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Archive for October 2006



Exercise

Posted on Tuesday 31st October 2006 at 00:00
Well, it seems the 'extra hour in bed? induced good mood of Sunday lasted a little longer than my sleeping patterns should have allowed for. Sunday was just the first of what is now a three day streak of productiveness that has seen me defrost the freezer, catch up on my uni work, keep the house free of my mess and take up exercise again. Yes that's right, I said EXERCISE. Nothing quite so dramatic and ultimately death defying as signing back up for the gym, but I'm reliably informed that that much exercise really isn't necessary.

On Saturday night, as I waited for the clock to tick closer and closer to 2am I found myself casually browsing the BBC Health website. I've been here before and found their information both encouraging and informative, so I thought I'd have a look and see what the advice was on exercise. I'd expected to find out that if I ran flat out for 100 years I could just about avoid the fast train to Cholesterol Central, the terminal for Heart Attack City, but actually the news was relatively encouraging.

Apparently, the average person can get enough exercise to keep them ticking over just by walking briskly for 30 minutes each day! While this won't exactly turn you into an Olympic class athlete nor get you the slimmer of the year award at Fat Fighters, it seems it should be enough to stop things getting any worse and maybe help you to feel a little better as well.

Since the gym is my idea of hell and making any significant alterations to my diet (which is already fairly balanced) would take away my one remaining pleasure in life (eating) this seemed like the best starting point for getting myself back into shape. Life style gurus say the best way to improve your life is to make small changes that are easy to stick to and then build on them over time, and you don't get a much smaller change then 30 minutes a day of light exercise do you?

The plan is to keep it up for two weeks and then see how I feel. Assuming it isn't obviously killing me and isn't disrupting the routine of my life to an extent that I can't incorporate, I intend to carry it on and maybe build on it as time goes on. I'm not hugely optimistic, all such previous plans having been dismal failures, but at least I'm trying, which is a lot more than I usually can manage.

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Thoughts on the Changing of the Clocks

Posted on Monday 30th October 2006 at 00:00
It is now a little over 24/25 hours since the clocks went back as part of our biannual jumping of the time zones and so I feel it's a perfect time to sit and muse on the changing of the time and how greatly it all seems to affect us. More to the point, it should be noted that we are all complete idiots for being led to believe that an hour's time difference makes any difference to us in the first place.

If you are anything like me (ie you are under 40 and are not tied down to a regular job) then you will be very aware at this hour in the day that your sleep patterns are, shall we say, a little irregular? Indeed, my own sleeping times vary from night to night by at least a couple of hours, as do my times for getting up. It perhaps says it all that I was very much awake when the clock struck two and moments later struck one again. Why therefore do we put so much stock in the idea of getting an extra hour in bed at this time of year? Arguably I lost an hour's sleep anyway by staying up longer than I would otherwise have done, just to see in the new time zone.

Despite this, I woke this morning with an inexplicable feeling of happiness and refreshment, even though I received as little or less sleep than any other night of the year. The same can be said to be true of a great deal of people, as even the bloke on the radio was more cheerful than usual and kept commenting on how much better he felt for the shift in the clocks. In many ways it was an ordinary Sunday, but to hear the way people went on about it and to see the smiles on their faces, you'd think it was Christmas or something.

The other somewhat laughable aspect of the whole affair is that after everyone had had their 'extra hour in bed? they found themselves with an extra hour during the day as well. I myself discovered that I'd been blessed with several hours more today than on the average Sunday, even though I'd lazed in bed until well after 10. It seemed that for most of the day there was nothing I couldn't do. I managed to visit the shops, get all my laundry done, wash the car, touch up the bumpers, spend hours browsing the internet looking for old school friends and cook myself a good old fashioned Sunday roast for my dinner. On top of all that I was even able to squeeze in three loads of washing up, a hour of television and a DVD to boot! I'm half surprised I've not taken my extra hour(s) to research and plan my career for the next 40 years while I'm at it.

I think this is all a very good example of the power of the mind. The reason why myself and probably most of the rest of the country got so many household things done today is not that we had a 25 hour day instead of a 24 hour one. It is nothing to do with that at all. The real reason is that we knew we had that surplus time and so endeavoured to use it as wisely as we could. If only we had a little more control over our minds than we actually do, perhaps we could harness the power of the Return to GMT Good Mood Sunday to allow us to be far more productive on other days of the week.

The combined facts of the clocks going back and it being a Sunday conspired to leave us all with a deep feeling of satisfaction that ultimately made us happier in our work and able to do more of it as a result. I guess really the key to getting things done that you have to do is to stay happy and positive, because when you do that, you can own the world!

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Notes on House Keeping

Posted on Saturday 28th October 2006 at 00:00
Wow, have I really not posted since Thursday!? Doesn't time fly when you are having fun, or failing that really busy? Actually I've been a bit of both these last two days, which for a student isn't a bad thing at all. In that time I've had several ideas for blog entries, too many in fact to write as full individual posts, so I'm going to compress those that I can remember into one bite size chunk.

The first thing that struck me on Friday was how extremely quiet the roads were, despite the fact that I was running a few minutes late and should have been penalised with a massive tail back. Those who were reading last week will remember how I described being stuck in traffic for ages and enjoyed listening to the radio in the car. This week that didn't happen at all. For a start the usual breakfast show presenters weren't on and they had a stand in who wasn't really in a position to replicate the amusing conversations that usually make up the show as he was all by himself. And as I mentioned there was no traffic to speak of.

This freaked me out so much that by the time I got up to uni I was convinced that there must have been a bomb scare nearby or something and the roads had been closed, only due to some terrible administrative cock up no one had told me. Later in the day I was reminded that it was half term and so no school run would have been there to slow things down, but at the time I was seriously worried. Luckily for me, when I got to uni I found loads of cars; an entire car park full of them in fact. Well, that isn't strictly true. The car park didn't have any space for new cars but it wasn't even close to full, as I discovered to my extreme annoyance as I crawled between the rows of parked cars and found that at least half of them had parked so badly that they were taking up enough space for at least two cars each.

This really gets my back up as (the way I see it) parking is not only really, really easy, it is also one of the most fundamental parts of driving, and without which no one should be allowed a licence. However, it seems that due to some pretty poor instructors and some even poorer test centre car parks, at least half of all learner drivers are not taught how to reverse bay park competently, despite the fact that the highway code states this is the only way you are allowed to park in a bay. Not forwards. Backwards. There is a very good reason for this: imagine you are in a car park and your car is half sticking out of a bay with two cars parked on either side. The end of the car inside the bay has very little manoeuvrability because of the cars on either side and the end outside of the bay has lots as there are no cars there. If you are trying to drive in forwards, which end are the steering wheels on? That's right, the end where they are no use because there isn't any space to move! If you are going in backwards, which end are they on? Right again, the end with all the room in the world, which means it is much easier to manoeuvre the car into the space neatly and quickly. If you go in forwards you will never have the room to straighten up, and that is why you end up taking up two spaces and that is why I ended up reverse parking into a space so tight that I couldn't actually open the doors, not even a crack. In the end I had to go to another car park, all because of other people being stupid. Still, it will serve them right next week when they all get clamped for parking illegally *evil grin*

I had a gap of two hours between my lectures after lunch which I spent rushing off a Frequently Asked Questions page for the website. It can be found using the link at the top of this page and contains the answers to some of the questions I figured you might have. If you've got anymore please email me and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

In the afternoon I had the best lecture I've had all year. Firstly a woman from careers development came in and told us that if we enquire now we could get a decent job with a starting salary of '30k a year, which was all the encouragement I needed, having previously been led to believe I was doing well if I could get '16,000 a year. Secondly we had a one off lecture with a bloke who was everything a lecturer should be. The class had been quite talkative during the careers talk, but when that ended he just stood there silently and the room went dead within 5 seconds. I half expected everyone to rise and chant 'Good Afternoon, Mr. Lecturer', like in some re-enactment of a Victorian school, from the days when students were respectful and polite.

He then went on to give an incredibly well delivered lecture on a subject that should have been fairly boring but which was made to be interesting, thought provoking and enlightening, even though it was last thing on a Friday. I have to say it is probably the first lecture in that module in which I've actually leant something. Really made my day.

In the evening I went to the cinema with the intention of seeing The Departed. Sadly for me it was very much sold out, as was the cinema car park, the entrance to which had actually been closed off to stop any more cars trying to get in there. Another car park was found and another film selected, this time being The Guardian, which I'd seen trailers for and which was not at all disappointing. My 27th cinema visit of 2006.

Today's excitement came in the form of an unexpected house inspection by the landlords, put forward by a week as they were in town to deal with another property. This required several hours of manic tidying up before they arrived, but was well worth it, as by the time they got to us, everyone was in a very good mood indeed, not least because we were living in a nice looking house for once. We've been told our new freezer will arrive on Tuesday, allowing us to have one between two, rather than one between 4, as we are doing at the moment. I've also been promised a new desk chair, as my present one only rises about a foot off the ground and sitting on it is very uncomfortable.

There is currently a box on my screen. I'm not sure where it has come from or why, but it looks like the shadowing you get on the right side and bottom of any announcement box anywhere in Windows, except without the announcement box inside. It has been here for a few hours now, looking rather lost, but doesn't appear to be linked to any pages or applications and I can't interact with it using the mouse. It is most odd I'm sure you'll agree. I think I'll call him Fred .... or Bernard. Actually, that sounds better; Bernard the box it shall be.

My leg appears to be going numb despite the fact that I'm not sitting on it. Perhaps this means I should go ...

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Growing Up

Posted on Friday 27th October 2006 at 00:00
As an alternative to doing the sensible thing and sleeping, I find myself battling to churn out the first half decent post in a week. The time, according to my system clock is 01:19 and I have to get up for lectures at 6:45. I glance around at my surroundings, taking in the changes that have most recently occurred. The walls nearest my desk, once bare and uninteresting have, since a few hours ago been covered with a multitude of photographs, letters, fliers and post cards. The most tangible memorabilia from my recent friendships.

I am growing up and experiencing changes in my life as I do so. Though I am unable to perceive any great change in myself recently, either in my physical appearance, which has changed little over the last couple of years, save for a slight weight increase, or in my mind, which is as much a mystery to me now as ever it was, outside of myself the changes are as fast paced, violent and disconcerting as a tropical storm, ripping through my little world and leaving devastation in its wake.

Of all the changes going on, the most glaringly obvious, even to myself has been the near total collapse of my old friendships and the blatant failure to repair or replace them. It is a fact of life that as time progresses the people you associate with will come and go and I'd long been prepared for the fact that the friends I left 6th form with two years ago probably weren't going to be with me right up until the day I died. However, at no point did I foresee a total breakdown in relations within the course of one year, nor (more surprisingly to me) the breakdown in my own levels of caring.

I've been very close to my friends for some years now and so far as I could tell, as last year drew to a close, things were getting better for me with every day that passed. Somehow, in the intervening months between then and now these friendships appear to have all but petered out. It isn't that I'm actively not speaking to anyone anymore, simply that there appears to be no inclination upon either party to actively pursue the friendship.

In some ways this has been a good thing for me. I'm now much more capable of providing my own entertainment and less prone to the crippling pangs of loneliness that only a few months ago were a constant feature of any and all time I spent by myself. However, I find myself becoming increasingly concerned by my apparent unwillingness to put any effort into socialising or building relationships at all. Indeed, even with regards to my housemates, I find myself unable to be suitably cheerful, pleasant or polite in their company, and find myself shying away from spending any more time with them than is strictly necessary. This marks an almost complete turnaround for me and not a pleasant one, almost to the point of suspecting myself of gradually becoming a recluse.

At uni things appear to be even worse. I'm still aware of when I need to say and do things to help promote friendships & when to suggest an evening out, offer a lift or recommend lunching together - but I seem unable to make the effort, almost as though I don't care in the slightest whether my relationships sink or swim. It probably isn't much better news that I am quite blatantly making no effort to find myself a girlfriend, almost to the point of discouraging potential candidates to come near me in my manners and body language.

It isn't just my interactions with other people that have changed recently. Additionally my thoughts on the future are less to do with my remaining time at uni and trying to emulate the student lifestyle and more to do with potential career options, job interviews and the work life balance. I strongly suspect that I may well be more than ready to move on long before I graduate, and it is only the pressures of trying to succeed in the job market that keep me pressing on with my degree.

Growing up is all very well and good, but I think I seriously need to get some aspects of my life back in check, or I'm going to suffer for it later on. I also need to do something interesting enough as to allow me to write posts that aren't completely self indulging.

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Ignorminious on The Joys of London (Or Why It is a Better Place to Live than Bristol)

Posted on Thursday 26th October 2006 at 00:00
I love London. Despite having never lived nor worked there and despite it being a large, noisy and fairly smelly city I think it is probably one of the greatest places to live in the country. Certainly better than Bristol anyway, even if it is rather more expensive. I'm not suggesting that other cities around the UK aren't good places to live or even that the countryside isn't far more desirable in many ways than a city, but London really does have a lot going for it.

Firstly there is the transport. Being the capital, it is possible to get there fairly quickly and easily from more or less anywhere in the country (if not the world). From Bristol I can get a train into London Paddington every 30 minutes all day every day. Tickets can be quite cheap if you book in advance. I got to London for just '10 on Tuesday which is less than it would have cost me in petrol to drive there and it takes less time as well. The university claims it is a 90 minute journey in their advertising material. Personally I think this is a tad optimistic, but not by more than 5 or 10 minutes.

When you arrive at a central London railway terminal you join a massive transport network that will take you anywhere in the city quickly and easily. I know some Londoners fighting their way through the rush hour might dispute this point, but only if they haven't lived in Bristol. There are over ground services that trawl between some of the smaller London stations, and if you get the tube to the right station you can catch a train to anywhere in the country pretty much.

The tube itself is an incredible structure if you stop and think about it. Networks of all over the city beneath your feet with trains running just a few minutes apart. It is crowded at rush hour, yes, but only because it is such a good way to get around for very little money at all. In recent years it has received very bad press because of the various closures for repairs on different lines. Obviously this is annoying for those who have to change their travel plans accordingly but I don't see that this is really any different to closing a road for repairs, which in many cases can cause greater delays than you ever find on the tube. Provided you leave enough time for your journey and check for closures on the internet beforehand, the network is a fast, efficient and cheap way to get around. Those who complain every time they use would soon take back their harsh words if made to rely on taxis and buses all the time instead. I really wish Bristol had an underground, it'd solve so many problems in the city.

That said, the London buses are pretty reasonable as well. Thanks to the Oyster cards it is now as quick and easy to travel by bus as on the tube. I read today that London is the only place in the country where passenger numbers on the buses are actually going up rather than down. Some people might not be keen on public transport in London, but live for a while here in Bristol and you'll soon realise just how lucky you are.

Next up is entertainment. It would probably be fair to say that London is the cultural capital of Britain with more theatres, cinemas and attractions than anywhere else. Bristol has two well known theatres, The Old Vic and the Hippodrome. Nothing wrong with either of these of course, but they don't exactly afford a wide range of shows. London on the other hand has so many theatres that I've never actually been to the same one twice (except for the Globe and The National) and there are many more I've yet to visit.

Art galleries and Museums are also plentiful all over the City in quantities that probably don't exist anywhere else in the UK. I know all this is probably stating the obvious since it is the capital, but I think anyone who lives in the other cities around the country will know what I mean. It seems very much to me that as a country, all our efforts have been put into that one place, with little left for anywhere else. By comparison it always amazes me that Bristol is in fact the 8th largest city in the country and that there are another 50 or so that are even more deprived than here.

Restaurants are also a huge feature of central London. They say you can never be more than half a mile from the nearest tube station in the city but you can't be more than 100 yards from the nearest place to eat I'd say. They have restaurants selling every type of food under the sun, literally. Wander around Leicester Square, Tottenham Court Road, Piccadilly, Covent Garden or anywhere else round there and almost every other building is selling a good meal. Ok so it isn't the cheapest place to eat in Britain, but if you can afford it, the quality and variety is more than you could ever wish for in one place. From a social point of view this seems to me to be very important, as a lot of socialising is conducted over a good meal. Perhaps one of the draw backs about Bristol, especially outside the city centre is that there are very few cafes and restaurants anywhere to be seen. Britain's climate being what it is, it is essential that there are many places where people can meet that are close at hand and also warm and sheltered, and if all your local area can manage in addition to McDonalds, KFC and Burger King is a few kebab vans and the odd chippy then it isn't surprising that a lot of people won't go out anywhere. In short, we need more coffee shops!

There are of course many other great things about London that can't be found as easily elsewhere in the UK, but discussing those in detail is best left to bloggers who know the city a little better than I do at the moment. For now I shall finish by saying that although I mentioned a desire to live in New York City a few weeks ago, I suspect central London, if I can ever afford it, would do just as nicely.

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Site Upgrade II

Posted on Monday 23rd October 2006 at 00:00
Well, after a stupid number of hours work, I finally have the Text-Only version of the site online (yay go the narrow banders)! I've also done one or two other cosmetic updates and some script modifications. I'm currently working on a script to show snippets of the latest comments that people have added to the site. This is proving a little tricky however so I've put off finishing it until tomorrow perhaps. It shouldn't take too long but it is already twenty to two and I'm pretty tired. It is lucky I'm running this post through a word processor because my typing is going to shit just now.

I was planning to write a longer post about what I've been up to today (besides web design) but I don't think I'd do it justice without first getting some sleep, so that will have to wait. Til then I guess you'll just have to keep hitting Refresh like the eager little blog readers I know you are until I update again.

P.S I shan't take responsibility for any RSD you receive from over enthusiastic refreshing.

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Ignorminious on Illiterate Newspaper Editors

Posted on Monday 23rd October 2006 at 00:00
I've just come back from town where I saw one of those newspaper advertisement headline things with the following written as today's big headline:

MAN HIT
BY NIGHT
BUS DIES



If it wasn't for the tragedy of the actual story which is about a bloke who crashed his car into a bus at night and was killed, the story about the man who got hit by the night at the same time as a bus died would be well worth a chuckle over me thinks! What I don't understand is why no one printing the sign or the headline actually picked up on this. I guess that's Bristolians for you though.

In other news, I was stood in the queue at Woolworths (I'll explain why in my next post) earlier and there was a bloke stood very close behind me who appeared to be snoring despite being awake. Every time I shuffled forward in an attempt to stop him from snoring all over the back of my neck, he'd start coughing all over it instead and shuffle forwards so that he was a couple of inches behind me again.

The locals in this town are truly weird.

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Sunday Challenges

Posted on Monday 23rd October 2006 at 00:00
My housemates appear to have just left without saying goodbye so I'm turning to my other source of companionship, my blog. Having finally done most of the chores I need to do today I feel I can stop just long enough to write the post that I would have written last night if I hadn't been suffering from a nasty bout of tiredness.

First though, I'm going to fetch myself a nice warm coffee ....

That's better. I wanted to start tonight by making a correction to an earlier post in which I claimed that I paid around '5 for an energy saving light bulb. This was in fact a complete and utter lie as on further examination of the receipt yesterday I discovered that I actually paid around '3.50. This is actually more significant than you may think, as we shall see later. As I said at the time, I was so impressed that I decided to buy some more to light up my room. It was for this reason that when I was in Woolworths on Sunday and just by chance saw the same light bulbs for a quid cheaper than I'd bought them in Tesco, I decided to buy a load.

I'd meant to buy 5 originally; three for my room, one for the kitchen and one for the landing. However, upon arriving home I discovered that for some bizarre reason I'd only bought 4. What made it worse was that when I got one out of the box I discovered it was a screw fit, not the other kind, and so were all the others. In short I'd just spent '10 on a load of light bulbs I couldn't even use.

Luckily for me I was to have another shopping trip that day, this time to B&Q, where lo and behold I found the same light bulbs again, this time for a mere 98p! You have to admit, that is a pretty reasonable price for energy savers. I didn't check but I'm pretty sure that that works out at about the same cost as regular bulbs.

So anyway I buy the things and install them and return the other bulbs to Woolworths, which is why at 1 o clock this afternoon I was stood in the queue for the tills with a weird man snoring and coughing down the back of my neck, as eluded to in a previous post. The reason why I visited both Woolworths and B&Q on Sunday, which was the point of this post before I went off on a light bulb tangent was my mobile phone's car cradle.

I bought a cradle for my phone to sit in within a few days of getting the car as it was clearly an essential item. Since the cradle supplied by Orange was rather expensive I got a cheap generic one from Tesco and that was that. At least until Saturday when I was in the Orange shop in The Galleries and couldn't resist buying an in-car charger for the phone. Now, God knows why I need an in car charger given that my phone battery has a good standby time of several days and I feel popular if I get as much as one phone call in a week, let alone a long battery draining one while I'm in the car but there you go; I wanted one.

On the way home from the shops a great idea popped into my head. 'Hey? I said to myself, 'wouldn't it be great if I could somehow attach the charger to the cradle so that as soon as my phone is dropped into the cradle it will automatically start charging and I won't have to go to all the trouble of plugging it in!? To put this in context, I already drive anyone I give a lift to mad by taking the time to get my phone out of my bag or pocket, place it in the charger and then get out my Bluetooth headset, switch it on and attach it to my ear every time I get behind the wheel even though I haven't received or made a call from the car since about August and I didn't want to give them anymore reason to want to kill me before I've even switched on the engine.

On closer examination I realised what a challenge this would be. For a start there wasn't a huge amount of room for the charge lead to poke out of the cradle which meant I'd have to get a hacksaw and chop a section out of the cradle for the plug to sit into. The other major hurdle was that the surface area involved was very small, which meant I would need some really, really strong glue to hold those two pieces of plastic together against the pushing and pulling of my phone entering and leaving the cradle.

Actually that reminds me, I'm supposed to be moving the car tonight so my housemate can have the drive. Better do that now .....

So in the end I was forced to buy a hacksaw and some super strong plastic glue (no thanks to the bumpkin in B&Q who didn't seem to know that there was more than one type of super glue when I asked him which one would be best) and spent a fair chunk of yesterday afternoon making lots of mess and having a great time and eventually putting together something which not only looks stylish (sort of) but actually works! I could have included a picture but I imagine that would only provoke a barrage of comments disputing my claim about it looking good. Ah well.

Other news in brief: I developed a theory this morning that the amount of time by which you oversleep is directly proportional to the number of pillows you have. For the last two nights I've used two instead of one and have overslept both times. My bedroom currently looks like a Chinese laundry (no offence to any Chinese readers, although I guess I'm only talking to ex-pats since there is no way the Great Firewall of China hasn't blocked this decedent Western blog yet) as without a tumble drier and with bad weather forecast from now until Dooms Day I've been forced to dry everything in my room with the aid of several lengths of string running the length of my room and acting as a make-shift washing line. God only knows how they used to manage in the olden days. Actually I'm not sure they did since they all tended to die before it was wash day.

Anyways, the word count tells me that I'm already over 1,100 words so it is probably time to stop writing now before I kill off anyone who is still left reading this thing.

*cough*

P.S I apologise for the appalling writing style and excessive references to myself in the first person. I've just read it over and it is dreadful but if I start rewriting it I won't finish before Christmas so this will have to do. Sorry.

P.P.S Apologies again, this time for the crappy content of the post and a lack of anything interesting to talk about.

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site upgrade

Posted on Sunday 22nd October 2006 at 00:00
Just a quick note to let you know that I've been tweaking the site again. Slight changes to the font; a massive overhaul of the table structure; changes to the background and some of the layout and most importantly I've added the facility for an image to be added to each post, as I'm a sucker for anything that I think looks pretty and I hope you are to.

If I strain my ears I think I can hear the sound of narrowband users groaning at this news. Sorry guys, I know I haven't got you your text only version yet but I promise it isn't far away now. Sadly it has been necessary to do all these other bits first. All things being well I'll be able to launch the text only version of Ignorminious? Misty Mind before the evening is out. Til then please sit tight and don't fret.

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Ignorminious on What it Means to be Single

Posted on Saturday 21st October 2006 at 00:00
One of the most noticeable curses of being single is that you frequently get sidelined by those who are not so at certain times and on certain occasions. The most obvious of these being of course St Valentines Day, a whole day planned and marketed around the idea of couples going off and doing coupley things with the specific intent of making the less fortunate feel left out. For that one evening a year you are shunned by society at large if you are single. You can't eat out, visit the theatre or cinema, go shopping or even for a walk without noticing that you are the only person by yourself.

However this is by no means the only time when those in relationships shun those who are not. Double dates, romantic evenings, anniversaries and weekend breaks are just a few of the regular occasions on which the unattached are dumped by their friends and left to find stuff to do by themselves while everyone else goes off to have fun.

Now, I have no objection to time alone. Actually I quite enjoy it once in a while; a time to collect ones thoughts, catch up on tasks not yet completed or pursue a hobby or other leisure activity. But nothing about being single makes me want to spend more time alone than anyone else. Those in relationships have time alone as well as time together, and the time they have alone amounts to around the same amount of self time that I enjoy. Sadly, a group of friends and housemates who are more or less all in relationships means that the time that they spend being couples I'm left spending alone still, and sadly not much time is left to spend with my friends.

Last night I went to the cinema by myself and saw Children of Men (which is extremely good by the way) and today I spent most of the afternoon shopping alone. Tomorrow and Monday I will continue to be alone and don't even know what I will do to fill the time. None of this time is time I actually want to spend by myself. In fact, I'd much rather be spending it with people. One day alone would have been more than enough self time for me this week.

The other thing that really bugs me about being single and surrounded by those who are not is the way they look down on you for something that isn't necessarily your fault. I have at least one friend who seemingly can't see me and not either ask whether or not I've found someone yet or else tell me how she simply must find someone to hook me up with. I'm sure it is all well meant, but I can't help feeling that my relationship status is looked upon as some sort of disease or handicap that must be corrected before I can be socially acceptable again, like a lack of an 'other half? somehow makes me a misfit.

Perhaps the worst bit is that all these little things continuously serve to remind me what I'm always trying so hard to forget: that I'm single and alone, as I have been for over three years now, and that I'm not at all happy to be so. Couples everywhere, please spare a thought for the single people you know, especially if they are not so through choice. The world is a much bleaker place when you have no one to light your life.

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Works Update

Posted on Friday 20th October 2006 at 00:00
I have now finally finished stage one and stage two of the maintenance and upgrade program planned for today. The site coding has been consolidated post build and CSS has been installed and verified by the World Wide Web Consortium. There are one or two bugs still but it is at least usable. You may or may not be able to see any differences. They are there but are very small and generally restricted to tweaks in cell padding and margins. This has taken me over 12 hours, so don't ever say I'm not dedicated to my blog!

The final stage will be creating the text only version, however this will not be completed for at least 24 hours due to other commitments. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy an uninterrupted service :-)

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A Friday Morning

Posted on Friday 20th October 2006 at 00:00
As suddenly as if a gun had just been fired I snap back into consciousness. My eyes open to the dark room and my ears gradually tune into the source of my rather rude awakening. I haul my sleeping limbs slowly out of bed, stagger slowly and clumsily across my room and press the off button on my mobile phone's alarm clock. Friday morning has begun.

The room is cold and dark and my body is screaming at me to get back into bed. I am about to comply when the all awakening cold air finally seeps through to my brain and I wake up enough to remember that I have uni this morning. By the time I turn towards my wardrobe to acquire my dressing gown I'm already looking forward to the exquisite lie in that is Saturday morning.

The room is dark as I mentioned and the hallway no lighter as I begin my trek upstairs. As I near the top I am greeted by my housemate, already dressed and full of the sort of energy than can only come from having already been up for an hour. She asks in a whisper if she can borrow my milk and I signal my agreement with what my brain claims is roughly 'yea sure, borrow whatever you need? but which my ears tell me is a vague grunting noise that may just have an affirmative overtone.

I enter the bathroom and prepare to shower. I'm still getting used to having the power switch for the shower positioned on the wall outside the bathroom door, but today at least I seem to have remembered to flick it before entering the room. Many an unexpectedly cold shower and annoyance at having to get out to switch it on have seen to that.

The shower water is warm and I spend a quarter of an hour awkwardly washing my tired and complaining body while my brain alternates between complaining and revising my plans for the day. I am unusually awake this morning, despite an inadequate amount of sleep and it is perhaps for this reason that the creative part of my mind has already begun describing what I see in phrases that would be applicable to my blog. I muse briefly on whether or not a t-shirt with the inscription 'I'm blogging this? would be a worthwhile future investment.

The first promises of the predawn light are visible through the misted up window by the time I pull back the shower curtain and shuffle blunderingly to the dry end of the bath, nearly slipping over in the process, to where my towel is waiting. As I dry myself my mind grapples with the difficult decision of whether to open the window now and let some fresh air circulate or whether to wait until I am back in my robe. This verdict is reached on consideration of the solitary provision of the current temperature. There is of course no sense in allowing the outside air through the window in order to clear out the humid swirls of water vapour if they are all that stands between yourself and hypothermia.

The shower complete, I take a moment to administer a customary rinse of the bath with the shower head before leaving the bathroom and returning downstairs to get dressed. The hall light has been switched on by my now departed housemate and the bright, cheerful light helps to dispel the animal desire to return to bed. Instead I dress quickly while listening to GWR FM's Bush and Troy Show, which starts by informing me that I'm going to get soaked on the way to uni this morning. Great.

Breakfast consists of a bowel of my customary breakfast cereal and a glass of cold apple juice from the fridge & pretty much the only thing I am happy to experience cold at this time of day. I notice with some amusement that my milk is untouched, but the milk of another housemate is significantly reduced upon the previous night's level, despite his being away from home.

By the time I am done eating I am already running a few minutes late and am forced to rush through the long and arduous process of readying myself for the day. Fortunately I only need one textbook for today so packing my bag takes less than a minute and I am out of the door bang on 8am.

The car windows are covered in condensation on the outside, a mark of the October nights gradually getting colder and damper than those of the previous month. I have yet to invest in any sort of wiper or scrapper so clearing the side windows and mirrors must be done by hand. From the moment I close the car door behind me the windows are all beginning to mist up and I find myself having to drive blind for the first two or three minutes before the electric heater battles to clear the windscreen. I muse over how long it will take me in the winter to prepare my car for the short run up to uni.

GWR FM are back in my head, courtesy of the car stereo but I have already lost faith in their weather forecasting abilities as I drive off into a beautiful autumn day. I remember a line from You've Got Mail - a film I am quoting on this blog far more often than can be strictly legal & in which Tom Hanks says how he loves New York in the Fall. At the time I remembered having my doubts about how anyone can enjoy autumn while stuck in a city, but now I begin to see what he means.

Before long I am committed to an unusually protracted queue of traffic and have time between stop-starts to enjoy the scenery. All down the length of the steep hill I am crawling down is a stone wall, not yet ancient but mossy none the less and behind it a row of trees of a variety of species. Autumn in this part of the world has been unusually mild this year, a consequence of which being that the leaves that normally switch from the green of summer to the brown and dead of late autumn in a single day are instead taking their time to go through the motions of change. The result is an alluring picture or reds, yellows and oranges of an intensity not often witnessed on these shores.

In the distance are the greeny-purple hills beyond the motorway, slightly masked by the early morning haze and above them a cloudless blue sky. I often wonder how many more times we shall see that sky this year, and at what point it shall finally give in to the dull grey clouds that threaten to hide it away until the spring.

Despite the earlier slip up I am glad of Bush and Troy who seem to put every last ounce of effort into providing quality radio entertainment during the 15 or 20 minutes or so that I spend it the car. It doesn't seem to matter exactly what time I go in to uni each morning, they always seem to know to give it their best.

I look in the rear view mirror and see a couple talking to each other in the car behind. I wonder what they are talking about and where they are going. In the car in front of me the passenger is using the mirror in the sun visor (I believe it is called a vanity mirror) to apply make up. I'm reminded of a story a few weeks ago of a driver being caught doing the same thing while actually driving along. On the radio I hear an advert that is seemingly newer and funnier than the ones I've heard twenty times over already and I smile.

Eventually I arrive at my campus and, followed by the car with the couple in it, drive straight to the nearest car park to the building I want & one of the privileges of getting in at such a time. I find a space just big enough for my car and ease my way in backwards, trying not to stall as the car fights the gravely surface and the angle of the incline.

The car locked up and wing mirrors tucked in I begin my walk through the mild sunshine to my first lecture, passing still more golden trees on my way. I love this time of year perhaps more than any other. It holds all the beauty of a summer morning but without the desperate urgency to transform from dawn to mid morning before anyone is yet out of bed. Now the temperature is cooler and the view yet more beautiful for all those autumn colours.

As I wander in I think of my day ahead. I will first sit in a group discussion about organisational structure before moving like a whirl wind into a two hour lecture on European Union Law. In the middle we shall have a coffee break but I have no change for coffee today owing to a pizza bought on Saturday night for which all my money was dedicated. Still, I shall worry about that problem and all the others of the day as and when they arise.

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Ignorminious on Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

Posted on Thursday 19th October 2006 at 00:00
So I went to Tesco earlier to do my weekly shopping and on a whim I decided to buy an energy saving bulb for our light in the hall, as it does tend to get left on and it seemed to me that our bills might be quite high because of it.

I got the bulb home and two or three short hours later I'd finally managed to work out how to get the lampshade off so that I could change the bulb. Once I put the new bulb in I flicked the light switch and & expecting it to go through the usual routine of starting off so dim you can hardly tell it is on & turned to look at it. I was so dazzled by the instantly bright light that I nearly fell off the chair I was precariously balanced on to change the bulb.

Not only had it gone to full brightness straight away but it was actually a whole load brighter than the old one! I'm not generally impressed by anything to do with the environment but this was a whole other story. I went and had a look at the packaging and this is what I found out.

This energy saving bulb:

  • Cost about '5;


  • Uses 11 watts of power, rather than 60 watts for a normal bulb;


  • Is noticeably brighter than a 60 watt bulb;


  • Uses 80% less electricity;


  • Lasts for 6 years rather than 1 year;


  • Cost about '5 and was really bright and lasts 6 times as long as a normal bulb!


  • The bit that really confused me is why would anyone not want to use an energy saving bulb? By my reckoning I'm just about making a saving simply on the life span of the bulb. 6 regular light bulbs have got to cost about as much as one of these and that is before you take into account the improved energy efficiency.

    I think the problem has largely been that since they were introduced energy saving bulbs just weren't as good as normal ones. They always took about 10 minutes to light up, were never as bright and cost a bomb. Bad press indeed and sadly no one seems to have taken the time to start putting about a more positive message, ie they seem to have fixed all the problems with energy saving bulbs and now they really are worthwhile.

    I was so impressed that I intend to change all my other bulbs next time I go down to Tesco. Currently I have a three lamp 'chandelier? hanging from my ceiling, of which I have one of the lamps with a bulb in it. It provides an OK level of lighting but it isn't great. I would have added another two bulbs to it, but I decided the electricity used would be far too excessive; 180 watts in total.

    By using the energy saving bulbs I can light up my room properly while still using only about half as much electricity as I am now with my one bulb. Plus I'll get that warm fuzzy feeling from knowing that I am doing my bit for the environment.

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    Bad News Travels Fastest When Emailed

    Posted on Thursday 19th October 2006 at 00:00
    I just received this message from a friend of mine with whom I'm supposed to be attending a Ray Davies gig at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday:

    'AUTUMN TOUR POSTPONED

    Unfortunately, Ray Davies' Autumn tour from 11th October & 6th November has been postponed until next year due to ill health. We are sure that you all wish Ray a speedy recovery.'


    Am mucho annoyed about this as the tickets were booked back in June. Still, I guess this is what happens when you go to see a guy in his 60s perform. I hope he does get well soon. In the mean time I've got to work out what else to do in London on Tuesday since my train tickets are already booked.

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    Notice of Works

    Posted on Thursday 19th October 2006 at 00:00
    < ![CDATA[Just to let you all know, today is the day I've designated for doing some maintenance work on the site. I have three projects to complete today and all three of them could potentially affect your viewing of the website.

    Firstly I am going to be compressing and tidying up the site scripts. This will allow faster loading times and more economical bandwidth usage, as well as making it easier for me to update the site in the future with minimal disruption to service.

    Secondly I'm going to convert the site to CSS. For those who are non-technically minded I will try to explain this in laymen's terms. When you design a site you have to specify how various things will look. For example you might say that this piece of text is going to be blue or that table will have a 6 pixel wide boarder etc. Every time you add something to the site you have to specify how it will look. Now, if you want the text to be blue in several places on each page and on several pages of the site you find yourself writing out the same set of instructions over and over, which is not only very annoying, it also makes the pages very big which means they take longer for you to download them.

    Cascading style sheets (CSS) allow you to offload all of that coding into a separate file which contains all the instructions for how the entire site will look, neatly labelled up. Then in the main site page, every time you want the text to be blue you just refer the page to the style sheet for instructions on how to display the text. It also means that if you get bored of blue and want red instead, you only have to change the instructions in the style sheet and the change will be applied to all your pages at once.

    Thirdly I want to create the long awaited text only version of the site, which will be faster loading while still hopefully looking reasonable and will be aimed at those readers using dial up or with particularly strict bandwidth allowances.

    In order to minimise disruption I shall be doing the bulk of the work in a clone of the site which will then be loaded onto the main site when it is ready. This shouldn't cause too many problems for you guys but in the event that something does go wrong and you start getting error messages, slow loading times or pages that don't display properly, please bear with me and keep refreshing the page until it looks right.

    I appreciate your understanding and cooperation at this time.

    Ignorminious

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    Rudeness

    Posted on Wednesday 18th October 2006 at 00:00
    Apologies for the day and a half of silence, it was not really intentional I assure you. What actually happened was that I had a long and busy day up at uni yesterday and as a consequence was very tired when I got home. I had intended to write regardless but somehow I ended up going to bed instead. Ah well, it is probably for the best, as anything I would have written in that state would have undoubtedly been rubbish.

    The plan at that point had been to save the writing until today instead, which seemed like a good plan until the point at which I got up this morning. My alarm went off at 9, but as is often the case when I am woken from deep sleep and the air is cold, I crawled right back into bed without even stopping to make a decision about whether I was going to get up or not. It annoys me so much when this happens, because it wastes a huge amount of my day and could be sorted if only enough of my brain would wake up to think sensibly for a minute, rather than going on basic instincts. Is there a cure for that does anyone know? Anything you can do to ensure that you go from being fully asleep to fully awake the minute your alarm goes off?

    Anyway, I closed my eyes for just a second and the next thing I knew I'd slept heavily for 90 minutes at it was half 10. Since I needed to leave at 11 and wasn't prepared to forfeit my shower, I settled for not writing my blog until later in the day, which is what I am now doing.

    The big piece of news that I wanted to write and tell everyone about is that yesterday I got my first ever genuine comment on this blog, and then today another. This makes me very happy as it appears that frequent commenting with my blog URL over at Little Red Boat has finally got me noticed. All I can hope now is that I've not scared any of them away yet and they might just come back and read again.

    The other piece of news of the day is that I may finally have a job, after months and months of little more than the odd uni event. I applied a little while ago to work for catering services in one of the uni bars as a regular job and they got back to me the other day to find out when I can work. Not sure exactly when I'll be able to start but I'll be replying to them more or less as soon as I've finished writing this, so soon hopefully.

    I was in a lecture yesterday evening, as is generally the case on a Tuesday and we had a different lecturer to usual. This particular module is split between two lecturers and after a few weeks of having the man, this week we had the woman. I mention this because it is the only explanation I can think of for the incredibly bad behaviour that ensued throughout the lecture. Anyone who lives in or near a university town knows that bad behaviour from students isn't uncommon, but this was just something else.

    Despite being the third and final year of the course this year, a fair number of students are already bunking off, so the lecture theatre wasn't very full. Probably no more than 200 or so students in total. Right from the offset large numbers of them started talking in less than quiet voices to their neighbours. This sometimes happens when something is up, such as if the lecturer is giving the wrong lecture or something, but there wasn't obviously anything up this time. And it went on and on. At least 150 of the students in there were talking, laughing and joking quite openly and practically drowning out this poor woman who had clearly made up her mind that she was not got to stop for them.

    When the last slide was put up the level of noise increased still further. I assumed at first that it was general exclamation at the complexity of the slide, which was very detailed, but it wasn't. It turns out that they'd seen in the handout that it was the last slide and so they took its arrival as a sign that the lecture was over and they could pack up. And that is exactly what they did. Papers rustled, bags were unzipped and rezipped and the mini tables where folded away. All this time the woman kept talking, seemingly determined to maintain control. One guy, having finished packing away actually got up and walked straight out, despite the fact that the lecture had around 15 minutes left to run.

    I really can't decide anymore whether this really was the bad manners I'm suggesting or whether it is just what comes of a whole day of examples of good behaviour being replaced with downright rudeness. Only a couple of hours before, half the class in one of my seminars had decided the lesson was no good so had just got up and walked out of the room, never to return. After that I went to a bar for some lunch and two guys just came and sat down on my table without even a glance to see whether I minded, and then promptly both lit cigarettes and sat there smoking and talking like it was the most normal thing in the world. As a non-smoker and someone eating their lunch I was more than a little pissed off about this, especially as it is a no smoking bar.

    Just for the record, yes I know I am sounding like a grumpy old man, yes I know there are worse things in the world than people smoking in a bar or talking in a lecture but really, what the hell has happened to society that the majority of people in a smart, proper middle-upper class university think that it is ok to behave like that?

    If this is what the world really is coming to then I feel sorry for any future kids I might have; they are going to live in a pretty shit society.

    /rant

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    The Problem of Nothing

    Posted on Monday 16th October 2006 at 00:00
    If you stop and think about it, Nothing can actually be a much greater problem than Something. Nothing is a problem I've seen a lot of recently. First and foremost it is all I can think to write about this evening, which is why I've set out on the subject in the first place. It is also the amount of essential seminar preparation I've done for uni tomorrow, not to mention the amount of anything else I've done today, which more or less explains why I have nothing to write about today.

    While going through a patch of particularly poor motivation this afternoon I tried to think of things I like about the work I have to do. I got nothing. Ok, no big deal. It is pretty dry material even as a random sample of the course so it perhaps isn't surprising that I might not enjoy it as such. Let's be more general. What do I like about the module I'm working towards? I got nothing. Hmmm, the course then? Nothing. The degree? Nothing. The subject in general? Nothing.

    The sad truth is that there is nothing I particularly like about what I do and nothing else that I know I would rather do. It all seems to be equally bad. I ranted along the same lines earlier in the day in my other blog which can be found here. All in all I think I did a much better job than I'm doing now, partly because it is late and partly because I seem to have put down all my ideas then and been left with Nothing.

    I'm sure I had more ideas relating to the concept of nothing at one point. I can't imagine I'd have decided to write an entire post on those two ideas, even if I've got nothing else. Nothing is also my bank balance now that I've bought train tickets to London for next Tuesday to go and see Ray Davies at the Royal Albert Hall.

    Earlier today I searched, as I do every day, to see if this blog has been listed on the Google Blog Search, but I got nothing. While I was doing that I was getting nothing done on my uni work, as is the case now while I speak to you. All things considered I should probably give this up now and get back to work before you think nothing of me and I get nothing in the comments section of this post.

    Also I have nothing left to say.

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    The Question of Life Style

    Posted on Sunday 15th October 2006 at 00:00
    Why is it that almost any kind of life style seems better when observed through the eyes of someone who is not living it? Perhaps it is because we tend to romanticise anything we consider to be 'ideal' and in doing so manage to filter out the nitty gritty, day to day routine aspects of life that tend to desensitise us to anything that is good about the experience we are engaged in.

    I am currently sat on a soft, comfortable double bed with two large pillows propping up my back, my warm slippers on my feet, soft lighting throughout the room and my laptop on my lap, running off its battery to prevent any cables being drawn across my legs causing me any sort of discomfort. The laptop is using a wireless network and remote desktop control to enable to me to harness the greater computing power and more up to date applications of my desktop PC, running a beta version of the shiny new Windows Vista. I am also using a beta of Office 2007 so that I can write to you using the latest version of Word that Microsoft has to offer.

    By some people's definition, and indeed my own this is more or less a 21st Century, technological paradise. Even the grunting and swearing of my large and hairy housemate walking past my door on his way to spread pubic hair all over the loo seat once again cannot detract from the beauty of the scene. The room is warm and clean and tidy; everything is as it should be. Why then am I continually blinded from the sheer joy of being in a situation that could be the centre fold in any life style or technology magazine by the fact that my trousers are a little uncomfortable around the crotch, the washing machine is making an annoying noise as it spins dry a set of bedding, I'm beginning to reach the point where I'll have to readjust my position on the bed to cater for my poor circulation and subsequent pins and needles and the laptop will probably run out of battery and have to be plugged into the mains before long, meaning that I'll be forced to go over to the desk and rummage around in the laptop bag beneath it to find the power lead and then untangle it and locate somewhere to plug it in.

    Surely these momentary bouts of slight discomfort are more than outweighed by every aspect of tranquillity and happiness that makes up my current situation, so why am I only able to focus on the bad and not the good? This is a question that has puzzled me over a number of years now with regard to Man kind's general disinclination to enjoy what is good about the world when it is possible to complain about the bad. More recently however I have noticed this problem applying more specifically in the sense that I find many life styles on display to me appealing, even when, in reality I don't or probably wouldn't find them so.

    I picked up on this after watching You've Got Mail as I did last night, which for me basically felt like a lifestyle magazine turned into a movie. I came away from it thinking that a)I should use my laptop more to avoid having to sit at my desktop all the time, b)I would absolutely love to live in New York City and c)I'd like to conduct a great deal more of my social life in restaurants , cafes and parks, rather than in people's houses or at uni. All of these things are romanticised in the film to the point that you can't understand why on earth you aren't living out that very dream right this instant.

    It took me a few minutes to be able to connect the dream with what I knew would be the reality if ever I were to go down that road. Firstly, the reason why I don't use my laptop more than I do is that it is an arse to keep getting it out of its bag and connected to the network before the battery dies. Secondly, although I've never been there I have every reason to suppose that New York City is as much of a concrete jungle as Bristol and that the noise, fumes, traffic and climate would be totally undesirable to me, just as I found to be the case when I started living in this city. Thirdly, restaurants and cafes are all too expensive to spend any real amount of time in, which is why these movies are spread over a period of several months, and parks too cold and wet to want to sit in for most of the year.

    I'm not suggesting that all these dreams are necessarily bad and that every aspect of their reality sucks, merely that no matter how good the dream, in the reality you can't screen out all the creature discomforts, worries and problems that always detract from the enjoyment of the best life style in the world. I guess it was this sort of thinking that gave birth to the old saying: The grass is always greener on the other side.

    Perhaps the reason films, books and magazines of this nature exist is so that we can renew the dream within ourselves, even when we are already living that reality, and learn to better appreciate the good things in our lives, even when we have trouble escaping the bad. Dear Reader, before your Sunday ends, take a minute to look around you and really appreciate the things and the people that you have. Do that and you will be grateful for them and all the more joyful for having them, and maybe, if only for a moment, the bad things won't matter anymore.


    P.S The laptop battery died on the last sentence.

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    Why I'm Not a Writer

    Posted on Saturday 14th October 2006 at 00:00
    Do you know how I know that I am never destined to be a writer? It has just struck me as blindingly obvious, for the simple reason that I am still far more in awe of anything written by someone else, no matter how bad it is, than I am with my writing when it is on top form. It always amazes me when other writers come out with passages of thought or speech so profound that I can't even imagine being able to think such things up.

    I am of course aware that for many employers of the creative segment of the brain, certain illegal narcotics have as much to do with their literary output as any element of genius inherent within them, but even while taking that into account there is no denying that most, if not all of them are better than me. I'm not the jealous type, and I have no difficulty in accepting that I am by no means the best at anything, but the gap between my ability and the ability of anyone who could ever be praised for speaking their mind is sufficiently cavernous as to deny me any opportunity to ever bridge the divide.

    I've just been watching You've Got Mail, a film I love not just for its romantic attributes, but also as window into a lifestyle that I find appealing. For me there are some clear parallels between people who email each other with profound and witty observations and those who blog their personal thoughts and feelings. Imagine my dismay therefore when Tom Hanks? character manages a succession of thought provokingly insightful comments within a two minute section of film of a quality I have yet to match after three years of brain aching posts and twenty years of thinking these sorts of thoughts.

    There is another possibility of course; that my continually unfulfilled, out of control desire for self deprecation is so strong that I am unable to view anything I produce in the same light as that in which I pedestal the work of those around me. Although I am in no obvious position to judge whether or not this is the case, as a theory it stands up to scrutiny and fits neatly into the wider jigsaw that depicts my unreasonably poor self image and rock bottom esteem levels.

    If this be the case there are two possible future options. Either I go on being dissatisfied with my own output when bench marked against my peers while those around me try to get the message across that I need to appreciate myself and my work more, or the continual whining about the poor state of my work becomes a self fulfilling prophesy, and I end up being as dull and predictable in my writings as if I really had no talent.

    You have to agree, it is a tough one.

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    How I know it is Friday the 13th ….

    Posted on Friday 13th October 2006 at 00:00
    I did something a little bit stupid last night. Only a little bit stupid mind, but in the early hours of this morning it seemed like a big enough deal to kick myself over. I went to bed at stupid-o-clock this morning and just for a change I thought I'd switch off the socket into which my stereo is plugged in as for some reason the backlight for the digital tuner never switches itself off properly, merely dims itself when you turn off the radio or CD and it is quite bright in a dark room. This I did and went to bed thinking no more about it.

    This morning at the even worse time of 6:45 when it was perhaps even darker than when I went to bed and a few degrees colder, I decided to listen to the radio to wake myself up. I switched the thing on and noticed that the clock had reset itself to 00:00 rather than storing the time which it was switched off. Bugger! thought I, but no matter, I could set it again later. I then switched on the radio and instead of hearing the cheerful and largely caffeine boosted voices of GWR's Bush and Troy Show I was instead confronted with a deafening barrage of white noise. Double Bugger! thought I, upon realising that in addition to the clock being reset, my radio presents had also been lost and the system volume had been reset to the default setting of extra, extra loud. Not a nice way to take up in the morning.

    Other things that remind me it is Friday the 13th: I took a shower this morning without remembering to lay the towels out as I normally do with the result being that when I came to switch off the water and grab my towel while still directing the drips into the bath tub, I found that said towel was lying in a heap on the other side of the bathroom, totally out of reach. Twice bugger and bugger again! thought I, but to no avail.

    On the way into uni this morning I nearly smacked another car with my wing mirror. Interestingly enough this happened at exactly the same time and in the same place as last week, only the other car was different. I swear the people parked on the side of the road don't leave enough space, or tuck their wing mirrors in properly.

    The other difference was that this time it was my fault, not that of a speeding BMW not slowing down properly. I was (and still am) wearing a large and heavy pair of thick soled, steel toe capped boots which I wear because I think they make me look cool. They are however completely inappropriate for driving in because they are too thick to allow you to feel the pedals properly and too wide to allow you to press on one pedal without catching yourself on another pedal or the side of the foot well. You can just about get by ok when you are paying attention, but not at 8 in the morning when you can't be entirely sure this is real life and not just a weird dream.

    As a result, when I came across a small gap between the row of parked cars and a car coming the other way I went to brake and found that my foot wasn't sufficiently well positioned to have anything but a small affect on the pedal. Some careful steering and a thorough but speedy assessment of my foot position followed by a slight adjustment allowed me to avoid bumping up my insurance premiums again, but it was a close thing.

    I'm considering writing to the university and highlighting the considerable health and safety risks of making students drive in at a time when mother nature tells them they should be well and truly in bed. Sadly, I have a sneaking suspicion that if I do they will just write back reminding me of the 'perfectly good? bus that I could catch instead. They are quite right of course, as is everyone who uses the same argument, but what none of them seem to understand is that I like driving. It is one of my favourite things and even a crappy drive through the Bristol traffic and high fuel prices can't stop me enjoying it.

    Also on a good day I can do the entire journey in 7 minutes (legally) where as it will take at least 30 minutes going on the bus (not including waiting time for the bloody piece of crap to show up).

    I wanted to start this post with a quotation of something that someone had said to me today. I've seen it done on other blogs and it has always seemed like a good place to start an entry. Sadly though, I've just noticed that it is nearly two in the afterlunch and I have yet to actually talk to anyone today. I said hello to the cashier who charged me for my lunch but that is it, despite having been on a busy uni campus since before 8:30. I think what makes it worse is that at no point in the day has this struck me as odd or unusual. Has my social life here really reached the point where I don't even notice being alone anymore?

    As mentioned above, it is 2pm and so half an hour before my last lecture of the day, after which I can drive home (without killing anyone) and start relaxing ahead of the weekend. You never know, there might just be something good on TV tonight, but lets not push it. After all it is still Friday the 13th for another 10 hours '..

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    Linky goodness!

    Posted on Friday 13th October 2006 at 00:00
    As you may or may not have noticed, last night I added a section of links to other sites for those of you looking for a way out of this one. Normally I'd recommend using the close button in the top right hand corner. That's right, the one that looks like a cross. No, not that one, that one looks like two boxes and it for maximising or restoring the window. Try again ...

    For those of you who haven't managed to find the right button or don't wish to close your browser at this time, I shall continue. If you are using Mac OS, Linux or any other non M$ operating system I'm sorry, I can't help you as you are already too far gone. Except that I can because I've added this links, which brings me smoothly back to my original point just two paragraphs after I began to digress. And they say I'm not text efficient!

    As you may be able to see, I've not bothered with regular text links as they are boring, so instead you get pictures. More specifically the logos for the sites I've linked to, which I've ruthlessly stolen without asking permission of the sites in question. Mwahahahaha! The exception is of course Little Red Boat, where I summoned up the courage to email Anna and beg her permission to use per site logo as it rocks. She, incidentally is very nice (hence she said yes) and a very talented and funny writer (hence wanting the link in the first place). I'd definitely recommend taking a look at her blog as it is well worth reading.

    For those of you still living in the dark ages aka dial-up, normally I would say it serves you right for not moving with the times and getting broadband even though it is no more expensive than the older technology, but today I'm feeling kind. Since there are probably just as many narrowband users who can't get broadband as there are those who won't get it, I am going to dedicate a small proportion of this evening (and maybe the weekend too) to creating a text only version of the site. It will have all the wonderful juicy content that everyone else enjoys, only it will come without all the pretty pictures that kill your bandwidth.

    More links will be added before long so stay tuned .....

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    Damn the Spammers!

    Posted on Thursday 12th October 2006 at 00:00
    Why is it that the minority always have to spoil things for everyone else? It is one of life's biggest problems and it seems to have been exaggerated by the internet. First it was viruses and then it was spyware and then it was junk email and now it is phishing. All big fat internet problems that stop the majority of people on the internet having a good time and using this fantastic resource freely all because of a small group of total wankers who honestly do not deserve to go on living. Sorry but they don't.

    The latest development in my personal battle against annoying internet users everywhere has materialised in a series of spam attacks in the comments section of my website. Around 40 messages advertising cheap airline tickets among other things. It seems that the cause has been to do with Google's cache of my website, which has exposed to two most recent posts in the catch to repeated unwanted comments.

    The fact that it was just these two posts and none of the more recent ones I've written made it clear to me that it was an automated system and not a real person. As a result I hope to have cured it now by adding in a security check to the comments section. If you look at the comments form at the bottom of this post you will see a 'word in a box? check to make sure that commenters are actually real people.

    To reiterate, if you are a genuine person reading this and want to post a genuine comment that doesn't involve advertising or any kind of spam, you are very welcome to comment here with your thoughts and opinions on my posts but from now on you will have to type the word from the picture into the box below before your comment will be posted. Sorry but it is the only way we are going to be able to work around these stupid people trying to destroy our internet. It was either this or remove the comments feature altogether, in which case I wouldn't be able to hear from those of you who actually deserve to write something here.

    Sorry once again.

    Recent Posts

    Evening All

    Posted on Thursday 12th October 2006 at 00:00
    It has just occurred to me that today it is exactly a month since I moved into my new home in Bristol. Wow, that is actually quite a long time. It certainly doesn't feel like a month, although I wouldn't exactly say the time has flown by. Quite the opposite in fact as each day has been long and full of much enjoyment.

    I've just finished washing up for the first time in nearly a week. I'm sure it wasn't that bad but for some reason I seem to have a mental block against doing it, especially in the evening when I'm tired. As far as household chores go I think it has to be the pits. Not only is it one of the wettest, smelliest things you can do around the house, but also it is the only one that has to be done every day. Three times a day if you are properly doing it and even if all you have to wash up is your breakfast bowl it is still horrible and depressing. Drying up is even worse really. I've never been very good at drying up for some reason. I'm always very slow at it and the dishes never seem to get any drier, the tea towel just gets wetter.

    Word 2007 is a bit annoying. Although the overall layout has been improved, certain things that have been standard for about a million years have been changed in this version and it seems terribly wrong to me. Take the default font for example. I remember using Word for Windows 6 about 11 years ago on Windows 3.11 for Workgroups (does anyone remember that?) and every time it loaded up it was always Times New Roman size 12. Not the prettiest font in the world but it was a good reliable one that you could always trust to be acceptable for school work and such like.

    Now the default is Calibri (Body) size 11. A nice looking font to be sure but no good what so ever for uni as I have to get it changed back to Times New Roman or they won't accept it. The other thing they've changed is a single press of the enter key now drops the curser down two lines instead of one. Really, really confusing if you aren't used to it. What's more, it doesn't register on the admin page for this blog, so I have to do double entering for paragraphs anyway. Silly thing.

    This is turning into a bit of a whiney post, I do apologise. The trouble with being at home all day by myself is that I've not created any good anecdotes to rely to you, dear reader. I will instead have to refer back to last night and tell you about the great fun I had trying to cook dinner after having drunk nearly an entire bottle of wine.

    I went shopping in the afternoon with my housemate who decided to buy a bottle of wine. SO as not to0 feel left out I duly went and did the same and we headed for the checkout. Upon getting home she produced a glass and decided to have a drink. Being the sort of sociable person I am I immediately got a glass from the cupboard and proceeded to match her glass for glass. What I in fact didn't realise til the end of my second glass was that my glass was nearly twice the size of hers and I had already drunk most of my bottle.

    Being that this was on a very empty stomach I was having difficulty standing and so decided I'd cancel out the booze with a little bit of food. The dish of the day turned out to be chicken in breadcrumbs and pasta in a tomato sauce. Not a difficult meal generally, but certain issues with hand-eye coordination and general clumsiness lead to the shattering of a glass bowl which wasn't even involved in the meal but was sitting quietly by itself waiting to be washed up; that is until I dropped the jar with the sauce in from a great height onto it.

    I also succeeded in becoming accomplished in the art of pouring boiling water over myself while operating a colander. What I'd failed to realise as I poured the water with my newly cooked pasta into the colander is that this clever little device has holes in the side to allow the easy draining of hot water away from whatever was being cooked in said water and what's more that my finger was covering one of the holes.

    I think the oddest bit was that I was so under the influence that I was only vaguely aware of the scolding water and so didn't bother running my hand under a tap afterwards. I also didn't allow my food to cool down before sticking it in my mouth but that is ok because I couldn't really feel my tongue either. I think it tasted quite nice but I wouldn't like to say for sure.

    I'm currently awaiting an email from Anna at Little Red Boat to see if I can add a link to her site from here as part of a list of links I want to have on the right hand nav panel. I feel it isn't fair to subject people to this drivel without offering them a reasonably close method of escape to a much better (and funnier) part of the web.

    Perhaps now I should go and find out if I'm supposed to be preparing anything for the 8:30am seminar I have tomorrow. The forecast is for fog at about the time I'll be driving in to university. Great. I've never through fog before and now I'm going to try and do so at rush hour through one of the busiest cities in the country. If you don't hear from me again I'm sure you can guess the reason.

    *waves*

    Recent Posts

    Another Step Into PC Hell

    Posted on Tuesday 10th October 2006 at 00:00
    The downside of choosing a computer room that is so quiet you are fairly unlikely to be disturbed by many of the regular 'PC People? is that every single noise you make sounds so much louder. Each and every click of the mouse or keyboard, hiss from the bottle of fizzy drink you try discreetly to open or squeak from your chair as you adjust your sitting position seems amplified 10 times and might just be reverberating off every wall, every computer and every person in the room.

    On the plus side, it is quieter in here.

    I was listening to the radio this morning on which they had one of these phone in competitions. You know the sort of thing, where the presenter sets a challenge or riddle or something and the listeners have to phone in with the answers. In this case it was guess the celebrity. We'd already found out that they were not a monarch, they were on TV, they didn't do comedy and most importantly that they were a man.

    Then a bloke phones in and asks if it is Angelina Jolie. Now normally a somewhat stupid suggestion like that would have inspired a witty and sarcastic response from the presenter aimed at highlighting the stupidity of anyone who phones in with an answer like that when everyone else already knows that it is a man. That is what would happen normally but not this time. Instead he was sympathetic and understanding and was as polite as he could be about telling the guy that he was wrong. Why?

    Because he had a foreign accent.

    Now before anyone reading this starts going off on a left wing tangent or sticks up their hand while shouting out 'Ummmm, he said something rude!? (why is it all kids up to about the age of 10 make identical noises when about to tell on one of their peers?), or decide to phone your lawyer, I am not being racist.

    In fact, I strongly suspect that I am rather less racist than the presenter of the radio show and in fact people in general. You see, while I have no issue with treating minorities equally I feel that they should be treated just like that: equally. Not better, just the same. Someone who is rude to a Black man should not be instantly condemned as a racist; first lets see how he behaves to a White man.

    Hell, even this word processor is being racist. It automatically capitalises 'blackman? but doesn't do the same for 'whiteman?. I'm not saying that you should be mean to ethnic minorities, or people of the opposite gender, young people, old people, disabled people or whatever. I'm saying that you shouldn't not be mean to them simply because they are in a minority of some kind. It is a little known fact but positive discrimination is almost as much of a problem as negative discrimination.

    This is becoming clearer and clearer as the months go on, with an increasingly vocal proportion of society being driven to the far right because they feel that they are being under represented by their leaders. The emphasis on political correctness is being taken to such extremes that a lot of people are being driven to dislike the very minorities that political correctness and disability discrimination legislation are designed to protect.

    The concept of looking after minorities is one that has been constructed in the post World War 2 world to attempt to balance society and to ensure that persecution will never again become socially acceptable. However, it has been taken to such extremes in recent years that the most fundamental principle of democracy is being undermined: the majority vote wins the decision.

    The emphasis on political correctness is so strong now that people are afraid to say what they really think for fear of being jumped on by the anti-racist witch hunts. Surely when taken to these levels, does not political correctness itself becomes a form of mass persecution?

    Recent Posts

    Sod the Air Con

    Posted on Tuesday 10th October 2006 at 00:00
    What is the obsession with air conditioning in October? I know I'm in a PC lab and they have a tendency to get hot in October, but at this time of year the struggle is keeping them warm enough, not cooling them down. I shall be seriously annoyed if I have to move PC to one that is out of reach of the air conditioning breeze, or else switch to an entirely different room. I'm sure there must be one somewhere about where they have yet to modernise to the point of having environmental controls. I can see a thermostat on the opposite wall. Perhaps if I wait until the room is empty and then go and fiddle with it the air con will switch off?

    Off course in this place it is entirely possible that the heating and air con use separate thermostats, installed in different centuries and that by touching the wrong one I'll start a battle between the heating and the air con for temperature control supremacy in the room and by doing so waste a whole load of electricity thus contributing to global warming and consequently killing the planet stone dead. *breathes*

    Ah what the hell, I never liked that lousy, whiney environment anyway ...

    Ok, I was right, they are on separate systems. I think the air con might be remote controlled actually so it doesn't look like I'll be able to switch off that needless and rather annoying flow of oh so cold air. I'll probably move in a minute since the rest of the room appears to be quite warm, but obviously not before I finish this post.

    If I ever have cause to redesign my site I am definitely using CSS. The complexities of a blog means that my usual ability to simplify building and updating a site by siphoning off core parts of the coding to standard files that get included into every page has been somewhat more limited than usual and the knock on effect has been that I'm more or less back to making a change on one page and then having to copy it across to all the other pages. I have a feeling that offloading all the style information would go a long way to easing up the amount of repeating scripts I have to write.

    Think I might experiment with that now actually ...

    Recent Posts

    Thoughts on Death

    Posted on Monday 9th October 2006 at 00:00
    Is it just me or has October become the fashionable month to die in this year? Last week I heard that an old school friend of mine had lost his grandmother and now I've been told of another two deaths this evening. One of them a friend of my housemate and another the grandmother of a uni friend of mine. Ok, so she died in September and I only just heard, but even so. It does seem like a disproportionately high mortality rate. I wonder why?

    Perhaps the autumn is favoured among those who don't like winter or wish to get it out of the way before anyone thinks to buy them a Christmas present that will end up going to waste. I've always felt that that would be the worst thing about dying on your birthday or at Christmas. All those brand new presents, just bought, just opened. Maybe not even opened yet. Too new to be used and suddenly and something to cry bitterly over when sorting through a loved one's affects while still deeply grieving. I would hate to do something like that to a family member or friend.

    Actually, if I were to die and have a conscious experience in some kind of afterlife I reckon my overriding feeling would be of extreme guilt for the hurt I'd have caused anyone who cared about me at the time of my death. Tis enough to put you off dying altogether actually. I guess in many ways it has been that thought above all others that has stopped me from giving up when times have been rough. I could do anything to myself and not feel a thing, but I couldn't put my family through it all.

    I've personally known three relatives die in my life time. Of those three I was old enough to attend two of the funerals and cried at one of them. Though the last two were scarcely two years apart something had changed in me by the second one and I didn't know how to cry anymore. I felt guilty then as well. It seemed terribly rude and selfish and unfair not to grieve for both these people in the same way, especially as they were both important in my life.

    At the moment I have three relatives treading that thin line between this world and the next. In some ways they have been going for a long time but I don't think that'll make it any easier when I finally get that dreaded phone call. The trouble with being terminally ill is that no one really seems to know how long you have. I have one uncle with leukaemia who has had many health scares and who I'd expected to be dead for a couple of years by now. Another has gone downhill fairly quickly and looks as likely to have 2006 on his grave stone as 2007.

    Sudden and unexpected death is much worse from the shock point of view though. Once upon a time, about 5 or 6 years ago now I knew a guy who suddenly died quite unexpectedly and we were all greatly shaken by the news. He was the man who ran the marina where my parents keep their boat and he was possibly the chattiest, jolliest man in the world. Over Christmas he went round in a Santa's hat giving out sweets to everyone he saw. At New Year he hosted a party for all the berth holders in the marina's dry dock of all places and it was a very jolly affair. I still remember him playing with the fireworks, trying to get them to light in the rain and singing Auld Lang Syne louder and with less tunefulness than anyone else there.

    The next morning he felt slightly off and went back to bed while his wife was out. At around 10 in the morning he felt and odd pain in his chest and, worried, he sat up and died instantly of heart failure. He was found like that shortly afterwards by his poor wife, sat up in bed staring straight ahead.

    My next door neighbour died a little while back. I can't claim to have ever liked the man, but I had nothing much against him, although he didn't seem to like having kids and later teens living next door to him. He died of a brain haemorrhage quite unexpectedly, as for that matter did a friend of a friend I'd once had a drink with in our local pub. He was only 22 and his death shocked the whole town.

    The only other death that has happened close to me was the death of my cat a little over 2 years ago. It was three weeks after I'd left for uni and he left home to die. He was found by the RSPCA and put down as he was clearly in some considerable distress and suffering from heart problems. What struck me wasn't that he had died, as that is a fairly logical assumption for a 19 year old cat, but that I wasn't there. Somehow I'd always assumed over the years that when the cat who'd been a member of the family since before I was born finally died, I would be there to comfort him. I'm not even sure I really took the time to say goodbye properly to him before I left for uni and this fact is bringing tears to my eyes even now. The sad truth is that I feel incredibly guilty towards my cat because I never really repaid him for the affection he showed me over the years. Even in later life when I knew he was dying I still took him for granted, because he'd always been there, in the same way that my parents always have been here for me. If I could see him now I'd say sorry to him for not being there til the end. He died alone, without his family around him. I know that is how they prefer it and it is why they go off to die but even so. I'd also say sorry for not realising until now that it is more or less exactly 2 years since his death. I didn't cry for him then but I have done since, and I do now as I write this.

    R.I.P Domino


    1985-2004



    You only realise how much you appreciate someone when they are gone.

    Recent Posts

    DVD Wrappers

    Posted on Sunday 8th October 2006 at 00:00
    You take the DVD case in your hands and examine it. The surface is smooth and shiny and somehow communicates its newness to you even as you hold it in front of you. Not like your other DVDs, this one is protected from the cruel world of transit by a coating of plastic wrapping that you must get through before you can open the box.

    Your attention shifts to one of the ends of the case where the only imperfections & the glued down flaps that complete the net of the wrapper & can been seen in the plastic. They are small and neat and it isn't immediately obvious in the transparent plastic which is the top layer and which the bottom.

    A gentle probe with your finger eventually tells you all you need to know: the top flap is very small, far too small to get hold of and the glue runs right to the edge. There is no way - with your big fat chunky fingers - that you can grab the flap between your index finger and opposable thumb, if indeed you are equipped with such a tool (no offense to our non ape descended readers). Instead you will have to ease your finger nail under the corner and try and prise it away from its opposite number in the layer below.

    As you manoeuvre your clumsy fingers into position you muse over how much easier all this would be in they just included a tag which you could pull to tear the wrapper off the DVD case when suddenly your thoughts are interrupted by the jolt of pain from your finger indicative of having pushed too far and forced the flap under your nail and into the nerves on the nail bed.

    Your finger sucked and healed and sworn over, it is time to have another go at the folded end of the case. This time you are more successful and manage to lift enough plastic to grab hold of with your fingers. Hurrah! you cry and without pausing for a moment you pull away with all your strength.

    A piece of plastic the size of a match stick breaks off in your hand and leaves a slit in wrapper that bears all the appearance of a mocking grin. Infuriated with the bastard you throw it across the room, only realising that it is breakable moments after it leaves the clutch of your fingers.

    After this it becomes easy enough to remove the rest of the wrapper. At least you've got a slit to grab hold of and pull. It looks for a minute like it might all come off in one when suddenly the tear inexplicably stops along a straight line half way down the box. You move to investigate the obstruction, holding the case up to the light to see better. No, it can't be! No, it is, it's the bloody tag! The tag they designed to help you remove the wrapper in a second is right there, staring at you, challenging you not to shout and swear and be too pissed off with the whole stupid thing to watch the movie!

    Why you think, Why do you always forget to check for the bloody tag before wrestling with the thing for 10 minutes trying to get it open? You own nearly 100 DVDs and you've done the same thing with each and every one of them.

    Fuck it, let's just watch the movie and hope to God it's a good one.

    Recent Posts

    Phonic Crusade

    Posted on Saturday 7th October 2006 at 00:00
    Today I decided I wanted to buy a stereo.
    For some reason despite acquiring/stealing/buying/being given pretty much every electronic consumer gadget in existence over the years I've apparently managed never to own a stereo, the most basic and essential power drinking, eardrum shattering item in most peoples? bedrooms since they were old enough to afford a CD with their pocket money. Takes quite a lot of talent that, don't you think?
    It isn't that I'm some sort of music hating cretin or that I lost my ears in an unfortunate childhood waterskiing accident, it is just that I've always found substitutes. Most radio stations have been broadcasting on the internet since the 56k modem was first invented and being a lifelong computer addict it always made more sense to listen to MP3s rather than CDs. Actually my CD collection is very small and contains many embarrassing additions that I really hope I never paid good money for.
    Somehow though, no amount of computer power quite matches the ultimate coolness of having a stereo blaring away while you are doing whatever you do around the house. So, I ignored the little voice in the back of my head telling me that I just wanted to comfort shop and set out for the shops. I'd already done a quick check of the internet and discovered that Argos were doing my dream stereo for a reasonably acceptable price.
    I chose my local out of town shopping centre with the vague idea half formed in my mind that I could buy one or two other essentials, have lunch and visit the cinema while I was there. You know, really make a day of it. Something about spending days and days doing nothing but uni work and chores makes me want to go out for the day and spend lots of money I don't have. Anyone else get that?
    The stereo was going to be quite heavy both on my wallet and on my arms carrying it around so I decided to warm up with a trip to Smiths and then Virgin where I found myself buying A Clockwork Orange and Monty Python's Meaning of Life for about '4 each. I'm beginning to see how my DVD collection has become so inexplicably large now. I must be up to at least 70 films, though I can't be bothered to stop and count them just now.
    Lunch followed as it often does and then I set off to buy my new pride and joy. It should perhaps be noted that when I first typed that sentence I wrote that I set off to buy my new bride. It seems that I'm still not fully recovered from watching 'Diary of a Mail Order Bride? on Channel 4 the other night. *sigh*
    I got to Argos and headed straight for the catalogue to check the code for the stereo, which was promptly typed into the stock checker. To my utter dismay there were none in stock, just a message telling me to go to the checkout and ask them to check other local stores.
    Sod that! I thought and walked out. I'd remembered that there is another Argos not 10 miles away along nice fast roads that would be bound to have it. I could make it there and back and still have time to go to the cinema before the day was out.
    Fast roads around here are notable for the someone annoying attribute that they are always clogged up with other peoples? cars and so are not even slightly fast on a Saturday afternoon but I wasn't about to let this put me off my quest for superior sound quality.
    20 minutes later I was dodging cars and pedestrians (and one blind old man who tried to reverse into me while I was sat behind him in a queue) to get to a parking space not too far from the store. It is at times like this that I really appreciate just how many people there are in the world, ie a lot. I get into the store and run straight to the stock checker, typing in the now memorised catalogue number as quickly as my fingers would allow me.
    Bugger! Sold out again, and the same mocking message telling me to go to the checkout. This time I took the hint and queued for about a million hours to speak to someone about getting my poor stereo. After reading off a load of stores I didn't know exist, the girl who served me finally mentioned the only other store in the area I knew the way to, another 10 miles or so in a direction I didn't want to go.
    Really I should have left it by this point and admitted my defeat, but sometimes you just can't give in, so I nodded with a degree of resignation and had her reserve it for me while I drove all the way into city centre, searched for a car park that wasn't packed full and went to join the long queues once again while muttering rude things about Argos and its staff under my breath.
    Was it worth it all? Well I'm sitting here now with the Scissor Sisters blaring out of the compact little speakers and the cool blue digital display showing me the frequency of a local radio station I've become particularly fond of hearing while in the car and you know what? It feels good :-)

    Recent Posts

    The PC People

    Posted on Friday 6th October 2006 at 00:00
    In the country is a city and in the city is a university and in the university is a building and in the building is a room and in the room are computers. This is one of the PC Labs and in the PC Labs live the PC People. There are many PC People: big ones; little ones; fat ones; thin ones; old ones; young ones; hairy ones and hairless ones.

    Adrian the academic is always in the PC Lab. Every pc lab in fact. Sometimes he is not Adrian but Adriana and not a he but a she. Adrian and Adriana are sat either side of me now. Both alone, silent and so buried in work they've probably forgotten there are other people in the room. These two academics always have either a folder full of notes or a pad of lined paper on the desk in front of them and are concerned solely with their work. If they have fun (and maybe they do) then they have it at other times, but not here; not now.

    The Giggle Girls are never in the PC Lab when you arrive. They are cleverer than that. They wait & who knows where & until the exact moment when you are too far into whatever you are doing to get up and move. Sometimes there are two of them but more often than not three is the crowd they desire. When they enter the room all the other PC People know they are there. No one knows where their laughter comes from nor why, but something is apparently happening in their lives that is so funny they can't stop laughing about it in loud, high pitched voices. No amount of cross looks or shhhing from the other PC People will quiet them as they are so engrossed in their laughter that they scarcely notice anybody else is there. You know when they leave as the silence which follows their departure is all consuming and not even the roar of the air con and its phonic counterpart in the fans of the computers can break it.

    The Giggle Girls are second to none for annoyance save the Boisterous Boys. These testosterone junkies are as manly as they come and definitely not gay, and they want everyone in the room to know it. These creatures are in fact a hybrid of their football playing cousins and the sort of drunken thugs who've long since scared regular people out of the city centre at night. For them the computers are a quick source of sports news as well as an opportunity to wonder out loud the answers to questions they really should know already, such as where the library is. No one is sorry when this crowd gets bored and heads back to the bar.

    The Friends are possibly the most common breed of the PC People. They usually come in the form of two girls or occasionally a girl and a guy, though never two guys. These two may talk but usually in quiet voices that can only fall foul of eves droppers if neither the Giggle Girls nor Boisterous Boys are at home. Sometimes they are to be found working together on research or writing up and project or downloading lecture slides. Other times they pursue private projects quite apart from any academic commitment they might have. Holidays are often booking in this manor, and evenings out usually have their genesis here.

    Silent loners are nearly as common. No one knows what they think as they sit there alone, checking emails and looking at photos from nights out now published on the World Wide Web. In many ways these are the victims of a system that puts practicality before timetabling friends together. They wait for an hour, maybe two for friends to return from lectures to greet them and for their own lectures to begin.

    A group whose numbers fluctuate in time with the passing of deadlines is the Last Minute Panicers. Though relatively few and far between in early October, these disorganised creatures will soon take over every computer in every PC lab in the University, desperately trying to do in a day what the academics have been doing all term. Listen closely and you can tell from their chatter which modules and which subjects have deadlines fast approaching. It is common to find a whole class in at a time all trying to do exactly the same thing without being accused of copying and sharing ideas. This group very rarely bothers with that interweb thing as they are slaves to the word document, powerpoint presentation or excel spreadsheet that will never ever let them go.

    And then there is me; your humble narrator and observer, your eyes in this crazy world of production line educations, taking a break between lectures to faithfully recite for you my tale of the PC People.

    Recent Posts

    A Technical Note

    Posted on Friday 6th October 2006 at 00:00
    As you may remember from way back at the beginning of September, I promised that upon sorting out a few technical difficulties I'd be adding a few extra pages, namely 'About Me', 'Disclaimer' and a way for you to contact me should you wish to. I don't remember if I promised you any other pages but if I did then tough luck, I don't remember and can't be bothered to go back and find out. Those pages mentioned above have now been added though after I decided to give up on making things overly difficult for myself and would just get the damn things done.

    So feel free to have a read if that's your thing. If it isn't then you probably shouldn't be wasting your time looking at a blog, they really aren't aimed at people who don't like reading. Having finally got these oh so basic pages up and running I feel inspired enough to go on and attempt something even more stupidly impossible than all previous parts of this blog, if only to give my brain something to do that isn't part of my course.

    The plan (as it stands at the moment) is to add an archive function to the site. Why you might ask would I want such a thing given that this is only what, the eighth post I've ever written here. Good point, but my reckoning (based on past experience) is that by the time I've got the damn thing working there should be enough of a back log of posts sitting here that such a feature might just be useful to anyone who doesn't want to hurt their scrolling finger delving back into the long list of posts on the site.

    During the relatively long and crap periods of scripting errors that are the likely outcome of this project it is possible from time to time that the site will display badly or not at all. For this I apologise in advance and promise that I'll do everything in my power to keep downtime to such a minimum that you don't even notice anything has happened.

    Recent Posts

    A Technical Note Part 2

    Posted on Friday 6th October 2006 at 00:00
    You know what, sometimes I even surprise myself with my brilliance! If you'll recall, I posted earlier this evening to inform you all that I intended to start work on adding the Archive function to the website, a task I honestly anticipated would take a month or more to sort out the coding for. It is now the same evening and I have already finished and tested the feature. How cool is that?

    I'm not pretending for a second here it was all smooth sailing; it wasn't. Many, many bugs in the code I wrote, partly because I'm a lazy arse who doesn't concentrate on writing the code out properly in the first place and also because what I wanted to do was so beyond my understanding of PHP that I couldn't actually visualise what I had to do. I guess what really makes the achievement so great is that I didn't ask anyone for any help at all, something I don't generally have the strength of character to manage.

    I shan't go on about it anymore though as even I can tell that my writing style is starting to drag with tiredness, which probably means you are all asleep already. All that remains to be said is that as far as I'm concerned, this site is now finished and so shouldn't experience anymore downtime in the near future. If anyone has any ideas for future improvements and enhancements please comment with your thoughts.

    Laters

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    Musings on a catch up post

    Posted on Tuesday 3rd October 2006 at 00:00
    Sometimes in the course of life we find ourselves unable or unwilling to pursue the hobbies with which we are most familiar. Sometimes this is an unwanted irritation which we are keen to get over and other times it feels like the end of an era and a new beginning and that things will never be the same again.

    So it has been for me these last couple of weeks since I came to uni once again. I had promised to write here as soon as I had internet access again after the move and as with previous years I fully expected to honour that promise. Oddly enough though, I suffered none of the usual withdrawal symptoms that commonly mark my removal from the internet nor, once I'd been reconnected about a week after the move did I rush straight back and update my blog.

    The unusual truth is that I've had the internet for a while now but it is only in the last couple of days that I've had any inclination at all to write anything. I guess tiredness explains it in part, what with working all through Fresher's week as I was and coming home too shattered to even check my emails. Part of it though I think can only be accounted for by the massive improvement in my social well being as a result of moving in with people I actually get on with for the first time in my university experience.

    It seems the immense feeling of belonging from standing in the kitchen or sitting in front of the TV with people who like you is a reasonable substitute for the cravings that come to me from the likes of MSN and the various other sites I belong to. It is only now as the honeymoon period comes to an end and we all settle into the regular swing of the pendulum of term time that I find myself sat in a overly air conditioned PC lab writing this and returning to my old habits.

    I found out a little while ago that I failed my resit exams in the summer and so have to stay here for an extra year to catch up the modules. I'm not nearly as upset about this as I'd have expected although this academic kick in the teeth might just have been what I need to get my arse in gear. So far I've been working through my uni work with a previously unseen keenness. It is only now as I tire at the end of the day that I feel my optimism failing me. Hopefully by the end of this my brain will have recovered enough for my last lecture of the day and then home.

    I've also managed, though I'm not sure how, to maintain my enthusiasm for cooking, even with the easy temptation of ready meals close at hand. What I used to consider a long and taxing bit of cooking has now turned into a quick meal for a late evening, such as this one, and when I have more time I find myself becoming more adventurous and seeking out new recipes. I've even started washing up on time, a definite first!

    It occurs to me that a friend of mine may just have emerged from a seminar and have an hour free before joining me in the 5:30 lecture, so I shall end here in order to facilitate a little socialising.

    End of an era and new beginnings? Definitely.

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