Thursday, January 31, 2008

How to spot a stupid person

It's always entertaining to find particularly stupid people. For example a guy was prosecuted today because he did 130mph and filmed himself doing it. Then he posted the video on YouTube.

The police are apparently pushing for this practice (the posting, not the speeding - thats' already bad!) to be banned - they don't want this sort of thing posted online. But I don't understand why.

I would have thought that the first thing police would want would be for them to post a video of the crime being committed in a public place like the internet. Imagine if Jack the Ripper had filmed himself killing Victorian "Gentleman's Ladies" and then mugged to camera afterwards. it would have been an open and shut case.

Every person who posts a video of them doing something stupidly stupid on the internet is stupendously stupidly stupid and should be locked up as soon as possible. They are lighting a big neon sign above their heads saying "arrest me now" and we should help this process along, not hinder it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I minus plus-deltas

Early morning for me this morning as I had to head down to Peterborough to help conduct some training for HR. Whilst my bit was solidly financial, it seemed like the course was a bit fluffy as the attendees kept having to wander off to do "plus-deltas", which as far as I could tell seemed to be where they talked about what was going well and what they'd like to change.

I liked it better in the old days when people were allowed to properly whinge and moan about things. Sod plus-delta. I want minus. I'd love to go on a course where everyone was officially encouraged to complain about the sessions they'd just experienced immediatley after the experience. Whilst it was fresh in minds.

And sod "learning logs" too.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Handheld Gyroscopes

I was wandering around Amazon the other night and I came across Powerballs. They are tennis ball sized balls with a gyroscope inside, and once you spin up the gyroscope the thing generates a lot of force. At max speed of around 15,000 rpm it's equivalent to around 18kg of force.

It looked like fun so I bought one.

It arrived today and I've had a good play with it. My arms ache now. It's a bit tricky to get it started spinning, but the websites and so on assure me that it gets easier with practice. So far I've managed to get it to around 6,000 rpm which already feels pretty powerful.

It lights up nicely too :-)

I still believe that gyroscopes are powered by magic though and I'll always believe this whatever anyone tells me or proves to me with stupid equations.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Never Trust My Glossary

My boss has asked me to review the glossary that forms part of the reading for the Actuarial Fellowship exam. I'm allowed to add any definitions as I see fit (though there's no guarantee they'll be used).

I'm tempted to try and sneak in some absurd ones and see if anyone notices. I like the idea of warping little actuary minds by making them believe things that are false.

That's probably why I'm not allowed to work with children.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Late Burns Supper

We had Burns Night last night. It was a day late but it fitted better for us. We had all the proper stuff and I got to pipe the haggis in. But I obviously don't know how to play the bagpipes so I used a Harmonica instead. And the only thing I can play is the theme from Last of the Summer Wine. But I think it worked.

I also read some Scottish poetry to the haggis. I think it was impressed.

And we had some Scotch too.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Out of Time

One of the lifts at work is broken. In apparently a very odd way...:

Temporal Problem

"This lift is temporally out of order".

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Is this right?

Tonight I went Dancing.

And then I went to the pub and had a Salad for my tea.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A DS Emergency Resolved

After approximately eighteen years of fruitless searching, I have finally found myself a replacement white DS Lite. Okay, it was only a week and a half but it's felt longer due to the amount of internet searching and shop searching I've been doing. Yes, I should get out more.

It was York HMV that came up trumps today. The last weeks have taught me one thing - HMV have DS Lites delivered on Tuesday morning. The first week I was too late. The second they only had pinks. This week I was in early at lunchtime and they had about 16 white ones in. Jackpot!

The downside was that the greedy b**stards wouldn't sell me one on its own, only as part of a "Mega Deal" which meant I had to buy two games and get a free accessory pack filled with things I don't need. Combined with my old ones, I now have five spare styli. That is too many. I've never lost one yet. Touch wood. Not that I need to touch wood when I have five spare ones.

I'll take better care of this new machine. The pack contained a case which I may use. It won't help if I drop it when it's not in the case though.

It also contained an "Emergency Battery Charger". Now, I love playing on the DS as much as the next small child but I find it hard to envisage any kind of real emergency where being able to charge a handheld games console would be some kind of solution.

Perhaps if you were trapped down a mountain crevasse and used up your whole battery playing Pokemon, and then suddenly realised that you had the internet browser cartridge with you. And then realised that, doh, you had used up all the battery. But then you realised you'd remembered the emergency battery charger and so you can charge the battery enough to connect to the internet and use email to send for help. And luckily, the crevasse you're in has wi-fi. In that sort of emergency I can see a real benefit. But not in any other.

Except even in that scenario, you'd probably have forgotten to put batteries in the emergency charger. So you'd die cold and alone.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Super Luigi!

I got the 120th star in Super Mario Galaxy yesterday. Some of the final few are right b**tards to get, especially the evil Toy-Time purple coin challenge. Took me ages, that one did. But perseverance pays off and I find myself with a dilemma.

Because there aren't 120 stars, there are 121. But to get the final one takes a little longer than the others. As it stands, I've unlocked a new game: Super Luigi Galaxy. It's exactly the same but you play Luigi who is faster and jumpier, but skiddier. To get access to the final final star I have to get all 120 main stars again, but with Luigi.

That's going to take ages... Can I be arsed? Maybe. It'll probably depend on whether anything comes along to distract me in the meantime.

Damn good game though. Damn good.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Songs for the Road... in York

The David Ford gig at Fibbers on Thursday was truly fantastic.

During some of the support acts, we spotted him sitting at the merch stall. We could tell it was him because he was wearing David Ford's hat and I'm not sure he ever takes it off. It was tempting to go over and say hello but we didn't due to not wanting to look like stalkers.

He started the gig with State of the Union. He used a looping pedal to build up layers and layers of looped sound. I haven't seen anyone do that live before and it's very impressive technically. It looks like it must be really hard to get the timing right on it, but maybe it's just one of those things that looks harder than it really is. The sound was spot on throughout the evening - you could really hear every word.

After that he played loads of other songs from his two solo albums, and also a random cover of Leonard Cohen's Everybody Knows. I personally would have liked a few old Easyworld songs in there too but I wonder if he's trying to leave those days behind a little.

I spent a lot of the gig with a big smile on my face because it was just so damn good. A real master was at work.

Afterwards I bought copy of the second album on CD (I'd previously bought it off of iTunes but the CD has a couple of extra tracks on it including a cover of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out). David was still around and the man running the stall said he'd sign the CD for me if I wanted. Of course I wanted! And so we wondered over to where he was trying to have a quiet chat to some people and shyly asked if he could do the honours... he was very nice about it! Even though we probably looked like stalkers.

If you get chance to see him (the tour is proceeding at this very minute) then please check him out. Easily one of the best singer songwriters in the UK.

In other Fibbers news, it's good to see that they have reverted back to selling Guinness there.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

One Night Only?

I went to Fibbers tonight (for the first time this year) to see David Ford. He was incredible. I'll write more about him tomorrow. Maybe.

I looked at the schedule of upcoming gigs. The band One Night Only were playing at the start of February. Sadly it was sold out. Darn.



They'd added an extra date. The night after. Is someone taking the piss here? The band One Night Only are playing two nights.

I don't like it when bands lie to me through their names.

We bought tickets for the second night, but I'm kind of hoping it's an elaborate wind up...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Carving A Fat Man

Tonight on TV, Jamie Oliver presided over a programme where that odd German hat-freak who does the live autopsies disected a dead 25 stone man to show why it's bad to get fat. It was quite unpleasant. And so was the disection! Boom Boom.

But also a bit wrong.

I joked the other day about Hugh Fiddly-Whatsisface cooking a (free-range) Jamie Oliver pie, little realising that only a few days later Jamie would be on a programme where an actual man was carved like a turkey.

Actual TV is often stranger than the things I make up.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ghost Tunnel

The lights in the Leeman Road railway tunnel have been totally screwed for three days now. The tunnel is 100m-200m long and so in daylight it's pretty dark. At night and in the morning, the times when I tend to be in it at the moment, it's hard to see your hand in front of your face. Luckily it's a straight tunnel and so as long as you keep going in a straight line you can't go far wrong.

In fact, rather than be annoyed or scared about the darkness, I like to think of it as a fairground ride. With free entry! Like a ghost train without the train. So thank you York Council for the extra joy you are currently bringing me twice a day.

I did wonder whether it was an intentional thing by the council to reduce graffiti. It's hard to graffiti in the dark, and even if you took a torch to do it, nobody else would be able to see it. Is graffiti that nobody reads just as unfunny?

Or perhaps the lights are back on but I've started some kind of Pavlovian reaction and now automatically close my eyes every time I enter the tunnel.

Or perhaps there is no tunnel any more... the blackness I perceive as a lack of lights is merely the surrounding empty void.

Or perhaps the fuse has blown.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I blame the parents

So my DS Lite is a little broken. Luckily, I still have my old DS original so I can continue to play Pokemon on its slightly dull rubbish screen(s) and unattractive case.

I intend to buy a new Lite asap but unfortunately this just isn't possible in the shops of York at the moment. Everywhere is sold out, even of pink ones. Obviously I'd never buy a pink one but I'd at least be mildly tempted if it was the only option. But its not even an option. That's probably a good thing as it removes the temptation to go pink.

It's been extremely hard to track the machines down round here for several months now. If anything, they were harder to find than Wiis before Christmas, and since then it hasn't got any better. I had reports from friends over the festive period that in other towns Wiis were gold-dust and DSs were ten-a-penny. But in York it seems the other way round.

The reason for the shortage is pretty obvious - it's f**king parents buying DS Lites for their f**king kids. In their thousands. I mean how dare they. I, as an adult, should be able to buy what I want when I want. If adults were going out and buying all the gin off supermarket shelves for their little darlings, leaving none for the actual grown-ups, there'd be outrage. If parents went out and bought all the jazz mags from newsagents for their tiny babies, there would be marches on the street from jazz aficionados like myself. And if they went out and purchased every single dirty magazine from the top shelf of all the newsagents (two shelves above the jazz mags) the grey mac brigade would be chaining themselves outside parliament and setting fire to their boxes of hankies.

But somehow it's alright for the idiots who have children, most of whom probably didn't even bother to go out and get a f***ing license, to snap up every bloody DS Lite off York's shelves (even the pink ones) leaving me, a tax paying man, deprived of what I deserve and NEED.

Arseholes. I hope they all die. And the kids too. And that the kids think of me in their wills and leave me an unbroken DS Lite. In white preferably.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

TV eats itself

"Reality TV" (stupid name) continues to eat itself apace. ITV's celebrity ice dancing show, itself a blatant rip-off of Strictly Come Dancing, started again tonight. I like the real dancing show, but ice-dancing just doesn't do it for me. It's all technically very impressive (probably) but there seems to be much less variety in it. Maybe it's just personal preference.

But anyway, on the show tonight were two people who were only famous because they were on other reality shows first: Gareth Gates off of English American Idol and Suzanne Shaw off of whatever that thing that made Hearsay was called. Neither have exactly become huge stars since. The only way they are able to continue their screen time is by appearing on similar "talent" shows to the ones they made their name on.

It seems to me like this is a bit like having the news where all the news stories are about other news readers (back like it was when that white jacket man became an MP). Or possibly a cookery programme where the chefs cook foods out of celebrity chefs. Perhaps Hugh Fiddly-Whatsisface could cook a (free-range) Jamie Oliver pie.

I'd actually happily watch that one. TV literally eating itself.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


This probably isn't the cleverest thing I did yesterday:

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

End of an Era

It's a sad day for the City of York.

News just in that Woolworths on Coney St is closing down a week on Saturday. After that, there will be no Woolworths in York. The one in Monks Cross closed a year or so ago and now the city centre branch is closing down.

York will be a nowhere-ville.


Any town worth its salt has a Woolworths. I was in Abingdon recently. It has a Woolworths. Even f**king Knaresborough has a Woolworths. But York now won't.

I don't even like Woolworths, especially the way they always put fake cases out on the shelves for DVDs, CDs, games and so on. That's pissed me off since I was a kid. But losing it is like losing a veruca you've grown fond of.

A sad day.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Back To Normal

After the leakage of Sunday night, we let the floor, carpet and underlay dry off and everything is now back in place. Apart from the new shower that doesn't exist yet. We've taken the opportunity to move a few things around a bit too and to make things a little tidier. Although the back bedroom seems to have got even more junk filled. I think I might have a big chucking out/charity shop session one weekend soon.

It's very stressful having house crises. They should warn you about that when you buy one.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Shower Fixing(s) - Reprise

An old problem resurfaced today and has made me most annoyed.

We'd been out for lunch in town at Nineteen (previously known as 19 Grape Lane). Upon return to the flat, K noticed a couple of problems - namely wet patches under the carpet in various places. It looked familiar and it didn't take me long to trace the source of the water - it was the shower in the main bathroom again. The work that had been done eighteen months ago had come undone and so again water was leaking into the wall behind the shower and thence to the floor.


First thing to do was to move all the furniture away from the affected areas and then get the carpet up - there was a lot of water underneath. Next, take up the kitchen lino. Lots of water under there too. Next mop up all the water with old towels. Next call the plumber!

Since it was teatime on Sunday, I wasn't sure whether they'd be able to send anyone out to me or not but I needn't have worried - they sent someone round within an hour or so. He was very helpful but unfortunately wasn't able to fix the shower. It seems to be one of those problems where a small fixing breaks and the whole unit needs replacing. Darn.

He took the old unit off and then put some stoppers over the pipes. This has (hopefully, touch wood) solved the leak. But they are going to have to come back and install a new one for me. If I'm really unlucky this may involve them having to cut a hole in the living room wall, but that would be preferable to the alternative of having to retile the bathroom!

So in the short term we are down to being a single shower household. And for the next couple of days (until things are proper dry) all the living room furniture is squashed in an area half of the normal size. This makes watching television quite challenging. And we're also having to use the laptop as I had to move the big computer and can't be arsed to set it up somewhere else.

And so I'm somewhat annoyed and pissed off this evening.

But every cloud does have a silver lining. After nearly five years I have conclusively found where my stopcock is.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


I did something today that I've never done before - I went to the supermarket and got a taxi home. In the past I've always either walked there and back (and used internet for beer shopping) or (been) driven there and back when a car is available.

It's K's birthday today and she's having a minor party this evening so we needed to get food and drink. Unfortunately the car is currently in a garage for its MOT and to fix an oil leak. We therefore had no transport and due to poor planning, no time to use the internet for heavy stuff. Therefore we were left with the taxi option, or go hungry/thirsty.

It works really well. There's a little phone in the supermarket lobby. You pick it up, press a button, speak to a little man and a taxi comes for you about five minutes later. Magic. The taxi man even helps you put your shopping in the boot.

It cost about six quid. So I've worked out that if you do a shopping trip once a week and get a taxi back, total annual costs are about £300 (I used a calculator for that one). If the supermarket is the main thing a car is used for then this feels like a much cheaper number than running a car - the garage bill alone will probably be several hundred pounds.

The only other thing we could thing of that a car would be needed for would be going to dancing class. So this means we're in a slightly surreal situation of only being able to justify having a car so that we can go dancing. Doesn't feel right to me :-)

But I've now thought of some other things we use it for:
1. Buying Christmas trees
2. Taking Christmas trees to the Christmas tree recycling place (somewhere...)
3. Ram raiding the local shop
4. Moving belongings
5. Visiting places that don't have trains (none spring to mind but I'm sure they exist)

But I reckon with judicious use of further taxis and car hire, we could get around these things too.

Message and moral is therefore "Kill All Cars". Nasty smelly things, they are.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Festive 20 - 2007

Lazily I'll just copy last year's brief preamble.

Every year, I compile a list of the top 20 songs of the year as voted for by me, the only person that counts. Rules for eligibility for inclusion in the list are flexible, but I think all on this year's list were released either as a single, or on an album during the year.

Let the countdown commence. In reverse order:

20: Wasted little DJs - The View
19: Elvis ain't dead - Scouting for girls
18: O Valencia - The Decemberists
17: Going to a town - Rufus Wainwright
16: All the love in your hands - Thirteen Senses
15: Our love goes deeper than this - Duke Special
14: Smokers outside the hospital doors - Editors
13: The world is outside - Ghosts
12: Australia - The Shins
11: The Prayer - Bloc Party
10: Home - Amsterdam
9: No emotion - Idlewild
8: Had enough - The Enemy
7: Mathematics - Cherry Ghost
6: Decimate - David Ford
5: Carry on - Ben's Brother
4: Better - Tom Baxter
3: Rule the world - Take That
2: People help the people - Cherry Ghost
1: Tranquilize - The Killers (feat Lou Reed)

The ranking is slightly arbitrary in places but there you go.

Cherry Ghost have managed a double placing this year through having two mighty fine singles. The Killers single is an excellent one. More downbeat than most of their output but it just sounds different to anything else I've heard this year. I nearly included their Christmas single, Don't shoot me Santa but eventually left it out as a) it wasn't as good as Tranquilize and b) it was too silly.

See you next Jan for the 2008 list! I have no idea what it will look like. Will Take That make the list for a third year running?...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Books Read in 2007

I got through a reasonable amount of books again this year but still (again) failed to meet my annual internal target of two per month. Just like last year I've only managed 22 again.

* Pushing Ice - Alastair Reynolds
* Pandora's Star - Peter F Hamilton
* Judas Unchained - Peter F Hamilton
* Learning The World - Ken Macleod
* Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
* Unspeak - Stephen Poole
* Sunstorm - Arthur C Clarke & Stephen Baxter
* Lint - Steve Aylett
* Marvel: 1602 - Neil Gaiman
* Iron Council - China Meiville
* Ancient Shores - Jack McDevitt
* The Meaning of the 21st Century - James Martin
* Watchmen - Alan Moore
* Black Jade - David Zindell
* Lisey's Story - Stephen King
* Dead Air - Iain Banks
* Making Money - Terry Pratchett
* Eternals - Neil Gaiman
* Illium - Dan Simmons
* The Big Over Easy - Jasper Fforde
* Olympos - Dan Simmons
* Resplendent - Stephen Baxter

Eagle eyed readers will spot a couple of graphic novels in there. They do count. My rules.

Best of the year were probably Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained (they're all one story and only split into two books as it would be 2000 pages long if they weren't). Very long but complex and good fun.

Dan Simmons' pair, Illium and Olympos were also a lot of fun, but also completely bonkers, mixing the Trojan War with spaceships, robots, monsters and quantum physics. I would have put it as favourite except that the plot never quite all comes together in the way I'd have liked and a lot of elements are left unexplained (or maybe they just don't make sense).

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hello 2008!

So New Year was a bit anti-climactic despite being in Scotland. Not a bad night, just nothing amazing. And there was no coal. But the cider was tasty.

I'm now safely ensconced back in York and looking forward to having the remainder of the week off work.

I haven't made any New Year resolutions yet (and indeed am unlikely to) but I do intend to start running again. Soon. And I think this year, the girl's coming too!