Saturday, November 05, 2005

It was four hundred years ago today...

I'm going to Crispy and Sleepy's for fireworks tonight, so I'll get the blogging in a bit early while I've got a moment. I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to keep up the daily updates for the next three weeks - as I mentioned a few days ago, I'm going to be staying in a hotel in Cheadle during the week, so as to maximise the time I can spend in the soon-to-be-closed Cheadle office, learning what everyone does there. Whether I'll be able to get internet access from the office, the hotel or a handy internet cafe, I don't know.

What I am going to do is take my trusty narrow-ruled A4 pad with me and try to write a bit of How To Be Clever. I often write best when I'm using pen and paper rather than typing, for some reason. I'll take some cards and random numbers with me too, and try to practice memory rather than slumping in front of the telly all night, every night.

As for the review of the week's work that I vaguely promised to write, it's gone pretty well. Yesterday was fun - the Cheadle people all had the day off to celebrate finishing the annual accounts, or being made redundant, or something like that, so I was in Burton helping out with anything anyone could throw at me, which mainly involved impressing people with my Excel skills. This I think could turn out to be a problem with the job, actually - I've found in the past that the further removed I get from number-crunching and more into the realms of deciding which numbers need to be crunched, the worse I am at my job. But people always assume that because I'm good at the former, I must be great at the latter, so they keep promoting me. Is a mindless, repetitive job with no prospects too much to ask for? Anyway, we'll see how it goes.

Interesting fact I learned yesterday - it's illegal to set off fireworks after 11pm, except on Bonfire Night, New Year's Eve, the first day of Divali and Chinese New Year. So now you know.

Friday, November 04, 2005

I am the Weakest Link

Apparently my Weakest Link appearance was repeated tonight, but I didn't hear about it until after it had finished. Still, it's always nice to know thousands of people are laughing at my difficulty with pronouncing the letter R, or remembering what word means an item used in cleaning and a student charity week.

Still, this very appropriately reminds me that I'm not Anne Robinson, and so shouldn't go around being rude about people. With that in mind, here's a corrected version of part of last night's post:

I've just discovered a great webcomic I haven't read before - Mullein Fields. I've only read the first few strips, and it's (entirely coincidentally since the artist has never even read the comic I'm comparing it to) very like Ozy and Millie - which is a good thing to be. Go and read it, I'm sure you'll like it.

Actually, MF is only like O&M in the sense of humour and the general friendly feel to it - while Loretta is a similar kind of character to Millie, there isn't an equivalent of Ozy there, so the implication I put across by casual use of the word 'clone' is entirely wrong. As I said in the comments to last night's entry, I do apologise, and I won't do it again.

Ozy and Millie, of course, is a Calvin and Hobbes clone in the first place.

Which brings me onto the subject of the comments attached to these blog posts of mine. If you don't read them, you really should, because as they're not generally written by me, they're often a whole lot more entertaining than anything in the main text! But just in case anyone doesn't read them, I'll throw in another apology to Peter Davidson, whose art (on The Broons and Oor Wullie) I completely unfairly described as 'rubbish' a few weeks ago. Check out his website and see how great he actually is. He's still not as good on the Sunday Post strips as Ken H Harrison was, though.

And also, check out the comments to October 13th, where there's a plug for Aubrey de Grey's SENS thing. Get involved and live forever!

But the moral to all this story is that I really do like reading comments. If you're reading this, post a comment and let me know! Don't wait for me to insult you! It kind of bothers me that I only got to have a really fun discussion on the subject of the approach artists should take to drawing The Broons because I was rude about somebody. Is that the way the world works? People don't talk to people about the things they like unless the people they're talking to don't like them too? Well stop it, all of you!

I was going to summarise my first week's work at the new job tonight, but I seem to have been blathering on about other subjects for ages already, so I'll save it for tomorrow. I should also mention, after my whining last night, that both my trains were on time today. I'm not quite ready to feel guilty about complaining about trains just yet - I think that's a part of British culture, and I never poke fun at the French or Americans (which is also completely acceptable, and indeed encouraged, in this country) so I've got to vent my spleen at something. But on the other hand, I do actually really appreciate the train service. I should be nicer about it in future.

One more thing - this is me and my younger brother when we were that age. So comparatively speaking, I'm a very nice person nowadays!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I hope this old train breaks down

I've now been commuting to Burton-on-Trent for three days, and I've yet to go there or back on a train that was running on time. Today was particularly good - the 8:27 this morning was cancelled, "due to a fault with the train", and the 8:38 was five minutes late, but that doesn't count as late as far as the train companies are concerned (their statistics showing how many trains run late only count those delayed by more than ten minutes), so they didn't bother with an explanation, let alone an apology. Then tonight the 5:20 was 27 minutes late, "due to vandalism and trespassing on the line at Chepstow". So I got the 5:43, which was running on time, but I'm not counting that.

I don't have to go up to Cheadle tomorrow, so I get to work in my actual office for the first time. They have dress-down days on Fridays in Burton, which doesn't really thrill me. It's not that I like dressing up in a suit and tie, but if I don't dress like an accountant, I have a hard time pretending to be one. Besides, everybody else will have cooler casual clothes than me. And should I wear my Zoom-Zoom t-shirt, or one of the ones without big holes in?

I've just discovered a great webcomic I haven't read before - Mullein Fields. I've only read the first few strips, and it's a bit of an Ozy and Millie clone, but done well enough that I don't mind. Go and read it, I'm sure you'll like it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Go first class or third; marry a duchess or her kitchenmaid

I agree with Mr Hardfur Huttle on this point - I always avoid buying medium varieties of things if I can avoid it. This is one of those hard and fast principles of mine that I violate on a daily basis without thinking about it, but when I do, it bothers me. Cheddar cheese, you see, comes in four kinds - mild, medium, mature and extra mature. And while I would never even consider buying the medium kind, I do prefer the mature to the extra mature. Does that count as buying one of the medium varieties of cheese? Am I betraying my deeply-held beliefs? Am I only writing about this because I can't think of anything else? Who knows?

Anyway, nothing of any great interest has happened today. That lengthy minibus ride has for some reason inspired me to write superhero comics heavily indebted to Kurt Busiek's Astro City, about a couple of morally-ambiguous heroes - I'll have to see if I can find an artist willing to draw them for me. Might be difficult, though. There are a lot more would-be writers looking for artists than would-be artists looking for writers.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Well, that wasn't so bad

Although they want me to stay in a hotel down in Cheadle next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, while I'm learning the job. Funnily enough, one of the other new people is Patrick who used to work at Parkhouse for a few months a year or so ago, so I wasn't entirely surrounded by complete strangers. I've got a headache, presumably as a result of more or less working today for a change, or possibly the stress of a new job, or maybe I'm under telepathic assault by space aliens, I don't know. But for the rest of this week we're going to Cheadle on a minibus every morning and back in the evenings - spending four hours on the road in total and a bit less than that actually at work.

Anyway, enough of this accountant-talk. I've just been watching a new cartoon called Robotboy about, well, a robot boy. It's quite good, if not an all-time classic. There's a new series of Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends too, which is an all-time classic, so I'm happy. And then there's the second half of one of tonight's football matches while playing othello online. Perfect new-job-stress relief!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Witches bad, pumpkins good

There was a really good cartoon called 'Pumpkin Moon' on Sky yesterday, chronicling the great Halloween conflict between pumpkin lanterns and toy witches.

Which is a small comfort, but doesn't entirely stop me being scared about starting a new job tomorrow. What if it's nasty? So, in an attempt to ignore the whole thing and wallow in old childhood memories, I've been embarking on a train of thought set off by Scholiast's train of thoughts relating to her birthday.

It occurred to me that while I can't remember my sixth birthday party, I can remember writing about it in school the following day. Or rather, not writing about it. I got as far as something like "Yesterday it was my birthday. Robert Brown, Robert York, Robert Hodgson..." and then got lost in reminiscences about the party and the interesting fact that my three best friends were all called Robert, and didn't write anything else. The Roberts wouldn't have been the only ones at the party - I always had six guests at these things, that being the number of screaming children my parents had decided they could cope with. And that must have been quite a feat in itself - me, six other six-year-olds and my brother being four and doubtless embarrassing to virtually-grown-ups like us.

I'm pretty sure Juliette Wilson, who lived down the road, would have also been there. Possibly also James Small, if he was at the school at that time and friends with me (I can't quite remember), but I don't know who else might have made my priviliged guest list. It was the done thing to invite Gavin Barnes to parties, but I have a feeling that at the age of six (and having only been at my new school for a month) I hadn't quite realised the importance of getting in with the coolest kid in the class, so I don't think he was there.

This provokes further memories about Robert Brown, who I remember practically nothing about. He and I were both new at Clinton Park school that year - my first year of primary school was at Tumby Woodside school, which closed down at the end of the year and forced its 28 pupils to the schools up in Coningsby and Tattershall. I went to Clinton Park, where my dad was a teacher, while most of the rest went to Coningsby, so I was forced to find a new best school friend to replace Robert Hodgson.

Not being a naturally sociable type even then, at playtime I found a spirally snake painted onto the tarmac playground and amused myself by running around in circles on it until Robert Brown came up and started a conversation: "What are you playing?" "Running." "Can I play?" "Yes." And we were best friends after that. But then he moved away almost immediately afterwards and I never saw him again. Clinton Park's pupils were mostly the children of people attached to RAF Coningsby, so people were always coming and going when their fathers got posted to another base. Even so, most people stuck around for more than a few months, so I don't know what was going on there. I shifted my best-friendship allegiance to Robert York, and we were inseparable for the next few years until he moved away too - and even then we wrote to each other for a while and a few years ago got in touch through Friends Reunited.

Robert Hodgson, meanwhile, I met again when we both went to the grammar school and found that we didn't have anything in common any more, so we didn't hang out together. But I haven't the faintest idea what became of Robert Brown, or whether we'd find something to talk about if we met up again today. He's unsurprisingly not on Friends Reunited for Clinton Park, and you can't really Google someone with such a boring name unless you want to read a million articles in the hope that they'll mention where the subject went to primary school for a few months in 1982. It'll just have to remain one of those mysteries.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Memory loss

While I was memorising thousands of binary digits this morning, part of my brain was adding up how much money I've got and working out what to do with it. I remembered that I'd spent a fairly significant amount of money some time in the last couple of weeks, put it on the Barclaycard and thought it was a good thing I was getting this extra money at the end of the month, because otherwise it would have stretched my monthly pay a bit. But I couldn't remember for the life of me what this expenditure was for.

I spent absolutely ages racking my brains, trying to work it out. I knew it was something unavoidable, not a regular monthly payment but something that I had to pay every now and then, and for about a hundred pounds, but what could it be? Okay, I'm pretty relaxed about my money, but could I really have spent such a lot of it and forgotten? After running through every kind of household expenditure and tax I could think of, I'd just about come to the conclusion that I must have either dreamt the whole thing or been hypnotised into handing over my hard-earned cash to Paul McKenna. I gave up and decided to wait for the Barclaycard statement to see if that would remind me, then took my glasses off to clean them and remembered - "Oh yes, the new glasses!"

I'm not sure what the moral to this story is. You can still become world memory champion even if you've got a memory like a sieve? I really am so relaxed about my money that I can spend it and not consciously register it? My memory is going as I spiral helplessly towards thirty years of age? I really was hypnotised, possibly by an evil optician like in 'The Miserable Mill' by Lemony Snicket? Or perhaps I'm just plain mad.

In other news, I've been spending quite a lot of time lately playing othello/reversi at Kurnik, a Polish games website where you can play just about any weird game you like, without downloading things or signing your life away. It's where all the cool othello players hang out nowadays, and I've been sort of meaning to start playing there for ages now, but only just got round to it (and then only because I was bored stiff at work). But the whole site really does deserve a plug - not many people go out of their way to provide a place where you can play connect 4 with people from all over the world.

Also, Kurnik is Polish for henhouse. I think that's an excellent name for a website.