28th September

The group safety officer (or some such title) came to see me last week and suggested I try a wrist rest. Not the sort that is attached to the mouse mat - this is a device which attaches to the mouse itself. "They're quite good" he said, selling me on the idea immediately. "But it does look like a pair of bollocks" he added. His new assistant came round with it that afternoon and there is a certain testicular hang to it I'll admit.

So all this week I've had a steady stream of IT people coming over to look at my contraption. My mouse and I have become figures of fun. It works surprisingly well though - "quite good" was pretty close to the mark.

I've just finished a book called "What We Believe But Cannot Prove" - a series of dozens of little essays by clever science people about, quite literally, things they believe but cannot prove. Or rather no one can prove. I think there were four interesting points spread thinly across the entire wretched book and I can only remember one of them. That was about how DNA loses a tiny bit every time it copies itself and how that could explain why we get old and fall apart and die. I don't think I'm cut out for science stuff. I'm not entirely sure I'm cut out for anything.

So what would you answer to the question "What do you believe to be true even though you cannot prove it?"

I believe that people should, on request, be given medication which could end their lives. They would then be free to take or not take the drugs and their lives would be improved as a result. Some would take them and they would die and that wouldn't be a bad thing because it was their own choice. The rest would find a sort of peace because they would no longer have to live in confusion and fear. They wouldn't be forever wishing for a way out. It would be there, in a blister pack by the side of the bed, an option forever available if required. By making it so easy it would cease to be a challenge. People always want what they cannot have and are blasé about that which they do have. Taking suicide from an abstract and distant concept to a close and present task would be hugely beneficial to those who waste years hoping and planning and failing and wishing.

Life isn't some universally magical gift which is right for everyone. By giving people a choice you make life more valuable not less. And if it leads to more suicides then I don't see a problem with that. Those who volunteer to fight overseas knowing they may well die are considered heroes because they sacrifice their lives to kill foreigners. Why is it so wrong to choose to die without first inflicting misery on others?

Elsewhere, "Broken News" arrived in the post. I'd never seen it before but was tempted to buy the DVD because of a chain which went (a) I didn't know that was out, (b) Ooh - it's only £5.99, (c) Golly, it's £12.99 elsewhere - bargain, (d) Hurrah! Nicola Walker is in the cast list. So I got it and now realise it is so much more than a DVD bargain with the most attractive woman on TV in it, it's written by John "People Like Us" Morton and it is really funny. Perfect for anyone who liked Roy Mallard's peculiar speech patterns and marginal detachment from reality. Oh, and fuck anyone who says it is a crappy "The Day Today" rip-off. Half of its Wiki entry seems to be comparing it unfavourably with Comrade Morris's masterwork. They were eleven years apart and each reflected the failures of the news coverage of the day. But television news has changed so much since everything became 24 hour rolling digital bite sized dumbed down space filling drivel that even if the writers had fired the same bullets they would've hit different targets. Anyway, from the evidence of the first episode I think it is brilliant stuff and well worth £5.99 in anyone's book.

 

24th September

So, the GOLF~! was Friday. At around 4pm the sky went dark and the rains began to fall. It wasn't looking good. Still, nothing ventured and all that. We stuck around until 5 (AngryDave and self - TheArtist had the day off to watch the Ryder Cup like the golf fan he is) which gave me time to explain the unreliable but occasionally useful Novell Salvage function which watches over certain of the shared drives. It wasn't a complete success but it wasn't a failure either.

Much like the drive to the golf centre I would say. I'd printed a map from MapQuest (which I deciphered using a Post It note diagram left for me by TheArtist) and sped off. The traffic was thick, much like the drivers, and it took a few minutes longer than expected. Then I saw a sign and took the next turning off the road. Which gained me entrance to the Little Chef car park and nothing more. Unless you count the Travel Lodge and I didn't. The turnings were slap bang in the middle of an area of roadworks so there was one open lane and traffic lights either side. None of which I could see as I turned. So I waited for a lull and turned out. I found the correct turning and after what seemed like an age driving down a slender road with nothing on either side I reached a car park.

I was sans clubs - ShirtGuy has been playing for a year and AngryDave was so taken by his four rounds that he bought a set this week - but did have an umbrella so I wasn't entirely unprepared. The two of them took their turns on the tee, taking practice swings and adjusting their positions according to the conditions. I just wandered up, dropped the ball and tried to hit it. It went about five yards. Certainly no more than six. It was a start. Ten more shots like that and I could be on the green. The second shot was better but "Yay - it's left the ground" quickly became "Boo - it's not found it again". Splash, it was in the water. What a silly place to leave a river.

On the second hole I managed ten yards off the tee. Nearly a 67% improvement in just one hole. I'd be brilliant by the end of the round. Then I hit one quite far and ended up in a bunker. I won't tell you what ShirtGuy called the bunker for it was rude. I amazed myself, m'colleagues, the insect that kept attacking me and probably the old and wise trees around us by getting out of the bunker first go. It was to be my last bunker success. From that point on I had about as much luck in bunkers as Hitler did in 1945.

But I was slowly getting better. The tee shot became longer, my second shot was universally recognised as my finest work and I was settling into an unimpressive but undisastrous rhythm. AngryDave on the other hand was an exciting mix of the impressive and the calamitous. On one shot he ended up over the fence and in a field populated entirely by sheep and lady sheep. Never say die, said AngryDave, and he climbed the fence and took his shot from there. And a good shot it was - it sailed over the fence, sailed over the green and sailed over the other fence and into another field populated entirely by sheep and lady sheep.

My Waterloo - by which I mean my undoing rather than my victory in an international song festival - came when I needed thirteen goes at getting out of my second bunker. I was banging away at that sand like an Arab with a pavement fetish and getting nowhere fast. When the scores came to be totted up later it was that hole which placed me in my very firm last place so I must've been doing something right elsewhere. Either that or the pencil was faulty.

After the nine holes had been completed the light was beginning to fade (a blessing in some ways as the sun had been rather low at times and I find blinding light to be rather distracting). We were left with three options - go home, go to the club house and pay for another round or sneak round and play again for nothing. I won't incriminate you by saying which we did.

We were in a race against time to get all nine holes in before it was too dark to see so we rushed round, even banning practice strokes by about the third hole. This didn't bother me as I never took any. I went on the theory that in the unlikely event of me having a decent shot in me I didn't want to waste it on fresh air. But suddenly I did have some good shots in me. Suddenly I was reaching (or overshooting) the green on almost every tee shot. I had two bad bunkers this time - ten and eight - and they undid me on our improvised score card but all agreed it was a not completely abysmal debut. It was also rather fun and we're going to do it again next week. At least I hope we will - I put my umbrella in his golf bag and forgot to get it back. The only downside of the whole thing was that it is Winter soon and it'll by dark by 4 o'clock. Then I thought "at least we could still go to the driving range - that's well lit" and realised that something golfy had bitten me. Before you know it I'll be buying some sticks.

If golf isn't your cup of choice, I'll leave you with Hugh Laurie singing one of the greatest songs ever.

 

23rd September

The moment I started writing this my cable box went down and with it fell my broadband so this may not get posted until tomorrow. But right now it is 11.12pm and I have some predictions to make for tonight's UFC 63.

The top two matches are -

Matt Hughes vs BJ Penn - Hughes is pound-for-pound the second best fighter in the world (behind Fedor) and he's dominated the 170lb division for the last few years. He's beaten some top talent (and Joe Riggs) but the one guy that's beaten him is BJ Penn. And he beat him rather easily. UFC had run out of contenders in the division and persuaded lightweight Penn to move up a weight and fight Hughes. It lasted less than five minutes and Penn choked him out. But that was then and this is now. Matt Hughes proved in the Gracie fight that he's moved past his habit of taking certain opponents lightly. He probably assumed Penn was out of his depth and would be an easy victim. He got schooled. He didn't make the same mistake against the old and rusty Royce Gracie and he won't here either. Penn meanwhile suggested in his fight with GSP that he's got a good first round but if it goes any longer he loses interest and/or confidence. I expect Hughes to beat him, by tap out in or around the third round.

Mick Swick vs David "The Crow" Loiseau - Mick Swick's nickanme is "Quick" because he tends to score first round knockouts (his first two UFC fights lasted a total of 40 odd seconds). However, "The Crow" survived five punishing rounds with Rich Franklin (during which Franklin hit him so hard and so often that he left the cage with two broken hands and a broken foot). If Franklin couldn't knock him out in five rounds I'm not sure Swick can knock him out in three. "The Crow" is a tricky guy for UFC to have around because he's shown he isn't in Franklin's league but he's still very good and Swick is in line for a title shot in 2007, plans which would be thrown out of the window with a loss to Loiseau. It's make or break time for Swick and I can see him following Franklin's lead and pounding "The Crow" for fifteen minutes and winning a decision.

I'll probably tell you about the GOLF~! tomorrow.

 

20th September

9.06

9.06

12

9.06

That is an abridged version of the puzzle that vexed m'self and TheArtist this afternoon. To cut a medium length story into something shorter, a mainframe extract produces a DAT file which, when opened, gives the above date information in Excel. It is of course useless because it doesn't mean what Excel thinks it means. It means September 2006 and December 2000 but the spreadsheet wouldn't believe us. It was our mission to try and find a way of automatically converting this data into a CSV file which could be used for a PHP mail merge. However simple you may think that sounds, it isn't. Eventually we got it nailed - the mofo was well and truly humbled~! Except that when we automated what had been a successful manual operation it screwed it all up. The numbers transposed themselves and we were left with a screen full of rubbish.

"When does a date take up six hours?" asked TheArtist.

"When it goes well?" I suggested.

We're reconvening tomorrow to scour the help files for something that might work. It could end up being a horribly complicated thirty-odd part nested IF function. But let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Because I'm also tied up in our marketing man's web of mayhem and intrigue. He keeps changing his mind - he'll send a heavily annotated PDF to me asking me to change bits of the online forms he's looking at. So I do it - rather well I think - and send them back to him. Every day, at around 4.30, he sends me another heavily annotated PDF of the revised form with a whole load more changes. Not things I've missed - things he's changed his mind about or things he's only just thought of. Often I'm changing wording he gave me the day before. Then he rings me up to discuss how many millimetres a logo should be from the edge of the page or how he was worrying about a minor detail in the legal lines while our running. Or, and this is the worst one, he said he'd been dreaming about one particular form. He is one of those people who can be very cold and dismissive of you until he realises that you actually know what you're doing, then he enlists you in his crusade and you never hear the end of it. On the whole though I'd say he was one of the good guys.

I also went to see the company's Occupational Health manager person yesterday. I was expecting that we'd fill out a form saying I needed a fancy mouse mat and one would be delivered, baring the company logo and smelling rubbery, in a few weeks time. But instead I find myself in a small office chatting to a medically trained person who has my file in front of her. The only thing she said that m'doctor hadn't was that I should try Ibuprofen as it is an anti-inflammatory. That plus using my left hand and a visit from the Group Safety Officer (another management person with a grand title but ground level responsibilities). He's coming tomorrow morning and will probably recommend a fancy mouse mat with the company logo on it and a new chair. The Occupational Health manager also asked about the other stuff in my file but I played sane and got away without giving her any excuse to try and help me. Like I always do.

Though I have done my bit to help the company this week. I need, for various sundry purposes which will be of no interest to you I'm sure, a copy of Acrobat Professional and access to a graphics package. This was taken up by our team manager and he put in the appropriate request in full knowledge that either (a) the company has licences for the software and they can be transferred to me or (b) extra licences will need to be purchased for the existing software. So what do we get back from the purchasing department? An invoice for boxed copies of the newest versions of both packages from PC World. So IT procurement, rather than look into whether we already have what is needed (and those that have it use older versions than are now sold), would rather go to the normal PC World website, order it online and get it delivered. I wonder how many other requests have been dealt with this way - a lazy, expensive solution which either wastes company money or prevents people getting applications they need. Luckily, we have access to the analysis that was done for the Thin Client migration so we have the most detailed breakdown of application usage across the whole building so should be able to find something. All of which will probably end up costing more in time wasted than it would cost to go to PC World and buy it off the shelf. At this rate it will be quicker to do the work at home and email it to myself.

 

17th September

Spooks is back tonight. This is good news - watching seasons one to four back to back to back to back in the spring has made me eager for the arrival of season five. It is fair to say that the DVDs of Spooks were the best things I've watched this year. It seemed to go a bit astray at times in the fourth series but that might've been me flagging as the hours ticked by. The cast has changed yet again - the wife who was only really in it as the main character's wife has been replaced and that will probably be for the best. Fiona - I think her name was Fiona - was rather bland and pointless. Nicola Walker is still in it so there is reason enough to watch even if the scripts go downhill. But I'm hoping it will continue to be great. It is years since a series has compelled me to sit through four series in quick succession so Spooks must be something pretty special. And it's on again tomorrow night because it is an exciting two part adventure. Like Rise of the Cybermen only exciting.

Also good on telly is "That Mitchell and Webb Look". I've liked Mitchell and Webb ever since the sketch show "Bruiser" which no one except me remembers. Buried at about 11.30pm on BBC (twice a week so the whole thing was over in three weeks) it has never to my knowledge been repeated. The only hope is that they will be the Next Big Thing and their early work will be released (a la "Rock Profiles"). Their new series had some extremely good bits in - David as an SS trooper who is shocked to realise they are the baddies, the gay couple remembering when Moneypenny brought James Bond to one of their dinner parties, the weird bit with the adventurous tramps and the excellent bit (sadly continued long beyond the initial payoff) where David has blacked up because he feels more comfortable that way. It's bound to be repeated so give it a go, or just wait for next Thursday's episode, because it is the best new sketch show to come along in years.

More importantly, my little niece has learned to crawl. Last time I saw her - which must've been a fortnight ago - she could push herself up with her arms but her little legs could only copy her arms and she ended up in a press up position until the effort became too much and she flopped down again. But now she's off and crawling and it's goodbye to press ups and hello to stair guards, cushions in front of the TV stand and tables blocking the way to the kitchen. I also noticed she can lie on her back and to her it doesn't seem any different to sitting upright. She just carries on as normal. Banging plastic things together and giggling to herself.

Awwwwwwww.

 

16th September

And so I gave in to my weakness and ordered a new iPod. I agonised (or should that be iAgonised?) over whether to get the classic white or the mysterious black. In the end I went with the original and best. Don't ask why I think I need a new iPod because I have not an answer. Sometimes I just see stuff and want it. Sometimes I give in to the call of beauty.

From one end of technological time to the other. I watched the first episode of Quatermass this afternoon. Even after a thorough going over by the RT it still looked like a Chaplin film print. The advances in television between 1953 and Doctor Who's arrival in 1963 must've been immense. But - and this is the important thing - episode one made me want to see episode two and that is surely what it was meant to do.

I'm also happy because Bravo have confirmed when they will be showing Ortiz-Shamrock III. Bravo are pretty damned ace when it comes to UFC with the PPVs and TUF being shown within hours or days of screening in America. The exception have been UFC's occasional "Ultimate Fight Night" specials on cable TV. These can take weeks or even months to be shown over here, often split into two one-hour episodes. But the biggest UFN ever is on only a few days later - 14th October to be exact - and that makes for an ultimate-tastic weekend as the Franklin-Silva show is the very next night.

There was even a very strange coincidence moment thing while I was trying to think up entries for the Matrix 2.0. I've reached The Nightmare of Eden and thought there might be an acceptable pun in suggesting the Michael Owen's middle name was Vrax because his mother was a fan of the series. I then pondered that he might be of an age where I could suggest he was actually conceived during the serial. Bugger me if I didn't discover he was actually born between episodes 3 and 4 of the Nightmare of Eden. The joke may be rubbish but the coincidence is remarkable enough to warrant a brief comment.

 

15th September

I will admit to being unduly excited by the following three words.

Eighty gigabyte iPod

Just when I'd given up hope of Apple ever going that bit further with their top of the range model (since the main growth in Pod sales was in the Nano range) they pop up with a two-fold announcement. Not only was Brer iPod getting bigger (while remaining the same size) it was also getting cheaper. Forty English pounds less for an 80Gb than they were asking for a 60Gb but a few days ago. We live in strange and wondrous times.

We certainly do because it was only the need to welcome mother back from the Americas before she sank into jet lag that prevented me from joining m'colleagues on the golf course this after-work. Not a proper one from the sounds of it, merely a hundred yard a time pitch'n'put but still. It's golf and it doesn't involve clowns faces, windmills or helter skelters. It is wrong. And I have no coordination, no physical strength, shoulder, arm and wrist issues and I'm too short sighted to be able to see the green. I would give the whole thing up for dead were it not for the comforting words of AngryDave - "Golf - how hard can it be?"

I also wonder how hard it can be for CD WOW to send my Mark of the Rani DVD. Everyone who ordered from anywhere else has it but we who marked out (ho ho ho) for the sub-ten pound price are still waiting. You'd think there was soemthing difficult about shipping a DVD from England to Hong Kong so it could be put in a cardboard box and posted back to England. Tcha. At least the delay means I can give you another of Andrew Cartmel's Pipnjane anecdotes.

"I had lunch with them in a Spanish seafood restaurant. The wine was fantastic. "Say when, Pip" I said as I refilled his glass. "When" said Jane. She also said "Pip wants the salmon."

I used to have great batty old person anecdotes about HalfPastThree. Sadly, there won't be any more. There is a backlog in one of the departments and someone suggested he be asked back for a few weeks to help out. He knows the work, he's looking for a part time something, his wife is doing a couple of days a week there to help out and he's a thoroughly reliable old stick. HR said no - he's too old. We have posters all round the building about age discrimination. After October it will be illegal. The joke was that this meant you should do all your discriminating now, while it's still allowed, and apparently that is HR's view too. They think its much better to get a bored temp who will need training from scratch and who probably won't stick around beyond a week. Some people just don't recognise the value of employing a catchphrase-laden old pie thief whose father had a lazy cock.

But the employment news isn't all bad - AussieGuy, barely back in his native land, has secured gainful employment in the IT department of a bank. We knew he'd be ok - he's got experience, he's got skills and most importantly, he's white. Not as white as me but he goes outside and his skin reflects this. So our loss is South Africa's gain and thanks to the joys of email we can wind him up from thousands of miles away with just as much success as when he sat opposite us.

 

10th September

Having just carried a large box of cardboard out to m'little car, followed by several bags of paper and a small sack of drinks cans, it made me wonder about this whole recycling business. Not questioning the goodness of it - I think that pretty much speaks for itself - but more asking (a) how can we (or I) recycle more and (b) why do so many people not understand it?

For example, padded envelopes. I get loads of these for various reasons and have no idea what to do with them. Some can be reused (though there is always the danger that some fuckwad would receive a perfectly good item in a perfectly good reused envelope and still leave negative feedback because nothing less than brand new will satisfy their ego) but eventually they must all be thrown away. The recycling campaign website - www.recyclenow.com - offers no help. It just says they can't be recycled. Can I rip the bubble wrap out and put the envelope in with the paper and the plastic in with plastic? I don't know and until someone tells me I can't do anything but bin them.

And plastic is another one - we know that plastic bottles can be put in the plastic bottle bank but what of other plastic? If I get a tasty tortellini from Sainsbury's, what do I do with the box? Can a plastic tray go in with plastic bottles? Can the film lid go in with them? Is all plastic just plastic or are there more kinds of plastic than we realise? Will a stray tortellini box taint an entire bank of plastic bottles?

Then we have CDs and DVDs. What the hell are you supposed to do with those? I don't mean "proper" ones which can be sold or given away, I mean CDRs and DVDRs which aren't needed anymore (because the burn failed, you've bought the original etc) or freebies which you never wanted in the first place. Are CDs plastic in the recycling sense? Apparently not but there is nothing in place to take them.

The best solution to all of this is to have dedicated facilities for the obvious stuff - paper, cans, cardboard, tins, plastic bottles - and a miscellaneous bank or bin for those things that are obviously recyclable but that don't fit into a category. So I can put my discs and envelopes and (clean) wrappers in a bin and a recycling firm can employ people to sort it and send it away to be recycled.

But the flaw in this plan is point (b). People. Not everyone but enough to ruin the whole thing. We have recycling bins at work. You'll see a row of them - cups, plastic bottles, paper, cans and then general rubbish. Most people read the large, friendly letters on the side of each differently coloured bin and put things in correctly. But you will always be putting something in the rubbish bin and see dozens of cans, plenty of bottles and stacks of cups. You'll see apple cores and crisp packets in with the cups. Bottles in with the cans, polystyrene everywhere and anywhere, and cardboard dumped out of sheer confusion. Actually, that last one is a glaring omission as there is no dedicated cardboard facility but that is no excuse for putting it in with plastic bottles or aluminium cans.

And that is people of a reasonable intelligence in the workplace. Whether out of ignorance, laziness or sheer stubbornness they can't or won't recycle. Out in the real world it is even more pathetic. God knows what would be put in recycling boxes by the sort of knuckle dragging proles who populate this festering land. Piss, shit, needles, nappies and last night's curry probably. And some rats too.

There have been stories in the press recently about chipped bins* which will allow councils to charge residents for the amount they throw away. There was also the woman taken to court for repeatedly contaminating her recycle bin with crap (she was sadly acquitted). All of this is to try and force people into recycling more. Except that it never works like that - charging people (again - they have already paid once in their council tax) for rubbish will become nothing more than a money making scheme as the provision of recycling facilities will remain random, patchy and inadequate. Plebs will just dump their crap in their neighbours' bins or on a nearby playing field.

Britain has a wretched recycling record -

Netherlands: 65%
Austria: 59%
Germany: 58%
Belgium: 52%
Sweden: 41%
Denmark: 41%
Luxembourg: 36%
Spain: 35%
Ireland: 31%
Italy: 29%
Finland: 28%
France: 28%
UK: 18%
Greece: 8%

But fines and charges alone won't solve the problem because they immediately make a certain type of person defensive and they stop thinking about the issue and start finding ways to get around it. What do the Dutch do that we don't? More to the point, what do our neighbours, the Irish, do that we don't? Are the ordinary British people simply too selfish, stupid and disgusting to use their common sense? Or are British councils to inconsiderate, mean and incompetent to provide proper facilities?

Probably all of the above.

They should launch a bright, colourful, monosyllabic and highly xenophobic campaign to get British higher up that league table. We can't be 10% worse than the French. 40% worse than the Germans? Who won the bloody war anyway? And to be 47% behind a nation of drug taking pornographers is too much to bear. Let's wrap ourselves in the flag of St George, whistle the theme tunes to films made over thirty years ago and put our beer cans in the right bin. Because we owe it to our children and our children's' children to be better than all those foreigners. Or some such Sun-friendly nonsense. Ends justifying means and all that.

*whenever I see the phrase "chipped bins" I always want to say that this allows them to accept rubbish from any region.

 

9th September

I've discovered something cool. When you hear what it is you will have a much better insight into what I think to be cool.

One of the problems with the iPod is that if you listen to audio books or plays you have to listen to the entire file or remember where you were up to. If you stop half way through and go off to listen to something else, you lose your place. But - but - iTunes has the ability to remember, audio books purchased through iTunes have the ability to remember. It is only poor old ordinary files that are amnesiac.

Well no longer. The answer, courtesy of an iPod message board (such things exist and you aren't really surprised) is to do the following.

(a) Rip the tracks as AAC rather than MP3.

(b) This gives the files a .m4a file extension.

(c) In Windows Explorer change this to .m4b

This has the miraculous effect of changing the file properties automatically and when you copy the files to iPod they are given the gift of memory.

And, best of all, it actually seems to work.

 

7th September

Not the best of days. It started, as days do, while asleep and gave me not one but two anxiety dreams. It was the return of that old favourite, the day you realise you've been at university for several months but have never actually been given a time table so you haven't been to any lectures. Then we had a newcomer - running over a child while driving. There was also an interlude involving knife/flesh fun but that was more because its on my mind a lot as the weather turns and it becomes a more practical solution to all life's ills.

Then I went out and had a fairly rubbish trip into Manchester. I had no idea why I was going since there was no point to it. At one point I saw a man dash over to two nearby women and ask them "Where did you get your hair done?" I'm thinking it was (a) the prelude to a crime, (b) a piece of guerrilla television or (c) a gay many trapped in an apparently straight man's body. There was also the cash machine queue where I was stood behind a boy. He turn his head to look over his shoulder a split second before the person at the machine left. I didn't know anyone could look over their shoulder so intensely and so lengthily. There must've been something incredibly sexual going on at what fighter pilots would've designated "around 7.30". He just stood there, looking, not realising that the machine was available for use. It lasted about an hour. Or a minute. Something like that. No one said anything to him. He just stood and stared. Eventually he looked back, did some GCSE maths, and sauntered over to the cash machine. It was a rubbish machine - one that makes you include the decimal places when asking for cash. Is it really likely I want fifty pence? Do I really need to press extra buttons to move the five and the zero over to the pounds side? And what is the deal with cash machine receipts? The machine says "withdrawal with receipt" and "withdrawal without receipt". Why does everyone except me not read the second option? The machine at work has a special bin next to it for receipts. The bin is always full. Because people who do not want receipts can't be bothered looking down a fraction of an inch and seeing that there is another way.

But then we live in an age where toilet basins with taps need a sign next to them saying "Please turn off to save water". So, having discounted the large number of people too stupid to wash their hands, the intelligent minority who are left are still infected with a retarded element who don't know how taps work. Their lives must be hell.

Then there was the attractive studenty looking girl walking past WHS. There were a lot of studenty looking people in town today. An unwelcome flashback to when I was a studenty looking person about to embark on an adventure I would ultimately hate. That's the problem with nostalgia - everything is just a link back to a time when I was saturated with regret, terrified of the future, probably aching with unrequited dreams and hoping that this would be the last day I'd ever feel anything. I haven't changed - I've just acquired a trolley to help carry all my baggage. The studenty looking girl was wearing a rainbow sweatband. I don't know if that makes it better or worse.

I even managed to lose my return ticket though I don't know how. Which meant getting to the station and queuing in the ticket office for five minutes to get a single home. I got out and saw that the train was leaving in two minutes but from the furthest possible platform. A platform I was so not going to get to in two minutes. Marvellous. Trains every half hour and I have at least a thirty-two minute wait. So I found a bench and read more of the Spike Milligan biography I had with me and that was the best bit of the entire wretched trip.

Unless the Special Edition of classic early 80s movie "Flash Gordon" is really good. Then that will be the ret-conned best bit of the entire wretched trip.

Someone wants me to go to a wedding in Stratford Upon Avon in October. I don't think I can. I was going to go to the re-opened Sainsbury's this evening to see if doubling in size will make it any less crap. But I panicked. It is all of eight minutes away and I panicked. I ended up hiding in the bath listening to the free disc which came with "The Settling". I can't explain that one either. God knows what I'd be like (a) more than eight minutes away, (b) without a bath to hide in and (c) minus Gary Russell in full selling mode.

Though I have at least finally met the new doctor. Being incredibly old as I am, the doctor who has looked after me on a fairly irregular basis ever since I was a baby has now retired. Mother gave the new chap her seal of approval (but she's gone soft since becoming a grandmother - she even smiles at children in restaurants rather than tutting like proper middle class people do). I went on Monday because my hand/wrist/aching/mouse/etc problem has now added numbness in the fingers to its portfolio. The internet said this was probably due to adverse pressure on certain nerve endings in the wrist and elbow and that I should see my doctor. The doctor said much the same thing but added it was probably nothing. He didn't even give me a prescription which is a first. The old doctor would dish out a green slip before you'd even sat down. My problem seems to be that if I use a mouse with my right hand I get pains in the hand, fingers and wrist but if I use my left hand I don't know what to do with my right hand so it ends up propping my head up and the pressure on my elbow makes my fingers go numb. The answer is probably obvious but I can't seem to do obvious at the moment. Si tried (quite correctly and plainly) to explain what he wanted me to do with some photos of Jane Wiedlin and the words just seemed to exist on a whole other plane of reality. Its like trying to teach a pocket calculator that there is a new number and that everything it knows is wrong. I think I need a firmware upgrade. Or to be reincarnated as someone who isn't washed up by the age of thirty.

 

6th September

"The Armando Iannucci Shows" is brilliant. I urge anyone who has ever liked anything he has ever done (Day Today, Alan Partridge, Time Trumpet etc) to rush out and buy it. It is Iannucci (and I've learned how to spell that as a tribute to how good this DVD is) at his undiluted best. Not competing with Chris Morris or bound into a rigid format, it is free flowing, darkly brilliant and actually funny. Not only is it funnier than "Jam", the commentaries are funnier than "Jam". Overshadowed on its original transmission in September 2001 by events elsewhere, "The Armando Iannucci Shows" needs to be rediscovered. Then maybe he'll do another series of it rather than struggling to make the Time Trumpet concept actually work consistently.

I'm in the midst of what is supposed to be a ground breaking, shelf clearing, cupboard emptying, clutter exterminating, space freeing tidy out but it isn't going awfully well. Though I do keep finding things I never knew I had. Like a biography of Frankie Howerd (which would sit very nicely between my current Spike Milligan and the Eric Sykes I have my eye on) or the latest novel from Paulo Coelho or Mission Impossible 2. I fear this will go down in the "good intentions" category and be left to rot like the rest of my life.

And this blog now comes with added Julie Gardner as I give you the audio-punctuation that is the "Julie Gardner Oh Hooray" drop.

 

3rd September

It is safe to say I like DVD commentaries. I even stopped actually watching the Tomorrow People so I could get to the commentaries sooner. From about series three onwards I couldn't tell you any of the plots and I'm fine with that. I buy the discs to listen to a bunch of people who aren't actors any more taking the piss out of the time when they were actors. Doctor Who DVDs are no exception - I can't think of any bar the TVM that I have watched "straight". Maybe a couple of restored episodes just to see what they are like (and I think I've seen the re-edited Curse of Fenric movie) but mostly I just watch them with the commentary, have a look at the extras and put them on a shelf. The New Series boxed set was the other way around - I watched all the episodes (except "Fathers Day") and put the ridiculously designed box away for future reference. It was only yesterday that I dusted it off and had a spin of Rose with commentary. All of which brings me to the point of this little ramble.

I've never found the Welsh accent attractive. It always seemed somewhere between annoying and quaint. There was certainly nothing to make me think Wales could be the new Edinburgh in terms of sexy voices.

Disclaimer - I'm not talking about Russell.

But "Rose" changed that completely. Julie Gardner has a very sexy voice. I was pretty much duty bound to go immediately to disc five and watch the Confidentials in the hope that she might be interviewed. She was only in the first one but, like Jaffa Cakes, these bite sized pieces of fascinating behind the scenes footage proved irresistible and I was still there at one o'clock this morning watching boffins from The Mill explain how they built up the shot of the spaceship landing in the Thames or why they had two separate sessions of Billie Piper hanging from wires for the Blitz sequence.

And, as if fascinating technical material wasn't enough, Julie Gardner is every bit as fanciable as her voice suggested.

I hope the New Series II boxed set has the infectiously enthusiastic and jolly RTD and the gorgeous and lovely Julie commentating (commenting?) on every episode just to make it ace.

Speaking of ace, tomorrow sees the release of "Mark of the Rani" (or "the twenty-one year old "Mark of the Rani" as I want to call it because I've realised just how damned long ago it was and how old I must be to remember it so) with Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Kate O'Mara behind the mic. I won't get the DVD for ages - the downside of buying it for a mere £8.99 (without even using vouchers - worship at my bargain hunting feet). The on-board documentary is rumoured to feature Pip and Jane Baker~! (creators of the Vervoids for those wondering) who were as mad as cheese in the mid 90s and can only have become more bonkers since then. I still love this extract from Cartmell's diaries -

I was on the phone to Pip and he said "Oh I'm afraid Jane isn't around at the moment, she's just getting a large envelope" and then Jane could be heard in the background saying "What was that dear? I was just getting a large envelope".

Sadly, I don't think the New Series will ever give us anything as wonderfully strange as Pip'n'Jane. Either as people or as writers. Everything will be slick and smooth and professional and all a bit disconcertingly sterile. Except Paul Cornell's teeth, obviously. He should pay The Mill to do something with them the next time he's interviewed for TV.

But, all that aside, we can still take some comforts from the New Series regime. Chief amongst them being...

Hurrah for the Welsh.

 

2nd September

The release appears to have gone in ok. The all-day or all-weekend hellfest hinted at by someone who had seen the sheer mass of source code being added to production never really materialised. We were there a bit longer than usual (long enough to pay for the next Big Finish sub) but it was all good fun. One important thing to check is that all historic data is present'n'correct. This we did by having a look at the case history of someone we know writes very bad letters. Not the same person featured in previous discussions of this topic, this is someone who is young, pretty (at least TheArtist thinks so) and a bit dim. She isn't a lazy, stuck-in-her-ways old time-server who can't be bothered doing things properly. She is an altogether different kettle of pies. She writes very chatty letters. She tries so hard but the harder she tries, the more chatty she gets and the funnier her work becomes. It reached a peak when we found a letter in which she explained to a customer that they had sent in a letter about a pension policy and she worked in the life claims department. She was returning their letter and advised them to send it in for the attention of the pensions department. Except, the pensions department is fifty yards from where she sits. Instead of taking two minutes to carry it over to them she spent fifteen minutes writing a letter to the customer. We were laughing like drains and someone thought to share the joke with the guy managing the release. He too thought them amusing but added "the first two are just sheer incompetence but the last one is serious misconduct."

Ah, that doesn't sound very nice. He suggested the matter be raised elsewhere. I do agree that we have plenty of incompetent people and that something really ought to be done but I hope she doesn't get into trouble about this. Because it is in no way her fault. The fault lies with her manager for not supervising her properly, for not ensuring that a new and totally inexperienced member of staff's work is checked and for not booking this girl on the in-house letter writing course. In the six months she's been here I doubt anyone has bothered to check any of her work. So how is she to know she's doing something wrong? She tries so hard to be helpful and friendly. It just isn't very professional. Customers like friendly people on the phone but they don't expect chatty, patronising letters from a supposedly serious company.

England are currently 4-0 up against Andorra. I didn't actually know where Andorra was until this morning. The interesting fact (as cribbed from one of the cheaper newspapers via the BBC website) is that Old Trafford actually holds more people than live in Andorra. Wiki agrees - 76,000 for the ground, 67,000 in Andorra. Motty has literally just confirmed (thanks Motty - I was about to look it up) that there are 56,000 in attendance this afternoon. So unless there are 11,000 Andorran visitors there are still more people in Andorra than Old Trafford. But I got up three hours early for a Saturday morning so my maths might be a bit completely wrong.