Random musings from the front line (well, more like the support trench, or perhaps the castle 10 miles away, supping Chateau Lafite with the General Staff) in the battle for curiosity, inertia, grammar and a Dachshund called Colin.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dante's Inferno Test...

It seems weeks ago that I wrote this post, but then - in my forgetting-to-pack-my-bags frenzy, forgot to publish it. So, in case any of you are desperate to know how damned I am.... In a recurring theme, I first saw this test on Aginoth's site - and decided to have a go (the last test he pointed me towards had me turn out as Donald Trump!). Anyway, it seems I have a number of rather cool personality traits - although I can't think why I'm "Very High" on "Violent" - I only agreed with "Some people deserve to die". Oh well, it's better than being dull, and I guess I can spend eternity taking the mickey out of Aginoth (also on Level 6 with me) for his bling bling boy racer car accessories....

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished me to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!

Here is how I matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Moderate
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)Very High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)High

Take the Dante's Divine Comedy Inferno Test

Monday, November 28, 2005

It's too cold - I'm out of here!

Apparently, shivering is a sign of healthiness. It's a sign of being bloody freezing, more like.... As I sit in my single-glazed, uninsulated, large Victorian house, with the heating on maximum and my clothing now reaching the magic 5 layers figure (and still I'm cold), I'm frustrated but not at all surprised that my breath forms little clouds, just like when I'm outside. It's not as if I'm not trying to get warmer - over the weekend we burnt £20 of logs to little effect - and to address my shocking heat conductivity problem the council are giving me a token sum towards the long overdue insulation of my loft (they'd pay for the lot if I was a jobless layabout). I've also spent a small fortune at DIY stores on StormGuard draught excluders and under-door brushes (including the supposedly rather impressive Film Glaze - a very budget form of double glazing involving cling film and double sided sticky tape) and I've even sealed all the holes in my cracked windows with Fablon. But the house gets colder and colder, and quite frankly, I've had enough. I thus have invoked a little-known process in my terms of employment, which deals with the opportunity to experience life in a different sector of the maritime world - the Cruise Ship.

I'm a snowbird, a wimp, a cutter'n'runner, and I LOVE it....And so, after long and difficult minutes wrestling with my conscience, I applied for (and was immediately appointed in) a 2 and a half week posting on board a particularly prestigious merchant vessel, where I will be working as a combination of evening dinner host for the guests on board, and daytime bus monitor for the excursions ashore. These duties cost the taxpayer absolutely nothing, as costs are borne by the very generous company in question, and as a "sweetener" (as if one was needed), I am able to take a companion of my choice absolutely free. So I am taking a sophisticated and erudite friend of mine, whom I shall call "C", and in return for her 17 day holiday and associated flights, all she has to do is "supervise the ship's library"! Oh, and share a luxurious twin cabin with me for a few nights. Tough break, eh?

We're all going on a (Southern Hemisphere) summer holiday...It's not as cushy as it sounds, actually, as I have to be up by 0630 to meet and greet the guests at breakfast, and I don't get much time to myself in between hosting and escorting duties. But that's not to take away from the fact that it's a marvellous opportunity to do something completely different, in an area of the world that's supposed to be amazing (and where it's summer at the moment). My itinerary means I fly to Buenos Aires tomorrow night (via "Natal", which I was relieved to find out is a Brazilian city, so I'm not taking the world's most indirect route via South Africa) to join the ship, then we sail to Montevideo, before onward journeys to Puerto Madryn (the last true Welsh outpost in Patagonia), the Falkland Islands (I've actually been there before - it's like Wales with penguins), and the area around Tierra del Fuego. I get back to Blighty on 17 December, having been to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, a piece of Britain (!) and Chile, hopefully returning without the skin cancer of which the good citizens of Ushuaia have the dubious distinction of being the most prevalent sufferers (no ozone layer, you see).

So, wish me luck, and if anyone wants a trinket let me know and I'll see what I can do. Hopefully by the time I return, my house will be a lot bloody warmer, and I'll have a suntan for Christmas! Asta manana, or something....

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The JCB Song

Hi Steve - love the show....

For reasons explained in my last post, I spent a long time in my car a couple of weeks ago and having forgotten my iPod, I spent most of it listening to the radio whilst driving, and this led me to make a number of drastic decisions. One was the dawning realisation that (with the exception of a couple of their weekend shows and the marvellous Mark Radcliffe) the most popular radio station in the UK - Radio 2 - is now irredeemably shit, and has turned into a parody of "Smashie and Nicey" proportions (especially Steve Wright, who seems to think we all believe him when he claims that every email/letter/text he receives starts "Hi Steve - love the show...."). Anyway after this Damascene anti-Conversion, I found myself on an unfamilar part of the FM spectrum by tuning into Radio 1 for the first time in a while (I boycotted it when they booted off the aforementioned Mr Radcliffe for more "yoof" programming). And do you know what? It's actually rather good! The mainstream daytime DJs are funny without being irritating (ie the opposite of Sara bloody Cox), the music is half decent rather than annoying techno beep and non-stop rap, and the whole setup is actually a quality adult radio station.

Watch the coolest video - click HERE!
So anyway .... while listening to the Jo Whiley show, somewhere near Bridport on the coast road to Plymouth, I catch the rather un-Radio 1 refrain of "I'm Luke, I'm 5, and my dad's Bruce Lee, drives me round in his JCB" sung by a haunting voice and not much instrumentation, and I'm immediately hooked. It is, I now know, the chorus of the fantastic JCB Song, and I reckon that the track will easily get to number 1 once more people have heard it more than once. It is by the (to me) unknown and unsigned band Nizlopi - otherwise known as Luke (singer/guitar) and John (double bass), and from the info on their whizzy Flash-tastic website (spinning pencil - cool!) http://www.jcbsong.co.uk/ is a sort of autobiographical tale of Luke's schooldays, complete with a cool dad and Transformer fantasies. The single isn't released until 12 December (although you can pre-order it via Amazon) but being caring and sharing types, Luke and John let you listen to the whole thing on their website as well as watching the fantastic animated video (click here - mega high speed Broadband recommended) as well. There's also a completely different and endearingly amateur video at this site - possibly it's a homage rather than an official one!

What else can I say? I just love this song - and I'm normally a sort of floppy-haired indie kid - but this heart warming piece of well-written musical whimsy is already my favourite song of December, and that month hasn't even started yet. Other people seem to like them as well (loads of great reviews for the band here and the album here) and I think they're going to be huge. All I can say is that I'm glad Luke's dad didn't allow him to bunk off school too often or he wouldn't have met John on the school bus and formed such a great sound. Go on, have a listen... tell them Merkin sent you.

"I'm Luke, I'm 5, and my dad's Bruce Lee, drives me round in his JCB
I'm Luke, I'm 5, and my dad's Bruce Lee, drives me round in his JCB
I'm Luke, I'm 5, and my dad's Bruce Lee, drives me round in his JCB"

Double uber-genius.

On an unrelated note - Click HERE to play a cool JCB simulator game

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The "Other" White Meat

Serving Suggestion Only - Actual Dinner May Look Considerably ShitterFirst of all, thank you to all of my 3 readers for caring enough that I'd disappeared from the blogosphere to mention it by comment. It's been a hell of a fortnight, and I've not only not stopped long enough to read/write any blogs, I've also not even had time to check my email, pay my cleaning lady, notice my mortgage discount has finished, realise my car tax had expired AND almost missed my stepfather's birthday - which is difficult, as it's the same as mine. Phew! It's all because I've finally finished my secondment to the University of Stupidity (or "US", as they now call themselves, with no hint of irony!) and have spent the last 2 weeks preparing for my handover, conducting my handover, driving to the West Country to certify that my handover is complete, and then getting blind drunk with my former students to celebrate my handover (oh, and the aforementioned birthday, which was last Saturday). In amongst all of this, I attended Remembrance Day commemorations, had 3 formal dinners (as part of the handover - ie "meet my successor, Sir Ponsonby") and put over 2000 miles on my car. I also went to an Elbow concert (very good gig), where they were supported by a superb Danish band called Mew. And the highlight of all of this activity? The world's best Sunday Roast - as cooked by yours truly - wherein I impressed my mother and stepfather with the best-timed, best-prepared and goddamn tastiest roast pork dinner EVER! The recipe was one of those easy ones from the "Good Housekeeping Basic Cookery" book, that I've used for every bog standard recipe I've ever needed since I was 18 (35 mins per lb, plus 35 mins - you know the formula).

Oh, if you insist....But there was a downside. No one else was there to share my culinary triumph. My other half isn't quite ready to "meet the parents" (it's complicated), my housemate was away on a cycling weekend (camping in minus 8 degrees in Wales - nutter), my friends were either busy, or too hungover, to attend and my sister was so fed up with the A303 that she cancelled en route. So .... the 3 of us sat down to this masterpiece (with enough food for 5) - the first time in my life I have cooked a roast for my parents - on Snday lunhctime and exchanged presents, and ate cake and drunk champagne, and caught up for the first time in a few months. It was a good day. After they had gone, I even thought about blogging again for the first time in 2 weeks, but had to spend the next day (yesterday) doing such fun stuff as:
  • Remortgaging (I bloody missed the deadline and am now on the painful Standard Variable Rate - ouch).
  • Booked a tree surgeon to come and chop down the rubbish trees in my back garden - and convince him to chop them into logs which should be ready for next year.
  • Painted all the doorframes in my house - they've been annoying me.
  • Made a real effort with my front garden - which is now a vision of semi-completed loveliness (think bamboos, Mahonia, Podocarps and Laurel bushes. Mmmmmmm).
  • Washed the car.
  • Applied for a grant to insulate my attic. If I was old, or feckless, I'd get it done for free. Anyone want to lend me a yobbo or granny?
  • Draught-proofed the front door.
  • Went to cinema for first time in 3 months. Barry Trotter - good film!

It's amazing what you can do with a day off - what am I going to do with 2 weeks off?!? Oh, did I forget to mention that? God Bless LASS. Or, if I'm feeling expansive in my luxury - "Leave After Sea Service". Now where's that cinema timetable?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Preternatural Portmanteaux in Penisland

A friend recently surmised to me that people who take things a little too literally (and by definition have the lateral thinking abilities of a dead squirrel) tend to also be interested in IT. Now this may be a huge generalisation, not to say a slur on the hard working technical types out there, but if you look at the "wacky" ties, unamusing bumper stickers and unfathomable bulletin board discussions displayed by our computer-literate gurus, you rarely see subtle irony or amusing wordplay, so he may just have a point.

A further justification for this theory is the plethora of inadvertent double entendres displayed in web addresses, especially those made up of two words that have been combined into a domain name portmanteau, with no regard to the fine art of proof reading. My favourite example of this law of unintended consequences is the (no doubt very prestigious) online store for fine pens and writing implements, Pen Island. Why not visit their website ... http://www.penisland.net?

I think I actually know where Penisland is on the map, thanks to the Finbarr Saunders who clearly works at the European Central Bank's numismatic department:

Other examples of this phenomenon you could investigate include the incredibly worthy "Who Represents?", an online database for agencies to the rich and famous: http://www.whorepresents.com.

Why not visit Experts Exchange, a knowledge base where programmers can exchange advice and views? Just type in http://www.expertsexchange.com and watch your IT administrator's filtering software light up!

After being sacked for abuse of your company's IT system, you'll probably need a therapist. Try: http://www.therapistfinder.com.

Bored of Neverland? Then why not travel down under and enrol your children at the Mole Station Native Nursery, in New South Wales: http://www.molestationnursery.com.

But my favourite is something which fans of Robot Wars all wanted to type into Google, but never quite got round to. Picture the scene. You're an international electricity generating company. You have a subsidiary in Italy. What you need to do is register a suitable domain name. Yes, that's right - it's http://www.powergenitalia.com! Genius.