Friday, October 31, 2008
G: You’re my Debbie McGee
Me: I’m not sure I like being Debbie McGee
G: Well that makes me Paul Daniels, so I think I got the short straw here.
Me: Oh yes, good point. I’ll be Debbie McGee.
Unfortunately this does not make G a multi-millionaire.
Then yesterday morning the radio came on and we were listening to Christian O’Connell and people could phone in and ask questions they wanted the answer to. One person phoned in to ask why biscuits crumble in a cup of tea when they don’t in a cup of coffee (apart from it obviously being punishment for dunking it in a perfect drink, of course). G said “I know the answer to that” and then went on to explain that tea is an infusion (tea bag in, tea bag out, but basically a cup of hot water) and therefore is hotter than a cup of coffee which is made with granules and they are at room temperature so they cool the coffee down. Dunking a biscuit dissolves the sugar in the biscuit, which breaks down its structure and makes it collapse and the hotter the liquid the more likely this is to happen. G knows everything.
One final thing, whilst I think it was very unpleasant for Andrew Sachs to have got those offensive phone calls from Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand, was it really worthy of 32,500 complaints. That is 32,500. If that many people put in the same effort protesting about poverty or working towards achieving world peace then it might actually have been something that could have had a significant impact. Instead it was about a radio show that overstepped the mark. Look what the readers of the Daily Mail can achieve when they join forces.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Did I enjoy it? Sort of. I certainly found it very engaging at times and I wouldn’t have read it at the pace (five and a half weeks) I did if I didn’t get something out of it. I particularly liked Volume 3, which was when the narrator stepped into the story more and gave his views on people’s rile in history and how leaders think that they are somehow in control and yet any event in life (however great or small that life is) in that moment it is the culmination of a whole load of unconnected events that have gone before and people are not able to operate outside of that and take the credit for things that are really ultimately beyond their own control. I thought it was a really interesting idea and one that permeated the whole book.
As a story it would be right to describe it as epic and it brought together all the different parts of human experience and I was surprised at how funny some bits of the book were, but equally some were very tragic. I have to say that at times it was difficult to keep track of the story, but I think I just about managed to keep up.
Would I recommend it to others? Hmm… It was a good read and I liked it far more than I expected. But if someone wants to read it, they have to want to read it for themselves. I don’t think it is a book to take on lightly because it could easily turn into a test of endurance. I think reading it at a good pace is the best way to do it or else it would be quite easy to put it down and never pick it back up again. It is a definitely a more rewarding read if you read a reasonable chunk at a time (and it also helps to remember what happens as well). So, give it a go if you want to, but you do need to want to.
On other matters, it snowed in London a couple of nights ago, but if you missed it, you can make your own snowflake. Get cutting.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Anyway, TfL are inviting people to participate in Together for London which is meant to encourage us to show more consideration to each other on public transport. You can join in discussions but this does seem to be seen as an excuse by many to just moan about things. But then it is probably preferable to killing a fellow commuter. I did actually see a couple of people have an argument with each other on the tube yesterday morning and I think if they were to log on to the website one would say “Don’t block the doors” and if the other person started the discussion would say “Don’t push people when you get on the tube. If you do you are a twat”. They did actually argue about if the first guy was a twat and called each other some lovely names. I was just glad I was sitting down and could just get on with reading my book. Londoners are charming.
I’m now on the closing pages of the epilogue to War and Peace, by the time I get home tonight, I will be finished (bar pestilence and flood)!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
My overly friendly colleague came over and spoke to me at lunch time and told me had a present for me. He is Australian and had been to the Aussie Shop and bought me a Cherry Ripe, which was very sweet of him, as he had bought three others and ate those within a couple of hours of purchasing them. I had said to him last week that I might try and make some Lamingtons and so he is trying to bribe me now. There are worse things in life I guess.
I now have less than 100 pages to go of War and Peace. Technically I guess I have actually finished it, but there are two (!) epilogues to the book that total 100 pages. Nearly there...
Monday, October 27, 2008
Yesterday we went to my parents’ house for dinner. My father was as odd as ever, but was trying to make conversation with G. My mum and I were sorting some stuff out and dad turned to G and said “So, I can’t remember if I have asked you this before, but are your parents still alive?”. I guess I should appreciate that he was trying to make an effort, but I am not really sure he had quite thought through the possible fallout if the answer had been “no”. I think perhaps he needs to work on his small talk a bit more.
Progress was also made on War and Peace and I have less than 200 pages to go, so I am expecting to have it finished before the end of the week. Hopefully.
Friday, October 24, 2008
I went to Tesco, which I don’t actually frequent very much these days. As I walked round it I was very aware of how much marketing there was, how often they tried to direct you to a particular product because it was a “bargain” and how whilst it had an awful lot off stuff in stock, it was what they wanted to sell me rather than necessarily what I wanted to buy. It all made me feel a bit uncomfortable really and I always feel as though when I shop at Tesco that I have to say to myself “but do I actually need that product or is it just appealing because they are trying hard to sell it to me”.
I have always been a bit sceptical about Tesco anyway, but over recent months as my mind has given more thought to why we think in certain ways that I have become even more sceptical about the reason why we believe the pitches of places like Tesco. I will expand more on some of the stuff I have been thinking about but my thinking is at a very embryonic stage and I need to do some more reading and thinking (and I can take a long time to allow things to ferment in my brain, so it might not be any time soon).
Anyway, it is another Saturday ahead of transforming G’s room from a bombsite to an oasis of calm. It’s an exciting life.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
My internet connection has been rubbish recently. I phoned my ISP last night to see if they could fix it for me. Three phone calls and about an hour later there was finally success. I rather suspect that their IT support is outsourced to India, which isn’t a problem, but I don’t think they outsourced it there due to the great skill of the people dealing with calls because they could clearly only help me if my computer did exactly what it said on the screen in front of them. I don’t think they were very impressed with me when my computer didn’t comply. I think the first woman put the phone down on me because she didn’t know what else to suggest. I was waiting for her next instruction but instead the phone went dead.
I phoned back and spoke to someone else who took me through all the same things the previous woman had and then did a few bits more. It still didn’t work but she assured me that if I switched my computer off for 20 minutes it would then be working again. It wasn’t. I had to phone back. The second woman did amuse me though. She was giving me a password to type in and would give me the letter and then a word that started with that letter so I got it right. I was very confused when she kept saying “Q for cubic”, but I decided that it was probably quite rude to point out that cubic starts with a C. It was only later when I spoke to G about it that I realised she had been trying to say “Quebec”. The phonetic alphabet only really works if you know the words involved...
I phoned back a third time and after running through all the same stuff again, this woman managed to get my connection running again, but did have a bit of an officious tone if I queried what she asked me to do. Let’s be honest, if I knew what I was doing would I have to have phoned them? Anyway, it’s fixed for now.
I was going to say something more profound today but my computer conspired against me. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I was slightly apprehensive about going because I didn’t know if A might be there, but as it turned out that would never have been the case as apparently A has been off sick for he last couple of months. That made me feel rather sad because although we may have had our differences I wouldn’t wish anything bad on A and in other circumstances I would have hoped that I could help in some way. I think it makes me feel sad that I am so utterly powerless to do anything to help someone who was once such an important friend to me (and the friendship was always the more important thing to me than anything else) and that A is in a bad way. But I guess it is none of my business really.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I spotted the above sign on Saturday. It seems that we may be at war with Australia before we know it and that the slave trade is alive and well. *thinks* 99p is a bargain though...
I was on the Victoria line last night and several times heard the driver say “We’re running a special service tonight. Ignore the destination on the train as all Victoria line trains say Seven Sister’s. When we get there I’ll tell you if the train is going any further”. He kept repeating this as though thee was nothing odd about this at all. I like to think that the Victoria line was running a Magical Mystery Tour though and we could all have ended up somewhere very exciting. So not Walthamstow then.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Saturday I went over to G’s to do a mass tidy up of what is meant to be G’s bedroom but generally has more of a resemblance to an apocalypse. As I seem to recall I managed to spend a lot of time sorting it out on my own because G was off doing other things, but I did manage to create order out of chaos. I think I am going back next weekend so that we can try and keep up the momentum and get rid of various things. G often has trouble sleeping and an untidy bedroom apparently can be a big contributor to that, so hopefully this will improve things.
We then went out for dinner in the evening and ate at a Colombian restaurant, which was quite nice. We had intended to eat at a particularly Italian restaurant but when it came to it G couldn’t remember where it was so we ate at the Colombian place instead. I imagine this is a very ignorant comment, but quite a lot of it did seem fairly similar to Mexican food.
Then yesterday we went for a stroll near where I live and bought some cheese at a French market, which was really nice. I spent quite a bit of time reading War and Peace and am now on something like page 800 – only another 550 to go… I think that makes me about 60% of the way through the book, not that I am counting.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Anyway, at the end of the talk the person I was sat next to asked him what he saw as his greatest achievement and he replied that it was that his marriage had endured (although his wife has now died). She then went up and spoke to him afterwards and he thanked her for asking that question and he talked to her about how he worried that his constant striving for more and more challenges and somehow contributed to his wife getting ill and dying. She replied that she suspected his wife knew that had he had to give up his expeditions he would always have lived a life that was dissatisfying and somehow would never have quite been who he wanted to be, so in reality she probably supported him in what he did because she wanted what was best for him. He thanked her for what she’d said and said he’d never thought of it like that and would think about that some more. I was just really struck by how we can look at people who are able to conquer the world and think that somehow they must be totally different to you and me, but they can have the same fears and anxieties and need the same reassurances as us. We are all vulnerable in our own ways, regardless of how we are seen by the world around us.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
You should do it for your own benefit. Let alone anyone else’s. Think of how often your hands get near to your mouth, how often you use your hands to eat, how many other people you come into contact with. When you go to the toilet and you flush the toilet and then unlock the cubicle door, think how many people have done exactly the same thing before you and have therefore left their own ‘intimate samples’ on the toilet flush or lock. Even if you think you are somehow immune to your own waste products then surely you still don’t want to be wandering around with other people’s on your hands. Come on people, how difficult is it? It’s not going to kill you. Honest!
I sent the article to G and pointed out that the problem seemed to get worse the further north you go in the country, so people in Scotland surely should only be approached if you are wearing a full protective suit. For some reason G was not amused by this.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
So I got off the tube, phoned my boss to tell him what was happening and headed home. Strangely on the way to the station I had seen a plane boarding pass on the pavement and as I walked home I picked it up and it was mine from when I went to Manchester last week. I guess I must have dropped that on the way home last night. Anyway I got home and drove my car to the garage and arrived at work about 10.30am in the end. Not a great start to the day. My memory seems to be doing bizarre things at the moment, particularly my short term memory and it also now seems that I am discarding items in the street. This is not a good sign. I did get loads of work done yesterday and only got out of work just in time to get to the garage about 5 minutes before it closed.
In other news, I may have mentioned before that my mum has always said that I’m not allowed to eat kebabs (because, of course, I always do what my mother says) – and now I know why.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Yesterday I overheard some colleagues talking about the programme on Channel 4 on Sunday night “Britain's Got The Pop Factor And Possibly A New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly On Ice” and were saying how TV had reached a new low that people had to have such issue sin their life to be on these programmes and how they exploited people etc. They then brought me into the conversation and asked if I had seen it and I somewhat sheepishly said “you know that was a spoof don’t you?”. They both looked utterly shocked by this and took some convincing that it wasn’t a real programme. I would have thought Peter Kay dressed as a woman was a bit of a give away but clearly not. Or even the title of the programme for that matter. Or… well pretty much the entire content of it. Sometimes my colleagues scare me.
I went to a talk at LSE last night which was on probability. I have to see that it was not a particularly accessible talk. They lecturer was a philosopher who had quite some disdain for economists, econometrics and pretty much anyone who tried to predict any sort of trend. But he did make some interesting and challenging points, three of which I give you here:
- Probability is not in itself important, impact is.
- Past performance does not necessarily predict the future, particularly if this is based on creating predictions based on rare events. This is primarily due to lack of data and that when we do have data we often impose our theories on it rather than allowing the data to speak for itself. Therefore we create trends based on flawed theories and that is partly how things like the current economic crash. People looked at past performance and predicted that it would continue based on drawing incorrect assumptions.
- It is important to be able to say “I don’t know”, especially if pretending you do know something could have a high impact. On a more basic level, which was evident from the attitude of the lecturer though, it is also quite freeing to feel able to say you don’t know something. You state what you do know and you admit what you don’t. By doing this you are acknowledging that the world can be unpredictable and that we don’t know everything and probably never will. Accepting that we live in a world of uncertainty is part of coming to terms with understanding that economies crash, floods happen, society changes and so on – and can also mean that you can stand up in front of a lecture theatre and be asked lots of intellectual questions and be willing to say “I don’t know”. Somehow I think it would take a huge shift in people’s thinking for this approach to become generally acceptable but there is something quite refreshing about it. We live in a culture where we have to be experts and always want to win the argument, but what if we could just admit we don’t know everything and we don’t need to? Interesting.
Monday, October 13, 2008
You may have noticed that there is a financial crisis going on at the moment and so if you want to give to others in a rather low cost way to you (i.e. it costs a small bit of time, but no money) then you could try the free rice game and give rice through the UN Food Programme and test your general knowledge at the same time. Alternatively, if you want to try and get a £10 Amazon voucher, then if you look at this thread on Martin’s Money Tips, it tells you a way that you can do that.
In other news, I am over a third of the way through War and Peace and am still enjoying it. If I carry on at this rate, I should have it read in about six weeks time. That is quite a lot of reading still to go...
Friday, October 10, 2008
On the flight on the way home I was reading The Times, which incidentally I think has had some really good reporting on the current financial crisis, and I was amused by a letter which said:
“Sir, With the banks coming cap in hand to the taxpayer, shouldn’t we impose monthly penalty charges for administering an overdraft facility?”
Oh, wouldn’t that be poetic justice.
On an entirely different note, this year is 90 years since the end of the First World War. I have been reading a couple books connected to the First World War of late, most notably Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain. Anyway, the Royal British legion will be doing something extra to the selling of poppies this year. You can fill out a dedication to appear on a poppy, which will be ‘planted’ at the Menin Gate in Flanders. I actually have a form that arrived via the post (which has the poppy in it so I can write the message myself) and whilst part of the purpose of the appeal is to honour the dead, it is also a way by which to raise money for current veterans. Whilst there is no obligation to give money, if you did make a tribute then you might want to consider a donation as well. I actually have no particular connection with the armed forces, but I am just sometimes reminded that we have many privileges as a result of the sacrifices of the generations that preceded us.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
I seem to have a lot of stuff going round my head at the moment. Mainly stuff to do with work and around management and leadership and delegation and dumping stuff on people – there is a kind of hierarchical approach to that list and I am trying to get my head round all of it. I realise I’m not explaining myself very clearly, but that’s nothing new. Then there’s other stuff to do with getting upset on Friday night and so on. It wasn’t crying that bothered me, by the way, it was all the other stuff that went with it, that I might get round to explaining some other time. Hmm, yes that’s even less well explained.
Anyway, taxis to get and Manchester to visit. Hopefully I will find a way to be coherent by the time I get there, particularly as I have to speak for a few minutes at the meeting.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Yesterday was such a tedious day. Busy but tedious. I have another busy but tedious day ahead today as well doing almost exactly what I did yesterday. In the end after almost 5 hours yesterday I just said that we would have to stop because it was driving me insane. So we now have to pick up where we left off, which is not ideal but I just could not carry on with it yesterday. At least I am out of the office on Thursday and so therefore cannot possibly have to carry on with it then as well. I am going to Manchester for all of about 3 hours, which didn’t seem like a terribly good use of time, but is looking more appealing by the moment.
Over the last couple of days my boss and I have been discussing the credit crunch (did the phrase even exist 18 months ago??) and I suggested that this situation would never have arisen if our finances were invested in the Buildings and Loan in It’s a Wonderful Life. Oh, if only we had Jimmy Stewart to sort out the current crisis.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Someone I work with was talking to our IT support people and they put her on a hold for minute while they fixed something. So she wandered off for about 10 minutes and then when she came back to the phone and found there was no-one there she incredulously told me that she couldn’t believe they had hung up. Actually what had happened was that the IT had come back to the phone, found no-one at the other end and then called the office to find out what was going on and told me the outcome of the issue. I am still scratching my head as to why she was surprised that she couldn’t wander off for so long and somehow they’d just be dutifully waiting for her at the end of the line.
My weird colleague continued to harangue me yesterday. He came over to sarcastically comment on my hair cut. I suggested that he choose his words wisely. He then came back a while later and asked if I had a bus map. I didn’t. Finally he came over to tell me about the latest form of flu that is expected to hit the country. I listened briefly and then walked off. Maybe he’ll get the message in the end.
Oh and it seems that it truly does pay to recycle. Although I suspect Tesco will be withdrawing this scheme rather sharply if they have not done so already.
Monday, October 06, 2008
We did also have a bit of an incident that made everybody really upset. It’s not worth going into the detail of what happened, but it did actually make me cry because I was so upset by it all. I was really surprised by my reaction and need to think about that a bit because it all obviously just hit a really raw nerve.
Anyway the remedy to all of this was moustaches. We were at the Windsor Castle in Marylebone and Friday night was the monthly Handlebar Moustache Club night. Clearly if you are there on that sort of night you need to get into the spirit of it and sport your own moustache. So G managed to acquire some for us and we put them on and spent the rest of the evening chatting in our moustaches. It’s amazing how such things can lighten the mood and I suggest this as a potential solution to any adverse situations, as we had such a laugh for the rest of the evening. Despite the preceding paragraphs it was actually a very nice evening.
Saturday morning I went and got my hair cut and while I was having my hair washed an ambulance turned up as one of the rather older clientele had fainted. I don’t think this was a reflection on the hairdressing she had undergone, but they did take her away in the ambulance anyway. I got out with a decent haircut and all my limbs intact. So I take that as a success.
Friday, October 03, 2008
It is probably a good job I am out of the office anyway, as my little Australian stalker is driving me mad at the moment. He keeps coming over and making comments and asking unnecessary questions and just generally being annoying. It is very tempting to just tell him to go away but that a) wouldn’t be very polite and b) would not be very professional and c) I am a lot more senior than him and would set a very bad example. I may have to arrange to have him killed though. My boss sometimes catches the same train as him (although perhaps generally tries to avoid doing so) and this could therefore be of assistance in formulating a plan. Now that really would be marvellous.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
I was sitting at my desk at lunch time yesterday and my Australian stalker came over to speak to me. He’d left my payslip on my desk and seemed to want me to express my delight at this – even though I had already checked my payslip via our IT system and also seen the money had gone into my bank account. Anyway, for some reason he then started to make some comments about weight, at which point I told him that perhaps he should choose another subject. But being his somewhat oblivious self he just carried on and was making comments about where he thought I might be storing some extra weight. In the end I pointed out to him that somehow he always managed not just to cross a line but go over it with size twenty shoes. He still didn’t quite get that he should back off, so I just shook my head at him and returned to what I was doing. My new member of staff was sitting next to me and I have no idea what she made of the conversation, but she politely declined to make any comment.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
If you happen to have a spare moment late this morning and wish to use it by sending out some positive thoughts my way or to the powers that be then feel free to do so. It would be much appreciated. Nowt serious, it would just be of assistance and I may explain why at some point – but you’ll only find out if it works out, so get to it later this morning.