Saturday, September 24, 2005

Lady Godiva's Room

I like learning new things. I also like learning that there's something I need to learn that I'd never even considered before. I just came across a passing reference to Lady Godiva somewhere, and it suddenly struck me that the sum total of my knowledge of the story of Lady Godiva was that she rode a horse naked through a town.

For some reason, I'd never felt any need to know anything about her beyond that, until tonight. And what do you know? The town was Coventry, the date was 1057 (much earlier than I'd thought it would be), and the reason for the nudity seems to have been to display her commitment to the arts and celebrate the beauty of God's creations, and in the process win a bet with her husband in order to make him abolish taxes in the city. And a later addition to the story provides the origin of the phrase 'peeping tom'.

I'm sure everybody reading this knows all about it already. That my shocking ignorance has never been exposed in everyday conversation is just sheer coincidence. Still, it makes me wonder what other common knowledge is missing from my brain's filing system. Come to think of it, what's the story about King Alfred burning the cakes? Those five words sum up everything I know about the legend. Good thing we live in the internet age...

Friday, September 23, 2005

Happy once, happy twice, happy chicken soup with rice

There's no reason at all for the title of this post. But I seem to have started doing song lyrics for titles lately, and that's one of my all-time favourites.

Anyway, I'm not sure what to write about. A few things spring to mind, so I'll just do bullet points and maybe add a bit more to one or more subjects over the weekend:

Where am I going to buy comics if I move to Burton-on-Trent? I don't know if there's a shop there, and I'd hate to trek into Derby or Nottingham every week. When I lived in Boston I used to buy a big batch once a month or so, but I'm in the habit of getting new stuff every week now.

There's also a fun discussion on the British Othello newsgroup today - Tony Corfe of the MSO has complained that we're not contributing to the event enough, and Othello players across the country are taking exception (in our usual good-humoured, funny way) to his comments.

It's Josh Foer's birthday today. Happy birthday, Josh!

As part of discussions with Josh about memory for his book (or personal interest) I've been reading through the emails I exchanged with Andi and Gunther about the Memory World Cup in 2004. It's funny - I snapped at both of them at different times and told them they were being childish and stupid. They were, but it's still the kind of thing that I absolutely never do in emails. I hate the idea of not being friends with everyone.

I also feel like writing an essay about the unusual decision to change the character designs on Baby Looney Tunes halfway through the first season (they stop wearing nappies). It occurs to me that I could write at great length about this. Maybe I will tomorrow.

They're selling 200g bars of Cadbury's chocolate half price at W H Smith's when you buy a magazine, so I got one today. I think I'm definitely putting on weight. Perhaps I should do something about it? Then again, I was looking back at pictures of me in 2002 the other day, and I was immense back then, so I don't think I should be worrying about obesity just yet.

We're probably switching to working part time, two or three days a week, starting next week. I'll use the time off to go down to Burton and look for a flat.

Also, must decide on exactly what to do for the party. Ace and Rep have said they're coming, which adds them to a list comprising Jenny, Crispy, Sleepy, Log and someone else I've forgotten. Oh, and my brother. There's also going to be a work do that weekend, but I'll give it a miss. I don't think work people and my real friends would mix all that well. The former think I'm a serious, hard-working type.

Mentioning work there reminded me that I haven't even thought about playing Spider all night. This is good - I downloaded it from the internet last night and spent ages playing it (my computer's Windows 98 and too ancient to have it on the games menu). I was worried that it was turning into an unhealthy compulsion.

I'm going to do some memory training this weekend - with one thing and another I haven't done any for a couple of weeks now. I'll try to force myself to do an hour numbers first - that's the one I always find least fun, so it's difficult to motivate myself to practice it as much as the others. And I want to try my idea of memorising it using twice the routes - starting again with the numbers offset by one or two digits (I memorise numbers in blocks of 3x3, so with this system I'd memorise 123-456-789 - 987-654-321 etc, then start again and memorise 234-567-899 - 876-543-210 and so on). There's a good reason for this, but it goes beyond the bullet-point scope. If I do manage to do it, I'll explain tomorrow.

Boston Utd are playing Grimsby tomorrow, but I think I'll give it a miss. Going back there was fun once, but it's still not the kind of place you'd want to visit too often. Besides, local derbies generally turn quite ugly - the Lincoln games are traditionally the ones with the most violence, but they're a nasty lot from Grimsby.

Jeremy Bates's strategy for the Davis Cup doesn't seem to have worked. But then, there weren't any sensible strategies that would really work if Murray's going to lose to Wawrinka, so I suppose we can't blame him for trying to think outside the box. Still, that makes the weekend's tennis rather pointless, because we're never going to win all three remaining rubbers. If I was Bates I'd (assuming we win the doubles and don't make the whole thing pointless) put Rusedski against Federer in the first reverse singles and hope for a flukey win, and then see if Mackin can pull off a miracle against Wawrinka to win it for us. But I can't see it happening.

Wow, that was more bullets than I expected! Granted that it mostly involves watching TV and playing on the internet, I do have quite a varied life, don't I?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

When I'm sixty-four

I got the details about the job at Nord Anglia in the post today. Slightly annoyingly, you have to be in the company pension scheme to be included in the company life assurance scheme. This is an inconvenience for someone like me who approves of life insurance and disapproves of pensions.

I've never had a pension, for the main reason that I firmly believe that if I'm not independently wealthy by the time I want to retire, it's my own stupid fault. There's really no excuse for not being a millionaire of some kind before I'm 65. Also, whatever kind of pension you put your money into now, there's a sporting chance that it'll be totally worthless or unnecessary by the time you want to spend it. I've got another 36 years before I reach retirement age. Anything could happen in that space of time. Aliens will have invaded two or three times, there'll probably be robots, worms will hold most of the important cabinet posts and money might have been abolished altogether. I'll spend my cash now while I'm young, thank you very much.

The life assurance would be good, though. I'd hate the idea of my family inheriting my debts if I drop dead at some point over the next three years (after which time I'll have paid them all off, so my grieving family can spend the money on a solid gold tombstone).

Casual dress day at work tomorrow. Tony the MD hates the idea, but he's been bullied into it, and not even banned jeans like he did last time. This raises the question of what I should wear. I don't like wearing casual clothes at work - if I'm not dressed like an accountant, I find it even harder than usual to act like one. And I still haven't got round to buying a needle and thread and fixing my Zoom-Zoom T-shirt, so I'd probably better not wear that. Maybe I'll wear my "The knowledge that you exist is a burden on my soul" shirt and scare everyone.

Maybe I'll wear nothing at all and see what happens.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's always the same, it's just a shame, that's all

That's not a reference to anything in my life, it's just that I've had that song stuck in my head all day for some reason. I haven't even heard it for years. And I don't know most of the words, so I'm singing ner ner-ner ner ner-ner ner ner ner to myself. Still, if anyone's reading my mind it'll teach them a lesson.

I haven't really got anything to write about today, anyway. I've got addicted to Spider Solitaire in a bad way - spent all day playing it at work, when I actually did have something I should be doing for a change. Still, what are they going to do, fire me?

My dad phoned this evening to say he can't afford a day out at the steam railway museum. I was going to offer to pay for it myself, but I think I'll wait until I've actually got that redundancy money burning a hole in my bank account. I'm skint at the moment. He'll probably be deeply offended at the idea of his son paying for anything anyway, but I'm rude like that.

Actually, his real reason for calling was to check that I'm still at Parkhouse so that he can send me a birthday present. He's leaving it a bit late this year, it's only four weeks early. I'm normally getting Christmas presents from him around this time. And yes, he always insists on sending it to my work address rather than my home one, because he doesn't trust sorting offices not to lose parcels if there's nobody in when they're delivered. It's a wonder I turned out so normal and right in the head, really, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


There are worse deadly sins to commit, I suppose, but sloth is the one I'm most prone to. Having nothing to do at work induces a sort of lethargy in me that carries over to my non-working hours and leaves me sitting around eating sweets and watching cartoons and doing nothing else with my time.

And if that sounds like exactly what I've done for the 28 years and 11 months of my life to date, I assure you that there is a difference. Probably only a psychological one, but I'm very aware that I'm not getting round to doing things much more than I usually do. I suspect that I'll be fine again when I either start the new job, or spend a bit of time before starting it off work completely. If memory serves, when I left my job at Adams back in November 2002 I spent a couple of months doing absolutely nothing, but then got my act together and started my brain working again. That was when I dreamed up my memory system which has served me well since then.

So if for the moment I'm being all slothful, it's just because I'm biding my time until I stop doing it. If I'm still in this kind of mood in a month or so's time, anybody who notices is free to kick me in the backside and tell me to give it a rest.

Also, 12 Angry Men is on telly in the middle of the night tonight. This might be one of my very favourite films of all time, and a perfect illustration of why films don't need big budgets and sensational special effects to be great. It's twelve men sitting in a single room and talking for an hour and a half. And it's brilliant. Sidney Lumet's amazing direction is a big part of it (did you know it was filmed 'one wall at a time', all the shots from one camera angle, then all the shots from the next, and so on? And there's not a single continuity error in who's standing where, who's taken their jacket off, and so on!), but the script is so compelling you can't help but be enthralled.

With John Fiedler (Juror Number 2 and also the voice of Disney's Piglet) having died recently, only two of the angry men are still alive, which is a bit sad. But then, it was nearly fifty years ago now.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Testing of Eric Olthwaite

I've just noticed that BBC4 are doing an evening of Michael Palin programmes, including the classic 'Ripping Yarns' episode this post is named after. Actually, that's about the only thing worth watching on it - there's a Monty Python episode too, but since BBC4 is an arty kind of channel, they seem to have decided to avoid any of the well-known ones and gone for 'The Cycling Tour', which I've never found all that funny. And the rest is travel shows and biographies. They could have dug up some of his earlier comedy stuff, rather than bothering with the things he's wasting his time on nowadays.

Anyway, I must get round to emailing people about my birthday. In these bridgeless times, you can't rely on people checking Tish's site regularly. I think I'm definitely going to try to find a flat in Burton sooner rather than later - I had a look at some estate agent websites at work today (nothing else to do with my time), and there seems to be quite a few available. Nothing that really looks all that nice, though, but I'd have to have a look at them in real life.

This flat I've got at the moment is great, though. It's very small, but it's cheap, amazingly quiet considering it's in the middle of town (and the nasty part of town too) and I've never had any kind of problem with it in the two years I've been living here. If I can find a carbon-copy of this one in Burton, it'll be fine with me.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

On The Road

Or if not the road, on the railway. I've spent more time on trains this weekend than usual, since there's engineering work somewhere between Derby and London than trains are having to take a lengthy detour around. But there was an abandoned News Of The World on the train I took home from London this evening, which had a free CD called 'On The Road', containing a few quite good tracks - Addicted To Bass, I Get Around, She Sells Sanctuary...

Anyway, the othello [reversi] went pretty well. I ended up joint fifth with three or four other people, on five wins out of nine. I thought I was going to equal my last year's performance and only lose to the Terrible Three - Graham Brightwell, Imre Leader and Michael Handel - but then I was comprehensively thrashed by Elisabetta Vecchi in round 8, which put paid to my chances of making the 3rd/4th place play-off (which had been at least a possibility all the way through).

Imre won overall, beating everyone except for a shock defeat at the hands of Steve MacGuire, who's never played a live tournament before. Another of that 'internet generation' I was talking about, you see. I beat Steve, which possibly conclusively proves that I'm better than Imre (who beat me 47-17). The final was between Imre and Graham, which probably didn't surprise anyone. Jeremy Dyer, having beaten Michael in the first round, got to the 3rd place play-off against him when Lisa Boardman lost on time to him in the last round, and put in a repeat giant-killing performance to get third place and the final spot in the British team for the world championships. That's the third time in a row Jeremy's beaten Michael, actually, which definitely eclipses my Imre-beating statistics (twice in four years).

So my chances of going to Iceland in November seem quite slim - Graham's definitely going to play in the worlds, Jeremy almost definitely and Imre possibly. I'm somewhere between second and sixth on the list of reserves if one or more of them doesn't want to go (I'll have to see how the tiebreak worked out).

Aww, I've got to go back to work tomorrow. Although calling it 'work' nowadays is a bit of a stretch. Spent the best part of two hours at the pub on Friday lunchtime, and the rest of the day in enforced fun quizzes run by Sue. Still, six weeks to go, and then I might be in a job that requires me to actually work, for the first time in ages. I hope I can remember how. I'm going to take the job with Nord Anglia, by the way. Haven't thought about it all weekend, obviously, but I haven't got a good enough reason to turn it down. I might just look for other work in Derby on the sly up till the time I actually start, or then again I might not bother. We'll see.