Saturday, December 31, 2005

Meltdown

43 degrees Celsius. That's not a temperature, that's a washing instruction. A preheat-the-oven-to setting. It's not what I was expecting for New Year's Eve. Nobody warned us that Melbourne got this hot. I've owned kettles that never got this hot.


It was slightly cooler indoors (say around 37 degrees), but every time you went outdoors it was like stepping into an oven. Complete with that scorching wind that dries out your eyes. Everything was hot to the touch - chairs, door handles, even the sofa.

I've think I've lost my own body weight in sweat today. I've compensated by eating lots. I'd hate to waste away.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Maintenance

Blogpatrol seems to have forgotten who I am, so I'm deleting the link. No more counter, no referrer information. Not that anyone ever visits this page (apart from me).

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Flock problem

Well, I've just found my first flock problem. You can't type in html links directly. You have to use the link button or drag the links in. Just typing href... results in broken links.

Grr.

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Comics

On Friday I managed to find Comics R Us in Melbourne. This was no mean feat. Armed only with an address (Level 1, 220 Bourke St) and a cursory knowledge of the CBD's grid system, I went hunting.


I'd attempted this a couple of times before, with no success. The address was gleaned from the Yellow Pages, which furnished me with a map that got me into the right block. Every other time I'd sensibly been on the right side of the road for the even numbers, expecting 220 to be one of those large malls with lots of little shops inside. Every other time, I'd walked right past it.

This time, I was on the wrong side of the road. To aid visibility, Comics R Us has their windows plastered with superhero pictures. You can only see this window if you're on the wrong side of the road. The door to 220 Bourke St is very small, and I wouldn't have seen it at all if I hadn't spotted a man dressed in black and looking a bit greasy going in. It also looks as though the door will take you downstairs (not to level 1), but you have to trust in the yellow pages to guide you.

Upstairs was great - comics everywhere, like a mylar forest in autumn. Action figures looked down upon me from their plastic boxes, and men dressed in black discussed weighty matters of sequential art and kebabs.

After a bit of wandering around in a daze, getting lost in the X-Men Spin-offs aisle (a comic for each mutation imaginable, "Look! It's Extra-Toe-Man and Anti-Grav-Boobs-Woman! Hurrah! We're saved! No, wait. They're too filled with angst to do anything. Balls."), I found the non-lycra section.

Warren Ellis' evil marketing scheme of forcing me to sign up to his entertaining email newsletter, Bad Signal, began to work its magic. The subliminal messages he encodes into the emails started prodding my mind with little sharp sticks, and I ended up buying Ministry of Space and Fell #2.

Ministry of Space is a great little alternative history, covering Britain's space programme and what might have happened if the V2 scientists had joined the UK instead of the USA. If you're familiar with Dan Dare, which I was mainly through the re-launch of the Eagle comic in the UK in the 1980s, then MoS will ring some bells. It has jetpacks and the Union Jack being raised on the Moon, what more could you ask for?

Fell is a short, self-contained, detective story set in a city where things are falling apart. The Fell of the title is a policeman, investigating some gruesome murders. That nice Mr. Ellis rants on about how this is a new format for comics, something to do with the number of pages and the price, but I don't really give a monkeys. It's a good story, very nicely drawn with a rather sinister nun in a Richard Nixon mask.

I'm rubbish at comic reviews.


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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Flock

So, I'm trying out Flock. Only about 6 months after the rest of the Intarweb, of course. I'd hate to be accused of jumping on a bandwagon. So far, it seems ok - I'm writing this post in it, for instance. If it helps me to keep this blog updated more often, then that's a good thing.


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Friday, November 18, 2005

TimTam


TimTam
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name.
This is what makes Australia great. The things that matter, they do really well. So you have coffee shops that sell hot meat pies for you to enjoy with your skinny latte (so you can feel a bit more butch). They sell dim sim in the fish and chip shops. They worry about biodiversity and saving water, while driving cars the size of small buses. The pinnacle of Australia's greatness, is the Tim Tam.

This small, chocolate-covered biscuit is truly a work of inspired genius. It is, to use Scary's phrase, this: fucking aces.

Some may point out the similarities between a TimTam and the UK's Penguin biscuit, but they clearly have never tasted a TimTam. It takes the penguin round the back and gives it a bloody good hiding.

The chocolatey goodness of the TimTam is fantastic straight out of the packet, but I can hear some of you saying "So what? I can get chocolate biscuits anywhere, anytime. I want something different, something new, something... filthy."

Well, my little perverts, get yourselves a nice hot cup of tea. Bite two, diagonally opposite, corners of your TimTam. Dunk one bitten corner in your tea, and use it as a straw to suck up your tea. When you feel the tea come out of the end, quickly shove the whole thing in your mouth in one go. Now go and change your soiled underwear, because that was the closest thing to sex you are going to get. Especially with the amount of biscuits you eat.

I have heard rumours that it tastes even better if you use Port. One for Christmas, I think.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mna Mna

We bought The Muppet Show - Season 1 on DVD yesterday. I wasn't sure if the kids were going to like it, and the jury is still out - at the moment the Muppets are trading on the success of Mna Mna (doo doo de-doo-doo) in the first episode and will need to pull something out of the bag soon of it's back to Robots and Shark Tale for us.

DVDs are much cheaper over here in the colonies. The Muppets cost us $35, which is about £16, and they're selling it for £25 on Amazon (which is usually one of the cheapest places to get DVDs in the UK). Bravo, our Australian cousins.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sci Fiction closing down.

Boo hiss! The best online SF publishing site, SCI FICTION is closing at the end of the year. Grr. Now how am I to achieve international acclaim? My plan was this:

  1. Write great story (possibly to include zombies/aliens/cats).

  2. Get it published on scifiction

  3. Collect awards

  4. Put feet up as money comes rolling in by the truckload


I'm currently stuck on the first part.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Ouch

You'd think that being unemployed would mean I'd be updating this blog
every half hour, what with all that time on my hands. Unfortunately,
being unemployed means that the only people I meet are my family, and
the only things I do are apply for jobs, buy groceries and stare
vacantly out through the window. Not exactly exciting blog fodder.

This morning, however, I'm awake at 6:30 while the rest of the house
snores. My back decided to wake me up about two hours ago, by being
just painful enough to stop me from sleeping, but not
ohmygodsomeonehasreplacedmyspinewithfire painful - you know, the
glamorous kind of pain that leaves you looking pale and drawn in a
hospital bed while pretty young nurses mop your brow, perhaps
occasionally giving you a bed-bath. Or therapeutic oral sex.

I've watched enough House to know that I've probably contracted Von
Trapp's Disease, and only have 24 hours before all my organs liquefy
and dribble out of my ears. First, they'll treat me for a completely
different disease, though, that has some of the same symptoms, but
unfortunately the cure for that one will just make me worse and quite
possibly roll my eyes up into my head and jerk around on the bed like a
landed fish. House will storm in, scaring off the oral sex nurse,
declare that I lied about never having licked a sweaty Shetland pony's
back in 1983 (the only known cause of Von Trapp's) and if I don't sign
this consent form for the experimental moles-on-crack treatment I will
die and so will everyone else I know. Then he'll limp back to his
office, and sit moodily twirling his cane to an appropriate soundtrack
thinking up new reasons not to have sex with that nice Dr Cameron.

That's how hospitals work, I know. I've seen it on TV. The lovely Mrs
No-Middle-Name, who is a nurse, denies this. But why would TV lie to
me?

Anyway, back to my back. So, I'm sat here on the sofa, after
discovering (through a process that had me performing the Kama Sutra
with an invisible partner) that there is no position in bed which
doesn't hurt. I'm waiting for the painkillers to kick in, and I don't
even get to look forward to a day off work. Unemployment has taken all
the joy out of skiving. It's no fun when no-one is paying you to watch
daytime TV in your pajamas.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Advice for migrants

Now that we've been here
for 5 weeks, I feel qualified to dispense my hard-earned wisdom.

Firstly, visa choice. If you're coming to Australia, don't bother with
a temporary visa - go for permanent residency, if you can, it makes
things a lot easier. We're here on a Temporary Business Subclass 457
visa, sponsored by my wife's hospital. No problem, we thought, we can
apply for residency once we're sure we like it.

The problems are: you can't get finance for anything if you're on a
temporary visa, so make sure you've got a shitload of cash available to
you; you can't buy a home, you'll have to rent (well - you can buy a
home but first you have to apply for permission with the Foreign
Investment Bureau); you're unlikely to find someone who will give you a
permanent job, since they can't be sure you're going to be around in 12
months' time (this is a problem for me, not my wife - who can't change
jobs for 12 months anyway); you can't get childcare assistance on a 457
- so childcare costs are pretty high; it's tied to the job description
in the visa application - so my wife can't cut her hours and go
part-time, even though there are part-time jobs available at the
hospital.

The good things about the 457 are that it's quicker to get (you do need
an Australian employer to sponsor you though), there's no restrictions
on the number of times you can enter and leave the country, and it
doesn't cost much. That's about it, really.

So, now you're thinking well, maybe we don't want to go permanent just
yet - what if we don't like it there? Or we get homesick? Permanent
residency doesn't mean you have to stay, it's not like prison - you're
allowed to leave. Go on, grow a pair and go the whole hog it will make
things a lot simpler once you get to Australia, in exchange for more
money up front and potentially a long wait for the visa to be granted.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

We made it.

Do you know what is the scariest thing about moving to another country?
Everything. It's all new, and it's all scary. We've left behind family,
friends, jobs, decent chocolate, and marmite. If you let yourself think
about it for longer than a few seconds, you'd crap yourself. So, you
don't.

The people that do think it through carefully and thoroughly are the
ones who say "oh, we thought about doing that for years, but we never
went through with it". The vast majority of people who stay where they
are, and are quite happy about it. We, however, are the sort that would
always wonder "what if...", eventually becoming bitter and twisted,
bringing it up in arguments 30 years later. "Yeah, well, little Johnny
wouldn't even have been in the stolen car with the brazilian midget
prostitutes, the cocaine-snorting donkey and the nuns if we'd moved to
Australia, like I wanted to!"

So, we went for it. Crossed our fingers, closed our eyes and leapt off
the edge of the world and landed on the other side. We've been in
Australia for 5 weeks. So far, so good. The donkey just smokes a little
pot, you know - to relax, and we've kept Little Johnny away from the
red light district. Over the next few posts, I'll impart some useful
information we've gleaned while doing things completely wrong. We make
the mistakes, so you don't have to.

Monday, September 05, 2005

You ain't seen me, right?

En route to Australia. No blogging for a while.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Car boot sale

[Note to American readers who may have strayed here by accident: you'd call it a car trunk sale. Which probably doesn't make much more sense either.]

This weekend my wife and I piled up our car with several years' worth of accumulated junk, and attended our first car boot sale. We're moving to Australia soon, so we're trying to get rid of all our household detritus, rather than pay lots of money to have it shipped halfway around the world.

For those that don't know what a car boot sale is, and have clearly never watched a single daytime television programme in the UK, let me explain. To hold a car boot sale you will require the following: one field/car park (parking lot), several cars, lots of tat. The people with the junk and the cars pay the owner of the field some money for the priviledge of having lots of people stare at their belongings with disdain. Some of these people may then decide to give you some money for these items. It's like ebay, you display your wares and await the inevitable bidding war that sends your price sky high, and end up selling it for 99p after one bid. But without the delivery charges.

We'd barely pulled up in our car when we were surrounded by rather scary looking men asking if we had any jewellery, or ornaments for sale. I'd managed to get the boot of the car open, so that I could get the table out upon which to display our wares, but couldn't do much else because these people just started pawing through our things. There must have been about ten people crowded around our car, and I was quite worried to start with. I was convinced they were all filling their pockets with our beatiful belongings, eager to fleece the newbies.

Then they started offering money for things, and I started to calm down. I don't think anyone took anything, although I can't be sure, but most people seemed quite honest. Within about 10 minutes, we'd made a hell of a lot of money, half the junk had been sold, and the crowds started to disperse. I eventually managed to get the table out and set up, our bits and bobs spread out on top, and on the ground next to it.

We did well for the next five minutes or so, a near-constant stream (can you have a constant stream?) of people wandered past, most buying a few things. Then it started to rain, the crowds tailed off, and we got bored.

We went home with more money and less stuff than we took with us, so we can't complain. My wife keeps hinting that we've got enough stuff for another car boot sale, but I'm not too keen. For a start, a lot of the stuff we've got left is the stuff that wouldn't sell last time.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Living

[inspired by the first line of the first song I listened to when I got to work this morning - who knows? this might be the start of a meme. Get on board now, before it gets popular and you have to start sneering.]

"Come on, take my hand. I want to contact the living."

I took Randall's offered hand across the table, and placed my other hand on the tv screen. It was hard to tell which was colder, deader. Randall had closed his eyes and was muttering under his breath. I'd never managed to work out what he said during these little anti-seances, but it seemed to help him. He'd drummed into me the importance of doing something, anything, of having a purpose.

Not that we had ever managed to contact the living. We saw them hidden in the static on the tv sometimes, or in the reflections in windows. I could hear them in the other rooms of the house, but they would always be gone when I'd burst in, my "a-ha! caught you!" echoing off the walls.

Randall said we had to keep trying. What if this is the time we get through, he'd say. I didn't want to tell him that I thought we're never going to get through. I've been here for years or hours, I'm not sure. There's no day or night, and I don't remember needing to sleep.

I've seen others on the street outside, other lost people. They walk with furrowed brows, or eyes as wide as the sky, but they're always gone when I get outside.

Randall had sweat on his brow, and his hand was gripping mine so tightly it would have hurt if I wasn't dead. Suddenly he opened his eyes, staring straight at me, and said in a voice like breaking glass, "Can you feel that?"

That's all he said. He let go of my hand, slumped back in the chair. I rubbed my hand gently to get it back into shape. When I looked up, he was gone.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

another test


another test
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name.
I'll add some more words to break the line. One more test of this

posting to flickr thing. I wonder

if this will work.

Test post


Test post
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name.
I'm trying to get this thing to post automatically to my blog, via
href="http://www.flickr.com">flickr.



I wonder what will happen.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Messing about

I'm just messing about with Technorati. I don't really know why. Move along, nothing to see here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | First gay marriage held in Spain

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | First gay marriage held in Spain: hooray for Spain! I've just checked and my own marriage doesn't appear to be any weaker or mean less to me. Phew!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

London and guilt.

I wasn't going to blog anything about the London bombings. There's plenty of other sites out there, with a huge range of takes on the subject. There's no need to add mine, especially seeing as it's only me that's going to read it.

However, this news story caught my eye. Can you imagine how you'd feel if your first novel was about to come out, a film company had taken an option on it, and a big ad campaign was just about to launch it into the big time? Pretty fucking good, eh?

And then the idea of your novel happens in reality. Then it's not such a good idea after all. You just know that one of the first thoughts of the author, while watching these horrible events unfold on TV, was "Bollocks. That's my novel flushed down the toilet." And then, the thought straight after that would be "Oh fuck, people are dying and I'm worried about my fucking book, I'm such a shit". When everything seems to be going well, that's when life likes to run up and give you a swift kick in the knackers. Poor guy.

(Look, I know there are far worse stories about these events. People have lost much, much more than a possible upturn in their careers, and they have my deepest sympathy. But my Britishness means I can really relate to the guilt and embarrassment of this man, and his publishers.)

Friday, July 08, 2005

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Kung Fu Monkey: 4th Generation Media

Kung Fu Monkey: 4th Generation Media

John Rogers has an interesting post about guerrilla TV, and how Big Media can make some money if they just give up trying to keep things the same as they've always been.

Cream crackered.

You know that episode of the Flintstones where the doctor tells Fred that if he falls asleep he'll die? Yes, you do. Ok, just pretend you do for now. Anyway, Fred props his red eyes open with matchsticks, his increasingly heavy eyelids eventually snapping them. Well, that's how I feel at the moment.

My daughter has been ill for this last week. The poor little thing has a chest infection, which means she's been coughing a lot. Especially during the night. She's also passed it on to my wife, who has also spent much of the week coughing in the small hours. I've been getting a maximum of about 3 hours continuous sleep a night. Yawn. I haven't been this tired and grumpy since the little 'un was born, and we were getting up every couple of hours to feed her.

In the meantime, Blogger has added a thing to upload photos. Which is nice, and if they'd had it a few months ago I'd never have signed up to flickr. I'm glad I did though, I'm really getting in to taking random pictures of stuff from strange angles, just to post to flickr. There's a great community there, and I've learnt a couple of things about taking photos. Try it, you'll like it.

If I wasn't so tired, I'd try my hand at this competition to write the Death of Dumbledore in the style of another author. Maybe I will, once I've had a nice, long, snooze.

Oh, it turns out that the doctor got it wrong and Fred doesn't die. You were worried, I could tell.

Monday, June 27, 2005

BBC Cult site to close.

The BBC's excellent Cult TV site is to close on July 15. Damn shame, get it while it's still there. [via Whedonesque]

Monday, June 20, 2005

Wild Flowers


Alaska state flower
Originally uploaded by GalleyWench.
Between my office and the nearest supermarket, there is nothing. Just busy roads, lined with pothole-filled pavements and grass verges peppered with rubbish thrown from passing cars.

Until today. Thanks to the weekend's sunshine the road to lunch is now splashed liberally with colour. Wild flowers have moved in. Marguerites are hiding the rubbish. Forget-me-nots are distracting people from the stubbly bald patches on the verges. Wild rose bushes leap out and point to the sky, yelling "Look, over there!" as you walk past the now-unnoticed steel crash barriers.

The trip to Tesco's has been transformed from a trudge to a pleasant stroll. As usual, I saw lots of things to photograph but didn't have my camera, so a quick tag search of flickr returned the beautiful flowers you see here.

I used to know the names of very nearly all the flowers I saw today. When I was little, maybe 6 or 7, I used to have a copy of the Observer's Book of Wild Flowers. I found it in a box in the attic, amongst my older siblings' discarded toys. I started collecting flowers with the obsession known only to little boys, pressing them carefully between the pages of this battered little book. For a couple of weeks in the 1970s I could have told you anything about any flowers in the UK.

Then I moved on to the next obsession (probably fuelled by my discovery of the Observer's Book of Aircraft), and all that knowledge got pushed out to make room. It went to join my Rubik's Cube solving expertise and long division ability.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Poster Update

The wedding poster was a success. It didn't arrive in time for the weekend, my wife was presented with an empty frame and was duly confused. It turned up yesterday, and the missus was pleased, but it was too big for the frame we'd bought. So she nipped to the shops and now it's being framed. Which means I won't get to see it for another week or so.

The only drawback is that now I've set a high standard for wedding anniversary gifts. This one was made by me, was very personal and she liked it a lot. If I'd been thinking long-term I should have started off small - like the books from amazon. Sure, she'd have been disappointed, but not as disappointed as she'll be next year when she gets crappy books from Amazon.

ID Cards Bad.

eclectech : the very model of a modern labour minister : a tribute to charles clarke and his id cards. Very funny.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Dress

The Dress, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction short story competition. Really good, I'd read it if I were you. Go on. There's nothing anywhere near as good here, and probably never will be. [via bookslut].

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Wedding Poster


Wedding Poster
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name.
It's our first wedding anniversary this weekend, and I finally came up with a gift idea yesterday.

The first year's gift is supposed to be paper, and at first I thought of a book from Amazon. But that didn't really seem right, even to a man of limited romantic sensibilities like me. Then I remembered reading about this guy making a poster out of pictures from iPhoto. A quick google later and I was convinced. It's a nice way of making sure the wedding pictures don't stay in an album on a shelf, or tucked away on the computer never to be viewed.

The only problem was getting it printed. There are a couple of photo shops nearby that will print photos from CDs or memory sticks, but the largest they do is 15" by 10". I wanted to go for the big one: 30" by 20". More googling came up with photobox who seem quite good, and will do the big sizes. They'll even print it out on canvas stretched over a frame, but that was outside my budget.

I'll be lucky if it turns up before Sunday though, so it looks like my wife will be confused by the gift of an empty frame.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Geeked out.

I spent the weekend up to my nuts in XML-RPC shenanigans. It took me about 4 hours to add a web service interface to the dodgy content management system I knocked up for my wife to use on our family website. The php xml-rpc library is great, and made the whole thing really straightforward.

Then I knocked up an applescript to allow us to upload an album of photos from iPhoto in one go. Previously we'd been uploading them one-by-one via a web page. Tedious. All was going well, until I got to the part where I needed to attach the image data to the xml-rpc request. In the php test client I'd written it was easy; read in the image as a string, and the php library would convert it to base64 and tag it as such in the xml. Bingo, Bob's yer uncle.

Applescript's xml-rpc support is provided through the Apple Event Manager which performs the translation between applescript data types and the xml equivalent. It should convert binary data into base64, same as the php library. I couldn't find any documentation that covered this, and even the internets were silent on the matter. So, I thought I'd better handle the conversion myself, via do shell script "openssl -enc base64". Which worked fine, but when the rpc call was made, the base64 data was passed as a string type, which the server wasn't happy with.

So, I tried coercing the base64 encoded data to the type class of "data". This was better. The server didn't complain about getting a string where it was expecting base64, but it didn't actually work. The base 64 element of the request looked like this <base64>++++++++++++</base64>. That's a bit wrong. For a 50k jpeg there should be about 100k's worth of base64 data, not a few '+' symbols. But I was on the right track - the type class of data was being tagged as base64.

Next step: maybe the AEM is trying to convert the already base64 encoded data to base64 for me, and ending up with rubbish. So I removed the step which called openssl, and replaced it with a open for access... read ... as data call, to get the raw image data to pass. Again the base64 tag was just a line of plusses. I tried reading in the image file as a type of "JPEG picture". No good. Passed as a parameter the JPEG picture's name gets passed as a string, instead of the image data as base64. Coerced to "data" and you get the line of plusses again.

So, I've learned that the AEM will pass objects of type class "data" tagged as base64 in the xml-rpc request. But I don't have a clue what it's actually converting them to. In the end I went back to encoding the image using openssl and passing it as a string. I changed the server-side php to take the data parameter as a string instead of base64, and handled the decoding by hand (via php's base64_decode function, which was handy).

It's a shame applescript's xml-rpc is broken in this regard, or at least not documented properly, because the rest of the xml-rpc support is excellent. It's pretty nifty that I managed to write in a few hours what I'd not managed to accomplish in weeks using a combination of applescript and the curl command.

That's enough geekery. My brain dump is complete. Hopefully that will save someone a lot of time when they try to base64-ify something in applescript. (Assuming google finds it here).

Friday, June 03, 2005

Curmudgeon

I wish I could be as grumpy as Harlan Ellison:
What annoys me is that Spielberg is such an egomaniac these days that it has to be "Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds". No, you puss-bag. It's "H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds", and it wouldn't kill you to put his f--king name on it.


I have this image of Harlan Ellison zooming around on a wave of burning bile, like Iceman or Frozone but with flames, looking for fights instead of helping people. He's my hero. Kicking ass and taking names. No, just kicking ass and slapping H.G. Wells' name on things.

I have no idea what a puss-bag is, but I'm going to make a point of calling somebody it today.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Following the herd.

I just got an email from Blogger HQ informing me that I was the only person in the world not to have posted a review of Episode III, and that if I do not rectify the situation as soon as possible I will be forcibly evicted from the blogosphere.

It was good. Not as good as the original three, better than the first two prequels. If every single line of dialogue had been cut out it would have been brilliant. As it was, I cringed every time someone opened their mouth. Especially Padme. She went from gung-ho action woman in the Phantom Menace, to simpering oh-Anni-please-woman in this one.

Annoyed by Yoda, I was. Backwards talking, all the time, he should not. Okay it is, every now and again. Continuous reversal of syntax, infuriate it does. Kick more arse, he should have. Great warrior is he, when shut up he does.

100% waste of wookies. They did nothing. There should have been more wookies. More specifically, there should have been more wookie-based droid thumpage. Like the Ewoks, but able to run instead of waddle, and bite throats out instead of knees.

Overall, not bad, could have been a lot worse. It made me want to watch the original three again, so that can't be bad.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

My powers are weak.

Yesterday, the final Star Wars film was released. You may not have noticed, there was little fanfare. Anyway, the whole interwebs were filled with chatter from people who went to see the first one 28 years ago to the day. It got me thinking: did I actually go to see Star Wars in the cinema?

I've always been convinced I did. I would have been about 4 years old, but I can't remember going to the cinema to see it. I remember going to see Return of the Jedi with my mum, the same year we went to see Octopussy, the last year that there was a cinema in my home town. It closed down in 1984, I think. I can also remember going to see The Empire Strikes Back with my sister. I was racking my brains earlier today, trying to dredge up memories of Star Wars itself.

I can remember going to see Superman with my brother and sister, in my sister's Wolseley Hornet. We had to go to the next town, since the vaguaries of the distribution system meant that they got films a few weeks before our town. That was 1978, and I would have been 5. Star Wars is a bit of a blank, though. It just seems like I was born having seen it, it's always been part of my childhood.

My son is now the same age I was when I first saw it, and I've been introducing him to the DVD box set of the original trilogy. One of my proudest moments was to hear him do the Darth Vader breathing noises, followed by his C3P0 impression. I'm such a geek, and I have founded a geek dynasty. Mwuhahahaaaaa... now I just need to get my daughter to grow her hair long enough to be twizzled into big Belgian buns on the side of her head and my journey will be complete.

This isn't the post you're looking for. You may go about your business.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Laziness

Three weeks ago I picked out a book from our local library: River of Gods, by Ian McDonald. It's nominated for, or has won, a sackful of awards. This is a book I should read, I thought. Awards = Good. That's a rule that's always true, right?

The rule may well hold in this case, but I wouldn't know. I never got any further than the first 8 chapters or so. This was due to a number of things.

Firstly, that I don't have that much time to read books these days; I'm either at work, or looking after the kids, or drooling insensibly in front of the television. Fitting in time to read around all this is difficult. Oh, and I have to talk to my wife occasionally too, otherwise I've found she can get a little irritable.

Secondly, the book is big. 583 pages. Big books take a long time to read, they take a hefty chunk out of my free time. A book has to be worth that investment. The last really big book I read was Jonathan Strange, which was very good but at 800 pages quite a struggle (especially in the middle, boring, part). No problem, I thought, this book has been getting very good reviews.

Thirdly, a book has to grab me fairly quickly. There are too many other demands for my time. If a book makes it easy for me to put it down and doesn't call me back soon, then before you know it, three weeks have passed and it's due back at the library.

The chapters I read were well written, interesting, and witty in places. All good, so far. However, they were all about different characters. Eight different characters introduced, with only the most tenuous of connections between them, if a connection was there at all. I quickly forgot who the first ones were and wasn't sure if the later chapters were continuing their stories or if these were yet more characters.

I wanted entertainment, not a memory game. Maybe if I'd read those first chapters in a single sitting, not spread out over a few days, I'd have kept track of them. When I was younger, I'd have made short work of this book - devoured it whole. I know, I ripped through the contents of our local library as a teenager. I'd like to think that I've got higher standards, more refined tastes these days. The truth is, I'm getting older and lazier. It won't be long before I start reading Mills & Boon romance pamphlets in large print editions and cuffing young whippersnappers round the ear when they question my reading choices. "They're easy to read, young 'un. Now clear off, before I jam this seven-volume derivative fantasy series up your arse."

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Blogging about blogging.

Here we go... the post that signifies I'm about to disappear up my own arsehole.

I've added a little thing to the sidebar from blogpatrol, which counts the (lack of) visitors to the site, and tells me where they came from. It seemed like a good idea at the time, a way to find out about my readers.

What I've mainly found out is that I have none. Which makes sense - I've not told anyone about the blog, so there's no reason for anyone to read it. I didn't start this thing to get readers anyway. It's supposed to be just for me.

So why do I find myself obsessively checking the blogpatrol counter every day? Suddenly I want people to visit my site, whereas before - when I couldn't know anything about visitors - I didn't really care. Which brings up another point: is there any point writing things if no-one ever reads them? It would be very easy for me to neglect this blog, and have it join the thousands of other blogs in Blogger's big blog orphanage - blogs that have about 3 entries, the first one being "I don't know if this has worked properly", the second being "I'm going to write in this every day", and the third being "I know I haven't posted much lately, but that's going to change".

If I had an audience, no matter how small, then there would be an extra pressure on me to provide content for them. But the very fact of having an audience would mean that I would be writing for them, trying to give them what I think they would want, rather than what I want to write.

Listen to me, like I'm some struggling artist in a garret overlooking the Left Bank, desperately trying to stay pure to my art while still having to sketch tourists at Montmartre to pay my absinthe bill. Fuck this. Writing is for nothing if there's nobody to read it. I shall throw open my gates, let the public flood in and prostrate themselves before the altar of my magnificence.

Time passes...

Nobody, huh? Fine. Put the altar of magnificence away, boys. We won't be needing it. I guess it's just you and me. What do you want to read about?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Custard


Image(632) custard
Originally uploaded by photosam.
About two days ago someone crept into my house, while I was asleep, sliced the top off my head, scooped my brains out and replaced them with custard.

I'm not sure how much custard was involved. Based on the volume of my head, I'd estimate about 4 cans. It feels like it's packed in quite tightly. My ears are throbbing. Maybe that means it's going to start oozing out soon.

It turns out to be surprisingly good for conducting thoughts. I can breathe, move, and drink coffee. All major functions are there. The only problem seems to be that any desire I once had to do productive work has gone. Thoughts related to my job are slowed to a crawl. I'd rather stare out of the window, than tippity-tap at the keyboard like a good little code monkey. Mind you, work-related thoughts have always been a little on the glacial side of speedy.

I've tried coffeeing the custard into action. Doesn't work. I just end up with shaking hands, birdlike head movements, and a desire to shout. The custard just sits there, smirking and roiling languidly, sloshing against the inside of my forehead. Fragments of coherent thought dashed against my skull.

Whoever has my brain had better return it soon. Or at least come back and slice a banana into the custard. I've a hunch it'd help - bananas are supposed to be brain food. But then, so are fish. I really don't want a shoal of fish swimming around in my custard sea. That can't be good.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Worst Job

The worst job I ever had was in a theatre, a few years ago. I had to look after Uri Geller. Where's the bad part of this, you're thinking. Sure, Geller comes across as a bit loopy, but he's not that bad, is he? It was my job to feed him and clean out his cage.

The manager of this theatre, Mr. Bowyer, had a thing about psychics, mediums and the like. He'd book them for a night, get them in, lock the doors and then force them to prove their talents were real. No tickets were ever sold, they were private performances for Mr. Bowyer and a few of his larger associates.

Margaret, who ran the confectionery shop in the foyer, said it was all because his wife had left him after consulting with a clairvoyant. She was told this by Doris, the cleaner, who was never one to gossip.
Slander maybe, but never gossip.

Brian, one of the ushers, said it all stemmed from Mr. Bowyer's father - who owned the theatre before he passed away, God rest his soul. He had been conned out of a week's takings by a faith healer. She'd pronounced him free of cancer, and run off with the cash before he could see a doctor. Old Tom in the pub had told Brian this, so it must be true. Brian spent a great deal of time in the pub.

Derek, the part-time projectionist who came in on cinema nights, had been told it was Mr. Bowyer's religious beliefs that drove him. That all this contacting the dead and seeing the future business was an affront to God, and he'd taken it upon himself to put a stop to it. Derek usually smelled of cider and had a penchant for conspiracy-theory films.

I stayed out of it, only nodding and oh-really-ing when the subject came up. None of my business, I told myself.

Word got out among the "gifted" practitioners of the mystical arts that our theatre wasn't a good place to attend, unless you happened to like being beaten senseless, bundled into the boot of a car, and dumped on waste land on the outskirts of Watford. Of course, that only applied if you failed to convince Mr. Bowyer of your claimed talents.

By the time I started work, as an assistant to Mr. Bowyer, the psychic bookings had all but dried up. One of the first things I had to do was
book "someone who's got some sort of supernatural talent", as Mr. Bowyer put it. Thinking nothing of it, I phoned around a couple of agents.

All of them turned me down. The first one laughed and slammed the phone down. The next two threatened to get the police involved if I phoned again. Some politely declined, and offered other types of act.

Now, this was just a small, rural, theatre. One hundred seats and the
dressing room doubled as a broom cupboard. I'd only been phoning small-time agents, and was getting nowhere, so with a bravado born out of desperation I went to the top. The biggest, most famous, psychic act I could think of. His mortgage payments must have been due or something,
because to my astonishment Uri Geller's agent took the booking.

I met Uri at the stage door and guided him to the dressing room. He asked if we'd sold many tickets for tonight, as the car park had been quite empty. I said I'd have to ask at the box office, although I'd been wondering when people were going to start turning up myself. It was unusually quiet in the theatre, considering we had such a big name on. I told him I'd be back in about half an hour to take him onto the stage, and to use the internal phone if he needed anything.

Mr Bowyer was in the foyer, talking to a group of about half a dozen burly men, and he beckoned me over.
"Here he is, the man who's made this evening possible," he put his arm around my shoulders, "Should be a good night tonight, let's see what Uri's got up his sleeves."
"There don't seem to be many punters, Mr Bowyer. Is something wrong?"
"No, no, lad. It's just a ... private performance. For me and my associates here."
"Oh, I see. Should I let Mr Geller know? Only he was asking where everyone was."
"Oh, don't worry. Did you get that prop sorted?"
"Yes, it's on stage. Brian gave me a hand, it weighed a ton."
"Thank you, my boy. You go and get Uri on that stage, then you can go home."
"Oh, er, okay. Thanks."

When I got in to work the next morning Mr Bowyer was already there. He was dressed in the same clothes as the night before, and seemed to have spilt red wine on his shirt.
"Got a little extra work for you, boy. Nip over the road and get some burgers, and take them to the dressing room. Here's a tenner."
"Dressing room?"
"Yes. Mr Geller's going to be staying with us for a little while," he said, rubbing the knuckles of his right hand with his left. They looked bruised and swollen.
"Why?"
"Well, son, we don't take too kindly to frauds and charlatans here. Mr Geller is staying until he proves he can bend spoons with the power of his mind."
"You can't do that! What about the police?"
"Nobody's going to tell the police, " he looked straight at me, "Are they?"
"Er-"
"Especially not the person that's responsible for bringing Uri here in the first place."
"Oh, fuck."
"Yes, son. Now go and feed Mr Geller. He's had a busy night."
"What about his agent?"
"Mr Geller was very thoughtful and phoned his agent last night, telling him he was going on a short holiday. Off you go. Don't fuck this up, and there'll be a little bonus for you in your wage packet. Fuck it up, and you're someone's spirit guide."

I couldn't really believe that Bowyer had Uri Geller trussed up in the dressing room, this was surely all a wind-up. I bought some burgers anyway, and headed back to the dressing room.

The door to the dressing room was shut, and I hesitated before opening it. I wanted to run away, but I wasn't even sure that Geller was in there. I turned the handle, then pushed open the door.

In the corner was a cage, about a metre on each side. Just big enough for Uri Geller to sit up inside. Which he was doing, his head resting on his raised knees. He looked up as I closed the door, but didn't say anything. I offered him a burger, but he just shrugged and looked over his shoulder. I noticed his hands were tied behind his back.

"Oh, sorry, " I mumbled, breaking off a piece of burger and feeding it to him through the mesh, "Here you go."

His eyes were dull, he looked like he'd resigned to his fate. Well, mainly he looked like a man who'd been comprehensively beaten by several large men. He didn't look like he wanted to talk, so I examined the cage as I fed him. Where there would normally be a padlock, someone had threaded a teaspoon through the loops. Evidently, Mr Geller hadn't managed to bend the spoon to escape. I mentioned this to him, and he stared at me. I got the impression he wanted to disembowel me, probably with the spoon.

I told Uri not to worry, that I'd get him out somehow, and left the dressing room. If I'd been any sort of hero, I'd have come up with a cunning plan to expose Mr Bowyer, free Uri and make the girl fall for me. The only problem being that I wasn't a hero, I had no plan, and the only girl likely to fall for me was Doris, the cleaner, and that was only because she was 64 and had a dodgy hip. Falling was something she did quite regularly.

So, I ran away, and phoned the police from a call box. Discretion is the better part of valour, and all that.

[Please note: no psychics were harmed in the making of this post, nor do I endorse the brutalisation of fraudsters, charlatans and hucksters.]

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Tidying up

Looks like Writing Parent is b0rked. I'll remove it from the list of links; it was a bit pants anyway. Their daily writing exercises, which weren't daily, were often along the lines of: "Take a picture, write about it." or "Think about something, then write about it". Grr. What I could do with is a RSS feed which provides different writing ideas every day. So that I could ignore it, and feel guilty.

*Googles*

Hey! I found one. Only it hasn't been updated since August, 2004. Arse biscuits.

*More googling*

Double arse burger with a side order of arse fries and a large arse cola. There's nothing. All the writing prompts/exercises sites are badly designed pieces of shit. And we all know how badly shit can be designed. Looks like I'm going to have to do this myself.

*Sounds of sleeves being rolled up, pencils sharpened, papers smoothed*

Right. Any minute now, I'm going to come up with something. I can feel it.

*Tumbleweed. Somewhere in the distance a bell tolls.*

Aw, horse spit. I've got nothing.

*Kicks over table, drops to knees, rips open shirt. Shakes fist at sky, wailing, "Why me, God? Why me?"*

*Sheepishly gets up, tidies mess.*

Anyway.

I also toyed with adding a blogroll from Bloglines, the news aggregator that I use. It didn't look too good, so I didn't bother.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Careless

[This week's Creative Theme over at The Writing Parent]

I think it was Oscar Wilde that said: "To lose one parent is unfortunate, to lose both is careless." It might have been one of the characters in his plays that said it. Or it might have been someone else entirely, and at the moment I'm too tired to find out. He never extended the quote to cover the circumstance of losing all of one's ancestors in a frankly implausible time-travel accident, oddly enough, so careless will be sufficient.

I'm not totally sure how I managed to do it. I was so sure I was right. It all seems so silly now. Too much to drink, too loud a discussion about paradoxes (what is the plural of that word?) in the pub, and one stupid, stupid bet. Rule Number One of the Temporal Driving Code: don't get into your vehicle when drunk, either on beer or testosterone.

Rule Number Two: don't think that your logic and knowledge of physics is better than the universe's. It isn't. The universe has been dealing with the likes of you since before your planet was born. Physics is it's bag, man.

Three: Don't fall in love with your great-grandmother. For a start, it's icky. Secondly, you may interfere with her meeting your great-grandfather. Even worse, you could wind up being your own great-grandfather. Count your fingers - more than the normal amount could mean you've already done this in your future. Dirty boy.

Four: remember that you can never return to the time you left. That's the bad one, the one we didn't work out until later on. Until it was too late.

I used to subscribe to the one, unalterable, time-line idea. That if you went back in time, you couldn't change the things that had already happened, because you had already done that in your time. No matter what you did, when you returned to your time then everything would still be the same. I was so sure I was right. All my experiments seemed to back me up.

So, I did it. I went back. I didn't do the nasty with Great-Granny, but I did enough to prevent her from meeting my great-grandfather. When I returned, to this empty warehouse instead of a bustling physics lab, everything was different. Nobody knows me, my family never existed. Somehow I've managed to return to a separate reality. I just hope that the many-worlds theory is correct, and that my family still exist back in my reality, and that it's just me that's gone missing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Tired and emotional.

I only recently discovered that "tired and emotional" was a euphemism for drunk. I'm so naive (you'll have to put the two dots thing above the i yourself, I can't work out how to get my keyboard to produce it).

This weekend I went on a cultural tour of Barcelona. My fellow art lovers and myself took in many fine sights, most of which sold alcohol, and the rest were tanned and wore tight clothing. It was a stag do, after all.

We did manage to take a look around Barcelona on Saturday, paying a visit to the Sagrada Familia Cathedral / Building Site as well as strolling past various other Gaudi creations. Take a look at some other people's photos. I didn't take my camera on the grounds that I'd most likely be too pissed to use it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Dream Job.

I had an interview lined up with a small firm on the other side of town. They made an exciting range of kilts, so they said, and wanted me to spit-shine their website in preparation for the hordes of uber-confident men that were currently constrained by the whole trouser thing. What the hell, it was work.

Google had pointed me in the right direction, but when I got to the right area nothing looked familiar. It was a quiet part of town. Back in the good old days, when people still made things instead of just trying to sell things made in other countries, the streets would have been choked with trucks and people, the factories belching out smoke. Now everything was quiet, the shops were all boarded up and the factories dark and filled with pigeons.

I was lost. I'd written the address down, cleverly thinking ahead, but not the phone number. There was a stray dog on the other side of the road that was sizing me up, working out how many meaty, bite-sized, chunks I was. A tinkling at the end of the road made me turn round. A man was coming out of a shop, the only shop not covered in fliers for long-past club nights.

"Excuse me", I shouted, but he can't have heard me and he disappeared around the corner. I headed towards the shop. Maybe they could help me.

The bell above the door tinkled again as I pushed it open. The room was small, and a man was behind a large wooden counter. Behind him, the wall was covered with shelves crammed with crystal balls.

"Yes, sir? How may I help?", he said as he looked up from a newspaper.
"I was really just looking for directions. I'm a bit lost."
"Aren't we all, sir?"
"Er, I suppose." I fished in my suit pockets for the address I'd written down. "This is the place I'm looking for."
"Oh yes, sir. Turn right as you leave the shop, take the second left, carry on for about 200 yards and it's on your right."
"Thanks." I turned to leave, but something was odd about the place and I couldn't quite work out what it was. "I didn't realise there was such a big fortune telling industry."
"Sir?"
"The crystal balls. I wouldn't have thought you'd get many gypsies crossing your palms with silver these days."
"Oh. No, sir. Those don't tell you the future, just the now."
"What do you mean?"
"They are realities, sir. Each ball is a different might-have-been."
"You've lost me."
"Here, take a look." He handed me one at random from a shelf. It was warm, and lighter than I was expecting. I peered in, and I'm fairly sure I let out a frankly embarrassing little girlish gasp. Inside, I saw people working in fields gathering strawberries.

"Wow. That's pretty cool. How does it work?"
"I'm afraid I can't explain that to you, sir. Trade secret."
"I see. What am I watching - I don't recognise the film?"
"It's not a film, sir. What you are watching there is what would have been if the industrial revolution had never taken place."
"I don't recognise any of the actors either."
"They're not actors, sir. They're the people who would have been here, if things had turned out differently."
"Riiight. Ok, this is some sort of joke, isn't it? There's a hidden camera somewhere."
"No, sir. Let me show you another."

He took the ball from my hands, replacing it with another from a different shelf. This time I saw myself, sitting at a table in a small room. There were two people sat opposite me, they seemed to be asking me questions.
"Er, what's this?" I knew the answer already.
"It's the interview you're supposed to be at right now. This is what would have happened if you had written that phone number down."
"Oh, bollocks." My stomach lurched as I realised he was telling the truth. "So - all these balls are realities?"
"Yes, sir."
"Where do they come from?"
"Every observation that is made creates a new reality, and destroys the other possibilities. The destroyed ones come here."
"Shouldn't there be more of them?"
"There's another room out the back, sir."
"And you sell these?"
"Yes. Well, rent would be more accurate."
"Who buys them?"
"Everyone who's ever said 'if only...', sir. Here you can find out."
"You don't seem to be very busy."
"Truth be told, business has been a little slow lately. I blame television."
"Television?"
"Well, it's so easy to escape into another reality through the television these days. People just can't be bothered schlepping halfway across town, despite the fact that the product is far superior."
"I see... have you considered selling over the Internet?"
"Oh, I don't understand all that computery stuff, sir. I'm just a simple manipulator of quantum manifolds."
"Well, then. Maybe I could be of assistance."

That's how it all started. I became CEO of ActualRealities.com, and started using fifty-pound notes to light my enormous cigars. Right place, right time, I guess.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Evil Overlord Of Middle Management

Crisis 2004 - 011
Crisis 2004 - 011,
originally uploaded by maarten_demont.
"So, Martin, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?". Derek steepled his fingers and leaned forward over the desk, in what he thought of as his active-listening pose. He concentrated on projecting an air of "I am interested in what you have to say". The training course had made this aspect very clear, and he was keen to put it into practice.

"...and I'd like to go through that with you beforehand...", said Martin, looking up for the first time, a slightly sheepish expression on his face. Derek resisted the urge to punch him. No punching, that was emphasised in the course too.

"Go ahead, Martin". Derek wasn't sure what Martin had been talking about, or why he was in his office. Derek had been told to have an "open-door" policy, but he was sure it didn't mean you had to entertain your fuckwitted subordinates all day long.

"Right, well, the board meeting is on Tuesday."
"Yes, I know." No punching.
"Well, I wasn't sure what form my presentation should take."
"You're just presenting the department accounts, Martin, nothing tricky", said Derek as he repeatedly pressed the button hidden under his desk. Nothing happened. The bastards had disabled the trapdoor.
"I know, but I wanted to run through what I was going to say."
"Say what I normally say: we're doing fine. We're under budget, thanks to some cutbacks, but we could do so much more with a few more resources."
"But, that's not true, sir. They slashed our budget for this year when they found out about that volcano island underground base project. "
"Yes... they'll pay for that, oh yes...", Derek rubbed his hands together and gazed out of the window across the car park.
"Er, sir. You're doing the laugh again. You know you're not supposed to..."
"Silence! Insolent dog!"
"Sir, I don't want to have to report you to Human Resources, please", said Martin, edging his seat back a little. At the mention of Human Resources, Derek's face paled and he shuddered. Not the management course, not again.

"Sorry, continue Martin."
"So, I, er, made this model of the boardroom. This is where I thought I'd stand to begin with, moving around the table as I mentioned all the wonderful things we've produced in the past. The monorail system, the orbital defence array, the one-man submersible technology-"
"The death ray?"
"No, sir. I was going to skip that one."
"What about the sharks with laser beams for eyes?"
"Um, no. Not really a project with wide applications."
"Damn. I liked that one."
"Anyway, once I'd reminded them of our usefulness, I was going to press for an increase in our budget."
"Of 500 billion dollars?"
"No, sir. This is departmental budget allocation meeting not a ransom threat."
"I always treated them the same way."
"We can't do that any more, sir."
"It got results."
"It also got you sent to the training facility." Derek flinched as Martin said it.
"So, what are you going to do if they refuse the increase?"
"Ah, six months ago the boardroom was refurbished and I took the opportunity to install a laser, left over from the shark project, into the security camera over here."
"Martin... I'm impressed."

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Enough already.

Two posts in, and the blog has already turned into a whine about how I don't do any writing. So, I'm going to use this:The Writing Parent - The 365 Daily Writing Prompts. I'll attempt one of these every day.

Until I get bored. Or stuck. Move along, nothing to see here.

UPDATE: Hmm. They don't seem to update their writing prompts as regularly as I hoped. Instead, I'll pick a random picture from flickr and write something about it.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Middle Names

I started off this post with an explanation for the title of this blog.
Here's the short version: I have no middle name. Other people do, I
don't. That's it.

The blog post I wrote went on for about 5 paragraphs and was
excruciatingly dull. So I've started again. This is something that
happens a lot with me. I start writing things, realise they're really
quite rubbish and either delete them or put them to one side and never
go back to them. I write several different versions of the same opening
paragraphs. Each one slightly different, but never quite right. I never
finish anything.

I tried using pen and paper at one point. This is something Neil Gaiman does. He writes his
stories longhand in notebooks, then transcribes them onto computer. The
idea is that this discourages you from tweaking and rewriting as you go,
which is all too easy when using a word processor, and forces you to
carry on until you've finished. Unfortunately, the thought that I have
to choose the right word now, because I can't go back and change it,
tends to paralyze me. I agonise over the choices, never happy with the
result. Maybe it's a technique I should return to once I'm happier with
my writing. Right now, I like being able to delete things and retype
them, polishing as I go.

The downside to this, as mentioned above, is that things never get
finished. It's largely a lack of confidence in what I've written. I
think it's a steaming pile of shite, so why should anyone want to read
it?

It's taken me so long to write this entry, that I'm bored with it. If
I'm bored with it, why would anyone else want to read it? Hmm. I sense a
pattern...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Brace yourselves.

I've always wanted to be a writer. Even as a foetus, I yearned to put pen to paper. Even though I consisted of only a handful of cells, I dreamed of having fingers with which to grasp a biro and enough neurons to comprehend the concept of language. Honest.

Okay. Maybe that isn't true. But I used to love the times at school when you got to write anything you wanted to. Usually this meant that the teacher had a lot of marking to do, or wanted to finish off the gin. I'd write thrilling adventure stories filled with dinosaurs, pyramids, mummies, spaceships, and aliens. Generally, they'd involve me being the leader of some expedition with my school friends filling out the parts of lackeys, minions, cannon fodder, and dinosaur chow. Sometimes they'd be illustrated in great detail and crayon.

As school went on, the opportunities for writing things I wanted to write got fewer, and the need to write essays about sewage processing, Laurie Lee's memoirs, and what Romeo really meant increased.

Then came university and maths replaced English as my main method of expressing creativity. Or at least, my main method of displaying my incompetence. I started work, and my mediocrity shone in the medium of Java.

I turned thirty, and wanted to do something I enjoyed instead of churning out dodgy websites that no-one uses. I decided to become a writer. I read every website and book available that gave advice on writing everything from comics to science fiction to literary novels to erotica to sitcoms. I can summarise that advice here: "To be a writer, you need to write."

So, two years later and I still haven't quite understood that advice. Sitting on my arse for a long time doesn't seem to have produced any fabulous works of fiction, apart from a few emails. Hence, this blog. I'm going to write between 500 and 1000 words every day. 500 words of utter nonsense most likely, but my literary muscles need the exercise.

That's it for today. Go away, now.