Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Sooooo good to be back online again. I really need to sort this out properly once and for all. Alas I am now so broke that the chances of buying a new machine are, like, zero. In fact I'm more than broke - I'm £80 over my special 'one time only' overdraft extension extension. I'm doomed. Credit card companies are not going to be content with turning me down they'll be sending me letters telling me I haven't been specially selected. And I don't even get any more money till 15 JAN!!!!

Seriously I applied to Amex a while ago and to start with they were super keen - cos on paper I look like a pretty good bet. To start with. And then they just stopped. It wasn't like they even rang to say never darken our doors again. It was like they didn't even want my number in their phone system in case I contaminated it with pauperism or something. Bastards.

So I'm broke and itchy too. OK not really related but - well there was the Christening on Sunday morning so I put on my special suit. This is sort of green and tweedy and hairy. And itchy. Alright - its now Tuesday evening so why ma I still wearing it? Haven't been home yet. My friend The G Man is here as well and hasn't seen his luggage sinse Sunday morning either because, well, it's in my flat of course. I don't even know where he is anymore. He's wandering London somewhere dressed in a Baptism suit probably cursing my name ;-)

I guess I really ought to get home and let him in or something. But here at Mac's place I have online access and a computer that works plus entertainment. It's just a matter of balance. Online + free food + endless tea = need to let friend from Chicago in & change out of these HIDEOUS HAIRY TROUSERS THAT ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY. At least my hangover seems to have abated. Will have a night off tonight and then ready for more tomorrow night. In a mood of complete insanity I offered to cook dinner for people. Basically I hate New Year, not as much as I hate Christmas, it's just that I never have a good year. In fact the only good one in recent memory I can think of was 2001, but that's another story. So I'm cooking dinner and I have about 35 pence to my name. And 10 people coming to dinner. SHIT.

How did this happen. I'm screwed.

Phew - I'm back. What a Christmas I've been having - it was just amazing. OK that's a big fat lie. It was just not as painful as it might have been.

Didn't fight with my parents - always a bonus, and even managed to get throught Chrustmas Day without getting into some sort of tricky situation with my Uncle. Him and me and have been having some kind of weird situation for the last few months - I have no real idea what it's all about, but there is definitely an atmosphere. So anyway got through that. Hurrah

Did have to go and see TROTK again and pretend I hadn't seen it but that was a small price to pay. I've been fairly channelled since then. Been back in London since 27th and still haven't manged to sleep in my own bed . . . maybe tonight. Nothing exciting though, just a whole buncha staying out too late etc etc.

BTW this I cannot recommend: If you are going to be a Godparent don't stay up the WHOLE of the previous night drinking. Nothing like being upstanding in front of 200 religiously minded friends realtives and strangers renouncing Satan while at the same time wondering if you're going to make it to the end without passing out . . . eesh. Avtually I'm exaggerating slightly, but it's probably a better idea to get some sleep, and you know, generally get oneself into a proper frame of mind . . . y'know.

So, err, I guess I'm a Godparent. Yikes.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Oh - I forget. Stupid dumbass quiz time. I spent so long thinking this up in a desperate attempt to get to sleep that in the end I had to fill it in. Which is annoying because basically I loathe quizilla.

What K Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I’m famished. Today is Christmas lunch day in the canteen which means they don’t serve anything else. This is free to staff, but alas as a contractor I am not included in this largesse. It’s also the day that the sandwich vending machine has broken down. So my option are : a) satify myself with Bounty bars and crisps. Ack. b) Go through the palaver of leaving the compound and travelling to the nearest town c) Go ahead and starve.

I doubt it’ll do me any harm though irritatingly being hungry is not one of those things you can ‘turn off’ like a twisted ankle or a sore throat. You keep thinking “I’m hungry.” It probably would have helped if my total food consumption yesterday hadn’t been :

2 x packet crisps
1 x kit kat
3 x pints lager
1 x tandoori chicken breast
2 x crispy duck rolls
1 x slice of bread with taramasalata

Actually I’m being a tad disingenuous. I know full well that if I just went down there and explained the situation I would be given Christmas lunch along with everyone else – it’s not like 1 more would make any difference. I guess I’m standing on ceremony because I’m a twat. And anyway I’ve got a bag of cheesy Doritos now. That was scary – Word automatically capitalizes the word Doritos . . . nice.

The reason I didn’t eat properly last night was because I was locked in prison, sorry the cinema, watching The Return of the King. Actually I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than The Two Towers which I thought was weak. Some of the battle scenes are just fantastic – really impressive and there were a couple of really emotive bits. It’s all a bit ho-hum though isn’t it? Plus at 3¼ hours, while my attention didn’t wander I was definitely ready to go by the end. So well worth seeing, but you don’t come out of the cinema going ‘Woo-hoo’ or anything.

Perhaps it’s because I already know what happens (having read the book at least 3 times). I don’t have any problem with Peter Jackson’s interpretation or treatment, I think it’s remarkably close to how I imagined things would be, it’s just that somehow the characterisation and feeling of mystery doesn’t come through. Without that you’re kinda left with what is undoubtedly a kick-ass action movie, but well, if you already know what happens next, it’s just not as exciting.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Unbelievable insomnia last night. Kept thinking about my colleague who was found dead yesterday. Went to bed as tired as you like about 12.30 and straight to sleep. Woken up ~ 2.30 by multiple sirens and (oh joy) a police helicopter wheeling endlessly overhead. Quite took me back to my East End days when you’d get one of those every other night.

Was still awake at 6.15 and the next thing you know I’m still exhausted and late for work to boot.

Things considered while attempting to get to sleep and not think about mortality, the fragility of life etc etc :-

1) If I was designing a habitable ring habitat how would I design my space ship docking facilities. Which in turn led me to contemplating some quite involved equations (well, involved for in your head) which in turn led me to consider the nature of momentum and in particular it’s relationship with force acting on a body.

Conclusion : momentum is not as straightforward as it looks.

2) A Quizilla style quiz about the letter K.

Conclusion : There are a lot of funny things that start with K

This afternoon I am (Oh God) starting my Christmas shopping. You may wonder why I haven’t done it all already, and I’m wondering that as well. Because I never do. I always leave it till the last minute and it’s always a nightmare. This is because I’m always in denial about Christmas because basically I loathe it. I wish my Mum would let me cook the Christmas dinner cos at least then I’d feel like I’d contributed something.

So far I have an idea for 1 present – which luckily is a tricky one, but all the same : I’m screwed.

Actually I’m not screwed. I have this afternoon and then Saturday, Sunday & Monday to get gifts for about 10 people. How hard can that be?? Not very perhaps?

God I hate Christmas. I hate the false jollity, I hate the invalidity of the media driven ‘common experience’, I hate the jokey childhood regression, I hate the enforced civility, I hate mince fucking pies.

I think sleep deprivation is making me cranky and Christmas depresses me. This probably isn’t the right frame of mind to hit the West End in, but needs must when The Devil calls the tune.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Off from work early again yesterday but no serenade from London Yoof. The ROH was the same though except this time it was Lucia di Lammermoor, a completely different kettle of fish.

It was a thoroughly accomplished production musically, but directors just can't resist fooling about with the staging can they? Some of it worked really well – such as the ruined castle scene and the beautiful diorama used throughout to emote the skies of Scotland, but I can't actually aimagine Donizetti ever scribbling in the directors' notes [ . . . inserisca la scena lesbica di bondage qui . . . ] . I'm not complaining; that sort of thing really makes an evening at The Garden for me, but I don't think Woman With Very Firm Views On Opera sitting behind me appreciated it much – I could feel her disdain sizzling through the back of my head.

But it was still very good. Edgardo (Marcelo Alvarez) was a bit of an opera hack – bit short, bit fat, long hair, and did a lot of bunched finger kissing at the end, but had a fine voice (as you’d expect), even if he did ham it up a bit. No such problems with Lucia (Andrea Rost) whos famous mad scene was delivered with a great deal of care, acting credibility and technical accuracy, so as to come across as not too overblown while still seeming, well, mad. The problem with LdiL is not the music – definitely Donizetti at his best, but that the plot doesnt make a whole bunch of sense, and as there is a lot of singing and a reasonable amount of slightly hoakey plot to be got through people tend to act in ways that seem a little bit peculiar. Even for opera. Consequently if you're not careful with your acting and characterisation Lucia going bonkers and killing hubby seems more than a tad unlikely. If you then compound this with an overblown mad scene the whole thing becomes farcical. I can happily report that this didn't happen and that while a certain level of suspension of disbelief is required nothing was too ridiculous, largely due to Rost' sensitive and commanding performance.

The other important question to come out of the evening concerned the subject of fire. Last night very unusually we (me and Mac) were in the posh seats on the ground floor as opposed to being practically hanging off a scaffold attached to a vertical wall, somewhere in the vicinity of the troposphere. So, should a fire break out where would you want to be? Logic would say down low, but let’s look at all the angles. Up high the average age is a lot lower (possibly even under 40) but downstairs it sure ain’t. The general walking speed was about ‘I'm going to kill you right now if you dither anymore’ so being stuck behind that lot while the flames lick higher behind you . . . well you might not die from the fire but you could easily suffer an embolism out of sheer frustration. I think though I’d still rather be on the ground floor. After all you could easily fight your way down 7 stories of panicking Wagnerites and then still get stuck behind the massed hordes of the comfortably retired. Alternatively one could hope that the ROH was sufficiently fire proof after the £500M refit that this is no longer a pertinent question, but wtf knows?

And speaking of which one hears that the Venice Opera House is now open again – hurry hurry, hurry. If you want to see something go now – this place burns down on a regular, not to say suspiciously regular, basis. Something to do with unpaid ‘debts’ perhaps . . . and pick where you sit carefully as well ;-)

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

This morning I walked to the train station instead of taking the bus as I normally do. As I was walking down Seven Sisters I suddenly realised I was passing the butchers (Ian’s Meat Market) where I bought the first turkey I ever cooked for Christmas dinner. First turkey for any reason. That would have been 1991 and when I lived in Finsbury Park (the first time). For some reason remembering this brought on a sudden and really strong urge to weep. Fortunately I controlled myself : thirtysomething bloke walking along Seven Sisters at 8.15 in the morning and weeping – everyone would think I was local.

I’m trying to remember who was present at said meal – myself, Jules, Shazzer, Dr Heartbreak, La Caple – who else?

Whizzed out of work early yesterday so ended up getting a train with the tail end of the schoolies going home. The Kids from Turkey Street (like the Kids From Fame except all blokes and not as photogenic) were rapping on the train. It could have been pretty irritating except they were really, really, good. Apart some fairly predictable references to ‘hos’ and ‘bitches’ they were really impressive. Note : Rapping about your prowess with the ladies comes across better when you’re not 13 and on a train carrying your sports kit.

The reason for leaving early was to get to Covent Garden in time for the opening performance of the new production of Sweeney Todd.

This is kind of a departure for the ROH as it’s sort of half musical half opera depending on how you play it. Well, a musical for freaks, anyway. What it definitely is is fantastic. I don’t need to say much about the score. Come on guys, this is Sondheim at his best: subtle, musical & lyrical, with real undertones of menace and depravity. And of course it’s laugh out loud funny, as well as tragic. The production itself seems to live up to this pretty well. Whenever I review something I’ve seen it always comes out a bit shit so I’ll keep it short. It’s Thomas Allen so you expect him to be good and he is as The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – mad, driven and enraged. Felicity Palmer’s Mrs Lovett is his exact opposite – sensible and practical, but together the two work wonderfully to perform their deadly deeds for profit and revenge. The staging is some of the best I’ve seen with really great use of suggestion, shadow, sight gags and all the 18th century props of beadles and madhouses, cages and hooks. Overall it’s still sparse, as you’d expect from the ROH but no skimping on The Chair. I don’t know about anyone else but when I see someone have their throat cut I want to see them go down a chute afterwards.

I loved it, everyone I was with loved it, and judging from the audience response they loved it too. Get a ticket (if there are any left) and go and see it. Not cheap, fer sure, but well, well worth it. I could watch it all over again.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Noggin The Nog : fine – you just have to accept it as it is. But from there to Nogbad The Bad? Etymologically it just doesn’t make sense.

Here’s a nice example of that special Christmas feeling.

What is this Kwanzaa thing I keep reading about. Ok , Ok I know the basics, I can do a google search as well as the next man, :- Kwanzaa is a unique African American celebration with focus on the traditional African values of family, community responsibility, commerce, and self-improvement. Kwanzaa is neither political nor religious and despite some misconceptions, is not a substitute for Christmas.

I guess my question really is ‘what’s the back story?’ . . . it’s odd . . . I never heard of this before this year . . .

Ugggh – having some difficulties this morning. Wasn’t feeling too lively this weekend so after Friday night upstairs at The Chandos (which was crowded beyond the dreams of man) I decided to hole up for the rest of the weekend and do . . . nothing. Should have been Christmas shopping, but hey! Would have been a good idea too if I hadn’t been so incredibly inspired in my choice of video game entertainment.

OK – sounds lame but I was on my own in Blockbuster on Saturday evening (and getting lamer) and I felt a sudden urge to twiddle some buttons. One rental of Dredd vs Death for xbox later I’m sat at home thinking I’ll maybe play it for an hour or 2, watch a movie, go to bed.

Cue 9.30am Sunday morning. My thumbs are randomly twirling on their own, I’m jumpy, wired, sudden noises make my trigger finger contract spasmodically. Out of the corner of my eye I keep seeing Vampires & Death Cult Guards popping up to blow me away. Sheesh – maybe I should have paid some attention to the bit they always have in the instructions about taking regular breaks. What makes it so engrossing for an fps is that you can’t just shoot everyone. If you shoot the innocent big trouble starts, and often the bad guys will surrender – can’t shoot them either. It’s what makes it so twitch inducing – you can’t just merrily blast your way through the game – so you’re constantly trying to double guess each tiny movement – is it an ‘innocent’ citizen, an evil cultist, or one of a whole range in between.

So grab a few hours sleep and take up the trusty handset again about 4pm and get another 8 hours in – talk about a lost weekend! End result is that I had some very weird and gory dreams indeed and can definitely remember waking up feeling convinced that the streets outside my flat were crawling with the denizens of the undead and the criminally minded, all itching to get me.

It’s been years since I’ve been so engrossed in a game – perhaps I’m not past it yet after all, maybe I’ve just been playing the wrong kind of games. After all, while the odd God Sim is cool, nothing ever matches up to that original Sim City head rush, tho doubtless some will claim that Civ is in fact the ultimate God Sim.

Guess I could add this to my list of good things about being single :-

26) No-one to moan at you for playing ultra violent / incomprehensibly involved video games for 48 hours solid, neglecting to eat, sleep or an any way ablute during said period.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Sometime people just don’t deserved to be helped. Out of the goodness of my heart I wrote to these losers www.kilns.co.uk a few days ago to point out to them that they had a typo in their metadata and were therefore being listed in google as Kilns and Frunaces. Did they bother to acknowledge this – nay. Have they bothered to change their site – nope. Given that kilns are potentially lethal and even small faults can have devastating results these guys' attention to detail is really reassuring.

I used to throw a lot of pots and still have some of my finer examples, plus I’ve given a lot away . . . whatever happened to all that. Think I might go back to it as I’m sure my skills have atrophied, and let’s face it – you need never go hungry if you’re a potter. And of course you live in 3,000 BC Mesopotamia.

Nicole was talking about work and how with greater experience comes a much better ability to do your job coupled with hugely improved productivity. Which I agree with except there is one little problem to doing a good job :- it has absolutely no effect on promotion or reward.

Ability and concientiousness are fairly irrelevant. Provided you can get into work for 10.30 3 days out of 5 and not throw fireworks across the office all day you'll be OK. The best way to progress is by being noticed. It makes hardly any difference if you're noticed for being a deviant religious maniac, Cletus the Slack Jawed Yokel or just an aggressive little know nothing arse-wipe. Trust me it doesn’t matter. If you just do your job really really well no one will ever notice you – why would they? Here’s a tip. When you have a new task think of a really great way to do it –should take about 5 minutes. Then go and see your boss. Complain about the task a bit, but in a positive ‘can do’ way. Say you’re having difficulty encompassing the outline possibilities or some such crap. Ask your boss if they have any ideas how to do it? Agree with everything they say, and introduce your own ideas as if they were their own. By the time you’ve agreed on your original plan your boss should believe at least 50% of it was her own idea. This conversation should take exactly 45 minutes. Go and do the job. Then email everyone including your boss’s boss telling them what a good job you’ve done, having first discussed it with Linda/Terry/Brian.

If you’d just gone ahead and done it, then whoopee doo – what d’you expect? A medal? My way you get to look like a genius worker, your boss gets to look like a caring sharing can do empowerer and everybody knows about it – brownie points all round. This us just one example of how you can do your job in an annoying fucked up way and get way more rewarded for it than just doing the best job you can do.

Of course the very best way to get promoted without doing anything is just to be on a whole bunch of committees. When memos go out for these always volunteer. Junior brown-nosers may well wonder how they can get their work done as well as attending all these gas passing, jaw breaking, yawn fests but fear not. Although the first few months may be tough going you’ll soon be able to turn real work down on the grounds that you have to write a report for the Cross Divisional Manufacturing Process Review Team. (BTW you can just make this sort of stuff up if you’re cocky – who could ever be bothered to check - but you don’t have to, Show some pride in your work and make every piece of puffed up nonsense make-work a real piece of puffed up nonsense make-work). In no time your boss will have a contractor in covering the shortfall and when that promotion comes up you’ll be number 1 because a) You’re the office hot-shot b) You’re practically doing the job already c) The boss can get someone in full time to replace you and fire that pesky contractor.

There is of course the danger that you might actually be forced to take point at some time during your greasy climb up the corporate ladder. Should this happen – don’t panic. Just move companies and let someone else worry about it. Alternatively operate as a rubber bander – move to a temporary (6 months) assignment and turn the whole department on it’s head. Continuously tell everyone what a great job you’re doing and what a radical drop-dead kick-ass leader of men you are. And just before the shit hits the fan you’re snapped back to your home department and someone else is left holding the baby. Fantastic eh?

Don’t believe any of this is true than have a good long look at your bosses. Where are their glittering successes, their wunderkind projects that came in under budget ahead of schedule and really worked? Can’t find it? That’s because your boss isn’t any better than you or Cletus down the corridor. Your boss just has a few skills you don’t have yet – 1) Appropriating other people’s work as their own 2) Rubbishing other people’s successful projects 3) Talking crap and getting away with it.

So in summary I’d say the following about career progression. Don’t waste your time ‘doing’ when you could be ‘talking’. Just walk round all day saying ‘I’m brilliant me. I’m the best there is and you’d better believe it.’ If it worked for Bush with Al-Quaida and Iraq there is NO WAY it won’t work for you and Internal Affairs. Why work for a living when you could boss for $$$?

Food, drink, mmmmmmm . . . somehow this blog seems to have turned into a big restaurant review. Can’t think of anything duller myself but there you go . . . if you’re visiting London go the these places. If there’s someone in a corner passed out in their food you’ll know who it is ;-)

Lovely delicious Japanese food on Weds with lovely delicious friends. We started off in the Cock and Lion which is an acme example of a friendly scruffy office workers local and then moved on after a couple of pints. Was not totally convinced by Nakamura – excellent décor etc + waitresses in full Kimono with Obi and a proper Mama-San, but the prices definitely reflected this with food that was perfectly good, but not spectacular. But then where is as good as Jin Kichi – my all time favourite Japanese in London? In fact I may have to go there very very soon as it has been too long. In fact there are loads of good restaurants in Hampstead. I used to live there (happy, happy days) and my other personal faves are ZeNW3, Dim T Café (but don’t bother having a main course – go later rather than earlier and stick to the Dim Sum – they’re fantastic!) and the Bacchus Greek Taverna. Al Casbah ain’t too bad either.

So after the Japanese we retired to the pub for some more (unnecessary really) drinks, and by chance again found ourselves in the only pub in London with table service – The O’Conor Don. It’s really weird to be brought your pints in the UK – I’m not complaining it’s just odd, and somehow odder as this is very much a Guinness pub. Staggered home, passed out, felt AWFUL the next day. Am very much not supposed to be drinking during the week as when I do it’s always excessive, and I end up smoking as well, which I have found I can quite easily not do, provided I don’t drink. Those people you see smoking waiting for the train in the morning revolt me – what’s wrong with them? I’m not being holier than thou – I’m as capable (or more) than the next man of sucking down 20 Camel Lights on a Friday night and waking up with morning after mouth like Joan of Arc’s (that’s Miss of Arc to you :) ) but why people want to smoke when they’re not drunk or in the process of so getting is beyond me. Who was it who said that "Kissing men is like kissing a gin soaked brillo pad used for scrubbing out ashtrays"?

Speaking of ‘Miss of Arc’ did anyone else know that Jane Wiedlin was also in the Go-Gos? Trivia or what?

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

On the way home from work last night I got this strange urge to eat fish pie, and not the yacky mashed potato kind. I’ve never in my life cooked a fish pie, but how hard can it be? Reckoning I could wing it I diverted to Waitrose and bought:-

1k plain white flour
250g unsalted butter
250g lard
2x large cod fillets
200g tiger prawns
2lb potatoes
1lb leeks
1L full fat milk
6 x roys (eggs)
1 x packet sliced tongue (‘nibble while you cook’ treat)


8.15 Arrive home from Waitrose – consider just eating a sandwich instead
8.20 Arse around a bit
8.25 Start making pastry – 500g flour, ~90g butter ~90 lard, dash of salt, iced water.
8.30 Alan Titchmarsh’s Royal Gardens comes on the telly but hands too floury / buttery to pick up remote control.
8.40 Chop up medium onion v. fine – start frying in olive oil. Add 1 x fine chopped chile.
8.45 Have momentary blackout listening to Alan talking about Queen Victoria’s kids’ gardening tools. Finish making pastry – wrap in clingfilm. Refrigerate.
8.55 Add white wine vinegar, cook off, add water, deglaze pan, add 2 x garlic cloves, season. Flatmate1 replaces Alan with Buffy S2 – ‘Bad Eggs’. Praise Lord.
9.00. Cut up cod into 1” chunks. Add to pan w more olive oil. Pre-heat oven – gas mark 6
9.05 Roll out half+ of the pastry. Realise you’ve eaten all the tongue – 5 slices.
9.10 Line 12” dish with pastry – put in oven. Add handful cherry tomatoes to pan + dash tobasco.
9.15 Add prawns to pan. Decide against making potatoes as well. Feel happier.
9.20 Take out blind baked pasty, set pan aside.
9.25 Melt large knob (fnar) of butter in new pan for roux sauce.
9.30 Add flour until thickens to a paste – add milk
9.35 Realise added too much milk too fast – has gone lumpy – stir like a bastard. Add more flour – leave to thicken on absolute minimum heat. Keep stirring.
9.40 Roll out remaining pastry. Put fish & prawn mixture in pasty case.
9.45 Pour roux sauce over fish – mix together. Apply pastry lid, pierce, glaze with egg yolk.
9.50 Bung back in oven – still at gas mark 6. Ditch the leeks.
10.15 Talk to your Mother on the phone. Tell her about the pie. Realise you’re sick of the pie, and not even slightly hungry anymore. She tells you the pie will give you indigestion. Silently agree.
10.30 Take out delicious, browned, hot pie.
10.35 Fm1 & self sample pie. It is fantastic – fishy, creamy, slightly spicy middle, crisp dry buttery pastry. Both have large helping. Have second helping. Eat so much pie you feel like an over-inflated pie addicted zeppelin. Pie still less than half eaten!
2am, 4am & 6am Wake up with nuclear level indigestion. Curse pie.
8am Leave note for Fm2 : "I'll be out this evening, so please help yourself to pie - in the fridge."

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Don’t really know what’s going on but the usual problems of dyspepsia and insomnia seem to be giving me no let up right now. It’s a pain – if I get to sleep I’ll be woken up by galloping heartburn, if I’m heartburn free then insomnia will strike.

Actually the worst is not insomnia – whereby you simply cannot sleep – but something I sometimes experience in between the waking and unconscious states. This generally occurs if I’m very tired and need to sleep, in fact am about to fall asleep but then experience a strange feeling of heaviness or listlessness coupled with a strange sort of mental clarity or vision, often associated with feelings of physical dizziness. This will then be followed by a short period of sleep or near sleep, always with intense dreaming or intense uncontrollable ‘daydreaming’. I can’t properly discern the states – am I asleep or just on the verge of sleep or actually awake but no longer consciously in control of my thought processes (like on drugs). Either way this period lasting a few minutes at most will be terminated by a sudden shunt into full panicking wakefulness, like waking up from a nightmare, even though the dreams are mostly formless. Once my heart has stopped thumping I immediately feel the intense drowsiness again and the entire process repeats itself. This can occur 20 or even more times before proper sleep takes hold.

There doesn’t seem to be any predictability as to when this will happen except that it seems more likely to occur if I have a hangover, and never happens if I’m actually drunk. At the moment I’ve had 2 nights straight of this, so hopefully tonight will be OK. It’s a fairly unsettling experience and also makes you wicked blunt at work the next day.

So between standard insomnia, having insides like a hypergolic rocket engine and being a complete mentalista (see above) I’m not really getting my full 8 hours at the moment. The next stage is to try some herbal remedies. My boss swears by some stuff his wife gave him called Valerina – basically Velerian, Hops & Lemon extracts. Hmmmm. It does however contain 2-methyl-3-butenol, so it can’t be all bad ;-) even if it does sound like Valium for ballerinas. Actually Valium dosages that worked on those ‘definitely no whizz taken here’ ballerinas would be cool.

Monday, December 08, 2003

I gave in and ate a muffin. Feel so much better.

OK – can easily come up with 25 reasons why it’s good to be single, and I’m sure with minimum effort come up with loads more.

1) Nobody you have to ring to tell when you’ll be back (ie tomorrow)
2) No-one you have to ask if you can go to the pub
3) Going out with other people is OK
4) Going out full-stop is OK
5) You can see your mates with personality problems without having to apologise in advance for them or their far right wing views/obvious anger issues/prostitute addiction.
6) Can indulge in pornography to its logical conclusion
7) Don’t have to hide pornography under the floorboards
8) Can leave pornography in open view and adopt a ‘more liberal than thou’ / ‘Like I care what YOU think’ attitude with casual visitors. NB Not recommended with parent’s new partner.
9) Cheaper
10) Won’t be nagged about why haven’t been to the doctor to have that unsightly mole / open sore / sucking chest wound sorted out yet.
11) Don’t have to eat all that vegetarian crap
12) Booze, cigarettes and drugs addictions can be indulged in unchecked
13) Lateness for work only chastisable by boss.
14) No more beach holidays
15) Death Metal / West Coast Rap / Genesis now allowed at all volumes
16) Sheet changing no longer has equal criticality to wearing clothes out
17) You can wear your PJs & dressing gown out.*
18) No need to feign interest in partner’s night course.
19) Can eat all the raw fish / KFC / green lentils / chupa chups / garlic you want.
20) Crappy old sweatshirt & shorts all weekend = fine
21) Quality of toilet paper is once more unimportant
22) Getting up at 3.25 am to make pate sandwich is undisturbed by moans about indigestion.
23) Indigestion can be suffered without cries of ‘I told you so’.
24) No longer need to warn friends in advance about the poetry.
25) Unlimited shouting at the television privileges.

*Someone else was talking about this recently but I can’t remember whom . . . Jules once went all round the shopping centre at Blackhorse Road in her’s . . .never been a big one for it myself but I once played a few games of pool against some geezer in his dressing gown in a pub in Hoxton years before it got all tarted up and was still pretty much like this:-

In 1568, the Portuguese ambassador had a house on Hoxton Street and opened up his private chapel so that English Catholics could join in the Mass - forbidden in local parish churches. The breach in the law brought out the parish constables, but the ambassador and his guests drew their swords on the representatives of the law, who beat a hasty retreat, pursued by taunts of “vilains, dogges and such like”.

However I can only think of seven reasons for not being in a couple :-

1) Pity and condescension of the ‘loved up’ world.
2) Looking your own failure in the face and feeling nothing but despair.
3) The full realisation of both your surface unattractiveness and your inner ug
4) Excessive bouts of self doubt and self indulgence.
5) The endless crushing loneliness.
6) Will die alone in bedsit
7) Lover more calorifically efficient than hot water bottle.

God today’s lunch was rankety-rank-rank as Carrie would no doubt say. It’s 4.30 and I’m still eating it. I think it’s the chickpeas. They’re so raw it’s like crunching boiled sweets. I mean I know they should be technically cooked – they came from the usual salad bar but all the same I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if I turned up my toes and became one of those idiot statistic people – the people who eat raw beans and poison themselves.

Chickpeas, Kidney Beans, Sweet Corn, Grated Carrot, Bean Sprouts & Corriander. But it will not defeat me. I paid £1.30 for it and it will be eaten, esp as the alternative is a doughnut / viennese finger / blueberry muffin.

Some of the chickpeas are a sort of greyish green in colour. That can’t be normal can it?

OK – the great weekend-a-thon is over and I have two comments to make. 1) flatemate2 can argue and fall out with anyone when she has a few drinks inside her 2) People are rubbish.

I actually didn’t witness the first part of the evening as wisely took myself off to Hammersmith to meet Marise and have a lovely lovely Thai meal. Alas I recall not the name of the restaurant but it was delicious and cheap as well. So arrive home about 12.30 and shortly after the merry throng arrived back from some bar. Most of them seemed fine, even quite cool in a juvey kind of a way, but boy was I mistaken. About 2am this came to a bit of a head and the women of our party repaired to various bedrooms for interminable discussions about something or other. Given the quite high alcohol intake I guess many of you can see what is coming next : oh yes, slamming doors, thundering up and down the stairs, weeping, scowling, ‘You bitch’, ‘Cow’, ‘Fuck off you tart’ etc etc etc. Honestly it was just like being in Eastenders except with real swearing.

Despite a quite strong urge to go and poke them with pointy sticks I desisted and eventually got the full story from someone else. And this is just tragic. New Girl had made the terrible mistake of getting off with some bloke who was fm2’s ex boyfriend. She used to work in a pub with fm2 – had never met any of the others, didn’t know the back story, didn’t know he was the ex, didn’t know anything basically. And when I say ex I mean at least 3 years ago!!! But here’s the terrible bit. The reason for all this venom being ladled on to this poor girl’s head was because this ghastly bloke already had a girlfriend. So not only was she guilty of getting off with him in front of fm2 (it was 3 years ago ffs) she was also guilty of ‘stealing’ this bloke from his current girlfriend. I couldn’t understand it – not one single line of aprobrium was levelled at this grizzly man – he just sat there cool as you like while these daft tarts tore strips off each other. Frankly I’m not sure why any of them felt the need to get involved at all but surely if you had to the person to get the bollocking should have been the bloke not New Girl??

I was frankly just embarrassed and felt bad for New Girl. After she’d quite legitimately stormed off I raised the issue with fm2. Mistake. I merely pointed out that, while I had no doubt she could look after herself, ganging up on a drunk 21 year old woman and effectively forcing her out of the flat onto one of North East London’s less salubrious thoroughfares at 3.30 am without checking to see if she had cab money or even knew where she was (esp after you’d invited her back there in the first place) was hardly a sisterly act. Big mistake. Cue a 10 minute rant about how it was none of my business etc etc finishing with the usual rejoinder “You don’t know nothing about me! Nothing. You think you know, but you don’t know nothing about me!”

Why is it always people with the least to say that keep insisting on what mysterious deep swimmers they are. Actually that is not true – she does have plenty, plenty, to say – it’s just that most of it’s crap.

I went to bed shortly after that and refused to get up the whole of Sunday. Fm1 was away and I had no desire to see any of the previous evening’s merry throng. Until that is about 8.30 when I was forced into interaction by the flipping fire alarm going off again.

I live in a mixed use building – ground floor is retail then 2 floors of commercial and then 2 floors of residential. Consequently it has a fully professional fire protection system – which is good – or would be good if the building isn’t rented by MORONS. One of the shops downstairs, which sells mobile phones has a burglar deterrence system for it’s warehouse. What this means is that if the alarm is tripped the premises fill up with a thick cloud of dry ice to inhibit vision. But of course this leaks into the main part of the building and sets off our fire alarms. While I can temporarily override the fire alarm and turn off the alarms they immediately start again because the sensor is in the shop with the dry ice.

Cue the fire brigade turning up. Could they help? – no they couldn’t. In one of those surreal moments I was talking to the firemen outside and two passers by suddenly decided that they were going to start kicking off together. So while I was having a chat about fire zones and the idiocy of people who allow alarms to go off unchecked two blokes were beating the tar out of each other but 3 yards away. Actually it was a whole load of nancying around really, but noisy. The fight was resolved when one of the combatants ran away and the other attempted to give chase. Unfortunately he was wearing such an extreme version of baggy (which had doubtless been further loosened during all the slapping that had just gone on) that his trouser fell down completely causing him to fall flat on his face in front of the firemen, who basically pissed themselves.

The representative of the phone shop turned up at 11pm, 2½ hours after the alarms were first tripped. So now we know : robbing a mobile phone shop? Make sure you get out within 2½ hours or else you might get caught, or at the very least beaten senseless by angry and deafened residents. BTW : Nos. of plod who turned up due to the deafening fire alarms, burglar alarm, smoke, fire brigade, crowds on the street and people fighting : zero.

Friday, December 05, 2003

It's the weekend again, but no rest for the wicked. I will be avoiding my own flat like the plague as fm2 has kindly decided to fill it with her old mates from uni for the weekend. Which brings me neatly to the subject of university top-up fees. Now I'm going to go a bit off-piste here and veer away from my normal lefty position so anyone of a nervous disposition should skip to the end.

First up, I don't think education should be paid for in terms of student grants, top-up fees or any other form of point-of-sale costs. However I also see the government's point of view that you can't keep on paying the cost of expanding higher education indefinitely.

Where it starts to break down is in the assumption that you *should* keep on expanding higer education. Let's face it - just looking at the amount of places available though clearing every year in the UK surely indicates that all these new tertiary education places leading to a degree of some sort are not so highly in demand that their courses are over-subscribed many times over. Or perhaps it indicates that the prospective students have failed to achieve even the minimal exam grades required of them. Either way - are these courses actually doing anyone any good?

There is a certain sized pie for higher education and it can't go round everyone. Tony's position is that everyone can still come to the picnic but they have to bring their own sandwiches, mine is that you're probably better off inviting fewer people in the first place. OK, OK, I know it sounds a bit elitist - the idea that not everyone who wants a place at university automatically gets one. But seriously guys, the requirements these days for some courses in some universities are so low that anyone with half a braincell and a modicum of initiative could gain the required qualifications with about 3 months work. Mature students are often not asked for formal qualifications of any kind. And mature in this case doesn't mean 50, it means 27.

Hardly fair it seems though to allow a gifted few from the population to sit around discussing Kafka for 3 years while the rest of the population is slaving away at the University of Life? Correct but so what? If we had a secondary education system that provided anything like a reasonable homogeneity of education then this would not be an issue. We are attempting to absolve the inequalities of unequal state funding, differing home environments and private educational advantages by allowing universal (sic) entrance to tertiary education rather than attempting to address inequality and keep tertiary education as something both affordable and worthwhile. I know it's harsh - hell I enjoyed dicking about at someone elses expense for 3 years, why shouldn't everyone, but that is really not the answer. How about as an alternative; (aged 18-21) the government just gives you 10k tax free to fuck off to Thailand for a couple of years with? You'll come back knowing at least as much useful employment information as 95% of 'graduates', and the government will still gain it's secondary goal - ie wiping 500,000 off the unemployment rolls.

However it would seem that actually it's the piece of paper that's important not what you learn, tho of course this has been true for years. So to some extent the 'democratisation' of the university system is not doing anyone any favours. A lot of people are spending a lot of money (student debt on graduation now ~ £9,000 - after top up fees £18,000) doing rubbish degrees simply because these days for the under 25s if you can't put BA after your name then frankly you must be the poster child for retard, where they could be achieving something worthwhile and valuable. Thus a degree is totally devalued, anyone who bucks the system and chooses to spend their time profitably rather than in a sheeplike acquisition of a meaningless qualification is unfairly stigmatised amd the cost to the population as a whole and to the individual forced down this route just goes on increasing.

We have come to the position where instead of paying a reasonable amount for a relatively small number of people to sit on their arses for 3 years and occassionally learn something useful we are paying a huge amount for practically everyone to sit on their arses for 3 years and learn fuck all. And all this in the name of 'equality' and 'preparing for the future'. Which is why my flat is being invaded this weekend by a bunch of 20 somethings who spent 3 years of their lives taking drugs at the 'University of Central England' while ostensibly studying for a degree in 'Media and Communications'.

All of which has presumeably qualified them to perform at exactly the same level as fm2 : Temp.

So what is the solution - fewer places, lower costs, higher costs (now there's a thought?) what??? Well, if I knew I would say, but here's a few thoughts.

First; the secondary education system MUST be sorted out first. It's a mess already - grammar schools, private schools, grant mainatained, religious, secondary modern, public schools, comprehensive, technology etc etc. While a plurality of options might be a good thing this is not the case in Britain. There is indeed a plurality of educational institutional types but for the majority there's no real choise - you get what you're given. Exam results may appear to be improving but no-one who works at the coal face in education beleives this. They know that standards are dropping year on year as exams become easier. Indeed, many public schools (in the UK public schools = elite private schools) now restrict what exams their pupils may take on the principle that many GCSEs are virtually worthless.

Second; For God's sake let's start teaching something useful at university. I'm not going to get into the detail of what is useful and what isn't but let's face it, there's a lot of wasted (non)effort going on out there.

Third; Being a graduate used to help assure an employer of a certain degree of intelligence. (Actually the sub-text reads better - they wanted and got a certain 'class' of person). This is no longer the case, so why don't we start pointing it out more, and hopefully people will wake up and stop wasting 3 years learning some interminable rubbish just to get a minimal scrap of a step on some glass ceilinged 'graduate ladder'.

Fourth; if we don't watch out our paper qualifications will soon become largely meaningless and emplyers will be forced to conduct their own tests to ascertain people's usefulness. I find it unlikely that this will include writing essays on the Kingdoms of 13th century Europe or calulating the libido of Mars.

Fifth; Contrary to popular belief some degrees still have some vocational value (physics, engineering, accountancy, law, genetics, economics etc). Industries that benefit from this should pay for this. I could say the same thing for the Social Anthropologies of the educational world but I think that's something governement will still end up paying for out of the 'Learning for learning's sake budget'. And why not? Just less of it than there is now, OK?

Skipped to the end?

1) Education should be free at the point of sale to everyone independent of ability to pay but dependent on ability to learn and profit from that learning.
2) Tertiary education should sit on a fair and equitable primary and secondary education system
3) Universal tertiary education should not be used to ‘make up’ for failing primary and secondary education by enrolling and graduating sub stabdards students. It simply doesn’t work like that and pretending otherwise is insane.
4) The huge increase in availability of course places is vastly increasing the cost of tertiary education
5) Educational inflation (hugely increased student numbers coupled with falling standards in secondary education) has made the actual value of many degrees minimal
6) Many people gain little from their ‘university’ experience but must still go because without their ‘piece of paper’ even low level office junior positions will be closed to them now as ‘everyone’ has a degree.
7) Huge debts are built up by the individual. The days of £25k for university leavers and £50k in 10 years allowing quick repayment are over, many people will take years to pay off debt.
8) Industry should help pay for degrees it finds useful to the extent and depth that is useful to that industry. Government should pay to keep 'learning for learning's sake' courses. Like mine for example : Astronomy :).

Thursday, December 04, 2003

I bought this big tub of liquorice at lunchtme thinking "yeah liquorice, the healthy alternative to doughnuts". Well anyway I've now eaten all but 2 miserable pieces, my tongue has turned black and I'm so sugared I'm having to revert to one finger typing to have any hope of hitting the right key.

And even the thought of liquorice NAUSEATES me. But it seems crazy to just leave those 2 pieces . . .


Hmmm - here's a whole new look. I kind of like it but think it might look just a wee bit 80s. All that grey, red & black . . .

Lovely, lovely evening in the Pineapple with Rachel. She even bought me a furry hot water bottle for my birthday which is pretty handy as I can’t sleep in my room with the heating on and the only other available temperature is ‘outdoors’.

Oof – had to stop for a moment there as some psychotic in the catering department buried ¾ of a whole Thai chile in my raw beef & rice salad. Cue comedy chewing, strange expression, light dawning (too late, too late) and then running up and down the corridors swigging coke and screaming. Call me a weed if you like, but seriously, this was a hot chile.

Rachel seems in fine form and full of beans as ever. In fact our conversation was so 'wide ranging' that the lady sitting next to us was patently ear-wigging on us whilst her super dull date was not getting served at the bar. I hope she was entertained. Rachel says that getting served is a genetic thing. You either have it or you don’t. If you don’t then you can improve your technique, and you will get better, but you will never be able to match a true ‘bar presence’ person. I was sceptical but she proved it. If I have one complaint about the Pineapple it is that the bar seems to be run by a bunch of slacker kids and service can be a bit slow. With Rachel ordering – baddabing - baddaboom – served straight away every time.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Thank God - today has gone on for ever, but is now nearly over.

Me : If you don't find the resource to fix this problem that I've been telling you about for 6 months, well the current situaton will continue indefinitely.
Big Boss : Which is?
Me : That the last 18 months I've spent working on this is straight down the can - none of it can be implemented plus we can't sign off. And the rest of course.
BB : The rest?
Me : You know you were so keen to externalise this project in business orientated ways.
BB : Yeah?
ME : Well miraculously they bought it and X and Y and Z are, AS YOU KNOW, committed and have assigned development teams and rollouts. If we don't fix this all of that will crash and burn.
BB : Ooh - it sure is a tricky one isn't it?

However, in 2 hours I will be in the pub. YAY!

I’ve become discouraged about writing social / political stuff – I'm beginning to think it’s pointless so instead I’m going to write about my dreams. Last night I performed a little scientific experiment – ie eating half a camembert on it’s own immediately prior to sleep to see if the old wives tale had any validity.


1) Captured as a prisoner of war / deserter I was incarcerated in a strange triangular prison with my 2 Chinese wives and subjected to repeated harangues and rifle prodings. I was then taken to the interrogation room to see the ‘Spy Master’ who was wearing tracky bottoms and a T-shirt. In another room I could see shirt sleeved office workers being beaten to the ground. My hands were wired behind my back.

This dream was absolutely terrifying. Somehow the world was not our world but everything else about it was utterly real and convincing. I guess this is what it feels like to be in Guantanamo Bay. Except without the wives. Additionally I had the feeling that this whole experience was in some way a ‘repeat’ and that I had at least 3-4 years of incarceration ahead before I escaped.

2) I was living in North London with a woman who was a sort of cross between flatmate1 and my ex girlfriend. Both of whom are called Eleanor. Anyway we met the woman next door and cut off her ponytail which was a white and pink plait and put it in the oven to bake as a loaf of bread. The pink and white loaf started playing music.

Look I said they were dreams didn’t I?

3) I was shopping in the only place open on a Sunday evening (Woolworths) for some groceries and decided to buy some presents for the above flatmate / girlfriend. Unfortunately (it being Woollies) they had bugger all, and when I asked the shop assistant if they had anything else she was really sneery. I did however manage to find the following :
i) An 1854 copy of the Radio Times
ii) A book about the Trans Siberian railway
iii) A copy of The Terminator
iv) Another funny Pink&White plaited loaf thing.
I also learned the secret of how it plays music - kinda by it’s constituent parts selecting a song to play and having a continuous conversation with itself as to what to play. When enough parts have changed their 'minds' the song changes, which sounds very much like re-tuning a radio.

4) I was trapped in a large and spooky house with two friends and there was a terrific thunderstorm. Trying to protect the house I was trapped against an upstairs window and was about to be sucked out and killed. The window frame splintered . . . and then the storm stopped.

This dream felt very very real indeed. I genuinely believed I was going to die

5) Flatmate1’s boyfriend took me on a long walk through an abandoned and derelict city. We climbed up onto a rooftop that had been covered in grass and he showed me where he was building a new kind of urban dwelling for modern people until he was distracted by standing on a thistle because he wasn’t wearing any shoes. Later we watched Goebbell’s funeral cortege from the rooftop.

This dream makes easily the most sense of the lot, but only of you know Fm1’s bf ;-)
I know there were a couple of others that I can’t recall – can only recall these because I kept repeating them to myself and they were incredibly strong. I think there’s something about the memory that stores dreams after we wake up – it’s some sort of special non-permanent memory, designed to fade away. How often have you had a dream that seemed utterly real and detailed and 30 seconds later you can’t recall a thing about it? Of course it may simply be that you have the ‘memory’ of having the dream and the dream may never have actually happened.

I guess this is because in some way dreams can write to your core memory directly without passing through the logical, experiential part of the brain. This would also help explain the problems of causality we often experience in dreams – where things happen that are reliant on things in the future that we don’t yet know about etc etc. What I also find really odd in dreams is the way that other characters behave towards ‘you’ in totally opaque ways – you have no clue what they are going to do or say next, just like real people, even though they are constructs of your own brain, just like ‘you’.

Anyway, on the basis of the above 5 dreams alone I’d say the hypothesis under investigation has not been disproved so far : Eating cheese before bed gives you weird dreams.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Can’t understand it – was in bed & asleep by 11.30 last night and didn’t wake up till 3.45 (v. briefly) than slept on till 6.30 followed by 2 more hours of intermittent sleep and I’m still exhausted. I just don’t understand. How tired I am seems to have absolutely no relation any more to any external factors such as sleep, diet, activity level, whatever. The only constants are:

1) If it’s time to get up NOW I will be exhausted.
2) If I have to get up in 6 hours I will be zinging with energy.
3) If I drank anything more than 1 glass of wine the day before I will be a zombie.

Are there genuinely people out there who regularly get 8 hours a night (sleep that is) are never late for work and progress through the day without snapping at their colleagues, yawning like a lion and actually falling asleep at their desks? If there are, not many of them seem to be writing blogs.

This morning I gave someone money on the train to work. If you live in any city in the UK you will be familiar with the numbers of homeless and beggars that line our city pavements and in London, despite efforts to control this, the problem is as bad as ever. There are many theories as to why 25 years ago this section of society either didn’t exist or was virtually invisible, but I’ve never read anything conclusive. My first instinct of course is to blame Thatcher. This however is a bit like blaming God for all the evils in the world - it’s undeniable that the supreme authority must in some way be responsible, but it doesn’t really get us very far in analysing the mechanism or finding a solution.

About 4 years ago I was working in Leicester Square and living near Goodge Street. Every night after work my colleagues and I would go to the same pub and drink a huge amount, and then I would walk home on my own through Soho. The combination of late night drunkenness, curiosity about the causes of homelessness and making the same journey at the same time every day soon led me to be on nodding terms with most of the homeless whose regular pitches were on my route, and sometimes I would sit down next to them and hear what they had to say. This admittedly anecdotal evidence led me to the following conclusions :

1) The homeless in London are, by and large, not shirking kids who have perfectly good homes waiting for them if they could just stop being such wasters
2) Neither are they professional beggars who go back to their benefit sponsored squats at night
3) Many of the homeless are there due to physically abusive home environments or relationship breakdown.
4) The youngest are the most vulnerable due to total uncompetitivity in the housing market and a complete absence of acceptable council accommodation.
5) The biggest reason for remaining on the street is drug abuse / alcoholism
6) Money given to the homeless on the street is as likely to be spent on alcohol or drugs as it is on food or accommodation.

Consequently despite having a lot of sympathy and understanding for the homeless I rarely give them money on the street, except of course when I’m pissed.

So why did I give this young woman cash? Initially when getting on the train she hadn’t attracted my attention at all, she seemed normally dressed, just another commuter sitting in a corner. Anyway later on when most of the other people had got off the train she came over to me - which is unusual as by and large train and tube beggars are considered to be the most pernicious and unwanted – only one step away from being muggers. So I actually took a proper look at this girl. She looked about 18 but could have been 20, or 16 – who knows - and she looked uneasy or nervous. She was holding her jaw which appeared to be kind of swollen but it was hard to tell as she had her hood up. Then I noticed that her hands were literally black with encrusted dirt which again is not a good sign. She asked me for 20p quite politely and I hope I didn’t flinch. Not all of her teeth were where they should be and those that were were brown and grey and green. And this wasn’t just a bit of spotting - her teeth were rotting right out of her head. I gave her some change, and she said thank you and left me alone before getting off at the next station, the ever horrible Turkey Street, and running away down the platform. If I’d had just a bit more wit about myself I’d have said something more to her (but what exactly???) or at the very least told her to go to a dentist before she got blood poisoning.

To get to that stage she must have been failed by everyone from her parents through to Tony Fucking Blair. And now I can add myself to that list as well.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Crap. There’s a cake in the vending machine the size of a mango with gloopy white icing, smarties and hundreds & thousands on it. It looks utterly rank but strangely I still want it.

Ex-fm1 just rang me asking if I want to go to the press night at the Lyric tomorrow but alas I have some sort of dumbass meeting to go to instead :( Speaking of which I am so the boss of multitasking – I am currently writing this blog entry, on a Telecon, in NetMeeting and yawning my head off at the same time. Fantastic eh?

As a furtherdistraction I've also been attempting to catch the sitcom character tool out, but it’s pretty good really. Only person it didn’t get so far is Alex from Taxi.

Home again home again (well, work actually) and b2b (back to blog). I so need to get my computer problem sorted out. I still want to buy a new system but feel it would be an unnecessary extravagance when I could just somehow get my laptop fixed instead. At the moment this is refusing to re-install windows for some obscure and unknowable reason. Something about the way it is behaving and the way it behaved just prior to dieing on me (about 2 years ago!!) makes me think that the problem is non trivial. If it’s some sort of BIOS anti-virus screw up, them I’m shafted as I’ll never figure out some sort of boot patch to bypass this, so I’m hoping it’s either some undeleted file left over from Windows98 (unlikely I fear) or alternatively the hard disk has become mis-connected in some way. So my plan of action is this

1) Attempt to install LINUX instead of Windows. If this fails then
2) Take it apart and fiddle with the hard drive connectors. If still no joy
3) Buy new hard drive and install. Repeat step 2.
4) Give up and buy a new desktop.

I was just down in the staff canteen getting my strangely tasty lunch (chickpeas, sweetcorn & cabbage with a minty mustard dressing + an apple) when I had a sudden, albeit brief, moment of feeling a bit Christmassy. Perhaps it was to some extent the weather – ie raining, gloomy & miserable combined with the cheery indoor lighting or perhaps it was the rows of sweets, or whatever, Anyway for a few seconds I definitely felt a spot of Xmas cheer coming on. But I dealt with it ruthlessly by thinking about Tony Blair which will knock the shine off anyone’s day.

Anyhoo, today is World Aids Day, which is particularly timely given some of the recent press reports. HIV / AIDS is a big deal where I work and one of the things that comes through loud and clear is that we’re all still a long long way from any kind of cure or vaccination, so for the immediate future it does look like treatments aimed at prolonging life and of course programs to help avoid infection in the first place will be centre stage.

This is actually one of the most complex and highly politicised areas in international politics as it pulls together strands from every aspect of the modern world, particularly the Developed / Developing world relationship, our own relationship with multinational companies, both pharmaceutical and non, international aid agencies, attitudes towards disease and prejudice, philanthropy, greed, corruption. Whatever it is, HIV / AIDS seems to highlight the most extreme examples and attitudes. I’ll write some more about this later but for the moment here’s one thought.

There are 42 Million people suffering from HIV/AIDS worldwide. The Uk is the 5th largest donor to UNAIDS, the The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, and here’s how much we donated (USD):-

1995 -
1996 5,630,432
1997 5,446,237
1998 4,611,582
1999 4,839,968
2000 4,622,419
2001 4,318,558
2002 4,719,300
2003 2,389,800

Total : 36,578,296

It’s not actually a lot is it? Top of the heap with $112M was the USA, who just managed to pip the Netherlands on $94M. Now there’s a partnership that Bush doesn’t seem to have picked up on – between the two of them the USA and the Netherlands have picked up the tab for nearly 40% of the UNAIDS $525M spend so far.