different whiskies before I die".

1000 is a little arbitrary but it's a nice round number and I think anything smaller, like 12 would not be enough of a challenge.

Here are the rules:
1. All whiskies count - Scotch, Irish, Bourbon, Japanese, single malts or blended, all are good.
2. Each different whisky can only count once.
3. A 12 year old Glenlivet is different to an 18 year old Glenlivet.
4. A 12 year old Glenlivet in 2008 is not different to a 12 year old Glenlivet in 2010. They are the same.
5. Doubles count as singles.
6. So do trebles.
7. I have to write them in my little notebook once I've tried one. I'll probably set up some kind of online list too.

This is a good challenge because it involves lots of whisky and it is also SMART, apart from possibly the A. In fact, I have no idea whether there are 1000 whiskies or not. It'll be fun to try and find out!

Since I started this on Saturday, I'm now up to 3:
12 yr old Glenlivet
12 yr old Highland Park
Standard Jamiesons

Just 997 to go!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Panic Attack At Sainsburys

I had a dream. I had gone to watch Eurovision at my local Sainsburys and had obviously taken my wooden chopping board with me. Unfortunately, I left it in a plastic bag propped up by the wall in the lobby and forgot to pick it up when I left. This quite upset me and I woke up really worried that I'd lost my chopping board. I was almost having a panic attack - I was really short of breath and had to have a glass of water.

But I think that last part was part of the dream too.

In case you're concerned for me, I checked in the kitchen when I got up and the chopping board is still there. So it's all good.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tiepinpointing

I can pinpoint the exact moment today at which I realised I wasn't wearing the tie I thought I was.

Ten to three pm

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Apprentice Haiku

So the Apprentice
Candidates this year appear
To be a bunch of

Darn ran out of syllables.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lights, Damned Lights but I've Fixed It

My kitchen is very annoying. It has too many lights. There are four spotlights in the ceiling, four spotlights of a different kind in the top of the cupboard housing and five strip lights under the cupboards (three small, one medium, one long). The actual kitchen itself is only about six foot by six foot. I'm sure a single bulb or fluorescent tube in the ceiling would have been enough light. Damn builders.

The main problem is that because there are so many of them it's really hard to get them all working at once. It's like juggling plates. Little glowing plates, stuck in the roof. Or something. It's not helped by some of them seeming to have loose connections so that I occasionally have to prod them a little to get them going again. It's lucky I'm of a height.

I think at the moment I have them all going (touch wood), as I had a session yesterday where I prodded all the dead ones to see which ones were actually dead and which ones were just pretending. A trip to York's premier hardware store at lunchtime today then enabled me to fill the gaps. So now they're all working and entering the kitchen is like entering the kingdom of Heaven. Except I expect the floor there is both cleaner and fluffier.

And don't get me started on the cost... I reckon it would cost about thirty quid to replace the whole set at once. Though I'd deserve a slap if I left it so long that none of them were working. Maybe I'd have to use a hat with a light in like a miner. Or maybe an apron with a light on. Now there's an idea.

I still can't work out how to get the glass cover off the light inside the oven though. It's been gone for a few years and it's starting to bug me...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Better Use Of Time Whilst Watching Others Play Guitar Hero

I've found a new way to play Guitar Hero. New to me anyway. It's particularly useful if you have a spare GH guitar but can't use it at that time (eg perhaps it's from a different console).

What you do is this:
1. Let someone else play the game in single player, as normal. It helps if they're reasonably competent and also helps if they're using the guitar that works.
2. As they are playing, you pick up the spare guitar.
3. Play along with the song and pretend it's you actually controlling it.

I tried this for the first time last night whilst my girlfriend was playing (she's somewhat better at it than I am).

I appreciate that it might sound a little dumb but it works much better than you'd expect. It feels like you're in control. You get the same tactile feel on the instrument, and the illusion that you're actually playing the game is strong. Obviously it doesn't pick up whether you've got the notes right but you can often feel that yourself anyway.

If nothing else it's a good way to practice some of the harder songs and it beats sitting around waiting for your go!

In other Guitar Hero news it looks like there's a DS version coming out. It has a fret board that clips to the side of the machine and also apparently a stylus shaped like a plectrum (I suspect an actual plectrum would work too!). Haven't seen a track listing before, but after playing Elite Beat Agents for slightly too long I'm confident that the DS will handle the music side of things. I'm just unsure whether the controls will work well.

I guess if they don't I could put it in demo mode and play along with the full size guitar :-)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Festive Easter

It was confusing to wake up this morning on Easter Day (though possibly not as confusing as it was for Jesus when he woke up on Easter day...) as outside it looked more like Christmas Day. Night time had brought a fair smattering of snow and one could almost hear sleigh-bells.

I probably shouldn't be surprised at the weather. I've lived in England for over thirty years and it's always crap. That's why it's also so great. Snow at Easter!

I'm hoping that this will mark the end of the cold for 2008. I really need some warmer times so I can properly kick-start my exercise regime and practice for the GNR. Or maybe I just need a treadmill.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Good Friday

It's a Good Friday!

We went to the Vudu Lounge for lunch - the normal downstairs bit was shut so we had to go upstairs. It's much nicer and I can't understand why I've never been up there before. They genuinely do do the best burger in York. Esp if you have the one with jalapenos on.

Afterwards we headed over to Pivo. Where I drank some cider. Or Cyder if you go by their labeling.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Major T(h)om(as)

I've been wondering whether Ashes to Ashes (the excellent BBC Life on Mars spin-off) should have been subtitled "The Chronicles of Alex Drake, Unbeliever". Because it seems to have more than a little in common with the Thomas Covenant books.

Not everything, mind, she's not a leper, she doesn't rape the first person she meets in 1981. But on the other side, she does face a near-death experience (and in fact is possibly dying) and then wakes up in a strange world which she refuses to believe is real.

I think it's similar.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Lame Excuse For Not Going To The Pub

Colleague: Do you want to come for a couple of pints after work?
Me: Sorry, I can't. I've got to go home and bake cakes.
Colleague: ...?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cake Verdict

The Delia Chocolate Cakes went down well at work today. Only complaints were

1) They smell funny but taste good (I think the smell was due to the Chinese Fivespice - am I right to use Fivespice that also contains pepper and garlic?)

2) They're a bit rich (ie too chocolatey! Can a chocolate cake be too chocolatey?). This came from someone who shortly afterwards had a second one so I don't think it could have been too much of a problem.

So it's all systems go for the next batch which I'll be making for our team meeting on Thursday. It's been decided that we'll all take it in turns to bake cakes for our monthly team meeting (which pretty much means once a year for each of us). Since 11/13 of us are boys I think this is quite funny. Especially when it gets around to being the turn of boys who've never cooked cakes before (I reckon there are at least six).

Nobody managed today to guess that the secret ingredient in the cakes was frozen mashed potato. I'm still finding the whole concept far too hilarious. I'd love to know how someone ever worked out that it not only could be put in cakes, but that it actually worked if you put it in cakes.

I might try making some chocolate cakes of my own recipe (I don't need Delia!) using other random things from my own freezer:

1. Frozen pizza
2. Frozen trout
3. Frozen southern fried chicken
4. Frozen birds eye potato waffles

The last might actually work as it's basically shaped mashed potato. Maybe I'll just try mixing all of them together and adding some flour, eggs and sugar and seeing what happens, George's Marvellous Medicine stylee. It could be good...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Last Night's Bidding

Some nights end strangely. Last night for example, we had tea (I technically didn't as I'd had a late lunch and wasn't hungry) and then watched Snakes on a Plane. It's pretty dumb but quite good fun.

But later still I find myself on eBay bidding for an Elaine Paige & Barbara Dickson CD. That's just not right. I was willing to go up to seven pounds which put me in the overnight lead but it went for seven fifty when the bidding closed this morning. So I didn't get the CD.

Darn.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Delia's Chocolate Cakes

I made the cakes out of the new Delia book today. The ones with the frozen mashed potato in. They came out really well and are very very tasty! I think my workmates will be pleasantly surprised when I take them in on Monday.

Chocolate Cakes

I might keep the mash quiet though.

Friday Darts

I've started playing darts a little on Friday nights and have discovered that I am an amazing player. Well, maybe not amazing but pretty good. Well, maybe not pretty good but occasionally fluky. For example, last night I beat my boss in a game of 301. He started much better but we eventually both got down to needing a double one to finish. And we stayed that way for about half an hour. Eventually I decided to use a Jedi Mind Trick to win and as I threw my dart I said out loud "this dart will win" and it went straight into the right little box. It was brilliant.

I then went on to win two (out of three) further games of doubles, each time with me getting the final winning dart. The opposition were quite astonished.

I'm almost tempted to make my way down to Argos and buy my own darts.

I did however manage to get a dart stuck in a strange place: Pointy end up with the fights jammed in behind a dado rail. Impressive!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A bad day to travel.

It's been a bit windy.

I was in Peterborough this morning. Seven o'clock train from York, hour down, bit of time for contingencies, start at nine, finish running my session by half eleven, back on the train at 12:21 and back in the office well before two. Or at least that's how it normally works.

Because of the winds, the trains had been put onto an "emergency timetable". For some reason, rather than this meaning that the same number of trains run, but just go a bit slower, instead what seems to happen is that half the trains are cancelled and the rest break down.

Going down was not too bad (half hour delay due to a broken down train in front at Grantham) but coming back was less of a happy journey. I got on the train at 12:30. Already nine minutes late but on time according to the emergency timetable. Then heading north the train seemed to go at normal speed but stop for half an hour before entering each station. I'd have coped with this. I'd still have been late back to York but not too badly.

Unfortunately, upon hitting Doncaster we had to vacate our National Express train and head over to another platform to join a Virgin. This might have been ok if a) the NX train had been not too full; b) the Virgin was bigger than the NX and c) the Virgin wasn't full either. But neither of those things was true and so it was all a bit busy.

And to make it worse, the reason for changing in the first place was that power lines were down north of Doncaster so we had to go back to York via Leeds. Which isn't particularly direct.

So overall my one hour journey took three and a quarter, and I made it to my desk to start the day's work at 4pm. Grrrr.

But hey, at least I've still got four nights or so before cider prices go up.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Unrealistic Police TV

I've started watching The Shield on DVD. I'm nearly at the end of series 1 (yeah, I know that puts me about twenty seasons behind America) and I'm lovin' it so far.

But I had an issue with episode 3.

It features a (possible) rapist who is a bit mental and keeps jars of his own man-juice in his padlocked fridge. He thinks he is a great guy and needs to preserve his seed to be able to impregnate women in the future after he becomes infertile due to some disease he's got. He ends up being caught after slashing a night-lady a little bit in her neck.

So the cops take him in and in their questioning/research it turns out he's an ex-actuary. The actuaryness doesn't impact the plot of the episode at all. The guy doesn't reference mortality tables at any point. He fails to build any financial models. He's an actuary purely to flesh out his character a little bit.

Now I think this is portrayed really unrealistically. Not because they make out that actuaries are the kind of people who store jars of love-honey in their kitchens. We all do that.

No, it's unrealistic because not one of the police, NOT ONE, asks the obvious question: "Um, what's an actuary?". No way that some lumphead LA policemen would know what an actuary was. It's ridiculous. Lazy scriptwriting.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

101 Uses For Frozen Potatoes

I was in WH Smiths on Friday lunchtime and saw that they had Delia Smith's new book, How to Cheat at Cooking reduced from twenty squid to twelve. That in itself would not have been enough to tempt me but I also had in my wallet a voucher for five pounds off any book over ten pounds. That took it down to seven and that was enough - I bought meself a new cookbook.

It's an odd book - it seems to mostly involve recipes that use Aunt Bessie's frozen potatoes. It even has a recipe for cupcakes which includes Aunt Bessie's frozen mashed potato as an ingredient (I'm going to have to try that one). Very odd.

So when I was in Sainsburys today I picked up a few bags of the aforementioned potatoes.

Yes, I am a sucker.

Friday, March 07, 2008

A reason to get out of bed

I didn't get a place in the Great North Run ballot and the lazy part of me had seriously started considering not doing it this year. That would be nice - I wouldn't have to do all that hard time-consuming training. But this afternoon I was having a storming time, clearing up all the jobs I've been putting off and I was doing so well that I phoned up Cancer Research and got one of their places. Darnit.

It should make it easier for me to force myself out of the house now though. The winter has been absolutely foul but now it's getting lighter in the evenings and I can envisage early evening runs not being too tormentous. And I might even do some more of the early morning ones. And I have a goal now.

So that's six months and twenty eight days (ish) and counting...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Sweet Machine!

I found the best machine in a pub ever. Better even than the one in Cambridge years ago that did the rat-shaped condoms that we played Fingerbobs with. It serves little Pringle-like tubs of sweets/nuts for a pound a go. They're great! We had loads:



And once you've bought and eaten you can play fun games like the old three cup swizzler game or any other magic involving cups that you can think of. I discovered an innate talent for making things disappear. As long as they were sweets.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Farewell to the Galaxy

Finally... I've got all 120 stars and then all 120 again... and then the last one! 121! It's over!



Seriously, I can't think of many games where I've been happy to play through the whole bloody thing straight after finishing it the first time.

If you need more detail, after getting all 120 stars, you have to play through the whole thing again but as Luigi. Even the hard annoying levels. And all you really get at the end is... **Spoiler Deleted** and the letter above. But I feel it was worthwhile and that I'm a better person for it.

And I'm looking forward to moving onto something else. I'll miss it though.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Da Da Da Da Da Da Da etc

Apparently there was some earthquake here in England last week. I failed to notice it - not because it was late at night and I was asleep, but because it was late at night and I was asleep in France. I don't know if they have earthquakes in mountains or not. My plate tectology makes me thing that you maybe don't as they're not bits where things slide under other things, but I'm not sure of this and I'm almost more sure that there will be some mountainous regions with quakes somewhere.

But the key thing for me is that there was no earthquake in South France last week.

Which is good as that would have put me right off my sleeping and made me miserable for skiing and probably then fall over, which I must repeat, I did not do.

Apparently the English earthquake was scary. Apparently it was shaky. Apparently it caused all sorts of minor damage and traumas.

But I missed all the fun. Gutted. Best I can do is to lie on the sofa and get someone to shake it a bit. And that's not quite the same because I worry it will break the sofa.

I have been woken by something new this week though: birdsong. At four this morning a load of the little f**kers started tweeting outside my window. I can't remember even seeing a bird round here before, apart from the ducks that used to live in my car-park (I wonder where they went?). They were as loud as. I was most annoyed and awake.

If it happens again tonight I'm tempted to go out there with my stout stick and beat their little birdy heads until the tweeting stops.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

An Egg-cellent Apology

The chalet we stayed in Courchevel was called Sabot de Venus and was located down a very steep hill. The hill was the kind of hill that could be deadly in slippy conditions - unfortunate given that we were halfway up a snowy mountain... Luckily there wasn't really any issue given that it was so warm.

Apart from that, I liked the chalet. We had two chalet girls and one chalet boy. The latter was quite excited to find out I'd taken my DS and Pokemon with me. We swapped a few of the little critters and I filled up some of the (many) holes in my Pokedex. He also cooked us lots of nice dinners which were just about sufficient to soak up some of the free chalet wine.

They've developed a very sophisticated mechanism to stop guests fetching their own wine from the kitchen (it's supposed to be only used by staff for H&S reasons). What they do is put the winebox on top of the fridge. This stops short guests getting to it. They then put an open box of eggs on top of the wine box. This means that when a taller person such as myself attempts to access the wine, if the box is tipped a little then all the eggs slide off and onto the floor (or the wine-seeker).

And this is clearly not a good thing to happen.

Needless to say, on the third night or so, the hosts had gone to bed (or possibly to the pub) and we wanted some more wine. They had actually said we could help ourselves to more wine if we needed, they just neglected to mention the egg-trap.

End result was I felt very, very stupid and wrote a note of apology. Unbeknownst to me, my girlfriend had also gone off to write a note in the other room (I think she thought I was too drunk to manage it!). So we left both notes.

Egg Apology

Funny thing was that the previous night we'd been woken by another group of guests coming in late from being out drinking. We then heard from the hosts that a lot of eggs had been broken, but they hadn't said why or how. Now I think I know...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Skiing in Courchevel

I'm safely back home from my fantastic skiing holiday in Courchevel 1650. I'm tired but unbruised as I went through the whole holiday without falling over once! A few wobbles, but all were recovered from before I could hit the ground.

I had lessons booked from Monday to Friday, but since we got in on Saturday, the Sunday was available to do some initial practicing. I was a little rusty as I've only skied once before and that was two years ago. But I soon remembered the basics and was able to ski down Mickey, the short (but steep at the top) beginners' slope without too much trouble.

Unfortunately on the Monday, the lift operators all went on strike for the day and so there were no ski-lifts working anywhere in the Courchevel valley. This makes skiing quite hard. It also meant that my lesson had to be cancelled and so I was left to fend for myself.

In the end, I really was very limited. Best I could manage was to walk to the top of Mickey and ski down. This was very tiring. And since the weather was very hot, I couldn't keep my jacket on for too long - at one point I was skiing in just my t-shirt.

Skiing down Mickey

The weather the whole week was very hot (for a ski-resort, anyway!) and I never needed to wear more than a thin shirt and my jacket. Didn't even need a hat. This was especially nice given how bloody cold England had been for weeks previously. It was like going on a summer holiday.

When the strike was resolved the next day, lessons were able to go ahead as planned. I felt that I made some really good progress in the week, though I still have trouble getting out of a snowplough when going round turns. But I can feel it coming. By the end of the week I was going fairly confidently down not only the green runs, but also quite a few of the blue ones too. The two hours of the final lesson were mostly on blues and I wouldn't say that I enjoyed it, but at least I wasn't scared to death like I had been several times on my last holiday!

The instructor was excellent (I'd heartily recommend New Generation) and unusually was English. He'd been skiing for 22 years, since he was four years old - I can't imagine what that must be like. You see the lines of munchkins coming down the slopes but never really imagine that they grow up into ski-instructors.

But they do, and good ones too.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Farewell til they stretcher me from the mount

If I was sensible I'd be catching a nap right now. In two and a half hours, I'm due to get a taxi to Manchester airport, thence onto Chambery, thence onto Courcheval, thnce to go skiing. Most of that journey will be relatively short trips without good sleep opportunity.

And by the time we get there it will be lunchtime Saturday with a good many hours before bedtime.

So am I sleeping? No! Sleep is for the weak.

I'm wondering whether to have another cider or no.

See y'all in a while.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Nearly Ski Time

I've got one more proper sleep until we go skiing for a week. Packing is about 80% complete and I haven't yet got too much fear in me.

Frankly, I'm looking forward to going somewhere where the weather is likely to be a bit warmer than it is here at the moment.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Newrinals

York's Pizza Express has just been reopened after a refurbishment and in the main it's not too different inside. It used to be a nice old building and now it's still the same nice old building just with different tables and chairs.

We ate there last night and the most significant change I noticed was that Peroni is now available in Big bottles as well as regular ones. Saves reordering.

More strangely, they've done an odd thing with the urinals. The gents' ones at least - I can't comment on the ladies' urinals. Because I didn't go in there. I'm a gent not a lady.

But the gents' ones, they used to be these big porcelain jobbies. Clearly quite old as they were a bit cracked and they don't make em like that any more. About 5 feet high from ground to the top, against the wall and with dividers between where different gents would wee.

They're still there now but you can't wee in them because there's kind of a dark glass screen in front of them. You wee on that instead. At first you think the old ones have gone but then you realise you can see a kind of reflection in the glass that looks like the old urinals. And then you realise that it's not a reflection, but a transparency and that the old is still there, behind the new. And then you realise that whilst you've realised all this you've forgotten what you're supposed to be doing and have wee'd all over your shoe.

Probably.

How are you supposed to spell wee'd by the way?

Other than all that it's business as usual. I had a good Diavola, very nicely spicy. And a big aforementioned Peroni.

Also on Tuesday nights at the moment, the Pitcher and Piano are doing two pints for the price of one on all pints after 6pm. That almost makes it criminal to not go there on a Tuesday. I'd have taken more advantage if I hadn't had to get the seven o'clock train to Peterborough this morning.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Various Vegetables

I've discovered a new vegetable that I like - asparagus.

I think I must have somehow avoided it all my life, certainly until last week I don't recall actively eating any. But we got some mini(ish) ones from M&S last week and I fried them up and they were delicious. So at Sainsburys we bought some normal size ones and fried them and they were delicious too!

I think they are perhaps the single vegetable best suited for the frying pan.

Apart possibly from Onions.

I wonder if there are other common vegetables out there that I've never given any of my time to but that would reward me if I did? For the record, the following is a list of vegetables I know I've had. I've had a couple of ciders so I may forget a few. And I may or may not include several so-called salad-vegetables.

Here we go:

Potato, Leek, Onion, Asparagus, Mange Tout, Pea, Swede, Carrot, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Runner Bean, Misc. Other Beans, Broccolli, Baby Cabbage, Sprout, Bean Sprout, Baby Carrot, Red Onion, Red Cabbage, Sweet Potato, Parsnip, Tomato (don't even think it!), Lettuce, Cucumber, Radish, Spinach, Okra, Celery, Celeriac, Fennel, Sugar Snap Peas... I'm out.

Maybe a good challenge would be to eat ten new vegetables....?