October 29, 2002

UK in 'school is boring' shock

In case everyone missed the first sixteen or so years of their lives, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has completed a survey concluding that UK teenagers find school boring. More boring, in fact, than teenagers in other industrialised nations.

This may take many of you by surprise. I had to go and have a cup of tea to calm down, so I'll give you a brief pause to get over the shock. (pause).

Great, so what do we do with this knowledge now we have it? Can we make school more interesting? Teenagers find school boring, and yet they seem to fare consistently better each year with A-Levels resulting in calls for exams to be made harder. Tougher exams mean more study, more work and more boredom. Would we rather have teenagers who had fun in school, or did well in exams?

October 28, 2002

Where does the mind go?

Sitting in a very long meeting this morning in an unbearably warm hotel meeting room I somehow found myself remembering the best way to whittle tent pegs(?). These are the sort of thoughts that I haven't had since I wore knee high socks and knew what a woggle was, so their re-emergence in the middle of talk was a bit distracting to say the least.

I had absolutly no idea what train of thought left me there, but there must have been leaves on the line or something...

October 27, 2002

Virgin Stranded in Amsterdam

Virgin radio are going to struggle tomorrow, with the majority of their staff unable to fly back from Amsterdam until tomorrow because of gale force winds at Heathrow. According to Annanova, the breakfast crew are 'gutted that they have to spend another night in Amsterdam', and it's going to be early nights all round.

Why do I find that so hard to believe?

Weather Warnings

Was forced to retreat from my Sunday morning run by the screaming winds that stopped me in my tracks as I came to the end of the cycle path. Had I gotten up earlier and checked the weather I would have known better than to venture out in 70mph winds, but I was just too relaxed after getting that extra hour in bed last night. As a result I returned looking like a cross between a troll and David Beckham. 'twas a scary sight.

October 25, 2002

Failure of will

Well, the decaf trials completely went to hell this morning as my brain refused to work and my body struggled to take me there. It's kind of a shame really, as last night was the first in quite a while when I haven't woken up half way through thinking it was time to get up. Curse these dark mornings!

Still, I am looking forward to the extra hour's sleep on Sunday night. I'll probably need it after going out with James up Chelton Saturday. Yes, I'm finally going to take him up on his long standing offer of a sofa to kip on up north. "'bout bloody time" is what he'll say. Better late than never. It's gonna be a blinder.

Oh dear

I've been drinkin' with the guys from work. That's the best you're going to get out of me right now. that a bed...?

October 23, 2002

Bowling at ten pins

Yesterday's work team event, an afternoon bowling, had me a little baffled. I could not for the life of me see how throwing a big heavy ball at ten wooden pins ever got to become a recreational activity. I mean, who ever thought 'you know what would be really fun...'

Apparently, when it all started back in like ancient Egypt, they used to use nine pins, but that all changed when Americans started to gamble on it. It became outlawed in Connecticut. To get around this, they added an extra pin, which made it a completely different game(?).

See, there's the reason I can never pick up a spare: there are just too many pins! A bad workman may blame his tools, but a bad bowler can blame history.

October 21, 2002

All good things

Today has been a sad day online. I turn my back for a couple of months and PLIF has died! No more surreal sock puppet comedy! Oh well, we can but reminisce with the archives.

Second, gblogs closed down today. I know it will be missed by a lot of people (including me). All I can do is say thankyou and wish good luck to Jen for all her hard work. I know gblogs inspired a lot of people to take up blogging, and I offer my encouragement to anyone willing (or foolish enough) to step up to bat in her place.

October 20, 2002

Sunday afternoon psychosis

The weather's turned against us again, and so it's another Sunday afternoon with coffee, mini-muffins and a book. This Sunday is slightly different though. The reason: this Sunday is the start of the de-caf trials.

For along time, coffee has been a very good friend to me. People have told me for a long time that I should lay off a bit, drink more water or something else instead, but no-one's ever given me a really good reason why I should. Even the counselling service at my own university couldn't manage to scare me off coffee. I mean, students who drink coffee while cramming late night are anxious about failing and need to stay up all night anyway, so why should we worry.

But apparently it is possible to develop a caffeine allergy. This morning I read an article about caffeine toxicity that changed my mind a little. According to this, there's vast scope to mistake the symptoms of caffeine poisoning as mental illness, leading to unnecessary psychiatric treatment. I particularly liked:

'Toxicity is known to cause excitement, agitation, restlessness, shifting states of consciousness, and toxic psychosis, mimicking amphetamine psychosis. Allergic individuals may be erroneously diagnosed, medicated, and lost in a dark disturbed world, until death.'

Hmmm. Nice.

So from today I'm reforming. I have a jar of decaf and shall be attempting to make the big switch over the next week. I have no strategy. Aiming for the cold turkey approach, but I expect to chicken out on that at roughly 7.05 tomorrow morning when it's cold, dark and wet outside and I have to scuttle to work. Still, wish me luck.

October 18, 2002

The orange dossier

A spot of controversy in the office over a succession of anonymous memos from an individual claiming to have information pertaining to the mysterious disappearance of Louise, a colleague’s pet orange.

For those of you who experienced difficulty with the last sentence, I'll break it down to clarify: I have a colleague. She had a pet orange. The orange's name was Louise.

I'm not sure how long she'd had this pet orange, but from the fruit's dark-and-not-particularly-citrusy complexion I'd guess it had been a fairly long-term thing. This being the case the sudden and unexplained disappearance of Louise about six months or so ago was met with some emotion. Eventually, it was attributed to an act of ignorance on the part of a cleaner, somehow mistaking Louise for a mouldy old orange. The matter was considered closed. However, over the last week an unknown informer has been hinting of more sinister motives behind the crime.

I of course cannot possibly speculate as to the truth of these accusations, nor do I know the identity of author of these messages. There are, however, those within the office who chose to draw similarities between the grammar of the last note to that used by yours truly on these pages, pointing the bony finger of suspicion in my direction. Rob, if you're reading, consider this a public denial: you've got the wrong man senor!

October 17, 2002

'Its not speed that kills.'...

...Ananova quoting Quentin Wilson on the need to re-educate Britain's drivers as to the basic rules of the road. Not strictly true, as even the worst driver isn't going to hurt anyone if their car isn't moving, but still he has a point. The article points out the danger of people on the motorway who think nothing of travelling at 85mph less than 30 metres behind the car in front. And it's true, but leave a gap bigger than a small van and see how long it takes for a small van to fill it.

I think the problem is routine. Most drivers will drive the same route almost daily and become complacant about the obstacles and dangers on that route. It just needs something unusual to get drivers to be aware in the morning. For example the police could park a police car by the side of the road somewhere different every morning. It doesn't even have to have a speed camera in it, just the car: it'll make drivers conscious of something unusual and important and hopefully pay more attention to what they're doing the rest of the way to work.

Just a thought.

October 15, 2002

I thought as much

I can't spell. Go here for mini-planet related tomfoolery.

I will use cut and paste, I will use cut and paste, I will use cut and paste, I will... (Ctrl+V), (Ctrl+V)...

October 14, 2002


My legs are conspiring against me. It started last week when they began taking me on obscenely long and completely unnecessary walks to compliment the pitiful 15 minute trundle to work and back. Though I protested at first, to be honest I was getting quite used to it, enjoying it even, and so I thought very little of them leading me out into the cold and dark this evening for a wander around the block. That is, until they walked me right into the leisure centre and registered me for a gym induction.

The madness begins next week.

October 13, 2002

Disappointing googling scientists everywhere

I've just discovered I'm currently burdened with the responsibility of being the best thing (actually, the only thing) google can come up with when searching for that oversized asteroid (or underdeveloped planetoid to look at it another way) Quaour that I was chimping on about last week. Sorry sciency types, but I have nothing intelligent to say on the subject. In fact, I mostly don't have anything intelligent to say, ever. I suggest you check out the search facility at New Scientist instead.

This is the first search engine referral I've had that's kind of worried me, and I've certainly never seen anything surreal enough to go up on Disturbing Search Requests. Come on, there must be something sick to be had on this site.

I asked for it.

On Friday night someone actually took me to the pub. We were supposed to be going to Joiners for a gig, but having never been there before myself, I relied on my collegue for directions, and we both failed miserably to get ourselves there. So, cold and a little disoriented, we went and found a pub.

Yesterday morning I awoke feeling like death on a stick. I thought I'd come down with the fluey thing that's doing the office rounds, but I feel reasonable this morning. I'm worried: I've never had a hangover strike me down for a whole day before. I'm out of shape. Must exercise more.

On another note, I haven't seen housemate for two days: Am going to start checking under furniture.

October 10, 2002

Well I never...

The average dry mass of the adult Madagascan fruitbat is approximately 250 grammes.

How very useful. Good for questions like 'If a person was in a cloud, would they drown?' and 'Do fish sweat?'.

Hours of fun.

Happy Birthday Stu!

Honestly, you miss one post and you miss someone's birthday coming up! I don't know. I'm sorry I forgot to send a card Stuart. Just pretend that 'Crew Clothing’ catalogue was from me.

I am terrible at birthdays. I shall scurry off and make a list of the ones coming up.

October 08, 2002

Damn, I'm bored...

...somebody take me to the pub...

Pluto: just a cartoon dog?

This is really going to confuse school children. Astronomers have discovered a new 'planet-like object' in the Kuiper Belt, which is a sort of landfill where all the junk that was left over from when they built the solar system orbits the sun at about the same distance as Pluto. Dubbed Quaour, it's about half Pluto's size and according to New Scientist, it's discovery 'helps to displace the opinion that Pluto is a planet'.

How can anyone possibly claim that pluto doesn't fit the definition of a planet? It's big, it's in space, it isn't on fire and it goes round and round a star. What more do they want? Little green men? A product named after it?

So what happens now? We were all taught in primary school that there are nine planets in the solar system. I imagine that there are two reasons they teach us this in primary school:

1- Learning about space is less likely to put kids to sleep that maths because most 8 year old boys still want to be an astronaut.

2- It's one of those things that, barring astrological disasters (cataclysmic metor showers and such), isn't going to change.

I don't see children reacting very well when you give them nine planets, and then take one away. That's just not fair.

October 06, 2002


I just realised that I used a smiley in my post last night. It won't happen again, I promise.

October 05, 2002

Catch 22?

For anyone pissed about the Microsoft's inclusion of 'that clause' in their EULA for patches and updates that allows them to 'provide security related updates to the OS Components that will be automatically downloaded onto your computer', this Bugbear-A virus offer a real dilemma. You can either suck it up and patch up that version of Outlook and give Bill and the gang admin rights to your box, or pray that no-one sends you (or anyone else on your network) this latest net nasty.

Or you can stop using the Internet :-|

I went with option one. Though I love and trust my friends, I'll bet not one of them has up to date security or anti-virus. They just 'haven't gotten around to it'.


Just finished a go karting grand prix over in Gosport. So cool: 400 metre or so track with a flyover-bridgey-type thing in the middle, and we got to wear those fireproof jumpsuits so you can make like you're Tom Cruise in 'Days of Thunder'. I of course sucked - came in 14th of 18 overall and my best time was a full 2 seconds off the fastest lap, but it was fantastic. Must go again.

October 04, 2002

Computer crime gets a bit gorier

Fujitsu-Siemens has developed a biometric mouse that uses the vein structure of the users entire hand for authentication. Are they mad? Did these people not see that scene in Minority Report with the eyeballs?

Indian summer?

Summer is just refusing to tail off, with some quite respectable sunshine and pleasantly warn temperatures around over the last few days. Of course, I miss all of that because I'm stuck all day in an office with no frickin' windows!

October 03, 2002

And as he finished the story...

Same article: what's this about S Club 7 (no, I refuse to link to their website) being the most pirated artist on the internet? Come on guys! You can't all blame it on your younger sister.

Free (and legal) digital music!

Today has been Digital Download Day, the first of a five day initiative on behalf of the British music industry to encourage us to pay for our digital music (rather than pinching it using P2P) by giving us a fiver's worth free. The idea is to convince us that paid for music is more convenient and of better quality than the stuff we can get using Kazaa.

The chairman of On Demand Distribution, the company behind this venture, told the Guardian that "File sharing services are becoming more and more time consuming to use" and that music distributors "have to offer a better service". Whilst the later part is certainly true, file sharing tools are only becoming more time consuming as they get easier to use and people spend more time using them to better effect.

As for improved quality, digital music is by necessity of lesser quality than CD because it has to be streamed or downloaded. Better quality would means longer downloads and greater expense. Paying for music isn't going to change that. I applaud the music industry's apparent willingness to meet the consumer halfway but I, as doubtless many others will, remain sceptical.

October 02, 2002


Since I started watching Dave Gorman's 'Important Astrology Experiment' I've been keeping keeping one eye on my own horoscope, just to see if they are anywhere near accurate. Normally they've been totall gibberish, but the last couple of days have been spooky. Monday there was something about a meeting of minds. I banged my head against a door when someone else opened it. Yesterday it said I was very likely to annoy someone at work, and I did. Twice.

So why am I not blisfully happy?

October 01, 2002

Boys with toys

Almost time for the annual mobile phone crisis. All I ever do is call or text people, but I'm a sucker for gadgets. I have no need for an MMS phone. They're as big as those old Nokias everyone used to have, and they're about to get bigger. And pinker (gah!). It's expensive to send messages and I know I'll never need or use it.

But it's so cool! I MUST have one...