Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Elves and the Zoomy

Someone's fixed my bike! The rear brake was broken, and I was going to take it to get it fixed this morning, but someone has rather ingeniously cobbled it back together while it was sitting in the front hall. I have no idea who - I haven't seen any of my neighbours or landlord around today to ask them, so I can safely assume it was a roving gang of magic pixies. It really does give you a warm fuzzy feeling to be on the receiving end of a Random Act Of Kindness, though - I'm going to have to be more assiduous about performing them every Friday like I'm supposed to.

I do still need to get the bike fixed professionally, of course, the repair job is only a temporary kind of affair, but since I could ride down the hill without dying today I didn't bother, and went to Nottingham instead. While there, I was grabbed by someone conducting market research and, being in the mood to do someone else a favour, agreed to it. It involved going to a room nearby, watching adverts on a computer screen and saying whether they were effective or not. So if a hopeless Bradford & Bingley advert ever makes it to the screen it won't be my fault - I gave it a real critical panning.

But what if the advertising executives who produced this advert are the same people who fixed my bike? I'd feel like a real heel.

Friday, November 17, 2006

And there's more

Okay, I was just going to do a quick cloak-related blog entry tonight and get back to writing "Sympathy", but then I felt I had to say something about the sheer silliness of the situation I find myself in. Why am I writing about my characters having an eventful day trip to Bath to watch a rugby match in 1981 when I know little or nothing about the town, the game or the year? Yes, writing a thinly-veiled autobiography is probably the worst thing you can possibly do for a first "novel", but I could have stuck to what I know just a little bit more. Ah well, that's where inspiration has led me, we'll just have to see what happens...

Cloak and dagger

It occurs to me that since bringing my black cloak back from Brazil in July, I haven't found a single appropriate occasion for wearing it. The poor thing's been lying on my bedroom floor, buried under the rest of my junk, all this time. You'd think there would be plenty of events for which you'd want to dress up in a big black cloak. I'm going to have to start wearing it to go out to the shops, although it'll get caught up in the wheels of my bike if I'm not careful with it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A soap impression

I stayed up late last night to listen to Virgin Radio playing the "new Beatles album" Love, in full. Now, as I've mentioned here before, I'm a very big fan of the Beatles, and listening to them for an hour and a half last night was a wonderful experience, but I don't honestly think I'm going to buy this album. I have trouble seeing what the point of it is, other than making another pile of money for everyone involved (does Paul McCartney hate it so much when his bank balance drops below a billion pounds?)

If you're not up to date with what the middle-aged kids are listening to these days, "Love" is basically George Martin and his son rummaging through all the old Beatles master tapes and putting them together in new and exciting ways. It's a strange selection - some songs sound identical to the originals, some are enhanced by funny noises in the background. Most have intros composed of patched-together snippets of intros from four or five other Beatles songs. The highlight is George Harrison's unspeakably beautiful acoustic demo version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", but there are other little-known bits and pieces in the mix too. But really, who is this aimed at? Ardent fans like me who've got the albums and Anthologies already? There's a bit of fun to be had in spotting which tracks each little bit of sound or music comes from, but personally I prefer to listen to them as they were originally created. Yet the whole project is too fanboyish to be of much interest to non-fans. And I honestly don't think the new mixes have any objective artistic merit.

Which segues nicely into another topic - I'm really stalled on this "novel" of mine. I just find it very, very difficult to write something over a long period of time. I have the attention span of a hyperactive butterfly when it comes to writing - if I can churn something out over one writing session, two at most, I'm fine with it, but having to work on something piece by piece, a thousand words or so at a time, really snags my creative impulses somehow. After the initial burst of creativity, what I'm writing gets ever more dull and uninspired. Even when I know what's meant to happen in the bit I'm writing about (I do have the whole structure of the book at least vaguely sketched out in my head), it's hard to put it down on paper without it seeming forced and flat.

This is, of course, exactly the kind of problem this whole exercise was designed to force me to get my head round, so I'm certainly not giving up on it. And I still think I can manage 50,000 words by the end of the month - it's just going to be hard, and it's most definitely not going to be pretty. That said, I've been lazy today and done nothing at all, unless you count going out to the corner shop for some sweets. It counts as a legitimate writer's expense, because I thought a sugar rush might stimulate me a bit. Either that or it was a medical necessity on account of the diabetes.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

So sweet I'd kill a diabetic

I had a phone call from the head HR person at the office this morning - "Hi Ben, just a quick question, hope you don't mind. Do you take insulin for diabetes?"

Me: "...No."

Her: "Oh, sorry, I must have been misinformed. Bye."

Now, obviously it's part of some nefarious plot against me that someone is spreading rumours about me being an insulin-dependent diabetic, but I can't quite work out what the plan would involve. I suppose I'll just have to wait until it runs its course and ends up with someone taking over the world.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Vile acts of base treason!

There are three flagpoles out the front of our office building. I assume they're relics of the car dealership days. But rather than letting them go to waste, we have a Union Jack on one of them, and at the moment a Chinese flag on another, to celebrate our latest big deal involving schools in China. But I just noticed this morning that the Union Jack is upside-down. I don't know if it's always been like that, or if someone's just done it today - probably the latter, because I always check flags to see if they're the right way up. I pride myself on knowing how to spot an upside-down Union Jack, and you'd be surprised how few of them you see.

I didn't tell anyone about it, because it never really came up in the conversation. I think I'll leave it till the Queen next comes to visit and is mortally offended, and has the chairman's head chopped off.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Life is hard

I find myself in the rare situation of not having the faintest idea what to write about tonight. Nothing really new or exciting has happened in any of my favourite subjects, as far as I can recall. Am I being unreasonable in feeling hard-done-by because the universe hasn't thrown anything more spectacular than a dull day at work at me?

Never mind, I'm just working till Friday, and then I've got very nearly two weeks of freedom before I have to go back again. I think I'm going to need all that free time to write this "novel" (it really needs the quotation marks right now) that I'm grinding out slowly but surely. Not to mention I need to do some solid, lengthy memory training sessions. Just to get back into the swing of things and keep my eye in before I get distracted by December and Christmassy things...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

In his fancy chapeau, he's a leader with taste

I've got a new hat! I saw it in M&S and quite liked the look of it, so I thought I might as well give it a try and see how it works. It's a bit different from the old one, it's a fedora, made of pure wool apparently (seems like a strange thing to make a hat out of, but that's what the label says), and it's black, of course. The brim isn't as wide as the old one's, so we'll have to see just how well it works at hiding my eyes while playing othello. It works fine in the important function of propping up my stopwatch on my desk.

Rather than doing anything useful this afternoon, I've been reading guides to Pacman. It fascinates me that people have gone into such depth analysing how the ghosts move, planning the optimum routes to run around each level and relentlessly playing it for hours and hours to get all the way to the end. And what reward do you get for all this effort? A bug in the program means that it crashes when it gets to level 256. And all the levels from 21 to 255 are identical. This is a task that takes real dedication and resistance to boredom. Possibly even more so than winning a memory competition!

Did you know there's a little spot in the maze where you can 'park' Pacman so that the ghosts just leave him alone? Top players use it to take a break now and then during marathon sessions. If I had unlimited money and space, I'd track down and buy as many old arcade games as I could and keep them all in my own private arcade. And by 'private' I mean inviting everybody to come and play on them as much as they like, obviously. Modern arcades aren't a patch on the way they used to be.