diamond geezer

 Monday, March 31, 2003

The best of March

TV programme of the month: BBC News 24's continuous coverage of the recent international situation has been nothing less than thrilling. With so much happening in the Gulf, the channel's editors have never had to fill time with repeated interviews, uninformed speculation, overbearing graphics or endless footage of trucks driving through the desert. I've been hooked to my TV set over the last ten days, eagerly awaiting the latest developments happening live before my very eyes. I don't mind the fact that they never show any home news any more, because there isn't any, and I don't miss the regular weather forecasts either because the weather in the UK's been so predictable recently. OK, sorry, I'm lying.

Football result of the month: Chelsea 1, Arsenal 3. Still on course for the double, if not for the treble. And thank goodness we won that one, because I was starting to wonder if March would actually have a "Football result of the month".

Film of the month: I've not made even one visit to the cinema this month, which I blame on two things. Firstly a lack of decent films coming out of Hollywood at the moment, and secondly the arrival in my household of one DVD player. Yes, I know I said I'd never buy one, and I haven't, honest. I'm just babysitting it for someone who's no longer living in region 2, OK? The DVD player came complete with a set of 25 films to watch, although I've only felt motivated to watch two of them so far. I don't even own The Matrix for heavens sake. I really am, as I suspected, a DV-ant.

KieranAlbum of the month: The Picture Show by the Buffseeds. It's not been off my mp3 player for the last four weeks. Twelve guitar gems sung by the voice of an angel. If you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe BBC 6Music: "This is an album that immediately hooks you and is a natural for the repeat button on your CD player." Or The Fly magazine: "Kieran's finely-tuned shrill injects a passion into his lyrics that is unmatchable. Compellingly perfect, It's why this album's so peerless. Albums of this calibre are rare enough to warrant a protection order. So buy it, love it and do something with the feeling it gives you." Available now in all good record stores for under a tenner. Beats Coldplay anyway.

NeilGig of the month: Ah, that would be the Buffseeds again, this time at the Metro Club in Oxford Street. Let's head to BBCi for a review this time: "The rhythm-driven numbers were mixed into a set of real heartbreakers like Strawberry and Sunlight, and within the slower tracks lay the secret to Buffseeds' magic. Their song writing is pure gold. Endlessly melodic, lead singer and guitarist Kieran Scragg holds within his vertically challenged frame a voice of such maturity and subtlety that it's difficult to imagine Buffseeds songs ever being attempted at Karaoke nights. This is a good thing. When you have songs like Sparkle Me in your repertoire - a poignant and full-bodied tune that includes the masterstroke lyric "pass the tear gas, I've forgotten how to cry" - then you could be forgiven for being a little smug. But Buffseeds are anything but. The spherical sound of keyboard player Neil Reed's organ gains him quite a fan club, though some may have mistaken him for a young Daniel Day-Lewis. Easily done. Meanwhile, Joel Scragg seems interested in nothing other than playing his bass, content to let drummer Ella Lewis supply the infectious energy." One day, when they're famous, I'll be able to tell you 'I was there'.

Single of the month: Er, is it just me, or have there been no good singles out this month. Please tell me it's the latter.

Unexpected band website of the month: Remember 2wo Third3, easily the greatest band of 1994? Thought not. The three blokes in the band only had four singles, and only two of those were hits, but they were synthesised excellence. Hear me calling is a masterpiece, and you might agree if only you'd ever heard it. Admittedly the band were managed by fat Svengali Tom Watkins, and they were probably over-hyped, and the name was a bit silly, but they disappeared from the pop firmament far far too quickly. The band had a fourth member, a cartoon character known as Biff, the alter ego of producer Richard Stannard who went on to much greater things. Anyway, I had thought that nobody else out there remembered 2wo Third3 until I discovered another fan in Popjustice, and a proper website. Now it turns out they recorded a lost album that was never released, and I want a copy. I want the world, and I want it right now. 2wo Third3 - gone, but not forgotten.

Revived radio show of the month: Remember Fist of Fun? Good old Radio 7, the latest digital jewel from the BBC, is replaying the original radio series of the Lee and Herring Radio Show and it's nostalgic brilliance. It's great to hear Rich and Stew's classic dialogue again, all best washed down with a flask of weak lemon drink. If you were ever a fan, clicking on the links in this paragraph will keep you busy for hours. The rest of you, you just want the moon on a stick you do.

 Sunday, March 30, 2003

Ribbon development

First came yellow ribbons - used by many as a visible act of remembrance for an absent loved-one (since the dawn of time?). Today's jingoistic News of the World jumps on the yellow ribbon bandwagon by launching "a great Yellow Ribbon campaign to mark the nation's pride and support for Our Heroes in the Gulf—and to wish them a safe return home. We want everyone in Britain to pin a Yellow Ribbon to their chest—and we have enough to provide one FREE to EVERY reader. To get yours, complete the coupon." Must be a light news day in the Gulf. That or Rupert Murdoch's after an honorary knighthood.

ribbon overloadLater came red ribbons - the global symbol of solidarity with people living with HIV and AIDS. The red ribbon was launched in 1991, into an America already full of yellow ribbons being worn to remember soldiers fighting in the Gulf War. The red ribbon campaign has been a huge success, raising awareness across the world and saving lives along the way. In the same year came pink ribbons - the symbol for breast cancer awareness. So far, so worthy.

ribbon overloadAnd then came ribbon overload. Every campaign, big or small, now wants its own ribbon. Yellow, red and pink may have been taken, but charities and pressure groups still scrabble around madly to hijack whatever colours or combinations of colours remain unclaimed. There's a fascinating list of online ribbon campaigns here, and a very clever "Ribbon-o-matic" here to help you to create a unique ribbon logo for your new campaign. Sadly however, the impact of ribbons on the public consciousness has now been diluted through serious overuse.

Here's a list of some important ribbon campaigns you might otherwise have missed:
Blue: Free Speech Online; Light blue: International No Diet Day; Lime green: I am not a geek; Grey: Remember the Titanic; Black: Support the Amish; Red, white and blue: 9/11, Protect the flag; Avocado: Ban the stupid; White with black spots: Cow appreciation; Every colour: Protest against everything; Invisible: Nonsense on the net; Fluorescent clear: Campaign against ribbons.

Tonight's TV? If only.

Summer Time: I've written about this before, so I won't go into great detail again, but:
• What a pity today's only 23 hours long, the weather's gorgeous.
• As well as losing an hour, I've also lost another half hour changing the time on 17 different clocks. Bet I've missed one too.
• Americans don't put their clocks forward for another week, so for the next seven days Tony and George will be even further apart than normal.

 Saturday, March 29, 2003

Humanitarian aid required

It's official. Today, nearly three months after I got back from the US, my supply of Oreos finally ran out. There are no more chocolate cookie sandwiches in my kitchen. Chocolate Hobnobs are all very well, but somehow they're not quite Oreos. Clearly I didn't cram enough blue packets into my hand luggage. Meanwhile I'm also down to my last six packets of cinnamon Tic Tacs. I had previously thought that the world's best ever red sweet ceased production in the 1980s, but apparently in America they're still going strong, which is just how I like them.

It's not all bad news on the American food front though. They've finally decided to launch Vanilla Coke on this side of the Atlantic, which opens up a whole new way to rot English teeth. Vanilla Coke has that special tang of cream soda, a drink I've always loved, although in its new incarnation it's hard to sustain the enjoyment past the first four mouthfuls. Meanwhile I remain grateful that the chocolate of evil, the Hershey's bar, remains virtually unknown over here. This best-selling American chocolate tastes almost as repellent as it smells, and the US army could easily oppress most of Baghdad into submission if they deployed a tankful of bars strategically.

Some other sweet memories I'd like to see relaunched, please.
Amazin' raisin bar, Banjo, Double Agents sweets, Fruitella, Ice Breaker, Milk Tray in a bar, Pacers, Pink Panther bar, Savoury Vinegar crisps, Space Dust, Spangles, Starbar, Texan bar, United biscuit, white chocolate mice.
Please note I'm only posting this list so that smug confectionery connoisseurs can write me some "actually, this is still available..." comments.

vun.... two.... three....The re-Count

If you remember, I spent the whole of February counting certain things that happened to me and reporting back here on how the count was going. The results were either quite interesting or else extremely dull, depending on your point of view. But how well have those ten counts been going since? I've not been deliberately counting any more, so I couldn't tell you how many cups of tea I've drunk or bottles of Becks I've been drunk after, but I can report back on how some of the counts have been adding up recently. I know it's not the end of March yet but, for proper comparison with February, I'd thought I'd better stop after four weeks. Statistically sound, me.

Count 1 (Blog visitors): Nearly three thousand people have logged in to diamond geezer in the last month. That's up from about 75 a day to about 95 a day, which is nice. At this rate the whole population of the London will be logging in by Christmas 2006, in which case I'd better be careful what I write about them. During March I've also found a great additional way of tracking all my visitors (via Bitful). It's a stats service / hit counter with a traffic monitor that plays a sound every time your website gets a hit. Every beep makes me smile (at least until the entire population of London tries logging on, at which point I may turn the sound off). It's inconspicuous (just a 1x1 transparent pixel included on your site). It's beautifully designed. It's free. It's highly recommended. It's here.
Total number of visitors to this webpage in February: 2141
Total number of visitors to this webpage in March: 2704 (up 26%)

Count 3 (Blog content): I thought I'd written more this month. I was right. I've written 26% more, and meanwhile my number of visitors has increased by 26%. I wonder if they are perhaps related.
Total number of kilobytes of diamondgeezer in February: 108
Total number of kilobytes of diamondgeezer in March: 137 (up 26%)

Count 4 (Spam): The spamming of my inbox is getting worse. I've set up Mailwasher to try to bounce some of it back, but still it comes thick and fast. Particularly thick. The Nigerians may have gone away, but I'm being assaulted by someone who seems to think I have an interest in art auctions, a company that transports automobiles across the United States, businesses who want me to work at home send them all my money, and the usual range of prescription drug dealers. Apparently 90% of all spam received in Europe and the US comes from barely 150 spammers, 40 of whom live in one area of Florida. Maybe one day one of them will surprise me and send me some well-targeted spam I'm actually interested in, but no sign of brain activity out there yet.
Total number of spam emails I received in February: 30
Total number of spam emails I received in March: 72 (up 140%)

Count 5 (Nights out): I suspected I'd never be able to live up to my February total, but I've had fun trying. I'm going to blame Hollywood, who've spent March releasing films I don't want to see. I'm going to blame London Underground for its continued shutdown of the Central Line, making travel to the West End a right hassle (I'm getting just a little tired of the walk to/from Embankment station now, thankyou). And I'm going to blame... well, ok, me really.
The number of nights in February I went out and was vaguely sociable: 21
The number of nights in March I went out and was vaguely sociable: 15 (down 29%)

Count 10 (Mystery count): The mystery count has doubled in March. Enough said.

 Friday, March 28, 2003

Blog Art

Tick/untick the boxes and see what you can draw.
A flower maybe, or a cat, or a geometric pattern, or a map of Liechtenstein, or Catherine Zeta-Jones, or Baghdad by night, or a soldier driving a tank across a desert.
It's over to you to express yourself. We've got our psychologist on stand-by.

Thank you for all your pictures. I'm sorry we cannot return any to you, but we give a prize for all those we show.

The 7am puzzle: Starting with the pattern above, and without ticking the box in the centre, check the boxes so that there are exactly seven ticks in each row and seven ticks in each column.

 Thursday, March 27, 2003

Extra dry

It's been three weeks since it last rained in London. It might, just possibly, rain here on Saturday, but otherwise the drought is set to continue into next week as well. This is bad news to some but, given that I don't have a garden outside busily dying on me, I'm perfectly happy with the current lack of rainfall. No doubt we can all expect a hosepipe ban by the middle of next week, standpipes in the street by the middle of next month, water rationing by the middle of next year and the Sahara Desert encroaching across what used to be the English Channel by the middle of next century.

Britain's longest ever drought was recorded right here in London E3, exactly 110 years ago. 1893 brought an exceptional spring of heat, sunshine and lack of rain, with dry weather settling in during the first few days of March and lasting until early July. Mile End in the east end of London saw no measurable rainfall for more than two months, from 4th March to 15th May 1893. Those 73 consecutive dry days have never been equalled at any other time in any other place across the UK since weather records began. Meanwhile the ten driest towns in the country are also all to be found in south-east England (Thurrock, Sheerness and Felixstowe are the top three, followed by Dagenham, Tilbury, Southend, Colchester, Ipswich, Cambridge and Ely). This is because, as any geography student knows, by the time big grey rainclouds have blown eastwards all the way across the country from the Atlantic, they've normally dumped most of their load on south Wales instead. Perfect.

UK weather quick quiz
Can you match the following UK weather records to the place where they happened?

1) Highest ever UK temperature (3 August 1990, 37.1°C): Chelsea, Chelmsford or Cheltenham?
2) Least ever sunshine (December 1890, no sunshine at all): Westminster, Weston-Super-Mare or Wick?
3) Most rainfall ever recorded in 2½ hours (14 August 1975, 159mm): Hampstead, Halifax or Harris (Western Isles)?
4) Highest ever December temperature (2 December 1948, 18.3°C): Achnashellach (NW Scotland) or Rickmansworth (Herts)?
5) Lowest mean December temperature: Achnashellach (NW Scotland) or Rickmansworth (Herts)?


 Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Are blogs like newspapers, or are newspapers like blogs? I only ask because, reading my paper on the train this morning, it felt instead like I was at home sat at my computer clicking through blogworld. I should say that I'm not talking about the main part of the newspaper here (that's the part where the real news now starts on page 12), but the quirkier pullout magazine-like type section. Today there was someone writing about what it's like to give up smoking, an article about new mothers' use of internet chatrooms, a 'what kind of hypocrite are you?' quiz, a review of last night's excellent post-Newsnight TV dramas, a piece on the booming birth rate nine months after England's World Cup campaign last summer (see my page yesterday), a tinned menu for emergency bunker cuisine (see my page last Tuesday) and a brief history of tea in Britain and how to brew it. Add to this a selection of articles about "pre-page-12 news" from a variety of original angles, and it all looks very much like the content of any ten typical amalgamated blogs. On Monday the newspaper lifted a whole three pages word-for-word from the online diary of the Baghdad blogger, a series continued today, and then today there's also another whole page listing the rules for an imaginary drinking game. Admittedly the imaginary drinking game is fantastic, but it seems that the press may have crossed a thin here line in reprinting whole chunks of web content in order to fill newspapers. (If you're reading this in tomorrow morning's edition, I do hope the editor's paid me at current journalistic rates). But I still wonder how long it will be before newspapers really do look like blogs. Or is that until blogs look like newspapers?

map of persiaThe war game

• The two-player game of chess originated around the Persian Gulf in the 6th century AD.
• Chess was invented as a substitute for war, or as a bloodless training ground for war.
• The word chess means "The Game of Kings", from the Persian word shah meaning king.
• The world's earliest written references to chess are to be found in Persian literature.
• The first pieces were pawn, chariot (rook), cavalry (knight), elephant (bishop), and king.
• Persians introduced a new piece, the counsellor, who later changed sex to become a queen.
• The game was originally played using dice, intended to signify communication with the gods.
• The ancient game of chess was complex and often slow, taking a very long time to complete.
• Chess spread westwards in the 7th century AD when the Arab empire overran Persia.

• A chess board is always placed with a white square in the bottom right-hand corner. Remember - "White is Right".
• The aim of the game of chess is to trap and capture the opponent's king.
• An advance guard of pawns advances up the board, with the rest of the army following on behind.
• One piece captures another by moving onto its position following the rules of engagement.
• It is not possible to capture or destroy one's own pieces, even by mistake.
• Any player with an advantage in material is much more likely to win the game, as superior force is usually victorious.
• When the king is threatened by an opponent's piece, this is known as check.
Checkmate occurs when one side forces the king into a situation from which he cannot escape.
Stalemate occurs when the player whose turn it is to move is has no legal moves.
• So long as the king survives, the game will continue.

 Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Please do not have sex today

I should qualify that statement, and say that it only applies to fertile heterosexual couples engaging in penetrative intercourse without the use of contraception. If you should fall into that category, I'd like to assure you that my warning is based on sound scientific fact. Please read the following information very carefully. It could save a life.

Please do not have sex today

Spring is in the air, and young couples' thoughts are turning more and more to love, romance and shagging. A bit of warmth and sunshine can have strange effects on the human libido, making it all too easy to get carried away by carnal thoughts. Just one unplanned kiss can lead to full-on sexual arousal and, before you know where you are, you've ended up in the bedroom engaged in intimate physical contact. So I'm told. Should you find yourself in this situation today, stop immediately.

If you engage in penetrative intercourse today without the use of contraception, one of you risks getting pregnant. If you get pregnant today, you'll probably give birth to a baby in nine months time. If you give birth to a baby in nine months time... well, just look at the calendar. Work it out for yourself. Think before you shag.

No child deserves to be born on Christmas Day. Nobody wants their birthday to be overshadowed by the biggest national celebration of the year. Nothing is more guaranteed to give a child major personality problems later in life than to share their birthday with the baby Jesus. Is five minutes of horizontal ecstacy today worth the lifetime of personal trauma to follow? Don't do it.

Jesus is very appropriate as a role model for the child with a Christmas birthday because He only got given a total of three birthday presents too. No doubt each of the wise men told him "I've brought you one big combined present, honest", even though they were secretly relieved at not having to bring two. Any child with a Christmas birthday has to survive 364 days gift-free, with merely the promise of something meagre and average at the end of the present-drought. Meanwhile for the rest of the year they get to watch siblings and friends receiving double the presents, double the attention, and thereby double the love. A Christmas birthday also means a birthday party amalgamated with the festive celebrations. There may be a large birthday cake but, by the time everyone's stuffed themselves with turkey and pudding, nobody can ever face eating even a small slice of it. This is enough to scar any impressionable child for life, and all because you failed to consider the consequences of having sex today. It's inconceivable.

Children born on Christmas Day are always at serious risk of being given an embarrassingly festive name. Are children born in August ever called Carol, or Holly, or Robin? I think not. And just think of all the people you know called Noel. Yes, him for example. All Noels are highly likely to exhibit some signs of personal trauma caused by resentment towards inconsiderate parents. Yes, precisely that sort of trauma. You don't want to risk your child suing you for emotional scarring in later life do you? Abstain today.

If you have a Christmas baby, you're also responsible for bringing another Capricorn into the world. Stubborn, inflexible and goal oriented, they often jump to conclusions and miss the big picture. Is this what you want in your family? Cross your legs for a few weeks and have a nice well-adjusted Aquarian instead. Hold it in.

So, there you have it. Unprotected sex today will mean an unhappy and maladjusted life for your son or daughter in the future. Please remember this important advice should spring fever strike today and you find yourself rampaging towards the bedroom whilst ripping one another's clothes off. You may feel like getting stuck in and reaching orgasm, but for one sperm and one egg there'll be a lifetime of psychologists' bills to pay. Please do not have sex today.

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

 Monday, March 24, 2003

heads or tailsHeads or tails?

I can be very indecisive sometimes. At least, I think I can be.

When I'm forced to make a decision, I'll often use some random means to help me make up my mind. For example, when my flat needs cleaning when I decide my flat needs cleaning, I have been known to number all the rooms from 1 to 6 and then roll a dice to see which room I get to clean first. (For some reason it's always the bathroom, by the way). However, any major decision I have to make can be usually reduced to a mere yes/no answer, in which case the toss of a coin can be the perfect way to decide on the outcome.

As we all know from (very) elementary probability, a coin will always land either heads up or tails up, with a 50/50 chance of each. Of course, like all the best mathematical models, that's not entirely true. If you toss an American penny there's a slightly higher probability of getting tails rather than heads. That's because the heads picture weighs slightly more, so it ends up on the bottom more often. There's also a tiny chance that any coin will land on its edge, a probability that can be greatly increased by standing in the middle of a muddy field. Meanwhile coin tossing is in fact a predictable process following predefined physical laws of motion and isn't really random at all. A well-designed mechanical gadget could flip a properly-positioned coin so that it always landed showing the same face. Honest. If you're worried by all this uncertainty and you want to practise flipping coins to see how not-quite-but-nearly-fair they really are, try this simulation here. But let's ignore all that - 50/50 it is.

So, when there's a burning question that needs to be answered, a coin is perfect. Simply assign one option to 'heads' and the other option to 'tails', commit yourself to the decision of the coin, and flip away. Should you not have access to a real coin*, below is a way to flip a simulated coin online instead. You can choose to flip a coin from the country of your choice so that, for example, major economic referendum issues could be decided by the tossing of a Euro, whereas Middle Eastern countries could be invaded on the flip of a quarter. Your own personal burning question is probably less world-shattering, but type in your two options below and see what the coin toss tells you.

*Please note: "If you were born recently in the United States, you may never have seen one of these strange artefacts known as a "coin". Coins were a popular form of currency before the advent of credit cards, and are preserved here in digital form, should they disappear from the real world in the next 20 or so years."

From bitter experience I can guarantee that, every single time you decide to base your decision-making on one flip of a coin, it always comes up with the option you didn't want to choose. You hadn't consciously realised this beforehand but, once the coin has spoken, it's suddenly crystal clear that this was the option not to proceed with. If the coin has chosen heads you always end up deciding to go with the tails option instead, and vice versa. You can delude yourself that it was the coin made the decision, not you, but in fact you've ended up doing what you secretly wanted to do all along.

I discovered the coin-flipper about two hours ago, and I asked the oracle whether or not I should go out for the evening.
If it's Heads: go out to the cinema
If it's Tails: stay in

It came up heads, but instead I've spent the evening researching coin-tossing online and writing this. Which, of course, is what I secretly wanted to do all along. Well, there's nothing on at the cinema at the moment, is there? Maybe tomorrow.

Tell me what the coin decides for you...

Oxymorons: act naturally, airline food, lost property, small crowd, exact estimate, sweet sorrow, plastic glasses, pretty ugly, rap music, working holiday, global village, business ethics, government organisation, Microsoft Works, religious tolerance, American history, peacekeeping force, military intelligence, friendly fire, good grief.

If you're here looking for the bit about cinema audiences... hi, welcome, and it's here.

 Sunday, March 23, 2003

nostalgiafestThat was then...

Vision On: Probably the most innovative children's programmes of its time, Vision On ran in the UK from 1964 to 1977. Often quite surreal, with quirky animation, it was also unique in that it was designed for hearing and non-hearing children alike. The series was essentially art-based but would often go off on extreme tangents. Click away on the links below and transport yourself back to Thursday teatimes past.

• The show was hosted by the inimitable Tony Hart (interview here), later to achieve immortality with Take Hart and Morph. Alongside Tony was former actress Pat Keysell, who had been working with the deaf for a number of years, teaching drama and mime.
And now here's The Gallery. Thank you for all your pictures. I'm sorry we cannot return any to you, but we give a prize for all those we show.
Wilf Lunn designed the weird and wacky inventions, then later also appeared in Jigsaw (1979-1984) (ahhh, Jigsaw...)
• Another Vision On character was the Prof, often to be found climbing ladders into thin air or sitting in a deckchair while the tide came in over him. Actor David Cleveland is now busy running the East Anglian Film Archive, and also hosts an excellent website with classic Vision On music playing in the background.
• Strange that a programme for the deaf should have had such fantastic and memorable music. If you need to hunt any of that music down, the theme to the Gallery was Left Bank 2 by the Noveltones (listen here), while the cuckoo clock animation music was Gurney Slade by Max Harris.

Krazy comic: Easily the best comic in the history of the world (well, 1976-78 anyway). Chock-full of witty asides, tiny printed jokes and illustrations tucked between the panels, and every week the back cover was 'disguised' in some ridiculous way, the first issue like a maths exercise book, the second like a naff place mat, etc. Top characters included Handy Andy (we're talking shadow puppets here, not DIY), Birdman and Chicken (the boy blunder). Ray Presto (the magician) and, of course, the Krazy Gang. Every issue also featured a pull-out 'Badtime Bedtime Book', where the excellent Leo Baxendale would illustrate some twisted updated fairy tale. I bought every issue of Krazy comic until its demise, but alas I only kept four of them. They may none of them be the first edition of Superman, but they're priceless to me.

The bubble burst: After your five minutes of fame is over, expect to end up here. Catch up on Aled Jones, Betty Boo, Rick Astley, Gordon the Gopher, the Rentaghost crew, the Littlest Hobo and Fred Housego, amongst others.

Relive TV opening credits: Wow.

...but this is now

Just in case you think I live in the past too much, here's three excellent blog-type sites that keep me in touch with today:
the custard: listings, news and gossip about all the TV programmes people really watch.
lowculture: don't be ashamed, we all prefer low culture to high culture. Even Karl Marx said so.
popjustice: no ageing rock dinosaurs here, just plain unadulterated modern pop.

 Saturday, March 22, 2003

Tw* th*rd*

It's come to my attention that less people read my blog on a Saturday than on any other day of the week. In fact, only two thirds as many people visit here on a Saturday compared to my normal weekday traffic. I'm sure many of you read blogs while you're at work, or even write them at work, so I should expect to get less hits at the weekend. Also I suspect a lot of you actually have a life at weekends, out shopping somewhere or doing some thrilling DIY or something, so you have no time to log on and read. So, as a result I've decided to put a bit less effort into my Saturday posting. If you can't be bothered to drop by, then I'll only do two thirds as much as usual today. It's your own fault...

Slow train ******: Why are *** the trains ** South London ** incredibly slow? ** North London *** trains seem ** go faster. ** my experience *** South London **** crawl slowly ******* stations, wait *** hours in *** stations, and ******** go nowhere **** fast. Maybe **'* Connex who *** to blame ***, whatever the ******, it's like ***** back in *** 19th century. * almost expect ** see men **** red flags ******* in front ** the trains. ** always seems ** take ages ** escape back ** modern civilisation ** North London **** you're travelling ** only a ********* ten miles ** hour. It ***** beats driving ******.

Rolling news *******: I watched **** four hours ** digital channel *** News 24 **** last night *** this morning. **** showed endless ***** coverage of *** situation in ****, repeating the **** images, reports *** interviews over *** over again. **'* very hard ** imagine **** there are **** viewing figures *** rolling news **** this, but ***** the BBC ***** pumping out ***** of speculation, **********, fireworks displays *** tank convoys. ** be honest, * am bored ****-less by *** this saturation ** coverage, replacing ** favourite programmes **** news reports. *** crisis in **** is important, ****** don't get ** wrong. However, ** for the ****** TV coverage, ***** I really ***'* give a ****.

*****: * ***'* ** ******** ** ***** **** ***.

 Friday, March 21, 2003

The 7am link (Friday): It's official. It's the end.

Spring Equinox (00:59 GMT)

One complete wall of my office is covered by a breathtaking work of art. I can stare at this masterpiece for hours, seeing something new and awe-inspiring in the picture every day. It's a classic composition, built up with depth in layers over many years. Colours blend subtly as the eye wanders across the panorama, juxtaposing natural beauty with artificial sculpture. The artist has combined classical formations, gothic structures and contemporary influences in a fantastically complex gallery of contrasting styles. My daily work of art is a glass-framed landscape entitled "View over London from the 7th floor".

I never fail to be impressed by the view from my office window. In my last job I had the less-than-stunning view of the side of a Courts furniture warehouse. Today I can see Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Battersea Power Station, the London Eye (full on, so it looks like a perfect circle) and the brick minaret of Westminster Cathedral. Rather more impressive, I think you'll agree. Swivel a little further round and there's St Paul's, and the new Gherkin, with Canary Wharf beyond. In the far distance I can see the Crystal Palace TV mast and the rolling suburban foothills of south-east London. Aeroplanes fly over this patchwork of history, on some days huge jets lumbering into Heathrow, on other days tiny planes twisting towards City Airport. Tourists would pay a fortune for a room with this view, and I have the privilege of staring at it every day.

My desk is positioned just above treetop level, overlooking Green Park. In a few weeks time I shall be looking out over an ocean of green, with the flagpole of Buckingham Palace sticking up like a tiny periscope trying to peer above the new-born leaves. Until then, bare branches with budding blossoms allow me to see through right down to the Royal park below. Beds of bobbing yellow daffodils bring colour to the landscape, and smiles to the faces of passers-by. Now office workers and tourists can be seen across the park enjoying some long-forgotten sunshine and almost-warmth. Ball games, deckchairs and blokes-in-shorts are starting to make a reticent comeback. Spring is finally here, and the best six months of the year have finally begun.

When the next spring equinox comes round I expect I'll have been moved to a different office, on a different floor, with a different view of London, probably of a brick wall or a basement knowing my luck. Some might call it modern art, but I'll be pining for my classic landscape. In the meantime I'll continue to watch the seasons spread across the canvas of the capital with awe and wonder. And I promise to get some work done inbetween, honest.

 Thursday, March 20, 2003

You have mail

The postman brought me a letter at 11:30 on Tuesday morning. I was impressed, because the postman normally doesn't bring me my letters until the afternoon. When I lived in an obscure village in Suffolk I used to receive my post by 7:30 every morning, in time to open it before I went to work and to act on the contents if required. Now that I live in the middle of the biggest city in Northern Europe, my post doesn't arrive until lunchtime, if I'm lucky.

The postman brought me a letter at 11:30 on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately I was out. I got home on Tuesday evening to find the dreaded card in my letterbox, the card that says "We're holding an item of mail for you". What this really translates as is "We're holding an item of your property hostage in our concrete fortress over a mile away, merely becase it was slightly too big for your letterbox and because you were thoughtless enough to be out of the house when we finally wandered round and tried to deliver it. We might be open for a few hours or so over the next week should you want waste valuable minutes of your own time travelling out of your way to try to pick the package up, otherwise we'll send it back to its owner and then it'll probably get lost in our system forever."

I walked round to my local sorting office tonight to pick up the mystery package. It took me fifteen minutes to walk there from my local tube station because some Victorian had decided to build the main railway line to East Anglia directly across my intended path. Thankfully I arrived minutes before the office was due to shut down for the evening. I was pleased I'd remembered to bring some identification with me, unlike the lady in front of me who got sent home for being potentially not who she said she was. And I left clutching a brown cardboard package from Amazon, containing two very late but very welcome birthday presents.

Amazon had packaged my two gifts inside a particularly large cardboard shield. This meant that they arrived in pristine condition (and, if you know me, you'll know that I like my books in absolutely pristine condition, and to stay that way even after I've read them). Unfortunately it also meant that they no longer fitted through my letter box. I have a reasonable sized letterbox, and a good depth inside that could take even an above-average-length package. Unfortunately the aperture was just a couple of centimetres too narrow. Had Amazon used slightly less rainforest to surround my two small cuboids, I could have enjoyed my birthday presents 48 hours earlier.

One day the Post Office will find a solution to the 'delivering oversized and/or special mail while the householder is out' problem. Until then the true potential for web shopping will not be realised, because all the things you buy via the net have to be delivered to your home and few of them will fit through your letter box. Everything else either has to be collected or a delivery time arranged for when you are at home to sign for the goods. I hope that one day the Post Office gets round to installing a smart lockable box on all our doorsteps, because then I can order whatever I like, within reason, and be sure it'll be at home even if I'm not. One day.

I arrived home from the sorting office this evening and took a look inside my mail box. I found one council tax bill, one pizza delivery leaflet... and a card from the sorting office saying they were holding another item of mail for me. Sigh. One day.

The 7am link (Thursday): Adam is a social anthropologist working at the University of Surrey, conducting research on the culture of web logging in London. Since August 2001, he has been reading web logs and interviewing members of the UK blogging community. AnthroBlog is first and foremost his web log, but it's also a site where he hopes to explore ongoing issues and themes of fieldwork.

... and last night he interviewed me. It was a fascinating chat, and it's intriguing to think that this site was deemed worthy of university research. I can strongly recommend donating your brain to science, not only because because it really makes you think, but also because the hot chocolate was excellent.

 Wednesday, March 19, 2003

20 from the 80s

Thanks to the Big Man Restless for the 80s pop quiz at the Retro bar last night. He put together the usual marvellous nostalgic selection of music, and my hastily-compiled team of three tried to work out what all the tracks were. We dropped only half a mark, storming to victory with an unexpectedly magnificent 19½ out of 20. Even better, we avoided the booby prize (the Gareth Gates Comic Relief single) and walked off with a much less sugary chocolate Easter egg each instead. To round off a great night I even bumped into one of my brother's best friends from school as well, although it took us a while to work out how we actually knew each other (Is it? It is, isn't it?). His team didn't win though. Sorry, did I mention that my team won?

Reproduced below are the twenty 80s questions. (Well, that's reproduced as as far as it is possible to reproduce a music quiz without music. Questions 14 and 16 really don't work without sound, so have two free marks to start you off.)
How would you have done? Answers in the 'comments' box.

Name the one hit wonders associated with these one hits.
1) Dance hall days (January 1984)
2) The future's so bright I gotta wear shades (January 1987)
3) Never never (November 1983)
4) Twilight cafe (January 1981)

Name that Fruit
5) ...in the title of a Kajagoogoo single from September 1983.

Here are three song titles containing brackets. (What goes in the brackets?)
6) Scritti Politti - Wood beez (?)
7) Culture Club - Time (?)
8) Twisted Sister - I am (?)

What, exactly, are the next twelve words in this Thompson Twins hit?
9) "Somebody's watching me, and now i'm nervous and I shouldn't be. Somebody's got their eye on me, perhaps I should invite him up for tea? We saw him smoking by the newspaper stand, there's something odd about his gloved left hand. Saw him again inside the old cafe, he makes us tense we wish he'd go away"

These songs were all the less well-known side of a double A-sided 80s single. Name the more well-known A-sides.
10) Kraftwerk - Computer love
11) Spandau Ballet - Glow
12) The Jam - Precious
13) Depeche Mode - Somebody

15) Arrange these ABC hits in chronological order
a) Be near me; b) When Smokey sings; c) That was then but this is now; d) All of my heart.

Name the bands.
17) Living by numbers (January 1980)
18) Live it up (February 1987)
19) Living on video (July 1985)

Haysi Fantayzee's Shiny Shiny, The B52s' (Song for a) Future generation and the Human League's (Keep feeling) Fascination.
20) Name the year.

The 7am link (Wednesday): Never my mind my birthday last week, this is far more of a milestone. I am twenty million minutes old today. That's also exactly one third of a million hours. Sadly nobody sent me a card (it would have to have been quite a big card I guess), neither have I received a telegram from the Queen. Perhaps I'll have more luck when I'm fifteen thousand days old in three years time.
(Oh, and a special mention to anyone who's had their 31st birthday recently... one billion seconds is coming up for you soon)

 Tuesday, March 18, 2003

it could never happen hereProtect and survive

Dear householder,

For over 50 years our country, with our allies, has sought to avoid war by deterring potential aggressors. Some disagree as to the means we should use. But whatever view we take, we should surely all recognise the need - and indeed the duty - to protect our civil population if an attack were to be made upon us; and therefore to prepare accordingly.

Five essentials for your survival

1) Drinking Water
: You will need enough drinking water to allow you to survive unaided in your own home for fourteen days. You are unlikely to be able to use the mains water supply after a chemical or biological attack, so prepare your drinking water beforehand by filling bottles. Any bottles will do. You don't have to go and buy Perrier or Evian or any poncy natural water like you normally do. Tap water's improved a lot over the last few years you know. It won't matter whether it's still, sparkling or has natural spring minerals when you're gasping with thirst after two weeks. Do you realise how expensive it is to fill the bath with Volvic for heaven's sake? Go fill a bucket or two from the cold tap now, before it's too late.

2) Food: Don't forget to watch Delia's new BBC series "How to survive", which will be broadcast on all channels in the run-up to any potential attack. Stock enough food for fourteen days. Choose foods which can be eaten cold, which keep fresh, and which are tinned or well wrapped. Remember that your microwave won't work without electricity and that kebabs tend to go mouldy even before you get them back from the takeaway. Remember that pasta is not a staple foodstuff when it's completely al dente. If the emergency continues, be prepared to eat all the Quality Street in the tin, even the nasty yellow ones that nobody actually likes.

3) Tin Opener: Government statisticians have estimated that, across the country, approximately 12,517 families will enter their protective shelter with copious supplies of tinned food but without a tin opener. These families will realise their fatal mistake approximately six minutes after the onset of terrorist attack, at which point husband and wife will immediately blame each other, start a fight by lobbing the tins at one other and suffer serious injuries greater than any that would be caused by gradual starvation. Make sure this isn't you - keep your tin opener with you at all times.

4) Portable Radio and Spare Batteries: Your radio will be your only link with the outside world. You will need to listen for instructions about what to do after the attack while you remain in hiding from smallpox, nuclear fallout or hordes of rampaging asylum seekers. Don't be surprised if you find that Terry Wogan, Sara Cox and those nice people from Classic FM have been replaced by a serious-sounding bloke with a plummy voice warning you to stay at home because your town is under curfew. However much it may sound to you like the introduction to a Frankie Goes To Hollywood classic, be warned that this air attack warning is likely to be the real thing.

5) Warm Clothing: Go hunt through your wardrobe for your warmest clothing, because once the central heating goes off some of you lily-livered modern citizens are going to discover what it really used to feel like living in Victorian times. This is no Channel 4 historical reality programme, this is for real. Nobody will give a damn whether you're wearing your best designer wear or not, so don't be afraid to wear that hideous green woollen sweater your aunt knitted you one Christmas. It's warm, and in a nuclear winter that's all that matters. You might also want to wrap yourself in black bin liners as a precautionary measure. Not only will this help to preserve body heat, it'll also make disposal of your corpse by the authorities much easier too.

Her Majesty's Government wishes you all the best in these difficult times. We're not doing this to be popular, you know, we're doing it because we believe it to be right. Do remember this while you're decomposing in the cupboard under the stairs. However, we would appreciate it if you could make every effort to stay alive at all costs if at all possible, because the Prime Minister would like to be able to count on your vote in the first election after the emergency situation is over. It may be safe to come out by 2006. We'll see you then.

Yours faithfully
UK Resilence

Bugger, look at that - it's not a joke after all...

 Monday, March 17, 2003

In 'other' news...

What's in and what's out? The takeaway latte has become something so typical of people's lives that the UK Government is this week starting to include it as a official measure for the economy. It is joining the "shopping basket" on which the country's inflation figures are calculated.

Dog breath A TV advertisement featuring a man "vomiting" up a live dog has been pulled after record complaints from viewers. In the ad, a man who has collapsed on a couch is seen to retch and then vomit up a wet, hairy dog. It beat the record of 540 complaints previously set by an ad for Levi's jeans which featured a dead hamster in 1998.

Under the bridge The 19th annual World Championship Pooh-sticks race has taken place in Oxfordshire. Between 1,500 and 2,000 turned out to watch and take part in the event, based on A.A. Milne's tales about Winnie the Pooh and friends. Local girl Becky Aran, 10, from Wantage, took away the first prize of a gold medal and a Winnie the Pooh teddy bear in the individual competition.

Herring things A fish heading for slaughter in a New York market shouted warnings about the end of the world before it was killed, two fish cutters have claimed. Many members of the city's Jewish community are now certain that God, troubled by the prospect of war in Iraq, has revealed Himself in fish form. Mr Rosen seems to have become rather tired of being questioned about his incredible experience. "Ah, enough already about the fish," Mr Rosen said.

The links effect: To celebrate the 8000th visitor to this site, I'd like to thank all those without whom I'd never have reached that total. Half of my 8000 visitors have come here via links on other blogs. Here's the Top 20 linking blogs, by volume of visitors clicking here from there:
1) arseblog (364 visitors)
2) swish cottage (319 visitors)
3) by a woman (289 visitors)
4) my ace life (213 visitors)
5) blue witch (185 visitors)
6) bitful (162 visitors)
7) big n juicy (108 visitors)
8) rogue semiotics (95 visitors)
9) coopblog (79 visitors)
10) scaryduck (53 visitors)
11) burnt toast
12) getting on
13) troubled diva
14) mad musings of me
15) big man restless
16) a large mango
17) blahblogger
18) oddverse
19) london calling
20) the brick
And, fingers crossed, some of you reading this list will click on some of the links above, and the whole wonderful feedback loop will continue.

The 7am link (Monday): If you're bored at work today, fill your time with this supposedly-simple but surprisingly-addictive game. How difficult can it be to move that blue block out of the hole on the right? Very difficult, as it turns out. Can anybody get past screen 25?

 Sunday, March 16, 2003

dgeezer.netA suite of diamond links
< King of Diamonds: I've forked out on a new domain name, so I'm delighted to announce that diamond geezer now has a new (alternative and easier-to-type) web address: www.dgeezer.net (the old address still works fine, by the way). There's also a new email address - see the sidebar.

Queen of Diamonds: Here's some of the domain names I wasn't able to buy instead:

Jack of Diamonds: "He's so laid back he's just like the Leaning tower of Pisa." And he dances to music. Wow.

Ten of Diamonds: Beware the diamond-trousered Harlequins rugby supporter...

Nine of Diamonds: ...and thank goodness nobody suggested this fashion accessory as part of my birthday present.

Eight of Diamonds: White Van Man - is he diamond geezer or devil? Someone's done some real in-depth research to find out.

Seven of Diamonds: A bunch of geezers travel the world, drink a lot and take photos.

Six of Diamonds: Being an A1 diamond geezer requires self-confidence, according to an unexpected layer of the BBC website.

Five of Diamonds: Remember IRC? It's so last century. But if only I'd known there was a geezernet channel on there.

Four of Diamonds: I've linked to For Ladz magazine magazine before, but it's bleedin excellent, so here it is again.

Three of Diamonds: It's Diamond Geezer's diamond mine game - can you get three jewels in a row?

Two of Diamonds: Turn your best friend into a diamond. The only problem is they have to be cremated first.

Ace of Diamonds: For a shedload of other diamond geezer links, trawl back in my archives here.

 Saturday, March 15, 2003

Driving ambition?

It's exactly twenty years ago this week since I passed my driving test. It took me three attempts, not because I was incompetent you understand, but because I realised that the more driving tests you take the more 'driving test anecdotes' you can tell in pubs when you're older.

My first test was the examiner's last before the Christmas break. I toured the special test-designated backroads of Rickmansworth as festive dusk approached. It must be awful to live on a driving test route. You think you've bought a desirable property on a quiet estate, only to discover that incompetent drivers are forever being asked to pull up directly behind the new 4x4 you've left parked out on the road. Near the start of my test I paused expertly to allow an unaccompanied dog to walk across the road in front of me at a zebra crossing. Things were looking good. However my test also featured that very special driving manoeuvre the five-point turn, and so naturally I failed.

On my second attempt I was much better prepared. I was, however, perturbed to discover that my examiner for the afternoon was the infamous Mr 'Failer' Taylor. It wasn't the most auspicious of starts when I couldn't read either of the first two numberplates he pointed out to me, even wearing my new glasses. Never mind, I thought, things can only improve once I get in the car. I drove out of the test centre, turning right onto a major trunk road and stalling the car dead three seconds later, completely blocking two lanes of traffic. Mr Taylor smiled. I restarted the ignition and, as you do when you know you've failed, proceeded to drive brilliantly and without fault for the next thirty minutes.

My third test went far more smoothly. I had Mr Taylor again, but he'd learnt from his last experience and asked me to turn left out of the test centre instead. I managed to avoid running over the grandad lying in the road fixing his car positioned exactly where I was supposed to be reversing round a corner. I took the examiner on an additional circuit of Rickmansworth town centre because the instruction "take the road ahead unless I tell you otherwise" is dead ambiguous on a roundabout that's the junction of three equally-spaced roads. I knew things were going well when, at the end of the test, I was able to tell Mr Taylor what a white walking stick with two red reflective bands signified. And yes, he was pleased to tell me I'd passed, but not half as pleased as I was.

I may have had my driving licence for twenty years, but I've only had a car for two and a half years of that time. Some people buy their first car the day their pass their test and are then drivers for life. Not me. When I write on a CV that I have a 'clean driving licence', it's no word of a lie. I've always tried to live close enough to shops and public transport to make ownership of a car unnecessary. It was only in my last job that I was finally forced by the nature of my work to buy a car - that and the fact that the village I lived in only had five buses a day. I discovered that, it being more than fifteen years since I'd passed my test, I'd completely forgotten how to use a gear lever and so I 'cheated' and bought an automatic. Driving purists sneered, but at least it left me a hand free to turn up the volume on the car radio as necessary. When I moved down to London I sold my car like a shot, and I've not looked back since. My annual tube travelcard costs less than a year's car insurance, let alone the costs of petrol, depreciation, road tax and dangly Magic Tree air fresheners. It's great to be able to walk to places again, rather than having to hop in the car every time I want two pints of pasteurised. Two legs good, four wheels bad.

I have a theory that most travellers divide up into either 'transport active' or 'transport passive'.
Transport active people always own a car, even when they live somewhere totally inappropriate like central London. They need a throbbing engine to call their own, or preferably two. They have to be in the driving seat because they need to be in control of their own travel arrangements. They make very bad passengers, and would rather take a taxi than put up with the ignominy of public transport.
Transport passive people like myself, however, are happy to be driven around even if it means they have little control over where they're going. You'll find us sat in the passenger seat of a car, or on the back of a motorbike, or stuck in a tube tunnel, or even taking three consecutive nightbuses home rather than fork out for a minicab at three in the morning. We only drive because we have to, never because we want to.
Which one are you?

Five finger-clicking good links
• Last night's Circle Line party appears to been a great two-lap success.
• I know cricket's dull, but has it really driven a Guardian journalist to this? (via b3ta)
• Remember Lunar Lander, the summit of early 80s one-kilobyte micro-computer gaming? Here it is again, but with nuns.
• For all you visual thinkers out there, here's a search engine where the results are displayed in a series of interactive maps.
• Using that last search engine to search for geezer, I found this great dictionary of London slang. It's diamond, it's the dogs.

 Friday, March 14, 2003

red nose dayComic Relief (but is it Comic?)

Since 1985 Comic Relief has raised more than £250 million in its mission to help end poverty and social injustice. Today is the eighth Red Nose Day, and I'm proud to say that I own the complete set of eight smelly / colour-changing / squeaky / hairy / etc red noses. But is Red Nose Night funny? I've decided to sacrifice my social life tonight to stay in, watch the TV comedy extravaganza and report back on how hilarious it isn't is.

7:00 Jonathan Ross opens the show wearing a huge red wig. He looks unintentionally like Cilla Black with a quiff.
7:15 French and Saunders do Harry Potter, brilliantly. I could happily sit through seven lots of three hours of that.
7:25 The first of the heart-tugging films from Africa. Good to see that Comic relief's £250 million is being well spent.
7:30 Gareth Gates sings this year's song. It only just beats the Comic Relief nadir that was 'The Stonk', but surely nothing will ever top the excellence that was Bananarama and LaNaNeeNeeNooNoo.
7:45 Carol Vordeman allows Mr Kipling to pay £¼m for a one minute BBC1 prime time advert for cherry bakewells.
7:55 EastEnders metamorphoses to be cheerful and optimistic, as Shane Richie leads the Square 'Singing In The Rain'.
8:05 Jack Dee is stuck up a pole. Vanessa Feltz serenades him from a gondola. She sounds even worse than the idea was.
8:15 Celebrity Driving School results are in, and every single one of the celebrities failed. First side-splitting laugh of the night.
8:30 Ant and Dec take over and it all falls a bit flat. It feels a lot like ITV1 Saturday night prime time.
9:00 Heat magazine mascots Jack Ryder and Kym Marsh revive Mrs and Mrs with a hypnotic twist (but alas not Derek Batey).
9:15 Will Mellor's future granny-pop career is launched by Celebrity Fame Academy. He's Robson and Jerome rolled into one.
9:30 Vic and Bob aim surreally right over the heads of the target audience, but hit home here.
9:45 Auf Wiedershen Pet (with guest stars U2) aim straight at the heads of the target audience, and right under mine.
10:00 Over to BBC2 for degree-level gownies beaten by sub-O-Level dropouts in a Deayton-hosted University Challenge.
10:35 Jonathan Ross insults children and uses the f-word twice, a great way to get viewers to pledge money for poor kids.
10:45 Robbie Williams sits stark naked on a sofa with tucked-away tackle for a full frontal 15 seconds. And you missed it.
10:50 Rowan and Lenny mercilessly spoof the Jackson-Bashir interview. Second side-splitting laugh of the night.
11:05 Davina does Celebrity Streetmate. A Big Brother winner and an ex Spice Girl? Obviously a loose definition of celebrity.
11:20 Coldplay sing. A major improvement on the 'soapstars sing show tunes' we used to have foisted on us on past RNDs.
11:30 Ricky Gervais doesn't do his Office Comic Relief dance. Mistake, because his video diary is only 5% as funny.
12:00 Rob Brydon of Marion & Geoff delivers a monologue about divorce with ad-libs to the audience - this is real talent.
12:15 Our host for the rest of the night is Graham Norton. The tone lowers by about three notches.
12:35 Ten top hairdressers plan to turn ten members of the studio audience into ten Freddie Ljungbergs. Red Stripe anyone?
12:45 The total raised tops £30million, and I think it's safe to go to bed now. Don't worry, I've set the video for the rest...
1:00 The highlights of a week in the Fame Academy, surprisingly entertaining, but would've been better scheduled at 9pm.
1:15 A troupe of 5 bus drivers sitting in the audience do the full Full Monty standing in the audience. Graham sneaks a look.
1:20 A brilliant spoof of mid-80s Blankety Blank, and nowhere near long enough. Third side-splitting laugh of the night.
1:40 The final on-the-night total is £35,174,798. Who cares if it hasn't all been funny if they/we can raise that much?
2:30 My video was timed to switch off twenty minutes after the scheduled end of the programme. Unfortunately they extended it, and the tape cuts out just before they replay Dermot and Cat betowelled in a sauna from a few Red Nose Days ago. Suddenly it's not so comic any more. And no chance for relief. See you back here in two years time then.

red nose dayThe 7am link (Red Nose Day): Go and add a comment here. If Mike gets 235 comments in his comment box before midnight tonight, Comic Relief gets £100.

The 7am link (Friday): If you're not staying in to watch Comic Relief tonight, there's a fantastic-sounding party tonight here. Your party venue is round the circumference here or, if you prefer that map more geographically accurate, not-so-round here.

 Thursday, March 13, 2003

trigger = 150The Press

There are 68 seats in every District Line train carriage. When there are more than 68 people in the carriage, you have to stand, or maybe lean. There are 16 glass bits you can lean against next to the main doors and there are 2 more doors to lean against at the end of each carriage. When there are more than 86 people in the carriage, you have to stand and hang on. There are 16 metal poles to hang onto in every carriage, two for each door. When there are more than 102 people in the carriage, you have to grab one of the dangly strap things. There are 48 dangly straps in every carriage. When there are more than 150 people in the carriage, there's nothing left to hang onto. When there's nothing left to hang onto, I can't read my newspaper.

When I can't read my newspaper, I have to resort to 'not-looking' at people. This a special skill only found on public transport and in doctors' waiting rooms, involving staring at anything, everything, even the stain on the window, just to avoid looking directly at someone else. This isn't normally a problem, because all the other people are busy 'not-looking' too, or else they're amongst the 150 who don't need to 'not-look' because they can read their books and newspapers in relative comfort.

This morning, for the second day in a row, I bought my daily newspaper, boarded my District Line train and entered a jam-packed carriage containing more than 150 people. For the second day in a row I ended up travelling to work carrying a newspaper I couldn't possibly read. Yesterday I had to resort to spending the entire journey 'not-looking'. Today, however, I'd brought with me that special mini-booklet of 21st century classics off the front of my Word magazine. It was thankfully still possible to read a mini-booklet measuring 12½cm by 9½ cm in a tube carriage containing more than 150 people. This improved my journey no end. I spent my journey agreeing with their choices for the best recent film and trivia book, and now I'm going to hunt down their suggestion for the best theory book. I might even try reading that book on my way into work on Monday, just so long as 150 other people don't have the same idea.

If you enjoyed last month's first edition of Word magazine, and I did, you'll be glad to know that the second edition is out today. Thanks to the time warp bubble surrounding my local Waitrose I managed to buy my copy yesterday, and the magazine's just as good a read as before. Amongst the gems to devour this month are a cover-mounted mini-booklet of 21st century classics, the thoughts of Ian Hislop, the Pet Shop Boys v New Order electroclash DJ challenge, how to be Phill Jupitus, the subtext of Marvel's Daredevil comic series, how an iPod can change your life and the murky world of awards ceremonies. Meanwhile on page 44 Andy Bell from Erasure tells us that "I spend loads of time at iwantoneofthose.com, which is full of nice gadgets. I got some nice little bricks that light up when you turn them over - very lovely and quite fascinating." Oh come on Andy, call yourself a celebrity? Light bricks are so last week.

The 7am link (Thursday) This TV nostalgia site led me to here, here, here (gronda gronda), here and here, for which I shall be eternally grateful.

 Wednesday, March 12, 2003

take free enneagram testEnneagrams

While we're on the subject of classification, here's one of those What type of thingy are you? online tests.

I've visited some people's blogs that are nothing but What type of thingy are you? online tests. There's What type of frog are you? (I'm a Pacific tree frog) , What type of kitchen utensil are you? (I'm a fridge) and What type of pie are you? (I'm apple pie). The most extreme example of this phenomenon has to be Which online personality test are you? (I'm the 'Which online personality test are you?" test).

This online test, however, is just different enough for me to want to link to it.

9w1? Spot on, I reckon, which is not bad for an online personality test. Imaginative, creative and orderly, but with a tendency not to get enough done. Sounds much more accurate than the horoscope personality profile I posted here on Sunday. Us type 9s are generally calm, laid-back and optimistic, which is perfectly me as well. We can be too accommodating, but we have a desire for peace, quiet and reconciliation. What a pity George and Tony aren't 9s.

Oh, and us type 9s get on best with type 1s, apparently, so if you're still thinking of applying for last week's Situation Vacant, a bit of one-ness might help.

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jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

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my special London features
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E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
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great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
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capital numbers
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unlost rivers
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ten of my favourite posts
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five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
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ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
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harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
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london's lost rivers
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watch with mother
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war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
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