Should’a voted for Zarek

So, yeah, the results are in, apparently.

Can’t say it went quite as well as I hoped, but it went as well as I expected (this, as I explained to my sister yesterday, is pretty much the way it goes as a Lib Dem), and at least Cameron didn’t slide in on the wave of smug and hairgrease that his sense of entitlement autogenerates.

From the Beeb results I suspect the Tories would struggle to get a meaningful majority from any of the ‘Other’ block, so it’s Lib Dems or bust.

On the other hand, Cameron’s predictably empty speech didn’t strike me as offering, well, anything. The slogan ‘First Past The Post but with Equal-Sized Constituencies’ isn’t really the sort of rallying cry that anyone would want, I think, and since almost two thirds of the voters didn’t want the Conservatives in power anyway, it seems a bit weird for them to say ‘Look, we won, let’s not fix anything’…

So, y’know, what happens now?

My proposal – which I bet nobody will take up, but I’ll be chuffed if they do – is that the Lib Dems band together with Labour. Which won’t give anyone a majority, mind, but how I see it is this:

A short-lived coalition of everyone but the Tories. One emergency budget, and an amazingly short Queen’s Speech which promises to push through electoral reform and then call a General Election under the new system. They don’t actually need to do anything else (and it’d be disasterous to try) but on those two points you could safely get enough support from the rest of the Others to carry things through (PR is in their interests too, of course, the only people to ever do consistently well out of it are – shocker – the Tories.

Under a Government based on that that, presumably, the Conservatives would have a massive sulk because they feel like they won, but they didn’t win, they just got more seats than anyone else which isn’t how winning works under First Past the Post. (Incidentally, Tories, you should stop trying to have it both ways. ‘s bloody undignified).

I think they’d be able to get Plaid and the SNP on board for that (and they could certainly get the SNP if they say they’ll hold an initial referrendum on devolution once PR is in – if’n they say that publicly the SNP can’t turn it down, after all) and everyone else should get a chance to return a new Parliament in the Spring.

The Tories, under those circumstances, wouldn’t be in a position to hold things up too much because they’d be keeping themselves out of power if they did so (and, if they’re seen to be staving off the chance to re-elect a comprehensive majority, damaging their own national standing).

…I think it could work.

At least, it’ll work a damn sight better than a formal Lib-Dem / Con coalition, which is just a death sentence – Cameron, in that position, can carefully give Clegg & Cable lovely poison chalice jobs (‘Industrial harmony? You know what that means? That means strikes!’) and make sure to drag the Lib Dems down along with, er, everyone else.

God’s teeth it’s come to something when the best you can hope for is a hung parliament, innit? Best spoilt ballot I’ve heard of this year goes to the daughter of Ruth’s boss, who took a pink pen into the polling booth in order to spoil her ballot with the line ‘My great-great grandmothers didn’t throw themselves under horses so I could be disenfranchised by your broken system’. Given that it was the first time she’d ever been eligible to vote, I think that’s pretty damn epic.

Anyway. That’s my Ideal Scenario at this point, I think: Lib-Lab-Oth pact to push through PR in some form (I’d preffer STV, myself, but Hell even AV plain would be a step up on this farce), then take us back to the polls in the Spring. It’s rare to see a party trade political power for the national interest, but it’s lovely when they do (The last time I’m aware of was Lloyd George’s 3 General Elections in 1911 which helped to curb the Lords’ veto and get us pensions, so there we go).

Anyway, Mark Williams is back in for Ceredigion, having garnered a whacking great 50% of the vote (almost an actual majority, who’d’ve thought we’d see that!?) and shot up from majority 219 to 8,000-odd, which is spectacular.

So, we’ll have to wait and see. (Note to Dave Cameron: this is a killer soundbite. Use it all the time, people love that sort of stuff. Trust me.)

(O, and blinding stuff to see the BNP getting roundly thrashed in Barking. Very cheerin’!)

Apart from the fact I’m usefully relaying election results to people far removed from civilization (viz: one friend backpacking in Australia, and one in Edgbaston), I think I’m getting tired.

Because on the one hand, I’m making massive typos, and on the other, the results for Hammersmith just came in and I swear I sat here thinking ‘”Hammersmith”? Why does “Hammersmith” sound familiar?’ The answer, as I realised after they’d finished reading the results, is that I was there this morning yesterday.

On the other hand, I have been up since 06:16 on Thursday, and I’ve dodged into London then hammered back out of it to vote back in Wales, and I haven’t actually slept. I’ve not spent the whole night awake since I used to sit up in Penbryn of an evening.

(I’m almost tempted to see how long I can actually go, but I might have to admit defeat presently…)

It isn’t this bloody in-game. But somehow I got a bit carried away…

So Dan, Lyndon, Finbar and I kicked arse at Arkham Horror last Geek Night…

Dan was playing Monterey Jack, Lyndon Darrell Simmons, and Finbar Joe Diamond. I arrived from a beer run to see that I’d fetched up with the student, Amanda Sharpe.

I took an instant dislike to Amanda, for the simple reason that anyone who has spent two years studying at Miskatonic University and still thinks it is a good idea to look closely at disturbing paintings with a ‘hazy depiction of some horrible creature rising up out of the ocean’ is dangerously stupid and shouldn’t be allowed out of the house.

But I figured, it could be worse; she had a balanced stamina / sanity of 5-5 and managed to get herself a shotgun for her common item right from the off. Plus, her picture has her wearing glasses, which, as any fule kno, make everyone look a hundred times more awesome right off the bat.

And how very right I was…

Early on, we got a few gates shut – it was a close run thing, with Finbar doing some amazing work as a freelance Gug hunter (except for the one point where he sold two Gug corpses to a shady chap down the docks, who apparently wanted them to re-animate them and dump them over in the Black Cave, with the result that Joe Diamond managed to find his way into R’lyeh and go so completely insane that he not only dropped his colt but also became lost in time and space without bethinking himself to let go of the two Gugskin rugs he was wearing over each arm). Dan and Rory seemed to be constantly in and out of the other worlds, and Dan managed to seal the Woods for good, which saved us on more than one occasion.

Amanda’s special ability is essentially an ability to skip multiple lectures at once: every time she draws from the skill deck, she takes two cards and picks which one to have as a skill. I’d thought early on it’d be worth getting her back from the Bank to the University, therefore, but there had been rumours of a Terrible Experiment taking place at the University, and she isn’t exactly set for fighting…


Amanda didn’t feel safe trying to make it through the streets, especially with the noise of a pitched battle drifting over the rooftops, and it wasn’t as though she could afford the tuition without help anyway. However, she knew Jack had already found a scrawled sheet of paper on a desk in the Unnameable, and whilst he’d thought it was nonsensical and left without any useful information, she thought her lore skill might be high enough that she might have more luck.

Outside, investigators were working hard to dispatch the ghastly results of the Experiment, and she took refuge in the Unnameable until things had quietened down a little, little realising that a Portal had opened on the Unvisited Isle. She was already deep in the house, exploring the upstairs rooms and carefully avoiding the stairway to the attic when it dawned on her that the scrabbling within the walls was getting louder and louder, and she realised to her horror that the crawlspaces of the house were teeming with rats, tumbling over one another as they fought their way through the walls to encircle her.

Pausing only to thank heaven for her high running skill, she tore down the stairs, flinging herself out of the door as the rats swarmed behind her, and pelting headlong into the darkened streets.


The Merchant District is a bad place for a young girl to be out on her own at night, and Amanda had enough natural timidity to know how scary the area could be, but she was in such a state of blind panic at her narrow escape that she had no thought of stealth, and it was only when she was within a few feet of the centre of the street that she realised there was someone – or something – lurking in the shadows. Terror of the rats behind her almost forgotten, she charged forwards with reckless haste, driving her knee hard into the middle of the shapeless form. It howled, and as it shuddered hideous tentacles quivered above her head and she realised in shock that she had just kneed a Star-Spawn squarely in the daddysacks. For a lesser mind, unused to unnatural things, the discovery would have been too much, but not for Amanda: long nights working at the Bank of Arkham had given her more mental resilience than she thought and in a matter of seconds she had regained control of her terror, snatched the shotgun from her back and unloaded both barrels, firing and reloading again until the street was smeared with rancid ichor, and the windows of the Unnamable reverberated with the noise of the reports.

Badly shaken, and dragging a corpse behind her, the young librarian [yes, I’d promoted her to an LIS student for being awesome] staggered on towards Arkham Asylum, painfully aware that her damaged grasp of reality could only hold on for so long.


Spattered with gore, she made it to the desk, and the shocked night attendant was trying to get her to release her catatonic grip on the shotgun and get her a mug of coffee whilst she slowly recovered her wits when she realised she’d seen a figure moving in the Easttown streets, with the consequence that her conversation went something like this:

Amanda: O God! The rats! Horrible – screaming, so many… And the tentacles! So much blood, the squeaking! You have to help me, I think I’m going – wait! Wait! Stop right there!

[Exits. Loud Krrk-chhhck as she passes door, USL.

PAUSE. There is a dulled report, and a faint howl of pain. PAUSE. A second muffled explosion. PAUSE.

Amanda re-enters, considerably more bloodsoaked, dragging headless corpse of cultist, which she drops onto remains of Star-Spawn.]

Amanda: (cont.) – I think I’m going mad! Pills! Please, o God, please, get me some pills, or something, anything! These foreign voices in my head, the whispers, the rats! The chittering as they rise from the deep– help me, please, it’s like I don’t even know what’s real anymore!

Thankfully, Joe Diamond happened to swing by for a quick pep pill at the same time, and everyone was more than happy for him to give the screaming bloodied maniac a dollar to get herself checked out by the resident shrink in double-quick time. The doctors aren’t quite sure what to make of her garbled tales, but manage to soothe her enough that she re-balances her sanity. She checks out a moment later, still dragging the corpses behind her, and as she reaches the street she is met by a courier, who hands her a package: apparently her friends, the photographer and the archaeologist had been frantically casting away clues to protect the seal of the Elder Sign in the woods, and their good work has not been in vain: this is a trophy from the spoils!

Unwrapping the parcel, she finds an enchanted sword, seeming to hum gently in the sudden quiet of the night and, pleased to have an extra line of defence, she straps it to her belt, re-holsters the shotgun across her back, and moves cautiously towards the glowing light that seems to emanate from Independence Square: she’s sure it wasn’t there when she left the bank earlier…


Indeed it was not. She discovers a portal has opened, and is sucked through a twisted portal to the Plateau of Leng! All seemed quiet, however, and her system cried out for rest. She paused under the faint shade of a finely detailed ice statue seemingly depicting Ithaqua eating… well, she wasn’t sure, though it seemed pretty grim, even to her gore-smeared eyes, and her recent experiences made her scared to look to hard on hideous things. Still, with her eyes closed the peace gave her a welcome opportunity for her to restore some stamina before pressing on.

Seeing the portal back to Independence Square, she prepared herself for the physical exertion of forcing the gate shut – preparation which proved well worth it because whilst she had been in another world the gate on the Unvisited Isle had spat forth another surge of monsters, and the Merchant District was once again full of Hellish monstrosities. Thus it was that as soon as Amanda dropped back through into Independence Square she found herself bouncing off the head of a Dimensional Shambler, an experience which nearly frightened her out of her wits. Unable to risk the luxury of running away from the portal she had explored at such cost, she was forced to fight which, she did with a degree of skill she found almost frightening: three double hits from the shotgun saw the beast collapse with an almost pleasing look of pain.

Though she and her friends were sealing portals as fast as they could, the city was filled with evil, and the whisper in her head had become a roar: it seemed there was very little time left to linger.


She was able seal the portal with an Elder Sign she’d borrowed from Monterey Jack and paused to take stock: she was of shattered mind, but sound body. She was equipped for both magical and physical combat, and she was momentarily safe. One lens of her spectacles had cracked, and the weakness filled with viscera, leaving her vision permanently cross-hatched with blood. She was dragging around no end of bloody corpses, and it was starting to draw attention. For some reason, that seemed a greater priority than mental respite, so she found her way to the police station, locked the bodies and the gate token in the gaol, and so impressed the police that they appointed her the official Deputy Librarian Student of Arkham.

The offer came with a salary of a dollar a turn, which was more than she’d ever got from the bank, and since the bulk of the police force were dedicated to searching the streets for any photographers that were out violating the curfew, it made sense they should employ someone to seek out the monsters which made the curfew necessary. To this they added a regulation Deputy Sidearm and free use of the Patrol Waggon, as long as she didn’t break it. Vague recollections of Western tales, and vigilante heroes, stirred in Amanda’s memory, mixing with the whispering voices that swaddled her, and she accepted the role with pride.

When she got word that Diamond Jack, who had so willingly helped her restore her sanity, had himself gone insane trying to fight a Mi-Go in a bid to push through and seal the portal on the Unvisited Isle and had to be forcibly sectioned, she set out for the Asylum without a thought, running through the streets to the Asylum, leaving the patrol waggon behind solely so she could detour through Riverside and slaughter a zombie, with a perfect bullet-to-the-head from her Revolver, and an almost unnecessary dismemberment with the enchanted sword, with the result that when she re-appeared at the Asylum she presented such a terrifying vision that the desk clerk hid in the back office until she’d been dosed up on laudanum and dozed off in a chair.


The path to the Unvisited Isle was now clear, at least, and it seemed likely that someone would have to die to even the odds for everyone else. Amanda, with a strange mix of resignation and excitement volunteered herself, though said several times she was doomed, because to get to the portal she’d have to fight her way past a Cthonian, a Witch, a Formless Spawn and the Mi-Go that had only recently acquired a taste for human blood, but the massive dose of drugs supplied by the Asylum filled her with determination, for all they were a temporary and fast-waning fix.

Still, with everyone else trying to keep the streets clear, explore R’lyeh or simply get their brain back together, Amanda felt it was about time she took the opportunity to take revenge on the invaders.


Leaving the Asylum, she checked her equipment – shotgun slung over her back, Deputy’s Revolver holstered below her left shoulder, Enchanted Sword sheathed beside her left hip – muttered the incantation to empower herself with the Voice of Ra, and clambered into the Patrol Waggon, gibbering that she was about to die horribly, and feeling her sanity already ebbing away as the power of the magic she was using overrode the sedatives in her system.

The Waggon, of course, was top heavy, and it almost lost its grip on the slippery Merchant District streets, but Amanda hurled her full weight to the right and, with a horrible cracking noise, the waggon righted itself, hurtling on towards the Unvisited Isle. She could just make out the dim, segmented coils of the Cthonian in the distance, and keeping her left foot hard down on the accelerator, and her right knee jammed up against the steering wheel, she leant out of the window, opened with a volley of buckshot, and then flung herself through the door as the Waggon slammed into the Cthonian at fifty miles an hour, shearing through the monstrous bulk as it drove the worm back against a gaslamp, and spattering the remains against the wall beyond with such a gout of blood that Amanda’s already unravelling grip on reality began to unwind ever faster.


Amanda had the wit to roll as she slammed into the cobbles, and came up kneeling to attack the Witch with the shotgun – both barrels hit her full in the face, her corpse seeming to spin around the axis of her hips, rotating in the air before a shattered hand caught on the ground and dragged the rest of the corpse back to earth with a sickening crunch [This was amazing: I got five hits on four dice, thanks to that shotgun. Amanda was getting seriously badass].

By now, things were getting tense; the Formless Spawn emerged from the shadows, and it took all Amanda’s Bravery to will herself into the fight. There wasn’t enough light, and the bloody and shattered glasses were virtually worthless: she threw them aside in disgust, as the roaring whispers began to chant in triumph. Blinking, she tried to will away the bloodstained fragmentation of her sight, but found her head was too muzzy to realise the glasses which had caused it were gone.

Yet the network of bloodlines across her vision made it somehow easier to detect the Spawn and though her shotgun and revolver would be useless, the power of the Enchanted Sword, backed by the mighty Voice of Ra afforded her a narrow victory, to the howling delight of the insane private eye, now bouncing up and down in his straightjacket as he sensed the panic of his hated nemesis, the wretched Mi-Go.


Her success so far gave her a glimmer of hope and though her sanity was in tatters, and her mission to the portal long forgotten, the faint shreds of her awareness held together just enough for her to realise that she had to – that she wanted to – hurt this thing: any higher function that might have told her why was long past, but she had weapons, and she had an enemy, and she felt like she could never see enough blood pouring into the gutters. The Mi-Go lost its antennae to a wild swing of the sword, and curled desperately with a chitinous clattering of plates but whatever it thought of as flesh ripped open under the force of the revolver fire, and it slumped down. The Asylum rocked to Diamond’s scream of triumph and the Mi-Go’s multiple wings flapping feebly in its death throes until Amanda clambered over it, hacking and hacking and hacking with the sword until each alternating wing was shorn free and the remainder juddered in time to the pitiful clicking shrieks of her vanquished foe. With the guardians of the portal gone, Amanda’s bloodlust had little time to cool before she was dragged through the rift and driven to the Abyss.


Staggering, and struggling wipe her eyes free of the jagged bloodlines fighting to weave their way through her retina and leave her wandering blind, she moved on, and was just able to make out a dim form in the distance. She fired wildly: it looked as though she only winged the figure, but her rapidly-developed skill as a marksman gave her the chance to reload and fire again before the shape could turn. The second shell hit the creature full in the chest and it seemed to explode, its remains hitting the ground with the delightful flat squelch that told her of a good job well done. Approaching, she found it had probably been a cultist once, a youngish man, and wondered vaguely if it had any companions she could hunt down.

She was stumbling along in search of other life to quench when she was struck by deja-vu: she had returned to the Isle, perhaps some time ago, she wasn’t sure. There was nothing here but herself and the portal, but the noise of empty flesh flapping in the cold breeze shocked her, and it dawned on her that she needed to see the portal sealed, or more monsters might reappear before she was ready for them.


She succeeded on the first attempt, her power to fight the Universe seemingly infinitely increasing, and her collection of Clues was enough to slam the Isle shut for ever.

She looked for the Patrol Waggon, but what was left of it had been crushed into a truly hideous shape by the death throes of the Cthonian, and her brain hazily knew she would not be able to twist it back into working order. So it was on instinct and on foot, this time, that she headed towards the sanctity of the Asylum, where a gasping voice informed her through the letterbox to take the bottle of pills left on the step and eat three of them before she came in. The voice seemed friendly, but for some reason she hesitated: it had been some time since she’d extinguished a life, she was disappointed to find the whispers in her head were fading, and she was angry at the way the growing silence hurt.


Dimly, she was aware of her companions cheering that the last portal had been sealed, Shub-Niggurath finally defeated, and though she was rejoiced to have shared in another victory, the noise of the disturbance grated, caused a few synapses to twitch. She was after all, the Deputy of Arkham – it was only right that she should investigate the source of the riot, should disperse the demons, should restore the peace. The bloodnet of her vision seemed to triangulate the cries: she should go to the Black Cave, find the monsters before they came out, save Arkham from the Ancient Ones.

As she turned towards Rivertown, her foot kicked over a small jar of tablets, sent them bouncing down the steps. There was a muffled gasp from something in the grand building behind her, but she ignored it, following the tiny container as it rolled into the streets and trundled down the path towards Rivertown and the shouting. The little pills inside the jar tumbled together as they fell, accelerating, rattling, grinding gently against the glass… whispering.

That was better.

From ‘Cataloguing rules as party conversation’ to ‘Reports in relation to RPGs.’ All the fun that’s fit to Mark As Read, huh?

Eech. I should be working on a report, at this moment in time: essentially Your university is going to launch foundation degrees, how will this affect the library & the readers?. I hate that sort of stuff, because whilst I realise that we’re supposed to be demonstrating the use of the theory, I don’t feel comfortable making up backstory in order to have a platform on which to stand everything else. It’s a ‘pre 1992 university,’ apparently, and that’s about all the guidance we get.

That is not enough guidance, I feel: from there I can say anything from ‘but the library building was completely re-done with corporate sponsorship in 1998 and has seven floors, complete with Student Shop and Coffee Bar on the entry level, Floor 5’ to ‘the library is housed in the Old Building, is Grade I listed and has the unique feature of two floors, each with a periodical gallery, originally designated to house the Arts and the Natural Sciences. The central Loans Desk has been left as it was, though admin work now takes place at a new desk, installed opposite the exit. The University is currently discussing arrangements for external access to the second floor for disabled students, but it severly limited by the various prevervation orders in place.’

…The problem, basically, is that I want the briefing for this report to be Oblivion, and what I’ve got is Morrowind. Oblivion is a fantastic game, and I really do enjoy playing it. Morrowind may well be a good game, but I could never get into it, because it was too open ended.

At the start of Oblivion, you’re in clink, but you get let out by narrative imperative the Emperor, who happens to need the escape route in your cell, and who dies almost as soon as you’ve had chance to collect one of each base weapon class, learn how to sneak, pick a lock and work your way back to the plot. For reasons best known to himself, he gives you the Amulet of the Maguffin, the token of his Emperordom, and tells you to push off and find a monk who knows where his illegitemate-but-everyone-else-in-the-family-is-dead Son is. At which point, you can either do so, or wander off and do open-ended things. It’s a nice obvious quest hook, and you can catch it, or not, or catch it later as the mood takes you.

At the start of Morrowind, as far as I can recall, you get off a boat, wander through an administation building, and get told that there’s a guy who lives over in Villagetown and you should go and see him. Doing so results in his suggesting you work for him, possibly for some secret reason. Go and do a minor quest in Noobsville, quoth he, and then… uh… yeah, I dunno. There doesn’t seem to be a main quest there. Now bear in mind the first computer games I ever played were Hillsfar, Spellcasting 201 and Paperboy 2. I like obvious objectives in games. I’ve grown to enjoy the freedom of open-ended stuff, it’s amazing to be able to do something in some place and reap the consequences later – which is why Deus Ex was so mindblowing for me – but it’s nice to have a solid known objective you can fall back on, not only to get you started, but to give you something to aim for once wandering in the wilderness gets dull.

And having to make up my own character backstory in a piece of academic work kinda bugs me: what if I go with Option A, and say “based on the findings of the various studies we’ve done (qv), perhaps we can devote the fourth floor to books for Foundation Degrees, and create a seperate collection there,” and then go on to discuss advantages and limitations and things, and Juanita decides that she’s never heard anything so retarded in her life because what the Hell was I thinking imagining more than three floors anyway, why haven’t I talked about the crushing space constrictions affecting the library service?


Of course, I know what’s going to happen: I’m going to Exposit it to within an inch of it’s life; this report to the Vice Chancellor is going to be the library equivilant of Chapter One, the one that goes

“As you know, your father – the King – had no other children. I greatly fear that this attack by Mordok was intended to kill you too. For if you are not present at the Celebrations tomorrow you will be declared dead and Mordok will seize power!”

and to which the only possible answer is

“Faithful old Knight, the only person who apparently knows the secret way out of the Castle – although I’d like to point out that it’s also a secret way into the castle, and how did Mordok’s forces manage to get past the seventeen well-defended gates unoticed anyway? Fine, fine, we’ll leave that to page two-hundred and sixty-seven – but, Allegedly Faithful Old Knight Who Was Always Passed Over By My Father For The Stewardship, I know all that. What, you think I lived just long enough to fulfil the Prophecy and make some Outcast Friends With Secret Knowledge without spotting the lack of siblings!? Dude, lay off the musty tomes already. Nice mysterious sigil ring, by the way. Why’s it glowing ominously red?”

But I’ll feel bad about doing it.

And anyway, I want to be working on my Dissertation reasearch, but I can’t really do that before I pass Part 1!

Still, in other news: have my eye on a job which would be awesome. Shall have to wait and see…

Party Tip #17

Just read this Basic Instructions.

As everyone knows, the only way to salvage this sort of situation is to drown out the noise of the guitar with a discussion of the relative limitations of non-MARC compliant AACR2 indexing in relation to the search habits of patrons today. (The biggest limitation, of course, comes with the balance between the cost of maintaining multiple access points on a card based system versus the necessity of ensuring access points for probable searches, especially in the context of the Statement of Responsibility: did you know that if you made a standard 3×5 card for the film ‘Pirates of the Carribean,’ you wouldn’t mention that Johnny Depp was involved anywhere on the card unless you chose to enter it into the Notes field [which, of course, cannot be indexed seperately]? It’s more of a concern than you might think, really, which is why we’re still using the core rules of AACR2 when we’d hoped to be on AACR3 by now, although we’re pretty much still on schedule [the first draft came out a couple of years back, and the whole thing should be due for launch this summer, is the plan]. Of course it isn’t going to be called AACR3 anymore, because it’s attempting to be less book-centric [AACR2, of course, had seperate sections for the cataloguing of different materials but we’re still talking pretty much about such materials as existed in the middle decades of the 20th Century, with revisions for more modern formats more or less bolted on wherever possible, which is why the new standard aims to be more open-ended] and they propose to reflect this by naming the whole thing RDA: Resource Description and Access.)

You’d think, since I know how to diffuse such an awkward situation as that, I’d get invited to more parties, but I figure maybe I’ve not been advertising well enough. I also have an awesome story about the development of MARC, though. It’s less technical than the background of cataloguing rules themselves, and I do find that it fits nicely into the silence you get whilst everyone is digesting what I’ve just been explaining, and stops that momentary awkwardness where people who don’t feel confident enough to ask for clarification on a more technical issue spoil their own enjoyment by ducking out to get a fresh drink…


Just got off the phone with a very nice lady from Orange, who was conducting a customer survey. (I’m not normally a fan of such things, but I quite want an N900 when my contract comes up for renewal, so I thought I’d try to get a gold star.)

The basic stuff for the survey was home security, and things – how worried are you about home security, do you check up on your home whilst you’re away, and so on. Standard 1-5 scale stuff, really.

Where I think I won’t have been useful is in the second half of the survey: of course I said I was fairly keen on keeping my home secure (although I wasn’t very fussed to check on it if I wasn’t there), but part 2 seemed to be about things I could do with a mobile to increase home security: would I like, for example, to turn off an alarm remotely, or be texted whenever someone entered or left my home, or be able to unlock the doors by text (I’m pretty sure there was also one about turning on the heating, so I guess thermostats are going out of fashion).

Sadly, this was the point in the survey where I jumped from looking like someone who is broadly in favour of home security, to being someone who wants nothing to do with it. No, I bloody don’t want any yahoo with access to my phone to unlock the doors to my house and turn off all the alarms: if I leave my phone unattended on a desk for five minutes today, and then I come back and it’s still there, I don’t have to phone the police. I’d pretty much like to keep it that way, but a 1-5 scale doesn’t really allow for that sort of clarification (and, to be honest, the ability to be texted if something moves in my home is just plain creepy. Have you people never watched Electric Dreams, or something?)

I’m just a little bit confused by the whole thing, to be honest. The woman running the survey was lovely – I think she was slightly confused by my answering all the questions that went “Would you like $suspicious_loophole_technology?” with a one or a two right after I’d answered all the “are you comfortable installing computer software/devices* on your home computer” with fives, but really… text me whenever someone enters or leaves my house? In what way does that increase security?

I figure that being the case, I either know who it is (say, Paul), or I can guess (possibly Ryan) or I have no idea (might be robbers, but what can I do, huh? Call the rozzers and tell ’em that my phone told me someone opened my door and I’m not sure who it was? Or do I have to opt for the frankly creepy-sounding CCTV-in-the-house which I (and probably Orange, or anyone who’s nicked my phone or got into the system some other way) can then view from my phone.

Now I feel bad for being unhelpful in a survey; I strongly suspect that I’ve just completely thrown the results. Eh, but what can you do? Would be vaguely interested to know if it’s just me that thinks this is A Bad Thing, though – am I missing the bit where some latter-day Mr. McKittrick comes up with a bunch of failsafes, or what?

*I’m not sure if by “Devices” she meant CPUs, extra RAM, new expansion cards et sim., but I assumed she did, because I couldn’t think of any other interpretation that wouldn’t just be embarrasing this side of plug & play.

Three Things

Hell’s teeth. Well today, thanks to something of a shift-scheduling snafu at Work B, I got double booked. As much as possible I’m trying to work for whoever offers to pay me first, because I think that works out fairest all round (the NHS pay me more per hour, but work in Holib is going to be more useful on a CV long-term, so there’s not much to choose between them apart from who shouts fastest). Of course, that sort of thing only works if people check your availibility first, and in this instance that didn’t happen quite as much as I’d’ve liked.

Consequently, I just worked 0700-0930 in the hospital, and now I’m in Holib 1000-1200, and then the hospital again 1230-1500. This is quite possibly insane, but I guess it means I will be paid eventually.

Got results for my Management Essay back, with which I am pleased: 68 (Pretty much the level I seem to be working at for everything, which I’m quite happy about, and some awesome feedback, featuring the line ‘Your opening two paragraphs are especially worthy of commendation,’ which – since the second paragraphs was a description of innefective managers in popular culture (viz: Gus Hedges, Gordon Brittas & the PHB) I think is a massive win all round.

Last night’s Troma was rather fun: we inflicted Space Mutiny on Finbar, and then we watched Orphan, a well-filmed and complex drama designed to warn everyone against ignoring the Rules.

The Rules, as every fule kno (except for the dimwits in the film) are, of course,

First: Look Out For Number One (Assuming you have first taken care to look out for Number One’s appointed representatives, if any.)
Second: When In Doubt, Close Ranks.
Third: Apply The Rules From The Centre Outwards, Not The Other Way Around.

Seriously, it’s like the people in that film wanted to be miserable. It’s quite fun, mind, but I think it’s significant that virtually the first sensible thing the lead character says is about fifty seconds from the end credits.

Savage Love: Best. Caller. Ever.

Podcast No. 164: The Story so far:
Dan Savage has called a woman back; she’s been making extra money doing live sex shows on webcam, and her boyfriend is not happy about it (that is, once he found out she was doing it on the quiet, he wasn’t happy about it). Dan wants to know how essential this extra money is.

Savage: Is there something else you can do besides that? I mean, what’s your career goals besides fingering yourself on webcam?

Caller: [Laughs] I actually have two jobs now; I’m a librarian, actually.

My profession kicks arse

(Belated reports of) murdery goodness.

The murder mystery was awesome; I enjoyed it a lot more than the fixed form ones, which I think is because a lot of the important bits of fixed-form stuff are read out from booklets (assuming they’ve been made properly, which I’d like to point out is not always the case), and it’s nice to have extra leeway.

(Having said that, I think it needs a fixed-form into to act as a launching platform, so everyone can introduce themselves & possibly say where they were at what times, because that would leave me feeling less like I need to build the Statue of Liberty to stop this sort of thing [Man, do I miss having a foreign advisor. She kicked arse.])

But once things got going, it was really awesome. I genuinely think I did well early on because I wasnae stingy with the information (which I attribute entirely to having called up The Game of Diplomacy back when I was working at the Bod, and snippets of which kept coming back at me; there’s an awesome sketch Sharp does of the opening stages where a chap is going around saying ‘You’ve got to help me, Turkey’s sister is going to marry Germany’s cousin next week, if you don’t ally with me then he’ll roll right over you before I can even cross the Channel,’ and similar Lies Of Awesomeness [Italy, as I recall, gives up right at the start and gets drunk in the corner…]). Anyway, that was dead handy that was, and I offer to all of you the notion that it’s good to share information with someone you know you can trust to reciprocate with no ulterior motive whatsoever.

(Slightly dissapointed to find that book so expensive on Amazon, sigh. It really is very good; I believe it must be the source of the quote I can only occasionally find excuse to shoehorn into conversations: ‘A ruthless do-or-die merchant who’d knife his own granny in Spring 1901 if he got the chance.’ Hey ho.)

Anyway, the whole thing went awesomely, and it was really interesting to see the way the interactions changed over the course of the thingy. Plus I got astoundingly drunk by dint of mixing both blue and green cocktails – I employed what was, frankly, slightly suspect reasoning, and argued that blue and green paints can be combined so why not drinks – and then woke up without a hangover. I must drink more vintage champagne again at some point, so I can remind myself what a hangover feels like.

Awesome fun, as I say.

In other news, Miriam is well(ish) again. At least, she’s back and running on the requisite number of cylinders, which is important. Her central locking’s gone, however. By ‘gone’ I mean ‘works perfectly, but the actual keyhole on the driver’s side does bugger all, so to lock or unlock her from the outside you have to hike over to the near side door which I suspect is the sort of thing that will get old very fast, although it is just the sort of quirk that Miriam revels in having, and it’s at least better than having a sunroof that leaked whenever it rained.

O, and I’m working absurdly too much, but the Department is being a whole world of co-operative, and has cancelled every other lecture this week so as to leave me more time to play Tropico 3. At least, I assume that’s why they’re doing it, and that it’s an issue of co-operation rather than competence. (I’m nice like that).


Stuck in Wales…

…with only the barest of creature comforts; a radio, a Hellish beefy tower, a small radiator, a few litres of spirits including gin, whisky, brandy & liquers (sounds like a French exercise, doesn’t it?*)

And all because Miriam’s broken herself. Bah. I’m very fond of Miriam; she’s got me through two sets of absolutely crazy floods, one the first day I had her, where we alternated between aquaplaning and smothering the exhaust in water in a frankly Flight-To-The-Ford-ish bid to get out of Stafford, and then again in poxy Newtown, when Matt & I were trying to make it back from Gregynog in the middle of the biggest flash flood this side of Dot and the Kangaroo, with water sloshing right over the bonnet.

The thing about Miriam is that I like her partly because she’s a lot more responsive than Mike’s little 1.2 litre Corsa what I learnt in – on at least one occasion that I’ve been in Mir, I’m pretty sure I’d have been quite badly killed if I’d not been in a machine with a decent lump of power in third gear: half way over a level crossing is a really bad time to discover that the lights and barriers have failed, especially with a Sprinter belting along the up line towards you, and it’s nice to know you can floor it without having to hang around to shift down to second – and partly because she’s a bloody good workhorse, in true VW fashion.

Last time she broke she got a hole in the exhaust which, as far as I can tell, reduced engine efficiency such that a couple of the elderly spark plugs gave up the ghost, and we nursed her the sixty miles from Porthmadog back to Aberystwyth on about two cylinders. I think the highest gear we could take was fourth, on the three miles that were all downhill. And then she managed to make it to the mechanic as well, so it could’ve been worse.

Pretty much the same thing happened this time round, although I’m not sure what’s causing the misfire, and instead of being in Porthmadog, she began to play up when Ruth was around 40 miles out of Aber, which I guess is preferable. The thing you have to remember here is the Miriam is a 1999 Skoda, so whilst she was built by VW who knew what they were doing, she is getting on a bit. As near as I can tell, she spent the first eight years of her life pottering around Wolverhampton to get to the shops and things: when we got her in September ’08, she’d done 44,000 miles. By January ’09 that was up to 51, and she’s now on 62,600. I think this is the equivilant of getting a pensioner who never left the village to run from London to Edinburgh with no training, so it’s not entirely surprising that she breaks a bone every now and then.

It was, however, particularly bad timing since it meant we couldn’t get out of town. Really sorry about that, guys; we’ll hack our way to Cardiff once she’s up and running again and take you for a meal or something. Hope it was a good ‘un!

…In the meantime, I’m also trying to get down to London, for fun and library-related games with people on my course. I’m also hoping to run a few errands whilst I’m down there – I need a job lot of leaflets from Friends House, for a start. This should still be possible, although thanks to the miracle of public transport, I shalln’t be leaving Aber until Monday morning. Happily I’m getting better and running on four or five hours sleep, thanks to inexplicably developing an inconvenient habit of handing essays in on time which rather requires me to write them beforehand.

So it’s all in a bit of a muddle, at the minute. I’m still hoping I’ll get a minute to visit the spectacular-looking Steampunk exhibition whilst I’m in the South, and then it’s back to Aber by train once more (bugger) in order to pull yet another shift at the hospital (who have nearly finished training me, thank goodness; I appreciate that it’s important everything in a hospital environment gets thoroughly cleaned, even if they refuse to make it smell clean with healthy things like carbolic [O man I want all of these things. Witchazel! I’ve not seen than in years!] but even so I have worked as a professional cleaner since 2002, I’m pretty sure I grasp at least the basics. Plus I seem to be unusual in finding burnishing awesome fun.) and then there’s another Murder Mystery, with almost everyone at it, which should be interesting.

In the meantime, everything is almost under control. I might even have a minute to reply to some email come February…

*Cite me! For bonus points!

r-jta exists! Huzzah!

Aye, as Ruth said we have a website. It is over here, and there is a helpful blog, which will presumably get less sparse over time.

I feel silly having a one-sentence post. Here is a meme, which you may now all skip.

  1. What is your name?
  2. Mister JTA.

  3. What colour pants are you wearing?
  4. Black jeans, blue thermals.

  5. What are you listening to right now?
  6. Depends what the RNG is doing, but the playlist is a mix of Barenaked Ladies, Slade and Warren Zevon, which combine nicely for some reason, presumably magic.

  7. What are the last four digits of your phone number?
  8. You realise that’s over half the main number, right? By the time you’re establishing my number based on what the exchange might be, you could just as easily look it up in the phone directory…

  9. What was the last thing you ate?
  10. Chilli con carne, with significantly more rice than chilly. For the cheap.

  11. If you were a crayon, what colour would you be?
  12. Er…. Blue?

  13. Where do you plan to go on your honeymoon?
  14. Huh. Topical. Rather going with the traditional “random short break, proper honeymoon later” plan, is my understanding.

  15. How is the weather right now?
  16. Sodding miserable.There’s ice and snow and everything. It sucks.

  17. Last person you talked to on the phone?
  18. No idea what their name is. Sry.

  19. What’s the first thing you notice about the opposite sex?
  20. What clothes they have on. Actually Probably Possibly a lot less pervy than it sounds.

  21. How are you today?
  22. Not entirely frozen.

  23. Your favourite drink?
  24. Er. One of tea, coffee, pepsi or Mountain Dew.

  25. Your favourite alcoholic drink/s?
  26. Ale, gin, whisky, rum, port, stout, cider…

  27. Have you ever lost someone?
  28. Doy.

  29. Favourite sport to play?
  30. Hahaha.

  31. Name three people you can tell anything to?
  32. Jeez, three? Er. Ruth. Dan. Er. Yeah, that’s your lot. Move along, folks.

  33. Hair colour?
  34. Brown? Probably, although it might be black.

  35. Eye Colour?
  36. Brown.

  37. What do you find annoying in a person?
  38. Hm. I’m assuming you mean ‘most annoying’ there. Lack of empathy. It’s not like it’s hard.

  39. Siblings and their ages?
  40. One, 19.

  41. Favourite month?
  42. Er. Maaay?.

  43. Favourite food?
  44. The sort that someone else is paying for.

  45. Last movie you’ve watched?
  46. Wanted, probably.

  47. Favourite day of the year?
  48. And the point of having one of those would be what?

  49. Are you too shy to ask someone out?
  50. All signs point to possibly. Or not, if’n I can actually tell whether they like me. So, er, yes.

  51. Summer or Winter?
  52. At the moment, I’d say summer. Come the next heatwave, I’ll say winter. Bloody weather.

  53. Where do you see urself next year?
  54. Down Oxford way, is the plan.

  55. Hugs or Kisses?
  56. Well… hugs are more transferable.

  57. Relationship or one night stands?
  58. This was written by someone in High School, wasn’t it? Still, they tell me even teenagers find relationships are in vogue these days.

  59. Favourite Computer Game?
  60. Errr. Probably S201 for all-time favourite. Otherwise I’m quite liking Saints Row 2, at the minute. It’s like a GTA game, but written sensibly.

  61. Living Arrangements?
  62. An attic flat, with no loft insulation and no heating. Wheeeeee.

  63. What books are you reading?
  64. Intersting times; Flashman; Cartoon history of the modern world, v. 2.

  65. What’s on your mouse pad?
  66. Mouse what?

  67. Favourite board game?
  68. Really quite liking BSG at the minute, but also Power Grid & Illuminati & Hacker…

  69. Favourite magazine?
  70. Private Eye kinda wins by default, there…

  71. Favourite smells?
  72. Nice whisky is awesome, innit?

  73. Least favourite smell?
  74. Cigarette smoke, probably. Pipes I mind less.

  75. Favourite sound?
  76. People giving me money, in a loud “shuffling of banknotes” sort of way!

  77. Worst feeling in the world?
  78. Probably that one where everything sucks and you cannae do anything about it.

  79. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
  80. At the minute? ‘Bollocks bollocks bollocks, my joints are hurting already, fucking winter.’

  81. Favourite colour(s)?
  82. Blue.

  83. How many rings before you answer the phone?
  84. Depends where I am. Anyway, you can’t tell how many times a mobile rings.

  85. Do you think the glass is half empty or half full?
  86. In my experience, glasses rarely fill themselves. It’s therefore safe to assume that 1) it is getting emptier, and 2) in a just world, someone else would have already volunteered to buy you another…

  87. Favourite movies?
  88. Flashback; South Park: BLU; big fan of Wargames when I’m in the right mood.

  89. What’s under your bed?
  90. The floor, an office that used to be heated for around eleven hours a day, and hasn’t had anyone using it for the past seven months.

  91. What cd do you have in your stereo?
  92. Sterewhat? My Optical drives are currently sporting L4D2 and Civilization II, if that helps.

  93. Favourite TV show:
  94. Er. I generally fire up iplayer to watch Top Gear…

  95. What’s ur favourite Song?
  96. I’ll stick with Protect & Survive, by Runrig, cheers.

— it’s all gone wrong, hasn’t it?’

Not to generalise, of course, but 2009 sucked. I mean, I’ve clocked up worse years, but for unrelenting grind that was a bad ‘un.

Essentially, it’s the year where my sleeping patterns went to bits, I actually started working because I’m no longer a university student wanting education but a university student wanting a qualification (which is far harder to get, since it’s pretty much a quest on rails), I clocked up further debt whilst getting a handle on fiscal responsibility, and Everything Went Wrong for everyone. (Except for the people it didn’t go so wrong for, but I know fewer of them.)

Mind, there were some decent enough bits, but I suspect it’s going into my overview under “everything went wrong for everyone” (Vs. “1992 – Really wet summer,” “1995 – First absurdly hot summer with melty tar” and “2007/8 – I have no idea what happened between Oxford and starting in IS”.)

Still, it’s over now, and we get a whole new year. How, uh, arbitrary. Nevertheless: Happy New Year, people.

O, and kudos to the Goverment for not restoring our 11 days they owe us during 2k9. Bloody thing was long enough as it was. (I’m still waiting for my helicopter that means I won’t need to use railway branch lines, but I’ll trade my claim to that for someone at the ministry exhuming Beeching and sticking his skull on a pike.)

As I say, best of luck for 2010, and lets hope things pick up for everyone, shall we?

Working for the NHS: Pros & Cons


1. I may get paid at some point.
2. Free shoes! And I don’t have to get shot at, or set on fire or anything. I can’t think of another job where that happens.
3. Apparently some sort of pension.


1. Every time I catch sight of an oxygen tank out of the corner of my eye, I want to pick it up and carry it to somewhere I can explode it during a panic event. Especially if I’m heading towards a lift.
2. Working 9-5, then leaving work to go to, er, work. Elsewhere.
3. When getting tours of a hospital, it’s really hard not to keep saying “I hate stairs”…

Fifty – Fifty

Well, last time I got onto this (frankly already well-flogged) hobbyhorse, at least I managed to sound a very little optomistic. Unhappily, the last time round I was sober, and now I’m, er, not quite so sober.

There are good things going on for me, I must say, and the last weekend was a blinder, and went better than I expected it to, even the bit where I found myself spooling back ten years and tying a bunch of flowers to the nearest roadsign to the crossroads.

On the flip side, I’ve now been alive longer since my father got killed than I was before, which is, er, wierd. It hadn’t actually occured to me that that was the case until I happened to do the maths the other day, so it’s come as a bit of a surprise. I’m pretty sure I’m on the record as having said that I think hitting 42 & 43 will be a bit weird, the former because of matching, the latter because of surpassing, but I hadn’t spotted this “more than half” business sneaking up on me until the last minute, so I’m still a bit knocked sideways. Plus, of course, naturally inclined to be introspective.

To be honest, I’m not blogging so much out of a desire to say anything remotely interesting as a hope that I can spin out time until I’m a) sober enough to get some sleep, and b) less buzzing with thoughts, but I can’t say it’s working.

And I don’t really think this is a good post to be writing, so I shall stumble back onto the old coin-flip thing, and post only if this, er… 1733 George the 2nd ha’penny, apparently, which says a lot about the state of my finances that that should be the nearest coin to hand, comes up smudgy tails rather than weirdly unfamiliar heads.

Huh. Fairly unfamiliar tails too, now it cmes to it, and I’m rambling again. I need either to get less drunk at parties, or to start coping better with being one over the eight. Someone tell me which I should do, and I’ll see which sounds better in the morning.

O – and remember, kids: never blog drunk. You dunno what you might be typing. (Yeah, yeah, I’m deliberately not listening to myself. Sue me, I’m a part-time trainwreck. I have no idea how that would work.) Jebus, it’s gone one in the morning. This is what happens when I have no radio or company to give me timechecks, I fail to look at the clock. Nuts.

1800 hours of work? Nah, leave it for Dave.

Someone yesterday contrived to tell me something I never got told before: every 10 credits of study is supposed to equate to one hundred hours of actual study. Or, in other words, in the next twelve months they want me to put down 1,800 hours. Assuming I did it all at once, without stopping to play games, get paid, or drink coffee, or eat, or sleep, or look at pebbles, or see other people, that would be 75 straight days of work.

Hell’s teeth..

On the plus side, actually did some being sociable yesterday, which was fun. I tell you, there’s something very rewarding about sitting drunkenly in a pub and arguing about the relative merits of cataloguing, and whether it makes more sense to classify subdivisions with letters or symbols or numbers. (Also it makes a nice change to be able to do that sort of thing without everyone making snarky comments, I’m just saying…)

O, and because I like to spread aggravation around, here’s that stupid moralistic nonsense I was talking about and managed to dig out – note my emphasis in the first line:

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Really. Did it? It ended up with Everbody cross because Nobody did the job, did it? Did it bollocks. These are proper nouns you’re waving about here, you tossers, and you can’t go crying to mommy when you go and shoot yourself in the foot.

Note that this would have worked perfectly well if they just said “If a job needs doing, and you can do that job, why not do that job yourself, thus ensuring that the job will get done. That is good practice, that is”. O, wait, they can’t do that, can they? That wouldn’t be smart.

So let’s look again at this story about four people. But since most people don’t go around with names like “Everybody” and “Anybody” let’s do a bit of on-the-fly localisation, so we can be sure that we can all relate to these people – let’s make these hapless office drones people like us, so as to boost the impact of the message:

This is a story about four people named Amy, Barry, Claire and Dave.
There was an important job to be done and Amy was sure that Barry would do it.
Claire could have done it, but Dave did it.
Barry got angry about that, because it was Amy’s job.
Amy thought that Claire could do it, but Dave realized that Amy wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that Amy blamed Barry when Dave did what Claire could have done.

What’s the problem? The job got done, didn’t it? The moral of the sad little contrivance isn’t “do your own dirty work” (a perfectly valid message, if only they’d thought to put it in) but “leave it to Dave”.

That’s not just the message if you change the names over, that’s the message all the time, because we’re not dealing with concepts like “nobody did the job,” we’re dealing with people: “Mr. David J. Nobody did the job, even though that annoyed old Miss Amy Everybody.”

Honestly, I fail to see how the people who come up with this stuff don’t realise that it makes no damn sense. You’d think they’d at least read it back to be sure it means what they hoped it would, even if they can’t be trusted with anything as complicated as communicating an idea to another human being.

…Ah, I’m probably being harsh. Let’s face it, the only way that kind of thing could get that badly screwed up is if they all left it to each other, and the unpaid intern had to lash it together on the way to the seminar.

Fresher’s Week, again.

Today’s fun fact: I’ve now owned my little battery-powered FM/LW/MW/SW radio for six years. Bought it in Dixons, back when we had one of those in Aber. Well I find it interesting, anyway.

Induction gubbins carries on apace. Yesterday, out to Llanbadarn for what turned out to be a slightly strange seven-strand induction lecture, the highlight of which was the woman the Careers service sent along who tried very hard, but failed to make the leap from “This is a lecture theatre packed to the gills with naught but postgraduate students about to start their Masters courses” to “therefore I should address them as such.”

Thus, after we’d been sitting and listening to people address us for a little under 40 minutes, she began her skit by getting us all to stand up, and stretch and yawn theatrically (Heaven forfend that PG students should be able to sit for under an hour and listen to people!) and then followed that up with the suggestion we were all liars.

We would all like to think we’re there to bolster our skills, she reasoned, but actually we’re just doing it to keep ourselves off the jobs market until the recession is over. Isn’t that right, she asked, as a multitude of hands – three in number – rose in bemused agreement. “How nice,” she said, “that there are three honest people here.” Yeah, thanks for that. You do realise that we’re paying out for this, right? We’re not just sitting here for to while away the next twelve months of an already finite lifetime.

Sigh. She’d’ve gone down a treat with undergraduates, I’m sure, but like I say she didn’t make the link. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her before; she gave us an incredibly annoying handout on the importance of getting jobs done, which I’ll blog about as soon as I’ve dug it up, because it was such appaling nonsense it damn well deserves to be on the Internet. Probably is somewhere, actually, it’s the sort of bollocks they like to save up for when someone wants to make a website out of clever managerial witticisms…

Anyway, today I went and registered, and am thus officially re-enrolled. Registration by paper always puts me in mind of the Copy Protection Scene in Spellcasting 101 where you have to queue up and then one of the professors says “Ah, yes, Mr. Eaglebeak. Tell me, what was your Oral Aptitude score?” and if you don’t look sharp and say “590” like what it says on the paper you fish out of the box they push you off to the Restore : Undo : Quit screen fast as you please.

Anyway, they didn’t ask me anything like that or even what my Health Score was (Ernie’s is 91), but I did have to queue twice over, because they forgot to sign the first of my three forms in addition to the second, at least on the first attempt. Hey ho.

I’ve landed myself a 50:70 split, because neither of my two option modules run in Semester 1, but they reckon that won’t be too much of a problem, and if I’m honest it’s the 60-credit diss that’s worrying me, if anything.

Still, I’m all registered up. I returned home to find, in Inbox A, a email from the University in the form of a confirmation to let me know that they have updated my records and I am officially a student and, in Inbox B, an email from the University in the form of an Alumni Newsletter to let me know about all this new students they’ve got sloshing about the place and signing up for all manner of silly modules.

All rather strange, and it’s only Tuesday. Still, see how we go, shall we?


I’m too much of a barometer, is my trouble, and everyone else seems to be having it unremittingly grim just at the moment.


It’s not as though I actually like writing people off; I do try not to. Still if people will go around being… Ah, damnation I do wish you scunners wouldn’t pull tricks like that, y’know? It ain’t helpful for any of your people, and it’s sure as Hell not a good idea for any of mine. (On the plus side, y’bastard, I only met you once so you’ve spared yourself the bit where I figure you know me well enough that pulling this kind of stunt counts as a personal insult to myself. On the downside, I only met you once so I ain’t in a position to execute a proper stick-rip-twist on you. Yeah, it’s that bad; I’ve not done one of them for years, thank Christ. Never reflect very well on anyone those do and you can never be certain that they’ll float back into their conciousness at 0200h as intended or if they’ll just drift out the other side. Or be certain which to hope for, really…)

Hey, I said I’d honed being loyal to a fault into a form of art. I never said I was nice.

Meanwhile, I’m going to go slump over, polish off the last of the whisky and have a bit of a read before I turn in. An’ that ain’t going to make anything better, either. But, then, it’s late, my knees have been playing Hob all day, even before the standing up, and the rest of the background stress isn’t helping with the more immediate backstabbery. You’re all permitted to ignore me, y’know; I’m due a busy week, I’ll be right, betimes; I just needed to be incoherently stroppy with the world.

Reasons Why It’s Bad To Sleep With The Radio On

#1 in a series of at least #1:

Only realising at midday that there was actually a plausible explanation for half-waking in the middle of the night before sinking into a dream about Puff the Magic Dragon.

And there was me thinking it was reading LXG getting tangled up with the comedown from opiates. I should be so lucky. (Note for chemists: Stop mucking about with flu vaccine and make some Codine that actually works, you lazy sods.)

…incidentally, does anyone else see the crowd of 20-somethings singing along in the audience in that Youtube clip? What kind of way is that to run a decade?

Next Episode: 101 Reasons Why It Isn’t Fun To Wake Up To James Naughtie On Your Pillow.

Ah, Red Alert 3: Soviet March, I grow fonder of you as a ringtone day by day.

In this case, look you, because you’ve contrived to be the ringtone heralding an offer for part-time work. More than that, for convenient take-it-or-leave-it-and-be-paid-accordingly part-time work, which is liable to be dead handy for me with my collection of other commitments and overdrafts to satisfy all at once. Huzzah!

Therefore, presently, and assuming a clear health check and a green light from the CRB people, I return to work as a cleaner-type person (Undertakers, prostitutes and cleaners: always in demand, that’s us. And, considering the alternatives, cleaning’s not a bad job to be engaged in, all fun aside)

(Alarmingly, by my reckoning this brings my all-time interview:job offer ratio to, er… 9:8 (that’s what not having a driving license will do to you, that is). The reason I say alarmingly is because I assume my luck’ll have to turn eventually, and if it’s going to I’d much rather it dropped out now rather than when it super-really counts, but there you go – I don’t propose to complain too much, I just worry that it’s one of those things that only works when you don’t bank on it, and I’m not sure how to look like I’m not banking on it!)

Betimes, I’ve netted myself perhaps the most cool voluntary work I could have contrived, as a sort of giving-advice-and-opinions bod for a fictioneer. Can’t say I’ve got much experience of that sort of thing per se, but it’s giving me a chance to brush up on some very rusty skills I’ve not pressed for some time, so that’s nice.

O, and a heads up to the guy who just came up the drive and stuffed a ‘Do you want your drive to be pressure-washed?’ flyer through the door: talking loudly on a mobile below an open window kinda diminished the secrecy of the sentence “Mate, can you keep a secret, yeah? I’ve actually got another girlfriend she doesn’t know about.” (Bonus tip: if you must go about keeping secrets, you’ll find they work better if you don’t tell people regardless of how close you are to other bodies)

(A heavy blonde day even for someone as fair-headed as you, huh? You square-set late-teens six footer, you…)

Pfeh. I laugh in the face of statistics.

We’ve had Miriam for a year now, which is nice, and ironed out most of the interesting little kinks.

The sunroof hasn’t leaked for ages, which is good (and all it took was vaseline, then tack grease, then a bathroom sealant and then even more bathroom sealant while I worked through the options of gumming up the seal, fixing the outer edge of the seal and finally glueing it shut. It’d probably come undone with a bit of careful knife work but I’m not sure it’s worth just to get a hole in the roof).

The vents don’t seem to flood as much as they did; they get a little soggy in really heavy rain, but I’ve not had a footwell full of water since I, er, blocked up a couple of backwards-facing drainage channels with, er, bathroom sealant (seriously, that stuff is like Duck Tape in a tube).

The juddering feat. alarming rocking of the engine block has been resolved – hole in the exhaust just below the CAT meant the, er, burntfuelsmoke wasn’t getting out of the tubes properly, which was causing something of a suck-squeeze-bang-coughspluttershake effect and at the same time the spark plugs were on their last legs so she was running after the manner of suck-squeeze-rollD4andbangona1-cough&c, in consequence of which I apologise for swearing at her when she refused to give me the oomph to get round a tractor.

I’ve not yet had an accident (and I’ve only had about three near misses, and one of them wasn’t even when I was going fast, which is nice), although I am starting to think I’ve inherited my father’s habit of going at a reasonable rate of knots which you’d think would’ve got beaten out of me, but there you go.

And, of course, I’ve driven through no end of absurd floods, first in September, and then again on the way back from Gregynog when Newtown got decidedly soggy, and I ended up forcing through an insanely deep bit of flood with water slapping itself up the bonnet to hit the windscreen (there’s still all mud flecks in there, but I can’t be bothered to mop ’em up. And I wonder why the exhaust got rusty…)

O, and I nearly died on a level crossing, an’ all. Bloody thing stopped working. Although, in fairness, I think we were mostly over the up line at the point I realised that there didn’t ought to be rapidly oncoming lights to my left.

‘s good stuff this drivin’.

And, honestly, I’ve not really done much more interesting than that. Except, of course, Ruth’s gone off to Oxford, and I’m trying to patch the holes in my shoes up with, er, black bathroom sealant.

Anyway, that washing up isn’t going to do itself. O, and I’ve not got a headache, so No Worries. The list of things that gives me hangovers stays stuck on ’99 Moet. On the downside, the list of things that gives me headaches appears to have grown to include Not Drinking Coffee. Which I guess means I need to drink more coffee.


Re-installed CoD4 the other day, for first time since my computer last bricked itself (way back in February or so I discovered it is Not Good for the electric meter to run out at the same time as Windows is updating itself, and when I do a reinstall I things tend to get put back when I want them). All my multiplayer goodies have vanished. Lame. (I had all sorts of cool gubbins with fancy camoflage and nice perks and things, and it’s all gone.) On the plus side, I’m actually more skilled than I look because of this. Snrk. (I shouldn’t be smug, however, because I had a kill:death ratio of around 8:37 in one match yesterday. That probably goes into smaller numbers, if you care about such things, but meh.

I promise I am not saying this to wind people up, but 40 years since we landed on the moon leaves me brimming with indifference. I guess it is nice that we went up on comparatively lame technology, but it happened a long time ago – I think that might be the problem, for me; everyone who can actually remember it seems to see it as a massive thing, whereas I’ve grown up in the age of We Have Been To The Moon, so Going To The Moon doesn’t seem that awesome. That said, I started to understand better thanks to this strip, which actually does make it seem kinda cool. Especially the bit with the steam engine.

Serveral nights this week I’ve not managed to get to sleep until gone 02:30. Yeeeah. That’s going on the list, I fear. Still, it’s in good company; Hollywood Pizza’s been on there for months.

If you do not read PostSecret, I recommend it, for it is awesome, and likewise FutureMe… In consequence of which I’m going to keep an eye on Letters Anonymous, which is knew, and kinda fusiony. Will see how it pans out, might be interesting.

I got (half of) this week’s Piano Puzzler, and am pleased. I never get the composer, mind, but even the tune is kinda a step up for me, plus I got it on the first playthrough. (I was, of course, listening to KUSC, which appears to hand over to American Public Media’s Performance Today for the night shift (09:00 – 14:00ish), which means I keep listening to the Morning Show on my afternoons at work. Confusing stuff, time travel.

The press is full of dead soldiery. It is, of course, very sad that – what is it, now, 19? -people have died in Afghanistan this month, but on the other hand we’ve been out there for a decade, and this is our worst month yet? Jeez, we are kicking arse. It could be considerably worse, you know. I find the fact we’ve got such a very low death toll rather encouraging. Aye, it sucks for the families, I’m not saying it doesn’t. But there aren’t many such families, which is worth remembering…

O, and you’ve probably all heard this one by now, it being a massive hit and all, but if not take a dekko at United Breaks Guitars, about the shoddy treatment of baggage (& customers) by staff of United Airlines, whose shares have – not surprisingly – dropped a whopping 10%. Do not mess with stubborn people is the message there, I think…

O, hey, my break’s nearly done. I wonder if I can nab a mug of tea before I nodd off…

Yeah, I know, I know, I’m getting worse

But in my defence this week is 24-carat insane. Most people I’ve not seen, most emails I’ve not looked at and I’m now scared of the time it’s going to take me to clear my RSS feeds, of which no fewer than 257 are clamouring for my attention up in my tabs bar, there.

Er. I’ll get round to emails as soon as I can, and I’ll probably stop snapping at quite so many people once I’ve composed such missives as I’ve Not Had Time To Write. Meantimes, if anybody fancies buying me such alcohol as I can get roaring bloody drunk I might loosen up and bit and stop being quite so twitchy, though I wouldn’t bet on it just yet. GAAAAAAAHHHHH and I’ve got f’king work on Monday again. I swear this bloody rotation is going to be the death of somebody if time dun’t pass fast enough before I bloody finish it…

End of another coffee break

But before it fades out entirely, I figure I’ll mention the incredibly vivid dream I got woken up from, because I came out of the whole enterprise looking really awesome (in my head, that is. I don’t imagine it’ll translate so well, but that’s your lookout, not mine). Typically, I’m hazy on the background but there was a duel, and everything, plus generic Regency backdrop, and fancy house. Whole thing was in black and white, though, which is really quite unusual for me. I can’t remember why we were fighting, which is a shame since I’d have liked to know, and I did ask the chap who checked the wadding, but he said he wasn’t allowed to talk to me.

Very nice flinters, is most of what I remember, and I picked the one on the left out of the box because I can clearly remember thinking that I ought to have taken the one on the right instead, though I couldn’t work out why, except it had a different pattern of hatching on the grip. Surprisingly the other chap was weirdly faceless, in the sense that I couldn’t quite make out what he looked like, although I vaguely knew he was a nasty piece of work and was probably the one in the wrong. Very tall thin bloke, blond hair and a black cane, presumably in order to make it clear he was the bad ‘un, but I remember thinking not being able to his features was a bad start to aiming at him… Presumably to save getting a new background curtain we adopted the film-friendly ’10 paces, turn, fire’ routine, and I think I’d got to about my eighth stride when the sod shot me in the leg from behind, which stung.

Awesomely I improbably executed a very nice spin with the whole extended arm thing (which I’m fairly sure wouldn’t work, I think the balance of the barrel would be wrong given the angle I was at) and managed to get him in the arm, with consequent winning & obvious disgrace for cheating in a duel in front of all the witnesses what had helpfully appeared alongside the bank (of the river. I don’t know why there was a river, but it served for somewhere to put witnesses) I remember thinking he was a fool to cheat in front of witnesses (or, indeed, for either of us to fight anywhere within a thousand yards of witnesses at all) but somebody said his second chappie had told him I’d cheated already and switched the flinters so his didn’t have a ball in it, though I evidently didn’t, since we both got shot. (Did I mention the bit where I was awesome and pirouetting with a leg gone dead on me and still got him square below the shoulder? For I was dead cool, and everything.)

Anyway, he buzzed off to live a new & quiet life in the Foreign Legion, or somesuch Godawful fate, and I got to keep his awesome house, as I recall, which had a fabulous library with tea + cake and a fire… And then we had the traditional fade-to-random-chase routine, obligatory in all dreams since 1697, and I found I’d fetched up in India and was running away on an elephant with an orderly who kept shouting at me. Woke up shortly after, feeling very groggy. I don’t pull out of REM sleep with any grace at all.

Pop psychology interpretations welcome, why not.

(Though personally I’m inclined to put it down as the fault of too much Lovejoy, listening to Moonlight Shadow and (at the end, at least) Flashman. O, and you get No Points for identifying the novel I apparently thieved that library from, though I suppose we should be grateful I didn’t inherit the crazy housekeeper along with the rest of the house. Am assuming the duel-y dude wasn’t Max, hard to imagine him going around shooting people in the leg…)

Still, I’m surprised it’s stuck with me this long, most of the stuff my brain comes up with vanishes before the kettle’s boiled…

Sisyphean Spreadsheets and Eterminable Labours.

So life continues. Well, for the most part. I still get not quite enough sleep, but I’m marginally less frantic at the weekends now, so I can at least catch up on it then, except I appear to have misplaced the knack of sleeping past noon, which is a shame.

Work continues, though I am only working another fifteen and a half days this month, as I must use holiday time before my contract ends on the 31st.

I don’t usually talk much about work in places as public as Where the Entire World May google it with a Search Engine, but I am amazingly glad that I saved that time up; the rotation I’m working in now is just soul destroying. I am comparing two spreadsheets, each of which contains a data dump. Sheet 1 is data telling us what electronic publications we had access to on the old system. Sheet 2 tells us what electronic publications we had on the new system last August. I am supposed to do a lot of copy-pasting and check that we’re not missing anything important.

Specifically, I’m checking that we’ve not been missing anything important for the last academic year. Personally, I think if it was both missing and even slightly important, someone may have noticed over the course of the last academic year, but that opinion probably wouldn’t go down too well…

I am the third Grad Trainee this year to work on these spreadsheets – note ‘this year,’ I’ll come back to that in a minute – so this has been going on for eleven months. We started, two hundred and thirty eight days ago with the first publication on the list, 19th Century Music (which files before A, of course, because it begins with a numeral). Just before lunch today – half an elephant pregnancy later – I finished checking ‘Corruption Matters’.

It has taken us eleven months to get an eighth of the way through the alphabet. At this rate, we will not be above half-way before they change the system again, and it’s really quite hard to get motivated under those circumstances; it’s like being asked to bail out the Elan lakes with an egg cup. Assuming the egg cup has a hole drilled in it, and you keep having to stop and compare the content of the Elan lakes with the contents of the Aswan dam to make sure they both still contain water…

What’s worse, is that – I said I’d come to this – it turns out other trainees have been here before us. I only discovered this yesterday: the spreadsheets are from August, I assumed this stuff had only been invented in August. O no, these spreadsheets were only invented in August, but there were old spreadsheets before them. (You know that scene in comics where the people who’ve been lost in the desert, but have been following an ever-increasing number of footprints suddenly realise they’re not on a massive well-used highway, but have been walking around the same dune for seventeen panels? It’s like that.)

Some years ago some poor scunners got stuck in a single rotation for a whole year. For the guys Lending and Library Support I can see that would’ve been awesome, but the poor girl that got lumbered with the antedescendant of this white elephant was begging to be let out apparently, although it sounds as though she got rescued in the end, and we adopted this rotating system, thank God. (If that sounds like it was you, incidentally, that was forever asking Bill to be allowed to do something connected to either the rest of the library, or just to subject support or anything then give me a shout and I’ll see if I can’t confirm that and then buy you a very very large gin.)

It’s crushingly dispiriting, is the trouble. Given the choice between getting paid for this month’s work and walking three times over hot coals and then just getting paid for sitting at home with my feet in a tub of water for the month, I’d honestly take the poxy coals. It’s not like anything I do will make a significant impact on this damn thing, anyway – which is the heart of the problem, really.

I would advise anybody who finds themselves calculating how long it is until they can take their tea break, or adjusting their tea breaks so when they get back to the desk they only have an hour left until hometime, etc., that they should be thinking of changing jobs. I shouldn’t, of course, because I’ll be skint in two months, and a student after that and once that’s done I shall get a job in a library that involves, in any way at all, doing something useful and less interminable than this (cataloguing would be a prime example here, but since I like doing that anyway, it loses some of it’s impact; I’m still trying to learn Bliss in my spare time.)

Urrgh. And that is the end of my tea break. On the plus side, I’m effectively working for a fortnight this week, and it’s not all spreadsheets (because I get Monday mornings and all of Fridays off). Also, more to the point, I’ve got an extension cable for my headphones so at least I can now listen to KUSC while I wonder who’s been drilling holes in all my bloody teacups…

Done having a strop now. Going to find coffee and bemoan the fact the office is too hot.

Dear Today

OK, guys. You know as well as I do that part of the reason I go to sleep listening to the World Service is that it means I can wake up to an alarm clock in one ear, and the news in the other.

But, seriously. I was up really quite late last night, and playing both Civ 4 and Left 4 Dead, and that doesn’t lend itself to being woken up by the announcement that the Soviets just landed on the moon, and are massing for an attack on Western Europe. That is possibly the most confusing waking-up experience I have ever had – I wake up very slowly until I’ve got some tea down my neck, and I must’ve been listening for at least a minute and a half before I realised I’d missed something.

Just so you know. Can we at least wait until the planes are in the air before we start telling the barely-awake that the Soviets are using chemical weapons? Or, better yet, just let us sleep. Extra 4 minutes in bed sounds like a win to me…

(I looked for the YouTube clip of the reformation
of the Soviet Union,
but I couldn’t find it.)

Back when I was doing GCSEs, I’m sure they’d dragged Jeremy Bowen out of the Middle East and told him he had to work in a studio presenting Breakfast alongside Sophie whatzerface. I find it kinda awesome that he just keeps going back to the Middle East anyway…

‘nother update.

I continue to be crazy busy. It is not all bad, though, for I was able to go to the Gregynog Colloquium, which involved a large number of the Aberystwyth delegation getting merrily drunkish. Also, I entered a charity raffle, buying a strip of tickets for a fiver, and consequently won a not unrespectable digital camera (8 MP, SDHC, 2x AA Batteries – the last means it’s not something I’d buy at full cost, but for £5 I’m hardly about the chuck it up on eBay!) I was pleased about that.

There were massive floods in Newtown. I mean *massive*. Ended up red-lining poor Miriam, in first, with the clutch about two thirds out because 7,000 rpm was the only way to force through the wave of water that was coming over the bonnet and hitting the windscreen while still forcing enough gas through the exhaust that water didn’t back up and smother the engine. Even then she nearly gave out three times. It was more nerve-wracking than Stafford, although if I’d not survived the floods there I might’ve just attemped to push her to the nearest dry ground…

Outside Newtown, though, everything was fine. Rotten little dorp. That said, for those of us who know the incline of the drive at the Uberflat, two days later I got into the car, released the handbrake and, er, went nowhere. Loud clunking noise as we started moving, so I ran her through the carwash and that seemed to fix it; I assume the axles were caked with mud, or something.

Things I have discovered recently:

1. Death and the Maiden is being re-run, starting from the first strip. It is awesome, you should read it. The Sequel is also being re-run from its first strip at the same time. I find this incredibly annoying, because I now have to make the choice between reading both strips at once, or going back and picking up 2 afterwards. Sigh.

2. The awesome, whose recent posts include Episode One Confessional, The Ghostbusters are horrible people and (my favourite of those I’ve seen so far) Belle: Princess, or not Princess, which features an awesome examination of the local political situation around the Beast’s castle.

3. I am in serious danger of ruining my librarian credentials by reading all manner of security books. Admittedly, I’m not too far in, but I’m already at the point where I can see Scheir quoted in Mitnik and remember having read the book that quote comes from a week before. This pleases me, but it doesn’t sit too well with the stereotype. On the other hand, nor does wanting a resolution greater than 8×6, so I’m not too fussed about that.

4. I have probably got a little work next year, which won’t see me rolling in money but, equally, won’t leave me completely devoid of food. I hope.

Anyway, back to it…

Hullo William!*

Well, that was interesting. I appear to have recovered from a serious error.

On Wednesday afternoon, as I sat shivering in my office, bundled up in my jacket, and hunkered down in my seat, I decided what I needed was a mug of coffee, so I rose to wander through to the common room, wherein resides an urn.

Except I’d not got past the edge of my desk when Andrew, who sits behind me and does something even more complicated with databases than the local_threshold gubbins I footle about with, asked me in tones of incredulity if I could actually be cold.

Brief investigations revealed that everyone else in Aber thought it was sweltering hot, so I wandered home on’t sick and promptly slept for around 30 of the following 48 hours. Indeed, I still feel sleepy now, although that could just be because it’s a) Friday, and b) completely dead out here.

It interests me, though, because though I’ve seen it happen to other people, I’ve never experienced such a thing on my own. That said, with one commitment or another, it’s been a while since I stopped working before 22:00, and we’ve been going places at weekends, which has been knocking out the days when I normally get some actual rest in.

In all fairness to myself, that’s not as stupid an approach as it might sound: I seem to need to pull in 8-10 hours of sleep a night, which is a crazily large number, so I tend to run along on 5-7, and recharge when I get a chance. Turns out that three intensive weeks & no free time in the mornings is about my limit, though.

So, yeah. Apparently it’s possible for me to BSOD. Cool!

Rejected Alternative Title:
‘Quick! Thump “Esc”!’
Rejected because a BSOD doesn’t seem to let you do that anymore. When did they sneak that change in!?

* Cross-reference

/backing music by Jethro Tull, why not?/

Today being the 29th of April, my father would’ve turned 53 today. [In the unlikely event random people are stumbling up against this, I say ‘would’ve’ because he’s not turned anything since 41 – apparently the Highway Code’s suggestion that one should check for oncoming traffic before turning a lorryload of concrete across the carriageway isn’t quite such a pointless directive, after all.]. Twelve years is a long time, of course; even if I were inclined to try I doubt I’d be able to give you more than the roughest of character sketches of the man.

Still, it’s not untypical for me to get pensive at all of three points in the year, this one included and, this year more than usual, I’m finding myself feeling introspective. Five’ll get you twenty that this is down to finally having somewhere to head in life, or, at any rate, a plan that extends over a greater scale than my previous range of ‘Do x because everyone knows that’s the thing that happens next.’ Even so, I don’t much care for introspection. It’s so inclined to get in the way of not really thinking anything much.

The bulk of you, I suspect, will have seen that inspirational-sounding quote about how scar tissue is stronger than yer actual regular tissue &c., &c. Of course it isn’t; it doesn’t have the elasticity or something, so it’s less good under strain: less like a wooden oar patched up with steel braces and more like torn blotting paper that’s been prit-stiked back together along the edges. Still, as a quote it sounds good, which is the main thing.

Much like ‘That which does not kill us makes us strong,’ it’s been kitted out to give comfort rather than point out to a chap who’s lost of all your limbs, but not died, will nevertheless find it hard to summon the strength to heft a sack of potatoes; there must be a whole industry out there devoted to thinking these things up. (What, you thought Einstein came up with that whole ‘1% inspiration, 99% perspiration’ without spending five nights tearing out his hair and moaning “Come on Albie! The miniature diary industry is counting on you!!” Yeah, right.)

Anyway, I’ve got a whole welter of the scar tissue knocking about, and I find it mainly leads to character traits that come under the heading of ‘OK in moderation’.

A prime example of this is the manner in which I can be stubborn. To a point, being stubborn is the same as being persistent – you get to go home and say you tried your best & if things didn’t pan out OK, then it’s no fault of yours. Except I default to the kind of stubborn where I try my best and if things don’t pan out then it’s because I didn’t try hard enough; I take failure in the face of impossible odds as a weakness on my part, and I’ll beat myself up about it along the way, which is somehow made worse by the fact I know what a stupid approach it is.

Summer of 2005 was pretty much a case in point, there: there was a time during that particular fight where, in retrospect, I think we were all sunk and we all knew it, except for the pig-headed bastard who kept saying ‘This is not going to happen’ under the impression that if you said it quietly enough the world would just stop holding out on you.

[Tip for Film-makers: If you want to win me over run one of those scenes where the bad guy gets the living crap pounded out of him by someone who’s got so angry about the whole thing that they’ve suddenly got dead quiet, and started breaking people’s elbows over their own knees while nevertheless asking really politely. And humming a cheery tune. I promise you at least five “Awesomes!” in the foyer afterwards.]

In fairness, it worked; I think I got some good work done, under the circumstances, but I screwed myself up in the process. When I stopped doing that job in Spring 2006 I spent about three weeks getting hammered on a nightly basis because it turned out I’d wound myself up so much I couldn’t deal with the sudden disconnection from all the responsibility I’d taken to assuming.

Yeah, that’s another one. I take responsibility for way too many things, although it sometimes feels like I can hardly wait to offload it onto some other chump once I’ve got it. Except, not always: I can’t access it on a conscious level, but I’ve decent reason to suspect that I’ve got a complicated ranking system somewhere in the back of my head that sorts out the people to whom I feel a greater level of responsibility than others. Mostly it doesn’t have an effect on anything, least of all how I deal with people on a daily basis, but you should (really, really not) see me when you cross someone on that list: not only will I take it incredibly personally on their behalf, but I can hold a grudge for long enough to make Basalt feel worn down.

Even now, there are people out there that I have never met, and if they introduced themselves and said ‘Hi, I’m Mike,’ I’d say ‘Hey, Mike, nice to meet you’ and we’d probably get along fine and have all sorts of interesting conversations, because nobody ought to be judged by who they used to be (certainly I shouldn’t; I was a complete arsehole for years.) And yet, if Dave were there and said ‘This is Mike. Yeah, Mike,’ I’d lay even money that I’d punch the man in the face while he was waiting to shake hands simply because five, seven, ten years ago he did something that fucked over a person I’d only meet a decade later and if I feel an obligation to someone, I’ll gladly backdate it just far enough to cover past injuries. Or, rather, I’ll automatically backdate it. Doesn’t seem to come with an off switch.

The reason for that, I believe, comes down to a simple fact: there have been times where, through no fault of my own, I’ve failed to stop Bad Things happening, and that doesn’t sit well with my stubbornness. In that sense, pretty much anyone I like is quids in: either I’ll try and pull a shielding-from-the-badness maneuver, or I’ll make life miserable for anyone pissing you about. It is, of course, hard on anyone unlucky enough to get caught in the crossfire (thought it’s ideally worse for anyone in the crosshairs, of course) but it’s been a while since anyone played silly buggers anyway, I’m happy to say.

(Lord knows how many times I’ve polluted this blog with memes, but I’m still looking for one that decides that Which Character I Am is an abominable cross between Ikari Gendo and Malcolm Reynolds. That would be a meme built out of raw Awesome. And dodgy html, of course.)

Happily, therefore, I’m not actively stoking anything right now – and given long enough, I can let things slide. I usually do, in fact, because it’s quite tiring otherwise, and once I’ve burned through the actual anger, I tend to have trouble keeping up enough of a head of steam, though God knows I’ve seen the anger last a few years a head. (Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to be linked to whether the person who actually got done over has done with the forgiving thing. It’d be a lot simpler if it did, really, but instead it seems to run on whether I can still remember how much it affected them. Introduces auto-balancing, I guess.)

But I like to think, on balance, that it all works out OK, and that I’m not, in fact a sociopath. (I am antisocial, mind, but that’s just because I continue to use computer games as a Way Out Of Responsibility, where fixing bad things is just a quickload – or, indeed, a console command – away, and I’m not giving that up in a hurry). I periodically worry that I’ve got a predisposition to be horrible to people I decide I don’t like, but it rarely seems to be much of an issue, thank goodness.

Mostly, the worst extremes of being stubborn, and overzealous and inclined to fret like crazy, I keep in check, and the impression I get is that by balancing them out I actually wind up as a reasonably easy-going (& ideally half-way considerate) sort of person. Or, at least, I look like I’m trying, which is better’n nothing.

Mostly, I hope, I get by OK without being too horrible to people.

Mostly, I think, I avoid writing people off entirely because I fail to make allowances for why they might be acting like that.

Mostly, in fact, I wonder how well I match up to the tracing of a character sketch I last saw done in charcoal more than a decade ago, and which would probably be out of date even if I could remember what the shape of it was.

I’m not certain, but I think I’m slowly getting there. Perhaps if I work on it long enough I’ll fetch up with something that wouldn’t completely disappoint the original artist, hey? It’s always good to have something to try and do tomorrow, after all.

No comments today, folks. I ain’t here to fish.


Poured with rain last night; drummed on the windows from around 04-00 to 05:30. News on radio at 8 warned of severe rain warning in Eastern parts of Wales; I assume the storm has passed over.

Drove Ruth to campus to get dissertation printed. Deep pool of water in passenger footwell; at least a third of an inch, spread out over wide area plus, of course, that which was absorbed by the carpeting. Suspect this is more noticable because I removed the protective mat things that were down there (I wondered at the time why there were two, now I come to recollect doing so) because they were damp.

Had hazarded that the damp remained from when Miriam was leaking through the sunroof, but this apparently not the case — suspect leak is getting in through vents. A good deal of sogginess up in the foam around the vent, and trail of water down the wainscoting in passenger footwell. Mopped up with paper towels, though still dampness in carpet, as I needed to get into Law.

The good news, on reflection, is that this is evidently an exceptional quantity of water due to the thumping great storm last night, and the lack of additional matts to blot it up. Must remember to retain a towel in the boot in case of emergencies.

Beyond that, Miriam seems to be running OK. Starting to suspect she’ll want a new battery at some point; on rare occasions where she does multiple short hops the engine can be a bit reluctant to start on the third or fourth time, but she goes alright once she’s going. Look to replace the battery ahead of the winter, I suppose.

Bought a new kettle because the old one was on the blink, and refusing to turn itself off once it reached boiling point. Has righted itself now, though, under the omnipresent threat of replacement, so may as well run it a while longer.

Much news this morning about the spreading Swine Flu. Much concern since we’re a way overdue a major outbreak, but so far it just makes me want to play Pandemic.

Coffee break over: back to work.

A highly articulate outburst

I was having an e-mail conversation yesterday, and the subject of people driving everywhere rather than using public transport came up. As the only car driver present on the mailing list, I got asked for my opinion – specifically in relation to my having taken the Park & Ride into Oxford, rather than having tried to park in the city centre, & having started to write a short reply, I found several hundred words had passed.

Most of them, I decided, on re-reading what I’d written, relatively sensible ones.

At this point, I’ll point out I’ve made barely any revisions to this theory – bar my square-bracketed clarification of fare changes, and the re-setting of the line-breaks my gmail account put in this is just what I churned out last night, but I think there might be something there. Lord knows we’ve all got enough money to fritter it away trying to prop up a brassic banking industry, I don’t see why we didn’t ought to get some decent use out of it.

There’s probably a few hundredweight of flaws in the idea; you’re welcome to point them out in a friendly way, but at least it’s not as stupid as some of the ideas out there. (Seriously, I am curious as to where the bad ideas are, here; I admit I’ve kinda planned everything out in Sandbox Mode, with unlimited funds and no fixed deadlines, but still…)

I’m in favour of P&R. Although I’ve driven through Oxford (through a complicated coming-off-the-motorway-wrong scenario that had me trying to plot a route through the centre of the city based on
where I thought the tour buses went after Broad Street. Was dead chuffed when I managed it). However, I still drove to Oxford. From Wallingford. And the X39 is actually pretty damn good – I really like Thames Travel.

Even London – Edinburgh is the sort of thing I might drive, depending on circumstances! If it was at a busy time, I think I’d take the car, because I’d at least get a seat! Other times, maybe not – it’d depend what I was doing after Edinburgh, I guess.

But, yeah. The thing to do is spend a hundred fuckloads of money on the transport network: re-nationalise *everything*, buy back all the land sold under the Beeching Axe, put the tracks back, buy the station houses back and re-introduce full service to all of them (automatic ticket machines will save you a few salaries there, at least) and get into the habit of offering free rail passes to, er, everyone. (Or everyone paying less than the 50% income tax band, say).

Upgrade everything. Electrify the entire network while you’re at it to a) save time in the future and b) free yourself up to put any rolling stock down a line, increase the number of passing places, terminals
and sidings and give tax breaks to businesses that transport anything by rail, including produce (I reckon the distribution networks could cope with running services from local rail terminals instead of local warehouse depots, I don’t really see the difference). Accept that the national debt is going to look like swiss bloody cheese anyway, and bootstrap the domestic rail manufacturing industry to get some trains that’re less than 20 years old running through the provinces.

Bring back First, Second & Third class, [but do away with the multitude of saver fares; either it’s off peak or it’s a fixed rush hour surcharge of £3, say] and change the conditions of carriage to promise everyone a seat on their service, or they get a £5 voucher for the shop on the train for each 100 miles or part thereof for their journey as specified *on the ticket* – we could print that easy enough.

Then – gradually, over a few years – increase tax on petrol to fund the public transport network, and offer free bus routes to railway stations. No less than every 10 minutes per stop in towns, and aim for
every 30-40 minutes for rural areas. Since the Government run everything anyway, they can sync all the timetables up without (too much) difficulty.

Engineering works no longer mean such severe stoppages, as there’s now *network redundancy* and you can route around them with care. Long-term you get improved maintainance. Schedule for an x-day period, specifying exactly what needs to be done, and at the end of the works, have them surveyed by two independent teams from seperate bodies (one from and one from the Dept. of Engineering Works, say). If the works are approved by both bodies as being OK – and *signed
off* by *every member* of the inspection teams, good. If they’re signed off ahead of schedule, give the workers a bonus of £x/day over schedule.

The thing is I *want* trains to be good. But as long as people think they’re supposed to make money, they ain’t gonna. And even people like me will stay in our cars until we can get a fascist party set up, with me in charge…

As Statto said: a highly articulate outburst. So where’s it fall down? Money, obviously, and political intransigence. But where else?