Monday, November 29, 2004

That dinner

On Saturday I had my dinner with Sophia (see 'A Dinner Invite' below). The winner of November's Hammer and Tongue poetry slam.

It went really well. There was enough to talk about, I got to drink half a bottle of wine, I got to meet someone new, and I don't think I gave her food poisoning. Well, my body is doing ok, I'm assuming her body is too. The evening didn't seem forced, and neither of us seemed to have any problem with calling it a night around 9-ish.

Would I do it again? Definitely. Would I recommend it to a friend? Hell, yes.

The levels of intimidation were also low. It was nice...

So, if you're out there, Sophia, thanks. It was good. And you folk from H and T, keep up the good work. I hear that someone there has found me...

Sometime it's just not as good as it might be

One of my favourite movies is The Princess Bride. Full of very witty quotes... One of the more memorable exchanges is as follows:

BUTTERCUP: You're the Dread Pirate Roberts; admit it.
MAN IN BLACK: With pride. What can I do for you?
BUTTERCUP: You can die slowly cut into a thousand pieces.
MAN IN BLACK: Hardly complimentary, Your Highness. Why loose your venom on me?
BUTTERCUP: You killed my love.
MAN IN BLACK: It's possible; I kill a lot of people. Who was this love of yours? Another Prince, like this one, ugly, rich, and scabby?
BUTTERCUP: No. A farm boy. Poor. Poor and perfect, with eyes like the sea after a storm. On the high seas, your ship attacked, and the Dread Pirate Roberts never takes prisoners.
MAN IN BLACK (explaining as a teacher might): I can't afford to make exceptions. Once word leaks out that a pirate has gone soft, people begin to disobey you, and then it's nothing but work, work, work, all the time.
BUTTERCUP: You mock my pain.
MAN IN BLACK: Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

And without sounding too pathetic/angsty/whateverthehellathirty
becausehe'sthirtyandamanand it'sallbullshitanyway 'cosbuggritI'mnothappy, life is hard. Well, at the moment it is for me. One of the scary aspects about this is that I am not entirely sure why this is. I am undergoing a bit of 'crisis of confidence' at work now (that's what a two page letter of complaint to your boss will do for you), but I think there is more to it than that. Some of it's also got to do with being thirty and still being single.

And it's a bit shit really. Because I also have around me some of the most important people in the world, people who mean more to me than I can put into words. And there are other things in my world that are unequivocably good, and for which I am grateful and which I treasure. Yet at the moment, somehow it is simply not enough. And without starting all my sentences in this entry with the word 'and', quite frankly I don't know what is enough.

One of the observations I have had about all this is that I know that to many degrees I am doing the right things in trying to deal with - I talk to my friends, I focus on the better things in my world, and try to make good decisions. And I know that for the most part I am a good person. There are characteristics about me that are noble and worthy. But my observation is that I put a plaster over the wounds that stem the immediate crisis, but I don't actually deal with the underlying infection. And this seems to present me with two choices: the first choice is to seek therapy for this now and the second choice is to let it get so bad that I am forced to deal with it. I'll probably go with the first option, 'cos damnit all I tend to make wiser choices.

It probably sounds a bit depressing, but then, fuck it, I have no shame in hiding what I feel. And I believe that you've simply got to talk about the shit that is affecting your life. You also need to talk about the good stuff too.

And I reserve the right to delete this, but...

Thursday, November 25, 2004

I'd like to thank...

...Anita, Justice, Naomi, Kate, (a somewhat disturbed and revealing) Jim, Jules, Sarah, Sophia, Emily, Caroline, Anna and Eddie. Izzard. And these people. And a cat that miaowed at a completely appropriate moment while some of the above were praying.

Yesterday I was still a grumpy numpty, although getting better. All of the above people contributed to me laughing myself silly last night, through various methods. Most of which I should not repeat. It made me feel so much more at ease with myworld and myself.

Sometimes it is the best medicine.


Business trips are not what they're cracked up to be. Below is a rant about what happened to me over the weekend. But first, an observation about me.

I have a theory about nice people. Nice people are people who are nice to people they don't like, and people they don't know. They are nice to people because that is what is the right thing to do. People who are not nice to people they don't know or like, are not nice people. I like to think I belong in the earlier group, but I am acutely aware that I very easily fall into the latter. Last week I was not a nice person.

I don't cope very well in adversity. Last week I was very stressed about the work I had to do. Unfortunately I started snapping at people. Including my friends. Anyway, on with the story.

Friday. My colleague Idris started moving things around my desk for gentle amusement. My response was to tell him quite vehemently to 'Fuck off, I'm not in the fucking mood for this, now put the bloody thing back and piss off.' Idris stopped and made some snarky comment and wandered off. Idris is one of the more fun people to work with so my response was totally out of order. Arrived at heathrow at 2.30 for a 5.55 departure. A little early. Don't like being late. Hate being late. Unlike BA. Sent Idris a text message and apologised. Plane left HR at 9.00pm. Managed to forget my pin for my phone. Tried three times and locked it. The less said the better. Wanted to get a phone number off it for my cousin who was meeting. effectively goosed. tried to use the time wisely by finishing the research for my paper. Battery life was 30 minutes. tried to get into BA lounge to work. they said no and gave me a £4 light refreshment voucher. this got me a pint of stellar and a packet of crisps. Got to Amsterdam at 11.30pm their time. had to walk up four flights of narrow steps with a display case the size and weight and ease of carrying of an office cubicle divider. Great start.

Saturday woke up with a health issue, which I won't be going into but thank the good lord (and some people who didn't pray, thanks, I appreciated it and you know who you are. It's an in- joke) it went away. Still had my research to do and no way of getting in contact with my cousin. So went to some amsterdam cafes (no, not those kind) and drank beer and looked at canals. Eventually managed to get my cousions number and then went to a music shop and bought an album by the Frausdots. Who aren't dutch but from LA. And here. Then did what I always do when in a foreign place for work. HAd dinner by myself. Began to feel a lot less depressed about it all and then finished my research. Slept well.

Sunday, had lunch with my cousin and wandered amsterdam with her some more. Went to Delft. Found out my hotel was only booked for one night. was remarkably philosophical about this. Found a new hotel. A better one. Ate with colleagues for a change and flirted with a waitress. fell in love with Holland. Again.

MOnday. Phone now unblocked. Got a text from Idris where I am called a grumpy numpty. Got bored silly at the conference hearing about research from people who have or a doing phds in all sorts of infinitely higher mathes than I will ever comprehend. Decided that I was ok with this as at least I have a life. Went to dinner with the rest of them and talked to some folk from Manchester, Delft and Bristol. wandered the streets and canals of Delft and shared what I could see with Justice, Meredith and Wendy. Had a great time telling them what I was looking at. there are no ugly dutch cities that I've found. Actually, there are no cities with less than stunning city centres. remain in love with Holland.

Tuesday. Start to full my trousers as I wait for my paper. Which is the last one in the conference. flirt some more. give paper and deflect awkward questions to my senior author. down beer and then run for train. then 'run' with above display stand down several platforms to catch connecting trains. Actually, run down one platform and then discover that the train was simply on the other side of the one I got off, so 'run' back up the platform. Sweat. Sweat profusely. Finish sweating and then start again. fly back on time and arrive in Oxford. Still love holland. But feel like I had an affair with it behind oxford's back. Decide to forgive BA.

If i ever see the display stand again I'll run it over.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A Plea

I am going to Holland on Friday for work. I have two days of a conference where I am presenting a paper.

The conference is here. Scroll to the bottom. That R.Body presenting the last paper of the conference is me.

Between now and then I have to research, write and make up some findings. Due to my workload most of this has not happened. Now, to complicate things, the simulations on which the model is based are failing.

The fear is mounting.

If you love me, pray for me.

If you really love me, do my work for me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

More is Less

At the risk of being a scrooge, I've just heard the new Band Aid song, and I don't like it. Band Aid, for the people who lived in a cocoon in the eighties was a collection of pop stars who made a record called 'Do they know it's Christmas' to raise money for starving people in Ethiopia. And it was all very successful. Twenty years later, the musical world has taken it upon themselves to re-record it and raise more money. Which is a good thing. Except that the record itself is now rubbish. Lots of pop stars trying to sound passionate (which, I guess they are), but it all sounds a little trite. It's one of those times where the sum of the parts is a lot less than the whole. The only fun in listening is trying to work out who is who, and wondering how Bono managed to take his original line from the eighties version and make it sound like he's had a few down at his local and decided that 'Hey, I can sing!, here, listen to this'. The Dizzee Rascal part, however, I quite like.

I'm not trying to piss on it too much - I like what they're trying to do, but sometimes the ends and means should be a little closer together. And I'm not just picking on the pop stars of today because I'm a boring old eighties rock man. On of my favourite live albums is The Band's 'The Last Waltz', where the Band got together with a whole bunch of seventies music icons such as Neil Young, Muddy Waters, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Dr. John, Van Morrison and Ronnie Wood. The individuals sing great songs by themselves, but when they get together at the end to all sing 'I shall be redeemed', it just sounds altogether too self-indulgent and, frankly, bloody awful.

You can tell I've been here a while when songs become 'records'.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

I hear Edmund Hillary was from Wollongong

I followed a link on which was advertising an album of Australian Music Legends. Amongst the legends were Crowded House/Split Enz. Thieving bastards. They are from New Zealand, get your own bloody legends.

However, in a spirit of generosity, I've decided that Australia can keep Russell Crowe.

God Bless Him

Jim, what a guy. He opened his house and cooked dinner for thirty of his friends last night. A very generous man.

God bless him.

Shouldn't this be getting easier as you get older?

Generally speaking, I live a very contented life. I'm listening to me Dire Straits album, I have a great group of friends, I get to live in Oxford and I've had me dinner. All should be well. So why is it that a single bad/awkward interaction with a friend makes me feel very stressed? Consequently when someone asks me how I'm doing my first reaction is say 'I'm quite down'. Clearly this is bull shit, as I am actually doing just fine, thank you very much, and that only a small part of my world is 'in tatters'. This is not to deny the pain, and not to deny that human relations are important, but shouldn't this be getting easier by now? I'm thirty for goodness sake!

Interesting Fact: 1

This weekend I learnt what temperature actually is. It is a measure of the activity of molecules. As they bang together as a consequence of an energy source, they release energy of their own. This is why it gets colder as you rise. There are less molecules (the air is less dense) so they are less likely to bang into each other, so less heat is released, so it is colder.

There's still nothing wrong with me

Two weeks ago I went and saw the Finn Brothers at the New Theatre in Oxford. They are a brace of kiwis and in true antipodean style I went to support them. And have a bloody good sing along. You could spot the true fans in the audience. They were the ones who knew the obscure tracks, ie the ones that didn't come from the Crowded House album, Woodface. I did go expecting some favourites, and was ultimately dissapointed (no 'There goes God', 'I walk away', 'Karekare' or Better be home soon'), but then it occur to me that these guys have been making music for about as long as I have been alive.

It was a lot of fun. They showed a surprising amount of energy given that they are both 50 plus.

The most surprising element of the evening was that they were opened by actress-cum-singer Minnie Driver (which cannot be her real name), and she was actually rather good. Although I was aware that her slot of half an hour was about as much as she could do before she started to deteriorate.

And I dint just like her because she's pretty.

Another Outing From My Closet

Yesterday I bought that greatest live album I know. It's Dire Straits' first live album, Alchemy. No question, it's as good as it gets. The inside cover does not bear to much scrutiny (a worse collection of hairdos and eighties clothing would be hard to find). But it comes down to this, I've bought music by bands and people such as Fat Boy Slim, Massive Attack, the Corrs, Radiohead... and most of those I haven't listened to in over three years. Yet every now and then I get a desire, no a NEED, to listen to Mark Knopfler belt out a five minute outro from an already eight minute long song. I've been listening to them ever since I was aware of music, and twenty years later I still go back to it. I couldn't give a toss about how cool they aren't, I just know what I like. And there's something about knowing EVERY note on the album. That something might be a navy blue anorak.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

A Dinner Invite

One of the things that I do with my time in Oxford is go to poetry slams. These are like battle of the bands, but using the medium of poetry rather than music. Well, d'uh.

The poetry slams in Oxford are organised by Hammer and Tongue (I can never spell tongue right the first time - always toung... oh, bollocks...). They cam up with this great idea whereby the winner of the slam on any given night will have dinner made for them by a volunteer from the audience. I have always thought this to be a great idea. It helps get the community flowing. And food is involved. So to out my kitchen where my heart was, last night I offered to be that person.

So now I am cooking dinner for someone I talked to for two minutes after the slam last night. Her name is Sophia and she's rather good at what she does, which makes me just a little intimidated. But I'd much rather do it than not.

There's something about these slams, that I can't quite put my finger on. Not somat I would have signed up for very long ago but now I'm a believer. They suck you in and leave you musing about lots of stuff. Good to go out at night and engage your brain.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

What's a man to do

I work in computer support. I trained someone in Belgium last month. Today they sent me the following support enquiry:

"I wanted to run a storm to look at the flooding but when I try to copy the storm from Excel into MySoftware, MySoftware doesn't get the numbers after the comma. I don't want to input it by hand because that would take a week's work, but how can I copy it correctly?? I made a picture of the situation. By the way, I think I haven't told you yet that I'm pregnant? I already was when you were here, but it was far too early to tell anyone."

I can solve the first problem, but I am not sure what she wants me to do about the second one. I also noted that she didn't send me any pictures of the problem.