diamond geezer

 Saturday, May 31, 2003

Eclipsed

Earlier this morning the sun was eclipsed by the moon. You missed it, didn't you? I know you'll be out there later, soaking up the sun and basking in the 30° heatwave. But, as for the last solar* eclipse* that you* could ever see in* this country*, you slept through it, didn't you? Never mind, you probably missed nothing.

Eclipses are all about shadows. Over the past couple of hours the moon's shadow has swept over the North Atlantic from Scotland to Greenland. Skywatchers in favoured locations will have seen a 'ring of fire', created because the moon is slightly too far away in its orbit to completely obscure the sun. However, the moon wasn't the only thing obscuring the sun this morning...

I got up ridiculously early to go out and watch the eclipse. This was only ever going to be partial in London, but I reckoned 69%-obscured would be well worth seeing anyway. I headed out to the Greenway, a raised footpath through East London, to try to get a good view. However, the first part of the eclipse happened before dawn, meaning that the sun was obscured by the horizon and therefore invisible. Streaks of sunlight shone up into the dawn sky, but of the sun itself there was no sign. Sunrise came at 4:51, at which point the sun rose majestically above the horizon, with a huge chunk bitten out of its left hand side. However, it's nigh impossible to get a clear view of the horizon in central London, so this early part of the spectacle was obscured by houses, factories and tower blocks, and I saw none of it. The sky above me slowly brightened, blue and cloudless. A glorious sunny day was in prospect. The eclipsed sun rose slowly higher in the sky. However, the entire eastern horizon was obscured by fluffy grey cloud, so I saw nothing. It was all sadly reminiscent of the total solar eclipse four years ago in Cornwall - another solar spectacle blotted out by the weather.

partial eclipseFinally, with just twenty minutes of the partial eclipse remaining, I caught sight of a deep red crescent through a gap in the clouds. At last. Less than half of the sun's disc was still eclipsed by this time, but the sight was pretty impressive, even if the photograph I managed to take wasn't. Ten seconds later the clouds were back in the way again and the eclipse continued unseen. Slowly the sun edged out of the moon's shadow, until just a tiny sliver was missing from the left hand side. At 5:30, just as the eclipse ended, the sun finally rose up above cloud level, ready to shine down for the rest of the day. Too late, it was all over. All over until 2090.

It's going to be a fantastic summer's day today. The sun will be beating down on the UK, 100% visible. But I saw it earlier, when it wasn't all there. And you didn't.

0 • The zero meridian passes through Greenwich Observatory in London, and also through Stratford, Leyton, Walthamstow and Chingford to the north, and Lewisham and Bromley to the south.
• Greenwich was fixed as zero degrees longitude by the International Meridian Conference of 1884.
• Here's a photograph of this morning's sunrise taken standing on the zero meridian.

 Friday, May 30, 2003

Eviction 1
Big Brother House, this is Davina: The phone lines are closed, the votes have been counted and verified, and I can reveal that the first person to be evicted from the BB house is...
First housemate out: Anouska, with 46% of the vote.
Blimey: OK, so I was wrong. All the bookies were wrong. My faith in human nature is almost restored as the 34DD cup is evicted ahead of the IQ of 130. The Sun will be gutted that its Operation Save Anouska has failed dismally, although I bet she appears on Page 3 before the end of next week. Jon gets to stay, although I suspect the public are only keeping him in for geeky comedy value. I really must buy some more Celebdaq shares in Mr Tickle immediately, £2.49 and rising.
Evicted next week? Sissy out please.

Reminder 1: There's an annular eclipse tomorrow morning at sunrise. The UK weather forecast looks really good, except in north-west Scotland which is the one place that really matters. You can read the latest information here, and there's an excellent graphic here showing how the moon's shadow will cross the Earth early tomorrow morning. Check out the eclipse if you can. It's not to be missed.

Reminder 2: Today on ITV at 5pm it's the very last ever episode of Crossroads. I know there have been two previous last-ever episodes, but this one really is the end. You may never usually watch such lowculture television but, trust me, the twisted ending they've dreamed up is jaw-dropping. Checkout the final scene. It's not to be missed.

Eviction 1?
Up for eviction tonight: Anouska, Federico, Jon and Scott.
Who do I want out? Anouska.
What is the reason for my nomination? Sorry, but I have no desire to be the continued target of countless Google searches seeking clothesless visual representations of the shallow one.
Who will actually be evicted? Jon
And why's that? Jon has an IQ over 100. Worse, Jon has been busy demonstrating that he has an IQ over 100 by performing science experiments, discussing Lord of the Rings in enormous depth, expounding on deep mathematical theories and analysing alternate Star Wars universes. This is not a good game plan when your every move is being watched by tabloid newspapers ready to mock what their readers cannot understand. If there's one organ you should never whip out on Big Brother, it's your brain.
You decide.

 Thursday, May 29, 2003

Everest - 50 anniversary facts

1Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world, 2located in the Himalayan mountains 3on the border between Nepal and Tibet. 4To be exact, you'll find it at latitude 27º59’16" N and longitude 86º55’40" E. 5In Nepal the mountain is called Sagarmatha, 6which means "goddess of the sky". 7In Tibet the mountain is called Chomolungma, 8which means "mother goddess of the universe". 9The British gave the mountain the rather dull name of Peak b in 1841, 10then renamed it the equally uninspired Peak 15 in 1854. 11The mountain was finally renamed Mount Everest in 1865 12in honour of Sir George Everest, the surveyor-general of India, 13who was the first person to produce detailed maps of the Indian subcontintent.

14Mount Everest is 8848 metres high 15(that's 29,029 feet), 16or at least it was that height until it was measured again by satellite in 1999 17and found to be 6 feet (2 metres) higher. 18The mountain is still rising between 4 and 10 centimetres each year, 19even though it was first formed over 60 million years ago. 20Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa is actually the world's tallest free-standing mountain, 21rising from plains at approximately 2000 metres right up to its summit at 5 895 metres. 22Meanwhile Mauna Loa, an extinct volcano in Hawaii, is the tallest mountain in the world at 9170 metres, 23including the 5000 metres down to the ocean floor.

24Everest was first climbed exactly fifty years ago on May 29th 1953 25on a British expedition led by Colonel John Hunt. 26He decided the team should climb via the South Col route in Nepal 27because the Chinese had taken control of Tibet three years earlier and put a stop to all ascents from the North. 28Charles Evans and Tom Bourdillon were chosen to make the first assault on the summit, 29but this pair had to turn back because of faulty oxygen equipment. 30The second attempt was made by 39-year old Tenzing Norgay from Nepal and and 34-year old Edmund Hillary, a beekeeper from New Zealand. 31At 11:30am they became the first people ever to reach the summit, 32with Hillary getting to the top just a few steps ahead of Tenzing. 33They stayed at the summit for 15 minutes, 34leaving behind four flags as evidence of their success. 35News of the historic ascent reached Britain three days later, just in time for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

36Everest is best climbed in April or May before the monsoon begins. 37Since 1953 more than 1300 climbers have climbed to the summit, 38with ages ranging from sixteen to seventy. 39At least 100 people have perished trying to climb the mountain, 40most commonly by avalanches, falls in crevasses, cold, or the effects of thin air. 41The temperature can drop as low as –72°C at the summit. 42The record for most ascents belongs to Sherpa Ang Rita 43who, as of this week, has reached the summit an astonishing thirteen times. 44The first woman to climb Everest was Junko Tabei of Japan in 1975. 45The mountain has been ascended without oxygen (first in 1978) 46single-handed (first in 1980) 47and in less than 11 hours (earlier this week), 48and descended on skis (first in 1970) 49and by snowboard (first in 2001). 50Attempts by two teams of climbers to reach the summit on the 50th anniversary of the original ascent, however, had to be abandoned because of high winds.

Everest links:

Please do not have sex today

OK, so I've done this post before, a couple of months ago, but you should read it again today. Read it here. Do not, under any circumstances, have heterosexual penetrative intercourse today without the use of contraception. Unprotected sex today will mean an unhappy and maladjusted life for your son or daughter in the future, and a lifetime of psychologists' bills to pay. Why? Just check the date exactly nine months from today. No child should ever have to suffer with a birthday like that. Please do not leap into bed today.

This has been another public service announcement. Thank you for listening.

 Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Last chance to see

I don't know whether you've noticed, because it's not exactly high profile in the media, but we're less than three days away from the last solar* eclipse* that you* will ever see in* this country*.

*That's the last eclipse of the sun you will ever see. Total lunar eclipses are rather more common. There was one a fortnight ago, for example, and the next total lunar eclipse visible from the UK is on November 9th this year. Common stuff.
*I'm not talking about partial eclipses here either. They're relatively common too. The next partial solar eclipse visible from the UK will be on the morning of October 3rd 2005, and then another less than six months later on March 29th 2006.
*I'm assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that you'll have died before the next total solar eclipse crosses the UK on September 23rd 2090. If you're under 13 years old and planning to live to the age of 100 with good eyesight then perhaps you'll see that one. But, realistically, for most of you, this Saturday is your last chance.
*That's mainland Britain. Sail off the northwest coast of Scotland to the limit of UK territorial waters on March 20th 2015 and you'll see a fine total eclipse of the sun. Stay on dry land, however, and there's 75 more years more to wait.
*I'm assuming you live in the UK of course. If you're in Antarctica (unlikely, I know) there's a total eclipse later this year on November 23rd. Parts of Africa, Turkey and Russia get a total eclipse on March 29th 2006, and one crosses the USA on August 21st 2017. In the UK though, after this week, you've missed out. For good.

An annular eclipse of the sun is visible from the north-west of Scotland at sunrise on Saturday morning, 31st May 2003. Inverness, Cape Wrath, the Hebrides, the Orkneys and the Shetlands should all get a good view. The eclipse is also visible from Iceland, parts of Greenland and across the surrounding Arctic Ocean. Reykjavik's probably the very best place to see it from, but it's probably a bit late to book a flight there now. It's very rare to have a solar eclipse in the middle of the night (think about it) but, because this is the Arctic during the summer, perfectly possible. The sun's disc won't be completely obscured because this is only an annular eclipse, and instead there'll be a very narrow ring of sunlight left around the edge. This happens because the Moon is slightly too far away in its orbit to cover the Sun completely. The annular eclipse will be very impressive of course, but it won't be the stunning spectacle of a total eclipse.

This solar eclipse is partial across most of northern Europe and northern Asia, including the UK. Over here you'll need to be up at sunrise to see it, which at this time of the year means just before 5am (Inverness 4:30am, London 4:51am). Obviously you won't be able to see the eclipse before sunrise. Look to the east (very carefully, because you could burn your retina out) and you should see the Moon obscuring most of the sun. (Or, if you're unlucky, you'll see clouds obscuring everything, which is what completely ruined our last total eclipse in Cornwall on August 11th 1999). Make sure you have a good view of the horizon, because the sun will (of course) be very low in the sky. This eclipse is only 69% complete in London, but 92% in York and 93% in Edinburgh. Full information on times and percentages here.

In London the partial eclipse is finished by 5:30am, and even across northern Scotland everything is all over by 5:45am. Just a few hours later this Saturday morning most of the country will then wake up, having missed everything. That's having missed the last solar* eclipse* that they* could ever have seen in* this country*. Don't be one of them. Go on, wake up early and go out and have a look. Or stay up really late on Friday night and watch it all before you go to bed. It'll be worth checking the weather forecast first, of course, just in case it's wall-to-wall cloud. But, see you out there?

Eclipse weblinks - May 31st 2003
All about the annular eclipse, including maps, and how much you'll see in different parts of the UK and Iceland
Very detailed information on the May 31st annular eclipse from NASA
Weather prospects for May 31st
Durness - the most northwesterly village in mainland Britain

Eclipse weblinks - general
UK eclipses, solar and lunar, in the near future (i)
UK eclipses, solar and lunar, in the near future (ii)
UK solar eclipses from 1900 to 2200
All the observed UK total and annular solar eclipses of the first and second millennia
Summary of the total and annular eclipses of the Sun occurring globally between 1998 and 2020
The last total eclipse of the Sun, December 4th 2002
NASA's Eclipse home page

 Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Sorry to disappoint the hordes of people arriving here from Google in search of (and I need to be very careful how I phrase this) pictures of a certain Big Brother housemate whose name starts with A with no clothes on. There are no such pictures here. You probably want something like this. Or why not just go and buy a copy of the Sun every day for the next 9 weeks? And a man-sized box of tissues.

Never ever write anything on the internet that you don't want other people to read.

Housemate Jon was at the University of Leicester in the mid 1990s, from where he used to contribute to the Usenet newsgroups rec.arts.tv.uk.misc and rec.arts.books.tolkien. So, preserved for history, you can read Jon's thoughts on appearing on Blockbusters with Bob Holness, Lesley Joseph's stuffed cat, his Lord of the Rings obsession, daytime television quiz shows, Eurovision 1996, and "women troubles".

Meanwhile, thanks to the excellent Digital Spy, here are the housemates' Friends Reunited entries.
Anouska, Cameron, Federico, Gos, Jon, Justine, Nush, Ray, Scott, Sissy, Steph, Tania.

I must be more careful what I write on here. That, or never ever become famous...

 Monday, May 26, 2003

20 foods you'd probably rather not know the calorific content of

• One jelly baby - 20 calories
• One jaffa cake - 46 calories
• Can of coke - 139 calories
• 1 pint of Guinness - 170 calories
• Cadbury's Creme Egg - 174 calories
• Walkers ready salted crisps (35g) - 189 calories
• Starbucks tall latté - 211 calories
• Chunky Kit Kat - 250 calories
• Danish pastry (65g) - 287 calories
McDonalds medium french fries - 293 calories
• Mars bar (65g) - 294 calories
• 50g bag of peanuts - 303 calories
• Big Mac - 493 calories
McDonalds large strawberry milkshake - 512 calories
McDonalds Quarter Pounder with Cheese - 516 calories
• Chicken chow mein - 715 calories
• Chicken tikka masala - 860 calories
• Pepperoni pizza - 1200 calories
• Sweet and sour pork with egg-fried rice - 1330 calories
• Christmas lunch, all the trimmings, Christmas pudding, brandy sauce - 3000 calories

 Sunday, May 25, 2003

The Big Brother House - exclusive pictures

Here they are, exclusive photographs taken this weekend from inside the Big Brother house.
(Click on each picture to see it full size)

View from the lounge across the garden towards the gate This first picture shows the view from the Big Brother lounge, looking out over the Big Brother garden towards the entrance to the Big Brother compound. The Big Brother housemates entered here to face nine weeks of confinement, watched by countless TV cameras and the viewing public across the nation. Intrigue, drama, boredom, seething sexual tension, chickens - this patch of land has seen them all. In fact, this is one of the most heavily watched locations in the entire country. Just not this year...

Marjorie was here As you may have guessed, this is the site of the first Big Brother house, used in series 1 and 2. This field is in Bow, East London, just 15 minutes walk from my house. Channel 4 built the first Big Brother House here right next to Three Mills film studios, the nerve centre for the first two series. However, Channel 4 weren't sure that the show would be a hit and only had planning permission for two years, after which Newham Council insisted that the house be pulled down and the site returned to a natural habitat. This has since happened and, as you can see, you'd never guess now from this green patch of wasteland that TV history had ever taken place here. Marjorie the chicken is long gone.

The main lounge This picture shows the Big Brother lounge. It feels very strange to stand here now, surrounded by grass and gasworks, and to think back to everything that happened right here on this unassuming site. Nominations, evictions, weekly tasks and numerous secrets spilled in the diary room. Nasty Nick unmasked as a a liar and a cheat at the infamous kangaroo court round the dining table. Nichola and Craig's nude body-painting. Celebrity Jack's bid to escape through the fence. Dean's world record-breaking tower of sugar cubes. Helen falling for Paul and Paul falling for Helen. Brian's gasp at an unexpected victory. And not a blue plaque in sight.

Exit from the Big Brother compound, over the bridge towards the studio This is the view today out of the old Big Brother compound, through the gate, over the bridge and off towards the Big Brother studios. The outside world was never very far away from the original Big Brother House, so the production team were always on the lookout for people standing on the other side of the fence, shouting out things that the contestants were never meant to hear. The new house built thirty miles away on a film lot in Elstree doesn't suffer from a public footpath along its southern border, which must help security no end. There's no security at all on the site in Bow now, just an unlocked gate into a deserted field.

Davina says 'I'm coming to get you' Finally here's the legendary Big Brother bridge, leading across a particularly ugly concrete-banked water channel, part of the Bow Back Rivers. Davina would have crossed here twice on eviction night, once to collect the evicted housemate and then back again, running the gauntlet of the tabloid press and a baying crowd. Unfortunately I moved into the local area just a few weeks too late to attend any of the Big Brother evictions held down by the bridge. By the time I was setting up my home they were pulling down this one. However, two years later on it's fascinating to be able to walk down to the place where it all happened and to picture the ghosts of Big Brother still haunting a forgotten field. It's also a salutary lesson to this year's housemates. Enjoy your fleeting fame in the headlines while you can - you'll soon be completely forgotten too.

Horrorscope: Jemini (May 24 - May 24) An off-key performance will come to nothing.

 Saturday, May 24, 2003

Big Bloggers

Today I'm celebrating the 16000th visitor to this site. Double 8000. I'm pleased to see that half of those 16000 visitors have come here via links on other blogs. So, who are my Big Bloggers? Here's my Top 20 linking blogs, by volume of visitors clicking here from there:
1) arseblog (461 visitors)
2) swish cottage (455 visitors)
3) samizdata (445 visitors)
4) blue witch (416 visitors)
5) by a woman (398 visitors)
6) my ace life (306 visitors)
7) big n juicy (262 visitors)
8) troubled diva (228 visitors)
9) bitful (226 visitors)
10) mad musings (209 visitors)
11) coopblog
12) naked blog
13) rogue semiotics
14) scaryduck
15) getting on
16) the brick
17) burnt toast
18) londonmark
19) a blog's life
20) invisible stranger
It's very tight at the top, but arseblog just manages to hold off the temporarily mothballed swish cottage. There have been five new entries since the last time I compiled this Top 20, topped off by samizdata slamming straight in at number 3. The four other new entries are to be found at positions 12, 18, 19 and 20. Meanwhile, lurking just outside the Top 20, there's london calling, linkmachinego and besty's blog. Thanks to all twenty-plus of you.

Why not click off and see what some of my Big Bloggers have to say on their sites. Just don't forget to click back here again afterwards...

 Friday, May 23, 2003

Big Brother 4

It's back. 64 days of meaningless addiction. Excellent.

Anouska*: She did an A level exam in Sociology last Wednesday. Started quiet, has got much louder.
Cameron: Living in the Orkneys must be very similar to being isolated in the BB house (only considerably more scenic).
Federico*: He's a waiter, and he's packed a pair of handcuffs in his suitcase. That's two blokes from Scotland then.
Gos: He's a chef. It would be impolite to say that he looks like a chef too, so I won't.
Jon*: Twin, and seems very sure of himself. That's two blokes from West London then.
Justine: Another twin. Seems overbearingly nice and polite at the moment. Barely registering.
Nush: What are the chances of having two contestants called Anushka? Has a manically emotional mother. Might win.
Ray: This year's cheeky chappie. I suspect you'll either love him or hate him. I'll give him four weeks.
Scott*: What's a normal bloke doing in BB4? Trying to find himself, by the sound of it.
Sissy: Scouse loudmouth and fashion graduate. She's not great, she grates. Needs evicting.
Steph: It's her birthday next week. I bet C4 are more likely to select you if you have a birthday in May, June or July.
Tania: Clothes, nails, shopping, labels, fags, yah, darling, ciao. Ciao, hopefully.
*Up for eviction next Friday. Anouska must go.

Matrix Reloaded
Plot: very deep, but not very broad
Religious symbolism: very messianic
Effects: very very special indeed
Keanu: very neo-classic
Chocolate cake: very desirable, can I have a slice?
Method of passing a Friday afternoon: very adequate

Big Brother - Where Are They Now?
(with an unfeasibly high number of weblinks)
On telly (mainstream channels):
Craig (Big Strong Boys), Brian (SM:tv), Kate (RI:SE)
On telly (digital channels): Anna (Closure), Mel (Chained), Alex (Nickelodeon)
Coupled: Tom and Claire, Helen and Paul, Sophie and Lee
Famous: Jade
Infamous: Nick, Narinder
In business together: Dean and Stuart (the amazing can't-live-without-it Tea Bag Bin)
Shagging that woman from Dawson's Creek: Spencer
Tried, failed: Nichola, Caroline, Amma, Bubble, Josh, Penny, Jonny, Tim, PJ, Adele
Back where they started: Darren, Andy, Sada, Elizabeth, Sandy, Lynne, Sunita

 Thursday, May 22, 2003

Metacognition

Every day I get to stare at a blank white rectangle on my computer screen. Every day I stare at that rectangle and wonder how best to fill it. At my disposal are the 26 letters on my keyboard (plus numbers, punctuation and the space bar) which I can arrange in a variety of different orders, some of which might even make sense. Along with the text I could chuck in some weblinks, I could even throw in some pictures, but the space is all mine to fill in any way I choose.

I could...
... write something fantastic and original that will be linked to by websites around the world.
... write something mediocre and ordinary about my life that doesn't even raise one comment.
... write something that gives me personal blog satisfaction.
... copy a chunk of witty text off someone else's site in the hope that everyone thinks I wrote it.
... republish something I wrote on here six months ago in the hope that nobody notices it's a repeat.
... list a lot of other websites that've come up with something much more interesting than anything I could think of.
... write fifteen paragraphs that take all evening to compose.
... write just two lines and then go out and get a life.
... write something with a spelling or grammatical mistake that that people will delight in picking me up on.
... write a load of gibberish khyygrwsvj8gb grcvrdo kjkiuyb 5b'ngrvi9x merely by hitting keys at random.
... write something controversial that ends up getting lots of derogatory comments.
... write something controversial merely to try to get lots of comments, derogatory or otherwise.
... write something cathartic that I've never told anyone else before.
... write something that breaks a confidence, spills a secret and loses a friend.
... write something that causes me to lose me my job. (In fact, if I'd written the wrong thing on here last week I could easily have lost my job and ended up pilloried on the TV news. I didn't, of course.)
... just fill the space by writing something about writing something (although I'd never do that, of course, because it would be cheap and easy).

In short, a blog is a blank canvas ready and waiting each day to be filled by creative content. The only limits here are time and imagination. I reckon the best blogs are those where you never quite know what someone is going to post next, but you know that whatever it is it'll be worth reading. They're the blogs I go back and read to time and time again, anyway. And I like writing my blog because I never quite know what I'm going to write next either.

There you go, that's another daily white rectangle filled. I wonder what I'm going to write tomorrow...

 Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Name that film

name that film

 Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Sticky wicket

Glamorgan Dragons. Since when have county cricket clubs had stupid names? Yorkshire Phoenix. I suspect I'm extremely late (like years late) in noticing this, but who on earth had the ridiculous idea of giving cricket clubs daft nicknames. Lancashire Lightning. Makes them sound like third rate American football teams. Northamptonshire Steelbacks. The extended names don't seem to be particularly well promoted either, which suggests the county sides are rightly embarrassed by them. Gloucestershire Gladiators. There must be some overpaid PR company out there laughing their socks off. Somerset Sabres. Whatever happened to the demure, upright, traditional, very British game of cricket? Essex Eagles. Shot down in flames. Kent Spitfires.

I have to confess that I consider cricket to be the most useless, pointless sport in the entire world. Two teams go and stand in a field for up to five days. Three people position themselves right in the middle of the field and run around occasionally. One team stands and watches, just in case a small ball is ever hit in their direction. If it is, they throw it back. Every five minutes or so they walk to the opposite side of the field, merely to walk back again five minutes later. The second team just sits at the edge of the field and watches everyone else until it's their turn to go into the middle and be watched themselves. When one of the people in the middle makes a mistake they have to walk to the edge of the field and start watching again. When enough people on both sides have made enough mistakes the game is over, except that this is England so it's probably started raining by then and the game is therefore a draw.

I don't care that cricket may be a magnificent game of skill and tactics. I don't care that cricket is a traditional part of the English summer, except perhaps in the same way that wasps, hayfever and hosepipe bans are a traditional part of the English summer. I don't care that a cricketer won I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here and may have made the sport popular again. I'm not impressed by any game that takes days to play but whose 'highlights' can be edited to just 30 seconds for the evening news. I was delighted when the BBC lost the rights to show cricket recently, because it meant there's now a fair chance of switching on BBC2 in the summer and there being a programme on that's actually worth watching, not just a lot of interminable standing around, soporific commentary and polite applause.

You're right, I was rubbish at the game when I was at school. However, cricket was a game I was never ashamed to be rubbish at. Oh look, I've dropped the ball again. Ah well, who cares? I'll just stand here in the outfield getting a suntan until it's my turn to sit on the boundary and get a suntan over there instead. I don't dislike cricket because I was rubbish at it. I dislike cricket because it's boring.

These 'new' county cricket team names, they've got it all wrong. Names like Hawks, Sharks and Lightning suggest a fast-moving exciting game of cut-throat danger. Nothing could be further from the truth. What the counties really need are new, more appropriate names. Middlesex Tortoises. Sussex Sloths. Lancashire Lethargy. Middlesex Monotony. Glamorgan Drag-Ons. Actually, looks like they've got the last one right already...

 Monday, May 19, 2003

Consecutive Number Plate Spotting

(...or CNPS as afficionados call it) is an extremely simple game. The aim of CNPS is to spot every number on the conventional old-style UK car number plate, in order, from 1 to 999. Simple. Easy. Addictive. You have been warned.

The official rules of CPNS are here, on the Richard Herring website. They're well worth a read. Richard's been playing the game for six months, and so far he's got as far as 120. Here's a report explaining how he started, and here's a report from six weeks down the line, still struggling to find number 16.

I must confess that I've played this game too. I started at Christmas 1995 by spotting a 1, then spent an entire two-hour car journey completely failing to spot a 2. "Surely," I thought, "Surely it can't be that difficult to spot a 2." And I was hooked.

The numbers from 1-20 are always the hardest to spot because for the last twenty years they've only been issued on personalised number plates. In fact it's the numbers from 10-20 that are the hardest to spot because they're the personalised numberplate numbers that nobody really wants. After 20 it gets easier, but not much easier.

On average, you should spot each numberplate number approximately once in every thousand(ish) plates. Things rarely work out averagely though, so sometimes you spot the next number within minutes of the last, while at other times you may suffer from week after frustrating week of desperate non-appearance. Even worse, you keep on spotting the number after the one you really want, just when you don't need it, then lose sight of it completely as soon as you do finally need it. Go read Richard's stuff - he's been there. Overall the game should require sight of about 10002 = one million cars to complete. It's definitely not a commitment to be undertaken lightly.

It took me almost four years to progress from that initial 1 to my final 999 (which was on an F-reg Landrover on the A14 just north of Ipswich, if you care). I'm glad I finished before I moved to London, because I see far fewer cars now on my daily Underground commute. I'm also glad I finished before they brought in this new numberplate numbering system. Sure, 01, 02, 03... may be a much easier start, but the rest of the game is going to get a whole lot harder as three-digit-number plates become a thing of the past.

If you're interested in playing (go on, it's not as sad as it sounds) you can sign up here on the CNPS website. Compete against other players and try to get on the leaderboard. It's more interesting and addictive than it sounds, honest. Just don't expect to finish any time soon.

As Richard says: As a CNP Spotter you must abide by the CNPS code. "I promise to do my best at spotting numbers consecutively, to do my duty no matter how boring and to never, ever cheat in the game or lie about where I’ve got up to, because I will only be cheating myself in the end." Say this out loud before you start and at any point when you feel you are tempted to cheat or stop playing because the game is rubbish.

Everything you ever wanted to know about British car numberplates
Where in the UK does that numberplate come from? The complete list
The DVLA numberplate site, including the ten most expensive numberplates ever sold
Numberplates of the world - tons of them
Make your own American numberplate

 Sunday, May 18, 2003

Wouldn't it be great if somebody really famous wrote a blog?

Like Liz perhaps...

Sunday, May 18, year of one's reign 51
One was woken up by the arrival of the newspapers. It appears that Edward has been embarassing us in public again. Decided to wear that really awful shade of bright peach today, just to annoy Phillip. One of one's corgis was sick on the footman's shoes - how one laughed.

Or Tony...

Next election minus 760 days
Rang George. He was out. Rang Gordon, then put the phone down when he answered ha ha. Invented a new way of shortening hospital waiting lists. Threw darts at Clare Short's resignation letter again.

Or maybe even God...

Day 1 Created light. Saw that it was good. Decided it should travel really really fast.
Day 2 Created heaven. Saw that it was good. The neighbours sound a bit loud though.
Day 3 Created land and sea. Saw that it was good. There are some really pretty beaches where the two meet.
Day 4 Created the stars and planets. Saw that it was good. Later in the afternoon invented astronomy.
Day 5 Created fish and birds. Saw that it was good. Hid a few dinosaur fossils in the ground to confuse future scientists.
Day 6 Created loads of animals. Saw that it was good. Also created a couple of humans. Decided to give them free will.
Day 7 Took the day off after a hard week. Beginning to wonder if the 'human' project wasn't a big mistake.

I can't claim to have found anyone that famous who writes a blog, but I was delighted to discover (via A Blog's Life) that Richard Herring is now writing one. Richard was half of comedy duo Lee and Herring who did the excellent Fist of Fun on BBC2 back in the 90s. He really was famous back then, in the right circles, honest. He has a wicked and withering sense of humour, and continues to perform stand-up comedy around the country. If you're still scratching your head wondering who he is, never mind, just rejoice in the fact that Richard is writing his daily thoughts online and they're an excellent read. His page (called Warming Up) isn't organised quite like a normal blog because there's a separate page each day, but it's definitely worth the time and effort to explore his archive. I can heartily recommend Richard's thoughts on ageing, babies, sweets and Consecutive Number Plate Spotting for a start. But more on CNPS tomorrow...

 Saturday, May 17, 2003

The local Olympics

So, at last, the Government is backing a bid for the 2012 Olympics to come to London. To be specific, East London. To be more specific, Stratford. To be even more specific, within walking distance of my house (OK, I know that last weekend we established that 'walking distance from my house' could be as far away as St Paul's Cathedral, but in this case I mean less than half an hour away). This is all rather exciting. Normally the Olympics are held somewhere glamorous, like Athens or Sydney or Barcelona. In 2012 they may be held at the end of my road. I just hope they manage to clean the area up in time.

Now, you might think that the Olympics were about sport, but you'd be wrong. The sport bit only lasts for a fortnight. The world's finest athletes descend like a swarm of medal-devouring locusts for two weeks, compete in loads of sports you've never heard of and would never normally watch, and then bugger off straight away afterwards to prepare for 2016.

No, the Olympics are about kudos. Countries battle to host the Olympics so that they can turn smugly to the rest of the world and say "See, we told you we were important." In the last 25 years the United States has hosted the Olympics twice (in fact, four times if you include the winter games). The USA is clearly a very important country - either that or they've been particularly good at bribing the International Olympic Committee recently. The UK, by contrast, hasn't hosted the Olympics since since 1948, and that was only as a hastily-put-together post-war compromise location. 2012 would be the first time London has ever won on its own merits, and not just because nobody else was interested.

But, most importantly, the Olympics are about legacy. It's not so much about how you get there as what you leave behind. Barcelona used its Games in 1992 to implement a wide-ranging urban renewal plan, transforming a decaying industrial city into a sought-after tourist destination. Sydney's Games in 2000 were a world showcase, boosting Australia's economic and cultural confidence (and Kylie's record sales). London hopes to benefit in all these ways and more. Some important transport links that have been stalled on the drawing board for years may finally get built. Some of the UK's most deprived boroughs would at last be regenerated by substantial financial investment. The redevelopment of run-down East London could mean the creation of an impressive 16000 new jobs and 7000 new homes. And most of those new homes would be on the site of the Olympic Village, which it's proposed would be built just five minutes walk from my house. It'd be strange having world class athletes as neighbours, although quite frankly we have a big enough drug problem round here as it is.

There's still two years to wait before a final decision is made, and then a huge bill to pay if that decision is yes, but I hope London's bid is successful. I can put up with two weeks of mixing with weightlifters and synchronised swimmers if that means that afterwards I finally get to live in the world class neighbourhood of a world class city.

 A few months ago we were up for the treble.
 Two months ago we messed up in Europe.
 A fortnight ago we screwed up the Premiership.
 I hope we don't FaC up this afternoon...

 Friday, May 16, 2003

Appendix: 2 additional ways to fill time and avoid boredom

a) Stay in all week and write tons of stuff in your blog about boredom.
b) Go out on Friday night and actually do something...

 Thursday, May 15, 2003

20 top ways to fill time and avoid boredom (1)

1) Survival: For a large proportion of the population of the world, there is no spare time in which to get bored. In the developing world many people spend all their waking hours living hand to mouth merely to survive1. They may be out working in the fields all day long, returning exhausted to their partner2 only at nightfall. They work far harder than you or I to ensure that their families3 are provided daily with meagre rations and basic shelter. They rely on friends4 living in the same village for childcare support, the pooling of talents and for help when the harvest fails. They've never even heard of the internet5, not that they have any hope of even affording a computer, let alone plugging it in and connecting to a non-existent telephone network. They work6 not for job satisfaction nor for the money a job brings but because they have to. They can never afford the luxury of seeing any of their animals as pets7, because one day that goat is going to be lunch. They don't have a TV8, and to be honest the TV companies don't mind because these people could never afford any of the products advertised in the commercial breaks anyway. They treat their house9 as a shelter, not as an artistic canvas. Their gardens9 are tended with great effort and care, growing vegetables as a staple part of the family's diet, and not ornamental flowers to decorate the dining table. There may not be anywhere nearby that sells alcohol10, but they can knock together a homebrew based on local produce that'll knock your head off.

These people may never have heard of Peter Gabriel or Blur, but the tribal village music11 they make is so good that Peter Gabriel and Blur have heard of them. They exercise12 each day through necessity not choice, and their athletic prowess often puts better-fed nations to shame. Their gossip13 is only about people who live within walking distance, which is far more interesting than speculating about J-Lo and Eminem anyway. Their books14 are verbal, with legends and stories passed down from generation to generation. They live hundreds or even thousands of miles from the nearest mobile phone15 transmitter, but the ancient art of conversation works just as well when you actually talk to everyone you know during the course of a day anyway. Their culture16 is far older than ours, although our multinational commercial culture probably has designs on replacing theirs one day in the near future. These people never go on holiday17, but who'd want to when you already live somewhere that the rest of the world longs to visit on vacation anyway. They have no need of world news18, because they already know all the news that is important in their world. They cook their food19 merely to stay alive, not to impress those eating it with culinary flair and use of exotic ingredients. And they're always learning20 practical and useful things every day, just nothing you could test in a written examination.

Not all of the developing world lives the way I've described above, of course, but billions of people worldwide are forced to work from dawn to dusk merely to support themselves and their families. Boredom just doesn't even enter the equation. Just remember how fortunate you are to have the technology, the literacy and the time to be able to read this page. And please spare a thought (or even some cash) for those less fortunate.

20 top ways to fill time and avoid boredom (2-4)

2) Partner: There is no better way of filling time than to share your life with the partner of your choice. Somebody who's always there. Somebody who's snuggled right up close to you in the early hours, somebody to discuss the newspapers with over breakfast, somebody who can hold the stepladder while you paint the ceiling the colour of their choice, somebody to sit next to on public transport without the risk of some unstable nutter sitting next to you instead, somebody to ring up from the supermarket to ask whether they prefer vanilla or strawberry, somebody to try not to be late home for, somebody to disappear into the bedroom with for an hour of filling time, somebody to bounce your thoughts off without wasting them all, somebody to hold onto during the sad part of tonight's TV drama, and somebody to climb into bed with at the end of the day with a sleepy glint in their eye. Sure it can take a long time to hunt down that perfect partner in the first place, but that's nothing compared to the lifetime of shared experience and mutual support if you make the right choice.

3) Family: It's all too easy to turn a partner into a family. All it takes is two minutes of unprotected sex, planned or otherwise, and hey presto nine months later your life is changed forever. The two of you used to have a social life, going out to meet friends, holidaying abroad when the fancy took you, waking up at ten on a Sunday morning but staying in bed til noon, that sort of thing. Then suddenly you get to take four kilograms of screaming flesh home from the hospital and your life is never your own again. You used to enjoy dining out, now your offspring is dining on you. You used to have disposable income, now you merely have disposable nappies. You used to go out four times a week, now you can only go out if the babysitter's available. You used to be able to sleep through the night, now you're forever woken up by something that can't. Never mind, babies do eventually grow up and leave home, but not before they've learnt how to throw spectacular tantrums, developed an expensive ballet habit, coerced you into doing all their homework for them, spent a couple of years sulking in their bedrooms experimenting with hairdye and acne cream, and trebled your car insurance. Just make sure that, by the time your youngest child finally moves out of the family home and your life returns to normal, you haven't forgotten what normal used to be more than two decades ago. And don't forget to explain to your offspring the importance of contraception, although children often don't realise how heartfelt your warning was until it's too late and the whole cycle has started again.

4) Friends: Nowadays most people take out personal insurance against getting bored. This insurance comes in the form a group of people we call 'friends'. Friends are like-minded souls who like to fill their time in the same sorts of ways that we do. They enjoy going to the same sorts of films that we do, going on the same sorts of holidays that we do, eating out at the same sorts of restaurants that we do and laughing at the same sorts of jokes that we do. They're not afraid to tell us that we really shouldn't have put that particular selection of clothes on this morning, or that we really shouldn't have said what we just said to someone else last night. If our Thursday night is looking particularly featureless they'll happily invite us along to share theirs instead. If we're ever in trouble, or feeling down, they're there for us just as we'd be there for them. Good friends are hard to find, but even harder to lose. Never underestimate their importance in the daily battle against boredom.

 Wednesday, May 14, 2003

20 top ways to fill time and avoid boredom (5-7)

5) Internet: You need never be bored and alone with the internet. Go back ten years and your computer was merely a word processor that played games which crashed all the time. Now, thanks to the internet, your computer is a gateway to the world. Type the right combination of letters into that box at the top of the page and you can be transported virtually anywhere, find out almost anything about even your most obscure interest, download that musical masterpiece you never thought you'd hear again, read what other people are thinking, even tell other people what you're thinking and hope they're interested enough to read it. We used to rely on search engines to seek out original and interesting net content. Now it's quite possible to lose yourself wandering around in the blogosphere for hours, clicking from link to link. I'd like to suggest that blogs are the new search engines. Blogs save you, the reader, from all that tedious hassle of trying to think up what to search for in the first place. Instead you merely drop in on a favourite blogger and they've done all the thinking and searching for you. No wonder Google wanted to buy us all up, we're much more interesting, we're much more coherent, we have a better selection of links and we occasionally throw in some original content too.

6) Work: You may think that work is one of the more boring things in your life, but consider how much more boring life is for those without work. These people are trapped forever in a daytime desert, stuck in the limbo between Kilroy and Countdown, waiting for everyone else to get home from yet another day at work where they were actually doing something. This may be little comfort to those of us who've ever sat doodling desperately to stay awake during an interminable meeting, but our lives would be a whole lot more empty without any meetings to go to at all. However long our working hours may feel, most of us spend no more than 20% of the hours in a year actually at work. Choose your job carefully, if you can, and that 20% can sail by. Choose badly and, well, were you staring at the clock at quarter past three this afternoon, willing the second hand to spin round just that little bit faster? You should check the situations vacant more often - maybe it's time to escape from your vacant situation.

7) Pets: If your life is empty, fill it with an animal. A cute ickle puppy maybe, just so long as you don't mind it growing into something enormous that demands to take you for walks when you'd rather stay in and watch the television. A titchy tiny kitten perhaps, just so long as you don't mind the ungrateful beast buggering off out of the house all day when its older, returning at night only to eat foul-smelling food and fill the litter tray. A chubby-cheeked hamster in a cage maybe, just so long as you don't mind it waking up in the middle of the night and squeaking round its wheel for hours, only to drop dead after a few weeks well before you've got your money's worth out of it. A tank full of swishy shiny silver fish perhaps, just so long as none of them ever realise the pointlessness of their existence during the 23 hours 58 minutes a day that you're not watching them. Or just go the whole hog and turn your entire house into a farm, just so long as you don't mind living with the smell, the hair, and a mop and bucket.

20 top ways to fill time and avoid boredom (8-10)

8) TV & film: From John Logie Baird to Big Brother 4, and from the Lumière Brothers to Matrix Reloaded, it's hard to underestimate the importance of these two rectangular screens in the battle against daily boredom. In just the last 25 years television has gone from a daytime desert to hundreds of digital television channels available on demand. You don't even have to watch any of these channels properly, you can just spend half an hour flicking through them all on your remote, only to find when you complete the loop that a new set of programmes has begun and you can flick round them all again. No great loss, because most of the programmes are repeats anyway, either from 25 years ago or from 3, 6, 9 and 12 hours ago instead. As for films, we recycle these even more than we do TV programmes. We go to the cinema to watch an endless series of remakes and sequels, then six months later we buy them all on DVD to watch over and over again at home, despite the fact we know the entire plot backwards by the fifth run-through and can recite the special feature director's commentary word-for-word by the tenth. We may complain about all the repeats on television, but it seems we're more than happy to repeat our films.

9) House & garden: I live in a rented furnished non-ground-floor flat. In London this may be expensive, but the great advantage is that I don't have to spend any of my time pretending I'm taking part in Changing Rooms or Ground Force. I don't look at the magnolia walls in my living room and decide that I must have some primary colours on the west-facing wall, new curtains, brushed-chrome light fittings and a new dining table. I don't have a garden with hundreds of plants requiring my attention, a lawn to mow and a raft of decking waiting to be installed. In fact, my house and garden place virtually no demands at all on my time, leaving me to spend my weekends as I choose. Meanwhile the rest of you homeowners get to wander from department store to DIY hypermarket instead, and then spend most of your remaining daylight hours attempting to prevent the plants in your garden from growing the way they're naturally programmed to. I know all this mini-empire building makes you feel better, and your lives would feel somehow incomplete if you didn't spend each weekend grouting and hoeing, but at least I get a weekend.

10) Alcohol: It's amazing how much time people are willing to spend sipping fermented plant juice. "Just the one drink for me please". They leave their own house, wander down to a building that looks suspiciously like someone else's house, and then stand around pouring huge amounts of liquid into their mouth. "And another one, why not?" Filling the bladder is a great way of filling time, even if a large proportion of that time does tend to be spent merely emptying the bladder in readiness for the next refuelling. "Go on, I'll have a double" Somehow copious amounts of alcohol never feel quite such a good idea the following morning as they did the previous night, but that rarely stops people going back for more. Regularly. "A pint of the usual thanks" Alcohol - it shortens your day, but it shortens your life too*. "Cheers!"
* See also cigarettes, caffeine, cannabis, tranquilisers, and whatever that small white tablet is that degrades your short-term memory.

 Tuesday, May 13, 2003

20 top ways to fill time and avoid boredom (11-13)

11) Music: Silence is boring. That's why so many of us choose to fill our silence with music. It beats listening to nextdoor's baby crying, or the endless throb of cars humming down the street outside. Music can be used to fill the background space of the day, flooding the world with melody, rhythm and raw emotion. It's almost certainly impossible to get two people to agree on exactly what music is brilliant and what music is not. However, it is possible to collect all the music you think is brilliant, or at least to try to, and then spend hours cataloguing it, rearranging it, reviewing it and revelling in it. A quick look at my record collection reveals that I've got roughly 24 hours of music downloaded on my computer, roughly 2 weeks of CDs arranged meticulously in alphabetical order, and nearly a month's worth of cassettes back from the days when the music was great even if the recording quality wasn't. And when the music starts, I never wanna stop, it's gonna drive me crazy. Music, makes the people, come together.

12) Sport: Organised sport must be one of the most brilliant means ever devised to keep civilisation occupied and busy. It works like this. First, invent some sports. This probably means devising a few simple instructions to explain how to move a ball around in an interesting way. It helps if these sports involve a large number of big teams for long periods of time, because then lots of people can be involved. Make sure that everyone involved spends lots of time practising and exercising, just to keep them permanently exhausted and off the streets. Then organise these sports into leagues, tournaments and competitions at various levels, so that as many people as possible believe that sport is important and has a purpose. Encourage people to identify with one of the better teams in the higher leagues, so that they can talk endlessly to other fans about past performance, future hopes and meaningless statistics. Hold an enormous global competition every four years, encouraging rampant nationalism and sporting pride. And then smile, because you have society subjugated and under control without anyone even realising.

13) Gossip: "Did she?" "She didn't?" "She did!" When you have nothing to say, talk about nothing. People always find the minutiae of other people's lives fascinating, especially when those other people are trying to keep their lives a secret. We live in a tabloid culture where the trivial is important and the important is trivial. Fifty years ago we could only gossip about our immediate friends and neighbours. Now we live in the global village we're more likely to know who Robbie Williams snogged last night than the name of the family in the house next door. Some people fill their days by talking for hours about people they will never meet but feel they know intimately from the pages of Heat, the gossip bible. Of course, the rest of us are above such immature behaviour. However, I bet Popbitch is already in your favourites list...

20 top ways to fill time and avoid boredom (14-16)

14) Books: Books are one of humanity's greatest inventions, a simple concept that has lasted for centuries and will survive for many more. Portable knowledge, and the words are still there when you turn back five pages. No technology can beat that. When the world you're living in is getting you down, escape into another world with a good book. Hogwarts perhaps, or Mordor, or Gormenghast, or somewhere through the back of the wardrobe. If I'm reading a good book I usually immerse myself in it completely and devour it in 24 hours or less, which is an excellent way of filling time. Recommended to me lately: American Psycho, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and Bleeding London. That could be the rest of the week gone, then.

15) Mobile phones: You can never be bored with a mobile phone in your pocket. (Not unless you've got a prehistoric featureless model, so many commiserations to all my American readers). If you're ever sat on a train bored out of your skull you can ring someone up and tell them you're sat on a train bored out of your skull. If you're ever stuck for hours in a tedious meeting you can text someone sitting on the other side of the table and make rude comments about your boss without your boss noticing. If you're ever standing waiting in a slow-moving queue you can casually play through your entire library of ringtones and watch the rest of the queue melt away. If you're ever early for a doctor's appointment you can always pass the time away playing a mini video game that would have looked substandard on a Commodore PET in 1979. And if all else fails and the boredom appears insurmountable, just set your phone to vibrate, shove the phone down your pocket and ask someone else to ring you up.

16) Culture: For some people, culture is merely that stuff you find in yoghurt. However, for a whole group of people out there, culture is the hub of one's social life. These people divide into culture (active) and culture (passive). The active crowd can be found treading the boards with the amateur dramatic society (that's three months of one's social life gobbled up), or locked away in an attic with the watercolours (that's three months of anti-social life gobbled up instead). The passive crowd are more likely to be tuned into Radio 3 or BBC4, or wandering unnaturally slowly round the Tate Modern with thoughtful looks on their faces. Some can even be found lapping up an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Ah, sorry, did I say culture? Apologies.

 Monday, May 12, 2003

20 top ways to fill time and avoid boredom (17-20)

17) Travel: If life is boring where you are, why not go and see what life is like somewhere else instead? Holidays are great for filling time. First people spend hours dreaming about where they'd like to go, then they spend even longer surfing the internet trying to find the cheapest way to get there. Unfortunately the cheapest way to get there is often the longest, so they get to spend hours trapped in the departure lounge from hell. And then, for some reason I've never quite understood, they lie on a beach staring at a towel for a fortnight, which to my mind is more boring than almost any other human activity ever invented. Still, it's the perfect opportunity to dream about where they want to spend their next holiday...

18) News: Even when there's nothing happening in your life, there's always plenty happening in someone else's. News exists not only to keep us in touch with the global world around us, but also to remind us that sometimes a boring life is a good life. We don't mind sitting at home reading the paper, just so long as our lives never resemble the disaster in the headlines, or the injustice on the inside pages. The news is great for filling time and staving off boredom because it's always changing and always different (Middle Eastern invasion campaigns excepted). Even if you're a couple who've run out of anything else to say to each other, there's always the news to talk about. And then you can argue about who does the crossword.

19) Food: We all need to eat. However, some of us spend longer preparing what we eat than others. You can buy convenience foods down the supermarket, slam them in the microwave and serve them up in minutes, or else you can take all day to construct an exotic culinary masterpiece from the finest ingredients. For those that follow in the steps of St Delia, meals should always take at least ten times as long to prepare as they do to eat. Even better to grow some of the ingredients yourself, then you can waste even longer digging holes, battling greenfly, coaxing vegetables out of the ground, steaming them over the Aga, then watching in despair as the children push them all to the side of the plate wasted and uneaten. Me, I prefer faster food - well, less than three months in the preparation anyway.

20) Further education: It's Adult Learning week, so I thought I'd start with this one. Many people find lifelong learning gives them the opportunity to develop untapped abilities, and fills a good few hours of their spare time too. It's not all evening classes down at the community centre any more either. Now you can buy a complete pottery kit down the local craft shop and download instructions on how to use it off the internet, which saves all of that unpleasant mixing with other people and drinking nasty instant coffee out of plastic cups. Pick a course, unleash a hidden talent, stay sharp.

Boredom (noun)
the state of being bored by something tedious [syn: {ennui}, {tedium}]

How do you fill your time? There really is an awful lot of time in our lives needing to be filled - that's 24 hours daily, 10 thousand minutes weekly, and over 30 million seconds each year. Some people could fill their days many times over, never finding enough hours to get everything done. They wake up, the day passes in a blur of hyperactivity, and hey presto it's time to go to bed again. Lucky them. For other people each day is a potential avalanche of boredom. A featureless morning stretches out into an interminable afternoon, leading perhaps to a non-descript evening, this prescription to be repeated daily. Unlucky them. Most of us usually lie somewhere inbetween those two extremes, the odd seemingly-endless bout of clock-watching balanced out by physical activity and mental stimulation. We get bored sometimes, but we cope.

The human race treats boredom much as it would any other medical condition - it throws huge sums of money at the problem to try to make it go away. Multinational industries thrive on our need to repel boredom, forever attempting to convince us that inactivity is a socially unacceptable state of mind. Many people now grow up unable to cope with genuine boredom, becoming restless and impatient after only a few minutes of enforced silence. Our attention span is diminishing with each generation.

Over the years, people have found many different ways to avoid boredom, many different ways to fill their time. Over the next few days I'm going to list 20 of the most successful methods people use to keep boredom at bay. The list will reflect society's top time-fillers, and not necessarily my own. Maybe the list will be useful next time you're staring at a hole in your life and wondering how to fill it. Or maybe you use a lot of these methods yourself already, in which case you almost certainly won't have time to read any of it. Lucky you.


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chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv