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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Chocolate Socialist's LiveJournal:

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Friday, July 1st, 2016
4:03 pm
Hiya folks,

I have the same views as mostly everyone you know about the current state of the world - the last week's been largely been a nightmare on that front, comedy Macbeth from the Tories aside. The options are disaster now or disaster later, hate crimes are on the rise, the Labour party is engaging in startlingly ill-timed convulsions that can't end anywhere good, and a cloud is spreading over pretty much everywhere.

So, here's some stuff I've been doing to distract myself:

Hanging out with Jen has been been a regular thing for a while now of course, but we're in the middle of an interesting week - her parents came into London last week (having come down from Perth to babysit her niblings in Kent while her brother and his wife went off on holiday) and we went out for a meal, and to meet each other for the first time. And this evening I'm getting a train to Gatwick (okay, two trains as the direct one has been cancelled), meeting her there, and then we're to Dublin to meet my sister Brenda and her partner, and on to Navan tomorrow to meet Josephine, her family, and Mum. I'll be a little calmer once the weekend's over, for sure. But I'm a little calmer around her anyway. We've been hit differently by Brexit - her post-doc is paid-up for the next two and a half years, but everything after that is ????, whereas I'm securely paid in a company that may just fade away if the word "passporting" appears in future EU-UK negotiations. Plan C (or D) is "go to Edinburgh, wait a few years, maybe don't even leave the EU" - it's a big step but these look like big times. The weekend will be the first time we've shared a bed two days in a row - all practice for the Big Trip this October, a wedding of a friend of hers which we'll expand to a Sydney->Melbourne road trip.

[Trinity Buoy Wharf / Longplayer]
And then on Sunday, we had some time to spare, so we went on a trip, by train to London Fields and on by bus to the area between the Isle of Dogs and the Excel centre, where the roads belie the original use of the land (Oregano Drive! Saffron Avenue! Nutmeg Lane! Clove Crescent! All just south of East India Dock Road). There's a lump of land there, where the final contortions of the River Lea (now containing the souldead 'New Manhattan', London City Island) meet the Thames. And on that lump is London's only (ex-training) Lighthouse, and a lot of art, and several buildings made of shipping containers.

And up in that lighthouse, is Longplayer, a music experience intended to run for 1000 years. It's a 20-minute piece by Jem Finer, played on Tibetan Singing Bowls, and a series of rules on how to modulate the piece which will guarantee it doesn't repeat over the duration. It's a little conceptual - it can be played anywhere, there are computers you can listen to it on, you can probably find out "what will be playing on 21st May 2135" - but it's also a lovely soothing sound.

The sound is best heard in the listening gallery, which is a small room at the top of the lighthouse (where the bulb would have been), with two nice chairs in it. And so we sat there for a bit, and took it in. The view is interesting - the cable-car over the Thames to the left, the Dome in the centre, Canary Wharf etc to the right - all potent signifiers of evil if you're that way inclined. But also all part of London by now, drawn into the city. I spent some time just watching a cable car crawl up and across the river, which with the chiming score reminded me of Koyaanisqatsi, which we'd tried to watch a few weeks before (but you need to be in the right mood). There was a sky with every different type of cloud in it, and the occasional roar of a jet overhead, and I felt something profound but (as you can tell) difficult to communicate.

[Sexy KC]
And then on Monday, the mighty Karaoke Circus made a return. I wrote a little while ago about the revival of this live-band night of Karaoke for comedians and punters, which had been brought back specifically to mark the death of David Bowie. They unwisely ended that one with "See you all when Prince dies" - so here we were.

I was a little concerned - David Bowie has a lot of songs that are a good singalong, while Prince's stuff is frankly fiddly - but all involved did well (except the girl whose schtick was being terrible and screechy). Two of my friends got up - toriar for Little Red Corvette and operacat for Starfish and Coffee. The comedians did okay, a certain amount of over-egging is probably understandable under the circumstances (though I'd have felt better about it if there was a single non-white person on stage apart from possibly the violin player who came on for two songs) - the surprise was "Tall Prince" aka Tim effing Vine, who did a perfect rendition of Sign of the Times, sans lyrics sheets, while dressed as a slightly-modded Elvis. The modification was adding a third lens to a pair of purple sunglasses, in the style of Twitter Prince, and worked quite well.

And then there was Lisa, who apparently walked up during the first interval and asked to sing, who may well have been there by herself (she had to park her backpack on the stage), and who nailed Kiss. I don't think there was anything exceptional about her voice (though I'm no expert), but she rode the rails of the song expertly and brought us with her. And then when she was acclaimed as the (punter-only) winner, she was just as suited to Purple Rain, which was inevitable as the last, sing-along, track. I like the idea that she had a train on to Amsterdam later on, a great and implausible story to take with her.
Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
2:24 pm
Update update
Some things for the next 17 minutes:

I've been emerging from hibernation a bit - back on the bike more, out contacting people and being social. I went back to Ireland at Easter and took a few extra days just to see friends in Dublin - by pleasant co-incidence caught up with all three of my ex-flatmates from 20 years ago - gentle good-humoured sharp Eamonn (at whose house for lunch I met leedy and her mob), cynical warm pacifist leftie Micheal, and Keith, expansive in house and collection of dogs and cats and just in Keithiness. It was gooood.

The drama with my house is all sorted out now, the taps mechanically can't overflow, and a surveyor has come and looked at the damage to downstairs, my regular handyman has come to make an estimate, and that amount of money has been paid to the downstairs neighbour-man, who will probably get his mates to do it cheaper but that's his business. For now, all things are calm and I've stopped being frozen with fear at random times on thinking that maybe I've left the gas water running.

I'm going to go on a cycle around the city, I've seen some films (useless recommendation for Civil War), my PC is buggered again, myself & Jen went to Leeds and had a lovely time with glitzfrau and biascut, myself & Jen are still having a lovely time together, the sun is out okay now we are CAUGHT UP.
Saturday, January 23rd, 2016
4:01 pm
Reasons why I should not be mistaken for a grown-up, part 300.
My washer/dryer has been off its food for a while - the fabric softener hasn't been lessening with each load. The tray that is the only easily-removable part of the machine has bent a little, and there's a knack for getting it back in, so I've spent some time foostering at that, wondering if the bend is creating a seal (or breaking one?) that is stopping the water getting at the lovely softener. It's not the settings, as I never change the settings.

And without softener, my clothes have been getting harder, sometimes transforming t-shirts into canvas - it's not good, and so I've been carrying around the same "Maybe it'll get better" / "I know that it won't" feeling that I had for the pain in my side a few years ago.

Today, though, I got to the clothes just as they were ready to be taken out, and realised that something was very wrong - the clothes were actually painfully hot to the touch, some of the plastic buttons had melted on the duvet cover (one which is due to be replaced soon, though), and I actually burned my hand a bit touching the inside of the drum.

A quick Google of 'Indesit washer dryer too hot' indicates that they have in fact been bursting into flames, and a link to a page which will tell you if yours is due for the recall / repair. The waiting period is expected to be March at this rate, the link warns - but my make isn't apparently affected?

Anyway, I ring the number, confirm that I'm not in warantee (There's a sticker on it for 'Ring to start your 5 years spare parts guarantee' - it would probably be a bit cheeky to try to start that now rather than five and a half years ago). They put me through to someone, we start to discuss when it would be possible for someone to come out, and then I start swearing, including calling myself a fucking muppet, on the phone to a stranger.

The machine has a dial on the right, with all the possible things you can do on there, and in the centre of that dial is the knob you turn it round by - it's symmetrical but there's a little raised bit with a smudge by it.

Except what I've just spotted, on the phone to the support organiser, is that the smudge isn't on that side, it's on the other side, and the machine's not set to the regular wash and dry, but to 'Dry (Cotton)'. For the last few weeks, I haven't actually been washing my clothes at all - I've just been really really really drying them.
Tuesday, January 19th, 2016
2:44 pm
Eyes still glazing
Wait, that joke doesn't work.

[cut for dullness]

The update is - but, first a recap:

First quote for replacing five sash windows with uPVC: Big company (Anglian), lots of attention, driven out to see a show house, terrifying amount reduced in the same breath by 50% discount, and then further by Finance, £8,630.

Second quote: Smaller firm (all covered and insured by the same regulator though), quick, businesslike, gave me a quote a few days later for £4,200.

And since then, largely a failure to get a third quote - every fortnight or so I'd go onto checkatrade and look for glaziers who came up when you enter my postcode, and inevitably they'd be based way out of town, but had added 'London' in the pretty rough filter they'd been given. So I'd ask for a callback, and not get one, and then the general end of year business turned up.

And then New Year New Attitude (the attitude in question being "man, fuck this bullshit") - the Sunday before last I went back, picked 4 (the maximum you can ask for a callback), and three (3) of them responded! So I now have five (5) quotes!

Wednesday was Advanced Glazing Systems (I know, but all the good names are surely taken years ago), who came over and was very charming, a quick measurement and a chat - took pains to point out that one of the things to look out for is the cavity in the panels where the weights and cord were (it's all springs these days), which they take care to fill in to avoid noise and heat leakage. On a related note, he recommended that whatever I do, have ALL of the dust sheets in place when the old windows come down - he's seen the cavities up to 3/4 of the way up full of dust. He mailed me the quote later - £4,150.

Thursday was Homeglaze, a big enough operation (the person who booked my appointment is not who answered the phone to reschedule it is not who turned up). He's heard of Anglian, and mocked the "Big quote and immediate discount", but he also had a finance discount and a February discount (the workmen get paid anyway and apparently winter is a slow period?). But after all that it's still £8,664, and he didn't even have a brochure to demonstrate their technical superiority (he had a sample window - it looked like all of the other sample windows). He was a curious figure, he reminded me a bit (and I'm aware this is harsh) of Shelley from Glengarry Glen Ross / Gil from the Simpsons - pushing a rock up a hill using willpower he doesn't have.

And then on Friday I sent a nagging text to Taylorglaze, who had come in on Tuesday (similar to the second quote - quick, businesslike, took the requirements and left) - they grudgingly sent on the result of their deliberations which was £4,980.

I'm still a little surprised by there being two bands of price, but then the larger two are from much larger organisations. I am hoping that the £4k ones are as okay as they seem, if not they're insured for 10 years and I should in a position to shell out the £8k without as much worry by that stage.

For peace of mind I think I'm going to pick AGS I think, not just for the lowest quote but because they had a good salesperson and decent reviews on Checkatrade. And then soon I can stop thinking about this which will be nice.

Things standing between me and stopping thinking about this: AGS sending someone to survey properly, me booking dates, crucially and terrifyingly me talking to downstairs about possibly allowing access to their back garden.
Wednesday, November 18th, 2015
2:54 pm
Up to date.
[New York 1]
I freely admit that I wasted my first trip to New York - not entirely of course, I saw George's friends Daniel and Zeke, and I saw cartographer , all of whom were great.

Also I went out to an evening called Women of Letters, which is where they ask several female writers to write a letter on a certain theme.

Five of the writers were (from the Facebook blurb):
  • Acclaimed playwright and screenwriter of Academy Award-nominated 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' LUCY ALIBAR
  • Acclaimed rapper and 'Sisterhood of Hip Hop' star NYEMIAH SUPREME
  • Writer, former dominiatrix and author of 'Whip Smart' MELISSA FEBOS
  • Beloved actress/comedian, vlogger and host of MTV's Decoded FRANCHESCA RAMSEY
  • Moth-champion storyteller, comedian and writer MEG FERRILL

And I felt bad for all of them (particularly Melissa Febos, who was fantastic) because the sixth was Mallory Ortberg. She totally cheated on the theme ("Letters to my could have been"), but told an amazing story of an informational interview she had when she was in New York a decade ago. You will probably not be surprised to hear that her flat delivery was flawless.

In Philadelphia I mostly hung out with sinsense - I amused myself during the days by firstly walking around town finding a new pair of socks/underwear/t-shirt (because I'd miscounted what I'd brought over vs my access to a washing machine), and then secondly by limping not very far because I'd knackered a tendon near my ankle. But the evening was spent hanging about with her, which (sorry, Philly) was basically what I came to town for. I was introduced to the Bourne Ultimatum, she was introduced to Father Ted, we both spoiled ourselves for a crucial and controversial episode of Ru Paul's Drag Race (to the annoyance of her boy).

[New York 2]
I got more done the second time in New York - mostly Art because why not Art?

The Japan Society had an exhibition of Experimental Japanese Photography of 1960-1970, which frankly 50 years has not done any favours to - "We can still take photos of buildings, but they can be shaky now to indicate the tremors tearing their way through society!" "I can take a camera on honeymoon with my wife, and we can move from formal looks to the more intimate relationship that thrives away from the public persona. Now, get your tits out, love. No, I'll stay fully dressed, thanks"

The MoMa PS1 has the triennial Greater NY exhibition, 60 current artists' work, a lot I enjoyed and one that I LOVED - a video of the work and craft that goes into making the horrific gewgaws that get passed out at the completion of big business deals - some of it available on the artist's site: http://www.benthorpbrown.com/Speculative-Presence

The Marian Goodman gallery has two shows: big photos from Jeff Wall of people in various stances of 'unreadable' and an amazing room wallpapered with the design drawings for the opera Lulu, currently on at the Met. Big bold blacks on newspaper (actually dictionaries!) expertly sketching people and completely covering the available area.

I missed the gallery the first time around, as it's in the Gallery Building, containing a bunch of them crammed in on different floors - I ended up walking around the block and was directed to the internal elevator by some of the gentlemen that carry stuff about. When I had to ask for directions to the Jeff Wall from the drawings, the NY Art Receptionist said "Oh, did you come up through there? Unusual." which added a spring to my step for the rest of the day.

And finally the Morgan Library was showing two exhibitions recommended by Anthony - Martin Puyeur is a sculptor but the show is of his drawings - but past sketches from his early life, they are mostly of his sculptures, several of which are also present (some in miniature). And there's an excellent exhibition about Matisse's history of illustration for books, including one which was nixed by the publisher after it became clear that he'd never actually read the book - the author was completely in favour, but then it was Ulysses.

[Jordan & Hamilton - not just race car drivers]
And then the last three days were spent in Canada - my friend Katharine has a house not too far from Brock University where she teaches, and as with the last time I made this trip 6 years ago, I largely spent it reading and eating and napping and generally relaxing - the night of the Friday aside, of course. And on Saturday I headed over a little further around Lake Ontario to Hamilton, where I met Anthony and hung around with him for a few hours, seeing his newish life there, visiting a waterfall, eating a Butter Tart. And then home, and seeing that Clovember has returned several of you (incl. sinsense!) to LJ, and good thing too.

Also last night the Planetary Scientist, who had been back home in Scotland for the last week of my trip, came back and came around. After a while we fell to talking, and while I was gone she got notification that she has both a proper post-doc next April in London, and some sort of bridging money until it starts, which she can use to stay down here and write up her corrections. And after a while we fell to talking again, and now I have a girlfriend! Her name's Jen.
Thursday, October 29th, 2015
10:14 pm
Catching up!
Hallo! I have been rushing around for reasons that I'll get to in a bit, but I thought I would jot some stuff down.

I have been to hospital - but not in a terrifying way, I went to my local GP because I had a cold then just a cough then a cold then just a cough, so I was being reminded of the last time this happened, which ended up with the removal of a polyp from my vocal cords. Anyway, I went, got a general going over and decent bill of health - including a stand-alone shiny computer that you put on like the usual blood rate monitor, which displays the figure on top in what is frankly a Star Trek font (long ramble deleted about how Star Trek's unfussy use of tech ruined the impact of a lot of actually impressive advances for generations).

Anyway, the doctor said they couldn't see anything wrong, but just to be on the safe side, why not have an X-Ray? Now, like - just across the road. Now, I've never been across the road, to the St. Ann's Hospital, partly because it's not got a walk-in centre, but also I know it as a Mental Health facility - and also a full hospital it turns out. It's an enormous blank spot in my view of the neighbourhood, and it felt a little like wandering around backstage - there's the big chimney that I don't think of as nearby - there's the back of the Sainsbury's! In actual experience it's a little surreal - a lot of red brick like a town or a holiday camp, but nearly everything non-brick is available in white and NHS blue, like a computer graphics glitch. Anyway, I did the thing and I haven't heard back, and they were quite clear that this is good news.

Oh and old news - I got a second quote in for my windows, thinking it would calm my mind - it did no such thing, as it is fully half of the first quote. Third quote ahoy, then.

Also I went up to Leeds, do celebrate glitzfrau's 40th, and see her and biascut and the nearly-one Edith. I had the excellent whatsagirlgotta as a travelling companion, and met the amazing sorenr, radegund and chiasmata - I genuinely can't remember the last time I went to a party and harvested three LJ names! I'd decided (at some pain to my rucksack-carrying back) to bring up my suit, and the first outing for the excellent moleskine that I got from George's folks a Christmas or two ago. There were a couple of interactions that seemed a little odd - not unpleasant! - and I was telling Glitz the next day that it took me a while to realise that I'm at a stage of life where it's not clear, if I have scrubbed up, that I don't wear a waistcoat down to the shops. Sez I "I feel like I should have a badge saying 'I'm in fancy dress'". Sez she "You were dragged up!"

And then the reason I'm in a rush - a holiday, from Saturday morning to the morning of Sunday 15th - Boston (wwhyte)! Philadeplhia (sinsense)! St. Catherine's just over the Border in Canada (thorngirl)! Hamilton a little closer to Toronto (anthonyeaston)! And some time in New York seeing the sights (and cartographer)! It will be sweet.
Monday, September 14th, 2015
11:39 pm
The reflective jacket, though...
[that is another story]
The jacket is with me because I cycled in today, because I'll be housebound the next few days and I don't cycle enough these days. It was a good idea, as the heavens opened on my way in.

I might cycle a bit less over the winter, not because of the cold and rain, but because of Cycle! Super! Highway! 1! which appears to entirely match my cycle into work - I'm just off Vartry Road as seen in this picture (and wow, I have not really seen a Public Consultation in all its engorged majesty before), So (based on my cycle in this morning) this will be a great great thing .. next spring, and an almighty pain in the arse until then as every part of it will be being done up in one way or another. I may have to take the A10 straight down through Stamford Hill, Stoke Newington, Dalston, Hoxton, Shoreditch, Bishopsgate (which gives me the willies) and approx. a million traffic lights.

The jacket being deployed in a non-cycling manner in the photo is because the laptop is larger than the average lap, and so I have to head home with it via public transport (feeling a little awkward and worrying about losing it).

And the jacket being worn is because when you cycle in, you don't (I don't) bring a jumper or a coat, so the thermal top and reflective jacket are helping keep me warm.

And that's a big deal because I've been kicked in the bronchials by a cold since last Wednesday, wiping out that day, and taking a shine off the rest of the week, including less hanging around with the Planetary Scientist, and not getting down to the excellent evening of talks that George and her co-conspirator are putting on down in Brighton as part of the excellent Art-Tech thing she's been doing. I did get to go see the Thing last Monday and it's excellent - if you get the chance before it closes on the 20th I highly recommend it.

And now I should get to bed, to hopefully see off the last of the cold, and to rest before getting up tomorrow to clear out the bedroom before the handyman arrives - my evenings this week will be largely shifting whole rooms around (and judiciously shedding crud in the doing so).
9:10 pm
On carrying a non-briefcase

It's not really a briefcase, it just looks enough like one for me to be self conscious in different ways.

It's a laptop case, loaned from work for the next few days.

[because because]
The D-rings, (not so visible on this photo, they're just at the top of the sides) giving the impression of a slightly kinky briefcase, are because when they gave it to me, they didn't manage to give me a strap for it, so I am carrying it self consciously, remembering not to lose it.

I have it because it's Plan B - what I use in case I can't work from home on my own personal computer for the next three days.

Working from home is necessary because someone's coming in for the next three days to sand down and revarnish all the rooms in my house, and I'd like to be there.

The sanding is happening now because it's been five years that I've lived here, and it hasn't happened before, except for the first bit of it, that planted the seed, on the floor under the office chair in the old study, because that Really Really needed sanding.

The sanding is also happening now because I am trying to wrench this year back to being The Year Of Doing Things - I forced myself into my occasional review of my Great Archive of Paper Things To Keep, and it was more brutal than most years, but also I found a receipt that reminded me that the increasingly wheezy washing machine in the bathroom that could maybe be on its last legs, but what are you gonna do, it came with the flat - didn't. It was bought by me not long after moving in, and if I've been neglectful of any upkeep then that's on me, it's my washing machine - and would be even if it did come with the flat, I'm not the fucking janitor (much love and respect to janitors).

The laptop, though, is Plan B because I got a new PC and it has Windows 10 on it, and Windows 10 possibly does not work so well with the VPN software that lets me work from home - but the laptop's intentionally not been upgraded to Windows 10.

My new PC has Windows 10 on it, high incompatibility risk included, because it came with Windows 8, and to hell with that.

The laptop, though, is only the second Plan B (which really makes it Plan C) - the initial Plan B was that if I still couldn't get the VPN working tomorrow morning, I'd ring my boss and arrange a three-day holiday on the spot - I have a lot of them to take, and my work's kind of fluid at the moment.

But the initial Plan B fell through, because something happened last Friday in work that we needed to get a handle on - and though I couldn't do much over the weekend, today I've been getting a handle on it and reporting to my boss's boss, including being called into a meeting on short notice with her and two of the more terrifying senior partners. She wrote a note to me and my boss at the end of the day, saying that she was impressed by how I owned it - the next time I get the chance to see her in person, I might mention that it was one of the few days I get per year where I can tell everyone else to bugger off and stop bothering me, and thank her for that:)

Which is basically what happened after my last post - work stepped on my head for about a month.
Saturday, June 6th, 2015
2:42 pm
Things Various
I only thought to check during the week (I thought it was later in the month), but Thursday gone is five years since I got the keys for 22 Heysham Road - I still have on my phone the photo of them that I send to George. I have plans for it over the next while, though so far it's just been furniture moving - the bureau over here, that bookshelf out into the dining room, swap the couch and the desk. But it's edging on for halfway into the year, and I should probably get on with that.

My cycle home leads me down the West Bank, a side of a non-descript railway that was presumably named that before Stamford Hill became a centre for Hasidic Judaism. There's two removal vehicles (the type you would use to take away cars) usually parked on that street, and even odder two cars permanently up on the stirrups that protrude from the back of the vehicles. My only explanation is that perhaps, in order to encourage correct handling of these unwieldy monsters, the drivers are encouraged to drive their own cars home like this.

I was watching a trailer recently - I do this a lot, I seek out at least 10 trailers of films I never end up seeing for every one I do - where Jason Segel, of variously varieties of 'lovable' man-child (and also the Muppet Movie) plays a genius writer who is being joined by Jesse Eisenberg, as a nervous journalist and aspiring writer who's travelling with him on his book tour to write an article about travelling with him on his book tour. It seems pretty terrible, Segel at one point says "I think if the book is about anything, it is about the question of 'Why?' - Why am I doing it and what's so American about what I'm doing?" - and it completely doesn't earn the spark that it get when REM's Strange Currencies screams and shimmies in about halfway through. But it did remind me to go listen to the song a half-dozen times, so thanks, I guess..

Except on rewatching the trailer, I realised that I'd missed that this was based on a true story, and Segel's character is actually David Foster Wallace, touring Infinite Jest. I don't honestly know how I feel about this - I've never read a word of his work as far as I know, but I've had a lot of people tell me that I'd like it. Here's the trailer, and any thoughts or recommendations on DFW are welcome. I assume that unlike Pynchon, the test is just to dive into his most famous work, Infinite Jest.

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015
3:31 pm
Well, I was planning on getting something done today
I didn't go home to vote - it was only on Thursday that I was asked if I had been over here too long to do so. I hadn't really thought about it to be honest, I think apart from anything else it would feel odd, having just voted in the UK general election a fortnight ago.

But today, so much joy - I don't have access to RTE and so I took to Twitter, ended up posting there for the first time in ages. And there's a torrent of joy, 20/40/60 tweets on the #MarRef tag every time I finished reading one.

And great results across the country, the rural as well as the urban. And the study of these has been great too - it's not a fair comparison because I wasn't experiencing the English general on Twitter (and also because I am overemotional at the moment), but I am feeling a pride in all the tweets of box counts, photos of tallies and per-county totals, a feeling that I'm from a country that just has more interest in democracy than the one I live in, the one where it seems like people by and large want it to bugger off for another five years and leave them alone.

The one that got me sobbing though, was one that just read "Off to buy a hat" - this is an extraordinary day, but tomorrow will be an ordinary day in a new world for a lot of people.

Addendum 1: I am aware that the populace of Ireland didn't wake up today as beings of pure light, and even 2:1 is 33% too high. There's much to be done, but man, what a day.

Addendun 2: For the sake of our economy, probably a good thing that Ireland didn't make it through to the Eurovision semifinals - the grim spectre of victory would have loomed pretty large.
Thursday, May 21st, 2015
1:46 pm
Commute frustrations
I see this every day, I might as well get a post out of it.

When I cycle to work, I travel over London Bridge as all Londoners must by law - you can see the river on the north of the map here. I get to the south end of the bridge, and then head left (east) down Duke St Hill, which rolls gently down towards work. You can see a tree just a little down the hill, and there's a traffic crossing next to it at the top of the hill - particularly in the morning, passengers pour forth from the many exits of London Bridge Station and swell on the little peninsula just to the south.

There's also, as you can see, a lot of buses on the bridge, clogging the lanes up and slowing things down to their speed, and so I'm nearly always waiting at the traffic lights at the end of the bridge, while the traffic flows west up the hill and on north / south as it will. And then the lights change there, and the buses head into the station, south of that peninsula, and the bikes head down Duke Street Hill - except that the pedestrians have spotted that while their light is red, the light for traffic coming up the hill has just switched from green to red, so they pour over the road, unaware that the approaching bikes have a green light, becaue you know what bikes are like, right?

I think it's a very English situation, and indeed a very London one - no attention paid to the red lights by the commuters, but nothing more than scathing glares from them when the bikes try to get through a green light (there's something stronger than glares generally coming from the bikes. Well, from mine, anyway).

ANYWAY, that's my commute frustration - what's yours?
Saturday, March 7th, 2015
9:31 pm
TV of 2014
(Yeah, I'm still catching up on stuff)

The general tone of last year was a little sedentary - we got Virgin Media in late January, and I spent a fair amount of time with it on in the background while at the computer. I think I'll do less of that this year, but I don't regret it at all.

[Adventure Time]Adventure Time: The list's alphabetical, but this is still the best - 10 minutes of candy and surrealism and occasional feels. They're shown in what appears to be 2-3 random episode chunks on Cartoon Channel, so my TiVo still picks up about 20 of them per week, and I'll always end up watching some of them over and over (I Remember You in particular, where there is generally something in my eye). This is the funniest and most inventive thing I've seen all year.

[Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.]Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: This is solid background TV, a covert team trying to make sense of a world where superpowers exist, and are being weaponised by various nefarious organisations, who may or may not have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. There are twists, there are counter-twists, there are feelings and explosions.

[A Touch Of Cloth]A Touch Of Cloth: I begrudgingly took this on, I've not been an enormous fan of Charlie Brooker's output - but it's great! If any of you remember Police Squad, the TV series that became The Naked Gun, this is that, but for Shouty UK Police Miniserieses. It is the sort of script where Julian Rhind-Tutt's none-more-posh Max Boss gets a lot of joy out of interrupting John Hannah's Jack Cloth for re-emphasis: "By now she could be half way to Monterey" "Aye sir, but.." "Monterey, Jack!". It's one 'failing' is that it's not great background TV, because, like its antecedent, it's full of visual gags as well.

[Babylon 5]Babylon 5: This turned up on Watch - naturally in the middle, so I had to wait until the end, and then they started again. It is still completely great - the acting isn't always great, but to me just makes me appreciate the towering achievement of one person manhandling into existence this 5-year 110-epsiode epic with the materials to hand, an enormous sci-fi story of the galaxy's future, set still among the echoes of wars long since past. Here's a question though - there is a lot spoken about it as the precedent for today's Long Term TV, but even with things like The Wire, it seems a lot like they make a great series, look at where everything's ended up, and see what they can do from there next series. Babylon 5's main adversary turns up in episode 5, and it isn't until about a season later that they really come to light. And so much of the long-term character advancement is plotted in long term - is there actually any other series that actually does do that with so much chutzpah, making a years-long bet?

[Lost Girl]Lost Girl: I need to get back to this, I've only really seen to the end of the second series (in fact being a bit too spoiler-happy, I didn't really realise until just now that I stopped just before the end), but it remains solidly entertaining - a lady who learns that the reason her sex partners keep dying is that she's a succubus, at the same time as learning that there is a whole 'fae' world, and that it's split along Light and Dark lines that she has no time for. PI hijinks and a great sidekick ensue.

[Parks and Recreation]Parks and Recreation - not much more to report than last time.

[Resurrection]Resurrection - I don't know if I talked about this? It came up during an adbreak on one of the other shows, and I thought "Oh that looks interesting", and interest paid off. The show opens with Omar Epps as a US Immigration agent, returning a lost kid back to their home town. The kid's parents have no idea that he's coming though, as he drowned 20 years ago. It's very short by US standards, and so is probably the least episodic thing on this post - it moves quickly, and when it escalates it does so dramatically. Also bonus point for not a final scene but a final shot that may well cause you to flip your wig.

[Sherlock]Sherlock - I went and properly watched a few of these this year - The Hounds of Baskerville / The Signs of Three / His Last Vow - as well as seeing half of A Scandal of Belgravia in G's. I don't know that I have much to add to common wisdom: they're well-plotted, well cast (Lars Mikkelsen, brother of Mads, is particularly great as the Napoleon of Blackmail, and I should really get around to House of Cards if he's playing the Russian premier), well acted (Freeman and Cumberbatch's comic timing in particular is well-suited to the gags), and oh lord I hope Amanda Abbington and Lara Pulvey end up in big roles not written by Stephen Moffat.

[Sleepy Hollow]Sleepy Hollow - as per previous, fish out of historic water + very silly supernatural goings-on + Relationship Peril. It veers a little towards "Were you aware that 200 years after we sat down at the continental congress, society still has problems?", but as long as the kids aren't getting their history entirely from it, it remains good fun - and impressively diverse (though the subtext appears to be Never Trust a German).
Thursday, November 20th, 2014
2:03 pm
Ridiculous Clovember day 20
This is me wishing that yesterday's sunny slobbing around the house t-shirt wasn't as ridiculous as it is in the current non-economic climate.
Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
8:40 pm
Ridiculous Clovember day 18
There is actually a particular piece of clothing today, a lovely grey top from Dockers Khaki, which is old enough that they are very excited about having 'www.dockers.com' printed - in a monospace font! - on the label.
[Clark Kent]

[The other fella]

Friday, November 14th, 2014
7:31 pm
Ridiculous Clovember day 14
Ridiculousness is also contextual

[Spoiler (click to open)]
Today I went to talk to people who do the same job as me in another company, and so I had to wear this, which I felt was slightly ridiculous:

But if you saw me in this tomorrow, in a different context, it would not be ridiculous.
Thursday, November 6th, 2014
5:52 pm
Ridiculous Clovember day 6
Today's been a working from home day, so I thought I'd have RidCloVember sorted out hours ago - and in sunlight! - but it turns out a) that I've done away with my sky-blue jumper that I had been thinking of as the highlight of the month and b) work was engaging for a bit and then it was nighttime.

This one is not in and of itself ridiculous, I admit: It's a big solid coat which I inherited from my Dad. It's enormous solidity isn't necessarily coming across in the photo, and I don't wear it out that much - even in London you'd need an actual snowstorm. Cycling in it might well end up with a 2D bike.

I did wear it to NYC in July 11 years ago - now that was ridiculous. Actually that reminds me of its other function, now largely lost to me - it makes sleeping on people's floors far more doable.
Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
10:35 pm
Ridiculous Clovember day 4
I think about every other day should do - and this is probably what I wear the most outside of work / home.
[The cyclist]
Sunday, November 2nd, 2014
8:42 pm
Ridiculous Clovember day, er, 2
I am in no position to promise to do a proper Clovember, but I do have enough clothes that I can try some examples of lesser-seen ones, or common ones in odd configurations. We start with: [The Wrestler]The Wrestler


T-Shirt: Twin Peaks conference t-shirt, won on my first attendance at The Double R club, Lynch-themed cabaret that I have occasionally talked about here.

Obviously I am very fond of the way that perspective and lighting makes it look like not one but both arms have been clumsily photoshopped in from other pictures.
Monday, July 21st, 2014
12:10 am
Films I've seen.
[Edge of Tomorrow]Edge of Tomorrow
  • I wasn't entirely sure about this, but the director of Mr and Mrs Smith still has a few benefits of the doubt in his account.
  • It is, in a nutshell, Groundhog Day directed by James Cameron - and as blackly funny at times as that suggests.
  • Tom Cruise continues to be extremely watchable when on the run and bewildered (See also: Minority Report, War of the Worlds)
  • Also there is an inspiring montage of him being shot in the face.
  • I thought Emily Blunt was good at her role (the details of which are one of the plot best twists), though my companion, the excellent oddnumberever, thought she could do with more Sigourney in her spine.
  • Also there is bonus grumpy Brendan Gleeson! What film is not improved by him?

    • This is not at all subtle about being a post-Fukushima version of the aul' atomic terror.
    • Except - we're not post-Fukushima: things are still pretty bad down there, and not really getting anywhere near better.
    • I wonder if this actually affected the planning of the film, whether it'd be set back, or scuppered, if things turned worse.
    • Anyway, this is a fine film, more than enough to wash out the memories of the Matthew Broderick version - it takes on the chest the fact that it's the also the first post-Pacific Rim film which bears direct comparison. It's not as good, but there's a lot of distance between 'as good as Pacific Rim' as 'a very entertaining film'.
    • Being a Godzilla film, from Warner Brothers, in 2014, does odd things to its politics: it's anti-military but pro-soldier, scoffs at nuclear solutions but features the world's gentlest megaton explosion.
    • Considering that it's set in Japan and Hawaii (and for that matter San Francisco), the film does seem terrified that we'll lose focus unless it cuts back to a pretty, white character* in peril every few minutes.
    • Which would generally be the lead character and his wife - who bizarrely appeared as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch in the post-credits sequence in the second Captain America movie.
    • Hopefully that was a one-off, as they're dull as hell.
    • But at the end of the day, this is a film that understands the beautiful music made by giant lizards and cities.
    • * okay, a pretty, white character or Bryan Cranston.

      [The Wind Rises]The Wind Rises
      • This is Hizao Miyazaki's last films - or at least his latest last film, he has thrown this smoke bomb a few times before.
      • It's the story of a young airplane designer in the first half of the last century, from first dreams to making the Mitsubishi Zeroes.
      • In a lot of ways it'd be a shame if it was his last film.
      • Firstly, he remains an amazing film maker - a lot of his signature animism isn't on display here (apart from a set of snarling writhing bombs in an early dream sequence), but just watching him depict wind across a grass field is beautiful.
      • It's also the first sign of a new direction, a historical piece, featuring an adult as a protagonist for the first time - it would be interesting to see where he goes from this. It's also obviously a very political film - partly because WWII remains immensely political now in Japan.
      • And lastly, it would be a shame because although it's an experiment, it's not a very successful one. Interestingly it's not that Miyazaki can't write adult characters, there are a number of them around the place. They stand out too, as rendered in more detail, while a couple of characters who only appear as essentially the protagonist's spirit animals, dispensing cryptic advice when he needs to hear it, always seem on the verge of turning into actual animals.
      • But while he can write adults, it's clear that he's never really on their side - the protagonist has all the focus of a child at serious play, tongue out of the side of their mouth, and the world shifts around them as they barrel through the story. The troubles that beset them are a child's view of what might happen to a grown-up, and their responses, while true to the fable-like nature of his other films (where persevering is the only truth) are disastrously self-centred here. This would be devastating self-critique if it was intentional, but I never got the impression that it was.
      • None of this makes it a bad film, or in any way a waste of time! We look forward with eagerness to further works from this promising young director.
Saturday, July 12th, 2014
6:07 pm
I have, over the last week, when chatting to the Irish here or at home, been curious to know if they have an answer to a question that I'm curious about: whether the entire country has lost its fucking mind.

There's a decent account of it in the Washington Post(!) but the short version goes:

  • Garth Brooks is returning to touring after 13 years!
  • He'd like to start with 5 concerts in Croke Park!
  • And so he met a nice man, and the nice man said he'd set them up, and the nice man took 5 concerts' worth of money (off 400,000 people)
  • Except the nice man hadn't actually arranged a licence to do this at all!
  • Because Croke Park is actually in a residential area, and there's a long-standing agreement that the GAA, the sports body that owns the venue, will only allow 3 non-sporting events per year to avoid pissing off locals.*
  • So when the application went in April, 10 weeks after the concerts sold out, Dublin City Council agreed to allow only 3 of the 5 concerts.
  • And in fairness a good day's sleeveening for whoever thought of that, as they must have realised that this would get elided into a fair offer: in fact One Direction took the three nights earlier in the year, and the appropriate amount of days would be none; Hibernophiles will recognise the sensation of the ground sliding away on first contact.
  • But Garth won't have it! How can he only entertain 240,000 people, when he's ready to thrill 400,000? It would tear the heart right out of him, so it would.
  • And so, this has been front page news for the last week in Ireland, and the Mexican Ambassador has been willing to help if he can, and An Taoiseach will look into it, and people get to cover their face again and admit that we had you all going for a while there, with this idea that we were a real country.
  • And the worst bit isn't that the disgraced and finally removed former Party of Government has sensed that there's an opportunity here, for a blow to be struck in the name of their guiding principles of a quiet word and a handshake and a bulging envelope, and has put forward emergency legislation to allow the overturn of a county council decision where necessary for the global good.
  • The worst bit is that they're right, that there's something buried down in the nervous consciousness of the race that is always ready to bend or blunt the law at the whisper and glimmer of Money For The Economy, especially that which can be fleeced from tourists. I got it full blast when I rang my sister, who is scornful that they'd throw away this money, just hanging there, fully €200 million according to no less an august figure than An Taoiseach.
  • Don't really have a punchline here, I'm afraid. Moral seems short on the ground, too.

* An article from the BBC has what is perhaps the quintessentially Irish facet of this: This was broken in 2009, when 4 concerts were arranged, there were pickets at the 4th concert, there "was then an agreement made between them and the GAA about the future staging of concerts", except that it was later found that there was "no written evidence" of any such agreement _that they would actually properly from now on, scouts honour, abide by the original agreement_.
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