Friday, July 28, 2006

Rejoice!

The Device has returned!

Much to my surprise, Currys Digital (nee Dixons) have actually been able to repair the love of my life and I went and picked it up just now. I was rather expecting a replacement, but no they did their darndest to avoid giving money away and so actually repaired the whole thing - presumably once they'd poured all the alcohol out of it.

Even more amazingly, the contents of it are still apparently there so my annoyance that I would have to rebuild the whole thing proved completely unnecessary.

It also means that the repair guys must have been able to make a pretty shrewd guess at my sexual orientation as well.

Ho hum.

The Interim Device is now being mothballed. It served its purpose well, but only being a simple solid-state affair with no ability to choose tracks, albums or artists or so on, meant it was rather beginning to get on my wick. It shall, however, remain in my posession in case something unpleasant happens to the H10 like last time.

Frankly this is genuinely the first piece of random good fortune to befall me in months. Hopefully the Karmic wheel will keep spinning me up for a bit longer.

Strangely, though, when holding it I fancy I can still detect a faint whiff of cheap red wine.

Some things never change.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Stupid Creature!

Living in a first floor flat does mean that we lack that special luxury of a garden.

On the one hand this is a good thing since it means I don't have to do any gardening - something which has always failed to interest me, and I have subsequently proven to be appalling at anyway.

The flatmate, however, enjoys it and so each year furnishes the windowsills of the living room and our two bedrooms with windowboxes. I just about remember to water them often enough to keep my plants from expiring and so all is well.

But at the moment I find myself awoken every morning by the arrival of a few bees.

Noisy buggers they are, buzzing their improbable bodies around the lavendar and making me stir from much-needed sleep. Obviously with the heat at the moment, shutting the sash windows isn't an option, though, so I'm putting up with this - and I even find I'm not in the least bit worried about just lying on the top of my bed starkers to keep cool while they make their presence felt.

Obviously if a wasp put in an appearance I'd be scurrying under the duvet in a panic, but bees are quite nice so I'm not too concerned.

Noisy, but benign they are.

But bloody stupid.

There's not been a single morning over the last couple of weeks where one of them hasn't bumbled past the windowbox, come into my room, stopped a few inches in and gone "oh, maybe not" and turned to go out.

But on each occasion their return journey has been made at a greater altitude than their entry and they spend a few minutes banging irritatedly at the window pane until I can find something which which to enable their egress.

At which point a battle of wills ensues. They're so convinced by their rightness that it takes a fair few goes to convince them to fly lower until finally with a "farewell Dumbledore" I send them on their way.

Frankly they don't deserve to have had the word "beeline" created after them.

Always searching for a hidden meaning

At least once a week I get an email from someone named something like "Perigrinations S. Watersports" (or somesuch random inapproprite combination of words) urging me to "try the new miracle weight loss herb".

It's always the same email containing the same text, and it always makes me chuckle.

The thing is I find the innocence of their (presumably faked) testimonials so utterly charming.

"I tried Hoodia 920+ after visiting your website," one claims "and I lost a few pounds without doing anything else".

I think we all know that feeling. Hooray for internet shopping.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Thought as much...

I had a feeling Jackanory would be back before too long.

Call me cynical, but I kind of thought that BBC Four's regular repeating of their (admittedly excellent) Jackanory documentary was a fairly obvious attempt to kick up some nostalgia so it could be bought back.

And it seems to have worked.

That said, I'm all for it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Humph. Not Impressed.

The new Pet Shop Boys single was out yesterday. One of my favourite tracks off the album "Minimal" was picked for it and has been plastered over various formats for days with a variety of utterly rubbish remixes.

But of course, with the Pets it's always about the new material. And given the quality of the original b-sides for their last single "I'm With Stupid" I was rather looking forward to hearing what they came up with this time.

A mild dissapointment, that's what. One is a "radio edit" of "No Time for Tears" - one of the tracks off their (rather lovely) Battleship Potemkin soundtrack - pretty but not exactly a necessary creation really.

The other is "Blue on Blue", a new track with what can only be described as a killer bassline - very "I Feel Love" - and lots of lovely synthy effects, but unfortunately there's barely any effort at doing a decent song over it whatsoever.

"The Resurrectionist" it ain't.

I hope something a darned-sight better ends up on their next single whatever it is.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Wending My Way Home...

I get terribly lost in our street. All the houses look the same, you see. (Well, more or less.)

Obviously I know the house number, but not all of the buildings have them displayed. And besides it's nice to have a vague reference that you can aim for when walking along the street, just to know how close you are and when you have to start paying attention.

Over the last few months I've fixed my eyes on the distant horizon of a letting agency sign, or the scaffolding on the house next door as the brickwork is repointed.

But all of this has been and gone. Now there are no distuingishing features whatsoever.

I walked right past it on my way back from the shop earlier.

Dizzy mare.

Absolutely Categorically Not


Rock?

Words Are Not Enough...

There are, I fear no words as yet available in the English language to describe the sheer jaw-dropping horror that gripped me as I read this article on BBC news.

I mean, the main thrust of the article was bad enough, but to reach the end and read this bit went way beyond my capacity for understanding:

A number of other classic gameshows are making a comeback, including Joe Pasquale presenting the 1980s series The Price Is Right.

I am trying to wrap my head around what could possess someone to think this was a good idea and frankly I can't contort even my brain enough for this.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I Don't Feel Like Dancing

No, not me - although I am a rare visitor to the dancefloor since I am living proof that not all gays are natural movers - I am referring to the new Scissor Sisters single.

It wasn't quite what I'd expected. I must say. It's a nice little slice of retro-future-disco and much more richly produced than I remember their previous albumen being, but after a couple of listens I must say I've rather fallen in love with it.

And frankly any song which manages to use the phrase "muster up" in its lyrics is inevitably guaranteed greatness.

I was worried how they would follow up their debut album, but they've wisely taken their time over it and on this basis they've produced at least one gem.

Very much looking forward to the rest of their new material now.

Gently Touched Up...

Well, it had to happen eventually.

On discovering my blog looked crappy in Firefox I decided I had to do something about it. And in the process I decided to tidy up a few bits and pieces that were bothering me.

So we have a redesign.

Hopefully it's a bit brighter, fresher and easier to read now. I may tinker over the coming weeks, but I think it's more or less there anyway.

Now all I need is someone to put a pertinent Doctor Who quote in the comments box and I'll be happy.

Friday, July 21, 2006

To Lady Mondegreen

I'm a big fan of mondegreens. You know, those times you mishear something completely and it just kind of works and you're convinced what you think you heard is actually what they said.

They're particularly good in songs I think. "Beelzebub has a devil for a sideboard" for example, makes just as much sense as any other part of Bohemian Rhapsody so I'm quite happy singing that version. And whether it be because a quirk of arrangement, production or vocal they seem to crop up quite a lot.

By way of a personal example, one of my favourite Steps songs is one entitled "Only in My Dreams" which is one of the three bonus tracks included on Steps Gold. I love it to bits: melody, arrangement and vocals just work together to make a lovely shiny pop gem, and the fact there is no reason why the male and female vocals sing different bits (as with the Human League's Tell Me When) just makes it more perfect as far as I'm concerned.

But listening to it on my way to work the other day I suddenly realised I'd completely misheard one of the lines. I'd been consistently hearing "so I guess I'll keep dreaming" as "so I guess I need treatment" and it all came as something of a shock to find I'd been so wrong for the last five years.

And you know what? I'm sure my version's better.

Sterling Service

This is what faced me on Transport for London's website when I checked it before leaving work yesterday:



Great stuff, TFL. The only line which wasn't suffering chronic and unexpected collapse was the Waterloo and City line and that's only because it's been totally shut for maintenance over the last few months.

All due to faulty communications equipment apparently. I dunno... what are the chances of all the radios breaking down at once eh?

Note to foreign readers: the tube has its own special terminology for reporting the statuses of lines. "Good Service" on the Northern Line has deteriorated enough to means "roughly about every fifteen minutes in rush hour if you're lucky and probably not for the branch you want anyway".

"Minor delays" means "you'll probably be jammed onto a platform or carriage for an extra forty minutes" and "Severe Delays" means, "Just don't. It's quicker to walk. Hire a sherpa."

TFL may try and claim they mean something different but don't be fooled.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

You Will Be Upgraded or...

Just now I had cause to sit and kill off several redundant copies of client databases which were clogging up our database server for no real good reason.

I'm afraid I couldn't help myself... in my head I was sitting there doing a perfect cyber-voice going "Delete! Delete! Delete!"

I am lost.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Good as Gold

News has reached my not inconsiderable ears that BBC Worldwide are working with Murray Gold to put together a collection of highlights of his scores on the last two series of Doctor Who.

Suddenly I have a yen to buy an alarm clock with a CD player built in just so I can wake up to Chancellor Flavia singing me the "Bad Wolf" theme.

Not too fussed about having it for Murray Gold's version of the Doctor Who theme though. All that orchestral stuff is just a bit too twee for my tastes, and as far as I'm concerned it unforgivably buries the bassline.

(Actually I have a feeling that David Arnold's version for Big Finish is probably my favourite arrangement of the theme. It's wonderfully odd and has noises in it like a piano dropping past a window. What more could you need, eh?)

Still, as long as the CD has that song from the Christmas Invasion - "Song For Ten" - on it, I'll be happy.

Frankly if it does it'll be worth the price of a CD alone.

Oh Finally...

It seems to be the month for series that I have waited an age to arrive on DVD to finally arrive on DVD.

Century Falls and Dark Season are now only a week away but before even then, the first series of KYTV has finally made it out.

It's one of the most shoddily under-packaged DVDs I've ever seen, mind - not even an episode listing (and incdidentally that Play.com link misses episode 6: "Challenge Anna") - but I'm just glad it's out. Now I just have my fingers crossed for series two and three to follow.

Now if only Hat Trick could pull their fingers out and release both series of Chelmsford 123 I'd be a very happy man.

Another Day...

... another email from some bloke in the foreign office of the republic of Nigeria hoping to make me very rich if I let him use my bank account to transfer funds.

Surely people can't still be falling for this sort of scam? I can only assume they are because they still keep trying it, but you'd have thought it would have died out by now wouldn't you?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

But... But... Where?

Our usual cleaner is on holiday at the moment and so the agency have supplied us with a temporary one to fill the gap for three weeks.

And she is, to be fair, absolutely amazing.

It didn't take too long for us to take having a cleaner completely within our stride. The novelty of coming home on a Friday night to a clean kitchen, a hoovered living room and a sparkling (if still iredeemably tacky) bathroom, soon wore off. Don't get me wrong, it was all still nice, but the initial breathless happiness I got from this started to settle down after a while. Chris and I are still of the opinion however that this is one of our best investments.

This new one, however, has managed to achieve things we never thought possible. The hob, for example, is now devoid of any signs of carbonised matter. (We have no idea how she did it, but we suspect there may be some slaughtered chicken remains up on the heath and a pentagram somewhere underneath the lino.)

She's also attempted to clean Chris' room. This is in itself no minor feat. Chris' room is so small and packed with junk that it was considered impossible to clean and so we just told the agency that it wasn't worth trying, just do the rest of the house. (You can't see his floor on a good day and to be brutally frank he doesn't have many of those.)

The message clearly didn't filter down, however. Because while he was on holiday last week she had a damn good try.

"I think she may have tried to clean your room," I mentioned to him yesterday.

"I thought she had," he said. "All my porn was tidied up."

Bless her. We want to keep her.

There is one problen, though. Her mania for tidying means that she has a tendency to put things away. That'd be fine - she put the cleaning products under the sink for example, which actually is a sensible place for them, rather than their previous home on the windowsill beside it - but sometimes she puts them in places where we don't normally keep them.

For example I have a large glass tankard I take to bed with me. Not in a sexual sense, I hasten to add, I just fill it with water and put it by the side of my bed in case I get thirsty during the night.

On Friday she took it from my bedside, washed it, dried it, and put it away.

It took me half an hour to find it that night. I practically had to turn the house upside down.

Still, it's a small price to pay for such extreme cleanliness. We'll be sorry to see her go.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bloody Hell!

Just realised - since i just downloaded the most recent copy and gave it a bash - how crappy this blog looks in Firefox. I'm sure it looked alright last time I checked, but not any more.

Anyone got any ideas where I'm going wrong?

Never Mind the Full Stops

Had the good fortune to stumble unexpectedly onto BBC Four on Thursday evening and thus discovered the pedant and linguist's paradise that is the panel game Never Mind the Full Stops (do you see what they did there?).

It was, to be fair, an odd show, even if I did find it rather entertaining. There was something terribly forced about the proceedings, possibly uncomfortable even which made me feel a little twitchy whilst watching.

I think it had something to do with Fellowes as quizmaster. I was tempting to think that possibly I'm so used to panelgame quizmasters who are more relaxed, and less clipped and posh, but then I thought of Stephen Fry and realised that isn't the case at all - on QI he works like a charm after all - so I just think that possibly Fellowes was just a bit too patriarchal and not relaxed enough to imbue the proceedings with any real warmth.

That said, it was quite fun. I did reasonably well on the "correct the passage" bits - although I did find one or two of them a bit too picky - and found myself being reminded of allsorts of things I haven't had cause to remember for years.

A case in point: the humble tmesis. I've always loved these constructions.

Will I being using them more often as a result of seeing this programme? Abso-bloody-lutely.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Well done Worldpay...

I got home just now to find a letter from an email address "merchant@uk.worldpay.com" stating the following:

My name is Dave and I am from the Support of WorldPay.

We have received the payment order (ID 0220712,Receipt Date 09/07/2006) from you and we need to make a verification of the details you have filled in, as we have received a notice from your card service stating that there was a chargeback made by the owner of the card with which you have made the payment and that your level of authorization has been altered during your last transaction.

This is a very serious matter. We have deducted the amount of the chargeback, GBP 149.89, from your account and added our standard fee of GBP 24.00 as well (you can see your payment details in the attachment).

We have failed to contact you using the telephone number you have provided earlier, meeting no response.

As a precaution, we have limited access to your account in order to protect against future unauthorized transactions.Please understand that this is a security measure intended to help protect you and your personal information.

Please contact your credit card company to resolve this matter.

Best Regards,
Dave Gollick
shopper@uk.worldpay.com
My suspicions were raised. Something didn't feel right. Of course it was perfectly possible that I got horribly drunk on Sunday and ordered some bizarre fetishwear off QXL or something (gaffer-tape-and-clingfilm party-pack maybe), but I couldn't help but feel it was just an attempt to get me to innocently click on a viral attachment.

I looked at the attachment. It was a Zip file. I scanned the file with Norton and it found nothing. So I looked in the file.

It was an EXE file. "Oho!" I cried. "You sneaky bastard!"

Worryingly I scanned the exe file too and Norton still didn't find anything (keep up guys!), but hey. I'd pretty much decided this whole email was a bad thing.

But I decided to confirm it and wandered over to Worldpay's website.

There at the top of the page, bless 'em, was a big sign effectively saying (and okay I'm paraphrasing slightly here) "DON'T TOUCH IT! IT'S NOT FROM US! HEAD FOR THE HILLS!"

And I think they deserve credit for that. Well done them.

Call Me Cynical...

...but I'm interested in seeing if, once the Government's plans to make terror alert levels public are realised, we see a lot of "Severe" and "Critical" ratings every time they want to push through more legislation to erode our liberties.

Go on... what's the betting?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Doomsday

So last night Ben came over, we finished off our viewing of Doctor Who: The Invasion (a gloriously irreverent time was had by all), then cracked open some wine and sat down for the season finale of Doctor Who 2006: Doomsday.

Oh my giddy aunt. Oh heavens. Oh crumbs.

I've recently come to the conclusion that rather too much of this series has felt like it's just a holding pattern. Four very strong episodes early on (Tooth and Claw, School Reunion, the Girl in the Fireplace and Rise of the Cybermen) and then a run of a couple that just didn't quite cut the mustard, or had serious underlying flaws.

Satan Pit and Fear Her picked up a bit but by then my inclination to view this as must-see TV was starting to be in doubt. But then came the Army of Ghosts and I remembered just how good Doctor Who could be. Everything was set up for a massive finale in that, and in this episode a massive finale was what we got.

There wasn't much that I didn't expect to be honest. You knew that they wouldn't really kill Rose - kids up and down the country would be too traumatised - and I expected Pete and Jacqui to reunite and Rose to end up with them since it would be a perfect and heartwarming conclusion to her story-arc. Who'd win out of the Daleks and Cybermen was a foregone conclusion really, and as the "bad" guys you knew the Torchwood personnel wouldn't make it out alive. And there needed to be lots of explosions and random deaths (because kids of all ages love that sort of thing).

So yeah, a seasoned viewer would have expected most of it. A cynic would argue it was pretty much checkbox telly (make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, make 'em gasp, blow things up) which of course it was. But the point is... it ticked all the boxes. Each one carried of with breezy confidence. It just delivered.

So yes, my older adult side was crying his eyes out over the emotional stuff, laughing heartily at the handbags-at-dawn moment between the Daleks and the Cybermen, and my inner nine-year old was just jumping up and down in excitement at all the comic-strip style action.

I will admit that my nose wrinkled when I saw Catherine Tate at the end, though. Only moment I genuinely disliked, but that's mainly because I have been deeply irritated by her in everything she's done. I'm not going as far as some fans, though, who are apparently going to boycot the Christmas Special because she's in it. That does seem to be going a little bit far. (Mind you, since half of fandom seems determined to hate the new series I really shouldn't be surprised by this intent.)

So anyway, what the hell do with my Saturdays now? I have no excuses not to go out again! Gah - I may actually have to socialise.

Friday, July 07, 2006

One Year On

Blimey is it really only a year since the terrorist attacks on London?

Seems like ages ago I was writing these posts:

Creeping Fear
Aftermath
Backlash
Silence

At the time the whole sequence of events seemed strange, numbing and unnerving. Now I feel oddly detached - and I fear a little complacent.

Crushed

So there I was last night, getting gently twatted on unpleasant white wine, but having a good time all told, when an ex, randomly in the middle of a conversation, pokes me in the side, discovers the slack that still - to my annoyance - exists around my midriff, stares at me aghast and utters the killer phrase:

"Jesus. What the hell happened?"

See, I've been beginning to get more comfortable in my body of late. The (now daily) gym visits are doing wonders, everything's tightening up, legs and chest more defined and so on. I feel overall I'm looking thinner, due mainly to the fact I've lost over ten kilos in the last year and over 10% body fat (according to some strange device whose workings I don't understand but it seems to be something electric).

So my body confidence over the last few months has been on the up.

Until those words were uttered, that is.

I mumbled away my shock at the insult - unable, as my brain reeled, to retaliate with a suitable comeback - and chose the earliest moment I could to leave, finally arriving home feeling fat, depressed and miserable.

So there we are. I went from feeling more sociable and confident than I have in ages, to wanting to hide away from the world again in case it sees. And all in the space of half an hour.

Amazing how a few simple words from the wrong person at the wrong moment can make you feel like shit, isn't it?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Spot On!

Uncylopedia's article on Gay Pride just caught my eye.

Just about sums it up really.

(That said, I'm still doing Brighton this year. I'm such a hypocrite.)

TubeTrain Trickle

The most unpleasant aspect of the recent heatwave - aside, obviously, from being in a state of near-death any time I was outside - was not, to my surprise, the additional flesh that was inevitably displayed, but a strange condition which only ever affects me on the tube and is quite simply a truly vile feeling.

It's that feeling you get when it's hot so the carriage has become like an oven, and I'm simply standing there and perspiration starts to form between my shoulder blades.

And then it starts to slide gently down my back, trickling along my spine until finally it disappears into my bum cleavage (naturally the sound-effects in my head add a comedy "plop" noise when it does).

The whole scenario is just deeply uncomfortable and utterly icky.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

And the Winner Is...

Well, we've had Kill Billie Vol. 1 and Kill Billie Vol. 2's just days away (bounce bounce) so, fittingly, the BBC have announced the new Doctor Who companion in their latest press release.

And naturally some miserable bastards on Thingbox and Outpost Gallifrey are already predicting the end of Doctor Who. "They've ruined it," says at least one knee-jerk doomsayer.

Now, I've got to admit, I can be critical of the show when it warrants it, but I can't help but feel that dismissing something so readily without giving it a chance and actually having something concrete to go on is a bit crap really.

It's reactions like that which make me feel ashamed to be associated with fandom really. Jesus.

I for one shall be giving the girl a chance. I don't think she was bad in Army of Ghosts given that she was effectively written out during her second scene to become a zombie.

Given the Doctor Who juggernaut is pretty unstoppable at the minute that rumours of its death are probably a little bit wide of the mark. It would take more than just one actress to screw it up, after all.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Army of Ghosts

So, did anyone spot this week's Torchwood reference?

I'm kidding of course. Finally we get to meet Torchwood properly, they get their hands on the Doctor and all hell broke loose. Just as it should.

I have my critisisms of Russell T. Davies's scripts, I know. But my God, when he's good he's very very good. And when it comes to two-parters he always seems to deliver.

I almost broke into a round of applause at the end. Okay so I knew months ago that the Daleks were back so the cliffhanger was a little spoiled, but I was delighted by almost every part of that episode.

Cybermen! Yay! Daleks! Yay! Mickey! Yay! Uber-bitch! Yay! Ghostwatch! Yay! Pyramids of Mars reference! Yay! And so on and so forth...

Jacqui as companion was a refreshing change I must say, actually giving the Doctor a hard time over him spoling things and terminating life. I love that she can love and loathe this Doctor depending on what he's done, as opposed to her totally hostile relationship with his former self. It's much more enjoyable that way.

And I was somewhat relieved that Peggy Mitchell was clearly in Eastenders rather than a real character with Doctor Who taking place in the same universe. That would have been a little bit too "Dimensions in Time" for my tastes.

I am absolutely gagging for next week's episode now. The week stretches out before me like a huge bleak void.

Poor Alistair Appleton though. I'm sure Ben will be terribly distraught.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Fear Her

I'm so late on this it may as well not bother, but hey.

Fear Her was rather a good one, I thought. Low-key and simple, but still shot through with the humour and emotional content that's made the series such a succesful revival.

And it all resolved properly. Not rushed at the last minute - in fact it was foreshadowed right from the start I realised on my umpteenth viewing - and also it wasn't undercut by a need for a silly gag.

The Doctor rushing to grab the Olympic flame seemed a bit naff (I groaned when I realised what was about to happen) but otherwise it all actually worked. In fact I'd argue it was one of the most internally-logical stories of the whole series.

And then of course the trailer for the next episode blew even that out of the water.

I am absolutely chomping at the bit for tonight's episode. I feel like a little kid again.

A Whole New Level

I think my general level of laziness has just been rammed up a bit.

Yesterday I changed my sheets, threw the old ones in the wash and forgot about them.

Today I realised the tumble dryer was set and had managed to crease them to buggery. Now, I normally don't iron my bedding since a) nobody is ever going to see it, and b) it tends to de-crease once flattened out anyway.

But this time I could tell there was going to be no getting round it.

I ironed my work-shirts. I looked at the pile of sheets.

I ironed my t-shirts. I looked at the pile of sheets.

I ironed the pillowcases. I looked at the pile of sheets.

I put the sheets in the recycling and ordered some new ones online.

To be honest I still can't quite believe that I would stoop to quite this level, but hey. It's done now. And there's something very very sexy about brand new sheets so I'm actually rather looking forward to sliding into them when they arrive.