There Goes Another Rib

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One of the office receptionists/general runners of things was leaving today, so a few of us went down to the pub, and as she was eating with a couple of others in the restaurant section, the chaps from our section of the office went and sat outside. Despite not actually being with her, we thought being near the same building was an expression of our solidarity.

Anyway.

As is normal when you assemble any number of gentlemen from the construction industry, the conversation became a little raucous and covered topics of a dubious sexual nature. I expressed a couple of instances of distate, and so I am now thought of as being naive.

On the way back into our office, as we climbed the fire escape I managed to catch the sleeve of my shirt on the rough brick wall, and tore it quite drastically.

So, in summary, after two pints in the pub at lunchtime, I am now thought of by my workmates as being a naive lightweight.

Does anyone else find this hilarious?

Household Pet Life Expectancy

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Happy first birthday to Dave's Greenhamster, which sadly means that in the normal mortal run of things Dave has only a mere three minutes to say anything vital before the hamster keels over dead.

Hurry Dave!

Hurry!

The songs donít apply to us.

Youíve been listening to too much Bjork. Youíre making the mistake of thinking all crap music is good music, when in fact only some crap music is good.

---speed the days---

The only light was on the outside wall of the rťfuge. The rest of the village was dark, although there were faint glows coming from the upstairs windows of the restaurant building. The refuge light meant we didnít stumble on the rough stones of the square as we all came, silently, to see the stars. Standing still we shielded our eyes from the orange light, probably the only light for miles, and looked upwards. Ahead of us, over the lip of earth and scrub at the edge of the square, were the black shapes of the harsh topped hills on the other side of the gorge. Above them, the sky seemed bright in comparison. The glow from the restaurant rooms died, and we knew we were the only ones awake in the village. The starlight was enchanting, and we smiled as we stared, faces upturned, into a moonless sky.

Woman with middle-aged husband becomes psychic through constantly having to guess at his next word...gaps in his speech.

Fly like an ego.

Book called simply ĎEPICí. For preference should be really short.

There is an overlap between being wishful and being foolish; if you are in business you can afford to be neither, if in love, you cannot afford not to be both.

fresh music, living music, music that can pull the memory of a moment from under the years and weave it around you once more

When you had your dreams as a child they were childish dreams. The only way you can hold onto your dreams as you live and grow is for the dreams to grow and change with your experience of reality. Sometimes it isnít the change in your life that is the most difficult to deal with, it is having to change your dreams so that you can still have them and they are still real to you.

Back to the Future

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Thanks to the third case of 'The Mysterious Disappearing Blog Template' in as many months, the Autoblography has been knocked back to late July 2003.
Sorry if your link has disappeared, it'll be back.
Honest.

On second thoughts, if anyone wants their old link back or if anyone wants a new one, email me: stuart{at}autoblography{dot}co{dot}uk

Or, alternatively you can leave a comment. If you are going to attempt this assault on Mount Comment, it might be best to sacrifice the family goat and offer up praise to the God Of Enetation beforehand, just in case. If the comments work without this precaution, then so much better.

Especially for your goat.

I look forward to hearing from ya's.

The Barbie Queue

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The weekend was a roaring success. Three days was not enough.

Saturday
A late morning. What do you expect? Mum rather kindly did some laundry for me, we all went to Cowes, Allie bought herself a 'Girls from the Blue Stuff' top from White Stuff, and we ate baguettes out the back of the Fountain Inn, next to the ferry terminal, but in view of the Honda Power Boat festival and large groups of Mods who regularly head over to the Island for massive scooter rallies. We prevailed back to Ventnor, where much Sitting was partaken in, and then went to the beach for an early-evening dip before the sun went down. I later discovered that my return train ticket was in my shirt pocket when Mum washed it. It had survived only partially due to the sacrificial mulching of the ticke for the outward journey, which had shielded it, despite them both falling into two bits.

Sunday
Another late morning. You could say that this was something of a pattern.
All hands on deck for BBQ central, with Keith stoking up the barbecue, Mum preparing salads etc, and Alice and myself standing around and trying to look useful, which we eventually managed to be by going into town and buying 400 cubic metres of chips and sixteen cans of beer. People started arriving at about 1pm, and the final guest was eventually ejected from the garden semi-forcefully at gone midnight, mumbling about hard-headed firemen from Wisconsin and the need to catch a ferry to New York in the morning.

About 24 people attended, all told, including a couple of people walking past in the street that my parents knew, who were invited in and had drinks thrust at them. Amongst these were a startling number of old school friends, including Dave, Fossy, and Sharon. Add to these lovely people the marvellous Alice, my bubbly sister Jemma and her boyfriend Tom, as well as fresh-from-his-GCSEs-and-drinking-like-there's-no-tomorrow Jason from across the road, and you could say that there was a veritable youth BBQ going on. This was probably best shown when we decided to leave the more wrinkled contingent of the party to their own devices and head on down to the beach to continue drinking whilst standing in the sea.

Jason fell off his chair and spilt wine everywhere, I messed up a spur-of-the-moment speech to congratulate Keith on his degree and Jason on his results, but everyone cheered anyway, the parrot showed off shamelessly, drinks were drunk, cake, steak and chips consumed, and the upshot of it all was that a good time was had by all.

Except possibly the parrot, who felt a little left out but made up for it later in the evening by whistling the first few bars of the theme to 'Indiana Jones', and hanging upside down rather a lot.

I gave away a lot of books.

Monday
A late morning...
Allie and I had a wander out along the cliffs to the Botanic Gardens, with me taking excessive numbers of photgraphs with my phone along the way. We had an ice cream in Steephill Cove, watched a bit of cricket, explored the new Japanese Garden took photos of a random totem pole, and rounded things off with soss+chips on the seafront.

I managed to get back to London on my rather bleached and bifurcated train ticket. My heartfelt thanks to employees of this nation's rail networks.

Selected pictures to the Photoblography soon.

27th of August:Only 2 pics so far, but more coming...

Le weekend

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It's another Bank Holiday weekend, kids, and yet again, my family are hedging their bets and hosting a widely-publicised barbecue, thumbing their noses at the weather, Sod and his Law.

Alice and I are heading on down to the Island and spending the weekend in rural bliss...at least, that's the plan. There will be a range of exciting activities planned with military precision, including but not limited to beach-time, Cowes-time, garden-time, bbq-time and even a little Hammertime, depending on whether or not my Dad puts me in charge of music for the barbecue again.

We'll have to see.

Unexpected Malaysians

After attending a conference in Greenwich on Tuesday, I arrived home at about 9pm. At 2105, there was a knock at the door and a short girl holding a two-litre bottle of Coke was standing there with a tall Asian guy.

Her: "Hi, we found him in Blockbuster, and he was looking for here."
Him: "I have come to stay with Hwa Lin."
I didn't know anything about this. The guy is standing there with a yellow suitcase and an air ticket from Malaysia in his hand, as though he's just got off the plane.
Me: "He's at work and won't be back until about 6am."

The girl looks at me.

Her: "Our pizza's getting cold."
Me (feeling odd): "Do you have any contact details or proof that you know him?"
He hands me a card with my address on it, my housemate's name, and a UK mobile number.
Her: "Can I leave him with you then?"
Her boyfriend from the darkness: "Well he's not bloody coming home with us."
Me: "Okay."

Within five minutes of closing the front door behind him, he was trying to sell me something. I almost kicked him out, but then my housemate returned my calls and said he was coming home. Over the last two days I've had to kindly, then unkindly, and then flatly refuse to buy anything off him, and last night I had to tell him where to go (away).

Carnivorous Plant Update

Victoria appears to be in a period of after dinner contemplation. After catching herself a greenfly and what would appear to be one of the legion of little spiders (finally), she is generally chilling out, undoing the top button of her trousers and vegging in front of the TV. I've put paid to the idea of feeding her, which, to be honest, I wasn't all that keen on to begin with.

International, er, -ness.

A big hello to all readers in Japan.


Have fun, people, and don't forget to.

The Answer, My Friends

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Recently I have begun to blog about my opinions, and whether you still have your arse attached to the rest of your body by the end of this entry is not my concern. You will be as interested as I can keep you, but that wonít deter me from saying what I want to say. It might, however, deter you from reaching the end. Itís a matter of choice.

Vive la blog!

The Answer, My Friends...

As a species, we spend energy, and we have a planet with an extensive overdraft facility.
The globe on which we have grown has reserves of energy that we are learning to use in all manner of exciting and sexy ways, pushing us faster and harder into more debt than we have ever had before. I say this because this fuel isnít something we had to begin with. We found it and weíre using it. We might not have to pay it back, but once itís gone, it is gone, and then, like hitting the end of an overdraft, weíll really be in the shit.

We have the facility to expend what we have. Students with little or no experience of money management begin to notice that spending all the time feels a little weird, as though the emergence of a reliance on spending triggers something inquisitive within us. The very frequency of expenditure raises questions about where it is all coming from, and finally panic about what to do when it all runs out. (Which was usually about the 9th week of the semester, in my own, ever-so-Ďumble experience.) As a planet weíve got very good at ignoring this instinct.

We have nuclear power. A way to get more for our money. An intensive spending plan. Call it what you will. Nuclear power has provided us with modern society, shored up and backed up by gas, coal and oil, petrol...the list goes on.

The first time I saw evidence of mankind beginning to earn its keep, I was twelve and I was on a school trip somewhere in the depths of Wales. I only saw them for a few minutes, as our minibus picked its uniquely ballistic way through the valleys, but a few white, clinical windmills turning hypnotically slowly on the hills above the road changed the way I looked at the world.
Being the kind of kid that I was, I imagined the power from them allowing someone nearby to watch Coronation Street or to have a cup of tea...the white-blue electricity speeding through wires to power everyday lives. Here was power we were generating ourselves, stepping into the natural processes of our planet, destroying nothing but making something. Later, at university, I stood beneath one of those pure white babies looking up at the spinning blades and thought outwards from it to the entirety of its sphere of influence, the power it was providing wasnít vast, but it could be improved on, and that power was clean, and that power was earned...and all without touching the overdraft.

A hypothetical forum, somewhere in the human psyche...

Reason:ďYou really have to cut back on your spending.Ē

Logic nods agreement. Indignance prods Mankind in the small of the back, whilst Fear slinks around at the back of the room with his hands over his ears.

Mankind: ďI donít see why I should have to do that.Ē

The challenge in front of the world is to start fending for itself, to steel itself to the reality of the situation and wean itself off the overdraft.

This can happen one of two ways...

1. The Reality Check
Firstly, there could be widespread recognition of the situation that we are in, as the peoples of the world. This wonderful energy is not infinite, our global society cannot stay this way forever, and this world is not as comfortable as we would like to believe. We are a mollycoddled society, used to instant power, instant light, and our wonderfully comfortable infrastructure. This first option would have to involve a solemn international announcement that change is needed, energy needs to be saved, that we all need to ration our energy use and finally be responsible. It would be the same horrible feeling when you realise your money has almost run out, but on a worldwide scale. You just canít live in that casual, unconcerned way any more.
Such an announcement certainly wouldnít please the masses.
When leaders only lead if the people are pleased, making this call would be political suicide.

2. Donít Worry About It, Theyíll Sort It Out
The second path, the only alternative, is that science and technology, the wonderchildren of modern society, will have to pull new toys out of the hat so that an energy surplus is produced and the wider society never notices, never knows, never has to worry its comfortable little head about it.
Iíd be first in line to say wind power looks good, but it canít be the ultimate answer. Wind doesnít blow all the time. If you have a million windmills and you need to double your production, what do you do? Double the number of windmills? Isnít this all too much like doing maths on our fingers?
Donít worry. Science and technology...they can do wonderful things nowadays.
Wonderful things.

The only practical option is the first...but the option most likely to be taken, in this society of ours, is the second.

And itís one hell of a gamble.

...the answer, my friends...

I chose my degree at university with a strong mind to getting into wind power. It was a growth industry when I chose my GCSEs, when I chose my A-levels, and when I chose my degree - and I wanted in.
I graduated in perfect time to see the expected explosive growth in wind power take place, and in a few years Iíll be uniquely placed to enter the industry if I choose.
In that first year at Warwick I told people I was doing a degree in Saving The World.
I was an arrogant cock but for some reason I still made friends.

Now I can see that wind power might merely be a step on the path towards a way of running the planet that will echo the principles that todayís Green Engineering gives us.

What it might be, I donít know, and how we as a planet will get there, well, I donít know that either.

What I do know is that taking these industries seriously, taking responsibility for ourselves, acknowledging the importance of energy in our society, and the absolute necessity of its generation (not refusing to have windmills near your house or 20 miles over the sea horizon just because you feel it should be dealt with somewhere else)...all of these qualities are valuable steps towards a mankind that is prepared to face up to the problem wholesale and demolish it. It might not be the ultimate practical step, but it is part of the way, and as a generator of future social and psychological change on a global scale, wind power is invaluable.

To be. Definitely

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To be a writer, to me, is to be the kind of person who would always give the above answer to Hamletís fatalistic question. I want to live. I want to live so hard, so big, so free, that the constraints of the every-every-every day have transcended from the previous humdrum into being something that yields still more experience, holds a wealth of life waiting to be lived. That doesnít mean I have no ambition, nor that I wish my life to wane in an office. Itís just that I can see now, in a hundred ways I couldnít before, that life is life and the only thing that changes is the way you look at it.

As a writer I aim to have a mind as open as the virgin sky on the day The Creator checked his filofax and found, ĎThings to start tomorrow: Everything.í

As the person carrying this inner writer around, I aim to try and live life as aware as possible. Never to switch off, or to introvert myself, or to become self-absorbed. I try always to listen to what is being said, to pay attention to what people believe, how they are, what they are. There is so much world to see, even in the same daily two-and-a-half mile bus ride...if you are really looking. The same goes for people.

I want to experience as much as possible what my life is, what it does, how it works and how it fits into everyone elseís lives. I will want it to change, to grow and to live and experience different things, to have new experiences and dare new and excitingly stupid things for charity, and even when things arenít changing, my perception is sharp and I can still learn.

And as a writer, if I ever reach a level of skill where I can, like Hemingway, talk the reader into the easy and casual belief that itís perfectly all right for me to have a bottle of beer with my breakfast, then I will die happy.

Gravity

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Or; A Very Public Dropping

I was oooooooooh, about twelve or thirteen.
I was going through a theatrical streak, holding the role of Mark Anthony in Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar' for my school's entry into the Island-wide 'Old Girls' Cup'. I made the local papers for managing to end up in casualty 45 minutes before the competition began after cutting my hand on a bouncing milk bottle...and going on to win the competition. There was a quaity photo of David Pattie lying on the floor in a ketchupped toga pretending to be dead whilst I stood over him with my 12-yr-old eyebrows frowning at my bandaged hand.
My Mum cut it out and kept it. I can only conclude that I was born with adult-sized eyebrows and I grew into them, meaning I must of been a helluva freaky-lookin' baby.

Outside of school, a couple of junior luvvies from an Island High School were having a crack at putting together a 'by kids, for kids' theatrical production company, and I was to play Little John in their own rewritten version of Robin Hood.

In their version I had a love interest...a fourteen year old girl with a name like Tabitha. When all our hilarious misunderstandings were finally ironed out, we stood together on stage and I sang a lovely, heart-warming song.

That was the plan, anyway. It was the opening night, and somehow we had managed to attract enough attention to the play to actually fill our local Winter Gardens. It was a full house.

The song was 'I want to wake up with you' by John Holt. Not the most taxing vocal challenge the world has ever seen, but I was thirteen.

I was that crucial age where Mother Nature works her testicle-specific magic, rendering thousands of pairs of childhood Y-fronts across the globe unwearable and keeping the World Boxer Shorts Industry afloat and healthy.

I was that age to the second, in fact.

I started the first verse high enough to put a pre-pubescent Aled 'We're Walking In The Air' Jones to shame (only without the good singing voice), and by the time I'd finished it my vocal chords were straining fit to snap.

I took a deep breath and relaxed. I decided not to go so high with the second verse. I launched into a performance so deep Barry White would have been proud. The difference in tone got the first waves of laughter rippling around the audience, and the first three rows that I could see were grinning hugely.

A lesser man would have faltered and run. I was different. I was not made of sterner stuff, nor was I determined to see the song through to the end because I held the firm Thespian belief that 'The Show Must Go On'. No. I was different because I had a fourteen-year-old girl called Tabitha with an iron grip around my waist which was getting tighter and tigher as the volume of laughter rose.

I finished the second verse and the laughter died down. I took as deep a breath as I could with Tabitha now digging her nails in, and headed for the tonal middle ground, hitting it with some success. A small cheer rose up from the kind of people that always cheer like that in public situations.

With the third verse finished and the final chords dying away, a deafening wave of tongue-in-cheek applause and laughter followed Tabitha and I as we walked lovingly off stage left.

Poor Tabitha tried to run but I was too heavy to be carried along with her, and her fingernails were still lodged in my green velvet costume.

Onscreenmind Today

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Interview / Outofyou

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Questions posed by not-just-another- girl Ria...and of course, now I've done it, I will invite others to request questions of me too. Feel free to.

1. If you could live in one place, any place in the world, for the rest of your life, where would it be and why?

Paris or Granada or Ventnor, Isle of Wight....I think I'll plump for Granada. I can imagine Paris/Parisians getting to me after a while, and I've already spent perhaps too long in Ventnor (but it is the Town Where Everybody Knows Your Name (TM)).
Why Granada? I choose Granada because the old town is beautiful and labyrinthine and packed with tapas bars and restaurants, because of the Alhambra, and the people and because the lot of it is jammed up against the snowy backdrop of the Sierra Nevada. To cap it all, it's in Spain.
Job's a good 'un.

2. Why on earth did you call your Venus Flytrap Victoria?

It was Victor to begin with, because it was the only man's name that I could think of beginning with V. Venus was meant to be a woman, so...

3. Bluebottles: Ruthless buzz-machines or heavenly angels?

Why the hell would anyone think they are heavenly angels?
They vomit and crap on our food, they irritate, infect and annoy and seem to do it all deliberately. Their only saving grace is that they...oh, er...no. They don't have one, do they? Ruthless buzz-machines.

4. Have you ever had deja vu? If so, where and when? If not, what would you most like to experience again?

Why the hell would anyone think they are heavenly angels?
They vomit and crap on our food....only joking. Yeah, I've had Deja Vu before. Quite a lot, really. So much that it's difficult to remember a specific time and place. I'll try and describe the feeling instead. Imagine that you have a drawing on tracing paper. This image is in your head. Real life is another picture, changing all the time. The feeling of deja vu that I get is a bit like the moment when you move the tracing paper-drawing around over the picture that it was traced from. Nothing makes sense until you line the pictures up and *click* you see both at the same time. When the image I didn't realise I had in my head goes *click* when it lines up with real life. It's that same moment of clarity.
Hella confusing though.

5. What has been the most embarrassing moment of your life that you're willing to share?

Ah. Well, it's a close-run thing between about six or seven moments that spring easily to mind, and doubtless Greenhamster Dave will bring up a few more.
I'll have to settle for the most...far-reaching moment of sheer soul-shrivelling cringeworthiness, and take readers back to the Bournemouth International Centre in the mid-nineties. I can't remember what year, and to be honest, a lot of the other details have become a bit hazy through willful forgetting. Every so often someone asks a question like this, and if I'm honest, I tell this story.
I had a huge coat at the time, made of what looked like an Aztec hearth rug. It had huge toggle buttons and cavernous pockets, and my family were taking a bit of a short Winter holiday in Bournemouth, and it so happened that a major international snooker tournament was taking place at the BIC.
My parents wanted to go shopping, and my sister was going with them. I however, was at that awkward age of about 13 or 14 when you never want to do things with your family when the option of wandering around large seaside towns looking moody is available.
After a long afternoon playing the 1p and 2p flipper machines I bought a ticket and went into the BIC to watch a few frames before heading back to the hotel.

There were a few games in progress. An enormous bank of seats angled down facing three segregated tables, all of which had games going on. Either side of the tables themselves were two smaller banks of seats - the tableside seats. I sat down about four miles from the tables and watched, squinting, for a bit. After the first frame at the table where James Wattana (the only player there at the time that I recognised) finished, people in the tableside seats changed over.
After the next frame, I walked down and asked a security guard if you had to have special tickets to sit there. He said no, so I moved in to sit down.

The event was being filmed by Sky Sports, and a couple of cameras could be seen in the rafters and behind screens above the table.
The table was being reset for the next frame. As the referee reset the cue ball and Mr. Wattana moved up to break, a lovely-looking couple asked (quietly) if I could move my coat so they could sit down.

I did.
Over the next tenth of a second, if I had heard it, the near-silent silky sound of over four pounds in small change slipping around inside an open pocket made of Aztec carpet material might have given me a warning of what was to come, and I might have avoided it.

As it was, it cascaded out of my coat pockets in a metallic torrent and ricochťd off in £4.30's worth of directions, rattling around under the seat scaffolding, bouncing down the stepped terrace of walkways and rolling almost gleefully off underneath the snooker table and hitting the shoes of all concerned, the players, the referee, the cameramen...oh god. The cameramen. The starting of the frame was delayed.

The worst thing was that people started picking it up and giving it back to me, being very kind, and almost certainly not realising that it was all coppers, I didn't care about the money...I just wanted to escape, to get out of there...run for my life.

Which is what I proceeded to do.

Zinka's Pyjamas

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It's been about a month now, and my house still has a room empty. I sometimes wonder how Zinka is faring...

I live in a houseshare, so who I live with is not up to me, but the general gorgeousness of my house and the big garden have made up for it so far.

When I moved in four months ago, I was living with a French Pharmacology student called Armelle, a Malaysian Post Office Night worker who said his name was Danny, and Zinka.
Well, I think that was his name.

Zinka introduced himself, wearing socks, sandals and pyjama bottoms shortly after I moved in. He told me he was studying English in order to take a Masters course in business at the nearby University of Hertfordshire, having recieved his undergraduate degree in his home town of Shanghai. It took me a long time to find this out, as our conversations tended to drag on a bit.

Our first little chat took about a week.
Here's a snippet:

Scene One: Kitchen, late afternoon.

ME: Hello! How are you?
ZINKA: Fine.
ME: Where are you from?
ZINKA: Oh.
{awkward pause}
ZINKA: See you.
{ZINKA leaves quickly}

Scene Two: Kitchen, the next day, teatime.

ME: Hello! How are you today?
ZINKA: I am from Shanghai.
ME: Oh right!
ZINKA: Where are you from?
ME: I am from the Isle of Wight, in the South.
ZINKA: Oh.
ME: Are you a student?
ZINKA: Oh.
{awkward pause}
ZINKA: See you.
{ZINKA leaves quickly}

Scene Three: The next day, about 6pm. Kitchen.

ZINKA: You are from Isle of Wight?
ME: Yes.

...and so on. It carried on for a few weeks, and we were discussing universities and jobs in Britain. This was the last time it happened;

ME: Hello Zinka. How are things?
ZINKA: What you think of employment situation in Great Britain?
ME: Well it's a difficult situation at the moment. We've got an incredibly strong pound and interest rates are way down. Property prices are high and businesses are trimming their sails. You know I said I was unemployed for nine months? Well that was mostly due to me missing the graduate recruitment season....ETC.
ZINKA: Oh.

We didn't talk much after that.

He used to knock before coming in when I was in the kitchen, which always used to make me wonder what he thought I was getting up to...perhaps my copy of 'The Naked Chef' was a bit of a worrier when I moved in? It also started to make me worried about what he did in the kitchen. Should I knock, just in case?

Zinka was a great one for keeping me on my toes. Danny's hours are unusual, but I can sleep through him coming home at 6am now. Zinka kept his own time...lived by his own rules.
One morning I woke up at 6:45 and wandered into the kitchen in search of coffee and Virginie Ledoyen (you never know), and as I stared out of the kitchen window he appeared, wraith-like in the morning mist, wearing his pyjama bottoms and carrying some shopping.

Other nights he would phone home at 3am, having a good old laugh with his Mum in Shanghai, and fair play to him.

After living with him for three months, he knocked on my door (still wearing the same pyjama trousers) and told me he was moving out because he had a place at the University of Reading.
Despite his chronic fear of talking to me, it turned out that he had been living in Hatfield learning English for eighteen months.
He must have had a reasonable standard of English, or he wouldn't have got into Reading.

I started thinking about all our conversations.

Am I that scary?

The Only Scientist In Town

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This is a topic I've been building up steam on for a while.
Hang on....ooah, best vent a bit....FUCKING 'EXPERTS'!

Right. Coherence achieved.

The scientific method is the single most powerful logical tool for reasoning and the advancement of knowledge that the human race has established...so far.
Someone poses a theory, and everyone tries to knock it down. If it survives, then it becomes 'current thinking', or as far as we have got, knowledge wise.
IT DOES NOT, and this is important, become 'true'.

The Earth Is Flat!
A Greek Mathematician equipped with a stick wanders around Egypt and disproves this. He even goes so far as to say just how big this round earth is.
Several hundreds of years later, a man called Columbus jaunts over the Atlantic, comes back, and finally people abandon the established 'truth' of a flat earth.

You might be forgiven in thinking we have come on in leaps and bounds since then.
Have we bollocks.

The Catholic Church only recently acknowledged that the Sun was the centre of the Solar System. Way back before Copernicus' discovery, anyone who doubted the established wisdom that the Earth was centre of the universe was decried as a heretic. You can imagine the court case...

Papal Representative:Copernicus, you have been found guilty of spreading lies and deceit concerning the infallible structure of God's Universe.

Copernicus:Yes, all right, but look at THIS...

Papal Representative: No.

Copernicus:Bugger.

Someone not so long ago a chap came up with a theory many might see as a bit silly. He suggested that there was such a thing as a morphogenic field on Earth, a subconscious psychological force or collective unconscious that meant tasks that had been learnt by a large number of people were easier to learn...a useful thing for a species that relies on intelligence (or if there are those reading for whom that doesn't apply, I'm talking about (most of) humanity). This was a theory, and due to the scientific status of the man putting it forward, some other scientists took the time to comprehensively damn it to shit.

No one attempted to disprove it, so in a bit of a twist to the scientific method, it's owner tried to prove it. The resulting experiment included people with no knowledge of the language attempting to memorize passages of Japanese. The Nursery Rhyme out of the whole bunch was remembered the best, far and away above the level of significance required statistically. It may have been a semantic matter, but how do you know what the rhythm is when you don't know what the words mean?

A popular idea at the moment is the Atkins diet. It has been recieving an enormous amount of exposure, most of the negative commentary coming from the dieticians and the medical profession, and a lot of the positive press is linked to which celebrities are doing it. Atkins hit such headlines because it's advocates were partially justified by an independent scientific test last year.

Two groups of obese people in America were put on diets. One on traditional 'balanced' diets, the others on Atkins. At six months, the Atkins group had lost more weight and had better blood chemistry than the other group. After a year, weight loss was approximately equal on both sides, but the Atkins' bunch were ahead on general health and blood chemistry. The findings of this report have been reported in outrageously selective terms.

This article in today's news is one of the worst. It reports a leading expert has damned Atkins as 'pseudo science' and then highlights the dangers of both the excessive fats on Atkins, and also says that you lose weight because of the dangerously reduced calories. Someone do the math for me, please. There is even a psychologist offering her tuppeny'th. Interesting.

The point, finally
Fair enough these days, 'knockdowns' of scientific theories are far from conclusive due to the increased complexity of the subjects.
Many new theories fly in the face of the established thinking, but everyone seems to subcosciously exchange the words 'established thinking' for 'truth', and act all indignant when someone suggests something different.

I alone in thinking that THIS IS AGAINST THE WHOLE POINT OF SCIENCE?

Nowadays everyone weighs in with opinions rather than counterarguments and evidence, which only confuses anyone who isn't paying the greatest of attention.

What really pisses me off is everyone trying to knock down theories with opinions that are meant to 'count' more because of their job or qualifications. Without evidence, every opinion is of equal scientific worth - none at all.

A scientist may be a pundit, but his or her punditry is not science.

The point of all of science is that you're meant to disprove, not disapprove.

SO SHUT THE FUCK UP WITH YOUR OPINIONATED 'SCIENTIFIC' BOLLOCKS WHEN YOU'RE ACTUALLY SPOUTING A LOAD OF SHIT!

Please.

Goldfish shoals, nibbling at my toes...

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The weekend rolled past gloriously with a sweet and heady mixture of unexpected Alice, kick-ass writing (in feel-good amounts), sunshine, great coffee, reading, lemon Fanta and holiday planning!

There was also a bit of laundry, but I didn't think you wanted to know about that.

Unexpected Alice?: I was planning on working all weekend, but Allie's plans fell through and she came to stay. Despite having her as the world's greatest and most welcome distraction, I still managed to get some serious work done. Allie is beginning to feel that I live in an insect menagerie. After getting used to all the spiders, silverfish, spiders, earwigs, crickets and other spiders, it's surprising to see that someone else actually finds co-habiting with them a bit off-putting. I spent a lot of time fishing spiders and other wildlife out of windows.

Kick-Ass Writing?: Had a bit of an eye-opener. I worked very hard this weekend and came up with consistent, if not dazzling, second draft. Bits shone, and will be attempting to expand them this week.

Sunshine?: Where do I begin? I love this weather. I adapt to the heat pretty quickly, and only when direct sun is instantly painful do I start moaning about how hot it is. My landlord called from his house in Spain (where is my rent going, exactly?) to say that his wife had given birth to a healthy baby boy (they've called him Marco), and that it was 50 degrees celsius every day...my Mum would love that, but I think much hotter than the weekend just gone and I'd be lying on my bed panting like a beached porpoise.

Great Coffee?: Espresso instant. Need I say more? Okay. You can use it to make great long coffees, too. Mmmmmm.

Reading?: Captain Corelli's Mandolin. 'Nuff said.

Lemon Fanta?: Er, yes. We drank some.

Holiday Planning?: Allie and I are going to Spain in mid-September, for two weeks. We're flying into Madrid and out of Malaga, and moseying on down South in the intervening time, drinking beer, eating tapas and generally attempting to teach Alice Spanish without her lapsing into Italian. Honestly...linguistic girlfriends! I am looking forward to introducing Alice to the Alhambra in Granada, the highest-of-highlights of my travels in the summer of '99. Then it was a beautifully serene and elegant place, and it completely blew me away. These days apparently it gets over 2000 visitors a day and you have to book in advance. After just 4 years, I'm going to go back and say 'Oi rememburr when all this wurr fields...'

And in other News...

Victoria (the supposedly-vegetarian Venus Flytrap) caught her first fly this weekend, completely by herself! Judging from the wings that are sticking out, it was a greenfly.
Aaah, she's all self-sufficient and everything!
Not cute though.
Not at all.

My Agent Trap (TM) is almost ready.
I have a difficult call to make though, as my book doesn't run on conventional chapters, and 90% of prospective Agents (not TM) request three chapters and a synopsis.
I called the sections of the book 'Books', mostly because it felt good to begin with when it wasn't long enough overall to be called a book, and the first 'book' in the book is 15,000 words long.
More than your average Agent (not TM) will want to see up front, I suspect.
What do I do?
Split the first 'book' into bits?
Do I give them 5K of 'book 1' and a synopsis of the rest of it, and 5K of 'book 2' with a synopsis?
I think I'm going to end up taking the sensible path, which is calling each and every Agent (not TM) who is to be targetted by the Agent Trap (TM) and asking them what they, personally, want.


I'm thinking of taking up Salsa lessons.

So there you are.

On a lighter note...

|

I have cheered myself up by reading the almost gibberish-like Autoblography after it has been translated into Italian and back into English courtesy of google.

Il Autoblographia

Personal favourite being:
'...my hand of agitation rendered to the crackle of the spoons like I have passed the slab of the accoutrements of the coffee and the tea and have urged some to near athletes to laugh...'

Mirror, mirror...on the wall

|

I wasn't going to blog this, but what the hell.

I won't name the publishers concerned even though sorely tempted, because I am about to slag them off heartily and I don't want a lawsuit on my hands. Anyway.

A few weeks ago I sent off one chapter and a synopsis from my novel to a publishers I found listed in a well-respected (non-internet) directory.

They got back in touch. I was in conversation with one chap and he was raving about what he'd seen, and as you can imagine, I was on the verge of wetting myself with excitement.

So easy! It had all been so easy! Woo!
The praise and encouragement carried on for a couple of minutes, and I lapped it up.
Like a fool.

Then he said that there had been a bit of feedback from marketing, and they were concerned that it was a little too...unusual, and that there might not a market for it as the industry stood.
I was still champing at the bit.
Then the phrase 'lack of commercial viability' cropped up and it struck me how very...practised the whole conversation had been.

Maybe with a limited printing through personal investment, interest would be aroused and warrant a commercially viable large-scale print?

Did I have £3500 spare?

Did I bollocks.

It was at this point, not without making my feelings known, that I brought the conversation to an end.

After a bit of research...which to be honest, I should have done beforehand, I found out that this particular company didn't do anything except vanity publishing, and they had tried to dupe me.

It struck me, walking down the street afterwards, that it must be hard to reconcile making your living through this sort of work...not to mention difficult. I mean, I knew that there was no way I was going to even consider vanity publishing, and I made my mind up on that a long time ago. The publishing industry is a strict, harsh and totally unassailable critic that has no option of appeal or feedback other than the ultimate 'yes' or 'no', and I value that. After so much hard work and thinking about hopes and aspirations for a book, I can imagine others might not be so definite. After all, getting into print is what it was all about, right?

It was a bit like a salesman in an electrical goods store who spends 15 minutes persuading you to buy an enormous TV, and after you've said yes, spends another ten minutes telling you that you can have an extended warranty for an absolute bargain price...

"It's great! Buy it! Great choice! Oh, and by the way, it's shit! It's gonna break! Pay us so we can fix it for you when it happens!"

"Your book is marvellous dahling - truly! We might not make our money back on a large print to start off with though. We'd run a print if it had a profile already. Why not pay for a small printing? Don't you have any faith in yourself?"

How can you get up each morning knowing that your living depends on you hijacking other people's hopes and dreams?

Well, I've spent some time trying to think up euphemisms and I can't be bothered.

They can just fuck off.
The bastards.

Swallows

|

beveyere
My liege!

What Monty Python Character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Right you are then! Especially about the badgers.

Business As Unusual

|

Okay. The Photoblography is open for business. I'm not going to go back and play with already posted pics, but in the future they will be of a more civilised size.
All the pics there at the moment are from last weekend, mine and Alice's first anniversary when we spent a lot of time in London Doing Fun Things.

I'll progress to giving a few background pics...the scenery that the Autoblography is set against, essentially, my own resident spiders...that sort of thing.
I'm currently going WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY round the houses to get these pictures online.
I upload them from my phone to Sagem Planet (no idea how much this costs yet either...eeek), email them to myself from there, save them on my PC, upload them to Virginstudent and then reference to them there from the Photoblography.

Any suggestions as to how the hell I make this easier?

...other than actually paying for image hosting. I am a web pikey.

Things getting a little bit silly...

|

Two new announcements, then!

The first is that, on Friday, I added a forum to my little bunch of sites - here.

The second is that I now have a digital camera...after a fashion, in my new mobile, and so I have started another blog for photos and stuff.

The Photoblography

Sorry if the photos are a bit epic at the moment...I'll be scaling them down so things load a bit quicker...and also so the site doesn't look shit.

Don't go proddin' nuffink - it ain't properly ready yet!

True Brown

|

Someone has sabotaged the coffee and the decaff on our floor. Apparently an act of revenge for one of our lot poaching a bag of sugar or something.
For the last few days the coffee has reminded me of something that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Vaguely familiar....

And then it came to light - the guys from downstairs had ripped open a few tea bags and contaminated the coffee...and the familiar taste was from 'Kaleidoscope' - the cafť under the library at university, where all hot drinks came out of the same nozzle and after a while morphed into a kind of homogenous mixture of coffee, tea, hot chocolate and the rest - a 'Cup of Brown'.

I'd been drinking psuedo-Brown for a week, and not noticed!

Holey Rat's Piss, Batman!

|

I remember leaving Leamington Spa after finishing university. It was the day my best mate and I awoke face down on the blue-carpeted lounge floor of a girl I knew only vaguely, after the previous night's excessive drinking and generally talking bullshit came to an end at about 5am when I fell asleep mid-sentence - Grandpa Simpson style.
Two hours after that, and for reasons I won't go into, I was taking lunch with Trevor Brooking, The Lord Mayor of Coventry and the Minister for Sport, the Right Honourable Richard Cabon MP. My shaking hand made the spoons rattle as I passed the plate of tea and coffee accoutrements, and I made some nearby athletes laugh.

As the car sped out of the arse of Leamington, I knew I would miss that certain element of sheer randomness that came part and parcel of university life.

Imagine my life as a film...we will now cross/cut to Monday afternoon.

I am crouching in a ghostbuster-like boilersuit in a (dry) sewer pipe, underground, in the dark, somewhere near Brentwood.
That's okay, because the torch slung over my arm could be dropped out of a passenger airliner and still work after hitting the ground.
Apparently.
Maybe it's the kind Mulder and Scully used - the ones that never ran out of battery, never broke, never stopped being so very dramatically bright and piercing in all those dark places?
I feel glad to have it, because otherwise I wouldn't be able to see anything. This is obvious, you think...it is dark.
Not just because of that...the nice people who put me here said 'No contact lenses.'. I turn up wearing glasses. 'No glasses,' they say.
With the torch, I can see all I need to - the pipe I need to be moving along right now.

Also included in my strange array of kit is a little orange box that beeps every few seconds. It is searching my surroundings for the presence of deadly gases, and any lack of the not-so deadly ones I need to stay alive. The sound of it beeping regularly is calming. My hard hat scrapes along the top of the pipe again. It's fallen off three times already, severely impeding my progress. I'm bent double and walking in a squat. I could crawl, but I don't want to have to move too slowly, and besides...it's a very nice boilersuit.

Air, carrying sound waves bouncing off the circular walls of the pipe, delivers a message.

"GAS GAS GAS!"

My hard hat falls off again. I've knocked it off with my left hand, while with newly-acquired co-ordination my right hand has already ripped open the sling I am carrying over my left shoulder. This automatically twists the valve on my oxygen tank to 'open'. My right hand plunges into the sling and emerges awkwardly clutching my gas mask. All new-found co-ordination is now useless. I can't function properly. Nothing seems to be going right. The straps seem much smaller than during practise. I stare hard at my hands. Something is wrong. The four seconds I had to put my mask on passed aeons ago. Something is impeding me, affecting my dexterity...slowing me down. I'm scared. All that practise...for what?

Our instructor is standing in front of the class of the Confined Spaces Training earlier that day. He is talking about dangers of a particularly nasty disease, particular to confined spaces. It is called Weil's Disease. He recounts the horrors of this fast-striking affliction, that start with flu-like symptoms, progress through many months in hospital having large sections of your skin removed...to an end where life just isn't very pleasant for you...ever again.
Everyone is suitably shit-scared. You catch this disease through an infection, released in affected rats' urine, entering your body through a shaving cut, or any scrape or soft tissue. Everyone, rather understandably, chooses to wear gloves when it comes to the practical exam.

This is why I can't do anything - I'm wearing a stonking great pair of gardening gloves. I can just about hear the other two members of my team scurrying back the other way along the network of tunnels. I rip off the gloves and finally, after about fifteen seconds get the mask on and am able to breathe. I jam my hard hat back on but it doesn't want to stay there on top of the mask.

At the bottom of the winch shaft (yay for being winched about like a sack of flour), just about in daylight but still very much underground, one of my other team members stands up ...and takes off his mask in relief for having made it.

"Bang! You're dead."

Standing outside in my boilersuit and hardhat, sexy S&M harness, carrying a half-empty oxygen cylinder over one shoulder and pretending to everyone that I can see perfectly, honest, it hit me that life doesn't lose that quality of randomness all that easily.

I had just been paid good money to squat in a concrete-lined hole in the ground, after all.

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