28th March

My new car is all ordered and is going through channels. They haven't been able to get the dark blue I wanted but they can get a metallic silver one by the end of the week which has all the gizmos and stuff so that's fine. He ran my old car's details through the computer when assessing its value and it has only had two previous owners. The last one kept it for five years. I'd had enough of it after a fortnight.

A year ago today I fixed the CD player and thus a year ago tomorrow I started my Big Finish marathon. I finished "Night Thoughts" last week and, after 79 main stories, the Excelis saga, the Unbounds, the freebies, the webcasts, the subscriber "exclusives" and a couple of the Companion Chronicles, BF has outlasted the car. I'm on Paul Temple now - I can't face "Time Works". Listening to them in order has been an interest experience - many have been better than I remembered and none have been worse. "Time of the Daleks" remains wretched and always will. It does however mean I now associate certain stories with not terribly nice things - "Creed of the Kromon" (already awful) will always remind me of my exhaust blowing up, the Excelis saga is forever linked with summer roadworks and my imprisonment on the Dark Side and "Dreamtime" will always make me think of the time I had to sit through "Dreamtime".

I feel sorry for Steve McClaren. He's getting the blame for England being shite. It isn't his fault - so many of the players just don't give a toss about playing for England. It's like they're on secondment to a department no one wants to work for. If you're picked for your national team and don't want to play, you have three options - play anyway and don't really do much, pretend you're injured or get suspended by UEFA/FIFA because getting called up for national service is compulsory. You have your Gerrards and Rooneys who just love playing football and you can't really imagine them half-assing a match. So they have to be played out of position whenever possible to avoid them showing the rest of the team up. It is painful whenever England play. It is painful before the match, it is painful after the match and painful during the match. The tabloids will slaughter them, McClaren will be hounded out sooner or later and nothing will change except the figurehead. Tabloid indignation is one of the few things I hate more than watching England. Its a great time to be me.

You may have noticed a new menu up top. I've finally got some new menu software. It is a work in progress at the moment but should be more up to date, more useful and prettier than the old one. You'll probably find pages where it doesn't appear - my FTP client is being either shit, or it is connected to a web server which is shit. Or via a broadband connection which is shit. How can I only get 7kps upload on a so-called broadband connection? Hopefully my impending upgrade will make all that go away. Or go faster. Plus I get a nice shiny silver face...

Speaking of Virgin Media, their new STB software was downloaded over night. It is probably the first time in all my time as a Nynex/C&W/ntl:/VM customer that a software upgrade has actually made the software better. There was the horrible pink upgrade which slowed everything down and took away useful functionality, there was the upgrade which slowed everything down further, the upgrade which took useful functionality away, the upgrade which slowed everything down and the one which made everything go a horrible colour. So not a glorious decade really. But the new black'n'red VM software seems much better. It is faster, the menus are better arranged, it doesn't seem to freeze as often and it has ironed out a whole bunch of bugs in the VOD section. I now feel a much happier bunny about saying goodbye to TiVo and her wonderful (if a little out of date) front end.

 

25th March

I think I've decided which car to get. It has all the essentials - windows, wheels, engine, gear thing - as well as the interesting bits - CD player, MP3 connector, air conditioning, automatic lights and wipers, journey computer thing, heated front windscreen, doors etc. I think I'll go and talk tofurkey (like talking turkey but vegetarian) with them tomorrow evening. If it were done... and all that Shakespearian stuff. And a dark metallic blue I think. All over. And three peddles.

Best of all, on the way back from the showroom I saw a 197. I'd been searching for it for weeks. I hate this game but on some level I love it too. Yeah.

But that isn't all that is new - The New Series is only six days away. I was more or less entirely non-plused about it until I started watching the season 2 boxed set. I wasn't hugely keen on season 2 but my second viewing of "New Earth" has given me renewed hope.

It is the impending arrival of RTD's difficult third album which has pushed forward "Radar Men From the Moon". I was intending to leave a little more space between the end of Flash Gordon and the start of Commando Cody's battle with the evil moon men but my original plan would've meant the final episode was the same weekend as the final episode of Season 3. I had an urgent fax from Cardiff asking me to move it up a couple of weeks so as not to risk overshadowing their exciting final battle between the Doctor and the Daleks. I told RTD that, since he asked so nicely, I would change my plans but only if he let me borrow Julie Gardner for a weekend. He said that would be fine.

And there is even an advantage to having parents with right-wing tastes in newspapers. The Saturday and Sunday Telegraphs have between them given away the two Stephen Fry narrated PADDINGTON BEAR~! CDs this weekend. Whichever way you slice it, Fry and Paddington and freebie go together like three Russian sisters in an internet video that we don't believe.

This coming week also promises to bring a communication styles seminar. Or something. It is the company's attempt to counteract survey feedback which said that our customers are unhappy with the quality of written correspondence they receive. So a bunch of us will convene and have stimulating discussions about whether "unit linked" should be hyphenated or whether "HM Revenue & Customs" should use an ampersand or the word "and". The trouble is, the complaints don't come because the standard templates (which we maintain) are bad - they come because there are some members of staff who swing from the trees and whose supervisors never check anything they do. So we don't need debates about minutiae, we need clear and definite action to make sure that things like this (confidential information removed but all spelling, grammar and punctuation left entirely as written) -

and this

 

and this

 

and this

 

don't get sent out on a daily basis. It really isn't that difficult.

 

21st March

I didn't like being ill. Thankfully it's over now. I might tell you about it one day but not today.

On some brighter notes, I've decided to get a new car. Possibly a new new car. I've been to look at them (at an actual garage with actual car people who didn't scare me with their knowledgeableness) and done some furtling about online and it is actually a realistic and sensible idea. Of course, it would mean actually deciding what colour I really want...

The other bright note is that m'brother (who works for Virgin Media) is arranging an installation appointment for the week I'm off in April so I should be getting a standalone modem (which will increase my speed tenfold as my Pace box is antediluvian) and, best of all, a V+ box. I have loved my friend TiVo these past few years but V+ addresses many of the TiVo's weaknesses and having used m'brother's box I'm not nearly as disappointed by V+ as I thought I would be. The thing seemed zippy, had the ability to archive a list of titles to DVD instead of having to them one at a time and the triple tuner works silently in the background so you don't even notice it is doing its work. I am determined to rediscover "television" (the new series of House - starting tomorrow night on Five - will bring to 1 the number of programmes I watch each week) and this new toy will hopefully do for TV what my iPod did for iPoddy stuff.

 

18th March

I'm not, as you know, someone who believes in all that nonsense. You know - mystical psychics, psychic mystics, astrologists, astronomers, people that claim they can communicate with the Welsh. It's all just so much babble. If anyone asks me my star sign I tell them I'm a Decepticon. So I'm not what you might call gullible (a word I'm reliably informed was missed out of the dictionary). But I have witnessed genuine mental ability on a daily basis this week. For a set of esoteric cards was brought forth from the wild north, carried in a horseless carriage by a pair not born of the same continent. These magickal cards allow the owner (and only the owner) to foretell the future of anyone brave enough to select one. For it only taketh one. But one card to rule them all. Each morning, TheArtist and I do pluck a single runic card from the pack and, with his Gypsy skill, KFD doth foretelleth what our day dotheth bringeth.

And he uses a pack of 1970s "Super Car" Top Trumps so it is safe even for Methodists.

Woe betide anyone who gets the shitty brown car that was photographed in a grotty field for that be the Death Card.

Comic Relief aye. An excuse to be wacky and raise money for good causes. I don't like Comic Relief. I'm fine with the whole "raising money for good causes" part of it but the "wacky" side is rather, how can I put it?

Annoying.

Emails and intranet articles fly around at this time of year and we get to find out what our colleagues are doing to help the less fortunate. One guy grew a moustache for Comic Relief. I see - people paid him not to shave. He certainly showed some will power there. I bet the razor was in his hand every morning but he thought of some starving children and said "No - I will not do it. I will remain unshaven for the children of the world."

Another area had a "come to work in your pyjamas" day. Now, this has potential. Young ladies in what Peter Cook would describe as "shortie nighties" has to be worth a pound or two of anyone's money. Obviously, most of them sleep in jeans and t-shirts. Either that or only two people joined in and they were both old and hefty. One of them brought a teddy bear with her and I would swear that with a week's training it could be running her team. Certainly I'd lay good odds that the bear has a better grasp of English than the woman carrying it around with her as she begged for cash.

There was also the email which assured people that those contributing each month to the GAYE (give as you earn rather than something all together more jolly) would in fact be able to make an extra contribution on the day. Thank goodness they clarified that - signing up to a monthly charitable donation doesn't preclude you from putting change in a bucket. I feared some kind of force-field might've been in place to stop us. Hurrah - there is no discrimination against GAYEs in the workplace.

KFD informed us that his former team manager was selling sun glasses. Good for her, we thought, sun glasses are always popular in England and will raise lots of money for Comic Relief. Except that she wasn't actually selling them for Comic Relief - she just had a bunch of designer sun glasses and fancied selling them to people. And people bought them all - even at the prices she was charging - so at least they didn't waste their money on poor people.

I won't even mention the raffle in which I won a bottle of something called "Becks" but was allowed to swap it for a Creme Egg. Someone else won a bottle... of water. Which I thought was richly comic. I think everyone won a prize - except TheArtist who is a Loser - because it was that sort of raffle. Their eyes bulged when KFD brought a tenner over but then unbulged when he took change.

Next week there will be lots of photos on the intranet of the wackiness. I bet someone somewhere in the empire sat in a bath of baked beans (the list of events suggested that). It is a charitable cliché but in very poor taste methinks. Lets raise money for starving people by wasting a huge amount of food. If people want to sit in a container (and I have no doubt that it would be feet in a bucket rather than the full bath) of Netto beans, let them. It is the way everyone not only wants to do something wacky but wants everyone else to know they've done something wacky. The communications team would doubtless say that it makes everyone feel better to know that their colleagues have had such fun raising money. No, actually it doesn't. It just annoys people like me. I am fairly sure I give more to charity each month (silently by direct debit) than they do and without all this witless fuss.

I suppose the thing that annoys me most about Comic Relief is that I am able to avoid the professional side of it (by choosing not to watch the telethon) but am unable to avoid the amateur side. And the amateur side is even more aggravating than millionaire comedians and actors telling ordinary people to give money while they themselves donate "their time".

Speaking of money, the fuss over the cost of the Olympics is irritating too. It is irritating for a number of reasons - firstly, they got their sums so badly wrong. Anyone would think they'd fiddled the figures to get the ball rolling and then admitted their deception once it was too late to do anything about it. Secondly, almost a third of the cost is a "contingency fund" which basically means a huge chunk of budgetary padding to try and ensure there won't be a future over-spend. Two and a half billion pounds of wriggle room has been added by Gordon Brown so there won't be damaging over-spend headlines in a couple of years when he is Prime Minister. Thirdly, everyone seems to be forgetting, when reporting this story, that the Olympics is a business and if properly managed should recoup much of the costs (possibly even turn a profit). It isn't as if all this money is going into a black hole never to be seen again. Fourthly, people who complain because lottery money is being diverted from "good causes" to projects like the Olympics should be reminded that buying a lottery ticket isn't a charitable donation - it is an act of optimistic greed. If you want to give to charity, give to charity. Don't buy your lottery ticket and think you're doing your bit for the needy.

So, basically, I'm irritated by everyone on every side of the Olympic issue. I dare say I won't watch the Games either.

AND while I'm here and on the subj of the Olympics (which were announced the day before the Tube bombings), the only thing more annoying than the London bombings being referred to as "Seven Seven" in a pathetic attempt to create a sequel to "Nine Eleven" is the failed bombings two weeks later being called "Twenty One Seven". When did we decide all terrorist attacks would simply be referred to by their date? And why do we then have "The Madrid bombings"? Is it because our attack is to be linked thematically with the American's attack but the Spanish one isn't? I can't believe we've reached the point where terrorist attacks have to be given a brand image. Something that is nice and easy to market and sell. Don't give in to such pressures or the next wave of terror attacks will have a little TM next to their name.

 

11th March

I dodged a bullet - she got through the MOT with only a brakes problem (which I had amazingly diagnosed m'self) and a bill for a shade under £300. They did recommend I get the tyres pumped up a bit. The pressure was flat or something. I've looked online and apparently it should be 32 each. Thirty-two somethings. Probably thirty-two somethings per square something. They have an air machine at the petrol station so I'll go there sometime and get the extra somethings per square something added. Yes, that's what I'll do. I'll be all independent and do it myself. Like Tegan tried to in Logopolis. Except hopefully without my closest living relative ending up dead, half the universe being eradicated by an entropy field and causing the slow death of a popular television series when the lead actor is killed off and replaced by someone less successful.

Not that I'm completely hopeless - I did find one auto- task suited to my skillset. I washed the car this morning. It may be the first time in the year I've owned it. She looks a good five years younger for the effort. If only it were as easy for the rest of us.

Though it wouldn't be so good if Banana looked five years younger as she's only fifteen months old and would therefore be a couple of tiny cells invisible to the naked eye. And not, as she currently is, an adorable little lady who sat on my knee for the first time in ages and gurgled while she drank her milk. It's the first time she's actually sat on my knee without either crying or immediately trying to escape. It may have been the milk or it may have been her finally getting to like me. It's a wonderful thing is milk.

I've also signed up for a trial with Audible - you get two free audiobooks during the 14 day trial and then two more each month for a set fee. Because it is a flat rate system you can get a sprawling 43 hour unabridged epic for the same cost as a one hour comedy set. The first of my freebies was "The Red Planet" - the second "Journey into Space" serial (which retails at around the £50 mark on CD). Rather annoyingly, when you download this 20 part serial it comes as two files. If you try to burn one to CD using the Audible software it correctly identifies that you'll need five discs but doesn't split the file across those discs in episodic chunks. With my Big Finish marathon due to end shortly (I've just finished "Pier Pressure" and it won't be too long before I've caught the hell up and listened to "Nocturn"), I need something new to distract me from the anxious horror show that is driving outside. 

I was also tempted to buy the new Norton 360 product. For some reason, Norton have brought out a "totally new" security and maintenance suite just months after their 2007 range was released. 360 promises a new slant on home PC protection with 2Gb of remote storage included alongside the usual suspects. I say "was" tempted because I went to the Norton website and they wanted $59.99 for it. They give you the option to choose a different currency. I did and it came out at £31.04. Not bad at all. Then the small print said only US residents could use the US store and I would be redirected to the UK store. Fair enough. Except there, the exact same product is £59.99 - pretty much double what it costs in America. That is worse than Microsoft. Worse than iTunes. Worse than any other like-for-like online store I've seen. They can keep their "totally new" product until they abandon the idea that the pound and the dollar are worth the same thing. Or at least have their UK store wear a black mask and carry a swag bag.

 

7th March

UFC 68 will be talked about for years. The hype for the show was down from the last few shows, it's perhaps no coincidence that interest in the show was also lower than at any time in the past year. It won't touch the one million pay per view buys that Liddell vs Ortiz did in December but if ever a show deserved to be seen by every damn fight fan on the planet it was this one. Coming just a week after Pride's "Second Coming" event in Las Vegas (many peoples pick for the best top-to-bottom show in MMA history), UFC 68 blew it out of the water. Not as a top-to-bottom card because there wasn't much beneath the main event but just because the main event will be legendary. Randy Couture - sentimental favourite but outgunned, outweighed and too old to compete at the highest level - dominated Tim Sylvia, destroyed Tim Sylvia, HUMBLED~! Tim Sylvia on his way to a unanimous, 50-45 decision. Couture looked awesome - he tossed the 290lbs champion around like a doll, he out-struck him on the feet and from the ten second mark when he his a movie-calibre right hook to the twenty five minute mark when the fight ended, he looked like the best mixed martial artist on the planet. So it was a night of double celebration - not only is Tim Sylvia no longer the world heavyweight champion but he didn't lose it to Jeff Monson or Gabriel Gonzaga or Brandon Lee Hinkle or some other UFC heavyweight slug, he lost it to Randy Couture and he's someone we can all be proud of. In fact, it was such a beautiful day that I just had to set it to music.

It's been more of a busy day than a beautiful one. With a major release over the weekend, we're doing lots of demonstrations for lots of people. I had six groups today and they ranged from interested/impressed to there-because-they-had-to-be. One actually told me "I don't really care about any of this" as he was sitting down so I could waste half an hour going over it with him. Another group were hugely impressed with the call passing functionality and I couldn't find a tactful way of telling them it wasn't new - it had been there for fifteen months and they should've been using it all this time. But on the plus side I did manage to break a team record and get a whole group done in fifteen minutes. They said they understood it all but I'm a realist - some people will avoid new stuff for as long as they can until their manager asks them directly if they are using it and then they will deny ever having been told about it. But when demos go well I like doing them.

One thing I don't like doing is hearing noises while I'm driving. I'm hyper-sensitive now and any sound that isn't absolutely definitely without a doubt perfectly normal is greeted with panic. It's going in to be MOTd on Friday and amidst the natural sense of fear that I'll get a phone call saying they can't repair it and they've had to crush it into a small cube of silvery goodness, I have a sneaking sense of relief. I mean, if there is something wrong, they'll find it and fix it won't they? Probably not. If I knew how to sell a car, how to choose a car and how to buy a car I'd get something that hadn't obviously offended a gypsy in a previous life. But I don't so I'm stuck with it. AngryDave changes cars all the time. He's shrewd, he knows what he's talking about, he knows where to go and that's why he's now driving an almost-new BMW and thoroughly happy with his lot. While I'm panicking my way through every single damn journey in a 206 that I'm even too incompetent to have come up with a cute and girly name for.

 

3rd March

It's the second or third UFC show of the year this weekend (and the fact that I can't remember if it is the second or third says a lot about their over saturation at present). It is one of those shows where none of the fights is an end in itself - they are all just stepping stones on the way to bigger and brighter things. It'll still do splendid business - when you're hot, you're hot - but there isn't much of a buzz about it. There are however predictions to be made (and this is probably the first chance I've had to predict online since about October last year owing to computer problems et al).

Tim Sylvia Vs. Randy Couture

The legendary Couture coming out of retirement to face the heavyweight champion of the world. Cynics have suggested this was partly motivated by a desire to do a real life Rocky storyline just in case "Rocky Balboa" was a smash hit. Couture is 43 and hung up his shorts for the "last time" in February 2006 after a second knockout loss to Chuck Liddell. But he has been tempted back into the cage with a shot at 6'9" champion, Tim Sylvia. Sylvia is hated by most UFC fans because, although he is obviously a nice guy, he fights not to lose and he always has shitty matches. He had a dreadfully boring five rounder with Andrei Arlovski and followed it up with a reasonable but unsatisfying five rounder with Jeff Monson. He is very good at not losing fights and if Couture wants to become champion he is going to have to get through Sylvia's formidable defences. Couture is a hall of famer and a legend in the sport and I don't think there would be anyone in the building or watching at home who wouldn't be delighted to see him win (even if his prize for winning is a fight with Mirko Cro Cop). I'm picking Couture even though that is for sentimental rather than practical reasons.

Chris Lytle Vs. Matt Hughes

This is the beginning of Hughes's recovery following his humbling at the gloves of Georges St Pierre. Lytle is one of those guys who sounds good until you look at his record and realise he's lost every fight he's had against name guys. Hughes will win this one easily.

Rich Franklin Vs. Jason MacDonald

Jason MacDonald has the best nickname ever - "The Athlete". It is so fantastically dull that it must be humour that works on a whole new and impressive level. He's 2-0 in the UFC but hasn't fought anyone at the level of Rich Franklin. Franklin is coming off a brutal loss against Anderson Silva and looked a broken man in the aftermath of that fight (actually he looked like a broken man going into the fight so Silva's reputation may have got into his head). Like Hughes, he's basically in an all or nothing fight - win and you get a title rematch, lose and you'll have a long, hard road to get back to where people take you seriously as a contender. Unlike Hughes, Franklin isn't facing someine he should easily beat. I suspect he'll get past MacDonald but it won't be easy and I wouldn't be shocked to see an upset.

Drew McFedries Vs. Martin Kampmann

Two guys that haven't fought a lot meet in what should be a stand up battle. Kampmann sounds like a Nazi war criminal (his nickname is "The Hitman" so I guess he decided not to cash in on his obvious potential as a heel with routes in the Fatherland). I'll pick Kampmann because he has the edge in experience. Other than that they are pretty much even.

Jason Lambert Vs. Renato Sobral

Sobral is coming off his disastrous fight with Chuck Liddell (in which he abandoned his game plan and ignored his strengths in favour of running at Liddell with his arms flailing in the hope of landing a lucky punch). Lambert is a ground and pound guy which may be a problem against a jui jitsu master like Sobral. I can see it going to the ground and Babalu making Lambert tap.

So it could be a good show - Sylvia main events don't usually add up to much but even a dull Couture fight is still better than a good Sylvia fight so that bodes well. The undercard all seems to matter with no obvious time and space fillers. The dark matches include another outing for Matt Hammill - the guy the third TUF was meant to be built around - which I hope we'll get to see. I have pretzels, I have nothing better to do with Sunday evening so I'm ready for some fightin'.

I'm also ready to admit that I no longer hold the following opinions. I was young and foolish and knew no better.

John O'Shea isn't very good.

John O'Shea should be sold or swapped or left out with the bottles and papers for the recycling people.

John O'Shea should never be brought on when you need someone to turn the game around.

John O'Shea is an ok utility player but he is no Philip Neville.

The only thing John O'Shea has ever or will ever save was that shot from Robbie Keane when he spent the last ten minutes of the match in goal.

John O'Shea should only be in the first team squad if food poisoning has run through the dressing room and he hasn't eaten the tainted meal.

I now realise that John O'Shea is a prince amongst men, a world class athlete, a man who is capable of changing the destiny of the entire country, a great human being and a gentleman to boot. Let us salute John O'Shea on what will surely be forever remembered as John O'Shea Day.

John O'Shea ladies and gentlemen.

But while I have no doubts that John O'Shea is a hero to be ranked up amongst the gods, I am less certain that my latest video is such a good idea. Don't get me wrong, it was very interesting to produce (who knew that my video editor had a whole bunch of genuinely useful special effects?) but I really have no idea whether it goes too far. I don't know if I'm massively out of touch about what constitutes offensive. I think it is funny, if I may be so back-patting, but it also contains explicit scenes (tame by internet standards I'm sure, I doubt I'll be putting that theory to the test). I put an 18 logo at the start as a warning but it wouldn't actually get an 18 certificate. But that's the BBFC's fault not mine. Anyhoo, you might think it is funny, you might not - the warning at the beginning is jovial but genuine. So don't watch it if you don't like to see people fucking. All in the name of comedy, obviously.