Tuesday, January 31

Doctor Filth

So today BT introduced the facility for Doctor Who's Tom Baker (arguably THE best Doctor Who.  Ever) to read your text messages for you. 

Simply send a text message to any BT Landline (although, as we've discovered here, not from a T-Mobile phone) and Tom will read it out loud for you.  Now we have a speakerphone on a BT landline in the office.  And there aren't many of us who are not childish and don't own a mobile phone.  So you can imagine that today Tom has had to say all manner of obscenities with shocking regularity..  ..the funniest so far being "I mean to have you with my sonic screwdriver you filthy Dalek bitch"

This is pure comedy genius and you'd be a fool not to give it a go..

Lose your hangover with Silentbazz!

Another side effect of accepting "The Middle Ages" (see yesterday) is that I'm sure the hangovers are getting worse.  This is of greater concern for me at the moment as I am currently drinking for two (See?  How dedicated to this whole pregnancy process am I?).  And I'm not alone, I am sure that friends are complaining more about how bad their hangovers are getting as they get older.  So it was with great interest this week that I found out about congeners..  What, you cry, are congeners!?  Allow me to explain..

Here comes the science part, concentrate..

Most folks will drink alcoholic drinks for their ethanol content, you see?  However many such alcoholic beverages also contain amounts of other biologically active compounds known as.. (fanfare) congeners.

Congeners include complex organic molecules such as polyphenols, other alcohols such as methanol and histamine.  They are produced along with ethanol during fermentation of the drinks aging process.

Congeners are thought to contribute to the intoxicating effects of a drink (hooray!!) and the subsequent hangover (boo!!!).  If you drink mainly pure ethanol-based drinks suck as vodka then you're likely to suffer less from a hangover than if you've been out drinking darker beverages such as whisky, brandy and red wine, all of which have a much higher congener content.

The congener thought to be the main culprit of the hangover is methanol.  This is because humans metabolise methanol in a similar way to ethanol, but the end-product is different.  Ethanol generates acetaldehyde, but when methanol id broken down it mainly produces formaldehyde (bloody hell), which is more toxic than acetaldehyde and can cause blindness (eek!) or death (not good) in high concentrations.  Ethanol inhibits the metabolism of methanol which may be why drinking "hair of the dog" can alleviate hangover symptoms.

Studies have shown that the severity of different drinks' hangover symptoms decline in this order: brandy, red wine, rum, whisky, white wine, gin, vodka and pure ethanol.

Now whilst you may remain sceptical, I can honestly say that I have evidence that there is some wisdom in the words above, through personal experience..

Allow me to elaborate.

Each weekend we'll have a "takeaway night" - it's a night where we let someone else do the cooking and will try and relax, eat junk food, watch mindless crap on the telly and consume alcohol..  The alcohol in question was usually a bottle of red wine which the better half and I would share, and then, later, we'd usually move onto either brandy or vodka to round off the evening.. 

It's a kind of binge-drinking experience with junk food and without leaving the sofa. 

Now, obviously, the sharing of red wine aspect of this evening has become null and void recently, but the buying of the red wine certainly hasn't and this has usually lead to me necking entire bottles of Rioja or Shiraz in the evening (and then, still, rounding it off with brandy or vodka)..  Needless to say there has been evidence of hangover the next morning (ugh! Not good).  Last weekend, though, was the last weekend before payday and so the traditional January economy drive was in full effect..  So rather than buy a bottle of red, I decided to save a few quid and polish off the unopened bottle of white wine we'd bought to offer people over Xmas and had been untouched ever since.. and guess what?  The next morning there wasn't even the mildest of headaches!!

So there's something in this congener theory after all..

Now if anyone can tell me the average congener content of a pint of Stella compared to a shot of vodka, I'd be very interested.


Monday, January 30

The Middle Ages..

No, I'm not talking about knights, swords, men being made King by having some watery tart chucking a sword at them or even the days of old when men were bold and johnny's weren't invented..

No, I'm talking about that moment of realisation when you know for a fact that your twenties are now quite definitely behind you..

As a recent arrival to the "thirty-something" fraternity, I have tried to resist this stigma of being "over thirty".. I mean, I still watch Big Brother, I know who the Arctic Monkeys are (and have their album), I have WiFi in my house, and I still find a well timed fart incredibly funny - how can I be even remotely considered Middle Aged?

But the evidence is there, gentle reader, may I present Exhibit A: My Sunday.

Sunday consisted of a morning spent in DIY stores, and an afternoon spent in a garden centre. 
Christ, fetch me my pipe and slippers now for I am doomed.

I can still remember those awful Sunday afternoons from my childhood where I was dragged to stores like B&Q and to Garden Centres, and it felt at the time like some exquisite form of torture dreamed up by my parents to bore the living crap out of me.  Aisles and aisles of potted plants, plant pots, plants, pots, wheelbarrows, little bird tables, etc - it really was the stuff of nightmares.. And this was before Ground Force tried to convince people that gardening was important, or interesting (and, let me tell you: it's really not, honestly.  It's still just shrubs and grass and paving stones and nothing remotely worth enthusing about).  I can also remember the strong resolve of my five year old self pledging never to step foot in such places once I had enough independence to make a choice about such things (obviously my parents were not going to leave a child unattended at home, alone - pity really, as Hollywood has taught me that such a scenario would have lead to fantastically amusing crime-fighting capers which I'm sure, with my collection of Meccano, marbles and Star Wars figures would have seen me a glorious victor over the dim-witted would-be burglars). 

Yet here I was, stuck on a Sunday afternoon surrounded by conifers, bedding plants, wheelbarrows and little statues of terriers) and all the childhood horror came flooding back..

What the hell am I doing here? 
How did this happen? 
When did I get talked into this? 
Why me?
Why, God, why?

To be fair, Garden Centres are trying to make the whole experience a bit more bearable for the little 'uns.  The one I found myself in had a sit-on steam train ride that our four year old enjoyed immensely and it certainly seemed to provide enough of a distraction to stop him from fully realising that he'd been dragged here against his will.  (Well, I assume it did, at no point did he begin screaming and that's normally a good sign). However they've still not installed a pub to placate me from the full horror of being stuck in such a place (I managed to refrain from screaming too but it took every part of my being to override what seemed like a perfectly natural response).

So I have reached that point in my life where I have to do these things on a Sunday, have I?  I now have to visit a wide variety of Do-It-Yourself shops and be interested in bathroom suites, do I?  I now visit garden centres and having to feign interest in conifers and bedding plants, do I? 

Blimey, that kind of snuck up on me. 

I almost feel like taking a carrier bag full of speed and going clubbing for 72 hours just to restore the balance somewhat. 

Still could be worse, at least I've not resorted to car boot sales and antique fairs yet.. if I get that far, please shoot me (you have my permission).

You must resist..

..and it's not as easy as you might think!
Found a site on the t'internet which is obviously striving to remove RSI from the users of the internet. Either that or there is a collection of people out there for whom clicking a mouse is just too much fucking effort.. Have we really come to that? I'm assuming not, and would rather think of this as a quirky little experiment...

Anyhoo.. try navigating over to www.dontclick.it and see if you can resist the temptations of the left mouse button..

Friday, January 27

A new frontier

Hey, wow!
Cool, indeed..
Isn't this exciting..?

Well, actually if all goes to plan, it probably won't be that exciting for you, but I can tell you as I write this, I'm fairly stoked.  If you're reading this then it means that not only does blogger's Mail-to-Blogger functionality work, but it also <b>rocks</b>!  No longer do I need to rely on access to a web-enabled machine to allow my verbal diarrhoea to spill onto the internet.  Oh hell no.  Now I can email my random thoughts to my blog and they will, through the power of magic incantations and ridiculously dressed pixies, appear here for your delight and contemplation.  Spiffing stuff.  Many thanks to Dr. Magnetic for the tip-off, what a genius.

So, not been here for a couple of days, but it's been a busy couple of days.. so busy I've barely had time to smoke in fact (so the beginning of the quitting has been shoved back a couple of days, however I am now only left with around 180 cigarettes so time is ticking away on that particular habit). 

But, yeah, no -listen, stuff's been happening.. 

On Wednesday we made our way to the Hospital, and more specifically the Woman's unit, and even more specifically the Ultrasound department as it was time for Baby K's (sex still undetermined) second scan..  This is supposed to be a fairly routine thing, in which a number of boxes are ticked when the scan reveals that everything is okay.  So we expected to be in and out in just over thirty minutes.

However it appears that the World's laziest baby is going to be born this year (Yes!  I am so proud)..
K was not only asleep during the scan, but also only occupying about a third of the space available (shoved into about a third of the womb), all tucked up into a little ball.  Now whilst this looked very comfortable and secure, it was also nigh on impossible for the scan to pick up all the details that were required to get "sign off" (as it were) as a successful scan. 

So we were told to go away and ensure that my better half went immediately to the canteen and fill up on lots of good ol' coffee, and then go for a walk.  This, we were assured, would allow the caffeine to get into baby's system and wake it up for a bit of a bounce around for the second scan of the morning about forty minutes later.  So off we went to the canteen.  Coffee was purchased and, indeed, consumed.  And then a vigorous stroll around the Hospital grounds was embarked upon.  At the allotted time we returned to the ultrasound department (and it was sound, the staff couldn't have been friendlier, however was it ultra sound?  Hmm.. not sure I'd go that far) and waited with baited breath to see K strutting his/her funky stuff on the telly.

So what did we see?
Not only was the little bugger still sleeping, but it had moved into an obviously more comfy and curled up position.. Serious action was called for.. star jumps were tried, the staff even vigorously shook the bump (which was incredibly amusing to see on-screen, it was like a baby being caught in a storm at sea - bobbing this way and that, kind of bumping into the sides of the womb) - but this baby wasn't for waking.. In fact, you could almost here it whinging: 'Sod off, I'm not waking up yet, it's hours to go until Countdown' (and the similarity of my own sleeping habits at University were remembered - at least I know where he/she gets it from). 

So could we finish the scan? 
Could we buggery. 
We have the stubbornest, laziest newborn-to-be on our hands. 
To add insult to injury, the little swine proceeded to kick the living crap out of his/her mother later that evening.. obviously activity will only be witnessed on K's terms and nobody else's.. sigh Couldn't we have a nice obedient, compliant and docile child?

Anyway the second attempt will be next week and if the laziest infant can be talked into making an appearance, I might post up another picture..

And what the hell.. I might even post more regularly now that Mail-to-Blogger works..


Tuesday, January 24

No power

Sorry for the lack of posting today. There was a power outage at work, and whilst people in other departments were sent home the powers that be decided it'd be far better for all concerned if an entire Software Development sat around for seven hours missing a crucial ingredient for any software development process: electricity to power the fucking computers...

Still we made the best of it, there were three PSP's in the office, and (via game-sharing; where you don't have to own a copy of the game to participate) we had muchos fun playing Wipeout Pure.

So not very productive, but a better day than it would have been without Sony's wonderous gadget..

More tomorrow...

Monday, January 23

Every little helps

Number of cigarettes smoked over weekend: Less than a pack (good)
Number of pages of Allen Carr's book read: None (v. bad)

I think I am in danger of becoming one of those "grumpy old men" as seen on BBC TV some time ago (you know the show I'm talking about - elder celebs like Will Self basically whinging on about how the modern world is full of annoying things (like text messaging using bad grammar, etc), albeit in such an amusing fashion that it leaves you with the sense that they were right in what they were saying and wondering whether in fact the world is an increasingly mad place after all and they actually were right to be slightly cantankerous about it)..

However, I find that it's the oddest things tend to get my goat.

A scary example of this is that I find that I becoming increasingly brand loyal to my supermarket, and not because of the price or the quality of the produce they sell (although I will complain here and now about Morrison's orange juice as it's shit. It doesn't exactly start great to begin with, having a horribly waxy texture to it, but within 48 hours of purchasing this foul orange liquid, it takes on the flavour of battery acid - eww. Reason #27 to avoid that place like the fecking plague, if you ask me). No the reasons that my loyalty has been gained is more related to the whole "shopping experience" and, more worryingly, the layout of the store.

You see, just over a year ago they built a splendid new Tesco Extra by us. It truly is a leviathan of Supermarkets, with just about every product you can think of and such a variety of products never before seen in one location in my home town, bringing choice beyond the wildest dreams of your average shopper. However, as I said, the actual produce on sale don't mean that much to me (although the large Music & DVD section is a plus, and the fact that it's the only supermarket one can go in and find a copy of the Edge magazine is definitely a bonus). Seriously though, it must be the size of a large indoor arena. You could probably squeeze a sizeable U2 concert in between the dairy products and the bakery and that would still leave enough room to be able to nip in and get a jar of Nescafé whilst Bono and the Edge were midway through their set.

It also gives it's loyal shoppers a logical layout of aisles, there seems to be a natural progression in the way that stuff is presented to you so that you're not running from one side of the shop to the other (and I tell you, running from one side of the shop to the other would be a Herculean effort in itself, so much so they'd probably wrap you in a tin foil blanket and hand you a free Snickers at the checkout if you were foolish enough to attempt such a run).

Also the in my Tesco Extra aisles are double the width of the average supermarket aisles. This is a huge plus as some people seem to regard supermarkets not as a place to do their weekly "big shop", but as some sort of huge social gathering, where they will bump into friends, family and long-lost long distance relatives and will think nothing of blocking aisles with their fully laden trolleys endlessly gabbing on about how the kids have grown or how old Uncle George is doing so much better since his operation. And they will gossip on like for hours, their trolleys parked lengthways across the entire aisle whilst the whole shop is grid locked around them with angry shoppers who are unable to steer their trolleys past their idiotic conversations, blissfully unaware that an entire shopful of consumers are ready to bludgeon them with a sesame seed topped baguette. The tossers.

This is particular nightmare for me as I don't really like having to go to a supermarket - it is a necessary evil. I go there with a sense of dread, committed to getting in their, grabbing the stuff I need, quickly and in an almost military stylee, and getting out before the homicidal rage sets in. My spangly Tesco Extra has anticipated this build of "trolley rage" by providing aisles large enough to have a small anti-war demonstration going on whilst still allowing you to select your favourite brand of Baked Beans uninterrupted.

So all is good whilst I shop in Tesco.
I feel safe there..
It is a happy place to do commerce..

But, this weekend we strayed from the path, we tread an alternate supermarket's aisle, we walked on the dark side.. Against my will I was taken to another Supermarket and forced to do the weekly shop there. It started badly and things got worse from then on in..

As I tried to find a single space in the grubby, underground car park, I began to suspect that it would not be a good day. My Tesco provides me with acres of lovely, free parking and, even in the mad weeks before and over Christmas, I have yet to have trouble getting parked up. But this inferior produce emporium (who shall remain nameless but they know who they are!!!) forced me to drive round and round this grimy, poorly-lit subterranean car park desperately looking for a space.. After twenty minutes we finally located a space almost adequately begin enough to park a scooter, and I squeezed our car in (deftly avoiding the stupid concrete pillar that occupied approximately 30% of the space available).

So.. out of the car, and now we're looking for a trolley.. I peer through the murky, dank surroundings, a possible location for the next "Resident Evil" game (A zombie behind every car, perhaps..? Oh hang on, no. Zombies? No -that's the checkout staff). I spot a collection of them skulking in a shadowy recess in the wall, and -resisting the urge to draw a pistol and forward roll between the battered automobiles parked between me and them, I set off to collect a trolley. But - pah! I'm am scuppered at the first hurdle. Taking a trolley it would seem is not merely a matter of pulling on the handle.. oh no.. we are in a pikey supermarket now. Therefore, the trolleys are chained up like submissives in some twisted S&M grocery dungeon. I almost expected to look round and see some hillbilly looking at me suspiciously whilst chewing baccy and asking Cletus to "fetch the shotgun, boy. Goddamn rustlers by the trolleys again". No, in order to emancipate these trolleys from their bonds, you are required to deposit a pound into them. What kind of message is this sending out to me? "We value your custom, but half suspect you'll nick our beautiful trolleys you thieving bastard". After much pocket patting, I locate the necessary "trust amulet" (otherwise known as a pound coin) and drop it into the slot whilst wondering absentmindedly if the scrap value of the trolley is worth more than a pound (hey, they put the idea of trolley theft in my mind in the first place). Oh and the trolley squeaks too and one of the wheels is wobbly. For this I lent them a pound?

My initial suspicions were confirmed when we entered the shop: narrow aisles organised in total chaos and disarray were laid out before me. Navigation through the store was hampered by the fact that the equivalent of speaker's corner was gathered in the middle of each row of produce. We wandered aimlessly here, there and everywhere trying to locate the items on our list. Ooh where shall we put the coffee - that's it right next to the pet food - yeah, that makes sense!! And where was the stuff on our list anyway? They didn't even carry the basic range of light bulbs for gawd's sake. To add insult to injury, only 50% of the checkout staff were actually working (hardly reasonable to assume though that a Saturday afternoon that people might want to shop) so the queues to each till actually mingled with the mass conversation in each aisle, and -wouldn't you know it- allowed even more long lost friends and relatives to join in the idle gossip about Uncle George and the kids (no, not like that, you sick puppy). Taste the Difference? My arse.

I don't know if it's unreasonable to get so wound up about this stuff, but it was cathartic to vent.. so thanks for participating in the group therapy. I feel much calmer now..

..but just imagine what I'll be like without my nicotine.
Be afraid
Be very afraid

Friday, January 20

A long expected delivery..

So my order from Amazon finally turned up..

The best part of Mr Postman bringing me my Amazon package this morning is that I finally have Lumines for my PSP which is a very funky puzzle game in a similar vain to Tetris, although the concept is actually easier to grasp and that's probably why it's so damned addictive. It also has very funky visuals and a banging soundtrack which makes it very, very cool indeed and an ideal title for this sort of portable gaming device in my humble opinion..

So am pretty pleased about that to be honest, especially seeing as it's only taken three weeks for Amazon to sort their shit out and get what I ordered to me. Which I think is fairly reasonable from the UK's leading online retailer, isn't it? Wankers. Worry not, they've had some suitably snotty emails from me whilst I awaited my order to actually arrive. I like writing snotty emails. It makes my day..

Also in the order, of course, was the "Allen Carr's Easy Way To Stop Smoking" book.. so the process of quitting will begin...

..at least it will as soon as I finish reading John Peel's excellent autobiography which I got for my birthday. It's so well written (well, so far) that you can literally hear John's voice as you read each sentence, if it broke for a tune every paragraph it would be like a new edition of the John Peel radio 1 show..

Anyway tis a fabulous read and I cannot put it down until I finish it..

..but then reading time is severly limited by the amount of quality television that's about at the moment..

After a barren pre-Christmas schedule, it seems that all the quality has come (almost) at once... The Beeb has launched "Life On Mars" and "Hotel Babylon" both of which are excellent and are so good because they don't look like your standard BBC fare, they're slick, well scripted, well edited, funny and interesting - who knew that anything not written by Russell T Davis could be so good?

And then Sky One has stepped in with series two of "Battlestar Galactica" and series 5 of 24 arrives soon and Channel Four continues to amuse with "Celebrity Big Brother" (sad I know, but I love it) and "Shameless" (which isn't as good as it used to be, but is still the best thing at 10pm on a Tuesday evening.. Channel Four is also showing "Invasion", a modern spin on the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" theme, which I've yet to decide whether I actually rate or not, even after three episodes.. Anyway the Sky Plus planner is positively creaking under the amount of quality viewing available and if that's not enough to cope with series two of Lost is getting really good too..

..so you can see that getting started on the quitting process is actually trickier than you might initially think - I still have cigarettes left after all. However still having ciggies is supposed to be a good thing according to other people who have read Allen Carr's book. Allegedly you're supposed to smoke all the way through reading the book and by the end you'll have convinced yourself to quit.

I remain a little sceptical about this claim.

However, I'm prepared to give it a fair crack of the whip.

I'm even more sceptical about the claim in the preface that I will quit "Without Use Of Willpower; Without Suffering Withdrawal Symptoms; Without Putting On Weight (actually you might be a bit late there, Mr Carr) and Without Using Shock Tactics, Pills, Patches Or Other Gimmicks".. if this is true, then why are there any smokers left in the world? (especially when the blurb on the front screams: "Over five million copies sold").

Despite all of the above I honestly am going into this with an open mind and a determination to quit..

Anyway, have a nice weekend y'all.. see you on the other side of the weekend

Thursday, January 19

New Year; New Post; New Direction

Okay so it has taken me 19 days of 2006 to finally get round to putting up a new post on this blog, but one of my New Year's resolutions was to stop apologising for the lack of updates, so let's not begin this new year with me making lame excuses for my absence thus far..

Instead I'm thinking of changing the direction of the post's up here.. Allow me to elaborate.

I am currently a smoker.

Have been for seventeen years(fuck! Has it really been that long?). Eighteen months ago I had my first asthma attack (hey, like I knew that you could develop asthma, I thought you had it as a kid and if you didn't get it then, then you never would) and to be honest the ol' lungs ain't what they used to be..
Then there's other things to consider, I turned thirty two last weekend (fuck! Have I really been around that long) and my better half quit smoking last year (due to the arrival of our son or daughter in June - which is another factor in all this, we call it "K" for now as both the names we like begin with K) and fewer of my friends smoke, and the nanny state of the government has branded smokers less popular than suicide bombers with leporacy and are trying to ban you smoking from anywhere, except your own house with your head partially submerged in the toilet bowl...

In short I need to quit.

In fact I planned to quit.

Before we found out she was pregnant, we were both going to quit together the day after her 30th birthday.. I actually wanted to quit earlier, as winter is a bad time to be an asthmatic smoker as every cold you get heads straight to your lungs and you spend a gratutiously disproportionate part of your time hacking your lungs up like some 80 year old.. It's not that much fun. But we set a date, and I thought we may as well quit together as then we could both be moody and intolerant at the same time, and it's important that couples share hobbies.

But then I kinda knocked her up and all that changed.

We also only found out after returning from Spain where I'd just stocked up on lots of duty free ciggies.. and I thought "Well love, I commend you for stopping right away, but I just bought all these fags, so when I finish these, I'll quit".

You're right - that is a shitty excuse. But I'm a smoker and I guess I've used every shitty excuse in the book over the last 17 years so it's a hard habit to break!

So whilst she commendably went cold turkey, I continued to smoke..
You're right - that is a bit snide but you see there is another important thing to consider here.

I really like smoking.

I do.

I know it's about as popular a statement as "I like to drown small puppies", but I really like a cigarette.. I like the taste, I like the act of smoking, I like cigarette breaks, I like that first ciggie in the morning, I love that ciggie after a damn fine meal and we all like a post-coital cigarette, don't we?

So this is a big thing for me (ask anyone who knows me).

But I have to do it..
I want to be around and not die of heart disease or cancer before my kids grow up, I want to be active into those years without being too out-of-breath to walk to the end of the road. Also, it's a fucking expensive hobby (even with the savings that duty free smokes provide) and I am honestly old enough to know better/

So I'm quitting....


Down to my last 200 now so it can only be a matter of time (although do bear in mind I only smoke up to 10 a day, so I'm not going to quit by the weekend or anything)..

Yes, that sounds lame too doesn't it?

Well I promise I will buy no more cigarettes, I've already made that promise to those around me and I make it to you too gentle (and potentially anonymous reader).

This blog therefore will be my journey through the seven depths of hell as I try to quit the evil weed..

I've made my first step by ordering "Allen Kerr's Easy Way To Stop Smoking" and as soon as Amazon get off their useless fucking arses (Christ, they've gone shit recently? Anyone else found the same?) I intend to read it.

..and then let's see what happens, eh?

Oh it won't be all about me quitting, but it's a fresh angle, so lets run with it for a while..

See you soon (hopefully)