September 8th 2010
I join you having returned from London within the last half hour, glad to be back in Bristol where it's possible to walk down the pavement without having to dodge round slow-moving tourists (or, indeed, slow-moving locals. Or slow-moving people who don't fit into either category... spies? protestors? MPs? Anyways). I've said it before and I'll say it again, I could never live or work in central London. It's not that I dislike the place, as such - I visit a few times a year, in general, and I am in awe of the many brilliant museums, parks, tourist attractions etc etc that the city holds - but it would be hell to live there. Even Rob, a London-lover and someone whom I associate indelibly with the capital, agreed that it would not have been a pleasant place to be on Tuesday. For those of you lucky enough to be unaffected, the majority of tube staff went on strike on Tuesday, thanks to Bob Crow and his cronies. Which sounds far more like an American band of the early 60s than he deserves. Crow is a union leader, and to describe him as throwback would be over-generous, giving as it does the impression that his views would ever have been palatable. He represents everything that is wrong with the left, and much of what Tony Blair endeavoured to exorcise from the Labour party (cf the book I'm currently reading - more on that when I've finished it). Crow called the strikes because of London Underground proposals to remove a number of ticket officers - basically, we are in straitened times, and the fact that the majority of journeys these days begin with an Oyster card or a re-used travelcard rather than a new ticket means, unfortunately but obviously, that these are jobs that should go. Bob Crow has suggested that this amounts to a "mugger's charter", since we all know the frequency of muggings at the ticket barrier, and the stalwart work done by ticket officers in preventing the problem from spreading further. Oh, you know what? I'm in Bristol now, and it's not my problem. I just feel sorry for Londoners, and I hope Crow knows that they're not on his side. In other news, Simon and I travelled down to Somerset to surprise Mum on her birthday last Friday, and much merriment was had by all. Mum was evidently touched to have her two sons - as well as her husband - with her, and it was a great pleasure to be there. Not only that, but I won the Archers board game despite never listening to the programme, so I think we can chalk that one up as a win. I need to head to bed now, since I have an early start tomorrow. All the best.
September 15th 2010
As of 8.06am today, I ceased to be an AXA employee. Not because they discovered that it was me who leaked the information about the arms program, or even because of my pathological hatred of the French (if I see another Asterix comic, I'm gonna vomit). Rather more calmly, it was because the bit of AXA I worked for was bought by Resolution at that time, in what has been termed The Transaction throughout the hallowed halls of the (soon to be renamed) AXA Centre Bristol. We're being combined with Friends Provident to form Friends Life (you'll notice the logo), although that branding won't be officially used until next year... at about 3.30pm our screensavers changed to the Friends Provident logo, which is as good a sign as any that the change has been made. Not a lot will change for me in the day to day work, I wouldn't have thought, except that - slightly concidentally - I'm just changing roles from IFRS to MCEV. That's International Financial Reporting Standards to Market Consistent Embedded Value, for those of you without your fingers on the financial acronym pulse. What can I say, you've gotta do what you love. Speaking of which, I'm sorry to say that the transition to Friends wasn't marked by a visit to the building from Matthew Perry. In fact, we didn't even get James Michael Tyler (who played Gunther. Which, since I'm on the topic, is not pronounced 'Gunter', despite what many of my readership think... you know who you are), and he'll come to anything. Anyways, I'll keep you posted if anything both exciting and non-confidential happens. In other news, it's apparently Agatha Christie week, what with it being the Dame's 120th birthday today and all. Google marked the occasion with the following... just about discernable in there are the letters that make up 'Google'. I'm not sure whether it's supposed to represent a scene from a particular Hercule Poirot story - I'd hazard not - but there appears to be a box of chocolates on the right, which may be a subtle reference to The Chocolate Box, a short story that relates the only time Poirot made a serious mistake. Anyways, happy birthday Agatha.
September 16th 2010
The Sunday Times recently trumpeted an article by someone they claimed was one of the foremost critics in America (I forget her name, but she's a media studies professor somewhere, so I'd take it with a pinch of salt) "demolishing" Lady Gaga. Since it had been hyped a little in the Times both before and after, I decided to dig it out of my recycling bag and see what it had to say, and it turns out that this lass seems to think that the main problem with Lady Gaga is that she's not similar enough to Madonna. That, and the fact that she's not sexy - though it seems harsh to hold that against her. Mother Theresa wasn't the sexiest, but everyone likes her. It will come as no great surprise to you, I expect, that I don't much like Lady Gaga, but not once have I jotted down 'un-Madonna-ness' in the cons column. Personally, I feel that wearing a lobster on your head, playing the piano while sitting on a toilet, having a pet tea cup, taking a Times journalist to a German sex club, conducting an interview under the guise of a male mechanic and, frankly, calling yourself Lady Gaga are all good reasons to be avoided. I tend to avoid the modern music scene as much as possible in any case, but disdain is particularly easy to come by in this instance. Well, you didn't come here to read about my musical gripes. Nor, I expect, are you looking for an update on Tony Blair's book. What you want to know about is the 'comedy quiz' I went to on Tuesday (which laboured under the moniker of Quizambard Kingdom Brunel ) and, specifically, if there was a short maths round in which we scored full marks. Well, I can now tell you: yes, yes there was. In fairness, it was primary school maths, but maths it was nonetheless. The first question asked: "If Alonso drives his car at 216mph round a 3.6 mile track, how many minutes does it take him to complete it?" While I got out my pen and paper, one team mate claimed to have remembered the incident, and dredged his memory banks for the recorded lap time. Anyways, I'll leave that one as an exercise for the reader. Elsewhere in the quiz there was a cunning round in which the first three questions (of four) had the answers Chesney Hawkes, Tony Hawks and Ethan Hawke respectively, and the fourth question began "Which bird...?" Obviously we plumped for 'hawk', but had been cleverly hoodwinked, since the answer was in fact 'ostrich'. Feel free to picture me shaking my fist at that clever, clever quizmaster. I've realised that I haven't yet provided you with pictures of my American travels... hopefully I'll get round to uploading them soon. Allow me to whet your appetite with this list of things that the USA has which we don't:
1. Third-pounder burgers in McDonald's, as an alternative to quarter-pounders
2. Dairy Queen (a fast food place and not, as I'd assumed, a milkshake parlour)
3. Milkshake parlours (probably)
4. Millions of rounders fans
5. Real estate on the moon
6. Extremely detailed instructions surrounding their roundabouts
7. People actually caring about flags being burnt
8. Thierry Henry
9. Becca Clohesy (don't worry, we're working on this one)
10. Birds of America, Almost Heroes and The Ron Clark Story on DVD (yes, they all star Matthew Perry)
11. Root beer. They can keep it
12. Maddenly confusing coinage
13. A pleasantly monarchless system of government
14. Music in their lifts (er... elevators)
15. A superfluity of 'U's in Scrabble
16. The number 46 [note to self: check this one]
17. Decent superheroes. I mean, Bananaman? Come on!
18. And so on, and so forth.
September 19th 2010
Writing about Lady Gaga last time round made me think of Rod Liddle's brilliant article in the Sunday Times a couple of years ago, in which he managed to demolish Lily Allen with just one word: "attichewd". Outstanding stuff. In non-pop news, this season at work I have been involved in a football prediction league, in which each week we predict the scorelines in six games (one each from the Premiership, Championship, League One, League Two, Scottish Premier League and a final random league). I don't think I've mentioned it before, though this might be to modesty (well, yes, since you ask, I am currently in the lead). There are 16 of us currently taking part, plus two random players, one of whom has his scores generated randomly using a uniform distribution, and the other using a Poisson distribution - they are called Randy U and Randy P respectively - and, embarrassingly, Randy P had the highest score last week. In fact, he had three of the four highest scores last week, since the rules are that Randy P generates your predictions if you don't get them in by the Friday deadline... even the non-random player in last week's top four had his predictions done by his wife, who apparently knows nothing about football. Anyways, even if Randy P's success does suggest that there's a lot of luck in this game, I promise you that there is some skill involved. Well, a little cursory research helps, and there was a great deal of debate on my team as to whether Sander Post - the top scorer for Flora Tallinn, in the Estonian league - was suspended for their vital clash against... well, I forget, but some team whose name would probably require me to look up how to type special characters in html. It turns out that he was suspended, but Flora still managed a 5-2 win, and that scoreline is by no means the most outlandish we've had. This week in the Finnish second division we had an 8-1 victory, and in the six short weeks that the prediction league has been running we've had a 5-4, 4-4, 3-3 and two 6-0s. Continuing the football theme, I had a nice day out yesterday with Ben as we went to see Spurs vs Wolves at White Hart Lane. I say that it was a good day out, but it was slightly marred by the fact that Wolves lost 3-1 (despite having been 1-0 up in the 75th minute) and I was sitting with the rejoicing Spurs fans. But I can still enjoy a good game even if we don't get the result we're looking for, and it's always nice to add to the list of stadia I've visited. White Hart Lane isn't the best - the obstructed views are unfortunate, and the hallways leading up to the seats are fairly dingy - but it's got a pretty good atmosphere, and is almost certainly the third biggest stadium I've been to (after Old Trafford and the Millennium Stadium). It would have been nice to have been able to celebrate Wolves' goal - the fan a couple of rows in front of us, who did celebrate it, was mysteriously absent for the second half - and I can't say I enjoyed the fan behind me who said to his mate: "It must be s*** being a Wolves fan, having to wear that s*** shirt every week." Ben thought that was very funny, though...
On this day in 2006... [Times & Sunday Times] writers have said, in open mockery, that IQ tests are unreliable. Oh, and both these writers were women. Not that that means anything, of course. Hot on the heels of this, I assume, will be the news that women aren't, in fact, shorter than men - it's just the metric system, which favours males.
September 22nd 2010
It's only a few weeks until I hit 25, which is landmark in the life of anyone who uses the decimal system and can divide by four. I fulfil both of these criteria, so I look forward to being halfway to 50, and over the last few days I have been musing over the last quarter-century and what it has held. It is in interesting to see that there have been massive advances in some areas - the spread of the internet, most obviously - whereas in others we have hardly moved, or even gone backwards (I'm thinking of Concorde here). One conclusion I have come to, though, is that there have been four major historical events in my lifetime, which are (in chronological order): 9th November 1989 - the fall of the Berlin Wall 11th February 1990 - Nelson Mandela is released from prison 11th September 2001 - the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center 20th January 2009 - the inauguration of the USA's first black president Feel free to let me know if you disagree with any inclusions or exclusions from that list. And yes, I know, I missed out Steve Bull's debut goal for England, but I tentatively thought that perhaps the occasion ws regarded as less momentous outside the black country. One notable thing about this short list is that, with one obvious exception, these are all good things - in fact, they right previous wrongs. Whatever the evils of this age - and there are quite a few - you've got to admit, in the words of the Beatles, it's getting better.
On this day in 2004... A word, if I may, about the upcoming film Wimbledon. The film has been planned for a long time, because it was at least a year ago that I heard Matthew Perry auditioned for it: imagine it, a film starring Kirsten Dunst and Matthew Perry. Right now, it's hard to think of a better line-up.
September 26th 2010
You may remember the following sequence of events from a few months ago: June 18th - I write "The offside rule is fairly simple"; June 28th - I inadvertently reveal that I didn't know you can't be offside from a goal kick. Well, there was plentiful egg on my face, and I hate to go on about it, but I would like to add something in my defence. I was playing Fifa 2010 the other day, and was given offside directly from a goal kick! If even the makers of Fifa - who have been churning it out since 1994 - haven't bothered to learn the offside rule properly, I think I can be excused. In other news, allow me to continue my musings on the last (nearly) 25 years. In my life time there have been five British Prime Ministers (Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron - and with the election of Ed Miliband to Labour leadership, I don't expect a sixth any time soon) and five US Presidents (Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama), while in the same period five British former Prime Ministers have died (Macmillan, Douglas-Home, Wilson, Heath and Callaghan) but only three former US Presidents (Nixon, Ford and Reagan). I have lived under only one monarch, which is also true for both my parents. My lifetime has also included 4 Countdown presenters, 16 England Test cricket captains, 4 Speakers of the House of Commons, the death of 2 members of England's 1966 World Cup squad, 2 Back to the Future films, 11 Bob Dylan studio albums, 3 stints for Berlusconi as Italian Prime Minister, 13 times the men's 100m record has been (legitimately) broken, the death of 1 Beatle, 38 films featuring Tom Hanks, 0 people walking on the moon, 17 member states joining the European Union, 5 Police Academy films, 5 editors of the Times, 6 Summer Olympic games, 2 owners of Hong Kong, 2 Manchester United managers, 19 Manchester City managers, 8 James Bond films, 42 Catherine Cookson books... and, on a more personal note, 16 housemates for me. Tune in next time for me to rank them in preference order. Or reverse alphabetical order of Christian name. You know it'll be the same, Ant.
On this day in 2005... Not only was Bob the greatest songwriter ever, he was also the greatest poet of the century. However, even Dylan afficianados sometimes suggest that his singing voice wasn't up to much - I have to disagree completely, as Bob has a beautiful voice... well, maybe beautiful isn't the right word. Haunting, perhaps - I love it.
September 29th 2010
Now that Big Brother isn't on our screens any more (at least until Channel Five bring it back under that connoisseur of good taste, Richard Desmond), would it be possible for me to hire that Geordie chap who used to work on the show, to narrate my life? At the moment he'd be on "Daaay 3 of revision week, and Colin is sitting in his dressing gown, extracting Coco Pops from his teeth, and putting off the first past exam question of the daaay." On a slightly different topic, I think that Sainsbury's might want to rethink its nectar card voucher policy. Supposedly it works out what you tend to spend your money on, and gives you money off those items - so Simon, for example, gets money off bread and vegetables, while Mum and Dad will soon be getting money off cat food (and chocolate-flavoured squirty stuff for putting on ice cream). Well, this week I bought the Times, and was given a voucher for 50% off my next purchase of the Guardian. The Guardian! That's like buying a bottle of lemonade and being given money off your next purchase of rat poison. In other news, after my last entry I'm sure that you're eager to learn who my 16 housemates have been, so here they are: Ant, Rich, Iain, David, Tom, Seth, Pete, James, Carolyn, Sam, Konrad, Jacqui, Tom, Spencer, Steve, Matt. And since I don't want to give you a pointless list without some fun trivia to go with it, let me tell you that 'Tom' is the only name to appear twice, though I lived with the second one for such a short period of time that I can't actually remember his surname. Also, Steve is the only one I've lived with in more than one house, I've been to the weddings of three of them (the rest - with the possible exception of Tom II - are all unmarried), there's a 13:3 gender split, two of them currently have books I've lent them, one of them owes me quite a lot of money (but, I think, has forgotten), one of them doesn't owe me money any more after his wife found the cheque he'd written for me lying around their house and posted it to me... I've run out of things to say, so I guess I ought to get on with revising. Bah.
On this day in 2005... I cannot, in all honesty, claim that a good taste in films is a tangible part of my reputation. But be that as it may, I am overtaken by Becky, who has offered us Napoleon Dynamite, a monstrosity of a film which suffers in comparison to a potato. As a viewing spectacle.
what was I listening to?
Classic - Dusty Springfield